Good Omens

Living a genderqueer life

Category: good things

A new direction

Today, I called a doctor for a referral to the trans unit at the Helsinki University Hospital.

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(I’m so happy that) Every teardrop isn’t a waterfall

Before this morning, I don’t remember the last time I cried. I mean, cried without a specific situation. I always cry at weddings and funerals. (And in April this year, I did cry one night, when I’d had two beers and sauna’d for hours, and there was somebody there that I trust.)

I cried from shock a few years ago, after a (not serious) car crash that the other party blamed on me, and I couldn’t say I knew it was their fault. I remember crying when I was maybe ten, it was in a school break, a child from a parallel class pushed me into a staircase railing so my teeth hit the iron. When I was eight, a new kid came to our class; during lunch, I had the habit of saying a little prayer before starting to eat. The new kid noticed it and said loudly, “So you’re some kind of believer?” And I knew I couldn’t pray in public any more, and after school, I may have cried, and I certainly stopped praying at all. I think I cried a lot as a kid, when I was lost or hurt. What happened then?

This and last year have been a time of my becoming aware of myself. Of gender things and sexuality things, and those are what this blog was to be about when I began it nearly a year ago. But also of weaknesses and limitations, of strengths, and of things that make me happy. This summer, I found that I couldn’t cry. I would get to a point where I wanted nothing more than to let go, but even when I thought of it, I pulled back. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t not control myself. It’s maybe two months since I realized this.

And, like so often, with becoming aware of the problem, the solution is already there. When I let myself admit it, the first step was taken. Not very long after, there started to be tears. Just a few, with no apparent reason. When I noticed them, I tried to loosen my control and still couldn’t.

When I first realized that it’s hard for me to let go, I started hoping for a storm of cleansing tears, like the climax of a film where the protagonist finally is freed from themself. I waited for it, tried to get my thoughts in a shape that could fit such a change… And while I was waiting, slowly, the tears fell, a couple of them at a time. One day, I found the corners of my mouth twitching downward, then staying there for minutes at a time; last week I sat on a bus on the way home looking like a sad smiley without knowing it, and that was good, I wouldn’t have dared to if I had. I had rediscovered an expression I had forgotten even existed.

On a discussion forum I read every now and then, there’s a quote in somebody’s signature: A water drop hollows a stone. I’d thought of it as a good reminder to work steadily at whatever I do. Now, I have another meaning for it.

Still alive!

There’s all kinds of greatness happening right now. Some things that have happened since the previous post:

1) Applying for a Bachelor & Master of Music degree program at Sibelius Academy, and getting in after six years and three tries,

2) balancing between comparative religion and gender studies in making preparations for starting my master’s thesis after the summer, and

3) the best thing, which is something I won’t write here, not yet. We aren’t expecting a baby, if that’s what you thought. C’mon, I thought you knew me. Suffice to say I’m happy, happier than I’ve been for some time.

But I am also very tired right now. I’ve been working too much, even though it’s been doing things I love, things that give meaning to my life. Mix music and teaching, add a touch of world-view discussions with lovely people, give it a title that looks good in a CV, and you get what I’ve been doing (for a nice paycheck, by the way). So nothing wrong there. It’s just that it’s, well, exhausting, to be honest. I’ve been resting today and will continue to do it tomorrow. Then I’ll have to get back to work.

But I’ve started to work on how to not burn myself out come fall and the new Uni. It always goes like this: I start slow, with not so much to do, and then when I’ve forgot how tired I’ve been, I start feeling I can take on more, and start to gather speed and momentum, and everything goes well until the next crash. Then start slow again… Now that I’ve recognized the pattern, I’ll have to prevent it from happening again.

I (want to) live in a world full of trust and love

What if I told you that my trans experience isn’t something I had been looking for all my life, but something I heard about and wanted to try for myself, and found that I liked? Would that make my experience less true?

When I first started studying comparative religion (in a galaxy far away called year 2007), on the second day of the study year, all new students gathered in the department’s seminary room with the professors and other faculty members. We had sparkling wine (the university still had money back then), and were asked why we wanted to study the subject. I remember saying that even if the natural sciences or psychology discovered exactly where it is that religious experience originates, be it evolution biology, cognitive neuroscience, psychoanalysis, sociology, whatever, the experience itself would remain. And because of that, it is people’s experiences that I’m interested in, not the reason for them. I’m not interested in biology, and I’m not interested in the existence of God. What interested me then and still does, is what people feel and how they make their feelings & experiences understandable to other people.

For me, it’s the same with trans experience. I don’t want to need to know if being trans is something born with us, or if it’s something we choose, or something else again. All I need to know is that the experience itself is there, for me at least, and that other people have told me they also experience it. After that, it’s a question of trust. Do I require some proof from you, because I think I know better, or do I try to live knowing I don’t know everything, and might as well know nothing?

As a last school thing before summer, I’ve spent some time writing an essay about early Christian conceptions of God colliding with those of the Hellenistic world. In the latter, the word God refers to a perfect being. To be perfect, you need to be complete and unchanging. And to be unchanging, you need to be detached from everything else. Is that something I want?

It may well be that being genderqueer is something I wanted to try, tried, and found out it suited me better than being a man. When I had freed myself from the tight confines of being a man in this culture, I found I did not fit back in – not because I had been trans all along but because I had found freedom in it unlike anything before. Or it may be that I have been genderqueer all along, and finding the concept, I slipped into it, not by choice but because it was what I am.

But as I said, I’m really not very interested in the question. What is important to me is that living genderqueer has opened to me a world of good I didn’t know existed. It is a world that doesn’t reach everywhere yet, but it will eventually – a world of trust, of shared griefs and joys, of absurd moments when it collides with other worlds. Not an easy world, but one full of love.

Biblical ponderings

My love and I had lunch with two friends on Friday. The company included a theologian, and myself, a student of comparative religion, both interested in the relationship between religion and ecology. So it’s maybe not so surprising that we found ourselves talking about just what exactly it is that happens in the second chapter of Genesis, that is, the Bible’s “creation 2.0”. And as we had to admit we weren’t quite satisfied with our knowledge of the subject, of course the book was opened.

Having created Earth, Higher-Power wants the proto-human (person/ze in the English translation, human/3rd p. pronoun in Finnish) not to be alone, so Higher-Power starts to create animals and birds (Gen. 2:18-20) from the soil, so that the human being would have somebody to be with. But instead of finding a suitable partner, the human being names the creatures presented, but doesn’t find them suitable company. (According to some philosophers of language, naming includes and indicates assuming a stance of power in relation to the named – how could the human find equal company in something that is presented to them as in need of naming?)

But if we don’t take account the power of naming, this myth presents the creation of living beings as aiming to being in relation to another. The human needs a partner, so a variety of choices is presented to them, until a suitable match is found – by Higher-Power splitting the proto-human in two. Only in meeting themself, looking at them as at oneself does the human find peace. A theology of meeting merging with a theology of existence?

Looking at the first chapter of Genesis (Gen. 1:26-27), this time I found the phrase “likeness of Higher-Power” strongly associated with the meeting of Moses with Higher-Power (Exodus 3:14), where Higher-Power describes Themself by claiming “I am who I am.” To me, this association was a whole revelation in itself, even though I’m not very much into believing in (a personal, written in capitals) Higher-Power right now. That the Bible describes a human being as the image of a Higher-Power who doesn’t have to define Themself to anybody, is to me a very powerful indication of the above mentioned theology of meeting. Not defining people we meet by our standards is only possible if we make an effort to get to know them – know them well enough to see them as whole human beings, existing (created, even?) in and of themselves, not because they (might) mean something to us. I am who I am, so you are probably who you are too. If only I could understand it fully enough to live by it!

Abstract

In this blog post, some topics concerning the author’s current occupations are looked briefly into. Among these are the ongoing, final teacher practice taking place at Helsingin Normaalilyseo, the long Finnish winter turning slowly into spring, and the author’s joy in finding that so many people have joined them in signing the citizen’s initiative for an equal marriage law that started gathering names today. The initiative has in less than twenty hours jumped first from zero to ten thousand signers, then to the critical 50000, and is at the time of the writing of these words reached 84000 with no sign of slowing down.

It is argued that the author has grown a slight preference towards teaching Civil Ethics over Religion, and that while this change is by no means dramatic, it might have some impact on the career choices and educative-political views of said author.

Deep regrets are expressed for the swift deterioration in the condition of the author’s 60-year-old Russian double bass, which will be operated on at a high cost by the skilled staff at a Helsinki-based lutherie. Still, a positive attitude towards the immediate future and optimistic views on a possibly forthcoming insurance indemnity are professed to the reader.

Change name [X] Stop thinking about it [ ]

The teacher practice ended on Friday, and I’m blessedly free of long-lasting responsibility until the beginning of March and my last period of practice. Of course, I’ve a lot to do in the meantime, going to lectures, two sessions as a studio bassist, and such.

I received my new health insurance and debit cards this week, so the name’s really official now! I still have to go to the local police station to apply for a new driver’s licence card and passport, but I think that can wait for a couple of days.

I’ll have a naming party on my birthday in February. I decided to do it even though I don’t feel like it myself. I had grown apart from the old name, and I’ve been using this one since September, so it’s not as though it’s anything new to me anymore. But some relatives seem to have trouble accepting my name, so I thought that maybe a ceremony of sorts will make things clear for them. I even invited my grandparents to the party. I’ve been kind of avoiding them since all this started, but I can’t go on doing that for the rest of their lives. Avoiding a little discomfort will add up to a lot of it in the long run, and I’m trying not to do it any more than I absolutely have to.

I’m happy with having changed my name officially. Still, I think that the name change was only the beginning of something bigger. I’m not ready yet, or complete – I don’t even think this is the name I’ll be using for the rest of my days. I’ve already begun experimenting with variations of the name in my signatures, just as I did with the old one. But this is a good official name, that’s something I’m certain of. I will get no dysphoria being called by it; it is, like my gender identity, unfamiliar to most people, and so highly interpretative according to the person using it; it is also a name bringing about frequent double-takes in people hearing it for the first time: “Your name is WHAT?” This is good: people have to really listen to what I say my official name is, not just listen to the first half of it and then fill in the rest.

I’ve met some truly wonderful people in the last months, with some of whom I look forward to doing interesting things this coming spring and in the future: activism, chatting over tea, seeing new places – sharing life’s beauty in any of a hundred ways. After a long dark winter, the sun’s showed up again. It’s definitely getting better.

My feminism

I’m in the middle of a three-week teacher practice period (the second of three, the two others being considerably longer and more demanding), teaching ethics to high school students. Today, we discussed feminism, and specifically feminist critiques of religion. As I firmly believe that the best way to tackle the challenge of objectivity is to be aware of and admit one’s subjectivity, I’ve been thinking a lot of how to explain my take on feminism.

This is what I’ve come up with.

My feminism is about a hope of a world where the (biological) sex has the same social function as, say, one’s hair color or right/left-handedness in today’s Finnish society: one can express oneself through these, but nobody would think of them as restricting or guiding a person’s life choices.

My feminism is about actively promoting the acceptance of the unconditional value of every human being, and actively working against the circumstances preventing this from being realized.

My feminism is about daring myself to question my own prejudices, and believing the best about every person.

Calling names

My name-changing process has taken another step, as the new name has been approved of by the Ministry of Justice’s Names Board. This means that in a few weeks, the local Register Office will be marking the name change down as official, and I’ll be able to get on with my life. What this means is that I’ll be getting cards, ID’s and other stuff marked with the name I’ve chosen, not one chosen for me.

(I talked about this with my mother, and we seem to agree that while it’s important for people to have names they like living with, there must also be some starting point, a name a person can be called with until they know if it’s the right name for them or not. I’m OK with having had a name that identified me with a specific binary gender. That’s just not something I want to go on having.)

What I really would love is for people to know me well enough to invent their own names for me, names that mean something to them and to me, making each naming an acknowledgment of the other person and the relationship between us. Like between my love and me: we can call each other any name at all, because the name always means: I love you as yourself.

But realizing this is maybe a bit much to ask (it will happen spontaneously with some people), I have chosen for myself the name I now (most often) use. And it’s a name I like a lot. Just, please, don’t think Enne equals me equals Enne. I am me, not a name, even a great one. A name is only a symbol, a finger pointing to the sky, not the sky itself.

Hi there,

I’m OK.

There were a lot of things on my mind on Saturday evening, when I wrote the last post. Basically, it was the tension from preparing for a big concert relieving in a sudden flush of exhaustion and despair. On Sunday morning I was already “back to normal”, but I still took Sunday and Monday off from playing bass. What a good decision! Tomorrow I’ll pick up the instrument again, with a completely renewed fresh feeling.