I finally paid off the credit card debt I took on moving to California. I took some on with the initial move, than when I got the rich dude club job I paid some off, then between the rich dude club job and the trans clinic job I maxed out the card buying groceries/ keeping my phone on. I couldn’t pay more than the minimum with the trans clinic job. So I’m glad that particular debt is out of my life. Now I need to think long term about how I’m eventually going to dig out of this student loan trap.
One weird thing about California is people consistently assumed I had money. I think because really there are a lot of white trans-masculine types running around the Bay Area living on trust funds. It just would not occur to people that I didn’t go to a fancy college, or had student loan debt, or credit card debt. Certainly the choice to move to California was a really stupid one for someone with my earning capacity, so maybe people thought I had to have family money to make such a financially irresponsible decision.
I knew one white trans-masculine type who drove a Prius that used to be their dad’s, and had gone to a fancy college, and one of the first tips they gave me about living in the Bay Area was an asian spa that was a good place to turn tricks at. Now. Had they ever turned a trick at that spa? I don’t know. Were they telling me that because participating in sex work has some weird counter-culture cache with Bay Area queer kids? I really believe so. It appeared to me just asking their dad for a loan would be far easier and yield a lot more money than they could get via craigslist and an asian spa. Had I anticipated moving to the Bay Area and contemplating turning tricks in asian spas? No. No, indeed I had not. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve got a petty bourgeois morality going on, or if I know myself and my trauma history well enough to know I can’t be so quick to chase experiences that may leave me feeling valued solely as an object. (Oh god, and maybe confronting the low monetary value of my one and only sacred body as an object. That’s not a reality check I need.) Maybe those are the same thing. Also, I was in the process of making myself very unattractive to men, so the idea that I would turn around and try to sell myself as a sexual experience when my object value had massively decreased- well, it all seemed backwards to me. If I was going to sell sexual experiences and access to my body, then I shouldn’t be taking a substance that was making me bloated, pimply, and hairy. It sounds glib, and dumb, and that’s because it was a glib and dumb set of circumstances to be in.
In certain social circles in the Bay people would straight up brag about their sex work experiences. This was sometimes a thing at the clinic, having patients go on and on about being sex workers when there was truly no reason for me, a receptionist, to know that about their lives. I think the things we do to earn money are important to talk about, when we can, but not just to whatever receptionists we cross paths with. (Maybe it would’ve been different if they’d asked me what my job was like. Maybe it would have felt like more of a sharing then.) I don’t think social circles imparting a kind of radical cache onto earning money through sex work is at all healthy for the people in those social circles. Sex work is a very risky business to be in. Lots of nasty circumstances to find yourself in and try to find ways out of. As TLC said, you don’t generally need to chase waterfalls in this life.
It’s good to face up to having a middle-class, bourgeois morality. I learned a lot about feeling ok when I was trying to transition, mostly through discovering the depths and lengths of not ok-ness the world could throw at me. I don’t feel ok getting screamed at consistently. I don’t feel ok buying groceries on credit. I wouldn’t feel ok meeting a stranger at an asian spa. I don’t feel ok living in the basement of a berkeley hippie house. I remember when I first step foot in that basement bedroom there was dust and spiders and ants all over it. The first morning I woke up in that room my nose was totally stuffed from the dust. Maybe that’s the kind of thing I should’ve been more ok with, or maybe it was intensely naive for me to move in with a friend assuming they would have the same standards for my living conditions as I do. After I’d lived there for awhile I found out one of the room’s occupants before me had been a heroin user, and I thought, yes, that is the level of substance you’d have to be on for that room to feel comfortable.
My friend who had let me move into that basement room gave me a book by Jean Genet while I was living in that room, and so fittingly, while I lived with the spiders in that basement, I thought a lot about abjection and embracing abjection. Goddamn, that makes me angry now. My friend was living upstairs, no spiders, no student loans (his family paid for his hippie school), no dysphoria, his money A-ok enough to go off on month-long writing retreats, and I was living in that basement contemplating abjection. Why should I be the one to embrace that? Why should I explore the state of being cast off? I’ll tell you what, kids who come up with money love to play tourist in abject states, but then they hop in their father’s cars and go clear their heads in a lovely national park. I’ve been working for paychecks and thus having to not scream back at people screaming at me since I was 14, I don’t need to push myself to learn about abjection. I don’t need to know more about how identities collapse in the face of corporeal reality. I learned all I ever needed to know about that sophomore year of college getting pushed around in a dark bedroom. Been there, done that. Not fun.
Honestly, I never did anything so bad to deserve an extended exploration of abjection. There’s no reason I don’t deserve health and wealth and comfort. It’s not like it’s good for the world for me to be poor and sick and traumatized. In fact, I know for sure it’s bad for the world. Because I know a healthy, relaxed me tends to be a blessing in other people’s lives, so there should be a healthy, relaxed me as often as possible.
Masochism. My generation of women has not beaten the masochism, at all. We still think if we put ourselves through hell something good will come of it. Like, we’ll figure it all out if we experience getting our asses kicked from every angle. I’m not into it. I’m into us being healthy and relaxed and prosperous and protected and fundamentally ok. I think we could learn a lot looking at life from that angle too. I think we could think more clearly and make some plans to get as many women to ok as we can. Ok is not asking for much. We could figure it out.