Pride Month 2018

Pride 2018

Happy Pride 2018 to all the dear people celebrating authentic life, loving unabashedly, and showing the world what it means to be truly compassionate, kind, genuine, caring, and positively joyful!

I’ve learned so much from my LGBTQ family and friends, there is no doubt in my mind that I am a better person for knowing them. These people and my experiences with them have shaped who I am today, changing me in all the best ways, helping me evolve, pushing me out of what I thought was my comfort zone into a much more beautiful world!

In consideration of Pride Month, I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve learned, some of the beliefs that I hold now thanks to the welcoming people in the community, some pieces of advice, and a couple things that hurt my heart.  It’s just a list but there are numbers to refer to if you would like to open a dialogue about certain items. Here goes……….

  1. Being transgender is a real thing.  Believe them when someone comes out to you.
  2. None of this is a “lifestyle choice”.  Straight folks, can you just “choose” to be gay?  No? Then what makes you think they can?
  3. The singular “they” is acceptable. Get over it.
  4. Trans kids NEED and DESERVE loving adults in their lives, often for their very survival.
  5. If you are afraid of your kid sharing a restroom with a transgender person you are looking for monsters in all the wrong places.
  6. There should be both baby changing tables and hygiene boxes in EVERY restroom.
  7. One LGBTQ person murdered is one too many.
  8. Every state should have a hate crimes law.
  9. There is no shame in having a queer child. They are a gift, not an embarassment.
  10. As in so many other aspects of our society, LGTBQ people of color are disproportionately discriminated against, abused, murdered.
  11. Just because it doesn’t hurt you, it doesn’t give you the right to diminish the problem or deny its existence.
  12. I respect ALL religions and the right to practice them; however I will NEVER respect someone who uses religion as an excuse to discriminate against another person.
  13. I believe I am a good ally but I still have to work hard not to appropriate culture that is not mine or put words into the mouths of community members.
  14. Being married to a happy transwoman is far, far easier than being married to an unhappy human hiding their identity.
  15. It’s never, EVER been about the stupid cake.
  16. People deserve to be treated equally. Period.

If you are not planning to attend a local Pride event, please reconsider. These festivals often help support local artists, raise money for social issues or educational scholarships, and showcase businesses that are friendly and welcoming of everyone.  We’ll be braving the Indiana heat and humidity Saturday to attend Pride, loving this community more and more with each rainbow flag we see flying against a summer sky! That reminds me, we need to buy sunscreen.

Celebrate Pride with pride, friends!!

 

Letter to the LGBT Community on our 30th Anniversary

Dear Friends,

You were there for us when we needed you most. About three years ago we took our first tentative steps into a community we knew very little about, unsure, more than a little scared.  And there you were, waiting for us with open arms and open hearts. We are still in awe of your strength, and your fearless ability to live your lives out loud, never backing down and never compromising. We admire your loving relationships, and you validate ours.  You made us feel welcome, like we had a place to belong. You helped us map our future and reassured us that we could indeed move forward together as Carli and Tracy.

We celebrated our first Pride event in June 2016, marching side by side with the first transgender unit in the history of the Indy Pride parade.  We choked back tears of joy as we walked, holding hands, hearing nothing but love, support, acceptance, and encouragement all around us. It was a life-changing event for us.  The next day we woke up to the news of the Pulse shooting.  There was no holding back the tears.  The grief was overwhelming.  49 people, simply living their lives out loud, gone out of pure hate. So far in 2017 there have been 27 transgender people murdered in this country.  It could be anyone of you, our dear friends. Or our son and his partner. Or us.  Yes, we woke up that day and we continue to be “woke” as the cool kids might say.

You, friends, continue to keep us woke about LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, the relentless tragedies that continue to besiege people of color.  You care about everyone who struggles to be seen, everyone whose rights are still not a foregone conclusion.  Your compassion knows no bounds, and you strive to make the world a better place for everyone.  You are quite simply remarkable. Thank you for being there for us, for all of us.

In love, gratitude, and appreciation…………Carli and Tracy

I Call BS

Every time there is a national crisis of some sort people turn out in droves loudly proclaiming their love and concern for the population effected by the tragedy. Hurricane Harvey is just the latest.  Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11. The list goes on and on, and in each instance people donate money, they send relief supplies, they cry what they profess to be real tears for people who are hurting and in desperate need of help.  I CALL BS

Today is the first news cycle that was not lead by videos of Hurricane Harvey.  What was the first video? The president of the united states claiming “we love the dreamers, we love everybody” all while making the decision to end protections for young people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival – DACA – act.

Let me get this straight.  You love them but you want them to go “back” to countries they do not remember, where they have no family, they do not speak the language, and have no means to support themselves.  That doesn’t sound like any love I’ve ever experienced and it’s certainly not coming from a place of compassion or concern.  How many DACA kids do you suppose are helping rescue hurricane victims? How many DACA kids do you suppose are up to their necks in debris and devastation left from the storm, but they’re at their neighbor’s houses helping with the clean up? These kids are allowed to work and required to pay taxes, but they get nothing in return.  They don’t qualify for any social services, they don’t get “hand outs” from the American people.  They give far more to this country than what we give them in return.

Thanks for helping.  We love you, now go away.

How about that ban on transgender people serving in the military?  The administration and a lot of flag-waving Americans claim to be “friends of the gays” using the phrase “the gays” as a catch-all for the entire LGBTQ+ community, but transgender people are clearly too much of a drain on military so they must go.

What a load of crap. I won’t even attempt to lay out the real cost of being transgender on the military, or compare it to the waste, fraud, and abuse that is rampant in this administration.  Others have done that already.  It doesn’t seem to matter to those making the decisions that the cost of caring for transgender servicemembers is astonishingly miniscule in the grand scheme of budgetary expenses.  This ban is borne of pure hate.  There is no way to spin it to make it sound remotely responsible or compassionate.

My transgender wife honorably served in the United States Air Force for 20 years.  She did not have the option to live authentically at that time. It’s speculation, but I believe those 20 years would have been so much easier for her had she been allowed to serve openly.  Haven’t we learned this lesson by allowing people to serve regardless of their sexual orientation?  Here is something to consider, United States of America……….there will soon be NO eligible young people willing to serve in the military. If we don’t wake up and accept that our young people have the expectation of being accepted for who they are, our military ranks will continue to dwindle to dangerously low levels of operational readiness.  Good luck dealing with the crazy loon in North Korea!

Let’s talk about what it means when our police take the oath to “protect and serve.”  What does that look like for the citizens who rely on law enforcement?  It looks very different for me as a 50 year old white woman than it does for a 25 year old black man. White men taking oaths to protect and serve making jokes about “only killing black people” when making a traffic stop.  Jokes like that are never innocent and certainly not funny.  That statement tells a lot about the person’s true character and judgement.

Are we a country that truly believes in civil rights?  Well of course we are, right? We settled that a long time ago when we let Black people drink out of our water fountains and sit next to us on the bus.  We white people have done our part.  It’s all good.

Nope.  Not even close to being a country that actually CARES ABOUT ALL PEOPLE.  People who enjoy their civil rights are still actively trying to steal them from others.  My civil rights are far more important than your civil rights.  If you get more rights, mine will be diminished.  You will steal mine so I’ll make sure you just don’t have any in the first place.

BS BS BS!!!  Civil rights don’t run out like milk and bread the day before a snowstorm.

I could go on forever, but I have to end soon or you will stop reading.  One final thought, knowing this last paragraph is directed mostly at people outside my community of  truly compassionate friends, so share widely if you would……

Keep your teddy bears, keep your canned goods and diapers, keep your cash and blankets and clothes you’ve dug out of your closet.  Don’t fly the flag in your yard.  Don’t bother placing your hand over your heart during the National Anthem or singing the hymns in church on Sunday. Don’t bother “giving until it hurts” unless you have searched your heart and find compassion for ALL human beings, love them for who they are rather than who you want them to be, are more concerned about their well-being than what you can get from them.  Keep all your gifts given out of some false sense of patriotism and compassion because it’s been proven time and time again that none of that compassion, concern, and love for your fellow man lasts for long.  It’s temporary to make yourself feel better.  It flies out the window the next time somebody refuses to serve a gay couple because of deeply held beliefs, or an unarmed black man is shot for walking down the sidewalk at the wrong time of day, or a statue of slave owner is moved out of a place of reverence.

I hope some day I can stop calling BS.

Are You a Lesbian Now?

rainbow flag question mark

If I had a nickle for every time I was asked this question, or every time someone wanted to ask this question, I would have a lot of nickles.  The easy answer is no; Carli being transgender does not mean I magically shifted my sexual orientation. While I can understand people being curious about how this works, I cannot imagine actually asking the question.  Would you ask any other random person “do you sleep with men or women” in the course of every day conversation?  Probably not, but yet partners of transgender people are routinely asked this question, as if modifying our sexuality must be required to maintain our relationship. As hard as it may be for some to believe, it is not required and we are doing just fine, thank you very much. I cannot be lesbian anymore than Carli can be male.  None of us choose our gender or sexual orientation.  We feel it, we know it. It’s just who we are, deep within and no amount of guilt, fear, intimidation, legislation, or violence can change it. Many people feel forced to suppress who they are, hide away, refuse to acknowledge their true selves in order to maintain so-called peace in the family, to get or keep employment or housing, or literally as a means of survival.  But this does terrible damage to a human being and decent people do not request others to be someone they are not.  I can’t just stop being a white cis-gender heterosexual woman and no one is likely to ask me to. Why would anyone ask Carli or any other LGBTQ person to be someone they are NOT?

I’m not a lesbian. As a matter of fact, I am NOT a lot of things.

Black
I can’t dance
A good singer
Religious
Tall
A fast reader
Poor
A cancer patient
HIV+
A political refugee
A grandparent
Medical doctor
Homeless
Truck driver
Transgender

I cannot speak on behalf of any of these people, but I appreciate their lives, their talents, their uniqueness. I cannot share their experiences to such an extent that I fully comprehend how they feel, but I care deeply about their experiences. I cannot contribute to society in the same ways these people can, but I am grateful for their contributions. I cannot understand what it’s like to be in their shoes, but I can pay attention when they speak, hear their truths. I hear them and believe them. I cannot BE them, but I can stand WITH them.

Most of you are not the cis-gender hetero spouse of a transgender woman. You cannot fully understand what it’s like in my shoes, but you can pay attention when I speak, hear my truth.  You can choose to believe me when I say that it is indeed possible to be in a happy, healthy relationship such as mine and Carli’s.

When Carli was beginning her transition I couldn’t relate to anyone, I knew no one who was standing in shoes similar to mine.  It was lonely, I carried a weight with me and a shadow followed me relentlessly. But I did have friends who listened when I spoke, they heard my truth and believed me. They didn’t have to totally get it, they just stood beside us and continued to love and support us through something that was completely foreign to them.

So, while you may not be trans, black, poor, homeless, in peril, addicted, and the list goes on, you might be exactly who a person needs. Your compassion does not need to be accompanied by shared experience. Sure, it was a tremendous relief for me to meet other wives of trans people, knowing they have walked a mile in my shoes.  I no longer felt alone on this fantastic journey, they gladly took me by the hand and walked beside me, reassuring that I was on the right path. These individuals will always hold a very special place in my heart. But the reality is that the vast majority of my daily life is spent with people who do not have this shared experience.  This makes their upfront compassion and continued support even more appreciated and precious to me.  They were there when I needed them, filling an important need to be seen, to be allowed to show vulnerability in the face of uncertainty.

Never judging.

Always compassionate.

You may not be a lot of things, but you can be compassionate. You can be supportive. You can forego judgment. You can walk beside……….

 

 

 

Glitter Jars and Rainbow Pens

I haven’t posted in a quite awhile.  Honestly, I’ve not been able to focus much lately, there is so much noise in the world it’s been difficult to clear my thoughts enough to write.  I thought maybe I could write something that was funny instead of serious, but that didn’t work.  Maybe writing about something concrete, like the number of shoes Carli has collected but even that wasn’t coming through clearly for me.  I decided the only way to clear the fog was to confront it, so here it goes.

Every form of public information, every delivery method, avenue, or medium, is overflowing with a cacophony of voices all bellowing to be heard over all the others. All messengers conveying the same fist-pumping, chest-pounding, self-righteousness spewed by people who firmly believe theirs is the one and only right/moral/correct way of thinking. It doesn’t matter that some of them speak to my heart or that some of them are abhorrent to me.  All of these voices are competing for space in my mind, my heart, and in my life, overwhelming my emotional and empathetic capacities. For my own well-being, I’ve categorized the competing voices into groups that make sense to me.

First are the issues that flood the news that have absolutely no reason to be debated any longer. These have been settled already, why are we still talking about these?

  • Same-sex marriage
  • abortion rights
  • women’s rights
  • adoption rights
  • school prayer

Then we have those issues that should simply be matters of common sense and human kindness or decency.  These are issues we as human beings inhabiting a living planet with other humans and living things should not have to think twice about. They should be a given and never up for debate in the first place.

  • transgender rights
  • access to quality health care
  • elder care
  • a clean environment

Finally there are the things that, as an enlightened society, we should be ashamed exist at all.

  • violence against the LGBTQ community
  • racism
  • transphobia
  • homophobia
  • misogyny
  • religious persecution

I’ve had to push away the things over which I have no control and that have no substantial influence on me.  I don’t give a damn how much income the president claimed on his taxes.  He is filthy rich and takes advantage of every opportunity to avoid paying a single dollar more in taxes than is absolutely necessary.  So, is this surprising?  I don’t think so. Did the Russians interfere with the elections? I have absolutely no idea, but whether they did or not it will not change the fact that the alarm goes off tomorrow morning.  I will still get out of bed, take the dogs outside, give them breakfast, and wait for Carli to get out of the shower so I can get ready for work. This does not mean I do not care about these things, but I refuse to allow them to consume my every thought or occupy every waking moment.

What to do about all this noise and distraction?  Well, I looked around, as all of you know I am prone to do.  Here is another list, but this time it’s a beautiful list of small comforts, and quick joys that are within sight in my little office. Each of these are important to me because they were either given to me by dear friends or collected during powerful, meaningful events with colleagues.

  • glitter stress-relief jar
  • pen that writes in rainbow colors
  • photo of my son and his dog
  • photo of Carli and I dancing
  •  certificate for winning the Rock-Paper-Scissors Championship at the college professional development day in 2014
  • a banner from Botswana

So now that I took time to remind myself of these small comforts and quick joys, I am in a better place to refocus on what is really important. The big things that actually matter and deserve time and space.

  • My wife. It makes absolutely ZERO difference to me that she was my husband for 28 years before she was known as my wife.  What matters is that she is a supportive, loving, attentive, kind, compassionate human being willing to share her incredible journey with me. I love her with every fiber of my being and she deserves to have me fully present in our relationship. Her transition makes me admire her even more, because she has gone through challenges I will never know and can’t possibly understand. But she did it, and she is amazing.
  • Our sons. I talk or text with each of them daily, with them often initiating the conversations.  We talk about our dogs, politics, religion, social issues, trucks, guns, motorcycles, gardening, NPR, higher education, the environment, beer, bourbon, music, our jobs. To me the topic isn’t nearly as important as the connection. I treasure this connection with them. I owe my own mother more of this kind of connection. My sons are good role models.
  • My colleagues. I spend more waking hours with them than I do with Carli during the work week.  I value their presence in my life more than they may realize. My lack of focus lately has had an impact on my interactions with them, my general fogginess and distraction bleeding over into my work unintentionally. They, too, deserve to have me be fully present and not distracted by irrelevant issues.
  • Our garden.  Yes, the garden counts as a big thing.  This is something Carli and I do together, and we couldn’t do it without each other. It feeds our bodies, yes, but more importantly it feeds our souls. The act of working the soil, growing living things that will sustain life, this is a heady experience that fills me with a sense of responsibility to the earth and to the creatures inhabiting it.

This is far too long a post now, and there are many more people I am grateful to have in my life who I have not mentioned this time.  But I do appreciate you for sticking with me until the end of this stream of consciousness.  Putting these words in print for others to read, as always, puts things in perspective for me. The fog will be lifted and I can once again be present in my own life, less concerned about all the noise.

Six in 48 Days

Take a good look at these two beautiful, brave women. They are two of the six transgender women of color murdered in the first 48 days of 2017.  Two of the murdered women we know of at least. Transwomen are so often misgendered by police and other officials the crimes against them are not accurately reported for what they are; hate crimes motivated not only by racism but by unadulterated transphobia.

My beautiful, white, 51 year old trans wife has secure employment in a safe environment, a nice home, access to quality transgender sensitive health care, and very good health insurance. She has never experienced the loss of employment or housing because she is transgender. She has never been harassed or beaten because of the color of her skin or gender.  I do not lay awake at night wondering if she will make it home safely. We have absolutely no frame of reference here.  We are incredibly privileged, we know, and we don’t take one single second for granted. No one has a choice as to their circumstances of birth, not these women, and not us. We didn’t have a choice, we were born white.  We didn’t have a choice, Carli and I were raised in families and communities free from the social strife and challenges faced by so many families of color.  Not once did we have to go to bed hungry, cold, alone, or in danger.  She will NEVER know what it is like to be a transgender woman of color and I will never know what it is like to be married to a transgender woman of color.

But I can be angry, frustrated, heartbroken, sad, stunned, confused, scared, disappointed, ANGRY…… We don’t know what to do, but we will keep working to figure it out. We will use our privilege as best we can to advocate for positive change, be visible because we aren’t as big a target as transwomen of color, speak out as often and loudly as possible.  But how do we know where to direct our efforts when we can’t pinpoint the origin of the problem?

What on Earth is going on here?! Do we blame this on an administration that emboldens hateful behavior? In part, maybe. Is this happening because we aren’t teaching religion in schools? I don’t think so.  Or are we experiencing the death throws at the end of an evolutionary cycle, making way for a dramatic shift in our culture? I sincerely hope this is it.

I hope Carli and I live long enough to see a dramatic cultural shift.  A shift that sways the heart towards empathy and the mind towards logic. A shift that allows for peaceful coexistence of freedom and equality. A shift towards critical thinking, common sense, loving your neighbor, and level reason. A shift towards an actual representative government.

I started writing this post at 7:00am and I’m finishing at 9:00pm.  Two important things happened during those few hours.

The Indiana state legislature defeated hate crimes legislation, leaving this state one of just five in the country with no additional provisions written into law for crimes motivated by race, religious, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

A seventh transgender woman of color was murdered.

 

Laughter

carli-and-dogs-laughting

Few things are more universally adorable than a baby in a full-blown belly laugh.  You know the kind, when the baby’s entire body seems to be laughing. And it doesn’t take much to elicit the delightful reaction, quite often it’s completely accidental.  A new sound, a funny face made by Uncle Craig, the puppy licking their toes.  It’s contagious, too.  You must be in a pretty foul mood not to crack a smile at the very least.  Dog lovers know that happiness and joy are not exclusive to humans either.  Your dog’s face when you come home, her whole-body-tail-wag is pure excitement, a joy-filled heart at the site of the person she loves more than anything in the world. 

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? For me it was about 20 minutes ago, when Carli was trying to get the maps to work on her phone but wasn’t having much success.  Feeling a little frustrated she said “damn it”, to which her phone replied “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with damn it.” An unexpected moment of hilarious silliness from a cell phone……fantastic! A few nights ago, Carli and I were watching a movie and near the end she was laughing so hard she was brought to tears.  I was laughing at the movie, too.  It was sweet and funny; the humor came at the expense of no one.  While I was laughing right along with Carli, I searched 30 years of memories for a time before she transitioned when she laughed so hard and with such unabashed emotion and pleasure. I simply could not find one.

I remember times when Carli was happy, joyful, amused, of course.  The typical life events that produce intense emotions did elicit pride, fear, joy, sadness in Carli.  But what I do not recall are the outward, public expressions of these emotions, like laughing so hard she cried.  Her emotions were always tempered, always measured and reserved. I chalked it up to her military bearing and never questioned it.  Being stoic was simply expected and anything less was often considered a sign of weakness.  Now we know much of this was self-preservation, a coping mechanism employed to avoid feelings she couldn’t understand and certainly didn’t think she could share.

People used to ask me why Carli was always angry.  I assured them she wasn’t angry, she just didn’t smile a lot. She rarely let anyone take her picture, and never smiled if someone was lucky enough to snap a shot.  She wasn’t much for conversation, either.  A good friend recently said the longest sentence he ever heard Carli say was about six words long and the topic was usually a tractor.  It wasn’t until she came out that her smile was spotted more often and she started to enjoy long talks.  It happened slowly over time, but the change is dramatic. She wears her emotions well, is unafraid to be expressive, and the feeling of freedom that surrounds her is palpable.

What breaks my heart are the years she spent burying her emotions instead of feeling connected to the people around her.  How hard must that be, to constantly hide behind a façade of stoicism, stifling the very emotions that make a human being feel human? And for what purpose? From my vantage point Carli had years of feeling human stolen from her because other people are uncomfortable or unaccepting or hateful or hurtful or bigoted or violent.  Because they deny the existence of the transgender person. Because their version of religion says God doesn’t make mistakes.

 I wish there was a way I could get all those years back for Carli. Can we get a do-over, please? Carli deserves to feel and express emotions just like everyone else, and I deserve to witness all the joy, bliss, grief, surprise, admiration, love, serenity……

She deserves to laugh until she cries. 

 

First Hair Cut

When a family is transitioning there are so many firsts….first time in the appropriate restroom, first time trying on the correct clothes, first manicure, first time walking in high heels, first time wearing lipstick in public, and the list goes on and on.  Even though Carli has been living full time for 7 months she is still experiencing new firsts. Last week she had her first feminine hair cut in a salon. And she is beautiful!

Carli’s stylist took her time, making sure she understood Carli’s long term goal for her style.  She was kind and patient, explaining everything she was doing and teaching Carli how to style her hair at home. She told Carli if she just wants a refresher on how to style it, come back in and she will go through it with her again.  Everyone in the salon was so warm and accepting, we couldn’t have asked for a better first hair cut experience.  Carli left feeling pampered, confident, and beautiful.  Most importantly, she felt accepted by every single person. This is how all transgender people should feel after every “first.”

More often, however, firsts are fraught with anxiety and fear, sometimes for both of us. I vividly remember the first time Carli walked into the women’s restroom by herself. Up until that point I always accompanied her, and to be honest I did sit right outside the door, probably looking like a stalker myself, feeling more than a bit anxious and ready to jump into action if she was being harassed. What would that woman who walked in behind her say to Carli? Would she yell at her to get out, cause a scene, call the police or store security? We knew I wouldn’t always be there so both of us had to takes steps to overcome the anxiety and move past the fear. The anxiety has eased over time, but still occasionally sneaks up on me, especially when we are visiting new places.  The fear is still there, just beneath the surface, but as I’ve said before we refuse to give in to it and force Carli back into hiding.  Instead we allow it to simmer quietly, using it to our advantage to remind us to maintain a healthy awareness of our situation at all times.

Another memorable first for me, Carli and I telling her story to her new primary care physician during her first appointment at the recently established local transgender health clinic. I cried when I told the doctor that I fell in love with Carli all over again as I watched her emerge from 50 years in hiding.  Even the doctor was a little misty eyed.

The first time Carli visited me at my office, my coworker’s reactions were overwhelming.  They welcomed her literally with open arms, accepted her unconditionally, wrapping us both in warmth and love. I’m not sure if these people truly understand how deeply they’ve touched us, or how much they are appreciated. To them it was a logical, simple act of acceptance but to us it was……and continues to be…..a gift for which we can never adequately express our thanks.

As parents we treasure our children’s firsts, documenting each step, each new tooth, each newly mastered skill religiously in photos, videos, memory books, and we eagerly share these with our friends and family.  Watching Carli experiencing each of her firsts feels very much like this for me, but with one heart breaking difference.  Many of Carli’s firsts were experienced before she could live openly and authentically, so she didn’t get to share these with other people, we had to keep these precious moments between us.  Like the first time she sat on the patio wearing a dress, enjoying the sunshine on her face.  Alone. I watched her, cried, and I was simultaneously overjoyed and heartbroken. To see her so happy flooded me with joy, but knowing that she missed 50 years of joyful moments is crushingly sad.  This image left a permanent mark on my heart.

There will be many more firsts, but never again will Carli have to keep them a secret. This is how all transgender people should be allowed to live.  In the open, sharing the excitement of new experiences with friends and family.  Not in hiding, avoiding the sun.

How Many People Make A March?

Overwhelming, peaceful, profound..
Overwhelming, peaceful, profound..

We didn’t attend the Women’s March in Indianapolis last Saturday, although we had every intention of attending when we woke up that day.  An unfortunate emergency home repair found my wife, Carli, in the crawl space for several hours instead. She can fix anything!

Attending the march would have been a challenge for us; neither of us are fond of large crowds, but we wanted to do this for all the reasons anyone else wanted to march.  Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, underrepresented minority rights, basically ALL human and civil rights are legitimately being threatened by an administration we do not understand.

Living in Indiana we are acutely aware of what Vice President Pence believes and we’re frankly terrified of what might come in the next four years.  However, we decided early on that we would not let this fear overwhelm us or drive Carli back in the closet.  She is truly, deeply content for the first time in her life.  No one is going to take that away from her, or me!

We started to feel guilty about not attending the march, but it occurred to us that perhaps we might have been just two more faces in a crowd of friendly, like-minded individuals.  Was this going to do anything more than make a statement that might resonant for a couple of weeks and then be replaced in the media by the next argument over policies, legislation, or poorly worded tweets by the Commander in Chief? While we truly want to be part of the wave of social change, perhaps there was a way we could do this that would touch people other than the friendlies we would have mingled with at the march.  They already know us and our community after all, maybe this is equivalent to preaching to the choir.  We don’t care to have our faces on tv, we aren’t very creative when it comes to making signs, and megaphones are terrifying. So, what did we do?

We went to a food festival, of course! We spent 4 hours strolling from booth to booth, most of them staffed with people from right here in uber-conservative Trump/Pence loving Indiana. There were “make America great again” hats on several heads.  I wore my safety pin and #i’llgowithyou pin.  We tasted everything from rhubarb liqueur to gin, cherry chili beef jerky to corn chowder. We sat with a mother and her teenage son who were enjoying brownies and gumbo. We learned how tequila is made and were amused by the elderly couple who were sneaking extra little tastes during the demonstration. We chatted with dozens of people who may or may not have interacted with a transgender person before in their lives, that they are aware of at least.  Not once did Carli get misgendered.  Yes, there were some sideways looks thrown around and we really have no way of knowing if people guessed Carli is trans or not, but chances are pretty good that a 51-year-old trans woman who is in early transition is fairly easy to spot yet.  Overall, we were treated with civility and courtesy.  And we had a marvelous time! Every person we interacted with is another person who may have left that day thinking that trans people are A-okay.  They aren’t freaks of nature, or fanatics, and they can have spouses who love them more than life itself, the way I love Carli.

My question then becomes, how many people does it take for it to be a march? 500,000 in Washington, D.C. or 30 in Antarctica or 2 at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis?  Carli and I were kept from participating in the organized march but did we all accomplish something important, something with the potential to change the world even if it’s just one person at a time

?  I like to think we did.  

Not done yet

sewing-machine

When Carli went full time in July one of the first things she did was empty her closet of all the boys clothes, other than a couple of androgynous shirts she has to wear on occasion for a handful of people who have yet to fully accept her for who she is. (That’s a story for another day.)  I remember the relief on her face as she packed away the remnants of that person she never really was, filling her closet instead with pretty blouses, skirts, and feminine pieces that fit her personality and style much better! Boxes and boxes of clothes were piled in a spare room, waiting to be donated to local charities.  As we went through them months later we realized that many of the shirts were just old work shirts or casual shirts with lots of wear on them.  They simply weren’t in good enough shape to donate.  The only reason Carli had kept most of them for so long was because she simply hated shopping for new boy clothes.  They never felt comfortable to her so she avoided purchasing anything new unless she absolutely had to.  So, what to do with a bunch of worn XL men’s shirts?

Make a quilt, of course!  A coming out quilt!  A way to pay  homage to a beautiful person who doesn’t have to hide anymore, but who did the very best she could while hiding.  It’s not done yet; this project is time consuming, frustrating, and there is no guarantee the quilt will turn out anything like the picture I have in my mind. I was meticulous with my measurements, cut every tiny piece with precision, and still ended up with pieces that aren’t perfect.  I sew them together and sometimes have to rip them apart and try again.

Seems a lot like life in general.  You take what you are given, piece it all together, and hope that it turns out okay. Sometimes things go a little sideways and you have to make adjustments before you can move on.  You learn to overlook small flaws, accepting that it’s okay to be less than perfect.

Less than perfect definitely describes my quilting ability. I’ve only put together a couple of quilts before, nothing fancy or special.  But this one is very special.  I am transforming Carli’s old boy clothes from something she hated to touch into an heirloom we can cherish.  The pieces of material she was required to wear because of our flawed concept of gender are assembled into a functional, beautiful quilt that will last a lifetime.  The quilt also has tiny pieces of new pink material stitched alongside the old blue stripes, denims, and plaids, blending old with new.  Carli’s previous life in hiding is being acknowledged, hopefully in such a way so she knows I loved her then, even though I didn’t know she was in hiding. And I love her now.  The best parts of the old Carli blending beautifully with the new Carli.

I’m using Carli’s grandmother’s antique Singer sewing machine to piece the tiny two inch squares together, deliberately forcing a needle to make tiny holes in the fabric so it can be stitched back together with fresh white thread. I have an intense sense of nostalgia using this particular sewing machine. It’s almost like I can feel extra love being channeled into every stitch. Call that goofy, I don’t mind, but remember I also use Carli’s grandmother’s antique stove to do all of our canning.  I swear it makes the food taste better! Using this sewing machine and stove reminds me that we can still be connected to our past while we continue to move forward.  We take pieces of our lives apart that aren’t working anymore and put them back together in a way that makes more sense, more beautiful, more useful, more authentic. Sometimes other people or circumstances force the pieces apart and it’s not always what we wanted, but we still pick up the pieces and put them back together our way.

It’s not done yet but the quilt will eventually be finished. When do you suppose people are “done?”  Do we get to a point in our lives where we think we are done, we have nothing to learn or change, no room for growth? What about our country? Did we think our country was “done”; that we shouldn’t expect big changes to happen anymore, good or bad?

Nope, not done yet. I think we’ve only just begun.