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Let’s talk about who’s actually hateful and bigoted here

This is a breath of fresh air. I didn’t stick around after the Dyke March in Vancouver, but saw some of the “coverage” after, and was struck by how hard the organizers and media worked to erase the presence of lesbians and other women from the march. Except those women who either bared or bound their breasts in honour of the patriarchy. well.

Source: Let’s talk about who’s actually hateful and bigoted here

Women taking space

We’re not allowed. To take space, that is. I was just talking with a friend of mine. We’ve known each other for nearly twenty years now, I think. Worked in “front line” women’s services at the same time, sometimes the same place. She’s been an advocate for impoverished women for a long time. It’s hard work. You know that. Women are under attack. Not least of all because we are women, because men are taught they are entitled to our bodies, our sexual organs, our labour, our ideas, our emotional support. And now they want into our drop-in centres, transition houses, bathrooms, sports teams, support groups – everywhere. She told me that, unlike when we were co-workers, and the males had to make some effort to fit in as women (more than we do, for sure), now the place she works allows men to come into this (previously) women’s space to have a meal, get advocacy help, and rifle through the donation clothes closet. Men who say they are women when they come to where she works, but then also go to services for men. Men who don’t even bother to apply some of the markers of femininity, or constrain themselves in stupid shoes. And now, there are also women working in these places — shelters and drop-in centres and so on, who are wearing binders, and “identifying” as anything-but-women.  So why take a job in a women-serving organization? i don’t get that…I DO get hating the stereotypes, of course I do. and hating the victimization we experience at the hands of men (in service to the patriarchy). I get that. But wearing a binder, pitching your voice lower, taking testosterone, whatever — that won’t change anything about our society, it won’t aid other women, it won’t get any of us any closer to freedom.

it’s obvious that feminists all agree that people who identify as trans deserve the right to live free from harassment and violence, just as anyone else. They need housing, jobs, family and friends, like everyone else.

What they do not need is unfettered access to female-only spaces. Really, c’mon. Women have worked really hard to develop rape crisis centres and transition houses for battered women and their children, and have worked really hard to carve out spaces where we can talk to each other about how it is to be a woman in world that discredits, diminishes, marginalizes and threatens us because of our sex. Sex. Not Gender. Gender is one of the ways in which we are threatened, diminished, dispossessed, marginalized…because of our sex.  If those fellows want to set up “trans-inclusive” spaces, transition houses, centres, etc — go to it!

But they won’t because theirs is an individualistic and libertarian ideology — not based on any structural analysis of oppression and not centred on achieving shared liberation. Rather they seek widespread public recognition of their idea of ‘legitimate’ womanhood. They don’t want to change gender, or abolish it — they want to reinforce it.

I got into a little twitter fight with a former friend a while back. It started with her reply to me about something I said along the lines of the above – that feminist organizations ought to determine with whom to organize, and whom to serve — “most feminist organizations include trans folks” she said, and “[A local feminist anti-violence organization] doesn’t speak for all feminists.” Another woman asked her, “and you do?” or something along those lines. My former friend’s response was kind of self-righteous, I thought (I should know, I can do self-righteous like nobody’s business!).  She said, “I’ve been working for 25 years for feminists, trans and gender-variant people” I’m pretty sure she listed a whole bunch of labels, not one of them “women”. but i could be wrong, maybe she said “women” in there somewhere. Anyway. I chimed in to say that it’s anti-feminist to insist that women’s groups should not determine their own mandate or membership. She reasserted that she “proudly” stands beside all the trans and gender-variant people. And feminists. I invited her to just get out of the way, and stop trying to undermine the work of radical feminists. We can’t be all things to all people, I said, (meeting her self-righteous tone, I’m afraid) “feminists stand with women” I said. Of course my former friend couldn’t let that go — she said, “Erin, we Disagree! I’m proud to stand beside ALL women including transwomen (etc)”. Then she blocked me.

So I can never say to her that it’s okay to disagree. For now. I can never say to her that we have to find a way to navigate this whole ‘rights and diversity’ mess. We all want freedom, we just don’t have the same understanding of what it is and for whom. If you’re advocating for the ‘rights’ of people who are male*, to live in women’s shelters, play on women’s teams, change in women’s changerooms, organize feminist events, participate in women’s conferences, enroll in women’s schools, and so forth, you are obstructing women’s rights. That’s what I think. I disagree with my former friend, she’s right about that, (who, by the way, has not done FIVE minutes of voluntary, unpaid work on behalf of women, or of feminism — all of her experience has been either as a paid transition house worker, or as an academic), and while I think she’s wrong, even that she is doing harm, I think it’s important to explore the disagreement. What does she mean by ‘gender-variant’ for example? Especially given that she is a lesbian herself. What does she mean by “standing beside”, or “in alliance”?

You know, the more I think about it, the more I read and see — the more I think that “trans rights” are just another way to ‘disappear’ women. Of course other women have been saying this for a long time. Ruth Barrett just put together an impressive anthology of writing by all kinds of women called Female Erasure. I think more women (and men!) are thinking about how dangerous and harmful this gender ideology has become.

I started this post long before I posted the most recent one (the one that starts with a description of the hike up the BCMC trail), and before I attended WoLF Fest. Before I taught my summer courses, even, i think. I haven’t yet paid a great price for my critique of gender ideology — but it’s starting. This summer, my little gang of sober women has splintered along this line. We have been meeting together every fall and winter to help each other with this whole not drinking business for a long time.  Some of the women who’ve joined us over the years have responded to the sexism they face by claiming an identity of “trans” or “non-binary” or something. Some of them have told me, “I don’t really qualify for this group because I don’t identify as a woman”.  I remember one conversation I had with one of these women. I said, “you’re female, you ‘qualify’.” But she won’t come because she doesn’t think she’s female anymore. She thinks she can change her sex. And because I say, “I don’t care how you identify, other than as someone who wants to stop drinking. Just so long as you were born female, raised as a girl, you belong here”, I am not allowing them to tell the truth about their lives. So they won’t come to the group — And they don’t want to go to a men’s group, some of them. Some of the women in my group are going to meet on a different night, and make it a “women and trans group”. I don’t know who all will do that, and I wish them well, but I’m pretty sad that we’re divided from each other about this. I love them. We’ve been through a lot together. Now there is this between us. And now i’m a bit paranoid that the other women in the group see me as the problem. One of my friends told me that at different times, I’d not used the preferred pronouns. It’s a women’s group, fer cryin’ out loud. They must know that they need the support of other women if they’re attending a women’s group, how can calling other females “she” be harmful?

(plus, I really can’t stomach the whole trend to refer to individuals as “they” — if someone’s in front of me, I’ll use her name. If she’s not, she’ll not hear me refer to her as ‘she’ so she can’t get all bent out of shape, can she?).

Anyhow, it’s easy enough to avoid the pronoun business altogether in the group itself. But other women in the group have found it troubling that I refer to the members of the group as “she”, I guess. Anyway, I’m sad that we can’t agree that being female means something — that being women means something, and has specific implications about our drinking and our sobriety.  I’m also sad that there is this between us, this patriarchy, this new version of identity politics. And I’m afraid that when we start up again in the fall no one will come. Mind you, now there will be two groups on different nights, so more possibilities for women who want to stop drinking. That can’t be bad.

And then there’s the work meeting coming up next week. I am trying to not think about it. I’m pretty sure lowly sessional instructors are not called in for meetings with the boss people when their students are happy with everything, or when they’ve done a great job teaching.  I’ll let you know.

But now i will do something with all these apricots, work on the syllabus for my course, and maybe get to work on our banner for the (pathetic, liberal, in-desperate-need-of-feminist-leadership/intervention) dyke march this weekend. And fling some kettlebells around, even if it’s too hot and smoky to move much. I’m afraid for everyone in the interior of BC.

No. Wait. I’m afraid, period. For all of us. The last couple of nights, the setting sun has been a deep red. Apocalyptic.

  • of course, by “male” I am referring to the dominant sex class — the people born with penises, testes, prostates, and all that. Here’s a good post that takes apart the ideological concept of gender and ‘mis-gendering’



the grind and wolf fest and a bit about my dread…

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Yesterday I went up the Grouse Grind with some people from my gym, and Su came along too. We went up the trail beside the Grind, the one called BCMC. It’s a bit longer than the Grind, less well marked, less built up, and a lot less busy than the Grind. We went up, then we walked down, too. Al and Christina went up three times (but only made the descent on foot once, the other two times they took the Gondola down — which was smart). I was nearly crying the when i finally reached the bottom. I will NEVER walk down that trail again. Good Lord. On the way up, all kinds of people passed me. I’m way less conditioned than I was when I first went up that trail with Joanna in 2010. She’s been gone now a year, a little more than that.  Still hard to believe…

Anyway, those times, the times we went up the BCMC, I was a lot faster than she was, which gave me great joy. I would scamper up the hill, then make my way back down to her, and say, “Twenty years, Asthma. heheheh”. Which was what I had on her — twenty years older and asthmatic. She was good-natured about my teasing.  Yesterday, though, EVERYONE passed me. Just about. Thankfully we started up early enough (9 am) that the families with small children weren’t making their way up yet. So the people who passed me were mostly 20-30 somethings, my team from the gym, and a few guys my age or older with light-weight shoes and walking poles (I used this grand walking stick i got in a second-hand store in New York — it’s a knotted, thorny wooden stick, looks like a shillelagh–beautiful). On the way down, Su waited for me at one point, but I was embarrassed about how slow and clumsy I was so I wasn’t having any of that. Quite a number of young, limber people ran past me, springing and slipping from rock to root like mountain goats in spandex. By the time i was making the treacherous descent, the mid-day people were climbing up — including people with very young children. I heard one small child refer to me as “that old lady” after they went up past me. I saw a young woman with a child strapped to her back who looked about half the size of her mom! The kid gave me a challenging stare as the woman struggled up the hill — I nearly told the kid to get out and walk, give her mama a break. But that glare she gave me was a bit scary. What’s with all these people strapping their children to their backs and walking up mountains? Looked like they were practicing to be refugees.

One delightful little girl was skipping up with her dad and a tiny sibling in a snuggly thing strapped to him. She was trying to tell him a Spanish word she knew. He said, “I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, honey, maybe we can find someone who speaks Spanish” I said, “Well, I’ve heard French, and I think Farsi, and Arabic, I’m sure you’ll meet someone who speaks Spanish today”. She asked if i did, and I said that no, I didn’t. She proclaimed that she knew one word — I think she said, “Si se puede” — “We can do it”, or “we will do it”. They were nearly at the top, and I agreed with her.  She had me smiling for at least 73 metres. But then my shoes filled with stones and my knees were complaining and I was hungry. People do this kind of thing for fun. Other people, of course, more than we can count, do that kind of thing because they have to. They do have to leave their homelands and carry their babies on their backs, and tell each other “Si se puede” when they don’t believe it, not really.

Feminists are like that. We have to carry each other, and we have to tell each other that we will succeed, even when our faith is not strong.

We just returned from WoLFFest in Northern California. It was the second year, a weekend of Feminists in the Redwood forest. All women, a few kids, three resident dogs.  We tented in woods surrounding a small meadow and a couple of little houses. It was COLD. In the morning and the evening. Daytime was hot. There were workshops on how to do menstrual extractions and early abortions, and a couple of herb walks around the land. There were workshops about how to do political graffiti using stuff that’s lying around your house, or easy to get. Max Dashu did three workshops based on her “Suppressed Herstory Archives” — women have always resisted patriarchy, always tried to protect each other, always tried to take up our share of space, and make a path for others. We’ve always been suppressed, too, and burned and hunted and raped — by men. Of course not all men — but all men do benefit. And women often betray each other in order to save themselves and/or their children. Or we keep quiet about what we know to protect ourselves and/or our loved ones. Or we go mad. But somehow our stories survive (even if only in fragments), and there have always been women they could not burn.  There’s a slogan, Max showed a slide of a young woman’s back, and printed on her skin (tattooed?) were the words, “We are the granddaughters of the witches they could not burn”. There was a workshop by a woman from the Dominican Republic about male violence against women there,  and women’s resistance.  There were three tents — a Women of Colour tent, the Meadow Tent, and the Forest Tent. We talked about how to find each other in the age of social media (that’s often alienating), and how to understand each other when our own recent herstories are being erased or dismissed as irrelevant. There was a journaling workshop (I didn’t go to that, but it sounded cool), and there was a campfire circle every night where women went to smoke and talk — I didn’t go there either. We arrived Friday evening, Saturday I was on security duty, and Sunday everyone sat at the big fire for a closing ceremony.  There were about a hundred women there, most of us were of European descent, but there was probably a third who were women of colour or Aboriginal. there wasn’t much music–I played my accordion a bit, and Sarah lead us in some Ali Bee songs on Saturday night — THAT was fun. Lierre started us singing rounds (revolutions!) on Sunday night, and other women taught us songs or chants they knew or had written. It was a grand weekend, full of feminist discussions, debates, trading strategies and imagining how to meaningfully intervene in the patriarchal juggernaut that is tearing through what women have tried to create (women-only spaces, access to abortion, women-centred health care, art, access to and influence in public space, music, lives of freedom from slavery, prostitution, male violence –). It felt to me like there is a possibility for movement, there may be a shift toward a female future. Maybe. Someone asked, at one of the workshops, “What about hope? Can you tell me, is there hope for us?” — I don’t remember if it was Lierre or Meghan leading the discussion that time, or even who answered — a woman in the audience, maybe? Anyway, she said, “Hope doesn’t matter. We don’t have to have hope in order to act, that’s an indulgence. We have to act in the face of no hope.” Not in those words, but that’s the meaning I got from her answer.  Reminded me of when Chris Hedges said at a talk in Vancouver a couple of years ago, “I don’t fight fascists because I think I’ll win, I fight fascists because they’re fascists”.  Similarly, we must organize as women, as feminists, whether or not we like each other, or whether or not we believe we will win — but because the women before us made this world where some of us do have some slack in our chain, and we can imagine something that looks like freedom — not wholly, but we are just beginning.

Then I got an email from the teacher education department of my university.  The head of our department and the head of the teacher education office want to meet with me about the course I just finished teaching. The course is called “Teaching and Ethics”. Every year, i’m getting a bit bolder about providing some material that is critical of the institution of education’s promotion of trans-ing children. We had a discussion in that last class about this trans stuff, and one of the teacher candidates asked to speak to me one-on-one about our class discussion. She asked “what if there’s a trans student in your class?” I don’t remember what my answer to her was. Something about staying in the discomfort and finding a way to speak to each other. Not to agree, that’s not necessary — but to talk about what we think, and how we came to our decisions and which forces condition our choices– that’s what I want for all my classes. So, a week later, I get an email from the boss people that they want to speak to me. There is no one else who is providing a critique of this trans ideology, and the harms that ideology is doing to children (especially girls). There is no analysis of the political/social structures (especially sexism, but certainly racism/imperialism and classism) that this whole “trans inclusion” stuff is reinforcing and reproducing. I figure our meeting will be about that. About how i’m a bigot and all.

I am, of course, imagining the worst. But I’ll breathe deep, and pray to the ancestors, and believe in the good intentions of the people who disagree with me and hold some love for them in my heart. And I will tell the truth and maintain my integrity and composure. I know I am not alone, and I owe the feminists who lead me and those who are following me. Also, all the little girls who are like I was–fierce and active tomboys, who pledged to always remember who they are. I remember, when i was 8 or 9, and my friends and I were talking about our mothers. Most of the other girls said, “My mom used to be a tomboy.” And I remember thinking, “how could they have forgotten? I will always remember that i’m a tomboy”. Of course, none of those women ever forgot, but what could they do? I owe them, too, a debt for the space and opportunities I have.

I’ve got more to say, but this post is long enough now, it’s been so long since i wrote anything, I have a lot of catching up to do! Oh, while i’m here, update on the stowaway–i have an MRI in late August, I feel fine, I’m back at the gym, (of course), and remain on anti-seizure medication. I am always grateful, always.

“I just gave him the language”: Top gender doc uses pop tart analogy to persuade 8-year-old girl she’s really a boy

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Source: “I just gave him the language”: Top gender doc uses pop tart analogy to persuade 8-year-old girl she’s really a boy

Had this kind of “medical” treatment been around when I was a little girl, I would have been sunk. Any one else? Does this child remind you of yourself when you were her age?

2017 is here. who’s ready?

Hello, Beautiful People,

April 13, 2017 — obviously I’m not ready for 2017–we’re 4 months in already, and i’ve been fiddling with this here post since January! I’m gonna just post it now already.  I started this in January, then returned to it and tried to keep updating the references to dates and stuff. but now i’m just posting it, and i’ll make a new post some time in the future. so much has happened! okay. Here ya go:

I don’t remember what my last post was about, probably some update or other about the stowaway in my head. It’s been a long time, anyway — and now it’s March!  Of course a lot has happened in those intervening weeks, including another MRI. That was February 25th. It showed that the tumour is behaving, as the chemo doc hoped, “in an indolent manner”.  there is no change at all from November. So that’s excellent news. I knew it would be like that. After the initial freak out, and spending WAY too much time consulting Doctor Google, I figured i’d just carry on, and treat the stowaway the way I’d treat ANY guy taking up occupancy in women’s space — with derision and mockery — and finally shunning.

For a while after the biopsy, I thought I’d NEVER get back my energy and speed (i’m none too fast-moving at the best of times, mind you). I was in bed most nights by 9:30 or 10 — a great idea, by the way, which I recommend.  Now i’m back to my evil ways, watching netflix or playing solitaire or listening to podcasts until late. But I can’t wake up as early as I used to, no matter what, anymore. One of my young friends from the Danish summer school I attended in 2010 used to call me a “F***king Hurricane!” which I found quite flattering. These days, I’ve been downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, I think.

Before this bloody cold tackled a couple weeks ago, though, I was working out in the gym at least 3 or four days a week again.  Ending and beginning the year where I wanted to be. going for reps. Endurance, not bulk now. i’ll have to face it, i’m past competing anymore. Even before the thing in my head, i had all these nagging injuries that I was trying to ignore. Can’t. I’ve played my accordion a bit so far. Not enough, but some every week.

And the gifts keep coming my way, you know? Did I tell you about the sock monkey my cousin in Perdue Saskatchewan made and sent me?


Note the bow tie. Her name is Patrice Mireille. I don’t know why she looks so French, but she seemed to fit that name. Bev usually makes these with scarves, not bow ties, but now there’s a thing with me and bow ties, so she went with it. And then in early February, my friend Vickie and her sister Bev came to visit, along with Lilly, Bev’s delightful granddaughter. And Vickie and Bev made me the most wonderful (and warm!) quilt ever:


Note that each square contains four bowties — one in each corner:


Such gorgeous, detailed, exacting work — so much love went into that quilt! Plus they made a pillow case and a carry bag in the same way. The backing of the quilt is all left overs of flannel pyjamas that Vickie makes for her family every Christmas. It’s been a very very cold and endless winter here in Vangroovy, and that quilt is delightfully warm and comforting in more ways than one.

PLUS we had a fun day. We went to the aquarium and saw dolphins and sea lions frolic in the snow, we watched the jellies undulate and glow for what seemed like hours, we looked for tiny frogs in big terrarium-ish things, and we got lost in the (big, bright, very tacky) gift store. I wanted more of them, my dear friends. But I loved our time together. We just know each other, you know? Bev was a little kid when Vickie and I were hanging out the most, she’s nearly six years younger than Vick. She said to me once, when I first met her again in the spring of 2015 when Vickie and Glen brought me and Mom’s stuff home to Vancouver, “I don’t remember much about my childhood, but I do remember the feeling when you came over — your voice with all the laughter in it –“. She said I took some weight from her life then, and brought fun. I didn’t know until that 2015 meeting. you never do know, do you? the kind of effects you have on people — you never know.

There’s been a lot of other stuff in the last few months — My friend Shannon’s mom died January 21st. Do you remember my post from a few years ago about Shannon? Of course not, it was years ago — who can remember stuff about someone else’s blog for such a long time? here’s a link for ya:

Joan never really got traction again after Shannon died. How could she? and Shannon’s daughter is still having a hard time, too. you know what, I don’t want to write about them yet. It’s too painful. I tell you what, the worst sort of sexism, reinforced by male violence and alcohol, swept through generations of that family and laid waste to good people. Racism, too, of course. Joan’s side of the family were Anishnabe, I think — as well as Irish and Scots — worlds of suffering — some of ’em forced out of their homelands, the rest of ’em divested from, then enslaved in their own territories. When I last saw Joan, I told her that I’d see her the next day, but she didn’t have to wait around for me to show up. She looked at me through her opiate fog, her brown eyes sharp and focused, raised her right hand and waved at me.  She was relentlessly hopeful — always minimized the pain she was in, sometimes would hint that she needed help, or that she was pissed off or sad — then she’d skitter away. Her life didn’t turn out the way she wanted — whose does?–and maybe she was too ashamed to tell anyone, or maybe she was so angry about it she was afraid she’d explode if she nudged that hot ball of rage deep inside her. I don’t know. She was all heart, was Joan. All heart, love, courage, fear and rage — I couldn’t help. In some ways,  I abandoned her and her granddaughter, Shannon’s daughter. I miss Shannon still. She was such a bright spark — really smart, tough, sensitive, funny — she LOVED life. she just couldn’t manage it. The depressions became absolutely crushing — she didn’t think there was any way out. dammit.

April 13 again — I will post this now, as I said. Next post i’ll write about my experience on the UBC sexual assault policy steering committee — which was both really interesting and educational — fun, even–AND frustrating and discouraging. Life is good. I miss Shannon, I think of Joan often, I see Shannon’s daughter sometimes still, she’s like her mom — really smart and sensitive and good. Troubled, of course….

Anyway, lots of people have been asking, “how’s your health, Erin?” It’s good. I’m a lucky woman. that’s for sure. now i have to take the dog out…

Which is another story.



A bit about the montreal massacre memorial, a bit more about the stowaway

Hello, Beautiful People!

Well. What a great day December 3rd was. Good, anyway. I was played right out, though, I tell you what. I went to the Montreal Massacre Memorial event that Rape Relief puts on every year. This year it was at the Native Education Centre, not the central branch of the library, because there was a flood in the library a couple of months ago and they’ve still not finished cleaning that up.

It was a good space to have it, the NEC. Much smaller than the library, which was kind of good too, because it felt like it was really well-attended. Anyway it WAS well-attended. Women came from all over the place, and all over the politics. Some men, too. Allies, real ones, not the sensitive guytm kind. Though I’m sure there were some of those there for a bit. The roundtable discussions and lectures and conversations hit all the points – Law, activism, social services, education, –the day confirmed that we are living in pretty bleak times, the backlash is strong, women-only spaces are increasingly necessary and increasingly rare, heterosexuality is more forcefully coerced, perhaps more than anywhere else in the queer “community” with that impossible-to-pronounce-homogenizing acronym “Lgbttiqqetc”. I sound flippant every time I talk about the conservatism and misogyny of the trans trend that is promoted by every institution of power, but it is a serious threat to women’s liberation and possibly more effective than Lepine’s 1989 women-hating murderous rampage. Sorry, that was a long sentence, and now I’m going to move on without going into a longer explanation right now of what I mean by all that.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom, thought, not at all! We also celebrated women’s resilience and the powers we share with each other in the pursuit of liberation. It was one of the best memorials I’ve been to. Women get it. Why we have to remember, and what the connections are between the massacre and the challenges the women’s liberation movement faces today. Men don’t. Most men. Not because they’re stupid, but because they don’t want to give up their power and the space and stuff they have (at our expense).  They’re willing to settle for the loss of their humanity in exchange for such power and access. We’re not. Not for them, and certainly not for us.

Anyway, now on to recent updates about the stowaway-

On Wednesday November 30, i went for my first appointment to the BC Cancer Agency, and December 8th to my second. Both times I went with Trish and Su. They took notes and asked good questions. The first time we met Esther, a nurse, Dr. Nichol, the radiation oncologist and Tracy, a counselor. Dr Nichol looks for all the world like an elf! he’s not as short as elves are portrayed, and wasn’t wearing pointy shoes, but otherwise, he looked for A LOT like one of Santa’s helpers. His ears are kind of pointy, and he has a narrow chin beard and a Vandyke moustache. Very cute. But I didn’t mention that to him. He said that as of now, there is no way to safely remove the tumour, and that it would, at some point, grow. Eventually I will have to have radiation and chemotherapy. He described some of the “side effects” (I don’t like that term. There are effects you want, and effects you don’t want—) of radiation. They sound very unpleasant. They didn’t have the genetic results of the biopsy yet, so were not 100% sure of its characteristics, but once that comes in they will be able to recommend what treatment and when. As of December 8th, they did have genetic results, and the doctor we saw then, Dr. Theissen, said that it confirmed I had a gazillion-syllable thing in my head. The name of the genetic result is about 20 times bigger than the tumour itself.  Both doctors said they would opt to monitor the little critter by running my head through  an MRI every few months, and when it starts to grow, then they’ll bring out the radiation and chemo. And he said, there are a whole bunch of studies going on, so it is possible they will have new treatments available in time that will be more effective and not as destructive all around as radiation and chemo. He couldn’t give me a prognosis, but did say that often people live for years with these things. Dr. Theissen was more precise, he said that often people can live for 15-20 years with these things, and usually die of other things before the tumour gets ‘em. Also, I am not allowed to drive for six months. I thought that meant May 21st at 4 pm. But  good news! They don’t count the little seizure I had after the biopsy surgery, only the big terrifying one November 3rd. So that means I can drive starting May 3rd at about 2 pm. That was when I woke up from the first seizure, about 2 pm.

Also, this is bad news, Dr. Thiessen said I could never lift heavy again. Ever. In case I strained (called a Valsalva maneuver), thereby increasing intra cranial pressure and possibly triggering a seizure. Never mind that I’m pretty sure my back is past the heavy squat capabilities, I was planning to compete in 2017. Dammit. No fewer than 15 reps, he said. That’s really sad. I started to cry. Su said, “that’s okay, you can just work out lighter but with more frequency”. I KNOW, but I want to bulk up! I’m looking for the prized no-neck look, fer cryin’ out loud.  I’ll just have to work up to 15 reps of 300 lb squats. That may take a little while. 275 was my best 1 rep max, and that was probably 20 years ago. Sigh.

No one knows what caused it, or how long it’s been there. My auntie believes that the accordion did have something to do with it. Also my unwillingness (inability?) to follow Mom’s orders and tidy my room – “even once, Erin, for pete’s sake!” —

In the meantime, once i recover from the biopsy surgery, I can return to work. so that’ll be January 1st. I feel quite well, except for this awful cold I have, and I still play out earlier in the day than I did before. I guess that’s to be expected when you’ve had brain surgery. The first appointment was pretty overwhelming, the second less so. But both had lots of information, not all of it the news i’d like to receive, but overall, it’s as I expected, except for the part of having this unwelcome squatter in my head forever, and never being able to lift heavy, or hike, swim or even fucking bathe alone. Because of the seizure risk thing. Oh! Dr. Theissen prescribed a better anti-seizure drug than Dilantin. That’s good. Dilantin is terrible – is contraindicated for all kinds of drugs, vitamins and supplements. Also can cause facial hair growth (which I don’t think I’d mind, especially now, it’s so cold here…). Then I would run the risk of being ‘misgendered’ though, more than I am currently, and referred to as a ‘transman’ or ze or they. Of course, I don’t know what pronouns people use when referring to me, as usually you don’t refer to anyone who is with you in the third person. That’s generally rude. I hope they use “That hilarious feminist” as my pronoun.

Anyway, good news is the grumpy stowaway is small and looks like it’s not going to grow anytime soon. Bad news is it’s not likely to leave anytime soon, either. Good news is, LOTS of material for comedy and stories. Bad news is, conductor for seizures so no more heavy lifting. But mostly the good news is that I know how much people love me, and that my contributions so far have mattered to my allies, comrades, fellow travelers. And your contributions to the glorious struggle, to the world banks of love and funny, to our shared and longed-for freedom – are essential. Doesn’t matter if we win (but we will), it matters that we do our best, feel the love, keep the faith and never give up.

That all sounds too schmaltzy and sentimental. Sorry. Oh! One more story – I’ll think of more, I’m sure. During the first cancer agency visit (I don’t have cancer, by the way, that’s another good thing), in between the doctor and the nurse or the nurses and the counselor, Trish, Su and I were tossing around ideas of career options for me, or at least how to generate an income because I gave up a couple of things when I didn’t know whether I’d have treatment or anything. I’ve always wanted to be a minister, or preacher. But I don’t believe in god, so that lets out most Christian denominations. Trish suggested to found a new religion called the Church of the Latter Day Rascals, and I said, “We’ll pray to Grumpy Old Dykes”, and Su said, “God”. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of grumpy old dykes as an acronym for god before! So now, at my twelve-step meetings, I don’t even mind saying “GOD” because I know what it stands for now. What a relief. You can use it too, if you like. Or, Grumpy Odd Dykes. Just as good.

and Storytellers, too

I nearly forgot — how could I?  The weekend between the first hospital stay and the biopsy hospital stay,  my storytelling friends gathered to tell the 1001 Arabian Nights stories.  Every year we gather to tell a different epic. It’s so fun– everyone takes a different story or two, analyzes, interprets and learns it, and over the weekend we weave to each others’ parts. I hoped to tell this year, but decided not to because I had so much work to do, more teaching than ever before all at once. Turns out, that was a good idea on account of the seizure and the tumour and all, anyway.

The storytellers, I hooked up with them in the early 2000s, and they taught me that “you can’t know someone’s story and not love them”. That phrase has brought a light to many a tangled, gloomy, fractious relationship. Don’t have to like them, but you can love them.

So, Kira and Patricia read my blog, and they told a few of the other tellers at the epic. They circulated a card, and bought a beautiful bouquet, with a wee cabbage in it, some red berries, purple lilies, some kind of fine fern–beautiful. And a card with everyone’s signature, and words of encouragement. Tell stories, keep the histories alive, remember, imagine —

Philomena gave them to me, and we had a good visit the Friday before i went into the hospital. They have all added to the magic all around me. where would we be without stories?

If the tumour doesn’t go away, i’m going to turn it into a vault for super powers. I’ll start with cribbage and go from there.

November 30–I got my head staples out today. My doctor gave them to me, i think i’ll make a little art collage that will incorporate them. Some people might find that repulsive. but there’s no blood or hair on them, I think. So unless you knew they were keeping my head together, you wouldn’t know. My friend came with me, and rolled her eyes when my doctor and I talked about what kind of workouts I could do. “Kettle bell swings?” I said, “with light ones?”

“What’s that?” she asked, and my doctor told her it was exercise equipment. My friend rolled her eyes. She said something amusing then, but I can’t remember what it was — when you read this and remember, will you let me know?

I told my doctor that this tumour was giving me lots of material for stand up. As we left, she said, “Don’t be a stranger” and then muttered, “No stranger than usual, anyway. Hey! maybe there’s a future for me in stand up”.

Yesterday, I picked up about 50 pounds of frozen meals that some of my students prepared for me. They spent a day cooking, and my friend Trish picked it up and gave it to me. You’re all invited over for dinner! make it fast, because i’ve moved back into my house now, and i’m kind of like a geological event… Mind you, I’m determined to take better care of myself and let myself live in a home that can be a place of hospitality.

but still, better to not wait too long to come over.

first appointment with the cancer agency this afternoon, I’ll let you know how it goes.