The Becky Blog
United Church of Christ Endorses Same Sex Marriage
(From the Associated Press)
The United Church of Christ's rule-making body voted overwhelmingly Monday to approve a resolution that endorses same-sex marriage, making it the largest Christian denomination to do so. Roughly 80 percent of the members of the church's General Synod voted to approve the resolution. They debated for about an hour before voting.
On Sunday, a committee of about 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave nearly unanimous approval to the resolution, recommending that the General Synod approve it. It was supported by the UCC's president, John H. Thomas.
Traditionally strong in New England, the liberal denomination of 1.3 million members has long been supportive of gays and lesbians.
The church was criticized last year for its television advertising campaign featuring a gay couple, among others, being excluded from a church. CBS and NBC rejected the 30-second ads.
In the early 1970s, the UCC became the first major Christian body to ordain an openly gay minister. Twenty years ago, it declared itself to be "open and affirming" of gays and lesbians.
The same-sex resolution was submitted by the Southern California and Nevada Conference. The resolution specified that bisexual and transgender persons merit the same support and protections as gays and lesbians.
UCC churches are autonomous, meaning the General Synod does not create policy for its more than 5,700 congregations.
No hard data exist on how many gays and lesbians are in the UCC.
The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of Cleveland, national interim director of the UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, said about 2,000 people are on the group's mailing list and about 1,000 clergy or seminarians are gay. The denomination has 10,323 ordained ministers.
Cooling off in July
I love Phoenix. But I don't love it in July - not with temperatures over 110 and heat related deaths in double digits. So I've been glad for the chance to attend a meeting in Seattle this week.
The weather is just perfect - it hasn't rained a single day. The medical sessions were daytime only and were over on Friday. I've had chances to spend time with numerous friends in the evenings, and today I put Seattle in the rear view mirror, so to speak, of the Washington State ferry.
My destinations were the Puget Sound communities of Port Townsend and La Conner. How beautiful these smaller towns are this time of year, awash with floral gardens and hanging baskets, clean and full of civic pride. It was a refreshing day.
I've had the opportunity to observe life in all three cities of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver BC. Each is so different from the others.
Vancouver is such fun for a week. The West End is the friendliest of neighborhoods. Shopping and dining have unlimited choices. I love the beach and Stanley Park. But before the week is done, I'm ready to get back to familiar territory.
Portland seems like familiar territory. It has more of the small town feel. Portland's downtown is one of the most livable, user-friendly downtowns in the country. There's so much greenspace. But like a small town, there are sometimes limits to the urban amenities in Portland.
No such limits are in Seattle. It's a major city, with everything you need (or think you might need) close at hand. It's reasonably driver friendly, not so much as Phoenix, but more so than San Francisco for sure. I think my main complaint about Seattle is the lack of downtown greenspace like Portland has. It's all steel and concrete. But with Puget Sound just a ferry ride away, you can have your fill of the green world.
In the final analysis, it's the people who make the difference. That's why I prefer Seattle. I have quite a few friends there already.
But my heart is still in the desert, along with many more friends. I'm anxious to hop that plane back to red-hot Phoenix tomorrow.
The Amancio Project
In Memory of the Life and Death of Amancio Corrales
On May 6th, Amancio Corrales, a 23-year-old gay man who performed as a female impersonator, was found murdered in the Colorado River near Yuma.
Because of the violent nature of the attack, local activists suspect this is a hate crime. A coalition called the Amancio Project, www.theamancioproject.org, formed and continues to pressure the Yuma County Sheriff's office to pursue an aggressive investigation. With few leads, though, the Corrales family is left to grieve without hope of justice or closure.
You can show your support of the Corrales family and continue the public outcry for justice by attending a Prayer Vigil on Saturday, August 6, 2005 at 7:00 pm at the Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W. Washington St, Phoenix.
For more information, please contact Sam Holdren of the Arizona Leadership Institute at (602) 264-5782 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I've reflected on the past weekend, it seems to me that the two events I attended are closely intertwined.
On Friday night, Margaux and I joined over 200 other GLBT people and friends at the Phoenix Art Museum for a Town Hall panel discussion on spirituality - specifically, the role that certain persons assume in condemning us. One of the three panelists was Joe Solmonese, president of HRC (the Human Rights Commission), here from Washington for a visit. Another was my pastor at Shadow Rock, David Ragan, a leader in No Longer Silent - Clergy for Justice. The third was Daniel Karslake, who is producing a movie titled "For the Bible Tells Me So." This movie will be a wonderful aid for persons who, as I did years ago, struggle with the perceived conflict between their spirituality and the reality of their LGBT status.
The movie features clips from a number of fundamentalist preachers and lay persons, some seen carrying signs describing how "God Hates" GLBT people. The antipathy in their voices and their behavior is evident, and in blunt contrast to the peace, contentment, and calm seen in the ministers and persons who support us. Several brief clips feature Jimmy Swaggart, the discredited Louisiana preacher who has tried to make a comeback by bashing our people. Swaggart's infamous "I'll kill him and tell God he died" boast was punctuated by his multiple mispronunciations of the word "abomination." According to him, we are "a bomb nation." I worry a bit about this choice of mangled language.
But the movie will be superb, and I am looking forward to its release. Please visit the site, and contribute if you can to offset the production costs.
On Saturday night, we attended the vigil commemorating the life of Amancio Corrales (as mentioned in my previous blog entry). The venue on the State Capitol grounds attracted a number of persons from Yuma, where Amancio lived, as well as local Phoenix friends. Donna Rose and Kyrsten Sinema, among others, spoke with eloquence and passion about how we can honor his memory by living authentic and open lives.
Perhaps the speaker who surprised me the most was a state legislator from Yuma. I didn't agree completely with his remarks (especially 'we aren't sure this was a hate crime'), but I was very pleased to hear him implicate "religion" as a factor in Amancio's murder. He made the point that we GLBT persons need to find ways to counter the hate and contempt which is thrown at us in the name of religion.
The thought occurred to me: one reason we are at risk for such violence is because some "religious" leaders declare our lives to be disposable. They think we don't exist as unique human beings with hopes, loves, and fears. We are "a bomb nation." Therefore, it's okay to take out your hatred on us. We've been dehumanized already.
Have you noticed, when a transsexual woman or man is murdered, it's not a clean single bullet? No, that's too good for us. We are beaten with kitchen utensils and cans of food, hit over the head with skillets, strangled and stabbed. Multiple times. Then, if still breathing, we are drowned. If we haven't had surgery, our killer will perform that, without anesthesia, as part of the assault. My friends, these are hate crimes.
The angry, frightened, cruel people who harm us believe they are doing God's will because the Jimmy Swaggarts of their world give them permission to do so by declaring us disposable.
We are not disposable. We are unique human beings. We reach out, we love, and we cry when our outreach is rejected. I imagine Amancio did all these things. We hope for our future and the future of our world. No one has the right to take this hope, this future, from us, because we are different.
Not everyone of us has to speak out and say these things. But I feel that I do. If responsible citizens, professional persons, are unafraid to stand up for justice, we will gradually win the hearts of persons in our world, a few at a time. That's how change happens.
So, let me get this right. You are saying there are not one, but two incredibly great movies released this summer about... birds?
Unlike the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, who live rent-free in downtown San Francisco, the Emperor penguins inhabit the coldest place on Earth. For a few months each year, they enjoy a seafood feast in the ocean around Antarctica, storing up body resources for the long winter to come. Then, as the days begin to shorten, they begin the long walk (penguins walk, of course) inland to their breeding grounds. After many days they arrive, and the mating ritual begins, followed by a single fertilized egg.
The mother then coaches her mate, rehearsing him on how to receive the egg in transfer before the freezing temperatures kill the chick. The mother has used all her stored body fat and protein to nourish the chick in the egg, and she must soon return to the sea to feed or she will starve. So the father, who has been conserving his energy, cradles the egg on top of his feet, tucked below his abdominal paunch, to keep it warm. Then he stands and waits - with the hundreds of other males in his flock, all in similar circumstances - for three to four months of the savage Antarctic winter.
During the worst part of the year in the coldest place in the world, the Emperor penguins huddle together, just standing there and taking whatever nature throws their way. But it gets more challenging. For some time towards the return of the daylight, the eggs begin to hatch, and the chicks who emerge are not so easy to keep still and covered as the eggs from whence they came. Still, the fathers keep them safe, until the now-nourished mothers complete their return walk from the sea. Then the transfer is repeated, and it's the males who trek back to the feeding ground. As the chicks grow, they learn to walk, and they discover their peers and band together. Finally, another summer arrives, and the melting ice makes a shorter walk for the young birds who arrive for the first time at their home in the ocean.
The amazing photography emphasizes the tenderness and affection between the couple and their newborn. Humans could learn from penguin behavior !
It's a measure of the magnitude of the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina that we now are giving thanks that the number of persons killed may not much exceed a thousand.
There were two very different disasters. On the Mississippi coast, the damage was over and done in one day. The damage was incredible - whole towns wiped away, so many structures that survived Camille in 1969 destroyed by Katrina - but Gulfport and Biloxi weren't left sitting in a poison soup for days and weeks afterward. The Coast will rise again. It will be slow, it will be expensive, but they will be back. Mississippi will repeal the idiotic law which says the casinos must be floating offshore, and they will be built more sturdy and safe for a better chance next hurricane.
New Orleans will never be the same. Would you move back? In the same area, below sea level, where you know this could happen again? Into a poisoned landscape which was already close to some of the Superfund dump sites? Would you raise a family in such an environment?
I'll miss the New Orleans I remember from many fun trips, both before and after my transition. I drove to Metairie every week for my electrolysis in '93. Since I moved to Phoenix, I have returned there for several medical meetings. I will miss the Acme oyster bar, Mother's "debris" po-boys, Uglesich's soft shell crabs, the beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. I'll miss the shops on Royal Street and the muffalettas at Central Grocery. I will definitely miss Jackson Square. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe everything will re-open. If so, I fear they will be "Disney-fied" to be safe for wholesome family fun - and that won't be the same New Orleans.
We've gotten job inquiries from physicians looking to leave Louisiana. Who can blame them? As I read of the nightmares that the doctors, nurses, and patients in New Orleans hospitals endured, I think I would never want to go back to those memories either.
I'm thankful my friends and family in Mississippi are all safe, apparently. Most experienced loss of electricity and water for two or three days, but no major damage or injuries.
I considered going back to help with the relief and cleanup, but what could I do? There are no cardiac cath labs up and running on the Gulf Coast. The need right now isn't for cardiologists. It's for the money I can make by staying here and working.
Do what I'm doing - find the charity of your choice - the American Red Cross is always a good idea. Be generous. There's nothing better you could be spending your money on than helping those in so much need.
What's Up, Doc?
The absence of bloggage (thank you all for your concerns) isn't due to lack of material to discuss, but to an overabundance of activity, coincident with an extremely busy time in my day job. Now I have a day or two to collect my thoughts and can catch up...
Trans Participation in GLMA
I mentioned earlier that I've been involved in the activities of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, as a Board member and a participation in planning the Annual Session, held two weeks ago in Montreal. The Session is a scientific program with continuing education accreditation, featuring original research, plenary sessions, and workshops. This year there were more presentations on transgender topics than in years past, including several excellent workshops and a plenary. I had helped plan a half-day "Pre-Conference Institute" on transgender health. The Institute was held on the day prior to the Annual Session, and it attracted a large number of attendees. Our general subject was "Pathways to Transition" and we discussed alternative pathways, including: HBIGDA and the Standards of Care; Community Health Clinics; and Street-Level transition, including the health risks particular to this group. From what I could tell it was very well received, and we hope to make it an annual event. I am looking at the possibility of an Institute on Trans Youth for the 2006 meeting in San Francisco.
Many of you know about the annual commemorative event called the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This event is held yearly around November 20, the day of the murder of transwoman Rita Hester in 1998. Gwen Smith's "Remembering Our Dead" website has furnished a focal point for events which have grown in number and are now held worldwide. Each year, those persons who have been the victims of hate crimes during the past year are especially featured. Amancio Corrales is one of those victims, and will be commemorated in all these events.
Margaux is planning our local event, and we have enlisted the aid of numerous local GLBT friends to arrange a service at the State Capitol on the evening of November 20. Donna will be one of our speakers, and we are going to have several other speakers whom I will mention as the event draws closer. We are very proud of our planning this far.
This past weekend, Margaux and I presented our event information at the Phoenix Rainbows Festival, the annual autumn weekend fair for GLBT persons. I must brag on Margaux's work. She designed the booth display, and our booth was one of the most popular of the non-commercial booths. The banners were awesome! Pictures to follow. A great many of the thousands of people attending stopped by, attracted by her presentation. So many people promised they will attend our event. We've heard of trans women being marginalized and ignored in the gay and lesbian community, but we saw none of this. Several lesbian groups made a point of telling us how welcome we are with their organizations. It was such a positive experience and raised our visibility in the local community. After spending all day both days in the booth, we were ready for a rest.
Rest would have to wait one more day, however, because there was this little matter of
Becky's Trip to the Hospital
...which began a week ago when I was getting a checkup and decided to ask for a treadmill exam. Now why, Becky, (you ask) would you do such a stupid thing?
Well, I'm "of a certain age" which puts me in something of a risk category, even though my cholesterol is great and I've never used tobacco. I've never had any exercise related discomfort, other than being winded when I'm not following my daily exercise routine. So I thought, let's just establish a normal baseline for future reference if necessary.
So, I walked for over eleven minutes (Stage 4 if you're counting), reached my maximum target heart rate, and had no symptoms whatsoever. I was shocked to see that I did have EKG changes at peak exercise. They were subtle, and I knew they might be a "false-positive" (25 to 30 percent chance), but that wasn't a chance I wanted to take. I discussed my findings with my colleagues, and we agreed - I should have an angiogram to be sure. The angiogram was scheduled for Monday (today) and I didn't intend to slow down for the weekend, since I already had plans!
Margaux drove me to the hospital - the same one where I do most of my work - at 5 AM for my 7 AM procedure. It was very strange to observe a cardiac cath from the patient's perspective. Everyone was so professional, however, and took perfect care of me. I didn't have much discomfort at all.
The fact that I'm writing this on the same day as the procedure should be a clue that, yes, the stress test was a false positive. My coronaries are clean, thank you Lord. Talk about a new lease on life! And now I will have a perspective of empathy to deal with my patients who are worried about the risks of such a procedure.
Now to recover from the slightly sore leg and be back to work in a day or two. All things can work together for good. (Where have you heard that before?)
A Health Warning
The following alarming information is from a woman whom I've known online for several years, and is three years post op.
Just because you are M to F TS does not mean you cannot get prostate cancer....
Dear Dr. Becky,
Well, knock me over with a feather, I got the results of a biopsy today.
All six cores showed at least Gleason score 9 (half were 10) cancer. My PSA was 96. My SRS was , and I had been on hormones since 1998.
IF YOU HAVE A PROSTATE GET A PSA.
It is small comfort that there are only two other cases in the literature.
The Other Island
Kauai is what you get when you cross Maui with Puget Sound: a cool, rainy island in Paradise. At least it's been cool and rainy this week; but this is the week the timeshare folks assigned us, so we go.
For natural beauty, Kauai tops both Maui and the Big Island. It's so lush and green, with many small beaches ready to be discovered. When the rain and winds make snorkeling unsafe, you head further away from the coast, toward the interior. Perhaps my favorite adventure of the entire trip was the kayak up the small stream to a hidden waterfall. While our guide prepared lunch, we swam and tubed just beneath the falls.
We also took a helicopter tour of the island's natural wonders, including the interior of the ancient volcano, Wai'ale'ale, the "wettest place on earth". We saw Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast, whose rugged terrains remain unspoiled by any roads.
Waimea Canyon and Na Pali are equally impressive viewed at a distance by automobile, winding up the canyon to the Kalalau lookout. This spectacular valley has been featured in many movies. On this day, nature combined the Kalalau Valley with a huge rainbow out over the ocean at no extra charge.
Yes! There really is a land called Hanalei.
We frolicked in the autumn mist and discovered the Magic Dragon toy shop.
At sunset on a perfect Arizona autumn Sunday, one hundred and twenty persons gathered on the front patio of the Arizona State Capitol to honor the memory of victims of anti-transgender violence. The 2005 Day of Remembrance was sponsored by AZDOR.org and TransForum.
Those in attendance represented all branches of the GLBT community, as well as friends and family members. Early arrivals mingled and listened to informal musical numbers while viewing poster presentations.
The program began with original music from GLBT community member Susanna Iris Astarte, followed by welcoming and introductory remarks from Margaux Ayn Schaffer, Director of AZDOR. Margaux recognized the participation of local organizations including Transgender Harmony; Arizona State University's Transformers; AHRF; and Native American Pathways. "Boundaries exist which imprison us all," she noted. "The differences between us are lost on those who would do us harm. Tonight we are dissolving those boundaries."
We were honored to have a presentation from Native American Pathways, remembering those Native American transgender persons who have been killed in past years. Trudie Jackson spoke in memory of F.C. Martinez, Alejandro Lucero, and her personal friend Amy Soos.
Arizona State Representative Kyrsten Sinema welcomed us to the Capitol and described the causes of anti-transgender violence in terms of fear and misinformation. Her remarks were echoed by our second speaker, author and activist Donna Rose, who emphasized that ignorance and fear can be overcome by the examples of transgender persons living authentic lives.
Our third speaker, Dr. Becky Allison, observed that some transgender persons unconsciously adopt the attitude of those persons who consider us "disposable people." Becky emphasized the precious value of every human life. She was followed by a young lesbian woman and "gender-queer," who discussed the common ground the trans community shares with the lesbian and gay community.
Our final speaker was Rev. David Ragan, minister of Shadow Rock United Church of Christ and a leader in No Longer Silent: Clergy For Justice. Rev. Ragan provided a viewpoint too often overlooked in our community, that of religious organizations who accept and affirm GLBT persons. In a powerful rebuttal to the condemnation of the religious right, he offered an apology to transgender persons for the treatment we have received at the hands of persons claiming to act in the name of God.
The candlelight vigil ceremony then concluded the Day of Remembrance. One by one, twenty-eight persons lit single candles and read the names and stories of the twenty-eight victims of antitransgender violence in the year since the last DOR. When all were finished, we were reminded that these were persons who loved and were loved, persons with dreams for their future, all now gone - as the candles were extinguished.
The program concluded with original a capella music as the crowd quietly dispersed.