A friend writes a column on a local news site. Today she wrote one warning us all to shrink from confrontations in the public because of guns: “Assume everybody’s packing heat”
I am disappointed.
And so it has come to this – sage advice from an Alabama gun supporter: Just shut your mouth and slink away from any and all potential confrontations. Don’t stand up for your rights or your family because the opposing party may and probably is carrying a gun. And that person just may decide to settle the argument by shooting you.
How is this possible? How can we allow our society to be so dominated by gun-rights nuts that everyone must start packing their own gun and be ready to use it at the drop of a hat? How is it that no one seems to realize that encouraging this will inevitably lead to more gun deaths, and not just the primary protagonists, but also many innocent people who just happen to be in the field of fire.
What she is recommending is giving up your right to free speech. What she is recommending is giving up your right to enjoy a night out at a restaurant and engaging in a spirited debate of today’s issues. What she is recommending is going to a football game but not wearing your team colors or cheering when the opposing team screws up. What she is recommending, if you are a teacher, is not covering both sides of an issue and instead playing to the themes of the dominant group. What she is recommending is always pulling over into the slowest lane of traffic, and getting yourself blocked in, even if you are passing cars but not moving as fast as the fastest cars.
What she is recommending is to become passive and afraid of life because we have given in to the gun-nuts, the NRA, and the gun manufacturers who foment this just to keep selling more guns.
What are the red states to do now that they require ‘suspicious’ people to present their birth certificates to gain access to the bathroom?
I envision a new law requiring everyone anticipating going to a public bathroom to be issued (i.e. in republican vernacular: buy) a properly colored ‘magic band’ not unlike those you use at Disney World. The bands would be linked back to the database that Trump and Cruz are building to control Muslims and immigrants, a database that can surely be expanded to include direct links to state birth records and a newly required 23 & Me DNA test. And like Disney, the entrance to all public bathrooms would be guarded by a scanner that reads your magic band and sets off loud alarms and locks the bathroom door if you are not qualified to use that particular bathroom.Of course, “real” women would be locked inside, but republicans don’t really care about women anyway. After 30 seconds, if an ‘offender’ is still proximate to the wrong bathroom door, newly hired Bathroom Police would be dispatched.
See? It is not hate driving these laws.
The republicans are just stimulating economic development and new jobs after all.
I am one of those “freaks” who you do not want sharing a bathroom with your daughter.
I have worked a job essentially every day since I turned 16. I did all the things republicans preach you should do so that you are not a “leech” on society. I came from a lower middle-class family that could not afford to send me to college. I studied hard in school, played sports, participated in civic activities, went to church, and eventually won a scholarship to the University of Alabama and a congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. Because we were then (and still are) in war, I chose the latter. I wanted to serve our country.
And I did. But I became frustrated by the politicians running the war and costing my friends lives. I left the Air Force and used the GI Bill to get a master’s degree. I found a job with a good company in Mobile and worked my way up from the drafting board to the board of directors of a large environmental engineering firm. I worked on or led many engineering projects that still are important, functional parts of the infrastructure in many cities in Mobile and Baldwin counties, and, indeed, across many southern states. But my boss found out I was trans and kicked me out of the company, destroying my financial stability and even my ability to get another job in engineering. I was blackballed for being “queer.”
After I graduated from the Air Force Academy, I got married to a wonderful woman, had a daughter who has out-shown me in her accomplishments and who now is a mother to the most perfect child of her own. I am still her father and grandparent to her perfect baby. But the love of my life divorced me, and continues to drive a wedge between my daughter and myself. I have not spent Christmas or birthdays with my daughter for almost 20 years. I know she loves me and is torn between her mother and me. But it hurts so very much.
To republicans and many so-called Christians, I am a freak who should not be allowed to use a public bathroom. I am a freak that can be refused service, a job, a place to live, just because I don’t fit their idea of a ‘normal’ person. Ted Cruz’s Christian supporters even believe it should be legal to murder freaks like me.
Though I was never afraid all the time I was serving in the Air Force, flying F4’s during the Vietnam War, I am now afraid.
And my closest friends, who are republican and will vote for either Trump or Cruz, don’t understand why I am afraid.
Although we freaks have made tremendous gains these past seven years, all could, and, most likely will, be washed away if a republican is elected president.
I have seen the dominos begin to fall, beginning with Kansas where they have placed a bounty on the heads of trans people, to North Carolina and Mississippi where they have passed terrible hate laws in the name of ‘religious’ freedom, to Louisiana, where the republicans have introduced a bill that doubles down on NC and MS and specifically targets overturning the LGBT anti-discrimination laws in NOLA. How can Alabama fail to follow suit?
Soon I will not be able to legally use a public bathroom in my home state. Thanks to my local probate judge, who told me that he would not accept my petition to change the sex marker on my birth certificate unless it was prepared and presented by a lawyer, I have not been able to afford to get my birth certificate to match my social security card and passport.
I have turned 70 this past December. My life is more behind me than in front of me. I wonder why I keep fighting to stay alive.
I went back to school after losing my engineering career, thinking I could get a Ph.D. and a job teaching. But I had not reckoned on the age discrimination that exists in universities. They will always take a young new Ph.D. in preference to a 65-year-old new Ph.D. every time. And, of course, being a trans-freak does not help.
When I was on the board of BCM Engineers, I helped to get the company to give a scholarship to Auburn’s Civil Engineering school. I got my masters there, served on the school’s board of visitors for almost 10 years, but was told that they would not accept me into their doctoral program because of my age. At least, they were honest.
So here I am at 70. A freak. Working multiple jobs as an adjunct for a pittance but enough to keep me off welfare.
And I am so very tired.
Sometimes I think the hate I see coming is just too much to endure.
But I will stand up and fight. I will not go quietly.
I am taking time away from my teaching duties – no I will never be able to retire – to voice some troubling thoughts I have been having.
I am distressed at the extreme polarization that I see because of the upcoming election. While I can understand and support people becoming enthusiastic for a particular candidate, I hate the obvious hatred that each side has for the other. We just cannot seem to debate these issues in an adult fashion. Everyone seems to have their heels dug in and refuse to open their minds to anything the other side has to say.
Still, I regret that politics has begun to drive a wedge between some of my dear friends and myself. I do not want to lose their friendship and have tried to purge my mind of the issues, but increasingly I feel the need to separate myself from them.
Perhaps my closest and dearest friend is a Republican. I have known her for almost ten years and we have survived many hardships by leaning on each other.
But her decision to support Republican ideology, specifically Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, has placed such a strain that I just cannot find the energy to raise my shields and spend time with her. She just does not understand why I feel threatened by the current Republican intent to drag us back to a time when non-white and non-traditional people were excluded and killed because they violated a distorted Christian view.
Republican dominated legislatures across the country are racing to see who can pass the most restrictive and regressive legislation against the LGBT community. All in the name of “religious freedom” to discriminate. Thankfully, some large companies have put pressure on a few governors to veto the onerous legislation, but even so the Republican diehards say they will try to override the vetoes. In my home state of Alabama, the extreme conservatives control the legislature and have fought tooth and nail against the rights of same-sex couples to get married. I expect them to shortly take up the example of North Carolina and Kansas who have unbelievably regressive anti-LGBT laws and bills. Alabama may be broke, but they can find time to spend on these hateful ideas.
My sweet friend intends to vote for either Trump or Cruz. Trump scares me because he is doing the things Hitler did to incite the base to hate people who are not-white or non-traditional Christian. Cruz is even worse because he has aligned himself with extreme evangelicals, some who advocate the legal murder of LGBT people.
I have this recurring nightmare where the right-wing police come for me and she stands silent. It hurts too much and I cannot understand why she cannot see this.
I watched President Obama’s talk to the Illinois Legislature yesterday and, among his points, was a call to stop the gerrymandering that is so predominant in our partisan country. Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing the voting district lines to ensure the desired outcome. Usually, that means republicans draw the lines to help republicans get elected and democrats draw them to help democrats get elected. That is nothing new on the political scene as it has been practiced a long time.
This political cartoon, published in 1812, depicts the result of the Massachusetts legislature efforts to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists in 1812.
Just thought I would take a moment and see what Google had on our old house on 9th Avenue. Turns out it is still there and for sale – a steal at $34k! Reading the specifications I am surprised how small the house is – about 1100 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bath. The house is hard to see in this Google photo and the one the realtor posted is the same one, but you can actually see the house pretty well here. The house on the right is the Jone’s rental house I told you about in my post on model planes. When we lived there, the lot on the left was vacant, and then came Jones the lawyer’s house. But I like being able to scan around from the street in front of our house, 9th avenue of course.
I have a lot of memories about that street and the hill that leads down to the Parrot’s house. I can remember (more…)
This morning while scanning the tv channels looking for something to distract me, I stumbled upon a “marathon” presentation of the 1950’s TV show “Death Valley Days.” What caught my attention was the theme song being played at the end of an episode from 1953. I immediately stopped scanning and waited to watch the next episode.
Hearing that song brought me back to my childhood in the West End of Birmingham. In 1953, I was eight years old and a fan of that TV show, Death Valley Days. So much so that my mother saved up box tops of 20 Mule Team Borax, or Boraxo as I remember it. (more…)
When I was very young, our (my older brother Dean and I) favorite Christmas presents each year came from my uncle. They were model plane kits, at first stick-built balsa wood and later Revell plastic kits. By the time I left for the AF Academy, my room was chock full of planes of all types. One of my favorites was this Stileto from about 1957.
I think my love of planes, and models, rubbed off my brother Dean. One Christmas, while we were still living on 10th street in West End, my uncle Jimmy, mom’s younger brother, came down from Chattanooga bearing presents. I don’t remember what Uncle Jimmy brought me, but Dean got a model airplane. It was really just a small box of balsa wood and tissue paper, but from it Dean would build an airplane that could actually fly. Glide really, but to me it was just wonderful and I wanted it.
Dean was all boy. As soon as he was old enough, he prevailed on my parents to let him join the Cub Scouts – there was a pack at my neighbor’s church, which unfortunately was not a Catholic church. As kids do, Dean kept after my parents until they relented and, on his birthday, took him to the Army-Navy store to buy a uniform and camping equipment. Even my grandmother Bubba joined in and bought him an aluminum canteen. While he gloried in his take, I was off to the side, jealous as only a sibling can be when your brother gets all the attention.
One of the first projects Dean worked on with the Cub Scout was a model airplane. He brought it home and my mother helped him assemble it – she could do just about anything but my father had absolutely no interest in helping Dean with the model. It took him and Mom a few days, but at the end Dean had a real airplane. At least it was real to me. It was powered by a rubber band engine and could fly across the room. We could not afford paints, so Dean left the plane plain, if you get my drift. And I was so jealous of Dean’s plane.
Flash Gordon rocket ships
When you are small, your imagination is wonderfully adept. All I had that year was burnt out Christmas tree bulbs, but I quickly converted one into a Flash Gordon rocket ship. Dean had his airplane, but I had a rocket ship and I stubbornly stuck to my vision of being able to shoot down Dean’s plane.
Back in the early ’50s, my family did not have a lot of money. We were lower middle class with only my dad’s hair stylist’s – salary to live on. But I did not know I was missing out. One year, along with Uncle Jimmy’s model planes, Dean and I got real English bicycles!
But that is another story for another time; back to airplanes.
When we moved to East Lake in 1955, I was 10 years old. Next door to our house on 9th Avenue, there was a family renting – as far as I know, my parents were buying our house. The father, Mr. Jones, was a distant relative of the Mr. Jones who lived on the other side of us. That Mr. Jones was rich, after all he owed two house and was a lawyer. The renting Mr. Jones was into model airplanes. And not just rubber band powered ones. His were powered by small gasoline engines that made a tremendous noise. And they were fast and maneuverable. They were called ‘control-line’ planes because you controlled them via two strings that came out of one wing and led to a handle that you could tilt back and forth and cause the model plane to go up or down. (always from the left wing, which made the plane go counter clockwise; I wonder if they go clockwise in Australia – have to ask David) The only problem I could see with those planes was that you could really get seasick from turning round and round to keep up with the plane.
Behind the rental house was a fairly large yard with no trees – a perfect place to fly control line model planes. And Mr. Jones did that as often as he could. Dean and I were enraptured with those planes and with Mr. Jones. (I was also enraptured with Mr. Jones’ daughter, Carol, with whom I was very smitten.)
That year for Christmas, Dean got a special plane from Uncle Jimmy – a control-line Beechcraft Bonanza model plane which was powered by a .049 gasoline engine. It was made of plastic and turned out to be crash resistant, which it needed to be. With Mr. Jones’ mentoring, Dean was soon flying the Bonanza round and round, zooming up and down. Dean even let me help him start the engine, which was a painful thing to learn how to do properly. We did not have automatic starters back then. You had to hook up a large battery to the engine’s glow plug and turn over the propeller using your finger. You had to learn to flick the prop quickly and get your finger out of the way. If the engine caught and started, the propeller would slam into your finger, causing a great deal of pain. But getting the little engine to fire required you to flick the prop over and over, until just as you got tired and slowed down your hand movement, the engine would bite you. But Dean loved that little plane, and he eventually let me learn to fly it too.
Although the Bonanza was a great starter plane, Dean soon wanted to build his own, larger, plane that would be powered by a much larger engine. That was the kind of planes Mr. Jones’ had. And Dean had his heart set on building a radio-controlled plane so he could break free from the control lines. This was about the time that Dean got sick, really sick.
I did not know it, but the pain in his leg that Dean kept complaining about turned out to be cancer. So one day my father brought home a large box containing the parts and instructions for a balsa wood model of a 1930’s trainer aircraft – I cannot remember the designation but I think it was a T6 Texan – and gave it to Dean. He had asked Mr. Jones for advice on which kit to buy and asked Mr. Jones if he would help Dean make the plane.
Balsa Wood Wings
The first thing Dean built was the wing, and it turned out to be the only part of the plane Dean was able to get done before he fell too sick to work on it. The wings were about 36 inches long and were made up of balsa wood. This was about as far as Dean got. Later, after he died, I tried to complete the plane and did get the wings covered with doped fabric with the help of Mr. Jones. And I completed the fuselage, mounting the gas tank and engine, which I saved my allowance to buy. With Mr. Jones help, I actually got the engine running, almost breaking my finger in the process as the much larger engine really could whack you. But I never got to fly the plane; I just could not scrape together the money to buy the radio control parts before Mr. Jones and family moved away to Kentucky.
I left the unfinished plane hanging from the ceiling of the bedroom I once shared with Dean and headed off to the Academy. The plane, alone with all the other models Dean and I built, remained in that bedroom until my parent’s divorced and sold the house. I never asked my mother what she did with those planes. I hope she gave them to some one who would love them as much as Dean and I did.
It has been almost 20 years since I last spent Christmas with my daughter. And I own the responsibility for the reason we have not been able to be together. I made a decision which split my family of over 30 years back in 1996 when I shared with my wife that I was transgender and that I was not sure how much longer I could continue to hide my true gender identity.
We struggled on together for a few years, but our marriage destructed in 1999. And so it was that my ex and my daughter began to have Christmases without me because my being present was just to painful for my ex, C. She was rightly angry that I had chosen my need to express my true gender to my need to keep the family together. I remember one heated conversation we had in which she said I should just keep my gender identity submerged because “you are old and don’t have that many years left anyway.”
I think in my naiveté I thought that she would somehow be able to get over the fact that I no longer looked like the man she married, but that was unrealistic I now understand. I am reading the book She’s not there, by Jenifer Boylan, which was published in 2003. In that book, Boylan comes out to her wife and has many of the same conversations I had with my wife. But Boylan does not lose anything that I can see because of her transition. She does not lose her job nor her livelihood, which was fairly large compared to most people anyway. She does not lose her family nor her wife nor her friends. She transitions easily compared to me and most trans women.
I wonder if Boylan’s wife would have stayed if she had lost her job, financial security, and position due to her transition? I sometimes think that my ex would have had an easier time sticking with me if I had been as lucky as Boylan.
But I was not. Although I never told my boss exactly what was causing my depression, I think he was perceptive enough to read the tea leaves. As I was crumbling under the pressure of the dysphoria, I had pierced my ears, much like Harrison Ford had done, and bleached my hair. On a trip to Dallas in which he put pressure on me to relocate to take over that region, Brian told me in the car after he picked me up at the airport that he had just fired a “queer” from his Atlanta office because the “queer” had begun showing up at work wearing women’s clothes. He made a sarcastic remark about the person, whom I never knew, and looked at me for some favorable reaction. I was stunned at his bringing up that topic and began to wonder how much he was reading into my changes in appearance.
About a month later, we had a major meeting of the senior staff in Phoenix and I was unable to get myself out of bed to make the flight. I was fighting the flu, and that, combined with my worsening depression, left me completely exhausted. The week after I missed the meeting, I was called to fly to Atlanta where his office was. There he made a show of introducing me to the people in Atlanta that I did not know – we had only recently merged our companies – and took me to lunch at a restaurant about 20 minutes away where I think he thought we would have privacy.
There, he told me he knew something was seriously wrong with me, and that he felt I could not perform the duties of my senior position with the new company. He asked what was wrong and I told him a bit of the truth, that I was having marital difficulties. He seemed to accept this and told me, not asked me, that I should take a leave of absence from the company while I sorted out the problem and could reflect on if I wanted to move to Dallas. And I stupidly leaped at this suggestion as I knew I needed time. What I didn’t realize was that my agreeing to take the sabbatical, as he called it, gave him the time to reorganize me out of the company. And that he announced to me after I called him three weeks later to tell him I was ready to come back to work.
I know now that my telling my ex I had been cut adrift from my company of almost 25 years was the end point for her in our marriage. I no longer was the successful breadwinner she had wanted and needed. And I was no longer going to be the man she thought she married. So she filed for divorce and served me with the papers.
We sold the cherished house in Sans Souci in August of 1999 and moved separately into the same apartment complex in Fairhope. I guess we were not ready to really be apart. I remember many days and nights when one of us visited the other and cried over the loss of our marriage. For a while, I had hopes of our finding some way to remain together, but it was not to be. Sometime in early 2000, after our divorce was finalized, C told me she was seeing my old friend B. I was stunned and hurt, but I tried to make her believe I was happy for her. I was, in a way, but I was devastated at the same time. My depression worsened and I was fired again, this time from the real estate company I had started working for in the fall of 1999. I overdosed but somehow survived and called C asking her to help me. She told me to go to the hospital in Fairhope where she had once gone while she struggled with my truth, but I prevailed on her to take me to New Orleans VA hospital where my friend Jamie worked. I think I finally accepted our relationship was over when C and B showed up to drive me to NOLA.
At the end of a week, I was released from the hospital and C picked me up and drove me back to my little apartment in Fairhope. It was to be the last time I saw her for five years. In the interim, I finally had my bucket of sticks tip over and I made the painful and joyous decision to begin my transition. I soon exhausted my savings, had my car repossessed, and was evicted. At the same time, I had somehow held myself together with the help of new friends, filed for bankruptcy, applied and was accepted into the doctoral program at South Alabama, and began my new life as Dawn. My second Christmas alone was my first as myself. But the pain of not being with my family far overshadowed the joy of being myself. And that pain continues to this day.
In 2006, my world seemed to be approaching normality. I was back in my doctoral program, had found a wonderful supportive Catholic nun, and was awarded the honor of Vagina Warrior by the Feminists for Progress. And just prior to my 61st birthday in December of 2006, I flew to Thailand and finally had gender confirmation surgery. Then the darkness of being swallowed by my doctoral research overwhelmed me. I dropped out of my activism for GLBT rights to make time for the long hours completing the dissertation. Finally, in December 2009, I was hooded and left school with a new Ph.D. in search of a job with which to pay back my student loans with enough left over, I hoped, to allow me to pay off the remaining credit cards I had used to pay for my transition.
But something, a lot of things really, happened in the real world while I was gone. Bay Area Inclusion, a GLBT support organization I helped found in Mobile, folded its tent and went away. A new breed of trans-activists arrived on the scene and began to change my simple gender binary world. I first realized this when I saw that a “Q” had been added to the end of GLBT, the Q standing for Queer. Although the label queer had been in vogue way back in the ‘50s as a derogatory term for gay males, I learned it now stood for anyone who felt they did not fit into the neat boxes of male/female or straight/gay-lesbian. Then an “I” was added for intersex individuals as they too wanted to differentiate themselves from the run-of-the-mill gays/lesbians/trans/queer people. And I was OK with that. I could understand their point because their physiology just was different from that of most people.
But then the alphabet soup of letters was added making the LGBT tag almost meaningless, at least to me.
5 Ways to Support a Trans Person Experiencing Body Dysphoria (here)
This article popped up on my Facebook feed this morning, so I clicked and read. I had two thoughts when I finished my forced reading – not far into it I had the distinct feeling that some aspiring trans activist was clawing for something “trans” to write to come up with this fluff. All the things “they” suggested were common sense things an empathetic person would do for any friend struggling with an issue. The only difference was that the writer forced the overlay of trans onto the piece probably thinking the #trans keyword would help “their” marketing.
You may have noticed my use of air quotes around the non-gendered ‘they’ and ‘their.’ I did that because the writer, who is evidently a trans man, chose to make the article about gender-neutral body dysphoria instead of gender dysphoria. This even though ‘he’ chooses traditional masculine pronouns.
As you probably know by now, gender dysphoria is the extreme discomfort many trans people experience with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth, such assignment usually based upon the appearance of their external genitalia. This discomfort I know very well, having suffered with it for most of my life. I have always had a strong feeling that my body was not in alignment with my gender identity. I may have been assigned male at birth, but I finally found a way to correct that miss-alignment. With the help of hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery, I crossed over from blue to pink.
But today many young (primarily) people in the trans collage are intent on doing away with the classical gender binary. Instead of being a trans man or trans woman, they choose to self-identify as gender queer, gender neutral (neutrois), non-binary, agender, polygender, androgyne, gender questioning, genderfluid, demigender, genderf#ck, and on and on and on. I can’t begin to keep up with the ever-growing list of nonbinary identities but you can read more about them here.
11 Times Gender Norms Got The Middle Finger in 2015 (here)
I am confused, very confused. And I think a lot of other people are too. And confused people always say No, such as they did to HERO in Houston.