What is it about the end of May?

Six years ago, my daughter was born at the end of May. It was a scheduled birth. We knew she was coming and, well, the birth of a child is cause to celebrate and worry and stress. That being said, an amazing day. Life changing.

Two years ago, I went full time for good (it started as a summer adventure than never ended. But the month before was pretty stressful because I tend to do everything possible internally to be stressed, psyching myself up for the challenges. I was ready for it, but really nervous. That being said, it was an amazing time. I celebrated it at Disney land.

One year ago, at the end of May, I had my surgery. The month of May both dragged on and flew by and the end result was amazing. Life changing.

Here I am about to enter yet another May full of stress. If all goes well, the end will be amazing. Life changing.

If not, I’ll have the summer off and life will go on as normal and, well, normal’s pretty good as well and I’ve had a lot of life changing recently, so I’ll be okay.

But for now? Stress. At least I’m on a diet.

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Criticism

I’ve been told by just about all of my author friends that I should never read reviews of my books, especially the ones that show up on Amazon or Goodreads. I wish I could take that advice, but I read them. I enjoy the good ones and get upset/sad/angry at the bad ones for different reasons. I know my novels are not for everyone, that I very intentionally wrote in a style that would turn some people off. I sometimes ask myself if I can write something that will appeal to everyone, but nothing does. Those people who really like my works might see an attempt at popular fiction to be pandering. I agree. I understand that I will not likely ever make a living as a novelist, so what’s the point of writing as anyone but myself?

But the criticism. People can be mean and it takes a lot of willpower for me not to fire back at the ones who really don’t get it or have read one or two pages, made their negative first impression and, unlike Lizzie Bennet, did not stick around long enough to fall in love. I want them to understand why my sentences go on for days and why my ending is intentionally meant to make them feel what they are feeling which they ascribe to a negative. I don’t want people to feel good at the end of my first book. I really don’t. At the same time, I shouldn’t have to go around defending myself to my readers. And so I don’t.

Criticism is hard to take and sometimes it is anything but constructive. And on the internet, it’s worse because of the freedom of firing away from a faceless position. It’s always easier to serve one’s worst when there is no personal accountability. Sometimes criticism isn’t even voiced, but is just what you read on someone’s face. Sometimes criticism isn’t personally aimed at you, but you take it personally just the same.

As a Jew, I take any criticism of Jews personally. Those are my people, anti-semite! Only I get to crap on them! So it goes for every other group I am a member of….such as unions or teachers or trans. There is a lot of hate to go around for all my groups. A lot of negativity and like a moth to the flame, I read it all.

I don’t know why I do. It’s like reading politics. I’ll read all the articles that Suzan Cooke posts or everything at Daily Kos (and, yes, I’m a progressive…) and a lot of it is critical and very negative. I’ll read things at Huffington Post or some other news site. I’ll read the Trans articles there and much as I shouldn’t read my own reviews, I read the comments on the articles.

And I want to respond to them all, all the faceless fearless fuckers who voice their ignorance and think it jest or, worse, think their opinion to be right and true and necessarily spoken. Sometimes I do as I never do to critics of my books. Sometimes I fire back or simply try to explain how they are incorrect in their information or their logic.

It doesn’t help. I don’t believe it helps. I don’t think people change their minds unless circumstances force them to do so. Certainly a comment on a website or a blog or a review is not going to make them think that unions are better or teachers are amazing or trans people are not bathroom creepers…or they actually liked my book.

I still read the criticisms, though. I want to know what I’m up against.

The Conversation

I’ve been writing this blog semi-frequently, sharing things as they need sharing rather than writing constantly and consistently as an exercise in writing as much as a need to vent as I used to on my old, now deceased blog. I killed that blog because it had become a very contentious place where I was as likely as anyone to get down and dirty. Now I’m offering this blog up to a greater deal of exposure, I have no interest in it being a sticky ground for trolls. I am interested in conversation, though. And even though conversation can get heated, I will respectfully keep it civil.

Transitioning- Part II

 

Remembering back to the beginning of this particular life journey, there was a time when I was very concerned with the performance aspects of being a woman. Life is a performance. All the world’s a stage, eh? I’ve always held fast to the truth that we, as humans, are different to everyone, constantly morphing in either the way we wish to be perceived or the way we are perceived. Every aspect of ourselves in public or private is a construct. There is no concrete persona that is masked by all the others. Rather, the masks are who we are and, when they fit correctly, we are something akin to comfortable wearing them… so much so that we forget about them entirely.

The First Transition then is the development of new masks, masks that we feel fit better. This transition is where we put away the ones that didn’t fit well, that didn’t feel comfortable and, more than that, were painful to put on day after day. So painful that masks felt like they were corroding our souls. We begin transition and we try on lots and lots of them to see which fit best and then, hopefully, narrow them down to the ones that others see more as we want them to see rather than how they perceive them to be.

It’s a long process, but eventually we reach a point where we no longer worry about putting on the masks, where they fit so well that even when we go from one to another…from work to family to friends…we don’t think about them as we did during that First Transition. This isn’t to say there isn’t thought as to being “clocked”, because it is a discomforting feeling. However, that thought doesn’t enter any part of day-to-day life. If it happens, it happens. Another pitfall of life as everyone has pitfalls in life.

It’s at this point, when life is and being trans does not define our existence, but simply an aspect of ourselves that we may or may not think about, that I believe we are in the Second Transition. Some might see it as the next phase or just a continuation. Some people see themselves as beyond transition at this point. Obviously, I don’t.

I’m at a point in this process where I’ve reduced the number of masks I wear to a great degree, but there is still some culling to do, some fine-tuning of what is left. I’m at that point where I mostly no longer worry about how I am perceived, whether or not I am clocked. For the record, I assume I am from time to time, but can’t bring myself to worry about it all that much.

And that’s the point. When I first ventured out of the closet, I was never less than perfectly coiffed…making sure that every element of my public mask was as perfectly made up as I believed it needed to be. That’s a part of the performance. We wear the costume and make-up for the part we’re playing. During those first years, the costume and make-up were very important because they helped me to accent my performance.

But now I find that I only need the very basics, which are the basics of anyone born to the role. I’m perfectly comfortable that my own skin represents the best truth of me, my most comfortable masks. My most authentic masks.

But N.Jade! Can a mask be authentic?

Well, yes. Masks are just the parts we play to different people, including ourselves. And when the mask we show to ourselves is most like the ones we show to others, then we are living as close to an authentic life as possible.

None of this is overnight. There isn’t a morning we wake up and know that we have experienced a sea change in our transition experience. But we do reach a point where the masks we wore before, the inauthentic ones, are no longer available to wear and we can barely remember what it was like to wear them, to feel them chafe against our skin. Where the new ones, while still not perfect, feel right and true. Then we know we’re reached the next stage of our transitionary life.

Weird (not passing as normal) – a morning rant

For the record, I’d rather be weird than whatever lies in some kind of opposition to that, which some might call normal I suppose. I don’t really believe in normal. I believe that people attempt to pass as  normal in the hopes that no one discovers they are weird in some manner, unique in a way that would potentially embarrass them because suddenly they would separate from the flock and, as a result, could perhaps be shunned.

Shunned! The horror!

No, fuck that. I despise the pursuit of normal. I reject the safety of normality, of false belonging. If I am deemed weird – in action or appearance or thought – then I am doing things right. I don’t blend. 

Is that what you want? To not be noticed? I see it in students. Not just mine, but the ones I went to school with that averted their eyes the the professor was looking for a response in the hopes of not being noticed. The ones that were happy to see me raise my hand and weirdly embrace not caring if I was right or wrong, but simply trying out ideas I had to see if they made sense. That’s how it is with most people and, if so, that must be what normal is…the cowardice of hiding in plain sight.

I’ll have none of it.

The most important thing for some trans people is “passing” and they miss the point that in trying so hard to pass, they are attempting to not be themselves, not own who they are. To be something close to a normal man or a normal woman and missing that being normal is the dullest of ambitions. I strive to be authentically me. The process of transition has been about learning who that person is. And, yes, I like the trappings of the binary, but that’s part of who I am. I like to look a certain way not because I’m afraid of the attention but because I like to look a certain way.

I don’t seek to pass or to hide because it’s unnecessary. If people are going to take issue with me, they will and I’ll deal with them as I can as I curse their worship of the myth of the normal. The fact is, most people don’t and fewer still do it to my face. The same fear that keeps them from raising their hand to answer a question they know keeps their gaze averted when they suspect I am not one of them. Let them avert their gaze. Let them shun me because I have already rejected them.

People say that trans folk are brave and we often downplay that…it’s not brave to take medicine to save one’s life. It is, however, brave to walk proudly in the sun, reject the constraints of false normality and be weird and wonderful (and, yes, some of us try so hard to sneak back into the church of normality that tries to bar its doors to us…it’s a sadly natural response).. We’re not the only brave ones in this regard…far from it. Most of the people I associate with are both wonderfully strange and not trans and, in that, I add them to the lists of the brave ones who know that it’s better to live life in the warmth of a metaphoric sun than lob fearful stones from the shadows of normality.