27 Years

One of my kids (and birthday buddy) surprised me yesterday with a cake. And it was just as delicious as it looks.

One of my gaybies (and birthday buddy) surprised me yesterday with a cake. And it was just as delicious as it looks.

For the longest time in my life, birthdays were really difficult.  When I was still in the closet, I carried a huge weight of guilt on my shoulders about the lies and dishonesty I felt was necessary to hide the fact that I was female.  To have people express their love and good wishes on me at that time made me realize just how isolated I was.  That’s why, five years ago today, I came out on my 22nd birthday.  It was terrifying and embarrassing and humbling, but ultimately one of the most pivotal moments in my life.  In the following years I moved from being ashamed of who I was to being loud, proud, and unapologetic.  In those five short years I started working with LGBTQ youth, went back to school, made countless friends and connections, met the man I’m going to marry, entered into the public speaking circuit, and I’m now the editor for this wonderful website that I hope you enjoy.  I no longer dread birthdays.  Instead I view them as a day give thanks for the life I’ve lived and the people I share it with.

While the congratulatory Facebook posts pile onto my wall, I think of all the people I’ve met in those five short years.  All the queer kids I’ve worked with, all the godless heathens I’ve met, all the friends I’ve made, and all the minds I’ve changed just by being honest about who I am and how all of those people have made me into a better, happier person.  It’s awe-inspiring to think of what a difference a small amount of time and people can make.

For some reason, 30 seems much closer now that I’m 27.  I can see small signs of my age that are probably invisible to everyone else.  I have some faint smile lines around my eyes and mouth, my joints (especially my hips and knees) complain a lot more than they used to, I see the occasional gray hair, and many of the pop culture references made by my kids escape me.  But I would never lie about my age and I’m not ashamed about whatever signs people may or may not notice.  The lines, stretch marks, sun spots, and everything else are just badges for survival in the face of life.  I look at aging like leveling up at a game.  The older you get, the more you’ve accomplished.

As an atheist I don’t believe in an afterlife, and that means I have a very finite amount of time on this world to experience as much as life has to offer and make as much of a difference as I can.  On the one hand, I’m an insignificant speck of carbon whirling around on a rock that’s orbiting a star on the arm of a galaxy that’s still infinitesimal in the scale of the entire universe itself.  But I’m also a fiancee, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and role model who adores my fiance, sister, mother, friends, and kids.  It may not mean much in the universal scale, but it doesn’t need to.  My life is my own to share with who I wish, and the love and joy I’ve experienced is what makes all the difference in the journey.

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Epic Troll Kitty

I’ve been writing about a lot of things that piss me off, and I think it’s time I write about something that I love that also pisses me off about half the time: my epic troll kitty.

Here he is dreaming about my demise:

Starbuck

Starbuck

Make no mistake, his outward calm demeanor here is merely a mask for his murderous intentions.

Just look at the murder in his eyes here. This is him when we first found him, and that’s my old rat Mindy. Did she really die peacefully of old age in her cage? Or was it all part of Starbuck’s plan?

Starbuck meets the ratties for the first time.

Starbuck meets the ratties for the first time.

He usually spends his days prowling around outside the bedroom and the bathroom. If we let him in the bedroom, he terrorizes the rats and tries to poop in the corner behind the bed. If we let him in the bathroom he seeks to lower my morale by destroying all the toilet paper.

Whatever you do, don’t break eye contact.

Whatever you do, don’t break eye contact.

When he’s not prowling around those doors and attacking whatever feet happen to be nearby, he’s running and jumping wildly around the living room and kitchen. He climbs the blinds, tries to destroy computer wires and seeks to be king of the mountain by jumping to the top of the book case and knocking down anything that was stacked up there.

Petting is always done on his terms.

Petting is always done on his terms.

When it gets to be too much, and he needs to calm down, I take all the toilet paper (and the trash can) out of the bathroom and put him in there with his favorite toys. I let him out after about 30 minutes. Or I put on a shirt and open the blinds so he can stare menacingly outside. I resent the fact that he makes me put on a shirt in my own home, but it calms him down.

Distractions save lives.

Distractions save lives.

Now, this may all sound like just normal kitten stuff.

“That’s what all kittens do!” You might be saying. But this is no ordinary kitten. Oh no. He seeks out and destroys my fiance’s chapstick. On purpose. As a test I put the chapstick on the counter, underneath a pile of wires, actual cat toys and broken AAA batteries. Within 30 seconds he sniffed out the chapstick and left all the other stuff. My fiance bought a packet of about 15 chapsticks, so we started storing them in the 3-drawer storage bin next to the couch. The drawers are transparent, but when closed they are flush with the outside of the bin. Starbuck witnessed us put all his beloved chapstick in the drawer and spent 10 minutes frantically pawing at them from the outside. This must mean one thing: troll kitty wants my fiance to suffer from severely chapped lips.

Bite marks after a kitten attack.

Bite marks after a kitten attack.

He only sleeps on top of it. That bastard.

He only sleeps on top of it. That bastard.

We also bought him a little house to sleep in. It has a comfortable spot inside that he can hide in, and it has a fluffy top that he can sit on top of. It also has a scratching post and little balls with bells inside that dangle off the edge for him to play with. We thought he could have fun playing with the bells, and that he would scratch on the post now instead of the couch. Well, the scratching post sort of worked, now he scratches on that AND on the couch. But, he ripped off one of the balls with the bell and destroyed it, and he ignores the other one. He also spends his time doing everything he can to destroy the little house. When he’s done with it, it looks like it was hit by a tiny indoor tornado (or perhaps Sharknado??).  He treats the house we got him with either hatred or contempt. We fought back by taping the corners of the house together, so it won’t fall to pieces when he attacks it. He responded by trying to chew off all the tape.

Extent of destruction after being kitty-proofed.

Extent of destruction after being kitty-proofed.

He’s also a relentless prowler. I can tell he’s in the mood to hunt: his tail goes straight out and then whips back and forth violently, his eyes widen and the pupils dilate, and he watches every move I make. The moment I turn my back WHAM! cat in my face. He will walk up slowly, bite my hand, arm or leg and then run away the moment I turn around. He also attacks my legs as I walk around the apartment. I try to keep a stash of bottle caps and chapstick lids so that I can walk across the living room safely. If I think he’s going to attack me the moment I turn my back, I just throw a bottle cap across the room and he goes chasing after it.

He even bites in his sleep.

He even bites in his sleep.

He’ll pretend to be sleepy, and cuddle up in my lap. Then when my guard is down, he bites my hands, arms, legs, and face. I’ve learned to recognize the signs. His tail will get all twitchy. If I’m lucky he’ll start by trying to eat his own tail. It looks cute at first, because his eyes are squinty from still being sleepy. But it soon turns murderous when he grabs my hand with his paws and scoops it toward his mouth. He always immediately starts kicking with his back legs. Usually I can get out of this by grabbing the scruff of his neck with my other hand.

I’m just lucky he can’t get his back legs in on this one.

I’m just lucky he can’t get his back legs in on this one.

None of this really matters though, because I still love the little guy–trolling and all.

Do NOT scratch his belly!

Do NOT scratch his belly!

P.S.  I caught him trying to eat a tampon once, and another time he threw up a used condom.

A Letter to My Future Son

Dear Leonard,

Because you were born with male sex organs, Dad and I have used male pronouns since we adopted you with the full understanding that you may very well articulate a different gender identity when you are able.  That being said, since there is a 97 to 99% chance that you do, in fact, identify as a boy I would like to talk with you about masculinity.

No doubt you will get a lot of mixed messages about what it means to “be a man”.  While Dad and I have done our best to raise you in a gender neutral household where we split the housework and financial burdens as equals and are not afraid to speak our minds or show our emotions, you have probably noticed this is not “normal”.  While you might enjoy playing house with your sister or helping Dad vacuum or helping me bake cookies, most of the other boys you’ve seen on TV are probably playing “war” or shooting guns or wrestling and rough-housing, you probably like playing those games too.  While your father and I are pacifists, we understand that all of those things can be a lot of fun.  We’ll probably even play video games with you when you’re older where the primary focus is to shoot things.  We all play games like that because they’re fun, but it’s important to know that being manly has nothing to do with hurting people.

Being a man is complicated.  There’s no wrong or right way to be a man or a woman or a girl or a boy or anything else.  But a lot of people like to tell you there’s only one way to do something.  Sometimes a teacher might tell you that a story means one thing, while you think it means something else.  Being a man is a lot like that.  Some people think being a “real man” means that you don’t tell people how you’re feeling, that you act tough and don’t cry even when you want to, but Dad isn’t afraid to tell me about his day or ask for help if he’s in trouble or even to cry if he’s having a rough time, and he’s a man.  Some people think being a “real man” is about being angry or violent or rough, but that’s not what Martin Luther King Jr. or Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin believed.  They changed the world by standing against violence with love and peace, and they were all men.  There’s no such thing as being a “real man”, son.  Men come in all different shapes and colors and have different ideas and attitudes and none of them are any more or less “real” than the next one.

However you decide to act as a grown man will be up to you, but Dad and I sincerely hope that you remember the lessons we’ve tried to teach you.  That each person is a human being that deserves respect and love no matter who they might be.  That equality and rights should be extended to everybody and not just a select few.  That most people are doing what they think is good, even if that doesn’t match with your idea of good.  That families come in all different shapes and sizes, but what really matters is they love each other.  That communication and non-violence can accomplish much more than war and violence.  That emotions are normal to have and it’s okay to express them in healthy ways.  That diversity and new ideas are what make the world interesting.  That questioning ideas and authority is a good way to make sure you really believe what you say you do.  That sex is a mutually consenting and enjoyable experience regardless of the number of partners or their genders and you should never feel ashamed about it.  And, most importantly with this letter, the ways people “do” gender are all equally valid and that includes they way you decide to do your gender.  It shows a lot more strength and courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially if it’s unpopular, than to just follow the crowd.  No matter what you decide to do with your life or who you decide to love, as long as you keep these principles in your heart you will always be a “real man” to me.

Love,
Mom

It’s Complicated

In the past couple months I have been “coming out” about my non-monogamous relationship to close friends and family who I can trust not to judge me.  The reactions have been anywhere from indifference to surprise to confusion.  Most of the time people just say something along the lines of, “Well, whatever works for you guys.”  But I also get interesting questions that force me to think about my relationships and what they mean to me.  And I think it’s this active questioning and participation that strengthens my relationship with Chris, rather than passively going with the social script of what a relationship, and eventually marriage, should be.

Neither Chris nor I really understand jealousy, let alone why some see it as a sign of love.  When we started dating, we would check out girls together and laugh that our tastes in women were usually pretty different.  We both felt like we had hit the jackpot, not having to limit our sexual desires in order to be in a committed relationship.  I adore Chris.  He makes me feel loved and beautiful and protected and supported no matter where my life takes me.  He can make me laugh when I’m having the worst day and we can have in-depth discussions about anything from philosophy to our geekdom.  In many ways, he’s who I hoped for in a relationship and in others vastly different.  We agree on many core life concepts but even when we disagree, we still respect each other and our opinions.  I want him to be the father of our children and I want to spend my life with him.  He sees me for who I am and he loves me for it, not in spite of it.  And I feel the same way about him.  And because we love each other so much, we allow the other to pursue whatever makes them happy, up to and include sex with others.

Complicated1

I met my something-on-the-side going to Atheist conventions and being a godless heathen.  She quickly became one of my best friends.  Her fiance is a wonderful man who makes her as happy as Chris makes me.  We have a lot in common, both of our fiances do the same little things that endear/annoy us, we’re both planning our weddings and finishing school, and we like to get drunk and sleep with each other from time to time.  Really, apart from the last activity, we’re not much different from other “besties” out there.  But just because we fuck each other doesn’t mean we have romantic feelings for each other.  Don’t get me wrong, I love her as a friend, but not like I love Chris.  And that’s okay.  Hell, it’s more than okay, it’s awesome!

In the weird and confusing journey of figuring out my sexuality, I realized that I generally find women more sexually attractive than men.  However, I generally enjoy relationships with men more than relationships with other women.  My BFFWB‘s feelings are pretty similar.  But rather than feeling like I have to choose one aspect of attraction while losing on the other, I’ve found a solution that works for me and my fiance as well as my friend and her fiance.  It took me a while to get rid of the residual guilt that society places on us about relationships.  I worried I was really a lesbian and was just finding ways to compromise.  I worried that I was cheating even though I had permission.  I worried that this was just a band-aid covering deeper issues.  All the shit society says about non-monogamy and bisexuality that I had internalized had to be worked through.  But now that I have, I’m even more confident about who I am and who I love and in what ways.

I think what bothers people so much about “cheating” is not that their partner has had sex with someone else, but the dishonesty involved.  However, because we all follow the rules of our relationships, nobody is “cheating”.  There’s none of the dishonesty people engage in when they sleep with someone else in a monogamous relationship.  People also think non-monogamy must be awkward when hanging out withmetamours, but it’s all very honest and friendly.  Chris and my friend get along very well, and while I don’t get to see her fiance as often, he’s a quiet but funny guy and I enjoy his company too.  The whole reason why we’re linked in the first place is because we’re so much alike.  It’s not weird or awkward at all, it’s just friendship with some added perks.

I wish there were more labels and language about non-monogamy out there.  I’m neither monogamous nor am I polyamorous.  I used to like the term “monogamish”, but it seems to convey a monogamous couple who enjoy one-night-stands with strangers, and at the moment I only have sex with one person outside of my relationship.  So, while I feel limited by language a lot of the time, I’m trying my best to convey what I engage in because it makes me happy and I like to talk about things that make me happy.  For the time being though, maybe Facebook said it best.  It’s Complicated.  (But worth it.)

Complicated2

Fat is Not a Four Letter Word

Fat1

In the spirit of Fat Amy, for this article you can call me “fat-ugly-heathen-cheating-on-her-fiancé-slutty-tranny” Dori.  Sure, you could be nice and call me “curvy atheist poly-ish trans woman” Dori, but there will always be haters out there and I prefer to take the sting out of their hateful words.  That’s why I jokingly refer to myself as a pissed-off tranny when I rant about trans rights.  It’s why I call myself a slut when talking about my sexual practices/partners.  And it’s why I’m calling myself fat right now.

I stumbled into “Fatshion” blogs last semester during my women’s studies class.  At first it was just outfits that showed up in my Pinterest. Then I started reading the blogs the pictures came from.  And then I decided I was tired of hating myself for the body I have and started accepting it.

The majority of my life, I was very happy.  But when my resiliency reached its limit I would look at myself in the mirror and hate what I saw.  I’d hate my stomach, the width of my breasts, my stumpy legs, my shoulders, my chin, my face.  I would wonder how many people thought I looked hideous but were too polite to say anything.  I would wonder how my boyfriend could possibly still enjoy looking at me naked and how much longer he would put up with me.  To his credit, whenever I would bring these things up he would always attempt to bring me back to reality.  But when you’re in that kind of spiral there’s not much anyone can say to stop it.  The best he could do was hold me until the storm passed.

I don’t want to give my whole sordid history of my body image issues.  Suffice it to say that it’s been a fucking roller coaster, dipping it’s way into eating disorders and unhealthy practices and peaking with the confidence I have today after embracing fat pride.  I will never be thin.  And that’s okay.  The least I’ve ever weighed as an adult was around 180 pounds and I was a size 14.  At my heaviest I was around 250 pounds and a size 22.  And through all of those years I was an activist who fought for my rights and others, an excellent student, a leader, a lover, a friend, a daughter, a sister.  Most importantly, I was a human being who offered kindness to just about anyone who asked, except myself.

But this year has been different.  It started with the fatshion blogs, which made me question the fashion and media industries narrow image of who women were.  I saw attractive women who were twice my size.  I saw brave women who were willing to pose nude, despite the rolls and stretch marks that I had internalized as being ugly on my own body.  I saw women who looked just like me.  And they were all beautiful in their own way.  A few months ago, when my doctor told me I was incredibly healthy for my age but he’d still like me to lose weight, I didn’t accept it blindly.  I asked him why, and ultimately, he agreed with me.  I fought against an institutionalized form of body shaming and I won.

After that, I started running and counting my calories.  But unlike the many times I had attempted to shame myself into losing weight, I did this for a challenge.  I focused on my progress.  I remembered how much fun I had when I played roller derby and I wanted to feel that sense of empowerment about my body again.  When I started I couldn’t run for much longer than 15 seconds without getting winded.  Now I can run 5k in 40 minutes.  I run in nothing but skin tight bottoms and a sports bra because, for those who don’t know, it’s fucking hot in Texas.  When I’ve got my music on and I feel the adrenaline rush through me, I don’t give a fuck what the world thinks of my body.  And while the changes to my body haven’t been drastic, I like what I see.  My stomach is smaller.  My boobs look even bigger by comparison.  My legs and ass are amazing (just ask my fiance and FWB).  I look good.  Maybe not the conventional concept of good, but fuck the conventional concept.  And most important of all, I’m confident.

Sweaty or femme, I feel good either way.

Sweaty or femme, I feel good either way.

Fat3My crowning moment was when I bought a bikini this summer.  I walked into Lane Bryant and told the clerk what I wanted.  ”Are you sure?” she asked.  ”Absolutely.” I said, “Let’s just find one in the right size.”  In the dressing room I started to feel nervous.  Sure, I thought I looked good but would I feel the same way out in public?  So I sent a picture to my FWB and other girlfriends and heard back nothing but compliments.  So I walked out of the dressing room, where the clerk asked again if I was sure about the bikini.  ”I’ll take it!” I told her.  The moment of truth came when I went camping.  The FWB and I finished setting up our tent and decided to go swimming while we waited for the boys.  And when I walked outside and felt the sun on my legs and stomach and back…it was a weirdly spiritual experience.

I will never go back to hating my body.  It has its imperfections and I’m sure there are plenty of strangers on the internet who will be more than happy to point them out.  But you know what?  I don’t give a fuck.  Yeah, I’m fat.  And this fat bitch has more love in her life than any troll could ever hope for.

 

P.S. Just to clarify, fat pride does not equal skinny hate.  The bottom line here is accepting your body for what it is and other people’s bodies for what they are.  I hate the phrase “real women have ______”.  Because regardless of what you fill-in-the-blank with, there will be a woman who doesn’t.  All women are “real women”.  The way to work through your body issues is not by putting down somebody else’s.

Fat4