Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, multi-talented Artist, Health Care Aide and Transgender Woman, KatieLynne Harder, founder of Thingies and Stuff where she creates, livestreams and sells chainmaille dragons. She’s the author of a comic strip created with video game sprites called Planet Zebeth, based on the video game Metroid. The comic is one continuous storyline spanning over 16 years and over 1200 strips. In addition to chainmaille dragons KatieLynne has also created a variety of accessories and fun knick-knacks out of chainmaille, as well as beadwork, knitting and whittling. She loves to be creative, and lets her creative energy flow in whatever direction it sends her. More recently, she has begun singing a short song every day, now at over 150 days strong and plans to keep going until she’s reached a year. Most of the songs are fun random things and others are throat singing that she taught herself. She has written three songs, with two other songs in the works. KatieLynne “came out of the closet” about 4 years ago and identifies as genderfluid. When she first came out, for the first year, she identified as a bearded lady, going out fully feminine, but still having a beard. She grew up far out in the prairies, surrounded by wheat and sunflower fields, and moved to the city where she works and documents her life online at Planet Zebeth.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
My passion for my art. Ever since I was young, I always yearned to create. I grew up deep in the prairies, surrounded by wheat fields and corn. I was raised on a farm, where we grew our own garden, and lived a simple life playing in the trees, climbing on bails, and having fun with my father’s tools. Some of my fondest memories are of hilling potatoes and shelling peas. But being so secluded didn’t stop my creativity. My brothers and I would make bows and arrows out of sticks and twine, make whistles out of caragana pods, or generally enjoy piecing together sticks, wire, and other odds and ends to make fun little toys.
When my dad gave me my first whittling knife, I would spend hours whittling away at branches, carving designs into them, whittling them away to play with the shavings, and once even took blocks of wood to carve the word “Gameboy” from (I’m a bit of a Nintendo fan). I love to whittle, and the hobby eventually turned into making 7 foot hiking staffs with intricate carvings down the side.
In junior high, when the other class was making a particularly interesting project in Art, winding colored wire around a core shaped from coat hanger, I asked to come in during recess so that I could work on my own. I would sit on the ground near the teacher (God bless you Mr. Nash), and spend some time creating my own wire person; eventually being elated with its completion and taking it home to show my parents.
I branched out into all kinds of directions, programming my own video games in QBasic, beadwork, knitting, chainmaille, and lately throat singing most of all. I’ve always loved to create. I live by a motto… if you can picture it, you can make it.
After years of working in Call Centres and Customs Brokerage, what drew you to Health Care?
The choice to become a Health Care Aide came about from a few different directions. Several years before beginning college, my mother was in a hospice facility, and I was holding her hand as she passed away. It felt very special to be with my mom at that time, holding her as our family said our goodbyes.
I was in a different place then, and it took several years before the idea of becoming a Health Care Aide came to mind. After being laid off from several different positions, I spent the better part of a year starting my own business making art and streaming it online. I was unable to make ends meet however, and began searching for work again. After a point, I was somewhat lost as to what direction to turn. While meditating one day, speaking with my deities, it came to mind to become a Health Care Aide.
At one point in those first several years I had been a plumber. I’d chosen that path after deciding that one of the most noble things I could do was to provide access to water and remove waste, two of the most important things needed to sustain human life.
In the same mindset, it was during that meditation session, that I was trying to decide where I could best dedicate my life. What could I do that would help others the most? When the answer of becoming a Health Care Aide came to me, my mind just stopped. It was people who are unable to properly care for themselves that need help the most. People who have lived, and given, and now need someone there to provide a little help. I’m planning to apply to hospice facilities once I graduate, the memories of my mom helping guide me in that direction. It’s the people in palliative care who need the most compassion and care, and I want to be the person that brings them that comfort. To make them smile, spend some time with them, and bring them that first cup of tea in the morning.
Where is Planet Zebeth and how do we get there?
Planet Zebeth is in a parallel universe to the Metroid video game series, existing inside of an emulator created by my author character Kabutroid. Planet Zebeth is an 8-bit comic strip that I’ve been making since 2002, and is nearly 1300 strips long. It’s one giant storyline following the antics of Samus, Kraid, and other characters from the game. Characters from several other video games have joined as well, and I’ve begun the incorporating people who supported my livestream, making them Space Pirates that inhabit the planet and are part of the story. While the main storyline is nearly complete (after almost 17 years of writing it), the webpage has also become my blog, and the place where I document everything that I’ve made over the years.
Planet Zebeth houses everything from my very first chainmaille project, whittling, beadwork, jewelry, and more or less anything that I’ve made over the years. It’s the place where I document my life.
It can be found at zebeth.shinesparkers.net. Enjoy!
What’s a chainmaille dragon and how did these charming creatures come into your life? Do you have a favorite?
A chainmaille dragon is a mystical creature, brought forth when they call to be made. They come in either black or silver, have scales of different patterns and colors, and come with adoption scrolls giving their name, birthday, and story! I began making them when I first saw a photo of chainmaille dragon on the Internet, and decided to have a go at making one. It took nearly ten hours of trial and error, but soon my very first dragon, Celeste, came into being. Forty-seven dragons have since followed, ranging from Sunset, the dragon of beaches and sand, to William, the dragon of singing.
The dragons tell about themselves as I make them, and the names are chosen during a ‘dragonnaming ceremony’. I make the dragons while livestreaming on twitch.tv, and when I begin working on the eyes, my viewers suggest names for the dragon. When the dragon’s eyes are finished, it chooses its favorite name from the ones offered.
My favorite though… goodness, that’s like asking a mother which child she likes most! I have two personal dragons, Octavia and Charlotte, though I think my actual favorite is Skitters, the six-legged dragon. She loves to scurry around, having asked for six legs so that she could dart about as much as possible. When she finally does decide to rest, she loves to curl up in a ball on your lap.
Recently you started singing a short song every day … so fun! What’s the inspiration behind the songs?
I think it started with my throat singing. I began this style of singing several years ago, and had started recording some of it several months prior to beginning this series. I’ve also always enjoyed coming up with random little tunes off the top of my head, amusing myself by singing about what was going on around me. One day it popped into my mind to try posting one song every day, having an initial goal of reaching a month. At the end of that month, I was having so much fun that I decided to extend my goal two months, and then to 100 days. Once I’d reached that, I set my sights higher, and now have a goal of reaching 365 days of music. I’m sensing that the same dilemma come up after a year though, so I’ve already set a backup goal of reaching 1000 days of music.
You identify as genderfluid. Tell us a bit about what that means and how/when did you know you were trans?
What genderfluid means is that the gender that I experience can fluctuate throughout the day, or from day to day. For example, I may be feeling feminine in the morning, but in the afternoon may be feeling more masculine, and want to present masculine traits. If you picture it as a slider bar from 1 to 10, with 1 being very masculine and 10 being very feminine, I see myself at about an 8 most of the time, with fluctuations that can swing down to 3 or 4 on the masculine side (I’m sitting at about a 7 right now).
When out in public, I generally tend to hide my masculinity when it presents itself since I wear women’s clothing. When at home or with friends though, I’m more willing to let out the male in me. While I may often feel feminine for days or weeks at a time, it can be quite fun when my gender swings back and forth through the day, allowing me to enjoy both male and female feelings over a shorter period of time.
I only knew that I was trans around 4 years ago. This is mainly due to having grown up in the prairies, where anything LGBT was unknown to me. One of my comic strip fans messaged me about whether I was as cisgender as I looked, and I hadn’t the foggiest clue what cisgender meant. I searched the word online, which led quickly to finding transgender, and then genderfluid. The more that I read, the more that my past made sense to me. Since my preteens, I had had occasional urges to do feminine things. To try on makeup, watch cartoons like Sailor Moon, try on bras, and other things of that nature. I would sometimes sneak into the bathroom late at night to just look at my mother’s lipstick, careful to not apply it for fear of being caught. One time, there was a mostly used lipstick in the lost-and-found at school, and I slipped it into my pocket (don’t tell the principal!) It stayed hidden in a very difficult to find location in our bathroom for years, where I would look at it on occasion, or even touch it to my lip, only to remove the dot moments later.
I hid this side of me for years, until my mid-thirties. The girl side of me, what I would come to learn was the dominant side, was hidden in a knapsack in my closet. A bundle of clothing and accessories that I would remove only once or twice a year, when I was sure that I wouldn’t be spotted. I had lived with my brother after leaving home, followed by my ex-wife, and throughout the years I’d managed to keep this part of my life secret.
There was one incident from my early teens that had a big impact on me, leading me to hide my femininity for so long. I was walking through our kitchen, and the radio station CJOB was playing. There was a talk show, where a caller was telling the host that they were a man, but felt like a woman, and liked other women. The host responded with something close to ridicule, which saddened me, because I specifically remember thinking, “ah, but that sounds like me.” In the years following, I had trained myself to uncross my legs when I crossed them, avoid feminine movements or gestures, and keep the girl in me hidden in the closet until that fateful day when I was introduced to the word cisgender.
From that point on, once I had realized that I was truly female, I pulled out all of the stops towards my transition. I was nervous to go out ‘en femme’ at first, so I began by wearing a bra and tank top while biking, letting me zip past people too quickly for them to react, while knowing that I was being “seen.” This soon led to me being comfortable enough to walk around outside, or even go shopping! For the first year, I actually presented as a bearded lady, even coming out to my workplace as such. That changed when it began to give me gender dysphoria, and I’ve since received facial hair removal treatments. That said I do still miss stroking my beard. I had my ears pierced (one of the greatest moments in my transition… receiving something permanently marking me as female), began hormone therapy in 2016, and am on the waiting list to receive gender reassignment surgery.
What do we need to know “for sure” about being trans?
Never ask a trans person their birth name. While it may just be a curiosity, it can be very traumatic for a trans person to think about. After years of responding to your old name (or deadname), it’s very difficult to train yourself to avoid “looking” when you hear it, and feels awful when you accidentally do.
Though on a more positive note, what you need to know for sure is that we’ve come a long way in accepting who we are, and the more that you can use a gendered term to refer to us (such as using ‘she’ when referring to a transwoman, or saying ‘sir’ to a transmale), the better! I still feel giddy when I hear someone refer to me as “ma’am’’, or ‘dear’. It feels wonderful to receive validation for all of the changes that we’ve made to get this far.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles that you’ve overcome?
The fear of trying something new. At the end of 2016, I decided to start my own business. I had registered a business name two years earlier, Thingies and Stuff, but hadn’t put together the pieces for what I wanted to do with it. I knew that it would be based on chainmaille, since many of the things that I enjoy making are chainmaille toys and jewelry. The toys I like to call “twiddleables”, things that are just fun to play with when you’re bored. My favorite is called a möbius knot, which is made from a three-sided symmetrical chainmaille weave, rotated 1/3rd of the way around on itself, and tied in a knot. It’s amazingly fun to fiddle with in your hands, rotating it around and pulling at the knot.
At the end of 2016, after layoffs and job searching, I decided to use my savings to try building my business, livestreaming my chainmaille work and throat singing. It was very nerve-wracking, putting faith in myself rather than working for a company. I knew that I wouldn’t be successful right at the start, and led a very Spartan life living off my savings while building my channel, as well as putting together a tabletop display to sell my items at craft shows and events. This was where my passion for building dragons really took off, and I made about forty of my dragons while on the air.
I wasn’t able to make ends meet unfortunately, and began searching for work after seven months. I have my tabletop display ready to use though, and plan to begin livestreaming again now that practicum has begun. I have two dragons that I need to make for friends, after which I’ll be rebuilding my supply (or my nest, as I call them), having at least one solid-colored dragon of each of the available colors ready for adoption.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
Look up the word ‘transgender.’ Talk to the family about wearing women’s clothing, and explain that you’re trans. They’ll understand.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Follow your heart and your dreams. If you heart is telling you to take a leap into the unknown, do it. Do your research into the subject to become more familiar with it, and then take the plunge. If you don’t, you may never get another chance.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
A pretty big influence on me has been the band Kittie, and more specifically Fallon Bowman’s singing in the song ‘Brackish’. This band fed both my female side, as well as the heavier, metal side of me.
I also have Britney Spears. I love all of her music, her stage performances, and following her on social media. I even have a tattoo related to her, the neon heart from her ‘Britney Jean’ album, with the genderfluid flag inside of it on my left hip. She was my ‘guilty pleasure’ when I was still struggling with my identity, and hiding my femininity from the world. I would listen to her music, yet not wanting to ‘follow’ her online. I feared what my family would think of me being a fan of hers. Once I came out as transgender, I let it be known that I was an avid Britney fan, following her on social media and posting about her online. I even developed a stage performance involving one of her songs. It’s a mix of my light and dark sides, where I begin lip-syncing the song ‘Where are you now,’ and midway through cut to Abruptum’s ‘De profundis mors vas cousumet’, a harsh, screaming black metal song. It’s so fun to perform, and I love the reaction from the crowd. I have plans to create more performances along the same lines, though it’s been difficult to find songs that work together as well as those two.
More dragons! Though a bit more thoroughly, finish practicum, find a position in a hospice facility, and work on my business in my spare time. There are some minor changes that I want to make to my storefront display, and I certainly need more dragons to fill out the nest. I would also like to add more titanium earrings to the selection, and possibly move into making bracelets and anklets as well.
Blue sky. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Probably in Montreal, working as a Health Care Aide. I’ve always dreamed of moving to a bigger city. I grew up surrounded by fields, and moved to the slow, quiet city of Winnipeg. I would love to move somewhere busy. A place where there’s foot traffic and activity at all hours of the night and day. A place where any time you step outside, you’re entering a throng of people heading to one place or another. I’ve seen enough quiet I’m ready for busy now.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably? Cry out all the tears?
I’m a fan of sarcastic humor, which never fails to tickle my funny bone. The odd meme pops up in Facebook, featuring something amusing with a sharp little jab at the end, and I’ll burst out laughing. And as cliche as it is, amusing cat videos always tickle me pink, and a series on YouTube called ‘Daily Dose Of Internet’ has caught my attention for quick bursts of entertainment as well. To be fair, some of those clips are also amusing cat videos.
For crying out the tears… I won’t go into too much detail, but a lot of it involves my family. My parents have both passed away, and I miss them dearly. Thinking about the times we could have had, and wishing I was able to consult my mom about cooking recipes, or chat with my dad about fishing trips and farming. I still speak with them in heaven, but I wish I was able to visit, or talk for hours on the phone with them. It’s been a long time, but it still brings tears to my eyes thinking about them.
If a song were written about your life, what would it be called?
Like a Thistle. Stubbornly continuing to grow, with a gorgeous, heavenly flower when I blossom.
Follow KatieLynne on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/kitty.lynne.4
And on Twitter@ https://twitter.com/dragonmotherk
And Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/dragonmotherkatie/
Check out her YouTube videos @ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt3bBDpPupTI4HKQjKE02EA
And on Twitch @ https://www.twitch.tv/dragonmotherk
See her dragons, on the Thingies and Stuff Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/thingies.stuff/
To read another interview about a Transwoman go to: http://girlwarriorproductions.com/cynthia-fortlage-acceptance-without-understanding/