Friday, 30 November 2012

Happy Bajan Birthday!

Just a shout out to the birthplace of half my ancestry (all 431 square kilometres of it) which celebrates its forty-sixth anniversary of independence today. That fine, lush island has also given the world several famous luminaries such as pop star Rihanna, hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash, hip-hop artist LL Cool J, veteran Lindy Hop dancer Norma Miller, actress Stacey Dash and writer (based in Toronto) Austin Clarke.

And I'm sure there will be many more in the years to come!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Let There Be Light

Today is the 14th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance; TDOR, which began with a candlelight vigil in San Francisco to honor Rita Hester who was murdered in 1998, has been observed worldwide every November 20 since 1999.

It is a day to remember those, in every corner of the globe, whose lives have been brutally cut short simply for being who they are. Every trans* person is someone's partner, friend, son, daughter, parent, co-worker, colleague, teacher, student. We are all robbed when a trans* person is murdered, or when a trans* person takes their own life as a result of experiencing the isolation and despair that transphobia causes.

This past year, I am thinking in particular of two members of our local community who we have lost: Saige, in whose honour the Saige Community Foodbank was started, and January Marie Lapuz, who had been an executive member of Sher Vancouver, a support group for South Asian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

It is a dark time of the year, but also one in which the hope of growing awareness and acceptance can spread like the lit candles in the cold, night air.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ready Or Not

Two firsts today; both in my work environment. One, my library just opened its new branch. It was a very busy, challenging day getting used to a much larger space and still roughing it in a sense as many of the finishing touches were still being added. But, ultimately, one only really knows how a new space will fare by giving it a test drive.

Likewise, with me coming out at work. I am not officially out, as in presenting as female at work, but management and most of my co-workers know. However, over the past several months, I have been slowly, steadily pushing the envelope, wearing less masculine and more feminine clothing. Today, I test drove myself; for the first time, I was dressed head-to-toe in women's clothes, although with black slacks, a turtle neck sweater and boots, I was still neutral looking. And reception-wise, so far so good.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Blue Note Boogie: The Week (On Progesterone) That Was

And now that the roller-coaster has come to a complete standstill, I can look back and laugh ... sort of.

This "week" actually began on October 30 when, at my latest medical check-up, decided to start taking progesterone. I had done my research and knew what to expect, but had heard about many who had had good results (physical of course) from it. My doctor decided to prescribe three months worth; I would try it to see if I got any of the benefits and would stop if the side-effects (radical mood swings, depression) were too much.

The following evening, Halloween, I spent handing out candy to trick-or-treaters upstairs with my landladies. Two evenings later, November 2, I had my electrolysis appointment (now every three weeks). I worked the following day and then, on the way home, picked up my prescription. I started taking it the following day, Sunday, November 3: a very somber day, with relentless, pouring rain. Later that afternoon, my father called (our regular, alternate week calls) and he updated me about my grandmother's burial arrangements; I already knew that there was not going to be a funeral and that she was going to be cremated. A melancholy conversation nonetheless. We also spoke about other things. I remember talking about how lucky I felt to be living fairly well, having lots of friends, living in an ideal neighbourhood with house owners who are also friends, being healthy, having a stable job and career, writing and creating, dancing, transitioning well. I did/do feel lucky; but, sometimes, I take things and people for granted.

The following morning, before work, and right after my second dose of progesterone, I was confronted by one of my landladies about something (actually, a couple of things) that had completely escaped me over the previous several days. It was regarding our backyard garden, I had left some of my plant scraps in the wrong  bin, with dry leaves. I recalled leaving them there previous to being advised not to, but had forgotten to remove them. But, it was clear from the degree of her upstate, that there was more to this than the garden. Regardless, I apologized profusely before rushing out to clear things up. On progesterone things were magnified (I had woken up very drowsy and nauseous that morning); within minutes after coming back in from the garden, I was in a crying fit. All the old negative self-talk came back with a vengeance. I sobbed while doing the morning dishes and then, while putting my coat on for work. At work for the next few days, I felt sheepish, ashamed and very vulnerable. I was paranoid that I would slip up somewhere and get yelled at.

By mid-week, I had spoken to a few friends and asked a few online what to expect. I was ready to throw in the towel on those capsules any day. A few friends, having gone through this  in some form themselves assured that the depressive state lasted a few days only. The nail-biter presidential election in the US preoccupied me on Tuesday evening. When Obama won, I breathed a sigh of relief, although not without some anxiety about the bumpy road ahead politically speaking. I cried tears of joy during his victory speech. The clouds were beginning to part. Indeed, by Wednesday evening, November 7, I was starting to feel lighter. At a meeting for The Switch that evening, I was even feeling a little more like my creative self again. The next night brought a small set-back, however. DJing for a swing dance was something I had been doing for sometime, on monthly basis. Mere minutes before I was set to start playing, my laptop electrical cord burned out; its battery was also low with only twelve minutes of power left. Some quick maneuvering  by the dance organizers got a replacement, but the guilt I felt and the pressure of all of those sympathetic eyes. I realized how vulnerable I still felt in the local swing scene, the community that had lifted me up several times when I was down. Now, I felt that I had let them down. As I danced that night, it was likely that no one knew how bad I felt ... but, I did.

I woke up Friday morning somewhat refreshed (I had gotten home to bed earlier than expected the previous night) and went to work. At work, all of us were working on getting our new library branch open the following week (tomorrow), and I spent the morning at the new location getting acquainted before going to the main branch to work on the desk. But, it was the weekend that I was looking forward to.

I had registered for the annual Vancouver Jazz Dance Festival towards the end of the summer. I had also sampled last year's inaugural weekend festival and thoroughly enjoyed it. Each night had a theme: 1920s Prohibition Era on Friday night, 1930s Savoy Ballroom swing era Saturday night, and the early 1940s Sunday afternoon and evening for Remembrance Day on Sunday. After work Friday, I raced downtown to get the finishing touches to my flapper outfit (tights and eye makeup), grab a bite to eat and then, raced back home to feed my cat before showering, dressing, putting on my makeup and rushing out the door and over to the Russian Hall in Strathcona for the last 2-3 hours of the dance.

I missed the Saturday afternoon portion of the festival as I had a midday meeting for The Switch. I dressed late 1960s during the day, black mini dress and beret with stained-glass tights and then, after the meeting rushed over to a vintage clothing store in my neighbourhood to get an outfit for Sunday. Then I picked up a black skirt for the Saturday dance. That night, my dancing energy came back full force. The band cooked and so did the dancers ... the auditorium was broiling with heat. I slept well that evening.

On the final day, I dressed in a sailors jacket and high-waisted pants and tight sleeveless sweater with nautical stripes and had my hair in pig-tails. The whole look came together. I was proud. Sunday was a dizzying mix of film clips, laughing, dancing and shouting. I danced until I could no more and left satiated from all the fun, friends and festive jazz music. Hungry, I went for a fried chicken dinner on the Drive before going home.

Today, I slept in good and late while it rained outside. My cat Tatum couldn't have been happier. I felt tired and exercise sore both emotionally and physically. I talked things over with my landlady this afternoon. In one week, I had grown and it had hurt at times. I realized that I do sometimes take friends for granted and that I over-compensate by coming down too hard on myself. I do not blame progesterone for creating my issues nor do I credit it for teaching me the lessons that come from them. Transition is not an escape from your problems, but, like many other life challenges, it does provide you with opportunities to grow up and out.

An Extra Day of Remembrance

As Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day in the US) fell on a Sunday this year, today is statutory holiday: another day to remember those who laid their lives down for us in generations past as well as those who currently make the same sacrifice. Here's some family history.

My maternal great grandfather, born and raised in St. John's parish in Barbados, served in World War I with the British Army in Egypt; he was based in the ancient city of Alexandria surveying the area for military encampments. His son, my grandfather, was no doubt influenced by his father's volunteering for the military to volunteer himself during the Second World War, training in Canada before serving in England beginning in early 1944; bombing still happened over London and the English countryside.

Horror surrounded both of them, but at the same time their worlds, molded by spending their early lives in rural villages near sugar plantations, were expanded. My grandfather made the decision to move to Canada in 1946 and sent for my grandmother and four uncles. They settled in Huntingdon, Quebec, south of Montreal, before moving to Montreal itself. My mother was born in an old tenement apartment on Boulevard St. Laurent and Rue DeBullion in mid 1947, one of the first Canadian citizens (before 1947, Canadians were still considered British subjects). The following year, my grandfather, working as a redcap porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway, bought a veteran's bungalow in the Rosemont neighbourhood in Montrreal's east end.

Today, I contemplate both of my forbear's decisions, without which I may have had a very different life if a life at all.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Une Pause Cafe

French for a "short break" which is what I will be taking from blogging and social media activity for a while. During the past week, I have lost both my surviving grandmother and a much-loved former co-worker. I have been reminded of the value of life and well-being and will be taking a break to recharge and get some sleep issues dealt with (one of my resolutions for this year).

I will be back early next week.

See you soon,