Like many bloggers, I figured I’d review my year. It’s not like I have any parties to go to! So I may as well. I’m not assuming that anyone really cares to read all this so I’m mostly doing it for me. There are some trans-related things here and there but I’ve either already blogged about them or will in the future.
Hmmm … that was so long ago! Well, like most Januarys for the past few years, I spent a lot of time rehearsing and preparing for my the Dukes of Drag annual February show. Typically, we get together for 5-6 hours every Saturday to rehearse group numbers. In addition to that, since I’m one of the administrative members, there is a lot of other work that goes into planning a show. So that was probably most of what I was doing in January. There was also the small matter of tidying up my research proposal for my PhD research. I had finished it in December 2009 but my thesis committee requested a few changes and clarifications that I had to submit by January 15th or something. So there was that, which was quite a bit of work. The preceeding comprehensive exam, which is more of a literature review relevant to the topic, was easier because reading and synthesising large quantities of information is something that I’m used to. The practical nature of a research proposal, though…that’s a different challenge and I needed much more guidance from my committee on how to do that. Fortunately, I have a kick-ass committee and they helped me out on all the finer points. An unfortunate incidence of transphobia, one of the few overt cases I have encountered, happened last January as well. January was also my two year anniversary with my girlfriend. Yay! Which means we are coming up to three very soon! Since she also performs with the Dukes, I got to spend lots of time with her during rehearsals, which were mostly at her place. Not that we wouldn’t otherwise have spent time together – it’s that the rehearsal time didn’t take away from spending time together.
Mostly rehearsing and show prep still, since the show was around the middle of the month. Also, my birthday is in February. But as with people who have birthdays on or near December 25, my birthday usually gets overlooked since it’s on or near the weekend of the big show. Oh well, it’s ok. I’m a big boy. I don’t think anything very exciting other than that happened. I was pretty busy beginning to prepare for some of the logistics of field work up north, looking into storage spaces, figuring out my finances, etc. I was also spending a lot of time organising other events such as the first ever LGBT community fair at the college where I teach and a 5th anniversary celebration of the LGBT safe spaces program that I co-founded at the college. AND I was planning a kink event in Ottawa for the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto women and trans community. I was organising this on behalf of the Unholy Army of the Night, a group that I’ve been a part of since years before my transition. This group actually helped me become self aware enough to even think about transition! So I owe them a lot and being on the board of governors for them and planning an event was a way of giving back. Oh, I also spent time helping to organise a Native women’s panel for the annual International Women’s Week Symposium taking place in March at my college. Even though I was on leave all of last year, I sure was still doing a lot fo volunteer work! But I enjoy it – one of the perks of working at a Cégep is that there are a lot of opportunities for community work and activism. So I do it all of my own free will.
Honestly, apart from working on the events mentioned above (except the show, which was done in February), I spent most of my time fretting about my hysterectomy at the end of March! (I never wound up blogging about that experience . . .hmmm. Something for the to-do list). I had received the call to book surgery in late February after having met the surgeon for a consultation in December! I was surprised at how fast it all happened. So there was a lot to do in a short time: blood work at the beginning of March, setting up a support system for the two weeks after surgery, etc. I actually used Facebook a lot to set up my network. I made sure my son would be with my ex for 4-5 days right after surgery and my girlfriend booked time off work to be with me at that time. But I had to make sure that I had friends pencilled in to come and cook and do dishes when I would be alone with my son the week after that. So I spent a lot of time in march collecting names and availabilities and putting together a schedule. It’s great how willing people were to come to my help! As for the surgery itself, which happened on March 25, was quite uneventful. Since Dr. Tulandi, who works out of Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital and the Royal Victoria, uses ultra modern surgical techniques for hysterectomies, the surgery was minimally invasive. My overall experience, which I will blog about seperately, was very good. Very little weirdness about me being a guy getting a hysto. Well-informed and respectful staff. The last few days of March were spent at home with my girlfriend watching Six Feet Under, which I got addicted to right away. Amazing show!
On April 1st, I played my annual April Fool’s Day joke. The timing this year was perfect. On Facebook, I updated my status to say that the Jewish General had called me back in because they discovered that they had accidentally removed only one ovary. It was so funny! A couple of friends actually fell for it and got all indignant, suggesting malpractice suits and the like. Heeheehee. I love my evil brain! As for the rest of the month, mostly recovery time. Since the surgery was done with robotic technology, recovery was fairly quick and easy. I started going out a little bit, probaby last day of March or first day of April. It was a walk to the mailbox across the street and I felt very woozy after. But bit by bit, as the days and weeks went by, I started feeling better. I think I was taking short drives by the end of the second week. Around mid April, I got carried away and drove too long. Come evening, I was bleeding and panicking about it. See, Montreal is not only famous for the French language, poutine and smoked meat. It is famous for its potholes! But I rested for a few days (after a panicky call to the gyno department at the Jewish) and all was well. Resting at home allowed me lots of time to keep working on the three remaining events that I was working on: the LGBT fair, the anniversary celebration and the kink event. The celebration and the fair happened toward the end of April and I was well enough to attend by then. They were both successful and I was pleased about the college community’s openness, as I have been for the past 5 years since I’ve been working on LGBT awareness there. And this past year, the queer students and their allies have been exceptionally involved, which makes me very proud. Oh yeah, I also gave a presentation on the persecution of gays during the Holocaust in a couple of classes at my college.
Well, May 1 was the date of the kink weekend so that was VERY exciting. I haven’t blogged about kink yet and its role in my life. For some reason, it’s hard for me to talk about because it’s something so profound and spiritual, even though it involves the flesh, that it’s often hard for me to even find words to express how I feel about it and what it does for me. But I CAN talk about the community spirit that reigns at this type of event, with this particular group that I’m a part of. It’s something that nourishes me very deeply and that keeps me coming back. Something for another post. As for the rest of May, more serious logistics about my imminent departure for the north. Rental of storage space. Rental of a moving truck. Waiting for permission from the band council of the community where I wanted to work. And of course, there was still some recovery. Most of the big time recovery was done but my body was still affected in subtle ways. My energy levels, strength, etc. I did get to go on a weekend getaway with my girlfriend though to a cabin. That was nice and relaxing. Except for the getting there and back in my old car with a faulty water pump! I kept having to stop and add radiator fluid! I got some bad news last May: my favourite uncle was dying of cancer. They caught it too late to do anything about it. I did manage to drive up (not in the faulty Camry, which was in the shop) to visit him in the hospital though. I was lucky, he was somewhat coherent when I went. Most of the time, he wasn’t, according to my other uncle, because of the morphine. But I had a very touching last few minutes with him.
I had a trip planned to Texas early in June but my uncle died and the funeral was the same weekend. Had it been another uncle, I don’t think I would’ve changed my plan. But he was special. I needed to be there. So I drove up to the Saguenay region (about 5 hours from Montreal) yet again, with my son. It was worth it. The funeral was beautiful. My uncle didn’t have a family of his own so the entire family (his 10 siblings, oodles of in-laws, nieces and nephews) were all in mourning together. And in our family, when we pay tribute, we don’t go halfway. Instead of the usual priestly things being said by the casket at the funeral home and at the service, our own hommages were read. And I got to be a pall bearer. It was quiet an honour for me. Later in the month, I attended two Scorpions concerts, one in Quebec City and one in Montreal. I even got to meet them again at the Montreal show! It meant a lot to me as this was their retirement tour. Yet again, food for another blog, but the Scorpions have been a part of my life for a long time and they helped me through a lot. Then there was the big move: all of my worldly possessions were going into storage on the 28th! I drove a truck for the first and (hopefully) last time. Unless I actually got training, of course. Boy was that stressful! Quite a few friends helped with the move, so that was nice.
Beginning of July, my girlfriend and I travelled to Toronto. I was going for an Iron Maiden concert (I saw them again in Montreal a week later with my sister. My son was there too for his first metal concert! ), but took advantage of the fact that Toronto Pride was happening at the same time. I had managed to get myself booked for a Pride performance but I hurt my back while moving a few days before so I had to cancel that. It was still an enjoyable stay. We took the train so it was a lot less stressful than driving. The rest of the month was stressful because we didn’t have a place to live but weren’t slated to leave Montreal for the north until the end of July. Bad planning on my part. So we stayed at my girlfriend’s for a week. Then we went back to Saguenay (the three of us) for a week and stayed at my sister’s. Before heading back to Montreal, we went for a two day camping trip in the area. Then, back in Montreal, my son and I house sitted for a friend who was on vacation for a week. The last few days in July, we were back at my girlfriend’s place, sort of. Another friend of ours, where my cat Motorhead is living while we’re away, lives right downstairs from her so we stayed there as it is a bit bigger. Before we left for the north, both my girfriend and said friend were leaving for a week-long pagan gathering near Ottawa. So I actually was the one to send them away! A couple of days later: our departure! It is a 16 hour trip (just counting driving time) so we took our time and stopped overnight a couple of times along the way. It’s doable in 2 days, but I wanted to take it easy and enjoy the drive so we did it in 4.
We spend most of our first month up north living in the house of the cousin of one of my Montreal colleagues. She was away for a while and let us stay at her place while we worked to find a more long-term place to stay. I had tried from a distance to find housing but it’s very difficult when people don’t know you. It’s a reserve so it’s not like they have apartments for rent. (By the way, I’m not mentionning the name of the town because I’m not too keen on people from this community accidentally winding up on here after a google search for the name of their town. I divulge some pretty personal stuff here and, because it’s a small place, those things could potentially cause problems for me.) People who live here are either band members or people from outside the reserve who work for the school or health board, in which case housing is provided to them. So those were stressful weeks. But we got lucky as there is a youth volunteer organisation that has rights to a house in town. I found out that their volunteers were leaving at the end of August and wouldn’t be back until January. So they agreed to sublet their house to us until that time! So August was spent wandering around town, getting reacquainted with the town and eventually moving. At the end of the month, when school started, I began to do occasional substitution work. Also, throughout the month (and the ones to come) I spent a lot of time outside at night gazing wonderingly at the Northern Lights!
I continued doing a bit of work at the school and I continued to spend time in town getting myself known. In this situation, it is unwise to just jump into a research project. People need to get to know a person before they can trust them enough to discuss touchy subjects like the one I’m researching (alcohol). So I spent a lot of time just going around getting to know people, without being too much in their faces either. My girlfriend who, at the time and for reasons that I won’t go into here, was able to travel on Via Rail for free, took a train to a town that is a 10 hour drive from here. We went to pick her up one day and drove back here with her the next. So she spent nearly 2 weeks with us here : ) That was fun! When we drove her back, we spent a couple of days in that area, getting winter tires, hanging out, etc. When I got back to town, the principal of the school asked me to temporarily replace a science teacher in the upper high school levels. So that was an interesting new challenge.
Early October, my son and I took a 2 week trip to Montreal. I had timed it to coincide with an annual kink conference that happens every Thanksgiving weekend in Ottawa (for American raeders – TG takes place in October in Canada.) By the way, I highly recommend this event to any kinky women (cis or trans) and trans guys who are comfortable in a woman centred space. Very trans and genderqueer positive. And very HOT! I’ve made some great connections there. So anyway, we drove down to Montreal and spent a few days there. Then, with my son at his dad’s, I took off with friends to Ottawa for TG weekend. It was great spending time with chosen family in Montreal and Ottawa, but eventually we had to come back up north. It always takes a few days to readjust but with more regular substitution work, I got back into the swing of things in no time.
November was the month that I started really bonding with the high school students I was working with. I met quite a few people in the community that were interested in my research project and who were willing to talk about it with me. Also . . .we go snow! Yay! I love snow. I also started having a bit of a social life with teachers at the school. Occasional dinners, drives out to the waterside a few kilometers away, etc. I also joined the teacher’s choir! And to show what a small world it is, at one of the above mentioned dinners, I met two people who work at the school but with whom I have mutual friends in Montreal!
Continued with regular substitution work. Got to know a few more people. Holidays came around and that is big stuff around here. Spent the early part of the month stressed about finding a new place to live since our time at the first place was up come January 1. After extensive nagging, the person in charge agreed to allow me to rent housing that is usually reserved for contracted teachers. Since I’ve done a lot of substitution work, and since colleagues and students have been speaking out in my favour, and since they have so many empty apartments ANYWAY on account of being chronically understaffed, they let me have an apartment right behind the school. So halfway through the month, we moved – again. But now we are settled in. Furniture was included but I had to get basic household stuff (toaster, coffee maker, shower curtain, etc etc etc….all the little things one takes for granted after having them around all of the time). Money wasn’t too much of an issue since the rent I’ll be paying is so much cheaper. Been on break now since Dec 18th. Sure is nice. We’ve been pretty lazy, going out for walks now and then or to the store, or to some of the holiday activities that they had all of this week. And tonight, December 31, halfway through this post, I got to watch fireworks from my living room window! First, the gunshots went off at midnight. TONS of them. Then, a really amazing fireworks display. I stood in the open window and watched it all with a glass of wine and a cigarette, appreciating the light during this period of long northern nights and little daylight.
And that pretty much concludes 2010 in terms of what actually happened. In terms of changes, physical or otherwise, I haven’t noticed any drastic physical changes in the past year or so. Beard growth is stable, my voice hasn’t seemed to change much. Then again I see myself every day. Psychologically, I feel like I’m pretty much in the same state I’ve been in for a couple of years. Optimistic, energised, excited about life and planning a multitude of projects varying from political to artistic to self-exploration. I’ve had a lot of artistic inspiration and am working on projects in different media: stage performance, video, photography, comic book, writing, both fiction and non-fiction. Emotionally, I was dealt a blow when my uncle died. But getting to spend time with him and getting a long letter to him before he lost his coherence gave me a sense of closure that I never had when I lost my dad. I also got closer to my girlfriend than I’ve been with anyone for a long time. I’m not completely over my whole hang up about spontaneous emotional expression but I feel that I’m being supported in my own ways of expressing emotions. I’ve developed a few friendships that took me by surprise, both in Montreal and elsewhere and reconnected with older friends that I hadn’t been in touch with for a long time. Lately, I’ve had to deal with a lot of loneliness, sometimes made easier and sometimes worse by Facebook. It’s a double edged sword that makes it easier to keep in touch but also easier to see how much fun all my friends are having without me. At the same time, I’m bonding more with my son which is a very nice thing. And I’m seeing him develop in some new and exciting ways.
All in all, though, 2010 has been a good year.