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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Naivete?

I used to think that common ground could be found between the viewpoints of liberals like me and any conservative Christian out there. All we had to do was connect using Nonviolent Communication to figure out what the other was feeling and needing, and then we could find solutions that work for everyone. That faith has been shaken. The problem is that in order to communicate, you must have two parties interested in communicating; curious about the other, open to at least hearing what the other has to say. And it appears that many Christians are not interested in that; all they want to do is cram their agenda and peculiar lifestyle down our throats.

Then, trolling through the internet last night, that faith took another hit. I clicked on a link on the blog of a Christian k-12 school and, in an article on the WorldNetDaily, I found this ad:

This is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, or "humor" – but they are talking here about torturing another human being, as if it were a sport or a fun, family activity. I wouldn't mind if it were satire, like Jonathan Swift's "Irish Solution," but it's not. In fact, many of the T-shirts are supposed to be humorous, but the humor isn't dry, or witty, or satirical, or even sarcastic. It's vicious and violent. It promotes murder or torture. It seems to represent a single-minded, simple-minded blind faith in GOP and conservative leadership.

When I see things like this, I think that I was wrong. It seems these people are determined to crush LGBT people and liberals completely, and they will not be satisfied until sodomy is recriminalized and schools teach that homosexuality is insane and depraved, that gays must change or die. I think that we are in a battle for our freedom and safety, and it seems that on the other side no quarter is asked or given. So I want to protect my children from this violence, and feel impelled to go further to the left to counter it more strongly. I want to harden my stance, renew my efforts, to counter this … depravity. It pushes me to my own stance of no quarter, of fighting for complete victory regardless of their needs, just to defend my own.

And that's too bad. Because the more decisions come from the extreme fringes, the worse, generally, they are.

Nevertheless, despite my emotional reaction, I will continue to work to find common ground, to build peace, and to seek a way to get everyone's needs met – or at least considered.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jenny

A few weeks ago, I got a feeling that it was time for me to go back to Wyoming. However, I didn't see how I could justify it. We're just starting an addition and remodel of our house, which we're doing mostly ourselves since we don't have much money. I've maxed out vacation time from work to accommodate that, and financially it just didn't seem possible, or reasonable. Still, it's been three years since I've been back, and I wanted Jenny to meet Seda.

It seems that the Universe had other plans.

Last night my sister died.

Jenny fought off many hardships in her life, but the last seven years were the hardest. In February of 2002, she was in a car accident, and she almost died. She had head injuries, and her back was broken in six places. She was in a coma for three months. The doctors said it was a miracle she survived at all, and that she probably would never regain much cognitive ability. Yet she did. Physically confined to the care only a nursing home could provide, she regained much of her language, memory, and thought processes. Though dealing with periodic medical crises and depression, her sense of humor and willingness to live made her popular among the residents.

Recently another crisis came. She stopped eating, and last night she slipped away.

Jenny was my older sister, two grades ahead of me in school. She first taught me to read when I was maybe five or six years old, and, when I started school, she protected me on the playground. I didn't fit in with the other kids, and I did not easily make friends. Her presence there was a blessing. After she graduated to junior high, my last two years in elementary school were miserable.

We were close as children, but somehow grew apart as adults. Not that we didn't get along – we did – but contact and communication became less frequent. Jenny moved out, and later on got married. She had two children. The young family struggled to get by, and her husband became abusive to the kids and eventually abandoned her, leaving her with two children and no means of support. Her next husband was worse, and a third child came into the world. Jenny dealt with bouts of poverty and abuse, and, in her mid-thirties, finally began to really get her life together. She worked her way through college. She tended bar, she logged, she got a job with the forest service and worked as an archeologist and wildland fire fighter. Finally, just a few years before her accident, she met a responsible, quiet man, and they got married. She had a fourth child after her 40th birthday, and worked for her local power company. But just as it seemed that things had turned for the best, disaster struck. My brother died in a logging accident on Oct. 4, 2001. Jenny and Frank had always been close, and they had grown closer over the years. His loss hit her hard. Four months later, she was in the accident that changed everything.

That brief summary does not do justice to Jenny's life – to her endurance, her sometimes biting humor, her joy-of-life, her toughness, her love, her generosity, her courage. I don't know how to do justice to that, and there isn't space here anyway. I'm just glad she's my sister. I love you, Jenny, wherever you are, I love you. And I so hope and believe you are at peace.

After Jenny's accident, I felt helpless. I did what I could for my mom, but with two small children and a family to care for, I had to make them my priority. What could I do for my sister? I found something in July, 2004. I started writing her letters. Every Saturday morning from then until last week, I made it a priority to write a letter to her – keeping her abreast of my life, explaining my transition, encouraging her, sharing my thoughts and my fears, my hopes and my love. The communication was one-way – Jenny no longer had the ability to return it – yet in some small way, it connected us. During my last visit, in 2006, she said that she didn't think she could have gone on without them.

Last Saturday, I forgot to write. I forgot to write the letter that she never would have received.

Oh, Jenny, my heart is breaking. I love you. Goodbye for now, sweet sister. We will meet again, on the other side.

Be well. Be happy. Be Love.

Damaging My Children?

In a brief discussion on another blog, someone who calls himself "Eutychus" made this comment: "Divorce damages our children. Are you telling me that (as in your own case) that telling your children that their dad is now their mom, won't?" I've already addressed the first sentence of this comment (which can be summed up as: usually it does, sometimes it doesn't – it depends on the individual family dynamic. Sometimes it saves their lives.) Now, I'll address the second.

Damaging my children was in fact my greatest fear as I started transition. It was also an impetus to "do it now," as I feared the damage and difficulty that might accrue if I managed somehow to make it to their adolescent years presenting as a man, only to transition during their most vulnerable time. (Though that is probably moot, as I doubt that I would be alive now, or still involved with my children, had I not transitioned.)

To my surprise, I found that that fear was completely ungrounded. Instead, all evidence indicates that my transition has only benefited them. They are happy and thriving. They are well-connected with their friends and with both parents. They have not missed their "father" – indeed, Trinidad has more than once expressed his preference for his "Maddy," and both boys share a positive and close relationship with Kristin's partner. They also have close relationships with one of their friend's dad and with their uncle.

Our relationship has deepened and become closer and more meaningful. I think kids instinctively know when you're lying; they sense it, even if they can't articulate it or know it on a conscious level, and it affects trust. They trust me more now. They know I'm authentic, that I share with them the truth of who I am. And I'm more emotionally available and fun; I'm not depressed all the time. They know that they have my unconditional love.

Further, their family is still intact. Kristin's and my partnership continues even as it has changed. We are no longer sexual partners, but we remain parenting, economic, and household partners, and best friends. Through the great care we took, and the deep communication we shared during transition, our friendship and understanding have deepened and become even richer and more meaningful, and we have both grown.

This is not to say that transition does not damage children in all instances. It takes care, love, communication, and honesty. And anyway, all parents make mistakes that damage their children in some way; the point is to limit the damage, to repair it, to build a foundation relationship that can absorb and heal what damage accrues, regardless of the nature, gender, or orientation of the parent. The issue is the same for divorce. An amicable and communicative separation, placing the children at the center of care, is more likely to benefit the children than a bitter, cold, intact family where the adults' needs are so unmet they cannot interact positively with their children. Like most things, one size does not fit all, and blanket statements seeking social uniformity are bound to so many exceptions as to be more harmful than useful. We must learn to be true to ourselves. We must learn to discover what our real needs are, and to find ways to meet them. And, if we are parents, we must find ways to keep the care of our children at the center of our attention. Then, regardless of life circumstances, we can create and maintain meaning, purpose, connection, and love, and give our children the support they need and deserve.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Disorientation

Recently I started reading a book called "Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers," by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. and Gabor Mate, M.D. On page 18, they say, "… The orienting instinct is basic to our nature, even if we rarely become conscious of it. In its most concrete and physical form, orienting involves locating oneself in space and time. When we have difficulty doing this, we become anxious. If on waking we are not sure where we are or whether we are still dreaming, locating ourselves in space and time gets top priority. If we get lost while on a hike, we will not pause to admire the flora and fauna, or to assess our life goals, or even to think about supper. Getting our bearings will command all of our attention and consume most of our energy. … Our orienting needs are not just physical. Psychological orientation is just as important in human development."

As a student of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) (see sidebar), I try to relate the interactions I have with others to the feelings and needs they experience. In most cases, orientation is not clearly a need that is up. We tend to take our understanding of our physical world for granted as we move around our local milieus. However, I think the authors are on to something regarding the psychology of it.

When I first started taking hormones, I felt relief from a low-level anxiety that was so much a part of my experience and psyche I hadn't been aware of it. In its absence, however, it was very noticeable. In speaking with other trans people, I've found similar experiences following their first hormone doses to be universal. If it isn't, that's because I haven't spoken yet to a trans person who hasn't shared this result. In the past, I didn't connect it to the need to orient so much as a need for clarity, but reflecting on the truth of the author's statement, I think I was missing something.

The need for orientation, both physical and psychological, is universal. We all share it. The authors relate it to children, which makes sense in the context of their book, but I suspect that its psychological manifestation continues powerfully throughout life. I wonder how extensively it permeates our psyches and influences our actions, decisions, and lives.

For instance, how does it relate to alcohol and drug abuse? Is the abuse either an instigator or response to a lack of internal orientation? In my own case, prior to orienting around Kristin and transitioning, my abuse was so pervasive I concluded for awhile that I was an alcoholic. However, since transition, I find that drinking enough that I start to feel the effects brings an instant stop to any desire to drink more. I like sobriety much better. Is the psychological orientation found in matching my hormones to my brain responsible for that shift?

An even bigger question arises in relation to religion. Certainly religion is an orienting entity. Many people focus their lives around the larger guiding principles provided by religious texts and authorities. It seems to me that religious authorities often use this orienting need or principle to manipulate their flocks into quite negative directions. People everywhere cling to religion even when scientific evidence refutes religious myth. Hence, Galileo was sentenced to death if he didn't recant his conclusion that the earth revolves around the sun, that the sun is the center of the solar system. In my own case, when I joined the Marine Corps and found myself far from home, disoriented from anything I'd ever known to that time, I fell to the religious (Baptist and Pentacostal) proselytizers who infest military bases, preying on young military personnel in their vulnerability.

I have often wondered about the power of religion. Clearly it meets human needs, but what needs are really up for us when we cling to our faith, even in the face of fallacy, so fiercely? This intense need for orientation, starting with our first breaths, seems to explain it.

Read more on orientation here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Beautiful My Children Are!

There is this thing – two, actually – that give me such joy in my life. They are my sons, and every morning when they arise they light my day. In fact, Trin is in my lap right now, helping me write this.

Studying
One of the many advantages of unschooling at home is that kids can choose their own desks and learn in comfort!

Reading
Sometimes Sam reads to me. At 6 1/2 years old, he reads at the 8th or 9th grade level. Another advantage to unschooling!

Working
Trin helping with the remodel. The boys are here every day, helping when they can, watching, learning the processes of construction. They're learning all the time. We could send them to school, I suppose, but I really don't want to slow them down that much.

Well, I started this post planning on just talking about how much I love my kids, how much joy they give me, how much meaning they give to my life, and so on, and it somehow turned into a celebration of unschooling! But then, I guess they really are connnected.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Disappointing Hundred Days

Cabinet choices: Loaded with old Clinton and Bush operatives. No significant new faces, no new ideas.

Foreign policy: Same old same old, just switching the focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. When do we concede that the Empire is unsustainable and start tearing it down before it falls down? At least we got a promise to close Gitmo.

LGBT issues: A proclamation making June Pride Month. A defense of DOMA. A promise to eliminate Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, but it's still in place, and competent people are still being discharged because of their sexuality. When do words translate into action?

Budget: Total insanity. Not only same old same old, but now digging the hole faster and deeper. The worst budget ever?

War Department: Still spending more on weapons the rest of the world combined. What kind of karma are we making for ourselves?

Economy: Does anyone in Washington have a clue????

Health Care: Nothing yet.

When I voted for change, I voted for more than a change of tone and a figurehead who can say complex sentences competently.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Commentary on the DSM-IV, or When Should a Trans Person Transition?

The DSM-IV, published by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to describe and diagnose mental disorders, describes a mental disorder thus: "In DSM-IV, each of the mental disorders is conceptualized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom. In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be merely an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event, for example, the death of a loved one. Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the individual. Neither deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of a dysfunction in the individual, as described above."

The DSM-IV lists Gender Identity Disorder as one of these disorders, though the information they provide is clearly inaccurate.

However, by the APA's own definition of mental disorder, I am not insane when I am a woman; I'm insane when I try to live as a man. Note that last sentence. Every function of my life improved following transition. The same is true of every trans person of whom I have knowledge. The mental anguish experienced by trans people is primarily between the individual and society, and the dysfunction many trans people experience is a direct result of the discomfort of living "in the closet" – hiding their true selves, choosing the safety of invisibility and isolation over the risk of social ridicule, approbation, and violence. Again by the APA's definition, that indicates that the condition of gender dissonance itself is not a mental disorder, but hiding in the closet is. A better term for it would probably be "Gender Identity Denial Disorder," and it's easily cured by transition.

Besides which, I find it extremely odd that the same organization that diagnoses this as a mental disorder prescribes surgery and non-psycho-active drugs to treat it. "Oh, you're schitzophrenic? Here, have some aspirin for the pain, and I'll prescribe surgery to split you into the appropriate number of persons."

So, when should trans people transition?

I believe that that depends on what is meant by transition. There are several different aspects of it, including gender presentation, hormone replacement therapy, and surgery. Each of these is, ultimately, the choice of the individual. Almost all trans people choose to live in the gender that feels right to them; their gender presentation, the way they live their lives, is dependant on their internal sense of gender, their subconscious sex. So, I live my life as a woman, a trans man lives his life as a man. Most choose hormone treatment, as it really helps both gender presentation and an internal sense of calm. Less, but still many, choose surgery.

I think children should be allowed to present as who they are. A kid has a better sense of who she is than anyone else, and if she chooses to dress as a girl, and play with girls, even though she has a penis, she should be allowed to do that. Not encouraged – but not discouraged, either. So gender presentation transition should happen as soon as there is an awareness of it. Many parents are starting to do this, and I applaud them. Again and again, I see that trusting kids about their own lives is the best way to go.

Hormone therapy shouldn't start until secondary sex characteristics begin following puberty, and the best way to do that is probably to avoid taking actual hormones at first, and just take hormone blockers. I don't know if there are blockers for female hormones, but there are effective androgen blockers, which can delay the development of secondary sex characteristics until the child is fully confident that this is the direction she wishes to go. In the case of female-to-male transition, this can prevent the need for breast removal surgery; and male-to-female people can prevent the need for painful and expensive electrolysis.

As for surgery, I think that should wait until a child reaches majority, and can make that decision with full awareness of risks and consequences, fully as their own responsibility. No other person should bear that burden.

I believe that this is the best way to support the mental health of trans people, the best way to integrate them into the lives they will lead, and the best way to honor their individuality. I recognize that others, including trans people may disagree, and I welcome comment and discussion on the subject.

And the DSM-IV is still full of crap.

Monday, June 8, 2009

June is LGBT Pride Month!


THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

___________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release June 1, 2009

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2009
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION


Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

BARACK OBAMA


This president is cool!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jesus and the Patriarchy; or, Christ and Antichrist

All my life I've been confused about two different aspects of God that are described in the Bible. These two aspects march side-by-side from cover-to-cover, sharing the same name throughout. One of them is God-as-misogynistic-Nazi; the other is God-as-love – what might be described as Christ and Antichrist. Lately I've been reading a book by Leslie Feinberg called "Transgender Warriors," and the reason for this is starting to come into focus.

Good book. I highly recommend it. S/he tracks back history, and, in Part II (Chapters 5 – 8), starts talking about where bigotry comes from. Of course, the Bible being such a big part of history, he has to relate things from it, like Deuteronomy and Leviticus, where lots of laws forbid cross-gender expression. Interesting stuff. It puts those laws in the perspective of the times. And from it, those two aspects of God begin to emerge as distinct through the fog of "infallibility," "divine inspiration," and "perfection."

One aspect – the misogynistic Nazi, or Antichrist – was created by male priests (or someone) to establish laws and customs that would break down the ancient order of gender equality, and establish a patriarchal system that enabled an elite to emerge, holding both wealth and power over subject classes. The Bible start relating this aspect in Genesis 2:4, the Adam and Eve creation myth. This was part of the Agricultural Revolution, when "civilization" began and it became possible to hoard and amass wealth, especially in the male realm. Prior to this, people nearly everywhere lived in matrilineal groups or cultures, and cross-gender expression was common – thus the laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus forbidding cross-dressing and drawing very distinct fashions appropriate for men and women. The contest was fierce for many years, pitting worshippers of Yahweh against worshippers of goddesses such as Baal. In this context, it was essential for the patriarchy that was overturning the natural (matrilineal) way humans had lived for the entire period of human evolution to discredit the old goddesses and the old systems; and it was a bloodbath. Merlin Stone spoke of this struggle in her book, "When God Was a Woman." This rise in Patriarchy came in tandem with a new system that allowed, for the first time, wealth to amass in the male social sphere; and it was an effect of men establishing an order to hoard that wealth to themselves, not to the matriarchs and matrilineal clans that society manifested to that time.

The other aspect – God as Love – comes through this political indoctrination again and again. The Bible starts with Her in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3, and she is mixed in with the Antichrist God in Revelations. This is the God of Jesus, who preached, "Love your enemies," and "Judge not, lest ye be judged," and "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven;" and who taught women with the men, praising Mary for choosing to abandon the assigned role of woman to sit at his feet while Martha toiled alone. This aspect is also seen strongly in the Old Testament, in passages such as Ecclesiasties 3, where the Preacher says of mankind "that they might see that they themselves are beasts" – no better or worse than the other animals, implying as well that women are equal with men.

Now consider how radical Jesus' mission was! His tender care for the oppressed (the poor, women, lepers, etc.), coupled with the powerful miracles he did again and again, threatened the entire patriarchal order – which was still relatively new at that time, and much less entrenched than it is now. It was not the Jews who crucified him, per se – it was the Patriarchy, represented by the Pharisaical priests.

This conflict has continued for two thousand years, and it goes on today. Constantine pre-empted the budding following of Jesus, transforming Christianity into service of the Patriarchy in 313 CE by making it a state religion. The Catholic church crushed opposition from pagan peasants for years, up to and after Joan of Arc. Mary Baker Eddy chipped at the Patriarchy when she started Christian Science.

And then came WWII, and women first re-entered the modern mainstream economy. Gandhi revolutionized revolt with ahimsa, and defeated the British Empire without firing a shot. That was followed by the Cultural Revolution of the '60's. Women rejoined the workforce and began to accumulate wealth, obtained contraceptives, and started the Feminist movement. Minorities took to the streets and challenged the established order. Everywhere the oppressed masses were rising in revolt. Trans woman Sylvia Rivera kicked off the Stonewall Riots, and the Gay Liberation was begun.

This is not a digression. This relates directly to what is going on now, as the the wealthy elite that continues to hold sway over all our economic lives harnesses modern Christians to continue to divide the people, using the Antichrist aspect of God as their figurehead to justify the oppression of women and sexual minorities.

I have no doubt that that statement will offend many Christians. It is not intended to. I say it because I believe it, because it makes the most sense based on my study of religious texts, history, economics, politics, quantum physics, and anthropology, and my own experience and reasoning, over the course of almost half a century of life, and the 28 years of my quest for Truth, from the time I was "born again" in 1981 to the present. I intend it to start a dialogue. I ask, therefore, that before casting judgment you read the books mentioned above; study economic history and the history and anthropology of the Biblical era, preferably from primary sources; and, perhaps most of all, compare those passages in the Bible that seem to condemn people with the words and actions of Jesus and the political and social context of the times.

Take your time. Thinking deeply on it, with an open but skeptical mind.

If my argument stands up to your reason, it will inform your faith; if it does not, your faith will be stronger. And who knows? Maybe you'll blast holes in my argument, and I'll change my mind.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Food for Thought #2

One of the favorite arguments of "marriage defenders" in opposing gay marriage is that they're doing it for the children – that each child needs a mom and a dad. This is a good example of a specious argument.

Specious: 'spee-shus; adjective; 1. Having deceptive attraction or allure. 2. Having a false look of truth or genuineness. (from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specious)

What gives this argument its gloss is the very real truth that every child needs positive, emotionally and physically close role models from both primary sexes, male and female.

What makes it specious is the idea that the only way to get them is in the heterosexual family – that only mom and dad can fill these roles.

In my own experience, I learned the role of woman very well from my mom, who is a devout Christian Scientist, who worked hard, had fun, laughed and loved us unconditionally. But even though I lived with my dad (family intact), I had to look elsewhere for positive male role models. I learned the role of man from people like my neighbor Ron Blake, who taught me woodworking in 4-H, and who gave me lessons in life specifically targeted at the holes my dad was leaving by example. And from Connie Hansen, and old rancher who leased us his ranch for a few years.

While statistically, children in broken families fare worse than those in intact families (duh), many exceptions abound on both sides – kids from intact families who are messed up, kids raised by single moms who turn out to be well-adjusted, high-achieving, independent adults. Many others are raised by a step-parent, some well, some not.

Kristin recently attended a lecture by a woman from Senegal. She was raised in a village where the children had free access to all the adults in the community, and all the adults shared in caring for the children regardless of whose child it was. She didn't realize that she had a single mother until she was twelve – and when she guessed who her real mother was, she guessed wrong. Yet this woman turned out to be very well adjusted, and is touring the US talking about parenting and sustainability.

In some cultures, the father has little to do with the child, and the uncle is the primary genetic male contact and role model the child has. And those kids, more or less, turn out all right.

Again and again, everywhere you look, you see extensive examples of two basic facts: the emotional and developmental damage done to children who don't have positive role models from both primary sexes, and people of both primary sexes who are not the parents providing positive, powerful role models for children who, either because of divorce or dysfunctional parents, don't have that role model supplied by their parent.

Which means that, for this argument at least, the real issue is not preventing gays from civil marriage or forcing biological parents to raise children together, but, how do we ensure that every child, regardless of the makeup of her family, has the positive role models she needs.

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