Wednesday, August 9, 2017
It was on August 10, 1997, twenty years ago today, when my beloved partner and soulmate, Skip Wood, departed this world. How can I describe him? I know from day one, we could not get enough of each other, and we would talk into the wee hours. He had been a teacher, mostly in the Catholic School systems but also for a time with Spring ISD in Houston. He was brilliant, with a classical type education that included German, Latin, Classical Greek, English, Theology, Philosophy, and Music. He was well grounded in Classical Music and had befriended Sir John Barbirolli when he conducted the Houston Symphony. I had not begun transition yet, and when we met, it was electric. We simply could not stop chattering, I said then, like two school girls, telling our stories, and it was in short time after that, he moved in with me.
We shared so much together, and it was Skip who showed me a love I could not have imagined. For the coming years, our lives were so completely entwined. Skip lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and even after he could no longer work, he would greet me as the car drove up, and we would plan the evening’s adventures. I had never before known such happiness as I did when we were together. Even when I began transition, he did not run away. I will always remember the moment I sat down and talked with him about it. He paused a bit, said there was much he did not understand, but we could talk about it as we went along. Then he said, he loved me, and if this was what I needed to be happy, then he would support me. “Love is like that,” he smiled.
So many memories. Nights at EJ’s or later dinner at Charlies. We watched classic movies or gay theatrical films, or listen to music. We often entertained friends and our apartment became a bit of an open house for neighbors in our complex. I'm smiling even as I write this, remembering the non-stop drama in our small complex, akin to the fictional Barbary Lane so delightfully offered in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series. Or we would slip off for a romantic get away to the Hill Country or to Galveston, sometimes on a moment's notice.
Then in July of '97, he began to get visibly weaker and we didn't know why. His voice lowered to a whisper. The doctor put him on a regime of iv fluids to rebuild his immune systems. One night I heard a crash. I ran into the bathroom where he had collapsed to the floor. I ran to the neighbors to have them call the ambulance. I sat there beside him, checking his breathing and vitals and holding him and…
We arrived at the hospital, and after a violent seizure and a spinal tap, he slowly slipped into a coma. I sat with him in the hospital. Days became weeks, and we learned he had contracted viral encephalitis, a direct result of his compromised immunities, and those being compromised by the meds he took for his Rheumatoid Arthritis. Day after day, a watch in i.c.u. and no change. The nurses were so good, and I remember one day a doctor stopped by, asked about him and me, then quietly showed me his Lobo card, code that he was gay. We learned he was not getting better and to expect the worse. Oh I held him so close and even if in a coma, I would tell him the events of the day, and of course, so many times, sharing the love I felt for him. I recall then one night, Jimmy Carper at KPFT had me on the program and he and I did a tribute to Skip. The nurses at the hospital had turned on the radio for him to hear, even if in a coma. I got back to my apartment in the wee hours, only to get a call from the hospital. He’d taken a turn for the worse. I rushed back to the hospital, where I held him, told him how much I loved him, and told him if it was time to go, it was alright and I’d be okay. Okay I lied, but it needed to be done. Slowly he slipped away. August 10th 1997. It was 20 years ago now. The nurse came in, gave me ten more minutes with him, asking if anyone was there for me, then I left and the family and the priest walked in. I headed for the coffee shop where our favorite waiter asked about Skip and when I told him Skip was gone, he held me and we both cried. Then he played "I Will Survive" on the Jukebox.
With time and lots of love from my friends, it did get better. Each year at this time, I hold up his memory. I got a lovely letter after he passed from Lady Evelyn Barbirolli. He would have been so pleased she had done that. Months and years passed and life does go on, and I learned to appreciate all he had been in new and different ways and with new perspectives. After all, he gave me the greatest gift anyone could. He gave us our time together. More importantly, he taught me how to truly love. What a profoundly beautiful gift! I choose no longer to try and get over it, but rather honor it for the gift we had. Thank you Skip. Yes, I found love again. Yes, I love you. Love is like that after all, immortal even if we are not…
Dedicated to my True Renaissance Man...
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!