Pay.Fucking.Attention.

My friend Lynne wrote this piece for Facebook. I agree with every word.

**

I’m pretty sure from some of the comments I’ve seen in the past week that there are many people who don’t live in Wisconsin who have literally no idea what’s going on here.

“But they’re just following the laws,” they say.

Oh, you mean the laws they created using one of the most gerrymandered states in US history, which is being sustained and supported by a far-right-wing judiciary that’s made it clear they will side again and again with a legislative branch elected by a false majority?

Wisconsin does not have one person, one vote, not by a long shot. It’s a laboratory for vote suppression, denial of human rights, and efficient, legal means of seizing control of the organs of state.

See, that’s the deal. Everything the Republicans have done is legal, even the obscene ways they got into power. But what they’ve done is wrong and is explicitly intended solely to maintain the dominance of a small number of white, wealthy, “Christian” men.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is going to happen in other states, where it isn’t already being played out. (Yo, Tejas, what up, bitches?)

Voter suppression is the least of it. Claiming, “Well, it’s not nice, but it’s legal, and we’ll just have to get our people back in office at the next election” is really fucking clueless. You can’t get your people back in office when the districts were literally and blatantly constructed to ensure Republicans would be elected.

You think, “Oh, Wisconsin, nice cheese and beer. Polite ex-Germans. Pretty scenery.” You’re an ignorant fool. Wisconsin is the single most racist state by many statistical measures.

Liberal white people really need to drive around Milwaukee , maybe spend a dollar to buy a goddamn clue. This is not the nice, liberal, trying-harder-to-be-decent place it was 20 years ago.

Conservative white people should do it, too, to get some good ideas on how to keep down the racial minorities in their own states. Pick up some tips from the prison system here so they can ensure their underclasses stay sufficiently cowed.

They (the Republicans headed by Vos and Fitzgerald) don’t even pretend to hide what they’re doing any more, and their literal last minute (and successful) efforts to strip the governorship of important powers solely because a Democrat had been elected was disgusting, obscene, and completely legal.

Don’t believe me? Milwaukee is only opening 5 voting locations tomorrow instead of the usual 180. That number is not a typo.

Guess what color people live there who tend to vote Democrat? Hint: not Anglos.

But it’s wrong. Everything happening here is wrong, and plenty of liberals in other states are acting as though it’s business as usual, everyone gets to vote in fair and balanced elections, and things will be “back to normal” Real Soon Now.

Wisconsin is their laboratory and their burying ground for American ideals of equality and access to justice.

I moved here from a colonial state (New Mexico), which routinely surprised me with its level of corruption, but my home has nothing on this wasteland where roam Republic monsters, reprehensible, disgusting Nazi wannabes.

For those of you who don’t know, I used to be a rich, white guy, so I’m pretty sure I understand white guy thinking reasonably well.

I was/am Unitarian, so I’m really liberal, but I have guns and motorcycles and literally give away (open source) all my intellectual creations, so it’s not like I’m claiming I understand modern conservatism. At the individual level, I certainly understand some kinds of systemic oppression, because I learned very, very early that being an atheist was a good way to get a beating.

Now I’m an accidentally queer, kinda rich (social capitalist), atheist woman with no formal education living in a 1930s Germany wannabe state. I’m not kidding around here. Wisconsin is fuckedup, and those of you who don’t live here remind me of people who don’t believe the New Mexicans have to routinely deal with a country where people don’t think they’re part of the United States.

Pay. Fucking. Attention. What’s happening in Wisconsin is wrong, and I’m not just talking about the Republican attempts to control the current election. Wisconsin has basically become what Idaho would look like if it were successful.

I’m not going to enjoy saying, “I told you so” in the future, so I’ll do it now.

Either help, or STFU and get out of the fucking way while we take back our republican democracy.

Witness: Rachel See at SCOTUS

My friend Rachel See of NCTE was in the courtroom today and wrote this compelling observation about what it was like.:

I don’t think I’ll be able to forget the look I saw from the bench. Near the start of the first case, Justice Kavanaugh looked up from whatever he was reading and seemed to stare straight at me. Straight through me. I met his gaze for a few moments, and then I realized that Aimee Stephens was sitting immediately behind me.

I don’t know what was running through Justice Kavanaugh’s mind. He asked a single question this morning, about whether the statute used the literal or the ordinary meaning of the word “sex”. I feel incapable of reading those tea leaves.

But in those few lingering moments, feeling his gaze upon me, I felt literally judged, as a trans woman, by a man in a position to affect the lives of me and my family and friends and the 1.4 million trans adults in America. A man with the power to declare, as Justice Sotomayor suggests the Court should say, that “invidious discrimination” against LGBT people must stop now, and that courts can and should use the broad language of Title VII to do so. But also a man with the power to declare, as our adversaries would have him say, that sex assigned at birth is destiny, and that an employer can dictate where you pee. And, by extension, someone with the power to declare that “invidious discrimination” against LGBT people will be permitted by the law, and even be encouraged in the name of “religious freedom”.

It is the most-uncomfortable I’ve ever felt in a courtroom. My heart goes out to Aimee Stephens, who felt the true focus of that gaze and the scrutiny of the Court and the media and all the vile hatred that we see on Twitter and “in the comments”. Aimee looked so tired this afternoon; who wouldn’t be tired, under all that scrutiny? I can’t imagine what she’s been through these past months, and I am in awe at her quiet strength and perseverance.

For all the discomfort I felt from Justice Kavanaugh’s scrutiny, the message I want to deliver to my trans and nonbinary friends is that you are seen by people who love you. You are seen by people who look upon you with friendship, with compassion, with love. By your chosen family, by allies, by people who will fight for all of us. In a few months we may very well lose at the Supreme Court; win or lose on these cases, the fight will continue. And we will not be alone, because we exist. We are seen. We are loved.

Guest Author: Jolie Laide on TDOR

This is a guest post by my friend Jolie Laide, who blogs at Dances With Gender.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance — an occasion that honestly I have very mixed feelings about.

Not that we shouldn’t remember our dead. On the contrary. At least 23 transgender/non-binary people have been killed so far this year in the U.S. As usual, almost all of them were trans women, the vast majority were WOC (mostly black trans woman), a number of them were street sex workers. I point out the latter not to denigrate sex work, rather that they were so marginalized by society that the only way for them to survive was to engage in a highly risky profession.

A partial list of our dead from around the world is on the TDOR website. Many of them were killed with extreme brutality — what criminologists refer to as “overkill,” which is an indicator of extreme rage and hatred toward the victim.

There were undoubtedly more. Usually they were people who couldn’t afford to change their name and gender on their legal ID — or lived in states where social conservatives intentionally passed laws to make it difficult/impossible to do — and consequently when their bodies are found, they usually suffer the final indignity of being misnamed and misgendered by the police and the media. It’s only through people who knew them that we learn who they really were.

They deserve one final recognition as their proper selves.

#SayTheirNames
Mesha Caldwell, 41
Sean Hake, 23
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28
JoJo Striker, 23
Tiara Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, 24
Chyna Gibson, 31
Ciara McElveen, 26
Jaquarrius Holland, 18
Alphonza Watson, 38
Chay Reed, 28
Kenneth Bostick, 59
Sherrell Faulkner, 46
Kenne McFadden, 27
Kendra Marie Adams, 28
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17
Ebony Morgan, 28
TeeTee Dangerfield, 32
Gwynevere River Song, 26
Kiwi Herring, 30
Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28
Derricka Banner, 26
Scout Schultz, 21
Ally Steinfeld, 17
Stephanie Montez, 47
Candace Towns, 30

OTOH, for years TDOR was the only time trans people were publicly recognized. If you were gay or lesbian, you had Gay Pride — an event, even if less and less political over the years, still has an attitude of celebration and defiance. As gay writer Joe Jervis summed it up in his must-read essay about the value of Pride: “They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.”

For us, not so much. Pre-Laverne Cox, pre-Janet Mock, pre-Caitlyn Jenner, the only public occasion for trans people was one marking our persecution and deaths. Fortunately, that’s changing with the  Transgender Day of Visibility, on March 31, which is intended to celebrate living members of the transgender community, has been gaining traction, as has Trans Awareness Week, which is the week directly preceding TDOR.

As Daye Pope eloquently said:

“Transgender people are real, and vibrant, and powerful, and beautiful, and resilient, and enough. Despite every obstacle stacked against us we rewrite the rules, beat the odds, defy expectations. I believe with all my heart that we have a bright future, because we will build it together.”

So today mourn our dead, tomorrow fight like hell for the living. In March, celebrate our fabulous selves.

They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.

Paisley Currah on the WH’s Rescinding of LGBTQ Protections

from Paisley Currah, in response to the news that the WH is looking to remove LGBTQ protections from healthcare:

“Don’t believe everything you read about the Trump’s administration’s inability to govern. In the regulatory arena, Trump is really getting things done–look what’s happening at the EPA. There’s also Sessions’ stated intention of ending the Justice Department’s oversight of post-Ferguson reforms regarding excessive fines and fees. When it comes to trans people, they are viciously efficient. They’ve rescinded the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance on trans students. Trump tweeted that the Defense Department’s policy on trans service members would be reversed. And now they’re planning to get rid of rules–of critical importance to trans people–that ban discrimination based on gender identity under the Affordable Health Care Act. The Justice Department is also deciding whether or not to support Obama-era rules that used the Prison Rape Elimination Act to protect transgender prisoners from violence. And there’s still a bunch more policy changes out there awaiting the eye of Sauron. Trump/Pence have 3.5 more years to do a lot of damage.’

Guest Post by Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia posted this yesterday on Facebook, and I thought it was vital to share.

I did something today that was really important. It was embarrassing, stressful, maybe even traumatic. But it was still very important for me to make sure that I showed up so that it could happen. And I want to urge ALL of my friends who share some of my anatomy to listen to what I have to say about it.
I’m talking about getting a Pap smear.

I’ve been going to get these damn tests ever since I had access to medical care, sometime in my twenties. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, being visible as a dyke meant that I got universally shitty treatment from doctors. For some reason, gynecologists were the worst. It didn’t matter if they were men or women, either. Female doctors seemed to feel that they had to be as homophobic and mean as their male counterparts to prove they belonged in the boys’ club of medicine.

Josephine Butler referred to the speculum as “an iron penis.” She was a Victorian feminist who agitated against laws that allowed the police to confine women under suspicion of prostitution and keep them confined indefinitely. Women arrested under these laws were subjected to pelvic exams, often with dirty speculums that might have transmitted the very diseases they were accused of harboring. At the time, diagnosis of a “venereal disease” was not accurate, and there was no treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea–unless you count taking compounds made from mercury that could be life-threatening. She succeeded in arousing working-class men to support a women’s cause by using this kind of colorful rhetoric.

Today, speculums (the medical instrument that allows a doctor to open and look inside a vagina or rectum) are made out of plastic. My doctor today showed me how she could insert a flashlight into the one she was using, to illuminate my cervix. She made sure to use the smallest one that would do the job. She told me what was going to happen before she touched me, and there was no unnecessary probing or infliction of pain. I find the test painful anyway just because I don’t like it, and when the long Q-tip is taking a tissue sample from the os or opening of the cervix, it makes me feel sick to my stomach, it hurts that much.

It is even painful for me to write about my own anatomy. I don’t like the fact that I have these internal organs. I have never wanted to have this anatomy. It messes with my sense of my own gender to know that there are unwanted, female organs inside of my body. I am concerned by how many of my readers will be disgusted with me for talking about them, or see me as less of a man because I am being open about possessing them.

Still, this is my body. My body that gives me pain every day from fibromyalgia. But my body has also been with me through every part of my life, and it has never let me down. My body survived being hungry during childhood, and being abused. It survived years of queer-bashing, awful underpaind jobs, poor housing, and street harassment. My body has taken me on amazing journeys outside of the United States and within the realm of sexual exploration. My body has been like a wonderful machine, supporting my consciousness, always following my mind when it wanted to have a particular adventure. I love my body for being there for me no matter what illness, overwork, educational endeavor, or trip through the world of pleasure that befell me. I am so lucky to have a body inherited from strong people who basically walked across the United States so they could live out their religious principles. Nothing stopped them–not poverty, violent persecution, illness, malnutrition, and the crushing labor of establishing a new territory. (These people also did a lot of things I am ashamed of, but that is a topic for another article.)

How do you feel about your body? How far would you go to take care of your physical self, or what acts of gratitude would you commit to let your body know you feel grateful and loving toward your own flesh? That was what I did today.

Listen to me. Cervical cancer is an AWFUL disease. I watched my mother die of breast cancer because she found a lump in her breast and ignored it for ten years. Don’t let yourself contract a fatal disease that can be treated if it is detected early enough. That is what a Pap smear is for. It is to save your life. None of us–no matter how gender dysphoric we are–none of us deserve to have our lives shortened because we are different.

I have lost track of how many butch dykes, gender-queer people, and transmen I have taken for their first Pap smear. I have held people’s hands while they cried because they hated the test so much. I have gotten them high before the test and taken them home for consoling sex after it happened. I have listened to stories of childhood abuse so awful it would scorch your soul to listen to it. We are singled out for humiliation and mistreatment because people think if they break us or beat us down, we will stop trying to “act like men.” Of course, it doesn’t work, the only thing they can do is make us shut up about how we feel toward our own genders. We can never stop feeling the way that we do.

Coming out as a trans person was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt more ashamed of myself for being trans than I had ever felt about being gay or even being a sadomasochist. I think in part this was because I could not explain WHY I felt this way. I had to confront a lot of negative messages I heard about myself as I was growing up to be able to replace that shame with pride and self-validation. it may seem ironic to you, but one of the ways I know that I was able to accept myself as a man and publicly come out as trans is the medical test I got today.

Maybe it took five minutes, maybe it was ten, I lost track of time. I disassociated. Writing about it now is one of the ways I can come back into my adult self and feel like I am okay in the present. Why would I encourage anybody else to go through something that was this upsetting?

Because I want you to save your own life.

Yes, it is that simple. Please save your own life. Okay, so you don’t feel happy or comfortable in the body that you got when you were born. I understand that. And, at the same time, if we are going to be activists for life, building community, that life needs to be as long as possible. Goddess knows that 80 or 100 years is not enough to shift public ignorance and malevolence toward sex- and gender-minority people. But in the 63 years I have been alive, I have seen HUGE social change. That is the reward of activism. You get to find out that standing up to “the system” works. So it’s worth it to stick around, my younger friends. It really is.

And if you need somebody to get you to the appointment, be your advocate while you get examined, and soothe your fears or your upset after it is over, you know how to find me. I care about how it feels to be violated by a medical procedure. But it’s worth it. Because none of us deserve to die in pain just because we are differently-gendered. Right, my brothers and non-sisters? Take care of the body that you live in now, because that body has been through a lot, and needs somebody (you) to be loving toward it.
Finally, I want to thank my doctor at Outside In for making this experience as simple and non-traumatic as possible. She is a saint as far as I am concerned. I look at her tired face and wonder how much human misery she witnesses every day, at a clinic that specializes in homeless people and trans folks. And so I think somebody should just tell her, job well done. You made it possible for me to do this, and I am so grateful to be touched by medical hands that are not full of hatred. Blessings upon you and your house.

Guest Author: Gwen Smith, TDOR’s Founder

From Gwen Smith, who founded Transgender Day of Remembrance back in 1999:

I Remember.

The 20th of November is a day set aside to honor those who we have lost due to anti-trans violence and hatred.

This year, we honor roughly 300 people from around the world. There’s likely many others we do not know, erased by their killers, and further erased by police, media, families, and others.

Anti-trans violence affects us all, trans or not. We need everyone to stand against it. Our right to exist is on the line. Anti-trans violence is also anti-black. It is also anti-sex worker. It is also anti-woman. Be intersectional.

In the U.S., we face a rollback on our rights, and face future laws against us, in the name of “safety.” We need to stand up & fight for *our* safety, our right to exist, our protections. We need to not let those we’ve lost die in vain.

In the United States, there have been as many as 27 known anti-trans murders since the last Transgender Day or remembrance.

• Monica Loera of Austin, Texas. Murdered 22 January, 2016.
• Jasmine Sierra of Bakersfield, California. Murdered 22 January, 2016.
• Kayden Clarke of Mesa, Arizona. Murdered 4 February, 2016.
• Veronica Banks Cano of San Antonio, Texas. Murdered 19 February, 2016.
• Maya Young of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Murdered 21 February, 2016.
• Demarkis Stansberry of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Murdered 27 February, 2016.
• Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson of Burlington, Iowa. Murdered 2 March, 2016.
• Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum of Los Angeles, California. Murdered 23 March, 2016.
• Shante Isaac of Houston, Texas. Murdered on 10 April, 2016.
• Keyonna Blakeney of Rockville, Maryland. Murdered on 16 April, 2016.
• Tyreece Walker of Wichita, Kansa. Murdered on 1 May, 2016.
• Mercedes Successful of Haines City, Florida. Murdered on 15 May, 2016.
• Amos Beede of Burlington, Vermont. Murdered on 25 May, 2016.
• Goddess Diamond of New Orleans, Louisiana. Murdered on 5 June, 2016.
• Deeniquia Dodds of Washington D.C. Murdered on 13 July, 2016.
• Dee Whigam of Shubuta, Mississippi. Murdered on 23 July, 2016.
• Skye Mockabee of Cleveland, Ohio. Murdered on 30 July, 2016.
• Erykah Tijerina of El Paso, Texas. Murdered on 8 August, 2016.
• Rae’Lynn Thomas of Columbus, Ohio. Murdered on 10 August, 2016.
• Lexxi T. Sironen of Waterville, Minnesota. Murdered on 6 September, 2016.
• T.T. of Chicago, Illinois. Murdered on 11 September, 2016.
• Crystal Edmonds of Baltimore, Maryland. Murdered on 16 September, 2016.
• Jazz Alford of North Carolina. Murdered in Birmingham, Alabama on 23 September, 2016.
• Brandi Bledsoe of Cleveland, Ohio. Murdered on 12 October, 2016.
• Sierra Bush/Simon Bush/Sierra Simon of Idaho City, Idaho. Murdered on 22 October, 2016.
• Noony Norwood of Richmond, Virginia. Murdered on 5 November, 2016.

Today, honor those we have lost. Tomorrow and every day, fight for them and all others. Remember Our Dead. #trans #tdor #tdor2016

Gay Crossdresser

Every once in a while I get an email from someone who is in the middle of reading MHB for the first time, and they either want to tell me their whole story or feel under represented in some ways. Recently, this was the case with Corey, who wanted people to know that (1) gay crossdressers exist, and (2) a little bit more about their experience.

In Corey’s own words:

Being a homosexual man, who believes he is really a woman, it should therefore follow that I am a heterosexual female. Even when I would go to gay bars in my late teens (errr…I mean after I was 21!) I wasn’t attracted to anyone, really. I never got “picked up” or “cruised.” (Yuck.)

I am very lucky I found my husband when I was 21. No, he wasn’t nor isn’t anyone’s ideal of masculinity, yet he also isn’t flamboyant. (Think Niles Crane, and you get the idea.) He and I have been together for just over 25 years. He’s amazing. He works hard. He’s the funniest person I’ve met. He’s good-looking. He’s all the things a husband should ideally be. I’m a lucky man.

But therein lies my problem. He and I have not had sexual contact with each other in 11 years. It’s like both of our libidos died at the same time. But all that time, I was still crossdressing whenever I could. He knew about this. I told him before he moved in with me that I liked women’s lingerie. Exactly as you describe, at first he thought it was fun and a bit taboo.

As the years went by, I could see his acceptance turn to mild tolerance. Then, came the stony silences. At this time, I had rotated out my boxers and briefs for panties, until the drawer looked like a display at Victoria’s Secret. He knew I wore panties underneath my male clothing. He hated that. He was always worried that someone would see. Eventually, I purged my drawer and returned to boxer briefs.

But a weird thing happened about 16 months ago. My libido came to life! With that change, my desire for women’s clothing and lingerie skyrocketed. I acquired all new panties, pantyhose (like your husband, I do not wear stockings). Now I am wearing bras, and camisoles, too. I used to consider myself an “underdresser.” Now, I want to be more open. I’ll purposely wear a plain white women’s Old Navy oxford with a dark blue satin camisole underneath. I’ll walk around downtown Chicago and unbutton my blouse down to my waist, revealing the blue satin underneath. I get mani/pedis with soft pink polish. I cut and dyed my hair in a more androgynous look.

Then it hit me. I’m transgender. All my life, I’ve been the wrong sex. Finally, everything made sense. It explains what I’ve been feeling. Crossdressing was never simply a sexual thrill. It has always just felt right, as the cliché goes. I’ve been doing it since I was 5, and that’s only as far back as I can remember.

Yet, the huge problem remains. I love my husband with all my heart. But I know that he’s simply not attracted to me sexually. It sounds harsh, but it actually goes the other way, too. I’m not attracted to him. Why is this? The best answer I can come up with is that I’m attracted to straight men. My husband is gay. He’s attracted to homosexual men. I’m a heterosexual girl.

Does any of this make sense? Where can I go, other than my therapist, to get answers? I believe there’s a solution, and that involves an open relationship. On one hand, that might solve everything. On the other hand, it scares me to death.

Yes, most crossdressers are hetero males. But just like the general population, there’s a percentage of those males who are gay. And of those, there’s a fraction that I believe I fit in with; gay men who are really women who want a man who isn’t gay. My husband doesn’t want to have sex with a man who believes he is a woman, and dresses the part. He wants to be with a man.

So…what is the answer? I haven’t figured it out. I do know that surgery and ‘coming out’ AGAIN is not what I want to do. I want to keep my parts the way they are.

And I know this is an unusual case. But maybe…maybe it’ll help CDs or spouses realize, “Hey. It could be worse.”

That’s intended as a joke. With the help of people like Helen Boyd, I know I can make it through this.

Guest Author Peter Jacobs on Bowie

My friend Peter Jacobs wrote this cool piece about Bowie. I thought I’d share it for anyone interested.

Six days ago, something happened that I never even considered, not once. Never, ever even thought about it. Something so sudden and so unexpected that it felt as though the moon had just cracked into pieces and floated into the Sun, while we all stared in awe, open-mouthed, gawking, and feeling very small and vulnerable indeed.

David Bowie, the incredible, amazing, inspirational, creative, ground-breaking David Bowie, died.

The Timeless had finally run out of Time.

If you knew of, but didn’t love, admire, and respect David Bowie, now might be the right time to reconsider. If you barely or never heard of him, discover him now. You won’t regret it.

If you did love him, you could probably express nearly everything I’m about to say, a million times better. I can only do what I can do, which might not be much, but I’m certainly going to try.

I owe it to him.

Bowie had an incalculable influence on me. He has been present in the general background radiation of my life for as long as I can remember, pretty much. I was just a kid in the 70s, Bowie’s greatest decade. I wasn’t old enough to fully appreciate that body of work at the time, but I’ve never stopped absorbing, re-experiencing and re-interpreting it ever since. Of course, he’s done excellent work since then as well, including his most recent music, right up to his very last, released just two days before he passed. Yet the 70s albums hold a special significance for many, myself included (so those of you considering diving into his oeuvre for the first time and are wondering where to start, start there).

It’s daunting to even begin to describe the difference Bowie made, and for that reason, I promised myself I would keep this as succinct as possible. Let’s see if I stick to that promise.

I have an uncle who was of the perfect age and inclination to be captivated by the arresting shock of Ziggy Stardust, in 1972.   The Starman himself invigorated a generation of misfit kids who didn’t even know they were waiting for something, they just recognized when that something had arrived.  By the time I came along, that initial fervor had subsided, perhaps, but my uncle was still a fan, and Bowie was still putting out fantastic music, all of which was at my fingertips.

My uncle didn’t just passively allow me to paw through his collection; he deliberately exposed me to it. Thank goodness. He’d show me albums, put them on, answer my questions, play my requests. I have memories of pouring over my uncle’s records and being endlessly enthralled by the covers, the lyrics, the sounds, the feelings, the inexplicability of it all. There were a lot of albums, but my attention always came back to David Bowie.

The earliest I can ever remember experiencing “edginess” was with Bowie. He was so unlike anything or anybody else I had ever encountered that he was scary. Just genuinely, challengingly scary. Not in a RUN AWAY kind of way, rather, What is going on here? Is something happening to him? Is he crazy? What makes him act like that? Why does he move like that? Where is this coming from? Why do I feel so strange?? Even the way the camera moved in his videos, the angles of the shots, even that was strange.

Remember, I was just a little kid, perhaps seven, eight. But I’d like to think, I believe he’d have had a similar effect on me even if I’d been twenty-five, at the time.

He was scary in a way that made you want more. Scary in a way that made you want to figure it all out, although you realized you might never figure it out. He truly seemed alien, so different, not from here. Not from anywhere I knew, that was for sure.

Bowie affected you in so many ways, provoking the same odd, unusual sensations whether you were listening to his music, looking at his picture, or watching him in a video. So complete, so whole, so thorough an entity he seemed, you ceased to be aware he was performing. He was just being.

It was nearly impossible to believe that anybody even remotely like that could exist. But he did exist! He existed with a vengeance, with a vibrancy, vitality, and passion unmatched by virtually anyone.

I found that, ever since then, since those early days, consciously or otherwise I would forevermore compare other musicians I encountered to that template of David Bowie. It wasn’t necessarily direct, specific, imitative, point-by-point comparison, such as “Does he sound like Bowie? Does she also remind me of a space alien?” Rather, it was more “Is this great? Original? Challenging? Creative, resonant, vivid, complete?” Does it drive me to discover more, see more, feel more, want more, expect more? Does this force me to reconsider what is possible, and frighten me a little in the process?

At the age of twelve, I was introduced to new wave and punk. We called it new wave then, or new music, college radio, I think the term “alternative” was even sometimes used all the way back then. It was like finding affirmation, confirmation. It was absolutely a life-changing experience. There was a spirit of fun, adventure, excitement, creativity, and playfulness that other contemporary radio stations utterly lacked, and yes, I had been searching. Searching with no idea whatsoever if I’d ever find what I was looking for, not even entirely aware what I was looking for. I wanted music that moved me, in mind as much or more as in body. Only later did I fully realize I was looking for something more than just music.

Finding this window onto an alternate universe was nothing short of revelatory. Over time, I came to learn many if not all of my new heroes were inspired in various measures by David Bowie. Interview after interview, they all said basically the same thing: There was before, and then there was after. Bowie had changed their lives. These artists, in turn, changed mine.

Naturally, few individuals ever achieve such heights. Bowie set the bar so incredibly high that surely only someone superhuman such as he could ever come close. At the same time, no matter your shortcomings, it also made you want to try.

I will forever appreciate him for raising my standards, thereby enriching my life. It’s hard to settle for frozen fish sticks once you’ve had fresh lobster tails. Knowing there is something better, why accept the inferior? Why eat junk food when you could have nutrition?

Absorbing Bowie was like breathing pure, sweet air and feeling giddy from it, after previously and unwittingly sucking in smog. It was an overload of oxygen filtering through the brain and bloodstream, boiling away pollutants and causing an exhilarating sort of mental bends.

I do not mean to dismiss entirely the influence and inspiration of other artists, not by any means. The Beatles were in fact my very first intensely magical, mysterious music experience and I still cherish them beyond logic. When I was very little I would wake up some mornings, before anyone else in the house, just to have sole access to the turntable. I’d put on Beatles records with the volume set as low as possible so not to awaken anyone, and lie with my ear pressed against the speaker, devouring their sound and fusing it with my soul. Yet I was always aware the Beatles had already come and gone. In fact, they broke up within days of my birth. It mattered not, how fervently I desired for them to regroup. They were done. My love for the Beatles was always tinged with whatever sense of received nostalgia a seven year old could possibly feel, a longing for something just out of reach, unattainable no matter how immediate the experience was of dropping the needle on the record and listening, whenever I wanted.

Bowie, on the other hand, felt like now. Like mine. He was active, alive, intense, current. He was in the present, but was moving fast.

Looking back, almost as soon as I first felt the tremendous power of Bowie, I think I must have been seized by some kind of urgency, a form of desperation. I realized he, too, had already produced work dating back to before my existence, already passed through amazing phases that I had missed out on, and that whatever he was doing in the present would also soon slip away, out of my mental and emotional grasp. I also felt an indescribable envy that my uncle had seen him live, years before.

It seemed as if my eyes, my mind, my heart couldn’t possibly open wide enough to take in all the possibilities Bowie revealed and implied. I didn’t even have anywhere near the vocabulary, the tools, the concepts to describe what was happening inside me. I feel like I still barely do, all these decades later.

If we could say with words everything we felt, there’d be no need for music, would there?

I’m also very grateful I’m not using a manual typewriter, given the number of times I’ve already changed, deleted, edited, entirely re-written sections of this piece…. and how many more times I will before I consider it done.

It’s going to be difficult, I can tell, to decide when to consider this “done,” exactly. Five minutes after finishing, I’m sure I’ll have new thoughts, other memories, different feelings to fit in.

Of course it will be that way. That’s why I made that promise at the start, to do my very best to keep this as succinct as possible. Fortunately, I didn’t bet money on whether or not I’d keep that promise.

So let’s wrap it up then, shall we? Perhaps a simple ‘thank you’ will do.

Thank you, David Bowie. Thank you, David Jones. Thank you Thin White Duke, Ziggy, Cracked Actor, Man Who Sold the World, Lazarus…. thank you so much for everything. Too bad you didn’t turn out to be like that last namesake. I think the only person who wouldn’t have surprised me by coming back would have been you.

You didn’t turn out to be immortal like the Supermen of whom you sang. Honestly, it shakes me to my very core to know you’re actually, definitively gone.

So…in the end, you really were human after all.

Well you know what? I think that makes you even cooler.

Somehow, you’ve managed to become even more inspirational than you already were.

Guest Author: Michaela Ivri Mendelsohn, My Top Manager is a Transwoman

I first met Kristy after she had been working for a month at one of my El Pollo Loco restaurants in Thousand Oaks, California. Kristy is a tall dark haired Latina, transwoman in her late twenties.  While observing her, the first thing I noticed was a caring and good natured attitude with our customers.  She was our first transgender employee and I was anxious to meet her. The manager who hired her put her front and center at the cash register, which is where she belongs. She is great with customers. As we got to know each other she told me the story of what had happened at a previous job with Taco Bell.  Kristy had worked at a Taco Bell in the Ventura County area. Though she clearly identified as a woman, the manager told her she must use the men’s bathroom. While using the bathroom one day, she was sexually molested by a customer. Her employer’s response was to tell her, she could use the women’s room but only when no other women are inside. One time, while using the women’s restroom, a female customer entered after Kristy was inside. This customer complained to her husband about a man dressed as a woman in the ladies room. Her husband pressured store management into firing Kristy. Unfortunately, her story is not unique. I have heard so many stories just like hers from other transwomen.

The basic need for any transgender person to get a foothold in this world is to have a decent job. Today transwomen are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty. There are considerable barriers both social and legal to obtaining a job as well as to transition while on the job. More than 3 of 5 transgender persons work in states that have no protection for gender identity in the workplace. Based on six studies done between 1996 and 2006, 20 to 57 percent of transgender respondents said they experience employment discrimination, including being fired, denied a promotion or harassed. Though even more difficult to measure, transgender people also face considerable barriers in the job application process.  Even in California, which has laws in place against gender discrimination in the workplace, transgender workers are often treated at best as second class citizens.

In Kristy’s situation, over a year had gone by and it was past the statute to file a lawsuit. I was disappointed.  I wanted Kristy to have justice. We also need high profile lawsuits to let employers know there will be severe punishment for gender discrimination in the workplace. In the end though, it is possible that the transgender success stories told by employers, will bring about the greatest change.  Kristy has done extremely well with us. Our customers adore her. Today she is the general manager of our busiest restaurant and I could not be more proud of her. In fact the restaurant she manages is ranked number two our of over 400 units in the El Pollo Loco chain for quality and customer service. We are now at six trans-employees and growing. Two others have made it into management. I am quite certain there will more success stories to follow.

Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, ‘Transgender Cinderella’

What an awesome little excerpt from my friend and author Zoe Dolan’s book about what it’s like to date as a trans woman. Probably NSFW, and not for the faint hearted.

Once I was living as female, but before sex change surgery, my dreams were bounded by what I came to identify as the Cinderella Syndrome. I loved to go dancing, since on the dancefloor I could sink into the beat and movement around me. Men would come and go, drifting toward me and away, and sometimes closer and closer until we were dancing with our hips together. I felt the heat of their breaths upon my skin and the beads of sweat on the back of their necks as I ran my hands along their spines and floated up into a kiss.

But I always dreaded what I sought most: a moment of intimacy. At that point my coach would turn back into a pumpkin and my gown would disappear in an instant.

When I was studying abroad in Leiden, Holland, during law school, I met a handsome Italian whom I’ll call Adriano. At a get-together with other students, he stared across the room at me the whole evening. I tried to ignore what was happening, to no avail. I could not sustain conversation with whomever I was talking to. After a few minutes I got up to leave; but he intercepted me. The next thing I knew, I was in a conversation with him, trying to catch the breath he was taking away.

Adriano was tall and broad-shouldered, with curly dark brown hair and clear golden brown eyes. He spoke fluent English with a slight Italian accent. He had recently decided on law as an undergraduate major. He had the opportunity to come check out the Netherlands and thought he’d take the adventure north to broaden his mind. Basically, he was perfect. Continue reading “Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, ‘Transgender Cinderella’”