Postnuclear Ducklings

One of my biggest pet peeves with nuclear family ideology, even more than the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and cisgender, is the idea that life goes in an expected order and follows an expected pattern. Culturally we are expected to have a second child, but probably no more than three. We’re supposed to want to buy a home and a car. We’re maybe supposed to want to get a dog. Many would expect us to “settle down” in the suburbs as though there could never be anything settled about living in the city. All of this is based on a very modern idea of what family is, what home is, and what the ideal life is, and most of this idea can be traced back to the 1940s. These ideas, which are modern an invented, are seen as so natural and innate in our society that they are rarely questioned. Communal living is seen as weird. Not owning your own home is seen as a failure. And even those progressives who are totally onboard with queer and trans people still expect us to fit into the archetype of the 1940s family in every other way.

It’s exhausting, especially for those of us who for whatever reason aren’t reaching the standard goalposts. Living a life different than the one expected of you means constantly having to explain yourself, justify your lifestyle, and clarify your vision. Usually, when I tell people what I’m doing with my life, whether it’s talking about my gender transition or my lack of interest in (or ability to) leave my awesome rental house, I’m met with either congratulations for being “so unique!” or awkward inquires as to why a person would ever want to live the way that I live. And we aren’t even that weird on the grand scheme of things. We, myself my spouse and my child, live together in a single family home, we have an ikea bookshelf for goodness’ sakes.

All of this preamble is just working up to the following news: We got ducks! To be exact, we got two ducklings.

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Mary, a tiny yellow duckling, and Martha, a tiny black and yellow duckling, chilling in their brooder right after arriving at home. Blanche the fluffy cat watches them with curiosity.

Why did we get ducks? Well, a few reasons. The first is that we love animals, and ducks walk funny and are hilariously cute. The second reason is that while we generally minimize our animal product usage, we do eat some eggs, and I just haven’t felt very good about buying them at the store. Several of our neighbors keep chickens for the eggs, but ducks are much cuter in my opinion, can be friendly (and thus make better pets) and their eggs are more nutritious. I got hooked on the idea of backyard ducks last year, and then way back in March, we ordered two ducklings for Metzer Farms, a hatchery in California with a good reputation. When you order ducklings (or chicks, or goslings) from a hatchery, they are shipped through the mail! This is super weird, I know, but for many reasons (I won’t get into all of them now) it was the best possible option for us and our birds.

Well, they arrived last Wednesday. Despite being clearly labeled for pickup at the post office, the postal workers started putting them on the outgoing delivery truck that would be driving around all day. This was only stopped by me showing up at the post office and asking after my package, awkwardly adding “um, it’s live birds.”

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I, David, a goofy looking trans dude, am holding a poultry shipping container while exiting the post office, and grinning like a goddamn fool.

The very nice lady who rescued our babies from the truck asked me “what are you going to do with these live birds?” while she passed the chirping shipping container to me.

“Take care of them…” I said.

“Oh good!” she breathed a sigh of relief, “I was afraid you were gonna say you were gonna eat them, and I couldn’t have handled that.”

***

The ducklings have probably hatched last Sunday, so they’re one week old now, and they’re already visibly bigger than they were when the arrived five days ago, which is nuts. They’re extremely cute and it is also a ton of work to keep them in food and water, socialize them, and keep their brooder (the box they live in in our living room) clean. Our two babies are called Mary (who is a welsh harlequin) and Martha (a black swedish) because apparently I love bible names, go figure! Here are some things I have learned since adding Mary and Martha to our family:

1. I was warned that ducklings would go through a lot of water and make a lot of poop. However much you are imaging “a lot” to be, it is way more than that. We’re talking constantly refilling the water container and just an endless supply of poop. Good thing it makes good compost.

2. My emotional response to all baby animals is pretty much the same. It may have been more intense when I had a human child, but it wasn’t a different feeling, it was just MORE of the feeling. Whether it’s a newborn baby, a tiny kitten, or three day old birds you pick up from the post office, I find myself equal parts overwhelmed by “how are you real and how are you the cutest thing in the entire world!” and “oh my god what if I’m doing this wrong.”

3. Ducks make an incredible variety of sounds. Baby ducklings don’t quack (and in fact only the female ducks make a true quack as adults) but they do cheep, chirp, coo, whistle, make weird little clicking noises, and even purr.

4. It really doesn’t matter how excited an almost three year old is about ducklings, the first time he is annoyed that you are feeding them YET AGAIN instead of doing what he wants to do, he’ll confidently announce “I not love my baby ducks anymore.” That will last until the next time one of his friends comes over, at which point he will need to excitedly show them off.

5. Imprinting is serious business, and way more intense than I could have ever imagined. I had read about imprinting before they arrived, and about how some people have pet ducks who are imprinted on each other, but that it can get intense. Our ducklings are imprinted on each other, and if you haven’t witnessed a relationship like that, nothing can really prepare you for it. It’s like they’re obsessed with each other, it’s like they love each other more than anyone in the history of the world has loved anymore. They never sleep without cuddling, and most of the time they fall asleep with their bills together, basically kissing each other, purring, and softly chattering at each other. Even in their small brooder box, they prefer to be right next to each other and are almost never seen at opposite ends of it. If I take one out but not the other they become overwhelmingly distraught and will call for each other as loudly as possible until they are reunited. All in all, while I’m a little sad that their hyper focus on each other makes it harder for them to bond with me, I am relieved not to be the focus of that intense and endless love.

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A black and white photo of Mary and Martha, at a week old, cuddling on some straw. Mary is basically leaning on Martha.

Backyard ducks is far from the next expected step for our little postnuclear family, but it was the right thing for us right now. I’m putting the finishing touches on a duck house in the backyard, and when the time is right, Mary and Martha will move back there. Until then, we have these two cuties hanging out in our living room. Expect occasional duckling updates here, but if you need more duckling pictures, you can always follow me on instagram (though I have to warn you there are also a lot of selfies and transgender feelings rants!)

***

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Things To Do For Your Trangender Loved One (Assuming That Transgender Loved One Is Me)

Oh, readers, there is a lot going on, isn’t there? Yesterday I tried to ride my bike. I even put air in the tires! Only then did I discover that my big needs some other kind of attention and being not as handy as I’d like to be, it’s entirely out of my realm of expertise (my expertise being, I can put air in tires, and ten years ago a friend taught me how to change brake pads though I probably don’t remember how). Anyways, I have been thinking about writing a list of Things You Can Do To Be Nice To A Transgender Person, and I even thought about pitching it to some kind of publication and looking for more tips from the transgender community…. but then I realized that was not the piece I wanted to write at all. First of all, because it’s already been done (here and also here). Second of all, because if I am honest, the transgender person I want to talk about most is me.

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Image: me and Jonah the cat have a moment on the couch in our pink living room.

So! Here we have it! Here is how you can support your transgender friend or loved one, if that transgender friend or loved one just happens to be me. This list may or may not be applicable to other transgender people in some ways some of the time, use at your own discretion.

1. Use their correct pronouns, use them early, use them often!

This, I think, should be fairly obvious. THAT said, it seems like some cis people don’t get it. They focus so much on not using the wrong name and pronouns that they forget to test drive the new ones at all, and it gets uncomfortable for everyone involved. I assume this happens because people are afraid to mess up, and that makes sense and is ok. Here’s the thing though: you are going to mess up! Hell, I mess up sometimes! We’ll talk about the mess ups later, but…

What I think you really need to do is to use the new ones as much as possible. Use them in front of the person, use them when you’re talking about the person, use them as much as you possibly can even if it’s awkward. Even if you have to stand alone in your bathroom chanting “David” softly under your breath, still do it. Why? Well, there are two reasons. The first is that when someone makes a point of using my name and pronouns, it makes me feel safe and at ease with that person, which is freaking sweet because I mostly do not feel safe or at ease in the world right now. The second reason is because it helps you get over the awkward phase faster. Basically, you’ll never get used to the change if you don’t, you know, do the change!

2. If you mess up, self correct, correct each other, then move the heck on!

Most people who want to be supportive of their trans friends are terrified of messing up those new names and pronouns! I know I am sure am. But we all mess up, so more important than avoiding it is reacting well when you do mess up.

If you accidentally use an old name/pronoun that is no longer valid, and you notice it on your own, say “sorry, I mean [new name/pronoun] and then drop it.

If you hear someone else use the wrong name/pronoun say “you mean [correct name/pronoun] and then drop it.

If someone else has to correct you, because you used the wrong name/pronoun say “sorry, [correct name/pronoun] and then drop it.

Notice that in each one of these scenarios, you are ACTUALLY SAYING THE NAME OR PRONOUN ALOUD. I feel like this is important, and it makes your apology much more believable and powerful then when you just say “oh sorry” and keep going without ever self correcting. It also has the advantage of just being another time you say it, which will continue to help you adjust.

The other thing they all have in common is that after you self correct, you fucking drop it. You do not go on and on about how hard this is for you. You do not over apologize. You do not make excuses. You do not go on a rant about how you are “trying so hard and you just don’t know why you can’t get it right!” All of that is annoying and embarrassing, frankly, and it makes the transgender person (who is me) feel like they have to comfort you. It makes it very tempting to say “oh, that’s ok, it’s no big deal!” just to make the conversation end, which might make you feel like you have a Special Pass to use the person’s birth name or incorrect pronoun (unless you have been explicitly told “I am giving you a Special Pass,” you definitely don’t! And if the transgender person in question is me, I can assure literally everyone that they do not have such a pass).

3. Reach out! Ask “how is the transition going?” Generally just lend an ear!

This is partially specific to me, but look, transitioning is a lot, and it can be isolating, and your loved one might need someone to talk to. Some transgender people might not want to talk about their transition with cis people! Some transgender people might not want to talk about their transition at all! But again, assuming the transgender person in question is me, maybe they do want to talk about it kind of constantly, but are afraid they are boring everyone and/or no one wants to hear about it anyways.

I think it’s easy for cis people (I know, I recently thought I was one!) to assume that transition is like, a moment. They imagine that once you’ve changed your pronouns or started hormones or had a surgical procedure you have TRANSITIONED. In reality, it is slow. It’s like puberty, only with lots of paperwork! Every day on my to-do list I have transition related items. Because of that, it takes up a massive amount of my brain, and I’m lonely and I want to talk to everyone all the time. Offer to take your transgender person (who again, it’s me, we’re talking about me) out for coffee or lunch. Ask them how they’re feeling. Let them know, with words and actions, that you love and support them.

Many of my friends and loved ones have already done this, and continue to do this, and y’all are the fucking best. Seriously.

4. But… while you are reaching out, don’t make it about you, and don’t assume you know what they’re going through.

In English class, we all learned about showing that you understand a concept by restating it in your own words. We also learned to try to relate to texts by comparing them to our own lived experiences.

If you are cis, don’t do that to your transgender friends.

The fact is that you may be able to relate in some ways. Maybe you changed your name a few years ago, and remember the paperwork headache! Maybe you switched careers, and remember the unrooted feeling of not knowing where you belong anymore. Maybe lots of things, but you still don’t know what it’s like to transition, because gender transition is huge and has a ton of moving parts. Our society classifies people first and foremost by gender, and to change categories is massive and difficult.

For me, transitioning means pursuing medical care even though I am afraid of doctors, it means the knowledge that large parts of the population hate me and probably want me dead, it means being constantly misgendered and feeling out of place everywhere (at least for now), and it means feeling at home in my own skin for the first time in… a long time. And you just can’t know what it is like to hold all of those things (and more) at once. And pretending that you do is insult, minimizing, and rude.

Also, everyone’s transition is different, so please respect that. You may think you understand because you are transgender yourself, or you “know so many trans people” but the fact is everyone is going through something very individual and unique.

5. Offer to help out.

We know that big changes, even happy changes like getting married or having a baby, cause big stress. We know that people are easily overwhelmed by stress. We know that while we can’t remove the stress, one thing we can do is try to help out with other things in the person’s life to try to reduce the overall load. So maybe we offer to do some childcare, or pick up groceries, or bring dinner over. I have had friends offer to come over and do dishes during hard times in my life, and it is literally always appreciated. And transitioning is a huge change, and it is hugely stressful, so I feel like (not trying to extract favors here necessarily, got I sound like an ass) it would be totally appropriate to treat transition like we do any other massive change.

You could also, if able, offer to help financially. This is a prickly subject in some ways, but look, transition is expensive. Many trans people fundraise to cover their surgery costs, and that’s generally accepted as an ok thing to do because gender affirming surgeries of all sorts can be very pricey and generally not covered by insurance. What I think people don’t realize is that there is a price tag attached to almost every single aspect of transitioning. Wardrobe updates cost money, buying a binder costs money, a good haircut costs money, changing your name costs money, , hormones cost money and often are not covered by insurance either, just to name a few things. In my case, and this list is largely about me, there has also been loss of work associated with transitioning as well. A middle class person might be able to absorb these expenses, but transgender people are very likely to be multiply marginalized and living in poverty. For those of us living paycheck to paycheck, something like buying a binder might be necessary to quell dysphoria, but could also mean coming up short for groceries that month. These are impossible calls to make! Combine that with the fact that in most states you can still be fired for being trans, and you’ve got a financial nightmare for lots of trans people. So even if your transgender friend isn’t formally fundraising, you could still offer to help out a little.

6. Tell off the transphobes in your life.

This one is really important. It’s really really important.

If you have people in your life that are transphobic, and you see yourself as an ally to trans people, you need to either get those people out of your life, or let them know that their trans bashing comments are not welcome anywhere near you under any circumstances. That goes for online and IRL. Why is this so important? Because if you are welcoming to transphobes, you are making being around you unsafe for your trans friends. If I go to a party at your house and your buddy Matt is there and he’s a real chill dude EXCEPT THIS ONE THING he hates trans people, you’ve just made me unsafe. If you have transphobic friends on your social media, I may get attacked for mentioning that I am trans, which means it is unsafe for me to engage with you on social media. Recently, I mentioned on a friend’s post that “pregnant people” would be more appropriate than “pregnant women” because trans people get pregnant too. Multiple people showed up to tell me that trans dads were too small of a group to bother counting, that I was being aggressive for mentioning it, and that cis dads are more important. It ruined my entire day. That won’t happen to your trans friends if you aren’t friends with transphobes.

7. Explain it to your kids, don’t make your trans friends do that for you.

If you are a parent, part of your job is explaining the world in which your kid/s lives. You might be nervous about explaining trans issues, but guess what? Trans people live in the world in which your kid/s live, so this is your job. Waiting for your trans friend to do it for you is pretty uncool.

You may think that it’s too complicated for your child to understand! Sorry, gender actually is kind of complicated. If you’ve told your kid that boys have penises and girls have vaginas int he past, that information was incorrect. If you’ve told your kid that while knowing transgender people, you have knowingly lied to your kid. How does that feel? Sit with that feeling for a minute.

But I’m not here to berate you, I swear. This stuff is hard, and I empathize with being afraid to mess up. Here is a short script you can use, modifying it as needed to talk to your specific child:

“When a baby is born, parents and doctors make a guess about the baby’s gender. Usually that guess is based on the shape of the baby’s genitals. Lots of times the guess is right, but sometimes the guess is wrong! Sometimes people find out the guess was wrong when the person is still a kid, but sometimes they don’t notice the mistake until later. Everyone used to think our friend ____ was a ____, but now we know he/she/they is/are actually a ____. They’re going by a new name name, ____. We can practice using the new name together at home.”

Boom.

8. Say it with ice cream.

Especially if your transgender person is me, the best possible thing you can do to show them that you care is ice cream. If the transgender loved one in your life is me, then he also just found out he can’t have wheat anymore, so avoid cones and ice creams full of cookies!

But honestly, just be nice.

***

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Spring Of One Thousand Changes

Spring took five thousand years this year, and when it finally showed up it practically felt like summer. For me personally this spring is… a lot. First there’s just the normal stuff, the uptick in outdoor tasks (besides shoveling snow), spring cleaning, getting behind on spring cleaning and then oh hell you’ve got ants, you know the stuff that happens every year. Then there is the fact that it’s about to be our third year in this house, and our second year gardening here… and really we’re still growing! I needed to put in a new garden bed, because last year our tomatoes got too crowded. I swore to myself that this spring I would finally finish tearing out that nasty old brick patio that just makes it impossible to mow part of the lawn. Yes, there is a lot of springtime work to be done!

Then we decided to get two backyard ducks. Which means I’m building them a duckhouse. And oh yeah, I don’t actually know the first thing about building, in fact historically most times I have tried to hammer a nail it’s been taken out of my hand (misogyny, it’s a blast). But yeah, we’re prepping to have two brand new post nuclear family members.

Oh, and I’m transitioning. Which is great and exciting! And also turns out to be confusing and exhausting and overwhelming and just frankly time consuming.

Then, last week, I found out I’m allergic to wheat.

Did I cry at the doctor’s office? Yes, but only when my doctor was out of the room. Did I stare blankly at the wall in disbelief while trying not to cry? Yes, yes I did. Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread, that one of my proudest accomplishments is being pretty good at throwing together a loaf without a recipe or a measuring cup, that I love making my own pizza crust from scratch. Once on twitter, Mara Wilson said something like “if someone tries your cookies and then says ‘oh are these gluten free’ that means they taste bad.” My spouse and I laughed about that for months. We still do.

I don’t have celiac, I can theoretically still enjoy other glutenous grains, but I’m allergic to wheat. Functionally, it amounts to about the same thing. I’m learning how to bake all over again, only now with weird blends of very expensive flours made from tapioca, and potatoes, and freaking coconut. It’s a massive change.

Most years, on May Day, I wake up at sunrise, head to the bathroom, and buzz all of my hair off. I do it because I need change, because I love feeling the spring breeze on my head, because there is something freeing in sheering off the winter mane, so to speak. I didn’t do that this year.

Instead, I baked this cake out of almond flour and good intentions.

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Image: a vanilla bundt cake with icing and decorative violets on a yellow plate, on top of a tea towel, next to pile of dandelion blooms.

There is enough that is up in the air, changing, in flux. There is plenty to do.

Transitioning is entering into a world of firsts. There is was the first time I wore my binder. There was the first time someone I’m not married to called me by my name. The very first May Day as a man, and soon it will be the first Mother’s Day. And all of it is weird. All of it is a mixture of happy and scared and another emotion I don’t have a name for. And all the while I am raising a small child who I hope will be good and kind and generous.

Last night we had a thunderstorm and it was honestly such a relief. Something about the sky opening up seemed to also release the mounting pressure in my own self. It reminded me that I’m allowed to be messy and emotional about all of this, that I get to own all of the ways it’s complicated and imperfect.

Anyways, at least it’s not snowing.

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Image: a small long haired tabby cat rests on a child size table, resting her head on the window sill next to it.

***

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“After The Age Of 25, Your Life Just Doesn’t Change That Much.”

Today’s blog title is something someone said to me at a party a couple of weeks today. Today’s blog post is about a big way my life is changing, and yes I am older than 25. Some of you may have already read this on facebook. I decided to share it on the blog so that all of my readers will know what’s up, and so it’s easy to share on other platforms.

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Dear Friends And Loved Ones

I am writing with some potentially surprising (or not!) information. Life is very weird, and I am a boy. That’s right, today I am coming out to you as transgender, and I am trying to be silly and theatrical in doing so. I think I’m doing that to avoid doing the only other thing, which is being overly earnest. While I plan to definitely be overly earnest with you in the near future, right now I am feeling vulnerable and so I am putting on a weird sort of show. Ask my therapist, I love to make inappropriate jokes when I’m terrified of revealing myself (my therapist will not answer that question though, that’s against the law!). Anyways, I am specifically a gender non-conforming transgender guy. I think I have been trying to subtly come out to, dropping hints that may or may not read as hints, for a number of weeks. So now I am doing the real thing.

In a further effort to put up some weird kind of wall to protect myself, I will now explain myself in a FAQ format. Much like most major brands that have FAQs on their websites, no one has asked me these questions and they are purely what I imagine in my brain you would ask me. If you need to ask me additional questions, that is fine though I am not 100% sure I will always be able to answer.

1. What is a gender non-conforming transgender boy?

Oh you are getting right to the heart of the matter, good for you. Transgender means that I do not identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. Boy means I’m a boy. Gender non-conforming means that I refuse to be hemmed in by the patriarchal nonsense that is toxic masculinity, and may at time do things that seemingly break the rules of what it means to be a boy.

2. Why the heck are you using “boy” instead of “man?”

Primarily because I am terrified? I don’t know. The word man often feels very loaded, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll get there eventually. I also like dude and am trying to popularize the term “dudeliness.” Please join me.

3. Wouldn’t it have been easier to stay a girl?

I guess it did seem like that was easier for a very long time, which is how and why I avoided perusing transition. It recently stopped feeling easier, and so I’m doing this now. I’m a boy and I feel like a boy and I deserve to be a boy so that’s what I’m going to do.

4. Have you always been a boy? Or did it change recently?

I honestly do not know, and I don’t care. Look, that’s incorrect. I do care, but I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer for it and I also don’t think it’s the most interest and important thing about me and my gender. I think our culture is obsessed with the idea that we have to have been “born this way” for our identities to be valid, and that idea hurts us. I was born a baby. What matters to me, and what should matter to you, is that I’m a boy now.

5. But wait a minute. What about that one time you wore that one dress? Or that other time? Or all the times? All I’m saying is it seemed like you liked some of those dresses.

I did! I have liked lots of things in my life! I continue to like lots of things. On the subject of dresses, dresses are great and I like them. I think they are generally a good way to put fabric together. Also as a gender non-conforming trans dude (look I used dude!) I won’t apologize for still being pretty femme.

6. If you are femme does that mean you are non-binary?

It does not mean that! Non-binary people are great and they deserve much more than what they get in this world, but I am not one of them. I am a boy.

If you are having trouble wrapping your head around this, it might be useful to think of a child. If a little boy knows he is a boy and enjoys being a boy, but then one day he puts on a dress because dresses are very pretty and also fun to spin around it, he doesn’t stop being a boy, does he? Not always conforming to gender roles doesn’t make your gender stop being your gender. It’s the same way for me. To assume that a cisgender boy can put on a dress and still be a boy, but a transgender boy somehow stops being a boy when he puts on a dress, that is transphobic.

7. How do you know you are a boy?

How do you know anything? This is a very loaded question and one that both shouldn’t be asked AND I can’t stop asking myself. When I think “I am a boy” it feels right and I feel right and everything makes sense. When I understand my body as a boy’s body I feel connected to it and safe and good in a way that I never imagined was possible before.

8. Ok, got it, sorry for the intrusive questions.

That’s ok.

9. So what’s going to be changing?

I’ll be using he/him pronouns exclusively, I’ll be changing my name to David, some aspects of my outward gender presentation will be shifting, and I may be persuing some physical transition options like hormones.

10. Do you expect me to call you David all the time starting today? This is a big change.

There is a difference between expecting something and hoping for it, isn’t there?

I understand that changes take time to get used to. For the time being I am asking for effort, not perfection.

11. What if you are wrong? What if it turns out you are a girl after all? Doesn’t that worry you?

It did worry me, and sometimes it still does. But I don’t think that I am wrong. Ultimately I have to trust my intuition and live my life based on what my needs are now, not some imagined possible scenario.

But if hypothetically it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll deal with it and I’ll be fine and you have no reason to worry about me.

12. Aren’t you worried this will confuse or upset your kid?

He is neither confused nor upset by any of this. I’m still using the parenting title “mama” with him because it feels right and as a gender non-conforming guy that’s a call I get to make. I don’t think he cares what anyone’s gender is, to be honest.

13. Aren’t you worried about upsetting other people, like friends and family?

Yes I am! I am very worried that being myself will somehow hurt someone else and that is a crushing weight to carry around. But ultimately I think that we all have to live our own truths,and we all have the right to live our own truths, even if those truths are sometimes hard for others to understand.

14. Aren’t you a little old for this?

Wow. I guess with people noticing that they are transgender, and being brave enough to come out, at younger ages, coming out in one’s 30s could definitely seem weird. But the truth is that we are all constantly learning new things about ourselves, and we are always going to growing and changing. The other side of this is that I feel like I’m too old not to come out. Maybe if I had realized I was trans when I was younger, I would have wanted to sit on the knowledge for longer… but I don’t know how long I have left on this earth, and spending more time not living authentically doesn’t appeal to me at all.

15. Are you sure you don’t just want the power and privilege associated with maleness?

I have been a feminist for a very long time, and my goal will always be to tear down the patriarchy, not to scramble to the top of it.

16. Are you going to become an asshole?

I’m going to try my best not to! I plan to do my best to be the kind of dude I would want to hang out with, one that is sensitive and kind, willing to listen to others, and always down to geek out about history and/or talk about feelings.

17. Are you going to have surgery?

I don’t know. There’s a pretty wide range of surgical options, and I’m not sure which (if any) I would ever be interested in. Also, they all cost money. If I do that won’t be for years and years.

18. Does this mean you’re straight.

haha no. I’m still extremely queer.

19. How can I help you right now?

Do your best with pronouns, use my new name, tell me you love and support me. Spend time with me. Be nice to me. Take me out for ice cream. The usual.

20. Can I, as an individual, ignore this and continue to use your old pronouns and name indefinitely? I’m just so used to them.

No.

21. Be honest, are you just doing this because one of your favorite writers recently came out as trans?

No, and that’s a terrible question to ask. If anything watching Daniel Ortberg come out helped me to understand what I do and do not want and helped give me courage. For instance, Daniel was on testosterone for six months before coming out in a major way. I could not handle that kind of secret. I have related to many things he has said about his transition, but not all. For instance, I have no desire to be George of the Jungle.

22. Are you just doing this for attention?

No, and that’s a terrible question to ask. Oh my god why am I assuming people want to ask me all of these not very nice questions rather than just believing me? I’m sorry everyone, I really don’t think you are huge jerks, I swear!

23. Are you maybe coming out a little fast though? I don’t mean that you are wrong, I just mean like, it seems like you had this realization somewhat recently and many people seem to prefer to keep it quiet for awhile?

I’m not many people. Secrets give me literal stomach aches. I want to be able to talk about my feelings and experiences openly and honestly. I can only do that if people know what I’m going through and who I am. It’s totally ok that some people need more time, but for me it is kind of the opposite. I need to live authentically as myself in order to feel whole.

See, now I AM getting overly earnest.

24. Do you think being a boy will make you happier?

It already is… by like a lot.

In conclusion, I love you all a ton, and really don’t know why I’m trying to pre-field all of the most invasive questions but I guess this is just who I am. Many things will be staying the same. I still love cats and sweets. I still have a terrible sense of humor. I’m still glad I birthed a child and breastfed for as long as I was able. I still have no interest in sports.

I promise that the tone of this FAQ says more about me than it does about you. I remain, as ever, a defensive pessimist, so I am preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. I have a bit of a journey ahead of me, but I’m excited to be on it, and I’m excited to have people in my life who love and support me.

And if you don’t think this is ok for whatever reason, then frankly, I think you know where the door is.

When I was fifteen and realized that I was Some Kind Of Not Straight ™ I really wanted to have a Coming Out Party, only of course I was fifteen and living in the suburbs and it wasn’t safe or an option to celebrate queerness in that way. Since I’m having to come out AGAIN and coming out is exhausting, I’m finally having my party.

Love,

David

***

I’m planning to revamp my patreon page to make it easier for folks to support me and this blog. In the meantime, if you want to see Postnuclear Era keep going, and my little family thrive, you can make a one time donation of any amount via paypal. I can’t stress enough that every aspect of transition, from buying a binder to admin work that takes away from paying work time, has a dollar amount attached to it, and every little bit helps right now. The paypal link still has my old name on it, life is incredibly complicated and messy.

New Year, Slightly Different But Ultimately The Same You

It has been 2018 for six days.

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I don’t know if I ever shared this here, but I have never been much for New Year’s in general. Or at least, I wasn’t for years. Because I measure my own personal year by my birthday (which is in August, which when I was younger coincided nicely with new school years starting) and I’ve been following the wheel of the year since I was fifteen (which usually places the new year in October) I just didn’t have any use for the first of January. I mean sure, there’s remembering to put a different number on that first rent check, but on a personal level, the Gregorian calendar never held much for me.

Until I met the person who would become my spouse.

My spouse was born on New Year’s Day. But not just on New Year’s Day, something like fifteen seconds after midnight. She was the first baby born in our state the year she was born. There was a photograph of her mother, exhausted and beaming, cradling my spouse as a newborn, in the local paper. The story goes that they played “Sweet child Of Mine” on the radio in celebration.

All of this meant I found myself getting on board with all that New Year’s stuff. After nearly six years together (how is it six?) it’s become second nature to me. Last year we did one of those “good things in 2017” jars. And frankly, we did it because we knew it was going to be a hard year. And we were not wrong. And sure, we did forget to add things to the jar about halfway through the year. But it was still fun to empty it out and think about the little moments we would have forgotten if we hadn’t done it.

In 2017 I guilt a trellis out of cut mulberry branches in our backyard, and then one day, miraculously, the thing started to grow.

In 2017 our kid learned how to say “please.”

In 2017 we went on a camping trip as a family. At the beach on Lake Michigan, our two year old was convinced it was the ocean. He was certain that he had only one task there: to find The Heart Of Tefitti.

In 2017 there were also struggles, illnesses, financial problems, heartaches, and of course constant political anxiety. But hey, we made it, right? I mean, look at us, we’re still here.

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Now it is a brand new year, and I’m feeling much more optimistic than last year. I have started out the year by giving myself the gift of focusing on my work, while also attempting to achieve some sort of balance and not work myself into the ground. I have big goals for myself, which is a little big frightening and a little bit thrilling at the same time.

A number on a calendar isn’t nothing, but it is a small something. It’s a marker of time, a way to measure change and progress. We are changing and progressing.

That feels like it’s worth celebrating.

Surviving Yuletide

December is exceptionally intense around these parts. Between my immediate family and my spouse’s, we have birthdays to celebrate and observe on the sixteenth, the nineteenth, the twenty-fourth, and right at midnight on New Year’s (and that one belongs to the spouse!). We celebrate Yule on the solstice (usually the twenty-first), and do Christmas Eve with my spouse’s family. We also have another family Christmas party to attend that is usually scheduled for a Saturday near Christmas (this year it falls on the thirtieth). We are busy. And being a pagan family means that we have four less days than the Christmas folks in order to prepare things like stockings, trees, and special holiday cookies.

Yule is tomorrow and I am positively swamped, folks. My gingerbread dough is chilling in the fridge (and I almost ran out of GINGER). I am, for some reason, committed to making a yule log cake on top of everything else. Did I mention I am making cinnamon rolls for breakfast? Don’t tell my toddler, he doesn’t know yet. Thank goodness the gifts are ready to go, but the house is still a mess and we’re having company over.

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It’s fine.

Anyways, even with all the hurried Yule prep going on over here, and really working to make Yule special and magical, I’m still worried about Christmas eclipsing everything. Why? Well, it’s everywhere. And my kid’s grandparents celebrate Christmas. And some of his friends do. And all the movies are about Christmas. And I love Christmas carols because I’m a giant hypocrite. So even though he calls the artificial evergreen (shut up, I’m allergic) in our livingroom a “Yule Tree” he’s also started to ask about Christmas. And while he’s looking forward to Yule presents specifically, I can’t really avoid the fact that his grandparents can and do spend more money on holiday shopping than we do.

So, I have two new ideas for making the solstice even more special.

The first one happened today by accident. I was doing my annual cry-while-listening to The Christians And The Pagans and then Youtube went right into a bunch of other Yule and Solstice songs. Some of them were lyrics changes to established Christmas melodies. Some were different. Some were cheesy as hell but some were fun and some were cheesy and fun. I plan to later write down which ones I liked because this is a whole new world for me and I am going to be ready for next year, oh yes.

My second idea is screentime.

Oh yes, that’s right.

I know, as a dirty pagan I am supposed to be the crunchiest crunchy mama around, hero of hippies, defender of a screen-free lifestyle. But facts are facts. My child is already watching TV, not constantly, but he has seen TV and he will continue to. I work on a damn screen for a living. And he sees the Christmas stuff, you know?

So, for any pagan (or non-pagan!) parents who need something to plop their offspring in front of today while you finish one thousand tasks (solidarity forever), here are a couple ideas:

1. Arthur’s Perfect Christmas.
Fair warning: this is absolutely a Christmas movie, and also I have not seen it. That said, I have been told by a friend that it mentions many holidays, including Kwanzaa and Solstice, so it might be good if you are looking for an inclusive thing. Looks like you can watch it on Youtube. Also it’s an hour long and you might need that hour.

2. Little Bear: Snowball Fight/Winter Solstice/Snowbound.
This is a regular episode of the Little Bear Show, and so it has three wintery stories in one, only the middle is about the solstice. But I like it a lot. They talk about how it is the longest night of the year, his grandparents and friends come over, they decorate a tree with food items to leave out for the “snow angels” (which turn out to be hungry animals), and they sing a song about loving winter. It used to be free with Amazon Prime but they took it off, but it is on Youtube so live it up.

3. Guess How Much I Love You: The Holly Branch/Topsy Flopsy Day
Someday, I’m going to write about my weird feelings about this book, and it’s corresponding TV show, but it is not this day. Anyway, this episode has two stories. The first is about a Holly Branch, the second is about the solstice being the shortest day of the year. Little Nut Brown hair calls it Topsy Flopsy day because when he wakes up it is dark and that feels “backwards.” This isn’t as good as the Little Bear Episode, frankly, but my kid loves that rabbit. It’s available on Amazon Prime.

4. Avatar The Last Airbender: The Winter Solstice Part 1 & Part 2
These episodes are not about holidays and celebrating, but I do appreciate that they recognize the celestial event as spiritually significant. They’re also a little scary, so might be better for older kids (there is fighting in Avatar, if you don’t want your kid to see that, this isn’t for you). I like Avatar a lot, and I like that this is one more mention of the solstice that kids can relate to. It used to be on Amazon Prime, but now it will cost you money (sob).

Ok, I have officially spent an hour I didn’t have writing this up. Happy holidays to everyone, and hang in there.

What If We Were Just Really Nice To Each Other?

This week, I got sick. Getting sick is scary for me, it always has been. I have always gotten sick a lot more than many other people, and a huge portion of my life has been devoted to managing illness, trying to prevent getting sick, and trying to recover. As a working class person, my paycheck to paycheck lifestyle often works ONLY if I never get sick. But I do get sick.

I’ve never had a job that hasn’t threatened to fire me for getting sick “too much.” I’ve never had a boss who believed that I was actually sick when I said I was. I’ve never been secure enough in my life to not be afraid that I was one more illness away from some kind of disaster.

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This week, my favorite cat got sick. I’m not supposed to have a favorite cat, I know, and I love all of my cats and calling him my favorite is kind of a joke. But he is the cat that I’m the closest with. He’s the cat that “gets me.” He’s the cat I got first, the cat I got when I was single and living alone for the very first time. He’s the cat who has pulled me through breakups and illnesses. And he’s also the cat who keeps almost dying on me every couple of years.

He got sick, and I didn’t have the money to take him to the vet. It was scary and bad. A friend offered to loan me some money, and I took it, but even with that the emergency vet was too expensive. I was able to get him some meds and a checkup, and he was in better shape than I had feared. Now he’s home and he seems perfectly normal… but I am living in fear that the worst is about to happen.

This week, being a freelancer was extra difficult. I can’t go into details (obviously) but multiple clients are paying considerably late at the same time. This puts my family in a difficult position. And look, it’s the beginning of December. We celebrate Yule, and we celebrate in a pretty damn frugal way, but this is a really stressful time to suddenly not have enough money to make ends meet.

This week, the news cycle was absolutely hell on earth. This week, capitalism was still keeping us down, keeping us in our place. This week, politicians have been trying to push through awful legislation with no acknowledgement of the lives effected. This week, I still had PTSD. This week, I still had seasonal affective disorder.

This week has been really really fucking hard, y’all.

I am baking bread, and it feels like I used the last once of energy left in my spirit to knead the dough. I am trying to remember to drink water. I am letting my kid watch more TV that usual. I am staring at the yule tree in our living room and trying to notice how much I love it instead of how outrageously messy this room is.

And I have an idea.

It will not fix everything. It might not even fix anything. It’s probably shallow and overly simplified and it might even be stupid. But look, the only way I know to meet the level of evil and greed we are seeing in the world right now, the only way that isn’t the worst, is with radical kindness. The only thing I know how to do that is worth any good at all is just to be nice.

I think we do not give niceness enough credit, I think we have been dismissing niceness as “women’s work” right along with childcare and baking. I think we have been downplaying generosity and kindness in part because it doesn’t serve capitalism.

And I also think people have a right to their anger. I also think this shit is complicated. I also think power structures are real and scary an if folks need to protect their own sometimes, I get it.

But right now, for myself, niceness is the only fucking thing I have left. What if we were all just really really nice to each other? What would happen then?

Bake cookies for your neighbors.

Give money to people on the street.

Tell your family how much you cherish them.

Smile at babies.

Send someone a card, just because.

Check in on your friends.

Invite someone over for dinner.

Do something that isn’t normally your job.

Offer to babysit.

Say something kind.

It might not change the world. It might not do much at all. But look, the people in power are staying up all night to screw us over. Life is hard as hell, and this particular season is extra hard for many of us. This year has been impossible. We all deserve a little kindness right now, and thinking I might be able to be that for someone else is the most optimistic I am capable of being right now.