Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
After too long a hiatus, I returned to church today. The topic as are all this month are about listening. Today the theme of surrender was developed.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Wednesday is September 16, Grito de Delores or Independence Day. It is the date Robin and I were very publicly wed as part of a the GLBT celebration of this holiday in San Antonio. But like Mexico who honors several days as part of their Fiesta del Patrias, so it is we celebrate several days as anniversary. Here is how it happened.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I wonder sometimes if I were the only person who had recurring dreams as a child. I had two distinct dreams that were repeated over and over that I remember still so clearly today over 50 years later.
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him . . .
Friday, September 11, 2009
Today is 9-11. It is natural that we recall the lives of those taken on that tragic day. But I believe that is not sufficient, certainly not for me. So many lives prior to this tragedy caused by the machines of war, including our own. As we have played kingmakers on the global stage, as we focused on power rather than compassion, and the others did likewise for there are no innocents, ordinary men and women have continued to perish.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
It occurs to me that an entire volume or two could be written, just about the adventures shared between Cousin Gary and myself. The first time we met was around my second birthday. We lived in Olney, Illinois. A whole slew of family appeared about that time to visit, including Sandie, Cheryl, and Gary. I learned I had a huge extended family living back in Texas, and judging from photos taken, we had a grand time.
Friday, September 4, 2009
I’ve said before generally this won't be a political blog. But this has been gnawing on me for a time and I need to get it out.
Where did reason go? Have we slipped into some nightmarish world were visions and illusions have replaced facts? What in the hell are we doing to each other?
Everywhere I turn, more examples of this psychosis we seem to have entered. People attending rallies near where the president is, wearing full assault rifles over their shoulders? Just four years ago, two people were arrested because they had the other party’s candidate on their t-shirt, but now carrying armed weapons to a rally is free speech?
Yesterday I heard of a group demonstrating on behalf of health care reform. Across the way there are anti reform protestors. So according to TPM, the anti reform guy walks across the street to confront the pro reform people. He uses intimidation and pushes a woman back. He is 65, but tall and muscular. He then approaches some guy smaller than him, but the guy refuses to move back. The antireform bully hauls off and throws a punch sending the man to the street. The guy gets up and the anti reform person is all over him. Fighting back, the reform guy bites the bully’s finger off. So this man, this bully, this fellow who believes the government should stay out of health care, goes to the hospital where he is treated. He pays for it with medicare!
Seriously have we gone nuts? Talk-show hosts, news commentators, politicians, everyone seems to have lost total touch with reality. Birthers running around insisting Obama is not a citizen, never mind what his birth certificate says. Cries of fascism and communism, sometimes in the same sentence.
Oh the racism. I have not seen such racism since the sixties. Preachers praying for the death of our president, politicians proclaiming he is destroying our country. Four years ago, we heard Republicans saying anyone who disagreed with them were aiding and abetting the terrorists. Now they are labeling the president of the United States a terrorist? Some fools are calling for secession and the rhetoric is being ramped up more and more by the day. Republican leaders decry the racism against the poor white man. WTF?
Just this very morning, a huge controversy because the President of the United States of America is going to address school children alongside Sasha and Malia about the importance of working hard for their educations, and for their parents to be involved. Yet whole school districts are not going to let it happen, because they don’t want their children being indoctrinated? I repeat. WTF?
Probably saddest of all is that there is no longer reasonable discourse. Honest differences of opinion have been drowned out by the clamor of insane ranting of angry mobs. If it continues unabated, some fool is going to target this president. That seems to be what they want. What else could lead people to such incendiary hate-speak? History is full of instances where leaders were demonized and later assassinated. This must not happen here.
I’m not talking about meeting violence with violence. But it is time for those not totally devoid of their faculties to confront the haters, stand strong against their hate offering calm discourse as a replacement. We need to overwhelmingly tell cable television operators we can no longer stand by and let them continue to fan the flames. Commentary by Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck need not be debated daily on the television news shows. Would it not make more sense for experts in the relative fields to debate actual language in bills and real issues for Americans rather than persisting with extremists on both sides making arguments out of feeling rather than fact?
See if we do not change what we're doing, our democracy is in great peril. A democratic republic demands reasoned debate as opposed to just choosing sides. Compromise was always our strength. Presuming something did happen to our president, could you imagine the anger that would arise out of that? No, we need to confront the hate now, and quickly. Much of the disruption ultimately comes from profit motives, whether insurance companies trying to protect their obscene profits, or television networks trying to keep viewers watching by turning our country into battle for the absurd. One commentator the other night nailed it. Kent Jones on Rachel Maddow likened our politics to the old Jerry Springer show. He made a good point and that’s got to end.
So what can be done to bring us back from the brink of insanity? Writing letters to networks is a good start. Letting members of Congress know it is time to tone down the rhetoric if indeed they are promoting lies, which of course first means an honest effort to find the facts first. We should hold corporations accountable, and push for campaign finance reform that takes the power out of their hands. But also, becoming the change we wish to see in others. There is our most powerful testimony. When we become what we desire, our voice is magnified a thousand fold. There is a group I’m signed up with and have taken the pledge. Check it out and consider their approach. Imagine a movement in this country to simply Stand on the Side of Love. Their pledge goes like this:
“I pledge to defend the worth and dignity of every person. I embrace and support communities that are marginalized, such as immigrants, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, or religious minorities. No person should be excluded, oppressed, or violated because of who they are. I will harness the power of love to stop oppression. I pledge to stand, speak, pray, march and live on the side of the love.”
Imagine a world where we actually listened to each other and learned from each other. I would add to that group in the pledge others, like socialists and birthers and liberals and conservatives and the list goes on. Every single one of us came into this world with nothing and will leave the same way. We have that same grace we call our common humanity. Yes we have differences, but those differences should be debated using facts and experiences, not just made up propaganda. Those differences should be centered in respect, and yes love. Everyone has something to offer. Difference between reasonable people can be bridged through compromise.
Check out the website at http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/
Take the pledge, adding whatever groups or categories you think fits, especially the ones most repugnant to you. For me as an example, belligerent angry right wingers would have to be in the list. I'm sure for those people I would be right near the top. Take the pledge. Then live by the pledge, let it guide your actions. Together let’s heal our broken nation, and stand firmly on the side of love. Together as a broken people, let's begin to heal.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Note: The characters are fiction to protect the innocent and guilty alike from untold embarrassment, save where I mention myself. . Anyone however who grew up in Tyler, Texas knows they were there. Mrs. Brown was a real person.
Tyler was a small town that never really realized it was small. As cities go, it was quite prosperous in the fifties and sixties when this author was growing up there. Between oil money, the rose growers and a bulging middle class, it really seemed idyllic if a bit provincial. But even in a smaller place like Tyler, with a population at the time hovering around 50,000, drama could still be found.
There is no greater drama in a growing boy or girl’s life than facing those insane years we call puberty. For Jimmy, it meant the early peach fuzz that would later be called a beard to be shaved off. His voice changing, he stumbled over his own growing feet. He was attracted to girls but had no clue what to say or do. For gay kids like me, the daily torture of showering in the locker rooms after P.E. deathly afraid my body would give away my little secret. On top of it all there was a ferocious pecking order and if you were not at the top in that game of scratching and clawing, then life pretty much sucked anyway.
For Barb, her body was changing too. She was beginning to learn to use makeup. Not only had she grown taller, but her breasts were beginning to bud too. That wasn’t all though. She began to her horror to experience her period. She whispered into the teacher’s ear that first time. Quietly she smiled, and was prepared for such eventualities. What would it have been if she had Mr. Peter’s class that hour? She shuttered at the thought. Every moment was high drama and emotional overload relieved by periodic nervous giggling the occasional shrill scream. During these years, dislike became hate, sorta cute meant OMG GORGEOUS, and there was no superlative too extreme. She and her friends whispered feverishly about this or that boy either in a little huddle nervously looking about just in case, or in long extended telephone conversations. For Janet, it was a bit different as she kept looking at Barb’s face and body and she wanted but, no, that would be wrong. So she just sat quietly as all the others went on about their boyfriends real or imagined.
Amidst all this bedlam of rampant hormones and extreme drama, Tyler Junior High students had one more hurdle to pass. That of course was Mrs. Brown’s School of Dance and Etiquette. The very name still sends shivers through my body in an involuntary flashback to those grim days. This was a fate as demonic and cruel as anyone could face anywhere in the world. Forget Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay and water boarding is over pretty quick anyway. But those classes? They lasted all three years of Junior High.
Here’s how it worked. The class was in a large hall, or it seemed large to us. There were chairs on each side of the wall. The girls all sat on the East Wall, the boys on the West. Each girl was dressed in an appropriately frilly dress, much to the chagrin of Barb who would rather be in jeans given her choice. They were all made up, little ladies preparing for their day to be introduced to the larger society. They whispered nervously to each other. The boys were all dressed up in Sunday finest. Their shiny shoes, perfectly tied ties (Mom had to make sure it was just right) crisp white shirts with starched collars, and suits were in contrast to their nervous scratching and coughing and the look of terror on their faces screaming help me get out of here!
A slim, stern appearing woman immaculately dressed rose, tapping a pointer against the table to get everyone’s attention. I wondered if the pointer was used to keep us in line since clearly there was nothing to point at. I had a vision of her slamming that across somebody’s knuckles. Had she been a nun before coming here?
“My name is Mrs. Brown. We are here to learn basic etiquette and how to dance. Please stand up everyone. She pointed to one of the boys in the class. “Come here. Now how would you ask a lady to dance?”
He stumbled a bit then said, “wanna dance?”
“Nice try, but a gentleman makes a lady feel needed. Approach her,” pointing at the blonde headed girl near the end.
He did. “Now, bend from the waist to a half bow. Everybody watch!” He did so and several of the boys started giggling. “Shut up and pay attention! Now what do you say?”
“No try this. May I have this dance?”
“May I have this dance?” He stammered.
The girl responded, “Sure!”
Mrs. Brown said, “Complete sentences please. ‘I would love to.’” Okay, no object to the preposition but we didn’t notice. Well I did because I also had Mrs. Lowe's Class of Grammar also and could be a bit of a smart ass from time to time, if only to myself.
She went on. “We’re going to learn several dances in this class. We start with the Foxtrot. Later we will do the jitterbug, the waltz and the cha cha cha.”
The entire class snapped their heads towards her at once. One of the bolder students spoke up. “What about the bop? Or the slow dance? That is what kids are doing now.”
Those dances are vulgar. I am here to teach you proper dances for young ladies and gentlemen.” Instantly she jumped into her first lesson with the fox trot.
Thus began three years of clearly defined hell. Awkward nervous boys dancing with girls they were afraid to even approach outside the class. The stench of nervous perspiration filled the room regardless of deodorant anyone used. Still the classes went on for what seemed forever. The final gathering was a dance at the Rose Gardens. In the hall there was a small pond with goldfish in the center. The boys had to do something to make the event memorable. That was when Jimmy spoke up. “Um, Bill?” Bill was the football hero with enough nerve to fill a hall this size. “I’ve got ten dollars here. You want it?”
“Well you gotta do something for me first.” Jim whispered in his ear.
A smile crossed his face. After a few dances, the teacher played a waltz. To the music of Strauss, Bill rose and danced with an imaginary partner around the room, circling around the room with this invisible woman. He circled around, closer and closer, then dancing right He through the middle of the goldfish pond. Water splashed everywhere to the beat of one two three one two three! The entire place broke out in laughter and applause. Mrs. Brown was apoplectic, screaming for him to get out of the pond assuring him she would be telling his parents. The dance came to an end, as did Mrs. Brown’s Class of Dance and Etiquette.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Ever so often I will insert a blurb about my gender journey from male to female. This is one such accounting, this time about hormone replacement.
There is always a certain shroud of mystery that surrounds those of us who change our gender. I think lots of people associate some sort of fascination or sexual fetish with women’s clothing and focus on that in trying to understand it. Clearly there are some transsexual women who go all out with fashion and trying to be some Hollywood ideal. In any group of people, including among transsexual women, there will be considerable variety. Others relate to the characters seen on Jerry Springer, drag queens acting out in perpetual high drama, only in six inch stilletos. Again, there are some who might fill that bill, but it was not my experience. It is my experience I try to share.
I’ll not go into detail here the feelings of being misplaced, different, like nature had performed some really massive joke. Nor about the times I had gone out in my alternate persona, wary lest serious bodily harm be dealt because in this country breaking gender rules can carry a huge price. Or the very real concern when I went to my employer to discuss my change how I could just as easily lost my job. Some of those stories will have to wait until another time.
What I want to tell is what happened when I first began HRT. Those are the initials for Hormone Replacement Therapy. For me, that involved large doses of premarin along with a medicine that interfered with production of testosterone (male hormone) called aldactone.
What followed was a near instant ecstatic transformation. No, I’m not talking about breasts. They grew over time of course. Oh I’ll always be a member of the itty bitty titty club, but they are a part of me now. The skin softened, and a new layer of fat was deposited. Frankly with my back problems I’m grateful I did not end up with some double D’s. But what I am talking about here is the removal of the effects of testosterone. It was as if I’d spent a lifetime with a cloud over my brain, and suddenly it was liberated. I became more relaxed, happier than I had ever been before. There were new levels of social discernment that had escaped me before.
Now some will argue that since testosterone sometimes lends to greater agitation, then of course it would be this way. But my female-to-male (ftm) friends describe something very similar when they begin taking testosterone. I can’t tell you scientifically what happens, but I do have a theory. Whatever causes a person to feel disconnected with their gender in the first place, may well feel the presence of their birth hormone as a foreign body. It was like my body, mind, and soul had been cleansed of a detrimental poison, even more so after I had the final surgery that removed the testosterone producer completely save the trace amounts all women possess. It really was testosterone poisoning!
Now there are women everywhere who can attest to the power of hormones. I’ll add my own amen to that sentiment. The sheer breadth of my emotional life grew exponentially with the presence of estrogen in my veins. For me, it was the most glorious liberation I would ever know. Yes I had lots of mood swings early on as I learned to cope with this new terrain akin to an emotional roller coaster. I laugh now recalling how I thought I must be the only person who ever experienced this ride. A girlfriend just laughed, telling me to deal with it. “We’ve all done it, only most of us did it when we were 13.” She was right of course.
I continued on estrogen therapy for some years beyond my surgery, but like so many other women, I quit taking it when word came out of the harmful effects of prolonged estrogen replacement therapies. Since the testosterone production glands were no longer there, it was not essential anyway. Oh guess what! I was treated to the entire array of hot flashes, night sweats, and moodiness that comes with “the change.” Was I ever glad when that was over!
Hormones of course but were one of many things necessary to make the body conform to my natural energy and nature. They were but one step along a way including electrolysis, mannerism adaptations, and of course surgery. They are not what makes a person a woman, but rather are only physical and cultural manifestations of gender. I’ve known biological women who were more masculine than most men I know after all. What makes a woman who she is resides in her spirit and heart, a sort of energy that is readily recognizable as feminine. My attorney in processing name and gender changes, referred to me (and others taking this path) as female to female transsexuals for we are not becoming a woman, only correcting the physical attributes that stand in the way of fully realizing our true selves.
In recent years, I’ve been on a new journey. Early on, it was essential to immerse myself in “all things woman.” A lifetime of denial encourages that sort of thing. I also wanted to hide from that part of my life, in part because it was so often an unhappy time. But now I embrace my feminine side, while reaching back to pick up the parts more masculine I left behind.
See I don’t believe anyone is entirely masculine or entirely feminine. Despite societal rules to the contrary, we are a marvelous blend of the two, with some leaning towards high femme while others are ultra masculine. This is regardless of the original birth gender on the birth certificate. Sadly we place all sorts of behavioral strictures in the world we live in. Mostly I think it was to hold women back by demanding submission as part of role expectations. Anyone recall the sitcoms from the fifties? Things like speaking in passive voice, living a life around making her husband happy without consideration of her own needs, expectations that did not carry into the halls of power. All of society was tilted towards the male of the species. Women have been finding their way out of that quagmire for decades now and correctly so. That is another stereotype with sadly enough examples to lend to the assumption. Transsexual women behaving like June Cleaver. That drives me nuts. Women have worked very hard to be free from those patriarchal notions. Turning the clock back is just unacceptable. To me June Cleaver play-like is akin to someone exchanging one role-play for another. It has nothing to do with self-truth at all, and perhaps much more to do with too much television as a child.
It’s so much easier to be myself! For me, surgery was the only way to be me. For those who don’t understand, feel fortunate you don’t have to understand. A fun exercise though is to imagine if you are male, that you have a female body, but felt just like you are now. How disorienting that could be every day of your life. Today, I’m a whole person, not compartmentalized as before. It’s not for everyone, and there is nothing evangelical about being transsexual. But for those born with this something that demands we correct our gender, it is a blessing to live in this day and time. Rather than playing a role, I’m being rather than acting. Someone in fact asked me awhile back, did I identify as butch or femme. I just smiled and replied, "I'm just Jessica."
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
If life is not complicated enough, try being transgender when you hit puberty. Even better, transgender and gay. It can be a real hoot in retrospect, though it sure was not all that funny back then. I've been blest to be gay as a male, and now gay as a female. Nature really is quite the merry prankster it seems. Let's go back a bit. At the age of three, I had told my mom I was a girl. Nothing like a bit of panic in your mom's eyes to send a child into a deep retreat. At least it was that way for me. All along, behavior I wanted to engage in was consciously replaced with a sort of faux masculinity. Heck to get respect this child learned to speak East Texas (which I still do to this day) and I even artificially deepened my voice. No wonder the other kids thought I was pretty weird.