Every culture with relatively easy access to water has some variety of stew. Boiling provides an even heat with far less risk of burning food than other cooking methods and can extract additional nutrition from bones and other inedible matter. Stews provide an easy way to create a medley of flavor from many ingredients and to safely and effectively turn mismatched leftovers into a coherent meal. Stews are hearty staples that bring welcome heat to chilled bellies, and Latin America certainly has its share, many of which share the single name sancocho.
Two months ago, I undertook the last transition-related surgery I anticipate ever having. There are body modifications ahead of me, most importantly various forms of hair removal and more tattoos, but this step makes my medical transition feel complete in ways that previous steps did not. So how did it go?
I wouldn’t tell her, “you think you’re a boy, but you grow up to be a woman.”
I remember my first and, so far, only Against Me! concert. It was in Montreal, and the day got a rough start when I narrowly missed my train and had to rebook for the next one, taking six hours out of the time I could spend with my girlfriend and a mutual friend in the city before the show. Punk rock isn’t a genre that has held much appeal for me in the past, but knowing that Against Me!’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, was transgender and that the band was among my girlfriend’s favorites inclined me to give it a chance. It was also hard to pass up a trip to Montreal, even if it ultimately did not involve much sightseeing between my arrival and the show.
For the handful of people in my life who do not know, I recently had facial feminization surgery (FFS) and breast augmentation (BA) in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, provided by the expert hands of Dr. Lázaro Cárdenas Camarena. This adventure was the culmination of years of careful saving and exhaustive research and represents the last significant transition-related body modification I anticipate ever pursuing. As I heal from this sizable achievement, I also reflect on it.
One does not go far in Miami without encountering croquetas de jamón, or ham croquettes. These fried morsels are ubiquitous on catering trays and party platters, a hit on breakfast menus, and surprisingly absent from most home kitchens. I have encountered platters of croquetas at funeral receptions, at house parties, as treats for school classes in lieu of pizza parties, and more. To visit Miami without having at least one croqueta de jamón (alongside pastelitos de guayaba, the other party-platter staple) is to misunderstand the nature of this place and the culinary influences that define it.
All the world’s a stage, and autistic people are better actors than our detractors will ever know. The allistic majority operates by alien rules that most of us do not truly understand until we are nearing adulthood, and which seem arbitrary and pointless even then. In the meantime, our traits are unwelcome in their spaces and they respond to them with vitriol, ostracism, and violence. To exist in public and maybe even have friends, most of us learn one pivotal skill: masking. We master hiding many of the traits that define us, restraining stims, concealing enthusiasm, and imitating social niceties that do not come naturally. The mask becomes instinctive, unwanted and unnatural but nevertheless automatic.
And sometimes, that has me looking pretty sus.
Some memories demand to be remade.
One of the few culinary memories I have been completely unable to experience outside of a home kitchen is alcapurrias. This classic Puerto Rican fritter features prominently in my childhood as an occasional treat, especially around holidays, and made for exciting lunches because of their rarity. On occasion, the whole family would get together to make an especially large batch, a rustic experience wonderfully out of place in our big-city home. Posted recipes posit that the alcapurria is a variety of croquette and usually recommend the familiar croquette log or cigar shape, but the ones I knew were round, more like hand-pies or empanadas in size and presentation. Once I left Miami, those memories became more and more distant, and more and more treasured. As a matter of my Puerto Rican pride, I needed to take control of those memories and make them more firmly mine, and that meant learning how to make alcapurrias. And today, I succeeded.
It was ordinary people who told me my soul would burn when I told them I am an atheist.
It was ordinary people who kept me from recognizing my gender until my 20s.
It was ordinary people who promoted a level of homework that devoured my free time for most of high school.
It was ordinary people who saw everything about me that was not useful to them and demanded that it change.
It was ordinary people who kept me feeling excluded, misunderstood, and feared until I was an adult, and sometimes still.
It was ordinary people who lied to me for fun and jeered at me for believing them.
It was ordinary people who made the world too bright, too loud, too messy, too much, and told me I was wrong for noticing.
It was ordinary people who made it so that, when I am frustrated or scared enough, I stop feeling my hands.
People keep daring me to write absurd love stories and, by gum, I shall deliver.