30 November 2013

In Another Light

Yesterday, I mentioned St. Luke In The Fields.  Before I went to Suzanne and Deborah's place for Thanksgiving/Chanukkah dinner, I went to chruch. Actually, I read one of the Scripture lessons.  They're a forgiving audience.

Jack Murray, who I first met while volunteering in the kitchen during Pride week, was also there.  He took these photos:

The man definitely has talent.  After all, look at what he did with the subject at hand--with an iPhone, no less!

29 November 2013

Thankful For The Old And The New

Today I'm feeling a little sad.  My friend Mildred, with whom I have spent the past few Thanksgivings, was going to have her Thanksgiving dinner today.  She called earlier; I could tell she wasn't up to it.  "I want to have you over again soon, with Joanne", a mutual friend of ours.  I'm sure she will.  Maybe I'll host something for them.  

Millie's husband, John, hasn't been well.  So it wasn't a surprise she sounded so tired when she called.  Still, it's hard not to feel as I do now:  They are the best friends I've had in a long, long time.

On the other hand, I had a great time yesterday with some new friends.  I met Suzanne and Deborah at a church I began to attend in March.  They live a few neighborhoods away, in Queens.  Suzanne was raised Catholic, as I was, but Deborah is Jewish.  Still, she attends the church:  From what she tells me, she observes the traditions and treasures the culture she inherited, but likes the inclusiveness of the church we attend.  

It just happens that Hanukkah began on Thanksgiving Day. So Suzanne and Deborah combined the celebrations.  It never would have occurred to me to have borscht and latkes with a turkey dinner.  Then again, I wasn't surprised to learn that they actually go well together.  After all, the borscht--which Suzanne and Deborah made from scratch, as they did with everything else they served--is a soup of beets and cabbage, and latkes are, as everyone knows, potato pancakes.  So of course they go with cranberries, pumpkin and corn.  

And the people seemed to mix even more easily.  Suzanne's nonagenarian father, her brother and friends--and those of Debroah's--shared food and conversation with us, and two other people from the church.

All right, I know:  I waited a few months to say anything about church.  I guess I'm still wrapping my head around the idea that I go to one--volutarily, no less.  For a long time, I swore I would never attend any house of worship, or be part of any organized religion, ever again.  I kept that promise for a long time, even in the face of suggestions, prodding and outright pressure from various co-workers, friends and family members. 

I don't think I'll ever believe everything any church or other religious organization teaches.  But somehow it seems oddly right for me--at least, the one I've been attending.  I'm not one of those people who, in her old age, ponders her mortality and heads for the pews.  Actually, even when I didn't believe in any sort of supreme being--or, at least the ones I'd heard of--I knew myself to be spiritual.  In fact, I did my gender transition and reassignment surgery for spiritual reasons:  I am a female spirit; I wasn't merely a man who wanted to be a woman. (Most such men wouldn't even think of doing what I've done.)  And, I did a bit of church-surfing--without, of course, telling anyone what I was doing--before someone suggested I go to the one I've been attending:  St. Luke in the Fields, in Manhattan.

Here's another irony:  the person who suggested St. Luke's is one of the last people in the world I expected to do so.  He heard about it from a friend of his; he himself has never been a church-goer.  Well, I suppose that might be a lesson:  The spirit does not always proceed by logic, even if it makes perfect sense in the end.  I guess that's the reason why you can't solve questions of faith with science any more than you can solve questions of science with faith.

But I digress.  If nothing else, I am thankful that I have old friends and am making new ones, and finding, perhaps, a community.  That, I suspect, is more important than my beliefs (such as they are) align with those of other people or an institution.

28 November 2013

Why I'm Giving Thanks

I know that today, Thanksgiving Day, I'm supposed to talk about how grateful we should be for the food we're going to eat and the people--whether biological or adoptive family--with who we're going to share it, as well as for whatever other blessings and good fortune we've had.  And indeed I encourage you to show your gratitude, as I am doing in my own way.

On the other hand, today also marks a grim anniversary:  Fifteen years ago today, the body of transgender woman Rita Hester was found in the Boston suburb of Allston.  Her murder, as I've mentioned in other posts, led to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which was commemorated last week.

I am giving thanks that I have been able to live, however briefly, as my true self--and that I may have already done so for longer than Ms. Hester and too many other trans women and men could.

27 November 2013

A Holiday Wish

"I dream about the day when families with transgender children will be able to have classic Thanksgiving celebrations, gathering at the family homestead, kids playing in the basement, a football game on TV in the living room and amazing smells wafting throughout Grandma and Grandpa's big old house. Unfortunately, many families like ours celebrate alone or with a few close friends because they are not considered part of the extended family anymore, or it is just too awkward trying to "keep it normal" for the children."

So begins Wayne Maines' "Transgender Family Thanksgiving Celebrations".  I won't comment on it.  Instead, I'll direct you to the essay, which is worth every second (about 300 or so) you'll spend reading it.

25 November 2013

Does GRS Count?

It's the bathrooms, again.  Should I be surprised?

Well, perhaps.  It never ceases to amaze me that the anti-trans crowd always manages to sink to new lows over the issue of where we can relieve ourselves.

Listen to what Colorado school board member Katherine Svenson has to say on the subject:

She says trans people should be castrated before we're allowed to use the bathroom appropriate to the gender by which we identify.

She probably believes that the surgery I underwent four years ago is castration. So, I guess she wouldn't be upset by my using a girl's bathroom.

24 November 2013

The "Knockout" Game

Perhaps you've heard, by now, of "the knockout game."  In it, groups of young people attack an unsuspecting victim.  The assault begins with a sucker punch and ends with the victim pummeled to the ground.  

This disturbing fad seems to have begun in Brooklyn but has spread to other parts of the United States, and even as far away as London.  At least one victim has died; so far, all of the Brooklyn victims have been older Orthodox or Hasidic Jews.

Now, some might use that last fact--and that the attackers are young people of color, and that the attacks have occurred in the same couple of neighborhoods--to minimze the terror.  People who don't live in those neighborhoods or in proximity to those religious and ethnic groups, and are thus sheltered from the tensions between them, might  believe that they have no reason to worry.   However, those very same facts should be reasons why everyone--particularly LGBT people, especially transgenders--should be concerned. 

As Kelli of planetransgender points out, we can all too easily become the next victims of such violence.  After all, who do the attackers choose as their prey?  People who are different (or, at least perceived as such) and more vulnerable than themselves. I can hardly think of any group of people who better fits that description than we do.

What makes us even more vulnerable, though, is that we have fewer people who can and will advocate for us than Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn (or, for that matter, almost any other minority group) have.  Not only are there Orthodox elected officials, there are many others who are lawyers and other professionals with the skills to help their communities.  And they have the support of many leaders of other religions and communities who see an attack on someone who happens to be of a racial, ethnic or religious minority as the act of hate that it is.

But those same advocates and supporters do not always extend their moral outrage, or even a simple sense of right and wrong, when it comes to prejudice, let alone physical assaults, against trans people. Or they simply run out of time, energy or other resources and decide to put us on the back burner because we are a less numerous and poorer population.

Perhaps the saddest and most frightening--but, when you think about it, least surprising--part of the "knockout" game is that the perps come from the very same groups of people who have been systematically terrorized in this city for the last two decades or so.  I'm referring, of course, to people of color, especially to young Black males.  The reason why it's not surprising is that those who live under the constant threat of harassment and worse, and don't have the knowledge or other resources to fight it, will too often take out their often-justifiable anger and resentment on the nearest person or people who are, in some way different and therefore (in their perception, anyway) aligned with the very power structure that is defining and constraining their lives with violence.

23 November 2013

Did Islan Nettles' Killer Walk?

Three days ago--the 20th--was our fifteenth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Now, right here in New York City, we've had another reminder of why the day is necessary: the only person charged in the murder of Harlem transwoman Islan Nettles saw his case dismissed.

Now, it very well may be that Paris Wilson, the young man accused of killing her, is innocent.  He was arrested after Nettles was found at the corner of 148th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.  She was lying on the ground, unconscious, with one eye swollen shut and blood on her face.  For five days, she lay in a coma until she was taken off life support.  

After Mr. Wilson's arrest, another young man came forward and took responsibility for the attack.  That left the Manhattan District Attorney's office unable to pursue the case against Wilson even though the young man who claimed responsibility for the attack on Nettles' said he was too drunk to remember details of his crime.  

Further complicating matters is the fact that in that upon his arrest, Wilson was charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment.  Here in New York, someone charged with a misdemeanor must be tried within 90 days.  If he or she isn't, he or she goes free.  Since Wilson was arrested shortly after the attack on 17 August, he was sprung on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Of course, one could argue--as the District Attorney's Office did--that had Wilson (or the young man who claimed responsibility) had gone to trial, there was a real risk of dismissal on some technicality or another.  If I were a DA, I'd probably think the same way.  And I certainly wouldn't want to see a killer--whether of a trans person or anyone else--walk free because the prosecutor's office "didn't have their ducks in a row".  Still, it's frustrating and sad to think that Islan Nettle's murder could become another hate crime that falls through the cracks of the criminal justice system.


22 November 2013


Today, I am going to go off-topic.  I believe I have good reason:  This is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assasination.

I was five years old when it happened and have no memory of it.  Perhaps that says something unfavorable about me: I can remember a lot of other things from that time, but I can't even recall having the day off from school or the throngs of grieving people.

Still, I can't help but to wonder how different this country and world might be had he survived and served a second term as President.  He did some things that were misguided and politically-motivated, but I somehow think he had a more ideal, if romantic, view of people, his country and the world.

Perhaps the US military still would have been in Vietnam and we might have been involved in other wars.  After all, the man was a Cold Warrior, as nearly any politician elected to any office above the local or county level was in those days.

Also, he didn't act as quickly on Civil Rights issues as some would have liked.  However, he did lay the groundwork for the laws and policies that his successor, Lyndon Johnson, would sign into law.  And, somehow, I don't think it would have taken prodding from his vice president (as it did, ahem, with a certain President who fashions himself as JFK 2.0) for him to declare his support of same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights.

Whatever else we can (or can't) say about him, we "gotta give him props" for saying, "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."

21 November 2013


Today's post is brief, but it bears good news.

Actually, the real bearer of good news is the subject of this post.  It's a website I just discovered:  Transnews.

It bills itself as "a transsexual and transgender news source with a twist:  all of our content is 100 percent trans positive news."

That alone is reason, at least for me, to follow them.  I hope you'll do the same.

20 November 2013

Recovered From A Trash Can

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

This day was first commemorated in 1999,one year after African-American transwoman Rita Hester was found murdered in Allston, a suburb of Boston.  

Since then, hundreds of other trans people have become homicide victims.  Most of them--92 percent, to be exact--share something with Ms. Hester:  their killings have not been solved.  

One such murder is emblematic of the reasons why we have TDR and why we have to continue to draw attention to the ways in which we are killed, and the official response--or lack thereof.

On 8 November--less than two weeks ago--a woman's body was found in a trash can in Detroit.  While investigators do not have her name or other details of her life and death, they have identified her as a trans woman.

A woman and her son found the body when they were scavenging for cans, bottles and other scraps.  They made their gruesome discovery behind a bar.

From what you've read so far, you may have guessed--correctly--that the body was that of an African-American trans woman.  That, the way she was disposed and the way her body was discovered tell you much about the dangers we face, and the undignified ways in which we are treated in life and death.

I can hope only that someone gives her the honor and dignity in death that she did not experience in life--during the last moments of it, anyway--and that Detroit police are more diligent in investigating her murder than too many other law enforcement officials in other places are when the victim is a trans person.

After all, even though she--and Islan Nettles of Harlem--are trans women who were murdered, not all anti-transgender violence happens to people because they are transgendered or even to people who are transgendered.  You see, someone who kills someone over gender identity makes a judgment on his or victim's identity and decides that person is somehow lacking.  So a man who is not deemed "masculine" enough or a woman who doesn't seem sufficiently "feminine" can fall victim in exactly the same way as someone who is indeed known to be transgendered.  It almost goes without saying that someone who cross-dresses in public can meet a similar fate.

So, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we're not only mourning people like Rita Hester, Gwen Araujo, Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, Islan Nettles and the woman whose body was found in a Detroit trash can.  Rather, we are acknowledging the fact that someone who doesn't fit into someone else's notion about gender can end up in a trash can behind a bar.

18 November 2013

Turning A Transsexual Into A Lesbian

"I was surprised.  I thought you were a straight man."

So said one of my then-coworkers not long after I came out.  Other people, I'm sure, had the same reaction.  A couple of years earlier, had I met someone like me, I would have been just as surprised as my old co-worker.

It was, in fact, one of the reasons why I didn't transition sooner:  I thought that if I were really a woman, I'd feel more attracted to men.

Mind you,  I have been in relationships in men, as you know if you read some of my early posts.  But throughout my life, I have felt more attracted to women than to men.  I did not disclose this fact to some friends, acquaintances and co-workers until I'd been living as Justine for a couple of years.  

When they expressed consternation, I said something along the lines of "You've heard of lesbians, haven't you?"

Now, I know transsexual women whose feelings are similar to mine.  I know other trans women who have been attracted only to men, and others only to women.  

But I'd never before heard of a transsexual female who never had any attraction to a female before her transition or surgery, but felt such an urge afterward.  On top of that, the woman I am about to mention completely renounced men.

The woman in question is Britain's first openly transgender parliamentarian:  Nikki Sinclaire.  She revealed recently that her change in her feelings resulted from a rape she endured in London some fourteen years ago.

What's really interesting is that she fits into a narrative I heard often in my youth (but hadn't heard in a long time) :  that of the female who becomes a lesbian after a bad experience with a man.  I'll bet there are still some people who believe that's the biggest cause of lesbianism.

I'd be very interested to know what reasearchers who claim there is a "gay gene" say about this story.

17 November 2013

The Current State Of Transgender Health Care

The folks at Fenway Health have given us a useful infographic that provides disturbing--though, sadly, not surprising--information about the state of transgender health care.