Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Almost a month later...




OK. I came out to my work on April 14th, 2017. It was Good Friday. I had my message all loaded up on my phone. We had a party down at NYne and at 1630, Sarah hit the SEND button on my phone and the email went to everyone at work. Brian, our fire chief, waiting for me to send the message, immediately followed up with a message to all SFD employees that was kind, supportive and laid down the law. He then came to the bar and bought everyone a round of Fireball. We partied until after midnight! A first for me in a long time.

On the afternoon of the big Good Friday coming out, I realized I really didn't have anything to wear for that night. I guess, over the years, I should have been wearing more clothes that fit my true but buried-in-shame gender. But, I never really did much of that. So, I didn't have many female clothes. Sarah took me down to the Reclothery, a consignment shop for really nice used clothes. I bought three shirts there. On the way home I received a reply to a text I had sent earlier. 

The response was from someone very close to me. I started reading it out loud to Sarah as we were driving home from shopping. Over the last few days, I had been texting some of my friends at work to let them know of my transness and my impending Good Friday email to the job. In reply to my disclosure, I had been receiving nothing but very supportive and loving messages. I was expecting the same from this person. But, what I received was the opposite. It was a very detailed, very thorough reply. It was angry and it was mean. It was demeaning. There was an airing of grievances, the likes of which not even Festivus has ever witnessed. Sarah parked the car in the garage as I continued to read it out loud. When I finally finished, I think she was ready for me to start crying - not so much for the content hurting me but for the source - someone who I have known for decades. Someone I love. Instead, I said, "F@#k that guy." And then I typed a reply which was pretty much - "I'm disappointed in you." And then we got dressed and walked down to the party. We had a job to do. 

It was a job and it was a party. Lots of friends, mostly from work, people I have known for a long time. There were also some new-found friends from the trans community. There were some of my sisters. I did not invite one sister. Her husband had told me that she had collapsed on the floor the evening after I came out to her, sobbing "My brother is sick. He's just sick." I did not want to cause her any more grief or stress. She is a good person and has been nice to me. I did not want to hurt her. I think everyone had a good time together that night. 

I followed up my email to the job with a general message on Facebook a week later. Since the day I came out, I have received, I dunno, I would guess over a hundred emails, posts, texts, messages, phone calls, gifts, cards and letters from people in my life. The messages were loving, complimentary, protective, and just plain beautiful. Shifting from shame and fear to this celebration has been the most moving event of my life. And it took over 50 years to get here. 

My wish is that everyone who has sent me such powerful, affirming words receives the same groundswell in their lives. My therapist said it was like going to my own funeral. I think it was better because, well, I'm still alive. 

Some stuff was hard to hear because it was just so sweet and nice, and frankly, I felt unworthy. Since the hormone replacement therapy, I usually don't cry at sad movies or any sad stuff at all. I used to. Instead, now I am at such a level of happiness that when I get more happy, I don't know where to put it and it squirts out my eyes. That's happened a lot since that Good Friday.

I went to work two days later, on Easter Sunday. And it was a little awkward. I usually run to work, but I didn't this shift because I had all the food with me for our Easter meal, so I drove. I came in wearing eye liner, lip stain (thank you Mel), and mascara. A firefighter new to our station was looking very uncomfortable. I said, "Hey thanks for making coffee," as I poured myself a cup. He said,"You're welcome. How was your Saturday?" He was still avoiding eye contact. I took a sip of my coffee, paused and replied, "Pretty good... now that I'm a girl." And he broke up laughing and so did I and it was all good. And so it has remained.

I remain overwhelmed and unworthy of the awesome love bestowed upon me by everyone. Well almost everyone... I told Sarah yesterday that I am grateful for this person who despises me, as well. It is good to know how brave almost every one is and how kind almost everyone is. If it wasn't for this one person, I wouldn't have seen the contrast. So, thank you to him! It is like a pinch of cayenne pepper in a ginger snap cookie recipe. And for that spice I am very grateful. 








Sunday, April 23, 2017

In the wake of the big coming out...

I realize that most of you already know my story. But if you don't, I came out as transgender to my job on the 14th. 

In the aftermath, things are so good. Everybody on my job has been so supportive. 

I think some of my brother firefighters at the station were pretty uncomfortable when they first saw me after I sent my letter. One firefighter asked me how my Saturday was. I said, "Pretty good. Now that I'm a girl." It was pretty funny. And everything was cool after that.

I plan on talking about some of the more interesting parts of this I guess, later. Right now I'm so happy just to be getting on with the regular parts of my usual life: running, gardening, and looking forward to some fishing. 

Here is the letter I sent to my work in case you didn't read it and you want to read it:

Hi everybody, I would like to share something with you.

Last year, in March, my wife Sarah asked me to tell our three boys something that I disclosed to her over twenty-one years ago. It was a secret that she said she did not want to have to tell them after I died, one that they should hear from me. Well, this was a tough one. It was an embarrassing thing and something that gave me a lot of shame over my life, especially when I was a kid. It was going to be a hard thing to do, but I told them, which unleashed a series of events. Now almost a year later, I would like to tell you.

I am a transgender person.

I don’t want to bore you with a lot of details, but I will give you a few pertinent ones. I have been going to counseling for this for over a year. I received a very definitive diagnosis after the third session. I have been seeing a physician, as well. I have been undergoing male to female hormone therapy for almost eight months. I let Chief Schaeffer know about my situation two months ago and Local 29 President John Goodman know one month later. I have met with the Chief, John Goodman and Meghann Steinolfson, our HR Director, to talk about the best way to let you all know about this.

I know a lot of us had the transgender awareness class (Cultural Diversity?) a few years ago. I will not speak for every transgender person's experience or their expectations from SFD. I think what we learned in that class still stands to some degree. But, as you know I am not a real touchy-feely person, other than I try not to be a jerk. When possible, I like all of us to have an enjoyable time when we work together. And I would really like that to continue. I have evolved on the pronoun usage and am leaning toward feminine ones, as each day passes. And I think I will be there soon. So, if you would use "shes" or "hers" in regard to me, that would be great! I will slip up on this too because, frankly, I am still getting used to it. So, thanks for trying.

I have a new first name in mind, as well. It is "Maeve." Rhymes with Dave, save and Flavor Flav. Again, I appreciate your patience, effort and kindness.

I might have hid out from you a lot longer, maybe even retired, before my transition became really noticeable. The reason why I told admin and why I am telling you now is because I want to be ready to take a stand for anyone in our city who is the victim of bigotry-related violence. I, like you, care a lot about the people we serve. If someone in the Spokane region was persecuted for being a trans person, I would feel like a coward if I just hid out. I didn’t want you, my brothers and sisters, to be blindsided when I have to take a public stand for someone in Spokane who was attacked for being LGBT.  Also, I want to tell the truth to you.

Please know that I am not writing this to ask you to treat me differently. I am the same person, and will always be the same person, no matter what you thought about me before, if you ever thought about me before. Now you just know more about who I am.

I realize that this news is weird. I have lived with the weirdness for over 50 years and it is still weird to me. I had never met a transgender person (that I know of) until about seven months ago. As such, I get that this may be difficult for others too.

Over the years, with so many of you, I have had really good friendships. Together, we have been in some tight spots and have seen and done amazing things. As such, it would be nice to think that this news will have little or no impact on our relationships. However, I am a realist, and I realize that some of you will not be capable of maintaining a friendship with me because of this disclosure. If you are one of those people, please know that I am very thankful for the gift of your prior friendship, and I will always be grateful for this gift, no matter how you feel about me now. Even if you just barely tolerated me, thanks for that too.

That was a lot for me to say and probably even more for you to hear. I am really open to any questions you might have. if you have ever worked with me, know that my attitude about my situation is about the same as it is regarding most situations. In other words, don't worry too much about offending me with questions you might have. You can email me back here at work, or my email at home spokanarama@comcast.net. You can also call me or text me at 509.230.5646, follow me on facebook or my blog - spokanarama.blogspot.com. I will be informing others via social media and the blog soon. But, my brothers and sisters, I wanted you to know first.


Thank you very much, Maeve/Johnny G.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lots to say

I have a lot to say. But I won't say it today.

Thanks to you for still reading my blog. Yes, it may be seem like I am in a bit of a doldrum. Well, the opposite is true. I have actually been really busy with really good stuff. I am not ready to divulge what's gong on quite yet.

I could post some things that are sideshows in my life right now. And I probably will. Suffice it to say that there are bigger things going on, but I am not able to say what they are, yet. Bigger, weirder things!

So, please be patient with me.

If you want, here is the video of today's Haiku Friday, which was probably my most disjointed, unprofessional yet. Yay! There were some technical difficulties and distractions too. I like that people say "hello" to me while I am doing the video, in fact I love it, but it still makes me smile or laugh when I read it and it is a little hard to recover!

I am going to make 2017 the best year of my life. And I am inviting you along! Haiku Friday, February 17, 2017:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Facebook Fix?

Oh. This feels so much better. Posting here in a place where hardly anyone reads me anymore. Now, usually I would forward my blog post on to Facebook. I get more hits that way. And I am all about the hits, right? Well, obviously not. But, I'm not forwarding this post to FB. This is just for you and me. Just like who this land was made for - you and me.

As I have said before, I am trying to figure out how to deal with my need to fight on Facebook with people who will never be convinced, no matter the evidence, to reconsider their position. And I think I have come up with a way that is good for me and maybe even good for them. I rhyme.

Well, not right there, but in my FB posts that are anti-Trump. It's a rule I've made for myself. For the last couple weeks, I think, I've been doing just that.  I first tweet the poems and they get automatically forwarded to Facebook.

Why rhyme?

1. It makes the posts more fun and challenging for me to do.  It slows me down and makes me think about what I really want to say. I cannot shoot from the hip when it requires a little more effort.

2. It is another layer of information. When trying to explain something and sounding like Dr. Seuss, there is a subtext I am also trying to convey. It may not be a very nice subtext, but how can you not like Dr. Seuss?

3. It sticks in the reader's brain a little better. It's like a catchy jingle or song. And if my rhyming is a little off, so much the better. The reader feels some dissonance and I think that helps too.

4. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Make the message simple. If it's simple, it's more memorable. How can I hone this message down. Twitter makes you do that. So does poetry.

I think there was a fifth or sixth reason, but I can't think of them.  Something about being creative. Yes I know none of this rhymed (that I know of anyway).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Helping hands?

 

 A few days ago, I tried to sweat out this cold that seems to be creeping into my sinuses and lungs. In the sauna, I have a pretty standard routine:
 
1. Read until I get too sweaty.
2. Remove my magazine or book and glasses from the sauna.
3. Steam it up by putting eucalyptus water on the hot rocks.
4. Breathe in the steam as much as I can stand.
5. Lay supine on the top shelf.
6. Stretch. 
7. Just lay there.
8. Open up the vent.
9. Get out.
10. I wish there was a tenth step. It would look better. Shower?

In the sauna I was reading an article on the therapeutic use of psychedelics in Outside Magazine. Those of you who know me, know that I have never used anything other than alcohol, caffeine or exercise induce any mind-alterating state. But, the concept of psychedelics for depression and end-of-life experience is something that I find interesting and I hope it gets studied more.

The author of the magazine article was receiving instructions in how to anticipate the experience he was going to embark upon:

“Keep looking at your hands,” she said. “When it looks like they’re somebody else’s hands, they're working.” 

At this point, the dripping started and I knew it was time to take the magazine and my reading glasses out of the sauna and proceed with Step 3.

As I lay baking in the 180 degree heat, I held my hand up. It was my hand. No matter how close my cedar sweat lodge would take me to another dimension, there would be no denying my hands. Which is good, I think. Coal miner hands. That’s what I have. troglodyte hands. I bet my ancestors in the Welsh coal mines were prized - big ass shovel hands. Good for swimming too I suppose. 

Then I started thinking about what my hands have been up to. Oh, the adventures they have had over the years! On a balance sheet, were they hands for good? Probably a draw. As I lay on the bench - a shelf for sweating - I thought about all the jobs I have had - all pretty hand-centric. Some were involved in doing good things for people and some were involved in doing bad things to people. All jobs were “honorable professions.” They put food on the table for my family and provided me with a sense of self worth. But really, was this an intrinsically good thing? I mean, working for a living is certainly a good thing, but it’s also an expected thing, a responsible thing, a normal thing. Although the idea of “normal” is certainly one that fluctuates from generation to generation.

As usual, my sweaty thoughts turned to politics. How many of you remember when Republican Senator Rob Portman reversed his stand on gay marriage after his son came out? I guess that is a certain kind of courage. I would suspect that even his most Conservative constituents “forgave” him for this transgression because, after all, I mean his son… What’s a loving parent to do? 

Likewise, our own congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rogers became a real advocate for kids with disabilities and voted against her own party for funding when, you guessed it, her child was born with Down’s Syndrome. I don’t think she would have that kind of empathy had she not been directly affected by her relationship with her newborn child. Or maybe she has empathy but knows her base would only allow an "understandable" empathy.

Which brings me to the questions - Is it really empathy when you act on behalf of those you love? Does it really require any courage to take a stand for others that are the same as you? Could I really say that, because I love my family,and I put my hands to work that this is a “good” thing other than a necessary, required, expected thing to do what you have to do for the ones you love? I mean, it certainly is not a bad thing, but it’s not heroic. It’s just digging coal. 

But, anymore it would look like heroism, just like McMorris-Rodgers or Rob Portman being empathetic to their own family members. To be sure there is a courage involved to stand up to your core constituents, your supporters, knowing that they don’t have much empathy for anyone but their immediate family and friends. And most of them “get” that others have that too. They just might not understand why anyone else has empathy for others who they don’t even know.

Like I mentioned, “normal” is something that varies from generation to generation. All the northern abolitionists who struggled hard to free black people in the south, when they didn’t even personally know any African-Americans, might be considered abnormal today. Their efforts would be certainly heroic by any standard. Although, in my opinion, this empathy would be considered more abnormal by Conservatives than Liberals. And I guess that’s why I like associating more with Liberal causes than Conservative. 

Recently in the paper, there was an article about a friend of mine's daughter. After the election, she was told by her “friends” at school that she should be shipped back to Mexico now that Trump will take office. Seems like this happened a lot around Spokane. Kids gleefully telling classmates that President Trump was going to ship them back to Africa, Mexico, maybe even CHYYYYNAH. No doubt this was a reflection of what they heard from home. A household, perhaps, with no empathy except for themselves. Is that empathy? 

I grew up in a very diverse place. My best friend was a black kid. His parents took a part in raising me too. Our households were very different. I would say they were better educated than my parents and their parenting style was a little more conventional. Jimmy’s folks would take me on vacation with them. My dad would take me and Jimmy fishing just about every weekend. My dad was a believer in the upcoming race wars, that “The Blacks” wanted to destroy “The Whites.” But he would always add, “Not Jimmy’s family. They’re good people.” 

My Dad would be celebrating the Trump victory today, especially after eight years of listening to his AM radio mullahs instructing him on how to hate Barrack Obama. White kids were in the minority in my school district. Lots of Chicano and Chicana classmates. But, there was never any child who would have said or felt the things that were said to my friend’s daughter. It would have been inconceivable. Not that kids back then weren’t cruel. Probably more so than today. Bullying was an expected thing and I was a frequent recipient. Thank you very much. But, to bring race, nationality, or religion into the bullying was unheard of. Not today. This is the new normal and it’s out in the open. 

I look at my hands and realize I haven’t done enough. That’s going to change. Empathy means something when you take a stand for people you don’t know, people who are different than you. Maybe the only thing you have in common with another is that they are a fellow resident of this planet, this dimension. Well, that’s good enough. 

These were all the ravings of my hyperthermic mind that morning. Who needs psychedelics? 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Fear is the mind-killer...


 I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.


- Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear 



Last shift when I got off work, I did my usual wintertime run home. In the deep snow, coming up the hill, after being up all night, I felt really beat. This unpacked snow makes the footing much like running on loose sand at the beach. Throw in some vertical climb, and it can be pretty exhausting.

Sarah had just finished her run when I arrived. She had fired up the sauna earlier, so the timing was right and we were able to take one of those rare saunas together. Maybe it's because I get really soaked with sweat in the sauna and it grosses her out, or maybe she worries that she has not had a CPR refresher class in a while. For whatever reason, usually, we each sauna alone.

We had a great conversation in the 180 degree heat and, as usual, wound up talking politics. Sarah said some things that really made sense to me, some things I hadn’t considered before and I like it!

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I get frustrated that no matter how many facts and figures I show, no matter how many graphs or history lessons get proffered, there is really no one I have spoken with who has had their mind changed by my spouting off. I point to where the Dow Jones was when Bush left and Obama took the helm and where it is now. Likewise - unemployment, per capita income, abortions, wars, terrorist attacks, blah, blah, blah. I show you which party is consistently better for the economy, which party restored value in your home, etc. It just doesn’t matter. My voice is a lone one to you. Maybe the only one you are hearing, if you are a Conservative friend, that differs from your other friends and certainly from what you hear on the radio and in the corporate news media. To try to disprove what you feel is an impossible task and it’s the masochist in me that keeps thinking "maybe today…" As you have read in my last post, I am done with that. I repeated this to Sarah, as the steam hissed away and we baked.

Sarah’s observation in a nutshell (and I hope my memory does not do her a disservice) is that if emotions like fear are controlling someone’s life then there is no amount of logic or rational fact-delivering that will overcome that fear to enable someone to see things differently. Wow. She said that, in her opinion, the only way to break through that fear is to be a source of confident optimism and joy. Double wow. Sarah followed up with the thought that being kind to someone is not the same as being nice to someone. To be kind, is harder because you are, ultimately, caring about the well being of another. To be nice is a superficial response - usually not a bad one. Sometimes, trying to spread truth, joy and optimism will not be a “nice” undertaking but it should be a "kind" pursuit. I liked that a lot and will be trying to do this in 2017.

I don’t think that any one person will be able to overcome the state in which we find some of our friends and neighbors. How many of you have found that, even in their candidate’s unprecedented winning of the presidency, these friends are still angry and scared people? I know I sure have seen it. Maybe this is all they only know how to feel regarding politics any more. 

It is hard to understand some of that when many of these folks have, because of government work, retired very early in their lives. Many of them have great careers because of government training them in skills - creating a great living for their families. Yet, there is much fear and anger toward the same social benevolence government provided them when offered to others. I think this may come from a mindset of the economics of scarcity versus the economics of plenty. It doesn’t matter the cause. Nothing is going to get them to want to build upon the gift of government and extend it to others, just as was done for them, until they can be unafraid and not angry. There are plenty of voices that make money and sell things to keep them angry and afraid.

So, why be a beacon of truth, kindness, joy and confident optimism if it doesn’t have any immediate effects on changing hearts and minds? These are the reasons for me:

1. I know I want to "win." It’s how I am built. I have mostly reined that in. I am selectively competitive in my life, but around issues of political thought, I now realize I am always competitive. What kind of effect does this have on the person I want to convince to see things my way? I would suspect it entrenches them. I would suspect they are as competitive as me and want "the win" too. I hereby surrender. Or better yet, I leave this game to others.

2. This is a collective approach. It will take hundreds of daily human interactions of kind, truthful, optimistic people to counter what one radio talk show will tell you in an afternoon. Why? He is an authority and you are entertained. Maybe in some kind of horror movie way, but still entertained. And if I share this mission with millions of others, it sure takes the load off me - making me a better person. Hopefully, it makes me a less arrogant person. And enjoyment of being with others (especially ones different than me) is something I have learned to really like. I've had to overcome a lot of early childhood programming, but I now love being a part of the parade, arm-in-arm with fellow travelers. It is becoming ever more important to me.

3. This is an approach for the long haul. I don’t know if you have ever been to the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C. It is, for me, as moving as the Vietnam War Memorial. The stuff that is inscribed in stone - quotes from Roosevelt in the depths of The Great Depression are amazing. Our country has moved so far to the right, that the words seem foreign. And even though Roosevelt was a centrist in his time, you realize FDR would not be able to be elected as dog catcher today in many parts of our country. But, the words are still true, and as are as timeless as the stone they are blasted into. It took us a long time to  turn our backs to these truths. It will take a long time to, once again, embrace them fully. But we will.

4. It’s all about me! Is this narcissistic? Gee, I hope so. Being a person who is confidently optimistic, a person who kindly promotes truth, is a good person to be. Having less stress and anger is a good thing mentally and physically. Why not model what you think is a good way to live just by living that way? Prove the truth in it to yourself and to others.

It’s not going to be easy. You can talk all you want about Russian hackers, the fake news outlets, etc., but If you're looking for a cartoon villain, why not mainstream media? They gave away billions of dollars of free airtime to Donald Trump. Why? It's called "investing," and it made them even more billions of dollars. They admit it. They know exactly how we are built and how to profit off of our fear and anger. Everyone will want to hear the next crazy Trump story. It's one of the nuttiest things that has happened in my lifetime. It’s entertainment. Eyeballs stay glued to their channels and advertising revenue goes through the roof. This will continue during the Trump presidency. They make money by making you angry and fearful.

Today, it is no longer about the truth, so weighing in on the media’s latest Trump story will have little effect on your friends’ opinions and beliefs. Joyful optimism and fearlessness will save the day! 







Thursday, January 05, 2017

Cool runnings


Just got in from a sub-zero run around the neighborhood. I am still running to and from work - about 3.5 miles each way, but have not been out in the really cold for just a “fun” run lately. So, I put on almost all the running clothes I own and headed out early this morning.


Do you know anyone who drives a garbage truck? I do. The two guys I know are among the most intelligent and caring folks I have ever met. I am glad they don’t have to get out of their trucks too much now that there is the mechanical arm device.



All the folks on Manito Blvd had their cans in an easy-to-reach spot for the arm.


Even though it’s mechanical, I don’t think it’s magical. How do some people think it's going to reach 10 feet over a snow berm? And when you put a parked car in the mix…

I suspect that our garbage collector has to park their truck, get out and move the ill-placed cans to a more accessible location. But, you know what, hopefully, you get to meet the worker when they are doing this. They are all a nice bunch and will, more than likely, cheerfully overcome any obstacles you have inadvertently placed in front of them.

When you work for a municipality, when you have a strong union that provides a living wage for your family, you care about the people you serve. They are your neighbors, friends and family. In turn, the people you serve care about you.


On a cold winter run, early this morning, I felt pretty warm.