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Award Winning Friend

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I haven’t had a lot to say since the election. I can’t say the results were a surprise, but the disappointment has had to slowly sink in. I’ll be there for the runoff’s next month, standing in line for my right to vote and to get my little sticker. Today though, I heard some most excellent news.

One of my grandsons is in middle school.  Today, this friend of my grandson, won the “Anti Bullying Award” at their school. I’m not quite sure exactly what this means. I have no idea what he did to earn this accolade, but obviously what he has not done is bully anyone.

I’m very proud. I’m proud of my grandson’s friend. I’m proud of my grandson for picking such a friend. I’m proud of my daughter, my son-in-law, my other daughter, her boyfriend, my grandson’s little brother, another grandson of mine, and I’m even proud of their school for giving out such an award.

I’m so proud of this young man. There are adults far less grown up than he.

 

 

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November 12, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , | Leave a comment

At Least We Can Vote

Six voting machines for this election!

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We ended up voting in the late afternoon when Lee got home from work yesterday. We walked into the small Baptist Church and got in line behind about fifteen or twenty people. We filled out our form and waited, looking over the amendments that were on the ballot.

I arrived at the table to turn in my form and show my ID first. All went well and I was given the little yellow card for the voting machine. I joined the line waiting for a machine. At this point, one of the women at the table announced that they would wait for a few minutes and let all of us in line with yellow cards get to machines. There was little room for a line where I was now standing.

When I was the last one waiting for a machine, the woman called Lee to the table. As I headed to the voting machine, I heard Lee say, “What do you mean I can’t vote here?”

From the voting machine, I could still hear bits of the conversation. Lee was asking how he could possibly have to vote at another precinct when we were partners at the same address. Then, “No, we are not roommates. We did not move in at different times. No, we registered in the county at the same place, the same day, the same time. ..Allison is my partner, not my roommate. We have the same last name. She is my partner, like spouse.”

As I turned in my yellow card and put my “I voted today” sticker on my shirt, I heard Lee say, “I’m not angry and I’m not blaming anyone. I just want to understand how we could be assigned to different precincts and I want to know how we can fix this situation. ”

I sat across the room as Lee sat in a chair and waited. The women volunteers sitting at the table were avoiding looking at Lee and I could feel the hostility from across the room. I smiled as people exited the room after voting. All turned away and avoided eye contact. The man who had been called over and whom Lee had been talking to, paced around with a cellphone to his ear. After about twenty more minutes, I heard Lee expressing thanks and taking a slip of paper from the man’s hand. Lee left with directions to another church where he could vote. They told him I should have voted there as well.

On the ride over, Lee told me how instantly every one of the polling volunteers had become hostile as soon as he told them I was his partner. He told me how the man refused to even say the word, continuing to call me roommate.

I tried to see the humor in it all and the irony. I had wanted folks to see us as a same-sex couple (transman and wife was beyond my wildest hopes, of course). I didn’t want anyone to mistake us for other than who and what we are. In that regard, the day was a huge success. However, we both know there is no way a heterosexual married couple living in the same home, moving in there together, registering together would have been assigned to different polling stations.

The hard part though, is the open hostility directed at Lee when I was described to those working the polls as the partner. The “Hi, How are you?” and  initial friendly exchange came to an abrupt and rude end and was never recovered. In fact, had Lee been as openly hostile as they were, I’m sure the scene would have become ugly. Lee kept his cool and remained not only civil, but kind and friendly.

At the next church, there was a longer line, but once Lee arrived at the point of filling out the little card, he was ushered to the front of the line. The volunteer there even addressed him as “Sir,” though obviously confused when she saw Lee’s work name tag which has his legal name of Lisa on it. They’d called ahead and warned them we were coming I suppose.

At least we can vote, though I’m sure there are many who believe we should not have that right either.

I couldn’t help wondering how many in both those churches were gay, lesbian, trans, and hiding. It’s no wonder they still hide.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pause for Change

Friday, we rode up into the North Georgia mountains. It was a perfect day with cool temps, clear skies and no plans other than to spend the day together, listen to some music, look at the changing leaves and maybe visit an old friend along the way.

We had a lovely ride up and met our friend who has lived in the mountains his whole life. He knows every road and “pig trail,” as he calls the barely passable ruts of road that only those with nerves of steel and vehicles with raised bottoms and four-wheel drive would dare to tread.

We climbed into his truck and headed into the hills, climbing higher and higher. At first, the advance in height could barely be felt as the twists and turns seemed to be going nowhere fast. Before long though, we could glance out the window and see nothing but free space between the side of the truck and the land far below. The leaves at first were colorful, then disappeared as they had long since fallen as we climbed towards the heavens.

He told us the land belonged to the forest service and few other cars or trucks were seen, each one requiring a friendly sharing of the narrow road or even backing up precariously to allow the other passage. Occasionally, we stopped and got out, taking pictures that defied the sheer beauty and grandness of a place so close and yet so far from our daily living.Our friend took pictures of Lee and I, something we have little of. He whispered to me how much he liked my Lee and how happy I seemed to him.

Finally, we started down the mountain, stopping only once to admire a small lake with one lone canoe carrying two fishermen in the middle of it. I imagined what it must have been like to travel that trail in a wagon or to have to spend a night stranded on that lonely narrow hint of a road. Our friend said he knew the road had been there in the 1800’s. His grandfather had traveled it often in a wagon, bringing down logs for firewood.

We arrived back in the small town that brings three states together. The powers that be in that little town had declared Friday night the night to Trick or Treat, so as not to interfere with the Saturday night events planned by the neighboring Georgia town eleven miles away. Neither town would ever allow trick or treating on Sunday, October 31st or not. Traffic was backed up with each car full of children in costume, hanging out rolled down windows and shouting greetings at each other.

We settled on a place to eat,  a combination American and Chinese buffet. The decor was a combination massive log lodge meets Chinese red dragon. The fare at the buffet was equally blended with the sesame pork side by side with mashed potatoes and fried chicken.  Towards the end of our meal, three teenagers came in, all dressed as women out of a Shakespearean play. One of them had a well-trimmed beard. Only one of the three looked to be in a female body.

I have to back track here a little before I continue. Our friend has been my friend for almost thirty years. We see each other a couple of times a year. His friendship with Lee is no doubt not only his only friendship with a trans-anyone, but his only friendship with anyone who identifies as LGBT. In fact, Lee is probably the only one he knows who is L or G or B or T or any combination thereof. He has only been around us together a handful of times. He is from this little pocket of the world where the population is almost entirely white, Baptist and perhaps close to a century behind the rest of the world. I don’t say that to criticize them, only to describe the place and the people who live there.

Back to the story and the three young people who came in. Our friend called over the manager of the restaurant, who he obviously knew and laughed with often. He told him he should guard the bathroom door because there was a crossdresser there. The manager looked confused. Our friend pointed behind him at the table of teenagers.  The manager walked away, nodding and laughing.

Later, the young man with the beard walked by. Our friend stopped him and told him someone wanted to meet him. He them called over the manager and the three all introduced themselves to each other.

Our friends and the manager seemed to have e great time during their little encounter and while they had not been vicious or attacking, their intent was clearly to make fun of the boy in the dress. I’m guessing they were all three dressed for a Halloween party. One would have to be incredibly brave to dress that way in that place for any other reason. I’m sure that most have moved away, leaving only the most fearful still hiding in their closets.

When we got out of our friend’s truck  to go home, he said to me, “I’m so sorry about what I said about that boy back there. I’ just wasn’t thinking. I hope I didn’t offend Lisa.” I just looked him in the eye and told him not to worry about it.

Perhaps the brave thing would have been to make some sort of scene or at least give my friend a good talking to. Instead, the right thing to do seemed simply to be grateful to be going home; grateful to live where we do; where at least those words and thoughts and jokes are done quietly beyond our ability to hear or see.The bigots are the ones in the closet where we live most of the time.

I also know my friends is kind. He is gentle and loving. He is also ignorant and foolish and at times acts without thought.

I am, too.

I do, too.

Ignorance does not excuse anything though.

One of the amazing things about my friend from the mountains, is how he never met a stranger. He is friends with everyone. He would help anyone. Everyone knows him and though he doesn’t hold any political office or own half the town, he is influential in that he is such a well-known and respected man. He is known for his strength as well as his kindness. Today, he is more aware. Today his ignorance of a world that has passed him and his community by is lessened. He gave us and our relationship a chance. We gave him pause. I’m glad he is still my friend.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Need A Hero? Here’s One.

You might need to sit down to read this. Whether it awes you, angers you, breaks your heart or confuses you, I doubt you can read it without feeling both inspired and saddened.

We have a friend who has two daughters, the younger of whom is in Middle School. This girl’s best friend is a gay boy. We heard a couple of weeks ago that she was hoping to start a Gay Student Association at her school, in response to all the gay bullying, gay teen suicides and to support her gay friend. We bought her a couple of rainbow flags at Atlanta Gay Pride in support of her efforts.

This family lives about twenty miles from us in another county, known just as much as ours for its far right politics. We have also heard horror stories of how this extreme right influence invades the schools there as well. Still, we hoped the bravery, compassion and peaceful nature of this young woman might pierce through the extremist mentality and fairness somehow prevail.

She emailed us that she had made an appointment with her principal. She was nervous but determined to ask for the school’s support in supporting the gay students of her school. After all, there were so many clubs and groups represented there.

We heard last night, that she met with the principal for a full thirty minutes and though he was courteous and even kind to her, he ultimately denied her request. He told her that while he did not agree, the county’s entire school board consisted of far right fundamental christians who all viewed homosexuality as morally wrong and would view such a support group as condoning morally wrong behavior.

He told her further than he might be able to support her in starting a group about discrimination and bullying in general. I guess this means that the members of this county’s school board see it wrong to discriminate against and bully those who are not gay, however it is morally righteous to discriminate against and bully those who are.

I wrote to our young friend before her meeting and told her how proud we were of her. I told her too that no matter what her principal said; no matter what answer he gave her, she would be making a tremendous difference in his life and in the life of every student at her school. Every bit of awareness counts. Every word and deed and thought counts.

When Lee and I vote on Tuesday, we will walk into the baptist church where we will vote, hand in hand. I know the politicians have to stand so many yards away, but I know too they will be close by along with their supporters conveying to them their opinion of how the voting is going. I do not want anyone to be mistaken about our being together. We are a same-sex couple casting our votes.

Our vote counts just as our young friend’s words matter and her intention matters. Her heart matters. It is the sane heart of a generation that will not condone or allow the discriminatory, abusive and unconstitutional practices and policies of the generation currently in power. She is almost grown. She and all her many friends will be voting in a few short years.

Now, do you feel inspired?

October 28, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Trans Ending

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Lee doesn’t read my blogs everyday. Sometimes, I read what I’ve written that day to him as he drives home from work. Often, he “catches up,” reading several at a time. On my blog about heart disease, I refer to him more as “her.” That blog is older and I’ve been writing about my heart journey longer than I’ve been specifically writing about being the spouse of a transman.

Very few people refer to the person I call my husband as “him” or “he.” When I began writing about heart disease, I was still referring to him as “her.” I have seldom changed in the way I address him on that site, sometimes still calling him Lisa rather than Lee. Though the transition of Lisa becoming more Lee has been his, it has also been mine. We both move around within the worlds around us, answering and addressing each other as situations and people expect us to and as we react and respond out of habit.

It is not for lack of respect that the pronouns are interchanged. It is because what you witness through these writings is our own journey, acceptance, education, understanding and acts of courage. I know no other woman whose husband is in the body of a woman rather than the body of a man. I know no other man who has had to reside in the body of a girl. I recently reunited with a niece who is MTF and for years worked as a successful drag queen. There, my personal experience in the world of trans ends.

I have however, known gay men and lesbians and wonder at times if some of them were as my Lee. Though “Out,” might they live as the wrong letter of LGBT? Where do I fit in this alphabetical equation? Do I fit and do I even need to?

As Lee was reading through some older entries the other day, he noticed that the more emotional I am as I write, the more likely I am to refer to him as her. Especially when I have written of an event that has angered me, I resort to the default mechanism of our relating to each other. I resort to what is safest in public and was also how we began.

Coming out as trans is not the same as coming out as gay or lesbian (not that coming out as gay or lesbian is in any way less traumatic or difficult!). For many, including Lee, I imagine it means coming out yet again. Lee knew he did not fit in his body. He knew he was not attracted to men. He knew he related more as a male, but he did not know that what he was, was something that anyone besides he was. He came out to family as lesbian.  Even when he learned there was another identity, another name, besides simply gay or straight, there was no big light bulb moment of awareness, either. Though he knew as early as age five that he wanted to be a boy, he was also not confident even at forty that it was okay to be who he really was. Perhaps to many, if not most, coming out once is all the pain and rejection they can endure.

I feel as if I simply jumped from a bridge, landing in the river of LGBT, kicking behind the float my love lies on. I will kick and support whatever direction he takes. I will call him by whatever name he is most comfortable. I will respect his decisions and his wishes. And no matter what, he is the most beautiful man I’ve ever known, the most gallant gentleman and my forever hero. No legal, chemical, hormonal or surgical transition will change who he is to me. He is my husband.

Maybe it doesn’t matter if others understand. Maybe it only matters that they allow; that they accept; that they embrace all the many ways we humans show up and especially embrace the many ways love shows up. Here we are, right back at human rights, equal rights, the massive missing piece of the puzzle.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Your Vote Counts Because You Count

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My daughter’s mother-in-law gave her a countdown to Christmas ornament the other night. That big days is less than two months away. The stores are full of Halloween candy and costumes. Circulars boast of sales on appliances for cooking Thanksgiving dinners and lovely turkey platters. It’s enough to almost forget about Election Day.

To the left of where I sit here at this desk is the side of a bookshelf covered with sticky notes. A few remind me of things to do. A couple are of quotes I read or heard and want to remember such as,

“The great evils in human history are commited not by psychopaths, but by ordinary people who accept the status quo,” said by political theorist Hannah Arendt, a German jew.

Most are notes about candidates running for office. Organizations like Change.org, The Human Rights Campaign and Georgia Equality help me keep track of which candidates and corporations really support what.

CNN’s theme for the morning today was, “Does Your Vote Count?” I wonder that sometimes. We live in perhaps one of our countries most politically LGBT unfriendly places. We live in a sea of Republicans with a spattering of Good Ol’ Boy Democrats, deep in the Bible belt. Even the most progressive areas are considered far too conservative for gender or sexual orientation equality according to some of our so-called former friends. Where we live, “Good Ol’ Boy”  and christian might be the most unifying factor in politics and the only description of our political office holders that matters to many of our local voters.

Yet, I know I count. I know that equality for me and my beloved Lee counts. I know our relationship counts and even makes the world a better place. I know my equal rights are as vital to our nation being a true democracy as freeing slaves and allowing women to vote.

I know that children will continue to be bullied and will continue to take their own lives as long as other children watch their parents bully by discrimination. I know children will call each other the names they hear their parents use in their own homes. As long as our country values and endorses the dollar over humanity itself, children will learn to bully by the adults who raise them, the schools who teach them and the churches who threaten them with interpretations of scripture fueled by agendas of hatred. As long as fear is disguised as religion and hate is disguised as love of family, my one vote may seem futile.

The hate and fear hide in closets and board rooms, your churches and your schools and even in your own families. It hides in the darkness behind veils of righteousness. It speaks loudly and intimidates well. It washes brains and common decency in its confusing belligerence. It slithers unnoticed as campaign contribution while your spending dollar supports its vile cause.

Your vote is a candle shining light in the darkness.

Your dollar is your voice.

Shine your light.

Sound your voice.

It’s the only one you have.

Use it well.

November 2nd is only a few days away. Spend that time educating yourself.

Your vote counts because you matter.

Your vote counts because you count.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heart of Stone?

I write a lot about things I find uncomfortable or cruel or unfair. Maybe one eventually becomes desensitized to injustice as it is witnessed and experienced over and over. I haven’t become desensitized, in fact I seem to become more sensitive to the discrimination I see and feel and find. First I will share an experience I had at an Office Max store last week. I went alone, looking my heterosexual self, so the experience had nothing to do with LGBT issues. It has a lot to do though with the ignorance, thoughtlessness and idiocy that fuels all injustice, cruelty and discrimination.

First of all, most of the employees at the store were kind. Three times someone asked me if I needed assistance; three different salespeople offered to help me. I found on my own, exactly what I was looking for including a ream of white copy paper which was one sale. I arrived at the check-out without having to wait. The young man at the register was immediately friendly. He traded the ream of paper I was buying though for another wrapped in pink paper, saying it was the same paper, and a portion of the sale was for breast cancer. He said they were trying to get rid of them. I said that was fine.

He kept talking, saying he had two family members with cancer in the last year. With barely a breath taken, he told me that one family member had been diagnosed with cancer in February but was declared cancer free by the end of the year.

Though I sometimes wonder at the flooding of pink and news of breast cancer while heart disease, the number one killer of all of us, women included and Lupus, such a varied and insidious disease, gets far less mention and attention, I too have lost a friend to breast cancer. I  told him that just this March my mother died of colon cancer. He seemed not to hear me.

He didn’t look up but as he handed me my bag of purchases said,

“My other relative with cancer, my uncle, he wasn’t a christian and started drinking again and he died. It serves him right.”

I was speechless. I took my bag and walked slowly from the store.

Did he mean his uncle deserved cancer because he wasn’t a christian? Or because he drank?

Did he mean his uncle deserved to die because he wasn’t a christian or because he drank alcohol? Maybe because he was an alcoholic?

 

There is little else I can think to say even now, other than how on earth can someone think, believe, feel and speak in that way?

 

The next thing I will write about today deserves a post of its own. It deserves a parade and fireworks and angels and trumpets. Stay tuned.

 

October 25, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling All Angels

 

Fundamental Extremist Protesting at Atlanta Gay Pride Parade 10-10-2010

 

I’ve been watching videos for The Trevor Project. Some of the videos have been so incredibly sweet, others have been heart breaking and all have been inspiring. I also watched a video of a young politician in Fort Worth, Texas telling of his own experience of being relentlessly bullied in high school and mentioning through his sobs, his own attempt at suicide. They all talk of how it does get better; that if you can just survive through high school, life improves and you can leave all those that bully behind you.

Bullying takes on many masks. There are plenty of adults being bullied and plenty of adults doing the bullying. As adults though, we do have the choice of walking away; leaving the church, the job, the family, the community. As adults, we can more easily turn the other cheek and not be quite so bruised and battered by the cruelty directed at us.

Yet, just as the adult version of bullying can be subtle and covert in nature, disguised behind masks of friendship and even assistance, the effects of such cruelty can be no less subtle and difficult to identify. Often it is simply a sick feeling deep in one’s gut or a heaviness that lingers after a conversation or encounter. Sometimes it is an inner warning that goes off signaling danger and the desire to run for safety.

Some that bully are obvious. They carry Bibles and picket signs. Others are not so easy to spot. At least those with picket signs and microphones are honest.

I wish there were angels to stand between the all children and the bullies.

 

I wish there were angles to block all the cruelty.

 

I wish there were angels everywhere, all the time.

 

I wish there was no need for them.

October 16, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not Just About Bullying

“Nationwide, gay youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual classmates, in large part because of toxic environments where anti-gay bullying can thrive. Nearly 90% of gay students have experienced harassment in school, and almost two-thirds say they feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

That was from http://www.Change.Org today in response to the third student suicide this year in Minnesota’s Anoka-Herrepin school district.

The powers that be there, have further turned down a district wide Anti-Bullying Program because of pressure from the Parents Action League, a hate group whose stance is that homosexuality can be cured.

I remember my high school years as torturous. Painfully shy, short with kinky curly hair, I found daily life at high school overwhelming. I was there only two years, running away from home at fifteen and pregnant.

Kids are brutal anyway. Hateful energy feeds off of itself. Insecurity will take whatever is available to feed off of. Take a school full of insecure teenagers and add a dose of hate, mix it with the ever-ruling need to fit in and be apart of the group, whatever group, and it’s a sure fire recipe for profound cruelty.

This is not just your average case of kids behaving badly. That hate group, the Parents action League, I wonder how many of them have children in that school district. How many other children in that district go to churches that teach the same hatred. How many of those children live in homes where racial and sexual slurs are commonly used with hate intended behind their closed doors. How many of those teachers and employees of those schools harbor those same thoughts. No, it’s not just about the children and their bullying.

Lee and I experienced bullying at a New Thought church, where Oneness, Love, Kindness is not only taught but is the very foundation of of all the teaching. It wasn’t just grown-ups behaving badly.  Hateful energy feeds off of itself. Insecurity will take whatever is available to feed off of. Take a church full of insecure adults and add a dose of hate, mix it with the ever-ruling need to fit in and be apart of the group, whatever group, and it’s a sure fire recipe for profound cruelty.

How many of the people that were in that church lived in homes where racial and sexual slurs are commonly used with hate intended behind their closed doors. How many of those choir members and Ushers and Board members and Sunday School Teachers harbored those same thoughts. No, it’s not just about the grown-ups and their bullying.

It’s the same energy that causes a pack of dogs to attack  and kill a toddler,  a mob to turn into a riot and a child of fifteen who plays the cello in the school orchestra to take his own life.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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