Dealing with scary people

I want to talk about some of the crap of RV life… and ultimately, what makes it still great.

Being trans (not so visibly) and queer (very visibly) my boyfriend and I face unique challenges. It’s often hard to know for sure when people are discriminating against you. Actually, you usually know. You can’t prove it, but you know. But such is the world we live in that we second guess ourselves. So some of the crap we’ve dealt with could be crap that anyone might deal with. But when it all lines up, and you know you stand out as different, it’s hard to dismiss it as irrelevant.

First, there are the bible people. The truck that says “Final Fight Bible Radio” is still here, patrolling. A bible group meets in the lodge. There are lots of Jesus fish on cars. This leads to a generally intimidating environment.

Then the other day I was at the pool, and some guy kept going on about “homos,” loudly. Another day at the pool, I decided to go use the public shower afterwards. I’m a trans guy, with no plans for bottom surgery. I have female genitalia on an otherwise male body, and that’s usually fine with me. Still, showers usually have locked doors, and I’ve had top surgery and I’m on T, so I’m not that worried about it. I do know that I am read as effeminate, which is fine by me, but I try to play it safe. Still, a shower in an empty locker room felt fine. There were no locks on the doors, just two curtains. One lead to the changing area, the other into the shower. So two barriers. As I said, I’m the only one in there. The shower water is running. And suddenly someone punches the shower curtain. Meaning someone has entered the first curtain. I’m startled as fuck, but I manage to yell, “Excuse me!” And I hear some scrambling and nothing more happens. No apology or anything. I’m standing there, dissociated, trying to figure out what happened. All I can say is that someone was likely trying to startle me, or possibly worse and thought better of it when I yelled.

When I snapped out of it, I quickly dried off and went outside. There was only one guy out there. A middle aged white dude, smoking, who quickly started walking away. I followed him, and watched where he went for as long as I could.

The next day, Joey and I were hanging around the pool, waiting for our laundry to finish. Joey was about to lay on a lounge chair but when he sat, he realized it was soaked with rain water. Another older white dude, with a military hat and a pony tail, walks by right at this time. “What, it’s just a little water and dirt,” he says, in a sort of would-be-friendly teasing way. Joey laughed and was like, “Well, I’m already soaked, might as well just jump in the pool right?” The guy kept at it. “It’s just water. Just sit, you wuss.” This time his tone was nasty.

Today we were driving, and another old white dude pulled us over to yell at us for speeding and saying he has our license plate number and will report us. We weren’t speeding. He wouldn’t step away from the car.

And after that, someone dumped Joey’s laundry out while it was still running.

Add to this, we get dirty looks when we go for walks. This RV park is getting really frustrating. Unfortunately, it’s really convenient because Joey needs to get work supplies in Hollywood, and I have my conference coming up in LA. It also is basically free for us, which is…necessary. But I’m really sick of this.

We got away boondocking near the Kern River. This was going well. We visited the hot springs again, and people around weren’t bad. Just hippy types. Then, one morning, someone bangs on our door and windows at like 7 am. “Knock knock anyone home?!” Obnoxious, not even giving us any time to get up before knocking more like crazy.

So it’s these two like 30 something year old white dudes,  clearly (and later, admittedly) on meth and who knows what else. The first thing they say: “You guys aren’t cops are you? You aren’t gonna give us trouble, are you?”

They had a flat tire, and their car is parked right next to where we are camping. They are just all around rude and demanding we fix their problem. Joey helps because he wants to get rid of them. There are two girls with them. One is passed out in the back seat, and they are trying to coax her out to go down to the hot springs. “Fine, we can find some pussy down there I’m sure,” one says. “I’m so horny I’ll hump a tree.”

Some other guys show up. Hippy guys. “Hey, you guys got any spare pussy?” the douche bags ask. Hippies are unimpressed. “No.” “What, you don’t wanna share?”

I sip coffee and make it blatantly clear that while Joey will be taking their tire into town, I will be here with the RV and all our belongings.

“Hey where’s my coffee?” douche bag one says.

“I don’t know.”

He laughed but looked pissed off. “Your buddy has no sense of humor,” he said to Joey. He proceeded to offer him drugs, which Joey declined.

While the douches were at the hot springs, Joey asked the girl in the backseat twice if she wanted a ride to town, in case she was in trouble. She declined.

Then we hightailed out of there, not wanting to be there when they came down.

You get very pretentious people in RV parks and camp spots, and also very desperate people. We don’t really fit either mold. Both can be unsafe and scary.

But ultimately, that is the great thing about RV life: we can always drive away.

Catastrophes averted (Southern California)

This month can best be described as “catastrophes averted.”

First, my reading in San Francisco went great. After that, and a second reading in Oakland, we headed south to Wilderness Trails RV Park, in Menifee. We stayed there for two weeks. The first week we met up with a friend Joey made in Arizona. And then…Mittens went missing.

Mittens is our tortie/calico/polydactly kitty. She is usually more timid and serious than Snowflake. She always looks grumpy, but she is a healer. She is drawn to people in pain and soothes them. She’s also incredibly intelligent. She got off her leash at night and went missing for three nights. We put up flyers and handed the out all over the campground. People were very nice and helpful- we were actually surprised. We made friends with a woman, her 16 year old son, and their dog, who searched as hard, if not harder, than we did. When we finally found her, she was in the RV storage area, hiding under a rig that looked a lot like ours. Same year and model. I’m telling you: smart kitty.

I’m still thrilled to have her back. With all the strays and coyotes around, after all that time I really thought she was gone. It was horrible. She is a member of this family. I couldn’t imagine pulling out of the park without her.

After that, we planned to boondock in the Santa Barbara mountains. First we visited family in Santa Barbara. When we headed into the hills, the roads were not good. The forest ranger website said they were…but they were not. They were steep and covered in rocks, with no way to turn around for miles. Our engine gave out on a particularly steep incline. We managed to get it to start again and up to a safe area, where we left the car and many belongings, to reduce weight. It looked like it might storm, which would have been very hazardous, so we took the RV back down the hill and into Carpinteria. Drew has an aunt there, and we parked on the road by her apartment.

The next week was a mess of getting the RV repaired, retrieving the car, staying at motels, having the cops called on us (long story), dealing with insurance, and general hectic days.

But, we have our home back and it works fine. The step got busted, beyond repair. Everything else is fine. Now, we are at a park in Acton once more. That’s north of Los Angeles. We are still hanging around here until my conference at the end of March. Then we are getting to Oregon as soon as possible. We are all ready to be done with California for a while.

It’s been 6 months on the road, by the way, and nearly a year since I started this blog. Not bad.

 

California at last

Currently camping/staying in: Morgan Hill, Paicines, soon San Francisco…it’s complicated. But we are in California! Yes.

I started writing this entry as a reflection on my life since I’ve been with Joey. We realized early in our relationship that we wanted to move out west. So did his son, Drew. I wanted to give you a sense of what we had to get away from in Syracuse…but I’m realizing that would take another whole book on my part. Suffice to say, Syracuse was slowly killing us for multiple reasons. We had our best friend and family-by-choice, Erica. And while that was huge…we still had to leave. The original plan was to get to California. The idea for the RV came later (though it had been a longtime dream of Joey’s, one that he had almost actualized in his previous marriage).

And so, here we finally are, in California. I suppose I could say “back in California.” I spent a lot of my childhood school breaks in San Diego, because my dad traveled for work. I also lived out here a few years ago, on my own (see my most recent book, Show Trans). But for the most part I’ve been an upstate New Yorker all my life. We travelled from coast to coast. Within a week I swam in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean. It’s pretty mind boggling.

There’s an Instagram feed on the side of my blog now, if you want to see pictures. I’m finding that’s way less hassle then trying to insert them in these text entries.

Since I’m not going to reflect on how we got here– not at this time– I am going to focus on the here and now, and just what that is. Well, first actually, I will give a brief list of what has occurred the past week or so. We traveled to Jerome, AZ one evening, briefly: an artist colony in the hills. We stayed at a Cracker Barrel en route. We spent one night off of Ventura Highway, waking up to an empty beach on a weekday for sunrise. That was amazing. That’s when it all really hit me that I am here and this is life.

There has been a lot of low times. A lot of stress. I still feel depressed, often. This has been hard work. It is not a full-time vacation. And we are not rich, or even really secure yet…

But the cats seem happy. Drew has wi-fi. I’m in California. Joey’s about to have surgery in San Francisco on the 20th, which is both stressful as hell but going to be so good for him in the long run and make his life easier.

And I’m sippin’ coffee and vaping in my camp chair, putting off a little longer my plans to make today productive if possible. It’s 9 am here, and skies are blue and the air is perfect. Yep. This is the life for me.

The Southwest

The past few weeks have been a blur. That’s sort of cliché to say, but it’s accurate. I can’t believe how far we’ve travelled. We went from Syracuse, down through the southeast, and then headed west. We’ve been through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and now Arizona. We’ve been doing a lot of boondocking, over-nighting in Walmart parking lots and such to save money, but also staying at some lovely parks.

Some of the more memorable moments would have to be:

  • Swimming in the warm ocean waters at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia in mid September. I love bodies of water and swimming so, so much. I’m trying to find a way to swim several times a week.
  • The wonderful audience I had for my reading at the LGBT Center of Hamptons Road in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a support group for trans folks and I read an except of my first book about the struggles, limitations, and ultimately beauty of human connection at a trans support group. So it was pretty perfect. People loved it, and I sold a lot of books. Then we stayed for the group. It was a much more positive experience than I had in Syracuse at such groups. It was really good for both Joey and me, I think. We sometimes lose our hope for community.
  • Staying at a camp in North Carolina where we had to literally be the only campers without at least one confederate flag on our RV. Yikes.
  • Things started getting really, really beautiful awesome when we arrived at Caprock Canyon in Quitaque, Texas. That’s when it started to feel like the West. They have a herd of buffalo there! I seriously fell in love with them. They were…adorable and ferocious herbavores. I. Love. Them. The canyons were also beautiful as hell.
  • At Caprock Canyon we were able to go out into the canyons and find the perfect spot to view the lunar eclipse. You can read my partner Joey’s story about that here.
  • Albuquerque was pretty cool. We stayed in the parking lot of a casino for free. But they had good gluten free and veggie options for us at local grocery stores.
  • Joey and I jumped in “the Blue Hole” which is a very small but deep swimming hole in New Mexico. The water was super cold and clear. It was fun.
  • Last night we stayed at Meteor Crater RV Park in Arizona, and now we are at another park, south of Flagstaff. It’s beautiful here too. Tomorrow we are going to find rivers and swimming holes.

Let’s talk about my state of mind. How am I feeling? Good question, self. I feel like I’m finally living a life I want. I used to always wake up every morning, feeling like today wasn’t the day. Like I was waiting for something to make me happy. I don’t have the feeling so much anymore. That’s seriously profound for me.

I’ve struggled a lot with mental health, as a trans/queer survivor of repeated sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse throughout my life. That struggle has included a lot of depression. I don’t feel depressed right now. I’m having some PTSD stuff still. Nightmares. Flashes of unpleasant childhood memories. Things piecing themselves together, slowly. I’m still very shy and anxious around people outside my family and my cats. I’m even anxious around Drew a lot of the time. But I feel like I’m living something worthwhile. There’s a lot of practical stuff that needs to be done, so I haven’t had all that much energy for creativity. I say that, but it’s not exactly true. I’m just hard on myself. Still, I feel like these adventures will inspire wonderful things. Art. I have to be patient with myself.

On a side note, I’m actually making more money from booksales than ever. The future is ever unpredictable, but I think it’s gonna be alright. This is surprisingly an affordable way to live so far. I’m privileged to have Joey, who can afford to make some investments upfront. That’s been the key. But it’s seeming to work out so far, for all of us. I’m not losing money.

Bottom line: I’m happy and hopeful. Pictures forthcoming. What I’d really love is to just install a stream of them from my instagram show up on the main page, and then use these entries for text . Maybe there’s a widget for that. I’ll investigate.

Anyway. The stars are out. The air is warm but arid and pleasant. Goodnight, readers.

Buffalo, NY

We are now staying in Western New York, not far from Buffalo. This RV park we ended up at is kinda awesome. I definitely prefer this to the last state park we stayed at. It’s definitely kitschy, but unpretentious. There is a petting zoo, and a small lake with swimming and canoe rentals, a mini golf course. It’s been an amusing stay, with the background sounds of the occasional goat or donkey. We are also near a firing range, so the occasional gunshot goes off.

Quick quote: “I just realized something. Goats are kind of like dogs that don’t lick you.” -Drew

People here drive weird old trucks and golf carts around. There’s a redneck vibe, and I definitely got a weird looks from people when Joey and I walked the cats this morning. But no one has been outright hostile.

I have wifi! I worked most of the morning. I’ll probably go skateboarding and for a dip in the lake again soon. I’m feeling pretty content. This is still a big adjustment, but so far I am happy.

1000 Islands and a Walmart Parking Lot: Northern NY Journey

So we are officially living full-time in the RV now. We stayed up at a state park in the 1000 Islands. Highlights include

  • No wi-fi for several days
  • My phone is dead, forever
  • First time I saw a praying mantis
  • First time in a 30-foot canoe

Now we are in a Walmart parking lot in Northern New York State. It’s been a bit of a rough start, but everyone’s doing pretty good, including the cats. Lack of cell phone means lack of easily accessible camera, and thus, I don’t have any pictures just yet. Brain is also tired, so I am short on amusing anecdotes at the moment. Stay tuned.

Oh, and apparently I can write three books before age 27 but I can’t put away macaroni and cheese leftovers in a bag. Somehow the bag ended up inside out and there is cheese everywhere. I…don’t know what happened… But the others had a good laugh.

Supposedly “LGBT-friendly” campsites are (gasp) just catered to wealthy cis gay people!

Gross…. I’m doing research on “LGBT” friendly RV stuff, and all these camps are so sex-segregated and really just “LG” friendly. It’s all like GAY MALES ONLY. GAY FEMALES ONLY. Probably because most people who RV have a lot of money, and are not most certainly not trans. I think I’ll stay away. Though it would be amusing to raise hell at some of these “adult males only/clothing optional” places.

Isn’t there anywhere two demisexual trans guys can stay with a gender-not-identifying teen and two cats? (Ugh, that is an over simplification of my identity, but will suffice for now and for the sake of the sentence). Oh right, they are just called campsites. Sigh. The irony that “safe spaces” are usually less safe for me and my family never ceases smacking me in the face.

Salmon River Reservoir: Richland, NY

We’ve been spending some time up in the Tug Hill region. This place is really beautiful. Rocky beaches, great for swimming. We’ll be staying up here for a week or so eventually, so I’ll have more to say then. Right now I’m honestly thinking about some upsetting news stories I just read- about yet more trans women, of color, being murdered. I’m feeling very privileged to be able to do this, particularly as a trans person. Life has been really hard for very long. It’s kinda stupid how meeting the right person has improved so much for me. Not that it fixes everything…It just bothers me that people can’t get unstuck in this country (world?). I was stuck for so long. I still don’t have much money. But I have relative freedom now. I have support. Anyway. I’m feeling very privileged, and a bit sad, and scared. I still feel unsafe, often. A part of me doesn’t want to reveal where I am on things like this blog. A big part of me would rather just disappear. But I do think it’s important that all different types of (trans) people write their stories. And I also can’t help writing and sharing. I could just do it in a notebook, but that’s less satisfying for me than it used to be. So I keep writing. In other arenas, I’ve been sharing more about my mental health, and past, and family of origin. It’s…scary. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that something bad is going to happen. But that’s life.

Anyway, here are some pictures.

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I’ve been feeling like the region around here is haunted. I know that sounds silly. Sometimes a part of my brain opens up and I find myself believing in the supernatural. It’s usually when my brain is seriously processing past trauma. Anyway, we were driving home the other night, through the country, and I saw three figures in the road. I was about to yell out to Joey to look out, when they disappeared. it was a man, a woman, and a child.

Joey’s currently hard at work with all the practical aspects of making this motorhome thing happen. I want to be more helpful in that area. My brain is in the clouds. It’s going to be ridiculously hot today. Lately I only really feel good when I’m under water. I should…work on that.

Washington, D.C. 

So right now I’m in a parking lot in Watkins Glen, New York, but that has very little to do with this actual post. I am going to write about my trip to Washington DC last weekend.

So I traveled to DC with Joey in order to speak on a panel about transgender self-published authors at the 2015 OutWrite LGBT Bookfair. I set it up and was the admin. The other two speakers were Sophie LaBelle and DL Wainwright.  You can watch the videos of it on my YouTube channel: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ifPckZQVCpc


I also had a table to sign sell my books and art at the event. There wasn’t much of a turnout so that was pretty disappointing and I had to endure some ignorant comments and questions.

We stayed with friends that we met in Philadelphia, Lane and Jes. Sophie stayed with them as well so it was like big radical trans sleepover party. Joey and I had a really good time. It was nice to hang around transgender and queer people who don’t hate us. 

Anyway that’s all I can think to say about the trip for now.