Today kicks off me and andi’s workshop tour, the Glitter Rebellion. A part of what we are hoping to hold space for during these sessions are opportunities to creatively explore and express the strength, resilience, diversity and love that we come from.
Much of the time when we think about ancestral lines we think about blood and bone. Verna begot Doug who with Sharon, born of Kristine, begot Kori and Aly, and so on. These lines of ancestry have an importance in who we are, where we come from and how we understand home and family.
That being said, I come from a long and fierce line of ancestors to who I have little, if any, distant biological connection to. Queer family is one of love, resistance, resilience and glitter. When I am exploring my lineage I also recognize the paths of activists and freedom fighters from which my life and work directly descends.
This year on Samhain, the day many traditions have understood as that with the thinnest of veils between the worlds, I sat down to create a piece of art. The intent was to create something that could bring together the broad lineages that fed me. I use it as a visual cue to retain gratitude and connection to where & who I come from.
This collage includes maps of where my biological family migrated from before coming to north america. It also includes pictures and representations of my blood and bone family.
Other things you may see and pick out in this collection:
-further: the bus of the merry pranksters, grandparents to my psychedelic ventures
-the little yellow truck/camper that carried me across north america in the tradition of the pranksters, my migratory roots, and the quest to explore and understand
-a radio telescope at the very large array: representing the seeking beyond our planetary limits for what lies beyond
-drag queens in a paddy wagon: arrested at the Artists’ Exotic Carnival 1962. Surviving police repression of identity and expression.
-Leslie Feinberg: fired up and addressing a crowd
-ACTUP!: in the tradition of Stonewall, queers fighting for action in the AIDS crisis.
-The Lesbian Avengers: queer women using direct action to fight misogyny and invisibility
-Screaming Queens- those who fought back against police brutality and homophobic violence in the compton cafeteria riots
-Elders as sculpted in stone by Norwegian sculptor Vigeland from the sculpture park in Oslo (one of my families countries of origin)
I am very excited to see what sorts of play and exploration folks will get into during our Glitter Rebellion sessions.
We are in Winlaw today (March 5th 1-4 pm) at Bindu where there is space to join us.
The rest of the tour schedule is as follows:
March 10th in East Van for a sold out Workshop at the Hammock
March 13th in Squamish for a closed session at Quest University
March 17th at 6pm at the Sex Positive Art & Resource Center in Victoria (still room- email for a space)
March 20th from 1-4 at the Toast in East Van (still room- email for a space).
A few months ago andi and I were having acid church in my bus house and started chatting about the topic of breeding. I had, since my miscarriage a couple of years ago mostly backed away from the plans and connections that I had had with that whole realm. I had at one time had a room in my house and days of the week that were specifically dedicated to the tiny humans. I had spent the bulk of a year making monthly trips to the coast to get the precious ingredients to make baby making possible. I was in a different way of relating to a lot of things, as can happen over a couple of years.
Some people put a lot of weight on what’s happening for folks during their saturn return- the period of time that Saturn is travelling through the same astrological zone as it was when you were born. Last winter holidays was the point that friend and astrologer Quin had calculated as the apex of my Saturn return. During that time me and andi were at home, with 3 kids, as the stomach flu went through each of us while I was mid bathroom renovation. It was disgusting. The youngest one, in diapers, was the vector of the illness. The rest of us were using a bucket compost toilet system while I was ripping out the rotten bathroom floor, re-tiling and installing a new toilet. So according to the predictions of saturn, this is the theme that will dictate the next 27-something years.
So I mentioned I was feeling resistant right? My once magnetic connection with the wee bebes had experienced a switch of polarity and I was feeling totally over it. I grieved so hard for the state of the world. I thought endlessly of how the times we are in and the decisions that the world is making right now could lead to the lives of the next generation being filled with immense devastation. Why would I want to bring a tiny human or two into a world in the midst of mass extinction events, watershed collapse, sea levels rising, oceans full of plastic, and next level corporate influence on every realm of life?
So there we were, sitting in the bus, toasty wood heat and favourite tunes on the system. andi asks if they can be totally real with me.
“Of course”, I say.
“You know I think I could probably go through life and not do a breeding thing, and be fine. But I don’t know if you will. I think you will regret it. I think it’s a big part of your path”
And like that, it was like my overcompensated grief melted. My sadness, generated as a scab to allow me to heal from my miscarriage, flaked off, leaving the regenerated drive to be a parent fresh underneath. My ticking biological clock, the sheer mass of friends who I know and trust to be super rad parents who are breeding RIGHT NOW, and the state of the world all rushed back into my conciousness.
Yes, the world is experiencing some really messed up shit. We are in a time of needing to rapidly re-skill ourselves to make the transition. I am acutely aware of the ways that the corporately offered band-aids to human needs will need to stop being available really soon. Cheaply made products shipped around the world with oil industry subsidies and busted structures of global exploitation propping it up are going to stop being available. We are in a time where we need to learn how to do things small scale local and low impact again, or our species and many others may not survive. I’m working on my end of that by raising meat, growing gardens, building relationships with the medicines in my back yard and fixing what can be fixed before I buy something new. I’m also working on sharing my insight and stories with those who will listen in an effort to work towards a world where trans contributions are valued as much as they deserve to be.
And the thought of doing those things with a little flock/herd/pack/batch/gam/swarm of tiny humans actually fills me with hope. I think about the skills that I have had to acquire in adulthood; from wrenching on bikes and pedal power machines, to composting, growing food, celebrating gender diversity and everything in between. I think about the gifts I can offer my spawn by introducing them to the medicines in our forests when they are wee. I think about the gifts I can offer my spawn by offering them honesty about where we come from and whose territory we live on, and how. I think about the gifts I can offer my spawn by raising them into the transitional economies we are creating, where heart work, creative problem solving, and big picture sustainability are driving forces.
I think about what it means to raise little humans who will have the skills to make the transitions we need. I think about what it means to know that the planet needs help, and to see the value in breeding and training a generation of people equipped to do that. Of course it is griefy. These are really tough times.
Breeding now is a vote of confidence that a new way could be possible.
So with all that as a lead in, I am proud to announce that I am once again pregnant. After the experience of an early term miscarriage I am not comfortable with the social convention that tells us to keep this secret within our nuclear families until a certain date. Because I know the grief that can come from a loss, even early on, and I don’t believe that to be something that gestating parents or their partners should shoulder alone. The ways that I am working on creating family involves my networks. It is queer as fuck and super on purpose. It is thought out, cried over, collaboratively initiated and could end in any number of ways.
I hope that my dreams of my children being important players in the local fronts of a world reconfiguring will come true. And at this point, it is all a matter of “we’ll see”.
Thank you all for your well wishes, prayers, support, sandwiches, follows and shares. All of the ways you support our family make this possible. Gratitude.
PS: One of the things I am doing to support my pregnancy is drinking a tea blend that andi made up for me. It contains all sorts of things to support first trimester development, nutrition and well being. They currently have in the works a tincture made with a similar blend of things. Keep your eyes on the witch’s cabinet or contact andi to ensure an order from this batch.
PPS: I want to thanks those of you who have been sharing this and sending your support. I want to make perfectly clear to those of you beyond the reaches of personal knowing, that I am not nor do I ever intend to be a “MOTHER”. As a trans person, I will be a parent. As a pregnant person, I am a gestational parent. I intend to be a breastfeeding parent. So much gratitude to all the queer parents, trans dads, mapas and all other creative linguistic configurations of rad parents and supportive adults to the tiny humans.
I see this a lot, especially on trans groups and on tumblr. People who have not engaged in any medical interventions that they may be hoping to someday pursue. The implication is that they are in a stage where everything that will make them who they are is yet to come.
I want to break this idea.
Transition is not something that is solely distributed by the medical system.
Transition is a process of self discovery and expression.
Transition is a process of learning to know and love yourself.
Transition is a process of finding ways to feel determinately you.
You can be trans without medically transitioning.
You can be trans and not want to medically transition.
You can be trans and not have access to medical transition.
Your transness is not determined by the amount of medical interventions you have accessed.
Trans people have always existed.
We have used many words to describe ourselves.
We have existed the world over in almost every time and place in recorded history.
We existed before the stories started being written down.
Trans people existed before medical interventions did.
Most of the trans people who make up our ancestry of path didn’t have a medical system to serve as the arbiter of their realness.
Some of them modified their bodies.
Many of them did not.
You understand your self to be trans.
You see that your body and identity and presentation may change.
This is all labour that you have engaged in.
It is a big part of transition.
You are not “pre” self exploration.
You are in it.
You may even feel as if you are drowning in it.
You are not “pre” internal struggle of learning who you are.
You have tried on names.
You have tried on pronouns.
You have looked in the mirror from different angles and with your eyes half open, letting your heartbrain fill in the details of something that isn’t visible to others yet.
You have gazed into, maybe even explored, the “other side” of the clothing store.
You have contemplated who a grown up version of yourself could become.
You may have tried to bind or tuck, even if at home, alone, in secret.
You may never do those things. It doesn’t make you less trans.
Trans is a beautiful range of identities and expressions that involve creatively transcending the expectations we were born into.
It doesn’t require hormones.
It doesn’t require surgery.
It doesn’t require electrolysis.
It doesn’t require passing.
It doesn’t require a diagnosis.
Some of us may pursue some or all of these things.
Our choice to do so or not is exactly that, our choice.
Choosing to not pursue such things doesn’t make you less trans.
Look forward to growing more and more into your self everyday.
Recognize that this process will be fed.
It may be fed by medical interventions.
It will also be fed by watching movies with characters that you see yourself reflected in.
It will also be fed by reading books that articulate a part of your experience you hadn’t found words for.
It will also be fed by trees and gusts of wind and forest creatures that see you and respect your unique and beautiful self.
It will also be fed by nurturing relationships with other people who are learning to live and love as themselves.
It will also be fed by good nights’ sleeps.
It will also be fed by clothes that fit just as you need them to.
It will also be fed by your body moving ecstatically, translating music into movement.
It will also be fed by the patience and generosity you can grant your younger selves.
You will continue to grow into yourself.
It will be a process.
Sometimes it might hurt.
Sometimes it will involve other people.
Sometimes it will be something you do alone.
I look forward to seeing you continue to grow into yourself.
You have taken beautiful steps towards your authentic and genuine self.
Do not discount this.
I am proud of you.
This post has been getting a lot of feedback and I want to thank all of you for sharing this amongst others you know for whom it will have meaning. Please also take a look around my site, including checking out the Resilience Building for Trans Folks online course– there will be a fresh round starting in May. Looking around you can also find more about my online and in-person education offerings, one on one coaching support, and more. Thanks again to everyone who has shared this and send such sweet feedback about how it has landed. My site is going to be re-launched with a new design and domain next month- stay tuned for lots of new great stuff.
Learning to love living in this body I live in has been somewhat of an epic and ongoing quest. In the lead up to this weeks’ focus in Resilience Building for Trans Folks and Our Allies; “BODIES”, I wanted to tell a bit of the story of how I learned to live in, tend to and work on loving my non-binary, trans, pain ridden, movement craving physical form.
When I was young I played lots of sports. I was a C-team athlete, showing up early to run cross-country jogs before class and taking off afternoon classes to run races for participation ribbons. The only time I ever got a numbered ribbon was when another person I was racing foot faulted into another lane disqualifying two of the runners who placed ahead of me. Thanks to free in-school athletics, many volunteer teachers and parent coaches I had the opportunity to learn the love of sport through my childhood. This started to shift later in elementary school when the only teams that could find the adults to help them play were the teams that could win. Coaches weren’t lining up to volunteer with teams of kids that rarely won. Looking back it seems even more unfortunate than it did at the time; maybe the rush of winning and trophies was a bigger pull to volunteer with children’s athletics than creating opportunities for young folks to move and play.
By the time I was in high school it had gotten complicated.
I played football in a community based gender integrated league, which in 1996 looked like me and 2 other girls, one on each of three teams. Out of a league of probably 150 young people, there were 3 of us. I played center line – offensive and defensive.
Chipped nail polish and muddy knees: victoria pee-wee football most improved player 1997.
even in football gear, it’s always been a drag
I am not built like your typical linesmen. Never have been. At the time, I probably measured out to 6’ 1 or 2” and less than 120lbs. I had growth spurted my way through my full reach of height before ever filling out. To be totally real I never really did. I was a stick but I also loomed a foot over most of the boys I faced on those lines. They hadn’t reached puberty yet and they were children, being faced down by a budding woman in football pads and helmet. That said, by the time they hit puberty, I was done. My mom was probably right that I would have been seriously hurt if I kept playing. The guys had grown a foot and a half over summer vacation and many of them were filling out to the build of brick house fridges. Their bodies were experiencing an influx of testosterone I wouldn’t see for another decade. We were growing into our adult forms and I was in need of a shift in activity partners.
At the same time I was dancing with an instructor who was very particular about who could train to perform and who couldn’t. I had recently relished the permission I got to cut my hair. My long blond locks made a fairly rapid transition through bob to short bob to mushroom cut. She was clear with me that I would never cross the stage on one of her shows without at least a wig; to her perspective, girls danced girls parts, and long hair was a mandatory aspect of her girls part.
I was too “girl” for football and not “girl” enough to dance.
It seemed by the time I was 15 it was “too late” to try new things. All manner of movement, dance, and athletics had gotten competitive. There were only enough spots for the best. Try outs reminded me of the ways that I was never the fastest, strongest, most graceful. PE classes trained us to be constantly comparing ourselves to each other.
The constant interweaving of losing and movement left a bad taste in my mouth. It was a lynch pin in the messaging that came down the line to the slow kids, the clumsy kids, the chubby kids, the ones with asthma and the ones who didn’t have enough money to buy shoes that would actually fit properly:
You can’t do this.
Don’t bother trying.
Your failure is your fault.
You are lazy.
You are useless.
You are ugly.
You are undesirable.
You are unlovable.
When I left high school I went on a one year exchange program to rural Denmark. It took me a few months to have any idea what anyone around me was saying, so meals were not punctuated with the same conversation I was used to. I was away from home, the foods I was used to, the neighborhoods I was used to exploring, the people who knew me and loved me. I did what I could to take in the culture, which of course, while the pieces of language are still coming together could largely be defined by food and drink.
So I drank.
I drank beer or wine with almost every meal as it was offered. I relished the additional meal, kaffe afternoon coffee; an opportunity to eat another 4 or 5 open faced sandwiches and pastries between school and dinner. I experienced what I later heard called the freshman fifteen, the weight gained when experiencing the shift of leaving home for college. I gained 30 pounds in the first month. I have pretty much never gained weight without height, before or since, and have loved enough healthy fat folks to be critical of weight gain as a measure of pretty much anything other than gaining weight. My host family however, concerned, enrolled me in an aerobics class. I didn’t want to be there. It wasn’t fun. I never made it through one whole class without passing out on my mat.
But outside of the exercise class I was finding my own approach at tending to, exploring movement in, and celebrating my body. I had my own room for the first time in my life. I was listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland on repeat and dancing naked in front of the mirror. And almost every weekend I would hit the nightclub dance floor with my friends and dance myself into a sweat.
My body was ecstatic in the ways that it transformed beats into flow. I couldn’t get enough.
I started biking. I had ridden bikes around my neighborhood as a kid, to the beach and friends houses; but in Denmark, a land of off-road cycle routes and a culture that respects 2 wheels on shared roads at least as much as 4, I really started to ride.
I went on my first overnight cykeltur bike tour with another exchange student friend from Colorado. As we pitched our tent at the midway point between the towns that we had each been posted to we wondered why we never would have thought to do such a thing “back home”.
Once I got home I kept riding, setting off on a 3 month tour followed by a 3 month stint as a bike messenger only a couple of years later. I rode and rode and rode. The cyclical movement helped me achieve an almost trance like state where my anxiety + depression could realistically be turned into lactic acid and be pushed out of my body.
At least it was something like that. I am not a kinesthesiologist. Understanding how my body works is something I have navigated through experience, more than book knowledge.
What I know is that I felt less overwhelmingly crazy when I was biking a lot.
When I first started taking testosterone I was started on an obscene dose. My already high activity oriented body all of a sudden had way more energy to deal with. I would go to the gym, bike to my jobs (including landscaping, childcare and test riding bikes), longboard between dates houses, fuck for hours, dance til morning and still feel like I had more stuff to move out of me.
I started organizing queer pool parties that evolved into the All Bodies Swim, which has since evolved into Trans Inclusive Swims in Vancouver, Queers get Wet in Victoria and All Bodies Swim in Nelson. I reffed and trained with the local roller derby. Those girls could tire me out with their training, but there was politics and dynamics that kept it from feeling just right. I started reffing, competing in and organizing tournaments of Queer Park Wrestling. I rushed through those 3 T- amped years until it all came to a screeching halt. Everything changed when my body flew off my bike and across the intersection of the woodland bike lane and 13th Ave.
The impacts of taking an SUV to my side were pretty big. I had to adjust how I did pretty much everything. I had to learn to manage a body with pain. This meant months of physio, acupuncture, modified activities and turning away and going home when I got to events to find out the amount of stairs to get in was beyond my capacity.
I realized that aspects of this would be chronic. My body would be recovering from this for a long time – if not forever.
I spent 9 months meticulously rebuilding my bike, hand threaded new wheels, sand blasted and powdercoated the frame with the hopes that I would have my body back together by the time it was done. I got on my bike and found that my stamina and endurance had been replaced with inflammation, swelling and fatigue.
That happened 5 years ago and in the time since I have been in the ongoing process of learning to love this body. Even though it hurts. Even though it doesn’t do what it used to be able to. I think this process is something most people must go through, but more commonly later in life than one’s mid 20s. In the 5 years since my accident I have undergone puberty (again- another story for another day) and the fascinating and bizarre transformation of pregnancy and miscarriage. I have learned about my edges in ways I never expected and have pushed myself to keep moving. I still bike a bit sometimes. I dance hard as often as I can. I walk our goats up the hillside when I need to get outside. I find pleasure in pushing my body to it’s edges chopping wood and pushing tillers and wrestling pigs and playing tag with the little ones.
I live in a trans body. I live in a body with pain. It doesn’t always fit quite right.
This body’s very existence challenges the expectations of what it means to have a womans’ body or a mans’ body. It challenges ableist notions about wellness and fitness. I am breaking the boxes by finding ways to tap into that ecstasy that waits in my muscles and letting it out through joyful movement. I am working on loving this body against the odds.
I look forward to the next stages of learning to be in this body as it continues to change.
I am also looking forward to exploring some of these aspects of our stories with students in Resilience Building for Trans Folks and Our Allies this week as we explore “BODIES”. This round of the course is 3/8ths of the way through. I will be revising and restarting the course in May. If you’d like to join round or be kept to date on my other offerings send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
As a woo inclined psychedelic exploring imagineer and sci fi fan it can be hard for me to think of time as something that is neat enough to fit along a line. I understand it to be wibbly wobbly and one of the things that is actually more detailed and complex than our human brains have an easy time getting wrapped around.
While we have over the centuries devised systems like centuries and clocks and calendars and philosophies and eras to try and count and keep track of what has been and what is to become.
Prophets, astrologers; wise magi as they were add up the push and pull of planetary bodies to try to understand when it is that we are.
This year in the lead up to Trans Day of Remembrance I found out about and participated in this collaborative magical holding of our dead. I spent some time lighting fire, offering water and witting in a meditative prayer state. I cried. I wept for those we have lost. I wailed for the violent ends that too many of them experienced. I wept for those of us who can feel, between the weight of dysphoria and the pressures of an unwelcome society, on an edge of time.
Those of us whose liminal lives happen on knife’s edge. I wept for the children who will never know the struggle, or the secret hidden joys, of growing up into themselves.
I asked our dead what I could possibly do with this limited and liminal existence. If there were ways that I needed to be to make this grief and injustice driven pain more manageable.
The answer was clear to me.
Do your work child.
Make it real.
Tell your story as a part of this beautiful tapestry we make up.
And in this, counting and numbers be damned, I was also struck by this understanding of time and how trans resistance, resilience and identities fit into it all.
Trans people have been subjugated, repressed, and mistreated for really only the most recent chunk of human history, which when you look at time in a planetary or galactic sense, we are reminded that human history itself is pretty tiny. Leslie Fienberg explains in Transgender Warriors,
“…the oppression of women began with the cleavage of society into male-dominated classes based on private ownership of property and the accumulation of wealth.
I believe the same historic overthrow of communalism was also responsible for trans oppression.”
If you are wanting to explore this history more I highly recommend taking “the Burning Times Never Ended” with Rain Crow, she explores this and has expanded her course resources to include this text and contextualization of gender rebels in the content.
Around the world this process of division of classes of people and oppression and systems to protect private ownership has happened on different time lines, world wide, it’s happened gradually over the last couple thousand years. When considered in the larger time-line of human development, this misunderstanding of trans identities and treatment as outlaws, has only been happening for a small flash of time. Some anthropologists date “humans” as existing and using tools and organizing in complex groups somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 years. Squishing the low number into a one year comparison (as is done in the cosmic year linked above) we can understand capitalism, oppressive class structures, violent police states, slavery and private ownership to be an incredibly hard last week in the year, where the other 51 weeks were relatively co-operative in comparison.
The ancestors from that other 90% of human experience, as well the much older planet itself and the many longer established species that also demonstrate persistent presence of diversity of sex and gender presentations/experience all come from a position wherein we are a part of the big picture, a beautiful component of diversity.
The haters are outnumbered.
We have a really long history, from before we even really started trying to keep track of such things that includes a wide range of rebels, resisters, organizers, artists, speakers, visionaries, prophets, healers and ceremony holders.
Some of the folks in our lineage would back away from associating with us if time were bent for us to co-exist in time. For some, their survival and safety hid in the promises of divide and conquer- hide and conform to survive. I wish to acknowledge those folks and their work, as well as others who may have confusing or unsavoury aspects to their stories. That’s sort of the thing about humans- especially humans in struggle- we aren’t flawless, any of us. And knowing that one of the things that gets wrinkled beyond recognition when we bend time is the words to stories translated from languages short on comprehensive descriptors.
As registrations have been rolling in for Resilience Building for Trans Folks and Our Allies, one of my favourite parts has been reading the responses that learners have given to this question:
What is your gender?
Use as many words as needed.
The answers that have come through have reinforced to me that we are in a spectacularly beautiful place on this time line/corkscrew/vortex/story/etc. The complexity of ourselves and our beautiful diversity is kaleidoscoping its way back towards the old story, the one where we all exist and are celebrated in our ways.
We exist in all places. All times.
Our stories borrow words from those whose shoulders our work stands on. We add the words together with poetic concepts, metaphors and question marks.We hold room for each others answers to change, grow and evolve.
This graceful shift is happening at a time space crux point where it seems unclear how the human story may continue. Or if it may end. Climate change and economic systems collapse are starting to get more people thinking more seriously about if humans will survive and how.
The time is crunchy. We know that we need solutions that are more complex and quick and effective than it seems there is really room in time space to come up with. We need thinkers who are adept at thinking off the line, out of the box and beyond the limits of our current paradigm.
I think I know just the folks. And I want to do everything I can to make the world more hospitable, supportive and celebratory to ensure that the visionaries we need survive to bring their work to the world.
“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?” And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
For my recent joint birthday party with Andi Grace we put together this little mix. It’s super poppy and we found it to be a good tool in helping facilitate dancing, playing, laughing, smooching and birthday merriment.
Please listen, share it, get your groove on + enjoy!