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Remembrance

Saint John of God

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This came today from Georgia Equality,

“Transgender Day of Remembrance

Saturday, November 20th
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

GA State Capitol Courtyard
(Washington St. side)
201 Washington St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30303

Let’s stand together as a community for a vigil in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Throughout the world, people gather every year to pay respect to those needlessly killed by hate crimes against the transgender community, and to call attention to the threat of violence faced by gender non-conforming people.

This event is hosted by the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc.”

 

When I think about people actually killing someone because their heart and mind do not match their body, all I can do is shake my head in confusion.

I watched Oprah this afternoon. On it were several people who had gone to see “John of God.” They had each gone for different reasons. Some on the show went to him for healing, some as a journalist and at least one went to prove him a fraud. “John of God” is a spiritual healer in and from Brazil. He performs “spiritual surgery,” or rather, claims that God works through him and sometimes that involves surgery. This surgery is often a scraping of one’s eyeball or inserting this probe up a person’s nose. Most often though, he does nothing that can be seen or even felt. There are thousands of accounts of healing however and the most convincing fact of all may be that he doesn’t charge for his services.

I personally saw this “John of God” myself a few years ago when he came to Atlanta. I was still in ministry then and had been invited to go along with other “clergy.” We were directed to wear all white and were lined up at the front of the huge auditorium and we each introduced ourselves before the healer arrived. We were then ushered into a room and directed to meditate until further notice. At the time, I meditated regularly and sitting still on a hard chair for a couple of hours was relatively easy. We were told not to open our eyes.I had no divine revelation or profound insight.

I’ve always been one to follow directions, a trait that has both served me well and been a curse. I kept my eyes closed and while I had no great insight, I was very aware of when the healer walked through the room we were in. It wasn’t because I heard anything. It felt as if a strange wind had blown through, not a scary wind, but not warm and comforting either. It felt strong. It felt powerful. It felt foreign. After a couple of hours, we were allowed to go before John of God, joining the long line of those hoping for miracles. He simply took our hands and nodded at each of us, as I recall.

I say all that because each of the people on Oprah today, both believers and skeptics say that they were changed by the experience whether healed or not. One man, a doctor in fact, the one who went to prove him fraudulent, said that he now believed we are all so much more than we think. Our lives and living have far more dignity and significance than we think. He said he now feels this life both conceals and reveals our truth (I love that statement, by the way). This doctor went on to say we have no idea who and what we are and how connected we are.

They all spoke of the energy of hope in the room and how they had all been instructed to think loving thoughts. THey all said that combined feeling of hope felt good.

None of what was said on the show today was new to me. I taught it from a pulpit for years. Yet, it struck me as ironic that this aired just a few days before this Day of Remembrance that most won’t even be aware of.

Most are not aware of transgender anything.

Most don’t know a transgender anyone.

Most have no idea people are killed for being trans.

As for the Day of Remembrance, one can’t remember what one doesn’t even know. But, one can remember to be kind, compassionate, fair and even how to love.

It’s like asking what is our default mechanism?

What comes natural to us when faced with something or someone new; someone or something we don’t understand?

Is it kindness or cruelty?

judgment or acceptance?

love or hate?

Since I became a part of the “LGBT community,” my default mechanism isn’t near so trusting as it was before. I hope however, it is still kind.

Kindness really is easy. It does come naturally to us. We started out that way.

Remember?

Remember to be kind to yourself, too. Let’s all hope. They said it feels good when we all hope together. I guess I need to remember that.

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November 17, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Port...

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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

SVG Version of Image:Hrc_logo.png, which has t...

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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

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

Spong, Oprah and Jesus

Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Diocese of...

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I have an old and dear friend who is a devout Christian. We talked on the phone today and had a very long and passionate discussion. She had watched that same episode of Oprah about Mike Sisco and said that for the first time ever, she’d thought of writing Oprah and thanking her. The part of the show that had impacted her so was when Oprah asked  those townspeople of Williamson, West Virginia “where was their compassion?” Oprah told them she saw hatred, intolerance, cruelty, but no compassion at all. They claimed to be Christian, living in a Christian community, yet had essentially crucified this young man. My friend said she cried through the entire show.

Former Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong is in town this weekend. Lee and I heard him speak over an extended period of time at a retreat a couple of years ago. Spong is the author of such books as Jesus for the Non-Religious, and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and has been a fierce advocate for the LGBT community within the Christian church. He was asked at the retreat why he remained in the church when he disagreed with so many of their beliefs and actions. He said he dearly loved the Episcopal Church and believed he could affect far more change from within.

My friend and I also talked of how we had both gone through extreme changes in our lives and have had to leave much of our previous lives behind. We’d both had to leave both things and people behind, including some people we loved and cared for deeply. It occurred to me that while we try so hard to not throw out the baby with the bath water, sometimes we have to. I had to. I am grateful for those, like Spong, who have had the strength to work in hostile environments against great odds and resistance. I am grateful my friend can continue to embrace her Christian beliefs and even work within a Christian school while her own beliefs expand and embrace other ideas and people. Mike Sisco’s sisters say he was glad he went on Oprah that day in 1987.

Personally, I threw out the baby and the bath water. It was the only way I could get fresh water.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Ask. Do Tell.

A Federal judge has ruled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unconstitutional. How anyone would have ever thought this tactic was healthy or functional or productive to anything boggles my mind. Yet, this theory that if we don’t “really” know  or don’t “really” tell anything makes it less real is rampant everywhere, even in my own mind.

My older daughter just turned thirty. She wrote a long letter to many family members and friends. In her letter, she spoke of her thoughts, beliefs, reflections at this milestone anniversary of her birth. She expressed her gratitude for the love in her life and the manner in which each of us had played a part.  She began speaking of that very typical feeling that little has been accomplished after thirty long years. She moved quickly on however, not dwelling on regret, but rather speaking of wisdom gained and blessings received. One statement she made in particular greatly effected Lee and I.

She said, ” So even though I sometimes wonder what the hell were you thinking, I know that at that given moment it was exactly what I wanted. So why regret something that once made you smile. Don’t! I have learned that, not to ever regret something that at one point was exactly what you wanted.”

What does that have to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell?” As we reflected on our daughter’s words, we both became aware of how we give events and choices entirely different meanings when thinking back on them, choosing to see them as mistakes or nightmares and ourselves as fools or victims rather than to claim the past as a valid reflection of exactly who and what we were at the time.

Again, what does this have to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” We do this all the time. We all do this. We don’t ask ourselves and we don’t tell anyone the truth, especially ourselves. My daughter’s letter led Lee and I into a deep discussion of something we both pretend was other than it was. We pretend because we were afraid to know the truth. The truth was just a thought away. Our discussion freed the thought. The thought, the one we had been afraid to ask and even more afraid to tell, the one we had feared was horrible, was nothing more than a glimpse at our selves. It wasn’t ugly as we’d feared. It wasn’t shameful or guilty. It was okay. It deserved our love. In fact, it was a good.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hides a boogie man of the mind. It hides the monster that isn’t really under the bed. It hides something beautiful  that fear made like itself, something to be feared. Hooray for that Federal Judge for shining that light under the bed.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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