Category Archives: Gender

How The American Dream Nearly Destroyed Me

Reflections On A Wasted Life, And Why I Don’t Regret It.

They really should have seen it coming, my parents. After 4 years of college, my mother graduated with the ability to speak, read, and write French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Latin. Imagine the opportunities available to a woman with those skills!

Unfortunately, this was 1949. But she did get hired – as a receptionist in an import/export firm that needed someone who could speak both English and Portuguese.

Still, that didn’t keep them from “knowing” that the best path for my life included a college education. So that’s what I was groomed for from the start.

The first crisis came at the end of 7th grade. For the first semester, we had to take a class called “mechanical drawing.” I guess we’d call that class “drafting” or even “CAD/CAM” today. Regardless, we were given a blueprint to copy. I did so and excelled at it.

The second semester included “Wood Shop,” where we had to take the previous semester’s drawing and bring it to life in wood. Again, I excelled at it, despite never having used a tool in my life. The teacher said I had a natural feel for the wood.

Now it was the end of the semester. Time to choose which classes to take the following year. I signed up for every shop class on offer and handed in my choices, which had to be approved by my guidance counselor. If he were alive today, would it be possible to sue him for malpractice?

He called me into his office. “You don’t want to take these classes,” he said. “These classes are for the dummies. You’re going to college. Besides, there’s no future in wood.”

“Really? What about houses?” I thought but didn’t say.

Good advice. The highest-paying job I’ve ever held paid $18 an hour—and that was in a field where I was making electromechanical repairs. A job that didn’t require a college education.

Meanwhile, when I had a plumbing problem last month, I had to call a “dummy” and pay him $65 an hour to fix it.

I lived for a few years in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of my favorite pastimes was visiting some of the shops on Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, looking at the price tags on the hand-made wooden armoires and jewelry boxes: $850, $1200, $925, $18,000. No future in it, my ass.

I’ve gone to college on 6 separate occasions. Although I have enough credits for a bachelor’s degree, I have yet to remain at one college long enough to graduate. But I’m still saddled with over $100,000 of student loan debt. And at my age (70), I’m afraid that when it’s my turn to go, much like Tennessee Ernie Ford, I’ll have to say, “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.”

Then there’s the problem of gender identity. At the age of 59, after years of therapy, counseling, failed marriages, suicide attempts, and self-medicating within illicit drugs, I finally discovered the proximate cause of my problems: I had been living a lie, trying to be something I wasn’t.

As soon as I decided to stop pretending I was male, things got better. And worse.

The Better

  • I was able to go off four of my six anti-depressants
  • I was able to be – and live – my authentic self
  • I met a woman who accepted me for who I am. We’ve been married for 11 years
  • I no longer have to hide my tears
  • Younger people accept me as I am

The Worse

  • I’ve lost jobs because of who I am
  • Because of that, I had to take early Social Security
  • I still avoid using public restrooms whenever I can
  • I still get misgendered by people who should know better

But Still, I Persevere

I knew when I stopped pretending, I’d lose friends and possibly family. But the friends I lost weren’t worth having in the first place if they couldn’t accept the authentic me.

There were rifts in my immediate family, but over time, they’ve healed.

Now, as the real me, I have more and closer friends than ever before. The LGBT+ community where I live is vibrant and thriving. Our city – Rochester, NY – has ordinances protecting us. I can, for the most part, use public restrooms safely, although I don’t push it. I rarely used them before my change, anyway.

But I still wish I had been able to take those shop classes.

 

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Filed under Catching Up, Education, family, Gender, Hope, memories

That’s Me in the Corner

That’s Me, Losing My Religion

Or to be more accurate, I didn’t lose my religion: it lost me.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Growing up as a PK (Preacher’s Kid) had is advantages and its drawbacks. On the negative side, I was always in the eyes of the community — especially a problem when the community is so small that when you sneeze at the east side of town, somebody on the west side says, “Bless you!”

I couldn’t get away with anything.

But there was also a positive side,which became quite useful when I hit high school. That was back in the day when parents wanted to know everything there was to know about the young man who wanted to date their Mary Lou.

But being a PK, I was spared the third degree simply because of what that label implied: a safe, high-minded, perfectly-behaved young man. Emphasis on safe.

Silly parents! If any one of the girls I dated had told their parents just a fraction of what went on in the back seat of my daddy’s car on those dates, I wouldn’t be here to write this today.

Leaving Lutherism

Just as my father rejected his parents’ Anglican (Church of England) heritage in order to become a Lutheran minister, so I moved on from mystery father’s faith into Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha’i’ Faith,finally arriving where I am today: perhaps not quite an atheist, but definitely an agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you.

The problem I have with most religions — or to look at it more honestly — they have with me, revolves around a basic point: who I am.

I am a 68-year-old transgender bisexual woman. It’s more complicated than that, but I’d like to keep things uncluttered.

As such, while many Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) may accept my existence, they still won’t extend to me or “my kind” the same benefits and acceptance they do for their heterosexual members.

Yes, I’m referring to sex.

I am forbidden from physically expressing my love for another person except by a hug or a handshake.

The reason? Sex is only for procreation. Therefore, same-sex or same-gender relations are forbidden. Sexual acts that are not done with the intention of producing offspring are prohibited…

…unless you’re a married couple who don’t want kids. Or you’re too old. Or maybe you already have as many as you want. Or one or both of you is sterile.

In that case, by all means, fuck away!

But if you’re gay, bi, trans, or anything other than straight, you’re fucked.

How I long to belong to a spiritual, non-denominational community where I can be free to worship my creator — however I may conceive her — as I see fit. Where I am accepted, rather than merely tolerated.

I am a human being, not a fart in a crowded elevator: I deserve more than merely being tolerated.

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Filed under Atheism, Gender, hypocrisy, religion

I’m Rightly Pissed Off

And here’s why: https://bit.ly/2S9lXwW

Donald Trump, in his eternal ass-licking of the fascist Evangelical Christian movement, seeks to deny my existence. Not content with stripping minorities of their civil rights, he is now attempting to define me out of existence.

What next? Is he going to round us up and put us in ghettoes, as the Nazis did in the 1930s and ‘40s? Or maybe the same detention facilities concentration camps he’s using to house immigrant children?

People have been saying for years that “it can’t happen here.” But it is happening here, and has been, ever since the Great Pumpkin (aka Trumplethinskin) and his cronies stole the election with the help of Russia.

Trump wasn’t elected: he was Putin office.

Who’s next? Atheists? Gays and lesbians? Minority races? And even “minority races” is a joke, since collectively they outnumber the so-called White majority.

I’m so angry right now that I have to save this as a draft and walk away until I can think more clearly.


Much Later

The news keeps getting worse. With the Rethuglican party firmly in control of the Senate, it’s probably going to sanction these new policies. And since they’ve managed to stack the deck in their favor on the Supreme Court, any legal challenges to these unconstitutional policies will also be denied, even the the Constitution plainly states in Article 14:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I’m pretty sure that denying people their civil rights by executive dictatorial decree does not constitute “due process,” but I could be wrong. After all, I’m no lawyer: my parents preferred that I pursue an honest career instead.

But it Ain’t Over ‘til it’s Over

As a wise man once said. Perhaps this latest indignity will wake up the sleeping masses and fire them with sufficient zeal to overturn this dictatorship.

But I doubt it. Most likely they’ll just go back to Netflix & Chill.

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Filed under Despair, Empire, Gender, homophobia, LGBTQ rights, rants, Transgender, Trump

Confessions of a bold, shy, inactive activist

My life in three acts. Or maybe one. Or four.

In a world where there are three kinds of people — those who understand math and those who don’t — I’m one who doesn’t. It has always been a foreign language to me, and at the ripe old age of 68 years, I still haven’t found the Rosetta Stone that will unlock those arcane secrets for me.

None of which has anything to do with this story except, perhaps, to highlight just how much my lifelong ADHD influences my thoughts and actions.

I used to be an activist

On the very first Earth Day, I wore a gas mask to my classes at San Antonio College. I was mocked by most of the students, but still I persisted. I sand and played my guitar at sit-ins and various other demonstrations.

We were going to change the world for the better. But I guess we just got stoned and forgot.

Some of the biggest names in what we so sincerely called “The Movement” went on to have brilliant careers as CEOs, politicians, and other similar professions. Me, I sorta drifted from job to job, never really finding what most folks would call a career path. My old guitar sat in its case for years. Over time, I gradually gave away my collection of guitar picks.

A blast from the past

July 2, 1975 found me replacing the strings on my old guitar. That was the day my first daughter was born, and I was able to fulfill a promise I made the first time I heard Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne on the radio: that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Suzanne. Actually, in a bit of my old obstinance, Suzanne became Suzzanne with 2 zees. I played endless variations of Cohen’s classic song over the years. And I remembered my activism days.

What were the issues in those early days of the ’70s and ‘80s? I don’t really know: I spent those decades living in Alaska, where the biggest issue was were we going to move the capital or not? Paul Simon summed it up best:

Time it was, and what a time it was,
It was a time of innocence
A time of confidences

Jump ahead a couple of decades

I’m living in northern California. My second marriage has failed. My depression has cost me several jobs, as I just can’t bring myself to even get out of bed, much less go to work.

Eventually I get my shit together enough to sell my trailer and move to Seattle to be closer to my daughter. I was a mess.

So much so that when she took me to apply for food stamps and medical assistance, I was assigned a therapist who agreed to work with me. I was still so messed up that she scheduled me for twice a week appointments.

On the third or fourth week, I walked into her office, sat down, and burst into tears. After a good solid five minutes of crying, I managed to stop long enough to say, “All I ever wanted was to be a pretty girl.”

Epiphany

There it was, out in the open. Not so much a blinding revelation as a shameful secret. Lock me up now and throw away the key. I’m a sick bastard, unfit to be around decent society.

If you grew up gay, queer, transgender, bisexual, or any other kind of what have mistakenly and harmfully been called perversions, you know the feeling.

But rather condemn me, Nikki (my therapist) explained to me that (1) there was nothing wrong with me, (2) there was a word for what I was, and (3) we would work together to figure out where to go from here.

And so my activism began anew

The discovery that I was transgender changed my life — to say the least! As I began my journey towards becoming my true self — a journey we label “transitioning” — I discovered (among other things) that my lifelong depression, while genetic, was aggravated my my gender dysphoria. Once I started coming to terms with who I was — and accepting who I was — I was able to cut my antidepressant medications from 5 to 2.

Best of all? I stopped hating myself.

I spent as much time as I could researching what I came to call my condition, almost as if it were a pregnancy, another delicate condition. After all, wasn’t I preparing to give birth to a new life?

Do you live in Washington state?

If so, you’re lucky enough to have direct access to The Washington Gender Alliance, which is probably the nation’s oldest transgender support group. They were invaluable to me during my journey. They have an incredible amount of up-to-date information they’ll be happy to share with you.

And if you’re not in Washington, you’re still welcome to use their web site to access that information.

What’s happening now?

I’ve moved to Rochester, NY. I spent over a year volunteering at the Out Alliance, formerly the Rochester Gay Alliance. I’m living in a rented room in an older home, and I have started writing again. Not only here on Medium, but I also blog — although somewhat sporadically — at My Refined Madness.

Most of all, I’m back in the State in which I was born — New York. I have come full circle back to where I was born and am continuing my rebirth.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m still shy, but at least I’m brave enough to help people understand who I am.

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Filed under Gender, gender identity, Transgender