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  • Happy Third T-Day!

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole three years already since I started on T. At the same time it’s hard to believe it’s only been three years. I’m starting to feel like I’ve always been this person, that I’ve always been Eric and that my previous life was some kind of bizarre dream.

    More than that, it’s hard to imagine that I was ever not a writer. I began to take my writing seriously back in November 2010, and I’ve been pulled deeper and deeper ever since. I’m still slogging through Fallen Things with my critique group and am sending chapters out to beta readers at the same time, and this process has improved my writing incredibly.

    One thing that made a huge difference was writing the first draft of the second book in the series, Hidden Things. I got to know my characters so much better; when I went back to editing Fallen Things, I had a much clearer idea of what I was doing with them. My view of the story is so clear, in fact, that I have to completely rewrite just about everything from this point on because I can now see how far off my first (and second) draft was. This is amazing. This is incredible. This is what gets me up in the morning (and often keeps me up at night). This, even more than a name and an affirmation of gender, is Who I Am.

    That said, it’s great to take the chance to look back over the past year and all the things I’ve accomplished. For the first time since I went to college, I have a job that’s lasted more than three months. Even more, it’s a full time job that still gives me plenty of time to write, which is an amazing thing. I started as a desk clerk at a small motel almost a year ago, and I have no plans of leaving any time soon. After a few years without stable employment, having a steady income and a schedule I can count on is a luxury I don’t want to lose. The fact that I genuinely enjoy the work itself helps a great deal, of course.

    And now–because if I don’t stop I’ll blather on forever about my writing–it’s time for progress photos:

    Feb26-2010

     

    I’m not even sure what to say about this one anymore. It’s like looking at a stranger; it’s hard to imagine being this person now.

    Feb26-2011_2

     

    A wee bit of scruff on the chin, desperately in need of a haircut, and still way too much in love with the filters in Vignette when taking pictures with my phone. It’s still incredible how much of a difference a year makes.

    Feb26-2012

     

    Still in desperate need of a haircut, but at least I’ve ditched the earrings now… I almost wonder why I held on to them as long as I did. The beard’s gone from ‘scruffy’ to ‘respectable’ and is still one of the things I’m most pleased with.

    Feb26-2013

     

    And here I am today. I finally got a haircut! And new glasses! (One of two pairs I bought recently; the others are simple, squarish, black frames.) And I finally stopped taking my picture in the bathroom! (Yes, that is a Dalek on my living room wall.) Bow ties are still cool, and my beard has gained a photographically-visible presence!

    And that, as they say, is that. Until next year.



  • Building Bridges Part 3: Employment

    In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I started at Alberta Job Corps, and in others it feels like I’ve been there forever. Job Corps was always meant to be a short-term program and there I was, coming up on my third month and wondering if maybe there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t find work and wasn’t even getting any call-backs.

    Today, that changed. Today I was offered a job as a hotel desk clerk, and I took it.

    It’s a good opportunity for me. Full-time, decent wage, benefits after three months, and above all, work that I’ll find rewarding while still giving me time for my writing and studies. I’ll get to interact with new and different people every day and let’s face it, service feeds me. Why else would I be looking at ministry?

    The one downside: the shift I’ll be working includes Sundays. This means I won’t be able to continue as an assistant youth church leader and I won’t be able to attend my regular church as often. I had to think hard about it, do some soul searching–and talk my minister’s ear off a little–but I finally decided that this was an opportunity I needed to take. I had to realize that this does not represent a step back in my faith journey, only a detour.

    The way I see it, if I take a chance on something and it falls through, then it wasn’t meant for me. By that token working at the registry wasn’t where I was meant to be right now, and that’s fine. But if I have an opportunity and I don’t take it? That’s on me. It’s up to me to take what I’m given, and I’m done with letting things pass me by because I’m afraid or because it’s inconvenient.

    I have to work Sundays? All right. I can’t help lead the youth church, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be involved in my church in other ways. For example, there’s still bible study on Monday nights where I can keep in touch with my minister. I can still worship, even if that means going to the Wednesday service at another church. I can still study; after all, no one’s taking my books away from me just because I got a new job(and I’d like to see them try.) In fact, this way I’ll be better able to afford going back to school in the evenings which is a step forward in the long run.

    Today, I cleaned out my locker at Job Corps. Tomorrow, I start my new life as a hotel desk clerk. And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have solid ground under my feet.



  • Happy Second T-Day!

    It has been two years today since I started stabbing myself in the leg, and a year since I started this website. It has also been a year of incredible change and growth; in fact, I’m beginning to wonder if there is any other kind.

    I’ll start at the end for the moment, and note that I seem to be collecting milestones for February 26th. Two years ago I started on testosterone, a year ago I started this blog, and today I became a full, adult member of Campbell-Stone United Church. I was baptised into this church when I was 16 I believe, and I’ve been something of a member-by-association through my mom since I returned to the church during Advent in 2010, but I felt that it was time to stand up and become a member in my own right.

    Becoming a member is an incredible experience. Standing up in front of the congregation to proclaim my faith and commitment to the church, and having them give me their acceptance and support… I felt a very really connection in that moment. It’s one of the many steps in my life bringing me closer to God, and confirming for me that I am on my right path. This is where I belong.

    Not only have I grown a lot in my faith journey, but I’ve also grown a lot as a writer and as a person. I’m invested in my writing more strongly than ever as I put my first novel, Fallen Things, through the ‘critique machine’ with my writing group, A Bitch Of Writers. I have learned so much about my writing process and how to give a good critique, it’s incredible! I can already see the difference it’s made as I edit based on these critiques; I have description now! Mostly. It’s also been brought to my attention that some of my writing technique it well-geared towards script writing, so in my over-scheduled insanity, I’ve decided to do Script Frenzy this April. That should be interesting to say the least.

    I’ve also had to take a long, hard look at my direction in life. Having a better idea of who I am and where I want to go means I’m a lot less satisfied with ‘survival jobs’ in retail or labour while I work on my writing and look at paying off previous student loans before going to school again. Right now I’m working through Alberta Job Corps to try to find something interesting that I’m even marginally qualified for. It’s been a good, if frustrating, experience for me. While I’m glad to have the support while I work out my career path, it’s also a little disheartening to still be there over a month later while most of my hire-mates have moved on and a new batch of hires is coming into the system. Still, I’ve gained valuable job search skills, and am going full-ahead with a new strategy starting tomorrow.

    Last but not least, after two years on T my transition have become more of a background concern… for the most part. Twice in the past year drug shortages have affected my ability to fill my prescription. The first time I was lucky and only had a delay of one week before my pharmacy started getting Delatestyl in again. This time however, I’ve had to switch to AndroGel for the time being, or do without entirely. Word on the street is that Depo-Testosterone, which would be a preferable alternative for me, will be available February 29th… or possibly March 7th (see comments.) All in all, it’s hard to find reliable information on this.

    But enough of that doom and gloom. It’s time for progress photos!

    Woah, who's that kid?

    Me two years ago… I think the only thing that’s really the same any more is my glasses. And I can’t help thinking how round my head was…

    Bow ties are cool.

    Yep, bow ties are still cool. At this point, I was just starting to get enough scruff on my chin to contemplate growing a beard. In fact, I think I did start growing one shortly after this picture was taken. I was still holding onto the earrings, though…

    Suave as ever

    I… always seem to need a haircut when I do these, don’t I? In fact, not much has changed between this picture and the last. The only real difference is that I’ve taken out the earrings and grown a beard. It would feel incredibly weird now not to have a beard. I know; I shaved it off briefly around Hallowe’en for my Tesla costume, and quite frankly, my chin felt naked.

    So that’s my Year In Review, and there’s still a lot I didn’t really get around to mentioning. I’ve been busy, very busy, and if things keep going the way they are, this next year will be even busier. I’m looking forward to it.



  • Grab-Bag Week

    This has really just been One Of Those Weeks so rather than posting on a single topic, I’m giving you all a whole bunch of topics. Aren’t you lucky? And now, in no particular order:

    Standing Up For Yourself

    I haven’t always had the greatest track record in this area. Most days I’d rather let something slide than risk conflict or risk losing/not getting a service I need. This time however, I realized I needed to take a stand.

    Those of you on Twitter may have noticed me mention ‘awkward questions about my genitals’. Without going into too much detail, during the interview for an unrelated psych evaluation, the psychologist got overly curious about my trans history, to the point that I felt uncomfortable. I decided I needed to let him know how I felt about it, so I wrote him a letter. I kept it calm and reasonable, using ‘I feel’ language rather than accusatory, even if part of me wanted to call him an insensitive idiot, and other invectives along those lines. I also included some of the ‘what is trans*’ resources I received at the gender clinic, because I think it’s important to educate where I can, whatever the topic.

    And you know what? I think it worked. I got a call from him thanking me for the feedback and the articles, and apologizing for putting me in that position. Does that make what he did all right? No. Did his apology wipe the slate clean and repair my trust? No. But now he knows and can do better next time, and I have closure and have taken away his ability to hurt me. (This, by the way, is what forgiveness is really about. Letting go of the hurt someone else has caused, not ignoring the hurt and letting them hurt you again.)

    All The Fun Jobs Require A Degree

    Brain-mush and inappropriate questions aside, I actually enjoy psych evaluations. I love seeing what’s going on in my brain (and I kind of feel like it’s a licence to show off.) So I asked one of the ladies administering the tests how I could get a job doing that, and the answer was pretty much: “You need a degree.” This is pretty much true for everything I would like to do. Librarian? Need a degree. Minister? Need a degree. Even Graphic Designer; for anything in-house you’re better off with a degree. All of this pretty much leaves me with the question of how do I afford going back to school? Because one way or another, I’ll be going back.

    AndroGel Is Not A Good Long-Term Substitute For Delatestryl

    This may not be true for everyone of course, but for me it’s no contest. Delatestryl is an injection every two weeks that is effective, inexpensive, and covered under my insurance. AndroGel is a daily topical gel that is ineffective for me, can be transferred to others if I’m not careful, is expensive, and is, of course, not covered by my insurance. Granted, it might be more effective at full dose, but since I can’t really afford the starting dose as it is? Yeah. Unfortunately, I have very few options right now, since Delatestryl and all other injectable testosterone compounds are currently unavailable in Canada due to manufacturer shortage.

    In Spite Of It All, I’m On The Right Path

    One thing I have gotten out of this is yet another confirmation that I am headed in the right direction for me. Yesterday, even after all the awkward questions, my first genuine smile of the day was when I talked about my experience guest preaching at my church. Remembering how it felt to look at the text, to find the message in it, and to share it with others… it was amazing. Just the memory of that connection cut through all the crap of that day and reminded me of the most important thing: this is what I’m meant to do. This is my path. As crazy as it sounds, this queer trans boy is going to be a Christian minister. And I feel good about it.



  • Surviving A Cold

    or

    When To Give In And Stay Home

    So, this week I got hit with a cold. Still being hit with it actually, which is why I’m at home blogging and not wrapping up Youth Church right now. While I’m here, I thought I’d give you all a breakdown of the week that brought me here in the form of easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.

    Tuesday: You start feeling poorly, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Besides, it’s poker night! You can’t miss poker night! You’ve tried. They wouldn’t let you. And you can’t let anyone else miss it either, so you really really have to be there! So you hang out in a Tim Hortons for two hours after work (only noticing the ’20 minute time limit’ sign you’ve been sitting under as you get up to leave) and grab some cough syrup on the way to meet everyone so you don’t end up coughing on all your friends. Easy.

    Wednesday: Get up bright and early, get dressed and polished because you have a résumé to drop off and you want to make a good impression. Make sure everything’s sorted out with your worker, print off the best copy of your résumé, and head out. Pick up some mint flavoured cough drops on the way so you can speak and make a good impression at the mini-interview. Ace it.

    Realize that it’s Wednesday, another friends evening that you can’t miss. Find out that for some reason we’re making pancakes tonight rather than ordering pizza, so you have to go out and get some buttermilk and no sugar added jam. Pick up some honey for your tea while you’re at it. Have a good time with friends and a surprise visit from your sister, help out by proof-reading a letter, and collapse into bed far later than you intended to.

    Thursday: Drag yourself out of bed and go to work. Have absolutely no energy or voice for the interview workshop, but muscle through it anyway. You’re learning good things, and you have plenty of cough drops, right? At the end of the day, decide that maybe you shouldn’t go to that thing at the book store after all. Stay home watching My Little Pony, and collapse into bed at 8pm without writing a blog post like you meant to.

    Friday: Drag yourself out of bed and go to work again. Spend the morning drained. Have several people tell you that you don’t look so good. Take a look in the mirror and realize that they’re right. At lunch, decided that maybe you should go home after all.

    Go home, watch even more My Little Pony. Try to work on critiques and stay up for #FNTWP (Friday Night Twitter Writer Party) but collapse into bed at 7:30 instead. Turn off your alarm because clearly you’re going to sleep as long as you need to.

    Saturday: Wake up possibly twelve hours later, maybe more. Who knows. Decide that you need food, but don’t want anything in the house. You’re not feeling that bad now, so maybe going to Smitty’s would be a good idea. Three hours later, leave the house. Arrive at the restaurant half-dead, order and eat. Get an email asking if you can put together a lesson plan for Youth Church tomorrow. You’re really tempted to say, ‘Sure! No problem!’ but you remember that episode where Apple Jack tried to do everything herself and made a mess of things, so you reluctantly let them know you can’t. Grab a bag of oranges and some lemon and ginger tea on the way home.

    Sunday: Vow not to leave the house this time until you’re actually feeling better, and pray that this will happen before the official interview. Wish that you’d thought to pick up some cans of soup last time you were out of the house.



  • Building Bridges Part 2: Alberta Job Corps

    The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father… wait, no, that’s the Psi Corps. Totally different.

    About a month ago, I mentioned having an interview for a paid work training program in this post. That program is Alberta Job Corps, and as you can probably guess, I got in. I started work on Friday the 13th, which is ironic because this is the best luck I’ve had with work in a long time.

    I’ll admit, the first two days were like being dumped in a snake pit of anxiety. Orientation days are always tough, sitting there with no idea what to really expect while some facilitator hands out booklets and goes on about procedures and requirements. Add to that the people who feel like they’re being forced to be there being as disruptive as humanly possible, and it’s no surprise I left the building shaking like a leaf at the end of the day. I was there to learn and improve; I wasn’t sure I could handle it if I had to push past all that negativity each time.

    But the third day? It was like magic.

    For the work experience aspect, we had a choice between painting and carpentry. I chose carpentry because I wanted to work with my hands and maybe learn some new skills, so on the third day I found myself in the wood shop doing tool orientation. The change from the class room to the shop along with the separation from the Negative Nellies made a huge difference. What’s more, some of those who I’d marked as ‘trouble’ in orientation were a lot happier and more relaxed once they started doing something. So was I, for that matter.

    Over the next little while, we got to know our workers and we got to know each other. There was a sense of optimism growing in us as we saw ourselves doing something worthwhile and learned more about what we really wanted to do and how we could actually get there. Hearing good news about an opportunity for one of our co-workers, or seeing them develop some skills in the shop they didn’t even know they had made us all feel excited and happy for them.

    And it doesn’t just begin and end in the shop. Yesterday and today I was in the career assessment workshop, which will be continuing next week. Here we’re looking at our interests and skills to find jobs that suit us as well as looking at what what sort of challenges and issues we have when it comes to not only finding but keeping a job.

    Once again, I was surprised at how open and receptive everyone was to the class. The facilitators kept the atmosphere positive and constructive, and we all felt comfortable sharing honestly about our experiences and the troubles we’ve had both in the workforce and in life. For the first time, we recognized that we were not alone. How we got there might be different, but we were all there for the same reason. We were all having trouble, and we were all trying to change. I may never have done jail time, and my classmate may not be trying to rebuild after a major identity shift, but we all want something more, and something more satisfying, than a string of going-nowhere survival jobs.

    At Job Corps, I’m getting the support I need to move ahead in life. I get up every morning and go to a wage-earning job that helps me discover what I really want to be doing and gives me the skills to get there. Right now, this is exactly what I need.

    Trust the Corps.



  • Let’s Talk About Food

    One way or another, food has been on my mind a lot this past month. The reality-hammer hit me in the face pretty early on when I came face-to-face with being broke, out of work, and having to wait until the 25th before getting any sort of income support.

    Strangely, coming down with a cold right around the New Year made the first week a lot easier in some ways. I didn’t have much of an appetite, so I could ignore the food question for a while. My aunt gave me some leftovers from New Year’s day dinner (which I froze to avoid spoilage while I worked on getting my appetite back,) so that fuelled the next week or so quite nicely, especially when the roast beef became soup. I had to scape the bottom of my spare change jar for the vegetables I needed, but I made it. All I can say is thank God for self-checkouts. It was bad enough feeling like I was feeding pennies into some mad vending machine; I would have been mortified having  to stand there counting them out for the cashier.

    After that, I had to start playing with whatever staples I had on hand. This meant finding out what I could do with pizza dough, because I couldn’t afford the milk for bread dough. And again, thank God my mom left me with a freezer full of ground beef. Having meat on hand has been an absolute life saver. Outside of some meals subsidized by friends, I’ve been subsisting on whatever I could throw together from the staples in my kitchen.

    Now, I’m in a work experience/employment program, which means I’m that much closer to being properly employed again. I also got my support check yesterday, and after taking care of some necessary bills, I splurged. I went to Smitty’s for dinner today and got myself properly gorged. It felt so good, and so indulgent, and it was such a relief to be able to treat myself like that.

    So it was with a full stomach that I read this post, shared via Twitter by Anarchist Reverend.

    Words cannot describe how grateful I am. Grateful for the ability to cook, grateful for the staples already in my kitchen, and grateful for the people in my life who have helped me out during this rough patch. But most of all I’m grateful that I’m coming into the up-swing. Not everyone is that lucky.



  • Building Bridges

    I used to say, “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.” I found it amusing, and it sounded to much more exciting than simply finding a bridge and crossing it. It was also destructive and defeatist, which was probably part of the appeal.

    Lately I’ve found myself saying, “I’ll build that bridge.” It’s still a lot more exciting than just crossing a bridge, but otherwise it’s a complete reversal of attitude.

    From an attitude of destruction, to one of construction. It takes considerably more work to build something than to burn it down, not to mention more time and more planning. Building a bridge means finding a way to get from where I am to where I’m going. It’s a vital part of creating a new path.

    And it’s time for me to live up to these words.

    As I’ve said, 2012 will be a year of action, a year of Making Things Happen. The ball is already rolling on a few of these things, but the pay off doesn’t happen right away. The first potential rewards are months away and across a chasm left by a sudden drought of jobs at the temp agency. In some respects it looks impassable, but I will get to the other side. I just need to build myself a bridge.

    So while I get everything in place for my Big Plans, I’m also working on a day job, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. I spent the whole of yesterday downtown. Some of the day was spent running around on errands, but most of it was spent waiting to see someone at the employment office and getting in touch with services that can help. And it paid off. Tomorrow I have an interview at a paid work training program. This will be the foundation for my bridge. From here, all I have to do it build it, and cross it.



  • Trans, ADHD, And Accessing Employment Services

    Well. That was an interesting day. The kind of day that really drives home why I was so reluctant to apply for any kind of assistance before now. Unfortunately, I need some kind of gainful employment, or the next best thing, and doing it on my own hasn’t been working. So.

    Off I go to the Alberta Employment and Immigration office. I don’t know exactly what I need, except that I need help. I’d gotten a form to fill out when I was there Friday, but other than that and a handful of mostly contradictory ID, I’m unprepared. I think I know what I want to say, but most of what I say comes out of my mouth too fast and in the wrong order. I’m easily confused, and I’m not sure I know what’s going on. But I concentrate, and read things over twice, three times if I need to. Remember, breathe.

    One of the things I’m applying for is Income Support. Since it’s a provincial service, I happily fill everything out as Eric, confident that this is, in fact, my legal name. There’s a certificate to prove it and everything! Then the worker tells me that they need to know it I qualify for Employment Insurance before we can go ahead with the IS application. I just have to go across the hall to Service Canada and ask. Easy, right?

    Well, this is where being trans intersects with being ADHD to great effect. Remember how I was filling everything out as Eric? Well, that all well and good for provincial stuff, but as far as the federal level is concerned, my old identity is still in effect. I don’t even want to know how this will affect my applications across the hall; it’s bad enough typing in the name still attached to my Social Insurance Number. Worst part? I’m still too agitated and confused to properly explain to the lady helping me (read: practically filling out the form for me) what my problem is, and most of my corroborating ID is back across the hall. At this point, I can only hope that the information I provided is someone’s version of correct and that I won’t be locked up for fraud.  I’m probably overreacting, but I can’t help it.

    Back across the hall in Alberta, I have a slightly easier time explaining myself. She gives not only gives me information for employment services I can use, but also legal guidance so I can get some advice on this whole identity thing. By now I have all my forms and whatnot together to take to the third floor where the actual application process happens. Ok. After a quick detour to the coffee shop on the corner for a desperately needed Earl Grey, I’m upstairs, ready to fill everything in and get this process started.

    Well, not quite. I’m still missing my banking information.

    A trip home to grab a blank cheque and print up some bank statements, and a second Earl Grey later, I’m back up on the third floor. I have succeeded in replacing ‘agitated’ with ‘stoned,’ but at least I have all my information together. I go through the line, hand in my forms, and wait to be called up. With all this running around trying to get some kind of employment support, sitting in the waiting room of Alberta Works is when I get a call for a job interview.

    Of course.

    I still don’t know what’s going on, but I think it’s getting better, yeah?