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This morning i shaved my legs.
singapore sunset
Pithy thought of the day: is it a sign you are working too much when you type your work password into your home computer?

Long thought of the day: this morning i saw a post from my oldest friend, jenndolari, saying that today is (or possibly yesterday was?) Trans Visibility Day. I'm not entirely sure what that entails because i have next to no interaction with the trans activist community, but i figured it might be a good kick-off point for a post that isn't just complaining about work.

This morning i shaved my legs.

As is my wont these days, i ruminated for a while. Is it reinforcing patriarchal beauty standards for women to shave their bodies? Is it cultural imperialism to support a market for things like razor blades and deodorant in a country that historically considered them neither a luxury nor a necessity? Am i turning into Chidi from The Good Place?

Eventually i just fucking shaved my legs. I only do it once every couple months anyway, so it's not like i'm making a huge impact on society either way. I am not sure if it's because i'm an alcoholic, or if it's because i'm getting older, or if it's because my mattress is literally a one-inch thick mat laid out on a wooden plank, but my legs are covered in bruises. Even if they weren't, i can count the number of days i wear shorts each year on one hand. Nobody ever sees my legs. But sometimes i just like the feeling when they are smooth.

I remember the first day i shaved my legs. It was the late 90s. I was living in an old stilt house in Brisbane, Australia. The bathroom was outside and full of nightmarishly huge insects. The inside was not much better. I lived with a gay man who did little to hide his adoration for me. I didn't have a job. We helped organize raves. We did drugs. There was a lot of drama.

J came out to me as trans back then, so i started reading more about it. I thought back on how uncomfortable my teenage years had been: guilt over my libido, embarrassment at every unwanted erection, awkwardness every time someone wanted to be intimate with me... And then i thought about the tacit assumption of everyone in my local community - including my roommate - that i was a repressed gay man... And i decided that i, too, must be trans. And that i specifically very, very much wanted to get surgery to remove my (male) genitalia.

That road is long. Even today i believe you are forced to go through a couple years of "transition" to be cleared for surgery. Lots of trans people never get surgery at all, because it's so expensive and difficult to arrange. But i knew i definitely wanted it. And one of the first steps along that path is trying on your new gender and seeing how it feels in real life. So, one of the first things i did was shave my legs.

I remember being surprised at how much hair was coming off. I never thought myself particularly hairy, but i guess if you have never shaved at all before it seems like a lot. It took me twenty or thirty minutes. I might have cried a little bit, but i was in the shower so who knows? I definitely remember my ever-creepy roommate knocking on the bathroom door asking if i was okay because i was taking so long.

After that it became a regular thing. Once i came out and it became socially acceptable for me to do girly things, i bought an epilator. That hurt like a bitch, but i was convinced it would make my hair "softer".

I mean, i should clarify. Many trans people become hyper-sensitive of sex and gender identifiers. Things that cis men and women rarely even think about, they take note of and obsess over. Things like the "softness" of body hair. I remember being in that phase. Even though objectively i knew that women came in all shapes and sizes - that there were women with "hard" body hair and even facial hair too - i didn't care because i believed that my built-in disadvantage of starting with a post-pubescent male body was so crippling i would need to work twice as hard at feminizing it.

The irony of course is that by trying so hard to become the "ideal" woman i was just reinforcing the patriarchal framework that made me feel so uncomfortable being a man in the first place. But that's the really odd thing about being trans. On one hand it feels subversive, but on the other hand it's deeply conservative.

Of course nowadays it's more accepted for trans people to not go all-in as trans men or trans women. Claiming a non-binary gender identity is a no longer seen as weird or freakish, it just is. Several countries allow you to choose "X" for your passport gender. That's progress. I hope in my lifetime we will see the end of the traditional concept of being trans meaning moving from one clearly defined gender to "the" other. But, you know, we're not there yet.

I've spent almost 19 years living as a woman now. That's just as long as i spent living as a man. Hormonally, i am post-menopausal. Or perhaps neuter would be more accurate. Quitting hormone replacement therapy was hands-down the best medical decision i ever made. Aside from turning me asexual, it has also done more to tame my bipolar disorder than any cocktail of other drugs ever did. Now i believe i might have been misdiagnosed in the first place - perhaps my various psychological issues were just how my brain reacted to "normal" amounts of testosterone and estrogen? With those hormones gone, i am at peace.

Whatever. To be honest i am not sure what i am any more. I don't think it matters very much. Society sees me as a woman, so i am paid as a woman and pandered to as a woman and degraded as a woman and that's one side of the coin. Other side i don't give a fuck about sex or gender and sometimes in the privacy of my own home i like to shave my legs.

And then i brew coffee in the nude and dance around to sentimental Chinese pop ballads. Go ahead, shrink me! Happy Easter!

It's Spring Again
singapore sunset
I finally got out of the house this weekend. I decided to bike up to Dawang village at the north end of the reservoir and then turn left (instead of turning right and looping back around). It turns out there is a little cultural village up there with artisans and painters and farmers and whatnot. I saw a couple of folks on horseback too, which seemed very odd in Southern China.

A peculiar offramp beckoned. The expressway loomed overhead, but the offramps were standing alone. I BMXed up a dirt track and then lifted my bike over the barrier to get onto the road. It was connected to nothing in particular. Really weird, to be on a 3-lane road that went for all of one kilometer to nowhere. There were lines painted and traffic lights and everything. No people, no cars.

I guess this is one of those things you see when you get outside of Luohu, Futian, Nanshan and (to a lesser degree) Bao'an. Up north in Longgang and Longhua districts you really know you are in the PRD. Between the hills there are vast compounds of low-rise factories and dorms. There must be thousands of people living in each compound. Outside of the compounds there are the usual back alley food vendors, but the customers are all gaunt kids, squatting and smoking. The creeks that wind between the compounds are full of trash and have freakish colored water. People walk along the freeway. People walk a lot, because there aren't many bus connections. And the roads are either dusty and torn up or gleaming and leading nowhere. Yet.

That's actually the China i was looking for when i moved here. This pace of urbanization is such a wild sight to behold. It's hard to gain a personal insight from the people on the ground, though. This is the first day i was repeatedly referred to as 鬼佬 (gwái lóu), which here in Shenzhen is heard far less frequently than the Putonghua equivalent 老外 (lǎo wài) or the more politically correct 外国人 (wài guó rén). My Chinese is not bad these days, but cracking the nut of working class Cantonese or extremely poorly-accented Putonghua is tough.

I did agree to a few selfies with people very excited to see a real-life gwailou, though. Also, i encountered a water buffalo on a mountain path. That was very weird. I edged past his giant horns with his nostrils flaring just a few feet away. I did not snap a photo because i was scared. After an hour or two wandering about on foot in the hills and back down to the streets, i sat down for 凉皮 in a small industrial community not far from my home.

It's a little bit sad looking at the closed-down factories and warehouses right on that border zone between middle class Shenzhen and working class Shenzhen. In a western city, these would be prime venues for artists to move in and create a scene. I know there are several squatted buildings and art communes in Shenzhen - and in fact all around China - but because of the blistering pace of development they either go legit or get knocked down quicksmart. The gentrification here skips the bohemian phase. There are no lofts. The developers just dynamite entire city blocks and start fresh.

Then again, that's also what makes it so fascinating.

Man, it's still a thrill to be here.

When i got home i bought 7 mangos for 10 kuai from the fruit vendor out front of my building. Now i am drinking a beer and enjoying clean sheets and silky smooth legs. Time to watch Supernatural.