Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Negatively Positive

February 18, 2009

Okay, I think I have some explaining to do. Many people have been asking me what’s going on with me. The simple answer is that while my political views have not changed, my attitude and approach has. It had too. I was waking up each morning not really wanting to get out of bed and questioning why I should. I was losing hope,  heading for a meltdown and I was scared.

I kept seeing the crap that was going on in D.C. with various organizations, the way transgender people were and are being treated by national gay and lesbian organizations and worse, by each other.

Then one day, I woke up and refused to focus all my attention and energy on all the negative bullshit. Is it still there? Hell yes. I’m not sticking my head in the sand, I just can’t let it run my life and poison my soul. I refuse to be my own worst enemy and if I am to be an effective advocate, I have to be healthy. God bless the wonderful people in our community who can point out all the injustices we face from all directions, each and every day. I love you very much but I can’t be one of you. At least not all the time. I do promise to protest with you and be there to support you and listen whenever you need me.

I need a little positive motion and I have made the choice to concentrate on the changes that I know I can help to make through positive motivation. We have a window of opportunity with a new administration, wonderful and powerful changes in our oldest and largest transgender organization, an out transgender man working for a Congressman. I won’t even get into the fantastic work being done by young people and grassroots efforts across the country. Times, they are a changing and I need to look forward with something to look forward to.

I want to be alive to see more changes happen and if I continued on that path of constant negativity,  I doubt I would have been around to see them.

On another note:

Here’s a gem that I dug up and I couldn’t help but notice how the words ring just as  true for us today as they did for the women’s movement back in 1976 when this song was performed.

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IFGE (Pt.2) and other stuff

February 14, 2009

Since I wrote my last post more than a few days ago a lot of things have happened. Controversy surrounding IFGE. Organizations becoming irrelevant and then made relevant again,  being accused of working with the devil and then not so much. I’ll tell ya, it’s really been a roller coaster ride. However, through the many twists and turns I have to say that I’m so very proud of our board of directors for standing firm and not letting any of it ruin the momentum that we have and not letting any of the negativity drag us down.  We survived and the spell has not been broken. This all just feels so right.

I had originally planned to write this post right after the flames began to fly. I had much more to say about what others were blogging about and the big stir that was created, but I don’t feel as though it’s an issue any longer. One of the things that I have learned from being part of many unhealthy yahoo chat groups is to address issues, handle them like an adult and move on together. We need to keep those lines of communications open, make those phone calls or accept those phone calls and talk about the issue at hand. I accepted one of those calls and am a better person for it. I also made more than a few and feel like progress is being made and a community is coming together in a way that has never happened before. If you don’t feel like you are a part of it but you’d like to be, send me an email at ethan@ifge.org.  The time is right my friends, join us and be a part of a movement that is affecting your life. This is our lives, this is our movement and we are all invited!

Breathing (IFGE conference part 1)

February 10, 2009

Last Tuesday I packed up my luggage and headed to Washington, D.C. where the IFGE conference was located.  I don’t get to be alone all that often so the 8 hour drive wasn’t that bad.

I rolled into town at about 1:30 am and was greeted by Denise Leclair, IFGE’s executive director. Of course she was awake, it was only 1:30 in the morning and Denise doesn’t usually hit the sack until at least 3:00 am.. Speaking of Denise, hats off to her and the rest of the people that pulled this conference off. It may have been smaller than usual but it was THE best conference I have ever been to and make no mistake, it was quite successful.

It almost felt more like a retreat than a conference. The workshops were close and intimate as were the meetings and gatherings at the bar in the evening. At one point I mentioned how close I felt to everyone and how much I felt we had all bonded. Lynn Conway turned to me and her exact words were, “can you feel it?” Indeed I could.

I feel so lucky lately to have had such positive experiences and community building opportunities with some of the most brilliant minds in our movement. I am truly humbled to have been a part of the whole experience.

It seems that everyone walked away feeling that same charge of electricity in the air. We were fueled by each others passions and exhilarated by each others knowledge.  There were times when I was sitting with some fantastic people having a great time and I knew this was something out of the ordinary.

You know the feeling that if it ended right then that it may never happen quite the same way again. uhh…anyway. To all the great friends I made and the old friends I met again and to the folks who made it all happen. Thank you for a fantastic time.

Seething

November 22, 2008

This past Thursday, November 20th, I attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Boston, Massachusetts. Actually, it was in Allston, where Rita Hester lived and was murdered. The event was very, very well done and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Lots of emotion filled the air and the passion of our community rose to it’s feet! Kudos to the event organizers and the brave youths who spoke out.

This year was the ten year anniversary of Rita’s murder. It is also one of the deadliest years on record for transgender people. One of the reasons why I haven’t posted anything on my blog until now is because I feel so numb and writing these facts seem oddly Mechanical. For the past few weeks I have gone to bed with the images of those we have lost floating in my mind and sometimes those images have jarred me out of a sound sleep. Sometimes I wake up sobbing, other times I wake up with that feeling of impending doom. They all died so tragically and brutally. Lives lost for no good reason. Someone else decided they didn’t deserve to live. 31 transgender people died violent deaths this year.

I often wonder what the difference is between those who wield a knife or gun and those who use other weapons to destroy us. The lack of inclusive employment nondiscrimination and hate crimes Legislation, the lack of equality within a “civil rights” organization, not being invited to have a seat at the table, being ignored by state and Federal Government officials…..all these things are weapons used which have resulted in the deaths of the people I have added to that horrible list. The list of our murdered. I am shaking my head with sorrow.

I feel so disconnected right now, like I’m walking around in the dark.
These murders have all had a profound affect on me and I can’t even begin to imagine how Sylvia or any mother who lost their child must feel.
I have so much anger and hurt swirling around in my heart and I feel in constant battle with trying to keep my head so I can do the right thing and just folding into a pile of mush.

I don’t know how we, as a community have dealt with this much violence for so long.



The Usurpers of National Coming Out Day

October 11, 2008

Today is the 20th anniversary of National Coming Out Day which was co-founded by Jean O’Leary, former co-executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Rob Eichberg in 1987 which was marked by the second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights.

According to Wikipedia:

The second such march on Washington, drew 500,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to protest for equal civil rights and to demand government action in the fight against AIDS. The march, demonstration and rally also included the first public display of Cleve Jones’ NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and the first community wedding.

Just a quick note: Whoever wrote the wiki file was being quite generous because although transgender people were there, at that time, transgender people weren’t being recognized as attending this or any other Gay and lesbian political event. Just one of many examples of how our history gets re-written and like transgender people, the facts are often omitted. But, I digress.

There were a lot of organizations involved in the second annual march on Washington, it was an event which was largely attended by grassroots activists who were grief stricken and inflamed with anger that our United States of America could ignore it’s citizens in a time of need. That our country could let a health care crisis continue unchecked because our President believed that the people it most affected were those suffering moral inequities. Yet here we are today still in similar crisis but those once angry, grassroots activists and their national coming out day has had it’s message controlled, packaged, wrapped and sold in a marketing bedazzlement that is but one of many schemes designed help keep their business organization flowing in cash. Some of us pay with our lives, especially our youth.

I hope we never become so engrossed in these marketing campaigns that we forget where we came from or that it is equally important to teach safety to the young and old alike whether it be safer sex practices, safe dating tips or how to come out safely and that sometimes, it’s just not safe to come out.

Our Ability to Change

September 22, 2008

Over the course of the past week or so I’ve been having conversations with people from my past who have come back into my life and have shown remarkable evidence of changes they have made in their lives. 

I’m not talking about a transgender transition but other kinds of changes. Changes in their beliefs and loss of bigotry and intolerance, total changes in personality.
 A few of those people talked about spiritual experiences while others spoke of their ignorance and lack of education on certain topics. Seeing these people again and their new found peace and acceptance got me thinking about our ability to change and how some of us can be so suspicious of it when people do change.

I find it rather comical and sad to watch the people in a community whose lives revolve around a transition and strive for acceptance be marred by suspicions of other people’s ability to change.

I know that over the past year I have consciously made some changes in my life and although I feel there are more I need to make, I am feeling pretty good about myself for a change.
Aren’t we all just a work in progress?

Weathering the Storm

July 26, 2008

After having very bad thunderstorms and tornado watches all through Massachusetts, I woke up yesterday morning to a bright, clear sunny day. I went out and checked to see how my garden had weathered the storm with it’s torrential downpours. I think all the plants will survive as long as we don’t get more rain within the next 3 to 4 days.

When I was finished with my assessment of the garden, I came back to the task I had been working on for the last few days. I’ve created a website for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I know that the remembering our dead website already exists but Gwen Smith has been on a well deserved hiatus and since I’ve been working on the project with her for the past 5 years or so, I thought it essential that I pick up the ball and continue this important work that Gwen started. This is all still Gwen’s and if and when she wants to pick up where she left off, I will hand it all over and assist Gwen in any way possible.

I have the utmost respect for Gwen and as a hate crime survivor, I am grateful for the work she has done. Here’s a piece that Gwen wrote about the Transgender Day of Remembrance:

Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who have died by anti-transgender violence.

On Thursday I began adding the names and pictures along with the details of death, age etc.. Up to that point I had worked on the website for 2 days straight, designing the banner setting up the basic idea of how the site would work and what I had to do to accomplish these tasks. Then I had to add the people who we will be memorializing this year. I wish that I could remove myself and just type in their names like any word on a page but I can’t. I wish I could edit their pictures to fit properly next to their names without looking into their smiling eyes filled with hope and promise but I can’t. By the time the last name was added, 12 in all (so far), I began to feel suffocated. I couldn’t breath in this room, in this house and I panicked. I closed my laptop, grabbed my car keys and ran out the door. I got in my car, opened all the windows to let the air in, to feel the highway wind on my face, my body. I cranked up the music and drove as fast as I could for quite a ways. Don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t about ME, it’s about THEM. It’s about those beautiful, precious, human beings whose lives were snuffed out of existence as easily and carelessly as someone steps on a bug. I only write about how it makes me feel because I don’t understand why everyone who is an activist or advocate doesn’t feel the same way. You know, it’s not just these past few days that it’s got to me that much, it’s every single time I’ve worked on this project for the past 5 years. Over the years, people have asked me if I’ve grown immune to it.

When that day comes, I’ll stop being an activist.

The people on the memorial list are getting younger each year. Please check out the website and really look at it. They aren’t just a list of names on a webpage, they are human beings who lost their lives for no other reason than being who they are. They were given a death sentence for being transgender and organizations in Washington, DC as well as our own Government are sending the message that that is okay.

Please drop me a line if you are hosting a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in your area, so I can post it on the website.

With love,

Ethan

Trust

July 15, 2008

I’ve been tossing this around for quite some time because I wasn’t sure how to say what I need to say, so I’ve finally decided to just plunge right in.
I think that as a community we have found ourselves in an awkward place of mistrust. Mistrust of some of our community leaders who have once worked with HRC and have left some of us to question if they still are, will they go back, what are their motives, who should we trust, who should we believe?
What I’d like to explore is how do we get past all that and move on together. I don’t think we’ll be able to survive the fight we have in front of us if we can’t find some common ground.
Like in any relationship, trust is critical and once that trust has been lost or breeched, it is not so easy to recover. (Just to be clear, I’m talking strictly between the people in the transgender community, not HRC. I have no desire to work with HRC.)
In the past months since the ENDA bomb was dropped I’ve witnessed a bunch of opportunities lost over lack of trust (justified or not), overinflated egos, who should get the credit, who is going to win in the press, it’s sickening. We as a community have to find a way to make things right with each other.
I know there are more than a few stubborn people out there not even willing to admit there is an issue here and if there is, they are more than capable and able to handle it, but the truth is, no one is handling it and it’s an issue that is only getting bigger and if it’s not handled soon we all might as well take our toys and go home.
In the meantime, remember who it is that’s being hurt here.
If you need a refresher, look no further than these two links:
TransYouth Family Allies and
the list that seems never ending, Remembering Our Dead.

We can’t help the people at the second website but we can sure help the people from the first website from making it there.

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Oulets

June 22, 2008

For the past 6 years or so I have sprung out of bed each Sunday morning all excited and happy about broadcasting a live show via the internet. I’d start with a music show at 5:00 Pm and stream tunes that I’d selected during the week or sometimes listeners would request a song or two. I generally selected music which best conveyed my emotional state or that of our community.

I’m in week 2 of my abstinence from live broadcasting and I have to say that I miss it more than I thought I would. The release that I felt over sharing these emotionally charged songs was very satisfying and it helped with my stress management. It sounds odd and even a little childish but I really felt as though the people who tuned in just to listen to that portion of the broadcast understood and we shared a common bond of expression. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, to fill that void but I think this blog is a good place to start. You won’t find much in the way of politics ( a sprinkle here and there) but you will find me sharing my thoughts, emotions and every once in a while you just might hear that angry voice, after all, this is my outlet.

The Flood Gates

June 15, 2008

One of the reasons why I don’t blog is because I have trouble when it comes to writing down what I want to say. The other reason is because I have so much to say that I’m afraid I’ll end up writing too much and then I end up writing nothing at all.

I think I’ll start off by talking about the one thing that has been on my mind the most lately. When I was 13 years old, I moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. I realize that doesn’t seem very far but when you’re 13 and have gone to school with the same group of kids since you were 5, it’s a world away. We moved to the tiny town of Atkinson, NH where I met one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. Her name was Nancy and we became friends almost instantly. I don’t think I can write about our friendship in detail at this time but someday, I will.

Anyway, a week ago this past Friday on June 6, I got a phone call from my mom letting me know that Nancy had died that Wednesday and her wake was Friday evening. There was nothing in the newspaper that said how she died, just that she died at home.

The wake was at 6:00 PM but I didn’t find out about her death until 5:00 so I had to decide right away if I should go to the wake or not. Sorting through my emotions and trying to decide if I should go was very difficult. I hadn’t seen Nancy nor her family since my transition and I decided that her wake was probably not the best time for me to show up. I know her family would not have recognized me but they would have wondered who I was and might even ask me. What the hell was I suppose to say? It hurt like hell to not be able to go and say good-bye to Nancy. It hurt like hell to not be able do what everyone else who knew her and loved her was able to do. It was the first time in a long time that I resented being transgender and I was mad at myself for feeling that way.

I had to speak at the New England transgender pride march and Rally the following day and I managed to put Nancy’s death in the back of my mind, just hovering above consciousness. (More on Transpride later).

I waited until this past Tuesday and went to the Atkinson Cemetery where Nancy is buried, found her grave and said my good-byes. Just as I was pulling away in my car, I played her favorite song from 1975, one of the best summers of my childhood. I’ll always miss Nancy and I’m so sorry that I thought we’d have more time.