My First two Skydiving Adventures

Today, I am going to be sharing with you what might be one of the most exciting events in my whole life, and I hope that this will inspire you to follow in my stead. I will be comparing two of my greatest sky-diving adventures, and hopefully this will help you decide which one you like best.
I got to go on two tandem sky-dive jumps, and to prove them, I have two official certificates stating that I did my jumps with a certified instructor. No one can deny the fact that I did it! On Saturday, August ninth, 2014, I went to do my first sky-dive, and on Monday, September eighth, I went to do my second jump. I was not able to record my first experience, except for what happened on the ground because when the instructor put on my harness and tightens the straps, they patted my pockets to make sure I had nothing on my person. I told the instructor that I wanted to record myself in free fall, but he said that it was something I would not be able to get on tape because of the United States Parachuting Association’s policy, which stated that I could only carry stuff with me after my two hundredth jump. I was also not able to afford in buying a video package as well. On my second jump, however, I was a lot cleverer. I found a sneaky way to have my iPod touch recording while I was in free-fall, and no one knew I recorded everything until long after I had left. I was also able to have my instructor use a GoPro helmet camera to record everything on video. Most drop zones have either a hand-cam or third-person option, but since I wanted to record every possible moment along with my recording, I opted for the former. The classroom at the Sky-diving Sports and Adventures over in Estacada we used was quite small, kind of like the size of a waiting room or sitting room. The one in Molalla was a little bit bigger, and the whole building with the manifest area was quite spacious as well.
On the first day that would change my life forever, we left the park where the retreat was being held at around nine twenty-five pacific daylight time, and we drove up to the Sky-Diving Sports and Adventures in Eagle Creek, Oregon, which is owned by Ralf, chief pilot and owner of the business. I went with two other blind people, all of whom were first timers like myself. Still, I was really glad I had two months’ notice about what the experience would be like, even though there were a few differences which I will describe as I go through my experiences in order. In short, there were five of us in the car. Three blind people and one visually impaired staff member and our driver. We came to a stop in the gravel parking lot, then we climbed out and walked to a picnic table. The day was nice and clear, which was perfect for a jump with no wind, save for a cool breeze from the
North-North-East.
One of the employees came and told us that every year, there was someone who usually wanted to take a video, and they explained about how these videos were a way to record their experiences. Only one person opted to pay ninety-eight dollars for a video package while the rest of us just recorded it. I did bring my own pocket camera, and I asked one of the staffers if they could film me doing my landing, so in a way, I was partially filmed, although it would have been nicer if I had gotten everything.
After the staff person processed the payment for the person who wanted to take the video, he brought us an application for all of us to fill out. Each person was to fill out the forms one at a time, instead of at the same time, which meant that the process took nearly an hour, plus an additional ten to fifteen minutes for the person to read the waiver aloud. Since it was quite lengthy, we all had to listen in because he was only going to read it once. The next person got to fill out the form, and soon, it was my turn. The form asked for my name, age, date of birth, weight, address and other contact information, including emergency contact information.
This is where I knew the waivers were different. Here, they asked if I suffered from any medical ailments, and one of them was hearing loss or impairment. Over in Molalla, they did not ask me about any medical ailments or anything of that sort. I wonder why that was? I was afraid that if I said yes to the question regarding my hearing, it would prevent me from sky-diving, but they assured me that it was only meant as a way to let them know in advance so that I would be able to hear them, and they would be able to hear me. They also asked me if I was on any medications as well, and then I had to sign three different pages. I asked if it was possible for them to provide a copy of the waiver in a PDF form so they could send it out to prospective jumpers. They thought it to be an excellent idea, and they said that they would consider and look into it further.
The way the waivers were set up in Molalla, as I soon found out, was very different. Since Sky-Dive Oregon is a pretty busy place, they set up iPad stands in the middle of the waiting area so people could use SmartWaiver to fill out, check about forty different boxes, and sign the waver in a speedy and efficient manner. The bad news was that I was not informed about this, nor was my friend aware of it either. Had we known that they were going to use iPads, I would have asked them to reserve a space for me to use an iPad that was not enclosed in a tamper-proof case. The result was that I spent nearly half an hour just trying to get it to work, and after a lot of patience I finally managed to sign the waiver with Voiceover enabled within about an hour. Fortunately, it was getting very windy, so we had to reschedule. Normally this would have been unfortunate, but because of how long it took for me to figure out how to sign the waiver with the iPad, it was a good thing that I had plenty of time. To prevent future incidents like this, I am hoping to contact the manufacturer of these iPad stands and ask if they can build cases with key holes so they could press the home button with the crank of a key, or open a headphone compartment, etc. This is simply policy standard to prevent people from using apps that would be on the iPad and to make sure people can only use them to sign the waivers.
After all our applications were processed back in Estacada, our instructor came and talked to us, introducing himself individually. He informed us that he had worked with blind people from either the Oregon School for the blind, or from the Portland Commission for the Blind. He told us that he would be guiding us inside a small building which would be where he would teach us how we were to exit the aircraft, which was a Cessna-182, and how we were going to land. There, we would also put on our jump suits and wind breaker hats, which looked almost like a helmet, except that it was made entirely of leather.
Over at Sky-dive, I was given an envelope that I would hand to my instructor so he could get paid, and I was led to another room in the building. When I got there, I took a seat near a wall, and the instructor started talking to us immediately. According to the web site, it stated that only students who were jumping could attend the class, yet when I went with my friend, he could attend the class with me, even though they weren’t jumping. Maybe this was an exception. I would be putting my jump suit and harness in the loading area, which was further out on the other side of the complex. The aircraft I jumped out of was a Cessna-208.
Over in Eagle Creek, before he started the class, our instructor asked us if we all had any questions, which he would answer as he taught us what to do. I asked about the rodeo sky-dive, where a person flipped three times as they fell out of the plane, and they would be falling head-first. I also asked if there were several methods to get out of the aircraft, depending on what kind it was. He could not answer my question about how free fall was interpreted by the brain, so I was left to experience that on my own for me to describe. He told us that the amount of time we were going to free fall would vary on how much we weighed. Since I was the lightest, it would take me longer to reach the designated altitude where the main parachute would be deployed. On this particular drop zone, the altitude where we would be falling at was anywhere between ten thousand and eleven thousand feet, so our free fall would be between thirty to forty-five seconds. Our instructor told us that we would be falling for about a mile, and then we would parachute for about five to seven minutes for another mile.
Over at Sky-dive, the altitude that I would be jumping would be anywhere between thirteen to thirteen thousand five hundred feet, or eighteen thousand feet if I requested that option. I will also state here that either the weight of me and my instructor was more than I thought, or something else, but my fall was no more than thirty-six seconds from that altitude when they said that I would be falling for sixty seconds. To confirm this, I listened to the recording and timed my fall.
After our instructor answered all our questions back in Eagle Creek, he waited for another person to come back. Whilst waiting, he asked us if we had anything in our pockets or anything else that might fall out. I had no choice but to hand over my iPod to another staff member, who would hold it for me until I did my jump. I must have forgotten to mute my iPod’s Voiceover speech, for my instructor heard it talking, which is what prompted him to check my pockets. One of the guys was worried that his glass eyes would fall out, and I was concerned that my hearing aids would fall out as well. The instructor took the first person down to the creeper, which was basically a platform on wheels that is generally used to look at the underside of vehicles. When it was my turn, he led me to the low table, and I climbed up on it. He showed me the position we would be falling, and he told me to stay in that position so we would not end up falling head-first. When we left the aircraft, our left knee would be on the floor of the plane and our right foot would be on the platform outside of the plane. When we entered free fall, we would have to arch our head and back backwards as hard as we could, and if we needed help, he would put his left hand on our forehead to signal that we needed to keep going back. Likewise, our heels would be on his butt, and if he needed us to go further, he would put his right hand on our knee to tell us to keep it there. Then he demonstrated this by getting on top of me and showing me how to cross my arms over my chest which he called the safety position. You do this both when you leave the aircraft and when you land. After that, I went back to my chair, and then the next person went to the creeper, and soon, our instructor had us practise our landing position by having our feet out in front of us as far as we could hold them, with our knees bent at a twenty or thirty-degree angle. We did this while sitting in chairs.
Over at Sky-dive, the training was very similar, with the only difference being that we would be sitting down as if we were on a kerb, and we would simply lean forward and slide out of the plane. The other difference that I noticed was that my second instructor had me stretch out my arms during free fall when he tapped me three times on my right shoulder. I wonder why he had me do this, but my instructor did not have me do it on my first jump? It could have been the fact that I had more experience, or that the equipment they were using was slightly different. My friend was worried that I would lose my hearing aids, but I reassured them that I already did my first jump, so I knew what I was doing. As proof, I showed them how the wind breaker hid them out of sight.
When we got into our jump suits back in Eagle Creek, we got our wind breakers, and when I put them on, they completely covered my hearing aids so well that there would be no danger of them falling out. The instructor asked me if I had glass eyes, and I told him that I had real eyes, which was a good thing. The goggles were attached to a string on the back of our hats, and we were to put it over our eyes and tighten the elastic strap on either side to secure it. The instructor helped me with the chin strap because it seemed to be tangled. After we were all set, he got the order of the people in our group who were going to be jumping with him. I was the last one to jump, so I had to wait for nearly an hour and a half before I finally got moving. Before we got into our harnesses, however, our instructor took us outside to where the plane was anchored to the ground via ropes. He opened the door so that we could explore how we would get in and out of the plane. The door was set up in an interesting fashion. Imagine feeling the bottom side of the plane’s fuselage curving as it went down to the belly of the plane. Close to that was a place where a person could lock and unlock the door. They would pull on the crack that was underneath, then they would keep pulling the door towards them and then they would end up pushing it up, like the trunk of a car. This was because its hinges were located towards the top where the right wing was located. Almost all sky-dive planes are high-winged, because the carriage hangs below the wings. To get in, I had to put one of my feet on top of the platform that was located above the right rear wheel, and then I crawled onto the floor of the plane. The instructor told me that I would be seated behind the pilot’s seat. I ended up riding backwards both times. Then we got out of the plane and he led us back inside, where our instructor proceeded in putting us inside our harnesses. When I got mine on, I wanted to tie it up myself since I already had experience putting on three other harnesses in the last few days of the camp, but because sky-diving was essentially a vital and extreme sport, only the instructor was allowed to tie the harness for me. I think a person would have to be certified to handle their own harness.
Over at sky-dive Oregon, I learnt a few new things I never heard about before. For instance, I was told to never, ever, ever reach behind me while getting ready to jump, because if I pulled on the wrong handle, my instructor and I would be history. He also told us that he would ask us several times if we were ready, and if we said no, then we would not be refunded. Once I proceeded with the training, I was taken to the back of the classroom, and I was given the stuff to put on. The jump suit I put on was a lot different from the ones we used in Eagle Creek, and I had to take off my shoes to get them on. That was one thing I did not have to do on my first sky-dive. The place kind of felt as if I was indoors and outdoors at the same time; it was very strange. Since this was a bigger plane, and because jumping out of it would be easier, I was not required to use the plane to practise getting in and out. To confirm my suspicion, I asked my instructor if it was true that only the latter was allowed to handle the harness, and he answered me in the affirmative, and he said that I would have to take accelerated free-fall training to learn about handling my own harness. One thing I also learnt about from my instructor was how to stay calm when the reserve parachute was being deployed. He told us to always keep our hands in our safety position no matter what we felt, saw, heard, etc.
After everyone was set to jump back at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, the first of the trio was led outside while the rest of us sat down in lounge chairs, still inside the waiting area to avoid excessive heat exposure. I dozed off for nearly an hour, and then I heard one of the staffers report that our first member was coming down. When they came back to the room after they landed, we all applauded and congratulated them and asked them how it went. Then the next member of our group went with the instructor. Both times, I thought I heard him say, ‘Do you want to jump? Do not answer right away. Think about it for a moment, because this is really important.’ That is when I asked him just to make sure I heard correctly if he always asked his clients if they were absolutely sure they wanted to jump, once before they got on the plane, once while they were on the plane, and once before they were about to leave the aircraft. The instructor would also tell them that they were not being pressured to jump, as it would be their choice. You see, the reason they would ask you is so they can give you your money back, or at least some of it. If you said ‘yes’ the first time, but then you said ‘no’ the second or third time, then you would not get your money back. I could not hear what he said, but it sounded like he only asked certain people. I will not go into detail about the waiting process, suffice it to say that a few of the employees handed us water or soda to drink while we waited.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, there was no waiting, and I was able to do my jump immediately after the class, which lasted about twenty minutes, so it began half an hour before the actual time that the class was scheduled to start. I left the complex at around fifteen hundred something, and I walked over to the boarding area. There I was informed that we would wait for our plane, which would taxi to the space for us to get on, then I would climb a metal ladder that had about six rums. I could estimate that the plane was about three or so feet above the ground. The plane’s engine was still running as people started to get on it.
Back at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, after the first person was out of the harness and jump suit and the second person left, we all headed out to eat. However, since I was soon to leave, I had to wait until after my jump to eat for two reasons. I could get nauseated, and if I threw up, it could blind the person going below me and this would be bad. Second, because I would not have time to finish my lunch. After we were outside for a few minutes, I started to feel light-headed, so I went inside, and the others followed me. I sat back down and dozed for another half hour. After a short while the second person came down, and then our instructor went to refresh himself, then he filled out a few things before he told me that we were all set. Everyone wished me good luck, and I took my instructor’s elbow and we walked down to the aircraft. I also got to feel his container, which was like a big backpack that weighed five pounds. I asked him what he meant by the fact that when we left the aeroplane, we would fall at a rate of a hundred seventy miles an hour, but that he would pull out a drogue parachute, which would slow us down to a hundred twenty miles an hour for Belly to Earth orientation. He said that because when we left the aircraft, we would experience higher than terminal velocity, which would put a lot of strain on both our bodies and on the parachute. It could eventually be lethal because travelling at one seventy would rip our main canopy to bits and cause us to faint due to the excessive amount of G’s, so the drogue and or pilot chutes would be deployed immediately upon exit. The pilot parachute would also aid the instructor in deploying the main parachute as well. The next thing I asked my instructor was what people did when they fell, because it is obvious that when we lose our balance on Earth, we would instinctively reach out our hands and arms to grab onto something. To inhibit this reaction, he told me to grab onto the straps of my harness as hard as I could while having my arms crossed. ‘This way,’ he said, ‘if you feel like you need to grab onto something, just hold on as tightly as you can and let me do the work.’ By that he meant that I should relax, because I would have a lot of adrenaline rushing through my system, though hopefully not a fatal dose, or one that would cause me to be paralysed. He assured me that he has not lost anybody yet.
Back at Sky-dive Oregon, I told my instructor about my first jump, and I also took note in his demeanour. From what I noticed, my first instructor was more of a no-nonsense person, which made sense because people who did extreme things always made sure to do everything right, and they would not like any irrelevancies. My second instructor was more easy-going, which is what I like best.
Over at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, we did one last check in which we practised getting in and out of the plane, since the previous time we did it altogether, and therefore we did not have a lot of time for individualised practice. We went inside so he could show me where I would be sitting, which was on the floor of the plane with my legs crossed, and my instructor would be facing me, sort of sideways on the left wall of the plane. In other words, I was facing the tail of the plane, and the door was on the right side of the plane, which was to my left. We got out so that the pilot could climb in and fill out his logbook, and then he told us to climb back in. We had to wait for two more people who were diving solo, for I was the only one doing a tandem jump.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, I could hear the plane approaching the boarding area, and it reminded me of a jet and a propeller plane combined in one. This is because the regular planes have an engine that drives the propeller through a piston, while the ones here use a fan that is driven by a turbine. As such, you have speeds going well over six thousand revolutions per minute. Once the plane was parked, I was taken over to the line. As I got closer, I could smell the fumes of the jet fuel, which, for some reason, reminded me of diesel. When I approached the ladder, I started feeling the wind from the propeller, and I told my guide of that fact, and she told me I was safe. The propeller, which was to my left, was spinning at fifty cycles per second, or three thousand revolutions per minute. The ladder was tilted at a forty-five-degree angle, so I went in as if I was crawling onto the plane. The door was located on the left side of the plane towards the back. When I went inside, I turned around until I was facing the door, and I was dragged towards the right side, where I saw a long bench that was parallel to the wall. It felt like one of those kneelers you find underneath church pews, and it was that high above the floor. I sat down in front of my instructor, and then he hooked me up to a set of seatbelts that were fitted onto my harness. I was also riding backwards. For the first time, I noticed how loose the top of my harness was, but I will get to that in a moment.
Back in Estacada, one of the skydivers asked me where I was from, and if I was excited to do my first jump. I told them that I was very pumped up, and I was hardly feeling nervous at all. I soon realised why it took so long for people to get up into the air. There was a lot of waiting once I got to the aircraft, so that they could make sure that everything was working properly. I asked what it was like to land in one of those things, and the pilot told me that I did not want to land in them, but that I should jump out of them instead. After we got seated, the pilot had a few words with the instructor and the other people inside, and then he shouted, ‘clear prop!’ This basically meant that he was warning everyone, such as sleeping vagrants and small children and their pets to step out of the plane’s propellers so that they would not get hit by them. One last thing I asked my instructor was how I would not be hitting the platform of the plane and the wheel as we dived out of the door. He said that he was going to call out, ‘ready, set, go!’ Then he would push off the step so hard that it would propel us into the air, and we would still be moving forward because of the plane’s momentum. This is called forward throw. He also showed me where I would be attached to his harness. It turns out that they can vary, but they are usually between three and five. In this case, there were four, although there could have been a rip cord, just in case I felt like my instructor was being unresponsive, although I am sure he had an automatic activation device to back us up. This would cause the reserve parachute to open right away. There were two hooks on the shoulders, and two more down by the waist.
After the pilot made sure no one was standing in front of the plane, he turned on the engine, and we started taxiing down the gravel pathway towards the runway. Once he had located and back taxied on the small airstrip to get as much space as possible, he turned around to line up with the runway. The sound of the plane’s engine sounded like I was inside one of those antique cars, or inside a motorboat. When he told us that we were clear for take-off, he throttled the engine up to two thousand revolutions per minute, and, because I was good with perfect pitch, I did some calculations in my head. The propeller blades made an audible sound as they sliced through the air, and this number was thirty cycles per second. I multiplied that by sixty and got the end-result. The pitch of the engine itself was around one hundred twenty-eight hertz. One thing I forgot to mention was that the Cessna-182 was equipped with air conditioning, which was immediately activated when the pilot turned on the engine. It felt strange riding backwards during the taxi and take-off, but it was lots of fun. It felt sort of like when I was taking off in one of those Boeing airliners, with the difference being that the engine sounded like a leaf blower and the amount of time needed to take off was a lot shorter. Since this was a small plane, it did not take as long to get into the air, which was about five to ten seconds. Flying in one of these was about the same as in a commercial jet. The only time I experienced a sensation of moving, albeit forward, backwards, or sideways was when there were bits of rough spots. I could also feel the wind rushing through a small crack near the pilot’s seat on my right. I assumed that this could have been an emergency exit, or it could have also been the pilot’s own door. One thing was for sure, these Cessna aircraft have been modified for easier jumping. This meant that everyone on board was required to wear a parachute. I should also mention that the inside smelt like it was recently filled with aeroplane fuel, which had the same smell of gasoline they use to fuel lawn mowers. It was rather hard to talk above the plane’s engine, so whenever I asked my instructor a question, I had to repeat myself, and if he had something to tell me, he would use hand signals if it were a number-based response, otherwise he would just speak right into my ear. He told me that we were going to let the first person get out first, and then it would be our turn. At around eight thousand feet, he would have me turn around towards the front of the plane, and then he would have me scoot towards him so that he could hook me up to his harness.
The climb itself took about fifteen to twenty minutes, and we were climbing at a very shallow angle, so I could not really feel it unless the pilot either dropped or ascended quickly. This number is measured in feet per minute, and the speed is usually in nautical miles. Also, the way we turned was quite interesting. Sometimes I would feel the plane tilt to one side and then straighten out again. We pretty much ascended in a spiral-like fashion. From the outer perspective, it was hard to know what the plane was doing because of the Doppler effect. After we got to the designated altitude, I had to equallise the pressure in my ears, and my instructor asked me if I could still breathe. I asked him if I could still breathe during free fall, and he assured me that it was not at all like going under water. He also told me that the air was still good up here.
Once everyone was settled comfortably on the two benches over in Molalla, which, by the way, were covered with a thin cushion, the pilot taxied down towards the runway, then he turned around to back-taxi. After that, my instructor told me that we were getting ready to take off. He also explained to me that he would unhook the seatbelt at around fifteen hundred feet, and he would start to attach the lower part of my harness. Once we got to eight thousand feet, he would finish attaching the upper part of my harness. The seatbelts were being used just in case we were to crash on the ground. Soon, the pilot opened the throttle, and we were off. The time it took for us to be airborne was a lot shorter than I had ever imagined, but it made sense because it was a very powerful aircraft, with its propeller spinning at six thousand three hundred revolutions per minute, or one hundred five Hertz. It sounded as if I were in a miniature Boeing seven forty-seven, along with the sound of one of those electric lawn mowers. The climb also took very little time, especially since we were going to a higher altitude than the one, I did in Eagle Creek. It took us about nine to ten minutes to get to the designated altitude.
At ten thousand feet over at Sky-diving Sports and Adventures, the pilot opened the door, something I wondered how that was done, and I felt the cold rush of the wind hitting me. I could hear the sound of the wind, which sounded as if I was in a car with the window opened. If you mix that with the sound of a leaf blower, you would get the same sound. Then I felt the plane jerk to the right, which was an indication that our first jumper had pushed off the platform and was now in free fall. The pilot closed the door, and then we went back to the other side of the drop zone, my instructor told me not to put my right foot forward until he told me to do so. After a few minutes of my kneeling down on the floor, my instructor pushed me forward towards the door, and then he told me to put my right foot forward just as the pilot opened the door. I started feeling the wind blowing across my face, and then my instructor had me locate the little platform. Once I had firmly planted my right foot on it, he made sure I felt where his foot was, which was to the right of my foot. Our left knees were still on the plane. We leaned forward so that we were now partially outside of the plane. By this time, I already had my hands across my chest, so there was nothing else for me to do except to listen for when he gave the signal that would tell me that we were ready. At this moment, I felt relaxed, a little apprehensive, but still very relaxed. This was because I fully trusted my instructor and I knew he has done it thousands of times already.
Halfway into the flight back in Molalla, my instructor asked me how I was doing, and if I was ready to jump. This was also when I asked him if the top of my harness was tight enough, because I could tell that it was loose. He told me not to worry, that it was tight, and I trusted him. Soon, I found out why. After he told me to lean back on his chest so he could attach me more easily, he told me to lean forward as hard as I could. That is when I realised that he had tightened the top part of my harness by finishing the attachment process. Once we reached thirteen thousand feet, the pilot decreased the plane’s engine speed, and then he opened the door. I was sitting behind a fellow skydiver, so I had plenty of time to explore the container that was atop his back. I started to feel how cold the wind was, and I could also hear the people as they left the aircraft. My instructor asked me one more time if I was ready to sky-dive, and I told him that I was. He started pushing me forward on the bench as the number of people grew less, and soon I was on the floor. My instructor told me to put both of my feet out in front of me, and soon my legs were out in the open, and he continued to push me forward until the rest of my legs were dangling off the side of the plane.
Back in Eagle Creek, my instructor called out ‘ready, set, go!’ He pushed us off the platform, and I felt myself roll forward slightly, then to the left, so that I was now on my left side. My instructor stabilised us, and then we were falling. The sensation of falling was not like the kind I was expecting. It is not like when we fall in a dream, because that sensation is usually a heavy sinking feeling. You would, however, get this heavy falling sensation if you fell from a stationary aircraft, such as a helicopter or a hot air balloon. The air resistance gave me a cushion, and it was also sort of a reference point that gave me a sense of weight and direction in space. This was how I knew that I was falling with my stomach down. When I screamed, a cheer-like shout of joy, I could hear it resonate inside my head, and then I said, ‘I love it! I really, really love it!’ It was a good thing I was wearing my wind breaker, because it muffled the sound quality of the rushing wind a great deal. Again, it sounded as if I were riding in a car, except for the engine’s sound. I could feel a stinging in my nose as I breathed in the air during the fall. Since I was falling so fast, and because I wore two layers of clothing, I could not focus on how cold the wind was. Also, it felt like I was travelling at fifty or sixty miles an hour, not a hundred twenty.
My instructor back at Sky-dive Oregon gave no warning. He simply pushed us forward until we slid out of the plane, and I was met with a second or two of feeling weightless as he kept leaning us forward. I could not remember the sensation of tilting forward, but all the sudden, I was on my stomach plummeting towards Earth. At first, I let go of my harness, but I quickly decided against it. Soon my instructor tapped me on the shoulder, and I put my arms out in front of me on either side. I decided to talk into the camera, but the wind was very loud, plus it was also hard to breathe during the fall, mainly because we were so high above the earth, so my voice was never recorded even though one could see my lips moving. Also, it appeared that I was recovering from a cold, so the thin air made my nose run, and it also made my right ear feel as if I had an itch inside. A few hours later, I was aware of some inflammation in my left ear, which subsided in a few days. One thing I definitely noticed was that I did not roll at all, but I knew when I was spinning left or right as we were falling.
I did not keep track of how much time had passed back at Sky-diving Sports and Adventures, although at one point I heard a snap, like a metal clasp being shut, and then I was whipped into a standing position. I felt myself bounce for a little bit, and then I felt weightless for a few seconds as the parachute started slowing us down to about seventeen miles an hour. It was important that the parachute deployed correctly, because if we suddenly slowed down to seventeen miles an hour, it could hurt us and or damage the equipment. Since I had my knees folded during the fall, the force of the parachute pulling us in an upright position was so strong I did not even feel my feet move downward. It was as if one second, I had my heels on my instructor’s butt, and the next second, I was standing on his feet.
We started talking, and I could hear the rustling of the sheets as the wind was blowing it along. I asked him if blind people could sky-dive solo, and he said that he met a few blind people who has done it with an audible altimeter and a two-way radio. I asked if there were ones that vibrated for people who were deaf-blind, and he said that there could be, but they were probably not approved by the United States yet. I forgot to ask him how blind people knew where to steer if they could not see. This could probably be from the instructors on the ground communicating to the person via walkie-talkie. At one point, I felt myself being tugged upward as if a spring was pulling me, and I soon realised this was because my instructor was pulling one part of the parachute so that it gave us a feeling of weightlessness. This allowed him to turn more easily rather than just spinning. Also, we had a great sensation of moving forward because the wind was pushing us back, and I could hear the low, quiet
rumble of the wind as it rushed past us. He also pulled on both wings to slow us down, which made us feel as if we were going up and then down. For a few minutes, he told me that it was okay for me to let go of my harness so I could experience what it was like to soar like an eagle. It was very exciting, knowing that I was not attached to anything except a huge pile of sheets which I felt when we landed.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, I felt a slight jolt as the main canopy was activated. I immediately put my arms in the safety position, and then I said, ‘We did it!’ I asked my instructor a few times if I was allowed to steer the controls, but he either did not hear me or chose not to respond. He told me that he was going to loosen the two attachments down at the waist so it would be easier for him to manage the parachute’s controls. I leaned back to get a better feel for how the gliding sensation felt, and I also wanted to look up at the sky as I was being filmed.
Back in Eagle Creek, my instructor told me to put my hands in my safety position, and then he told me to put my feet out, just like we practised, and I asked him if we were going to land hard. He said that we were not, since we would be gliding forward and hitting the ground at the same time. I would be landing on my butt while he would be landing on his knees. After I felt the ground hit my butt, the small parachute collapsed, and for a few seconds, I thought it was the main parachute, but they told me that they were kidding. They let me feel the huge pile of nylon. ‘Aw, does that feel nice? That is what saved ya!’ That was one of the staff members of the park who told me.
At sky-dive Oregon, my instructor had me put my feet up in the landing position a few seconds after he deployed the main canopy for practice, and I must have thought we were getting ready to land, or he told me to relax. When he told me that we were going to land, I put out my feet and bent my knees, just like we practised. Since my instructor was very tall, the landing was very different. We came in nearly in a standing position, so as soon as I hit the ground, I could stand up right away, and I took off my gear. I exclaimed how funny the landing was, and, at the instructor’s request, I also gave him a thumbs up for the camera. Both my guide and the instructor were surprised that I did everything correctly. I guess they were expecting somebody to mess up or something, but no, I did everything right! He asked me if it was just as good as my last one, and I told him that there were just a few differences.
Back in Estacada, my instructor detached the two of us, and I quickly got out of my harness and jump suit, along with the goggles and hat. The staff person who had my camera told me that he was able to get it all on video. After I was out of my suit, I shook hands with my instructor, and I thanked him for everything. He told me that he could autograph my shirt once I bought it. One thing I should note, the way they processed the videos was a little bit more primitive, for they had to put it all on a DVD, which they would mail to you within seven days.
At sky-dive Oregon, my instructor shook my hand, and my guide took me back inside the loading area to take off my jump suit. Once I got out of it, I was taken back to the classroom where I met my instructor, who handed me my first jump certificate along with a bumper sticker, and he told me he would be back with an SD card for me to take home. My friend, whom I invited to come along with me on the trip, congratulated me on my second jump, and I promised him that I would tell him all about it.
My final thoughts on these experiences: Since I could not record myself on the first sky-dive, I was able to create a replicated version of what skydiving sounded like based on sounds that were already in existence. All I had to do was make sure those sounds match the ones I had in my memory, which was easy for me to do because of my perfect pitch. I had no trouble recording my second jump, and for that, I am very grateful.
The instructor never asked me if I really wanted to jump on my first sky-dive, and I told people about this fact. Some of my friends told me that he probably knew that I was extremely self-motivated to learn about skydiving. There were probably a certain number of people who do not want to learn about it. They simply want to get the experience. One person thought that maybe I did not hear the instructor when he asked me that question, but that sounded illogical because if I did not hear him, I would not have answered him, and this would have been a question that required a response, so he would have had to repeat himself until I understood him. Maybe the first instructor asked me a similar question, such as what my second instructor said, which might have been why I was not expecting the same question that I was told by my friend. Such things can be, do you want to sky-dive, or, are you ready to sky-dive? You get the gist.
The reason I was hardly nervous on both jumps was thanks to a meditation class taught by a former teacher and a friend of mine who was at the camp. He hosted a stress and anxiety-reduction mindfulness workshop four days before my first jump, and a month before my second. I learnt how to fully relax and calm my nerves by releasing oxytocin, slow down my heart and breathing rate, etc. Skydiving or going on a wild amusement ride can be moderately stressful, but it has shown to increase oxytocin, though. I meditated a lot, and the fact that I did it so many times was the reason I hardly felt nervous, and it allowed me to trust my instructors fully. Also, the fact that I knew exactly what to expect was a major contributing factor. This is because people fear the unknown when they have no idea what to expect, regardless of their motivation and will. All in all, I think this would be something I would be doing for quite a while, and I might start preparing to do high altitude low-opening jumps in the future.
When I showed people this transcript, many people told me that I had written it as if what happened to me happened yesterday, which led them to think I was able to remember everything so well. I told them that it all depended on several things. Since skydiving was something that I was extremely passionate about, it helped me relive the memory over and over, looking at every detail, the way you do when you watch a moving picture several times. Another thing that helped me was research. For example, I did not know what the instructor meant by a drogue parachute. When he said it, it sounded like he had said a robe parachute. I went on-line to look it up, but I did not find anything on the internet about it. One day, as I was reading about skydiving in general, I came across the same word, and I took note of its spelling. If I forgot something, reading about it on-line would cause those memories to come flooding back. Also, our brains can remember images more easily than words, even for blind people. I imagined feeling the plane’s texture, from the outside in, and this allowed me to remember the words the instructor and the other people said. Of course, there is a lot of speculation that blind people can remember words better than their sighted peers, but it is not always true. So, this is what allowed me to associate things more easily, and I recommend that people do this more often.
regarding the iPad issue I experienced, I went over to http://www.iPadenclosures.com/ to see what kind of kiosk cases they made. It really surprised me that they had something that was supposed to be accessible to everybody, but current measures or policies prevented them from making that accommodation, or at least, finding workarounds. I was thinking of having them buy several iPads and making room for quiet environments so that people who were blind and or hard-of-hearing would be able to hear and or use a Braille display along with Voiceover to read what was on the screen. I also recommended that they include an accessibility section on their web site to let other people know ahead of time with the information they would need before they got there to avoid scrambling at the last minute.
Many people who are afraid to jump are frightened by the idea and not by the experience itself. That is why it helps to know in advance what a person would be getting into, though I was told that some people do not want to know because it would ruin the surprise for them. Still, I am going to be sharing this to anyone who might be interested, and I hope you can share it with anyone you think might like this as well.

I got called a Social Justice Warrior, and not in a good way

Content warning: transgender issues, bathroom rights, possibly unpopular opinions.
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Hello readers, as we wrap up 2019, I thought I’d write a short post (I can’t make long stories short, but I’ll try) about a series of unfortunate events that had taken place over the last twenty-four hours. While I won’t detail the exact nature of the events or reveal people’s names and genders to protect the privacy of those involved, and thus not risking libel, slander, or defammation of character, I will just write out some of my beliefs to set things straight.
As y’all probably know, I am pretty active in social justice causes, particularly relating to disability and LGBTQ2SIA+ rights. I am working hard to publish my debut novel which features a transgender person and an autistic person in a Latine family. Somebody told me that someone with a disability in a Hispanic family is often swept under the rug. I think saying that is a great eyecatcher when pitching or querying publishers and agents. Also, I am really thankful that someone was able to articulate the circumstances so well that it inspired me to retitle my autobiography. It’ll now be called, Finding my Voice: A Memoir. before, it was just called My Autobiography. I wrote it in 2013 when I was at the transitional programme at the request of my former vision teacher. I think he wanted to show things about me to some people he was reaching out to after he had won his litigation against his employer.
Back in July of this year, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1969 moonlanding, someone showed me a recording made by Neil Armstrong. I have actually been ramping up to this by watching the realtime player on Apollo XI’s web site. It was actually during the time that I was at the second Catalyst retreat when I was sent a Whatsapp message, so I played it. Actually, now that I think about it, I think this person and I had a conversation about that before they sent me the message. Anyway, I told this person that I although I liked the recording, I wish Neil Armstrong had used a more inclusive phrase to refer to everyone equally. That’s why I was delighted when I got an E-mail by Pete Buttigiege saying One giant leap for humanity. Anyway, I have been a little impatient and irritable towards this person, but I think this has been brewing for quite some time due to an unrelated thing, so my message to them might have sounded a little harsher than it was meant to be. Anyway, this person doesn’t have the intellectual capacity for their age, and their perception and reasoning were so flawed that, when they relayed the situation to one of their friends, that person’s perception of me became largely skewed, and it led them to jump to conclusions about me and saying that I was a selfish and demanding person. Interestingly, this person isn’t probably aware how demanding they can be as well. It may have been because I might’ve accidentally triggered a flashback of a previous experience they’ve had with me or someone else. I noticed some hypocracy on their part because they said that they supported Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, and they had no problems with my being transgender, and they helped me come up with ways to help my brother, so it really didn’t make sense why they would be making such a big deal out of what a friend told them about me.
So, a month later, after asking if I could be part of a Whatsapp group this person was in, I learned that their friend had developed a strong dislike for me because I was an SJW. I did the best I could to defend myself against these accusations, and even forwarded some of the messages to my friend to advise both me and the other person. I know some people won’t often give you the time of day to be put into the crossfire between two or more opposing parties and try to act as the go-between and remain diplomatic, so I am really thankful that so far, they kept standing up for me because things happened because my intentions were misunderstood a few times. One of the opposing parties even asked the other person to urge this person to ditch me, but it didn’t work, which I’ll explain later.
We have this norm in our transgender community choir, Transpose. It says Assume best intentions. It simply means that if you say or do something you think or feels right, but other people might not agree with it, or it gets construed in a totally different manner and leads to an undesired outcome you weren’t expecting, rather than argue about it and putting you on the spot, assume that you meant well because everyone has their own experiences and walks of life, and then try to edify you so that you can try and articulate what you were saying or doing better.
Here’s a good example of this. A couple days ago, I was having a conversation with someone who is blind who ended up misgendering someone at a store by saying, ‘Thank you, sir’, and only using the person’s voice to cue them. That person pointed to their name tag, but they were probably not allowed to verbally contradict the customer, since the customer is always right. That brought up some rampant transphobic comments and a heated debate about how transgender people ought to conform to societal expectation of what is more male-like, more female-like, etc. Someone said that they went into a women’s bathroom, and they heard someone walk in, go standing up, which makes a different sound, and probably engaged in a deep vocal hygiene which made that person feel very uncomfortable. While I understood their concerns, I, as a transgender person myself, refuse to use the bathroom that does not match my gender identity. However, I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable by using a bathroom that I want to use, but for which my expression or functions don’t match what is expected. I said, in reply to that person, that some transgender people can’t afford to get all the medical procedures needed to pass, but there were some basic things that could be done to pass more reasonably, like shaving, sitting down, and talking in a higher voice. That person responded by saying that it wasn’t very nice for me to define how transgender people should conform, especially since not all of them choose to go through all those medical procedures even if they could afford it. So, it wasn’t just about whether they could help how they functioned. However, my reason for saying this was because I didn’t want more transgender people getting hurt by transphobic cisgender people. So, when I use the bathroom, I put a sign covering up the men and women signs that has all gender written on it. Or, I will simply use a gender-neutral bathroom, if one exists. It is definitely a ligitimate concern that women are seeking protection from so-called transvestites and cross-dressers who may potentially be rapists, and I don’t blame them for that. So, what can be done so that we can find a middle ground?
Anyway, I recently published one of my books on Smashwords and KDP, which includes both paperback and Kindle editions. It is about what it is like to go on a plane for the first time, written from a blind and hard-of-hearing person’s point of view. It’ll also be available on ACX, Bookshare, and Learning Ally soon. I’m not sure about BARD, though. When I told the person who I’ve talked to before, they thought I was starting to shove social justice down their throat again, and the situation quickly escalated to its zenith. Then, through certain means which I will not detail here, I learned that the person’s friend has judged me unfairly and falsely concluded that I was like all SJWs and said that words like he, male, man, were prety much bad words in SJW culture. They thought that although social justice was important to stop black people from being lynched, and why laws exist against discriminating against people with disabilities, today’s SJWs are often viewed as victims or heroic fighters for causes that have already been dealt with, and then make up reasons for why things are sexist, genderist, racist, etc when they’re not. They said that SJWs often viewed white men as being a sin. This person accused me of being tyrannical about how people talked, like why we said things such as oh man, oh boy, oh brother, etc. I mean, yes, I do get a little offended by using male-default terms, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what this person thinks it means. Of course, they couldn’t help thinking that because they didn’t know my backstory.
Another thing they said about SJW cults is that they have their own motto, The future is female. Imagine the outcry that would follow if people said The future is male. Ugh! I can’t stand hardcore feminism. It annoys me that people try and act like the lives of women and black people are more important than other peoples’. I mean, it’s important, yes, but it’s not more important. There is a difference. I remember a friend telling me back in 2015 that they almost couldn’t get through reading an article in English class written by a feminist. They said that feminists only did things to help white women, so it took another movement of black women to get them to care about them, as well. Anyway, they essentially said the same thing, that they thought all men were evil, and that they wanted all men to die. Anyhow, this person wondered if my being in social justice causes has made me disenchanted, like I have been brainwashed in some way. I don’t think so, especially since I have pretty good reasons for doing what I do.
The problem is that each social justice movement is selfish in a way that rewards the people in it, and only focuses on them in the current moment rather than devise a plan to help future generations. In my case, though, I’m just helping those who are non-binary because it is a ligitimate concern. The percent of nonbinary people having jobs is extremely low. I mean, can you imagine someone walking in, looking like a man, but wearing a skirt and a bra, and talking in a high voice?
This is the truth. I do not hate men. I hate men who think females are worthless. I’m actually advocating for Pete Buttigiege, because even if we didn’t elect a female president by 2020, at least he’d be a lot more caring and sympathetic about females, being gay himself. I know I said at one point that we should start a Female President Now campaign, which would be like the Deaf President Now campaign of 1987, but that was before I learned about Pete. Maybe what needs to happen is that we need more minorities to become president, such as those who are Hispanic or Latine, female, or even blind. I don’t believe in suppressing free speech unless it was really legitimate. Free speech does have it consequences. That’s why there are laws against hate crimes, as well, but unfortunately, I don’t think there aren’t any for people who make verbal and ableist, transphobic, racist, etc harassments towards someone. And yes, it’s true that I do hate people who disagree with me, but only if they disagree with me disrespectfully. If we simply agreed to disagree, then I wouldn’t hate them because they were still being respectful of my opinion.
I guess the reason SJWs have gained such a bad reputation was because of the whole thing with Brie Larson and Hiliary Clinton, and how the media kept forcing political correctness down people’s throats 24/7. Here’s a question I asked on Quora. I thought the person’s answer sort of explained the reason for why this person probably disliked me so much. They have been misguided and misled by hearsay information, and probably because of past experience.
Also, the other reason I am very passionate about social justice is because, as a blind and hard-of-hearing person, I’ve found that you can often get support if you have one disability or the other, but not both. That’s why I said in my author biography that intersectionality is important. If you’ve read my posts about what my brother and I have gone through because of our father and mother, and what lengths I’ve gone to advocate for him, then it’ll probably show that I’m a great person. If I didn’t care about social justice, I probably wouldn’t have helped my brother as much as I had. If the people who bully me and criticise me for the stupidest things (like not advocating or speaking up for myself) knew my past, I’ll bet you they would’ve had thought twice about doing that. And, while I don’t wish this upon anyone, if that had happened to anybody, and they were D/deaf-blind and in a Spanish-speaking family, they wouldn’t have been able to learn social customs.
So anyway, this friend of mine has been extremely helpful. They were able to plead my case and use that as a basis to explain why they still remained my friend even after all that had happened. I need more friends who feel that mediation and arbitration come easily to them. I wish more people knew how to use peer counselling. We often hear about taking care of yourself in the transgender community, but we often get so lost in it that we forget that we also need community care as well. I once asked, what can a professional counsellor, psychologist, therapist, etc do that a friend cannot do? Friends often mean well, but often give you their unwise piece of advise. Of course, it would be unethical to require professionals to go through those experiences to relate, but it would at least help knowing from the patient’s perspective what they were going through.
So anyway, I recently read some books by Marilyn Reynolds in which one of the featured classes is Peer Communications. They say that the best way to communicate is to avoid saying things like You always or you never. No put-downs, and use I statements whenever possible. So, if you have to talk to someone and do it in a way that won’t fuel the fire to make it worse, then make it seem as though you are an ally to that person, so that the information you’ll be providing would be more tolerable. Then you can explain what you want afterword. The important thing is to emphasise things that’ll make the person feel so bad that they’ll realise that they’ve been being unfair and unsympathetic because they didn’t know about the circumstances. Like for instance, it is true that I never fought back when my brother bit me more than one time. I mostly struggled to run away from him. So, whenever he bumps into me, I quickly run away from him to avoid that happening to me. So, they are basically hurting a defenseless person, but I hate to think myself as one, because I’m constantly fighting to find my voice. My personality sort of fits that of Cinderella, who did not gripe. You can actually read about this on Broad Blogs.
So yeah, in the end, I don’t know if I’ll get back together or not, especially since I’ve been friends with this person since 2010. We did have a similar issue back in 2014, and we didn’t speak for almost two years, but we reconnected again. Deep down, I will always care about this person, because I have always stood up for them when no one else would. I don’t think they thought about that when they made the hasty decision to ditch me. I know that I have helped out this person quite a lot, even when they had been taking advantage of me many times and often not giving me things in return, but I did the best I could at the time. So, knowing that I won’t be their friend for a second time will leave me with a guilt so profound that I don’t know if I’ll ever get over. For the rest of my life, I’ll keep thinking about how I haven’t tried hard enough to explain my intentions. Maybe I should think about how I don’t have to worry about their constant haranguing, or the repretitive things they do on a daily basis. However, I learned of something that might make me feel a little better. I heard long ago that sometimes doing a secret good deed to help someone might make you feel better, and it makes the person feel better, even if they didn’t know who was behind it, but knowing that it got good results is enough to be greatly rewarding. So, if my friend and I agree to do something, I’ll probably donate a small amount to begin with, because I don’t want this person to have a miserable life.
Anyhow, I hope y’all understand now where I’m coming from. I look forward to getting my memoir published!

Resolutions

Well, it’s that time of the year again. The weather is getting colder, the holiday season has officially started, and the time for reconciliation is more important than ever as we approach a new decade.
I thought I’d finish what one of my friends was trying to post on here regarding finding your identity, and making people respect that, not only for moral or ethical reasons, but also on a legal one, as well. I have had a bit of issues with this, but not nearly as much, at least not yet, anyway.
First of all, I believe that we have grown accustomed to naming and giving our kids an identity based on what their personality or physique reminds of of. No doubt we do the same with our pets. We automatically give them names that will remain with them for life, or until, if it is a human, or a pet who is smart enough to know that they like a different name and refuse to come to you when you call them by that name, they would have an opportunity to redefine their identity later.
Also, I want to emphasise that nobody here asked to be brught into this world. That’s why it is important that we not disown them or make their lives harder just for being themselves. Our parents brought us here, and their parents brought our parents here, and so on and so forth. How many people have said to themselves or others, I never wanted to be here? I’m sure we’ve been down that road. I know I have. That’s why I wrote my testimony.
I never asked to be brought into the world. I never asked to be born with a condition that would cost me my eyesight, and later, most of my hearing. I never asked to be put into conditions I have no control over now. I never asked to be dealt these cards. But, thanks to how things turned out, and thanks to the direction my life had taken, I am still living at home with an older brother who has fought for control of self-determination, and several legal battles to attend. I could’ve gone to college when I was just out of high school, but nobody told me things I was going to come across until it was too late. But, because I am being civily disobedient, I refuse to do anything with school until the situation has been remedied.
However, there are some things I will not change about myself. I am proud of having discovered who I am, who I should’ve been born as, how I should’ve been addressed all my life, and what things I should’ve had a long time ago. The only problem is that a lot of people assume that I wasn’t born that way, I just chose to be that way and put on this persona that isn’t really me, that I am just pretending. No, I am not pretending at all. This is the true, real me. I had to grow up and grow into a new body, mind and spirit. Is it called coming out of the cupboard? Is it like coming out of one’s shell? Maybe it’s more about coming into something, finding your true name. Have you heard of people who rechristen their crafts to improve their luck? That’s how it is for me. I rechristened myself. I gave myself the identity that was so erroneously shoved onto me by what my parents thought was appropriate for me at the time. I got rid of the identity that was associated with negative memories and had trauma and abuse attached to it. I can’t say that I grew out of it, though, because it would imply that I liked it, but I decided later that it wasn’t for me.
However, when people look at me, they don’t see the real me. They see someone who they automatically perceive to be masculine. That is not how I want to be perceived, but I can’t help the way I look. And, while I cannot see how I look, I would imagine that it would look as if I were seeing a stranger in a Photograph. Tom Henrik. Someone told me, long ago, I was broken and it stuck. Strong Enough by Bobby Joe Valentine.
I have been asked by people in the LGBTQIA+ community why, if I don’t like being called male pronouns, do I not transition to a female binary gender? Well, I chose to legally recognise my gender as nonbinary because I think it is easier for me to look androgynous. If I could look more female, I would do it in a heartbeat. But, this is what I have to work with. That’s why, more than ever, I want these groundbreaking procedures to reach clinical trials by the 2020’s. We don’t have to be defined by anybody else. Fractal, by Kim Boekbinder.
So, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it’s one I have to swallow almost every day. What can I do to reduce the potency of this pill? What switches would I need to flick so that I wouldn’t have to deal with this any more? What can I do if I find somebody who says to me, I don’t care what your birth certificate, court order, ID, etc says. I’ve made up my mind and you can’t change it. I’ll call you by whatever I feel like calling you. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but I still wonder….
I heard that in some places, you can get your birth certificate changed at the administrative level without having to go to court and potentially publishing your name change in the newspaper or anywhere else. The only thing you would’ve needed was a doctor’s note or a note from a sworn health authority that affirmed your gender identity. Quite a few states are starting to legally recognise third gender markers, but the federal government is not yet one of them. But, that’s one of the things I like about the professional world. When you change your name, they will go back and update everything and make it look as if you were always that name. This doesn’t happen everywhere. For example, baptism registries will still have your old name. If you were written about in the media (good or bad) those will still have your old name. The sad news is that they have no legal obligation for them to update it.
Unfortunately, I was told that there may be certain entities that will not accept a birth certificate as proof of name change. I mean, you could say, Well, who can argue the validity of the certificate? You can’t argue with a doctor. Similarly, you can’t argue with a lawyer or judge, especially if they have PH.Ds. It is official as it gets. However, I was lucky in that Oregon has amended a statute that wouldn’t require you to go to a hearing or publish the name change in the newspaper. All I needed to do was attest that I was going through surgical, hormonal, or other treatment for the purposes of affirming gender identity. That resulted in the judge ordering that my old name be replaced with my new legal name… the name I’ve always wanted and should’ve had, as well as legally recognising me as gender nonbinary. The judge also ordered the court records to be sealed, so that nobody could access them. Not everybody was so lucky. There is a judge here in Oregon who is refusing to issue gender nonbinary markers, of which several amici curiae briefs have been prepared by Basic Rights Oregon and American Civil Liberties Union.
Anyway, I have thought hard about what I should do now that I have a key to unlock many locks. Could I use it in a situation where someone insists on Deadnaming or misgendering me? I found this Quora post to be pretty interesting. My therapist said that I should not jump to the big things, but rather, think on a micro-level scale first before going to the macro-level. For example, should I sue someone just because they called me sir or man? Why not see if they are willing to listen and be trained accordingly?
Because of my hearing loss, I have a greater tendency to sound more masculine when I talk on the phone, but sometimes I am called madamme and I always feel warm and fuzzy when they do. Of course, it’s hard to do that in person, unless the person I was talking to was completely blind. This actually happened to me a few months ago when I went to a retreat. Someone addressed me as lady, girl, and possibly something else, and oh my gosh! How I loved it when they did!!!
I would like to detail two situations, both good and bad, in which I was able to redirect the conversation. In the first situation, I went to accompany the majority of the of a group participants to an activity, and I met somebody there who remembered me from my O&M days. Of course, I didn’t know anything about them. So, when they asked me what my name was, I gave them my new, legal name. Sometime later, they asked me if I knew Deadname. I was, like, huh? Did I hear you aright? I asked them to repeat the question. I said that I didn’t know anyone with that name. They were, like, ‘Oh, well, he was in your group, too.’ I felt so happy when that person couldn’t associate me with that name.
A few days later, my mum and I went somewhere. One thing to note, however, was that I have estranged from certain family members and relatives. I do not want them to know about my legal name change until after I had moved out, and I am a long distance away from them. Therefore, when we went to this place, she had informed the staff what my name was. Only, of course, she didn’t know that I had legally changed it. Instead she gave them my Deadname. So, when I got home and saw the E-mails I have requested, they all bore my old legal name. So, I wrote back and attached the court order to prove to them that I no longer used that name.
Oh, and one more situation that I didn’t remember until now: I have had a bit of a problem changing my name with Experian and CreditKarma because I have been getting correspondences from them under my old name. So, I called my LegalShield provider firm and told them the situation. They were able to write up a letter, and we heard back from them, and they sent me a new credit report with my new legal name on it.
Now, it’s a matter of fact before I need to let other people know. For instance, if my mother writes a will, she may use my old legal name. But I think it should be okay if I still have a copy of the court order and birth certificate that show my old and new legal name.

Basically, because I’ve worked so hard on this name change, I call it a transition more than anything because this represented a sort of self discovery and me finding out who I really was, rather than something a small amount of closed-minded people said that what they refer me as is what they think I am and what they think I should be.
That’s how little and how unfavourably and how disconnected I was to that name. I didn’t feel like me. Of course, when I filled out the paperwork, I had to give a more compelling reason because I knew that just saying I didn’t like it, while it may or might not have been sufficient, to me to just simply say I didn’t like it as a reason wasn’t good enough in terms of effort. I’m sure most judges would accept ‘because I just don’t like it’ as a reason, but I wanted the judge to have some sympathy for me as far as the fact that, in most states, in order to change your name, you need to publish your intentions in a newspaper. Being forced to publish that in the newspaper would’ve jeopardised my safety, as I would’ve had to give them so much personal information, it’s unreal. All digressing aside, I’m glad I’m part of a protected group. I used the fact that we still live in a world where it’s still unsafe to be LGBT, and the judge basically waived all fees, waived my requirement to publish my name change and even sealed my case after it was all done, and after a while those case documents get destroyed.
With me, though, I don’t think I have much a case to sue anyone for disrespecting my name choice because, although I’m LGBT (being that I’m gay) I’m” not trans or gender queer or non binary so I can’t really use that as a cause of action, as I went from one name to another for the same gender.
But I digress. I was this 15 or 16 year old who wrote songs about coming out in my own identity, but I didn’t even know what the hell it meant to have an identity, let alone what it meant to come into my own! Now I see what it really means to have an identity and to come into your own. I look at it like this, and this may make me very unpopular in the LGBT community, maybe even hated, but why should I come out of the closet? It seems so inauthentic and like I’m drawing too much attention to myself. The way I see it, if someone asks me, ‘Am I out?’ we should just say, ‘Out? Out of where? I’m in, I came into my own.’ What do I need to come out from under, and why should I come out of a closet I never knew I was even supposed to be in in the first place!

F.C. So, Show me love on this living planet. Emma’s Revolution and Hundred Waters.
Those are some snippets of stuff one of my friends had written. Basically, no matter whether you are transgender, gender nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, or even someone who is not in the LGBTQIA+ community, you would still be going through a transition. I think the word transition should not only be used to refer to people who change from one gender identity to another, but to anyone who changes any aspect of their life in a significant way.
Therefore, if and when I have children, I will try to give them gender-neutral identities and refer to them as my child, and have them call me by portmanteaus of parent, mother, father, mum, dad, aunt, aunkle, niece, nephew, etc. Or, I can just have them call me by my first name, or an entirely made-up name or something in a different language. When they’re old enough to the point they start talking, I’ll have an initial conversation about whether they like their identity. I’ll have this conversation with them periodically at each milestone they complete. I want them to realise that they can’t rely on me to define who they are. They need to live their lives for themselves. I’ll be like, ‘Do you like your name? Do you like being called these pronouns?’ If they say yes, that’s great. If they say no, then we’ll have a discusson on how we can address the problem, so that they won’t have to go through what I, and so many others, had to go through.
So, together we’ll shout it out like a bird set free. Sia. Though the world may be cold and bitter, and we may be delicate and bruised, we will neither be destroyed nor our roots be pulled. Witch Hazel by Tom Gala. And believe me, We’re all scared. We must learn to help one another through these times and do whatever we can to uplift one another.
So, Now that I’ve about covered nearly all my past history since the last time I’ve posted in 2014 to 2019, I wanted to talk a little more about some of the mysteries of the brain based on some new experiences I’ve had and information I’ve gathered. Starting in the new year, I will talk about some interesting things that might bring us closer to winning a long-fought war.

A Message To The Gay Community: It’s Time To Face The Truth

I’d like to talk to you about something that not a lot of people seem to want to talk about these days. Perhaps this topic is too touchy for many people, or maybe most people are so ashamed of opening up that they choose not to say anything. Maybe they’re too scared of rocking the boat and hurting someone’s feelings. It’s a tale as old as time and I’d like to bring awareness to it.
First off a little bit about me. I’ve got a mental illness, aka mental disability, aka an invisible disability. I also have a vision impairment which is a physical disability. My mental illness or mental disability stems from abuse I’ve suffered as a child and into most of my youth, and it has traumatised me greatly to the point where I’ve felt like a lot of times I just wanted to end it all. Some of my trauma comes from the gay community and judgement towards me. It even got worse to the point where I was raped by a man. When I try to tell others about it, I’m told to just shut up and get over it because society tells a man we’re not supposed to show emotions or feelings, we’re not supposed to cry because that makes us sissies and wimps. I’ve been told by several gay men that I need to get over myself because if I don’t, nobody will ever love me. I’ve also been told that my refusing to put out makes me unworthy and undesirable. It’s honestly really quite sad that the gay community likes to use this mantra of promoting anti-bullying and anti-judgement and they whine and cry about how everyone bullied them for being gay and life is so hard because you’re gay. What people don’t seem to realise is that behind all of that are a community full of massive hypocrites, a community of people who preach against bullying under the guise of a rainbow coloured flag, but then do something completely different.
It’s really sad how a group of people can publically detest bullying and homophobia, but when nobody’s around they do the very thing they publically rally against. They bully and judge and make fun of and belittle and demean their own. That’s called internalised abuse. The sad thing is that anyone can put on a facade of being sweet and innocent. Politicians do it, celebrities do it, and high profile members of the gay community are certainly no exception to the rule. It’s all part of one huge scheme to put on the biggest and best most elaborate Broadway performance the world has ever seen. It’s all so amazing when you’re onstage and you portray to the audience exactly what you want them to see, but I’m here to tell you it’s all an act so nobody can see what goes on behind closed doors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the gay community have some genuine and kindhearted people, but that’s not the case for the majority of this community, I’m sorry to say.
I’d like to stress that for those of us in the gay community that have been truly bullied and felt judged or alone or criticised, I get it. I really, really do get it. I understand it more than you might think I do. I don’t just have homosexuality going against me. I have a physical disability as well as mental ones so that’s a tripple wammy… three characteristics that intersect with one another. However, we need to stop fooling ourselves. We need to wake up and face the truth. The gay community is filled with imperfect people and we need to stop portraying ourselves as perfect little innocent angels, because while we may have been wronged many times throughout history by those outside of the gay or LGBT+ community, the infuriating truth of the matter is that we’re worse to each other. We judge one another, we bully one another, we make fun of one another and so on and so forth. Why am I saying all of this? Because I have first-hand experience of being judged by my own community. You know, the one that always loves to preach love and tolerance over hate, but then turns around and makes fun of my weight, or makes fun of the fact I’ve a mental disability and even makes fun of the fact I’ve a physical impairment–being my lack of vision. Or the fact that my own community deems me as being unworthy of love and unattractive simply because there are certain things I don’t like to do sexually not only because of the fact I was raped, but because I honestly don’t like those certain things, as well as the fact that I have high morals and I’m not just going to put out because you want me to. If we want real change to happen, the biggest thing we can do to make it happen is start from within and then move outwards.

 

Testimony, How I Learned to Play This Wonderful Anthem

Hello once again!
I am sorry for not having posted here in a while, but I recently had one of my computers break, so I am borrowing one in the meantime until I can get a new one.

Before we go on,

Let’s take a sneak peek at what we’ll be discussing in the next paragraph.

I know!

I was pretty surprised when I first heard about this song that has become my GLBTQIA+ anthem back in 2014. If I had known how to watch Glee on my computer, I would have also probably been surprised to learn that its third season finale coincided with my 2012 high school graduation. This piece was released in March, so three months before that. Fortunately, some folx who wanted to preserve the TV shows that were recently taken down from the Blind Mice Movie Vault decided to start a new site called the Audio Vault.

I thought I’d write about how challenging it was for me to get one of the pieces I really love into some kind of accessible format because I had no way of obtaining it except as a PDF file that needed to be recognised, or a hardcopy document that needed to be scanned using a flat-bed scanner or camera. Alternatively, I could’ve sent or mailed them to someone who knew how to work with them, as I’ll discuss below. Of course, if the file was already in music XML or .mid, then there would be nothing else to do but open it in an accessible music composition software, like MuseScore, something that you can take with you on the go or a text-based programme like LilyPond or Braille Music Editor2, which is somewhat outdated, but is based off the LilyPond engine. MIDI files can be opened in sequencers and digital audio workstations.
Fortunately, there are resources available to you, besides the ones I listed above, to help you whether you are blind or sighted, abled or disabled, etc, for you to make sheet music and music-learning in general accessible to everyone.
Although you would most likely need to hire a Braille music transcriber when a softcopy of the music is not available, or if it is in a PDF file that would require a labour-intensive process to recognise, it can take a while depending on how much of it needs to be transcribed for you to get it back, and whether it is within your budget in the first place. Transcriptionists generally do their work by hand, usually with some programme like Braille2000 or Duxbury, and some people are opting to use automated software, like Goodfeel. This is a suite of applications that is a little outdated, but it allows anyone who does not know anything about Braille music to scan, edit, and emboss the scores automatically. It can also open music XML files, too. The nice thing about it is that since it is automated, there is less room for typographical error, as is usually common in manual transcription.
A newer version of the Sharp Eye music-scanning and recognition programme, called PhotoScore and NotateMe Ultimate from Neuratron can also import multi-page PDF files. However, no OMR programme is one hundred percent accurate, so visual assistance is always going to be required to correct the scannos.
A few months ago, I called in on a service for the blind called Aira, and I asked around until I found an agent who happened to know how to read sheet music, and, using remote access, they were able to correct some of the errors in the file. The process took a lot longer than I would’ve liked, but it proved one thing… it is possible to do such a thing. If only more agents were knowledgeable about using the software, the process could’ve gone more smoothly, and I wouldn’t have wasted so many minutes.
The National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download programme has a pretty broad selection of Braille music scores that can be downloaded, read on a Braille display, or embossed. Additionally, the Library of Congress hosts a myriad of audio instructional materials from Bill Brown, for playing various instruments. Bill Irwin has contributed more than three hundred hours of verbal instructions for learning to play piano and organ, and understanding modern harmony.
Click here to view a list of current certified music Braille transcribers. If you’d like to become certified, click here to learn how.
If you’ve decided to pursue this, you’ll probably want to download this manual from the National Library Service to help you study.


Before you hear this song,

I must warn you that it contains triggering content that would raise many red flags, which would make any chorus hesitate to add to a list of songs to perform.
I thought I’d go into detail about how exactly I was introduced to this masterpiece.

To begin with,

I’ve been involved with music for a very long time. When I was seven or eight, my mother enrolled me in a Spanish choir as part of my church. In sixth grade, other than the required music class in school, I finally got to take part in a band. I couldn’t be in band during middle school because they couldn’t find any way to accommodate me. However, I was able to join band in my eleventh grade year of high school when I finally learned how music notation worked in general, and that, in turn, allowed me to learn music Braille more easily. So, in my final year of school, I got to play in the pep band, and I got to march in the homecoming parade. I wonder how things would’ve worked if I had been in an orchestra, and they had used this system? Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be introduced for almost seven years into the future.
I first started coming out as transgender shortly after leaving the transitional programme in Vancouver, Washington in June of 2013. It started with a dream of me getting my brain transplanted into a female’s body while the person’s brain was transplanted into my body, so that there was this swap in between. I also imagined that both my vision and hearing were fully functional, but at the same time felt sorry for the person who now had my hearing and vision loss to deal with.
Then, in late August of 2013, thanks to the Q Centre staff for giving me the resources to visit SMYRC (pronounced smirk), I made some new friends, partook of a few drag shows, and joined Pride Project, a programme here in Washington County. Anyhow, they wanted to invite a few groups to perform at their fifteenth anniversary party held on Friday, 27 December 2013, and one of the groups they invited was the PDX GSA Youth Chorus, now known as Bridging Voices. I really wanted to learn more about them, so I asked for more information, and, while I was volunteering at the Children’s Club of North America, which is what I call it instead of the Boys and girls Club, I went to one of their rehearsals on Sunday, 8 December.
I got to play an electric organ there while I waited for the session to start. I remember that day being cold and rainy, and I had posted one of my articles on my blog earlier that morning about mental illnesses and NAMI. Gosh, how I remember those moments… the pizza we ate downstairs, feeling as though I would doze off if I didn’t will myself awake, and finally sleeping on the way home in the cab with the raindrops gently falling around me.
I didn’t return to the chorus until after New Year’s 2014, and I started learning some new songs shortly thereafter. However, I was very dysphoric about my somewhat masculine voice that I didn’t feel comfortable singing. So I resorted to using my musical instruments to accompany the chorus members. By coincidence, I happened to learn about the castrati, and how important they were during the medieval and renaissance eras. They were also called eunuchs, and they developed very unusual vocal ranges and characteristics because of how big and tall they became. I then got to read a book called Choirboy by Charlie Jane Anders.
Some time in February, I got a blanket E-mail with a call to singers to solo audition for a chance to sing with the Philadelphia and Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. That song was called Testimony, although the name held no significance to me whatsoever at the time. I remember going to Rehearsal on Sunday, the 23rd of February, and, since my paratransit service brought me several minutes early, I got to play on the organ for a little bit. I was sort of obsessed with playing Pomp and Circumstance or Land of Hope and Glory. Anyway, the chorus manager told me that they were going to finish recording a video, so I watched the proceedings without much interest. Then, after everyone had come up from eating pizza and lavender ice cream, (or maybe that was in January) I heard the piano accompanist playing some weird chords and the artistic director guiding some people to harmonise with it. Then I heard some words… /eep me ‘way… kee/ me ‘way… tay ee ay… and so on. I heard two low voices singing, starting with a perfect fourth. Eb3- Ab3, F3-Bb4, Gb3-Bb3, Ab3-Bb3. I had no idea what they were doing. Then I heard the same thing, but the two higher voices were now Db4-Bb3, Gb4-Db4, F4-Db4, and Eb4-Db4. Finally, they combined all those four voices and I heard this really pretty but mournful chord progression.
In case you don’t know what those numbers mean, you can learn more about what scientific pitch notation is by reading this Wikipedia article.
Then, I learned that we were going to sing some new songs like Fallen Angel and something about Wings, by David York, who is a local composer here in Portland, so his music won’t be anywhere on-line. I never got to listen to the ninety-second through one hundred something measure of Fallen Angel, and I really want to hear it!
However, I couldn’t get those plaintive notes out of my head, and I just had to know from what part of which song it came from, if it really was part of a song. So, I composed an E-mail to the artistic director, and, having corrected me on the lyrics, I learned that keep me away was really take me away. Those words came from a piece called Testimony, written by Stephen Swarts, broadway musical composer. If you are having trouble accessing the previously linked webpage, click here for a cached version of this site.
You are probably thinking that the song hit me hard when I first listened to it. But, on the contrary, it did not…. at least not yet, anyway. I went to watch the chorus perform at Call Auditorium, which is on the Reed College campus.
I was busily posting stuff about laser hair removal and electrolysis, and about my classes at the commission for the blind during that time. To celebrate the end of our first season, we got to sing with the Portland Lesbian Choir on Sunday, the 22nd of June 2014. My favourite songs from that day were Give Us Hope by Jim Papolis and Mae Frances by Bernice Johnson. I happened to run into an old acquaintance I had just met two years before when I was at the summer work experience programme. One of the things I really loved about the practice tracks PLC had was that they were recorded and rendered into stems using a digital audio workstation. That made it easy for me to hear each part and listen to the lyrics and melody or harmony at the same time. Some of them had accompaniment, some of them didn’t, and some had both. Bridging Voices came back in session when they sang at the Portland sQuare on Sunday 14 September.
It wasn’t until nine months later, around Christmas time, that the song really hit me hard. It was just taking its time to build up inside me, I fancy. I kept listening to this song in my head, playing various lines of it, in different keys, especially the first half of it, and that is when I sat down and wrote that deep and depressing post I just put on my blog this year. I wrote it because I had gotten in a huge fight with one of my family members, and I didn’t know what else to do and who to talk to.

In 2015, I resolved to do whatever I could to find a way to learn that song. I couldn’t easily transcribe everything by listening because of my hearing loss, but at least I could get a general sense of what the piano and voices were doing. So, I started on my search for a way that I could learn it. I first tried to print the music and scan it, but this hardly worked out, so I requested a refund, which was approved. Finally, I contacted Stephen Swarts agent and they provided me with a PDF copy which I could scan directly. I used Sharp Eye at the time. Somehow, a problem many music OCR programmes have is that they don’t seem to recognise tied notes very well. Sometimes it recognises them, and sometimes it doesn’t. In the latter case, the notes would just sound like two separate notes. I had trouble scanning the multi-paged PDF file because I was using Sharp Eye at the time, which could only recognise one page at a time, and it could not extract the other pages in it. However, I was finally able to find a workaround, but it required me to convert it to a bunch of Tiff files using a different music recognition programme.
By using a MIDI sequencer called Quick Windows Sequencer, I was able to edit the accompaniment track in the MIDI file based on my best educated guess. This was in mid to late March of 2015, when I was getting ready to take my first on-line classes through Portland Community College. I was forewarned by some people that I should be careful how I take on this approach, because it is generally illegal to reproduce or redistribute such material unless it was for personal use, but I did a bit of research and found that there is an act of Congress called 17 U.S.C. 121, which permits organisations to distribute things in alternate formats for exclusive use by people with print disabilities and other reading barriers for a free or reduced cost, unless they were paying out of pocket to have it transcribed.
In May of 2015, I managed to locate a Braille transcriber, and we arranged to have my piece transcribed. I sent them a copy of the PDF file via E-mail, and then I waited, with some occasional notes sent to me by the transcriber about how I wanted it formatted, etc. Then, just as classes were finishing up for spring term in mid June, I got a wonderful surprise. The file was transcribed at last! Now I’d see how all the voices were arranged, and I’d be able to make any correctons to the accompaniment! I was so elated I didn’t know where to start. I even deprived myself of sleep a little and was so tired that I almost didn’t eat my supper. I had to pay ninety-six dollars for the transcription because they charged four dollars per page, and there were twenty-four pages overall. I think I got the vocal score first, and then I got the piano score shortly thereafter.
since I memorised computer Braille, I was able to read the file using my screen reader’s speech output to convert the characters to Braille and write them out on my Perkins Braille writer because I didn’t have a working Braille display at the time. So, if the file said, [email protected] I’d know that the underscore and at signs were a dot four-five-six and dot four respectively, and all the others were their corresponding Braille characters.
Well, even before I got this Braille piece transcribed, I attempted to play this piece on the piano and almost succeeded in playing measures one through twelve. After editing the MIDI file, I tried to play measures twenty-one through twenty-nine. I asked the music director of Bridging voices at one point if they knew of any techniques to play really large chord voicings when one had small or medium hand spans, and they suggested that I arpeggiate or roll the chord upwards. So, that is what I did.

Note

This is my own perception of how well I identified with all of the piece, but I heard that there are some generations of people in the LGBTQIA+ community who feel that the song was too whiny, or it’s not all about getting better in or after high school, etc. It’s really hard to think about how a song might impact you if you’ve never gone through what another person has, and sometimes we think it would prove futile to post inspirational quotes and messages because there is a lot of hypocracy. One person even asked me why the song didn’t sound more dissonant in the beginning. To me, I thought it was pleasantly dissonant, because it was dissonant in a beautiful way. I know many of these songs are good for what they are, and that’s probably why these kinds of songs are created in the first place… to combat hate.

Back to Sunday, 15 February 2015, I had made arrangements to attend a Time to Thrive conference that was being hosted in Portland, then I went over to Portland Piano Company, and then later to an event where I got to meet several CHATpdx participants and allumni. CHAT stands for Curving HIV and AIDS Transmission. It was a cohort that trained youth to become better peer educators called sexperts.
So, I went back to Portland Piano Company later in August to look for the biggest concert grand piano I could find and play as much as I could of Testimony. I then went to the Q Centre and played a bit of it there; I think it was a week later.
One thing I forgot to mention was that once I memorised the lyrics and had all the notes corrected in the MIDI file, I imported the MIDI file into a programme called Vocaloid Editor, and then, having installed some voices, I put in the lyrics tied to each note. In this way, I made a pretty good rendition of this piece.

In early September, I decided to look for a stereo microphone so that I could try and reproduce the same sound as recorded in Skywalker Sound. I didn’t know that they had used a Bluthner grand piano, or that they had wide-spaced microphones until some time in April 2016.
I ended up buying an Olympus ME51s, and then a Yeti Blue stereo USB microphone. This last one I took with me back to Portland Piano Company, and I placed the mike in one of the spaces between the holes of the resonance chamber since the lid of the grand piano was propped on these massive beams. I brought my Braille sheet music with me and played some sections at a time. I played this on a Fazioli nine-foot concert grand, by the way. Then, after getting home, I edited the file in a single track editor called Studio Recorder and got rid of the excessive pauses and deleted the notes that weren’t supposed to be there. I cut, copied, mixed, faded, and did a couple of other things to make it sound as though I were playing it through non-stop. It ended up sounding like nothing I had in mind. Instead, it sounded as though I were in a small studio room or something.

On a side note,

I joined the Rose City Wind Symphony, formerly known as the Portland Gay Symphonic Band. I had a bit of a hard time advocating for my specific accommodations, but I was able to convince the librarian to write up a digital version of the sheet music and send it to me in different formats. Although I wasn’t able to play October, by Eric Whitacre, in the fall concert, I was able to play an arrangement of In the Bleak Mid Winter at the third annual Christmas holiday concert in the Legacy Emmanuel Hospital’s atrium. By the way, I’ve always been curious as to how conductors used gestures to communicate to the players or singers. Not being able to see that, but instead hearing them count, snap their fingers, or anything of the sort is not enough. It would be helpful to familiarise myself with the different forms of conducting. Besides, what if I were in a situation where the choir or a cappella group immediately began singing, and there was no accompaniment to let me know ahead of time, and my part came in right on the beat without warning? There’d be no way for me to know when to start save for an audible and or tactile cue. Also, what if there was a section that needed to be repeated for a predetermined time? How would I know when it is time to stop the repeat and proceed to the next section? I’m sure some of these can be figured out in advance.

In November of 2015, I attempted to sing all the parts of Testimony, and while that was somewhat successful, I didn’t really like how it came out in the end. I also made sure to add a little bit of information about this song in my debut novel, The Change of Tomorrow, although I’ll have to send in a request for permission if I want to publish a line or two of lyrics.
I didn’t really do much with the song in 2016, but I did get to talk to someone about it when I went to Denver, Colorado for the #GALA2016 Chorus festival. I also dropped off a Braille hardcopy for one of my blind friends who lives there, and who hosted me for the week I was staying.
On my way home, I met up with some folx who were members of the Portland Lesbian Choir, and I asked them about possibly singing with them in the fall. However, I realised that my bowling games were going to conflict since they always rehearsed on Wednesday evenings, and the games weren’t over until sixteen hundred pacific. In 2017, I asked again about possibly singing with them, and, when I told them that I was trans, one of the board members told me that there was a new choir being started called Transpose… great double entendre, right? Well, I went to their first open rehearsal in mid March, but I soon discovered that I was lacking so many accommodations for me to fully participate. So, I wrote up an E-mail, making some suggestions of what could be done to make the chorus more accessible if it weren’t going to be much of a burden on them as the Americans with Disabilities Act stated. The great thing about this community choir is that they do not use gendered language such as soprano, alto, tenor, bass, etc. They use non-binary language such as voice1-4… melody, harmony, descant, etc. They also modify any words of a song to make it inclusive to everyone. Additionally, they treat it like a musical playground because they don’t want anyone to feel like they are restricted to only sing the voice part that they chose at the beginning of the term. They recognise that some people may feel comfortable singing one voice part for a few songs, but maybe a different voice part for another. So, you are basically allowed to switch voice parts any time during or in between rehearsals. I was actually the one who suggested that.

Going back to September 2016, I attended this church retreat hosted by the Archdiocese of Portland, called the Office of People with Disabilities in Turner, Oregon, where I got to play all the way through measure eighty-eight of the piece without the words. Of course, it was a Catholic retreat, but I was hoping that, at some level, since I didn’t have the courage to come right out and tell them the truth, that by playing this song, someone might be apt to recognise it and see me in a different light. I think it almost did, or maybe it was a coincidence because of my hair and voice, but a guy actually said to me, ‘If you were a girl, I’d marry you.’ Oh how I wish that were true! if only….
A few days later, I went back to the school in Vancouver, and I recorded myself playing it again, still hoping to find that same quality I heard in the original recording. I later went back to try a different piano in a different auditorium in April of 2017. I even purchased a copy of the Bluthner Piano a year before, but I didn’t like how inaccessible the interface was at the time, so I was refunded for it.
Anyway,I discovered some really interesting things In December 2016 and October of 2017.
The first was a harmonic noise generator. You can adjust the brightness or darkness to make it sound as you please. I built a stack of chords that were in Testimony and made sort of a pad-like effect that could be used for meditation.
Then, in October of 2017, I was playing around with manipulating various Windows sounds, and I was able to make a folder, which I call the mix, containing multiple copies of a ding sound. If you’ve used Windows 2000, you’ll know what this sound sounds like. I used this same programme made by the American Printing House for the Blind, and I put together the accompaniment backing track for Testimony. I didn’t know that you could simply record a sample of it, edit it, and then make a sound font out of it. I mean, I vaguely knew about such things, but it wasn’t until I later started studying the courses by CAVI this year that I finally learned about it.
And finally, I played this song to an acquaintance I had met at a TransgenderDay of Rememberance and Resilience vigil on Monday, 20 November 2017.

Also, if you came across a post that was password-protected, it was only meant to keep wanderers from accidentally stumbling upon it, for it contains extremely triggering content. That post can be found here. To get in, use the password pride2019 because it was posted at the time we have been celebrating fifty years of pride.


Take a journey through Testimony

*sighs* Wow! That was a lot of information to read right there, wasn’t it? Well, I’m super glad I finally got to share this experience with you, because now it’s time for me to ask you a favour. First, let’s see what these folx have to say about what they thought and liked about Testimony.

Okay, what’s next?

So you’ve read through my novel… congratulations! 😁 Now it’s time for me to ask you to do something for me. If I am going to take part in your chorus, band, orchestra, ensemble, etc, do you think you would have what it takes to make sure I can fully participate? Not just for me, obviously, but for anybody else who might need it thereafter? Of course I am willing to contribute a helping hand, whether it be monetary or not, to help you be more successful and welcoming to all.

First, my hearing loss.

  • It would be helpful to have a microphone system set up so I can hear the artistic director talking directly into my hearing devices or headphones.
  • It would be helpful to have written lyrics of whatever song we are doing, including solo lines, if applicable.
  • Have people speak the words in rhythm in time to the beat before adding pitches to them.
  • Sit as close as is permissible to the piano or other instrument, if applicable with it on my right side, for that is my better ear.
  • Be in a space that does not have too much reverberation, though this is usually mitigated by using the microphone system.
  • If someone who is far from me says or asks something of significance, it would be helpful to have that information relayed to me if the microphone cannot be passed around.

And now for my blindness.

  • Provide all sheet music in Braille and or electronic format, such as .xml or .mid.
  • Alternatively, create comprehensive sung practice tracks that everyone can benefit from, especially as they’re useful for folx who may have missed one or more rehearsals.
  • Play voice parts on piano or similar instrument individually, then together. This is especially helpful for folx who decide that music-reading is not for them.
  • Send all communications, including lyrics (if applicable), in electronic format that I can interact with using my screen reader and or Braille display.
  • Have access to ride-sharing services and support such as Uber or Lyft, or use an accessible spreadsheet so people can request and offer rides for rehearsals each week.
  • Have a check-in buddy system so that folx can check in with each other and make sure they got home okay.
  • Know the logistics of the place, i.e. time and location
    well in advance, as well as a basic orientation of the space.
  • Make sure the platform where practice tracks are being hosted is accessible with screen readers, like Google Drive or Chorus Connection.

Now for both my blindness and hearing loss.

Remember that intersectionality matters.

  • It would be greatly appreciated if someone were available to be my support service provider, a person who can provide visual and environmental cues, and guide me from place to place.
  • Optionally, have someone transcribe whatever is being said in the event that I am not able to hear for any reason, like using this device.
  • If the assistive listening device stops working, or is not available, keep in mind that it will be much hahrder for me to learn new material.
  • When you need to ask me a question or inform me of something, it would be helpful to say something like, This is Jay speaking… and then say whatever you want to say.
  • If your chorus is doing any correography, or anything unusual, it would be helpful to know how to do that in advance.

This list of accommodation needs is subject to change at any time, so keep checking in periodically.

A note on microphones and assistive listening devices:

If more than one hard-of-hearing person is going to be using your services, you may want to check out some vendors that can provide you with one microphone and multiple receivers. A good option I recommend is William’s Sound. Some of them allow you to connect it to the soundboard that is connected to the public address system, so that anybody with the receiver can tune in and hear exactly what is being said. This works well in concert settings.
You don’t necessarily need to be in Oregon to use this resource, but this place also has a great selection of items available for short-term rent, layaway, rent-to-own, or immediate purchase. Members who are D/deaf-blind may qualify for telecommunications-related accommodations through something called the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Programme (NDEDP) provided by I Can Connect. Although many of these things are considered only for telecommunications, some of these can be used for face-to-face communication, as well.
Also, I may connect my microphone system directly to a device used to record rehearsals. If folx have any problems with that, please let me know and I’ll find a different thing. The recordings are for personal use only.

A note on making practice tracks:

I believe that having a comprehensive folder of practice tracks should contain a full mix of all the parts (with and without accompaniment), followed by each of the individual parts, also with and without accompaniment, if applicable, and with the following attributes.

  • Alone: only your part is heard.
  • Dominant: all parts but your own are turned down, making your part prominent.
  • Missing: All but your part is present, requiring you to sing your part along with it to fill in the blank.

So, for example, a file name for Give Us Hope with accompaniment might be something like Give_Us_Hope_-_voice1alone_accompaniment.wav
A file with your missing voice3 part and without accompaniment would be named something like Give_Us_Hope_-_voice3missing.wav
Also, I imagine that making audio practice tracks for musical instruments would be extremely difficult, so I would therefore suggest that you make a digital version of the full score, or just the part I am going to play. I can easily mute and or solo tracks using my sequencer.
The problem with making such practice tracks, however, according to what one of the past directors told me, is that it would require intensive amount of time in a recording studio and some time for the actual mixdown, plus not to mention that a lot of choruses lack the budget necessary to support rehearsals at this level, even though these inclusive means for learning music efficiently most likely represents best practices in the long run.
Also, I am thinking of auditioning for a smaller vocal ensemble, and I wanted to know how steep the learning curve was. I got some good responses from experienced singers, and one assured me that if I do exactly as I had outlined, I should be ready for any ensemble, auditioned or not. It’s because of audiation. It is the auditory equivalent of imagination.
I am sure that with continued education about disability awareness in all modalities, we’ll be able to make music groups and spaces accessible to everyone.

To check out a list of social justice songs I really like,

visit my channel and look for the Social Justice Songs playlist.

To find more resources for music access, you may want to check out

Thank you for reading, and I am looking forward to being an active participant of your group for years to come! 😍

Stonewall Is Now

I know humans can be such cruel creatures when we turn things out of proportion, but that’s because they do not have the transhuman attitude. We need to stop quibbling about minority groups and just leave them be. They are no threat to us, so why make it hard for us to subsist?

Source: Stonewall Is Now

There’s more you can do. Tell your state and federal legislatures to pass laws that affirm all aspects of gender. Take a listen below.