Archive for Matter

Anne Lamott, Bigotry and Pee-Pees

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Dear Anne,

Your name has been a sacred one in this house full of writers, with our dog-eared copies of Bird By Bird, Stitches and Traveling Mercies. So it pained me more than many when the transphobic tweet blowing up my Twitter feed this morning was yours. Your response to the hurt and anger produced by your comment on Caitlyn Jenner;”Will call HIM a SHE when the pee-pee is gone”, was to suggest that œwe can agree to disagree. But that’s bullshit.

You don’t get to agree to disagree about someone else’s experience, or negate their existence and NOT be called out for that bigotry.

Perhaps you’™re embarrassed to admit that you are ignorant about transgender people. Maybe you honestly don’™t understand that the dig at Catlyn Jenner is a slap in the face to every single person for whom gender is complicated. Especially those who look up to you. Or looked.

I want to believe that your heart was in the right place but you just didn’t know. Because I don’t want someone to have to think of this ugly incident and your snide misgendering when they read this:

“You need to apologize to your grandmother.”

“Is she going to apologize for being a bigot?”

“Probably not, kiddo.”

She rolls onto her back and shoves her hair out of her face with both hands. “Grandma Jo doesn’t think you can be gay or transgender and a Christian at the same time.”

“Yeah, well she doesn’t think you can be a Christian and a Democrat either. But what one person thinks doesn’t change what’s true. Even if it is your Grandmother.”

I sit on the edge of the bed and start untying her shoelaces like I did when she was little. She lets me, flexing her feet and wiggling her toes when I pull her shoes off.

I say, “Anne Lamott says that ‘You know you created God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do.’ I shared that quote with your Grandma once, and she thought it was great. Maybe one day she’ll realize that her picking and choosing what God disapproves of is the same thing, but we’re never going to win that battle by fighting with her.”

Alice shoves my hands with her feet, and I tickle the bottoms of them until she squeals and pulls them away.

“She loves you,” I say.

“But she doesn’t like me.”

“Of course she does. You just challenge people’s assumptions about things they think they’ve already got sorted out, and that’s terrifying.”

(excerpt from The Complicated Geography of Alice)

I SO hope that you didn’t fully understand how your jokes wound women who will never have access to necessary healthcare, children who hope that one day their bodies will align with their inner selves and the parents, partners and loved ones of those people who fight such ignorance and cruelty every day. Because then, we can fix this. You can take the time to learn about the lives of trans people and perhaps even teach others to be more open and accepting.

The truth is, Annie; I’ve learned so much from you over the years and through your books. But maybe it’s time for you to listen and learn. It’™s okay to make mistakes, as long as we correct them.

sadly,

Jules Vilmur (aka laurastina)

 

Grief – Six Years Out

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For six years now, the arrival February fills me with dread as the anniversary Ashlie’s death approaches. Each season I’ve tried a different method of coping, none of them particularly effective, but still, I keep trying. This year, J. and I are heading to Capitola just south of Santa Cruz on the Monterey Bay.

Reporting back from the other side of monumental loss, I don’t have any great wisdom or grand pronouncements. Grief is ever-present. I have learned to live with it; little by little, making room for other things.

I wish there was more.

Maybe this year I’ll unlock some mystery but for now, I’m just hoping to make it through.

“Fix society, please”

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For two days now, I’ve been preoccupied with Leelah Alcorn. Her death and wrenching suicide note have broken open the carefully contained well of grief I carry. As the bereaved mother of a transgender child, that shouldn’t be surprising. Last night, I scrolled through her tumblr page and much like Ashlie-Alice’s MySpace page, I could see the sadness and anger, but also sweetness and humor – just an ordinary extraordinary child.

For two days now I have watched people put this collective grief into action, spreading Leelah’s story, starting petitions, creating memorials and suggesting legislation. Others have lashed out directly at her family, an action I can’t condone. It is easy to single out Leelah parents, to heap scorn upon them in the midst of an unfathomable grief. But the truth is, our energy is better put into educating those who would act in the same manner, heed the same advices and drive another child to acts of desperation.

We MUST educate, not just LGBT allies but the general public, teachers, parents, religious leaders, social workers and counselors. At the very least, we need to say the following over and over, loud enough that they cannot NOT hear:

+  Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not the same thing. At all.

+  Trans kids are at greater risk than their peers for bullying, depression, drug use, physical and sexual assault, self-harm and suicide.

+  Spiritual counsel and mental health care are NOT interchangeable. Subjecting a child with gender issues to therapy with unqualified counselors can do irreparable harm.

+  Medical interventions like anti-androgens (acting as a chemical pause-button for puberty) and/or hormone therapy can greatly increase a trans child’s chances at a happy/healthy adult life.

+  Resources are available. You (parent or child) don’t have to do this alone.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.  Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.”

Leelah’s words should ring in our ears a long while – until we have done the work she called for.

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(from the atchives – 2011) The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1998 in response to the murder of Rita Hester but for the last several years it has brought another woman to my mind.She is greatly missed and though I did not know her well, I knew enough to understand what manner of loss had befallen us all when she was taken.

We are in the office kitchen. She has arrived in tall shoes, with pink ribbons twined in her hair. We are forever trading nods and pleasantries, this beautiful girl and I. Still, I’m not even sure that she knows my name. I know a few of hers. The one she uses on good days, the kind of days you wake and wind ribbons in your hair, and the one she uses on bad days, when the mean reds hit and it takes all the strength you have to clutch a pillow in one hand and a telephone in the other. “Tell him it’s Pumpkin.” she’d whisper into the receiver.

And I suppose she wouldn’t mind me telling you this now. What she’d mind, I suspect, is that there were no fireworks when she went, no moments of silence, no flags at half mast. We were nothing to one another, Pumpkin and I. Little more than nods and smiles, phone calls transfered and a “hey you, how goes it?” in the stairwell. Still I couldn’t help but see in her what I have so often seen in myself, that ability to dress up sorrow with bravery. Put together and put on. She did it better but I’ve done it longer. That’s all. So if you see her, tell her that there were fireworks and more moments of silence than she could have expected. It’s the god-awful truth.

When Ashlie died, one of the phone calls I made was to her teacher, a former Army drill sergeant who manages to teach the students that no other teacher in town can manage. When I told him that Ash was gone, his first thought was that there was violence involved. To say that she died “by her own hand” is little consolation we agreed, but in light of the statistical alternatives, it is somehow a blessing.

Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo and Rita Hester are not anomalies. Nor are they the norm. But every year, on this day, Remembering Our Dead is one way to fight the bigotry and lack of understanding which results in the kinds of brutality that no one should ever face. On this day and every day, educating yourself and those around you, refusing to engage in the casual, “soft” bigotries of our current culture (Ann Coulter’s adam’s apple jokes, lazy sitcom man-in-a-dress plotlines, Chaz Bono gawking)   and instead establishing your position as an ally can go a long way to changing public perception and ultimately, saving lives.  Like THIS

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This is an open letter to the transphobic group Privacy for All Students which has been working overtime to repeal California’s new law protecting transgender kids in the schools:

I get it. You’re trying to protect your children from a perceived threat. Some of you are even willing to file false reports of transgender kids doing the things you imagine they’d want to do so you can get the ball rolling. I’ve lied to protect my child. I understand the urge. But the reality is that your children aren’t the ones in danger.

Our transgender children are routinely harassed, humiliated and violently violated by sweet little darlings like yours. Our transgender children are singled out, attacked and shunned by those good little boys and girls you’re raising to be ignorant, hateful and terrified of anything they don’t understand.

Your misplaced indignation and transphobic rhetoric is a real and present danger to our transgender children and your obsession with peeking over stalls honestly freaks us out to the point that we wish we could keep YOU out of the restrooms our children use. Quite honestly, you are the reason a law like this needed to exist in the first place.

Our transgender children deserve the right to use the restroom in which they feel safest, because they are subjected on a daily basis to small-minded, cold-hearted, bigoted little bastards like the ones you’re raising to be just like you.

sincerely,

one pissed off trans-parent