Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Recent Posts

  1. An embarrassment of love

    Today I am 31. I have been wished well and received gifts. I have also taken some moments to myself to meditate on the year behind me and the year ahead. Oh, and I cleaned my bathroom and did laundry, because Sunday chores don’t stop just because it’s your birthday.

    Last year I shared a “supercut” of my life in the form of photos I could find from my various eras. I talked a lot about friendship and about loving my friends:

    I'm 30 years old today, and I'm content. I'm not always happy, and I'm not always positive. But I will always, eventually, be okay, as long as I continue to have these people around me … who let me care for them joyfully and intensely…. Friendship as the patience that comes with knowing that “I love you” has as many manifestations as people have days in their lives, and if I love you, I will make sure you know.

    I have written about this idea before, that friendship is a verb, something you must consciously do. What I haven’t written much about, what I found myself reflecting on this weekend, is the reciprocal effect of accepting love…

    Read more…

  2. When I look in the mirror

    For the last 6 years of my career, I have worn the same outfit to work every day. I’m not exaggerating: I had 5 pairs of trousers, each a different colour; along with 3 styles of pullover sweaters in a few colours. And I hated this outfit, to the point where I—somewhat ironically, in hindsight—referred to it as my teacher drag. The moment I came home from work, I would change out of it in favour of a T-shirt and shorts (or, if indeed it was too cold even for me, sweat pants).

    Last Wednesday I returned to work in our building since we shut down at March Break, and for the first time (not counting working from home), I wore a dress. I wore another one on Thursday, and another on Friday.

    Photo of the 3 outfits I wore. The first is a burgundy dress with a floral motif, along with a white cardigan; the second is a grey and white striped sheathe dress with a black cardigan; the third is a green cami dress with white polka dots and an orange cardigan.

    I loved it. I love it. I’m so happy. But to understand why, you need to understand that this is not really about clothing.

    In my previous post, I discussed how gender dysphoria began to manifest for me in my mid-to-late twenties. In general, however, I prefer to talk about my feelings of gender incongruence, because I believe this is a more useful and…

    Read more…

  3. Cherish

    My hair is taking its sweet time growing longer. (Other things are growing too, but I’m not going to talk about those here!) And, you know, I’m ok with my hair taking its time. It would be unsettling to wake up one day and suddenly find myself with long, flowing locks.

    (Content warning in this post for gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia discussion.)

    We don’t talk enough about our bodies. Or rather, we talk a lot about our bodies, but we tend to be conditioned to talk about them in negative ways. We judge ourselves and others constantly: she’s too fat; he’s too thin; they’re too dark; her hair’s too kinky; his hair’s too grey; I’m letting myself go; ugh, delete that selfie—you can see my double chin. Our corporeal conversations are so often centred on what we dislike about our bodies. I think that’s a shame—you should not be ashamed.

    We tend to think of changes to our bodies as catastrophic, if not in tenor than in temporal stages: infancy, pubescence, adolescence, adulthood, senescence. These stages come over us suddenly sometimes, or they sneak up on us, but the result is inevitably a great deal of physical change. Yet…

    Read more…

  4. Announcing Kara.Reviews

    Most of you know I post book reviews on Goodreads. But did you know I’ve been doing this for 12 years, for every book I’ve read, amounting to over 1600 reviews?

    If I sound like I’m bragging, I am, because that’s the point of this post: I write book reviews; I write a lot of book reviews; and I’m good at it. So prolific and so good at it that today I’m launching a dedicated book review website: Kara.Reviews

    What’s Kara.Reviews?

    On this site, you’ll find:

    • every review I have posted on Goodreads
    • new reviews at your fingertips
    • an easy way to browse all those old reviews, by bookshelf (tag), numerous links from other reviews, or searching for a book/author
    • a sign-up form for my newsletter

    A Newsletter, You Say?

    I know some of my friends and family enjoy reading my reviews but aren’t on Goodreads, and I’m bad at remembering to tweet links to my book reviews. At the moment I plan on publishing a new issue every 2 weeks, starting tomorrow, August 19. So subscribe now for the first issue!

    Each issue will have links to all my reviews since the last issue, plus some kind of…

    Read more…

  5. What's in a name?

    About a month after coming out, I wrote a post about why I chose the name Kara. Today I am excited and happy to announce that, courtesy of the Government of Ontario, my name is now legally Kara Doreen Rose Babcock.

    My middle names, Doreen and Rose, are the names of my maternal and paternal grandmothers, respectively. Choosing middle names was much more difficult than choosing my first name! I briefly considered no middle name. Ultimately I decided to honour my female forebears on either side of my family. My grandma Doreen is no longer with us, so she never learned of my journey. My grandma Rose is still going strong and is extremely supportive of her “new” granddaughter. So I’m proud to carry both of these names into this next stage of my life.

    Why I Changed My Name

    I knew pretty much from the moment I decided to be Kara that I would be changing my name legally. Not every trans person does, of course. Some trans people keep their birth names; some just go by a nickname but don’t mind having a different legal name. Nevertheless, in my life, my legal name comes up a heck…

    Read more…

  6. Validation

    A quick reminder to cis allies about how small words of affirmation have an outsize importance on the lives of your trans friends.

    I’m marking online summer school courses, which we open up not just to our usual adult learners but also to regular high school students seeking to earn credits over the summer. Whereas my adult learners always call me Kara, these students are defaulting to Ms. Babcock (and in some cases, through what hilarious assumptions I know not, Mrs. Babcock…).

    I didn’t expect this to make me so happy, but it does. I think it’s the aggregate effect of seeing it so much, on so many assignment headers and “Dear Ms. Babcock, …” in emails. Y’all have been so good about calling me Kara, and I appreciate it, but there’s something extra affirming about this gendered honorific being applied so … casually to me.

    I can’t speak for any trans person other than myself, of course, but I would wager that most of us like and crave words of affirmation. The particular words and phrases will vary from person to person—I personally love being called “girl” or “sister”, but probably don’t apply those to your non-binary friend unless they’re cool with it. If you ever think you are going overboard or laying it on too thick with your trans friend ……

    Read more…

  7. Review of Disclosure

    I don’t remember the first time I saw a transgender person portrayed on screen. Probably my first memory of someone crossdressing is Mrs. Doubtfire, a movie which, like so many movies in our childhood, I enjoyed as a kid and now look back up with a cringey awareness of how problematic it is. So, for as long as I can remember, I only knew that the representation of trans people in TV and movies was very problematic. I didn’t learn about transgender people and issues from TV, or even from books—I learned about it from the Internet, mostly from Twitter. And it makes me wonder: if portrayals of trans people had been more numerous, and better, when I was a kid, would I have come out to myself sooner?

    Disclosure is a documentary that premiered at Sundance and was recently picked up by Netflix and is about transgender representation on screen. The format is simple: numerous trans people of all genders share their thoughts in interview format, and in between, we get clips from specific TV shows or movies. The simplicity of this format really appealed to me and made it easy to dip in and out of the…

    Read more…

  8. When they come for you

    I largely try to stay out of "discourse" on social media these days, and coming out is not going to change that. But for the record…

    Thank you to everyone who has reached out asking how I’m doing. I’m doing just fine. I have a nice filter bubble on Twitter that lets me avoid the riptide of discourse and play, mostly carefree, in the shallows.

    Thank you to everyone who has spoken up. Instead of hate, I just see people celebrating trans people on my timeline, making me feel loved and welcomed. I continue to see the calls for justice, the calls for reform, the calls for change that are so much more urgent and important than a white woman misbehaving and then doubling down on her misbehaviour. Black lives matter, Black trans lives matter, and let us not be drawn into digression because someone with a little fame wants to throw a public tantrum.

    Let’s just deplatform her already and get it over with.

    People asked me if I’m ok, and I say I am, because I’m not sitting here staring at my screen late at night, yelling at eggs and TERFs. Except here I am, sitting, staring at my screen late at night, weighed down by … something. Am I ok? I don’t know. I’m still processing a lot.

    You need to understand that,…

    Read more…

  9. Being trans-inclusive takes work

    An example of how easy it can be not to include trans people, and some practical tips on how you can do better.

    Social media makes it very easy these days for companies and organizations to virtue-signal, i.e., to claim to be inclusive and supportive of marginalized identities. But people who experience these marginalizations know that, in reality, most of these companies are not actually inclusive. This usually isn’t malice but rather just not bothering to think about us at all. Today I want to share a fairly minor example—something we call a microaggression, because it didn’t stop me from using the service, but it was still hurtful. I’m actually surprised how much it affected me.

    Being a dutiful daughter, I volunteered to order some pet supplies on behalf of my dad. (Forty-pound bags of cat litter can be heavy!) PetSmart has set up a curbside pickup system, so I figured ordering online and picking it up would be easy. Indeed it was—aside from the single complaint that is the focus of this whole post, I have to say that PetSmart’s site and the process were one of the smoothest experiences I have. They’ve got this down.

    Almost.

    See, when I looked at their website’s instructions for curbside delivery, I was faced with this:

    Bring a valid driver’s license or government‑issued ID. Once you arrive at the store parking lot, call the store & select option

    I haven’t legally changed my name yet,…

    Read more…

  10. Collapsing the gender wave function

    As with most of you, my emotional state is all over the place right now during this pandemic. However, being trans and having recently come out complicates the picture for sure. I’m largely doing fine, and staying at home is giving me lots of chances to experience euphoria. (Thank you, online shopping!) Nevertheless, not going to work and seeing my colleagues and students means I miss out on other, daily chances for affirmation and to further my social transition.

    I feel very lucky that I came out when I did. Originally, I had considered waiting until May or even the end of June to transition in the workplace. Can you imagine dealing with that in this current situation? I probably just wouldn’t have, and I would have chafed and felt extremely … constrained. My heart goes out to all the trans people who were planning to come out and currently feel unsafe or suddenly unready to do so. Fortunately for me, I came out and transitioned in the workplace just before this all started. Even as the entire world feels uncertain, I get to ride that uncertainty towards, hopefully, a new certainty about myself. However, the most complicated part of…

    Read more…