Transforming the Dialogue at Simmons College

Hello Friends!

The fine folks at the Simmons College* MSW program reached out to me last week and asked if I would like to participate in their new program aimed at educating their population on trans* issues.  Of course I’m happy to help!

To be more specific, Megan, the marketing coordinator for Simmons, informed me that Simmons is “the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender,” and also told me the college is “embarking on an exciting initiative that aims to educate the masses on trans* lives.”  Neat!  I’m in!  But first, let me let Megan finish explaining what exactly this project entails.

She continued, “[t]his spring, we are launching “Trans*forming the Dialogue,” a campaign designed to shift the conversation away from the problematic questions that are often asked of the members of the transgender community and foster a more progressive dialogue.”  Any readers interested in seeing the final project can find it here in June.

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So, I am one of a few bloggers she has invited “to be a featured voice in this campaign and provide [my] unique perspective.” To that end, I answered three questions:

1. What are the do’s and dont’s when asking a trans*person about their experiences?

Well, I like to keep it simple: keep it respectful.  Speak from a place of integrity.  I guess what I’m saying is, it’s actually really easy to talk to trans people about their experiences if you come to us as a person first (that’s why you start from a place of integrity), and as a trans person second.  Ask yourself, before you ask me, why are you about to ask me the question you are going to ask?  Is it to learn about me, or is it to objectify me?  Is the answer to the question necessary for the interaction we are having?  The thing that I think trips up some cis-gender people, people who are allies and who want to get this right, is that they are so worried about embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing that they end up embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing.  Remember the golden rule: treat me how you would want to be treated, and interacting with trans* people, or any minority culture or person different from you, becomes much easier.

2. What are 2 – 3 questions that one should NOT be asking a transgender person?

Do not ask me what my “real” or “birth” name is.  It’s none of your business (in the case of my birth name), and actually, you know what my real name is, it’s the one I introduced myself to you as.

Do not ask me what surgeries I’ve had.  The state of my medical transition, if I am transitioning medically, is also none of your business.  Just like cis-gendered people do not have to justify their gender presentation to me, I do not have to justify my gender presentation to anyone else.  This is why coming to me as a person first, and as a trans person second is important. While my gender identity is important, it is only a part of the whole.  Treat me like a whole person, and we got no problems.

3. What are 2 – 3 questions that one SHOULD be asking a transgender person?

Please feel free to ask me what pronouns (if any) I prefer.  Sometimes people play with the gender norms, confound them, complicate them, fuck with them, and we might not be aligned with the traditional gender presentation our preferred pronouns would have you believe. Meaning, for example, sometimes dudes have breasts, sometimes ladies have stubble.  I would never be offended if someone wanted to know how I preferred to be referred to.  See how that’s different than asking me if I have a penis?

I am also always happy to answer the kinds of questions Megan has asked here.  Let’s talk about how to start a conversation, let’s talk about cultural norms, let’s talk about opinions and experiences.  I am very open with my transition, duh, I’m spilling the beans on a public blog. But not all trans people want to share their lives with the whole of the internet.  Start from a place of respect, a place of integrity, and let us lead you to how far we are willing to go with the divulgence of personal information.

I’m sure I’m missing some things, but that’s why I’m not the only blogger they approached.  I want to thank Megan for reaching out to me and giving me this opportunity.  Thanks Megan! And I applaud Simmons College for engaging the trans community: it’s this kind of willingness and effort that is the starting point from which we can foster real and meaningful dialogue across the sometimes too-silent gulfs between discourse communities.

Also, in closing I want to give a shout out to Simmons’ queer group, SWAG.  In the sea of poorly-chosen queer acronyms, SWAG knocked it out of the park. Great job people!

If this was your first time here, thanks for stopping by, and as always,

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli


* Woot-Woot Massachusetts!

Workin’ on My Fitness

Howdy Folks!

These past few months, while I’ve been working on the book, my workout routine has fallen off quite a bit.*

While it was necessary in the beginning for me to concentrate my time and efforts solely on writing (to get a good and consistent practice in place), now I can bifurcate my attention (and spare time) to the dual focus of writing and exercise.

So, since fitness is frequently a hobby of trans guys (as our bodies, with hormones and surgeries, get more in line with what we’ve always wanted them to be), I thought I would post my routine, in the hopes that to someone it might prove helpful.

Some caveats:

I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER.  OBVS.  I am of moderate ability, in an average body.  I have no physical handicaps (other than some shoulder/knee issues).  Please exercise caution during all physical activity.  Use my workout as a base, and modify it to suit your goals.

I am not new to working out, so if you are, please start slow (lower reps than me, less time for cardio), consult a doctor, etc., etc.  I stress: modify my routine to fit your body type, ability, needs, time, etc., etc.

I hate going to the gym.  HATE. IT.  I like how I feel after, but dread going because of all the typical reasons: takes too long to get there, cardio is boring, weights are boring. Oh yeah, and if I’m doing it right, it’s hard.

I like this home routine I’ve created because using body weight is more fun to me than using traditional weights.  With this routine, all you need are two chairs and a broom stick (and a body and 30 minutes).

I chose 30 minutes to start for a duration, and when I did it this morning, I was plenty out of breath, and it took almost exactly 30 minutes (30:45:06 to be exact).

You’ll notice I do the bodyweight routine at home three days a week, and cardio (jump roping in the basement, more convenient than going to the gym and, for me, WAY more fun than a treadmill or elliptical) three days a week.  Even God took a day off, so I do too: it’s 20 minutes of yoga at home, so it’s pretty chill.  It’s not hot, or meant to double as cardio–it’s just meant to be some healthy bodily self-love at the end of the workout week.

Eli’s Weekly Workout Schedule

Body Weights: M/Th/Sa

Perform all exercises as a massive superset. Rest 3 minutes between. Repeat 3 times.

-Squat (10 reps)

-Plank (60 seconds)

-Pull-up (10 reps) (This is how I do pull-ups at home)

-Pushup (10 reps)

-Tricep Dip (10 reps)

-Wall Sit (60 seconds)

-Lunge (10 reps/leg)

-Crunches (15 reps)

Cardio: Tu/Wed/Fri

-30 minutes jump rope

Yoga or Lake Walk: Sunday

-20 minutes on the mat

Are you a gym enthusiast?  Have some pointers or feedback?  Let’s see it!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*There are other reasons, too: an injury, cold weather.  I just wanted to note them here to act as camaradic** fodder.  If you gave up a little, let’s get back up together!

**Why yes, I did just invent the adjectival form of camaraderie, thanks for noticing!

My Invisibility Cloak Came in the Mail! I Mean, in a Vial!

Hello friends!

Well, this past February marked 2 years on T.  I’ve been busy, so busy writing my book that I have had little time for this type of transition writing.

But I did want to check in, and write a little update, and talk some about today, the trans day of visibility.

First, to continue my cavalcade of odd anniversaries, here’s my 25 months on T update.

As far as physical transitions go, I am steady on my dosage, still doing IM injections on my own, and so the changes at this point are gradual.

My voice seems to have settled into a much deeper but still sometimes squeaky range.  I think the squeaking has more to do with operator error than range.  I have to push more air out, with greater volume, for deeper and more even results.  I can’t speak from the same place in my throat that I did before testosterone, nor can I use the same amount of air.

My chin remains the dominant place for hair growth for me, but my sideburns are slowly coming in.  The mustache is still struggling, but he’s there.  K talks about the “hair” on my chest occasionally, but I think she’s just being supportive.

Muscles are dependent on my gym routine, which has gotten more sporadic because of a knee injury.

Socially, I am 99.9% of the time read as male, with only the occasional “miss” from behind, likely because of my short stature.  I don’t care at all when I’m mis-gendered; it no longer feels like a deep personal wound.

The territory I’m moving into is of the “stealth” trans person.  And as today is Trans Visibility Day, I thought I would take some time to write a little about living a stealth life.

Most of you know I live in Chicago.  I believe being able to afford to live in a major city is a privilege when one is trans.  I’d like to write a little bit about the other ways I am privileged before I write any more about living a stealth life.

I’m white, and a trans guy, so as I pass I have the patriarchy on my side big time.

I’m able bodied, and I’m in the economic middle class.

Oh, and I’m conventionally attractive.

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Not bad.

In short, I’m privileged as fuck.

So going forward in this conversation, know I know this.  I know when I talk about my experience it is a charmed one.

So, carrying on:

The other day I was at work, and a new co-worker and I were chatting, some issue of women’s clothing came up, and she made some comment to me, the jest of it being, “you boys don’t know how tough it is to be a lady.”

It was just idle workplace chatter, but it was nice to be affirmed in my gender.  I have been stealth for a little bit, but when a comment is made by a person who just reads me as male, without knowing me as trans, it’s still affirming and feels good.

I could have very easily said back to her, “Actually, I wore bras for years, and I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

But I didn’t say that.  Why?

Because sometimes it’s nice to not be a trans talking head.  Sometimes it’s just nice to be a man.

That’s what being stealth affords me: it affords me the privilege of blending in.  It allows me to “pass.”

God, I hate that word: passing.

And stealth, I hate it too.

Because stealth makes it sound like I am hiding.  Like I’m ashamed to be trans.

Let it be known: I AM NOT ASHAMED OF BEING TRANS.

But I don’t want to talk about it every time my maleness is innocuously brought into conversation.

Sure, I “pass,” but what exactly does that entail?

Passing is, in my case, short for passing for a man.

It implies I’m not a man, that I am an imposter.

And that’s not true.  It’s actually the opposite.

Actually, for so many years, I “passed” for female.  I responded to female pronouns, and a female name, and I used the women’s bathroom.  But it was always fake.  I was always faking it, and so I “passed” for female.

Now?  My body and my presentation are aligned with my internal sense of self.  The world is able to read me as the man I always have been.

“Passing” and “being stealth” aren’t indicative of a mis-aligned body; they’re indicative of a maligned system, a system that only reads gender in strict binary ways.  We have to work to broaden the terms, so men who can’t afford surgeries or DON’T WANT THEM can still be read as men.  Maybe some trans women don’t want hormones; they should still be addressed as women.

I think I’m starting to ramble, so let me say this:

I like being trans, and I’m happy to answer people’s questions about the trans community, as much as I can, because I can’t speak for all of us.  Sometimes I am just going to be a dude, and so sometimes that means I’m not going to bring up my trans-ness in conversation.  And thank god, because who wants to listen to lectures all day?  I guess I’m just growing up, meaning, I’m settling into my male body and in that way being trans doesn’t come up so much anymore.  However, if someone says some ignorant thing about the trans community, or the queer community at large…or about women, or people of color (because more broadly it’s about intersectionality, isn’t it?  We have to have each other’s backs, don’t we?), I would surely speak up.

And so this blog, and its role in my life is changing as well.  MLWT is still relevant, in that I am still trans, but the physical stuff, the hair growth and voice change and sex drive are no longer the crux of my transition story.  It’s more anthropological than biological at this point in my life.

So as things arise, I will still post here, but this blog is taking a bit of a backseat to my other writing project.  Feel free to still comment, as I will still happily respond to them.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Stand and Deliver

I’ve been using the men’s room now for, oh, almost a year.  It still feels a little strange; that is, I still feel like a foreigner…sometimes.  It’s not like one day you feel up to using the men’s room, and go in, and are forever changed and just own the place.  In some situations I still prefer a unisex stall: it’s about comfort and safety. All men’s room are different: some are obviously cleaner than others, some have different, um, let’s call it energy.  The men’s room at the Metro has a different energy than the one at Lincoln Hall.  Those of you that live in Chicago will inherently know what I mean.

I guess it’s more about the anxiety in my head that makes them different: I am worried I will be found out.  You don’t worry about that?  Don’t get nervous?  That’s call cis-privilege.  Enjoy it.  I don’t worry about it *too much* because I have the benefit of living in a major city with a strong queer presence.  So of course I don’t think, realistically that I will be discovered and thrown out or shamed or worse.  No, but I think that concern must float around in every trans person’s head, to some degree, when they are using a public restroom.

Last week when searching for a bathroom in a public place, I came across a unisex stall, and for the first time checked to make sure there wasn’t also a men’s room, because I would have rather used that.  I found that impulse interesting, and as I was washing my hands I wondered why I did that.  Sure, I was becoming more comfortable with using the men’s room, but when I thought about it, the impulse to use the men’s room over a unisex stall was because I didn’t want to take up space that I didn’t need.  I wanted someone who preferred the unisex stall to have that option.  It’s nothing profound, but it does illustrate the degree to which I am settling into my male identity.  8 months ago I would have been elated to find a unisex stall and not searched for the men’s room.

The thing that causes me most anxiety while using the men’s room is specifically the stall issue.  I used to make a big production out of blowing my nose to add a little more male noise in the stall once I was in a peeing position.  My feet are facing the wrong way, you see, and what kind of guy sits down to pee?  Actually, I have heard lots of guys sit to pee, and some of my male friends have told me they prefer the stall to a urinal.  But nonetheless, I’m the one waltzing in there without the usual equipment.  I’m not bothered by this too much, but bothered enough to start investigating STP devices.

What’s an STP device, you say?  Stand-to-pee devices range in price and complexity, and allow people with vaginas the ability to, you guessed it, pee while standing and not get urine all over themselves.  Hudson’s Guide has a full page on STPs here, and FtM Essentials has some nice models here.  For me, I just want something that will allow me to stand in a stall and pee.  I don’t want something I have to pack all day, nor do I want something with lots of parts to keep clean.  I just want something that lets me pee standing up that I can wipe down/rinse off and put back in my pocket.

To that end, initially I was torn between the Pstyle or ridiculously named Go-Girl.  Ultimately I went with the Pstyle, as I read uniformly positive reviews of it on multiple sites.  The unfortunate part of using STPs is that you don’t know which one is right for your body until you try it, and of course all sales are final, so there’s a costly trial-and-error period to start.   But being able to stand to pee in public would be really convenient and psychologically satisfying.  The Pstyle starts at $12.00, so it’s a financially low-risk place to start as well.

Oh, and I’m still off sugar!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Remembrance: Matt Kailey

I first came across Matt Kailey‘s Tranifesto two years ago when I started this blog.  At the time I was certain about top surgery, and actively trying to talk myself out of testosterone.  But that argument felt a lot like the one I had with myself before I decided on surgery: I was going through the motions of a half-hearted, losing fight.  So I wanted to start looking for examples of dudes my age on testosterone: I wanted to see how it would look for a female body in its thirties to take testosterone, as I knew all the examples of kids in their 20s, with their high metabolisms and evolving bodies, would not be reflective of my transition.

Tranifesto was a revelation: TRANIFESTO in bold block lettering atop a brick wall, Matt standing confidently in front of it, eyes looking into the camera, looking at me.  Tranifesto a blog not just with his personal story, but also one with tabs for resources and links and trans FAQs.  He has a section for his bio and the bio of Tranifesto, he has a section for his public speaking and his books.  I spent a long time poking around, looking up his posts with testosterone tags, and his voice was reassuring.  Here was a guy who was a little older than me, had been on T for a while, and he was healthy.  Hell, he was thriving.  Matt’s life assuaged my fear of dying young from testosterone’s complications.

As I moved further along into my own journey I spent less and less time on Matt’s blog; what started as a weekly occurrence (I would read his Ask Matt posts religiously every Thursday) dwindled down to checking in sometimes as his new posts would pop up in my feed, and as my time allowed and interest was piqued.  I was becoming my own trans man, writing my own posts on T shots and answering questions from readers of my blog.  As my voice was taking shape, Matt’s was moving into the background.  But it was still always there, reassuring me.  One particular post of his deals directly with the fear of taking testosterone injections without any long-term studies to bolster the patient against the fear of fatal side effects.  In that post he writes,

“The one thing I do know is that you will never get out of this life alive…You will die of something, and my philosophy has always been that I would rather die after having lived a full and authentic life than after having lived as someone I am not.”

And that line, “you will never get out of this life alive,” has been a huge comfort to me. I wrote about this post of his previously here.  We all die of something, and even if testosterone is the indirect cause of it for me, at least I got to hear my real voice, look at and touch and have touched a chest that I am proud of.  I have been addressed as sir and moving in the world and being recognized by the world as a man have been perhaps the greatest joys of my life.  Clearly Matt has been a huge help in my personal transition, a soothing voice, a self-assured internet buddy, and I might not be the man I am (or might not have gotten to be him this soon) without Matt Kailey and Tranifesto.

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Matt Kailey (Image courtesy of Tranifesto)

As I was preparing my wedding and honeymoon, I’ve spent little time on WordPress recently, and so I missed that Matt died of heart failure in May.  I’m sad and his passing is a huge loss for our community.  His death, at 58, also stokes the embers of that old fear, the one of dying early.  So I let that fear sit with me for a half day, then I let it go.  In that same blog post Matt goes on to write,

“There are honestly a ton of trans guys over 50 out there. Some of us might not be as visible because we have assimilated into the mainstream and are not visible as trans men, or because we are not as Internet savvy (or as interested) as the younger guys who grew up with technology.

So don’t freak out about dying young. I can’t guarantee that you won’t, but I can guarantee that you will hear more about people who die than you will about people who are living, because death is almost always a shock, and when someone dies, people will talk about it.”

And here I am talking about it.  And even in death Matt manages to act as confidant and teacher; it is his early death that forces me to look at my own life and determine its length is in my hands.

Matt’s blog is still up and available, in fact his most recent post is about Tranifesto turning 5.  I suggest you go check it out if you’re not familiar, and if you are, take a moment there to say your goodbye.  I did, and it felt right and good.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

The Advocate has a lovely Op-ed on Matt here.

And fellow blogger American Trans Man has a short goodbye here, with links to Matt’s blog and books.

 

 

 

Welcome to the New My Life Without Tits!

Friends, Interweb Travellers, Gawkers, and the Gender-Curious,

It's pronounced E-Lie

It’s alive!

Let me reintroduce you to the blog My Life Without Tits.

Ta-dah!

Now let’s take this rig for a spin.  Please watch your step as you board the blogcraft.

-Just north of this post in the address bar you will notice a new url: mylifewithouttits.com.  Yes,  I have purchased my domain name and own rights to everything within it (unless otherwise noted).  So all those top surgery pics are mine, all mine!  And remember to update your bookmark!

-No doubt you notice a new theme: I wanted one in which I could customize the sidebar and widgets, and the old one just wouldn’t do.  But it did serve me well, and I thank the WordPress overlords for use of it.  With this new theme you get:

-An updated About Eli & About His Blog tab

-Updated Blogroll and Related Sites tab with some of the old and trusted blogs (Shout out to Transman, Karen,  Maddox, and friends) alongside some new blogs of interest and sites with trans resources.  Go and get to clickin’!

-The new Education/Public Speaking tab for employers, community organizations, and educators who would like to work with me in a professional capacity.

-I cleaned up all the old/broken links and messy tags and categories.  Looking for top surgery info?  Just type “top surgery” in the search box and all those posts have been properly tagged.  Want more information on my experience with testosterone, click on the Testosterone category in the side bar and there you’ll have all my bitching, right before your eyes!

This has been a labor of love, and I’m pleased with how all the changes have manifested themselves.  But of course this blog updating activity is always a process, so if you find a link that doesn’t work, or a tag missing, let me know.

I hope you enjoy your time here on MLWT.  If you’re new here, welcome.  If this is old hat to you, welcome back.  For the foreseeable future, please expect a new post weekly, likely on Fridays.

Thanks for dropping by, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

You Can’t Go Wrong With Skulls

Yesterday I stopped by Revolution Tattoo in Bucktown for an appointment with Omar, the owner.  The shop is on Western Avenue in Chicago.  I did a lot of research on shops in the city, googling artists and studios, asking friends for suggestions, and contacting the shops for consultations.  Revolution was my pic for many reasons: the traditional tattoo designs on the leggy walls, the antler collection above the doorway, the large bat hanging from the ceiling.  When I arrived Omar was just putting the finishing touches on a design he and I talked about two weeks prior, so yesterday was the day I got the outline for my chest piece.

2222 N Western Avenue

2222 N Western Avenue

The design has quite a lot of detail, so we did the outline in one day, and are doing the shading in a month, after Omar returns from two weeks in Europe, and I’ve forgotten how painful chest tattoos can be.  While sitting in the chair yesterday I got to know Omar, listened to some stories about his shop and the time and effort it took him and his wife to build it.  K came with me for support* and was great about helping the conversations along.  She asked Omar about his wife’s role in Revolution’s genesis and he told us about her curatorial interests and the art space they have next door.  She was responsible, largely, for the decor of the studio, which made sense to me.  Another part of the reason I chose Revolution for my tattoo wasn’t just because of the impressive bone collection or because Omar is talented, seasoned, and trustworthy, but also because the shop feels homey.  It has, as Omar said, “a woman’s touch.”  Each artist has his own station, and I’m sure they’re filled with objects specific to that person.  But there is a cohesive warmth to the space as a whole, the details make it not only comfortable and evocative, but authentic.  Revolution is a classic tattoo shop, it feels small and broken-in and interesting.  That’s the kind of local business I want to support, and it’s the kind of place I want my tattoo experience to find its home in.

Something that I didn’t expect is that Omar reminded me of my uncle Tony quite a lot.

It happened like this: I’m reclined in the black tattoo chair, Omar’s telling me a story about his beloved green 1971 Chevy truck** and out of the corner of my eye I catch this little smirk rustle his cheek, the twitch and shift of his full beard gives it away and that movement on that cheek reminds me of Tony.  Until that moment I hadn’t noticed how Omar’s beard and hair are the same color as Tony’s before he went grey.  Omar’s nose comes to the same rounded point as Tony’s but the similarity is most surprising in the eyes.  They both have playful, sharp brown eyes.  At first, I found myself avoiding his gaze at times because it felt like Tony was looking at me and that stirred up all kinds of ugly feelings.  But as I laid there, because it wasn’t Tony leaning over me, something turned over in my gut.  Sometimes clenching my fists in my pockets as Omar worked the gun’s way over my sternum, sometimes leaning into the many needle points because that felt better than to feel the ticklish vibration in my ribs, I thought about Tony and it was actually quite nice, thinking about Tony as a younger person, someone not related to me and without all that ugly baggage and I felt like maybe I was capable of healing Tony’s legacy by forgiving him in those little moments.

So I thought about healing for a little bit, how it can be healing in that moment to let Tony be free of his pain, and so then I could be free of the pain he caused me.  I could just listen to Omar’s stories, and let Tony step in and out of that room, and I concentrated on the little belly breaths I took to keep the canvas still and felt calm and pleased and at peace about my relationship with Tony.  And when Tony would lean back and out again, I thought about how my chest was healed after surgery, how my body was healed with my soul, how healing it can be to cut out things that don’t fit and aren’t representative of you.  I wish Tony would have cut out alcohol, but he couldn’t.  It was nice to imagine getting a tattoo from my cool uncle Tony.  Maybe we were in his shop, or in his garage, and maybe we were talking about girls.  Maybe we were talking about Led Zepplin.  As the gun made the arch of a wing on my chest I knew what it was like to have that guy in my life.  It was only for a few seconds here and there, and it was after he died, but Tony and I found our way to each other.  Wings are funny that way, when you don’t know how to use them they take you to mysterious places you have never been.

I looked down and saw another little feather appear.  I thought about wings and flight and how I cut out my breasts and how the scars helped me to get above myself.  I thought about how those scars arch like wings.  And I thought about that Leonard Cohen line in Anthem, “There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”  I thought about how much light those scars have let in.  And sometimes when I would look down while the gun was being dipped in ink I would see this black image drawing my eye away from my scars.  Which is part of the point, but also I looked at my scars and thought about how this was their first time being really looked at in public, and by someone who wasn’t K or my doctor.  I thought about how those scars lift me.  So soon I found myself smiling easily in that chair, K sitting a few feet away and chatting with Chito, another artists in the shop.

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Chito and I discovered we’re from the same home town and so for a while we talked about how the town has changed, talked about the roads that used to dead end and now they go over a new bridge and all the way out of town.  There’s a pause in the chatter and he seems far away, but then he steps closer to me, away from his table and he squints at the design emerging on my chest.  Almost inaudible over The Sword’s Barael’s Blade, Chito says something.

“Skulls,” he breaths wistfully, “You can’t go wrong with Skulls.”

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Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*I have many tattoos, so I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand for that.  But it was my first time being shirtless in public, essentially, so it was more of a “stick around until I can gauge whether this feels like a safe space for me.”  I got a good feeling there right off the bat, but then she stuck around for the conversation and fun and ended up staying all 4 hours.  What a champ is she!
**For many years when I was a kid, Tony parked that same model in our driveway in powder blue.

 

Buongiorno!

Friends!

What a long absence I’ve had from you.  I have thought about you from time to time, and now I return with an update.

These last few months have been busy, busy with submitting rejected chapbook submissions (Three in all!  So many pages of forgettable poetry!  I’ll regale you with a poem at the end of this post if you’re good!) and wedding planning.  I’ll let you guess which of those activities was more fun…ok, here’s a hint: planning the wedding also entails planning the honeymoon, which is three weeks in Italy.

Bam!

Italy!

K and I have been having a great time booking places to stay (some time in Rome, some in Florence, some in Cinque Terre) and, with the help of Duolingo, practicing a little Italian in hopes of currying favor with the locals.

So, if you want to tell someone the man eats an apple, give him this: l’uomo mangia un mela and my love!

But don’t let all these exclamation marks fool you, it’s not been all fun and games.  Life is hard and depressing if you look at it that way, and over these cold and dark months it’s been easier to look at it like that than any other way.

My birthday passed through these parts last week, coupled with an injury that has kept me out of the gym for two months (well, an injury that has kept me from running, but my apathy kept me completely out of the gym) and I’m feeling pretty bad about myself.  Today I went back to the gym for the first time since, oh, October? And of course I’m not back to square one, but I’m pretty sad about my state.  So I called myself all kinds of names on the way home, remembering to be shitty about not going to the gym, and about being a weird trans thing, about being a traitor to my writing practice, yeah, I really let all the old jabs out of the bag.  Once home, during the shower I just wanted to lay down in the tub and take a nap.

Instead I dried off and laid on the couch and looked out the window and sighed for a little while.

Then I started to think about the difference between acceptance and giving up.  The last few months, while I was out of the gym, I tried to convince myself what I was doing was a good thing, that accepting my body for how it was, for eating more sweets and skipping yoga was mentally healthy.  But of course it’s not: I was giving up.  And now I find myself in this body, not a bad one, but not one I like.

So I figured that acceptance is going to the gym two or three times a week, every week, instead of going 5 times, making it 3 times, and giving up because I didn’t go 7.  Acceptance is about always trying, but not berating myself if I don’t succeed every time.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying, trying to be a better writer, a fitter person, but there are limitations to every body.  So I am currently trying to enjoy the things about myself that I am happy about (I am actually a pretty good writer, and actually have a pretty nice body) without giving up on a writing practice (even if my practice only happens once a week, and sometimes it’s in the form of reading rather than writing) or a health regime (even if that regime means going to the gym 3 times a week, and having a couple cookies at lunch).

So that’s that.  But I am curious, friends, do you have some insight in to how you balance between reaching your goals and accepting yourself?

Oh, I am past due on an anniversary on T video update, but it’s coming soon.

But, for now I leave you with:

Jupiter

Grandpa’s rough hand turns the ignition to break the quiet darkness of early morning.
Up on a chair I squint into the dark frame of the kitchen window but can’t see him
Shift in the stiff driver’s seat.  The sound of a door snapping shut,
The quick spark of his lighter, the car in reverse at 4 am
Tell me things about his life I won’t understand until after his death.
Only years later did I learn of the mallet he kept under his bed
In case his son came at him in his sleep.
He feared waking to the sensation of fingers gripped
Around his neck, his own hands but younger and out of control,
Acting on crazed impulse or auditory hallucination.
In that house, our lives depended on the distance we kept from them.
Every night ended with ice cubes clinked against an otherwise empty tumbler:
A depleted god’s thunder clap.
The screen door opening after a night at the V.F.W., another clap.
Count the seconds between flash and boom.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli