Oh Stars, Here I Come!

So we are off to the big city tomorrow to relax and shop and of course visit the plastic surgeon. As excited as I am about all of those things I am really excited to see night time. Right now it doesn't really get dark, it gets dim, dusky but never dark enough to see the stars. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I realized that I puke if I spin too fast on a merry-go-round and I am terrified of roller coasters so I needed to find myself another career path. But I still love the magic and mystery of the night sky. Particularly up here when ribbons of luminescent green white and pink undulate above your head.

The first time I spent a summer up north I had a really hard time sleeping....still true today. It just doesn't get dark and the sun is up and bright like early morning by four am! I was at once a night owl and an early bird and my body was exhausted. We would go out fishing in early June and it would still be sunny out at ten thirty! The longest day of the year is the 21st of June and we get maybe four hours where the sun sits below the horizon. Now we are on the downside of that and so it is dimmer and dimmer in the wee hours of the morning ...no more reading by the window at one in the morning.

This will be my first winter in the north. Aside from a couple week-long visits, I haven't experienced the coldest and shortest days of a northern winter. I am planning to join a few groups this winter to try and keep myself busy, meet new people and avoid packing on hibernation chubb. If all goes well I will be playing hockey and curling in mixed rec leagues. I am unsure if there's anything else I might like to do but if I have some team sport a couple nights a week that will be good.

The work contract I have is good until January. I am hoping that I will not bee looking for work right after Christmas and that where I am now will become a permanent position. I still have a lot of applications out around town so there's a chance that there will be something else come up before then which may pay more or give me more flexible hours allowing me time to work on my art on my days off. I would like to find a taxidermist who would teach me a thing or two about the craft so I could prepare some of my own found road kill pelts and mount them properly. Winter will be cold and I hope that I am mentally prepared for the length and depth of it.

The northern lights are spectacular but it will be August before we see them again. August and September are the best time to watch them and it's still nice enough outside you can photograph them for more than three minutes before your face freezes. There is something really special about sitting around a campfire watching the northern lights dazzle the stars above the trees.

But for the next few days I will be able to watch the night sky. I am unsure how many stars I'll see from inside the city limits but perhaps there will be one that comes streaking out of the darkness to grant me a single wish.


A Boy and His Dog #1

This is my dog Tiger.  He passed away quietly at the farm lying in the grass watching the sunset behind the mountains. A boy has a special relationship with his dog, (not to say that a girl doesn't) and Tiger was definitely one of a kind. Tiger came into our life late in his own. He was an SPCA dog who had been adopted twice and was living with an elderly man looking for a companion. When the old gentleman died, the family tried to get over to let Tiger out, feed him, and spend time with him but it wasn't enough and Tiger spent a lot of time cooped up alone in a house without his master. We got a phone call from our dog catcher friend asking us if we had room in our hearts and at our farm for just one more dog...

The first time I laid eyes on him I thought he was so very handsome. Handsome but crazy. He was so excited to be out of the house riding in a car that when he arrived at the farm and realized there were MORE dogs well he just couldn't contain himself-- literally. He met our other dogs and the four of them romped and chased each other around the dog pen and then Tiger would stop for a dump, chase the other dogs around again and stop for another dump. He must have made four piles in the yard before calming down enough to appear normal! I was worried in that first hour and a bit that he might be just too much dog for me, that I might not have the patience for such a hyper guy. We fed him with his new friends and he came into the house and pulled up a piece of rug and promptly showed off his ability to snore. Whew!

Tiger decided to become my dog. He would follow me everywhere and quickly became best buddies with my other dog Jake. When we would go out for walks, Jake would tear out of the dog pen and head down the hill straight for the barn. Tiger would run to catch up his jowls flapping as his head bobbed in pursuit. We could explore the forested areas of the farm for hours. He was a good listener too except if he smelled a mouse or gopher. If he got his nose in a gopher den or mouse hole he would dig and dig and dig until he caught the rodent or he couldn't smell it anymore. I don't know how many times he came up with a mouth full of dirt and slobber looking proud as all get out that he'd fed himself.

He really was a wonderful guy who loved nothing more than sleeping in the truck. Every morning we'd get up and he's go out for a pee and then come and whine to be let into the truck. He'd hop up into the front seat and look around before settling down for a long nap. I always wondered if he was waiting for someone. If there had been someone who drove him around like a king or if had been someone's companion at work every day. I remember once when my mom came to visit and left the trunk of her civic open. One half of the split rear seats had been left down for something she had transported and while she was in the house unpacking, Tiger climbed into the car through the trunk, crawled across the back seat, and was sitting in the drivers seat wondering where he might be going.

And he was a good guard dog. When he saw or smelled something that he didn't recognize or saw as a  threat all the hairs on his back would stand up in a short brindle mohawk. He would bark from deep in his throat and his front legs would get all stiff. Sometimes if one of the other dogs would start barking he'd be up in a second, barking, hair up looking around to figure out exactly what he was barking at. What a team player!

Tiger was an old dog when he came to the farm to retire. He must have been eight or nine years old so when he died he would have been twelve or thirteen. Not bad for a handsome old guy that spent some time with SPCA on two different occasions. Not all dogs are as lucky as he was. Many older dogs spend weeks in cages at shelters before it is decided that no one wants them and they are killed. It is too expensive to keep a dog alive, the cost of life too expensive. How sad when it seems that life is the one thing we hold so precious, so sacred when we are talking about people. Painful when I think of how much more I loved my dog than most people. I am so glad that he was adopted by someone with a kind heart (twice) and had the opportunity to retire at the farm and die on his own terms: happy, free, well-fed, lying in the long green grass surrounded by his family.

I spent a lot of time with Tiger and now that he's gone there is definitely a space in my heart where his memory will live. It's true that you can learn a lot by loving an animal and Tiger was an excellent and patient teacher. I have been blessed to know many animals and will shared my life with them as long as I live. My work as an artist focuses on animal spirits and animal rights and are the most important and prevalent element in my practice. Animals are magnificent spirits, friends and members of our family that deserve respect and sovereignty.

Next time you think about expanding your family with a dog, a cat or another animal, consider adopting a handsome old pet from a shelter. Save a life and adopt a shelter animal. You can find all kinds in your area here: http://www.petfinder.com/index.html or you can go to your local animal shelter and rescue someone who just might change your life.


Past and Present, Meet the Future

What a great weekend! I bought a new ax at the Canadian Tire and got to chop some wood which is one of my very favourite things. I actually got to do a lot of my favourite things this weekend including some fishing and driving and sleeping outside in the fresh air. I could have passed on the mosquitoes and the smoke but otherwise it was great.

Transitioning for me is sort of like starting a new life. I have so many big life changes going on right now I literally feel like I am getting a second chance. In the last three months I have graduated from art school, legally changed my name, started testosterone, got a referral for top surgery, moved to a new city in a new part of the country, started a new job, and begun my transition to become Marcus. I am reinventing myself in a way and discovering wonderful little quirks along the way.

Taking testosterone has been one of the best decisions I've ever made despite my early reservations. I am so much happier, feel more secure as myself, and more emotionally stable. I feel like I am better able to make decisions, to stand up for myself, to speak my mind clearly and effectively, and say no when I want to without feeling guilty.  Transition is an awkward place where your identity is fluid and fluctuates as a result of how others see you. I know that as my physical body merges into a more natural masculine form the way others see me and the way I see myself will converge and there will be no more outward discrepancies. I look forward to the day where people won't look twice, won't apologize when they think they have made a mistake with regards to my gender. I will just be another guy walking down the street, buying groceries, going to work, playing hockey, taking his girlfriend out to a romantic dinner. Awkward will be left in the past and this magic period of transformation will be at once too long and too short a present.

Becoming a "brand new man" is exciting. Like the journey on a trip you have been dying to take and can finally afford, the sites and sounds and smells are all new; the experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Sure there are little things like sea sickness or airline delays due to weather, sketchy cab drivers, and that one hotel with the odd smelling comforter. But when you look back in ten years you won't remember those things, you'll remember the incredible scenery, the concierge that went out of his way to make your trip better, the succulent food at that one little out of the way restaurant, the friend you met who took you fishing who you still write to and will definitely look up if you ever get a chance to return. The good things are what we remember, and the same is true with transition.

I will not remember the acne, the fattening up before the growth spurt, the incredible super human ability to sweat, or the anxiety of the first few months of self injections. I will remember the first time I can grow a moustache, the joy of seeing myself for the first time after top surgery, my first chest hair, hearing myself with a deeper voice, and finally being able to do push ups! I will remember the first time someone tells me how happy I look, how natural and relaxed I seem, how proud they are of me for making such a hard decision and following my heart.

Yep the future is looking pretty bright but starting over doesn't mean leaving the past behind. Everything that I have done, every experience I have had has lead me to this place, to this point, where I can be confident and brave and face the challenges I have ahead of me. I have met and kept the right people as friends, been honest about my feelings (perhaps too much), desperately sought understanding, and finally been able to make peace with myself. The past has shaped who I am, and who I will become. I am excited to meet me and introduce my future self to the past.

There will be plenty of time to create memories, document challenges and triumphs on my journey to manhood. I hope to see many of my family and friends at the finish line smiling and cheering. I know some will be there and some will not but in reaching that goal, that end, I know there will be a great story.


A Boy in the Woods

I am off to the bush for the weekend. Off to set up a campsite, build a fire, chop wood, fish, whittle sticks with a pocket knife and drink beer. I am off for a weekend of manly endeavours. Camping is one of my favourite things. The last time I went camping it was for a boys fishing weekend on the east arm of Great Slave Lake.

Ever since I was a little kid camping has been one of the greatest things ever. We used to go out to a little place in Alberta where our family had a cabin. The cabin was built by everyone out of cinder blocks and recycled building materials. The cabin was a hexagonal white structure with a leprechaun green door, dark brown roof and large windows facing the lake. Sir John's Crapper was to the right of the driveway and a dark green canoe was propped up near the woodpile. The first thing we did when we finally got our stuff hauled up the rungs of the aluminum ladder to the loft was to race as fast as we could to the dock without tripping over any exposed tree roots.

For me camping was glorious freedom where I could fish of the dock in the sun. I could put on a life jacket and paddle the canoe along the lakeshore. I could walk through the forest and discover trees, animals, weeds, flowers, rocks, sand, bugs, snakes, vegetation, scat, tracks. I could run around in jeans and t-shirts, get dirty eat hot dogs and chips, build a fire, chop wood, climb a tree build a fort and run around without worrying about anything except missing the last powdered doughnut in the box.

There was no such thing as gender. Except when you had to "go", then it was obvious. Far too many mosquitoes enjoyed feasting on my bum when I had to drop my drawers behind a tree or bush somewhere. The boys just snuck their junk out the top of their shorts or out the fly of their jeans, watered the grass and off they went. Boys never worried about paper, or drips, or mosquito bites on their behinds. When we were out in the middle of the woods as kids all of us were rowdy care free little beasts splashing and shrieking and getting dirty.

Life was simple and the grandeur of the earth was beautiful. There were a million billion stars in the night sky framed by the tips of the Ponderosa pines. The air was clean and fresh and smelled better to me than any other place in the world. The lakewater was cold except in August when the sunburn, mosquito and horse fly bites could not be soothed with anything else. Late afternoons in July the clouds grew dark and lightning kissed the surface of the lake, the thunder was louder than at home and I believed that there really was an angry god bowling his way across the sky. I loved going to bed in the loft, crawling into my sleeping bag smelling of woodsmoke and pine trees as much as I loved waking up to the lonely echo of a loon or a red squirrel chastising a porcupine.

Sitting around the fire pit listening to stories, drinking iced tea or hot chocolate, making s'mores, laughing with my cousins was pure happiness. I was free to be the boy and there was someone who taught me a lot of my favourite boy things: how to build a fire, how to sharpen a pocket knife, how to whittle a stick, and how to whistle with your fingers. So much of my boyhood memories, my boyhood lessons were learned camping. One of my best boy memories was standing in the bed of the old blue and white GMC learning to shoot a .22 at the dump. Finding out I was a real good shot was an excellent boy moment. I learned to drive that GMC on those old gravel roads and fell in love with trucks and the freedom of driving a dusty road with the window down and the radio up.

 So I am off to pick up hot dogs and marshmallows, wagon wheels and Muskoil.  There will be no cabin, no towering pines, not even any stars (this time of year). Instead I will have the company of friends, my lover lying next to me in the sweet fresh air, the smell of the campfire in my clothes, and that happy feeling of just being a boy in the woods.



I went for a job interview on Tuesday and flat out told my prospective employer about my transition. I explained that I would likely need some time off for surgery and that I was in the middle (beginning is more like it I guess) of going from being a woman to being a man. The interview went pretty well I thought but then was sure that I blew it at the end by being honest. I was wrong.

Instead of being offered the full time position I applied for, they offered me a six month term position to cover a maternity leave. So for the next six months I will be working a job in the design department of a newspaper. I am happy that they didn't seem to have an issue with my transition and I am know that as time progresses I can prove myself to be a valuable employee and they will not want to lose me. I am hoping to secure a more permanent position in the future and work my way up.  But who knows what other opportunities might come along in the meantime. I am glad to have a little stability at least until Christmas and with any luck my surgery will have been completed by then as well.  Perhaps I need to have more faith in myself and believe that people can see past the transition to the person I really am, the skills I have to offer, and the potential awesomeness I can deliver!


Positive Things

A lot of what I have posted has seemed to paint a negative portrait of my life. It sounds as though I was miserable my entire childhood which is not the case. I have great memories of childhood, my family, my friends, my time at school, and coming out. My life has been a challenge for sure but in a good way. I have been happier than most kids I would say, and by no means is what I have posted here anyone's opinion or memory of reality except mine.

The difficulties in my life and childhood, the painful things always surrounded my gender identity. Now as a kid, most of the time that wasn't the focus of my day or week or year. But on those occasions where it came into conflict with social expectations, those were difficult and challenging times. I experienced a great deal of frustration, anger, hurt, and sadness but that is a part of growing up.

When I was young I had no language with which to define myself, I had no words to describe what I was and with the lack of an applicable affirmation I was nothing. I was NOT a girl, I was NOT feminine, I was NOT supposed to be attracted to girls at eight years old. But for all the things I wasn't I had nothing to describe what I was. I didn't know the word lesbian, I didn't know the word transgendered and that made me feel alone, made me feel like there was something wrong with me, but I never said anything about it until recently.

All of the arguments I ever had about my clothing, my hairstyle, appropriate/inappropriate behaviour, social norms, and the concessions I had to make so that everyone else would feel secure, feel normal, feel happy, made me miserable and angry. It is awful to feel like you are an embarrassment to your family because you are not normal, you are not like everyone else, you are not doing what people expect or want you to do. I just wanted to be me, to be comfortable in my own clothes, cut my hair the way I wanted, and be able to express my own feelings. I wanted to be able to tell my truth, to express myself in ways that made me happy that allowed me to know that it was ok to be who I was, I wanted it to be okay that I was different.

Now, times are different. I am older and tougher and I have a language. I have words that describe me. I can cut my hair short and wear a shirt and tie. I can take testosterone and grow a moustache and be an artist and a writer and say the things that are in my heart. I can call myself butch, he, sir, boy, sonny, and not be ashamed. It was hard to be true to myself when I felt like people expected me to be something I wasn't. It was hard not to feel like I was being selfish when I was just trying to be happy and feel loved even though I was different. I was (and still am) terrified of disappointing the people who love me the most.

I have wonderful supportive friends and a loving family. I am very lucky. I have good memories of sandboxes, spider shaped monkey bars, riding on tractors, a small town arena, the smell of a creamery, salmon for thanksgiving dinner, digging in a garden, outdoor swimming pools, bottle rockets, a tent that smelled like puke (ha ha ha), crazy carpets, mowing the lawn, scraping and painting the fence, swinging in a hammock, shovelling the driveway, riding my bike, talking with cows, opening presents, decorating Christmas trees, floating egg cartons in gutter puddles, finger painting, learning to fish, camping at the cabin, ice skating, building forts, Bedrock city, long road trips in the back of a station wagon, eating pomegranates, going to the zoo, building a kite, scraping all the skin off my knuckles, peanut butter cans, stitches in toes, little girl giggles, cartwheels on grass, piano lessons, birthday cakes, spaceship legos, the muppet show, a new black and white kitten, building a snowman, face paint, chasing a mouse through the house, the scent of fabric softener, clothes dried on the clothesline, four leaf clover patches, water treatment plants, bugs bunny cartoons, honeycomb cereal, driving a pick-up truck on a gravel road, shooting a .22 at the dump, going to the planetarium, spinning too fast on the merry-go-round, bubble baths, chicken pox, tree movers, ugly gym strip, sunburn, rodeos, Pictionary,  a pink panther, handmade dolls, Fisher-Price, banana seats, sprinklers, care bears, sofa beds, water slides, a red Honda, a jar of barrettes, easy bake oven cakes, hospital uniforms, Pysanka, Sunshine, bees, giant lollipops, a wooden high chair, the pullout under the sink in the downstairs bathroom, a pink toilet, ping-pong, bird shit, three channels on the tv, and the rattle of the wooden spoon drawer! Oh the seventies and eighties how fun you were!!

Today I am Marcus. I learned what it means to be a good man from some very special men who have come into my life. I have learned to be a hard worker. I have learned to be reliable and honest. I have learned to be kind and generous and help others when they need it. I have learned to listen. I have learned that sometimes I will I screw up miserably and it's ok, I can learn from my mistakes. I have regrets but can do nothing to change the past. I have learned to speak up for people who can't speak up for themselves. I have learned that there comes a time when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy. I have learned that following your heart and doing what is best for you isn't always an easy road. I have learned that my feelings matter. I have learned to be strong, to be persistent, to be confident. I have learned to respect other people's opinions. I have learned that life won't answer all your questions.  I have learned that I am not always right and sometimes I have to apologize. I have learned to love. I have learned to forgive. I have learned that life is too short to hold a grudge. I have learned that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned that I am a good man.


Hard Lesson #2: Public Bathrooms

Bathrooms. I wrote a little bit about being alone in a bathroom but there is also the problem and difficulty of NOT having the luxury of privacy in a public washroom. For me this issue goes way back and has always been the one place where my gender identity has faced a crisis. As long as I can remember my gender has been called into question by complete strangers.

Given the option, my first choice in a place to "go" is a single-celled gas station bathroom. There is no question of whether or not you belong. I don't have to worry about someone telling me I am in the wrong place, implying that I am somehow a pervert, suggesting that I am of below average intelligence or illiterate because I didn't see or wasn't able to read the sign on the door. At a gas station or other roadside turnout, there is usually a little family on the door that says "welcome! yes you can urinate here without fear of being made to feel like a freak" I love that little family. The childless couple separated by a line are my next favourite. God knows they don't care if I stand or sit or even wash my hands. They aren't judgmental like that.

Women can be really aggressive and quite rude when they think someone doesn't belong in their space. I have had thousands of sideways glances, women staring, hundreds of "excuse me you're in the wrong washroom", and quite a few women walk in take a look at me, walk out, check the sign on the door, and return to complete one of the above actions. I have had women ask me to leave, yell at me to get out, and once a woman even ran off to find a security guard to physically remove me from a public washroom. All of this happened BEFORE I decided to transition, when I still called myself she, identified as a lesbian, and had a girl's name. So what is it?

I don't think anyone should have the right to stake a claim on a public space. I am unclear why some people think it is their right to police the washroom, to say I do or do not belong there based solely upon their understanding of the world. I know how to read. I know where I need to be. All I want is a 3'X3' cubicle for three minutes to empty my bladder and carry on with my business. There is no reason for you to be afraid. I am here for the same reason as you and by the way, anyone over the age of six  knows which washroom they are supposed to be in. Ladies, if you accidentally walk into a washroom and see a urinal do you say oh what the hell, I'll just pee and get out of here who cares? NO! You think what is that smell? panic and rush your little heels outta there. If a guy accidentally walks into the wrong washroom, there are no urinals he thinks, that's weird, it smells so good in here, then he panics and gets the hell out of there before someone chases him out. Now if a woman needs to go really bad and the line is too long at the ladies' you have no problem usurping a stall in the men's room.  Men however, are not afforded the same courtesy.  Suddenly we are filthy perverts, peeping toms, or psychotic rapists. Seriously?

When I began using the men's room on a regular basis, I was so scared that I would get the shit kicked out of me.  I still have that fear once in a while in a big city or when the bathroom is particularly busy and I need a stall because I haven't yet mastered the STP device. Men don't care. They don't look at you sideways, in fact they rarely look at you at all. They get in get done what needs to be done and get out. There is no gossip, no primping, no crying, no teams of two or three. The bathroom is a room of requirement, a place to relieve yourself and get on with the rest of your day. The men's room isn't filled with relaxing music, isn't strawberry scented with potpourri and flowers next to the sink. Most of the time it isn't even that clean. And urinal cakes? They are aptly named because that is exactly what they smell like, only more concentrated like cat-man piss pucks. No wonder we don't linger.

So next time you are in a public washroom and you think it's your duty to check the sex of everyone that walks through the door, how about keeping quiet for a moment and open your mind. Trust that if you are in a washroom in a mall, the Bay, a school, a library, a concert, a sporting event, or any other public space, chances are whether you recognize them as your gender or not, they know which pot to piss in. Trust that the woman with the really short hair and masculine hands next to you at the sink knows where she is. Don't stare. Bite your tongue when the extremely tall woman with large muscles and a deep voice brushes past you to the nearest stall. That twelve year old with the longish hair wearing a shirt and tie does not need to be corrected. The public washroom is a place we already fear confrontation, degradation, humiliation. All we want to do is empty our bladders, have a safe place to sit in private for a few moments. We know where we belong so instead, please smile, hand us a paper towel and let us leave with our dignity.


One month on T

I have been on T for a month at a dose of 100mg/week. So far there have only been a couple noticeable changes:

1. Acne: My skin has become more oily and I have been washing it 2-3 times a day. Acne has definitely increased on my face and the odd few pimples have appeared randomly on my back and chest. It has not been bad but it has increased for sure.

2. Body: Have been a little bloated and notice that my pants are fitting a little tighter in the thighs, my fingers have swelled up a bit, but I am growing shoulders! I have definitely put on muscle, have more definition in my arms and back, and I feel stronger. I am still waiting for the metabolism to kick into high gear. to help me get rid of some of this chubb!

3. Drawers: Well this is a little awkward but I know I was looking for information about this so I will post any noticeable changes that happen in my drawers. After one month on T there hasn't been any noticeable change in my size but I have definitely noticed a change in my sensitivity. Dryness is not an issue nor have I noticed any major increase in sex drive although I find I am more quickly and easily turned on. My partner says I taste differently than I did before starting T. In other news, so far I have not seen hide nor hair of mother nature's monthly gift. Sweet.

4. Hair: Haven't noticed too much in the way of hair growth on my body. I definitely think I am fuzzier in places, my belly and upper arms mostly. I shave about once a week and the peach fuzz is growing in more quickly every week. A few darker hairs are growing in on my chin and in my sideburns.

5. Mood: This has been awesome. I feel way more in control of my emotions, more confident, less moody. There has been no crying for no reason, no depression, no hormone psychosis. I am also finding it easier to stick up for myself, say no, and say what is really on my mind without worrying what other people think.

6. Voice: This has definitely changed. Within the first twelve hours of my first shot I felt like there was something in my throat; it was scratchy almost as if I was getting a cold. I have lost the uppermost notes of my voice and once in a while my voice cracks like I am a thirteen year old boy. Once in a while I feel a vibration in my chest from the drop in my voice, it hasn't dropped a lot but it has dropped some for sure.

7. Other: Once in a while I feel muscle twitches or something akin to that in different places. I imagine it is things turning on and off. For example, I sometimes felt twitches in my abdomen where I used to get cramps. I feel muscle-like twitches between my legs sometimes and I don't know if I should attribute that to growth and changes or my imagination. Besides that one swelling incident, I haven't had any negative issues with Testosterone.


Hard Lesson #1: The Bra

It's true tomboys, no matter how much you protest your mother will still take you out and buy you a bra. I have traumatic memories of the girls and ladies clothing department of the Sears. Every year in August or September my mom would load us into the car and take us to the mall to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. Every year it was the same argument, until last year when I finally came out as trans to my mom.

Bra shopping was definitely one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life and having to go into the ladies delicates department of any store is nearly as terrifying as using a public washroom. Ladies clothes don't fit right, they're too tight, too stretchy, too lacy, frilly, glittery, pastel, all in all just too feminine. My mom had this rule, I don't know where she got it form but the rule was that until your tit could hold a pencil you didn't need a bra. Well I was so lucky that I didn't meet those criteria until I was ten. Yep. Ten years old before I had to be humiliated by the appearance of breasts large enough to hold a pencil, go to a store with my mom and buy a bra from a woman who at first glance thought I was a boy, and then wear it to school only to be taunted and teased.

I don't remember the gory details of how I came to own my first bra and if I really felt like I needed to remember it would take some serious drug induced regressive hypnotherapy to find that repressed nightmare.

I can't really tell you how self conscious I have been about my breasts.  Since the time I knew they were coming, I prayed they wouldn't get too big, you see the family is pretty chesty. I sort of ended up middle of the road: tits not enormously big but not small enough that I could pass easily as a guy, or play sports comfortably. I never enjoyed my breasts in a sexual way, and to this day my chest is an off limits space for my partner. I can't explain to you the complicated mess of emotions that I felt when someone tried to arouse me by touching my boobs. Panic, hate, guilt, nausea, describe a few feelings but it was deeper than that and something I can't put my finger on. It has been difficult for my partner and I to navigate the psychological influence physical parts of me have had on our relationship. The most important thing for us is to talk about it. Neither of us are mind readers and so no matter how difficult or awkward the situation we have to be honest and talk and take risks even when we feel most vulnerable.

Bras are awesome, on a sexy woman, in a Victoria's secret catalogue, or on the floor next to the bed. Not on my body. Ever. When I decided to transition I discovered this little thing called a binder and the best place to get them is an online medical supply store called Underworks. I bought two compression shirts from them and the moment I put one on I felt like a whole new guy. When I saw myself in the mirror for the first time I couldn't sop smiling. I had a chest that resembled the one I had always wanted. I stood up straight and decided that I would never ever wear a bra again. I began wearing them every day; to school, out in public, around the house. My girlfriend commented on how much taller I was. I was standing up straighter, more confident, more relaxed.

In two weeks I have a consultation appointment with a surgeon to have a bilateral mastectomy and male chest contouring procedure. I am hoping that at this time he will give me a surgery date and I will know for sure when I will be free of boobs forever! I am hoping that I will have the surgery before the end of this year but there are no guarantees in the land of medicine so all I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best. 


Learning to Cope

When junior high came along everything changed. Instead of knowing everyone at school like I had since the third grade, there were new people, new teachers, new students. My two best friends from elementary school moved away that summer and the first month of junior high there was a steep learning curve in humiliation and assimilation. I was laughed at because new and substitute teachers thought I was a boy. If someone wanted to hurt me, humiliate me they knew exactly what to say- my weakness was all too visible. Time to let the hair grow, learn to wear make-up, buy more feminine clothing, get a boyfriend, and learn to be a girl.

I stumbled through middle school trying to learn all the things that came naturally to other girls while still thinking I could be my boy self on the inside. Only a few opportunities were left where it was ok for me to be "more masculine". Shop class was one of them. I had an excellent teacher who didn't really bat an eyelash when I was the only girl in his eighth grade industrial education class. I wanted to learn all the things a father would teach his son and this was the next best thing. I learned about power tools, soldering, how to use a lathe, a router, a planer, a table saw, and how to develop BW film and prints. I learned about craftsmanship and took pride in my work. I think I learned to be a bit of a perfectionist. I wasn't afraid of the power tools and I never had any accidents. The guys in the class never gave me any trouble, never gave me a hard time, never thought there was a reason for me not to be there.

It was hard for me to try to learn to be a creature I never understood. It was as easy as learning to live as a giraffe or a lemur. What the hell did I know about being a girl except everything I was doing wrong? I hated playing sports ever since my breasts filled in. I was (and still am) so self conscious about them. I hated trying buy a bra or go into any room where I had to change with other girls and be reminded of how unhappy I was, how awkward it was to feel like there was a big joke that I had been given this body.

Jr. High was also the time when I got my period. In seventh grade gym class. As if the horrifying things happening to my body weren't bad enough. Now I had to get bloated and crampy and cranky and stick something inside me or bleed into what is basically a tiny diaper for a week every month. And then the migraines started. Everything started to go awry in the seventh grade. Over the course of the next three years I learned to smoke pot, and smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. I learned to cut myself and contemplated suicide. I learned to drink. I spent time getting into trouble, going places and doing things I shouldn't have been. And then it was time for high school and the whole scenario started over again.

My best friends moved away, new students, new teachers only this time there was no question of my gender. The guy friends I made hung out with guys and did guy stuff and dated girls. I didn't really have any friends that I hung out with, went places with did things with because they had moved and so I spent a lot of time alone. I made art, smoked, rode my bike, listened to music. I hated everything.

Now there was never any talk of gays or lesbians and if there was there was certainly nothing positive to be said about them. Transgender wasn't something I knew anything about until my late twenties. School was a place where you needed to fit into a category because without one you were utterly alone. Living a lie for such a long time is a hard habit to break and even though I never really had a boyfriend in all my time in school I spent an awful lot of time wishing that I was one.

Reading this makes me sound like I was a miserable timid kid all through school which was not the case. I have really good memories of school and my friends but I think that it would have been a lot different if I had known that it was ok for me to be gay, to be trans, to explore my own identity. Maybe if I had known about gays and lesbians and trans people I would have had something to call myself even if it didn't quite fit. Maybe it would have been easier to find someone who would be able to mentor me in the ways of men, or gays or butch lesbians. Maybe. But that was a long time ago.


The Other Tomboy

I remember as a kid being called a tomboy. It wasn't a good thing. I was made to believe that being a tomboy was something to be ashamed of (see the earlier post Found: One Butch Roadmap) and I think that maybe there was a grown up conspiracy to keep the implications of what tomboy might really mean a secret. When I was acting particularly "boyish" my mom would refer to me jokingly as her son: I wish I could remember that.

I have been digging around in my memory for specific moments when I thought about gender; when did it become something I understood? I have been trying to unearth all the times I thought about my body, my girlness or boyness, for incidents and times when I was aware of feeling awkward or empowered by my perception of myself. Looking back, I remember knowing there were other kids like me, other tomboys but even though we might have shared an interest in soccer, science, camping, or star trek, there was still something different about me. The other tomboys had long hair and still retained all the things that made them girls: fear of wet slimy things, dresses, being pretty, and a desire to bond with other females. Other tomboys outgrew their masculinity shedding it like a chrysalis and emerging as beautiful confident young women; my masculinity grew deep roots and formed thick fleshy tubers underground.

All through school I tried to ignore my inner tomboy and my frustrated butch. The results were disastrous. I will tell you all about the trials of jr. high and highschool in other posts. My point is that hiding your true self is never a good thing and no matter how hard you think it will be to live as yourself, I promise you it will be a thousand times harder trying to live as someone else. Tomboys and butches are tenacious, confident, intelligent and passionate but we are also very sensitive. And while we might appear to be aggressive, egotistical, and loud on the outside we have hearts that bruise easily and egos that can be damaged by little comments that germinate fears and expectations of what we should or shouldn't be.

As I continue sorting through my memory, digging up little anecdotes from the past I will do my best to rub some of the dirt off them and post them here for anyone who might be able to get something form them that they can use for their own life or their own transition.


Meeting Testosterone

I have been taking testosterone for four weeks now and I have to tell you that so far I am pretty happy. It's funny that you never realize how much different you can feel when your body is getting something that it has been craving your whole life. If I had known that I could have been this happy and confident and excited about being me I would have started this years ago!

The best thing I have discovered about testosterone is that I have a greater control over my emotions; I don't cry for no reason, drop into a sudden depression, or have to ride on a whacked out mood swing that follows a 28 day cycle.  I love testosterone for giving me a greater sense of stability, for levelling out what had been for years an emotional roller coaster. I feel less anxious and while there are still times when I feel uncertain and frustrated I know that with every injection I am getting closer to being the guy I have always dreamed about.

When I look at myself in the mirror now I am excited to see the guy I was meant to be slowly emerging. I am excited to see what he's going to look like, what he's going to sound like, how he is going to move differently. I feel like my spirit is expanding into spaces in my body it has never occupied and with each injection I can feel myself beginning to stand up straighter, walk more confidently and smile a lot more.

Another thing I love about testosterone is so far I haven't had any visits or gifts from mother nature and I really can't tell you how pleased I am about that. The worst part about having a period was always the emotional instability I felt and the cramping, my god the cramping. I SO do not miss that. The rest of it never bothered me too much and if it could have just come and go inconspicuously it would never have mattered. But now it's gone (hopefully for good) and I won't ever have to think about it again. The biggest change so far, besides my improved mood, is my voice. It has definitely started to drop and for nearly three weeks I have felt like I have cold. It cracks now and then and not that I could sing before but hey in the car or shower when I was all alone I enjoyed singing along with the radio. Now I sound like an angry cat if I try to sing and when I go outside to call my cats I can't make the high pitched "here kitty kitty" they're used to. Instead it sounds like a scratched up old record and there are definitely notes that my voice can no longer hit.

When I watch movies now I study the men and wonder how am going to look when I fill out? I wonder how much body hair I am going to get, if I am going to be bald, how deep my voice will get, if I'll be thick or lean, will my ass really disappear? I have read lots of things about testosterone and the exciting and scary thing is you can't ever tell. I don't know if it turns on certain genes and turns off other ones? My doctor says it is not going to alter my genetic make up, that I am still biologically female and therefore I will not be at greater risk of heart disease just because the genetic males in my family are high risk. The women in my family live to be in their nineties so it's likely one day I'll be a really old man!


Well what did I expect, poking myself with a sharp object once a week?

Sooner or later I suppose I should have expected to have an issue with injections and all too soon I have had my first problem. I gave myself the shot in my thigh Sunday night as usual and things seemed to go as normal. Monday I went to work and worked all day and came home and sat down on the couch for a couple hours and when I got up I felt the pain in my thigh. It's not like muscle pain it's more like swelling pain it feels like there is a little puddle in my leg and when I stand or walk or stretch my leg one way it hurts. I went to the gym last night and rode the stationary bike and it didn't bother me at all...until I stood up. It is definitely fluid of some sort and the only think I can think is that I hit a blood vessel on my way in. I didn't inject into a vessel I'm sure because I aspirated the syringe before I injected the suspension. So....I am hoping that whatever this is goes away and sooner than later I can learn and start injecting into my backside.

I have tried to find information about this swelling issue online but all I ever seem to find when talking about injecting testosterone is bodybuilding websites and that is not really helpful information as those guys are injecting retarded amounts of hormone into their bodies. While there is no redness or heat associated with the swelling I am hoping that maybe I just missed the muscle or landed the injection between muscles this time. Either way, a hot shower an ice pack and some ibuprofen are on the schedule for this evening.

Will keep you posted.


Hello, my name is (now) Jack

Before I actually admitted to everyone that I was planning on transitioning I sort of tested out the waters in the form of an art project. I created an art installation based on a government office that investigates the unnatural deaths of animals. To head up the office I invented an alter ego. He is a tall  guy from Faro, Yukon who took biological sciences and wildlife management at the Yukon University.

He was actually pretty well received. I had a few people figure out what was really going on but for the most part no one was really that concerned with him. He is a pretty shy guy but he made friends easily enough that I felt comfortable taking the next step.

Once I had decided to transition I had to decide was what I was going to call myself. It took me a long time to decide on a new name. I tried on many many names, searched through baby name websites and even thought up some names that weren't really even proper names. I had considered keeping the name I used for my alter ego but it wasn't really me. I had created so much background for him that he had become a real guy in his own right and I couldn't figure out how I could merge who he was in my mind with who I wanted to be.

I wanted to find a strong comfortable name that wasn't going to be hard to spell or easily mocked. I wanted to feel comfortable in my new name and when I looked in the mirror I wanted my name to feel familiar. I did a lot of research and finally chose Jack. It's a strong and quiet name but is common. But most importantly when I look in the mirror I feel like a Jack, it fits comfortably like a favourite pair of old blue jeans.

I changed my name at school right before Christmas and so before I went back for my final semester in January I sent an e-mail to all my instructors who already new me and explained the situation. I had one professor that didn't know me and that was the class that made me the most nervous. Almost everyone in the class knew me so this was quite a public coming out for me. A few heads whipped around and stared when she called out Jack and when it came time to discuss my work I intentionally avoided talking about being transgendered and what my relationship was with the coyote. I was really nervous, my hands were sweating and my mouth went dry and I didn't like that at all. I felt my heart pounding and I was worried about being called out and heckled but it didn't happen.

My first time in public as Jack was terrifying and awkward and I felt shy which is not usually how I feel. I felt my identity was under scrutiny and I was suddenly even more self conscious and unsure of myself. I worried about being accepted by acquaintances and I became hyper aware of my body, my voice, mannerisms,  my breasts giving me away, and I wished I had my packer but then worried that it would become a focus of what I am not and what I don't really have.

I was really nervous and edgy when I first began living as Jack but every day I grow more confident in my changing skin. While there are still awkward moments, I know that as testosterone begins to transform me I will feel less like people are second-guessing themselves when they meet me. One day soon there will not appear to be any discrepancy between the man standing in front of you and his name: he'll just be that guy Jack.


A Second Coming Out

I wanted to share with you the letter that I wrote to my family and friends when I decided it was time for me to tell everyone about my transition. If anyone reading this is trying to decide just when the right time is to come out,  I'll tell you it will likely be different for different people. Now I don't mean that like everyone chooses their coming out time I mean the people in your life will be ready to hear this news at different times.

The first person I told was my partner at the time. Actually she told me. We were watching a documentary about transgender people and she turned to me directly and said: you know, if you ever feel like this is something you need to do I would support you. I was shocked. I felt as if she was reading my mind and I felt vulnerable. I had never ever expressed my secret desire to be a man to anyone, ever and to have her look at me as if she knew my deepest secret was un-nerving. It was still a couple of years before I ever had the courage to admit that I wanted nothing more than to become the boy I had always imagined.

The hardest person I had to tell was my mom. After years and years of her hoping that I would become a more feminine lesbian, I broke down and told her why I didn't stand up straight, let my hair grow, or wear sweater vests like Ellen. I told her how ashamed I was of my breasts and that was why I wore baggy shirts and never stood up straight. I also told her that I had asked my doctor for a referral to the gender clinic in Edmonton. I probably should have waited for her to be sitting down. She was surprised to say the least. We talked for a long time. It has been over a year since we had that conversation and now I am fairly confident that she sees who I have always been and things between us are good.

I talked to my partner and my two closest friends about my decision and I received support from them which boosted my confidence to tell my family. Eventually, I decided that I needed to tell my extended family and my friends. I didn't really know what to say or where to start so I read some letters written by other transgendered people when they came out to their friends and coworkers.  This is a portion of the letter that I sent them:

Most of you have known me long enough that this will probably not come as a surprise to you. If you are shocked by what I am about to tell you, I don’t really know what to say. Please read this all the way to the end and take some time to think about it. If you would like to respond, please email me or call me and we’ll go for a coffee or a beer.

Life is a complicated thing and we do not choose the person with whom we fall in love, nor do we get to choose our family. When you love with someone it is their spirit, their soul you love not necessarily their body. If someone you love were to go blind, deaf,  lose a limb, be scarred or disfigured in some way by an accident, gain weight, go bald, grow a beard, or suddenly wake up with webbed toes,  you would not love them any less; their spirit is the same it is just the package that is different.

Since I was little, I have been “mistaken” as a boy and have even been chased out of washrooms by angry women who are extremely vocal in their insistence that I am in the wrong place. I am usually called ‘sir’ when I am served by someone in retail. I have felt like an outsider for a long time because I have always felt like a boy trapped in a girl’s body. I have never felt like a woman nor have I ever wanted to be what society thinks a woman should be. I have always had the spirit and soul of a boy inside me and I am working on getting to a place where I feel my body will reflect my soul more accurately. With the support of my friends, family, I am finally in the process of becoming the person I have always been inside.

I am transgendered. This means that my biological sex and gender identity do not match. I am biologically female but I identify as a male. I feel like I am a boy and have always been a boy.  I am not having a sex change or pursuing a desire to become a biological male.

This does not make me “straight”. Heterosexual and homosexual are used to reference body morphology rather than gender identity. While body morphology may change in a transgendered individual their sexual orientation does not. So.... the terms used are actually androphilic and gynephilic. Androphilic describes someone who is attracted to a person of the same biological sex regardless of their gender identity and Gynephilic refers to someone who is attracted to a person of the opposite biological sex regardless of gender identity....this means that I am still gay even though I will identify as a boy.
I am not ashamed of who I am and I would be happy to talk you any time. I know that this will take some time for everyone to digest and get used to but I hope that in time it won’t be something you think about, that I will just be Marcus, your friend, nephew, cousin.

Anyhow, that's the letter that I sent to my friends and family. I got responses from most of my family and all of my friends and I was surprised by the amazing love and support I received. I don't know why I was surprised but realized that instead of being afraid all I needed to do was to give my friends and family the opportunity to show me how much they care. I am a very lucky boy. 


Job Hunting and Horror Movies

I have been up north now for two weeks and have been busy applying for jobs and trying to get unpacked and moved in and set up a space in which I can work. I am a little frustrated that I haven't got a job yet or even an interview for something permanent and promising. As it stands now, I will be working a few hours a week (for trade in commodity or pocket money) building working bikes from other bikes. Maybe in this endeavour I can build myself a good bike in lieu of a pay cheque and upgrade from my Wal-Mart special.

Applying for jobs is the easy part. It is the interviews that are going to be tough. Are you a girl or a boy? is not usually a typical question that arises in a job interview but I am always afraid that it will. When applying to work at a mine, it didn't occur to me at first that I might be able to work there. Mine workers live in camp for two weeks at a time- in dorms. I asked a friend of mine who works away and found out that where she works only the workers employed by the mine get private rooms at camp. Anyone that works as a contractor or for a contractor lives in a dorm, of which there are only two: one for women, one for men. So now I am worrying if I do get an interview with one of them and have to decline a really good job because there is no place for me to sleep.

And exactly how do you approach that subject with a prospective employer? Right now there is absolutely nothing legally preventing someone from hiring me because I am transgendered. I have no protection under the charter of rights and freedoms.  Bill C-389 seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination. It had its second reading in parliament only two days ago. Welcome to the 21st century.

So what am I to do? Look around where you work, how many transgendered, transexual, gender bending, gender queer, or androgynous individuals are at your workplace?  Would you work with one of us or are we too scary? Would your boss hire me or use the excuse that it would be too awkward for everyone else in the workplace? Is it okay for your boss to make that decision for you?

Okay maybe you don't care, maybe it doesn't matter, or maybe working with me really scares the crap out of you. I mean it's like working with any queer or person of a different culture, some of that will rub off on you right? You might suddenly wake up one morning and just feel more Chinese than you've ever felt. You might choose a tie that actually matches your shirt. Or worst case scenario, you might suddenly be open minded and willing to try new things, like Indian rice, flannel shirts, or warming lube. The horror!!

How terrifying would it be if you wake up one morning and feel like you could actually ask me a question, have a conversation, and educate yourself. What happens when you realize we have something in common? What if we enjoy the same things like fishing, hiking, bad jokes, and discover we both hate lima beans, horseradish, and little pink umbrellas in a cocktail?  How scary is that? I mean there has been loads of horror movies made about just that, hasn't there?


Old Friends, New Friends, Red Friends, Blue Friends

I have to tell you that when I was contemplating telling people about my transition I was terrified. I wasn't sure what anyone's reaction would be. I was afraid of being rejected again, and I will explain that in a moment.

I am not really a jealous person but I must say that there are two people in this word of whom I am really jealous.  Each of them has a best friend, someone who has known them for their whole lives who has grown up with them, experienced heartache and joy with them. They have a close relationship with someone else on this planet who isn't their lover, or sibling, or obligated to them in any way. They chose each other.

When I was doing research for one of my art projects about HIV and AIDS, I remember reading an interview with photographer Nan Goldin. She lost many of her friends to the disease and spoke about how with their deaths there was a loss and terrible grief. Not only were her friends stories disappearing but when they died they took a part of her with them. With every friend she lost, a piece of her history stored in their memories disappeared. She said something about how if all her friends died there would be no one left that knew her, no one left that would know her story and that her history would be buried with their bodies.

That is sort of how I feel and why I was afraid to tell my friends about transitioning. I have cultivated few real friendships in my life. Many have been cut short by circumstances beyond the control of a child. Most of my best friends from childhood or school were lost in moves. When we moved after my parents divorce I started over; when their parents scattered across the country my friends from school  disappeared one by one. After high school many of us went our separate ways promising to keep in touch but not ever really committing to it. The one friend I still had after high school "cut the strings" after I came out of the closet, Merry Christmas, please don't call me again.

So here I am at 35 with no one who really knows me. No long time buddy who knows my story. There is no one that remembers that nine year old kid in rugby pants with the masking tape haircut. No one who knows the horror of the ten-year-old's first perm, the disappointment of the six-year-old who had to take figure skating instead of hockey, the sixteen year old who had an awful recurring wet dream about her schoolmate.  I have no history except what I remember. I have no single friend who could tell my story from beginning to end, no one who has been there for all the good and all the bad.

Because I have had no one choose to stick it out with me I am a little afraid of new people. They scare me. They are unpredictable and strange. Now I feel even more isolated because any new friends I make will have to be told the truth and that makes me vulnerable to hate, hurt, misunderstanding and even violence. How long do you wait before you tell someone you're a tranny anyway? 2 weeks? 2 months? 6 months? 3 years? When does not telling them become lying?

I do have to say though, that I must be doing something right. The friends I have chosen have shown me a great amount of support and love. They ask questions that make them uncomfortable in an effort to understand, to by sympathetic. Sure there is a lot of talk amongst them speculating, questioning, wondering with each other but they have never made me feel awkward or insecure or shameful. I have been pleasantly surprised by my friends I have to say. The support they have given me when I most needed it is incredible. The encouragement from my friends to follow my heart and become the spirit I need to be has sincerely made my decision easier.  It has made my fear wane and my courage grow.  And being surrounded by people who are open-minded,  accepting, caring, loving, supportive, and sympathetic makes me see I was a bit of a coward; as it turned out all I had to do was give them the opportunity to show me how much they care.


Back to the Gym

Yeah I know, the title makes it sound like I only had a short break from the gym but really I think it has been over ten years since I stepped foot in a gym. Now the last gym I actually had a membership for was (get ready) Only Women's Fitness and I met some really great ladies there. There were no men so it was immediately apparent to everyone that I was a butch lesbian and I received the same kind of disgusted sideways looks in the change room that I received in any other public washroom only now there was no question of my gender because I had already been pre-screened.

I worked out and went to fitness classes and started to get into pretty good shape but then I moved out of Alberta to BC and the prospect of going to a gym in a small town was a little more intimidating. There was only one gym and it was of course co-ed. So instead of the gym I joined the ladies recreational hockey team since I knew some of the girls that played. Then I busted my hand off the end of my arm and had to wait two years to be able to play again.

Now my first visit to ladies fun league hockey was really not too bad. I was stared down in the dressing room by one woman who decided not to return after a few weeks. I am still uncertain if there was any talk I was unaware of, you know the kind, the things you say behind someone's back when they aren't around.  Anyway, I played hockey and got into better shape, started eating better and had quit smoking after my third wrist surgery. I was becoming more fit and had to invest in a whole new wardrobe. It was here that I also met two of my very dearest friends.

So now that I am back at the gym I have a couple of things that are really of concern. First, I can't exactly use a change room since I only have two to choose from and neither one fits right now.  Thank god it's summer and I can pretty much show up in shorts and leave without anyone being any the wiser. Having said that the next problem will be the winter, which comes painfully early here in Yellowknife I'm told, so by September or October for sure there will be snow and I will not have the luxury of showing up and leaving in the same workout gear. I will eventually need to use a change room and the thought of that makes my heart pound. But not in the good cardio workout kind of way.

Secondly, until I have my top surgery I feel very self conscious at the gym wearing a bra and wearing a binder is likely unsafe, consider the chafing and blisters, not to mention its too tight and uncomfortable and stupid hot. I am afraid of suffocation and death. Right now I kind of feel like I did when I was twelve and went to bed knowing all my clothes fit but when I woke up the next day none of them did. I am at that awkward in between stage.

I am not a part of gym culture, I don't understand all the girl/boy etiquette. I am unsure of the machines and the weights and where to look or not look when a hot girl is jogging on the treadmill. I really want to work on my pecs before surgery but I don't want to feel so self conscious that I no longer want to go to the gym. So for now, I will go in my shorts and ride the bike, avoid the change rooms and try not to talk to anyone. I will wear my ipod and pedal, watch the tv, sweat, and leave hoping that I don't ever need to pee.

This transition is giving me the chance to live in the boy body I have always wanted. Until the Tesosterone starts to work its magic and the surgery removes the final spoiler, I will have to sneak in and out of the gym without changing clothes, or showering, or talking too much to anyone. I hope that come winter I will finally feel like I have a place I can change out of my parka and into my gym shorts so that I can finally work my way into the body I have always dreamed of having.


New Life, New Timetable

This past weekend was probably one of the best weekends I have ever had. Having been out of school for over a month, out of work for just as long, packing and moving twice, another surgery, and dealing with the changes relating to my transition, life has been a little stressful. This weekend, I was blessed in so many ways just at the time when my spirit needed a boost. I found I have renewed energy and enthusiasm to pursue my desire to be a successful practising artist.

I got to hear Bob Barton, Richard Van Camp, Annabel Lyon, Cathleen With, James Pokiak, Sharon Butala, and Ivan Coyote tell their stories at the northWords Writer's Festival. Ivan Coyote was a fantastic storyteller and if you ever get a chance to go and listen to a reading in person I highly recommend it.

At the procrastinator's bootcamp workshop I picked up some great tips to avoid any further laziness when it comes to both with my writing and my art practice. While I recognize the need for a break from my creative endeavors, I realize I must be more diligent in scheduling time around a real job (when I get one) to focus on both my writing and art. I have some amazing opportunities in front of me and to not capitalize on them would be stupid. I look forward to meeting some great challenges in the near future.

Until I find a job, I will be working a diligent schedule that includes blocks of time devoted to art, writing, working out, cleaning house, fishing, brain storming, chores, and blocks of free time to visit with friends, check email, set goals, apply for grant funding, and of course, apply for more work! As always I will keep you posted.

Also thanks to everyone for all their supportive comments, I really appreciate it.


Thank you, Brother

Tomorrow, I am going to meet Ivan Coyote. This is a huge thing for me and I am really pretty nervous. This guy has been my virtual big brother, the guy I turn to for answers. His books are the place I go to find companionship, brotherhood, belonging. I have never met him, seen him heard him. It's going be weird to meet someone who has been such a huge part of my life, such an important mentor, and he has no idea who I am. It's like I have grown up with him, hurt with him, celebrated, laughed, and shook my head and thought, "Oh Ivan," but that whole time I was invisible to him. He has no idea how I grew up, how much I admire him, how we met in a bookstore in 1998....

I grew up on the shiny buckle of Central Alberta's Bible belt, a place where there was never any mention of anything out of the ordinary; no gays, no lesbians, no queers, no bisexuals, no transvestites, no transgendered people, not even a whisper of their existence. There was just hard working, farming, church going straight people, searching out their perfect mate at church socials and community picnics to settle down, have kids, and begin the whole cycle again.

I came out when I was twenty-three, shacked up with my first girlfriend, and got a divorce. Coming out was without question the most liberating experience of my life but it was also one of the most difficult. My life at this time was sort of one Jerry Springer episode after another without the crowd or a helpful(?) bald Security guy named Steve.  I spent a lot of time at the new big box bookstore reading and drinking coffee, avoiding arguments with the femme at home, and the realization that I had taken the easy way out of a bad situation.

Eventually, I learned that no matter what I think my powers are, there are some things I just can't control.  Epiphanies are beautiful creatures but the sting of their wicked clawed slap can leave you tasting blood for years.

There used to be sections in my bookstore hideout: Gay and Lesbian Studies was tucked in neatly between Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies. It was there, I stumbled across a black and yellow book that changed my life. It was called Boys Like Her and I knew exactly what that meant. I was a boy like her, and finding that book meant I was no longer alone.

That was the first time I had ever read anything by Ivan Coyote and I had no idea how much his words would truly change my life. The story that has stuck with me the most is No Bikini. I could have been that kid. I desperately wanted to be that kid at six; topless, fearless, and anonymous.  Our stories are nearly interchangeable except Ivan was way more brave than I. After Boys Like Her I was hooked, had a secret, and read everything he wrote.

Ivan was always there, a big brother I could count on, a brother who knew exactly what it was to be me. He knew how it felt to be different, what it was to be afraid, the awkwardness of ill-fitting pronouns, clothes, and washrooms. He understood the beauty and danger of femmes, the importance of good coffee, cold winters, and family. And the boy could write. I could open the pages of one of his books and be reassured, comforted, brought back to reality. He reminded me to laugh; life isn't perfect but it isn't tragic. It's precious, fleeting, and full of love, heartbreak, and amazing moments if only you stop long enough to appreciate them.

Thanks, Ivan. Thanks my brother.


Found: One Butch Roadmap

Today I read an old article about butches in the magazine Xtra written by my hero and mentor Ivan Coyote. He titled his article A Butch Roadmap and I read it today because I am feeling a little lost and looking for some direction.

The first time I heard the word butch it was whispered at me... keep it up and people will start calling you butch... I didn't understand at the time was that butch was supposed to be derogatory, demeaning, apparently it was something I was NOT supposed to want.  Of course, I loved the word from the first time I heard it. Butch. It sounded tough, cool, boy. It made me think of jean jackets, motorcycles, leather, and cigarettes.

Butch, what does it mean to be butch and why should or would someone who identifies as butch ever be afraid to admit it? I was always proud to be butch. It gave me an identity that made sense. It gave me a place in the world, a place on the map,  a slot on the spectrum, a neighbourhood in the GLBT community. I had a place. I had a purpose. I could say without question, I am butch and people would know what that meant. But now I have questions. As a trans guy not entirely comfortable describing myself as a man can I still identify as butch? Do I have to get some sort of permission or fill out a change of identity form at the department of lesbian taxonomy?

Butch is where I feel comfortable, it is the one place I have felt at home, where I have never had to make excuses for being tomboy, a place where it's ok for me to be masculine, to express the maleness of my spirit. I have been able to express the female side of myself here as well. Although usually in a quiet private space, butch allowed me to express the softer, more emotional, more nurturing side of my spirit. But there was always something missing: my body never fit my spirit. I am trying to rectify that situation with my transition but currently I am feeling more lost than ever. Butch was never about sex or about gender for me. Butch was about being able to describe myself as something, to express my true spirit, and now I fear I will lose that identity; I will lose the only context in which to express my spirit and all because my body will change.

So what am I if I am not a woman, not a man? If I am stuck someplace in between? I have to choose to be one or the other in public when I am just another anonymous face in the crowd. But when I am among my friends and family I just want to be Marcus, I just want to be me, I just want to be butch.

You can read Ivan's article here: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/A_butch_roadmap-7063.aspx 


Thirteen to Thirty-Five

I never seem to be able to conjure a memory about feeling different than other kids on demand instead, every once in a while they seem to sneak up on me. I don't really remember every being obsessed with my body, weighing myself, checking every inch of my skin for blemishes, plucking unsightly hairs or whatever other teenagers do for hours behind the locked door of a bathroom. Since starting T however I find myself spending a lot more time looking for signs that it's actually working. With the exception of sounding like I have something stuck in my throat, I secretly wonder if the endocrinologist slipped me a placebo. I am always on the lookout for new body hair, a receding hairline, bigger muscles or any other sign of a second puberty. Aside from some acne, an increased appetite, and gaining a few pounds around the middle (which could also be from my recent lapse into lazy eating habits coupled with an inability to work after my fourth arm surgery and an inhumane number of hours behind the wheel) I have discovered that I really wasn't that familiar with my body to begin with. All those soft blonde "new" hairs were already there, even the ones in my nose.

 I used to spend time behind a locked bathroom door but it wasn't to primp and preen, not to condition, or back comb, or curl and spray my hair. It wasn't to pluck eyebrows, apply make up, or choose which dress would fit best over a perfectly stuffed bra. Nope, I spent a lot of time flexing, making muscles, imagining what I'd look like with a moustache, a beard,  a goatee, or five o'clock shadow. I would cover my breasts and imagine what it would be like to be free of them, to have a flat hairy chest, to wear only shorts to the beach, to ride my bike and feel the wind on my bare skin. And only a couple of days ago, there I was at thirty-five staring into the mirror wishing for the same things as that thirteen year old kid looking back at me.

Now here I am, nearly two thousand kilometres and 21 years outside of that bathroom with an official change of name certificate, a new birth certificate, and another shot of testosterone on the schedule for tonight. Soon me and that kid will be back in the same body, the one we always imagined.  And then...