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Rebecca Juro
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Name: Rebecca Juro
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Now I have to admit I didn't expect this...although I guess I probably should have. I'm having a unanticipated problem when I wear some of my jeans. I always shop in the women's department of course, but I've always found that the "Boy Cut" jeans fit me best because I have no hips to speak of. The problem is that it appears that that's no longer the case.

Today I wore a pair of my "Boy Cut" jeans and they've been chafing because they're suddenly too narrow in the hips. "Suddenly" as in I just noticed it for the first time today. I've been on the shot/premarin/spiro regimen for all of a week now and while I suspect the additional meds may be accelerating the process, I think I was already almost there with just the shots.

Another thing I'm noticing is that I'm liking what I see when I look in the mirror. A lot. I'll never be Miss America, but as long as it's Miss something, I'm ok with it. And yet, when the food delivery guy came to the door tonight there was what I'll call a mutual recognition of Queerness. He clearly clocked me as trans at the same moment I clocked him as gay and there was a brief knowing glance as I thanked him and paid him for the food. I'm pretty ok with that too.

I've never hidden, never woodworked, never gone out of my way to try to hide my trans status, and yet, the realization that I'm already almost unclockable and becoming moreso as my body continues to feminize is very exciting to me. The idea that it's within the realm of possibility that I could just fade into society as a woman, maybe even hold down a real full-time job again, is very enticing.

Of course, I'd never do it. I can't imagine not making media for this community, no matter what I'm doing to earn a living. That said, I'm seriously considering something I'd have never considered even a week ago: Getting back into retail management. I have the skills and I have the experience. The question is can I get a company to hire me? Can and should I go into an interview with the intent of never revealing my trans status, if that's even possible (my physical body is changing but, of course, my voice isn't)?

That said, this is New Jersey and it is 2014. Even if I'm clocked it may not matter. Besides, I really don't want to hide even if I'm able to. If there's going to be a problem, better to find out sooner than later, when and if it's discovered.

I don't know. I have to think about this. My hips are growing but are my employment prospects in retail? I don't know, but I think at this point I have to find out. I can't afford to keep living on what I make as a freelancer, and now the new hormones are going to cost a lot to keep up. I have to do something, and maybe that's going back to trying to rely on my most marketable skill: retail management.

I'll write more when I have a clue.

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So my new doc added spiro to the mix, and it's making me feel, well, interesting. It's not at all the same as the estro and yet related. I literally just took my first one about 2 hours ago, and I can already feel...something. It doesn't seem to be impacting me emotionally, at least, not yet. There is a noticeable and distinct physical effect though.

It's interesting...from now on I'll have more feminizing substances in my body than I have in probably 10 years (I think that was the last time I was taking spiro). Call it a hunch but I think it's going to be interesting.

It's insane how much this stuff has shot up in price. I remember when I was on Premarin last time, 30 pills cost me about $40. Now it's over $120. In-fucking-sane.

Oh this is indeed getting interesting. As I'm sitting here writing this, I'm getting "waves" of...I'm not sure how to describe it...comfort? Relaxation? Mellowness? I'm not exactly stoned or anything like that. My head is clear, but my body is soooooo relaxed that I feel like I'm melting into the chair. I suppose that much like the physical effects of estro this will become less noticeable the longer I'm on spiro, but right now I am feeling fine...very fine. 

 I think I'll sleep well tonight.

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On Saturday I built a bomb.

No, not the kind of bomb that goes boom and physically destroys things. I built the kind of bomb I have a lot of practice creating, the kind made from blunt thoughts and sharp opinions. I’d probably want to polish it up a bit and make it a little prettier before setting it off, but I have no doubt that this particular bomb would have at least some impact should I decide to set it off.

I’ve written to a few people I trust and who’s opinions I respect for advice. Should I push the button? Would I be placing myself at risk by doing so? Would I then be responsible for causing a greater level of harm than the reason I built the bomb in the first place?

I’m comfortable answering in the negative to that final question, but the first two I’m not so sure about. And yes, it matters, because it has to, because I get paid for this now. That means I have certain obligations.  Being a freelancer means that my obligations are different than those of a staffer or other regular employee, but they’re not non-existent.

So, I have to tread carefully. Knowing that, I built the bomb anyway. One reason I did it was because I had some feelings I needed to work out in print. Another was that even though I’m not as prone to bomb-throwing as I used to be, I like to keep in practice anyway. It’s a skill that’s come in handy more times than I can count. The surgeon’s scalpel can be a very effective tool, but it’s always a good idea to have something with a little more kick handy, just in case.

What comes next? I don’t know yet, but I have a feeling I will soon.

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I sit upon the precipice, watching.

In the distance, I see a bright light, clearly noticeable amidst a sea of hundreds, perhaps thousands of others. I see the bright light lash out at one of her smaller sisters, causing her to dim just a bit. The bright light then attacks another, and this time causes her target to become even dimmer than the first.

I’ve seen this before. The bright light has done this many times in the past. The bright light has even tried to attack me, but she knows she cannot harm me as she has the others. We’re too much alike, she and I, and I understand her too well. I know the rage that burns within her because it burns within me too. Her rage cannot possibly damage me more than my own already has and so I am immune. I’ve fought this battle for most of my life and my defenses are solid now.

I came to terms with my rage long ago. I allow it to drive me but never to consume me. Rage is a powerful tool, especially when mated with passion, and it can lead us to create great and wonderful things. But the power of rage also has a dark side. As it can be used in one way to create, it can be used in another way to destroy and cause pain. What’s more, rage can be contagious, with unanticipated results. The bright light will have to learn this lesson for herself in the same way as I did, the hard way.

The bright light’s first target isn’t vanquished. I watch with interest as she begins to glow brighter and the lights around her also begin to glow brighter and move closer to her in support. She strikes back hard, and the bright light is knocked back. The bright light sputters, flares, and then winks out.

Many hours later, the bright light reappears but her glow does not appear quite as bright as it was before. The light which was once the bright light’s first target now glows even brighter as other lights continue to rally around her. I think to myself that this one may become a bright light herself one day.

I sit upon the precipice, watching, and I know that this is not over.

 

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There was a time, not really all that long ago, when I’d probably have been best described as a writer as a bomb-thrower. You can go through the archives of my contributions to The Bilerico Project and the Huffington Post over the years for plenty of examples. I was good at it, and it was satisfying on a personal level. I enjoyed writing those pieces and I believed in what I wrote.

I don’t write like that much anymore, and it’s not because I believe any less in what I did when I wrote those pieces, nor is it an effort to become more marketable. It’s simply part of the never-ending process of finding my voice as a writer. I believe I do my best, most effective writing when I go for the emotional side of the story rather than just dropping bombs. I’ve found this to be true on the radio as well.

When I started working for The Advocate, I came to the conclusion that if I’m to have any sort of real chance at a career as a journalist, opinionated or otherwise (and let’s be honest, there’s always a certain pro-LGBT bias in our community media), the hit pieces and the bomb-throwing had to stop. At the very least, I had to start using these tactics more sparingly and more artfully than I had been. A good writer can make the same points in any number of different ways. Employing a “scorched earth” strategy not only isn’t always the best option to make one’s argument just in general, but doing so too often tends to brand you as a certain type of writer.

When I was younger, that brand was appealing to me. I enjoyed pushing the envelope, riling people up, creating conversation and maybe even generating a little controversy. Truth be told, I still love it and I do as much of it as I feel I can get away with, as anyone who listens to my show knows well. At the same time, I’m also conscious of the fact that unlike when I was throwing bombs freely I’m getting paid for my writing now and that does make a difference.

I’m no longer only speaking for myself, I’m doing it under the banners of commercial media companies as a paid freelancer. If controversy stirs up around something I write, it can and likely will reflect on me professionally and possibly on the company I work for. I’m ok with that. As a writer, I stand behind what I write and I expect my editors to back me up. At the same time, however, why would I go out of my way to express my opinions in a way that would cause a lot of the people I want to read my work to tune out? I’m often finding it far more effective to take a more reasonable tack, pull on the heartstrings if appropriate, and make my points in a way that lends itself to more discussion.

There’s a place for bomb-throwing and open conflict in our discourse. It’s part of who we are as a community and it always has been. It would be easy for me to now drag out the tired old trope that this sort of thing is for younger folks, but the truth is that most of us have engaged in it to one degree or another over the years. The question now, at least for me, is when is that tool in my writer’s toolbox the right one to reach for and when would the end goal be best served by a more reserved and surgical approach?

In large part, it’s about access. Some of the younger folks in our community may not remember a time when it was next to impossible to find more than just a handful of media offerings intended for trans people, but those of us who have been a part of this community as long as I have do. Those doors are finally opening now, but it took a really long time. Media employers tend to be more risk-adverse than most and a cloud of controversy constantly swirling around a writer isn’t going to make her an attractive commercial media hire.

Similarly, when I’m interviewing someone who may be controversial such as Andrea James I’ll challenge them but I won’t attack them. The difference is that if I ask someone a question and they answer it directly and honestly, I’m not going to follow-up with a “But why don’t you agree with me?” question. That’s not what a good interview is about. The point is to present the interviewee and their thoughts and opinions to the audience, not to insert my own.

In the case of my Thomas Roberts interview, I’ve gotten some pushback on my not pursuing the issue of trans inclusion on-air at MSNBC, but I think it’s unfair for the reasons noted above. I asked Thomas Roberts for his assessment of MSNBC’s level of transgender inclusion and he answered the question. I didn’t pursue the issue by following up for a few reasons:

1. I wasn’t writing an op-ed about transgender inclusion on MSNBC, I was doing a feature interview with a popular on-air celebrity. Trans inclusion was only one of many LGBT-relevant topics I asked Roberts about, it wasn’t the primary focus. The point was to present his opinion, not debate it.

2. Roberts’ answer on the issue was firm, as I knew it would be from email conversations we’ve had in the past. I didn’t see a point to pushing the issue from a journalistic perspective to get what I knew would be an underscoring of his original response.

3. Thomas Roberts and the NBC Publicity Dept. were both extraordinarily generous with their time and attention in making this interview happen, and I didn’t want to risk alienating either to follow-up on something I already knew the answer to. Call it self-serving if you like, but I’d like to be able to do more interviews with MSNBC and NBC folks in the future and I didn’t see how it made sense to put that at risk for zero real potential gain.

Also, I think it’s worth pointing out that just because I choose not to go after certain interview subjects as aggressively as some would prefer it doesn’t mean that I personally agree with them either. For example, the quote that made the title of the piece, Thomas Roberts’ statement that MSNBC “leads the way” in LGBT relevant coverage is extremely debatable. In terms of trans-relevant coverage in particular, CNN was well out in front of MSNBC in terms of both frequency and quality of coverage for a very long time. These days, I’d say that gap has closed considerably but not completely. There’s no question MSNBC has gotten substantially better on LGBT and trans coverage recently and continues to improve over time, but when your #1 show still hasn’t had even a single trans guest on during it’s entire run, your network clearly still has work to do on that front.

In order for trans people to have our presence in commercial media grow beyond the microscopic size it is now, more of us have to be hired more often to do the work. I’ve found that my personal path toward accomplishing that goal includes becoming far more circumspect in deciding where and when I throw bombs and at whom as well as just being far more careful about my overall tone in general. If there’s anything I’ve had drilled into me over the last decade or so, it’s that if you want to be considered a professional, you not only have to produce professional-quality work, you have to act like a professional in other aspects of your public life too.

I learned the hard way that playing the radical outsider only works if that’s the role you really want. If you really want to be considered an insider, you have to act like one. That’s about personal interactions, it’s about tone, and it’s about credibility. It’s about auditioning for your next assignment and justifying your continued employment every time you sit down at the keyboard. It’s about remembering that there’s no shortage of people who would love your job and the vast majority of them are not trans. It’s about remembering that the real and perceived value of a professional aren’t exclusively tied to that which one is paid for. It’s about having respect for those who came before you and a consciousness of your own responsibility in easing the way for those who will come after you.

It’s about remembering that as a professional you’re not just speaking for yourself anymore, it’s also about what you and your work represent to your employers and your audience. It’s about presenting yourself publicly in a way which reflects your understanding of those truths.

So yes, I do think twice before I reach for the grenade sack these days, and I tend to take a moment to reflect before I grab my flamethrower. It may not be very satisfying to my passions, but it’s infinitely more supportive of my personal life and career goals.

Because that’s what a professional does.

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I have hips again, or at least something enough approaching hips that my jeans fit better. I like that. I like it a lot.

The tits are still growing but I need to re-quit smoking again. I totally went off the wagon in Detroit, but I have to do it. Soon. Very soon.

My mood swings seem to have stabilized over the last couple of weeks. I’ve had a few moments, but nothing major. This is a good thing.

I learned a lot in Detroit. I’m glad I was able to go. The best part of these things is always the networking. It looks like I’m going to be doing a biweekly column on trans topics and issues. I’m looking forward to that. It’s been a while since I’ve written a regular column, but that was actually my very first paid freelance job ever. In 2006, I was the trans issues columnist for the now-gone Rehoboth Beach Gayzette. That job lasted a year, when I was canned and the page where my column ran filled with pictures of shirtless men. Yes, it was also my first taste of the commercial media business. Luckily, I’ve done better since.

Robyn is home and I’m glad. I’m just happy she’s out of Tel Aviv. For now. This too, is a good thing. A very good thing.

I still have work I need to get done, but that will wait until tomorrow.

It’s down time.

 

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So tomorrow’s the big day. I shoot up with estro in the morning and fly off to Detroit. It’s raining hard here today, supposed to as well tomorrow. Hope I’m not delayed. My two biggest worries right now are just making sure I have everything I need as far as airline stuff and making sure I pack all my toiletries and makeup tomorrow morning. I always seem to forget something.

Once I’m on my way though, my biggest worry will be making sure I can get enough stuff done for the Advocate while I’m there. That’s going to be hard with just an old iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard but I’ll do my best. I’m hoping to make up for the probably lack of posts with some really good interviews. I just managed to line up a really big one with a well-known openly gay celebrity, but that’ll happen next week once I get home. There will definitely be a lot of interesting politicians there so I’m hoping a few of the biggies will take a minute to answer a few questions from (probably) the only trans journalist there. That does make me a little nervous because those interviews won’t start happening until at least Wednesday.

I swear on a stack of Ramones CD’s that the minute I get paid I ‘m treating myself to a new laptop. This iPad shit is for the birds. The iPad is wonderful for so many things, but writing, especially as fast as I type, isn’t one of them.

I just want to make sure I’m doing my job well while I’m there. There are standards I need to keep up with, and it may be hard to do that this week. If last year was any guide, the wifi will be crappy which will mean my ability to go online story hunting will be limited. I can’t afford the financial-rape-level prices most of these hotels charge for wifi, so I’ll just have to do the best I can with what I have available for free. I do have a four-hour layover in Chicago on the way out, so I’m hoping I can knock out at least a couple of stories while I’m cooling my heels at the airport (assuming they have free wifi).

That’s what makes me the most nervous. I need net access to do my job and I can’t be sure I’m going to have it when I need it. I can’t afford to shell out for pay wifi right now. Until I get paid, I’m basically running on fumes, and I don’t expect that to happen at least until I get home.

This week, I need to be the woman who does it all. I just hope I can pull it off.

I’ve never flown on estrogen before. I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be weepy and sniffling all the way to Detroit…or, something else. If I’m lucky, maybe it’ll just relax me enough to let me sleep on the plane…but I’m not counting on that.

This so bizarre. It’s literally a working vacation. On the one hand, I know that I’m not going to have as much time to hang out and socialize as I did last year. On the other hand, though, as a journalist I couldn’t be more excited about the chance to score some really big interviews.

For me, Netroots Nation is either going to be a living hell or a journalistic Disneyland. Maybe both.

I can’t wait to find out.

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So it’s two days before I give myself my third self-injection. Yes, I’m counting…this is still a big deal for me. I really didn’t like needles at all before I started self-injecting. What’s more, I liked not liking needles. When I was younger, if I’d learned to self-inject when I was 19 or 20, I probably wouldn’t have made it to 21. I was a seriously fucked up teen and young adult. Even without needles I’m still amazed I didn’t manage to kill myself by overdosing on something.

This was something I actually had to work through. To me, a hypodermic needle is a kind of a symbol. They were all over the places I frequented in my youth, discarded and lying in the street, sometimes still sticking out of a dead junkie’s arm. I had a serious fear of needles and I was glad I did.

When I started self-injecting, actually holding the thing in my hand and getting ready to stick it into myself, even though intellectually I understood that an intra-muscular shot is not the same as injecting heroin directly into a vein, the visuals, the feel…it was just too close. I had to literally change my thinking and convince myself, in essence, that those were bad needles, this is a good needle. It’s easy enough to say it, but believing it? That’s not so easy.

Yet, I did it. And what’s more, I did it pretty damn easily for someone with a lifelong fear of needles. How? That’s easy. I needed the estrogen in my body more than I needed to be afraid of a needle so I did what I had to do to make that happen. I know that probably sounds a little weird, but it’s the truth. I have resolved that nothing will stand in the way of my getting what I need to be happy…and I mean the basics, estrogen, eventual surgery, decent clothes…a Jaguar would make me happy too, but unless I win the lottery, it ain’t happening.

I was able to focus on the estrogen instead of the needle and that enabled me to get past the fear and self-inject. It’s truly amazing what I can make myself do when I want something bad enough.

Oh and did I mention that right after I give myself that shot Tuesday morning I’ll be flying to Detroit for Netroots Nation? Flying always makes me…not fearful or nervous, I guess the best way to describe it is uneasy. I worry something will go wrong, I’ll miss a connection, that kind of thing. If Detroit was closer to home, I’d have opted for the train.

I like trains. I like riding in trains. I especially like writing while riding on trains. I did a lot of writing between Newark and DC when I went to the Convening in February. That’s a trip I’d like to do again soon.

I don’t like planes. They’re generally cramped and uncomfortable. I could barely read, much less write, to and from San Jose last year. Planes just suck.

So yeah, things are gonna be a little different this year. I’m flying in jeans, but I’m packing a couple of maxi dresses and maybe a skirt this time. I’ll even be wearing actual jewelry. That’s right, actual girl clothes. Yay, me.

It’s good to be a girl.

 

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I am just in a particularly good mood right now. In the mail today I got copies of the new issue of The Advocate magazine with my first-ever national magazine article. I just can’t stop smiling. I mean, I love working for the Advocate.com website and I love all the other online work I’m doing, but there’s just something special about being published in a hard copy magazine, and particularly in a magazine as significant as The Advocate. It feels like I’ve arrived as a writer and a journalist and that feels really good. As a friend pointed out on Facebook earlier, I’m now a nationally-published journalist. Fucking a-right.

I worked so hard and so long to get to this point. Maybe this is who I am, who I’m meant to be, a writer and a journalist. As much as I love being a radio host, and as much as I may be loathe to admit it, in my heart of hearts I know I’m a better writer than I am a radio host…or maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m more marketable as a writer than as a radio host. Truth is, I love both and if a paid radio gig presented itself I’d almost certainly take it in a heartbeat. Even if that were to happen, though, I wouldn’t want to give up what I’m already doing. I love what I’m doing now, and I want to do more.

Now, here’s the funny part: This is all still so new I haven’t even been paid yet. If my guesses about the timing are right, I suspect that by the time I get home from Detroit I’ll have more money in the bank than when I left.

I don’t want to seem like a self-centered egotistical jerk, but it just feels like a real milestone, it all does. It’s hard to believe that less than two months ago I had none of this.

I suspect it’ll be an interesting show tomorrow night.

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Gave myself another shot yesterday. This time, almost zero problem. I’m starting to get good at this.

Tonight I did something that I’d been thinking about for a few days, but wasn’t sure if enough time had passed to make it a viable option. About a month or so ago, I made a stupid mistake and as a result came into conflict with someone who I’d become friendly with and we haven’t spoken since. I was as angry at the time as she was because hurtful things were said and done by both of us. I was embarrassed and hurt. I lashed out in response and I had no right to. I caused this and I should have taken my lumps because I deserved them and just moved on. Because I handled this so badly I don’t know if that relationship can be fixed but I feel that it’s both my desire and my responsibility to try.

So, I wrote to her, apologized again, and asked if we could work it out. She hasn’t responded, but I sent the email just a few hours ago and right now it’s 3:45am. I’m hoping she’ll respond tomorrow.

Truth is, I feel like shit about this. As tempting as it might be to blame estrogen for a mood swing causing this, true or not it doesn’t absolve me of responsibility. I was wrong when I made the mistake, and I was wrong in the way I responded. I let my anger and hurt make a bad situation even worse and damaged, maybe destroyed that friendship. Maybe what really hurts the most is that I know it’s my fault but I can’t fix it. I can’t undo my mistake or how I responded. I can only ask forgiveness and hope she can see her way clear to offering it.

Now, weeks have passed and I’ve had time to think about this in a calmer and more rational frame of mind. I had to try. I had to reach out and see if maybe things could go back to the way they were before I fucked it all up. And so, I have. I don’t know her well enough to know if this is fixable, but I do hope so.

Fingers crossed.