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.

Family Secrets – A Tribute to Ivan E. Coyote

Something I’m working on….haven’t figured out the right ending yet.

Family Secrets – An Homage to Ivan E. Coyote

by Sam Allen

I’ve always wondered who I got it from.

Not like a disease, but a flower that someone gave to me a long time ago, pressed in between the pages of an old photo album. A flower that I discovered late in my 20s; a symbol of love and endurance.

My uncle? Nah, a bad candidate. He was a child taken too far away too early, to a dark place full of urges that he was taught to indulge, and abuse.

My grandfather? Who knows. My aunt Betty tells me that he didn’t like his penis, the thing that most men (I’m assuming) take great pride in. “This thing,” he called it.

But still, what did I know back then, when she was trying to tell me something important?

Now I know that it’s because it was still too far removed. Not intimate enough to be like sleeping in the same bed with your childhood best friend, or making puppets with your stuffed animals during sleepovers. Girlfriend close.

She. Or they, or he. It’s still hard to fathom a pronoun change for this love. Someone who cooked me dry beef patties and carrot and raisin salad when I came over from seventh grade, intentionally missing the bus again so I could spend time with her. Grandma.

A safe haven like no other world could be.

Grandma who didn’t know her grandparents, to the best of my knowledge. Just like my dad.

But she persevered nonetheless, taking class after class at the junior college and having her work published (stolen, actually) in a professor’s writings. According to her.

Mom says that she always felt she had a penis.

We were talking about family gays, and how I didn’t have many, in one of our evolving conversations about the nature, and mom’s feelings, about, my “homosexuality.” I call it queerness. 🙂

And suddenly, she says, her eyes casually off in the distance, “Well, one time granny told me that she always felt she had a penis growing inside of her.”

I stop.

Yeah, Granny had worn men’s BVD’s. She said they were more comfortable, and was once aghast that an ambulance crew had discovered her little-concealed secret. Cackling like only she could to recall the story.

And yeah, she also hated to French kiss men, or, rather, be Frenched by them.

These things my aunt had pointed out were emblems of her possible queerness. But I wanted more concrete evidence.

Something like this…

“But her brothers raped her when she was little,” mom says. I know that doesn’t explain it but I have to consider her argument respectfully.

“Well, gender identity and body image are things that are innate. Like, at 3 or 4,” I say.

Body image in a way that I can relate to if not exactly have. Maybe she was trans*, maybe not. She may have been right in the middle, just like me. Maybe not. I have to resist making her in my own image.

But this revelation gave me a possible, unexcavatalbe ground that I can stand on and return to. Talk to in times of trouble. Stories.

My grandmother was like me.

When I came home from Portland, I spent so much time plumbing my dad’s memories of his brother the child molester. The gay child molester. A baby boy of 15 probably committed suicide because of what he did to him. He was repeating what an uncle had done to him when he was only 12. Later, dad’s brother had relationships, and my dad recalled softly how Uncle Richard had come out to him before Harvey Milk made it a thing. Or maybe while. While they were backpacking through the mountains, something that I still cannot at all imagine my dad doing or wanting to do.

As for Granny, she came to me in a dream once when I was having a horrible time with agoraphobia and a fear of, basically, everything.

“Ooh! People!” She cackled. We cackled together.

I know that others search for their queer ancestors. I I follow the matriarchal line, holes and missing male relatives and all, on out of a rejection of the patriarchy. Ireland! Ellender! Exactly what I hoped for!

This is different.

It’s a portrait of complexity. Did she tell others about how she felt? I can’t shut up about it to the people I’m close to. Was she ever in a relationship with someone who affirmed what she felt? Something many people search for.

I should have been looking closer. Somewhere where “women” tell their secrets to others who look and feel like their own kind. Maybe.


I love her, but she quietly goads me about being gay.

I live with her because of the PTSD thing, and I was on the phone with my best friend last night, and we were joking about how gay I was.

“No, Pride is in June.  What’s wrong with you?  I’m gayer than you are.”

“I know that the Pride Center holds our Pride not in June but in August.  That makes me super gay!”

Nooooooooooooooooo! Smile.

This comes from my mom.

She’s teasing me, but it hurts.

“That was mom.  She’s saying Im’ not gay.”

“Oh.  Ugh.”

I wish my best friend had said, “I’m sorry hunny.”  She knows my mom, and loves her probably about as much as I love her, in her own way.  We’re her second family and she goes on vacations with us.

And mom?  I wish I could tell her (again) that that’s hurtful.

When I was coming out I, it was hard.  At one point my family in Redding was making fun of me – the guys, one guy in particular who didn’t know how to accept my obviously dykey layered haircut – and I went for a run to clear my head.

But it was Redding and at night, which means that thieves and rapists were apparently out looking for girls to rob and rape, not to mention kill.

Plus, I was queer.  Queer bait.

Which means that the fam had a minor meltdown after I snuck out the front door.  I just didn’t want to cry in front of them.

After I thought I had cleared my head and come up with some choice comebacks to my cousin who had been making fun of me, I came in, melted down, and was surrounded by my two girl cousins who gave me lots of love.

My younger cousin showed me her wedding pics.  Or tried to.  The computer wouldn’t turn on.

My older one said, “I wish I were gay.  Guys are buttholes!  My husband Mike was so mean to me.  So mean!”

I remembered all of the torture I had gone through from girls in high school but didn’t say anything to counter it.  Because, you know, she was right in her own way.  Mike had been an asshole.  From what I gathered from my fam in Stockton, he had called her stupid (this for a self-made entrepreneur who owned two stores.  Stupid indeed!), and spent most of his free time in the the garage playing with his toys.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic here.  He deserves it.

Anyway, I after I blurted out I’m gay, which had a metallic twang to it even then, I said that mom didn’t accept it.

She had cried and cried.  And thought it was a choice. She couldn’t see that I was happy (and still am, to a degree.  There’s nothing like living as, or close to, your authentic self).

Rachel, my older cousin’s, response was, shrugging her shoulders in an exaggerated way, “Who cares?”  Big smile.

I laughed and smiled through my tears.  It was true.  I was happy and most people loved and accepted  me.

But it’s like, now, rejection.  Family rejection when she “teases” me that I’m not gay.

I guess the answer to this is to go into my happy place, which *is* filled with rainbows, unicorns, and a k.d. lang soundtrack.

That’s what I did whenever somebody said stuff to me in the first years coming out – counter with all of myself.  Quote Allen Ginsberg (“You want me to be a saint.  There must be some other way of settling this argument.”)  Force the gay out in the front and make them take it.

I need to treat my mom the same way I treated the guy who said, “We don’t let *fat* people into the country,” and my response was, “Oh, but you let in gays (he was gay) and minorities?”

Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, stand up to mom.  In your own, comic funny way.

It’s hard because I have filial piety. My parents raised me Chinese. It’s not okay to talk back to your older relatives, particularly your mother.  It feels weird to even think about sending a comeback at her.

But then again, I did come out.

That put her through enough, but she can take it.

And at some point, I need to call my mom on the disrespect that she’s showing me.  In a similarly comical but deep way.

That will at least remind you of the goodness of who you are.

afternote: I’ve spent so much time lately blabbing about trans* this and trans* that, she’s more comfortable talking about trans* stuff generally than about me being gay, or genderqueer


Saying Goodbye

“I know your touch.”

I was sitting in the convalescent hospital, in a chair across from Grandpa,  holding his hand.

My family filed out meaningfully, and we were at once alone again.

I got up and stood by his bedside.  He couldn’t turn his head without feeling his pain from the sickness that had now overtaken his body.

I told him about my new life in Portland.

“He said.  That’s great.  You’re gonna be the President of Safeway, girl.”

“I’ll come back and visit you.”

Our eyes meet.  Silence.  try not to cry.

“I’ll miss you,” I think I blurt out.

Everyone was publicly cheerful, saying we knew that he’d be up and out of the hospital in no time.

They wanted to make him feel better – and themselves feel better – but I think he hated it.

Patient as always, he took our pronouncements in stride.

“You’ve finally found your life.  Keep it.”

I walked to the front of the bed and kissed him on the head.

“I love you.”   I wanted to say so much more, but this had to suffice.  I think he knew.

“I love you too, girl.”

Then everyone filed in.


“No, honey.  She’s not an adult.  You’re not an adult until you have kids and learn how to take care of someone else.” — My sister-in-law, speaking to her six-year-old son, about me.  On New Christmas Eve.

I was so mad I wanted to cry.  And I couldn’t just barge in there and ruin their cozy little mother-son moment.  But damn, did I want to give her a piece of my mind.

At the time, I didn’t even know if I wanted to have children.  Hell, I was 22 and the world opened before me like the proverbial oyster.

Fast-forward nine years.

I honestly don’t know how I got to this point in my life.

I’m 31, childless, and living with my mom.

Yes, I quit the Safeway job a few years ago because the reset crew and the scary metal guy were harassing me because of how I looked.

And I was laid off from Kohl’s because, well, the season ended.


And I moved home from Portland with all manner of PTSD, so I couldn’t work for awhile.

Does refusing to go with my mom, who wants to make me go to the local zoo with my great-nieces, make me an adult?

Does having kids at 17, breaking up with your cheating husband, and moving in with your parents, like my niece did, make you one?

My friend, a fellow PFLAGger, and I, said that we wanted to be like Elena Kelly when we grow up.  It was at Transgender Day of Remembrance, something that Elena single-handedly organized herself for the community.  We were joking, but really, somehow she’s just got it together.

She knows everyone in our town of 300,000.

She moved to frickin’ Thailand and is enjoying her life there, thanks to her lighthearted spirit and her penchant for connecting with people on Facebook.

She’s unemployed, but she’s an adult.

But she has degrees, and she’s a registered minister.

I have a degree, and I’m a derelict writer.

Who can’t write because I can’t seem to think through enough sentences to get from a spontaneous opinion to a polished thesis statement.  Much less an editorial.

What I can do is write about my life.  My PTSD, things that piss me off, things that made me smile.

Is saying “made” instead of “make” indicative of not being an adult?

No, not having a job is.  


I hate it when the kids come over because they’ll make the inevitable comment: “How old are you now? 37.  Still living with my mom.”

Or not take my advice because, you know, I’m not technically an adult.

Fuck the bad economy; there’s something wrong with me.

They’ve known this since they were little.

Unemployed or on Dad’s dole.  Never self-supporting.  I think of this and self-hatred threatens to seep in, so I’ll tell you what I have done.

I have travelled a little.  I have graduated from college.  I have endured lots of emotionally wrenching things, some with grace, and others with grudges.

I have applied to *so* many jobs.

“Walked me up a story, asking how you are.  Told me not to worry, you were just a shooting star.”

So many jobs.

I identify with Colin in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines because he’s afraid of being a noted child prodigy, even as an adult, and nothing else.

Sure, he kisses a girl, and works in a tampon factory for a summer, and I guess that’s what makes him grow up.  Become more than a noted child prodigy.

Because, you see, I was kind of a prodigy myself.

Someone who made people at my baptism whisper, “Ooh, what a writer.”


I never questioned it; it was what I was going to do when I grew up.

So now writing makes me question every syllable, every word, especially if it’s not about me.

And does that make me a child still?  That I want to write about myself all the time?

No, I think it’s reclaiming.

Earlier, in my know-it-all adolescence, I could claim to be an expert on everything.

I could write about George Orwell, Doris Lessing, Henrik Ibsen, Plato, and Antigone, not to mention the geopolitical complexities of Cold War-era America  and Europe.  Not having even lived through the time at all.

I routinely won the writing contests at school, earning myself a free book and/or a Crunch Bar ice cream, whichever I finished first.

Now, I write about myself and second-guess everything else.

I guess that’s the beginning.

Because an adult is not about taking care of others, but learning to take care of yourself.

And I had my head in the clouds for so long – wandering, studying things that I had trouble writing about, creating botched thesis statements, that it didn’t even occur to me that I needed to think about myself, or my future.

That was all in the future.

I suffered this terrible depression after I graduated from college.

Partly it was because I had to move back to my parents’ homes (they’re separated) away from my beloved college town.

But more because I didn’t know how to do anything.

I remember staring at a ribbon that my dad had wanted me to tie, and just thinking, I can’t do it, and bursting into tears.

He staring at me, disappointed.

What had her college been for if not to create self-confidence?

I guess you have to say that I started off from the ground up.

These days, I’m facing some of my fears.  I’m writing, at least.

I’m not dating because of a) the aforementioned unemployment and b) it’s really hard to find someone who’s my type on the internet.

I have panic attacks at queer events if I’m not there with somebody I know.

I’m queer, by the way.  Woo hoo.

I guess being grumpy is not going to get me a job, or a position at a writer’s colony.  But it does help me work through what frustrates me.

I used to take it out on others, but thanks to Abilify (paid for by the County), I’m writing about it instead.

Actually, scratch the, “because of Abilify.”

Abilify helps me to manage my emotions, but I make myself write.

Well, it’s crossed my mind.  Maybe write a book about my fucked-up life in Portland.

There was so much beauty there, and so much pain.  That combination makes my memories Technicolor.

Will writing a book make me an adult?

No, I don’t think so.

Technically, getting a job and moving out of my mom’s house will.

More sympathetically, let’s look at what I wrote about Elena.  Because apparently that’s my definition of adulthood, is it not?
“Lighthearted spirit.”  My brother has that.

“Penchant for connecting with people.”  On Facebook or whatever.  You have to be emotionally mature to connect with people.  They have to trust you, and you them.  It’s an equal relationship that blossoms into true friendship.

Do I have that?
I’m trying.  The key is trusting yourself first.

I emailed Elena to see what she had to say on being an adult.  After she said yes, I was nervous because I was afraid that there would be one more measuring stick, one from someone I trusted, that I just didn’t meet.

Instead, her reply warmed my heart and made me smile:

When I was young, I became convinced that adults didn’t know everything, because they insisted I was not a girl. I vowed that I would never be an adult like that. I have created my adult life through following my heart and accepting that other adults do not necessarily think the same way as I do. But we are not in this world to be like anyone except ourselves, and that’s okay.

It turns out that I’m doing things right, and it’s okay that we’re all different.  Whew!  Thank you, Elena. 🙂