Her name was Mireille and she was the nurse at the high school I went to from 1985 to 1990. (At our high school, all teachers and staff, with very few exceptions, went on a first name basis with students as well as the informal French “You” (tu).” I don’t remember ever seeing her without a smile on her face. It wasn’t the smile so many of us teens would interpret as a condescending adult smile either. It was the smile of someone who was always genuinely happy to see us, whether she ran into us in the hallway or we were seeing her in her office for some kind of teenage tragedy.
After reading a new (to me) Tanith Lee book a little while ago, I felt like re-reading the first books of hers that I read way back about 25 years ago. In my early 20s, I was part of the Science-Fiction Book Club – one of those mail-order things where you got a few freebies in return for agreeing to buy a certain number of books over the course of 2 or 3 years. The cover of Lee’s two volumes, The Secret Books of Paradys I & II and the Secret Books of Paradys III & IV, were nice and creepy so I got those early on.
I often look North North West. I look toward the first ever place where my body felt a sense of home. A place of belonging. A place of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. A place where I could just exist.
I often look North North West. Like a compass needle toward the place that shifted everything around inside me so that I no longer feel that same sense of completion anywhere else but there.
I often look North North West. And I feel the northern wind on my face like an embrace. I see the majestic 10pm summer sunsets and the northern lights that follow, like one long unending light show. I smell the fire that heats up the Grandfathers, there to heal minds, bodies, hearts, and spirits. I hear the sound of the Eeyou language, like a lover’s words in my ear. I taste the fresh bush food: flesh from our relatives that gave their lives for us, berries straight from the ground.
I often look North North West. And I long to follow my legs up and down the skidoo trails that criss-cross between the houses. To stop and help friendly Elders building Mitchuaaps for their grandchildren’s Walking Out ceremonies. To stop and smoke with the Town “drunks” who so often just want to be seen and heard. To putter at the commercial center and banter with the chayouch – old men – that hang out there. To cheer on JBES students during their hockey and broomball games and talent shows. To revel in the sheer joy of the fiddles and square dancing after a wedding. To walk along Chisasibi – the Great River – and cry with it, mourning its violation by a colonial hydro dam.
I often look North North West. And remember driving a bit out of town and waiting while majestic herds of cariboo crossed the road. And driving to the lake at KM20 and watching thr osprey hunt. And driving to the North Shore road, anticipating transformational and healing ceremony along with a sense of community. And driving to the bay, sitting on old rocks marked by retreating glaciers, watching fishers and hunters… Wishing I could jump into their canoes with them and drift away, away, away, to that place on the sub-Arctic tundra where I twice left a piece of my soul: once by accident and a second time on purpose so that I could always go back, over and through the boreal forest, go back home…
… by looking North North West.
Aaaaannnnd, here is another book non-review, or posts where I write about a story and how I feel about it (as opposed to giving a plot summary or a literary critique).
I had forgotten how much I enjoy Tanith Lee’s writing before picking this one off my shelf. I don’t know how long it’s been there, or even where I got it. It doesn’t have great reviews, and I wouldn’t say that my mind was blown by either of the two novels in the book: Sabella, or the Blood Stone and Kill the Dead. I certainly wasn’t as blown away by these as I was by The Secret Books of Paradys, Books I to IV. But I was compelled to plow through them and, as I was reading them, I felt drawn in and intrigued. I was not in a rush to get through them, and when I was done, I was a bit sad, already missing my immersion into the worlds of these bizarre yet relatable characters. And I was even sadder to learn, after a quick google search led by my desire to unearth Lee’s bibliography, to find out that she died 4 years ago. The Secret Books of Paradys, mentioned above, had tapped into my submerged thoughts about gender fluidity and sexuality in my early 20s, when I was enduring the most difficult years of my life to date. So even though I had read another of her books between then and now and hadn’t really liked it at all – I even forgot the title! That means something! – Lee has always had a special place in my bookworm heart. RIP, Tanith Lee! Stay creepy!
OK, it’s been a while. But I just finished reading a book that I very much enjoyed and thought I would encourage folks to read it. So here is one of my non-reviews where I talk about how I feel about a particular work of art rather than critique the technical aspects. I am far from an artistic or literary critic – just a person who knows what they like! And I like lots of stuff!
Warning: there is a major spoiler, but you can read most of this before getting to it. There is another warning when it’s about to come up!
Content note: suicide and additions.
The music of insects at 2:30AM is exquisite. They harmonise beautifully with each other as the leaves sway in the wind. Why didn’t I know this before?
As I tap my foot and ask myself what keeps me from getting up and dancing in the back yard – it’s not the landlord; he already knows I’m weird – I observe all the random thoughts that meander through my brain.
I have a random memory of that guy I flirted with many years ago, when I was still living as Nancy. We both seemed to toy with the idea of asking the other out for a couple of weeks before he finally said: “So, what are you doing this weekend?” I replied that I was performing in a drag king show on Friday but that I was free on Saturday. I never heard from him again.
Oh, it’s ok. Don’t be sad. I’m not. I’ve come to be amused by the limits people keep on themselves.
My brain moves on and it occurs to me that some thoughts are like candy. My brain enjoys thinking about them so much that it could just keep thinking them for hours and not get bored. For example, the concept of thinking. Delicious.
But sometimes there is a glitch in the system – kind of like when there is a brown out and your screen does this weird jumpy thing. It happens so fast that you’re not sure whether you really saw it. Same with my brain. But then the brain candy is gone. Poof! And I can’t remember it’s texture or taste. Just that it was SO GOOD.
Those insects though. *tap tap*
For the first time in just about forever, as far as I know, I picture myself as myself. Well, it’s more like I feel/see the energy I’m projecting out into the world as looking like me and not like someone else.
It occurs to me that synesthesia makes life really interesting. Combined with an introvert brain, it makes it so that I’m never really bored as long as I have my thoughts. They are not just like candy. They take on a multisensorial nature so that I don’t just think them. I see, feel, hear, taste, and smell them.
Then there was this guy I danced with tonight who thought I must be wearing a wig. I let him pull on it. It was amusing.
But sometimes it’s really hard to choose between Skittles and Froot Loops.
3:00AM and the insects are still at it. I should really come listen to them more often.
Warning: This is an EXTREMELY LONG post. It is copied from a Word document that is over 11 pages long. I don’t expect many people will read it. And I don’t really care. I wrote it for myself, and decided to publish it on my blog in case my son ever wants to read it, so that he can know more about his own history.
Otherwise, some folks who have dealt with or who are currently dealing with complicated mourning might be interested. I know I am not the only person in the world who had a parent, or someone else die, with whom one had a complicated relationship.
Content warning: addictions, suicide, childhood abuse, racism, anti-semitism, anti-Black racism, white supremacy, emotional incest, sexism.
At the 19 year old’s request, I mash up a banana to put into the pancake batter he is mixing up. As I mash, I have a flashback to 18 year ago…
On a road trip somewhere, and my baby is hungry. I have a banana, but no bowl or fork to mash it with. I decide to do it the way humans have probably done things since the beginning of our presence on earth, and pre-chew some banana. He eagerly has his first taste of banana from my fingertip, gazing up at me in that adorable way that babies have as I chew up a bit more for him.
And 18 years later, I look over at his happy face as I scrape the mashed banana into the pancake batter. He’s not a little baby anymore, but he is still my banana-loving baby.
It started with the traffic lights. But no one really knew this was a sign of things to come.
The last part (for now, or maybe forever), is based on a dream, daydream, or hallucination – can’t remember which – I had back in 1996 or 1997. A mommy street light was walking down the street with a child street light while carrying a grocery bag (the plastic kind, cause it was 1996 or 1997).
We often talk about how coming out is not a one time thing: in different contexts through our lives, we have to make decisions about coming out. We also often talk about how these decisions are based on psychological or physical safety. Like many trans folks that have “passing privilege”, even though I’m out quite publicly – anyone who finds out because of google and thinks they can blackmail me is shit outta luck! – I’ve had to make enough of these contextual decisions that I’ve lost count.
However, there are reasons other than safety that come up for me sometimes and these are what I want to talk about today.
This evening, in a conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with anything trans, a group of us were discussing childbirth. A cisgender man was talking about how as men – with a nod in my direction – “we” can’t ever understand what women who give birth go through. He has no idea that I’m a mother who gave birth to a child. Why would he? I’ve never “come out” to him. I haven’t actively hidden it – it just never came up and, like with a whole other things about me, I don’t tend to bring up my transness until it’s relevant to a conversation or context. It’s part of my efforts at rendering transness as “just another thing”, so banal that it doesn’t need to come up.
But in a moment like this, or in a moment like the one where a group of women I was with were sharing their birthing stories, I have to make speedy decisions.
There is a part of me that feels that my experience of childbirth is just as valid and deserves to be heard. That “hiding” it, even indirectly through omission, is to dishonour my birthing of a very important person in my life.
There is also a part of me that knows damn well that me speaking up about my birthing experience will result in a possiblr number of things: laughs, because people will assume I’m joking; disbelief; or curiosity. Either way, the conversation will change and become about me and my transness. The original point of the conversation would be lost. The women sharing their stories or the cis men acknowledging that there are experiences they don’t understand would stop and ask me a million questions about being trans (unless some of them are assholes who would start insulting and harassing me – quite rare in my own experience but I know it can happen).
In an ideal world, where the existence of trans people and the diversity of trans experiences were widely acknowledged as “just another thing”, the conversation would simply move on. Alas, we’re not in that ideal world. And as much as I believe in working to achieve that world, I’m not sure I want to do it at the expense of losing chances at different dialogues that I haven’t had enough of.
Dilemmas, dilemmas, dilemmas.