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.