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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some of My Heroes

  • Gandhi
  • Julia Butterfly Hill
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Marshall Rosenberg
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Mary Baker Eddy
  • Sylvia Rivera
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Kristin
  • Bonnie Tinker
  • Lynn Conway

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Alchemists


Yesterday we extracted honey. Kristin and I took three boxes off the two beehives in our backyard, brought them into the house, and cranked the wood stove so that the honey would pour more easily. It's always a sticky mess, but joyful, too, with kids licking up every spill of the sweet stuff. The dog lay down with her head under a dripping honeycomb. Ick! Laughter and sweat and fingers sticking to everything.


As I carefully peeled the caps off a frame of golden honeycomb, it occurred to me who the real alchemists are. The bees. They make pure, liquid gold from air and earth and water, and oh! how beautiful is that gold! Far more so than the metal, and more useful. The wax and the propolis will go into Kristin's homemade salves and cosmetics. Other wax would make candles and furniture polish; other propolis would go into medicines and tonics. The honey itself will be a sweet treat, a flavoring, food, and medicine as well – we typically slather a little honey onto a bandaid to hasten the healing of a cut, and almost never use things like Neosporin. Honey works as well if not better, and it's sitting right there in the jar.

A Letter to the Next President

Somehow I found this website where you can write a letter to the next president. Here's mine:


You've inherited a mess, and I don't envy you the job of cleaning it up.

- You'll hear a lot about how we need to be strong, we need more money for the military. Yet our military spending already amounts to 1/2 of the entire world's military budget. You're going to need a lot more money to solve some of the problems the Bush Administration has caused. Please, do what you can to cut the military budget $300 billion or so. We'll still have the biggest, strongest, best trained military in the world.

- In the last eight years our nation has invaded another without cause. We have adopted torture as a means of dealing with our enemies. Most recently, we've been rushed to spend $700 billion bailing out extremely rich folks on Wall Street. All of the these are acts of cowardice unfit for a free people. Please, end the politics of fear.

- For almost 30 years we've cut taxes on the wealthy and deregulated the media and the market to allow a vast transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich. Please, end the Republican Reverse-Robin-Hood economic policy. Tax the rich, and break up media conglomerates. Ensure the freedom of the press by making it illegal for a corporation to own a media outlet, or for anyone to sit on the boards of both a media company and a non-media company.

- Our nation has been disgraced by the blatant violation of law by the current administration, including violations of international law, the Geneva Convention, and national law. Please restore the rule of law to our nation and our government. Obey the laws we have, and prosecute those who have violated them so blatantly, even though it means putting a former president and vice president on the dock.

Good luck, and best wishes.

Okay, I've blogged enough about politics for awhile. I'll try to get back on track with some entries that are more real in the near future.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rep. Peter Defazio Gets It

I wrote my congressman and both senators regarding the Bush Bailout, and already got a reply from Mr. Defazio, my congressman.

"Dear Ms. Collier:

Thank you for contacting me about the Bush Administration bailout. I am vehemently opposed to this bailout.

I was the first Member of Congress to take to the House floor and stand up in opposition to this $700 billion bailout. The financial crisis we face today does not need to be resolved by forking over $700 billion from the taxpayer to the "Masters of the Universe" on Wall Street.

The fundamental premise of the $700 billion Bush Administration bailout is flawed, reckless, and foolish. It is flawed because it is not clear it will achieve its stated objective of injecting commercial banks with liquidity and it ignores the needs of main street America, it is reckless because there are better alternatives, and it is foolish because giving away $700 billion will limit our ability to deal with the myriad of other problems we face such as healthcare, energy independence, and job creation.

To put the sheer audacity of this bailout plan in perspective, a compromise has been talked about that reduces the initial payments to "only $250 billion". $250 billion would more than double our investment in bridges, highways, transit, and rail in the United States for five years. Investing in infrastructure creates jobs and stimulates the economy. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, for every $1.25 billion we invest in infrastructure, we will create over 30,000 jobs and $6 billion in additional economic activity. In President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration, we invested in building roads, bridges, dams, hydroelectric systems and other public works projects to mend our nation's broken economy. That money trickled up to Wall Street from Main Street and rebuilt our economy. We did not just throw money at Wall Street with the hopes that the taxpayer might some day be paid back.

I think Congress should respond, but the basic premise of the Bush Administration bailout is flawed. Almost 200 economists wrote to Congress stating "As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson"[1]. The letter went on to raise the issues of fairness, ambiguity, and the long-term effects. The former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp in the Reagan Administration wrote, "I have doubts that the $700 billion bailout, if enacted, would work. Would banks really be willing to part with the loans, and would the government be able to sell them in the marketplace on terms that the taxpayers would find acceptable?"[2] And James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas, has asked "Now that all five big investment banks -- Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley -- have disappeared or morphed into regular banks, a question arises. Is this bailout still necessary?"[3] I believe the answer is No. I have called on my colleagues to slow down this debate and seriously debate the alternative proposals.
For example, many economists have argued that directly helping mortgage holders save their houses would be astronomically cheaper and a more effective in resolving this crisis. And helping working Americans restructure their homer mortgage will increase the value of Wall Street's depreciated assets. As the New York Time opinioned recently:

"We could make a strong moral argument that the government has a greater responsibility to help homeowners than it does to bail out Wall Street. But we don't have to. Basic economics argues for a robust plan to stanch foreclosures and thereby protect the taxpayers ."[4]

Another serious consequence is the $700 billion hole in the budget deficit this bailout will create. The next administration, Democratic or Republican, will be unable to initiate new proposals as it charts a new course for our nation. The Bush tax cuts blew the surplus created by the last Democratic Administration and the Bush Administration bailout will prevent the next administration from implementing its mandate.

My biggest concern of this bailout is who pays the $700 billion tab. The $700 billion is to protect Wall Street investors, therefore the same Wall Street investors should pay for this infusion of taxpayer money. I have proposed a minimal securities transfer tax of ? of one percent. A securities transfer tax would have a negligible impact on the average investor and provide a disincentive to high volume, speculative short-term traders. Similar tax proposals have been supported by many esteemed economists such as Larry Summers, John Maynard Keynes and Nobel prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and James Tobin.

There is considerable precedent for this. The United States had a similar tax from 1914 to 1966. The Revenue Act of 1914 levied a 0.2% tax on all sales or transfers of stock. In 1932, Congress more than doubled the tax to help finance economic reconstruction programs during the Great Depression. In 1987, Speaker of the House Jim Wright offered his support for a financial transaction tax. And today the UK has a modest financial transaction tax of 0.5 percent. This is a reasonable approach to protecting taxpayers and ensuring the federal budget doesn't fall further into the fiscal hole.

I will continue to challenge this bailout every step of the way. Again, thanks for reaching out to me. Please keep in touch.


[1]
http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/john.cochrane/research/Papers/mortgage_protest.htm
[2]
Washington Post. A Better Way to Aid Banks. William M. Isaac. Sept 27, 2008. A19.
[3]
Washington Post. A Bailout We Don't Need. James K. Galbraith. Sept. 25, 2008. A19
[4]
New York Times. Editorial. What About the Rest of Us? Sept., 26, 2008. A26.

Sincerely, Rep. Peter DeFazio
Fourth District, OREGON "

It's pretty cool having Peter representing me in Washington. He's one of the few who voted against the invasion of Iraq right from the start. He's got the guts to stand up to the Bush administration, and he's been doing just that for years. The only downside is, I don't get to vote to throw the bum out.

You bet Peter's got my vote - again.

"How I Feel...

...on a Day-to-Day Basis"

This one from The Angry Black Man cracked me up, so I just had to link to it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Steinbeck Lives!

I know, John Steinbeck's been gone from us for awhile. However, his words live on – once again current as when his ink was still wet on the page. I can't resist linking to my friend Terri's blog here, because she puts it right on the money.

I, too, pity the rich. Sure they live in luxury, but it is a luxury that is a poverty of the heart, and slavery to 'stuff' at the same time. Wealth is a golden cage, and I'd rather be free.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In a Nutshell

Wild speculation in an unregulated market driven by Republican ideology in the 1920's leads to a stock market crash and the Great Depression.

The Republicans are given the boot in the 1932 election, and Franklin D. Roosevelt presides over regulation that goes a long way to controlling speculation.

Ronald Reagan wins by a landslide in 1980, and promptly begins deregulating, talking about how this will help the middle class. A technology boom begins at about the same time, disguising the fact that the deregulation benefits only the top 10%, the financial elite. He also aborts Carter's baby attempts to begin a transition from fossil to renewable fuels, enabled by cheap oil from Saudi Arabia and mortgaging our future to an alliance with the Saudi royal family.

Subsequent presidents continue the Republican policy of deregulation, setting off another wild speculation surge that raises home prices astronomically. Speculators and bank CEO's make out like bandits, and the middle class goes pitifully deep into debt, i.e., gets screwed.

The natural result of unregulated speculation (previously seen in 1929) occurs simultaneously with Saudi peak oil, while the nation is still suckered by a media entirely controlled by multinational corporate interests, Republican economic policy, and George W. Bush's politics of fear.

I give credit to the Bush administration for realizing instantly that something needs to be done. Hoover sat on his hands for over two years, allowing the last banking crisis to balloon into the Great Depression.

But his plan stinks. It amounts to a direct transfer of wealth from the middle class to the uber-wealthy, while simultaneously guaranteeing a complete lack of oversight and accountability.

Any solution to this financial crisis needs to strictly regulate speculation.

It needs to bail out the homeowner and the middle class, not the uber-wealthy.

It needs to identify where the money is coming from, and pay for it – preferably through cutting defense spending by $300 billion and taxing the wealthy who've enjoyed all the benefits of this "boom" since Reagan took office – in other words, folks making over $250 K per year.

I hope the Republican base – evangelicals – look at this closely, and vote this year based on economic policy. Gay marriage and abortion are done deals, and the GOP won't change them because then their base would be limited to really rich folks. Believe me – if the two women next door get married, it won't affect you. If the woman on the other side gets an abortion, it won't hurt you. They're going to do it in any case, legal or not.

But if you let the GOP continue to make economic policy and deregulate, it will hurt you bad.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The 'Financial Crisis' in Plain English

Rachel says it better than I can:



Thanks, Sara

Socializing Risk, Privitizing Profit

I've only got a few minutes before walking the dog and getting ready for work, so I'll make this quick.

This $600 billion bailout of AIG and the financial industry is just the natural outcome of the Republican Reverse Robin Hood economic policy. It's the same stuff that we saw starting way back in the late '80's with the S&L bailout, when John McCain was one of the Keating Five, the corrupt and/or foolish senators who aided Keating in ripping off the American public. Since Reagan came into office the Republicans have been screaming, "deregulate, deregulate, privatize, privatize, free market," blah, blah. But when deregulation chickens come home to roost, it's "help! Bail us out! Quick! Don't stop to think about it, just give us all your money!" It's remarkably similar to the economic policies of the Republican administrations of the 'teens and '20's that so effectively set up the Great Depression.

It's funny how providing universal health insurance, which benefits everyone except the ultra-rich, is socialism, but giving 600 billion taxpayer dollars to reward greed, incompetence, and reckless speculation is just 'the free market at work.' The Republicans talk a great line about individual responsibility and fiscal responsibility, but their economic policies reward exactly the opposite, and ultimately rob the poor and the middle class to reward the richest of the rich. We have individuals in this country who control more wealth than the entire net worth of some small countries.

I don't mind socializing risk, if profit is socialized, too. Whatever works.

This system is not working.

I really hope that our legislators don't get into a big hurry to fix this and pass a bill before the election. My advice to them is, take your time. We don't need a financial version of the invasion of Iraq or PATRIOT Act.

The sad thing is, President Clinton, the one Democrat we've had since Carter, pushed the same reverse Robin Hood economic policy as the GOP. I just hope President Obama shows better sense, and models himself after someone like FDR instead.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Schroer Decision!

Way back in June, I blogged about Diane Schroer and the discrimination she experienced in trying to get a job. Well, a decision has finally been handed down, and the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia found in her favor. Very cool.

One thing I found interesting about the case was the statement below, taken from Dr. Weiss's blog post:

"Charlotte Preece, the decisonmaker, admitted that when she viewed the photographs of Schroer in traditionally feminine attire, with a feminine hairstyle and makeup, she saw a man in women's clothing. In conversations Preece had with colleagues at the Library after her lunch with Schroer, she repeatedly mentioned these photographs. Preece testified that her difficulty comprehending Schroer's decision to undergo a gender transition was heightened because she viewed David Schroer not just as a man, but, in light of her Special Forces background, as a particularly masculine kind of man. Preece's perception of David Schroer as especially masculine made it all the more difficult for her to visualize Diane Schroer as anyone other than a man in a dress. Preece admitted that she believed that others at CRS, as well as Members of Congress and their staffs, would not take Diane Schroer seriously
because they, too, would view her as a man in women's clothing."

I find this cultural assumption that your body defines who you are incredibly painful. It virtually makes me invisible. If you look at me and see a man in woman's clothing, you don't see me, you don't understand me, you don't believe in me. And that hurts.

I'm a woman in a man's body. That is very different. My clothing tells you that's who I am, as well as every other signifier I can come up with. Yeah, I know it's not perfect. It's like a big birthmark all over my face, or a hunchback. There's only so much I can change. And I'm very grateful that so many people see me for who I am, including one friend who didn't realize I could donate sperm for a possible pregnancy until she thought about it for a minute.

But I'm off the subject. I just want to take a minute to celebrate this landmark decision – another step forward for equal rights.


Dri’s Hoop Dance

I have some cool friends. Here's Dri doing her thing in front of the library, where she sometimes works as a barista.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Conundrum

I love this quote from Jan Morris's autobiography, Conundrum:

"I never did think that my own conundrum was a matter either of science or social convention. I thought it was a matter of the spirit, a kind of divine allegory, and that explanations of it were not very important anyway. What was important was the liberty of us all to live as we wished to live, to love however we wanted to love, and to know ourselves, however peculiar, disconcerting, or unclassifiable, at one with the gods and angels."

I think she really gets to the heart of our whole situation with this statement. Does it really matter whether being gay or transgendered is genetic or hormonal, or if it's just "sin?" What matters is that we live free, that we can define our own lives according to what seems most ethical and natural to us, whoever we may be. We don't live in science, we live in the mystery of our own minds, and though we live in community with connections to the people we love or live with, ultimately the only person you have to live with is yourself.

We are all alone with god.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Curiosity

So I'm going down the sidewalk, and a woman standing with two guys and a baby carriage smiles at me and says, "Hi!"

I smile back. "Hello."

"Two bucks to let us see up your skirt."

And I wonder:

Do genetic women have to deal with comments like this?

I'm guessing that they do, but what gives me pause with this comment is that it came from another woman – who was also wearing a skirt. Would she make that offer to someone she was sure was a genetic woman?

I kind of doubt it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hierarchies and Institutions

Look at what happened to Jesus. He gave his life teaching some really cool stuff, which boils down to unconditional love and nonviolent resistance to injustice. Then people start a church institution, and create a hierarchy of people who are authorized by their great education and expertise to interpret what Jesus said and did, and the next thing you know, you've got the Spanish Inquisition and the genocide of indigenous people around the globe, all in the name of Jesus. Mohammed – same thing. Even Mary Baker Eddy, with the care she made to create a democratic, non-hierarchical institution to protect her teaching, is effectively revered as a god by some Christian Scientists, her teaching skewed.

It seems to be pretty universal. Any time you create an institution to protect a precious teaching, a hierarchy is created to run the institution; the hierarchy separates those who have passed the written test and received the diploma from those who haven't, and the credential becomes more important than the teaching. The teaching is corrupted.

So maybe it's better to produce no institution at all, and to keep the teaching at the most accessible, equally available to all.

Besides, things like certification or ordination are based on fear – fear that the teaching will be corrupted if it is allowed to be taught by someone who hasn't had the "proper education." Yet if the teaching is true, it will always be there. It cannot be corrupted. If someone gets it wrong, it will show in their life.

When you don't have credentials, you stand on equal ground with your students. You have to prove your knowledge. If what you offer meets their needs, they will come to you.

Strength

I recently discovered I can no longer pull back the string on my compact bow. One of the side effects of estrogen is that you lose upper body muscle mass, and therefore strength, and the consequence of that is that I no longer have the physical strength to pull back a 75 pound force.

I guess it's time to sell the bow.

Ironically, since taking estrogen, I have become far stronger than I ever was when testosterone was ravaging my body and mind.

I am stronger because now I move in confidence and integrity. It is an inner strength that has grown so much. I know that I am capable of so much more than I have ever before committed, and that strength grows as I integrate deeper into my new role in life. My intention is no longer distracted by depression, despair, and shame. I have the strength of self love, and of deepening love for others and the world.

It is the difference between violent force and nonviolent force. Gandhi said that nonviolent force is the greatest force on our earth, Jesus demonstrated it, and I believe them.

God, I'm happy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Peace Conference: Day 4

The conference is winding down. Only the training with Marshall is left. We sleep in and have a fantastic breakfast of bacon and waffles with fresh, homemade compote made from fruit picked in our neighborhood. The training starts at noon, and we barely make it in time. We sit in the back, where there are tables and carpet and room to stand up, stretch, lie down, and so forth. Long before the six hour training is over, I'm very grateful for that choice.

Again, the material is mostly familiar. The best part is when people start objecting to how the training is going, it's format and the timing of breaks, and we get to watch Marshall live NVC in real time, trying to get the needs of a large group all met at once.

Early in the workshop, I have an important insight: I've been guilty of "guilting" my children – not by words, as my awareness of NVC has grown enough to see that. I guilt them by my expression and posture. I'm very grateful for this, as I know when I feel a certain way, that's what I'm doing; and now, aware of that, I hope I can make it clear to them that it's my stuff, not theirs.

Fortunately, they live with Kristin, and may well be immunized against such tactics anyway!

Throughout, I meet new people, make new contacts. A couple of my wonderful friends from when I was a Christian Scientist are there, and it is so good to see them and renew contact. Others are brand new, like Terri. Nevertheless, at the end, I'm glad to go home. I haven't seen much of the kids in the last four days, and my brain is full.

It's time to integrate.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Peace Conference: Day 3

Today has changed me.

Today I spoke with Bonnie Tinker, and learned her system of engaging controversy with nonviolence, called by an acronym LARA. I shook hands with Rev. C. T. Vivian, and Marshall Rosenberg. I was hugged by Julia Butterfly Hill, and witnessed her warmth, love, and charisma.

I cried tears of gratitude for these people who have come before me, who have made such profound change in our world.

Without them, the green movement would be a shadow of its might.

Without them, Mr. Obama would not be candidate for president.

Without them, my own transition would be a field of harassment and trauma, and not the beautiful, supportive experience it has been.

Without them, my relationships with my children and Kristin would be rife with alienation and pain.

I could not ask them for anything. I didn't even feel fit to kneel at their feet and ask for crumbs of wisdom. They have written books, and I have read their words. Their wisdom is not hidden, nor is their love. They have given enough. It is my turn.

Later, I'll blog on a few of the insights I've received over the last two days, but for now, I'd like to give something back. But I have nothing to give them. Nothing except – two words, from the very bottom and depth of my soul.

Thank you.

Peace Conference: Day 2

I didn't even get into the EMU – the conference center – yesterday. Just ping-ponged back and forth to workshops in the various classrooms.

The first was Kristin's. Here I've been living with her for 17 years, and ever since she started teaching NVC four or five years ago, and this is the first class of hers I've ever been to. It was cool. It was impressive to see her get into the heads of kids and parents she's never met and role play the conflicts between them. You could feel the shift, as the parent realized – wow! A solution to this problem that's been destroying my relationship with my kid. Granted, I didn't take much new stuff from it – I've had lots and lots of one-on-one instruction, and know her pretty much like the back of my hand, maybe better because even though the back of my hand goes everywhere with me, she's more interesting. It was still well worth it, and I did get some new stuff from it – which is the really amazing part.

Then I met Bonnie Tinker, lesbian activist extraordinaire and co-founder of Love Makes A Family, an organization dedicated to marriage equality.

I think I'll take her workshop on effecting social change today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Peace Conference: Day 1

The days starts chilly and dark, as I bike through the pre-dawn to the University. The early quiet gradually transitions to chaos, and by 9 a.m. I'm still staffing a registration table, no relief in sight, when I'm supposed to be entering the ballroom for Marshall Rosenberg's pre-conference workshop. They hold the workshop open for latecomers, though, and fifteen minutes later, I'm still on time. I meet Kristin outside, and we go in and sit in the back.

Marshall slumps on a stool onstage, the deep grooves in his cheeks and sunken mouth bearing witness to his age. He begins his talk, and it's soon clear I've heard most of it before. It's the same spiel I've listened to hundreds(!?) of times on his CD's. The talk is mostly question and answer. Marshall is sharp, and no matter what pain or judgment people throw at him, the answer is swift, the empathy and connection perfect. Though I've heard many of these stories before, I fill five pages with notes of things I want to take away from it. I'm moved to tears three times, to laughter many. Even if the material is mostly familiar, it's worth seeing Marshall in action. For some, the role play and empathy must be precious. One woman shifts from not caring if her mother lives or dies to renewed hope and love.

We return home early to make sure the boys get plenty of Maddy time and prepare for the action today, but they're busy playing with their friends and we don't spend much time together until supper. Even so, there's time for healing. Trin's borrowed a toy gun from the neighbor. Though partially broken, it still shoots, powered by a spring. He shows it to me, and I ask what he's using for bullets. "Wood chips." I heard the clunk as it hit the floor, though, and I know he's lying. I find the missile. A rock – a small piece of crushed gravel. I react with empathy, showing that I understand why he used it. "Were you scared that I'd be angry if I knew it was a rock, so you lied to protect yourself? You had a need for safety?" "Yes." Though potentially loaded, the interaction is brief, and healing. I make a request: "If you're feeling scared, would you be willing to tell me how you feel, instead of lying?" "Yes," he says. "I feel good," he says, and goes back to play.

The perfect way to remember 9/11.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What Response Do You Want?

One time today I went to the ladies' room at work, and a tall, rawboned woman stood at the lavatory cleaning herself. She looked homeless, and it was a bit of a shock for me to see her there, as the restrooms at work have coded door locks and are for employees and clients only. Uncomfortable, I scampered to a stall instead of greeting her cheerfully as I usually do when I see someone there.

"This is the women's, you know?" she said.

"Yes, I know," I replied from the stall. "That's why I'm here."

She passed by, grabbed her bags from the handicapped stall, and said, "If I see you in here again, I'm gonna get a summons on you." And she left.

It's not a big deal, but I felt a little uncomfortable, wondering what's going on with her. I was thinking about it on my way home when I saw my neighbor biking ahead of me. I sped up and caught her, and we chatted as we pedaled along. She asked me about my day, and I told her about this woman.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Seda," she said, sympathy in her voice.

I felt a little annoyed, mixed with gratitude for her support. "That's not the response I wanted," I thought, but I didn't really know what response I did want. Maybe I didn't want any. Maybe I just wanted to share.

We stopped in front of my house and chatted some more, until Kristin came out, late for her music lesson. I rushed in then, and didn't say much beyond the necessary kid-hand-off info-share until she sat for one last pee before leaving. Since she was immobilized, I told her about the woman, too.

She laughed.

It was perfect. I cracked up, too, and I knew that was the response I wanted!

“Unregulated chemicals …

… were discovered in some of the base drinking water systems in the early 1980's. At this time, the Marine Corps is funding health studies to determine … whether or not there may be an association between exposure to the water and certain health conditions."

That information came to me yesterday in a letter from the US Marine Corps, forwarded by the IRS since the Marines don't know where to find me anymore. The Marine Corps is "actively seeking individuals who resided or worked aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune." They want me to call them up and tell them all about my health history.

My first response to reading it was fury. I felt so angry to be part of a scientific experiment, without my knowledge or consent – and I couldn't help but wonder if it didn't impact my gender dysphoria.

Now, maybe I'm jumping to conclusions. Maybe it was accidental, or unintended, and there's nothing here but healthy concern for my well-being.

However, the United States government has a long history of using US citizens as guinea pigs in tests and experiments without consent or knowledge. Hanford. Gulf War Syndrome. The Tuskogee Experiment.

These "unregulated chemicals" were released on a Marine Corps base. Security is generally pretty tight in these locations, and I have a hard time believing that someone just came in and dumped some strange chemicals into the water, and nobody asked them what they were doing. The chemicals may have been "unregulated," but they were certainly known.

And if they were "discovered" in the early 1980's, why did it take them 25 years to notify me, or seek me out, and ask for my health information?

No. My Marine Corps colleagues and I were human guinea pigs in some chemical experiment, and now it's time to collect the data on long-term effects.

I'm not going to call them up and give them any.

At least, not willingly.

The letter ends: "We appreciate your support in helping us reach all former residents and employees as we want to ensure the widest dissemination of information to our Marine family." The cynicism drips off the page.

I felt a lot of anger at first, and some fear – what was in the water? How did it affect me? Those bastards! Etc.

Thank God for Kristin and her NVC magic. After the boys went to sleep, she came and we talked for awhile. I cried a bit, and got empathy and some other treatment she gives that gets to the bottom of feelings and needs. I unraveled the anger to find feelings of helplessness underneath, and she showed me how that anger empowers me by defying the helplessness. And I came out of it, once again, stronger than before.

I am not a victim. It doesn't matter what that experiment did to me, if indeed it did anything. I am in control of my own life, and I am coming into my own, with the power of nonviolence behind and in me. I'm making a difference in this world – a small difference perhaps, but it is there.

I'm grateful.

But I'm still not going to call the Marine Corps up and give them any data.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Observation Point(s)

A weekend camping out with the boys – too short, yet plenty long enough one-on-two with children. Trin walking new ground, his confidence and competence growing as he brought an entire 20' tree to camp by himself, then chopped pieces off of it for the fire with the hatchet.

This morning we packed up and headed for the ocean. A short hike, crossing the creek at the ford, then across the dunes to the beach. Perfect quiet, the surf shushing in, sky so blue you look just to enjoy the color, no one there but the gulls and vultures and plover – and us. I sat on top of a dune and looked out over the hazy ocean, watching the sun shine on the waves before they crest and curl into foam, while the boys played in the sand, running, jumping, rolling.

The energy of an eight-year-old child boggles my middle-aged mind.

I found a sand dollar on the beach, delicate and perfect, just a little bigger than a quarter.

Back at the parking lot, we grab cream cheese, tomato, and bread, and head for the observation point. From there you can only see the ocean way down the coast where the creek flows into it, but the view of dunes and creek and the hills beyond is spectacular. I make sandwiches while the boys scamper around and under the wooden observation deck, and we eat lunch in quiet companionship. Couples and families wander down to the end, glance at the view, and leave, scarcely taking the time to lift a camera. Do we scare them off, or are they really so unimpressed? There's no way to tell.

Back home, I spend a few minutes catching up with blogworld. I see that I've engaged five or six Christian bloggers in conversation, and have linked to three of their blogs. Not one has linked to mine. Hmmm….

I see also that one of my Christian friends has come out as gay. Her courage is a shining light.

She linked.

Kristin, as usual, has exceeded the limits of physical possibility. Her pickles are damn good, and the deck and picnic table both are freshly finished. When I talk with her, my stress leaks away. What is it that gives her such serenity? She didn't get it from me, yet she got it while I was with her.

A little sand dollar sits under my computer monitor as I write.

A link to peace.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gratitude

I'm so grateful for my friends and family. For the beautiful day, and the sun shining down. For the crescent moon as it bends to the dark horizon. For the love that beats in my heart.

I'm grateful for the challenge I've been given. Grateful for the food that graces my table. For my job, my co-workers, my life. I'm grateful for this blog, and for the connections made with people I will never meet, those who celebrate me, and those who disagree with everything I stand for.

I celebrate joy. I celebrate dawn. I celebrate the power of Twilight.

Be blessed, everyone.

What Constitutes a Marriage?

Anonymous asked for a definition of marriage, and, as it seems like a reasonable request, I'll give mine.

There are two aspects of marriage to consider. One is a sacred contract sealed between two or more people in the presence of family and their God. There is no legal aspect to this – it is simply a promise, made in the presence of God to seal it with holy sanctity. The details of who qualifies is determined by religious hierarchy. Some religions endorse polygamy, some define marriage as between one man and one woman, some endorse same-sex marriage. All of these religions can be found in the United States, and all of them currently practice marriage by their definition. In a free society, each religious tradition defines marriage as it sees fit; there is no obligation to treat different configurations equally, or even to recognize that they exist.

The other is a legal contract, made between two or more people in the presence of the state. It is an agreement on dispensation of property, ownership of children, and social organization. The role of a government of free people in regulating this contract is, first, to ensure that all parties are consenting adults – a consenting adult being someone who has reached the age where they fully understand the obligations, responsibilities, and consequences of joining into this contract, and who is entering into it of their own free will, without coercion. The second is to apply the law evenly to all citizens, which means that once assured that all members of the union are consenting adults, the state allows them to sign the paper joining their individual lives, and treats them henceforth as one unit within the bounds of the marriage contract.

Yes, that means I believe the state should allow same sex and multiple partner marriages, so long as all members are consenting adults. The state also has a duty to prevent marriages that include young people under the age of consent, people who are under pressure from family or church, and people who are incapable of understanding what they are doing. And yes, this is a very libertarian philosophy or definition, but that doesn't make me a libertarian. I just believe in freedom, responsibility, and conscience. I believe in the principles under which this country was created.

Note: I did not consult a dictionary in writing this. Anonymous asked my opinion. Here it is.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Brief Hiatus Coming Up

I have a lot on my plate in the next two weeks, and probably won't have anything except short comments on my blog until after the Peace Conference ends Sept. 14th. Please be patient, everybody. I'll try to get something on here every chance I get, but if I don't manage anything before the 15th...

I'll be back.

A Tranny’s First Mammogram

Last time I saw my doctor, she said my breast was a bit lumpy and I should get a mammogram to check it out. Following up, yesterday found me at urgent care getting my breasts squashed. After all, though it's true my breasts are babies, I'm running from 50 and it looks like it's still going to catch me in a couple of years. I'm not really the adolescent my hormones say I am.

The mammogram itself was easy. Follow directions; strip down to my waist, snuggle up to the x-ray machine, move the way the technician told me, hold breath.

Deciphering my feelings about it were – are – not.

It's the first time I've made myself so vulnerable in front of a total stranger who didn't know anything about my background, and that alone felt scary. The technician was cool and professional, though, and if she clocked me, she didn't indicate it. Nevertheless, it was a huge relief to be done and to cover up.

I also felt grateful that I could be in that position, as uncomfortable as it was.

Most of all, there is something very personal about breasts, and having a stranger handle them felt extremely vulnerable. Part of it was the impersonality of the touch on so intimate a part of me. I shut down somewhat, yet by the time it was over, I was almost shaking. It took a brief walk around the block to regain my equilibrium.

I'd like to get to the bottom of that reaction, but perhaps it doesn't matter. I did it, it's over, and so I've joined in a common experience, and it has become a part of me, just as I have become a part of something bigger, too.

That is enough.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Constitutional Aside

I've heard a lot of people say that this country is one where the majority rules. I don't think it's as simple as that. I believe that our Founding Parents wisely established a three-legged stool of government to balance the convictions of the majority with the needs of the minority.

In high school civics class, I was taught that the purpose of the legislative branch of government is to make laws, the executive branch to enforce them, and the judicial branch to interpret them. I think this is really their roles, not their purposes – what they do, not the intent behind what they do.

The real purpose of the legislative branch is to establish the will of the majority of our citizens.

And the purpose of the judicial branch is to protect the minority from tyranny by the majority. In other words, to make sure that any law passed by the majority impacts all people equally; and that the majority cannot make laws that violate the rights of the minority.

This system doesn't work perfectly – the judiciary is too easily swayed by majority opinion or personal conviction – but often it works pretty darn well. A good case is California, where the California Supreme Court made the correct call in requiring that the laws of marriage apply equally to all people. That is the purpose of the court, doing what it is meant to do, doing what it does best.

Discussion?

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