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Cover Reveal – Bloodflower by KJ Harrowick

Every now and then, you meet someone through random chance, and that person becomes a huge part of your life, both personal and professional. That happened with KJ when I joined twitter a few years ago and she was like my own littler personal guide into the writing world that hung out there.

Since then, we’ve become good friends who talk often, and that’s why I’m so excited to share with the world that her book Bloodflower has finally come to fruition and will be available on September 7th worldwide! I say finally because this book has truly been a labor of love. She has been working on this book for years, has gone through more editing rounds than I can even count! That makes this book one that holds a special place in my heart. So without delay, lets get to the beautiful cover!

Born into a world of futuristic technology, ecologist Jàden Ravenscraft wields starship fuel like magic but she’s losing control of her power. Marked as a dangerous weapon, she’s trapped in hypersleep for 4000 years and wakes in the backwoods of a terraformed moon. Now she’s determined to find her reincarnated lover and escape back to the stars before her power takes control… or she is found.

Because one life is not the end.

The man she loves has lived more than twenty lives without her, and Jàden’s alone in a world of swords and sorcery. When exiled prison guard Captain Jon Ayers shields her from an attack, Jàden seizes the chance for safety and human connection. Using her magic, she ties her energy to Jon, forging a bond to keep him close to her side.

But Jon is hunted by mercenaries for the pendant he carries, a key to the gateway between worlds, and their bond stirs a desire neither can ignore. Jàden is faced with the hardest choice of her life: between Jon and her reincarnated ex. Saving one lover will destroy the other, and the wrong choice will land her in chains she can never escape.

You can find all the important likes like preordering or adding it to your bookshelf right HERE!

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“Help! SQL is stuck in Single User Mode”

Recently, I received a call from my coworker who said that he had managed to get SQL Server stuck in Single User Mode. That’s obviously not an ideal situation. When in single user mode, there can be only one connection to the server. Hence the name, ‘Single User Mode’. The engineers over at #Microsoft are getting crafty with their naming schemes!

He started to describe to me the situation that had occurred, and how things had gotten to that point. The background he gave boiled down to this:

  1. Performing a migration of SQL data to a new server, on a new domain, to hold data in relation to the Exchange migration he was performing.
  2. In that process, he’d accidentally deleted the directory that the TempDB was stored in.
  3. The deployment engineer he was working with from the software vendor recommended starting the DB engine in Single User Mode so they could re-point the TempDB location to a new spot. (I don’t actually know if this is possible, and am totally going to run it through my test lab in the near future!)
  4. Afterwards, tried to start the service and couldn’t get back in. Therefore, SQL is stuck in Single User Mode.

Wow, there’s a lot to digest there. I’m not even sure you can truly get “stuck” in single user mode. It’s just a flag on service start. That’s another thing to look into! He said, “I started the service with net start MSSQLSERVER -m“. That’s interesting to me because he is saying “I started the service manually, with an extra flag”. That means if he ran net start MSSQLSERVER on its own, it should start in Multi User Mode. He said that they did restart the server & service a few times. So clearly that’s not the answer. Weird, but okay.

This is the point that I get logged into the server to see what’s happening with my own two eyes. It’s easy for things to get lost in translation. So my goal is simple. Verify that the service is in fact running, and if so, verify it’s in Single User Mode. If so, figure out why.

Logging into the server, I head into the configuration console. MAYBE by starting the service with the Single User Mode flag, SQL Server is “smart” enough to modify the settings and ensure that it continues to run in Single User Mode until specifically being taken away. Maybe.

Nope, I see no -m in there anywhere. The next thing to do is attempt to start it up and see what happens. I have my doubts at this point that it’s a Single User Mode issue, because he said that they were trying to fix the fact that they removed the directory structure for TempDB.

Starting up the service, I wasn’t met with an error, but the service wasn’t started either. It just died out somewhere along the way. Off to the event viewer to see if there was anything interesting happening there!

There’s lots happening when you start up a service like SQL Server. But the interesting logs are obviously the two errors. This one gave me the exact problem. SQL couldn’t open the TempDB file.

Here’s the thing about the TempDB. It’s temporary. It’s even named TempDB! Of course it’s temporary. Look at Microsoft go! Two useful names in a row! Anyways, TempDB is a unique system database in several ways. One of which, is that it is dropped and recreated every time the server or service is restarted. The Microsoft article about the database even says as much. TempDB is re-created every time SQL Server is started so that the system always starts with a clean copy of the database.

That makes this an extremely simple fix! Recreating the directory structure (D:\TempDB in this instance) allows SQL Server to build the database on startup, and they were back up and running.

So the long story short is this, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve accidentally dropped the wrong drive on a server, or deleted the wrong directory in windows, and this is caused the loss of the TempDB, all you need to do is recreate the file path that SQL Server expects to exist, and it’ll handle the rest.

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Book Review – Summoned

A magical world filled with Genies and shopping and high stakes. That’s what M.A. Guglielmo has crafted in her debut novel Summoned. Zahara, a jinn (genie) is summoned by Daniel to save the world from a couple of fallen angles. The last thing an evil jinn wants to do is save the world. But she’s itching for her first soul, so she’ll take what she can get.

The world M.A. Guglielmo (goo-yell-mo) is a really cool place. Set in modern day Morocco, among a few other spots, there’s so much to love. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know anything about Morocco. So reading this book was a great learning experience. Words that people are less likely to know are always italicized and I utilized my kindle’s dictionary and wikipedia functions often.

That’s not to say there’s too much you don’t know, because half the fun of the book was looking something up and going down a rabbit hole of Moroccan culture. It never feels overwhelming, as long as you’re willing to put in the extra 2 minutes every now and again, if you don’t know what a word means. I definitely learned a lot about the place, and want to visit real bad now, which is awesome!

As for the characters, we’re immediately greeted with the naive Daniel, a “warlock” of sorts. He definitely has innate power because he could summon Zahara, our cover jinn. He doesn’t however, know much else. He was dragged into this whole situation because a dead grandparent reached out from beyond the grave!

We also have Zahara. She’s a sex crazed shop-a-holic and wouldn’t have it any other way. She’ll also gladly screw you over in bargaining if you’re not super careful with the way you ask for help either. She must have learned from the best while traveling through the seven hells in jinn school.

Thirdly, we have Zaid, who, in my opinion, is the best character in the book. He’s this really awesome jinn who has amazing combat skills, and boldly defied his family by converting from the old religions to muslim. He always seems to have a new secret hiding around every twist and turn in this magical novel.

With all of that being said, the book isn’t perfect. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a perfect book though, so take that with a grain of salt. There’s times where actions feel a little loose, and we probably could have used an extra paragraph or two, to fully grasp the reason an action is taken, or why things are the way they are. Those small pacing issues aside though, the book is a fun read. Even for someone like me who reads primarily middle grade fiction, and struggled to really “get” some of the book, it was still great fun!

Overall grade is 3.5 out of 5 stars! Definitely worth your time.

About ‘Summoned’

Zahara, party girl of the paranormal, floats up out of a lamp in Daniel Goldstein’s apartment ready to trick an evil sorcerer into giving up his soul. But Daniel, whose Moroccan grandmother has reached out from beyond the grave to command him to raise a jinn, wants to do good—by stopping a vengeful fallen angel.

The nymphomaniacal, shopping-obsessed Zahara isn’t the otherworldly ally Daniel had in mind. A do-gooder with a dangerous quest isn’t what Zahara’s looking for, either. Stuck in a magical contract with each other, the two travel to Morocco, where Zahara’s handsome friend Zaid, a jinn who’s converted to Islam, reluctantly joins their quest. As Daniel and Zaid struggle against jinn-hunting mercenaries and their attraction to one other, Zahara is forced to join forces with the fallen angel’s gorgeous but infuriating brother to stop a cataclysmic war between the human and jinn worlds.

You can find Summoned at all major retailers!

Tule Publishing


Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble



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Attention! Attention!

Some of their extended family members, such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents, often accused them of faking it for attention, like Connor’s dad did. I thought it would be exhausting to put on such an act all the time

Dusti Bowling – Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Unfortunately, it’s not the rarest thing in the world for someone to accuse a trans person of coming out for attention, or because their peers are also trans/gay/ace/anywhere else on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. The call people ‘Trans trenders’.

Other times, people can just flat out not believe that it’s true for no other reason than “it’s not a real thing”. I’m lucky, no one in my immediate sphere holds any of these views. But other trans people aren’t. They get rejected for showing the world one of their most guarded secrets.

But Dusti Bowling (Sidenote: Yes that is her real name, according to her twitter bio! How fun is that!) explains perfectly in her really great book Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus that people don’t choose to be trans, or gay, or ace, or in Connor’s case, have Tourettes, just for attention.

Aven, the main character, is a 13 year old girl who has just moved to a new town with zero friends, parents who have taken on a failing business, and to make everything worse, zero arms too! Quickly though, she finds a friend, Connor, who has Tourettes syndrome, and they bond over their shared outcast status.

Sadly, Connor’s dad holds the view that Connor can’t control his tics because he wants attention. But like Aven says, it’s exhausting being an outcast. A minority. Trans people fight the same fight.

There’s exactly zero worlds where someone would willingly put up with discrimination, weird looks, bathroom bills, almost zero representation in the media, debt from necessary medical bills, and possible surgeries, just for attention.

Instead, trans people who decide to come out and transition have weighed the pain they suffer from gender dysphoria (the distress from your body not matching your gender) to the pain the outward world could give. They have decided that it’s actually less bad to deal with everything the world could throw at them, and those things could include being murdered just because. No seriously, trans panic is a valid legal defense in many states in the USA.

However, it’s not all bad. It’s really cool seeing your life get better one day at a time when you’re on the right medication. It’s really awesome feeling like you match. Seeing the outpouring of love and support one can receive from friends and family can make a bad day good.

Just remember, we don’t do this for attention. We don’t want to stand out in the crowd. We just want to live our best life. Something Aven is hoping to achieve too.
– Kayleigh

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

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You’ve been Summoned!

It’s so exciting when a book gets published. For the majority of authors, even if they’ve been published before, it’s not an easy task. Even for authors like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman who are sure to get published, it can feel like an uphill battle of creating a story that people want to read. You need captivating characters, a story that can hold readers interests for hundreds of pages, it has to be well written, and unique.

But for debut authors, they’re doing something entirely new. They’re going through the process for the first time, which makes everything feel 10 times as hard. They’ve landed an agent and that agent has sold their book! What could amount to many years of work got a new author to a point where their words will be read by other people. People that aren’t just family or critique partners or beta readers. At this point, the book has been through the depths of editing hell and has come out a shiny polished gem.

If you couldn’t tell…publishing a book is sort of a big deal. Which is why I’m SOOOO excited to showcase debut author M. A. Guglielmo and her debut book ‘Summoned’! It’s an adult contemporary fiction work, that treads on aspects of fantasy, moroccan culture, queer romance, and so much more. Tule Publishing calls it a Romantic Fantasy! How much fun is that?!

About ‘Summoned’

Zahara, party girl of the paranormal, floats up out of a lamp in Daniel Goldstein’s apartment ready to trick an evil sorcerer into giving up his soul. But Daniel, whose Moroccan grandmother has reached out from beyond the grave to command him to raise a jinn, wants to do good—by stopping a vengeful fallen angel.

The nymphomaniacal, shopping-obsessed Zahara isn’t the otherworldly ally Daniel had in mind. A do-gooder with a dangerous quest isn’t what Zahara’s looking for, either. Stuck in a magical contract with each other, the two travel to Morocco, where Zahara’s handsome friend Zaid, a jinn who’s converted to Islam, reluctantly joins their quest. As Daniel and Zaid struggle against jinn-hunting mercenaries and their attraction to one other, Zahara is forced to join forces with the fallen angel’s gorgeous but infuriating brother to stop a cataclysmic war between the human and jinn worlds.

If that synopsis does’t get you wanting to read this book, I’m not sure anything will. Except maybe the cover!! So, without further ado…

You can preorder Summoned on the Tule Publishing website, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google and Kobo. I’ve included their links for convenience right here!

Tule Publishing


Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble



About M. A. Guglielmo

Born and raised in Rhode Island, M.A. Guglielmo is the proud mother of two wonderful daughters and works as a neurosurgeon in academic practice. Drawing on her life-long love of imaginative fiction, she writes stories based mostly on Middle Eastern and Southern European mythology and legend.

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Pronouns, pronouns, and more pronouns

We’re back everyone! Yay!!!! I’m so sorry for the long break, there was a cross country move, a new job, and lots of travel for work. But! I have time to get back on the blog train and write posts again!

I don’t have a quote from a book this week, but I definitely have a book to talk about! It’s called Honor Bound. It’s the follow up to the book in my last post, Honor Among Thieves. It continues the journey of Zara Cole, the young girl from the hood in New Detroit, as she soars through the universe inside an alien space whale!!! I just have to say again, the concept for these books is so much fun and feels so unique and fresh, they’re just amazing books.

Something else that’s really great about these books that Honor Among Thieves touched on, but Honor Bound really takes a strong stance on, is pronoun usage. It makes sense really. When you’re traveling the universe meeting aliens, there’s a pretty good chance some of them might not be male or female. We have lots of gender nonconforming animals in the ocean here on Earth!

So of course it makes sense that aliens might work differently. That they might be male or female or something else entirely. And when you’re interacting with those aliens, it’s probably not the best idea to try and make them conform to our own standards of what we expect. It’s the same here on earth, within our own species. One struggle for trans acceptance that is constantly being brought up is pronoun usage. Transphobic people like to claim I’m a “him” or an “it”. They feel if they use the wrong words enough they’ll be right.

All they’ll really be is an asshole. It truly does harm when someone uses the wrong pronouns. It sucks because I’m fighting to be myself. I’m taking medicine, I’ve changed my name, my drivers license and passport both say I’m female. So when someone tries to disprove all of that by calling me “him”, it’s disheartening. It makes me feel like even with everything I’ve done, it’s never enough. For someone like that, unfortunately, it never will be enough.

Beyond just he/him & she/hers, there’s lots of other pronouns out there as well! Some people prefer they/them, or xe/xem. The thing about pronouns is that most people will fall into he/him or she/hers and fewer but still a good chunk will fall into they/them. But that doesn’t mean the others are wrong, or they are doing it for attention. If you find someone who prefers a less used pronoun, even if it seems foreign or odd to you to use, it’s still best to use it. It shows your support to that person, which is a major driving factor for us. Sadly a bunch of people detransition or commit suicide because they don’t find acceptance from the people in their lives.

Some people make mistakes. I’ve known my family for my entire life. I’ve had some friends for a very long time. Sometimes they slip up. I think they fall back into old habits. But that’s ok, because the correct themselves and move on like nothing happened. There was never any malicious intent behind their mistake. We are human after all, mistakes will happen. If we grow from them, we become better people.

If you know someone who is trans, go out there and do your best with their pronouns. If you make a mistake, I promise, it’s not going to be the end of the world. We can usually tell when someone is making an effort.

Anyways, this post doubles as an informative post, and a call to action! There’s things every single person can do to help! Whether you’re trans, cis, or something else entirely, pronouns are a way of life. They’re in our daily speech. Something that takes no effort and just helps spread awareness, is to add your preferred pronouns to your email signature. I know, I know, some people might think you’re weird, you might be a little self conscious, but it really does help. As more people use them, it normalizes the behaviors. It helps to show that sometimes our assumptions are correct, and interestingly how sometimes they aren’t.

I know I was scared to put mine in my signature and I’m trans myself! Being referred to in a certain way shouldn’t strike fear in someone. It shouldn’t be something that seems odd. And the more people that do it, the better it becomes.

That’s all I’ve got for today, that’s for stopping by! I promise I’ll start posting again with regularity, I’ll see you next time! – Kayleigh

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Take a Leap of Faith

What am I doing? Can I really do this? Should I?

Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre – Honor Among Thieves

I have been reading a lot of magical fantasy books lately, as noted by every book I’ve written about thus far. So this week, I’m writing about a different kind of book. One with no magic in it at all. However! What it does have, is space whales!!! Literal space whales! Yes, it’s every bit as awesome as it sounds!

I read Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre, a book about young Zara Cole, who grew up a child who hated rules, and ended up staying in the slums of New Detroit, rather than go with her family to Mars. To a “better” life. She’s gritty, she’s fierce, she has amazing street smarts, and she’s a criminal. Until one day fate decides to snatch her up and take her on a journey through the stars on a living alien ship, named Nadim (he’s the space whale).

This book is fantastic! It’s fun from the get go, and there’s enough mystery to keep it interesting throughout. The unique worlds that have been crafted, are so much fun to learn about. The journey to find out why a criminal from the slums was chosen for a coveted seat to the stars is such a fun ride I couldn’t put it down.

At one point, Zara questions what she is doing, and if the right thing to do, is go on this journey. There’s very real dangers on Earth should she stay, but she doesn’t feel equipped to go to the stars either. Things are confusing for her, and nothing really seems to make sense and she can’t get any real answers from anyone. “You were chosen for a reason” is a common phrase in her life. This parallels what a lot of trans people go through. The common trope that someone who is trans should know from the time their a kid is all too commonly not accurate.

Looking back at my own life, there were absolutely signs when I was young, but I had no idea what they meant, or how to express them, in a world where you’re taught “you’re a boy, this is what boys do”. So many trans people go through long, extended periods of denial, repression, and questioning, before they can admit to themselves they are trans, let alone others. Which is why the quote I chose this week is so accurate. I wondered the same things for months as my transition started. It never stops either. I was questioning if I was doing the right thing when I came out to myself, when I went to the doctor to get a prescription for hormones, even when I had been on hormones for 3 months and I realized my breasts were big enough to be real! It’s always scary, and you always wonder if you can continue.

But that doesn’t stop me, because like Zara, who kept getting the answer “You were chosen for a reason”, I have to remember that I’m transitioning for a reason. I was unhappy with my life, even with all the good, there was a lingering feeling of emptiness, constant depression and sleepless nights. I hated “being a man”, and I was so upset that I lost the coin toss of what gender I was. Just like Zara took a leap to avoid the dangers on Earth, I took a leap to try and fix my own problems, and life has rewarded me greatly with my courage. I get to finally live a happy life, one that I enjoy, one where I’m ok being myself, and almost all of my mental health issues have practically vanished.

When you’re presented with an opportunity to take a leap of faith to make life better, even if you don’t feel equipped to handle it, you should take it anyways. You never know how strong you are until you overcome your burdens and prove to yourself what you can do.

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Always remember who you are

The more masks you wear, the harder it is to remember who you really are beneath them all.

Katherine Locke – The Spy with the Red Balloon

I love this quote so much. It comes from the book The Spy with the Red Balloon by Kathrine Locke. It is the incredible sequel to The Girl with the Red Balloon, that I wrote about a few weeks ago. It is about two siblings who get recruited to the manhattan project, due to their magical blood. There’s magic, and espionage, and queer relationships!!! What’s not to love about all of that! It takes everything that was great about the first book, and makes it better. I absolutely loved it from start to finish. Absolutely go check it out and give it a read. It stands on its own because it’s not a direct sequel, but is definitely boosted by having already read the first book.

I really love the quote I pulled for this week. I think it’s something everyone can relate to on some level. Everyone ends up putting on a mask at some point. Some people put on a mask to hide their fear. If they show to the world they aren’t afraid, people will look up to them. Others put on a mask to hide from the world. As a trans woman, I put on a mask of masculinity for years and years, just to survive. I was afraid growing up to accept who I really am. I thought “men do this”, “men look like this”, “men talk like this”. So I put on the masks, and pretended to be a man.

Growing up in the 90s, and being in high school and college in the 2000s, being trans wasn’t something you heard about, at least in the midwest. Because of this, my mask of masculinity helped me make it through childhood, my teens, and young adulthood. I was able to pretend to be someone else, and people liked me because I was “normal”. But it was so limiting too. I lost sight of who I was. I played video games to escape reality. I was extremely introverted so I wouldn’t have to show the world I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I had nothing to offer the world.

The problem was the masks. I had lost myself behind them, and the only way out was to rip them off and let the world see who I was. So I came out as trans and began my journey to where I am today. In that time, I’ve learned that I have things to offer the world. I’m more than just that kid that played video games and didn’t socialize much. I’m a strong woman, I love to crochet, and I’m writing about my experiences to show other trans people that there is hope, it’s not all darkness. These are all things I wouldn’t have known, had I hid behind the masks for the rest of my life.

Not all masks are bad all the time. Someone who is introverted has to put on a mask of confidence when in a social setting, but that helps them connect with others! It helps them come out of their shell! Other times, a mask of fear is ok. If you need to spend a night hidden under the covers crying because school or work feels overwhelming, that’s ok! But remember to take the mask off at some point, so you don’t get buried in the negativity that it can bring. Don’t ever forget who you are, because you are amazing, and the world deserves to know that!

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Like seeing color for the first time

In fact I feel, well, alive. Like I’ve been living my whole life blind and now I’ve opened my eyes.

Victoria Aveyard – Red Queen

It’s a common thing to hear from people who get their first pair of glasses, that they finally understand what it feels like to see with good vision. Their eyes have been opened to the world that exists around them in a clarity they never thought possible. My brother in law said “oh my gosh you can read the words!” when referencing a video game he had been playing. It makes you wonder how people can go so long and have no idea they needed something so vital and important.

This week I read the AMAZING book Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard. It is such a wonderfully crafted story about a young girl named Mare Barrow, who finds herself among a world of silver blooded elite, as she pretends to be a silver herself, while also trying to keep everyone around her from discovering that she has “lower” red blood. This story really gripped me from the moment I started reading it and never let go. I stayed up two nights in a row until about 1 am reading, just so I could finish it. If you have the opportunity to read this book, I highly recommend it!

The quote at the top comes from Red Queen, and I bring it up, because that’s the way I described my first time out in the world in women’s clothes. I was 29, it was July, and I had just come out to my parents. I was on my way to a therapist appointment to discuss my gender issues, and she encouraged me to go out and get an outfit and wear it in. She said it would help me start to feel at home in my body. Up until that point, I had spent almost 20 years dressing up in secret. 20 years hiding from the world, borrowing clothes from the women in my life without them knowing. I have since apologized to those women, but at the time, I needed an outlet for my repressed inner woman and didn’t have a better way.

The night prior to walking into the world, I went to target to go shopping. A nice saleswoman helped me pick out a dress that was way too big for me, under the guise that I was shopping for my wife. I was too scared to tell her the dress was for me. But even with the setback, I still had made progress. I had a new dress to wear. The next day, I went, to my appointment in a dress, the first time ever having stepped outside my bedroom in women’s clothes. I had a full beard, and looked mighty hilarious, but it was an important first step. People saw me like that, I interacted with 3 or 4 people at the therapists office. This was no longer something that was just myself. This was my future, who I was destined to become. When I got home, I was asked how things went, and my only response was, “It’s like seeing color for the very first time.” It was a relatively mundane drive across town, and yet, it was so important to my self esteem and who I was, that I cherish that memory.

So back to my very first question, how can someone go so long, without knowing something is wrong. I don’t have an answer, I’m not sure anyone does. But when you are transgender, something a large chunk of the world doesn’t “agree” with, it becomes hard to accept that about yourself. Who can you safely talk to when you start to feel different? Will your parents understand their 12 year old “boy”, when they goes to bed wishing they could be a woman? Will your friends shun you at the pivotal time where how you’re perceived at school is everything? Or is it easier to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, and repress for 20 years, even if it hurts to do so? It’s so easy to fall into a routine of unhappiness that it becomes normalized. It’s your daily life, you hardly notice it. It’s background noise.

But, when you finally gain the courage to come out, to accept yourself, to begin making changes in your life to get better, you become so very aware of everything that was wrong before. Immediately, I could remember things about my life I never remembered happening. Feelings of dysphoria that I didn’t understand at the time. I also saw an exit. A way to get better. To be happy. It was like seeing color for the first time.

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I am because I say I am

How much “what it means to be a woman” is bound up with strength and not feeling fear or pain.

Naomi Alderman – The Power

Last week I read a very interesting book by Naomi Alderman, called The Power. This book came recommended to me by one of my friends I’ve known for years. It’s a book where women evolve almost overnight to be able to produce electricity and inflict pain against others. What happens afterwards is a quickly escalating conflict where women have all the power over men.

This book has done an incredible job of turning the power dynamics of gender and sex on its head! What starts with simple things like segregating men in school for their protection, leads to a much larger issue where women take over completely. I must warn you, this book gets VERY dark in spots. So know going in, this isn’t a children’s book.

What is brought to my attention most in this book, is this quote, about “what it means to be a woman”. This is a question asked of trans women on a constant basis when they come out. “Well how do you know you’re a woman?”, “What does being a woman mean to you?” It’s also an extremely hard, if not impossible, question to answer. The reason being, it’s different for every woman.

So many women tie their feelings about what it means to these grand ideas, like motherhood, or being a caretaker for her family. Some women want to shirk their femininity and others still want to prove to the world that women can do “male” things like fix a car or be physically strong. All of these are valid things that a woman might say to themselves, what being a woman is all about.

However, no one asks the assigned female at birth women if they really are a woman just because they are pursuing something male dominated. Or want them to prove that they are actually a woman to someone else. Yet trans people are subjected to this kind of scrutiny all the time. Like somehow our words are less real, less true, than someone who was correctly assigned at birth.

It’s an almost universal struggle for trans people, to prove to society that we are what we say we are. Often, it leads to us being very stereotypically masculine or feminine. Of course then cis people say “you’re just putting on a show, playing the part. You are actually just playing dress up!” For some people, that’s actually true. Butch lesbians exist, queen gay men exist. That holds true for trans people as well.

But if we go down that path, then we get “well you aren’t a woman, look! You’re masculine! Why don’t you just stay a man?” It’s like they’ve forgotten entirely that people can have gender nonconformity! So we get stuck in this no win situation, where if we’re too stereotypical, we get called out, and when we try to break the norms, we also get called out. It’s like us trans people have to walk a non-existent line of what it means to be our gender. That we have to conform to 7 billion unique views of that gender based on who we are talking to at the time.

This kind of thinking doesn’t help anyone. It only serves to be combative and minimize our existence and erase us. People are varied, they always have been. There will always be someone who defies expectations of what your notion of gender is. It shouldn’t be on trans people to hold all the responsibility of falling into your box. It should be you, who makes a bigger box to fit everyone in it.