I am cranking out about 2000+ words a day between work and my own private writings. Clearly, not enough are making it here, but I am going to work on that.
Many of you know the story of Zack and I, have read many of my stories about us through the years, from nursing our babies to his transition from a female body to a male body. But, it is time to get it all down in one place. A book? Maybe. Magazine article? Perhaps. I do not know where it is going to end up, but it feels like the story needs to see the light of day.
I’ve been writing for a couple of months and the words are flowing. I talked to Zack a couple of days ago and let him know what I was doing, that I was going to talk about the really painful and hard parts, too. He said it was painful… it was hard… to write everything I want and need to. It feels awesome having his blessing.
What I am writing is a love story. More than anything else, it is our love story.
It is called State of Flux (at least as for now) and I have the most amazing website address: http://www.StateOfFlux.ink – how freakin’ cool is INK for a writer?!? I LOVE IT!
Here are the first few tentative paragraphs. Something you would read?
Zack was resting comfortably after his double mastectomy, called Chest Surgery in the trans world. He was on his back, his mom sitting with me in the same room he was in before the surgery and would remain in for 24 hours before we were sent back to our home 45 minutes away into the US. I’d been talking to the doctor, in Spanish, about the surgery, how it went and how Zack would be feeling for awhile. The doctor’s eyes lit up, hearing I was a midwife, and asked if I wanted to see the operating room. I was tired and somewhat bored, Zack was doing well and I would be across the hall if he needed me, so I said, “Sure,” and followed him the 50 feet away.
The room was on the small side, but most operating rooms are far smaller than people would imagine, so I was not terribly surprised. I’m not sure why I was actually in there… did I think a Mexican O.R. would differ that greatly from an American one?
Then the doctor said to come look at this and I walked to the counter where, very quickly, he removed the green surgical cloth from a stainless steel tray. A tray that held my precious Zack’s two breasts. His breasts, now dead on a tray, stared up at me. The very same breasts I’d made love to hundreds of times, the breasts that fed two of our four babies for more than two years. These were the breasts he’d hated since puberty, but were so beautiful to me I took dozens of pictures of them throughout the years. And here they were, lifeless in a Mexican operating room on a cold metal tray. Dizzy, I grabbed the counter so I did not fall.
Zack’s recovery went very well. He is the most compliant patient ever and did exactly what he was supposed to do when he was supposed to do it. Compression bandages? On until the doctor removed them a couple of weeks later. Binder? On until told otherwise.
His incisions were really wonderfully done, not that I had a lot to compare it to. I’d not looked at the surgical pictures Zack tried to show me that were in his private transmen groups online. I could not get myself psyched enough to do it, so, as with most of the process, I stuck my head in the sand. When his bandages came off, he was flat chested, as he had always wanted to be. I felt punched in the gut the first time I saw the scars that went from mid-chest around his back, not meeting on either side. I missed his breasts terribly already.
While his outward physical transition had begun, my own inner transition would be a silent blip inside for quite awhile more. No matter, we were both on our way… to our permanent state of flux.
I was living with 5 gay friends in a condo, way back in 1979. I was 18 and out on my own for the first time. Going to the Parliament House, the big gay bar in our city, was The Priority in our lives… above eating and, of course, paying our rent.
So when rent was due and we only had $500 between the 5 of us, 3 of us decided to take our winnings, er… rent money… and head to New York City. Living in Orlando, that was quite ambitious thinking, but we were all young and stupid and believed anything was possible.
We stopped by my dad’s house so I could grab the Oldsmobile Delta 88, an enormous light blue wonder that had one back window that wouldn’t go down, another that wouldn’t go up, a trunk that would not open and a hood tied with metal wire to keep it down. I had to dig around for the keys and license plate, but found those and we were off, in my dad’s now-stolen car.
We packed that car with all of our belongings: clothes, shoes, books… and for some reason, several jars of peanut butter and jars of grape jam. (Jars were glass back then, no plastic ruining the environment in the olden days.)
I remember Bobby taking the first shift in the back seat, laying sideways on all the stuff, his shoulder hitting the roof resting on the huge pile. We tried to open the trunk 100 times, to no avail, so finally resigned ourselves that sleeping like the Princess in the Pea was a part of this adventure.
Bobby, a bright-red redhead, curly hair down around his shoulders, ached to be a drag queen, dancing and miming songs at every chance. Even up on his back seat perch, I laughed hysterically, seeing him in the rear view mirror, holding a hairbrush and lip synching to “I Will Survive” on the radio.
Bobby was a liar, telling us, with complete conviction, that the Oscar Meyer little boy was his brother. At first we were awed, then the lies built onto each other and when it took a teasel to figure one truth from another, we just shrugged and laughed no matter what he said.
The other roommate who came with us was Scott, a gay guy I had known since junior high. Scott was so smart and clever, but more of a book nerd than either Bobby or I; he was a good balance for us. Scott found his way into laughing for the sake of laughing on this trip, which makes me so happy since he died of AIDS not 3 years hence. I was very glad to witness his joy. Bobby also died of AIDS a couple of years after Scott.
During our trip of 1979, AIDS was an unknown. Sex was with utter abandon. The worst sexually transmitted disease one could get was herpes and that seemed like a social death sentence. Little did we know then, herpes would be almost benign.
The first person I knew of who died of the Gay Cancer was Fat Matt. I was fat, too, and Fat Matt and I talked a lot about dieting and trying to lose weight. Being fat as a gay man was not good… being fit and being gorgeous were (and are) a gay thing. So when Matt began losing weight, he was ecstatic. He had no idea what he was doing to lose so fast, but he was thrilled. His sex life picked up, his self-esteem soared… and then he passed through thin, from healthy to gaunt in a few weeks. Matt was gone 6 months after he began losing weight. None of us knew what happened. He was such a dear, fun friend, the bar seemed odd without his flouncing around, showing us his hippo dance from Fantasia.
Then there were others, not fat men, who began losing weight, then their lives. I remember standing in the drag bar, being told two dear club friends had died during the week and reeling with complete confusion about what was happening. It would still be 6 months before the words “Gay Cancer” would be said on the evening news.
Being gay in the late 70’s and early 80’s was still taboo. No “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” no gays in the military, no gay marriage. Homosexuals (and I, the fag hag) clung to each other when our parents changed the locks after throwing our belongings in the front yard. So when our gay friends were dying, we were never invited to the funerals, but held our own memorials at the bar. We would drink to our friends, huddle together, giving each other love and comfort. When there were so many of these bar memorials we’d become numb, we realized we had all run out of tears at the exact same time.
Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.
Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.
But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.
We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.
He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.
It was revolting.
We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.
Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)
Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.
When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.
BBQ in Lubbock
Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.
Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.
We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.
We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!
The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.
Needing to sleep again. Feeling the jolts of electricity that were not so conducive to sleep. I put on Amazon Prime’s 80’s music to sleep by. About the 3rd song in was Bette Midler’s“The Rose.”
Memories of my days at the Parliament House here in Orlando with all my gay boy friends (& sex-capaders) watching drag shows flooded my brain.
It was 1979. I was 18 years old. And I was a Fag Hag.
Quaaludes. Poppers. Sex with strangers in cars. Amaretto with cream and OJ. Friends taking acid & having bad trips. Walking by rooms with open curtains & open doors, inviting whomever in to be with whomever as whomever watched from not-afar. The Baths. Glory Holes. Gay Porn. Learning to suck dick and get fucked in the ass (with the ever-present can of Crisco) by my 8-gay friends I lived with in various locations, including the “PH.” (When we were with our parents, we called it the “Pancake House.” We were so slick. snort).
Laying on the bed, I sang with Bette, thrice through, crying, missing my friends who have died from AIDS. After “The Rose,” I remembered I had Bette Midler’s Divine Madness on my Kindle, putting it on.
While I first met P (he initially was Miss Pauline, then Miss P, then he dropped the Miss and was “P” for the years I knew him) as a Drag Queen, we became wonderful friends and worked together at the Subway Sandwich shop in Winter Park, by the infamous Sinkhole. During the time I knew him only as P, I, of course, used female pronouns, but when I used “she” at work once, he spun around and told me “HE!”. So that is why I use “he” even as he is P.
Paul and I, while there were 17 years between us, were really compatible. We shared a love for books (we shared books a lot), music, Broadway shows, the theater… and black men.
I loved Paul. I mean. LOVED. I ached to have him take me in his arms. He never did. He did sing “The Rose” to me whenever it came on while we were working. I remember it like it was yesterday.
So, if I couldn’t have Paul, I could have the next best thing. His straight, blue-black boyfriend, Tuna. Long passed is why he was nicknamed Tuna, but that’s how we all knew him. Tuna had a bullet still lodged in his thigh. He taught me the word “Nut” for orgasm. He loved my ample white ass. I used to have sex with Tuna while Paul was on stage. Tuna told Paul years later and when I went to visit him (Paul) with my new son in my arms, he confronted me. I was (rightly) mortified and apologized profusely, claiming stupidity as a child of 17, 18, 19, 20. He barely forgave me, but I am glad our last contact was wonderful and positive.
The Flood Abates
So many waves of memories lick the shore of my mind, but I want to get this out before it grows too long.
So much more to say. I need to share it so those after me can know there really was a completely hedonistic time before AIDS. I lived it. (I do also carry scars, but we’ll share those another time.)
This book was integral to my beginnings of loving my body as well as understanding the vulva in midwifery.
Tee Corrine was an artist in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. I learned of her around 1988 when I moved to San Diego from Frankfurt. I was a newly out dyke and Zack was still in the Army in Frankfurt (but was being separated for being lesbian) and I attended Lesbian Support Group meetings at the LGBT Center in downtown Hillcrest.
The Cunt Coloring Book, published initially in 1975, was extremely controversial, even when I first saw it in the late 1980’s. Older lesbians told the story of how difficult it was to get published and some enterprising dykes published it on their kitchen tables to start. It was shared in an underground fashion, passed quietly from woman to woman (ha! the spelling of “woman” at the time was “womyn”… couldn’t have the letters “men” anywhere around a vulva), sometimes one woman coloring a page and having the next in line color the next one.
There were very few lesbian mothers at the time and I knew of no gay fathers at all. We moms eventually formed a Lesbian Mother Support Group and it was awesome. I loved meeting other moms who understood the secrecy needed when sending our kids to school… how the Emergency Contact was a “friend” who happened to live with us.
Just like when any moms get together, there are going to be different parenting styles, but blessedly, they, for the most part, didn’t spank. I was already in the Natural Birth and Parenting Communities, a La Leche League leader (who I also had to hide my sexuality from) and had been a doula for around 6 years. There was one mom who talked about “seeing red” when she got mad at her kids and she thought we all did, that that was perfectly normal. I remember an intervention, of sorts, where we discussed what was discipline and what was abuse… a topic hardly ever mentioned back then. We encouraged her to find a therapist and deal with the anger instead of taking it out on her kids.
My first experience with a Lesbian Separatistwas when Zack and I were still in Germany. A woman in our Gay Support Group, Friends of Dorothy, was quite proud of telling us about how she was so Separatist that when she gave birth to a boy, she was disgusted and gave him to his father, never to be acknowledged again. I am still as horrified now as I was then.
The lesbian community in San Diego was quite polarized in 1988, the Separatist faction wanting nothing to do with men. At. All. I had a boy child (and co-parented Zack’s son as well) and was not welcome in Separatist spaces. Even if I didn’t go with my kids, I was snubbed and usually left because no one would talk to me. I refused to pretend my son didn’t exist, so soon learned where to, and where not, to go.
While there have been transgender folks since the beginning of time, there seemed to be so few back then… public… except in bars, usually as drag queens doing lip synch shows. Goddess forbid a lesbian come out trans; he was ridiculed and the venom flowed that he had joined The Enemy and just wanted to be part of The Establishment instead of remaining an oppressed dyke. I admit I shared that sentiment, finding transmen to be the most confusing aspects of the LGBT community. Little did I know I would be confronting it head-on in 20 more years.
Blessedly, the Lesbian Separatist Movement seems to have faded into the recesses of history.
San Diego Lesbian Press
At this time, the late 80’s, is when the term Politically Correct was just coming into vogue; it wasn’t a negative term yet. The words became a frequently used phrase when I worked at the San Diego Lesbian Press as a writer.
“The first issue of the San Diego Lesbian Pressis published in October (1987), just six months after a group of women meet to discuss the need for such a publication and form a collective to make it happen.”
A “Collective” being the operative word. The SDLP operated on the “consensus” method of making decisions. (Or rather, NOT making decisions!)
Consensus is a process for group decision-making. It is a method by which an entire group of people can come to an agreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust.
In other words, consensus is a group of people who argue for WEEKS on end about trivial shit and rarely, if ever, get anything done because everyone in the group is an Alpha Female and refuses to concede to a different position/belief/idea.
Clearly, I hate consensus. It started with the SDLP, but has continued in other, mainly lesbian or women-prominent spaces.
One SDLP argument:
It was a Separatist newspaper, but was always on the verge of dying because of lack of funds. One time, a man (gasp!) wanted to advertise in the paper… something benign like a lesbian bar. But he owned the club and the money would come from him. So several women had hairy cows over the issue of whether to accept the money or not. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the “discussion” went on for weeks… 3 meetings a week… for at least 4 weeks. “What if the check was written on his wife’s account? Can we do that?” “What if he ‘donated’ the money. Then could we accept it?” “We can’t take it for any reason… on principle.”
I got so sick of it; that was when I left.
My Early Published Writings
I wrote some good pieces while I was at SDLP, though. Looking back, well…. I wrote a piece about admiring Indian (from India) women’s “costumes” after going to a parade and there were many women in sparkly harem outfits. I asked myself if the women were hiding behind the veil and did I find them “mysterious…” or did they really represent oppression? I asked if I was I admiring the oppression of women in another culture? I barely had a glimmer of recognizing oppression of other cultures by flaunting them. That would grow over time.
I wrote a very long and very well-received article on how BDSM is one of the most vile and sub-culturally-accepted forms of physical abuse against women. I insisted there could never be consensuality and both submissives and Dominants were deluded in their belief that it was acceptable behavior to be hit/hit, that no one EVER deserves to be hit. For any reason.
When I was coming out in the BDSM community in 1995, I had to overcome that long-held belief. Apparently, I did. Completely. laughing
I was privileged to attend several really cool lesbian concerts and shows and, because I wrote reviews, I got in free (I was way poor at the time). Jamie Anderson, Tret Fure, Cris Williamson and the Indigo Girls long, long before they were as well-known as they are now. There were also lesbian comedians: Lea DeLaria (now famous in Orange is the New Black), Kate Clinton and Lynn Lavner all gave me great interviews. It was hilarious hearing about our (lesbian) lives through their comedy. Decades before Ellen. Both the singers and comedians generally alluded to the lesbian community… except Lea DeLaria who was screamingly out. We were more used to reading between the lines and, in the case of songs, changing the gender from “him” to “her.” (I think lesbians and gay men still do this!)
My Own Early Activism
Below is a picture of me marching in the Gay Pride Parade (what they were called back then) about 1989.
It was very challenging being a lesbian mom back then. Many of my friends lost their kids to their former husbands when they came out. I was one of the very few lucky enough to march.
Besides lesbian issues being important to me back then, fat issues were also important. That will be a post all on its own, but I needed to make a comment here about my marching 3+ miles as a fat woman. I did it. Easily. I was also 28 years old. The fat activists of today are in their 20’s. I will share, in other posts, what exactly fat does to a body’s mobility as the years pass. And I’ll discuss fat and health issues as well. I believe that, because I spent a great deal of time speaking and writing about fat activist issues… the importance of not fat-shaming (a relatively new term)… that I am uniquely able to talk about fat as an older woman and the hobbling effect it has had on me. Anyway, as I said… other posts.
Okay, moving on to another topic. Writing as fast as I can.
I’ve always been femme. When I came out in 1979, I didn’t have one clue about the different nuances of lesbians, that took years of experience and then reading lesbian novels, books and magazines.
Meeting My Butch
On April 22, 1986, when my youngest, Aimee, was 2 days old, I went to a La Leche League meeting and among the 20+ women, pregnant and nursing alike, I saw Zack, 7-months pregnant. (Zack was presenting as a het woman at that time.) My first thought when I saw him was, “How the FUCK did this Dyke get pregnant?!”
A tad of backstory. I’d had Aimee in the car and finagled leaving the hospital in 3 hours and Zack heard about me at his childbirth class, wanting to leave the hospital right away as well, so got up from his nap to come to the LLL meeting specifically to meet me.
After the meeting, Zack hightailed it right for me. Damn, he was intense. And so, so Butch.
Just This Side of Being a Man
Once I met Zack, my taste in Dykes was sealed. I was fond of saying I liked women just this side of being a man. (Of course, now knowing Zack was trans all those years, he wasn’t on this side of being a man, but that side.) I really cannot find a Dyke Butch enough for me. Stone Butches make me weak in the knees.
(The topic of transmen begs to be discussed here, but it has to wait for its own post because it is one of the most convoluted emotions I have whirling around inside at the moment.)
Butch & femme – a Sweet Balance
When Zack and I got together a few months after he had his baby, we barely recognized, much less understood, what the Butch-femme dynamic meant. We knew we balanced each other well. (Yes, I really am going to flaunt stereotypical male and female characteristics.) I was an awesome stay-at-home mom, nursing the babies, reading to them and researching better ways to parent.
Zack, on the other hand, was mechanically inclined, great with spacial relations and was the “fun” parent.
Delightfully, he also co-nursed the babies. (We always said how great it was having 4 lactating breasts in the house.)
Then Political Correctness Intrudes
It was a gradual realization that what we were doing wasn’t the most acceptable way to be lesbians. I distinctly recall hearing that Butch-femme relationships were “aping” het marriages. (Could there be any uglier word to describe something?) I was really confused because we weren’t imitating anything; we just Were. I see now, on the periphery, as gender roles are smeared away, hints of Butch-femme acceptance again, but I promise you, there were the lean years when we were mocked and told how disgusting we were for acting like het couples.
I find it interesting I never tried to be anything but femme, even when doing so was incredibly looked down upon. And my Beloved Zack, never wavered in his ButchSelf either. I love that we simply ignored the winds of Political Correctness, living our lives in delicious balance.
For some odd reason, I decided to put on Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits this morning and suddenly found myself back with Zack and the little kids in Frankfurt, Germany, circa 1987-1988.
Good lord, we were in love. Crazy, all-consuming, mesmerizing love. Emotional, yes, but also physical. We could not keep our hands off each other, having sex several times a day. Zack, being in the Army and nursing two young babies, barely slept. In the morning, home to nurse for lunch, when he came home and then all night long. How he ever functioned is beyond me.
Zack made me feel beautiful for the first time ever. Until him, I had never had sex without a shirt on, covering my ugly body, but especially my belly that bore the effects of three huge babies. I remember the first time in bed with him, me in a shirt. He looked at me flabbergasted and said, “Fuck that shit!” and took my shirt off himself. Then he made love to all of me in a way that had never happened before despite having had several lovers and lots of casual sex.
The way he touched me, sliding his hands over my body, nearly worshiping every soft and gooshy part of me, kissing me (and my entire body) with complete abandon, learning quickly how to pleasure me… and doing so over and over again.
(Words seem so inadequate, so trite, so overused in trying to describe these experiences. Forgive their mundane-ness.)
The babies were in our bed so we had pillows, blankets and sheets kept under the TV in the living room and as soon as all four kids were asleep (and I do mean as soon as!), we were laying on our make-shift bed on the floor, touching, kissing, licking, fucking… and orgasming over and over and over again. I never came so much in my life as I did when first with Zack. Insatiable doesn’t begin to describe that ravenous time together.
Sometimes we tried to have sex in the bed, the babies settled on either side of us. We had a fiber-optic flowery thingie up in the top of the closet and when we were going to have sex in the bed, we opened the tiny upper door, giving us faint light that shifted and rolled as much as we did with each other.
(Writing, Whitney continues singing, not stopping to allow me to catch my breath from crying so hard, memories nearly drowning me. How can she be so unaware of my need to stop for a moment? That I need to feel, relive, remember these sensations lest they vanish into the ether once again. I keep having to stop writing to wipe tears and blow my nose.)
The babies were really young… right at about a year, year and a half… so were nursing often. It was not unusual to have to stop our lovemaking session to walk to the bedroom, climb onto the waterbed and nurse one or both of the babies back to sleep. I used to be s0 frustrated with that process; Zack was matter-of-fact about it. (A much better attitude, for sure.)
Resting here, “seeing” that time flowing inside my mind. I could write for years and never cover the expanse that was our love back then. I write, yes, but he and I share secrets with each other we will never tell another soul… the Take-It-to-the-Grave sort of hidden thoughts and experiences.
See me sitting in the middle of the living room, waiting for Zack to come back after nursing the babies? Me, listening to Whitney Houston singing songs I would listen to in 30 years, my quilt of memories covering me from the cold of old age and loneliness.
Oh how I love that man. I’ll call and tell him so today.