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

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.

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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