Sherlock Holmes doesn’t take the El.

I enjoy riding the elevated train in Chicago, affectionately known as the el. Not in some Risky Business “I really like trains” way, but because on the el  I am closer to people. Now mind you the routes I take are not unsafe, or on the lines that you tell tourists to stay off because, y’know, things could happen.  Still, I am a people watcher, a habit born out of my curiosity, my Trans* danger-sense (a super power some people foolishly call paranoia), and a pathological need to emulate those cool deductions that Sherlock Holmes makes look so easy. Those deductions, by the way, never really work well for me. If you are wearing a name tag that says “Bob” I can usually nail down that there is a 50% that your name is Robert. I am sharp like that. I just love a good mystery.

A great majority of people sit on the train, heads down as if in supplication, staring into the safe anonymity of their smartphone’s tiny glowing screens. Most days  I am no different but sometimes I manage to turn my phone off (or more likely its battery is dead, again) and I try to really see the people around me. Carefully mind you, no one likes a Starey-creeper.

I enjoy the spread of people, styles, and occupations packed into the silver boxes with me. I don’t think people often see each other outside of our personal needs or the requirements of employment  like “How may I help you buy this thingy?” or “How long has your car been on fire?”  I like being around other humans when I’m not experiencing them through some sort of routine script. While it makes me uncomfortable sometimes (ok most times) I do look forward to the rare random encounter with a perfect stranger because it affords me the chance to figure out if my assumptions about them are right, and if not, what I need to change about my outlook.

Mind you I also understand safety so I wouldn’t just stroll up and say “Howdy” to someone wielding a bloody machete and arguing loudly with his dog. Instead I put on my imaginary Sherlock hat and try to imagine how a person’s day is going by reading into posture, movement and facial features. But then I realize I can’t truly understand another person’s experience from noticing their new North Face jacket, tired facial expressions, or the battered plastic shopping bags huddled about their feet.

I look around the rolling train car and I just see some people with more money and some with less, some people with hard lives who love everyone anyway, some workers trying to get by, and some people with simple hatreds based on easy fear and then I see that all that is my own ideas projecting outward. I visualize an entire kaleidoscope of life formed and colored by a million moments pressing them toward their train stop and the rest of their night. Just like my life does.

Like I said, I would really love to be Sherlock. My assumptions would always be dead on and even if I thought something ill of someone it would be justified and without reproach because I could point to some obscure mustard stain on the perpetrator and say “Ah, Ha! Elementary and shit!” Sherlock would doesn’t need their communication because he knows the TRUTH. In all caps even. When he does actually ask questions they are often only there to catch the liar and prove a point. But I can’t do this because to truly learn or share with other people, they have to have their own voice, not mine speaking for them through the mustard on their pants, the hoody on their back, or the hairstyle on their head.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where everyone thinks they are Sherlock Holmes. We assume our deductions are dead on, and if revealed as incorrect, it was deception by the subject that lead to our false assumptions, not our own conceit. We grant these deductions more importance than reality. What Sherlock is portrayed doing is just a dramatic and highly magnified version of what we do every day when we encounter other people, but unlike Sherlock’s infallible assumptions, we build skewed and incomplete ideas based on stereotypes. I fight against the lazy stereotypes my brain tries to plug into everything but they are deeply rooted and very tenacious.

So I love riding the el, wondering about the people standing and crowding about the swaying train cars. I like imagining things and trying to figure out puzzles I create in my head. But then I try remember that no matter how much I imagine I can deduce or assume, what I really know about that older women over there, or that business person seated nearby, is minuscule compared to what I can find out if I actually end up talking to them. Which is Elementary and shit.

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The Impossible Death of a Cat

(A Short Play because NaNoWriMo is too much work.)

This play is the first I have ever written and I thought I would post it here because, well, I can? Or I’m bored, but either way I hope you enjoy it.

I am not a physicist by the way, but I do know that new methods of delicately checking a quantum state without causing its destruction have made the example of the superpositional cat moot but hey, it’s a play about death and a cat! It made me snicker writing it.

 

The Impossible Death of a Cat

A large box rests on the stage. It is 6 foot tall and 9 feet long and 6 feet deep. The rest of the stage is black. A green glowing lamp rests in the center of the box. It fades in and out slowly, but the box is never dark. Beside the Lamp is a big bottle with a cartoony Skull and Crossbones of Poison.

 Within the box is a person dressed as a cat. The cat sits against one wall lazily holding its tail and flicking it back and forth.

 A loud peal of ominous thunder is heard and a robed figure walks into the box. The figure has a Scythe which barely fits in the box and a white skull painted face.

Cat: Ah there you are.

Death: Behold! I name you CAT,  I am Death come to end all you are, or could be! I… umm.

(Death looks at the cat, trails off)

Cat: Yes?

(Death seems confused, looks around.)

Death: Pardon, is there anyone else here? 

(Cat looks around the tiny box)

Cat: I don’t see how there could be.

Death: You’re a cat.

Cat: Indeed I am. And you are a particularly observant personification of the existential fears of all humans.

Death: Right. Yes. Look there has to be someone else here. I don’t do cats.

Cat: It’s just me and you in here your Death-ness. Have a seat.

Death: I cannot, I have many mortals to reap and this is a mistake. Goodbye Cat!

(There is thunder and stage lights flash, when it clears Death is still in the box.)

Cat: Hello Death!

Death: What?  I said Goodbye Cat!

(There is thunder again and flashing but it is weaker this time. Death remains)

Cat: And Hello again, Death. I suspect you aren’t going anywhere until the waveform collapses.

Death:(Sputtering) What is this box made of I… What do you mean ‘waveform’?

Cat: (Stretching): Ok, this is confusing but I will give you the simple version because who knows how much time we have.  I am Schrödinger’s Cat. I am a fictional example of how causality, or common sense, breaks down at the quantum level.

Death: You are not fictional, you speak. Most cats do not, but you are real.

Cat: We shouldn’t argue our relative reality here You are a personification of death. With the big old scythe and everything.

Death: (looking at Scythe and speak slightly petulantly) It’s traditional.

Cat: The point is, that glowing thing right there (points to lamp) is a radioactive isotope, and there’s a little device that measures if any subatomic particles have decayed yet. When they decay, that bottle with poison will be broken and I am a dead cat.

Death: So I was early.

Cat: Well yes and no. See the point of this morbid little box is that a physicist named Schrödinger was annoyed about new discoveries in quantum mechanics. He didn’t like the way they made no sense to him. It was proposed that a subatomic particle was not in any set state until recorded. So technically it wasn’t decayed or not until someone measured it. It exists as both yes and no until then. Keep in mind this is a gross simplification.

Death: I fail to see how this affects you cat, outside of your death the instant that particle finally decays.

Cat: Well that’s the trick. The particle is already in both states, it has decayed and hasn’t. It won’t be in a set state until observed.  And since my life in this little box depends on that particle, I also exist both alive and dead at the same time. Until someone observes a portion of the world it can exist as a spread of probabilities.

Death: That’s nonsense, you are alive speaking to me.

Cat: Yes, and do the living often chat with you?

Death: No. They do not. But your example is pointless. Whether or not someone looks in this box has nothing to do with if you are dead or not. It just is.

Cat: That was Schrödinger’s point. The idea was to take a quantum particle and link its state to a real world event, like a dead cat, to show how silly it was. He wanted to show that the idea of causality, and order were more important than this new weirdness. Schrödinger’s had some issues. I mean hell, he could have used a dog.

Death: I dislike dogs. They have a thing for bones.

Cat: Me too, go figure. So I am an example of how the illogic of quantum theory shouldn’t apply to the real world. So I am both alive and dead in the example until the box opens and someone looks in here. At which point in time both my waveform as dead cat, and alive cat collapses down to one or the other. And I don’t think you count as an observer since you are Death and all.

Death: I still fail to see the point of this. Imagining that something can be anything until experienced is hardly that world shaking. It is also rather egotistical.

Cat: True, but it implies that a humans perception of something creates that something as reality when they observe it, an infinite set of possibilities collapse backward into it. So it tweaks a lot of ideas about destiny and reality.

Death: You are speaking of religion and metaphysics.

Cat: (Nods): I could be, but I think this is more about ideas of reality than anything. Schrödinger was irritated with the way quantum theory was flying in the face of cause and effect and common sense. Unfortunately for him, things keep getting weirder and weirder as they study subatomic particles. Heck now they are studying some that appear to travel backward in time. Really.

Death: Why do you know this cat?

Cat: No clue really.

Death: Well then in the space of this example, you are both Dead and Alive until observed. How long have you been in this box?

Cat: I can’t remember not being in it actually. I have a feeling I may never get out one way or another. I think I’m trapped here. Like you.

Death: I am not trapped! I am Death so it is obvious that you are dead when they open the box. The isotope thing has decayed.

Cat: Could be, I would welcome it at this point. But I think you and me might be cruising down the other result. You know, they opened the box and I sprang out happy and meowing.

(Death nods and ponders this)

Death: So I am not here for a cat’s death, but instead for the Death of this “waveform” then. Everything linked to your death in this box. It never happens so this reality stops here. Collapses as you say?

Cat: I think so. So how would you proceed here?

(Death draws himself up and clears his throat.)

Death: Ahem.  Behold! I name you Reality!  I am Death come to end all you are, or could be!

Stage goes dark 

Memories: A fatal change of Perspective

I left San Antonio behind me on November 14, 2003, without a solid home for the first time in 7 years. I drove my aging black Volvo north into an icy gray mid-west winter. Kansas City held a friend of mine and he had a room I could use. I departed at sunset and drove through the night, cars and hulking semi’s fading in and out of my headlights as silent anonymous companions. A rented trailer swayed in the interstate winds, bouncing behind my aging Volvo.

Only two of my friends saw me off, made awkward by the absence of many others. The division of goods from the split had gone her way heavily, both in material and social accounts. I knew that staying would become a mess of awkward moments between all those that had taken opposing sides.

We lived together 7 years. We fused together, then cracked and then became an exercise in acting. We had known things were over for a year but time and routine make a comfortable unseen box. We rehearsed the break up hundreds of times in harsh arguments, and when it did finally end, it felt routine. Now, I was as happily single as she was, and there was no animosity between us. Well, aside from the fact I got the nice microwave. But she got the TV.

Rolling north I had time to think and there was a lot of it to do. I had no job, good savings and my car. The job wasn’t a concern; I have always found work when needed. What I thought about on that surreal drive was the totality of what I left and the empty place I was traveling to. I had no idea what I would be doing in one year or five years. My old plans, built to support two people, felt one-sided now, leaning against my thoughts with a weighty need for balance.

As a military brat I’ve moved a lot so settling in comes naturally. I’d have all the basic things I needed; food, shelter, car and internet access. This was the bare minimum of course. An empty future barely visible beyond the beams of my headlights brought a sense of floating. The sheer amount cut free hounded my attention. Friends, places and expectations all wiped away leaving a slate so blank I fumbled to find anything that wouldn’t fit. Limitations help guide our choices, whether limits of money, social needs or current situation. They provide something to push against and overcome. I was rolling north pushing against nothing and picking up speed.

I was in Kansas City for two months. I dropped into a local social group and things went well. I had enough cash to coast for a year or more and for the first time in my life I tried to relax and not worry about it. With all my free time I was online more, writing more and I had finished off several overdue commissions for small sculptures and prop replicas I build. I had few bills and even less responsibilities. I lost large chunks of time as days flowed together. I worried about it but couldn’t see any reason to change. I was optimistic and worried in equal parts. It made no sense.

In early December Sam called me. We are more brothers than friends, having known each other since ’90.  He lived in Pennsylvania and his father lived near me in Kansas. Sam wanted him to come up to Pennsylvania for Christmas but his father wasn’t up to driving that far and flying was to pricey. I agreed to drive up with his dad and we headed out December 17.

Sam’s father was a heavy man who had served in Vietnam and was now suffering through a slow breakdown of his legs. We would learn later this was the onset of Diabetes, an affliction that would eventually kill him. He was quiet and the first half of the trip was awkward but passable, rolling up through the mid-west into the hills of Pennsylvania. I drove straight through. We reached State College in 18 hours, not easy considering the condition of the battered old van and the winter storms.

The visit was pleasant but strange. Sam and I picked up where we last left off without missing a beat. The apartment was warm, made more comfortable by the bitter ice outside. Christmas presents were exchanged and I sat back watching. This place felt stable, but it was a borrowed idea. I was seeing what a solid home looked like again but it wasn’t mine. I spent two weeks up there and before leaving I had two job interviews and was on my way to deciding to move again, to a location with some sense of place. Sam and his wife had just bought a house, and while they would not be living in it for two months, I could stay in it while re-flooring it and fixing it up.  I realized the raw departure from Texas still bothered me, and it would be ridiculous to expect it not to. I was concerned that I was making a mistake in moving again. The idea of continuous motion after so long in one place felt cowardly but I had a solid job offered in a week. It was a time of waiting.

On the ride back down out of Pennsylvania Sam’s father was in greatly improved spirits. He had changed from Mr. Smith to Lonnie, and we talked about life, the universe, and everything. We were discussing movies and I mentioned a film about Vietnam. He looked over at me and I remembered his reluctance to discuss this topic as he was a veteran of that messy war, but he took a drag on his cigarette and seemed to decided we could talk. He recounted that he had been at the battle from the very movie I had spoken of and was very angry at how higher ups were portrayed as heroic despite the fact they lied when asked if they knew what they were getting into.

“They wanted a sharp early fight that would show folks we were doing something and that’s why they didn’t airlift us out immediately after the damn thing,.” he spoke steadily and then sighed. There was a long pause but I didn’t want to interrupt his thoughts.

He shook his head and spoke. “I’ll tell you something, all this crap…” he vaguely gestured out the ice streaked window at the passing repetitive fast food places and billboards jutting from the gray snow.  “It don’t mean shit. Nothing. What you get in life is what you can stick to and survive. And then you know what’s important.”

I nodded as he went quiet. I felt I had to say something. “Yes sir.”

He snorted and looked over with a tired grin. “Don’t call me sir, I ain’t an officer, I work for a living.” I smiled.

It was near Kingdom City, Missouri that it happened. We were riding in silence and getting close to the end of the trip. The roads were windswept but clear of snow and ice. I was in the left lane passing slower vehicles and still processing the last few weeks, and then the last few months.

Suddenly a black minivan driving in front of us swerved hard right into the slow lane. I hadn’t been following closely and Lonnie looked up as I hit the brakes.

The minivan turned too hard against the swerve and whipped left back across I-70 in front of us shedding rubber from its blown tire up into the gray-white sky like a shower of black stones. The van shot across the icy median and into the panicked swerving line of oncoming traffic heading the other way. It swerved hard again turning back toward our side of the interstate, somehow missing the braking and sliding eastbound cars. The arcs of the minivan’s weaving corrections were getting longer and less stable. I was still standing on the brake, our beat up car shimmying as the rocking minivan bounced up out of the rough median and back onto our side of the road. It was instantly hit broadside, T-boned by the thick nose of a semi desperately trying to stop in the right lane. The sound of the crushing impact could be heard over the engine of our vehicle, a singular metallic crack surrounded by the by a hissing spray of glass and plastic.

We were 3 car lengths from the impact, just 25 to 30 feet away. The van scraped over onto its side and started rolling, spraying glass and mirrors in a cloud of blue-white diamonds. It tumbled over completely and almost back onto its wheels then fell back toward us, falling onto its passenger side like a dead animal. Its crumpled roof stared at me as I slid to a stop. I looked up to my rear view mirror only to see a semi behind me sliding and shaking as its tires dug in with a chatting squeal, finally lurching to a stop only 10 feet behind us.

William had his phone out and looked at me. “Get up there!” he yelled reaching for his cane, but I was already half out the door and running forward.

That’s when I saw her. A dark haired girl in a pink windbreaker laying with her back on the black wet asphalt, the van’s serrated roof line crushed across her waist where she was thrown from the van’s window as it rolled over.  A man yelling he was a nurse was running up behind me. By the time I got there I could hear a woman screaming inside the van over another younger female voice crying somewhere in the crushed vehicle.

The girl couldn’t have been more than fifteen and she turned her head awkwardly to look up at me.  She was pale and her gray eyes locked onto mine as I slid to a stop and just stared dumbly, instantly knowing I could do nothing to stop what was about to happen. The nurse slid to a stop beside me and said, “Fuck” under his breath as if to keep her from hearing him. She looked at me, a mask of innocent young fear on her clean face and said, “I’m scared” in a small voice and died.

I just stared back and the nurse started cussing as the spreading pool under her painted the wet asphalt red. I staggered back to the van to find Lonnie standing close by holding his phone limp in his hand at his hip.

“Don’t think about it.” he said calmly. “Just let it go.” He knew I couldn’t  but he said it anyway.

We waited for the police to arrive sitting in our van. The nurse had covered the girl with his jacket and others had pulled the mother, and I assume younger sister, out of the van via the windshield. I felt numb and cold but my mind was clear in the worst possible way. There was no room for anything beyond the staggeringly powerful moment that had happened, it had no reason and it was final. I have never been able to rationalize the loose “these things happen for a reason.” answer that comfort some, and now I sat looking at the nurse’s blue jacket resting on the asphalt with its edges stained dark.

After a conversation with the state troopers we drove on. There should have been more procedure, more doing something. But we just drove on. After half an hour I suddenly pulled over into the emergency lane, turned on our flashers and just sat staring along the whirling white expanse of the interstate, cars hissing by us mechanically without any knowledge of why yet another car was sitting on the side of the road. Lonnie was quiet, he just smoked and waited. Trite as it was, it seemed unfair above all else. After a pause that could have been minutes or hours he spoke.

“You won’t forget this, so don’t try.” he took another drag on his cigarette and his voice seemed to come from another time. “It don’t mean a thing. It’s just death. You just keep on keepin’ on.”

I knew what he meant even as I frowned, of course it meant something. A little girl had died. But she was dead and it was just that, she was dead.  This wasn’t a sign of evil or good or anything. Dwelling on it was useless. The understanding of it helped little, but I got it eventually.  I had to just keep on, keeping on.

I spent a few weeks packing and saying goodbye to my friends in Kansas City and there was a small crowd to see my battered black Volvo off. I still see those folks once or twice a year and will be always grateful for the room when I needed it. I left feeling nervous but without a doubt as to the reasons why I was once again towing everything in a wobbling trailer through a snow storm.

In Pennsylvania I had a house to refurbish and plans for work as well as some ideas about returning to school, although that obviously did not come till later. Much later. I can’t forget the accident or the conversations over hiss of tires along the icy interstate, and I don’t try.

DON’T PARAPHRASE MY PENIS: CALLING MY SURGERY WHAT IT IS TO ME

*Originally posted on InOurWords.com*

Despite years of trying to assign meaning to it, the act of paraphrasing my penis has been a failure for society. Good. Nietzsche wrote that language assigns concepts to an object that are separate from the reality of the object itself. I understand this for a couple reasons. One, I just completed a required philosophy course and feel all smartificated and two, my body as a Trans* person is created and viewed as concept by others without any connection to my own experience or reality.  As a Trans* person who also deals with body dysphoria as well, my physical form and my attempts to minimize its affect on my mental state fit into the traditional model of ‘Get surgery, be happier’ but this is gross over simplification. It should be noted (Constantly and Loudly) that not all Trans* people have body dsyphoria. While my gender presentation varies my physical body radiates with a need to fulfill a certain biological form.

Let me establish my position. I am a white, roughly low- to middle-class Trans* female, which is to say, when I was born someone (I think it was a doctor, but my memory is fuzzy) examined me for dangly bits, found some of sufficient composition that matched a glossy picture in a guidebook and stamped MALE on my butt. Having had a few decades to mull this decision over I have lodged a formal complaint on the process and am now self identified as Trans* female. I believe that’s vague enough to be precise here. But I digress, let’s talk about “The Surgery.”

The Surgery. With these two words it’s assumed I mean SRS, GRS, or GCS; respectively Sexual Reassignment Surgery, Gender Reassignment Surgery, and Gender Confirmation Surgery. There are more names but these are currently the most common.  They seem pretty darn specific; I mean you know exactly which surgical procedure I am referencing with those big words all strung together, right? No? The fact is these ubiquitous acronyms apply to at least two, and as many as six or more, types of surgery. They also in no way distinguish between assumed male or female people which is an ironic bit of unintended gender neutrality considering their use, but anyway.

These terms are vague in two main ways; they do not specify what exact surgical procedure they reference, or what they are changing at all.  They claim to reassign Sexual stuff or confirm Gender thingies. Since a person’s sex is not something that can always be isolated to a single biological tag or design, and gender is a socially and mentally created tautology I am in serious doubt that these can be operated on with any degree of accuracy. Reading up on the various procedures, I know that none of them involve me being knocked out with aesthesia so a surgeon can then confirm or reassign my philosophical outlook on sex or gender. Leastways not in any of the handy pamphlets the docs have sent me. They are very colorful and show people smiling and playing tennis. I suck at tennis so I am excited about that part though.

SRS, GRS, or GCS are surgeries for concepts. You cannot surgically change a person’s idea of gender, by that I mean that we are what we are, and that our gender experience shifts from moment to moment. That is something beyond the reach of medical hardware. These procedures have an effect on body dsyphoria which is often concurrent with Trans* experience but not inherent to it.  These acronyms are simply meanings ascribed to medical procedures in an attempt to explain what these surgeries do for a person in relation to society. They are rarely accurate in what they do for the individual person.  They are creations of the medical and societal need to classify our sex and gender into the binary and ensure that any changes made fit into these two ubiquitous boxes. In stating so definitively that they reassign or confirm sex of gender, they create the illusion that either of these things are within the realm of the medical world to control.

It is telling that no other surgical procedures have fun euphemisms attached to them in an attempt to assign meaning. I had my tonsils out when I was a kid and they didn’t call it a “Throat Clearance Reassignment.”, they called it a Tonsillectomy. We don’t call Gastric Bypass surgery “Body Mass Confirmation” or a Cis-woman’s Breast Augmentation a “Confidence Reassignment Surgery”. While those last two surgeries are rife with social commentary there are no euphemistic titles attempting to control the meanings of the procedures.

So no, I am not getting SRS, GRS, or GCS. Those don’t exist as anything but vague concepts. I am getting a Vaginoplasty. That is exactly what it is. The name carries no meaning beyond stating exactly what it does. I am not becoming more femme, less butch or anything else. I am getting a Vaginoplasty. That’s all. Any meaning beyond that is mine to make. I cannot, of course, stop others from assigning meaning for themselves but the separation of physical form from gender is as important to me as the separation of being Trans* from body dysphoria. I will not allow my penis or vagina to be paraphrased into some vague idea of what they mean in an effort to reinforce the myth that physical form defines gender.

L- Bronte

Memory and Interpretation Signing onto Shift Change Log.

<BZZZZZZT – Crackle>

On.. ActivATE.  Hello?

Well if this thing is working again, I am both relieved and amazed.

FIRST: Massive changes were made.

SECOND: That is pretty much the understatement of the century. Like ‘There was a War, we dropped a bomb on Japan, the war stopped’. It get’s the point across but there is a lot of nuance left floating in the wind.

I will start from my personal change. Apparently I was not exempt from the shift change retrofit, I now see no reason why to think I would have been be. So I am no longer CREWLIZARD HEMINGWAY, I’m CREWLIZARD BRONTE. Or just Bronte. Personally fits me better and I don’t have strange urges to write extremely short stories about baby shoes anymore. Odd.

The point is we prepped the ship as best we could both mentally and Physically and we eventually just had to drug Larry unconscious. Strange thing, while every other crew Lizard has now been reassigned with proper female nomenclature, Larry has not been updated, and neither has his counterpart No-impulse control Harry. An investigation is ongoing.

ANYWAY. Everything up to the Facial Reconstruction retrofit in no way prepared the ship for the damage and the dramatic shift in outlook and perception of the world. The hormonal shifts were dramatic, yes, but they took time. The dressing in public was traumatic but something that we had some semblance of control over. Even the recorded emotional and social shifting was something that is plotted out and, if not followed perfectly, at least had a roadmap.

However, on June 12th the SHELBY   entered a full retrofit medical bay and they rebuilt the face.

Not a little.

Not a smidge.

They reshaped, cut down, reformed, broke and reset the facial area.

And the effect.. well it was like starting this whole Retrofitting Transition AGAIN. It cannot be overstated what the emotional effect is when the Lizards up in BRAIN command has the Eyeballs bring up an image of the SHELBY on the screens while looking in a mirror and every bit of software we have says “IMAGE NOT FOUND – RE: No Record of Ship.” I mean we KNOW it’s the SHELBY but… seriously. It’s hard to record the way the crew just sort of sat there staring at this Female class ship, bruised and slightly dazed looking back at us.

More on this later. Also there are rumors of some Video / Animated Logs being produced. No promises.

CREWLIZARD BRONTE – Signing off for the Shift Change.

What’s Old is New again.

L-Hemingway reporting. 

The log of the HMS Shelby’s slow transition from Jack to Jill class is sometimes much easier to write than others. It is hard when every Crew Lizard thinks they need a moment in the spotlight. Larry over in Self-Preservation get’s a lot of play because well, the SHELBY is in a lot of situations that create fear responses these days and things that  were safe are now being re-listed as dangerous. It’s hard to explain. But here goes.

In Memory and Interpretation (M&I) we have access to all the various sets of memories and frameworks for reacting to things. How this works is, when the ship encounters something there’s a call to the interpreters to find a previous framework for what’s happening and build a list of possible responses. It’s like the biggest flowcharts you’ve ever seen.  In Psych terms these are schemas. Ooo education.

Let me give you an example. Someone hands the SHELBY a Coke, the Interpretation Lizards then respond with a flow chart. This is a very simplified version.

The more things a ship has done the more options it gets. This is experience.

Then Command up in the brain runs these choices through the big three. Self Preservation, Logic and Emotion. The committee picks one and away we go. All of this of course taking place at Lizard Standard Speed which is microseconds for the Ship and a while for us.

Easy right? Well it had been until we started the Retrofit. A lot of things that had been routine now aren’t.

What has been changing up in the stacks is that situations are very different between Jack and Jill class vessels. A Jack class vessel can wander through a dark parking garage and is at a much lower level of anxiousness or threat. A Jill class ship, even if they are physically comparable to a male, must be more alert because the potential for danger is higher. The resulting combat isn’t the point. It’s not that we think the SHELBY is any less physically able to fight. That hasn’t changed in any real way. But the fact is the situation is more likely to occur due to an opponent’s appraisal of the SHELBY.

Well there are these subtle and weird changes to a lot of the responses these days. In the above example, if we were at a party there would be a recommendation to make sure it was our own drink, to avoid the dangers of being drugged. Not that it’s a high chance but it is there. That recommendation has always been there but was way down the list as a possibility. That path now has a slightly higher threat value.

The set of rules the ship uses to navigate and interact with the world as a Jack class involved a lot of invisible favorable assumptions. These are only noticed when we suddenly have to unbolt that set of reactions and remove them. The slow loss of “male privilege” was something we thought we understood but had no idea.

To really cover the subtle and frustrating way that the retrofit is re-writing some of the basic routines I went down to the Interpretation floor and listened in on some of the crew there. The following exchange was pretty telling.

Interpreter Lizard-Bob: Ok then, Command is requesting a reaction to a TV show. Uploading video now. Show is listed as humor and some science fiction. Main character is at a bar, hitting on a female. She isn’t into him and tells him off.

Interpreter Lizard-Sarah: We have a pretty solid pattern match here, nothing t0o surprising so far.Responses suggested are Grin Type 1, or possibly a Chuckle class 2.

L-Bob: Good to go, the character is now spraying something from an alien bottle on his face. And once again talking to the woman. Oh, I get it now. She is now climbing all over the guy due to the alien perfume thing. Let’s send this to command as a Chuckle Class 2. Over.

L-Sarah: Are you freakin’ kidding me!?

L-Bob: What? It’s an alien gizmo he sprayed on himself, obviously breaking the rule against personal use of alien stuff by the shows alien fighting group and the mean chick now wants to have sex with him. It’s funny. He shouldn’t be misusing the perfumey thing and the result is really over the top. Ha ha, you know.

L-Sarah: Look I know I am new here, but that is NOT funny. That’s rape.

L-Bob: Whaaaaaaat!? No it ain’t! He sprayed the stuff on himself and now she is all…

L-Sarah: What if he had sprayed it in her drink? What’s your flow chart tell ya then Sport?

L-Bob: *Looking at a few charts* That’s a “Bad Thing”. Not funny at all.

L-Sarah: So how the hell is it funny when the same thing happens when he’s spraying it on himself? She is still chemically drugged to have sex when she didn’t want to.

L-Bob:Umm damn, sorry didn’t see the retrofit note. That used to be funny. Why was that  ever funny? It’s a joke based on the idea that date rape is funny. Not the event, but the actual concept. How the hell is that right? We didn’t even have a chart for that apparently. Ok, I’m recommending Pissed Off Class 4 with a high chance of Indignant Outrage type 3. This looks to have a slow burn and we are seeing a lot of cross pollination into other subjects. Jokes about Rape Culture sub-category is now listed as a Class 1 Toxic zone. I repeat, that crap just isn’t funny.

L-Sarah: Bingo.

[L-Hemingway: Editors note. At this point Bob was renamed Brenda and issued a wig. I think I’m exempt from the re-naming, but if you see someone editing this log later named L-Bronte, well that’s probably me.]


SHELBY’s Log:

            A lot of things have been creeping into view as my transition progresses. I had thought the biggest differences would be between the male social setting I knew and the alien strangeness of being a transgendered female. It was the gulf between these two vastly different worlds that I was ready to explore and absorb. But I didn’t have to look that far at all. As soon  as I stepped out of the male persona and moved about in public I began to see things differently. Now this is obviously going to happen. You put on some make up, trot out to get some food and of course the environment is going to feel different to you. Not necessarily good or bad, but certainly different. But it was all the things I had walked through and been a part of that I never noticed that shock me. Not the things focused on being trans, not really. It’s the thousand little things that swirl about the edge of a females vision everyday that a male never sees simply because he doesn’t have to.

I used to hear the words Rape-Culture and I will shamefully admit that mentally there was some eye-rolling and that sort of stuff was instantly shelved under Problems / Female / Probably Feminist Complaining. I didn’t think it was inconsequential, I just assumed it was something that was more rhetoric than reality. And now things have changed. Not because I am having some egalitarian epiphany but because I can SEE it now. This isn’t to say that as a male I was walking along with my eyes closed happily ignoring things. Ignoring something implies active knowledge of it, and then purposely pretending it doesn’t exist. This sort of thing literally never came up because it simply wasn’t in the programming to show up as a problem. Our environment is a constant reinforcement of what we have always believed. We try to understand  new problems and attempt to put ourselves in other’s shoes to gain empathy or insight but it is often impossible. Not having a true frame of reference for the other, whoever they are, makes fixing an invisible problem much more difficult. We need that frame of reference removed, or exposed to us in a new way, to make us see things more clearly.

It’s like asking a fish what the water is doing for them. The fish thinks you’re crazy because it has no idea what you mean; it’s lived in water all its life and is unaware of its influence. However take that fish out of water and they will suddenly have some strong opinions on what the water had been doing for them and probably make a lot of noise about it.

Message from the SHELBY.

START LOG: 043011

L-Hemingway Reporting: Addendum

(At this point I have been notified that the SHELBYwill be making some entries itself. Please know the communication and opinions expressed by the ship as a whole are not endorsed or approved by the specific Neural Lizard crews of the HMS SHELBY)

“Certainty and Fear”

Hello, this is Shelby, not the SHELBY, as I am referred to when the blogs are coming from the fictional Neural lizards in my head. (L-Hemingway edit: We are not fictional.)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks leading up to the Easter weekend meeting.

I am happy to announce that both my fiancé and myself have survived and have come through the ordeal more devoted to each other and with greater confidence in our lives and our choices. So yay for that. Needless to say it’s a long story so I’ll sum it up for those of you out there. They came, they pretended I did not exist, everyone was very tense, a great Salmon was made and a butter sauce was ignored, they left. There you go.

Lately my life has been defined by a constant low level of fear. It is sometimes focused on particular things such as going out dressed up and worrying that I look like a wreck, or on far more vague things like if I am doing the right thing here.

The more vague things are the hardest ones to deal with because the decision doesn’t have an immediate way of being resolved. Also they are the most internal. As I go through this shift change the greatest part of it isn’t the physical changes. Those are easy. Your body does it all automatically. (L-Hemingway Edit: Easy!? Tell that to the guys in the Endocrine system.)

Stop that.

(L-Hemingway edit: Fine.)

Anyway. The point is that it’s automatic. You take a pill, or inject a drug and it happens. Why you do these things is the big question. The idea that anyone just decides one day that ‘Hey I want to live in fear, limit my access to things and endanger myself in comparison to the general public.’ is insane. This is a huge process and I was naive when I thought that once I had begun, this course of action would just be all forward looking.

It’s not.

I recently watched a video of a friend who just finished her SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery), you know, the BIG one. She stated that she was so at peace and the tiny doubts had fled.

I was surprised at this. I thought she had no doubts at all. I suppose that’s a goofy way to have thought about it but I did. Most of the other Trangendered people I have spoken with seem to have some defining moment that stands out like a three story neon pink arrow pointing to a sign that says “You are female.”

I don’t have that. I have a cardboard square tacked up to a lesser part of my cerebellum that reads “Have you seen this girl?” and all the brain lizards walk by it and look for her as they go about their days.

(L-Hemingway edit: Told you we exist)

Get out of my analogy. (L-Hemingway edit: That… would be impossible.)

The point is I am always in doubt, in a state of possible confusion and definitely in a state of low grade fear.

So why do this? Good question. Basically one day during a rather casual conversation I began thinking about the long list of masculine traits I have, or think I should have. First was the way I spoke, and I remembered the year I changed that to blend better with the males I was with. Then I thoughts about the hyper-vigilant way I was in school when I was younger and I studied other guys movements specifically to avoid ‘moving’ in such a way as to be seen as ‘wrong or swishy’. Then I thought of another and another and things just fell apart. It is actually hard to describe.

(L-Larry edit: I can describe it! PANDEMONIUM!)

Shut up Larry.

But the biggest part of it wasn’t realizing these things, it was realizing how authentic I felt when I let them go. It was the lack of this masculine ‘overlay’ that suddenly freed my brain. I literally changed overnight. Things I had liked were now a turn off. Not in passing but drastically and completely. I was happy. Which was a pretty new thing.

Am I happy now? Yes. Does that mean I am without a care in the world?

(L-Larry Edit: Hell no!)

Shut up Larry.

Wait, no he’s right on that one. Between public attacks, possible discrimination and the simple idea of not doing this right I am a wreck a lot of the time. But behind it all there is a strange sense of certainty. Does that help most of the time? I don’t think so, but the one thing it’s doesn’t allow is retreating. For the first time in my life I have something internal that is to dear to me to discard when it gets difficult to handle. I am lucky to have a perfect partner and a fantastic circle of friends who support me. The one person I am most worried about not paying attention to is myself. Which tends to result in a lot of talking to myself.

(L-Hemingway edit: There’s a shock.)

Shut up Hemingway.