again black trans women being killed

During Black History Month (or as some have re-branded it—Black Future Month), two African-American trans women were killed. The following is an excerpt from an article by Cleis Abeni which appeared in The Advocate on February 23, 2016.

Philadelphia Police officers have confirmed that the body of a 25-year-old black transgender woman found at 11:50 p.m. Saturday belonged to Mya Young according to Philadelphia news station WPVI-TV.

Young was reportedly stabbed to death in the Frankford neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia near the 4800 block of Penn Street, the local station reported. Police rushed Young to the nearby Aria Health hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m. on Sunday. No further information has been released about the homicide.

The day before Young was killed, another black transgender woman named Veronica Banks Cano was found dead at 9:00 a.m., fully clothed, in a bathtub at the EL Mio Motel on the 3500 block of Roosevelt Ave. on the south side of San Antonio, Texas, according to KABB-TV News. Although no additional information about a possible suspect, motive, or cause of death has been released, police say they did question individuals who were in the hotel room.

Once again here we are mourning the deaths of black trans women. Once again I find myself filled with sadness and fear and anger. Way too many of my sistas are dying as victims of violence. What must we do to stop this?

Inviolability to Vulnerability

When I transitioned there were only a few things that surprised me. However the biggest surprise was the change in the way other people reacted to me.

When I was presenting as male I was clean cut, baby-faced, conservatively dressed, quite, no tatts, no piercings–just your basic guy. Or such was my thought.

However while living on the west coast I became aware that for many people I was to be avoided. Women never met my gaze, nor did other men. I was rarely approached when out in public for any reason. There were times when I saw that someone was reacting to me with plain, old-fashioned fear.

Somewhere along the line I got used to this. I got used to a world of people who kept their distance. Also at some point this sense of people keeping their distance from me, fed my feeling of safety and security. After all, who is going to attack the boggie man? Clearly it was a false sense of safety but I had it.

With transition the world suddenly came closer. Going out in public no one was responding to me with fear. Other women would smile at me. Men would meet my gaze and I became the one who looked away. More than that people began to approach me for all sorts of reasons: to ask directions, for money, for the time, every now and again to offer me help. It was dizzying and unsettling. People were in my personal space much more often than I was accustomed to and they were coming deeper into my personal space than ever before.

Over time my sense of assumed personal security slowly degraded and then finally collapsed. I had barely noticed the slow decline but I know exactly when the collapse happened. Three events happened in what felt like rapid succession.

safety_issues_for_women

First while I was living in Columbia City a while a man was attacking women in an adjacent neighborhood. This man was attacking women of all ages who were out alone at night. I was living alone at the time and I got scared.

Second there was a break-in to the church where I was serving. It happened during the day and I was in the building alone at the time. The building was one of those big rambling places with door and windows everywhere so I would not have known that someone was in the building. The evidence suggests that he was spotted by a neighbor before he got far into the crime. But what if he had not been spooked? We could have ended up face to face.

Third I became aware of a number of attacks on trans women nationwide. This included an attack in Seattle. It happened near my home where I trans woman was attacked my a group of teens.

For the first time in my life I felt extremely vulnerable, especially alone after dark. I began to avoid going out at night. I became more aware of my surroundings regardless of the time of day. I started to do the things women do to promote their safety while being mostly unaware that I was doing those things.

I wasn’t truly aware of this change in my behavior until a friend pointed it out to me. On one occasion she said, “So, starting to understand how dangerous it is to be a woman, aren’t you?”

I had to admit that she was right. I thought for a while that I was over-reacting but I determined that I was simply being wise. Dangerous things were happening around me. I’m an out black trans woman who is in the public eye and I live alone. I had to make changes. I had to make my personal safety a priority. And that’s what I did.

Still I know that in a few years I had gone from feeling inviolable to feeling vulnerable. It was one of the biggest changes that transition brought to me. And it was the change I least expected.

a remarkable life?

I’m well into my 58th year on the planet and I’ve become quite aware that I am aging. I sense the surety that the road behind me is longer than the road ahead of me. That does not frighten me. I’m not frightened because when I look at my life I see something that pleases me.

remarkable_life

From as far back as I can remember I’ve always dreamed of living a remarkable life. When I was younger I imagined that a remarkable life entailed fame and fortune. I imagined that it meant success and triumph and popularity and recognition. I have had practically none of those things. However I have had a remarkable life.

I look and see an impressive collection of “firsts” and “only ones” in my list of accomplishments. I’m amazed when I stop and count the things I’ve done and even more excited over the things I’ve been involved with over the years. Quite honestly, it’s been a helluva ride. I’m actually having the remarkable life I wanted to have. Not in the way I wanted it but in the impact of it.

I’m living my little life in a big way. And I’m pleased with that. In that sense of contentment with what I’ve done and who I am, I’m finding it easier and easier to let go of things.

I am watching what feels like a rising tide of younger trans activists who are also people of color take the stage of history. Admittedly a part of me wants to say, “Hey wait a minute. I was here first.” But then I hear the words of a song sung by my generation and aimed at the generation before us:

Come mothers and fathers all over the land

and don’t criticize what you can’t understand

your sons and your daughters are beyond your command

your old road is rapidly aging

Please get out of the new one, if you can’t lend your hand

For the times, they are a-changin’

So let the times change. Let the new road be built. Let the builders be bold. Let them construct remarkable lives and then get of out the way for the road that will come after them.

Don’t let anyone misread this. I am not saying that I’m done having an impact or that I have nothing further to contribute to the building of the new road. I have much to offer. However I now want to contribute in a different way. I want to contribute as back stage support, as off stage help, as cheerleader and encourager, as advice giver if it’s asked and as healer as it’s needed. And always as a learner.

thinking about howard’s death

He died

He was taken from me

He left

 

I use each of these expressions in my head when I think about Howard on this day. They all refer to the same event but they each come with a different set of feelings.

Although today is the two-year anniversary of that day, the weight of the day hit me on Saturday night. That was the night I cried and didn’t sleep and took a long walk deep into my emotions.

Today I’m sad but not like I was Saturday. Today I’m feeling oddly at peace. I’m thankful for what Howard and I shared. I still feel cheated. However when I ask myself if I would have done anything differently, I don’t have an answer. I loved Howard and he loved me. We loved each other for just who we were. It was a remarkable experience and one I thought I’d never have. Our love was like grace—an unexpected, unearned gift.

Today this is where I am: thankful for the grace of love.

me and my husband

baseball and love

CbgtxHUUAAE01xq

On this day each year Howard would send me an email that simply read,

Pitchers and catchers report today

It was his way of making sure I never missed the unofficial start of baseball for the year. Over time we developed our own spring training ritual. He would send me the email. I would find the movie, “Bull Durham.” We’d make a date to watch it. I’d wear one of my baseball jerseys (and little else). We’d watch the movie which is funny and has its more earthy moments. The film would leaves us in a very good mood. And we would enjoy each other’s company afterward.

Over the time of our relationship we watched and listened to dozens of games together. Sometimes we’d go out to a place like Rookies and share a stadium pretzel while watching the game there. About once a year we’d go to Safeco Field on a summer afternoon and watch a game: peanuts, hot dogs, good beer, sunshine, the crowd. Those are some of my favorite memories of Howard.

Over the last two seasons I’ve let baseball go without much of my attention. I tried going to a game the year he died on this birthday but my heart was not in it. For the first time that I can recall I left a game in progress for no good reason. Last year I didn’t go to a game at all.

This season I’m ready to re-engage with the sport both for the sport itself and as a way of remembering Howard. I’m feeling ready to follow my teams (Mariners, Indians and Cubs) through the season. I think it’s time for me to go see a game again.What else is there left to say but…

Play ball!

wordpress and tumblr

wordpress-vs-tumblr-featuredI have a writing presence on both WordPress and Tumblr.

A metaphor to help. I live in a city and the city is the place where I’m at home. I know the lay of the land. I know what to do and where to go and how to navigate. I’m comfortable with its ways, its sounds and it rhythms. The forest is foreign to me. It’s exotic. It’s fascinating and unknown. It shows me things that fill me with wonder and that also scare me. In a forest I feel like a visitor. I’m uncertain. I don’t know the lay of the land. I’m easily disoriented and mostly feel a little lost. That’s the difference between WordPress and Tumblr to me.

The world of WordPress makes sense to me. Here I do a pretty traditional blog. I share thoughts and events from my life. People sometimes read them and sometimes comment. And that’s about it.

My Tumblr experience is quite different. Outside of what I write about health and weight loss, I’m at sea when it comes to Tumblr. First off Tumblr’s demographic is much younger than I am. Tumblr feels much more image driven than WordPress. The conversation around trans issues there feels more like an on-going argument than a sharing of experiences (and I don’t consider that a bad thing). Tumblr comes at me with vocabulary that is new to me, events that I know nothing about and political/ideological positions that I’ve never considered. I rarely post anything on Tumblr. I mostly try to listen and learn from the next generation of people talking about gender.

I need both WordPress and Tumblr. I need the city and the forest. I need the place where I’m comfortable writing and being me. I also the place where I’m uncomfortable and read and learn from others.

Long live WordPress! Log live Tumblr! May they never become the same.

 

 

being invisible: the good and the bad

middle_aged_woman_becomes_invisibleFemale Middle-aged Invisibility has been long documented. There is enough literature on the topic to suggest that the topic continues to be a live one, even in these days of lengthening life expectancy. Having come to that age when a woman starts to disappear, I have been trying to come to terms with how this is effecting my self-image.

As I experience this odd invisibility, there are things that I see are advantageous about it and things that are disadvantageous about it. Some things about this invisibility do effect me in negative ways and part of me hates to admit that. I feel that I’m supposed to be more mature than this. I feel that I’m supposed to be at a place in life where I’ve outgrown the need to be physically attractive. But this is not where I am.

I still want to be attractive. Now I know that I can’t go back in time and become young and have all the advantages of youth when it comes to the societal ideas of beauty. Yet I would like my current physical state to be valued, at least somewhere. At the current time I feel that nothing about me physically is valued. That leads me to not even want to try to do anything with my appearance. That’s where invisibility hurts me. Unmitigated, this invisibility could lead me to stop appreciating my own body.

On the other hand there is actually something positive about my experience of female middle-aged invisibility. Sexual harassment has disappeared from my daily experience. No man notices me and thus I am not harassed. This does make life easier. I pass through my day without having to react to unwanted and uninvited and undeserved comments, gestures or body sounds. That’s a big upside.

The other upside is that, when I am noticed, I can pretty much be sure it’s not my body that is drawing attention. More than likely it is the me inside the body that is drawing attention. The attention is probably because of something I’ve said, written or done. When that happens it increases my confidence and I feel valued for who I am inside my skin. Consequently I place a high value on the gifts and skills I bring to my vocation and my job. On top of that I feel that my gifts and skills are highly valued by my peers and co-workers.