Weekend preparations

This weekend, D is coming to visit, and I’m nervous about it.

I’ll have to share my tiny room with another person, to deal with someone else’s stuff cluttering the floor, someone else’s smell permeating the air (okay, this is not an issue with most people, this is just an issue with D), someone leaving bread crumbs and footprints and other dirt on my floor, someone breaking unwritten and unspoken rules I keep to about where to put and keep things and how to handle them. I’ll have to diverge from my usual routines and mold my life around him in some ways, to consider someone else’s needs, to deal with the uncertainty and spontaneity that automatically comes with being around another person (with some exceptions – I never feel that way around my father, curiously). I’ll have to cope with being observed almost constantly, and with the inhibitions that inevitably brings: about food, movements, how aware I am of myself and how much I keep in control of my face and gestures and actions. I’ll have to cope with the increased amount of noise – breathing and chewing and moving and burping.

And there will be touching. Given our less-than-stellar record at good consent practice, I’m also nervous about that. There will be situations I won’t be able to escape – a narrow mattress to share, mostly (put on the floor where it doesn’t belong, because my bunk bed doesn’t handle our combined weight too well, getting dirty and being in the way), and there will be many situations in which I’ll technically be able to escape but might not be able to in practice.

It seems so easy in my imagination – just say “stop”, or “not right now”, or “no hugging please”, or “I need a bit of breathing space”. But in reality, so much happens so fast and so often, and before I even find my voice my head is already filling up with fuzzy white cotton and pushing through all of it to get the words out seems like so much work and isn’t it much easier to just wait until it passes on its own?

It may be easier, but it’s not right. I am an important person in this world, too. My desire not to be hugged is no less important than his desire to hug me, and standing up for myself is no less important and valuable than standing up for someone else. I need to have my own back, here – I need to be the voice speaking out for the voiceless part of me.

And I know that this will benefit me, benefit him, benefit our relationship, make this weekend a vastly more enjoyable experience, pave the way for future equally nice or even better visits, build my interpersonal skills, develop my character in the way I want it to develop, and improve my mental health.

There are good things I want to happen this weekend. I want us to go swimming. I want us to have food and fun with friends. I want to practice driving (and drive without another person sitting at another brake for the first time, which is scary but exciting). And I want to relax during all those things, to breathe easy and speak freely and have a clear head devoid of any cotton clouds, to feel safe in the knowledge that if anything I don’t want happens, I will speak up for myself as clearly and as often as needed, and it will stop happening.

And dammit, I will make this happen.

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Technology solutions

I’m very, very glad that I wrote yesterday’s post (well, the post I wrote yesterday and posted today shortly before this one), because today I finally got the call from the repair shop guy: the problem with the cooling fan could indeed be solved with a good cleaning, but the hard drive was defective. They could replace it with a new one, and possibly turn it into an external hard drive (saving still works fine, but booting does not) with all my data saved, for about € 130-170 depending on what size I wanted the new hard drive to be.

If I hadn’t spent as much time navel-gazing about my feelings regarding my laptop and their causes as I did while writing the blog post, I would have said yes. As it was, I told them I wasn’t sure it was worth it, and that I’d think about it and either call them back or come get my laptop as it was.

I texted my father asking for his opinion, and my girlfriend M to give her the update. My father wrote back that my laptop might have reached the end of its natural life span and offered to pay for a replacement, and M offered me to simply keep hers, since she didn’t need it and I obviously needed a laptop.

So I ended up spending most of my day getting my old laptop back from the repair shop and customizing the new one, or rather watching M do it – she came by after work (with vegetable sushi!) specifically to see me and help my wobbly first steps into the Linux world.

Oh yeah, that is also a thing that happened. I’m on Linux now. It’s a weird feeling – on the one hand, I feel pretty helpless, because all of the settings and tools and possible tweaks are foreign territory, on the other it doesn’t feel all that much different: I still use many of the same programs, and the replacements for the Windows-specific ones don’t seem all that different.

And WordPress notifications actually work now! Until now, clicking the bell just ended in an eternal loading wheel, but now I can actually see people’s reactions and respond to them inline. Suddenly this whole platform has become a lot more usable!

Still need to import all my data, though, and make some further tweaks, and import all my data (which might be a good opportunity to sort through at least some of it and throw out some old stuff I really don’t need anymore) so this post is going to stay short.

Technology trouble

You may or may not have noticed that I did not post yesterday. Let it be known that this is not due to laziness on my part – I did in fact write a blog post – but to unfortunate circumstances.

My trusted and beloved laptop warned me two days ago that its cooling fan was not working correctly, and that continued usage could lead to unexpected shutdowns, data loss, and system damage. While it bravely soldiered on when I demanded it (and even switched on the cooling fan, although with more noise than usual), the warning got me worried enough to take it to a repair shop the following day.

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A Tale of Two Nipples

When I had top surgery, my nipples were left untouched. The plastic surgeon had measured their width during the pre-examination, concluded that they were “perfectly good male nipples” already, and moved on to considering and discussing the rest of the surgery.

I was irrationally proud of my nipples for the rest of the day, and also half-laughing and half-crying about the irony of the whole nipple situation.

If I had posted a topless picture of myself on Facebook prior to my transition, it would have been removed for the “female” nipples. And yet a topless picture of myself after top surgery would contain the very same nipples, unchanged and untouched, and be allowed to stay.
And it’s not like the flesh around them was the true problem – I could have posted a picture of the whole boobs prior to top surgery or even hormones with nothing censored but the nipple and gotten away with it. Hell, in and around June 2015, there was a whole movement of women posting topless pictures with “male” nipples photoshopped over theirs – there’s not much to be found on how that turned out, and it seems like pictures with more subtle photoshops were removed and pictures with more obvious photoshops allowed to stay, but if I photoshopped my post-surgery, officially “male” nipples over my pre-surgery, officially “female” nipples, it would be the exact same nipple. (Hence the quotes. The only gendered thing about them is the gender of the person they belong to, and that is male and has been since before any kind of transition. I was reminded of the whole story today when my girlfriend sent me a link to this article about an Instagram account which posts close-ups of nipples without a gender label attached – so far, a few pictures have been removed by Instagram’s censorship algorithm, and – surprise, surprise – some of the censored nipples were attached to men.)

And the official designation is a whole different, equally ridiculous story: in Austria, legal gender can be changed without any surgeries.
I could have made myself a Facebook account in perfect alignment with my official name and gender before I ever even started HRT, posted a topless picture of myself, and given Facebook official, legal proof of my maleness. And then leaned back and enjoyed the chaos I’d caused.
I even thought about doing it, or posting a progression picture including pre- and post-surgery pictures at least (with the same set of nipples, naturally), but I don’t actually use my legal name on Facebook, really don’t want to (let alone give them official proof of my identity), and also feel quite uncomfortable with the notion of having topless pictures of myself on social media, let alone seeing them spread around.

Fortunately, other trans people are less inhibited: in September 2015, Courtney Demone started posting topless pictures of herself throughout hormone therapy on Facebook and Instagram, challenging them to decide when her chest (with largely unchanged nipples) was sufficiently female to fall prey to censorship.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find out what became of her project (occasionally distracted by pictures and videos of her extremely cute dog, which I had to share with you), but most of the content and sites associated with it have been removed (or repurposed) completely, and while she repeatedly mentions plans to write follow-up posts, it hasn’t happened so far. I did find this lengthy interview on YouTube, though – I’ll probably watch it tomorrow (for lack of time today), but according to the description, Facebook and Instagram started censoring her pictures a couple of months into the process – including her “before” pictures. Apparently, her nipples retroactively became female in their eyes. (Wonder how that would work for mine!)

(Also, did you know trans women can breastfeed? I did not!)

Update: she talks about how pictures of trans men are handled from 30:00 onwards, and also about an initiative by women who have had mastectomies – apparently, topless pictures of people with breasts (regardless of their gender) and women (regardless of whether they have breasts) get censored, although the initiative’s account was reinstated after public outrage.
Guess the next step is to get some non-women with ambiguous chests and possibly some cis men with gynecomastia for further exploration/messing with censors!

On aches and people

About four years ago, I started getting a lot of headaches. The first twinges usually started in the afternoon, every heartbeat pulsing painfully in my temples. By late evening, I’d be slumped over in my desk chair, keeping as still as humanly possible, gingerly holding my head at whatever angle was the least painful, while my eyes felt ready to explode from the pressure in my head.

In early fall, I moved, transporting my stuff piece by piece via backpacks and bags through public transport, and the headaches were daily. By then, I knew they’d only get worse as the day progressed, and even sleep would only bring temporary relief until the whole cycle started over again the next day. Eventually, as I stood on the tramway hanging my head and desperately trying to keep as motionless as possible despite the train’s movement, knowing this was only the beginning, a friend offered me some painkillers.

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A shitty challenge post

Yesterday, I started my homemade “twenty posts in twenty days” challenge. Today, I got up pretty late, ate breakfast, browsed the internet, talked and made plans with friends, did some housework, browsed some more, took care of some organizational stuff for the shared flat I live in, worked out, and then idly researched possible reasons for elbow pains during plank position while drinking some Joylent (a nutritionally complete shake, like Soylent, but distributed in Europe).

I did not find an answer on my elbow pain issue, but instead discovered that I might be doing handstand practice wrong, and had just started looking into that when I realized with a start that I had to leave in about half an hour, still had to pack the stuff I’d need to sleep over at my partner’s place as planned, and had yet to write today’s blog post. I quickly finished my shake and rinsed out the shaker, and remembered that I had planned to take out the overflowing trash as well, and wasn’t that more important than a self-imposed challenge? Shouldn’t I rather spend my time finding out more about potentially health-damaging mistakes in my workout routine than writing a hurried, bad blog post? Flunking the challenge on day two would have been quite humiliating as well, though, so here I am, typing away about nothing in particular because I cannot for the life of me think of a better topic to tackle in the twenty minutes I have left (and growling about connectivity issues that don’t help either).

I’ll just leave the handstand page open in a separate tab until I get back tomorrow. It will keep until then – tomorrow is rest day anyway, so there’s really not much urgency here. (And if it is a flexibility issue, resolving it will take many days of stretching anyway.)
Actually, this seems like quite a healthy mindset to adopt for a few other issues as well: take one step at a time, and don’t worry so much about all the steps you’re not taking. Better to step than to freeze like a deer in headlights in the face of all the possible choices. Better to just make a choice than to spend much time and anguish about the optimal ranking of choices, at least if it’s not a horribly important choice. (And this definitely isn’t.)
Not that these are original thoughts, or not terribly trivial. Ah well, this is what you get in shitty blog posts!
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have stuff to pack and trash to take out.

(Update: I’m really having handstand trouble – my shoulders don’t allow me to lift my arms as far above my head as they need to. Will incorporate some targeted stretches into my routine and see how it goes. Still found nothing on elbow pain during planking, but will change to forearm planks – the core workout stays the same, and I do push-ups for my arms anyway.)