31 July 2011

Which Box Do You Check?

Today I did something I don't normally do:  I answered a survey.  It was part of another blog, and, I believe, was being used to get a sense of who was reading the blog.  It asked about age, education level and a few other things that seemed like basic market research information.

But the most interesting question is the one that, at one time in my life, would have been the most mundane:  Sex.  No, not the "yes," "no", "four times a week" or "not before 5 pm" variety.  I'm talking about the "M" or "F" variety--or what politically correct types (How could I ever be one of those?) call "gender."

What made it interesting was that in addition to "M" and "F", there was a third category:  "transgender".  Well, at one time in my life, I would have jumped for joy upon seeing that. Today, however, I found myself wishing that it was further broken down into "male to female" and "female to male."  I also found myself wishing there were other categories.  After all, I think there are lots of other forms of gender identity and expression, not to mention sexuality, that haven't yet been identified and named, at least not officially.  

Another dilemma I encountered is that I really don't identify myself as transgender anymore.  As far as the law, official records and most people are concerned, I am a woman.  And that's how I see myself, although I cannot forget my heritage, if you will.

So, while I was tempted to check off "transgender" just to create a presence for trans people, I checked off "F."  But I am glad there was a "transgender" category for those who so identified, even though, as I said, I wish the category had been further broken down.

30 July 2011

My First Swim

It's odd to be writing, two years after my surgery, about another "first."  But today I took my first swim since then.

Of course, two summers ago, I was healing from my surgery, which was in July.  I couldn't have gone for a swim until November.  And, of course, I would have swum then only if I had taken a trip to a warm climate or gone to an indoor pool.  And I much prefer swimming in an ocean, lake, stream or some other body of water that's a geographical feature.

Last summer, I didn't swim.  I told myself I didn't want to swim because an infection I had in the spring had just healed and I didn't want to endanger my recovery.  The truth was that I felt fat and didn't want to put on a bathing suit, even if both of the bathing suits I own are one-piece affairs.  

But today I rode with a friend to Rockaway Beach.  It's not anyone's idea of an ideal beach, but it is on the Atlantic and, actually, not bad.  If I wait for a "better" beach, with bluer or warmer water, who knows when I would have been able to swim again?

Some things don't change:  I felt the same sort of release--a catharsis, a liberation and an opening outward--I always feel when I spread my arms and legs in waves of water.  But, I had two other, seemingly contradictory, sensations:  On one hand, I felt like a new dolphin just released into the sea, while, on the other, I felt I was continuing an old dream.  Actually, in terms of my current life, that dream is old:  I experienced it two nights after my surgery.  But it is new, in part because two years ago is really not long ago (unless you are in the fashion or high-technology industries), but also because it was new in the way renewals always are.

Today I came out of the water to a Lakythia, friend who accompanied me there.  I didn't know her when I had the surgery, or the night I had that dream. In fact, I didn't know her until about two months ago.  But we got on our bikes, and everything felt familiar as it always does when you meet it again.

28 July 2011

What You Weren't Expecting, When And From Whom You Weren't Expecting It

Today, I went to a bank branch I occasionally use.  There, I saw Roger, one of the workers I hadn't seen in a while.  He just turned thirty, he told me, but he still gets carded in bars and clubs.  (I told him that had I met him on the street, I'd have thought he was seventeen or eighteen.)  And, he said, he's going back to school in the Fall.  "Teacher's College!," he announced with pride.

After doing one thing and another, he said, he's decided to become a teacher.  Then we got to talking about how the routes that get us to where we are in our lives are often circuitous, to say the least.  He got his undergraduate degree in film and got to do some small-scale production work--which, he accurately pointed out, is more than most people with film degrees work in their field.  Then, he did some writing, though not enough to pay the bills.  He continues to write, he says, but now he's doing more of his own creative work.  His job, while not enriching him financially (Ironic, isn't it, that he works in a bank?), at least gives him that luxury.

And, in another one of those unexpected turns we sometimes experience in our lives, it was his current job that led to his decision.  During a training session, he explained something to another employee.  His supervisor, who caught the exchange from the corner of his eye and ear, said, "You know, you'd be a really good teacher."

"That was my 'aha!' moment," Roger said.

I think he would be good at it, for he deals with people patiently and communicates well.  And, in my dealings with him, I have seen how he can come up with creative solutions to problems.  

Our exchange got me to thinking about how the most important realizations I've had in my life have come from whom, and in situations, I hadn't anticipated.  Of course, the biggest one of all came around this time ten years ago, when I pedaled into Saint Jean de Maurienne, France as people were going home from work.  When I stopped at a traffic light, I saw one of those people--a woman a few years older than I was and seemingly unexceptional--and realized that I had to move through the world as she did.

And, years before that, there was a woman with whom I'd become friendly and whom I thought I'd want to date.  Because she was very attractive, she could have had (and, actually, did have) and number of men.  Still, her rejection surprised me.  "I like you a lot," she said.

"All right.  What don't you like about me."

She hesitated.  "Give it to me straight," I said.  "I'd really like to know."  I would have thought it had to do with my looks or relative poverty; she had dated surgeons and airline pilots, back when the latter job still paid well and had some prestige.  I didn't expect her to admit those things, and I thought she might talk about how our priorities were different, or some such thing.  

However, what she said was more incisive, and therefore more surprising:  "I think you're a wonderful person.  But I want to be a man.  You're manly--on the surface.  But underneath it all, you're a woman."

"W-what do you mean?" 

"To you, everything is about emotions and refinement.  That's how you see the world--even when you're working out, playing sports, and doing the 'guy' stuff."

I couldn't protest, cry, lash out, thank her--I couldn't, and didn't, respond at all.   I sat, in stunned silence, in the booth of the coffee shop where we'd met.  In fact, I don't remember how we parted:  Did she simply leave?  Did we argue; did either of us say "goodbye?"  All I know is that I never saw her again.  

What would she think if she saw me now?  What would that woman in Saint Jean de Maurienne think if she realized what happened the one and only time I saw her?  And what will Roger's supervisor think if they should meet again after Roger has been teaching for a few years?

25 July 2011

Meeting My Brother

Today I saw Mom, Dad and Mike.  They were all understandably tired:  The last couple of days have been busy for them and the weather had been oppressive.  Mom said that she doesn't think she can make any more trips from Florida to New York/New Jersey, mainly because of her age and the health problems that have come with it.  Dad feels the same way, but I think he was dreading the drive back to Florida even more than any prospective future trips.  That, too, is understandable.

Later this year, Mike will have one of those big round-number birthdays.  Given that, he was looking rather good, I thought, and I told him as much.  I think that might have been more of a surprise, for him, than anything else that transpired. It wasn't the sort of thing I would say to him when I was still living as Nick.  I guess it's not the sort of thing male siblings normally say to each other.

Now I realize that I may never have complimented him on anything until today.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that I never complimented him.  I mean, what kind of an older brother would I have been if I did?  ;-)  As if I were ever a model of siblinghood! (Does such a thing exist?)

Over lunch, I sat across from Mike, with Mom and Dad at our sides.  My conversation with Mike was, at first, almost an interview:  He asked about my work, when my summer class was ending, and when the new semester starts. Then we talked about my upcoming trip, his plans and about my nephew. I was glad, really, that the conversation went the way it did:  I felt, in a way, reassured because it's the sort of conversation we might have had even if I hadn't undergone my transition.   It was more or less what I could have expected under any set of circumstances that included not seeing him for about fifteen years.  

As we parted, I said, "Let's not let another fifteen years pass."

"Don't worry.  We won't.  I'll probably be coming this way more often now that Matt is grown."

I hope he's right.  Even though we weren't close--in part because of our difference in age and in part because of our differences in temperament and interests--I don't feel like I want to "make up for lost time."  Really, it's not possible to do that.  I would simply like to get to know him.

24 July 2011

Same-Sex Marriage and Gender Relations

As someone who pays attention to language, I found the modifications made to the marriage ceremonies performed today very interesting.

They may seem minor, as matters of language often seem to many people.  However, a judge couldn't very well pronounce two people of the same sex, "man and wife."  Instead, the judges pronounced the marriages "consummated" and referred to both members of the couple as "spouses."

What a lot of people don't realize is that changing the vows actually makes both members of the couple more like equals than the traditional vows do. Note that the judge, clergyperson or whoever else performs the ceremony usually says, "man and wife."  In that arrangement, the man's status does not change.  However, the woman ceases to be whomever she was before the ceremony; now she is the wife of the man.  In other words, she is now defined by her relationship to the man, while the man is not defined by his relationship to the woman.

So, in modifying the marriage vow and the pronouncement, the judges who married hundreds of same-sex couples today in New York showed something that many of us have long understood:  Gay rights and gender equality go hand-in-hand.  Perhaps this is what some opponents of same-sex marriage, or LGBT rights in general, fear.  It's simply not possible to have same-sex marriages if one member of the couple has to subsume his or her identity and redefine him or herself as an appendage of someone else.  That concept of gender relations and marriage is outmoded, anyway.  

23 July 2011

Tomorrow: What We've Been Waiting For

I can understand how all those gay couples who are getting married tomorrow must feel:  Two years and two weeks ago, I was feeling something very similar, I think.  On the eve of my surgery, I felt the sense of anticipation I imagine those couples are feeling. 
They have done a lot of planning, I’m sure.  Some may have planned to get married in Massachusetts or Canada or some other place where same-sex marriage was legalized before Andrew Cuomo signed it into law in this state. Others may have been waiting to get married here in New York and would not have considered any place else. 

But they all have something in common:  They have been waiting.  Some have been waiting for as long as they can remember, as I had been waiting to live as the person I am.   Others may have never thought about marriage until they heard about other gay couples getting married in other places; they may have, somewhere along the way, given up hope of having the sort of life their parents and most of their friends and peers have had.  They may have lived in long and deep despair, as I did, and will soon see it turn to joy.

And, just as I had faith but still hoped that everything would go well, I am sure most of those couples want everything to be just right, whatever that means for them.  But, I would guess, they know that whatever happens, everything is going to be all right, or at least, they will be living in synch with themselves, living the  lives they, as human beings, have a right to share with other human beings.

When I had my surgery, I felt as if I had, in some way, given birth and had entered into the race of people into which I had always belonged, even if I had lived in a sort of exile from it.  I’m guessing that at least some of those people who are getting married tomorrow will feel their own versions of those senasations.

22 July 2011

Another Family Reunion, Sort Of

Given the amount of time I lived in "transition," and the fact that two years have passed since my surgery, you might think that I wouldn't or shouldn't be fazed by situations like the one I'm about to face.

I've told Millie and Bruce and a couple of other people about it.  They say I'm going to be OK, and everything is going to be OK.  I know they're right:  Even if things don't go the way I hope, I don't think I can experience anything more difficult than anything else from the past few years--or, for that matter, anything that preceded them.

On Monday I'm going to see my parents again.  That's nothing new for me, of course.  I don't even feel anxious about it:  It's been a long time since anything dramatic, let alone cataclysmic, has happened between us.  I guess that has to do with the fact that we're all getting older.  I'm not sure I could shock them at this point in our lives, even if I'd wanted to.  

And, I am simply grateful for the way they've treated me.  Mom has been even more helpful and supportive than I thought she would be (and that's saying something), Dad has been even better than I thought he could be.  The good thing about that is that it allows me to be less worried than I might be about what some other people might think (assuming, of course they might think).  The bad news is that the thought that they will die.  That has been on my mind more since the last time I saw them, back in April.

So, you ask, if I'm not expecting anything new or dramatic when I see them, why am I worrying?

Well, Mike is going to be there, too.  I want to see him; he lives on the other side of the country and it's probably been about fifteen years since I've seen him.   During my first year of my transition, we were supposed to see, but just missed, each other when he came this way.  At that time, I don't think he'd even seen a photo of me as Justine, although we had talked and exchanged e-mails.  

Since then, he's seen not only those photos, but also this blog (or so I imagine), among other things.  We have talked and exchanged more e-mails; he probably has some impression of me based on those things and whatever Mom, Dad and other people have told him.  Even if all of what he's heard is wonderful, I am still a bit anxious because, really, he still doesn't fully know what to expect upon meeting me again, just as, truth be told, I don't know what to expect when I see him.  After all, since the last time I saw him, his son--who was a toddler when I last saw him--has become a young man.  So you can imagine how many other things have changed in our lives since then.  

Although my parents and I  went through periods when we didn't see much of each other, there was some continuity, at least, in my relationship with them.  Although some of the changes they saw were dramatic, and perhaps even shocking (at least in the beginning), at least they didn't miss long periods of my life.  That is in contrast to what happened with the cousin whom I met again just a few weeks after my surgery, and whom I hadn't seen since my childhood.  And, of course, what they experienced was very different from the experiences of those people who have met me since my I began my transition or those--like Millie--who didn't know me for very long as Nick.  And, I would imagine, that what my parents experienced is very different from what other people who knew me for a long time as Nick (I'm thinking of Bruce, for one.) witnessed.

Seeing Mike again, I expect, will be different from any of those experiences, and from other times I've seen him.  Then again, it might not be so different.  Either way, I'll probably be surprised.  

21 July 2011

They'll Be Married--In New York, Anyway

Who says that marriage is dead?

It seems that every same-sex couple in New York wants to get married on Sunday, which is the first day that same-sex marriage is legal in the state.  In fact, a lottery had to be held in order to decide which couples would be united that day in City Hall.  

I think that people should decide what the age of majority is and allow any two people who are that age or older to get married or live in any other way they agree to. I still believe that governments should not be involved in marriage at all:  Everyone couple should get the equivalent of a civil union, and if they want to be married in a house of worship, they should be free to do that.  However, I don't think that being married by members of the clergy should be a criterion for defining marriage.

On the other hand, I think that, given the system we have, the law that will take effect on Sunday is the best anyone has devised so far.  Same-sex couples have he same tax benefits and other rights as heterosexual couples.  And no religious institution can be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Nor can they be forced to provide benefits to a same-sex spouse of an employee.  So, for example, if I were to marry another woman and I were to get a job at St. John's or Fordham University, they would not have to provide medical insurance for my spouse.  

All of that is fair, and even good--as long as my spouse and I stay in New York.  But what if she were to get a job in San Jose  making twice as much as both of us combined were making here in New York?  Or if it were simply "too good to pass up" for any other reason?  All right, so we would move.  (I won't give up my bikes, cats or books, though!) So far, so good.

Or is it?

You see, California stopped recognizing same-sex marriages after voters in that state voted for Proposition 8 in November of 2008.  So, no marriage performed in New York will be recognized there in spite of the fact that a couple wed in Massachusetts before that date is seen as a married couple.

At least in California, my hypothetical spouse and I would have, in essence, a civil union, which several other states allow.  (Ironically, I was part of a civil union with another woman when I was still living as a man.)  Although it doesn't allow for tax benefits or visitation or inheritance rights, it's still better than what most states have, which is to say no recognition at all for any but heterosexual couples.  

And there is still no federal recognition of same-sex marriage.  So, if one of us were to take a government job, the other wouldn't qualify for benefits.  

Given the realities of today's economy and culture, the scenarios I've described are not merely hypothetical.  Gay men, lesbians and transgender people change jobs and move--possibly even more frequently than heterosexual people do.  These days. people--particularly the young and those in fields like academia and government--move to where the jobs are, or are moved by their employers.  And we all know they're not all hetero!

Still, the prospect of all of those couples getting married on Sunday is exciting.  After all, doesn't every marriage begin with exciting  possibilities and uncertainties, and don't they all, in time, encounter unforeseen circumstances?    In that sense, the marriages into which those same-sex couples will enter on Sunday are no different from the heterosexual couples who will "tie the knot" that same day.

20 July 2011

Worse Than Their Homo- (and Trans-) Phobia

I like to remain optimistic.  Really, I do.  I don't like what I see in the mirror when I become a cynical bitch.

Still, I can't help but to think that there's no idea that's too farfetched, too illogical, too counterintuitive or too just plain wrongheaded to rear its ugly head from time to time.

One of those ideas is the ones that non-heterosexual, non-gender-conforming people can have their "deviance" beaten, shocked, prayed, hugged, drugged, jailed or talked out of them.  It seems that every few years, there's a spate of reports about "reparative" "therapies (something supported by US Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and practiced by her husband Marcus) ," "healing" "ministries" or some program concocted by the law enforcement/military/government complex in some country or another, that aims to change of us who love whom we're not supposed to love or don't live according to the "M" or "F" on our birth certificates. 

Almost none of those programs or ministries has been started, or is administered or practiced by, anyone with any sort of scientific or clinical background in anything having to do with the study of human behavior.  Such programs are routinely dismissed as "junk science" even by those whose religious or cultural beliefs might be in agreement with those who believe they are, in essence, performing or facilitating exorcisms. 

So why do they proliferate?  I don't think they get their impetus only from those who believe that they can "love the sinner but hate the sin" or from those, like Fred Phelps and his followers, who are pure and simple haters.  Instead, I think that the therapies, ministries and other programs continue, in large part, because of the anxieties too many of us in the LGBT community still have.

Thankfully, for more and more people today, "coming out" is a joyous occasion, or at least a relief.   However, in my youth, realizing that one was not attracted to members of the opposite sex (Yes, that's how we phrased it in those days.), let alone not the person idenitified by the name and sex on the birth certificate, was a cause for anxiety, at best, and more often, pain, loneliness, isolation and depression--which, of course, led too many of us to the bars, the bottle or a bridge.   So many of us didn't "come out"--or did so, and "recanted" later on.  Some of us entered marriages that fooled no one.  Or we pursued careers in the military or law enforcement and engaged in, or became fans of, the most "macho" sports and other endeavors we could find, while others paid extra attention to their hair, makeup and dresses.  

In other words, even if we didn't seek those "reparative" "therapies" or "healing" "ministries", or weren't forced into programs that would punish, if not change, us, many of us did those things to ourselves.  I think of the days when I trained athletically: I pedalled fifty miles a day, every day, lifted weights and did all sorts of other exercises; I pushed my body beyond its seeming limits in an attempt to pound it into submission.  All I managed to do was pull myself further and further away from any chance of meaningful community with anyone else, or myself.

These days, most rational people and those with any sort of empathy recoil at the thought of trying to "cure" homosexuality through electroshock, or even behavior modification or prayer and sermons.  So I don't think the Bachmanns and their ilk are nearly as much a threat to us as the fear and isolation that comes with trying to be "normal" and knowing that one can't.  As long as it's still possible to lose one's job, one's friends, family and community--in short, one's life as he or she knows it--too many of us will remain, and die, in the closet. 

17 July 2011

The School Climate Survey

Eva Genevieve has posted something on her blog that I'd like for you to see--especially if you're in high school, have recently graduated or have children, friends or acquaintances who fit into either category.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is doing its annual school climate survey.  Of particular concern are the bullying and harassment that too many LGBT students--or students who are simply perceived as LGBT--endure as part of their days at school.  Unfortunately, some students drop out of school because of the violence they experience.  I could have been one of them; the only thing that saved me from such a fate was becoming an athlete and intimidating other people.

Some people argue that young people--not only those who are LGBT--must learn how to endure the taunts, insults, threats and other forms of intimidation they experience.  I've heard more than one adult say that "bucking up" and "sucking it up" will build their character and make them tougher.  I've also heard plenty of other people say that gay boys should "butch up" or "man up" and that lesbians--particularly the "diesel dykes"--should make themselves more feminine.  You can only imagine what they say about trans kids.

I must confess that at one time or another, I said exactly the same things.  Such behavior, of course, was part of my "cover":  Even well into adulthood, I didn't feel safe in expressing any sort of sympathy, much less empathy, for "queer" kids (or adults, for that matter).  Plus, like too many other people who have endured misfortune, I told myself that it somehow made me better and stronger, and that others needed to do the same.  I guess it's a bit like those doctors who supervise medical interns and believe those interns need to experience as much sleep deprivation as possible because that is what they themselves experienced during their internships.

Suffering does not ennoble people, or make them more empathetic. Yes, some people do indeed become kinder and more understanding after suffering.  But it's not the suffering itself that does that; rather, it's the way the person who suffered internalizes and uses the lessons learned from the experience.  Some would argue that we are animals, programmed to strike back at whoever strikes us.  Perhaps we do have that collective memory, or whatever you want to call it, of more brutal times and conditions.  But, as humans, we also have choices as to how we respond or react to our personal and collective tragedies and sufferings.

Besides, if we're teaching kids that the only way to survive is to be mean and tough, and to strike back even harder than we're struck, what kind of a world are we creating?  If that's not Social Darwinism, I don't know what is.  I don't know anyone with an emotional age of more than twelve who wants to live in such a world--or, more accurately, who thinks that is the only kind of world we can inhabit.

If a child does not have a safe environment, I don't know how he or she can live up to his or her potential--unless he or she is truly exceptional.  And to say that someone has to be exceptional simply to have the right to live is, to me, profoundly disrespectful.  How can a society in which people say things like "Children are our future" allow any conditions that so inhibit the right of kids to grow and prosper--as the unique individuals they are?

16 July 2011

Looking In Balance

Before I went out for a bike ride, I went to a couple of stores in my neighborhood.  In one of them, I bumped into someone I hadn't seen in at least a year and a half.  I can say that with certainty because it's been about that long since I moved, and I last saw her before then.  She was one of my neighbors.

Then, I was almost home when I bumped into someone else I hadn't seen in about the same amount of time.  I was happy to see her, as I was to see the former neighbor. They are both nice and generous people.  The old neighbor is retired, and the other woman is not far from it.  

Both of them told me I looked really good.  Both of them emphasized "really."  I'll concede that I've lost a few pounds and I have a bit more color than I did a couple of months ago. What I found interesting about both of those encounters is that they seemed admiring, but not fawning.  They talked in that "Girl, you're doing something right!" tone.  

Perhaps I was exuding something I've felt lately.  I still need to lose more weight, but I actually feel a good energy.   I know I'll never have the flat-out strength, or overall conditioning, I once had.  Part of the reason is my age, and part of it has to do with having taken hormones.  But, even though I know that I could be in even better shape, and that will take time and work, I feel something I never felt in all of those years that I was riding  15,000 miles a year and lifting weights:  balance.  That, ironically enough, may have to do with the hormones--and the surgery.

Even more important, I feel that I can only do what I want and need to do for my own reasons.  Other people may not understand those reasons.  I'm not sure that either of those women I saw today can understand.  However, I'm not even sure that they feel the need to understand.  They  know simply that I needed to undergo my transition and that, in some way, I will probably always need to ride my bike. Or, at least, I can't imagine life without either of those things.  Perhaps they understand that.

Doing what you need to do, for your own reasons:  That, it seems, is one of the steps toward becoming a self-actualized human being.  People tend to look good doing that.

13 July 2011

More Violence

As we used to say in my old neighborhood, "When's this shit gonna stop?"

A report released today "reveals" something too many of us know:  In spite of all of the tolerance campaigns, violent crimes against LGBT people rose 13 percent in 2010, according to a recent report.  

Transgenders and people of color are most likely to be harassed, beaten or killed, according to that report.  

Unfortunately, I don't think many of us are surprised.

12 July 2011


There are only two weeks left in the course I'm teaching.  It's a good thing, too. I'm tired.  Actually, it's more than that.  I just feel like I have nothing more to give, at least in that class or as an educator.  

Colleagues tell me it's because I've taught a lot this year.  But I've taught more, and had more difficult situations, than I've had this year.  And the class I have now is great:  they're juniors and seniors.  In fact, two of them have only one more semester to go. Some are "traditional" college age, while others are older.  And they're all polite, respectful and even nice people.  Hey, they even gave me a birthday cake!

Yesterday, another instructor said the same things, almost verbatim, when I asked, "How are you doing?"  So I'm wondering whether it might have something to do with the season, or the fact that he's also near the end of his course.

My feeling of "running on empty" has, I think, something to do with the fact that I'm tired of school atmospheres in general.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  Whatever it is, I feel that whatever got me through all of those classes, all of those years, of teaching--and, for that matter, being a student--is something that's run its course, like some part of one's former body chemistry.  An old hormone, enzyme or something is depleted, or simply gone. What will take its place--or whether anything should take its place--I don't know.

Last semester, I had one class I wasn't crazy about.  I guess that isn't bad when you consider that I taught four.  But a lot of the students in that class--mainly freshmen of "traditional" college age--really were wasting their time there.  Perhaps if they were to return to school and take the class at some later date, it might be worthwhile for them.  And, if I were their prof, perhaps it would be for me, too.

They weren't bad kids, really.  They were, well, kids--in every way that word means.  They had no patience for the things they needed to do, but they'd waste time on all kinds of pointless and simply stupid things.  I guess in one sense, they are the way I once was, which is exactly the opposite of how I am now.  They--like my long-ago self--have only known the world in which they currently live, which is to say they only know of one life, and most of them only know one way to live it.  Yet they do not think of time as finite or the future is imminent.  They have some vague notion that the future is some very distant place at which they will arrive, but they have no idea of what it might be like.  If they have any vision of it, they got it from looking at images of people who are completely unlike themselves and about whom they really know nothing.  

I, on the other hand, stepped into a new life relatively recently, and understand that I have a limited amount of time remaining. Sometimes I lose patience with people who ought to know better--who include some co-workers and people higher in the chain of command--because I know I don't have time for bullshit.  It's a sort of survivor's mentality and, at times, it makes me seem intolerant and even abrasive to some of my colleagues.  There are some things about which I am certain, or at least feel entitled to have my own opinions, because of experiences I have.  Sometimes they--very condescendingly--try to tell me that it's only my experience and that I am perceiving it wrongly. Or they try to tell me I didn't experience what I've experienced, when they haven't a clue about it--or, in some cases, about their own experience. 

Perhaps it's dealing with people like that on a nearly daily basis that's wearing me down.  Mind you, not all of my colleagues or coworkers are that way.  But enough are to make any part of the campus a chamber that sucks out my energy.

11 July 2011

On Casey, Jaycee and Idenitity

I find it interesting that the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial came down at around the same time that Jaycee Dugard told her story to Diane Sawyer.  Although Casey's and Jaycee's stories are about as different as those of any two young women can be, they are, in a strange way, two sides of a coin.  It currency is identity. 

According to stories that have circulated in the media, Casey Anthony might move somewhere, assume a new name and possibly change her appearance.  Given that she cannot go back to her family--or, apparently anywhere in or near her home state of Florida--those stories make some sense.  Her acquittal on murder charges angered many people, some of whom have talked--out loud or sotto voce--of meting out their own "justice" to her.  I don't see how she can live anywhere in the United States, under her current identity, without risking her life.  

My question is this:  How willing and able is she to, essentially, end her life as she's known it and live the life of another person whom she doesn't yet know? She would probably have to take on the identity of someone who is, at least on the surface, very different from herself.  How long can she go on living that way?  Will she ever blow her cover, or will someone ever blow it for her?

I think that if someone else doesn't kill her, she may end up killing herself from the stress of having to live as someone else, without any of the people or things she's ever known.  Plus, I don't imagine that she has very many marketable or other survival skills, or that she--at least as she is now--is willing (and, possibly, able) to develop them.

So, as Casey Anthony has to leave herself (at least as the person she has been) behind, Jaycee Dugard has to, for the first time, live her life as her self. I don't doubt that she can do that, although it will be a very long process.  What she has going for her is that surviving nearly two decades of captivity--which included, among other things, sexual assaults and giving birth to the children of her captor--has probably taught her more about herself than most people ever truly know about themselves.  Very few people, I believe, can make a more honest assessment of their own needs and strengths than she can make of hers.  I can't think of a much more valuable inner resource than that. 

In a sense, I can identify with both of them, although I can draw far more inspiration from Jaycee than from Casey.  After all, when any of us transitions, we are, if you will, moving toward, and with, our selves after being in a sort of captivity ("the closet," or whatever you want to call it).  And, yes, we do have to leave an old identity behind.  But we can--or, at least I've found that I can--use a lot of lessons that we learn from our former lives as our former selves.  And while we are, in a sense, structuring new identities through our names, appearances and other aspects of who we are, what we are really doing is constructing or reconstructing our true selves from the strands and fragments of it we carried in our earlier lives.  

Although Casey doesn't seem like a terribly likable or admirable person, I wish her well or, at least, I don't wish her harm.  On the other hand, it's difficult not to feel good for Jaycee in every victory, however small, she experiences.  Really, who couldn't use her as a role model in at least some area of his or her life?

10 July 2011

Would She Have Made It?

I was reading this article and thinking about how advances in places where one wouldn't expect them are reminders of how far we still have to go.

Few people think of Indiana as a bastion of diversity and tolerance.  (At one point, it had more members of the Ku Klux Klan than any other state.)  However, in that state, Ball Memorial Hospital has been receiving praise for its treatment of LGBT people.  A year ago, a woman who was coughing up blood was called "he-she" and "it" by employees.  Soon afterward, the hospital implemented training for employees.

Not so long ago, transgender patients died because EMS workers and hospital staffs wouldn't treat them or, as happened to Tyra Hunter in Washington, DC.  She was a passenger in a car involved in a collision.  Firefighters pulled her from the smoking ruins of the car.  To treat her, they opened her clothes and found male genitalia.  In spite of bystanders' pleas to treat her, the firefighters were "honing their not-ready-for prime time comedic routines," in the words of Trans Griot.  She lost seven minutes of critical time, more than enough to spell the difference between life and death.  Still, she was alive--just barely--when an EMS supervisor finally brought her to the emergency room of a now-closed hopital.  The doctor there refused to treat her, and she died of blunt-force injuries.

So, if Tyra Hunter's accident had happened today in Muncie, Indiana, she could have gotten the treatment she needed--and, one assumes, gotten it with courtesy, respect and compassion--at Ball Memorial Hospital.  The question I have is, Would she have gotten there?  I should hope the firefighters and EMS workers are as well-trained as the hospital employees.

09 July 2011

Where The Serenity Prayer Falls Short

By now, most people--including those who have neither set foot in a twelve-step meeting nor know anyone who has--know some version of the Serenity Prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to acccept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

What most people don't realize is that Bill W didn't write it.  Instead, it is a somewhat revised form of Reinhold Niebuhr's prayer.  And more than a few people claim that he got the idea for the prayer, if not the prayer itself, from other theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas.

But I digress.  I do indeed try to change what I can.  And I am not trying as much to change what I can't, at least when it comes to relationships with people.  For example, I haven't quite given up hope that some people who no longer want to be part of my life will change their minds, but I have accepted that they may not.  And there are some whom I simply don't care to include in my life again. That's where the complications begin.

Of course, if neither they nor I want to be part of each other's lives, there's no problem.   But it's not so easy when you don't want someone in your life, but that person does (or will) not accept that.  What, exactly, does one do--legally, and without physical violence--to rid one's self of someone who, to put it bluntly, will not go away.

It's not as cute and charming as it seems.  The reason I don't want that person in my life is that including that person would mean succumbing to the coercion and threats I've experienced for saying "no."  Plus, this person has caused me harm, not to mention such inconveniences as having to find another job and place to live.  The police have told me, in essence, there's nothing they can do (translation: they don't want to be bothered) unless that person kills or maims me.

So...Am I supposed to be serene and accept this person into my life?

08 July 2011

Remembering During A Summer Rainstorm

Today we had a long, heavy thunderstorm that dumped a couple of inches of rain on us.  As I didn't have to go to work today, I spent the day at home, doing some things I'd been procrastinating.

It was also a very warm day and, as you probably figured, humid.  In the course of my doings, I got to thinking about the way I used to dread the kinds of weather we had today. I'm still not crazy about it, but when I went out en femme in the days before my transition, this weather used to wreak all sorts of havoc on me.  My makeup would run off; mascara would run into my eyes.  Clothes would cling and sag in places where I didn't want them to.  And then there was the general fear I had about being exposed or having to endure the heat.  If I wore light clothing, I had the feeling that everyone could see through them; if I wore too much, I would sweat all of my makeup off.  

Now I just worry that everyone can see my fat.  You can never lose enough weight, or lose it fast enough, or so it seems.  On the other hand, I recall that the first time anyone called me "Fat Bitch" was on a day as hot and steamy as this one.  At the time, it seemed like a victory.   I guess the years are showing:  No one has called me that in a while. But they do call me "ma'am." That is better, definitely.  Still, I don't become as ecstatic as I once did on those occasions when someone calls me "miss".  I mean, sometimes I'd like to be young and female, and be what I couldn't be, as pointless as that wish is.  

It's been said that summer is a time of memory and fantasy.  The funny thing is that, through much of my life, the latter were more remote, and even abstract, for me.  Now, sometimes, they seem more or less the same thing. That is why there is only the present, which just happens to include the heat and humidity and rain.  At least I don't have to worry about losing what I am, any more than I can change what I was. 

07 July 2011

Two Years Later

Today marks two years since my GRS/SRS.  In one sense, it's hard to believe:  It really does seem like only yesterday.  However, in another sense, the way time has passed makes perfect sense: I had the surgery so I could get on with my life.  That means change and learning are inevitable.  Life without those things is--for me, anyway--not an option.  I don't mean that I don't want it; I simply mean that I couldn't choose any other way, really.

Danny, one of my "classmates" in Trinidad, e-mailed me a few days ago.  I would like it if we can stay in touch; his humor, intelligence and empathy make any communication from him a rewarding experience.  I really would like to see him again some day. 

As for the other "alumni" I met there, I am always open to stay in touch with them; they have, if nothing else, a sympathetic ear in me.  However, I notice that I haven't been in touch with the others in a while.  Now I understand why I am not sad about that:  They had their surgeries for essentially the same reasons why I had mine.  I hope their lives are progressing in the ways they had hoped; perhaps this shared experience will figure in some way or another in our lives in the future. Whether it does or it doesn't, that will have been the point of our having the surgeries and, more important, undergoing our transitions.  

Moving on, as we used to say when funk bands ruled the world.  (Yes, they really did, once!)  That is the reason why, I've just noticed, I'm no longer sad about the relationships I lost during my transition.  People have told me that the ones who de-friended me weren't really friends in the first place.  Perhaps that is true.  But I now realize that even if I had not embarked upon this journey (I hope that doesn't sound too quaint!), we may have gone our separate ways.  The same, I believe, is true about the relationship I had with Tammy:  It made me happy, at least in some ways, for a time in my life, but we probably wouldn't be together now even if I hadn't started my transition.  And, I think, the same is true for those relatives who broke or drifted away:  However close we might have been at one time, we simply had very little in common, even when I was still living as Nick.

So, yes, I have a vagina that looks like the ones my gynecologist has seen on cis women.  (And, yes, it looks like the ones I've seen.  I'll let you think, if you care to, how I came to see them.)  And I've been feeling good physically.  But I think the most important way in which the operation has been a success is that I am living the rest of my life, and learning what that means for me.

06 July 2011

Why Casey Anthony's Acquittal Matters To Transgenders

Not many people, it seems, are happy that Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her daughter.  I am not quite happy about it, either.  Well, to be precise, I'm not happy that a little girl died and the truth about her death may never be known.  However, I am one of an apparently small minority who believes the jurors did the right thing in not charging Casey Anthony with the murder of her daughter Caylee.

One juror has said, in essence, that if you are going to sentence someone to die, you had better be certain that person is guilty of the crime for which you're condemning him or her.  This, I think, is especially true in Florida, where the trial took place:  Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia are the only US states to have executed more prisoners than Florida.  This juror admitted that no one thought Casey Anthony was any sort of model citizen or mother:  I don't know very many people who'd want their daughters to grow up to be like her.  And I certainly don't, in any way, regard her as a role model for myself. 

However, being an unsavory character and generally difficult to like (I have little trouble believing the prosecution's depiction of her as "shallow" and "egotistical.") doesn't, in itself, constitute guilt.  Only evidence can, or at least should, do that, especially under the system of law that, thankfully, we still have in spite of some prosecutors', judges' and politicians' efforts to destroy it.  While I'm willing to concede that the evidence might indicate that Ms. Anthony was a terrible mother and a not terribly responsible human being, that alone does not mean she is a child-killer, although my "gut" feeling is that if she didn't drown or suffocate or in some other way kill Caylee, she was probably responsible for her death through neglect, if nothing else.  

Cops make arrests based on "gut" feelings all the time.  Sometime those instincts turn out to be accurate.  Whether they're right or wrong, though, juries aren't supposed to determine guilt or innocence based on them.  Instead, jurors are supposed to make such decisions based on evidence.  And, as the juror who was interviewed said, the evidence was inconclusive.

I think that LGBT people, and transgenders in particular, should be thankful for this decision and the system that allowed it.  Too often, we are seen as guilty for one thing or another--usually some sexual offense--because of the images people have of us.  What's even worse is that many of us have not done anything to merit the stereotyping and suspicion to which we are subjected.  And, worse yet, there are some people who are willing to paint or simply use unflattering portraits of us--whether or not they're based on our behavior or characters--in their attempts to destroy us.  I know:  It's happened to me.  All it takes is for one student who didn't like his or her grade, one person to whom one of us says "no," or one person who experiences any other kind of unfortunate and unexplainable event, and one of us can find him or herself fired from a job, evicted from our homes or even arrested or killed simply by painting unsavory pictures of us that others are all too willing to believe. 

It doesn't matter that I don't drink or smoke, almost never party and have always been monogamous.  It only takes one angry, vindictive person to use the stereotypes about trans people to "try" and "convict" me with people who have as much power over my life as those jurors and the judge had over the fate of Casey Anthony.

05 July 2011

On Trans Men, Cis Women And The Passage Of Time

So...Today I'm another year older.  And the day after tomorrow, two years will have passed since my surgery.

I was reminded of the latter by two things.  One was an e-mail from Danny, a trans man on whom Marci performed bottom surgery a during the same week she did my GRS.  He and his wife--I call her that because he refers to her that way, and I won't dispute it--have been hiking and camping.  As they live in Alaska, I'm not surprised.  

When we were recovering from our surgeries at The Morning After House, I half-jokingly made him promise me that he would call me if he ever split with his wife.  Of course, I could make a joke like that precisely because I knew he would do no such thing--split with his wife, I mean.  

I can honestly say that I haven't met a trans man I didn't like.  (Would Will Rogers have said that if he were a trans woman?)  I'm not talking only about liking them sexually or in a fantasy, although I've felt that way about a few I've met.  I mean that I have never seen another group of people in which such  a large percentage of its members is self-accepting, and accepting of others.  It's no coincidence that Ray, my social worker during the first two years of my transition, is a trans man.  

Also, here's an interesting paradox in my perceptions of Ray and Danny, as well as some other trans men I've met:  While I cannot imagine them with a feminine physical appearance, I have little trouble imagining them having been females.  It may just have to do with their sensitivity and empathy.  I am not saying that they are exclusively female traits, but most of the cisgender people who've understood me in any way were female. 

One cis woman who showed me more understanding than I expected is the other person responsible for making me conscious of the passage of time since my surgery.  She is Joanne, a friend and neighbor of mine and Millie's when we were all living within a couple of houses of each other.  About three and a half years ago, Joanne moved to Florida to be nearer to family members who have since died.  As she never liked Florida (She was near Fort Lauderdale.) , she had no reason to stay, so she returned about three weeks ago.  Yesterday, at Millie's and John's barbecue, I saw her for the first time since she moved--and since my surgery.  So, of course, one of the first things she asked was how that went.

Joanne and Millie both met me during my last days of living (part-time) as Nick.  When I first moved onto the block on which we all lived, I had just split with Tammy but had not yet "come out" to any of my family or friends. It would be nearly a year before I would change my name, and a few more months before I would report to my job as Justine.

The funny thing was that I hadn't thought about any of that yesterday until Joanne and I started to talk.   Not that I minded talking about it:  After all, she'd heard about it, and had been a good friend until she left for Florida.  

Sometimes I think that if relationships do nothing else, they help to shape our perceptions of time.  

04 July 2011

What Does It All Mean?

Over the past couple of days, Joanne Priznivalli, on her blog,  has written excellent essays (and here) on the real meaning of New York's same-sex marriage laws.  I was particularly struck by one point Ms. Priznivalli, who is an attorney, made:  that the law doesn't merely allow same-sex marriage; instead, it makes marriage gender-neutral.  

Why is this an important distinction to make?  Well, as I understand it, the law doesn't merely "give" gays the "privilege" of marriage.  Instead, it says that any two people of the legal age and sound mind can join, for whatever purpose.  What the law really is, if I'm reading Priznivalli in the way she intends to be understood, is an acknowledgment that marriage as a legal institution is not merely about reproduction and continuing the species.  Rather, it's about allowing two people to make the sort of commitment that allows them to be each other's guardians (as, for example, when one of them is lying in a hospital bed and unable to make decisions on his or her own behalf) and to pass on property in the ways each of them sees fit.

I am not, and will probably never be, a lawyer.  However, I can say with confidence that, as a result of my reading and study, I know a bit more history than the average person.  And I know enough history to realize that marriage, as we know it, is actually a fairly recent invention among human institutions.  

Because the Church and State were inseparable in most European societies at least until the Enlightenment, the institution of marriage was codified in a way that not only specified who could be married to whom, and who could inherit what, but also ensured the propagation of the human race.  At a time when people married in their early teen years, had ten kids--of whom four or five might survive into adulthood--and died not long after turning thirty,  concerns about the survival of the human race, particularly in the face of such phenomena as the plague, made sense.  Also, because most of Europe's population shared the same faith (as most of the world's societies were mono-religious), the Church had an interest in seeing the population increase.

Today, almost nobody thinks that the human race is in danger of dying out--unless, of course, we do something stupid, like start a real World War.  If anything, most people would agree that we should slow the growth of, or cut down, the population.  So there is no rationale for allowing only the sort of unions that will help to increase the number of people in the world.

Likewise, the fact that women have claimed our natural rights in much of the world invalidates at least some of the premises behind marriage, as it has been structured.  As Priznivalli and others point out, so-called traditional marriages are based, to some degree or another, on misogyny.  And, really, how can anyone rationalize that when conservatives--whether of the religious variety in Pakistan or the economic type in Britain and Germany--have elected women to lead their countries?  I'd love to see how the same folks who support those women will tell their families, congregations, schools and other communities that women should submit to men.   Will Michelle Bachmann--if, Goddess forbid, she is elected--defer to the wishes of her husband when she makes decisions about national security?

Whatever happens, I don't imagine that the nature of sexual relations within those, or any other, marriages will change.  I suspect that very few couples today have sexual relations solely for the purpose of reproducing.  (Maybe that has been the case for most couples throughout history.)  And, as Priznivalli points out, many older couples stop having sex altogether but remain committed to each other.  So, really, the rationale of enshrining a particular kind of sexual relationship in marriage never had any rational or moral basis.  And that is the very reason why, contrary to the fear-mongering of so-called traditionalists,  marriages based on those kinds of relationships will not be undermined by allowing people to marry whomever they want, regardless of gender.

03 July 2011

Understanding Our Stories

So..Tomorrow is this country's most sacred, if you will, holiday.  Actually, I don't it's so odd to call Independence Day "sacred" because, as George Monbiot has written, America is a religion.

Today's news reports were filled with the shocking statistic that more than forty percent of US citizens polled couldn't answer "1776" to the question of when this country gained its independence.  And another large number, I forget exactly what, couldn't name the country from which this one gained its independence.

Even though "1776" and "England" are both parts of recorded history, they are parts of a canon and mythology.  No religion has ever existed, much less been propagated  without those two vital elements.  That is because no religion has ever been sustained without belief, and mere facts are not sufficient for that.

Although a myth is a fiction, if you will, it will never gain believers if it does not have at least an element of truth.  That a group of men on this continent convened and declared the place in which they lived to be a sovereign nation, independent from the one from which their forebears or they themselves came, is indisputable.  However, the idea that they created an "independent" country by breaking away from what was then the world's most powerful empire is, while a teriffic story, a not-quite-accurate description of the truth.

The fact of the matter is that this country was, at that point, thinly populated, save for Philadelphia and Boston:  Most of the original inhabitants of this country had already been, by that time, wiped out.  And the number of Anglos, and all Europeans, who settled here was still a fraction of the number of people in England, or any other European country.  Plus, outside the two metropoli, this country was still mainly agricultural, while England was the most technologically advanced country, as well as the one with the strongest navy.  

There is simply no way this country could have ceded from Britain independently.  Were it not for the French, Dutch, Spanish, Polish and some volunteers and mercenaries from other places, this country might still be a crown colony.  And, for decades after winning the War of Independence, a.k.a., the Revolution, this country was still dependent on those other countries.  And more merchants and farmers, as well as other people, had economic as well as cultural and familial ties to England than is commonly acknowledged. 

Another thing that, to my knowledge, is never mentioned in American History classes and textbooks--at least not the ones taught and written in the US by Americans--is that there were actually fifteen colonies.  Thirteen rebelled.  The other two, Nova Scotia and Quebec, really couldn't:  The former was the North American base for the Royal Navy, while Montreal and Quebec City were, for all intents and purposes. garrisons of the Royal Army.

There is no denying that Americans have accomplished much, and that this country has made a number of positive contributions to this world.  However, Americans, for all of their initiative and willingness to work hard and take risks, never accomplished those things alone.  Of course, we cannot forget that the people who made those contributions came from some place else, or descended from people who did.

I find myself thinking about myths and beliefs after the passage of same-sex marriage legislation.  Much of the opposition to it here and elsewhere has to do with a belief in a mythology--about relationships and families, as well as the nature of this country.  Religions die when the mythology can't be reconciled with changing realities.  Although I grew up Catholic (Hey, I was an altar boy!), I haven't considered myself a Christian in a very long time.  However,  I will say that is one thing Christianity had done better than most other religions.  That is not to say, of course, that other change isn't necessary, and that people won't continue to oppose such change.  The same might be said for Judaism.  And, whenever change becomes inevitable, there are those who will oppose it, sometimes violently.  That is why fundamentalist movements, like the ones we see today in Christianity and Islam, are really--if unwittingly--an acknowledgement that the myth has met a new reality,and change is inevitable.  

The notion that a family consists of one man, one woman, and fill-in-the-blank-number of kids is one that came about at a time when people started having kids at thirteen or fourteen and  didn't live to be much past thirty, and when most of those people had to grow, slaughter, sew and build whatever they used. That reality no longer exists, at least in industrialized countries.  Longer lives and specialized labor gives people the time and means to understand that there are indeed alternatives to, or at least variations on, the stories they've been told about family structure, gender roles and other things.  Thankfully, more people are coming to understand this.

02 July 2011

They Couldn't Make The Case

Today I'm going out on a limb to talk about something that I expect to generate controversy for years to come (as if I haven't done anything like that before!).  I'm going to talk about the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at least to the extent that I know about it.

Yesterday he was released from house arrest.  Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. felt he had no other choice; almost all of the evidence was circumstantial.  Of course, some people are not happy about this.  I imagine DSK, as he's often called in France, is one of them:  He lost his chairmanship of the International Monetary Fund and, possibly, his chance to be elected President of France.  Also, any number of feminists and the lawyer of the woman who accused DSK of sexually assaulting her are upset:  Kenneth P. Thompson, the lawyer representing the woman, is imputing racism to Vance and anyone else who can't find a legal or moral reason to keep DSK in custody.  (The woman is from Guinea and was the housekeeper in the hotel where DSK stayed.)  

Now, of course, I can't tell you what actually happened between the housekeeper and DSK.  However, I think the fact that the woman changed her story and made any number of false statements to get and stay in this country, and reap whatever benefits she could from being here, certainly makes her seem less credible.  On the other hand, DSK does have a reputation for sexually aggressive behavior with women.  Of course, as one famous jurist said, trying someone on the basis of his or her reputation does not lead to justice. 

For me, DSK is certainly not a sympathetic figure.  That does not, however, make him guilty--at least not by itself.  His reputation might establish that he is capable of committing sexual assault, but it does not necessarily mean that he actually did the things of which he has been accused.  By the same token, the fact that the woman was poor and a member of a race that experiences bigotry doesn't, by itself make her an innocent victim.

I mention these things because I want to make sure that the justice system does what it's supposed to do.  In this country, that includes ensuring that innocent people aren't locked up.  

Also, as someone who was sexually abused (by a friend of the family) and who was later sexually assaulted, I know how serious those crimes are.  So, even though I want the perpetrators of such crimes brought to justice, I want to be sure that the persons arrested, tried and sentenced, are the guilty ones.  If the wrong person is punished, it does not bring closure or relief, or anything else a victim should have.  All it does is to ensure that there is yet another victim.

01 July 2011

Moving Into The Revolution

Something is changing again, perhaps.  Within or without me?  

This is the time of year when such things happen.  Only a week ago, Governor Cuomo signed the same-sex marriage legislation--a couple of days before the anniversary of Stonewall.

And I think of the things that are coming up.  My official birthday is the 4th of this month (Yes, on "The Fourth"!); my own birthday--the one on which I gave birth to who I am now--is the 7th.  And the 14th is the anniversary of my name change and my sobriety.  (No, they didn't happen in the same year!)  

There's just something about this time of year.  I can understand why so many of the world's revolutions--including the American and French--have begun at this time of year.  

It's very, very interesting (at least to me) that I seem to be making new friends now.  And I decided, on a whim, to take a trip to someplace where I've never been before:  Prague.  I am also going to move ahead with my writing:  I will devote more time to it, and to getting it published and reaping other benefits for me.  Finally, I've decided, for once and for all, that I'm not going for a PhD, or any further schooling in any other academic area.  No, I'm not going to school for law or social work, either.  One thing I learned from my brief foray into PhD studies is that if I'm motivated to learn something, I don't need to be in school for it.

Well, at least I'm prepared in one way for whatever comes next:  I know that I'm going in a direction for which my previous experiences have provided me very little preparation but, I hope, ample resources.