Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oregon 42, Oklahoma State 31

I don't know what the NCAA was thinking, starting an important bowl game at 5 p.m. on a workday. By the time I got home from work, ate, and got to my neighbor's house to watch the Holiday Bowl, the first half was over. But that's okay, because this game was all about the second half.

And what a second half it was! Oregon rolled up five touchdowns, and just physically overpowered OSU. (Hey, we're used to beating OSU!) Our young quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, knocked an OSU back ass-over-teakettle on his way to a 41 yard touchdown. LeGarret Blount hurtled one guy and dragged another 12 yards into the end zone on another touchdown run. And in one of the most amusing plays I've seen, someone (Walter Thurmond?) kicked the ball out of his own grasp when he hurtled over a defender on his way to what would have been another great kickoff return. That put a quick stop to the return, but fortunately, the Ducks recovered.

OSU put up a good fight. Hats off to their great receiver, Dez Bryant. And their quarterback, Zac Robinson, who got knocked around something fierce and still kept making plays. Just nowhere near enough to overcome the plays made by the Ducks, on offense and defense.

So, for all you who say the PAC-10 is soft or weak, how does 3-0 in bowl games sound to you?

Go Beaves! Go Trojans! Let's run the table.

UPDATE:

In what must have been a singularly forgettable game, the Beavers pulled it out, 3-0 over Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl. On New Years Day, the Trojans took the Nittany Lions out behind the woodshed for a good thumping.

PAC-10 goes 5-0 in bowl games. Think that'll earn the PAC-10 any respect from the eastern pundits?

Nah!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Depravity Catch-22

Jose answered my request for clarification mentioned a couple of posts ago, and in his explanation included this quote:

"The disfigurement of the human body through piercing and tattooing is depraved activity. The mutilation of the body through dismemberment, castration, etc., to become what one is not, is even more depraved."

The implications of this quote are interesting. What exactly is "disfigurement"? Does this standard include pierced ears and plucked eyebrows, or are those beautifications of the human body? I don't know, and it doesn't make much difference to me where he draws the line, because it does seem pretty clear that Jose is referring to people like me, and that he would include the facial laser and electrolysis that has removed my beard and the hormone therapy that's done such a great job of growing breasts, softening skin, and redistributing body fat. Which makes me a full-blown member of the "pro-death and depravity" culture.

It's when I see things like this that I'm very grateful for NVC. It's pretty easy to guess that Jose has needs for sanctity, predictability, and probably beauty that aren't met when he looks around and sees people getting tattoos and sex-reassignment surgery. What's not to like about those needs? Is there anyone out there who doesn't share them? I know I have them, in spades, though I'd choose to meet them in a different way. So, as I empathize with the needs behind his judgment, I feel not hurt, not angry, but sadness that my own need for being understood isn't met. It's a good, clean sadness, and a small one, because that need is met so thoroughly in so many other ways in my life.

I also find this interesting for the Catch-22 it sets up for me. (Not that I'm embracing it! I'm just fine as I am, thank you.) I didn't start the process of transition out of any desire for depravity – if anything, quite the opposite. Nor do I or anyone I know choose transition for the fun of it, because believe me, it's not fun. We do it for survival. When I reached the point where I simply could not go on as I was, I chose transition because the only other choice I could reasonably make was suicide or psychic anesthesia*. The result has been completely positive in my personal life and primarily positive in my social life. My kids like me better, most of the people I know like me better, I have more friends, the genuinely depraved sexual fantasies that used to torment me are gone, and the list of benefits goes on and on.

So Jose would leave me with no choice except depravity. Suicide, drunkenness, or transition. And I suspect he's not alone. I'm guessing it is this judgment that makes so many Christians despise transpeople.

I have no doubt, though, that he would not recognize this as the choice offered. I'm guessing he'd say there was also the choice to live as a godly man, that prayer and fasting would "cure" me, or something like. That's okay. He can't see my heart, and he has no idea of reality in which I've lived my life. But it's sad, because it prevents him from bearing witness to the beauty and travail that are my life. It's sad because it's a judgment that prevents understanding and withers compassion.

*psychic anesthesia is alcohol and drugs - those things that point the way to oblivion.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Laramie

I think Laramie gets a bad rap from the Matthew Shepard case, yet one that is also understandable and has an element of truth. I haven't been there much at all since 1977 – I think maybe three times, and it has undoubtedly changed a lot over the years.

The Laramie schools of my day were filled with animosity between "farmers" and "hippies," but the people I knew (especially the adults) tended to be honest, hard-working people. Yes, they had a code that they lived by, and by that code I would have been a real freak had I allowed myself to be recognized for it. Yet I also find much to respect and honor in that code and those people. I think there was also a strain of tolerance that went deep. The people there didn't like others dictating their lives, and they had, mostly, a real "live and let live" attitude. The adults would have thought I was a freak, but most of them would have shrugged their shoulders and said something like, "To each his own."

Meanwhile, the land etched itself into my soul. When I think of Laramie, I think much more of the land than the people, because the land dominated the people. In my mind, I mostly see Laramie as a thin dark line far across the prairie, in the shadow of the Laramie Range, from a rocky outcrop on Jelm Mountain – my backyard playground from the age of about 10 to 16. I think of the antelope flashing their white butts and dashing away. Mule deer bucks fighting over a doe. The wind howling across the plains and covering them in a moving blanket of snow three feet high during ground blizzards. The incredible feast of stars on a moonless winter night. Laramie is 7500 feet high, close to 8000 where I grew up, and the stars there are incredible. The Milky Way was my companion, a white path across the sky, and not the pathetic pale splotch it is around here.

The truth is, I was a lonely child. My cat and my horse were my best companions, my best friends. With them, it didn't matter who I was – or what. It didn't even matter that I didn't know. I was certainly alienated from the people around me. When we moved in 1977, I never had one person I was tempted to write, except the old rancher who taught me woodworking in 4-H. Certainly no friends of my own age. I didn't make friendships, didn't even know what they were.

As I write this, I realize that perhaps the social aspect is crueler than I understood, or understand today. I think for me, Laramie is a place, and not the people who reside there. And it's a place I love deeply. So I have this deep ambivalence. Laramie, for me, was a social hell, and a spiritual paradise.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Questions of Sex and Gender

I recently read this quote from Jose Solano of Opine: "Is President Elect Obama signaling that he will not be a puppet of the pro-death and depravity culture? … Either way it's a sure win for the pro-family forces since we were not expecting anything from him but a degradation of the moral state of the nation, specifically for marriage and family." Then, in a recent blogpost, I referred to Pastor Rick Warren as a "gay-hater." I was responding to Warren's equation of homosexuality with bestiality, incest, and child abuse, and, when asked for clarification, affirmed that that was his intention.) I regret using that word, because I'm trying to get beyond judgment, and that is certainly a judgment on my part. It is inaccurate, because nobody is a hater by nature, even if they do hate in some instances. It also brought a reaction from some of my readers. I don't want to find the exact Warren quote, or even confirm it, for the purposes of this post. I'm more interested in the questions that this, and the response to it, generated for me,

It's easy to jump from any one of these statements to offense – to hear hatred and bigotry in the words. Perhaps too easy. What is really behind them? What needs do these people have? (Mine were acceptance and community.) What is their real intention? (Mine was to support gays and lesbians.) I asked Jose for clarification, and, so far, have not been answered in any meaningful way.

If Jose's and Warren's words are spoken in objection to homosexuality, as it appears – what does it mean to be homosexual? Is it just behavior, or is it ingrained - who you are, either genetic or by other factors? Who gets to make that judgment? If it is natural, genetic, or ingrained, what behavior by a homosexual individual actually constitutes "sin" or depravity?

I think intention is important – which leads to the next question: Given that the two people mentioned above are Christians, and so assumably embrace Jesus' admonishments to "love your enemy" and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," does it matter that words spoken with the intention of love are heard as hate? Whose responsibility is it to verify that the words are heard for the intention with which they are spoken?

Having lived the reality of gender dysphoria, I know that sex and gender are far more complex than just "man + woman." There is a spectrum of sexuality, gender, and even biology that occurs naturally – that is, if you will, God-given. So I have no trouble granting people the natural urgings of their soul. To me, a committed sexual relationship between two homosexuals is no different, morally, than one between a man and a woman. I don't envy those Christians who are unable to reconcile the words of their prophets with the reality of humanity as it is. How do you express love to someone when you object so strenuously to the subjective reality of their lives? It's a real conundrum, and I don't have an answer. I do know that when a dear Christian friend chose to reject me so totally after my transition that she won't even allow her children to have any contact with mine (even though they used to be friends), it was very painful to me and did not feel at all like love. I've heard often from these people words like, "Hate the sin, love the sinner." But what, really, does that mean? How do you separate them? Would I, then, be acceptable if I remained the suicidal, neurotic, dysfunctional "male" I was? Why, then, not the happy, productive, healthy woman I am now?

Is it truly loving to approve of a person when they act in ways that make themselves miserable, but disapprove when they act in ways that make themselves happy? And how on earth do you reconcile that?

I've got no real answers to offer here. Just questions. Perhaps the biggest: Is it possible for all of us to live in peace and respect together, to listen to each other, to withhold judgment and yet retain our own integrity and dignity? Can we find the words that express respect even as they disagree? Can we grant each other the freedom to live according to our own consciences, whether we disagree or not?

I'd like to think that we can.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

12 Days of Christmas

I enjoyed this
from Straight-No Chaser, so I'm passing it on...

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Warren at the Inauguration

When I first heard that Pastor Rick Warren will issue the invocation at Obama's inauguration, I felt the slap that many of those in my LGBT community felt. However, I didn't respond right away. I didn't sign the petition demanding Obama withdraw that choice. Instead, I chose to delay my reaction until I'd had time to cool off and give it some thought. I'm glad I did, because Rev. Joseph Lowery is giving the benediction. Here's where my thoughts took me:

From the Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

"Invocation: a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship)."

"Benediction: the invocation of a blessing ; especially
: the short blessing with which public worship is concluded."

So Pastor Rick, the gay-hater, will offer a prayer of entreaty at the beginning, and Dr. Lowery, the civil-rights icon, will offer the blessing on this administration.

Frankly, I think there's more power in blessing than in entreaty, so these folks were set in the right order.

I am also impressed with the courage that this choice demonstrates. I believe Mr. Obama knew what he was doing, and the reaction he would get, by choosing Warren. The LGBT community gave him significant support during the election, and I like to think we made a difference. I think Obama thinks we did, too.

Yet he is making a conscious choice to risk offending us, by welcoming the "other half" of America to his inauguration.

Contrast this to his predecessor, who never gave so much as a nod to those he doesn't like.

It seems to me that many in my community are calling for a simple changing of sides. We've been marginalized for the last eight years by the presidential administration, and now we want to marginalize the other side while getting some progress on our own issues. We want business as usual, just switching roles.

Obama is sending a clear signal that he wants to change the game. He is actually going beyond words to actions that show he is serious when he talks of uniting, rather than dividing. That he does see one America.

And the truth is, he needs both sides to have a truly successful administration. The crises this nation faces are a lot more serious than ENDA and marriage equality. Obama has reached out to the other side, and shown a willingness to listen to them.

I don't have to like it. I don't have to listen. If I were going to the Inauguration, I could stand and turn my back when Mr. Warren takes the microphone. I would seriously consider doing so, and I support anyone who does. But my situation is far different from that of the President of the United States.

And thank God, it looks like we're finally going to get an adult in the White House.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Feminine Ideals

Upon learning that I'm transgendered, someone recently asked me, "What are the feminine ideals that people aspire to, and where do they come from? And why is it so feminine to carry so much anxiety and self-loathing about these things?"

Great questions. And there is more than one way to answer them.

It's worth noting that this individual thought I was a genetic woman, and didn't realize I'm transgendered until she saw my photo. That made me feel happy – and proud! So there you are – some feminine ideals don't carry anxiety and self-loathing at all.

Others are not so benign. There is a set of ideals promoted in the media, particularly around selling stuff – the somewhat helpless skinny woman with regular features. I recently had a fashion consultation (next post???), and checked out a wide variety of women's magazines from the library to look over the styles and determine what I like and don't like. How disappointing, to see so many ugly clothes promoted as fashion! Yet these are the ideals. And shoes – what's more feminine than that famous ankle-twister, the stiletto heel? Not for me, thank you very much. Give me a nice, chunky heel anytime – one that will provide an adequate base on which to stand. Maybe my next book should be on Practical Femininity.

So there is the feminine ideal as seen in the media and by society (foot binding, corsets, etc.). Where does that come from? Women are not helpless – they're capable and intelligent and effective, unless they're socialized into decorative uselessness, and what is the societal benefit to that? And why should we feel guilt or anxiety or self-hate if we don't live up to that ideal?

Perhaps because we are taught that our worth is determined by others, and not by ourselves. Because acceptance is so important to us. And, I think, culturally (and perhaps biologically) we are wired to mold ourselves to attract a mate.

There is also the feminine ideal of the individual, as determined by the individual.

In fashion, I aspire to simple, elegant, and practical. And yes, feminine. Definitely feminine.

I aspire to feminine ideals of patient nurturing. Of useful work. Of practical, loving self-care. And of selfful care for others, tender interconnection. Women are the glue of society.

But perhaps the greatest feminine ideal I aspire to is the primal, powerful, earthiness of birthing. I can't experience that myself, but I have seen the miracle take place; the force of amazingly powerful muscles, the courage to face immense pain, the guttural cry, the patient (or not) labor of labor. What is more feminine than the act of birthing? And what human endeavor is more powerful than the act of birthing?

That is something to be proud of.

But that answer is by no means complete, and the questions still beg to be answered.

Your turn. Click on the comment link below, and let me know your thoughts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Learning to Knit

Monday nights are knitting knights.

A few weeks ago I showed up at a friend's house to join her knitting circle, and took my first stitches ever on a sixteen inch, #6 circular needle. Annette cast on for me, then showed me how to do it. She sat down next to me with her own project, and we knitted side by side for a little while, until I started to get the hang of it. Then she showed me the purl stitch.

I actually picked it up pretty fast, and find it to be fun and relaxing.

Best of all, though, is fitting into women's space – and this is definitely women's space. Chatting and laughing and just being myself. And belonging. I'm the only transwoman there, yet not one of my new women friends has stumbled over a pronoun.

It is infinitely sweet to be in this place.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How Good Life Is

In my last post, I spoke about dysphoria – how bad life is. It's dangerous to do that. Sometimes people think that's what your life is, and when you recount your problems, it can look pretty bad. Kinda like when you look at a rose. If all you focus on is the aphids, you can miss the blossoms altogether.

This is a post about blossoms.

For starters, my job is fun and challenging, and I'm valued and supported in it, not only by management and co-workers, but by my union. I work with interesting and diverse people. My pay is fair and adequate (barely) to support my family on one income. And I get to make a positive contribution to the well-being of my community. Yep, you guessed it – I'm a bureaucrat!

I live in a place that is incredibly blessed by nature. It is so beautiful here – mountains rising high to snow-capped peaks in the east, lush forested hills to the west and south, the ocean just a couple of hours away. Even in winter, when the rains pour down day after day, the world looks green. Mushrooms grow profusely in the fall (did I tell you I love hunting mushrooms?). My own backyard is filled with fruit trees and wildflowers, and sometimes we hear raccoons walk across the roof at night, or see them in the early morning, picking snails off the greens, smacking them on the deck to break the shells, then delicately gobbling them up with both hands.

And my neighborhood is a delight. There are lots of kids, next door and down the block, to play with mine. When I came out to them, everyone embraced me, and everyone supports me. My next door neighbors are from Silverton, Oregon, where they just elected the first openly transgendered mayor in the nation. If we run out of eggs or ace bandages, a quick walk up the block gives us a choice of half a dozen or more families who will be glad to share – and they know they're welcome to come to us when they need something.

Last post I talked about what's wrong with my body, but there's probably more right about it than wrong. I'm healthy. My mind is healthy, and I can't tell you how good that feels! I can walk and run and grasp and see and hear and taste and smell and feel – both pain and pleasure. I ride my bike to work nearly every day, and I have a pretty awesome health insurance package (except it doesn't include full transgender care).

Then there are my friends. Oh, joyous, wondrous friends! How grateful I am for you all. Incredibly – or perhaps naturally – my friendships have blossomed and deepened and multiplied since coming out and living as I am, as a woman. How delicious, to share support with you, to learn and teach, to grow, to connect, to dream, to share. Oh, yes, I am blessed.

Even better, my family. Kristin, my best friend and co-parent, and my boys. How rich is the love in which I reside. How varied and interesting and connected my life is because of them.

Best of all, my life is rich with meaning and purpose. Participation in a citizen's committee that works to make our city a better place. Letters to my sister that buoy her in her challenge, which is far more difficult than mine. Connection and sharing with friends and family. My novel, a work eight years in the process, still growing and getting better. All the skills and knowledge I've acquired in my life, and all I'm still learning and have yet to begin. This blog, where I reach out to people, friends, family, and total strangers, across our nation and the world, and the blogs of others, where I try to create peace and to support and defend my LGBT people. And nature, that wondrous web of life that fills every corner, that intricate, delicate, and persistent web of Life that is Mother Earth, that nurtures and embraces us all as close and loving as a mother the baby in her womb.

Don't get me wrong. Gender dysphoria sucks, and it hurts. It has stolen many experiences and relationships that I miss deeply. But bridging the gap between male and female has its blessings. It is precious in its own right, a creation of Universal Love as real and rich as twilight, which bridges the gap between day and night. Even that – my biggest challenge, my greatest pain, my nemesis – bears surprising insights, experiences, and relationships that form and enrich my life.

Yes, I'll be back, bitching about my body again. You can bet on it. But keep it in perspective. I certainly intend to.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Couple of Good Ones from Kristin...

Whenever I run out of good material, I just link to Kristin's blog. She's always got something good...

Dysphoria

For the last few days I've been feeling some pretty intense body dysphoria. I look at my skinny hips and tiny butt and I hate them, because they don't fit my clothes and they look so ugly. I look at my genitals, and I hate them, because they prevent the intimacy I so desire. I look at my massive chest and wide shoulders, and I hate them, because they are so unfeminine.

But then last night I dreamed that I was confined in a wheelchair. It was very vivid. I rolled down a curb cutout, and because I wasn't used to the chair I lost control and fell off into the street, and I was helpless to get back into the chair. It was so real that when I awoke, it took me a moment to remember that I really can use my legs.

And I thought, maybe this body isn't so bad.

It could be a lot worse.

On the other hand, maybe the dream reflects the reality that, in a sense, I am disabled – even though my arms and legs move like water.


Some people believe that our bodies reflect who we are; that we are our bodies. This is so not true. Ask any transperson. Ask Steven Hawking. Ask Helen Keller (okay, she's dead; so channel her through a medium). The soul, the person, that spark of life that resides behind the eyes or in the heart, that animates the body and moves it from place to place, is independent of and separate from the body, and if your body reflects who you really are, that is just luck. My body is no part of me. It doesn't even belong to me. It's somebody else's, and I don't know how I ended up in it. It's just the vessel that carries me from place to place, in which I am trapped.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Listening to the Enemy

Withdrawn - at least, temporarily.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things to Be Grateful For...

180 posts - today.
This quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition."


Hair getting longer.


Wow! Kristin. My best friend. My wisest councilor. My inspired co-parent. My staunchest support. Chocolate cream pie and pumpkin pie - made from scratch.


Trinidad. Creativity unleashed. Sensitivity. Passion. Fascination with nature.

Sam. Unbridled joy. Patience. Laughter. Brilliance. And an unwavering dedication to Star Wars.

You know what?

Life is good. And it's beautiful. And today, I'm happy - and grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Letter to the LGBT Community Regarding the Aftermath of Prop 8

I didn't intend to post now, but some things just seem too important to let pass. This is one.

There is no doubt that Prop 8 caused a lot of pain to our community. I think of my dear friend, who has dedicated her life to supporting families, who has made such a profound difference that just the people I know of who have been blessed by her work hail from all over this country, and Canada, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia. She married her wife twelve years ago, and remarried legally on her twelfth anniversary. Her work has saved the marriages of straight folks, yet straight folks took her marriage away from her.

There is nothing about her loss that is greater or lesser than anyone else's in our community; I point it out only to illustrate the monumental injustice of Prop 8.

Yet violence does nothing to further our interests. In fact, it is a failure, a forfeiture of dignity, a disgrace of self. We will not win this way.

This issue is about love, and we will win with love, not with violence; with compassion, not with hate.

I have heard of fingers pointing to the Mormon Church, or to the black community. And I say to you, no organization walked into a voting booth and voted against us. Only individuals did that; and each one of them pulled the lever that said Yes, We Will Take Away Your Marriage for their own individual reasons.

We will not change that vote by protesting organizations or communities. We will change that vote by being visible with our neighbors, our co-workers, our children's friends, the people we meet on the street – tearing down walls of ignorance and fear one person at a time. Yes, take to the streets – as I did, with my boys, on Saturday's "Join the Impact" demonstrations – but with nonviolence.

Ironically, our greatest weapon is provided by the words of the prophet our most ardent opponents idolize: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

I ask us all, do not underestimate the power of this precept. It has been proven. Yes, we are angry; but if we channel that anger into violence, we surrender our power. We can do better than that. As Gandhi said, "There is no power on earth greater than the indomitable will." That indomitable will is not found in violence. It is found in Love, and Compassion. Channel that anger into your indomitable will. Be that Love, and we will win.

I call on you, my LGBT community: Now is the time to listen. Now is the time to be visible. Hold hands in public. Call your spouse "husband," or "wife." Let your neighbor, your doctor, your grocer, your co-worker, know who you are. I know, it can be scary – believe me, I know how frightening visibility can be. As a transwoman, I'm visible every step I take. I know that it leaves us vulnerable to the violence of those who hate us. Even so, it gets easier with time, with visibility; courage feeds on courage. Hold your love high, and know its truth. It's a lot harder to vote against a stranger than a friend, or even an acquaintance.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Am I not destroying my enemies, when I make friends of them?" You do not make friends with invisibility, nor do you make friends with violence.

Let us destroy our enemies, in the way Abe suggests – one at a time, making friends.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I'm Not Really Breaking Sabbatical, but...

it's true that I didn't provide closure on this blog for the election, and I feel compelled to do so before really taking a break.

I am absolutely thrilled with the victories of President-elect Obama and our Mayor, Kitty Piercy. These are the two most important candidate races to me.

Everyone who cast a vote for Mr. Obama made a political act of great significance, and I'm proud to say I was one of them. We stood up and made plain that we are ready to stake the fortune of our nation on the principle that a man's character is more important than his skin color. This is not the real culmination of Mr. King's dream, but it is the symbolic culmination of that dream. And I am so proud of our nation for making this real.

Besides, I truly believe that Barack Obama is the right man for this job in this time.

Ms. Piercy has been an outstanding mayor for the last four years, cleaning up the mess that her opponent, Mr. Torrey, left behind, while simultaneously bringing national attention to our small city for our innovative environmentalism and warm climate for sustainable business. In addition, she is truly a mayor for all - the minorities and the downtrodden, as well as the business leaders. It is astounding to me that so many of our citizens would cast their votes for a man who represents so few of our interests, while excluding so many. But maybe I just take it personally, since I'm in one of the groups he would exclude.

And then there's Prop 8.

I have cried so many tears since it passed. My own heart breaking, for all those others whose hearts are breaking. My anger and rage at the injustice of it. My sadness at the pain.

So I will close with this piece from Joe Solomonese, of the Human Rights Campaign:

You can’t take this away from me: Proposition 8 broke our hearts, but it did not end our fight.

Like many in our movement, I found myself in Southern California last weekend. There, I had the opportunity to speak with a man who said that Proposition 8 completely changed the way he saw his own neighborhood. Every “Yes on 8” sign was a slap. For this man, for me, for the 18,000 couples who married in California, to LGBT people and the people who love us, its passage was worse than a slap in the face. It was nothing short of heartbreaking.

But it is not the end. Fifty-two percent of the voters of California voted to deny us our equality on Tuesday, but they did not vote our families or the power of our love out of existence; they did not vote us away.

As free and equal human beings, we were born with the right to equal families. The courts did not give us this right—they simply recognized it. And although California has ceased to grant us marriage licenses, our rights are not subject to anyone’s approval. We will keep fighting for them. They are as real and as enduring as the love that moves us to form families in the first place. There are many roads to marriage equality, and no single roadblock will prevent us from ultimately getting there.

And yet there is no denying, as we pick ourselves up after losing this most recent, hard-fought battle, that we’ve been injured, many of us by neighbors who claim to respect us. We see them in the supermarkets, on the sidewalk, and think “how could you?”

By the same token, we know that we are moving in the right direction. In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 22 by a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%. On Tuesday, fully 48% of Californians rejected Proposition 8. It wasn’t enough, but it was a massive shift. Nationally, although two other anti-marriage ballot measures won, Connecticut defeated an effort to hold a constitutional convention ending marriage, New York’s state legislature gained the seats necessary to consider a marriage law, and FMA architect Marilyn Musgrave lost her seat in Congress. We also elected a president who supports protecting the entire community from discrimination and who opposes discriminatory amendments.

Yet on Proposition 8 we lost at the ballot box, and I think that says something about this middle place where we find ourselves at this moment. In 2003, twelve states still had sodomy laws on the books, and only one state had civil unions. Four years ago, marriage was used to rile up a right-wing base, and we were branded as a bigger threat than terrorism. In 2008, most people know that we are not a threat. Proposition 8 did not result from a popular groundswell of opposition to our rights, but was the work of a small core of people who fought to get it on the ballot. The anti-LGBT message didn’t rally people to the polls, but unfortunately when people got to the polls, too many of them had no problem with hurting us. Faced with an economy in turmoil and two wars, most Californians didn’t choose the culture war. But faced with the question—brought to them by a small cadre of anti-LGBT hardliners – of whether our families should be treated differently from theirs, too many said yes.

But even before we do the hard work of deconstructing this campaign and readying for the future, it’s clear to me that our continuing mandate is to show our neighbors who we are.
Justice Lewis Powell was the swing vote in Bowers, the case that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law and that was reversed by Lawrence v. Texas five years ago. When Bowers was pending, Powell told one of his clerks “I don’t believe I’ve ever met a homosexual.” Ironically, that clerk was gay, and had never come out to the Justice. A decade later, Powell admitted his vote to uphold Georgia’s sodomy law was a mistake.

Everything we’ve learned points to one simple fact: people who know us are more likely to support our equality.

In recent years, I’ve been delivering this positive message: tell your story. Share who you are. And in fact, as our families become more familiar, support for us increases. But make no mistake: I do not think we have to audition for equality. Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign—you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a “gay friend” when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights.

Wherever you are, tell a neighbor what the California Supreme Court so wisely affirmed: that you are equal, you are human, and that being denied equality harms you materially. Although I, like our whole community, am shaken by Prop 8’s passage, I am not yet ready to believe that anyone who knows us as human beings and understands what is at stake would consciously vote to harm us.

This is not over. In California, our legal rights have been lost, but our human rights endure, and we will continue to fight for them.
________________________________________________________________

Peace. Be well. Be blessed. And remember, love is all around you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sabbatical

I'm taking a blog sabbatical.

This is November, the month of NaNoWriMo. I'm not going to start a novel from scratch, but I do intend to spend some extra time on the one I've been working on since 2008. I'm also going to take some time to think, to spend time with my kids, to read, and consider what goals and intentions I have for my blog. I may update links, but I don't intend to write another entry until December, unless I get really struck by something that needs to be expressed.

Check back on Pearl Harbor Day (Dec. 7). Until then, be well. Be blessed. Be happy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No on 8

There are times when you simply have to stand up for what is right.

I have embraced this issue before on this blog, but the issue then was abstract. Prop. 8 is specific and concrete, and it impacts human lives.

My legally married lesbian blog-friend Sara is in California to fight for marriage equality, and she wrote this beautiful, passionate plea.

When I engaged with opponents of marriage equality earlier, I asked them how allowing gays to marry would hurt them. None could give a satisfactory answer. They replied in abstractions – pointing to the dictionary, as if words on paper were more important than human lives and families. Or pointing to the Bible, as if their personal religious convictions gave them the right to make choices for other people, despite the clear language in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution forbidding the establishment of state religion. Now it seems that the best argument they can come up with is that granting marriage equality will somehow "neuter" their own heterosexual marriage. How? They can't answer. So they lie. In fact, granting marriage equality raises marriage from a privilege to the solid dignity and sacred power of a right, and so empowers heterosexual marriage as well as homosexual marriage.

A dear friend of mine in California – a woman who has dedicated her life to improving family relations and communication for all parents and children (my god, that sounds so cold, relative to the warmth and power of her love) – wrote in a letter recently, that her heart was breaking at the thought of losing her marriage. She married 12 years ago, and remarried, legally, on her twelfth anniversary. This is a woman who has saved countless marriages, through her teaching and work. My heart is breaking, too, as I write this, at the thought that her own marriage may be stolen.

Please, let's put an end to this fight, and go on to deal with the really serious problems our nation faces. If you can, go to http://www.noonprop8.com/ and make a donation. Call anyone you know in California and ask them to vote NO on 8. And if you're in California, please, vote for equality for all.

Proposition H8 is not the end – it is only the beginning. Every time something like this happens, we feel more energized, more convicted, more determined. We are not going away. We, your lesbian, gay, and trans neighbors, will continue to laugh, to love, to raise our families, and fight for equality.

Peace.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Collateral Damage

I scanned this article detailing the reddest and bluest cities in the nation, and ran across this quote: "Also contradictory, [Lubbock] has a high rate of teenage pregnancy but an abstinence-only sex education policy."

Huh? Hasn't the writer been paying any attention at all to statistics? Probably not. And you don't even need statistics to figure out that abstinence only works 'til it stops. The sex drive is natural, intense, and it isn't going away any time soon. A high rate of teen pregnancy is the natural result of abstinence-only sex education, not contradictory at all. With the confluence of both data and logic teaming to make this obvious, I sometimes wonder if the imposition of these policies isn't a hidden effort to keep women down and economically oppressed.

I don't think so, though. I really think it's just another example of blind ideology trumping common sense, and women and aborted babies are just collateral damage in the culture wars.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Education

Lately I've been reading a book called "Learning All the Time," by John Holt. At the same time, I've been loving watching my children blossom. Their curiosity, their enthusiasm, their pure joy in learning and doing is remarkable. Yesterday Sam, 5 ½ years old, started reading "Brighty of the Grand Canyon" aloud to his grandmother and me. Outside of correcting his pronunciation from time to time, he did fine. ("An- jel, not an-gul") It's just challenging enough to be interesting, as he reads slowly but steadily, only stopping to sound out a word every third or fourth line or so. Trin isn't interested in reading yet, and he doesn't do it very well; but he and Sam have worked out a symbiotic reading relationship, and you can often see them sitting together, with Sam reading aloud. Every time he gets stuck on a word, having trouble sounding it out the right way, Trin jumps in and helps him with the correct pronunciation. It's beautiful, it's teamwork it's each learning from the other.

With this background, juxtaposing Kristin's recent blogs on Unschooling and School leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, wonder and joy at the freedom and self-paced progress of my own children; on the other, a deep sadness that so many children experience school in a way that is painful, oppressive, and dreadfully boring and confusing. I know that was my experience of school.

On a macro scale, the universal "big picture," this oppressive and ineffective schooling is unnecessary.

On a micro scale, within the context of the economy, culture, and society we have created, I'm not so sure. Many people I know really don't have that choice – they're two-earner families, and school, as affordable child care, is an economic necessity. Others are single parents. Others are overwhelmed and unable to relax into the role of unschooling family without more help and appreciation from society. Still others are sincerely convinced that children would not learn what they need to learn without school, and send their children off with conviction that they are doing what is best for the child.

It's clear to me that schools are not doing the job they're "supposed to do" very effectively. It seems to me that what schools do best is to indoctrinate children with values of obedience to authority and suppression of their own and others' needs, and prepare them for a life of mediocrity. Not that I came to this conclusion by myself. It is simply my own experience and observation, coupled with reading the works of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and Alfie Kohn.

As usual this election cycle, there are school bonds on the ballot. I'll probably vote for them. If a kid's going to be schooled, she should get the best schooling available. But I have real doubts that the current system can be reformed. I think maybe we should just scrap it and start over.

And the first place to start is to make school a choice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is Obama a Socialist?

So what if he is?

I find it weird and disturbing that the Republicans have been making this big fuss about Obama being a socialist, when he's done and said nothing that I've heard that says he has any socialist inclination at all. Apparently it's just slinging mud and hoping it sticks, but even then, it seems odd because even Republicans are very fond of our most socialist program – Social Security. Then I look at the success of socialized things like the medicine they have in places like France, Germany, and Sweden, which is far more effective, efficient, cost effective, and popular than our private system. It's like McCain and Palin are yelling, "Holy cow! Obama's gonna go and enact programs and policies that are going to work really well! They'll be effective, efficient, and make life better for everybody except the super rich, who don't need anything more anyway! We've got to stop them! Hey, all you working class idiots – don't vote for your own best interests – vote for ours!"

I use the term "idiots" here because it seems to me they're treating us like that.

In addition, though, it's totally hypocritical. Palin is the most socialist candidate of the four. From the New Yorker:

~The proceeds [of oil field leasing] finance the [Alaskan] government's activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year's check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that "we're set up, unlike other states in the union, where it's collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs."~

In other words, Alaska owns the means of production collectively, which is, by definition, socialist. (This demonstrates that there are as many forms of socialism as there are of democracy, or tyranny.) And the state uses that power to distribute wealth evenly across the board, or, as Ms. Palin puts it, to "share in the wealth."

They accuse Barack of "spreading the wealth." I'm not sure what's wrong with that, but I'm even less sure how different that is from their own practice of sharing the wealth.

And that is why I find the terms of this attack puzzling and disturbing. Frankly, I think Obama would do well to go further out on a socialist limb. This nation is in no danger of becoming socialist in the foreseeable future. The GOP has been far too successful in demonizing socialism and linking it to communism, which is not the same thing. But there is no doubt in my mind that government can be more effective and efficient at providing certain services than the private sector is able to, at least when the government agency is accountable and transparent, as it should be. Social Security is a good example. Health insurance is another. Mass transit. We've socialized most roads and highways, and that seems to work pretty well – we should socialize the rails, as well.

This whole "debate" about different ideologies, as if we have to be perfectly "free market" or capitalist, or else we'll be completely socialist in a communist model, is destructive and foolish. We don't have to be all one or the other. I'd really like to see a shift to discussing how to create something that works really well – and I don't care if we call it socialism, capitalism or what, but I think we'd be best off to not call it anything. Then maybe we won't get attached to the ideology.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friendships

I blogged yesterday on my desire to share the special intimate friendship that is unique to women. Here, I'd like to extend that to thoughts about friendship in general.

It seems to me that there is nothing unique to women in having this form of relationship unique to them. I see that men sometimes form a special bond, which takes a different character completely, yet is just as unique and precious. I see it between men and women, lovers, where a special dynamic of the two sexes blends, often, to another unique form of friendship. I see it among my trans friends, where a connection built on the common experience of living in a physical incongruity bonds us instantly in shared experience.

There are many species of friendships. Mother and son. Mother and daughter. Father and son, father and daughter, grandparents, whoever – the common experiences, and disparate characteristics of age, hormones, body, soul, blend into different types, each unique and precious.

I never formed that male bond with another man, though I've witnessed others who have. Sure, I had friends, but not that special male-to-male bond. It was impossible for me to form such a friendship, because to do so, I would have to be someone other than who I am. You cannot have that bond without honesty, and I could not be honest and still develop it.

Not so the female/female bond. I can be completely myself and embrace and experience that friendship, and in fact, I have always desired this friendship intensely. That part is in my power. The part where my female friend perceives me as female, and so returns that bond and completes the circle, is up to her.

It may be this aspect of intimacy that creates so much pain for transpeople when they attempt to live in the roles assigned to them at birth. Humans are gregarious animals. Our social needs are intense, and vitally important. One of the cruelest punishments, or tortures, is solitary confinement. People locked alone without human contact for too long often go insane.

Similarly, people who do not expose who they really are to those around them experience some degree of isolation. This isolation will remain no matter how intimate they might be with someone, because the unique, special form of relationship that is natural to them in regards to that person can never be developed. Gender is far more important to the human psyche than sex. Gender is a vital part of every human relationship. Sex is only important in a few.

I am blessed with a number of these special bonds. And thanks to my transition, I am no longer isolated. I am finally blessed with the one that has been missing for my entire life.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friends and a Far Way

Last night my mother-in-law came to visit, and Kristin and I left her with the kids and went to a play put on by our local high school. One of the actors was formerly Kristin's student, and we enjoyed watching him perform. In the years since he was a troubled pre-schooler under Kristin's tutelage he's become a big, talented sophomore. He yelled out when he saw Kristin after the show, hugged her, then turned to me – and hugged me, too. I was accepted and embraced by all at this performance, including the significant crowd of women who mobbed the ladies' room during intermission.

Later on in the evening, after spending a crazy hour at home, I lay in bed and thought about my life. I gave thanks. And I thought about what I want.

I am most comfortable when I forget my body and feel myself completely female and socially embraced as such, in whatever social role or event that might be. There is something jarring and profoundly disturbing about becoming aware of my body as a male part of me. This is a measure of how the extent that my body and my soul/mind integrate. To the extent that I perceive my body as male, I cannot integrate at all; I am faced with an unresolvable incongruity, and this incongruity rocks the foundations of my identity, my self, my world. It is completely disorienting, perhaps like it would be to live in a world without gravity. For years I lived a coward's life, trying to resolve the incongruity by forcing my mind to accept – tolerate – the role that was expected – that I expected – of my body. All it did was drive me to within the thought of its effect on Kristin and my children away from suicide.

One of the transwomen I admire the most is my friend Tobi. She appears to be completely comfortable in her skin. She makes no effort at all to hide the butch side of her, nor the fact that her body is genetically male. She even lets a dusting of whiskers stay on her chin. As far as I can see, she has integrated her body and soul, resolving the conundrum by recognizing her male body as female.

Be patient. I'm working my way to a point.

The performance we saw last night was Rent. One of the most memorable lines, for me, was from Angel, who is described as a "gay drag queen." My perception from the acting was that she was transgendered – not necessarily transsexual, but certainly female gendered, and as such, I didn't have the sense that she would be gay, even with a male lover. Anyway, the line was given as the characters mourned her death, and one of them mentioned her going up to a "skinhead" who was harassing her and saying, "I'm more of a man than you'll ever be, and I'm more of a woman than you'll ever get."

Those words resonate with me.

I would really like to integrate to the point that I can look at and feel the "male" aspects of my body and yet perceive them as female – as part of me, and not this separate entity that has nothing to do with me at all except that it's an inadequate vessel that carries me from place to place. Ideally, everyone around me would perceive the same thing – not that I have a male body, or even that I'm trans, but just that I'm a woman with a mildly misshapen body. I want to live the deep, connected friendships that are unique among women.

I think it's possible. I've had a few glimpses over the last week, when I almost get the sense that my penis is a female part, or when I just melt into my role as a woman.

And I have friends. Oh, I have friends. My own mother-in-law has embraced me, and likes Seda better than her former son-in-law. Anne, and Davin, and Ilana, and Kristin, all have embraced me into that magical circle of feminine friendship. It will happen with others. It appears to be more difficult with people who knew me before transition, which isn't surprising.

And rising from the ashes of that fake male persona I used to wear, is the phoenix of something new, something precious – a deep, fierce pride in who I am. In being a transwoman. (See Angel's words, above.)

I do not deny who I am. No, I embrace it.

So far I have come. I'm on a path, creating a life that is, as I am, beautiful.

And if that's a paradox – well, shit, my whole life is a paradox!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Race in the Race

The latest New York Times poll has Obama ahead by 13 points.

Perhaps that's why the article makes this quote, as if surprised that some people can be that astute:

"Yet some voters still ascribe racial motives those opposing Mr. Obama this year."

Well, yeah. Duh.

You've got the McCain ralliers yelling, "Kill him!" "Terrorist!" "Arab!"

You've got 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, and resentment about affirmative action.

And then there's this comment, left on my friend Field Negro's blog:

"This is the struggle for the soul of this country...i have my guns loaded...lock and load...and some niggers will have to pay. ... Die, bitches. heil hitler. heil mccain."

Pure guesswork, but I'd guess a 10 to 20% McCain swing based on white people voting against "the black man" (though the one quoted above is hopefully part of a minority of less than 1%). Maybe more.

But that is a celebration. Not too long ago, it would have been 50% or more. After eight years of Obama, it'll probably be within the statistical margin of error.

And think of it - discount race, and you've got a 23 to 33 point swing.

Go, Obama!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oregon Ballot Measure 63

I honestly believe that this measure is the least understood and most harmful measure on the ballot. It would exempt all work on homes and farm buildings valued at $35,000 or less from permits. As usual with a Sizemore initiative, it is very poorly written; for instance, there is no system identified to provide a uniform valuation. How the $35,000-per-year is figured is up to the individual. Is that the amount added per the tax evaluation? Market evaluation? Cost of materials? The amount a contractor would charge? Apparently, it's up to the homeowner to decide, which means that it will, in practice, exempt work valued at far greater than $35,000. It is reasonable to assume that some people, especially unscrupulous landlords, will legally construct entire houses, over the course of two years, without permits – they'll be able to show receipts for $70,000 in materials, or less – but would you really like to live in that house?

Let's take a look at some winners.

The main winners are slumlords. Folks who own a lot of houses that they rent cheap to poor people and college students will be able to make additions and changes that enable them to rent more rooms without complying with basic standards for fire and life safety.

Another clear winner is fly-by-night contractors. Knowing there won't be oversight of their operations, unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors will be able to undercut bids from reputable contractors, and their substandard work will be legal, even if it violates basic fire and life safety standards, or is structurally unsound. So sue them! (If you can find them.)

Large-scale farm operators will be able to make changes in buildings where farmworkers labor, eliminating regulation of fire and life safety standards from production facilities where these under-represented people will labor in worsening conditions.

Some homeowners will be able to save up to $1000 or so to make reasonable remodels or additions to their homes – and they'll do it with quality and care.

How about losers?

Firefighters are going to lose bigtime. Think about it. Would you like to enter a building without knowing whether it had been constructed to basic fire, life safety, and structural standards - or not? Or climb on a roof without knowing whether it had been remodeled with an undersized beam that's going to fail with a minimum of char? One of my colleagues has a sign in his cubicle: "God made building inspectors so that firefighters could have heroes, too." There's a good reason the fire chiefs and firefighters' unions are against Measure 63. Some firefighters are going to be injured if this measure passes. Others will die.

I'd say insurance companies would be losers, since they will experience a spike in claims due to substandard construction, but I've got a feeling they'll be proactive and start immediately raising premiums across the board to cover all the additional claims. They clearly won't be winners – they'll be dealing with a much less predictable market – but the big losers here will be homeowners with insurance.

Folks who live in or own property in flood hazard areas are going to be major losers. The only insurance they can get is underwritten by the federal government, which has strict standards. Without a permit review system to verify that construction in a flood hazard area is built according to those standards, the feds will withdraw flood insurance from Oregon. How much will your property be worth when you can't insure it?

Another loser will be reputable contractors. They'll be undercut by unscrupulous contractors, and, while their reputation may provide some assurance of continued work, in a tight market the loss of a job to a fly-by-night outfit could mean the difference between bankruptcy and solvency.

The environment will lose. Oregon has some pretty good energy efficiency codes. Throw them out the window.

Renters, especially low income families and college students, will probably be the biggest losers of all. Without any system to review and inspect for basic fire and life safety standards, such as egress windows and fire separation assemblies, they will be living in unsafe houses. Some of them will die.

I don't think saving a thousand bucks is worth it.

I make these claims based on three factors:

First, reason. When you really consider the ramifications of such a poorly written initiative, and look at winners and losers, it becomes clear.

Second, as a plans examiner, I have intimate familiarity with building codes, including the reasons for them, their shortcomings, and the mistakes people make in planning their remodels. I frequently see beams that are undersized, even grossly undersized. I see proposals to cut the webbings and chords of engineered trusses. I see bedrooms designed with windows too small for a child to crawl out of – even without windows at all. I see mistakes made by engineers – yes, they are human, too – rarely, it's true, but mistakes in math or in following load paths can be deadly. Frequently I see designers make changes after the engineering has been complete, which renders the engineered system useless. I see mistakes that have been missed by the designer, the engineer, the contractor, the homeowner, and me, which are caught by inspectors in the field. The code isn't perfect. The solution is to revise the code, not throw it out the window. Having another pair of eyes look at your project before and as it's built is the best and cheapest insurance you'll ever get.

Third, and most of all, I make these claims as the survivor of a house fire.

At around 11:30 p.m. on April 3, 2003, I awoke with my dog scratching at my bed, whining in panic. I looked out the window to see flames shooting from my neighbor's bedroom. I rushed to call 911, while Kristin grabbed our 3 year old and 6 week old sons and ran out of the house. Within seconds, just after giving the dispatcher my address, the phone and the power went dead and smoke poured into the hallway between our bedroom and the one exit door.

We lived in a duplex that did not have the 1-hour fire separation, nor the egress window, required by Oregon code.

Fires move with incredible speed. Look at the video of the Great White fire in the Station nightclub sometime. "It just -- it was so fast. It had to be two minutes tops before the whole place was black smoke." That's why so many people died. Had we not had a dog – had we awakened one minute later, our house choked with smoke and without power – at best we would have escaped through that tiny, high window in our bedroom suffering from smoke inhalation. We would have had to call 911 from a neighbor's house, so response would have been much slower. By then the fire would have broken into our apartment, and we would have lost much more than we did, perhaps everything. Very likely, in trying to save our children, one or more of us would have been seriously injured or killed.

All because of construction that did not comply with building code.

When I say that people will die will die as a result of passing Measure 63, it is, granted, only my opinion. But I make it with full confidence that I am right, based on experience, history, and reason. All to save a few thousand bucks and build whatever the hell you want.

It's just not worth it.

If you live in Oregon, please join me in voting against Measure 63.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Socialized Medicine? Let’s Do the Math (or at least make some conservative estimates)

With our health infrastructure crumbling, 50 million folks without health insurance, and a growing sense of urgency, you frequently hear about the evils of "socialized medicine." So I thought, let's take a closer look. Let's do the math, and see just how bad we'll get ripped off if we nationalize health insurance and adopt a single-payer insurance system like what France or Germany or Sweden or Japan or some other backward, socialist liberal country does. Sure and if we do, our health system will go right down the tubes and be like theirs, huh?

Oh, wait. Their systems are all rated LOTS better than ours. Though we do pay about 2.5 times as much, per capita.

For simplicity's sake, I'm just going to figure this as if we expanded Medicare to include everyone. After all, we've already got socialized medicine, which by law is required to try to make itself competitive with private insurance. This is tough, since Medicare operates at about 3% overhead, and private insurers operate at 12% t0 30%. So, by law, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices, it excludes a huge number of people based on age and ability, and they've got tons of complicated, stupid paperwork that drives health providers nuts and makes them hesitate to accept Medicare patients.

So, my employer pays about $6.35 per hour that I work into private health insurance. Under Medicare, I'd save, conservatively, 10%. (6.35x.1=.635) So, right off the bat, I get a 64 cent raise. Cool.

Then the math gets more complicated. For instance, I know that there will be 50 million more people with health insurance, but how many of them would be taxpayers? I don't know the details well enough – does that number include kids and workers, or just workers? Either way, it's going to spread the premium base, and so bring down the cost. Let's call it another 10 cent reduction in my share. Now I've got a 74 cent raise.

But folks that are uninsured now will have access to regular checkups and wellness programs, so overall emergency room costs will go way down. I don't know how to account for this mathematically, either, so let's conservatively take another 10 cent reduction in my share. And my raise is up to 84 cents.

And what if we allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices? I wonder how much that would save? I don't know, but it's bound to be significant. Let's say that savings reduces my share another 10 cents. I'm nearing a dollar! (And that's not even counting if we allowed Medicare to negotiate the cost of procedures.)

So what if the paperwork problem were fixed, which should be pretty basic since Medicare wouldn't have to exclude everybody who is young and healthy. That would reduce the costs to providers, so Medicare wouldn't pay as much – say, 6 cents.

Wow! A dollar raise! Just for socializing medical insurance!

What would your raise be?

And how cool would it be if every kid had health insurance? (Real cool, in my opinion.)

Of course, that doesn't account for the fact that the money I pay into Medicare taxes currently goes to cover the oldest, sickest people around – in other words, by adding young, healthy people to the premium pool, my current taxes would go down.

How would this affect health providers? Wouldn't they be totally demoralized by getting paid by a socialized insurance program? Doctors would flock across our borders to work in Canada and Mexico and …

Oh, wait. Yeah, they probably wouldn't. They'd just have an easier time with paperwork. (Believe me, any fix of this nature is not complete without fixing the Medicare paperwork nightmare.) And their liability insurance would probably go down a lot. So their overhead would go down, further reducing costs, and even if their pay got reduced through negotiations, the savings in insurance would likely mean increased take-home.

But you couldn't pick your doctor, right?

Why not? They're all getting paid by the same insurer. Seems like having a license to practice medicine automatically puts them into the preferred provider pool, which means you'd have more choice of which doctor to use.

But there has to be some downside to socializing medical insurance. Right?

Well, it would mean increasing taxes. My share of that would be $5.35/hour (worst case scenario). Which still leaves me a dollar per hour more in discretionary income. I'm actually okay with that. (Some employers might not want to pay out all of their savings on health insurance to wages. So, join a union!) Only Republicans are so anti-tax they'd rather spend lots of money on inefficient private systems and reduce take home wages than surrender their ideology.

For the past 30 years or so, we've been bombarded with the myth that government efficiency is an oxymoron. It's true that government is typically incompetent and inefficient in producing goods and moving them around. But in fact government does excel in certain efficiencies, and one of these is insurance. Social Security, for instance, is an enormous program; yet it operates at under 3% overhead. Medicare is the biggest health care payer in the nation, yet it has by far the lowest overhead of any health insurance company. Continuing down our course of blind ideology to support a myth that the "free market" provides the best service in all situations and circumstances, while the data, both from our own nation and from the rest of the world, proves otherwise is worse than stupid. It's insane. When it means withholding health care from sick people and kids, it's cruel and unjust.

It's also very, very expensive.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Repudiation

There are aspects of the language that Keith Olbermann uses in this video that I don't care for, but I respect what he says.

The history of this nation is clear. That history shows that the McCain/Palin campaign, whether intentionally or not, is inciting violence. They are putting Mr. Obama's life in danger. And that is, in my opinion, far worse than the warning Mr. Lewis recently issued, that that is exactly what McCain is doing.

If I were not already an Obama supporter, this would make me one.

I truly hope that the American people will rise up and repudiate the McCain/Palin ticket on November 4th. We are a better nation than this.

Peace.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama & McCain – Debate Dizziness

I listened to the debate between Obama and McCain last night just enough to get thoroughly disgusted. It didn't take long.

First there was the issue of taxes. I was disappointed to hear Obama say that he disliked them. It sounds like he's bought into the Republican meme that "taxes are bad, and everyone hates them." I've blogged on this before. It's true that the federal government misspends a huge amount of taxes (the military budget), but taxes themselves are good things, they're really cool, and every year I enjoy writing out the check to the state (though not the feds – see above). This distaste for taxes, born in the myths of the Boston Tea Party and Republican wet dreams of drowning government in the bathtub, is what got us $10 trillion in debt.

So both candidates are going to cut taxes left and right (though at least Obama would raise them on the wealthiest Americans). And balance the budget. Uh, huh. This Republican fantasy has been around for 30 years now, and it's time to get over it. Try it in your personal finances. It doesn't work. If we want to either "fix the problems" this country has, or create the country we want, it's time to raise taxes and cut spending, and the place to start cutting is the military budget – half of the entire world's. I believe in a strong military. So let's cut the military budget by $300 billion, so that we'll have the biggest, most expensive, best trained military in the world. We can start by withdrawing garrisons from dozens of countries around the world, and eliminating Star Wars.

Second, both candidates are fixated on "solving our problems." I bought into this mindset recently, so I can't criticize too much here, but it's recently become clear to me, through watching people like Kristin create her life, and now reading The Path of Least Resistance, by Robert Fritz, that that mindset will not get us where we need to go. We need to switch that mindset to one in which we ask ourselves, what kind of country would we like – and then set out to create it.

Think about that for a second. How would it be if, instead of saying, "Omigod! Look at this horrible economic meltdown! We've gotta rush around madly and fix it right now!" we said, "Okay, what kind of country do we want to create? Let's figure that out, then we'll look at our current economic meltdown situation, and figure out how to create it from here."

Which mindset do you suppose is going to get a better end result? And have more fun getting there?

As Douglas MacArthur once said, "There is no security on this earth. There is only opportunity."

Of course, even with my disappointment with Obama, my support for him remains unchanged. He's obviously less delusional about taxes than his opponent, he's definitely more creative, and he'll select Supreme Court justices far superior to those McCain would choose. If anything happens to him, his vice president is at least competent. And I would SO much prefer that Obama get that 3 a.m. call on the red telephone!

(As an aside, this quote from MSNBC's debate coverage really floored me: "The financial crisis — an unforeseen and unimaginable event, ..." Anybody who's spent any time studying history - especially the economic policies of Coolidge & Hoover - should have been expecting it. Likewise anyone who's studied economics (at least, who's been reading Krugman instead of Friedman). Lots of us were. A guy named Kunstler wrote a book more or less predicting it a number of years ago, called The Long Emergency. Well, perhaps the writer was stuck in a Fox News information vacuum....)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Teaching Tolerance

This post by Riftgirl is one that I highly recommend everyone read - especially if they have any kids or grandkids who are or will be in school.

Birthday Girl!

It's my birthday, and the full moon. So I'm taking a day off, sort of, from blogging. Just this little note, a celebration!

Peace, everyone! Be well.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Power and Racism

For about 30 years, I lived with and enjoyed privilege of which I was unaware. That privilege was white male privilege, and I took for granted that people would assume, in any social or economic interaction, that I was honest and worthy. When I walked the aisles of stores wearing a bulky coat, no one paid much attention. When I spoke to the tellers at banks, I barely had to show ID. When I applied for a job, I had full confidence that I would be assessed based completely on my competence and fitness for the job. I rarely hesitated to take the path to my destination I found most convenient, having confidence I would not be assaulted en route, even in a dark alley or midnight stairwell.

Gradually, I became aware that other people don't always have this experience. I witnessed the difficulty of a black woman to have her ID accepted at a bank. I noticed the way that store clerks or detectives watched black men in stores. I spent a very eye-opening pair of hours talking with a group of dark-skinned women in a Women of Color conference at the University. I read about hierarchical structures and the civil rights movement. I learned to recognize my own prejudices, acquired through assimilation into a dominant culture that is white and male. And I began my own transition.

Now the question has arisen, whether I consider the racist remarks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright as repugnant as the racism of David Duke, and Barack Obama's connection to that pastor as a warning bell of latent racist feeling.

Taken out of context, perhaps they are the same; but there is an inherent connection between power and racism. You cannot isolate racism without taking into account the power structure of the society that lies beneath it.

My ancestors owned the ancestors of Rev. Wright as if they were cattle. I've seen the photos of black men with their backs matted from neck to buttocks with scars from the whip. Slaves who ran away sometimes had their Achilles tendons cut, crippling them for life so that they could not run again. Or they were hanged. They were considered less than human Р3/5 human, to be precise. For two hundred and fifty years, this was their condition in America, and it was followed by another hundred years of Jim Crow oppression. Even today, a black man will spend ten times as much time in prison as a white man for possessing cocaine. He will be pulled over or stopped on the street for no reason beyond driving or running while black. Those are facts; you can look up the data if you like. That is simply the reality of our history, and to deny it or to assume that it has no affect on our current social structure is the height of naivet̩.

(I'm not beating myself up over it. I never had a part in it, though, to my shame, I have at least twice observed racist actions without taking a stand against them – which is about as bad as participating. There aren't many people I admire more than Harriet Tubman.)

The power structure of our society is white and male. Again, look at our history. Women didn't even have the right to vote until the 1920's, just eighty years ago. We've had 43 presidents, and every one of them has been a white male. Even though white men constitute less than half of our population, they constitute the vast majority of our corporate CEO's and congressmen.

So when the country club puts up a sign that says "Whites Only," or "Men Only," it effectively shuts people of color and women off from access to power, to the policies and business agreements that affect their lives. It is oppression, and I find it repugnant.

On the other hand, when an American institution bars whites from membership to provide a safe place for a powerless group to organize and gather, can I honestly say that anyone is being barred from access to the power structures and economic activities that affect their lives?

I don't think so. The one is an attempt to prevent someone else from access to power, a means of stratifying society. The other is an attempt to gain power for oneself, a means of fighting for equality. I don't like it, and I believe it is not the most effective means, but it is not oppression.

It is this power differential that makes a comparison between the racist remarks of Rev. Wright and someone like David Duke irrelevant. They are completely different animals.

Which is not to say that I support Wright's views, or even fully understand them. I do not. It is only to say that I won't judge them by the same standard I would if they came from a white mouth. I won't line up the sheep with the cow to compare their meat and wool.

As for Barack Obama, I do not fear any aspect of racism from the man. He was hugely isolated from the very real though usually subtle racism that still permeates our society while he grew up in Hawaii, son of a white woman and an immigrant from Africa, and so did not assimilate those grievances with his mother's milk; at the same time, he has encountered and experienced racism in his work in places like Chicago, so he is not blind to it. While Obama sat in his pews, I suspect Rev. Wright spoke a whole lot more about black empowerment than white dismemberment, and since I'm all about empowering disempowered groups and individuals, I don't have a problem with that. I have not one iota of doubt that Mr. Obama will wield the power of the presidency with far more equality and even-handedness than his opponent would, and that he will judge people based on character over race far more reliably than Mr. McCain.

In short, I believe that Barack Obama, through his ancestry, heritage, and experience, is about as close as we're going to get to an ideal leader to finally break down the barrier of racism, bridge the gap between black and white, and bring Dr. King's vision to fruition. There are certainly positions of his with which I disagree – for instance, I don't think his health plan goes far enough, I'd like to see a commitment to cut the military budget by about three quarters, and I'd like to see him come out for marriage equality. Nevertheless, for the first time in my life, I will mark my ballot for president with joy, enthusiasm – and hope.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Arabs

Am I the only one, or does anyone else out there find this exchange from a recent McCain rally as disturbing as I do?


["I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said:

"No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."]


I think if I were an Arab, I'd be rather offended. As a European-American, I just feel very sad.

I know some Arabs and Muslims. My friend Noor identifies with Mohammed Atta about as much as I identify with Tim McVeigh or Bull Connor. The Arabs and Iranians I know are peaceful, honest, hardworking, "decent, family" people.

I give credit to McCain here for trying to correct the impression about Obama, and I don't think he was intentionally speaking out against anyone. Yet by choosing not to confront the comment about Arabs, he reinforced a stereotype that Arabs can't be trusted, and implied that they aren't decent, family people, as well.

But the saddest of all is that this attitude is common in my country. I am glad I'm not an Arab-American right now, but I want all Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans to know that I support you. I believe in you. I will speak in your defense. I will judge you by the "content of your character," and not by your religion, your ethnicity, or the color of your skin.

And right now, I grieve for my nation. I feel so sad to see this violent rhetoric split us apart.

Blessings upon you all, and on us. May there be peace.


Stuff and Poverty

Okay, back to the Peace Conference I attended about a month ago. It was a powerful event, and I met some rich and powerful people.

I met Marshall Rosenberg, who travels around the world mediating conflicts and creating peace. He chooses to live on a poverty income so that he doesn't have to pay taxes that support the Iraq Occupation.

I met Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent over two years living in a tree to save its life.

I learned about Mohandas Gandhi, who gave away all his possessions to live a life of poverty in service to his people.

I met Bonnie Tinker, who lives on her non-profit, and has been arrested many times in nonviolent demonstrations against oppression.

After the conference, as I drove to pick up my kids, I thought about that, and how I couldn't give up my stuff to live a life like that. I've got kids, for god's sake. A job. How could I give all that up?

Like a ray of light, I suddenly understood how I could. It was so clear that I exclaimed out loud.

I can surrender all my stuff in my heart, right now.

So I did. I gave up all my stuff; essentially gave it away. I don't own anything, I just use it. If I lose it, loan it, or have it taken away from me, I'll use something else.

I don't own my house. It's just where I live. If I lose it, I'll go live somewhere else.

I don't own my job. It's just where I serve right now. If I lose it, I'll find a better way to serve.

I don't even own my kids. I love them, sure, but if something happens to them that separates us, I know that they will be taken care of. And they're going to grow up and leave anyway. They're their own people.

A sense of freedom swept over me. What a celebration to have an insight like that! I realized in that moment that I am free. I can make decisions about what to do without fear. And that's pretty darn cool.

Now the only problem is how to keep that sensibility. I've had moments since when the cares of everyday life creep in and take that sense of freedom and choice away, but for the most part, it's been working. I still have that sense of possibility. I've still given everything away in my heart. I'm still free. And I've set an intention to keep that freedom and unattachment to my stuff.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz