Burden

I told a friend going through a painful time not long ago my philosophy on life. Everything happens for a reason. I am not religious, but I am spiritual, and I hold onto the belief that there is an order and a reason to existence.

Events happen to us because we can bear the burden, we can shoulder it, carry it, and show it to others for whatever they might need. I have suffered spousal abuse. I carry it. I do my best to show that to others that they might never have to suffer or to escape their suffering. I went through the loss of a parent, living in poverty, homelessness, chronic illness, and so many other things which make up the experiences of my life. I carry them all.

Losing Raiyne… feels impossible to carry. What reason is there for this? How can I possibly bear this burden?

Am I just doomed to lose the people I need most? What purpose can there be in that?

A few months ago I lamented that all these trials hadn’t killed me, but they had made me stronger, and dammit I was quite strong enough already so they could just stop.

I’m not feeling so strong right now.

I feel broken and alone, like half of me has been torn away.

Change

The words I use may not be the words you use. We are different people. Raiyne meant something a little different to everyone. You may call them your child or your sibling, teacher or friend, you may even call them Greg or sir, but I can not use those words. They are not my words.

The words I use are simply the words I need to honor what I knew about Raiyne. If you can not communicate with me, if you wish to shut me out because of my words, then I understand. However, please realize that I do not use my words to invalidate yours. Your feelings and knowledge of Raiyne is as valid as mine, and it is what you need.

These are the words I need.

I fell in love with Raiyne in September 2014, the first time I met them. They were not calling themselves Raiyne at the time, but Greg. So if you need to tell yourself this, tell yourself I fell in love with Greg. Greg is a part of who they were, absolutely.

When they asked me to call them Raiyne, because this was the name they had chosen, I did so. They became Raiyne to me. I have to honor that request now more than ever. They asked it of me. I really could not deny them anything they asked.

Instead of using masculine pronouns, Raiyne requested gender neutral ones, they and them. Again, I had to do as they asked, and I still do.

Just because they never asked this of you, does not mean your words for them are not valid, or less than my words. Just because they never told you this part of themselves does not mean they did not love you. Trust me, they loved you.

I am sad that Raiyne never fully expressed themselves to the world in the way they wanted, but I can not hold onto regret. I have to believe that everything happens for a reason. This happened for a reason. Even though it hurts so much I feel I might shake apart as it tears at my soul, this happened for some reason.

That may make you angry, or hopeless, or any of a thousand other feelings. Those feelings are valid. You can be angry, you can hurt, you can cry and scream, and so can I. We have lost something, but nothing is ever truly lost, merely changed.

Change is frightening, change can hurt, but it must happen.

It happens for a reason.

Raiyne

Raiyne died today.

I’m angry that the birds are still chirping.

It should be raining.

Everything, every little stress, every complaint, seems so meaningless now.

I trusted to put love, so much love, into another person. I was so happy with every aspect of them. I loved them without restraint, without conditions, every single part.

We had so many plans. They had plans, we had plans together. Things were getting better.

What did I do to deserve so much loss and pain in my life? So much death?

They shined. So few people truly shine.

I have to shine now, for both of us. I can’t be afraid anymore.

But right now I don’t know how I can go on without them.

A Non-Apology and An Apology

I will not apologize for being in my current economic status. I’m poor, and I’m well aware I’m poor.

This is not a new situation, nor do I see it being resolved any time soon. There is no possibility for me to get back on my feet or pull myself up by my bootstraps that I can see from my current position. Trust me, I’ve looked, I’m looking, and I will continue to look for ways out of poverty, but I’m not holding my breath.

I did not grow up in poverty. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in a middle class family with four adults in the house who all worked. I worked from a very young age. In the past I have worked two or three jobs while caring for my children and going to college, so I don’t appreciate anyone criticizing my work ethic. I will absolutely work and work hard on something that I am capable of doing.

I’m doing everything I can, every single day, just to tread water. I have been homeless before and that is something I have not allowed my children to experience. I am meticulous about expenditures. We have no credit cards, no large debts other than my student loans. Yeah, I took that chance, that one stupid chance, and got into debt for my education. That is by far the worst mistake of my life.

We live in a state of poverty just above homelessness. That is not an exaggeration. Every month it is the span of just a few dollars that keeps us off the streets. Every month, every day, I have to carefully monitor the budget.

Our budget every month is literally a four step process. Income – rent – internet – phone – a very small entertainment allowance for Netflix. We don’t have television. Yes, internet is a luxury, but it is tied up in the phones, which are nothing but month by month Boost phones. It is a carefully constructed entanglement of communication, productivity, and entertainment. I absolutely feel guilt for splurging on these things, but it is also what little income I produce, homework the kids need to do is online, and something to keep two teenagers occupied so we don’t drive each other more crazy stuck in this little apartment together.

For a long time our budget meant not leaving the house. It is so constricted that any time we leave the house, we spend money we can’t afford. Just the $2.50 it takes to ride the bus somewhere, like the grocery store, is more than we have.

There is no budget for new clothes, eating out, or just to have fun. There is no spare change just sitting around or in the couch cushions. We have to scrape and save for such luxury items as toilet paper, shampoo, soap, and laundry. I purposefully own just one pair of pants and a few shirts because I can only do one load of laundry every few months.

Every single action inside the house is weighed and worried about. I use one square of toilet paper each time I use the bathroom. I limit the shampoo I use. I cry over every blown lightbulb because that isn’t even in the luxury budget. I worry about things breaking we can’t possibly replace. Every day. Constantly. It is a serious drain of emotional energy, and that is just inside the house with things I can somewhat control.

When I sold my van for scrap, I wasn’t selling a vehicle that no longer ran, I was selling my back up housing. I have lived in that van before and I held onto it for so long because that was an option. Living in a non-operational van was my only back-up if we lose this apartment and it creates such a severe anxiety, but that is the situation I live in.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I stayed with the father of my children in order to avoid being a single parent, the lowest income bracket in the country. It was terrifying to try and leave him and go out on my own.

What did I pay in exchange for that financial security? Emotional and physical abuse, as well as being required to give him sex whenever he chose, even if I refused. I accepted that to try and give my children a good, stable life as I had lived.

It was painful, it did things to me that I have spent years trying to recover from. Most of those things I’m still working on.

It was supposed to be a wonderful marriage, a family unit, a house with a picket fence and a dog and two point five kids. I was willing to accept abuse and spousal rape for the sake of social status.

When the abuse turned toward my children, I made the choice. I would rather live in poverty, on the streets if necessary, so this man could never hurt my children again. I knew the risks, but I will never allow anyone to do to my children what was done to me.

It has taken me sixteen years of anguish and guilt, continual worry, and I have only just become comfortable with that decision. I left him for the betterment of my children, to protect them. Did I damage them by having them grow up in poverty? I struggle with that continually. But I had to weigh that against what their father could have done to them. I have to just accept the decision I made and move on. I did the best I could.

So no, I will not apologize for living in poverty. Everything I have done has been to put my children first. As a parent, that is my job.

However, I will wholeheartedly apologize if it has seemed like I have ever taken advantage of anyone. That has never been my intention. I love people so very deeply, I care about everyone. I care deeply.

My patterns of behavior are never meant to ‘trick’ anyone into sympathy, or to manipulate. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy for games like that. My mental and emotional energy is consumed with survival and very little else, and how I will achieve that survival with minimal stress on my children.

Every time I interact with anyone, I am torn with internal debate of being a burden to them. I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone. I have a very difficult time in asking for help because I do want to handle this on my own. This is my situation. I created it, therefore I believe I can – and should – handle it alone. It’s tough balancing that feeling, being encouraged to ask for help, and feeling looked down on as being ‘needy’.

Isolation was crushing the spirit out of me. I felt lifeless. All I wanted was to rejoin the world after five years, and I’m sorry if coming from the place I come from upset anyone. I just wanted to try and be a functioning member of society again.

I mean none of this as an excuse or for causing guilt. I was encouraged to share my situation, my perspective. There is incredible shame at this moment, sharing this. I don’t want anyone to know how bad it is. I don’t want people to EVER truly understand this perspective, not ever. I wouldn’t wish this existence on anyone.

All I mean for this is an apology. People I care about, still care about, have been hurt by me. I did not mean to hurt anyone.

I care about you. I love you. I’m sorry.

SOGI Repealed

It’s been one week. One week since Springfield voters went to the polls to repeal the Non-Discrimination ordinance addition of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Already depressed and feeling gloomy, I forced myself out of the house and went to the watch party. There was chatting, dancing, and good food as we waited for the vote. First the opposition was slightly ahead, then our side was slightly ahead, but ultimately we lost by 850 some votes.

That margin is so painfully slim. While it gives others hope, and I can understand their argument given where we are in the country and the mindset of most people around here, I still can only feel heartbreak.

I went to city council meetings, but by the time I had drummed up the courage to speak, they did not want any more speakers. Every time there is an interview, I speak up too late and miss it. I try to tell my story, but no one wanted to run it. I went to phone banking, but could only secure a ride a few times, and my anxiety prevented me from being all that useful.

Did I personally fail the campaign? I could have contacted that many people. I could have spoken at any number of events, done a graphic and spread it around, or committed more time to phone banking and canvassing.

I feel like I failed. As irrational as I realize that is, that is my feeling. I failed Springfield.

Such an ordinance is really just window dressing. It doesn’t stop the hatred against transgender or non-binary people. However, it is an important step. A small one, but a step just the same. This campaign has created more visibility and awareness, and the solution is just to push forward.

However, at this moment, I just want to collapse and mourn.

Let’s Dust This Thing Off

So, I’m quite aware I haven’t updated this. Every time I thought to, I could not bring my words together in a coherent fashion. Today is only different because I find myself in a coffee shop with terrible wi-fi and a great latte.

A lot has happened in the past five months, but nothing has really changed. It is incredibly frustrating, which seems to be the theme of my life recently.

In October I edited a series of short erotica stories for a friend, which he published. Then in November I wrote a very emotional rough draft of a novel that dealt with a lot of relationship issues and abuse. That was an extremely rough month. December of course brought rough holiday blues, culminating in January blues which seems to have resolved. Almost all of that was nothing more than the yearly remembering of things lost, regrets, and the horror of an entirely new year to screw up.

See, last year was the Year of the Horse. It was supposed to be a very good year for me. It was, in ways. I came to several wonderful revelations. The path is just a rough one.

There were doctor appointments in January as well, neither of which seem to be bearing any sort of fruit toward a medical transition. It is incredibly difficult being on Medicaid and getting any sort of care in this state, let alone transition.

In more happy news, I had my first kiss of the century. That’s right, century. I have completely shunned dating while I worked on myself and made sure I was mentally ready for another relationship. So I’ve been dating myself for sixteen years, and I think it’s time we started seeing other people. We’re not breaking up or anything, but it is time to invite one – or more – into my life.

Exciting, frustrating, and mostly just surviving.

The Long Road

I have to admit, the last few months have been tough.

Compared to the rest of my life, I shouldn’t really complain. I knew going into this that transition would be a long process, I knew that. Still, I guess I expected a lot more small steps instead of a whole lot of nothing.

Despite my mass levels of procrastination, I do enjoy getting things done. Procrastinating actually just increases my anxiety until there is a point where that anxiety overwhelms my lack of energy in a burst of getting stuff done. Living with chronic pain and fatigue for so long this is just how I operate now. It isn’t the best strategy, I’m well aware, but in the end things get done.

However, with my transition, it feels like nothing is getting done. My anxiety is high, my desire is incredible, but I can’t apply that anywhere. So it wasted energy. And wasted energy for me is a huge source of depression. I have so little, to waste any is devastating.

I made my declaration, I cut my hair, I tried to bind my breasts. I was already wearing what I wear, men’s Wrangler jeans and tank tops, men’s shoes, nothing too very feminine. Except bras, those are a bit of necessity, or else back pain ensues.

I’ve wanted to speak up a great deal more than I have, be more active, write more articles, reach more people. I’ve even pulled back on social media against my will just because I don’t have the energy. It’s all being drained down into this black hole of getting nothing done in my transition.

I called around looking for doctors in my area. The soonest appointment for just a first meet and greet I could get was January. Then I realized that perhaps you have to go the psychological route first to get some sort of letter, so I called around for that. No idea how I’m going to afford anything, or get myself from here to there. No progress on that front either. Not a single appointment, not one return phone call.

As for packing or binding? No progress there either. I use a sock to pack and a weight loss sweat band to bind, but I want to take the next step. However, I can’t afford the next step.

Money, energy, wellness, time… spiral down the black hole into depression.

There is no progress. How can I climb out?

Non-discrimination Please

My city is soon voting on a change to the non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Simple matter, right? Don’t discriminate against anyone. Apparently not. The city council meeting I attended was… heartbreaking. I could not find the courage to speak, so instead I sent this email to our mayor, as per his request.

~*~

Honorable Mayor Stephens,

First, I must applaud you for the work that you do and the patience I saw exercised at the City Council meeting on Monday, September 8th. A meeting so incredibly long, yet amazingly civil despite the passions on both sides.

I realize that the non-discrimination ordinance before you is just a small step, but a journey can not be taken without that first small step. This will by no means change things overnight, but it is a change that is needed.

I am a non-gender binary person, a demi-guy, or more simply a trans man. This means that, although I was born and raised with the societal expectations of being female, I identify more strongly with being male. Not completely, only partially. The council heard from several trans women, but sadly I did not have the courage to speak. The night was long enough anyway, right?

For thirty-five years I have tried to deny myself; pressured by parents and society. Only recently in May of 2014 did I give up this battle against conventional standards and came out as transgender.

I am unemployed, living on the bare minimum required to keep a roof over my head, doing my best to raise two children on my own without the support of their other parent. We live on food stamps, my son’s disability SSI, and little else. I do not have health insurance, no coverage for any transgender care. It is a difficult enough life. My children suffer discrimination daily for being poor, for riding the city bus, for having thrift store clothes. I have suffered long acting as a female so they did not suffer more by having a transgender parent.

I learned my lesson once. I was dating a woman, a neighbor took offense, and she called a hotline for child abuse. My children were taken from me and I fought hard for eleven months to get them back. Those eleven months are burned into me. That is time I will never get back. Time of my children’s lives that can never be returned to me. And thank goodness they themselves were returned to me. I worry still about speaking out only for their sake. I can suffer for this cause, and I will, but please do not take it out on my children. They are the reason I did not speak that night. I have to keep them safe.

I came to Springfield in 2003 to attend Forest Institute and obtain my PsyD. I thought moving to a bigger city would be more tolerant. Particularly since this was a city with a professional school of psychology. There are so many colleges here, so much education and potential for greatness. It is also a beautiful city. There are times when I wish very much to move away from this area and its pervasive religion. Even if I were not so torn inside, I do not have the financial means to leave.

Coming out as transgender has brought me a happiness I was not able to realize until now. However, as private as a decision as it is, I found the process to be – by its very nature – very public. What bathroom do I use when I am not entirely either gender? Do I avoid going out completely? Many times, yes. How much productivity and revenue is being lost because I’m afraid to leave my home and not patronize local businesses? I would greatly prefer if there were a more subtle option, let me make my transition in peace and in private, and not have to worry about how it might endanger me or my children. Especially my children.

I wish I could speak out with confidence and know that they are safe. Or at least protected in some manner by the law.

I have suffered discrimination and abuse many times. My children have suffered, and they have both made it plainly clear that they are interested in the opposite gender. The difference is that they accept me, and love me though they won’t always say it, as I am. That is all I am wanting from anyone else, from employer to medical professional to my server at a restaurant. Just accept me for who I am, please. You don’t have to like me, or sing the praises of the gender spectrum, just allow me to do what I need to do to survive.

Though it would be really great if you could sing the praises of the gender spectrum with me.

Sincerely,

Mr. Naomi “Nil” McFarland

ps. If you wish to share this letter, feel free to do so. I think I’m tired of being quiet, so it’s okay.

Let’s Discuss Spoons

-Removed due to issues with storify-

 

This is an actual spoonie event, live as it happened.

Spoonie event, you ask? What in the world is that?

Well, I don’t just have the good fortune of being a demiguy, I’m also suffering from some chronic disorder of a physical wellness nature. Also known as: I’m constantly in pain. Not just pain, every sensation is pain. The hair brushing my face is pain, the clothes on my back are pain, the light on my skin is pain. Everything. Yes, even what you’re thinking about right now. That also feels like pain to me.

What sort of pain? Well, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve felt it so long that I can tell you what normal pain is to me and what is definitely something else wrong. I can give you numbers on that 1 to 10 pain scale that I assume are relevant to your knowledge. It has been years since I had a day below a 4. Most days I’m a 5 or 6. Bad days are usually an 8. Anything higher and something is terribly wrong because I’ve become an expert on living with this and not pushing myself to that point.

How do I live with this? Well, I just do. I’ve had it for as long as I can recall. One doctor when I was a wee little child – about six years old I would say – said it was just growing pains and I would outgrow them. Another supposed it was some form of childhood arthritis, but no doctor has ever found evidence of any sort of arthritis.

As my mother became more sick nearer to her death when I was 14, I just stopped complaining about it. No one seemed to have an answer, so I left it alone and assumed it was normal. Like growing up with one parent and being surprised that other kids have two, only with something less visible. I couldn’t look at friends of mine and ‘see’ they weren’t in pain, per say. I did wonder how they could run and play so well though.

After that, people assumed the pain was part of some mental illness, depression brought on by the loss of my mother or this trauma or that trauma. Then it was labeled as lingering pain from childbirth. Doctors liked to ignore the fact that I had been living with it for so long it couldn’t possibly be any of that.

There isn’t just pain at this point, but it is difficult to recall what else came with the pain and what is just a result of other things. My muscles twitch, spasm, and sometimes lock up completely. I have horrible digestive problems. My breathing has never been quite right. I have heart ‘flutters’ about once a week. My memory is shot to hell, I’m tired all the time, and focus is extremely difficult. I’m incontinent, moody based on pain level, and very limited on what I can do safely.

It isn’t always easy to find words to express this to people. I don’t have a diagnosis or official disability label. What has helped is using the word spoons from Spoon Theory – and so much credit and appreciation to this wonderful person for sharing their story.

So when I say I’m out of spoons, that is what that means. I’ve probably got one hidden in my pocket, but using it means tomorrow will go over an 8 on the pain scale and I might be in bed for a week after that.

And if I use spoons spending time with you, please don’t feel bad. I have to limit myself and I’ve limited myself to being with you for a reason.

Or I’m playing Tetris with my furniture.

A Small Stand

One small stand for a trans man, one giant leap… towards what will likely be blinding rage by the end of the day.

I have this one person in my life. You probably know the type. Super religious, super high on her morals, super everything except actually following through on anything she preaches.

Yes, one of those types.

Well, today I have a long drive with her. One last act of charity, she says, then we have to stop relying on her.

Excuse me? Relying on you? This whole thing was her idea, her push, every year. And now we’re suddenly a burden because it was her idea to do this?

Just so much sighing.

Well, after this one last time, then I have to pay her back another $320 and then she will be out of my life. I just don’t need this stress. I need positive people who accept me, not bring me down, and I know that. The only reason I associate her is because my children used to see her as a grandparent. They have since become wise to her hypocrisy.

I’ll still love her for what she has done for my family, absolutely, but I just can’t handle the criticism.

One criticism is going to be the fact that I have not shaved my face in a week. Five days ago we went to lunch to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, and my son pointed out that he could see my facial hair. Now, you reading this blog understand why I might want to grow out said facial hair, but I could not just admit this to her. So I made up some stupid excuse about banning razors from my life, tired of oppressive beauty standards.

So for this trip with her, stuck in her car, driving for hours, I debated shaving, just to save myself the grief.

But no, that would be dishonest to myself. That would be giving in. So I’m not going to do it.

Each and every hair on my face is one small stand against oppression!

Or I’ve just had too much coffee.