Year: 2012

The Company You Keep

Posted by – December 31, 2012

A friend of mine wrote a song with that title a long time ago, & the band White Rabbits has a similarly titled song too. I think it’s still the motto of some insurance company.

A long time ago a friend gave me a piece of advice: only hang out with people you admire. It’s a piece I’ve returned to again and again over time even though I’ve generally had an uncanny ability to choose friends well. Only in the past few years have I jmade a couple of very bad choices. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but in retrospect, here’s what I failed to do: I failed to look carefully at what people do NOT when they are sad or suffering or lonely, but how they behave when they are on top of their game. You can really only tell the content of someone’s character when they are sitting pretty: when they have enough money, or power, or luck, when things are going well for them. It’s then that you see what a person is made of: whether they become cruel, petty tyrants, or cliquish and gossipy and judgmental.

The thing is, when people suffer or feel lonely, they are often more sympathetic, not less, and they will be kind because they need kindness returned, but when they have everything, that’s when you know who they truly are. I have seen too many people become arrogant, obnoxious assholes when, at long last, they think they’ve got something other people envy, whether it’s money or popularity or power or fame. Over and over again, I’ve seen it. Sadly, this observation has made me more cynical about human nature, not less, but it also helps me clarify what kind of people I want to hang out with, who is truly generous and living honestly, the ones who only use whatever good fortune they have to create abundance in others’ lives as well.

So check that graphic I posted again yesterday. If people who are your friends fit a lot more of the characteristics of the right side of that graphic, your bar is set way too fucking low. Aspire to generosity, abundance, and service (and I don’t mean that in the kinky way, although that’s fine too, if that’s what floats your boat). It brings so much more meaning, and the world only gets bigger and brighter and more full of love.

One more thing: sometimes you’re hard pressed to find even one person you admire that you can hang out with. Sometimes, none. But whatever you do, don’t lower your bar to assuage your loneliness. That’ll kick your ass in the long run; it did mine. If it’s necessary, only hang out in books with people you admire; read biographies of people who have quietly done amazing things, or have even suffered notoriety with grace. Believe me, there are plenty of people out there to admire, but they’re often too busy doing amazing things to make themselves look admirable.

And with that: onward and upward in 2013. Here’s hoping you all have a wildly transcendent year.

End of Year Links

Posted by – December 30, 2012

As a follow-up to my piece about warding off nihilism with gratitude, I’ve found this image, by Scott Sonnon. If you can’t see it well enough here, try this link for a bigger version.

Which in turn goes well with my piece about getting past irony, and in turn with this difficult piece called “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person” by David Wong. The writing is not great, but get past the first half’s neo-con aggressivity and get to his over-arching point: do shit, don’t talk about it or spend your time criticizing what others are doing, and remember that you are valued for what you do, not what you think about doing, and not, in some abstract way, about who you “are”. His Top 3 are especially worth reading: (3) you hate yourself because you don’t do anything, and (2) what you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do, and of course (1) everything inside you will fight improvement.

#2 especially. Being a good person doesn’t count for shit unless you engage it and can actually do things that people need done. There’s a lot of bad stuff out in the world, from the mundane and catty to the outright cynical and oppressive.

I have a lot more to write about; the past few years have been an almost crippling struggle for me, but I feel – finally! – like I’m coming out the other side, in some ways more deeply cynical but also absolutely re-committed to the work I want to do. Or, what Iggy Pop said yesterday here on my blog: I have less patience, and yet everything good and beautiful has 80 million times as much meaning.

Tomorrow I’m going to write a little bit about the company you keep. And maybe about the five cynical things I’ve learned the hard way which are invaluable lessons.

It is going to be a beautiful thing to let 2012 fade into history, and I didn’t lose my house or my stuff to Sandy, and I didn’t know those beautiful teachers and children who were massacred. But I do know that the world is getting harder – gun sales went up 300% after the Newtown massacre, not down – and that we are all probably going to need to be made of sterner stuff.

 

Iggy Pop on Death & Aging

Posted by – December 29, 2012

A friend posted this on Facebook and it was one of those things that hit me square between the eyes: maybe punk rock thoughts on death and aging are overdue, but either way, I was glad to see it. Such a simple statement made so much sense of my past few years.

Here’s a spoken word version of it.

More

Emails

Posted by – December 29, 2012

It’s the end of the year, and as much as I would like to write back to every email I get from readers, I never do. If I did I would never get my own work done. BUT: I do get them, and I do read them, and I do love them. I wish, too, that I had answers for people: how to accept an emerging need to transition (in yourself or your loved one), how to be fair to a wife or husband who can’t accept that transition, how to tell children or other relatives; how to deal with employment and coming out to people and accepting whatever loss might come.

I don’t have those answers. I do know that transition is one of the most subtle and difficult things I have ever lived through. A good transition – which ours was – doesn’t have gigantic amounts of drama. Everything legal and medical has gone relatively smoothly. But everything changes; there is nothing in our lives that wasn’t effected by her transition.

So in a sense, that’s my advice to all of you who email: nothing will ever be the same, and you will be amazed at how entirely consuming and yet utterly boring a transition can be (if it goes well). If it doesn’t? Nothing will ever be the same then, either.

Thank you all for the emails – for telling me the books have been useful to you, or this blog, or some of the other various things I do and have done. It’s nice to feel appreciated. I’m just sorry I can’t pay everyone more personal attention, because so many of you need and deserve it, and there is so little out there for people living through this stuff. But do know that you aren’t alone. We do still run our online community forums, so do come there if you can.

 

Scalzi on Why He’s a Trans Ally

Posted by – December 28, 2012

& This explanation of why he supports trans people, from one of my wife’s favorite writers, John Scalzi, which is really common sense and compassion:

People who are trans seem to me to have a particularly hard journey: The eventual recognition of the disconnect between the gender their bodies have and the gender they sense themselves as being, the years of dealing with that disconnect, the hard choice to rebuild their lives and all the repercussions of that choice, and having to do all of that with much of the rest of the world looking on and judging. That’s a hell of a road to walk.

Exactly.

Asexuality

Posted by – December 27, 2012

Tomorrow, David Jay, the founder of asexuality.org and AVEN (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) is going to be on Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud.

Here’s a trailer for this documentary (A)Sexual:

(A)sexual Trailer from Angela Tucker on Vimeo.

Which you can watch on Netflix.

Please do watch: asexuals catch a lot of flak in this culture and it’s about time they are heard. Listen with open ears if you’re sexual.

December Demons

Posted by – December 26, 2012

Sometimes hurting is a reminder that you can still feel — which is what it’s all about. To everyone who is angry, lonely, estranged from love, or disappointed – take heart from your heart hurting: you’re still alive to try again. Love to all of you who hurt today, or who have hurt this month; the holidays are a difficult reminder of what we want & don’t yet have, or used to have & don’t have anymore.

Mostly, though, I wanted to thank all of you who wanted a call this December, and who reached out via The December Project; the honest truth is that it did my heart more good to be an ear to others than it probably was for all of you to hear our voices.

& Yes, we’re still doing it, until this month and its demons are gone with the calendar page.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by – December 25, 2012

This one made me cry like an idiot. Enjoy, and may we all find some peace in this upcoming year.

Albanian Sworn Virgins

Posted by – December 24, 2012

This is more a photo essay, but it’s a good one, with pretty great photography of these women who live as men. Burrnesha is the term in Albanian.

Chan Lowe Cartoon

Posted by – December 23, 2012

“Never has the dedication of the people who practice the teaching profession been spotlighted in the way it has over the past few days.We were shown, in dramatic terms, to what lengths teachers are willing to go to fulfill the crucial mandate they have been given: the education and welfare of the most precious members of our society. Yet they are so often treated with disdain.” – Chan Lowe

Be sure to read the blog post that goes with this amazing image.

WI Domestic Partnerships

Posted by – December 22, 2012

In the midst of all this bad news – the NRA’s ongoing thick-headedness, Iowa’s full speed reversal into 1953 – there is some good news out of the state of Wisconsin: namely, that Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry has been upheld as constitutional by a state appeals court.

This is especially good news as Wisconsin has a superDOMA in place, which not only bans same sex marriage but bans anything like marriage for same sex couples.

Here’s the basic gist:

Democratic lawmakers created the registry in 2009. Same-sex couples who join it are afforded a host of legal rights, including the right to visit each other in hospitals and make end-of-life decisions for one another. About 1,800 couples were on the registry at the end of 2011, according to the latest data from the state Department of Health Services.

Members of the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging the registry bestowed a legal status substantially similar to marriage to same-sex couples. The group argued that violates the Wisconsin Constitution’s ban on gay marriage.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the registry, declaring it was clearly unconstitutional. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, appointed private attorneys to defend it, but Republican Gov. Scott Walker fired them after he took office in 2011 because he, too, believed the registry was unconstitutional.

Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest gay rights group, stepped into the case to defend the registry. Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser ruled last summer that the registry was constitutional, finding it conveys a status that’s not identical or substantially similar to marriage.

Which means, in a nutshell, that right now is a damn good time to donate to Fair Wisconsin and thank them for their efforts on behalf of some very basic rights of same sex couples.

Sexy Xmas Gifts

Posted by – December 21, 2012

No, really, you can get the person with a penis in your life one of these! It’s  called a Tuggie. Not like a Huggie, although I bet you could get one of those to match.

Why buy a boring, bland vibrator when you can buy one that looks like a candy cane? This waterproof vibrating stick of stripey goodness is way more exciting. Add some Secret Santa Tingle Gel for minty freshness.

Or, for those more on the naughty than nice end of things, crack this icicle whip: this winter treat can certainly leave a hot little mark.

Plenty of other toys, outfits and ideas at Adam & Eve will keep you warm this holiday season.

 

Blizzard.

Posted by – December 20, 2012

I got back to Appleton yesterday just in time for a blizzard to drop! It’s very pretty, and actually a very nice welcome back.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by – December 15, 2012

And this, a new video created by my lovely spouse and performed by members of Lawrence’s amazing Conservatory. Or, this is the pretty place where we work.

No Liberty, Just Death

Posted by – December 14, 2012

Not this year, but every year forever, these families’ holidays will be full of horrible memory. What a shitty, shitty thing. All that trauma, of the kids & the families & the teachers. Enough already.

I would like to see a month-long moratorium on gun sales every time a shooting like this occurs. Or maybe a month for every person killed.

Really I’d like to see us kick the NRA out of the goddamn country. I can’t imagine how all this death & trauma is worth anything to anyone. Even an idea. There is no liberty here. Just death.

If a civilized country can’t keep our school-aged children safe, we have no business being a country at all. Sorry, but we don’t.

Lawrence’s New President

Posted by – December 13, 2012

Lawrence University just named Mark Burstein as the next President.

Way down at the bottom of the press release, this little detail: “Burstein will be joined in Appleton by his spouse David Calle, who is the Global Chief Financial Officer of Unilever’s Food Solutions business.”

I am so, so proud to work here, and pleased as punch, to boot.

NYC

Posted by – December 6, 2012

I’m off for 2 weeks in NYC today, so if I don’t blog much, you know why.

Dysphoria > Disorder > Dysphoria

Posted by – December 4, 2012

And the APA has reinvented the wheel.

Still, this will hopefully be good news. Interesting other news is that he APA is working on treatment guidelines, or what sounds like an APA version of the SOC.

Here’s Julia Serano’s take which is an important and vital NOT SO FAST warning, because there is a new and improved, bigger and better than ever trans pathologizing diagnosis that’s been snuck in. This is so the equivalent of when homosexuality was removed but GIDC was inserted. feh.

 

Help For a Packers Fan

Posted by – December 3, 2012

Yes, amazingly enough: I’m writing something about a Packers fan. It’s a special case. He’s my nephew, the one who was born when I was but 6 years old, my oldest brother’s son.

He’s a lifelong NYer and a lifelong Packers fan.

& He was living in Freeport, Long Island, when Sandy hit. As he put it: that bitch took everything. He & his girlfriend carried out their dog and their TV, & that was all. Everything else they owned is gone.

They have been staying with her parents, & while I’m sure they will be able to get clothes and shoes and furniture and another place to live, no charity will prioritize a beloved collection, and that’s what his Packers paraphernalia was. Mind you, this is a guy who’s taken heat for being a Packers fan his entire life, surround as he is by Giants, Jets, and even Bills fans.

So, here’s the thing: I thought it would be especially cool if he got Packers stuff in packages with Wisconsin return addresses.

It doesn’t have to be new. It could be some small thing from your own collection that you’re willing to part with. I’m guessing he’s an XL or whatever a guy who is over 6′ tall might be. He’s not scrawny, not fat. Obviously, things that are not sized are probably best: clothes that are hats or scarves and the like. & Whatever other stuff it is football fans might collect would be great too.

So if you’re in, let me know and  I will send you his address, OR you can drop the thing off at our house and I will ship it.

But I really would love it if he kept getting individual packages in the mail, all from Wisconsin.

Cool, right? And if anyone wants something in return (other than my love and appreciation), let me know, & we’ll see if we can work something out.

Don’t Be Lonely: Introducing The December Project

Posted by – December 2, 2012

This is crossposted from Jennifer Finney Boylan’s blog.

By Jennifer Finney Boylan | Published: December 1, 2012

I wanted to announce what we’re calling THE DECEMBER PROJECT, a reachout by Dylan Scholinski, Mara Keisling, Jennifer Finney Boylan, and Helen Boyd to raise the spirits of people in the trans community during what can be a difficult time of year.

We are trans activists, homebodies, authors, parents, spouses, artists, and teachers, including a trans man, two trans women, and a loving spouse.  Here’s our pledge to you: If you feel low this December, and need someone to talk to, contact us, and we’ll call you on the phone.  Period.

We want to make clear that we are not therapists, and that anyone in a serious crisis should dial 911, or seek professional help from qualified folks in the helping professions.

On the other hand we are people who may have experienced what you are feeling, and it is our hope that simply having someone to listen or talk to this December will have value.   This project is 100% free and no one involved in it is getting anything out of it other than the opportunity to help.

Trans people– and the people that love them– face unique challenges during the holidays.  Too often we can find ourselves separated from families, from spouses and children and parents.  It’s a time of year that, as Dickens well noted, can be the most haunted of all, a time when we travel in time and feel all too keenly the distance between ourselves and others, when what we most desire is warmth, and community, and love.

So think of us as friends you haven’t met yet.  Want to talk to somebody on the phone?  Here’s what to do: 1) send an email to Jenny Boylan at JB@jenniferboylan.net, and in the subject heading write, DECEMBER PROJECT.  List your name, your phone number, and the time when we can reach you–preferably with a few different choices.  Let us know which one of us you want to talk to.

You can also contact people directly through Facebook– ask to “friend” Jennifer Finney Boylan and then make your request through the Direct Message page, and JFB will forward your request to the person you’ve asked for. (or if you’re friends with Mara, or Helen, or Dylan, you can contact them directly.)

If we can’t reach you, or if the person you’ve requested isn’t available, we’ll let you know that too.  Also, if we get overwhelmed, we’ll also tell you that.

So let us help.  And you don’t need to be in trouble to participate in the December Project.  If you want to celebrate all the good things in your life and share your sense of joy– we’re good with that too.

Who we are:

Helen Boyd is an author of 2 books, including MY HUSBAND BETTY, an account of life with a trans spouse.  She is a well regarded spokeswoman for trans people and the people that love them, especially spouses and partners.  She’s a Lecturer in Gender and Freshman Studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

 

 

 

Jennifer Finney Boylan, an author of 13 books including SHE’S NOT THERE: A LIFE IN TWO GENDERS.  An English teacher at Colby College in Maine, a trans woman, wife to Deirdre Boylan, and mother (or “Maddy”) to two fine young men, Zach and Sean.  Serves on the board of directors of GLAAD and on the board of trustees at the Kinsey Institute.

 

Mara Keisling is founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.  She is well known as a commentator on trans issues; she lives in Washington DC.

 

 

 

 

 

Dylan Scholinski was born Daphne Scholinski. He currently lives in Boulder, CO with his beautiful wife and 4 year old son and is the Founder/Witness of Sent(a)Mental Studios as well as a distinguished artist, author and public speaker. His most recent book was The Last Time I Wore a Dress, listed by Out Magazine as one of its Top Ten Must Reads.

We send everybody love, and hope that this month is a time of hope.

Email for The December Project:

jb@jenniferboylan.net

FB: Jennifer Finney Boylan.