Sunday, August 31, 2008
The bizarre death of Peggy Ingraham, the matriarch of a working-class Texas family, sets off fireworks within her dysfunctional family. Her determinedly proper daughter Latrelle is in denial over the fact that her son Ty, an actor trying to make it in Hollywood, is gay, and is relieved that her only brother, a gay drag queen and dedicated Tammy Wynette impersonator, has been confined to a mental institution for 23 years simply because he is gay. Latrelle's brassy sister LaVonda, however, thinks her brother should be released from the institution and has a perfect right to attend their mother's funeral. Meanwhile, Ty, who has strived hard to accept his homosexuality, realizes that there is no way he can return home for his grandmother's funeral without coming out to his mother.
Sordid Lives was the funniest play that Sarah and I have seen. We screamed with laughter. We kept hitting each other on the arm. Since I was reared in the deep south in a Southern Baptist family, there were many scenes that reminded me of things from my past. A theme in the play was two sisters in a disagreement trying to get their poor old aunt to take sides. Ain't that one we've all been in before.
One of the funniest incidents was one of the characters looking at the flowers for Peggy's funeral and remarking about a telephone being part of the floral display. No lie. I have actually seen this before. A friend was telling me once about seeing a phone floral wreath when attending the visitation in a funeral home and not understanding the meaning. When someone in her group explained to her it meant the recently deceased had gotten "the call." It still took a while before she finally understood that the recently deceased had gotten "the call" from the Lord to come home (aka dying). About the time the meaning became clear to her, a phone near her in the funeral home rang. Someone told my friend to answer the phone. She said, "no way in hell." Honestly, this is a true story.
The characters in the play were wonderful. The actors performance was masterful. Juanita, the female bar fly alcoholic, in the play was hysterical. Her one liners were delivered perfectly. I'm sure that many of us in the audience has seen a Juanita in a bar some where around from time to time.
We all have these characters in our families and groups of friends OR we may be one. As we were leaving, I said to Sarah, I feel like I have been home for a funeral. The only thing we didn't have was a transvestite!!" Then I said, "until now............now we have a family member who is transgender."
The prejudices of our society may cause individuals to hide or deny who they are. As the play so skillfully demonstrated, hiding who one is destructive for the individual and those helping to hide the secret. I believe that the hilarity of play gave an opportunity to examine prejudices in a kinder more loving light.
Friends, lost when they moved.
Leaving empty places in the heart,
Tears shed, weeping uncontrolled.
Aching for missing hands,
Longing for someone’s touch.
Most precious lives
Intertwined by love
Kindred souls lost to fate.
Hearts ache for missing friends
Walls encircle one’s heart
Keeps friendships at arm’s length.
Keeps one’s heart from
Connecting with another.
Keeps new friends out
Keeps pain in.
Either way the heart loses,
Aching for missing friends.
December 15, 2001
How ironic could a poem be anyway? Reading this now, today, at a time when good friends have taken a new step for their family is painful. We’ve lost our pastor today, his final service for our church. Some people are angry that he is leaving us without pastoral care, again; but we have survived other times without a pastor and we will carry on with the care and feeding of our church members as we have in the past.
But this pastor, this vicar (Episcopal Church) has changed our lives, and changed the lives for the good of the whole church. He has finally lain to rest an argument that involved where someone could pee; and for that I am eternally grateful. His moral maturity was way beyond his age. And he stood up to the bigots, because it was the right thing to do.
For this family to have been a part of me for so short of time and to have had such a life changing impact leaves me aching. I have finally learned that letting someone occupy a piece of your heart is taking a risk, but it is a risk we all must take to be a part of the human race. For by not risking loving someone we cannot say that we have loved.
So thank you “B”, “E”, and “AJ” for coming into my life and sharing yourselves with one of the “Church Auntees”.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
When Sarah and I first began our relationship, our hope was that we would just be seen as two crazy little ole ladies that were accepted and maybe even loved by some. With each "hey ladies," it seems that our original hope is being realized.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Is this emotional mess what you get when you have cared for someone so much, is this love? Since I transitioned and began to reach out to people emotionally I have had crying fits when I have ‘lost’ someone who I have grown to love. The breaking of my first emotional connections was actually for my hair stylist who helped me overcome my hair problems as I started to transition. She was with me from the first days I started going out as Sarah until I was Sarah. She moved away just when I was most comfortable with her as my stylist.
My second broken connections are more accurately described as having her ripped from my heart. We have made strong friendship with a couple who became foster parents with the possibility of adopting later. After having four different children temporally placed with them they were given two babies to care for which would have been the ones they wanted to adopt. At the critical age of about 18 months their baby girl was to be removed on the day they went to court to file for adoption. Kay and I were like her aunties to her and had become very involved with both of their children. My heart broke when I learned that she was to be taken away in less than 3 hours. Watching her play, and laugh, and grow as she was holding on to a large part of my heart during those 18 months.
Now it’s happened again to me, it’s amazing how quickly we become enchanted with a child and how quickly they have you wrapped around their finger. Our vicar told the church members that they would be leaving at the end of the month. Kay and I have been given the privilege of being asked to do things for them.
Their daughter is just turning one year old and we have many pleasant memories of holding her and playing with her and feeding her and watching her grow. I didn’t realize how much I will miss the family and their young daughter until I realized that I wouldn’t get to hold her next month. We had the chance to watch her today while her parents spent the afternoon packing up their belongings; and she was so good, such smiles and ‘talking’ and some fussing. Fussing comes with the baby sitting. Thank you Mom and Dad for the last chance to watch and play with AJ. My memories of her first year with us will be linked and clouded by the shower of tears that I cried this afternoon.
Now that I am Sarah and Sarah is me, the tears of the transgender are the healers of the rips in our emotional veils. I don’t look forward to these emotional outbursts but I do embrace them so.
The two most memorable characters there were an older gentleman who loudly proclaimed a very orthodox position and the "crazy uncle at the family reunion" character. In my opinion, the Crazy Uncle provided the most comic relief. As the leader began to explain the process the search committee was using, there were questions about why background checks were being done. The leader responded that they had talked with a number of dioceses and that because of the experience of one diocese in electing a bishop whose background later turned out to cause some problems after his election, the decision had been made to do background checks on all individuals being considered for nomination. The Crazy Uncle declared in a loud voice, "it was because he was a "pee dee oo file." There were looks of horror. The leader said that was not the case and quickly moved on. Of course, the CU now has everyone's attention. I guess most people (me included) were wondering whether CU may or may not be violent.
The older gentleman expounds at times that things are fine like they are (very conservative). He opines that his male friends are leaving the church because of all the changes, especially, having women as priests and in leadership positions. That really hit a nerve with me. You would be proud, I did not disrupt the meeting. However, I did lean over to a man sitting next to me and whispered, as old as he is his friends aren't leaving because of women priests. His friends are leaving in coffins!
As the meeting goes on, the CU wanders around the room from time to time and stands or sits next to people and gives the people intense looks. One of the women in the group was addressing the group using a microphone and CU goes and stands directly beside her (he would have been violating my personal space limits) and looks her up and down.
THEN the older gentleman said something that made my head spin around like the possessed girl in the movie, The Exorcist. I'm not sure what his complete statement was now but I heard the phrase "socialist, marxist Jesus. I had read a blog earlier in the week that used the phrase, a "proto marxist hippie Jesus" that had been disturbing me for a couple of days. I did not respond in the meeting but after I got home I did some thinking, some reading and then some writing. Writing helps me get out some of my frustrations so this is my response to the blog commenter and to our older gentleman:
The comment about Jesus being a "counterculture proto-marxist hippie" has disturbed me for days. I had finally put the phrase aside and moved on...........until yesterday. We attended a "listening meeting" that is part of the process for our diocese in selecting a new bishop.
So rather than labeling the actions of Jesus, if we describe his actions, maybe we can come closer to a conversation in which we can all participate and move a little closer to that "beloved community."Having written my frustrations out, I realize that we all have our place at the table. The older gentleman has his place, CU has his place and even I have my place. We each have opportunities to act as Christ to other people no matter what our individual theological beliefs we hold.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Yesterday I met a good friend (I hope that I am) at a church meeting who I will only name as “M”. I have known that she is and has been battling cancer for a few years and is on her way to a good recovery; anyway she looked real good yesterday. I had met her a few months ago in the Cancer Clinic while we were both waiting for treatments; I believe she was there for her chemo and I only had to get an injection. As I have said my lump was small enough that I would not be doing radiation or chemo but only would have to take tamoxifen; and the shot was for something else. As we were just chatting about how we were doing, I started talking about the prosthesis’ that I had and where I had bought them, but she was quite insistent that she would be doing breast reconstruction after her double mastectomy; which make me begin to rethink about my options.
Anyway I learned that she has been going to one of the surgeons in town for her reconstruction and was describing the high levels of pain and discomfort she was experiencing from her tissue expanders. How she was having so much pressure on the chest wall and it was affecting her comfort levels for breaths. I was a little embarrassed to relate the low levels of discomforts from my tissue expander and that I was finished with my expansion and just waiting for my final surgery.
I can remember my surgeon discussing the skin and physiological differences between male and female bodies during my initial surgery assessment. And we talked about how my larger bone structure and muscle and skin structure were different than a females and that I would get better results from my reconstruction than that of the ‘normal’ female. So as I listened to “M” describe what she was going through, it just confirmed what I had been hearing about other women’s reconstruction stories being so painful.
I hope that my blog descriptions of my reconstruction process and how it’s not being so painful has not angered other cancer survivors because of their having experienced a great deal of pain; I did not intend to seem flippant or callous with my description. But these descriptions was of my experience nonetheless.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Kay has beat me in posting about our new PFLAG group which I was so glad that it went as well as it did. I was nervous, actually very nervous about the attendance until people began to show up and while I was waiting I was talking with our host about diversity issues at the University.
Her issue was really about Christian prayer at functions at the state supported University. And why it was always a Christian prayer at an event where there was a diversity of religions in attendance. So, if our country was founded on ‘Religious Freedom’ why is Christian prayer so heavily favored.
Why do we force our beliefs on those who choice of religion is not the same as ours? We have come to expect everyone to pray our prayer with us or be quiet if we are in a large group event and don't give any thought about if we might offend them. Why can’t we just have a moment of silence instead of a formal prayer, or better yet; why can’t we invite our Jewish brothers to recite a prayer from the Torah, why not a prayer from the Qu'ran by our Muslim brothers, why not a prayer from a Native American and can we be respectful for them? If we are to begin to think of ourselves as a nation of diversity because we can trace our heritage back to a multitude of peoples, why can’t we expand our range of diversity to include a multitude of issues and beliefs? When we are eating out at a restaurant and a couple at a table across the room begins to say their blessing, do we interrupt or point them out to others? We respect their right to quietly say their own blessing. We should extend that respectfulness to other situations. It's alright for others to choose the way they want to give reverence to whomever they believe in. That's between them and their Divine Being and we should not condemn anyone for what they believe.
We conduct non-denominational services at our National Prayer Breakfasts, why can’t we extend that concept to a greater number of organized group events where a prayer has to be said as part of the program.
When my mothers, who is Catholic, visits our church she won’t say the Lord’s Prayer with us, because as Episcopalian we have added more text after ‘….deliver us from evil”; would other Christians sit still through a prayer said by someone who was Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or other beliefs? Have we become so narrow minded in insisting that a Christian prayer be said while giving disapproving glances to anyone who doesn’t pray their prayer with them? If we can’t condone a diversified religious view, how can we ever condone and/or accept someone who is gay or trans and respect their different beliefs or life?
Last night was the first meeting. The local Unitarian Universalist Church offered space for the meeting. Twenty one people attended AND there were six people who identified as trans!! Everyone who attended the meeting was so appreciative of the effort to have an LGBT group. We are all looking forward to getting together and making some positive changes in our community.
Sarah was the leader for the group and I must say she did a wonderful job. She seems to have a knack for making people feel at ease.
As the meeting was winding down, one of the trans couples came up to me to say that they had to go and to thank us for getting the group together. The trans guy sort of offer his hand to shake hands but I reached out and gave him a hug. He told me thanks for the hug and said that he was reluctant to offer to hug people because he didn't always know how people would react to him. That made me really sad for him...............and for us. There are times that I don't know how to approach some people. Some people think we are evil or as the Bible would say an abomination and shy away from us.
This kind of treatment is a part of the trans couple's life. There were people in our church who would not exchange the peace with us simply because of who we were. Before Sarah and I became a couple, I would always walk into a room expecting that people would accept me. I never thought twice about it. If the people in the room didn't like me, I would assume they had a problem or that I had actively done something to make them angry. In the past, I would have never given a thought to people not accepting me simply because of who I was. Today that is not true. Knowing that people may have issues simply with who I am makes me a little more hesitant in engaging people. I no longer walk into a room knowing that I will automatically be accepted.
That is one of the reasons that having a LGBT group is so important. To be able to walk into a room where people accept you just as you are is such an uplifting experience. To know that you do not have to hide parts of your life from others is such a relief. Sarah and I had attended a LGBT group out of town a couple of years ago and the love and support that group offered me was immensely helpful. I hope this group can offer the same kind of love and support to others.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
As a young child I loved the story of Peter Pan, with particular interest in how the 'lost boys' came to be in Never Never Land. It bothered me that in the story the boys never wanted to grow up and that it was only Peter who would fly with a sprinkling of pixie dust and a 'happy thought'.
As an older adults I NEVER forget that I can act as children, to play with children and do childish things. I know that when we grow up we are suppose to put away the toys we had as children, but we should never forget to think about our happy thought. So, here is a partial list of my happy thoughts!
1. Watching clouds drift across the sky
2. Children’s laughter as they play in your yard
3. Finding and watching a small bug on a flower
4. Watching butterflies and bees feed at a flower
5. Examining an unexpected large spider web
6. Watch a spider weave his web
7. Watching birds at the feeder or in the back yard
8. Watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis
9. Being with Children as they discover something new
10. Playing in the sprinkler with children and getting soaking wet
11. Rolling down a good long hill
12. Being at the beach watching the waves crash
13. Feeling the salty air in your face at the beach
14. Reading a good book at a park where happy children play
15. Making cookies with your children
16. Snuggling in the arms of someone you love
17. Discovering some treasure in an ‘antique store’
18. Watching a babbling brook churn by
19. Taking a ‘Sunday’ drive through the country with your love
20. Listening to the music of wind chimes in your back yard
21. Potting flowers and tending your garden
22. Picking the ripened tomatoes that your grew
23. Cooking something new not in any cookbook with your love
24. Singing with a group
25. Getting wonderful energetic ‘HUGS’ from people you care about
26. Stomping puddles after a good cleansing rain
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Religion without the spirit it is meant to preserve can become positively irreligious: we put the weak, the wounded, the addicts, the religious "others" outside the boundaries of our perfect lives, fearful of touching what might pollute us.
Our lives of difference get muddled from others trying desperately to sterilize their lives from the ones (us) who don’t conform. Sometimes it is us who apologize and beg for forgiveness from the ones (them) trying to make us conform to do what they want us to do.
I lived half my life trying desperately to avoid arguments by giving in to what my ex wanted. The expectations of a happy family slowly changed from one that was happy, to one that was stewing and beginning to boil from her expectations. Her expectations of how her partner should, and would behave became an empty gesture of living. I began to feel boxed in by her insistence that our outward family life should be a normal as possible. I was hounded to keep my hair and nails short and I always got those ‘looks’ if I wore my earrings. She was always looking for tail-tail signs of any behaviors outside her image of the good ‘husband’. An image that was changing from a husband to eventually an image of an ‘auntie’ for my children; but I would always be their ‘father’!
Looking back on those few years, I saw a person who was withdrawn and angry. I was drinking too much and began to be start arguments. I was happy when my ex would storm out of the house if she suspected I was dressing. It was only when I truly accepted who I was and could live my life openly that I found my joy and happiness for life.
It is the ones who yell the loudest that have the greatest fear that they are just like us; who are so insecure of their sexual feelings that they strike out at the blackness of their sordid lives. They live for their past and for their sterile future without having to interact with those they see as on the ‘outside’, as ‘different’, as weak.
I see my idea of religion as one that accepts everyone, where everyone has their place, where everyone is loved for who they are. I have to get my hands 'dirty' for my religion to work. Pollution is how I work best for being showered by G-d's blessings.
Let us follow the example of Jesus and pollute our lives with those who have been cast to the outside.
Not only has this has been a time of growth for Sarah and I but it has also been a time of growth for many of the people with whom we share the church community. Today one of the people who seemed to be one of those who was a "reluctant acceptor," initially, came up to me before church and asked me to speak to a friend she had invited to church. I greeted her friend and church started shortly after.
I really didn't think any more about the encounter as I had gotten involved in some other conversations. We were sitting at a table talking to another trans friend when this woman came up to the table with her friend and told her she needed to talk to Sarah and I. She knows that Sarah and I are retired and are involved with lots of things in our community. We began talking to this lady, she has made some recent changes in her life and is looking to become involved with new people and groups. We told her about a number of different things that we enjoy, such as; music, local theater, quilting, and gardening and gave her invitations to all that she was interested in.
It was such a small thing for most people but for me it was a huge thing. A person who may have had some initial reluctance took the risk of getting to know someone who is different and has made a change. Now she invites others to know her "different" friends and trusts that things will go well. I am truly thankful for the small things that are in reality HUGE things!!
Monday, August 11, 2008
As a transgender, I keep looking over my shoulder to see just how far away is the ghost of my other life? Even after so many years living as Sarah, my old life seems to percolate to the surface ever so often. My shadow of John will always exert forces in my life, for I transitioned in a mid-life crisis, after living for 35 years as a married father of three children. Having lived for 50 plus years as male and being socialized as that gender, and then trying to push all those experiences to the back of your mind and figure out your female self is very hard to accomplish. Someone asked me to reflect on how I perceived my maleness and how closely it affected my life before and now after my transition. How could any male reject his rightful place and high privileges taken by the white male race throughout human history? Once those who assume to have the power of their race acknowledge your betrayal by switching sides, they feel no regret for treating you like any other female who might get in their way.
It seems strange that there is now two life’s to this person with known aliases. The life story of ‘John’ ended when Sarah came out in the light; and Sarah’s life started with the first step of transition. For Sarah there was not a life before that time. Yet this person’s life is the combining and culmination of those two separate lives. And one never knows when the old will pop its head into the life of the new.
Just today, I was helping out with the opening of the new County Obama Campaign office and there was an older gentlemen there wearing a hat with the military patch of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. Without thinking, I asked him when he served in
Just how far is your old life from your new? One must keep a close watch on the here any now of Sarah’s life as she is the more important person.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Hatred in the heart and soul of a person will only brew more hatred. I have learned not to hold onto anger or hatred, for me there could be many people to be angry with. I accept this life that is so different from the life I started out with. I have nothing to gain in this new life as Sarah, by holding onto the anger or hatred from those who haven’t accepted my transition. I can only move forward in my life as I let go of the grains of hatred and fear. What is the reason; if there can be one, for people to profess such extreme hatred and fear against those who might be different in their thinking and actions. What drives a person, or what is missing from his moral character, for that person to pick up a gun or rifle or a knife and strike a killing blow to someone who might be another Christian or religious person who believes in another view point.
After watching the movie “For the Bible Tells me so” , and watching one of the Evangelical Preacher describe to the members attending that service he would kill anyone who, as a Gay person, would approach him; then calmly tell G-d they that person died, I was flabbergasted. How can we accept his pronouncement as a ‘Man of G-d’ without showing horror and disbelief to what he just testified?
Is it really so bad to have Freedom of Religion in
How have we failed to instill in our sons and daughters the desires to appreciate the hard fight our fathers and grandfathers fought to secure our personal freedoms?
If we say that we are Christians, then how do we so drastically separate our Christian beliefs from the Founding Father’s hope that we would aspire to the freedoms that they struggles so long to include in the Declaration of Independence. When did we lose our sense of righteousness to others; our value for life, our moral decency?
Monday, August 4, 2008
My doctor is located in Gainesville, Fl, so I have been following the paper about all the fuss that is going on to repeal the gender discrimination policy they just passed a few months ago. During the City Council's discussion, it seems that 12 trans took a great deal of courage to stand up for their sisters to speak in support for the policy. Now those Christian groups are calling for the overturning based of a 'policy affecting just 12 people'. The good people of Gainesville, must realize that according to adjustment of statistics stating the prevalence of the number of post-op population for the county on approximately 210,00 would be 84. This would be the number of people who think themselves as trans but have had sexual reassignment surgery which is said to be 1:2500. The number of pre-op trans in the county would be 210. The likely lower bounds on "intrinsic" prevalence of those w/o SRS to be 1:200 which gives us 1050. And for those who express intense feelings of being trans is 1:150, giving us 1400 people around the city of Gainesville who think of themselves as gender variant. These numbers do not even consider the population of the University that live in the city of Gainesville.
So keeping this gender discrimination policy will affect a great number of people, not to mention those people who do not fit the norm in appearance of male or female who might be straight but appear to be too butch for a female and too feminine for a male.