New Instagram Account

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I got an Instagram, so if any of you use that, here’s the link:

https://www.instagram.com/t.vaneeckhoutte/

Right now, I only have photographs (some of which are quite “artsy”) but I will be adding sketches and other artwork, soon.

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Fontan Blood Pump – Could You Donate?

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I have congenital heart disease and the Fontan circulation and I wish more people would donate to this thing to make this technology a reality. I would rather have something simple like this installed than a heart transplant. This little innovation could save so many lives!

https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-fontan-blood-pump

NOTE: This is not my GoFundMe page, I’m just interested in this new medical innovation because it affects me (and others like me who have the Fontan) personally.

A Confession . . . (Depressing personal stuff and possibly disturbing art, I’m warning you.)

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Image107Photograph: “Infinite Reflections I” by T. VanEeckhoutte

Part 1: “Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?”

I know I’ll probably lose fans of my art and writing by talking about this, but it’s not as if I had all that many to begin with, and hiding my true self in the shadows has done nothing to help me. Besides, if I can’t express myself on my own art and writing blog, what’s the point of even doing this thing?

I have a difficult choice to make . . . I can continue whittling away every complex piece of myself that makes me who I am until there is nothing left (so that I don’t make others feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced by my mere existence) . . . or I can start living freely as my non-binary transgender asexual self.

I have avoided talking about my gender identity and sexual orientation on my blog even though these are things I deal with on a daily basis. Even online, people will almost always ask, “Are you a boy or a girl?” “Are you male or female?” “Are you a man or a woman?” “What is your gender?” Some even ask, “What genitals do you have?” And most of them get pissed off if I refuse to answer or when I truthfully tell them: “I am neither,” or  “I am non-binary.” When I am honest or evasive, they will tell me that I’m the one obsessed with gender, but I’m not the one who asked in the first place and I’m not the one asking them what genitals they have. From my point of view, it’s everyone else who is completely obsessed with gender and sex and are the ones constantly forcing me to explain various aspects of my existence such as my gender and sexual orientation. I have learned that being honest about my gender is a good way to kill a conversation. But what if I’m trying to start a conversation, not end it? There really is no way for me to win except by lying — and I don’t want to lie, either.

Not many people understand what it’s like to be transgender, especially if it’s not the usual male-to-female (MtF) or female-to-male (FtM) type. I have been debating with myself over whether to say anything about it or not. In real life, I’m still somewhat in hiding. Even though I have told my friends and some members of my family that I am non-binary (neither male nor female), I live in a conservative state with conservative parents and do not feel free to express my true self. I have kept a lot bottled up inside and I feel that this is what has been killing my creativity and motivation.

(Throughout this post, I will insert some of my artwork depicting my feelings on the subject of gender identity, gender dysphoria, and so on. If you are squeamish about depictions of human anatomy, be warned because it’s coming up. My apologies for the glare and fuzziness of the photographs I have taken of my art.)

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Illustration: “Meat Suit” by T. VanEeckhoutte

Part 2: Judgement Day is Every Day

Just a couple of years ago, I finally worked up the courage to tell my mom that I am non-binary but the response from her was not favorable. She said: “You have to be a boy or a girl! Society won’t accept an IT!” She has called me “crazy,” “weirdo,” and “freak.” It took me longer to tell my dad, but when I did, he didn’t take it seriously at all and said, “You are definitely a girl because you are so moody!” He also said I needed therapy to accept the body parts I have (even though I’m already going to a therapist, and that hasn’t prevented me from attempting to cut certain offending parts).

I know I need surgery to feel comfortable in my own skin and not feel like tearing it off, but I don’t have the money and my mother told me I’m not allowed to while I’m living under their (my parents’) roof. She obviously doesn’t want my “freakish” appearance to reflect badly upon her and I think she would feel embarrassed to be in public with me if I were to alter my appearance any more than I already have. I think this is the core conflict. Because I don’t conform to the person she wants me to be, I am an embarrassment to her. She thinks others will judge HER because of me, as if I am a reflection or even an extension of her self. This has been the case my whole life. When I criticized her for how she is always bullying me — making fun of my appearance, behavior, likes and dislikes, and so on — she said, word-for-word, “I just wanted you to conform in this world!”

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Illustration: “The True Self and the Flesh Prison” by T. VanEeckhoutte

Part 3: The Androgynous Child

When I was a child, my mom and grandma tried to get me to play with dolls and wear dresses and act “lady-like.” Every fiber of my being rebelled against these things. They just didn’t suit me at all. I liked climbing trees, playing in the mud and grass, playing with lizards and insects, pretending to be a “mad scientist,” collecting dinosaurs, researching science, playing video games, reading and writing books and comics, drawing, animation, action figures, toy cars, and so on. As a child, my dad actually encouraged me to be myself. I’m sure my parents thought I was just a tomboy and would “grow out of it” someday. From my experience, there is a kind of freedom you have as a kid to just be weird and silly and energetic and spontaneous that you never really get back when you become an adult and are suddenly burdened with familial and societal expectations. Still, I knew I wasn’t just a “tomboy.” It was something deeper than that. When children asked me, “Are you a boy or a girl?” I didn’t know how to answer. “Girl” just didn’t feel right. So I would say, “What do you think?” or “Does it matter?” I worried that the one asking me wouldn’t want to play with me if I answered wrong, so I chose not to answer at all. It seems my parents never picked up on these clues that I was different, or they denied them. Then I went through puberty and suddenly I was expected to be a completely different person.

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Illustration: “Wrong Label” by T. VanEeckhoutte

Part 4: Asexual Adolescence

When I was a teenager, my mother and grandmother made me try on clothing designed to attract the attention of men and that made me very uncomfortable (especially since I am also asexual and have no interest in attracting that kind of attention). I felt exposed; nude. I couldn’t do it. I hid my body under layers of baggy clothing and developed a constant slouch to hide my chest (which has continued to this day). My dad will still make comments about my appearance and ask why I don’t wear a “pretty pink ribbon” in my hair (I’m 34 years old!). As a child, I embraced my “weirdness,” but now I fear it and lock it inside until it festers and seeps out in physical illness, depression, suicidal thoughts, and panic attacks. I want to be me, but I’ve grown too afraid to do so. Because of medical trauma, bullying, and gender expectations having constantly being forced upon me since birth, I’m not surprised that I have had depression since at least age 9.

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Illustration: “Non-Binary Freedom” by T. VanEeckhoutte

Part 5: “Hell is Other People”

Over the past few years, ever since I graduated college, I have become increasingly fearful of people. I have become a hermit and I almost never leave the house unless it’s absolutely necessary (mostly for doctor, dentist, and therapist appointments). When people look at me, I know they don’t see me. They think I’m someone else; someone I’m not. For decades, I have dreamed of a day when I am finally free to LIVE, but lately I’ve lost hope that such a day will ever come. Every day has become an existential crisis. I think: “Why do I allow myself to live? Why do I keep going on when there is no pleasure in life and all is pain and suffering? Nothing will ever get better. I am just a freak and a burden on my family and society. Why did the surgeons repair my heart when I was a baby? I should have died at birth.”

The last time I saw my cardiologist, he asked, “How are you doing?” and I said, “I hate my life.” He said, “That makes me very sad to hear.” No wonder he moved away. I somehow feel as if it’s partly my fault he left the state . . .

Anyway, I told him why I have been so miserable and I asked if transgender surgery and hormones were an option for someone with my heart condition. And he said surgery is possible as long as I have a cardiac anesthesiologist and that I should be okay with correctly-dosed hormones administered by a doctor. I was happy and relieved by the possibility, but I told him I did not feel safe in my home and in this state and that maybe when I leave the state and my parents’ house, I can finally be free to be myself. Unfortunately, I can’t see a way to leave any time soon. It’s as if I’m trapped in limbo forever and I envy those who have the resources to deal with this sort of thing.

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Illustration: “Gender Dysphoria” by T. VanEeckhoutte

Part 6: Where Do I Go From Here?

There are some many things I want to do, but feel powerless to do. I want to go back to California and live with my partner, who loves me unconditionally, in a place of our own. I want to see the ocean again. I want to get the surgeries I need in order to feel more comfortable in my body. I want to change my name and pronouns. I want to wear my hair and clothing in a way that suits me. I want to write more stories and do more art. I want to accomplish great things in this world. But instead, I have turned into a petrified piece of stone that quivers like a little ball of pure fear. I’ve waited for decades to LIVE. When does my life begin? Will I ever be happy? Will I ever be able to feel any pleasure in anything at all? Will things really ever get better? Am I an idiot to even keep hoping and dreaming that they will?

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” – Albert Camus

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

Non-Binary (A Poem)

Before the word even existed, I knew
Who and what I was. Something ineffable.

But I was forced into a box, locked inside,
Never able to express my true self.

Passing through the streets, no one can see
The real me, curled within like a fetus; unborn.

But the urge to break free is getting stronger;
I crack open the box like a chick from its egg.

The majority, like the empty void of space,
May try to quench this star in darkness.

They may say such a rare creature ought not exist;
And in forgetting my humanity, forfeit their own.

Someday I will burn this old body in purifying fire,
And rise up out of the ashes like a phoenix.

And I’ll sweep through the world like a mysterious fog
Composed of beautiful androgyny.

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“You have died of exposure.” – Depressed Ramblings

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Sorry I haven’t updated my blog for a while. It seems that depression has killed my motivation and creativity. I haven’t been working on any new stories or on my second novel for months. I rarely make sketches in my art books. I keep telling myself I should do something, but the more I tell myself that, the less I feel like doing it. It looks like art and writing will get me nowhere. What I do, according to my parents, isn’t a “real job.” It’s not making money, it’s not “hard labor” or business, so I guess it’s useless. The only thing considered to have value in this society is money. Not art or writing or love or friendship or honesty or integrity or compassion. No. Money is all anyone cares about. Money is the only thing that will get you anywhere in life. Without it, you can’t escape your circumstances; you can’t achieve your dreams. And I know you’re probably thinking, “That’s just depression talking,” but every day I have to wonder which is more insane: me or this world I’m living in? And every day I ask myself the same question, “Why do I still force myself to go on living, even when it seems that life is nothing more than constant mental and physical pain and torture?”

Here’s some personal stuff to give you some context as to what’s going on in my life. Right now I’m on antibiotics (4 times a day for 10 days) for an infected insect or spider bite in my ear. That’s always fun, especially when you have IBS like me and the antibiotics kill off the few friendly gut microbiota one still has left after all those other times one has had to take antibiotics. Every time I go to the dentist, I have to take antibiotics before my appointment to prevent bacteria from infecting my heart because of my heart condition. And speaking of that, I’ve also recently had to have a bunch of dental work done. One of the fillings I had done a few months ago is painfully sensitive and hurts like hell whenever I drink cold liquid, even if it’s room temperature. I’ll probably have to have that redone sometime, but my anxiety goes through the roof whenever I go to the dentist so I’m not looking forward to scheduling that appointment any time soon.

Then there’s the issue of my partner and I still having to live thousands of miles apart from each other at our parents’ houses (even though we’ve been dating for 5 years now) because neither of us have the money to move into a place of our own. My partner has spent 5 months looking for a job and is about to run out of unemployment money (which ends after 6 months). He has been sending out hundreds upon hundreds of resumes and applications and has gotten only a handful of interviews. Everyone who has interviewed him keeps saying they are “highly impressed” by him and that he’s one of their top candidates . . . and then they tell him later that they’ve hired someone else. That’s the reality of our shitty economy.

Now you can see why I haven’t been writing anything lately. No one wants to hear this. Blah, blah, blah. Life sucks. Same old crap. I’ll let you know if anything changes for the better. In the meantime, I will periodically be attempting to give away my short stories for Kindle out for free, for the sake of EXPOSURE! . . . just like in this meme I found:

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Christmas Guinea Pigs!

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I took some cute Christmas pig-tures of my guinea pigs Clover and Jazzy. Enjoy the adorableness of “peegs” with bows on their heads.

Here’s CLOVER topped with a red bow; one picture taken from each side. She has black fur on one side of her face, while the other side has only red fur. Clover has a a calm and gentle demeanor, and allowed me to take these photos with surprising ease.

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And here’s JAZZY, sporting a green bow in a couple of slightly different poses. I had to take these pictures quickly before she knew what’s up. She’s a hyper piggy! As soon as she realized I had put a bow on her head, she shook it off and wouldn’t let me put it back on again (and that was the end of that!).

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Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Time is Ripe for Pear Puns!

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So, I was talking on the phone with my partner (who loves puns) and then I brought back a pear from the kitchen. What ensued was a series of pear puns from yours truly . . . Something like this:

A-PEAR-ently I have a pear. I wonder if it’s from PEAR-is. My PEAR-ents haven’t had any pears yet. Maybe they would find them easier to eat with a PEAR-ing knife. If you were here, the PEAR of us would have a PEAR of pears!

*Note: For those of you who think puns are an unsophisticated form of humor, well . . . they were good enough for Shakespeare!