music to my years

as for the year’s politics, what can be said that hasn’t already? no, seriously, i’m not kidding. i’ve been spared many of the cruelest and most boringly depraved acts of the year at the hand of the trump administration in exchange for my whiteness and associated complicity in white supremacy, alongside considerable class power. ultimately though, the obsession with trump as a spectacle became too much, and with local politics around Rochester exploding after the Jaeger scandal, i committed myself to doing what i could, where i was, and with what resources i had.

i don’t fear trump. this is probably mostly due to the aforementioned considerable power i hold in our society, despite being a trans woman, but it’s also because i make an effort to channel fear into love and solidarity and i have more fear of people emboldened by him. those creepy men who stare at me if i go in the men’s bathroom, glare at me when i exit the women’s, and direct me which one to use no matter what i do. it’s always men.

i’d never protested before this year, and now i’m beginning to see their purpose and power. i wrote one of many scathing pieces against joel seligman and the UR administration, which was both satisfying and somewhat guilt-inducing, being so non-confrontational normally.

i listened to more music than ever, mostly thanks to my best friend who is a massive music geek and inspired me to seek out new stuff to listen to instead of just pumping “Is This It” on repeat. (though i did a lot of that too, likely more than is healthy) it’s too much to put here, so if you’re interested i suggest checking out my apple music profile @bklebe if you use apple music.

Goofy shit that doesn’t deserve a whole post

estradiol patch downsides: sticky, itchy, falls off in the shower

upsides: estrogen-powered iron(wo)man core

Open wounds and closed-off people

i spend every day
Fucking around
Waiting for the apocalypse
I will die
I live

I put down the window
Into her life
I peer into it too often
“Borrow a cup of sugar?”
—every hour
She always obliges

I say goodnight three times
Before making good on that promise

What cantankerous pantomime of destruction hath clothed me in my own nakedness?

there’s a thin line between gay and lesbian, for me

God is other people

yesterday and forever ago

(note: this was written in the middle of October)
about a week ago i looked down at my sneakers and realized they were looking worn. they were looking about as worn as my last pair, which i had owned for a year or so. i could chalk this up to a decline in build quality but instead i checked my phone to see how much i’ve walked in them. they’re pretty much my only pair so the number is pretty accurate. i’ve walked about 310 miles since the week of august 25, when i returned to school and bought these shoes.

this is about what happens when you carve an adult from a confused teenager’s ego in about eight weeks without anyone else helping you. in fact, you did it to yourself.

twilight of the booksellers

before i came to rochester i went to barnes & noble about every month or so and had been for nearly fifteen years prior because my grandfather worked there. (to clarify: he’s still alive) his presence came to be associated with that place, strange though it may seem, being a large and largely impersonal chain of bookstores. when he wasn’t there, leaning on the second floor balcony, looking down at the entrance, waiting for me to arrive, i knew something was up. his wife and my grandmother died a few days later. he quit that job a few years back and i missed seeing him there for a while but last week when i returned to boston for some lab tests i visited the bookstore again and felt a much more conspicuous and possibly even more depressing absence: the books themselves.

the store is now about sixty percent full of things which are not books, mostly toys for adults (figurines from game of thrones and such). this is not a point of elitism; i have no problem with toys. but it is a painful reminder that the large bookstore of my childhood is slowly breathing its last as an institution and possibly as an idea. my knowledge of computers, my deep faith in the abilities of others, and my love for them were all ignited by books and experiences centered around stores like these. soon there will be no more hours spent memorizing computer magazines in the periodicals section so i wouldn’t have to buy them, no more churning through series after series in the kids section, even the once ponderously large YA section that was installed just as i aged out of the target audience has been compressed down to a few smaller shelves against the wall.

2017: The Year in Preview

(this was a first draft of the year’s-end post, but i realized i couldn’t actually center my experience of the whole year around it and say something useful because the first half of the year was so different)

I got up from the couch in our lounge and headed back to my room to retrieve a large bag of sour candy I had purchased earlier in anticipation of the night to come. On my way back out of the room, candy in hand, I glanced at the mirror to see if my hair was frizzy, as had become habit. HARK: A GIRL! Not different, but different enough. Just a few years older than me, though looking perhaps a bit younger. (HRT will do that to you) She had a tight-lipped seriousness expressing experience where I have a tired half-frown expressing exhaustion, and her hair was beautiful. I saw her face, unmistakably mine but more mature and stubbly no more. She had learned to take care of herself! I knew what she wanted for me: to see past the same-old, same-old depression and anxiety and nights spent up desperately wondering if the world was still young enough to sustain her newborn confidence.

2017 was the first time I wore a dress since I was three or four years old.


you don’t need to have dysphoria to be trans or transition, you can just do it and be a girl or a boy or both or neither or anything else. but for those of us who do have dysphoria, it can be hard to explain how that experience specifically can drive someone to transition. David Foster Wallace gives a very poignant description of feeling suicidal in Infinite Jest that also applies to what gender dysphoria can feel like at its worst. this is the “psychotically depressed person” passage (bottom of page 696 in mine):

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

the gist is that there are a lot of parts of transitioning that people do dread, and that it is in many ways “the fall.” nobody truly looks forward to having their genitals surgically rearranged in the abstract; at least not in those terms. you either do it or you don’t, it involves a tradeoff. it’s unfortunately an enormous hassle, involving a complex bureaucratic dance, physical pain, and frequently not-insignificant financial expenditure. and yet: the flames. weighing the two in your head, transitioning comes out on top. or it doesn’t.

how to speak of the unspeakable

I cannot bring to words the emotions I’ve felt and the things that have happened to me in 2017. This is the first time in a while I’ve been able to say that, and it pains me that I can’t say more in longform, so instead I’ll collect here a bunch of angsty short things I started writing (during the second half of the year, when life became a trial by fire thanks to estrogen) and didn’t finish, like last time, but this time verbatim. They’ll all be tagged 2017, but I’m not going to paste them together, because I think that’s rather inelegant. I realize I may have exhausted people’s patience for low-effort posts with the last one, but I honestly don’t know what else to do and I want to share this stuff.

net mortality

one of the reasons i’m so into computers and computer science is because if you want to try out a new programming language or a new tool or read a paper you can use the internet to do it, almost anything can be downloaded and tried out as soon as the impulse strikes. the internet was and still is my gateway to science, radical politics, trans people and culture, and much more. this is the stuff you can’t find on facebook, the stuff that’s tucked away on a blog that hasn’t been updated since 1997 that you find after yet another all-nighter spent chasing a thread through dozens then hundreds then thousands of hypertext documents, all while trying to figure out who you are.

i owe the fact that i’m not still that confused little girl who everyone thought was a boy today to nearly unfettered internet access (in my case, i had to rely on my family) which i hoped would someday be secured by our society for the benefit of all. the problem of net neutrality is often couched in terms of free markets and level playing fields for starting an internet business, but more critically it’s a problem of who has access to what information and which resources and who they become or don’t because of that, and how society and culture changes or doesn’t because of them. this is a world where all those bookish liberal firebrands will never become comrades, where young women of color and girls who could revolutionize the field will never learn that they can start programming in haskell in ten minutes, where trans people will no longer have a comprehensive encyclopedia on the metaphysics of identity and the material aspects of trans culture or an entire universe of “people like me” to communicate with and learn from or discourse created by and for trans people at their disposal when they figure out that they need it.

all because the interests of capital have realized they can charge people for access to these resources, further exploiting the labor of those who release their work on the web for free. they’re inhibiting access to a resource that has the potential to liberate humanity, as the printing press did before it. such potential needs to be safeguarded from the exploitative cynicism of capital, lest it become a tool of the latter’s perpetuation as so many resources have before it. what we truly need and want is an internet owned and controlled by the people, whether proletariat or precariat, and it’s clear that the FCC cannot provide even a semblance of that future in its current state.

seeds of an idea

this is not exactly my trans day of remembrance post, though if it helps you to think about it that way please do so. instead it is a palette of ideas about transness and trans people that have come into my head recently and which i might want to expand into something more at a later date but which i do not have the energy or spoons to nurture further at the moment. i make no claims as to the originality of these ideas as many of them are appropriations of other concepts or even probably flat-out paraphrasing of stuff i’ve read elsewhere but which i have forgotten the origin of. (n.b.: if you’ve heard what i’m talking about elsewhere and i didn’t credit them, link me and i will update the post) i will do my best to cite sources in both cases, or at least give references to similar ideas. they are arranged roughly by ascending relevance to what TDOR is actually about, that is, the trans lives snatched from us violently by transmisogynists and transphobes and in particular violence against trans women of color and transmisogynoir violence (directed at Black trans women).

trans impostor syndrome

this one practically writes itself and much ink has been spilled on it elsewhere, but near as i can tell i came up with it myself and it’s just a popular concept. tl;dr: am trans but actually? etc. sometimes everyone else’s transness feels infinitely more legitimate than mine, especially on those dark and stormy nights when i get the bad dysphorias. why is it worse now? simple explanation: the fog of emotional blunting has lifted, and now it’s a lot easier to see that yes, i do hate these parts of my body, and no, i wasn’t imagining it. highly unlikely and much more convoluted explanation courtesy of depressed cognition and a pervasively cissexist and transmisogynistic society and culture: i’m actually a man, and what i’m experiencing now is “real” dysphoria at being forced to live as a woman. reasons this is unlikely: i really love being a girl.


if you’re dealing with similar problems my favorite framework for externalizing validation is natalie reed’s appropriation of a somewhat Bayesian framework in the context of trans identity, as expounded in this wonderful essay. briefly: stop thinking about the chances of whether a random person is trans, because you’re not a random person, you’re you. given all the knowledge you have about yourself right now, is it more likely that you’re trans or cis? (hint: that knowledge includes the fact that you’re questioning in the first place, especially if that process is really eating you up. cis people categorically do not spend their lives agonizing over whether or not they’re actually trans, and it took me a while to learn that.)

trans identity as a subculture / collective cultural identity among transgender people

here i’d like to think about what it means to be part of the “trans community” in its manifold incarnations and permutations. what is the “trans community?” who inhabits such a place? what does it mean to identify yourself as a member? what do you give up to join this community? what do you gain in exchange for what you give up? and so forth. (pardon the stylistic butlerism of this paragraph, i can’t control myself)

the direction i’m thinking of is one which would actually enable a more grounded and materialist conception of trans identity because i find many of the present depictions to hew to a sort of idealism and metaphysics that i find grating. a lot of trans spaces also carry with them a specific brand of philosophy, politics, ethics, and psychology, and i would like to investigate the ways in which the use of those disciplines in the trans community (and perhaps even the original description of a trans community as such) regulates who is and isn’t allowed to be trans.

this would be working from the thesis that there is no trans identity without other trans people, and that there is no trans subjectivity without other trans subjects.

when is trans life grievable?

yup, this is the butler one. well, more than the others at least. the linked article at the verso books blog is a shorter version of an argument judith butler makes in Frames of War about the nature of grief and the impossibility of grieving a death when you never understood the deceased as alive, originally in the context of the largely anonymous and unknown and ungrieved victims of US imperialism overseas. this is what inspired what i eventually wrote on pride’s TDOR event poster: “what’s in a name if we only hear it when someone is dead?” the bolded parts are supposed to convey the idea i had that a list of names on a TDOR poster is only a list of names when in fact no, it’s not a name that has been brutally murdered, they’re a person.

and it’s nearly impossible to feel that pain and grieve as we should when all we have are numbers and names. the sheer invisibility and precarity of trans lives, particularly that of trans women of color, cannot be quantified. how can i grieve properly for the lives of 25 trans people, especially when the only reason i know of their birth is that i know of their death? even worse is when murder is the only exposure we have to the existence of trans people of color in the first place and what should be the inviolable legitimacy of their bodies and struggles. it must be ensured that white trans people cannot hide from our complicity in white supremacy behind a veneer of superficial grievance for the violence perpetrated against trans people of color. i think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that butler’s conception of grievability is a powerful one in this context.


when i am feeling sad
and alone
but not lonely

and my body is telling me to
rend flesh from spirit
blaspheme spinoza
exalt descartes


feel the breasts that i don’t have
pushing up against the life that i do