Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hey Folks,

Hope you all had a great holiday and I'm wishing you all a wonderful new year.  I'll be ringing it in with my man as we supervise the NYE Lock-In for a few dozen youth.  Video games, art projects, snacks, pizza, movies and sparkling grape juice as we watch the NYC Ball drop.  Have I mentioned that I love my job?  In other exciting news, it looks like Chris might be popping the question some time in 2013!  That's all I'll say for now, but I feel a rant about diamonds and other ridiculous things you're "supposed" to spend money on for weddings coming up soon.  Until then, I hope you have a safe and fantastic new year.  See you in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

I've finished my semester and received Straight A's!  I'll be spending the next two days with my family and Chris's, so I won't be updating as often as usual this week.  However, my next post will be a lot of fun and incorporate what I've learned.  I'm looking forward to it!  I hope you and your loved ones have a fantastic holiday season, or as Spock would put it:

Monday, December 17, 2012


Bitch is one of those loaded words in our society.  For some, it's a way of comparing a woman to a dog.  For some, it's a way of saying a woman doesn't know her place in society.  For some, it's what women call a woman who goes against the grain.  For some, it's a man who acts like a woman.  In my family, Bitch is a badge of honor.  When I say I was raised by New York Yankee bitches in the wilds of Arkansas, I say it with great love about my matriarchal upbringing.  Because in my family, if someone calls you a bitch then you must be doing something right! 

One of my favorite Bette Davis quotes about the subject neatly sums it all up, "When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch.”  I say it's time we start to take the word back.  I love how the queer community has taken the slurs used against us and turned them into compliments.  Such as, "I love that butch look you got going on."  Faggot, Tranny, Butch, Dyke, Fairy, Bitch, the list goes on and on.  But rather than give the haters ammunition to use against us we've turned it around.  If you use the term to describe yourself it takes the intended sting away.  Hell, we turned "queer" from a derogatory term to a descriptive and inclusive one.  So let's do the same thing with bitch.

My proposed re-definition of bitch:

Bitch [bich] Noun.  Slang.  A person who stands by their convictions and is not ashamed of who they are, especially a woman.

So from now on, when someone says you're acting like a bitch, you can respond with, "I know.  Thank you for noticing."  If you need a derogatory term for someone who is rude (and who doesn't from time to time?) I've always been partial to "asshole".  It's gender-neutral and has a nice sharpness to it that can be downright satisfying when shouted.  I won't say that I haven't called someone a bitch out of anger before, but I make a conscious effort to reprogram that instinct, just like when I switched from "bless you" to "gesundheit".  It might be awkward at first, but once you commit to it things get easier and easier.  Let's turn this slur into a compliment just like we have with others before it.  Now get out there and change some minds, bitches!

Friday, December 14, 2012


Given the tragic events of today, I wasn't sure that I wanted to write.  But then I logged on to facebook and was bombarded with prayer circles, praises of god(s) and finger-pointing to every social problem or politician.  Everyone wants to figure out how to prevent something like this from happening ever again.  And I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the truth is: we can't.

There's no way we're ever going to prevent something like this from ever happening.  Can we reduce our odds?  Of course.  But not by banning guns or punishing parents or censoring video games or any other agenda being peddled.  Even improving the mental health care system won't prevent it from ever happening, and I'm a mental health care student!  The truth is, crazy people do crazy things and crazy people will continue to do crazy things no matter what sacrifices we make or freedoms we give up.  The good news is there are far more good people out there than crazy people.  The vast majority of us are good, decent people trying to make the best of our lives.  This is not a time to beat ourselves up or try to pass the buck to someone else.  We need to offer our help and condolences, then continue to make our world a better place.

I know that I'm a bleeding heart liberal, but I believe in the Constitution.  It may be the greatest thing our country has going for it and we can't just try to tear parts out whenever something terrible happens.  The Second and Fourth Amendments are there for a reason!  Look at the TSA agents who chip away at our rights a little more every year so they can offer the illusion of safety in a post-9/11 world.  Look at the gun detectors in schools that we put in after Columbine.  These actions don't stop crazy people from doing crazy things, they only punish the vast majority of good citizens.  If you "ban" guns, that means only the crazy people who are willing to break the law will own them.  And if it's not guns it will be home-made explosives or some other awful thing.  There is no law that will obliterate violence and tragedy from our lives.

That being said, the best thing you can do to reduce the chances of something tragic happening are to reach out to those around you.  We're all social creatures and sometimes even the worst of us need a hug.  Don't pray for someone, help them!  Prayer is lazy.  It's a way of feeling like you're involved and making a difference when all you're doing is closing your eyes and wishing.  Wishes aren't going to take away the pain that families are experiencing today, but a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen will make the world seem like a slightly less cold and forbidding place.  When something like this happens, you need to remember that for all the tragedy in the world, there is a lot more good.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Human Rights Day

Happy Human Rights Day, everyone!  Take this day to remember to stand up for your rights and the rights of others.  And never let someone, including yourself, tell you that you can't make a difference.  The image of Tank Man standing up for what he believes in, quite literally, against a battalion of tanks is one of the most inspirational photos ever taken.  Think what we could all do for human rights if we each had the courage to take a stand. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Phoenix Rising

The night before I finally came out as trans, I had a dream...or maybe it was a nightmare. 

I "wake" from my bed to find my apartment engulfed in flames.  This has been one of my worst fears ever since I was a small child.  I panic. I scream.  I call out to my roommates.  Nothing.  All of my possessions, books, clothes, furniture, all of it is feeding the fire.  There is no safe way to escape my bedroom.  I have no window and the door is blocked.  I can either die or try to face the flames.  I run for the door with my arms around my face.  It is pure agony.  Every inch of my flesh screams in pain and my lungs seize as they fill with thick, black smoke.  I crash through the crumbling door and am immediately seized by a firefighter, who covers me in a fire blanket and lifts me out of the house.  A few seconds later I'm outside, staring at my apartment as it turns to ashes.  The firefighter places an oxygen mask around my face and I realize I'm no longer in pain.  I glance down at my skin, expecting to see charred flesh and instead my skin is perfect and clear.  Then I realized my clothes have burned away and I'm naked, save for the fire blanket.  The firefighter bends down to talk to me. 

"Ma'am, are you okay?  Do you know how the fire got started?" 

Ma'am?  Why is he calling me ma'am?  Surely he could see plain as day that I'm not a woman, he carried my naked body out of there. 

"No, I'm sorry.  I just woke up and ran for the door." 

My voice sounds strange...different.  The firefighter leaves me to put out the fire and I'm left alone.  I look down at my miraculously intact body and realize it looks very different.  Very different.  It is right after I realize what has happened that my roommates, Greg and Heather, are led out of the building.

"Have you seen our roommate?" Heather asks as another firefighter puts an oxygen mask on both of them.

"He's short, kind of stocky, brown hair." Greg helps.

"No, I'm sorry.  The only other person we've rescued from the building is this young lady."  The firefighter answers.

"Oh," Heather says, "Are you okay?  Do you live above us?"

"Um," I hesitate, "Yes.  I think I'm okay."

It was after this dream that I realized that I was willing to lose everything in order to be myself.  In my dream I lost my friends, my identity, my possessions, my home, everything but who I truly was.  And I realized that would be enough.  The next day I told my roommates.  There were plenty of times when I was asked to slow down my transition.  Told it was great I was being myself but that I needed to give others time.  I needed to be understanding.  I told them I would rather die as a woman than live as a man.  And I meant it.  It sounds dramatic, but honestly, when you're trans it is a life-and-death situation.  And there are few things in this life more liberating than staring down death and saying you would prefer it to losing your dignity.  That gives you the kind of power and freedom that can never be taken away.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Very Atheist Christmas

Last week I was decorating the queer youth center I work at with some of my favorite youth and a volunteer.  For the sake of this article, let's call her Kathy.  Kathy is what I like to call a "momma-teer", she's a straight ally who volunteers so her gay son will have a fun place to hang out.  As Kathy and I were setting up the Christmas tree and listening to festive music she carefully asked me a question.

"So, I know you and Chris are atheists and you celebrate Christmas, so what does the holiday mean for you if it's not about Jesus?"

Now, this was not a malicious attack of any kind.  Kathy is a sweet woman and very accepting.  And it's a fair question when most are regularly told that Jesus is "the Reason for the Season."  I could have been a smart ass and said that the Earth's tilted axis was the true reason for the season, but I didn't.  I took the time to explain to her why I like Christmas so much.  I gave her a brief history about how Christmas has been many holidays before and has borrowed many traditions along the way and discarded others.  The very tree we were putting up was actually condemned by the early church for it's pagan roots before they realized they were fighting a losing battle.  The same can be said for mistletoe and exchanging gifts and decorations and most of the things we love about the holidays. 

So, in following that proud tradition I too have kept the traditions I enjoy and discarded the ones that do not work for me.  I love the tree and decorations and, to a lesser extent, the gifts.  I love getting together with my family and loved ones to have fun and share stories from the past year.  I love giving them whatever token of appreciation I can, even if it's just a box of homemade cookies and a card.  I love that, for a brief moment every year, everyone tries to be a little kinder to each other, even if they're strangers.  And as I get older, it's the little things that seem silly to outsiders that I might love most of all; the way my mom, sister, and I sing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" to each other; the time we spend preparing the Christmas dinner together, even if it's only for the three of us; the new ornament my mom gives us every year; having all of us together, something that doesn't happen often now that we're grown; and even watching the silly Christmas specials we've seen since we were kids.

There are plenty of things that irritate me about the holidays, like the "War on Christmas" fanatics who freak out whenever you use the word "holiday" or, god forbid, "X-Mas".  It seems they've forgotten that the "X" in X-Mas is not crossing out Jesus, but was used as a substitution for Christ because it was a cross!  X is still Christ!  And I guess the Jews and Muslims and everyone else who celebrate something different during December should just shut up about it so that we don't hurt the Christian majority's feelings.  I'll never forget how my Jewish friend put it, "I don't get offended when they wish me a Merry Christmas.  They may or may not know I'm a Jew, but I know they just hope I have a nice holiday with my family, so why get bent out of shape?  The name isn't important, it's the thing itself that matters."  Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or anything else is not important.  What is important is being a good person and spending the day to love your family of origin or choice.

Another tradition we're ditching is Santa.  Chris and I have ultimately decided that when we have kids we're not going with the whole Santa thing.  It's not that we'll try to hide the fact that Santa is a part of Christmas.  They can still go see him at the mall and read stories about him and all the rest of it, but we're not going to pretend that he's real.  As far as our kids will be concerned, Santa is just one of the many stories we like to tell.  The Wild Things aren't real and neither is Harry Potter, but that doesn't make us enjoy them any less.  It just doesn't seem right to intentionally lie to your children.  I'm not okay with religious indoctrination of children, but I can understand why religious people do it.  They see belief in their god is a good thing and want to pass that on to their children.  But no adult believes in Santa, yet many try to make their kids believe in him anyway.  I don't understand it.  You may disagree with us, and no doubt many in my family will as well, but that's just the way we see the matter.

Consumerism continues to get out of control every year.  This was the first time in over 9 years I've managed to escape retail during the holiday season, where we swapped Black Friday stories like we were old war veterans.  We talked about how this employee was punched by this customer, how this customer screamed until she was blue about this sale, and all other manner of depravity.  Only in America can we spend a day being thankful for what we have and then kill each other the next day in order to buy more shit.  It may be cheesy, but I always get sentimental when I think about the ending of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  When all the people in Whoville hold hands and sing, even though all their possessions have been stolen, it makes my Grinch heart grow three sizes. 

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 

That's what Christmas means to me.  It's not about buying things or having the best looking tree in the window where all the neighbors can see or even about Jesus.  It's about sharing your love with the world.  It's about braving the coldest time of the year with the people you cherish most and being grateful for spending another year of our short lives together.  This holiday has had many shapes and many names and many traditions over the centuries, but it always comes down to Peace on Earth, and Goodwill for all Mankind.  Do what you can this holiday season to make those happen, and I'll wish you a Very Atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Pagan Holiday from my family to yours.  Merry Christmas!