A Letter

(Today I received a copy of the eulogy delivered at the interment of my father’s ashes in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Albrightsville, PA. My stepmother was find enough to send them to me.

This was my reply.)

29 June 2016
Rochester, NY

Dear Joyce,

I received your letter with the copy of the eulogy at St. Paul’s today. Thank you for sending it.

Although it’s been almost five months, I still find myself crying from time to time whenever I think of my beloved father. Today was one of those times.

The one thing I never told him, and the one I wish I had, was that he was my hero. Although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on many things, he was the one who inspired me to be firm in my beliefs. He often thought he was a failure at being a father; I remember sitting in John’s living room in Berkeley, California, one year and him telling me that he knew there had been many times when he had been too strict with me. My reply was that there were many times when he let me get away with things I would never have let my own daughters do.

I think Dad’s biggest disappointment was that none of us followed him into the ministry. I cannot speak for my brothers, but in my own case it was because I would have forever been trying to measure up to the high standards he had set…and knowing that in my own mind, at least, I’d have found myself wanting. Sadly, I was never able to find the right words to explain this to him.

It’s funny how families change from generation to generation. Their mother and I raised our daughters to be seekers of the truth, to stand up for what they believed in, and never to let anything hold them back. As a result, they grew up and rejected most of my core beliefs, and changed their religion. Yet I could find nothing wrong in this, nor even complain about it because, after all, it is exactly the way we raised them.

Joyce, I’m 66 years old now. I have struggled with clinical depression since birth. Add some PTSD, ADHD, agoraphobia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder into the mix and I am truly amazed that I have managed to last this long. My life has been a long series of half-starts and failures. I cannot look at my life objectively and point to anything I have accomplished or succeeded at. I have been in and out of psychotherapy and hospital psychiatric wards. I have attempted suicide so many times that I’ve lost count. And yet…

And yet.

“Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.” William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1942.

These words are just as relevant today—perhaps even more so—today than they were in 1942. We live in a world where religion—originally devised as a way to unite people—is used to separate and divide them. It is a world where wars are being fought over which pre-literate society’s book of myths is truer than the other one.

We live in a country where you can be pro-war, pro-capital punishment, pro-hate, pro-racism, and still be considered pro-life. A country that was founded my people in order to exercise their rights to practice the religion of their choice, and whose descendants now use those same religions to deny other people their basic human rights. A country where a legislator can earn a quarter of a million dollars a year for working less than 2/3 of the time, and then say that $7.50 an hour is too much to pay a single mother who works 60 to 70 hours a week just to feed her child.

We put bumper-stickers on our cars that say “HUMAN RIGHTS ARE GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS” when we mean MY rights, and screw yours, Jack.

It’s a country where the Supreme Court has ruled that broadcast news media have the right to lie to its viewers (I’m looking at you, Fox News). A country where blowing the whistle on criminal wrong-doing by the government is itself considered a crime.

Our society loves to blame victims. The only way that I can understand why we do this—despite what every religion teaches us—is that we are only religious when it suits us. I honestly believe that no member of any religion—be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism or whatever—reads their sacred scriptures. Rather they treat them like a software End User’s License Agreement: nobody reads them; we just scroll down to the bottom and click “I Agree.”

And so I write. I write every6 single day of my life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a letter, a journal page, or a blog entry. I write to keep my sanity. It is the only form of long-term therapy that I have found to be of consistent benefit to me.

It keeps the demons at bay for just one more day. And puts off once more the question of “to be or not to be,” for as Hamlet told us,

“But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.”

Forgive me, Joyce, if I have introduced dark clouds into your otherwise-sunny day. I’m afraid that this letter has turned out to be—like so much of my writing—a rather cathartic therapy session.

I miss my daddy. Even when we weren’t speaking to each other, I still loved him, and I missed him. Thank you for being such a wonderful part of his life, for the joy and happiness the two of you shared. And thank you for being a loving grandmother to my baby girls.

With sincere affection and gratitude,

Robyn

Another Sleepless Night

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t a sleepless night. It was a sleepless morning. No matter how I try, I can’t seem to sleep beyond 6 a.m. And that includes even if I go to bed at 3 a.m.

depression is

And THAT, dear friends, is what it’s like. Invisible. Insidious. I’ve moved beyond the suicide stage; tried that, didn’t work. Now I’ve arrived at the point where I wish I had never been born.

— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-28)

Futility rules my moods.

My own depression is compounded by the fact that I’m transgender.

not all its cracked up to be

It’s another reason I isolate and tend to stay indoors.

That’s it for now. Talk to you later.

Rest in Power

Untitled

Never forget their names:

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Also killed this week, trans women Goddess Diamond, 20 years old

“When will they ever learn?
O, when will they ever learn.”

 

On Orlando, And Other Atrocities

Today’s post is something friend Sarah posted on Facebook. It speaks for itself.

“My mother texted me this morning. After asking how our trip was, she said the following:

“And please please please be careful when you are out anywhere that you and friends have gathered! I was shocked and sickened by what went on in Orlando…not to mention, scared for you! I love you!!”

I told her that Julia and I are an old married couple and don’t go out clubbing, because, well, I needed to say something to reassure her.

Because, how do you explain to your mother what it’s like to have to be careful all the time?

How do you explain that going home to Ohio makes you anxious because, what if you kiss your wife in public without thinking about it prior to – because, heaven forbid, you love each other – and it happens to be in front of someone who thinks it’s an abomination?

How do you explain that when you’re on a family vacation to somewhere like Tennessee, outside of your hotel, you and your wife silently agree it’s safest to pretend to be best friends or sisters because you’re in unfamiliar territory?

How do you explain that when you plan trips and know you’ll have to drive through small, rural towns you don’t know, that the thought that you might need to get gas or find a restroom in those unknown places gives you a near panic attack because you’ve convinced yourself that the person with the Bible verses littering their car will immediately know you’re gay and take great pains to make sure you know you don’t belong there?

How do you explain that, on your very first date with a girl – a euphoric, wonderful thing where you were awkward and nervous and just all around kind of stupid like a love-struck teenager – that someone saw you talking. Simply talking. And felt the need to scream “DYKE” at you?

How do you explain the feeling of how that immediately stole the wind from your fresh-out-of-the-closet sails and reminded you that you needed to be careful, that you couldn’t let your guard down?

How do you explain how completely fucking liberating it was to go to a gay club for the first time. Overwhelmed and self-conscious, but also so sure that these were YOUR PEOPLE and at last you were home?

How do you explain that this attack shakes you to your core because this is the stealing of the safe haven that LGBTQIA+ clubs have always been. That the places where you weren’t afraid to truly be you – no mask, no worrying about what others think – are now tainted and you feel like you need to be even more on guard anyplace your community gathers?

How do you explain that every time you meet a new person, you have an anxious knot in your stomach because you don’t know how they’ll react about your “wife, Julia”. And you war inside yourself about how you’ll react if they aren’t approving. How every interaction can sometimes feel like a choice to be an outspoken activist or to keep yourself safe?

How do you explain that, as a middle-class white woman who can easily pass for straight with little effort, you often get overwhelmed thinking about how hard it must be to be any other combination of gender, race and economy, and that you get mad at yourself a lot because, in that way, you have it pretty easy, so shouldn’t you just stop whining?

How do you explain that the words of caution and staying safe are so, so hollow, because you’ve ALWAYS had to be safe. You’ve always had to be aware?

How do you explain that when you’re in a town like Northampton or Provincetown and you can hold hands with your wife without thinking first, and you can say I love you without worrying about who might overhear, it feels like a goddam miracle and you never want to leave?

How do you explain that you’re sobbing while you type this because everything has finally hit you and it all feels so goddam PERSONAL, even though it’s so far removed from your actual reality?

I am queer. I am blessed and lucky to be married to the absolute love of my life. I lead a life full of so many wonderful people that it almost feels like an embarrassment of riches how lucky I am.

So how do I explain that, yes mom, I’ll be careful, but it’s not me you have to worry about.

It’s the people who hate me for being happy. Who hate me for being in love. The people who have weapons of mass destruction and are driven to use them.

They’re who you need to worry about, mom.

I’m always careful, mom.

But, surely, so were those we lost in Orlando.”

Sara Hickman-Himes

The Perils of WordPress Page Design

I used to design web sites. I’ve even taught classes is web page creation. HTML, CSS, the whole nine yards. So modifying the design of a WordPress blog template should be a piece of cake, right?

Wrong! I can download the CSS source code for my site, modify it to my heart’s delight, and upload it back to my blog.

But only some of the changes I made are actually implemented.

So I used my browser’s “View Page Source” function to see if I could figure out what’s going on….

…only to discover that between my stylesheet, the ones it references, and WordPress’ own modifications, there are at least a half dozen pages I’d need to modify…and I don’t have the necessary permissions to do that.

And so I’m back to the original template I chose when I started this blog all those months ago.

It’s a nice them,even pretty. And now I’m wondering why I even wanted to change it in the first place.

I’ll just chalk it up to my ADHD.

The theme, if you’re interested, is “Bouquet,” by WordPress.