The Becky Blog
Recently I was privileged to give one of the keynote addresses at the 2004 Colorado Gold Rush. I thought about my subject for many weeks, and finally decided to work in references to our V-Day performance. I would mention the pride we all felt in being a part of history, and the liberating experience of being out and proud as trans women.
The address was very well received, so much that I felt it was worth reprinting on this site under its title "Say It Loud - I'm T and I'm Proud." I tried to stress that I didn't mean to say that persons who are currently in situations where "stealth" is necessary should jeopardize their security. However, the more of us who are willing to speak out against the creation of a "culture of shame," the sooner we will be viewed as normal members of society.
In my address, I quoted from a very nice letter written by a long time post op woman who does consider herself to have moved past being trans, and has found completion of her journey as simply a woman. I am very happy for her, and I think there's nothing inherently wrong with such an end point. I then quoted her final sentences to me:
I was just trawling the net trying to find some sensible information on what dosage I should be taking now and I accidentally bumped into your interesting piece. But I am off now. Please don’t reply because this is a semi-public machine?..!!
Which, of course, illustrates the dilemma of living in stealth: living in fear of discovery. I just won't go back into another closet again. Still, I may have been unclear in my use of terms like "the culture of shame," and I want to say it again: I am not saying that we act out of our own personal shame. I'm saying that an element of society wants to shame us. They use words like "lifestyle choice" and "abomination." It worked on many of us as younger adults. It worked on me, and cost me many years of this wonderful life. Now I don't want it to work on any more of you.
Be as proud as you can.
Now you know you've been waiting for this. (She laughed.)
2003 was a very good year for my kind of music. So good, in fact, that my current "top three" are all leftovers from last year. There's a brand new and exciting sound; a genius who keeps getting better and reinventing himself; and a marvelous final effort from a voice we won't hear again.
Honorable mentions: Tori Amos, Scarlet's Walk (Yay! Tori's back from extreme weirdness to the beauty of her first two albums!); Radiohead, Hail to the Thief; and Sting, Sacred Love.
3. Warren Zevon, The Wind
Before cancer silenced the Excitable Boy, Warren recorded this collection, mixing humor and pathos as he had never done so successfully. There's still a lot of humor in efforts such as "Disorder in the House," the only song I've ever heard which mentions a Lhasa Apso. "(Party For) The Rest of the Night" is a throwaway frat party song, but very catchy. The serious numbers are a mixed bag. I didn't think it such a great idea to cover "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - a little too obvious. Much more poignant were the tear-jerker "Keep Me In Your Heart" and the gorgeous "El Amor De Mi Vida." I think the song which most touched me was "Please Stay":
Will you stay with me to the end
When there's nothing left but you and me and the wind...
2. The Polyphonic Spree, The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree
What can I say? Twenty-five orchestral and vocal musicians, all on stage together in flowing robes. All having a grand time with ethereal beauty like "It's the Sun," "Light & Day," and a brilliant 36 minute atonal jam. What's not to like? David Bowie loves this Dallas-based choir enough to bring them on tour, they have a second album coming out this year, and they are a headliner for Lollapalooza. The Spree rules!
1. Beck, Sea Change
Another must-go-buy-it-now. (Okay, so it was released in late 2002. Close counts.)
There are some musicians who never re-invent their sound. Sometimes (the Stones and Aerosmith come to mind) that's good enough. But most of the all-time great performers evolve in breathtaking new directions. The Beatles changed the world with Sgt. Pepper; U2 solidified their place in history with Achtung Baby.
Beck Hansen has been recognized as a musical genius since 1993, when the single "Loser" and the album Mellow Gold established his fame at age 23. Since then, every album has been a reinvention of his electronic-age skills. 1996's Odelay, a brilliant collage of music and mixing surprises, was widely acclaimed as one of the best albums of the 90s.
With Sea Change, Beck takes yet another musical direction: ballads of lost love. One listen and you know he isn't faking. Beck's heart has been broken and he isn't close to getting over it. "I'm tired of fighting for a lost cause," he sighs in the most popular track, "Lost Cause." But we are the richer because he shares his heartbreak with us.
If there weren't words, the musical arrangements are reason enough to buy Sea Change, especially the gorgeous building chords of "Lonesome Tears". But just listen to these lyrical examples:
It's only lies that I'm living
It's only tears that I'm cryin'
It's only you that I'm losing
Guess I'm doing fine...
"Guess I'm Doing Fine"
I've seen the end of the day come too soon
Like the prison dogs they set out after you
You owe nothing to the past but wasted time
To serve a sentence that was only in your mind
"End of the Day"
From the pop melancholy of "Little One" to the country-folk feel of my favorite "The Golden Age," there are twelve quite different takes on unrequited love for the twenty-first century. This is a masterpiece. Don't miss it.
A Little Light Humor
Just trying to keep things in perspective...
That's right, folks, if you're gonna live by Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the
modern era, be consistent. Go all the way. No shrimp, lobster, oysters, OK?
The Twilight of the T's?
Bad Science Begets Bad Genetics
In October 1993 I happened to be in New York during the time the drama "The Twilight of the Golds" was playing its brief (three weeks) Broadway run. I had no idea what the play was about, but as I watched, I was struck by its possible relevance to my life.
The Golds are an upper class New York family; Walter and Phyllis and their two grown children. Suzanne is married to a research scientist, and David - well, David designs sets for Lincoln Center. Walter and Phyllis "tolerate" David as long as they don't talk about it.
Suzanne becomes pregnant, and has an amniocentesis to look for possible genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs syndrome. Her husband's research lab reports that these diseases are not present in the fetus, but - here is the plot premise - they have developed a test that will, with 90% accuracy, genetically predict homosexuality. And Suzanne's baby tests positive.
Of course, the "H" word is not mentioned in the play. When the family talks about it, they say the baby "will be like David."
The play then becomes a series of character analyses, where each of the four family members express their feelings about David and about the baby. The decision becomes "to abort or not to abort." David realizes, to his horror, that if such a test had been available to his parents, they almost surely would have ended his life before it began.
Now we have Michael Bailey, who categorizes trans women as homosexual or "autogynephilic" men. Bailey and Ray Blanchard belong to a conservative-run "eugenics thinktank" called the Human Biodiversity Insitute. Andrea James has a detailed discussion of this group in her Transsexual Road Map site.
The Southern Poverty Law Center devoted a recent Intelligence Report to the current persecution of transgender persons, especially the District of Columbia murders. One of their articles, "Queer Science," describes the HBI in this way:
This exclusive group of academics, race scientists and right-wing journalists along with a reported handful of liberals exchanges thoughts about "differences in race, sex and sexual orientation" for a chilling purpose: promoting and studying "artificial [genetic] selection."
HBI is run by someone named Steve Sailer, a writer for UPI, whom Andrea profiles on her "Categorically Wrong" pages.
Other notorious members include:
• Jean-Phillippe Rushton, a prominent researcher on black genetic inferiority who is president of a pro-eugenics hate group, the Pioneer Fund;
• Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, which purported to show black and Latino intellectual inferiority;
• Kevin MacDonald, a professor at California State University at Long Beach who has written several books about supposed Jewish strategies to subvert "Euro-American" culture; and
• Gregory Cochrane, a physicist who has suggested the existence of a genetic "gay germ."
Before we laugh at such terminology as "gay germ," let's realize that a biologic cause for homosexuality as well as for transsexualism is just what a number of persons are seeking. Such a biologic cause would help silence our critics who speak of "lifestyle choice;" it would diminish the severity of attacks agains tus for religious reasons; and it would probably help us in securing insurance coverage for our medical and surgical needs. But would it be a double edged sword? Would there be persons who would push for prenatal diagnosis of our "conditions" for the purpose of terminating our existence before birth?
Would it have been better if you had never been born?
What a dilemma for a liberal thinker. If one's priority is preservation and aid for trans, lesbian and gay persons, then one must argue against "abortion on demand" of babies with such genetic findings.
I will speak out in favor of my existence. There was a time when I might have wished a full life as a non-trans person, whichever gender. Not now. I've come to see the true benefit of being born trans - the acceptance of those things in our lives which are different from the great majority leads us to a tolerance of others beyond what most "nons" will ever experience.
I'm glad you were born also. Celebrate yourselves and your unique gifts.
A Letter From a Mother
You don't have to see the original article or letters to appreciate this response, as reported in Eschaton, the blog by Atrios:
Letter to the Editor
Sunday, April 30, 2000
from the Valley News (White River Junction, VT/Hanover, NH)
As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be.
Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.
I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.
My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.
He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.
In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.
You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.
At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.
If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?
A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."
You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda "could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.
He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.
You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.
How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.
You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.
The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving...to be better human beings than we are?"
Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?
Reunion, Part 3
I do not intend to go into detail about my high school class reunion which was held last weekend back in Mississippi. The details of "who was there" and "how she looked" are relevant only to us who attended. Just a few observations:
We actually seem to still like each other after forty years. That's remarkable if you think about how much we may have all changed.
There are a number of people whom I hardly knew in high school, who are now dear friends. The adult friendships are deeper and more sincere than the ones from long ago.
Most of us have held our own pretty well in the fight against Father Time. We are of an age where we can't take health for granted any more, and have to work at it.
Best of all:
My personal history is finally a total non-issue. It's not a secret, but it's not a big deal. And that is SO the way it should be.
And now an interesting train of thought related to my essay from five years ago, "F.N.E.J." (Fashionable North East Jackson):
I spent a few days after the reunion with a Jackson friend who is not trans, and not one of my classmates. She does share my political and social views. At the time of my visit in 1999, I would have thought such persons hard to find in Mississippi. In fact I was rather negative in my impression of Jackson. This visit has changed my mind.
I've met a number of very progressive persons who are not the superficial socialites I wrote of in "FNEJ". The Belhaven/Fondren area is full of free thinkers, and more are spread though the city - and even a few in the "white-flight" suburbs of Madison and Rankin counties. My friend is an Episcopalian, and of course my experiences in that church were for the most part very positive, and she sees how well I fit in with her friends. During our visit, she made the comment, "You could have stayed in Jackson, Becky. You were just hanging out with the wrong crowd."
It's a very interesting observation, and probably true. Most of the people I knew in my last years in Jackson were either the doctors at Baptist Medical Center or the members of First Baptist Church. Actually, First Baptist was moderately conservative, but not as up-tight constipated as First Presbyterian, THE social church for the fundamentalist set, where many of the doctors' families were members. I still have a letter written to me from one such cardiologist. He was nice enough to write a letter of recommendation to Phoenix Good Samaritan for me as a physician, but in his reply to me he noted he could not "condone my lifestyle choice." That was inappropriate ten years ago, and it's downright laughable now. So apparently I was with the "wrong crowd."
I like the progressive thinkers of Jackson. The city is surely not a total loss. And I could have fit right into their world - I know I could.
But back then, I didn't think so. I made a decision to move to Arizona - that WAS a "choice" - and it has turned out very well. I'm a Westerner now. It's time again to exit this place with which I've had a love-hate relationship, before I start loving it so much I hate to go. As I've said elsewhere, we go down one fork in the road, and we don't look back.
Except as an out-of-state visitor.
And like any visitor, I sometimes take photos - including this one of the gravesite (or one of the reputed gravesites) of legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson, a couple of miles north of the Tallahatchie Bridge. Yes, THAT Tallahatchie Bridge, of Billy Joe fame.
"Musician and Songwriter, he influenced millions beyond his time."
See you next time, Mississippi.
Justice is NOT Served
From the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), June 22, 2004:
Mistrial Declared in Murder Trial of Transgendered Teen
A judge yesterday declared a mistrial in the 2002 killing of Gwen Araujo (born Edward), a transgender teenager who was brutally beaten to death, then buried in the Sierra foothills after partygoers discovered that their woman friend was transgendered.
Judge Harry Sheppard declared the jury "hopelessly deadlocked" after the jury foreman told him the panel of eight men and four women have been "unable to pass over the point of reasonable doubt. In my personal opinion, further deliberations would not yield a verdict."
As they were not able to acquit the three men of first-degree murder, the judge would not let them consider whether the men were guilty of the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
The panel had deliberated for ten days before giving up on reaching a decision. The 24-year old defendants, Jason Cazares, Michael Magidson and Jose Merel, could have faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
In the case of Cazares and Merel, the jury was 10-2 against a first-degree murder. In Magidson's case, the jury had voted 7-5 in favor of a first-degree murder.
Judge Sheppard set a hearing for July 30 to schedule a new trial date.
After the jury decision, Araujo's uncle David Guerrero said he more fully realized "the ignorance in society that transgenders have to face." He and the family were angered at having to sit through days of testimony "tearing Gwen down."
"Words cannot express how distressed we are at hearing this - especially for the family [of Araujo]" Vanessa Edwards Foster, chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) said upon hearing the news. She noted the family was quite upset, wondering how they can stomach another grueling round of testimony. "It's not an acquittal, but it's a disappointing conclusion nevertheless."
"I was stunned - I don't know what to feel," said Imelda Guerrero, the aunt closest to the victim. She noted that Gwen's mother, Sylvia Guerrero was "extremely" affected by the mistrial. "She's experiencing every emotion there is. She's very upset about having to go through [the trial] again."
Guerrero added that Sylvia is being sequestered due to her emotional state. "She's pretty much in solitary right now."
While the prosecutor urged jurors to view Araujo's death as a cold-blooded murder, defense attorneys contended that the crime was fueled by a passionate rage and should have been considered manslaughter.
Jason Cazares' defense attorney, Tony Serra, said he was disappointed that the jury was hung on the first-degree charge. "I think they made their judgment based on emotion," said Serra, expressing his frustration that only one or two jurors held up the process.
Gwen Smith, founder of Remembering Our Dead, said, "the defense lawyers know how to sell snake oil. I find it sad that the jury found themselves taken in."
Defense attorneys for Magidson and Merel argued the killing was not murder, because of a modified gay-panic strategy based upon Araujo's biological male status.
The defense also attacked Nabors' credibility, arguing that he lied to get a voluntary manslaughter plea bargain. Cazares testified in his own defense that he tried to help Araujo, and was outside smoking a cigarette when the killing occurred.
Nabors' pretrial statements noted that Cazares emerged from the garage saying "she's dead," and reported he had hit Araujo in the head with a shovel, as she lay prone on the bed of the pickup truck.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero rejected the defense claims. During his closing argument, Lamiero described the crime as a calculated murder. He said the defendants killed Araujo because of their own weaknesses, pointing out that Merel's brother, Paul, also had sex with Araujo but walked away from the murder scene that night.
Araujo, the 17-year-old victim, was killed at a party in the early morning hours of Oct. 3, 2002 after the defendants beat her, bludgeoned her with a can, frying pans and a shovel, and strangled her to death upon discovering she was biologically male.
At some point before the fateful night, the defendants debated Araujo's biological gender, even mulling over "a Tony Soprano-style hit" if she was confirmed to be male. Upon discovering her true gender status, the defendants killed Araujo and drove 150 miles to bury the body in the El Dorado National Forest.
After the four-hour trip, Nabors said, the defendants went to McDonald's for breakfast.
NTAC urges the District Attorney to press for a retrial to be held as soon as practicable.
"We've all come to a consensus and we're going to do [another trial], no matter how long it takes," said Imelda Guerrero, who is also a member of NTAC. She resolutely added, "It's just something we have to do."