Veteran’s Day 2016

I am still in shock over the presidential election, as I know many are. One of the things I cannot forgive our new president is his unwillingness to serve our country in uniform during the Vietnam War. Last year, I wrote a post about six of my Academy roommates and friends who were lost in that war [here]. Previously, I had written about my first Academy roommate, Jim Steadman, [here]. As a result of writing that post about Jim, I found Jim’s place on the Virtual Vietnam Memorial wall [here] and ‘placed’ that photo of Jim and I studying as lower classmen at the Academy on the virtual wall. To my surprise, I received an email from his daughter, Karin Mae, asking if I were the daughter or sister of Don, because as everyone knows, girls were not allowed at the Academy back in the ’60s. I summoned some courage and simply told Karin the truth, expecting to be rejected by her as I have been by most of my former classmates over my being trans. But that was not the case with Karin. She welcomed me into her story and updated me on the continuing search for Jim, including providing me links to the Owl 08 sites where the search continues today. The image below (borrowed from OWL 08) is of Jim’s grandson, Steady, finding Jim’s name on the real Wall.

This is what service to your country looks like, Mr. President-elect.
Golden Boys forever, Jim. https://www.facebook.com/124101994336744/photos/329469863799955/

What do I do now?

I have been very down these last 12 months. I really did not see much point in “keeping on keeping on.” But like so many of us, I am deeply troubled by the results of yesterday’s election. I worry about my daughter’s family – what does their future look like now? And I am especially worried about my granddaughter, Ellie, who is just 27 months old. So I am going to reinvigorate myself and rededicate myself to not leave this world until I do something positive to make the world a bit better for my little Ellie. I don’t know exactly what I will or can do. But I think I begin with a realistic assessment of what we have to deal with because of the president-elect.
An American Tragedy – The New Yorker

Turn, turn, turn


To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die

This song has been playing in my mind for the last few years. It is no secret that I have been depressed, though I no longer take medications or see a therapist. I had been in ‘therapy’ for most of the last 25 years. I have been in pain almost all of my life, and no prayer, therapist, or drug has been able to help. So I quit them last spring. I have run far enough.

Many of you know I am trans. I have known I was different since I was a very, very young child. But I quickly learned to keep my pain from being seen by blending in with the accepted mores of my time.

When I was a senior at the Air Force Academy, we were not allowed to be in financial debt until December of our final year. I had wanted a Corvette for a long time and I borrowed to the max to get one. It was a beauty, dark forest green with a huge engine. That engine had mechanical lifters, some of you may know what that means. The salesman who sold me the car was also a mechanic and he told me not to use detergent oil in the engine because of those mechanical lifters, even though Chevrolet said that detergent oil should be used.

So I religiously listened to the salesman/mechanic. For a while everything seemed to be Okay. But, unknown to me, the engine began to deteriorate. On the surface, because the car had so much horsepower, overkill really, I didn’t notice the decline in performance. Then, on our honeymoon trip across America, the car began to fail. In the middle of Kansas, it threw a cam lifter and died.

I was not feeding the car what it needed, and it died.

So it was with my life. Though I had had several bouts of severe depression and suicidal thoughts (and a few ‘unsuccessful’ attempts), I always fought through and maintained my ability to take care of my family. But in the early 1990s, that became increasingly more difficult. In 1992, I reached out to my GP and started anti-depressants. Later that year, I began to see a long series of psychologists looking for answers that would allow me to keep functioning at a high level. But like my ill-fated Corvette, the long-term effects of not being allowed to be true to myself had caused irreparable damage.

You may know the rest of the story, or think you do based on the media coverage of trans people in the news these last few years.

When I came out in 1996 to my wife, I hoped she could understand and stick by me. But it was too much to ask of her, especially since my exposure to my boss had cost me my career and financial stability. I was ahead of my time. No laws protected LGBT people and there were no real models of success for trans families.

So try as I may to start over and rebuild my life, my financial condition is marginal. Here I am at 70 still working 40 plus hours a week in the ‘gig’ or ‘freelance’ economy, a ‘super-temp’ as some call people with graduate degrees who are unable to find a full-time position in their field. I cannot remember the last time I thought I could stop and relax.

While some glamorize the gig economy as giving freedom to choose when and where we work, the grim reality for many is constant anxiety about getting that next gig so that ends can be met.

I have overlaid that economic anxiety on my trans anxiety for too long and I am so very tired.

I am tired of being lonely for my family. When I came out to my brother, my only relative, I quickly lost him and his family. I have not seen him since my mother’s death in early 2000. I was not allowed to come to my father’s funeral. My nephew and niece have grown up and I do not know them.

Though my daughter has tried heroically to keep me in her life, I exist only at the fringes of it. Sadly, my ex-wife, C, who I still consider the love of my life, harbors a hate for me that prevents her from letting me inside. Since we divorced in late 1999, I have missed every single birthday, save one, (my daughter’s, my granddaughter’s and mine) and Christmas with my daughter and now with my daughter’s family. I have been with my daughter at only two Thanksgivings. Over the years, my daughter has tried to let me in and I have seen her more in the last few years, but I still am at the margin of her life and I do not see that changing as long as C lives – and I hope she lives a long time.

C & the Green Corvette. Leaving the Academy on honeymoon, June 1967

C & the Green Corvette. Leaving the Academy on honeymoon, June 1967

I tried to find a ‘new’ family of people who love me for the person I am and I appreciate those friends so very much. But they have their own real families and I feel as if I am infringing on them.

Last year, at the spur of the moment, I decided I would go to Disney World and I did – all by myself. But after two days at the happiest place, I left and drove home.

So I am not looking forward to the holidays this year. I am tired of struggling through them on my own and I am tired of being an outsider.

Partly to blame is the current mood of our country. With few exceptions, since I transitioned, I have not felt in fear of my life. But that is no longer true, especially in the South. And I am afraid the worst traits and hates of too many of our people have been normalized.

I am tired in so many ways. I have run as far as I want to run.

I read yesterday that the Netherlands is considering expanding their euthanasia laws to allow people of a ‘certain’ age to choose to die even if they do not have a life-ending disease. Or one that causes too much physical pain. People would be allowed to determine when they have lived long enough and to end their physical lives peacefully at a time of their choosing.

I hope they make that change.
Soon.

One Drop

one drop ruleWhen President Obama was elected, he was proclaimed our first Black President even though his mother was white, and he was raised with an absent black father by a white mother and grandmother. While it is true many, if not most of us Americans, are of mixed race, including some black lineage, the passage of time and the fortunes of physical characteristics expressed have resulted in many ‘whites’ ignoring their black blood. But not for President O. He was tarred with the old 19th century ‘one drop’ rule (the Racial Integrity Act of 1924) since he had the audacity to be open about his black mother and to look a bit more black than white, but not white enough to not be forced into the black community when he went away to college. He became, in the minds of too many whites, an uppity black man occupying the White House and in power over them. That was something they could not stomach and thus they have seen fit to be disrespectful, vicious in their condemnation of everything he does or says, and almost treasonist in their open, though sometimes veiled, hatred of his being in office.

What would have happened differently if we had labeled him  a “Mixed” president? Would we all have had to own up the fact that almost all of us are mixed too?

This is my fear: Libertarian and Green Party candidates taking votes from Hillary but not Trump!

Don’t Give Them Clicks

clicktivism-clicks-count-1-1024

Just thinking out loud.

Clicks count.

Data is the new form of currency and clicks can make people and groups more ‘popular’ and give them more visibility and power. When you run across an article about a hate group, right-wing politicians, and/or their latest machinations, don’t just share a post that contains a link to their website or FB page. Or even one to someone reporting on them if the report is on Faux, Breitbart, or even mainstream media. Even a mad or angry FB response counts in their favor. The more activity related to the posts/articles on them, the more you will see similar posts/articles, as will everyone else.

Instead, take a few minutes to search for a LGBT source commenting on them/their latest evil deeds and share that. If you cannot find a friendly source, write a synopsis and your thoughts/recommendations and share those. If you don’t feel comfortable, right-clicking on the image/meme in the original piece, make your own. It doesn’t take long and having a bit of personal involvement feels good.

Just don’t give them any clicks.

For more info, check this slide presentation:

Bubba, Frances, and the flowers of spring

Ellie,

I do not know if you will ever read this. Your father David keeps encouraging me to tell my story and I resist, mainly because I do not feel worthy most of the time.

But this is springtime 2016 and I’m watching flowers break out in riotous joy everywhere I look. And that reminds me of your great, great grandmother Bubba.

iris One flower always jumps out in my mind, the iris.

One of my first vivid memories was at our little house in West End. I can remember that the poor front yard was small and had no vegetation, mostly dirt and weeds. But on the side yard between our house and the wealthier Reeds, my mother had somehow performed a miracle and transformed the dirt and rocks into a wonderful garden. There were, of course irises, but also roses and daffodils and, in the summer, daisies and bachelor buttons.

We were relatively poor, with only the income my father made as a hair stylist, and there was no way my mother could have afforded to buy plants for her garden. So how did she get the plants?

When I was a lot older, Bubba and Travis finally were able to buy a home in Acipico that had room for Bubba to make a garden. Prior to that, Bubba and Travis had rented space from my great grandmother Big Momma Dean. I learned that my mother Frances was giving plants from her garden to Bubba for her new place. And Bubba had a tremendous green thumb. While Frances had been successful in growing the plants in her small garden, Bubba soon had a very large flower garden that dwarfed the one Frances had.

On one of my overnight stays with Bubba and Travis, I worked with Bubba in her garden and she shared for the first time more of her story.

Travis was not my blood grandfather, she told me. Bubba had divorced my ‘real’ grandfather Snow long before I was born because he was cruel to my mother. Your great grandmother, Frances, was a smart, athletic girl – she won three letters in basketball at Whitwell high school in Tennessee – and had wanted to go to nursing school. Back then, most southern girls did not think they could be doctors. But Grandpa Snow did not think girls should do anything except find a husband and work in the home. So he refused my mother and Bubba divorced him because of that. This is not to mention that Grandpa Snow had played around on my Bubba – he had. But when it came to her daughter, Bubba drew the line.

At the big house in Whitwell, Bubba had a large flower garden. But Grandpa Snow kept the house in the unfair divorces of the era, given that Bubba had initiated the divorce, and she lost her garden. Or would have except she colluded with a friend and raided the big house and ‘stole’ a large quantity of the flowers she was growing. Her friend transplanted the flowers at her home and promised Bubba she could have them when she found a new garden of her own.

After they moved to Birmingham, Bubba and Frances lived in an apartment house on Southside and, of course, could not make a garden there. But after my parents were able to get the small house in West End, Bubba’s friend would drive down to Birmingham with a trunk full of flowers and so Frances began her garden with the offspring of Bubba’s flowers. I’m guessing Bubba did her green thumb magic, because later when she and Travis were able to buy their own home, the flowers came home to roost.

Years later, we moved to East Lake, and after a few more years, so did Bubba and Travis. Both houses in East Lake soon had tremendous gardens that were unbelievably beautiful in the springtime. I spent many an hour helping Frances with hers, and just as many helping Bubba with hers. They had quite a competition going back then in the early 60s.

While I was at the Air Force Academy, my mother Frances finally found a way to go to nursing school. I to this day do not know how she found the money. But she did and by the time I graduated, she had earned a LPN, licensed practical nurse, associate’s degree. For the first time in my life, she had a way to make her own money and, shortly after I graduated, she divorced my father. They sold the house on 9th Avenue and most of the flowers found their way back to Bubba’s, as did my mother and brother Dan. Mother took over the second of the two bedrooms upstairs in Bubba’s house, and Dan got the new bedroom in the basement that I had dug with Mr. Grey the summer before I left for the Academy.

Your grandmamma, Cyndy, and I started a new home in Lake Forest near Mobile just before Bubba died. Frances soon began to insist that I take some of Bubba’s plants for our new house and I did, though I did not have much of a green thumb. Those flowers were lost when Cyndy and I temporarily separated when your mom was two, but after we built the house in Sans Souci, Frances again gave me offspring of Bubba’s to plant at our new home. I don’t have a green thumb, and most were lost, but enough lived and prospered to grow into a respectful garden on the back side of our garage in Sans Souci.

Unfortunately, that is where the story of Bubba’s flowers ends. When C and I sold the Sans Souci house, neither of us had earth in which to plant the flowers. So all were left to the new owners. Perhaps, if God is good, Bubba’s flowers continue to grow at that house in Montrose. Perhaps, someday, you can go to that house and ask the owners if you can take a cutting or bulb.

Bubba would like that. This one and the original.

 

Guts, Glory, and thinking ahead.

a-first lieutI have a number of younger trans folk on my friends list. And some of them are righteous in their indignation about the increasing number of people, some trans and others not, that are being called out as they attempt to use the bathroom of their choice. I’ve responded and, in some cases, been shouted down by young trans people.

I know many young trans folk, like all young people, know better than their “elders.” But I’m trying to make a point that could be important, if not lifesaving.

Back during the Vietnam war, we initially forgot the lessons of WWII and Korea and officers proudly wore the insignia of their rank. Enemy snipers quickly realized that those flashes of gold and silver on helmets meant a high-value target and we lost far too many officers. When I entered that war, I was advised to remove my rank before venturing into combat. Only much later did the military hierarchy begin issuing “camo” rank indicators, which are now standard.

If you want to challenge the gender binary, then have at it. Just make sure to carry ID that will back up your claim to the bathroom of your choosing. If you don’t have such ID, then make arrangements for a responsible friend to be ready to bail you out quickly if you are accosted and arrested. Unless, of course, you want to make some “points” by spending the night in jail with a possibly unfriendly jail populace.

Further, particularly in the crazy south, be aware that your accuser may just be carrying a gun and could resort to using it if you resist leaving the bathroom he (most probably a he) thinks you do not belong in. Don’t actively resist.

Just saying, that’s all.

 

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