Happy 7th Birthday to an LGBTQ Advocate - My Daughter

That her birthday will always be one day after the observance of Pulse is what reminds me that in a world of evil, hope is born again.

As a transgender advocate, there’s a lot of people who question my parenting – though most are nice/wise enough to keep their opinions to themselves. Most.

One person, however, said to me once: “You know, she may not grow up to be an advocate for everyone else. You may have to accept that.” (I’ll skip the transgender-related issues; that’s a whole other post.)

I thought about that, and perhaps they’re right. Though I’ll admit that would bother me. Never mind how I’m trying to raise her. My daughter is a white, middle-class kid of far greater privilege than 90 percent of the people around her. By definition, it seems like someone who has nearly everything should help those who don’t.

Not that she doesn’t, mind you. She helps other kids on the playground. She tries to be friends with everyone – even the boy that keeps stealing her pens. (Though I wouldn’t blame her if she stopped; he’s rather a pill.)

Volunteering in her school as often as I do, it always makes me happy to see her doing these things. I see this from other kids too, however; I have for years as a teacher in a small town. What I’ve also seen, though, is really sweet kids grow up to be not-so-sweet adults.

Not that my daughter’s a normal kid. She does stand-up comedy about once a month, with her own original three-minute set each time about life in the first (grade) lane. She makes posters for the president of the University of Oregon – and he keeps them. This weekend they’re giving her the microphone at journalism school commencement and letting her tell the graduates when and where to line up. She’s rather known for having no problem telling people what to do.

She’s also my ally. She tells people: “This is my daddy. He was a boy and he wasn’t happy. So now he’s transitioning to a girl.” This is nice, though I’m sure the gas station attendant at Costco wonders why she’s telling him this. (And I wonder how to lock the power windows closed next time we fill up with regular.)

At Christmas, when she and her mom were out buying me a present, she remarked that everything she’d picked out was for her daddy, at which point the sales clerk asked, “Even the earrings?” My daughter didn’t miss a beat: “Yeah, she’s transitioning. Got a problem with it?” My co-parent later suggested I talk to our daughter. Which I did, though I probably didn’t say what she had in mind.

It was a swirl of these thoughts that filled my head as I pondered taking my daughter to the Pulse nightclub last spring while I was in Orlando for a media conference. She was hanging out with Daddy for a day of work, with the promise of a gazillion princesses in the immediate future. Her patience for all things droll and daddy mitigated by the promise tomorrow of Disney.

First, however, was dinner, with a stop at Pulse first, that loomed in my view of the future. Indeed, I thought about it long and hard – as I think about a lot of things in my daughter’s somewhat abnormal life. I decided that just as I would take her to Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 memorial in New York, I should take her there.

We talked before we went. I told her that it was a very special place, and that some very sad things had happened there. That someone had hurt people like me and our friends, just because we were different. I didn’t go into the grim and quantitative details. It was enough for her to know that it was a special and respected place – for me, and the many people we were with.

When we got off the bus it was quiet – as was my daughter. For a while, she held my hand, not saying a word. She looked at me, looked at the memorials, and read a few. Then, she simply started looking around at the people we’d come with. After a bit, though, she asked me if she could go off by herself. I let her go, cautiously, my eyes never leaving her.

She walked over to one of the people that had come with us, a journalist that she’d talked to earlier. My daughter asked her how she was doing, and then my daughter asked her if she needed a hug. She did – and my daughter gave her one.

After that, she walked around a bit more, and asked a few more people if they needed a hug. Not one said no. After a few more minutes, she finally came back to me. “Daddy, can we get back on the bus. I’m done now.”

And so we did.

June is Pride month, and I understand the meaning of the term. But every day is a proud day for me because of the daughter I get to share my life with. Yes, I’m proud of her ability to stand up in front of people, her willingness to stand up for me. But most of all I’m proud that she’s a good person, one who sees when people are hurting and reaches out to them – no matter who they are.

Today, June 13, is her birthday. That it will always be one day after the observance of Pulse is what reminds me that in a world of evil, hope is born again. For even at the age of seven, she understands that what she has – her heart – is a special and privileged thing, and that the only way to make a true difference in this word is to share it. If there is anything in the world that I am proudest of it is that, and the belief that she got at least some of it from me.

And to anyone who would suggest that the way I’m raising her isn’t well-thought out, that I can’t expect her to be an advocate and an ally for others, I will say only this: “She already is.”

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Being Ostracized as a Transgender is Psychological Manslaughter - At Best

As a raging extrovert, I’m not the kind of person who likes to be alone. I write literature reviews in bars because I like knowing other people are around. I’m a social person, and being around others basically recharges my batteries.

(And, aside from preferring the company of others, I also hope one of them may know CPR when I fall face-down in my hummus having read yet another take on Marx. Seriously, if you do search for “Marx” in Google Scholar, there’s some 16,300 listings, with 150 written in just 2017 alone. And here’s the worst part: those are just the results for “Groucho Marx;” I lit you not.)

The truth is, however, even us raging humanity sponges find ourselves alone once in awhile. I, for instance, will not have any friends at the next political economy conference after my crack about Marx.

Sometimes, though, my solitude is voluntary. I prefer to walk on the beach alone, for instance. Certainly, pre-marriage I never thought this would be true; having seen from “From Here to Eternity” more than a few times, I just figured everyone ended up making out in the sand. But having been married once to a person that believes in stopping every foot – really – to look at shells and rocks and water molecules, I’m more inclined to think Tom Hanks in “Castaway” is the way to go.

I also like to read alone. The beach, a park, a dimly lit corner of my favorite pub: I’ve been known to sink alone into a chair with a glass of wine (or two) and read for hours. Often wondering to myself: “Why don’t I do this more often?” and “How the hell do people read in dimly lit corners? Jeez, is it dark in here.”

Middle-aged eyesight aside, I’ve been so dedicated to this concept of reading solo that I used to have a fellow lone-reader go with me, just so we could read our books together and jointly send off an “I’m not lonely; I just want to be left alone” vibe. It was either that or start bringing a blood-painted volleyball with me to put on the other side of the table.

Now, of course, I’m transgender and that seems to set off it’s own vibe – and I still get to read alone whenever I choose. Good enough.

Recently, however, I found myself at a mass-market chain restaurant reading a book all by my lonesome, and I wasn’t happy about it at all. For one thing, I pretty much have to go to chains these days as they’re the only places I can see to read my damn book. After spending all that money on faux-tchotchkes they want to make quite sure you see them.

More critically, however, I was eating alone because I wasn’t invited to a dinner that I would have been pre-transition. Some of my oldest friends were there. But I was not there – and that was quite by design. It seems my transgender status would be “confusing” to children who might be in attendance.

Purely from a bullshit perspective this is insulting. It’s not children who have problems with transgender people – it’s many of the closed-minded adults that raise them that are clueless. Indeed, when I heard this, that was just the first of many logical arguments that filled my thoughts. Thank God, even with my mind full of Karl Marx citations there’s still some room for other things like indignity. (With nearly 3,000 Karl Marx-Google Scholar hits in 2017 alone, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.)

After I’d calmed down a bit, however, and really thought about it, I realized I wasn’t thinking at all. I simply hurt. I ached, like a part of me had been torn away. Four decades of friendship, gone – because I made a choice that never hurt another living soul.

It’s hard to explain this pain to people. It’s hard to explain it to myself – logically, anyway. I have far more people now in my life that want me around than don’t. More, that gap has gotten bigger since I transitioned. I’m a calmer person than I was, less frenetic to be around. Wiser, maybe. Wise enough to know if they don’t want to be around me, that’s their loss, not mine.

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And yet it is my loss, too. Uniquely, painfully, horribly, mine. Yes, transitioning was the right thing for me, and I’m still overjoyed that I’m doing it. But to be rejected by someone that once cared about me hurts like hell. That part of me that they’ve torn away was the history of our lives together.

I have changed so many things about myself, but I have never rejected my past. I do not deny who I was, nor the friends I had. The woman I am is defined by the man I was, the life I lived, and the joyous role my friends played in all of it. I reject none of that.

But some of them do. Rejecting me now, they’re telling me they don’t want to be part of who I am. The past sinks into a shadow I never wanted.

Yes, some transgender people want this, I know. To leave behind their “dead” lives, their “dead” names, to just move on. I can respect that choice – but it is not mine. I never wanted that. Never.

But now, as I sit alone at my table, staring at a plate that is not mine, I can think only of the place I am supposed to be but I am not. I am supposed to be with my friends of a lifetime. I am not. And the shadows that I never wanted to cloak my past smother my night.

I more than hurt. I feel as if I have been violated.

The dictionary defines ostracization as the act of excluding someone from conversation, friendship and society; to be banished. That’s what I have been, what so many transgender people are: excluded from where we have every right to be simply because we are different. Victims of a deliberate, intentional act, one that is completely indifferent to the pain it inflicts.

At my rawest, I’m inclined to call it emotional violence – but I won’t. There are too many transgender people out there who bear scars from real violence, not a denied dinner invite.

Still, however, there is something about being ostracized that hurts more than the other scars I bear from my transition. It’s more than technical definitions, more than feelings denied, more than a denial of history. It’s more than all of those – because it’s deliberate.

Intentional at worst, indifferent at best, calculated and calcifying, to the violator and the violated. Psychological manslaughter, perhaps – if I’m being kind.

Staring at the page number in my book, it’s unchanged from the time I sat down. I think about all the times I have eaten alone, and I tell myself that this is no different. Turn another page, order another glass of wine (or two). That this is where so very often I choose to be.

Except tonight it wasn’t my choice at all.

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I'm Transgender and Single, And Odds Are I Will Die That Way

Even before I was transgender, I was incompetent in the dating department. I can’t even say I was bad at being on a date, as that would imply I had actual dates. Whereas the normal man – because that’s what I was in the dating world – will have six sexual partners in a lifetime, says one UK study, I’ve had just three. I’ve had four serious relationships, half of what would be expected, according to the same study. I didn’t get married until I was 38, putting me in the bottom third age-wise of when people typically do so.

I’ve always felt a little odd, but after considering all of that, I’m not sure why. The odds certainly aren’t with me.

Maybe that’s why I gave up on the idea of ever dating again; it’s just easier. Sort of like knowing I’ll never own a Ferrari or have Angelina Jolie slip me her phone number. Some people call that negative. I call it being realistic.

Does this mean I want to spend the rest of my life single? No. Am I looking forward to sleeping solo in my king-sized bed for eternity? Absolutely not. Do I want to still pay for two passengers when I’m the only one in my cabin on a cruise ship? An emphatic no; I can still only eat for one at the buffet. (Although I do try to make up for it.)

The fact that love is involved doesn’t change anything. In fact it makes it worse – because I do want to care about someone, and have them care about me, too. I want what everybody else wants and what so many people have. Love is special, and perhaps Emily Dickinson put it best: “Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.”

(Of course, most of her friends and family passed away before her and she died pretty much alone. Maybe this is why I just keep it simple and listen to Michael Bolton: “Love is a wonderful thing” – and I leave it at that.)

What I don’t want, however, is someone to think I’m wonderful just because I’m transgender – or in spite of it. Being transgender is only one facet of my life. I was a father and a scholar before I decided to transition, and if you ask me to define myself, those two items still come first. I am not a curiosity to be experienced, nor someone to be pitied. There are so many reasons why relationships with transgender people end up on people’s bucket list – and I don’t want to be part of any of them.

Which is convenient, as most people don’t want any part of me.

This might sound brutal, but it’s true. Although there don’t seem to be any statistics for how many people as a whole are willing to date transgender people, less than one half of LGBTQ people say they would be willing to do so. I can’t imagine non-LGBTQ people feel any differently – and that’s being charitable.

People don’t want to hear that, however. “I’m sure there’s someone out there for you,” they say. “You never know,” they say. Well, no I don’t – but I can figure it out. And I have. (Well, two young friends of mine have. Student-scholars at Purdue and Stanford, after many years of not ratting them out to their parents when I was their babysitter, they’re finally paying me back.)

The reality is this:

  • 37 percent of LGBTQ couples in my home state of Oregon are married.

  • My odds of getting married again at age 50 are 63 percent.

  • 13.2 percent of the American population is women age 44 - 64.

  • Most people likely have to date four people seriously before marriage.

  • Less than half of LGBTQ people are willing to date transgender people.

Given all of that, my odds of finding a life-long relationship are .4 percent, roughly one in 250. Or, to put it another way: According to Forbes magazine, the average person has a better chance of marrying a millionaire (1 in 215) than I have of marrying anyone. I don’t see anyone I know hanging their hopes for happiness for a bed partner on meeting a benefactor.

To quote Bill Murray, We are who we are, “and that’s the fact, Jack” – or in this case Jane.

And yet.

Things happen all the time that defy the odds; I was once hit by a bus moving at 20 miles per hour. I should be dead and I’m still here. Returning to Forbes, it seems each person has a 1 in 220 chance of writing a bestseller, and I’ve actually done that. Perhaps happiness with someone is possible, too. For, as another wise – and “Dumber” – man once said: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

That’s is why I plunked down $238 last year to join Match.com – and why I’m going out to dinner with someone Saturday night. No, Match.com didn’t pay me to write that. (Though I’d be happy to let them.)

It would seem no matter how odd things might be, they don’t have to mean an end.

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