I have so much going on. It’s hard to know where to start.
This semester has been rough, and I’ve also grown tremendously on a personal level. The school part has been okay. I’m proud of all of the work I’ve done. It’s taken me a long time to feel proud of myself. Even as a kid, I was never proud of my A’s. I remember coming home with all A’s in elementary school and everyone would say, “Of course you made straight A’s; you’re so smart!” At the time, I internalized this to mean that anything less than an A would mean I wasn’t smart. I aimed to be a Good Student, one who would one day use that educational trust fund from my deceased Great Aunt Jesse to its fullest extent! I would become a medical doctor and make my family proud! In first and second grade, I remember striving to get as many Accelerated Reader (AR) points as I possible could. I would skim books quickly enough to understand the book well enough to regurgitate information about it for a test. I did enjoy reading, but I loved the rewards more. I especially wanted the blue inflatable love seat.
In fifth grade I remember getting C’s in classes, but I don’t remember my parents saying anything to me about it. That was also the year I started my period. I was 11, and it was the middle of the summer. I remember I was so embarrassed that I had started my period because I was supposed to be going to Wetlands water park on a field trip later the next day. That night I called my boyfriend on three-way with my best friend to break up with him. I said, “Hi, I’m breaking up with you. Bye!” and quickly switched to the other line to giggle. That night I told my sister I couldn’t go to Wetlands anymore “because of girl problems.” She said, “Oh, don’t worry about that.” I’m not sure what she thought I was talking about, but then I said, “No, like I started my period.” She was so excited for me, and I couldn’t understand why. She took me into my parent’s room, and my mom was so thrilled for me. It was my parent’s anniversary, too. I don’t remember what she said to me, but I remember feeling better afterward. She gave me a box of tampons and told me I could wear one and still be able to go swimming. I spent a long time in the bathroom reading the directions for the tampons. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t end up going swimming that week.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my motivations for pursuing a PhD. Meanwhile, I’m still having a lot of feelings about being on testosterone. I often fancy going off of T, maybe even birthing a child one day. I’ve started resenting my shots, though I have switched to subcutaneous injections and that has made things a bit better. I’ve been equating weekly testosterone injections with injecting a weekly dose of capitalism into my body. It’s kind of funny in a way, because it sounds just like me. I resent the structures in which I must function. I resent my role in all of that, more often that I’d like to. I’m still coping with my divorce and the many things that others may or may not believe to be true about me. I regret some of the ways I have tried to deal with harm done to me by other queer people with trauma. I’m still figuring out how to set healthy boundaries around my time and energy. I have a million things going on, and I often realize I’m overextending myself. I’ve been going to a lot of conferences and investing a lot of time into my professional development. Though I am no longer drinking alcohol, I still occasionally resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like being a workaholic. I’m aware of most of those tendencies and consciously try to cope in ways that fulfill me like crocheting, spending time with my partners and friends, getting involved with activism in Atlanta, playing with my cat, and taking hot baths. I have occasionally caught myself abusing other substances and had to take a step back to reevaluate my motivations for engaging with these substances and how I feel about it. Some days I feel like I’m just going through the motions of academia and am not in touch with myself as an agent of my own body, but at the same time, I have two very loving partners who empower me to thrive in my queerness. I have never felt more loved than I do in this moment, and I am excited and nervous about what the future may bring.
My mom was just in a state mental institution for about six weeks in Virginia (about a 7 hour drive from Atlanta). For the first couple weeks I relied on my sister who lives 5 minutes from her to update me on her situation. Usually we talk almost every day, sometimes for hours. When I tried to call her directly after a couple weeks I was told in the same breath that she was “in group” and “refusing to come to the phone.” I called back and was told that I should try calling the front desk to see what was going on with her because I “wouldn’t get a straight answer around here.” I called the front desk and was apologetically forwarded to a social worker who never called me back. I learned later that these two phones on the wall at the institution are unregulated; a patient could just answer the phone and tell you anything. I isolated into my intellectualizing cocoon. I focused on my school work, because I knew Mama wouldn’t want me worrying about her. After four weeks I tried calling again. A joyful-sounding person answered the phone, called for Rebecca, and cheerfully said she was putting on her shoes and would be right there. She came to the phone and said, “Hello?” I said, “Hey, it’s Jordan!” fully expecting that my mother would not remember who I was. She said, “Well hey Jordan, where have you been?” I started laughing and crying and felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. Never have I felt such relief in my entire life. She said to me, “You’ve been right there with me the whole time, haven’t you?” I said that of course I had. Then she asked me to play her this old gospel song that the chorus at her daddy’s church in Alabama used to sing called Roll, Jordan, Roll. She was only able to talk for eight minutes that first night, and I called her nearly every day after that. We talked about how she had never felt that alone in her entire life, how glad she was to have me, and how much she wanted to be out of there.
I’m amazed by my “resilience.” I also really hate that word, because it feels like it’s just a measure of how well you can adjust to living in capitalism. I want to live “authentically,” but I still don’t really know what this means for me. I’ll be 11 months sober from alcohol on the 30th of November. I know that alcohol was a source of escape for me, beginning when I was only 12 years old. I know that I resent how alcohol has affected my family. I know that I resent my codependent tendencies resulting from growing up in a dysfunctional environment. I also know that I have always been very loved and that I have relied on this love to keep me alive. I also know that others do not have that same sense of support. I’ve felt guilty about the amount of support I’ve received, honestly. When I was told that I was only gay because I was raped as a child and had an absent father, I read these abusive emails aloud on a panel to a room of over 50 people, who laughed at my uncle’s fundamental Christian homophobic sentiments of “love”. When I was slurred at holding hands with my partner on Gay Street in Knoxville, I retreated into my queer bubbles to heal. When I broke up with a partner because it didn’t “feel right,” I had queer friends who let me keep all my belongings in their cars and let me stay with them until I was able to find housing. When I impulsively got married when same-sex marriage was legalized, my picture was featured on the cover of the Dekalb County newspaper. I continue to overextend myself for fear of not ever being employable, loveable, or accepted, but I also am currently employed (granted poorly funded) and loved and accepted by many. I don’t want to continue to take these privileges for granted, nor feel guilty about them.
My last Fall semester of classes (ever!) will be over December 5th. I have a manuscript accepted to Journal of Homosexuality deriving from my Master’s thesis work due December 24th and am going to be submitting to the American Sociological Association with a trans colleague (who is even employed in academia and everything!) in early January. I have a trans mentor in Canada who asks me hard questions and is invested in my well-being. I presented my dissertation proposal at the Georgia Sociological Association conference in Southern Georgia, and I presented my first poster at the National Trans Health Summit in Oakland, California! I met so many lovely trans and queer people there and feel reenergized about my research. I stayed in a “Gay-Friendly Oakland Plant Oasis” AirBnB and felt beautifully queer walking around Oakland and San Francisco. It was an experience that I thought only existed on the Internet as a child. I am second-author on a manuscript under review with Social Work in Health Care with a professor in Social Work and two colleagues. I have just two papers to write and one more chapter to read for classes this semester! I’m organizing the 3rd-annual (!!!) Trans Week for the end of March, and the lineup is looking great. My partner Liz and I are now members of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It’s funny how things turn around sometimes.
Here are my jumbled mess of thoughts. Contradictions and all, I am glad to be in this struggle. I hope that each of you are able to be kind to yourself in your own contradictions.