I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with exercise. Truth be told, exercise verged on self-harm for me for a long time, and it took some major personal revelations for me to see it. Continue reading “Exercising While Trans, Or How I Learned To Stop Lifting and Love Myself”
It turns out you can just give presentations even if you’re not in school anymore.
If someone had told young me that, someday, she’d not only learn to love being in front of crowds telling them about her areas of interest or expertise, but that she’d miss these opportunities once they were no longer common, she would not have believed them. But life takes us in surprising directions, and four years after I completed my studies, the aspect of being a graduate student I miss is the chance to be on stage. But the great thing about being a huge nerd is, we all feel the same way.
Enter the presentation party.
The past eight months have in no way been what I imagined. To not bury the lede: I am, unexpectedly, now the owner of a condominium unit, and my parents have begun to understand how real my transition is. And it started with my childhood bedroom.
Another year is drawing to a close, and with it, another chance to reflect on past accomplishments. I’ve already written about my yearly goal-setting tradition, so this year’s ending post is something a bit different: What words does Alyssa live by?
Immigrants are always homesick. This is the core of our story. Even those of us who flee horrific circumstances have at least one thing we remember fondly, or that becomes fond when it is gone. To emigrate is to surround oneself with the unfamiliar, and to live in the echoing absence of what was once everywhere. There are days when those echoes are a deafening cacophony, laying down the impossible demand of that incoherent word, home.
Ottawa’s yearly Latin festival puts the many feelings of that word into focus. This gathering of my people in the plaza before Ottawa City Hall is a riot of sensation. Live music invites listeners to come close, and an uproar of food smells permeates the area. Hand-written signs advertise our regional specialties with words I rarely see even on our restaurant menus, and every spoonful of yellow rice and chunk of slow-roasted pork is a portal to a world I left long ago. Even the less familiar offerings, Peruvian noodles that take notes from South America’s Chinese community and Colombian pastries I’ve never tried, come with our unmistakable aroma and style.
“This is what it means to be a girl, isn’t it? To never feel like enough.”
I wrote these words as one of the sadder moments in “The Prom Pine,” a short story whose fanfiction version you can read here. (The non-fanfiction version, an extended narrative meditation on dissociation and its uses, will appear in a future edition of Spoon Knife.) It’s true that this world imposes that pressure on women in general, with every ad for makeup, diet, clothing, exercise, and more promising relief from that anhedonic treadmill, but trans women face a special pressure here. The outside world doles out validation in proportion to our efforts to conform to cisfeminine expectations, and we often start from difficult positions, testosterone poisoning setting us back before we even begin. It takes eons of soul-searching to find the lines between gender dysphoria, social conditioning, and everything else. I’ve found a whole other line, and it weighs on me now.
So I’ve had an eventful few months.
I used to think I didn’t get attached to places. The past was a haze, an awful mystery I yearned to escape. My heart was not heavy when my family moved us from New Jersey to Florida when I was 10, and it was lighter still when I finally left Miami to seek my fortunes in Ottawa, Canada. I had much to flee. It was only later that I found something to mourn.
He wasn’t odd.
Today’s dish holds a special place in my memories, even if it isn’t something my family ever made. Continue reading “Salmon Almondine, Alyssa Style”