Instant Karma

August 12, 2008

I know a number of people in our community who travel extensively to educate, lobby and speak on behalf of our community. Some people do this for a living and have become professional speakers, some do it because they are leaders of national or local organizations and it is required of them. I admire and respect the work that they do on our behalf and I expect that the organization they work for are paying their expenses or they are being compensated as professional speakers.

Oh, but wait, there is another category of persons who will travel for cash and speak at either TDOR events, candlelight vigils or bereavement ceremonies only to further their public image. That’s right, go back and read that again. I said exactly what you think I said.

Over the years, I have been offered to have my travel expenses paid to go to events across the country to speak at Transgender Day of Remembrance events and other similar ceremonies and I can honestly tell you that, as poor as I am, I have refused the money and either paid my own way or in cases where that just was not possible, I had to decline the invitation. Maybe that sounds foolish of me but I’d much rather have the money go to a family who just lost someone they love to help them get along while they are taking time off work to attend a murder trial. A community who just suffered a loss doesn’t need to be spending money to cart someone’s ass across the country when there is a much bigger need then to hear some self promoting, self important person speak. I won’t name names here, you know who you are.

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Naming of Parts

August 6, 2008

Yesterday while I was going over statistics for the transgender day of remembrance website, and breaking them down by year, by type of death, by State, by Country, I began to look around and notice everything else in the world. At that moment, a poem by Henry Reed popped into my head and I haven’t been able to get rid of it so I thought if I blog about it, it might go away. So here goes….

Naming of Parts

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.

~Henry Reed

August 8, 1942

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.

You Get What You Give

June 16, 2008

I have given up broadcasting my live show on TransFM and will instead donate the money I was spending on broadcasting, to Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. My Live broadcast will be suspended until transgender people in Massachusetts have equality. Please help us by donating to MTPC today.

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.