30 December 2015

How Important Is The Bicycle In Women's History?

In a post I wrote three years ago on my other blog, I relayed one of the most striking insights Susan B. Anthony offered:
   
    "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.  It has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance."

Yesterday, I came across this:


     "Advertisements, magazines and posters promoted the image of the New Woman, just as other forms of mass media would later exhibit images of the flapper, the housewife, the wartime worker, and the androgynous feminist.  The bicycle was the symbol of the New Woman's freedom outside the home, as she raced off with her friends--men or women--down city streets and into the countryside."


Obviously, that didn't come from Ms. Anthony.  It did, however, come from a source that's intersting, if not as much so as, and for different reasons from, the godmother of feminism as we know it.





The second quote is the only mention of the bicycle in The Social Sex:  A History of Female Friendships, by Marilyn Yalom with Theresa Donovan Brown.  Dr. Yalom is a former Professor of French and senior scholar at the Clayman Institute of Gender Research at Stanford University. Ms. Donovan Brown is a former speechwriter and ran a financial communications firm.


I strongly suspect that Dr. Yalom supplied most of the information and Ms. Donovan Brown did most of the writing.  After all, the section on women's friendships and the salons of 17th Century France contains ideas and insights that only someone who read the sources in the original could have gleaned.  And the prose flows freely--like, well, a good speech.


Therein lies both the book's strengths and flaws.  While Donovan Brown's prose flows freely, it often lacks depth.  While Yalom's research provides the reader with glimpses into the nature of the relationships described in the book, and shines a light onto documents that might otherwise have been lost, those documents (letters, stories, essays and novels) come almost entirely from women (and, in a few cases, men) from, or with connections to, the upper classes.  That, perhaps, is not Dr. Yalom's fault, as most women who weren't part of those classes were illiterate until the 19th Century and rarely went to college before World War II.


Still, the book is an engaging and, at times, interesting read.  It won't turn you into a scholar or an expert, but it's a good starting point for anyone who wants to read more about relationships or women's history.  Finally, there is something to be said for any piece of writing that reminds readers of the importance of the bicycle in changing women's lives, however brief and fleeting that reminder might be.


20 November 2015

Michelle Dumaresq: 100% Pure Woman Champ

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  

This day was first observed in 1999, one year after Rita Hester was murdered in her Allston, Massachusetts apartment.  She was killed just two days before she would have turned 35 years old.


Her death came just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a cold night in the Wyoming high desert.  Their deaths helped to bring about the hate-crime laws now on the books in the US as well as many state and local statutes.  Moreover, Hester's killing--while not as widely publicized as Shepard's--galvanized transgender activists all over the world.


Because I am--at least to my knowledge--the only transsexual woman with a bike blog, I am going to use this post to honor one of the greatest transgender athletes of our era.





Michelle Dumaresq was born in 1970.  In 2001, she entered and won her first competitive mountain biking event--the Bear Mountain Race in British Columbia, Canada.  After she won two more races, her racing license was suspended in response to complaints from other female riders.  The cycling associations of British Columbia and Canada, after meeting privately with race organizers, tried to pressure her into quitting.  Of course, she wouldn't, and after a meeting with UCI officials, it was decided that she could continue to compete as a female.


Other female riders felt she had an unfair advantage.  Their resentment was, not surprisingly, based on a common misunderstanding.  Dumaresq had her gender reassignment surgery in 1996, five years before her first victory, and had been taking female hormones--and a male hormone blocker--for several years before that.  By the time she started racing, she no longer had any testosterone in her body (Biological females have traces of it.) and she had lost most of the muscle mass she had as a man.


I know exactly where she's been, as I also had the surgery after six years of taking hormones and a testosterone blocker.  A few months into my regimen, I started to notice a loss of overall strength, and I noticed some more after my surgery.  Trust me, Ms. Dumaresq, as talented and dedicated as she is, had no physiological advantage over her female competitors.


I remind myself of that whenever another female rider (usually, one younger than I am) passes me during my ride to work!


But I digress.  Michelle Dumaresq had the sort of career that would do any cyclist--male or female, trans or cisgender, or gay--proud.  She won the Canadian National Championships four times and represented her country in the World Championships.  That, of course, made the haters turn up the heat.  When she won the 2006 Canadian National Championships, the boyfriend of second-place finisher Danika Schroeter jumped onto the podium and helped her put on a T-shirt that read "100% Pure Woman Champ."


Ms. Dumaresq would have looked just fine in it.


15 November 2015

I posted the following on my other blog (Midlife Cycling) yesterday:

Allo.?

Isabelle. Je suis Justine.  Tu vas bien?

Oui.  Comment ca-va?

Bien.  J'ai vous vous reveillez?

Ah...oui.

Pardon.

No problem.  (She likes to use that phrase.) 

J'ai entendu les nouvelles de Paris.

Yes, it is terrible.  But we were not there.

Je suis tres hereuse pour ca.

Would you like to talk to Jay?
Il dort?

Oui, mais se reveillera.

I didn't want her to wake him.  At least I knew he was at home, in his bed.  But she brought him to the phone. 

Desole de te reveiller.

Don't worry.  Mais, besoin de redormir. 

That's OK.  J'ai voule etre sur que vous etes OK.

He thanked me for calling.  I assured him that all I wanted was to know that he and Isabelle were not casualties of the bombings, the shootings, that rocked Paris and its environs yesterday.  I knew that, chances were, they weren't there when those terrible events went down, but I just wanted to be sure.

Then I called Michele.  No answer.  Asleep, I hoped.  I left a message.  Just before I started writing this post, I found an e-mail from her.  All right.  I can breathe a little easier.  Can they?

None of us had gone to the Bataclan together.  But we'd walked those streets, ate in restaurants and sipped espressos in the cafes near it.  When I heard that death struck at Le Carillon, I stopped cold. 



It's just a block away from the Quai des Jemmapes, on the eastern bank of the Canal St. Martin.  Back in August, after a lovely morning ride, I enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh foods and Badoit water I bought along the way.  As the sun softened the green tint of the canal and leaves that flickered in the breeze, it was hard to imagine anything terrible, let alone the blaze of guns or an explosion.

After my canal-side reverie, I retreated to Le Carillon for a cappuccino to cap off my lunch.  By that time, most locals had finished their lunch and were back at work or passing the rest of the day along the old, narrow streets.  I went to Le Carillon because it was the nearest café, but it was a place I would have chosen otherwise: It seemed like a real old cozy neighborhood watering hole Parisians themselves would habituate, not some place trying to look the part for hipsters who wanted an "authentic" experience. 

I sat at a wooden table on the sidewalk.  So did a few other people.  It's hard to imagine that sidewalk with bodies sprawled over it--even more difficult than it was, the first time I saw the Place de la Concorde, to visualize the blood of French monarchy and nobility spilled all over it.  But certainly not as difficult as it is for those who witnessed the darkness that descended upon the City of Light.

28 August 2015

Mama Mechanic

This afternoon I took a ride out to the Rockaways on Tosca, my Mercian fixie.

The weather was lovely, as it was yesterday:  warm, but not overly so, with high puffy clouds floating across expanses of blue sky.  And, as luck would have it, I rode into the wind on my way out to Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway.  That meant, of course, that on my way home, I could pedal about 20 RPM faster without trying.

Anyway, I was coasting through an area of Gateway National Recreation area frequented by bird-watchers and wildlife photographers--in plain view of JFK International Airport!  My external reverie seemed to embody the one that was playing out within me at that moment:  I am still in the afterglow of my trip to Paris and of the wonderful late-day ride to Connecticut I enjoyed yesterday.  I have been doing some writing away from this blog (I don't want to give too much away!) and I'm feeling optimistic about the semester that's about to begin. Now all I need is to hit the Lotto jackpot and meet the love of my life.  Hmm...I'm not so sure about the latter.  Being single isn't so bad after you've been in an abusive relationship or two.


Wouldn't you know...a cute young guy approaches me from behind.  "Sir!"  "Sir!"  He sounded distressed, so I turned to look at him.  (His distress was the only reason I looked at him, I swear! ;-))  "Do you...Oh, I'm sorry, Ma'am."

"Don't worry."

"You don't see a lot of women riding here.  And, from behind, you were pedaling like a dude."

I said nothing. (I didn't want to give too much away!)

"Do you have an allen key?"

"Yes, I do."

Just then I saw the reason why he asked:  His handlebar slipped and rolled inside the stem.

"We can't let you ride like that," I said.

"I swapped this handlebar today.  I guess I didn't tighten it enough."

"Well, let's hope it's the right diameter."

"I thought they were all the same size."

I shook my head and, from the corner of my eye, saw the source of the problem.  He had a stem with a faceplate that bolts in the four corners. He'd tightened the top two bolts much more than the lower ones.  So, in addition to the usual hazards of a loose handlebar, he ran the risk of shearing off the faceplate and, possibly, taking an even nastier spill than he might have had he only leaned on loose bars. 

Before I tightened the stem bolts, I asked him to move the bar to a position he likes.  Good thing: I noticed that his grips slipped on the bars.

He said he'd used water to slide the rubber grips onto the bars.   I grabbed the edge of the right grip and rolled it up to the end of the bar.  Then I unrolled it, and the grip--an Oury--stayed as if it had been epoxied to the bar.  I did the same for his left grip.

Then I told him to grab the grip and try to roll it, and to try to move the bar in the stem.  Everything was as firmly in place as the pyramids.

"Lady, I don't know how to thank you enough."

"Just be careful," I said in my most maternal tone.  Really, he's a nice kid--he's been working as a lifeguard--and want him to live and ride long.
 

07 August 2015

It's Not About Privilege. It's About How She Uses It.

OK, I'll admit it: I haven't watched "I Am Cait."  Then again, I haven't watched anything on television in a while because I almost never watch TV.

That said, I want to address remarks I've heard about it, and about Caitlyn Jenner's very public journey.  Those remarks have a common denominator:  privilege, or at least the word "privilege."  As in, "She's exploiting her upper-class privilege."  A few others have said she is using her "male privilege":  in essence, denying her transition and current life.  

The "male privilege" accusation comes mainly from TERFs and their allies:  After all, any man or any conservative who refused to see Caitlyn as female wouldn't see males as having privilege.  And, perhaps not surprisingly, the "white privilege" or "class privilege" whine doesn't emenate from the lips those who are darker or poorer than Caitlyn:  Those echoes of resentment come mainly from rich white cisgender heterosexuals who took a gender studies course or two.  Ironically, they are no different from white male conservatives in that they cannot see themselves as having privilege, but they can find it in a millisecond in someone else, whether or not that person actually has it.

There is no question that Caitlyn Jenner's celebrity--garnered mainly during her life as a man named Bruce--gives her more privilege than most people will ever enjoy.  And, if she's not part of the "one percent", she's close to it--which, of course, is another source of privilege.  Of course, being white doesn't hurt her standing, either.

Every male-to-female transgender I have ever known--I include myself--has lost some sort of privilege she didn't know she had when she was living as male.  This is especially true if said trans person is white:  As one black trans woman told me, "I don't feel I lost privilege because I had so little to begin with."  Whether the same thing will happen to Caitlyn remains to be seen.  Many of us are rightly celebrating her courage and integrity and, not surprisingly, some are mocking and hating on her.  Some of the haters probably own, or run, the companies that sponsor the programs on which Caitlyn has appeared, so it's hard not to wonder whether, after the attention she's now receiving has shifted elsewhere, she will lose some of her television work or be asked to make fewer public appearances in other venues.

I hope that nothing like that happens to Caitlyn.  As much as I'd like to have some of her privilege, I don't begrudge her for it.  If anything, I think she is using it well to call attention to such things as the suicide of a transgender teenager no one would have heard about if Caitlyn hadn't mentioned him.  Perhaps someone could knock her for taking a cross-country trip with her own entourage but, hey, if it helps to make us and our stories and struggles more real to the public, I have no problem with it.  If nothing else, such actions--and almost everything else she's done from the time Diane Sawyer interviewed her--has helped to break some of the old stereotypes about trans people.

If you're going to denigrate someone for having privilege, go after someone who's using it to bully or exploit people--especially if he's running for the Presidential nomination of his party.  But don't knock someone like Caitlyn, who's been using it for our betterment. 

06 August 2015

Shin's Tricycle

On my other blog, I have written several posts about bicycles, and the ways they have been used, in war.  It may surprise you to learn that the reason why I am interested in such things--and in military history, with an emphasis on the history--is that I am anti-war.  In fact, I believe that the only chance the human race has of surviving-- let alone becoming a better, more enlightened species--is to render war obsolete.  Only then will we be truly able to address issues of environmental degradation and economic injustice.

That last sentence also explains why I am anti-war and pro-veteran:  To me, few things show how pointless war is than seeing a veteran sleeping under a bridge, highway overpass or train trestle, as I sometimes see on my way to work. It also explains why I see bicycling to work and school, and even for recreation --and not as a self-conscious fashion statement or a callow attempt at irony (Can it really be irony if you're trying to achieve it?)--as an instrument for attaining peace and justice.

So, in that spirit, I am posting this photograph:






Why?, you ask.  Well, on this date 70 years ago, a boy named Shin and his best friend, a girl named Kimi, were playing with it when--to paraphrase Albert Camus in The Plague--death rained on them from the clear blue sky. 

When Shin's family found him under a house beam, he was too weak to talk.  But his hand still held the red grip of that tricycle.  And Kimi was nowhere to be found.

Shin would not survive that night.  Nor would Kimi, who was found later.   Shin's father could not bear to leave him in a lonely graveyard, so he was interred--along with Kimi and the tricycle--in the family's backyard.

In 1985--forty years after the first atomic bomb leveled their home town of Hiroshima--his father decided to move his remains to the family's gravesite.  He, with the help of his wife, dug up the backyard burial ground.   There they found "the little white bones of Kimi and Shin, hand in hand as we had placed them," according to the father.

Also present was the tricycle, which the father had all but forgotten.  Lifting it out of the grave, he said, "This should never happen to children.  The world should be a peaceful place where children can play and laugh."

The next day, he would donate the tricycle to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where it is exhibited with other artifacts, as well as drawings, photos and stories from survivors of the first atomic bomb, exploded over the city 70 years ago today.

The tricycle inspired a children's book written by survivor Tatsuharu Kodama.  Published in 1995, Shin's Tricycle is narrated by Nobuo Tetsunani, Shin's father.  It's as painful as it is beautiful.  I urge you to read it--and to take a good look at those stark drawings!  

05 August 2015

What The Planned Parenthood Controversy Means For LGBT People



Dr. Marci Bowers is an extremely skilled surgeon with a good “bedside manner.”  Like any other first-rate professional, she has fine people working with and for her.

Among them are the screening nurses, counselors and others who prepare people like me for surgery.  The ones who worked with Marci when she was in Trinidad also worked with the local Planned Parenthood, right next to the hospital in which Dr. Bowers practiced.  In fact, on the morning of my surgery, I went to the PP office—where I passed a lone protestor—and, from there, was escorted to the hospital.

I am thinking of that now in light of the furor over Planned Parenthood.  To religious fundamentalists (who, almost invariably, are trying to follow a literal interpretation of a translation of a book written, at least in part, in languages that haven’t been spoken in more than a millennium), Planned Parenthood can be defined in one word:  abortion.  And if something has anything to do with abortion, they are not only against it, they are willing to believe the absolute worst things anyone can say, true or not, about it.

So it’s really no surprise that they’re in a lather over the story that PP is selling tissue from aborted fetuses for use in medical research and treatment.  Of course, when stories are passed along, parts of it are exaggerated, distorted or otherwise changed.  So, somewhere along the way, some hysterical or simply mendacious person announced that Planned Parenthood is “harvesting’ fetuses for tissue.  That story gave the conservatives just the sort of weapon they’ve wanted.

What’s commonly forgotten is that abortion is actually a very small part of what Planned Parenthood does.  For many women—especially the poor and those who live in isolated rural areas—the Planned Parenthood office is one of the few places, if not the only place, where they can find compassionate and competent gynecological health care.  Sometimes even men in such situations rely on Planned Parenthood for their needs.

Knowing such things, I can’t help but to think that Planned Parenthood is a lifeline for many LGBT people.  There are still many health care professionals who won’t treat us or, worse, can’t or won’t treat us with the same compassion or diligence they would provide other patients.  I had one such experience early in my transition, and I have heard stories from other queer people who were treated with contempt or simply given inappropriate advice or care. For example, the doctor of  a lesbian I know told her that if she doesn’t want to get breast cancer, she should have a baby. I doubt that anyone in Planned Parenthood would have told her that.

01 August 2015

After The Losses: After The Guilt Has Passed



If you are now living in a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth, you have most likely lost at least one relationship that was very important to you.  It might be the one you had with a spouse or partner.  Or, perhaps, family members have—or your entire family has—rejected you. 

Maybe longtime friends or professional colleagues have decided that you are less worthy of their esteem than you were when they knew you by your old name, in the gender in which you had been living.

I have experienced losses in all three categories.  My partner split with me when I started my transition.  (When I offered not to live as female for the sake of our relationship, she would not hear of it. “You have to do it,” she said of my impending change.  “I just can’t go there with you.”)  One family member has cut ties with me; others have kept some distance.  And one friend—whose PhD, interestingly, includes a specialty in gender studies—said and did the politically correct things until she lashed out at me over an imagined transgression.   Another friend, I now realize, simply didn’t have the courage to tell me to my face how he really felt.  Over time, he stopped answering my calls and responding to my e-mails. 

And then there was the former boss—the chair of a department in which I taught—who observed my class and wrote a glowing observation and sang my praises to his superiors and colleagues—when I was a guy named Nick.  After about a year of living as Justine, I asked him whether he would write a reference or recommendation for me.  He shook his head and gave an appraisal of me that completely contradicted the report he wrote about me and things he said to others, including the college provost.

I grieved all of those relationships.  I hoped that my former partner would become the friend she said she wanted to be after we split.  I hoped that blood would indeed be thicker than whatever hormones were coursing through my body.  And I hoped that my old friends would get over the shock of the person they knew as a guy named Nick becoming a woman named Justine and realize that I was still all of the things they used to say I was: caring, compassionate, intelligent and sometimes even funny.

My old boss has retired, and I’ve moved on with my work, so I am no longer concerned with his assessment of me.  Although I still recall some of the good times I had with her, I have long resigned myself to the fact that my former partner didn’t mean what she said about remaining friends with me.  I have a similar attitude about the gender studies PhD:  She was a really good friend once (She called me the night, long ago, when I’d traced a line on my left wrist; I didn’t draw the razor blade across it) but that—like the relationship I had with my former partner, is a memory.  And now I realize—if you’ll pardon the expression—that even after my surgery, I have more balls than that male former friend, if I do say so myself.

I have not only accepted that I will most likely never have relationships with them again; I have even lost my desire to re-connect with them.  I have also resigned myself to not being reconciled with the family members I mentioned, especially one in particular.  I even promised my mother that if that family member decides to speak to me again, I will listen and not question or accuse.

That promise still holds.  Lately, though, I’ve noticed that I’m losing not only my hope or wish, but also my desire, to see a renewed relationship.  If that family member calls or approaches me, I won’t refuse.  However, I don’t expect that to happen and don’t feel particularly troubled by it anymore.  I get the feeling that if we ever meet again, it will be at the funeral of one of my parents.  We will probably be the proverbial ships passing in the night; we might say the things relatives say to each other over the death of another relative, but I don’t expect to look to that relative for support any more than I expect to be looked to.

What I’m noticing now is that I’ve lost the sadness I felt over losing that relationship—and that I’m not feeling guilty about it.  Some might regard that as cold or heartless. Perhaps it is. But to me, it seems no more sensible to pine for someone who has rejected me—and who, in our last conversation, said that rejection is about that person’s “stubbornness” (Yes, that is the word that person used) is the reason for not acknowledging me as I am, let alone having any sort of relationship with me—than it is to wish I were 27 years old again.  It just ain’t happenin’, and I’m getting over it.

31 July 2015

He Tried To Kill In The Name Of God

When it comes to LGBT equality, Israel has one of the best--if not the best--record in the Middle East.  

That makes what happened in Jerusalem yesterday all the more distressing.

Yishai Schlissel, an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, stabbed six marchers in the city's Pride parade.  Two of the victims are in serious condition.  Not long after he attacked, Schlissel was pinned to the ground and arrested on a central Jerusalem street.

He had just been released from prison after ten years of incarceration.  He was locked up for a very similar attack not far from where he struck yesterday.  In his rampage a decade ago, three marchers were stabbed.

The Jerusalem Pride march is smaller than the one in Tel Aviv.  But, the one in Jerusalem attracts more ire from ultra-religious Christians and Muslims as well as Jews, who see homosexuality as an "abomination", as Schlissel put it and the march as a "defilement" of their sacred city.


They probably think what Schlissel said out loud:  He'd come to the march to "kill in the name of God."

Haven't we heard that one before?

30 July 2015

Hetero Pride: A Parade Of One

It's been a long time since I've taken a course in mathematics or economics.  But I think I still remember the basic concept of a zero-sum game accurately: When one person gains, another person loses.  So, if you order a pizza pie to share, each slice one person takes is one less slice for everyone else.

Some people seem to think that human rights are like that pizza pie.  The people who seem to think that are those who don't realize how much they take those rights for granted.  Whenever laws are passed to prevent people from being fired from, or denied jobs because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, they think something has been taken from them.

Even an expression of self-esteem from a black or transgender person raises their hackles.  They see the main streets of their cities being closed to allow  a parade or march for "pride" (unless it's for their group of people, e.g., the St. Patrick's or Columbus Day parades) as "special treatment".   They're the ones who whine "White lives matter, too!"

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that someone organized a Heterosexual Pride parade. I'm a little surprised that it was held in Seattle.  Then again, I guess nothing will raise some people's hackles more than living in proximity to the ones they believe are receiving "preferential treatment".   

Then again, Seattle is full of enlightened people.  How do I know that?  Well, for one thing, Marci Bowers has lived and practiced obstetrics and gynecology there for decades.  For another, they stayed away from the "parade".

Yes, parade organizer Anthony Rebello was all by himself.  Not even his girlfriend showed up.

Well, whatever else you want to say about him, he knows a thing or two about damage control.  Knowing he had egg on his face, he declared that his Parade of One was just a "warm up" for next year's event.

Mr. Rebello:  There are all sorts of other things you can do by yourself!  And you don't have to do them in public!


28 July 2015

LGBT Foster Kids

When I was co-facilitating an LGBT youth group, I couldn't help but to notice how many of those young people had lived, or were living, on the streets or in shelters.  The reasons for that were, of course, that they were kicked out of their homes upon "coming out" or they faced abuse from family members (and, too often, bullying in school) and ran away.

Those phenomena have since received attention in the mainstream media as well as in LGBT policy circles.  However, there is another phenomenon I noticed--nearly a decade ago--about which I've still heard or read very little:  LGBT kids who spend time in foster care.  It's more common than people realize, essentially for the same reasons why too many queer kids end up on the streets or in shelters.  Worse yet, they sometimes face the same problems in their foster homes to which they were subjected when they were living with their biological families.  And, of course, they get bullied in school or in their neighborhoods.

With those things in mind, Shaun Osburn of Equality California created this infographic to bring some of the cold, hard numbers to life:



27 July 2015

The Boy Scouts Are Getting There....

As of today, the Boy Scouts of America has lifted its ban on openly gay Scoutmasters, other adult leaders and employees.  This comes a little more than two years after the ban on gay Boy Scouts was ended.

However, BSA will still allow Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout dens chartered by religious organizations to exclude gay adults from serving as leaders or camp counselors.

This change is important and necessary for a number of reasons.  One is that in certain areas, such as small towns and the countryside of the Midwest and South, the local Boy Scout troop or Cub Scout den is one of the few places besides school where boys can meet other boys their own age.  And, in many communities, especially the inner cities, Scoutmasters and other adult leaders are among the few adult male role models many boys have.

Study after study has shown that isolation kills.  The last thing kids who might feel isolated and alienated need is to be further isolated and alienated through exclusion from one of the few social outlets available to them.

Moreover, the old stereotypes about gay boys are dying.  They're not all effeminate and they don't all lack interest in sports or outdoor activities.  And they will probably strive for the same sorts of careers and (mostly middle-class lives) their straight peers want.   So, they need the same sorts of adult role models.  What could be better for a gay kid if that adult is also gay?

Finally, as a former Boy Scout, I can attest that there are a surprising number of ways boys of all kinds can express their talents and pursue interests.  For example, I earned merit badges in reading, writing,scholarship (basically for keeping up a B average) and photography.  Unless things have changed dramatically, there are a number of other merit badges in areas that most people wouldn't associate with Scouting.  

And, finally, there were community service requirements, if I remember correctly, for advancing from one rank to another.  There's certainly not a lack of interest in such things among gay kids--or adults.  

So the Boy Scouts of America is getting it right, I think.  Notice that I said "getting":  It's still a process.  Next....transgender scouts.  If the Girl Scouts can allow trans girls, why can't the Boy Scouts allow trans boys?

26 July 2015

Another Path Of My Past



Yesterday I pedaled along a route I rode often when I was a Rutgers student more than three decades ago.  I hadn’t taken that ride since I graduated and left the area.

The ride—along the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath—was even more familiar than I expected it to be.  It was also, even more surprisingly, easier, in spite of my age and weight—and the fact that the testosterone in my body has been replaced by estrogen.  

When I am truly recalling or reliving something, my senses are engaged.  Sights and sounds—and, particularly, smells and tastes—return to me.  However, on yesterday’s ride, yet another sense filled me and reminded me of why I rode along the path back in the day, and why I was riding it yesterday.

In those days, I cycled even more than I do now.  Needless to say, I was stronger and faster.  Somehow, though, the ride seemed more effortless for me than it used to be. 

Now I believe I know why.  In those days, I was cycling, as well as lifting weights and engaging in other sports, in part as an attempt to free myself from the constraints of my body.  Sometimes I would pedal, run, lift, kick or fight until—and sometimes after—I couldn’t do any more.  When I’d physically exhausted myself, I was no longer appalled at my body because I had, if only momentarily, beaten it into submission:  I was punishing it for keeping me in a prison of maleness.

Yesterday I felt no such constraint, let alone the anger that festered when I was in it.  Without trying, I passed cyclists who were younger and fitter than I am.  The path was not something to be ridden over; it was something to ride, to ride along, to ride with.

On my way back, a dog crossed into my path.  Back in the days, I would have cursed the dog—and the woman who walked her.  But I stopped and stroked the dog, who licked my hand.  The woman apologized.  “It’s OK,” I demurred. 
A man—her husband, I presume--followed with another dog. He echoed her apology;  I repeated my deflection of it.  He stretched out his hand.  “Can I offer these as penance?”

He had just picked the blackberries.  I don’t remember anything that tasted so good.