Quite the character

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Dark hallway in a giant parking garage where I've been working some days... It's even colder than it looks

I finally got together with that other queer female apprentice working for my company; let’s call her Jacky, for the sake of the story.

Jacky is quite the character, as I expected… I mean, she’d have to be, considering that she’s taking on this new electrical career at twice the age of our most of our coworkers Turns out she’s turning 50 years old this summer. FIFTY. Wow. Prior to her apprenticeship, she was a computer geek for a couple decades, and then more recently, a bus driver on the local transit system. I actually remember her, I realize now, from when she’d do the campus routes and come into the cafe I worked at in the university book store. She wore shorts, even when it was cold outside.

We talked about so many things, and generally had similar feelings and thoughts about our jobs, our company, our coworkers, our trade. It was good, to have the chance to share.

Like me, Jacky frequently hears this reaction from strangers when they learn what her job is: “You’re an electrician? That must be so hard!” And they invariably mean the labour itself, thinking it’s difficult to carry and maneuver heavy objects… Or else the math and physics involved, in figuring out power arrangements and trouble-shooting circuits. I’m not gonna lie to you: My job does tire me out, physically, and the problem-solving can be wretchedly tricky.

But! But what few people seem to realize is what’s actually hardest about the job: The social aspect of the workplace. No matter what, Jacky and I are just so alien, both as women and as queers. It was such a relief to hear her try to describe this. Yes, I kept saying, I know, yes, exactly, exactly. It’s nothing we can’t deal with, get over, ignore, or whatever… But it’s still a big thing, to try to navigate social situations where we can’t even hope of fitting in. Of course, I think we’re both got such distinctive personalities that we’re hardly the type to try to fit in anyway!

I asked Jacky what her goals are, what she wants to do once she’s got her Journey status. Does she think she’ll go for foreman? She laughed at my questions. “You forget,” she said. “That it’s totally different for me… I’ve only got 15 years left, really, to your 35.”

Huh. I’d never thought of that: Thirty-five years to go. Of course, I doubt I’ll be able to afford retirement at age 65, but it’s still an interesting concept. (And what would “retirement” look like for a person like me, anyway? Wouldn’t I keep doing all the shit I already do, only more of it?)

So no, she doesn’t think she’d like to be foreman. Jacky’s hoping to simply have a good wage and good work. Which, really, is all I’ve ever wanted too, though maybe with a little bit of adventure thrown in to keep me going.

Right now, Jacky is working on the construction crew that is putting in a new warehouse building at the naval base. It’s steady work through to September, which is nice for the bank account, she says, but a bit hard on the sense of freedom. She’d prefer to have some variety and flexibility, because it’s more interesting, and would allow more time for her own projects as well as short trips away. I can totally relate: My schedule is often all over the place, and I rarely know where I’ll be working from one day to the next, and I love it.

I hope that we’ll eventually get to be on a crew together, Jacky and I… With our company having so many apprentices and so many projects, it’s not particularly likely to happen, but I like to think about it anyway. In the meanwhile, I’m simply glad to know she exists.

Project Pomegranate: Midafternoon phone call

In the mechanical room of a hockey rink where I was working on the lighting controls... Thick layers of ice were growing everywhere!

Midafternoon phone call: ZOMG!

No, it wasn’t the provincial electrical authority offering me a job…Though wouldn’t that be funny right now? It’s been over a year since the interview!

It was the local fertility centre:  We got an intake appointment!

I was working when the call came in, and so couldn’t answer. I listened to the message on the sly when my foreman sent me out to the van to get a ladder, and it just asked me to call them back, because they had a date ready.  I spent the remaining couple hours of my work day fretting over this, cuz I’m nothing if not an over-thinker. My big concern was that this appointment was going to be like next week or sometime really soon, and all I could think was: “BUT I’M NOT READY YET!!!”

Luckily, it’s in June. WHEW. June 14th, to be exact… A month before my 31st birthday, which feels like great timing.

The only crappy thing is that they really really want a medical referral for Oats, too. This was a different administrator I spoke with, from the last time, and she was quite firm. Regardless of our intentions for who will be doing what in this adventure in queer babymaking, the centre’s policy is that partnered clients will each have a regular physician’s referral.

It’s such total bullshit, and a huge waste of resources… I already think it’s silly that I needed a referral, considering that I’m not infertile, just queer.  So why should Oats have to get one, when her job is to hold my hand while I get poked and prodded and swabbed and inseminated?  I mean, Oats is going to be very busy in her role as Chief Gestational Support Coordinator, but I’m pretty certain she’ll get to keep her clothes on throughout.

(Er… At the clinic, I mean. I certainly hope she’ll remove them at other junctures…)

I know, I know… It’ll be easy enough for her to simply pop into the same walk-in clinic I did, and see the same doc, and just tell him she’s my partner and needs the same referral. I bet it’d be fun for all of us, him included. It’s more the principle of the thing that’s bothering me… I don’t like the American health care system by any means, but am rather envious of how many options there are for getting pregnant down there. Not only do they have fertility clinics, but there’s also midwives and naturopaths who perform inseminations, and you can even get home delivery from sperm banks and then do it yourself! Ah, how nice that would be.

So anyway, yeah. Halfway through June, we’re meeting the doc at the fertility centre for a getting-to-know-you session, and then they’re immediately whisking me off for a transvaginal ultrasound. Which is probably about as rad as it sounds, and likely the beginning of a time in my life when the number of people who’ve seen my genitalia rapidly increases… Perhaps exponentially.

Aside

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I’m making plans for a little adventure, and surprising even myself with how suddenly and easily it’s coming together:  On Monday, I’m taking the day off work, driving out to the ferry with the dog in tow, and riding the boat to a small nearby island.  Just for the day, which makes it a little adventure indeed.  But! The reason for this spur of the moment trip is that I’m going to meet someone: At long last, I hope to enjoy some face-to-face, In-Real-Life interactions with Mae Callen, who happens to be visiting my rainy coastal habitat.

MC has the distinction of being the only online friend of my Feral Geographer alter-ego who also has online connections to my real-life persona. I mean, the only friend I actually *met* online. Anyway, we have stayed in touch via social networking but have yet to meet in person… So exciting!

The thrill of seeing MC aside, I’m also just totally stoked to be getting out of town, even for a day.  And off this island, too!  Spring time means itchy feet for FG, who craves an open road almost as much as she craves a stable, cozy home…

Not the only one

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My right hand, in case you were wondering how it's faring these days... It's easier to photograph the left one!

It was time for the annual hearing tests at work, and I left the construction site mid-afternoon to get myself down to the parking lot at company headquarters.  The testing trailer was set up there, and a few guys were waiting in line. I didn’t know any of them, except for a fellow who was in my Year 2 class at trade school, but we made small talk about our job sites and the beautiful sunny weather.

This is how the hearing test works: Two people at a time go into the trailer, where each sits in a little soundproof booth, puts on a set of headphones, and presses a button every time they hear a noise, for about 5 or 10 minutes.  It’s simple, but a good basic assessment.  For the record, my hearing has gotten overall worse since my last test in 2010, but only marginally-so, and it’s also better in different tonal ranges than it was… And it’s still excellent, according to the testing dude. “Don’t drive with the window rolled down,” he told me. “That’s why your left is worse than your right.”

Anyway, as I was waiting, the trailer door suddenly opened, and the previous two testees emerged. One was my foreman, and though we began to discuss the latest developments in my current project, I was completely distracted… Because the other person who’d just had her hearing tested was a woman.

And she was not just a woman, but a mid-forties woman who read to my eyes as queer queer QUEER.  I immediately made the connection between this unexpected apparition and the motorcycle parked next to the trailer. (And I was right: It was hers.)

She and I kept looking at each other, even though we were in conversations with other people.  Finally my foreman and I were done, and right away I turned to her, and we stared at each other for just a little bit of beat longer than socially-acceptable.

Then at the exact same moment, we both introduced ourselves, shaking hands and laughing a little over our awkwardness. “Oh,” she said, “Your foreman was telling me about you!”

“Huh,” I replied, looking over at the foreman, “And he’d told me I was the only woman working for the company…”

“No, there’s Shelly,” she said.”She’s doing school.”

“And Kami,” I told her, “Or at least I met her at the big mall site a few weeks ago; I’m not sure where she is now, though, because she’s not there these days.”

So we stood there and chatted like any other two apprentices or trades people, about where we were working and who we worked with and what might be coming next, all the while looking at each other. Of course I can’t speak for what she was thinking, but in my mind, I was saying WHO ARE YOU and WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, completely beside myself with amazement.

I’ve gotten so used to being the only gay in the village!

In my daze, it wasn’t until after she rode away her motorbike that I realized I needed to talk with this woman outside of a work situation. Luckily, that evening I found her full name listed on a company email and then her profile on a social networking site. Which, by the way, confirmed my hunch: Yes, she is queer. She responded immediately to my message, and seems just as eager to meet for coffee. We’ve been playing tag ever since, as our work schedules keep changing… Such is the life of an apprentice, in my company, at least. I’m confident we’ll make it work for this upcoming week.

Am I adequately conveying to you how excited I am?  I mean, I realize that we may not actually like each other at all, or have anything in common… But I don’t need a new best friend, I just need another ally at work!  And to have someone else to talk to about the strange little things that come from being female and/or queer in our company, our city, our construction sites, our trade.

Also… I found her blog, because I’m nosy like that.  It’s under her real name, and is a travel journal from her cycling and motorcycle trips in various parts of the continent.  So, yeah, at the very least I know that we both like traveling and bicycles, which is a pretty damn good place to start.

Project Pomegranate: The Referral

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No pomegranates here... Just the sun rising, along one of my favourite trails.

I went to the drop-in medical clinic late in the evening, when it was completely empty, and the doctor saw me right away. I told him I want to conceive a baby, and my partner is also female, and so I’m in need of a referral to the local fertility centre.

“Okay!” he said, enthusiastically, as he grabbed a pad of paper and began to write. “Partner is also female… Would like a pregnancy… Referral for…”

He paused and looked at me.  “…IVF?” he asked.

“Oh god!” I yelped, before I could stop myself.

“No?’ the doctor said, seeming confused but eager to help.

“I’m only thirty!” I exclaimed. “I mean, I don’t know, but I think I’m healthy, and I’m hoping that an IUI will do it…”

“Right, right, right!” the doctor cheerily replied, “Intra-uterine insemination!”

“Um, yeah,” I agreed, nodding to encourage him as he wrote that down.

It was pretty obvious that I was really throwing this dude for a loop, and that he was unfamiliar with… Well, reproductive medicine, for starters.

For those of you not in the know, let me just say that IVF is a very invasive and very expensive way of making a baby, and IUI is… Less so.  Like, a fraction of, in terms of both invasiveness as well as cost. As in, if donor sperm wasn’t so damn regulated in this country, we’d be going hardcore DIY-style and performing our own IUIs at home… While it’s pretty much impossible to do IVF at home. Unless you have a lab.  In which case, you’re way cooler than I am.

“The fertility centre… Which one?” he asked.

“There’s only one,” I told him, and said the name.

“Let’s look at their website!” he said, and pulled over a computer from the wall.  I kid you not: The doctor did a web search, found the site, and seemed so pleased with himself that I gotta say I too was rather charmed.  I mean, it’s like this was a totally new and interesting experience for him, which was refreshing given that I’ve been over every detail of the whole project a million times, both in my head and in conversation with Oats.

The doctor suddenly turned and looked at me. “You know this isn’t all covered by the province, right?”

“Yes,” I smiled and nodded.  Like, YEAH, I KNOW, AND IT’S INTENSE. Another reason why I yelped at the initial reference to IVF: At $5000 out of pocket for a cycle, it’s pretty fucking unlikely Oats and I would ever even go there.  We’ll hopefully try IUI (at a more accessible $800 per cycle) until it works or we’re ready to change the plan, which might be no kids after all, or maybe adoption, or maybe fostering for a while as we regroup. I guess it’s possible IVF could be on the agenda, but it’s more of a last resort.

“Okay, then!” he said, “That’s it.”

I got up to leave, and thanked him.

“Wait!” he said, and I quickly sat back down. “Are you on any medication?”

I replied in the negative, and he wrote that down.

“And do you have any health issues that may be relevant?”

Not that I’m aware of, I told him, and wanted to add I’M JUST QUEER IS ALL NOW PLEASE GIVE ME THE SPERM K THX. But I didn’t, cuz I’m a more mature person than that.

“Great!” The doctor wrote that down, and told me that was all. I thanked him again, and left, while he turned back to the computer.  I hope he spent some more time on the website of the fertility centre: It’s very informative about all sorts of reproductive technology.

I called the fertility centre a couple days later, to check that the doctor had actually sent in the referral.  I don’t like to make assumptions about peoples’ competencies, but let’s agree that I had reason to think maybe he wouldn’t quite get it together. Turns out they’d received it, and we’re now in line for an appointment.  When will we be granted this appointment?  Who knows… But I’m okay with waiting a while, now that I know we’re queued.

The start of the pomegranate days

This pomegranate was a Solstice gift from Jag, to celebrate our decision to become parents... Let's hope it increased my fertility like it's meant to!

I was off work today, and so finally took the plunge: I called the local fertility centre.  “My partner and I are interested in becoming clients of your clinic, to conceive using donor sperm,” I said.  “What are our next steps?”

I gotta tell you, readers, my heart was beating super fast. All the research in the world did nothing to prepare me for how it felt to actually move forward on this queer baby making project.

So it turns out that I need a referral.  Not having my own doctor , I’ll have to go to a walk-in clinic and ask for it.  For some reason, I find this funny.  I mean, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with my reproductive stuff (that we now of!), yet I still need to go to a walk-in clinic and say Hi-I’m-gay-and-I-want-a-baby-please.  Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to go straight to the fertility centre and say the same thing? It’s not really a mystery, my reasons for requiring their services.

“And your partner will need to get one too,” said the receptionist.  I actually laughed. “Well, she won’t be the gestational parent, I will,” I told her, “Is that still necessary?”

It’s just how they usually do it, I was told: They treat both women as a couple, and the referral is so that blood tests and other parts of the process are covered by the provincial health care system.

“Are you sure she won’t be carrying…?” Asked the receptionist. “And you won’t be using her eggs?”

No, that won’t be happening, I assured her. We’re quite certain. The receptionist agreed that in that case, it’d be silly for Oats to get a referral too… Let alone go through the blood work and whatever else is required.  I’m glad she was as amused by this as I was.

I called Oats and gave her the update.  She had her own news:  She saw her own doctor this morning, regarding some unfortunate health problems, and his solution was to put her on the Pill.  Ha!  So, depending on how this all goes, we’re looking to be a right mess of hormones at our house in the upcoming year.  Good times, good times.

I still hate construction.

The construction site gets so quiet after 3 pm. I’m working for another hour, but many other trades are gone for the day. It’s nice. I’m perched halfway up an 8′ ladder, wiring a complex control panel, near a floor-to-ceiling window that has finally been uncovered. Before today, the entire building was dark because of the thick white plastic shrinkwrap that sheathed the scaffolds around the outer walls. Now most of that’s come down, and I’m in line with the setting sun… Albeit with a terrible view of highway and ugly industrial buildings.

I still hate construction.  But now I know that there’s so much else out there, which makes it almost okay… At least, no where near as depressing as when I worked on the giant new hospital, on my first electrical job.  My crew has two different construction sites on the roster right now, as well as a million other small assignments in offices and institutions and the like, and so I’m not here every day, or even every week.

When I do end up having to put in several days in a row at this site, I really feel it… Not just in my body, but also in my mental state.  There’s just so much hopelessness around a lot of these other tradespeople, leaking from their pores along with the stench of cigarettes and shitty food.  I know, I know, stereotypes… And yet.  And yet there’s something there, you know?  A kernel of truth, about hard working class jobs, and lives, and the men for whom that is reality.  (Yes, it’s all men, I’m one of three women among the 300 or so workers here: There’s another electrical apprentice, and a drywaller.)

And as for how it affects my body, well… I spend a lot of time studying my hands, when I’m on breaks and when I’m washing up at home after work. The outer edge of each of my index fingers is cracked raw at the top joint, from pulling insulation off of wires.  The tips of each thumb are also split in two or three places, especially at the edge of the nail. I wear bandaids, layered with electrical tape for durability, and then paint them closed with liquid bandage each night.  I also use moisturizers all the time, everything from thick creams that come in a tube, to the handmade salve my friend gave me.  Does it help?  I don’t know. The cracks still happen.

Of course, my finger tips also cracked when I worked in coffee shops.  My hands were rarely as filthy back then, but regularly exposed to toxic cleaners and the acidic oils from coffee beans.  Was that any better than drywall dust and wire-pulling lube?

Overall, I’m not terribly bothered by the rough state of my hands.  I’ve never been one to wear nail polish, or maintain long nails, or even wear rings. (As of yesterday, I’ve started wearing my wedding ring on a light chain around my neck instead of on my hand when I’m at work, after hearing a totally awful story about an accident with another apprentice and his wedding ring catching on something… Too terrible to share, too risky to ignore!)  It’s just so weird, to watch them get rougher and rougher.  It’s one of the few changes I can actually see progressing as I continue down this path.  I know I’m getting  stronger, because I can now easily do things that were difficult a few months ago, but it’s not like I suddenly have rippling biceps or any other physical marker of this. My hands, though, they are looking like they’ve got a story to tell.