"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive boy who often thought he should have been a girl - -

Monday, 30 May 2016

Christianity, Alive and Well in North Carolina, U.S.A.

Just when you are beginning to think that Christianity has stopped being about love and is mostly about judging others harshly for being different, along comes a minister, from North Carolina of all places, who says he is tired of having to apologize for being a Christian.

Of course, I should have known better. After all, the vocal right wing bigots are only the noisiest; they aren't truly representative of the teachings of Jesus, any more than someone who regularly beheads folks and kidnaps female children is modelling the teachings of Islam.

John Pavlovitz should speak for himself however so here is what he wrote in his blog on May 26, 2016:

Dear Offended Christian, 

From a Very Tired Christian


Dear Offended Christian,

I’m terribly sorry that your feelings are hurt again. I feel badly about that. None of us likes to be criticized, so I totally get it.

I know I’ve said some pretty hard words to you recently, and maybe I’ve been somewhat less than “cheery” in my delivery, but that happens when you’re tired.


And I am really tired:

I’m tired of hearing you telling gay people that they can’t simultaneously be both gay and Christian.

I’m tired of having to explain what “Transgender” means to adult Christian people, who I’m quite sure have Internet access and should know better by now that it ain’t “a guy in a dress”.

I’m tired of arrogant pulpit bullies who believe they’re entitled to tell people where they can pee and who they can marry and whether they really love Jesus or not.

I’m tired of you being more outraged by red coffee cups and department store restrooms than by poverty and racism and gun violence and our crumbling school system.

I’m tired of gay people being accused of the kind of predatory behavior that straight men have been exhibiting, since the man cave was—an actual cave. 

I’m tired of reminding you that the number of times Jesus spoke about gender identity and sexual orientation in the Gospels—is zero.

I’m tired of having to explain to people that although I am a Christian, that I’m not that type of Christian; the kind that is generous with damnation and stingy with Grace.

I’m tired of LGBTQ teens cutting their forearms and jumping off buildings because they’re told by their church friends that God hates them, because their Christian parents told them, because their Christian pastors told them.

I’m tired of followers of Jesus who don’t seem interested in cracking open a book to see what we’ve learned about the brain and the body in 2,000 years, or to realize that gender identity and sexual orientation don’t equal the word “homosexuality” in the Bible.

I’m tired of all the time I have to spend undoing the damage the Church has done to queer kids and their families.

I’m tired of religious folk who seem to want small government everywhere except the bedroom and bathroom.

I’m tired of Scientific ignorance being treated as if it’s a Christian virtue.

I’m tired of hearing you preach verbatim the gospel of Fox News.

I’m tired of high-profile pastors blaming gay people for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and ISIS and child obesity.

I’m tired of waiting for you to show up in this world and actually show the freakin’ love of Jesus to people the way he did and told you to, without excuses or caveats or theological tap dancing to avoid it.

I’m tired of this wasteful, fruitless, mean-spirited, unprovoked, unbiblical attack on the LGBTQ community, that is squandering so much time and life and beauty in the name of a God who is supposedly Love.

I’m tired of so many people believing that “Christian” and “bigot” are synonymous—and not disagreeing with them.

I’m tired of a Church which seems to be so ambivalent toward the teachings and example of Jesus.

I’m tired of a Christianity that is making me more and more embarrassed to be associated with it.

So I get that your feelings are hurt. I understand that you’re offended, and that’s not my intention. 

But listen, if you’re going to tell a group of people that they’re going to Hell simply for existing, and you’re going to continually target those people through the Church and the Law and your social media accounts, don’t get angry with me when I tell you you’re being hateful and judgmental and ignorant.

It could be worse.

At least I’m not damning you for all eternity.

Sincerely,

A Very Tired Christian

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

LGBT and Gender Equality

In 2015, Sarah McBride presented a TEDx Talk, Gender assigned to us at birth should not dictate who we are.

That talk is about so much more than the title suggests, and one idea is so well developed that I felt it was essential for me to include it here.

"LGBT equality is gender equality and gender equality is LGBT equality" 

If you haven't seen it, please watch. For those for wish to follow along with the text, there is a transcript below.

Good evening everyone. My name is Sarah McBride. I'm 25 years old. I'm a native of Wilmington Delaware, a proud graduate of American University; that's right, go Eagles! I'm a movie buff, a policy nerd, a sister and a daughter.

It took me twenty-one years to muster up the courage to say those last words; sister and daughter. Today they are among my proudest identities and tonight I'm able to walk out on this stage as the woman that I am. But I have to admit that it hasn't always been that way.

I remember as a child lying in my bed at night praying that I would wake up the next day and be a girl; to be my authentic self and to just have my family be proud of me. I remember looking into the mirror struggling to say just two words: I'm transgender. It was a fact that I thought about every single waking hour of every single day. With every penny thrown, with every birthday candle blown out, my wish was always the same.

For every trans person it feels a little different. For me it felt like a constant homesickness and not a homesickness in my own body but a homesickness in my own life. An unwavering unyielding ache in the pit of my stomach that only went away when I began to embrace my true self but I could be seen as me. But I kept it inside. I told myself that if I could make staying in the closet worthwhile by becoming successful in making a difference in the world that those things would fill the void in my life.

It seemed as I grew up that my dreams and my identities were mutually exclusive. During my sophomore year at American University I was elected president of the student body. At the same time I was also struggling with my identity and whether or not to come out as transgender. In the end though I had to be true to myself. My life was passing me by and I was done wasting it as someone I wasn’t.

I came out to my family on Christmas Day in 2011, (there's really nothing to do once you open the presents) and I came out my friends during the following weeks. Eventually on my last day as president of the student body I told the world that I was really Sarah McBride in an op-ed in the A.U. student newspaper.

I have to be honest that I was scared about the possible reaction from the university community but all I got was support. At the same time though, people oftentimes tried to express their support by saying “I hope you're happy now”. I hope you're happy now - that seems like such a small motivation for transitioning; for taking the steps that I felt like I needed to take to have my inner gender identities seen and respected.

I didn't transition to be happy. I transitioned to be me. I didn’t transition to create a positive but to removing a negative. To alleviate a nearly constant pain and incompleteness. Transitioning didn't bring me happiness. It allowed me to be free to feel every emotion, to think more clearly, to live more fully, to survive, to be seen to be me. And while transitioning freed me in many ways, there's no question that in becoming myself I face new barriers.

Like all women, my path to womanhood is unique. No two paths are the same. Each of us travel with different privileges, challenges, and perspectives; some limiting, others illuminating. And as someone who at least tried to think critically about the phobias and the isms and the discrimination in the world, I thought I more or less understood what to expect. In the end though I had been so understandably consumed with the transphobia that would come my way, I didn't fully realize the misogyny and sexism that I would face. And it was everywhere. From the subtle to the blatant. A world of contradictions and double standards.

I never realized how disempowering and unsafe it would feel to have a stranger feel entitled to make a comment about my looks or my body; inviting comments for having the audacity to walk down the street. If I wasn't smiling I was told to smile. If I am smiling it's a special invitation for more comments.

(applause)

You're treated like both a delicate infant and a sexualized idol in the exact same moment. Your thoughts are dismissed and your emotions minimized; your insecurities emphasized and your body objectified. The simple and the mundane decisions that I never had to think about in the morning before soon became integral to avoiding a thousand judgments. And in finding my own womanhood I was told that if I was too feminine that I was a caricature or inauthentic; as if masculinity is some sort of natural state of being; a default - a preference. But if I wasn't feminine enough, then I was told that I wasn't a real woman. Pop culture, television, movies, music, politics, fashion; all telling all of us what it means to be a real woman.

I had finally, finally, come out of the closet only to find myself stuck in the kitchen. And it became clear very quickly that the same forces, the same forces that said to me “No you're not a woman”, those are the same forces that say there's only one way to love, only one way to live, only one way to act, only one way to dress, only one role to play. And those forces; they're not just the same people. They're the same beliefs and the same dogmas. It’s why the fight for LGBT equality is so inextricably linked to the fight for gender equality. Homophobia, transphobia, and sexism - they're all rooted in the same prejudice. The belief that one perception at birth, the sex we are assigned, should dictate who we are, who we love, how we act, and what we do. And that's why LGBT equality is gender equality and gender equality is LGBT equality and when we fully, and I mean fully realize that as feminists, as LGBT people, as allies, and as a society then we will be able to build a world where every little kid can know that they can grow up and be successful; they can be independent, they can be gay, they can be trans - they can be anything that this society says is mutually exclusive with being feminine or being a woman but they can be any or all of those things and still be seen and still be valued and still be respected as the equal humans that we all are.

Our dreams and our identities do not have to be mutually exclusive. Working together to fight sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and yes, racism "enable-ism", they won’t be. 

Thank you very much.

Friday, 13 May 2016

The Big Reveal

A misleading title? Possibly, because what is being revealed is so wonderfully ordinary, which could be what makes it big and important. No matter, it seems a good idea now to give you all a report about what is going on chez Halle currently; three months into living as myself; one quarter of a year.  So here it comes.

Real-Life Experience is the term camh continues to use (a bit apologetically in the case of my clinician there) to refer to being yourself and never again pretending to be the gender assigned incorrectly at birth. What I know now and might have guessed is that life now is no more or less real than the other 255/256 of my life. As a woman whom I've worked with for years told me in the past week, "It seems to me your experience here (since transition at work) has been so positive because you are the same person whom everyone respected and enjoyed working with all along, but you have a twinkle in your eye now that you never had. You are you, but better!"

Over the past years there were dire predictions from people I had told in my close circle. This gem pretty much sums up the general feeling: "You risk losing all of your friends and family." Anyone who lives long and well can tell you that all of life is a risk. In the end, however, this prediction became the gauge for when it was time to give up the façade completely. Last fall it came to the point where I knew loss of all friends and family would be preferable to continuing  to pretend to be the guy. 

What, in fact, has happened is that I have found out who really were my friends and family all along. 

Some have surprised me. As recently as this past week it has become clear. One person whom I thought would see that I am still me and only my sex marker and name have changed to match the person I have always been has surprised me totally by not responding to my requests to talk and perhaps get together; total silence. 

One relative who I thought would never abandon me has written me off totally; there is some sort of religious basis for her behaviour, so that has to be factored in. Extremism changes so much in surprising ways, sadly. 

Even Mrs. Halle, who made it very clear she wants nothing to do with being married to another woman, has said that she still cares for me and accepts me as a best friend. We are still living under the same roof, albeit on separate levels and with separate facilities. Thank goodness for that apartment we really didn't want down here where I am now living. 

Another dire prediction had to do with where we live and how 'backward' some are here. Many told me that even walking down the street was going to be potentially dangerous. I will say right off that nothing anyone said in that regard was believable to me. I trusted that if I felt confident and just went about my business as though everything was fine, then everything would be fine. I'll bet you can guess who was right about the reaction of the average person on the street.

So, it seems the very best about "real life" is: dire predictions were way off! 

People I've interacted with have been respectful and polite. Strangers have ignored me mostly, apart from checking out the outfit as we women like to do to one another. 

I have more friends and better friends than ever. People whom I never felt close to have gone out of their way to let me know they respect me and value our friendship. We have connected and friendships are flourishing. My kids are still adjusting, but adjusting they are and they know I'll always be their Dad, no matter what. What they call me varies on a case-by-case basis, but the pronouns are consistently female. My grandchild is growing up strong and beautiful and she and I get along just fine thank you. 

Visible signs of change are happening and continuing to 'develop'. My body is responding perfectly to HRT (now in my tenth month). My hair seems to be thicker, my waist is becoming more defined, and hips are filling out gently. My "girls" are 'saying hello' very nicely. No wig and no padding of any kind are needed. 

I'm learning the subtleties of makeup and have found a hair style that I can get ready in a short time. In a rush, it is possible for me to go from wakeup and get out of bed to out the door in 30 minutes or so. Life is as it should be. 

A new birth certificate arrived a week ago with my chosen name; my first official document. After a visit to the banks, my first credit card in my own name came this week. I couldn't have predicted how that made me feel and I won't try to give it a word, but it was a very good thing indeed. 

There is a lot to do. I relish every part of it and more energy and less distraction mean better focus. 

I'm never likely to forget the path that led to where I should have been so long ago. It is my path and part of that is a feeling of adventure that I hope will end only when I do. 

What an interesting coincidence: 13 weeks of me on the 13th of May. Oh, and as Meg used to say, Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.