Category Homeschooling

46 posts

10 years

The 28th marks both my golden birthday and my 10th escape-versary. I’ve felt the amount of introspection and existential questioning I feel like most people reserve for their 30th, but this year feels more significant somehow.

Ten years feels both like an eternity and also yesterday. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about where I came from and how I escaped. I haven’t really talked about what spurs me forward – all those things I told myself I’d never forget as a child.

The other day I was taking stock of where I am now, the choices I made to get here, and how they line up with the promises I made to myself when I was young and powerless:

When I was about 12, burnt out by losing myself to yet another pregnancy and overwhelmed by everything it meant to be the oldest daughter in a large family, I promised myself I wouldn’t forget what that felt like.
I promised myself that I would never inflict that feeling on other children and I’d stop it from happening if I could.

In 2013 I helped found the Coalition for Responsible Home Education to raise awareness about educational neglect and abuse in homeschooling environments and create protections for homeschooled students. We’re making progress.

When I was 17 I promised myself I would never birth kids, and that I would somehow become sterile before age 30. Last July, almost exactly a decade later I did that.

After I worked through the trauma of being told as a toddler, adolescent, and teenager that expressing anything but joy was wrong, I promised myself that I would stop hiding from my feelings and accept all of myself.

In 2013, I came out (publicly) as bi, nonbinary, and agnostic which was only the start of this journey. In 2016 I started seeing an actual therapist and started HRT. I’ve written and continue to write extensively (mostly on social media) about the battles in my brain because of this promise.

I don’t remember when, but I remember getting fed up with people I was surrounded by being resistant to personal change and growth. I promised myself I would always evolve and not become stagnant as I age.

I’ve torn my world down and rebuilt it from the ground up more times than I can count. I’ve gone from sheltered homeschooled girl who got married immediately after leaving home, to….a divorced, polyamorous, transmasc enby with…actual confidence. In 10 years.

When I was 17 and my parents pulled my college application out from under me, I promised myself I would at least try school someday.

In 2015 I stuck my toes in the water with Seattle’s ABE program, and in 2017 I enrolled full-time at Laney College. Now I’m just-shy-of-full-time in the Labor Studies program, creating institutional queer-supportive infrastructure, running for student senate, and working as a (paid) Student Organizer.

I don’t believe there’s a point at which I will be completely and fully healed from my childhood trauma. But 10 years of distance has brought a lot of growth in more ways than I thought possible. Life is really hard sometimes, but right now I’m appreciating exactly how far I’ve come.

I take it for granted that I have done a 180 in every way imaginable from the world I come from. I forget that’s not an experience many people have the impetus to go through. I see how far I have yet still to go, I see how much more I have to learn, and how many ways I could be better, and I know I’m not there yet.

But damn.

I decided to live the life I imagined.
I believed that I could, so I did.
I replaced my fear of the unknown with curiosity
And when I looked around?
Life was pretty amazing.


ETA: if you want to celebrate this milestone with me, you can help me meet my $1k/mo goal on patreon http://patreon.com/kiery, send a present http://a.co/7w9xQgD, or buy me a drink https://cash.me/$kieryn!

Future?

My therapist asked me what it would look like if just asked myself what I had spoons to do each day and did that, instead of running myself into the ground trying to do everything. We talked about how when I started school I was set on finishing everything on time and thought I’d be able to do everything, but that isn’t actually how school works. It’s a series of choices of what you can and can’t get to, what you lose points on, and what you make extra pushes for.  

We talked about approaches – maybe instead of telling myself “if I get everything done I can do X” because it’s unrealistic and just cements the feeling of inadequacy, I start by taking stock of my bandwidth and asking what I need to do to lift myself up so then I can do whatever homework I need to get done.

English class has been more like a sociology course than anything else for me. As the token trans I take up the middle space in the classroom where everyone assumes I’m a dude, but I talk from the perspective of someone who was raised to be a woman. My voice gets heard by the cis dudes when I explain the ramifications of the oppression not-dudes face on a day to day basis, how that informs our lives, and how that informed Elaine Brown’s life. It’s frustrating because none of what I’m saying is new, it’s only being absorbed because my voice is deep and booming, if any of my femme counterparts made the same arguments they would be written off.

IT’S SO INFURIATING. But this is the power I have so I’m going to fucking wield it because apparently cis dudes only listen to people with deep voices and cis dudes aren’t doing the work of educating each other. But, as my therapist reminded me today, that isn’t my job.

So today the choice I’m making is to skip english class, because I know if I go to the class I won’t have the spoons to write the paper that’s overdue. I already know that english class is going to step on a bunch of triggers that are already exacerbated by the Kavanaugh confirmation, and I wouldn’t be able to recover.

I’m contemplating skipping all of school today, and sitting under this tree on the UC Berkeley campus until my laptop dies.

My body is reacting to the complete overwhelm of stress and anxiety with nausea and exhaustion. I am numb and tired. I am depleted. I have nothing to offer and no energy to take anything in. I am just going through the motions trying to get things done right now.

What’s haunting me that I haven’t gotten to in therapy yet, (because it’s buried under immediate problems) is that I don’t see a future for myself. I don’t feel like I have one. I can’t picture anything beyond the end of next year. So I’m having a hard time finding the motivation to finish my certificate, or find a job, or do anything besides sitting under this tree.

I feel like if I had somewhere I wanted to be, or something I wanted to have done, in like 10 years or so, that would help. I could make decisions based on things that brought me closer to it instead of just wandering aimlessly. But we don’t even have a functioning country right now. Even if we managed to survive (or overcome) the Christofascist takeover and the impending spread of fascism all over the world, our planet is dying.

I don’t know if there will be more than this dust sheet of a democracy existing in 2020, let alone if the planet will even make it to 2040 with all the efforts we tried to make with EPA standards and whatnot getting rolled back. How do I even gather enough hope to plan for a future when it seems like I’m going to be swallowed whole by the planet itself if the nazis don’t get me first?

I don’t know.

I don’t know and that’s why I’m under this tree unable to think. Trying to sit with myself in the uncomfortably familiar terror and dread. I remember this feeling when my parents told me that I was meant to follow in their footsteps. To make all the same mistakes they did. When they said I’d get married and have kids and homeschool and live as a reflection of them. There was no hope, no escape, no out, it was as god intended. If I was lucky enough, I would live to see the start of the end times, when the world catches on fire right before Jesus came back to save us with the rapture.

Right now, it feels a lot like that’s happening. It feels a lot like what my parents spent years of reading Revelations predicting and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me. Not in the “The Bible Was Right And I Am A Christian Again Now!” way, but in the self-fulfilling prophecy that the Christian right has organized against climate change just like they’ve spent the last several decades gathering political power for this moment. We are several steps closer to their utopia, which looks an awful lot like hell for everyone else.

I’ve done a lot for one person in one lifetime.
All I want to do is be held and cry.
But the tears aren’t coming and all I can muster is numbness.
As grounding as it is to be sitting in dry grass, pushing the stress knots in my back against the roots of my tree friend, I can’t climb out of my head.

I don’t have answers, this is just where I’m at.

In the immediate future, I guess, I come to life when I organize, and when I talk about organizing to my therapist she notes that my demeanor changes and I stop being wracked with anxiety.

Organizing on campus is why I haven’t dropped out. It’s grounding, I’m great at it, and it’s fulfilling. I feel energized and empowered when I organize and I can channel a lot of emotion that otherwise lives in my body.

After this semester I’m gonna follow that. I’ll look into the labor studies program at Laney maybe. I could be a Union Organizer, which I recently learned is A Thing and it’s apparently not the same as “you are a machinist who organizes on the side”, as far as I can tell?

When I think about that, hope flickers again. So maybe that’s where I should go.

English 1A

I keep coming back to that part in the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry asks why the Dementors seem to affect him more than other people, and Lupin explains that the Dementors feed on every good memory until all that’s left is trauma, they affect Harry the most because he has actual horrors in his life, things his classmates have never experienced. 

This is resonating with me a lot lately. I’m taking an English class which I was really excited about because I miss writing. Our teacher is having us read A Taste of Power and Gather Together In My Name, and our research essays are one of 6 topics that have to do with current social issues (prison industrial complex, healthcare, war on drugs, military industrial complex, electoral college, and the Berlin Conference of 1885 for “something different”). 

On one hand, I love this. I appreciate that he’s using this class as a way to get people to think more deeply about what’s happening in the world around us and how we’re impacted. 

On the other hand, this class has drudged up and revealed so much trauma. Every class has brought something to the surface, reading A Taste of Power reminds me of growing up in fundamentalism, and reading healthcare papers that dehumanize my existence is its own beast. 

I got a C+ on my first essay which was supposed to be a scene from something that happened in elementary school. I turned in, essentially, an unfinished draft. Trying to find something to write about that happened as part of school between the ages of 6 and 11 was not easy. I wrote about the day we started homeschooling, when I was 5 or whatever. I was devastated when I saw the grade. I re-read my paper and it objectively wasn’t great, I was upset because it was so much work to write.

While I was supposed to be working on that essay we were also watching The House I Live In and Sicko in class which both dredged up a lot of trauma and feelings that I wasn’t ready for, and made it impossible to finish by the time I needed to.

So last week I emailed asking for an extension on my research paper because between dredging up trauma in class, reading A Taste Of Power, and trying to research, I just could not write. 

Asking for the extension felt harder than writing, but I needed to do it. I needed to get over myself and ask for the accommodations I need to get through school with CPTSD and as-of-yet-untreated/diagnosed ADHD. I didn’t get the extension until we met during office hours and I vaguely explained my trauma and how my background being homeschooled makes navigating this infrastructure really difficult. 

He told me he’d never thought about how homeschooling affected college experiences and basically implied I’m the first student he’s had with all of these intersections, so he’ll work with me. It was an exhausting conversation even though it ended well. 

I’ve spent the better half of the month trying to cope with the feelings of inadequacy and failure because the class that was supposed to be fun and easy turned out to be the opposite. I’m frustrated because this is the class I wasn’t supposed to need help with. This was supposed to be the one that I did fine at because writing is like breathing to me. But no, instead this class steps on every mine and reveals new ones. Instead, we are doing so many things at once that tackle so many of the intersections I’m hyper-aware of that I don’t have the emotional stamina to keep up and make it to my other classes.

The class I was supposed to ace I’m getting C’s in, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me. 

I feel very alone in my class in this way. My classmates know I’m a good writer, that I’ve spent the better part of my life writing, and they seek me out for feedback, which I really enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m falling behind everyone because of mental health issues that are making the pacing of this class feel like breakneck speed and I’m not doing as well as I thought I would be able to. My expectation of myself (and what I know I’m capable of) and what I am actually doing are two drastically different things and I’m honestly not taking that super well. 

I know that how I’m preforming in a class (that steps on all my triggers and thus impacts me differently than my classmates without CPTSD) has no bearing on how good of a writer I am, but it doesn’t really feel that way.

I know I’m better than what I’m managing to write, I just need time to work through all the trauma it’s bringing up. Which is why I went in, and why I talked to my teacher about it, and why I am now fucking exhausted.

27:9

A cake and cupcakes with blue icing. The cake has the ratio 27:9 written in white frosting, and the cupcakes have rainbow sprinkles
I meant to write a retrospective before my birthday, but 2018 has been one hell of a year already, let me tell you.
I got distracted going through my instagram account and watching the story of the last seven or so years unfold in the archives. I look so radically different now than I did when I left home, I am radically different now. And what’s really interesting is all the ways I’m still the same.
I feel the most me-ish that I’ve ever been. I’m not repressing entire swaths of my personality or identity anymore. All the juxtapositional parts of me can just be themselves, like they wanted to all along.
All of the little parts of myself that I caught glimpses of and wanted to unearth when I was stuck at home as a kid are now able to actually bloom and come into fruition. I can be good at science, and organize communities (outside of some old man’s authority), I have the wherewithal to be assertive when I want to be, I bend metal to my will (:3), my body makes sense, I’m in school, I have friends who I see in person on a regular basis. All of this seemed impossible and unattainable years ago, I wasn’t ready yet.
I look different, I sound different, I carry myself differently – I take up more space than I ever have, I have a base level of confidence, I’m happier, I feel capable. I’m taking on things I didn’t think I’d be able to.
I’m really proud of myself for getting this far, and even on my bad days, I know I’ll be able to come out on the other side better than I was before. Having learned something, if it’s just “this doesn’t work”.
I wanted to go into more details and get lengthy, but I am exhausted.
I have a full day of homework tomorrow, and organizing if I can finish all my other things. My life right now is school, organizing for housing, and organizing for a homeschool statute in California. Therapy is keeping me sane, and one day I will have the words and the energy to write all the things that are building up in my brain.
But not today.
Today I’m just happy I’m here, and surrounded by people who care deeply about me. These are the things I cling to when I get overwhelmed and life gets hard.
Oh, but the ratio: I’m 27, and it’s been 9 years since I escaped. In 2011 I found a poem that’s stuck with me and became advice I took.

She decided to start living the life she imagined. She believed she could, so she did. She replaced her fear of the unknown with curiosity. She looked around, and life was pretty amazing.

And then I became a boi.
And I looked around, and life was pretty amazing after all.

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.
 
 
ahahahahahahahahahahaha
 
 
 
no
 
 
 
 
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.
 

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. 

It me, a trans boi

I didn’t know I was trans until my mid 20’s. I didn’t have the language or the context to explain what I felt growing up. My writing over the last 8 years has actually thoroughly documented parts of that process. Coming to terms with my gender and what that means to me.


I spent my entire childhood just feeling wrong at my core. Never able to measure up, never able to be the girl they wanted me to be, because I just wasn’t, no matter how hard I tried. I did “ballet” (and legitimately enjoyed it), I wore dresses and pink, I played with dolls, I did my nails…I did everything society told me good girls did, and I tried very hard to play the part of demure and graceful damsel waiting for her prince.


Spoiler alert, I am not demure nor particularly graceful playing a damsel. My failures at this were just compounded during high school when I got bored talking with other girls because all that we were supposed to talk about was future homemaking and homeschool curriculum and other very traditionally girly things that just didn’t interest me. There was a period of about a year and a half when I was 14 where I was able to fly under the radar (thanks to an undesired move and pregnancies) and pretended to be a boy on the internet (that was the deal I made to be allowed to blog when I was 13, because predators don’t…go..after..boys…apparently) and offline I continued that persona and wore camo and got away with being “one of the boys” at speech and debate.


Looking back it seems obvious, but at the time I just thought I was broken. I wasn’t a girl, I wasn’t a boy, but I didn’t have the language to describe or even have a frame of reference about what trans-ness was. I just thought, as I had been told by my parents and pastors and every authority figure in my life, that I was inherently broken. I was just wrong and only God could fix it, but he didn’t seem to want to, so I just tried really hard to play my part as well as I could. I internalized the messages of wrongness and brokenness because I didn’t match up what I was told good godly women were like, not inside. I could cook and clean and sew but those crushed my soul and the future I was promised was not a road I wanted to take.


I wasn’t allowed to explore the woods, or play outside, I wasn’t allowed to play video games. I wasn’t allowed to do anything that was considered a boy thing. I feel like it’s important to note that I didn’t want to only do those boy things, I just didn’t want to be limited; I wanted to have both options. I wanted to be able to express both masculinity and femininity but that was definitely not allowed. I had one option and one option only, unless I was sneaky.


The idea of having children bothered me on a visceral level, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how very connected to dysphoria it is. The idea of having a human come out of my body goes straight to lizard brain levels of “no. this is death.” I suppose when I interpreted my period as the ultimate betrayal of my body against me that should have also been an indication.
Instead I spent years wrestling with myself, hating myself with every fiber of my being until I was about 20 and finally started discovering the language to describe how I felt. It happened by knowing other people who came out, and finally putting a name to my sexuality, talking with other queer people. I embraced my queerness when I was 22, which was the first stepping stone to discovering my trans-ness.


Autostraddle, Tumblr, Everyday Feminism, and It’s Pronounced Metrosexual were all really great resources where I finally started learning that I wasn’t alone in my feeling, that having a uterus but not being a woman is completely valid.


I started talking to nonbinary people and trans girls and eventually realized that I am trans enough, and no one is stopping me from transitioning but myself. Meanwhile dysphoria was getting worse, now that I knew how to identify it and what it was. I talked to my partners, friends, and therapist. And learned some things

  1. Cis people don’t question if they’re qualified enough to be their gender
  2. Gender is what you make of it, and it’s importance is up to you
  3. You are allowed to and deserve to transition if you want to
  4. Transitioning looks different for everyone, you don’t have to want surgeries to be trans
  5. Nonbinary, Genderqueer, Genderfluid, Agender, etc are all valid trans identities
  6. It is your body, you get to change it (or not) however you see fit

For a while I thought I just wouldn’t transition. I’d just deal with estrogen and periods and do what I could to mitigate PMDD and everything that goes along with that. At some point…actually, at Burning Man, I realized I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to start HRT and see what happened. I could always stop if it wasn’t right for me. Both of these are valid.


So in December of 2016 I started HRT. Testosterone works FAST. Within a week my muscles started moving, I started losing curves, my voice started getting deeper, my clit grew. I’m approaching shot 4, I have angles and a jaw line, I feel right. I had no idea what it felt like to actually inhabit my body until I started HRT.


I’m not a woman, and despite taking testosterone, I’m not a man either. I’m just your local nonbinary fairy boi taking baby steps to being in their own skin.
 

This Is Not Normal

I’m beginning to get anxious now that more than a month has passed since the fall of our republic election and things have started to quiet down. We’re normalizing.
We desperately want to return to normal, to stability, not to whatever the fuck this reality is. Collectively we do not do well with unrest, we don’t do well with unease, and we will do anything we can to get us back to the place where we feel secure and normal, where we can live in our bubble and pretend everything is okay.
Every time I’ve stepped foot in any chain store since the election this has hit me. The jarring normality of it all: as if our society isn’t falling apart at the seams, as if foreign countries interfering in our elections or being one tantrum away from nuclear war isn’t something that’s actually happening. As if all of the civil unrest in this country, all of the kids who are terrified to go to school out of fear they’ll lose their parents, as if the president elect inciting violence and spreading hate was something we were all making up. Walking into target feels like being gaslit by corporate society.
We want to desperately to live in a world where things weren’t as tumultuous. But that isn’t our reality. It’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand and wish it all away, to create as much of a bubble as we can to surround ourselves in. To create a new normal that adapts to fascism in this country just being a fact of life. We want to not have to fight.
None of those are bad feelings. I crave normalcy, I yearn to be able to live and not feel like my country has betrayed me, or that danger is at every turn because of the intersections of my identities. I long for stability.
But we elected a literal fascist who’s activating all the other fascist and fascist leaning types that have been preparing for this for 30 years; people I’ve grown up with, training I’ve had. They’ve been here all along and they’re ready now. We can’t have normal, we can’t have stability, we can’t be safe unless we fight back. Until we acknowledge and remind ourselves that this isn’t normal, that we have to fight, that we cannot let complacency overrun us, stability will be elusive.
We have to fight back on every front, wherever we can.
For me, this looks like local housing advocacy so we can actually be a sanctuary (if you want to get involved in building more housing, check out your local YIMBY cell). Working on advocating for homeschoolers locally and providing as many resources to homeschoolers as possible. It’s being involved with my local hackerspace & arts community, and building local coalitions. It’s writing, prolifically, while I still can, and making all of the art.
None of this is normal, as much as we desperately want to make it so. We need to remember that.

Existing Is Resistance

So, we elected a facist.
I, like every other marginalized in-any-remote-way person have spent the last week utterly terrified. It’s an anxiety attack that won’t go away. I’m suddenly very aware of the intersection of my transness, queerness, afabness, and olive skin.
I am public about all of those, I’m public about being queer and poly, I exude queer vibes in person.
Nothing is normal anymore. My life is topsy-turvy. All of my plans jumped out the window right behind my hope for the future. I was a poll worker on election night and I told the voters not to tell me anything because I needed to get through closing the polls when voting was over. I got home and my partner hugged me and told me what happened.
I was in shock. I’m still in shock. Every day existential dread grows a little more. Every day the background level of constant anxiety grows a little more. I’m worried about my olive-toned siblings, I’m worried about my partners, I’m worried about my friends. I’m worried about everyone.
And there’s a part of me that feels super prepared for this. A switch activated.
I was made for this. I am a product of the conservative movement meant to fight in the culture war they’ve spent the last 30 years building for and I am fucking pissed. Don’t think the right didn’t see this, didn’t plan this, didn’t see the opportunity in hiding Mike Pence behind the intolerable senseless oaf that is Donald Trump. We have Hitler 2.0 and puppets. Trump is horrifying and charismatic – he can pull on hate and fuel it. Pence is worse. Pence will have control.
And I grew up in Pence’s world. I grew up in the world that said my purpose in life was to fight in this war and guess what, they were right.
But I am fighting for my life and the lives of those around me. The lives of those already and about to be targeted. I know now why I felt like I needed to be here, why following my instincts have taken me to this place in this community…because I need to be here, now, – the resistance.
Existing as myself is an act of resistance, empowering others to do the same is resistance. This is our reality now.
We elected a facist, and now we have to do everything we can to stop facism from taking hold, or WW2 will pale in comparison.
I am fucking terrified, I am angry, I can’t stop thinking about the future, if that even exists. But I am taking this existential dread and channeling it into everything I’m able. I’m fighting with every fiber of my being and reminding myself that this isn’t normal. 
notnormal4small

What’s Next?

I’ve spent the week updating the security on all of my devices and getting PGP setup on my email. If you haven’t installed Signal already, you should. The EFF has some good advice in their security starter pack that would be a good place to start.
I’m going to be adding a page where you can verify my ID by my PGP key and see what things I’ve also verified. In the meantime, I’m on keybase.io. CRHE is gearing up for our annual fundraiser and putting efforts into preparing to help people who start homeschooling because of the election. I’m getting involved in my local community and politics to make change here with East Bay Forward and on my own. I’m helping build a safe, open, hackerspace in my community as well.
I’m making rage art again, and some of that is in the form of banners for download. I’m not being quiet. I’m enjoying the last 62 days of First Amendment rights before everything really goes to shit.

How you can help me

Finding a 9-5 job at a startup seems ridiculous now. It seems normal. Nothing about now is normal. I am looking to spend my energy helping people, being an activist, doing whatever I can to provide safe haven and squash facism. I am an artist, activist, and organizer with mad web skills, I intend on using every skillset I have to get myself and others through the next 4+ years.
If you have the financial ability to help, I need enough to pay bills and acquire meds and eat – you can setup a recurring donation on patreon and also get cool art. Or just donate. I am an uninsured, unemployed, queer enby trying to get my documents together. I just spent $200 on my passport update and still need to get my license updated.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Said Hello to Courtship, Met a Boy, and Got Married

My parents said they wanted to talk to me one day. I was like 8 or 10 or something innocuous and the thought of boys and kissing was still gross (ew, spit). They said that they decided I wouldn’t be allowed to date, that I would court instead. I said okay, having no idea what this meant and being decidedly not into boys because they ruined my horse parades anyway.

They seemed surprised that I took it so well. They explained that courting meant that a boy had to get permission from them to start seeing me romantically, and at 8/10 years old this seemed fine (more barriers to people destroying my caravan of ponies). They spent years extolling the virtues of courting. I was given I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl when I was a young teen and read them, absorbed them, and lived by them – most of my friends did as well.


I’ve talked about our courtship and the hell that it was.
I’m going to talk about a different aspect that goes along with all of this, and that is being a Stay At Home Daughter (unless your parents let you out). Many of the stories featured in IKDG and BMG featured women who either worked in their father’s business or church sanctioned place, or stayed at home to learn how to be helpmeets. Few, if any of the women featured had a life outside of their family’s home, or any time on their own before getting married.


I went straight from living with my family learning how to be a helpmeet, to living with my in-laws, to being married. I had no time on my own to discover who I was and what I liked. I have never been alone.


I was never meant to live on my own. My family, like many others bought into the idea that daughters are to live under their father’s authority until their father passes that authority to their husband. Having any time between living at my parents to being married was unheard of. No time was spent preparing me to live without being under any kind of authority because that was never going to be an option.


I was to be married forever, until death happened – and in the result of death, I would move back in with my parents (ha). I would never need to know how to choose things for myself (instead of for/with other people), how to live responsibly alone, how to take care of myself – because I was supposed to have someone there to do that for me, forever.


I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl encouraged my parents to restrict the amount of life experience I was allowed to have in the name of godliness. These books, similar books, and purity culture advocated that women stay hidden and sheltered to guard their hearts and wait for a prince (any prince) to come whisk them away to a castle to fill with babies. They never talked about compatibility on any level other than spiritual – these books and this culture have ruined the marriages of those they sought to protect.


By feeding an entire generation unrealistic expectations for themselves – denying our rights to exist and experience human emotion, being told that anything we desire is sinful just because we desire it, and that to explore our identities, feelings, and attractions is wrong and damages our intrinsic value – courtship advocates have destroyed relationships between spouses, and families, and friends. They have stunted our growth, torn us apart, and left us to pick up the pieces of ourselves and each other while learning how to live on our own for the first time.


I courted, I got married, and seven years later I’m getting divorced; on my own for the first time, trying to learn how to survive, and realizing that this was so far outside of the realm of possibility that I was prepared for anything but this. This one, basic thing, that most people experience: navigating life on your own. I was never meant to live on my own, but I’m doing it. I’m doing it clumsily, but I’m doing it, and there are lots more of us out here doing it too.