Tuesday, November 24, 2015


When I changed my name I knew I was carving out a wider path for myself. 'Max' reset my story, would change everything about what it meant to be 'Emma.' What's more terrifying to the general public than believing someone you perceive as a girl is really a boy? A: When someone you perceive as a girl says yes, this is what I have been, but this is what I am no longer. When someone is a girl and then a boy and then a girl again. When someone says, yes, to all of it, yes, it's all true.

Since I changed my name/pronouns/gender, writing is all I feel like I have left. My writing has changed, too, but the will to practice hasn't left, at least. When I began my transition I told myself I wanted to lose my footing in terms of the gender binary, to realize what I think deep down, what I need from gender to feel whole, what parts of me gender cannot touch. I don't have much to offer you yet-- I am only just beginning to recognize the depth of my reliance on this ugly system. I seek to rewire without repressing the good stuff, to unearth what is both helpful and honest, that crucial intersection.

Mornings now go like this: After I wake up I have about twenty minutes before the nausea sets in. I usually stay in bed for this time, savoring the haze until I remember everything. The minutia. The exhaustion. The wasteland of impending adulthood. The loss that's waiting there. The whiplash from looking from past to present to past, to watching the future fold in front of me, then that's the past, too, and all the while I am sick, I'll throw up any minute now even though I never do, and beneath my chest a thick web that keeps me heavy, barely lets the breath and the words and the feelings out. The nausea and the web persist throughout the day, until I fall asleep. No cures beckon to me, imaginary or otherwise, but I treat symptoms. Coffee helps.

Stories stretch out in front of me. I dip my toe in, but it's too hot, too cold, and I recoil. I don't move, so the will to move strangles itself inside me. I see sentences forming, how I'll tell it to myself, but nothing glows the way it used to, that inevitable promise born of real conviction, real want. It's just a story, I tell myself. You're more than a story.

For instance: I am Emma; Max, some days, that childhood dream, that secret, all mine, that precious alter-ego, the creative little boy inside. But Emma is your body-- Emma is lived. You have recreated femininity so that it fits you, have grown out of the oppressive force you rebelled against for your entire life. You are not what the world projects onto you, as a woman, as a lesbian. Still, a woman you are, and you know where you stop bleeding into a stereotype. Your body is almost foreign in its beauty, its vulnerability-- and is constantly validated, since you are cis and thin and white. You recognize your gross privilege in this. You push back against the dismissal and the talking over by the men in your life, the grabbing and the catcalling by men on the street. You finally claim this fight as your own.

or: I am Max; Emma, some days, in the privacy of Madeline's bedroom, where no else can hear you, no one else can question what sort of man wants this. When you are Emma you cry in her arms for your long hair, and for feeling at home in your body, you ask for her help in returning. When you are Max, you are outside, confident and safe in a way you've never been before. More than that, you are seen. People tell you that now, something about you just 'clicks,' they're shocked they didn't see it before, you look much more comfortable this way. And maybe you are. You've moved on, in some vague sense, and you realize this was probably always waiting for you, that womanhood never fit, and this is why. A stronger union between your body and your mind awaits you still, after surgery, inside the syringe, and your heart opens like it hasn't in years. Finally, with the chronic doubt and confusion shed, your life can start.

or: I am human. I have two names; please do not call me either. Do not use gendered language when you speak to me. Touch my entire body like you want it, or don't touch me at all. Do not remind me of what I am, or what I might be, do not remind me of what is lurking. Let me forget what I am, reduce me only to what I do. Do not gender my actions. In fact, abandon English. Let us only talk in looks and gestures, a pinch, a kiss, your hands in my hair-- my hair, without length, hair extending infinitely in all directions, forever growing and stunting itself with split ends, my hair without style or message.

I do wonder if, at some point, I really am going to vomit. I fantasize that it will accompany some realization about my gender, or my core values in general. What will leave me is the fiction, the fear-- my body free to fill with life again.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Shocking Discovery of Transphobia in Thousand Oaks.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this blog, my friend Alyssa brought it to my attention that the bylaw regarding transgender youth has been passed, as of Tuesday November 3rd! Read about it here!

TW: transphobic and homophobic comments, people who are the actual worst

All right readers. You ready?

From the town that brought you the Planned Parenthood arson attack of 2015, Thousand Oaks returns with another thrilling example of its commitment to close-mindedness. You can read all about it in The Acorn, their local newspaper, beneath the headline that reads 'School board deadlocks on transgender question.'

TL;DR: In the article, Andy Nguyen reports that the Conejo Valley Unified District failed to pass a bill that would allow students to join single-sex sports teams based on their gender identity. School board members who voted no were quoted, spouting ridiculous made-up 'facts' about the 'LGBT agenda' and the AIDS epidemic. Feel free to click on the actual link above for the specifics.

When I was younger, I would've read this sort of thing and laughed. Part of me still does laugh. Ah yes, tiny Max, indoctrinated at third grade into the queer ranks, by... What? The 7-8 lesbians residing in Thousand Oaks? Watching Ellen after school? From my perspective, I was indoctrinated by a small handful of future femme classmates over the years who could really pull off pigtail braids.

I laughed because I knew they were talking about me, the queer youth of Thousand Oaks, and laughing was a way to cope, to regain power. Yes, fear me, conservatives, I am here to buy flowers for your daughters and can still find somewhere to sit at lunch. I am your resident lesbian, your resident genderfuck, your resident human question mark. I am clearly smarter than you, and I don't take anything you say seriously.

As I grow older, though, and face the immense pressure of participating in the adult world, I cannot ignore how the culture of Thousand Oaks warped my perception of myself as a functioning, worthwhile human being. I am consistently shocked when I can perform basic small talk successfully, when I can walk into the grocery store without wanting to hyperventilate. While others treat these little pockets of day-to-day life as neutral items on a To-Do list, I continue to treat them as meaningful victories. It is hard work, every day, to be in public and get further than Square One: Self-conscious, sad, scared. I don't remember a time I didn't feel like this, but I also know, frustratingly, much of this behavior was learned. It is the behavior of an alien on an unfamiliar planet.

And then I really allow myself to think about it-- What if I had known, back then? What if I never had to go in the girls' locker room to change? What if I could have skipped over years of hating myself for feeling so out of place for no apparent reason, this constant sense I was lying to everyone around me? What if there were rules set by administrators, no doubt supported by a couple other students along with me, that acknowledged this difference in experience, that said it was okay, that said you saw yourself as a little boy, so that was how you could live if you wanted?

It wouldn't have been perfect by a long shot, readers. But it would have been fucking huge.

So when I read comments like Mike Dunn's, now, I feel sad for myself. I mourn what tiny Max could have had. But more than that, I feel rage, because there are still transgender kids in Thousand Oaks. I used to be one of them, and they will always be there, and they deserve a chance to escape the nightmare I and so many others went through in the public school system. Even if they aren't ready to tell others they are trans, just the public acknowledgment that we exist and are valid could cover real ground in a child's subconscious. But instead, we have the public accusation that you are responsible for AIDS, made by a fully-grown adult claiming to care about student well-being.

Take a minute, and think hard about a transgender ten year old reading that in the newspaper.

So today, I want to thank Steve Delsohn, acclaimed father and journalist, for doing his part to stick up for the little LGBTQ kids in a community bent on destroying them from the inside. He's written letters to the school board and The Acorn, asking for Mike Dunn to be either recalled or censured from the board. The Acorn even published his letter to the editor, in which he calls the publication out for printing, in his words, 'malicious fiction.'

Small acts of outrage and resistance add up. Thank you to my parents, and all the other parents out there, who are proud of their queer kids. I don't expect any Thousand Oaks youth to read this, but if you are out there, tiny T.O. queer, I love you so much. You will escape this senseless suburban machine. There are people all over the world fighting to dismantle these systems of oppression causing you so much pain. Know that whether in the closet or fully visible, your existence alone is revolutionary. Please, stay here with us.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Should Max Medically Transition? The Foolproof Test to Determine Gender Expression.

Heelloooo, readers.

I took a Buddhist Philosophy course in college. My professor talked about the great flaming ball of doubt a Zen practitioner becomes just before enlightenment. The endless questioning, the anxiety, the unraveling of everything you thought you knew, and then, an incredible peace. Ultimate tranquility. Nirvana.

Readers, in pursuit of the answer to the question of what to do about my transgender status, I have exhausted all typical resources. I have carefully examined my own history and looked for clues as to the true nature of my gender. I have read the books, the online articles, the angry slam poetry. I have talked to many beautiful trans folk, binary and non-binary, masculine and feminine, and compared our stories. I have lived as female in my mind, I have lived as male in my mind, I have lived as neither in my mind. I have drastically changed my gender expression, I have changed my name, my pronouns. I have debated extensively with Madeline, ever-kind and patient with my circular questioning and ranting. Friends and family, new acquaintances, you name 'em, I've asked 'em. What to do about my gender? Grow my hair out, or take testosterone?

The ball of doubt, this can only be, readers, there is no question in my mind. But I sense I am emerging from this ball of doubt. I believe that nirvana alone exists on my horizon.

My latest idea to determine my next move gender-wise is foolproof. I do not believe it can fail. Without a doubt, this series of tests will only give me clear answers, to what it is I seek to know.


1) FLIP A COIN. Heads, testosterone. Tails, long hair.

2) DRAWING STRAWS. Max and three of his friends will draw straws. Max and one friend will be testosterone, the other two friends will be long hair. The shortest straw will indicate the wrong decision.

3) CAR COLORS. For five minutes, Max will sit on Pike St. and count the blue cars and the red cars, respectively. If they see more red cars in five minutes, testosterone. If they see me more blue cars, long hair.

4) ROCK PAPER SCISSORS. Madeline and Max will play Rock Paper Scissors. Madeline will be testosterone and Max will be long hair. Best two out of three, rock paper scissors shoot. Both participants will play to the best of their ability.

5) GUESSING DOG BREEDS. Max will go to the park and observe various dog breeds. Max will photograph the dogs, and write down what she thinks the dog breed is. Later, she will confirm whether she was right or wrong. If she is wrong more often than she is right, testosterone. If she is right more often, long hair.

6) LATE BUS. One day, Max will visit Alex in Greenlake, and return home the same night, requiring him to take a total of four buses. Max will count the number of minutes each bus is late. After catching all four buses, Max will add up to number of minutes, If the sum is an even number, testosterone. If odd, long hair.

7) SOCCER GAME. Max will sit at Cal Anderson one night and watch a soccer game. Max will assign one team testosterone and another team long hair. Winner take all.




8) HE/SHE. Max will go out in her best dude clothes and walk around aimlessly until she is addressed. If no one addresses Max, he will go into a randomly selected eating establishment, a hotbed of subtle misgendering. As soon as Max is prescribed a gender from an outside party, they will think about how they would feel being seen as this gender for the rest of their life. If she/he/they cannot parse out the feeling, however, Max will flip another coin.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

No ??? ??? ???

All right, readers. I have done it. I am coming back up from the depths.

Seven months ago, I publicly announced my endeavor to get to the bottom of my gender. I was scared, but hopeful. The fear was based in a basic discomfort with uncertainty that I had felt a thousand times. The hope was based in a general trust in myself to handle any hardship that might come my way.

And readers, I return to you, tasting air for the first time since winter, with a treasure chest in my hands. And inside that treasure chest, is a massive, and unapologetic, fuck the fucking binary.

This may be old news to most of my Facebook friends, liberal or even radical in their views on mainstream society. Of course, the binary sucks. I always knew this on some level. But in avoiding a serious assertion of my gender through the vehicle of our current binary system, I was able to keep safe certain aspects of who I was and how I loved. I was happier before adulthood, when gender still felt like a game. Here:

All my life I have experienced my gender in parody and fantasy. One year for Halloween I'm Cinderella, the next I'm Hercules. Signing up to poetry chat rooms under the name Edward, until Twilight became a thing and fucked all Edwards forever. Singing all of Ewan McGregor's parts from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack with my eyes shut tight. Imagining my life as a father. Cross-dressing as hard as humanly possible, trying to see myself as a man. Twirling around the dance floor at a club, shaking my hair and trying to see myself as a woman. Crying to my ex-girlfriend about wanting to be treated like a girl. Crying to Madeline about people who won't treat me like a boy. Always in pursuit of some ideal, some sliver of truth about myself stuck in the foot of Man or Woman, Masculine or Feminine, with no real pattern or consistency that would lead me to choosing one over the other.

I thought, as an adult, I might grow up to be a man, or a woman. I thought my gender would expand so much that it might cross the finish line, that moment you know, ah! This is it! Womanhood/manhood, here I come! I was a girl when I was 11 years old and stuffing my bra with toilet paper in the mirror. I was a boy when I filled a journal with love rants about the girl in my eighth grade math class. But none of this matters. Are you a boy or a girl on your driver's license? Emma, Max, what are your pronouns?

I'm realizing that my gender can only exist quietly. I was foolish to trust this system, to trust that I could be happy understanding myself as purely man or woman. I am deeply jealous of those who can, whether cis or trans. All I want to do is pick one and feel it is right. I have tried so hard. But I do not fit in this system, and I am never going to. I make choices about my body now with this in mind. There was never any liberation for me to find as I tried to invest in the binary. There is only mild comfort, and survival.

Which is the horrible conclusion I've come to. I've had an impressively androgynous appearance for seven months, and I've been cripplingly depressed for seven months (when I present as purely feminine or purely masculine, at least one side of me feels consistently accounted for-- right now, neither side is). And so I've learned to hate my body, a hate that isn't mine. I've learned that fine-tuning your intuition will not save you from this world's corrupting forces, it will only make you see the devastation more clearly. Above all, I've learned that no matter what I choose, I will be put into boxes. Led there with carrots, nudged when I'm not looking, shoved violently until I cooperate, and then caged. And I do not find freedom in this. We are in a broken, cruel system of gender, and people suffer their entire lives because of it.

I believe I will find my way back to joy, or at least some sort of calm. But it will never happen because of our binary system, which is sold to us as one of our greatest vehicles for attaining happiness, for finding love, for gaining esteem, for knowing who we are. It will be on the fringes, in the loopholes, in the perversions and distortions of government-sanctioned gender, that I will remember who I am, that I will rediscover authenticity. If I change my body or keep it how it is, I will always maintain awareness of all it cannot say, and all that is prescribed to it. I will benefit from the arbitrarily-awarded privilege of being white and cis-appearing, or white and straight and male, but never without anger, without knowing how this privilege directly hurts others, keeps them from living their lives. I will make a choice about how I want to be seen, because on any given day I could be a woman or a man, truly, but I'll lose my fucking mind and maybe my life if I don't pick one side of me to wear as a costume. Not in this binary.

I love my gender. I know what it is. But it will not find life here. It does not stay in language or in thought. My gender will not be named.

Anyway. Hope you dug the treasure.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Power's Out.

Hello reader. Today I'm thinking about power.

I'm thinking about the power I've worked for-- power I've gained mostly through writing, and developing my 'voice' specifically. My voice is power. I can speak my ideas clearly. This creates more honest, accurate expression, ensuring my relationships are more authentic. When I came out as lesbian, this was power in a similar fashion, as it affirmed an organic feeling, included it in my personality, something to be proud of. I became more when I allowed myself to be more. And it was power when I changed my name to Max, without expectation, just because it felt good.

There is much power I have been awarded through privilege, born of systemic oppression, that I do not deserve, that nobody deserves. It is privilege because I am white. It used to be privilege because I appeared cisgender. My long hair was a shield in more ways than one-- it granted me access to cisgender spaces, it protected me from most microaggressions and verbal harassment, and it reinforced the idea that I was beautiful. When I was young, I tried so hard to be pretty by living up to mainstream standards of feminine beauty. Re-conceptualizing myself as a lesbian allowed me to engage with my femininity in a way that felt free. Self love came naturally.

On the brink of adulthood, I take in the world around me, and feel powerless. I sense what the world wants-- for me to pick a side, to reenter the race as a man, a woman, so I can speak freely again, so I can live without the constant questioning and doubting what I am. I know that the binary is power, but to benefit from the privilege of picking a side of the binary when it does not feel quite right would be the greatest disservice to myself.

How do I return to power, then, and simultaneously reject one of the most powerful social systems of all time? How do I engage without fully aligning, without the obsessive censoring of self in order to fit more neatly into a gendered box? How do I return power to my voice?

I cannot grow back my hair without fear of ridicule and harassment. I cannot start T without fear of ridicule and harassment. And I can't stay here, because I've lost touch with my emotions. But without a relationship to my emotions, how am I supposed to know what to do?

There was a moment last week that felt like clarity, a brief respite from the dark tangle of analysis of my future gender identity, because it was emotion. I was walking with Madeline past a construction site and I don't know what we were talking about but I kissed her quickly. We kept walking but I heard a man yell "Thanks, girls" just before we turned the corner. I have never felt more confident that I am not a girl than in that moment. I spent the rest of the day calm, comfortable in my masculinity.

Forget for a second I could be girl or boy. In the future I see myself in a faded blue suit, a man with short hair and light stubble, holding a pink flower in my hands, pink so bright it is almost angry. In the future I see myself in a body coded as woman, hair loose and long as always, soft fabrics, the faded flowers all over. In the future I am 16 again in my leather jacket and jeans and my gender is only a matter of light curiosity.

I want to belong to this world, in all its ugliness, because it is the only one I have known, but I am afraid everyday. I am paralyzed by the choices; they no longer feel like choices but concessions. Changing my name to Max was supposed to be about freedom. Now it is about indecision and fear, dysphoria and confused looks on the street.

I am grateful every day for trans people. I am grateful for Marsha P. Johnson, for Sylvia Rivera, for Leslie Feinberg, for Janet Mock, for Silas Howard, for Darkmatter, for Natalie Reed, for Morgan M Page, for Buck Angel, for Aydian Dowling, for Bailey Jay, for Tyler Ford, and for the moment Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore shook my hand and smiled and for a moment I think really saw me. Thank you for showing me all the ways to live in power in a hostile world. I can only hope I return to power with such ferocity.

Here's to Max one day shedding this skin of panic and apology, to feeling beautiful and powerful again. Have some music.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Acne Elite.

How's it hangin', reader? How does it hang on you, to be more specific? Gravity, I mean. How is the weight of the gravitational pull feel on your fragile frame? No matter how many muscles you have on me, we're all 'fragile' beneath the giant falling piano of our Earthly attachments and desires.

So you're good? Great! Now that I've inadvertently reminded you that you can easily take me in a fist fight, let's talk about my bad skin.

Today I went to the dermatologist for the first time in many years. If my blog has not quelled your interest and you still feel the need to talk to me in person, you may have noticed that I have acne on my face and neck. I've always thought my acne could be categorized as severe-- my first dermatologist thought this, too, but chalked it up to the extraordinary hormone production that occurs throughout puberty. I put some goop on my face and started dating girls who saw past my rosacea and into MY HEART and basically forgot about the whole thing. When I was a big, beautiful grown-up, my life would be better, and my complexion would be Claritin-clear.

Chapter-skip ahead to learn that the bigness and beautifulness of Max as a grown-up remains completely divorced from the solving the acne issue-- though he likes to believe the blemishes on his soul are consistently clearing up, the skin legions persist, and persist. Now safely out of puberty at age 22, I'm forced to consider I may have a dreaded case of Grown-Up Acne. It was an overwhelming discovery, considering I only recently forced myself to consider I may have a dreaded case of GROWN-UP!!! CUTE JOKE RIGHT?!?!

Anyway, I went to the dermatologist. The office was cleaner than my face could ever hope to be. A blonde female nurse asked me about past medications, and then a blonde female doctor told me my acne treatment options. She explained my best choices were either birth control or Accutane.

Now, in my recent exploration and subsequent embracing of my masculinity, probably nothing sounds less appealing to me right now than taking estrogen pills. While I admittedly lack any real knowledge about the science behind it, I can anticipate deep shame and confusion about ingesting the very hormone that I regularly feel inclined to overpower with testosterone injections. I'm sure lots of masc-of-center queers (and cis men? SCIENCE SEEMS HARD) take birth control and are completely comfortable with it, but my brain is still a mess of gender sludge, and birth control feels like a variable I'm not prepared to introduce.

That leaves Accutane, a 6 month mega-treament that stops acne production for 5-10 years. When I inquired further, the doctor explained that Accutane is reserved for patients with 'severe nodular acne.' Basically, Accutane is what you use when nothing else works. Because I qualify for Accutane, you could say I qualify as a member of the esteemed Acne Elite.

As the latest member of the Acne Elite, I had to jump through a lot of Acne Elite hoops. Accutane has been known to aggravate depression in patients with histories of mental illness (HEYYYO!), so I have to start seeing a therapist again while on the drug, to make sure I don't go crazy banana king and deliberately Slip on The Big Peel, so to speak. I also got a hefty Accutane manual to go through, titled ISOTRETINOIN EDUCATIONAL KIT FOR FEMALES WHO CAN GET PREGNANT. I am totally fucking serious. Is it just me, or does the government seems suuuuper worried about my unborn child that I definitely don't want to and will not ever give birth to?!

That was a fun part of my discussion with the doctor. She politely asked me if I identified as female, but then remarked that "but, you know, because you ARE female" (AH, YES! FEMALE, TO MY VERY CORE!) I would still need to take pregnancy tests before and during treatment. Accutane has hella side effects, one of the most pressing being potential birth defects for any babies born while Accutane is in the system. Though I tried to explain to the doctor that my current romantic situation is a strictly sperm-free zone, she assured me that all 'females' are required by law to take mad pregnancy tests as we run this gamut. Apparently you have to take TWO different forms of birth control while on Accutane, unless you declare yourself 'abstinent,' which technically, I am! At the moment I am currently abstaining from all penis-endowed individuals. As a vagina-carrier myself, I know this can be an extraordinary concept, especially for the United States government, but onwards I go, radically here, and radically queer.

So, therapy, irrelevant pregnancy tests, got it. I can't really drink on the stuff and have to wear sunscreen up the ass, okay. She tells me I definitely cannot start any kind of hormone treatment for gender biz until after Accutane, which I'm fine with-- I firmly believe that gender manifests far more subtly than anyone will talk about, and I'm interested to see how I feel about my identity once my face undergoes such a dramatic cosmetic change. Testosterone will be there, and maybe when Accutane's over, I'll actually feel ready to make this decision.

In the meantime, though! The one side effect that genuinely willies me out-- BLOOD TESTS. I now have to get one once a month, starting today. Wait, today? Yep, today! Just head on down to the third floor and hand this packet to Allan. He'll know what to do. You can schedule your next appointment at the front desk on your way out. You have a good day now, Max!

Somehow I manage to get myself from the fourteenth floor to the third and actually respond when the nurse at the lab calls my name. The nurse is wearing red, which I can't decide if I appreciate or not. She looks at me sideways as she starts preparing the death trap.

"You nervous?"
"Yes. I don't freak out or anything, I just get nervous. Yes."
"Don't worry," she says, laughs, actually, did she just laugh at me? "I've only been practicing all day."

I watch her take out a pediatric needle and take a huge sigh of relief. For once, I want to kiss my own small hands.

She can't find a vein she likes in my forearms and finds something better in my wrist. She tells me it'll be worse for me if I don't breathe, because lack of oxygen makes veins collapse and the blood won't flow as quickly. I'm forcing breath in and out of my body but somehow I'm still not breathing, I guess? I can't look anywhere in her direction but I can tell she's frustrated with my performance.

"Hey, Allan? How much blood do I need for this young lady?"

She then looks up at me suspiciously. "Young lady?" she asks me. I inexplicably feel as though I am now flirting.

"Close enough," I choke out.

The nurse furrows her brows for a second then decides not to engage. Close enough?! What kind of sociopath am I?? Close enough? Max Delsohn spends four hundred million lamps worth of verbal light trying to illuminate the masculinity in him, and a medical professional asks him a well-meaning clarifying question and his only response is CLOSE ENOUGH??

The nurse starts asking me about where I'm originally from and I'm so relieved she's dropped the gender talk that my blood starts flowing naturally. "You must be feeling better now," she says kindly, smiling as she stares at the needle in my hand.

All right reader. That's it for me today. I won't start Accutane until September, so let's hug before I get all dried up, in addition to pasty, and finally achieve my final form of uncooked noodle. And don't worry about the stuff people say about Accutane on the Internet. Apparently it's all the rage in Europe!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Regular.

How's it hanging, reader? I hope that you're enjoying your Sunday. B.J. Novak once tweeted "you are your Sunday night." Tell me, are YOU comfortable with the way your current activity adds to your identity? I'm in a chair blogging, so don't feel too bad about your answer. We can't all pull off B.J. Novak.

I prefer Sunday nights to Saturdays inherently, now that I live in Seattle, because Saturday nights are the signal for all youths and youth-minded individuals to take to the clubs and the streets, congesting the Pike/Pine corridors I so often need to walk through to get home from work. For those who don't know, the Pike/Pine corridors are potentially the busiest stretch of Seattle on a Saturday night. Once a hub for true Seattle weirdies, Pike/Pine has morphed into a bro'd out feeding ground for all who speak loudly and carry a small intellect. 

Last night I was heading towards home base, but first, I needed to eat. As I've only recently graduated college and am still learning how to do the whole 'member of the labor force' thing, I routinely forget to pack myself dinner or even a snack despite being scheduled well in advance for 5-7 hour shifts. Yesterday of course was no different, so I closed up shop, took a breath, and power-walked out into the heart of Seattle nightlife, in search of sustenance at approximately 9:45pm.

Mostly I am a vegetarian. But because my vegetarian identity hinges less on moralism and more on my impressive ability to avoid trying new foods as child, hot dogs somehow slipped through the cracks of 'Foods You Definitely Can't Eat Because You've Thought About What's In Them Too Hard.' Hot dogs should gross me out the MOST (I have a basic understanding of how hot dogs are made), but my dad must've taken me to one too many Dodger games as a kid or something, because they remain my only real source of red meat, and one of too many sources of nostalgia. When I'm really hungry, need to eat fast, and have under $200 in my checking account, hot dogs are the natural selection.

Now hot dogs are a big thing in Seattle. We have 'street meat,' which is essentially a series of roadside vendors punctuating major intersections on Capitol Hill, selling easy BBQ for about $5, give or take. They are always good, and they are always in demand. The line at any given street meat cart around 12:00pm on the Hill could include your best friend, your best friend's partner, all of your best friend's partner's horrible friends, all of your best friend's partner's friends who are actually okay, all of your best friend's partner's ex-partners, all of your mom's ex-partners, about 45 people from your university and maybe even a drunk teacher or two. When people are wasted, they want easy nutrition, and they want it on-the-go. Hordes of woo-girls and bro-tank'd melon heads gather anxiously around the cart, and you had better be on your game if you want to keep your place in line.

Rarely on my place-in-line-keeping game, I opt out of going by street meat when I'm alone, and especially when I'm sober. I can't justify the immense toll my social anxiety so quickly takes on me the moment I realize I've stopped physically moving and can no longer distract myself from the presence of my peers. For this reason, I spend most of my hot-dog chowing hours at Po Dogs, a tiny hole-in-the-wall establishment making similarly quality food for almost exactly the same price. The main difference, in the eyes of the average customer? You've got to order at the counter, you've got to sit and wait for your food, and you've got to accept you're successfully isolated from the flow of Seattle nightlife for a few minutes. In short-- total fucking paradise.

I managed to navigate the Pike/Pine corridor pretty well this time; since it was not yet 10, not many people were out, but the vibe was already expanding into something I wasn't comfortable with. Not to mention, it dawned on me during my walk that I could very well be considered a 'regular' at Po Dogs. Me! A regular! Adopting 'regular' as part of my personhood! No doubt being a regular at an establishment meant you were some version of an adult. With this in mind, I shoved my hands into my pockets and furrowed my eyebrows deeply, converting my discomfort into confidence, and striding into my 'regular' hot dog place.

I walked in to a mostly empty room, save for a few aggressively pale older dudes sitting at a booth, drinking light beer and talking about football. I straightened up a little bit, and smoothed down my collar. I knew I wasn't passing, but for some reason, I wanted those men to at least know I was trying to. Thankfully, a Po Dog employee appeared shortly, a tall blonde guy I recognized. He asked me for my order, clearly trying to place my face.

"Are you a regular here?" he then asked me, and with pride I choked out a "yeah!" too aware of the pitch of my voice to seem even remotely at home. He made eye contact with me then-- I noticed his eyes were dark, full. The emotion in them disarmed me.

"Wednesday's our last day," he said quickly, with the smile you reserve for talking about something that's genuinely fucking you up. I realized he was telling me because as a regular, he knew I would care. We had both come to love this place and now it was going away.

I immediately entered the struggle of wanting to express my shared disappointment and wanting to reinforce the undeniable dudeliness of me.

"Fuck... what?" I went with. Short, to the point. Totally like a dude.

"Yeah, we just found out yesterday," the blonde nodded as he put in my debit card information, still smiling. He said something else but I absolutely 100% did not hear him. Could I play this off as the Strong, Silent Type? I furrowed my brow in response, and hoped he'd pull the meaning he needed from this.

"Funemployment, right?" he followed up the thing I did not hear, and I laughed with a solitary 'HA!' which surely came off as masculine and friendly.

"Yeah! Yeah," I said, hoping I didn't seem too chipper that the conversation was ending. Clearly the exchange had acquired existential implications for me. How do dudes typically do feelings? Did this dude have feelings he wanted to share with me? I said thanks for the hot dog and good luck with my best Sincere Face, then retreated back to my favorite booth to wait for my food, eat, and bail. 

As per usual, bad punk music was playing over the Po Dogs speakers. A few more people had filtered in and were sitting at the bar, and a surprising sense of camaraderie pricked up inside me for a second. I had been coming to Po Dogs for four years; first with friends, and then alone. Somewhere along the line Po Dogs had become a weird little safe room of hot dogs and figuring stuff out-- somewhere I could eat and not worry about how PWAs (pretty and well adjusted's) were perceiving or judging me. In Po Dogs, I could just be a person eating a hot dog-- When I was there, all the internalized hatred and fear somehow couldn't reach me.

The last Po Dog hot dog I'll ever have was caked in extra cream cheese with scallions on top. I covered it in Sriracha with half as much restraint as usual, in order to really indulge. The hot dog was great.

When I got up to bus my table and leave the blonde guy was in the back, I guess. Was I supposed to stay, to say goodbye, to him, to all we'd endured together? Would I have even thought to stay, back when I identified as a girl? Did gender enter into this protocol, and if so, how? I ultimately decided that I'm too weird to seek out unnecessary social interaction, regardless of its gender dynamics. Besides, I like to mourn in peace. 

Man. Nothing like to death to get you writing again, eh? Bye bye, Po Dogs. I'll miss your solitude, and the massive picture of a pug on your wall. As for the rest of you lives ones, I'll catch you cats on the flip. Listen to the song this time.