I haven’t been at Tempelhofer Feld so much the last couple of weeks, and when I have, it’s been doing ultra-lazy laps on my bike, totally not lycra’d up — except for bib shorts under my trackies, ’cos butt comfort. Today was 28° and felt like mid-30s, warm and dry wind, heavy sun, cloudy hazy sky. The Feld was full and the fields have grown from stubble to knee-high in a couple of weeks, doing that luscious, hallucinogenic, erotic green of spring all flushed and horny.
Definitely had a big cry reading Samra Habib's We Have Always Been Here when she visited the queer Toronto Unity Mosque. Ramadan's been hard this year, only fasting half-days, then having to stop a week ago when I was having a particularly rough time. Today's the last day, Eid al-Fitr begins at sunset, more than anything I wish I was preparing to share Iftar and celebrate with trans and queer Muslims.
I’ve been feeling enthusiastic again about writing about books I’m reading. It became a chore rather than something I did for pleasure and fun a few years ago. But it feels like it’s a special time for the kind of writers I care about: trans and queer, Indigenous, Black, Brown, migrant … I want to say us who are not white and straight, but defining via a negative is apparently not how we do it even if it’s felt for a while like ‘straight, white, cis’ is a genre and a small one at that. Like how there’s serious literature and then manky sci-fi and all the weirdos doing unserious, b-grade, cult, trash ‘genre’.
And I’ve been feeling more enthusiastic about reading. I was stuck for a while, reading but not feeling the thrill of it, not getting lost with an author and their words. Part of that has been pandemic-attenuated focus; a long, dragging-on burnout (chronic fatigue, fuck knows what), and just heaps of stress, anxiety, the sads caused by way too much bullshit. Bullshit as in what gets called discrimination, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant hate, and full-blown settler colonialism white supremacy which is very comfortable with doing genocide on us while white neoliberal centrists ‘both sides’ the fuck out of it all.
One of the reasons I stopped writing about reading was that I got too tied up in wanting to say everything and be intelligible, coherent, and all, like a good reviewer. I’m not that. I’m quite a bit of a bogan who uses fuck like nice people use commas. I’m looking at all these books and trying to remember them; it’s been a whole season since I read some.
Some I straight up didn’t like, or I did right up till they disappointed me. Cis women and queers (and some trans women) seem to love some 2nd Wave feminists and are all fingers in their ears when the copious evidence of their faves being TERFs and SWERFs is pointed out. So I was loving Kamilah Aisha Moon’s She Has a Name right up till she gave a whole page to Adrienne Rich. I don’t think it’s too much to say I can’t move beyond that knowing those same 2nd Wavers are still alive and as committed as ever to erasing trans people — especially and with particular violence trans girls, women, and femmes — from existence.
Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Coming of Age in the War on Terror reminded me of sitting in my flat in Charnwood Rd, East St. Kilda, having stayed up late for some reason, maybe to come down from doing an evening call centre shift and watching those planes missile into the World Trade Centre towers. And dreading knowing it was going to be Muslims who were blamed, and that gut-churn when the American news reporters started saying that so quickly. It felt like barely seven minutes had passed and no way they could have really known either way, but once that word had been uttered for the first time, with Bush as fraudulent President, with the last decade of Al-Qaeda, it was so clear what was coming. And I was a few years off then from finding out I myself was the child of a Muslim and grandchild of a Hijabi. Twenty War on Terror years later and it’s global open season on Muslim genocide, the Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan doing the same genocide on any Muslims not the right type. I just have this profound sadness.
Also in so-called Australia: Claire G. Coleman’s Lies, Damned Lies: A personal exploration of the impact of colonisation. I will always read her. That’s all. Except to say, if you’re a white person living on colonised Indigenous land, and you haven’t read her, it’s your job to. And everyone else should too.
Shon Faye’s The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice is specifically about trans people in Britain, and me spending way too much of decades of my life on this stuff, I think I’m not the intended reader. That audience would be you cis people who seriously need to educate yourselves. My main criticism is it struggles when talking about trans women who aren’t white. I often wonder about how whiteness recreates hierarchies of representation, visibility, inclusion and exclusion in trans women’s and femmes’ writing (and culture, community, and all). I see a lot of writing, fiction and non-fiction, and white trans women are the majority. I don’t think it’s enough to say, “I’m aware I’m white and …” as though that’s enough of a response in the structural, systemic, institutional racism in publishing — especially when writing about transphobia. And yes, trans women are an incredibly small segment of writers, and often just doing whatever to survive. So I read this with a constant internal reminder that yes, some of this is about me, but there’s a lot that’s missing.
Completely opposite, Akwake Emezi’s Pet. I’m saving for a separate post. They can write about trans femmes and women and girls any fucking time they want. I love them and they could eat my heart and take my soul and I’d be like, “Scary but worth it.”
I got in a long-ish, 2 1/2 hour walk in-between the squalls pouring hailstorms on Berlin. Birds were rowdy, really could have kept walking for another 2 1/2 hours.
Same dates as last year, a kilo of Medjool dates from Al-Jiftlik, Palestine in a big bag from Sunnah Shop in Tellstr.
I’ve had burnout or chronic fatigue or fuck knows what since August last year. The last couple of weeks my energy and physical feeling has actually been ok. Not “let’s smash an hour on the trainer” ok, just not feeling fully cratered. Ramadan and fasting has been up in my emotions for several weeks now. I knew back then it’d be highly unlikely I’d be able to fast from dawn till sunset, around 15 hours at the moment. I knew also not fasting, not participating, not enjoying the obligations of the month would fuck with my already fucked head, even though not fasting when it’s not possible is also an obligation to be celebrated.
Saturday was the first day. Saturday is the ideal day of the week for me because I’ve shaped my life since August to have no commitments on that day. The deal has always been, “Just do one day, just do as much as you can, just do it for your granny.” As much as I can is half a day, about 9 hours. The deal is, if I start feeling shittier, I stop. If I need a break, I stop. If I feel I can do more, cool, but no pressure. Gonna make that Iftar smoothie tonight.
Shortly after I took this photo, I shot a small bubble of air into my butt ’cos, in breaking my rhythm to take a photo of me having my regular shot, I forgot to do the final syringe flick and spritz a drop out. No biggie.
I fucking love giving myself a slightly-more frequent than weekly shot. Since I was told injections were available again, and once I’d persuaded my endo to prescribe them, I’ve been building up a stash. Seven weeks ago, I prepped and stuck a needle into the correct spot in my arse, and fuck me if this tiny vial of oily clear goo isn’t the shit. Injections always worked better for me, as proved by my boobs growing a cup in the last weeks (and my nipples feeling like the day after the day after a heavy nipple torture session). And it occurred to me, conversely, all the problems I had with pills and, to a lesser degree, gel is because that shit does not work. I also fucking love that something so unremarkable as this can literally change my sex. Yes, it can, cunts. Go educate yourselves if you just went all, “But nah something gender something sex can’t be changed.” Truth, it’s more like without this my sex does not have the chemicals it needs, but sex-change sounds so science-fiction.
Anyway, this photo was taken on Trans Day of Visibility, which for real I do not have the fucking patience for, cis people jizzing their ‘I’m an ally’ crap and so rarely turning up with actual material value. Except for Ariana Grande, who’s ponying up 1.5 million dollars to help support trans youth. Queen right there.
No fancy camera yesterday, but a fancy dress, ’cos I’m all about assaulting the bland colour palette of Berlin and Germland with shimmering bright colour. Doing my semi-daily walk, saying hi to the Crows and Ravens, Skylarks and Corn Buntings, and one large Eurasian Kestrel. I think the birds I thought were Kestrels are actually Corn Buntings. I dunno. Birds getting rowdy.
Me photographing lycra’d-up cyclists ended up being me photographing trees. I went for my usual bike plus walk, trying to persuade myself to not feel sick or whatever the fuck the last seven months has been about, got myself over to the southern perimeter road, sat under one of the young trees and watched the cyclists do their anti-clockwise laps. And tried to photograph them. Rapidly closing and departing moving targets.
What did I learn? Locking the ISO to at least 400 helps with shooting at an angle towards the sun and helps prevent everything blowing out. Locking the exposure to at least 1/1000 also, because bike wheels are moving quick and I want a nice, sharp, contrasty image. And I can do that on my FujiFilm X-T4 because the sensor is kinda massive and the lens is bigger than my old camera. Heaps of light, fuckall noise. It’s like follow-spot in theatre, I have to move ahead of the action, not follow. If I shoot burst-mode, I can effectively film each cyclist passing, then go back and find the ‘perfect’ shot. I don’t shoot burst because … I dunno, I hate the aesthetic and the mentality. It’s not photography, just like I don’t like cropping. I like that I mostly don’t ‘get the shot’, and like photographing dance, I have to know the work, anticipate what’s coming up, know how a rider and bike is going to look at a certain distance, a certain angle, with the sun hitting them, all that. None of which I really nailed satisfactorily. Like my previous walk, where I got familiar with the manual focus, a pile of nothing special.
This tree I liked the look of though. Last days of bare limbs before spring jizzes everywhere.
Another afternoon wandering Tempelhofer Feld with my camera. After yesterday’s messing around, I did some reading the fucking manual to remind myself how to use an expensive camera and lens. And I learned the 16-80mm F4 lens can also do passable macro at the zoomed end. Which obviously I like, especially if I ever go back to a museum and shoot art.
First stop, the skate park, for some boyz and lads doing ollies and kickflips. And took probably the photo of the day: someone doing a 360. Bit of a walk, bit of a sitdown to work out what buttons I’d pushed and why camera was being weird (accidentally nudged the dial to HDR), shot some cyclists in full aero TT mode. More walking and almost stomped on spring flowers being highly ostentatious, which is where I tested out exactly how macro can I go? Actually very, and the detail is mad.
More walking and got told to smile by some gormless wanker. Joke’s on you, dickhead, I already was.
More walking and these Skylarks were getting well rowdy. And fully not afraid of people, so I just stood there while one came right up scratching for a feed. Photo wasn’t so good though, but once again, yay zoom. And then took a photo of the almost full moon, which I looked at when I got home, and insane detail zooming in in the raw image, the mare are clearly visible, as are the bright craters and rays of Tycho, Copernicus, Kepler, and even Aristarchus. That’s hand-held auto-focus, in daylight with a heap of haze and high cloud, and the moon about 25° above the horizon.
Getting my arse back to Tempelhofer Feld for an arvo stroll. Haven’t been there since mid-December apparently. This time with my still-new FujiFilm X-T4 camera, despite the absence of sun and blue sky. Training my fingers and brain for where everything is amidst all the dials and buttons, and learning what kind of photos it takes.
Besides changing the auto-focus, I’m still shooting very default at the moment. Having a proper zoom lens is by far the one thing I’ve been missing, as well as the combo of substantial slabs of glass and sensor allowing me to shoot zoomed in with low light and still get sharp images at an acceptable exposure time. Actually playing around with ISO, aperture, exposure, and all, as in actually using an expensive camera properly, is somewhere in the future.
As for the photos, all but the last are the jpg versions of the raw photos the camera creates. I find them a little over-exposed (not so much the dim ones here) and flat compared to the raw originals, but I can’t be arsed spending time making them pretty. Except the last one, which I needed to rotate a little and the jpg really looked average. I also need to learn Affinity Photo, which I started using when I ditched Photoshop. The photo is far from great, but it is movement and one of the reasons I bought this camera was to shoot movement – dance, cycling, sport, motorsport, people moving.