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Preparing for Plastic-Free July

I’m preparing for Plastic-Free July, a month where I will be avoiding most single-use plastics.

It’s March.

I know.

It’s 4 months away. Why do you need that long to prepare? You already have the reusable water bottle and bring your own bags to the store. What more do you need?

There are still a lot of single-use plastics in my life. I want to find alternatives for them.

Like what?

Just walk through your day. (Note:This post contains affiliate links, each marked with an asterisk (*).)

I wash and moisturize my face in the morning.

Your soap and moisturizer come in plastic.

I put on my deodorant* that comes in a glass jar. And I brush my teeth with a bamboo toothbrush* and plastic-free toothpaste.

That’s good. By the way, that toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride in it. Ask your dentist to make sure that’s ok.

Some of my zero-waste and reusable products: water bottle, coffee mug, freshly-made almond milk, deodorant, safety razor, toothbrush, and produce bag.

Then I have breakfast – a vegan protein smoothie or a vegan patty on a toasted bagel. I get to have both on my long workout days.

The versions of all those products you’ve been buying come in plastic.

And I have my coffee with almond milk. We make our own almond milk now, and we store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

That’s because the carton has that plastic top on it, so we switched. By the way, we need to find a recipe for vegan butter since our brand comes in a plastic tub.

I use reusable containers to take my lunch to work. After work, my preferred snacks are crackers or a small bowl of cereal.

Cereal and crackers come in recyclable boxes, but they have plastic bags inside them. We’ll have to start making our own, find plastic-free brands, or switch to something else.

Oh geez. Frozen fruits and veggies are staples in our diet. They all come in plastic bags.

It’s going to be an adjustment. I don’t know if we can get berries that don’t come in a plastic container of some type. Perhaps at the farmers market.

Wait a minute. Can’t we use plastic bags as long as we put them in the recycling bin at the store?

The point of Plastic-Free July is to not use them to begin with.

Some of the plastic staples currently in my life: protein powder, contact solution, lip balm, moisturizer, and face soap.

We can still eat things from cans, right?

As long as they’re BPA-free. After seeing the documentary, Bag It, I never want that stuff near me again.

What about vitamins – and your prescriptions?! The pharmacy won’t let you BYO container for that.

That’s true, but we can at least switch to brands of vitamins that come in glass. I will continue to take my medications as prescribed.

Umm . . . what are you going to do about lip balm? You have like 5 of those going at a time.

I will find a plastic-free brand.

What about Rosie?

Rosie is exempt from plastic-free July, just like she’s exempt from my veganism. She’s 11 years old and blind. We’re not messing with her life. But I think it would be fun to try making our own dog treats for her.

What about her dog poop bags?

There may be some experimenting with alternatives like using newspaper or junk mail to pick up after her.

This is hard.

Now you see why we’re taking 4 months to prepare.

I’m looking forward to Plastic-Free July, but I have no delusions. I won’t have a 100% plastic-free life. I want to seek out and reward companies that don’t use plastic packaging and look for alternatives to products that I can’t get without plastic. This will be a challenge, and I’m looking forward to it.  

My Bill Died

This legislative session, 1289 bills were introduced in Arizona. Every bill that didn’t receive a First Read by last Friday (February 22, 2019) is dead. If a bill doesn’t get a First Read, it doesn’t get assigned to a committee. If it doesn’t get assigned to a committee, it never gets voted on. I could not find a comprehensive list of all the bills that died (or that are still pending for that matter), but among the dead bills is my bill.

HB2289 would have given Arizona the ability to issue non-binary driver’s licenses. This law would have provided the legal recognition that non-binary people deserve to be treated the same as men and women. It would have helped alleviate the problems that arise when someone’s appearance is discordant to the gender they were assigned as birth.

The currently law only allows for male and female designations on IDs. There are no other options. Even if you present a non-binary birth certificate or a non-binary driver’s license from another state, they can’t issue you a non-binary driver’s license. Even if the MVD wanted to, it can’t issue a driver’s license with “X” for non-binary. (I know. I’ve tried. Ditto for leaving the field for sex blank. The computer won’t process the application without “M” or “F.”)  

During this legislative session, I called or emailed Speaker Bowers’ office almost every day. My friends called and emailed him too.  I never received a response, even when I specifically requested a call back. Each time I asked him to give the bill a First Read and assign it to a committee. My requests fell on deaf ears.

I never asked Speaker Bowers to support the bill. All I asked was that he allow it to be heard.

Issuing non-binary driver’s licenses is not a new idea. Currently, Washington D.C. and 6 states issue non-binary driver’s licenses: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon. (Looking at the pending bills and previously passed laws in other states, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont are the most likely states to be next to grant non-binary driver’s licenses.)

Wait. Back up.

Arkansas! One of the states in the “bible belt” is more progressive and accepting of non-binary people than my state!

Granting non-binary people driver’s licenses that match their gender won’t change most people’s lives, and it shouldn’t be that expensive. It’s a matter of updating a form and some computer software. By not even letting the bill be heard, the State is telling non-binary people that we don’t exist, that we don’t matter, that we don’t deserve the same rights and acknowledgement as everyone else. The State of Arizona is saying we’re second class citizens at best.

This hurt. Having my bill die without being given a chance was a slap in the face and a kick in the gut. It made me want to figuratively crawl into a corner and cry.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/34757503063
Image by Ted Eytan from Werk For Your Health (Creative Commons License)

At the same time, I want to scream at anyone who says we don’t exist. I will shop in the men’s and women’s sections if I feel like it. I will cringe every time I hear someone refer to me as “ma’am” or “miss.” I want to take my non-binary birth certificate (thanks California!) and whip it out anytime someone claims we should be forced to use the bathroom based on what gender we were assigned at birth.

We know we exist. I’m not asking for your validation. I just want the same rights as everyone else.

If you’re curious about the status of a bill, you can look it up on the State’s website. A lot of good bills died last week.

Blind Dog Living: 90 Days In

When Rosie lost her right eye to glaucoma and became a pirate pup in 2015, our doctor said it would only be a matter of time until the illness took her other eye. They said most glaucoma dogs lose their second eye within a year of the first one.

Rosie made it 3 years and 9 months.

This post contains affiliate links. If you follow the link and make a purchase, you pay the same as everyone else, but I get a small commission. Any link marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link.

Day 1: Sudden Blindness

Monday, November 19, 2018 (the Monday before Thanksgiving): Rosie woke up blind. When we went for our morning walk, she stumbled when the surface of the ground changed from sidewalk, to gravel, to grass. That’s what tipped me off that she wasn’t just tired. Not that she could see much before then – between the glaucoma and her eye drops, Rosie’s view of the world was like looking through a straw after her first eye surgery.

I called our puppy ophthalmologist’s emergency number (it was before 6 a.m.). The doctor gave the go-ahead to give Rosie’s emergency meds and told me to make an appointment with our regular vet. I mixed glycerin with milk and slowly poured down Rosie’s throat with a big syringe. This dehydrated her and hopefully brought down the pressure in her eye.

How About Today?

I got an appointment with our vet just before noon where they confirmed what I already suspected: Rosie was blind. Her glaucoma had spread and the pressure in her right eye was too high. It needed to be removed.

I asked our vet if they had availability on the schedule to do Rosie’s surgery the next day. She went to the back to check the surgeon’s schedule. When the vet returned, she said, “How about today?”

At 12:30 that afternoon, I left Rosie in the trusted care of our vet where the same surgeon who did her first enucleation would be performing her second one. The hardest part was not being able to explain to Rosie what was about to happen. I couldn’t tell her, “These nice people are going to put you to sleep, and when you wake up, your head isn’t going to hurt anymore, but you’ll never see again.”

Support from the Blind Basset Community

One of the first people I reached out to after leaving Rosie was Daisy the Blind Snowflake – an all-white blind basset I knew from Instagram. Her mom told me that adapting to blindness is harder on the human than the dog and gave me some tips. That was reassuring.

Sarah and Thomas to the Rescue

I picked up Rosie from the vet at 8 that night. The vet tech was very sweet. She told me while Rosie was in recovery, it was just her and another dog in that area, neither one in a kennel or cages. At one point, Rosie randomly walked over to the other dog and gently bumped her head into them.

I snapped Rosie’s protective cone from her first surgery around her head, loaded her into the car, and drove her home. Newly blind and still groggy from surgery, she didn’t want to move much. When I unloaded her from the car, she refused to walk, even with a gentle tug on the leash.

I had a moment of mild panic. What was I going to do? I can lift my 68-pound dog, but I can’t carry her the 100ish feet from my parking spot to our condo. I immediately called my neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, who bolted over to help. Thomas scooped up my potato sack of a dog and carried her all the way to her bed.

It turned out, Rosie was freaked out by the cone. As soon as I unsnapped it, she was fine. I made her a deal that she could have breaks from it while I home, nearby, and awake, if she didn’t scratch at her stitches.

Day 2: Surreal

The day after surgery was surreal for me as I looked at my beautiful dog with her swollen purple eye and thought, “My dog is really blind. This isn’t going to change.”

She can’t see shapes. She can’t even see light. She literally has no eyeballs. Her world is dark.

There were some sad moments for me that day, but I found comfort in reminding myself that adapting is harder for me than Rosie. As I was experiencing these thoughts, she was comfortably relaxing on the lawn.

Day 5: You’re Killing Mommy

I often participate in Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday, but I had to make an exception. I was working in my home office, and Rosie was crashing around the living room in her cone.

Bang bang bang bang bang!

I try to be patient with Rosie, especially in times like this where she can’t help it, but the noise was making me insane. I think at one point I actually said, “Rosie, you’re killing Mommy.”

A quick run to Ryan’s Pet Supplies saved my sanity. I got Rosie a soft inflatable doughnut to replace her plastic cone. I think we were both happier for it.

Imperfect Navigation

Basset hounds are scent hounds. I figured navigating as a blind dog would be easy for Rosie. I was surprised to see her that she couldn’t beeline toward a scent.

For example, Rosie’s bowls are in the kitchen. You have to go around the counter to get to them. When she walks to meals, I have to watch to make sure she doesn’t walk into a chair that’s under the dining table. There’s plenty of navigation space. Sometimes she sniffs at her water bowl before realizing that her food bowl is next to it. Even though she has a top-notch sniffer, she’s still navigating in the dark.

Going for walks is a daily adventure for us. We switched to walking with her car harness after her second surgery – a suggestion from the vet tech. At first, it was like walking a marionette. I always have to be on the lookout to make sure she doesn’t inadvertently walk off a curb. When I let Rosie lead, she frequently walks in ovals in the parking lot. I’m not sure why she does that.

I learned that other owners taught their glaucoma dogs verbal commands for “right,” “left,” “slow down,” and “hard stop” while they still had some vision. Yeah . . . Rosie and I didn’t do that. She spent the last 4 years mostly being self-directed on our walks and often walked off-leash. Going back to wearing a leash has been quite the adjustment for her.

One thing I do during our walks is I let her bump into things. Not hard. When we’re approaching a car or a wall, if she wants to keep walking toward the solid object, I’ll slow her down and let her gently bump it. I figure she’s not going to learn how close things are without experiencing it.

Rules for Blind Dog Living

Here are some of the rules I’ve learned for living with a blind dog:

  1. Don’t move the furniture. (I’m not one of them, but apparently there are people who recreationally rearrange their furniture.)
  2. No clutter on the floor. Don’t leave things like shoes out where your dog can trip on them.
  3. Open doors slowly. You never know where your blind dog is on the other side. Your dog cannot tell how fast the door is moving and get out of the way.
  4. You can help your dog navigate by tapping on the floor or wall near where you want them to go.
  5. Protect your blind dog from approaching dogs. During our first week of blind living, a rambunctious dog came up too fast on Rosie. (He just wanted to play.) That was the moment I learned to step in front of Rosie to physically block her from fast approaching dogs. 
  6. Use a harness to walk your blind dog. You don’t want to pull at their neck.
  7. Use a “blind dog” leash.* Rosie has the leash and collar.* This way, anyone approaching us will see that she’s blind and be more thoughtful.
  8. Use scent-based play. We like to play hide-the-treat where I’ll hide pieces of dog treats in shoes, in her bed, behind doors, etc., where she has to sniff them out. Rosie also loves pushing around her Kong treat ball.*
  9. Give all other treats directly to the dog’s mouth. For dental sticks,* bully slices,* and Milkbones,* I hold one side of the treat near her face, and let her grab it with her mouth.

Day 90: Getting the Hang of It

I’m still getting used to having a blind dog. I’ve seen a big improvement in how well she navigates our condo and our complex. She’s gained a lot more confidence in the last few weeks.

She often sticks close to walls and furniture both when walking and laying down. Whenever she lays down at home or in the office, her butt or side is usually touching something. I think this gives her a sense of security about where she is. Whenever I’m looking for her, I scan the edges of the room.

One of the things that gives me the warm fuzzies is seeing her recognize familiar people and dogs. Her tail wags like crazy when she realizes she’s found a friend, sometimes followed by happy whines.

Over the last 90 days, Rosie and my lives have changed a lot. She doesn’t need eye drops anymore. We walk slower. I have to get out of her way, because she’s not getting out of mine. I try to be careful about scary noises like the food processor and vacuum.

On the flip side, a lot of things have stayed the same. Rosie is still my baby. She’s still as stubborn as ever, and probably now even more spoiled (as she should be).  

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Whenever I book a hotel room, if there’s a box on the reservation form for notes or requests, I like to type in something about being non-binary or I’ll put in something silly. One time I asked for the hotel to put a “high five” in my room, just to see what they’d do with that. I would have been tickled pink if they had taped a piece of paper with the outline of someone’s hand on it to the wall. Unfortunately, they ignore it.

I like to have fun when I travel. I’m also the person who shakes out the Gideon Bible, just in case there’s money in it.

Don’t worry. My silly antics aren’t just limited to hotels. I regularly ask servers at restaurants for a pony when they ask if they can bring anything else. Usually they smile and say something lighthearted back. But one drew me a picture of a pony on my bill. She got an extra tip that night.

Last month, I spent a few nights in Vegas for the Shankminds live mastermind event. When I booked my room at the Park MGM, I asked for the staff to refer to me as “Your Grace” and for the hotel to put an octopus made out of towels in my room.

This was what I saw when I walked into my hotel room.

I shall call you “Ocky.”

I giggled when I saw this little guy. I put him on a side table and smiled every time I looked at it for the rest of my trip. (If there is such thing as a spirit animal, I’m pretty sure mine is an octopus.)

I think asking for a towel octopus will be my new thing when I travel. I’m curious to see how other hotels execute my request.

Paying to be an Arizona Lawyer

I just paid $505 for my Arizona bar dues. That’s right, Arizona is a pay-to-play mandatory bar. I paid $505 just so I can be a lawyer for the next year. That’s about $42/month and just under $10/week just so I can work in my profession.

Now, I’m not opposed to a mandatory bar, as we are a self-regulating industry. I am opposed to a state bar not giving their members their money’s worth. I’m definitely not getting $505 worth of value from the State Bar of Arizona, even with our member discounts. I have yet to meet a fellow Arizona lawyer who disagrees with me.

One thing that makes me furious with the State Bar is there was no need to raise our bar dues from $460 (which was already at the high end of state bar dues). The Board of Governors approved the raise despite seeing that the State Bar was forecast to have a multi-million dollar cash surplus at our then rate.

Benefits of the State Bar of Arizona

Before I continue my rant, let me give credit where credit is due. There are some benefits to being a member of the State Bar of Arizona (besides getting to do my job):

  • Ethics Hotline: The State Bar has a number where you can discuss your ethical questions with a qualified lawyer. They will usually not give you a direct answer to your question (unless it is a black-and-white issue). My first year as a lawyer, my goals were to make a profit and not get disbarred. I was on a first name basis with one of the State Bar’s ethic’s lawyers because I called so much.
  • Fastcase: I don’t pay for Westlaw or Lexis. I do most of my case law research with Fastcase through the State Bar. It’s not worth $505/year, but it’s a valuable resource.
  • Arizona Attorney Daily 5: I like getting this email every weekday from Tim Eigo, the editor of Arizona Attorney magazine. It has information about newsworthy legal stories in current events, many of which that are relate to my practice areas.
  • Conference Rooms: When I started my firm, I used a mailbox at a UPS Store for my address and worked from home. When I had to meet with clients, I used the conference rooms at the State Bar in Phoenix which were free to use. They need a better scheduling system, but it’s useful to those of us who live nearby.
  • Investigate Ethics Complaints: One thing the State Bar does is investigate complaints against lawyers. If you read the Lawyer Regulation section of our magazine, you know there are some lawyers who either need help, have no business running a law practice, and/or have no business being a lawyer. Someone needs to be the watchdog over us.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/joegoauktiatrcompetition/11654037604
Image by
tiatrcompetition20133 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Back to Ranting

One thing that annoys the crap of me about the State Bar is the fact that they charge for continuing education events (CLEs) at their own facilities. They don’t pay their speakers, so their costs to put on an event is close to nothing, and yet they charge $54-$149 per person. You will not see me at one of their CLEs as a speaker or a participant unless they change how they operate.

What I’d Do Differently

If I ran the State Bar, I’d immediately assess the budget – what’s needed and what’s not. When I asked the Bar what our dues pay for, I received a response that said our dues cover about 60% of their budget. (And don’t forget that cash surplus they’re sitting on.)

Additionally, the State Bar should either offer their CLEs at their facilities for free or pay their speakers. With the money they’re sitting on, they could bring in some top-notch speakers who are worth every penny.

I don’t know how the State Bar goes about getting discounts for its members, but I want better ones. They should look for ideas on the Local First Arizona directory to see if there are companies who might was to partner with the Bar – for office supplies, office furniture, document shredding, marketing services, and company shwag. Let’s keep our money supporting our community where we can. I’d also find value in discounts for airline tickets, a custom tailor, and hotels outside the Phoenix area, and because I’m concerned about lawyer safety, I’d love to see discounts for self-defense classes and bulletproof undershirts.

(The one place a lawyer can’t take their gun is into a courthouse. If someone was targeting one of us, that would be a place where we’d most vulnerable. I don’t own a gun. I want a bulletproof undershirt because of the rates of violence against transgender persons.)

Putting my Money Where my Mouth Is

My rule is you can’t bitch unless you’re willing to do something about it. The minimum I can do is vote in the next Board of Governors election this spring. For any incumbents, I’ll look at how they voted on the last bar dues increase. In the candidates’ personal statements, I want to see their ideas to reduce our bar dues and/or provide greater value to the membership. I hope my fellow Arizona lawyers will do the same.

Peeing in Public while Non-binary

https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/42153342040
Photo by tedeytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

So many issues related to people who are not heterosexual or cisgender come down to two issues: what to wear and where to pee. I’m non-binary. I was assigned female at birth (AFAB), but I had my birth certificate corrected last year. Where do I pee?

I Don’t Want to Die

My first rule for using the bathroom in public is, “Pick the bathroom where you’re least likely to get killed.” That may seem funny at first, but it’s a serious issue when you look at the incidents of violence against and murders of transgender persons.  

Gender Neutral Bathrooms “in the Wild”

When possible, I prefer to use a gender-neutral bathroom. When I don’t know where the bathroom is in a particular location, I’ll ask an employee, “Where’s your gender-neutral bathroom?” to see (1) how they react to the question and (2) whether they actually have one.

At many places, the gender-neutral bathroom is also the family bathroom or bathroom for persons with disabilities. Even at the public pool, I use the family bathroom instead of a locker room to get changed.

Sometimes, using the gender-neutral bathroom is the fastest way to use the toilet because cisgender people will automatically wait in line for other bathrooms. Last year, I attended an event at Symphony Hall. During intermission, dozens of people were waiting in line for each bathroom. I asked an usher where the gender-neutral bathroom was, and they directed me to a nearby single-user bathroom with no line.

Whichever Bathroom has the Shortest Line

My general rule for situations where there is no gender-neutral bathroom and there’s no safety issue is to use whichever bathroom has the shortest line, which is usually the men’s room. I can pee standing up. Ok it’s with a shewee, but still, I can do it!

Early on after realizing I was non-binary, I reached out to a few larger venues in the Phoenix to inquire about their bathroom policies to see how accepting they were. Surprisingly, Scottsdale Fashion Square told me that I could use whichever bathroom I felt most comfortable using. The Arizona Diamondbacks said that they have few gender-neutral bathrooms and those were the ones I should use. I’ve walked laps around that stadium. If the nearest gender-neutral bathroom is off in B.F.E. compare to my seat, I’m using the closest bathroom.

Gendered Bathrooms – But Go Wherever

There are public bathrooms, like the ones in Target, that are labeled for a single gender – men or women – but that have a policy that allows people to use whichever bathroom they want. The one time I needed to use the bathroom and I was set on using the men’s room, it was closed for cleaning.

When a company has a policy like this, I wonder why they don’t just say, “These are bathrooms. Use whichever one you want.”

All-Gender Bathrooms

I’m a fan of the water closet model for public bathrooms. Each stall has floor-to-ceiling walls and doors so you can’t see anything that’s going on in the stall next to you. You get as much privacy as one can get in a public bathroom.

Last week I attended the mastermind event, Shankminds Live, in Las Vegas. The venue had one gender-neutral bathroom with five water closet stalls. At first a few people seemed a little weirded out by being in a bathroom with people of another gender, but after a few moments, they realized it was a non-issue. When I asked my fellow Shankminders about the bathroom after the event, several people (men and women) responded that gender neutral bathrooms should be the norm everywhere.

One thing I will note about the bathroom at Shankminds is there were no urinals. From what I’ve heard from guy friends, some penis-havers like urinals – really like them. They like them so much, they wish they had one in their home.

I respect that some people would be sad if switching to all gender-neutral bathrooms meant losing the chance to pee at a urinal, but that doesn’t have to be the case. I know of at least one all-gender bathroom at a club called The Mint where there is a urinal area where people can pee standing up where they won’t be seen by the water closet users.

Remember: You all have gender-neutral bathrooms in your home. Sharing a toilet with another gender hasn’t killed any of us yet. It’s only an issue if you make it one.

LGBTQ Bills Introduced in Arizona

I did a quick search on the proposed bill for this session in the Arizona legislature and saw that there are at least five bills that are related to LGBTQ rights. I am hopeful that we’ll see progress this year.

HB2289: Non-binary Driver’s Licenses

This bill is my baby. This bill will allow the MVD to issue non-binary driver’s licenses and identification cards. All you would nee to do to prove your gender is to submit an affidavit that says you are non-binary.

This bill has the same verbiage as last year’s bill that died in committee. I was ecstatic to see that this bill has 16 sponsors, but then I saw that it was similar to the number of sponsors it had last year. They are all Democrats, but I believe some Republicans will be willing to support this bill, if for no other reason, because so many other states offer non-binary birth certificates and driver’s licenses. We’re going to have people who move here who only present non-binary documents. If the State refuses to issue non-binary driver’s licenses to these people, they’re asking for a lawsuit.

HB2156: LGBTQ Equality in Employment

It’s almost shocking that this isn’t a law yet. This bill will prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or marital status.

My first job in Arizona was for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. At orientation, the presenter went on and on about how they wanted everyone to feel comfortable working for the county and we should report any issues. I flipped to the back of the employee handbook to read the County’s non-discrimination policy. My heart sank when I saw that it didn’t include sexual orientation. This bill will prevent others from having the same experience and provide recourse against bigoted employers.

SB1047: Conversion Therapy Ban

If only one of these bills becomes a law, I bet it will be this bill that will make conversion therapy illegal for anyone under 18 years old. Conversion therapy for minors is already banned in 15 states and Washington D.C. Arizona, and every state, should be on this list. This bill also has support from both Democrats and Republicans.

HB2290: Death Certificates

This will require death certificates issued in Arizona to reflect the decedent’s gender identity. The murder rate in the transgender community is alarming, and there are issues with the police and the press mis-gendering victims as well as using the person’s “dead” name. This bill will require the state to acknowledge the person’s correct gender if it has been changed on a legal document. If the deceased has multiple documents with different genders, the gender on the most recently issued one will be used.

Not every transgender person has their gender or name legally changed, so this bill may not help them, but it will help those who have gone through the process. In Arizona, if you are female-to-male or male-to-female transgender, you can legally change your gender on your driver’s license and social security record.

HB2381: Crime Statistics

The Department of Public Safety collects information about whether prejudice played a role in a crime. Currently it collects data about prejudice based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, and disability. This bill will add gender identity and gender expression to this list. Hopefully this will lead to more complete statistics.

It’s encouraging to see Arizona lawmakers being so progressive. This is only the beginning of the legislative process. Each bill will have to get through committee and then receive a simple majority vote in the Arizona House (31 votes) and Senate (16 votes) before it will go to the Governor’s desk for a signature.

Everyday Non-binary Challenges

Earlier this week, I was featured in an article where agender and non-binary people (not male or female) debunked myths about our identities. I got to share some the everyday challenges I face as a non-binary person in a binary-centric society. I want to use this week’s post to expand on some of these experiences.

TSA

Almost every time I go to the airport, I set off the body scanner and need to be pat down, even if I’m am in cotton from head to toe. The TSA’s policy is to have an officer of the same gender pat down the passenger. Usually after I step through the scanner, the female-looking officer reaches for me and I say, “I’m not a woman.” Then the male-looking officer reaches of me and I say, “I’m not a man.”

That’s usually when they look at each other with puzzled faces, telepathically trying to decide what to do next. Sometimes they call a supervisor. Sometimes they ask, “Who would you like to pat you down?” One TSA officer said, “You have to pick one,” and I retorted, “No, I don’t.”

For most flights, I wear my binder to get through security and then head to the gender-neutral bathroom to take it off before my flight. It’s not the most comfortable thing to wear for hours on a plane, and I tend to start overheating when I wear it for more than four hours.

Speaking of airports, why do we have to specify male or female when we buy a plane ticket? I called my airline and asked what a customer should do if they have a non-binary driver’s license. The representative said the TSA checks if your name and birthdate match your ticket. They don’t check your gender. I’m tempted to mark “male” the next time I buy a ticket and see what happens. I only know of one situation where a male was named “Ruth” and it’s a dragon, so it will probably be easy enough to tell TSA I picked the wrong gender if they notice the disparity between my ticket and my driver’s license.

“Ma’am”

I was raised with Star Trek, so I’ve always preferred “sir” over “ma’am.” In the last two years, I’ve become more aware that there is not a gender-neutral option for these terms. (I’ve given some thought to what that term should be but that’s a topic for a different post.)

I tend to get the most annoyed when I’m on the phone with customer service. They’re trying to be respectful by calling me “ma’am,” and it makes my skin crawl every time I hear it. My desire to get my needs me and finish the call as fast as possible is usually stronger than my desire to tell the representative that I’m non-binary. It’s not as if the company would know my gender the next time I call anyway, so I don’t bother correcting them. I just cringe and finish the call as quickly as I can.

In group settings, I’ve tried to train myself not to react when I hear someone say, “ma’am,” much like how someone who’s legally changed their name learns to tune out and not respond when someone uses their dead name. My perspective is, if they’re using “ma’am” they can’t mean me. Doing this has nearly had adverse consequences once, involving light rail security. (But that’s a different story.)

No Option for “Mx.”

The gender-neutral alternative to Mr. or Miss/Ms./Mrs. is Mx. (pronounced like “mix”). It’s in my email signature so people know what to use, but I’ve never seen “Mx.” on a form. I suspect a lot of people don’t know about it.

For the State Bar, I tried to change my first name in their listing from “Ruth” to “Mx. Ruth,” so when someone looked me up, it would say “Mx. Ruth Carter.” I got a call within minutes of making that change on my State Bar profile from a representative who understood what I was trying to do, but who said I couldn’t change my name on their website like that.

I get the same frustration when I have to fill out a form that asks for gender and they only have “male” and “female” options. I’d love to see “non-binary” as an option, but I’m satisfied with a option for “other.”  

I face challenges with being non-binary every day. Some are more draining than others. If I’m having a particularly rough day, I find this video validating: h

Frequently, I send it to people who don’t “get it” when someone says they’re non-binary. I appreciate that they say it’s ok to be confused.

If you have any questions about my experiences as a non-binary person, I’m happy to answer them, as long as you ask respectfully.

Winter Swimming is for Masochists

I’ve never doubted that I’m a masochist. Between being a gymnast, going to law school, getting 14 piercings, and now being a triathlete, I’ve put a lot of time and money into torturing myself for fun.

Winter swimming is definitely in the category of being an act of masochism.

This is my pool – steam coming off the water at 6am.

I live in the desert. Compared to the rest of the U.S., it usually doesn’t get that cold here in the winter. As a result, my blood has thinned since I lived in the Pacific Northwest. When it gets cold here, I feel extra cold. When I walk my dog on these chilly mornings, I’m bundled in running tights, jeans, socks, long sleeves, a sweatshirt, and a hat. I don’t wear that many layers to the pool, instead opting for sweatpants, a long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and a hat over my swim suit, and only flip flops on my feet.

When it’s 45 degrees outside, going to the outdoor pool is chilly experience. When the temperature is in the low 30s, it’s almost painful. It’s basically a reverse polar plunge to strip off my outer layers and jump in the water.

Recently, I went to the pool when it was 36 degrees outside. As I waited for the staff to open the door at 6am, I shot a quick video to send to my coach:

It’s 36 degrees outside.

I’m wearing flip flops.

My lips are blue.

I’m going swimming.

Fuck you, David.

Don’t worry it’s not offensive. My coach has a not-so-secret goal of making his athletes curse his name. I enjoy the challenge of training, so it’s rare that he gets me to curse. I’m sure a giant grin spread across his face when he saw this. (Every masochist needs a sadist.)

Coach David and Athlete, Post Swim at the Atlantic Ocean (July 2018)

The pool itself is heated, but it’s not hot. Typically, when it’s this cold, it takes about a lap before I can fully feel my hands and get used to the temperature. The other day, a fellow masochistic swimmer jumped in the water before me.

“Is it warm?” I asked.

“It’s refreshing,” he responded.

That means “No.” I put on my goggles and jumped in, submerging my whole body. When I resurfaced, I looked him and said, “It’s infuriating.”

By the time I finished my first two laps, the water felt fine, but the experience of getting to that level of comfort shows how much we really want to be there.

Of course, getting out of the pool is the reverse experience – going from the comfortable heated water back onto the freezing cold pool deck, this time soaking wet. I stay outside only long enough to step into my flip flop, throw my towel around myself, and head inside to the family bathroom.

In the summer, when I get out of the water, I pull on my short over my wet bathing suit and sit on my towel to drive home. That is not happening in the winter. I want to get out of that wet swim suit and dry as soon as possible. I usually peel of my swim suit and throw it across the room to the sink before toweling off and pulling on my warm sweats. I wrap my wet suit in my towel and drive home with the heat blowing through the vents.

Why do I go swimming outside in the winter (besides being a masochist)? I’m training for my first Half Ironman, and training doesn’t take a day off because it’s cold. Seeing consistent improvement in my time and technique makes it all worth it.

I Minimized My Hair

Love my new fuzzy head.

For me, being a minimalist means that, when something doesn’t add value to my life, I get rid of it. Every January, I flip all the hangers in my closet, and only flip each one back after I’ve worn the garment. At the end of the year, whatever garments that still haven’t been flipped back are removed from my closet. This year, along with the hanger flip, I put all my t-shirts in a box and they’ll go back in the drawer only after I’ve worn them. There’s no point in holding onto clothes I don’t wear.

A few months ago, I didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror each morning. My hair was doing nothing for me. No matter what I did, I didn’t like it, nor did I like having to put energy into styling it each day. On the mornings I went swimming, I didn’t bother styling it. I rocked my bedhead to the pool. It was going to get wet and messed up anyway.

The Decision

After weeks of frustration and doing my last photoshoot of 2018, I decided to shave my head – and commit to keeping it that way for at least a year. I went to the salon and had them run a number zero clipper all over my head.

Awh…much better.

Living Buzzed

For the most part, I like having a buzzed head. From the moment I wake up, my hair is ready to go. I wash my hair with my shampoo bar (affiliate link) after getting out of the pool, but otherwise, I spend no time on my hair day-to-day.

I find myself rubbing my head when I’m stressed. I like the way it feels, and I never have to worry about messing it up.

In terms of wardrobe, buzzed head works with my typical jeans and t-shirts wardrobe. I feel like a badass when I wear a tank top. The only time it’s been a challenge was when I was picking out my outfits to perform in Rev. Patrick’s Holiday Concert. I felt unbalanced wearing a big sparkling gown with my no hair. There was too great of a contrast, much like when I tried to wear dangly earrings with super-short hair in my younger days. It works for some people but not for others. I’m one of the others. (I haven’t changed the studs in my ears for years.)

What worked for me instead of a gown was a jumpsuit. I’ve always been a fan of them. I’d love to have a Star Trek-inspired jumpsuit for everyday wear.

Maintenance

When my hair shifts from feeling fuzzy to being soft like crushed velvet, I re-shave it, usually every 10-12 days. I purchased a set of clippers so I can maintain my hair myself. I felt nervous before I shaved my head myself for the first time, but it’s really fun. And I learned the hard way you can cut your ear with clippers.

Typically, two factors determine when I shave my head again:

  1. Whether I have a bike or run workout the next day. I keep my hair until that workout is done to keep my head a little warmer. (I also wear a hat for workouts in the winter, but it’s chilly out there!)
  2. When I have enough time to shave my head and vacuum the floor. Even with almost no hair, buzzing my head leaves a mess all over my bathroom.

No Regrets

I have no regrets about shaving my head for a year. It’s so easy. I like how it looks, and more importantly, I like how it feels – physically and emotionally. Some of my friends have been less than supportive, saying that I look better with hair, and maybe that’s true. But I’m the one who has to live with it.

For now, I’m happier without hair.