Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!!!

No, I'm not at a gala party tonight nor am I at a festive house party. I'm at home, in my pj's, warming up something comforting for dinner having just fed my cat a half-hour ago. At nine pm, I'll be getting call from my father in Montreal (where it will be midnight Eastern Time). At midnight here on the West Coast, I'll be opening a bottle of sparkly ... pop: not champagne.

But, none of this is sad, tragic or in any way unfortunate. In fact, this is how I wanted to see out the old year, restful (I've also just gotten over the flu), quiet and gathering my energy for the new year as I'm sure I'll need. Many projects lay ahead (more in my next post) and I need to be ready. For now, though, I contemplate the past year one last time. It was year of fewer posts than previous years, but no lack of developments in life. I would like to say a final farewell to the friends who are no longer in this life; thank you for accompanying on my life's journey for as long as you could. For my surviving friends, some having good years and others not, I love you all and do not forget it.

And for my blog visitors, thanks once again for being there!

Happy New Year to you all and be true to yourselves in 2014 and beyond!

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” - Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas!!!

I guess there are many ways to wish people well this season, but I like the UK way of saying "Happy Christmas"; sounds cozy. Cozy is what I am hoping to get a lot of over the next week and a half while I am on vacation, hanging out with friends, celebrating abundance and helping others who do not have it so well. Inevitably, it is also a time to reflect on the year gone by and begin to visualize a better future next year and beyond.

In the meantime to all my readers, thanks again for stopping by and my best wishes this season, whatever you celebrate, and in 2014!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The December Project, 2013

Having a hard time this holiday season? If you're trans* and feeling blue this time of the year, the December Project is back for the third year in a row and is ready to make your Christmas/Yule/Solstice brighter and warmer.

The December Project was launched on December 1, 2011 as a support network for transfolks who, given that this season is a lonely, isolating one for many of us, would like someone to talk to. The Project, founded by Jennifer Finney Boylan, Helen Boyd, Mara Keisling and Dylan Scholinski, aims to: "raise the spirits of people in the trans community during what can be a difficult time of year".

Boylan elaborates on her site: "We are two trans women, a trans man, and a spouse of a trans woman. Between the four of us, we have heard many different kinds of trans narratives.  If we can help you, we would be glad to do so."

See the rest of Boylan's post for more information. To everyone in the trans* and genderqueer communities, please take care of yourselves during the holidays. Remember, you are loved!

And to the December Project network: Once again, Good on you! Keep up the great work!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Brand New Beat: Farewell, Shake a Tail Feather

And so, today, I hosted my last episode of "Shake a Tail feather", the classic soul music program I have been hosting on CITR FM (University of British Columbia) since September 2006.

Over the past seven years and two months, I have laughed, cried, danced, sat and listened in awe to some new, but very old obscurity sharing it with my audience as well as sharing the newest indie soul and funk done the old-fashioned way by new bands hailing from Vancouver, Ottawa, Brooklyn, Barcelona and many points in between.

Many things went into my decision to draw the show to a close, and I will likely get into some of them in more detail in a later post (when I reflect on the turbulent year that was 2013), but suffice it to say that I had a lot of fun hosting, interviewing guests, and hearing back from my listeners. It is simply time for me to move on to a brand new beat.

Thanks so much to CITR and the show's fans and to all the soul/rhythm and blues artists, living or dead, who poured their hearts out on record so that I and others could enjoy their fresh, heartfelt sound many years later.

And now, it's on to bigger and better.

Love, Vanessa (DJ V)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Once the Candles Go Out ... TDOR 2013 and Beyond

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of The Transgender Day of Remembrance; it was originally started in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist, to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. Since then, the memorial has grown from a web-based memorial project into an international day of action; the TDOR web site still operates, its scope international as well.

Sadly, 2013 has seen many more names added to the remembrance list. I am confident that those of us in the trans* or genderqueer communities will either be at one of the many events today or will find other ways to memorialize, perhaps remember friends or family that have been lost due to transphobic violence or suicide. I am also confident that, once the candles go out this year, that we will resolve to fight for the basic civil rights that we deserve, the we will speak truth to power in Victoria, BC, Ottawa, California, Washington DC and elsewhere, and that we will also fight to tell our own stories in the media and in our popular culture so that the vitriolic rants of reactionaries on so-called news stations and the cheap, dehumanizing jokes of talk show hosts and so-called comedians will eventually fade, drowned out by the truth of our individual lives and our collective experience.

Let's gear up for the good fight ... and may the light outweigh the darkness in 2014. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Coming Out Day, 2013: More Life!

Coming out has been, by now, a years long process, including coming out to myself. My knowledge that I was a transwoman was hidden from my conscious view for many years: a subliminal message. Then, at various points throughout my twenties, I glimpsed it, but was too afraid to name it. It gradually dawned on me from my early thirties onward, finally hitting me like a ton of bricks in my thirty-eighth year. Even then, it took over another year before I started my transition, after much research and soul searching. For a more detailed telling of all of this, those of you who have not already done so can have a look at the "About Me" section of this blog by clicking on the link in the right hand column.

Since, actually before, starting transition, I have been coming out to friends, co-workers, and folks in virtually every area of my life including my radio listeners. My family, most of it estranged, is another matter. But, I continue to come out every day in every way as the ripple effects of being myself in this way flow out to other realms of my life. More confidence, more passion, more compassion, more maturity, more detachment, more life. I would not trade this for anything else.

Friday, 4 October 2013

'The Switch' Trailer: New and Improved!

For those of you who were wondering, yes, The Switch, the trans-themed sitcom in which I was a member of the writing team, is still chugging along. A new pilot, with an almost completely new cast has been completed. Here is the new trailer, enjoy!

Keep up to date with the latest news on our production at The Switch web site.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Congrats Cassidy!!! Hang In There!

Dear Cassidy,

I would like to add my voice to the many others out there congratulating you on your winning the homecoming queen crown a couple of days ago and offering support and encouragement since then. Regardless of what the haters are saying, you have done great and done us all proud. And regardless of how you feel right now, you have you whole life ahead of you, and you can build on the successes you have had already.

Take solace in the fact that you have what it takes; this will carry you forward through the many ups and downs that the future will hold. What others say need not discourage you. And remember, we, others on the same journey and as well as allies, have your back.

My best to you,
Luv, Vanessa

Saturday, 21 September 2013

12,000 Visits!!!

Sometime last night (it's now after midnight) the twelve thousandth visitor came by. My thanks to you and to everyone who has visited over the past couple of years. I hope this blog has given you something valuable in return.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Love, Vanessa

Friday, 6 September 2013

My Quiet, Low-Key, Cozy Birthday Weekend

43 is a nice, round number. But not a major milestone. So, this year, this weekend ... today ... I'm taking it easy, celebrating my 43 years in quiet mode. Not monastic quiet, but very low-key: warm, cozy meals, reading while curled up on my futon next to my cat Tatum, going where I want when I want while being in absolutely no hurry.

I no longer feel isolated, in fact, as today's deluge of Facebook birthday wishes have shown, I have friends-a-plenty. I can choose to be others or to be with myself. Also, after a brief medical scare over the past couple of weeks, my biopsy results came back negative. I'm happy to be alive.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Those Were The Days, My Friends ... Farewell To a Bitter-Sweet Summer

Here come the shorter days, the earlier sunsets, the evening cool breezes and the season of Virgo until the last official day of summer. There is also the return to work and school for many starting tomorrow. As this is also the time where I turn another year older, I am normally reflective this time of year. But, I am more reflective and, even a melancholy, this time around.

This past spring and summer, relentlessly cool and rainy at first and then, very warm and dry, seemed to be seasons of disillusionment, loss and grief punctuated by brief moments of brightness and pleasure that came with an anxious aftertaste: how long would the good times last? At my workplace, people have left, been let go, former co-workers have died and others stricken with life-threatening illness. An atmosphere that began, at the beginning of this year as I finally transitioned on the job, as bright and optimistic, became by the end of spring became much dimmer with most of us carrying a horrible, sinking feeling inside ourselves: we (I know I did) felt shipwrecked.

Outside work, life included sudden loss such as when my friend and electrologist passed away suddenly on the Friday before Canada Day. It also included disillusionment; Pride weekend had its high points, but also its busts and resurfacing of years of animosity between the local trans* community and the Pride Society. DJing a low-to-no turnout dance event was enough to get me contemplate leaving DJing behind. Even behind the mic on my radio program, I was running out of steam and envisioning having a younger, soul music fan take over in my place.

Friends of mine have had fallings out with each other, broken up or divorced. I chose to maintain my friendships with all of them. I also have stayed friends with the man who was my brief summer romance and continue to miss him terribly.

Through all of this, at least one bright spot, my 24/7 life, transition, has gone very well. I do at the moment, however, have some unrelated health concerns to deal with; my fingers are crossed for a good result (more on this in another post).

I have had other mixed late-summer, pre-birthday seasons, back in 1994 when my mother passed away and in 2009 when, at the end of my pre-transition rope clawed my way back to wanting to live. This year, with all that has happened, and as the world darkens (Syria, Fukishima), I definitely want to live, in fact, like never before. Perhaps that is what I am being shown, at this point in my life, how much stronger I have become as I have come into my own. Age forty-two might not have been the answer to life, the universe and everything, but instead a revelation. I made it.

A Labour Day Playlist

Sure, today is a holiday, but as I said in my post two years ago, today is a day of remembrance of sorts as well: for all the hard work and struggles of working people the world over, past and present and the struggles, social, political and environmental to come. Here's a playlist of songs to carry in your head today:

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Some Other Martin Luther King, Jr. Speeches Worth Considering

In light of the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom highlighted by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, I decided to post some of my favourite speeches and interviews which have proven to be even more timely of late.

How Long? Not Long! (Rally at the end of the Selma March, in Montgomery, Alabama, 1965)

Interviews during the Selma Voting Rights Movement, 1965.

Antiwar speeches, 1967.

Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, 1968

Last Speech: "I've Been To The Mountaintop" (Memphis, April 3, 1968)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Adieu, Rhizome Cafe!

Perhaps, I should have wrote this post as one of the many love letters to the much loved, an now closed, Rhizome Cafe back during their open house night in June. But tonight, over twenty-four hours after their final night open is when I find myself typing away my own short, sweet eulogy.

I first heard about the Rhizome several years ago. There had been several restaurants and cafe in that East Broadway space beforehand, but this time the friend/s who suggested meeting there did so with much insistence; they said it was an awesome space, with great vegetarian/vegan food, amazing desserts and awesome chai. It was also an incredibly relaxed, open-minded, progressive space. And so dinner with friends it was. That evening and every other time I was there up until this past Thursday night was everything my friends had said it was ... and more.

It was where I performed my last gig as Miss Penny in 2008, and where I began coming out to friends as trans; it was where friends and I got together for rounds of Christmas holiday cheer, where I grabbed a quick bite while passing through the neighbourhood (I'll never forget the miso and tofu rice bowl and the vegan orange cake with a very rich white frosting), where I attended a going away party for a friend who was moving to Ottawa and where I recently attended a board game night.

There were also many events that I wished I had gone to: queer salsa classes, various speakers, poetry nights, mini film festivals (though I did go to the Trans Film Festival there in 2010) and countless music shows featuring local artists.

And tonight, on my bus ride home from the movies, I saw that the space formerly known as the Rhizome Cafe had been cleared of its tables, chairs and couches, all of the art on the walls gone. Soon, there will be a new community hub/cafe in its place which will try to revive the best that the old place had to offer. But, no doubt, some things cannot be replaced.

Adieu, Rhizome! Thanks for being there!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Steppin' Out With the 2013 Vancouver Trans* and Genderqueer Liberation and Celebration March

Here's a video that a friend of mine made of this year's Trans* and Genderqueer March, in East Vancouver. I'm interviewed in it for a couple of seconds.

And here's some footage of the Pride Parade on Sunday; you can kind of see me near the beginning holding half of the Trans Alliance Society of BC banner.

This Post Has 7 Days ... My Week, or so, Between Worlds

"Shhhh! She is traveling between worlds right now. You can see her holding the tension of not knowing ~ she is simply breathing into her unanswered questions. Sometimes she drinks her coffee with quaking hands, not knowing where her relationship or her bank account is going. But this time, she is holding onto the tension of not knowing, and is not willing to hit the panic button. She is unlearning thousands of years of conditioning. She is not being split between the opposing forces of fight and flight. She is neither naïve nor ignorant. She is a frontier woman, paving new roads & making new choices. She is willing to make a new transcendent possibility emerge. You may see her now ~ standing at thresholds, or at crossroads ~ breathing into her body ~ intently listening for inner signals. She's learning new navigation skills as she arrives at a most magical moment of her life."  ~ Sukhvinder Sircar


This post may find you late, but such was my whirlwind week that was. The "week" actually started on the last Sunday of July when I attended and informal discussion group about transwomen in relationships; very enlightening. Then, that evening, there was the wrap party for The Switch. The almost entirely new cast and crew had just finished filming the series pilot. Indeed I had not seen many of the crew and management in months. It was upbeat event for a Sunday evening. It was very flattering to be complimented for the writing I had contributed to the series.

The next evening I saw many of the same people at a meet-and-greet for the Catherine White Holman Centre in my neighbourhood park; a low-key picnic event to raise awareness about the east side transgender health outreach clinic. As Pride week began, I craved more connection with the community, and this event hit the spot.

The next big event that week was the Trans* and Genderqueer March on the first Friday in August which would be in my own neighbourhood for the first time. I had booked the day off as vacation. But, there was another reason I was looking forward to the long weekend.

About two weeks earlier, the day before my electrologist's celebration of life, I had a fortuitous evening. I just gotten home from an appointment with my new electrologist, having spent nearly two hours locked in their stairwell because another overzealous merchant in the same mall had locked the main exit early. Only by happenstance did the building manager's daughter, who lived upstairs, find me and let me out. Relieved, but still on a lot of adrenalin, I hurried home. After dinner, I went on line and checked my email: routine for me. A few months earlier, I had set up a profile on a dating site feeling that it was time to start fishing (my Valentine's Day post inspired me to do so). I disclosed my trans status on my profile and put together one of the most clear, honest descriptions of myself, my life, interests and preferences in a (male) partner that I had ever made.

Over the next little while, I got a lot of unwanted attention: chasers, shady young men with no profiles or, more benignly, people passing through complimenting my profile and wishing me luck. Then, nothing for a stretch: until that Saturday night when I checked my email. While I had been trapped in a stairwell, I had received a message from an older man who, having read my profile and seen our high compatibility rating, was interested in chatting and possibly meeting with me. Intrigued, I replied through the site, introduced myself and said that I was free to chat online the following evening. The following evening, after the celebration of life, I went online to the dating site and sent a message that I was free to chat. A couple of minutes later, he came online and we chatted for a while. He had already sent me his phone number, but after what seemed like a very pleasant chat, I decided to send him mine. He called me. Our phone conversation went even better. We seemed to click immediately, he seemed fascinated by the kind of life I led, diverse and with many goals and activities and I was drawn to how warm, friendly and considerate he sounded. He was recently divorced and going through a messy custody battle; he also seemed ready to start his life over. We spoke again the following evening and the one after that. Then, we decided to Skype; I wanted to see him in real time (he lived in another city, but was preparing to move to Vancouver the first week of August to be closer to his young son). Our Skype dates went even better as I learned more about him and he about me; we became Facebook friends and I invited to read my blog to learn more about me. I was also the first transwoman he had known and that concerned me.

I disclosed as much about myself as I could. He did the same. We became closer, sharing openly with each other and becoming smitten. I told a few coworkers about him. I looked forward to him moving into town. I offered to help him unpack on the first day he was here. We made tentative plans, very tentative as he had plans with his son that same weekend and I certainly did not want to interfere. That day would be the Friday of Pride weekend.

As it turned out, his son arrived at his new apartment early, so we rescheduled to the holiday Monday instead. In the meantime, I marched in the Trans* and Genderqueer March.

The march had a couple of hundred people in it and went very well. I headed home afterwards. A subtext for Pride weekend was that I was getting older and feeling more easily fatigued; late nights were no longer for me. The same for the following evening when I DJ'ed a trans community dance which, for many reasons, wound up being a bust wrapping up at just past nine o'clock. The following day, I was in the Pride Parade with Trans Alliance Society of BC, carrying the banner then whole distance. But, I sat out the community dance that night as well, feeling a bit guilty for doing so. My self-care was a big theme in part because of my friend and electrologist's death, but also because of the precarious health of a former coworker suffering from leukemia who I had visited at Vancouver General Hospital the afternoon before my DJ gig. I contemplated a quieter, healthier life. I also looked forward to the holiday Monday when I finally meet the man I had been online dating for a couple of weeks.

I met him at a nearby cafe during the late afternoon on Monday, after he had brought his son back to his ex's. In person, we were both even more smitten and decided to go for dinner. We bought dessert and took it back to my house where I made tea and we hung out for a while becoming very affectionate. We made plans to get together again the next weekend. The next day, I practically floated to work.

We continued to phone, message and Skype that week. In a few different ways, we supported each other; I listened when he spoke with his heartbreaking custody situation and his anxiety about his future and he listened as I spoke about my hopes and fears about my transition and life in general. By Wednesday of that week, we clearly wanted to meet up again before the weekend and so made plans for dinner the next night. He picked me up at work and we went out for pizza in my neighbourhood. Afterwards, we went back to my house. He seemed really distracted that day; I knew the issues weighing on him and tried to be there for him. We talked a long while before, near midnight, he made to leave. We had made plans to go to the Saturday Farmer's Market a few blocks away at Trout Lake Park, then have a picnic with what we bought and then, later that day go back to his new apartment where I would stay over and make us breakfast on Sunday morning.

I am typing this now, on Sunday afternoon. There was no picnic or pancake breakfast. I went to market myself after spending yesterday morning crying and, after the market, spent the afternoon and evening with good friends, all the while numb. We broke up yesterday morning; what I had sensed, that our budding relationship was too much, too soon for him, was true despite some early assurances that it would be okay. Crushed would be an understatement. My Facebook status went back to single and I tried to remember what it was like to not have a special someone to look forward to, something that was the default for most of my adult life. I have spent more time single then coupled, perhaps this was simply my lot. All I knew was that I would miss my guy painfully. For a few lovely weeks, my daydreams had been sunny snapshots of picnics, movie nights at the Rio, window shopping, interesting and offbeat restaurants, and days at the beach, our hands intertwined, walking hand-in-hand, him lifting me up at the beach to dunk me in playfully and me squealing like a young girl. All of these hopeful images faded. Had any of this happened at all? During the last boardgame night with friends at the Rhizome Cafe last night (more on one of my favourite venues which will be closing soon in a later post) my mind often drifted over towards translucent scenes from my couple of nights with my now ex-boyfriend. Miraculously, I was still able to enjoy the games and the company around me. But last night and this morning, were predictably, sad and tearful.


And so this post, written piecemeal over the last several days, as a journalist would write an article in progress, arrives late, but here anyway. Several days, actually a few weeks, possibly longer, spent almost there and no longer here. This was true with relationships, social functions, ailing and departed friends, and me. During this time, the quote at the beginning of this post landed on my screen and so I included it first. My hands, and my heart, have had plenty of opportunity to quake this year. And I wonder which step to take next. Perhaps, my natural state, finally discovered, is to be in a permanent instability and anxiety of not knowing, but always envisioning and hoping anyway. Living the rest of my years in mid-step.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Being On Purpose

I just got a major insight this week. I learned that, in order for me to be generous and give space to others, I need to give enough space ... and time. Specifically, if I get enough sleep, get up early enough and have enough time to get ready and head out the door, then I am no longer rushing around in the rat race with others and resenting them, all on our way to work or school or elsewhere.

After trying for some time to get myself in order, I finally got tired of the delay-rage I felt daily as I flew out the door and through transit to work or to appointments. I much prefer the relaxed, accommodating state of mind that comes with have room to breathe and enough time to get to where I need to go: other people become not obstacles, but fellow travelers in life. It is not easy, as I have to confront my own laziness and procrastination as well as my OCD tendencies which have long derailed my best laid plans to honour my commitments properly, but I am in this for the long haul.

I am finding being on purpose in my daily life much better than being on automatic pilot.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Farewell, Karen ...

In our life there are often many guides, those who show us the way forward, accompany us sometimes or allow us to take the next steps into a vitally important growth phase. If you are transitioning this is especially true. I have been fortunate to have many guides in my life, friends mostly, who have guided me further along the journey, making further living possible.

This weekend, I lost one of those guides, my electrologist and dear friend Karen Miller. Those of you who are regular visitors to this blog will have likely read my posts on the trials of hair removal; Karen was the invisible star behind those posts. I came a long way with her skill, support, advice and friendship.

Back in 2010, when I was still trying to make up my mind on the way forward, a friend gave me a referral to Karen's office. A year later, after transitioning for nearly six months, I booked my first appointment with her. At the time, I had much work to do, and some sessions, truthfully, were a baptism of fire. Karen, literally, held my hand during those times. I learned patience, self-discipline, self-care and steadfastness over the next couple of years. I, in turn, brought many hours worth of my music collection and radio podcasts to have playing on her office computer while we worked away, sometimes until well after midnight. Those were some special times. Karen was also a transwoman, in her sixties, who carried a lot of wisdom with her. She also spoke very fondly of her colleagues, her fellow golfers and curlers, and of her children.

Eventually, as my facial dwindled, the sessions became shorter and less frequent. By the end of 2012, I was going once a month for just over and hour each time. She said on more than one occasion that she missed my visits. When she spent a short stint in the hospital over the Christmas holidays, I felt concerned for her health, but she seemed to bounce back fine in the new year.

By springtime, I was going every six weeks for an hour each session. Recently, after she had just come back to town from visiting her daughter in northern BC, she proudly showed me and her other staff photos of her holding her baby grandchild. She was glowing. We agreed to meet for dinner before our next session. When the next Friday evening arrived we had forgotten, but promised to firm up plans for the next appointment in July. This evening after dinner, I got news of Karen's passing, and felt shock and numbness. I have lost others this year, but losing Karen does not seem real.

And so, I, and many others including many transwoman whose transitions were greatly assisted by Karen's services, and friends, and family, have lost someone very special indeed.

Karen, I miss you so very much. My deepest condolences go out to her other friends, families and staff.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

And Now, This Side ...

Just as was the case with my post-Mad Men season post last year, this past season's finale and its closing song had me thinking and reflecting.

Last year, the season ended on the eve of my trip back home for my parent and step-parent's wedding and me struggling with living a double life (''you only live twice, or so it seems ... "). This year, living 24/7, I am much more integrated, and ... "Both Sides Now" seems just as suitable. Funny how duality always seems to be a theme here.

But, this moment, just like those of my favourite MM characters, is multi-layered. Much has happened since last year. I may be fully out, but I am also at a crossroads in my life's work, both in my career and outside of it. I once entered the library profession with a strong drive to turn people on to democracy, not just voting every four or five years, but to the daily experience of functioning together, growing together and learning about each other that makes a free and open society and culture a concrete reality, not just rhetoric. I have long since become aware of the negative, even malevolent, forces inside and outside of my field and only feel even more deeply called to help rebuild a sense of public good in the twenty-first century.

In a way, I am a subversive in my profession, seeing its radical political and cultural possibilities. Also, on an individual level, I am a grown-up now, ready take a leadership position with renewed pride in my work. There is much work to do and precious little time to do it.

Which is why the new directions for some of the MM characters were particularly inspiring.

I have seen myself on this side of coming out gender-wise; now it is time to see the other side of my mission here in this world.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Lady Willpower

Confidence is everything. I'm not trying to sound cliched, but one of the many things that I've learned over the past couple of years of coming out in larger and larger concentric circles is that if I carry on presenting as myself like nothing's amiss, others will too: for the most part, anyway. Confidence has also gotten me through some, thankfully uncommon, situations where folks who have clocked me laugh or stare and whisper amongst themselves.

This summer seems, I have felt my confidence blossom and along with it my fashion sense. Of course, I am forever taking cues from decades long ago for my outfits and accessories, and Mad Men, of course has been one of my main inspirations. This season (set in 1968) the shifts, white boots, shear tights and eye popping patterns have infiltrated my night and daydreams. I have been steadily adding these elements, and even whole outfits to my wardrobe. And this only further boosts my confidence as I continue to walk tall ... in style.

Here are some of my favourite looks from that year:

Freedom, creativity, an art-as-life anything goes attitude pervaded fashion that year. It could be futuristic (silver outfits), nostalgic (1920s silent film chic), psychedelic, ethnic, minimal, street fighter tough (leather three-quarter coats and berets), unisex or high femme. I find myself tapping into the creative power of that year and using it to go forward in my own life.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

10,000 Visits!!!

Thank you sooooo much for stopping by over the past couple of years! Look forward to more posts soon!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Granny, Nanny, Mom and The Motherless Child

My maternal grandmother was born and grew up in Bridgetown, Barbados. She married when she was sixteen, miscarried her first child, a girl, within a year, had four children by twenty-three and moved to Canada after the Second World War at twenty-seven. Her fifth child was my mother, born in 1947. She got a job with the Canadian National Railway as a seamstress where she worked until retirement in 1984. Her husband, my grandfather, passed away from cancer in 1994. She herself passed away over the Christmas holidays in 2007.

My paternal grandmother's parents were from England, but had most of their children in Canada. Not many from her generation went to high-school, so it was out to work in her early teens. She had married and had had her first child by nineteen. My father was her third child, born a few months after the end of the war. She  remained a housewife until she divorced my grandfather on that side in 1978. Other than some odd jobs as a cleaning woman, she never held a job from that point forward. Her eldest daughter died from lymphoma in 1995. She herself passed away from complications from a stroke last fall.

My mother's relationships with both her own mother and her one-time mother-in-law were stormy to say the least. There was always tension (racial as well as personality-based) between her and my father's mother, but it was somewhat muted after my parent's divorce. Her relationship with her own mother had deep resentments which were never resolved by the end of my mother's life and had been all but forgotten by the time her mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, died.

As for me, regarded as a "son" and "grandson" for so long, I often had tense relationships of my own with all three of them. Today, Mother's Day 2013, I find myself pondering this. As their daughter and granddaughter after all, I write this post as a tribute to them, as somber a tribute as it may be. In three different ways, I miss you all and although I had never those daughter moments with any of you, I am grateful for each you for giving me life. I will carry your determination to live life on your own terms forward with dignity and pride.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

May Day Remembered

On May 1, 1886, massive demonstrations and rallies of striking worker's took place all over the United States, the biggest being in Chicago. A violent few days followed, culminating in the bombing and gunfire on May 4 at Chicago's Haymarket Square. The bomb thrower was never found, but eight anarchists were brought to trial, four of them were executed. The majority of strikers present at Haymarket Square, however, were struggling for one thing above all: an eight-hour workday.

Five years later, at the second congress of the Second International (an international delegation of socialist and labour parties) in Paris, May 1 was officially made into an annual commemorative day in which workers rallied for the eight-hour day and other demands. Eventually, May Day was made a holiday in many countries around the world as well as a state holiday in socialist countries such as Cuba. In the US, meanwhile, there had been, at the end of the nineteenth-century, a initiative to move the holiday further away from the anniversary of the Haymarket Massacre. Then-president Grover Cleveland, following the lead of the anti-socialist union the Knights of Labor, moved the labour holiday to the first Monday in September.

My own post on the September Labour Day can be found here. May Day, however, is often shrouded in more mystery and its history, based around workers' struggles for basic rights and humane working conditions desperately needs to be remembered. This is even more important in light of the recent workplace disasters in Texas and Bangladesh, both seen increasingly as the result of lax corporate regulations and poor working conditions, echoing historic industrial disasters such as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City.

Perhaps today is an opportunity to begin the long hard work of pushing forward on labour issues, and regain the ground lost over the past few decades of rollbacks and losses.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Earth Day Lament

I was born mere months after the first Earth Day in 1970. In 1990, I marched, planted and recycled on the Earth Day twentieth anniversary. By 2000, Earth Day seemed like and after thought. In 2010, I was firmly committed to urban organic farming and buying, upcycling and reusing in a sustainable fashion.

This year, I find myself doing most of these things, but feeling very weary and, well, sad. That is, sad about the state of the world, the increasingly unpredictable, and even catastrophic, weather worldwide and in my own backyard. The spring fundraiser at my community garden (where I had helped plant fruit trees last fall and prune them, recently, over the Easter long weekend) closed down early, because a torrential rain: icy cold rain. I could not help, but think that we had it coming, not us at the garden, specifically, but us, as in humanity.

We have been carelessly messing around with things for sometime now. Over-consuming, burning fossil fuels at an increasing rate and standing by and doing very little, if anything at all to fight environmental injustices of many kinds. We have only begun to see the impacts that a radically unstable climate will have on our food supply, infrastructure, health and social and economic (even political) stability. And then, there is the havoc we are wrecking on other life, animals and plants. The animals, pets, must often wonder what kind of monsters we humans are, with our arrogance about our place in (or, more accurately, outside of the natural world). This is where members of older generations express relief that they will not be around when things "collapse" and, gee, isn't it too bad they we in the subsequent will be, or might be. So sorry.

I wish this were a cheery, feel-good Earth Day post, but, it is not. Nor do I think that I am being overly-negative (although, what does "overly-negative" mean nowadays with so many examples of our collective decay around us). I know that I am doing my part and doing my best; so are many others that I know and still others, around the world, even under great risk. I guess I am staring to feel the anxiety and fear of there being very little or no time left to have any positive effect on the direction of our societies.

But, next weekend, hopefully in good weather, I will continue to till the soil in my garden plots getting them ready for planting and tending. And soon, the summer farmer's markets will open selling seedlings, organic produce, artisan food and sustainable crafts. This summer I will continue to do and support all of these things. Through it all, I will keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Out Like a Lamb? Not!

And out March goes ... phew!!! Busy month, no? Life still races along. Still writing, still getting my name/ID changes done, still getting my financial house in order, still remembering the rest, sleep, eat, etc. And the good news is that it's all getting done.

So in like a lioness, out like ... a lioness.

Now, for April!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

In Like a Lioness

What a month March promises to be! Creative projects abound: including a certain TV sitcom (see my previous post below). All my new government issued IDs with my new legal name, and in some cases, changed gender marker should be arriving by mail this month. I am also, very humbly I might add, getting my financial house in order.

This month looks like the tipping point in my transition, and life.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

I Feel It In My Fingers, I Feel It In My Toes ...

Over the past couple of years, since I began transition, I have finally gained something that had been elusive for most of my life: self-love. I now know, for the first time, what it means to truly love myself: in body and spirit as well as mind. I have also experienced a huge growth in confidence in all areas of my life.

When asked about whether or not I want to be in a relationship, I usually find that I do not have much to say. I know fairly well what it is like to rush into them only to regret it later, or to obsess about the "one that got away." Years of feeling not just bad, but hollow, about myself led to me striving to make others love me. All to no avail of course. Now, I feel my life is whole and complete, although of course not perfect (whose is?). For the most part, with relationships, I feel that I can take them or leave them. I am certainly not desperate for one.

That said, I do have moments (like right now) where I long to meet the right guy. Perhaps, one day it will happen: a nice, affectionate, smart, compassionate and exciting guy will come along. I am a somewhat old-fashioned, nostalgic, yet also progressive kind of gal who is looking for someone who likes candle light dinners with a little light jazz or soul music in the background, cooking a meal together, cuddling while watching old movies or old tv series, walking in the park or in the country, window shopping, gardening, and, yes, dancing.

The longing is quite deep right now, but with all that is going well, I can wait.

However, the light is always on.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Mama Roux!

If there weren't, between Lunar New Year, Family Day and Valentines Day, enough celebrations going on in this midwinter mini-holiday season, today is Mardi Gras. I have no direct connection to New Orleans itself, but here are some sights and sounds anyhow:

Monday, 11 February 2013

Families ... Given, Chosen and Otherwise

Most of Canada has a Monday in February as a statutory holiday. With the exception of Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, where the holiday is commemorated as either Louis Riel Day or Islander Day, respectively, the rest (British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan) commemorate it as Family Day. BC's is, uniquely, on the second, as opposed to the third, Monday of the month.

Hence, today is BC's first Family Day with many family-oriented activities happening around Greater Vancouver and the province.

It also seems like a time to honour families of all kinds, nuclear, extended, blended, same-sex parents, biological as well as chosen. I am of course grateful to my original family for providing for me as I grew up and doing the best all of its members could to raise me with what they knew at the time. But, I want to also acknowledge how much gratitude and love that I have for my chosen family of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and others among whom I have felt deeply loved and with whom I feel and increasingly deeper connection.

Thanks so much!

Love, Vanessa

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Real New Year Begins!

I have long believed that January 1 signaled not the beginning of a new year so much as the beginning of the last chapter of the old. Listing and starting on resolutions, paying off holiday bills, getting back to a less glutinous eating routine, mid-winter cleaning around the house. Then, somewhere between late January and late February, comes the Lunar New Year. Celebrated variously as Nian (Chinese New Year), Seollal (Korean), Tet (Vietnamese), Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian) and Losar (Tibetan), the Lunar New Year actually feels like a new year.

Today is the first day of the new year in the lunar calendar and, yes, just having finished a full week back at work, the first full week of real life experience is the best definition of a new beginning that I can come up with right now.

Already, it feels like this year will be very focused, purposeful and energetic.

Happy New Year, for real!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Just Settling In

Just a short update ... my first week back at work and living 24/7 (real life experience) is going swimmingly. The acceptance I have felt in workplace and out in public fully has by far exceeded even my expectations, and I had great expectations to begin with (although not without some trepidation).

And what makes it all worthwhile, the perfect harmony I feel within and without me. I am beginning to feel interconnection in a fresh, new and vibrant way.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Name Game ...

And today, it is official ... my name change certificate arrived in the mail. I am now legally Vanessa!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

About Me: A New Afterword

Like the old folk song says, "last night I had the strangest dream, I'd ever dreamed before". In it, my ex from five years ago was settled down with a husband and, somehow, I found myself at her mother's place. Of course, I was now me, not the "old me". Oddly, she did not recognize me. Later, when her daughter and son-in-law came by, my ex appeared stunned, more that I had transitioned than that I was there at all. For most of the dream, I struggled with an overwhelming sense of awkwardness at being there: how did I get there? Why was I there at all? A later scene in the dream had me returning something to a large pet store where my ex worked, in the dream. I remember prepping myself before I entered the store ... confidence! confidence! ... I've come a long way now. And so, I just stood up and walked tall into the store, made my return, and walked through the store out. I had done it ... I had finally moved on.

And The Sun Will Shine

So, over two years after starting HRT, more than a year and a half after starting this blog and nearly a year since finishing my autobio "About Me" section, here I am writing a new afterward.

2011 was a year of revolutions in the world and at home, politically and personally. A great year to come out publicly or to begin transition as I did. To go through so my changes as the old orders everywhere appeared to crumble and topple into the street was exhilarating. After a few years of being stymied on so many front, life and the world both seemed to accelerate. We were all on fast-forward. For me, it was a year of hormone prescription adjustments, tedious, but much needed facial hair removal and a steady process of coming out to more and more people, thankfully, with great results.

2012, almost by contrast, was a more challenging year. Just as people in the post-Arab Spring world focused on the very difficult task of running their new political set-ups and as the Occupy movements ran up against their own limitations, some fading away entirely, the Red Square student movement in Quebec and the various anti-austerity protests in Europe struggled to keep up the momentum of the previous year. And it was also a tough battle uphill for liberal and progressive forces in the US during a nail biting election year (thankfully, it turned out alright).

The day-to-day realities of that personal revolution known as gender transition became very clear to me in 2012. What hormones could and could not do. The huge cost, in time and money, of hair removal. The logistics of coming out everywhere and transitioning at work, in order to live 24/7 as myself. Coming out to my parents, or in my case, not just yet.

One thing became clear to me throughout last year: how much of a ripple effect has been caused by my transition process. Virtually no area of my life has been left untouched by it. In a good way. Once, I was centered, grounded in who I was, my confidence rose significantly. I became more outspoken, more eager to   engage others, to contribute to whatever group I was involved with. I also became much more comfortable with being single (with no relationship) and, even alone (in downtime) when necessary. Gone was the intense melancholy that came with feeling inadequate. It was as if I was now confident enough that I could trust myself to know when I need to be with others and when I needed to be alone.

The summer of 2012 saw many interesting new developments. After nearly two years of taking writing courses, I began work on two nonfiction book proposals. One of my instructors, a book review editor for an academic journal, invited to begin writing book reviews for that publication: all with a local/BC focus. Pride week saw me involved in my first Trans March and marching with the Trans-Alliance Society banner in the general Pride Parade a couple of days later. Finally, I became involved with the sitcom project currently known by the title "The Switch" in late September. I felt that I was boldly entering new turf almost daily.

Down On Me

The fall of 2012 had much bad karma. As we were all reminded all too regularly of the violence and deranged hatred in the world, it was truly a sad season.

With all of this happening, I was also reminded through tense moments with friends and others of my own foibles and vulnerable spots. 2011 and 2012 came with some personal losses also. I lost my eldest uncle  early 2011, he had been seriously ill for many years and died from cancer only days after his seventy-third birthday. I lost another relative on my father's side in early 2012 who had also been battling cancer for several years. Then, the Thursday before Halloween, my surviving grandmother who I had last seen in June passed away after stroke. Perhaps in the long run, I needed to go through my own blue period in order to touch my own basic goodness again. By the time the holidays rolled around, I realized that I was very tired and in need of some sort of break. I decided that I would take a vacation for the last three weeks in January. It would serve two purposes: a much needed break and emotional hibernation, and break from work after which I would return as myself, finally. So, after spending most of the holidays working with only the actually statutory holidays off, I spent the first week of the new year preparing for both.

There Was a Time

Once upon a time, I considered transition a huge chasm that I dared not cross: it was just too much risk, others would hate me for crossing it. Two years later, I almost have to pinch myself to realize that I am alive, awake and that I have actually made it. It has been filled with scary anxiety-filled moments as much as it has been with delightful surreal ones: I am not who I was or am I yet who I will be. Yet, I am who I have been inside since as long as I could remember, and obvious to some people who have known me for many years.

I spent the first week of my vacation getting my name change paperwork in order and filed with the Vital Statistics Agency. The second week, I began (as per my resolutions for this year) cleaning up my suite, getting rid of the very last of my male clothes as well as those that I wore early in transition. Organizing my life, becoming more purposeful and responsible for myself are my currents goals. It is a challenge, but certainly not impossible: old habits can be undone with time and patience.

The rest of my time I spent socializing, writing, napping, dancing, djing, creating and generally, recovering a sense of wholeness. I sense myself being pulled back into a somewhat contemplative life, but a much less deprived one in terms of feeling isolated. A nice way to settle into mid-life.

Both Sides Now

As I spend my last week in hibernation, I am preparing myself for full time real life experience. Part of it scares me, the wildcard of public service and its unpredictable nature, the reality of being fully out and that family conversation getting closer once again. But, I also look forward to it. Double living is now a thing of the past. I am now me everywhere, not just "on my own time". As it should be, of course. A new chapter begins now.


This is a new afterword for my autobio series which I will be adding to its table of contents along with my short series of posts about going home to Montreal last June. In the next little while, I will be giving this blog a much needed redecorating, with a new layout included. Stay tuned.

Love, Vanessa

Last week of January 2013