Saturday, April 21, 2018

I have ideas. Dozens. Tail ends and beginnings. I would like to lie and tell you I don't know why I am scared. I would like to lie and tell you I am fearless.

Sometimes when I reach for her waist, rest my palm on the small of her back, trace the structure of her wrist with my thumb, or sweep a silver strand of hair behind her ear all is certain and assured. These are the times during which I have no reservation.

Look, I probably won't have the guts to publish this telling, but I want to tell it. It's not as though the current pattern of events is one of ease. I am wrapped up in ambiguous loss over a man who lives in an assisted living center four blocks from my house. Every visit is heartbreaking; a kind of sadness I don't think words will adequately convey. I love my husband. I've never stopped, and likely never will. I've been told that, had the stroke not occurred, we'd have tired of each other by now, might squabble regularly, or find ourselves pressed with the daily decision to make the marriage work. I've also been told to cast guilt aside. He asked me yesterday if I'd managed to recover myself yet. I took myself by surprise, answered no so quickly that even in my haste I believe myself. My self before is as irredeemable, irrecoverable as his before self. I think this is the source of my fear; being compared with someone I once was, who is gone.

I've taken to task the chore of explaining this fact repeatedly. The words are always defensive, protective of the newborn person struggling for breath.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Letters to no one: 2017, a descrption in future tense

Dear Self,

Sum up the past year in two words?

Free fall...Disco lights. 
Billiard ball...Kite string. 
Tempering heat...Temptress nights. 
Fitful sleep...Doves sing.

Clever. Alright, a few more, perhaps, in future tense.

You will stop caring for your husband in order to care about yourself, but drop by weekly, or often enough so that at the end of the year he will count you his most regular visitor still—his "Buddy." These conversations will be both pained and delightful. And though, unanticipated, you will not care about yourself and depression will fill those remaining holes too. 

Your glittering miracle of a girlfriend will appear when you least expect it, and offer dopamine in the darkness. This will not be an easy first year, but you will fall madly in love with her. You will go through the motions, attempting to establish a new routine. You will want to both live and die, and when the true death-scare comes you will have no regrets, only the desire to write your own obituary. Your children will worry; your girlfriend too. And you'll eventually care enough about them to seek medication help for yourself. It won't come until early next year, but you'll continue to stroke toward that shore in hope of remembering how it felt to be yourself. 

You won't climb a single peak, but you will peddle just behind your lover until your lungs ache. The two of you will explore nakedness hiking in the forest, and when she isn't with you, you'll try it on for yourself. You will spend less time restricted by fabric, more time strung up in smoke. You'll pick flowers and paint, write a handful of poems, take road trips, practice the art of confronting your fears in rational terms.

Your children will grow more deeply entwined in the veins of your heart and you'll continue the practice of parenting like you've never seen it done. You'll look at your own childhood problems in new ways, listen to the demon tales your girlfriend has told no one else, and you'll hold each other in the stillness once the secrets are uttered. 

You will revel in her friendship, philosophical discussion over sushi, defining thrifting fashion, hopping art galleries and museums, and listening to metal and jazz, all the while tugging her along toward folk. You will visit the North Country together and return to the Snake's frigid waters; then venture as far east as you have ever been to walk the streets of Boston and cross the bridge over the dark Mystic gripping each other's hands. You will hold her hand, cup the small of her back, stroke her delicate cheek, and kiss the soft line of her perfect lips whenever and wherever she will allow. You will march with her at SLC Pride. You will visit LDS Temple Square to see the Christmas lights and kiss her amidst throngs of Mormons. You will find yourself holding her body the way the ground holds your feet. Step by step, and the path will seem more sure.

That is how the year will unfold.

Undeniably yours,
Your worst critic

Friday, January 5, 2018

Letters to no one

Dear Self, 

This year, continue on the path of patience. Pilates, plank, and peddle more. Become stronger, supple where the joints have begun to tighten, more hydrated. Live a little less all-at-once. And write, once in a while, when you aren't reading articles. Maybe read a few books, but be reasonable.

Love your love, and let her love you. It's okay to relax into the goodness that has discovered you both. Embrace all that you are handed. Miracles are what happens in the subtext of the plot.

Be the mother that your children admire. Don't question how you figured out how when you get parenting right. Your gut is more often spot on than outsiders will ever admit. Your gut will tell you when you need to apologize and try a different approach.

Mantra: Pace thyself. You are most certainly on the downward half. Enjoy the soft sinking of the humus-deep footprints you leave behind. 

This is enough. You are enough.

With affection,
Your worst critic

Thursday, November 16, 2017

To be their keeper: thoughts on being an ally in observance of the Trans Day of Remembrance

Surrounded by university trans students,
Kelli shares her experiences as a trans woman at UVU's Trans Day of Remembrance.

I am in love with a woman, a human being, who is trans embodied. I am partner to a person who lives each day beneath a gaze that pathologizes her life experience and her existence. I stand beside her as witness to the endless barrage of judgment and criticism from a legion of privileged others. Some days it seems the world is unwilling to extend the reach of humanity far enough to ensure us both that she will be unharmed at day’s end.

These are the words of others—friends, family, and partners—about the trans persons they have loved who were lost to violence in 2017:

“She was a happy person who loved everyone and never met a stranger...He had a genuinely good heart...She was an honest, compassionate person who made an impact on those who met her...She was funny and entertaining, an inspiration. She helped others to learn to accept themselves...The sunshine of our family, a caring, passionate person who loved cooking and gardening...They were full of life and beloved by many...She was a light, always trying to make everyone around her happy. Assertive, charismatic and lovable, everything you would expect in a friend...A beautiful person who was charismatic and always joking around with her friends...An amazing girl who loved to make people laugh...She loved hard and just wanted to be loved and accepted...A playful spirit...A go-getter who enjoyed life...They were an incredible, inspirational member of our community and a constant fighter for human rights...One of the sweetest people you'll ever meet...She loved dancing and had a great outlook on life. She was very supportive of everyone.” 

These are the words of grieving allies. 

Becoming an ally is a voluntary act of brain revision. A surrendering. Our responsibility is to embrace first-person narratives and subjective realities that contradict enculturated expectations related to what may or may not be down there. At first we may believe this a simple gesture—the same comradery or compassion we would extend to anyone. But the role of ally also offers us keys to unlocking the prison gates of our own static, binary world view. In essence, the role is self-expanding. The more time we spend in an active ally’s capacity—offering emotional shelter and physical security to the spectrum of those persons residing outside our cis experience—the better we understand ourselves and our place on the planet.

This role, specifically, is the charge to demand safe space for trans bodies; to lend ear, support, and trust to trans experience. Allies must acknowledge the empowering importance in correct pronoun usage from ourselves and others. We must unfailingly accept the charge to offer affirming witness for trans identities when antagonists refuse to see or hear. We embrace the charge to educate the ignorant, and validate our trans loved ones.

Becoming the partner of a trans woman, at least in my experience, means the complete surrender of social comfort in exchange for empathic expansion and healing of my own unseen wounds. 

I canvass every room, peer through the glass even before we open doors, anticipate what’s coming, what’s waiting—who. Because they say, you never see it coming; that one time you let your guard down. And who knows why the hate seeps out. The problem is that it does. I confront trans antagonism and micro-aggressions everywhere we go. People who pass us in grocery stores, cashiers here at UVU, middle-aged married Mormon women at burger joints, waitresses at Indian restaurants we were dying to try, strangers speeding past us in trucks as we walk the Provo River Trail. These tensions do not focus around bathrooms. She perpetually absorbs disdain aimed at the center of her personal radius. And whether she notices or not, I have learned to quickly step beside her in that circle to meet the antagonist’s glare.

I want to speak to the weight of this oppressive gaze, especially in Utah Valley. We live in a community that boasts its own virtue; hails itself willing to comfort those in need of comfort, to mourn with those mourning. I grew up a part of this religious culture. I understand the principles by which one claims membership in the fold, and I am continually baffled by the intolerance and directed aggression toward transfolx in this area. The behavior I witness is incongruous with the tenets of the religion that produced the bedrock of my belief about how I am to proceed in a world filled with others. And we are all others. Charity is kind, it seeketh not its own. Love unfailing understands the precarious foothold of judgment. Communion is only complete when all are accounted for, found precious, cared for, succored in times of need. Regardless of the nature of our bodies, be it cis or transgender, all are necessary to move humanity in the direction of survival. We will not arrive if not together. We must be one.

And so, as our trans comrades put off the shackles assigned them at birth to thrive, to embrace lives of authenticity, we as allies must be ready and willing to arm themselves in their defense as if we were defending ourselves. We must see with changed eyes, hear with changed ears, speak with changed lips. To be human is to journey through embodied perceptions that carry us back to awareness of our lonely selves and the burning desire for belonging, rightness in our skin, rightness in our community. 

In the movie Cloud Atlas, (screenplay adapted by the sisters and trans women Lana and Lilli Wachowski), the character Sonmi-451 declares: To be is to be perceived. And so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds that go on apportioning themselves throughout all time.

May we, as allies—friends, family, lovers—secure the safe road ahead for the transgender community as an integral part of the broader communal constituency. Let us remember those lost and in so doing, let us commit to live—to know ourselves and others through continual deeds of acceptance and love.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Between thumb and forefinger

For every morning I wake up and it occurs to me again that somehow I ended up with her, when I never would have presumed she would think to look my way, let alone desire a conversation with me—here's the pinch. I never saw this coming, but every time she takes my hand, or I slip hers into mine, and the fit is soft and warm like a small animal, I'm willing to be struck again. And those dark eyes, their secrets that she only tells to me. I want to be lost there, caught in the blissful storm until the skies are wrung dry. She has changed my whole world. She has given me everything.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cold start

I told her that while this malady runs its course we would write. She's a queue commitment of three papers on religious philosophy & gender, while I rarely give prose more than passing thought. I admit this is an odd shift for me, when in recent memory I began day in, day out peeling off two essays at a time. That compulsion produced years of journals, emails, and blogs, that dissipated into single entries on rare occasion, belabored poems, emoticon-laden texts. I'd say I don't know what happened, but I do. A stroke. The attention of dozens of strangers. The critical eye of biologically linked voyeurs. A death of faith. A love affair. Private fodder that I used to write about, but that seemed to gain little attention, suddenly open for public scrutiny. And because the meat of what I have to say is the soft underbelly of my fragile self, I grew cautious, nervous, burdened with the requirement to adequately explain—no, justify—the workings of my private life. Writing turned chore rather than a relief, a vulnerability instead of my strength and protection. When I started, I didn't have the slightest idea that I'd write anything anyone would fuss about, because when I started I was not fussed about. But I've told her I want to try again, especially when she requests that I address topics we regularly face. I need to write, for all the reasons I feel vulnerable. I don't know how to start, and so if for days at a time I write silly, disjointed dither, I apologize. The flimflam linguistic spurts often get the engine churning. At least that is the hope. 

Every day. Words.

You needn't read them. There's little here to fuss about.