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Online discussion of Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men – An Anthology begins May 1

Join a virtual book club discussion of "Recognize" #RecognizeBiMen

Join a virtual book club discussion of “Recognize” #RecognizeBiMen

Starting this Friday, May 1, 2015, there will be a 70-day discussion of selected works from the Lambda Literary Finalist anthology, “Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men,” edited by Robyn Ochs and H. Sharif Williams (who is also known as “Dr. Herakuti.”) Discussion will progress sequentially through the anthology: on the first day, readers and contributors will talk about the preface by Dr. Herakuti, and on the second day, the subject will be the Introduction written by both Dr. H and Robyn Ochs.

As Dr. H writes, there is a “dynamic tension” in recognizing oneself, and being recognized by others, as a bisexual man. As “queers among queers,” bi men are among the least likely to appreciate the breadth of our desires, or find acceptance of them from family and community. We’re often told we don’t exist at all. “Recognize” is a groundbreaking anthology, the first to bring together the voices of bisexual men.

The contributors come from an astounding array of experiences, representing broad spectrums of age, culture, experience, privilege, and gender expression. You can’t walk away from this anthology with a single image of bisexual men. Instead, you will know sixty men who are able to share something remarkable about themselves, because they recognize who they love.

My contribution to this anthology, “Why I Still Go To Pride Events,” will be discussed on Sunday, May 17. I’ll post closer to the event from Facebook: “Like” my page to get the reminder.

For more information on this event, see the Facebook event, 70-Day #RecognizeBiMen Social Media Book Club, and look for the hashtag, #RecognizeBiMen on your favorite social media platforms.

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Time Enough at Last: The Liebster Awards

The last man on Earth

How do I define and elicit passion? A Q & A for the Liebster Awards.

Thank you, Sexually Fluid Frolicker, for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Your thoughtful blog has enriched the internet.

Here are the questions you posted, and my answers. Rules and my nominees follow.

  1. What wants & needs do you possess, as an individual, that you find difficult to satisfy without outside assistance? Every single one of them. As introverted as I am, I am still a social animal. I might think I’d be like that guy in the “Twilight Zone” episode who is so happy to be the last man on Earth, with a full library in front of him… until my glasses broke. Even for the pleasure of solitude and reading, I need a world full of people, past and present, to have written all those books, printed and distributed them, and built the library to put them in. Going further, I need people because I couldn’t have invented a language with which to code my thoughts, and without all of you, there wouldn’t be much to think about.
  2. How would you define gender & sexuality? Are they distinct concepts in your head, or do they coalesce into something else? Our genders intersect with our sexual desires in discrete categories like “bisexual man” that form parts of our identities. They’re still separate: being a man is still different from being a woman, even if we share tastes in sexual partners. In my imagination of the sexual encounter, there is still the “me” half of it to consider: who I am, what my body looks like, and how I want it to be touched. So how I embody bisexuality will be different from how someone of another gender does, just on that basis. And then we’re still different people….
  3. How would you define intimacy and sexual intimacy? How do these definitions relate to your gender & sexuality, as defined above? Intimacy is about sharing personal information that makes me vulnerable to the person I’m sharing it with. I take the risk for the chance of developing a rewarding connection with another person. Sexual intimacy is a subset. The people I want to be intimate with is a personal choice, with so many factors, that I would say it’s a part of my personality, who I choose to be intimate with and in what ways. I’m also married and polyamorous, so who I’m intimate with is in some ways proscribed or defined by these identities.
  4. How do you most like to begin and end significant and/or meaningful experiences and relationships? Any dominating themes? To start, my actions are guided by questions like, “Am I being open?”, “What is this person sharing with me?”, and “What else would I like to elicit from this person?” When considering the end, I will ask myself, “Are we still being open?”, “Am I getting intimate feedback?”, and “Does what I’m getting from this relationship please me?” That might just be a readjustment point, or it may signal the end of a relationship/experience. As a theme, I’m more hesitant to go to the party—to initiate intimacy—than to leave it when I’m no longer having fun.
  5. Where do you go when you are full of feeling? Have you ever let others join you in those spaces? It could be a physical space, or otherwise. Ideally, this is a time when I ground myself in my body. I want to be there for it. And when that is the case, then I’m able to share the experience with others. Its opposite is dissociation, which is an isolated place.
  6. What does time mean to you in relation to your life? Which do you prefer to put the most and/or least emphasis on: the past, present, or future? It’s about now.
  7. Define fun. Within the human experience, what would you identify as it’s opposite? Define that too. Fun is effort with a reward built into it. Drudgery is like Sisyphus without the cardio benefits or the Nietzschean contemplation.
  8. Define passion. Within the human experience, what would you identify as it’s opposite? Define that too. Passion equals engagement, having a personal stake in the outcome. Its opposite is disconnection: when it genuinely doesn’t matter what you do, because you can’t affect the outcome, or the outcome doesn’t affect you.
  9. Do you enjoy searching for connections between thoughts and ideas? Why/how or why not? Yes, I’m a very curious person.
  10. What qualifies as sexual contact for you? More specifically, when does contact, physical or otherwise, cease to be sexual for you? Sexual contact is intended to elicit sexual arousal, and pleasure. When action doesn’t carry that intent, then it’s not. I’m taking “sexual contact” to be a kind of action verb, but of course it’s reciprocal, and so two people might be in contact, but one might intend it to be sexual, and the other not share that intent, or not even register what they’re doing as “contact.” Also, the one intending to give pleasure through their actions may not be succeeding (though this does not negate its sexuality, IMHO).
  11. Do you prefer to “go with the flow” or “stick to your guns”? In other words, which takes precedence in your life: your perceptions or your judgments (respectively)? Perceptions are more important and more durable. It’s harder to reverse engineer my own judgments later, when I realize I was wrong. I make an effort to record my perceptions, but also my judgments, so I have both to refer to when I come back to them.

Other blogs that I believe deserve Liebster Award recognition:

https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com
https://standup2p.wordpress.com
http://afroculinaria.com

Dear nominees: Here are my eleven questions for you.

  1. Pretend you’re at a conference where the usual identity labels are strongly discouraged, and instead, people are encouraged to find community based on labels that do not make reference to gender, race, religion, or any other social or political labels. Everyone gets a badge on which they can put some other kind of label that describes themselves. The idea is that, you will meet people you want to talk to, based on what they’ve written on their labels. What’s on yours?
  2. You’ve invited the one person from all of history you’d most like to have to dinner, and you’ve both just sat down and introduced yourself. Now a waiter has brought you one small tart (which is equally acceptable to both you) to split as an amuse bouche. Script the ensuing interaction between you and your guest in a way that demonstrates what you admire most about this person or why you want to meet them.
  3. What is your quest?
  4. What technology has become available in your lifetime that has most changed the course of your life?
  5. What institution of everyday life do you admire most, and why?
  6. Do you clean up as you cook, or clean everything up afterward?
  7. What was your favorite book when you were twenty, and how has your opinion of this book changed?
  8. How does concern for search engine rankings affect the way you write for your blog?
  9. If you could purchase and install deep knowledge of a subject into your brain (it’s perfectly safe!), what would it be and why?
  10. In what way would you say you are most privileged in relation to other people you know?
  11. Does the life of a “Doctor Who” companion appeal to you, and why or why not?

**Here are the Liebster Award rules for this round **

  1. Thank the person who nominated you by tagging their original post to yours.
  2. Answer 11 questions.
  3. Nominate other bloggers who deserve this award.
  4. Ask them 11 questions.
  5. Put these rules in your post.
  6. Inform the bloggers you have nominated.

Image credit: Hollywoodaholic.com

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A hundred years in Corleone

Historical-map-of-Sicily-bjs-1Appreciation develops on its own timetable, or not at all.

Before I got interested in genealogy, the subject I adored and rarely spoke of with my friends was weight lifting. There just didn’t seem to be much to say about it to people who don’t lift. In those years, I thought genealogy sounded boring. Then I was laid up with a back injury and started reading a lot of history, out of an interest in my own origins, and it led me to genealogy.

I still imagine the word “genealogy” sets off certain associations, as it once did for me, of people who enjoy playing bridge and golfing, who go to early bird dinners and read murder mysteries. I can tell when someone doesn’t already associate genealogy with thrilling discoveries and intellectual rigor, because they don’t have any questions about my research. I don’t want to be that guy who can’t talk about anything that’s not his fantasy football team, or Magic: The Gathering card collection, so I move on to a subject we can both talk about.

This is what I find so exciting about genealogy: the way it lets me turn patience and attention to detail into a greater understanding of a larger world.

I don’t work at drawing people into my passion. Several inner voices rise up to remind me that my interest  is not popular among people who share my identity politics, to whisper that of course, other people do not find it inherently intriguing to squint at the baptismal records of people long dead. One voice insinuates that I’m a miser, a jealous hoarder of delicious details. I’m ashamed of being intensely interested in my far off and deceased relations, when I don’t even send birthday cards to my living family members.

Another, more doubtful voice suggests that maybe it is because it’s a solitary pursuit, and one I need no help getting excited about, that I do not bother trying to sell my friends on genealogy. There are forums where it doesn’t matter that we don’t share other common interests: we can still share this thing of ours and find genuine appreciation of our efforts. Relatives and paisan’ have found me through the profiles I publish and update online. Like any other interest or fandom, it seems that appreciation develops on its own timetable, or not at all.

This is what I find so exciting about genealogy: the way it lets me turn patience and attention to detail into a greater understanding of a larger world. I’m building up a body of knowledge about Corleone, about this town at a crossroads of civilization and the people who lived there, during a turbulent time in history. I’m creating a coherent narrative of how I got here. It’s not unlike knitting, writing a novel, or for that matter, brickmasonry: another one of the skills of my ancestors. They’re about painstaking precision, putting in the time, thinking about the engineering of the thing in advance of the work, because it is so slow. It’s meant to make something enduring and beautiful, and the way it’s done is with craft and care. There’s a reason genealogy and knitting are associated with our grandmothers, why brickmasonry still remains in the popular imagination as a noble art, long after we stopped paying anyone a noble salary to do it. Knitting wasn’t just a hobby, it was how we survived the winters.

Every time I stumble upon a close relative, or a tantalizing anecdote, I get a jolt. They are the bright bricks, unearthed randomly and placed where they can be seen. I’ll slog through pages of the death records of infants, for the genuine excitement and pleasure at finding what I think of as a “good” death: an elderly person who has married, who I know from my research has seen children grow to adulthood, marry, and have children of their own. Someone prepared for death: who has received last rites, and died in their own bed.

The sudden deaths are harder to fathom. I rarely see what I found earlier this month, which were the murders of three people, one of whom remained unidentified, in the spring of 1890. I found a fourth victim in the December of that year.

Of the two identified in the spring, I knew them both: who their parents were, whether they’d married. I have written about their lives. To find them murdered in the night, and this fact plainly stated in the Church records—records that, for the most part, tend not to judge, but to state only certain facts and not others—was unprecedented. The Church’s records will say how old people were at death, whether they ever married, who their parents were, who gave them last rites, where they were buried. I’ve found one suicide, in decades of Church death records. I’ve found one man who refused last rites: only the one. I’ve found the records of my own family going back nine generations; deaths at all ages, generally without explanation; of the murders, the suicide, the hundreds who died the summer of cholera, in 1837, and the records of countless, countless infants: left in the wheel house to be raised by others, dead in infancy, named after dead siblings. Some families have six, seven children, and lose every one. I have trouble fathoming such grief. No one I know today lives with that much loss, so closely.

Most recently, I’m following a priest through a walking tour of the city as it existed in 1811. It’s a document called the “stato delle anime,” the “state of the soul,” a Church census of households and individuals. The headings he’s jotted down throughout are the directions he takes as he goes: “out the Strada Grande,” “in front of the mill,” “under the castle,” “as one exits the courtyard.” He works his way in and out of alleys, called “vanellas,” a cousin who still lives in Sicily tells me, and which the priest numbers in lieu of names. He names the people who live in them, gives their ages and relationships. It’s given new, literal, dimension to my understanding of the people who once lived in Corleone.

Would you like to read more about my family in Corleone? I’m very active on WikiTree, an open source genealogy website. My profile is here, a page about my direct ancestors is here, and a page on my research methodology (potentially helpful to other amateur genealogists who are interested in Corleone, Sicily) is here.

 

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Because Ferguson

ecqkuo
The “Because X” meme from social media becomes news

“12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson” makes use of the “Because X” meme in a way that is effective, for the same reason we should notice when it’s being used.Source: http://0.tqn.com/d/webtrends/1/L/T/E/-/-/yolo.jpg

 First of all, “Because Science,” “Because Reasons,” and “Because Ferguson” work. Who needs prepositional phrases, when you can just say “because”?

 What is left out of these constructions is the argument, either because the reasons are boring, well known, or even unknown to the listener. The most important part of the equation is replaced with bluster. Writing “12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson” sounds cooler and more relatable than the alternatives that would more clearly define the relationship between white readers and the violence of institutionalized racism.Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/img/28/28f0d7244f31c441536aa4fe63be54c187c8920cb591fdbeddfc68ebfabe99f7.jpg

 Part of this headline’s effectiveness is the list format: as a former editor of a website, I can tell you that the numbers back me up on this: people do love themselves a list. We like the way it feels, like we can check these off as if they were on a “honey do” list, and have accomplished something. And while I don’t work for Google and don’t know exactly how their search algorithms work, the first headline is more direct and I believe, more likely to rise to the top of search results than the latter.

Source: http://treasure.diylol.com/uploads/post/image/174453/resized_philosoraptor-meme-generator-circular-logic-is-the-best-logic-because-it-is-circular-fa4a24.jpg“Because X” can be used to back up either side of a well-known conundrum. Perhaps what makes the “because” of the matter so boring as to be usefully elided, is our sense of familiarity with both sides of the argument. Those who agree that cookies are delicious, and those who believe cookies are evil temptations, can both laugh at “Because Reasons” as a justification for eating some cookies.

 Anyone who is invested in an issue, from “stand your ground” to teaching “intelligent design” alongside evolution, has an image of the other side that will fit onto a “Because X” meme. And since memes are distillations of inside jokes, they are a powerful shorthand for people who have politics in common. Chances are, the people on your Facebook page almost all “get it” if you post a meme like this, because you’ve probably already “hid” or stopped following the people you once knew online, who consistently demonstrated that they did not see the situation from the same perspective as you.

Source: http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/1964098/BecauseIt’s the well-known effect of the echo chamber, which Facebook (and other social media, like Twitter, Pinterest, and Tubmlr) makes easy to create, and allows for selective exposure to the values you share. Follow who you like: people who post the stories and ideas that make sense to you, and with which you enjoy grappling or just nodding along to. Most people have a limit for the amount of grappling they’re willing to do in a day, so they find sources of content they trust: friends who will reliably post heartwarming videos of pitbulls playing with babies, well-composed pictures of organic food, and think pieces they already agree with. We already know enough about what a shitty state the world is in, thanks.

Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/img/92/9213857421bf8f4b1e2825f89cc95e5381a04a750c819fea21ec202dfca5adb9.jpgBalance is necessary, between bringing in new information and getting it to fit into one’s existing worldview. If the new info is too disparate, and constantly challenges the structure of one’s world view, it actually prevents growth of the individual. To be healthy, fully actualized people, we have to have firm roots as well as to reach for the stars. We need to be strong enough to withstand attacks on our values, but not so stiff that we do not alter our stance in response to new data. At the same time, without reassurance that everything we know is not total bullshit, that at least some of it is solid, there is no ground from which to evaluate contrary or novel ideas.

Source: http://www.funnyjunk.com/Loki/funny-pictures/5080869/31#31

 Having to find our own balance makes reading the news less secure than is ideal. There are still institutions, newspapers and magazines with trusted reputations. But more and more of the news we receive comes to us from—and is filtered by—social media. The job in society of news coverage is transferring from a small number of publishers, to a blogosphere of individuals. The work of determining what is trustworthy, traditionally performed by the publisher, has become the responsibility of the reader. At the same time, the “cloud” of your friends, in combination with social media, have taken over the job of filtering what is newsworthy. What would you do if IMDb and Snopes both disappeared?

Source: http://www.funnyjunk.com/boom/funny-pictures/4855343/8#8

 We’ve had to become more savvy, and yet we still get tripped up. When was the last time someone on your friends list got taken in by a fake news story? For me, it was this morning.

 I say all this like I know it, but this past week I had another lesson in how unreliable my Facebook friends feed is as a news source. I’ve been ignoring news alerts in my email inbox, heading straight for the pitbull videos and Upworthy links. Between the algorithms that Facebook uses, and what my friends post, I learned about Robin Williams’ death before I discovered what was happening in Ferguson, MO. A celebrity suicide trumps the police killing an unarmed teenager and then brutalizing the protesters. Facebook is more invested in my short-term happiness than in my growth as an individual. Likewise, content providers who just want 100,000 people to “Like” their pages right now, so they can make $1,000 in ad revenues.

Source: http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/156/686/why-mr2-meme-generator-why-open-door-while-too-much-wheel-spin-because-race-car-06b268.jpg

 Old media wasn’t perfect, either. There have always been broadsheets, pamphlets, and mullet wrappers, Page Six girls and puff pieces. I can be just as critical of my news sources whether they come from the Fifth Estate or the Fourth.

 

When bloggers get purposely vague by using constructions that remove the argument, whether because precisely describing what has happened is too boring, too wordy, or just not cool, man, then writers will have finally placed the last burden of journalism on the readers. Because news is not just what has happened, it’s also why it happened, and why it’s important. It’s not just today’s story, but the total reporting on a subject over the longer term. Those relationships and priorities are woven into what we write: from the headline and the lede to the prepositional phrases we choose to describe nuanced relationships among people and events.

Source: http://cdn.theatlantic.com/newsroom/img/posts/BecauseReasons.jpg

 Readers, having already sought out our own sources of news online and sustained them with our attention, must now come up with the very news itself, out of all of the op-eds, anonymous reports, blogging heads, and “fair and balanced” news outlets that are the remnants of journalism. The internet has set us free to read and believe what we like, but with freedom comes responsibility. We have to take responsibility for the content that we choose to consume, and how it affects us, and not rely on any one tool, whether it’s a newspaper or a news feed, to make those decisions for us.

Because reasons.

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“Heartbreak and Detox” Is Now Available for $0.99

torn heart

“Heartbreak and Detox” is now available as a Kindle eBook.

You can now read my short memoir of trans masculine identity, love, and pain management, “Heartbreak and Detox,” on Kindle. The story originally reviewed in “Manning Up:  Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves,” is now available through Amazon for just $0.99.

Heartbreak and Detox, Kindle Edition

Kate Bartolotta, author of “Heart Medicine” writes:

Justin Cascio’s “Heartbreak and Detox” reminds us that bullying doesn’t necessarily end with childhood, and love—even when it looks complicated on the outside—is often quite simple. …Cascio’s story offers a bittersweet look at the lifelong search for intimacy that transcends gender and orientation, and like many other stories, never truly ends.

Read “Heartbreak and Detox” now.

Cover art courtesy of Neal Fowler/Flickr

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“Heartbreak and Detox” is coming

Justin Cascio reads Heartbreak and DetoxA story of courage, transgender identity, and yes, heartbreak, coming soon on Amazon.

Not all of my stories develop such a life of their own, or recapitulate their themes when they do, but “Heartbreak and Detox” has brought me pride, grief, and hope since its publication.

I mentioned here in February that my story was accepted into an anthology from Transgress Press, “Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves.” The book was published in June, and has received fine reviews. I was proud to see my work in print, and read my story at a book launch event in the Boston area last month, where I was gratified by the reception. As many writers can testify, reading one’s work aloud connects the author and his audience with his words in a way that nothing else can.

However, not everyone was happy with my work. Someone I was once close to, and who I mention in my story, was upset to see her name used. Upon consideration of this fact, the publishers at Transgress Press have decided to remove my story from future editions of “Manning Up.”

This is an ironic twist, given the story’s themes of betrayal, bullying, and heartbreak. But she—and from here on I will call her “Mary Ann”—does not get to decide what I write about, particularly when it’s true. I know where I stand as a writer. My story is a powerful one, and it remains true, whatever names are used.

I still want to share my story, so I am preparing to release “Heartbreak and Detox” as a single eBook through Amazon. For a dollar, you will be able to read my story of “manning up” in the face of “indifferent fathers, screaming mothers,” and bullies, then and now.

If you’d like to see more before making this investment in my more intimate writing, here are a couple of essays I’ve published on The Good Men Project:

How We Talk About What Turns Us On

In Defense of the One-Night Stand

 

Heartbreak and Detox” will be available very soon from Amazon.

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“Manning Up” and Becoming Whole

justin in sequoia

On getting broken down and building oneself back up again.

I’m two months out from back surgery, and beginning to feel like myself again. For more than a year, I suffered crippling back and leg pain from what might be a very old injury. The body awareness I’ve regained from surgery is joined by the sense of being gladly alive and sensate, after stripping the dulling layer of pain medication.

While I was still in the throes of my ordeal, and many months from resolution, I wrote and massively revised a story, “Heartbreak and Detox,” which was accepted for publication in a new transmasculine anthology called “Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves,” edited by Zander Keig and Mitch Kellaway. Keig co-edited the 2011 Lambda Literary Finalist, Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.

“This anthology will help provide the much-needed space for trans men to reposition gender change within the context of their lives as humans connected intimately with others,” writes Kellaway.

I’m at a bus stop and I hear my name being called, and try to pretend that I didn’t. I’d already seen her and Luc when I heard him innocently shout to me. He doesn’t realize how it wounds me to see her, my ex’s new girlfriend, who is with him. Of course she and Luc are friends. They’re all friends, in this small town, the whole queer, poly, trans and allied, kinky hipster crowd. Just not with me.

Avoidance of mutual friends is one of the stages of grief, but it’s not the first. We live in the same town. I used to go past her house every week. When we started dating, crossing the railroad tracks between our neighborhoods became a heightened experience, like crossing between worlds. Now her house is like a rotting tooth in my mouth that I can’t help but probe with my tongue.

 

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Running and Falling

SWINGHow narcissism and identity are very much like falling off a gate.

When I was eight years old I ran away from the person I loved most.

Grandma was staying with us because our parents were vacationing in Atlantic City for a week. I had a twenty dollar bill, a months’ allowance saved. Someday soon, I was going to run away to New York City. I was eight and had been planning this for months. It wouldn’t be the first time I left home—or last—but it didn’t happen the way I’d been planning, this time. I didn’t mean to run away from her.

But somewhere during the week, Grandma got confused about how much cash she’d spent, and called me into my room to ask me if I’d taken the $20 bill from her purse. She was sitting on my bed, her purse on her lap. When I denied it, she asked me again, repeating the question until I snapped and ran from her. I ran out of the house, and for blocks, until my lungs felt like they were on fire and my legs would fly out from under me.

I’d run off without any money in my pockets. This wasn’t the way I’d planned it, but since I couldn’t go back, I continued in the direction of the city. I walked, for hours, until after nightfall and I was lost. I found a shopping center and called my uncle who took me home to his house for the night. Not much was said before he returned me to my parents, who were due home that morning.

♦◊♦

This story is coming out again for me in therapy, making me think, making me distant. I spend long hours cleaning up digital poop in “Zoo Tycoon 2” to distract me. I work on telling this story, and answering to my own satisfaction, why it is coming up for me now.

The public breakdown of Hugo Schwyzer has made me think about how public to make my own mental health related suffering. The internet is a public space—even our email is read. I believe that we as citizens of an online community have to have ways of creating accountability. I pride myself on being out: sharing our stories is celebratory, healing, connective. Even before the internet made it so easy to share, I always intended to tell my own story: always, since I learned to write. But not just for others. I need to understand my own story. And so I write it. And then I edit. I revise, reframe for other audiences.

Being mentally ill has a way of erasing credibility and expertise in some people’s eyes. It’s as if everything is a lie, nothing can be trusted, there is no real “self” to know. I worry that there are too many facets for me to know, more than normal people. There’s aspiring, and then there’s believing in your own branding.

The reaction to Hugo online, among people who know him slightly or not at all, also reminded me of how I usually deal with his kind of madness, which is to run away from it. Narcissistic personalities are particularly beguiling, at first. I’ve fallen for a few. But these vain and greedy souls take their energy from people like me, who watch from a safe distance, and much more from people who step directly into their energy fields, or respond to their flirtations. Narcissists must be at the center of attention, this being the only way they can handle the deep conflict they generate.

Charming, intelligent people who can surf the waves seem deep and balanced, but they are more like skimming stones, leaping to avoid sinking. They don’t know quite who they are, and with this, I sympathize. I compare their self image to my physical sense of self. It took me a long time, well into adulthood, to develop enough proprioception that roller coasters made me feel sick instead of pleasantly dizzy. Narcissists only know they exist because of their effects on others, and the way you rock a baby to teach its inner ears balance, they must constantly rock the boat to roil others, to know who they are in the world. The high school drama that most of us outgrow, remains necessary to them.

I take people like Hugo to heart, because we both suffer from our mental illnesses. The breakdowns, the relapses, the suicides: every one is a cautionary tale for me. There was reporting last week of a young man who had struggled with an eating disorder and anxiety, even posted an encouraging recovery video on ED. I wonder what it means to succumb: when all of that takes you. I want to know the details, to not only avoid these fates but to feel safe. Falling can feel that safe. It has for me every time I’ve experienced the sensation of being near death. One time I was hit in traffic on my bicycle, and another time, long ago, I was thrown from a swinging gate. Each time I found myself flying through the air, the hard ground coming fast toward my head, and there was nothing to be done about it. Time stretched, allowing time for panic to dissolve, regret to flicker, for a clear image of the end. There was no sound, only full, long nanoseconds of understanding.

The fact that Hugo has landed back at his parents’ house is, to me, a personal nightmare. I have a history of running away. Part of me still doesn’t forgive me for turning back, the time I ran away from my grandmother when I was eight years old.

The story that my husband likes for me to tell people about her is the one where she doors a guy in an Astoria mall for stealing a parking space. My grandma Cascio was a lover and a fighter. But she was so much more, and most of what she was, I’ll never know, because I was her grandchild: blood and generations cleaved us. The most important thing to know about her was that she always made me feel like I was her favorite: special, protected.

♦◊♦

After my uncle brought me home to my parents, I was broken down. I don’t even remember their reaction when they came home from their trip, anything they said to me. I remember that for months, it felt like, I could not look my grandmother in the eye. I acted like I was angry at her, and I was—for not trusting me, for thinking me a thief. But mostly I was hurt too much for her apology to work. I could not apologize for running away. How could she have believed that I would steal from her? Didn’t she know how much I loved her? For me, it wasn’t a lie: I loved her more than anyone else in our family.

Immediately after my grandmother died, I began my transition from female to male. People who I thought knew me well were stunned and disbelieving when I transitioned, while others shocked me by having seen what I thought was so well hidden, and took my coming out to them in stride. I was humbled, repeatedly. There was so much I didn’t know about the people I thought I knew so well. I like to think my grandmother would have accepted me as her grandson, if she had lived to see me. And yet the timing is undeniable.

Image courtesy of the author’s grandmother, may her memory be a blessing

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How to Take a Vacation

vacation house

The man who taught me how to vacation finds me online to remind me of the lesson.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted in any of my blogs that I’m considering updating my bio to read “Justin Cascio currently neglects writing about his life at One in Six Trans Men, or what he’s cooking at Justin Wants to Feed You, or why he hates industrial food at Tin Foil Toque.” Even my husband chides me for not writing in my blogs, and I know he’s right. I get wrapped up in just one thing to distract me, and that one thing has been working on The Good Men Project.

I’ve had a tough year, in which I spent most of the winter on my back and on painkillers. This spring, I’m coming to terms with just how sick I am, and that is a shock all its own. It’s harder to find gratitude when you’re down, but that’s when you need it. I’ve been stepping back just a little from work—realizing when I’m using work to escape and then not working—and finding again that while it may only take me half an hour to put up a post, it doesn’t mean I can put one up every half hour.

In stepping back I find inspiration to write again. My old neighbor, Papa Joe, sent me an email with a photo and one of my own stories. The picture is of us from 1982 on one of his boats. The story is this one, Summers in Maine, about the vacations we’d take with his family, and one year in particular when Papa Joe’s daughter and her fiance joined us. One of the joys of those trips was how they upset the power structure in my family, and Chef Jeff upset it further, to my complete joy. They were a model of how vacations can restore the spirit, by taking away the power of one’s job, or whatever it is that has dominion over you.

It was a joy to hear from Papa Joe. I wanted to send him back this story I’d just written on our best man, but I always feel funny about asking people to read my writing. Anyone who writes knows this feeling; I’ve read other writers who say the same thing. It seems attention seeking. My favorite novel is Geek Love, about a carnival family. One observation of the narrator is that “show off” is hardly an insult in their family. This should be true of all creatives, but we don’t all come from creative families. Most of us creatives, or wannabes, are raised by muggles. Some of us imagine it’s what made us so: see Harry Potter, Matilda. Some of us feel like we’ve gotten more attention than we deserve, already. For what it’s worth, my best man, his wife, and my husband all tell me that they read it and it made them cry. That’s all the praise I could ask for.

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The Good Men Project: Recent posts on Penn State, “The Kids Are All Right”

My recent posts on The Good Men Project have been on the evil that men do when good men do nothing.

Before learning the identity of the grad assistant who saw Sandusky in the shower that night, I only wanted to know, why didn’t he call 911 when he saw a violent crime in progress? Mike McQueary has stopped a knife fight. He could have put a stop to this known child molester.  Only he could ever explain why he didn’t.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Sandusky Situation

Sperm donor Paul could have been a flaky, yet lovable spuncle to Nic and Jules’ kids, teenagers Laser and Joni. Instead, he fucked it all up. Then he walked away. My principal problem with him is the part where he walks away.

Are the Kids All Right?

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