May 20, 2017… Day 121
It was a Saturday after a wild news week. Trump took almost the entire White House senior staff and went on his first foreign trip, to Saudi Arabia. I went on my first foreign trip in 7 years, to Canada. My phone didn’t work reliably there and I was surrounded by festive people all day. The combined effect was a muting of my awareness of what was going on in the news.
Driving up to Vancouver from Washington, I did have a wave of national shame. I told myself to just breathe, and that surely everyone’s country does something really stupid sometimes. Really, really stupid. The democracy Darwin awards.
My boyfriend’s observation of Vancouver; “The city seems less white than Seattle does, but a higher proportion of the white people look like they are actual skinheads.” He’s from Oregon, so he knows about skinheads.
Oh and it turns out the seeds in the Arctic are probably going to be ok, so that’s good.
I had a moving experience in Vancouver, listening to a woman my mother’s age give a talk about how she came up in her creative career. I was really affected by her words, and imagined her as a girl and young woman. I was marveling to my friend afterward, how I can’t really explain what a difference it makes that she was a woman telling her story, but it makes such a difference to me.
Hours later, over drinks, I found out she was a trans woman. I knew that meant that she’d been a woman all her life, even before she was out, and that she had carried an isolating burden I hadn’t known about when I listened to her earlier in the day. But now I knew that she had been socialized as a boy, that she’d had more testosterone than me in a world that rewards testosterone, and that everyone who interacted with her and gave her opportunities and chose to collaborate with her, up until she was in her 40s, believed that she was a man
I still could connect with her story emotionally, but it wasn’t quite the same. I had to back up a bit farther, use more adaptors, adjust and tweak the knobs in my head. A familiar process, but I was a girl socialized as a girl. I guess it’s a personal problem.
Anyway, I was lying awake trying to sift through my internalized misogyny, my feelings of disappointment, my lack of confidence, my hunger for role models, my knee-jerk othering of a trans woman. I’m still drawn to her, she still reminds me of my grandmother, and I still want to follow her around writing down the quotable things she says. And that’s not coming from a glib place; it’s not an appreciation of camp. She really affected me. Her younger self, in my mind’s eye, still reminds me of me.
After I finally fell asleep, I dreamt that a counsel of black women writers that I respect and follow on Twitter all got together and told me in person, very firmly, that I could never write about race again. “Not ever,” one of them said. They all shook their heads solemnly. They were clearly holding it together to be civil, but I had gotten on their last nerve with whatever it was I’d just written about race. I said, “Ok. Thanks. I won’t do it. I promise.”
Later in that same dream, my childhood friend was killed by a lawnmower, right in front of me. So I think I’m also just very anxious in general these days.