Wedding Today

My heart aches when I see transguys on Facebook.  I can’t watch the videos that I used to watch.  It’s not even that it reminds me of him; it just makes fills me with an overwhelming sadness.  Sometimes I cry.

I’m taking a Trans Identities / Issues course from my uni as part of an elective for my Master’s degree program this fall.  It’s online and taught by a transguy…..I hope this passes before I have to watch his vids (if he posts video lectures).  One cool thing is that this prof was asking for citation pages for the Hedwig movie screenplay, which I think is a fantastic sign as I’m an adherent of Teh Hedwig as well.

The wedding is tomorrow and we should be driving up today.  I’m sad because it’s in a rural setting like the boi liked.  I really want to just skip the reception and its love songs but Idk if I’ll be able to get a ride away from it.

My cousin is looking forward to seeing me.  We haven’t seen each other in about 8 years and even then I was so shy around people that I hardly talked.  We were close when we were little though.  She lived on a hill on the ledge of a creek and we used to slide down the red clay bank into the water.  Our fun-loving moms were fine with that and just made us bathe in our clothes afterwards.  She was sweet.  So I’m looking forward to seeing her and some of the rest of my fam.

Thursday

Today would have been the day that I was coming back from his state to my hometown…..I have a wedding to go to on Saturday and I’m nervous about it.  I have the reputation for crying around this family I’m going to be with over the weekend.  And, shit, I can’t stand love songs right now.  Like, yes, I listen to them and they make me cry, but I really don’t want to start crying at the wedding reception where they’ll be dj’ing songs and playing requests that the guests have sent in on their RSVP cards.  I didn’t send one in because, oddly enough, I foresaw this breakup happening and I didn’t want to request a song that would just make me remember the good times during the wedding.

When we got together we posted a pic of ourselves in the snow together; we look so happy in it.  I got something  like 42 likes (which is a lot for me) and a bunch of supportive comments on it, including from my family where the wedding’s gonna be happening.  I just hope they understand if I’m sad and start crying.  I kind of want to go back to the motel after the wedding or after the reception dinner but god, I don’t know who will be willing or sober enough to drive me.  I’m riding up with my mom.  I hate coming out to everyone as being out of a relationship, and I really don’t want to be judged for not being attracted to the boifriend…..I’ve judged myself enough on that.  Apologized and silently prayed I’m sorry to him over and over over the last 2 weeks.  Ugh.

I wish I had something positive to say but hell, I don’t.  I’m worried that I’ll become depressed over this but really I see that I’m crying over the breakup and nothing else, so that’s a positive sign.  My friend’s gonna come down from where she’s living to help teach me to drive.  Hopefully once that’s over I’ll feel better.  Like, I took a Lyft to fill out a job app yesterday and that brought me out of it.  At first I cried to the person who was driving me there because she commented that it was a beautiful day and I just wasn’t feeling it.  She was sweet, though.  I told her about the breakup and she listened, was caring, and then we started talking about the importance of emotions and how to love people and use things, and not the other way around.  I think we were kindred spirits.  She’s the one who encouraged me to journal my feelings, which I’m doing right now. And then on the way back I had a jokey potty-mouthed driver who I bullshitted with and laughed with all the way back home with.  She was fun and driving back with her put me in a good mood.

I wish I trusted where I live enough to walk around but due to times in the past where I’ve been *grr hurt* I feel really self-conscious and uncomfortable when I go out walking around here.  I just started typing that I could bite the bullet and my PTSD and start riding my bike around again, but felt a surge of fear about.  Maybe later?  Who knows.  All I know is that I’m sick of feeding my sadness with food and that it helps me to go out.  It’s a feeling of freedom that I can’t replicate anywhere around the house.

This song by Nina Simone brings me comfort right now.  I feel her.  Especially if you think of, as in the documentary, she was talking about how black people lost their sense of history and identity through slavery and jim crow and all of that shit.  It helps me empathize and brings me into her world, not just a prejudiced world but the world of someone who’s going through crap like me.

Nina Simone – Ain’t Got No…I’ve Got Life

I’m leaning on my friends really heavily right now, and I’m so thankful for them.  One friend who’s called me every day ever since we met is continuing to call me every day and is holding my hand through all of it.  Another I just told about the break-up.  That I was hurting.  Asked him to pray for me because that’s what he does and how he can show that he cares.  He texted back that he loves me.  Which is how I feel about my friends right now.  I love them all.  Even the ones I only talk to once a month or so.  They’re all here for me surrounding me with love….and I’m lucky for that.

Miss Him

I broke up with the boifriend and feel like I need to journal.

Last night I had a dream where some of my friends and I – including people I know expressly in dreams – were inside a cabin, probably his sister’s cabin, and then a couple of people were going outside.  I saw a white tiger out there…..right outside the cabin.  I stood at the screen door and looked at it.  Warned them.  The tiger came around and kind of tried to get them – not maul them, but definitely attack or subdue them.  They ran around for awhile and one person played dead.  Then animal control came over and told us that there were probably babies that the tiger – a mom – a tiger mom? – was protecting under the deck.  I didn’t get to see the babies but we were all okay, a little shaken up but physically fine, and the dream faded out.

I’ve mentioned before that cats and I have a special dream relationship.  They’re symbols of myself.  I’m wondering if this is true for big cats as well.  Especially unique white tigers.  My initial feeling about this dream is that I’m still recovering from the breakup (happened 2 weeks ago Saturday) and I’m afraid of going “outside” again.  But once I’m there, I’ll be greeted with something new and possibly full of life – babies.  Maybe my inner tiger mom is protecting me from going outside just yet.

I created a new profile on a dating site just to see who’s out there.  I’m not at all ready to go out with anyone or even talk, but something in me wants to look and see.  It makes me sad.  I can’t even answer the personality questions yet.  But yeah.

At first I talked all about him and my trip to where he lives, but this week the grief started to settle in and the sharing seemed useless.  I miss him.  But I know that we’re not going to be good together, even if I’m still nursing the dream of moving to San Luis Obispo with him in the future.  It’s weird how grief lets some things go and then hangs on to others.

Update and Ring of Keys(!!)

So there’s not much new on the boy front.  I still feel overwhelmed when I think of it, but I talked to my therapist about it and she told me how the stories we tell ourselves can overwhelm us or lift our spirits.  So I’m trying to think of each element of this story separately: That my romantic night that I’ve planned for him is a simple romantic gesture that doesn’t have to mean that we’ll be together forever (hell, we’ve only with each other there 5 months so far); that I am excited for him and for his transition; that even though I love him I don’t have to commit my life to him because we’re still getting to know each other.  I feel physically relieved as I type some of these things, even as I feel a the pressure on because I’m thinking about it again.  So there’s that.

Then there’s last night.  I didn’t watch the Tony’s but I heard on NPR that Fun Home won for best musical.  At first I was uninterested because the (very) little that I read of Fun Home was a bit of a downer; but then again, I’ve always had a crush on Alison Bechdel (super hottie!) and Mo from DTWOF and wanted to catch a glimpse of what the actress portraying her looked like.  So I checked out this: 

and oohmyygod wow.  I was taken back to the time right before I began coming out at about age 25.  I remember seeing the butch janitor at my mom’s school when she, my niece, and I were getting her room ready for her first year of teaching.  She came, no, swaggered in, and I couldn’t stop looking at her.  I thought maybe she recognized me too.  I didn’t know what to say to her, and despite her butchness (I didn’t know what to expect), I think she was a little quiet.  Shy, like me.  When little Alison in the song sings, “Can you feel my heart saying hi?” I lose it every time.  That’s how it is sometimes, huh?  It was then, and was when I first went to the Castro with my mom (again, lol) and one gay boy my age just looked at me.  He had dark hair and was wearing an orangish polo and gave me a friendly, non-invasive gaze, recognizing me.  He didn’t look away. I’ll never forget it…..it put me at peace and filled me with such anticipation and wonder.

Anyway, I’ve seen this behavior again and again in the gay community.  People quietly acknowledging each other, listening to the newbies like they were little puppies discovering the world, not wanting to guide them but just let them be curious and playful as hell and scared as they are.  One of the things I love about my community, even though as I’ve become slightly more involved since then I haven’t seen it (I’m around families and allies and out youth more these days).

Another thing about that play that captures us well is the divide that gay men and lesbians/butches/faab transfolk sometimes have.  We sometimes have different tastes, and sometimes it feels like we’re from entirely different worlds.  When Alison’s dad, who’s secretly gay, tells her to put her barrette back in her hair from the Tony Awards performance, (which can be seen here: http://www.justjared.com/2015/06/07/fun-home-cast-performs-at-the-tony-awards-2015-watch-now/ it reminded me of the disconnect I’ve felt with gay men sometimes.  They celebrate our/by butchness and, yes, hit on us, but they also sometimes have the glittery taste that it has taken me awhile to embrace, even though I love it now.  Or when I’m talking to my gay professor and when there should be an instant bond with us, but there isn’t.  I’m just another student, and gel much better with my straight male professor and my female-identified hippie one.  It’s just all interesting.

We tend to talk about ourselves as community, but it’s important to remember that we’re sometimes from different worlds and we all have different tastes and personalities.  Just like family: none of us get along all the time, and there’s inevitably politics and misunderstanding, but, hopefully, we’re there for each other when we need it most.

Processing

So I’m in a relationship with a great guy.  He’s non-binary/”in the middle” identified.  We started talking around February and it got deep fast.  I love the way he treats me – with respect, with humor, and with love.  He has a voluptuous laugh.  I love the way he holds me.

He started transitioning about a month ago.  It was kind of a shock because he was just going in to check out the possibility and his doc, a gender specialist, asked him if he wanted to start that day.  He was like, “Sure!” and totally excited.  He got his first shot that day and called me / IM’d me on Facebook about it.  I was suuuper excited but also a little scared.

Now it feels like we’re living on borrowed time.  I don’t know if I’ll lose my attraction to him.  I told him so a few weeks ago….it made him sad.  He’s waiting for me to break things off with him or tell him the inconceivable.  My bestie knows that he’s transitioning, as well as a friend who has a trans son, but other than that we’re waiting to tell my world until after he comes to visit in a couple of weeks (he’s in Montana, I’m in Cali) and lets people, namely my mom, get to know him as a person first.

I sometimes feel like I’m wasting his time.  We had a heart to heart about him transitioning yesterday and he ended up with a huge, proud grin on his face after shaving off his blonde (he’s a brunette/bruuun 😉 so that was weird but whatever) hairlets for the first time since he started transitioning.  They were long.  He IM’d me last night with “goodnight my love” while I was waiting for the bottom to fall out.

What I really want to do is cry and tell my dad all about it.  I love my guy, but I don’t know if it’s enough.  He’s moving all the way from Montana to my town to be with me, and I keep telling myself that I’ll know more once he’s in town, that it’s just the strain of not being with each other that is implanting this doubt.  But at the same time I know it’s deeper.  I wonder if I’m going to have to break up with him.  I feel sadness when I look at that picture.

At the same time, I’ve posted my Facebook photo as the pic we took together behind snowy trees from when I went to visit him in Montana in April.  I want to live with him.  I don’t know what to do.  Continue as if everything is fine, wait til he comes to visit and see how I feel then, wait for the bottom to fall out?  I hate making him feel like I’m gonna reject him as he transitions.  This is usually a euphoric, jubilant time for him, and that’s as it should be.

I’ve ordered flowers and necklaces that are puzzle pieces (because that’s how I feel sometimes – that we’re each other’s matching puzzle pieces) that have our names and read “Boifriend” and “Boyfriend” respectively.  The manager of the condo’s we’re staying in the night he flies in is going to “prepare the room” for us with these two mementos.  I have this playlist in my head with Piano Dreamers playing one of our songs (Sara Barielles’ I choose You) on my bluetooth speaker, which I might pack with my luggage.  Fuck, I’ve even bought flameless candles for our special night together.  But now when I look at that pic of him, I wonder if it’s all too much.  Will the memory of us together just hurt more if he breaks things off with me or if I break things off with him?  I feel like I don’t want to put my feelings on hold because it might end up hurting him more.  I don’t know what to do.

I had a dream about him last night.  I was travelling to Yellowstone with my mom (which we’re gonna do) and the two of us were walking along a riverbank where there was a cut bank so that I couldn’t get there if I wanted to.  He was happy and I was like, “Oh, there’s ____” and we smiled at each other and waved.  Then we were walking along and there he was again, in an island thing made of sand in the middle of the river.  Then was in the middle of the river and he was the one looking from the riverbank, waving and smiling at me.  Hmm.  I guess it reflects that we’re both processing change and can’t seem to meet each other in the middle of it, yet or ever.  I hope yet.

Donate to help prevent Iranian Queer Refugee Suicides

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LGBTQ Suicide is an international issue.  If you can, donate to Iranian Queer Railroad for Queer Refugees at the link below to help queer refugees in Turkey get the mental health help they need to continue their lives.  Also, get Arsham Parsi’s book to learn a first-hand account of his coming to terms with his sexuality, his time in Iran, his status as a refugee in Turkey, and his first few weeks in Canada as a human being!

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The City and its Services: A Memoir

The City and its Services: A Memoir

Posted by  Sam Allen  at Saturday, March 28, 2015 12:10:01 PM PDT
Last Edited:Saturday, March 28, 2015 4:57:52 PM PDT

The City and Its Services: A Memoir

 

This is the first day of my life

I swear I was born right in the doorway…

  • Bright Eyes

 

 

When I was in Portland, I somewhat selfishly dabbled with homelessness – I didn’t have anywhere to stay when I first moved up there, and “landed” at the Salvation Army Women’s Day Center.  It was bright and welcoming, I got flirted with by one of the volunteers there (which was a good thing!), and I found out about residential hotels that were affordable for a time off the street.  Thankfully, I had enough money on me to check in at the Joyce Hotel,  a residential hotel in downtown Portland down the block from the mega-bookstore Powell’s City of Books (http://www.powells.com/) and, strangely enough, equally close to a Whole Foods – right across the street from Powell’s.  We were right on top of an old-school gay bar/club, and I heard the pulsating throb of La Roux singing “This time baby, I’ll be, bulletprooooooof” at the end of every Friday-night dance session.

 

I stayed the first night in a dorm room that was later occupied by what appeared to be rambunctious college boys on vacation – lucky for me they checked in a day after me – and moved into a single room the next day.  This strange location of each of the destinations I mentioned – tourist stop(Powell’s), upper-class shopping boutique (Whole Foods), and residency hotel (the Joyce) seem to epitomize the come-as-you-may nature of Portland.  The more I lived there, however, the more I realized that this had its negative and positive qualities.

 

The Joyce happened to be a hotel that case workers would send people who were in danger of being homeless to. I met a friend there who was there because she had just divorced from her husband and had nowhere else to go.  We sipped coffee at the bookstore cafe at Powell’s and told each other our life stories.  I told her how I fashioned myself as a “runaway” from a homophobic/transphobic city and, well, where else would I go but Portland?  I remember how she reached out her hand to me while she told me an especially difficult tale about her life.  We formed a bond that is solid to this day.

A few months later, I continued my interest in homelessness.  I volunteered for food credit at Sisters of the Road Cafe (http://sistersoftheroad.org/) on Sixth and Davis Street, smack dab in the middle of an area that, while once home to social services and places catering to its low-income residents, was showing the first signs of gentrification.  When I arrived in Portland, Sisters’ sign, with its three basic crosses in honor of Hobo Code’s (http://www.worldpath.net/~minstrel/hobosign.htm) mark for “Kind woman, likelihood of food” spoke to me deeply.

(Sisters of the Road Cafe Logo: Screen Clipping)

(an artist’s rendering that captures part of the homey feel of Sisters: http://newconnexion.net/img/sorcpainting.jpg)

I wasn’t aware of what the meaning of that symbol at the time, but the ragged etches and the presence “of the Road” seemed to fit me well.  I was in a transient state, trying to find a place to call home, and had just arrived from a long bus trip to a landscape full of streets, sidewalks, and friendly people who were, to me at the time, just like me.

 

Sisters served as as a place where anyone could get a meal and something to drink for $1.50 (http://sistersoftheroad.org/what-we-do/cafe/).  The first one was on the house, and then you could use your food stamps,  if you had them, to purchase your meal.  While working there, I learned that much of the food was donated.  It was a great alternative to buying stuff at the expensive Fred Meyer’s across the bridge or getting prepared food at one of the many convenience stores that lined the city streets.  One gray winter day, a lady came into the cafe and started handing out quilted blankets to people inside.  “Are you homeless?” she asked, with a friendly neutrality in her voice.  At a time when people’s homes were being torn down in downtown and men and women were corralled off the streets at 5 am in anticipation of the work crowd, Sisters was a place of kindness and respect like no other.  It remains a place that I would volunteer at, or even work for, if I were to live in that cold city again.

 

In addition to serving meals, Sisters also advocated for the decriminalization of homelessness.  According to the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s Houses and Keys, Not Handcuffs National Civil Rights Outreach Fact Sheet, 77% of homeless individuals were harassed by police officers for simply sleeping somewhere where it is deemed illegal to be homeless (WRAP 2012; http://wraphome.org/downloads/Western%20Regional%20Advocacy%20Project%20Final%20Outeach.pdf).  Because many social service providers are located in areas that are low-rent and adjacent to the places where homeless people live, there is a symbiotic relationship that is disturbed when individuals are forced to pack up and leave where they’re sleeping (Nooe and Patterson 2010).  Additionally, the mortality rate of homeless individuals is significantly higher, with homelessness being a risk in itself for death (Morrison 2009). This risk Sisters addresses by advocating for a Homeless Bill of Rights (http://sistersoftheroad.org/what-we-do/homeless-bill-of-rights-campaign/) and through partnering with allied organizations to acheive their policy goals.  Additionally, while I was there the Sisters’ website seemed to be holding consciousness-raising groups inspired in part by Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2005; a free version being at the following hyperlink https://libcom.org/files/FreirePedagogyoftheOppressed.pdf).   In a way, these groups mirrored the advocacy of many other kinds of homelessness organizations in promoting independence of individuals, from the intensive group and individual sessions of Stockton’s Gospel Center Rescue Mission (http://www.gcrms.org/Programs.aspx) to the more specific-community focused work of Outside In Portland (http://www.outsidein.org/about.htm).  Yet Sisters went one concrete step further – by fostering intellectual independence, it created leaders out of people whose community it comprised.  Many individuals who are clients of the  Gospel Center Rescue Mission – Stockton (GCRMS) also become community leaders in the sense that they become licensed addiction counsellors (B. Saffold, personal communication, 2013).  Perhaps because of the intensity of Portland’s urban/homelessness landscape, and because of the city’s more radical nature, Sisters became an all-inclusive site for justice and intellectual help.

  (One kind of march that was organized by Sisters; the image for this one is set in San Francisco).

While I was helping out, and later studying, homelessness, I was struck by the amount of violence that individuals who are homeless face: harassment from the police, exposure to crimes, and the theft of their belongings from strangers or others who perceive them as “on their turf.”  One woman told me that it was especially hard being homeless and visibly female because the streets were considered a man’s space.  She was currently living in a public housing bungalow off of Hollywood Blvd, but when she was homeless she would get harassed all the time and told to get out of there.  Sadly, it seems like policing is even practiced by members of the homeless community; maybe, perhaps, because of the amount of pressure that everyone is under.  Sisters even had its own policing, as I would sometimes go there for lunch after working at Safeway, fresh in a white dress shirt and black pants, and some of the people waiting in line with me would infer that I didn’t belong there.  The need for food is even common among the working poor, and I was one of them.  Plus, Sisters was a community where I felt welcome, respected, and safe once inside its doors.

 

I guess the public administration implications for this personal recollection are to raise awareness, a la Sisters, about how public administrators can address urban poverty and homelessness as less “problems” that need fixing (and nixing) and more as phenomena that affect individuals  and their lives.  At each place I went to, some of which I didn’t mention in this blog post, I was respected because I self-identified as someone who needed to be there.  I know that state requirements make metrics and data a necessity for giving and obtaining social services, but I think that this sometimes bleeds over into the way that State and County buildings are designed and policed: treating people as statistics rather than living, breathing human beings with struggles and stories who happen to need some help.  Also, the network of services that I utilized when I was first in Portland gave me a sense of place: Imagability, to quote Dr. Wellman’s most recent lecture.  I felt less awash and away, and strangely, more connected to community than I had been in my life.  Perhaps this came from a willingness to experience things that weren’t regimented or habitual, but it was also because there were places to meet my specific needs.  Even though downtown Stockton is facing yet another wave of renovation at the time of this writing, I feel that we could have both the intensive existing service providers such as the Gospel Center Rescue Mission – Stockton, as well as some pop-up areas around town that could serve low-income and homeless individuals.  GCRMS operates in its mission to treat each individual as a person who is worthy of kindness and dignity (http://www.gcrms.org/about-us/our-mission.aspx).  In our own interactions and in our professional capacities, it would be good to follow such a model.

Another milestone significant to public administrators is bipartisan cooperation. The founders of Sisters worked with Democratic and Republican Senators to pass a law that allowed individuals surviving homelessness to use their food stamps to purchase hot food; usually food stamps are set aside for uncooked or prepared cold food. This is one success that probably required both humility and patience – working little by little to inform their representatives about the plight faced by homeless and working-poor individuals. Realizing that it is tenuously hard to cook food if you have no kitchen to prepare it in, the Senate eventually passed the law in 1987, and Sisters became the first establishment in the United States to implement it (http://sistersoftheroad.org/who-we-are/our-history/). I think that it is easier to entertain divergent ideas when one is in school; carrying intellectual and cultural open-mindedness outside of the classroom with you is another story. The founders of Sisters, however, show how well it pays off.

 

Finally, I realize now that I was “slumming” it a bit – learning how other people lived, identifying with a group that I actually didn’t belong to.  Yes, I felt placeless, but I had the immense privilege of being connected to family who could and would help me out when I needed that ever-important thing: money.  This money, and the attendant love that it symbolized, kept me off the streets and helped me get out of downtown after a couple of months.  But I still have a feeling of thankfulness and a more open heart because of my first few months in Portland.

 

References

 

Friere, P.  Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2005) (30th Anniversary ed.).  New York: Continuum.  Retrieved from https://libcom.org/files/FreirePedagogyoftheOppressed.pdf.

 

Hobo Signs (n.d.) Retrieved from https://libcom.org/files/FreirePedagogyoftheOppressed.pdf.

 

Homelessness and health. (2002). Journal of Urban Health, 79(S1), S141-S154.

Morrison, D. (2009). Homelessness as an independent risk factor for mortality: Results from a retrospective cohort study.International Journal of Epidemiology,38(3), 877-883.

 

Nooe, R. , & Patterson, D. (2010). The ecology of homelessness. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 20(2), 105-152.

Western Regional Advocacy Project (2012)  Houses and Keys, Not Handcuffs National Civil Rights Outreach Fact Sheet for June, 2012.  Retrieved from http://wraphome.org/downloads/Western%20Regional%20Advocacy%20Project%20Final%20Outeach.pdf.