Choices don't Give Liberty—Being Free of them Does

Same joke as last time - I was really angry about the election while drawing the sketchbook page both cartoons appeared on.

Same joke as last time - I was really angry about the election while drawing the sketchbook page both cartoons appeared on.

You've been detained as a political dissident. The secret police have you strapped to a table, hooded and naked. You are in a torture chamber. Heinous abuses too traumatic to contemplate have been threatened you. A single chance to save yourself and restore your previous life has been offered—your tormentor is demanding that you say, “Uncle!”

Freedom has confused us for centuries. While it originally distinguished slaves from their owners the difference was a hazy one even in ancient times. Some slaves, of imperial households, say, enjoyed wealth and privilege far exceeding most freemen—eunuchs in imperial China castrated themselves to be so lucky. Some freedmen continued to serve their masters after formal manumission—some became slave owners themselves. Some slaves worked as overseers to others. So, what makes any of us free?

The Stoics believed in the sage. You could torture him the rest of his life without his agony ever compelling him to act against his own virtuous will—how could pain trouble one who ascertained the divine order of the cosmos? He would remain free even shackled to the instruments of his torment. And, as freedom was both necessary and sufficient for happiness, he would of course be happy. The philosophers that risked being thrown in the emperor's dungeon depending on how arbitrarily mad at them he was took great solace in such notions—the average reader is less convinced.

In reality, it'd be the easiest thing in the world to make the Stoic say, “uncle.” Torture attacks its victim's willpower because it's physiologically determined and easy to undermine. Our ability to resist—whether by enlightened reason, or blind, passionate obstinacy—ceases to function when deprived of sleep for 72-hours, or when injected with a cocktail of mind-bending drugs. Victim's are scarcely aware of what they're being compelled to by the time they finally crack. To suppose one's dignity and integrity can go untrammeled by concrete violence is wishful thinking.

The justice offered by modern Liberalism is essentially the same thing abstracted. Just as the Stoic claims we are made free by deciding how we meet our fate—including torture—the Liberal believes we are made free by deciding how we meet impersonal market forces—like poverty, unemployment, and homelessness.

Suppose you make a pittance. What happens to what little you manage to scrimp? Do you gamble on needing health insurance knowing the policy's lawyers might fuck you? Or do you invest in a pension knowing free-market shenanigans might wipe it out? Moot points: you are probably deciding which of your debts is most alarming. Liberalism insists that we are free because we make such choices—this, despite that they are usually interrogations of our own hopelessness.

Let's compare two scenarios. In the first, I'm compelled to dine for free at Fraser Cafe, every night, where I shall be served chef's choice with my sommelier's wine pairings. In the second scenario, I must choose between having my hands broken by a hammer, or a vice. Does the second scenario afford me more freedom because it includes a choice? No, the first does, because my hands remain unbroken.

The apparent lack of choice is compensated by the more abstract freedom of having hands. Moreover, I have always preferred chef's choice not merely because I trust my gastronomic artisan's good judgment, but because remaining untroubled by the menu frees me to enjoy myself.

The appearance of choice usually entails abstract coercion. Who is it that gets to decide that my hands are to be broken? Liberalism neglects that there is a balance of forces outside ourselves deciding the ultimatums we are faced with.

Were I genuinely free—say, had I a hundred billion dollars—I would remain untroubled by the decisions poor people have forced on them. Instead of decisions, I'd have whims—bored by my pink personal jet? How about a black monster truck!? Weary of my Hawaiian island? How about my private brothel!?

A rich person can refuse to make up their mind how to paint their home and their interior designer will have to decide for them—and then, if they choose wrong, the rich person has the right to excoriate them for professional incompetence. This is how choice functions. Choice implies having to navigate a maze of anxieties. It's a mental representation of how we apprehend danger and violence.

Deciding between the hammer and the vice is actually worse than having your hands broken because it makes you complicit in the crimes against you. As long as you are encouraged to punish your own choices with a false sense of responsibility, you will not hold accountable those who forced them on you.

Take Veganism and fair-trade coffee. Multinational corporations have the power to dictate modes of production to helpless workers across the globe—to build international supply chains and to fabricate market demand—yet, it's the struggling, indebted artists who have to take responsibility for keeping animal products and child slavery out of their cappuccinos. The boardroom executives paid to make these decisions go scot-free.

Rather than forcing the impoverished to spend their nights researching commodities to assuage their conscience—as if they reliable information of trade secrets could be obtained in the era of covert advertising—how about we force corporations to obey just laws and respect our rights?

Why should people who might be thrown out of work and onto the street themselves at any moment have to take responsibility for charity when those who decide to turf entire workforces could easily foot the bill for everyone's basic needs? The product offered by charities is that the class of people empowered to give to them, on a whim, may assuage their guilt for not accepting a general, mandatory redistribution that would make charity unnecessary. Owning whether or not others starve, that's freedom.

Liberalism is a nightmare at it's most benign: Be yourself! Express your identity! Do what you believe in! Try new things! Redefine yourself!—all bullshit. Were any of this valid, we wouldn't need it shouted at us in the imperative—we would behave according to our own agency absent-minded and untroubled. These slogans exist to reinforce our anxieties over whether our choices have betrayed us. Unless you have a hundred billion dollars—yes. That's what they were designed to do.

Voting not to Vote

The 2015 Canadian election is finally underway and many of my excited friends and colleagues have already decided who they'll be voting for: no one. They are declining the ballot not for good, wholesome, traditionally Canadian reasons like, “I can't be assed to take a break from the TV,” or “I don't give a fuck,” or even the humble, “There's an election?”—rather, they genuinely believe no one's the candidate for them.

Vote for no one! A vote for no one is a vote to keep this country great! No one's a man of people! No one cares about you and your family! No one's the political star of the age and champion of our race's manifest destiny! Vote no one or the figments of a paranoid moral panic will engulf the nation and inflict unspeakable atrocities upon your loved ones!

I have long been suspicious of partisans. The sight of someone holding a pamphlet listing the virtues of a party platform strikes me with the same apprehension of brainwashing I fear from bible thumping door-to-door evangelists. Religious zealots, at least, can justify their conviction against the endorsement of some magical superman—partisans get that enthusiastic about promises made by middle-aged and older slime-ball lawyers. As civil society descends ever further into stagnation, however, our non-voters have begun to sound of the same missionary fervor. Not only are they voting for no one, they believe in it too.

I will not petition them to do otherwise. To do so would fling me headlong into a yawn-worthy debate over whether voting has some symbolic value as a mass ritual reaffirming the universal dignity of each citizen by aligning their individual subjectivity with the ideal of popular sovereignty, or whether it demonstrates contrition in a political system that justifies the right of ruling elites to inflict their will upon the suffering masses by demanding their participation in a grotesque pageant of commercialized, reality TV-style campaigning designed to fabricate a fictitious political mandate. Instead of concentrating on voting, let us instead consider our options.

To suggest we fight for reform at the ballot box is like suggesting a medieval peasant fight for reform by flinging themselves into the mud before whatever lord they're slaving for and pleading to be spared this or that routine torment because, for pity's sake, Tiny Tim's sick half-to-death, and Uncle Pete's got the devil in him again, and we're all just getting over that witch old Bess poisoning the well—it's a noble's job, after all, to dole out justice to their serfs. Surely the formal declarations of benevolence claimed by both feudalism and electoral politics can be taken at face value—they're supposed to help people!

Many modern nation states provide a perfectly transparent framework for addressing every citizen's myriad interest—bribery. Yes, sending the right stack of bills to the right people can accomplish anything. This is about as accountable as electoral politics when you consider that either way the shadowy bureaucrats who actually wield power ultimately make up their own minds—at least bribery gives them any incentive to do as their asked.

The most ancient political systems depended upon that most endearing of institutions, dumb luck. Oracles, omens, and signs have formed the backbone of sound political decision-making since time immemorial. Want to know whether to go to war? Drop a crab into a hollow log and see which end it scuttles out. Need a more nuanced proposal for an upcoming trade deal? Hack a cow apart and scrutinize each aspect of it's liver in detail. Or how about getting some virgins high and writing the annual budget according to their visions?—to say nothing of the cryptic potential inherent to dream interpretation. This kind of politics is, at least, equally obscure to all.

It wouldn't take much to make it participatory either. Each side could select a champion to set ablaze and the one that jumps into the water last wins! Finally, the most passionate would prevail. I'd feel a lot better about the incumbent government if I knew its policies had been purchased with a heap of charred conservative corpses.

But, let's not forget the example of effective government provided by our revolutionaries! I think Canadian democracy would be much improved if the ballot box were used not to send a few hundred shady factionalists to parliament, but the public spectacle of the guillotine! We could behead Harper, Trudeau, and Mulcair in the same afternoon! If our political system can be called transparent because we can punish a party's misdeeds by voting them out of office in the next election, imagine how transparent it would be to vote them out of existence! Parliament Hill might as well be a house of glass (not that you'd be able to see through it for all the blood gushing out of everyone's neck holes).

In ancient Athens the highest houses of government were administered by common shlubs selected by lottery the way we do jury duty. Instead of old lawyers and money-men with connections we'd have a cross-section of common Canadians deciding how this country ought to be run. Rather than ignoring the constitution, they'd be ignorant of it.

If you've ever had to feed five friends—invariably accommodating a vegan, a celiac, a picky little bitch, and a cannibal—the horror implied by such a proposal should be obvious. Imagine having to hash out the fate of the nation with the sort of people you get sandwiched between in a lineup at the passport office.

Athens ran into problems too, voting for the immediate genocide of Mytilene one day and deciding to spare it the next—it's hard to flip-flop about these things—but part of me thinks we should give it a try just to see what would happen. I'm not sure what territory would ever agree to such a scheme, so let's volunteer Prince Edward Island—that way, it's no big loss if it doesn't work out.

I think we can all agree the ideal form of government is Fascism—yes, Fascism would be perfect if only it were your private interests being promoted as the necessary, exclusive, representation of the common welfare. Something you don't like? Make it a crime punishable by social exclusion and imprison! Are there people you don't like? Genocide! Something you find sexy? Make it the central motif of your nationalist propaganda! Something you want? It's now freely available to you at public expense. And you get to play toy soldiers with people's lives too!

Certainly as the world's democracies come to the Neo-Liberal consensus that their sovereignty ought to be constrained by international corporate finance and vote suppression, it's an idea we're all going to have to get very used to.

Yes, we can vote, but we've also got options.

The Brain Fever!

I drew this a few months ago thinking I might add a couple pages but even if I never get back to it I think it makes a nice one-shot. I continue not to be a morning person.

The Year I Take My Stand

I am now thirty years old. It was a bit touch-and-go but I managed to survive at least this long. Had there been a sharper knife, my existence might have ended at age eighteen in a complete enigma. A scruffy, adolescent fanatic who preferred an ideology of stoical totalitarianism to modern civilization's dangerous, degenerate creed of individual liberty would have taken his own life shortly after voicing a passionate desire for gender transition.

Surely those remembering me today would have had to conclude I'd died completely insane like something out of Greek tragedy—Euripides' Bacchae comes to mind. But let us begin our story more cheerfully with the reminiscences of the woman who gave birth to me.

My mother had been up all night peeing every half-hour wondering about the strange pressure caused by the baby due to her in three-and-half weeks. Dismissing these uncomfortable premonitions she counseled my father to proceed with his morning game of golf. He returned to find her by the door with her bag packed for the hospital. I was born an hour after they arrived. Every time I've asked after the delivery horror story I'd been led to believe was the common lore of all mothers I've been told, after some consideration, that there was some pain—but that, “you don't really remember pain.

No great white elephant with tusks of jade greeted my upon my nativity. Nor was an eastern sage seen to somersault off the animal's back to prophecy of my future greatness as an enlightened, messianic philosopher king. Nor did the tiny infant whose body I occupied point towards the heavens and vow to be as a bridge between man and God.

I was, however, born at 3:33 p.m., a number remarkable not only for being three threes, but because it was the exact same birth time as my older brother. Perhaps this was to presage my elementary school nickname: “Ryan Lake's little brother.”

Sadly, however, it is to my coming out and initial suicide attempt that the occasion of my birthday inevitably attaches itself—the former two events forming, in my mind, a sort of nightmarish rebirth experience. Following eighteen years lived as a boy, I grew up to be a woman. Twelve years of living like this and I'm still surprised by it.

As a child, transwomen seemed to me as a mythical race belonging to the shared fictions of television. I understood that, like cowboys, mobsters, and samurai, they really did exist, but only some other entirely inaccessible world. I watched several talk shows a day hoping for any opportunity to see one.

My mother happened to walk in as I was watching such a program and I asked her why it was that a boy might become a girl. “I don't know,” she replied, “I suppose some men just feel more like women.” Her answer could have come straight from a trans rights activist—I hated it.

I didn't feel like a woman! I thought to myself indignantly, I felt like a transsexual! There was nothing appealing about being a woman outside of boys doing it. It was not taboo for a female to be a woman, so, who cares? But that others like myself had breached that wonderful, forbidden realm of feminine pleasure never ceased to fascinate me. That society was horrified by the idea only solidified it's power—surely only something very valuable would need to be rendered forbidden and inaccessible as if by a sociological bank vault.

My rebirth at age eighteen taught me it was possible to transform myself—that I could do the impossible. I spent the next twelve years searching, with little success, for what it was I wanted to transform into—after all, being a transsexual is actually just another frightfully dull lifestyle involving food, sleep, clothes, the bathroom, and very infrequent sex—surely I could have more!

Thirty is an important year for me—not only because I share an all too human preoccupation with round numbers, but because of the following quote from Confucius:

At fifteen, I set my heart on learning.
At thirty, I took my stand.
At forty, I had no doubts.
At fifty, I knew the will of heaven.
At sixty, my ears were attuned to the truth.
At seventy, I follow my heart's desire without doing wrong.

I model myself after Confucius because if I asked what Jesus would do I'd have to be crucified at thirty-three. Far be it for me to know what “三十而立” might have meant to a Chinese philosopher living some 2,500 years before I was born, but I decided early on that I should do likewise whether I understood it or not.

Throughout my twenties I celebrated each anniversary of my birth with a mix of apprehension for the mortality of my doomed, dying twenty-something self, and resolve that I too must be prepared to take my stand at thirty. That I married in time for it seemed auspicious. For someone who had resigned themselves to dying a virgin, alone and unloved, marriage serves as welcome reminder of the fact I exist.

Early in my relationship to Jessica I warned her I looked at life as a dream—that at any moment I might awaken to discover her lost forever, a fading figment of my sleeping imagination. At the time of my thirtieth birthday, the concrete social relationship of our family life together seems to provide the stability and balance I need going forward.

But upon what soapbox am I to take my stand? Over what castle shall I be made king, and who shall be my dirty rascals? Far be it for me to have a ready-made manifesto on hand for the dawn of my thirtieth year—I've had one in development for some time now—but, for today, let us consider the general features of the sandy mass currently between my metaphorical toes.

I've desired to be many things in my life—a mad scientist, a crazy cult leader, a totalitarian dictator—but I don't suppose any such trifles could content me. Were I to conquer the whole world my designs would immediately turn to the universe. Had I the universe, I'd demand time machines ensure there never was an era without my absolute rule. All alternative timeliness and parallel dimensions would need to fall under my dominion.

Were I omnipotent and omniscient I'd demand more power and knowledge exist so I could have it, and that it expand at a constant, infinite acceleration. Should I become God, I'd demand to be whoever it was that God worships.

I am consoled for my deficiencies in all these respects, by my dreams. There, power such as this can be taken for granted and I am free to consider more profound questions: With what sort of person would I like to have sex? How would I punish and humiliate my enemies? What would it most tickle my vanity to look like?

Even these are but distractions robbing me from the infinite possibilities of my own mind—they are like the hateful sound of a neighbour's dance-hop noise-scape booming in over a sub-woofer. There is nothing more disruptive to my dreams than my own self. Only when sleep frees me of myself I may I experience the genius of a life worth living and where anything is possible.

For a long time I supposed that thirty would be the year I'd begin the final artwork for my Magnum Opus—a project to which I've devoted half my life with nothing to show for it. I liked to suppose I'd complete my labour at age sixty before promptly killing myself to celebrate. I'd started the suicide note and everything—but, let's hope my experiments with mortality are behind me.

Frankly, I don't think it matters whether my masterpiece is ever complete, or even ever truly started. How could a piece of art compensate my lack of Godhood? What matters is the dream of the thing—that impossible vision of all the wonderful things that exist only in my mind and which I am hopelessly desperate to see survive me after my death—impossible as that is.

I exist in a perpetual state of a transformation. I am another figment in my own imagination, doomed to disappear as soon as I awaken—but my dreams will go on. As long as they endure I feel I always have place to take my stand.

Allow me to conclude with a quotation from Katsushika Hokusai I have always considered parallel to Confucius:

I've been in the habit of drawing from life since I was six. I became an artist and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing before the age of seventy was worth any attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.

I've Never been Afraid of Sharks

I'm glad the swim season's over. I'm glad because I love being the only one not to mind the cold. Lately I've been going to the beach almost every day.

Sometimes, when I'm swimming, I imagine myself being attacked in the water. A large combine harvester rises out of the black depths beneath me and it's many curved, rotating blades lop my limbs to pieces as I struggle to swim away. I don't know why the incongruous image of a large piece of farm equipment I'm quite unfamiliar with should so frighten me while I am swimming in the Ottawa River, but the unwelcome image is very persistent. The obvious fact that such a vehicle would sink straight to the bottom and be buried by seaweed and mud only makes the sight of it motoring after me in the water all the more horrifying.

Sometimes the blades stop before severing my limbs and the machine surfaces with me scooped up in it. The water around me drains into a sleuth and I tumble down a grate into the machinery below. I'm trapped in a little box that serves as an elevator to the deepest depths of the earth. Little whirring drill bits pop out from every side along with saw blades, and tasers. I squirm to avoid them as the walls of my prison press in like a trash compactor.

Really though, I quite like swimming. I love the dreamy sense of freedom and elegance I experience sloshing about in the waves. Perhaps it is simply impossible to experience something so pleasant without conceiving of its opposite.

Five Things Harder Than They Should Be

Wallowing in Misery

Something I miss about being a child is the ease of assuming the fetal position. When I try nowadays I feel like a baby giraffe being tied into a pretzel—my knees, back, elbows, and neck get sore and creaky and my gangly limbs flop out of position like rubber hose. Going limp in an armchair just doesn't feel like proper brooding.

Getting Sloshed at my Wedding

Ontario requires a Special Occasion Permit to serve alcohol publicly. They make you fill out a fifteen page document to get it. Hold your event outside and they need a map with measurements too. File these at the LCBO and someone will get hysterical with worry.

Once you have the permit you need to send written notice to the police department, fire department, health department, building department, and city clerk's office. In none of the paperwork does it specify the addresses of these institutions. Calling the city yields conflicting information—the police enforcing the law claimed they didn't need written notice and protested I had nowhere to send it.

Two kilometers away on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river we could drink in a public park any time we wanted. I've noticed the French use their parks a lot more.

Getting a Marriage Certificate

You need a valid piece of photo-id to get married. For some inscrutable reason the government doesn't accept the health cards they force us to carry. I can't drive a car so that makes me a second class citizen.

I could get a passport just to get married but that's expensive and feels like being a peasant in Soviet Russia. Any other piece of ID would take 4-6 weeks to arrive—not enough time before the wedding. The quickest, easiest route was to get a Statutory Declaration of Identity. In other words, the government refused to believe I was who I said I was until some stranger who is a lawyer agreed for $40. I gave the lawyer my health card as ID. Also, the marriage certificate cost $160. It all makes me feel very special.

Depositing a Cheque

I got a cheque made out to me and Jessica even though we don't have a joint account. I biked down to the bank to cash it but was told I needed her signature. I obtain it and return to the bank. Now they told me she needed to come and have proper ID. Next time me and Jessica had a car we tried again—it turns out the bank closes at 4:30 everyday because the apparently the proletariat isn't allowed to both work and use a bank. Eventually, we got lucky and managed to cash the cheque.

Riding a Bicycle

I had to return some library books to the university and decided on an ambitious bike route. In the middle of the experimental farm—two thirds of the way there—I got a flat tire. Making it to the university I walked to a friend's place and grabbed a bike pump. The tire was flat again by the time I rode the pump back. I shackled my bike with the world's most temperamental lock and took the bus home.

Later that week Jessica drove me by in a car rental and I crammed the bike into the trunk. The bike repair place fixed the tire and I gleefully hopped on to ride home. Now the tire was grinding against the frame—I return home empty-handed.

My attempt to pick the bike up up later was thwarted by my own stupidity when I spent an hour getting lost. I trust Google better than my own better judgement, you see, but this only works when you happen to be interpreting it's maps correctly. The more I got myself lost, the more I reassured myself that Google knew what it was doing. The bike shop closed before I arrived.

When I did get my bike back to ride home it rained harder than I've been out in all summer.

A Weekend Possessed

On Saturday I dreamt Jessica was away at Montreal Comiccon and I was alone at home becoming increasingly unhinged. It was a strange dream precisely because it was actually true.

I'd awakened from my nightmare the night before quaking with distress, having dreamt I was a child living in a dreary factory where my parents worked. A shipping container delivered us a human-centipede the workers were to cannibalize for food. My relief that I would be dining so much better than the victims of this torture were conflicted with the traumatic horror of witnessing it and having to participate in murder.

What I next remember is doing dishes and singing nonsense songs to myself to ease my despair—the songs became an ecstatic chant extolling the divine and demonic forces that ruled the universe. The loud, rhythmic, pulse of the unceasing incantation poured out of me in an unsettling, almost desperate mania, but I felt compelled to continue—perhaps it was a welcome distraction from a rational appraisal of my current situation.

Next, I tried to do something productive—getting things off my todo list is usually a relief. Unfortunately, my attempts at sorting out the application for my marriage license and the Special Occasion Permit that would allow us to serve alcohol only stirred my agitation into a fever pitch. I loped about the apartment, practically frothing at the mouth, as I tried to declutter the hoarders-apartment mess in my mind—thoughts, feelings, tasks, and information were all in disarray.

The image of cutting myself with a knife popped into my head as might a clip from the Simpsons. I didn't suppose myself to be suicidal, but then, a suicidal mood is little more than such images sticking around like a catchy tune. I protested to myself that it would not look any good on my wedding day for my arms to be all sliced up and declined the unwelcome if not unfamiliar intrusion.

I resolved that if the condition persisted I would call a trusted friend I could count on to look after me for the remainder of the weekend. This brought me some relief. What I decided, perhaps irrationally, was to bike my wedding application over to the city and see if I couldn't dupe them into accepting it without the proper ID (which, oddly, I don't own)—I knew the exercise was futile but somehow I understood that by obtaining the decisive failure I could set the matter to rest.

I rode off on my bicycle vaguely questioning whether I should be operating a vehicle in my current condition. I guessed that expending some much unwanted energy exercising might ease me of the manic spell I was under—that was, after all, my most pressing concern. Upon my arrival at the office I discovered I had not taken my lock with me after unshackling my bike from it. Thus, I rode home and resolved to try again.

The man who finally served me had long womanish hair and skin like white coffee. He also wore a short, well-groomed beard and long polished nails. He explained that me and my girlfriend hadn't even signed the application and that this was even more of a problem than not having the proper ID. And so, I secured the resounding defeat I so craved—along with it, the silent solidarity of being served by someone so obviously gay. I returned home feeling better.

I was still a bit unhinged that evening but it was a more positive, life-affirming kind of craziness. I enjoyed looking at art I admired, worked on the script for my private epic, and reviewed notes and sketches I'd jotted down in my spare sketchbooks—in addition to the one I keep online I apparently I have five others, much less polished. It's nice to rediscover these things. About the most useful thing I got done this weekend was preparing six more sketchbook pages to go online.

I think I mostly made out okay. You know, a decade of psychiatry has done very little for me compared to three years of being with someone who loves me. Actually, perhaps even more important is having someone to love. I have a theory (that I'm sure I'll expound upon at some point) that what we think of us mental illnesses are actually social—our world's inability to meet the psychological needs of its varied people.

Love is perhaps the most important of these needs. I don't mean to say simply that love is something that cures us of love-sickness, which is certainly true, but rather, that love is what allows us to trust one another—even more than an emotion it is an idea and an epistemology. We need others to calibrate our sense of reality: to confirm what is surprising, to explain what is confusing, to help us correct errors in judgement with good advice. The problem is that we are used to adversaries using information to control and manipulate us. Advertisement, propaganda, indoctrination—there are many examples. We need people we can trust not to exploit us if we are to engage in a dialectic with our world.

This weekend, I was very glad for someone to love. I am able to function because I have someone to share my sense of reality and help me hammer out its rough edges.

Co-authorship with my own Restlessness

 My sketchbook is a place time goes to die. When I don't even know what I'm doing anymore I set myself in front of it and let it soak up my confusion until my mind is all dried out and ready to remember having a life to lead.

My sketchbook has never had a purpose. I have never made plans for what I would like it to be or what I might do with it—I have never considered its audience, publication, marketability, or success. To share it at all is an afterthought. This is probably the only reason I'm able to produce it.

For a while now I've had a couple new pages prepped for the web. I let them sit thinking instead I should share something useful, interesting, or productive. My sketchbook somehow doesn't seems like any of these things. To share it feels like broadcasting to the world that I just spent several hours of agitation privately daydreaming to myself.

Why waste anyone's time? I'm so full of passion for the many serious problems troubling me and my world that to even write of them—well, I try to compose something only to find out the microphone's picked up nothing but oversampled noise—I'd been screaming the entire time. The thoughts I record are inaudible save as an ear-splitting pain certain to make anyone clasp their ears in agony. I have so much to say that it's a struggle to say anything at all!

Amongst the six pages I'm posting today (85-90), there's this one quotation in big pink bubble letters: “Personally I think my sketchbook might just be the only worthwhile thing I ever do... Although I'm quite fond of my novel...”

I really worry this might be true. Don't I have anything worth sharing besides the silly cartoons populating my imagination? Or the book I filled with whatever ridiculous nonsense popped into my head? Don't I have any politics? A philosophy? A faith? Am I really doomed never to make anything of substance?

As much as I love the nonsensical logic of my dreams, I have a great longing for the solidity of an absolute truth I know doesn't actually exist.

The Lucky Ones Go Mad

Lacanian psychology was on my mind while taking the train for a relaxing vacation in Montreal.

Lacanian psychology was on my mind while taking the train for a relaxing vacation in Montreal.

I grew up admiring crazy people. That their own minds were a wellspring of creative inventions more fantastic than the video games and cartoons I so adored filled me with awe. To think the contents of their imaginations could so overwhelm them as to render reality insensible—it was wonderful! I longed to go insane, even knowing it was another fantasy to be hidden from adults at all costs.

Adults worked—they paid taxes, cooked, cleaned, and spent untold hours in traffic. The little time they spent with friends seemed joyless compared to the giddy, enthusiastic play of children. They claimed to enjoy reading the paper, which they did with a look like they were waiting in line.

Children never much appreciate being cared for. There is no satisfaction to be gained from the bitter toil adults render for children's sake—especially when parents withholding such care could spend long years in prison for child abuse. Who can feel grateful for what is given only begrudgingly, and by force? Likewise, I was not thankful that starving children in Africa had it worse—the thought of suffering worse than my own, which the world did little to remedy, only made the world all the more hellish.

Adults were clearly inferior. They had lost the ability to dream as children do. Yet schools existed to transform children into adults—from talking monkeys exploding with energy into cogs trapped in a dreary machine. I escaped into fantasy, protected by the privacy of my own mind. I could do anything I wanted—be anything I wanted—a ninja princess having adventures in a prehistoric jungle, or a mad scientist making monsters to populate my happy cartoon village—but all I really wanted was to retain something of what made me better than adults.

By high school, I had already died a little inside. I did not fit in. Not to fit in stripped you of status. Being stripped of status made you a target for abuse. Abuse brought you violence and pain—and one has little to dream of crying themselves to sleep at night. The cycle repeated as the mistreatment solidified my not fitting in—mistreatment is a ritual whose magic is to make the mistreatment normal. To fit in, one needed to conform and to compromise one's dreams in the hope of surviving to dream once more.

I deeply considered many modes of escape. As a child, I considered running away, though, there was nowhere to run. Later I considered monastic seclusion. Were I to find a monastery where a man might grow his hair into a long girlish mane perhaps I would even now be chanting the White Lotus Sutra. For a time the thought of marooning myself on a tropical island to live as a lone jungle savage seemed promising.

Still I find myself wishing to fall asleep never to wake up—to live the rest of my life in dreams like fair Endymion. While I have always been prone to nightmares, some of them quite horrific, I still prefer them to my life. There are viscous tortures and unspeakable depredations in my dreams, but it's not as though my mind is not pained by them when I'm awake—the verisimilitude of miseries simulated by the imagination is key to any successful regimen of torture.

And yet, even my nightmares are wonderful in their way—though I suffer, it is always a poetic suffering. I might find myself fighting a hopeless battle on a freighter in deep space, firing hoops of electro-magnetic plasma at hopping crustaceans with bites like bear traps as the last of the air is sucked down the gills of their watermelon-sized eggs—or kidnapped in the sewer system of an ancient Egyptian pyramid in the sky where a gang of abusive American spies forces me to participate in counter-insurgency warfare against a race of friendly bird-men—or perhaps I am simply wandering through an abandoned amusement park, at night, in winter, as a child while some sadistic pedophile stalks me from afar.

Then, at least, I am in the present. I can scarcely remember how the dream began or that I'd ever dreamt anything different—I am not haunted by memories of abuse, rejection, or humiliation, nor do I much anticipate the bitter struggles that await me in the future—I am immersed in the logic of the moment. Driven by my own will, my latitude of action creates its own meaning.

Awake, my constant awareness of past and future render all action meaningless with proofs of its constant failure—nothing ever changes but the contents of our suffering. Dreams change and evolve. There is always the possibility of exploration, adventure, and escape, if only into the next nightmare. To live like this, even in a padded room, seems like it would be an improvement.

Lately I've been troubled by the world's hostility—to mental Illness, the poor, to transpeople—but I suppose such ignorance belongs only to the inferior life forms who populate the world of adults robbed of their dreams. As long as I am able to remain the child I was inside inside myself I will always be more fortunate than they are.

Grad School: The Reckless Adventure!

A detail from a recent sketchbook page. I believe the monster is a kind of radioactive zombie-ghost hybrid suggestive of post-apocalyptic rot and decay. The professor probably just prefers his facility's to be clean. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine just what the hell it means.

A detail from a recent sketchbook page. I believe the monster is a kind of radioactive zombie-ghost hybrid suggestive of post-apocalyptic rot and decay. The professor probably just prefers his facility's to be clean. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine just what the hell it means.

 I go see the nice lady at Carleton University's Career Services office. She greets me with a smile, “I understand you're interested in coming back to school.”

“Life's not going anywhere worthwhile anyway so I might as well waste some more time at university,” I reply, completely deadpan.

She does a double take. “... Do you think it's a waste of time?”

“Eh, I think everything's a waste of time.”

It was a truly bizarre meeting. I began to wonder, as I unloaded a detailed account of my activities and interest, who the fuck this lunatic is I've apparently become. “My degree was in History, Classics, and Religion with a minor in Japanese,” I began, “but the only major job I've worked since graduating was digital illustration for video games.”

I showed her my sketchbook to her utter astonishment. Apparently most of the shlubs waffling over whether to go back to school don't come in with a hundred pages of horror vacui psychedelia. “Recently I've been working on a magical realist novel I hope to fob off on a publisher one of these days,” I continued.

At some point it came out that I was acting in community theater that very week—“a play based on field research into young people who identify as spiritual but not religious conducted by Carleton professor and former chaplain Tom Sherwood—who, by the way, I've been friends with ever since he provided me invaluable counseling while I battled conventional psychiatry over my rights as a transsexual—actually, he'll be performing the service at my lesbian wedding at the beach later this summer.”

I can't help wondering, at times like this, how it could be that I'm not lying. Was this really my life? Now and then my inner 12-year-old gasps in shock at the Delphic oracle revealing to him the adult he is doomed to become—it's not that I find myself unflattering so much as my surprise at the middle-class suburban boredom that permeated my formative years being so overwhelmed by forces I had thought to belong to fiction and fantasy.

You know, I look back at my undergraduate days with great fondness—precisely the fondness particular to excruciating personal disasters that have since become funny stories. University was a terrible place but it was also the petri dish in which I was created.

People who transition genders as young adults are in the awkward position of moving from one awful puberty straight to another. After years of trying to get a handle on being a big, angry, hairy beast with a wild sex drive, I finally failed. Suddenly, I found myself seeking a place as an anxious, vulnerable women desperate for love—only to discover that all the complaints Feminism makes about womanhood are entirely justified. Today I have made peace with being, well, whatever the hell I am.

Oh yes, and I also studied some things while I was at school—can't for the life of me remember what they were, but I'm sure they were really important. At the very least it was nice having an awesome library well-stocked with books I'd actually want to read.

I've heard grad school described as like getting married to a subject. That's terrifying. The only subject I'm particularly interested in is the totality of all human systems ever!—history, economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics, religion, culture, language—I'm obsessed with the whole world mankind has created.

Perhaps it's that I find it impossible to have any sort of self-respect without the support of a theoretical utopia to justify myself against. The validity of my actions and lifestyle need to be evaluated against whether they create a better world. The upside to this approach is that it renders the entire world extremely interesting—the downside is that it puts you in the awkward position of having to figure out all the world's problems.

My plan in university was to graduate, teach English in Japan, master the language, then return home to do an MA in East Asian studies. I'd work towards being an academic while striving to make it as an artist—quitting the former at the first sign of creative economic sustainability. Alas, the Japanese flipped me the bird and declined my services—probably because I was trans. Oddly, East Asian studies doesn't quite have the allure it once did...

Now, I don't know what to do. I don't really want to marry a subject—as an intellectual, I'm basically slut. I like to sleep around with all kinds of crazy ideas! Actually, if there's anything I'd like to write a thesis on it's mind control. I'm obsessed with unpacking the systems of coercive indoctrination used to condition people to blind conformity—so, basically things just like academia.

During my undergrad I was so sick of my History Theory and Method class that I sabotaged my own year-end paper. I composed it as a polemic against, and parody of, post-modernism. Extremely thin on footnotes, it rapidly flew off the rails into flimsy invective and grandiloquent pronouncements on the nature of history, complete with satirical portraits of the kind of people who read and write history—I was too callow to realize this was probably the most post-modern thing I possibly could have done. My bored and restive TA assigned me an A+, probably for having entertained him.

I wonder if perhaps I shouldn't filch some scholarship money and start writing a disingenuous thesis—just start writing whatever the hell I felt like, for the hell of it, without paying any mind to whether anyone in their right mind would ever accept the damn thing.

Hell is a Big Comfy Whirlpool

A panel from the second episode of  Sexy Moonlight Adventure Saga, my twelve-year running monument to procrastination. One day I'm sure I'll actually finish it.

A panel from the second episode of  Sexy Moonlight Adventure Saga, my twelve-year running monument to procrastination. One day I'm sure I'll actually finish it.

Life is idyllic and relaxing. I have plentiful leisure time and few obligations. Soon I'll be marrying a very beautiful woman who considers my androgyny hot and my insanity lovable. She's wonderful and cooks me food so delicious it's easy to pretend I'm very rich and live in obscene luxury. There's a beach nearby I can enjoy at any time. Yes, life has never been so restrained in doling out it's miseries—at no point in my life have I suffered less!... I'm doing terrible!

I'm concerned I've become a lobotomised whale. For years now I've been on this medication that makes me sleep ten hours a day. When I finally wake up I'm so groggy I'm useless half the day—that's not a lot of hours left to cram my entire life into. I'm productive only late at night, especially past my bedtime when the drugs are least bio-available.

Generally, this has seemed like a serviceable arrangement as the pills keep my subconscious mind from vomiting it's constant nightmares into my waking headspace—yet, I am left in the unhappy state of a harem eunuch, lolling about in a man-made Garden of Eden wherein my only interest is feeding like a cow. Personally, I have never liked the idea of being fat, stupid, or lazy—least of all fat!

It's no longer enough for me to sit stewing in an overly-comfortable whirlpool like a rotten tree stump. What I really want is to finish something. I have a wall of text written up of all the things I need to do and none of them are getting done. I sit down, open some document I mean to work on and, after an initial essay, find my attention dwindling into oblivion. I emerging from a fugue of listlessness to discover I have already settled into a distraction.

So, I halved my medication. The problem now is that I'm bouncing off the walls—I eat less and I sleep less, but I'm also crazed by strange manic moods that make it difficult to live amongst civilized society. It's less comfortable, but at least now my problems are more my own and less the result of extrinsic biochemical adulterants. Still the days seem to run through my fingers with nothing to show for them.

The issue, I think, is one of isolation. There is a reason why solitary confinement is a form of torture. We humans need contact with the outside world to maintain our sense of reality. If you stick a person in a sensory deprivation chamber just a few hours they'll start to hallucinate as their personality disintegrates. If psychosis is defined as a loss of the ability to test reality, then we need other human beings to keep us from going insane.

Independent-minded hermit that I am, I feel like I'm going in circles, trapped in the warm bubbly pool of my own mind. It's no good writing for the drawer or drafting comics no one ever sees. My art already exists in my own imagination more perfect than I'll ever be able to reproduce it, so why bother doing it for myself when I can just drift, endlessly? The only reason to go about making my art is to share the things that are important to me with other people.

I'm not concerned with narcissism here—I'd sooner hear ten things that are wrong with my work, in excruciating detail, than get a boring single sentence compliment. Actually, I'm quite sick of politically correct encouragement—“It's all relative,” “Beauty's in the eye of the beholder,” “To each their own,” “We can agree to disagree,”—God, these aren't ideas, they're excuses not to think!placards over the gates of a soft, soothing hell!

Ideas need exercise. They need to be challenged—to continually justify themselves against new arguments and evidence. They're like little martial artists—it's not enough just to drill them, read them books and things, you need to have them spar with other points of view. Sometimes, you get your ass handed to you, but at least you'll know better for next time. If you stick to the safety and comfort of your own little world, you'll whither away like a caged animal. Our minds need challenge.

Without fighting, there can be no trust or intimacy. When you spar, you always set some ground rules—no eye-gouging is good one, for instance. The fact that you can be slugging it out with someone and still know they're going to protect you is what allows you to build trust. Trust is meaningless without the possibility of the other person hurting or betraying you—it's risky to trust someone, but it's even more dangerous having no one to trust.

This is how we test our reality—we need alternate points of view, ones we can trust even when we're in conflict with us—we need them to help us see reality for what it is. This is why we have cross-examinations and peer-review—ideas need to be questioned or their justifications will lose their rigour—you're left with a world that thinks in slogans—thought is reduced to mindless imperatives telling us what to do.

Actually, for the last several years I've tended to think of heaven as a bunch of Valkyries training their martial arts in the clouds like The Monkey King's army from Journey to the West  (only, because it's me, half of these warrior women are actually boys.) I can definitely get behind such an image.

Unfortunately, I have no community and few friends. I'm a neurotic, transgendered weirdo living on the margins of society. It's difficult for me to achieve intimacy with people—and yet, I think I need to if I want to keep from going insane.

As much as I think social media is symptomatic of a communications breakdown in our society, the fact remains that it's one of the few outlets available for reaching out to others. What I'm going to try and do is share a little bit of what I'm doing each day or what I'm thinking about. I guess I'm vaguely hoping to start something of dialogue with the world outside myself—because if I don't get out of this suffocating whirlpool soon I think my heart's going to explode.

The Ladylike Penis

As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:

I’m trans, but I’m never getting sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). I wouldn’t go through with it for any amount of money. To me, the idea of having my penis cut up and sewn back together in the shape of a vagina is a bit nightmarish. I’m in complete solidarity with your average male on this one. Many transwomen consider this a positive, life-affirming reconstructive surgery. But for me? Gah!

I’m uneasy about expressing this aversion. I know how important this surgery is to many people. But for me, it has much darker connotations. Most people are never pressured into getting plastic surgeries they don’t want done to their genitals. Now, some transsexuals will take offense to my characterization of SRS as a cosmetic surgery, but that’s certainly why it was wanted for me.

When I told my first psychiatrist I wanted an orchidectomy instead of SRS, he was appalled.

“You’ll be a woman with a penis and no balls!” He blustered in outrage. “You’ll be a freak! Nobody will ever want you!”

This, coming from the man charged with my mental health. For the record, my fiance tells me she thinks I’m sexy all the time – she just did, in fact.

No doubt there are some who would question why a transwoman would want to keep her penis. In our culture a woman with a penis is often looked upon as something like a chimerical beast out of Greek mythology. I was one of those kids who thought it’d be cool to be a monster – maybe a blood-sucking fairy or something – so that’s fine by me. What worries me is the mob of hysterical villagers with torches and pitchforks. I don’t have a problem with my body, just the people who hate it.

The truth is that gender transition has little if anything to do with the naughty bits. It’s about looking, acting, walking and talking the way we like and feel most comfortable with. That people start perceiving and treating us as the opposite sex is, for me, practically incidental. The point of transgenderism is to be yourself. So why should that make me hate my own body?

It’s commonplace in our culture for women to learn to be insecure about their appearance, sometimes even to the extremities of Botox, boob jobs and fad diets. But as for myself, I prefer my body simply because it’s mine. It’s healthy, functional and, I’m told, even reasonably attractive.

Whenever I see something on Youtube where a transwoman starts talking about how SRS has fixed her, I have to turn it off. It’s just too depressing. The implication of such a statement is that, without the surgery, people like me must be broken. I put up with enough of this sentiment from the world at large that it’s pretty miserable getting it from my own community.

I’m not saying the people who get the surgeries have all been brainwashed by our transphobic culture and it’s insane beauty industry. I respect that a person’s feelings toward their own body are the only thing they need to justify themselves to. I just want to celebrate the idea of the male woman.

I want to encourage transwomen to appreciate the beauty and femininity that is unique to them. We do not need invasive surgeries to try to make our bodies look like those of women who are not trans (ie. ciswomen). We are women because we live as women and fit into society as women, period.

A woman is not a vehicle for her vagina to get around in. The qualities that make her a woman are much more personal. Women come in all shapes, sizes and colours. There are women of every age, class, culture, religion and level of ability. And, yes, I believe there are male women, too. We may not all be women in the same way, but I believe there’s real value to that diversity.

5 - Surgery.jpg

Boys that Straight Men Hit on

As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:

So I was biking home from the beach in my pink speedo – just my pink speedo – when a man traveling in the opposite direction whizzed past me. I like to daydream to myself on these little excursions and probably wouldn't have noticed him had he not gasped “Wow!” while passing me by.

He did it like a kid on Christmas morning. No doubt he thought I was a topless woman – you know, a woman with a vagina. With my long blonde hair, amazonian physique, and reasonably pretty face it's not that difficult a mistake to make. I do live as a woman most of the time. But, as I explained last time, not when I'm swimming. When I swim I'm just plain male.

I was startled by this stranger's exclamation but decided to ignore it. It didn't really matter. But then, he came back. He caught up to me by turning his bike around and racing after me at top speed.

“Wow! That's beautiful!” He gushed, giddily unaware of how awkward all of this was. “That's amazing! You being naked and all! It's beautiful! Really beautiful!”

Today we identify this sort of behavior as street harassment. It's been a hot issue on social media lately as several feminists have launched into some very clever campaigns against it. To me it goes without saying that a man shouldn't interrupt a woman's day just to interrogate her for sex.

But then, not many males are in a position to have lecherous men chasing them down like this. Ontario is one of the few places in North America where a woman could legally go topless. Why they don't should be obvious by this point. Believe me, having a guy do this to you when you're half naked is scary.

All I really wanted was to get rid of this guy, so, I opted for the nuclear option.

“I'm a guy!” I finally declared, butching my voice up for show (according to my fiance I usually speak with something of a gay twang.)

It's amazing how something as simple as being identified as a man can be so decisive in warding off this kind of unwanted attention. Male privilege, I suppose. But then, while I might have been in the clear as far as street harassment goes, I wasn't out of the woods yet for being tranny-bashed.

“You're a guy!?” My stalker roared, his bizarre affections suddenly flaring up into a violent fury “Get the fuck out of here!” He stopped his bike just ahead of me and, for a moment, I was terrified.

Had I just gotten myself into a fight? Transwomen get killed over this sort of thing. Luckily he was just turning himself around, but I was so flustered I decided cut my ride short and retreated home.

I don't get it. This guy had chased me down and invaded my personal space just to ogle me like a piece of meat. That he should feel wronged simply because I failed to live up to his standards of sexual titillation is beyond me.

The worst part of street harassment, for me, will always be the fear of ending up another name at a Trans Day of Remembrance service. Still, I have chosen to be very out about what I am because what I fear most is that if people like me remain invisible things will never get better for us.

When my girlfriend got home and I told her this story, we both got to wondering, “What would happen if your average woman used the 'I'm a guy' line?” Its certainly effective. You know, sometimes men will even apologize if they start to hit on you and realize you're a guy – as if only a man would find this kind of unwanted attention insulting.

She wants to try the line next time she gets hit on. If they doubt her she can just claim to have gotten on hormones early. If I'm there (as I sometimes am) I'm totally interjecting in a big manly voice, “Hey! Are you hitting on my boyfriend?” I'm interested to see how this little social experiment plays out. Anyone else tried it? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

4 - The Bike Ride.jpg

The Lady in the Mensroom

As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:

I’ve done a lot of swimming this year. Maybe I made a New Year’s resolution without noticing it because I’m getting to be in great shape. Fortunately, I happen to love swimming with the zeal of a demented idiot child. A lot of people associate pools with cold water and chlorine burning their eyes. For me, swimming is like a flying dream I get to have while I’m awake. It’s as elegant as it is athletic.

Unfortunately, swimming presents some difficulties for transwomen. Lots of girls have body issues, so you can imagine how much having gone through male puberty would give a woman to fuss over. I’ve been using women’s changerooms without incident for the last decade so I’m not particularly worried about that. The thing I hate is having to duck into a stall just to get changed. It’s a nuisance.

The law in Ontario protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, but I’m not really comfortable getting naked in there. Most women just aren’t ready to see penises in their citadel of gender privacy, even little ones. It’s their problem, not mine, but I’m not up for pushing the issue every time I just want to get a bit of exercise.

Still, getting naked in the changeroom would be a lot more convenient. That is why they’re there. My solution is a novel one: I go swimming as a guy. To many transwomen this would be anathema, but as I’ve explained in the past, I don’t mind lumping myself in with the boys now and then. It’s an imperfect arrangement but it does make for some funny stories.

There’s nothing quite like the shocked look on a man’s face when what appears to be a woman briskly strides into his changeroom. Keep in mind that I do this dressed as a boy. We’re talking baggy jeans, T-shirts, and hoodies here. I still get taken for a woman. It’s quite a personal triumph.

I’ll hear guys whispering to each other. “Whoah! There’s a woman in the changeroom! Do you think we should tell her? What do we do?” One guy actually called out to me. I called back in the deepest voice I could muster and he pretended to just be saying hi. It was priceless.

Once I’m naked it’s pretty obvious I have every right to be there. You just can’t argue with a penis. For me, that’s the best part; that subversive sense of belonging. I might have painted nails, smooth skin and long blond hair pouring over my shoulders – even a bit of breast growth – but once I’m naked people are forced to accept my presence. By extension they’re forced to accept that some boys really are feminine enough to be taken for women even in the mensroom.

I worry about making women uncomfortable. I identify with them so of course I don’t want to make them feel uneasy. Some of them might just have a good reason for being a bit penis-phobic. But with men, I revel in that discomfort. Forcing men to suck it up and deal with their homphobic assumptions about what it means to be a man never fails to brighten my day.

Another reason I swim as a man is my bathing suit. I prefer speedos because they’re the closest thing there is to skinny dipping. Also, I think that men with the confidence to a rock a speedo are always somewhere between being utterly hilarious and drop-dead sexy. Mine’s hot pink so you can judge for yourself where I might fall on that spectrum.

Now one time when I was at the mirrors putting on my swim cap, there was this big Russian guy shaving at the sink next to me. At first I couldn’t understand his accent but eventually I made out what he was saying, “I vwanted to say you look bvery bveutiful and I like you bvery much!”

“Uh, thanks…” I replied, trying to ignore him. As awkward as this was, I had to give him props for being confident enough to hit on a guy in the men’s changeroom.

His approach next time was far less elegant, “Nice tits!”

And this, my friends, is why we have separate changerooms for men and woman. It’s appalling that we have to assume this kind of impropriety, but since we do, it’d be nice if transwomen felt welcome in the lady’s room. We don’t like being sexually harassed any more than any other woman.

Reasons for Being Trans #190

Why did I become a woman?

Because an extremely unlikely quantum mechanical event caused me to randomly turn into one. A physicist later described it to me like this: whenever you shuffle a deck of cards the odds of you getting the order of cards you end up with is approximately 1 to 80 × 10⁶⁶ (The Factorial of 52). You beat odds greater than the number of molecules in the Milky Way Galaxy every time you play a round of Crazy Eights. While randomly turning into a woman was highly improbable it'd be even more improbable for weird stuff like that to never happen.

8 - Quantum Mechanics.jpg

Reasons for Being Trans #158

Why'd I become a woman?

Because the oracle at Delphi said I would and I've read enough Greek tragedies to know that trying to avert a prophecy will only lead to it happening ironically. Obviously the only sensible thing to do was to bite the bullet and get it over with. In hindsight I can't help wondering if having my prophecy come true only because I intentionally fulfilled it just adds another layer of irony. Fucking oracles.

7 - Oracle.jpg

Does Liking Pink Make you Sick?

As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:

Personally, I like a good trip to the psychiatrist. It makes me feel sophisticated — like an upper-class New Yorker in a Woody Allen movieIt gives me a chance to whine about my existential angst to someone well educated enough to understand it. But I won’t bore you with the details. It would just read like a pretentious post-modern white paper, and I’m sure no one wants to read that.

For me, gender is only a peripheral issue. Probably for the best: Transgenderism has always had an uneasy relationship with psychiatry. As far as I’m aware, trans people are the only folks whose sense of personal identity hinges on getting a doctor’s approval.

I don’t get the need for a diagnosis of gender identity disorder to get on hormones. Can you imagine the furor if women needed a psychiatrist to diagnose them with nymphomania to get on the pill? Why should my lifestyle need to be branded a disease to get the same medications?

I understand why so many trans people embrace ugly mixes of Latin and Greek like gender dysphoria though. In lieu of strong legal protections for trans rights, many have opted to protect themselves from discrimination on disability grounds. Considering the bigotry we face, I don’t blame them. But I don’t think how masculine or feminine a person feels is a disease.

Transgenderism might not be common, but that doesn’t make it any more an illness than being smart or artistic. Maybe I just have a talent for getting in touch with my feminine side. Considering 50 percent of people live as women, I’m fairly comfortable looking at is as a perfectly ordinary lifestyle.

To some this sounds too much like a choice, but look at it this way: you can’t discriminate against a woman because of whether she’s chosen to get married or have kids. These kinds of private, intimate decisions are nobody else’s business. Likewise, what consenting adults do in their bedroom is nobody’s business either, no matter how titillating it might be. Why should what’s between my legs be treated any different?

The sort of gatekeeping doctors do with trans people just keeps them from doing their job. When trans people know they need to meet a bunch of diagnostic criteria to get hormones or surgery, they just end up telling doctors what they want to hear. It’s a shame because psychiatrists have a vital role to play in helping their patients cope with such potentially stressful life events as coming out and transitioning. Instead, trans people feel they need to conceal things like depression and anxiety lest they be seen as too unstable for the procedures they want.

My psychiatrist has mentioned hearing scripted stories on several occasions, stuff like, “I’ve known I was born with the wrong body since I was three years old!”

That’s quite an abstraction for a three-year-old to wrap their brain around. When I was that age, I mostly remember drawing pictures of my imaginary friend Shaw-Shaw the monkey with chocolate-scented magic markers. Gatekeeping just robs the doctor-patient relationship of the vital trust it needs to be helpful.

I like to compare the trouble I went through getting an orchidectomy (lopping my nuts off) to women’s issues. In Ontario when a woman chooses to get an abortion, she doesn’t have to spend months convincing a doctor that’s she’s making the right choice. The fact that she might regret this irreversible decision is nobody else’s business. Provincial health insurance even pays for it.

So you can imagine my frustration when I was refused the orchi because my doctors thought I should get sexual reassignment surgery instead. They were recommending a far more radical surgery I didn’t want and which costs 10 times as much. What kind of voice of reason is that? I don’t want to have my penis turned into a vagina! I think it’s fun!

For me, transitioning has nothing to do with medicine. It’s a simple matter of my body, my rights.

I'm Trans but you can Call me Awesome

As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:

People sometimes ask me how I identify. The snarky reply I'd like to give them is that I don't.

What's the point? Of all the cool stuff about me you can't see, what's a label going to tell you? Even when people ask me which pronouns I prefer I tend to utter a laboured, hesitant "Eeeeeeeeeeeeh..." and hope that if I draw it out long enough they'll eventually lose interest.

The English language just doesn't have the right words. I used to call myself a male woman, which at the time, seemed extremely clever. In two perfectly ordinary words I had described myself as physically and sexually male while living outwardly as a woman. The problem is that if you introduce yourself to someone as a male woman, they stare back at you with a perplexed look on their face and ask you what that means. It entirely defeats the purpose of having a label if you have to explain it. Then again, I suppose I'd rather just have people get to know me than ask weird questions like "how do you identify?"

Still, it's kind of a shame not having a word because I really like what I am. Other people say things like, "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body," but I'm more like "a woman chilling out in a man's body." Why shouldn't I? There's plenty about a guy's body that a woman might find fun to play with. And I've got such good nesting instincts, too! All a male body needs is a bit of renovation and redecoration and there's no place like home.

I know it's easier to look at transgenderism as some sort of illness -- it makes us sound like the blameless victims of a birth defect that has given us the wrong body. Fine, but why do we need to be so defensive about it in the first place? All I'm doing is looking, acting, walking and talking the way that comes naturally to me. What have I done wrong?

I don't feel like I have anything to hide, I feel like I have an interesting story. I was one of the few little boys lucky enough to grow up to be a woman. Why should I conceal my life pre-transition? A good lot of it was pretty cool. If anything, I think it's a shame that when I just fit right in as a woman all those parts of me are invisible. People just politely ignore that I may not be your average tall lady. Part of me wants to go by male pronouns just so that people will have to deal with the fact that there are boys out there for whom living as a girl is the most natural and comfortable thing in the world.

Maybe that's why I got into nudism/naturism. Underneath the clothes I mostly look like a boy. A rather pretty boy, I like to think, but there's no mistaking what's between my legs. But then, I'm also just as feminine as I am the rest of the time. People are left with the image of this androgynous, long-haired male who acts like a woman. The message is clear: people like me exist. So far I've found that nudists are very accepting. To them, I'm just another human being.

What I wish people understood is that transgenderism isn't really about gender at all. It's about being yourself. I wish I had a word so that I could tell people that I like my body and my personality. I can be a woman with my clothes on and a boy with my clothes off, and I think that's pretty cool.

Reasons For Being Trans #224

Why did I become a woman?

Well, I used to be the boss of this really tough gang, The Man-Skinners, but then they caught me with what was left of my enemies and I had to do hard time in the big house. Luckily, they'd just started this special program where you could get paroled early. All you had to do was let them emasculate you like they do raging bulls and stallions when they want to get them settled down. Ever since the castration they've had me living as a woman to help me cool my temper down. After all, 9 out of 10 prison inmates are men so I figure this is a great way to stay out of trouble.