It’s not my birthday…

Well the rain falls down without my help I’m afraid
And my lawn gets wet though I’ve withheld my consent
When this grey world crumbles like a cake
I’ll be hanging from the hope
That I’ll never see that recipe again

It’s not my birthday, it’s not today…

– They Might Be Giants, “It’s Not My Birthday”-

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

-Louis L’Amour-

No, dear readers, it is NOT my birthday today. That cherished occasion lies nine months in the future. Today is auspicious, however, for at least two reasons:

A) Today was the last day of my IT career. I’ve left behind Very Large Corporation, Inc, and Information Technology alike in order to take up my bindle stick, pluck up my courage, and hop aboard a train bound for Creative Enterprise.

and

B) Today is my “rebirthday.” Exactly 2 years ago today, I received the precious blessing of the state court and changed my legal identity to match my actual one. I may be only two years old, but I’m advanced for my age.

It’s been a busy day, is the point.

I’ve been struggling for years to return to creative work, the victim of an odd (and, at times, cruel-seeming) paradox; despite having zero formal IT training or education, possessing what can only be described as mid-level technopathy led to the assumption that I was and would forever be a “techie,” despite both my frequent side projects in the creative arts and my own hearty protestations to the contrary. Eventually, the time I’d spent in IT (which was, naturally, time away from design and other creative fields, at least according to my resume) reinforced this idea; “Claire must be meant for IT because Claire’s in IT and Claire’s in IT because Claire’s meant to be there.”

Not pretty.

But, the wheel of life spins under our feet regardless of our forward motion, and eventually I was able to – through a series of contacts, design projects and a stubbornness so profound that mules roll their eyes at me –  procure my new position in Marketing and Social Media. My excitement is so profound that I’m pretty sure I’ve been levitating most of the day, which sounds fun until you stop at the grocery and can’t activate the little pressure-plate door opener thing.

But I digress.

As I was packing up my few remaining possessions and saying my goodbyes, I realized how deeply IT has affected me, both as a person and an employee. Yes, there have been challenges to my patience at times – ID-10T errors and PEBKAC abound – but for the most part, even the most grievous frustrations were ameliorated by that magic moment, that singular instant, when I solved someone’s problem. Money has never been a particularly strong motivator for me; my inability to manage it, coupled with the sort of disregard for material gain most people associate with terminal illness or religious mania makes it a poor carrot with which to lead me down the primrose path. However, put me in a place where I am genuinely and consistently helpful to someone, exorcising not just the demons from their Excel macros but the shadows from their workday, and I am a happy camper (provided, of course, that there is gratitude for services rendered…ingrates turn the knob of my Smitemaster 3000 to “11” ).

This has not been an ideal job – what job is, in the final analysis? – but it HAS been a useful one. It’s taught me many things about myself, and the kind of work, environment and interactions I require to feel as though I’m making a positive impact every day. It’s introduced me to some great friends, taught me that trust needs to be earned (not just given away like novelty tokens at a particularly cruddy fundraising carnival), and, perhaps most importantly of all, helped me to understand all the things I’m NOT as well as those I am.

And for that, I will be forever grateful.

It’s been a day of lasts – last login, last cup of tea, last casual sweep of Ice Station Zebra, last hugs and tears and laughs.There will be letters to write, e-mails to exchange, lunches to coordinate; there will be attrition as bodies both peripheral and central in my personal galaxy move closer or break orbit and disappear into space beyond.

But it’s also a day for beginnings. Here I stand, two years as Claire behind me, with (let us hope) many more ahead. The sun has not yet reached its apex; the future stretches before me, a road traveling through sunny heights and icy, shadowed lows. Having reached a fork, I’ve chosen what I hope is the right one, and focus my gaze on the horizon.

No, it’s not my birthday, my friends. But somehow, I still feel as though I’ve been given a gift.


With Memory and Honor

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

OK, kids, it’s time to get serious, because the violence against the TG community is very serious indeed.


This Friday, November 20th, marks the 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. This event is held to pay respect to those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence and reckless hate; it is also held to increase awareness within the community at large to this violence and the danger it holds, not only for gender-variant individuals but those who share their lives. In 2009 alone, 99 individuals worldwide have been murdered either because they were transgendered, were involved with someone transgendered, or – perhaps most unsettling of all – were perceived to be transgendered by their attacker(s). With the violence against the community escalating at an alarming rate (2009’s murders to date are more than twice that of 2008’s), informing the public and working to educate others is a key step in reducing these senseless acts and preserving the dignity, safety and lives of all citizens.I encourage you to participate in your local events; the light of awareness helps to dispel the shadows of ignorance and hate.
For more information, or to find an event near you, please visit http://www.transgenderdor.org or http://www.transohio.org.

Tech Tip #1: The Case of the Vanishing Inline Attachments

As many of you know, in addition to being a frustrated artist and author, I toil for minor ducats during the daylight hours as the head of Desktop Support for a company that shall (at least within the confines of this blog) remain nameless.  In my capacity as such, I often encounter users with PEST (Persistent, Easily-Solved Troubles). These PESTs are not really complicated to address, but do take up a fair amount of the Help Desk traffic that comes my way, and wreak havoc on my ability to achieve Ascendancy in Guild Wars complete important Desktop Support asset management paperwork. For some issues, I’ve actually taken the time to create user guides that I (or the Help Desk) can distribute to the troubled users, empowering them to solve their problem quickly (and permanently) while freeing me up for other tasks, such as the aforementioned paperwork, creating project plans, and napping.

One PEST of particularly pernicious persistence (can I get a what-what for alliteration, word nerds?) has to do with Microsoft Outlook. With approximately 500 users to support here at headquarters, as well as a few thousand more scattered at the company’s domestic and international locations, we get a lot of support tickets dealing with e-mail. Most of these are two-second fixes, e.g.:

REMOTE USER: My e-mail is broken, and I shall hurl myself from the nearest precipice if you don’t fix it right now. NOW! Is it fixed? FIX IT!

YOURS TRULY: Um, okay, let’s all calm down, shall we? First of all, are you connected to the network?

REMOTE USER: Oh. Never mind.

And so on.

However, some problems require a little more finesse to resolve, and one of them has to do with inline attachments. With so many people sending information back and forth in the form of spreadsheets, presentations and grammatically challenged animals of terminally saccharine cuteness, many, many, MANY of the users work directly in their e-mail, editing attachments “on the fly” and then sending them on their way.

What many of these users don’t realize is that every time they open an attachment, a doppelganger of that file is created in what is known as the Outlook Secure Temp folder. This doesn’t matter so much if you’re not working with the files, but are instead saving out your attachments. However, since most of the user base here works directly inside of Outlook, what they’re really working with is the “working copy” Outlook generates, and as a result, many of them “lose” their files after they save and close them, and then we in Desktop Support have to muck about showing them how to find their Outlook Secure Temp Folder so they can retrieve their document (although opening “recent documents” inside most Office apps will retrieve them, I usually don’t get the call until they’ve worked on seventy-three other documents in a dozen other places, neatly eliminating any chance of simply going to File> in the menu bar).

In addition to losing their attachments, some users have so many attachments that they open so frequently that their Outlook Secure Temp folder becomes full and chokes when asked to open attachments or (more commonly) display inline attachments, e.g. the cute little fluffy bunny wishing you Happy Easter/the political cartoons your brother-in-law forwarded, LMAO/images from the last sales meeting where that one guy from sales gave the manager the bird, displayed as part of the message rather than discrete attachments.

So how do you fix this? What if you open your latest LOLZ-laden missive only to discover that, although you can see the text warning you to forward the message to a dozen people or your genitalia will blacken and drop off, you can’t see the totally HILARIOUS/inspirational/mind-searingly gross images?

Well, bub, you’re SOL.

Kidding! There’s an easy fix, and although it takes some tinkering in the registry, the effort is worth it if you’re going to persist in your ridiculous need to work directly with attachments, rather than saving them and working from the master copy like a sane person.

Seriously, kids, just save out your attachments. It’s easier in the long run and saves aggravation all around.

But you’re not here to listen to advice, are you? You’re here to find the band-aid for your boo-boo. Onward ho!

Before we begin, one caveat:

THIS TIP INVOLVES MONKEYING ABOUT WITH THE REGISTRY, ALSO KNOWN AS THE BRAIN OF WINDOWS. IF YOU DORK THIS UP, YOUR COMPUTER WILL MOST LIKELY BECOME A VERY ATTRACTIVE PAPERWEIGHT UNTIL YOU REBUILD THE SYSTEM. IF YOU HAVE THE SLIGHTEST DISCOMFORT WITH WORKING IN THE REGISTRY, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. IF YOU HAVE EVER USED YOUR CD-ROM TRAY AS A CUPHOLDER, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. IF YOU HAVE EVER, EVEN IN JEST, ASKED “WHERE’S THE ‘ANY’ KEY?”, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. IF, WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “REGISTRY,” YOUR FIRST THOUGHT IS OF THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB AND NOT THE COMPUTER, CALL I.T. IMMEDIATELY AND SIT QUIETLY BY YOURSELF UNTIL HELP ARRIVES. IF YOU SCREW UP, THAT’S ON YOU, BECAUSE I GAVE YOU FAIR WARNING.*

SERIOUSLY. I MEAN IT. THIS IS SOME HARD-CORE SHIT, YO.**

*I am horrified to realize that this is the same argument used by Big Tobacco. My soul hurts.
**OK, that sounds gross (“I don’t even remember eating corn!”), but you know what I mean.

There. Now that we have that out of the way, we can proceed.

OK, so let’s say you’ve received a critically important e-mail from accounting, with screenshots of some arcane process that could very well determine whether your budget is approved this year or if you’ll be sharpening both ends of the pencil and sitting on an orange crate during meetings. However, all the screenshots are big boxes with a little red “x” in the upper left-hand corner! OH NO!!! Your precious budget! Who will pay for the Panera bagels at the Friday morning meeting now???

You, my friend, have a full Outlook Secure Temp folder. However, there’s an easy way to address this (please note that these instructions are only for users of Outlook, and not Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Groupwise, Reanimated Passenger Pigeon zombies, et hoc genus omne).

STEP ONE: Make sure Outlook is NOT open.

STEP TWO: Navigate somewhere easy to access on your system, like your My Documents folder, or the root of C, for example.

That's right, the root of C

Let's make a folder!

STEP THREE: Right-click and create a new folder. Name this folder whatever you like (I recommend “Outlook Temp Folder,” but feel free to call it “Lucretia” or “Mail Stuff” or “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DELETE THIS” if you like). This folder is critical to our success later in the process, so remember where you made it. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will be creating the folder on the root of C: and calling it “OutlookTemp.”

Right-click to make it happen, Cap'n.

Right-click to make it happen, Cap'n

Behold - OutlookTemp!

Behold - OutlookTemp!

STEP FOUR: Go to Start>Run, and enter “regedit” (without the quotes). Then click “OK.”

Just type it in and go!

Just type it in and go!

STEP FIVE: See the warning above. Seriously, kids, don’t poke about in here lightly. After confirming that you’re down with doing brain surgery on your PC, hit CTRL+F on the keyboard. This will bring up the “Find” dialog box.

STEP SIX: In the dialog box, type “OutlookSecureTempFolder” without the quotes and click “Find Next.”

Hide and seek, Bill Gates style.

Hide and seek, Bill Gates style.

STEP SEVEN: Ok, here’s where it gets a little tricky, kids. Double-click on the highlighted “OutlookSecureTempFolder.” The string editor dialog box will appear.

STEP EIGHT: In the “Value Data” field, enter the path of the folder you created in Step One. In my case, I entered “C:\OutlookTemp”, again with no quotes. Click OK, then close Registry Editor. Change your pants if necessary.

Where'd we put that folder again? Oh, right.

STEP EIGHT: Restart Outlook and open your previously dorked-up budget message. If things went as they should, you can now see your attachments! Huzzah! Gold-plated executive pencil holders for all!

Why did we do this? It’s simple, really. The normal location of the OutlookSecureTempFolder, er, folder is hidden from prying eyes and difficult to find and empty. However, now that we’ve moved your temp folder to an easy-to-access location, it’s a snap to go in and empty it out whenever your attachments start acting squirrelly.

SO, the next time your attachments (inline or otherwise) disappear or won’t open, you can now navigate to your Outlook Temp folder, select everything, and delete it, flushing out the temp files and enabling Outlook to create ghosts of your files so you can just work right in Outlook instead of saving it out and working with the attachment. Or, better yet, JUST SAVE THE ATTACHMENT AND SKIP ALL THIS NONSENSE!!!

And don’t say “But that takes too long,” because if you think the two seconds it takes to save the attachment is too long, just imagine how long it’ll take when you’re sitting on that orange crate, waiting for I.T.

Stay tuned for further Tech Tips in the future! And, if you have a Tech question you’d like answered, why not RTFM?

Nah, just kidding, send it on in and I’ll do my best to answer it!

The cow says…”OINK!”

OK, so occasionally I come across something in my web travels that manages to combine several of my interests into one neat little package, e.g. ridiculously cute bunnies, snow and time-wasting games, or maybe super-nerdy linguistical analysis, Star Wars and manufactured languages, or even, yes, timely news of the day’s events, ridiculously complicated clip-art flight maps, and the radiant incarnation of Eos, goddess of the dawn.

Today, however, I encountered something that not only amused and informed me, but brought back a flood of memories as well. That’s right, kids, it’s time for another sepia-toned visit to Claire’s Mysterious Past™!

I am, as it may have been mentioned elsewhere, much older than my youngest sister, Kait – fourteen years older, as a matter of fact. So, while she was trying to master the arts of walking, speech and voluntary bowel control, I was already a nerdish High Schooler with a penchant for linguistics and a love for my baby sister that, while strong, did not necessarily preclude subjecting her to scientific inquiry in the name of my Prime Directive, i.e., trying to learn everything until either I succeeded or my head exploded. Kait was no more than 2 when The Farm Experiment began. Now, lest your mind conjure fiendish visions of The Island of Dr. Moreau, please remember that my interest was solely linguistic in nature, and my experiment designed to answer one question, namely:

Could a young child, if intentionally misinformed about select pieces of information and vocabulary, incorporate this incorrect information into his or her behavior and mindset?

(The answer, of course, is yes. Otherwise, no one would ever eat Circus Peanuts or try to convince the populace that ketchup is a vegetable.)

The experiment was simple. Kait was learning to talk, and despite some difficulties with her r’s and w’s due to eustachian tube issues, she was picking up words and phrases with alacrity. Hoping that Kait was, like myself at a similar age, a budding nerd of nerdiness, I was in the habit of pointing to objects and naming them, then looking at her expectantly while she rattled off an approximation (or, more correctly, “appwoximashun”) of what I’d just told her. It was in this way that she learned about the “wo-wo” (railroad), breakfast foods (“Mow toast, pweese. And pass da butta!”), and, of course, the onomatopoeic sounds of the world around us…and it was the last of these that formed the basis of my fiendish linguistic experiment.

In the course of our travels, we would often pass one of the many farms that dot the Ohio landscape, pleasing the eye even as they offend the nose, and Kait, her natural curiosity bubbling over, would point to the various animals and inquire as to the species and call such beasts might possess – and I was happy to oblige.

CLAIRE, POINTING TO A SHEEP: “That’s a cow, honey. What does the cow say? It says ‘OINK!'”

KAIT, HER INNOCENT EYES FULL OF TRUST AND LOVE: “OINK! Cowie say OINK!”

And so on.

Obviously, I was a total shit.

However, when you are young and value knowledge above all else (having not yet learned the nature of the world and what really matters), being a shit is small potatoes next to observing the learning process in action. The experiment was doomed to fail once Kait received her first See ‘N’ Say (actually, it failed the first time Ma overheard me and threatened to acquaint me with a concept known as “house arrest”), but I was high on my own scientific daring. What if, against all odds, the information stuck, and Kait went through her whole life assuming that people who tried to correct her were lying? What if she raised her own kids to know “pigs” as giant black-and-white bovines that say “Baaaa?”  Would she, over time, actually hear the cows saying “baaa?” The implications for the language and behavorial sciences were truly staggering!

“What does all this have to do,” I hear you asking “with whatever nonsense you’ve stumbled across on the web, you terrible sister, you?”

Good question! It seems that I’m not the only one with an interest in how people hear things. Yes, the world over, the EXACT SAME SOUND is heard differently by speakers of different languages! That’s why, in Colombia, cows don’t say “Moo,” they say “Maaa…”, and why Korean pigs don’t oink so much as say “no, no, no!” In fact, onomatopoeic sounds of all kinds are a little skewed depending on where you call home, and that’s why you should check out Bzzzpeek. You’ll learn a lot about how the sounds we take for granted every day are very different if you’re in Bruges or Salamanca, and the fact that the site is so cute it’s almost fatal doesn’t hurt.

And as for Kait? Well, nowadays, of course, Kait can appreciate the, ahem, “wackiness” of her formative years. She’s long since forgiven me, and we can sit back, share a drink, and swap stories ’til the pigs…er, cows come home.

I just hope my other sister Kim doesn’t ask me why my nephew Ian keeps calling the dog “Kitty.”

Packing for the Trip

So here’s the thing:

Oftentimes, in a society where we are becoming increasingly isolated from traditional societal bonds (family, neighbors, prison pen pals)and yet paradoxically, ever-more connected by more ethereal, perhaps less satisfying ones (Facebook, MySpace, um…prison pen pals), we may feel as though the world has looked us over and found us wanting, like the sandwich case at a busy deli that’s been picked clean, leaving only the Prawn-and-Avocado on White. When you’re transgendered, this sense of isolation and insufficiency can be even more acute, stabbing you in the tender bits of your soul and then sprinkling lemon juice on you while giggling. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to have a support system in place…and I don’t mean the $300 you buried in a coffee can behind the old shed.

Well, I don’t mean JUST that.

Rather, I mean that transgendered folks should pack their bags for the journey of life with the stuff they need to make it through.

Exempli gratia:

A) A network of friends and loved ones in place to help you through the rough patches: hearing “Sir” at a restaurant, spending the weekend in hiding because your electrolysis session left you with a face that resembles something recently dragged along the barnacle-encrusted underside of the Queen Mary, being “accidentally” shoved by a group of guys on the street, et hoc genus omne.

Because the Transition Turnpike is both long and perilous, one can be plagued by fear and her handmaiden, doubt, while traveling along its pitted surface. I don’t mean “doubt” in the “should I be doing this?” sense – there’s never been any doubt in my mind that transitioning was necessary for me to have any kind of life worth living – but rather doubt about my odds of making it to the end of the turnpike without spinning out in Untimely Deathville or being trapped in Loneliness Hollow due to the lack of available partners for a transgendered lesbian in my beloved but somewhat backward home.

Friends help with this…especially when one’s family may not support one’s decision to take some advice from Polonius. As my friend Laura is known to opine, “There’s family you’re born with, and family you gain along the way.” I know that whenever I’m feeling like a Stella in a world full of Stanleys, my friends are there for me, not just with platitudes and “there-there” murmurings, but with sage advice, hilarious and heroic efforts to turn my frown upside down, and, of course, hugs and tissues for when my frown remains stubbornly in place.

I draw the line at sharing pants, however.

This category also includes ones partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other, of course…however, my previous experiences have left me charred and twitchy, as well as slightly suspicious that I may be dead inside, like a lightning-struck tree or a Republican.

B) Medical staff that knows its shit. Well, not literally. That’s gross, and I’m sort of disappointed that you went there. I’d like you to take some time to think about the way you’ve cheapened this experience.

Finished?

All right then.

Medical professionals are sometimes at a loss when dealing with the transgendered. It took me three tries to find an endocrinologist willing to treat me, and even then I had to drive 50 miles to visit him in his Fortress of Estrogen…but it was worth it to find a doctor who would do more than look me over and throw a prescription at me before begging me to leave so I didn’t contaminate his waiting room with “The Gay.” My doctor actually cares, and it shows in his insistence that I take my spiro, hormones and anti-hypertension meds in the correct fashion.

Dr. K: “OK, Claire, the important thing is to use good sense and consistent dosing. We’re going to –

(cut to me, already covered in so many estrogen patches I look like a chubby Girl Scout sash, downing my spironolactone in a manner reminiscent of Cookie Monster)

ME: “What?”

Dr. K: “I don’t want to hit you with this clipboard, but I will.”

Seriously, though, when you’re making major renovations to your body, you need professionals. This isn’t the crappy IKEA bookshelf you slapped together after three Cosmos – this is the thing you need to carry your brain around without resorting to some sort of creepy Krang device. My doctors (both my GP and my Endo) are awesome, and while I sense they are not 100% cool with the IDEA of transgenderism, their professionalism and dedication to the Hippocratic oath means they give me the same level of care they do their genetically female patients.

I was lucky with my therapist – I found him on my first go. Dr. O is incredibly supportive and insightful, and has definitely helped me maintain my sanity on this trip!

C) A sense of humor and an appreciation for the ridiculous. Now, I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I am not what most would call “serious.” Or “mature.” Or even “competent,” depending on the day. However, I am 100% convinced that taking anything (life, being trans, Hispanic and a lesbian in the middle of Squaresville, USA, the woeful lack of Hello Kitty Pop-Tarts at my local Kroger) too seriously is bad for you. As Sebastian-Roch Chamfort was fond of saying when he wasn’t busy scalding his contemporaries with some bon mot, “The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed.” Except, you know, in French. It would be weird if he said it in English, just at random.

D) Faith. Now, lest you assume I’m about to get all Moses on you, let me say that faith means different things to different people (I’ll take my Stating The Obvious award now, please). For me, the offspring of a Catholic-turned-Nazarene and a lapsed Methodist, God is an important part of my life and my journey. I know that a lot of my peers in the transgendered community feel that the Christian God and his son Jesus are out to get us (or at least some of the crazies claiming to follow them are)…however, I’ve had and enjoyed a relationship with God and Jesus since I was a kid, and despite all the rhetoric and selective, ill-informed Bible quoting by the haters, I’ve never felt anything but love and support from and for God. When people say “God made you a boy, and you’re a sinner. Also, I don’t care for your shade of lipstick,” I point out that God made me transgender because He thought I was up to the challenge, and acknowledge that perhaps this shade might be a trifle orange for my complexion, but it was on sale.

While I have little use for organized religion, faith is an important part of my life, because it eliminates the middleman from the equation and lets me commune with the Eternal directly. Religion is Wal-Mart, Faith is Sam’s Club (without the ID card and visitor limit).

Ultimately, of course, we are all responsible for reaching the end of the road (whether it’s Transition Turnpike, Mommy Lane, Presidential Parkway or Avenue of the America’s Next Top Model), but with a little careful planning, a few faithful traveling companions, and some luck, the journey and the destination are worth all the trouble…

It’s alive! Alive, I tell you – ALIVE!

So here’s the thing:

After hearing a recent episode of Trans-ponder wherein it was mentioned that we, as transpeople, are often the ambassadors to the non-trans people in our lives, forced by the necessity of circumstance to be tour guides to our own existence, I thought to myself, “What we need is a primer. A basic guide that can serve as a sort of jumping off point for people to learn more about the transgendered experience.”

It was only much later that I realized someone else had, you know, ALREADY DONE THIS.

However, toiling in my hubris and my glee, I have at last cried “Havoc!” and released the dogs of edutainment – or at least my version of it – and Claire’s Transgender Primer for the Curious, Apprehensive or Confused is now, yes, ALIVE.

If I may, once again, gentle reader, impose upon your kindness and ask that you read it, review it, and let me know your thoughts, I shall be as grateful as the parched desert nomad who, finding his water skin empty and his camel dead, stumbles upon the shady banks of an oasis, its trees ripe with coconuts, its water as pure and sweet as the saltless tears of a thousand virgins.

Or at least, you know, appreciative. Whatever.

Primer UPDATE

Hi, kids.

Well, this Primer was a bit ambitious to tackle in a single busy weekend, but I anticipate its completion by tomorrow evening. Stay tuned!

Claire