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.

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