Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Little Light of Ours

What an extraordinary week for this country. Ten days ago the tragedy of Charleston once again ripped open and exposed the gaping racial wound we’ve been trying to hide for so long. And instead of dividing us, this act of terror and hate had just the opposite effect. The willingness to confront what we have attempted to avoid for so long has uncovered the heart of the real America, the real Moral Majority which is as it always has been, full of the desire to live in peace, as one people. That is not to say that there are not some who still hate. There always will be those who choose to do so. But their numbers are fading.

In my own community, the Supreme Court has changed history for us with its decision on marriage. To underestimate the depth of this moment in time would be sad, because it ranks right up there with many of the civil rights victories of the past. An entire segment of tax paying, law abiding citizens, whose only crime was to love someone, has been given the basic human right to build a family, build a life, and build a future together.

With regard to President Obama. It is said that the times will produce the leaders its people need, and I believe that this man and this nation were meant to be. I’ve seen nine Presidents come and go in my lifetime. I cannot remember when I felt more connected to one than President Obama. For all the contentiousness and flak thrown his way, he has demonstrated the meaning of grace under pressure. 
When the country was on the verge of collapse, he found a way to bring it back. And while the ACA may still be a work in progress, there is no denying that 6 million people now have health insurance who didn’t have it before. He has saved the auto industry, championed alternative energy, and fought for the LGBT community, maybe not from Day One, but not long after. And after seeing his eulogy today in Charleston, I am convinced that he will go down in history as one of the truly great Presidents.   

For the people who despise him, go right ahead. That is your right. But long after history has dismissed the politics of hate, his legacy will be felt by generations to come. He is the Franklin Roosevelt of our time.

This week has a feel about it that is very reminiscent of the social changes made in the 1960s. I told a friend that in a conversation today that I think and feel that what we have seen in this country over the past ten days marks the beginning of a post baby boomer movement. The time for my generation and the remnants of my parents’ generation is over. A new day is dawning. I wish them Godspeed.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Flak Slights Me - Rachel Dolezal vs. Caitlyn Jenner

Wow. The world has done gone crazy-er. Just when all the clamor, brouhaha, ruckus and to-do about Catilyn Jenner has started to die down a little bit, along comes Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the NAACP branch in Spokane, Washington, who has been recently outed as being white after she claimed that she was in fact, black.

It didn’t long for some to compare Ms. Dolezal’s lie to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition.

On the black side, accusations were made that Dolezal’s claim was one more appropriation of their culture by whites, while the feminists and Fox News derided Jenner as fraudulent for not having had a lifetime of female experiences. And though I hate to say it, there is truth in both. But the differences far outweigh the similarities.

The media has elevated people like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner to celebrity Trans status. They breathe rarified air and live in the relative safety of their station. And while I applaud them for their success, they are not us, the thousands who are unknown, and who often live in stealth, fear and danger. Theirs is a different world than ours. But the one thing we share with Ms. Cox and Ms. Jenner is that our world is not as simple as checking “black” on an application as Rachel Dolezal did. Our lives are far more complicated than that and to compare the two is not only absurd, it is insulting.

I have lived and built a life as Julia now for nearly 15 years. I have a history. But my experiences are not ‘authentically’ female in the conventional sense. While it is true that I have never been pregnant or given birth, there are thousands of infertile cis-women who have lived the same way. Does that make them any less genuine a female?

What the Trans community shares with the black community is our visibility. At any stage of our transition, it is usually difficult to hide what or who we are. We become a target for every hate-monger out there. We have been killed, beaten, refused the use of bathrooms, living quarters, jobs, and churches. Until recently, we have been stereotyped in the roles we are offered. In comedy clubs we were relegated (and still are to some extent) to a particular type of venue. Even within our so-called LGBT community, we are often neglected, overlooked and viewed with some disdain.

We know what it feels like to be looked at with contempt and treated like an “other”. Our suicide attempt rate is an obscenely high 41%.  Yes, we know.

As far as appropriating ‘femaleness’, our lives are anything but a bed of roses. In addition to experiencing the day to day injustices that cis-women face, such as lower pay, violence against us, body image, etc., we have to come out to everyone in our lives (often losing those we love), undergo electrolysis, psychotherapy, get approved for hormones, get two psychologists’ approval for surgery, and somehow find enormous amounts of money to get those services performed because they aren’t covered by health insurance. On top of that we are expected to keep our jobs and our sanity while our entire world crashes down around us. Yet no one bats an eye when a cis-woman augments her breasts up or down, gets a tummy tuck, ass tuck, nose job, botox, or any one of the dozens of other surgical procedures designed to make them more beautiful and feminine. Are they less than other women for doing those things?

Feminists are correct. We don’t know their life experiences and they sure as hell don't know ours. Let them spend a week in a Trans woman’s often oversized shoes, and I seriously doubt that they will ever complain again that we are appropriating them. They couldn’t handle our life.

I will appropriate this one sentiment from them, however; this is MY body and no one is going to tell me how or what I can do with it.

And don’t even get me started on relationships!

Look, I get it. By current definition, I’m not 100% female. I never was. I never will be. But you know what? I’m damned glad I’m transgendered. It hasn’t been easy, but I and every other Trans person have a perspective on life cis-folk never will. We have been with both tribes. We have lived two lives. We are two spirits and we would be happy to share that knowledge with anyone who cares to know.   

I don’t know what Rachel Dolezal’s issues are, but I wish her luck in sorting them out. I DO know that comparing her lie to Caitlyn Jenner’s truth is a cheap, lame attempt to minimize and marginalize who and what we are as people of transgendered experience. Those with a political agenda to ply find it easy to use the Trans community as their scapegoat. Not this time though. Not ever again. More and more, science is proving what Trans folks have known forever; that ours is a medical and not a psychological issue. We’ve been around since antiquity and we will continue to be around until the end of the planet.

So, you can either deal with us or not. Just leave us out of the stupid arguments you use to justify your so-called superiority. Find another group to pick on. We’re not taking it anymore.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On Caitlyn Jenner

On Caitlyn Jenner

“Does it take bravery and courage for a person with polio to want to walk? It’s very hard to speculate on, but if I hadn’t done what I did, I may not have survived. I may not have wanted to live. Life simply wasn’t worth much. Some people may find it easy to live a lie, I can’t. And that’s what it would have been –telling the world I’m something I’m not.”

If you are one of the estimated .00003 percent of the population of Americans who is transgendered you get the above sentiment immediately. If you are not, the unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner to the world may have you scratching your head a bit and asking a lot of questions.

Over the last few months, Caitlyn’s (Do we really need to say formerly Bruce?) visage has dominated the news cycle. With the release of the Vanity Fair piece she has exploded it and sent shards of her life into every conversation worldwide. She has been praised and vilified, called courageous by many and a “science experiment” by that great American intellectual, Snoop Dogg.

There has been a brouhaha about how she is cashing in on her very public transition, about how this is just more Kardashian Krap, and how no matter what she does or how she looks, she will never ever ever ever be a woman. She’s too old, too photo shopped, too made up, too rich, to this or that or any of a hundred other things. To all of her critics, I say this; Look at her. She’s happy. Isn’t that all that matters? 

But to be honest, I think there’s something more sinister afoot here.

In 1999, when I began my coming out process, the people in my life fell into two camps. On the one hand, there were supporters, who were overwhelming female. But it was my male friends who took it the hardest and did the most bashing. And the one phrase that kept coming up in their vitriolic tirades was I feel betrayed.

Betrayed is a very strong word in my vocabulary. It means that I broke some solemn bond or shared some deep dark secret which I swore an oath to keep to myself. How, I wondered, could a chance for happiness and peace at last be construed as a betrayal to the males in my life? And it wasn’t until one of them said this to me that it hit me.

“Why would you want to become one of them (women)?

He said it in such a way as to imply that being male was tantamount to getting the winning lottery ticket in life and that claiming my womanhood would  automatically relegated me to second class citizenry. He simply couldn’t understand why I would want to give up my male privilege and in his mind, my superiority. What he and just about everyone else in the world who isn’t transgender didn’t understand was that I was never a male in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that after having lived with both tribes, I can tell you that women are considered inferior by men. I see it in politics, in show business and in places like the Middle East where women are little more than property.

And so I believe that the dirty little reason that Caitlyn is getting so much crap from idiots like Matt Walsh at The Blaze and the rest of his crew over there is that she scares them a little. After all if this can happen to an Olympian like Bruce Jenner, then all men are at risk aren’t they? Isn’t this just one more step on the road to pussifying the American male?

In a few weeks Caitlyn will be bumped down in the news cycle priority. In a few more months, she won’t be there at all. And when all the hoopla has ended, when she is out of the public eye completely, you know what she’ll be?


Because that is the thing which drives all Trans people to make these changes. You who are blessed to feel the comfort of mind matching body can’t know what it’s like to be us. You will never know the joy of looking into the mirror for the first time and seeing the ‘you’ that was locked away inside for most of your life.

Caitlyn’s surgical changes should be no more disturbing to people like Matt Walsh, et al, than the countless people who spend billions each year to have a surgeon create their ideal bodies. Walsh claims that Jenner will never bear children, and that factor alone eliminates her from womanhood. Using that logic, cis- women who cannot get pregnant should be eliminated from the club as well.

 We’ve been around since the beginning of humankind, but we’re just getting to the point where medical technology allows us the freedom we’ve yearned for. Caitlyn is now celebrating that freedom by standing proudly and showing her ‘self’. She is happy, mentally healthy (hopefully), and beautiful. She doesn’t affect anyone’s life but her own and her children's. She isn’t hurting anyone and womanhood will be none the worse for having her in their ranks.

Maybe her very public outing will make some teenage trans kid feel a little better about his or her self. Maybe Matt Walsh can get irate about a real trans issue such as the 41% suicide attempt rate, which is the result of people like him and his ilk shunning, humiliating, shaming and bullying people like Caitlyn Jenner. Maybe he can just keep his big mouth shut.

One last thing. The quote with which I opened this essay was not from Caitlyn Jenner. It was spoken by Christine Jorgensen in 1952. She was the first trans person to undergo this kind of media hysteria, and she went on to thrive just fine. Womanhood, God, the United States, and the world survived just fine with her in it too. So, let Caitlyn be herself. If you don’t like her, ignore her. She’s happy. How many of us can say that?

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Our Time for a change.


Last night I watched the HBO production of The Normal Heart. Mark Ruffalo is one helluva great actor, as is the entire cast. I well remember those early days when the fear of  AIDS ran through this country, and I couldn't help but think of the ugliness which began to surface during this year's Ebola scare.
As a society we give lip service to the phrase E pluribus Unum (out of many, one.), and it is easy to do so when all is well and calm and peaceful. Our 'oneness' is only challenged during times of danger. We were 'one' after 9/11, but not during the AIDS crisis or the Ebola scare. But our 'oneness' seems to be as fragile as a piece of crystal in a hurricane when the issue at hand only faces a not-so-popular portion of our society. We forget sometimes that our 'oneness' is made up of three hundred million pieces and when we abandon even one piece, the rest of us are weaker for it.

 Nearly fifteen years ago, I began this journey in the search for peace in my soul and after almost fifty years of my life had passed, I finally found it.  Back in those early days I mistakenly thought that the people in my life who had watched me self destruct over and over would be happy to know that I finally was able to achieve that thing which had eluded me for all of my life. Few did. Many walked away and excised me from their lives, chalking up my coming out announcement as yet another of my 'crazy moments', another wild orbit around the planet Sanity.
I knew that I wasn't crazy, perhaps for the first time in my life. To discover the cause of a lifetime of pain was an epiphany for me. From the second I was able to say out loud, "I am transgendered. I am a woman. I was born this way", my whole sense of self was changed. A light grew in my heart where only darkness had resided.  I was whole and at peace for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, most the 'pluribus' didn't understand or even care to try.

In those early years, I lived in the shadows, and always in abject fear. Every time I went into a public place, I did so with extreme caution. I made sure not to be too friendly if a man flirted with me. When I used the ladies rest room, I always waited until I was fairly certain it was empty. As a sixth grade teacher I dreaded on a daily basis that moment of being outed and the consequences of such an event. Every time I heard people laugh behind me, I just naturally assumed it was aimed at me. And from that justified paranoia, I listened carefully for the footsteps I was sure were coming up from behind to beat me and possibly kill me. Most of my friends and family left, often accompanied with verbal tirades which bordered on vicious. In the media, stereotypes abounded. We were always portrayed as promiscuous flamboyant freaks and psychopathic killers. E pluribus, none.

There was very little information back then on being transgendered. The baby Internet was still finding it's legs. The chat rooms which purported to be safe places where trans folk could commiserate and share information usually turned out to be havens for pervs and haters.

To be transgendered in America back then was a scary, lonely place. In many ways it still is .

I don't mean to equate having AIDS with being transgendered here. Being trans is not a disease. But there are similarities in the way the Pluribus view us.

A 2011 survey by The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force entitled, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey I (available at, shows an inordinately high and alarming rate of violence, job discrimination, and police harassment against trans folks. Our suicide attempt rate still hovers around the 40% mark, compared to the 1/10 of 1%  found in the rest of the population. No, being transgendered is not a disease, but it often leads to death. Consider the frightening statistics laid out by The Trans Violence Tracking Portal in its preliminary report. According to them, every 32 hours a transwoman is reported murdered. 

 E Pluribus Mortem.

As a community, trans people have long been marginalized and we have been indoctrinated to believe that we are 'less than' or 'other', even by the Lesbian and Gay communities. But that is changing. More and more of us are banding together and speaking out. Heroes of our tribe such as Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Ian Harvie, to name a few, are finding their way into the public spotlight through the performing arts. We are claiming our place in society just as the LGB community did in the 1970s. We are normal hearts, normal people with normal desires. We are Pluribus and we are growing in numbers and in strength.

The day is coming when being transgendered is as normal as being straight or gay and I hope that I live to see it. But right now we are at the "Stonewall" stage of our movement, that time when we have realized that we can't wait for society to catch up to us because too many of us are dying either by our own hand or the hands of others who hate us.  We need to push our way in and pull them out of their own safe world and into ours. Because whether the rest of the world knows it or not the trans community is already E Pluribus Unum and we're not taking it anymore.

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