Thursday, September 20, 2018

Morning Music Moods

Last Wednesday,September 12, 2018 the lead guitarist in my KISS tribute band posted a musical teaser of him playing an excerpt of one of our covers for our upcoming show at Minnesota Music Cafe in St. Paul, Minnesota. It looked like such a fun and easy enough thing to do: Set the video in selfie mode then play a brief excerpt - I felt obliged to respond, playing and singing my part from the same section of the song.
Xenia with her homemade Oxymoronic Fretless Precision Frankenstein-Bass
Well, since then I became inspired to post my own excerpts of some of my favorite bassists- the ones who inspired me when I was first learning the instrument. So Here I have collected all of my video excerpts in one place. [* When looking at the dates of my musical excerpts, please keep in mind I started playing bass in October 1983,
My 8th grade band director gave me Carol Kaye's How to Play Electric Bass and Jaco Pastorius Invitation and say, "Learn this!" It would be another 22 years before YouTube was launched, and MTV never showed bands we liked, so like many Gen X self taught bassists from northeastern Iowa, we had to learn on our own swapping bootleg mix tapes,singing bass lines along to sections of LPs over and over and over and over again, or learning riffs from a friend of a friend whose cousin taught him how to kinda play it. I was also fortunate that I could read music even though not much existed in the way of easily available transcriptions. But since I heard Randy Rhoads was studying classical, I started looking through my Dad's organ books to play Bach and fine tuned my bass playing by using Classical guitar technique.
So this is the music, the groove that was already in my blood. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) was the number one song in the US they day I was born. 
In fact you might consider this project an ethnography of a Generation X trans woman from rural Iowa. ]

9/12/18 - Gene Simmons (KISS) - Shout it Out Loud (1976)
9/13/18 - John Entwistle (The Who) - Heaven and Hell (1970)
9/14/18 - Jack Bruce (Cream) - White Room (1968)
9/15/18 - John Deacon (Queen) - Bicycle Race (1978)
9/16/18 - Geddy Lee (Rush) - By-Tor and the Snowdog (1975)
9/17/18 - Paul McCartney (The Beatles) - Lovely Rita (1967)
9/18/18 - John Wetton (King Crimson) - The Great Deceiver (1974)
* 9/18/18 (Tuesday Two-fer) - Geddy Lee (Rush) - that cool bass riff in La Villa Strangiato (1978)
9/19/18 - Nathan Watts (Stevie Wonder) - I Wish (1976)
9/20/18 - Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) - Invaders (1982)
* 9/21/18 - Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) - Mother Goose (1971) - playing acoustic guitar
* 9/22/18 - Paul McCartney (The Beatles / Harrison) - Something (1969) - recorded October 2017
* 9/23/18 - Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) - Into White (1970) - playing acoustic recorded January 2018
9/24/18 - JS Bach, Coffee Cantata BWV 21, - Madchen, die von harten Sinnen (1735?)

Yes, I am a native Iowan.  You can tell by my shirt, we are afterall known as the Great Potato State ;) 
Music sounds better on vinyl because the Music was better ;)
Xenia circa 1981/2

Monday, August 27, 2018

Discovery and Revelation

Nearly 15th months have passed since she was killed, 14 months since I began HRT, and nearly 9 months since I revealed to the world who I have always really been. Now it has only been 9 days since I emerged with what I know in myself to be a renewed spirit, and really only a few days since I admitted to myself yet another facet of who I am. 
A glade in Reservoir Woods in Roseville, Minnesota
None of this would ever have happened had I not been determined to cast off Fear. Fear of rejection, of perceived blasphemy which is really a fear of disturbing others comfortable norms and memories, and fear of breaking hearts. Even more difficult was that as I do not consider myself on the whole a person who fears, I found myself protecting the fears of others instead of encouraging them to confront, overcome them. By protecting and enabling fears I had done a grave disservice.

In all cases, it is Fear which prevents knowledge, discovery, inquiry, Love and Growth. In myself, fear inhibited my feeling genuine emotion. Every reaction I ever experienced was filtered. In every human interaction I ever had this filter prevented me from engaging in meaningful conversation with everyone. So long as I remained closeted I could never grow. And had it not been for the encouragement of certain messengers of self-Love early in my coming out, and particularly the one who encouraged me to focus decluttering, letting go of material and emotional waste, to direct my attention to finally focus on loving myself so that I can bring out the independent woman I am, I would still be gripped with fear-- placating the cis-het-christian privileged majority view. I never would have allowed myself to simply learn to discover what I really like, what I have discovered about myself.

One thing I began to notice back in April, I was beginning to discern meaning in words.. I have always regretted my inability to hear lyric whether sung, rapped, or spoken. For the first time I was moved by poetry - so much so that I started to tear up, and desired an empathetic touch. 

9 days ago, I was resolved to engage in face-to-face conversation, not necessarily with people who have been and remain my confidants, but with those friends and acquaintances whom I have always perceived as genuine good spirits. It began when I got dressed up and went to Mpls to hear some solo artist friends. I was pretty certain I was going to be alone at a table taking in the music - which was great. Then another musician friend came in and he sat with me, and while I've known him for over 20 years, this was actually the first time since I have known him that I felt I could just converse without the filtering fear.
Caught alone with the Doritos!

From this experience, I went to other public gatherings, speaking with others, and then I had a few lunch hour / coffees with those I had kinda known for over 20 years (some since college) and most recently a dinner (okay the dinner was with one of my confidants and her husband). With every conversation these friends remarked on how they felt they were meeting me for the first time. That before I came out, there was a guarded sense between us. It is no longer there.I am grateful and hopeful for growth in these renewed friendships.

I am still on my soul journey and anticipate more breakthroughs, milestones. But what I can say confidently right now is that I know why I remained closeted for so long, but had I known what living is really like, that the world is full of myriad tints and colors of emotion, I would never have tried so hard to pretend to be a man... I would never have subjected myself to the horror, that is "conversion therapy" - a discredited practice advocated by the current GOP candidate for Minnesota Attorney General. This practice is indeed torture inflicted on the vulnerable to weaken their self-worth to the point of committing suicide -- and making them compliant to fear of a privileged pious class of modern day pharisees. 

Knowing what I know now, I understand why women like me want to stay closeted, but the world is so much better, relationships are more meaningful when you allow yourself to live. 
As for me, I am on continuing on my soul journey.

Love, Authenticity, and Strength
Late July Selfie in Iowa City

Monday, June 18, 2018

Why I Love Being an Electric Bassist

I have been playing Electric Bass since October 1983 nearly 35 years, and there are a lot of jokes about bass players being, "failed guitarists" - or the weakest and therefore most expendable member of the band while the lead guitarist and drummer get all of the attention.

In reality, The Bass RUNS the band, whether the other band members / audience know it or not. Popular music forms we take for granted originate with the invention of Opera through the influence of theory and practice the 16th Century lutenist & Experimental scientist, Vincenzo Galilei (Galileo's dad). The essential structure of this form (monody) has 2 voices at work, The Melody and the Bass. -- everything, all other instruments grow from there.

We should all have a good idea about the melody, that’s the part which carries the lyrics - but let me talk more about what the bass does - as musicians understand the bass.

The Bass establishes the structure and groove of the music. It is both:
the PRIMARY RHYTHM instrument -- setting tempo, meter articulation with a solid prep-beats and down beats
the PRIMARY HARMONY instrument -- harmony is built from the bottom up (i.e. a root position C major chord is named after the Bass pitch "C". Furthermore All of the instruments tune to the bass.
The Bass thus provides the single focal point in which all instruments in an ensemble lock in. It is the conductor.
[e.g. * When I play in orchestras, I keep one eye on the conductor as I represent the sonic representation of their baton. When I am on stage, I keep an ear on everyone. The drummer locks in with me and we create a pocket so that other instruments don't get lost. We keep the groove going steady on because that groove subliminally and overtly overpowers anything the higher pitched instruments are doing. Therefore they need to listen to the bass if they are off, cause I WILL NOT BUDGE as the groove is far too important. -- I will only change in a desperate situation such as if its clear they higher pitched instruments are totally lost ---or just don't get it (or are stubborn) ** A bass in the hands of a clumsy performer, the sonic space in the venue gets easily cluttered and the whole band suffers as if the sound engineer pressed the "suck" button.]
Functional Harmony is built upon the Bass. The Bass directs the harmony. - If the guitarist, keyboardist, horns and vocalists are outlining a C major chord with the pitches C-E-G; The bass can change the character. Making it strong and stable by playing a C; propel it forward by playing an E; or destabilize it by playing a G 
The Bass- can change the meaning entirely by playing, for instance and A - which changes the harmony into an A minor 7. -- And this is just the start… 
I take my responsibility as Bassist very seriously. For I am endowed with the awesome power of directing tempo, rhythm, meter, harmony , structure and Groove.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Authenticity, Love, and Strength

Authenticity, Love, and Strength goes a long way.

I am not going to worry about those who call me a "confused man" or an "unfit parent" who endangers children blah blah blah (I don't share a lot of this crap publicly-- but I do get it from time to time) -- or like that recent video making the rounds yesterday of a California Republican candidate who filmed herself following a woman who is transgender into the restroom and harassed her. Or the propaganda from groups like the Minnesota Family Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family or those who call themselves TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists)-- Because it is clear to everyone with a heart who acts with empathy that no one involved with those groups are interested in Truth, Authenticity, Love. All they really want is an excuse to enforce their own bigotry - that's what it comes down to. When schools bring in field Experts for people to learn the real truth of what it is to be transgender, and the Minneosta Family Council will ignore that opportunity for education. Instead they will counter and bring in a Lawyer to help them "defend their religious freedom" / or they will find that one person who claims they were "formerly trans" but de-transitioned with the help of their interpretation of Gods plan. --- In reality it is clear none of them are interested in learning Truth or promoting Love, or acting for the good of community. Their actions are why Jesus was so pissed off at the Pharisees who claimed piety to Law over Love; or Socrates with the Sophists and the Athenian Elites - so caught up in defense of their ignorance and bigotry they could not pursue Truth.

When it comes to Truth, we trust the objective peer-reviewed research of professional sciences. Those who spend their entire careers in rigorous specialized study of medicine and psychiatry.  And they are the ones who confirm that I am indeed female. So the opinions espoused by those above mentioned groups (MFC, ADF, FoF, TERFs) and other like minded individuals, unqualified. They are empty of any substantive understanding of biology. For they haven't even begun to scratch the surface of understanding.  I know that they provoke feelings of anger in me through their emotionally charged insistence that I am a confused man, but in the end, it does my soul no good to respond in anger. 
ANYWAY, I wanted to talk about something else today.  On those days I feel particularly ugly and dysphoric because I developed male secondary sex characteristics - enduring the alienation, isolation, and unnatural process of "male puberty" when all of the other girls were experiencing female puberty. [*experiencing what its like to be that girl exposed to boys in locker rooms that seems to be the crux of the anti-trans bathroom bills. Where was the Minnesota Family Council defending me from this horror?!? - again its because they lack Love they cannot see Truth.]

Xenia without make-up
I have decided to combat those negative feelings by taking them head-on -- I post videos and pictures of me - not just of those which I feel good about, but like the one the other day of me jamming for the fk of it on bass. I put on make-up to try and alleviate those male looking features and ended up feeling even more ugly - So I thought to myself dammit, I can either sulk and feel dejected or I can simply go out in public.

This is my nature, It is how I functioned and continue to function in the aftermath of Krista's death. Anyone who has been in conversation with me when I bring her up, has experienced me having to pause, tear up and just start to cry before I can regain composure and continue. But that is what I do.

I have the harsh blizzard wind stinging my body, but I'll be damned if I let it destroy my soul and zap my confidence and my full human experience. 

Last week when I went in for a professional bra fitting, I was at first not wanting to go alone. I had a very good and empathetic cisgender friend offer to make the call and come with me. I was grateful, but I ultimately decided, this is something I must do for myself. So I made the call, asked the questions, set up my appointment and went down for my fitting. Even then, I had some dysphoria creep in, but the woman who was helping me, really set me at ease. She only saw me as a woman.

What those who lack empathy will never get, never be able to see, is that despite what they impose, and despite the stress I have already experienced every second of every day of my life feeling unnatural and uncomfortable in a body which was infected by male secondary sex characteristics.
Is that I am and have always been female. I am not a traitor to the male gender, nor trying to be a non-conformist and reject 'male' social roles. -- I have always had a female brain, a female soul: confident and fearless. Now with the proper hormones fueling me, I am finally at home, at ease and natural - no need for the ineffective anti-depressants - Ah this is what cisgender people have always known! this is a great feeling - so why do so many cis-gendered citizens try so hard to prevent me from sharing in feeling natural - from having the proper hormones from feeding the starved areas of my brain and body?] 
It is a very powerful experience and indicator of a good soul full of Love when people see me for who I am. 
- The most powerful words of Love expressed to me, occurred when I was feeling particularly bad about my appearance, frustrated I started to choke up...she saw me for me, held me and with an empathetic voice which communicated her understanding said:

"Oh Sweet, Darling Girl"

She held me and cried with me.
It is with this light, with my own self-knowledge, competency, reflection that I can easily disregard the actions of the current administration, organizations like the Minnesota Family Council - Because they do not act in Love, Definitely no empathy, no gumption to Inquire for Truth or even awareness that they themselves lack the ability understand how much a slave they have become to dogma. - Their words cannot hurt me. But while it is easy for me to shake my head in disbelief and laugh at them for their idiocy and flimsy attempts at theology, they really do much damage to our neighborhoods and our country in promoting lies fueled by bigotry. - And in this case turn a blind eye to women who continue to be murdered, assaulted and raped.

I will only combat their bigotry by remaining a good and active member of my community, my children's lives, my own volunteering at schools and when bus loads of elementary aged school children arrive in my neighborhood to visit the Zoo and Conservatory, I will continue to take interest in their education by saying hello with my usual smile and nod.

Most people are decent human beings.I chose to follow that course.


Promoting Love, Strength, and Actual Truth
Living visibly in accord with Nature.
I am and have always been Woman
Mind, Body, and Soul here Aligned
in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness
Our Children, Our Family, Our World
Overcome Ignorance
Femina Sum
This Natural Biology is Truth
I am and have always been Woman

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Cis-Het Normalcy and Closeted Decisions (part 1: 1970-1996)

Since last Friday, I have had some major positive events which encouraged self reflections and revelations about the initial reasons, meanings and resultant actions with regard to the decisions I have made at every point in my life. These revelations would never have been possible had I remained closeted [-for those of you new to the game, I am a woman who is transgender and have lived with Gender Dysphoria my entire life,. The hidden stress and pain of which remained throughout lifetime: treating it with pious religion, stoic buckling down, cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants -- none of which worked as I was constantly questioning the why rather than investigating the Truth in reality of nature. My dysphoria only dissipated when I finally made the decision to live openly in my true female gender which I publicly revealed on December 1, 2017. ] This post begins on Friday, April 13 (my lucky number!) when I attended the 14th annual Transgender VoicesFestival hosted by One Voice Mixed Chorus, and enhanced with what became a brief impromptu gathering of four transwomen over 45 at Crooners Lounge this past Thursday night. 

In both of these experiences, as I have been discovering since coming out, is that conversations are free and I am able to include authentic emotions and reactions in my face-to-face interactions. Gone is the constant guarded shell under which I concealed my true self. As a now 48 year old (who first joined the Internet at the age of 26 (as one of 16 million people around the world at that time) and got her first cell phone at 37) I have to say after being surrounded by so many younger trans women, men, and gender non-binary individuals, I came away feeling both excited and proud, but also more than a little envious of the loving support many of them have through the benefit of peer-reviewed resources, knowledgeable healthcare professionals, and open communities that has only been made possible with the advent of the Internet in the mid-late 1990s. 

Some of the hi-lights were singing in a room with about 25-30 other trans and gender-non binary singers. It was a completely cis-gender free space where we could just sing our voice part regardless and not feel uncomfortable. I also attended a choral reading session. This was the first time since the death of my wife, that I sang legit repertoire during a reading session of new music. Quite a bit of overwhelming emotions. 

As I registered, I did not recognize anyone. I mean, I was hopeful I would run into Jane, the artistic director of OVMC. We were in graduate school together, and I nearly came out to her back in Spring 2001 in our Early Music study group, but decided against it. We saw each other once again years later when my children were very young. It wasn't until the very first sessions that we met again, this time seeing me for the woman I have always been. Later in the day we caught up with each other. And then Venus de Mars and I found each other. She had been one of my friends and confidants for the past 20 years, so we hit the morning sessions together. - (Venus founded her band All The Pretty Horses in 1994 and is currently presenting speaking engagements for her up coming book on the Trans Roots of Punk.

Xenia and Venus
Friday, April 13, 2018
Before that reunion, I got myself a coffee and invited myself to a table of about 5 other attendees a mix of cis-het artistic directors, trans and non-binary individuals. All of whom were about 20 years younger than me save one, a trans woman who served in Viet Nam and had come out just a few years earlier. As I took it upon myself to pull everyone out of their isolated cell-phone texts, We made introductions the younger attendees related mostly positive experiences regarding their affirmation. Contrasted to older transwoman who recounted a painful and isolated experience, divorce and rejection from her son after coming out 2 years ago. This is really all too familiar a story from those of us of Gen Xers, Boomers, and older generations. We not only have to contend with our own upbringing where there existed no information regarding our Identities, but also the biased social constructs held by our peers and older generations.

And this is a really important distinction to make. In hindsight for those of us who are older, it is really easy to wallow and get angry with our loved ones and society who were then not supportive, rejected us, ignored us, didn't help us. No one had the language to describe our experience. I myself am naturally inquisitive so rather than just living as the woman I am, I constantly questioned, "Why is it that when I sleep, I always appear in my dreams as a girl…and as I grew older - a woman?", "Why am I attracted to women." "Why, if I have male parts, do I feel removed from them, why am I frustrated that my body, my form isn't developing into a woman? Will I ever get to experience bearing and caring for my own child?" etc.

There was no information out there for me to find, and I was far too scared to ask an adult. So the fact that I had no information to help me, How could anyone who does not have these feelings, thoughts and experiences even find a starting point to help me understand?
The thing about being closeted for so long is the insidious effect it has on creating depression and its unseen impact upon every decision one makes to align with Cisgender-Heterosexual normative societal expectations. Even 4 1/2 months out of the closet, I still found myself being mindful of the cis-het normalcy of others, when I should be focusing on what is right for me. 

Michaela, Jendeen, and Xenia
What I have discovered is that I made many decisions in my life in a state of clinical depression, but I did not recognize I was depressed until very late. Unlike my experience now where I don't really care what people think about my appearance, my attitude then was that Passing was a necessity. I never wanted anyone to know I was assigned male at birth (AMAB), I just wanted to be incognito live, congregate and be free as the woman I am.

When I applied to colleges in 1987, I knew I needed a break from my past, so I began using my given middle name, "Christian" which for a time I shortened to "Chris" because of its gender neutral implications [I began using the traditional abbreviation Xn or X-ian from which I ultimately derived my true name Xenia]. I also remember nearly checking the Female box on my enrollment forms. Ultimately I relented and checked the male box because I didn't want to confuse anyone or cause problems the very first day. I also made the decision to live in Ylvisaker Hall which would ensure that I only had 1 roommate instead of Brandt which even though it was right next to the Music building, I would have to live with 3 other male roommates, and I didn't think I'd be able to handle that stress well at all. [* my senior year I got a single on 3rd Floor Larsen - this helped greatly!]

Then came the decisions surrounding my degree choice. After being awarded a music scholarship from the Iowa Arts Council and having a pretty good music pedigree as both a vocalist and instrumentalist, I had initially intended on getting my double major in Music Composition and Philosophy with a vocal performance emphasis as an operatic lyric baritone. While I did not care for the way my vocal coach was treating my voice, I also had some severe dysphoria regarding the fact that I could never realistically live as a woman and have this baritone voice, and I didn't have the courage to say, can we work on developing me as a countertenor because I didn't want people to think I was gay (this was 1988 after all). So instead of focusing on music I decided to switch to Classical Languages. I am actually glad I got the degree in Classics because I would never have learned them anywhere else.

I also cut my hair short the day after I turned 19 years old-- thinking for a time, okay I am 19 I am just going to buckledown and focus on being a guy.---I cried the very next morning realizing what I had done missing my hair and looking very much like a guy. The very next weekend was the first time I got drunk (in someones room on 5th floor Dieseth on 2 Coors Lights and who knows how much Mad Dog 20/20 -- I will never touch either ever again ;) ). In hindsight I abused alcohol as a means to alleviate the pain of gender dysphoria. And decided I would never ever cut my hair short again.

So I grew long hair under the guise of being a Heavy Metal musician. I didn't care at all for the pop-metal on the radio (Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, RATT etc), but at least by adopting their appearance I could pass off myself as a metal musician and thereby protect myself from abuse. (At the time there wasn't an understanding of what gay was let alone transgender--assumptions of either would get the shit kicked out of you, ostracism and far worse…). At least this way I could still hang with women, even if they thought I was a guy and they could still find me attractive even if I adopted a feminine appearance. That was pretty important to me because I am in no way attracted to men. I am a lesbian. 

In other circles I would explain my hair as channeling my ancient Celtic Warrior Spirit which I named "Grianeala" or "Solar Swan." (Eala / Ella) for short. What I didn't say was that the warrior spirit I was channeling was based upon Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni who led a revolt against Roman forces in Britain in 60/61 CE after the Romans stole her land, beat her and raped her 2 daughters. I began writing a Heavy Metal opera on her life and struggle as a high school student in 1987---its undergone a number of revisions and I still have yet to finish it--30 years later.

Finally in Spring of 1991 I was living in Nottingham, England and decided that I would return to the states, leave Luther College, get a music degree from UNI and then high tail it out of Iowa, leaving everyone I know family, friends et al. and make a new start in Northern California so that I could affirm my true gender where no one would ever know that I was ever a guy-- I did not want people ever to look at me thinking I was some sort of freak -- for a long time this was a major contributing factor as to why I didn't transition for so long. As you know the story goes, that didn't happen, I returned to the states and ended up in a 26 year long relationship with my beloved late wife

The older I got the less realistic I could imagine my appearance ever passing as female, and friends, relatives and new acquaintances would all build an impression of me as a guy. So long as passing was my focus, the likelihood of me transitioning to affirm my true gender would be impossible.

When I began therapy in the 1990s there weren't any physicians or therapists who understood gender dysphoria. One therapist whom I saw suggested that my dalliance with gender variance was fine for college but now I am an adult and need to grow up and put this behind me. Another one indicated that my need to present as a woman was an obsession and I should find other pursuits that would distract me from it. 

I mean looking back on it there wasn't ANY realistic public information readily available to the reality of the transgender experience. The prevailing thought by many was that this was only about clothes…a mere "hobby" to dress as a woman-- or that it was some sort of "fetish" designed to illicit some kinky misogynistic fantasy. And if in the movies or TV shows you needed a socio-pathic killer, what better scapegoat than a "confused man wearing a dress." Or played for laughs to get a Section 8 so they can leave the Korean War.

Then came the advent of the Internet In my first web enabled computer in 1996...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

How to Speak Trans (Who Defines Me part 2)

In the past 25 or so years, the only times I ever hear the term 'Political Correctness' / 'PC,' is when it is invoked as an epithet by those who identify with a 'right' leaning political persuasion, for the sole purpose of griping about something they view as "touchy-feely" . In fact I don't think I have ever heard a left learning person even bring it up since college (and I graduated college in 1992). PC has meant to me being aware of language use as a means of helping foster communication and understanding; being civil and polite, don't be a jerk and purposefully offend. Apologize if you accidentally offend because you really do want to learn something new, and be gracious to accept the apology when the sincere effort from the offender to learn has been made.

Even then I really detest using the terms right and left / conservative and liberal. These words as so charged with emotional baggage that every serious conversation is rendered pointless because those invoking these terms tend to think of conversations as an adversarial contest with all of the maturity of fans of a junior high football game. 

I avoid those terms (PC, right, left, conservative, liberal) all together. If there is any adversarial position it that between Inquiry and Defense. INQUIRY is the path chosen by those who have an honest desire to understand new things and expand knowledge without worry about how it might overturn what they already believe. Exemplified by Socrates, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin - researchers and Academics 

DEFENSE or Apologetics is the path of those who resist expanding knowledge; constantly work to employ any means necessary (usually by appeals to emotion) to discredit the honest research of Inquirers. Certain key words and phrases ('materialist', 'you must be a true believer', 'science is indoctrination'…) uttered by one indicate that they are a Defender and thus not serious about learning. So don't waste your time with them. 

It is not a simple matter that Defenders tend to be Right leaning and Inquirers tend to be Left, nor is it true that people are consistently Inquirers or Defenders. For everyone has these moments. Reality isn't binary, there is a full analog spectrum, and these instances of one side or another are merely samplings to indicate generalities. 

As a transgender woman and feminist, It has been my lifetime of experience which have demonstrated to me that my existence triggers automatic defensive posturing from many on both the right and the left. While many do this unintentionally, Language use often reveals the unconscious biases cis-gender (those who aren't transgender, i.e. most people) have. And while they may honestly believe they are simply inquiring, the meanings expressed in their language often comes across as callous, uncaring, with no real desire to understand the experiences of a Transgender person. [* this is very similar to the experience my wife and I had when in the early 90s we went vegetarian. Most people didn't ask why we were vegetarian, instead they began conversations defending their position as carnivores.

For example, one may innocently say something but completely miss the context in which it has been received then wonder why the transwoman flips out and goes on the attack. Of course when this happens, it never looks good for the transwoman unless in the view of cisgender people. For other transwomen, we share her experience and know what was said that demonstrated a lack of respect. 

I usually have no problem when people who do want to know do slip up in language, because yeah, I imagine for cisgender people, they have no concept of gender dysphoria (which is what I lived with for 47 years). But for other who purposefully show disrespect through language (i.e. Defenders like religious zealots and TERFs) it is just one more of their tools for abuse and defining our experience and our bodies. 

So as a public interest, I am presenting a glossary of phrases which I have heard over my lifetime and want to provide a "definition" (as well as the emotionally charged snarky responses I'd love to say, but don't) as to the message which is actually communicated. 

1) CISGENDER WOMAN - You don't have the experiences of what its like to be a real woman, growing up as a woman, (harassment, abuse, rape, fluctuating hormones, menstruation, childbirth,) 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN- This is really presumptuous. First the ciswoman is communicating that she does not respect transwomen as women, and regardless of what she might say, she still thinks of them as men. It is an indication that you cannot step outside of your own experience and understand that. With the exception of menstruation and childbirth which many cisgender women also have never experienced, all of the other issues: harassment, abuse, rape and hormones are experiences shared by transwomen.  Just know that transwomen experience violence at a much higher rate percentage wise than cisgender women   I should not have to disclose specific and multiple examples of my very own #Me Too subjection to these 3 forms of violence. 
In a 2009 report, 50 percent of people who have died as a result of hate violence toward the LGBTQ community were transgender. Seventeen percent of all victims of hate crime violence toward LGBTQ people are transgender, and 11 percent are transgender women.And fatal violence is not the only sort of violence that transgender people face either. One in two transgender people report being raped at some point in their lives, and some reports have even estimated that 66 percent of transgender individuals will face sexual assault during their lifetime. This suggests that the majority of transgender individuals are rape survivors—and rape, as you may recall, is an important matter of discussion for feminism...
The ciswoman could have simply inquired of the transwoman, "Would you mind sharing with me your experiences as a woman?"

2) CISGENDER WOMAN - Why do you want to be a woman?

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Why do you? It isn't a question of why. I have always known I am a woman. I imagine ciswomen have always known they are women.  Could it be that because for a variety of reasons I lived for 47 years closeted, and pretending to be a guy, that they think of me as a guy and that I must have experienced and thought of things from the vantage point of a guy, and I see something of an escape?

3) CISGENDER WOMAN - Transwomen just want to fool men into having sex with them. So they dress as women and wear make-up 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - So then why do other women dress as women and wear make-up? According to the Cis-woman's assertion, wearing make-up must mean that all women want to disguise themselves so they can fool men and have sex with them. Couldn't it be that some of us chose to wear make-up and dress as women because we want to, that it helps us feel good about ourselves? There is more to being a woman that clothing, accessories and make-up.
But do you know what kind of violence and ostracism transwomen face when they are confident in themselves and go out in public? Then we get blamed for the unwanted attention, harassment and violence because of the way we chose to dress? We are not responsible for other behavior or other people, and we should not have to hide and deny reality in order to have relative safety in public. 

4) CISGENDER WOMAN - Transwomen are mocking the experiences of Real women. They are just guys who want to play dress up. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - While there may be some guys, for instance drag performers, who like to play dress up. I am a woman. I dress how I want. Most days I wear something practical like jeans and a t-shirt, and I don't usually wear make-up. When going out however, I do like to dress nicely. I am also really self conscious about my appearance, because I know to most people that I look like a guy, and talk like a guy. And I myself having lived 47 years with gender dysphoria still get those moments of stress about my appearance when it looks so "male." It really sucks and has been a lifetime of disturbance, stress, anxiety, depression 
This is another example of cisgender women thinking of transwomen as guys. That "guys" have a shallow  / superficial idea of what being a woman is (such as wearing stereotypical female clothing is all we think being a woman is.) Heck no! I am a woman. I may have pretended to be a guy for 47 years, but I don't actually know what its like to be a guy -- I only know how to be me. I am confident and strong, and those are human virtues not gendered traits. 

5) CISGENDER WOMAN - Locker-rooms and Restrooms should be only for Women born with a vagina. My daughter would be uncomfortable, if not traumatized if she shared a locker room with a transgirl who had a penis. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - You think your daughter might be traumatized? Try being the girl who has to deal with the trauma of having that appendage growing from her own body and then thrust into a dangerous environment with boys who also have appendages who engage in lewd and violent acts and have their own callous and sexist language and ways of thinking. In short, while a transgirl / transwoman might have a penis, they aren't boys / men. 

6) CISGENDER WOMAN - Because so many transgender people have been coming out in recent years. Its just another PC fad that’s being shoved down our throats. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - There are just as many transgender people there have always been. Its just that we have decided it relatively safe to reveal ourselves, liberated from fear. Remember the people who have been forced / oppressed are transgender women and men. We are the ones who have been forced not to reveal ourselves because cisgender people usually dealt with transwomen by killing us, finding some excuse to have us institutionalized, lobotomized, ripped from our families and other such horrors. And now we still get killed and people in power do what they can to obstruct our lives rather than learn about us. 

7) CISGENDER WOMAN - Biology / DNA shows that one is born either male or female. Therefore there is no such thing a transwoman. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Vague recollections from your high school biology class does not translate into expertise in biology. Experts know that humans are much more varied than the simplified biology you were taught. Researchers not just in biology but also in cognitive science understand the rare variety yet equally valid humans transwomen are. 

8) CISGENDER WOMAN - Well if it’s a brain difference, then transwomen are nuts and need to have their brains fixed. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Jumping from 'brain difference' to 'nuts' is a huge leap. Brain difference merely shows that there is a difference - there is no indication that transwomen are nuts except for your own judgment that there must be something wrong with transwomen. Because their bodies don't match their brains. Believe me, I have gone through cognitive behavior therapy and tried all sorts of things, medications, so that I could live pretending to be cisgender. It sucks and causes a hell of a lot more stress than being truthful, confident, and out. 

9) CISGENDER MAN - I grew up not feeling comfortable around men and preferred to hang out around women,  but I always knew I am a man. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Then you are a cisgender man. Your aren't a transgender woman. We might share these experiences, but it suggests to me that you might be trying to find a "cause" for me being transgender, that you can relate to. In my case there is no cause, I just have always known I am a woman. 

10) CISGENDER MAN - When I was a boy, I liked playing dress up  / make-up and playing with dolls. I didn't really care for sports, trucks and tools. But I always knew I was a boy.

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Then you are a cisgender man. You aren't a woman. There is nothing inherently female about dresses or dolls. Thats just a custom of our western society that associates those things with women and girls. For the same reason, liking tools, trucks, and sports isn't a male thing. Knowing oneself is the key here. You know yourself to be male. Take you out of this society and raise you in another society, you will still know yourself to be male.  I know I am female and at its core it has nothing to do with whether I like dolls or trucks.

11) CISGENDER MAN - Can't you stay closeted until your kids are grown? Don't you think you might be traumatizing them by switching genders.

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - This too is presumptuous in that they seem to have an idea about what our family life is like. Furthermore how is me being out and open and honest with my children going to negatively impact them?  The truth is, I still like all of the things and do all of the same activities with my kids I do as a myself as I did when I was pretending to be a guy. And my love for them remains true. So what kind of benefit will my kids get from me lying to them?

There are many more questions and statements along these lines. I am certain someone will still find more and present them to me because they might have something they think will allow them to continue to think of me as a man. Just remember, a person cannot learn anything new who is always defending their position. 

Finally when a transwoman needs to vent about the abuse and violence she faces from zealots and TERFs, don't immediately discount her venting by appealing to the humanity of TERFs. The message communicated is an extreme lack of respect and empathy for the violent reality transwomen face, and it is really hard to find humanity in ones abuser. So the time is not to forgive the abuser. 

The message is akin to one who has been abused by neo-Nazis, having neo-Nazis build a database on your friends with comments about doing violence against, then having your friends killed. And while one is venting about the evils of neo-Nazis, to come back and say "Nazis are people too!" 

That is all. 

With much Love, 

previous post: Who Defines My Experience

Seek to Understand ~ Assume Positive Intent
(K.L.S. 1970-2017)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Who Defines My Experience

Early yesterday morning I stumbled across a website which amounted to a database of trans women. To say that the dehumanizing tone set by the creators of the website disturbed me greatly would be an gross understatement. It is one thing to demonstrate a lack of empathy and understanding in the moment, for that can be forgiven once an effort has been made to apologize and then learn. But in entry after entry, the creators and subscribers to this website purposefully go out of their way to discount the experience of these women. They constantly refer to the women listed in their database as men and make false assumptions regarding the experiences of trans women. Often they do not acknowledge the reality trans women as woman also face and have experienced with regard to harassment, rape, and other forms of violence. It does not stop there. The creators of this website, who are themselves women, encourage hatred and acts of violence of against other women. It is a hit-list which names trans women and where we can be found. 

Furthermore a number of the targets on this hit list are women I know and have known personally. 

The creators of this website are commonly known as TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary/Elimination Radical Feminists). Their position and actions meet the criteria for what counts as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is a list which includes the various sects of the KKK, Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, etc. Unfortunately the SPLC does not currently list them and their most notable website, "Gender Identity Watch" as such. 

As a woman and a feminist and a target, I am under no obligation to respect their hatred. Rather it is my duty to call them out on their bigotry. 

This is the mood I revealed yesterday morning when made a comparison of the unlearned, arrogant, and hurtful rhetoric of TERFs. I think I have demonstrated a remarkable show of strength and resiliency, not just since the death of my beloved wife and best friend Krista Lynn Sandstrom, who just in case you all forgot, I continue to Love and miss every day, but throughout my whole life. Now as I continue to raise our children with our shared values of inquiry and empathy, do you honestly think that I am not hyper sensitive to their safety and my own mortality? While it is never good to live in fear, there is still an underlying worry that if violence is committed toward me, I could end up facing more violence, being turned away from women's crisis centers, or lumped in with men in the care of government officials, and then my biggest worry is that my children would be thrown into some foster care where their intelligence, empathy, inquiry, and Love is not respected and they are forced to adhere to a moral code framed in the metaphysics of Bronze Age folklore. Fortunately I have already safeguarded to ensure that outcome will never happen. 

I imagine that because it has only been in recent years that trans women and trans men have felt relatively safe to start revealing our true identities, and the legitimate scientific and experiential research on our lives have made it possible for more young trans and gender non-conforming people to grow and develop in the open without the stigma previous generations such as mine had, that the concept of being Transgender comes off more as a cultural "fad" rather than for what it really is, that in every generation a certain number of human beings are in fact transgender. 

The reality though is that transgender humans will always remain a rarity among populations. Most people will never encounter and trans woman and thus are likely to maintain abstract notions and false assumptions as they will have no personal experience. 

The awareness of what it means to be transgender was not available when I when I was growing up. So I feel for my parents when they read my revelations about what I have experienced. Their true loving desire wishing they would have known or that I would have felt open to tell them. I know my parents well enough that had I been born 40 years late in 2010, they would have had the knowledge and expertise, not only as professional educators, but as good, loving human beings to help me grow into the woman I am. 

While living my entire life with the stress of being closeted, I decided that when I came out in December I would post about my experiences as a trans woman in order to provide cis-gendered people someone whom they personally know. And I do expect that before cis-gendered people comment, offer thoughts or advice to pertaining to my experience, that they first read what I have already posted because I do not have time to hand hold and guide each and every individual personally. I refer again to my coming out statement in which I stated: 

"As I have been living every single moment of my life being trans, I can assure you that there is nothing you can possibly think of, suggest or offer that I have not long ago already contemplated and tried." 

Along with this comment I should add when people jump in without regard to my experience, and assert that I will never know what its like to a woman because I wasn’t born with a vagina, never experienced menstruation first hand, or given birth, or have experience harassment, violence, rape etc. Is presumptuous, arrogant and demonstrates no desire to understand my experience. 

The message that is being communicated to me is, "I don't care about you, I don't want to understand your unique experience as a woman, because I still regard you as a man because of my "essentialist view" of the penis (despite the fact the biology of gender and sex is much more varied than that) and therefore you have never been harassed, raped, beaten, you've never contemplated the differences between your body and those of women who have experienced child birth and menstruation, probably don't know how to instinctively care for children and definitely likely to struggle in raising a teenage girl, and because I view you as a guy, you should have no problem toughing it out in a locker room full of guys or hanging out in men's groups while being barred from women exclusive environments." 

If people really did care about my experience, they would read what I have already posted before assuming such unloving BS, which not only reinforces their belief that I am a man, but seems to view me as a threat and therefore they feel they can superimpose their fears and dictate my experience, and my personal identity. 

A loving question, could be, "Would you mind sharing with me your experience as a woman?" Though think about it, How often have you ever begun a conversation with, "You don't know what its like to be raped." People have started conversations with me and other trans women that way. They could at least start with, "Have you ever been raped." And then they could follow it up with, "How many times.", "Would you mind sharing with me your experience." 

Doesn't that sound a bit ridiculous, and for a woman doesn't that sound uncaring, brutal, and intrusive? If not, then why not make that your standard greeting with everyone. 

Let me add a very generalized scenario: 

There are two girls, age 3 years old. They both know they are girls, never any question about it. 

1) The first girl is acknowledged by her family, by friends, and by society that she is in fact a girl, she grows up socializing as a girl; when going through puberty, she has friends, a mother, aunt etc. who are there to answer questions about her changing body and provide support, and she grows to adulthood knowing all this time she is a woman with no discord between her mind, her body, and what her friends, family, and society at large tell her. 

2) The other girl, who knows just as certain as the first girl that she is indeed female, is told be her friends, family, society that she is not a girl, that she is a boy. She tries to express that she is a girl, and is met with rejection, and violence, she continues to grow alone, figuring out how to adopt male mannerisms and speech, even though she does not know why she has to do this when other girls do not. But she knows if she slips she will once again be beaten-up. So she continues to play the game. She goes through puberty alone, hating how her body is morphing into an ogre even though she received compliments from others on "What a handsome man you are." She learns to put her feelings and her experiences on the back burner and acquiesce to the feelings of others, as she not only wants to safeguard herself from violence and rape, but she has learned that others feel uncomfortable around her when she does reveal her true self, which is now coming through the shell of this ogre. And so she does not want to hurt their feelings and comfort. Then when she finds there are a few people like her in the world, the negative public perception portrays her experience as a sociopath, a serial killer, a sex crazed rapist. -- Who has time to think about sex?!?! To help her not make waves and make others in society feel uncomfortable, she musters up the courage to remain closeted and talk to her physician--first of all trying to find a female physician because there is no way in hell she is willing to let a man touch her, let alone judge her thoughts -- seeks psychological treatment options, even conversion therapy (which thankfully we now know is BS) and anti-depressants to help her tough it out and fake her way through life as a man.  Now she has emerged from her shell. She is grown past the point of hormone intervention to be as effective, nonetheless hormones and being out are certainly preferable and she is still a woman making her way in the world. 

If you cannot empathize with this experience. Then you will never understand what it is to be Transgender and you will probably forever still insist on defining me with your own limited, arrogant ignorance. Therefore I do not require you in my nor my children's life. 

We are fortunate that I have an number of close friends who do see my soul, the woman I really am. Thankfully there are many. One in particular is the guardian of my children, trustee of my estate should anything bad ever happen to me. Her strength, resiliency, friendship and love for Krista, me and our children make her first in our family and our hearts. 

Today, I am heading for Iowa City, to spend time with a woman I truly love. I love her for who she is, her outlook, her interests, her wise mind. It is an added bonus that after a 25 year absence in each others lives, having had no contact since college, that she sees me, knows me, and regards me as the woman I have always been.


Friday, February 23, 2018

Old West Gun Control and the Classroom Sheriff

Call me an old school Socratic method practitioner, but learning requires honesty, empathy, a courage to inquire, listen, challenges to beliefs, and dialog. (this is the basis of Civics too! we don't need cue cards to remind us). It is hard to foster that environment where students can truly learn when fear, defense of position, and justification for belief, agenda are at the root of every class period, every student-educator interaction.
Drawing upon my love of primary source history, I have long agreed with the Code of the Old West. In order to ensure civility, gun owners would either have to leave their guns at home or hand them over to the sheriff whenever they visited towns.

In my class room and in my office, I am the Sheriff. My job is to ensure that fearless dialog and learning can happen, possessing a firearm in such an environment is counterproductive and rooted in fear. Statistically we are at greater risk of getting killed with more guns present than not. And In Education we don't merely coddle fears and subjectivity, we strengthen our intelligence through use objectivity and reason and dialog to overcome ignorance and feeble minds.(but of course the administration operates in a post-reality world - remember the incompetent allocation of resources: We have a 1 in 19 (one in nineteen) chance of being killed by a drunk driver, vs. a 1 in 10,900,000,000 (one in 10.9 Billion) chance to be killed by an undocumented immigrant.- the truth that more guns actually increases the likelihood of being killed by guns is pointless to note on the feeble minded - they would rather "stick to their guns") 

So no, I do not allow firearms in my classroom. If someone is truly that fearful that they feel the need to bring a weapon to my classroom, then perhaps they are not cut out for learning and are probably wasting their money on tuition. Fortunately we do have psychological services for students which can help them overcome their fears. And Certainly, those who encourage such fear have demonstrated incompetence in leadership, enmity of trust, and in service to tyranny. 

But in the big picture lets remember that this whole arming teachers thing is yet ANOTHER distraction from the serious matters that chip away at our civil liberties and financial well being as citizens of a Constitutional Democratic-Republic. -

To anyone who chooses to be an enemy of education and disrespect the environment I provide for my students; I am not afraid to pry their weapon from their cold dead hands.
Xenia with her son, summer 2017

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Inter-Galactic Empress vs. Department of Edu-ma-cation

I am not now, never desired to be, nor have ever been a guy / a man though I have pretended to be for most of my public life.

I'm a chick, not a "dude"

I'm a She, definitely not a "he"

"Xen" is okay, but I really do prefer "Xenia"

And as Inter-Galactic Empress sounds just a tiny bit too lofty for me, my title is "Ms."

And if you do not believe me, any field expert can tell you that it is a matter of biology - and biology is not simple. Though the simpleton view of "biology" when uttered by non experts serves as the lazy excuse the current Secretary of Education and Attorney General seem to take with regard to the safety of transgender students. Yes We know their overall tactic is to destroy trust in the Federal Government and undermine the Secular values of the US Constitution. But it is time for experts as well as those with the actual lived experience of being transgender to assert themselves.

Having lived the hell of pretending to be a boy / a man their decisions are clearly not based with any desired awareness of reality, no empathy, and absolutely NO MORAL AUTHORITY! Using a mans locker-room, closeted or not - is a very scary and unsettling place for a girl. THAT is the essence they fail to grasp because of 1) their simpleton view of biology; 2) their so-called religious objections.

It is really time we stop coddling them and enabling their false perception that their subjective human belief in metaphyiscal dogma is more valuable and more moral than the objective findings of Expert Research! - THAT is what America is founded upon.

If they try to say some Bullsh that "Oh my cisgender daughter is going to be "uncomfortable" using a public bathroom with a transgender girl, then be a responsible parent and get your daughter some psychological help to overcome her discomfort or fear.

And then with this whole Conversion Therapy / Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I voluntarily tried Cognitive Behavior Therapy for a number of years because I did not want to disrupt other peoples lives if they found out I was trans - It was a misplaced move on my part, but I learned first hand that the reason it did not work is because being Transgender is not a behavior, it is an essence of identity.

Still I did not want to make waves, so I tried anti-depressants to take the edge off - which ended up taking away my joys too and deadened my already suppressed emotions. What it did do was increase my passive/aggressive responses AND make my female identity even more clear.

So I tried Ritalin and Adderall because the effects of constantly suppressing my true identity resulted in ADHD like symptoms in every day life. This helped a little in addressing those symptoms, And with added clarity it REALLY brought my true female identity out of the shadows. There was a small benefit in that it did make it a little easier to maintain both a male physical form while knowing very clearly my true female self. And thus made it easier to communicate and understand my own emotions.

But nothing compared to when my wife and I started talking seriously about me coming out to the public. Once I started hormones my world began to chill and everything started to come into full balance. Now being out -- It is so so so much better.

So I refuse to pretend to be a guy / a he / a man anymore. Its pointless. I will continue to use the women's restrooms and locker-rooms because I am a woman. I urge every one to make those public places safe for all trans children, teens, adults everywhere.

There is no reason to respect anyone's so called "religious convictions" to object to me using the restroom appropriate to my female gender - because they haven't lived it nor have they demonstrated any empathy to understand reality. I guarantee that I have thought, reflected and considered more about gender, the experiences of all women and all girls, history and the nature of religion in society than every TERF and defender of religious convictions I have ever read or met.

There has never been a better impetus to draw me out of the closet that the current Administration.

Emboldened Transwoman Jamming to Rush

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Community, Music, and Trans Roots

It has now been a little over 2 months since I revealed my true self to the world. What I have discovered is that Everything is different now that I am out. Experiences of emotion are not constantly being checked, decisions are rarely second guessed, empathy is easy and genuine. Self confidence and empowerment is definitely here!

Now I think back on my life with new eyes: the series of decisions I made, how I got to here. I got to thinking about how many children are told they can grow up to be whatever they want to be. This advice is difficult enough to sell to girls. In my own case, as a closeted transwoman, I never felt this to be true. I already felt a bit restricted from expressing everything I truly liked and associating with other girls without fear of physical retribution and ostracism. Being trans was considered being a freak. So, I denied myself many opportunities for community and future career occupations because of my self imposed stricture that I just did not think they would be open to me. I tried to tough it out pretending to be a man, but could never connect authentically. There was a time I aspired to be a n ELCA Lutheran Pastor, but as with most of society at the time, many religious institutions mistakenly viewed Transgender identities as a "behavior" -- and a sinful one at that - far worse than killing someone out of anger or in war. If it slipped I were trans or became openly trans - that would scare away the flock, the church board would fire me because I wasn't bringing in revenue. I thought it would be great to go to officer training school and becoming either a Navy pilot or intelligence officer, or better yet Become a career diplomat in the foreign service, that is really where my passion lay. My year as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol really solidified a few things for me: 1) I could never be openly trans, 2) I was reprimanded far too many times for insubordination (apparently our CO didn't like to have her nonsensical orders questioned.- I just asked her to give me the big picture / reason why behind the order. Its impossible to follow otherwise.)

I wanted to be a teacher. Again who in the early 90s would want a transsexual teaching their kids? (if you remember the hell that was raised by parents back in the 90s here in the Twin Cities with an openly trans school Librarian and shortly after an openly trans band-director who taught lessons through Schmitt Music Edina (I managed Maplewood at the time - and then hearing fellow managers unknowing of my own identity make the usual sexually disparaging jokes (everything from new gender "tests" for all employees, to remedying her surgery aspirations using a belt sander-- seriously guys get over your f'ng selves!!). So much for any possibility of being an openly trans store and sales manager at a family oriented music store either that or no more sales awards for me. 

Aspiring prog-metal bassist Xenia with Krista in 1991
a few months before Nirvana
Throughout it all, I needed a career where I could always feel myself and be free. I have always wanted to be a professional bassist / lead singer and composer of high art music. In High School in the 1980s, I was drawn to becoming a metal musician, not because I liked the music, but because it provided for me an option to feminize my appearance without drawing suspicion - and if you are a good musician people tend to give you a pass - "He's an artist" - The thing is, I was always more into underground Progressive metal, not the popular glam metal / Hair Band artists of the 80s. - But even here I would never really be able to be openly trans. I was rereading my journal from 1990-91, There is an entry in which I am clearly drunk and in despair that how the fk am I ever going to make it as a musician if people really knew I was trans - the dilemma, I created for myself - I can either be openly trans and live a secluded isolated life rejected by everyone or I can become a bassist -- MAYBE if I move to Northern California, I can find life as both. 

Throughout all of this, Krista was with me. There was a heckuva lot she however did not understand. Yet she did encourage me to find community. I rarely took her up on this, but she understood that because she was not trans and didn't have my experiences and did not know what it is like to be trans, to be closeted, that I needed others who did have that understanding. Before the Internet came into full swing in the late 1990s, finding community as a trans woman was a nearly impossible task. In the years before her tragic death, she further suggested that I seek care through the Gender and Sexual Health Clinic at HCMC (where she worked as a Director of Organization Development and Learning) because it is important for anyone's health to have open truthful communication with their healthcare provider without worry of stigma.

In the months after Krista's death and especially since coming out, I have made references to a group of friends whom I referred to as my "Inner Circle." Not that this is an official group and not even that they are very close to me, but these are the friends on whom I have always been able to call; who have always been willing to listen to me as I vent, cry, laugh whenever I needed to gather my wits in my closeted life. (of course my characteristic guilt gnaws at me, as it probably always will, in that I do not feel I reciprocate the same emotional care in return - though now I am finding opportunities to pay it forward and offer my shoulder). 

Dinner with Shoop! (at least 6 of us) 
This weekend I finally stepped out in public as a professional musician -- now openly trans, now Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire. - Black dress, necklace heeled boots and make-up.  It began Friday night, by me playing bass with my 11 piece vocal jazz band, Shoop! at the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony Gala. Yes I did notice a few double takes, some apparent whispers, but who cares. My band has my back and they did the best thing for me: No over the top congratulatory remarks on my appearance (though I did get some great compliments on my boots-- (I got to take the last open seat at the table as Karen remarked to John and Jim, "Heels trump Shoes") But it was music making as usual. I even walked confidently from the stage ordered my 2nd drink - no hassles - but a few friendly exchanges. So nice. - I will say however that I felt compelled to play bass better than I ever have as I don't want to embarrass transwomen everywhere. Actually, playing bass felt effortless, and my musical choices felt confident and creative. Maybe it was my imagination or maybe it was because I myself felt open and free - worth exploring.

Then yesterday afternoon, I, now open, experienced the wonderful intensity of having a community - a group of trans women from my generation (though I am the youngest ;) ), as Venus de Mars, having arrived from the funeral of one of her dear friends and former bandmates who died unexpectedly of the flu, to give her scheduled presentation on the "Trans Roots of Punk.", acoustic performance, and reading from her upcoming memoir.  
Presentation "Trans Roots of Punk"
Performance and Reading here:
silly faces with Lynette
A Little background: I first met Venus and her wife Lynette (English Professor, Poet, Radio Host) at a house party 20 years ago. Along with my Green Pyramids band mates, they were among the few people outside of Krista with whom I shared more about the depths of my trans identity. Their open hearts, patience to listen was of immense help to me in finding the safe place to express my true being.
quick selfie with Venus
Over the years, our bands shared the stage, gathered at Scott's epic house parties. Occasionally, Venus and I would grab a coffee at a cafĂ© above her art studio. She was always willing to listen, provide hugs and understanding that really no one else could understand. Heck, I even auditioned for her band All The Pretty Horses for an upcoming tour they planned (it was really fun to groove with Venus and Jendeen - terrific fluid rhythmic vibe) I don't know if I was ever seriously considered, but I could not justify joining for a tour when Krista and I were in the midst of adding on to our house, me in graduate school, et al. 

Then in 2003 Krista and I decided to have children. And I love my children. They are my world! With me as primary caregiver, I cut down on my social life and ended up letting so many of my friendships and sense of community drop. From time to time we would exchange emails, they always extended an invitation to their pre-Thanksgiving party. But now as I am once again venturing out with people my own age, I realized last night it has been far too long since we have been in the same room together. For me it was a good thing, kinda tearing up just by being there and being me.

with my beer enabler Susanna 
Anyway, I don't know what kind of impact Venus' presentation on the Trans Roots of Punk will have on non-trans people, But for me, what she provided was an intense visceral pricking of my knowing heart; recalling my own memories, feelings, fears; our devaluation of our own self-worth when not only did society at large make us feel unsafe, we were not welcome with the gay and lesbian community either. How things have shifted in just 25 years! With every sentence she expressed, describing, recounting her experiences, through songs, excerpts from her upcoming memoir, and trans music history - so many emotions, meanings, simultaneously running through my being that I often found myself in tears - holding it together so as not to distract - It was an incredibly moving experience for me. I found myself welling up with tears and wanting to shout out "Amen Sister!" (though that wouldn't be very Lutheran of me).

I was living a closeted life while she lived the experiences as an openly trans trailblazing artist. The transwoman who was once asked by rep if she would consider "Not being Trans" so that he could sell her art to a major record label, has made it possible for an artist like Laura Jane Grace to find major label success - The time was never right - until now. As a transgender musician and real human being, I am indebted to Venus and Lynette for setting the stage to make my life today possible. Thank you!
With my heart -- Jill