28 February 2011

Carved In Granite?

Two years ago, New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Now state Representatives David Bates and Leo Pepino are sponsoring a bill that would repeal the same-sex marriage law.  According to surveys, voters in New Hampshire oppose a repeal by a nearly two to one margin.

Now, I must say that I got a chuckle out of something in this story. When I went to Catholic school, the nuns used to refer to the boys as "Master" followed by their last names.  So, as an example, I was Master Valinotti.

Because the neighborhood surrounding the school was mainly Italian and Jewish (though not many of the latter went to our school), there weren't many kids named Bates.  I can't recall any.  So what would the nuns have called David Bates?

I'm sure someone must have asked this question.

Anyway...You know how some things and people don't go down without a fight.  (If you read a sexual connotation into the previous sentence, it's on you!)  Well, it seems like any laws that protect LGBT people or give us the same rights as everyone else don't come up or pass without a fight.  The moment any such law is passed, the opposition is ready to do battle.

You might think this is paradoxical, but I think that it's important to have laws that allow gay marriage for exactly the same reasons why I oppose them in principle.

I believe that the government should not be involved in any way with marriage, and that no one should get tax or any other benefits for being married.  If the government is to be involved in deciding whose marriages are legitimate, it should simply give the equivalent of a Domestic Partnership Agreement to any two people over the age of 18 who want to hook up.  Then, if they want to legitimize their relationship as a marriage, they should go to their church, synagogue, mosque or whatever so unites people in their communities.

However, I am enough of a realist to know that probably won't happen, at least not in my lifetime.  So I think that the best we can do in terms of equality is to make same-sex marriages legal.

The funny thing about New Hampshire is that it was always considered a "conservative" state.  Yet there has always been a very strong tradition of minding one's own business--which, by the way,  isn't the same as "live and let live."  While it was one of the most reliably Republican states (even as it was surrounded by some of the "bluest" states in the nation), it has never completely embraced some of the most reactionary notions espoused by the Far Right.  That may be because Christian Fundamentalism wasn't part of the mix, or at least wasn't as much a part of the mix, as it has been in some of the Southern states.

I don't know much about Bates and Pepino.  So I can only wonder on what, exactly, are they basing their opposition to the same-sex marriage law.  If they not motivated by religious beliefs (which, I'm discovering, actually plays less into anti-gay legislation than I'd previously assumed), what else motivates them but pure and simple bigotry?  From what I know about New Hampshire natives from the few I've known and the little time I've spent there, I don't think such prejudice will move them:  If nothing else, how much can they hate (or, for that matter, love) someone whose business they're ignoring?  Plus, a lot of Bostonians have moved to the state, at least along its coast and in its southern part.  Combine the tolerance they have developed simply by living in a metropolis with the native propensity for not interfering in other people's lives, and it's hard to see how the law is going to be repealed.

27 February 2011

Not Moving After All--Not Yet, Anyway

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was thinking of moving in with a woman I know.  Well, at least I thought I knew her.  Or, more precisely, I actually knew her better than I was willing to believe.

She didn't steal my boyfriend (or girlfriend!).  In fact, she didn't steal anything, except for some time.  

Instead, she asked me out to dinner with her.  "My treat," she said.  But even if it weren't, I would've gone to dinner with her because she said she wanted to talk.  I assumed that she meant a conversation about the prospect of my moving in, or about other circumstances in her life.

But we didn't talk much.  Instead, she downed martinis--five, to be exact.  She chased them with shots of vodka.  And  I'm sure she'd been drinking before she saw me.

By the time she finished, she couldn't stand up straight,let alone walk.  So I had to get her back to her apartment.  She wanted me to stay, though she was barely conscious. let alone coherent.  I couldn't, because I had early classes and a presentation the following day,  She knew that, just as she knew that I don't drink.

I guess it was better to have had that experience a few nights ago han to have had it after I moved in with her.

26 February 2011

Subduing Corruption and Vice

We never get a break, do we?

First we're blamed for leading men into perdition, or simply making things complicated.    That's how guys use the stories of Eve, Pandora and other women of myth and religion. 

But when those stories are used as rationales for subjugating women, the results can be really strange, if not offensive.

This is called "The Triumph of Civic Virtue," was created by American sculptor Frank Mac Monnies about 100 years ago.  A nearly nude man is standing, and dangling a sword over, two female sirens representing Corruption and Vice.

It stands in front of the Queens Borough Hall.  But the Borough President and other local politicians want to get rid of it.  Rep. Anthony Weiner even suggested selling it on Craig's List.

They are not the first people to find this statue offensive.  It stood in front of City Hall in lower Manhattan until 1941, when then-Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia deemed it offensive and ordered it banished from the premises. 

I've seen the statue before and I must say that I find it offensive, too.  Yes, the sexism and violent sexuality bother me, but I also remember that such blatant misogyny was perfectly acceptable in public art (and much else) to an even greater degree than is allowed today.

What I find offensive about the statue is that it's just plain hideous, at least to my eyes.  And, it nearly two stories tall, it's all but impossible to ignore.

25 February 2011

Where Is Kye Allums?

It occurs to me just now that I haven't heard anything about Kye Allums in a while.  

Perhaps you haven't heard anything about him, either.  That's not surprising, because his story got play, but not prominence in the media back in November.

He made history then by becoming the first openly transgender player to suit up for a men's NCAA basketball team, namely that of George Washington University.  

While there were some controversies, they paled in comparison to those generated by Lana Lawless.  I guess that makes a certain amount of sense because nobody expects someone who's natally female to dominate a men's game in the same way they think someone with XY chromosomes will have unfair advantages in women's competitions.

To their credit, his teammates have treated his openness about his gender identity as a non-issue.  However, some people--including Allums' mother--- are accusing the GWU administration of discrimination because he's not being allowed to play in spite of being cleared by a team doctor. 

If and when he comes back, it will be very interesting to see how he fares.  Before his injuries, his scoring average and other statistics were typical of other players in his position.  

But now the university wants not only to keep him from playing, but also from talking openly about his identity and experience.  He has said that one of the reasons why he "came out" publicly is that he wants to help educate people about transgenders and what we're capable of.

24 February 2011

No Move, At Least Not Now

I've decided that I'm not moving in with her after all.  She did a couple of things that confirmed a couple of things I'd suspected about her--and can't live with, for health and other reasons.

She'd asked me to come and talk with her.  But she, knowing full well that I don't drink, swallowed five martinis as I was eating.  And we hardly talked at all.  

And that was the least objectionable thing she's done lately.

On top of what I can't live with for health and logistical reasons, I noticed something else about her:  That she wanted me in her apartment, and in her life, because she liked the idea of having someone as exotic as I am around her and her friends.  

Just what I need, right?

23 February 2011

DOMA: Defense of What?

Imagine this: According to the laws of your state, you are married.  But, according to the Federal government, you're not.

For anyone caught in that predicament, it's more than an inconvenience.  It could mean, among other things, a denial of benefits to the one who's committed his or her life to you.  

That is exactly the bind in which some people have found themselves for years.  While a few states have legalized same-sex marriages, most haven't.  Nor has the Federal Government.  In fact, homophobia is, in essence, encoded in Title 3 of the odious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  It specifically does not recognize unions between people of the same sex.

Now Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Department of Justice will not defend that statute of DOMA.  While I applaud him on his stance, I wonder how much effect it will really have.  After all, Congress can still uphold it.  And that's what the House of Representatives will almost certainly do.  

So, while I hold out hope, I won't hold my breath.

22 February 2011

A Day For Celebrating Our Real Beauty

The college in which I've been moonlighting is going to have an event called "Beauty Day," in conjunction with Women's History Month.  I and others have pointed out that it's, at best, an odd strategy.  At worst, it can be seen--at least to some people--as "belittling women's accomplishments," as one prof put it.

To some degree, I agree with that prof.  But I also have a personal interest in the question I didn't discuss with anybody there. As I said to that prof, people are indeed judged that way  (The student-run "Rate My Professors" site has a category for "hotness.")  And, sadly enough, members of the dominant culture judge those who aren't part of it by how well they fit that culture's standards, in beauty as well as in other areas, without threatening the hierarchies that are built upon those standards.  

I never would have understood what I have just described in the previous sentence had I not undertaken my transition.  Most people would not say that I am a beautiful woman; not very many, I suspect, would even say that I'm terribly attractive.  But, at least, I seem to fit (more or less) into some ideas that people have about women who are around my age.

Then again, there is something else I never would have understood had I continued to live as Nick.  I am now ashamed to admit that I used to think that some people were simply wasting their time with beauty culture, or even basic grooming, because they weren't attractive and couldn't be made so.  
But now I see why women who are even more overweight than I am and don't seem to have other redeeming features will spend time making themselves up or putting together an outfit.  

I now think that a person who is not affirmed or supported by those in charge of whatever hierarchy rules his or her life has to find his or her own beauty, whether it is on the outside or inside.  Of course, that does not always mean beauty in the sense people usually mean it.  Your real beauty comes from the love you give to, and inspire in, yourself and other people.  And that power can come from any number of sources, including spiritual and intellectual ones.

Knowing that, for some of us, that power is the key to our survival, let alone the hope of any sort of prosperity, we not only feel the need to nurture it; we need to honor and even celebrate it.  That means being our best selves--which, for many of us, means wearing the clothes, accessories and cosmetics that most flatter the light of our eyes as well as the lines of our faces and bodies.

It's not merely a matter of making ourselves attractive for someone else.  (I've come to realize that almost everyone is attractive to someone else, or can be made so.)  Instead, it's a way of highlighting the beauty we hold simply in living through, and sometimes overcoming, the belittlement, condescenscion and harassment--not to mention the heartbreaks and other disappointments-- too many of us face.  

This isn't just about vanity or making ourselves pretty.  It's a matter of survival.  If anyone wants to have a Beauty Day during Women's History Month, he or she should understand that. 

21 February 2011

A Victim Or An Accuser?

When is a victim an accuser?

She is when the crime against her is rape, stalking or domestic violence.

At least, that will be the case if a bill introduced by Georgia State Legislator Bobby Franklin is enacted.

I used female pronouns in the second sentence of this post because the vast majority of victims of those crimes are females.  For that reason alone, the bill is terrible.  

I am not the first person to report on this bill and its consequences for women who are victimized by sexual violence.  But so far, I haven't seen any comments on how much the bill reflects biases against class and lifestyle.  Given the nature of socioeconomic status and politics, those biases also are ultimately biases against women.

Franklin says that as long as there is no conviction, he wants people who report that they've been raped, stalked or battered to be classified as "accusers" rather than "victims."  For one thing, getting a conviction in such cases requires a lot of time and other resources of the victim as well as from law enforcement agencies.  Calling someone a mere accuser when she's a victim means that her complaint has less credibility than that of someone who reports, say, a burglary.  This would make getting a conviction an even longer, more difficult and more expensive process than it already is.  As women who are victims of such crimes tend to have fewer resources and are typically in more precarious work and domestic situations than other people, the changes Franklin wants will ensure that fewer victims will report such crimes against them.  

As it stands, the crimes that would be covered in the bill are among the most under-reported crimes.  According to a report from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 60 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police.  And, if unreported cases are factored in, only 6 percent of rapists ever spend a day in jail, according to the RAINN report.  People who say that they were victims of a crime that they didn't report, when asked, say that they didn't report the crime against them because of the logistical barriers involved in doing so and because they didn't feel that their complaints would be taken seriously.  Both of those factors would worsen if anything like Franklin's bill passes.

Sometimes I'm not optimistic about the course of events.  But I never expected to see, even in one of the reddest states, an attempt to re-create law based on notions about rape and the value of one gender vs. the other that people were starting to abandon during my adolescence.  In other words, it seems that Franklin still believes that women who say they're raped are simply fantasizing and "had it coming" to them.  Also, he's saying that our pretty little heads aren't capable of reason.  So, whatever we say is less credible than what men say.

African-Americans and members of other "minority" groups have similarly been seen as less credible.  That's a story unto itself, but it also relates to the story at hand.  Anyone who's seen as a "minority" by those in the power structure is believed to be less than credible:  childlike, or simply incapable of seeing things "clearly" and telling the "truth."

In other words, the bill that Franklin proposes is as much an attempt to disenfranchise people who only recently began to win and exercise the rights Georgians and other Americans have.  In that sense, he's the spiritual descendant of those who levied poll taxes and "grandfather rule"s against newly-freed African Americans during the Reconstruction.

20 February 2011

On Current Events

I've been holding off on saying anything about the developments in Egypt, Bahrain and Wisconsin. There are more issues involved than the media is reporting, and while I do have my sympathies, I cannot unreservedly praise or criticize one side or another.  But I will certainly have more to say soon.

19 February 2011

This Doesn't Change: Conflicting Advice

It almost goes without saying that a gender "transition" involves changes as great in number and degree as most people are likely to ever experience.  Still, there are some things that don't change.  Sometimes, thankfully, they are the things we hope not to change.  As an example, some people who were in my life before my "transition" are still in it. 

On the other hand, there are some things that don't change from the day a trans person first talks about his or her identity with someone through the days, months and years following surgery.  Here is an example:  We continue to find conflicting and even contradictory advice and mandates about the care we have to give ourselves.

Marci and Nurse Phyllis recommend that we dilate three times a day for the first three months after our surgeries, twice a day during the following three months, and once a day after that.  According to them, receptive intercourse can substitute for one dilation.  

I would tend to trust what they say, simply because they have more experience with transgender patients than almost any other health-care professionals.  And my gynecologist hasn't advised me to do any differently.  However, I've seen a few sources--purportedly written by post-op trans women and/or their health care providers--that say once a week should be sufficient.  I saw a couple of articles that recommended even less frequent dilation, or that say each trans woman will find out what frequency is right for her.

Does other medical advice vary so widely?

17 February 2011

Finding Out About Lola

Today I heard the Kinks' Lola on the radio.  That, in itself, is not so unusual:  "oldies" and "classic rock" stations play it all the time.  

I heard it over the PA system in a cafe where I stopped for a cup of tea on my way to my part-time gig.  Two young guys were working behind the counter.  One of them nudged the other:  "Yo, ya hear this song?"

"Yeah, so?"

"It's about a cross-dresser!"

His nomenclature may or may not be accurate.  Some think that "Lola" is a pre-op trans woman.  How would we know, just listening to the song?

But I couldn't help but to wonder how many times that young man heard the song before it occured to him that it's about a guy's encounter with a girl who turns out to be a guy.  I've heard other people say they heard the song for years before they actually listened to the lyrics.  They can be forgiven:  The song has a catchy tune and opens with some pretty good guitar work.

What's interesting about the song is that, near the end, the narrator says "But when I looked in her eyes, I almost fell for my Lola."  But, in the end, he avers, "Well I'm not the world's most masculine man/But I know what I am and I'm a glad I'm a man/And so is Lola."

Given that the song was released in 1970, it's amazing that there's anything at all about a cross-dresser or a trans woman.  Still, it's hard not to notice that the narrator goes, in the space of a stanza, from an almost-tolerant attitude to   one who doth protest too much, perhaps.  

16 February 2011

The Art Of Gender And Prestige

Writing about newsboys and news carriers (Carriers?  I thought they had to do with diseases!) got me to thinking about what happens to jobs when their titles are de-gendered.

Congressmen became Members of Congress.  For a time, there were Congresswomen (or, as someone I know called them, Lady Congressmen).  But I think that there wouldn't be more than a couple of women in Congress today if they were still referred to as Congresswomen.  

Something similar could be said about many job titles that used to end in "man."  How much of our mail would be delivered by females if they were referred to as "mail women" --or, worse, "mail ladies"?   Now, I've never worked for the Post Office, and probably never will.  But I've been referred to as a "mail woman."  Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me.

But, seriously, I can think of the status of one job that actually improved when its title was de-gendered.  I can still remember when hustlers were referred to as "con men," which is short for "confidence man."  "Con woman" wouldn't have quite the same ring, and would sound simply strange.  So, instead, people who gain your trust so they can hustle and swindle you are called "con artists."  

Hmm...Does that mean anyone or anything who leaves or changes gender is an artist?

14 February 2011

Carriers Of News

Today I was drifting aimlessly in cyberspace when I really should have been doing other things.  And, somehow, I came upon this:

Someone rescued a few sets of bags like these from an old newspaper building that was being torn down.  Now he's selling them.

I'll bet that some of you have never even seen, much less used, an old-fashioned newsboys' bag like the one pictured.  In cities, home delivery of newspapers is all but gone.  And in some cities, newspapers themselves, at least the print versions, are a dying breed.

In fact, I haven't even heard the term "newsboy" in a long time.  I wonder if that job still exists.  And if it does, is it done only by "newsboys?"  Back in my day, it was.

Yes, it was a gender-specific job.  I don't think there was any rule against girls delivering newspapers; it just didn't happen.  Or so most people think.  Little did they know...

Yes, I was a newsboy.  At least, that's what I was called.  I started delivering papers a year after my family moved to New Jersey, if I remember correctly.  

And--again, I'm depending memories not only of a long-past time, but of someone I have not been in a seemingly long time--I was even named Carrier of The Month, or some such thing, by The Asbury Park Press.  After I was delivering for about a year, our job titles were made gender-neutral:  newsboys became newspaper carriers.  I could not show the sigh of relief I felt within me when that happened!

I don't think I've looked at the APP since I stopped delivering it.  I've found the online edition, which I've linked.  But now I wonder whether they still have a print edition.

If they don't, what are all those newsboys--er, news carriers--going to do?  After all, that experience must have something to do with the person I've become!

13 February 2011

Another Disappearing Tranny?

My relationship to my past is changing.  I've been thinking of moving in with someone who's not a lover or relative.  And I notice my circle of friends and acquaintances is changing.  What's next?

Well...This may not be a change, really.  Well, it is, except that it has more to do with me than with circumstances.  I suppose the same could be said about the other changes I've described.

Anyway...I'm starting to become one of those post-op trans people who "disappears."  In other words, I'm living as a friend, neighbor and co-worker who just happens to be trans.  Some know about it; others don't.  I wouldn't mind if fewer people knew.  

Until recently, I've been willing to talk with people if they asked, or if they were willing to listen.  But I've gotten tired of it.  I know I could help to educate people and all that.  But I have had growing doubts about how much educating I'm actually doing by being open about what I am and have been.  Maybe some who've accepted me are more accepting of, or more willing to accept, trans people.  But I think they were and are willing to accept people who are different from themselves anyway.  

And now I find myself less motivated to be an activist.  Yes, my awareness of a number of issues--most of them not directly trans-related--has grown.  This has been causing me to question some ideas and notions that formed my outlook.  As an example, as much as I don't like lots of regulation and big government, I understand that "hate crimes," by their nature, have to be defined.  That doesn't mean they're more important than other crimes; rather, it means that those who arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes need to consider their bigotry.  Why else would, for example, someone who kills a trans woman take the trouble to stab her after shooting her, or to cut up her body and leave the parts in dumpsters all over a city?

I also have complicated feelings about laws intended to give us redress when we're discriminated against and the issue of same-sex marriage.  I think that, too often, the laws are doors that are closed after the horse has bolted from the barn.  Plus, discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to prove.  For every one that ends in a settlement for the victim, there are many others that don't end with a settlement for the victim or that the victim doesn't even report, for a variety of reasons.

Part of the reason I don't feel I could be an activist is that my views aren't in lockstep with the vast majority of LGBT activists.  And, quite honestly, I feel that I'd rather help individual people than to stage or participate in a demonstration.

If you're hearing echoes of disillusionment, you're hearing right.  It seems that every time I get involved with an organization, people in it try to turn me into some kind of activist.  I'd wanted to start a support group and perhaps a counseling service for trans people aged 45 or older.  I approached an organization for whom I've done a bit of volunteer work.  That was a mistake:  What they really wanted was for me to go to conferences and other gatherings to rally the troops.  

Maybe living the rest of one's life is incompatible with that sort of thing.  Of course, I never would have known that if I hadn't tried to do both.  

12 February 2011

Walking With Our Heads Up

After reading Diana's post today, I checked out one of the links she provided.

That there is discrimination against transgender people is not news to me. Nor is the knowledge that trans people of color experience even more discrimination than those of us who are melanin-deficient.   If those facts were all the survey revealed, I would not be thinking about it now.

However, the researchers who compiled the report Diana linked seemed to understand the limits of so many previous studies.  Those earlier surveys and reports indicated, for example, that we are much more likely than everyone else to be unemployed, experience harassment, try to kill ourselves or to be killed by someone else.  But they missed two other key elements of our lives that "Injustice At Every Turn" conveys about as well as anyone can with statistical narratives.

The first of those elements is the cumulative effect of our experiences.  According to the report, nearly two out of every three of us have experienced a "serious act of discrimination," which the authors define as "events 
that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally."  Those events include, but are not limited to:

• Lost job due to bias
• Eviction due to bias
• School bullying/harassment so severe the respondent had to drop out 
• Teacher bullying 
• Physical assault due to bias
• Sexual assault due to bias
• Homelessness because of gender identity/expression
• Lost relationship with partner or children due to gender identity/expression
• Denial of medical service due to bias
• Incarceration due to gender identity/expression.

Worse, nearly one in four of us has experienced "catastrophic" discrimination, which the researchers define as experiencing at least three of those life-disrupting events.  

The second dimension of our experiences that the researchers managed to convey was what we develop in part as a result of our experiences:  resilience. More than three out of every four of us report that we felt more comfortable at work and our performance improved after we began to transition, even in spite of the discrimination and even harassment many of us experience.

And we still manage to get hormones, as well as the other medicines and treatments we need, in spite of the discrimination or structural barriers we face in getting health care.  We lose jobs and aren't considered for others because of bigotry, but somehow many of us still find employment.  We find places to live after we've been kicked or kept out of other places because of bias, and we're three times as likely to return to school after the age of 25 even after so many of us were essentially bullied out of our high schools and colleges.

But, most important of all, we keep our self-esteem--which many of us found only upon coming to terms with who we are and deciding to live in accordance with it (whatever that may mean for us)--even in the face of rejection from partners, family members, colleagues and people who were friends.  As one survey respondent said, "I have walked these streets and been harassed nearly every day, but I will not change.  I am back out there the next day with my head up."

11 February 2011

Turning Sepia or Chiaroscuro

"Sophia" had an interesting response to my post "Giving Up What I Never Had."

On her blog, she describes "A Life Turned Sepia."  Her account of her relationship to her past resonates with me.  She explains it by talking about how she "could recall finding the Dr. Who series new and exciting" when she was a child, but how or why she was, or at what particularly, is "back somewhere in the mist."  On the other hand, she says when she saw The Prisoner during her adolescence, she was "relating to the allegory, to the style, to the place it attained in the culture around me and all the feelings associated with these."  So she has a clearer, or at least more accessible, memory of it because of the repertoire of memory and emotion that she'd developed by the time she saw it, and which she didn't have very early in her life.  Likewise, early relationships and other experiences are less accessible than more recent ones.  

And so I concur with her when she says "I don't have much motivation to distance myself from my male past."  The truth is, as she points out, we don't need motivation to do that:  It happens by the same sort of process that makes Dr. Who less accessible than The Prisoner in her memory.  A result of it is that,for her, "40 years of memories have turned sepia."

My experience dovetails with hers except on the last detail. My memory doesn't seem sepia so much as it's like one of those black-and-white photographs that seems almost chiaroscuro in its composition.  Photographs or stills of actors and actresses from the 30's and 40's--and sometimes the 50's--have that look.  The details are sharp and clear, but they are remote from me--both in those photos and in my recollections of long-ago experiences.  Actually, some of them weren't that long ago:  When you get to be my age, seven or eight years seems like little more than a blink.   

Just as my life experience is so different from those of the actors and actresses in those old films and photos, so does the way I experience things differ from how I experienced them before my transition.  It's really as if a different person experienced those things.  And so, I have no desire to distance myself from that past because it's becoming distant from me in any case.   So much of it was no more mine than the lives of those actors and actresses in those old studio shots.

10 February 2011

What Do I Do Now?

Yesterday I was actually starting to like the idea of moving.  Well, I wasn't thinking so much of moving as I was of being in an apartment with more windows and light than what I have in mine.  And I do like the woman with whom I'd be sharing the place.

I just hate having to move.  I've done it a few times before, but it's never easy or fun.  And when I'm moved in, I'm so slow to unpack and arrange things.  I guess I still get overwhelmed by all of the tasks involved.  

Plus, I haven't lived with anyone since Tammy and I split up. That was eight and a half years ago.  And, if I recall correctly, the last time I lived with anyone before Tammy, I was with Eva, and about a decade before I met Tammy.

At least the woman with whom I'd be living is not someone with whom I am, or have ever been, in a romantic relationship. And I don't anticipate that we'll become one.  However, she has expressed interest in shopping and eating with  me.  So I also don't anticipate that we'll be merely two people who split the rent.

Oh, and Charlie and Max like her. 

09 February 2011

Into More Light?

I don't know whether I have become more photosensitive after hormones and surgery.  Lately it's seemed that way.  I've been realizing that spending so much time indoors hasn't helped my mood.  Nor has the amount--or lack--of light in my apartment.

It does get some light, but not as much as the place in which I'd been living before moving here.  Sometimes it can get pretty dreary in here.  I've entertained thoughts of moving.  But I don't like to move.  It's not the change I don't like; it's the logistics that I find daunting, even after doing it a few times.

But I talked about moving in with someone who's looking for an apartment-mate.  She's my age, shares some of my sensibilities and has a light-filled apartment with a small balcony.  And the price is right--at least for me.  

07 February 2011


I'd been avoiding Sara.  Actually, I'd been avoiding her friend, too, perhaps even more than I'd been avoiding her.  But she sounded distressed in the last message she left me.  I knew I might be wading into quicksand, but I called back anyway.

Turns out, the friend moved out without notice.  They'd known each other for about thirty years and lived together for twenty-five.  Each of them wanted the other.  But she wanted her friend as she is; the friend wanted her only if both of them could change:  she, her desires and her friend, her body.

You may have guessed (if you haven't looked at the link) that the friend is transgendered.  She is probably the most masculine woman I ever met; in fact, she looks and even acts the way I might have had my testosterone count been just a bit higher, or my estrogen level lower.  She just reached one of those round-number years that signals one is no longer young and more than likely has more years behind than ahead of her.  And, due to various medical problems as well as her finances, she cannot have the penis she always wanted.

It's really difficult for me to describe the friend, whom I've called "Dee" on this blog, with female pronouns.  Even more people call her "sir" or use male pronouns in reference to her than to me early in my transition.  I normally don't make such judgments, but Dee really should have been born with the equipment I had.  The shape of her body is even similar to what mine was before I started my transition, and somewhat like my body now.  

But upon meeting her, I could feel her anger toward me.  Some trans people who can't begin or consummate their transitions often project their anger toward the world, including people who have nothing to do with the state of their lives.  (That, of course, includes most people.)  I know I did.  And I realize how awful it must have been for some people who had to live, work or otherwise deal with me.

If I could do something to help Dee, I would.  But there isn't anything I can do.  And, I don't think she wants to change.  In fact, I told Sara that in leaving her, and moving in with her mother (whom she claims to detest), Dee may actually be preparing herself to die.  Given her medical conditions, that's not implausible.

And now Sara needs help, at least emotionally, from anyone who can give it to her.  I'm not sure that I can.  When I've talked to her, she's sounded like one of those women whose abusive husbands just left her.  They are stunned because they have known nothing else for so long.  Whether the abuse is physical, psychological or verbal, it changes the person receiving it.  They're rather like prisoners who start to see captivity as normal; the first taste of freedom is overwhelming rather than exhilarating.  I've known women like that and in fact got involved in romantic relationships with at least two.  

I'm going to have supper with Sara tomorrow night.  I'm willing to help her.  But somehow I get the feeling that there's something she needs, and may be seeking from me.  And I may not have it.  Quite honestly, about all I can do is to empathise with her to the degree that I can understand what it's like to be Dee.  Admittedly, I can do that more than most other people could, simply because of my own experience.  But I'm not sure I have anything else to offer Sara.

06 February 2011

Sean Avery Speaks (Up) For Us

It's been said that politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Well, let me tell you, I've had some pretty strange bedfellows.  And I've never been (and don't intend to be) in politics.  

But I digress.  I can think of something else that makes for some really strange, or at least unexpected, alliances:  the issue of LGBT rights.  Barry Goldwater, that bastion of conservatism, supported them.  A couple of years ago, Dick Cheyney came out in favor of allowing gay marriage.  

Now a hockey player who once described his ex-girlfriend as "sloppy seconds" says he's willing to support any player who's gay and is worried about the consequences of "coming out." 

In a news conference, Sean Avery, whose behavior has caused a couple of teams to trade him in spite of his talents as a player, said, “If there’s a kid in Canada or wherever, who is playing and really loves the game and wants to keep playing but he’s worried about coming out, I’d tell him to pick up the phone and call (NHLPA executive director) Donald Fehr and tell him to book me a (plane) ticket.”

Now, if he's sincere--and somehow I suspect he is, believe it or not--I think that it's an example of what will really propel acceptance and rights for LGBT people.  When a macho-guy hockey player like Avery is willing to stand beside a gay player, that just might influence others to do the same.  We need him for the same reasons why we need the support of conservatives and of what is sometimes called "Middle America."  When some churchgoing parent accepts his or her--or someone else's--gay kid, that example resonates more powerfully for most people than it does when it comes from some former ACT-UP member.  

Of course, I don't mean to say that we don't need the support of our more traditional allies.  But when the Sean Averys and Dick Cheyneys of the world put in a word for us, they're not preaching to the choir.

05 February 2011

Giving Up What I Never Had

The other day I was talking--about what, I don't recall-- with another faculty member.  All I know is that it had to do with things we were teaching because she related a story about something that happened to her in a class once.  And I mentioned--I forget why--that once, when I was conferring with a student about her paper, she blurted, "When you were teaching A Doll's House, you were teaching about yourself, weren't you?"

I hadn't mentioned it to anyone in a long time.  I also hadn't mentioned that I had that conference with that student during my last year of living as Nick.  In fact, not much more than a week after that conference, I took my first dose of hormones.  

All of that meant, of course, that the answer to that student's question was an emphatic "Yes!," even though I hadn't realized it until the student asked.  Just four months before I had that conversation, my life was different:  I had to leave it in order to do what I needed to do.  I had to give up relationships, a cozy living situation and a lot of other things in order to make my changes.

But as I was talking to that faculty member the other day, I had a really odd sensation.  I felt, not that what I gave up was insignificant now, or is less than what it seemed to be at the time.  Rather, it felt as if I never actually had the things I gave up.  

Perhaps I never had any of it.  At least, I never had--among other things--the love of certain people.  I lived under the illusion I did; so did they.  However, whatever relationships I had with them was built on a false pretense because I never was the person they thought I was.  And, ultimately, I never could be that person.

03 February 2011

Protesting Undercover in Egpt

According to Scott Long, the LGBT coordinator for Human Rights Watch, "a large number of LGBT Egyptians have joined the protesters who want to end Mubarak's rule in their country.

Long was quick to point out that they weren't marching and demonstrating as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders.  Indeed, they aren't marching under a rainbow flag, or much of anything else that would identify them by their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.  That's not surprising because Egypt, like most countries in that reason, isn't exactly known (at least not officially, anyway) as a bastion of tolerance for LGBT people. 

So, while they are taking part in the protests and are often welcomed by the protesters and their supporters, they aren't doing so because they are LGBT people.  At least, the would never state publicly that they are.  But I can't see how an LGBT person can fight for human rights without making his or her identity or expression a part of it.  After all, if you're working for human rights, you're working for everybody, including LGBT people.  And we are affected as much as anyone by those rights we have and which are taken away from us.

But that's not the reason for my admiration of their courage or ambivalence about their role in the protest.  Nearly all are anti-Mubarak.  As well they should be:  Not only does he have a terrible (though not the worst) human rights record, he is basically a puppet of this country.  And this country's de facto colonialization of the country and the region are not going to win him any friends, particularly among the young.

What happens if or when those young people, like so many of their peers in other countries of that region, express their anger and disdain for "The Great Satan" of America by joining groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or immersing themselves in the more fundamentalist or militant sects of Islam?  Or, if they become so radicalized if only because they're young and have nothing to lose?  (Egypt has the highest percentage of unemployed college graduates of any country in the world.) Just as Communism can be very appealing to hungry people, so can any doctrine that posits itself as the foe of that which is destroying young people's dreams.

Remember, Egypt is in the heart of that part of the world where people believe that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.  So they'll work with the Muslim Brotherhood or some other such organization if only for their opposition to the US.   

And if groups like those gain power, where does that leave LGBT people?

02 February 2011

Backlash Against Whom And What?

What I said yesterday about the un-funny Saturday Night Live sketch brings to mind a conversation I had with a colleague.

She remarked that she sees more violence against women in the media as well as in the real world.  While I could say that I'm simply noticing those things more, I would have to say I agree with her.  And, according to her, pornography has also grown more violent against women.  I'll take her word on it, if for no other reason that it makes sense.

Some would call the violence a "backlash."  Against what and whom?  I guess some people (mostly men but, surprisingly, some women as well) think that women who assert themselves and do the things they want to do are somehow transgressive.  Transgressive against?--I could insert the usual suspects here:  the established order, the boys' club or any number of other manifestations of the same thing.  But, also, it violates some ideas some people still hold, however covertly, about family structure and roles.  

Calling it a "backlash" implies somehow that the women who chose to become engineers and lawyers are in the wrong.  It certainly is a reaction--almost a Newtonian one, really.  It's true that any time someone tries to push forward, someone else pulls back.  Beatniks and hippies came to be during the repressive social and political atmosphere of the 1950's, and the first feminist movement came to be during the Victorian era.  And the Tea Party gained steam, if not traction, as the first black President and Hispanic female Supreme Court justice were being sworn in.

Substitute "transgender" wherever I've used the word "woman," and you'll understand why, although there is greater and broader acceptance of transgenders than there was in my youth (one reason why I'm glad I made my changes during the past few years rather than in my youth), there also is, or seems to be, more violence against us.  And we're being ridiculed more and more in the media as well as in person-to-person encounters.  Some would argue that it's a good thing if for no other reason that it means we're more visible.

Yes, we're more visible.  But too many don't see us as people; we're still seen as trans or, worse, guys in dresses or women in overalls and flannel shirts.  So, in that sense, we're as invisible as the man in Ralph Ellison's novel.  That's how the SNL producers make things like that sketch I talked about.

01 February 2011

Getting Over "Saturday Night Live"

It's been decades since I've watched Saturday Night Live regularly.  So I would never have known about a sketch they did last week if someone hadn't alerted me to it.

On SNL, there's a longstanding tradition of satirizing commercials--or, more precisely, the tropes of commercials.  And that is what SNL's producers and NBC executives claimed they were doing in making and airing a mock-commercial for a product called "Estro-Maxx."

But it seemed that transgenders were mocked more than the product.  The males-to-females were depicted with the old stereotypes:  exaggerated walks and voices, and obsession with clothing and makeup.  The "commercial" could just as easily have been made thirty or forty years ago.

Now some people are accusing us of not having any sense of humor, and telling us to "get over it."  Well, you don't just "get over" being attacked, especially by established and respected institutions and people.  A man with breasts?  That stopped being funny around the time of Tiresias.  So, for that matter, did Saturday Night Live.