This post first appeared on Medium on January 3, 2017. It has been edited from the original version.
Gender nonconforming while a Scorpio
by Rose C.
I went to a queer support group here in Portland and, for the first time ever, asked the people in the group to call me Jack.
And they did!
And I was blown away. It kind of made my night. I was inwardly beaming. Having trouble paying attention to others’ heart-rending stories, I was so inwardly thrilled to be recognized as Jack.
Me, a large-breasted girl with painted fingernails, longish hair, full lips, and a sweet, heart-shaped face. I was Jack! I had claimed some essence of my masculine self, and people had listened.
Not sure what to do about pronouns and the rest of it. Genderfluid and trans. “They/them” works nicely, for those that bother to ask. I’m not getting tied up in knots about this. I mean, I still carry a purse.
Where this goes next, I have no idea. But here is a bit of backstory.
Last Monday night I decided to try an experiment. There was this young dude (30, great body, worked out all the time) who had expressed an interest in me that was more than purely professional. About a month and a half ago we ended up making out past 2 AM in some downtown bar whose name I don’t even remember. We took an Uber to his place but stopped just short of having sex.
I wanted to think through my current relationship, long distance and already polyamorous in theory, and decide whether I really wanted to open it up to somebody new. I also figured I should get re-tested for STDs, just to be safe.
The answer I came to was emphatically, yes. So last week I sent Young Dude a text to see if he wanted to catch the Warhol exhibit in town. Four hours later, we ended up eating vegan mozzarella at a punk rock dive bar, then singing karaoke (my performance was unimaginably bad), then back to my place. The night was comically ill-timed (the smell of burning rubber alerted us that the tea lights were melting the blinds, even though not directly in contact) and a cold shower almost gave my date hypothermia.
The interesting part of the experience was that even though I knew I might be getting laid that night, I made no special effort to femme it up. Legs remained unshaven. I wore out the same bulky black hoodie that I wear everywhere. This was intentional (even though I did clean up the apartment some, with the thought that somebody might be coming back).
I decided, just that once, to act like a man — which is to say, just be me.
No special outfit, very little makeup.
This is me at 40, folks. I wanted to not apologize for it or cover it up. I wanted to see what would happen. No regrets.
Face it: my body will probably never look the same in lingerie as it did five years ago. I lost a lot of weight after my divorce — got to experience about seven years of having pretty much my ideal body. But then one day, metabolism and time catches up with you. You start to wonder, what exactly does the future hold in store for average looking women in their forties and fifties who don’t have kids?
I am viewing this unavoidable process of aging as an excuse to explore my more masculine side. Which is weird, because I really love my body. I can’t imagine having chest surgery. I could fantasize about a deeper voice, chest hair, all the other effects of “T”. (And yes, I’ve done the research about transitioning in midlife.)
I have no idea how other people experience gender. I just know that I almost never feel like a girl. Even when I did femme it up, it felt like a costume, or a video game avatar. A really fun and sexy costume, but something contrived and separate from the essence of who I was.
I know that I’m also a very nurturing and empathic person, and that those traits put me in the bucket of “feminine.”
But then… this is also me. Leader. Builder of things. Entrepreneur. Somebody who prefers to call shit like it is and isn’t afraid of conflict. Somebody with an unflagging code of loyalty to my peeps, even when they don’t return the same. Somebody whose idea of a perfect evening is just having two beers with a buddy. Really. That’s it.
Interests: comics, rock and roll music, computers, science fiction.
I think about why I have so many more guy friends than female friends, and it’s easy to just chalk it up to women being busy with children and partners, or women’s internalized jealousy and mistrust of other women.
But sometimes I wonder. Maybe something is clicking for me on a deeper level. I’ve never been a tomboy, never been super butch although I did shave my head in my early 20s. I’ve only ever been with two women in my life.
I feel dorky for embarking on this “voyage of self discovery” at the cusp of middle age. But I also feel like to try and fit a mold I outgrew sometime in the last few years might be literally dangerous to my health.
I had plenty of years to play the “cute girlfriend.” Am I now going to be the “less cute girlfriend?”
I guess for me the essence of masculinity is being perceived for my talent, strength, and ability rather than for how I look or my relationship to others. It has very little to do with having a penis or chest hair. And yet, projecting this self while outwardly feminine can be threatening to some.
I have thought about this shit for years, but never expressed it publicly before. I don’t know where it will lead. At this point in my life I am used to feeling like an outcast, even while deftly maneuvering professional and social situations and keeping casual acquaintances at arm’s length. Adapting a less traditional gender presentation might change that. It might make me, finally, a bit less closeted in my multifaceted “otherness.”
And honestly, that might be a change I am looking for.
I would like to explain what is confidential about this series. First and foremost, it is my name. I have an unusual first and last name combination, and I have had stalkers. For the purposes of this blog, I go by “Rose C.” That’s short for Rose City, of course.
Here is my avatar:
If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. It was a public domain vector illustration that I adapted. Public domain is great for some things, but not for others. For instance, I have a friend who recently decided to share her experience of trauma andher advice to parents about how their children can avoid rapeunder the purview of the Creative Commons License. She chose this license very specifically, because she did not want her words twisted and changed — into, for instance, an “abstinence only” message to young people. If it had been possible, she would have chosen a license that specified no alterations to the text but did not require attribution. At the time that she chose her license (which is irrevocable) no such option was available on the Creative Commons website. However, if other friends or interested persons wish to paraphrase her words without attribution, they are welcome to do so. The important thing is that the message gets out. Her name can be left out of it.
The second reason I am using a pseudonym is that I may occasionally piss people off or cause strong reactions. I know we had over 600 unique visits on this site in the last week. Some of those may be ‘bots. Regardless, it appears that even though we do not advertise and rarely post on social media, real people do from time to visit our site. As a writer and creator, this makes me happy, I’d like to encourage it!
But you can’t be an honest journalist and never report anything negative.
For instance, right now I am typing this blog entry at Old Town Pizza in downtown Portland. So far, the experience has been only positive: good beer, a good slice, a comfortable corner booth to write at. It’s really nice, honestly, to find a space that’s not a strip club or a cabaret and still has affordable food and beverage in this neighborhood on a Sunday evening. Portland’s downtown isn’t what it used to be. It needs all our help to come back and thrive once more.
But perhaps something will go horribly wrong at this restaurant before I sign for the check! I cannot imagine what that might be, but I reserve the right to write a critical restaurant review if circumstances demand. That is another reason I choose to remain Rose C.
Something else you should know about PDX Local, if you have not visited before:
We have a number of different writers, and we welcome volunteers. We are not advertiser-supported. We accept donations, but to be honest there are a lot of other local organizations that can probably benefit more from your hard-earned cash. I will try to profile some of these in the weeks and months to come. Suggestions welcome.
We are free and independent media. We are here by choice.
Yours truly (that is to say Rose C.) has a contract job at a large and well-known corporation, but I would not call myself rich. Not by a long shot. I have a lot of credit card debt to pay off. Some of that is medical debt. Some comes from taking my ex-partner and his child along with me to South Korea on a business trip. Some comes from travel back to the East Coast to see friends and family. A lot comes from simply using credit to pay for all of life’s daily necessities (including groceries, utilities, and transportation) for approximately ten years, while I was toiling away as a startup founder, with enough money to pay my employees (including the aforementioned ex-partner) but not myself.
Do you hear the world’s tiniest violin playing here?
It’s been the ride of a lifetime, and it’s not over yet.
If my job vanished tomorrow (and I hope it doesn’t) I would go back to doing deliveries—driving for DoorDash and UberEats.
Restaurants are so important to our local economy. If they go away, I don’t know what Portland will become.
Growing a garden can be a great way to spend more time outside, learn valuable new skills, and even reduce your family’s grocery budget. Furthermore, you can also help feed those in need in your community simply by growing fresh produce in your backyard.
Remember that whenever possible, it’s better to shop locally. Buying from small and local businesses helps support the entire community and promotes a sense of shared responsibility. Look for who is helping to get the word out in your area, like PDX Local in Portland OR.
Steps to Starting Your Garden
If you’ve never planted a garden before, you might be confused about where to begin. Whether or not you’re a green thumb, getting acquainted with the soil and the various types of produce has huge payoffs. But first consider these ideas as you set out on your gardening venture.
To plant, tend, and harvest your vegetables, you’ll need some durable gardening tools.
Test your soil to see what level of acidity and nutrients you’re dealing with, then address high or low levels with appropriate treatment, such as adding nitrogen.
Once you have all of the tools and supplies you need, you’re ready to plant. Follow the helpful tips below on growing vegetables, herbs, trees and more!
Tend to your garden each day to ensure that your plants are healthy and promptly harvest fresh vegetables.
If you’re stumped on where to begin, consider hiring help from a local gardener or landscaper. You can survey backyard landscaping companies to help pave the way for your garden.
Preserving Your Delicious Harvest
It’s possible to plant and grow just enough in your garden for you and your family to consume, plus a little for friends, too. But if you end up with more fruits and vegetables than you know what to do with, these methods will allow you to preserve them so that they don’t spoil.
Canning your surplus vegetables is a great way to keep them fresh for months.
Stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables for soups and other dishes.
Whip up homemade jam to make your breakfasts taste a little sweeter.
Serving People in Need
Food insecurity exists in every community. In addition to selling your produce at the local farmers market for a discount of what the grocery store charges, here’s how to ensure that your extra produce goes to the people who need it most.
Encouraging your children to help you distribute food to vulnerable people can teach them about the root causes of poverty and other forms of injustice.
Host a food swap to exchange produce and canned goods with your neighbors!
Consider working with others in your neighborhood to establish a community garden where people can tend their own plots and share fresh produce.
Gardening on a Small Scale
Perhaps all this sounds great but you’re looking around at your small apartment and thinking there’s no way you can maintain a garden in such a small space. Think again! Granted, you obviously can’t feed an army in a small space, but there are plenty of people who maintain successful gardens from apartments.
When you begin your garden, you may have to go through some trial and error as you learn the ropes. But when you’re cooking up delicious dinners with your veggies and helping your neighbors put food on the table, you’ll be happy that you took on this rewarding project!
PDX Local is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping get the word out about important community resources and small business. Call 971.412.2493.
Your outfits are great. What gave you the inspiration?
Our spacesuits are just average clothes on our planet, Issia.
I felt that by sharing our customs, I could further inspire our listeners. Silver is transcendent!
And we’ve been heavily influenced by David Bowie, Bjork, T-Rex, Prince and Devo. Hence, outifts.??
How long have you been making music, and how would you describe your creative evolution?
I grew up going to a German Polka Club every week. So I was dancing to waltzes and polkas for most of my adolescence. I didn’t start to work fanatically with music until my thirties.
Jo, however, has been singing since the crib. Legend has it she learned how to escape her cradle so she could re-load the stack of records.
Our creative process usually starts with a pad or synth progression just to get things rolling. I send that to Jo and she creates a melodic and lyrical story based on the mood. We work together to shape it into a song often with at least 15 iterations until we get it right.
I noticed you list both a Priestess and Scientist on your website. Do you believe it is possible to harmonize spirituality and rational knowledge in our current era of information overload? Can music play a role?
Yes! Music is a perfect example. There is a concept that science and spirituality are separate but in fact, they are the same. Look at Kirk and Spock! ? Whether the technology is Bach or today’s software, music inherently blends math and spirituality. To be more accurate, music IS the math of spirituality. On our planet, we’re able to heal disease with music. It’s a wondrous place!
What is the hardest thing about making music in quarantine?
There were so many challenges this year! Where to start…It was hard being separated from each other. I went from having weekly rehearsals to having to work remotely with The Priestess. We did lots of Zoom meetings. I think the limitations pushed us to grow our online fanbase and of course, we had to grow emotionally.
Your new single is called “I Won’t Dance for You.” Do you think music venues and dance clubs will be able to recover in Portland over the next year, or will it take longer for the scene to recover?
I love going to see live music and I so hope it recovers. Live music is so magical! Transformational. So I hope so and soooooon. I love to watch the people dance! It’s sad to see some of favorite venues closed. I’m still sad that La Luna and Satiricon closed. Some places are holding on like the Alberta Rose—and we can support them now. Here is the link: https://shopalbertarose.square.site
If you had to choose, would you rather share a rocket ship with Ziggy Stardust, Barbarella, or Sun Ra?
So hard to choose! All great options. But Barbarella because there might be a hot tub and shag carpet!
Feeling hesitant to head back to your frontline job in 2021? You’re not alone! In fact, Oregon employers in restaurant, lodging, and other customer-facing industries are facing unprecedented hiring challenges in the wake of the pandemic.
If you’re ready to start working again but don’t feel safe returning to a frontline job, remote work offers a solution. However, there are a few things Oregonians should know as they prepare to go remote.
First up, your rights as a worker in Oregon.
Have questions about your rights during the pandemic? Learn how to handle common employment scenarios during COVID-19, including what to do if you’re being asked to work in unsafe conditions.
Oregonians should also understand their rights as a remote employee, such as entitlement to breaks and overtime pay.
S. veterans who qualify for Protected Veteran Status have additional rights under the law.
Employee misclassification is a major problem in the remote workforce. Learn what distinguishes employees from independent contractors and what to do if you believe you’ve been misclassified.
Wondering the best way to start working from home? Try one of these strategies for going remote.
While some companies are sticking with remote work, others are calling employees back to the office. Read this article for strategies on how to ask your boss for an exception.
Rather than fight an uphill battle with an inflexible employer, some workers are leaving for remote-friendly companies. Many leading employers in Oregon have embraced remote work so you’ll have plenty of options.
Veterans should consider remote civil service jobs. Qualified military veterans receive hiring preference for civil service positions in Oregon.
Workers can also strike out on their own as freelancers. To assess your freelance earning potential, research the going rate in your field — for example, freelance graphic design prices — and factor overhead costs and self-employment taxes to estimate take-home pay.
Are you thinking of starting a home business in Portland? Starting a business offers greater growth potential than freelancing, but there are a few things to know first.
Businesses are required to register with the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Home-based businesses may also need a Home Occupation Permit.
Zoning may limit what type of business you can operate from your home. Homeowners and renters can check their neighborhood’s zoning at portlandmaps.om.
Starting a business after military service? Oregon Veterans Mean Business provides advising, training, and support for veteran business owners. Veterans can access this program at four locations in the state.
Frontline jobs aren’t the only way to get back to work in 2021. Remote work offers safety, flexibility, and opportunity for Oregonians. However, telecommuting has challenges of its own. From knowing your rights as a remote employee to understanding home business regulations, the resources we have shared can help you navigate remote work in Portland.
I don’t know how it was for all of y’all, but this is how it was for me.
THAT Summer. Portland, Oregon. First year of the Pandemic.
You know there’s something wrong with your living situation when you’ve had a Go Bag packed since May. And not in case of forest fires.
There were red flags much earlier. But I let my roommate stay on, because I didn’t think I could get through quarantine alone. For almost two months, he was the only person that I saw IRL, other than supermarket cashiers. We were close.
“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge / She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College”
We watched movies together. He cooked for me.
We were friends. I thought.
I wanted to collaborate creatively. Specifically, I wanted to produce a parody radio play about being poor in Portland during the pandemic. I wrote the scripts for two six-minute episodes. The characters were diverse and multiracial. In retrospect the whole concept seems kind of hokey but at the time I thought it might bring people together and jolt middle-class listeners out of their bubble — give them greater empathy for people who’d just had the economic roof cave in on them.
I needed his sound editing skills to turn the scripts into something listenable. We recorded a run-through on my cell phone, but my friend lost interest when I wanted to bring in more voice actors than just the two of us. My Fred Armisen he was not.
That was all before George Floyd’s death. Poverty took a back seat to race then in the national dialogue, as maybe it should. It’s not for me to say.
This is not a victim narrative.
This is not a victim narrative because nothing particularly bad happened to me. Sure, I got groped. Yes, he had angry outbursts. Yes, I slept with my bedroom door locked every night. But I doubt I experienced anything worse during those first few months than your average day as a waitress at Hooter’s.
More to the point, I always had the option to leave. Not great options, sure. No health insurance on the East Coast and it would have been career suicide. But these are better choices than so many women have, who are in so much worse situations. Better choices than a shelter or a tent. There is no comparison.
“If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah / Never live like common people”
When it was clear that I wasn’t interested, something shifted between us. Quarantine had eased up by then. He stopped spending time at the apartment. He barely spoke to me. He paid a few hundred dollars each month to help cover expenses. It felt like a more typical roommate dynamic. Except I couldn’t get him to leave.
In the summer of 2020 in Portland calling the cops on a Black man was absolutely not an option. I wasn’t happy with the situation. I knew things would deteriorate when I started dating someone new. But until about a week ago, I didn’t have the cushion to cover staying at a hotel until it all got sorted out. So I smiled and made nice. I figured it was better to stay nominally friends and take his money than force a disruptive confrontation I could not win.
This is not a narrative to absolve or justify my actions.
I had always felt confident that he wouldn’t hit me or rape me. Until a certain Monday morning. He was mad because I went into his room after he left for work and stopped a video from rendering. I thought he just left Internet radio on. The sound was driving me nuts. In the past, this was the kind of conflict that would blow over, but not this time. When he held the apartment door shut on me for several minutes so that I couldn’t get inside, the rules changed.
Luckily, no violence. I got a restraining order, but he left of his own accord before it was served. When we came back this Friday afternoon we had no idea what to expect. But he was gone, and he’d cleaned out his stuff. Took my HD video camera with him. As far as I am concerned, he is welcome to it.
Locks have been changed. Police never had to show.
A bunch of people have told me I don’t need to feel sorry for him but it’s not that simple. I caught him lying to me multiple times. I also know that he cared for me. I had Thanksgiving dinner at his mother’s house a year ago. He believed in my business and my artwork, at least early on. Not that many people did. He wanted to be a part of it.
I remember working on my laptop at a club in Buckman on a Tuesday night last summer, while his friends performed. I felt like a boss — more hip and underground than Neo in the first scene of Matrix. I am glad he is out of my life but truly sorry that it had to end this way.
I don’t think he wanted to live here past June or July. He just didn’t have a better option. That’s what poverty does. It erases freedom and control.
“You will never understand / How it feels to live your life / With no meaning or control / And with nowhere left to go”
He worked full time at UPS as a package handler. Made $15 an hour. Only job he could get with a high school diploma. It didn’t go far, and it was murder on his body. He put everything he had into his music and his films.
White guilt is toxic and embarrassing.
I don’t have a lot of it, because I’ve spent much of my life under the poverty line. To some extent that was by choice. When you don’t have children or other dependents, you can go out on a limb financially. You can follow your dreams. You can travel. You can try a new career and see what shakes out.
What’s that you say? Entitlement?
The nonprofit gig I have right now comes solely through a personal connection. The funny thing is, I didn’t meet my friend in boarding school or at my elite Northeastern liberal arts college. I met her at a party thrown by a friend I made at the People’s Pint in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He worked at the local food co-op, as did his roommate. He had a college diploma. His roommate was a high school dropout.
That was more than a decade ago. It sort of boggles the mind.
That town was super unusual because it was a place where you could make $11 an hour and sort of get by. A lot of serious money settled around the Pioneer Valley, precisely because it wasn’t the Hamptons or Northeast Harbor. They could blend. My joke was always that you could go to the local bar and have a millionaire sitting on one side of you and a bum on the other side, and not know which was which. That town was one of the least class-segregated places I have ever encountered. Bohemians ruled the roost. Very different from Boston, or for that matter Portland, Oregon.
I don’t know where my roommate is right now, but the ease with which he was able to move suggests that he will be ok. He was only spending about four nights a week at my place the last two months — wouldn’t tell me where he was the rest of the time.
As a white woman, it’s very hard to know how to engage in the battle for racial justice. We are told all the time that we need to be silent and fall back. That the most valuable contribution we can make is our financial support.
The only problem being, we make only $0.81 for every dollar a man makes. Kind of slims down the margin for altruism.
Over 170 years ago, Abraham Lincoln said the nation could not survive half slave and half free. I would paraphrase to say that our democracy cannot survive with 22 million Americans unemployed and sinking into poverty.
It feels pompous and callous to move from somebody else’s personal misfortune into pontificating about policy issues, but dammit, this is one of those times when the personal is political. If we’d had affordable housing in Portland, or universal basic income, or a better economic safety net, the situation between us never ever ever would have gotten this bad. We stayed in the red zone for months, because financially no one had a better option.
Power dynamics poison a relationship, each and every time.
Unless of course that’s what you’re into.
It’s weird to think no closure. That someone who was part of my life for most of the past two years is now gone forever. I wanted to stay friends. I wanted to find ways to work together. But short of me deciding I wanted to be with him despite the fits of possessive rage or him finding some other woman to focus his attentions on, it wasn’t going to happen.
Incredibly unlikely that you find this post.
If you do find your way here, I hope you’re doing ok. I hope that video camera serves you well.
Some regrets, but plenty of good times too.
Previously published on Medium on November 21, 2020