31 October 2012

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

Well, as you might have heard by now, this year's Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is being postponed.

In its four-decade history, it has never been cancelled.  In fact, it's never been held on any night but the 31st of October.  As Jeanne Fleming, the Parade's artistic director, has pointed out, it is one of the few events in this city whose timing has never been co-opted.  Whatever day of the week the 31st fell, and whatever the weather, it was held.  Even in those uncertain days after 9/11, the Parade made its way down Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas to those of you who aren't from around here!). 

I believe that the parade will be held this year and in the future because, quite frankly, we need it.  At least, some of us do--or did. 

Although I had not planned on being in the Village with the other revelers, I've been a part of parades past.   I never was a "party girl" (or guy), but every once in a while I like to let loose.  And, at the parade, I could always express some part of my self, or some yearning, that I could not at almost any other time.  One year I even won a prize:  Some bar on or around Bleecker Street gave gift certificates for the best costumes.  At least, that's as much of that night as I remember! (Hey, it was a long, long time ago--near the end of the Parade's first decade.)  I went to a couple more after that one, but then there was one Parade--1992, or some time around then--that left me in tears. Many of the marchers wore "Grim Reaper" costumes, or other equally morbid outfits.  

That, of course, was about the time the AIDS epidemic peaked, at least among gay men and white people.  In one seven-month period, between Memorial Day and Christmas of 1991, I lost five friends and other people who were important in my life to illnesses wrought by the disease.  Others--some of whom I knew--were experiencing even more illness and death in the families and communities they created for themselves as well as the ones into which they were born.  As I was completely in the closet (except, of course, at events like the Parade), I could neither give nor receive the support I and others needed to anyone besides the loved ones of the victims I knew.  And, perhaps, I was not as supportive as I might have been had I been living as the person I am.

What is often overlooked is the roles transgender people played in, and the ways they were affected by, the events I've described.  Some people still think of the Parade as a "gay" event.  There's no doubt that many of those who marched and made, or rode in, floats were indeed homosexual men.   However, it's (or, at least, I'm) equally certain that I wasn't the only trans person at the Parade.  Of course, some were openly so.  But I can tell you that there were many others, besides me, who went, whether as spectators or participants, to release some of the tensions brought on by navigating a hostile, or at least uninformed, world.  

Now, what I'm about to say may seem wildly improbable.  But here goes:  Although I didn't realize it at the time, the Parade (among other things) helped me to learn, over time, that I was not a transvestite.  Although I preferred wearing women's clothing to donning men's garb, I never got any sort of sexual thrill out of it.  It just felt like a truer expression of who I am.  Every costume I wore to the parade was one of a female character, persona or role.  One year I was a ballerina.  Another time I was a diva.  Then, a suburban housewife like June Cleaver or Harriet Nelson.  And Dorothy.  (I sprayed a pair of shoes with ruby-red paint.)  They were exaggerated female roles, to be sure.  But what other kind of role could I have played?  Also, what's a parade--especially on Halloween in the Village--without exaggeration.

As campy and ludicrous as those outfits might have been, they allowed me--even if only a few hours--to express who I am, at least somewhat.  Since those days, I've come to realize that people who feel repressed and frustrated express their yearnings, in those brief moments in which they can do so, in ways that seem almost parodical.  We've all seen, or at least heard, about the things some males will do when they're trying to show that they're men.  (A few institutions, such as the military, make use of this.)  And, of course, in the days between the Stonewall Revolution and the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, many gay men mimiced the most extreme icons of maleness:  All you have to do is look at The Village People to see that.

Anyway, as I've mentioned, there were--and probably still are--more manque as well as outre transsexuals than almost anyone realizes at the Parade.  Some will, in time, acknowledge and live by their true natures. Others will go to events like the Parade as a "release" and return to their families, communities and jobs in the costumes of the genders in which they are living.

And then there are those who have been taken by the Grim Reaper in the same ways as gay men--and, to a lesser extent, lesbians--have been:  suicide, homicide and AIDS.  Much has been said and written about how those things have devastated gay males, and the communities and industries in which they are concentrated.   It was indeed devastating, but for transgenders, it was little short of an apocalypse (or, as some would argue, a genocide).  They are among the things that are responsible for the Lost Generation of Transgender People I've described in previous posts.   And the Parade is one of the few institutions that has endured from that time.

30 October 2012

A Transgender Storm?

Well, so far, it looks like I've weathered Hurricane Sandy.  The lights flickered a couple of times but never went out.  In my neighborhood, about the worst damage I have seen is the awning that was blown off a Brazilian barbecue restaurant and landed in front of a housewares store two doors away.  A few trees lost limbs; millions of little yellow leaves are scattered everywhere. 

Max and Marley have been exceptionally cuddly. It seems that they simply haven't wanted to be away from my side.

They look the same as they did before the storm.  So, amazingly, do these plants in front of an apartment building at the end of my block:

Here's what they look like close up:

Even Hurricane Sandy was no match for them, which is said to be the most intense storm ever to strike this city.

It occurs to me now that this tempest, with all of its fury, had one of the most androgynous monikers of any named storm.  Could it be that the most potent, most destructive, natural event to hit this city in a long time, if ever, is a transgender storm?

If it is, it's further proof of what I sometimes tell people:  Don't mess with a trans person unless you want to incur the wrath of both genders! 

29 October 2012

Eden Lane Didn't Broadcast Her Transition

Until today, I knew of one transgender broadcast journalist.  I met her when I was about to begin my own transition.  Then, Andrea Sears had been the news editor and anchor at WBAI, the New York affiliate of Pacifica Radio, for seven years.  For the first five of those years, she had been known as Andrew.

She's still working at WBAI.  Now I've learned about a transgender television newscaster:  Eden Lane.  (Can you beat that for a name?)  Every week, she interviews artists, writers, directors and other people involved with theatre, film, music, dance and television for her program on Colorado Public Television.  

She has never kept her identity a secret but, as she said, she never intended for it to be the focus of people's attention.  "If I had known that nobody else was identified as transgender as a news journalist on television, I probably wouldn't have done it.  I probably would have been too afraid."

Before transitioning, she had worked in television.  But, after her surgery, she got married and settled into the life of a suburban housewife, as she tells the story.  "All of that work experience, all of that education, wasn't something I could publicize and own, because it was under a different name and identity." Then she was a guest on a panel for "Colorado Outspoken," an LBGT television newsmagazine.  She was invited back and, when the station needed more help in covering the 2008 elections, she stepped in for her first experience outside the LGBT program.

I am glad to see this story has a happy ending--at least for now.  At least, this story is turning out better than that of Mike Penner, the Los Angeles Times sportswriter who publicly transitioned in 2007 and, within two years, lost his home and marriage and returned to living as a man.  Then he killed himself.

In some ways, Eden Lane's and Mike Penner's transitions are more difficult simply because they are so public.  Mike Penner started to appear in public as a woman and sign his articles as "Christine Daniels."  At first, it seemed to be the best way to handle his situation, as he was trying to make his transition as seamless as possible.  However, the very fact that the people who'd been reading his columns when he signed them as "Mike Penner" were also reading them when he signed them as "Christine Daniels" left him wide-open for comparisons between his "before" and "after" work--and personae.  Not everyone reacted well to the "after", even if there was little or no difference between his earlier and later work.  

Plus, from all accounts I've read, he was a quiet, reserved, circumspect person.  Suddenly he was thrust into the limelight:  He even posed for a fashion shoot.  And then, when living as Christine didn't work out as he'd planned, he felt publicly disgraced and embarrassed.  He probably couldn't handle that.

(Note:  I am referring to Penner by his male name and pronouns simply because he returned to living as a male and, as far as I know, never legally changed his name.  I do not feel I am in a position to say whether or not he was "really" transgender.)

On the other hand, Eden Lane "disappeared" for several years.  Perhaps some of her former audience stopped thinking about her; others probably just assumed she left broadcasting for any number of reasons.  And, by the time she returned, her life--and name--were totally different from the ones she'd left behind.  People who had never known her, in person or on screen, as a male wouldn't have had any "dots" to "connect."

Now, I'm not saying that either Penner's or Lane's way of transitioning is "right" or "wrong" for someone who lives a less public life.  However, people will look at both and draw their own lessons and conclusions.  I am simply glad that things seem to be working out for Eden Lane, and would love things to work out as well for anyone else who transitions.

28 October 2012

Anticipating The Storm

Max is a real New Yorker.  

We've been warned that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy will be "catastrophic" and "a storm like no other".  

We were similarly warned about Hurricane Irene last year.  There was a lot of rain and it was windy, but the storm didn't live up to the hype, as we like to say in The Big Apple.  So, lots of people I know--and I--are skeptical, although we're making buying groceries, water, flashlights and such.

Max is doing his part:

On the other hand, Marley isn't quite so jaded.  He simply cannot get enough of my lap:

He doesn't want you to see his scaredy-cat expression.  You have to understand:  He's still young and has something to prove.

27 October 2012

Two Members Of The Lost Generation Do Lunch

Yesterday I had a late lunch/early dinner with a friend who's just passed a significant milestone in her transition.  

She is a few years older than I am, and came from what are, on the surface, very different circumstances than mine.  However, for both of us, growing up meant inhabiting a world that isolated both of us, save for when our peers bullied or otherwise abused us.  Her parents were openly hostile to non-heterosexual, non-gender-conforming, people, while my parents' understanding was merely a reflection of what most people understood, or misunderstood, when I was growing up.  That is not to denigrate my parents: Neither they nor I had the knowledge or the language to understand what I was going through.  Still, in my own way, I spent my childhood and most of my adult life as isolated, emotionally and spiritually, as my friend spent hers.

After we parted, I realized that our isolation was such that we could not have known each other.  We might have recognized each other on some subconscious, intuitive level that I would not have acknowledged and, in fact, would have tried to suppress.  But I don't think we could--or, at least I would--have based our friendship, if we had one, on an understanding of a basic truth about ourselves.  It then goes without saying that we could not have offered each other advice, encouragement or support--or, at least, the kind either of us needed.

But, as my friend pointed out, that isolation may have kept us alive.  Had we started our transitions in our early 20's instead of our mid 40's or early 50's, we probably would have ended up as sex workers, or under even worse circumstances.  As I've mentioned in other posts, few other lines of work expose its practitioners to the prospect of incurring violence that could be fatal.  If we hadn't been beaten or shot to death in some back alley, or succumbed to an overdose or drugs or alcohol, being sex workers would have broken us mentally and spiritually.  At least, I know that would have happened to me.

We are indeed part of the Lost Generation of Transgenders I've described in a few previous posts.  During the two decades or so that followed the onslaught of Second Wave Feminism (and the concurrent conservative religious and political movements that had more in common with it than most people realize), people like me and my friend lived our lives, as best we knew how, as members of the gender indicated on our birth certificates.  We may have been reading the works of Second-Wave feminists and other writings that have become part of the canons of Women's Studies, Gender Studies and Queer Studies. (Please don't construe my use of the latter term as an endorsement of it:  I'm simply using the term the field's practitioners use!)  And some of us "cross-dressed" or occasionally interacted with the underground world of cross-gender entertainment and such.  But we did so in isolation, and were therefore unable to learn many of the lessons we could have gotten from the transsexuals and other gender-variant people (few though they were in number) who were around at that time.  We could have better understood how to navigate the world we would face--and that, in spite of the bigotry we might sometimes face, it hadn't changed, at least not fundamentally.  Although some of us would get educations (or, at any rate, credentials) and careers or vocations, we would fully understand what was, and wasn't, important and useful about them only after we began our transitions.  We'd learn the ways in which we had to educate ourselves, and each other, because those normally charged with instructing and directing us couldn't do so, sometimes because they didn't know how.  

Because we had to learn those lessons for ourselves--without the mentors and role models we might have had if we could have transitioned ealier in our lives--there is not a continuity between us and our ancestors, if you will (most of whom are dead) and the ones who transition while they are in college, or even high school.  I think now of the student of mine who said he couldn't understand why someone would "go through all the trouble of changing their sex, only to become a sex worker" and of the young trans people who think that if you don't have surgery by the time you're 25, you're not really a transsexual. They remind me of a young woman who remarked that she doesn't care about the debates over Roe v Wade or other "women's" issues; in her words, "Taxes affect my life every day; those things, almost never."

As much as I love history, it is not the only reason why I lament the fact that there had to be a "lost generation" of transgender people, and that people like me and my friend had to be among its survivors in order to transition in these times.  The fact that a generation had to be "lost" had tragic consequences.  I think now of someone I've called Corey in this blog.  I was with her on the last night of her life.  She was reaching out to me; she had recognized something in me that I was doing everything I could not to acknowledge.  Given where we were--geographically as well as historically--I might have been the closest thing to, if not a mentor, then at least a sympathiser, that she could find.  She, too, might be alive today--and, I would hope, living as the female she truly was--had I or someone been able to give her the understanding, if not the support, she needed.  

I also wonder whether I could have helped someone else who committed suicide, in part over his gender identity, when I was a little more than a year into my transition.  He was the same age as my friend is now and, not long before he OD'd, he told me of his gender identity conflict and how he admired my "courage."  I realize now that the unease I felt in hearing that came from understanding that his praise was really a cry for help, or at least a lament for what could have been.  All I can do now is to remember him in his true gender, as I remember Corey in hers.

26 October 2012

Why Was A Trans Woman Stoned To Death In Brazil?

In Brazil, same-sex marriages are allowed, although the notaries are not required to perform them.  Furthermore, same-sex couples enjoy most of the same legal protections available to non-LGBT people.

Moreover, the Sao Paolo Pride parade is, by all accounts, the largest LGBT pride celebration in the world.  In addition, thousands of gays from around the world flock to Carnival in Rio de Janiero every year.

With these realities, gay men and lesbians are, in some ways, better off in Brazil than in most other countries--and, for that matter, most jurisdictions in the United States.  

And the country even provides free gender-reassignment surgery.  So far, it sounds like an LGBT paradise, right?

Well...not so fast.  Those free operations have strings attached.  For one thing, any candidate for surgery has to undergo a rigorous medical and psychiatric evaluation.  That, on its face, seems reasonable.  However, the Brazilian medical establishment mirrors much of that nation's society in that it clings to notions and stereotypes about transsexual people that were more common in Renee Richards' time than they are now in the US.

Plus, lines for the surgery--and the other health care and treatments the Brazilian government provides for its citizens--are very long. So, those with money go to private doctors, or abroad.

But even with free treatments and surgeries available to them, most Brazilian transgenders live lives that can be charitably characterized as pretty miserable.  The legitimate labor market is all but closed to them; they allowed to work only in nursing, domestic service, hairdressing, gay entertainment and prostitution.  Many of those who are hairdressers, domestic servants or entertainers in gay night clubs also double as prostitutes.  Very few trans people have university educations or professional qualifications.

Worst of all, transgender people in Brazil are subject to violence, as they are almost everywhere else in the world.  However, the frequency and severity of the attacks are greater in Brazil, as exemplified by the trans woman who went by the name Madona. (Her birth name is Amos Chagas Lima.)  She died three days ago, four days after a group of attackers threw stones at her.  According to Keila Simpson of the National Council to Combat Discrimination, Madona was the 100th trans woman to be murdered in Brazil since January.

The dangers trans people--particularly trans women--face in Brazil are part of another phenomenon for which Brazil is infamous.  In that country, men who kill their wives often go unpunished and police officers kill women (and, to be fair, men) with impunity.  In such an atmosphere it isn't surprising that the murder of a trans woman would be such a lightly-regarded crime.  But that disdain is also, in part, a product of the low status of transgender people and the fact that, in spite of increased tolerance for homosexuality, the old stereotypes and attendant hatred of trans people still prevail.

25 October 2012

She Knows Why It Wasn't Enough To Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Obama's repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" hasn't been as complete a victory as some LGBT activists and their allies might believe.

For one thing, I have read and heard stories of increased harassment since gay people were allowed to serve openly.  Some incidients have included slurs and threats.  But almost as pernicious, and more insidious, are the taunts and baiting directed at uniformed men and women believed to be gay.  It places the victim in a double-bind:  If he or she takes the bait, abuse and worse follow.  But if he or she doesn't take the bait, the baiting escalates or the baiter grows angry and hostile.  It's probably even worse if the person who's being baited is, in fact, not gay or lesbian.  

Having been subjected to such baiting, I understand how that can break someone's mind and spirit.  I nearly quit school several times because of it.

But  are two other reasons why getting rid of DADT isn't the be-all and end-all in achieving legal protection, if not respect or equality, for non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered people in the Armed Forces.

One reason is that another piece of legislation passed during the Clinton Administration:  the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  As long as it is in effect, same-sex partners or spouses of uniformed serivce members still can't receive the benefits to which the wives of servicemen or the husbands of servicewomen are entitled.  So, even if, say, a sailor married her girlfriend in New York, the sailor's wife is on her own when it comes to health insurance, and she will not receive any benefits if the sailor is killed while on duty.

The other reason why ending DADT isn't enough has to do with the last letter in the LGBT equation.  (Have you ever noticed that "T" always comes last in it?)  Transgenders do not benefit in any way from the demise of DADT.  We still cannot join the Armed Forces if we have begun or completed our transitions, and are still forced to resign if we are diagnosed and begin our treatments while still signed on.

Allyson Robinson knows that as well as anybody does.  She graduated from West Point in 1994 and commanded a Patriot missile unit in Europe and the Middle East before she resigned her commission.  She has been chosen to lead group that will be formed by the merger of OutServe (which an Air Force officer began anonymously when DADT was still in effect)  and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Upon her selection, Ms. Robinson said, "We cannot stop until we reach the day when all qualified Americans who wish to wear the uniform of our armed services have the opportunity to do so with honor and integrity--and without fear of discrimination or harassment--whether they are gay, bisexual or transgender."

24 October 2012

Why They Think About Killing Themselves

Sometimes a study will confirm what any five-year-old could tell you.  Still, it's good to have them, if only to use as evidence that the five-year-olds are right.  Furthermore, such studies can sometimes indicate or suggest what needs to be done or changed.

Such a study was recently conducted by Ryan J. Testa of the Center for LGBTQ Evidence-based Applied Research (CLEAR) in Palo Alto, California.  

While anywhere from 6 to 12 percent of the general population has contemplated suicide, two out of every three transgender people have.  Think about it:  A transgender person is anywhere from five to eleven times as likely to think about killing him or her self as everyone else!

Other sorts of self-destructive behavior, such as drug and alcohol abuse, increase in both frequency and intensity among transgender people.  Predictably, the study showed that the bigotry we face has much to do with trans peoples' negative coping strategies and and thoughts about ending their own lives.  However, Testa's work may have revealed something that is entirely intuitive but has been mostly unrealized or unacknowledged.

Dr. Testa found that of all things trans people experience, physical violence is the one most closely related to suicide attempts.  As I have mentioned in other post, no one else is more at risk for being subject to a beating, sexual attack or other kind of violence.  

One reason for that is that so many trans people are sex workers--a fate that transitioning in middle age may have spared me.  Few, if any, occupations carry a greater risk of its practitioners incurring assaults, or even becoming homicide victims.  

Another reason why so many trans peoples' badges are scars (sometimes permanent), bruises and burns is the fact they are more likely than other people to be abused by family members and close friends.  This, of course, is a reason some leave their homes before finishing high, or even junior high, school.  Fleeing their families of communities makes them prime candidates for homelessness and sex work, which exposes them to even more risk for ending up battered or dead.

Related to trans people's not finishing school--and, of course, increasing the number and depth of the emotional as well as physical scars too many of us bear--is the bullying many of us experience in school, or on our way to or from it.  

One more reason why so many trans people incur beatings as well as sexual assaults is that, very often, people see us as mere receptacles for their sexual desires and aggression  and their most lurid fantasies.  We are at least as likely as anyone else to be beaten or raped by our partners.  And said partners and hook-ups can use the fact that we're trans against us because even relatively tolerant people share some of the same fantasies and misconceptions about, as well as subconscious hatred of, us.  So it is easy, for example, for an abuser to spread false rumors that we are paedophiles or other kinds of sexual predators or that we "lie" about who we are.  An abuser can thus make him or her self the victim in the eyes of other people.

What I described in the previous two sentences happened to me.  I had been in a relationship with the person who tried to spread such rumors.  That person never assualted me physically, but was abusive in other ways.  I went along with it because at the time I met that person, I felt that his attraction toward me was a confirmation of my womanhood.  

Finally, the study reports something else that makes perfect sense--at least to me, given my experience:  Fewer than 10 percent of victims report their attacks.  They fear retaliation from the attacker or, worse, the police to whom they reported the assault.  Still worse, we face indifference from the police.

I had to make three complaints before anyone helped me.  The second time, I was all but ready to give up:  Not only did I face unhelpful officers at the front desk and in the conference room, I was also harassed by three officers on their way out of the precinct house's gym.  As they were not wearing their badges, I could not identify them. The officer at the front desk saw it but said "It's not my job!"  when I declared my intention of reporting it.   Nobody in the criminal "justice" system took me seriously, let alone made any effort to help, until I got to the county court (thanks to some erroneous advice I got).  A counselor in the court advised me that I needed to go to Family Court, where people were helpful, and told me about some of the counseling and other services that I could use.

I had the experiences I described even after getting advice from a retired NYPD detective my father knows.  So I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be for some trans teenager who's left a violent home, has no education (Young people in such situations often lack skills, or are altogether illiterate or innumerate because they missed so much of their schooling before they dropped out.) and has no one to advocate for him or her.

That brings me to one more reason why too many trans people get sucked into a cycle of violence and despair:  Too many of us are completely on our own.  Other people who experience discrimination have their communities, families, places of worship and other institutions to give them the mental and spiritual--and sometimes physical--sustenance they need in order to endure.  Being trans cuts many people off those lifelines.  Every researcher on suicide from Emile Durkheim onward recognized the importance of such ties in giving people the will to live.  It's true that some people can live as hermits, but such people are not normally the ones who have no way of surviving--mentally as well as physically--in this world.  Isolation that is not self-imposed almost invariably breaks down that will.  In such a state, a person is virtually a target for violence, whether it comes from outside or within him or her self.

23 October 2012

Corporations That Support Homophobia

You no doubt recall the controversy over Chick Fil A' s donations to anti-gay organizations.  It probably doesn't surprise you that, among corporations, Chick Fil A isn't the only, or even the worst, offender.  

It probably doesn't surprise you that Wal-Mart and The Salvation Army are among the biggest supporters of homophobia.  Wal-Mart, of course, exploits practically everybody from the workers in its stores and warehouses to the laborers in the factories and fields that produce the stuff sold in The House Sam Wall built.  (It also exploits customers more than they realize:  Some Wal Mart prices seem low only because stores are located where there was no competition or where Wal-Mart managed to eliminate it.)  And The Salvation Army has led efforts to make gay sex illegal, and one of its Australian officials has said that homosexuals should be put to death.

I suspect that not many of you would raise your eyebrows upon seeing that Exxon-Mobil is no friend of the LGBT community.  The company that spent nearly two decades trying to evade responsibility for causing one of the worst oil spills of all time is also the only US employer ever to have rescinded both a non-discrimination policy that covered sexual orientation and a policy for domestic-partner benefits.  It's also the only Fortune 10 company that doesn't have a non-discrimination policy.

Some of you, however, may be surprised to learn about another company that supports homophobia.  Its donations to hateful causes are not anywhere near those of the other companies I've mentioned.  On the other hand, no other company can match this one for sheer hypocrisy.

I'm talking about Urban Outfitters.  The company's  president and founder, Richard Hayne, donated $13,150 to the (failed, thankfully) campaign of Rick Santorum.  What's so outrageous is his sheer hypocrisy:  His stores sold anti-Proposition 8, which were subsequently pulled from shelves in one of the chain's first controversies.  And, as we all know, few compnies market themselves as aggressively to gay men as Urban.  Judging from the stores I've seen, I'd have to say that Urban Outfitters simply would not exist without its market of gay men.

I suspect that other popular retailers and other corporations are supporting homo- and trans-phobia in one way or another simply because high-ranking executives of large corporations tend to support the Republican Party, which is more likely to run openly homo- and trans-phobic candidates for political office. The more we know about such executives and corporation, the better the chance we have of "starving" hateful candidates' bids for public office by cutting off their IV fluid:  money.

22 October 2012

The Rabbi Says We're Not Ill

A British rabbinical student is on a crusade.

All right.  You might think I'm getting my medieval history mixed up here.  But I assure you that, in fact, a young Londoner studying for the rabbiniate is indeed a man on a mission.

I'm not talking about his efforts toward ordination.  He is asking the contributors to, and editors of, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual to change something they've done since the third edition of said manual came out in 1980.

In DSM-III, transsexualism was included for the first time.  It was classified as "Gender Identity Disorder," the first known use of that phrase.  In DSM-IV TR, a revision of the fourth edition, GID was placed in a category of sexual disorders.  

DSM V is in the works.  Maxwell Zachs, the rabbinical student in question, wants to see the de-classification of transsexualism as a mental disorder in the new edition of the manual.  "Gender is not an illness," he explains.  "It's just a part of who I am, like being Jewish or a vegetarian or sometimes talking too much!"

While re-classifying people like me and him might remove some of the stigma and alleviate some of the prejudice we can experience, it is not as simple a choice as one might expect.

You see, medical practitioners and administrators, public health officials and even pharmaceutical companies rely on the DSM to help them set priorities and policies.  So do insurance companies.  

So, if we are re-classified as "normal," that might actually make it difficult for many of us to get treatments and therapy.  While very few trans people have insurance policies that pay for surgery, many (myself included) were able to get our hormones and visits with doctors paid for, and psychotherapy partially covered.  And I have been able to get mammograms and, since my surgery, gynecological care.

If transgenderism is no longer considered an illness or disorder, insurance providers might decide not to pay for those things.  And some practitioners might not provide their services.  

Plus, I have to wonder whether it would make it more difficult for someone to file a complaint of discrimination, much less a lawsuit.  Could some judge or lawmaker decide that because a transgender is not ill, he or she doesn't need legal protections and is simply pursuing a "lifestyle choice"?

This is very interesting and controversial, to say the least!

21 October 2012

What Was Lost In The Lost Generation of Transgenders

Yesterday, I wrote about the African-American and Latino gay and transgender world of the 1980's that was depicted in Paris Is Burning.  As I mentioned, some of the young people shown in the film are dead; if you watch the film now, you can't help but to wonder which ones, if any, are still living.

In that very literal sense, they are a lost generation of transgender people.  But even the ones who have survived are part of the lost generation I've described, for they were not able to pass on what they learned, whether from a previous generation of trans people or from their own lives.  They taught each other how to shoplift, find places to "crash" (Most of them had little or no money; if they had any, they were saving it for surgery.) and deal with cops and tranny-chasers as well as tranny-bashers.  

In other words, they were only learning how to survive for the moment.  Now, of course, that is important, for if we don't live through this moment, we won't have others in which we can live.  But, as we have seen in history, people who expend--whether through choice or necessity--all of their energy in immediate survival tend not to make advancements in their consciousness, let alone in the ways they do things.  And they tend not to live very long.  In those senses, young trans people in the 1980's were not so different from almost anyone who lived in Europe during the millennium or so that followed the disintegration of the Roman Empire.

But the young people who were living in the ball culture shown in Paris Is Burning were marooned in a moment of history.  Most of them did not know about pioneering transgender activists like Sylvia Rivera, who were shunted aside when LGBT organizations and movements were taken over by, and therefore focused on, gay white men.  (Lesbians found themselves stuck in their own kind of limbo in the feminist movement.)  Although they were less than a generation removed from the Stonewall Rebellion, they were as unaware of it as most American college freshmen are of John Brown and the slave rebellions.

What was even worse was that they were stuck without the knowledge of how to deal with the struggles they faced in a society and nation (at least in its political leadership) that had grown more hostile to them. Sylvia Rivera herself was all but forgotten, homeless and battling addiction, as transgenders and drag queens were shunted aside to make the gay-rights movement (which was dealing with the stigma of AIDS) more attractive to straight people and others in the mainstream.   

In brief, the young people who were competing in those balls had already lost what little history they had.  We all know that one of the easiest ways to destroy a people--or to make it an underclass--is to separate it from its history.  I'm not talking about History in the academic sense (although that matters, too); I mean a person's own history and that of the family and community from which he or she came.  

The older trans and drag queens could teach them how to "boost" designer purses and eyeliner.  But they couldn't teach them the things a previous generation would have been able to teach them.  That is what was lost with the lost generation of trans people.

20 October 2012

Paris Is Burning: A Document Of The Lost Generation Of Trans People

I saw Paris Is Burning not long after it was released in 1990.  I was very deeply in the closet then.  So, perhaps, it wouldn't surprise you to know that I went to see it with a woman with whom I was trying to initiate a more-than-friends relationship.  (It didn't happen.)  The funny thing is that she suggested the film.

But I digress.  One thing that's very interesting about the film, even for someone who's not interested in drag balls or "voguing", is that it shows a city and culture that were disappearing at the very moment Jennie Livingston (a white lesbian) was directing it.  In that sense, it reminds me of Leslie Feinberg's novel Stone Butch Blues, which portrays an upstate New York of smokestack industries and blue-collar jobs, and the "butches" who worked some of them.  That way of life was dying just as the novel's protagonist was coming of age, and was long gone by the time the novel was published.  As Jay Toole (who is not given to hyperbole)  remarked in a recent conversation with me, "There aren't any stone butches anymore!"

Likewise, the kinds of young African-American and Latino gay males and transgenders Livingston presents are all but gone, literally as well as figuratively.  Several of the subjects of the film are known to be dead, from AIDS and other forms of violence, and it wouldn't surprise me that others have passed.  Many ran away from, or were thrown out of, their homes before reaching the age of majority, which means that some were probably "off the grid" in that era just before the Internet.

The ones who have survived, as Melissa Anderson points out, probably would not recognize New York as it is now (assuming, of course, they still live here).  Then, the Christopher Street pier, where many of them hung out, was as weathered, splintered and rotted--and, in daylight, as forlorn--as a piece of driftwood on a beach. So were most of the other Hudson River piers of Greenwich Village, Chelsea and other downtown and West Side neighborhoods in Manhattan.  Now the Christopher Street Pier and others around it are, in essence, little parks that stand between the Hudson Greenway and the river.  Instead of young people who are essentially homeless and outcast in other ways, the Greenway and piers are filled, at least on fair-weather days, with cyclists, runners and parents with their kids in strollers, and  people walking their dogs.  The Chelsea Piers, which occupy the piers that formed planks from the ends of the streets in the West 20's, is full of restaurants, shops and other attractions that bring in families and tourists.  The subjects of Paris Is Burning almost certainly could not have afforded to go to any of those establishments--not that they would have--even if they were doing sex work, which was the most remunerative employment available to most of them.

Which brings me to my next point...The young gay and trans people who were "voguing" in the '80's and early '90's almost certainly wouldn't recognize me, my trans, gay and lesbian friends or, in fact, nearly any member of today's LGBT communities.  Although things are far from perfect for us today, we have no need for those balls to which the young gays and trans people expended much of the energy, and what little money, they had.  The fact that they tried to portray, as accurately as possible, supermodels, actresses, singers and other female performers, in competitions in which they represented "houses" named after fashion designers like Chanel, is an expression of their yearning to belong to the rest of the world and the knowledge that they don't, and perhaps never will.  (Note the use of the word "houses" by young people who were disowned by their families.)  Some would never have the means to belong--Many of them shoplifted the clothing and makeup they wore for those competitions!-- while others simply won't live long enough.  

Most of them could not finish high school, and could not imagine going to college or into any sort of program that will train them for a job that would provide them with the trappings of a middle-class life.  They never met gay or trans people who were writers, scientists, professors, economists, musicians, engineers, doctors or historians; if their teachers were in the LGBT spectrum, those young people would not have known, at least with any certainty.  And they almost certainly could not have imagined a world in which Dick Cheyney would express his support for same-sex marriage, or in which straight entertainers or other celebrities would advocate for trans people.

They would not have seen trans people my age, and might not have known that any existed.  That is because--as they could not have known--most trans people around my age would begin their transitions at an age, and in an age,  to which most of them would not live.  

In other words, whatever Jennie Livingston's intentions were, Paris Is Burning has become a document of the lost generation of transgenders and the history and culture that disappeared with them.

19 October 2012

IFI Wins (For Now)

The Illinois Family Institute are savoring their victory.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the IFI was trying to get the East Aurora School District to rescind its new transgender-friendly policy, which was adopted only four days ago.

The rules allowed students to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities intended for the gender of their minds and spirits.  Of course, that's not the language that was written into the short-lived regulation.  But, for a brief period of time, at least one member of that school board showed an understanding of the fact that our genders are not simply a mater of sexual apparatus or chromosomes. 

Today, the Board is expected to capitulate to the pressure of the IFI--which helped to spur a campaign of negative letters, e-mails and phone calls--and reverse the policy.  

 According to School Board President Annette Johnson, passing the new regulation was a "mistake."  She claimed that board members had been misinformed that the district had to implement the guidelines in order to conform with a constantly-changing Illinois school code.  

The National Center for Transgender Equality says that allowing students to live in the gender in which they see themselves is critical in preventing bullying as well as host of other problems that follow.  When students can express who they actually are, and there are policies to protect that expression, most would-be bullies realize that they can't get away with the violence and harassment they can commit when young people are forced to repress their  expression of gender identity and sexuality.

Maybe the IFI will fall apart, or Board members will see the ight they saw this past Monday, when they voted for the transgender policy. Or so I hope.

18 October 2012

Infographic On LGBT Legal Protections

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress posted a very informative infographic about the state of legal protections for LGBT people in the United States:

The information about which states have or don't have protections for transgnders, lesians and gays isn't shocking to most of us in the community.  But it is disturbing to note that 71 percent of the land area of the United States has no laws protecting LGBT people against discrimination in employment, housing and other areas.

What might be even more shocking, though, is that 42,044,205 children live in states without laws that would prohibit employers from firing those kids' parents, guardians or other caretakers for being transgendered, lesbian or gay.

What would Romney, who claims to care so much about the future of our kids, make of this?  

17 October 2012

IFI: Their Hate Is All About The Family

Why do so many hate groups have the word "family" in their names?

One example is the Illinois Family Institute.  In response to the East Aurora School District's new transgender-affirmative policy, the self-appointed guardians of the "traditional" family issued an ignorant and offensive condemnation in its call for a repeal.

Their missive included gems like the following:

Apparently, all that’s needed for school personnel to be compelled to participate in a fiction is for a student to pretend “consistently” at school that he or she is the opposite sex.

The school board is now imposing non-objective, “progressive” moral, philosophical, and political beliefs—not facts—about gender confusion on the entire school. This feckless school board has made a decision to accommodate, not the needs of gender-confused teens, but their disordered desires and the desires of gender/sexuality anarchists who exploit public education for their perverse ends.

I wonder how many of these board members have thought or read deeply on the issue of gender confusion or Gender Identity Disorder. And I wonder how many of them have read deeply the writing of not just “progressive” scholars but conservative scholars as well.

That gender dysphoria is referred to as "gender confusion" tells you most of what you need to know about this group and the bliss they take in their ignorant hate.  Also, they wonder whether Board members have read "deeply" the writing of "not just progressive" scholars, but conservative scholars as well.

Excuse me IFI, but have you heard of the DSM?  Its editors are hardly known as "progressive" scholars.  But the next edition of the DSM, due to be released in May, takes gender identity disorder off its list of mental illnesses.  And many other scientists with no discernible political agendae affirm that, indeed, some people are born with characteristics that are incongruent with what is considered "normal" for their genital or chromosomal sex.

If anything, the East Aurora school board is simply acknowledging reality.  If the IFI would do the same, perhaps they wouldn't need to be so hateful.

16 October 2012

A Double-Bind For Transgenders In Malaysia

In some predominantly-Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, there are, in essence, two sets of laws.  Sharia is Islamic law, which applies to people who are Muslims.  Then there are secular laws, which apply to all citizens and, in some cases, even to visitors who aren't Muslim.

As it happens, Sharia law includes a ban on transvestism.  In Malaysia, men who wear women's clothing can face prison sentences and/or hefty fines, depending on the Malaysian state in which they are convicted.

On the other hand, Malaysia's ban on homosexual acts applies to everyone in the countries.  Those who are charged with violating this law can be punished by caning and prison sentences of up to 20 years.

So, in Malaysia, cross-dressers--four of whom recently lost a court challenge to the country's ban--are in a real quandry.

Not only do they dress in women's clothing, they also take hormones and go by female names.  However, their identity cards and other documents identify them by the male names and gender assigned to them at birth.

The four trans women argued that the ban on cross-dressing voilates the protections for freedom of expression and against discrimination based on gender identity codified in the Malaysian constitution.  They also pleaded, unsuccessfully, for identity cards that identified them by their female names and gender--which, in essence, would allow them to live more or less fully as women--because of the discrimination transgender people face in their country.

Said discrimination may turn out to be the lesser of their problems.  Now that their identities are known, they are subject to the risk of harassment and violence.  And, because the Malaysian courts still categorize them as men, they run the risk of being prosecuted under the country's laws against homosexual acts should they have sex with men.

15 October 2012

Transgender Bird?

Bellbirds live in New Zealand.  They're about the size of a sparrow, dark olive-green with red eyes.  (They're kinda cute, if you ask me!) The female has a white cheek stripe, but the male doesn't.

Staff at the Zealandia Eco-Sanctury have found a bellbird that has the stripe on one side, but the darker male plumage on the other.  Also, this bird makes both male- and female- patterened calls, but makes the female calls at a higher volume and greater frequency than is normal for females.

"There's something we can't pin down," says Erin Jeneway, a conservation officer at the sanctuary.  "We haven't seen anything like this before."

Although it is the first bellbird to be found with characteristics of both genders, it's not the first such bird or animal to be noted.  And there are some species, such as the clownfish, in which members change their sexes. If a female clownfish dies, the largest male in the school will become female.

What do such animals do about their birth certificates?

14 October 2012

Surgery Not Required In Ontario

In the Canadian province of Ontario, it is now possible for a person to change the gender as well as the name on his or her birth certificate, even if he or she hasn't had gender reassignment surgery.

This change in policy stems from an April ruling from the province's Human Rights Tribunal in the case of a born-male woman known as "XY" .  The Tribunal declared the surgery requirement to be discriminatory. Furthermore, the Tribunal's ruling said that the requirement added to the stigma felt by members of the transgender community, and reinforced stereotypes about how they experience gender.

I am of two minds about this ruling.  On one hand, I am glad that the requirement for surgery has been eliminated, and would like to see American states similarly change their policies.  The surgical requirement discriminates against those who can't afford surgery or can't have it for medical reasons. It also, as the Ontario tribunal's ruling notes, reinforces the gender binary.  We are now learning that gender identity is not merely "performative," genital or chromosomal; it is far more complex, and complicated than almost anyone realizes.  That means, of course, that there are far more than two ways to experience, much less express, gender.

Dropping the surgical requirement will also make it easier for many people, especially young trans folk, to gain admissions to schools, jobs, housing and many other actual and de facto necessities of life.  Someone who does not have those things, and can find no other option but a homeless shelter and other public assistance, will be assigned to a shelter and given benefits according to whether the "male" or "female" is indicated on the birth certificate.

On the other hand, as a friend of mine says, a birth certificate is part of an accurate record of a person's history. This friend, who is transitioning, does not want to change the gender, or even the name, on the birth certificate. The birth certificate records the gender of the body into which a person is born and the name given at the time of birth.  My friend believes that these are a vital part of a life history.

I can sympathise with this friend's feelings, and feel that if anyone who doesn't want to change his or her birth certificate, even after surgery, should have that right.   At the same time, I realize this friend is unlikely to change jobs and probably won't move until retirement from said job.  My friend will not therefore have to face the dilemma of having to start life with documents that don't match gender identity or presentation.

So, as I said, I am glad for the Ontario ruling and hope other Canadian provinces and American states--as well as other nations--follow suit.  But I also hope that no one is forced to alter his or her records after a transition and surgery.

13 October 2012

A Lifespan Of 30 To 32 Years, And A Lost Generation

Two decades ago, a widely-circulated report caused a lot of shock and disbelief.

Among its findings was this:  Black males aged 15 to 29 had a higher rate of mortality than anyone except people over 85.

But what caused perhaps the most consternation was the fact that black men in Harlem had a shorter life expectancy (51)  than men in Bangladesh (55).  At that time, as now, the average life expectancy for males in the US was 73 years.

(Aside:  At the time of the report, Bangladesh differed from any Western country in that males had a longer life expectancy--by one year--than women.)

I was in graduate school at the time the report came out.  Fellow students and faculty members talked about it for weeks afterward.  More than a few faculty members, I'm sure, were stunned to realize that they were near, or had exceeded, the numbers for men in Harlem and Bangladesh. And those--including my fellow students--who hadn't reached that age bracket knew that, barring some unforeseen tragedy, they were likely to live well beyond 51 or 55.

As terrible as those findings were ( I concur with those who said a "genocide" of black youth was, and is, taking place.), they paint a positively rosy picture compared to something I stumbled over a couple of days ago.

According to Argentinian psychologist Graciela Balestra, "Transgender people have an average life expectancy of 30 to 32 years."

That is less than the average life expectancy during the time of Christ, and about how long people could expect to live during the Dark Ages.  Even during the time of the Black Death, a person--assuming, of course, that he or she wasn't among the one in three who succumbed to the epidemic--could expect to live a couple of years longer than that.

And Dr. Balestra works closely with the transgender community in a country where, arguably, trans people have more rights and protections than in any other in the world!

When I think about it, I have difficulty rebutting her claim.  I know, personally, about two dozen people on the transgender spectrum, and have probably talked with about two hundred others, perhaps more.    Of the transgender people I know personally, about four or five are 30 or younger; the rest are 40 or older.  Of course, that last fact may simply be a result of being over 40 myself!  However, I can't help but to realize that all of the 30-or-older trans people I know--and, most likely, most of the ones I've met--began their transitions after that age.  In my experience, it's really unusual to meet a trans person around my age who started his or her transition thirty or even twenty years ago.  We are, as I said in yesterday's post, survivors of the Lost Generation of transgender people.  

So, while I know that today we have a more hospitable (though far from entirely hospitable) environment, I still worry sometimes about those young people who are making their transitions, and even having surgery, before their mid-20's.  While I am happy that they will be able to enjoy a youth in their true gender--an option too many friends and acquaintances, as well as I, didn't have--I still have to wonder just how long they'll live, and what their quality of life will be like. 

For all of the advances that have been made--at least in some parts of the US--to protect our rights and safety, a transgender person is still 16 times as likely as anyone else to be murdered.  One of us is also 20 times as likely to be assaulted.  Moreover, we have unemployment and poverty rates that are multiples of the ones suffered by any other group of people.  Even if you talk about the real, as opposed to the official, unemployment rates, we are three to four times as likely not to have paid work.  

And those of us who have employment, health insurance and safe housing are likely to have garnered those things before our transitions.  

Perhaps the clearest sign of progress we might see will be when we see gainfully employed, insured and well-housed trans people in their 30's and 40's who have attained those hallmarks of a stable life after, or not long before, beginning their transitions in their early-to-mid 20's, or even earlier. Until then, we will have a gap created by a lost generation of trans people. Having such a gap has devastated the African-American community for a long time, and could do something similar, if it hasn't already, to the trans community.

11 October 2012

National Coming Out Day

Today is the 25th National Coming Out Day.

When the first such day was held, "coming out", even for white lesbians and gay men and lesbians who were secure in their jobs and lives, was a risky proposition.  The so-called "Gay Liberation" of the 1970's boomeranged into a conservative backlash during the 1980s.  (I apologize for the mixed metaphors.)  

One reason was the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Of course, the election didn't happen in a vacuum:  There was a counter-revolution to the Gay Rights movement, just as there was for the Women's and Civil Rights movements.  That counter-revolution was not always visible or audible:  Most of the time, it was more like a series of tremors that one only felt when one happened to be in its path.  Those tremors culminated in the earthquake of Reagan's election.

Perhaps even more important, though, was the outbreak of HIV/AIDs.  In the early years of the epidemic, all of its known (or, at any rate, recorded) victims were believed to be gay men, intravenous drug users, Haitians or West Africans.  The last three groups I've mentioned were near the bottom of the American socio-economic ladder; the early path of the epidemic caused many Americans to lump gay men with them.  Naturally, that only helped to inflame existing prejudices against gay men.

Another reason, I believe, why "coming out" was difficult during the 1980's was that many people associated lesbians with the most shrill and hateful kinds of feminists (or pseudo-scholars who called themselves feminists, anyway).  The conservatives and religious hatemongers who were spouting anti-gay rhetoric tended to look none too kindly on feminists anyway; the association those conservatives made between feminists and lesbians surely made things worse for both.

If it was difficult for gays and lesbians to come out in 1988, you can only imagine how much worse things were for trans people.  Of the trans people I've met (which include everything from those who haven't yet begun-- or who have chosen not to-- to transition, to post-ops), it seems that there are, chronologically, two groups: the ones who transitioned during or before the early 1980's, and the ones who transitioned during or after the early 1990's.  

If my observations in any way reflect what has happened throughout the trans community, there is a "lost generation" of trans people--the ones who didn't transition during the decade or so between the two groups I've mentioned.  That period almost perfectly coincides with the conservative backlash I've mentioned against gays and lesbians, and that "lost generation" includes many who took their own lives or who died slower deaths from drug and alcohol abuse, as well as those who simply didn't transition and those--including yours truly--who transitioned later in their lives than they might have otherwise.

So, even though we have a long way to go, things are certainly better for us, in many ways, than they were in 1988.  National Coming Out Day is one reason for that.

08 October 2012

Turned Away By An LGBT Organization

Every time I think the world has become  a more hospitable, or at least a  less hostile, place for trans people, something happens to shake my faith.   

It's bad enough when hateful, ignorant or simply rude words or treatment comes from the sorts of people from whom we expect it.  At least then we can see it coming.  However, it's more distrubing, and more distressing, when we are treated badly by those whom we thought to be allies--or at least who previously seemed to be working on our behalf.

A friend of mine is having such an experience.  She went to an organization that is ostensibly dedicated to helping transgender people with various legal issues, including civil rights violations and access to health care.  In fact, that organization's founder litigated a case in which I had been involved, and was settled when the judge ordered the defendant to make contributions to LGBT organizations on behalf of me and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  After that, I would volunteer for that organization, join their board of directors and write a guidebook, which they distributed in print and online, to help transgenders gain access to the health care we need.

That organization--the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund--took over Lambda Legal's name-change project.  I used its free services and, even as a complete novice to the court system, I had no difficulty.  When TLDEF took it over, I thought it might be a good thing, as TLDEF is (or, at any rate, was) an organization centered on transgendered.  Plus, TLDEF's director, Michael Silverman is a first-rate lawyer. No less than the lawyers who opposed him, and a prosecutor, said as much.

In any event, my friend went to a TLDEF name-change clinic and was treated rudely, and with hostility.  Then the person who was supposed to help my friend instead invented a reason, called it TLDEF policy, and used it to keep my friend from using their services.

My friend, at least, is canny and persistent, although obviously upset with the treatment she received.  Now that this friend has found out that the rule that would have disqualfied her, had it existed, she is all the more upset, though still fighting.

06 October 2012

Post #1000. Thanks For Reading

Four years and three months, almost to the day, after my first post on this blog, here we are, at post #1000.

The day I started this blog, I had absolutely no idea of how long it would last, or how many posts I would write on it.  I started one year before the scheduled date for my surgery and had planned to record whatever came along during those twelve months.  I didn't know whether I would continue or, in fact, whether I would want to.

But I learned a few things during that year, and more since.  I also had a motive for continuing this blog that some may find self-indulgent or narcissistic:  FOr the most part, what I wrote in this blog during the months after my surgery were the first I wrote in my new life.  

Also, I found myself thinking, if not differently, then in different directions.  In my transition, I experienced sexism, transphobia and other kinds of bigotry in more immediate and intimate ways than I ever did as a male who, as far as most people could tell, was straight, or at least bi-leaning-to-hetero-sexual.  And who is white.  One interesting facet of my experiences is that I also learned how my race matters and that, for whatever prejudice I was experiencing, there were other kinds of ignorance and hate to which I wasn't subject and, I hope, never will be.

Anyway...I want to thank all of you who have been reading, whether regularly or episodically.  And I want to thank my mother, father and other people--including my friend Millie and Bruce  (I don't know that better friends exist!)--who've been with me on this journey.  And my new friends, too:  you know who you are!

I may write Post #1001 tomorrow.  Or next week.  And how much time will pass between Post #1001 and 1002, I don't know.  But, for now, this blog will continue.  And, I suspect, it will go on as long as I learn anything new or interesting, or am shocked by something, related not only to my own life as a woman, but to issues related to gender and sexuality.  A friend has suggested I start a political blog.  I may do that.  If I do, i will almost certainly take time and energy from this, so my posts will become less frequent.  (Unless, of course, I no longer have to work for a living!)  But, for now, and for the foreseeable future, I'll be here.  And here I am.