October 11, 2013

National Coming Out Day 2013

"Coming Out" is a tricky and complicated concept. 

As a transwoman, I had one big honking "coming out" - as every single person in my world got the news that I was changing my name and my gender, back in 2002. Family, friends, relations, acquaintances, clients, peers, government entities, creditors, the woman at the coffeeshop, you name it. Not even the smallest corner of a closet. I doubt any GLB person has that sort of requirement to "come out".

That was over ten years ago. And in the ensuing years, it's been tempting, and easy, to slide back into the closet.

Part of that is privilege - I've been able (by dint of genetics, ability to access and afford medical transition, and my choices regarding presentation and behavior) to move on with my life. My attitude has been that "trans" is more of a condition than an identity - one that I was fortunate enough to be able to address, and well, let's move on. So, as a cancer survivor might choose not to advertise that except in select cases, or a scoliosis survivor might choose to forget the painful back brace or the embarrassing shoes of her youth, my transition has faded into the past.

I've also got an uneasy relationship with my trans history, and with the trans community. Back in 2006, I heard Nuala O'Faolain speak of "...setting ones condition in amber..." and I had no desire or need to continue to live in the pathology of gender dysphoria by continuing to tell that story, to live in that pain. It's been my experience that folks will forget that you are trans if you do not keep reminding them, and I felt (and still do, to some extent) that a continued insistence on a trans identity (and even more so, the use of the term and concept of "cisgender", which I generally avoid) creates a wall of difference or a barrier between oneself and the rest of the world. There's a trans homeland or community which serves many folks, both as a transitional space as well as a permanent community for those unable to move through the world comfortably, but my world is much broader than that. And I find a lot of the focus on victimization and suicide of the trans activist community to be not my experience, and more than a little self defeating if not outright self-fulfilling. So yeah, I'm trans. But you won't find me at Day of Remembrance or testifying.

And it's not like I've been all stealthy - most of my close friends know my history, I'm not shy about sharing it when appropriate or when asked, and a lot of the "must efface every single scrap of evidence that I was ever a different gender" energy of the trans community (including birth certificates) drives me bonkers. If I ever need my birth certificate for anything (and I rarely do) I pull out my male one and tell the story. Whatever. Deal. 

And then there is orientation. It's all highly theoretical, since I rarely date and even more rarely mate, but the closet thing I have to an orientation is bi.

Part of that is external - my general "type" is women along the butch / masculine spectrum, and occasionally those women choose to transition, and I love them none the less when they do. So to honor their male gender identity, I have to broaden my orientation a bit.

And although I've not dated non-trans men, I've come to see gender as a pretty fungible and fluid concept - and I suspect there might be a guy out there who could get under my skin intellectually, emotionally, physically, etc. But the reality is that queer men and trans admirers generally want a partner with male anatomy (me no gots, sorry), straight men generally have a pretty strong streak of homophobia that precludes dating a transwoman (regardless of anatomy) - so the odds of me showing up to the prom with a dude are pretty thin.

Let's face it, the odds of me showing up to the prom with a date of any gender or orientation are pretty slim. I've spent the past decade being pretty quiet about my orientation and history, and I've also spent a lot of those years unattached and flying solo.

Perhaps "coming out" is a bit of a Hail Mary pass because being kind of invisible has not really served me in terms of finding friends, lovers, partners, community. It is, however, equally likely given my present state (I happen to be in the midst of a cloud of misanthropy and isolation) that "coming out" is just one more way of pushing folks away, of "othering" myself, and of crawling deeper into my cave.

Like I said, coming out - it's complicated. 

October 09, 2013

A Lifetime of Geekery

I spent the evening sorting through nearly 20 years of self employed electrical engineer / earnest do-it-yourself junk. I've been involved in several design / development projects that have resulted in a pile of supplies; along with a few dozen field service situations requiring little baggies of spare parts, hardware, fuses, etc. And while I've purged some of the larger piles and boxes over the years, there was still a lot of stuff collecting dust.

Here's the short list:

* Emptied a jam-packed plastic storage bin filled with drill bits and drivers, and moved those into two separate Dewalt plastic cases specifically designed for the purpose - one now labelled DRILLS and the other labeled DRIVERS.

* Combined electrical supplies (box fitting, wire nuts, etc.) that had gathered in three places (a home kit, a field service kit, and a miscellaneous stuff kit) into a single kit. I'm not doing much work traveling anymore and when I do I am not doing a lot of wiring - so no need for all these supplies.

* Rounded up all the ty-wraps (and affiliated cable fastening devices) in my life, sorted by size and color, and put into two plastic bins.

* Sorted all the screws, anchors, bolts, washers, nuts, etc. into two plastic bins.

* Emptied a fishing tackle box that had collected a lot of odds and ends - put the odds and ends into more appropriate places, and moved all my soldering and wiring supplies into the box. Who knew I had a professional wire stripping gun?

* Emptied a Craftsman tool box, ready for my loose and "unable to hang on the peg board" tools and supplies.


Feels good to have things more organized and to cut down on the "loose shit floating around" factor in my basement, which serves as my office, my laundry, and my tool / utility storage area.

October 03, 2013

LED Lamps / Bulbs

At the CT Folk Fest in September, I picked up (for $10) a "green lighting box" that contained a small desk lamp, six CFL lamps, a night light, and an LED lamp. The total was a bargain, but I was most interested in the LED lamp. I installed it in my bedside table lamp where its fast turn-on and brighter light was a welcome improvement over CFL.

Earlier this year, I installed a new pendant lamp in my kitchen. Unfortunately, the shades I chose (which are a lovely color) are a bit dark / dim, so the fixture does not throw a lot of light. I wanted the fixture to be dimmable, so used incandescent bulbs, and although the fixture is rated for 60W bulbs, it gets warm. So between the "180W is a lot of juice" concern, the limited light, and the warmish fixture / globes, I was not using the light much.

PERFECT opportunity to try out LED lamps - I picked up three "12W= 60W equivalent" bulbs that have worked out perfectly. The bulbs are dimmable (standard dimmer), they seem brighter than the incandescent bulbs (more light directed down and out, less towards the base), and the fixtures / globes now run cool to the touch. I feel much better about leaving these lights on - making the kitchen warmer and more welcoming.

So - LED bulbs for the win! I'm not going to replace my CFL's quickly or globally, but the LED technology seems like a winner from where I sit!

Big Music Week

By whatever vagaries of calendars and scheduling, this is turning out to be a big music week for me.

Sunday, my Guinea Pigs played at Hartford Hodge Podge. Always a fun gig, and we got a sunny and warm day (last year it was COLD)

Tuesday, a local friend from the yoga / spiritual communities organized a house concert (that moved to the HartBeat Ensemble's new carriage house theater) with Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, two Falcon Ridge Folk Festival showcase alums (circa 2008) - was a lovely, intimate experience. I bought Danny's album "Little Grey Sheep" back in 2008, and added "Man of Many Moons" this week. It was really a "Danny" gig (Carrie is his fiancee and was in town for something else, so she backed him up and played a few of her own) but I'd love to see Carrie in a featured performance someday.

Bonus, one of my regular yoga students is the Co-Artistic Director & Education Coordinator at HartBeat. I need to keep that organization in my cultural sights going forward!

Friday, CT Folk is featuring the Boxcar Lillies - 2013 FRFF Showcasers (and good enough to earn the coveted "Jude buys your CD" prize) - a trio of women along the lines of Red Molly. Yes, please!

And Saturday, heading out to Southbury for the FRFF Crew Chief meeting and a follow-up concert with Wooden Nickel.

More music, more music!

Bigger != Better

An addendum to the "cutting the cable" project.

I found a larger (and presumably better) indoor / outdoor antenna at MCM Electronics. Dimensions: 21.5” (H) x 10.5” (W) x 4.5” (D), 40 db signal amplifier. It ought to (I assumed) meet or exceed the performance of the small indoor antenna (like a thick plastic sheet of paper) I am presently using.

Indoor / Outdoor UHF/VHF/FM HDTV Amplified Antenna
MCM Part #: 30-2455  |  Stellar Labs Part #: 30-2455

Wrong! After mounting the device to the same place (upper floor, facing south to grab WTNH-8), I found my digital reception degraded, both as a passive device and with the signal amplifier. I could not get WTNH-8 at all with the new antenna, and the Ion affiliate (Channel 26) was also gone.

So the old small antenna is back in place (attached to the outside of a window using 3M velcro knock-off strips), this one is going back in the box and either being returned or fobbed off on Craigslist.

Live and learn.