24 January 2015

What We Couldn't Share

By now, you've read of Leelah Alcorn's suicide--whether from me, another blogger, the media or some other source.

The pain she expressed in her blog--which was deleted at the request of her mother--is all too familiar.  The tragedy is, of course, that she was so young and couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.  But what angered me, and many other people, is the way her family, especially her mother, denied who and what she was in death as they did during her life.

As terrible and familiar as her story is, there are many other trans people who've killed themselves, not because their families and friends wouldn't accept them, but because they couldn't "come out", sometimes even to themselves.

Calie returned from a long absence from blogging to relate such a story about someone she knows:  "He was a good boy and had become a good man." 

So why did Calie use male pronouns in referring to her now-departed friend?  Well, the person in question never revealed her gender identity to anyone--not even to her family or to Calie--in life.  Only the note she so carefully left behind (It wasn't spattered with her blood) told of the conflict and pain he was ending with the bullet in his head.

But one thing makes this story even worse than any other I've heard before:  The young person who committed suicide was the child of a transgender parent.  A macho-guy father, to be exact.  Of course, you know why he was such a macho guy:  the same reason I trained as hard as I did for so many years, or why other would-be trans women become cops and soldiers or get involved in any number of other "manly" undertakings.

Of course, a day may come when he realizes he can't keep up the facade anymore.  Then, he will have two choices:  transition or die.  I am not exaggerating:  I had such a moment thirteen years ago.  I knew I could lose my life as I knew it and I had absolutely no idea of what could be in store for me were I to transition.  But I also knew that I would not live for very much longer if I didn't transition.  

I had that moment at age 43.  I don't know how old Calie's friend or his (I'm using the male pronoun in the same way Calie used it) father were and are.  I suspect the father is close to the age I was when I had my moment of truth.  If he is, I don't know how he's gone on for as long as he has.  I don't know how I lived as long as I did with my conflict.  When I came out to my mother, she said the same thing.

And now, again, I'm remembering Corey.  I spent what would be the last night of his life with him.  We were both in our mid-20s at the time; when he called me, I knew he was in a very bad way.  Even though we were good friends, I didn't know what I could possibly offer him that someone else could have.  But he insisted that he simply had to talk to me.

You might say that night is the one thing for which I haven't forgiven myself, and probably never will.  Of course, at that time, I wasn't "out" to anybody, including myself.  But he wasn't waiting for me to come out:  He just knew.

From what Callie says, her friend never knew that his father is trans.  Corey knew I am, just as he was.  I didn't know how to acknowledge, much less do anything, about it.  Or perhaps I was just too much of a coward.  Whatever the explanation, I think of what Corey and I could have shared with each other, and how he might be alive--as a she, of course--and I might have spared myself decades of frustration and pain.

All I can do now is to hope that the father of Calie's friend will end his pain and frustration, though not in the way his child did.  And I hope Calie and all of the other people who can't, for whatever reasons, be who and what they truly are will one day be free.

23 January 2015

All Are Welcome--As Long As....

One of the reasons why we become jaded, blase or even cynical is that we didn't start out wanting to be those things.   

I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know.  Still, I think it bears telling in light of a story that came my way.

Greg Bullard is a senior pastor in his local church.  He and his husband, Brian Copeland, have won awards for their service to families in their home state of Tennessee.  That service includes running the only LGBT food pantry in their state.  Said pantry serves more than 200 families every month and addresses a problem--poverty in the LGBT community--that is often overlooked.

Whatever their sexual orientation or family configuration, one would expect that their son would be welcome in any school.  OK, maybe not "one".  I would expect that. I imagine you, dear reader, would, too.  So would many other people.

And, being that Greg is a senior pastor, I would expect--or, at least, hope--that his son would be welcome in a Christian school, even if that school is not affiliated with the same denomination as the one that includes Greg's church.  

Turns out, the school--the Davidson Academy--is not affiliated with any particular denomination, though it was "founded by Christians and operates in the Christian tradition based upon clear tenets of faith and practice."

Where did I find that verbal morsel I quoted in my previous sentence?  Where else:  in the letter the school sent to Greg and Brian.

Now, that clause can be interpreted in all sorts of ways.  But, it seems that interpretation of what "Christian" means, what the "Christian tradition" is and what constitutes "clear tenets of faith and practice" is dependent, at least to some degree, on geography--at least here in the good ol' USA.  And, since we're talking about Tennessee, it's not surprising that it was interpreted in a way to exclude the son of two pillars of the community--one of whom happens to be a senior pastor.

Really, I don't want to be snide and cynical.  But it's hard not to be because it's not surprising to learn that Christianity is interpreted to practice hate and exclusion in a particular part of this country where such things seem to happen more often than in other places.

Then again, I would expect--or, at least, hope--that even in Tennessee, there is a school with a supportive environment and high academic standards that would be glad to have the son of Greg Bullard and Brian Copeland walk into its doors.   

One can hope.


22 January 2015

He Knows The Words. But When Will He Play The Tune?

The other night, Barack Obama used the words "transgender", "lesbian" and "bisexual" in his State Of The Union address.  While he has used those words in other speeches, it was the first time they were uttered in any SOTU address.

Notice that I said "used the words".  That was a deliberate locution on my part.  What we have to remember is that he is a politician, and he is thinking about his life after the Presidency.  Like any skilled politico, he knows what to say and when to say it.

It's commonly forgotten that Obama had to be prodded into concerning himself with LGBT issues.  Dick Cheyney voiced his support for same-sex marriage before Obama did.  So did more than a few other Republicans--and Joe Biden, Obama's Vice-President.

I still have to question his true commitment to transgender--or lesbian, gay or bisexual--equality when he accepts as much money as he does from financial-services institutions. After all, they have done more to make and keep people poor--and thus vulnerable to bigotry and violence--than any other institutions, let alone people.

In other words, he is a corporate Democrat who is thinking about the boards he will sit on and the six-figure speeches he will make after he leaves office.  The banks and other financial institutions that support him employ a lot of gay men--more specifically, the kinds of gay men who hijacked the LGBT equality movement with their single-minded commitment to same-sex marriage at the expense of all other LGBT issues.

To me, he's only slightly more credible than a Secretary of the Interior who sells Federal land to mining companies.