Good Omens

Living a genderqueer life

Month: October, 2012

50 things that make me happy

Walking. Running. Swimming. Cooking. Knitting.

Traveling. Hiking. Big cities. Really small towns. Cozy cafés.

Hotel breakfasts. Bathtubs. Somebody cleaning the room for me. Sleeping in. Arriving at a new place.

Talking with people. Talking to people. Learning a foreign language. Learning a new Finnish word. Dialects.

Concerts that start early. Concerts with good sound technicians. Dancing people. Dancing with people. Drinking really cold water.

Tsuumi Sound System. Paul Simon. Pizzicato Five. Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata in G minor. Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät.

Free evenings with nothing to do. Being with my love. Making pasta. Sugared ginger slices. Looking out of the bedroom window and seeing our aspen against the sky.

Writing lists. Reading good books without any hurry to finish them. Paul Auster’s books. HelLooks. Sora’s blog.

Inviting friends over. Hot chocolate with chili powder and cardamom. Taking the last bus. Cycling home in August.  Urban foxes.

Dr. Martens boots. Wasabi. Spring. Autumn. Life.

Walk a while with me

As a dog-owner, I’m used to walking a lot regardless of the weather. I’m also used to walking in a most non-talkative company, free to think things over. I like walking. Recently, I have found a way of walking I call my caretaker walk, because that’s how I move around at work. My caretaker walk differs from my usual walk in that it is at the same time completely immersing – I concentrate on the act of taking the next step, and nothing else – and thus also, in a way, liberating.

Walking like this, I’m freed from the usual hubbub of random thoughts bouncing off the inside of my skull, which leaves me an unusual amount of brain capacity to concentrate on my surroundings. I become aware of the trajectories people move along, of their facial expressions and the state of their shoes – I can see where they come from and so, because that is my job, will be able to point them at the right direction.

The caretaker walk also works when I’m not at work. The walk is in some way both the synonym and the opposite of being invisible. What I’m trying to say is, when walking this way, I become totally visible – people usually concentrate on their destination and not the way they are walking, so it is possible to stand out from the crowd just by doing this – and at the same time, I’m surrounded by an “invisibility cloak” of total self-confidence. People see me looking like it’s natural for me to be there, like I belong exactly there – and so they can put me out of their minds until they have a need for me.

But there are, of course, other important ways of walking. My love is also studying to be a teacher, and for three weeks (starting yesterday), ze is doing a teaching practice at a school near us. Hir “schoolday” begins every day at 8 in the morning, and because the school is just two kilometers away, ze walks there and back. My current study plan is “independent work” until Christmas, so I have been able to walk with hir (and the dog) to the school these two mornings, and will do so again tomorrow. It feels good to walk in the growing morning light with my love, holding hands and maybe not even talking. Feeling the closeness and affection we have shared for seven years gives me strength to face a new day of making myself visible.

Visiting a childhood home

Yesterday, I played at happening where there were a lot of people from the place I did my civil service in – an education/arts workshop kind of place for disabled (Down, Williams, etc. syndromes type of) people. When I finished my service two years ago, I still used my old name and lived in the gender assigned to me at birth. So, naturally, the wonderful, lovely people I was so glad to meet yesterday at the gig, used my old name – and I did not ask them to do otherwise. There are two reasons for this.

First, it took some of these people the best part of my year there to get my old name right. I don’t want to confuse them more by telling them to use a new name for me, especially now that I won’t be meeting them often enough anymore for it to have any effect.

Second, and this is what makes the first one possible, it didn’t feel bad yesterday to be called by my old name. It’s maybe because these lovely people know what I’m like and don’t (have cognitive skills sharp enough to) put me in a conceptual box, like “man” or “woman”. These friends remember me (some don’t of course, two years is a long time) because of what we did together, because we laughed, cried, argued, traveled, played, ate – shared a part of our lives, not because of “what I am.” Working with disabled people is performativity and social constructionism come to life, it’s about creating a world where everybody really has the right to exist as themselves, by living as if the world really was like that.

And so, for a while, I became again the person I was two years ago. It felt funny, like talking to somebody one’s been in love with a long time ago, or visiting one’s childhood home. You remember something of the way you felt then, but it’s really only a memory now, nothing to hurt you, just photos in an album – you remember the photos but not the actual experience – and you catch yourself thinking, is this it? What was so special about this?

The past slips away from me, and I let it go. I can visit it again if I want to, but for now, I’m happier with the present, and look to the future to get even better.

Have done vs. To do

I’ve figured that my memory is very non-chronological: it sorts things and events by sound and feel, even taste and smell, not the order I’ve actually done them in. This leads to me thinking through the day in the evening and feeling I haven’t done anything useful. This is because all the day’s events are already stored away in my brain’s folds, to be reactivated by similar things in the future.

Because of this, I’ve started to keep a mental (and today written) Have done list, so that I don’t feel useless and lazy all the time: now I can check my list to see I’ve actually been quite active today. It’s an empowering feeling to do that. All the little things amount to quite a lot of work. And it’s also nice to see that sometimes the list is quite short. That’s a free day, and a free day is great, it’s a luxury.

Should, should, should

I went to a Seta Transgender Support Center meeting yesterday. It was great to meet people with (a kind of) the same kind of situation. It was easy to talk about my feelings or experiences there, because there were people who had felt or experienced something of the same.

Afterwards, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “shoulds” I have set for myself. There are a lot of those in my life – beginning with the relatively simple ones like “I should practice my bow technique today but I feel more like playing the electric bass now”, and going on to “I should eat only vegan food, but doing so I always feel hungry” and even “I should always be proud of being qenderqueer and never conform to the binary gender system even when I’m tired of being noticed and would love to blend in with the normal people.”

The balance between the short and long term goals of my life (feeling happy right now vs. achieving something greater sometime in the future) is a precarious one. It’s so easy to slip into either a hedonistic mood, taking one day at a time and not caring about the future at all, or take a martyrlike stance, thinking of the rewards I will one day get if I neglect my current happiness for long enough.

And these both are, so I feel, quite nice ways of looking at life, because usually, I slip out of one and into another quicker than I even notice. But right now, I feel stuck inside both of these viewpoints. This means that there aren’t enough hours in a day to do all I would like to, and so I find myself collapsing to a complete standstill, not doing anything worthwhile. I fear this is what Finland’s winter has in store for me once again.

Take me dancing tonight

I was at a gig yesterday at the Helsinki Music Centre. The band in question was Tsuumi Sound System, ” #1 etno cannon in Finland.” Everybody was there, so it felt – so many friends from different circles gathered there at the same time!

TSS’s music is hugely dancable. From the first note, I couldn’t resist first tapping my foot, then going to the dance floor when it began to fill with people. Between these two, there was a moment of unhappiness on my part.

I love dancing, I love to be aware of my whole body, co-existing, sharing the space with other bodies on the dance floor. But yesterday was my first time to go dancing after becoming aware of my “gender trouble”. So, while I was enjoying the music immensely, at the same time I was aware of other people, not knowing me, seeing me in a way I don’t see myself, and making assumptions based on what they see. This is a form of dysphoria I’m only too familiar with, and has to do with the social invisibility I wrote about a couple of posts back.

There is a certain built-in paradox in the way I feel about the relationship of a person’s mind and body – call it my philosophy of the body, if you like. Because, as I wrote earlier, for me mind and body are necessarily two quite different things – how else could there be a feeling of “gender dysphoria”? I really don’t like thinking like this, because it puts me in mind (heh) of Plato’s hierarchical dualism, where mind/spiritual world is the only thing that matters, and the body/material world is of no use, or even a bad thing. This is a view held by some people even today, and it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, even seeing where they are coming from.

But at the same time, I see in myself and others the old proverb coming true, “mens sana in corpore sano”, that is, “a sound mind in a healthy body.” A human being functions as a whole, and if a part of a person is feeling low, it will show on their whole being. So I have a philosophy of the body that is essentially illogical and thus of no practical use.

Feeling slightly dysphoric, I decided to give this illogical set of beliefs an empiric try. I let the music suck me in, to the dance floor, lift me up and in the end leave me sweating and gasping for breath after an hour of very intense free style dancing. What a night!

How to sit still

This morning, my love and I shared a breakfast at the old café/restaurant Eliel at the Helsinki Central Railway Station. The food was OK, not really good but not bad either. The orange juice was really nice.

My love had an appointment with a dentist, and I stayed a while to finish my second cuppa tea. The Railway Station has tall windows that open to a street full (at that time) of people hurrying past. I sat at my table, looking at the people. Do I look like that, I wondered. Probably: I hardly ever stop to look at the buildings, or sky, or trees, of my home city. And how often do I look at the people on the streets like this, with my attention fully on them?

Having realized this, I will have to go back to the basic idea of my yesterday’s blog, and put in other words some things I may have been writing not so clearly there. This will be the topic of my next post. Now for some serious bass playing.

See you!

Another day in drag

When I pass you on the street, and you look at my direction – what do you see?

I’m invisible.

And so are you. I realized something when I became aware of being genderqueer: we humans don’t really see each other. When I look at you, I see clothes (usually), a hairstyle, a body of a certain shape, perhaps a face – and from them I figure out a “you” that fits the type of “yous” I’ve learned to know with this kind of a combination. Even naked, I only see an outside, not you. That is why it is so dangerous to “judge a book by its covers.” You really can’t know how a person wants to be seen, before you ask or get to know them.

For a time, I felt really bad when shopping clothes, either at the women’s or the men’s part of a shop (usually thrift or second hand places, my economy being what it is), because I’m neither. I thought if I only could dress androgynously, I would feel better. But then, a couple of weeks ago, I had a little sentence pop in my head, that has made me feel increasingly confident:

“Every day is another day in drag.”

I can’t dress in a way that would make people see me as I see myself, because for them, I don’t exist – yet. But if I tell them about myself, make myself visible to them, they will eventually see me as I want to be seen, no matter how I dress. So when I put on some clothes in the morning, or even take them off for sauna, I, in choosing how to appear to other people, create a symbol of myself that is visible socially. The symbol, my body, clothing, even behavior and way of talking, beckon others towards my own sense of myself, a thing apart from these but still in some way inseparable from them.

Welcome to my blog!

Hi there. I’m Enne, and this is my blog. Welcome!

Enne (pronounced like “en” from “end” and “ne” from “nest”, with the accent on the first syllable) is my new name. It means “omen” in Finnish, my native tongue. That is why I have stolen to my own use the name of a wonderful book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

In this blog, I’ll be writing about things in my life as genderqueer in a men’s and women’s world. Viewpoints I look at the world from, include, but are not restricted to: university student, veg(etari)an, schoolteacher-to-be, Finnish, musician, spouse, and cat-lover. I write this blog in English, which is not my “own” language, because in Finnish, it’s so easy to let my fingers type away, without actually thinking at all.

The first actual post will be about how I see myself, and how I would like others to see me. Thanks for staying with me (even) so far!

-Enne