Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Transgender Warrior

Self portrait of Leslie Feinberg.
As most everyone in the community knows by now, one of our elders has moved on from this plane of existence. This past Saturday, Leslie Feinberg passed away. The Advocate published the obituary that was written by Leslie's wife, Minnie Bruce Pratt, while at Leslie's bedside. (I will use the pronouns they used in the obituary.) Please take a moment to read it if you aren't familiar with Leslie and her work.

I'm a bit taken aback by just how much this loss has affected me and am still reeling from the news. In a state of denial, almost. Rationally, I know she has been battling Lyme disease and the co-infections that came with that battle, I know she's been suffering and that this would be the inevitable end but my brain is having such a difficult time wrapping itself around the news.

I hadn't ever met her, yet, I feel as though I've lost a family member. Yesterday morning, as I watched a video of her speaking at Sonoma State University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaRF0Ohb1mg), the tears welled up and poured down my cheeks. As I let the grief out, my rational side was having a difficult time understanding why I felt so sad by this loss. I think I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it but I know it's partly about the passing of someone who paved the way for me to live in this world. To live in this world as my authentic, butch self.

Reading her book, Stone Butch Blues, for the first time in 2010 was the beginning of a turning point for me. It was then that I began to find where I fit in this community, in this world. It was the beginning of finding me, of launching a photo project and feeling less alone in the world. That book, her words, made a huge impact on my life.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

I will always remember how her words made me feel. Valid. Brave. Strong. Seen.

Rest in peace, Transgender Warrior.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Choosing Love & Authenticity


A few days ago I had a very surprising conversation with my step-Father. He was telling me about how little he hears from my son and how he'd like to hear more from him because he feels he doesn't really know him when suddenly he's telling me how he doesn't have a problem with the gay thing but that he had wished my son and I would have chosen to be straight.

I wish I could remember, word for word, some of the things he said so I could quote him here but I was too shocked and a bit stunned to be having that conversation with him. I get where he was going with it, or trying to at least. I believe he was trying to say, in a very awkward and uncomfortable way, that he does love us and wants to hear from us.

But, the way he was trying to explain it was hurtful. His perspective comes from a very conservative, right winged kind of life. According to him, my son and I and everyone else who is gay chose to be gay. According to him we could have chosen to live a straight life, which, also according to him, would have been an easier life to live.

The major problem with this “thinking” is that it isn't thinking at all. I didn't chose to be gay anymore than he chose to be straight. Being gay is who I am, it's my authentic self. Imagine if I chose to deny who I am and lived a straight life. It would not only affect me on a deep, soul scaring level but it would also affect the person I was living that straight life with, his family, my family and anyone who I may have created from that straight life. I would be living a lie every single moment of every single day and that lie would rip me to shreds on the inside, finding ugly ways to manifest on the outside and harming everyone around me in some way on a very deep psychological level.

The denial would turn into self hatred and that hatred would eventually kill me. I've seen it happen over and over again to those who chose to live a life that isn't authentic to their true selves.

This isn't a perspective he totally understands. I'm not even sure he hears me when I try to explain it to him and having this conversation with him makes me feel like he believes something is wrong with me and my son.

There is nothing wrong with me or my son. He is gay. I am gay. It's just a part of who we are. The rest of our lives are just like everyone else's. We get up, we go to work, we pay our bills and our taxes, we are contributing members of this society, we have dreams and goals, we love and we are loved. Our lives don't look any different then his. We don't live a secret life that heterosexual people don't know about. Our relationships have the same highs and lows.

Yes, there are lots of people in this world who hate us simply because we're gay. But, honestly, their hatred is not my problem. It's their problem and it's something they have to live with and carry around with them. I choose to live my life authentically, to be true to who I am and to love.

I choose love and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Butch/Femme Photo Project Book Is Coming!

The culmination of the last few years of my life is about to happen. Yesterday I signed a publishing contract with an indie publisher here in Portland, Oregon called Blue Skirt Productions. They are going to publish the Butch/Femme Photo Project book!

I can't even begin to explain how excited I am about this. I know that when I finally hold a copy of that book in my hands, I just might cry. I've put my heart and soul into this body of work and couldn't be more proud of the way it's turned out.

The publisher is shooting for a December 15th release date and a release party is in the works. I will post the info about all of that and let you know where you can get your copy just as soon as I have all of that information.

My sincere thanks and tremendous gratitude to all of those who have supported me through this journey. It's truly been an amazing experience.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

They Were Right About Me

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” ~ Tao Te Ching

"I'm always makin' the same mistakes. All this takin' is hard to take. When I think about bygone days, I was doin' everybody wrong. I was takin' the long way, endin' up where I don't belong. Now I pray it's not too late to change the path I'm runnin' on."  -lyrics from "Snake Road" by Ron Sexsmith

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." The hard part about finally being honest with myself is owning up to my mistakes and painful patterns. The sentence in the quotes can be interpreted in a few different ways that I can think of. The "what I am" can be the ideas of who I am or supposed to be in my mind or it could literally be "what I am". That "what I am" being exactly the person someone once warned a woman I dated a few years back about me being. A person who is easily distracted as soon as things get hard and someone pays attention to her.

Just typing out those words made my stomach turn. This is me owning up to how much of an asshole I was. I wanted desperately to be loved and in my mind a relationship should be easy because that's how you know it's right. As soon as there was a hurdle to jump or a mountain to climb within that relationship I shut down and ran. And ran. And ran. And ran.

Until one day I finally owned up to my shit and was able to see all of the wrong I had done. I was able to see how selfish I was and how much I was Godzilla-ing my way through life. "I was taking the long way, endin' up where I don't belong. Now I pray it's not too late to change the path I'm runnin' on." This path I'm on is very different.

Relationships aren't supposed to be anything. They are supposed to be relationships. Sometimes hard and sometimes easy. It doesn't make one more right than the other. What matters is the love, connection, honesty, and communication between the people in the relationship and whether they're either heading down the same path or reaching for the same end result.

I think. Fuck. Maybe I don't have a clue. 

I know how I feel. It's taken me a really long time to finally know how I really feel, but I finally do and these days I feel humbled. Humbled by the events and my decisions and actions over the past few years. I know I don't want to be that asshole anymore. I know that today I am a better person than I was yesterday and that's a great accomplishment. I also know that tomorrow I will be a better person than I am today because I will keep on working on this open and honest communication with the people I am in relationship with now. My family and closest friends.

I also know that I am grateful for those who call me out on my shit, even if indirectly. I'm finally in a space where I don't automatically go into a self defense mode and can honestly sit with it, take it in and consider whether or not something should change in me.

If a relationship does ever happens for me again, I know it'll look different than the idea that I've carried around in my head all these years about love. You might say that it'll look much more practical and realistic. I don't feel the need, although the want will always be there, for the forever ever after. I'll want space and time for myself within the relationship and I'll most likely want to sleep separately, although not every night but often. When my tiny house comes to fruition, maybe even have our own tiny houses on the same property. I guess what I'm explaining is more of an intimate companionship.

Even if that doesn't happen, I will still have my family and close friends to make those connections and have that companionship. Plus, there are always dogs. Dogs are the best companions.

I've let go of my attachment to my need to be loved. I've kicked the asshole out of my head and every day I'm becoming that person who I always thought I was. Honest. Loving. Open. Trustworthy. Loyal. Compassionate. Considerate. Someone that truly knows the meaning of family and being a good friend.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hindsight and Major Life Changes

Hindsight. It's frustratingly clear sometimes. After spending this past year traveling through so many major life changes I've learned some huge lessons for which I am grateful.

One of those lessons being to stop moving so much and just be. Specially after a major life change like ending a relationship, starting another, ending a job, starting another and moving across the country.

I wish I would have given myself more time in Massachusetts with my ex-wife. I was in the midst of a lot of grief and internal struggle that clouded quite a bit for me. I can't help but wonder what might have been had I just sat through it while staying put.

But, wishing I would have done things differently doesn't change the past. All I can do is move forward and be ever so grateful that I still have a friendship with her, that she's still a part of my life. Our connection has always been so strong. Even in times of great distance physically and emotionally. If it really is true that we all have a "love of our life", that one person that you feel so deeply connected to on a soul to soul level, something that goes beyond words, she's that person for me. While the reality of things may be that we are never to be an "us" again, I am so grateful that she will always be my family and my closest friend.

I've learned so much over the past year. I look forward to being still, being quiet, being present and learning more this next year. Most importantly, staying honest and open with myself and those who are most important to me. My life has new priorities these days. Cultivating and nourishing the relationships of my close friends and family is top priority. Staying in a space of gratitude goes along with that.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Something Shifted

I am happy, yes happy, to say that I am doing so much better. Between the increased exercise, solitude, and time with close friends and family I feel like I am in a much better space these days. Thankfully.

Something shifted for me this time during this battle with depression. After spending most of my life chasing an idea of love out of the shear desire to be loved, I find that I've completely stopped chasing it. I can't, without a doubt, say that I'm not just completely shut down due to the depression, but right now there is not a single part of me that has any desire to be in a romantic relationship.

I'm not brooding or saying that from a space of pain or hurt where I feel like I'm just done with it all. This is new for me. I'm in a space where I am truly happy being single and spending time alone.

In this space I find that the relationship I have with myself is deepening, I'm being much more honest with myself, and I'm also focusing on strengthening my relationships with my family and my closest friends. It's the deeper connections that I crave these days.

That deeper connection that I crave leads me to send a personal email or message to those farther away or getting together with those who are close by. I always look forward to catch up sessions with my friends and family and we make it a point to schedule them. I appreciate them immensely.

I also love my job(s). I'm working with dogs and other animals when I house sit and it fills me up with so much love and true companionship. I can't remember a time in my life where I've ever loved and enjoyed my job so much. My happiness and contentment with that part of my life seems to be flowing over into the other parts of my life, which is what I had always thought would happen and am grateful to have finally discovered that to be true.

Because I love my job(s) so much, I am rearranging my life to fit into the income bracket and if the income improves, I am very happy to watch my savings account grow after paying down more debt. I will soon share living space, I live simply and I am content and happy with this lifestyle.

I've also stopped chasing the past. I have completely released it all, forgiven myself, and no longer pine for what was. If I could find better words to convey the magnitude of this, I would surly use them. This is huge for me.

This shift is substantial and life changing, to say the least. I am cautiously optimistic and excited to see what the future holds. I continue to plan for my eventual return to California to care for my parents and my tiny home that I will one day build. Of course, this is not to say that a romantic relationship will never again happen in my life, but at the moment, I am honestly ok if it doesn't. I no longer feel that desperate need to be loved. I don't yet know myself well enough to know whether or not I feel like I'm meant to be partnered up with someone in a romantic sense. Perhaps that will come with time.

I'm also finding that in this space, I don't feel as comfortable with putting myself out there the way that I used to. My online presence has changed both here and on the social media sites. Even writing this blog post feels a bit too self centered. I don't mean that as a judgement, I just don't feel as comfortable with it for myself these days.

I've separated my personal life from my online/public life so most of what I post these days on social media is stuff that I can talk about with anyone. The more personal things stay personal and I talk about them with those who are closest to me. I don't feel the need to talk about it in a public space anymore. 

Not to say that I won't write in this blog anymore. The topics of future posts may be a bit more general, is all. Perhaps one day I'll find myself back in that space where I feel the need to put myself out there again. That avenue is always open, of course.

If I'm really being honest with myself, I could wake up tomorrow and this could all change. Even so, it'll still be me and who I am. I will honor that shift, as well. But right now, I like where I am mentally, emotionally and physically. That is a very good thing. 

A very good thing, indeed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Again, and Again, and Again

Third time's a charm, right? Well, it's really the fourth but enough with the counting. I gave up numbers years ago.

That path that I talked about starting down again back in November of last year was briefly sidetracked. I thought I would be able to handle dating while remaining committed to being single but I just don't seem to be built that way. Thankfully one of us was smart enough and brave enough to cut things off so we could both continue down the healing paths that we forged for ourselves.

So, here I am again. Processing grief, battling depression that the grief seems to have triggered but I am winning the battle. The battle happens daily, sometimes moment to moment but I keep reminding myself that I'm still here so I'm winning.

On the first of this month I finally got myself outside on the track to try out my knees with running again. While running I had an idea to start tracking the things that I do to battle this disease of depression through photographs on my Instagram account. I'm using the hashtag "fuckdepression". It's a knock off from "fuckcancer" that I've noticed some of my social media connections have been using. I like it. It helps me stand up to it and do something for myself. The photographs will serve as reminders for me. Perhaps they will inspire someone else who is waging the same war.



Other changes are coming that will help with my intentions of continuing to work on letting go of the past, being grateful for what I have, focusing on work and paying off debts, finishing the book (I am currently in talks with a local indie publisher!), getting to know me, and learning all I can about care giving, gardening and building a tiny house. Care giving because at some point in my future I will move back down to Southern California to take care of one or both of my parents, gardening because I will one day grow my own food again and building a tiny house because that's where I want to live. In a tiny house that I built with my own two hands on a piece of land with a small pack of dogs. 

Hopefully, I'll keep coming back to this space to write about it.