Yearly Archives: 2017

22 posts

What even is gender

I feel like I’m mourning/saying goodbye to a part of me that doesn’t need to exist anymore. My body isn’t familiar on the outside anymore, I don’t have hips, or a waist, or cleavage. I get sir’d and he’d more often than not – the pharmacy actually put me down as male in their system?
None of this is unexpected really, I just didn’t know how I’d feel when I reached this point and I guess the answer is that I feel mixed. There’s a large part of me that feels stifled when I’m immediately pegged as a cis boy…
I’ve been struggling to figure out and find words for this since school let out and I’ve finally been able to settle on the shape of the angst that’s been plaguing me in the background for a bit.
I still envision myself with tits in my head, I still operate as though I have hips that carry shit (and then get confused when I don’t). My internal vision of myself doesn’t match what physically exists yet, even though the chemistry is right.
I feel normal and at peace with myself and aligned. I’m happy with the dose I’m taking and don’t want that to change much. I think what I need is to sit with the part of me that’s sort of mourning the familiarity of curves that aren’t there anymore, and maybe add some slightly femme elements to my presentation to help my brain with that difference.

12.5 months HRT :3

It’s sometimes just as jarring being seen as a boy as it is being seen as a girl. I am semi-fluid but solidly nonbinary, I’m finding more and more as I spend longer on HRT. All of my masculinity is informed by my femininity and they intertwine. I am both and neither, but not one or the other. Binaries are bullshit, is where I’m at, basically.
This has been really hard to write because I’m still trying to sort it out. Some of me wants to judge the validity of it, some of me is like this is just part of being fluid and you’ll ride it out (which is probably true but not a reason to not write about it), and some of me is like “this probably makes no sense” (which is probably also true, unless you’re also a transmasc enby which is why I’m writing this anyway).
These are the things I know:
I’m a fan of how I feel in my body right now. I’m a fan of this new confidence and being at peace with myself thing that is happening.
So these are good. The other things I can experiment with.

Before I get buried by finals

I’ve started the process of getting a hysterectomy and let me tell you, has it been a rollercoaster. Apparently complete hysterectomies are somehow not part of trans surgeries. So my Doctor got me a referral to a clinic that does Gender Confirmation Surgeries, but they don’t offer 3D Printer de-embedding. They referred me to someone else for that, but not before making me fill out an extensive intake form that made me need to start hunting for an additional therapist, because apparently one therapist’s letter is not enough for making your body match you. Anyway this new person in S.F. doesn’t take my insurance like the other place did, and I asked them to recommend me to someone who would take my insurance, and they said no. So I called my doctor again, and his medical assistant is going to do some research and get back to me this week.


In the meantime, I have scheduled a consultation appointment with the new surgeon who does not take my insurance but will cost $490 for the one visit if I don’t get something lined up before then. I also need to know if I will need two letters or not, still. I’m going to assume that I will if we can get this done going the gender-dysphoria route as opposed to the probably-have-loads-of-endo route.


The upside of a hysterectomy is that (despite its apparent rare-ness as a route for trans masc types) it’s a fairly common procedure and we even developed robots to do it better with smaller holes. So the wait time would probably be less than if I were going to try and forge myself a cock (which I have thought about, but T is uh…working well with that so it’s becoming less of a thing).


I’m coming up on the end of my first semester and I am nervous. I’m on top of two classes, behind? in the self-paced math class, and…..I need to live in the machine shop because working on this mill project has taken me for ever. I was hoping to work on it or finishing the grinds on my lathe tools over the weekend but the problem with making precision tools is you need to be able to measure and angle them precisely and I couldn’t get all the things I would need.


I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to get this far – I’m almost halfway to being a certified industrial maintenance machinist. Machining is all about turning chunks of metal into things that keep infrastructure working. I’ve always been drawn to making and maintaining infrastructures, weirdly enough. I am really into the prospect of going on to join a union and work in some kind of infrastructure project, be it housing, transit, utilities….I want to be part of the invisible set of things that no one sees but everything would collapse without. One of my projects is making screw threads on a lathe. After that, if anyone ever needs screws, I will at the very least know how to make them.


I’m currently working on a vertical mill project, making a precision angle plate. This is what is stressing me out currently, because the mills have to be aligned perfectly before I can even start cutting my hunk of cold rolled steel. This is a process called tramming and it takes me an eternity.


Picture, if you will, a 5′ tall, 110lb, barely dextrous blue haired floof trying to put all of their weight into a 7′ tall, 2 ton machine that requires a step stool to reach all of the important knobs. Yeah, the mill has been beating me for a solid month now, and I have the joint and muscle pain to show for it. It’s not that I don’t know how to tram it. I understand it just fine, I just can’t maneuver myself around the mill with a wrench (or chain of wrenches) well enough to loosen the bolts some burly dude from the night before tightened too well.
 
 

Tramming
Tramming Time


People ask me why I decided to take up machining. It’s a really good question. I’ve had this question sitting in my drafts for an eternity, and the answer is, it’s complicated.


Some of it is because I want to do something that isn’t emotional support as a job, and machines tend to have less overwhelming feelings.


Some of it is because the trades were entirely off limits to me so I never got to learn how to make anything, and I want to learn how to make things – the program I’m in at Laney will teach me the most things, and I’m really excited about that.


My goal in life really is to kinda be a hack of all trades – know how to do (and teach) basically everything. Always be learning.


Another aspect of this is that unlike political science, history, writing, what-have-you, machining and everything about construction and industrial type stuff is something I have no context or frame of reference for, so all of the information I’m learning is fresh and new and exciting. I can feel new pathways form as I add all of these new skills and ways of understanding the world around me to everything else I know.


I really want to be a part of maintaining infrastructure, building housing, part of keeping cities going. I want to make really amazing art. Eventually, I want to go back and teach too.


I guess the long and short of it is, I chose the machining program because I wanted to learn something new, and do something really different.

School and C-PTSD

When I started this semester I knew that C/PTSD was something that counted as a disability that I could get help for on campus. I didn’t (still don’t) know exactly what the Disability Services Dept. could do to help, but I was going into specifically a non-emotional-labor intensive program in hopes to avoid the obvious minefields. So I figured I’d be fiiiiine.
 
 
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So the last post I wrote was read by a bunch of Laney staff because they saw my proposal flyers to get students thinking about the future of Laney instead of its destruction. A lot of the people on the list were really nervous about it so I chimed in to de-escalate and clarify my intentions. Out of nowhere this one person who works in the library (the coalition on campus is run largely by library staff, apparently) reignited it by being needlessly aggressive, hostile, and dehumanizing towards me because of my trans-ness.
The library technician interrogated my intentions, barely veiling the ask “who put you up to this?” because apparently having a different opinion than some of the opaque players at school is some kind of crime, and once he realized I was trans (by everyone calling me he), decided to actively misgender and dehumanize me by calling me a “he/she”. After I corrected my pronouns, he sent out another email identifying me as her. This is gender violence that I’m pretty sure violates Laney’s non-discrimination policy, however, there is no Title IX person to report this man to. He said this on an email where all of his bosses saw it as well, so I assume that the head librarians are fine with this, as no one has indicated otherwise to me.
So I’m in a position right now, where because of a minor disagreement with some of the Laney faculty and the needlessly violent reaction from one of their staff, the one place with a “safe space” symbol on campus is a place I do not feel safe.
I skipped school last week because after hours of being patronized to like a child who was incapable of having their own thoughts outside of group-think, culminating in being dehumanized and banned from the email group for politely clarifying my stance which was apparently too far opposite The Coalition, I was so disassociated I barely knew where my body was in space.
My crime, AGAIN, was that I had a different way of organizing and posted a flyer that in no way mentioned the coalition at Laney. The only thing I did was take responsibility so people working at Laney didn’t waste energy being worried about something they didn’t need to worry about.
If you’ve been reading here long you probably have an idea of the mines that exploded when that went down because this last week has emotionally mirrored my childhood church experience in more ways than I want to acknowledge and I have had debilitating back pain since Monday because that is how CPTSD works.
My therapist is out of town this week so all of this is living in my body right now and I’m trying to process everything and get the anxiety out of my back so I can exist without being in total agony again. It’s hard to physically write shit on paper when my right shoulder is too tense to move. So everything is about to be dumped here, proceed with caution.


School is like church, and churches are basically loose cults. I’ve spent so much time in cults and cult like environments. I didn’t anticipate school being so churchlike and authoritarian. After being admonished and patronized to for hours over email, I was given a chance to redeem myself (while being cautioned to take heed[of???]) which was probably meant with good intentions but because of my past experience with loaded language, really just made the following trauma spiral that much worse.
Take Heed and Redeem Yourself are two VERY SPECIFIC phrases that go to very specific places in my brain and definitely contributed to the two-day spiral where I was so out of my body I could barely function.
There’s no way for people to know these things. I don’t fault them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a world of fallout to deal with internally because people decide injecting cultish christianity into their day to day with other people is fine and dandy.
Religious Trauma is A Thing and I have it mixed in with CPTSD and depression.
I’ve been going between depression/despair and anger at all of it.
It’s been hard to acknowledge and accept the various tolls that CPTSD takes on me in relation to being in school. Like, being too disassociated to function and therefore not in a good place to be machining or welding, or being in too much physical pain to move (because stress decided to manifest itself into a knot in my shoulder) and unable to focus enough to even attend class.
These are the things that kept me home half of the last two weeks. I sometimes feel ridiculous or petty for seemingly innocuous things taking so much out of me. But I can’t help that. I can’t help that when someone tells me I should do something to redeem myself I get sent back straight into my childhood where everything was life or death, where I had been kicked out of communities for minor disagreements. I can’t stop my brain from making those connections. I can’t will my past to not exist and to not excruciatingly impact my present and future. I can only roll with it and hope I come out better on the other side.
I didn’t expect school to hit so much of it though.


The other thing I’m coming to grips with is the feelings of being on campus now, after that one person from the library just started attacking my character and dehumanizing me out of nowhere. I don’t feel safe going to the library, even though probably I wouldn’t be hurt – something about knowing that there are library staff who don’t see me as human because we had a minor disagreement and they know I’m trans, just terrifies me and makes me not want to be anywhere near where they could be.
I never really understood what it was like, to have this social problem in this setting. Like, it seems impractical to not go to the campus library for two years. But my lizard brain just screams danger loudly when I’m on campus now and it’s a lot. I feel powerless, even though I know I’m not. There’s just so much that feels familiar that I know isn’t, but convincing myself that school is different from church after being beaten over the head with authoritarian organizers makes it a lot harder.
I have a lot more nuanced thoughts on a lot of things and keep going back and forth between writing about the stadium more and having literally no spoons and wanting nothing to do with it because fuck everything.
I guess I could have been less harsh about the coalition’s points needing work – maybe couched it more – but I stand by my points. There are legitimate reasons to oppose the stadium, a lot of the things listed are not any of them. I think whatever happens needs a lot of care and nuance in the implementation.
I think what I really want to do is write about how loaded the word gentrification is and why it’s really bad at describing what problems are, and makes solving it that much harder.
Simultaneously, I just want to crawl into a hole forever.


I got my schedule for the next semester and I’m coming to grips with having less free time than I do now. A lot of that is accepting that this means I won’t be able to do any activism work for a semester and that I can’t use it as a tether to outside reality anymore and it’s terrifying.
I think there’s a part of me that’s worried that the little place I carved for myself in organizing where I make magic happen won’t be there when I get back? Writing this out though, I’m fairly certain that’s not how it works nor is likely to go down.
My life has a lot of overlap – my social/hobby/organizing lives are almost a circle which is super convenient. Everyone is generally in one or two (mental) places so I can keep track of things easily. This is the first time I’ve had like a real set of meatspace friends that I do things with on a regular basis. It didn’t…occur to me that I could have more than like, one set.
Because why would it? I’ve never been here before. This is the part where the inherent isolatory nature of my homeschooling experience comes to bite me. It didn’t really occur to me that I didn’t have to choose. Like, all my not-school friends and family won’t suddenly disappear if I get sucked into school for a while…it’s not like getting kicked out of church and people stop talking to you.
So I don’t really have to be worried that I will lose access everyone I care about if I allow myself to be entirely consumed by school…which has sort of been an anxiety I’ve had and haven’t wanted to admit to.
 

A's, Laney, and Gentrification


There’s a lot of interesting politics at Laney right now. The Oakland A’s want to build a new stadium on land owned by the Peralta school district. Much of the faculty and staff at Laney are actively against the project. On it’s face, I don’t really care about the A’s stadium or understand why they need to build a new one when they could easily expand it by getting rid of some of their infinite parking. Most of the opposition to it is about the gentrification it will bring.
I’ve observed that in practice, many people who claim to be anti-gentrification advocates display that not by advocating nuance and care in the implementation of resources, but by outright trying to disallow opportunities, programs, services, and improvements to underserved communities. These same people will come down to city hall to block developments with affordable housing because it will change their view, garden shadow, or because they want to get something out of the deal that winds up killing the project. The way I have seen white people try to avoid gentrification is by segregating – actively avoiding integrating with underserved communities and only living near other people in the same or similar racial/socioeconomic status.
Gentrification as the destruction of underserved communities by the wealthy steamrolling over them is terrible and wrong.
Gentrification as road improvements, better transportation access and options, food, and new housing developments? These are things that improve people’s lives, not decimate them.
Access to these things because I live in an area with them improves my quality of life and chances of success as a poor QTPOC student. Gentrification in this sense is not bad, and is in fact helpful to the community as a whole.
When I hear people talk about gentrification they equate these two. They talk about the addition of new housing, improved transit, and access to opportunity as if these things are the same as literally destroying entire neighborhoods. The flyer that has been circulating campus demonstrates this.

“Construction Noise and Air Pollution”
First thing, is that Laney is known for its trade school. There is a literal construction pit right outside the cafeteria. I spend 4 hours a day in the machine shop or welding lab on campus adjacent to the construction area. A trade school complaining about construction noises seems ridiculous. Additionally, the proposed site isn’t on Laney’s actual campus, it’s on a Peralta District site that consists of warehouses and office space several blocks away. I think our construction site outside the cafeteria may be more disruptive than the proposed ballpark construction several blocks removed.

“…Upscale Restaurants, Shops, and Apartments Expand”
The cafeteria closes before I get out of my classes and I don’t often have time to walk multiple blocks to order lunch between them. As a result my food intake is shit which is terrible for my health in a program that demands a lot of physical activity. I don’t usually have the spoons to figure out dinner, let alone pack a lunch the night before. It seems like people are patting themselves on the back for starving Laney students by disallowing and vilifying restaurants and food trucks in the area adjacent to campus, because avoiding gentrification is more important than student health.
“Displacement of Local Community Residents”
There is currently no housing on the land the A’s would like to acquire – however, part of their proposed plan is to build housing including below market rate homes, and possibly even some dedicated housing for Laney students and faculty. Increased housing supply is something that is desperately needed in Oakland, regardless of who funds it. As far as I’m aware, no people will be removed from their existing homes for the A’s stadium to be built. Displacement is a terrible problem and misrepresenting the causes to further an agenda helps no one.
“Skyrocketing Rents in Surrounding Communities”
It’s a bit disingenuous to say that a stadium with a development plan that includes affordable housing built on land currently containing no homes is going to make us face skyrocketing rents. As if skyrocketing rents are something we don’t already have, and as if the solution to skyrocketing rents is to not increase the supply so we have the ability for those to go down in this capitalist hellscape. This is the one that gets my housing activist goat up in arms, because that’s not how it works.
Influx of Humans Existing Near Me in My Parking Spot
The other points about parking and crowd/traffic noise are problems that I feel are super solvable. Laney is a commuter school and some of my classmates drive hours in the morning just to get to class on time, half of which start at 8am. As much of a transit advocate as I am, I understand that people still do need cars and Laney needs to be able to handle student parking and the students who drive will be sitting in that traffic. We don’t live in a public transit/cyclist/scooter/pedestrian utopia yet, and most of the East Bay is car-centered, so I get that concern.
However, we have more than 6ft available to drill into before we hit water so we can dig underground and like, store cars there without loosing much room for people to exist. What I’m saying is, we can make parking garages. Additionally, it’s not like roads are unchangeable. I am not a traffic scientist, but the topic people are on about the most is roads and traffic so I feel confident in assuming many people are On That Problem Already.
While I’m really ambivalent about where the baseball stadium goes, I do give many shits about how and what the arguments are from my school; I have to say I’m disappointed. If these are the arguments to stop all movement from happening, they are not good enough, compelling enough, or even accurate. They are largely fear tactics, buzz words, and a misrepresentation of facts. The bullet points for being against the stadium just don’t hold water. We do know that the A’s appear willing to pour boatloads of money into our college system and the area surrounding it, however, and more money to the school directly benefits myself and other students.
The way I see the situation is thus: The Peralta Board has already decided at this point so instead of spending all of our energy fighting something that will happen, we should be using it to our advantage. Which means getting as much as we can out of the deal for the Peralta college district and especially Laney.
My thoughts are that Peralta should:

  1. Lease the land to the A’s – This will give the district a constant stream of income which would help all the schools in the district. Especially since funding for community colleges has been getting harder and harder to come by. It just seems to make the most sense and be in the best interest of the longevity of the school.
  2. Have some stipulations about Laney College Student/Faculty/Staff Only Parking – which will eliminate the “game goers are stealing mah parking!” anxiety.
  3. Negotiate creating dedicated BMR Student/Faculty Housing near campus.
  4. Think about some way that the A’s stadium construction and maintenance could be used to advantage Peralta students. i.e. Providing work/job experience/internships to students in relevant departments (like welding) and require prevailing wage.
  5. Some kind of fee or donation that would go to improving the infrastructure on Peralta campuses (bathrooms and elevator maintenance, longer cafeteria hours, etc)
  6. Look into creating a community land trust that protects existing housing nearby

I am not a policy analyst. I’m just a machine student & housing activist who wants to be able to eat between classes, live near school, and learn things.

Imaginary Numbers

School has stepped on a lot more things than I thought it would. Depression has been really strong this week, things build. There’s a really steep social learning curve I wasn’t prepared for. I don’t know how school settings work – I didn’t know how to pass things forwards and backwards until the first week of class, last week I learned how lockers work, this week I learned how to get up to speed after being out of class due to injury. All these things most people have navigated by now are totally new to me.
Math itself takes up a lot of trauma space in my brain. The math for the trades program I’m in is really helpful because it’s directly adjacent to the math I’m doing in all my other classes, but it’s super similar to my high school math books. Thursday it almost directly mirrored the math book that got thrown at my face, which sent me into a spiral for about 15 minutes in the classroom while I just started at my book in horror. The wind was knocked out of me for a minute, and I just had to sit and wait for the wave of feels to pass before depression and anger got loud again.
I have to keep reminding myself that when teachers try to get you to be an independent learner and collaborate with your classmates they don’t mean that you can’t ask them for help or resources. This is a really difficult nuance for me to understand. I still interpret school as something with no leeway. Like: if you miss something, you’re fucked because you should have come or whatever. With no room to make up for things. Which I know isn’t how it works, but I’ve never seen how it does work.
My education was  “If I miss it, I’m fucked” because I had no support at all. I was the only student and teacher of my class.  I’m trying to navigate college with the bulk of my educational experience being isolated and solitary. I’ve never had classmates to help me, I don’t know how to study in a group, I don’t know how to learn socially.
I learned on my bedroom floor, alone, with no one to see me struggle. I’ve never been in a learning environment where like…..I’ve inevitably had to show people I don’t know stuff (none of us do). Learning things is really vulnerable, and doing it in front of other people on a whiteboard sometimes is a lot. It’s a hard thing for people generally, but most of have at least been in a classroom like that before.
Giving a presentation on a whiteboard to a group of 20 on something I’m prepared for feels completely different than trying to correctly place a dimension line in front of 20 people who are also trying to learn dimension lines.
It’s a different level of vulnerability I guess, and I’m not used to it. I choose to be vulnerable a lot, whenever I write, when I choose to talk to people about trauma. I have a lot of practice being vulnerable in this way, so it becomes a strength. Feeling vulnerable in relation to school is significantly less familiar. But seeing it on paper, it’s not that different. In the same way I choose to be vulnerable when I write (like this), I’m still going to class every day, I’m making that same choice to be vulnerable, the feeling just lives in a different place in my brain in this context.


This week we have wrapped up most of our lectures and are getting into the lab. I was supposed to weld on Wednesday but was getting x-rayed from dislocating my elbow on Labor Day instead. We’ve split into three groups in Machine Shop: Drill Press, Tool Grinding, and Precision Measuring.
Getting things to be within .0001″ fucking terrifies me, I don’t know that I am capable of that at all, so I decided to do the Precision Measuring part first because I think that will make working on the machines and making shit a lot easier. At the very least, I’ll be way more confident in my measuring ability. I am not extremely confident in my abilities to be a perfectionist; but then again, I guess that’s literally why tolerances exist so maybe I won’t suck.

One Year Post Burn

It’s been almost exactly a year since returning from Burning Man. I learned a lot about myself in Black Rock City. I learned that I’m strong, capable, and so very very very trans.
I had felt reserved about being more masculine for some time before becoming one with the playa last summer. I had been actively repressing those pieces of me that wanted to escape and when I watched the temple burn I set them free.
While Victoria and I drove back from Reno in the rental car with the AC on high, dancing to chip tunes and The Black Keys, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do post-burn.
On that list was:

  • Switch off Lexapro
  • Start T
  • Remove Implant

I forgot about this list for several months, and rediscovered it shortly after starting T and tapering off Lexapro. Three weeks ago I got my implant removed because it was reacting with the testosterone and I was having hot-flashes constantly bookending my shot days.
This morning, the Sunday before labor day….or the day the Temple burns, I woke up, pulled 1ML of testosterone from a small vial, and injected it into my thigh. I remembered then, that it’s been a whole year since I really came to grips with the masculine aspect of myself, and I’ve just run with it.


I went to Burning Man last year and discovered I was trans, and it’s totally okay to be exactly who I am. Today, I took my 17th shot of Testosterone.
I’ve come so far since I burned my past in the Temple, and it’s been good.

The Awkward In-Between

I’ve noticed myself try to be quieter as I’ve started becoming more visibly masculine.
When people read me as male I feel like suddenly (in the feminist & progressive discourse spaces I inhabit) I no longer have a voice worth listening to. It’s difficult to balance the way feminist discourse at large tries to get masculine voices (without specification) to take a goddamn fucking seat while expressing my own particular brand of masculinity that has been informed and constructed by my femininity.
I’m stepping into a social place where half the time I’m read as male and taken super seriously (and half the time not). I know what (cis white) men are supposed to do, which is pass the fucking mic; so my quandary is:

Does being read as a man instantly invalidate my voice and experiences?

Queer Feminist discourse tends to sway largely in the yes direction. Having grown up being told I should be silent because of my gender expression means that being told by a different social group that I should be silent because of my gender expression is something I’m already good at instinctively, even though I know it’s wrong and entirely unnecessary.
I suddenly understand why so many transmasculine people become quiet about their experiences. I think a lot of us feel this – because we know what it’s like to not be listened to. Suddenly having people’s ears because of voices dropping a couple octaves is really disorienting. It doesn’t mean that all of the oppression I’ve internalized is suddenly un-learned and I’m suddenly granted every single privilege a cis white dude has as if my life had never happened to me.
(apparently in my brain, regardless of not being white or a man, cis white dude is still my bar)
I have agonized over minor things like being the first to move or speak up, because I’m read differently. Some of that is because I don’t want to deal with the confusion and some of it is because I feel like because my voice isn’t femme of center anymore, I’m somehow less allowed.
It’s really like going through that part of puberty where you have to decide how much social projection matters to you about how you express yourself and gender. With added complications because being non-binary means there’s nothing to switch to, so this extremely binary conversation is happening while the binary-ness of it all is also extremely irrelevant.
I’ve fallen into the trap I saw coming but hadn’t fully grasped. I’m going to work hard to write more about my experiences and feelings and disoriented-ness on HRT because I don’t need to carry the internalized lies that my voice has no value due to my expression anymore.
I’ll just keep doing what I’ve always done: speak my truths and elevate the voices of others as I can. There’s room for everyone’s experiences, even mine.

First Week

I’ve been coming home from school every day this week kind of struck by how prepared I am for college despite never being in a classroom setting for ~8 hrs/day before. I hadn’t thought about how fighting tooth and nail for my education, and seeing it through myself, and teaching myself through high school would be helpful in a college setting. Really this just shows you how much (zero) I know about schools, because this morning I had an epiphany about homework.
Which was that: I did the exact same thing that everyone else did. My school entirely consisted of what most people experienced as homework. I just didn’t have anyone to actually teach me the things. I never understood what “homework” was when people asked me if I had homework after school….because that was all I did – what I really didn’t understand was what school was. I didn’t have anyone giving a lecture on multiple things every single day, painstakingly explaining the same thing on a whiteboard three different ways so it makes sense. If I was lucky, my mom would read the instructions paragraph out loud, or a chapter of a textbook.
I didn’t have deadlines or tests or quizzes, I barely had grades. My parents stopped actively educating me when I was 10 and started bragging about it the second they found out that I was self-driven enough to do the work if only I were handed the tools. So when I say I taught myself through highschool, I mean it.
College right now feels complicated. Homework is sort of hard because it feels a lot like that right now, and the thing is it’s hard in a good way. I feel ready and prepared for this because I had to fight so hard to get here, because to have an education in the first place I had to do the exact same thing that I am doing now. But also, it’s not remotely the same or familiar.
My instinct is to write down the things I don’t know to look up later, because the concept of a teacher I can ask questions to is still foreign to me (despite trying very hard to have and ask questions in every class). I have to consciously remember that the entire point of being in class is so I have a chance to get information without google, in a way that is probably better explained.
This is going to be kinda circle-y because a couple things are happening: there’s a button that’s being pushed because of the ways this is familiar and there’s also a lot of “oh cool, I got this” stuff going on.
I have been unpacking my brain in therapy lately and coming to some realizations about my relationship to my trauma. A large part of it is that I draw a lot of strength from it. There’s a lot of anger (a lot of anger) but also so much of what makes me me, and capable, and able to get through shit comes from that place. So good things are hard because while I’m pushing through normal things like a normal human, I’m fighting some demons on a sub-level and getting to a place where the strength I pull from my pain doesn’t bring as much pain up with it.
Also I’ve been super proud of myself for knowing how to do homework, and keep my shit together, and pace myself. I can pin point when I learned those things and it pulls up a lot of pain with it, even though it’s good.
For roughly a semester I participated in my homeschool group’s co/op day where we took over a church and operated kinda similarly to a school. Parents or alumni were stationed in rooms and taught a thing, and gave us actual homework. It wasn’t really graded in a way that I remember mattering, but there was still like, a due date for things.
I remember when my mom was pregnant and therefore not up for teaching us and I would just take my books and do my school. Eventually I had to teach my siblings and do my school. When I got into schoolwork that took more than 2 hours total to complete, my parents decided I’d learned all I needed to know and should focus on educating my siblings.
The only person who really valued my education enough to do anything about it was myself. It’s a really rough place to be as a child who has no idea 1) what they even need to learn and 2) very little guidance in any educational direction. My reading comprehension skills are great because that was the only tool I had to teach myself everything else.
It’s foreign to me to be lax about education because it was never just available to me. I have to remember that a lot of people haven’t had to go through educational neglect before getting to college, so I should not assume that everyone else is a Hermoine like me.
I realized that part of the trauma space I’ve been in is because the emphasis on being self driven (which I am), sends me back to being educationally abandoned. So my instincts say I’m about to lose access to support even though that isn’t remotely what’s meant.
They’re setting reasonable expectations because they can’t will students to show up and learn things. But the only experience I have is….that being used to restrict my ability to learn. I have to consciously remember that I am supposed to ask questions and not just take notes to look things up later. Logically, I understand this.
The part of my brain that’s trying to protect me from danger hasn’t adjusted to a different context yet. It’s made doing math homework really difficult because math is sort of my sticking point. Although I’m also feeling really devastated about my bullshit science this week too.
In a few weeks I’ll be actually learning how to weld and I am terrified and I know nothing.
Which I guess is the point, really. I think everyone else in my class also knows nothing which is exactly why we are spending 6 hours a week for 2.5 weeks going over safety before we even go into the welding lab.


I’ve also been feeling really guilty about putting my personal future/education first as far as time and priorities go. Even though like, this benefits more than just me long term…I feel like an asshole for not being able to organize full-time because I’m doing school full-time right now instead. Doing school while watching the rise of fascism just seems pointless some days, even though it’s probably the best decision to be making right now.
In that vein I’ve been blocked lately because I feel like I have nothing worthwhile to say, and what’s the point? Some of this is tangled up in gender feelings and sorting things out, and depression, and the state of the world. Right now I am a big tangled mess of buttons that keep being pushed and thank fuck therapy is on Monday.


In the meantime, PPE suits me. 

Semester 1

Tomorrow I start school at Laney.
 
I took the compass test and will be taking the Technical Math (which is designed for people in any of the trades programs) course instead of arithmetic. I’m also taking Welding, Shop, Spatial Reasoning, Engineering Drawings, and Electricity. I’ll be at school from before 8am until 5 or 7pm Monday-Thursday.
I am the only visibly queer & not male person in my cohort – thus far I’m the only visibly queer person I’ve seen on Laney campus but I feel like that can’t possibly be true. I’m hoping that will change now that school is actually starting. There are no queer clubs on campus (but two christian fundamentalist ones) which has me worried, a bit, to be honest. There is a socialist club on campus though, so maybe there?
The only all gender bathroom on campus that I know of, I found by happenstance on the 3rd floor of Laney tower (where the counseling offices are). But my classes are all…too far away to make that feasible.
I have my work cut out for me, but my instructors are all happy I’m there. My therapist altered her schedule around mine, so my support system is strong at least. First class in the morning is Spatial Reasoning, and then Welding, electricity, and then therapy.

Mountains

At 4pm I have the Compass math test at Laney. In the morning I need to drop off all of my income documentation from the last 2 years, my divorce decree, and an exception petition form because FAFSA awards aid by 2015 taxes, as if nothing major ever changes in the span of one year. After that I hightail it into SF for an advice session about freelancing, and then home, test, Machine Tech open house.
I went in on Monday to schedule the test assuming the closest would be a week out, but no. So I spent Tuesday getting my head back in math and working through quizzes on Khan academy and unearthing a massive pile of worms in the process.
I was working through rounding and got really fight or flighty, and then got to writing out what the greatest common factor looks like if you distribute it and at that point somewhere a mine exploded. Suddenly the entire time I’m spending trying to work through math problems I am also fighting a hugely intense battle that sounds a lot like:
Why are you even doing this? It’s not worth it, you’re not worth it
And I know those are lies so I press through, but they get louder. I manage to practice math for several hours before it gets too noisy, and make enough progress that I start passing tests because I remember how the process works again. And then imposter syndrome hits some more.
I spent half of today studying and half of it coming out of trauma space from trying to study. I feel like I climbed a mountain and took on two bears….for passing some basic pre-algebra quizzes.
I’ve gotten faster at realizing when I’m in that space where I live in my trauma instead of…not inside it. It still took me about an hour to go from realizing I needed to take a shower and go for a walk to get my head out of this space and reorient myself to actually doing so, but it only took me 4 hours of depression instead of two days.
I can identify my own tells now:

  • I feel like my shackles are raised and everything is personal
  • I feel like I’m about to lash out at any point and like I need to isolate myself
  • I get quiet and distant
  • There is an undercurrent of rage when I start talking about what’s bothering me (which means I’m obviously on to whatever it is that’s being stepped on)

When I suddenly feel like fight or flight out of the blue, it’s generally because something close enough to be associated in my brain happened that stepped on a trigger and some explosions went off.

I recently watched this anime called Mind Game; there’s a portion that depicts my brain when it’s triggered so perfectly: endless loops of the situation that happened, loud and inescapable. It weirdly helped me identify that the repetition of just…..the B roll of every time I was ridiculed for trying to do math as a kid, was coming from that place, not my current reality.
So I went out for a walk and explored a park on top of a parking deck, sorted out some thoughts, and felt much more grounded. I still feel like I just took on an army and I’m trying not to feel…like that’s uncalled for, because “it was only math”. It’s just that math….has a history, but I think I’ll be okay.