Following Sea

dark shadow of a seal in water

The professor wears a terrible brown jacket.

His students joke about it behind his back; he’s an otherwise handsome, weathered older man who carries with him the added mystery of supposedly having once been a soldier.

We follow him down to the rocks and water where he claims he’s more comfortable teaching us the impenetrable Welsh epics. Y Gododdin, the Mabinogion. They scarcely make sense in English; it’s all made worse by the crashing waves, the roaring wind and how we have to huddle down in our jackets.

We read the texts, we write the papers, we blow life back into our icy, numbed fingers after a lecture.

The terrible brown jacket hangs on a hook in his office, the rare times he ever gives office hours in there.

“No, no, just meet me down by the water,” he tells us, and so down to the water we go, and as the term wears on finally one day it’s just me, me and stolid old David Rhys down there.  David, who I think might fancy Professor Lindsey and except for the horrible brown coat, who wouldn’t? That and David’s Welsh, so they have that connection, though I read Old Welsh better than David does.

“Not much of a class today,” the professor remarks, as we scramble down the rocks to the thinly sunny spot he favors.

A wave bangs the cliff wall, and spray flies up.

“We can have class anyway,” David says.

Kissass, I think.  The professor’s looking at me.

“Perhaps a swim, instead?”

“A swim??” David says, incredulous. “It’s freezing out here, never mind in the water!” It’s the first he’s spoken up against the Professor since we started.

Lindsey’s still looking at me, like a challenge.

I like the water. I’m a strong swimmer.

I don’t like water near cliffs when it’s cold enough for a down jacket, long wool skirt, and boots.

“Come on,” Lindsey says, and as usual I can’t tell if he’s joking or serious or both. “I was a SEAL.”  He’s talking only to me, now.  “I’ll save you if you drown.”

“Ha, ha,” says David. Timorous.

For no good reason at all, I’m stripping my jacket off.

“There you are,” Lindsey says, as though I’d been missing and just now located. “David?” But David’s backing up, as though whatever madness we have is contagious. And the professor’s all but dismissed him.  He beckons to me.  “This side. Time your dive.  After me, not til I tell you.”

The water, I think.


People dive into icy water all the time, for charity. Don’t they?

Also:  Professor Lindsey will lose tenure if I drown.

It’s this last thought that brings me to the edge of the cliff.  Lindsey’s there, and the water isn’t far below.  I’m down to leggings and T-shirt, barefoot.  He’s just wearing pants.  Thankfully.  I only look at his bare skin long enough to see thick, old scars.  “In we get.”

He dives.  It’s a perfect dive into the water, clean and effortless.

I watch, breath held, and a moment later he pops up, looks for a wave behind him.  Dives under it.  Once it breaks, he gestures to me, sharply.

I hesitate.  I hesitate.

“There’s always another wave, but you only live once,” he shouts up and his voice carries perfectly. All term, it’s been impossible to hear him. “Wait!” He dives under again, a wave breaks and he pops back up, gestures.

I dive.

I dive and the shock of the water takes my breath, everything straight out of my body and I think “I just died here,” and my second thought is “oh holy shit the cliff” as bubbles are everywhere and the water is moving in what feels like all directions at once, and it must mean a wave is breaking.

I feel a hard hand around my arm, and I’m dragged.

Impossible strength, a dark shape in the water and I still haven’t taken a breath yet.

Through dark and I can look up and see the sky, through the water. And the ocean was gray, chipped into flint by the wind, just a few moments ago.

Now it’s all blue.

All green.

We break surface.

“Breathe,” a voice says, and I suck in a huge breath, cough.

“…can’t feel my legs,” I chatter.

“You don’t need legs out here. You need a tail!” He’s laughing, swimming away from me.  He curves a broad hand, splashes water into my face.

I sputter.  I swim after him, possibly to kill him.

We arc and spin in the icy water and after a time I stop feeling the cold anywhere. We surf waves halfway in, bodies murkily silhouetted, dropping out just in time to avoid being crashed against the cliffs.

There’s a rhythm all that water has, that is easy enough to know, once you’re in it.

“Not as big as it looks, from up there.”

Lindsey tilts his head to the shore, which got a very long way away, when I wasn’t looking.

“Come on, my girl. Time to go in.”


It was inevitable I would become an academic. I like dusty old books, and moving my lips to form the words of forgotten languages.

I have tenure at a university by the water, though I don’t make my students take their lessons down on the beach. Usually.

I get the occasional postcard, from an old friend, still teaching at another distant university. Impenetrable old epics. He sends news of himself and his lover, an insufferable old pedant named David who only speaks Welsh passably, and is aging faster than the professor is by decades.

I keep a horrible ugly brown coat hanging on my office door.

I know my students make fun of it; it amuses me.
I go swimming every day.

It’s not about the dress

So I promised some trans/QG stuff last November and am finally following through now.

Part of the reason for the lag is garden variety fear. Me, I know. Fear. Right? But it is, and it’s because I’ve found I have to defend myself not just to the non-queer community but also the queer community, and in some ways I feel like this part of me is trivial, and so trivial I shouldn’t, you know, rock the boat.


Right, so having acknowledged that issue, here I go.

I’m going to start with a moment at WisCon a couple of years ago. I’m sitting on a panel to talk ostensibly about non binary gender in SF/F — cool topic — which has as we predicted devolved into a Nonbinary 101 discussion. Less cool. In particular it’s less cool because someone on my panel is saying she’s never heard of nonbinary gender before and is it actually a thing, even though we asked her in discussions about the panel before the panel to not go there.

She went there.

I was the only nonbinary, queergender identifying person on the panel. Originally the person who wanted to know if nonbinary was really a thing and had never heard of it before was put in charge of the panel, which we finally protested particularly because she kept relegating what I am to “well, it’s a matter of opinion.”

Hey, guess what? It’s not.
We’re not even going to have that discussion. It’s not a matter of opinion. Right? Okay.

So then we get on this kind of dangerous tangent about “gender” being only a product of society’s construction. Which I get, I see why that’s said and in part it’s true but in part it’s absolutely not true.

Perception of gender is absolutely partially about behaviors, and perceptions, and socialization.

Perception of gender is also absolutely about biology and perception of body.

Which is why when someone said to me “well, given that gender doesn’t really exist, who cares how you identify? It doesn’t really matter.”

I replied thus, and when you think and talk about nonbinary gender, I want you to hear my voice in your head, saying this:

“Around half or more of the time, I think of myself as having a COCK.”

I said COCK really loudly like that and people jumped visibly. I want you to think it loudly like that in your head too. COCK!

So. I am by birth female. Despite being female-bodied, I still conceive of myself as having a cock a good portion of the time.  COCK! God, I love that word.  Anyway, yes, this means that a large portion of the time I experience dysphoria. Is it bad enough for me to do anything about?  No. Because if I went and got an operation to have a cock, then my physiological gender, my sex would be wrong less than half the time and I would have gotten expensive surgery that didn’t really fix anything, or only half fixed it, and I was mostly right half the time.

Which brings me to, weirdly enough, pronouns.

The majority of the time I’m referred to as “she,” which isn’t wrong much of the time, and when it is wrong, it seems pointless to me to correct someone and say “actually right now it’s he,” because listen, short of a placard there’s really no way to know.

This brings me to dress.

“If you’re feeling male, then you signify that by dressing male, and if you feel female, you signify that by dressing female.”  Right?  So fucking simple.  I wear a skirt, you call me by the “she” pronoun, I wear — oh, crap. Men and women both wear pants.  Fuckity fuck!  Now what?

See the issue?


… which would be hilarious but, well, no.

So I’m going to present this to you, dear reader, as our mutual dilemma. You want to gender me properly and I reserve the right to be the gender I am in this moment, and this moment may actually change five minutes from now. And it changed fifteen minutes ago. Like when a gorgeous ass walked by and I thought “goddamn I would love to tap that.”

“Zie!” you exclaim helpfully. “Hir.”

Sure.  If you must.  But I am male, when I am male, and I want “he.” In fact I want “Sir,” in fact I want “dude you are one fine specimen of manhood get your COCK over here.”

If it helps, I have the same problems you do. When I get up in the morning and get dressed, I wind up settling on a day to day basis for pants and a tank top or T-shirt and generally no bra (because nothing makes a guy feel less masculine than a bra except maybe a vagina), and go from there.

Going out?

Jesus, it gets complicated.

What I’m trying to say here is that being nonbinary being queergendered is complicated. It’s complicated for me, for you, and that’s why, I think, those of us who are both — not simultaneously, not agender (yes, that is also a thing, go look it up) and in my case, not genderfluid, which I consider to be something else, something I’m not — tend to be quiet about it. Because it’s powerful, real but also nuanced, and extremely difficult to explain and even express.

And when members of our trans family are having enough trouble as it is getting recognition and rights they deserve, our “mostly okay at least half the time” seems kind of pissant, or at least that’s how I feel.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.





I have to put a disclaimer here. My experience of gender is mine. I don’ t speak for others. There’s a crapton of ways to be out there, and this is mine. Don’t generalize by my experience and view, just add it to your box of knowledge and continue to add to that box. Trust me, I’m doing the same, all the time.

What the dog eats

We don’t do things by halves, so we got a puppy that at eight months weighs sixty pounds.


I am faint with hunger. Faint. O me.

If you measure a dog’s potential growth by the size of Laska’s feet, you can figure she’ll be around six feet tall by the time she’s done growing.

What, you say, will you ever feed her?

Well, the answer to that is


Anyway, because we need our heads examined (and because friends with healthy dogs provided a lot of convincing reasons that we have seen borne out), we decided to feed raw.

What does feeding raw mean?







And so on.

Why do it?

Look, I’m not going to try and debate raw versus kibble to you, because honestly I don’t know enough to tell you much.  I do know that we’ve fed our cats mostly raw for a while, and they seem healthier for it. Is it measurable for us?  Not really.

We’re also not super scientific.  I know a lot of people get all… Martha Stewart about it. I mean in a Ferocious Homemaker way not a prison cell kind of way, anyway…


I would seriously love to have that kind of time on my hands and love and devotion for my fur babies


But I don’t. Dog wants a Polenta Chicken Ball she can go catch a chicken and roll it around in some rice herself.

Instead, raw feeding for us more or less means buying cheap raw meat like chicken, beef, pork, fish, that’s usually discounted because it’s past its date or people looked at it and went “my dog wouldn’t eat that!” but of course they will, with a minimum of chewing.


Look. Okay.

Yes, it feels good to feed the dog a big hunk of raw chicken. I toss it out in the yard with her and feel pretty damned superior. And watching my cats deal with mackerel heads?  Worth the price of admission.

I hear by report that lungs are bouncy and provide hours of feeding time entertainment. I can’t wait, frankly.

So, you ask me, Kate… where do you get this food?

We don’t get it at the “SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY HERE THIS IS ORGANIC FOOD IF YOU DON’T FEED YOUR PET THIS FOOD YOU’RE A SHITTY OWNER AND CONTRIBUTING TO GLOBAL WARMING” display at Target.  We get some of it in the meat section at Shaws, in the discount section.

But the really good way to get it?

In a parking lot.


Oh, yes.

Yes, there are RAW MEAT DEALERS and you pull over in different locations at arranged times and bring your checks and toss your meat in the back of your car and drive away fast before the KIBBLE POLICE come and get you. Or the real police. Or the FDA. Or something.

It’s gangster.

It’s fantastic.

Today I screwed up the rendezvous. So the Meat Dealer, the Meat Man, the Driver of the Goods kindly left our meat for us.



Psst. The goods will be under the tree by the potted plant. Good luck.

Nothing like driving two hours, winding up into the parking lot of a Days Inn, strolling nonchalantly across the lawn, picking up two random boxes that smell slightly pungent and are attracting flies, tossing them in your truck and driving off again to feel like you’re going above and beyond for your furry friend.

But hey, raw meat off the back of the truck is about $40 for a huge box of chicken legs that will last Laska a month or so, and other assorted yummies like mackerel, bones, organ meat and some pork stuff I can’t remember the name of but comes in a sausage sleeve only cost around $20 more.

And, look.  There are a lot of really good arguments for raw food and you can research those yourself, but mostly it’s hilarious and not that much work and a bit less cost when it comes right down to it.

Laska definitely approves.


Magic Mike: XXLlent.


Maybe it’s a queer perspective.

Maybe it’s a genderqueer perspective.

Maybe it’s a leather perspective.

Maybe it’s a feminist perspective or maybe it’s just my perspective.

This is a great fucking movie.

I really hate movies with a “you go girl” theme.  It’s fucking condescending and I get that their heart’s in the right place and I appreciate that but it’s not what I want to hear.

I want to see a movie where the only men of any significance in the movie exist wholly for the female gaze. Who rate their worth by their worth to women, who don’t let women have power, but instead assume that women have the power in the first place.

“Queen” as a concept got set up early in the movie.

It’s a word that exists outside biological sex, outside the conformity or nonconformity of looks, and it isn’t about “girl,” it’s about “women,” or as Rome says, “grown up women,” who are powerful, beautiful not because they are “special” somehow but simply because they are.

They are, and therefore are worthy of worship and a beautiful, powerful sexy man knocking himself out for someone just to make her smile.

Starting the movie with the men competing to see who can be the best woman, the best “queen,” wasn’t an accident.

It sets a precedent, and it’s not about glass women on pedestals, it’s not about courtly love, it’s not about the removal of sexuality but a sudden, slamming, visceral closing of that courtly distance only at the end of the consummation it’s about her pleasure, her satisfaction, her self. Not his.

I might have had a moment where a glass slipper was a euphemism for vagina and it might have pissed me off except that Cinderella was the best possible southern belle looking for, frankly, a cock, and referred to in admiring jealousy after the fact as “beautiful, sweet woman,” which, frankly doesn’t make it sound anything like a conquest.

The love interest wasn’t anything like a usual love interest especially because she was in a “girl phase” and… thank god, hallelujah, they didn’t fuck that up.

At all.

Jada Pinkett Smith walked away with the movie and never took her clothes off. And the subcurrent of power exchange with she and Mike was hands down the hottest thing in the movie except possibly Matt Bomer in a sarong.

Yeah. You're welcome.

Yeah. You’re welcome.

Before you open your mouth to tell me that the elevation of women shouldn’t rely on the subjugation of men, let me just say this:

Shut the fuck up.

There is no subjugation where yield is generously, lovingly given. Acknowledgment and celebration of someone else’s power does not render anyone powerless. You got me?

Let me say it again. Just in case you didn’t hear me the first time.

If you think that men giving power to women weakens men, you are dead wrong.  Men never had the power to give women anything in the first place.

See what I’m saying?

Go read it again.  I’ll wait.

Ken (Matt Bomer, the guy in the sarong and fedora), and Andre (Danny Glover, beautifully done), discuss healing and it’s about the rift between men and women, about rifts between people in general. They talk about the gift of giving pleasure, not for reward but for its own sake. Smile. Not for me, not to perform for me or to be beautiful for me, but for you. Because I have made you happy, because I have given you pleasure.

This movie isn’t deep. It’s not meant to be deep but that doesn’t mean that message isn’t clearly and completely delivered.

The men don’t come out on top.

No one wins anything, unless you count those of us, many of us onscreen and in the audience watching, who really really enjoyed watching a handful of guys strip off their clothes and dance.

For us.


Matt Bomer. One more time. Oh. God.

I don’t actually want to fuck cancer, thank you.

As always, I’m going to put my disclaimer here. My cancer isn’t your cancer. My experience isn’t yours, or hers, or theirs, and this isn’t definitive or about anyone but me. I’m speaking for Kate only, here. I have full, total respect for every person’s approach to their difficult shit, cancer or otherwise, and respect for people dealing with it secondhand however they have to, which might actually be harder.

So this is about me. Me, alone.


I’m just not that adversarial about it.

Cancer came on pretty quietly in my case.  It wasn’t a TV-movie, camera-ready kind of cancer and now that it’s all more or less over I wonder if my experience “counts,” in much the same way I used to second guess my abuse, like if TV movie things didn’t happen, then maybe the experience wasn’t real, somehow.

But I think that’s a fallacy, a dangerous one.


Look, I had that lump for years. Thyroid cancer is wicked slow growing and I’d wondered and dithered, and finally my doc said “you know, normally I wouldn’t be so worried, but you play hockey. And if someone who plays hockey tells me something is wrong, then maybe they’re dying or something.”

She was Russian, and both of her sons play hockey in Russia. She knew a lot of the Massachusetts players, including Orr.

I got a couple of scans. A lump or two showed up as being the wrong size, the wrong temperature. It was probably nothing. Everyone said it. And then I got a biopsy, which showed up as “well, maybe. Sort of. Maybe not. But probably.”

Which is more or less what my doctor told me over the phone, and added that to be safe, best to have the thyroid out. “Or maybe just half,” she said.


I’m not saying there wasn’t anger. There was definitely anger. The day I got the phone call I was at work and I went back into the employee lounge and shut the door and took every cheap paperback off the bookshelf in there, and hurled it as hard as I could into the opposite wall.

Under the anger, though?

Mostly stark terror.

And I guess that’s part of what I don’t like about it, it’s sort of this sense of snarling and yapping into the wind, “FUCK YOU CANCER,” like it’s somehow going to suddenly roll over in a ball and piss itself and be all “oh, shit, my bad, never mind, sorry,” and disappear. If somehow we just puff up and make Big Cat and convince it we’re scary enough, like it’s some big TV bully in an alley.

But it’s not. Really. It’s a thing, not a person, and like it or not it was part of me, probably for a long time.

The anger was fear, in my case. I didn’t want the surgery. I didn’t want the diagnosis. I didn’t want to die.

It wasn’t anything valiant. Or ferocious.

In fact, I didn’t feel valiant or ferocious at any point in the process. It was a shitty, painful, terrifying thing and the first time I felt even remotely strong or okay or human again was when Ron did the only right thing and red-jerseyed me and let me get on the ice again, with a stern admonition to the others to give me a wide berth and to me, to not have my head fall off, please, while I was out there.

I think I still had a couple dozen staples in my neck at that point. I looked like some crazy kid’s movie, Hockey Frankenstein.


I guess too that… said to me, about cancer, “fuck cancer!” feels almost dismissive.

“So I was seeing this guy and he broke up with me,”

“Fuck that guy,” you say. And then we change the subject. Because after that, after that conclusive judgment as an answer, what else is there to say?

And maybe there’s something to that. “Forget it and move on.” “Don’t let it affect you.” “I’ve always hated that asshole.”

But there’s… there’s this whole other complicated experience there.

Yes, it sucked. Yes, it’s bad.

But I need and want to acknowledge that the whole process is a complicated one, start to finish, where I didn’t know that I had cancer until after the surgery, when the cold slice was sent to the clinic and it turned out that three tumors on that side were in fact cancer, papillary carcinoma. And… that’s another thing. Every cancer is so very different. Different stories. Different processes. Different ramifications.

My cancer was a couple of scans, a biopsy, a really shitty surgery that went three times as long as it should have, and then I was offered and refused radiation because no one could really give me a straight up reason why radiation was a good idea except “that’s what we always do,” which wasn’t good enough and frankly radiation scared me about as much as the cancer did.

And I didn’t know going in if I had cancer for sure, and what do you say, to people, exactly?  “Please support me because I might sort of probably could might have cancer, I’ll know for sure after it’s all over?” Yeah. No. That happens in no movie or TV show ever. And so I basically told no one and except for my wife and a coworker wound up feeling really isolated and alone.

Fuck… well, which cancer, exactly? Whose?

You know?


Finally, this.

After the fact, I wrestle with fear every time I go in for the obligatory scans. I’m down to one a year.

It’s terrifying, still. I hate the process, I hate the way it makes me feel. I hate how out of control the possibility of finding cancer again makes me feel, and who knows, maybe “fuck cancer” helps that, expresses that hate and fear but in my case, it just sounds like more panicked, strident yapping.

Because if it’s there the cancer, it’s part of me. It’s my cells, it came from me. And at some point, I have to both accept and reconcile that. That it’s a thing to be watchful for, it’s a thing to make rational, good decisions about, it’s a thing to embrace now as part of my past and something that’s shaped me.

In profoundly good ways, as well as bad ways.

I’ve become stronger.

I’ve learned to start talking sooner, rather than wait for TV sensibilities, TV, moments.

I’ve learned to draw people out to talk about it, not to shut them down with platitudes. But to ask… hey. What was your experience? How did it change you? How are you feeling now?

I have a vivid scar across my throat. I don’t cover it. Half the time I love it, half the time I forget about it.

I’ll carry that.

And so it’s pointless to hate it.

White knight versus yes, thanks, that was awesome.


I was just reading some stuff about white knighting and it got me thinking.

I mean, I’m into self-rescue, right? I’m big on that.

I’m also big on defending others. This is kind of my core thing. Like that time I almost got into a fistfight with most of a gay Vancouver hockey team in a bar in New York. In French. Drunk.


I had to go look up White Knight to remind myself what one was. Because on the surface it’s kind of a good thing, right? Woman gets attacked, guy steps in and helps her out. How’s that a problem?

Well, the main thrust of this Know Your Meme article says it’s because the knight in question wants to get laid. Or in more knightly terms, let’s say… curry favor for his own merit and gain. You know. Cough.

According to Reddit, a white knight is a guy who “treats women as goddesses and does nothing but shower them in compliments on how wonderful and beautiful and special they are.”


So… both definitions seem fairly tame, right?  So the one guy’s selfish, he’s still doing good acts, the other is just… being nice?  Surely?  Ish?

Over at Geek Feminism we get this definition:

White Knighting is an attempt at being a feminist ally that assumes that men are better feminists than women are.

Ah.  Right, okay.

So the problem with this whole white knight business is that we assume the dude can protect and the woman can’t and no one actually asked the woman if she needed help or how she wanted to be rescued.  More or less.

There’s a great moment in Lair of the White Worm

— no, seriously, bear with me —

Where it’s pointed out that while George is really into saving the woman in Uccello’s painting from the dragon [above], the fact of the matter is that the lovely maiden has the damned dragon on a leash.


Let me tell you a story.

One night I was hanging out alone at Power Exchange, which at the time was a fairly delightfully seedy public BDSM dungeon in San Francisco.  At the time, women were totally outnumbered by men in the place, and generally the only women there… were there with men.

In fact the numbers were so skewed that women got in free, men had to pay and were only allowed to wear towels around their waists, or if they wanted to pay more, could wear clothes.

It was fairly fantastic.

Anyway, in that sort of space I’m top all the way, and I have a good sense of myself and never feel threatened, in general. Men tend to give me room and heed the death glare if they don’t, and I can certainly back up whatever that look says with the physical if I have to, and that’s all fine and good.

This one particular night, though, the space had a kind of frantic, off feel to it. There was an enormous sort of… river of towel-clad men in all directions.  Some of them were attractive sure, but it was just me, and them, and the men felt pushy and insistent and I still could handle it, but it was getting tiring.

I wanted to observe, and if I wanted to engage with anyone, in any way, I wanted it in my time, in my way.  So, like, if I were a bear, I didn’t want salmon to leap up and slap me in the face every second, I wanted to watch, watch, watch, dip my paw into the stream and


my perfect fish.

See the metaphor?

So finally I perched up on a stool and tried to watch the stream but salmon kept… you know. Slapping me.

And finally a guy walked up a short distance away, and put his hand on a stool and from that distance asked if I’d like him to sit with me.

I said “sure,” because, you know, just the sheer pleasant relief of being asked, rather than just, you know… slapped in the face with a wet fish.  So he dragged his stool over and he sat.

And the constant haranguing stopped.




And he didn’t make conversation.  And for a few seconds just because I wasn’t quite grokking what he was doing, I didn’t make conversation either, and so we sat there quietly and I just sort of… caught my breath and got my guard down. And I had some time to just enjoy the salmon, the swimming, the whole sort of… pastoral river-salmon-bear scene thing there.

And the guy still didn’t make conversation and neither did I, in fact he was just sitting quietly, pleasantly by.  Not really even making eye contact.

And I started to realize something.

And I got up.

And he got up, and put his stool away.

And to test a theory I walked off, and didn’t look back.  And he didn’t follow me.


In general, I don’t think any intent of being an ally is bad, really. Even if motives are selfish, or patriarchal. I mean, or… look, it’s better than the alternative.

I do believe that.

It’s better than the alternative.


Later I found the guy.

“Thank you,” I said.

And sure enough he smiled and said “you’re welcome,” and I introduced myself and he did the same and we chatted pleasantly and whatnot for most of the rest of the evening.


How we use the power we have is really fucking important.

Defense is great.

But make it mindful, selfless defense.

Truly for someone else.

That’s knightly.

That’s the thing.