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.

You can always find me on

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Top Six Predictions for 2015


By Madam Julia , Psychic Prognosticator

One of my many well-kept secrets is that I have been blessed with a third eye, which enables me to see far into the future. While it is true that I cover this eye with lots of makeup for show business purposes, it does not however, cloud the visions which come to me regularly, usually on Tuesday nights during NCIS. And that is a shame because I really love me some Mark Harmon.

With 2015 just around the corner (check it, it's there waiting to bash you over the head and take your purse), I am bound by my sacred oath as a certified psychic to share and warn you of what lies ahead. Here then are my predictions. Unfortunately, all of my visions have to do with New Jersey this time around but if anything else pops up I'll be sure to let you know.

1. Donald Trump will get out of the casino and hotel business and open a chain of frozen custard stands. "Forget Mr. Softee," will sayeth The Donald, "this summer New Jersey will be licking Mr. Donny. Instead of DQs they'll be experiencing DTs!"

2. A group of rogue Amish will flee Pennsylvania and establish a new colony in Camden, New Jersey.

3. NJ Senator Cory Booker will confront Chris Christie in a Denny's and finally force him to sit down and shut up.

4. A new bond rating will be created to reflect New Jersey's ailing economy. They will be rated "DOA".

5. A pre-Revolutionary war parchment will be discovered in a Trenton home. It will show that our state's name is not in fact, New Jersey, but New Jimmy after James, Duke of York, the brother of England's King Charles II.

 And finally...

 6. A team of right wing 'patriots' armed with chain saws will begin a covert operation to saw New Jersey from the mainland. They will then claim it as an independent island nation and rename it Cruzyland in honor of Ted Cruz. No one will notice.

I am available for private readings at $427 per session. Use the codeword 'chickpea' for a 3% discount.  Happy Future to you! 


Monday, April 28, 2014

Out of the Shadows and Making Our Own Light.

Recently, an old grammar school friend resurfaced in my life thanks to Facebook. It's been nearly fifty years since we've spoken, but the bonds of having survived Catholic grammar school, deranged Franciscan nuns and the never-ending reminders that the bloodied body which was nailed to the cross and which hung above the blackboard was there because of my miserable, sinful, ten-year-old life is the glue which allows us to reassemble our friendship in these, the beginning of our sunset years.

 Old friend Peter, with whom I graduated kindergarten; Peter, whose mother was my den mother and who taught us how to grow grass in an eggshell filled with dirt, and with whom I later served Mass dutifully as an altar boy, writes a column for a well known financial magazine. But he occasionally strays, as all Catholic boys do, from his mission to write of other things unrelated to the wonderful, wacky, world of finance.

One of his well-thought out and articulate columns had to do with the radical feminist Cathy Brennan's views on male privilege and her obvious resentment toward transgendered women moving in on what she considers her "turf".

Peter stated that our parochial school education and the behaviors of the nuns was similar to Ms. Brennan's in their resentment of male privilege. Having lived with both tribes, and having experience such privilege and then having it removed, he was interested in my perception of the whole shebang. Here is my response.

 This year marks the 12th year since my surgery and my 14th since beginning this whole process. During that time I have spent a great deal of it pondering exactly what I am.

In the early years, I made every attempt to justify myself as fully female. I guess I needed the validation from others, and so I stayed firmly entrenched on the third of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Acceptance and Love from others) for quite some time. As much as I wanted to be 'fully female' and as much as I wanted to be in a lesbian relationship, the reality and politics of the LGBT world, and particularly Lesbiana, reminded me time and time again that while I could have friends (some close, some not so much), the bulk of Lesbiana would always view me as an "other".  This attitude was never as clear to me as the year some of my friends decided to go to Michfest. I was told that it was for "womyn born womyn" and that I could not attend even if I wanted to do so.

This was about five years ago and at the time I found the statement quite hurtful. But what it drove home to me was that no matter how I viewed myself, I would never...NEVER be considered 100% female by those folks. But like anything, some good comes out of every negative and it forced me to come to grips with what and who I was.

 To them, I would always be an interloper; that no matter how much surgery I had or how much I gussied myself up, I would forever be inexorably male to them. And for years, I resented that and countered with the quip, "I got my ticket to this club the hard way and I don't intend to be stopped at the gate now."

Over time though, I began to realize that the closer I got to the gate, the less I wanted to go through it. Where I once marched in LGBT parades on Pride Day, I began to realize that the Trans community was woefully represented in them. Where I once attended lesbian groups (both social and political) regularly, I began to sense that I would never BE one of them. And so gradually, I began to pull away. I found that the political component of being a lesbian far outweighed the possibility that a woman could put aside the "trans" part of what I was and just accept who I was as a human being. I came to understand that the politics of being a lesbian was as much a part of the whole thing as being attracted to a same sex member. Through my eyes (and remember, this is just my opinion), women found themselves unable to give up that badge of honor that allows lesbians to say, we don't need men in our lives. After years of exposure to that kind of thinking, I found myself back at square one. If I was not a woman, and I certainly was not a man, then just what was I? All of my childhood training about gender was about to get thrown out the window.

As you might imagine, back when I began this process (1999-2000), there was very little information regarding how we trans folk came to be, but the prevailing theory then (as now) is that this is not a mental disorder but an organic one. Nature loves variety as we know, and the growing number of trans-identified folk coming out each year coupled with history being rife with trans types (see the trial transcript of Joan of Arc)  gave credence to the theory that trans folk did not just suddenly pop onto radar, but that we have been around since the beginning of recorded time.

 Now of course, the Internet provides us with a preponderance of information regarding trans society and has opened up so many people's eyes about what we are and where we fit in the world.  

I have learned to view gender as a continuum. To me, there is no absolute male or female. We are all somewhere on that line. And while society does tend to still classify gender as absolute, I believe that those lines are being blurred too, mostly because of the growing transgender population. When so many people are declaring themselves as "other", as they are these days, isn't the idea of a gender continuum more reasonable than absolute male or female?

Yet there is that nagging question of male privilege. Does it exist? Yes. In my field of comedy for instance, it is very pronounced. There is still a large segment of both the entertainment industry and the general public who believe that female comics are not as funny as their male counterparts. Female comedians are paid less and generally will not headline a show. Nor will you see two female comedians on the same show and when there are, club owners rarely place them back to back on the lineup. Having worked as a comedian for both tribes, I can tell you that it is markedly different for women, and not in a good way.

But back to the radical feminists. I believe (again my own personal opinion) that when movements begin, it is because of the radical factions. Their zeal, no matter how angry or discriminatory it may seem, is often the power behind the growth of a movement. Once that movement gets a foothold in the mainstream it begins to grow organically, and the very militants who sired it often are pushed back to the fringes in favor of a more centrist majority. Once dialogue ensues between the "warring" parties, assimilation begins. We've seen it in race relations in this country, with European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century and most recently, with our gay and lesbian populations. Trans people are next in line and have finally begun to unite. But it has been the young trans radicals who are at the forefront of the fight. No longer content with being shunned by genetic "cis" women as in the case of Michfest, or with being on fringes of the LGBT family, trans women and men are discovering that united, they too can have the power to change things. Right now, there is a brouhaha going on within our own community over drag queen RuPaul's use of the word 'tranny' and she-male. Many of us find those words demeaning and derogatory because in most cases, the context of the sentence is meant to do just that.

Our young people in the arts have begun to demand that movies, television and film begin to cast trans folk in their productions. Jaret Leto's portrayal of a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club for instance, was the subject of much rancor within the trans community. Many of us felt that this could have been a breakout role for a trans actress, but none were auditioned for the part.

 And so in closing, I believe that the growing number of visible, vocal trans people are questioning and redefining gender all over the world. I believe that in the next three or four generations, acceptance of  the gender continuum will make the current absolute definition archaic. I believe that in time, trans people will have trans role models to look toward and the desire to feel or be 100% female will disappear. Finally, I believe that someday, many will look at the trans community with some degree of envy because we who were blessed with this very natural way of being have the decided advantage of seeing, feeling and actually living with the points of view of both genders. Already, scientists are pointing toward genetic and chemical causes for gender dysphoria, itself a misnomer as it implies being trans as negative. Ask any trans person how they feel after coming out and the answer is more likely to imply euphoria than dysphoria. And who needs radical feminists for validation? I am happy. That is validation enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jerry Springer, I KNOW you're brighter than this.

In my world of stand-up comedy (proud member since 1980), free speech, and a person's right to it, is the bedrock of our profession. I can't tell you how many arguments I've listened to over the decades both condemning and defending a comedian's right to be "offensive" if he or she so desires. Personally, I find poorly crafted jokes far more offensive than salty language, but free speech means taking the good with the bad. If you don't like a comedian's act, don't one is forcing you. The same holds true for television shows. We should all have respect for others' opinions. They might like what they are hearing or seeing even if you or I don't.

And then there's Jerry Springer.

Sometimes, when I'm flipping through the channels and this human version of a pit bull fight lights up my screen for even a second, I get this sense of  just having been physically violated.  My first inclination is to go shower, but even a "Silkwood" decontamination shower couldn't remove whatever pernicious, infectious, brain mildew this sad excuse for a television show has implanted in my skull.


Personally, I was surprised to find that it  was still even being aired, but then again I have been known to get ahead of the evolutionary curve from time to time. Clearly, there are some who still find this modern day version of gladiators at the Roman Coliseum entertaining.


Boy howdy, Jerry Springer loves him some transsexuals though, doesn't he? Seems like he never misses an opportunity to show transgendered folk (and other minorities) in the worst possible  light. Don't believe me? Here's a partial list of some of Jerry's past 'shows' in which transgendered (supposedly) folk have appeared and which appear now on YouTube.


NOTE: *The exclamation points illustrate the urgency and importance of    all things transsexual in Jerry Land.


1. Transsexuals Fight!

2. Transsexual Takedown Part 1

3. I slept with a transsexual

4. I am pregnant by a GIANT transsexual! (Yes, the giants are the most fertile)

5. Transsexual Cravings! (Chocolate? Ice cream? Chocolate Ice Cream?)

6. Dumped for a transsexual

7. Transsexual secrets, Part 2. (Part 1 was apparently a secret too)

8. He-She confessions!

9. "Bacon", the transsexual. (This is a person's name I think. To the best of my knowledge, actual bacon is genderless.)

10. Emilio Trannies Tell All! (Don't ask me. I don't know what an Emilio Tranny is             either)

11. My Transsexual Summer  (Starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donohue?)

12. Transsexual Tell All!

13. Transsexual Secrets Explode! (Which is why you should keep them in a cool dark          place)

14. Guess what? I'm a man!

15. Honey, I'm really a guy (originally titled, Honey, I Shrunk The Dick?)

16. My boyfriend is a woman!


So, for nearly twenty years ole "Jer" has been convincing some pretty far out people to display their supposed private lives to a national audience. Whether they are actors or not is irrelevant. I sure don't begrudge any actor who is out there just scraping by the chance to earn some rent or chump change by being on television, even if it is at the bottom of entertainment food chain. If the guests on The Jerry Springer show are indeed genuine, and have sold their souls for a free trip to Chicago, then we, as a country, have much bigger problems with our education system than originally thought.


What bothers me now and what has bothered me for years about this show is Jerry's depiction of trans people as demented, home-wrecking sex maniacs who spend their entire lives in crotch high, skin tight skirts and stiletto heels. He has diminished an entire segment of the population (already laden with enough social stigma to last two lifetimes) to a stereotype which it is constantly trying to shed. It is our version of blackface, and until recently, not much was being said or done to combat it.


Thanks to the Internet and social media, more and more of us are moving into the mainstream public eye. As a comedian, I have to prove myself to be funny in order to work just to get a gig. Yes, I may have to push myself a little harder and be a little better than the average male comic in order to get work, but that doesn't bother me. My audiences seem to accept me as just another working class comedian. While I play gay clubs, I also play major casinos and comedy clubs around the country. I am whatever my audiences perceive me to be. If I present a positive image of a human being, then my being transgendered is irrelevant. If TGLB audiences like me because I'm 'one of their own' so be it. Just as long as I'm funny. 


Trans people are popping up everywhere now and in every profession. As time goes on and more of us 'come out', our normal quotient grows around the country. We don't need to be accepted by everyone, but we demand to be respected. And Jerry Springer has zero respect for trans folks; at least publicly.


He has come under fire recently for his repeated use of the word tranny. For many of us, that term is a pejorative, the transgendered equivalent of the word nigger. No matter the context, I can tell you that every time I hear it, I cringe. For me, it carries all the hatred and derision that so many of our trans folk have had to endure over the years. Also in the word category? He/she, It, She/male and the rest of them. Jerry Springer has used them all with great abandon until now.


There is a growing Transgendered movement in this country. We are joining hands and tightening up the ranks. We are standing up for ourselves, asserting our place in this society. It will not stop, that I can assure you. Our numbers grow each year and with them, our voices grow louder and stronger. Jerry Springer immediately declared that he did not know the term 'tranny' was offensive and has said that he will not use it anymore. Good for him. But I am fairly certain that his depiction of trans folks will not change until the pressure for that too comes to bear on him.


I am not for censorship, God knows. My job requires that I have the freedom to say what I feel to achieve my comedic goals. But I also am acutely aware that each and every time I step onto a stage, I have a responsibility to know where my personal boundaries are and if I choose to cross them. Jerry Springer has that same responsibility. In my humble opinion, he has decided that compounding his fortunes are far more important.


For the time being at least, there will always be a market for the stupid, insensitive, idiotic type of program that Jerry Springer does. But I can guarantee you this; there will come a day when the people who appear on that 'show' will seem to be anachronistic. They will be looked upon then the way anyone who would dare show up in black face at any event--with scorn and derision. When that day comes, Jerry Springer may do an about face mea culpa, but it will be too late. No one will be watching.