Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Chip Off The Old Chromosome

The other night at a show, I happened to be working with an old comedian acquaintance who knew me when I traveled with the other tribe. I’d booked him on a weekly cabaret show that I produce and I thought it would be a positive step toward re-introducing myself to the comedy community as Julia, and not Rick Scotti, as well as rekindling an old professional friendship.

He was cordial enough, though he occasionally messed up his pronouns, using “he” instead of “she” when referring to me to the other performers. I let it slip by without much comment, as I’ve grown somewhat used to this phenomenon over the years. I understand that it does take people time to adjust and though I corrected him, I did not chastise him for it. Funny... it still bothers me though.

As the night wore on, he came over to me at one point, when we were alone, and point-blank asked me if he could still call me Rick.

I don’t know if his statement was a lame attempt at being funny or not, but in the half of a heartbeat that it took for his comment to register, I adamantly, emphatically, and angrily replied that it wasn’t. With as much dignity as I could muster in that particular moment, I walked away and headed for the ladies room, where I sequestered myself in the first stall I could find and cried as silently as I could.

As much as I hate to admit it, the transgendered experience is as much about outside validation as it is inside. And though I hear over and over from those who support me that what others think is irrelevant, and although the intellectual part of me understands that, I am still both enraged and devastated whenever I hear callous, idiotic statements like the one uttered by that comedian.

I decided to write about this today not just because of the statement made by an intolerant fool, but because it supports two stories that been in the news lately. Oddly, the first story contradicts a second one entirely.

Jenna Talackova, a 23-year old beauty contestant was recently booted from the Miss Universe Canada competition for being transgendered, although there is no rule that forbids transgendered people from competing. The organizers of the pageant, which Donald Trump owns, claim that she lied on her application when she checked ‘female’ as her gender. Seriously, have you seen Jenna? She’s absolutely beautiful.

Regardless of how you feel about beauty pageants (I find them boring as hell), there are those for whom participation in them is an important part of their lives. My guess is that Trump, who even in the best light is nothing more than a big blowhard and bully, feared that Ms. Talackova might actually win the title of Miss Canada, and worse, win the entire pageant! Imagine that... a transgendered Miss Universe! Why, the entire world would have exploded!

Think of the ramifications. What of all the straight, upright, macho males in the world, who might have had just the slightest attraction to her? What would become of them? Why, all over the world, no, the Universe, millions of men with stunned looks on their faces would be booking appointments with ex-gay therapists like Marcus Bachmann to immediately rid themselves of such thoughts.

And what of all the lesbians who felt the same way? Why, their entire political agenda would have been hurled back into the Stone Age because some anti-gay activists would have claimed that their attraction was proof positive that lesbians were secretly and perhaps unconsciously heterosexual.

In an alternate universe, of course, the outcome would have been much different. There, Trump would have emerged as a hero of sorts, trumpeting civil rights so to speak, and legitimizing an ever more visible segment of a population who up until recently, has been forced to remain in the closet. The lesbian community would finally embrace us as women and perhaps even allow us entry into the good old girls club that is the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, which right now has a “women born women only” policy. 

I mentioned earlier that there was a second story which contradicts Jenna Talackova’s and there is. I recently read an article that a study done last November by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that the majority of the American public now seems to support strong rights and legal protections for transgendered people.

The article, which was written by Greg Voakes and appears in the Huffington Post states that people like Chaz Bono have shown America that we (transgendered folk) are not much different than everyone else and that “increased awareness of the presence and struggles of the trans community has no doubt led to wider support for these individuals in America on the whole”.

The article also praises many of the Evangelical Protestants’ and American Catholics’ support of our legal rights and protections, and puts forth the idea that perhaps these groups are following the teachings of Jesus to “love others as yourself”. Mr. Voakes points out that much of this acceptance has come in light of some of the tragic events and hate crimes perpetrated on us and the subsequent publicity they generated.

While I applaud the results of this study, acknowledgement that we are entitled to rights and legal protections guaranteed to us by our Constitution, it still doesn’t change the attitudes of people like my comedian acquaintance and the Miss Universe people.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive as some would suggest. Maybe it’s just the estrogen talking- I honestly don’t know. Whatever the cause, the feelings are genuine; that much I do know. And even as I approach my tenth year in this life, I realize that I am still very fragile and insecure in it.
As I sat in that bathroom stall last week, the question that has haunted me over the last ten years came barreling back to the forefront of my mind; what am I? Am I the person I’ve known all my life, who felt oddly different and who now looks in the mirror and feels right about myself? Or am I Rick, who claims to be Julia, but will always be Rick in the eyes of those who knew me before? Am I male? Female? Am I a chromosomal cross-breed whose ‘Y’ took a left when it should have taken a right? It’s all so confusing sometimes.

It’s moments like this when I am reminded of what my room mate Charlotte said to me in the hospital on the night before our Gender Reassignment surgeries. She was, as we all were, teary and happy and frightened beyond belief, but she had this insight into our futures that echoes over and over to me even now. She said, very softly that, “we are women... and yet we are not women”.

I knew what she meant of course; though it was not the sentiment I needed to hear at that moment in time. Charlotte understood that no matter how different we looked or made ourselves up, or acted, we would never, in the eyes of the world, be one hundred percent female. And while this was not the reality I wanted to face on the night before the most dramatic event of my life, it is the one which I live day in and day out.

In the title of this blog I refer to the journey I am on through comedy and life. Though my story may be a little more complex than the average human, it doesn’t make my journey any more or less better or worse than yours. I realize that for each adjustment I’ve had to make in my life to accommodate and tolerate those who don’t understand what I’ve done, I have had an effect on their lives and psyches as well. And while it may not be an equal effect, my existence in their life, to whatever small or large degree, has had some impact on them and thus affects their own journey.

I seriously doubt if I will ever have a satisfactory sense of who I am. My guess is that a societal definition and total acceptance will come several generations down the road. But it comforts me to know that in years to come, other Trans folk won’t have to deal with these issues because their place in society will be much more defined. The stigma of being woman and yet not woman, or vice-versa will be gone, and they will have the lives that everyone is entitled to; one filled with love, family, and fulfillment of purpose.

Don’t get me wrong; it is getting better. It’s better now than in 1952 (coincidentally, the year I was born), when Christine Jorgensen stunned the world by announcing her gender change. It’s better now than when Dr. Rene Richards was refused entry as a woman into the 1976 US Open. It’s even better now than in 2002 when Charlotte and I shared that hospital room. And it will be better still when Jenna Talackova is allowed to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant. All that’s needed is time.  

Gender identity recognition and acceptance is one of the last and least understood, and in my opinion, one of the most feared of our social prejudices. But like all great civil rights movements, this one will eventually take on a silliness years from now when future generations look back and read about it. Until then we have to just chip away at ignorance, one ‘Y’ at a time.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wait Until I'm Queen!

So, the Supreme Court of the United States is now deliberating over the constitutionality of the health care plan put forth by President Obama. This is the same plan that was voted into law by both Houses of Congress about two years ago.

At issue is whether or not the government can force its citizens to purchase mandatory health care. As if the government can ever force us to do anything...hahahahahaha!

Now if I understand this correctly, the Senate and House of Representatives wasted a year and a half of my time and taxpayer dollars putting this thing together while all the time knowing that the far right wing was going to challenge and do everything in the power to over turn it? Son of a bitch!

Is this the same Congress that gets free health care and pensions for life?  Is this the same Supreme Court that is guaranteed a job and health care benefits for life?

I wish to God that I was Queen of this country for just one year. Man, I would fix Congress so fast it would make your head spin! You know what I would do? I’m glad you asked.
Queen Julia the First (and last)

First of all, here’s what I would look like as Queen of the United States. Not bad, huh?

To begin with, I’d shut the whole Capitol building down. I’d take away their limos, their staffs, their gym, and every other goddamn thing they have that I don’t and could never afford and I’d load every one of these people into a fleet of hot, smelly school buses in the middle of July. Then I’d drop them off in cities all over the country; with no money and no job. I’d just kick them out of the bus and say, “you’re on your own. Live like we do and see how you like it!”

Then I would take every lobbyist, every glad-handing, palm-extending, perk dropping sleaze ball, make them exchange their fancy suits for a pair of coveralls and hire them to scrub every floor in the Capitol Building to see what real work feels like.    
Oh I would pay them of course. Some would get minimum wage, some would make about fifty to seventy thousand a year. But all would have a family to support and a mortgage to pay. Plus they would have to cough up the money to pay the huge bill each month for their medical insurance.

So far, my first week of “Queen-ing” has been fun! But I wouldn’t stop there.  Here are some of the other things I’d do.

1. I’d get every copy of the tax code I could find and have a huge bonfire. Then I would replace it with a progressive code with rates of 10%, 20% and 30%, depending on your income level. 

2. Anyone caught peddling influence to the future Congress would be sentenced to one year of working in a fast-food place or six months of being a single parent. And for repeat offenders, they would have to listen to an endless loop of Michelle Bachmann speeches interspersed with Herman Cain’s singing three nights a week for a year.

3. I would end our involvement in Afghanistan tomorrow. They don’t want us there, we don’t want to be there and we’ve done what we said we were going to do.

4. Term limits for every elected official and contributions would be limited to $20. NO STUPID SUPER PACS.

5. All elected officials have to live in FEMA trailers for the duration of their terms

6. The Supreme Court works all year long and gets two weeks vacation for the first two years of their term. After that, it’s three. Three sick days a year and they have to work one weekend a month.

7. Cut defense spending by one third, and build up a health care fund.

8. Stop subsidizing, farmers and oil companies. Stop exporting oil and tell OPEC to shove it.

9. Limit the number of lawyers in the country to 2.

10. Finally, we need to have a way to measure effectiveness of our representatives in Congress, just like they want to do for teachers. Therefore I would pay them based on merit. Based on their performance so far, Congress would owe us money!

And when I was done, I would abdicate my throne and move back to my active adult community and live out the rest of my life knowing that I had actually done something for my country. No books written and no big fat lecture fees.

America’s discontent is like a big giant pimple which is coming to a head. People are tired of being sold a bill of goods year after year, decade after decade. Politicians could get away with their hot air promises in years past because by the time their lies filtered through the system it was generally too late to do anything about it. But in the years since social media and the Internet has linked us together, their empty rhetoric is called into question each and every time they spout it.

I laugh at politicians who rail against the President’s so-called ‘socialist’ leanings because these do-nothings make their fortunes in government, the largest socialist organization there is. They produce nothing and yet they seem to think that they know what’s best for our citizens. And when they retire or are kicked out of office, they have nice, big, fat pensions to live off of for the rest of their lives. Of course, they are able to supplement their juicy monthly check with book deals and speaking fees as well, while you and I augment our incomes with second and third jobs, often well into our retirement years.

Yes, the people that run our government seem to have forgotten that it is OUR government they are running. America is ALL of us, not some of us, and not the ones who can spend the most money to grab the ear and wallet of some member of Congress who’s been there for forty years. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, it’s been said, and I truly believe that our system of government has reached that point of corruption.

Please know that when I say the system has been corrupted, I don’t mean the idea and ideal of our republic; that is a grand one. And if there were a way to initiate a renaissance in it I would be the first to stand up for it. But a career politician, someone whose entire existence and whose entire career is devoted to keeping his or her job is wrong. It’s just wrong. The idea of a citizen government is that you leave the private world, work for the good of your country, and then go back home to resume your life. It was never meant to be a life-long job. And it certainly was never meant to be so attractive a career, as to do it to the exclusion of everything else in one’s life.

Wow... that felt great! Every once in a while ya just have to let off steam to replace the stinky hot air that blows across this country. By the way, if you seriously would like me for Queen, just shoot me an email!

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug. Everybody eat. Abbondanza!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Search of America-Chick’s Diner

If you are an entertainer- whether full-time or not, the chances are that you have been ‘on the road’ at some point in your career. And, if you’re like most of us, you have a love/hate relationship with the endless white line that pulls you along to the next new place like the call of the Sirens in The Odyssey. You hate the packing and unpacking and the thought of another six hour drive. There’s the unforeseen weather that awaits you three hours into the drive, the bald tire that you hope will hold out until pay night, and the eternal hope that the club in this new town will be better than the way your friends described it when they played it.

You are well acquainted with the complexities of eating a complete meal off the passenger seat of your car as you barrel down some interstate highway to make the gig on time, and you know well the sense of relief in arriving at the hotel in one piece with no car breakdowns. You know the joys of having a killer Saturday night show in a strange new town, and for a brief time, what it must feel like to be a star. But you also know the sadness of occasionally catching a glimpse of your aging self in the mirror that comes from the years you’ve spent chasing your dream. For a brief moment, a knot of fear grips you inside because you know that time is the worst enemy an entertainer can ever have.

But the road isn’t all bad. For all the bitching we do about it, there is always a new adventure to be experienced and the opportunity to see the parts of America that most folks never experience.

Take Scranton, Pennsylvania for instance, which is where I played this weekend. Historically, it was once known for being a huge coal mining town and a steel producer. Now, its glory days long past, it has a sort of grayness about it. The buildings are a bit run down, the houses tend to lean a little in this direction or that; not quite level, you know? It seems to be a town in search of its own next great adventure. Its people seem to be waiting for something to happen, and have the faith to stick it out, however long it takes.

I think the residents of Scranton realize that cities go on whether the place is booming or not. Roots have been placed by the people who live there that span generations. For good or for bad, it is home. They accept it because it is what they know and are comfortable with. Like family, one doesn’t (or shouldn’t) abandon a hometown simply because it’s ill or fallen on hard times. You make the best of it and keep trying to bring it back to health, no matter how difficult the task at hand seems.

Obviously, I was a visitor there and couldn’t really know the town in the way that its residents do. But my sense of Scranton is that it is a place of neighborhoods, where sitting outside on hot summer nights is de rigueur, instead of in the isolation of an air-conditioned suburban McMansion. That’s the America I knew as a child, and it is in part, I think, what is missing from our national fabric. We don’t seem to talk anymore, unless it’s under the banner of some cause. We just don’t hang out and talk.

What's happened is that a disconnection has occurred among us. The general chitchat that we used to have with our neighbors always bonded us in the days before the Internet took over our lives. And this bonding is why there was a national spirit, why we could organize rallies to collect rubber, steel, tin and newspapers to help the war effort during World War II.

Scranton reminds me of that period of time. As a people watcher, I got the distinct sense that except for the modern day clothing, these folks could have been in any old black and white photo of the kind Margaret Bourke-White might have taken for Life Magazine. You know the ones that always showed the hard working, not-so-well-off family standing in front of the sort of run-down house. You knew they were struggling, but there was strength in their eyes that told you they were going to survive and rise above their condition. What’s more, you get the sense that if their neighbors were in real trouble people would pitch in to help out.

I’ve been in lots of towns around America and I can’t say that I was compelled to write about most of them. I probably would not have written about Scranton either, had it not been for a visit to Chick’s Diner on
Moosic Street
 Being from New Jersey (the birthplace of the diner), I am not only a huge fan, but somewhat of an afficionado by birth and culture. The sight of an Edward Hopperesque establishment such as this gets me joyful in a way I cannot explain. About the closest I can come to it is to say that it feels like coming home.

 As you can see from the photo, Chick’s isn’t much to look at. It’s a tiny, 1940s railroad car type eatery- the kind of place at which you might stop if you were enroute home to the city or suburbia. It would catch your eye and you might just say to your partner in the passenger seat, “What the hell, let’s give it a try”. But once inside, you would find a piece of America you thought had long since disappeared.

I was there on a Saturday morning, around eleven o’clock. I figured it would be nice and quiet, the way the newer diners have become. The national voice is now a whisper; except at Chick’s.

Though the place has seen better days, it was alive with electricity. The first thing that hits you is the music from the big jukebox in the corner. Good rock and roll, stuff I can understand and recognize is blaring, but not deafening. Co-mingled with that is the sound of plates clanging in the back backed up by the steady drumbeat of forks against dishes as patrons gulp down the last remnants of a three-egg omelet.

“Sit anywhere you want!” a female voice yells at me. It’s as if I’m already a regular there, albeit not a ‘broken-in’ one. I grab one of the ten or so booths available. Seconds later a waitress smiles, drops a Chick’s menu on my table and asks if I’d like something to drink.

“Coffee, please.”

I place my order for a western omelet with American cheese (40 cents more) and drink in the place. I curse under my breath over my failure to bring my notebook to sketch the place in words, a habit that I never break except for this time. It figures.

Each booth has its own working 1970s style mini jukebox made by Rock-o-la. I check closely to see if it still plays three songs for a quarter, though I seriously doubt it.

Looking around I see that there are tiles missing here and there. The real spinning counter stools and booth seats have mismatched color tape on them to cover up the tears in the original red plastic, once so shiny that a child could easily slide off if he or she spun around too quickly, but now faded and dull.

There is noise all around me; good noise. The sounds of life, of laughter and conversation and friends who are friends merely because Chick’s exists rise out over the song playing Rock-o-la as if to power the neon “Chick’s” sign in the tiny window in front . A young father sits with his three children at the counter and the kids delight in spinning around, probably the way their father had just a few decades before.

Debbie, a waitress with a long history at the diner barks out food orders from memory to the short order cook who works ceaselessly at the grill. The remarkable thing about her is that she is able to do it from memory. Equally remarkable is that the cook is able to repeat the order while he continues to make the five or six other orders on the grill. It was a thing of beauty, I tell you. I love watching those who have reached such proficiency in their profession effortlessly do their jobs.

Debbie, whose voice raises above all the din in the place, waits on the three children and their dad. She introduces herself and then does something I’ve never seen a waitress do in all my years of diner going; she sat down and just talked to them for at least five minutes. In any other diner, the owner would have gone ballistic if a waitress had done that. But Debbie genuinely cared about these kids and by spending that little bit of time with them, created another generation of lifetime customers. It’s called the personal touch, and it used to be the hallmark of a small business in America. Now, it’s considered non-productive use of time.

It isn’t often that one gets to enjoy breakfast while being immersed in a symphony of life like the one I had on Saturday. And although the folks that came in and out of Chick’s that morning were a little frayed around the edges, there was a peace and joy that emanated from them that came from the knowledge of belonging to something greater than they were. Their lives weren’t about corporate greed in America, or who’s more American. The happiness of their days and weeks and years aren’t built on profit and loss statements. They had no need to bilk their fellow citizens out of hard-earned money in the way our government does. They had friends and family and people like Debbie and Chick’s. They had a home; and that was enough.  

 In this election year, I caution our politicians to stop a moment and listen to the voices that are speaking in the Chick’s Diners that exist all across America. We the people are in a season of discontent with you all. But our strength and power will guide us through you and those that follow you. That humming and laughter that you hear is the sound of America living, despite the powers above them who live in an insulated world far from the counter at Chick’s.  And until our elected officials come down from their ivory towers, until they begin to listen and work for the common good of all, we will flounder and stumble as a nation until that one day when we won’t be able to get up again. I hope it never happens, because I really enjoyed my breakfast at Chick’s and would like to have many more.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug. Everybody eat. Abbondanza!  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Loons! The Loons! Part III

(This is the third and final entry of my three-part, highly prejudicial and completely impressionistic, in-depth, gut-checking analysis of the Republican Presidential candidates.)

Today I was going to devote this entire essay to the remaining two Republican Presidential ahem.... candidates, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. But after Tuesday’s Illinois primary, it seemed pointless, given that they got whooped big-time by Willard “Mitt” Romney. Finally, his magic Mormon underwear is working!

It’s too bad too, because I had all this really fun stuff about both of them, like casting Ron Paul as John Galt in the musical version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He was to sing the show stopper ‘Hey Americans....Quit Your Whining and Eat Your Road kill” at the end of Act I.

And then there was Newt. I had him starring in a remake of the old radio series, “My Favorite Wife”.  It was hysterical. But alas; all of that is history now as Mitt Romney seems a shoe-in for the nomination. Oh wait, the phone is ringing. Hold on a second please...

What? What’s his name? Eric Fehrnstrom? Who the hell is that? He’s Romney’s what? and he really said that? ....I’ll get back to you later.

Okay, I’m back. You are not going to believe this. You know how every time Mitt Romney seems to get a little momentum going, he says or does something really dumb like his “Corporations are people too” comment, or “I’m not worried about poor people” remark? And do you remember how many times I’ve alluded to my belief that Mitt is sort of robotic and appears to be programmed with defective downloaded software? Or how about the many times I’ve wondered aloud if he is unaware of the existence of videotape and that stuff he has said over the years seems so contradictory? Well it seems that whatever computer virus that is causing Mitt to continually shoot himself in the foot has now infected his staff too!

Just yesterday, Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aid to Mitt, told a television news reporter that once the primary season was over and once the nomination was a lock, that Romney could “reset” himself like an “Etch-a-Sketch” and redraw himself to the liking of a more mainstream voter. Now remember this is his top aid speaking... the guy who is supposed to be helping Mitt work past the perception that many Americans have that Romney is a flip-flopping rich boy who never met a political position he couldn’t conform to.

Seriously; he said Etch-a-Sketch... Right after his boss won a huge victory in a critical Mid-West State...  He compared his boss to a child’s drawing toy whose images can be created and erased just by shaking the thing. 

You would think that someone who is a top aid to a candidate for President of the United States, who knows that his candidate has had some issues with credibility and commitment to a principle or a philosophy, would choose his words and phraseology a bit more carefully than that wouldn’t you?

And to make matters worse, Fehrnstrom’s comment came on the heels of the Jeb Bush endorsement, which is the Golden Fleece of endorsements! Having Jeb Bush say he supports you, even if he holds his nose while doing so, is like finding a Ty Cobb rookie baseball card in a moldy bin of a roadside flea market and purchasing it for a quarter!  Let’s face it folks, when it comes to good, honest governing, there’s nothing like hiding behind a Bush!

So, the fate of America, its economy, its future, potentially rests in the hands of a man who has been compared to an Etch-a-Sketch in terms of values and commitment. How then will they defeat President Obama in November and save the Republic? Well I can offer a few suggestions that they might consider.

First of all, let’s not panic over the whole ‘toy’ analogy. People love toys, right? Children too! And to paraphrase Mitt, people are children too!

It is obvious that the Republican strategy believes that the American voter is childlike. Why else would Herman Cain, Bachmann, or Perry have ever been even remotely considered viable candidates? So let’s explore the toy thing a little more.

Hey Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee and Lord High Emperor of Star Cluster XM7 in the Klingon Empire- you are missing a great marketing opportunity for taking over the entire United States Government and replacing it with Romney-bots!

Here’s all you have to do: Just retro-fit Mitt. Get rid of the folksy $400 jeans. Lose the program that has him attempting to be a struggling out of work billionaire and dress him up in a Buzz Lightyear costume! He already has the square jaw and the social ineptness needed, and with his soulful singing voice he is sure to go to Infinity and Beyond in popularity.

And as for a Vice-Presidential candidate, well that’s obvious isn’t it? From the great state of New Jersey, it is my honor sir to nominate a true American icon and statesman, Mister Potato Head! He is the perfect complement to Presidential hopeful Lightyear in that you can change his facial characteristics and gender whenever and wherever it is needed.

Why stop there though? What about a cabinet? Miss Piggy for Secretary of State! Scrabble for Secretary of Education! GI Joe for Secretary of Defense! Milton Bradley for Chief of Staff! Oh Reince, with this one, extraordinarily bold, brilliant move, you can finally escape the curse of having had to live in the shadow of Michael Steele for all these years.

But alas, who am I, but a lowly plebe... a vagary, a missed stitch in the fabric of our nation. I know that my voice, while bellowing in the confines of the garret in which I write this electronic blip, is a mere church-mouse squeak in your world. I have no wealth, no corporation/person to twist your arm and grease your palm. All I have is words; and words are not people. Words mean nothing. They can be reset and erased like the ideas and ideals of Mitt Romney. They can be deleted, diluted, defamed, defiled, detoxified, delayed, and deposed in your world. But in my world, in real America, they mean something. And we’re listening.

I feel better now that I have given the very best of myself to insure a fair and balanced election. I hope that the candidates heed the valuable advice I've provided them and want them to know that if there is any super-pac money floating around that they need to unload, I could use a new washing machine.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!

The Loons! The Loons! Part III

 Part II

(This is the second of my three-part, highly prejudicial and completely impressionistic, in-depth, gut-checking analysis of the Republican Presidential candidates.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Loons! The Loons! Part II

(This is the second of my three-part, highly prejudicial and completely impressionistic, in-depth, gut-checking analysis of the Republican Presidential candidates.)
In the first installment of this series (that sounded so journalistic), I spouted off on what’s wrong with Mitt Romney’s campaign tactics and what he should do to really connect with both the people he wishes to represent and the rest of us. Today I will endeavor to unravel the political DNA of his chief rival for the Republican Presidential nomination, the ever sanctimonious Rick Santorum.

You know that things are pretty grim for Mitt Romney when the Deep South favors a Catholic candidate for President over a Mormon. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the prevailing view of Catholicism among fundamentalist ‘Christians’ in the South was that of a weird cult, full of mysticism and sorcery. That’s right Catholics! In the never-ending game of My Religion is Better than Yours, the pious of the South once put you Catholics in the same category as Harry Potter...that is of course when they weren’t busy casting demons out of the sickly, and segregating, enslaving, and killing people of color. Oh yes, and lest it be forgotten, the Klan paid the occasional visit to Catholics when they weren’t busy with their other civic activities. Yessiree Bob, nothing makes a religious zealot happier than having a target to hate in the name of God; which makes Rick Santorum the almost-perfect candidate for them.

Now normally, I would have surmised that the rise of a Santorum-type to the level of viable candidate was just another of my Chantix induced nightmares. In fact I’m still not sure that his jump in popularity isn’t one of them. Nevertheless I have to assume that the rest of you are seeing the same things that I am. And if you aren’t, will someone please throw cold water on me and wake me up because in this dream the United States is just one tiny moustache, brown shirt and a “Sieg Heil” away from having its first dictator.  Take a look at the picture below and tell me you don’t think so!

To be honest with you folks; this guy scares the bejeezus out of me, and if by some great cosmic faux pas he should happen to win the general election, I am either moving to Canada and living with the mole people underground somewhere, or I plan to kidnap one of the Dakotas (we’ve got two, they’ll never notice), and start my own country. It’s already gotten me so distraught that I get the willies every time I see a sweater vest.

Santorum’s biggest problem is his staunch absolutism. It doesn’t leave room for peaceful coexistence with others. If you don’t agree with him, then plan on living in a retraining camp for the length of his term. Like any religious zealot, his answer to differing opinions is to ‘smite’ his opponents, or in the case of Iran, smite them to kingdom come.

Nevertheless, in the interest of democracy, I am willing to offer Mr. Santorum my heathen wisdom in an effort to make him a more earthly presidential candidate.

First of all Rick (can I call you Rick?), you have got to stop saying stupid stuff like telling Puerto Ricans that in order to become the fifty-first state they have to all learn English. Whether you believe it or not, they spoke Spanish before we claimed them as a territory. They may not want to be a state, okay? Leave the Puerto Ricans alone.

Some of the other dumb things you’s so many of them I don’t know where to start. Okay let’s go with this one first. You said on October 18, 2011 to Caffeinated

One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think, the dangers of contraception in this country. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s NOT okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.  

Contraception is dangerous? Come on Ricky (can I call you Ricky?), really? The only time I can imagine that it would be dangerous is if you smother your partner to death after you’re finished to avoid pregnancy.

As for it being a “license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”, the last time I checked, having sex for the sheer pleasure of it was a pretty cool thing and no license was needed. I don’t know what kind of sex you’re having Dick (can I call you that?) but leave everyone else out of it.

By the way, the reason no president has talked about it before is because it was none of their friggin business and they knew it. But this guy is bound and determined to hurl our society back in time when women weren't  so all-fired uppity. He really believes that come hell or high water, and despite what women want, he knows better because he is a man. And you wonder why I left the tribe?

Okay, let’s try another ‘Santorumism’...

"The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American Left who hates Christendom. ... What I'm talking about is onward American soldiers. What we're talking about are core American values." (South Carolina campaign stop, Feb. 22, 2011)   

Wow, this guy can wear one out! Richard (can I call you that?), try to understand this. Not EVERYONE gives two shits about ‘American’ values outside of America.  I’m not even sure anyone can agree on what an ‘American value means here’. So stop pushing this kind of rhetoric. For instance, as a transgendered person, I have differing sets of values than yours which I believe are right. To me, a Trans or gay person is entitled to live their life in peace and the pursuit of happiness, according to the Constitution the same way you are. That’s the true American value. And as long as we don’t harm each other, as you are trying to do to us, you have a right to your opinion, But you don’t have a right to smite us. And really, since about 10% of the population is a member of the TGLB family and WE VOTE, you might want to stop saying things like...

"Is anyone saying same-sex couples can't love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?" (Santorum's Philadelphia Inquirer column, May 22, 2008)


If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. ... That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing." (AP interview, April 7, 2003)

Okay, you know what? I cannot help this man. I am sure that he loves his family and this country, but this is one twisted mister. And if you vote for him and his weird sexual obsessions or his insane political views, then you are as a crazy as he is. So my advice to the rest of you is to work like the heathen you are, and send this guy to Rome where he can be elected Pope. But keep him and his kind out of my life, out of my bedroom, out of my civil rights and most of all out of my White House. Because if you don’t work to do so, you are going to get the government you deserve.   

I have to go now. I feel dirty and in need of a shower.

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Loons! The Loons!

(This is the first of my three-part, highly prejudicial, and completely impressionistic, in-depth, gut-checking analysis of the Republican Presidential candidates.)

You may have noticed that there is a Presidential race going on here in America; or at least half a race. The Republican candidates have been involved in a rather messy, very public version of King of the Hill as they vie for the Republican nomination. I say half a race because the President is not yet involved in it. He is off doing other mundane, often unnoticed things, like bringing the country back from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (what a slacker!), while his opponents address the real issues threatening the fabric and future of America, such as birth control, abortion rights, Presidential birth certificates, and same-sex marriage.     

What started out as oh, thirty or forty people running for this really thankless job has been narrowed down to just three; well, four if you count Ron Paul, who if nothing else is sure to have a hit record with his original tune, “Hey you kids, get off of my lawn!” It will be released as soon as he decides which of the other lucky contestants gets his 7% of the Republican voter base and then drops out.

The other three, Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are slugging it out in the semi-finals. But in the end, only one will be the new American Idle (sic). So how are they doing?

Well, last night Rick Santorum, the former Senator from Pennsylvania, won the key Southern state primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. Not to be outdone, Romney cleaned Santorum’s clock by winning the all-important Hawaii and American Samoa primaries. That’s right-American Samoa! And he might have lost that all-important contest too if his handlers hadn’t counseled Romney to stop calling them the American S’mores.

Willard “Mitt” Romney has been campaigning for the last five years for this nomination. He’s spent millions and millions of dollars, and still can’t seem to get above 30% in any of the primaries held thus far. Here, in my humble opinion, is why I should be his campaign manager.

America is composed of about 99% “Working Joes” and “Working Josephines”, not “Working Willards” or “Working Mitts”. He needs to start by changing his name to “Hank” or “Duke” Romney. That will immediately give him 2 or 3 percentage points in these contests.

Second, he needs to spend an entire season as the host of television’s Dirty Jobs, cleaning septic tanks or killing cows in a slaughterhouse. Right now his only connection with just plain folks is his learned ability to say ‘grits’, ‘y’all’, and ‘I like trees’. Just for going to work, ole Duke Romney will grab another point or two in these races.

While I’m at it, I would tell Mitt to stop doing things like making $10,000 bets with people while he’s on national television. Oh I know that children do that all the time, but this guy can actually pay one off just with the dough in his wallet. In fact, I’d venture a guess that his wallet alone cost about 10k.

Admit you’re rich, Hank Romney! Why do you pretend that you aren’t? You are not one of us. Wearing jeans and rolling up your sleeves doesn’t make you so. I have never seen anyone look as uncomfortable as you do at one of these campaign whistle stops. You’re like the rich kid who shows up at a public basketball court and wants to start a pick up game using your personally autographed Michael Jordan ball, and who brings Michael Jordan with him as his teammate.

Be proud of the photo with you and the money falling out of your pockets! Revel in the fact that your bedroom slippers cost more than I make in a week. Hire all the illegals you can afford to clean for you!

Stop tying the dog to the roof of your car! It doesn’t look good.  And while you’re at it, get an All-American dog we can identify with, like a pit bull. Name him something like Hercules. And make sure America sees ole Hercules, testicles swinging around on CNN news feeds. The public likes a dog with balls.  Not only will America think you’re tough, but piss-ant countries like Iran will think twice before dropping an A-bomb down Israel’s throat. Plus you get the added benefit of protection! What chicken-fried smelling trailer trash is going to shove their urine-soaked baby in your arms when there’s even the remotest possibility that ole Hercules will chew its arm off?  

 Be proud of being a Mormon! Get married to a woman in every town in which you campaign! Beat up a gay person! Have a vision at a county fair; nothing says ‘America’ more than a potential President going glassy-eyed and quoting Joseph Smith’s golden tablets. Store the Osmonds in the luggage compartment of your bus and drag one or two out at each stop! Come on, do I have to think of everything?

And stop flip-flopping on every issue...or really you need to you don’t. YES YOU DO! Jesus, it’s contagious!

America wants you to say SOME things, not EVERYTHING! You need to understand the concept of videotape. This isn’t 1900 where you can say shit to people one day and change your mind the next. You can’t be for “Obama Care” back then and against it now, especially if it’s original name was ‘Romney Care’. IT’S YOUR PLAN! Either embrace it or change your name to Creampuff Wussy Wimp III.

Mess up your hair once in a while. Does Bain Capital also own the Vitalis Company? Let America know that yes that is actual human hair and not a communications helmet from whatever robotics firm built you in the first place.

You need to swear a little too. And get drunk. And take a mistress. Or at the very least, pull a Bill Clinton and tell the world you got oral sex on the corporate jet, even if you didn’t. Make shit up! America will see you as human and flawed, and love you to death.

Finally, you need to make a dramatic speech, one that’s emotion-packed and will tug at both America’s heartstrings and purse strings. I’ve got one for you and you can put it in the new documentary I’m writing for you at this very minute. I call it...

Knute Romney-All American Guy!
Here’s your script.

“Well America...I haven’t a thing to say. We’ve played a great game...all of us...Great game. (He tries to smile)
I guess we just can’t expect to win ‘em all. But we sure wowed them in American S’, Samoa
(Romney pauses and says quietly)

I’m going to tell you something I’ve kept to myself for years-
None of you ever knew Bob Dole.
It was long before your time.
But you know what a lesson he was for us all at the political game.
(There is a gentle, faraway look in his eyes as recalls Dole’s words)

And the last thing he said to me--“Romn,’ he said-
“sometime, when the team is up against it—and the breaks are beating the shit out of the Republican party—tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Doler....
(Romney’s eyes become misty and his voice is unsteady as he finishes)

I don’t know where I’ll be then Romn”, he said—“but
I’ll know about it—and I’ll be happy”.

Next, I’ll be giving my expert political punditry to Rick Santorum. Sooner or later, one of these loons will listen to me and I will be the most powerful, non-elected, transgendered comedian in the universe!

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug. Everybody eat. Abbondanza!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hand Over the Keys? Not so fast, Bucco!

Wow. The Pacific Princess, which served as the backdrop for the original Love Boat series has just been sold to a Turkish demolition company as scrap for 3 million dollars. I remember when it was all shiny and new.  No mention was made as to whether or not Captain Stubing, Julie, Isaac or Doc would also be sold for scrap, though I suspect that has already occurred. When was the last time any of them appeared anywhere?

 Last week, Davy Jones of the Monkees passed away suddenly, and a few weeks before, the great Etta James left us. There are only two Beatles left alive and Springsteen’s album downloads can’t get past the #11 spot, while someone named Adele is #1 according to Each year, when the Oscars pay tribute to those who are no longer with us, I find myself thinking, but they were so young. Of course, I’m really surprised to find that the newly departed were in their 80s, which then begs the question, how did that happen?

Jamie Lee Curtis, who in her youthful days, sent many a young man and woman home from the movie theater with enough fantasy fodder to last for a solid month, is now using her silver-haired sex appeal to tout the joys of regularity one gets from eating yogurt. Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, apparently can’t even hear the doorbell anymore, and is now hawking hearing aids on TV. It’s kind of sad to think that Lee is the old guy in the next apartment that you constantly complain about because he plays his TV so loud at all hours of the night. Lindsay Wagner, his Bionic Woman counterpart, can’t sleep either without the aid and benefits she gets from her Sleep Number Bed.

It appears that my generation is mortal after all, despite what we have believed our entire lives. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are rapidly being replaced by erectile dysfunction, anti-depressive medication, and John Tesh; and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Even though we baby boomers represent one of the larger segments of our population, as witnessed by the ever growing burden we are placing on the Social Security System, we are being pushed aside to make way for the next group of contestants who are charged with moving humanity forward and to evolve both socially and morally. Advertisers know that we are soon to be gone from here and would much rather devote their money to those who are likely to have more time on this planet it spend it. The Pepsi generation has been replaced by the Five Hour Energy crowd.  

 The generation I knew, which forced huge social changes in the areas of civil rights, and who, by voicing their opinions ended an unjust war, who conquered space because we were challenged to do so by our President, is weary from life. The “come alive” Pepsi generation that was us can no longer tolerate the fizz of life, they tell us. We are now, for the most part, comfortable with replacing it with Philips Milk of Magnesia and reruns of the Golden Girls. And while that is probably true for a good segment of my crowd, it is a generalization. Some of us still want to play. The questions are; will they let us and will we just roll over and let them stop us?

What prompted this article is sense that I’ve been getting lately that there might not be a place for me in the world of stand-up. In addition to being transgendered, I’m also older, fatter, grayer and more wrinkled than most of my peers out there. And while I’m as funny as I ever was (perhaps even more so now), I seem to be having difficulty in moving back into the mainstream of comedy; and by that I mean bookings or lack thereof.

Looking around at the comics who are in my age range, I see that many have gone on to bigger and better things. Some have had one or two series on television by now. Some are superstars. Others became writers and producers. So I can understand why the average booker would have both a credibility and sale-ability problem with me. I am an unknown quantity to them. Why should they choose me over someone younger? By now, I should have been ‘established’ with a following that consistently puts asses in the seats. It is not for them to care what I’ve been doing for the last eleven years; only what I can do now. To them, I am as much a newbie as a kid half my age who steps on a stage for the first time. And even though I can disrepute that image just by performing for them, I can understand their hesitancy in doing so. Their feeling is that perhaps I can’t connect with younger audiences and/or the people who are my age won’t come out to a comedy club.

None of that really bothers me, though it can be frustrating. What frosts my pumpkin, gets my goat, and generally just ticks me off is the question of viability; that somehow age proportionately reduces one’s ability to contribute to the arts and society. Arthritis, acid reflux, and artificial joints aside, I would like to remind people that the minds, if not the bodies of the white-headed remain sharp and vital.

I was reminded of this last night as I watched a PBS special in which 85 year old Tony Bennett was the focus. The Great Performances special had to do with his latest Duets II album... no wait.... his Grammy winning, platinum selling album, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Tony performed with such wonderfully talented (and much younger) folks such as the late Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, John Maher, Josh Grobin, Andrea Bocelli and host of others. There’s old Tony, just as relevant and cool as he ever was, schooling the kids and loving every minute of it. What was especially nice was to see was the admiration and respect that these artists have for him and vice-versa. I loved every minute of it. And you know what else? I came away with a new respect and understanding of Gaga and Winehouse because of it.

And let’s not forget 90 year-old Betty White, who is about the hottest thing on television these days. Or 80 year-old Rita Moreno, who is co-starring in a new series with Fran Drescher, or even the late George Burns who worked up until he was 100 years old. All had, and still have, something to offer in the way of creative contributions to the performing arts.

But we are now, as we were in my generation, a society that too easily casts its elders aside, and I believe that we will be a poorer nation because of it. Of course, I’m saying this now that I am actually a member of the older generation and I am seeing life through different eyes. Still, it makes perfect sense to me that the generation who in its youth, made its mighty voice heard and changed the world’s attitude toward its young, shouldn’t and couldn’t do the same now that they are not so young.

It is kind of sad, on one level, to think that the Love Boat will sail no more and that it will be nothing more than scrap metal soon because for many of us, we view our lives and our worth to the world in the same way. But on the other hand, it is also uplifting to remind ourselves that the same metal will be used to build new things, like ships and buildings.

And that’s the key, really. We must continue to re-invent ourselves like Tony Bennett and Betty White do, because by doing so, we stay connected the stuff of life that makes a kid stare wide-eyed upon seeing a skyscraper or a Broadway show for the first time. Age is a fact of life, not a crime. But losing one’s sense of wonder about life is a crime against self and humanity because it robs subsequent generations of the belief that there is life after fifty, sixty, or even ninety years of age. 

The world will continue to whiz into the future and we can all sit on our lawn chairs and watch it go by, or we can join in the fun. Don’t turn over the keys for the future to the kids just yet. I’m here to say we’re not done, but it’s up to us. I’ve made my choice; have you?

All aboard-we’re expecting you! 

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug. Everybody eat. Abbondanza!



Friday, March 9, 2012


A lot has been written about the afterlife. It’s been the subject of countless books, poems, movies, television shows, songs, tattoos, and fortune cookie inserts. Entire religions are built around the concept of not fucking up too badly here so as to risk a free split level home on a huge cumulus cloud with a fabulous view of the Great Beyond.

On the whole it sounds like a pretty groovy gig doesn’t it? Just imagine a place where you can eat twenty to thirty pounds of chocolate a day and not get either diabetes or terminally constipated; wouldn’t you want to go there? How about being able to just think of where you want to be and Poof, you’re there! Who needs planes or

In fact, just by imagining it, you’d be able to instantly speak Chinese or one of those African clicking languages...or combine the two and invent a Chinese clicking dialect. The combinations are endless! You’d be slim, beautiful, and have your pick of whichever partner d’amore you want; no diseases, no need for birth control (hear that Rush?), and no reason to have to drop out of pastry chef school because somebody got pregnant (Yeah Rush...see what you did?).

And money? Forget about it! No more bills either! In fact every time Verizon robo -called you 15 times a day as soon as you were 20 minutes past the due date for your bill, instead of looking at the caller ID and feeling that knot in your stomach get a little tighter, you can now gleefully pick up the phone and shout at the top of your lungs, “Hey Verizon! Go fuck yourself! I ain’t payin!!!” And you can do that for all eternity...which, by the way, is about how long it takes to speak with an actual person at Verizon.

Yeah, the afterlife sounds like it is a bitchin place alright. It makes you wonder why everyone is so afraid of it.

I think it might be because the very thought of an eternity similar to this world we live in is so horrific that, if it were true, we’d all be spending our earthly vacations driving the family Ford Focus off the ledge and into the nearest canyon we could find. So, we make up this fantasy world, call it heaven, and voila; something to focus on that takes our mind off of the omnipresent, pernicious and toxic cloud that we know as life.

Now you might say, “Well gee Julia, are you alright? You don’t sound very happy. It’s not all bad is it?” To which I would say, if you are asking that question, then it probably isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s probably pretty damned good. Either that or it’s time to fire up another Thai stick.

But to answer the imaginary reader’s question, yes, I’m alright. And most of the time I am pretty happy, actually. I don’t hate life per say, I just hate the system, you know? It’s all so random, so arbitrary. It’s kind of like those ducks that you pick out of a tub of water at a carnival and when you turn it over, you get to find out what you won. Sometimes it’s a Cadillac Escalade, and sometimes it’s a mother of a case of shingles. It’s the friggin system.

Now, it has occurred to me numerous times over my earthly existence that if there is such a thing as an afterlife, then it follows that there must also exist a ­pre-life. Logically, it would seem that the pre-life would be just as cool as the after-life, but it isn’t. In fact, if I were doing a performance review of the pre-life, I could only conclude that it is woefully mismanaged.

 Let’s think this through, shall we? If we are souls just inhabiting our bodies, and our souls are eternal, then it stands to reason that we must have been someplace before we got here, right? I mean, there isn’t some assembly line in the heaven version of Detroit where the 1952 Julia just rolled off, tumbled helplessly to earth and into my mother’s womb, is there? Of course not! If I’m eternal, then I must have been a sentient entity before landing here, no? And if that’s the case, why would I pick this crazy life I’ve led? Why would others live in horrible circumstances in other parts of the world if they had a choice? Why am I ending every sentence with a question mark? There I did it again, didn't I? Crap..stop it Julia.

The answer to all of the above questions of course, is that the friggin system is way screwed up; at least in the pre-life. 

Here’s my take on what’s going on up there, down there, out there, or wherever there is. Either the pre-life houses all of it’s souls in a cosmic bar where the Ruler of It All  gets them so plastered that they don’t care which life they pick, or the second, more logical assumption is, it’s a heavenly Selective Service System; that’s right, a draft.

It has to be! Can you imagine anyone choosing to be born in a place where a night out on the town consists of a romp in a de-lousing tent? Or where the local 5 star restaurant serves fifty different kinds of gruel? Or where the most popular game show is Let’s Not Get Diphtheria? No, you can’t. Only a draft could justify sending anyone down here to that kind of life.

So, let’s review, shall we?

We now know that if you believe that you’re going someplace really good after all of this is finished, they you must have come from someplace before you got here. You didn’t have a choice where you were getting sent, but anything was better than the pre-life housing and job situation, where if you believe the Renaissance artists, you spent your pre-life as a nude baby floating aimlessly throughout space.

We’ve also gleaned that if you intend to have enough to enjoy your eternal retirement in the afterlife, you must have a good earthly credit score and plenty of stars in your confidential file; otherwise, it’s straight to hell for you. And as we all know, hell is not unlike spending eternity listening to Snooki’s philosophies on life and Guidos.

If you really, REALLY screw things up, you may have to come back here and do the whole thing over again, and you might not be so lucky in the draft the next time around. You could wind up living as an indentured servant, or worse, a Greek bondholder!

In conclusion, let me say that life is the ultimate reality show. It is the Great Race and Survival all mixed into one. And when the day comes when The Ruler of It All decides to vote you off the island, just hope it doesn’t happen when you are in the middle of surfing porn on the Internet or God forbid, nodding your head in agreement with Rush Limbaugh or Rick Santorum. Because sure as shootin’, if you don’t make the most of your time here, you’re bound to have to do this all over again- as a closeted transgendered, illegal alien, birth control pill popping, oversexed, Republican. Born again, of course!

That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug. Everybody eat. Abbondanza!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What, in God's Name?

I spend a lot of time thinking about God, and whether or not I believe in a Deity, while at the same time, looking at the religions of the world and wondering why, if God is real, He hasn’t put an end to their existence up until now. It seems that more and more, the religions of the world are less intent on doing what they purport to be “God’s work”, and have shifted their focus on being judgmental, bullying and threatening to those who don’t kowtow to their particular brand of an Almighty force. Somewhere along the way, the ‘leaders’ of the major religions have come to believe that not only do they speak for their God, but they have the self-imposed ability and right to speak as God; this makes me very uncomfortable, to say the least.

 The problem that arises from such a grandiose illusion is that a highly-flawed man interpreting the will of a perfect being will always eventually bastardize the supposed perfection with all the foibles, character flaws and prejudices that all humans possess. In short, when you decide to eat from the tree of knowledge, you better make sure that you have the complete meal and not just the appetizer. In simpler language, humans are just not capable of representing God without actually being Him.    

You should know in advance of reading this that I am not a big fan of the organized religions’ version of God. He’s just way too confusing and fickle for my simple mind. How, I ask myself, can a deity be sold as all-loving, and yet at the same time heartlessly cast a flawed soul into the horror of hell for disobedience? Now I know you are probably saying to yourself, “Well hell doesn’t really exist”, and I agree with you. But there are plenty of people who believe that it does. And they are more than willing to berate, cajole, and even physically harm those who disagree with their philosophy in an effort to “save” them from such a fate. No, I can’t get behind a God that would do that to anyone. And if hell does exist, at least I know where I stand with Satan versus a God that could turn on me at any moment. Can you imagine an eternity walking on those eggshells?  

As a woman of transgendered experience, I can’t help but question the validity of organized religion, because it seems we transgendered folk are always caught between the sense of truly being blessed by God on the one hand, and being condemned on the other by the very people who claim to follow His path of righteousness. Several cases of humans thinking as God which have been in the news lately come to mind; let’s start with a recent comment by Rick Santorum.

This Republican candidate, who claims to be a devoutly religious person, who wants to be the leader of the free world, said in a 2003 interview with the Associate Press that “gay marriage is no different than man on child, man on dog (italics mine), or whatever the case may be”. And on January 7th of this year, he made the suggestion that it was so important for a child to have both a mother and a father, that even in cases where the father was in prison (italics mine), it was still a more preferable arrangement than having two same-sex parents. He didn’t even broach the possibility of God forbid, a transgendered parent raising a child in a loving home.  

In Tennessee, where a bill was recently introduced in the legislature to refuse transgendered folk the ability to use the restroom of their choice in a public venue, there are other folks in positions of power who are using the human-as-God self-anointment to make the lives of  gay and transgendered high schoolers even more difficult than they normally are. Dorothy J. Bond, the Principal of Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tennessee, has been in the news of late for telling gay students that they are “not on God’s path”, and in the case of one lesbian student, that she was “going to hell”  because of her sexual orientation. She has told gay kids that they are “ruining their lives” and has threatened them with 60-day suspensions, assignments to alternative schools, and/or outright expulsion to any students who dared show affection to members of the same sex. Once again, the possibility of transgendered students existing in Haywood High was not even mentioned. God forbid! Yes Dorothy, Jesus would be proud of your hatred of things you don’t understand, wouldn’t He? And I’m sure you were patted on the back by the rest of your congregation when you told them how courageous you were in doing the Lord’s work.

Of course, hatred and strong-arming like this isn’t limited to the Land of the Free. It is world-wide. Take the case of Evie, the Indonesian transgendered woman who, as a man, babysat Barack Obama as a child. For all of her life, she has felt what all transgendered people do; that something inside of her was not right and that although her body told her one thing, her heart and her soul told her another.

In her 66 years on this planet, Evie has endured taunts and beatings because of who she is. She has had soldiers shave her long hair to the scalp and had cigarettes put out on her hands and arms. She has seen her friend killed and her body dumped in a sewage canal for the ‘crime’ of being different; and for defying the man-as-God edicts of the Muslim clerics there who dictate how a person should live.

Ichwan Syam, a prominent Muslim ‘cleric’ says that transgendered people “must learn to accept their nature. If they are not willing to cure themselves medically and religiously (italics mine), they have to accept their fate to be ridiculed and harassed”. This doesn’t sound too much different than the anti-gay rantings of Michelle Bachmann and her husband, or Fred Phelps and his maniac mob, does it? But, I’m sure that they know what’s best for us because they speak both for and as God, apparently. In their minds, it is better to murder in the name of God than to love one another.

The problem with organized religion is that it tends to put the formation and execution of its tenets into the hands of a few people, usually men. One only need to look to the brutal, corrupt past of the Catholic Church to see that in doing so, the imperfections of men will inevitably seep their way into the workings of any organized body. I seriously doubt that if Jesus were around today, his first words upon looking at what religion has done to his message would be “good job guys!”

But these people have taken the message of love, which is the purported basis of all religions and turned it into an Orwellian nightmare. Love is replaced by intolerance, hatred and bullying, but it is still under the guise of love. A gang mentality, which cannot abide walking outside the lines, now, rules the roost of organized religion. And it is getting worse with each passing year, as generation upon generation is inculcated with the same beliefs as their predecessors. And at the risk of sounding alarmist and extreme, this is how things like The Crusades and 'ethnic cleansings' begin.

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe in a higher power. I believe that there is something out there that is bigger than all of us. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that that the quickest and surest way to connect with it is through love; not stoning, beheading, torturing or threatening, but love and only love. It is the only true thing and it was the backbone of Jesus’ teaching.

We are all sons and daughters of God; all of us. If God is perfect and all loving, then there is no room in the heart of God for hatred and intolerance. A perfect God cannot by nature, make mistakes. Therefore, I and my brothers and sisters are not mistakes and are loved by God just as surely as the hate-mongers are. I have a right to exist. Evie has that same right. So too, do the students in Tennessee.

The time has come to stand up to these bullies both here and in places where people cannot before it is too late. Take the word of God, which is to love, and spread it everywhere. When you do, you take away the power of those who would harm and hurt your friends and your family simply because they are different Because history has shown us over and over that if you don’t stand up to them now, they will eventually come for you too; as God as my witness.