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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“I Love My Country…

… but I fear my government."

So reads a bumper sticker I've seen on a bunch of cars lately, from trucks with matching pro-gun stickers, to beat-up VW vans with Grateful Dead decals.


I love my country, AND I REFUSE to fear my government.

I have made plain my disgust and dissent from the direction our federal government is going multiple times in recent years, in writing letters-to-the-editor to my local newspaper and national news magazines, and in the archives of this blog. I will continue to do so in the future. What I will not do is hide in fear, or remain silent about things that matter. Life is too short, and too beautiful; Love is too powerful; freedom is too precious.

When I attended the University of Oregon, I had an opportunity to take a class on the Soviet Union under Andrei Sinyavsky. I made sure to fit it into my schedule. Sinyavsky was an old man then; it was only a year before he died. He didn't speak English. A team of Russian immigrants translated for him, sitting on either side and towering over him, a tiny old man with a white beard – who yet towered over us all. I never missed a single class session, and when I had the chance I shook his hand and gave him my respect. Since I'd already filled elective requirements, the class did nothing for my degree; it did a lot for my education.

Sinyavsky knew what it meant to fear his government. He spent six years in the Soviet Gulag for criticizing the government in writing published under the pen name Abram Tertz. That writing, and his trial, gave birth to the modern Soviet dissident movement, which led to the collapse of that regime – which he lived to see. I will never forget his presence, nor his example.

Compared to that, we live in radical freedom, with a government that is simply benign – even if it is foolishly driving over a financial cliff, and even though black men often have to fear the government that will harrass them for such "crimes" as running while black, driving while black, and so on. As for our state, county, and municipal governments, they provide so many valuable services that I treasure them. I have no patience for people who make a big show about fearing our government as if it were a fearsome totalitarian state. Its problems are legion, but that's not one of them - at least not yet. We are incredibly lucky to live in this country, sharing in a legacy of liberty and boundless creativity.

Regardless of the overwhelming power that multinational corporations appear to have over our government, our government operates with our consent. It is us. There is no us vs. the government; we are the government. That is part of living in a democracy, even a broken one like ours. If we feel disempowered, then perhaps we should look deep inside ourselves, and determine what matters. Because no one can take away our power without our consent.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Like People

About a year ago, our jurisdiction let a team of coworkers develop a new program, called Express Permits, which allows customers to bring small projects on the mornings of certain days for review over-the-counter. The idea is, someone can show up in the morning and walk out the same day with their building permit in hand. It's very popular.

Yesterday I was the plans reviewer reviewing plans, and I got three of these applications. The first was a middle-aged white homeowner with whom I'd worked several times at the counter, helping him get what he needed to apply for permit. The plans were familiar, and it was probably the fastest review I've ever done – I'd already confirmed most of the information I needed. The second was a black mom and business owner, with plans drawn freehand on 8.5x11 paper, some of which had been taped together to make bigger sheets prior to copying. I enjoyed chatting with her about kids and stuff when I wasn't focused. The third was a design-build contractor we see regularly, with beautiful plans skillfully drawn by hand. I enjoyed working with them, helping them, and making their experience a pleasant one – after all, encounters with bureaucrats don't always make people's top-ten list of amusing activities. At the end of each review, as I walked back to my desk, codebook in hand, I felt a little high. And I realized something.

I like people.

That may not sound like much, but it wasn't always that way. Five years ago, it would have been torture for me to perform my job so openly in front of the public, interacting with perfect strangers. I was socially awkward and introverted. I considered myself a loner. And I was miserably unhappy. This blog is largely the story of the transformation that happened since – my social transition from male caterpillar to female butterfly.

Today, I know I'm one of the luckiest women in the world. I have a family that loves and embraces me. I live in a neighborhood full of liberal folks who are neighbors – talking, sharing, and watching out for each other. I live in beauty. I have friends with whom I can share my life in full honesty. I have friends half-a-world away, whom I've never met yet with whom I engage in stimulating conversations. I have job that pays well, supports me personally, offers me meaning, variety, and challenge, and benefits the community. God has blessed me richly with her omnipotent Love. And all this becomes radically clear, in stark contrast to my past, with this one tiny epiphany:

I like people.

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