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.


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Stuff from the Attic (June 2009 Edition)

In the wake of the recent (and, let it be said, extremely fun) Claire De Lunacy blogoversary, I’ve found myself struggling to come up with something blog-worthy to fill this site. I’ve had several false starts, but they seemed too facile or insubstantial to sustain an entire post (and if something on THIS site is too ephemeral to support a post, you know we’re in trouble). So, just to keep the blood pumping, I present to you the following list of topics currently banging around in my noggin’.

1) Henchmen of shared nationality and language who, despite being utterly alone unless fighting the hero of the pic or book, speak English with each other. We’ve all seen this a thousand times. James Bond is scampering about, chopping necks and turning his shoe into a shaped charge against the wall of the evil mastermind’s lair, and miles away, Sergei and Boris are walking the perimeter, conversing in a language they no doubt had to learn for solely professional reasons.  “But,” I hear you asking, “what if they’re under orders to speak English, so that the dastardly associates of their employer can speak with them directly? What if, in the underworld of crime and perfidity, English functions much as it does in the world of legitimate business, a sort of koine that assures everyone is at a mutual disadvantage during negotiations?”

To which I reply, “Oh, piffle.”

Seriously, if you’re in another country (even for work) and you’re back at the hostel, waiting for dinner or to be abducted and sold into white slavery until rescued by Liam Neeson, are you chatting with your mates in Castillian about the latest episode of 30 Rock? Of course you aren’t.

[NOTE: Obviously, this rule doesn’t apply if you’ve brought a potential love interest back to the apartment, in which case you behave as though you were steeped in the same cultural and linguistic influences they were, so that they see you are a person of substance, and also so that they will let you touch their naughty bits.]

But Sergei and Boris aren’t interested in gettin’ it on, they’re (presumably) trying to pop a cap in the gent from MI-6. Plus, in accordance with the Convenient Plot Furtherance Act of 1982, they are inevitably childhood friends who dreamt of one day working as the muscle for one of many human embodiments of evil, and are therefore no longer trying to impress one another.

Bottom line, henchpeople who are nowhere near people who do not speak their mother tongue should converse in it without feeling obligated to help the audience along.

[This goes double for Klingons.]

2) And speaking of James Bond, why can’t we have a movie about Q-Branch? James Bond is 007. That means there are at least six other 00’s out there (unless they start with 000, in which case there are seven), and I’m betting that they give Q-Branch as much trouble as James does. Are we meant to believe that wacky hijinks ensue only when The Man Who Really Should Only Be Played By Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan comes around? I think not.

I’m picturing a series of films starring John Cleese. Music by Danny Elfman, with special guest Eric Idle as “Zed,” the lowest-ranking member of Q-Branch whose zany antics create problems for R at first, but ultimately provide the solution to the crisis facing the team.

Gold, I’m telling you. GOLD.

3) Cable Internet should not just fail for no discernible reason. I pay top dollar each month for Road Runner Turbo. When it works, it is a heavenly connection to the global information stream. When it fails (which it does with alarming regularity ever since Time Warner sent me an “improved” replacement modem to exchange for the old one that worked PERFECTLY WELL WITHOUT ANY TROUBLE, EVER), my wrath becomes a molten volcano of  earth-scorching magma, eager to strip the flesh and sinew from those who have denied me the chance to show Dramatic Prairie Dog to the one friend who hasn’t yet seen it.

Even now, THIS VERY SECOND, my Internet is out for the fourth time today. The FOURTH TIME! It often lasts for an hour or more. Requests for assistance are met with blank stares or infuriating questions (especially to an IT person) like “Have you restarted your computer?” and “Is your house properly wired for both electricity and cable?”

No, jackass, I’m living in a sod house on the banks of Plum F-ing Creek with Mary and Laura.

Bah!

[This topic may grow into a full-blown entry, depending on how my next volley of requests is handled by the TWC crew.]

4) Hormones make you fat. OK, I’ll admit that the pepper-and-olive pizza I eat a little too often is aiding and abetting the ‘mones in their evil quest to turn my ass into an earthwork, but my regular workouts don’t cut the difference anymore. When, last week, I realized I had not only stopped losing weight (even with the help of Fullbar), but was GAINING, I knew it was time to take drastic measures. So, now I work out twice a day…strength and flexibility in the morning, aerobic exercise at night (if you know what I mean, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Oh, who am I kidding, I’m riding a freaking bike).

So far, I’ve stopped gaining. However, my overall wimpiness and disturbingly taut pants suggest even more drastic measures may be necessary, e.g. not eating a bowl of cereal every night even though cereal is a gift from Ceres to show that we are worthy of deliciousness.

And if I have to eliminate cheese, there may very well be no point to living.

Also, I could probably stand to workout harder. And longer.And, God help us all, join a gym.

Me! Be a joiner! The mind boggles. Ah, well, no one said being a glamor girl was easy.

But if that fails, I am just biting the bullet and shopping around for an eating disorder like my friends. Well, I mean, an eating disorder that makes me thin rather than saurian.

5) Chaz Bono has a rough ride ahead. I feel Chaz’s pain. Here’s a person who has spent their life trapped in the wrong body, and has weight issues to boot. Chaz, buddy, I am pulling for you! I hope that, as they did for me, your weight issues start to resolve as you resolve your gender issues. Plus, the testosterone will help you build muscle, which, as the Lotte Berk method teaches us, eats fat. Sure, you’ll have to work hard, but I’ll bet that with your limitless financial resources and access to Hollywood’s beautification professionals, you’ll be running through the surf, Hasselhoff-style, in no time flat.

Just remember the words of C.S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul. You ARE a soul. You HAVE a body.”

Also, please remember that I was so supportive and send me any extra trainers and/or plastic surgeons you have laying around.

6) Going back to school is nerve-wracking but also exciting as hell. For those of you who don’t know, I’m going back to college in the Winter quarter of 2009-2010. I made a promise to myself when I was but a sprout, and that promise was that I would become a doctor of philosophy in the science of linguistics. As of this year, that dream begins to come true. I’m writing essays, I’m gathering letters of recommendation, I’m purchasing raccoon coats and little football pennants that say things like “Rah!” (just in case I’m thrown back in time and have to wrap things up in the 1920s). I suspect that my mania regarding this process is the real reason I’ve been blog-avoidant of late; I’ve been trying to conserve my creative and intellectual juices so that I may make a favorable impression on the doyens et doyennes of academia who will determine my worthiness for further growth.

Not that they want to hear about my juices, creative or otherwise. In fact, I’m fairly certain no one does. Let’s just pretend I never said it and focus on my casual usage of French in a context designed to make me appear worldly without being a pompous ass.

There – that’s better, non?

7) My being transgendered does not give you the right to disrespect me. I didn’t want to take a whole blog post with this topic, as this particular saw has several busted teeth, but a recent incident freaked me the hell out and I had to say something.

I keep an announcement board on the window of my office, a little dry-erase deal with the names of myself and my assistant written along the left-hand side, with a magnetic dot indicating whether we are “in” or “out,” and a space to clarify as necessary (e.g., “in a pointless meeting,” “saving children from burning orphanage,” “having lunch with the Married Crush in the hope that my telepathy will finally kick in and she will find herself immersed in the golden sunbeams of my undying adoration, whereby she will realize she has been a fool to toy with me and loves me as well,” et hoc genus omne). Usually, I don’t even look at the board; I just slide the dot from “out” to “in,” unlock my office, and begin counting the minutes ’til five o’clock.

That day, however, I noticed something different.

Someone had erased “Claire” and written my OLD name. Not the name by which I was known, mind you, but my old LEGAL name.

Now, I hear some of you asking “So? What’s the big deal?” and I get that, I really do. After all, it was just a simple scribble on a white board.

That said, imagine if you will my confusion and, yes, fear. Here was a bit of information that, while hardly a state secret, was not common knowledge, even among my friends. Here was an act that said, in essence, “I am denying you exist, and I am quite literally attempting to erase you.” Was this a harmless prank, or was some whack-a-do hiding in the creepy warehouse shelves behind me, waiting for me to be distracted so they could brain me with a pipe wrench and add bits of my body to the silver skeleton in their basement?

In erasing my name and writing the old one, they were (whether they were cognizant of the fact or not) challenging my right to exist as myself. They were attacking me, in a “safe” place, with my own possessions.

I felt violated. I felt sick.

And then I got angry.

I wiped the board clean, re-wrote my name clearly and firmly, and then e-mailed HR.

Now, it must be said that the HR department was exceptionally helpful and kind. They immediately contacted security to see if any tape was available for the time when the “prank” most likely occurred. They were sympathetic to my concerns, and assured me that action would be taken against the person who had done this. After talking with them, I felt reassured – clearly, someone cared and would support me.

Presently, the perpetrator remains unknown (at least to me). I’m not going to pretend this is as serious as the attacks that happen to transpeople every day, both in this country and worldwide. After all, I didn’t have to earn my lesson with blood or, worse yet, my life.  But to me, a girl who is already hyper-vigilant when in public, the loss of one of the few places I felt safe to relax my guard is a very real attack on me and my right to live my life.

I’m not going to let it change my desire to see the good in people, or to try my best to be an ambassador for transpeople to the mainstream world.

But just the same, Ice Station Zebra is a little colder these days.

Bittersweet Thanksgiving (But Mostly Sweet)

So here’s the thing:

You can’t spell “Thanksgiving Blast” without “LGBT!”

Well, you can, but then it’d just be “hanksivin as” which makes no freaking sense, you weirdo.

Let me tell you a little story, kids.

Back in the bad old days, before I came out and began transition, Thanksgiving was a fun time for me, but as with most other special occasions, a shadow lay across my heart.

This year, however, the shadow was lifted, and you know why?

Of course not. Otherwise, why would I need to tell you? Honestly.

Anyway, the reason was that I attended my first TransOhio Thanksgiving dinner. Inside the Center on High, I met some amazing people from all walks of life, and had a lot of laughs, conversation, and green bean casserole. For the first time, I could be myself, without fear of judgement or recrimination (well, without fear of judgement or recrimination for being transgendered. My personality remains a valid reason to hurl both). It was one of the best times of my young (cough, cough) life.

Of course, this was also the first Thanksgiving I didn’t share with my family. Due to a lack of extra vacation, I wasn’t with them when they loaded up the Giant Van of Babysitting and schlepped deep into Kentucky to meet my Mother’s extended family for a rip-roarin’ turkey-fest.

And I DID miss them, of course. I missed Ma’s ridiculously delicious lemon meringue pie and stuffing (separately, not together). I missed Dad declaring that his eyes were clearly too big for his tummy (even as he finished half a pumpkin pie). I especially missed the cacophonous maelstrom of chatter and laughs that springs up whenever Ma and her sisters get together. And I missed being part of the mess that, for better or worse, is my pack of kin. I missed knowing that I’d have enough turkey left over to make flautas for the next week and a half.

What I didn’t miss was hearing the wrong name, or the intentional disregard for who I am, or the judgement for something that I know to be necessary for my happiness.

I definitely didn’t miss having to endure the silent opprobrium that is somehow a thousand times worse than the angry recriminations that characterized the early days of my transition.

It was nice to be surrounded by people who understood my struggle. It was even better to be taken at face value, free of the baggage of my complicated past. And it was amazing to finally, truly, let my guard down.

But then again, that same baggage is what enables my family to truly know me in ways no one else ever will. And it’s what makes it necessary for me to find a way to get the feeling I had in that community center hall even when I’m sitting down to dinner in my parents’ dining room; like so many other things, the holidays are (for me) about stitching together the bifurcated fabric of my life.

Will I ever find a way to truly relax as Claire in my parents’ home? Will I be able to stop that anticipatory wince that accompanies the wrong pronouns and name? Can I find a way to keep giving my parents infinite slack as they try to follow me down this path? Will I have the strength to make my own traditions if my parents cannot find a way to accept me as I am? Can I really have my lemon meringue pie and eat it too?

Who the hell knows? These are questions every person asks themselves (well, the first two are probably specific to me and other transwomen named Claire, now that I think about it).

My experience at a new Thanksgiving table was invaluable; it taught me that there are other possibilities in this life; that there are people who really do understand what I’m going through and share my struggle; that there is, as my friend Laura says, the family you’re born with and the family you gather along the way.

But I also have a seat reserved for me at the Jackson Family table, and it’s one I’m not giving up without a fight. There’s a lot of bitterness to address, yes, but as the year draws to a close and I take a step back to gain some perspective, I can’t help but think about how much sweetness there is, too.

And, after all, that pie’s not going to eat itself.

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-palooza closes tonight!

Hi, kids.

Just a quick note to remind you all to get your questions/input to me via e-mail, blog post or cloned, reanimated passenger pigeon by tonight at midnight EST (So tomorrow at midnight, really, but when you say that, you end up in a “Who’s on first” style conversation and suddenly everything’s in black and white, and you and your buddy Lou Costello are mugging it up).

I’ve been SUPER impressed and pleased by all the input we’ve had so far! I’m hoping for an equally large turnout from my trans friends in response to your questions and comments!

Remember, you can either post your question right here, or e-mail me at my e-mail address.

Thanks to all! Stay tuned!

What a card.

Just a quick update, kids.

Those of you who’ve been following the tempest-in-a-teacup I’ve been weathering with the fine folks at the bank formerly (and currently) known as US Bank will be pleased (or possibly relieved) to know that my new card finally arrived in Saturday’s mail…and with its arrival, I have at last shed the final bit of old-name purse debris and will now be able to pay for things without fearing being “read” or having to convince some scrunchie-wearing register jockey that I’m not an identity thief (and, really, who would steal my identity? That’s true desperation, yo).

As my close, personal friend Louis Pasteur was heard to opine, “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in my tenacity.” Sure, he may have revolutionized dairy, but I got my name changed on a piece of plastic! Yeah! Score one for Team Tramp!

Up next: Claire’s Transgendered Primer for the Curious, Apprehensive or Confused.

Your e-mail is also important to us…

…As a valued customer, your satisfaction is our number one goal!*

*Actual quote from US Bank rep e-mail.

OK, so I received a reply to my written (read as: evidentiary) missive to the bank mentioned only by a top secret and thoroughly disguised code name in a previous post.

The young (let’s go ahead and say young) lady who assisted me today informed me that she, too, understood my frustration, and would be rushing me a new card posthaste:

“I do apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused you. We have changed the embossing on the check card to reflect your new name and the card should arrive within 3 business days plus mail time. Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.”

– Janiece, actual US Bank Email Operations Specialist-

Janiece and her prompt reply to my e-mail have, for the most part, quieted the fires of wrath that constantly threaten to bubble up and smite those who displease Claire, Goddess of the Extremely Perterbed. Since Janiece mentioned embossing and seemed savvy regarding the construction of an actual checkcard, I’m going to run with the assumption that in three days (plus mailing time), my shiny new Check Card, complete with new code and, more importantly, name, will arrive, restoring sight to the blind, peace to the Middle East, and eliminating forever (let us hope) the now-tedious ritual I like to call “No, I’m not married, and no, I am not an identity bandit craftily using someone else’s card to buy this bottle of wine and loaf of bread, but if you’d like I can explain my transgenderism with the help of this short film while the people behind me in line watch their milk turn into Brie.”

Special thanks to Janiece and Heather, two wonderful and helpful human cogs just trying to turn their part of the gigantic Customer Disservice machine…long may their satisfaction ratings stay high!