“Does this skirt make my butt look trans?”

I’ve been putting this one off for a long time. And yes, those of you who’ve read my book will want to remind me that I’ve said this before –

it’s not about our looks and it is about our looks but not in the way that most mean when they say that to us, or about us. Please allow me to explain.

You hear a lot of confusing things when people talk about the T in LGBTQ. The most mystifying of these is Dysphoria. As in “Gender Dysphoria,” which is the medical diagnosis that has been the gateway to all of the things that made my life livable. (Despite an amazing marriage to the most incredible woman in human history, a loving family, and “normal” childhood upbringing, college education, etc.) More recently, you’ll see the term “Body Dysphoria” used as well. I never thought about it before, but when used accurately, Body Dysphoria may be a more relatable term for a huge segment of our Pink & Baby Blue community, I’m speaking of those for whom even the word “gender” can sometimes send the conversation skidding sideways. And before we go any further, we’re okay with this ambiguity in our community, so you can be okay too.

I first heard the term “body dysphoria” when a dear new BFF was sharing with me that though she was cis-woman, she could relate to my experience. She too knew what it was like to be trapped in conflict with her own body. She had suffered from Anorexia. Her own body dysphoria had ruled her life from puberty through her early twenties. And the subsequent work that it took to alleviate the trauma and the health effects that are collateral damage, had become her daily experience.

Yes. She could understand me and my experience. She could relate to the utter exhaustion and trauma of living under the tyranny of the mirror.

Those who have never had this (and God bless you) will never “get it.”

I still hear even well meaning people wondering aloud how come no amount of will power, affirmations or good intentions can ever remove the elephant’s foot from one’s head, neck, and chest. Neither of these dysphorias (gender nor body) are our imaginations. Neither are “psychological” in the lay-man pop-psych euphemism. Neither dysphorias are a curse or punishment for past wrongs or missing Sunday mass. Neither dysphorias are God’s… anythings.

They are medical realities with cures.

I will leave my friend’s reality here because I can only relate to her experience as she did mine. But the lesson learned is that “body dysphoria,” is not our community’s cross to bear alone. Other communities know this, other communities deal with this, other communities beat this. We’re in good company.

It’s important for me to try to lay to rest once and for all, that we’re not talking about “confusion” about our bodies like it’s a mental exercise that can be cleared up by restating the issue in a different way or diagraming its formula or elements.

No.

We have never been confused.

Bewildered. Blindsided. Betrayed. Maybe. Confused as to why this happens, sometimes. But, confused that this is true, or so, or real reality?

No.

We are not confused.

We each (all humans) learn to develop coping mechanisms to deal with things that are  “not right,” when we are children. No matter what the “not right” thing is. Everyone eventually cobbles together a defensive strategy pretty quickly.

Or they don’t — and become a statistic.

A tragedy.

You know these numbers – 41% of our community have attempted or contemplated suicide.

Dysphoria (at least in my case) came from the psychological trauma of trying to suppress messages from my body that were contrary to my heart and mind. That sentence seems benign enough, right? And maybe that’s why the confusion in the cis-community exists. In an effort to articulate our experience in a succinct way, we end up sanitizing words — which makes them seem so… I dunno, almost benign, certainly surmountable.

Which is something Dysphoria is not.

For me, it was like lying on a live grenade for every moment of of my life. And knowing that someday. It will explode.

Now, try imagining that for even one minute. Go ahead… I’ll time you.

timebomb.001

Not easy is it?  A minute, under those circumstances is a very long time. Now pile on top of that the tension of feeling that you have to do it every minute of every day of every year of your life.

Now add on to that the feeling that it will never end.

Your nerves are permanently frayed. You are mentally spent trying to keep this tidal wave of grief and despair at arm’s length.  You are physically spent because this requires every nerve, every muscle, every breath. You are spiritually exhausted from trying to believe that God and life and nature are worth having faith in.

That’s the tricky one, spiritually. Try staying afloat in the beauty that is a human birth despite bathroom laws and an asshole in the White House who just threw 15,000 valiant members of our military to the wolves of right-wing Christian hate. (Make no mistake, our brothers and sisters in the U.S. Military are taking the assault on behalf of us all… this will only embolden the idiots on the state level who have already been trying everything they can, to institutionalize their hate.) It drains the soul of a community that has had to keep the faith despite being hunted for sport, despite our own families “turning their backs” on us and disowning us and disavowing us.

Try to remain engaged with God, despite a constant feeling of bile that arises because you’ve been biting your tongue when those who claim to “have no grudge with you” look the other way because our fight is not their fight. Try to stay happy despite being told that everything you’ve been taught to accept as moral and just and good, is not for you. It’s for everyone. It is your divine birthright. It is for all… except you.

If you can imagine all of that, like my friend who survived anorexia, then you can begin to understand dysphoria.

It’s a medical reality with cures. I use the plural because, for some like myself, the cure was hormones and GCS. But there are many in our community that need nothing more than love and acceptance to lift the toxic smog of Dysphoria.

And here’s the part that seems to mystify the cis-community. No one needs to know “which is which” and “who is who.”  You really don’t need to know why I had to have surgery and some of my sisters and brothers do not – just like I (and my sisters & brothers) don’t need to know why you (insert what you have or have not done to your own body). It’s no one’s business but your lover’s and your doctor’s.

But the “yous” of the world still try.

They announce their misunderstanding and ignorance publicly, saying really stupid things like, “I just don’t understand…” (which, if it was an invitation for someone to come forward to clarify, wouldn’t be so bad, but sadly it’s the sound a wall makes when it goes up to end the discussion.) “Where I come from, there’s just men and women” “Or we just agree to disagree.” “We just have different beliefs, that’s all,” Or, my favorite is, “You’ve chosen to live this way…”

I, and my sisters and brothers, are not your opinion, belief or agenda. We are people, citizens, your neighbors, your bosses, your employees and your sisters and your brothers. Your nieces. Your nephews. Your children.

Period.

Our stunted President has already dismantled Title IX protections, excluding trans youth from services that every person is supposed to be entitled to, citing that transgender people were not entitled to protections under the civil rights act. In Texas, they used a special session to pass a bathroom law to keep trans people out of going to the bathroom with less than 10 hours of debate citing “daughters over dollars.” How hate-filled and messed up is this — how can you tell a transgender person, “give me your tax dollars, but YOU can’t use the facilities that they pay for?” How can you say your daughter is more important than the Trans child? And this is not just about where we pee. When the child is ostracized by the Federal and state governments, the child is subject to vilification and bullying ONTOP of discrimination.  THIS IS AMERICA PEOPLE!

We’re still fighting down these down all of these like whack-a-mole.

It’s the height of ego. Because the yous of the world can not, will not even try to regard us an individual people. It’s safer for them to regard as a faceless mass. Easier to built a wall around us. Easier to legislate us into oblivion, Easier to erase us. Forget us. Forget trying to get them to walk in our shoes. They think their view of the world is shared by all. That everyone thinks the way they do. That there is an inherent logic to their argument. It’s like talking to a child who keeps repeating the same question over and over despite being told the facts. They aren’t really asking for an answer, they’re looking for validation that they are okay.

But, and here’s the weirdest thing of all, they have made us a cause – the transgender community must be erased. Our existence tramples on their freedom to discriminate and exclude. Our right to live somehow infringes on their right to hate.

With these conditions waiting for you as you step into the world, you might be able to see why we step cautiously. We have been taught that the world thinks we should feel shame and confusion about something that we are born with. Many of us follow the world’s lead and deal, succumb or hopefully cast off this shame and confusion (not of who we are, but how we are to live with it and you) to simply live our lives. This hatred is the backdrop of our lives. Look, we know we are a minority of every minority. The color of our skin intersects with our identities and our sexuality to push us from our families and tribes. A huge segment of the cis world believes it is their divine right to hate us, be confused by us, and works to forget us because of our race, gender and sexuality and all of the above.

And another segment of the cis–world allows this to happen by their silence and indifference.

Is it any wonder then, that this potential disconnect between not only what I see, when I look at me, but also what you see when you look at me, makes me work so hard? I have to get it right. I have to thread the needle between dignity and experimentation. Between self-expression and self-preservation. If you don’t see me as a woman, then I have you constantly reminding me (with both subtle and overt messages) that something about me is “not right.” It’s one thing for someone to say, “You look pretty today,” and quite another for someone to say, “You look like, oh bless your heart.”

So, the more visual clues I give that tell you I regard myself as a woman, the better chance we both have that you’ll get the message and at least not make it more awkward than it might be.  In some places this isn’t just a potentially awkward thing – it could be the difference between life and death.

Hopefully, you can see that for us beauty isn’t merely skin deep.

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For girls of my age, “the ability to pass” was a holy grail. It’s an impossibly high standard for a community that has been sculpted by testosterone. I’m not sure if I do, (Mylove tries to reassure me all the time) but (knock wood) since my transition, I have not been misgendered or even looked at with so much as a raised brow, so something is working in my favor. Even so, there are those people who knew me before, who spend the better part of a conversation trying to peek under my mascara. I guess I should take even that as a compliment.

But… when I see myself in the mirror, I still go right to the “tells”…

Yes, I see a woman. Thank God. But I can’t ignore the “too strong” jawline, the back that has trouble staying in any slinky dress, the wide ankles, and feet that spill over my size elevens and don’t get me started on my arms… thankfully, electrolysis has finally taken most of the hair from my face, and estrogen has softened the easy parts. With a curling iron, eyeliner and a touch of lip gloss, I look like…

…  the me that is looking out from my own eyes.

Yes. She needs more sit-ups, fewer carbs, and better fitting shoes. But her confidence glows brighter every day. Which helps her lighten up on herself a little more every day.

And here’s the thing… something almost all of my close cis-sisters say to me is that this self “critiquing” with its wild swing from dismay to acceptance is one of the not-so-good parts of “being a woman.” This constantly comparing one’s own body and physical self to some sort of “ideal” differs slightly for each of us but is there nonetheless.

And I know this – I don’t have to be told. What none of my cis-sisters knows is what it’s like to cry when another girl simply pulled her hair casually back into a pony tail without a second thought. And you can’t.

Or the conflicting war between grief and pride when your next door neighbor wore a “big girl’s dress” to high school for the very first time. And you never will.

Oh, trust me, I’ve been comparing my life to other girls since I was little. But the distance was measured in light years. So yes. I know.

But what I don’t know is what do you see when you see me? Do you see a woman who is desirable? Do you see a woman who is strong? Who is intelligent? Whois creative? Who is loved? What does Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden look like?

I ask this because, the other day, I was talking to someone who said, “Funny, you don’t look trans.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with that. Look trans? I had a train wreck of images in my head from the classic Catwoman-like-too much-plastic surgery taughtface to Jeffrey Tambor’s “Oh Bless her heart” Maura. Then I thought of all the trans women that I respect – Alexandra Billings, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Jen Richards, Ashlee Preston, Trace Lysette, Zachary Drucker, Rain Valdez…

Were they saying I wasn’t… drop-dead gorgeous?????

If trans looks like anyone of these amazing women, I’ll have what they’re having.  Because sadly according to this person, I’m not or don’t.

Or are they merely trans stars?  So, of course, they would be beautiful?  Now, I know Alexandra is roaring with laughter now and calling me playful yet derogatory names for including her in this group of super models, we’ve had this conversation a few times, and she has the appropriate amount of humbleness about her looks, usually deflecting any sort of praise or adoration. But let’s face it – she is beautiful, inside and out as are we all — some just more than others.

I don’t look trans?  I. Don’t. Look. Trans?

Of course,  my self-conscious self went to cynicism, taking “don’t look trans” to be cis-speak for “Now that you mention it, I can see that you were raised by wolves, despite that cute sun dress and pink acrylic nails.”

In other words, my daily fear that no amount of lip gloss will ever cover testosterone’s legacy.

Yes, I am maturing, getting stronger as I said, and on the days when I am self-confident, I like what I see. I like the me that is emerging. And I realize that I have… a different look. When I was growing up, despite not seeing my face as mine, the face that was there was never really handsome. It wasn’t not nice for others to look at, but it wasn’t particularly a man’s face per se… just a face. Now that I am seeing out my eyes and seeing my face, I’m starting to like her, even with her too strong jawline. She is unique. She is different. Is she beautiful?  Well…

I hesitate because…, I am a child and a product of the televised concepts of beauty.

I formed my views of femininity and beauty during my childhood and puberty just like you. I had a vision of myself as a woman that still had Farrah Fawcett surfer bangs and wore leather mini skirts and disco inspired slinky dresses. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and my inspirations were the sunkissed FF Jaclyn Smith and Michelle Pfeiffer (I actually placed a lavalier mic on the divine Ms. Pfeiffer, and was so nervous she had to steady my hand with hers… I nearly fainted).

Remember, I was never going to actually get to be my mature womanly self, so I could set the bar impossibly high.

And now that I am a mature woman in her fifties, the bar is still high. Too high. But not quite high enough for me to judge myself with it.

I don’t want the world to view me through cis-colored lenses. But I also don’t want to be seen as a woman with an asterisk.

I’m hoping that with my continuing maturity, I’ll lighten up on myself even more and see my beauty and accept it as the most beautiful me that it… is. That’s a little hard for me to do at this point. Maybe because I still have hope in my youth. I still have a chance. Everything I see in the mirror at this point is because of hard work. Getting up early to work out, almost 50 hours of electrolysis, and dieting. I’m at least willing to work as hard as I can to see where I will end up.

Just like the fact that you will have to be okay with the future versions of you staring back at you from your mirror, I will, because I’m no longer dysphoria’s captive be okay with the me staring back at me.

But will I look trans?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Knit one, march too.

Okay… really. Where to start?
Yes. We marched along with the millions of people around the world – including Antarctica… for women’s rights.

Seriously. Antarctica!

And, while a millions stories and posts are and will be written about this proud moment in history, and many will be trying to understand it, quantify it, lionize it, and rationalize it, I want to just revel in it.

The bask in the brilliant light of community, sisterhood, and graceful power of us. Of we. Of all.

And, before we go any further, there are so many people to thank. The organizers of every March. The speakers at every march. Whoever started the pink pussy knitting circles. The unbelievably creative and clever signs. The men who marched alongside. The police who kept us safe. The parents who brought their children. And everyone who participated from home. And everyone who marched for marching with our respect, caring, joy and intelligence. Not one incident of violence or vandalism.

And this simple act of gratitude speaks to why I was marching. I marched for and because and to insure our rights. These and many other virtues and values of women were in crystal focus for everyone to see. Yes, I started with gratitude –, because that’s who I am and I believe who we are. And yes I thanked everyone for marching, or as we’ve seen marching from home via the interwebs – because this was not, as the organizers stressed many times just a woman’s march, it was a march for women’s rights.

And here’s the deal. Say what you will. The Gracious Power of Women has been and always will be, the creative, nurturing, sustaining the power of life. So though this was almost overwhelming, it should be no surprise that we stood together. For women’s rights are human rights. (Thanks HRC!)

I first heard of the March in Washington D.C. via the posting that announcing there would be a sister March in Oakland. I immediately responded. Not only is the Bay area near and dear to our hearts, but it’s the spiritual home of our marriage, and so many members of our vast extended family are there. So, what better way to celebrate than with our peeps?

Now, of course hailing from La La Land, it could be a little strange, to make the trek north, even after LA announced their sister March., (750,000? So proud of us!) Stranger still to go even when Snow snow threatened to close the Grapevine, .

But I felt the call of sisterhood beaconing us ever north.

I will confess as “the new girl” I had no idea what to expect. I only knew to follow my heart. I had to let my feet and spirit do the talking. I had high hopes for something, but I specifically stopped those in the “inkling stage,” so any of my preconceived notions wouldn’t get in the way of the Grace that would arrive.And I wished I could say (because it would make me seem so darn smart) that I intended to march for all of the above reasons. But I can say that I was truky letting my heart lead the way…

Mylove and I had a very simple agenda. Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.

But, Mylove was also trying to be “the adult in the room.” She knew we should be concerned with the immense rain storms in the forecast. That’s it. I didn’t think too far ahead. I didn’t plan out every second – make a bunch of appointments, nor a serious of checkpoints. I didn’t even have an exit plan – and with e. With even bigger storms threatening the Grapevine for our return drive homereturn, this was not “good drills,” as my survival expert pedigree should dictate. And… I really didn’t care.

Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.

Now, for any of you who know me, you know that this in itself is very strange behavior for moi.… As “adventure girl,” I am usually the designated field marshall – yes,. I know how to move a large crew (20-50) people and 100’s of cases of equipment into and out of remote countries around the world – so I better know how to pack the car, right? I better have the back-up battery chargers for our cellphones, the appropriate foul weather gear (not just for me but spares for whomever joins whatever leg of the journey) and yes, I get a little, ahem, “passionate” when someone strays from the rendezvous point(s), even if it’s “just for moment” to get a better look at the signs going by. And tho’ I did do all of the above as expected, it was more because it was left-over in my muscle-memory, not the consuming “strategery” (thank you Bugs) that had been my M.O. for my professional career and reputation.

And… it did give me pause… as it was noted in it’s absence… so I’m either maturing as a woman, and confident in myself to get sh*t done, or… I’m no longer defining myself by what I do, but rather how I do it… (but maybe that’s a subject for a future posting – stay tuned.)

And, I will also confess that I am as realizing (or rather coming to grips with) that I am usually the resident “Amazon” of almost every grouping of female friends that we have., i.e I am usually, the one woman in any group of women in our circles thatwho was raised by wolves. And, though estrogen has seriously and lovingly reshaped my… shape, I’m still almost as physically strong, and almost as physically large as I was… that. And more importantly, I still have that protector gene that rises up when we’re out in any crowd.…

But. I hadn’t allowed myself to think too far down any of the above roads.

Because for the last few weeks, I had been so consumed with keeping a dull pounding ache at bay.  I felt that I had been kicked in the heart… and that the kicking would continue for the next four years, or until it ended in it’s certain impeachment.

For the first weeks of this brand new shiny year, I could only see divisiveness. I could only see strife. I could saw only disrespect, disservice, and just plain, ol’ dissing of anyone (and everyone) who is not a redstatered-state, rich, white, male corporation.

And my Amazonian tiara felt heavy.
As, I too, took my seat at my own pity party of one (and I’ve heard from a number of my dearest and strongest women friends –, my sisters -, that this table had more than one single seat), I didn’t care that I had been allowing myself to dine regularly on the sour gummy worms of insanity, anger and acrimony streaming from every news source, social media platform and even closest friends. And I knew, that I knew better. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. I knew I would never be able to continue at this pace – t.These gummies are hard to chew, they ruin your appetite and they make your tongue swell… (not unlike Capt’n Crunch rash! Remember?).

So, I knew I needed to change. I needed to do something to pull myself out of this tailspin. I knew I needed to fill the tank and head north. Like millions of people all over the world, I put on my raingear and, locking arms with Mylove and my dear sisters, leptleapt out into the sea of love that in our case flowed like a river through the downtown streets of Oakland… .

… and despite our agreement to stay on the edges of the crowd, we – found ourselves right in the middle of it all…

… were swept alongside the pack of twenty ten-year-old girls – carrying their signs and wearing their hand knit pink hats…

… were captivated, as a young mother patiently explained in great patience (and, (I might add, with great insight) to her six-year-old son, why “we shall overcomb” made everyone laugh…

… cheered, laughed, chanted and walked in yes, the truly festive atmosphere….

… marching for Women’s rights, human right’s, Black lives’ rights, Environmental rights, Native American rights, Muslim-American rights, American-American rights. …

… and wasWe were all were baptized with love, with respect, with the Gracious Power of women.

This is my “takeaway.” I still feel our power. It has cleansed my heart. It has given me hope. It has washed the sour taste of those gummiegummy worms from my palate.

Today. T, the Monday after, the White Hhouse debates are already changing tone from the combative defensiveness of this weekend’s missteps.

Was it because of the March?

Probably. No one will probably give it credit. And it doesn’t matter.

The Republicans will be taking a retreat this weekend where they will strategize getting away from “small ball.” Is that because of the pink knit hats?

It doesn’t matter. Because, as women, we don’t give two hoots about “small ball.” And yes we know what it is and yes, we still don’t care.

This was not a movement to be judged. Success wasn’t depending on someone else or anyone who beieves themselves “outside” to validate.

None of the metrics men concoct can measure the power of what happened.

And, as a few have stepped forward to try to throw shade on the movement, to try to undermine and attempt to divide us for whatever reasons, (including those, who, as women felt they were being shamed for not wanting to march. N (newsflash –, we don’t care that you didn’t march, we marched so that we all have the choice to be and do what we feel is right for each of us in our own lives. If you felt shame –, I’m sad for you. I’m sad that you felt the need to shame yourself. And please know: we didn’t do that to you.)

There were pundits (even women pundits) who asked the same questions and made the same accusations that were levied against the Occupy movements. “Yes, but this will only mean something if now, you take this energy and do something with it” “Yes, but they better get the one message or this will be for naught.” “Does everyone even o know what they’re marching fo?” “They need a clear leader or their movement will die.”

Again. It doesn’t even matter what they say. W — what anyone outside thinks. All we cared about was that it was showing how many of us there are. How many of us are watching. How many of us will stand up for our rights.

More than anything, I learned so much about myself from just being in the company of us. I can place too much “belief” in the fallacy that bad can have its day, despite my faith that good will ultimately prevail. (who wants to live thru even a bad having a good inning? Still too much.) But, what I learned, even more, is how easy it was to allow the acid of hopelessness to erode my resolve.

And even now, as I watch “alternative facts,” executive orders try to dismantle Sanctuary cities, and even the Republicans like Paul Ryan try to invent a new definition for, “there’s a lot of ways for Mexico to ultimately end up paying for the wall in way or another,” I am held up by a Gracious Power that stands even if I might waver…

The millions of people who stood together around the world are the Gracious Power.
This Gracious Power plays by its own rules.
This Gracious Power is undeniable.
This Gracious Power will overcome.
This Gracious Power wears pink knit hats.
This Gracious Power wears what it wants.
But this Gracious Power is love. Is inclusive. Is Respect. Is Intelligence. Is creativity. Is Inspiring. Is nurturing. Is sustaining. Is the force that makes, holds, and supports this universe.

This Gracious Power is Woman.

March on.

Abuse of Power

I’ve been trying to come up with an elegant way of starting this week’s post… but it’s hard to type as outrage and incredible sadness arm wrestle for access to the launch tubes…

And… like a horrifying number of women in this country who’ve had to deal with having their scars suddenly and unceremoniously ripped open during these past two weeks (two weeks?????), I have to speak up. We have, without coordination, nor cohesion, all come to the same conclusion, and realized that despite the pain, and shame, and, for god’s sake, please get this! fear, it’s time to step forward.

I too, am a victim of sexual abuse.

As a trans woman, I kept this buried so very deep, because I already have to battle the gnats and mosquitos of the misinformed, the ignorant, and the downright idiots who believe that their beliefs somehow overrule my existence. They think they can deny me and my identity. They can ignore science (look, we all get why there are climate deniers out there. You make your money from fossil fuels – we knew that. So we’ve never ever given credibility to your denial. But unlike your sick cousins, the trans-deniers, your denial is “just business”).  But you both can stop now; you can stop ignoring the U.S. Government, the world’s health and medical minds – you can stop trying to somehow use your beliefs to make fiction into fact. You can stop thinking that your opinion is right and valid when applied to me and my existence.  Just stop.

Knowing that I am already helping push Sisyphus’s rock up that hill, I am loath to let any armchair psychologist weigh-in on or re-write my origin story. I was trans before any abuse. The abuse was not, and could not be, responsible for anything other than the pain of being abused.

I am also compelled to help explain to the non-humans out there that the reasons why victims don’t come forward when it happens is…

Their own fucking reasons!

In my case, I was reading Janet Mocks’ book, “Redefining Realness,” and it opened that door that I closed so long ago.  Tied-up in a knot of identity and sexuality and childhood confusion, I had been successful at convincing myself that there hadn’t been sufficient evidence to accuse him; that it was probably a “one time only” thing for my abuser. I had to face the fact that, tho’ my gender dysphoria was able to blow down the walls of its prison (once a month it turns out), I had been successful at burying my sexual abuse so far under that prison, that I almost forgot it was there…

Except that it was there. A crack in the foundation that makes every strut bend a little out of plumb. Casts a little bit of a shadow over things. A thorn in my heart where love is supposed to be.

But I must have gotten stronger through my transition, because I was able to say it out loud. I was able to tell Mylove. My lover. The one with whom I share my body and soul. I am…

This… happened to me.

It was a trusted man. My family trusted him, allowed him to take me and my friends places, sleep over at his house. Now, this man was in his twenties. He was a role model, or so my parents thought. He studied hard and became a paramedic. I went to his family’s house many times, and all of my friends would come too. We went to the movies and camping and all the things that are “great things” for boys.

I knew him for about 5 years when, one night, my best friend T and I spent the night. And he suggested that, rather than camping out in his living room (like usual), why don’t we all share the bed?  T came from a family with brothers and didn’t seem to think it was weird. So why should I?

I woke out a sound sleep to feel someone moving my hand. When I realized what was happening, it was too late. I jerked my hand back and  felt a reassuring hand stroking my forehead saying I had just had a bad dream… just go back to sleep.  It happened again, and the same reassuring hand caressed my forehead, the same whisper, once again telling me I was the one who had a bad dream… and all this without a word from me, as I lay there shivering…

The other part I buried, and I still can’t believe I did this, was that my best friend was also a victim. The next morning, T was curled up on the couch in the living room. I asked, “when did you  leave?”  But his reason was mumbled as our host made breakfast. It wasn’t until the following day that T could tell me that he had woke up with his hand where it shouldn’t be. And he immediately sought refuge in the living room.

Needless to say, things were never the same after that.

I realized after talking to Mylove about it, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Mylove said all the right things I guess I was craving to hear – It wasn’t my fault, etc.

But the truth was, I never gave myself permission to be the victim, because I didn’t think I had a right to say I was “Abused,” since I’m not sure how far my bad dream went. And in retrospect, I’m not sure how much I actually buried… was it a single night?  Did I let this happen more than once? Why had T been strong when I had not? He took control, I pretended to sleep. He never saw our friend again… I… can’t be sure when I stopped seeing our friend. Geezus, how much have I buried? And why am I still trying to downplay it?

I have to hold on to the handrail of rationale – the ways we all react to each situation are our own – there is no way anyone can ever say, “you should’ve done it this way,” particularly in the realm of abuse.

The criteria for credibility was not created by us – it was imposed onto us by those WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ABUSED – WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO JUDGE??????

There is no statute of limitation on pain, on suffering, on the degree of pain or suffering. There is not a GOD DAMNED THING THAT WILL EVER EXCUSE OR FORGIVE THIS ABUSE OF POWER.

Nothing.

And before you start handing out ironic “thank yous” to some candidate/abuser for bringing the public’s awareness to this hideous problem, just stop that too. This has been going on for centuries, but it can stop here. We should all join hands with the brave women (and some men) who’ve stepped forward. And while we’re at it, stop playing partisan games. This is not a political issue. This is a fundamental human issue. We have to teach our children that this abuse of power is never okay. We cannot allow the abuse of anyone to continue, not even one more second. And we cannot allow the abuse to be swept into the other political issues that will be the first things we’re happy to ignore once this presidential race is over.

So what will we do? How will we heal this?

In a world where Brock Peters only gets 6 months for the brutal campus rape of Elizabeth Smart because he’s “suffered enough” losing his Stanford swimming scholarship and being labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. In the wake of that, a Montana man, Martin Blake, gets SIXTY DAYS (????) for repeatedly raping his daughter, because he, too, had already “suffered enough” with 17 days in jail and losing his job.

Suffered enough.

I wonder what that really is?

As many women across our country, I am dealing with the torn flesh of an old wound.

I can find comfort in Mylove’s arms. Mylove, who has dealt with those times when men crossed the line with her. A child of the sixties, Mylove grew-up with every other woman (and man) believing that “boys will boys” and women just have to be okay with that.  But she’s also the woman who had her nose bloodied by an ex-boyfriend and turned into a wolverine, wiping her blood on his shirt as she proceeded to shred his chest with her nails.

She has had to deal with a lot of revelations from me and about me. And this one about my abuse, I’m sure, was maybe as heart-stopping as discovering that she had married a woman. As I laid bare my wounds, as I came forward to speak up about how I had been sexually abused, she looked deep into my eyes and soothed my hurt and confusion, shame and guilt, with a simple salve.

Compassion.

She listened and held my hand as I looked at the fear in my shadows. She stood beside me as I gathered my courage to look all the way at it.

She asked what could she do? She hugged me while I cried.

No judgment. No should’ves, could’ves, or would’ves.

And then she asked if I thought maybe I needed to check in with T and let him know I had been abused that night too… as the tears began once again to well up.  Once again, she knows me better than I know myself. She knows that this would tear me up. She let me cry it all out.

It’s a weird wrestling match between anger and sadness. And the tears come in waves. And when it looked like I was running out of steam… MyLove started throwing pecans down my cleavage to lighten me up!  I can always count on her to bring me out of the tailspin…

She’s right. The pecans are a gentle way to bring my attention back to the present. A way to ask, “what now?” Really, what now? How will we all heal? How do we make sure this can’t happen again?

Well, we can start by saying we don’t support this, don’t condone this, never, ever will we excuse this…

… at the ballot box on November 8th.

 

 

Waiting to exhale

Okay, I resisted for as long as I could (unless you count the few Facebook shares I could not keep my sharing finger from selecting), but I have to take to the keys to ask…

…how will we heal?

The political climate is only the mirror of a country struggling to “grow –up,” and we’re as conflicted as a teenager on a Friday night. (Trust me, I know as I enter full force into a second puberty – it ain’t pretty!) It’s a time when we have cast off the social decorum and intelligent ways of communicating that have, for better or worse, gotten us this far as a country and a society. Somehow the gloves are off and we all, willingly, with full intention ,say things, print things, infer things, and worst of all, SHOUT things that we want to be incendiary, not caring if they are accurate, and actually hope that they will hurt…

…without any thought of the consequences.

I’m as guilty as the next girl. I look to score points, like a boxer peppering my opponent with body shots to “weaken” him so that my real point will land the knock-out punch. I will, with the right turn of a phrase, stop my opponents in their tracks, the blazing light of truth will cut through their stupidity and ignorance, and they will not only cede their argument, but will change their entire opinion and come to my side to work for the greater good of all.

At least that’s how it looks in my head. And that’s what I tell my heart when it protests about my pugilistic ways. And that’s what I shout into my pillow to justify being, well, just like “them.”

Rats, and I was doing so well…

I know I may look like a bright-eyed teenager (rose colored glasses anyone?), but I am, and have been, a media professional for over thirty years. My stock in trade is not only my opinion but the country’s various opinions.  It’s how we who are selling the dog food* have to play.  You don’t sell TV to yourself, after all. If we did, would we really have ever canceled Rocky & Bullwinkle?

(*“selling the dog food” is a term that refers to the fact that TV is just a medium for selling consumer products. Advertiser-based, it is ruled by the companies that sell to consumers, so don’t believe it one second – there s no such thing as liberal media bias it’s the biggest line of horsesh*t ever sold. Anything that is too controversial for Bob & Betty Sixpack in middle America, won’t ever be said on TV.)

Most of my work (with the exception of hanging out with surfers for 5 years for ESPN’s “Surfer Magazine”) has been “red state – red meat.” In other words, it’s the kind of stuff that is most likely to air on the flat-screens at Hooters – testosterone-laden dude food that goes down best with beer, bravado and bros. So, I can, without any apology or hesitation, say I have studied our great nation’s zeitgeist from the inside out. Call it survival or just knowing your audience, but I know why those on the red side of the equation want so badly to win.

And I chose the word “badly” by design. This “win at all costs” isn’t even appropriate in football (“inflate gate,” anyone? – Everyone who wasn’t from Boston cried foul for months afterward) business (Wells Fargo for 5200, please) or religion (let’s not go here, shall we?). So why is it being done so badly in the battle for the beltway?

Yes, I hear you saying, “But, throughout our history, it’s always been this way, we have always fought tooth and nail for “our guy” (hmmm…). But let’s be real, even the Republicans didn’t think this would ever get this bad. This is bad bad, Robert Altman satirical bad, weak night on SNL bad, nobody will ever buy this, bad.

WTF?

Fair disclosure, I have had a slightly cynical outlook on politics since high school. Ever since I, as a starry-eyed junior who earnestly ran for senior class president (after earning my stripes as ASB president), was told by the out-going seniors that they were going to vote instead for my opponent because they were graduating and thought it was a good joke to leave the other guy in charge. (Sorry, Lawrence that’s what it was.) I learned that power rules, the best candidate doesn’t always win, and life isn’t fair. That politics is a game… and second place sucks.

So what did I do? Did I quit?  Sit-out my senior year with my arms folded? No. I got schooled, so I was going to be the schooler. I became a nasty, backroom politicking, power-broker myself, and the next year got my girl into the oval office. I used the same tactics that brought me down the year before. I harnessed the out-going seniors, those who wouldn’t even be around to live with their decision, but I appeased my conscience by knowing I had used my powers for good.

But that was high school. And we weren’t playing for keeps.

Even so, why do I think that, after all, these years, after three wars (four?) and black lives matter, and HB2, and an obstructionist congress, and gerrymandering, that it would be different in this election?

Because it has to be.  At no time since I’ve been able to vote, have I ever had my life literally on the line. When I first got the right to vote, I got a mean package deal.  In a scary twofer, I also had registered for the draft (remember Ben Sasway?) because the war machine was still running at top speed and I was of the age to feed it.

Now, before I go any further, my TV fans know (and you should too) that I actively support our men and women who defend our country. (This isn’t just slapping a bumper sticker on my car kinda support –  I put my money where my hiring mouth was, and made it a practice to bring returning vets onto my crews.) There are obvious differences between being drafted and enlisting. It’s another thing that makes our country great. We all get to choose how we serve.

But this election season, the vitriol has been the epitome caustic. My rights have never been on the line before. There’s states that I literally can’t go. This is freakin’ America! Are you kidding me? There are systematic and well funded efforts to pass LAWS that make it legal to discriminate against me and my LGBTQ brethren. Here. In the good ‘ol U.S. of A. And the right is so blinded by their rage that will say anything, do anything, hurt anyone, to seize this power. And without also making a false equivalency, the left is not entirely blameless, giving as good as they get, we all take off the gloves and go toe-to-toe without anyone caring…

…where we go from here.

How will we reconcile with each other after whoever wins in November?  Will we be able to ignore the cuts and bruises we all suffered on the way to this decision?  Will those who have spent the last 18 months with veins bulging in their necks and blood on their tongues, actually be able to put all that aside to work together?

How could we? It’s not like elections past. The Republicans tried to distance themselves but it was too late, they already sold their souls and the devil came a’callin’. Doesn’t matter that, to stand by their boy, they have to compromise every value this once proud party had, they’ll have to soldier on and take a bullet for the team, merely to save face with the largest donors…

…all at the expense of our country.

And I’m not going to pretend to present a fair and balanced view here. Hillary is a President. Her opponent is nothing more than a spoiler – but the spoiled of that war, is a legalized mandate that it is okay to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, it’s okay to roll back women’s rights, It’s okay to mandate over woman’s bodies.  Misogyny is okay. Racism is expected. Hatred is a tool. Xenophobia, the law of the land.

There is no pretending that this is the last gasp of white male privilege. There is no getting around the fact that the great white hope is willing to trade fear for substance, blame for responsibility, and hatred for patriotism.

The army of apologists and surrogates sell out themselves and this country every time they step in front of a microphone or camera. They know it, and nobody is smart enough to pull up on the stick to get out of their own nosedives. How will any of them look themselves in the mirror after November?

How will any of us look each other in the eye and go forward?

We’ve seen this movie before. We just lived through eight years of an obstructionist congress standing on principle to block anything that moved in the name of “gamesmanship.” But this go-around even the Republican leadership can’t hide their sins, and the fact that they can’t control Godzilla now that they’ve blasted it with the atomic ray gun, has us all bracing for impact. Every morning they have to peek between their fingers at the latest headlines to see which is the latest “Republican value” to die an unholy death. Their boy is apparently settling a golf bet to take them all the way down, and apparently there’s no bottom in sight: not defrauding students with his fake university, nor faking charitable donations, nor illegally going against a federal embargo with a communist Cuba and lying about it to Cuban-American patriots, not defiling a beauty Queen, insulting a Judge, spewing hate toward an entire country and an entire religion, and just about anything that isn’t white (except Hillary), not taking bribes from Russia, nor bribing a state’s attorney general. Not even referring to this country as a “third world country,” is enough for his basket to hit bottom. And don’t get me started about being “smart” enough to not pay taxes. Nothing is low is enough. Nothing apparently is too far for them to ever cry, “uncle.”

This is what happens when you sell your soul.

But there I go judging again.

I honestly have no idea how I will look any of my friends who are pretending that their vote for that guy isn’t a vote against me. I have no idea how Republicans will ever really believe that they will have any shred of credibility left. It’s an amazing phenomenon, really. Just like those high school seniors who wouldn’t be around to reap what they had sown. I’m wondering where all of these people think any of us are going. They’ll have us on the day after the election. It’s not like half of the country suddenly disappears; and it’s not like any of the festering wounds will maybe ever heal.

So what then, is the answer?  We can’t close Pandora’s box, we can’t put that genie back in its beer bottle. We can’t kill Godzilla; we can only pray he goes back into the sea.

We are already different as a country. Mainstream media has lost all credibility. Our establishment’s pillars are crumbling. We are so polarized that there’s no such thing anymore as a “healthy exchange of ideas.” There’s only us and them. No we.

Will it change in November? Will we have learned anything positive through this all?  Will the ideas of reform and change that were brought up produce anything other than even more talking points?

Will the racial divides that have been exposed get spanned with bridges of understanding, or will the disenfranchised continue to rally around a champion that will do nothing more than knock down those bridges with the spray of hate and fear?

We’re all holding our breath…