Hoarding and Saving For A Better Tomorrow

I grew up in a small town in the high desert of Southern California. Nestled in a valley were two towns. San Jacinto was a little more rural and that’s where my mom’s second husband’s parents owned a livestock auction. We lived in the more middle class side in a town called Hemet. It was part bedroom community. And part retirement community. I don’t know if this next part was true. But, I tend to believe that it could be. This was the 80’s. So, just about every senior citizen living there had lived through the Great Depression. What’s one thing people who survived the Depression tend to do? They saved money. They wanted to make sure what happened in the 30’s never happened to them again. While not necessarily comparing what I’ve been through in recent years to the Great Depression. I do find myself kind of hoarding things and saving money.

When I was growing up, it was said that the only other street with more money on deposit outside Florida Ave. in Hemet was Wall Street. It’s been years since I’ve been in New York City. And I can’t remember if I actually walked on Wall Street. But, seeing how many banks there were on Florida Ave in the 80’s, I’d tend to believe it.

After going through several years of hiding from the world and making middling amounts of money, I lost a couple of jobs and ended up homeless. I ended up in a women’s homeless shelter in Denver. And later, in transitional housing for female military veterans. They helped me get back on my feet. But, after being out of work for over a year and a half, one thing stayed with me. I feared being back in those situations. I feared working paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. And I most definitely feared not having any income at all. I’m never going back to that. Ever. Again.

When I came back to the U.S. from Jakarta last year, my uncle gave me a place to stay. I’m still renting a room in his house. I’m planning on being here at least another year while I work hard to put the pieces back together.

My uncle has told me I can stay as long as I need. I’m only paying $300 per month in rent. And I’m now working for the Federal Government. Work has been great. I’m just on the verge of earning enough to be able to live on my own or with a roommate. But, there are some extra things I’m doing that will keep me from moving during this next year just to make sure I’ll be okay.

I first started noticing, maybe last summer, that once I had a steady paycheck coming in, I started buying extra staples like toothpaste, deodorant and shaving cream. I quickly realized where this was coming from. But, that didn’t mean I felt secure in stopping. So, I compromised. I started talking to my therapist about this thing I was doing. And I limited myself to ten items. Ten sticks of deodorant, ten bottles of laundry detergent and ten bottles of shampoo. It puts me at ease knowing I’ll be okay with the staples once I’m back on my own.

I’m also setting aside quarters for laundry in a big 5 gallon water bottle. And I’ve opened savings accounts at the local credit union. I’m putting aside money for rent deposit and I’d like to save at least six months worth of rent. But, that’ll be tough since I’m also setting aside money for facial surgery.

I’ll write more about my experience talking with a local surgeon here in Denver. But, I have the breakdown of what everything will cost me. And I’m setting aside money from each paycheck for the purpose of being ready to have the surgery sometime next year.

I don’t even have a car right now. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m itching to buy one. But, parking is such a nightmare at work, that, thankfully, has been keeping my desires for four wheeled transportation at bay. Every time I think about robbing my surgery fund, I think about how one of my coworkers rides a skateboard in from where he parks his car. Thankfully, work pays for a bus pass for me. Because I live more than ten miles, two buses and an hour from work. With the bigger savings goals on my mind, I don’t mind much. Being on the bus for over an hour in each way gives me more time to read (I’m currently reading Rise of the Rocket Girls, which was a birthday gift from a friend).

I have a savings account set aside for a down payment on a car. The only reason I would buy one soon would be to go back to pizza delivery or start driving for Uber to earn more money for surgery and my living on my own savings accounts. But, I haven’t made up my mind on that yet.

Everything was set and working smooth until yesterday. Well, it’s still working smooth. But yesterday, while eating dinner with friends, they mentioned that the people living in the other half of the duplex were leaving and the house would be up for rental. A mutual friend is currently looking for a place to live. And my friends thought it would be perfect since we both get along so well and we’re both trans. I’m currently still living and working as a male. I can’t seem to gain the confidence I need to be myself without facial surgery. And while my uncle is semi-supportive, I don’t even wear female clothes at home. My friends thought this would be a better atmosphere for being myself. But, I’ve already put myself in the mindset that I’ll have to live this way until I can have surgery and/or be on my own. Sure, this will get me out on my own. It’s just coming to early. My rent would double to $600 per month and I’ll have to pay utilities. I’d have to raid my surgery savings to pay the deposit and first month’s rent. Doing that would completely devastate me emotionally. I’m just now beginning to put the pieces together and clinging to the hope that I can finally live as myself sometime in the near future. Moving out now would set me back to far.

I think my friends were expecting more of a jubilant response when they suggested this move. And don’t get me wrong. I get along with all of them and if I was in a better place, I’d probably do it. But, it’s not time for me right now. Maybe it’ll work better in the summer of 2017.

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Powerball Road Trip Memories

With the recent Powerball fever that swept the nation, I thought I’d write about the one time I took a road trip to buy a Powerball ticket. Yes, I took a fricking road trip to buy a lottery ticket.

I had moved to Colorado maybe only a year or two before. And Powerball wasn’t yet available here. I’m not much of a lottery player. But, the fact that the jackpot had reached an unheard of total of, I believe, $200 million drew me out with what I thought would be a great way of seeing this new state I had moved too. So, where did I take this road trip? Utah? Yeah, right. No, I went to Kansas.

I had never driven past Denver International Airport by that point. I thought it would take me an hour or so. Remember, this was way before Google Maps. Remember, I was new to Colorado. I had no concept of how far things were from each other. Very early on, I drove from Wheat Ridge, up to 120th Ave. for a job interview. I thought I must have crossed into Wyoming. And, no. I didn’t look at a paper map. Of course not. That would make sense.

So, off I went. It didn’t take me long to get very bored. Lots of nothing. Readers, if you haven’t taken I-70 between Denver and Kansas, I can tell you that Eastern Colorado looks a lot like Kansas. It’s not like the nothingness of Kansas stops at the border. Oh, I wished it had.

This was a long time ago. So, I’m having a tough time remembering how long it took before I came across the two hotels and one McDonald’s jetting out from the very low rolls of Kansas. But, I clearly had enough of the road and decided to get a bite to eat and ask how much further I had to go. Now, imagine the scene. I was a recent Southern California refugee and former-stationed-in-Hawaii sailor. I walked into the McDonald’s wearing sandals and shorts. Did I look out of place? Yeah, just a little bit. It didn’t help any that the guy standing in line in front of me looked like he had just stepped off the farm.

The power was out at this particular McDonald’s. So, they weren’t selling much of anything. For some reason, I have it in my head that they only thing they could give me was a shake. When it came time for the farm boy in front of me to place his order for a shake of a certain artificial flavor, the girl behind the counter asked if we were together. I must have given her the weirdest look and said “Do we look like we’re together?”.

I did eventually get back on the road and waste my money on a Powerball ticket at the closest gas station just on the other side of the border. I remember being on the verge of turning around and giving up after 3 and 4 hours respectively. Thankfully, this was a Saturday. I had plenty of time to waste. And wasting time, I was doing. Because, of course, I didn’t win. On so many levels.


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Book Report 4: Becoming Nicole

Becoming Nicole “Who we are is inseparable not only from who we think we are, but from who others think we are.”

It’s rare that I tear through a book in a matter of days. I’m usually a slow and methodical reader, digesting every tidbit and painting a picture in my mind. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family was a book I finished in three days. On the bus to work and back. On breaks at work. And before I fell asleep at night. Maybe it was the subject matter. After all, it’s something I know quite a bit about. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another book about transgender people. Sometimes, I just want to do anything else but read about something that has dogged me my entire life. But, I knew the outline of Nicole’s story. The struggles her family were going through up in Maine had made national news in recent years. And I knew that she had prevailed over her school district in court. So, after a bit of reluctance, I picked up the book hoping that a positive story was what I needed amongst all the tragedy that befalls this community.

And I’m glad I did. Washington Post writer, Amy Ellis Nutt is a fabulous writer. She was able to spend nearly four years with the Maines. At the surface you might assume this is solely Nicole’s story. But, by embedding herself with the family, the author was able to bring the reader into the living room to not only meet every member of the family. But, to also see how everything they did to protect Nicole and allow her to be herself impacted them.

Nicole has a twin brother, Jonas. Both babies came to Wayne and Kelly Maines even before they were born. They were adopted from one of Kelly’s distant cousins. The author does a great job finding out who Wayne and Kelly Maines are. The circumstances that brought them together. Each of their family histories. And what life was like before and after the twins came into their lives. These are normal, every day Americans. In some ways pretty conservative. They come from small towns. And yet, when it became clear that one of their young sons had the gender identity of a girl, a strong one at that, they did everything they could to protect her and do the right thing. Even while also struggling with their lack of knowledge on the subject and what their neighbors would think.

Being transgender myself, I couldn’t help but put myself in my parent’s shoes. It was a different time. I was a young child in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I have the utmost support from my mom now. She’s told me that if she had the kind of knowledge on the subject then, she would have helped me more. And I completely understand that. I have no ill feelings about that. My mom is great. But, having grown up in an era where even I didn’t have a word to understand what was going on in my head, it’s great seeing kids like Nicole and others have the opportunities I didn’t have access too. Not only do more kids have more knowledgable parents, they have access to a wealth of information and support systems thanks to the internet. And doctors and medicines to pause adolescence and then start puberty in the right direction when it was time.

Timing for prescribing cross sex hormones in a prepubescent kids is critical. After all, there’s no way, for example to undo what testosterone does to the face and body or fix the vocal chords without expensive surgery. Doctors and parents will typically be on the look out for burgeoning facial hair and such. But, in this case, they also had Nicole’s twin brother to observe. This book doesn’t shy away from the medical aspects of transition and what is currently known about what makes someone transgender. This is a new book, published in late October, 2015. So, the science cited here is up to date. I had heard about some of the case work. But, not all of it. There is certainly more research being done that I had expected.

Most of the story centers around the struggles Nicole had in school once she started living as herself. The vast majority of her classmates got it. But, one kid, encouraged by his grandfather, continually made life difficult for Nicole by going into the girl’s restroom when he knew Nicole was there. The family tried to get the school to do something about the bullying. But, after several meetings and seeing that nothing was going to change, the family took the issue to the courts and moved.

I won’t give everything away here. I will say that even knowing how everything ended up is not giving this book justice. This is a story of a family. And it’s also the story of four individuals. As I wrote above, it’s exceedingly well written. And I highly recommend it for anyone.

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A Review of the Steve Jobs movie

I did it. I caved. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it. But, I found I had some free time a couple days ago and a little extra money in my pocket. Wow. That sounds like I’m a recovering alcoholic who fell off the wagon or bought sex from a street corner. No. But, I feel just about as guilty, I suppose. I’m a life long Apple fan girl. And I promised myself I wouldn’t give my money in support of a movie that I had read got so many things wrong. But, my curiosity got the better of me. And I suppose the fact that it’s written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle had something to do with it. I suppose the final justification came when I decided at least I would know how bad it was once I saw it. And see it, I did. And my verdict?

It’s not nearly as bad as I was led to believe. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a good movie. It’s just not Ishtar horrible. I think it would be doing better with audiences if it had been marketed better. It’s a different kind of story than you were led to believe. Aaron Sorkin decided to stage this as a three act play at three different Apple product launches. Well, he staged it leading up to three Apple product launches. You don’t actually get to see anybody announcing any products. And I suppose that’s okay. Those are all over Youtube. And at least they are accurate. All of the created drama is behind the curtain. I say created because the details quite literally aren’t important here. All of the historical information and any kind of timeline are out the window. If it didn’t serve Sorkin’s plot line it was completely out. If it did, it was in. But, maybe in a different place than when it actually happened.

I watched an interview with Danny Boyle while the film was still in limited release. He admitted that it’s not a so-called biopic. But, he failed at calling it what it is. When thinking about the plot, I came away thinking about it in two different, but similar ways. The first being that this is Steve Jobs being haunted by his ghosts. Very much like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Except without the visiting of product launches past, present and future. He’s not traveling through time or anything. But, this Steve Jobs does seem haunted. And he has the same visitors at each and every launch. He’s having the same conversation with Woz(credit the Apple II team) each time. And every time he’s just about to go on stage, there’s John Sculley triggering his father figure desires. And then there’s his daughter. Lisa is there so often ticking that growth as a father box in the story arc, my mind couldn’t help remembering that little girl you occasionally saw in Schindler’s List. The plot became so predictable, I started wondering how other people would edit it once it’s released to online and DVD. Would someone change the entire movie to black and white except for Lisa? Or would someone completely erase both the Woz and Sculley characters like someone has done with Tyler Durden in Fight Club? I can see it now. Steve Jobs is working through his father issues with an invisible Sculley and there’s Woz showing up to push that guilt button. And just behind the door is Joanna Hoffman crying a little bit because she’s the only one who knows the truth. Her boss is slowly losing his mind. Oh, it’s going to happen. 

Fight Club minus Tyler Durden from Richard Trammell on Vimeo

I went in hearing that the portrayal of Steve Jobs is bad. That they’ve portrayed him as an asshole. Do people not know the history of Steve Jobs? He could be a genuine ass. But, nobody is such a one dimensional character. Michael Fassbender does an admiral job in such a confined role. I say confined because here you are placing your character in the same situation time and time and time again. There’s only so much of Steve we’re going to see in the pressure pot of the moments before important product launches. I gather most would be stressed under such conditions. Although Michael Fassbender has portrayed a robot before, he’s far from one dimensional here. He smiles here and there. He cracks jokes. He’s embarrassed at least once. He’s nicer to Apple employees at the end. And you do see his compassion grow for his daughter. This isn’t the Steve most who lived and worked with knew. And that will probably never be seen on a movie screen. It’s only been four years since his death. The true Steve will emerge over a longer time period. People who were closest to him both professionally and personally will retire and write about him. Some stories will be unfair. Some will be too fair. The truth is somewhere in the middle. 

As for other characters, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogan and Jeff Daniels did a great job. But, they almost always do. Where I was completely caught off guard was with Michael Stuhlbarg’s performance as Andy Hertzfeld. It was absolutely uncanny. Uncanny. 

As I write this, the movie is getting hammered. I’ll echo what I wrote above. This movie wasn’t marketed correctly. And that’s kind of too bad. Sure, the historical details were all thrown in a hat and then strewn around the floor and trampled on. But, what movie gets it all correct. As long as you can go in knowing this about the movie, it’s entertaining. I just worry future generations will believe this is how it all went down. 

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Free Yourself

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Me & Cheese

I just finished describing my hate relationship with cheese to a friend. I’ve never had an official diagnosis. But, looking back at my childhood, lactose intolerance is clearly the issue.

When I explained that I used to work in pizza restaurants………yep yep that’s the look she gave me. Mozzarella is the most tolerable of cheeses. But, it still causes me some issues. So, I tend to try to avoid pizza as well. But, it will tempt me to the dark side on occasion.

Other foods I won’t touch include cheese burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ve never tried a quesadilla. But, I suspect it wouldn’t go well.

But, do I like cheese? I firmly believe that your brain will tell your taste goods something is bad for you and make it taste bad. At least some of the time. Clearly it doesn’t work for candy and fast food. For the most part, I don’t like cheese. And the smell? No. No. No.

But, it’s always been tough for me to describe what melted cheese feels like going down my throat. Oh! I have a food texture thing as well. There are some foods I just won’t touch if the texture of it is weird in my mouth. Marshmallows are an excellent example. Just ask @Mad_Alchemist how that went a couple years ago during a camping trip in Utah. I first came upon this example below from the movie The Matrix when I was trying to explain what Poi tastes like. I had poi for the first and only time during a luau on Oahu when I was in the Navy. I think it also works great for describing why I stay away from melted cheese.

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Caitlyn Jenner

I’ve been meaning to write about the Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer ever since it first aired. I even watched it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything that I’d want to mention here when I did get around to writing this post. But, then I started transitioning into another career and that took up damn near all of my time for a little while. And I’m glad I didn’t write to quickly about it. In the mean time, the name Caitlyn appeared and so did a bunch of pictures and accompanying a Vanity Fair piece. 

I don’t own a television. But, I was able to watch the interview on my uncle’s family room TV. I kept a close eye on Twitter to see how the reaction was playing out on the east coast feed. Yes, I’m back from Jakarta 🙂 But, once it began, I started receiving messages from a couple trans friends who, just like me, were being pulled back into memories of childhood experimentation and fears of being outed. Along with the desire to start a family and dive into ultra masculine endeavors to push back what’s going on in our head and to show the world we are not what we so desperately desire to hide. 

It’s not uncommon at all to hear from transgender women how they became very athletic or started working in a career that is often thought of as ultra masculine. For instance, the amount of transgender military veterans is much higher than most people know. So much so, that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been struggling to come up with better treatment avenues for this unexpected group. So, like everyone else who has been seeing the subtle changes Caitlyn Jenner was making to herself pre-interview, I wasn’t surprised at all that someone who had dominated sport in their prime was taking this step. 

I never made it even close to the level of accomplishment Caitlyn Jenner achieved. But, I did work my butt off in the pool for several years. Swimming was my escape. And the better I got, the less I thought people would see right through me. Those swimmer muscles were my armor. And the solitariness of the water. Even under competition, was so peaceful. That’s probably a testament to how much the social anxiety got to me more than the gender dysphoria. But, as soon as I dove in, I was all alone. I couldn’t hear the cheers. I only saw people when I turned to breathe. And if I kept the competition behind me, it felt like I was all alone in the water. I’ve always treasured swimming. And I don’t do enough of it. 

About a year ago, I was very proud that I could say I didn’t know what a Kardashian was. That’s how far removed I’ve been from pop culture. Even after I found out they were people, I couldn’t have told you who they were or even what they looked like. I could have walked past them on the street and I wouldn’t have recognized them. Oh, the good old days. *sigh*

Now? Oh yes. The Caitlyn Jenner interview has inspired me to see what all the fuss is about. I saw the last couple of episodes that appeared to be connected to Caitlyn’s coming out and leading up to the interview. Given the amount of fame they have achieved, it does appear, at least superficially, that they are good people. That is a testament to their parents. I can’t imagine what it’s like having camera crews following you around everywhere. I’m not sure how I would handle transitioning under that spotlight. Probably only because I want to continue seeing how things evolve for her, I will probably tune into her new show starting next month. 

Getting back to the Diane Sawyer interview, I found it done very well. You could see how nervous Caitlyn was leading up to the moment she said those words. I’ve never had to do that in front of a camera. But, that hesitation? That knowing everything changes once those words leave your mouth? Yeah. So familiar. The visits back to where she grew up. We’ve all probably done that. But, I do remember having those thoughts as I drove past the old houses in Southern California where I grew up. Those thoughts centered around remembering stepping outside for the first time wearing female clothes. 

And it appears Caitlyn, even though given a long time to contemplate on the subjects, is still struggling with her own thoughts on a couple of matters. I’m speaking about how she defines her sexuality and being a Republican. It will be interesting seeing how her thoughts evolve on those two issues over time. Unlike her, I never really was attracted to women. Up until I got a hold of the depression, I thought I was asexual. It’s true that I’ve had sex with a woman and have never been intimate with a man. But, being with a woman never felt right. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be “normal”. It’s taken me some time to come to terms with the fact that I’m attracted to men. And some of that is because of the next issue. Just like Caitlyn still identifies, I was a Republican. I think I held onto that one longer than identifying as a heterosexual male. Being a Republican, for me, goes back to very early days when I was rebelling against my liberal father who left us. And that group of House Republicans led by Newt Gingrich along with Rush Limbaugh came along just in time for my teenage years. It hurt to leave. But, leave is just what I did. I couldn’t handle associating with people who thought I was horrible any longer. I’ve written about this before. And I don’t want to get too side tracked. This isn’t really about me. But, the social conservatives have really stolen the party. So, I decided to make the biggest statement I could make as just one little non-famous person among hundreds of millions. I became a…….Democrat. It will be interesting seeing what Caitlyn decides to do in the months and years ahead of this new road she’s on. Who knows, she may be able to make a difference by staying put. 

I was very happy to see that ABC consulted with GLAAD board members, other transgender people and medical professionals. It was not only an opportunity for Caitlyn to tell her story. But, to also do some education. 

Oh, the name. I’m sure there were several trans people my age and a little younger who heard the name “Caitlyn” and laughed or smiled a little bit. The name Kate was very popular amongst trans people some time ago. I remember teasing a trans friend when she decided on Cate instead of Kate.  I’m glad Caitlyn chose not to go the letter “K”. But, given who is in her family, it probably would have been a little weird. I recently read a post from a friend where she talks about names coming from different generations and being able to spot trans people by the names they choose. For instance, did Caitlyn exist as a name when she was born? Rebecca is a very old name. Someone told me it’s in the bible. I don’t know. But, I did know people named Becca growing up. 

One last thing. Before we knew the name “Caitlyn”, it bothered me to no end how she would refer to her female self in the third person. I’ve spoken with a couple of acquaintances who have been around late in life transitioners. It appears to be a thing. As if they have pushed that part of themselves down and away from their daily life for so long, they now think of that aspect of their personality as a totally different persona. Now that I understand that, I’ll try to be more sympathetic. 

I hope Caitlyn can feel more free to live her life as she so sees it. Everyone should be free to be themselves. I’d like to thank her and everyone else responsible for the interview and the photo shoot for putting a positive spin on this issue. Last weekend, I rode in the truck that pulled the float for The Denver LGBT Center’s Transgender Program in the Pride Parade. While wearing out my arm waving out the window, my friend, the programs manager who was driving, told me she saw a dramatic uptick in people stopping by the programs booth this year over past years. People like Laverne Cox have been around a couple of years. So, maybe there’s a new “Caitlyn” effect helping ordinary people understand us better and helping closeted trans people feel a little more comfortable coming out of that closet. I sure hope so. 

Posted in Anxiety, Democrats, Depression, Gay, Gender Stuff, Hiding, NotAboutFamily, Social Anxiety, Swimming, Transgender | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment