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I thought another piece of State of Flux would be good to get a sense of the flow from beginning to transition.

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My baby Aimee, who had been born in the car, was two days old when I went to the local La Leche League meeting in Wiesbaden, Germany. I was very involved in LLL, an international breastfeeding support organization, and was excited to show off my new baby and tell her hilarious birth story.

It was moments before I saw Sarah across the room, an extremely butch woman who was quite pregnant. My first thought was, “How the hell did this dyke get pregnant?” It didn’t take forever before I learned that she purposefully had sex with her husband so she could have a baby. Later, Zack told me that he hated his female body so much he thought about killing himself, but, wanting children, decided to use the biological body he had to bring a baby into his life… hoping it would save him from madness. (It did.)

I knew Sarah was lesbian the second I saw her. Lesbians, especially butch lesbians have a “look” about them. A strong jaw, is it? Sarah and kd lang are both my aesthetic ideal woman. Later, Zack would tell me he thought many butches, especially Stone Butches, were transmen who did not have the opportunity to come out or, as is happening in the climate now, are coming out finally after years of feeling the were men their entire lives.

But Sarah at the LLL meeting… she’d learnt about me from her childbirth class, hearing that I’d had Aimee then left the hospital three hours later without causing too much of a ruckus. She wanted that kind of birth. Actually, she wanted a home birth but was told if she did, she would not get her six weeks of maternity leave, having to go right back to work the next day. Therefore, birthing, then leaving soon afterwards was the next best thing. Later we learned, because she was in the Army, she had to stay in the hospital the required three days instead of leaving early. But, at the LLL meeting, all of that was still to come. After the meeting, Sarah hightailed it to my side, introduced herself, saying she was six months pregnant. I chuckled inside seeing this butch woman in a maternity sailboat shirt with a Peter Pan collar. God, maternity clothes were awful in 1986!

But our energy together sizzled. As I said, I was only two days postpartum and my husband had two weeks off, so I wanted to just rest and nurse my baby while he was home. Before leaving the LLL meeting, I gave Sarah four books to read and said when he was back at work, we would talk about them. Well, it wasn’t a week before she called to tell me she’d read them and would I like to talk about them now? I thought, “Sheesh, this girl sure is pushy!” and told her no, that I wanted to wait until my husband was back at work in a week. During the rest of our relationship, I never saw Sarah read another book. That she read those four in a week, I now know, was amazing. What motivation can do, right?

The day the kids’ dad went back to work, Sarah called and asked if she could bring over some pizza and Diet Coke that night for dinner, then we could talk. I laughed and now think: she sure knew how to get to the fat girl! Pizza! How could she lose?

I like to say that the night Sarah and her husband came over was the night they never left. The four of us adults became quite the team. We began playing cards almost every night. Ate dinner together and Sarah and I talked a lot during the day. There were no cell phones back then, so it was always on the landline. It didn’t take but a week or so before she asked me to be her birth assistant… her doula. The word “doula” was brand new; no one knew what it was. I called myself a Labor Assistant or a Birth Assistant for years until the word doula came into birth vernacular. I changed from Labor Assistant to Birth Assistant when a teacher said he thought I was a Union Organizer. Nope. Not that.

We also played games. Life was a favorite of mine (I really hate playing strategy games). When playing Life, Sarah would marry a woman, plopping a pink peg into her car every time. At first, I balked. “You can’t do that!” She would take the box top with the instructions written inside, point to the rules and say, “Show me where it says that in the directions.” Of course there was nothing about who you had to marry, but I still bristled, not grasping her very un-subtle references. One night she even laughed about “Lactating Lesbians” porn magazine. Obtusely, I ignored the reference. I just could not see the crush she had on me. God knows I had one on her, too, but how was I supposed to say that to a pregnant woman while I was fat and leaking milk and married to a man?

(and we go forth!)

Flux

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.

 

Blackface

So, we know there are issues surrounding the wearing of blackface by politicians and I wanted to share how I responded as things began.

When the first story about Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface in college came out, I listened for his apology and thought, “Well, that was good.” I also thought this was 1984, not too long after I got out of high school (I graduated in 1979) where there were many KKK fanatics and I saw blackface done on more than a few occasions. So, the pounding reality of the horror of blackface for African Americans/Blacks did not really compute. I was tepid in my response.

I also realized I am white and what the heck do I know about what blackface looks like to a black person… feels like… to a black person, so I began listening and reading the comments and thoughts and essays by folks who live the reality of black hatred every day.

And while I still do not believe I really understand how horrible it must be to be demoralized, depicted and demonized by a white person in blackface, I think I am beginning to get it.

I hope to find the visceral reaction to it I should have had when the yearbook picture showed up on TV.

I’m Depressed (Again)

Due to a glitch in my insurance and the Latuda company’s lack of medication, I went about a week without it. Might have been more. I have been back on it for 4 days now, but have fallen into depression. I wasn’t sure at first, but after sleeping 20 hours a day 3 days in a row, I think that qualifies as depression.

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And the crying.

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I hate the crying.

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The welling up of tears for (seemingly) no reason. The way they fall unabated, no amount of logic stopping them. They just turn on and off at their own whim.

What am I sad about? Nothing. There is no precipitating factor here, merely biochemical.

I want out of it.

NOW.

Getting Into Washington, DC: 1979

When Bobby, Scott and I got into Washington, DC, it was July 10, 1979, hot and sticky. We’d run completely out of money, not having one idea what to do next. We went into our separate bathrooms on the Mall, near the Washington Monument (which was stunning, by the way).

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There were many people in there, but I picked the sink furthest from the open door and pulled out my paper bag of supplies: shampoo, soap, a razor and toothpaste with my toothbrush. First brushing my teeth, afterwards, I immediately felt more human. Then shaved my pits (why in the holy hell I did that is beyond me now), washed my face with soap and my hands and then leaned wayyyy over and washed my short hair (which may or may not have been fuchsia at the time).

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I ran my fingers through my dripping wet hair, gathered my supplies, dropping them back into the crinkly brown paper bag and walked outside past the gaping-mouthed women and girls. Outside, Bobby loaned me his brush and I brushed my hair until it was at least not dripping everywhere.

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Then we stood looking at each other. What now? We walked around looking for a pay phone to call family to ask for help. Scott’s family would help him, but not us… neither Bobby’s nor my family would help us, either. Scott was being sent a Western Union money order that would take 2 days to get there, so until then, we figured, we were on the streets together.

Looking up at the Washington Monument, I lamented we would not be able to get up there to see out the windows.

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See the teeny windows?

I then got the bright idea to try and schmooze the Park Services Ranger selling the tickets to go up and within minutes, Kevin had become our new gay friend.

He not only gave us tickets, but told us about Lynn up at the top, giving information to the tourists… that Lynn was known to take in strays and we were well qualified.

Up we went in the elevator. Dang, that Monument is much taller from the inside than the outside! When we got off, Lynn was there to greet us, giving us hugs and telling us about where she lived. I was craning my neck to see out the window, hardly paying attention until Bobby nudged me hard and I hit my head on the thick window.

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Rubbing my head, I turned just as Lynn was taking a key from around her neck and putting it over Bobby’s flowing red mane. Huh? Apparently, Lynn had just given us the key to her apartment where she lived with Risa and told us to shower, eat whatever was there and take a nap!! She told us where the quarters were for the laundry, where the laundry soap was… that we could play her albums if we wanted… to just make ourselves at home.

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It was rather stunning.

While still up in the Monument, we discussed what to do with the car, which had zero gas in it. The decision to leave it where it was, near the Ellipse, until we got some money.

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This left us with no way to get to Lynn’s house! So, before we went back down the elevator, Lynn said that Kevin had Metro tokens for us and the directions to her house, so down we went, over to Kevin’s kiosk again, got the tokens and headed off to Lynn and Risa’s place in Arlington, Virginia.

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After having been in the New York City subway, this one was pristine. Our stop was the Rosslyn stop, one that was a mere 2 years old, and was really was amazingly beautiful.

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Taking the Metro was awesome. And deep! When we got off on our stop, we went up an escalator so long, I had never seen one like it before, it taking several minutes to get up to the street.

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As we exited, all we had to do was go caddy-corner across the street and into the concrete building, up the elevator and into the really large apartment our new friends’ lived in.

We were immediately drawn to the enormous balcony. Leaning over the rail in one direction, we could see the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building and in the other, we could see the Iwo Jima Memorial. All of which looked very small from where we were, but look how huge the Iwo Jima Memorial is!

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Here is an image at night and you can see the Lincoln Memorial easier as well.

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How incredible is that? Our balcony gave us the scope of the buildings, minus the Lincoln Memorial.

Once we got showers and scarfed some food we found in the refrigerator, we three fell into someone’s bed, curled around each other, and fell asleep for several hours.

 

 

Running Away from Home: 1979

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.

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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.

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It looked about this good, but was a powder blue with a white hard top.

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.

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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.

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Snatch with Prompt

This was the Prompt:

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This is what I wrote in 30 minutes (unedited):

When Colors Run

Deep inside my colorless cocoon, I have a vague sense of other lives nearby.

I slither through their reality; where is my own? Surrounding myself with the darkness of my depression.

My mirror’d existence bursts into color, fireworks exploding with energy that drains my body, but never my mind.

Having Bipolar Disorder 1 is, quite literally, opposing colors of my brain. I see auras anyway, but during a manic episode, the colors scream off my body, tsunamis of energy crashing into my brain again and again. Voices screech… or whisper… I, never knowing which will be next… raging about how I look, feel, need to act, need to fly, need to find this or that, things that are elusive even after hours of mentally and physically searching.

Exhaustion never comes.

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When the electricity finally dissipates after months of zapping me, I collapse into that dark world once again, struggling to keep breathing and not smother myself with the thought that this will go on forever.

Reaching outward, always outward, needing several hands to keep me alive, I am fed my medication, waking only to swallow, then sleeping yet another 23 hours.

Writing is my emotional gauge. By how many words I write in a day, I’m able to see where I stand psychologically.

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Not writing for days, weeks, months… I am in that dark place and need help. Too often, because I am alone, I do not recognize the need for many weeks and, by then, am buried by the pain.

However, when I write 20,000 words in a day… several blog posts for me, blog posts and essays for work… long emails to friends and family… run-on sentences with divergent topics… it is they who sense my need for help and their well-rehearsed phone calls are made to see who can get me to the doctor the fastest.

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Walking the tightrope, umbrella in hand, I teeter, side to side, always searching for that inaccessible balance.

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