& i know i will carry it with me for a long, long time.

i’ve been passing as a guy now for 2-4 years now, depending on the situation (and people still think i’m a lady on the phone).  which i guess means that’s what i really am now.

i was thinking about that the other day and this huge feeling of responsibility came over me.  because now that i am who i want to be, i have to remember and take care of who i’ve been.  even though the world sees me as a straight, married man with a baby, i have been a girl, a woman, a lesbian, and a non-passing transguy.

and even if i had never been any of those people, now that i am in a place of much greater privilege, i really need to be a really good ally.  because as strong as we all are, we need each other to have our backs, because the world is not an easy place.

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driving lessons

i got my driver’s license last month.  i am 32 years old, have been teaching for the past 3 years, and am engaged to my pregnant partner, and i got my driver’s license last month.

when i was 12, i read that 50 simple things kids can do to save the earth book, and then immediately after it read kids can save the animals: 101 easy things to do.  i was finishing it in the car, and decided to become a vegetarian.  we’d been running errands all day, and my grandparents pulled into mcdonalds.  horrified, yet lacking creativity, i ordered my usual cheeseburger.  soon, i decided that i would cut out red meat and until the middle of my first year of college declared myself a “partial vegetarian,” eating fish, chicken, and turkey, but not beef or pork (that mid-first-year of college moment was when i decided to be a total vegetarian– now i’m more pescetarian).

the books made me more patient with the fluorescent light that took forever to turn on, in my great-grandma’s bathroom, and it made me an easily thwarted crusader for paper, rather than styrofoam for my school’s lunches.  (after a letter to the principal, i got called to the office for i think the only time of my entire school career, for a conversation that went something like this: principal: “i hear you want us to stop using styrofoam but instead use paper instead.”  me: “yes, please.”  principal: “well, the styrofoam is a lot less expensive than the paper, so we have to keep using it.”  me:  “yeah, i guess that makes sense.  thanks anyway.”)  i bought the greyish, fibrous recycled looseleaf paper, and used it religiously, horrified when the boy i had a crush on complained about it.

i had seen the old lorax movie many times as a child, and i knew i was someone who cared a whole awful lot.  i didn’t do everything right, but i did what i knew about, as much as i knew how to do it.  to this day, in my head, there is a dying person in a hospital bed during the nuclear apocolyptic endtimes, who’s life is either prolonged or ended by the extra lights i turn on in a house (but only lights… and refrigerators and cars… trigger this thought– computer use, temperature control, stereos don’t).  i was responsible for life to continue on this planet by my choices.

early in my sophomore year of high school, there was a horrible car accident involving some of my classmates, and one of them died.  we weren’t friends, but i felt the loss, because i thought she was cool but i was too shy to talk to her.  around the same time, one of my pen pals also lost a classmate to a car accident.

so, as i neared my 16th birthday, and people started to ask me about getting my drivers’ license, the combination of environmental responsibility and terror of dying a horrible fiery death took away all motivation.

when i was 19, i did try to learn.  my mom and i went out in her pick-up truck, cruising around some school and church parking lots.  but as soon as we went on the road and i saw another car (across the median, in the furthest possible lane), i pulled over and burst into tears.

i’ve never been clear on my relationship to driving.  as a passenger, i’ve tried as hard as possible to limit myself to trips people were making anyway, getting a ride to errands with people already going on them, or asking for a block detour to run an errand i need to run.  realizing how terrifying riding the bus can be sometimes, and then biking more, helped me get over a lot of the fear aspect, but there’s always been resistance.   i cannot figure out if it’s self-righteousness, fear, god, prescience, preciousness, or what.

then at the end of last school year, i had to make a choice.  i could either follow my amazing colleagues and the wonderful students at my school to a school that is entirely inaccessible by bus (up a giant hill, it is a 45 minutes walk from the nearest regular bus stop), or i could gamble on a move to another school– and it looked like it was probably going to be a middle school.  meanwhile, t was pregnant, and i decided that the responsible thing to do was to get a drivers’ license.

i hate that kind of responsibility.  that decision between “how do i help the people closest to me?” vs. “how do i help the whole world?” (and it sounds like parenting is a lot of that)  there have been times where i’ve wondered if my time waiting at bus stops was getting in the way of my world-saving time, but in general, i’ve always felt really good about my decision not to drive.

now, i have a drivers’ license.  i get up in the morning, get ready for work, and then drive through the woods to get to my job.  it is gorgeous.  sometimes there are deer.  sometimes there are turkeys.  it’s crazy to remember that i’m even in oakland.  my favorite part, though, is listening to music.  i’ve been resurrecting cds from my collection, bopping along to wonderful and hilarious selections, like the disney peter pan soundtrack, a lot of ani difranco, and the andrews sisters’ greatest hits.  i relish my dorkiness as others pass me.

but my exercise has gone way down.  i’m trying to fix that in other ways, but the balance hasn’t been reached yet.  and it’s stressful.  it’s really really stressful.  riding the bus, you aren’t in control of this giant thing and sometimes you hear scary people say scary things, but you can retreat into books.  you don’t have to be present and in decision-making mode the whole time.  one of my friends whose been teaching me to drive, outside of that context mentioned that she read a study about how people in modern american society all show symptoms of ptsd, and she thought that made sense.  i do too.  and during one of our drives together, i asked her if she thought a lot of it had to do with cars, because i do.  these giant metal death machines that move with the merest touch of a foot but that are fueled by greed and war should NOT be how the majority of our country gets around.  i am now one of those people, but i am not okay with it.

AND at the same time, i am remembering that a good part of the reason i didn’t want to drive was because i thought that there was a possibility i’d like it too much.  and part of me really does like it.  it is sort of fun.  it is sort of easy.  i get to pick my music.  it is fast.

in the first couple of weeks of the school year, t expressed concern that maybe i was drinking too much coffee because i was so stressy.  but then we realized that i’m actually drinking less coffee than last year.  and there are definitely plenty of things to be stressed about right now so i chalked it up to adrenaline.  but at the birth class last weekend, as the teacher was talking about endorphins, and oxytocin, and adrenaline, i started to put a lot of it together with my driving.  my fight-or-flight time is way up, and my exercise time is way down.  just like much of america.

*sigh*

“i want to blog this weekend.  i have so much to say!”

“about what?”

“well…  driving… and gender.”

“what about it?”

“well, i want to write it down first, because it gets all garbled when i try to say it out loud.”

in other incarnations of this post, in my head, i’ve had really good segues and connections between these issues, because parenting is part of why i’m driving and part of why i’m thinking about gender a lot right now.  but i ended that driving part pretty nicely, so i’ll use that dialogue and this monologue to change the subject.

“what are you having?”

the question is like nails on a chalkboard to me right now.  it is a complete overreaction, i know, but when i hear it, part of me wants to snap back an adolescent (adrenaline-filled?) response about how that very question goes against the very fiber of my being and all of my beliefs, and how could they ask me such a thing and and and and and!

i don’t know.  and i won’t know even when i do know.  and i still think it’s totally irrelevant to who this little person growing in t’s tummy will be.  unless they want it to be relevant, and i know there are times when it is vitally important for them, and that’s fine.

it’s hard when there is something that you believe in so strongly that is so counter to mainstream thinking.  i remember a woman at a school i worked at in seattle, who was so upset about a family raising their kids to be vegan.  “how can they impose their values on their child like that?”  i didn’t say it (i basically never say “it” btw, whatever “it” is), but i had this epiphany.  if you don’t raise your kid by your values, you are raising them by mainstream values.  you are saying that what the mainstream believes is fine and ok.  and maybe it is.  it might be.

and then in my case, it’s so tricky, right?  i don’t actively want to have a transgender child.  i don’t NOT want a transgender child, but i don’t plan on raising our kid to be trans.  binary gender assignments seem to have worked more or less okay for most of the population for quite awhile now, so i can’t assume that any bit of it will chafe on my child the way it has chafed on me.  but i really want to counter all of the messages about what is and is not okay to be that our society feeds to all of us all of the time.  that is vitally important to me.  and the idea that our favorite colors, things, and way of dealing with the world are pre-determined for us, now even before we pop out of our parents that have the right plumbing to pop us out, makes me itchy, scratchy, irritable, cranky, tired, and sad.

how do i make my child’s self as filled with possibilities as possible, without limiting it by deciding that that limitless is important?  how does my belief in that limitlessness limit my child in a world that believes so gosh-darn fiercely in those limits?  how do make sure to honor the possibility that our kid could be totally gender-normative, without just going along with the culture’s assumptions that that is how it will be?

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 3

and now i’m in seattle, and all of the visiting of schools is done.  the university of washington is a school i’ve been thinking of, on and off, but as i was shuttling up the east coast, the joy of the humidity plus the stress of coordinating one more visit was too much for me, and i never tried to make a visit to uw happen.  today, i’ve been wandering around my old seattle haunts, contemplating the dreaminess, beauty, craziness, sadness, and creativity that one finds here.  i am uncomfortable with the prevalence of mental illness and poverty as i walk around, and just want to sequester myself in bookstores, coffeeshops, and vintage things, which is of course ironic because i’m so interested in class and disability.  it is sunny today, but i think part of the discomfort is the grimy understanding that that person howling on the street corner could be you, and when it’s drizzling, it sort of feels like they are all you.  and of course i know that in new york, there are all those pieces as well, and it’s harder to just make it there, in many ways, but the time i lived in seattle was one of the saddest parts of my life, through no fault of its own.
anyway, after my last post, i quickly started to think of philadelphia as “the city of brotherly HOOOOONNNNK!”  getting the rental car was tremendously stressful, because we had to get out of a parking garage that was under construction, and thus had all of its signs pointing in directions to nowhere.  by the time we made it out, we were exhausted and stressed, especially considering the fact that we were also hungry.  so we got food quickly (getting honked at all the time) and then got on the highway to happy valley (getting honked at all the time).  we did not understand what lane to get in for the toll booth, so we got honked at some more, and in general the ride was high stress punctuated by quiet lulls.  every time things seemed to get into place, some minor disaster would occur, and there would be more honking.  in the middle of the drive, the gps took us to a starbucks that was in a weird shopping center, and t collapsed in an amazingly comfortable adirondack chair.  the adirondack chair life is something we both crave.  after some relaxing there, we went and got some gas, but that, too, became an occasion for stress and honking due to confusion about the location of the gas tank.

finally we made it to state college, which i decided must be like “stars hollow,” where “the gilmore girls” takes place.  our hotel was a decent chain hotel, with a friday’s out in the parking lot.  after unloading the car, we looked up vegetarian food, and there weren’t a ton of options, but a pizza place sounded good, so we went there.  i loved it in its salty, greasiness, but it turned out to be wrong for the pregnant lady.  we watched “friends” (on nick at nite, what!?) until we fell asleep.

the following morning, i went to my appointment at penn state, and was delighted by the kindness and enthusiasm of the professor i was meeting with.  she showed me around the impressive reading camp they were having (which made me think that: a) i am a terrible teacher and b) i was woefully ill-prepared in a practical way), and actually said out loud that she wants me to come to the program, so that was nice.  sometimes, though, i feel like i’ve tricked people when they say things like that to me after only a few emails and conversations.  anyway, i was impressed with the program and could be happy in it.
t and i met back up for lunch with a couple who i’d gotten in touch with via the lgbta grad association.  i’d emailed them and explained our situation, and was told that this couple had a similar situation.  they were kind and sweet and open, wonderful to talk with, and we learned a lot about family life in general, queer family life in specific, and how to connect with good doctors.  also, when i noticed that they both wore crosses, i asked about queer friendly churches, and soon the quakers were mentioned.  when i said i was a quaker, i was told that there was a wonderful quaker working at this bookstore/cafe, so we went there and i was introduced to a woman with vibrant and goofy energy, who i shyly and awkwardly greeted before t and i dashed away to get back on the road to the city of brotherly HOOOOONNNK! so she could catch her megabus back to new york.

my impression of the town and school was that it was quaint and old-fashioned, though with a definite college student presence.  later, discussing with t, who had been wandering around the town, the college student presence was very strong for her.

at the hotel, i’d bought t an extra megabus ticket for an hour later than our original booking to make sure she wouldn’t get stuck without one.  this was good, because we got there just after our original booking had left.  then, there were decisions about how much time the pregnant lady should stand out in the heat while waiting for the bus.  once we’d committed to standing out there, the bus wound up being about half an hour late.  i’d made an appointment for dinner with <a href=”http://robinmsf.blogspot.com”>robin</a&gt; and <a href=”http://chrismsf.blogspot.com”>chris</a&gt;, so i ran back into the station as soon as we saw t’s bus coming.

the city of brotherly HOOOOOONNNK! quickly became a maze of confusion transit options, and i wound up getting on the wrong one.  eventually i found robin, though, and we took the train to the house that her family was to move out of in a week.  ironically, the only other time i’d been to their house was right before another move.  my traveling dazedness made for some awkward dinner conversation, but i was treated to some delicious cheese and stir-fried vegetables, as well as a welcome popsicle.

then back to the train station where i settled in to a book before getting on my overnight train to boston.  it was an eight hour ride, which seemed perfect in theory, but since i could never get into a comfortable position for sleeping, and there was a teenager behind me histrionically vacillating between schmoopy phone calls with her boyfriend and angry conversations with her family who were on the train, i didn’t actually get much sleep.  but i think i slept through connecticut, so i don’t think it’s fair for me to really say i’ve ever been to connecticut.

i navigated the boston transit system much better than the one in philly, despite feeling exhausted, filthy, and unkempt.  i ordered breakfast at a diner with a young man who called me all those funny masculine names that i don’t understand (i don’t think he called me “chief” or “big guy” but it was things like that),  and while it was being made, i changed clothes in the bathroom.  i felt moderately less gross after that.  then, i went out into the heat to wait for the shuttle bus i’d been told about, but after waiting for an hour, i decided it must not run in the summer, and i got into a cab that had been sitting there the whole time.  the thing that stalled me the most from getting into the cab was that i only knew the name of the building i wanted to go to, not its actual address, but the cab driver knew what i meant.

boston college has free wifi for guests, which was nice, so i sat in a comfy lobby and de-sweated while i waited for my appointments.  i met with one professor who was very nice and then the really enthusiastic and friendly student who had organized my visit.  then, i got to sit in on the only class of this whole college tour– critical race theory, and wow is that something i want to do.  the professor of the class was poised and brilliant, and the students were open and also brilliant, engaging with the topic and each other in wonderful ways.

it’s hard because so many things i’ve experienced on this trip have not swayed me exactly from one school to another, but just further and further towards excitement about grad school.  i want to have those deep conversations and engage with people in the way that this trip has been opening up.  but there has not been one clear winner so far.

i took the megabus back to new york.  this megabus came to the regular bus bay, and so it was more comfortable than waiting in philly or new york.  but one megabus cruelly came and left 10 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave, and then the next bus came 45 minutes later, so i got into new york very late at night.  but t and her bff had delicious food waiting for me.

the truth is new york feels like love to me.  every person i know there is tremendously sweet and takes wonderful care of me, making sure i knew where i’m going and how to get there.  there have been few people angry at me or even angry near me.  sure, the subway rocks a lot, and the ground is disgusting, but i feel oddly buoyant and impermeable in new york.  it is clear, though, that t does not feel that way.  and that is fine.  i have such a romantic vision of new york, it is probably best to keep it that way.

my last bit of new york included visiting carroll gardens and getting swept away by cute shops and cafes.  i am easily swept away by cute shops and cafes.  the next day, t flew back to san francisco, which was very sad and i didn’t want to stop touching her belly.

i’d accidentally flaked out on some vague appointments because i got my dates mixed up, but i was able to reschedule one of them.  so after t left, i took the subway to another friend’s apartment away up in washington heights.  we set up my new air mattress on the floor and then went and got amazing pizza.  then we went looking for a place to get a key for me and to wander around central park.  sadly there was no key to be had.  but the wandering was nice.  eventually we went to columbia, where his office is, and i sat in the lobby eating snacks and using the internet late into the night.  this was funny to me, because i’m not looking at columbia.

the next day, i went to washington square and got a dosa and sat down at a park bench.  then i realized that speed levitch was giving a tour right next to me.  he was commenting on the sexualness of the arch.  i was amused because he spoke at new college a few years ago, and felt like this moment would have really impressed my 21 year old self.

then i went to the coffeehouse where i was going to meet an nyu student.  i sat in a seat near the front and watched the door.  i had the odd advantage of her google+ picture popping up on my email screen, unbidden, as i reread the email.  unfortunately it was arty and shadowed, so i only knew to look for glasses.  i saw someone with glasses go up to another young woman who shook her head no, so i went up to the woman with glasses, who barely registered me, i think because she thought my name belonged to a woman (this has happened a lot on this trip, btw).

we went back out to a park bench and she told me about nyu.  she was very serious but very friendly and answered all of my questions thoughtfully and enthusiastically.

i wandered around the area a bunch, slithering illicitly into bookstores (i’m not really allowed to buy books right now) as it started to rain.  one of my daydreams of new york life involves working in a bookstore again.  i miss it.

i met back up with the friend i’m staying with, so i could buy what he thinks are the best bagels in new york.  then, i went to my meeting with a cuny student.  we met in a two story diner with a waiter with a wry sense of humor.  the student i met with was very friendly and fun to talk with, and also very enthusiastic about the program.

i have a better feel for new york than i do for the two programs.  in some ways the websites for the programs are so vast that it’s hard to get a true handle on things.  but i’m excited about both, nonetheless.

and then yesterday, after 5 hours of sleep, i got up and went to my plane for seattle, stopping in salt lake city, utah, which was a shockingly pleasant experience.  the airport had a bike cop, easily accessible sharps containers, recycling, veggie burgers served by people who made sure i knew what was vegan even though i’m not vegan, and deep fried pickles.  land of contrasts, indeed.

so now i just have to decide.  admittedly, p.j. harvey’s rendition of peggy lee’s “is that all there is?” is sort of rambling through my head today.  there are schools i’m definitely, unquestionably excited about, but the adventure time is over and now it’s just negotiating applications and decisions, which is less fun than a trip up the east coast.  there are viable options for sure, but there was no clear winner, especially in the “where to live to raise a family” category of decision making.

i thought i would spend the flight to seattle poring over my notes and materials, but instead i’m kind of consciously taking a break from thinking about it, letting my subconscious shake some stuff out first.  we’ll see where it lands.  for now, i will just be here in seattle, thinking about my past, and planning for the wonderful wedding of two lovely friends.

if, on a summer’s day, a traveler…

my computer lost its ability to connect to the internet a couple of days ago.  i’ve been traveling all over the place, using internet in hostels, homes, trains, and buses.  then, when we came to our brooklyn homebase, the apartment of t’s bff, i discovered i couldn’t connect to his internet.  then i learned i could connect to no one’s internet.

somehow, right when i was thinking of going on a solitary field trip to an apple store to get my computer fixed, my brain did something like:

busy saturday–> sunday’s free–>  go on sunday–>  quaker meeting!

so for i made a 2:00 appointment at an apple store and then looked up the closest quaker meeting to where i was staying– the brooklyn quaker meeting.  i learned it was just a couple of stops from where i was.

so this morning i woke up, went to the subway, went downstairs and sweated like crazy.  in the train stations here, i don’t even recognize what i feel as heat, but my forehead immediately starts streaming sweat.  i got off at the hoyt-schermerhorn stop, and started my walk.  fortunately, i started off in the right direction.  i passed the friends school family center, a teacher supply store, and the criminal court, and then knew i was in the right place, because i saw some foliage and a man walking a bicycle through an open gate.

i was enthusiastically welcomed into the beautiful old building by a young woman, and then walked up the stairs to the worship room.

before today i’d been to this meetinghouse, i’d participated in sunday morning worship at 3 meetings: whitby, england, in early 2001, san francisco regularly for the past 6 years, and the berkeley friends meeting once about a year or 2 ago.  possibly because of that, or because i’ve been in “soak up my surroundings mode” for the past few months, or maybe just because it’s how i’ve been in worship lately anyway, i spent most of the meeting contemplating my surroundings and the people in it.

one of the first things that struck me was that there were a few people of color there, who all seemed to feel at home, which is something that our meeting has continuously struggled with.

i also noticed that the doors never closed.  i liked the welcoming feel of that and didn’t think it was distracting, outside of the fact that i was distracted by everything anyway.

the other thing i noticed as i was scoping the room for my place to sit, and then afterwards, was that it had the old-fashioned benches, with the mysterious “facing benches” i’d mostly only ever read about.  i remember when i first started coming to the sf meeting.  the chairs surrounded an old braided rug.  i decided that the people closest to the rug must be the most insider type people of the meeting, so i sat on the fringes (and even though the rug is gone and i’ve been told the rug means nothing, i still tend to do that).  i couldn’t figure out the meaning of the facing benches at the brooklyn meeting, so i decided to just steer clear of them.

the meeting was good.  people spoke.  my mind was far too busy.  the children’s program made a cute quaker village out of cardboard boxes in the social hall.

… and then back to the subway for the apple store appointment.  i walked past some cop cars and some police officers and some more police officers and a newsstand and kept walking until i realized i must have missed the station, so i turned around and found it, right at the newsstand.   like on the initial ride, i sweated like crazy, but i eventually got out at my stop, 14th street.

i walked past the 16th street exit, and the 15th street exit, and then got out on the right side of the street but then accidentally walked up to 15th anyway.  i walked up to 9th and found myself at chelsea market with some time to kill, so that was fun.  and then i got my laptop fixed.  it took 4 minutes.

except then back at our homebase, it’s still not working.  so it might be the connection here.  but i know what he did to make it work there, so i will try it again with another connection.

after i got back, we went to the brooklyn museum.  and as per their tradition, t and friend took me up to see judy chicago’s the dinner party. and even though i’m not a lesbian anymore and i know that the vag doesn’t make the lady…  that may have been the most spiritual moment of my day.

or maybe i was just geeking out with my feminist b.a. in religion self, recognizing names and histories and references and connections.  proud of what i knew.  probably still thinking too much.

Published in: on 15 July, 2012 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

i will write more about the grad school hunt soon, but the other thing i’ve been meaning to write about (and i’m writing this perched on the top bunk of our room at the st. augustine pirate hostel and we might leave soon, so it will be short) is the odd ways that coming out has become harder in the past 2 years.

when you are… standardly?… queer– gay, lesbian– there’s the grueling heartwrenching coming out process for sure, but then, once you are there, you can come out to everyone you meet by saying, “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend.”  unless you don’t have one, but you can say something about your ex-bf or ex-gf or the people you are interested in who society sees as the same as you.

as a trans person, i went through the lesbian coming out, then the trans coming out…  and now i’m OUT.  i’m living my life the way i want to live it and everything’s great!  most people i come across don’t even know.  i still get ma’amed on the phone and things like that, but as soon as i’m out of a gay neighborhood, everyone just reads me as a guy.  which is totally awesome.

except that that’s not all that i am.  since t and i are having a baby soon, we are working with lots of laws for queer folk and dealing with lawyers and court dates and all sorts of things.  and i don’t want to keep it A Secret but it’s a whole different kind of information.

it was always about the present and the future.  “i like these people.  i want to date these people.  this is who i am inside and i want to be that.”  now it’s more about the past.  “this is who i was.”  and when i tell people about it, it seems like in a lot of ways i’m just telling them about what’s in my pants.  being trans is about so much more than that, but i don’t know how to start the conversation, because it feels like awkward over-sharing.  it feels as essential to my being and as awkward to tell as the way my dad died.  and i don’t like that.

 

Published in: on 6 July, 2012 at 4:13 am  Comments (2)  

the three new stages of cubbie.

1) i’ve reached a new stage in my transition.

now, when i make eye contact with and smile at men, they look at me funny.

i have no idea what to do with that, especially in light of that whole “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of god in everyone” thing.

how do i live my gender & my faith and not get punched in the face? how is it that the traits that i’m cultivating in my quaker life have already been socialized into me via the gender i was raised in– listening, caring, smiling at people in the street? is quaker essentially feminine? (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ANYWAY!?) and then, also, why are there so many more men in my meeting than women? is that across the board in quakerism?

2) i’ve reached a new stage in my quakerism.

i went to the war anniversary march and rally on wednesday evening. most of the local quakers had participated in civil disobedience (or holy obedience as someone said today) in the morning, but because of work, i couldn’t do that. but a few of us were able to meet at the evening event.

there weren’t a lot of us, but i think it was good that we were there. i think it was good for us, and also good for the atmosphere to have us still and silent and peaceful at this rally where people were proclaiming that need for the end of war “by any means necessary.”

for me, the most incredible experience was when a man came up to me and talked. at first i was very nervous, because i wasn’t sure if i would be clear or correct, or if i would make myself and/or quakers look stupid. so instead i just listened to him. he had a lot to say, and i smiled (and made eye contact) and nodded and made sympathetic faces and noises, and i didn’t say anything. he talked for awhile, and then clamped me on the shoulder and said he felt better.

i said, “thank you.”

that was one of those “yeah, i’m a quaker and i’m so glad” moments.

3) i’ve reached a new stage in my theology.

quakers don’t do holidays, because we’re supposed to be living those holidays all the time.

but i also think there is a human need for holidays and remembrances and things. to remind us. maybe we should always remember, but it’s nice to be reminded.

i particularly get the winter holidays. how else would we get through winter without hopeful feasts of light and love?

it’s funny that i get them, because i grew up in florida. and i attribute my florida childhood to the reason why spring holidays don’t move me as much. light in the darkness grabs me more than the gradual entrance of surrounding light. part of it is that i’ve got horrible flower allergies, so i meet spring with some nervousness, dread, and pain each year.

AND, as i’ve been contemplating jesus and the meaning of his life, i’ve gotten stuck at that last bit. that death and resurrection bit. i’ve known it as a story from my childhood that means something on a deep level to many people– and there death has made sense, but the idea of a literal resurrection has been such a block for me that i haven’t been able to figure out the metaphor.

and then last night, during the young adult quaker movie night, we watched “portrait of a radical” from the series “crisis of faith.” it was about jesus and his life and what it meant. and i don’t think it was said, but suddenly something clicked and i could understand the resurrection as that amazing realization that jesus’s life and spirit didn’t end with his death. which is something i’ve been contemplating lately anyway– how to live a christlike life and stuff… and so the joy of realizing that sort of resurrection made sense.

it’s interesting because for me, my own easter happens over halloween. the anniversary of my father’s death and being faced with the world’s mockery of death brings me to a place of reflection about the power of life and love. i mourn over his self-destruction and remember that there can be so much more for me. i don’t have to drown in myself and the world. i can keep going, keep loving, keep living.

it’s not exactly the same of course. my father is not christ, my own human potential is not what easter is about, but the sense of transformation is similar, i think.

october.

in 2nd grade, my best friend and i planned our suicides. i don’t remember what exactly we planned to do, or even exactly why, but we talked about it a lot.

5 years ago, on halloween, my dad died of a drug overdose. i don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but… the way i’ve been thinking about it most recently is that he finished killing himself on that day. drugs and self-loathing were such a part of him, for as long as i can remember.

finally, for the first time, about a month ago, which was about a month after i had a “woah! maybe i’m not actually crazy!” realization, i finally thought, “woah! suicide is not necessarily an option.” for as long as i can remember, when things get bad, i’ve held hands with the idea that i could die if i really wanted. and finally finally i’m thinking, “or actually not.”

the last few octobers have been hard. particularly at the beginning of the month– i see the 31st at the end of it and i dread it. eventually, and actually well before the day, i make peace with it, and then on the 31st i’ve been more okay than i thought i would be. sometimes the 30th has been really hard.

this year, october has felt mostly okay. i was even thinking of dressing up. for logistical reasons, i think i’ve decided not to, at this point, but i’ve been actually weirdly excited about the day. but in the past day or so, it’s gone back to, “no, really? does it actually have to come this year? couldn’t it just pass? can’t i just sleep all day?”

i don’t know what the day will actually bring, but those were some of the things going on in me during meeting for worship today. and there was some ministry about death and lost people.

at some point, i clasped my hands and realized that my fingers are getting thicker. they’re harder to put around each other, which is strange. and my carpal tunnel was acting up a little. and i thought, “i am so much both of my parents.” my dad’s thick fingers, my mom’s sad wrists.

and i thought about how when i was first contemplating testosterone, i freaked out a lot about the concept of looking more and more like my broken, damaged, dead father. could i actually face that… face?

but really– and maybe it’s the effects of these hormones and maybe it’s growing up and maybe this gender really is a skin i’m comfortable with and maybe it’s the peace of quaker meeting– or maybe (probably) it’s a combination of all of those– and maybe it’s not permanent– i no longer terrify myself. and that’s pretty nice.

reading karen armstrong’s the battle for god and ann brashare’s 3rd sisterhood of the traveling pants book, girls in pants, i was startled to find a similar theme. the them and “moral” of both, seems to be that… when people feel bad about themselves and/or when they feel threatened, they get mean. this is, i guess, sort of obvious, but… i think we miss it a lot when we are dealing with difficult people. i thought about it a lot today at the peace vigil outside the federal building. mostly people who passed were really positive, but we had 2 really angry people, too. when i was hearing the happy honks, i thought about the idea i’ve heard some that “the tide has turned” and the way that this is linked to people’s frustration (mine included) that it took other people so long to realize that the war is wrong. i’ve heard (and i think said) “how could they be so stupid for so long?” but maybe not’s the right question. “why are they so hurt and scared and angry?” might be the right one. ministering to their hurts is probably the best way to win them over… but i’m still speaking of us & them…

and, also, i was a total grouchy brat yesterday, so it’s not like my insights into human nature are doing me a whole lot of practical good right now.

….

in other news, i was going over some quotes i marked from the battle for god and these got me thinking about quaker plain dress:

“Western observers were particularly dismayed by the spectacle of women returning to the veil, which they had seen as a symbol of Islamic backwardness and patriarchy since the days of Lord Cromer. But it was not experienced in this way by those Muslim women who voluntarily assumed Islamic dress for practical reasons and also as a way of casting off an alien Western identity. Donning a veil, a scarf, and a long dress could be a symbol of that ‘return to the self’ which Islamists were attempting with such difficulty in the postcolonial period…

Where Western men and women attempt to bring the body under the control of the human will in their gyms and workouts, and cling to this life by making teir bodies impervious to the process of time and ageing, the veiled Islamic body tacitly declars that it is under divine orders and oriented not toward this world but to transcendence. In the West, men and women often display and even flaunt their expensively acquired tans and finely honed bodies as a mark of privilege; Muslim bodies, concealed under layers of very similar clothing, emphasize the equality of the Islamic vision. By the same token, they assert the Koranic ideal of community over the individualism of Western modernity.”

… it’s funny because it gave me insight into my own trouble about plain dress. how plain dress and plain speech for me right now involve revealing all. all of who i am… believing that that’s important.

… i have more to say about both of those topics, but i have to go.

i’ve been struggling with some stuff lately.

one thing is that i decided to write a letter to richard dawkins, author of the god delusion. i wrote it and it lives on our kitchen table until i work up the nerve to read the book and write more after having read it.

the same day i wrote that letter, i read a piece in an anarchist zine that seemed to equate right wing christianity and… christianity as a whole. and i was like, “i think i feel like i can handle this challenge. i think i can tell this person, who i already know a little anyway, about my upsets at the mass media’s portrayal of christianity as closed-minded, selfish, and cruel.” and so i wrote this impassioned email. and he wrote back. and something, i don’t even know what, hit my giant doubting button. no wait. nothing he said. but me trying to figure out how to respond.

how do i tell this person, whose calling is to be anti-authority, that there might be an ultimate authority… and that things still suck a whole lot?

and so i’ve been going through the “so much suffering, why why why?” thing… and the “what DO i think of god as authority” thing. and then last week i had that brilliant idea to skip out on the group where i can talk about this sort of stuff.

the second thing i’ve been thinking about is my greeting experience. and the way that it has become a kind of giant thing. and how i posted about it as a tangential bit to a post about the amazingness of giving vocal ministry for the very first time and it got put on quakerquaker as being about my greeting experience. and people from meeting still keep coming up to me and checking in. and i dunno… i am fine. my pride was wounded and confused for awhile, and i’m excited that some discussions are starting about how we greet… but i feel like i’m being treated like a victim of something… but when i start thinking of victims in this case, giant issues about poverty, mental health, and how to really be kind and respectful to someone all come up. and i don’t think i’m ready to tackle them. and so i am kind of grouchy about the whole thing. and confused. and i should probably have some more out loud conversations about it, rather than just stewing about it all and getting angry at people for caring about me. i appreciate the care. hugely. i feel a part of the meeting in a different way now. and i like that. i just feel like the person i’m worried about is the guy who i let in. and i hate that i feel totally helpless about him.

the third thing i’ve been thinking about is sex. and not in a pondering deep meanings kind of way. except then i start wondering if i should be. except then… i find that i can’t.

puck and i have a mostly-previously-unexplored poly-friendly relationship. and a few months ago, i started dating a very nice lady. and she and puck are also getting along well. and things are very cozy and happy. and i am a giant ball of hormones.

plus, i have apparently started getting hot flashes. seriously. boy puberty and menopause all at once. it’s fascinating.

(this has way oversimplified the whole relationship. i have been having many talks with myself and with others about how to do this relationship in the best way possible, and i’ve been praying about both of my relationships so much. and i am doing my best to be mindful and prayerful and careful and everything. but the point of it being in this post is that my attention span for deep issues keeps being trumped by my inner teenager.)

paper journal entry from 11-3.

“i’ve been reading so much spiritual stuff, but i’ve realized i should really work more on synthesizing &* digesting it. in some ways, i’ve been just swallowing a lot of it, without really tasting it– so how could i understand it.

most recently, i read an essay about mel gibson’s passion of christ** film. the gist seemed to be that jews need to get over themselves– the anti-semitism isn’t meant, the film isn’t about them.

i feel like in a lot of ways this winds up becoming a ‘christianity is about faith’ vs. ‘christianity is about caring for others’ argument. & so… the author is right, but if one finds the message of christ a humanitarian one, making a film about him that hurts people intimately– doesn’t seem right.

—***

i’ve been thinking so much lately about quakerism vs. uu. uu’s keep feeling like such wishy-washy quakers. the humanitarian ideals are there– but they so much lack the sense of personal responsibility– the quaker understanding of this seems to come so much from the belief in a christ/god within that must answer to the same within others– that one cannot/should not rest until that has been answered– while uu’s seem to come from such a place of ‘we have been wounded & are tender & exploring’ which is fine a lot– but a poor endpoint.

my us vs. them thing makes me nervous. just last night i talked about the danger of being disdainful to who we’ve been…

[last night, i was] thinking about how the problem is not with choice but with lazy choices. i think its fine to bring together things from multiple traditions– if they resonate, if they are real, if they feel true, if they challenge as well as comfort. we live in such a multicultural society, to ignore others’ paths to the truth is xenophobic in some ways.

…**** i had it so well in my head last night. it was tight & beautiful– without the flowers that seem to be getting in my way now.

we all come to the truth from different directions. it doesn’t matter if your path is eclectic, as long as you walk it authentically.

i really want to be a quaker, and i really, weirdly, want t proselytize.

‘here is beauty & community & supporting love. here is a challenge to be your best self. come.’

i’m nervous about how self-y i get in my spiritual searches. i get squinty-eyed & hunkered down– to work. distractions make me stressed & harsh. in such an intimate relationship as that which i have, that can be bad. i’d like to greet distraction kindly. it could give me as much gifts as solitude.

***

i just read an essay from the quaker seekers packet about ‘friends & womankind.’

i’m so used to viewing gender as passe & hurtful. it divides, it imposes rules, it devalues who we really are.

but! gender can be who we really are. i know that.

i only ever have patience for people who strive for authenticity– by my own perceptions & judgments of such.”

* i am actually completely incapable of drawing an ampersand. but i do a shorthand “and” that is like a swoopy t or plus sign. ironically, i started doing this after my fifth grade teacher told us we were not allowed to use it in our work. i’d never seen such a thing before. i don’t think i ever used it in my work, or at least i tried hard not to. i’m explaining this so that you know that my journal is not actually full of ampersands. sadly.

** in my writing, i underline rather than italicize. can one actually italicize while writing. i have not figured it out.

*** the — is when i have a line drawn between sections of an entry. sometimes i will indicate this with asterisks here.

**** usually …’s mean that i’m leaving something out, but not in this case. the ellipsis is in journal.