Stop Gender Policing

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I started my day with an email asking me for an interview. The student addressed his email to “Mr.” I was nice enough to respond to him anyway – though I’ve been known to ignore someone who didn’t take the time to check this. I actually couldn’t help him (not an expert in what he was looking for) so there was no harm done. I got a nice apology note – though I didn’t call him on it.

Then, a little later in my day I had a conference call. It’s me, another legal beagle (“Kim”) and the woman on the other side (“Hillary”). When Hillary answered the phone, I said,

“Hello Hillary. This is Tristan (I can’t use Butch here because it will confuse you), and Kim from Blah Blah Corp.”

And Hillary says, “But not in that order, right?”

Kim and I are confused and I reply, “What?”

Hillary says, “Well, you said Tristan and Kim. Tristan first, but you’re Kim, right?”

“No. I’m Tristan.”

“But Tristan is a man’s name and this is a woman’s voice.”

“No. I’m Tristan and that’s Kim over there.” I point in wonder to Kim across my desk. We both look shocked as we realize what’s happening.

Hillary starts to sputter and apologize profusely, “But I thought – Oh I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to -“

Didn’t mean to what? Imply that my parents are idiots for naming me Tristan? Didn’t mean to imply that only a man can have a traditionally male name? What exactly didn’t you mean, Hillary?

Of course I didn’t say any of this.

Now, Kim and I laughed. Kim knows I’m a good sport. I joked to Hillary that at least we know she didn’t Google me. Ha ha ha.

This interaction left Hillary embarrassed (rightly) and befuddled (natch). Even though I’m a good sport, that’s not going to stop me from (anonymously) putting Hillary on blast.

I mean. What the hell? What on earth would lead a professional woman to be so desperate for gender conformity on a professional phone call that she would behave this way? It’s not a call set up by Match.com. It’s a professional meeting. To discuss contracts. And indemnity. And licensing provisions. Boring stuff for most of the world; not me, of course, I love that stuff.

Who the hell cares whether she is talking to two women, a man and a woman, a woman and a Butch, or – two aliens, for that matter?

Is she going to defer to the person she thought was a man? Is she going to ask me out on a date? What was she doing being so concerned? Maybe the man should be doing the speaking and if he’s not, then he’s clearly not on the call yet. Should we wait?

I’ve been on conference calls before with a bunch of men. I’ve no issue asking the people to announce themselves so I get a chance to place the voices. Occasionally, I ask if the person who just spoke was soandso. But, to get absolutely tripped up over the fact that I’m speaking and my name doesn’t match my voice? It’s a new level of gender policing.

Though I despise the bathroom double takes and mistaken Sirs, at least those have an explanation – however feeble or rooted in ignorance they may be. This one left me perplexed. Shaking my head, as it were.

News flash Hillary: Not all women are named womanly names and not all men are named manly names. Sometimes, a woman is named Pat, or Hunter, or Michael (grrrowl). Sometimes, a man is named Kelsey, or Michele, or Shannon. And sometimes, a Butch is named Tristan. A big ol’ woman-identified Butch. Get over it.

Have any of you ever experienced this kind of crazy policing on the phone?

It’s Butch to stop gender policing. Be Butch.


Rhetoric?

Logic


10 Being The Worst Pain You’ve Ever experienced in Your Life…

I posted this today on the Huffington Post, but I understand it’s hard for some of you to comment there, so I’m reposting in it’s entirety here. If HuffPost is your thing, please wander over there and give it a like. Thanks.

Sometimes I wonder if the pain is all in my head. If it really hurts or I just think it does. This is especially true whenever I find myself at a doctor talking about my “situation.”

You know the question, “on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced in your life, what is your pain level?”

It’s a well-meaning question. I think probably useful for most people. It’s even useful for me for anything not related to my “situation.” But when it is related, as it has been recently, I am at a total loss for words. Why?

Because my scale is skewed. The worst pain I ever had was when I was crushed between a car hell-bent on making a left turn (in spite of me) and my motorcycle. I endured indescribable pain at that moment. I endured indescribable pain as I flew 75 feet through the air. The pain was indescribable as the fireman flipped me over, though I had turned myself over shortly after landing on my stomach. You see, both of my legs were so badly broken that it turns out I had only turned my torso over, not my legs. I still remember screaming in pain as they loaded me onto the gurney. Hearing the firefighters and paramedics debate whether they should wait for the life flight helicopter or drive me to the university hospital – which was only minutes away. They were afraid the speed bumps would be torture for me and cause more blood loss. I’d already lost 2/3 of my blood at the scene.

They were right. It was torture. I wish I’d passed out. It’s only fair that I should have. If life was fair, I would have. Actually, if life was fair, I wouldn’t have gotten hit to begin with. But it’s not fair. So I didn’t pass out and I did get hit. I asked for pain medication. They wouldn’t give me any – because I needed to make decisions. What?

I spit out my parents phone number repeatedly – desperate for them. Once they arrived, I finally got the elusive pain medication I was so very much in need of – not that it took away the pain. I remember my mom’s face as she told me it would be alright. I wanted so very much to believe her.

It was alright. I kept my legs. I died 3 times, but I’m here and I kept my legs. I could not be more grateful.

But, 11 leg surgeries later (12?), I have lots of pain. A lot. I’ve got arthritis and joint pain from the old injuries. Hell, over 15 years ago I was told I needed a knee replacement. How long will it last, I asked (still a young woman). I think the doctor said 15-20 years, but whatever the exact number, it meant I’d need another one in my late 40s. No thanks, I thought. I’d lived with pain that long, and I could live with it longer. It’s the same reason I have huge scars on my legs.

“We can fix those for you,” the plastic surgeon who came to consult with me said.

“Fix them?” I asked.

“Well, minimize them.”

“And how do you do that?”

“By taking skin from your backside,” he answered.

“But won’t that leave a scar on my ass?” He nodded. “Why would I want another scar on my ass just to ‘minimize’ these scars?”

Suffice it to say, I was unconvinced. I still have horrible scars on my legs. My ass however, is perfect (so to speak).

You can’t see them most of the time. Just like my pain.

I hide it really well. Indeed, this post is a challenge for me. I like for people to think me fit. Able. Capable. I spend a lot of time working to find myself Able. Capable. But there are the inescapable realities that I am a little less able than most. A little less capable.

So, when it comes time to answer the question about my legs – my hip, either knee, or my foot – I am at a loss. Today, I am not at a 10. I am not feeling the worst pain I ever felt. But I am indeed in pain, and the level of pain I am experiencing very likely justifies the doctor paying attention. It probably justifies whatever procedure or medication she is considering.

It’s my problem, of course. I need to advocate for my needs. They can’t read my mind. But it’s just so hard. How do I quantify this pain today? How do I put a number on a level of pain that I deal with daily? That I’ve actively tried to get my brain to ignore? To minimize?

Honestly, I have no idea. I’m just sitting here with pain at a higher level than usual in my foot and I started to wonder, is it all in my head? If I just decide I am not in pain, will the hurt go away? Can I fix my occasional limp?

Wishful thinking to be sure. But writing is better than feeling sorry for myself. I think.

I’m not feeling very butch right now, so I can’t come up with a clever butchism to close. It’s butch to admit you are in pain? It doesn’t feel very butch, but so be it. Be Butch.


Uber Butch: Lea DeLaria

Hi BOTs! Guess what I did last week? I got to fly to Chicago to cover a big lesbian party called Back Lot Bash. As part of my press access, the organizers Christina Wiesmore and Amie Klujian were able to get me an interview with the one and only Lea DeLaria. I had so much fun talking with Lea that night! The full interview is up now over at Huffington Post Gay Voices. Won’t you go read it? If you like it, will you click that snazzy little “like” button and possibly share it on Twitter, Facebook or via email? HuffPost likes to support bloggers that have good numbers… Thank you!

It’s hard to imagine being any more Butch than Lea DeLaria (but I will try!). Be Butch.


10 (Chronological) Signs You Have Monday Disorientation

Butch is a little disoriented...

Butch is a little disoriented…

1. You sleep through your alarm
2. Your cats hurl themselves at your bedroom door in disgust
3. You get shampoo in your eyes
4. You knock the conditioner off the shelf in your shampoo-induced blindness and it lands on your (bad) foot
5. Your phone chargers are still packed, so both phones are dead
6. Those pesky car keys are nowhere to be found
7. You forget your vitamins and have to go back in the house to get them
8. You walk away from your car leaving the windows open
9. You drop your brief bag and the contents spill out onto the pavement
10. You hit the emergency button in the elevator and have to wait embarrassed to tell the operator that you are not in fact stuck, just disoriented, and mumble a rushed apology


The Pride of Chicago – Back Lot Bash

It was my great pleasure to hit the Back Lot Bash Music Festival on Saturday, June 28th in Andersonville, Chicago. You may have read the review and seen the photos I took from the opening Comedy Night (if not, here they are again).

On Saturday, my wife and I headed off to the festival armed with an umbrella – because my aunt is brilliant and prepared. We grabbed a quick bite at Lady Gregory next door. I was able to get in a Revolution Anti Hero American IPA and a Two Brothers Domaine DuPage Biere de Garde while we ate our brie and hearts of palm salad. As it was time to walk back to the festival, the sky opened up. Bravely, I trudged to our rental car to fetch the umbrella. Being from California, of course, it was possible that I might melt, but I shouldered on. I am glad I did.

We were the envy of the entire festival as we rolled in with our bright red umbrella. The attendees were so jealous! Anyway, the rain had thrown what you would think would be a real kink into things. The lesbians had scattered to the various tents and were huddled up together. Everyone was hoping it would pass quickly.

At this point, I saw the festival organizers, Christina Wiesmore and Amie Klujian. They were keeping it together – not what you might expect from the gurus of an outdoor festival during a downpour. Christina was drenched to the skin, but she had a big smile on her face. She must have been feeling some stress, but she did not let it show. It will pass, she chirped. I said, let’s have a wet t-shirt contest!
Kiyomi McCloskey, Hunter Valentine

Kiyomi McCloskey, Hunter Valentine

The storm did indeed pass, and the music continued. The evening was being emceed by Lauren Bedford Russell, who I interviewed a few months ago, and we arrived in time to see Hunter Valentine. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hunter’s lead Kiyomi McCloskey last year. The show was powerful and they rocked the festival – especially when Kiyomi crowd surfed. After Hunter Valentine closed their set, a popular local cover band Your Villain My Hero closed out the festival with song after song that kept the crowd dancing.

Check out all the shots I took here.

The Eleventh annual Back Lot Bash was a blast. You should make plans to go next year. It’s butch to join your community and show your pride at Back Lot Bash. Be Butch!


Comedy Night with Lea DeLaria

Photos: Comedy Night with Lea DeLaria

I had the pleasure of attending the Back Lot Bash kickoff Comedy Night on Thursday in Chicago. The headliner was none other than the amazing butch mega talent, Lea DeLaria. Christina Wiesmore and Amie Klujian, the organizers of Back Lot Bash were kind enough to work with Lea to get me an interview! I am working on putting that together for you all. In the meantime, here are the photos that I took from the event. Oh, and here is my review.

It was fantastic. The venue had a fantastic selection of craft beer and some tater tots that were kind of ridiculous. Christina and Amie did an amazing job selecting the place, talent, and ran things beautifully. They also made me and my wife feel really special and welcome. Thank you!

Sapna Kumar, the emcee, was very funny. Her jokes about her Indian mother made us laugh out loud. Sapna kept the evening running smoothly. Caitlin Bergh from the series Hashtag was really enjoyable, and as a veteran of Los Angeles, I enjoyed her riffs on life in LA and the horror that is Craig’s List dating.

The set that Lea DeLaria did was outstanding. I do not remember ever laughing that hard. Perhaps it is the sheer joy of listening to someone who has so much in common with me. Perhaps it is just her gift and everyone feels that way when she performs. But, I felt like she had created her set just for me. It didn’t hurt, of course, that she heckled me twice from the stage by name. The first time was when she ordered a Heineken and an anejo tequila from the stage “though Tristan will not approve.” And the second, was when she shouted, “I could kick you in the face, Tristan.”

Obviously, we need more Lea DeLaria. And, more butch comics. Please.

It’s butch to support lesbian comics. Be Butch!


She’s Still Single!!

Originally posted on Vulnerable Verbiage:

It has come to my attention many a time through cyberspace that folks (lesbians especially) do notunderstand dating. I get this one particular question so often it makes me scream. Yes. Scream. To me it’s so fucking obvious. Maybe, because I am femme and these are butches inquiring.

View original 536 more words


My Little Bastard & Our Shitty Day

20140605-211353-76433301.jpgYesterday, I handled some work from home in the morning and had to deal with an obnoxious cat. You cat people know what I mean.

I’m sitting at the dining room table. The cat comes strolling along, casual as the night is dark and stands on the table. I yell at him and clap – in an effort to startle him off the table. What does he do? He looks at me and slowly, leisurely, lays down right where he had been standing. On the table. Bastard. I throw whatever small thing I’ve got handy at him to scare him off. It’s my pill container. Unfortunately, it’s not sealed and one of my meds pops out. I didn’t think anything of it. That is, until a few minutes later I look up from my work and realize that the bastard is eating something – the pill that popped out. I jump up and try to stop him, salvaging a tiny bit of the pill. He has eaten the rest of it. It takes me awhile to realize how dangerous this is. I explain what happened to my wife and we come to the conclusion that I need to go to the vet. Off I scoot, gathering the bastard into his kennel. I call into work – feeling very, very lesbian.

I mean, “Hi, I need to stay home because my cat is sick.” I might as well say that I’m slipping on my Birkenstocks and rushing him to the vet in my Subaru and Life is Good apparel.

A very expensive visit later, I drop the bastard off at home – having given him subcutaneous fluids at the vet without fainting (needles make super un-butch). Then, I’m off to work. I have a long day. I mean long. I hang up from my last call at 9:34 pm. Then it’s time to reply to some emails and do some work. I walk out of the office at 11:16. I’m not complaining because that is very rare. I’m just explaining my state of mind.

After work, I head to the pharmacy for cat meds. I think I’m going to pick up a quick bite as well, but I am quite wrong. Nothing is open except for
Wendy’s. I do enjoy Wendy’s, but I don’t want fast food tonight.

I’ll make something at home.

I get home and it’s time to care for the bastard. He needs two meds and more subq fluids. After changing, I get to work. He is unhappy with the first med. So much so that he scratches my stomach (it bled for awhile) and puts two holes in my fav t-shirt. Grrrr.

Then I’m off to handle the kitty litter and see he’s thrown up the charcoal in the hallway. In the shape of a penis, I might add. And again in the bathroom. After a significant amount of scrubbing, I finish the disgusting task. Next, a pill.

This time, I hold and pet him. Trying to soothe my little bastard. He has had a worse day than me, after all. He tries to wait me out – spitting out the half melted pill way, way after I give it to him. But I am more patient and he eventually gets the whole dose (I think). Finally, it’s the IV time.

The higher you hang the bag, the better, they said.

Well; I don’t have anywhere high so I get out a nail and hammer. After midnight, I quickly drive that nail to use as the IV hook. I wrap the bastard up in a “kitty burrito” as they suggested. I’m able to get the needle in and everything is working. I silently pat myself on the back. It takes about 10 minutes for the 150ml to find the way into his neck. I withdraw the needle as instructed and pinch his skin to keep the fluid in. Hooray! Problem is that the needle is pumping fluid out like a water pistol. Jesus, it’s hard to remember everything.

What a shitty day. Sometimes, it’s Butch just to get through it. Be Butch.


How Strangers & Heroes Can Change Your Day

Sometimes, you are just doing your thing. Keeping your head down. And someone walks into your path and shakes you up in a big way. This can be a negative, like a stranger cutting you off on the road and flipping you off. Or someone being rude to you when you are out shopping, getting gas, mowing the lawn, putting up Christmas lights. Whatever. Or.

Or, it can be someone stepping into your path when you need it most. “Watch out” a passerby says as you are about to step on a patch of unseen ice, “I just slipped there, be careful.” A stranger flashes headlights at you and you know there is a police officer up ahead running a speed trap. Or, more benign, someone leaves a coupon for you on an item on the store shelf and you happen to be able to use it. There are a million little ways that strangers impact us – for the better and for the worse. But sometimes, it’s bigger than the coupon on the shelf. Sometimes it’s even better than not running through a speed trap.

I was at my physical therapy appointment. Struggling through the set of exercises after seeing the therapist and getting worked over. She is wonderful, but if you have ever had PT you know what I am talking about. Ouch. Plus, it was the first day that I had PT without taking a pain pill before seeing her. Not entirely on purpose, but certainly a good sign – that I hadn’t needed one. So, there is some improvement.

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Oh, I should explain. If you don’t know me, or are new to my little blogging corner of the world, you don’t know that I had major reconstructive surgery on my shoulder 10 weeks ago. Major. When I say major, I mean it. They did 7 different procedures on my shoulder. I can’t even name them all. In fact, when I try to share with people – so they don’t think I am a wimp that it’s 10 weeks out and I still can’t hook my own bra – I can only list 5 of them. They rebuilt my rotator cuff, which was only 20% attached. They repaired my subscapularis. They fixed my labrum. They ground up the underside of my clavicle to make more room for the muscles (which are clearly so giant!). And, they cut my bicep off of the bone, removed the shredded part, and reattached it to the top of my humerus with these cool octopus anchor things. That’s the big one, I think. But, then, what do I know? I can’t even name all 7 of the procedures.

I hurt myself training for a powerlifting competition. So, I want to make sure to tell you that. For one, it makes me feel better. For two, it will help explain what I am about to share. I am not overly competitive, but I am very excited about powerlifting. I found it last year and really enjoy it. It is something that I can do with the other physical limitations that I have (not for this post), and it helps me feel fit, strong, and control my weight. Here is a sport where my size is a benefit! Why not do a competition? Hooray! I did one and it was awesome.

But, I hurt myself along the way. And, there was rehab. And, then when that didn’t work, there was surgery. And, I have been recovering. And I can’t even open some water bottles because gripping and turning hurts so badly. And, I am not feeling like I am making much progress. And, I have needed lots of help. And, I have been feeling sorry for myself. And, not feeling all that butch – at least not in being able to do some of the things that I like to do for me and my wife (again, that’s a whole different post). And, I can’t work out. And, where are all those positive endorphins? And, and, and!

Perhaps you can see where my head is. So, I am at PT and it hurts, but I am doing alright. I joke with Todd Durkin, the amazing man who runs the gym (where I train, and also there is PT), that he should call me “QB” because I had NFL quarterback-like surgery. We laughed and I kept doing my PT. I finished up and in walks a famous NFL QB whom I love, let’s call him Joe. That is not a big deal in and of itself, as Joe works out at my gym and has done so long before I ever went there. But, this particular day, I had an experience I have not had before.

I was getting some water from the front desk and Joe is talking to Todd next to me. Todd says to Joe, “She had worse shoulder surgery than you did, Joe.” He looks at me (has seen me around, etc.) and says, “What did you have done?” I stumble through the details (evidence my attempt above), and he asks how I hurt it. Powerlifting, I share, training for a competition.

Am I really swapping injury stories with Joe?!?

He then asks how long before I get back to it. 10 months, I say. “What is your interim goal?” he asks. Interim goal? I don’t know, I think. I don’t have any. Sleep through the night? Be able to walk around with my arm out of the sling and not have it hurt? I admit that I don’t have any. He says, you need an interim goal. A couple of them. Something to get me from here to the next couple of weeks, rather than from here to 10 months from now. They told him he wouldn’t play for 8 months. He thought that was ridiculous and so he set short term goals.

As an editorial aside, can you imagine how I was feeling during this chat? This pep talk that I was getting from Joe? One of the best quarterbacks of all time (trust me on that)? A future Hall of Famer? I mean, WHAT?!?

So, here comes a stranger (just cause I know who he is, doesn’t mean he knows me) to change my day. Here is someone that is a bit of a hero for me and he takes the time to say, “Watch out for the ice there.” He shares a bit of himself with me, and encourages me to set interim goals. In doing so, he changes the way I look at my recovery. He makes it about training. Getting back to what I love. Not about focusing on the pain, or the sleepless nights, or the water bottles I can’t open and the bras I can’t quite get on myself. No. In one selfless and giving swoop, he shifts my focus. Not on 10 months from now. He shifts it to this week. What is my goal right now? What is the first hurdle that I can get over?

I don’t have stats in front of me, but I know that he has been a better QB after his surgery. That he rebuilt his own shoulder and went on to do more than he did before. Maybe he would have improved that much anyway. Or, maybe he took the challenge and made himself better because of it. I think that is what he encouraged me to do today.

My shoulder still hurts. I still can’t easily open the door for my wife. But I feel different. More optimistic. Today, I am focused on returning to a full range of motion. That is my next hurdle. That is my focus. Not 10 months from now (how much will I be able to lift again? Will it hurt? Can I compete?).

So I was just doing my thing. Keeping my head down. And, into my path walked a stranger to shake me up in a big way. Today it was a hero of mine. And, now everything is different. Thank you, Joe.


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