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Changing the Narrative (I am Genderqueer)

I’m too old for labels. That said, here are some that apply to me: gay, queer, genderqueer, non-binary. Anyone that knows me at all, knows that I am married to a woman and that we have two kids. In other words being gay is obvious (unless you are that one co-worker that just realized it three weeks ago, stopped another co-worker and said, “did you know that she is gay?” Really?). I’ve never really put labels to how I identify with regard to gender. I’ve written about my thoughts on gender and labels a few times. I’ve talked about how my kids refer to me. I’ve shared my idealistic view of living in a world where labels aren’t necessary and where people can just be who they are and love who they love (or not, shout out, aces).

But, I’ve come to a realization about the importance of me, specifically me, defining myself to others. So, here’s the sitch. I am non-binary (I like the term genderqueer best) and what that means to me is that I am not a woman, but I am also not a man. I exist somewhere in between and that’s okay. It is sometimes a weird and lonely place to be. I mean, how many people do you know that are neither man nor woman? Because of that I’ve recently started seeking out more inclusive media and experiences. I started listening to a couple podcasts that focus on trans/non-binary content. I’ve read a lot of gender inclusive material (books, graphic novels, articles, etc.). I’ve started to have conversations with people about gender and more specifically about my gender and here is what I’ve learned: People are generally uneducated and/or don’t understand non-binary (or similar) identities.

So, let’s start at the beginning… Non-binary literally means “not relating to, composed of, or involving just two things.” It is not so much what a person is as it is what a person is not. They are not male or female. They could be in between, some combination of the two, neither, both, fluid, or something else. It seems that there are a few common misconceptions that non-binary people are:

  • confused
  • teenagers
  • trying to figure themselves out
  • trying to get attention
  • mentally unstable.

Which is precisely why it is important that I speak up. I am boring. I’m a full grown adult (as much as I would like to pretend that I am not). I am successful (insert rant about how to define success) at my full-time, ‘adulting’ job. I’ve been in a stable long term relationship for over 10 years. I gave birth to and am parenting (with my wife) our two children. I don’t have a drug or alcohol problem (in fact other than a beer once and a while and a couple ibuprofen for menstrual cramps, I drink/take none). I am the antithesis of the arguments against the validity of non-binary identities. And yet, here I am.

It has been and would be easy for me to not define myself. People typically make assumptions about who I am and how I identify based on my appearance, my marital status, and until recently my name. Because I am indifferent about pronouns, I could have just continued to exist as a binary-passing non-binary person. But, if one of the major barriers to non-binary identities becoming recognized and validated is a lack of visibility or credibility (due to society’s preconceived notions and prejudices), then the least I could do it speak up. Of course, I have no delusions about the ease at which our society will incorporate non-binary folks. Currently there are just a couple states that allow a third option for gender on state documents and IDs and a couple considering it. Most bathrooms are intended for either women or men (not both or neither or someone in between). But, I can change the narrative, maybe not for the world but at least for my family, my friends, my co-workers, and perhaps even more.

Entering the fir tree labyrinth at my daughter’s school #vermont #natureschool

Books, Gender, and Books about Gender – Part I

I used to read a lot. Then I had kids. For the first several years of having kids, time gets sucked into a void. You’re never really sure where the time goes. Time of day. Time of year. It’s all the same and it’s all meaningless. I think that is what happened to my reading habit. When 2018 was approaching, I started thinking about my goals for the new year. I don’t believe in resolutions. Saying “I’m going to read more” isn’t meaningful to me. Instead I made a goal for the year. I’m highly motivated by checklists so I used that to make myself read more this year. So far it has worked. I set my goal low. One book a month. Twelve books for the year. So far it has worked. So far this year I’ve read:

As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raise as a Girl has been on our bookshelf for many years. When we moved in December and we were going through all of our belongings I found this book again. I pulled it out of the box (we have some boxes of items that we are not currently using including many books). Basically, the book follows the true story of a boy who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) but was raised as a girl after loosing his penis due to complications from circumcision (I’m not even going to go into this but OMG). As the boy grew up, he never felt like a girl, had a very challenging life, and eventually reverted back to living as a male in his teen years. This case was presented to the medical community and the public as a success despite the fact that it was not and was the basis for protocol for ‘treating’ intersex (and other) conditions until the detrimental effects became clear decades later. Some takeaways from me:

  • We (the medical community, scientists, and therefore society) have known for a very long time that the development of external sex characteristics and the genderization (I may have made up that word) of the brain occur at different points of fetal development and are influenced greatly by hormones levels during those times. In other words, it is very possible for an individual to be born with external sex characteristics that do not match their gender. Why is it so hard for our society to see factual, scientific information and incorporate it into our generally accepted schema?
  • Once the (false) evidence was presented to the medical community by a respected and powerful researcher (Dr. John Money), it was accepted as fact. Concern for reputation and/or desire for power and fame in his field (I’m making an assumption here), seemed to get in the way of Dr. Money’s ability to accept and tell the truth. This is all to resonate with current events.
  • It is not covered in the book but the subject of the book and Dr. Money’s experiment, David Reimer, died by suicide in 2004. The detrimental mental health effects from being raised female when he was in fact male were clear and long lasting. Though the circumstance was different, the concept is the same for trans folks. The suicide rates for transgender individuals is unimaginably high and that is not okay.

I have really grown to love Ash Hardell. They are a non-binary trans individual who makes YouTube videos and wrote The ABC’s of LBGT+. In the past couple of years I have learned a lot of the newer LGBTQ+ terminology but I have to say that this book covers so many terms that I was not aware of. It is basically a reference manual for various labels used for sexuality and gender. But, it also serves as a “How to” and “How not to” manual for things like pronouns, respectful and inclusive language, etc. Also, the cover is dope.

If I’m being honest, I had a hard time creating my book reading goal because I struggled with how to be inclusive of graphic novels. To say that I haven’t read books in the past several years would only be partially accurate because I have read lots of graphic novels and comic books. Initially, I thought that I would not include graphic novels or comic book volumes as books that counted towards my twelve for the year but now I’ve changed my mind. I picked up Tomboy from the library.

Tomboy is an honest, cheeky, graphic memoir that details the childhood of a girl who does not fit in with boys or girls. It is a struggle and one that I identified with so much that this book almost made me sad to read. I found myself reading and having my own flashbacks to things that happened to me on the bus or at recess. The message is it is okay to be a girl in any way that you want to be. I have to admit that I was disappointment with the ending of the book. Throughout the book, the main character struggles with their gender and even liked it when others mistakenly referred to her as a boy. I felt like the book was leading somewhere (non-binary or otherwise) that it never got to.

Obviously, this is not so much a review or recommendation as it is my own cataloging of my book reading accomplishments. As I near the end of two additional books with a similar theme, expect more to come.

Max

I’m not much for resolutions. I think setting resolutions for the new year is mostly a good way to be disappointed when you don’t stick to it. But, I do find it meaningful to start the year off how you want it to be (i.e. spend it with someone you want to be around, do something that you want to do more… you get the idea). Because of that I’m sharing with you a bit about myself today so that tomorrow I will start the year off how I want it to be.

My name, the first name that was given to me at birth, does not match who I am. I’ve known this for a long time. Now you know it, too. As a younger person than I am now, I struggled with my name and my lack of attachment to it. I didn’t like that my legal-actual-real name was a nickname. So many times people assume that my name is short for Amanda. It’s not. It is perpetually misspelled and as a kid I could never buy an off the shelf name labeled product. That really annoyed me. But, it is more than that. I used to think about going by a different name. When I introduced myself to people, many times people would say, “I’m sorry, what is it?” and that annoyed me because I didn’t want to say it the first time, let alone repeat it louder and clearer. Although, I realized that was the problem. So many people asked me to repeat my name because I was mumbling.

Then I had a realization. I am in control of my own name. Why would I continue to use a name that isn’t me? So, I’m not going to anymore. That’s what this is all about… My name is Max.

An iced chai latte will warm you up at these temps… (this was yesterday, not sure we got into positive temps today)

Happy 2018!

Holiday Fun in 2017

One week ago today, we drove up to Newport to start our holiday fun at the grandparent’s house. We ended up grabbing A early from school to drive up in daylight because of the weather. The first big holiday fun event was Saturday morning-turned-to-all-day-project cookie making and decorating.

Grandma helping J with her cookies
Decorating tiny gingerbread people is serious business
Nom nom Santa cookie
Can you guess which cookie was given to me by which kid?

After cookie decorating we had a lovely dinner of Raclette (non-dairy for some of us). Sunday morning we did Christmas Eve morning at Grandma’s house. The kids opened their gifts from Grandma and Papa-U. Notables include J’s guitar (it has brought much joy to our lives) and A’s robot and Minecraft. After Christmas Eve morning, we got packed up and headed back to our place to continue the festivities. After some down time, we all got dressed for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at Michael’s on the Hill. We started this tradition many years ago when we only had A and we lived nearly an hour and a half drive away. This year we got in the car 10 minutes before our reservation and we were on time. Our dress theme was very Vermont with red and black plaid. Also, these two goofballs are trouble…

#messyhairdontcare #tinybutmighty
You may not be able to tell but that is a plaid bowtie

After dinner A got to work on the serious job of leaving cookies for Santa but more importantly, carrots for the reindeer. There was a lot of ‘Santa Magic’ talk in our house this year. We major downplay the role of Santa in our family’s holiday. It helps that A’s BFF at school is Jewish. But, we still ‘do’ Santa. At our house, Santa gifts are wrapped in a special Santa design paper. It was the first year that J really understood what was happening and was very caught up in the magic and excitement of it all at least until bedtime on Christmas Eve when she freaked out and didn’t want him (Santa) to come into our house or her room.

We of course had family matching Christmas PJ’s which prompted a five day Christmas jam marathon at our house. I took the day after Christmas off and we had some family time. We played a lot of video games and legos. We ate holiday treats and lounged around so much that the kids felt tired from so much nothing.

Loves her so much vs. trying to pop her head off

Our decorations have now been put away until next year. We have cleaned up the post holiday craziness in our house and pared down the holiday treats on the counter. As we prepare for the next year and all that will come with it, I’m grateful for the past week.

Moving II

In my last update, Moving, I shared a tiny tidbit that we were moving and had a plan. Here’s the longer version…

I’m just now sitting down with little enough to do that I can type this story out and consider updating this space on how things have gone in the past few weeks. It has been a little over two weeks and we have fully moved. We are probably 97% unpacked and we closed on our house yesterday. After the closing, I took a deep breath and realized how stressed life has been lately.

I feel like the stressful events have been one after another through this process and not that I think there is anything uncommon about how our housing selling process went, it just is a stressful event. The first issue was the inspection. We had a deadline for the inspection sign off that came and went with no communication or issues. Then the day after that deadline we got a call from our realtor stating that there were some issues with the inspection and that the buyers wanted to get quotes for some repairs. So left with the choice of letting them do that or ending the contract, we agreed to extend the deadline. We had some negotiations and when it was finally resolved about a week later, we were getting uncomfortably close to the financing sign off. There was just one problem, the appraiser didn’t show. So, three days before we were supposed to get the final word on financing (and basically know that the closing would go through), the appraiser finally came out and the realtor let us know that the appraisal report would take about a week. Another deadline extension. Only one problem… We were scheduled to sign a lease on our new place the day after that deadline. Now normally we would have just pushed our lease back a couple of days but it is now mid December and we wanted to get moved into the new place before the holidays. We were very worried that moving so close to the holidays would be just another stressful event and especially with two young kids, we knew we needed to be settled about a week ahead of the holidays. It was stretching it to convince the kids not to decorate at our house because we would be moving. We have two holiday enthusiasts.

So we were faced with a decision… Sign the lease even though we didn’t have the official sign off on the buyers’ financing and start moving in so that we could be settle before the holidays or delay our lease and move in and end up moving the weekend of the holidays. I called the realtor and talked about this. He could obviously not make any guarantee but said that if it we him, he would sign the lease and start moving. He said that the buyers were equally dismayed by the delay and had moved out of their house in another state and were waiting for the okay to move also. We worked a deal where if needed they would lease from us for a week or so so everyone could get their moving on despite the closing not being ready. They were not interested in backing out and neither we were.

While all of this was happening and for weeks before, we spent every night and free moment, cleaning, organizing, packing, and mostly throwing stuff away. At one point, our pile of stuff to be moved to our new place was about equal to our donate/trash/giveaway pile. So, we signed the lease and were finally ready to move. I took several trips (probably 8-9) with our larger vehicle the first week of our moving plan. We decided because it was a semi local move that we would move most things in our vehicles throughout the first week and then rent a truck to move the bigger stuff on the 15th. We made arrangements for the kids to stay with Grandma and Papa-U that weekend and planned that we would finish moving and unpack over the weekend so when the kids returned their stuff would be all finished. It mostly worked out that way.

Did I mention it was the coldest day of the year this morning?

As we approached moving-truck-Friday, we got word that the closing may be moved up a couple of days. Wow, great! Except, we were worried that we wouldn’t have time to get everything done. So, I took Thursday off and moved a LOT of stuff. Moved all the furniture down stairs except for beds. On Friday, I took apart the beds and moved them down, then headed to get the truck. My moving help, Father-in-law Moving Co., arrived just after I had started loading the truck. Together we loaded the rest of the furniture into the truck with some slight delays. The first delay being the sleeper sofa. When we moved into our house we had a major hard time getting the sleeper sofa into the house. The biggest issue being the old narrow doorways that required us lifting the sofa (which weighs a million pounds) up and turning it nearly upside down at just the right angle to get the arm of one end through the door then changing the angle to get the rest of the sofa through. When we finally got it in, we jokingly said, “if we ever move out the sofa goes with the house because we aren’t moving it again.” And yet there we were for what felt like five hours moving the sofa out. The other delays were more general. We had more stuff than would fit in the truck. We had more stuff than we thought. We had so much stuff. I got to that point where I felt like throwing everything away instead of moving it. But, then it was loaded. (At least I didn’t get the truck stuck halfway in the driveway blocking the whole street like the buyers did!)

It took much longer than we thought and I ended up driving the truck back after dark and then transporting our three cats to our new place late at night but whatever. It basically got done. Unfortunately, there were still things at our house that required multiple trips back to load up, sell, donate, etc. But, just about three days after the big truck move, the house was empty and clean. Finally!

This little one was a big helper

Now, let’s close and get this thing done, right? Wrong. I got an email the night before the moved up closing date from the realtor that the appraiser had a problem with the deck railing? What? The night before? This can not be a thing. So, I busted it to get everything done and for nothing! But, at least it was done. We figured out the railing issue and ended up closing one day later than we had thought. Now we are moved in and mostly unpacked. We are prepared for the holidays and trying to get into the mood (which would be easier if we were not all sick with a cold!).

Yep. We moved and promptly got the tree out..

So, now that you are caught up on the moving and we have gotten that settled, I may be able to get back to regular updates.

Moving

Yesterday, Ash and I stood together and stared at the hall closet. We exchanged a couple of sentences and walked away. It was the first day in two weeks that we haven’t packed at least one box. Oh, didn’t I tell you that we are moving?

So, we are moving. I mentioned this in I’m Thankful: Day 2. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we were able to come to an agreement and the buyers signed off on the inspection. We made a plan that weekend, and a spreadsheet because we are that kind of people, to plan our packing and moving. Every single day since, we have packed something. In the past when we have moved, we have been rushed to get it done and not been able to really purge and organize along the way. This time we are serious about not taking excess with us. We have thrown away or recycled so much and we have a large pile of items to be donated to various causes. It has been both exhausting and exhilarating to minimize the stuff in our lives.

As we approach the next week and the actual moving, I’m feeling pretty good about how well we have navigated through this process so far, especially given the time of year and the others happenings in our lives. But, it is getting old and it isn’t over yet. If all goes well we will be moved into our new place one week from today. We may not be unpacked but if things go as planned, everything will be there and not here.

That is just about all I have to say about moving at this point but here are some photos from the past couple of weeks that don’t include boxes.

He is serious about his gingerbread house decorating
She thinks this is her very own advent calendar
At preschool in the mud (pretty much an everyday occurrence)

I’m Thankful: Day 6 and 7

This is Day 6 and 7 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4, and Day 5 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 6 and 7:

Preparing a “Thanksgiving dinner” is a lot. That is my excuse for posting day 6 and day 7 together. It’s not a very good excuse because it is 4 p.m. and we have cooked, eaten, and cleaned up. I am at heart a ‘southern woman’ when it comes to preparing food and cleaning up a big kitchen mess. The rest of the family went to pick out a tree for our holiday decorations after dinner (a.k.a. a 2 p.m. meal) and A and I stayed behind and cleaned up the whole feast of pots and pans and dirty plates, silverware (actual silver) and carcass. We got the job done quickly and after A said to me, “I had fun cleaning with you, Mama.” Oh my.

This lovely but cold morning, Ash and I started with a little tradition of our own. We went to Cumberland Farms to get a hot beverage and the paper (containing Black Friday adds). We returned in time to take the breakfast casserole out of the oven. We ate and headed to the living room for parade watching. Ash and I looked at the adds together. This day is about tradition and eating for our family.

Breakfasting
A plate from our table

Today our table was full with turkey, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese (two ways), mushrooms, Brussels spouts, gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. But, it was also full of family and love and traditions, all of which I’m most thankful for on this day.

I’m Thankful: Day 5

This is Day 5 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1Day 2Day 3, and Day 4 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 5: My kids are siblings and friends

Our schedule lately has been off and if you are a person that has kids or a person that knows anything about how kids work, you know what that means. Lots of bitching and moaning (mostly from me), and lots of squabbles and screaming. Disagreements turn into tears. The word “no” has been said some number of times.

Tonight I spent extra time during our bedtime routine with each kid. It is easy for the focus to shift away from the kids when there is so much else going on but that little extra time seems to mean a lot. During each kid’s bath, I spent time playing with the other kid.

A and I played legos (obvs). I built a car with arms to prevent it from rolling over during our high intensity races. We lined up all of the guys and decided which guys were good guys and which guys were bad guys. A likes the bad guys better. He is super into bad guys. We also looked at his most recent lego set, SUV and camper (which is cool because it comes with a grill and weenies and a dog with dog bones).

J and I played caregiver. We found all of the dolls and stuffies and made them beds and blankets. Some of them we had to rock to sleep or give bottles. There were also some big brothers that helped take care of the little babies. We had no less than seven beds and many more babies to care for. We had to turn down the lights and talk quietly.

I cringe at the gender divide but that is not what we have taught our children, that is who they are. They are just different people. They handle their emotions differently, they interact with other children differently, they have different interests and different preferences.

At home they sleep in separate rooms but when we are Grandma and Papa-U’s house they share a room. Every night they stay up and play and giggle and talk excitedly together. It is easy to sit and listen to them playing and be frustrated that they aren’t asleep yet or think about how this will affect their behavior tomorrow. But, not tonight. Tonight I am thankful that my kids get along. I am thankful that they play together and learn from each other. I am thankful that they are such good friends.

I’m Thankful: Day 4

This is Day 4 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1Day 2, and Day 3 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 4: All six of us

Tonight we had dinner as a family, all six of us. Then after dinner, we all sat down and played a game. We were all there, all six of us. This is relevant because of the following…

About 10 days ago, I went with my in-laws to the University of Vermont Medical Center for a pre-op appointment for a hemicolectomy, the first step in the treatment of colon cancer for my MIL. She was diagnosed about a month ago after experiencing some shortness of breath on exertion which lead to blood tests which showed anemia which lead to concerns of bleeding which lead to a colonoscopy… And so there we were. We were told that she would have the surgery and that she would be in the hospital for 3-5 days after surgery depending on how well she did. When we found out that the surgery would be the Friday before Thanksgiving, we were expecting her to be in the hospital until at least Monday (that is today) and likely longer.

So, she had her surgery on Friday and it ended up being later than we thought. The surgeon came out to talk to us after 6pm on Friday evening. Less than 48 hours later, she was home, eating dinner, and hanging with all of us. Basically, she is recovering like a rock star.

Generally, I’m pretty chill. I’m comfortable in hospitals and around medical professionals. I even enjoy learning about the newest procedures and interesting medical tidbits. But, if you had asked me last week or sometime in the past month how I felt about her having this surgery, it would have been inaccurate to say that I wasn’t stressed about it. But, now I’m relieved. I’m relieved that the surgery went well and the recovery has been smooth thus far. So, sitting down for dinner and a game as a family of six may not seem like a big deal but this evening I’m incredibly thankful for it.

I’m Thankful: Day 3

This is Day 3 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1 and Day 2 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 3: I can make a difference

If you don’t already know, I work in State government. When people ask me what I do, I usually just say, “I work for the State.” I’m intentionally vague about what I do for a couple of reasons. One, what I do typically incites a lot of questions that I either don’t want to answer or cannot answer for privacy reasons. Two, we (and by we I mean my department, division, co-workers) get a lot of bad press and it is sometimes uncomfortable to be very specific about what I do.

Lately, the media has been wrecked by negative news stories about the care that individuals are getting in our system. It has been really getting me down because you never read in the paper about how great we are doing, not because we are never doing great things but because no one wants to read about that. I am a part of a relatively small team that is responsible for a lot. Every single person on our team is committed to ensuring that individuals in our system are getting the best care possible. We are competent, caring, and compassionate people (otherwise we wouldn’t be doing the work that we do). There are of course challenges. Money is always one. Logistics can be an issue. We deal with some challenging people and challenging environments but mostly we are assessing and improving care.

This media issue won’t last forever but sometimes it is hard to manage. This week I am focusing on the good. I work with some fantastic people who care a lot about the quality of care that our individuals are getting. Many, many people are better off because of the work that we do. Today I am thankful for my co-workers and I am thankful to have a job where I can use my skills to make a difference for others.

Heading into work…
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