Knock Knock – Originally published in March of 2018

“Knock Knock”

“Who’s There?”

“Opportunity”

It’s been quite a while since my last column here. It’s not that I haven’t thought of things to write about, it’s been more like there is too much to write about! 

There has been a dizzying array of distractions going on in Washington, many of which effect my people, transgender Americans. What with Ben Carson withdrawing training materials on how to accommodate transgender people in homeless shelters because we might make someone “uncomfortable.” 

Trump has doubled down on his ban of Transgender people serving in the military – with every bit of his rationale being dictated not by science, reason, or the wishes of the Pentagon – no, this was almost word for word taken from the agenda of the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council – genuine hate groups with an agenda. It was bigotry on display. 

I could write volumes about those and a dozen other issues – but after watching Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” and listening, I mean really listening to these amazing, eloquent, beautiful kids sharing their stories, demanding change and calling bullshit on MY generation, it felt like a wake up call and I hope we don’t over-sleep. 

I thought my generation, the Baby Boomers, held so much promise. Some of us went on to do great things, but the wholesale change that we had hoped for has been slow. Boomers have occupied the White House for the past 28 years and many in this country believe we’ve had our chance. 

Make no mistake, change is coming. Listening to these kids, I like what I hear. What I didn’t hear was partisanship; Democrats vs Republicans. What I did hear was: “Fix it!” Not surprisingly, students are sick and tired of being afraid in their classrooms. Schools are a place of learning and shouldn’t be remembered as bloody reminders of mass murder. 

Imagine having a millennial president and congress – Millennials, are less alarmed by immigration by a 5 to 2 margin. They say that immigrants, in particular Asians and Latinos, “strengthen society” rather than “threaten” its customs and values. 

Millennials support marriage equality and legal pot at a greater rate than Boomers. They favor a bigger government providing more services and are less likely to claim a religious affiliation. For Boomers, we may talk diversity but millennials embody it. Not all of their views line up with either Republicans or Democrats. 

However, this is where opportunity lies – the issue right now is one we can all agree on, students shouldn’t be terrified to go to school because some nut with a semi auto rifle will bust in and start shooting. But we DON’T all agree. 

In a statement demonstrating extreme ignorance, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum suggested students would be better served by taking CPR classes. I won’t even waste the ink responding to that kind of stupidity and insensitivity.  The NRA is still arguing against ANY kind of gun control, modifications of equipment or closing gun show loopholes. 

If these millions of kids who will be of voting age in 2018 and 2020, (and the oldest of the millennials will be eligible to run for president in 2024) all get out and vote, the likely party to benefit from this are the Democrats. 

If you are a Democrat, that’s great news, right? Maybe. These kids aren’t idiots. They also aren’t going to sit around and wait, nor are they going to listen to excuses. If you can’t get the job done, they will call you out and vote you out. 

Democrats may have an opportunity here, but it’s not one where reclaiming the Senate or House is a mandate for the same old business as usual – you may have just one shot at it. 

Let’s make sure you are up for the challenge and get it right. If you are running for office (or are in office) and you weren’t at one of the marches around the country – where were you? March if you want – but listen to what’s being said and who is saying it. 

This doesn’t sound the same as what we’ve heard before. This time it’s different. Don’t mistake their peaceful demeanor for passivity. Don’t dismiss their youth for naiveté.  This generation will call Bullshit. 

This country has a gun problem. It has a mental health problem. No amount of CPR classes or active shooter drills are going to make it go away. If we do nothing – I promise you – it will happen again. We must start the conversation and treat the lives of our children as though they are important. Where are our priorities?

I hope these kids vote. I hope the people they vote for actually listen to them; if those elected to do the job fail to act, they may not get a second chance. 

#NeverAgain

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 2nd Street Bridge

Robert Fortune was a Scottish botanist, best known for stealing tea plants from China on behalf of the British East India Company. He died on April 13th 1880. More on Mr. Fortune in a little bit. 

The sound of cars driving over expansion joints in a bridge – the distinctive, almost train like, “clack clack” sound as the cars pass overhead takes me instantly back to some of my favorite childhood memories. 

It was the Summer of 1971 and ‘72 I was a Sea Scout – the Sea Scout Base is still in the same place today, under the 2nd Street bridge near “Mother’s Beach” (Though it wasn’t called that back then) in Long Beach, California. 

The training I received in the Sea Scouts served me well. I learned knot- tying, sailing, water rescue, how to empty a swamped canoe in deep water and climb back into it plus a whole lot more. Growing up just a couple of miles from the Pacific Ocean, that was all handy stuff. 

What I remember most was just how carefree I felt then. The summer air was cool under the bridge, I was always barefoot and having sand under my feet was as familiar and comfortable to me as breathing. The water of Alamitos Bay was salt water as it was affected by the tides from the Pacific. It was also what people in the South would call “cold” (Mid 50’s to mid 60’s) – but I didn’t know any different so to me, that’s just what water felt like, and I wanted to be in it or sailing on it. 

Some of my most powerful memories of my early teen years are from my time spent under and around that bridge. Walking barefoot through the boat yard carried the coolness of the salt air and breeze from the water. The smell of fiberglass resin and lubricants for marine equipment. There was a small speaker that played music, from the latest bands like The Carpenters, America, or Crosby, Stills and Nash. 

And the sound of the cars driving over the bridge above, “Clack-Clack” “Clack-Clack” in the background. 

One of the first thing we had to do in the Sea Scouts was prove we could swim. So on day one, first thing in the morning we had to run out into the calm waters of the bay and swim 400 yards down to what is now known as “Mother’s Beach.” 

At the far end of the bay, to the north, was Marine Stadium. I used to watch the drag boats there. Boats with names like “Mr Ed” or “Panic Mouse” the guys who drove these incredible machines were my early heroes. 

Another boat that captured my imagination was the Robert Fortune. It was a work boat. Maybe 35-40 feet long with an open bed like a pickup truck. The name “Robert Fortune” stenciled across the transom. 

I never saw it going more than about 3 to 5 mph. It was taking guys and equipment out to the Oil Islands off the coast of Long Beach. I recall seeing this boat leave and then return later in the day. I don’t know why the name stuck, but it did. Maybe just seeing it so often burned it into my memory. 

The Long Beach oil islands were drilling platforms in Long Beach harbor, they were disguised to look like buildings with Palm Trees and attractive lighting. They were pretty, but the facade hid the oil drilling equipment. The islands also had names; Grissom, White, and Chaffee. Named for the astronauts who perished in the Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad. 

I guess there are a lot of reasons why this time in my life was so special – mostly though, it was a place where there weren’t any distractions. My body was beginning to do things that were the last thing I wanted and here was a place I could just be me, the Ocean doesn’t judge. Nobody was walking around glued to a cell phone, they didn’t exist. It was just sailing, swimming and learning about how to use the wind to your advantage and also what to do when things went wrong. 

Using headwinds to help you get where you want to go became a valuable metaphorical lesson for dealing with the headwinds to come in the years ahead. 

I miss those days. But whenever I step foot on a beach and feel the sand wrap around my toes, whenever I hear the sound of cars going over a bridge, especially the echoey sounds heard from underneath the bridge or when the air is cool and the breeze is light – I get to go back there – to a simpler time, if only for a minute. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Mother’s Bowl

Unless you’ve known me for a very long time, you probably don’t know my mom. She passed away in 1992 at the age of 72. I miss her terribly.

Think of the ideal moms you see in sit-coms- that was her. She was the real deal.

My brother and I grew up near the beach and we went there a lot. The water in the ocean in Southern California was chilly and I remember her always having a warm dry towel ready for me as I ran up on the sand where she’d set up camp. She had sandwiches, soft drinks and sodas for hungry kids who had been swimming in the surf.

My parents were married 20 years before they had kids. They had owned a restaurant in Lake Arrowhead for 11 years before moving “down the hill” and settling in Long Beach. I think that partially accounts for the way my parents loved us – because we were so wanted. They waited a long time to have kids.

My friends adored my parents and our house was always at the top of the list when my friends wanted to go somewhere because “your parents are so cool.” Part of that was because my mom still had a little of the restaurant in her and for my friends, she was a short order cook. Cheeseburgers were always a hit – they were so good, the best ever.

My parents also both baked. My mom would make Toll House cookies and my dad was the pie maker. They both passed recipes down to me and I remember them by heart. No recipe card needed.

I cherish the memory of them. One way I keep them alive is through recreating the yummy treats they would make us. This weekend, those memories were thick as I spoiled my partner, Katie on her birthday, with all sorts of yummy baked goods. Banana bread and Oatmeal Raisin cookies and home made chocolate pie along with smoking ribs on the Big Green Egg.

Each recipe usually starts out with mixing the butter and sugar together in a bowl, adding in the eggs one at a time, then vanilla and so on. To me, the one constant is – “The Bowl.”

IMG_5006

It’s an ordinary bowl, made of glazed clay. It’s green and over 50 years old. I have no idea where she bought it or how long she had it – this bowl has just been a constant.

It would sell for 50 cents at a garage sale but I wouldn’t part with it for any amount of money. That bowl is a connection to her. She held that bowl in her hands and mixed up everything from meatloaf to cookie dough.

It’s a miracle that this bowl has survived for as long as it has. One drop and it’s over. But it has survived countless dishwasher cycles, hand washing by kids who could be careless at times (my brother and me) and it has made it through over 20 moves to new homes. It’s survived them all and waits in the cupboard for the next treat to be mixed in it.

Today it was Katie’s favorite – Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

IMG_5008

It’s just the perfect bowl for these things.

I hope one day to pass this cherished part of my childhood – and one of the few things that has been with me for my entire life – on to my daughters in the hope that they, too can create yummy treats for their children.

It really is a miracle that this bowl has survived as long as it has, what wth buttery hands and hot stoves, small kids, dogs underfoot, tile floors and moves.

It’s a simple green bowl – a mundane part of fairly unremarkable lives but oh, the stories it could tell.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

If Dogs Could Talk

This past fall, my partner, Katie, fulfilled a promise she made a couple of years ago when we lived in a townhouse. She said, one day, we are going to have a house together – with a yard, and we are going to get you a Border Collie.

She knows I love the breed…I love all dogs, but Border Collies are special to me. Breezy is the 3rd Border Collie who has stolen my heart. He is 100% adorable, smart as a whip and wants nothing more than to be with you every minute. Sometimes that can be, if not annoying – kind of crowded.

This morning as he woke me at 6:30am as he always does by standing on his hind legs and putting his front paws on the bed next to me and then nuzzling my hand, I had a thought and it brought me to the verge of tears.

Breezy is young – he’s one year old today, yet he’s full grown. 38 pounds of love and energy. Young yes, but that’s 7% of his expected life span.

So as his paws perched on the edge of my bed sniffing my hand this morning, I thought about what he might be saying besides “Mom, please let me out, I gotta go pee.”

If Breezy was aware of his own mortality (like we are) I thought he might be saying:

“Moms, I love you so much! Thank you for giving me such a nice place to live with my own bed and kitties to play with. Thank you for bringing me toys home for me to chew on and play with! I love playing Frisbee with you and it makes me want to jump even higher when you cheer my catches.

You might wonder why I follow you everywhere you go…even when you go to the bathroom…it’s because for me, time is so precious. I don’t have long to live. 14 years goes by in a flash and I don’t want to miss one second that I could be spending with you…loving you, getting petted on, groomed or just sitting near wherever you are.

You are my world.

Katie and I both adore Breezy and he does so many things that are so adorable, you just want to wrap him up and hug him. He is a spoiled dog, no doubt. But he returns the favor 1000 fold every day. When I come home from work he’s a one dog ticker tape parade.

You can tell his sense of smell is very important to Breezy. Not only can he smell bacon a mile away, he sniffs whatever I’m wearing every day. Sometimes it’s kind of annoying when he presses his wet nose against a freshly pressed dress. Or when he wants to sniff my clothes when I take them off…or when he takes those deep inhales against my neck when I hug him when I get home. He has to give each of us a good sniffing every day and I sometimes feel bad when I tell him to knock it off because for some reason it seems really important to him.

If dogs could talk, I’d want to ask them so much. Like how is it that dogs are the only animal that loves humans more than they love themselves? Dogs bring you their most prized possessions without a thought – sure, sometimes those possessions are covered with spit, but they are precious none the less.

I’d ask Breezy what he thinks about when he lays patiently nearby when I take a 2 hour nap.

Mostly though, I’d ask him what the deal is with sniffing everything I put on, sniffing my hair, my neck, my hands…and if he could talk he’d tell me:

“Mommy, the reason I sniff you is because if anything happens to you, momma Katie or me and I have to wait for you at the Rainbow Bridge…I want to memorize your scent so that I know it’s you.

My life is short and time is so precious – I want to get all the loving in that I can.

Happy Birthday Breezy. I hope we have many many more of them together.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not About Protecting Children – Here’s Proof:

The now tired argument from Republican members of various state legislators, right wing Christian nut jobs and internet trolls is that Transgender women should be banned from using the ladies room – to protect women, and children.

The hypocrisy if this claim is so easily exposed, a child could do it. As a matter of fact, one did.

Speaking to legislators in South Carolina, 17-year-old Dex Sexton, who is transgender, asked why men who are known to have molested young boys are allowed to continue using the men’s bathroom but a transgender man would not be allowed under the proposed law.

As you might imagine, Dex is still waiting for an answer.

I’ll take the liberty of providing one here: “Because, Dex, it’s never been about protecting women or children or anyone else. It’s simply about oppressing a group of people that don’t have money or voting clout and that are different. People they don’t understand. In the interest of full disclosure, they are still feeling the sting of Obergefell and since they lost on marriage equality, they are going to take it out on you. I hope that answers your question.”

The truth is, if these legislators really were concerned about the wellbeing of women and children – it would seem to me it would make sense to examine things that are harming them now.

According to ABC News, in 2009 a whopping 7,391 children under the age of 20 were hospitalized as a result of gunshot wounds. Interesting, most all of the Republicans who voted in favor of HB2 also voted against tighter restrictions on handguns.

The rationale often given for voting against strengthening gun laws is that criminals don’t obey laws – you are just punishing honest people.

OK, so why doesn’t the same apply to these draconian and mean spirited bathroom laws? You are punishing a group of people who has NEVER harmed a woman or child in a bathroom when the fact remains that there are already laws on the books in every state that forbid bathroom misconduct. Which is it? See the hypocrisy?

According to the American Bar Association, an estimated 1.3 Million women are assaulted every year by their domestic partner. What are you doing to protect them? They sure as hell aren’t being bothered by Trans women trying to pee. Matter of fact, Trans women have a lot in common with them, we are also assaulted at an alarming rate.

No less an authority than the Vatican admits that 3,400 children were molested by Catholic Priests. The number of children molested in bathrooms by Trans Women still stands at zero. Nada.

So…are there over 100 pieces of active legislation seeking to bar priests or convicted child molesters from public bathrooms?

Nope. Not a single one that I’m aware of.

Yet there are over 100 bigoted, hate-inspired bills making their way through various state legislatures that seek to make it difficult, dangerous or impossible for Transgender people to leave their homes for more than a couple of hours because using a public restroom while away from home will either pose a severe safety threat or will be just plain illegal.

If someone is so concerned about the health and welfare of children, wouldn’t you think they would act in a way that supports this claim? After all, actions speak louder than any placard or slick 30 second ad – no matter how misleading and untruthful.

This isn’t about men in the women’s room. That really just doesn’t happen. It’s not about protecting anyone. It’s pure bigotry and hate wrapped up in snazzy slogans, but it’s a new day. We are seeing through the charade and the price of hatred is going up.

As one North Carolina legislator said: “We are hemorrhaging jobs.” Yes you are, and you are chasing business, tourists and employers away from your state. Entertainers are cancelling shows and conventions are heading to more welcoming environments.

Now the stupid is turned up a notch – Tracy Murphree, the GOP candidate for Denton County sheriff, posted on Facebook that he’d beat the hell out of a transgender person who tried to piss in a bathroom where Murphree’s daughter was peeing. Yes, and if you do, you will go to jail where you belong. Where does this silliness end?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lives In The Balance

One of the major issues Transgender people face is access to healthcare. Time and again I hear the stories of doctors who are disrespectful or flat out decline to treat a patient because they are Transgender.

There are plenty of insurance nightmares – I’ve personally been denied coverage back in the day because “men don’t take estrogen.”

On the somewhat humorous side was a Trans woman who was being treated in a hospital post transition when years before, she had been there pre-transition. When she was admitted, her wristband reflected her former name and when she asked that it be corrected, she was told that it couldn’t be done.

Try as she may, whoever she asked refused to change the name on her hospital wristband to her correct and legal name. Since the name was attached to her Social Security Number from her previous visit…there was nothing they could do…right? Until our patient learned to “speak the language of the hospital” when she pointed to the offending wristband and told a doctor; “HE doesn’t have health insurance…SHE does.

The wristband was changed.

Just a few months ago a Trans guy in North Texas had his I.D. and gender marker changed and when he went for top surgery, doctors discovered a form of breast cancer that was both life-threatening and also found almost exclusively in women. Since he was a guy, he would not be covered. Really? Was it going to become necessary to change his gender back to female just to get life saving care? Fortunately, common sense eventually prevailed and after an appeal the insurance company approved treatment.

This has to stop.

People wonder why Transgender people don’t trust doctors or others entrusted with our medical care…the reasons are many and there is a lot of work yet to do to in order to gain our trust.

Some amazing strides are being made by hospitals here in North Texas like Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and U.T. SouthWestern Medical Center. Dr. Roberto de la Cruz is making a difference at Parkland in treating Transgender people with dignity and care.

But let’s never forget how bad it can get.

It was 20 years ago today – August 7th, 1995 – It was a Monday when Tyra Hunter was on her way to work as a hairdresser in the Washington D.C. area. She was a passenger in a car which was involved in an accident at the corner of 50th and C street.

Tyra had been transitioned since the age of 14 – she was now 24. Witnesses to the accident pulled Tyra and the driver of the car from the smoking wreckage when fire department paramedics arrived to render aid.

The male firefighter treating Tyra cut open her pants leg and discovered she had male genitalia. It was at this point that the firefighter later identified as Adrian Williams backed off from Tyra who was semi-conscious, in pain and gasping for breath. One witness recalled Williams as saying: “This bitch ain’t no girl…it’s a N*****, he’s got a dick.”

In spite of bystanders pleas to treat Tyra, Williams refused. Instead he joked with other firefighters as Tyra lay in the street…her life ebbing.

Critical minutes ticked away as the firefighters tried to “one-up” each other with snappy one-liners. (Graphic language that I will not include here.)

Eventually, an EMS supervisor arrived and resumed treatment. Tyra was rushed to DC General Hospital.

The horror of this incident continued as Tyra Hunter was refused care by a doctor at DC General Hospital and at 5:20pm on August 7th, 1995, Tyra Hunter died of blunt force trauma…but mostly from neglect.

Over 2,000 people attended her funeral on August 12th.

On December 11th of 1998, a jury awarded Tyra’s mother, Margie Hunter, $2.9 million in damages. The suit alleged that the D.C. Fire Department personnel called to the scene of Tyra’s accident made derogatory comments about Tyra’s personal appearance and withdrew emergency medical treatment. Additionally, Margie Hunter alleged that Tyra suffered from neglect at D.C. General Hospital contributing to her death.

Experts at trial testified that had Tyra received proper care at either stage of treatment, she had an 86% chance of surviving the accident.

Adding further insult, the case was later settled for $1.75 million and none of the firefighters at the scene were disciplined – matter of fact, Adrian Williams was later promoted.

Today, in D.C. the Tyra Hunter Drop-In-Center is named for her and the sensitivity training given to DC fire personnel is named in her honor.

I share this with you in the hopes that it is never repeated. Tyra Hunter was an innocent victim of Transphobia – it’s time that medical schools include Transgender healthcare as part of their curriculum so that we are not a mystery…or a curiosity…or worse, the butt of jokes.

Let us never forget.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Quiet Victory

I haven’t posted here in a while -for various reasons. I am now in a place where I feel comfortable resuming this blog – there is so much to share. I read all of your comments and cherish them. (I even value those who may disagree because I learn from them.) Thanks in advance for reading…

Onward….

In a recent TED Talk, Transgender Model Geena Rocero referred to her driver’s license with the corrected name and gender not as a license to drive – but a license to live!

I’m continually surprised by the number of people who aren’t even aware that your driver’s license identifies you with the gender binary – either “M” or “F”; perhaps because those folks have never had to suffer the indignity of being challenged when trying to use a bathroom or changing room when buying clothes.

They have never had to spend anywhere from several hundred to maybe several thousand dollars to have their gender marker changed.

Texas isn’t exactly a friendly place for Transgender people. We face opposition at every turn; in fact this past legislative session, four bills were sent to committee that would have criminalized bathroom usage and created a slew of unintended consequences.

Richard Pena and Debbie Riddle authored those bills using fear as reasons why Transgender people should be unfairly punished. Thankfully, those bills failed. The truth is, that in the 200 or so municipalities or school districts where laws respecting the rights of Transgender people using the restrooms with which they identify, there have been no significant increases in public safety issues. Frankly, it’s a non-issue.

It’s more critical now than ever before that our I.D. match who we are and how we present.

I will never forget the day I received my court order legally changing my name to Leslie and my gender to Female. I cried in the judges chamber and thanked the judge for changing my life. It’s THAT big a deal.

Recently a renegade bureaucrat at the Texas DPS became a one-woman crusade against name and gender changes. The DPS began requiring paperwork they were not legally entitled to; asking for a copy of the name and gender petition when she was sent a fingerprint card in order to do a background check. She began asking for surgeons letters. (Neither of which are required)

Nothing that indicated a gender marker change was being processed.

The majority of name and gender marker changes in Dallas County are done through one local attorney; Katie Sprinkle. (Full disclosure, she is also my partner who I love dearly)

Katie knew she had the law on her side. She hit the books and pulled up statutes pertaining to background checks, name changes and what was required to be sent to DPS. The brief was 10 pages of compelling and unambiguous evidence that the employee at the DPS was over-stepping. (To put it politely.)

Katie presented this brief to Presiding Civil Judge Craig Smith and he agreed – even going so far as to call the DPS and speak with the renegade employee and her supervisors, telling them to knock it off.

The other 12 civil court judges in Dallas County were all in agreement.

This is huge! It affects more than just the petitions of those Transgender residents of Dallas County, but everywhere there are judges that will sign gender correction orders.

You won’t likely hear about this anywhere else. It was done quietly, with dignity, behind the scenes.

Recently, there has been an epidemic of Texas functionaries from County Clerks to our Attorney General threatening to thumb their collective noses at the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution – so it comes as little surprise that the laws of Texas can be considered by some at the DPS as mere suggestions.

I’m so proud of Katie. She doesn’t go around tooting her own horn, but she has been a tireless advocate for the Transgender community in North Texas. She founded a legal clinic at The Resource Center serving members of GEAR and has done pro-bono work or reduced fee services of all kinds for the Transgender community. She even makes her name and gender paperwork available to do-it-yourselfers at no charge.

She and I joined others from Resource Center a couple of weeks ago in speaking to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas and sharing the challenges of the Transgender community. Katie also works in cooperation with Equality Texas and Lambda Legal. She puts herself out there. She truly cares.

So here’s a big giant thank you to Katie Sprinkle and the judges in Dallas County who realize just how important it is to have the simple dignity of identification that matches who we are.

It’s our license to live – it’s good to know there are people out there to help make sure that license doesn’t expire.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 12 Comments