Over the Shoulder Boulder Holders

I am now in gleeful possession of two (2) fabulous bras. I owe this chiefly to my friends A (for amazingly awesome, because she is) and S (for Slytherin because when she wants to, she makes Voldemort look like a pussy).

Two weeks ago, A took me to Ross, where I learned the basics of bras and got acclimated to standing near them without fleeing in shame and terror. The bra we purchased that day ended up being insufficient–it was far too small, and caused pain if worn for more than fifteen minutes– but the experience was invaluable, and taught me what to look for my second time, and helped me gain confidence in the notion that this was a task I could master.

Today, S took me first to a local specialty shop called The Pencil Test where the proprietor said that she doesn’t do measuring (in a specialty shop?) and only carries D cups and above. For S’s sake, I let it drop at the time, but let us say I find it highly suspicious that a small, locally owned store would limit itself in such a manner. But S was nothing if not game, and we trekked onward to Victoria’s Secret, where she introduced me to the saleslady and explained my situation while I was busy unpeeling my tongue from the roof of my mouth.

I have to say that for a large corporation that built its empire on the body insecurities of women who are not paid lavishly to hold to a strict diet and exercise seven hours a day, the staff at VC are quite friendly and helpful, even to the lost and scared transchick who is having difficulty speaking.

I cannot overstate how important it is to me that I have people who are willing to do this for me. Even if they only walk in the store with me and break the ice, it is a huge boost. That is more than I could do for myself. Transitioning is difficult and scary and painful. The tallest wall is my own fear that I’m doing something wrong, that I shouldn’t be allowed to do this, that I’m not  worthy of doing this. It is vital that I have people willing to stand on the other side of that wall, and over to help me climb. I feel so grateful that I have such wonderful women welcoming me into the club and offering me help.

One of the dirty little secrets of the trans femme experience is that even though we make a lot of noise about how our genders are as valid as any cis persons–and they are!–a lot of us crave cis acceptance that we’re Doing It Right, even if there is no one right way to do it. We want to know that we’re not making ourselves into absurd monstrosities (by which I mean that terrifying stereotype of the hypermasculine tranny under a thin veneer of mascara, not genderqueer or bigender folks). We help each other, swap tips, provide support, certainly. But we also look for outside cues, indications from our cis sisters that we’re not off the trail, making fools of ourselves in the bushes. I am profoundly lucky to have plenty of cis women who wish to welcome me, take me by the elbow, and help me find my way.

Without my friends, I wouldn’t have the guts to stand in a bra store and admit I’m not shopping for a girlfriend. Because I have women who will help me out, I finally feel like I have a complete wardrobe. I wear a bra and finally feel like my body might be acceptable someday. Someday soon.

So, A: thank you.

S: Thank you.

To all the other cis girls who have helped me, and to any cis girls in the future who may yet lend a hand: thank you.

(PS: oh my Goddess, these things are amazing! It’s like bam! Boob in yo face!)

This is Why You Must Survive

I have been told that this blog is so depressing that some people have stopped reading it, which seems almost funny to me because if anything I soft-pedal how unrelentingly bleak my life can be. For instance, I have not mentioned my habit of telling myself, as many as a dozen times a day, that I am a bad person and that I am stupid. I do this as a reflex when I do something sub-optimal, or worse when I remember doing something sub-optimal, especially if it was of a social nature. That’s the background radiation of my life; that’s what happens to me on a good day. Some mornings, it is a real fight to get out of bed.

Things are looking up, though. For the first time in a long time, I have a real path forward to something better. Even after the euphoria died down, I still kept writing. Now I’m at 56,000 words. I should have a complete manuscript by the end of the year. More importantly, a friend of mine wants to write a intro to PHP book with me. He’s a pretty good programmer, and I’m a pretty good writer, and together we should make a pretty good book. The best part is that I’ll be able to use it as a portfolio piece, and hopefully start picking up some technical writing jobs. Once I have some professional credits and references to my name, I’ll have the start of an honest-to-Goddess career on my hands. There’s something even bigger and better in the pipe, but I can’t talk about it because I don’t know what I can say without jeopardizing things and I’d rather err on the side of discretion.

Socially, things are…choppy. I lost a good friend. She’ll stay lost until she can realize what she did wrong, and why her “apology” didn’t cut it. That might make for some strain with my other two main hangout friends, but I’ve got a third who might be developing in that same circle, and I think I can branch out to find more, as well. It feels a little mercenary and gross to be evaluating friendships for their potential contributions to my mental health and stability, but that’s part of my life now. If I lose a friend, I have to be on the lookout to pick up others or grow closer to ones I already have, or else I could enter a tail spin and have a hard time pulling out. I will die in the dark if I let myself be alone.

So I don’t let myself be alone.

I’m not long for Beaverton, anyhow. One way or another, I’m leaving next year. The Portland area is where I plan to retire; I can’t stand to live here in my youth. Or maybe I’m just restless. Last year I hopped from place to place, constantly in flux. My housing situation was unstable for the vast bulk of the year, only settling out in November. Life changing decisions had to be made regularly, sometimes in a matter of hours. It was survival living, hand to mouth. Maybe I acclimated to it. Stability, at least up here in Beaverton, doesn’t agree with me.

Or didn’t, at least. The restlessness is fading. I feel like I could fall into a rut here. That scares me. Is it because I’ve made the decision to move, or is it because I’m re-acclimating to stability? (Is stability banality? Should I fear it as much as I think I do?)

I am in a liminal space. Not the desperately scrambling “I’ll try (almost) anything” way that I was at the depth of my homelessness, when I was seriously looking for a time and place to experiment with drugs because hey, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen: I end up homeless? This is a more prolonged, and perhaps somewhat more penetrating, evolution. It’s not just new experiences I’m searching for. I’m thinking about where I’m going to be in five years. Who I am going to be. My career is on the runway. My social life is in turmoil but not exactly falling apart. Geographically, things will change in a big way soon. Everything is shifting, some parts faster than others.

I feel good to be alive, even despite all the shit. This is what I survived for. I know I made the right choice in refusing to die. If I’d let myself go, nothing would have changed. My life would have ended in such poor conditions. You don’t stay alive because things are guaranteed to turn out well–although things are up from where they were last year, everything could still fall apart for me, and get even worse this time. You stay alive because if you die, nothing will ever get better for you. How you died in the end, that will be it. But if you survive, you retain the blessings of uncertainty, and of potential.

When things are at their darkest, remember, this is why you must survive: not for false hope. Simply to see if things will change.

A Riddle

When is an apology not an apology? When the first clause of the first sentence is a brief mention of what the instigator did, phrased in the mildest possible terms, and the rest of the statement is about how wronged she was and how horrible the reaction she elicited was.

(This is the official answer, although I’ll also accept “when the person offering it thinks that apologies are transactional.”)

So that’s a friendship down the tubes, it seems. Maybe she’ll come around and give an honest apology, but I doubt it. Her pride is too dug in, and she values it more than me it seems.

EDIT: Oh, hey. This was my 100th post. And on such a high note, too!

Feelin’ like shit

My depression is coming back feirce after the fight I had with a friend on Tuesday. (Well, not so much fight as she said something disgusting and unconcionable and wouldn’t take it back, and I yelled at her before leaving the house.) I haven’t heard from her, or the other friends who were there at all since. I think I have been excommunicated.

I thought I was over it. I am not. My thoughts keep returning again and again to that night, and when I’m not replaying it in my head I’m mulling over how disgusting and wortheless I am so of course they’d take her side even though she was in the wrong because how could anybody want to back up a pile of shit like me.

I don’t hate myself. I hate being myself. I want to be someone else. Someone valued, and useful, and confident, and beautiful. And when I say beautiful, what I mean is cis and conventionally attractive. Nobody escapes the beauty standard, I guess. I can’t look myself in the mirror with my shirt off anymore. My face isn’t too bad, for a boy’s, but my torso is hideous and makes me sick. My hair, which I’ve grown out to look more femme is gross and lank and I don’t know how to wear it. My voice is…hopeless.

Every little demon and bug I’ve hidden away and thought I’d defeated is coming back stronger, and hungrier, now that I’m alone again. Mostly these problems aren’t related to what happened. Mostly it’s just a Greatest Hits compliation from last year.

I try to remind myself that professionally, things might be looking up for me next year. I have real prospects coming up. And my writing is going well, too. When I write, I can forget who I am for a while. I need to write more. I always need to write more.

But there is only so much that this can help me. I think I’m just going to have to fight through this one. I’m never done fighting. I never get to win.

My Stupidest Habit

I get jealous of fictional characters. All the fucking time.

I’ve often had a hard time separating reality from fantasy, and so when I see depictions of people, they can be as real to me as the people in my life. Even now, as an adult, I have difficulty separating my emotional reactions to fiction from my relationships with reality.

So smart, beautiful, healthy people who don’t have to watch their dreams crumble to ashes and make peace with their limitations– you know, protagonists– sometimes really piss me off. So, for example, here’s this girl, who is valued, powerful, can make decisions based on what she wants and not what she needs to survive, has a gorgeous body (which in my head is still code for “is cis” because I will never be free of my self-loathing) and oh yeah has fucking super powers and I instantly go to hate mode. Especially if she commits the sin of being written to whine about how she just wants to live a normal life.

(Oh yeah, and of course I never get jealous of male characters. It’s just women who, despite being made of ink and paper, I perceive as being better than me, and rubbing it in.)

I can only really enjoy characters who have fantastic abilities if they feel like shit about themselves. It is not a coincidence at all that my favorite comic book is Empowered, an ongoing series about a C-list superhero whose potent abilities are undermined by their unreliability. Emp gets humiliated far more frequently than she saves the day, and even when she kicks ass she almost never gets the credit she deserves. At times it’s only her broken, maladaptive coping mechanisms to her childhood traumas that keep her in the superhero business, a career path with limited options for advancement, and endless opportunities for injury, death, and disrespect at the hands of villains and other heroes alike.  Her co-workers are all stronger and more respected than she is, and for the most part are just as emotionally malformed, but in a more outwardly malignant fashion. Her friends are broken, too. Of the main cast, only the demonic hellspawn from beyond time and space, currently trapped in an alien prison that is stored on Emp’s coffee table, isn’t a shambling mess of a person. It is heavily implied that, with perhaps the exception of Cyndablock, Captain Rivit, and The Goddamn Maid Man, most of the supporting cast have issues that run just as deep. The world of Empowered is one where everyone is a hollow wreck, and the protagonist is dealing with the same problems everyone else is, but with fewer resources. Beacuse of this, Emp isn’t threatening to me. I can root for her.

But, say, Supergirl? Yeah, not happening. I’ve tried reading stories that star her. I can’t finish them. Ever. She makes me want to burn down buildings with rage. How heroic can somebody be if they don’t have to fight themselves to get out of bed sometimes? And I bet she looks down on regular folks, too. How dare she not hate herself. Why does she get to be so special?

So on. So forth.

You can see this in the characters I write, too. My protagonists are either riven with insecurities and self-loathing, or arrogant, malicious, narcissists who teeter on the far edge of likability because hey, if you were that awesome why wouldn’t you be an asshole? You can be powerful, moral, or self-confident: pick two. The only character of my own creation that I can imagine putting into a mainstream superhero comic would be a girl with everyday problems who gets intensely jealous of the superheroes around her. Yes, that’s right, my self-insert is just an avatar of envy. When other people do self-insert wish fulfillment, they make themselves the guy who can beat up Superman. I make myself the chick who is pissed that Zatanna isn’t miserable like everyone else.

To a much lesser extent, this same effect applies to real people. They don’t have superpowers, so I guess that earns them credit in my eyes. But still, when I see pretty, talented women online or on tv or in real life, I get pangs of despair and envy. I try to control and dismiss these feelings. Mostly, I am able to with real life people. As you can tell from the blog, I am pretty open about a lot of stuff, but this is the one thing I really do keep quiet, and I won’t be discussing specifics about this one. Sometimes I slip, but not often.

But there is something about larger than life characters from fiction that gets to me over and over again. No matter how much I try, I can’t stop asking why do they get to be pretty? Why does the thing that makes them stand out as different and strange get to be something awesome, like being able to fly or do magic? Why do they get to be strong? Why do they get to feel strong? Why do they get to be valued, and respected, and maintain their autonomy?

And why don’t I?

Suicide is Painful

The first time I almost killed myself was in January of 2009. In December of the proceeding year, I had been fired during the darkest days of the crash. I had no meaningful friendships in Portland, and spent my days alone in my apartment, trying not to look at my dwindling cash reserves and trolling Craigslist. A beautiful, smart, funny girl approached me online and we got to chatting with an eye towards dating. I have never been approached by someone who said I was attractive and worth dating, except for her. After two weeks of online chatting, I was deeply infatuated with her. Then she broke off contact. Simply stopped replying to my messages, except once to ask what this strange number she was getting texts from was. I still suffer from the emotional damage I received as a result of severe emotional abuse I survived as a child. The loneliness, the anxiety about my unemployment, and the painful way the girl chose to end our interaction all piled up on me. I began to suffocate. I despaired over ever improving my situation. I couldn’t imagine getting to the end of the week, much less the end of the year.

I lived on Barbur Boulevard, in the SW of Portland. There was a blind curve around which buses would come at upwards of 45 miles an hour. I began to look at bus schedules. My plan was to jump in front of one. There was a very convenient tree, which cast shadows I could hide in easily until the bus was too close to stop. The 12, the 54, the 56, the 48, the 8, the 1. Any of these would do. My bank account was about to run dry, but I spent forty dollars on two handles of whiskey that week, because when I was drunk I was something approaching happy and safe. My moods swung wildly, and my sleep patterns eroded until wakefulness and sleep no longer had a schedule. I smashed my head into the wall as hard as I could, several times. I should have called 911. I knew I had to. But I didn’t. I knew I was in danger, and I should call for help, but if I had called for help I would have been saved and I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be dead. I could not bear to continue living a life where I would be poor, and unloved, and lonely, and pathetic. I disgusted myself. At this point the fear wasn’t death. The fear was getting hit by a bus and surviving.

It was a very near thing. I am glad I did not murder myself in despair. I managed to build a life, make friends, and find hope again. But  three years later, on the morning of December 18th, 2010, that life I had rebuilt died. In the space of four hours, every single facet of my life flew apart in a spray of shrapnel. I was woken up by a debt collector. I found out I failed classes. My roommate was threatening me with violence. My student loans left a huge gap over winter vacation I wouldn’t be able to cover. The apartment I was hoping to move into to flee the impending violence from my roommate turned me down unless I paid a bigger deposit than I could possibly afford. Stress from my gender dysphoria had been building and compounding with the stress of graduate school for weeks, and I found myself crouched behind a bush on the side of the street, sobbing in terror and sure I wouldn’t survive to the end of the week. For days I’d been playing the I’m Sorry game. It’s the game I play when things are so bad that I assume I must deserve it, and I begin whimpering “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” over and over to the Universe.

I skipped town. Hit San Francisco, stayed a few nights, and moved on south to Los Angeles. I ended up with my mother in her tiny, one-room condo. The stress started getting to both of us almost immediately. She made some mistakes. I made some mistakes. I started thinking about bus schedules again. She said I was a disappointment to her. Said she regretted that I’d turned out to be trans. I sobbed myself to sleep every night after she was snoring. I felt cut off from her, like I was unwanted. A burden. Worthless. Here I was, a quarter century old, and I had less to my name than I had even in high school. My academic career was in shambles, my resume was a sick joke, and my transition seemed hopelessly out of reach. I thought I was going to be an ugly, disgusting, pathetic wretch of a boy-thing who only brought pain to the people I care about for the rest of my life, and if that’s how it was I wanted to get it over with.

There was a pool, at that condo. I remember looking at it, and thinking how easy it would be. Wade in. Duck. A deep breath and it’s all over but the thrashing. I made the decision to return to San Francisco that night. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was an admission that I couldn’t count on my mother anymore. Worse, that I couldn’t trust her. She may have meant well, although at the time it was hard to tell, but she was a danger to me. I had to cut her out of the dwindling circle of people I really trust, and that is something I have not yet recovered from. We I see her now, I can see how much she was hurt by this, too.

I don’t regret it at all. I would do it ten times if I had to. It saved my life.

Shortly before I left San Francisco, I considered taking a knife into a shower.I don’t want to talk about that one.

These days, I carry a suicide hotline number in my wallet at all times. I have a list of people I have promised to speak to before I kill myself. I have a standing promise to myself to call 911 before I do anything. There is no such thing as too many precautions for me now. These are things I need to have in my life to live now. In the first half of 2011, I was suicidal on such a regular basis you could almost set a calendar by it. Now I haven’t been suicidal in almost a year, but I am not free of thoughts of killing myself. That escape still lurks on my shoulder. On an almost monthly basis, it occurs to me I could solve it all with suicide. Every single setback in my life gives me at least a few seconds consideration about the merits of killing myself. Every single worry and care I have ultimately leads to an imagined scenario that ends with my death at my own hands. This will likely be true for as long as I live.  It is something I struggle with constantly, and silently.

I will never be free. And I will never have the luxury of being weak. Not about this. Not ever.