Reminiscing over my younger days as a musician brought this story to mind:
On August 31, 1996, the band Lush returned to Philadelphia for the second time that year, at the end of their US tour for their album, “Lovelife”, with only a few more shows scheduled before they headed back to England. Having been friends with Lush for a few years at that point, after the show, we took them over to McGlinchey’s, one of Philadelphia’s long-time favourite dive bars, something that had become a tradition for us whenever Lush was in town.
Something of a game of one-upsmanship developed between our drummer and Lush’s drummer, Chris Ackland, over a young woman who insinuated herself into our crowd while we were waiting for Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson to catch up with us. Once they did, we shared several pitchers of beers and bottles of what I think was some brand of hard lemonade, it being the “new thing” on the market at that time.
Having unwisely not eaten that hot summer day and night, I became a dizzy with hyponatremia and dehydration complicated by the alcohol (I’m prone to this, with my physiology, though I sometimes forget), so after sitting outside for awhile to cool off, Victoria and I begged off and headed home to our apartment on Spring Garden Street in the Art Museum area, leaving the rest of the two bands, along with long-time friend and WLFR DJ “Champagne” Bob Portella (the nickname was bestowed upon him by Miki, I believe, and stemmed from his custom of always bringing a bottle of champagne for Lush after the show, like some people will bring roses) to continue drinking into the night.
It proved to be the last time I would see them. In October 1996, a month after returning to England, Chris inexplicably committed suicide. Lush never recovered as a band, and after a year of attempting to move on without Chris, officially dissolved in early 1998.
I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that girl. It’s hard to believe that was 17 years ago this month.
From left: Emma Anderson (guitars and vocals), Chris Ackland (drums), Phil King (bass), Miki Berenyi (guitars and vocals)
Making a songbook. I don’t know why I’ve never done this before. A good use for my black B5 Deskfax Sandhurst Filofax.
Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a plane, and you know how planes can be sometimes. I’ll be off-line and out of cell reception from sometime Friday afternoon until sometime on Sunday night. Don’t worry, I’ll be having fun! But, if anything bad does happen, I want you all to never forget me, and to tell my daughter that I love her. Never stop fighting for Justice!
I woke up this morning to a realisation about some of the mistakes I’ve made in my life, and I wrote a few things about it. While I was getting my coffee, I read a letter from Stephanie, a very old friend of mine who I haven’t seen in many years. She read something I wrote the other night, and reached out to me to share her sympathy. She is so dear to me, was a part of my life and my family’s lives for so long that she will always be the sister of my heart. I shared with her what I had written this morning, and I would like to share it with you, because you never know, I may never get another chance.
You were a close part of my life for so long that I will always count you as a sister of my heart. When you share that much of someone’s life, only the two of you can understand where you’ve been. I only wish Victoria could have felt this, but of course a large portion of the blame for turning her away from me falls squarely on my own shoulders.
I had a dream about her again last night. As usual, a very happy dream. I woke this morning, and a little while ago, I wrote this:
I now realise that when I demanded an equal partnership from my wife, when I demanded that she perform the same tasks as I could and did, to the same level of competency, I was doing so because I was resentful of being forced to live my life as a man, resentful of being the only one in the relationship expected by society to be independently competent at whatever I turned my hand to, or whatever task needed to be accomplished.
Just as society was holding me to an impossible standard, I had internalised the belief that virtue arises solely from productivity and competence, and I was in turn holding my wife to an equally impossible standard, a standard in which I no longer believe, and recognise as damaging. A love relationship should never be subjected to comparison of the relative levels of contribution to the relationship, in the monetary, competency, or productive senses. Work, or the ability to do work, is not in itself a virtue.
I was not a virtuous person for being competent, but merely a useful one, and like too many others in our society, I counted my worth based on what I knew and what I could do. In my mind, I demanded from my partner that which I had no real right to demand—that she be more like me, when what I really wanted was to be more like her.
May the Light of the Goddess ever shine upon your path, and bring you Happiness, all the days of your lives. Namárië, hara máriessë!
Those Eyes I Worshipped
It’s funny how something will trigger a memory:
November 1988 — Stopped in traffic on the expressway somewhere north of New York City, straddling my brand-new, 2-month-old, Alpine White Kawasaki Ninja 500. The sun is going down, and I’m cold and I’m wet. I’ve been on the bike for hours. I’m exhausted. And this is the second time in four days that I’ve been in this condition.
I’d started out the weekend perfectly elated, getting on my new motorcycle with my new riding suit, my new helmet, with my new backpack strapped to the back. I was going to Boston to see Her, my One True Love, who’d transferred to BU earlier that fall. I hadn’t seen her since I’d been forced to leave Carnegie-Mellon back in the spring. I got soaked and lost on my way to Boston. Almost got a $50 ticket for trying smoke a cigarette at a pay phone in Cambridge, trying to call her to get directions. You can’t smoke on the street there, or something, I guess. Cop took pity on me when I explained my situation and agreed to put out my cigarette.
The second she opened the door, I knew it was over. I could see it written all over her face, in her posture, in her eyes. Those eyes that I worshipped. Maybe that was the problem. I spent the weekend pleading with her in every way I knew how to love me, but she’d made up her mind, and I left, feeling as low as I have ever felt in my life before or since.
Got hit by an ice-cold thunderstorm so bad leaving Boston that made cars and two-wheeled me pull over underneath an overpass and made me even think about turning back even though I knew I wouldn’t really be welcome. Got back on the bike and rode through the downpour, stopped at a rest stop somewhere on the Mass Pike (I think) for a hot cup of coffee to warm my frozen, soaked hands to the awe of fellow travellers who have seen me on the road in the storm, huddled over my tank to get behind the fairing, knees clutching the engine for what little warmth I can soak up.
Everything I have in the backpack strapped to my pillion and everything I’m wearing is completely saturated, and I’m suffering from the early stages of hypothermia. I don’t even know why I’m still going, why I haven’t just run the motorcycle into a bridge abutment or something, but I guess I couldn’t figure out how to do anything else but flee, as fast as I can.
By the time I reach the Bronx, I’ve still got at least 3 hours on the road before I get home, and now I’ve hit dead stopped traffic. I put my feet down and flip up my visor.
I never saw what it was that hit me. I might have been a large insect. It might have been a rock kicked up by the northbound traffic on the other side of the divider, but whatever it was, it hit me dead center in the upper lip. What went through my mind at that instant was that I’d just been shot in the face, and I was about to die. It’s amazing how quickly you can resign yourself when you believe that your fate is inevitable.
It took awhile for the shock to wear off, and for the realisation that I was still upright to kick in. At that point, I knew I was done. Whatever it was that had kept me going through that terrible weekend drained out of me in an instant. There’s no way I’m going to survive another 3 hours on the bike in my wet riding suit, and darkness is rapidly approaching. So, I make the smart choice, and turn off the highway to seek refuge at my grandparents’ house in College Point, Queens.
Arriving at the door, I was in a daze. My emotional state was a complete disaster, and in my exhaustion, I looked through the window to see the house crowded with members of my family. I’d completely forgotten it was my grandfather’s 68th birthday, and my cousin’s 9th was just two days before. It was a birthday party for both, and I’d arrived with almost perfect timing.
I don’t think I was ever, or have ever been since, so happy to see my family.
For Beth Cording
Ten years ago, I found myself desperate to pay my bills, with my business still struggling from the aftermath of 9/11, so I sold my AAPL stock at an adjusted price (including splits) of about $10 a share. AAPL closed today at $420.73.
Reading a younger friend’s post about how she feels about her face this morning, I began thinking about how for trans women of my age, who transitioned relatively late in their lives, we often experience a sort of disconnect with our self-image. My young friend was expressing how bad she felt because she didn’t have the face of girl, and it struck me that one of the things that is most difficult for me to acknowledge is that an entire period of history that could have been is absent from my life.
I look in the mirror now, and I do not see a man; I see a woman, but I do not have in my memories many instances of looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a girl. So, coming to grips with being a 45-year-old woman, in the prime of her life, with what can only generously be described as features that on a cisgender woman would be called “striking” or “strong” isn’t as easy as you might think. There is, in some ways, very little of my experience of my life that is directly applicable to who I am, now. Unlike my cis female friends, I have not had 30 years and more to grow into the woman I am now; I have had only five.
Did you know that in studies of attractiveness, it has been reported that the women that most people find most attractive have slightly masculine features? Look at high fashion models, most of them exhibit this. The thing is, culturally, we tend to associate “strong” features with physical and emotional strength, and this pervades my own subconscious, as well. The Amazon archetype is one way to describe this. That ideal can be a difficult to live up to in one’s own head, when one hasn’t had the benefit of decades of preparation for it, and I’m sure that certain of my cis female friends who might find themselves associated with that archetype will agree that it’s not even easy for them, having been seen as female their entire lives.
At 6′ 1-1/8″ tall, 160 lbs., reasonably attractive, and with a youthful appearance for my age, when I walk into a room in 4″ heels, literally everyone takes notice, and not just because they can tell I’m trans. There is no hiding, for me, no possibility of remaining inconspicuous. It’s also frustrating for me that because my personal aesthetic tends toward the feminine, and because I am also lesbian, the people who seem to want to interact with me are disproportionately men. It even got to be a joke with me at one point, when I was so sick of people wanting to know everything about me, since I was the interesting anomaly in the room, that when people would ask me what I did for a living, I would tell them I was a model. Not a single person, man or woman, ever disbelieved me.
I have never been a Xena. I’m more of a Jocasta Nu, if you will, the Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives from Star Wars. She knows perfectly well how to fight, but her life is dedicated to knowledge. And I don’t really know where that leaves me. I’m going to 45 years old this year, and while I am quite an accomplished woman, I lack academic credentials, and I have been unemployed or underemployed for over six years, now, since my business effectively crumbled after losing a major account in the Spring of 2007. That is, incidentally about 18 months longer than it has been since I transitioned; my physical transition has been accomplished very slowly on a minimal budget, often through the charity of others. Fortunately for me, the social and psychological transition has been much smoother, but I have also been single for four and a half years. The combination of these things makes me feel like the world has no place for me, except as a curiosity.
Identity is a slippery thing to grasp. What is it that makes us who we are? I count myself fortunate to find myself living in a time when the world seems to finally be coming to grips with trans people, trans women in particular, as natural variations in human development, but it is still frustrating finding ways to cope with the fact that society still has no real place for women who were not girls, for women for whom the possibility of fertility is effectively null. This is, of course, nothing new to any feminist; women have throughout history been regarded as little more than baby-makers and home-makers, if anything more, at all, and it is only in our lifetimes that we have begun to see significant changes in those societal expectations of women. But, for trans women, we struggle even to find acceptance from those who, it would seem, ought to be our natural allies, from other women, from others who transgress society’s expectations of sex and gender. As a mother who was, or perhaps is also, a father, there are more particular challenges.
Sex and gender are such fundamental pillars of our social identities that in most cases, we are assigned a sex and a gender before we are even named, based solely upon our gross physical biology, and while this may be understandable, there has been only the beginnings of progress toward understanding and accepting that physical biology doesn’t necessarily determine consciousness and identity, and hardly any progress at all toward understanding why this is so, let alone supporting those of us for whom this is so. We may never know why. It is a question that we may forever lack a sufficient perspective to answer to any degree of certainty.
However, one point that we should have no difficulty at all understanding and accepting is the right of every person to their own body, to their own self-determination, and to their own life. These are, in fact, the principles upon which modern society is predicated, although I presented them in the reverse order that they are usually mentioned: Life, Liberty, and Property.
There are no pictures that I can show you of the girl I once was. Even if you know me, have known me since I was a child, you will not have any memories of her, because I was very careful, or so I would like to believe, not to give myself away. I lived in fear, in shame, in embarrassment, in self-hate, and it was only in very brief moments that my true personality surfaced, like the night in December 1989 when for the first time in my life, I told another person who I really was. I kept myself hidden, and then gradually began to accept my fate and the responsibilities that found their way into my life, the role I’d inadvertently fallen into.
I both regret that, and do not regret it, but there is no going back and openly being the 15-year-old girl getting her first makeup job backstage, or the 17-year-old girl who shaved her legs for the first time and lied to her friends about the reason why, or the 19-year-old girl with the hair down to her waist walking to dance class with a gentle sway of her hips, or the 21-year-old girl in her favourite black leggings with the ponytail and tambourine at the Sugarcubes concert, or the 23-year-old girl who was wearing her girlfriend’s clothes to work and claiming she’d forgotten to do the laundry that week, that I refused to really let you know, who nevertheless was quickly losing her grip on her disguise. By 25, her life had changed, and she went into long-term cryo-sleep hibernation, not to wake for another 15 years, when my nearly 20-year-long relationship with my ex-wife came to its end.
But she was always there. I would see her, me, out of the corner of my eye in a reflection. I would see her in mirrors behind my eyelids in the dark of the night. I would see her when I could trick my eyes into not focusing completely on a photograph of me. I must ask you to forgive me speaking of myself in the third person. I consider it a very bad habit for trans people to adopt, but sometimes, it serves a purpose. I am her, and she is me.
It is a difficult thing to accept, that I will never be able to recapture those years, and it is a difficult thing to accept that the woman I am is slightly adrift, without the anchor of those memories. But, I must accept it, for that is my reality. Perhaps I will yet find a way to turn it to my advantage.
I keep going back to that picture of Fo Porter. How is it that she looks so much like me? She’s Black and Mexican, and I’m pretty sure I have neither of those in my heritage. I’m Filipina-German-English-Welsh.
I need more women like Fo Porter on my Dashboard. I need to know that I’m beautiful, too, that I am part of this society, too. Everywhere I go IRL and online, I’m almost completely surrounded by whiteness, by white people, by white standards of beauty, and I have been all my life. Growing up like this has even made the core of my understanding of beauty all about whiteness.
It’s not that I’m not capable of recognising beauty in women of color, but when I think about what *I* want to look like, the image I get is almost invariably white.
Until I saw that picture of Fo Porter, and I realised I kinda-sorta-almost look like her…and that I *want* to look like her.
Now, mind you, I do realise that I am half white, and that my daughter is three-quarters white, but there is this dreadful disconnect in my life, where I have a lot of difficulty being comfortable with a full half of my heritage, and that makes me extremely uncomfortable with the other half, too.
"Bookstores—guaranteed to leave you both poorer, and richer for it."
Gemma Seymour-Amper, 3 June 2013
So sparkly, it hurts my eyes to look at it in the sun. :D I lurve it!
I’ve been spending a lot of time this past month working on Paige Paigen. First, I’ve got a bunch of new designs, and have figured out the data merge automation into Adobe InDesign CS2 so that I can update my calendars for successive years. Second, the Paige Paigen website has been moved to Wordpress, since Posterous, the old host, has been shut down. It’s still a bit rough, but if you go to
you will find 43 different page designs for popular personal organisers in Personal, A5, and B5 sizes, with more to come! Until we ramp up to full production, all designs are free for personal use under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Pictured above is the final candidate file for the Paige Paigen No. 6105 Personal 2013 Week on One Page Calendar, US English, Sunday-Saturday, in my vintage, black Filofax Personal Buckingham organiser.
This is the No. 6101 Personal 2013 Month on Two Pages Calendar, US English, Sunday-Saturday: