Sunday, October 31, 2010

Coming Home

As I type this I am sitting in the backyard of my parent's house. My Mom is resting comfortably and recovering nicely from the surgery on her shoulder. I didn't sleep much last night due to the fact that I was in caretaker mode. I'm a pretty light sleeper as it is but when I'm looking after someone I maybe sleep an hour or so through the night. Needless to say, between the drive down, the lack of sleep and the stress, I'm pretty wiped out.

Laying in bed last night I got to thinking about the time I spent in this house. I've always been a bit envious of those whose family still resides in the house in which they grew up and whose family is still intact, for lack of better words. (Remember, my brain is functioning on a very low level at this point.) They have so many stories to share and a place that they've always called home. I hadn't ever realized that I have that, as well. Sure, I moved around a lot growing up (9 elementary schools, 1 junior high and 3 high schools, to give you an idea) but once my Mom married my step-Dad she stayed put and even though this place never really felt like my home while I was here, it turns out that it is. It has been for the last 24 years.

The room in the front of the house, the one that used to be mine, was the room where I figured out how to deal with my increasing feelings of loneliness. I was a loner my senior year in high school. It was the third high school I had attended and since most of the kids there came from affluent families and spent most of their lives growing up in that school district, there turned out to be many 'clicks'. Clicks that I would never be a part of.

Needless to say, I spent hours in my room with my headphones on listening to music and drawing or writing. The world that I created in my head was perfect and in that world I was as cool as Elvis Presley, John Schneider or any other 80's 'hunk'.

Sitting there at my corner desk with my headphones blasting rock'n'roll or country music, I made plans to buy an old Chevy Luv truck and cherry it out, complete with etched glass and chrome rims. She was going to be painteda metallic Midnight Blue, too. I spent hours looking through truck magazines. She'd be lowered in the front and raised in the back with sweet, fat racing tires on the back. Never mind the fact that their engines were wee and racing was not their strong point. She was still going to turn heads.

These were my days while I lived here. Get up, go to school, go to softball practice then go home, close my bedroom door on the real world and climb back into mine. It was all about coping and finding my way. The world and my future held so many possibilities. I knew I could do anything. I also knew I would have to do it on my own. This place, my childhood and my high school days gave me my strength to get through the rest of it.

My parents may not have been the best parents but they did the best they could with what they had. While there were things that I wish I hadn't ever had to fight through, I am glad that I did. Every single one of those things have made me who I am today. A strong, caring, loving, loyal, compassionate and passionate person with a good heart and a playful spirit.

That's pretty fucking rad, if you ask me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome To Singledom. Population: Me


The subject of being single has been haunting me these past few weeks.  While I am incredibly happy for those around me who have found someone to love and to be loved by, the constant reminders that I am currently a citizen of Singledom is sometimes excruciatingly painful.  My hearts need to love and be loved is sometimes overwhelming.  Specially during this season when the leaves begin to change and the temperature begins to drop, which makes for really nice cuddling in front of a movie weather. 

I spent this morning reading through some of my old journals and after a bit of contemplation on the patterns I noticed within my past relationships, I have once again come to realize that I really need to work on loving myself.  I’ve made this realization several times within the last few years but, to be honest, haven’t really done the work.  There have been times where I’ve put forth a good effort but I have yet to completely follow through until it stuck. 

What made this realization rip through my chest and smack me in the heart was an entry I made on January 18, 2005.  It goes something like this: Am I not raw enough? Not passionate enough? Not hot? Not sexual? Why does it always seem to come to “I love you. You’re so sweet, so tender, so generous, BUT I NEED MORE.”? 

The funny thing is, when I think about each and every relationship I’ve been in since then and the way in which they ended, I could have made this entry after every one of them.  The answer to the question is, yes, they do need more.  More of me.  Loving them so intensely and unconditionally is only part of it.  I would venture to say that it’s only half of it and ask myself what it is I’m giving them to love.  Am I only giving someone my love, the things I do for them and the way I treat them to love?  That’s not giving of myself.  There’s a person in this body and these actions.  Who is that person? 

The pain of losing relationships and fighting through the storms of my life has closed me off.  The titanium, concrete and brick wall that surrounds my heart has become incredibly thick.  It’s time to start dismantling it and directing that love that I so freely give to others towards myself.  I can do this without diminishing the love I continue to give to them. 

Imagine what could be possible if I started loving myself as much as I’ve loved them.  I have journals filled with letters to the women I have loved through the years.  Letters I wrote while we were together and letters that I wrote after we broke up.  What if I started writing love letters to myself? 

With all of you as my witness, I hereby make this my declaration to love myself.  To make this trip home with the intent of remembering who I am and where I come from.  To be and remain proud of who I have become and to not allow anyone to make me feel less than.  I am stepping off, once again, onto the path of self-love and discovery.  This time, I’m sticking with it to see where it takes me. 


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Your Judgments Do Not Define Me


Last week my step-Father called to tell me that my Mother took a bad fall while in their back yard.  She recently had surgery on her right shoulder and, thankfully, didn’t fall on that shoulder.  Unfortunately, she fell on her left shoulder and there may be some fractures.  She also fell pretty hard on her head.  Needless to say, she’s in quite a bit of pain and isn’t able to do much.  Her left knee was recently replaced and there seems to be some speculation that it may not be working properly so she’s falling a lot. 

I spoke to her during the call and she sounded so defeated and ready to give up.  Being the person that I am I immediately offered to come down and help.  She tried to tell me that she’ll be ok and that there really wasn’t anything that I could do.  (There’s no doubt where I get my independence from.)  Then she said that the house was a mess.  To give you perspective on my Mother’s thinking, having a messy house means visitors may not want to come and, also, she would feel bad having someone there when the house is such a mess.  This was the hidden message in her statement so I told her to let me come down and clean up the house for her.  She immediately started to cry.  At that point, I knew that I needed to go.  

A few calls later I am set to make the 16 hour drive in one day either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.  It seems crazy but it’s cheaper than flying at this point and it’s a drive I’ve done many times since moving to Oregon in 2000.  Plus, the idea of having my car with me brings a sense of freedom.  I can escape quickly, if absolutely needed. 

Now, you would think that this would not really be a big deal, aside from the fact that my Mother is in this physical state, and that I should be completely focused on helping her in her time of need.  I mean, she is my Mother.  (To clarify, she is my adoptive Mother.)  But, the fact of the matter is that it is a big deal.  It's a really big deal.

The thing is, I am beyond stressed out and really concerned about the possibility of this trip setting me back mentally and emotionally during this time of major transition in my life. 

In general, the judgments that people place upon me I see as just that.  Judgments that belong to someone else and that are not what make me or break me.  But, the judgments that are placed upon me by my family shoot through my chest and penetrate my heart and soul.  In an instant I am transported back to that little girl who just wanted to be the perfect child and make everyone happy.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve never lived up to their expectations.  This part of my family is where I got the idea that I was to grow up to become someone who made a lot of money while sacrificing any sort of happiness or love.  Become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant.  Anything that made money because how much I made would determine how successful I was and how worthy I was.  After all of that, I was to be married to a man and have two kids.  The ‘American Dream’, right?

Being a tattooed, lesbian who looked like a guy was not what my family had planned for me.  It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ of a person I am inside.  All that matters is what is seen on the outside.  Before you get to know me. 

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about let me explain the reaction that my tattoos invoke.  Since the last time I’ve been home I’ve gotten two more tattoos.  When my Mother discovered my first tattoo she looked disappointed then proceeded to tell me that she was just talking to one of her friends about me and told her how I was such a good daughter because I never got mixed up in drugs or alcohol and never had any tattoos.  I was instantly judged as something bad because of my tattoo.  Then she tried to explain that she already worries about the way people judge me for looking the way I do and now they’ll judge me even more for being tattooed.  I tried to explain to her that their judgment was none of my concern but she just wasn’t getting it.  In that instant I felt like a little girl again being chastised for the way I thought and acted.  Immediately I shut down and tucked away any feelings that were bubbling to the surface. 

I spent a lot of time journaling while growing up.  It was the only way for me to get things out.  Before long that was the only place where I felt safe to ‘talk’ about the things I was thinking.  It was a place where I wouldn’t be judged. 

At some point I became fearful that someone would find my journals so I got rid of them and kept things in my head which eventually made me crazy.  It’s taken a lot of time to come out of that space and start to sort through the crazy and I feel like I’ve done a fairly good job of it so far.  It’s just that each time I go home I fall back a bit into that crazy space where I can’t do anything right and am completely unworthy of anything. 

While thinking about all of this as well as other stressors that I am allowing to effect my everyday life at the moment, I felt incredibly close to completely losing it yesterday.  My stomach was in knots and the tears were on the brink of falling.  Honestly, I kind of wanted to hit something.  Ok, no.  I wanted to hit something.  This is where football used come in handy.

I need to go take care of my Mother but I cannot allow this trip home to set me back.  Specially right now during this major transition of my life and while stepping into my power to take control of my life. 

Dammit.  I am not that child anymore.  I am 40 years old.  I am an adult with my own life, capable of making my own decisions and I am a good person.  I am not that little girl who can be controlled by her family.  Their disappointment in me is not my baggage to handle.  It belongs to them.  I am not living this life for them or anyone else. 

My choices and my life are mine and mine alone. 

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."
~Harvey Fierstein

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grief & Trust: An E Ticket Ride Through My Thoughts


My mind goes back and forth between peace and turmoil this evening. Questions constantly arising about my thoughts and why I’m thinking them and where they are coming from.  I’m working through a lot of feelings, emotions and grief.  The loss of significant relationships take time to grieve. I have to continue to remind myself that there isn’t a set time limit on grieving.  It will come and go for as long as it needs to and when it’s here I need to bring my Zen Buddhism philosophies into practice and sit with it.

Feeling emotions is fairly new to me, considering I’ve been in this existence for the past 40 years and learned at a very early age to turn them off or tuck them away.  Now that I’m feeling them I’ve been trying to figure out how to balance them.  Just how long do I sit with them and am I allowing them to consume too much of my time?  Am I living in the past by dwelling on them for too long?  Am I dwelling on them or just feeling them?  Trusting in this process is difficult.  Are these feelings coming from something that was fabricated in my mind by creating a story from things that may or may not be happening outside of my realm of control? 

Stick to the facts.  Yes, this happened and this happened but it may not have been a consequence of this or that.  There are so many other explanations of what might be happening.  My instincts tell me something completely different but are those really my instincts or is that coming from the stories in my head? 

Am I obsessing?  Why does my heart feel the need and constant want to love someone?  When I finally find a peace with everything and the grieving ends, has it really ended or have I simply hidden away all of those emotions?  Will they return only to be worked through again and again and again? 

Do you see the chaos in this?  This process of working through all of these thoughts and questions help me define and learn from the emotions that I feel.  At least I hope it does.   It also feels like it’s making me a little crazy.

But, there has to come a point where I completely let go. Not only for my sake but for the sake of those involved.  No one wants to hear it anymore, including myself!  Move on into the future and be happy with the present.  See the past for what it was, appreciate it and cherish it but also stop living in it and holding on to hope that someday it may return. 

How much is lost in the present if I’m living in the past and holding out hope for something that may never come? 

So much is lost.  It’s time to kiss the past goodbye, send it love and wish it well.  If it does come back, I will love and appreciate it in the present.

I’ve fallen out of my habit of meditating again and need to start again with it.  It seems as though I lose focus every time I let that practice go.  Focus on staying present.  No matter what I’m doing.  It’s time to let go of the past and be in the present.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Are Here


This evening I attended a community forum at The Q Center for the youth in our community.  It was about us, as a community, listening to them.  Listening to their stories and their ideas on how to make the world a better place for those coming up behind them.  The community packed the Q Center to capacity tonight.  It was an awesome sight. 

There were seven youth on the panel and each answered three questions.  I’m going to do my best to remember them.

(1) What has been hard for you?
(2) What has helped you the most?
(3) What would help you more? (Think outside of the obstacles.)

These aren’t word for word but they are the basic premise of what was asked in this forum.  The idea of the evening was to listen to these youth and use what they tell us as a jumping off point to brainstorm ideas of how to better help them. 

It was pretty clear that the majority of these youth struggled to find an ally or a mentor while growing up.  A few of them were seeing counselors who they didn’t feel comfortable completely opening up to so finding just one person who would stand on their side and create a safe space for them was very difficult. 

I heard a lot of them ask more teachers to sponsor GSA’s in the schools.  While, I believe, every public high school in Portland has a GSA the outlying areas do not.  The suburbs of Portland like Gresham, Troutdale, Beaverton, Hillsboro and many other communities surrounding us.  The youth need more teachers and school administrators in these areas to come forward as allies.  The problem that arises for many of these teachers and school administrators is that for them, becoming an ally could jeopardize their careers. 

In reality, it’s a much bigger issue then what we are looking at here.  The basic fight is against homophobia.  If we can’t, as a society, become more loving and accepting of everyone these issues will never go away.  While there have been so many strides made in our movement for equality already, we have so much more to do. 

To start, we as the adult Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (GLBTQ) community need to step in somehow and start mentoring our youth.  They are the future of our community and of this world.  We also need more visibility outside of our community so that we can reach the youth who are struggling to find their allies. 

Mentoring was also talked about at the Butch Voices Conference here in Portland and it’s an excellent idea.  Something along the lines of Big Brothers and Sisters for queer youth.  If we could start something like that based out of the Q Center to mentor the youth in the SMYRC program and Outside In, imagine the changes that it could make for our youth and the future of our community.  Imagine the lives it may save.

The stories behind I Was That Kid and the It Gets Better Project show that these issues have been with us for generations.  It’s really a human issue.  When will we move past this?  When do we start respecting each other, stop casting judgment upon each other and start loving one another? 

Monday, October 18, 2010

5 Days


One afternoon in December of 1969 my biological mother gave birth to me. She was young, un-wed and it was 1969. Because of these facts and a few others, it had already been decided that I was to be given up for adoption. So when I was born, my mother was only able to hold me just long enough to count all of my fingers and toes. I was then swept away to the nursery to be cleaned up, poked and prodded then left swaddled in one of those plastic bassinets on wheels.


This would be my ‘home’ for my first 5 days in this world, only to be picked up or touched when I needed to be fed or changed.  I was the only baby in the nursery for those 5 days.  My Mother spent all of her time at the nursery window trying to keep me company.


I came out of the warmth, love and safety of my Mother’s womb only to spend the first 5 days of my life alone in a sterile, cold, and unloving nursery. No hugs, no cuddles, no connection.


After doing a bit of reading on this subject, I am willing to bet that those 5 days alone in that nursery did more emotional and psychological damage to my then tiny brain than any of the other abuses I experienced in my life.


I feel like I’ve spent the last 40 years doing everything I could to get people to love me, to touch me, to hold me, to stay with me. Yet, I struggle to actually form an attachment because there is this knowing in me that tells me they’re not going to stay. I’m not good enough.


Later in my life, my adoptive Mother told me that I never cried as a baby. The doctor told her once that she needed to let me cry so my tear ducts would form properly. She told him that I was a quiet baby that never cried. There didn’t seem to be any explanation for it.


I had become the perfect, pleasing child. The one who wanted to make everyone happy. The one who wanted to make everything ok. Because, if I did, they would stay. Right? They would love me. Right?

Forty years later things are becoming much more clear to me. This was the beginning of my journey through this life. The first 5 days.


(c) Wendi Kali July 29, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Her


There’s an image in my mind of a woman dressed in a soft, silk nighty with a flowing dark red robe that reaches only as far as her mid thighs.  She answers my knock and takes me by the hand.  Without a word she pulls me into her arms, closing the door behind me.  Her arms wrapped around me, mine around her waist, holding tightly.  Her hand cups the back of my head as she nuzzles into my neck and breathes me in.  We stand in this warm embrace for a few moments.  Gently, she pulls away, looks into my eyes then leans in to kiss my forehead.  Without words she knows what I am feeling.

Silently she leads me down the hallway to her bathroom where a warm bath awaits.  She helps me undress then reaches for a washcloth while I climb into the wonderfully warm water.  Slowly my body begins to relax and release the tension that has been building for the past 40 years on this planet.  All of the stress, the worry, the frustration, the anger, the pain, the unbearable fucking pain, begins to melt away. 

I am tired.  So tired.  She knows this.  In the silence she bathes me.  I close my eyes and hear only the sound of the bathwater.  The gentleness of her touch sends me deeper into the sense of relaxation.  Tightened and tense muscles soften and grow heavy. 

She finishes bathing me then leaves the room for a few minutes.  Sitting in the complete silence amongst the candles and the dimness of the room, I simply breathe.  A tear rolls down my cheek as even more frustration dissipates.  She left because she knows I cannot cry around others and I needed more then anything to release those tears.  The release exhausts me.

She returns to the room just as I’m preparing to step out of the tub.  The warm towel she wraps around me smells of lavender.  As I lean against the wall she gently dries me off, wraps the towel around me tightly then uses another to dry my hair.  I look into her deep blue eyes and pull her close to me.  Her smile is so beautiful.  Her skin, so incredibly soft.  She leans into me and kisses me gently. 

Laying the towel across the edge of the tub, she takes hold of my hand and leads me to her bedroom.  The downtown lights shine through the large windows creating a light glow in the room.  Exhausted, I fall onto the bed after dropping the towel onto the floor.  A moment later I feel her straddle my back.  With a bit of warm oil she begins to massage my back and shoulders. 

Feeling the remaining knots in my muscles begin to dissipate I begin to drift off to sleep.  She lies beside me, slips her arms around me and pulls my head to her chest.  Her warmth and love completely surround me as I drift off to sleep.  
 
© Wendi Kali 2010
 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Binding, Strapping & Packing


Oh my!

I’ve been thinking about these things for a bit now.  What they are, how they make me feel and how they may possibly define me. 

Last month a buddy of mine gave me a binder that he was no longer using.  We had originally talked about it back when I was playing football and trying to figure out what to do with my breasts, which kept getting pinched under my shoulder pads every time the defensive lineman tried to get past me.  Fortunately, I ended up buying a set of shoulder pads built for women and the pinching problem went away, but I was still curious about and wanted the binder so I asked him for it. 

The first time I wore it I loved how much more comfortable it was than my sports bra.  It didn’t tug at my neck and shoulders and everything was…..um….secure.  When I put my shirt on over it I did this sort of Tarzan like pounding on my chest and noticed that I was standing up taller with my shoulders back.  I felt strong and empowered. 

The question was. why?  Why did smashing my breasts against my body make me feel strong and empowered? 

Then I started thinking about strapping and packing, which I’ve done before but haven’t lately.  (By the way, my favorite is this one.)  Wearing those things under my jeans made me feel strong and empowered, as well.  Even if I had no intention of using them later, wearing them out to places and knowing they were there felt empowering and…..sexy.  I felt different about myself but never really thought about why.

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter why they make me feel the way they do.  If I feel strong and empowered then it’s a good thing and that’s that.  Right?  Well, I’m a bit of a thinker so I wondered about it.  Was it that I was presenting as a man and felt as if I was even more so with those things?  Why did I have to pass and feel like a man in order to feel those things? 

Finally, it hit me.  It’s not that I feel like a man when I wear these things.  It’s more about the fact that I feel as though I can travel between genders.  Moving fluidly from one to the other and back again.  I don't know about you but to me that's tremendously empowering!  I fully embrace both my masculine and feminine energies.  It’s who I am and I not only accept it, I love it. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coming Out


Today is designated as National Coming Out Day.  According to Wikipedia, “National Coming Out Day was founded by Robert Eichberg, a founder of The Experience workshop, and National Gay Rights Advocates head Jean O'Leary during a 1988 meeting of LGBT activists as a day to celebrate coming out. The date of October 11 was chosen to mark the anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which had taken place four months earlier.” “In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign manages the event under the National Coming Out Project, offering resources to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT families living honest and open lives.”

I hope that this day will not only promote awareness of LGBT people and families but also help those who are struggling and feel alone.  In the spirit of I Was That Kid I give you my coming out story.

My ‘coming out’ story is sort of a two-part story, in that I came out twice.  The first time was in 1997.  Many of you might remember when Ellen came out in the Puppy Episode on her show back in 1997.  Well, I watched her show almost religiously and after she came out, so did I.

During this time I was a single Mother raising my, then, 7 year-old son and had been single since I left and divorced his father when he was 2.  I was working full time, going to school part time and raising him on my own.  Without financial assistance or child support.  On top of all of that, I was trying to find me.

Growing up I knew a few gay men and lesbians but it honestly never occurred to me that I had more in common with them than I thought.  During that time in 1997 it finally started to click.  The show made me realize things about myself and all of those things resonated with me more than anything else had before. 

After the show was over and I put my son to bed I went to the mirror and looked myself in the eye for a few moments.  I knew I had to say it.  “I am a lesbian.”  It was difficult.  I choked on the words those first few times. 

So many thoughts flowed through my head.  How was this going to affect my life?  How would it affect my son and his life?  Would my family be accepting?  How do I meet others like me? 

Needless to say, I was scared.  But, everything started to make sense.  My life and the way I had felt about the idea of what my life was supposed to look like began to make sense.  I told two people the first time I came out.  My birthmother and my sister.  They were very accepting and loving.  In time though, those scared thoughts took over and eventually chased me back into the closet and slammed the door.  I wasn’t strong enough yet to handle it.  That idea of what my life was supposed to look like had a tight grip on my mind and thoughts.

I spent the next two years hiding in the closet.  Doing whatever I could to erase those ideas in my head that I was gay.  Finally in 1999 I came out the second time and this time it was for good.  I had met my first girlfriend online in one of those old AOL Lesbian chat rooms.  The first time we kissed I finally felt what everyone was so crazy about back in middle school and high school.  The fireworks appeared and I absolutely, positively knew I was gay.

During that year I found the San Diego Gay & Lesbian Center and found my community.  The rest is herstory. 

If you’re reading this and struggling, please know that you are not alone in this great big world.  Your community is here and ready to welcome you with open arms.  Here in Portland, Oregon there are many wonderful places to go including the Q Center and SMYRC.  Follow the links and connect with someone or email me and I will do whatever I can to help.  wendikali(at)gmail(dot)com

You are not alone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

One Of My Heroes

Original photo: Marilyn Humphries
Graphic design: Torry Mendoza
The Butch Voices Los Angeles steering committee has awarded one of my heroes and pioneers of our movement their very first lifetime achievement award.  This is the talk she sent to the conference.  I wanted to share the amazing and powerful words with you.  We've come a long way, yet have so far to go.  Not only as a civil rights movement but as a country.  Keep fighting.


By Leslie Feinberg
Oct. 8, 2010

[NOTE: This talk can be quoted and reproduced under Creative Commons copyright requiring attribution, no derivatives, and no commercial use.]

I sincerely thank you for recognizing my activist work and writing for the first Butch Voices Lifetime Achievement award at this Southwest regional conference.

As merely one activist in a world of struggle, I dedicate this award to all those who are fighting for economic and social justice--from Phoenix, to Oakland, to the West Bank in historic Palestine--since liberation cannot be won without collective struggle, cemented with unity.

By recognizing a lifetime of work by a revolutionary communist, Butch Voices demonstrates the kind of courage this historical period of economic and social crisis demands.

But before I comment more on this, I want to say something about how illness has affected my own butch voice.

I am very ill right now, from a 30-year undiagnosed Lyme infections and other tick-borne co-infections, which I contracted in the U.S. I've been home in a darkened room for most of the last three years.

I'm also in the midst of a very debilitating treatment, which makes writing and reading even more difficult.

I have been able to write group messages: short public updates in cyberspace about how ill I am and why. These personal messages were to let you know that I'm too sick to travel or write or to follow e-mail. I have worked with many activists in the U.S., here and around the world, and I wanted to let them know that a lack of response from me was a sign of disability, not disrespect.

As I've written these messages about my individual health, however, I have tried since my 60th birthday last year to write a public statement, in my own voice, about the medical politics surrounding this epidemic, and how those who are oppressed are affected.

But these tick-borne illnesses make analytical reading and writing in the English language an actually painful work space in the brain for me--like writing with symptoms of a severe migraine. Language-driven work is difficult and largely unproductive for me right now.

I have moved much of my work and memory to a different area of the brain: making, developing and printing photographs--narrative images, grouped for greater context. My photos are my personal gift to you, up on flickr.

But weeks ago, in the midst of trying to get work done and preparing to go into this treatment, I awoke during the night and thought: If I don't write something in my own voice now, then when? I've already experienced dramatic loss of abilities, suddenly and gradually, from the illness and the treatments.

If I don't research and write up something in my own butch voice, then the voice of the bigots and bullies who claim to be experts on my body and my oppression will narrate my life.

This last planned written political statement is entitled, "Casualty of an undeclared war." I'll begin serializing it online to share with you all. I hope to begin posting it to MySpace and Facebook soon. Then it will go up on my website.

You can find all my web connections at: pageflakes.com/transgenderwarrior

If you introduced me as she or ze, either is correct.  I don’t claim the pronoun he.

I do claim the pronoun "she." My body is the site of oppression and resistance as female and as a butch lesbian.  There are no borders in my embattled body between the fight against women's oppression, sexual oppression and trans oppressions.

Taking me out of the category of female skews understanding of the spectra of gender expressions and weakens the struggle for women’s liberation, as well as trans liberation and lesbian/gay/poly sexual liberation.

My life has been shaped by the apparent contradiction between my birth sex and my gender expression. And I've been shaped by being a masculine lesbian female who found community, or perhaps more accurately: communities, plural, and together against a common enemy.

I don't want to romanticize anything about bar life in the pre-Stonewall bars: exploitation by organized crime, police raids, groups of bashers, oceans of alcohol and fights.

I remember one bar and party game in particular: rating butches from 1 to 10 on the aspect of their gender expression that was considered masculine. I do recall how those who played rated the same butch differently, showing difference in individual perceptions about gender expression. I also recall some butches protesting the rating they received, showing that individuals often perceive themselves differently than those around them do.

But mostly, I look back and think about how the game made gender expression a contest over who was the most masculine, like so-called beauty pageants award the most feminine.

Let no one say that anyone is "too masculine" or "not masculine enough" or criticize anyone else's gender expression. No one's gender expression is liberated yet.

In the 1960s many thought that being a masculine female was synonymous with being lesbian. That was the societal assumption. So it seemed that the masculine women we worked with in the factories, orchards and fields, who had male-bodied husbands, just hadn't come out yet.

That underlying assumption skewed understanding about gender variance and sexuality. Gender expression doesn’t determine who you are sexually attracted to or what feels sexually pleasurable for your body.

The assumption on which the game rested, however, was also that being a butch lesbian was a shared identity and had a quality of experience that could be quantitatively measured with the same ruler. The rating helped perpetuate the idea that some peoples' gender expression was "more" and others' were "less."

The real lesson of the game was missed: The 1 to 10 scale didn't rate "high" and "low," "more" or "less." instead, the exercise invited us to examine gender expressions that were considered the same gender expression, and find many degrees of variation.

The assumption of the game implied that gender expression is an essential characteristic that rises above class lines, national boundaries, above the struggle of oppressor and oppressed nations.

It ignored the experiences that were not shared, including racism, male chauvinism, unemployment, disability, and differences between urban and rural tolerance, and class divisions.

Racist segregation was the law of the land in the U.S. at that time, not just in the South. Buffalo, where I lived then, was apartheid segregated--still is. East Buffalo was community to those of African descent--and the banks and politicians used red-lining to create all-white neighborhoods west of Main Street.

Those who came out to the working-class lesbian and gay drag bars defied the racist segregation in public facilities. Although those who came out to the bars were predominantly white, there were also Black, Haudenosaunee, Latino/a workers of all sexes together in the same bars, united against a common enemy who could come through the door at any moment.

Many of butches of different nationalities also worked together all week long at factories, or stood in line at dawn--summer heat or winter cold--talking as we waited for day work outside the temporary labor offices.

The movement grew as we organized resistance to police raids and took up the cry: “Out of the bars and into the streets.” As that fightback intensified, it sparked consciousness and militancy, and forged pride and greater unity.

You honor and continue the coalition character of the struggle with the sensitivity and inclusion you bring to the language of your mission statement, a statement which could only have been hammered out with group labor, and the thought and discussion that work generates.

You describe BUTCH Voices as a social justice organization that is race and gender inclusive, prowomanist and feminist.

Your mission statement explains: "Our mission is to enhance and sustain the well-being of all women, female-bodied, and trans-identified individuals who are masculine of center. We achieve this by providing programs that build community, positive visibility and empower us to advocate for our whole selves inclusive of and beyond our gender identity and sexual orientation. We recognize our diversity as having a foundation rooted in butch heritage. We welcome the on-going development of movements intentionally and critically inclusive of our gender variant community."

I read with great care and appreciation that you welcome to this conference: “[A]ll who identify as Butch, boi, genderqueer, tomboy, stud, butcha, dragking, jock, dyke, two-spirit, FtM, trans-masculine, androgynous-with-a-butch-twist.”

“Connect with the power of our diverse, many-cultured communities of lesbians, Queer, feminist, womanist … whatever kind of butch you are.”

And you include femmes and other allies in your welcome.

I send you my deepest solidarity in your organizing efforts. This is a time to be bold and bodacious and to act, not to be immobilized by fear.

There are many things that have been won in decades of struggle, but as the experience of Nazi Germany demonstrated, those gains can be quickly wiped out. Bankers and industrialists in Germany funded the rise of fascism as a last ditch effort to save their capitalist system from a workers' revolution.

Today, neo-fascist organizing by the Tea Party forces is on the rise. Arizona and other states are re-imposing apartheid segregation. ICE agents carry out Gestapo-like raids on undocumented workers, demanding passbooks and tagging workers and families by skin color for interrogation and deportation.

This is racist scapegoating to divert attention from the capitalist economic crisis, in which the rich are getting richer. Immigrant workers don't steal jobs. There's no set limit of jobs in a society. Every working person creates the need for more goods and services.

The State Department, Pentagon and pro-war media are trying to create pro-war sentiment in the  LGBT communities, aimed at formerly colonized countries that assert their right to sovereignty, self-determination, and/or a break with the profit-driven capitalist world market.

Meanwhile, the CIA and other U.S. experts in the development of the science of torture have included rape and other forms of violence and attempts at humiliation and assassination of personhood, using prisoners' sexuality, gender expression and sex, as well as racism. Some of the guards at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo learned their interrogation and torture techniques as guards in prisons in the U.S., where sexual, gender and sex humiliation--like racism--is rampant.

Now, maybe the Pentagon generals and admirals will even drop their "don't ask, don't tell" witch hunt long enough to marshal fresh troops to send out to kill other working and oppressed people, or be killed. The Pentagon has no right to so brutally and violently discriminate against GI's. But that doesn't mean that the Pentagon is a kinder, gentler killing machine and therefore we should join.

"Big firms get rich, GI's die." That's the first protest message I ever raised my voice to chant.

The left wing of the early LGBT liberation movement in the U.S. during the late 1960s and early 1970s expressed solidarity with all who were struggling against capitalist and imperialist oppression and domination around the world, including in the U.S.

There's a big economic difference between the period I came out into, in the 1960s, and today.

Then, war for empire was still a boon to capitalist big business. The FBI carried out a covert domestic war of frame-ups and disinformation in an attempt to isolate and break up the struggles for national liberation, the organizing against the Pentagon war in Vietnam, and those uniting to demand women's and LGBT liberation.

But today, Wall Street and the banks are making a fortune in profit off workers' labor, while millions are hungry, johless and homeless. Where are the safety-net social programs? Where's the WPA jobs program? Where's the neighborhood clinics and food banks?

We're told there's no money for life-and-death social programs, but there's a blank check for endless wars for profit. Yet, today, imperialist war is no longer able to artificially pull the capitalists out of economic crisis, and those who are at ground zero for "shock and awe" invasions, and brutal occupations, are resisting by any means necessary.

The tinder is dry, and sparks of resistance will ignite a conflagration. As the union song demands an answer from each of us: Which side are you on?

Today, I dedicate this award and my solidarity to all who are protesting and organizing--through speech, signing, marching, rolling, tapping, and clicking the send button on an online petition:

--in the struggle for jobs, health care as a right, housing, education,

--to those battling white supremacist ideology--the nationalist ideology of the oppressor nation; to those demanding: stop imperialist wars for profit, and bring all the troops home, now!

--to those defending Muslim, Arab and South Asia immigrants being rounded up, tortured and deported; to those working to stop the racist war against undocumented immigrants and to boycott Arizona.

--to those protesting police occupations of oppressed communities, and the racist police brutality and killings--from 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in Detroit to Oscar Grant in an Oakland BART station.

--to those organizing in defense of anti-war and internationalist solidarity activists who are being harassed by the FBI and are now facing subpoenas to appear before grand juries.

--to those battling misogyny, trans-bashing, gender-phobia and other forms of sex, gender and sexual oppression in a patriarchal-dominated capitalist society, to all those on the front lines in defense of reproductive justice

--to the youth who are struggling for life and consciousness against right-wing  white supremacist, LGBT-bashing, anti-immigrant, woman-hating, and anti-disabled bullying in schools

--to all those struggling to remove obstacles to social and economic access that create disability

--to those who have the courage to refuse to kneel in surrender and pledge an oath of anti-communism to prove loyalty to the emperors of banking and industry and their imperial wars.

--and to the anti-capitalist Abolitionists, revolutionists who work to overturn this profit-driven, divide-and-conquer system of private ownership of all that collective labor has built over millennia, and to replace capitalism--in which abundance creates widespread poverty--with collective ownership of production and a planned economy in which people can contribute to society what they are able, and receive in return what they need and want.

Many battles lie between us and liberation. I am with you at every barricade, at every front line.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Was That Kid


I awoke this morning with an incredibly heavy heart.  “Sad” couldn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling.  My heart ached.  I got up, let the dog out then went to the kitchen to start coffee and as I’m standing there lost in my task the tears just start pouring.  Uncontrollable sobs with heaving chest and all would be a better way to explain it.  The entire time this is happening I kept thinking to myself, “Where is this coming from?” Why did I feel so sad?  It seemed to be a complete mystery to me.

I updated my status message on Facebook telling everyone that I woke up with a heavy heart and a few people commented that they did, as well.  So I began to wonder if it was the emotions of my friends that I was feeling or was this all coming from me.  As a bit of a side note, when I make connections with people I tend to feel their emotions even if we’re nowhere near each other physically.   It’s hard to explain but in the past few months I’ve found a title for that part of me.  An empath. 

Going back to the point, I spent the majority of the day trying to figure out where all of this grief and heartache was coming from.  I took myself to the gym to try and shake it and was unsuccessful.  Spent some time with my son then had dinner with a friend then came back to the house and opened my laptop.  While reading through blog posts and Facebook stories it finally hit me. 

I am grieving for those kids who have taken their lives.  Not just the ones who have done it recently but every single child who has been bullied to death.  I have so much empathy for these kids because I can relate.  I know what that hopeless feeling feels like.  That lonely feeling where no one around you seems to understand you.  I’ve been there.  I was that kid. 

In elementary school, I didn’t like what the other girls liked.  I didn’t want to play house with the girls.  I wanted to play football and baseball and be tough with the boys.  The boys teased me just for being a girl.  The girls teased me for being too boyish.  Where exactly did I fit? 

By the time junior high school hit I started to try to be more like the girls.  Dressing like them (although NOT in dresses), doing things they liked to do, hanging out with them and trying really hard to have crushes on boys.  Honestly, I really couldn’t understand the attraction to them.  I tried kissing a boy in 7th grade and was waiting for that exciting moment that all the girls talked about but just felt…..nothing.  That feeling alone made me feel even more isolated than I had already felt.  Maybe there was something wrong with me. 

I couldn’t let anyone know my true feelings.  I saw how people who didn’t fit in were treated.  I wished everyday that I was bigger and stronger so that I could make it stop.  Instead, I learned to be the wallflower that no one noticed.  I disappeared. 

I was a cutter, a wall puncher and an eye scratcher (I scratched under my eye so much that I made myself bleed).  Thoughts of ending it all crossed my mind every single day.  I truly believed that no one would notice my disappearance.  

I don’t remember when it was but I finally realized that doing all of those things gave them the power.  ‘Them’ being the people who were mean to me and didn’t understand me.  My way of standing up to them was to stop hurting myself and stop thinking about suicide and survive it.  Live a life they would be envious of. 

Be the better person. 

You know what?  I did it.  I survived it and am a better and stronger person for it.  My life is my own and I am happy with who I’ve turned out to be.  A motorcycle riding butch lesbian, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Godmother, friend, photographer and writer who doesn’t give a damn what you think of me.

I want every kid out there to know that they can do it, too.  Don’t let the bullies win.  When you’re done with school, chances are you’ll never see them again and your life will be your own to do with however you wish.  Do what ever you can to survive and stick around to show us all what you’ve been put on this Earth to do.

An amazing friend of mine has put together a website where you can share your story about being ‘that kid’.  Please visit it to read more stories and if you feel so inclined, share your own story.  With a picture from that time, as well, if you wish.  The website is www.iwasthatkid.com and you can submit your story to iwasthatkid@gmail.com.  If you’d like, it can stay anonymous.  Just let her know.  You can also visit the Facebook page and post your own story there. 

Poems

My poems are my heart pulled out of my chest and smeared across the page for all to see.  Sharing them has been a challenge and while I've shared them with my friends on Facebook on occasion, I've been a bit fearful of sharing them out in the open as they would be on this blog.  It may be more to do with content than anything else.

Some poems reveal more of my heart than others.  Some are just plain fun.  Like this one, which I wrote a couple years ago while sitting in the laundry mat.

Laundry O' Laundry

Laundry o laundry,
Why do you pester me so?

There you sit,
In the corner of my room,
Your pile growing daily,
As high as the mountains on the horizon.
Your constant stare,
Your unclean glare,
I just can’t bare.

Why must I spend my only day off with you?
Lugging you down the stairs,
To the laundry mat.
Sitting,
Waiting for you to wash, rinse, spin.
Succumbing to the dizziness of watching you
Spin around,
And around,
And around as you dry.
Lugging you back upstairs,
Putting you away,
Only to find you growing again that same day.

Laundry o laundry
You torture me so.
Please go away!
Please leave me alone!


While not 'properly' trained in writing poems, I do consider them poems.  While writing them I hear myself sharing them at an open mic or with a friend.  My focus is on getting my emotions out, onto the paper where I can see them, mold them with my hands then embrace them.  Sharing them helps me to heal.  I'm heard when I share them.  Being heard and seen is healing in itself.

I've kept most of my deeper and emotional poems to myself but would like to 'come out' and share one with you.  Perhaps it will encourage me to share more.

My Pain

My pain is my own.
I claim it like a child claiming a goody bag,
nervous, anxious,
yet excited for the possibilities that lay
inside.

Nothing about it looks good from the outside.
It may even look quite plain
to some.


Everyone's pain looks different.
Dark, light,
brown, black, blue or
blood red.


Layered like a pine cone.
Protected like an oyster.


But,
peel back those layers, 
break away the shell
and you'll eventually see
the beauty
that lies
within.


Being this open and vulnerable is fairly new so I will leave you with these pieces of my heart for now.  Thank you for reading.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Do You Want?

I've been thinking a lot this morning about what direction to take this blog in.  Not that it has to have any one direction but there are things that I can focus on, as I've felt pretty scattered with everything lately.  So much has happened in the last month of my life.

So, I pose the question to you, my dear readers.  What do you want to see me write more about?

Any and all suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Your comments are moderated (which means they don't post unless I click the button) so feel free to let me know whether or not you would like me to post them after I've read them. 

Feel free to shoot me an email, as well at wendikali(at)gmail(dot)com.

I'm all ears (and eyes) so comment away!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Family

Try as I might, some days just feel a bit melancholy to me.  Today was one of those days.  On days like this nothing bad has to happen, I just seem to wake up with thoughts that carry over from dreams or feelings of missing those who are no longer here or still here yet no longer in my life for one reason or another.  

The good thing about days like this is I usually get a good poem out of them.  It seems to flow fairly easily after sitting still for just a moment and completely feeling the emotions.  My meditation this morning consisted of sitting on the futon with a cup of coffee.  Not what you would normally consider meditation but the fact is, you can meditate doing pretty much anything.  Well, Zen meditation, at least.  The practice of being present. 

After finishing my coffee (first cup) I opened the laptop, brought up a new document in Word and before I knew it there was a new poem on the page.  When it happens like that I feel as if I can write forever.  The words flow, the cadence flows and the Gods and Goddesses of Creativity shine down upon me.  It’s, quite honestly, a spiritual experience. 

For this experience alone, I am grateful for the melancholy.  It doesn’t end there, though.  On days like this I also think about my life here in Portland and how many amazing people I am blessed to call my friend.  People whom I consider my family.  My beautiful family supports me in all of my crazy ideas and activities, helps me to be a better person, calls me on my shit and loves me for who I am. 

Even if we are not a part of each other’s daily life, we know we can count on one another.  Unconditionally.  Mere words couldn’t even begin to explain to you just how blessed I feel from my connections to these wonderful and amazing people.  I came to Portland in 2002 from Ashland, Oregon.  It was a move that was incredibly difficult for me and, to be honest, I came here kicking and screaming.  Now I am grateful for that move and for all of the blessings and the expansion of my family that it has brought to my life. 

I spent some time tonight with my beautiful Goddaughter, Dania Grace.  It was a perfect ending for a day like today.  Through her 2 year-old eyes I see life as a gift and the joy in everything from a noodle to a bunny.  I love this little girl.  I can’t wait to see what she’s been put here on this Earth to do. 


© 2010 Wendi Kali

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wendi Kali: Photographer

(Liberation by Wendi Kali)

I feel like I’m still reeling from this past weekend’s events.  My new daily habits are helping me to come down from the high. 

In my head I have this long list of things to get done to get my photography off the ground.  Getting business cards made is at the top of that list.  Which isn’t a big deal, really.  I can find them online easily and for free so what’s the big deal, right?  Why haven’t I ordered them? 

Well, I realized today that I haven’t quite fully wrapped my brain around the idea of actually calling myself a photographer yet.  Seeing myself as an artist is so new for me.  For 40 years I’ve lived my life as something completely different.  Completely opposite from being an artist.  Trapped in the corporate world of keeping track of other people’s money with procedures and constraints. Being an artist means living outside of all of that.  I’m a stranger here.

Even though I completely believe in my photographs and talent as an artist and a developing writer, I am still having a difficult time seeing myself in this role.  So, putting that title on a business card some how makes things permanent and solid.  No more denying it. 

So, for my next first (there seems to be a trend happening here) I will order business cards before closing the laptop tonight.  Tomorrow I have an interview at a temp agency where I’m hoping to get some mindless physical work that will start the cash flow again.  You see, I made this leap into the arms of the Universe with just a wee bit of savings, no unemployment and now I’m down to my last $50.  Oddly enough, I’m not panicked or scared in the least.  Which is entirely new for me and really quite freeing. 

All of my other ideas need to wait until I either start working again or sell a photograph or two, or three.  It’s that capital that I need to take the next step of showing in places around town and possibly creating an etsy for note cards with my photos on the front of them and prints.  With the interview tomorrow I will get the ball rolling on that capital. 

Hi!  My name is Wendi Kali and I am a photographer. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Butch Voices

This past weekend has been incredibly thought provoking.  My writing seems to be flowing from all of it.  Spending time with so many others like me has been so good for my soul.   I feel a little less lonely, a little more validated and filled with a lot more strength and inspiration.

The importance of writing down our stories has been solidified even more in my mind.  When you research it, there really aren’t a lot of books out there written by butches talking about their story or their life and how they made it through. 

During the conference I sat through an intergenerational panel with a few older butches who talked about growing up without a mentor or a role model.  Imagine if they had, at the very least, a book to read so they wouldn’t feel so alone while they were growing up.  Feeling like someone who grew up in drag, I know I would have loved to have had a resource to refer to while figuring myself out.  Knowing that I wasn’t the only one to feel the way I felt would have made my life a hell of a lot easier. 

After this weekend I feel like the structure of my book is starting to come together.  Now to get myself to sit down long enough to start getting it out.  I’ve been more excited about getting out and shooting so I’ve been taking advantage of that motivation. 

Yesterday marks another first for me.  As part of the Butch Voices Conference there was a Gender Queer Spoken Word at In Other Words in the afternoon before the final party at the Egyptian Room.  There were some awesome featured speakers who were incredibly inspirational to me with not only their poetry but with their cadence and presentation of their work.  It was captivating and the audience ate it up.  Myself included. 

After the featured speakers there was time for an open mic.  During the days leading up to this event I toyed with the idea of reading something at the open mic.  I’ve been pushing myself out of my comfort zone lately and felt like this would be a good place to ‘come out’ as a writer.  I’d already come out as a photographer at this conference, amongst my brothers and my sisters and my community, why not come all the way out.  Open up my heart and expose all of me. 

Walking in to In Other Words yesterday afternoon I felt pretty relaxed.  I said hello to and got a great hug from the wonderful hostess, Sossity Chiricuzio. Afterwards she pointed me towards the sign-up sheet with some words of encouragement.  I stared at it for a moment and told myself to just do it.  Don’t think about it.  So I did.  I wrote my name down in the #6 position.  I like the #6.  It was my number in softball.  It’s a good number. 

As I said before, the featured speakers were amazing and inspirational.  As I sat there listening to them I talked myself through the idea that they’ve been doing this sort of thing for quite a long time now.  I have some practice to do but I have to start somewhere.  I promised myself that no matter how nervous I got I would still go through with it.  I was there, my journal was there and I knew what I wanted to read. 

As the names were called and their pieces read I knew my turn was quickly approaching.  I could feel my heart begin to beat harder in my chest and the blood start to rise to my face and ears.  The room started to get warm, well warmer given that a lot of what had been read that afternoon was erotic.  (All I can say after watching porn in Bren Ryder’s workshop with 35 strangers and 2 friends, which was awkward in itself, then sitting through several erotic pieces in the spoken word, I was pretty……shall we say, worked up, for lack of better words, from the weekend.)

When she called my name I had to push myself out of my chair.  Standing up there on the stage, reading my piece I could feel my legs shaking underneath me.  I could see my journal shake in my trembling hands.  My chest tightened making it difficult to breath and keep a cadence but I did it.  After finishing I stood there for a moment to take in the applause, which felt amazing, then somehow made it back to my seat without tripping or stumbling.  My legs were still shaking. 

Another first was under my belt.  My piece was the 10 minute free writing I had done in Sinclair Sexsmith’s writing workshop.  At the end I attached my answer to the photographer’s question since the two seemed to flow together nicely.  Both of these pieces are in my prior post so I won’t repost them.  The session was recorded so hopefully it will be posted somewhere so I can listen to it. 

I have to admit, after reading at the open mic I feel a bit hooked.  I want to do that again.  Dirty Queer is coming up this Friday.....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Butch

What an amazing day.  I’m so glad I attended this conference.  No matter how much I am against putting myself in a box by claiming the title of ‘butch’, I have learned that the title encompasses many things and has so many definitions.  For me, the thing about words and titles is that I can take them and define them for myself.  I am me.  Like I said to one of my friends the other night, I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but I’m not.  I’m a woman.  I like things that are stereotypically things that guys like and I present as masculine but that’s only a small part of who I am.  I am a complicated being filled with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes with a little bit of mystery locked in there. 

Last week I answered a question that was sent to me via email from the photographer putting together the Butch Project, S.D. Holman.  The response she received for calls for models at the conference was so incredible that they had to choose who they were going to photograph this weekend.  In making their decision they asked everyone to tell them something about their butch identity.  This was my answer to them:

I challenge gender stereotypes on a daily basis simply by existing in this world. I’ve grown comfortable and almost proud of the fact that I am called “Sir” on a daily basis.  On the outside I may look like a man, but under these boots, jeans and t-shirt, I am all woman.  Comfortable and confident in these clothes and in this skin.  I am me.

This has become a part of my definition of me.  My first workshop of the day in this conference was a writing workshop.  Writing our stories, which is what I’m doing as my book project, is so important.  Everyone has a story and they should all be written down.  During this workshop we did an exercise that was basically the same free writing that I’ve been doing everyday, only we timed it for 10 minutes.  I wanted to share what I wrote during that time but became very shy.  I need to get comfortable again with reading my stuff though so I’m considering writing a piece for tomorrow’s spoken word at In Other Words and reading it during the open mic session.  I want to share with you what I wrote.

It’s interesting how the Universe brings me to places to hear exactly what I need to hear exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it.  It’s happened on a daily basis ever since jumping into the arms of the Universe.  Trusting that it will catch me. Listening to it’s guidance. Going where it takes me. Remaining present in the moment. She talked about a book I must find and read. It’s author is a Zen Buddhist. Being present. That is my goal lately. Experiencing this life. Savoring each moment, each relationship, each being I come in contact with. Fully feeling my feelings. Separating that which is not mine. Owning what is mine and finding the lesson in the challenge I’m faced to over come. Standing in my power. My power. I am strong. Fluid. Genderless. Outside of those mere words. Words are so limiting when searching to explain feelings. Feelings of loneliness, grief, love, joy, feelings.  Love.  Love being the grandest of them all.  I miss the intimate.  Miss the touch.  The kiss.  The need.  The want.  Physical contact.  We don’t experience it enough as humans.  We’re afraid to touch.  Afraid to be touched.  Why? Where does that come from? For me it stems from those first 5 days of my life spent in the cold nursery. Untouched. Unloved. Who am I? Who am I to think I can do this? Walk this new and unfamiliar path? I am me. Strong. Creative. Powerful. Loveable. Competent. Handsome.  I am butch. Aggressive. Tomboy. Boi. I am me.

This 10 minute free writing was filled with so much for me.  I have so much more to write about but I’ve got another event to get to tonight.  I will most definitely come back to this!

Whirlwind Weekend: Part 1

This weekend is filled with things to do and I'm signed up to do a lot of them.  Last nights art show kicked off the start of the Butch Voices Conference Portland and tonight Ivan Coyote, Anna Camilleri and Lyndell Montgomery brought their show, Swell: So The Story Goes, to Portland all the way from Canada.  Their stories and their music was poignant, thought provoking and humourous.  My cheeks are hurting from smiling at the knowingness and laughing at so many things with which I can identify.  I am so glad I was able to have this experience this evening. 

Needless to say, I wasn't able to fit in all of my new habits for the day.  The only things missing were practicing my guitar and shooting photographs.  My meditation this morning was a bit longer than the morning before and I'm finding that my mind is coming to rest much more quickly already.  My free writing went well, although a bit short due to an intense need for coffee and a bit of surfing on the 'net. (I really need to get a handle on that.  The 'net part, NOT the coffee.)  I went to the gym around 11:30 and spent a good hour and a half there getting a full body workout.   So, I got in my meditation, free writing and the gym. Tomorrow may be a wee bit of a challenge. 

Tomorrow is a full day of workshops at the conference then another show in the evening.  I'm really looking forward to the day though.  I feel as though I may come out of this weekend with a greater sense of self.  I plan to spend a lot of time writing about.  I will be taking my journal and my camera with me.  So, while it's most likely that I won't get in all of my new habits tomorrow, I do intend on writing and getting a few photos in.

Now.  As my Dad used to say right before putting the recliner foot rest down and sleepily walking down the hallway to bed, "My eyes are slammin' shut."  Off to bed with me. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

First Show

It’s interesting how my mind works.  I spent the majority of the day working myself into a bundle of nerves over tonight’s show.  To be fair, it was my first show so there was a lot of unknown involved and taking this step to put myself out there like that was significant enough to create a feeling of nervousness.  If I wasn’t nervous I wasn’t alive. 

Even though I could rationalize all of those fears I still felt the knot in my belly.  What was the worst thing that could happen?  For the most part, I was going to the Q Center to hang out with my friends and see some really cool art.  Plus, I’m confident in my work and my abilities so what could really go wrong?

I wasn’t able to eat much all day, needless to say, but met up with some friends for pizza before hand despite my non-existent appetite.  Turns out, it was just what I needed to begin to calm the nerves.  Spending too much time alone today didn’t help matters. 

Surprisingly, the moment I walked into the Q Center the nerves disappeared.  I felt relaxed, confident and happy to see all of my friends show up in support.  I have a tremendous group of friends and am feeling quite blessed. 

There was a great turnout for the show and I got some really good feedback on my photos.  I was also able to connect with another photographer whose work is similar to mine in that we don’t edit our photos much.  Neither of us use Photoshop.  She calls herself an organic photographer and told me tonight that she’s willing to share that title with me.  I love it.  She also gave me some great tips for printing and showing in different businesses around town.  I have some work to do next week.

Despite the distraction of the show today, I was still able to fit all of my new habits into the day with the exception of going to the gym.  I had planned on going this afternoon before the show to work off some of the nerves but I ran out of time.  Tomorrow it will be back in the routine.

All in all, I’m relieved that my first show is under my belt.  I had a great time and am glad that I chose this show to ‘come out’ in.