28 July 2013

Without Women On Wheels

Yesterday marked 60 years since the end of the Korean War.

The South commemorates it in a rather somber way.  The North--the so-called People's Republic--celebrates it as a victory.

However one sees the conflict and the armistice, it's hard to think of them as a victory for women (or very many other people who aren't Communist officials) or cyclists on either side. 

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Late last year, the PRK (North) ended a decades-old ban on women cycling.  However, just a couple of months later--in January of this year--the ban was reinstated.  Moreover, the current statute doesn't allow women to even ride on the rear (or front) of a two-wheeled vehicle.  

The current restriction, however, is even more draconian than the one that was revealed.  Previously, offenders could be fined 2000 to 5000 won (2.20 to 5.50 USD at current exchange rates). Now, authorities can confiscate bicycles on which women are pedalers or passengers.  

Ostensibly, PRK officials believe that women on wheels is a "violation of good socialist customs", i.e., they're offended by flapping skirts.  But, just three weeks ago, women were allowed to wear trousers and high heels.  I wonder what excuse the government will offer (not that they have to) now--or whether the ban will be repealed once again.

27 July 2013

Getting And Keeping What We Need

Here is an infographic that shows some of the dilemmas faced by transgenders in the work force:

26 July 2013

What Young Love Might Have Been Like

I began my gender transition in my 40's and had my surgery three days after I turned 51.  While I am glad for the time I've had--and whatever time I have remaining--to live as a woman, I cannot help to think about what might have been.

Other trans people I know who transitioned in the middle of their lives have similar feelings.  While it was undoubtedly easier to transition when I did than it would have been, say, in my 20's, I still can't help but to wonder what my life might have been like had I done so.  Would I have made different choices about school, work, relationships or other areas of my life?  Would I have lived in different places from the ones in which I've lived?  

Then again, I also realize I might not be alive now had I started my transition when I was young.  As difficult as things are for trans people now, they could only have been more so thirty or twenty years ago.  Perhaps I would have done sex work, which I think would have destroyed me mentally, if not physically.   

Still, I occasionally fantasize about having hopped on my bike or taken a bus, train or plane the day after I graduated high school (or even sooner) and ended up some place where nobody knew me.  I imagine having started a new life, under a new name and identity, among (or away from) people who did not know of my life as a boy.

I also wonder what kind of love life I might have had.  You see, I didn't date when I was in high school.  I didn't attend my senior prom, even though I served on the committee that organized it.  And, in college, even though I had a few scattered dates, I felt even more isolated than I did in high school:  I felt even more pressure to fit in with other males and to conform to ideas about maleness I'd learned up to that point in my life.

I especially think about what wasn't, and what might have been, in my youth when I hear about children and teenagers who transition.  Reading about Arin Andrews and Katie Hill really made me wonder about what my life might have been like:  They have transitioned together.  Arin is now 17 and Katie 19 and both talk about the strength each drew from seeing the other's transition.  And now they can share the comfort they feel in their own bodies, in their own selves.  

25 July 2013

Upon This Rock Was The Movement Founded

Although people became ill and died from it long before then, the first documented cases of what would come to be known as HIV/AIDS were reported on 5 June 1981.

For the next four years, the mushrooming epidemic was depicted as a consequence of the libertine lifestyles of gay men and the poor choice others made to use intravenous drugs.  Anyone who contracted the disease was thus tarred with the most negative stereotypes about one or the other; family, friends, colleagues and others often abandoned those who were wasting away and dying from the ravages of the disease.

It was a time when many--including then-President Ronald Reagan--would not speak of AIDS, at least not publicly.  To do so, at a time when the so-called Moral Majority was at the peak of its influence, would be to identify one's self with immorality, degradation and sloth.

Then, on this date in 1985, something happened that began the change in public perception about AIDS and its victims.

If you are around my age, you remember it well:  It was announced that iconic actor Rock Hudson was suffering from the disease.

Earlier in the summer, rumors about his health began to circulate when he looked gaunt and pale--almost unrecognizable--during an appearance to promote a new cable series of his longtime friend and former co-star Doris Day.

He was diagnosed with the disease after collapsing in Paris in early July.  There, he was able to receive treatment with HPA-23, a drug that wasn't available in the US at the time.  The announcement that he indeed had AIDS came while he was in the hospital.

Rock Hudson changed the "face" of the disease, not only because he was so famous, but also because, until then, very few people knew that he was gay. Ironically, his character "feigned" gayness to get the character played by Doris Day in Pillow Talk:


He died on 2 October 1985, less than three months after his announcement.  In that short time, he started the Rock Hudson AIDS foundation.  He was also credited with jumpstarting Elizabeth Taylor's then-nascent fundraising crusade to fight the disease.

Most important of all, his illness and death inspired, in some people, a willingness to be associated with AIDS victims, which probably did more than anything to bring the fight against the disease into the mainstream of society.

24 July 2013

A Band Of (Trans) Brothers--And Sisters

While the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been applauded, mostly for the right reasons, transgenders are still not allowed to be uniformed members of the Armed Forces.  

Meanwhile, civilian employees of the Armed Forces are allowed to transition if they are already employees.  What's not widely known is that Amanda Simpson, whom President Obama appointed as the Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department shortly after he was elected to his first term, is a civilian military employee.  She had transitioned years before her appointment to that post.

Another civilian employee, not nearly as well-known, is in the process of transitioning.  However, that employee also happens to be an Army Reserve sergeant. 

But there's another twist that few anticipated:  As a civilian employee, this person is male.  However, for Army drills and physicals, it's necessary to bring out "whatever I can muster that's feminine".   So, while his civilian colleagues relate to him as the man he is, he must--as he admits--lie to his fellow soldiers.   

Now, some might say that he should be content with being a civilian military employee.  However, he says, "My father was a soldier.  I wanted to come home in a uniform like him".  He was able to do that after a deployment to Iraq.  While "coming home in a uniform" (Thankfully, it wasn't a body bag!) fulfilled one dream, it left him with the yearnings of another:  He realized he had to "come out" and transition.

He hopes that one day soon the Armed Forces' ban against transgenders will be lifted.  In the meantime, he says, he has a network of about 300 female-to-male transgenders who are a "band of brothers" supporting each other "in a battle nobody knows we're fighting".

While I don't generally encourage young people to join the military unless they, well, want to be in the military (and aren't enlisting merely to "pay for school", learn a trade, "see the world", please members of their families and communities or fulfill some vague notion like "serving my country"), and wouldn't join the military even if I could, I think the ban against trans people is absurd.  After all, the traits that make a person good soldiers, sailors, flyers or officers don't change as a person transitions from one gender to another. A male-to-female might lose some physical strength, but--let me tell you--you've got to be pretty damned tough to make the transition.  Also, while a certain amount of stamina is necessary, today's military doesn't depend as much on brute strength as the forces of old.  And, if someone could hack the physical training and the rigors of combat as a "woman", I don't see why he couldn't as a man.

Most important of all, though, is something the female-to-male civilian employee/reservist mentioned:  integrity.  In battle, or in any other stressful situation, people who are fighting or simply working together toward the same goal will not succeed unless they can trust one another.  I should think that someone who is completely honest about him or her self is more likely to deserve and gain the trust of the men and women by his or her side, or under his or her command.

23 July 2013

Taking A Shoe Thrown At Her And Putting It In Her Mouth.

Back in the good ol' days, the crazy elements of the American political right trotted out women like Phyllis Schlafly to help reinforce the notion of male superiority and female subservience. 

I always wondered:  Why is a woman in public office if she feels that she should be under a man?  I guess others have asked the same question.

Now, it seems that the Republicans have seen the error of that strategy.  Instead of letting this generation's equivalents of Schlafly and Anita Bryant (if they indeed exist) preach about "a woman's place", they have women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann who, on their good days, rise to level of ignorance found in the kinds of men who don't realize how much privilege they have.  

If the religious right is still trying to show that women aren't fit for public life, they could hardly do better than to have Palin and Bachmann on their side.

Now we can add another not-ready-for-Mensa woman to the list.  Dana Perino, who is now a Faux (I mean Fox) News "analyst" served up this gem:

“Also when a president speaks, it’s to multiple audiences,” she added. “If you think of the young mother whose 2-year-old son was shot in the face by the two black teens that approached her in Atlanta and that baby had died, why do presidents choose to speak about one case and not the other? That’s why it’s better maybe not to talk about any of them.”

David Edwards astutely and succinctly translated her blather: "Where's Obama's speech on blacks shooting white babies in the face?"

She was referring specifically to a the thirteen-month-old baby in Atlanta who was fatally shot by two teens who demanded money of his mother early this year. How she can connect that crime to the death of Trayvon Martin is beyond me:

  • The shooters--17-year-old De'Marquise Elkins and 15-year-old Dominique Lang--were charged with first-degree murder about a day after the crime. 
  • Nobody profiled the baby as a criminal or blamed him for his own death. 

(Rhetorical question du jour:  Where are the "pro-life" people--who are supposedly so concerned that an abortion is the killing of a baby--now?)

To think that Ms. Perino was the White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush!  Her present job is, as best as I can tell, the only one that's right for her. 

I must say, though, she really "took one for the team" when she was the White House Press Secretary!

22 July 2013

Conviction Set Aside In Killing Of Transgender Woman In New York State

Four years ago, Dwight DeLee became the second person convicted in the US for a hate crime in the killing of a transgender person.  His August 2009 conviction for killing Lateisha Green in Syracuse, NY came three months after a Colorado jury convicted Allen Andrade of beating Angie Zapata to death in Colorado after discovering that she was biologically male.

Andrade is still in prison, serving a life sentence he was handed because of his hate crime conviction and the long rap sheet he had before he killed Angie Zapata.  

DeLee also remains in prison, though it remains to be seen how much longer he will be there. For the moment, he's locked up on a gun charge.  However, his conviction on Manslaughter in the First Degree as a hate crime has been set aside.  The Fourth Appellate Division of New York's Supreme Court, which sits in Rochester, made the ruling because a jury found him not guilty of Manslaughter in the First Degree without the added element of a hate crime.
However, the same jury found him guilty on a weapons charge.

Onandaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said his office will seek review in the New York State Court of Appeals, citing errors in the trial judge's instructions to the jury.

21 July 2013

Coming Out With God

When people ask how I came to be the person I am, I tell them that the process of my gender transition was as much a spiritual as a physical or emotional experience.  

Sometimes I'm still surprised at just how many people understand what I mean.  Perhaps I shouldn't be:  After all, a spiritual journey--whether or not it's what you intended--involves learning your true essence. For some of us, that means--among other things--that we really aren't the genders to which we were assigned at birth.

Now, some would argue that someone who follows his or her spiritual calling won't want to "alter" what God made.  For a long time, I thought the same way while, ironically, denying that I believed in God or anything beyond the physical realm.  

What that meant was, among other things, that I had not freed myself from conflating belief and spirituality with the trappings (and traps) of organized religions as I'd known them.  It also meant that I was not accepting the fact that circumstances are not destiny.  After all, we have the means to change at least some of our circumstances.  One could say that God (or whatever one believes in) gave us the means as well as circumstances.

So it is with gender idenity.  Now we have the medical science and practice to help our bodies more thoroughly express what we know in our minds and spirits, just as we have the means to treat diseases or enhance life in other ways.  Using them, I believe, has to involve spiritual engagement, which can only bring us closer to that which is infinite.

So it has been for the Rev. Cameron Partridge.  He was assigned to a female identity at birth and, after graduating Bryn Mawr--where he came out as a lesbian--and, as he says, a religious person.  As I understand what he says, they were inseparable.  

Now he is the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University and the husband of a woman he married when he was still living as a woman.  What his journey underscores, I believe, is that gender identity is, like our "callings", not something that can always be readily categorized by the people in our lives, and society as a whole.  What made it unclear for so many of us--especially people of my generation--is that we felt, and sometimes acquiesced, to the desire to fit into the gender binary we learned while growing up. And the notions we learned about God and spirituality were expressions of those notions.

I'd bet that Rev. Partridge is an excellent teacher.  Some of the people who posted comments after the article I linked could use a lesson or two from her, and others--as well as the God some of them claim to worship.

20 July 2013


I found this great infographic that expresses some of the stark realities of transgender life:

However, when I tried to access the site on which it appeared--transfeminism.tumblr.com--it was blocked as "pornography".


19 July 2013

Melting Away

This week, we’ve had the hottest weather we’ve had all year.  (Yesterday the temperature reached 100F or 38C.)  The weather, and hearing from a trans woman I haven’t seen in a while, got me to thinking about a particular part of my pre-transition life.

About three or four years before I began my transition, I started to go out “as” Justine (I had already chosen that name for myself.) on a somewhat regular basis—sometimes alone, sometimes with a companion.  Before that, I’d only been out en femme a few times, not counting the couple of times I spent Halloween “in drag”.

The trans woman who called me yesterday explained that she’s hardly been out at all—either as the person she is, or in male costume.  “It’s so much more difficult in this weather,” she exclaimed.  I agreed:  I remember what it was like when I wore wigs and had to cover more of my body because of hair or other features.  Also, I had to wear more make-up in those days.

She mentioned all of those things.  Her make-up and cover-up issue is even greater than mine was because she has very dark hair.  So her “shadow” is visible even after she shaves.  Also, because she has lost some of her natural hair—and, for various reasons, wears her remaining hair short—she needs to wear a wig or to otherwise cover it up.

I think, though, that a bigger problem for her is her lack of confidence.  I hear it in her voice and see it in her furtive movements.  Also, she still wears frillier dresses than just about any other woman I’ve seen:  They’re even more extreme than some of the stuff I wore before I started going out in public. And she feels she must wear nylon stockings or pantyhose, even when she wears sandals.

“When I go out in weather like this, the makeup just melts off me,” she complained.  I can relate to that.  If I wear makeup, say, to go to work or some social event when the weather is hot—especially if I ride my bike to get there-- I usually duck into a bathroom at my destination and sketch the liner across my eyelids and brush my cheeks with rouge or whatever I’m wearing.  I don’t want to look like Tammy Fay Baker with her mascara running down the rouge on her cheeks as she cried, “I am so-o in love with the Law-uhd.”

I tried to encourage my trans friend to get out more at this time of year:  She can be a great-looking woman (She has a model’s body and Kirstie Alley’s eyes.)  But  she’s afraid of melting away, like Frosty the Snowman. 

18 July 2013

A Re-Enactor Of Gettysburg

A few days ago, after I cariactured Tammy Fay Baker, someone suggested that I try my hand at acting.

The thought had never before occured to me.  About the closest I came to trying it was the acting class I took during my last semester as an undergraduate.  I had no visions of myself on film or stage; I took the class mainly for fun and because, I told myself at the time, it might help me to understand acting if I ever decide to write a play (something I've never done).

Actually, some would argue that I've been acting for a long time--in the classroom.  I don't disagree with anyone who says that teaching is a performing art, but somehow I think it has more in common with stand-up comedy (something I've also never tried).  Then there are those who say that I was acting during all of the years I lived as a male.  I wouldn't disagree with that, either.  The thing is, the more I lived as a male, the more alienated I felt from the male persona I, in essence, created.  Somehow I imagine that actors--the good ones, anyway--feel more empathy, or at least understanding, for their characters as they spend more time portraying them.

Still, I found it curious that even though a number of writers, musicians, artists and other creative people and performers are transgendered, I'd never heard of a trans actor.  

Well, I learned of one today.  You might not have heard of her, but I think her story deserves attention.

Barbara Ann Myers donned a hoopskirt and petticoats to play a lady who might have been seen in the Gettysburg marketplace 150 years ago, when one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War was fought there.  

She has been re-enacting the battle and other historical events for a long time.  It helped her to indulge in her love of history while, she said, it also maginified her gender identity conflict.

"I never wanted to be a soldier," she explained. "I always wanted to be a lady and I was never able to do that."

She reports widespread acceptance from the community of re-enactors and her co-workers at the Florida Highway Department.  However, her wife divorced her, her son cut off ties and her mother doesn't want to see her in a dress.

In spite of--or, perhaps, because--of the mixed reception, she has continued to follow her passions--and, most important, her spirit.  Acceptance from some is a reward for being true to yourself, while rejection or distance from others is the price or "dues" you pay.

Seeing the video of Ms. Myers and reading her story, I couldn't help but to wonder how (or whether) the kind of characters an actor plays--or the way he or she plays them-- would change if her or she were to undergo a gender transition. 

17 July 2013

Malaysian Politician Appoints Transgender Secretary

Even with all of the discrimination we face,  those of us who live in North America or western European countries can easily forget how much more male-dominated the political, cultural, financial and other instutions in other parts of the world are.  

That's important to remember because, as we well know, such male domination can easily turn into homo- and trans-phobia.  However difficult it is for us to get jobs in corporations, universities and other institutions, it's that much more difficult for LGBT folks--especially for male-to-female transgenders--in countries like Malaysia.

That is why it's such a milestone in that country when a Democratic Action Party Assemblyman like Teh Yee Cheu appoints Hezreen Shaik Daud to a committee that will collect data and work to improve the welfare of transgender people in Malaysia.

Daud, who speaks Mandarin, English and Hokkien in addition to Malaysian, expressed her gratitude to Cheu.  At the same time, she acknowledged that she is taking on a "challenge" that she hopes to use to "show that we are as capable in our work as others."

Ms. Cheu began to work in her post on Monday, the 15th.  As we say in this country, "You go, girl!

16 July 2013

Telling Our Stories

A few weeks ago, I thought about ending this blog. I wouldn't have taken it down; I just thought I'd post only sporadically.  After all, I thought, five years is a good run for a blog.  Also, Transwoman Times' five-year anniversary marked four years since my surgery.  I thought there just wouldn't be much more to say.

Well, if you've been following this blog, you can see that, if anything, my posts have become more frequent lately.  Of course, I felt the need to write about some issues--such as the abusive relationship in which I was involved--that I hadn't mentioned earlier in this blog's history.  Also, as you can imagine, my perspective about some things related to my transition and surgery has changed a bit over time.

But I now realize there is one more important reason to continue this blog: More people, including those who are contemplating or embarking upon the transition I've made, as well as the general public, want and need to read our stories, which are more diverse than even I realize.

I was reminded of that last fact in reading about a screening of the documentary film "Trans" in Duluth, Minnesota. 

Now, about the closest I've come to Duluth is walking down Avenue Duluth in Montreal.  But, from what I've read and heard about it, I'd imagine that it's more difficult for someone who's been labelled a boy at birth to known what to do when she feels otherwise (or for someone designated a girl who realizes he's a boy) to find the treatment, care and support he or she needs than it is in, say, the Twin Cities-- where Nathalie Crowley went.

Even more to the point, though, a trans person--not to mention someone who isn't trans--probably grows up hearing a certain narrative of how trans people come to realize their identity and what they want.  Such a person probably does not realize that our stories and yearnings are more diverse than that.  

To be fair, I grew up with, possibly, an even narrower view of who trans people are and what we want than the people who will attend the screening at Teatro Zuccone in Duluth.  After all, I--like nearly everyone else I knew in Brooklyn and New Jersey during the 1960's and 1970's--had heard of only two transsexuals:  Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards. (I read both of their biographies in the public library: I wouldn't have dared to take out either of their histories!)  Having such a history is, of course, all the more reason for me--and other trans people--to continue telling our stories.

N.B.:  I am going to continue to write about the abusive relationship in which I was involved, and its aftermath.  I just found this, and a couple of other interesting topics, since my most recent post about that relationship.  Besides, as you can imagine, it's emotionally diffficult to write about that relationship, and about him! 

15 July 2013

The George Zimmerman Verdict

Being a trans woman, I know what it's like to be presumed guilty simply for being who and what you are.  And i have had people--including someone I mentioned recently on this blog--use that aginst me.  And he got off nearly scot-free.

When a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, the storyline included everything in the previous paragraph, except for the trans part.  Zimmerman saw a black kid in a hoodie and figured he must have been up to no good.  And he knew that in an almost entirely white and very conservative part of Florida, many people would share his assumption of Martin's gullt.

To be fair, the jury--which consisted entirely of women, some of whom were mothers--expressed justifiable doubts about what they were hearing in both sides of the case.  Beause Trayvon Martin is dead, there is much that we will never know; whatever happened, George Zimmerman was probably not in a normal state of mind, so even if he was being entirely honest, his testimony (let alone his lawyer's) could not be entirely accurate.

Even if he were in a "normal" state of mind--which would have been all but impossible in such circumstances--I would still have doubts about his account of events. However, even if I or anyone else were to discount such doubts, I still believe that Zimmerman should have been indicted for something, if only manslaughter.

When I was in ROTC (!) a long time ago, I underwent firearms training.  The instructor--who, I was convinced at the time, could have ended up in prison instead of the Army had the screw been turned just a little differently--told us something I never forgot:  "If a gun is in your hand and a bullet comes out of it, you are responsible for where that bullet goes and what it does."

In other words, he said, if your gun fires "accidentally", you are responsible for whatever damage or loss of life results.  "If the bullet from your gun hits me, it'd better kill me," he warned.  "Otherwise, I'll find you wherever you are and finish the job."

That is not only the best (well, only)  instruction I ever got on firearms safety; it's one of the best lessons on personal responsibility anyone ever gave me.  

And so, whether Trayvon Martin was on top or on bottom, or wherever George Zimmerman aimed or didn't, he was responsible for Trayvon Martin's death. Perhaps the jurors didn't understand that, or whether or how they could have voted for a manslaughter convicion.  Or they may have simply been exhausted.  Whatever the case, justice was not done for Trayvon Martin and his family.

14 July 2013

Marriage De Meme N'est Pas DIsponible Pour Tous

Aujourd'hui, c'est la fete nationale francaise:  le jour de la prise de la Bastille.

If any Francophones or Francophiles are reading this, I apologize that I don't have diacritical marks on my keyboard!

Anyway, I am happy that in May, France became the fourteenth (how appropriate!) nation to legalize same-sex marriage.  Although I still think that no government should have any role in defining marriage or determining who is married (save, perhaps, for setting a minimum age limit), and that no tax or other benefits should be accorded to married couples, I think that allowing same-sex marriage is the best we can hope for in most countries.

Still, as in just about any jurisdiction that has legalized same-sex marriage, there are complications that come with France's new policy. As in most other places that sanctify same-sex unions, the complications have to do with marriage laws in other places.

Nationals of Poland, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia, Cambodia, Laos, Tunisia and Algeria are not covered under France's new same-sex marriage law.  So, if someone from one of those countries wanted to marry a same-sex French partner, he or she could not do so in France.  If such a couple were to marry elsewhere--say, in neighboring Belgium--their union would not be considered legal in France.

The situation stems from agreements France signed with those countries--in some cases, during the 1950's and 1960's--that said, in essence, natives of those countries could not marry in France if their unions would not be legal in their home countries.  Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco were French colonies and, like Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, have Muslim majorities or pluralities.  (The latter three countries were part of the former Yugoslavia.) Cambodia and Laos are also former colonies, while Poland--traditionally an ally of France--has long been one of the most resolutely and conservatively Roman Catholic nations.

On 29 May, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira signed a memo affirming that natives of those countries cannot enter same-sex marriages in France.  As one might expect, LGBT and human-rights groups are working to repeal the decree Taubira signed.

13 July 2013


It was one thing to impugn my gender identity and to say that Dr. Marci Bowers had created a "Frankenstein" right after the surgery she performed on me.  Children who don't get their way are always calling people--including the adults who deny them what they want--names.  

But it's something else entirely to make false accusations against someone. It's something else again when those accusations include racism against someone who works as an educator and sexual crimes against a transgender person.

Such was the way in which Dominick's attacks against me escalated.  When I saw him, for the last time, in the court, he whined that he "never would have said those things" if he "knew that it would lead to this."

By "this", he meant being in that court--not the damage he did to me.  That was when I realized I'd been entirely too forgiving of, and merciful toward, him.

All he cared about was the ways in which the exposure of his deeds and words would inconvenience him.  When he begged for me to "forgive" him, he wasn't looking for absolution or making--implicitly or explicitly--a pact to make amends and be a better person than he'd been.  Oh, no.  All he wanted was to be "let off the hook" and, as he said, to have the opportunity to live his life. After all, he said, he's young and has "a lot of years ahead".

So what was he telling me?  That my life was over?  (Perhaps it is.) That his life is more important or valuable than mine? (Some would see it that way.) Or was he finally expressing, if not admitting, the disrespect--if not outright contempt--he always had for me?

Actually, I realized that he respects no one.  He has the sense of entitlement that, when I first started teaching, I saw only in very wealthy kids.  When he makes a mistake--no, when he hurts someone--he thinks it's the obligation of the people around him to cover up for him, and to help him "move on".

Now, in spite of everything I've experienced, I don't believe that most people are born wicked.  At the same time, most people have to be taught morality of some sort.  Whatever sense of right and wrong I have, I learned from my parents, grandparents, teachers and other adults in my life when I was growing up. It's also been refined by some experiences I've had.

Dominick spent even more time in Catholic school than I did.  And, I guess, there had to have been at least one or two people who inculcated him with some sense of moral judgment. Even if his circumstances were--in spite or because of all the time he spent in Catholic school--more dysfunctional than mine were, I still don't understand how he can say that making false accusations and othewise lying about me, or anyone, simply because he was angry is right.

Then again, he is an abuser, a predator.  I don't know what made him--or whether he was indeed born--that way.  All I know is that he would lie, manipulate and make any attempt to destroy the life of someone who was even more vulnerable to stereotypes and judgments than he is.

I know this:  Whatever he was born or made, he is a bully and a thug.  His "apologies" the last time I saw him were nothing more than attempts to save his own culo.

That, after his abuse tore away at something I always valued:  the notion that I could help someone become trustworthy by trusting him, that I could teach him that someone was indeed willing to love, support and forgive him when he "lost it" or made a lapse in judgment.

The thing is, people like Dominick don't become better people when you love and forgive them.  They simply see another way they can "get over" on you, if you're lucky, or to bully and harass you if you aren't.

Sometimes I wish I'd been more of a bitch--or, at least, someone who doesn't take any shit--when I was with him. Then, he wouldn't have done a lot of what he'd done, mainly becuase the relationship wouldn't have lasted nearly as long as it did.

12 July 2013

How I Fell Into It

Someone, I forget who, once said that you are truly in prison when you get used to it.  I could say something like that about being in an abusive relationship with someone who’s transphobic.

If you’ve been in an abusive relationship—or if you have spent time around people who’ve been in such relationships—you know that one reason why people stay with abusive partners is that the abuse starts to seem normal. Actually, the person suffering the abuse doesn’t see it as such, at least early in the relationship, because it comes in almost innocuous ways at first.  It starts with the put-down or other insensitive remark that its target forgives or simply allows to go by.  The thing is, the first abusive remark or gesture doesn’t seem that much, if at all, worse than what the abused person has experienced before.

So, when someone says that if you break up with him, you’ll never find anyone else—or will find someone like him, only worse—because you’re too old, fat or ugly or trans, it’s not that much worse than what you’ve heard from other people.  In fact, you might—as I did—have already believed such things, at least subconsciously.  At least, that is what I felt when Dominick told me those things early in our relationship.  I let those remarks go, in part because he is a good bit younger than I am and, as I noticed, not particularly mature for his age.  Plus, he came from a family whose members always said mean and insulting things to each other “in the heat of the moment” or when they were “letting off steam”.

Also, because he is younger—and much better-looking than I expected from my first relationship in my life as a woman, which I began in middle age—I took it as a sign that, yes, I could “succeed” as a woman.  When I began my transition, I met some really scary—and sorry—males.  They saw me as a “chick with a dick” and imputed all sorts of sexual perversions to me.  They believed that I would do, and submit to, all sorts of things they would never demand of “the girl next door” or their boyfriends.  Also—I realized this almost immediately—some of them were trying not to admit to themselves that they were gay, or that they weren’t.
Dominick was somewhat akin to them in that he didn’t want to deal with his own life, and his true desires, on their own terms.  Sometimes he would claim to be bisexual, other times gay, depending on what would work best for the occasion.  When I first knew him, he wanted me to “stick” him.  I politely explained that I couldn’t get an erection unless I stopped taking hormones for a few months.  (At that point, I’d been taking them for almost two years.)  When he realized that I wasn’t going to do that, he used to find things he needed a “he-man” or “alpha male” to help him with and make a point of telling people we met that I was a man who was taking hormones.

What I didn’t realize—or, actually, want to admit to myself—was that he’d never given up the dream that one night I would meet him somewhere for dinner (which I would pay for, of course) and announce that I was going to revert to my old name and life and support him in style.  I realized that as the time drew near for my surgery.  When I first scheduled it, he voiced support and even promised to accompany me to it.  But, he found other commitments, other things that had to be done.  For example, the house in which he’d lived his entire life, and looked as if it had never been remodeled in the sixty years it had been in his family, simply had to be redone.  That meant, of course, that he would have to work during the summer.  (He was a special education paraprofessional.)  All right, I said, do what you need to do.

When the summer session ended that August, I was home, recuperating from my surgery.  Millie, who lived across the street from me, stopped by every day and Tami, who lived up the street, came by a couple of times a week.  They bought groceries, helped me with my laundry, changed cat litter and did other things that my inability to lift prevented me from doing.  They even made a few meals for me.

Where was Dominick?  In Aruba.  He “needed” the vacation, he insisted.

Oh--did I mention that the last time I went to his house before my surgery, he blew smoke in my face?  Whenever I talked to him about his two-pack-a-day habit, he took it as an affront.  Now, I must say that he didn’t smoke in my apartment:  I explained that my landlady, who had young children, lived directly above me and one of the conditions of my renting the apartment was that nobody smoked while in it.  But, when I was at his house, he asserted his “right”—which, of course, he had—to puff away.  “My grandmother’s been smoking all of her life,” he’d insist.  So was everyone else in his family.  But, I insisted, if he had any respect for me as a person, he wouldn’t smoke in my presence.  I could just as well have asked him to give up sex with men.

I told him I didn’t want to see or hear from him anymore.  Then I stopped returning his calls and e-mails.  I figured he would get tired of that, as he gives up on almost anything that requires any effort on his part.  But, somehow, he found the energy to escalate his abuse and harassment.  He started leaving “tranny” jokes and the frankly transphobic dialogue from South Park on my voice mail.  After I didn’t respond, he left messages, e-mails and comments on this blog from phone numbers and addresses that weren’t his own and couldn’t be traced.  The early ones said that I’m not a woman and was trying to avoid the “fact” that I’m a gay man.  At least, those accusations were ridiculous:  He said my Adam’s Apple (which I’ve never had) or some other thing gave me away. 

I igonored his voice messages and e-mails and didn’t publish his comments.  Now, after a few months of being ignored, most people would get the message.  But, in this sense, Dominick wasn’t most people:  The more I ignored him, the more he escalated his harassment.  And the harassment turned into stalking, threats and false rumors and other lies about me. When he couldn’t find a more pointed insult or more creative way to bother me, he’d leave simply yell, “Fuckin’ bitch” into my voice-mail—from some number that couldn’t be traced, of course.

Now, you might think that his words and actions were inconsequential, as he didn’t resort to any physical violence.  I understand; that is what I thought—or, at least, told myself.  But he found other ways to escalate his verbal and psychological abuse, and it’s cost me in a lot of different ways.  I’ll talk more about those things in a future post.

11 July 2013

What's Being Trans Got To Do With It?

At first glance, it looks like just another soap opera involving super-rich New Yorkers.

An agoraphobic heiress falls behind in her maintenance fees on her co-op. With fines and legal fees, she owes over $230,000.

Plus, neighbors in her building--the El Dorado, on Central Park West--complain that her chain smoking fill their apartments and adjacent hallways with noxious fumes.

So, those neighbors mount a campaign to evict her from the building, where Bruce Willis recently bought an apartment for $8.6 million.  

Leave it to the Daily News to find another "twist" in this New York story. Since you're reading this blog, you've already guessed it:  the woman they're trying to evict is transgendered.

Diane Wells doesn't sound like the sort of neighbor I'd want to have, especially if my digs were so pricy.  Still, nowhere in the story did it mention that neighbors want to evict her because of her gender identity.  In fact, from what I read, I'd guess that they didn't suspect her identity just because they probably saw so little of her.

If anything, I'd guess the real reason why someone wants to evict her is that she's been living in her apartment for a long time and someone--probably a member of the co-op board-- wants it for him or her self, or a family member or friend.  After all, it's a big three-bedroom apartment in one of the most desired residential neighborhoods on the face of the Earth.

If Ms. Wells' gender identity is, or might be, a reason why her neighbors are trying to evict her, Daily News correspondents Barbara Ross and Dareh Gregorian haven't explained it.

10 July 2013

A Self-Hater Smears Tyler Clementi With A Stereotype

Robert Oscar Lopez may well have the courage of his convictions.  But, it seems that he doesn't have a whole lot of logic to back them up.

He was raised by a same-sex couple but has become an anti-gay activist. I don't even need to speculate about that; if anyone is still paying attention to him in a few years, we'll find out what has motivated him.  Perhaps it's nothing more than the youthful rebellion people often express against their parents.

Lopez claims that Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge not because his roommate secretly recorded him kissing another man and aired that video on YouTube, but because he was raped by gay paedophiles when he was a teenager.

Now, in spite of its reliance on, and reinforcement of, crude stereotypes, I am willing to entertain such a notion pending further evidence and explanation.  Most paedophiles are not gay; they do not engage in sex with adults of their own gender. (I know this from experience; as a child I was sexually assaulted by a man who was not sexually interested in grown men.  Then again, one could argue--as I would--that I wasn't a boy.)  But, even if we allow Lopez the benefit of the doubt when he expresses such crude and misinformed notions, we cannot let this go:  He says that society's acceptance of homosexuality has resulted in the widespread sexual abuse of children by gay men.

I have yet to see a plausible explanation of how "acceptance" of homosexuality results in gay men having sex with children.  In fact, I don't see how "acceptance" of any sort of orientation results in more sex of any kind.  As we have seen, people express their love and attractions whether or not society approves of them:  The only thing that changes is that they become more open about such expression when they are less likely to face hostility.  

And what do gay men express more openly?  Their love of other men.  If we accept all of the research--and testimony of gay men and other people--that "gay" is not synonymous with "paedophile", it's absurd to claim that an "acceptance" of homosexuality leads to paedophilia.

On top of that--This is something else I can say from my own experience and that of others--people rarely, if ever, commit suicide over being sexually abused.  At least, we don't do it in the way of Tyler Clementi: Sometimes we engage in self-destructive behavior of other kinds that leads, over time, to our deaths.  More often, though, we drink too much, take drugs or engage in other self-destructive behavior until something leads us to confront the abuse we experienced.  Or we express it in other ways:  Had Tyler Clementi been sexually abused, he might have expressed it in the way he played the music he was studying.  And, perhaps, he might have had a breakdown or some other traumatic event.  But I have a hard time believing he'd have killed himself over childhood sexual abuse--or, for that matter, had he experienced such abuse, that it would have been committed by a gay man.

09 July 2013

Dora Ozer Murdered In Her Home

Seven years ago, I spent almost a month in Turkey.  I hope to return one day:  There is so much art and architectural achievement, history and natural beauty there.  The food is also great, and the people are the most hospitable and friendly I've met in my travels.

Because of what I've just said about the people, it breaks my heart to read about hate violence in Turkey even more than it pains me to read of such things in other places.  But it seems that transgender people incur violence, and are killed, with alarming frequency in Turkey.

I hasten to add that at no time did I feel that I was in any danger when I was there.  Then again, having spent so much of my life in New York (parts of it in tough neighborhoods), I am alert to my surroundings and the things unscrupulous people try.  Also, I am not boasting when I say that some people--men in particular--were simply intrigued by me.  Although I was there early in my transition, some men--and I have been assured of this by some Turkish men I've met in this country--were inerested in me because I am fair-skinned, more-or-less blonde and taller than about 95 percent of the women there.  Two men engaged in unsavory behavior, but the others were gentlemanly.  

So I can't help but to think that I was lucky or something when I read about the violence against transgender women in that country.  

What makes the killing of Dora Ozer even worse is that it happened right in her home, and her body was found by her housemate.  

In spite of her killing, and others of trans people, the Turkish government says it has no plans to prosecute, let alone pass legislation against, crimes committed on the basis of sexual idenity or gender orientation.  I'd like to hold out some kind of hope but, from what I've been hearing and reading, the government is slipping into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.  Given that Turkey has long been, arguably, the most secular Muslim-majority country, I can only fear for LGBT people in the Middle East in its neighboring countries.

08 July 2013

Tomorrow: Equal Access Bill Hearing In Massachusetts

Today I'm cross-posting an announcement that appeared on Planetransgender, where it was in turn cross-posted from the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

Even if you don't live in the Bay State, you may want to look at the announcement and letter template for some ideas about what you might do in your own state if it offer specific legal protections for transgender people:

Take action NOW for the July 9 Equal Access Bill hearing

Cross posted from the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

MTPC’s legislative focus is on An Act Relative to Equal Access in Hospitals, Public Transportation, Nursing Homes, Supermarkets, Retail Establishments, and All Other Places Open to the Public (House Bill 1589/Senate Bill 643), which would add “gender identity” to existing state civil rights laws, which currently permit the exclusion of transgender people in public spaces.

How You Can Help

The hearing for the Equal Access Bill is scheduled for July 9, 2013, and WE NEED YOUR TESTIMONY. We provide a letter template below and sample letters that you can use to provide written testimony in advance of the Equal Access Bill hearing. The July 9 hearing is also open to the public (details to come), so please come out and show your support.
If you are registered to vote in the district of any of the members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary who are hearing this bill (listed below), please let them know you support Equal Access. The most helpful would be for you to meet with your legislator from the Joint Judiciary Committee in person. Please let us know if you want to meet with you legislator about the Equal Access Bill. We’re happy to help you prepare for your meeting. You can also call their office and use our calling script.
Below is a template you can use when writing a letter to your state senator or representative. Please feel free to add more about your reasons for supporting this bill or describe your own experiences of discrimination in a place of public accommodation. If you are unsure of who your state House and Senate legislators are, you can look them up by searching for your town or zip code on https://malegislature.gov/People/Search.
When your letter is complete, email it to us at jesseb@masstpc.org. We’ll take care of the rest. 

Letter template

Dear Senator Clark, Representative O’Flaherty, and members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary,
My name is ___________________ and I live at ____________________________ [include your address (optional) and the name of your town. Optional: what’s your family situation?].   I am _____________________ [include occupation, group memberships--be short and selective].
I am writing to urge you to support An Act Relative to Equal Access in Hospitals, Public Transportation, Nursing Homes, Supermarkets, Retail Establishments, and all other places open to the public, introduced in the House by Representatives Carl Sciortino and Byron Rushing and in the Senate by Senators Ben Downing and Sonia Chang-Diaz. This proposed law would prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation such as [list three to five types of public accommodations. Some examples are: hospitals, hotels, restaurants, stores, nursing homes, theaters, convention centers, libraries, public transportation, public streets, offices of state and local government, and polling places--see the Examples of Public Accommodations PDF for other places].
I believe this bill is important because ________________________________________ [please add your personal story or reason for supporting this bill].
With the passage of this law, Massachusetts would send a clear message to its citizens that all people are entitled to feel safe in their communities and to be offered the full protection of the law, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
By offering protection in places of public accommodation where people experience harassment and discrimination, this law would increase productivity, freedom, and safety for transgender youth and adults who are employees, consumers, residents, and students.
Please help Massachusetts join the many communities–including the states of Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine–that already provide protection in places of public accommodation on the basis of gender identity and/or expression.
[Write a closing sentence that sums up what you believe this bill will accomplish and/or how your life would be better when this bill passes.]
[Your Name]
When your letter is complete, email it to us at jesseb@masstpc.org. We’ll take care of the rest. 


Download PDF about Testifying at a Public Hearing (MGLPC)
Download Oral/Written Testimony Worksheet PDF