Thursday, March 31, 2016

Transgender Day of Visibility

Today I am in too much pain to get much work done, so I thought I'd speak here to the significance of the day instead. Today is Transgender Day of Visibility. 

Visibility can be what we both long for and fear, simultaneously. I want you to see me as I truly am, even if you don't like it or find comfort in it. Just know that this really is me. This journey of transition has thus far been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my whole life. It surpasses childbirth, divorce, and all the other pains and hardships I have endured.

The journey of being transgender doesn't begin on coming out day. Before telling anyone in the entire world, a transgender person must first face themselves. Some know from an early age and retain that knowledge steadfastly, others know but are shaken by the chaos of puberty, like me, and push that knowledge into the underground of their soul out of fear. Others make the connection later, wether it ever occurred to them before or not. 

I spent several years trying to talk to others about my gender dysphoria before I was able to fully accept it. Even after I started discussing it openly, I went back and forth about what to do. Here is my entire adult life based on being this strong woman and devoted mother. I have this name and this history and these children. I have community and education and work history based on this name and identity. 

So let me tell you a related story:
Almost 10 years ago, my son was diagnosed with autism and, before that, developmental delays and processing disorder. Nobody knows exactly what causes these traits either, but I knew I could work with him through it and we'd find a way. Now I have the proof in his progress reports (and his current reality) that there is a way through that darkness and resisting or denying his truth would not have gotten us so far on that journey. Other harrowing parental dilemmas have shown me the same truth. 

So how does someone like me start their transition journey so late in life like this? (And many take this journey on in later years as well.) I know from experience that there is a way through the darkness that couldn't be traveled if I held on to denial or resistance. Even when I falter, fall back into the darkness for a bit, need to reach out for more help, or feel defeated, I'm going to make it through this journey. Some days I won't want to talk about it and some ways I feel ok talking about it won't be the most comfortable for you. When it comes down to it, though, that's ok because I am the one who has to be me. I get to decide which steps to take and when. My journey isn't anyone else's and other trans people have variances in their stories as well.

I don't always know how to explain me to you. I don't usually want to. I am naturally an introvert and visibility is not a high aspiration of mine. But feeling loved and accepted as I am is. I speak up like this because I know I'm strong enough to speak for all of the people in my position who can't, for whatever reason. 

I'm protective. I won't allow harmful commentary to remain on this post if you feel called to say that sort of thing. But I'm completely fine with offering resources to anyone who asks here. You can comment anonymously if you need to. 

Let our visibility be strength. Let our differences be the spice of life. Enjoy and love each other as the unique and beautiful creatures we all are.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Don't Read The Comments...

Today I made the mistake of reading comments on articles and videos. I don't usually do this.

The first was an article about a petition to the International Olympic Committee to have Caitlyn Jenner's Olympic medals revoked. She will keep her medals. I'm glad, she earned them. But what does the vocal American public think about this? I read comments about how Bruce Jenner should keep HIS medals that HE earned, but that Caitlyn is now a different person so they aren't hers. This is ridiculous. She earned them. When we make life transitions, the slate is not wiped clean. We are still the same person. I have a high school diploma and a college degree in two different names, and neither match the name currently on my driver's license. Yet, these are still my accomplishments. No one can take that away from me because I earned those, no matter what transitions I go through in life. The comments meandered through various degrees of transphobia. It made me ill.

The second item I should not have read the comments on was the video of the black teenagers being violently chased away from a community pool by white adults and police with guns out, pointed at the kids. I couldn't watch the video, but I read far too many comments. Every single comment I read was about how these black kids were guilty by just the color of their skin, naturally prone to criminal activity and obviously out of place. Every. Single. Comment. The kids were called "urban" as if the color of your skin dictates the environment you are confined to live in. The comments get worse and worse, and I can't bear to repeat what was said about these children. I felt as if I could cry rivers for how much of this these children must face.

Mainstream America is full of racism, transphobia, classism, homophobia, and more cruelty than I can imagine realistically. I have been dwelling on this all day in sadness. I have been reflecting on the world I have grown up in. The sadness & reflection can act as fuel for my social justice activism if I stay mindful about it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Seeing, Naming My Transformations

Last night Crystal Blanton posted this quote on Facebook that got me thinking:

"My hips are too wide to pass through the narrow corridor of your mind"
-Chief Luisah Teish

This morning I was getting ready to go to the vigil for the 6th anniversary of Oscar Grant's death and couldn't help but notice that my hips have widened more and I am no longer the scrawny woman I was a few years ago. But I checked in the mirror and, yes, I liked what I saw there. (Damn, I've got nice curves!)

Last night I posted my New Year's Eve blogpost to Facebook and realized that this blog is in dire need of a name change. Something less diminutive. Something with strength. Something that demonstrates more of my stability and groundedness than the nomadicness I was feeling a few years ago.

I also feel the need to update the picture here that is actually from 5 years ago. There's more of me now. More depth, more hips, more power, more clarity, and maybe a few more gray hairs too. (Mmmm... and more love.)

There is no reason to take up less space, with my hips nor my words. In fact, there is every reason to take up more.

Dear 2015...

I promise to blog more, because I have a lot to say. I promise to do more for the kind of changes I want to see in the world. I promise to be less and less of what society thinks I should be as a woman/mom/disabled person, and more and more of what I want to be as a person, disability and all.

And, I will rename this blog for it's new incarnation and the new year...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As 2014 Comes to Closing Time...

In roughly 5 hours, the year will come to a close here on the west coast. It hasn't been an easy year, but but it has been a year of significance.

In January I lost my beloved 12 year old cat, one half of the Panther Brothers, Hektar. He passed away in the cold night after escaping my attempts to keep him in the house so I could assess the need to take him to the vet. His brother, Inari, became more clingy and remained that way through the year, other than some strange adventures to a neighbor's house later in the Fall.
In March I shaved my head and then 3 of our cats were shot near our house. Sparkle and Kuro were both shot in the head and ended up losing their right eyes. Twitch was shot in the thigh. But our community and beyond came through for us and thousands of dollars were raised towards their vet care and our ability to care for them through the tragic ordeal.
In May I began a journey of trying to help a friend through mental illness that tried my patience, my health, and the resiliency of my family.
In June we took in two feral kittens, now named Amelie and Trouble, who were brought to us by a neighbor. We've grown rather attached to them and they've found their way into the hearts of almost all of the critters living here.
In July I joined forces with Lucid Dream Lounge Productions to help with the opening of the historic Palace Theater not far from our house. I also learned the hard way that I have epilepsy. A few things ended up pulling me away from the amazing work of the theater however...
In August my youngest child started 7th grade in a public charter school after nearly his whole life being spent homeschooled. He was very excited when it began but later we would learn that the semester would end with hard feelings from bullying, distance from his homeschooled buddies (his best friend also moved out of the state), and other learning interruptions of public schooling.
In October my divorce finally came to a close after over 4 years of struggling towards that end. But, we also said goodbye to my sweetie's beloved canine companion, Miss princess Biscuit. Many tears were shed and everyone here still misses her terribly.
In November I took part in the Pantheon Foundation's first online conference, which was devoted to Pagan Activism. I spoke on the Care and Feeding of Pagan Activists panel as a disability rights activist. It was a frightening and amazing experience all at once, but we made it through the tech issues and the conference was very successful. I am looking forward to participating again next year.
The end of November and all of December exploded into demonstrations, marches, riots, vigils in Oakland and Berkeley as well as across the nation and even around the world. Solidarity across the globe became visibly through the internet and I hit the street to reclaim my place in the world of social justice action. I learned to be the kind of ally I would want to have, following the lead of the east bay black community.
December ended with my 38th birthday, auditioning for and being cast in the Vagina Monologues for V-Day 2015, and some major shifts in my children's lives and futures.
The year also held the further decline of my physical health and many various medical tests.

So that's my year in a (kinda lengthy) nutshell.

Every year one of my friends from way back in my Fresno days (pre-motherhood) does something called One Hour. "Take at least one hour for yourself - your own agenda, your own desires, your plans and hopes, map the progress in your life you hope to make in 2015. Ask yourself the hard questions. Face your fears. Look ahead to being that person you most want to be - it's a new year."

This is my One Hour here with this blog post. (It has already taken me over an hour to get this far).

So what does 2015 hold for me? So much richness, love and intensity, no doubt. What better way to begin a new year of intention than to witness the vigil tomorrow for Oscar Grant at Fruitvale BART where he was shot, unarmed, on New Year's Eve 6 years ago. I stand committed to the end of police brutality and the police state. I will stand up for black lives, brown lives, red lives, disabled lives, queer lives, trans lives, all the lives of people who face oppression, if I am able to. I'm not afraid to shout in the street that black lives matter. I'm not afraid to stand up for the rights of sex workers, who now face the possibility of eviction in Oakland for merely the suspicion of being a sex worker. I will grow as a person, furthering my spiritual/magickal practice. I will grow as a mother, now of two teenagers.

In 2015 I will also marry my amazing sweetheart, Esa, who continues to teach me how to take care of myself, holds me to my own high standards as a parent, manifests with me our mutual dreams for the future, keeps me laughing, and helps me fill our lives with many critters to love & care for. Some days are just epic naps or endless restraining ourselves from hanging the kids by their toes, but I will take them all.

It's now been over two hours since I began writing this and only 3 hours remain of the year. The house is a flurry of laughter, music, play, barking, cats chasing each other, dinner being almost done (and Mom sitting here typing away saying "leave me alone, I'm writing!"). I haven't said everything I have in mind for 2015, my secret plans and dreams in process of manifestation, but I don't need to. I have spoken those words to myself, vowing to honor them to the one person I will always hold myself accountable to. In 2015 I will continue to become more truer to my Self, the me I want to be. Hopefully my whole family will find that trueness for themselves as well. Whatever happens, this man & these teenagers & all our critters will continue to hold the deepest and warmest spaces of my heart.

Come forth 2015. Come forth with love, justice, revolution and reverence.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Accessibilty for Pagan Activists, Part 1

Over the weekend of November 21st-23rd, the Pantheon Foundation held an online conference in which they asked me to discuss issues of disability and accessibility on the Care & Feeding of Pagan Activists panel. Presenting on the panel with me were John Beckett, Soli Zat Johnson, and Rion Roberts.

Though we'd done a practice run with the conference software, I found that the more people who were logged in, the slower my connection was. So the chat window was severely lagging, sometimes even stopping, and the video had a slowly increasing lag as well. What really threw me off, though, was the audio. I figured out that I could use my phone to call in since my laptop's mic wasn't working, but the lag in the software meant I couldn't unmute myself when it was time to speak. But restarting my computer finally fixed the problem...

Watching the video of the presentation later, I realized that all my public speaking training in college had flown out the window and I "um"ed a lot. I also did some unintentional name dropping. I think I got very thrown off by the technical difficulties and using my notes and outline just didn't happen. I was nervous. I learned what I need to work on, though, by watching it and I think I will be better prepared next time. Hopefully my computer will be too.

It became clear during the panel that we could easily do a 90 minute panel JUST about accessibility in Pagan/activist spaces. That makes me happy. It means that people really are interested in making ritual and political action spaces more accessible, which means people like me, as well as people with more restrictive limitations, will be more able to participate. It also showed me how much more society needs to be inclusive, not just accessible.

In Part 2 I will go over some basic ways that public groups can be inclusive and accessible...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Crowdfunding For Love

We are having a wedding/honeymoon fundraiser in lieu of a gift registry for our commitment celebration that is happening in March 2015. 

If every one of our friends on all social media platforms were to donate $5, we'd get somewhere in the range of our goal. Can you donate just a little?

Much Gratitude & Love,

Rhiannon & Esa