Parents and Children

My parents are moving to Florida.
Despite the fact that I only see them a few times a year when they live only forty minutes away, I’m upset that I may not see them much once they move.
I really dislike Florida. It’s muggy and commercial and the home of Disney. To me, it’s the worst of suburban sprawl, and I think the alligators (and the Seminoles) should have been left alone.
Plus, I don’t like planes. I didn’t like them before 9/11, and I like them a hell of a lot less now.
Betty has a regular, 9-5 kind of job, and we take a lot of three- and four-day weekends to do outreach, when we can. As a result, we’ve kind of nickel’d and dimed her vacation time to almost nothing this year, and that without actually going on an actual vacation, so making time to visit them won’t be easy.
I know for most Americans it’s normal to have close relatives living far away. My family is a little more 19th Century: my parents grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Long Island, where I was born, and raised, and which I left the minute I could – for Brooklyn. We’ve tracked each other around NYC like we’ve been trying to catch a Heffalump. Most of the rest of my family stayed put: some stayed married and others got divorced, but still, they had children, and houses, on Long Island. I’ve been blessed (and cursed) with having a huge Catholic family – five siblings, various siblings-in-law, two parents, seven nieces, and two nephews – right nearby.
That my parents are leaving seems incomprehensible. They were the ones who chose Long Island in the first place, and they’ve lived there 43 years. They leave not only their family, but their parish, their neighbors, their friends. But living in New York is too expensive for a couple in their 70s whose medical bills are only increasing. My mother can’t walk on ice or snow (she has what I refer to as a bionic knee) and I think my father has done his lifetime of shoveling the stuff. It makes perfect sense for them to go where they’ll have a pool in their complex, and where my dad will be a short hop from the Mets’ training grounds: heaven itself to a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
I don’t doubt they’ll be happy. But I’m not. I keep having this feeling that there’s something I’m forgetting to do.
The way I see it, even though none of us trusts it, life has familiar patterns, slow cycles of eras. Dutiful daughter becomes rebellious teenager becomes young adult. You make your own life. With any luck, you start to appreciate your parents as friends and adults and not just as parents.
When you get married, you are simultaneously welcomed back into the family, and sent on your way to forming your own. My mom and I have talked about marriage a lot; she knew about Betty before some of my friends did, and always reassured me that if it weren’t trans stuff, it’d be something else, because it always is. We got to talk as mother and daughter, but also as wives, and as women.
With them moving, I’ve finally figured out where my pattern unraveled, like a piece of knitting left on the needle in an old woman’s lap: I’m not having their grandchildren.
Not having their grandchildren means I will never connect with my mother as grandmother and mother. Betty and I decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t have children; neither of us had any urge for kids, and crazy us – we figured our opinions were the only ones that counted. Believe me, that’s not the way other people saw it: we were asked regularly when we’d be having kids. And when we said we don’t want kids we heard about ticking clocks and what great parents we would be, so much so we eventually changed our standard response to we’re not planning on having children right now. The ticking never got louder, and we only became more convinced that people who don’t want children do not make good parents.
Yet there’s this sense of incompleteness, this void, of what to put in its place. Can anything possibly replace grandchildren? Probably not. But there’s still this urge in me, to do something for them, to say thanks, to tell them I love them in some more-than-verbal way. But all I have is words.
So thanks, mom and dad, for the house, and the yard, the food and the arguments, and even for the various neuroses I’m sure are your fault. But mostly, thank you for having enough children to have your grandchildren so that I don’t have to.

The Amancio Project Vigil

I received this message in the comments section, but I thought it deserved greater notice. This is a follow-up to my original blog entry from June 12th, 2005.

June 27,2005
The Amancio Project Vigil surpassed expectations. The tone and mood was one of joy, sadness and resolve.
Because of the dreadful murders Yuma yesterday of six people (four children), the news media came early and left before many vigil attendees arrived and left before the speakers delivered their messages. A head count went over 100.
Amancio’s family was there in force, all wearing t-shirts with Amancio’s picture on them. That was a beautiful sight by itself. Many people drew and wrote their thoughts onto “The Memory Wall.” A video was shown depicting Amancio’s life from early child hood to a few days before his death. It was obvious he was a happy child, spunky adolescent, spirited teenager and talented and giving adult. A poem by Don Gilbert, “One of Liberty’s Children” dealing with hate crime was read by Don and a framed copy handed to Amancio’s mom.
Speakers included myself as the Organizer of The Yuma County Gay Meetup and The Amancio Project, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona House of Representatives (first speaking for herself then delivering a message from Arizona Representative Amanda Aguirre), Luis Heredia representing Congressman Grijalva, Brenda Galvan Aguirre from the Arizona Leadership Institute, Donna Rose with the Human Rights Campaign, Lori Girshick the Anti-Violence Project Coordinator for Wingspan in Tucson, a hate crime victim’s mother whose son was murdered three years ago and the culprits have not been caught, a member of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, Vigil coordinator Hanna, with the Yuma County Gay Rights Meetup.
No Yuma city or county representative was in the audience, an observation which did not go unnoticed by Rep. Sinema and Mr. Heredia.
A wreath was presented to the family. The mother and the grandmother then handed out “Angel” pins and small crosses to everyone while the candles were being prepared (unfortunately, it became too breezy to light them).
It is now incumbent upon all of us to keep this spirit alive and the momentum going.
Michael H. Baughman
The Amancio Project (still under construction)

Bath Cat

wet endymion
Some of you may be wondering if i’m some kind of cat-torturer, or if we just have a nutty cat. Neither, really. I’m actually allergic to my lovely cats, and one of the things allergic people can do to decrease the dander is bathe them occasionally. So from a very young age, the boys have been getting baths. I use a combination of made-for-pets cat shampoo and an anti-dander rinse.
I’m not going to say they like it, but they’re used to it. And distracted sometimes by rubber duckies.
Once they’re out, and towel-dried, they proceed to lick themselves thoroughly – and replace all the dander. Of course. But still, it helps. So does the Zyrtec-D that I take.

Roving Idiot

Rove, in a speech Wednesday evening to the New York state Conservative Party just a few miles north of Ground Zero, said, “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” Conservatives, he said, “saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.”

source: MSNBC news
Rove should resign. He is divisive, hateful, and offensive.

A Room of Her Own

Recently, a transwoman wrote to me casually that all she ever wanted to do was be a ________. As a child, as a teenager, as an adult, she (then he) was intent on that goal. My first impulse was to think that I’ve never had that kind of calling, that kind of goal, but then – a few days later – I realized that’s not entirely true, either.
The problem with wanting to be a writer is somewhat like discovering you’re trans. You’d prefer anything else. You’d prefer a magic wand of a “cure.” You know it’s going to cost – socially, financially, familially – so it takes a while to admit to yourself who you are and own it, as the kids say. It’s as if something in you knows not to say it out loud, not to commit to that secret yearning in the corner of your heart.
I’m still waiting and hoping for my calling to be an accountant much as Betty is still waiting to feel comfortable living as a man. We may as well buy lottery tickets if we’re already playing odds like that.
I know exactly why I never knew, much less articulated, my urge to be a writer. I grew up working class, and writing was not on the list of career choices. It wasn’t a job. It was a luxury of rich people, the earned perk of a family that already had a generation of college educations and healthy business professions. My older sister was the first in our family to graduate from college, though a few of her siblings, like me, followed after. She is a banker. One brother is an accountant. Another runs the regional area for a supermarket chain. Another is a psychologist. In a nutshell, they all chose practical careers.
They make me feel like the dreamy, impractical baby of the family, which is, in a sense, what I am. During a recent family discussion (read: argument) my brother asked my sister why I didn’t have a full-time job. To her credit, she answered, “I don’t know, but why haven’t you written a book?”
His critical questions aside, I’ve been learning a lot about the publishing industry. While holding my breath (and pulling my hair and stamping my feet) through the negotiations around my next book, I’ve wondered why I’m in this profession at all.
I write because it’s what I do. I’ve kept a written journal since I was nine, which is about the same time I wrote my first short story (Called “Rainy Day,” it was a two-page ripoff of Madelaine L’Engle, of course; I’d just read A Wrinkle in Time.) I had to get married in order to be able to write full-time. The feminist implications of having marriage deliver this wish don’t please me.
Writing is about time.

“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.”
Rudolph Erich Rascoe

I’m lucky to have a husband who understands that even without a job, I’m working. Betty is a voracious reader, who actually enjoys having a writer for a wife. Still in all, what are the real problems of being a woman writer – even a married one?

    Here are some things to think about:

  • Only 9 out of 52 winners of the National Book Award for Fiction are women.
  • Only 11 out of 48 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction have been women.
  • Women writers won 63 percent of the awards but less than 30 percent of the money in awards and grants reported by Poets & Writers. (January/February 2003 issue)
  • In 2002 all but one of the Pulitzer Prize finalists for Fiction and Poetry were male.
  • 94 percent of all the writing awards at the Oscars have gone to men.
  • Only 25 percent of the advisory members of the National Endowment for the Arts are women.
  • 68 percent of total art income in the U.S. goes to men and 73 percent of all grants and fellowships in the arts go to men.
  • (Source: A Room of Her Own Foundation)

The Humanities are supposed to be woman-friendly, too! I can’t even imagine what the stats are for women in the Sciences; I almost don’t want to know.
It’s a bit easier to understand why “I want to be a writer” never crossed my lips as a child, isn’t it? It is for me. Some days I’d still like that calling to be an accountant, maybe just for a little while, so that when I’m 40 or 50 I can quit accounting and write full-time without caring who the writing awards and grants go to and maybe even fund a few of them myself.

Queer Boys in NYC

My friend Doug McKeown and some other writers of the Queer Stories for Boys anthology are reading this Friday night at the Chelsea B&N. (Where else but Chelsea, you might ask?)
Betty & I are hoping to go. Here’s the scoop:
Queer Stories for Boys: BOOK READING and SIGNING
by editor Douglas McKeown and contributors James Campbell, Ronald Gold, Robin Goldfin, Brad Gretter, and Derek Gullino
Friday June 24 , 7 p.m.
675 Sixth Avenue, near 22nd Street

Can't Stand the Suspense

As many of you know, I’m in the process of trying to sell my next book – a process that is a little like torture, a little like some kind of humiliation roleplay in BDSM, but also a little like that “keep the ball in the air” game people play at major sporting events.
Torture because I’m a control freak and there’s nothing left for me to do; it’s all in the hands of my agent at this point.
Humiliation because it meant putting together all my stats, every thing I’ve ever done of note, every review, every *everything* and adding it up. What are you worth? What have you done? Why should I be impressed? In some sense, it’s like the worst interview ever, but not in person. And ironically, I’m not in bad shape in terms of what I’ve done, either. Something about the fact of it – like a work review – is just innately unpleasant.
Keeping the ball in the air because every day is a new day, a new publisher, someone else to say “hey, really, I write good books” So there’s this constant game of the balloon wanting to fall (I didn’t sell 50,000 copies of MHB yet) and of keeping it up (but I was a finalist for the Lambda Award) and watching it fall again (but I didn’t win the Lambda award) and popping it back in the air again (MHB was mentioned in Entertainment Weekly), and on and on and on.
Off to the Post Office to mail more press kits. Wish me luck, folks – not luck in getting published, but luck in not having my head explode before then.