Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Juggling Act

When the moon reaches full I pause my busy-ness. I hold fire ceremony and make offerings, remembering gratitude and letting go of what I don’t need to hold onto.

Last moon I asked for guidance. My plate is so full, it’s a buffet line. I have a wedding to plan, a soulmate to marry, an educational venture, and self-employment moving out of the extra bedroom into a real office. I have travel plans, zoo visits, meditation retreats, volunteering, mentoring, a garden and all the duties I love as a househusband. I don’t know where I’m going to fit the dance lessons, hiking trips, and pickup games at the gym. This is the best problem I’ve ever had.

A modern day juggling act is my kind of performance. I meet my mentees at the zoo and work on my Lindy hop while watering the tomatoes. But my fancy footwork isn’t enough. I’ve been making time for everyone and everything – except my writing. When I turn my attention to the writing projects filling the pages of my brain, everything I’ve got in the air comes crashing down. Those flaming chainsaws hurt when they nick you.

Last moon I asked for help. I asked what I needed to do to get my pencil on the page. I asked how to keep it there without losing the quality of my juggling routine. In return for an answer I offered to follow instructions as handed down. I promise not to question “why,” to just “do” as guided.

I chanted and danced and tossed the offering into the fire. After a deep sleep I woke feeling different. At first I thought I was just well rested, but as the hours ticked by I realized something changed.

In my promise to follow instructions I thought maybe I’d write at night before all the laundry was folded, perhaps leaving the towels in the dryer – not jumping up at the sound of the buzzer. Or maybe listening would mean less time texting and playing on Facebook. I was pretty wrong.

Listening was my rite of passage. My writing mind crossed into a grown-up land. I’ve always just set the pencil to the page and let the words write out – like an artist doodling in a sketchbook. The stories are good but they only scratch the surface.

Looking back at this blog – this is my sketchbook, these are my doodles. They came out of my pencil. I applied a little polish on the way to my screen. And that’s that.

I started this blog about coming out as transgender. I was surprised by the support.
I got raw with my doodles (go back and look.) My inbox flooded with “me too.”

I flipped a coin to decide if I should write about MPD, a diagnosis I spent decades trying to evade. Heads it was. I kept the stories light and humorous, but it was a big reveal. My usual supporters were silent and I feared I went too far. Then I got a steady stream of “me too,” and “I’m so glad I’m not the only one.” And “no one else writes about MPD,” and “please write more, please.”

It’s time to make my art.

Here I am, as a grown-up, writing the story that almost kept me from reaching adulthood. I set a deadline to have the skeleton of my memoir together in a formal book proposal. I’m laying out the table of contents and refining the storyboard. I’m balancing the planning with the actual writing. I’m filling in the flesh and guts and muscle of my existence and searching for the tendons and ligaments to weave it all together. Each story is being worked and reworked to piece together the anatomy of my survival.

Thank you for reading my doodles. I will be looking for readers of both the proposal (sooner) and the first draft (later). As always, I welcome introductions to agents/editors/publishers.
If all goes well I’ll see you on the book tour.

It’s one thing to have a dream and another to go out and get it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Facebook "real names," #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft

Dear Facebook,

You slapped me in the face, and this is why I stayed. We had a good thing going and it’s not like you gave me a black eye or anything.

I didn’t take you seriously when we first met. I had my .edu email address and my baby sister created my profile. She chose ‘pukeface’ as my password. I didn’t change that for eight years. At nearly 30, I was the old man on campus an elder on Facebook. I made friends with the school’s hip kids – now full-bearded hipsters – and set up a cat book for my feline. I periodically logged in from my laptop – smart phones were blackberries carried by executives – and poked my friends, hoping next week I’d get poked back. Do you remember the good old days?

It was time to grow up. You graduated and got a real job. You let anyone join and you took their money with a smile. That was the point of, right?

I shared in your success. I wasn’t limited to my college friends. I reached back to high school, junior high, elementary school and even the neighborhood kids I knew from the days of skinned knees and easy bake ovens. I friended my family. I no longer had to rely on weddings and funerals to catch up on all the gossip. I learned which cousins had kids and who everyone belonged to.  I loved when someone posted an old picture of my grandmother and her sisters. Across the miles the family shared a moment in the comments.

Our greatest accomplishment wasn’t remembering the old stories-it was creating new ones. Together we built a safe space for community to grow. I live under the Trans umbrella. I am blessed to be part of the most diverse community on earth. We belong to every demographic grouping the world can dream up, except one. You know this, you gave us 56 options because we are so much more than M and F. The Trans community doesn’t fit into the binary gender boxes- yet we are present in every other categorization of humans on this planet.

Facebook, honey, you revolutionized living as Trans. We came out on your walls. We supported each other in your groups. We leaned on each other through legal transition, social transition, and medical transition. We asked for help. We stopped reinventing the wheel. We shared tips and tricks. We celebrated the victories. We didn’t let the murdered ones among us be swept away and forgotten.

When one of us cried out for help, we found the closest person to check on their safety. We never had to be alone in this mighty struggle with ourselves and our identities. Even if we were kicked out of families, fired from jobs, assaulted or beaten, you gave us safe space to step away from hate so we could become our authentic selves. We had a platform to educate and grow our allies. We had the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Facebook, you’ve changed my world and I have so many reasons to stay. I get invited to events, group chat with friends, and can message anyone anytime. My fiancĂ©e and I shared our engagement pictures. I remember my friends lost to suicide by reaching out to their loved ones. Many of my readers navigate to my blog from my wall. I’m watching my friends’ kids grow and never have a shortage of cat pictures in my news feed. I share grief and joy. I have Trans friends all over the world. I laugh at the funnies. I bear witness to the sad and horrible. We even stood up and broke silence about a child molester to keep his grandkids safe. We have been quite a team.

As an added bonus, every year about 100 friends tell me “happy birthday” and a handful leave a personalized birthday greeting. A boy could get used to all that attention.

But Facebook, you slapped me and I’m not going to turn the other cheek. This is why I'm leaving. I’m not going to let you destroy my community for not using our “real names.” You have let us build a lifeline and now you want to pull the plug. Not everyone is able to move safely through this world with a name that matches their ID, especially in the Trans world. I’m privileged to have a legal name that matches my identity. You can’t shut me down for not using my “real name”, but I can walk away. If my friends can’t be safe on Facebook, I’m leaving. I won’t stand for this abuse.

Me  (not my real name)

Displaying photo.JPG

My friends with Facebook names that do not match ID are:

Mental health professionals with unsafe clients
Human service employees (foster care, food stamps)
Government employees in customer service positions
Social workers in group homes for adolescents
LGBT friends not out at work
LGBT friends not out to family
Friends who want to separate personal life from professional life
K-12 educators
Friends with known criminals in their family (same last name, same geographic location)
Authors writing under pen names
Artists/musicians/DJs/drag performers
Friends in recovery building a clean life
Friends with abusive/dangerous ex
Friends with abusive/dangerous families
Doctors/nurses/psychotherapists/healthcare providers
Friends who have been raped, assaulted, threatened and/or stalked
Friends who live in place where it is illegal to be LGBT
Trans community members
            (Some Trans friends cannot transition and can only be themselves online)
(Not every Trans friend can or is ready to change their name)
(Each US state and non-US country varies in costs and requirement to change name)

None of my friends on this list are lacking integrity. I don’t lack integrity either.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

No More Secrets

Fear rises with the setting sun
3 and a half decades of sleepless nights
dozing only when the sky
        with first light

The only sleep I ever got was under the influence
               of powerful prescription pills
guaranteed to relax so much I’ll stop breathing
                10 times an hour
washed down with a six pack
and a machine to keep my numbed up airway open

More than a decade of talk therapy
 paying to say all the right things
  pretending my wounds were healing nicely
   ignoring the pus oozing from the
        ravaging infection

They put my Monster Uncle Tom McClain behind bars
million dollar bank fraud
Dad always said he was a
        shitty accountant
it would catch up with him someday

I hated Monster Uncle Tom
                so much
I became an accountant and
    I’m not shitty at all

Once I knew he was
safe behind bars
The fear cleared just enough
to let me face the
of what he did to little me.

Clawing through all the
things that heal old
   deep infected wounds
I could feel joy
  and smile like
life might somehow be okay

He sent me letters from his cell
  reminding me
what he did to the little
girl I used to be
“No more secrets”
      I replied
Still, I didn’t tell
Who would believe a guy
     “like me”

I began to sleep
and wake refreshed
    at peace
not ravaged by the
   panic no longer hand in
   hand with sleep

All the small steps
   and look how far
      I’ve come

The silence is screaming

I dream Uncle tells the world what
    he did to me
 and the others
They would believe him
  and he promises he has NO REMORSE
     and they respect his honesty

I’d rather not sleep
  than dream he’s still
     their hero.

Facebook shows him
 out of bounds
 with a little girl
     on his lap
 just like I used
       to be.

Fear creeps back
into my dreams
like his giant hand
creeping between
my tiny legs

I told them once
“children should be seen
    not heard”

I told them twice
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t know,
  You need to grow up.”

I told them three times
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know”
(I guess they forgot)
“Pray for a miracle.”

The miracle is
  I survived

The world sleeps as
I wonder how many more
will tell stories of
 sitting on his lap

How many tiny bodies
 were destroyed by
his giant hands.

I was punished for
  speaking out

How many were
    by your hero
no one listened?

No more secrets.

No more secrets.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Matt Kailey Was A Giant

Matt Kailey was a giant. He was actually more David than Goliath, a little on the short side-small hands, small feet-narrow shoulders on a slight frame. Matt didn’t have bulging biceps or a chest covered with fur. He didn’t have a demanding physical presence or a take up a lot of space. Matt wasn’t that kind of giant.

As people learned of Matt’s death, they felt a giant loss. The comments flooded in. This man who wrote some books, taught some classes, answered questions on his blog, spoke to classrooms, gave trainings, presented at conferences,…was now gone. Messages from all over the world proved that small, humble Matt was in fact, a giant.

Messages like:

“I never met him, but he changed/saved/had a profound impact on my life/transition/well-being.”

“I’m a better man/transman/woman/parent/sibling/friend/co-worker/person because of Matt Kailey”

“I wasn’t very close to Matt but I’ll never forget meeting him”

“I haven’t seen him in years. I couldn’t have transitioned without his support.”

“Matt was always there.” 

“The community and the world lost an amazing person.”

What struck me was the enormous number of lives Matt touched. He didn’t have to spend days or even hours with someone to have an impact. Over the years he and I talked a handful of times, exchanged a few emails, crossed paths at conferences and events and sat in a few support groups together. I don’t know if he remembered my name or face. I’d always introduce myself “Hi Matt, I’m Jules (pause) the tax guy.” His face would light up with recognition. He’d once interviewed me in Out Front about my LGBT tax practice.  I was coming out of the stealth closet and back into the community; his support was crucial. We’d often talk about writing; taxes are boring to most people. He understood the power of written words.  We talked about how powerful writing is for the writer-if the (eventual) reader also benefits from the words, that’s even better. Matt wrote a lot for other people -writers love an audience- but he always supported and encouraged me to write for myself. I once asked him what it was like to try to make a living as a writer; his reply was the writing was living.

He didn’t have to take time to listen or answer my emails or share his wisdom, but he did. What a gift.

Witnessing the impact of his passing, I realized that Matt always took the time to listen, answer emails and share words of wisdom. When someone was suffering and reached out, Matt met them where they were and did what he could to ease their pain.

I wondered, “how did one man do so much good, locally and globally?” My next thought was “who is going to step up and fill his shoes?” Matt wasn’t just a voice for trans people; he was a voice for all people.

Who is going to continue his work? Who is going to pick up where he left off?

No one can take Matt’s place.

We can continue his work. We can follow his example. We can moderate a support group. We can sit on a panel. We can present at a conference We can talk to a college class. We can be out. We can be honest. We can be real. We can share our stories. When we hear the voice of someone who is suffering, we can met them where they are  and let them know they are not alone.

If each and every one of us who was made better by knowing Matt gives a little bit of our goodness to make life better for someone else, we might get close to the vastness of his kindness.

I don’t know how his small frame held his giant heart.

Matt, thank you for your life.

Matt's blog Tranifesto 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo- The Results Are In

The goal was to write a novel in a month. Julie and I prepared for a cage match competition to be the first to pen 50,000 words and take the NamaRupa NaNoWriMo trophy. Story boards were planned, pencils sharpened, and dueling desk spaces established. 

The day before the competition was to begin, a kidney infection let out a roar.  It had already defied a round of antibiotics and was raging. Wave after wave of fever burned up the body, and delirium became the norm.

Eleven days into the competition The Crew had each lived through a series of fantasy novels in a dream-like state. Sadly when I looked to see what had been captured, not a word had been penned.

The infection was eradicated by the second round of antibiotics, and we were ready to write. Julie and I took turns and in three days wrote  10,000 words between the two of us.  The competition was at the half way point. We knew we could get our stories written - 90,000 words in 15 days didn’t seem like much at all.

We even gave MJ the pencil for a few hours. He had stories to tell, and we wanted to make sure he had the opportunity to be part of the fun.

Life without infection and constant fevers was different. We realized the bacteria had been hanging out for months, if not all year. We had had days where they had been quiet and weeks where they raged. We also learned about fever delirium. Sometimes when a person has a fever, they lose a little touch with reality. Maybe they see things that others don’t see. Maybe their logic - so solid in their own mind - makes not a bit of sense to other rational beings. Maybe the slightest increase in body temperature opens the portal to the land of make-believe; but it’s a SECRET portal, and only the traveler knows he’s gone through to the other side.

Looking back at psych hospitalizations revealed an interesting pattern. I’d end up in the ER for psych evaluation.  The urinalysis would reveal an infection, and antibiotics would be taken at the little glass window. Three days later when the psych hold was up, hallucinations and other psych symptoms would be long gone. I’d be laughing, smiling, feeling better- all without taking any psych meds. I’d be back in the common shared reality with no fevers.  The docs would say maybe I just needed a few days to catch my breath. I’m pretty kinda sure I just needed a few days for antibiotics to start knocking out the infection.

The days and nights of fever dreaming provided excellent material for the novels. Creativity is not hindered by reality when delirium is driving the story line. The words couldn’t hit the page fast enough.

Until the body came to a grinding halt.

Kidney stones had formed as a result of the ongoing infections, and someone decided it was a great time for them to exit. The rest of November was filled with episodes of face-down screaming, fevers, tears, texts and conversations that made sense to NO ONE outside of the body - and lots and lots of trips to the land of make-believe.  

We would write and write; and when the fever and stone passed, we would look to see what stories were captured. One day after a particularly intense writing session, I turned on the screen to see that I’d written

My cat accused me of plagiarism.

MJ woke up one day so excited about the “40 pages he wrote in his notebook.” The sadness on his face when he opened the journal and thumbed through all the blank pages was enough to break even the hardest heart.

The 100,000 words were not written, not even with MJ’s bonus stories. The final breakdown looked like this:

Jt             12,854
Julie         4,897
MJ            1,523

I got one decent story out of my words: “Passing Stones with David Sedaris.”

I was intending to post it on the blog, but the word count is high and I didn’t know if anyone would read the entire story. Message me if you’d like to read it.

Tax season starts next week. I will pause my story writing until after April 15th.  Watch out NaNoWriMo. Next year I’m taking the NamaRupa trophy. Not even kidney stones will stop me this time….

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Flock of Angels

“May I check in with the shoulder?” asked the healer as her hands moved gently into place.
“Yes. Please.” I answered, and I slowly sent my breath to meet her hands.
“Please.” I said again-just this time the word wasn’t audible to the outside world. This time only my internal crew and my God could hear my plea.

The pain in my shoulder had been unrelenting. It had no “real cause.” No car accident, no torn rotator cuff, no damage to muscles, ligaments, bones. Just pain. Pain that never wanted to let me go.
I had made the decision to get rid of the pain. Time to let go of whatever it was-taking up space that could be better used.

Two days ago I went back to the breath. I lay in bed and held Crow’s hand – she was deep in sleep. I whispered in her ear, “Keep me in your wings. Keep me safe.”
I went into the depths of my being, each breath driving me closer to the source. Each breath opening doors I had shut many universes ago.
I reached the center and floated in the blackness. I wasn’t sure if it was the dying place or the birthing place, or both. For now it was the living place.

Another breath for courage. Then I spoke to the crew. “You have called me your leader. You have asked me to guide this crew. I am ready. Please follow me.”
I told them I’d call them each to the body, the body in this vast blackness. I asked them each to open, drop, let go, heal, use their medicine.

Each of the 15 came is called. Each one offered their medicine. From the outside, the body looked like it was asleep, MJ and Crow holding hands.
Inside was a display of pure Awesomeness. Lights. Colors. Sounds. Vibrations. Energetic surgery to remove, restore, rearrange, revive. A work of brilliance.

The body slept.

Later, perhaps it was already the following evening, the crew went back to work.
As I worked with the breath, the crew drew a map of light – a sort of energetic grid – varying shades of blue light. The grid fit my body like a suit of chainmail.

All that had been worked on the previous day that needed to come out was gathered into little packages. The packages were orange and set to rest in the blue grid. I watched as the orange bags collected in the spots where the pain was always the fiercest.
“MJ, you know this is old stuff, right?”
I smiled. “Yes.” I saw now that this garbage wasn’t from this current journey. This garbage had been with me for eons.
“It’s older than dirt, isn’t it?” I asked.
The weathered face of the old shaman woman looked up at me and cracked into a smile. Her eyes held the wisdom of earth medicine. Her smile told me this garbage was older than the rock we were spinning on.
“Well, let’s take out the trash already.” I replied with an ever-growing grin.
The medicine woman threw back her head and laughed as she did a little dance.
She asked me to sleep.
I did.

I rushed to get to the healing office. Traffic was backed up. The outside world can get so busy and congested. In her safe space, I relaxed and let the breath do the work as the healer guided it with her hands.
When the healer moved to check in with the shoulder, I knew it was time. I pulled one breath to her hands, I pushed a second breath right behind.

An angel appeared on my left shoulder, the shoulder the healer wasn’t working on. The angel was both porcelain and light. A steady pulse of intense white light moved from within her, much like a heartbeat. It was rhythmic and strong and so very luminous.
“Daisy, is that an angel?” I asked the six-year-old on the crew. She loves the healer, and I knew she was close by watching.
“Of course, she’s an angel, MJ. You’re so silly.” She laughed and raised her hand to her forehead like a cartoon. How could I be so ridiculous as to not recognize an angel sitting so vibrantly on my shoulder?
“Daisy, do you think I can ask for more angels to help out?”
“Do it, MJ!” She was jumping up and down now with excitement.

I asked, and the sky instantly filled with lightning. I felt a breeze as the sky lit up so brightly that my retinas may have burned had my eyes been open.
The air around me was moving quickly. I wondered if I was falling. Then it all came clear.
The sky that had been glowing brightly before I had asked for more angels was now filled with black birds. So many birds that the sky turned black. What I had thought was lightning were breaks in the flight of the crows.

The crows dove at my shoulder. They feasted on the orange packages of garbage my crew had so carefully assembled in the grid of blue light that I called me.
The crows feasted and feasted, each one falling back after she’d had just enough to not burst.
I was able to feed every crow in the sky with all the garbage I have been carrying for so many universes.

I still had some garbage left but saw that every crow had eaten its max. One more bite would make the bird too full to fly.
I asked them to stop feeding and listen.
The pecking and cawing stopped as all black eyes turned towards mine. I thanked them all for coming. The black heads bobbed a “you’re welcome.”

I told the crows I needed their help. With their full bellies I told them they’d be able to fly to a place where they'd find a woman to feed them.
Her garbage wouldn’t be packaged as neatly as mine. She might resist at first. I told them to wait for nightfall and to ask for Maxine.

I told the crows they’d have a feast. There would be more than enough to fuel their return journey.
I asked them to stay with Maxine as long as she’d feed them. Even if it meant forever.
I told them I’d call for some to return to me when I had more orange garbage packets ready.
I told them that some may be injured, harmed, or killed at the hands of Maxine. It was their choice to go or not. Not a single black bird hesitated.
I told the crows that they always had a home with me and then sent them off on their journey.

The sky filled once again with the blackest luminosity imaginable. The shimmer was like a portal to another place, and in an instant it was gone.
The brilliant white angel remained on my left shoulder. She was so delicate, yet the strength of her luminosity let me know she couldn’t be broken.

I sent another breath to the right shoulder and asked God to fill the space with luminosity. The holes in the grid where the garbage had been now spilled over with light.-a light that matched the strength of the angel.
The light poured in.
The holes filled and filled.
The light ran over until the entire grid of blue light was a web of bright luminosity.

The healer moved her hands.

The light remained.

I bathed in the light, soaking in the freedom of taking out the trash.

The healer had moved to my feet by the time I noticed that the angel was no longer on my shoulder.
“Daisy, where’s the angel? Is she gone?”
“No, she just went back home. She’s on the healer’s shoulder.” Daisy rolled her eyes as if to say “MJ don’t you know anything?”
“Oh, is she the healer’s angel? I guess I have a lot of questions today, Daisy. Bear with me.”
The six-year-old laughed again. She couldn’t get mad at me. She had way too much fun teasing me.
She then wrinkled her brow and a serious look crossed her face. “MJ, do you really not know who that is?”
“No Daisy, I don’t.” She actually thought I was teasing her!

“MJ, that’s the healer’s Mom. Remember I told you she was at the healer’s house and I waved to her. She told me she’d see us again. Today she did. She helped the crows know where to land”

I was speechless.

“MJ,” Daisy continued “She’s the healer’s work helper, like I’m your sleep helper!”

The healer removed her hands from my feet.
I stretched, yawned and blinked a few times. I squinted up at the healer and saw the angel sitting on her shoulder. Radiating. A slow smile found my lips.

The healer came back in the room a few minutes later. She offered a piece of dark chocolate and as it melted on my tongue, I wondered what I should say to thank her and her angel.
A thousand words swirled through my head. I waited for the right ones to fall on my tongue. I felt like I was looking up at the sky in winter, head back, mouth open, waiting for a snowflake to land perfectly.

I looked at the healer. “Thank you.”
The healer and her angel both grew in their luminosity. I knew I didn’t have to say anything else.

“Thank you.”