The Becky Blog
It's a privilege, not a right.
Matthew Lillard, "Hackers"
I gave up that privilege over the last few years, letting myself get out of shape. Despite exercise on the stationary bike, and walking from office to hospital several times a day, I had developed a spare tire. It's somewhat visible on the Hawaii picture above, taken in early November. So I saved my pennies and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Meltzer for an abdominoplasty ("tummy tuck"). He warned me in advance that the recovery from this operation is the most uncomfortable of any surgery he does. In retrospect I wouldn't argue that point, although the recovery was nowhere near as prolonged as my last major procedure, the laser facial resurfacing in 2002.
The procedure went well. (I thought it would, since, as I blogged earlier, I had already had my heart checkup with a good report.) One night in the hospital, a few days down time at home, and by the weekend I was up and participating in our Day of Remembrance. The soreness is still an occasional bother, and wearing the "compression garment" is a minor nuisance, but I'm very pleased with the results. It's nice to have earned the Spandex privilege again, and I must prevent any recurrent spare tires by limiting my holiday goodies!
I'm So Old - Next Chapter
Or at least it feels so...
Last night's Christmas party was a wonderful occasion to spend with lots of friends and show off my new flat tummy.
The band started off with Cajun zydeco, honoring New Orleans, which pleased everyone but wasn't completely danceable. But we all warmed up and were having a good time on the dance floor by the time they switched to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." We oldtimers sang along and I smiled when "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face." The final number was a rousing, prolonged "Lady Madonna."
As we were leaving, I remarked, "I really loved it when they started playing Beatles songs."
The reply from one of our twentysomething friends: "Did they play a Beatles song?"
Well, Happy 2006, Everyone...
Whoa. Where did two months go? "Life is what happens when you are busy doing other things."
I'm embarrassed at the long delay between posts, and will try to make up for it over the days to come. The day job has kept me so busy - and that's a good thing - that I come home, have dinner, and crash. I did manage to publish the semi-annual "Grace and Lace" essay, "What Plank?" and update the therapists listings, but otherwise have been negligent on the Web site.
Otherwise, my time has been spent working on the GLMA conference for October 2006; helping plan an educational series on transgender issues for the United Church of Christ; assisting Margaux in her work for Arizona Day of Remembrance 2006 (we will have a booth at Phoenix Pride April 1-2); and trying, not always successfully, to keep up with e-mail correspondence.
Speaking of Margaux, I just have to say how proud I am of what she's been doing lately. First of all, she donated a major work of art to our Phoenix HRC Silent Auction fundraiser, and it brought HRC a very nice sum. She is planning a second such donation for GLSEN. Even more important, in my opinion, is the effort she is putting in to helping one individual who has had major needs over the last few months. Margaux has spent hours counseling and supporting this person, whom she has never met face-to-face and likely never will. Certain of our friends - community leaders to be sure, but seeming to lack Margaux's insight and compassion - have told her it's a waste of her time. I disagree with them. I see the difference she is making in the life of one person, who might well have succumbed to despair if not for Margaux's efforts.
Isn't that the heart of activism? Changing the world, one person at a time. Isn't that worth just as much as any famous Web site? Or more?
Here's to you, Ms. Margaux, I am so proud of you and your work. Keep doing just what you are doing. It's making a difference.
I've corresponded with Lily for a couple of years now. Perhaps she knew she would be in the national news, winning decisions and friends for our community. I certainly didn't know. But I am so proud of Lily and I can't think of anyone more suited for the role.
From the Ocean County (New Jersey) Observer:
Hats off to the Eagleswood Township Board of Education for refusing to be stampeded into the back woods of discrimination by a handful of parents hysterical because a substitute teacher has changed gender.
It would have been easy for the school board to have caved in to the ignorant intolerance of those who believe they can shelter their children from an American society becoming more tolerant of those who are different.
Instead, school officials remained committed to the rule of law, and the Eagleswood kids will continue to benefit from the talents of a good substitute, fully qualified to teach them regardless of whether she was William and is now Lily McBeth.
Unlike the months it took to convince Ocean County's freeholders that the late Laurel Hester had earned the right to pass on her benefits to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, there is no need for Garden State Equality to redeploy to West Creek.
Officials there got it right. The bumpkins who feel McBeth's presence will contaminate their children are free to take them elsewhere, where they will find the laws against discrimination also apply. Or they could teach the lessons of tolerance at home, and make the school board's job easier.
The Eagleswood Township Board of Education members distinguished themselves as leaders committed to the rule of law and the spirit of tolerance and inclusion.
McBeth has proven herself a good substitute teacher in several southern Ocean County school districts before her sexual transformation. There is no reason to believe that will change with her gender.
Congratulations to Lily and to Garden State Equality for this important victory!
A Downer of a Day
"We believe that Christ came to take away our sins,
not our rational thought processes."
Father Carl Carlozzi, 1996
"We believe that, in order to take the Bible seriously,
we sometimes cannot take it literally."
Reverend David Ragan, 2006
When I left the Baptist church, I was looking for a place where I could feel welcome and experience fellowship and worship from a thoughtful, intellectual perspective. I found All Saints Episcopal Church and Father Carl. During my years at All Saints, Father Carl always greeted me by name and made me feel a part of the fellowship. Years passed and I felt content - accepted, if quietly so, and part of a community.
Then changes came. Father Carl had an opportunity to pursue his dream, to be Chaplain of the City of Phoenix Fire Department. I hoped my spiritual experience would be constant in the face of change, but it was not to be. The interim leadership seemed cold and uncaring. I felt I had nothing to contribute, and so I moved on.
I found Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, very close to my home, a beautiful mountainside campus with people who not only accepted me but made a point of loving and celebrating persons of diverse experience. At Shadow Rock I have felt so much more a part of the community. I have been included in the worship experience, sometimes even in leadership roles. It is my spiritual home. A large part of Shadow Rock for me has been David Ragan, our pastor, who has been a strong supporter of GLBT Christians. David led Shadow Rock to become "Open and Affirming" in the years prior to my arrival. David and the other church leadership have become so important in my life.
I remember when I was starting to attend Shadow Rock, and participated in a question and answer session for prospective members. I mentioned my experience at All Saints, and I asked David directly: "What would happen here if you were to leave? Would the church still maintain the same acceptance towards us?" It was his strong opinion that Shadow Rock would be the same, regardless of who was the pastor. Yet I didn't know the question would be relevant so soon.
Today was David's last day as our pastor. He is moving on to other opportunities. I do not think that the atmosphere will change as it did at All Saints. The entire congregation is so supportive of diversity. Still, it isn't a happy time for me today. The peaceful round of life I've enjoyed for several years is being disrupted.
I try to imagine the parallels in my personal life transitions and the effects they had on others close to me. I use these experiences as an example for my behavior now: rather than thinking "How can you do this to me?", I will be thankful for the experiences I can always remember. I especially remember David's participation in our Transgender Day of Remembrance last November. His remarks were truly the highlight of our event.
I will miss David's presence, his ideas and his words. But life will go on, the world will turn, and there will be other opportunities at Shadow Rock. This time I will remain where I am and await those opportunities.
Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound.
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own...
Jackson Browne, "For A Dancer"
Dance your own steps, my friends.
Circles and Lines
Continuing on the "life goes on" theme...
There are times in life when we think the months and years repeat themselves. It's springtime. Time to break out the white slacks, the sandals and shorts. It's another Easter Sunday. Time for the brunch at Shadow Rock. It's another weekend on call. Time to drive down to the hospital after church. It's time to make the monthly bill payments, time for my dentist appointment, time to look at the year's schedule and see when to plan a vacation. Same as it ever was.
But then there's a pause in the circular repetition of the seasons, and we are reminded that life moves on in a linear fashion. Time may seem to go round and round, but in reality it moves forward and carries us with it. It's another Easter, but we are all one year older than last Easter - those of us who are still here.
I think of my patients. I can name several who, last year at this time, were still in my repeating schedule of appointments every-six-months. But their health status changed. One in particular had been a friend and patient for years. An immigrant from Eastern Europe, she had a stent placed about five years ago to an occluded coronary artery. I enjoyed seeing her on her routine visits; she was well read and loved to talk about her homeland.
A couple of months ago I was asked to see her in consultation in the hospital. She was admitted under the Oncology service: the cancer specialists. The diagnosis was acute leukemia. We visited socially and I made sure her cardiac status was stable to allow for her chemotherapy. Over the next few weeks I saw her weaken, and one weekend when I was not on call she slipped away. The straight line moves forward mercilessly, and the circle is broken.
I think about these things. I think about the fact that my patients aren't dying from a heart attack, so they may develop other illnesses which take them away. I know that my own heart checkup was normal last year, and I know that most of my family members have had cancer as their final illness. I just hope there are many more annual circles before my tangent veers off the circle and travels its path to - what?
Is this what Easter is telling us? Are there more circles that we can't see from our vantage point? What lies beyond? Instead of a repetition of months or years, is there a larger cycle of life? It is natural to hope for such a cycle, but we must not let "pie in the sky by and by" cloud our decisions about life in this linear time we possess now.
Oh, Whale, Yes
For you friends who wrote out of concern that I'm feeling down lately, as evidenced in the last couple of blog entries - thank you so much. You are sweet to care and it is much appreciated. I do become a bit sad sometimes - don't we all? But your communications are a great help in relieving the blues.
Besides, we've had fun times this spring to share. I decided to take the timeshare trip in the spring, rather than in the autumn as usual, since I will be totally preoccupied with the GLMA meeting in the autumn. If you remember from my previous Maui reports, I had mentioned some experiences we had postponed for a future trip. I'm glad to say that we checked off the items on our list this time!
Item One: The Whale Watch
This was our main reason for traveling in the spring. The mother humpbacks have just given birth, and are nursing their calves in preparation for the trip back to the Alaska feeding grounds. The humpbacks are everywhere in the channels between Maui, Lana'i, and Molokai. We had done our homework, and knew we wanted to take a whale watching cruise with the Pacific Whale Foundation.
It turned out to be an excellent choice. Just a mile or so southwest of Lahaina Harbor, our captain anchored. "We can't approach a whale within 100 yards," explained our guide. "But once we are stopped, the whale can approach us just as close as she wants. We call it a 'Maui mugging.'"
The captain guessed right. The whales seem to recognize the Pacific Whale boats and know we are friendlies. What a mugging they staged! We were treated to lots of "whale tail" (the correct term is "fluke"). This whale was literally ten feet from the starboard bow.
We saw calves with their mothers, and some of the male "escorts." There was even a full breach - a whale jumping completely out of the water and diving back - less than a hundred yards from the bow. Of course, by the time I got my camera up, the dive was done. But what a trip it was! Our guide told us this was the best sighting trip of the season. The sounds were almost as interesting as the sights, as she lowered a microphone into the water and let us hear the whales "singing" to one another.
Item Two: 'Ulalena
I've been wanting to do this for several years. At the Maui Myth and Magic Theatre, in downtown Lahaina, 'Ulalena is a spectacular stage presentation of Hawaiian history in music, dance, and acrobatics. I can't say enough about this beautiful performance.
We saw the demigod Maui, the "trickster," snaring the sun in a fishnet so the people could plant and gather crops. There was Hina, goddess of the moon, and Mo'o (left), the waterfall goddess, whose acrobatics on the hanging "waterfall" curtain left us amazed. Of course there was the goddess Pele, who controlled the volcano! She seemed quite calm at first, but if provoked she could erupt into curtains of red and orange, streaming out over the stage and audience.
The 'ulalena rain, the soft rain of Maui, falls over everyone and brings peace and harmony.
You could call 'Ulalena a Hawaiian version of Cirque du Soleil, but that wouldn't be accurate. It's less physical spectacle and more myth, more story, more intimate. I can't wait to see it again.
There are certain items I've made a habit of shopping for on Maui: sunglasses, earrings, presents for the grandkids. I found them all (Hurrah for Whalers' Village!), as well as good new restaurants like Lahaina Store Grill and the Hali'imaile General Store. But then it was time for -
Item three: The Road to Hana
Finally. We've been saying each trip "We'll save the road to Hana for next visit." Well, this was the next visit and we finally had a free day for the slow, picturesque drive to the far southeast end of the island. The guidebooks say "allow all day." They aren't kidding. With our bottles of water, and fresh batteries for the camera, we were ready.
On the Maui Visitors' Channel we had seen Willie Nelson doing an ad for Charley's, "Your last food stop before Hana." While not totally correct - Mama's Fish House is further down the road - Charley's, in Pa'ia, proved to have excellent pancake breakfasts. Too bad Willie wasn't there to join us.
Pa'ia town is laid back and counterculture, similar to Kapa'a on Kauai. It's much less pricey and tourist oriented than Lahaina - so far. I'm sure all that will be changing before long.
From Pa'ia to Hana, the driving distance is 52 miles, and everyone says "the journey is more important than the destination." I would agree with that. I found the journey interesting, but I must say I don't understand the awe with which some regard the trip. There are whole guidebooks written about this road! Every mile has its sights. As far as I'm concerned, it was a slow drive, with lots of one lane bridges where approaching traffic may or may not slow down. Mind you, there were some beautiful sights - waterfalls, beaches, and gorgeous plant life.
Between mile markers 10 and 11 we found the Garden of Eden Arboretum. This lovely nature retreat is worth the drive. We couldn't identify many of the flowering plants, but we enjoyed seeing so many exotic species. This hanging cluster of blue flowers is one of many.
By the time we arrived at the tiny village of Hana it was nearly four, and I was concerned about driving back on the road after dark. We gave ourselves half an hour at the Hana beach before heading back.
Been there, done that. I'm sure I would see more on a second drive, but I don't know if I will take the opportunity any time soon. 2007 will mark ten years since our trip to the Big Island. Maybe it's time to give Maui a rest and see other sights. We'll come back to 'Ulalena later!
OMG It's the Lips!! Music 2006
I just love the Flaming Lips. There's nothing like a new Lips release to boost my springtime spirit. The current collection, At War With The Mystics, continues the close-to-perfect trend that began with The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Perhaps it's not quite as cohesive as Yoshimi, but there are brilliant individual songs which are already on my "most played" list. Chief among these is "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion," a beautiful and optimistic ballad about persevering through difficult times. "M.C.A.R." is the filling of a fantastic three-song sandwich, with "The Sound of Failure" preceding and "Vein of Stars" following. These three are an all-star combination of the same caliber as "It's Summertime," "Do You Realize?" and "All We Have is Now" from Yoshimi.
Other than these three, my favorites are the first number, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," a hilarious put down of our neo-con slavemasters; and the gorgeous "Pompeii." Critics rave about "The W.A.N.D." I must tell you, it's my least favorite on the disc. I can't understand what Wayne is saying. But even so, this is a must have album for those of you who, like me, can't get enough of the Lips. Buy it through iTunes and get several bonus tracks, including a fine cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody."
What else is new? Lots of good efforts by female singer/songwriters, beginning in late 2005 with Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine. The title track is not to be missed. Speaking of optimism! This year we have Beth Orton's Comfort of Strangers, a solid release beginning to end; and KT Tunstall's Eye to the Telescope, with the mega-hit "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree."
Yes, my political consciousness is enjoying Neil Young's Living With War very much. Every song. Perhaps my favorite is "The Restless Consumer." And I've just ordered The Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way. I have a feeling I'm going to be pleased.
People seem to go a bit crazy when the temperatures pass 110 degrees. The national headlines scream "Fear Grips Phoenix as Two Serial Killers Roam." I wouldn't go that far, but certainly I'm not getting out of my car alone at night downtown. At the hospital I park right in front of the E.R. door. There's some tension here, with all the strong feelings about immigration, but I doubt the killings have anything to do with that.
Back in Mississippi the big news is the Internet sex sting. The sheriff's department set up a chat room (I'm still wondering how people find these places) and had someone pose as a teenage girl, giving out a street address to lure men into showing up. In just a few hours they pulled in twelve men, some from prominent families.
Without defending the extremely bad choice these people made - and it's indefensible - there's an entrapment aspect of the case that troubles me. There should be some way these people could have gotten help for their feelings before they actually turned to action. But they couldn't. In Mississippi it would have been socially devastating if word got out that a person was in therapy for sexual issues.
There's no commonality between pedophilia and transsexualism. One involves sexual activity which, by definition, is not consensual. The other is personal and involves individual identity; sexual activity is strictly peripheral and coincidental. Still, for both situations, there don't seem to be reports of successful "cures" in which the tendency is eliminated. Transsexual people have the option to deal with their gender identity in a healthy way, through transition. Pedophilia, on the other hand, must never be allowed to manifest. The way to deal with pedophilia is an ongoing therapy relationship. Incarceration is not going to cure anyone, and will be an end to that person's family and community relationships.
I'm not saying the men involved in this case should be completely cleared. They have a problem and they need help. The simple act of their showing up at the "sting" house proves that. But that was the extend of their "crime" - just showing up. Shouldn't they be sent for appropriate therapy instead of put behind bars, to be released later in worse shape than when they went in?
And one more "maybe it's the heat causing people to act crazy" item - or maybe not...
I have a friend who's post-transition, post op, post everything. She paid some serious dues with loss of job, family, and friends. Now she is re-established in an excellent new situation. My friend differs from me in that she has maintained her allegiance to a rather conservative church - one of the "charismatic" types. I can't understand it, but she seems to have made peace with the contradictions.
So anyway, my friend (who can be "stealth" very well) was in church one day and noted a first time visitor - an obvious trans woman. The poor woman was being shunned as though she had a communicable disease. My friend immediately greeted her and tried to make her welcome. Bear in mind that my friend is already established in this church. Still no one would share the welcome. My friend decided to put herself at risk and speak to the pastor about this.
The pastor was adamant that this "condition" was immoral, that the new woman would be allowed to attend services but would not (get this!) be allowed to use the bathroom. Either bathroom. Can you believe this lunacy? So, my friend outed herself - making me very proud of her - and let the pastor know she shared the "condition" also.
(Quote from Becky's correspondence, 1993:
"I thought my disclosure to my friends would change their opinion of transsexual people. It didn't. It just changed their opinion of me.")
My friend found this out. The pastor promptly informed her that she, also, would no longer be permitted to use the women's bathrooms at his church. Fortunately, my friend was able to confront this moron and said goodbye to him and his church. She and her new trans friend actually found a place where they would be welcome. There are some of those.
I just mention all that to illustrate how far we still have to go.