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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Distinction with Illustrations

David's reply to my last post struck me hard. I'm guessing that many people who object to "gay marriage" have not thought about it in this way before, very much. I'm guessing that marriage to them is a package, one thing – not a mixture of private, very personal commitments, social implications, and legal protections and responsibilities. I suspect that much of the emotion about the discussion of this issue in the political sphere is that each side is talking about different things. Each side is feeling like the other is attacking something so precious and important to their own well-being, and refusing to give any at all.

My hope is that by engaging in this conversation, we all can at least understand what the other side is talking about. My hope is also that no one has to give anything up to find a solution. Christians, I want you to know that I value your moral structure – I don't want to force anything on you. I treasure your right to live as most befits your faith. I see your personal integrity and your sincere efforts to love all the world, and I cherish that. I believe your prayers add to the peace of the world. I don't want you to give up anything, I don't want you to lose anything; I want you to live free in the integrity of your faith.

But I also don't want to give up anything. I want to live free, too.

Maybe there is a way that can happen. If I'm right, and we are talking about different things, maybe we can find a way to all understand what the other side's concerns and needs are. I believe that if we can figure that out, a solution that meets the needs of everyone will arise, perhaps far more easily than any one of us imagines.

I'd like to tell a few brief stories to illustrate what marriage equality, or 'gay marriage,' means to me.

The first is about a friend of mine who lives in California. Twelve years ago she married her wife/partner in, I believe, a church ceremony. Together, the two women had a child, and raised him to be a very connected young man. Recently, on their twelfth anniversary, they married again, this time in a civil ceremony, thanks to the action of the California Supreme Court. My friend has mixed feelings about getting married again, after so long together, but she now enjoys the legal recognition of the state.

The second is my own story. I met Kristin 18 years ago, and married her at a winery the next year. My uncle, an Episcopalian minister, officiated. We embarked on life together, and eventually had two children. As life progressed, however, and I got older, the problems I'd been hiding for so long continued to grow until I could no longer hide them. Sixteen years after our marriage, I told her that I had misrepresented my vows, and broke them. I began to live as a woman, and to transform my body as much as possible to conform to the person I've always felt I was inside. I changed the gender marker on my driver's license, and am now, legally, a woman. But Kristin is straight, and our relationship changed. We are no longer married, and live as sisters, roommates, co-parents. We are, in every sense of the word but one, divorced.

That one is that we are still married in the eyes of the state. Even though Oregon has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, we are a legally married, same-sex couple, as recognized by the State of Oregon. We are not even separated, as we still live in the same house. We own our property and our children in common. If we were not married, I could not claim Kristin as a family member on my health insurance plan, and there is no way we could ever pay for a policy for her without it. She would be forced to live without health care coverage through no fault of her own, while I, who put her in that position, would still be covered.

The last is about a friend who is German. A couple of years ago she got married, and we crossed the ocean to celebrate with her. We were a little confused at first – she was having two ceremonies. The first was a wedding at a state building (courthouse), where they stood before a bureaucrat, signed a contract, and made promises to each other. I don't think the bureaucrat was the equivalent of a county clerk – she might have been a judge. I don't speak the language, so I just watched. People were dressed formally, but just in suits and dresses. A couple of days later, she put on a beautiful wedding gown, and went to the church. There, before a much bigger crowd, kneeling at the altar of God, they spoke sacred vows in the presence of a priest.

Can you imagine what we could do together with all the money and energy we are now spending on getting our own way on this issue? Can you imagine everyone getting their needs met around it? Everyone "winning," and the whole world winning as we re-route our resources to alleviate the pain of others, or even just keep it and enjoy it ourselves?

Christians especially, I'd love it if you'd be willing to leave a comment telling me how you feel reading this, and if you are feeling heard by me – whether or not you think I understand what your needs are regarding marriage equality and protection of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman?

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Interpretation

Christians,

When I see your strenuous objections to allowing gays and lesbians to marry, I think that you hold the sanctity of marriage to lie with the document signed in front of the county clerk, and not with the vows spoken between man and wife in the presence of clergy, family, and community. After all, lesbians and gays are currently getting married in churches left and right, and I haven't heard you object to that, or take a stand that that should be made illegal. So the sacred, holy aspect of marriage lies in whether the state – the secular government – recognizes it as valid. Am I correct in this understanding?

An Apology

I would like to apologize to Christians everywhere – all of you, not just the conservative ones I've been having this conversation with – for calling Paul an "arrogant jerk" and a liar. I feel sad that I did this, and regret it, because it did not meet my own need for respecting you, or connection, and not even for my own integrity. I have no right to so arrogantly dis someone that you hold in such high regard, and I'm sorry. I could have respectfully disagreed with some of what he said, and I will revise my post "Thoughts on God and Sex" to reflect this.

Besides, Paul wrote some really beautiful stuff that was spot on, like I Corinthians 13, which, besides being spot on, is remarkable in its beauty. He certainly deserves respect for that.

I was wrong. I apologize.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Could We Start Again, Please?

I've been living to see you,

Dying to see you but it shouldn't be like this.

This was unexpected,

What do I do now?

Could we start again, please?

  ~Jesus Christ Superstar


 

Hey, Christians!

Thank you for the conversation, and your patience with me. You didn't ask for it this. I stuck my nose right into your business, and you've responded wonderfully, with warmth and love (for the most part) and a whole lot of "gospel." If you'd be willing to be patient awhile more, I'd appreciate it.

Could we start again, please?

Okay, this part is in response to David's last post in reply to "Thoughts on God and Sex:" (I don't know how you "start again" with a response, but I guess with God all things are possible.)


 

So, David, if I'm hearing you right, when I ask to be allowed to marry someone of the same sex as I am, you feel worried and/or anxious. You've got a need for safety that isn't met, fearing that if I marry someone of the same sex, you won't be safe within this larger community of the United States of America, and your closer, personal community won't be safe, either. Need for community not met in that concern. Is that correct?

Also, when I read your comment on salt, I'm guessing that you feel sad, or confused by these people who want to change the way things have been, because you really value the sacredness of marriage and the long tradition that has held it as being between male and female. You've got a need for sanctity or sacredness that isn't met. Am I correct in that?

I'm wondering also if you feel a bit frustrated, because you have needs for choice and for control of your own environment and social structure that aren't met. Am I correct in that?


 

It may be rushing things to go straight from empathy to expression, but I think I'd like to try it.

When you compare thievery to getting married as two things that are equal both morally and in how they hurt others, I feel confused and puzzled. My needs for clarity and understanding aren't met. It's quite clear to me how, if someone steals from me, my life has been affected; I've been hurt. Likewise, if I steal from you, I see how you are hurt. What I don't see is how you are hurt if I marry another woman. Would you be willing to give me a specific example of how my marriage will hurt you?

(The reason I ask is that your example of a country that endorses homosexuality failing is vague to me. What about Greece? What about Rome? The two of them were among the greatest of the early civilizations, yet Greece lasted for hundreds of years, up to two thousand if you count the various city-states and periods. Rome lasted for over 600, and didn't fail until shortly after it adopted Christianity as the state religion. The Third Reich, on the other hand, institutionalized discrimination against homosexuals, even sending them to the gas chamber, and it only lasted about twelve years.)

When you say, "I feel that having God's laws be our laws helps preserve the country," I feel downright scared. I wonder, who gets to decide which laws are God's? I think of Afghanistan, where the Taliban ruled with God's laws; Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi royal family enforces God's laws; Iran, where the ayatollahs enforce God's laws; The Spanish Inquisition, where Christian leaders ruled with God's law. I think of my own Puritan ancestors who came here on the Mayflower to escape from God's laws, and yet set up a new rule of God's laws in Massachusetts Bay and ended up burning "witches." I have needs for safety, choice, autonomy, freedom, and sanctity that aren't met. I feel sad, with a deep, deep grief. David, I feel my emotions strongly triggered by reading this! I feel confused; I have needs for understanding and being understood that aren't met. My understanding of this country is that our Founding Fathers specifically wrote "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" as the very first right of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights because living free of God's laws that have been imposed by the state (others) is the most important right we have, even more important than freedom of speech. It allows each of us to live according to the dictates of our conscience – our own understanding of God – within the parameters of social equity and civility. It is the most basic cornerstone of our nation. Would you be willing to tell me, David, what you think that first clause of the Bill of Rights means, and whether it should be repealed?


 

I'd also like to reiterate Anne's point from "Not Quite Connecting," that for me, this issue is economic – it is about having equal access to the opportunities and protections provided by our system of laws, i.e., being able to file joint tax returns or pick up my kid from school.

Would you be willing to tell me what you heard me say with that comment?

Thank you all so much.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not Quite Connecting the Way I’d Like To…

It's been an interesting few days. And it's not over yet. However, I do have a few observations.

I have a long way to go to assimilate the principles of Nonviolent Communication into my life fully. I'm very grateful for one of the lessons I've learned in this conversation, which is that I still get triggered by preaching. Anyone else feel that way? In retrospect, I feel sad about the preaching I did. Did it connect with anyone in the way I'd hoped? I suspect not. The conservative Christians I'd hoped to reach appear to be offended by it, and I can understand that. And by using their language, I probably turned off the choir, too!

I don't think anyone has changed their mind, but hopefully a few people have a better understanding of what it means to be LGBTQ, and it won't hurt so bad when we win full marriage equality.

I'm very grateful for everyone's patience with me. I'm grateful for the conservative Christians who reached out and tried to connect and understand me. I'm very grateful for the many accepting Christian allies who welcome me into their homes and hearts. I hope this conversation didn't cause any pain or discomfort to you.

I'm grateful for the guy who refused to deal with me at work because I'm trans, because he showed me what beautiful, supportive, and loving people I work with. I'm so very grateful for every one of them.

And I'm grateful for this lesson: I'm sitting here with a heart full of love and gratitude for everyone, including all the conservative Christians who read my blog and disagreed with it. But I suspect those folks don't feel the love I have for them, not after some of the things I've said. I can feel my love, and benefit from it, and enjoy it, but can they? I suspect not; and so is it really love? Again, I suspect not. Love needs to be received to be successful, and the love I sent out was too thickly laced with anger, grief, and frustration to be fully received. Bittersweet.

Something to work on.

Like all things that really educate us, the test comes before the lesson. Now I've got a better understanding of how much I don't know, of how far I have to climb on the hill of enlightenment. I'm grateful for that, and I'm really grateful for the Peace Conference coming up.

My opportunity to learn.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thoughts on God and Sex [Revised]

There's an interesting distinction in my battered old King James that is replaced with the word 'homosexuality' in a lot of the newer translations. The word homosexuality wasn't even coined until something like the 1890's, so using it in a Bible translation seems the height of hubris. Anyway, in Romans 1:26-27, Paul says "…even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another…" Big-time condemnation of homosexuality and homosexuals, right?

But remember who Paul was speaking to. He was a Roman Jew living in an area that was saturated in Greek culture. Remember what a mentor was originally? He was an older Greek man who accepted a post-pubescent boy to be his apprentice, student, and paramour. Every man was expected to mentor somebody, and every boy expected to be mentored. Remember Sodom? Who wanted to have sex with Abram and Lot? That's right, it was every single man in town. (All the married ones, too.) It wasn't a few women shacking up together that earned Lesbos its reputation.

So who was Paul talking about? Read the whole chapter. It sounds a hell of a lot like a hell of a lot of people. Not just a few queers.

Was he condemning homosexuals? Or condemning people who had sex against their own nature?

Who hurt other people more – Barney Frank, the openly gay congressman from Massachusetts who enjoys a loving relationship with another man, or that pastor in Colorado, what was his name, Ted Haggard or something, who ripped his family and church apart with his relationship with a gay prostitute?

Homosexuality isn't a choice. Nobody in their right mind, in our culture, would make a choice like that, and invite all the hate, ridicule, discrimination, and physical danger of gay-bashing that comes with it. You're gay because that's who you are, and either God made you that way, or God got the hell out of the way and it was a random chance, or God doesn't exist, or God made a mistake. Oops. Sorry, Tom. I got these rules, see, but I just made you in a way that you can never obey them and be true to yourself at the same time. You don't obey them, and I'm gonna drop you into a fire and torture you forever. Tough life, dude, good luck.

It's tough to say with Paul [- at least, it is for me, because I disagree with a lot of what he said -] but I think he [had intentions of helping people live happier lives]. I'm guessing he was talking about heterosexuals. And that would imply that it's a sin for a homosexual to get married and have sex with a person of the opposite sex. That's right. I said that Paul's words imply that sometimes it's a sin to have heterosexual sex within the bonds of matrimony.

(I think that's why Republicans have so many problems holding their marriages sacred. At least when Democrats cheat, they cheat with people of the opposite sex.)

The question is, do we generalize Paul's condemnations in the first chapter of Romans to mean that the problem is sex outside of marriage and individual nature, or do we generalize it to mean that the problem is homosexual sex?

If it's the first, are we furthering the gospel by ensuring that between two or three percent of the population cannot have sex that is natural to them within the sanctity of marriage?

How do we decide which position Paul was taking? How do we gain the wisdom to make that choice? And what is our responsibility to do so, and sit in judgment over our fellow humans? Does Paul, or perhaps Jesus, offer any guidance?

Well, perhaps.

I turn my battered old Bible to Matthew 5:44, and read, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

I flip the page. It's made of rice paper, thin, delicate, and torn from many readings, so I turn it carefully, kind of holding the torn pieces together. And there I see Matthew 7:1-3: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?" I turn the pages again, to Matthew 22:21, where Jesus says, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"

(Y'all can have your new translations. I'll keep my old King James, with its beauty and poetry. And it smells good, too.)

Maybe we don't have to make that choice.

Maybe we don't have to take that responsibility unto ourselves.

Maybe we can withdraw from the argument, and let God do the judging.

But wouldn't that mean we'd have to let people decide for themselves who they thought it was natural to marry? Wouldn't that mean changing the laws to admit the whole range of gender and sex into the legal institution of marriage? Men with men, women with women, transpeople with whoever?

Wouldn't that destroy our society?

Um… well – what does it change, on a practical level? Those folks are getting married in their own churches already. They're giving birth, adopting, raising kids, and doing it with legal hurtles we don't have to deal with. But they're making it work. They're signing contracts and living wills that ensure they own their children and that they'll be with their partners in medical emergencies. They're planning ahead and enriching lawyers left and right. They're facing life with courage and passion, and yes, love.

What is our responsibility to our fellow humans – and, for that matter, to the elect of God, our own congregations?

What does it mean to come out from the world, and be separate?

If our neighbors Tom and Andrew want to go down to the courthouse and sign a contract to love each other and raise their daughter together, we don't have to officiate at their wedding, do we?

No.

We don't have to welcome them into our pews, do we?

No.

We don't have to say we agree with them, do we?

No.

We don't have to compromise our faith in any way, do we?

No.

The legal contract that they sign in front of the county clerk doesn't equate in any way with sacred vows spoken at the holy altar of God, does it?

No. That contract is sealed with the "image and superscription" of Caesar (or, at least, the state).

We can, however, stand out in front of the courthouse, and show 'em Romans 1:26-27, and explain that we're really worried that they're making a big mistake, and all those bad things Paul threatens are going to happen to them, and tell them how much we love them and how badly we'll miss them if they don't make it into heaven with us. That's what we'd do if we really loved them, like Jesus says we should, right?

But if we really loved them, would we stop them from passing by and making that mistake? Would we raise a gun, and point it at them, and tell them we'll shoot if they pass through those courthouse doors? Would we join arms together and form a human chain that would block them, and use our greater numbers to prevent them from acting on their own conscience?

Because that's what you're doing.

What would Jesus do?

Monday, August 25, 2008

When Kids Ask…

Saturday, and Kristin's away at the coast for the weekend. I've got the kids to myself.

A friend comes over. "Maddy, can we light a fire? Felix wants to do some blacksmithing." "Um… well… okay. Gather up some wood, and I'll come light it when you're ready."

Gather pliers, vice grips, a couple of hammers and an old piece of rebar. Cut up the old bench that broke last summer. A twist of newspaper, pile twigs on top – make sure they're dry. The sun's shining. "Let's start it with a magnifying glass."

Bright spot of light, curl of smoke, blow, gently, gently… More smoke, then flame – less than two minutes! "Don't ever let me catch you doing this unsupervised!" "Of course not. Can we have marshmallows?"

Sunday. "Maddy, can we light a fire?" "Um, I don't know. Let me think about it while I finish up here." "No! I want a yes or no answer now!" "Okay. No." "I'll let you think about it…"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Courage

I've been thinking about courage lately. It's one of those virtues I've held in high regard for my entire life, perhaps because I spent so much of that life without it. Also thinking about transition, and all that that means and is – a chaos of thoughts and experiences: Sitting on a gender dysphoria panel talking about my life, and one of the audience says, "The two of you have more courage than everyone else in the room put together." Walking up to one of the most awkward and obvious transwomen I've ever seen, prior to my transition, and she said, "It's not courage. I'm just doing what I have to do." Coming out to my sister, and she turned to my brother and said, "I never knew we had a limp wrist in our family." My friend Devin downplaying her own courage after someone complimented her on the way she faces life and surgery.

It's actually a common theme among transpeople, that people say we're courageous, and we reply with something like, "Nah. It's not courage. You just do what you have to do." I certainly feel like that, most of the time. You just reach a point where you're so tired of hiding who you are, of lying to everyone, of loneliness, you just don't care anymore. The truth is better than a lie, no matter how badly the truth hurts. And you rip the mask off your face, stomp it into the gutter, and go out into the world with your self laid bare.

It's not courage that enables us to strip off the mask. That's exhaustion.

But it is courage to show who you are to a world that judges you and hates you because of who you are.

It's the courage of the Muslim woman who dons her head scarf to walk down an American sidewalk.

It's the courage of the black man who walks through the doors of a Fortune 500 company to ask for a job.

It's the courage of a gay couple holding hands in public.

It's the courage to raise your head up in the face of a life that's kicked you around, and living that life – and not only living it but embracing it with your whole heart.

It's not unique, and it's not really all that special. It's everywhere you look – it hides in every human heart – yet too often it's hidden away in a life not fully lived.

When you get right down to it, though – it is very special indeed. And when you're a transwoman, every time you step into the public eye you make a statement of courage. It gets to be such a habit, you don't even notice. It's just life, normal, boring, and taken for granted.

I don't want to take it for granted. I want to cherish it, value it, hold it close and raise it high like a candle lit on top of a hill, for all the world to see. Not to show you I'm special and have something you don't have.

No, I want to hold it up so that you can see what it is, and know that you have it, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Connecting with Christians II

Something happened this morning that totally changed my day. I sat down to write a letter to my sister, and checked my blog first. AJ left a comment, so I visited her blog, and then for some reason followed a link to a blog called "Stuff Christians Like." I was immediately interested by his posting on "Christian hate mail" – those of you who've read my blog for some time know about some of the issues I've had with christians. Link followed link, and, three hours later, I ended up adding three Christian links to my blogroll and posting this.

Interesting to note that two of the three used the same template for their blogs that I used for mine.

I don't know whether this is what I've been hoping for, or not. I've felt so helpless and frustrated about finding a way to connect with Christians in the past, and so hurt and threatened by their vitriol. These three give me hope.

Perhaps it is possible to connect with Christians. Perhaps it is possible to speak back and forth with them with respect and love, even find some common ground. Perhaps it's possible to disagree in peace and love and freedom, and not in fear, anger, oppression and persecution.

I hope so.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Passing

It's been a bit of a shock to notice lately that I'm passing more than not. I never actually expected that this would happen, though of course I hoped for it. Not that my being trans is any big secret, it just makes social interactions more comfortable to be seen as fully woman. Even in a sampling of eight responses to phone bids for insulation, about two-thirds recognized me as female simply from my voice. And while scheduling my first mammogram, the questions indicated that the receptionist thought I was a genetic woman, until digging into the records turned up a duplicate ID number – at which point she grew very quiet for a few moments, then carried on as if nothing had happened. (It's worth noting here the very genuine sadness I felt that my past is following me around, even as I knew and expected it would.)

Of course, it's also possible that people are recognizing me as trans, and simply reacting at face value to my presentation. In other words, I'm getting clocked, but nobody cares.

Which could be even better than passing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hope

It seems strange to think of a radical surgical change to a perfectly healthy body with hope. Yet that is my current attitude.

SRS, or GCS, as it is sometimes called, costs between $15,000 and $20,000 – and usually, it isn't covered by health insurance. It's not covered in my plan. And that doesn't count travel and other costs involved.

I have nothing saved – not a cent. It doesn't matter. Hope rises so optimistically in my heart that I am seeking out surgeons and the letters that they require prior to sharpening their scalpels and inverting those "willies," as my friend Devin puts it. That's because I have so many friends and supporters, and I also have resources that I believe will come into play.

Besides, when you commit completely to a course of action, the universe steps in to help. Just look at what happened when Julius Caesar landed on Britain and then burned all his boats.

Lemme see … where're those matches?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Surgery and the DSM-IV

I went on the HRC website the other day, and found that 78 companies now offer comprehensive health care for transpeople. San Francisco does, too. By comprehensive, I mean that they offer at least some benefit for SRS/GCS. That's pretty remarkable in itself, but what I found especially remarkable is the impact that this benefit had on San Francisco.

In 2001, San Fran projected they'd have to deal with 35 operations a year, so they started charging their employees $1.70/month. Three years later, with over $4 million saved and only $156,000 spent, they lowered the surcharge to $1.16/month. That was still too much, so in 2006 they dropped the surcharge altogether.

"In other words, transgender people were not flocking to work for the city, and the cost of covering transgender employees' health needs was relatively inexpensive, compared to other health needs of San Francisco employees. Employees of the City and County of San Francisco and those employees' dependents may now access transgender specific treatments without the need for any plan members to pay any additional premiums, as they did the first few years the program was available."

So what's the big stink? Why don't more employers – especially major ones, like city, county, or state governments – offer those benefits?

I strongly suspect that coverage for birth defects, such as intersexed conditions, will be covered under these plans. Why not when gender dysphoria rears its ugly head?

Is it just because the DSM-IV still lists gender dysphoria as a mental illness called Gender Identity Disorder (GID) – even though the folks who write the DSM have never been able to cure anyone, and the only treatment they recommend is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and surgery?

Truly ironic, that the mental health professionals recommend medical treatment for something they call a mental disorder.

But I've already written about that.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

The County Fair

Thursday, and the sun beating down. The kids and I hop on the SUB (sport utility bicycle) and ride across town to the fair.

Long lines to the ticket booths. Twenty-two dollars buys a paper bracelet and unlimited rides in the carnival. "We want to do this ride by ourselves, Maddy. You stay right here!" "I think I'll go over there, in the shade." "Okay."

Two boys, buckled in. The Flying Tiger. The Tiger Express. A roller coaster, of sorts. Big smiles, and squeals of fright and laughter. "That was fun!" "Are you hungry?" "No, let's ride that one next!"

Growing hunger, and, at last, a rest. Cotton candy, corn dogs, and snow cones, sitting on the grass in the shade of a tent. Trin snuggles onto my lap.

Skin growing hot, turning red. Slather on the sunscreen, climb onto the ferris wheel. The three of us, high above the crowds. The slingshot casts a few people even higher, flinging them from the ground to 100 feet high in a second. "No way I'm going on that one!"

Swedish pastries. The prayer booth. "Want to take the test to see if you're going to heaven? Just two questions!"

Nah. It's not that hard to tell. Who needs a test?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Anniversary & Faith

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that I legally changed my name and began the adventure of my RLT. Judging from the progressive improvement in my quality of life, self-esteem, career opportunities, the richness of dear friends new and old, and the growing peace in my heart, I've passed with flying colors.

And on this day, driven by my need for unity and intense desire to live life as fully as possible, I have begun to research SRS. (Actually, I started a couple weeks ago, but who's counting?) Who is most likely to do a bang up job, what to do before-hand, and so on. Where do I go? Thailand? Montreal? Doylestown, Pennsylvania? Trinidad, Colorado? If you get what you pay for, this is not something you want cheap. On the other hand, how on earth can you save up $20,000, especially when you're paying down the credit card two figures at a time and the mortgage not at all?

The evidence all indicates that the task I've set before me is impossible. At the current rate, by the time I save enough, I'll be too old for it to matter, too old for the operation, too old to walk.

Something has to change, and it will, though I'm damned if I know how.

Sometimes you have to go by faith.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pride Day

Last Saturday was Pride Day, when LGBTQ folks celebrate the beginning of our civil rights movement, the Stonewall Riot in New York City back in '69. That's when transwomen including Sylvia Rivera started to fight back against police brutality against gay and trans people in New York. That's right, folks. The courageous person who kicked off the movement to gain equality for gays and lesbians was a transwoman.

We've come a long way. Mayor Kitty read a proclamation in celebration, and the city had at least two booths set up, one for the Human Rights Commission, and one for the police. And the police weren't there to keep order or anything, they were there for PR! They handed out jr. police badges to the kids.

The Pride festival was set up as a rough rectangle of booths and vendors, selling everything from food to insurance to cosmetics, and promoting causes from Planned Parenthood to the HIV Alliance to the Corvallis Pride, an all-women's football team. One side of the rectangle was dominated by a stage, where various entertainers performed – folk musicians, drag queens, an all-woman rock band that was really good, etc. There were games for kids and a "ropes course" for youth. There were babes in arms and people in wheelchairs.

And for the first year in its 13 year history, protestors didn't show up.

I was curious about that. Maybe it was the photos the drag queens took with them last year. Maybe they couldn't find anybody with a free Saturday. Or maybe they just couldn't be bothered.

In any case, they typically show up with big, full-color, graphic posters of botched abortions. At a celebration of gays and lesbians. Can you imagine anyone less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy?

Maybe it finally occurred to them just how silly that is.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dreams

I used have a dream that recurred with ferocious regularity. In it I encountered a man who stood watching me, aloof and impassive, and very, very scary. In the dream I knew that this man threatened my existence, and at the beginning I would often think he was armed. He made no move toward me, yet I knew he would kill me if I didn't defend myself. I would attack him, viciously, with whatever was at hand – knives, guns, clubs, my fists. Whatever weapon I used, he absorbed my terrified violence without flinching, without backing up one inch nor raising one hand to deliver or ward off a blow. Bullets went through him, and did no damage; knives, fists, nothing harmed him in the least, nor even brought a change of expression. He stood still under the onslaught of my defense, watching me impassively, and I would realize his hands were empty. Desperate, I would continue to attack – even as the utter uselessness of my violence exploded into despair and hopelessness and wonder that any man could be so threatening while lifting not one finger to harm me.

It took years, and lots of therapy, to realize that the man was myself.

Last night I dreamed again. A woman sat nearby, aloof and impassive, yet warm, and very welcome. I wanted to impress her. I wanted her to like me. I went the stereo, which had BeBop Deluxe on it – a new CD, one I knew I loved, but not one of those I own. The haunting melody of "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" played in my head. It is perhaps the most beautiful guitar riff I have ever heard. I went to play it for her; I was sure she would love it. I started searching through the songs with growing desperation, unable to find it yet sure it was on the CD. I wanted so badly for her to stay.

I was afraid she'd leave.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Body

A poem from those dark days before transition began…


This body is not mine.

The name it was born with fits like the iron mask

of the Inquisition.


This body is not home.

All I've lived in and it's still strange, with unfamiliar art on the walls

and dirty dishes that never graced my table.


This body is not comfortable.

I itch with passions like nettles,

scattered, a realm ruled by a stranger.


This body is not mine.

I don't know who looks at me in the mirror. A man

who came from my mother's Womb

and stole my place in her heart.


This body stole my friends and lovers,

stole my clothes and dreams

and I go with it, without home.


by Seda


Hey, I never said it was good. The point is, my body is not me, and it has nothing at all to do with me – except it's the vessel that carries me around, my interface with the world. Like Mac OS running on a PC. The software doesn't function with this particular hardware.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Whoooo Are You?

What defines who you are? Is it your mind, or your body – or some combination of them both? Or is it society – how the people around you perceive you to be? How do you know? Is it inside you, or do you look to an outside authority, like science, or psychology, or the Bible, or your friends and the clerk at the grocery store?

The Bible says, "God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." What does that mean? Is god male and female both, like a transperson? Are humans all created as both men and women, some combination so that there is no such thing as "all man" or "all woman," but each human a unique mixture of both? Or that everyone is split into two discrete identities of sex, and the matching gender to go with it?

We've all got at least one X chromosome.

Are you defined by society? Do the people on the street see the real you? What if one person thinks you're beautiful, another thinks you're ugly. What if everyone thinks you're ugly. Does it make you so?

I don't think so. Society sees only the physical presence. It knows nothing of the real person behind the body's mask.

My friend B__ thinks mind and body can't be separated. "Mind and body are one and the same." By that logic, am I not defined as both man and woman? Nobody can see it, but I know with absolute conviction that my mind is female. I am female. My body? It's obvious to everyone that my body is more or less male, and certainly my genetic makeup is male.

But my body is changing. I'm growing breasts, losing body hair, my skin is growing softer, fat is moving from my stomach to my butt and thighs, and, I suppose, the back of my arms. Does who I am change when my body changes? When my testicles are cut off and my penis inverted? When hormones and surgery change my body so irrevocably that even my gynecologist can't tell whether I was born male or female?

How then can I – the core I, my own deepest identity and truth – be both male and female?

Having lived over 40 years fighting a dichotomy of sex and gender, I cannot agree with B__. My self, my soul, my being, resides in something that cannot be seen. It is that part of me that is alive, and so is completely immaterial, ephemeral, and probably immortal. When I die, my body will remain, unchanged except for the lack of action within it. Yet it will not be me; I will be gone.

My body does not define who I am; it plays little or no part in that definition.

It does, however, define a great deal of my experience, and it defines how others see me.

That is the crux of the transperson's dilemma. It is telling, and it is tragic. Because B__ is not alone. People – especially men – see me, and they see male. They do not see me, and so they do not respond to me as they would if they saw my soul. Men want me because I'm male – or they don't want me because I'm male. Those who would rape a woman's body would kill mine. But who wants to take me tenderly for the woman I am?

Because, no matter what my genetic makeup, no matter what my body morphology – I am a woman.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ouch

How do you blog with a sore back? How do you do anything?

Walking is a chore. Turning over a struggle.

Such a small thing, too. Just pulled the hoses across the yard, my back twisted just right…

Time to help send my chiropractor's kids to college again…

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gifts

There have been difficulties and wrinkles, of course. I haven't been able to complete all the tasks I would like to have completed, in particular a project for a friend and more blog posts. Several happily anticipated social events have been canceled or rescheduled. Today I suffered a migraine for a few hours, and Kristin has a cold. Yet this week has been a wonder, of sorts.

Part of it is a sense that I am passing. Strangers treat me more and more frequently to "ma'am" or "she" or, speaking to their children, "Say ___ to the lady." (A mixed blessing, that. I'd rather the child's response be genuine, and I'd like to see her enjoying autonomy, yet I also enjoy the treatment of me and understand the parents' concern to guide their child in the social graces.)

Part of it is a sense of my own developing social grace, and the warmth of friendship coming at me from many angles. A delicious email from my niece. I am loved, and my own love is richly received.

And it was fun to win the table topics at my Toastmasters club – for the first time!

But I think perhaps most of all, it is the epiphany, or intuition, or realization I had in an empathy session with a dear friend: I am fully woman as I am, no matter what my body reflects. I don't have to change anything, and that will always still be true. For a moment, I could love and accept my body. I got beyond the sense of being defined by my body, and that sense lingers on.

I sat with it, with gratitude filling my heart.

The gratitude, the joy, lingers on as well.

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