Tuesday, February 28, 2017
It's 2017 and the pace of trans lives lost to violence has not slowed it's pace. Say their names. Hold those names in your heart. Join in working towards the day when such lists will no longer be required. This slaughter of trans persons, mostly women and overwhelmingly trans women of color must come to and end and soon!!!
1. Mesha Caldwell, 41 year old trans woman of color, found shot to death on a road near Canton, Mississippi on January 4, 2017.
2. Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28 year old trans woman Native American member of Oglala Sioux tribe,found dead on January 6th in her apartment in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Police believe her death is a homicide.
3. JoJo Stryker, 23 year old trans woman of color found shot to death in a garage in Toledo, Ohio on February 8rd. Gunshot wound to the chest.
4. Jaquarrius Holland, 18 year old Trans woman of color, killed in Monroe, Louisiana shot after a verbal altercation on February 19th.. Originally she was misgendered in the press and that was not corrected until later.
5. KeKe Collier aka Tiara Richmond, 24 year old trans woman of color shot in a vehicle then dumped out on street in Chicago where police found her on February 23rd. She died hours later at the hospital.
6. Chyna Gibson, 31 year old trans woman of color shot several times in a shopping mall parking lot and found dead in New Orleans, La.
7. Ciara McElveen, 26 year old trans woman of color, stabbed and left on the road in New Orleans, La on February 27. She died later in the hospital.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
A few days have passed since Saturday’s march, giving me time to absorb what all happened that day. Our purpose was pretty clear I think. Following the inauguration of a president who objectifies and physically assaults women, who wants to dismantle health care as we know it, destroy the environment, and a laundry list we all are familiar with.
So yes, the march was political. The political has become personal in our time. So many have reason to be concerned. Immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Lesbian Bisexual and Gays, Transgender people like me, People of color, Women, Disabled Americans, all who have in the past been marginalized. But for the first time, many who felt comfortable in their cisgender, heterosexual, white identities stand to lose as well.
I was grateful to be able to attend. In a wheelchair, I needed others to assist. We gathered to fill up four buses at church. Turns out many volunteered to push me. We sang and prepared for the day to come.
Whenever 100,000 human beings come together in the spirit of justice and with hearts centered in love, it transcends beyond simply political. It was a spiritual experience. Here we were, packed together like sardines, and one would expect crankiness, especially after standing in place for an hour. But rather there was laughter, sharing, planning for the future, and a firm commitment to action understanding this was but the beginning. The crowd began to move, and I had no clue where I was and others had said the same, but we moved, this mass of humanity and yet space was made for my wheelchair (and another we encountered along the way. Old and young, disabled and able bodied, a truly eclectic crowd moving towards our goal. Then we rounded a turn and ahead was the capitol and the view was breathtaking. Later some news media wanted to portray the size of the crowd by comparing it to the RNC protests. But see, I attended those protests and they were no where near the size of this one.
Personal disclosure here, I am by nature an empath. I feel the emotions of those around me. I have to say that on this day, I felt so much energy, so much love that it was overwhelming, in the best sense of course
We live in a world of identity politics, and that is important. As a trans woman, I have to speak clearly about the issues facing my community. I saw some speaking through their signage about the separations they feel and the discrimination they encounter in this country. Yes black lives do matter. Privilege by some is real. What I was seeing on that Saturday was that we all have intersections and by fighting for ALL of us, by loving ALL of us, together we make an impressive response to a president who seems unable to see beyond his own ego and shows little respect for anyone but other greedy billionaires. The energy that day by these huge crowds of women and men was palpable. Here lies the strength to undo the harm since this past election. It depends on all of us to continue to organize, to continue to look out for each other and to grow even larger this community of women and men committed to justice, and we can create the world we dream of.
Make no mistake, the forces of evil currently occupying the halls of power will not yield easily. But if we continue what we began Saturday, then we will prevail. Each of us can ask, what gifts do we have to serve the cause? How do we grow this community? For some it will be civil disobedience. For others protests. We all can call and visit our elected officials and hold them accountable. Officials who don’t seem to be able to serve their constituency needs to be replaced. Some will blog, write op-eds, others may be skilled public speakers. We must organize, organize, and organize. As community, we look out for each other, providing sanctuary, provide safe space for self-care, whatever is needed. But to quote something my pastor said, all of us can love the hell out of each other. This is our time in history. How we respond will be the measure of our futures to come. We must resist and we must prevail. All I can say is bring it on!
Monday, December 5, 2016
Okay, I need to explain some things first. I hope everyone has a happy and joyous season, whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Channukah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Solstice whatever your observance may or may not be. What I will share is not about what you are doing, but only my own personal perspective on the season. I know I'm not alone in what I will be sharing, and that makes it worthwhile I think.
Here's the thing. For some of us, this is a particularly difficult time of the year. We live in a world where love does not always prevail, and bad things happen. Look around in the inner cities for instance. They are the throw aways, cast outs from families, communities etc. In my case, my wife and I are both ostracized from family. The season is us two, and we are growing old. We are fortunate, for we found each other. What makes this season difficult for so many is the constant reminder of being "other." I look on the pages of facebook, and people are planning to get together, to celebrate the season, to buy gifts for loved ones, to see their children and their grandchildren and I so do celebrate their joy. But it's also a constant reminder of my own daughter and my own grandson that I will not see, or my spouse's son from whom she is separated as well. We turn on tv, and there is just one schmaltzy tear jerker happy ending movie after the other, as if there were an intentional effort to remind us constantly... well you get my point.
Now I'm a big girl. With 69 years under my belt and headed for the big 70, I've learned to cope. It's not like I had a choice anyway. I've memories of a time when I was part of large family gatherings when my presence was welcomed and I so loved gathering with loved ones, but I was to learn that in my family, there was not sufficient room for a member who was trans and gay. What do we tell the children? I was selfish they said. ::shaking head:: I even heard that one family member put forward the idea that I was looking for the 'easy' way. Yeah right.
So the holidays are now going full force. There is no place to run or hide to get away from it. I wish the usual for my friends and even for people I've never met a wonderful holiday. I hold in my heart all those others who are for one reason or another separated from family or loved ones. This is not my best time of the year. So forgive my private scrooge moment when I offer that I simply will be glad when it is all over.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Coming out often is not one event, but many events over many years. In my case, the normal labels became confused along the way. You see in this photo a child who is confused and a bit melancholy, though I learned early on to cover that up. During the previous year, I experimented with my first coming out. So I'd been visiting a neighbor girl, and we were having a tea party. I dressed up in her Sunday finest and I was the Mommy and she the Daddy. The year was 1950. We had been playing for awhile, and it all felt so fun and so right. Then we hear footsteps coming up the stair and my Mom walks in. She looks startled, and snaps, "Put on your own clothes and come home now! I did so and came home and she said nothing. Then that night, she came to tuck me in. She smiles as she tucks me in, "You're a good little boy."
"Mommy? I'm a girl..."
"No you aren't and I don't want to hear that nonsense ever again!" I'm 69 years old now, yet I still recall that look in her eyes. Anger yes, but there was something else I could not identify at that young age. I now know it was fear. I did not understand, but I did know there must be something terribly wrong about me. From then on my parents set out fully intent on butching me up. Cowboy costumes, guns etc for Christmas etc. I could only be my true self in private when nobody was looking. Don't misunderstand though. I tried really hard to be what they wanted to be. But always there was this little voice inside telling me a. something is wrong and b. it was probably me.
We moved to Tyler, Texas from Illinois and it was a whole new world. By the time I got to be in the third grade, I was getting beat up almost daily, and they were calling me queer and I did not know why and I felt so terribly alone. I fought back as best I could because if I didn't my Dad made it perfectly clear he'd beat me worse. But I did find some respite. Out behind the garage, I dug a pit, about 3 1/2 feet deep. Above it I took sticks and vines and used some of the red clay in which I'd been digging and created a small private hut that was My Space. I even built cubby holes into it, and there I could play the roles I could do no where else. I also would sit in that space with a notebook and I began early on to journal. I couldn't keep the journals. That was too scary. But I could write out my feelings at that young age, and I truly think it kept me alive. As puberty approached, I figured out not only was there this inner feminine, but that I was attracted to guys. I tried to avoid it, but it filled my hormone filled dreams and made life even more scary.
So I grew up. My dad passed away in 67. Soon after I dropped out of college for a year and took off traveling, like so many in that time, I landed in San Francisco. While I spent some time in the Haight, I was drawn to the Tenderloin where I found other people like me. But I could not stay, and I returned to Tyler, and my closeted life continued. Finally I decided to make my last ditch effort at being straight.
Like some other people I've met over the years, I married a lesbian. She was a nurse and over time a drummer in a lesbian band, but then we were making our way trying to fit into something that would be called normal. We gave it our best shot, and even had a daughter, but it could not last and we split up only 3 1/2 years later. I began to find my way to the gay bars more and more. No one person, just satisfying my need to be myself and to express that feminine side more freely. I wasn't really a drag queen though,although I had a number of friends who were, but where they often (not always) were just playing a role, my feelings were not a caricature but reality. I did meet other transgender queens along the way and the feeling grew that it might be possible. For a time though, most of this was in the fog of alcohol and drugs. It was not until I entered a program to become sober that the feelings and the realization that I would have to be true to self began the journey towards reality. Still while I could be out to many of my friends, I could not be to my family. Mom had once told me that if she ever found out that either I or my former wife were gay, she would go to court to get our child and we would not be welcome again. I loved my Mom, even with her feelings about either of us being gay. So with my family, I had to be on the down low. But Mom died in '88. I gave some time to mourn, and then gradually I began to come out to more and more of my family. I also met a man who I fell in love with.
We met at a Dignity Chapter and he was the greeter. Soon someone replace him so we could talk. And talk. We were like two schoolgirls, back and forth and we began spending all of our time together, then there was "that kiss", a kiss that sealed the deal and we were a couple. It was a time when I learned how to really love. This was the love of a lifetime and soon we were setting up house. But there was one thing I had to do. It scared the bejeezus out of me. I had to tell this man, the love of my life, that his partner would be beginning a journey to transition, to truly be how I feel. Here was a man who'd never dated a woman in his life. Yet I was asking him if he could stay with me as I became a woman. To my huge relieve, he said yes. So by bits and pieces, beginning with a rather familiar androgyny and then transition in earnest, my next journey began.
Coming out originally as gay troubled some, including my daughter. But when I began transition, I lost almost all of my extended family, including the daughter and my brother who slipped farther away. It was so much to deal with and the hurt was incredible. But even with the pain, at last I was being truly that person who always dwelled inside and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I managed to keep my job when I transitioned. Something else came up though. For the first time I noticed I was attracted to women. My husband noticed it too. With hormones something had shifted. I preferred women in terms of attraction to men. But, I loved my husband. Skip and I talked about it, and I sure wasn't going anywhere. Love is love after all. Then in '97, he became ill and a few weeks later he passed away. He had contracted viral encephalitis. Suddenly I was alone again. But with time I healed. With transition completed, I was attracted to women. I began dating, had some false starts along the way. I got lots of support from my MCC congregation in Houston.
My community held me up during this dark period. See I had come to a place when closets were not desirable besides impossible. I became involved with the community center, hosting a lesbian film night monthly. I volunteered with Lesbians in Business, worked my buns off for Annise Parker who ran for and became a member of city council. She later would become mayor of Houston. I was involved all along with TATS (Texas Area Transexual Support) and GCTC (Gulf Coast Transgender Community.) Then I met Robin. We fell in love, my second love in this lifetime. She and I embarked on a life adventure that led to a very public wedding in San Antonio Texas using a narrow court decision in that state. It was all in the papers, so for a time our lives were quite public and all remnants of a closet were gone forever.
I turn and look out at the world today, and I see young people coming out and transitioning and a level of openness in society I never could have dreamed of in my wildest fantasy. Still I know it is hard for some. Open-mindedness is not universal, and some states bend over backwards to discourage those who are anything other than the norm they visualize. It can take great courage to come out. I can only say, when you do make that decision, no matter who you are or how old you may be, there is a community of people ready to welcome you with open arms. In my life, I heard the call of Harvey Milk to come out. I did so not once but many times as the circle of self truth expanded. I can only say that in taking those steps, I found a freedom and happiness I could not have ever imagined. Yes I did so in an earlier time, and I lost a lot. But I gained so much more. So come out, come out, wherever you are!
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Here we are, well into 2016 and once again on pace to be a new record year for the violence towards transgender lives. Here they are. Hold them in your heart. Say their names. Pray that this senseless killing comes to an end. Notice their race. Most are trans women of color. I'm so weary of the drip drip drip of trans lives, beautiful lives, cut short for what? Are our lives so threatening? I'll never understand this kind of hate though I've witnessed it in my own life.
Trans Deaths from Violence: 2016
Jasmine Sierra, Bakersfield, Ca, Latina trans woman. Dead in apt physical trauma, January 22 Misgendered by media so we did not find out until March
Monica Loera, Austin, Texas 43 year old Latina transwoman. Shooting January 22.
Kayden Clark , Mesa, Az 24 year old White Transman shot by police. He was having an autistic meltdown. Many upset that he was shot and killed when they called to prevent him from committing suicide.
Veronica Banks Cano, Black trans woman, San Antonio, Tx Found dead fully clothed February 19
Maya Young, Philadelphia, Pa, 25 year old black trans woman stabbed multiple times, February 20th (announced on the 23rd)
Kayderie/Candicee Johnson, Burlington,IA, a 16 year old black genderfluid child shot several times and left in an alley.
Demarkis Stansbury, Baton Rouge, 30 year old transman shot to death February 27th (misgendered in press)
Courtney Yochum 32 year old black transwomanMarch 24thLos Angeles, Domestic dispute
Shante’ Isaac (Thompson), Houston, Tx 34 year old blackTranswoman shot in head along with another person, male in Midtown April 10th
Keyona Blakeney, Montgomery County Md 22 year old black trans woman. Blunt force trauma April 11. Found dead in motel room.
Reece Walker Wichita Ks 32 year old local advocate, black trans woman stabbing May 1st
Mercedes Successful, Haines City, Fla 32 year old Black trans woman. Shooting Death
Amos Beede May22nd 38 year old Transman in Burlington, Vt. Blunt force trauma from 4 homeless attackers. Died days later.
Goddess Diamond, June 5th, New Orleans, La, Blunt Force Trauma, then burned in car.
Dee Whigham 25 year old trans woman, found dead from stabbing in motel room in St. Martin, Mississippi, nursing student, originally misgendered.
Sky Mockabee 26 year old black transwoman found murdered in Cleveland, result of online date gone horribly wrong.
Deeniqua Dodds 22 year old black transwoman shot in Washington DC July 4, 2016, died on July 14th.
Erykah Tijerina 36 year old Latina transwoman, homicide in El Paso, August 10, 2016 found in her apartment.
Rae’Lynn Thomas 28 year old black transwoman, killed by her mom’s ex who called her Satan in Columbus, Ohio
Friday, July 1, 2016
Over and over I hear people expound on how this is a Christian nation. While some, not all, of the founding fathers were Christian, their own words seem somehow pertinent. Here's a list of quotes. Again, note the surprise at the end.
". . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened
that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended
by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be
refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I
soon became a thorough Deist."
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when
it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so
that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power,
'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one." -- Benjamin
Franklin, 2000_Years_of_Disbelief by James A. Haught
"Religion I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or
confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us
unfriendly to one another."--Benjamin Franklin
"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."--Benjamin
Franklin, Poor_Richard, 1758
"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."--Benjamin Franklin
Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone.
-- Thomas Jefferson
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of
every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual.
State churches that use government power to support themselves and
force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil
rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy
unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion.
Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore,
is absolutely essential in a free society.
We have solved ... the great and interesting question whether freedom
of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the
laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which
results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those
principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and
the serious convictions of his own inquiries.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to the Virginia Baptists (1808)
Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction
of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet
we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the
effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half
hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
-- Thomas Jefferson
"... I am not afraid of priests. They have tried upon me all their
various batteries of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and
slandering. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East
to the Saints of the West and I have found no difference of character,
but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or
ignorance on whom their interested duperies were to be played off.
Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond
mediocrity dares there to develop itself."
"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people
maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of
ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always
avail themselves for their own purposes."
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on
society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual
tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they
have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no
instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.
Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an
established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government,
instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."
. . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on
the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of
miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern
part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in
favor of the rights of mankind."
The 1796 treaty with Tripoli, negotiations begun under Washington and
signed by Adams states:
"[As] the government of the United States of America is not in any
sense founded on the Christian Religion"
"Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and
irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which
are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the
most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I
was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked
the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every
denomination so far that we should never again see the religious
disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."
George Washington - letter to Edward
John Leland (1754-1841) was a Baptist preacher whose life involved
writing about and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and about the
proper relationship between religion and government. In the latter
passion, Leland agreed with the position of Thomas Jefferson and James
Madison, both of whom he knew personally. Leland spent approximately 14
years in Virginia from 1776 to 1790-91. He was a major leader of the
Baptists in Virginia. He helped Madison by rounding up support for the
defeat of the assessment bill in Virginia in 1784-86, and by supporting
the ratification of the new constitution (only after being assured
that Madison did favor the addition of a bill of rights), He worked to
get Madison elected (over Patrick Henry's hand-picked James Monroe) to
the House of Representatives of the First Federal Congress. He returned
to his home state of Massachusetts in the winter of 1790-91, where he
remained an active minister and champion of separation of church and
state and disestablishment till his death in 1841. He wrote articles
against establishment while in Massachusetts and testified before the
Massachusetts legislature on at least one occasion.
Research by Jim Allison
Excerpt from July 4th Oration by John Leland, July 5, 1802.
. . . Disdain mean suspicion, but cherish manly jealousy; be always
jealous of your liberty, your rights. Nip the first bud of intrusion on
your constitution. Be not devoted to men; let measures be your object,
and estimate men according to the measures they pursue. Never promote
men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual
tyranny--the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by
human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. It
converts religion into a principle of state policy, and the gospel into
merchandise. Heaven forbids the bans of marriage between church and
state; their embraces therefore, must be unlawful. Guard against those
men who make a great noise about religion, in choosing representatives.
It is electioneering. If they knew the nature and worth of religion,
they would not debauch it to such shameful purposes. If pure religion
is the criterion to denominate candidates, those who make a noise about
it must be rejected; for their wrangle about it, proves that they are
void of it. Let honesty, talents and quick despatch, characterise the
men of your choice. Such men will have a sympathy with their
constituents, and will be willing to come to the light, that their
deeds may be examined. . . .
Source of Information:
Excerpt from "July 4th Oration by John Leland, July 5, 1802". The
Writings of John Leland, Edited by L.F. Greene, Arno Press & The New
York Times New York (1969) pp.260-270) Originally published as: The
Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland Including Some Events In His
Life, Written By Himself, With Additional Sketches &c. By Miss L.F.
Greene, Lanesboro, Mass. Printed By G.W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, New York
1845. Nedstat Counter
"The national government will maintain and defend the
foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer
strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective
morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to
fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out
all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and
in the press — in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality
which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of
LIBERAL excess during the past years" — Adolph Hitler (Taken from The
Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1, Michael Hakeem, Ph.D.
(London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pp. 871-872.)
I suppose times of intense change, revolutionary change even, whether for good or evil, lends itself to extremes. Thus as part of our discourse we hear that Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans carry drugs as if by sheer virtue of their nationality, race, or spiritual journey, every one like them is lumped into the same tiny box. Not only race, nationality, or spiritual belief now, but also I am seeing the ghost of Agism Past rear its ugly head once again. See, hard as it may be to imagine, I remember my own youth and young adulthood. We were in the midst of great change then too. We were moving out of the time of great conformity and extreme oppression of other races, beliefs etc also known as the fifties into the sixties when change was in the air. Our childhoods were filled with the stories of Communists under every leaf and the McCarthy hearings and we were determined to change the status quo. I recall expressions like "Don't trust anyone over 30." On the other side, so many older people looked askance at "the youth of today." Shaking their heads and wringing their hands. "Why when I was their age, I never..." But of course they did, but chose not to recall their own explorations of independence.
Our reality and if allowed our strength is in our diversity, not in our sameness. I've learned having been young, middle aged, and now old, that sometimes great wisdom and sometimes great foolishness can come from the lips of old people. Some learned many lessons and embraced wisdom, while others remained oblivious all the way into old age. I could say exactly the same thing for the young, and of the middle aged as well. Sometimes in talking with young people I will receive a pearl of wisdom so precious, not from experience, but from eyes that can look outside the box. Anytime we categorize and place people into a box of sameness rather than accept them in the rainbow of diversity that is the human condition, we not only limit them, but ourselves.
What inspired all of this? Two articles. One from Ozy yesterday suggesting old people should not be allowed to vote. That suggestion is so antithetical to any concept of a democratic society, I'll not even waste my time ranting about it. The other came today. Vox suggests that "old people become more conservative with age because science says so." Look someone does a study and publishes it, with or without peer review and suddenly it's an absolute. Look, some old people grow more conservative. More often I think conservative experimentation happens in middle age when conformity is demanded, and many revert to liberalism as they grow older. BUT THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES. How old was the dude who killed the worshippers at that church in South Carolina?
So maybe we can start to chill with the agism, whether one is young or old, perceived or not. It's getting old really quick.
Jessica Wicks aka Long in Tooth (just fooling, mine are false)aka Cantankerous Old Crone aka (fill in the blank)