Wednesday, September 30, 2015

You Don't Mess Around with Change

There are, according to the old Jim Croce song, a few things you should simply not do. One of them involves spitting into the wind. Counteracting intractable Republican talking points might be one of these. The time-honored paranoia spilling from the mouths of House Republicans and Jeb Bush is merely the fear of anything moving in a forward direction. Free stuff means "you benefiting at my expense," which is conservatism defined.

What we are arguing about, as Western Europe has argued about for years, is the ethnic makeup of this country. Worried about bankrupting the country due to what you see as entitlement excess? Streamline the immigration program. The GOP and, to be fair, most of white America, doesn't want to see this happen. We have an imagined culture of whiteness to protect, even though we are a nation of immigrants by our very design.

My own faith, Quakerism, was peopled by persecuted immigrants, mostly from the modern day United Kingdom. The colony of Pennsylvania was set up specifically for that purpose. And anyone who has spent time in the now-state realizes the massive German influence present there. Place names, towns, and streets are often German in origin. This is by design, not by mistake or quirk of fate. It made quite an impression on me, as my partner is a Pennsylvania native.

And, though this borders on cliche, this very thing is the fabric of American society. Open the borders. We are not Switzerland or France. Nor do we pretend to be in any of our daily dealings and proudly so. We can speak to the concerns of those who believe we are slowly and steadily depleting Medicare, Social Security, and creating a legion of dependents milking the system dry. They will work and pay into the system. Problem solved.

But America and American life will be forced to change. Change is difficult, but not changing is fatal. We consign ourselves to the same fate as the rest of the first world if we continue to stubbornly and stupidly resist. By the time I die, American society will have radically redefined itself, whether I have anything to say about it or not. That is still several decades off, but unless the will of some foolish souls asserts itself and we become some kind of Apartheid South Africa, whites will be the minority in power and not by a little bit, either.

Like a grown up child, we have become like our parents. But the Spirit of Independence did not guarantee that all men or all white people are allowed to live here (and created equal, no less). If I had to guess, I would suggest that we will probably work together but not live together. We never have yet. The Hispanic population here in DC keeps to itself in one centralized part of town. Other immigrant groups are likely to do the same. But we've already fought one war testing the coalition of states that somehow manages to be a nation. We don't need any more turbulence fighting upstream.

Expecting otherwise may be too much, too soon. We can respect a multicultural society, but true racial integration requires the end of tribalism and tribalism is as old as the human race itself. We can give queer couples the right to marry legally but cultural understanding, true cultural understanding, is potentially impossible. We either don't want to know or aren't capable of knowing. At least not yet.

So stop resisting the inevitable. Let immigrants move here. Let them start a life in what really isn't a rotten place. Nobody said we were perfect. Let's stop acting like we ought to be or that there is some fleeting standard of perfection we can manage. Arguments based on purity are foolish. Let's accept the future with open arms, even if we can't manage to open our hearts a little bit wider.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Philosophy of Nick Saban

I'm usually reluctant to write about sports on this blog, for lots of reasons. It doesn't fit my target audience and yet it has played a large part of my secret life. I've been reading the recent Nick Saban biography, the current head coach at the University of Alabama, my state of origin, and finding much to like and much to dislike. He's neither and he's both.

Nick Saban is a multi-faceted person for sure, but one thing is for certain, he's often a complete dick. It's not difficult to see why he's been cautiously guarding the details of his life for years. A martinet in the truest sense of the word, he demands total devotion and obedience from his players. Quakers have trouble with obedience. The God they worship is consumed with equality, not some Old Testament God bent on destruction, groveling, and sackcloth.

Maybe if I had some fundamental belief in smiting I might find his tactics more to my liking. Maybe if I felt that his impact, psychologically, upon young black men was more fatherly than about power I would show my respect accordingly.  

Once upon a time, I too was a football player. I quit after two broken hands back-to-back, a wanton dislike of my teammates, all they represented, and a depression that would soon spiral out of control and narrowly deny me a high school diploma. A sensitive soul, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed playing for Nick Saban. He would have been too demanding, too quick to criticize. The Stonewall Jackson of football coaches, minus the pious beliefs and the eccentric demeanor.

Every football player expects to be broken down before lifted up. The most perceptive coaches realized I was my own worst critic and that more flies could be gathered with honey than with vinegar, same as in life. Let that be a lesson to us all.

I'm an inherently atypical male if ever there was one. If I ever get to be an influential enough writer, I'll write my memoirs and focus a large chapter about my life as a jock. I can't run away from it, because my body type reflects it, but one of the reasons I've had some gender dysphoria over the years is that I seem ill-suited for the way I look and the people I attract as a result. It's kept me miserable and kept me safe, too.

I don't mean that I would feel more comfortable in female form, but that maybe I would give up an athletic build and all that it entails for something different, something more in line for how I have always felt about myself. Believe it or not, I could have been one of the popular ones, the kind that date cheerleaders and make homecoming king. And peak at age 18. But these sort I never made friends with and never related to in any way, shape, or fashion.

Let's return to Nick Saban. He's much more interesting. What a complex figure, simultaneously cruel and compassionate. I know I cribbed that line from somewhere. Now that the cards are on the table, it makes me glad I'm nothing like him. It's the same reason I could never be a lawyer. I have no love for the fight.

Paradoxically, I hate to lose, but that impulse is counter-balanced by a sense of justice and compassion for the underdog, not the self. I'm a philosopher and an activist, not a bull-fighter, not so ultracompetitive that I can't let it go, As it stands now, we live in a schizophrenic culture caught between the caveperson and the intellect. It would be more fascinating if it wasn't absolutely terrifying in its contradictions.

And for every persistent soul, there are more who don't get it, more who don't understand the complexities of human existence. Some thirst for righteousness. Some thirst for the truth. All come home empty-handed.

And in the meantime, where are we? What is our role in this charade in this over-crowded planet where we don't know our neighbors. I streamed past people much like me today in my weekend errands and exchanged nary a word with any of them. Thirty-five years old in twenty-eight days and where am I? Graying temples and receding hairline and memories. That's what I'm made of these days.


How true.

Quote of the Week

There is one great God and power that has made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in this world.

This great God has written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and do good to one another, and not to do harm and mischief one unto another.-William Penn

Saturday, September 26, 2015

That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I will never mention his name and his identity on this blog. I will never mention his name and his identity ever. If pressed, I will not open my mouth. This is my life and my blog and my past and my history. And maybe I'm not a millennial when it comes to open, unrepentant confessions of sexual orientation and relationships. I'm beholden to a different era, one only slightly less reticent than his. So place yourself in my shoes, if you wish, or hear my story in your own unique way.

You, reader, know that I don't keep much back under the time-honored adage of the personal is the political. Some of you say I share too much. Some of you see me as courageous. He taught me what being queer was all about, more than any movie or book could do. We were clandestine lovers, our vast age difference a shield against gossip and a way for me to stay closeted. I've read so much bad LGBT literature and personal narratives, so I'm raising my pen now in part to counteract those issues, to counteract those tropes.

The conventional wisdom, still mainly true, is that LGBT media is highly mediocre. Gay-themed movies are still consistently terrible, with a few notable examples. There have been exceptions, more in recent times than others. I differ because I am not gay. Some of the best gay-themed content is couched in bisexual terms to cushion the blow. This doesn't mean that bisexuality isn't real, but that a heterosexual audience might find it more palatable than its more potent alternative.

These, as I said, were poor substitutes to real human interaction. So when we began what we began, he was eager to show me the ropes. I don't mean this in any predatory sense. At the outset, if you can believe it, we were totally celibate. Still, it is just as well that we live hundreds of miles apart. I have grown older, he has grown older, and I do not need him anymore. I do not want his advances or his advice any more. It is fitting and proper that we do this.

It's nothing personal. We outgrow certain people in our lives and so I have outgrown him. But I always take his occasional e-mails and instant messages. He was always timid and it is that timidity that ended us, not anything he did or said. He provided a poor example and a stereotypical notion of what a gay man was supposed to be, I thought. I wanted him to stand firm and not bend at the knees. Some want to dominate. I wanted to empower. Is this my own bias? Am I being unfair?

My own conflicted notion of masculinity may be to blame somehow. I guess you could say I don't know what a man is supposed to be, even now, even a month from 35. I wonder if I will ever. But I know that men come in different categories, but they usually get whittled down to two: acceptable and unacceptable. Men may only understand just what I mean.

Hear the words of black gay writer James Baldwin in his 1962 novel Another Country, featuring openly bisexual male characters, shocking for its time. It summarizes my deepest secret fear and why I out myself before anyone else has the satisfaction. I am the dreamer. My secret life is not so secret and yet totally secret. Rest assured I have not and will not even scratch the surface in the course of one lifetime.

“The trouble with a secret life is that it is very frequently a secret from the person who lives it and not at all a secret for the people he encounters. He encounters, because he must encounter, those people who see his secrecy before they see anything else, and who drag these secrets out of him; sometimes with the intention of using them against him, sometimes with more benevolent intent; but, whatever the intent, the moment is awful and the accumulating revelation is an unspeakable anguish.

The aim of the dreamer, after all, is merely to go on dreaming and not to be molested by the world. His dreams are his protection against the world. But the aims of life are antithetical to those of the dreamer, and the teeth of the world are sharp.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Saturday Video

Good natured silliness a day early.

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Spread 'em out
Push 'em up
Put your head right in 'em

Scoop 'em
Squeeze 'em
Boy you gotta please 'em

Bite 'em
Lick 'em
Give that nip a tug

Grab 'em
Shake 'em
Show them titties love

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Bite 'em
Lick 'em

Give that nip a tug
Grab 'em
Shake 'em
Show them titties love

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
Nestle in my boobies
It's so comfortable

Show them titties love
And nestle in my rug

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Da pope is a coming!

I couldn't resist.

Beyond Spoons

I have always found the spoons metaphor describing disability to the novice as a little silly. I would describe it as this instead. Imagine you have to add several additional tasks to your already busy life. Imagine if these never go away. I do this when I try to remember which medications are for daytime and which are for night. I do this when I juggle doctor’s appointments and take into account delays on public transit as I cannot afford to own a car, nor feel much need for one.

I have accepted my fate a long time ago. Sure, it’s annoying when someone doesn’t get it, but those of my relative generation are stigma-busters. I would have always gravitated to arty circles full of glorified eccentrics who wore their nervous breakdowns on their sleeves. Mental illness might even be trendy there, if it wasn’t so deadly serious.

In many ways, I have learned coping strategies with rejection and hurt feelings. And suffering makes you gloriously sensitive and understanding towards those in pain, those who resemble you. One of the reasons I think FDR pushed through the New Deal is that a once-vain man of privilege had to learn to restructure his whole life and see things through the eyes of the less fortunate. He had to concede that he was powerless over a medical problem that took away his ability to walk upright. He knew their pain and anguish and though I would not canonize him as some have, he was the only politician my grandfather, himself born of poverty, had any kind word of which to address.

I’ve been reflecting on the outside world only to an extent. A much more simplistic understanding might be in order. My plate’s always pretty full and it never clears. I know a lot of people in life who have that affliction, and they don’t have to be sick to be there. I worry about the nurse who works three twelve hour shifts in a row, back to back to back. Someone has to do it.

So I, be it known I understand the desire by some to spell it out for those who have been previously hurtful. It’s tough to be misunderstood for any reason. But the closer I get to 40, the less it truly matters. I know myself and I’ve become a good judge of character. But if I said that any of this was easy, I’d be lying. You have to learn by doing, not by explaining.

And in the end, I love my partner though I take care to take the time to see beauty in human form, in a way that is pleasing to the eye but not challenging to the bonds of fidelity I’ve made. I am nothing but human, after all. Why not take in beauty in all its forms, not just the physical? Beauty interests me more than building the perfect analogy, the one that causes people to sagely nod their heads up and down.

These cannot be taught to anyone other than those who inhabit limitations. Is it so important to make plain my intentions that everyone understands me completely? I am large, as Whitman wrote, I contain multitudes. As do we all, friends, as do we all. I have missed my blank computer screen and send to you this transmission that has been percolating in my head. God has blessed me as he has blessed all of you with your own strengths. You may not live your life in scrubs, but you have a greater purpose out there, even if it is not the easiest to find at first.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Capitalism and Psychiatric Hospitals

Like so many liberals and Americans, I hoped for a radical re-haul of the health care system with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. More people may be covered now, but hospitals and doctors can continue to charge whatever they damn well want. The ACA only covered part of the problem. It is an especially vast one, one with few discernible solutions.

I've seen employment in health care straddle racial strata. Mid-level income workers are still usually black, though many come from Africa and the Caribbean, as well as some doctors, low-level workers are usually Hispanic, and the upper echelon of jobs are usually given to whites. Doctors can often be foreign-born, of any native origin. The psychiatric unit where I was stationed for the past five days charges an obscene amount of money for even one day's treatment.

Without insurance, one day's hospitalization is $12,000. And as we know, if you don't have insurance, you're totally screwed. Looking at itemized statements of how much is charged to the consumer is enough to enrage. Testing the battery of an implanted medical device found currently inside me charges $750 to the insurance company, to cite only one example I noticed myself.

Health care is clearly a growing industry. Everyone talks about the aging baby boomer population, and that's true, but I predict as well that more men will adopt the profession, which is where the jobs will be. Typically, heterosexual men are not natural cultural fits for helping professions, like medicine, except for doctors, but I see more men in nursing school in the years to come.

It's a career that requires an immense amount of stamina and long hours. I worry about the mental health of the people who cared for me. I empathize with my fellow patients in pain and severe discomfort. There is a lot of untreated hurt out there, but hopefully it doesn't have to start in the crisis situation present inside a hospital. We could start by being far nicer to each other and understanding of social and racial inequalities.

It wasn't my intent to write an "ain't it awful" piece, but clearly something has got to give. Some hospitals with money are great. I was even able to look forward to meal times. But I've been in other hospitals that cut down on cost by using cheap and disgusting food, if not cutting corners in other ways that may be unethical and are certainly immoral.

We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We need to spread the wealth, and if that sounds too much like socialism, then that's just too bad. It's not fair that those with the means get all the goodies and those without get stuck in a black hole. In any large city, those in the know which ones to avoid and those to favor.

I was one of the lucky ones, due to my skin color and my insurance coverage. Others do not have similar advantages. I enjoyed Monday morning yoga, but across town, no one would see a need for it. We must balance adequate with lavish. We have not reached that apex yet.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Takes Two to Know

Takes Two to Know

A study of a transperson.

Boys in makeup!, she would loudly proclaim, upon my arrival. This was said with great enthusiasm. That meant me. She took out eyeliner and eyeshadow from a see-through plastic purse that zipped up, and a few other things for good measure. Having never taken part in this ritual myself, I was ignorant of every aspect, puzzling over it the way an archaeologist might seek to find meaning in a faded hieroglyph. This effort was for her gratification, not mine. Her reasons for involving me were never expressed, though I suppose she might have been in pursuit of something mildly titillating. Mostly it kept the boredom at bay for a little while longer. For the evening, I was her guinea pig.

This is really complicated, I thought to myself. Each product had to be applied with practiced hand in a particular way. I'm afraid of irritating my eyes, so I fought hard to keep my eyelashes separated enough to apply a coat of mascara to the top half, then the bottom half. I was very grateful when the process was over. Many women kept this routine every day, I reflected, believing that repairing their faces on a consistent basis was an essential part of self-care. I wondered if I was devoted enough to this foreign process, willing to learn how to tolerate every step in sequence, alongside a thousand other momentary discomforts for the sake of fashion.

As I began to comprehend the complexities, the mystery slowly subsided. I began to pick up on the nuance of outward appearances, the subtle flourishes and not-so subtle flourishes. Not every woman spent an hour or more on her physical appearance, as had been the case for me tonight. Not every woman aspired to be a beauty queen, a debutante, or head cheerleader. I’d known this already on some level, information gleaned purely from slightly detached observation.

This eternal pageant of feminine presentation had proceeded in front of my face, marching to the pace of its own unfamiliar, but strangely compelling tempo. From what I observed, it appeared to me to be divided between those who participated and those who stood on the sidelines. As a man, I’d never been told I ought to care or to show much interest beyond the most rudimentary of details. I’d never honestly thought about the process in those terms, because most men didn’t. They were considered women’s ways. Instead, I was nudged strongly towards the gender roles and expectations of my assigned sex, commandments given by those who also told me how to express my opinions, and what to do in case of interpersonal confrontation.

I took the bait and began my own informal studies. The world of women beckoned to me, a fascination that I studied as assiduously as a college course. In my childhood, I’d gleefully check out a stack of books on a Saturday morning trip to the public library. Feeling intensely and immediately fascinated with whatever it was I was reading, I’d continue until I had finished the whole book, front to cover. Even if it took seven or eight hours to finish, I would still devote the time. Now I had a new interest, a new course of study and a new focus. It had been my habit that anything I put my mind to I usually mastered.

My natural allies, oddly enough, were the tomboys and other conscientious objectors who held fast to their individuality by eschewing hair curlers, face bleach, and tanning beds. I made an inquiry here and there among my female classmates, but I took care not to neither push too hard, nor to ask too much. Their decision to keep it simple and to reject the existing standard often expected of women was never talked about much. The scars were still too fresh, the failure or unwillingness to conform too painful to vocalize. In my case, I knew tomboy was about the best I could expect for myself. I was never going to be dainty, diminutive, or slight of build, even though I might be in my fantasies.

How I envied a close friend of mine, with her thin hair pulled back into a tight bun. She had a slightly frail constitution, which fit her mannerisms and her pale physical appearance perfectly. Some people fight tooth and nail and some people surrender to life. She was the latter. I was the former. Every time I saw her I wanted to save her from herself. My concern for her was full of physical desire and sexual longing, but these were feelings I never vocalized.

Underneath it all, I wanted to be her. She was a fragile, pale, alabaster china doll of a woman. She was a throwback to an old-fashioned, antiquated conception of emotionally overwrought and deferential womanhood. I tried to keep my jealousy at bay, but my envy was considerable. The years passed, but I still failed to understand how and why my attraction to her was wrapped around a desire to take on her physical form.

Regardless of whatever form of femininity I might admire in my dreams, I knew that transition meant I was always going to look like a female weightlifter. The legs I’d been born with were too muscular, my shoulders far too broad. My frame was designed to carry lots of weight. That fact alone caused me severe discomfort, but with time, I’d learned a few common sense facts here and there. Others on the same path towards a greater understanding of self gave me pointers.

Everyone not born into the proper physical form finds early on in the process to not expect a perfect match. We have to make a few compromises along the way. Pragmatism is probably the best approach until medical science can grow comprehensive enough to provide answers to persistently unresolved questions. Back then, I was still figuring out how to live with myself as I was. A friend of mine I’d encountered on a web board was my sole avenue of support. He frequently lamented that, no matter what surgery or treatment he pursued, he would always be a man with a vagina.

He had been quick to offer visual proof of the effects of weekly testosterone injections. These I viewed religiously, curious to know what to expect. Every week he made and posted a new YouTube video that revealed, over the months, the beginnings of a very pubic looking beard and sideburns. What he looked like eventually was a prepubescent boy, but he was thankful for any meaningful changes. The first time a stranger called him “sir” and not “ma’am” was a day we celebrated with a two hour, congratulatory phone call.  

Hormones work exceptionally well for some, but are frustratingly limited in producing results for others. I couldn't afford surgery, because insurance didn't cover it. But as I really thought it through, I came to understand that the procedure might well have had a limited impact. It might have only softened or smoothed out a few things out here and there. Expecting miracles was only setting oneself up for disappointment and I tried to stay realistic.

My bone structure and Adam’s apple would always give me away. Though I might choose to adopt a different haircut, seeking to at least dress the part, I knew I’d always look like a stage performer in a wig. To many casual observers, I would be a man playing a woman strictly for laughs, never to be taken seriously. Even in a more enlightened age like ours, nothing is as funny as a man in a dress. Grownups and children alike share this visceral response.

I was mortified enough in my own current form, afraid of imaginary judgments from every corner, but mostly from inside myself. I had to concede that being a man does have its advantages. My size and stature kept away most of the creeps, even though I was never the kind to pick fights and seek trouble. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give that unasked for gift away, risking being seen as weak and vulnerable. Most men I knew would never voluntarily give their masculinity away, for any reason. The fringe benefits and perks were too lucrative. Though times have changed, it is still a man’s world.

I wondered if I would really be able to block out the insults and keep from internalizing the hurtful remarks of the small-minded and uninformed. My family, for example, would never fully allow themselves to understand me, this I knew well. At least they would make an awkward attempt at acceptance, which is more than I could say for strangers. It had taken my parents ten years to accept queer and that revelation had come with fireworks and amateur dramatics.

Blocking my path were some certainties that could never be dismissed as needless worrying. I saw ahead of me several very uncomfortable holiday gatherings around the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I pictured myself in a dress, my newly shaven legs crossed like a proper lady, observing profound discomfort in the faces of my parents. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough for another round of this counter-productive bickering. They had put their differences aside with time once already, and I didn’t have the stomach for another round.

My online friend, who I never met in person, couldn’t bear to tell his parents about the change. Instead of risking confrontation, he wrote a lengthy letter, then left it in the family’s mailbox. Predictably, they went into shock for a time, but eventually righted the ship. His father was the first to accept him as he was, even though the father had grave uncertainties that he mostly kept to himself. His mother, however, insisted upon viewing her son only as the daughter to whom she had once given birth. She refused to accept his new male name, a name which he had legally changed to reflect his real gender, at great pains and expense. I was fearful of the same outcome and it froze me in my tracks..

Thanks for the boy. Shortly after I was born, my father sent flowers to my mother in the hospital. She was recovering from having me, and the nurse set the floral arrangement and the card on a table next to her. In the days before routine ultrasounds, my sex was unknown to both of my parents until the day of my birth. My father wanted a son, but had tried to keep his own expectations in check. My mother tried to prepare him for a daughter, but fortunately for him, he got what he wanted.

The card that rested on the table next to the flowers summarized my father's jubilant feelings in a few short words. He rejoiced when I was pronounced male and swathed in light blue. Since that long ago day, I regretted that I’d been such a poor son to him. I could not make his hopes and aspirations for me come true. Who I seemed to be was not really who I was. With time, we both lost something dear to us, a relationship predicated upon an illusion I could increasingly no longer maintain.

I'd tried to be a good son, but I could never understand how to parallel park, change a tire, or perform routine household maintenance. These were minimum requirements for him. Once, in frustration, he'd said, Are you some feminine man? I didn't answer him at the time, but I’ll nevertheless concede that the answer was probably in the affirmative. Most of my friends were women and I had few male counterparts. This had been the case since elementary school, fast friendships often made at the lunch table prior to the first bell or when waiting for homeroom to conclude.

Ironically, once I freed myself from a paralyzing self-consciousness that blanketed most of my adolescence, I found I was quite successful with women. Many men my age didn’t know where to begin, but my interactions with the opposite sex were usually seamless. I’d had lots of practice and I at least knew how to make a good introduction. But I once again my secret became an impediment. Any woman who might show interest in me now was going to need to be especially understanding. I was afraid that few would, so I never mentioned it.    

When I left home and moved elsewhere, I periodically called my father on the phone. He constantly asked me if I’d found an acquaintance with whom I might take part in masculine pursuits. I could always hear the disappointment in his voice when I always answered no. Eventually he dropped the subject and never brought it up again. But to make him happy, I deliberately made friends with a few men here and there. These friendships were more surface than they were substantive, but it gave me something to say to my father that clearly gave him pleasure.

My brain and my body always seemed to be at war with each other. I sought compromise first, trying to stay honest to my whole self, even though it was difficult. Easy answers were never forthcoming. I felt that was inventing something new out of necessity, a gender pioneer of a sort, cutting a roadway through a dense forest. No owner’s manuals were present. My only true guiding lights were the anecdotes of those who had come before me. They’d had blazed their own trail, in their own time, and made up the rules as they went along. As it turns out, so would I, in my own way.

After years of struggle, I reached some greater resolution. I made peace with the feelings always in the back of my mind, the ones that I could rarely shove aside for long. I resolved that I could usually live with myself as male, though there were many instances where I was conscious that my assigned gender was never going to be a good fit. My identity was at best an approximation, and never would fit like a glove. As I thought more about it, I surmised that I was probably more akin to a hermaphrodite in my gender identity than I was to a transsexual.

As much as I demanded individual expression for myself, I recognized that I wanted easy acceptance from others just as badly, and sometimes even more so. It’s the routine quandary that befalls every person who demands both freedom of choice and freedom of expression. We are taught mixed messages. It is good to be unique and authentic, but it is also good to belong and be complimented for properly fitting in. I’d grown up an isolated, lonely child, tormented by thoughts I barely understood. Absorbing the approval of others was like water to a man dying of thirst.

I recognized that I was bisexual around the same time. Curiously, even though I was mystified by who I was, my male partners were usually more understanding than my female lovers. They understood the fluidity of gender with greater acumen, and some had their own fantasies of being a woman, though they often differed from my own. I recognized I was selling myself short, expecting to be rejected, rather than entertaining the possibility for a satisfying outcome.

I began cross-dressing when I was fourteen. When I had time alone I would sneak into the laundry room, close the door reassuringly behind me, turn on the light, and root around in the dirty laundry of my sisters and my mother. Being that I was the oldest child and had the largest body size, I rarely found much that fit me. But what I did find in the proper size produced some of the strongest mixed emotions I have ever felt, those of guilt and euphoria combined.

One of my sisters owned a form-fitting dress that I had always silently coveted. When no one was around, which was rare in the those days, I would begin my explorations. Full of nerves but strangely excited, I made my way to the bathroom mirror. The dress fit strangely, designed for curves and angles I did not possess, but somehow I liked the effect anyway. Paradoxically, it was comfortable as much as it was uncomfortable, physically and psychologically.

Too much, too soon. My thoughts turned from an idealized and thrilling notion of perfect gender balance to immediate disgust and shame. I quickly removed the garment, resumed male attire, and placed it back in the basket exactly where I’d found it. I became very adept at memorizing the precise way the pilfered clothes had been tossed into a laundry basket before I got there.

In my mind’s eye, as though I’d taken a photograph of the crime scene, I knew what had gone on the top of a stack and the pattern it formed upon a heap of soiled wash. I was a competent thief, making sure not to leave behind fingerprints or other telltale signs of what I’d done. I probably could have gotten away with it without the need for such obsessive detail, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Eight years later, I’d begun buying my own clothing. I began with underwear and intimate wear first. Making sure not to blow my cover, I invented a non-existent girlfriend for whom I was purchasing these items. She always wore the same size that I did. It was my fall-back defense, should anyone call me out on it, but I was paranoid enough about my privacy that no one ever did.

In my grandiose fantasies, which now embarrass me with their naivete, I imagined that female retail employees were kinder to me for obviously having a curvaceous, voluptuous relationship partner who wasn’t a size 3. In reality, I was merely another customer to them, another head-scratching man rendered uncomfortable and clueless within the walls of the store, seeking to make his purchases and scram.

An adrenalin rush followed my exit. I began bringing along my own bags, because it felt incriminating and wrong to advertise where I’d been shopping. I felt the same way when girlfriends asked me to hold their purses for a little while, except that the contents were theirs and not mine in disguise. Few would have ever picked up on anything out of the ordinary, but like many men, I was still afraid of somehow losing my masculine identity or appearing less than male.

Alone, in the solitude of my bedroom, I tried on each article of clothing, but not before locking the door behind me and closing the curtains. This was a secretive act I never shared with anyone else. I had always felt out of step somehow with others, in ways well beyond how I viewed my physical self. These hidden behaviors only confirmed that I was tremendously strange, at least in my mind. I had accepted most of my idiosyncrasies long before, but this one seemed the least forgivable. Alone by myself was the place I felt most comfortable, away from prying eyes.

I would tell myself that this time was the last time ever, knowing that I’d never be able to stop. There was an emotional payoff to every day of playing solo dress up, a comfort that words cannot express. At times, I even viewed it as an untreated addiction, but that was just the guilt talking. What I really felt was my whole world in proper balance for a few fleeting moments. It accurately reflected, at long last, how I felt about myself and who I was.

After having shopped at a department store, I recognized from time to time that my physical proportions were not well-suited to the design of whatever I’d purchased. I never had the ability to try on anything before buying it, fearful of being discovered by the gender police. Stares and disapproving glances were my most prominent anxieties. I learned about fashion details most men never had any compelling reason to know and likely never would for the whole of their lives. I had, at least, gathered when buying men’s jeans and pants over the years that a stated size might occasionally not be standard from brand to brand, company to company.

I found this same problem was fifty times worse when it came to select clothing designed to be worn by women. I suppose I could have returned the ones I cast aside on the floor of the bedroom back home, but I was too ashamed. I donated the remainder of my shopping hauls to thrift stores, hoping someone might get use out of them. I felt paradoxically glad to have concluded my last shopping trip, though I knew it wouldn’t be long before I went back.

All was not gloomy. Along with this grave seriousness came great pleasure. That’s why I kept returning to the well, over and over again. Back then, I believed I was engaging in taboo, highly unacceptable behavior, but I always felt joyful at the conclusion of each excursion. For a time in my teenage years, I’d frequently stolen undergarments from middle aged women, the moms of my friends, within moment of being graciously escorted into their houses..

Making strategic trips to the bathroom, I must have rooted through a hundred hampers full of dirty clothing. What I pilfered tended to fit much better, usually because previous owners were larger themselves. This reflected the inevitable weight gain of their original owners. Though I might have felt guilty, I never honestly felt sorry for what I did. It was the first step in self-acceptance. I rationalized that one article of clothing wouldn’t be lamented by its former owner like an entire wardrobe.  

Once, I deftly lifted a negligee from a bedroom closet, put it on underneath my clothing, and received a massive rush of adrenalin for the daring act that could have easily ended up with me getting caught red handed. I sprinted up a huge hill, arriving at my car five minutes later, panting and out of breath. Behavior like this made me feel as though I’d somehow gotten away with robbing Fort Knox. With time, the thrill and satisfaction would give way, but I tried to live in the moment as long as I could. It satisfied a part of myself I barely understood in ways nothing else could.

In those days, I did not keep what I took for very long. Within a week, the most recent article of clothing was placed inside a paper lunch sack. It was set upon the gravel underneath the deck outside, then solemnly and silently burned. The process felt cleansing and sad. I stood and silently watched it burn into nothingness. I destroyed the evidence, even though it was unlikely anyone would ever put two and two together. There would always be time for plotting my next move, whenever it might be and whatever it might be.

Arnold Layne
had a strange hobby
collecting clothes
moonshine washing line
they suit him fine

On the wall
hung a tall mirror
distorted view
see-through baby blue
he dug it

Oh Arnold Layne
it’s not the same
takes two to know
two to know 
why can’t you see?

“Arnold Layne”, Pink Floyd

Several years back, I watched the televised story of a woman born biologically male dealing with circumstances similar to my own. After expansive and highly expensive plastic surgery, she looked flawless in every way. Many of us who identify as gender non-conforming wish that this could be their life as well. What made the surgery a success is an important distinction to make. She always looked very feminine, even when still in male form, which is a blessing that is not granted to everyone.

I didn’t have those kinds of financial resources, nor that kind of luck. Passing is a chore, one I always knew might be too impatient to ever adequately learn. I can’t completely rid myself of the tell-tale traces of who I don’t want to be. Transition doesn’t stop in the recovery room or with the first injection or application of a hormone. Instead, it frequently promises more than it provides..

I plead and bargain with God for the day this second-guessing goes away forever. In childhood I was taught to pray, eyes closed, kneeling before my bed. Though my understanding of direct communication with the Divine has grown more complex, in times of uncertainty and doubt, old ways return. There is comfort in the familiar. I continue hope God hears my prayers and provides an answer, or some guidance at minimum.

Church for me was, more often than not, remote and stuffy, full of people who did not want to know me or even for me to know them. In the absence of friendly behavior from the congregation, I sought instead to believe in the introvert’s God, the one who speaks comforting words, one-on-one, like a trusted friend. He has never let me down.

When I find my identity liberating, rather than restrictive, I know I’ll have really ended this strange and peculiar trip. I believe in a different kind of faith, a mysterious belief that provides few absolutes and even fewer identifying details. I expect God to be mysterious and unpredictable, not scientifically precise. Science is supposed to be the ultimate exercise in rationality and certainty, but who I am is neither rational, nor certain. Seeing myself more as an abstract philosophy than a hard science is how I manage to stay sane. For now, there is no certainty. Once again, I deal with approximation, hypotheticals, and conjecture. I hope for the day I understand in greater detail.

I try not to feel jealous of the women I walk by on my way to do errands. In spite of everything, I don’t regret most of my decisions. In time, we’ll probably understand much more than we do now about sexuality and gender. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

We, each of us, live within our own period of transition, doubt, and uncertainty, regardless of what identities we assign to ourselves.. We may not wish to modify the shape and form of our bodies, but we do wish to be worthwhile and genuine in the eyes of others. Authenticity takes many forms. I stay patient, seeking to keep my expectations and my hopes reasonable. One day, I know I’ll receive another long sought answer. And so may you.

Yer Blues


I'm antsy. I've been in a hospital bed for a week and now want to break out, to walk a million different directions at once. Maybe if I type it out it will help.

I'm sleeping again, blessed be. I am not sure if I have enough in the tank to write much, but I'm okay. My partner's mother is coming to check on me in a few hours. I am grateful for the help while my partner is at work.

I care deeply about all of you out there, all of you who read. You're the ones I do this for, in the end.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Celluloid Closet - Gay/Lesbian Documentary

Watch this.


I had a lot of time to think in the hospital. And I know I've alluded to this a million times. Please give me some of your understanding and maybe even your sympathy.

I'm bisexual and genderqueer. I grew up in an environment where neither were acceptable. And it has been the struggle of my life to find that elusive happy medium. It shouldn't matter. It's 2015. But still it causes me shame and doubt. I want to be straight more than anything else in the world, but it's not my fate. Even if I partner mainly with women, the feelings never go away. I'm a 2.5 or so on Mr. Kinsey's scale.

My father reads my blog regularly. I write this to him, knowing he will read this, wishing him no ill will. But I feel the need to come clean finally as I am recovering. I usually don't talk about this, but my wonderful partner is so accepting. I'm glad we can have these discussions now between us. I hid this mostly for years, but I cannot anymore. I have to say it. I've prayed about this.

This is how I was born. This is why I experimented with men. I love my family and I don't want to lose them. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit the way I am. This is so hard. I have LGBT friends who have helped me along the way. I'm fearful of my father's response. I've set aside my relationships with men aside from fantasy, but they will never go away. And when I see an attractive man my stomach turns in knots.

I have to come to grips with this. I have to be strong here. Stronger than I have ever been for anything. I've come a long way. I don't want to lose anyone here. I've lost some already, friends, mostly, so I keep it quiet. But these are different times and even then, no one seems to understand bisexuality. Let me take this burden off my chest, please. Let me be who I am, finally. Accept me for who I am, God.

I know you don't hate me. I don't believe that and never did. But I hated me. I hated myself something awful. And I still do, but I know I'm going to get there. No more coded language. It's time to step into the sunlight. I can't do this anymore.

I'm still as much a man as I ever was, as much as I ever could be. I'm glad this is 2015, like I said, and not 1970. I would be even more neurotic. But forgive me for spilling my guts. Events in childhood not my father's fault didn't make it easier, but I was always this way. I'm in pain. I want to be in pain anymore. If you are religious and inclined, pray for me. I need every one.

Unsympathetic Narrator (Excerpt)

Don't feel sorry for this guy. He's unlikable on purpose.

Revised from previous version.

Dry Drunk

A work of fiction

My last date was a disaster. She told me, prior to the arrival of the drinks at our table, that she'd caused herself an abortion by falling down the stairs. When I asked how old she was, she'd casually told she was 16. It wasn't long before I excused myself, claiming an unexpected emergency.

I puked, if you want to know, making it to the bathroom in time. I wasn’t sure it was the alcohol or the realization of yet another dead end. I’ve made my mistakes in my time.

You know you're out of control when everyone holds a combined sense of revulsion and pity around you. This could never be confused as genuine compassion. It is more fear than anything else, and a fervent prayer that the affliction does not someday affect them. That is how I was pushed out of a dentist's office a couple years later, or rather without much politeness, escorted to the hallway and dropped there. A week or so later I ended up here.

I used to give a few of my things out in the beginning, but not anymore, she said. Her diagnosis was psychoaffective disorder, a mild form of schizophrenia that never really got better for anyone. I only remember the horrible state of her teeth, as though she'd gone ten years solid without brushing a single one. They looked like corroded copper pennies. She was somewhat friendly, but guarded, and mostly kept to herself.

“Don’t even go there,” I said to myself.

Sometimes I have to admit I never wanted a conventional life. I wanted to lie down covered by a blanket, lying on a cot, viewing the grass and footpaths of an institution for hours, doing nothing. This had been true for my great-grandmother, but was no longer the case today. There were no more sanatoriums, just filthy bus people pushing shopping carts, in and out of jails and short-term facilities. I had nothing to do except try to live in this world and maybe not end up here again.

There were too many bad examples present. That's what I didn't like about rehab. Some people built connection bases for the illegal stuff, once discharge arrived. I took the process seriously, avoiding the harder stuff whenever possible, full of rationalizations. My temptations were far away and I'd stopped the narcotics and pills years before. And even if you didn't seek a pot dealer, you had to deal with the true believers in addiction, the ones who would never quit for any reason and saw this 28 day stint as a joke.

Some of them disguised their true intentions well, but I'd been around long enough to see who'd backslide within a few days to a week. The girl sitting next to me couldn't be anymore than one-hundred pounds and would not shock me if she was dealing with an eating disorder. I'd had a girlfriend about the same size who'd gotten beaten up after a conference, walking home nearby a deranged homeless man who physically attacked her. I saw the pictures and the paperwork of the legal proceedings. As for the boyfriends, they all looked like me. A full foot taller, big frames, broader shoulders, and big. Big guys.

Though I admit the idea sounds appealing at first, getting away means a four mile walk through dense forest and brambles. Following that comes figuring out how to get to civilization, to rent a car and head back into the city. In many ways, I am a very motivated person, but where this issue is concerned, I am lazy. And I haven't given up yet on treatment, though this is very tough medication.

I've been trying to make inroads with this little redhead. She is a million times too young for me, but she's smart and pretty. She is a full ten inches shorter than me. And she likes me. When I speak, she makes notes of my words and phrases on a sheet of paper. It's as if I'm playing the part of the charismatic college professor, and she the smitten student. Before I flatter myself further, I remind myself that everyone here has major problems, else they wouldn't be here, so treading lightly is my best course of action.

After I get to know her further, with every subsequent interaction, I see one red flag after another. She's what they call dual diagnosis. Psychiatric illness and substance abuse. Then I put it all together. Borderline. Borderline people routinely rip holes in relationships of every size and shape. She lashes out at me eventually because she says we have too much in common and she can't handle it. It's a mean, strange gesture, and I see a side of her that I don't like one bit. Here's for learning from one's mistakes.

I leave and consume four ounces of warm orange juice left on a tray in the day-room, not because I'm thirsty, but because it gives me something to do. I peel back the aluminum foil and chug the contents now at room temperature. I've made it through the worst part, the active detox. It's downhill from here, but I am nowhere near active recovery.

We always look for fault. Sometimes there is no fault. Sometimes it's a combination of lucky breaks and timing. I got tired of waiting for both. I begged God for the right combination, though my church-going days are long past. You have to give that shit up to someone. A friend said I was too needy. And she's right. But so were all of the other ones. Needy + needy rarely equals success. Someone's got to lay the foundation. So here I am again, laying the foundation, seeking to be less needy, less dependent. Seeking one of those nice girls people talk about all the time. They keep asking me my personal goal in therapy, and I think it but I never say it.

Alan Price - Justice

We all want justice but you got to have the money to buy it
You'd have to be a fool to close your eyes and deny it
There's a lot of poor people who are walking the streets of my town
Too blind to see that justice is used to do them right down

All life from beginning to end
You pay your monthly installments
Next to health is wealth
And only wealth will buy you justice

There'll always be a fool who insists on taking his chances
And that is the man who believes in true love romances
He will trust and rely on the goodness of human nature
Now a judge will tell you that's a pathetic creature

All life from beginning to end
You pay your monthly installments
Next to health is wealth
And only wealth will buy you justice

Money, justice
Money and justice
Money, justice


Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Long Time Coming

Pardon this recent manic passel of autobiography. Being hospitalized for a week will take it out of you.

Because I champion mental illness awareness, I want to talk about a sensitive subject. I ended up in the hospital because one of my medication, Lithium, got toxic. It was kind of scary there for a while. I am still not ready to tell the whole story. (Where would I even begin?) But they say write what you know. I know a lot by now, but the account is wholly mine.

Maybe it will find its way into other stories. For now, I have reached maximum saturation point. I've missed writing like nobody's business. But though I know many of you are not religious or not, reading the Bible at night gave me comfort in ways I cannot express in words alone and not sure I could do so now. Bob Dylan read the Bible late at night during recording John Wesley Harding, despite being born nominally Jewish.

There's some great old wisdom in that book, but forget the politics and the finger-pointing. Read it if it speaks to you and it helps you, otherwise, set it aside. If it is meant for you, it will be. I survived to tell the tale and that is a miracle in the truest sense, more than Jesus ever did in his time on Earth.

He challenged the system and paid the ultimate price for it. There will be others. See him as a radical prophet if that works for you.

Quote of the Week: Funny and Profound

There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

"Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage."-Chimamanda Ngozi Adicie

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Video

You gave me something, I understand,
You gave me loving in the palm of my hand
I can't tell you how I feel
My heart is like a wheel

Let me roll it
Let me roll it to you
Let me roll it
Let me roll it to you

I want to tell you
And now's the time
I want to tell you that
You're going to be mine

I can't tell you how I feel
My heart is like a wheel.
Let me roll it
Let me roll it to you
Let me roll it
Let me roll it to you

Friday, September 11, 2015

I Saw The Light

Gospel cover and how I'm feeling now.

Tampa Pictures

August 2015

Enjoy! (If it works)

People Take Pictures of Each Other

Partially for my sister getting married tomorrow.

People take pictures of the Summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,
And to proved that it really existed.
Fathers take pictures of the mothers,
And the sisters take pictures of brothers,
Just to show that they love one another.

You can't picture love that you took from me,
When we were young and the world was free.
Pictures of things as they used to be,
Don't show me no more, please.

People take pictures of each other,
Just to prove that they really existed,
Just to prove that they really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
And a moment could last them forever,
Of the time when they mattered to someone.

People take pictures of the Summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,
Just to proved that it really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
And the moment to last them for ever,
Of the time when they mattered to someone.
Picture of me when I was just three,
Sat with my ma by the old oak tree.
Oh how I love things as they used to be,
Don't show me no more, please.

And on the Fifth Day...

He rested.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The End of Litigation

I wanted justice, but got complication. In the meantime, in the end, what have you accomplished with an act this titanic in scope? Sometimes, I think quite a lot. Sometimes, I think almost nothing.

The system was much bigger than me and it's loaded towards people with privilege and money. I could be bitter about that, but I'd rather not be. I'm still here and I have an apartment full of groceries, and like I said, a partner who loves me who is one room over. And these things cannot be quantified in the realm of money. These things are gifts from God and have no value in our earthly world.

There are moral victories in life, but they come at a hell of a cost. In the midst, my faith has strengthened, even if I have to start over for the most part. Legal action is so wrenching, so completely exhausting, at the end, all you want it to be is over. It's like the end of some battle. At least it's over and the wounded can be counted, taken to hospitals, and the dead can be removed from the field.

I took on a big challenge with not that much money and made an impact, though I'm reminded of an art farm. Tried to kill one? You get rid of one colony and the rest regenerates into a brand new one with a new Queen. Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. I would not have sued my house of worship except in 99.9% of all circumstances. I did so because I had no other way and was not being heard. That's too complicated to go into now, maybe forever.

But sometimes it's best to cut your losses and crusade for equality. Anyone who has been through something intense and long lasting will tell you that. Charge forward, feminists, believers, liberals, and everyone else, but know that your energy comes at a price, and you better enter the fight knowing that first. Otherwise, you are selling yourself short. Make sure you have enough money to start and enough resources.

I don't have too much else to say. I'm glad to not let this trial do me under. Don't let it do you under, either. All I wanted was transparency, but I'm not sure I ever got justice. But such is life.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Mother to Child

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.-Langston Hughes

Recovering to Health

So what happened is this. I was taking a very strong medication to regulate my bipolar disorder, but was taking a high dose. I went toxic, a dangerous condition. It took forever to regulate in the hospital, but I did meet some interesting people there. And I met a girl from back home who small talked with me on the bus.

Sometimes God's blessings are hard to see, but I think angels have been looking over me the past several days. I'm no longer interested in blustering about a court trial. When I almost got there, I got severely sick and couldn't go further. It was just as well, and I put it aside long ago. It is not in the realm of possibilities.

And when you've just had a near-death experience, the world is magical. I can't tell you how I feel/my heart is like a wheel/let me roll it to you. I learned a long time ago that I was going to live a life of poverty to feed my craft a long time ago, and it took the right medium and persistence.

We have but one life, and now I believe in miracles. I was dangerously sick, but then I came back. Not my time. Not my time to go. And I couldn't put my parents and my partner aside. Not yet.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

I Return

An intense hacker attack, a seven day hospitalization, all of these would seemingly be terrible things. But I have wrested back control of this account, filed the necessary police reports, contacted the FBI, and want to return to the way things always been. There is a story here, when I have the energy to plow through it again.

I have good news. I don't know how many of you read The Sun Magazine, but it is one of my favorites. The erstwhile editor Sy has kept two of my pieces this time six months, when they would normally be summarily rejected within days. This is very promising. I won't be able to put the content up here if published, but I will be very happy and be paid for the endeavor.

We all make our way somehow. Creative writing has been good for me recently, but I have dipped my toe into many pools along the way. I still have a long way to go, and acknowledge it, but am beginning to have fun and acknowledge the ride along the way. Maybe, as one of my teacher acknowledged, I have a talent and am beginning to show evidence of it.

Some write op/eds, some write for Jezebel on occasion. I have brushed up against those worlds. But now is time to revamp my latest short story and add more me to the brew. Like many writers, I push myself back, way back to the back, and to an extent that's okay. Makes you understand why so many writers are alcoholics. My favorite writer of all time is O.Henry, a Southern boy like me who just wanted to be left alone and write. And much the same could be said about me.

I've realized a lot the past several days. The power of love, a partner who loves you, and the way God shows up when least expected. It's almost been spooky. Big changes are afoot, and maybe I'll get back to things the way they were, or close to the way they were.

In the meantime, keep writing yourself!