Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back To Life, Back To Reality

I returned to work yesterday, after being off for about a month helping my wife recover.  She returns to work this Saturday, if she can stand it. Her wound is still pretty big, but she's a lot more mobile now.  She still can't sleep in a bed, but hopefully she can sit up long enough to work a few shifts.  I want her to take all the time she needs, but she's already told her work she'll be back Saturday.

I felt guilty for having taken so much time off work, but simultaneously guilty for leaving my wife alone to go to work yesterday.  Work itself was light, and would have been downright boring if I hadn't had so much to catch up on.  I had nearly 6,000 e-mails in my inbox, no exaggeration.  Luckily 90% of those e-mails were auto-generated notifications I could delete without looking, so it only took a couple of hours to clean my inbox.  I kept getting shaky now and then, and having trouble remember what order to do things in.  Not just with work processes, but even in normal stuff.  Like I was washing my hands in the bathroom, and while trying to use the soap I accidentally reached over and grabbed a paper towel instead.  It's like my muscle memory has gone haywire.

A couple of nights ago I dreamed that my wife came upstairs while I was sleeping, and stood at the foot of my bed, telling me to wake up.  I looked up and she was standing there holding her stomach, with blood on her clothing around the wound.  She said, “We need to go to the hospital.”  Then I woke up for real, and she dissipated.  Took me a while to get back to sleep.

But overall, things are getting better.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

6:32 PM, 9/6

My wife is currently in the hospital.  She's been having stomach problems for the last couple of days, and today we decided it was bad enough to go to the emergency room.  We got there around 10:00 this morning, and spent a lot of time waiting.  She got a CT scan, and it turns out she has something called Diverticulitis, and they have to do Laparoscopic surgery to remove a small piece of her colon.  She's going to be in the hospital for a few days.

I've been very stoic all day, to the point where I was wondering what was wrong with me.  She has intestinal blockage, I have emotional blockage.  Then I got home, called her mother, and it really started hitting me during the call.  Once I hung up, I broke down in tears.  It was the first time today I haven't had to be strong for her, and I just bawled.  It was probably the worst crying fit I've had in 15 years.  I was braying like a hyena, grateful that no one else was there to see it, whilst simultaneously sad that no one else was there to comfort me.

It's silly in a way, as I know she's going to be okay.  Sure all surgeries have some risk, but the doctor didn't sound like this was going to be a particularly harrowing operation.  He said there's a 15% chance she could end up with a colostomy, but if that happens we'll deal with it.  I'm trying not to think about how much more debt this is going to put us in, but we'll deal with that too.  At least we have insurance.

Right this minute she's probably still in surgery.  I've been sent home to get some things, and will stay home until she's settled into a room.  I'll go back out to see her tonight, though they tell me that she'll probably be so loopy tonight that she won't even recognize me.  The waiting is going to kill me.

Update 12:30 AM, 9/7

I was wrong.  Waiting is not the hardest part, unless you mean waiting for her painkillers to work.  I thought it was rough sitting around waiting for time to go back to the hospital, but once I arrived things were terrible.  It was probably one of the worst nights of my life (the other top contenders also involve taking her to the hospital), and of course her night was 1000 times worse than mine.

The doctors told me she'd be loopy tonight, and that it was barely even worth my stopping by because she wouldn't be coherent until tomorrow.  But of course I had to see her.  I got to the room about 10 minutes before they wheeled her bed in.  She was not out of it.  She was tired, but she was very coherent, and in great pain.  She kept screaming over and over, and it just killed me.  I stood by her bed, feeding her ice chips, letting her squeeze my hands, and wishing over and over again that we could just rewind the last few days and do something else instead.

Her nurse was having a bad night, and wasn't good at communicating with my wife.   The machinery kept malfunctioning, and had to be reassembled several times.  There's a breathing monitor that goes off every time she stops breathing at a certain pace.  The problem is, whenever she falls asleep, she starts breathing differently, setting the alarm off.  So she can only sleep for 10 seconds at a time.  I don't know how she's going to get any sleep tonight.

I didn't want to leave her.  I really didn't.  I was going to sit in the chair all night.  But I knew I wouldn't get any sleep.  I'd be okay with that, but I have to sleep sometime, and it would be better for both of us if I'm awake during the daylight hours.  So we agreed that I should head home.  I'm home right now, and I'm going to try to get some sleep, but I doubt it will be much.  I'm heading back out there as soon as I'm up.

Update 6:00 AM, 9/7

I had a hard time falling asleep; I kept seeing images of the doctors cutting her open.  I woke up at 5:30 after sleeping a good 4 hours straight.  I woke up crying, feeling like an asshole for being able to sleep at all while my wife might still be screaming in pain across town.

Update 8:21 PM, 9/7

When I walk past strangers at McDonalds or Wal-Mart or wherever, I find myself resenting these random people for the dumbest reasons.  It's like, how dare they think they have their own problems while my wife is in the hospital.  These people don't know pain.  I'm usually not like that, but tragedy brings out my selfish instincts.

She was a bit better today.  Her family came to see her, as did a couple of friends, and another friend is going to see her tomorrow.  My current plan, despicable as it is, is to go to work the rest of the week.  I need to save my days off until she gets out of the hospital, so I can use them while she's recovering.  She's well cared for this week.  Her mother is going to visit her every day, and I'm going to stop by every night. 

Well, that's the plan.  But I don't know if I can handle work this week.  I'm so shaken.  And I'm starting to get cold symptoms.  It's probably just allergies and stress, though.  I almost ran off the road on the drive home; my mind wandered for a second while I was approaching a sharp curve.  When I got home, once again I no longer had to be strong, and as soon as I turned off the engine I started bawling like a baby.  It only lasted about 30 seconds, though.

So, work tomorrow.  One of two things is going to happen.  Working will keep my mind off my wife, or I'll get stressed out and break down.  But I've been there nearly 16 years, and they like me.  I have two weeks of vacation left this year, a float day, and about a year's work of sick leave.  If I have to leave work, they'll let me, despite being understaffed.

I bought a 12 pack of canned soda this morning, then stupidly left them in the back of the car, in direct sunlight.  When I went out for lunch, two of the cans had ruptured and spilled all over the back seat.  I will try to clean it up when I have time.  I don't have time for much of anything right now; if I did I'd head back to the hospital.  There's a lot to do around the house.  I'm updating this blog a paragraph at a time as I think of things.

We were going to go to a comic convention later this month, but we're going to have to cancel now.  We're thinking about still going but have her in a wheelchair, but first I'm going to try to get a refund somehow.  It's simpler if we just don't go.

Oh, and remember a few days ago when a former DM of mine posted something on Facebook that I found offensive?  Today, I was at the hospital checking my Facebok status, and another friend of mine posted something that ticked me off a little.  A meme that said "A Christian can disagree with gay marriage and still love gay people."  This friend is closer to me than that former DM; in fact, this one is the wife of my best friend. If it were a normal week I would probably reply with a ranty wall of text, but I just don't have the time or energy this week.

My brother did, though.  I read their discussion in the replies.  Offensive friend claims she shared it by accident, but still agrees with the sentiment.  She says she isn't against gay marriage (or is at least undecided), but that she agrees in the general statement - that loving gay people is separate from wanting them to be allowed to get married.  That's some funny definition of love she has.  But again, I'm just going to have to let this one go.

Update 10:33 PM, 9/8

Last night I went home about 8 so I could get some rest. I was having bad allergies (probably intensified by stress) so I took some Nyquil to help me sleep. I finally drifted off around 11 maybe. Then at 1 AM the phone rang. My wife asked me to come back, it was an emergency. She wouldn't say what over the phone.

One dangerous, drug-addled, sleep-deprived drive later, I reached her room. Apparently the mix of drugs was making her sleepwalk. She had woken up (sort of) and didn't know where she was, so she fought her way out of the bed, hurting her dressings in the process.

I stayed all night, and didn't sleep a wink. I tried for the first hour, but she kept getting up. Finally I just resigned myself to sitting up all night. I had to stop her from getting up at least ten times, and she had a different story each time. "We have to go to the baseball game" or "I'm going to the mall."  One time it was even "It's a big world out there and we have to see it."

But worst were the times she woke up and didn't know where she was. I kept having to tell her she was in the hospital and why, and it broke my heart every time. It was like 50 First Dates. I know she hates hospitals, and rediscovering she's in one over and over is Hell. My only consolation is she probably won't remember much of this.

I stayed up until her mother arrived around 10 AM. Then I went home, made some important calls to her work, and napped. I slept very deeply for one hour, then the phone rang. It was more of her work stuff. I tried to fall back asleep, but I couldn't stop thinking of all the things I had to do. Then my wife called again and I had to go back.

I got to nap a bit in the fold-out chair. It wasn't the least bit comfy, but I slept a little better being near her.  But I'm really pissed.  I want to help as much as I can, but I simply can't function with out some amount of sleep.  I can't be of any help if I can't sleep a little now and then.  I respect the medical crew and I know they have lots of patients to check on.  But it's not my job to stay up all night to keep her from sleepwalking.  If I hadn't been there, she would have torn her dressings out again and again. What do single people do? 

I realize they can't spare an orderly to sit in one room all night.  The other alternative would be to strap her to a bed, but waking up restrained is one of her worst nightmares.  She's claustrophobic, fidgety, and has to have things a certain way.  If she was strapped to a bed she wouldn't stop screaming.

Of course they're changing her medication mix tonight, so we'll see how that goes.  Every time we ask how long we'll be here, it gets longer. First it was "until the end of the week", then Monday, now next Wednesday. Having to redress the wound after her escapades probably added a day or two.

We both keep having trouble accepting the reality of it. This doesn't happen to us, must be a dream. This is a life-changing event, and I don't know what things will be like once it's all over. I keep trying to find bright sides. When this is over, she'll have gone over a week without smoking, so maybe that will stick. But I'd rather she smoke 10 times as much than go through this. Yeah, there's an irony in there somewhere but get over it, I'm sleep deprived.  

I'm home right now, and about to try to get some sleep.  I hope the phone doesn't ring, but I'll still come running if she needs me.  I do want to help, but there just aren't enough hours in the day.  There are things that need to be done around here, and I keep getting further behind.  And if I have to stay awake all night while she's sleepwalking, that's fewer conscious hours I have to spend with her when she's actually awake and missing me.  

Update 11:21 PM, 9/9

This was funny... well, not that funny, but right now I have to look for humor where I can find it.  My wife is hooked up to several alarms, that will beep loudly at various times for various reasons.  One goes off when she's breathing wrong, because she's supposed to take deep breaths.  Another beeps when her IV gets blocked, another beeps if it can't detect her pulse, and so on.

My best friend called to see how we were doing.  As soon as he called, my wife had a coughing fit.  This is actually a good thing, because she's supposed to cough in order to avoid pneumonia.  But the coughing made her breathing alarm go off.  Bending her arm too far while coughing blocked her IV, causing another alarm to start.  Then she knocked her pulse monitor off, causing it to think she was flatlining.  So on the other end of the line, my friend heard all these alarms going off, and for all he knew it had been doing that all day. 

I tried talking to him for a couple of minutes, because I miss him.  But I could barely hear him, so I finally told him I'd talk to him later.  Then, as soon as I hung up, all the alarms stopped simultaneously.  I was like, "Seriously?"  My wife and I both laughed.  It's nice to laugh.  I'll try not to think about how long it took any hospital personnel to come in to see what was happening.

Update 12:30 AM, 9/10

God damn it, more bad dreams. I've been sleeping on the couch, because it's easier to imagine that she's in the bed upstairs instead of the house being empty.  I had barely fallen asleep when I had a hallucination/dream that woke me up.  I thought I heard her voice say something clearly in my ear (I can't remember what she said), then I thought I saw her sitting in the recliner opposite me.  Still in her hospital gown, looking sort of zombie-ish.  

I hope I can fall back asleep, but my heart's kind of racing. I'm going to try going back to work tomorrow, so I need to sleep tonight.  There's only so much time I can get off work, and I want to save it for when she's home so I can take care of her.  It's going to be hard not seeing her until I get off work tomorrow night, but it will be even harder if I'm exhausted.

Update 8:57 AM, 9/10

I slept okay eventually.  Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up for a few minutes and made a little noise, and two cats came running up to make sure I was okay.  My cold/allergies/whatever is getting worse, and I miss my wife, but I'm going to take Dayquil and try to go to work.  I'll make sure work knows I might have to run out of there.

The doctor visited my wife last night while I was away, and apparently let slip something that bothers me.   We think the insurance is pressuring him to get her out of the hospital as quickly as possible.  I guess they know I'm going to hit my out-of-pocket maximum, so they want to pay as little as possible.  The woman has a tube sticking out of her stomach right now, but by all means lets rush things.  Of course, I want her to come home as soon as possible too, but only if it's safe.

Update 1:08 AM, 9/11

On the way to work this morning, I almost took a wrong turn towards the hospital. It was actually painful to turn the wheel and head to work instead.  At work, I could almost actually see the invisible eggshells people were walking on around me.  Turns out my work is very nice about time off, though, so I should be able to take plenty of time to care of her when she gets out of the hospital.

I went straight there after work, and stayed pretty late.  She looks a lot better, and is connected to fewer tubes and wires.  On the downside, she no longer has a direct connection to painkillers, and is on pills instead.  So she's made a lot of progress but she's in a lot more pain.  More good news, the doctor thinks she'll be able to go home on Sunday.  I'm crossing my fingers.

Update 9:24 PM, 9/13

There's a strong chance she'll be able to come home tomorrow.  She still has a tube coming out of her stomach right now, but it's getting removed tomorrow, and I'm getting there early so they can train me how to change the dressings on her wound.

Update 8:20 PM, 9/14

She's home now.  We're having some difficulty finding ways to make her comfortable, and we've got a long road to recovery ahead of us, but I'm glad she's here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Confederate Flag

It amazes me that people are so attached to this flag.  People who never gave this flag much thought in their entire lives, are suddenly up in arms because "politically correct liberals" want to take it away.  Look, I'm not going to go into a history of the flag; there's plenty of other sites doing that right now.  Nor am I going to argue whether or not it's a symbol of hate.  Like any symbol, it's going to mean different things to different people.  Personally, I'm happy to take measures to avoid offending other people... within reason. 

What's "within reason"?  There's no clear cut definition, but I know it when I see it.  It's a combination of how much work it is for me, versus how much it offends them and why. 

If someone asks me not to use the word "moist" in their presence because it makes them nauseous, I'll do my best to remember.  Yes it's silly, but it's a little thing that means more to them than it does to me.  If someone asks me to cut off my pinky finger because even numbers are against their religion, that's not within reason.  Somewhere in the middle is the confederate flag. 

Personally I've never had any affection for that particular flag.  Orange is my least favorite color, and the flag has a pretty ugly design in my opinion.  I'm not a huge fan of the South, despite having lived here my entire life.  So I'm already biased.  But for the fun of it, let's say I love the flag.  Maybe I had one in my nursery, and always had one on my wall growing up.  Maybe orange is my favorite color, and my favorite TV series was Dukes of Hazzard.  Maybe I have strong Southern roots, and the flag reminds me of all my aunts and cousins.  Maybe it brings back all kinds of warm fuzzy memories of growing up barefoot, catching crawdads in the crick.  Maybe the racism connection is all new to me, and until a few weeks ago I'd only associated the flag with downhome goodness and Southern hospitality.

If I were that person, and just now realized how offensive the confederate flag is to some people, would I be willing to toss all my flags in the trash and live without seeing it? 

...Honestly, I don't know.  I have to admit, I've been resistant to change in the past.  There have been times when I found out that something I've been saying is now considered offensive, and my first reaction was, "What crybabies.  I don't mean anything offensive when I say it, so they can just get over it."  It's not mature, but it's human nature.  I usually come around eventually, once I've had time to do my own research. 

But again, it's how much it means to you versus how much it means to them.  If I were as attached to the flag as the hypothetical person I've described above, I could see a conflict.  But I've never met anyone with such an attachment.  I can't recall any of my acquaintances ever wearing a confederate flag on their clothing, or seeing one on their wall, or seeing any connection between them and the flag at all.  And yet, these same people are suddenly willing to die for the ugly thing. 

And make no mistake, they are being offensive on purpose.  They are so against political correctness, that they automatically side against whatever the "social justice warriors" are rallying for.  If the "evil liberal media" were to speak out against drinking cyanide, these proud Southerners would climb over each other to poison themselves. 

For most of these people, removing the flag from their lives would be easy.  It might take no action at all.  It might take throwing out a beer cozy or two, or replacing your "Southern And Proud" vanity plate.  It would mean so little to them, but it means so much to the people who associate the confederate flag with racism. 

Everyone wants to be proud of who they are.  It's a fundamental psychological need, necessary for mental health.  You have to like yourself in order to keep going.  Otherwise life just seems pointless. 

In my opinion, the best thing to be proud of is your accomplishments.  There's nothing wrong with being proud of your country, or hometown, or high school, or whatever, but for the most part you didn't have much of a hand in making those things what they are.  Still, if you don't have a lot of accomplishments of your own, you might as well be proud of your surroundings.

It's when that pride turns into jingoism that I get annoyed.  It's okay to be proud to be an American.  It becomes a problem when you're so proud that you think America can do no wrong.  It's a problem when you think America should never change.  It's a problem when you think America is the best country on Earth, despite never having visited any other countries.

I have friends who were born and raised here in the South.  They believe their country the greatest country on the planet.  They believe their state is the best state in the country.  They believe their hometown is the best city in the state.  Their religion is the only true religion, their denomination is the one true denomination, and their specific church is the only group of people doing it right. 

A big part of growing up is realizing you were wrong.  You constantly learn new things that overwrite previous misconceptions.  But people reach a certain age and they just want to stop learning.  They want everything to stay the way it is.  They object to progress, because it changes the world they are used to.  They refuse to listen to new ideas, because they don't want new thoughts.  They figure, "My way of thinking has kept me alive all these years, obviously it's the only way to live."

Really, what are the odds that you would be born in the greatest city of the greatest state of the greatest country, to parents who worship the one and only real religion? 

The facts:  No country considers itself the #2 country on Earth.  Now, I'm not saying you would have been just as happy in any other country.  Clearly, some countries are full of miserable people.  But among the major free countries, yes, you would probably be just as happy if you'd been born there.

But but but... "America is the best because people fought for our freedom!"  All countries have war heroes, America is not unique on that. And your ancestors may have been brave people, but they weren't perfect.  Not every decision they made was right. Be proud of the good things they did, but seriously, it's not disrespectful to recognize they had shortcomings.  They'd want you to improve on their failings.  It's every generation's goal to make sure the next generation is better than the last.

...And it really is an ugly flag.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Facebook Friends Vs. Real Friends. Also, Bathrooms.

Different people have different attitudes on who they let be their Facebook friends.  Some take the word "friend" literally, and only allow people on their friends list who they would also hang around in real life. Others treat their friend list like contacts in an address book, and will add anyone they ever might need to get in touch with. Some people insist that everyone they add shares their political opinions and morals, and will unfriend anyone who posts anything they find even mildly offensive or controversial.

I just don't know about that last one. I do think social networking should be an enjoyable activity, but it's also where a lot of people get their news these days.  If you only surround yourself with one kind of person, you're closing your mind to differing worldviews that help your mind grow. If you're like me, you'd have to cut out a lot of family members. Most of my family consists of Conservative Christian Republicans, and a few of them are homophobic bigots as well. But I can't just unfriend family.

I gave myself a headache today. A friend of mine, also named Matt, said something transphobic in a public Facebook post. This guy used to be my DM, from the "Tantris” campaign. It was an article about a trans student wanting to use the girls' restroom. His comment was, "If the genitals are still male the proper word is he, i don't care what you feel like you are. Also if male genitals are still the they should use the male facilities".

I guess it could have been worse (and it's far from the worst comment in the thread), but it still bugs me for several reasons. First off, I know he's an atheist. Not that all atheists are enlightened about all issues, but removing religion from the equation sometimes gives people one less reason to hate on the GLBT crowd. But I don't know if he's anti-GLB, all I know is he doesn't seem to believe in the T. I can't say I knew him that well when he was my DM. We never talked about anything "real", and he moved away after just a few months. Still, after all this time, finding out he's transphobic, it makes me feel... oddly betrayed.  I wonder if our campaign would have lasted as long if he'd known I was transgender.

It also bugs me because I'm used to D&D players being more inclusive than most people. Oh, I've met a fair number of Conservative D&D players, but on the whole I've found gamers to be a diverse group. And since RPGs allow you to live another life for a while, the hobby probably draws its fair share of transfolk. Heck, technically my own table has two, and we didn't plan it that way.

Another thing that bugs me is just that there's now more than 200 comments, and only a handful of them supported the teen. I thought society was farther along than this. This is what happens when I stay in my bubble and avoid alternate news sources. After all the support for Caitlyn Jenner I saw on my Facebook feed, I really thought the world was heading in a better direction. And then I see how many people publicly hate on this teen, and I realize I was wrong about all the progress we've made.

And finally, I just feel like I'm an outsider to both sides lately. It's been years since I've dressed en femme.  A few days ago I was yelled at by a transperson (which was probably just a misunderstanding but I'm still not over it).  And now this former DM of mine posts something I find hateful. I don't know what to do about it. Should I unfriend Matt? Reply to his comment? Send him a private message? And if I do write him, do I try to educate him or just curse him out? I'm writing this blog to work out some of my anger, but I don't think it's going to be enough. I'm sure Matt doesn't think what he said was hateful; knowing him he probably thinks he's just being logical. But I don't think I have the right words to change his mind.

It wouldn't be a big thing if I just cut him out of my life. We don't still talk, we never really connected much in the first place, he lives in another state, and other than D&D we have don't have much in common. But I don't want to be the kind of person who unfriends people just because they have different beliefs. Everybody has a different set of opinions, and it would be rare to find two people who believe exactly the same thing on every possible issue. If I start cutting people for that, there goes most of my friend list.

And yet, certain beliefs are more important to me than others. This one in particular makes a jab at my very existence. He's not just making a statement about a group I identify with, he's making a statement about what I am. But if I cut him, does that mean I also have to cut my homophobic aunt? My cousins who are very sweet but also very Conservative? My own mother, who loves me and always helps me when I need it, but who is also a huge believer in Fox News?

So anyway, now I have a headache. I feel a combination of betrayed, shocked, sad, confused, and angry. All these emotions bumping into each other make my head hurt.

Regarding the bathroom issue, I have to admit I'm a bit torn on that one myself.  Personally I wish people would worry less about who uses what restroom. Everyone is in there for the same reason, and it's not sexual. But I'm also bathroom shy; I don't like going if other people are in the restroom. I can totally relate to being uncomfortable, and I can see how it would be more uncomfortable if the other people were of the opposite sex. Of course, the whole point of this is that transpeople are NOT of the opposite sex; that is, they want to use the restroom that matches their mind.

But let's face it, a lot of cis people aren't comfortable with trans topics. I could see how a woman would be uncomfortable with a man in the next stall. Even if the man self-identifies as a woman. While I personally consider a transwoman to be a woman, I know not everyone agrees with the concept.  While I’d like to say, "That's her problem, she should accept transpeople as their mental gender,” in this case my belief is keeping her from successfully going to the bathroom.  Even bigots deserve to feel safe when voiding their bladders.

Again, I'd like to say, "Where does it stop? What if she's uncomfortable using the restroom with a black woman in the next stall? Should we go back to segregated bathrooms?” But she's had all her life to get used to other races. Transgender issues are new to some people. Sure, there have been famous sex changes since before I was born, but most people still go their whole lives without meeting a transperson (as far as they know). So it's harder for them to get used to.

But while I'm sitting here being all wishy washy on the subject, somewhere there's a transwoman who really needs to pee. She's currently staring at the two doors, wondering which one will get her in less trouble. She's not trying to make a political statement, she just wants to avoid wetting herself. Going into the men's room, dressed as a woman, is likely to get her beaten to death. Going into the women's room might cause someone to scream "pervert"... alerting men to come beat her to death.  Heck, just being transgender at all can get you beaten to death, even if you only pee at home.

So, yeah. On the one hand we have cisgender people getting pee-shy because they suspect the person in the next stall might not have matching genitals. On the other hand, we have transgender people getting murdered. As much as public restrooms make me nervous, I'm going to have to call that a "First World Problem" when compared to the people who are getting killed. In a perfect world, they'd build more unisex restrooms where each stall is its own private room. But until then, I think transpeople should be allowed to use whatever restroom makes them feel safer.

But of course, the original question was about a high school, which complicates things.  As much as I support the teen, it is a bit naive to to expect that many teenagers and their parents to be enlightened enough to allow this to happen.  I'd like to think that high profile stories like this will be enough to educate the general public, but the comments on this article already prove that one wrong.  So ideally, I believe the teen should use the girls' bathroom.  Realistically, I can't see that happening without public outcry.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Do I Let Things Bother Me so Much?

A few days ago I accidentally called a transperson by the wrong pronoun. Well, maybe. It would be so unlike me to say such a thing, that part of me wonders if she just misheard me, or if I just wasn't enunciating well.

But right or wrong, the accusation felt like getting punched in the stomach. And it still feels like getting punched when I think back on it. I apologized in a private message later, and I might have gone too far in my apology. I really wanted to make sure she knew I don't think of her as a "he". So now I'm kicking myself both for using the wrong pronoun AND for overdoing it on the apology. This right here, this is what those of us socially inept people live with every day. Even the most pleasant conversations echo through my head later, so I can analyze them to see what sort of mistakes I might have made. Sometimes after perfectly tame interactions I have to stop myself from sending them an e-mail explaining any little slip ups I might have made.

It doesn't help that my tongue is easily tied. Even easy sentences are often like tongue twisters to me, and the wrong word comes out of my mouth quite often. This causes me embarrassment, which causes me to want to interact even less, which leads to me talking less, which allows my speech muscles to atrophy, which makes me makes me stumble even more. Vicious cycle.

Just for "fun", my brain still keeps reminding me of every social blunder I've ever made, most of which have been long forgotten by the other people involved. I remember dozens of times when I was wrong about which actor was in what movie. I still get angry over a dispute I had with some classmates in elementary school over a game we were playing. I still get embarrassed about my hat falling off during kindergarten graduation.

But my slip up with the pronoun is particularly upsetting because I try so hard not to make that mistake. Unlike most slip ups, there's a "I've hurt one of my own" factor here. It's a mistake I wouldn't want others to make of me when I'm dressed as a woman, so it's horrifying to me to make that mistake on someone else.  One year I went to Nashville Pride dressed en femme, back when it was still held at Centennial Park.  Of course, the Pride festival itself is a somewhat safe haven from bad comments, but on the walk there from my car I overheard a parent telling their child, "Don't stare at him."  It hurt.

I've had several transfolk as friends... but even typing that just reminds me of the old racist standby, "I can't be racist, some of my best friends are black!" It's just that it's so unlikely for me to use a wrong pronoun. With ordinary mortals, who aren't used to being around transpeople, I can see it. Some of the less enlightened might consider an MtF to be a man in drag, and might have to keep reminding themselves, "Say she not he. Say she not he. Say she not he." But I don't think of her as male in my head, so it's not like this "he" was hiding behind my tongue waiting for me to speak without thinking.

I hate being accused of failing at one of the few things I'm actually good at and/or knowledgeable about. I don't have much, but GLBT/gender relations is something usually have up on people. I've spent so much of my life dabbling dabbling in different hobbies and fandoms, that I'm not an expert on much of anything. But I am a liberal SJW who believes in political correctness and a huge supporter of GLBT rights, and if there's one thing I know it's to call people what they want to be called. It's one of my core beliefs, and it's one of the few things that makes me feel on the same level as other people.

I might be boring, socially inept, and a complete failure at connecting with other human beings, but by golly, at least I'm better than those bigots over there at GLBT relations. So failing at one of my few specialties makes me want to curl up into a ball. It doesn't matter that it was just a trip of the tongue, it doesn't matter that she might have just misheard me, and it doesn't matter that she's already accepted my apology. For me, what matters is that I screwed up one of the few things I'm good at. Yes, there's a completely messed up hierarchy of things I let bother me. I have plenty to be depressed about: NO direction in life, lots of debt, and heck, let's not forget my own gender issues... but one little slip of the tongue makes me want to hide in the corner.

Is it like this for everyone?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Where I Am Today

I don't talk about my gender issues as much as I used to.  No, I haven't been "cured" by any stretch of the imagination.  It's still the last thing I think about before falling asleep, and the first thing I think about when I wake up.

But as a topic of conversation, it's gotten stale.  There's nothing new to say on the subject; if I still talked about it I'd just be whining about the same things over and over.  Some of my friends are sick of hearing it, though most have been polite enough not to say anything.  I doubt my friends were very comfortable with the subject in the first place, and I don't want to make them uncomfortable.  I can't afford a psychiatrist any more.  I don't like talking about it with my wife, because it makes both of us sad.  I don't really even have any other transfolk to talk to.  Yes I know a few, but we're not close enough that I'd feel comfortable venting about something so personal.

And so, I resort to what is probably the most psychologically unhealthy solution: I keep things bottled up inside.  At least I can still make the occasional blog entry.  Since no one reads this thing, I can vent all I like. 

Okay, fine, it's been a while, so for those of you just joining us...

Hello, my name is Matt.  As of this writing, I'm a 41-year-old male who identifies more strongly as female.  If you want to catch up, click the GLBT tag on this blog and start with the oldest.  But to sum up:

I've known I had female tendencies all my life, but I've only recognized myself as transgender for about 10 years.  Before that, I had some serious misconceptions about gender and the people who got the surgery. Specifically, I thought that all gay people eventually wanted to get sex changes.  Since I wasn't attracted to men, obviously I wasn't in the wrong body.  I don't think I even heard the word "transgender" until around 2005. 

If I hadn't been raised Christian, I might have done more research.  If I the information that's out there now had been available to me when I was growing up, I might have figured out my problem early enough to do something.  If if if but but but.  It's not worth dwelling on.  I can spend all my time wishing I'd had an earlier start on the trans journey, but if I'm going to blow a wish, I'd rather just wish I was born female.

That first year was the hardest.  When I first had my trans epiphany, I was both elated and crushed.  I knew my life was going to change.  I knew there was a path I could take that would make me feel like my true self.  But I also knew that path was dangerous, difficult, and destructive. I was sure I was headed for a disaster.  Maybe I'd get a divorce, maybe I'd kill myself.  In my moments of weakness, I made some bad financial decisions that I'm still paying for today.

I spent a few years seeing psychiatrists and psychologists.  I tried a few antidepressant meds, some of which worked better than others.  Unfortunately the one that worked best also had the worst side effects.  I can't say the psychologists helped much, but it was nice to have someone to whine to.  And then my work's insurance changed, and suddenly I couldn't afford psychiatry any more.  Seems the insurance companies now consider mental health a luxury. 

I was about as low as I've been in my life.  Oddly, what really saved me was Dungeons & Dragons.  I would play female characters in NeverWinter Nights online games, and it was like scratching an itch in my head.  Getting to live a virtual life as a woman for a few hours now and then... well, it wasn't totally satisfying, but it kept me from slitting my wrists.  Eventually I sought out a real D&D group, and I've been playing ever since.  For me, playing a female character for a few hours every Saturday satisfies the same needs some transpeople get from crossdressing.

And that sums up the last 10 years.  I've been out of the closet so long I'm pretty much back in it.  In the past decade I've made several new friends who may or may not know about my issues.  It's been so long since I've mentioned my problems to my older friends and family, that some of them probably think I've "gotten over it".  But no, I'm not "cured", it's more like I'm in stasis.  If I found a magic lamp tomorrow, my first wish would still be a female body.  But I love my marriage, D&D is a fun hobby, and this solution keeps my depression at bay.

I've recently become acquainted with another MtF transperson.  She and I are very similar and very different.  I look at her and I see the road not taken.  She is estranged from her family, and has made plans to move out of this bigotry-infested cesspool called the South.  She's a lot more outgoing than I am, and on the surface seems to be very proud of who she is today.  I don't know how far along she is in her transition (nor am I likely to ask), but as far as I'm concerned she's a woman.

Like I said, the road not taken.  She seems to be so much more comfortable than I am.  She doesn't really dress en femme, and yet her appearance is obviously female.  I never figured out how to do that.  I don't feel I pass even in makeup and a dress, but she pulls it off in jeans and a T-shirt.  She seems so self-confident (though who knows what's going on inside).  So in some ways I'm very jealous.

But at the same time, she's lost her family and probably a lot of her older friends.  She feels so little connection to Nashville that she's about to move across the country.  I just don't know if I could do that.  I'm too full of fear and I just don't have the motivational energy to start a new life.

But it's a moot point anyway. I don't want to transition.  I don't want to be a transsexual.  I want to be a woman, but I want the whole package: to grow up as a girl and experience all of it, good and bad, without resorting to hormone pills or surgery.  Obviously that's only an option if I subscribe to some very specific religions.  But I'm an atheist, and no matter how much I'd like to believe in reincarnation, I can't make myself believe something I don't.

So I will take the next best thing.  Stay with the body I've got, live vicariously through my D&D characters and digital avatars, and continue to take advantage of my white male privilege.  I will enjoy my continued marriage to my wonderful wife, for as long as she'll have me.  I hate that I have to refer to her as my second choice.  It's demeaning.  But since my first choice involves reversing time and believing in magic, that does make her my first realistic choice.  I can only hope that's good enough, and that I can make our marriage worth it to her.  In a world without magic, she is everything to me.


I'm reorganizing my blog a little bit.  From now on, blogs about movies, books, video games, and other entertainment will go here:

Blogs about GLBT issues, politics, and other serious matters will go here:

Some older blog entries may appear on both pages for a while, but going forward I'm keeping the fluffy stuff away from the serious stuff.

My blog about Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs remains here:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

All right, I've now seen several variations of "This soldier is a bigger hero than Caitlyn Jenner" or "While you were distracted by Bruce Jenner, this (other story) happened."  Two of the more prominent memes turned out to be based on misunderstandings (see here and here), but the larger sentiment - that Jenner doesn't deserve all this attention while there are real heroes out there - is still going strong.

As if nobody can read more than one article a day, and the entire reason the other stories were under reported is because people were talking about Jenner.  Believe me, if I didn't catch that other story, it wasn't because of Jenner.

There's always going to be a more important story or a bigger hero somewhere.  You can't just go through life saying, "This story isn't important because there's a better one over there."  Do you really want to live in a world where news outlets are only allowed to report one story a day?  Where they have to get together and vote, "Well this this earthquake destroyed more homes than that tsunami, so we won't report the tsunami at all."  

No reporting on the guy who saved a child from a bear, because somewhere overseas a soldier just saved ten people... but no reporting on him either, because a few days ago another soldier saved twenty people.  Fine, we'll track down which soldier has saved the most lives in human history, report the story, and never have another news story again.  No need to watch the news any more, people, it's been reported. 

Besides, the Jenner hoopla isn't all about heroism.  Transgender issues are new and confusing to some people, and they're going to talk about it.  There have been heroic soldiers all throughout history, and not to downplay them in the slightest, but at least people understand them.  I look forward to a day when transpeople are so accepted and understood that they aren't news.  But right now, it's legitimate news.  Yes, there's a lot of other heroes who deserve to have their stories told, and yes it would be great if these soldiers/police officers/firefighters/etc would get the recognition they deserve.  But blaming it on Jenner is ridiculous.

Bottom line:  There is room on my Facebook feed for more than one news story, and more than one hero.  Maybe the Jenner story is getting too much attention, maybe not, but I've still been seeing plenty of other stories in my newsfeed.  And seriously, if you do hear about a hero who isn't getting enough media attention, share their story!  Preferably without making comparisons to Jenner.  Chances are, the hero you're reporting wouldn't want their name being used to put down someone else.

Switching subjects a little... 
I do hope the increased transgender awareness is a good thing, but it still scares me.  I personally don't like being in the spotlight, and the extra attention makes me uncomfortable.  Plain old "gay" has become so mainstream that media can no longer get extra attention from it, so they're starting to make all sorts of TV shows about transgender people.  I hope that it succeeds in normalizing* it; maybe the next generation will be so used to the concept of transgender that they won't go into a murderous panic when someone comes out to them.

But my fear is that heightened awareness will just alert the wolves.  Twenty years ago most people didn't know the word "transgender".  They were aware that some people got sex changes, but it was so rare that the average person didn't believe they'd ever meet one.  Twenty years ago if a bigot saw an unattractive woman go into a women's restroom, they'd probably just think, "She's ugly" and leave it at that.  Not a nice thing to think, but at least they didn't immediately get suspicious about the woman's sex.  The increase in awareness has brought with it an increase in panic, with legislators drafting new bathroom laws and so on.

Overall this media attention is something that has to be done, and I'm not saying we should hold back.  I'm just saying the next few years are going to be scary for me.

* I'm not comfortable with the word "normalizing", though.  Even in a perfect world I don't know if I'd want transgender to be considered normal.  IMO, it's basically a birth defect, so calling it normal is like saying it doesn't need to be fixed.  We give artificial arms and legs to people born without limbs, so the last thing I'd want to tell a transperson is, "Just live with it, you're normal as is."