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Ugh Do I Have To?

Twit wants me to know that 13 years ago, on September 12th, I signed up. Happy 13 dumpster fire years.

Well hazy on the details now, but I think I signed up because China banned Blogger / Blogspot / Google, all the China bloggers mass-migrated to Twitter and it was the only way to stay up with them. A couple of years later China banned Twit too.

I logged-on last night for the first time in a couple of years for actual timeline scrolling (OKCupid had shown me enough white cishet couples and TERFs for one night). I love the people who I actively follow, as in go to their profile, read and scroll, and love the communities around them.

But but but. The place fucks majorly with my mental and emotional stability — as do all social networks. It reminds me of addiction and compulsive habits and wakes those again in me. And it’s full, full of nazis and TERFs and fascists and racists and white supremacists and swarming bot networks run by the same. And the people who own and run it are functionally indistinguishable from that, their actions leading from hate crimes to genocide.

I wish there was something else. And more than that I wish all the people I love who use social networks would understand their culpability and find ways of creating and participating in online communities not bound to necrocapitalist corporations. I can’t see that happening though.

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It’s Been A While

I started on pills in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand) way back when I was a young thing. A daily combo and I did not enjoy swallowing them. In Naarm (Melbourne) my best ever doctor gave me the choice of pills or injections. I knew about injections but didn’t think they were available and was very immediate unequivocal yes on them. First shot in my arse in my upstairs room in a flat in Carlton.

I did injections all the way through VCA, and all the way till I came back from some overseas trip in maybe 2005. They were perfect for those long travels, the same doctor — or when he left, his replacement — would give me a 6–9 month prescription of them and I’d bundle them up with the needles and syringes, taking up hardly any space. And I never had to use the letter they provided for if I got questioned in Customs about all those drugs.

Returning to Australia with a half-year supply remaining, I found that injections were no longer available. Which had sent the entire trans (-gender, -women, I forget what we were called back then) community into a spin. And six months later I joined that spin. I went on multiple different pills which had random unenjoyable side-effects — despite my doctors assuring me they were “all the same”. And then I moved to Kaurna Land (Adelaide) and because of differing State legislations I had to face the gatekeeping of the Gender Clinic for the third time.

Back in time a moment. Immediately prior to seeing the doctors in both Auckland and Melbourne, I’d tried to get into the Gender Clinics, only to be very stringently denied. Stories for another time. What’s pertinent though is both doctors I saw who did prescribe me hormones either wobbled the interpretation of the law or lol fuckit toppled the cunt. Both were very much of the harm reduction school. Not so lucky in Radelaide. Where the skeevy predatorial extremely conservative and heteronormative old codger and his matching twin old cunt presided (fun story, they still do).

I could have just got a flight back to Melbourne to score a repeat script (with what money, exactly?), but decided I wanted to attempt the surgery route again. And endured some pretty fucking humiliating humiliation at those two’s hands. Which also eventually got me an official hormone prescription for the first time in my life. More manky pills which semi-worked along with manky side-effects, in a city which, at that time, had effectively no trans healthcare. Though I did find probably the one good doctor (who I took out for a night at SO36 when he came to Berlin).

And then Berlin. Also astoundingly lacking in trans healthcare. I mean it does exist, but primarily for white trans men and mascs, and the same tired cis-het-normative expectations. I went through so many truly awful GPs (what gets called Hausarzt), and endocrinologists to get similarly truly shite pills which were slowly fucking my liver. Because pills work by overloading your liver which otherwise filters out all the hormones ’cos that’s what livers do (or at least that’s how I remember my good doctors describing it). Which left me constantly tired on top of the fun rando, life-long other hormone problems I’d had.

This is turning into a long story, innit?

Finally, I accidentally found a good endo. A young white German man who talksveryfastallatonce and is actually kinda educated about trans stuff — and from all the above I’m pretty fucking qualified to make that assessment — and actually cares and takes an interest in his patients (i.e. me) as a person and not just a recipient of a prescription. And I should mention since being in Berlin, my ‘official’ status as ‘transsexual’ (yup, 20 years behind on terminology here) is very conditional and there’s a lot of goodwill on the part of doctors to prescribe hormones to me because I don’t actually have the paperwork or proof I did two years of therapy (’cos I didn’t) with those sign-off letters from gatekeepers. All very tenuous, and as much as the world is moving towards an informed consent model the reality remains very much ‘fucking lucky to get them’ when it comes to hormones or anything else transsexual.

So, he prescribed me gel, which I describe as, “getting jizzed on your arse and then you gotta rub it in.” Which I’ve been on for most of a decade after he talked me into trying it ’cos I was really, truly jack of pills fucking with me and not in a great place, and having some actually proper serious repercussions from those life-long hormone problems (also another story, and no, you TERFy cis cunts not caused by taking hormones). And which, along with surgery back in May ’09, has given me a fairly stable, acceptable several years on meds.

But I still miss injections.

Because they’re one and done, once a week, quick and easy, no mess no jizz, I felt better on them, don’t fuck my liver, and are by far the best route to get hormones into me. And for the majority of the last 15 years haven’t been available (unless you’re in Mexico or the US or some other random countries). Until a young trans woman I met here told me she was on them. Which was a fucking eye-opener.

And she gave me the name of them and where she got them from, which I asked my endo about and he was kinda suss about it, ’cos he thinks the curve with injections (peaking then trailing off) is not desirable and favours the flat dose of daily gel, and thinks I’m a weirdo for wanting the former. Nonetheless, he gave me a prescription, which isn’t covered by health insurance, and I went to my local Apotheke and was told, “Yaaah, around 25€ and might take 40 days?” and got a phone call 2 days later, and here we are. Thanks rando pharmaceutical company in Czech Republic!

Which is me wondering what the correct dose would be after all these years. ’Cos my endo doesn’t know, I can’t remember the strength of the injections I used to take, comparing it with jizz gel isn’t a direct one-to-one, I have no long-term medical history ’cos I’ve moved so many times and so have my doctors, trans healthcare is an actual fucking trash heap on fire, and I find myself on rando internet forums trying to scrape through DIY hormone convos by people who very much are not doctors or endos. And there’s whole conversations to be had around how we, as trans femmes, trans women, transsexuals, whatever the fuck we’re getting called this year, are resorting to buying hormones from non-medical suppliers like other trans women who started making it themselves and now sell it (just to clarify, this isn’t what I’m taking). And that if we want actual, up-to-date information, we have to look to those same trans women and assemble something meaningful out of our decades of collective experience. Which is not to throw shade on them or the hormones they’re making or our collective knowledge. We do this because we’re denied real, affordable, accessible healthcare. Because we’re mentally ill in the head fucking trannys.

So finally I have injections again, and because I don’t trust anyone, let alone white German healthcare and white the German government (come on, the potential Merkel replacement let the n-word slip out her mouth, this is where this country is at), I’m thinking that getting a stockpile first is good Auntie planning.

Funny story though, I forgot to ask for needles?

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Yayoi Kusama: Driving Image Show — Love Room

Yayoi Kusama’s A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe retrospective at Gropius Bau. I think this is called Love Room and is a recreation of the installation from her 1966 Driving Image Show exhibition in Essen. Nice amount of eye-bleed and brain reset here. I like her crazy, feels like next town over from mine.

(ot technical note: I ditched Photoshop a while ago and have been using Affinity Photo, which is much nicer and not Adobe. But my workflow is still kinda hacky, especially with RAW processing and colour balancing. I think this is a better job than Infinity Net A, but equally might be over-saturated and over-processed amateur hour.)

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Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Net A

Infinity Net A in Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective at Gropius Bau.Infinity Net A in Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective at Gropius Bau. Very good on my eyes and 10/10 would steal for my private art collection. This was the one that did the brain reset, vibrating physical reaction experience. Only a shadow of that transfers in the photo, but still, I can feel a sharp physiological reaction.

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Somewhere Between Krumme Laake and Dämeritzsee

Got my arse out the door and into Germanic nature today. First time in a long time. Balcony / kitchen riding on my trainer has been the default I’ve fallen into for the last few months. But I needed to actually ride and wear all that fancy gear I bought earlier in the year and do those fun things like get lost, are we there yet? and surprise! here’s a bridge where you need it.

Pink socks I wore for the first time and managed to smear my chainring all over. Lucky I was using dry lube (not the name of my sex tape) and it washed out. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado kit. Riding outdoors with a cadence sensor makes me really wish I had a power meter (or maybe Crank Brothers would make power meter pedals?). One banana for 3 hours was cutting it fine. Two bidons was actually about right but both should have been electrolyte.

The riding though. Funny how being bolted in place on an indoor trainer makes you forget how to do things like ride on sand and roots. I’ve got weirdly strong from all the indoor trainer riding and weirdly weak in holding a good riding position. Cars are still scary, even though German drivers are generally pretty considerate — if you also make like a car and be very literal in describing what you’re about to do. Forests are the shit. East of Berlin is fucking beautiful. Lakes are also the shit. The houses out there make me yearn for living in an actual house surrounded by trees and stuff. Getting whistled at by the boyz in their whips on Sonnenallee is … cheers lads, good to know I’m home.

Inadvertently Winning

I won the Zwift women’s NYC sprint jersey the other day.

Bunch of words there. Zwift is the online virtual environment I train on my bike and smart trainer in; NYC is the Zwift world which has multiple routes to ride in Central Park; and the sprint jersey is a rolling leaderboard of fastest sprint, retained until someone rides faster or for a maximum length of one hour, when it’s passed on to whoever is next down the list.

So, first ride post-vaccine and feeling kinda low-level chronic fatigue-y and not wanting to abuse myself on a proper training ride and nonetheless going a little too hard on a free ride ’cos I have no modulation, I hit a downhill slope and want to make some speed. Which leads into the sprint. And I’m in the wrong gear and all of the above and because I’m an aggressively competitive cunt when it’s time to compete I want to at least put down a not shameful time. Wrong gear and feeling grotty and on a cyclocross bike but I can still spin 130+ rpm which means lots of Watts and I cross the finish line looking at my time going, “Yeah, coulda been worse,” and then “Why the fuck is my jersey green?”

It’s green ’cos the woman in second place was 1/10th of a second slower.

I’ve written before about how I avoid competing with other (cis) women because of (trans) reasons. The last years this has become much more of a mainstream spectacle with a variety of intersecting fuckeries including: Republicans trying to legislate trans girls out of sports and bathrooms; cis women athletes like Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi all banned from the Olympics because regulations around women and testosterone levels, which ‘coincidentally’ seem to hit Black women; cis women like JK Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie using their massive social media following to target trans women; more legislation in the UK effectively barring access to puberty blockers for trans children. Those are the ones I can remember this morning, and because I’m talking about sport and competing here, I’m not including the almost daily murder of trans women who are disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrants and reliably doing the only work open to us: sex work. And not the nice, sanitised, white cis women doing pole dancing classes or queer AFAB porn type of sex work either.

When I won that jersey — and let’s be clear, it’s a very minor win — I experienced the unique duality all us women — cis and trans — know, us who are made illegitimate by this legislation and the generations-long culture of cis feminism (the TERF kind, which is also white feminism and yes, you can be Black or anywhere else in the BIPoC acronym and be a white feminist) colluding with white christian conservative politics. The duality is the visceral joy of winning inseparable from the dead conviction it’s because we’re not really women. And knowing someone’s eventually going to make us winning or even turning up an issue.

I’ve been a dancer for pushing 25 years. The training and experience is inscribed all the way to my bones. It shapes how I think and feel and live, whether I’m dancing or not. I’ve been an athlete for all that time as well, both as a dancer and, at various times, rock climbing and cycling. I train around a dozen hours a week out of habit and love and to prevent myself from falling apart. Like Martyn Ashton said, “You might be physically fit but you won’t be unscathed.” I started cycling to find a way to maintain the physical intensity I need when my knees had been in constant pain for years. I’m not especially good at it, just like climbing or dance I could get to a reasonably high level of proficiency but I’d have never made it as a professional, or the upper levels which get called ‘elite’. I know my capabilities, physiological, mental, emotional, all that, and know so much of being a dancer or athlete is those last two.

But all that counts for shit when I’m a trans woman taking the green jersey off a cis woman.

When that happens, when I even show up like at the Rapha Women’s 100, the advantages I bring from those 25 years of fucking hard work are rendered null and replaced by the supposed genetic, chromosomal, hormonal, skeletal, muscular, physical, cultural, probably spiritual and astral advantages I have because I was assigned male at birth. It doesn’t matter there are cis women who are taller, bigger, stronger and way more hot than me (Hi! Liz Cambage!). It doesn’t matter how early I got on hormones — and it certainly doesn’t matter that having to prove my validity as a woman entails a violation of my privacy and self all the way into my pants and blood. And Caster Semenya knows all about that too.

As much as possible, I’m explicitly ‘out’ on Zwift. There’s no LGBT checkbox, but I do wear the Pride kit, and following the convention of putting additional info in your name, I have ‘[trans femme af]’. This isn’t about Pride or ‘feeling proud’ or about being ‘out’. To those same bones I have no interest in the colonialism upon which these words and concepts created themselves. It’s about making sure there’s visibility and representation (also words which leave me tired). Once the big name trans athletes are accounted for, there’s a massive absence of trans athletes — and dancers. I don’t want to give space to cis people to pretend we don’t exist, aren’t in the room. I do feel an obligation to make sure other trans people — especially BIPoC trans women and femmes — know they’re not the only one in the room. And there’s a long, long conversation about AFAB queer hostility to femininity and athleticism which I don’t have the skin or patience or time for here, but that’s part of it. And the exhausting whiteness of dance and climbing and cycling is another part.

I was talking with Gala yesterday and I joked my motivating force is vengeance.

So here’s how it is: I won that green jersey ’cos I’m a multiethnic trans femme aunty with decades of hard physical experience under my lingerie, who’s highly competitive and capable, who won on an off-day on the wrong bike in the wrong gear and I wasn’t even trying. I’m that fucking good.

And y’know what else? It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big, it doesn’t mean anything. In the moment of competing and winning it’s a rush and we’d do it whether there’s organised, capitalism-based sport or not. After the moment, days, weeks, years later, for the vast majority of us who never made a career out of it and for quite a few who did, it simply doesn’t feature in our lives. It wouldn’t even merit 1200 words if it wasn’t for the reality of being trans or cis women pushing our way in where, on their terms, we aren’t welcome and don’t belong.

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3 Years and Done

I got an email from my Steuerberater yesterday. He wanted to let me know that after much back-and-forth for the second time, the Finanzamt had accepted my 2019 surgery as an expense against my income. So, no horrific tax bill for me, and after three years, I’m done with all that. (Unless of course the transphobic gods of German bureaucracy decide to non-consensually buttfuck me in the future for some extremely obtuse exception of German bureaucracy.)

Three years. The whole ‘earn mad cash get surgery’ process took less than a year — less than a year on my fourth attempt since my teens at stacking that paper — but the consequences of that took the extra two. Dealing with specific Finanzamt consequences, I mean. Which should serve as an object lesson for cis people in demonstrating how for trans people everything moves on a much slower time and everything involves shoving against immovable legal, medical, social, political, financial institutions and processes.

I celebrated the best way I know, having Type 2 fun. Type 2’s the fun where you suffer at the time and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and only later it magically becomes ‘Fun!’ (Celebrating like this mainly because I don’t have a favourite sex worker on speed dial, otherwise I’d be sorted for a different, Type 1 fun.)

Massive, unending thanks and love to my cherished ones, Dasniya, Gala, Katrin, and Vass who turned up for me during all this 🖤. The trans femme goddesses and deities saw you and don’t forget.

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Yayoi Kusama: The Eternally Infinite Light of the Universe Illuminating the Quest for Truth

Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective at Gropius Bau. One of the paintings reset my brain. This installation I could live in, very peacefully.

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So there’s almost an inevitability with it, a li…

So there’s almost an inevitability with it, a little bit.

You’re not gonna come out of a professional sports career unscathed. You might be physically fit but you won’t be unscathed.

And that could be a physical injury, and the results of that physical injury and what it’s done to your life, or it could be that, almost PTSD or something, y’know. Just like, sometimes you feel like you’ve gone to war, and sometimes you feel like you didn’t win that war. (laughs)

High Stakes, Martyn Ashton

Bit of an aside from last night when I was doing my regular midnight physical salvage session, and watching the film High Stakes on GCN+ (yup, I actually threw down cash for a year's subscription to watch a bunch of white dudes talk about bikes). Martyn Ashton, who is a very funny, very talented rider who uses a wheelchair after wrecking his back (for the second time), when he talks about physical and mental injuries as an athlete is someone I have a lot of time for.

He said something I've been trying to put into words for a very long time, which applies to dance — also a professional sports career — as much as it does to cycling or climbing, all three I've devoted a lot of my life to at various times. And from the beginning I have struggled with that inevitable double bind of physically fit but not unscathed.

Reading: Iain Banks — The Wasp Factory

This is where my reading of Iain Banks (with or without M.) started and then paused for quite some years. I picked it up in Shakespeare & Co. a week ago, along with the prize discovery of Raw Spirit, the only remaining work of his besides the one just published I’d not read, and despite working 12+ hour days have managed to finish both of them. This is a problem, because it’s a Sunday night and I have no unread books.

I read The Wasp Factory while living in Auckland. I have no memory of the circumstances that led to reading it, nor even the house I was living in, which would help pin it down a bit more, but anyway, let’s say mid/late-teens and be done with it. I do know that it profoundly affected me, and having not re-read it in all these years it’s assumed some degree of mythical proportions. I was lying on a bench at Hubertuswarte in Lainzer Tiergarten today, boots off and airing, feet cooling down, sweat evaporating, shaded by the line of trees beside the trail, nearing the last third where that brilliant, horrific, sublime, “What Happened to Me” is revealed, and wondered if perhaps the intervening years would cause me to regard this denouement in an entirely different light. Which would be an appropriate moment for the word Schadenfreude.

I’d forgotten all of Eric and What Happened to him, the burning dogs, the Sacrifice Poles, the details of the Factory, the childhood murders, the Bomb Circle, Old Saul, Jamie, the island itself, pretty much everything, but Frank, I hadn’t forgotten Frank at all. After all, we have the same name.

This reprint (close to the fortieth) has an introduction by Iain, where he writes,

Beyond that, it was supposed to be a pro-feminist, anti-militarist work satirising religion and commenting on the way we’re shaped by our surroundings and upbringing and the usually skewed information we’re presented with by those in power. Frank is supposed to stand for all of us, in some ways; deceived, misled, harking back to something that never existed, vengeful for no good reason and trying too hard to live up to some oversold ideal that is of no relevance anyway.

I was thinking of this nearing and arriving at the end, and how succinct and eloquent this is, and that in the mid-’80s, when feminism itself was still firmly mired in the Second Wave essentialism and pervasive anti-trans women bigotry, it was a 30 year old heterosexual male who understood feminism and wrote a truly feminist work. Thirty years later it doesn’t miss a thing. It should be on every feminist, queer, trans reading list, and in spite of the deranged horror that is Frank, I’m glad we share the same name.