Where I’m Fundraising or Running Today

Ride Ataxia

give.curefa.org/bibitiphane is my fundraising page for FARA – The Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance — This year I’m not really riding, but I’m seeking to sell my beautiful Trek Domane if anyone is interested, as I’ll give all the proceeds of the sale to FARA! Yes, it’s true: it may be a combination of aging, PTSD from a bad fall (on another bike, going slowly), and living where I can walk and run beautiful routes.

This is the Trek Domane 4.5 C, size 56… Very lightly used!

San Francisco Pride Run

Join me in the Non-Binary category, this year in particular when one of the two major political parties in the country have expressed their desire to erase transgender people! This year they donate to Transgender Law Center! Sign up here: San Francisco Front Runners

Reentry and the INFP that I Am

An hour from now, I am going to a social event, my first one in about a year and a half of the pandemic isolation. There will be people with whom I cut ties at our last zoom meeting, when I had a meltdown of sorts (in what I recognize now as a typical INFP incident), people I like to see from a respectable distance, and people who have not seen me as a trans woman before. Also, I no longer drink, and I will opt for the sparkling water instead of a glass of wine. I will most likely escape after an hour, which will be easier because this is not at someone’s house where I would feel pressured to be polite and graceful in making an excuse for leaving.

I’ve been told many people have issues similar to that with “reentry,” resuming a daily life of being exposed to interactions with people. It’s not that I’m afraid to catch one of the COVID variants that could come back with some of those who already fly around and stir the big virus pool. It’s really that I’m back in a world that needs to be managed.

Recently, after having a few interactions that were disturbing, I returned to reading passages in the book, Please Understand Me II. In it is a guiding questionnaire to figure where you may fit in the four-axis personality and character scale known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The first time I took the Myers-Briggs, administered by a therapist, I was definitely IN, but as the therapist pointed out, I was only hinting at TJ. INTJ would be your typical Computer Science major, like I was. I figured out lots of things with this therapist, but not everything (it’s taking me decades), and I didn’t have a chance to revisit the questionnaire (especially because I was ESL in the language of feelings and emotions at the time), until about 15 years later, when I still remained 100% Introvert, but the last two letters had shifted to NP. Reading the description of Plato’s Idealist and other subclassifications in the book somehow didn’t satisfy me, because that was challenging my career choices and also the marriage that was coming into a big crash ending. Decades later, now, after discovering so many things about myself, reading about it is making a lot of sense.

Last night, I went back to another very useful book, The Introvert Advantage, which I had found so useful that I had made a presentation about it to a group at a retreat. In it was not only information about who are introverts, but also strategies on how to live better lives without feeling bad about not being the life of the party. Last night I saw that they had made studies on how we (introverts) think and interact, how the pathway in the brain is different, which I had sort of skimmed through before. But I just had had the experience of a couple of meetings with a person who was “making my head spin” and I needed to figure out how that was happening.

I have always been easy prey for con people, salespeople, and Catholics (because I was raised in a very Catholic environment, and there were fanatic Catholics who took me as their project when things were falling apart – I have recovered from that). The thing I figured out last night was that I respond emotionally to certain words and situations, and I don’t have time to process, so my response is usually to end the interaction with buying whatever it is they’re trying to sell me. In the past, I have had to cancel memberships and payments pledged the day before. When there’s a more personal involvement, it provokes a storm in me, I become obsessed with how to reconcile the need to break the relationship and that of creating harmony around me. It takes a lot of time, and the anxiety can be very high (I start fearing that the person will find ways to be back). I’m not surprised that some of us can develop mental illness from being exposed too much. In my case, I think I figured it’s better to hide, yes, but to tell the intruder that I’m stressed out at the moment.

So… I continue writing this 24 hours later. I went to the event and I was happy at the end. I wore a dress I made, no leggings because of the warm weather (I made sure there were no apparent hairs!), a pair of sandals I rarely wear, a hat (that I made as well) I always wear because I have a seriously bald spot. Most of the people I talked to had fared well in the sheltering-at-home, as I had. Most of the people had not seen me in a dress before (I used to wear mostly sweaters and tight pants), and many expressed being happy to see me be out. Only one person acted like I didn’t exist, but then I realized that this had been our situation ever since we had met. I resisted dwelling on that person as it would break my happiness with the event. That is an INFP characteristic to want harmony around us, but relearning about that allowed me to ignore the thought that there remained at least one person who was not happy with me. I turned the feeling around: they have never connected with me. In fact, there was a time when they should have, as the leader of the group, checked on my well-being, and they never did. I left the group without explanation and they never asked why.

So it’s all good. The key was to stop thinking about how I could have made this relationship better, when it is in fact meaningless. There is no purpose in trying to be a nice person to everyone, and constantly wondering if I disappoint them. That just makes me vulnerable to salespeople and con men!

And most importantly, I came out as transgender to so many people by just being there, that I have gained self-esteem overnight. That was a major event!

p.s. I just found out that the book Please Understand Me II by Kersey is an improvement of the Myers-Briggs test, which has been criticized for leading to inaccurate assessment of people in work environments. So go to https://keirsey.com/ to find out!

Exercise, exercise…

Getting More Exercise

It started as many Saturdays, when I feel that others are out there seeking fun, while I seem to have lost any taste for doing things. Breakfast then coffee then maybe lunch, wondering why I don’t really want to go down to the sewing studio (my current project isn’t too exciting, a bit challenging as it’s an improvised modification of a pattern). But also, it’s the feeling after talking to people, trying to express vague emotional ideas and listening to how the real world might structure them into its structure. It’s as if you told me, well do you want to give up the security of a structured society, or try your fancy ideas to soon realize that they will encounter the chaos of unstructured people? This will be an endless discussion (in my head too), but as a matter of fact it is a bit of the source of this feeling that the day isn’t worth facing.

After walking to the bookstore and not finding anything exciting (after two reads that were: Detransition Baby, and Victories Greater than Death), I proceeded to look for DVDs at the library. On my way back, I determined to go for a hike, knowing that in my experience, exercise is my best anti-depressant.

To make things better, I put on my running clothes, which give me better self-esteem in my feminine looks! As I walked outside in my colorful tank top over a sports bra, I congratulated myself because I was feeling I was a woman. In a sense I had already raised my self-esteem for the day.

My itinerary was to reach Tilden Park, about 3 miles each way, and uphill. I would have caught the bus in order to exclusively walk on trails, but there was no bus (I think because we’re still on COVID bus schedules). It was good, the streets in the Berkeley hills are great. Google Maps even sent me on stairs I didn’t know existed. It was hard, actually, but at my level of running, doing hills makes me stronger (I don’t work out on machines, so I have to find alternatives like running hills!). There were steep parts that can be hard on the knees, but I have learned to manage my descent in a way that may feel counterintuitive: find ways to flex at the hip, extend the gait, not putting the brakes on the knee muscles.

I encountered so many mosquitoes on that trail that I had to do a windshield wiper motion with both arms for quite a while! They must have been flies, because I don’t seem to have been bitten…

On the way back I seriously did the speed walker moves with hips and arms, which seem to have saved my knees. I want to pay a lot more attention to potential obstacles on the pavement and sidewalks, because I find it’s very easy to trip, and I really hate that (it hurts!). It’s too bad as the views of San Francisco Bay are so beautiful.

As it happens so often, people leave things on the sidewalk for others to take, and I check them out for potential treasures. Nothing struck my fancy until I found a pair of pink 2lbs weights… I had just thought, on my way up, how my runner’s anatomy book suggested some weight lifting for the upper body, and how I neglected that. So I took the weights and finished the last mile or so with them. The hot pink color matched the pink-and-blue of my tank top, it felt great!

I don’t know how I could still climb the stairs (double step stride) to my fourth floor apartment, but it was obvious that I should stretch and massage my legs (I use a foam roller) to prevent cramping later in the evening. While washing the (now new-looking) pink weights in the bathroom sink, I was startled by my woman self in the mirror. That was a new feeling I want to keep.

I write this on Sunday morning, after going for my usual run… Almost unbelievable to me, but I used the excuse that I run back via the grocery store to buy the paper Sunday paper, and a croissant that will accompany my coffee after breakfast. Now I can proceed with the day, go to the sewing studio and finish that project.

I imagined I would write this blog entry as a coaching advice (e.g. start easy, make it a habit, manage your knees, make it a challenge, a meditation), but I really don’t think I want to tell people what to do. Motivation has to come from you, and my best advice is to learn to listen to your body and seek an understanding of how it works (look at runner’s anatomy books, but also learn about trigger points and massage, and stretch). Exercise and diet and cut the alcohol… It seems obvious now, but there’s nothing in my mind that will have a greater effect on body and mind…

On Transitioning Too Fast

It has been a while since the last time I wrote.  Life has been good in the pandemic, because I stayed with good friends who embraced my transness (is there such a word?), and could avoid most social issues that tended to invalidate my feelings (impostor syndrome).

In this post-Trump year, it also feels better overall.  We can breathe.  But his troops are agitating in some states by passing anti-transgender laws (and anti-abortion laws), and it feels like we will always be under attack.  It feels like most of the time we are used, our bodies are used, as a threat to male dominance.  And it’s no surprise that the same people seem to be anti-abortion, which is also the expression of male dominance over women’s bodies.

I’m from a family of 7 children, the middle child who seemed to be the pivot on many issues.  I seem to be the pivot in Catholic belief, for example.  My younger siblings were indoctrinated by a new parish priest who led them into a youth group.  One became a priest.  I never found much interest in the church, and couldn’t really pretend there was a god listening to my thoughts, because nothing ever seemed to come out of repeating rites and prayers.  At the same time, Quebec society in the 1960’s started leaving the church and move on to the question of Quebec identity.  To me, it was like moving from one religion to another, and I have always felt excluded from the mainstream.

But I should fast forward to today…  Just by chance Dr. Erica showed up on my linkedin (I have abandoned all social media, but I tried linkedin to find someone I wanted to contact) and informed me that she was interviewed on “60 Minutes.”  So I watched, and it brought up this issue of some youth who had transitioned too quickly and then de-transitioned.  This is often used to invalidate us, but the problem seems to come from overly enthusiastic health care providers.  It seems to me like the rush to prescribe pain killers and anti-depressants when presented with symptoms in need of a quick solution.

It’s a bit funny, in fact, that more people can be questioning the COVID vaccine than, say, the need to do surgery to fix knee or back problems which could be relieved by focused exercise and physical therapy.  I had a neighbor who died after knee surgery.  I once damaged a ligament in my wrist and the first orthopedic surgeon I saw was quick to offer surgery, while the second opinion from an older doctor with a strong reputation with hand problems, which involved more of my participation, led me to conclude I could live with it.  It’s been fine.  I’m a runner, and I understood how to solve knee problems without medical intervention (it’s a matter of changing how you run, massaging trigger points, strengthening key muscles).

All that leads me to today, when I could certainly get HRT, but also cosmetic surgery, and ultimately gender-reassignment surgery.  Gender dysphoria is a strange thing, and for me it remained unidentified because it got mixed up with childhood trauma that I somehow solved by shutting myself down and making sure I got good grades in school.  There were a few traumatic episodes in the decades that followed, and I’m not sure, given the understanding we have now of gender dysphoria, that it could have been uncovered under the several layers of protection my mind and body had developed.  But today, now that I got rid of a lot of noise in my mind, I would love to have a magic wand because I’m still resisting medical intervention.

So what’s my recipe?  I don’t have one to give you, but it certainly involves self-introspection instead of imitation of others.  I have been dealing with this for many years, and I guess being older I tend to be less radical (I’ve never been).  I would suggest, however, to stop looking for “influencers” on the internet.  I remember being excited seeing vlog of young people going through transition, I so wanted to be like them.  But I was looking at success stories and ignoring the greater number of people who may or may not have a good time with it.  Judging from the experience of watching my nieces grow up into adulthood, I saw that they were trying at all costs to conform to the expectations put on them that I wouldn’t be surprised if a great number look for a way out of their assigned gender.  I heard cisgendered women talk about how they were like trans people because they went to the hardware store and talked man-to-man there (hint: that is just pointing out the absurdity of gender norms).

So yes, I’m suggesting to look at it in the long term.  Go to a support group at your local LGBTQ center, it gives you a reality check and the people are great.  Grow your hair long (it feels more female) or short (it feels more male).  Wear make up, but not too much.  Spend less time in front of the mirror.  Nail polish is so great (but I recently had significant nail damage, so I paused).  Ignore small misgendering (they called you Sir?  Ignore it, they don’t know anything).  Make friends who recognize and celebrate your gender.  See less people who don’t.  And exercise!  I run, and I stretch, and I hula-hoop!

Enjoy life!

Pride Month/Week/Day/Hour

This week-end in San Francisco was going to be one of the biggest annual events, but due to the pandemic, everything is virtual. But in a conversation with my sheltered friends (they’re cisgendered) about how I could express pride, I was having trouble figuring out how I could make the jump from a life of low self-esteem made medium esteem to actually feeling pride about who I am. But I took up a bag I just sewed together undefined and said I was actually proud of this bag that I figured out how to make, sometimes out of fabric remnants. I was also in the process of making my own Trans Pride Flagundefined from what turned out to be difficult to find pieces of fabric because the fabric store is closed and I couldn’t get similar fabric types in all colors. Anyway, I ended up recycling a shirt for the white band… Here it is, hanging in front of the house, where people hang flags, most often patriotic ones, which raises a point of thinking about what is pride for those people? Is it belonging to a group you identify with? Being part of a country that has serious issues of bullying and has a bully as its president? That they accepted for 4 years now? I wonder.

Putting aside the memories of crushing any self expression when I was a child, today I am proud of who I am, and I want others to recognize that I exist. I also want others to recognize that their patriotic or religious pride has been hiding racism and transphobia, not to add misogyny and homophobia. By existing, by walking around and letting them figure out whether I should fit in their narrow view of the binary, or just let go, I am expressing pride in who I am.

But it’s a lifelong battle. I learned that in these months of sheltering, people no longer care about personal appearance, which was great news to me. There’s less pressure to conform to expectations. Although I should add that zoom meetings have been difficult because I constantly have a mirror in front of me, and I hear my voice as not the voice of the person I want to be. Yet, it was great to care less about the image in the bathroom, and it was great to use a mask or scarf to cover the lower part of my face, so there’s less scrutiny at the store.

I am happy that this year marks a kind of point of no return for abolishing systemic racism, not only in this country, but in others where people keep denying its existence. I guess it was obvious to me when I feared the scrutiny of others about my gender, that people of color have experienced much worse on a daily basis. So I’m proud of who I am, but I’m not proud of being part of a larger group that discriminates. That has always been an issue for me, that big movements were led by people who laughed at me, so why should I join them? Now I think a greater number of people have said enough of that, let’s examine what we’ve been complicit with, and change.

my sewed-together trans pride flag!
two of my recently completed bags, moments of pride…

p.s. I am confused by the new WordPress editor… I inserted images both inline and as individual blocks for now. Hopefully this looks ok.

The 2020 Census

I took advantage of the super quiet Saturday when we were all avoiding our chances to meet the virus to respond to the census. I went on the web site (impressed that one could use so many languages other than English) and started with my household of one, which didn’t take very long. Really, I wondered, didn’t they used to ask how many cars and bicycles we owned, or how far we had to go to work?

Anyway, the thing that bothered me was, of course as a non-binary person, that we only had M or F to choose from. The one-line Help said something about choosing our biological sex. Of course that has happened before, and I put what is on my passport, which I guess is my official “sex” for “those people,” the people who don’t care…

I suppose trans people who have completed a medical transition didn’t have a problem with it, which is somehow comforting. But then I thought, there are all the intersex people who probably have to put whatever the pediatrician selected for them at birth… The rest of us, the ones who don’t like their biological sex, who may, as we joke, go to bed as another sex (the joke being how do you define one’s gender as opposed to one’s sexuality, sexuality is whom you go to bed with, gender is whom you go to bed as), have to just put up with it.

It started to bother me more an hour after I completed the census. My address is now tagged as being occupied by a person that I am not. Even if I have, of course, a long history of being tagged on the binary, now it just feels odd. I’m not lamenting that it’s a microinvalidation, as I learned this just attracts comments that I’m a crybaby. No, I’m just noticing that it could be useful to the users of census data to consider that we exist.

The oddity of the census grew in my mind also because the race question had a very long list of people types and origins, which for some people must feel perplexing if they’re from mixed race ancestry. I forgot to check if one could check all that apply. I found that the blank line under “White” to fill in a qualifier if “White” would mean you were never asked where you’re really from… Or if “White” feels like you’re included in a class of people who routinely discriminate against all the others… Anyway. I’m being facetious, but there may be people who hesitate to be identified so precisely on a federal government form, a government that is not particularly nice to them.

And perhaps that should be my view of the “biological sex” question: any answer outside the binary might be held against us because the question is asked by a government that is hostile to us… I wonder how it feels to work as a statistician when you know the questions are generating questions like that.

Perhaps the morale of the story is: when in doubt, toss a coin.

A New Level of Happiness

It’s been several months already since I last found it worth writing about myself… I had so many realizations coming together that it would be difficult to enumerate them in any logical order…

I continue to buy any new book, fiction or non, that pertains to the issues of trans people. The latest that I found greatly illuminating was Gender: A Graphic Guide, by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele. It is very detailed, and at the same time simple to read. It helped me realize how growing up being asked by your adults and culture to hide your preferred gender can become your self-destructive story in your head during your entire life.

This coincided with conflict with specific people, and I wondered why it affected me so much. I realized that the other person was fitting my story of a person who requested of me to “man up.” Conflict was calling the male in me, and it seemed the other person expected to fight at that level. Later I figured that they had their own reasons to be so assertive, it was not about them. It was that the more I felt I had to fight, the more the self-destructive voice in my head became strong. Actually a similar but more intense situation 20 years ago came to an almost tragic conclusion, the voice in my head having taken over to finish it all. But luckily it failed. In a weird way it fails once I get rid of male energy (the T thing). It works every time.

Shouldn’t I take T-blockers and that sort of thing? It has been a big huge question that comes in conflict with my own health concerns. I never take over-the-counter drugs unless the pain is so intense that I cannot function normally. In fact I think that youth of not finding relief from adults has made me indifferent to pain. Yet, I am extremely sensitive to pain that is deliberately inflicted. In other words, if I have a headache, I will seek my own ways to fix it quietly (it is often muscular), whereas I will nearly faint if I see a needle coming at me. Last year, I had an accident that required a trip to ER, and I had to tell myself to surrender because there was no way to just go home with an open wound.

But I’m finding I am demonstrating the power of having positive experiences on the mind. You will find there’s science behind it, in the works of people like Rick Hanson, and near me at the Greater Good Science Center… What I discovered was a positive environment for me to practice a satisfying activity. For me, it’s been sewing, and I am so lucky to have found a sewing studio where I can drop in and try various projects while being surrounded by people who so far have only given me positive reinforcement. I always say that it’s great because I can always undo-redo, but more important to me seems to be that I have been accepted in a mostly women environment.

Why would that be an issue? I explain it by the fact that I grew up with rather negative feedback from my mother and my grandmother. More recently, I became aware that some cisgendered women don’t like trans women, and in my head it just fit my rejection story. So repeating several days of a positive experience among women has allowed me to wipe out that story. Combined with the realization that someone who seems upset with me may just be upset with the entire world and not particularly at me, the anger in my head subsided. It’s a success story!

In recent days and weeks, I find people (mostly women) smiling at me on the street. I had taken the habit to avoid checking people’s reaction to me (so not to absorb negative energy), but something may have happened that I don’t know. It may just be that I am more relaxed in my own identity. I’m not conscious of a change in appearance, because I have been wearing a dress (and leggings) on a daily basis without fear for a while now…

That also changed, the filtering of what I will wear indoors vs. outdoors. It is now a matter of how I feel when I get up, and the temperature! There are no more second thoughts before stepping out, imagining how others will perceive me. It’s a very good feeling, actually.

That led to another realization. I was trying out a shirt I sewed from a very nice Japanese fabric, and saw me passing before a mirror. I saw that I looked like a transgender woman, but that image, maybe a year ago, was how I didn’t want me to be… There’s a sad side to it that it means I was judging others unfairly (I thought the only acceptable trans woman would be passing 100% of the time), but that was also blocking me from affirming my gender at my more advanced age.

Who knows what is happening, but I have this experience to tell that it feels like my body does not generate the male T when I’m having positive and feminine experiences. As I see it, it rises only when needed (in a subtle and unconscious way, when I feel I need to fight). It has been very calm, recently, and that’s a good thing.

I didn’t mention the holidays… Having to meet many people who tell me their lives, while I seem to be unable to tell them mine. Of course, they try to look indifferent to my changes in appearance. I wouldn’t like to have to defend myself in any way.  But it felt invalidating at the end (add to it that I’m always someone’s host). It felt good to be back in my positive, affirming environment. I don’t feel like traveling at all (a good thing: I can avoid the new virus).

Dear Abby and the Crossdresser’s Friend

Sigh… I’m going to show my age by recognizing I read the daily newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, and right next to the comics (Pearl Before Swine is my favorite) and the Challenger puzzle, is the Dear Abby column. There may be a web site for Dear Abby, look it up [here it is, here is the letter]. Dear Abby is like an incursion into the minds of ordinary people. So it should be no surprise that someone had an issue with a friend who is a crossdresser, but the whole letter from the friend in Tampa and Abby’s response were leaving me with the feeling that we have a lot of work to do to end the prejudice against trans people.

The letter is from the “best friend” of someone who just came out to him as a crossdresser, swearing him to secrecy. I already wonder how is the friend’s life to be crossdressing in secret for so many years, so secretly that even your best friend didn’t know about it. From the description it would seem the friend has discovered crossdressing when going through puberty, and I suppose that means it’s become more of a fetish than a way to express their gender. Yet I want to continue commenting about it because both friends seem to be homophobic and transphobic.

They explicitly say they’re not gay, as if this were extremely important to establish, but also as if crossdressing were a gay man’s thing. It’s true one sees it most often in gay circles, because the culture of drag makes it so visible, and many gay men have less fear of expressing themselves with nice clothes and manners. I personally have taken permission to wear dresses in a gay men’s circle because they were doing drag, but I quickly found a chasm in our intentions, theirs being to make a fun show, mine to discover my gender. The “not gay” understanding of the best friends, however, just reminded me of how some cisgendered men reacted to me if they had been attracted to my feminine semblance at first and “discovered” they might have been attracted to a man. Their facial expression shows anger, and it’s better to hope they aren’t the violent kind. I think of a young trans woman named Gwen Araujo who paid with her life in this situation. Why men become violent when they become aware of our existence, while they don’t seem to mind women they aren’t attracted to is hopefully the subject of someone’s graduate work at this time.

So I resented the “not gay” disclaimer in Tested in Tampa’s letter. It said both friends were so homophobic they had to make sure to reaffirm their sexuality in trying to open to each other. Maybe the crossdresser didn’t want to be killed by his “best friend” by swearing they were not to ever be attracted to each other.

But now the crossdresser friend who made it “sworn to secrecy” wanted to go out in the real world “as a couple?” How often had these best friends been out as not a couple? Had they never been together in one’s or the other’s living room in which it would be a lot easier to put a dress on and ask “how do you feel about it?” without the difficulties added by onlookers?

It’s true that this is a country, and a state (Florida), where one can be fired for being transgender. One can get killed for being transgender. It is entirely possible that the friend is transgender, and unable to safely express it. That is the point where I object to Abby’s response. She proposes to invite the writer’s girlfriend (first time I saw that mentioned that the writer had a girlfriend) along in the outing to make it clear the “best friends” weren’t out on a date. In other words, let the secrecy agreement go to hell, and open it to potentially murderous others (what if the girlfriend has a big brother who interprets it as the boyfriend being gay, as it seems to be the modus operandi there, and decides to beat them all up?).

Now I would like to hear about the friend. I wished they could find friends who not only understood, but embraced their personal exploration. I was lucky to have the safe environment of the gay men’s retreat to try putting a dress for the first time, and later to have friends in my house while I wore a skirt. I now wear a dress or a skirt on a daily basis, and I don’t care about passing. Passing has not only put pressure on me to spend interminable hours in front of a mirror, it has made it stressful to have things go wrong while out, and it has made me aware of the presence of transphobic men. When I don’t pass they just see me as weird and continue to scan the room for someone more attractive to them, whereas my true friends think I’m great as I am. Just as I don’t judge my friends’ appearances.

I think again about the friend. According to the letter, they have been crossdressing since age 12. A quick calculation tells me they would be about age 30 now. The letter doesn’t give enough detail about what they mean by “best friend.” They could be so homophobic that they never even spent a night in the same hotel room, which also means that they never talked their mind until the crossdressing disclosure.

And now I think of myself again. It is true that for so many years, all my friends had assigned me the default gender and sexuality. The “best” friends also thought it best to push me towards a life modeled after their own. It all came crashing after many years, and I was fortunate enough to find new friends who talk about possibilities instead of certainties. They welcomed every bit of my gender expression, adopted my new name faster than I could, and supported me when I perceived the world was against me. They were the pillars of my coming out to the rest of the world.

If I were Abby, I would have answered to support the friend or get out of the way. Maybe you can support your friend by accompanying them to a support group… You could wait outside or at a cafe nearby, but you would make it safe, because your friend is vulnerable. Also, if you could let go of your fears, accompanying your best friend out in their true gender is one of the greatest gifts you could give, because you can’t imagine how wonderful it is to be out in the real world, safe in your true gender. And if you do have a girlfriend who doesn’t understand it, maybe it’s time to question the “friend” in “girlfriend.”

The T Word

I was about to board a 6-hour flight from Montreal, and I picked up an easy read at the bookstore (they still have paper books, fortunately!), Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind. I won’t give it a review, but I literally hit turbulence in the chapter where the action is vaguely located in the area of Montreal that used to host sex workers and drug dealers. In recent years it has become hardly visible, due to extensive construction. I stumbled upon “the junkies and whores and trannies” and I was reminded of the first time I’d heard the word, supposedly to designate sex workers who are transgender.

I was in a gay writers group a while ago (when I tried to fit in the gay male world, but that’s another story), where I mentioned a monthly reading event that I thought was very good. But then someone explained “it’s this event at the back of a bar led by a tranny.” This was not so many years ago, but at the time nobody was aware of respecting others with language, but as I had great respect and admiration for the organizer of the event, who is transgender, I took offense. As I am the introvert who will not say anything out loud, I lost respect for the speaker of those words.

Fast forward to today, when white people are shocked they’re accused of offending by uttering the N word. There is a subtlety they don’t get. They hear rap songs with the N word in them, or hear it in movies, and take it as license to say it. We have a similar issue with the T word, in that it has been used extensively to insult and diminish the transgender people who do sex work. There’s a whole can of worms to be opened to explain why being transgender doesn’t automatically make you a sex worker, but when I read “the junkies and whores and trannies” (which is repeated several times by the author, for emphasis), I sense there is an intent to bunch all sorts of problematic low life together. And then I find myself wanting to defend the low life. I guess now that the high life is experiencing the wonderful world of opioid drug addiction, they may even start avoiding the word “junkie,” but continue to call sex workers “whores and trannies.”

To their credit, the protagonist corrects the medical examiners when they insult the corpse of a transgender woman, although you would think the civil servants would have had some sensitivity training…

End of rant…