from The Onion: Tuesday, April 11, 1989

One of my stories from The Onion’s second year, 1989, with super-cool James Sturm artwork to accompany it. I drew the little Viper spaceship in MacPaint years earlier, and was thrilled to use it as a dingbat. The details were a slice of my personal life.

“Mike Evans” because we made up fake names to make it seem like we had more writers than we actually did.

P.S. Battlestar Galactica 2003 was brilliant, in my humble opinion.

Flamingo Boy

This is the issue I worked on, my first week as a volunteer at The Onion. I am not pictured here.

The cover of The Onion from late 1988. The masthead from previous issues has not changed but . Below that, the design is spare but clean.
Cover of “Flamingo Boy issue” of The Onion from 1988.

We received a very earnestly-worded letter to the editor and I think it was the first time many of us (not entirely me, as I had gotten a crash course in what was being jokingly referred to — by the activist left, where the phrase originated; before it got coopted by the centrists and the right — as “political correctness”) had been asked to think about these issues. I have to give credit to the activists who make stirs about stuff like this, you got to us early and made a difference all the way 35 years in the future. We still made fun of you — that’s just who we were — but we were always on the same side.

A very blurry scan of the staff box of The Onion from late 1988. My name and title are there, which is described in the caption below.
Staff box of The Onion Volume 14 Number 5.

“Layout Guru and Hi-tech Wiz” was someone else’s idea. When I was given the opportunity (the very next issue) they allowed me to change my job title to “Layout Technology Thaumaturgist” which remained my title throughout my tenure. There was a long conversation about it in the office that week which included multiple attempts to get a laugh out of the joke (stolen shamelessly from Dragon Magazine), “You thau my ’turgist, I’ll thau yours.”

Oh, and that “Jonathan Hart Eddy” character was me.

I Want To Fucking Go Golfing

[Originally published on May 24, 2005 at]

I don’t know why, I just do. I was never a good golfer. I was more of a “duffer” who swore a lot after she hooked or sliced yet another shot. But there was something beautiful about walking around in what is basically an immaculately manicured park swinging at a little ball with a stick. It is attractive to two parts of my psyche: the part that enjoys artificially enhanced nature and the bottomless well of anger and resentment.

Summertime. It’s almost here. I can sometimes feel it outside, the windows have been open for the last couple weeks and fresh air is circulating and I can hear the kitties and the squirrels and the birdies outside in the courtyard. And the sunshine makes this unbearable glare on the computer monitor so there are parts of the day where I just have to give up on the computer thing and nap in the warm glow.

I’m truly lucky to be living in Seattle where we don’t have weather, really. It’s either raining (and it’s seldom raining much, though we did have a thunderstorm last week that consisted of one rumbling, rolling thunder thing that probably wouldn’t even turn a Midwesterner’s head) or it’s “pleasant”. Never hot, except for maybe a week or two at the most in August. We’ll get maybe one snowfall a year with sometimes up to an inch or two (which will shut everything down, but it always happens at night and by the next day it’s all melted, but for that magical night, everyone pulls out their snowboards, cafeteria trays, cardboard boxes and goes for a slide down the Denny Way bridge over I-5 which you’d think is probably an extremely dangerous thing to do, and it probably is), but we barely got that this year and even less rain than usual so we get to enjoy a drought this Summer.

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Benzo Buddies Coda

Posted today on where there is a tradition of posting a Success Story when one has reached a point where they feel recovered from post-acute withdrawal syndrome due to long-term benzodiazepine use.

Hey everyone, it’s been a while.

This is the short version of my success story.

It’s a little bit embarrassing, because it’s been eight years, right? Well, turns out, it wasn’t eight years.

To be quite honest, I have no idea now when I got better from long-term, high-dose clonazepam use as directed by my doctor. I tapered over three months with the help of BenzoBuddies and you made a really painful process much easier for me. I owe you all a debt of gratitude.

The horrible rotten feeling lingered, months turned into years.

I was seeing doctor after doctor who assured me there was nothing wrong with my brain or my nervous system other than a little bit of neuralgia and some generalized anxiety. I recently had a pristine brain MRI after decades of chronic pain. I felt like I was going mad, that it must all be in my mind, all the standard stuff we all go through.

Then I found blood in my urine. Lots of it. That was not a benzo withdrawal symptom.

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Math is Hard

(From my blog “Android Sisters”, May 1998)

When I start to think myself too much of a smartypants, I read about math. The problem is, that I get so dingdanged excited about it, it just makes me want to become a theoretical mathematician, or a theoretical physicist. Somedays, I think that would be ten times easier than trying to convince Janice Raymond that we should share the same bathroom.

My total favorite television show is “The Proof” which is this PBS special about the insanely complicated proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Though, there’s also this guy who says that he figured out the simple-dimple way of proving the theorem, and he also has 10 new articles about the Clinton Sex Scandal. But as a rule, I try not to automatically assume that someone is a wacko, since I get accused of being all sorts of things that I’m not. But that’s just the way it is for me.

There is also this interesting side story about Sophie Germain who was part of the long long line of mathemeticians who pounded their heads against the wall trying to come up with a proof (which Fermat failed to include with his theorem, saying that it wouldn’t fit in the margins of his notebook). It also makes me a little bit edgy, because it’s one of those stories that is about how she had to hide her identity by taking on the role of a man in order to learn mathematics and then to correspond with some of the guys who were working on the problem. It’s a pretty sad story, mostly because she is described as being so totally brilliant that she attracted too much attention and had to out herself to her instructor. To me, this story doesn’t have a huge amount of trans-ness in it, but more reflects the difficulties that women had and continue to have breaking into mathematics. Of course, the headlines play it up as some kind of Billie Tipton or Pope Joan kinda thing, but I guess that sells nowadays.

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Morality, Star Wars, and Obi-Wan Kenobi

>> Warning: Spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode I and II <<

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s first two episodes — of six total that have been filmed for season one — are out, with a third coming the day after Memorial Day. I watched them last night with friends, one of whom is a clever thinker with an artist’s eye and an out-loud muser while she watches shows with friends.

“I’m not sure yet, if she is a good guy or a bad guy” she says of (former Jedi) Inquisitor Reva Sevander (played by Moses Ingram), the “third sister” of the Grand Inquisitor that hunts the remaining Jedi into extinction for Darth Vader. I’d watched the shows earlier that day so I knew what was coming, and answered, “I guess we’ll find out in this next scene here,” where she betrays one of her allies.

It used to (and may still) be that folks divided themselves into two camps: those who preferred the future-Earth, utopian science fiction of Star Trek and those who preferred the more fantastical, dueling space wizards in Star Wars. I have always had a difficulty choosing between the two as they each have their own pleasing personality traits, each with but a few blemishes that only serve to make their beauty more authentic.

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Who’s Assimilating Whom?

This was originally published online in April of 1998. I was once a very passionate advocate for trans liberation when I wrote and posted essays on the Android Sisters blog that I ran for a few years in the late ’90s. The contrivance of Android Sisters was that I was an artificially constructed person — much as I was a biologically constructed woman — writing about meaning and identity and realness and what that meant.

Warning: I write about self-medicating with alcohol and tobacco, self-harm, and suicide here. No spoilers, but I survived and did not go through with any self-harm scenarios. I do not recommend self-medicating with alcohol, tobacco, self-harm, or suicide. In fact, I highly discourage them.

I don’t know what I “live as” but I sure am expending a lot of energy living it.

Continue reading Who’s Assimilating Whom?

What the Autopsy Revealed

Originally appeared in The Stranger; volume 1, issue 1; September 1991 under the byline “Tony Ramirez”. It has been edited to remove some errors and inconsistencies in the original.

My conversations with Lydia Bordland began in the late 1980s, when I was researching my thesis on Sexual Degeneracy in the Decline of Western Civilization. She was living in Portland at the time, working for a telephone marketing organization, subsisting on meager wages. It was during that time I first called her for an interview. She rebuffed me. Two weeks later, I called again. She accepted and offered to meet me at a cafe near her home.

At our meeting, I asked the usual questions: Why did you do it? How did you do it? She was obviously put off by my unimaginative queries. Having no other questions, I took my leave, wishing her luck in life.

I had two other meetings with her that summer. The second was much like the first, with me merely following up on questions I asked the first time. I must admit that her usefulness to me was only to provide color for my thesis, which I worked on feverishly all that year. She understood this and was polite, but offered little extra input.

Continue reading What the Autopsy Revealed

Slave Morality

I watched a philosophy video by Natalie Wynn yesterday that blew my mind. In it, she talks about Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and “slave morality”.

This somewhat undermines my whole view of morality where there is some difficult to define, but possible to discern “right” and “wrong” and puts it in a more ambiguous space. That there are two competing “rights” that really are more situational than they are universal. Situational ethics has generally been frowned upon.

Natalie included a quote from Dr. King which showed his understanding of the situation, “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

So, we need both love and power.

I was introduced to the idea of social justice in the ‘90s at the Lesbian Resource Center in Seattle by the young women of color who worked there and were willing and patient enough to explain things to me. I was not initially on board with much of it. I idolized my very libertarian father and step-mother and I integrated much of their worldview. It certainly helped me in my life, especially during the time where I was helping to start The Onion and The Stranger. I considered myself a powerful person who could do anything I set my mind to. I had much to offer the world and the world would be doing itself a favor to make room for me. Not necessarily at the top, which is something I never really wanted for myself, but somewhere firmly in the middle class where I had plentiful resources, eager colleagues, and the wherewithal to make good use of them.

Then I announced in the mid-1990s that I would be transitioning from male to female: that I would be getting what we called back then, a sex change. All of that braggadocio went away once I started hormones and changed my name. I went from master to slave in the span of about six months.

The first thing I learned about being a slave is that the initial fall isn’t even the worst, most painful part. That plummet was merely the initiation into a milleau of regularly scheduled pain and neglect. I also learned quite quickly that I was not gifted at birth, nor by upbringing, with a wealth of tools for navigating adversity.

I learned quite quickly that laying low and playing dead were the best strategies to escape most beatings. This was reinforced by what I learned from growing up queer, quiet, and clever. The people we go to for learning social coping strategies are unavailable to queer kids who feel we had to hide much of our internal life from responsible adults and older peers. We have fewer friends and more unstable relationships. While other kids are collecting marbles and Pokemon cards, we are collecting mental illnesses.

Usually after we get out of high school and enter university, or leave our hometowns to travel to bigger cities with more opportunity, or just to escape the feeling of being caged we experienced growing up; most of us are able to reinvent ourselves. Not always as who we truly are. Everyone is different. For me, I found characters in fiction that moved me emotionally. I wanted to be a writer, so I patterned myself after famous writers: Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Robbins, and Douglas Adams were my favorites, so I created a holistic hippy hitchhiker persona that got me through the early years of my young adulthood.

I thought I was free, though the whole time I knew I was not being myself. I had no idea what my self could be at that time. My fears of exposure were so great, I was still hiding. I was trying on bits of what other people liked about people I liked and building a persona out of it. This served me well as I got further into my publishing career. I built a master persona out of the wreckage of a slave child’s painful upbringing.

I was a success.

Success is, however, transient for even the most successful. Eating away at me all that time was a feeling that something wasn’t right, that I was being untrue to my most basic needs.

This is the part where the standard trans biography and mine meet: Something feels not right, explore what that something might be, turns out it’s how I feel about my body and the social role I’m playing. At least where I grew up, our bodies determine the social role we’ll be playing. It’s a chicken and egg game to determine whether changing the body or changing the role is easier. What I can say from experience is that personal physical changes are always easier to make than social changes. Personal physical changes may be painful, or drawn out, or imperfect, or all three; but even the most expensive cosmetic surgery is preferable to undergo than to take on the deeply-held beliefs of a group of people who benefit every day from those beliefs. Even when those people are trusted, loved, and considered friends.

Our experience of sex and gender roles is less tangible than we would like it. Even cissexual people report feelings of being unsure they are happy inhabiting their own sexed body. Most people, however, though they wince at some aspects of the role, are accepting of the body they have. And those who aren’t often take steps to make it a more idealized form of what they already inhabit.

Those who are unhappy with the role make great efforts to change society to be more accepting of alternatives to the few predefined archetypes that are generally accepted. Subcultures are created and real creativity happens in the space where people are reinventing themselves to express aspects of themselves that have gone hidden for far too long.

My mother asked me early on in my transition, “Why don’t you just keep it something secret? Why not live a life in public that adheres to the agreed-upon roles, then you can be anything you want in the privacy of your own home.” I now know that this is what she did with her life. She sublimated her desires into motherhood and homemaking. What those long lost desires were, we may never know. I suspect they were her aptitude for numbers and accounting, which my sister seemed to inherit and excel at. Who knows what my mother might have accomplished had she pursued her dreams. Perhaps she had conflicting dreams and wasn’t able to be both mother and mathematician. At that time, the 1970s, pursuing both was considered to be impossible.

But we make decisions based on incomplete information. We do our best with the information we have at hand. We build flexibility into our plans so that we can act on new information as it comes in.

The makeup and identity of the trans community has changed drastically in the last fifty years, for the better. We’re far more diverse and interesting than we started out.

For a group of people, most of whom are just trying to survive as best we can in communities that are at best view us with antipathy, we are doing incredibly well.

So yes, we create ideologies, ethics, and morality of slaves and we identify with other slaves against the masters. It feels so right and correct to be on this side of the struggle because it’s a fight for our existence. Of course it feels right.

I think what I was missing is that when I was a master, I felt the same way. I was fighting the good fight. There were winners (hopefully me) and losers (usually other newspapers, rarely individual people, but in the case of individuals who were highly identified with their newspaper: fair game). While a moral case could be made that I shouldn’t have been as mercenary, I was often acting less so than my business partners. I advocated for more women to be involved, for more people of color to be involved and because I was in a position of power, I got listened to and while it wasn’t near enough by today’s standards, The Stranger was a role model for other newspapers. We helped create the more just world we live in today where people feel free to ask for an even more fair world.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

I often say that the most important civil rights advance was integration. I believe integration is so important because that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed all that much from the 1960s. The world is a segregated place: by race, class, and gender. The United States still has a long way to go and in some ways we have gone backwards since the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s where we had so much advancement in other areas.

Having a thriving Black middle class doesn’t make us stronger if it just creates two segregated middle classes. History has proved to us that the Black middle class will come out with less due to the complexities of American history and how race relations play out in American culture, even more chaotically and tragically now in the 21st century.

I have a lot of thinking to do about morality, I think. I’m willing to accept that morality is more complicated than I was taught in Sunday school. At the same time, I believe that it’s more important than ever that I examine my notions of morality and see where they can be brought up to date.

And of course, all of this nuanced and subtle rumination is completely incompatible with twenty-four hour cable news, social media, and the ideologically-segregated communities we live in today.