Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars
Glass Plate photo

Friday, September 13, 2019

As of today




9-13-2019

It has been a lifetime of searching.

And memories still elbow in.

At times unexpectedly so. And for whatever reasons I'm not entirely sure why.

One memory is of a gray afternoon. The rain stopped for maybe an hour, I grab my rain coat and walk my ten year old self outside, cross the street and stand on the opposite corner from my childhood house.

Me always so fascinated by the Duluth fog, and struck by the warmth of the air.

I stand counting puddles in the street. Watch the rivulets trickle from the hill to my left, slowly making their way, filling and exiting puddles, around the corner, then on again downwards. I imagine from there, their tiny courses bring them all the way to Lake Superior 6 blocks below.

I watch worms crawl. Across street cement and black asphalt patches. Unsure of these creatures, I not exactly repelled by them, but I have no attraction to them. Not like other boys.

I'd always ask my Dad to put them on my hook. During those few times I remember him taking me fishing. It bothered me to feel them squirm at the time of piercing when I attempted to do it myself. At my Dad's exasperated prompting.

I would take a breath, suppress my hesitation, and I would try. And then I'd ask for his help anyway. He would always oblige.

This gray warm afternoon while standing on the corner across from my house, the oldest daughter of the family two doors in from the corner came out to join me. She tells me she also wants to enjoy the rain and fog as she assumed I am. She asks if that's ok. If it's ok to join me. I say yes.

She is a year older than me and we don't usually talk. But today, with just the two of us, we do.

She notes how the puddle directly in front of us looks an awful lot like a swimming pool. Complete with a diving board jutting forward. The fail of the street cement creating the pool, the black asphalt patch mounded, forms the board.

I agree, and for a time we take turns walking to the diving board edge, commenting on what dive we might plan to perform, and then hopping into the middle of the pool. Our boots splashing clear the bottom which quickly re-fills.

Our conversation then turns to television. We pause now and then for a passing car, then review last Monday's Laugh-In, last week's Get Smart, discover we both really like Agent 99. She talks about the fashions worn, the dances danced, the go-go boots, and latest Beatles movies.

As we wander across the street to explore other puddles, she confides in me how she has her eyes on a pair of particular white go-go boots in a catalogue. I keep silent about my own interest in go-go fashion, but I happily agree with her as she comments on boot variations, then the different go-go skirt looks, then the cool English fashions from the last Beatles movie broadcast. She finishes by wishing someday she might make her home in England.

The rain has been gently increasing as we've talked, and now has built to a significant steady downpour. We said goodbye and run to our houses.

That afternoon's dialogue stays with me. I didn't feel as if I had been seen as a boy. I was just a friend. Perhaps only an accidental friend on a warm rainy day as I don't remember ever talking with her again, but I was absolutely seen that day, as someone worth confiding in about how cool go-go boots were and how envious English 1960's fashion could make us. 

I've lost contact with my childhood neighbors, and my childhood neighborhood. And I don't know if my friend from that day ever did get those boots or if she ever did make a home in England.

Maybe, those dreams passed unrealized like so many childhood dreams do. For me however, I never stopped dreaming. And I continue to search. Searching for my place in life, and my place with myself.

As a trans-person, I'm not sure if those searches ever end. But they ebb. 

Once I discovered music and the stage, I found an occasional home where I knew where my place in life was and I continue to reveled in it.

Along with that, I found a place within myself. And for so many years I screamed my gender identity so loudly that now, on occasion, I can just hear the echoes from my long ago self, tumble backwards returning to me fulfilled and rebounded from all those distant beautiful places I traveled.

Last year on Dec 13, I made the decision that it was time for me to move forward. I had my confirmation surgery. In 3 months to the day today, it will have been 1 year since.

Last Wednesday, I decided to move forward again. After wining a significant appeal process with my insurance company for coverage, along with the help of Phil Duran of JustUs Health, I made the decision to have Facial Feminization Surgery.

The change will be subtle. And please understand, I wasn't unhappy with my face before. But after a lifetime of journey, I know better than anyone, what I need to do to remain present and emotionally relevant.

I need to bring congruence back into my life. Back into myself.

I am nine days into recovery from 7 1/2 hours of facial bone surgery. And I am through the darkest and most emotionally difficult period of it.

I find I am more myself everyday.

And though I imagine I still have many roads to travel, and to be honest, I thrive on that, for now,
perhaps, after a lifetime of searching, I've found my way home.

-Venus

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Re-generation




On Monday night Oct 8, 2018 our household--Lynette, myself, and Anthony, and our new kitten Ponyo--gathered around my old Epson video projector, set to project onto my possibly too-large-for-our-living-room, 8' wide school-salvaged pull down movie screen. A long A.V. room metal-gray thing which hangs diagonal one end wired to the living-slash-dining room archway, and the other end off the frame of my also probably too-large-for-our-living-room 8' x 12' "Blue Angel w/ Roses and Bones" oil painting. Itself, unable to find enough square footage on any of our walls, finds a home, suspended 8 inches below our gold-painted cove ceiling in a spread-eagle-style fetish-fashion, and levitates there 8 inches below the only surface in our house expansive enough to accommodate it.
As we eat a planned family-group dinner off plates balanced on knees, save Ponyo who prefers to chase the mouse pointer along the bottom of the screen, we watch the first episode of Dr. Who season 11. The first time Dr. Who regenerates as female since the program debut in England November 1963.
I love eating group dinners. The kind where everyone contributes something and helps cook and clean while sharing their days with each other. But because of all 3 of our erratic schedules, a group dinner, for the most part, rarely happens.
Monday night, however, which coincidentally is the same night iTunes releases the BBC Sunday Dr. Who broadcasts to its subscribers world-wide, is the singular night all 3 of us are free. The decision is made to create household Dr. Who slash group dinner Mondays, which we do till just before Lynette and I drive to the Rochester Mayo, check into our hotel, and I go into surgery.
In 1963 I am 3. Already understanding something is different about me, I love sneaking into my Mom's closet to study rows of different color high heels, their structure and lines. Seeing how my feet might feel standing in them. I marvel over how garter fasteners work, fastening and unfastening them in secret. Metal hoops over attached flat rubber disks.
Nothing in my Dad's closet interests me at all until I am maybe 8 or 9 when I discover a double set of 1940's pin-up-girl playing cards tucked far back and to the left in the top drawer of his closet dresser. I find them. A double set of cards lying side to side, all gold edged and stacked face down. Neatly waiting inside an intricately textured black on black designed flat square box. As I lift one set out I see the box is lined by a finely flocked purple inner surface.
I study each card almost daily. Each a themed photographed image of a different partially clothed woman. Each carefully staged. Each color saturated high-fashion photo-studio shot captures me. Finally I observed direct action of those incredible garter fasteners holding back-seamed stockings in place. I see how the line of those well crafted, colorfully healed shoes work stylistic magic as they extend the length of each subject's legs.
And there is also this:
I become aware that my attraction is not sexual. Not per se. Not in the normal boy-way. Not as the observer.
It is sexual as in it sparks my early understanding of body. However, I find I want to be the observed, not the observer. I want to feel these stylized pin-up see-through costumes surround me. Enveloping my skin as clothing. Not brushing against my skin as if someone is next to me.
As I grow older this difference I discover in myself magnifies. It pulls me down impossibly complex paths year after year decade after decade until I find myself sitting in a Rochester Mayo hospital admittance room dressed in a surgical gown ready for gender confirmation surgery.
A few months earlier Lynette and I both are awarded a 2019 Minnesota State Arts Board grant to write our individual memoirs. Each book we hope will  describe multi-complex gender-identity pathways which pull at us both. Even so. That is, even though we did and do advance this winding path together, each book will describe the process individually. Each in our unique individualistic ways and each from our unique individualistic perspectives. A singular gender-complex rock and roll relationship embarked upon initially by two punky kids in 1983 stumbling blindly forward now 35 years later two individualistic artists emotionally & committedly tied to one another for better or for worse.
My memory includes waving to Lynette from a bed being wheeled into a hospital room from along a hallway and nurses around me telling me she was already there waiting. Previous to that I remember the surgical prep. Helping a nurse shave my red pubic hair by pulling skin this way and that to create a smooth surface. Yes I am a ginger. Who knew? Well, for one, me, obviously. But I have worked diligently since the age of 19 when I embraced punk as a thing and began to bleach and dye my hair any which way. My red hair re-surfaced rarely after that and only for short amounts of time. My freckles however remain a constant. 
I remember dialogues with my surgeon and the team.
I remember being wheeled along a more clinical hallway and through double doors into an operating suite filled with what seemed like 20 people, all of who gave greetings.
Finally I remember being lifted onto the surgical table, a narrow plank with two additional planks along which my arms were pulled to form a kind of crucifix situation. My last memory is thinking how similarly that surgical table resembled the tables in movies exploring the subject of the death penalty which still exists in some states. And how odd it felt to be lying on it.

In 1983 Lynette and I married.
In 1988 I came out to Lynette, and to myself.
In 1994 I formed my band All The Pretty Horses and came out to my band mates who up until then thought I was just being artistic.
Between 1994 and last Tuesday I have been a trans-activist. Being as public as possible about my gender identity, and moving through long plateaus of gender contentment. The last plateau being one of the longest as my body after 20 years on female hormones transformed into a hybrid of gender dualism. One body but truly a third gender in every way. It behaved as such in how it functioned; visually, emotionally, aesthetically and sexually.
The gender-path from there to here is long and winding, and my trans-activist self now demands that I clearly state: my path is my path. It cannot reflect or be seen to represent a transgender norm in any way. We are all individuals. Our individual gender paths are at least as individualistic as ourselves. No one should imagine confirmation surgery as a normative end. For some of us it will never be part of our journey.
For me it now is.
On the 27th of December I will be two weeks along in discovering a new body from the inside out. One which I still don't really understand. I can say this event is singular in its profoundness.
My emotions have hit every extreme. I have struggled to gain functionality over what can only loosely be described as a kind of re-birth. Perhaps a re-generation, if I might borrow from my love of the Dr. Who series. I do feel a connection of experience and memory with the person, me, previous. At the same time, I absolutely feel a disconnection. A break which I did not expect from the person, me, previous the 13th, and me, who looks forward toward an unimagined future.
Unimagined save for one thing, it is one which absolutely includes my only true love, Lynette.



Thursday, March 8, 2018



I've been asked about posting chapters or excerpts of my memoir as I go.

I can't.

I need to write till its done, then look for an agent and/or publisher.

However I can post about the experience.

Things which have caught me unexpected.

My spouse and I are both writing memoir. Using the same timeline. So we're both going to places couples usually don't. To write our individual truths. And possibly, to un-write the tangle of memories we hold of our past.

To the extent we can.

I find this process an experience of extreme.

I'll try and post various things as I go.
-Venus

Friday, February 24, 2017


Open letter:

Laura Jane Grace,
I ment to tell you this during our tour together..but you know how things go, I got sidetracked by the gigs, the sound checks, the sleeping at Motel 6s ... and the driving to catch up with the tour bus the next mornings...well, you know..., I just never got the chance.
So now, let me say...
Or, can I please say?
Thank you for inviting me.
Really.
Cuz I'm fucking old-school punk... old-school trans-punk.
Stupid old days.
I'm back in the dark days when we were relegated to nothing but underground music because it was just too damn early to be out, to be trans and a nasty, the crazy fetish-styled punk rock and roller self that I was.
...that I am.

But you know, I wouldn't change a thing.

And with all the other reasons I have.., and of course I have.., this is the reason I want to thank you most, especially with Trump's withdrawal today (Feb 23, 2017,) of Obama's protection of trans-kids in schools:

YOU gave me the chance to finally meet those trans-kids. Your fans.

I fucking worked so hard for so long trying to make it ok for kids to be themselves, cuz I was a trans-kid. A dumb trans kid born in the 60's and growing up in the 70's who didn't know shit about who I was or why I was, and cuz it was so fucking early that I struggled hard. But I knew there had to be more trans-kids like me out there. And I knew I could find my strength onstage. Strength to become myself and to not be ashamed anymore for who I was.
And so I tried to speak, tried to fucking scream to them. From my refuge, my tiny rock and roll stage....
And I knew they were there... but I could never find them... for all those years. Cuz it was the fucking dark days.
And to be brutal honest? I thought I'd ever live to see the day. I thought I'd never see anything but struggle.
But the goddamn world changed!
And I got to meet those kids. All those many kids. And I knew they were there.  And cuz of you. And cuz it was just me running from stage to merch, and to be more honest? I was shaken to my core. Every night!

And can I just say now?

Just thank you.

For everything.

For being you.

Cuz we're never going back.

Cuz we're gonna stay strong.

And I promise, if we end up back in the fucked up dark-days again... well, I've lived them.... and I'll be right here.

-Venus de Mars
Take My Shoulder (Morrison Jetter Remix) [feat. Laura Jane Grace] - Single

Sunday, July 27, 2014


This last Thursday I drove up to Duluth for an overnight.

The small city 2 hours north of where I live. At the point of Lake Superior. Where I was born.

Two reasons: One, I needed to get my hair done at bstudio, and two, because I wanted to visit with family. Both of these things because I'm about to go on a long tour in about a week.

I drove home taking back roads. No radio. Driving south from Superior WI where I'd stayed. Joining 35W just before Sandstone MN. Just me, the light rain, the occasional slow car in front of me, and my thoughts.

I stopped at the first rest stop-scenic-overlook and took a picture.

My Mom died a few months ago. I sat with her the last few days before she died. I'm not sure she knew. My brother-in-law was the one who was with her at the hospice when she died a few hours after midnight. He said it was quiet. He hadn't noticed at first as it was such a peaceful passing. This was a relief to hear. Ten days before she'd started hospice because her memory issues had gotten to her body memory and she'd forgotten how to swallow. So she basically starved to death. She waved at me once while she was lying on her side. She couldn't talk by then because she was so weak and thirsty. But I bent down and waved to her. Trying to say "Hi." That's when she waved back. Just a small wave. And she almost kind of smiled. That was the only time I felt she saw me during those ten days. I had to leave a few hours after that. I was only there with her for three of those ten days.

It was horrible to watch. To know.

My Dad died a number of years ago now. From cancer. In the house he and my Mom built. The house I grew up in. He knew I was there. I gave him his last shave. We talked a bit during that week. Just now and then when he was strong enough. On the last night I watched him die. I think it was actually a heart attack. It was the way he reacted. As if something had taken him over. Suddenly. Painfully. He tensed like you do when something painful is happening. Made some small sounds. His eyes opened wide as he looked at the ceiling lamp above him. The one he'd put in so many years ago. Electrically wired into place. Plaster-patched around. Sanded smooth, and finished painted around.

Even though his death was reported as cancer, the heart attack was because his body had given out by then. Couldn't withstand the coughing fit he'd had five minutes before.

I almost had a heart attack last year. I had to get two stints put in. I know what a heart attack feels like now. I'd always wondered.

Just before I left for Minneapolis. In the morning. After I'd slept. I broached a short discussion with my sister. About things we have to finish now that both parents are gone.  It was tense. It involved money. In the abstract sense. I dreaded the talk. I knew it would be hard. Because of that my visit ended off balance.

But we're family. She's my only sibling. And I love her.

We'll figure it out.

I'm scrambling to get everything ready to begin our first "next level" tour. We're joining Laura Jane Grace and her band "Against Me."  I remember reading about her coming out as trans a few years ago. Actually fans of mine pointed the article out. And then I read it. I remember thinking that I'd missed the boat again. I came out twenty years ago. In rock and roll. Back when I started my band "All The Pretty Horses." Well, actually, I came out even before that. Maybe five years before that. I just brought it all into rock and roll with me. Into the new band I'd come up with. Coming out shut all the doors. I've been working as an indy-artist since. I had no real choice. It's been a long fucking time. I've grown older. Older in blood years as well as trans years. It's kind of hard for me to comprehend sometimes.

But I am amazed at how the world works.
And I never imagined this could happen. Going on tour with Laura. Breaking into this next level in music. I never imagined this would happen back when I read that article.  Even after I'd finally met Laura backstage of First Avenue this last winter. After we'd talked for a few minutes. It was still so cold standing in that big old bus-parking garage First Avenue has finally opened for loading in and out. Finally open now so you don't have to go nuts trying to find somewhere to park your band vehicle anymore. I still had to keep my leather jacket on. Jump around a bit to stay warm. But it was a nice talk. It felt really good.

I am humbled this is now happening.
I find I am often humbled as I age. And I try not to do stupid things anymore.
I still do, but I try not to.

A new trans friend of mine asked me yesterday if I still had any gender dysphoria. S/he's very young in trans years. I like H/er. I'm enjoying building a new friendship.

"How so?" I answered.
"You know, when you have some part of your body you're still uncomfortable with." S/he offered.
"Yeah!" I laughed, "Doesn't everybody?"

This morning I had a flash of emotion. A deep depression. Like that tunnel kind. A thick vortex of tar kind. Full of self hatred. Like my whole life is a mistake. And hard. Like a punch in the stomach. Maybe it was the gray morning. Or something I'd seen in the morning paper. I really don't know. It happens. It was just a flash. Then it was over.

It's cool out and the sun's come out.

It's a nice break from the last few hot days.

I'm ok.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

My Dad and I met and talked about life.
The old bumper cars were under the wooden canopy behind us.
It was evening, or at least I don't remember the sun.
He asked me how things were going.
"OK" I said. I talked about a few upcoming gigs, and that Lynette was doing well.

Now I remember, it wasn't evening, and we weren't outside. That's why I don't remember the sun. We were in one of those tourist caves, those big ones with electric lights strung through out.

I was sitting on a low rock, or was it wood logs? I don't remember now... it was something like that. He was sitting across from me. I remember the endless single electric wire strung from point to point along the cave wall behind him. The occasional yellow, brightly lit bulbs hanging like over-ripe neon fruit, every ten feet or so leading away and down.
Leading past the bumper cars under the canopy. Leading past the railings along the path. Leading down into darkness and out of sight.

No. Wait.
There wasn't a canopy at all. It was just the cave. And the cars were all just there to my right and slightly behind. Just there under the vast cave ceiling.
Still. Ready to go.

He smiled and nodded as I talked, both of us gazing at the ground now and then, like we often did when we'd have these Father - Child talks. Glancing up at each other, accidently locking eyes then quickly turning away. Refocusing on something else. The tiny pebbles strewn around where we sat for example.
I focused on one.
Nudged it a bit with my boot. Pushed it back and forth with my toe for a while. The movements of which added a quiet scraping sound to the electric hum which surrounded us. I felt I could almost hear the dead silence around the hum. the depth of the cave blocking out any external sound. No birds, or wind. Just my toe pushing that pebble, the low electric hum, and silence.
Our voices so close. As if our words were spoken in a void.

I asked him how the afterlife was.
He shrugged.
Said it was alright.
"So is it all going well?" I asked, and added, "I mean, you know, is it all going ok for you?"
This time I really looked. Really watched his face. His eyes.

He paused. Looked up and at me, his eyes looking directly into mine.

I quit moving my toe.
The tiny pebble laid still.
"Yes." he said.
"Good." I said. "I was wondering."



Monday, January 13, 2014

Promise

...Me without make-up.

It's been some time since I blogged.  And it's because of the audit. And the audit is still ongoing. It's now in appeals and waiting for the MN DOR's response sometime in June 2014 or later. Then we'll deal with whatever unfolds from there. So I'm kind of in limbo for now. BUT I've been able to set it aside somewhat and get back to my work as an artist.

I've kept writing on my memoir, I've been gigging with the band as well as solo, I've been painting, and at the moment I'm finishing up a MN State Arts Board grant for performance art with a full stage performance on Feb 6,7,8 at the Soap Factory art gallery. I'm in rehearsals for that, with my five support performers, my two live musicians and my single tech person... I'm creating, directing, script writing, script re-writing, shaking out all the bugs, building the sets, creating the animations, fine tuning the thing... it's a lot of work and it feels good to be fully working as an artist again.

The past year was pretty much spent on fighting the MN DOR's audit decision that I wasn't a working artist, but only a hobbyist who was playing the system. And No amount of logical dialogue would dissuade their attitude. I felt as if somehow I'd found myself stuck in the middle of a Kafka novel.

I've lost almost a years worth of work because of it: The meetings, the audit interviews, the stress, the crunching numbers, the gathering documents, the back and forth with our lawyer, the legal fees, the fundraising..., etc, etc, etc.

Our auditor even re-printed parts of my blog here, in order to build their assertions that I was actually taking vacations, not touring. All based on my blog writing recollections of pleasurable experiences during those tours: my writings about time spent re-connecting with the people. The people I've come to know because of the tours. My writings about interactions with fans. My recollections of my one overnight stop in Kansas with a cousin, (their offer to me, in order to save me hotel costs once they realized I was touring through their area.)

I became exhausted.

But it's time.

So.

I promise.
I will get back to this.
I will get back to blogging despite what may be taken as evidence against me as the audit continues to unfold in 2014.

It's time to just be me.
It's time to be the artist I am.

Thank you all for your absolutely stunning and humbling support through all this.

I felt crushed.
You lifted me up.

Thank you.
-Venus