Tuesday, December 16, 2008

HRC's Trans and Faith Curriculum

Thanks, but no thanks

The Human Rights Campaign's "Gender Identity and our Faith Communities" curriculum has finally been released. Can't say I'm very impressed and if you are a pastor or rabbi or considering utilizing this "congregational guide for transgender advocacy" please don't do it on my account. Understand that HRC has two ultimate goals in this endeavor. The first is to try to curry favor with the transgender community it so willingly cast aside, and thus alienated, by excluding us from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the fall of 2007. To this date, Joe Solmonese has not apologized for abandoning part of his professed constituency, but has also pledged to do it again should a non-inclusive ENDA move again in Congress. The second goal is to have you - the faith leaders - do the work they are unable or unwilling to do and that is to lobby Congress on my behalf. Thanks, but we're capable of doing that ourselves.

As to the curriculum itself, the lead editor of the project, Rev. Chris Glaser, begins with an introduction that blatantly belies HRC's past. In the introduction, Rev. Glaser writes:

"I was disappointed that “gender identity” had been dropped from the list of protected categories in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 before Congress, however temporarily. Voicing my opinion, I was met with HRC’s commitment to grassroots education in religious communities to support an ENDA that includes gender identity when it again comes up for a vote."

Talk about rewriting history! Here's what Joe Solmonese told the Detroit PrideSource in its April 2008 issue: "In that context, did I think then that it (a non-inclusive ENDA) was best for the community that the bill pass? Yes," Solmonese said. "Do I still support that position? Yeah. What was best for our community was that the bill pass rather than fail. Sometimes it is hard for people to see the whole picture, but sometimes you are faced with choices." This is a position from which he has yet to publicly disavow. Then again, this "curriculum" isn't about trans and faith, its about glossing over HRC's past.

If you don't believe my viewpoint, then consider the advice in the Planning Your Time segment that states: "Remember that the curriculum is an advocacy training manual first and foremost. Throughout the curriculum, we have guidelines about how to cut or shorten the exercises if you are running out of time. You do not, however, want to give short shrift to the third section on advocacy training!". In other words, this is about Politics and not Faith.

The whole notion behind this blog and my ministry, Chrysalis Mission, is to bring the Transgender and Faith Communities together. I simply want transgender people to find caring and accepting faith houses if they so desire, and to help faith communities understand and welcome transgender people. I have friends who feel so badly harmed, one physically, by their faith traditions that they no longer pursue any journey whatsoever. Surely for some congregations, Social Justice work is an important part of the life of their tradition. And there is much Social Justice activism to be done to benefit transgender lives, and voices of faith are needed in this endeavor. But, HRC's outreach seems most politically unctuous.

I was simultaneously disappointed to see some transgender people participate in this effort (don't they understand the depths of the damage done?) and the fact that it wasn't completely the effort of transgender people. Major parts of this curriculum uses "they/them" instead of "us/we". This should have been written in our voice, not on our behalf. That feels somewhat patronizing. Even Rev. Glaser acknowledges this: "It is no longer sufficient simply to lump the transgender experience together with the lesbian, gay and bisexual experience. The transgender experience deserves and requires its own focus.". Then why not let us define and express that focus on our own?

One other thing chafes my sensibilities and that is the lengthy essay written by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott entitled "Seven Reasons Why Congregations Should Embrace Their Transgender Members". If the title isn't long enough for you, it takes her seven full pages to present her case - a bit too much methinks. Anyway, in her essay she tries to make the case that Jesus was intersexed and a bisexual, then says the Magi weren't really Kings, but queens. This kind of pontificating isn't helpful and won't win over many of the minds or hearts of the "movable middle". Further, it attempts to define, and thusly limit, God's omnipotence. The Christian belief, and Mollenkott is Christian, is that God's power, authority and wisdom is something that we truly cannot fully comprehend. Yet she purports to do just that:

On Jesus being Intersexed: "If Matthew 1:23-25 is read literally, the virgin birth of Jesus was a birth without male input, so to speak (parthogenetic). In that case, he was chromosomally female; and according to the Gospel account, he was outwardly male. (The male appearance, science tells us, can occur through a late-term sex reversal.) So anyone who takes the virgin birth literally must acknowledge that Jesus was intersexual (a form of transgenderism) and thus a perfect incarnation of the entire sex/gender continuum."

On Jesus being Bisexual: "If we take seriously the New Testament description of Jesus’ relationships with Mary Magdalene and with the Beloved Disciple (John? Lazarus?)(John 13:25, et al.), we might conclude that Jesus was bisexually oriented."

On the Magi (though she references a book "Our Tribe" written by Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson of the Metropolitan Community Church): "the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson writes about the three Magi who brought their gifts to the baby Jesus. She comments that it is highly doubtful that they were kings, but quite possible that they were “queens” — and probably eunuchs and shamans. My guess is that they were people who today would be termed transwomen."

Mollenkott also at times, confuses male/female with masculine/feminine in describing certain traits ascribed to Jesus and other Biblical characters. Being transgender is about my identity, not my gender role - and it certainly isn't about making some kind of socio-political, or queer-feminist statement, religious or otherwise.

The final insult - and yes, I do find this curriculum to be just that - comes at the very end in which HRC very conveniently provides you with a "sign-up sheet" which asks you to have everyone who participated in your lessons to provide their name, address, phone number and e-mail. Yep, the ultimate end to this is recruitment for HRC.

You want to engage a better understanding of transgender people so that your church may become more understanding? Engage us, we aren't that hard to find really. Let us define ourselves, let us explain ourselves. If you wish to lobby Congress, do so with your own Representatives and Senators, you don't need to take a trip to Washington DC for a photo op on the HRC website. And understand there is so much more than ENDA and the Matthew Shepard Act that is important to our lives. Yes, both are desperately needed. But HRC doesn't tell you about our problems with the Real ID Act, the exclusion of medical insurance coverage, the need for Gender Identity Disorder reform (get us out of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual!!!) and the many legal black holes we fall into.

So Caveat Emptor. Sure, use this resource if you'd like (there are some positive parts to the effort), but don't do it on my behalf. I can speak for myself. And so can my transgender sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making Up the Rules

A Trans Pastor is Called

This smiling face is Rev. Jay Wilson who has special cause for joy this week as he was formally called to service at First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco this week. It is always a joy when transgender people of faith are allowed to express their talents in their denominations and their congregations. Congratulations Pastor Jay.

There are many transgender ministers who serve, so in that regard, Jay's call isn't groundbreaking. But what is important is that he has had to accept a different path to ordination and call from the traditional process of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In fact, ELCA won't ordain Jay even though they have no rules addressing transgender ministers. His call is through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an inclusive group that embraces and supports the pastoral gifts of lesbian, gay and transgender people.

In the ELM's news release, I saw this statement:

"Wilson was removed from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) candidacy process due to his status as a transgender person even though there is no official policy against transgender clergy."

Now, ELCA does not ordain lesbian or gay candidates who do not renounce their sexuality via celibacy - something that I oppose, but at least that's the rule and everyone knows it. But there is "no rule" regarding transgenders? Just how then do they deny ordination to someone who is transgender?????

I was involved in softball for nearly two decades as a coach, player and umpire. Can you imagine playing softball - or any sport for that matter - whereby the umpire could simply make up the rules as they pertain to you, and you only? Just how would you be able to fairly participate or compete? Can you imagine police officers who could simply make up the rules regarding driving a car as they pertain to you, and you only? Just how would you be able to effectively and safely drive your car? Such is the situation that Pastor Jay encountered with the ELCA. And that is all any of us, clergy and laity, faithful and secular desire, to be able to fairly participate in our careers and our communities.

Other denominations have explicitly or tacitly endorsed transgender ministers, both those who transitioned before ordination and those who did so afterward. Still, the ELCA certainly has the right to determine fitness for service, but to have no rules and then deny ordination without any Scriptural or denominational foundation is absurd. I won't even grant the ELCA any lattitude for not having considered transgender ministerial candidacies, we've been around too long now with too many other higher profile cases to plead ignorance...its more like intentional ostrichism.

I began this blog to make the case that there is no Biblical prohibition to gender transitioning and I'd like to think that I have done so persuasively. In fact, I have pointed to certain verses and passages that seem to understand and accept just who we are. And I frequently raise eyebrows when I suggest I have more respect for people like Fred Phelps, James Dobson, Peter Labarbera and the like than I do for those who claim support and betray that promise, or worse yet simply make up the rules as we go along. While I do not, and never will, respect the message offered by those divisive and spiteful detractors, they at least have integrity in their beliefs, however odious they may be.

I am unfamiliar with the polity of the ELCA, but my guess is that our status within the full life and participation of the denomination - including ordination - won't be something they will consider any time soon. Accept us, or reject us, that is your choice - but don't make up the rules on the fly. That's all any of us want.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

Why I am so Thankful

I am Thankful for two loving daughters who remain in my life, for many transgenders are alienated or prohibited from contact with their children.

I am Thankful for a wonderful spouse who has seen the best and the worst of me, for many transgenders lose their partners and face difficult challenges finding new ones.

I am Thankful for my church which has given me such amazing strength and support, for many transgenders are cast out of their churches or feel unwanted in new ones.

I am Thankful for the many friends who offered continued friendship during my transition, for many transgenders are quickly abandoned by those who profess to be their friends.

I am Thankful for the many new friends I have encountered whose smiles have nurtured my growth, for many transgenders are quickly dismissed, diminished or debased by strangers.

I am Thankful for a solid house over my head, when so many transgenders - especially our youth - have no such shelter.

I am Thankful for my economic security, since many transgenders are terminated from employment and have immense hurdles to leap to obtain adequate, new employment.

I am Thankful for my safety, as this year we added 31 names of transgender souls to those who have been murdered.

I am Thankful for my special sisters with whom there is our unique bond, for many transgenders are in isolation, without support.

I am Thankful for the many caring therapists who helped guide my journey and who helped pick me up when I fell so drastically, for many transgenders have no such counseling or encounter those who believe they can "cure" us.

I am Thankful for the allies who are steadfast in their support and advocacy, for there are those willing to exclude transgender people from full participation in the American experience.

I am Thankful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guide Us to a Place

"The Prayer"

I have been actively involved in the preparation and organization for our local Transgender Day of Remembrance gathering this coming Thursday evening. It is a deeply emotional and solemn task to undertake. As I write, there are now 30 names to remember for this past year. Most murdered simply because that they were different.

This past Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy the fellowship of a Unitarian/Universalist church and had the privilege of addressing the congregation about the violence that transgender people experience - murder only being the at the top of those who trangress against us.

At the service, they read the List of Names and for each I could recall the stories of their tragedies. Angie Zapata - killed for being an "it". Kellie Tellesford - her murder was acquitted using the trans-panic defense. Patrick Murphy and Stacy Brown - two transwomen in two different cities both shot in the head on the same night of violence. Sanesha Stewart - repeatedly stabbed by an attacker who gave police a "trans-panic" excuse. And for all the names, tears for each.

I began to recall a very lovely song, the music composed by Carol Bayer Sager and David Foster with lyrics in English and Italian by Guido Morra. Several versions have been performed, one notably by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, but my favorite is done by Charlotte Church and Josh Groban.

I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we'll be Safe.

I pray we'll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we'll be Safe.

We ask that Life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Just like every child

Needs to find a place
Guide us with your Grace
Give us Faith so we'll be Safe.

I find this song to be incredibly appropriate to the purpose of Transgender Day of Remembrance, especially as it engages my faith journey. Yes, we seek your grace to find a place that's Safe. For these 30 lost souls, there was no Safe.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do I Dare Hope?

What lies ahead?

I will admit listening to President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech and getting a little tearful. It was moving, powerful and optimistic. He stayed true to his overarching message of Hope, and a hope that for many in the transgender community had all but flickered out. I will also admit that I did not vote for him - or any presidential candidate this year - as I have adopted the philosophy that I will not support "promise" only "deed". To that end, I did not find where he had acted on our behalf - with the only exception of the inclusive Matthew Shepard Act.

His stated belief of one man/one woman for marriage - while supporting a "separate but equal" process for gays and lesbians - gave me pause. Just as his reasoning behind that position citing his Faith. This is not a commentary about his former paster, Rev. Jeremiah Wright as I understood and appreciated the fiery minister's declaration of "God Damn America". But his church was not Open and Affirming - the United Church of Christ's formal declaration of embracing LGB and T souls in the congregation. Indeed, Rev. Wright held some views that could be termed homophobic. I've yet to encounter the homophobe who miraculously embraced transgenders.

So I offer up this message to the pending President. You said "Yes We Can". Will you? Yes, we do have Hopes. Our hope is for passage of the Matthew Shepard Act so that we may be safer in our lives. Our hope is for passage of an inclusive ENDA so that we may provide for ourselves and our families. Our hope is for abandonment of the Read I.D. Act so that we may maintain full citizenship rights in this Land of the Free. Our hope is for proper medical insurance coverage and mental health reform so that we may obtain affordable, appropriate physical and emotional care. Our hope is for a leader and a government that honors our dignity, respects our authenticity and desires our talents.

Sorry to say, I won't be holding my breath. First, there are many Democrats still around from the early, heady days of the Clinton presidency. Shortly after assuming office, the Clinton administration, with a Democratically controlled House and Senate, obligingly embarked on a number of liberally minded intiatives - some with some success and some with utter disastrous results. Remember "Hillary's Health Care Plan"? In two short years, the GOP overwhelmed the balance in Congress and we have been paying for that ever since. Until today. It would be politically appropriate for President Obama and the new Congress to adopt a "go slow" approach for some issues. But one of those issues is likely to be Our Hopes.

Second, election results in California, Colorado, Florida, Arizona and some local fights, show that LGB and T issues may still be a bit politically toxic to touch. Thus, there is an additional reason to, perhaps push Our Hopes to the back burner for awhile. And I fully expect the bulk of LGB issues to predominate whatever efforts that are undertaken - specifically the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (thank you Mr. Clinton!) and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (again, thanks Bill). After the ENDA betrayal in 2007, you think Our Hopes will even remain on the back burner - or, once again, get shoved under the bus?

I will remain hopeful, for a loss of hope leads to despair. But I will be realistic in my expectations as well, for hope that is betrayed is even worse. The next step will be action, not the offer of more "hope". Yes you can...now Do.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Transgender Gene?

Science or Hokum?

The transworld is all a dither about a report in Biological Psychiatry that suggests there is a "transgender gene" that has been identified. Some suggest this "validates" our experience, others worry about tests that could prove harmful. Me? I'm just gonna be a wet blanket. Not only am I not all that excited about it...in fact I'm quite skeptical.

First, they report finding only that the gene variation (regarding a gene string thought to have impact as an androgen receptor) is noted more often in MtF's than the control group. So some/many MtF's did NOT have this genetic string and some/few of the control group did. I'm no geneticist, but I did a pretty good job in logic in college. Some is not all and neither is many. So if there are some who do not have the gene variation (which some reports have labeled a "defect" - another reason not to trust these reports) then one cannot claim this is THE cause. At best, it may be ONE cause. Or it just may be total bupkus.

Also, in reading the report it referenced the AR gene structure in how it *might* relate to "masculinity" and/or "femininity". Those are sociologically constructed
gender roles, NOT personal identity factors. Many of us are/were very "masculine", just like many gay males are quite "masculine" and many lesbian women are "feminine". So once again, behavior is confused with status.

I first read about this via the BBC website - which you can find here:


That page will also link you to an "authoritative" study from 2000 by Professor Richard Green of Imperial College in London who said that MtF's had certain traits in common - lefthandedness, late birth order and an abundance of maternal aunts. Of course, I'm right handed, first born and had no maternal aunts.

And I recall an article in the
San Francisco Chronicle about Dr. V.S. Ramachandran's theory of a "phantom pain" connection and his rather egotistic declaration ""Those who study transsexuality tend to be territorial because they themselves have made so little progress. There is no literature that illuminates the underlying mechanisms, other than psychological mumbo jumbo. And then someone comes striding in and spends two weeks solving the riddle. It must be infuriating." I don't think so, but I'll give him props for "psychological mumbo jumbo"!

As someone who offers what I believe to be a rather credible presentation on transgender understanding, I come across a lot of these studies and research efforts. Some may have merit, most probably don't. Ours is an existence that lends itself to a lot of "pseudoscience" either by those trying to make a name for themselves or by those like Focus on the Family that have a clear agenda to support. In fact, I recently gave a presentation to a local college class. One of the student's memos that were forwarded on to me was from someone not terribly supportive, which is okay by me. What is not okay was his belief this was due to a sexual trauma earlier in my life....'cuz that's what he'd heard. So here is someone who'd rather believe the phony myths because it neatly fits his biases, rather than attempt to understand the real science as we can best discern it.

Its hard enough to recognize true scientific discovery and breakthrough when we are constantly bombarded with stories such as this. In fact the headlines cite "transgender gene found!", when even in the article the authors suggest this may only be a connection. Thus we can't even trust the scientific journalism involved, let alone the authenticity of the scientists themselves. Is it really that important to find the "cause"? Isn't our collective existence and experience sufficient? Listen to us and you will learn. Those who don't want to listen are the ones bound and determined to deny our journeys by finding some "cause".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mike to Christine to Mike

The Re-Transition of Mike Penner

Word is spreading today that Los Angeles Times Sports Columnist Christine Daniels is transitioning back to her former life as Mike Penner. Mike/Christine made a huge public splash with an "outing" column published in the Times back on April 26th of last year. Everything written then spoke directly to the common journey experienced by so many others over so many years. There was nothing hinting of something amiss. But clearly, something is amiss. Just what that "something" is will be the subject of speculation until Mike/Christine (and I feel absolutely frustrated that I must list the name is such fashion) speaks directly.

Magnanimous me. Charitably I will suggest, as I do underscore in seminars I present, that this is Mike's journey, not mine, nor that of the trans community at large. Our gender identity struggles have no one-size-fits-all destiny. For some like me, full transition with surgery is where my journey has led to my peace. Others transition, but have no surgery - for them that is not that important. Some continue to fashion their own personal peace by living a dual life. The journey is the individual's. For that, I will offer my best to Mike.

Clinical me. I know little of Mike/Christine's early journey. Who was the therapist involved? I won't necessarily criticize the therapeutic skill or care of the counselor (was there one at all?) for they must proceed as the patient presents their story. This isn't an exact science, it is possible that appropriate care was provided, that there was something within Mike/Christine that wasn't brought out or kept hidden. We are very good about hiding ourselves. But in looking at others who have expressed severe regrets or "gone back", most of the time there was either incompetant therapeutic service or none at all. Still, it is reported that there is about a four percent "regret rate" among us...is Mike/Christine in that slim demographic?

Economic me. Perhaps these challenging economic days are bringing an emotional stress all its own. The Times has endured many layoffs over the past few years. A new spartan ownership, a dwindling readership and advertising base and the current crisis may have initiated a controlling fear that he might be better served in his employment if he "returned". Employment is a major hurdle for many of us. If laid off, who would hire a transgender sports columnist? My guess would be that if his position is on the chopping block, this move won't stave off the pink slip.

Cynical me. Was this all a ruse? Nora Vincent wrote a somewhat successful book, "Self Made Man", about her living as a man for a year or so - although it's interesting that the paperback version listed on Amazon subtitles the book "One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man" and the hardcover edition says "One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back". Is it possible that Mike is going to write some kind of similar "autobiography"? The trans community adoringly absorbed Christine into the sisterhood and provided access to the top transgender leaders in the country. And we are talking about a very gifted writer.

Angry me. Mike/Christine has had every advantage that so many of us never enjoyed. Just yesterday I completed preparing the list of names for our local Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial next month. With a month remaining, there are 23 names. And so many were involved in sex work - so marginalized in their lives that this was likely their only legitimate option to economically survive. Dear Mike/Christine, this isn't a "whim". You were so darned certain with that initial column - were your doubts present then?

Jaded me. Christine became the "celebrity du jour" in the trans community. Without so much as a blink of a mascara-ed eyelash, we fawned all over her. Same thing happened with Susan Stanton. Susan, it turned out, harbored some of her own transphobic sentiments. After making hay with the Human Rights Campaign (she was introduced at the HRC's presidential "debate"), Stanton's star faded rapidly thereafter with her comments. She's argued that she was misunderstood, but the egg on HRC's face - if not hers - was most evident. Did we, the trans community, adopt another "star" much too quickly? Some of us, myself included, get our so-called fifteen minutes of fame - but does that make us any "better" than those transpeople whose transitions were in the margins or the shadows?

In the end, I'll return to the first point. This is not about me, but about Mike/Christine. But I worry not only about what lies ahead for Mike, but also for the transgender community at large.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Divided Within

Why Can't We Be Friends?

I wrote in an earlier entry, "Our Ugly Truth", about how the transgender "community" has an unfortunate tendency to divide and stratify itself - post-ops are higher than pre-ops, pre-ops higher than non-ops, all "T's" above all "CD's" (cross-dressers) and everyone higher than the transvestites. Now I've encountered yet another way we divide ourselves - the transwomen vs. the transmen.

I recently became aware of a local Yahoo e-mail group for FtM's in the Kansas City area. There is one for MtF's as well, which I joined prior to coming here, but later withdrew when there got to be too much division created by various participants. Now, as someone who has provided well over a hundred talks and presentations about Gender Identity locally, I do my best to address this from both the male-to-female experience and the female-to-male. Clearly, it is much easier for me to reference the MtF part more easily since that has been my own personal journey. I sought to enlist in the local FtM group to not only learn a bit more about their journey, but become more knowledgeable about local resources - support groups, therapists, physicians, etc.

To join a Yahoo group you access their home page and, if it is a private group - and this one is - you fill out the application box with a short blurb as to why you'd like to join. A few days later the group's owner sent me an email asking for a more in-depth explanation, which I provided even though I thought it a bit odd as I had clearly identified myself as MtF and as an advocate in the initial application. According to the owner, my application had caused a bit of a stir and debate. This was noticeable in the increase in messages for the month - which is visible on the group homepage.

Another week passes by with no further communication so I sent a note to the owner to withdraw my application. His response was that maybe I could send the FtM community information (which was also part of my reason to join) through someone else who is a member. It was yet another week before I finally got the "application denied" note from him. So I'm left to wonder why. Was it because I'm a transwoman? Was it because of something about me personally? Their homepage clearly states that "SOFFA's" are welcome. That's Significant Others (those in our committed relationships), Family, Friends and Allies. I do have local FtM friends and I am definitely an Ally. So, why?

An enduring principle, first cited by Aesop nearly six centuries before Christ, is "United we stand, divided we fall". Heck it's even the lyrics to a well-known song sung by Brotherhood of Man in the early 70's - "For United we stand, divided we fall. And if our backs should ever against the wall, we'll be together, together, you and I". It's about solidarity, it's about unity, it's about community. And yet, once again, I have to say their is no "community" within the transgender world. Amazing, isn't it? We who are so deeply marginalized by society - and even by some who are gay and lesbian - can't stand together in defense or support of ourselves.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

National Coming Out Day

Taking the Leap of Faith

Today is National Coming Out Day, a time when people who have been closeted are encouraged to come into the light of life, to be open, honest and authentic unto themselves. I often talk about the fact that for transgenders, there is no "choice" about coming out - only a question of "when". For our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, coming out is a matter of sharing something deeply personal - but they look the same the next day. Not so for us. Our whole lives are radically and dramatically changed. We become a physical reminder every day of our status.

And so I would ask for your special prayers for the transgenders who come Out today - and any day. The world is slowly becoming a better place for us. As more and more transwomen and transmen come out, become more visible, more and more people find role models and encouragement in making their Leap. Laws are slowly changing as well, but they continue to spread. Currently close to 40% of the population is now covered by anti-discrimination laws at the state, county or city level. And Diane Schroer last month won her federal discrimination suit against the Library of Congress, thus paving the way for transpeople to seek judicial relief on the basis of sex discrimination.

Though written for gays and lesbians, here are some prayers for those coming out, their families and their friends. Authors Leanne Tigert and Timothy Brown, in their book 'Coming Out Young and Faithful' offer these three prayers:

Prayer for Coming Out

Creator God, I am learning things all the time.
It is a gift to get to know you and your world, your beautiful creations.
I am also getting to know myself,
and I am discovering I am attracted to members of my gender - other girls (or boys). Sometimes the things I feel are strong and deep.
Sometimes it even feels like love.
Sometimes I feel scared about these feelings.
Sometimes I feel wonderful about them.
I know that I am your creation,
and you have given me a wonderful gift in my orientation.
I pray for your supporting presence as I become more comfortable with my feelings.
I pray for your guidance,
that I may know when it is the right time
for me to let other people know about this part of me.
I pray for your supporting presence if I should be rejected,
knowing that you, God who created me, will not reject me,
that you will affirm me as part of your beautiful creation.
In your trust. Amen.

Parent's Prayer

God you are the creator of the universe.
You created all that is.
You made the animals, and the fish and the birds,
you created humanity.
You created me
and you created the miracle that is my child, whom I love deeply.
I/We have just learned that s/he is gay.
I/We don't know why you created her/him this way
Help me/us not only to accept him/her
but to fully embrace and love him/her for who he/she is
I/We ask for your presence during my/our own journey with my/our daughter/son.
I/We also ask for your presence
and special protection with my/our child on her/his journey in this world,
which can sometimes be so cruel,
especially to one so different.
I/We ask your blessing on my/our family.

A Friend's Prayer

Loving Spirit and Friend,
my friend (name) is coming out as gay.
I ask for you to be present with my friend,
to help him/her know that s/he is loved - by me, by you, and by others.
Guide my friend as s/he comes to terms with his/her identity.
Protect her/him from the cruel things people may say or do;
surround him/her with support and with your love.

I have recently had the mothers of two transpeople contact me. One is the parent of a transwoman in her early 20's, the other of a transman still in his late teens. Both express more concern from society's antipathy and bigotry about us and how that may affect their children than the fact they're having to learn to accept their "new" child. I hope each has learned a bit more about the journey and that transpeople can and do lead healthy, productive lives. Continuing to hide, continuing the charade, continuing to bow to society's pressures is what causes destruction of the soul. Be well, be open, I hope you long bask in the light of Life.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Why I Won't Vote

For either Obama or McCain

Well, let's just face it, there's no way I could support John McCain. While once a distinct possibility in 2000, McCain has rapidly deteriorated into a toady of the fundamentalists and neo-con conservatives. Remember when he called Falwell and Robertson, et. al. the "Agents of Intolerance"? Of course, he lost that election so now he fawns for their support. He has since provided the Commencement address at Liberty University, aggressively sought the endorsements of John Hagee and Rod Parsley (who both almost make Falwell and Robertson seem "normal") and then selects as his running mate, someone who's home church recently staged a so-called "Love Won Out" (i.e. pray the gay away 'ex-gay', reparative therapy) event. No, the GOP is completely off my list.

So what of Obama-Biden? Nope. One of the stories coming out of the much ballyhooed - but in all honesty very disappointing - Vice Presidential debate in St. Louis was they completely agree on denying lesbians and gays marriage equity. As I've written before, marriage isn't a big issue for transgenders as we can marry either gender - it only depends upon in which state the marriage is held. Still, marriage equity for all would clear up a lot of gray areas and confusion on the part of transgenders and the law about our legal relationships.

When asked if he supported marriage equity, "Say it ain't so, Joe" replied, "No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage." Obama himself said he would consider the notion of "civil unions", but not "marriage" arguing that his faith guided his belief that "marriage" is one man/one woman only. Nevermind that his faith, under the United Church of Christ, holds no top down dogma - so his "faith" is basically his own - and that the UCC is actually the only mainstream, Protestant denomination to support marriage equity.

Biden hails from Delaware, a state with no employment protections for LGB or T people and no inclusion of Gender Identity in the state's hate crimes laws. Do you think if the widely popular Biden were to throw his weight behind our issues that perhaps his small state might be a bit more supportive? In truth, Biden has generally voted in support of LGB or T issues when brought to the floor of Congress, but he has been no real advocate for those issues either.

Obama was very quick last fall to declare his support for a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), then come spring started offering up the "but it might take a little longer" for the T-part mantra. Care to guess where he might have come up with that "incrementalist" notion?

And Obama has recently developed a hemming and hawing approach to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) saying he wouldn't do so "on his own". That's not leadership, that's prepping honorably serving gays, lesbians and transgenders for a sell out down the road. Count on it. People thought DADT was the big win when Bill Clinton went halfway in clearing the path for LGB or T people to serve openly and honestly in the military. How wrong was that support? Once burned, twice shy.

Also disturbing is Obama's continued outreach to very conservative faith leaders, one of whom is stumping for him in California while simultaneously supporting Proposition 8, which is the effort to overturn the state's Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for marriage equity. While Catholic legal scholar Douglas Kmiec has been denied Communion for his support of Obama - who supports reproductive rights and choice for women - which is spiritual violence at him, the fact remains that Kmiec also supported Mitt Romney until his poorly defined candidacy collapsed. Kmiec is to be part of Obama's "Faith and Values" tour. Let us not forget that Obama earlier used Donnie McClurkin, a self-proclaimed "ex-gay" minister and gospel singer in the primary campaign in South Carolina.

I truly hope that Obama does win the election and not just for the historical context. But I can no longer support someone based on promises or hope or simply being the lesser of two choices. I spent nearly 50 years of my life living "second best" and I refuse to accept that premise any longer. I will support, eagerly support, those that support me. Is it a "litmus test"? Sure, but if I don't stand firm about transgender issues, the others don't really matter much. Clear that hurdle - act, not promise, for transgender equality - and then I'll consider the other issues important to the nation. Neither candidate, nor their running mates, have done so and thus I will sit on the sidelines of this election.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Solemn Duty

Transgender Day of Remembrance

I am honored to be involved in the planning of my local Transgender Day of Remembrance gathering. The memorial, planned for the traditional date of November 20th, is to remember those transgender souls who were murdered within the past year. Some 400 names have been read since the inception of TDOR in 1999, this year the list is at 14 names. Especially troubling this year is the number of young people killed simply for being who they are.

I am pleased that my church has agreed to host this year's ceremony, the church also serves as host to a transgender support group's monthly meeting. We plan to include Kansas City Councilmember Beth Gottstein, who earlier this year fostered transgender inclusion into the city's anti-discrimination laws. The bill passed unanimously and there hasn't been a whiff of the stink that has occurred in Colorado, Montgomery County, Gainesville or Hamtramck.

We will also be honored to have the involvement of the youth of our community. Last winter members of local Gay/Straight Alliances through GLSEN organized a memorial specifically for Larry King, the 15 year old shot in a classroom of his middle school by a 14 year old classmate. The violence and hatred has now defiled our educational institutions.

One of our own died in 2006. Kaseem Juanda was found dead at a rest stop along I-29 just north of the Iowa/Missouri border. After a lengthy - actually too lengthy in my opinion - investigation and lab assessment (does it really take nearly a year for ballistics results?) - her death was ruled a suicide. I'm in no position to quibble with their determination, but there were enough unanswered questions that its probably fair to suggest we may never know the circumstances of her death. She will be remembered - a candle will remain lit for her. Kaseem worked for years in the Denver area, active in her union, sometimes organizing the annual picnic. Following her retirement, she came to Kansas City to find and be herself.

The hatred that is allowed to exist in our culture, in fact nurtured by many of our churches, has got to end. It doesn't matter whether you consider my life to be a "sin" or not. The anger, the rancor is heard by more than just those in your pews - those that, I presume you just know would never harm someone else. But we continue to be killed. Jesus killed no one. Follow that lead.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Down.....

"Activist" Judges?

It always happens. Someone, usually the neo-con right, loses a court decision and immediately the declaration arises from the loudest lungs "activist judges". The are "legislating" from the bench. So today, my turn with "activist" judges and specifically one who is finally retiring. Her name is Kay McFarland, Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.

An article today in the Kansas City Star says the search for her replacement is now underway. By rule, the most senior judge of the court becomes the Chief Justice, so that will now be Robert E. Davis - another "activist". In fact, they are all "activist" judges. Losing one is but a drop in the bucket.

Fortunately, Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who issued an order declaring that all state agencies must not discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Her order also mandated diversity training, I'm not sure that's been carried out. The process requires the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission to provide the governor with three nominations from which she is to make the selection. Not up on Kansas politics, I am not familiar with any of these names. Still, given the general political climate of Kansas, they could very well offer Larry, Moe and Curly versions of ultra-conservative jurists. I won't even contemplate the notion they might suggest Phill Kline, the rabidly anti-choice former Attorney General.

Now just why did I label these esteemed jurists "activists"? Because of their unanimous decision in the case of the Estate of Gardiner. J'Noel Gardiner, a professor at Park University, married Marshall Gardiner who passed away a month shy of their first anniversary. His children, not knowing J'Noel, hired an investigator who uncovered J'Noel was born male. They sued to keep her from inheriting Marshall's estate. Now you know this wouldn't have been important if it had been a measly account, but the estate was valued at around $2.5 million dollars.

The Kansas Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Donald Allegrucci (another "activist" judge), declared that for the purpose of marriage, J'Noel was still "male" - though they did acknowledge her transitioning journey - and thus could not marry another male. Thus they nullified her marriage and with that the inheritance. This was the only way they could "get the tranny".

You see, other parts of Kansas law, does allow post-surgical transgender people to correct their legal birth certificate (I don't know where J'Noel was born). And another part of Kansas law makes it much easier for transgenders to obtain driver's licenses in their correct gender than it is on my side of State Line Road in Missouri (only post-ops qualify). So Kansas will legally recognize gender change....except for marriage. Nifty piece of judicial tap dancing there, eh?

So in Kansas, I can only marry a woman - which is fine by me, but not for all. I don't know what "proof" Kansas requires for gender designation for a marriage license, but this would mean they couldn't validly accept their own birth certificates, or any of the other 46 states who permit changed birth certificates. How would I then "prove" my gender to them should I ever decide to be married in Kansas?

Left tantalizingly dangling in this decision was the question of what would have happened if the tables were turned? What if the bulk of the estate's value was J'Noel's and that she, not Marshall, had died first? What if her heirs had made the challenge? Would they have decided to "get the tranny" by validating her marriage, denying her heirs or children their inheritance? Ah, yes, the Sanctity of Marriage - unless you don't agree with someone's particular case.

Christy Lee Littleton ran into the same "activist" judges in Texas when they nullified her marriage as she was bringing suit for wrongful death in the case of her husband due to medical malpractice. To "get the tranny" they essentially had to write the same "opinion". Imagine her walking into a county clerk's office trying to convince them she's a "man" so that she could marry another woman!

As a result, marriage for transgender people - unlike our gay and lesbian friends - is not a problem! It only depends on where you get married, not to whom. And yet that is why the marriage issue in California is important to transgenders, to help us clarify the legal landscape since many of us are living in a legal blackhole regarding our relationships. It is also why it is extremely bad policy and practice to split the T from LGB/T in our political battles. If the L's and the G's cast us aside in a common need like employment, how could we ever count on their support for things specific to us?

Until I see a willingness on the part of the entire LGB/T political world to unite and stand united, I will remain outside - no lobbying, no advocating, no voting. Oh yeah, was "Brown v. Board of Education" decided by "activist" judges? That came out of none other than Topeka, the state Capital of Kansas.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Knight(mare) in Shining (Rusted) Armor

With Friends Like Barney...

...who needs Republicans? Looks like Rep. Barney Frank still wants to kick me out of his little club. The gay blog, Towleroad, interviewed the Ol' Barn at the Democratic National Convention, to which he declared:

"If we pick up 15 or 20 Democrats, most of them will be supportive. But I am disappointed in the transgender community. They seem to think that if Nancy Pelosi and myself, George Miller and a few others waved a magic wand we could deliver it. Look, this past year in the legislatures of Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, efforts to add transgender protections...were defeated. And I testified for it in Massachusetts and lobbied for it. And as a political problem out there, I wish there weren't, but pretending that something doesn't exist is never a good way to deal with it. I am afraid that too many people in the transgender community think that talking to me and Nancy Pelosi is the way to do it. I don't yet see enough grassroots lobbying on their part.

"I do think that the hearing that we had — and by the way, we had a hearing in the House over the objections of many of the transgender leadership. But I really doubt their political wisdom...Because they said it was part of our deal to separate it from ENDA and they wanted to not have anything separate. We did a good job in that hearing and we helped persuade some people. So we're making progress. We'd make even more progress if the transgender community was willing to do the hard political work. And not, frankly, think they can just talk a few leaders into handing this to them."

Wow....could he have been just SLIGHTLY less demeaning? Could he have said just SOMETHING inclusive or encouraging? Dear Barney, I ask you....I beg you....please stop talking "for" me. You don't. In 2004, many believe the election of George Bush was made possible by the tactic of Karl Rove to develop "wedge issues", one of which was gay marriage. The mantra God, Guns and Gays was affixed to the effort. Who needs Rove in 2008, we've got Barney!

Who else has done more to divide the LGB and T "community" than Barney? Who else has done more to lend authority for those of the LGB part to express their own transphobia and tran-hatred. I've read the blogs. Its horrible. Never in the history of advocacy groups or organizations has a bloc expressly divided its constituency as Frank and the Human Rights Campaign did with the ENDA vote last fall. A vote that was doomed to failure anyway. And they just keep at it.

Let's see...Barney suggests that us transfolk are some Dickensian waif pleading for his gracious benevolence in rescuing our poor lives from such horrific existences. Pish. I've done just fine without ya Barn. Let's see...Barney suggests that us transfolk are so politically naive that we'd be lucky to find the appropriate restroom (trans joke intended here!) in the Capitol. Pish. Here's a political reality for ya Barn...I'm done with politics and supporting spineless self-aggrandizers who'd push their own mother off the bus if they felt it meant political capital for them. Let's see...Barney suggests that us transfolk were against (!?!) the recent Congressional hearing. Pish. The biggest complaint was that you kept moving the date (four times?) so that us naive, waiflike transfolk couldn't come in support or to simply watch our history unfold. OUR history, Barn, not yours. Besides, in all honesty Barn, we both know that Congressional hearings are often just sop offered to a fellow member. Make one wonder what favor Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chair of the subcommittee was repaying.

HRC's own website says as far back as 2002 that they were advocating and educating Congress about transgender issues. So now you say that transfolk didn't do their job? What has HRC been doing then all this time? Nevermind, I already know the answer - the proof was in that vote. The one where they said 30...no wait it was 48...Democrats were too jelly-legged to stand up for an inclusive measure.

If Barney would stop trying to "represent" me, I'll be happy to stop my commentary. But until then, my support for his party has evaporated, my voice for issues that are important to LGB people but not the T people is silent. Obama? Forget it. I'll watch history be made, but I won't be a party to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Amazing Three Years

Welcome to My Church!

The phone rang last night a bit after 8:30. It was Nancy from church. That usually means only one thing since she coordinates who participates as an usher or communion aide for our weekly services. It just had to be another one of "those" messages - not from Nancy though, but from someone a bit higher up.

You see this weekend is the anniversary of when I felt called to attend church for the first time in four decades - maybe my entire life for that matter. My mother had passed away earlier in the week and I had been barred from attending her service by my father. To this day, I still don't know why I felt so compelled, but I am thankful that just two days prior to my mother's passing, I had met two wonderful souls from this church, Country Club Congregational UCC, who wanted to learn more about what it meant to be transgender. The United Church of Christ has the expression "Extravagant Welcome". That day, I began to experience "Extravagant Welcome", even though I was looking for solace not a Home.

While I had made certain plans to attend service this week - admittedly my attendance has been a bit spotty over the summer - I was also planning on doing so "quietly". Perhaps I would even sit in the balcony, where there is usually just a smattering of members, thus providing a bit more space to be in solitude. I thought it would be best for me to be more to myself, in reflection of these past three years and in remembrance of my mother. There is a point in our service for quiet prayer and reflection. Sometimes I shed a tear or two, and sometimes not. I know I shall shed more than just a couple of tears this weekend for sure.

Yes, it has been an Amazing Three Years. And at the very core of all the good that has occurred is the loving people of this little white stucco church nestled among the tall, leafy trees. I wrote earlier of all the activities in which I have participated at church. I'm sure there are those in the congregation - probably nearly all - who think its no big deal that I have participated in so many ways, but for me it is truly the most affirming expression they could offer to their first transgender member. That innate ability to embrace has provided me a basis of strength from which all else that I have been able to accomplish as Donna in just three "short", amazing years has sprung.

In all things regarding participating in the life of my congregation, I reference the sermon from Rev. Sue Thorne on that very first day, "Pay Attention to the Signs God Puts Before You". So you see, this wasn't just a call from Nancy that I answered last night...it had to be another one of those Signs. And so I am not destined to sit in solitude this weekend. I was extravagantly welcomed three years ago this weekend. It is thus my call to serve as head usher this Sunday, to extend that same extravagant welcome I received three years ago to those who enter the front door. I said "yes" to Nancy, but I know who was really calling.

Perhaps I will be honored with welcoming a person just like me three years ago, entering an unknown space in search of finding Home.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Courage, or the Lack of

An example of what it is and an example of what it is not

Whatever your belief structure you've discerned from Scripture, I think there is one lesson upon which we can all - Conservative or Liberal, Catholic or Protestant - agree regarding the ministry of Jesus. He was the epitome of Courage. He preached a message that was in direct opposition to the keepers of religion of that time. And did so knowing such "heresy" would cause his life to be taken by these same keepers of "truth".

This week, I've found two stories - one that demonstrates the lack of courage found so often in today's religious leaders (and you can reference the entry about Archbishop Rowan Williams about that as well). The other provides hope that there are people of the cloth willing to stand for their principles and let happen whatever consequences ensue.

A story from the Sydney Morning Herald [click on link to read] from Australia reported on the effort of a Baptist minister Mike Hercock who called upon his fellow clergy of all denominations to sign a pledge apologize for the way the Christian church has treated gays and lesbians (and presumably us transfolk as well). The "100 Revs" were then asked to march at the Sydney Pride event. And it was then that the cold feet went frigid. Pastor Hercock reports receiving many calls from those wanting to withdraw from the march and the pledge. Some were honest - they'd received threats from parishioners and/or hierarchy jeopardizing, at the very least, their calls and ordinations. Some were dishonest cited some mythical "conflict of dates" excuse. Pastor Hercock is to be commended for his courage. The cowards are the ones who ran and hid. Those who have the "heart" but not the "backbone" are, to me, lower than those who have the integrity to be open about their hate.

The picture you see is that of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who attended and offered an homily at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska. For many denominations, ordaining a woman is quite welcome. Fr. Bourgeois and Priest Sevre-Duszynska are Roman Catholics. Fr. Bourgeois found the sexism in his church to be untenable - "I feel this is something I had to do in conscience in the context of my own faith journey. I feel very much at peace with it". He is the first male priest to attend the ordination of a woman priest. He knew their would likely be repercussions and he has been called on the carpet by his religious superiors to "explain himself". How often was Jesus called before the Pharisees to "explain himself"?

Again, my admiration for Fr. Bourgeois isn't so much his support for ordaining women - which is something I do support, but each faith has its own right to establish those standards - as it is his willingness to stand for his principle in the face of expected retribution. Indeed, it is quite likely he will be defrocked. Jimmy Creech, now of Faith in America, lost his ordination by performing a same-sex commitment ceremony - and he, too, knew his principle might end his career.

My censure for those who cowered in the face of adversity isn't based so much on my support for my gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters in faith, but by the lack of courage they displayed in abandoning their principle.

Prayers for Fr. Bourgeois and Thanks to Pastor Hercock - you are shining examples of the Courage of Jesus.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Anglicans (expectedly) Waffle

I am no expert on the polity of the Anglican Communion, only that the Archbishop of Canterbury - currently Rowan Williams - is considered the head of the denomination even though he has formal authority to unilaterally rule or dictate. He is considered "primus inter pares" or First Among Equals - which frankly is an odd concept for most to understand, myself included.

Like many Christian denominations, the Anglican Communion - of which The Episcopal Church in the United States is a part - is "discerning" the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and, ostensibly transgender (although most of the time we're not mentioned in these discussions - except wrongfully included in "sexual orientation") people. The Anglicans are further chagrined by the presence of an openly gay bishop, V. Eugene Robinson, amongst their midst.

So strident are the voices of condemnation that Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, disinvited Bishop Robinson to the once-every-ten-years Lambeth Conference - a conclave in which the world's Anglican bishops discuss things. Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, also disinvited a couple of the more visible homophobic prelates, mostly Peter Akinola of Africa and Martin Minns of the United States. Several of their "brethren" joined them in not attending Lambeth - a huge snub to Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, and the Anglican "communion".

Rather than knuckle down and get to the issue - at least this one - at hand Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams offered no "agenda", no "votes", no real plan to facilitate discernment amongst the bishops. Without that basis established, there could really be no way to adequate address any substantive issue. It recalls the character Linda Richman, played by Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live, who was a cable TV talk show hostess who rarely had a topic, but would get "verklempt" in the middle of everything and suggest the audience "talk amongst yourself" giving them a topic completely inane and off kilter.

As Lambeth concludes, Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, has called for a moratorium on installing, or consecrating, any additional openly gay bishops arguing they need "space for study and free discussion without pressure" to deliberate same-sex relationships. He's gone further in asking that the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church in Canada stop offering prayers, blessings and ceremonies for same-sex unions suggesting that a lack of acceptance of this moratorium by them places the Communion in "grave peril".

It seems to me that Lambeth, under strong leadership, would have been the perfect place to bring all parties together and require them to engage in discussion and discernment. Perhaps, the Archbishop doesn't have that kind of authority - but my sense is if he can "disinvite" certain bishops he can also "require" their presence as well.

All this to suggest that within the majority of our Protestant denominations there is no real "leadership" among the "leaders", only a passive hand on the helm hoping that the ship won't founder on their watch. As Lambeth happens only every ten years, its fair to suggest that Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, will have successfully passed the buck onto his successor while the flames continue to smolder, even rage, for the next decade. Unfortunately for him, he has grossly miscalculated the intensity of emotions that will certainly boil over before that next ten years have elapsed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Ministry of Sheila

Lessons Lived

We had to put her to rest last week. Medication had severely damaged her kidneys. She had not eaten for two weeks, hadn't held any food down for nearly three. I held her head in my hand, gently caressing her, as it quietly dropped into permanent peace.

The beginning of her life was filled with abuse and neglect. We never knew her actual age, the shelter which saved her estimated between five and nine. At the very least she'd spent five years in the company of people who either didn't care....or worse. This was a soul that had every reason to be wary - even vengeful - of humans. And she wasn't anything of the sort.

The day we visited the shelter, she was in the first kennel to our right. We were there to visit a couple of other dogs - she seemed too old. Yet she quickly came to the front of her run, seemingly smiling to see us. My wife bent down to give her a quick pet through the chainlink to say "Hi". We moved on to the other pens, one other border collie we wanted to see was horribly aloof and hyperactive at the same time. Probably not a good choice for us. The rhodesian ridgeback, was courteous enough, but seemed disinterested in us the second we left. And as we moved about, there was Sheila, still at the front of her pen, still watching us with a glint of hope in her eyes and that seeming smile still there.

So we went back to her. The note on her pen door indicated she might be younger than what the website had listed. That gave us a little more thought about her. But it was those eyes, that smile, that melted away any concerns about her age. We took her to the back area for a little play. She would run between us - though she had a bit of a labored gait to her. She responded to our calls, she was eager to engage us both. And so it was that we finally realized that it was she who was adopting us, not we who were adopting her.

She was painfully shy that first day at home. She wouldn't enter a new room unless I entered first and called her in as if to give her permission. Just what was her life like before? Most dogs are eager to scour and sniff every corner of every room in a new surrounding. Sheila acted as if ultimate doom would ensue by just being in the house, let alone exploring it. Then it was another hour before she would venture to the main floor of our split level home. Was upstairs even more of a taboo?

Baths were a challenge. She was so spooked of the bathroom that she wouldn't even enter the room. She could get within a whisker of touching the lineoleum or tile without actually making contact. We had to chase her around the house, pick her up and plop her into the tub just for a bath. But with care she learned to love baths, she would come running as soon as I would start the water in the tub. A rather remarkable change, based in her faith in us to do her no harm.

And that is the point of this entry, Sheila's faith...her ministry. The first time my wife laid down on the floor with her and gently petted her, Sheila would ever so delicately touch her paw onto my wife's nose to encourage more caresses. A dog has claws that can tear flesh, yet she was so careful as to not cause a scratch let alone a gash. Why didn't she feel anger toward humans? Why didn't she feel fear from humans? I'd like to think that she had innately the soul we all profess to have as Christians. She was at ease, willing to engage, even embrace her tormentors, she was indeed a messenger of Peace. She lived by example, if only we could all do the same.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pretty Pathetic If You Ask Me

The Internecine Tranny Wars

The cancerous division caused by the betrayal of trangenders in the ENDA vote last fall continues to spread. Only the cancer is eating our own more and more each day.

Clearly the Human Righ*s Campaign's decision to back a non-inclusive ENDA was the catalyst for a lot of transphobia within the LGB part of the LGB/T community to come to the fore. Some of the most egregious things written about transgenders were from some of the LGB blogs and publication editorials. HRC's maneuver gave authenticity to others to also cast the transgenders overboard. So it is no surprise the hurt and anger continues to fester for many transgenders. The next question though is "What now?".

For some, it is baying at the moon, calling for boycotts, challenging everything that is touched - nay, tainted - by the long reach of the HRC. For some, it is trying to figure out how best to re-engage HRC into a better acceptance and advocacy of our lives.

But for the past week or so, the transblogosphere has been engaged in a terrible maelstrom of who is "right" who is "wrong" who is a "sellout" who is "real" who is "wimpy" and the like. Unfortunately the commentary hasn't always been polite, sometimes involving profanity and needless personal attacks. And it has involved many noteworthy transgender leaders - Donna Rose, Monica Helms, Marti Abernathy, Vanessa Edwards Foster among the more prominent. All are transgender people of note, of character and of achievement. For each there is must esteem sincerely earned for their endeavors to improve the condition of transpeople.

In a way, all of them are right - yet each has made their own contribution to the nastiness, the divisiveness and the rancor. Its embarrassing to read and is certainly discouraging to local people simply trying to do their best for the sisters and brothers in their communities. If the "big" people can't get along, why should us "little" people dare to try to get involved. And I've seen that happen.

Yes, HRC is to be fairly taken to task for abandoning part of its avowed constituency. As a former Union steward and negotiation team member, I know the importance of staying together, of not providing for the "many" if a few - or even one - is left out. As a former coach of girl's fastpitch softball, I steadfastly held to the notion that winning and losing was a team result. The hero that hits the winning home run in the final inning only got there because of the work of her teammates. The player who drops the fly ball allowing the winning run to score and beat us was put into that position by the collective effort of the team to that point. I feel I speak with honesty and integrity about sticking together.

But much like the terrorists of the World Trade Centers in 2001, we are letting HRC's betrayal have a lingering and more deleterious effect on our community than their initial stab in the back could have ever done by itself, after all let's face, ENDA still isn't law now is it? Post 9-11 we have lost privacies and freedoms and protections all in the name of "security". We've lost our moral compass allowing our government to invade countries not involved in the heinous attack and allowed that government to torture people in our name. And we've done so - at least in the collective majority - willingly.

Let us as the transgender community not delve into that same fear and willingness to abandon our principles and civility only because someone else did it to us first.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Gathering in New Orleans

Many Stories, One Voice

It was three years ago this past week that my wife and I arrived in Kansas City, she anxious to begin a new, exciting job, me having jettisoned a lifelong career in radio broadcasting for something I knew not what - but somehow sensed the move would be good for me as well. Who knew????

As we arrived, there were a lot of things on our To Do List - the most pressing was finding permanent housing after not one, but two offers had to be withdrawn due to poor inspections. Not on the list, not even as a footnote after the bottom, was locating a suitable church. I wrote earlier, I was not religiously engaged and had no plans to seek any spiritual home.

What an amazing journey it has been and now comes a trip to New Orleans after the Labor Day weekend to attend "Many Stories, One Voice" a broad, ecumenical LGBT faith gathering organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Institute for Welcoming Resources along with many co-sponsoring organization. And a special "pre-event" called "For Such a Time as This" has been organized for Transgender and Faith that will feature: Rev. Erin Swenson who tranisitioned in 1996 as an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA); Dr. Julie Nemecek who was fired by Spring Arbor University, a "Christian" college, when she tranisitioned in 2006; and Chris Paige, the founder of TransFaithOnline among others. I am excited at the chance to meet all three of them.

The main gathering will be keynoted by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu - what an honor it will be to hear him speak. The list of leaders and presenters is incredible, perhaps even too much - like a grand buffet in which everything looks wonderful, but you just don't have enough time or tummy to experience everything. But I'll try. High on my list will be the closing worship led by Bishop Yvette Flunder, the guiding light of City of Refuge Ministries in San Francisco which gave hope and a home to the Transcendence Gospel Choir.

The hotel reservations at a special rate are available through Monday, July 28th. If you decide to attend, I hope to meet you!