Category Archives: Queer

Quite the character

image

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.

Advertisements

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.

Project Pomegranate: The Referral

image

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.

Update on the grand scheme of things

image

How could I choose to move away from this...?

An update on the grand scheme of things: We’re no longer planning on moving to someplace cheaper, and Oats is no longer applying to graduate school for her MFA. I like to think that both of these  goals will again be on the table in the future, but for now neither of them are the focus of our life plan. Instead, we’re staying here and having a baby.

When I write it like that, it makes it sound so easy and tidy, so maybe I’ll rephrase: We’re staying here and trying to make a kid in a biological fashion of some sort, though also thinking that our kid(s) may potentially come to us through other legal means instead, and we’re not certain how any of this will happen, only that we’re committing to working on it.

Oats and I have been discussing this change-in-focus for the past couple months, and our decision was so gradual, that I’ve been forgetting to tell my friends… Until they ask for an update on Oats’ university applications, and I’m all like: “Huh?”

Why the change?  It’s so pragmatic, it hurts.  I mean, I’m excited and eager and all that, but my romantic nature is still off in la-la land while big decisions are being made.  The main points are: We both have secure unionized jobs, we have a 3 bedroom apartment that is owned by our closest friends, and we have the family-style support of said closest friends plus Jag, who is also only a stone’s throw from our door, not to mention a bevy of other excellent friends and chosen family.  To top it off, I’m 30 years old and if my reproductive system is gonna do anything useful, now is a good time to start asking.

Anyway.  Yeah.  So that’s what’s been on my mind lately.  I don’t really have much else to say about it, except all the boring details: Any pregnancy would be carried by me, not Oats; we would use an anonymous donor via a sperm bank, not a known donor; we haven’t yet chosen a bank or donors, or looked into getting a home study for adoption, or consulted a lawyer, or really many of the other little tasks we’re going to take on.  And no, we don’t really have a spare $2000 each month, but are certainly closer to being financially stable than ever before. All we’ve actually *done* is read through the info from the local fertility clinic, a couple books, and researched a little in an attempt to understand the insanity of Health Canada regulations around sperm. (They consider it a drug.  I KID YOU NOT.)

Also, me being me, I’ve become addicted to lurking on a message board where baby-making queers from around the world are chatting about their current tries at conception.  And of course, I’m also charting my basal body temperature every day… Just like I used to years ago, when I had a male, sperm-producing partner, and was trying to avoid pregnancy!  Except back then it was crazy stressful, and now I’m just really stoked about the fun science-experiment-aspect of it.  I recently spat onto a scrap of glass, let it dry, then looked at it through my microscope and was able to predict my upcoming ovulation based on the crystalized patterns of my estrogen-enriched saliva… Science!

The main thing is, we’re off on a bit of an adventure here, different from what we’ve done in the past and from what we’d thought we might be doing.  It’s exciting, and a little crazy, and I guess that’s probably a totally excellent place to be.

Tomorrow night is the company holiday party

Tomorrow night is the company holiday party, and I gotta tell you, I’ve been experiencing a bunch of anxiety over it. Adding to my stress is the hard time I’m giving myself for feeling anxious… The wretched voice in my head keeps saying “JUST DON’T LET IT BOTHER YOU!!!”

Which, frankly, is stupidly useless advice.

The fact of the matter is, it’s one thing to be out at work, and quite another to walk into a company event with my genderqueer spouse on my arm (and in fancy formal dress at that). For most folks I’ve met in the trades, the theory of my being queer seems pretty easy to accept, or at least it comes off that way. (Let’s avoid discussing the rumours of what’s said behind my back, shall we?) What I’m not too sure about is how my coworkers will react when they meet Oats: Luckily, she’s exceptionally house-broken and quite charming, but I know from previous experiences that she is nothing like what they are expecting.

(Why? Well, for one, she’ll look better in her suit than they do in theirs… But also because a lot of straight folks seem to expect me to date women who are femme like me, and Oats is instead a very dapper sir… Just the way I like ’em!)

So? Fuck ’em, right?

Right!

Except that this is my job, and this is my trade, and I actually really like it.

And every day that I don’t hear some homophobic remark, I get a little more tense, waiting for it to happen. Anticipating. Because after hearing so much anti-gay bullshit at trades school and at my old construction job and wherever else, I simply don’t believe that it’s not going to happen here.

Anyway. In all likelyhood, it’ll all be fine, we’ll have fun, no one will be rude to us, and nothing bad will happen. In all likelyhood, I’ll look cute in my dress and high heels, Oats’ll be the perfect handsome date, and we’ll win one of the outrageous door prizes that are totally outside our lifestyle. (Can you still use a Wii if you don’t own a television?)

Here is the best coping skill I’ve found: Every time I start into an anxiety spiral worrying about the bad stuff, I remind myself of all the people I’ve met in trades who’ve talked to me about the queers in their lives. From the way they’ve each approached me, I get the feeling that for a lot of these guys, it’s a big deal for them to talk about it.

Of course, for some it’s old news: There was the journeyman who casually told me that his son is gay and has too many piercings, which seemed to concern him more than the queer-thing… And there’s Astro, with whom I hope Oats and I will sit at the party tomorrow.

But I also had a trades classmate tell me how upset he was that his favourite cousin tried to commit suicide after the family reacted badly to his coming out. And on a more positive note, another guy at trades school wanted advice on how to best impress this bisexual girl he was crushing out on, when she invited him out a date to the local gay bar. Then there’s my coworker who revealed that when his mother married her girlfriend last year, he was the only one of his siblings to attend the wedding (which was now causing problems between them and him). I could go on, but you see my point: We’re everywhere.

Coming out at work, this time ’round.

You would NOT BELIEVE how much time I spent in washrooms, or rather in the ceilings of washrooms, where it always seems that the wiring I'm working on is right above a toilet. Out of the closet, and into a stall...

The first crew I worked with when I started my electrical apprenticeship job back in September was a bit odd.  At the time, I thought my two coworkers were typical of what I’d be experiencing in the company, but after being moved to a few different crews, I realize now that they are exceptions:  Silent, reserved, and socially-awkward, whereas the other dozen or so folks I’ve met are friendly, engaging, and interesting.  So, I didn’t come out as queer, with those first guys.  There simply wasn’t an opportunity, because they didn’t talk much.

From there, I was sent to a giant condo development for a day, where a large crew was working on the initial construction wiring.  Two old classmates from tradeschool were there, and it was great to catch up.  They, of course, know I’m queer, because I was pretty vocal in calling-out the rampant homophobia in our classroom.  No one mentioned it that day, but the journeyman I worked with implied that he knew, with some funny (and otherwise completely non-sequitur!) comments making it clear that he was cool with “teh gays”.  I really liked him, and was sad that we only got so brief a time together.

After that, I was sent to the mall construction site where I was for two weeks.  On my second day, I arrived to find that the foreman, the other apprentice and myself had been joined by another worker:  My buddy Astro.  We bear-hugged, and then just grinned at each other.  The other guys thought we were nuts, because we just couldn’t stop smiling.

Astro is the brother of my friend Starling, who is pretty much the QUEEREST PERSON EVER.  Well, in my life, anyway.  Starling is genderqueer, polyqueer, sexqueer, foodqueer, litqueer, cuddlequeer, bikequeer, lifequeer, just so so so queer.  We first met at the womens’ centre at the university many years ago, then both worked at the organic farm, and just generally have had overlapping lives for a long time.

Astro was actually at the hospital construction site where I first worked two and half years ago, but we never talked until we both got laid off and happened to be at the union hall on the same day.  I mentioned working at the farm, and Astro said that his sibling worked at an organic farm, and we quickly realized it was Starling.  We became friends on a social networking site, and he ended up coming to my birthday party a couple months later. That’s when I found out he’s an artist, a painter with a Fine Arts degree… He and Oats spent a part of the evening talking about her paintings, which cover the walls of our apartment.  I soon found out that Astro also shares my love of post-apocalyptic daydreaming, food preservation, dumpster-diving, and traveling, and has a similar push/pull relationship with academia.  He is soft-spoken and a little nerdy-looking, and more than a little weird and spacey, in all the best ways.

So anyway, to suddenly be working with Astro was an amazing gift.  Not only because he’s hilarious, but because I felt so safe.  I hadn’t been consciously tense about my situation before, but just knowing that I had a solid ally was a huge relief.  Also, it provided the perfect opening to come out to the other two guys, because it was natural that Astro and I would talk about Oats and her dreams of doing an MFA.

As easy as that:  At break one day, sitting in the food court, Astro and I started discussing the challenge of getting a gallery show, and so I told him about the small art gallery that Oats and I booked for our wedding last spring.  He laughed about how the owner confessed she wasn’t too into the paintings of spring flowers that happened to be on display during our rental, but thought that at least they’d be nice, non-complicated backgrounds for our wedding photos… Like Oats and I, Astro is not a fan of “nice, non-complicated” art.  Our other coworkers listened and ate their snacks and eventually when the conversation turned to a broader topic, they joined in.  No big deal, really… But enough of one, to make me feel better.

With my next crew, the one I’m with now, I came out to my primary coworker within five minutes of meeting him:  He commented on how professional my flashlight looked, and I told him that it had been my partner’s, from when she was a security guard many years ago.  Apparently, I told him, it’s the heaviest flashlight allowed without being classified as an actual weapon.  “Wow,” he smiled, amused, and asked to hold it, then it gave some swings through the air like a club before handing it back.

Again, no big deal… But enough of one.

After this, I’m sure word will travel fast.  Apprentices move from crew to crew throughout the company on a pretty regular basis, and everyone always asks who you know, who you’ve worked with, what you think about them… And I’m guessing my being queer will be a little factoid tacked-on to the things people say about me.  Of course, I’m hoping that they’ll also say I’m a fast learner and an easy-going, friendly co-worker, with a good sense of humour.  And they probably will, because I seem to be well-liked.  But I’m pretty certain that as one of very few women in a large trades company, my sexuality will be of interest.  Whatever, I’m over it.  I’m just glad to be out.

(If you want to read about me coming out a little at my first trades job, click here!)

Birthday butch, beer, books, berries, bear

It was a certain butch’s birthday this past week, and to celebrate, we went camping at what turned out to be the raddest spot ever.  It was quiet and remote, on a lake with a dock, lots of trees and a woodland trail, plus the bonus of nearby easy-to-hike logging roads into more mountainous territory!  All within a couple hours drive from our house.  Say what you will about the timber industry (and believe me, I’ve said it myself), but at least it makes for some great campsites.

My handsome companion. And her new gun.

What do dykes do in the woods?  Shoot guns, of course!

I preferred to steady my hand using my dear Audubon field guide... And the table.

Actually, there was only one gun:  An air pistol, which Oats bought with her birthday money.  I was pretty surprised, cuz she’s usually rather focused on things like art supplies and nice clothes, but then I quickly got over it… Because it turns out that I myself have an inner sniper.

Yes, we drank beer and then shot up the cans.  Classy!

I also spent many hours swinging in my hammock and reading… Got through 5 books in 4 days, which felt soooooooooooooooo good.  You’d think I’d read more, given that I’m unemployed and all, but I just don’t make the time.

What else did we do?  Oh yes, hiked.

I love a good view.

Even if it comes with sombre reminders of *why* there’s a good view… Hard to imagine how it would have been to walk up this slope before it was clearcut.  Those stumps are massive.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this land, and how I feel about it, mostly in light of the notion that I’ll be moving to a completely different part of the country this time next year (I hope!).  I read a lot of sci-fi, and it has forever altered my ideas about spatiality and colonization, complicating all my thoughts on “here-ness” in delightfully interesting ways.  I feel like my love for this place is so deep that I can leave and be okay simply knowing that it exists.

A wild larder:  Magic!  Not this fungus, I mean… It’s a lobster mushroom, and very much so edible without causing euphoric insights.  Or at least not yet.  I still haven’t eaten more than a nibble, because I was saving them for tonight’s dinner… I’ll let you know if they get me high.

More magic: Wild fruit!  I picked just over three pounds of thimbleberries (the ones that look like raspberries), tiny native blackberries, salmonberries (the orange ones), red huckleberries (the smooth red ones), and salal berries (the smooth dark purple ones).  Today they are becoming jam, to be sent off to my more eastern relatives as solstice gifts this winter, provided we don’t eat it all first.  I would’ve picked more, but there was much evidence of others wanting the fruit too and sometimes I like to avoid competition.

Yes, that’s shit… Bear shit, to be exact, which is what I’m referring to in my previous sentence, in case it wasn’t obvious.  It wasn’t totally fresh, but new enough to make me give careful consideration of the needs of my wilderness friends.  Three pounds of berries for me seems pretty good.