The Day a Ninety Year Old Told Me to be “a Betty”

Be a betty

I am a 63 year old transwoman who is three years in on hormone replacement therapy.  When I was younger there was a huge lack of understanding, education, and role models in people who are transgender. I was confused and misguided and when I finally realized the truth about myself.  I was almost 60 years of age.

I struggled with alcoholism all my life and I was able to finally embrace it and own my recovery from it and in doing so, I saw my life had purpose and meaning. I was surprised when my head cleared and I began associating with other people who shared this disease and were living sober and were happy people!

Through these people I learned to begin to think differently and look at things differently. I began to find I had courage inside me that I never thought I had. I went through therapy. I attended a group for male survivors of sexual abuse. I joined a group of people who are transgender. I really worked on myself. I was sent to a doctor in Santa Cruz along with a letter from my therapist stating I had met all the requirements for beginning hormone therapy. She gave me two prescriptions, one for estrogen and the other for spirolactone which is a testosterone blocker.

At this time of my life I was having trouble finding work in my new profession as a caregiver/home health aide and it was very frustrating. I have come to believe that when I do all the right footwork amazing results happen. The day I took my first dose of hormones my cell phone rang. It was a woman who had seen my flyer I put up at the Carmel Foundation stating I was available for caregiving work and she asked if I would be interested in coming over to meet her mother. I told her I would be happy to.

Her house stands on a corner lot in Carmel just two blocks from the beach.
I parked my car and got out. I went through the rickety old gate and immediately noticed there were a couple of bird houses, one on the side of the house and another up in a tree. I have always loved birds and I collect bird houses. When I was younger I had wanted to be an Ornithologist. I also had wanted to be a Nun. I once told a friend this and they laughed saying I could have been the flying nun! So right away I felt a connection to this old house with the wood shingles and reddish paint on the window trim.

The door opened and a lovely woman with a big smile came out and greeted me. She introduced herself and told me to please come in and meet her mother. Inside the house everything appeared very old yet there was a warmth to the interior. She guided me to the living room where I saw this very sweet looking older woman with white hair sitting on the couch with her feet up on the coffee table knitting a scarf. She smiled at me. “Josie this is David. He came over to meet you.”

Right away she looked puzzled and she leaned forward and put her knitting down.
“David?” she said. ”David? Why did your parents name you David? You should be a Betty!”

I laughed, I was surprised at what she had said to me and I was trying to figure out what to tell her. I looked at her daughter who was smiling at me and it felt right to say “Josie I have no idea why they named me that but it’s been an issue with me…”

“Well I should think so!” she agreed.

The three of us sat and talked and found we all had some things in common. Josie grew up in Pasadena, California and I had lived there many years myself. Her daughter had been born in Gloucester, Massachusetts and I was born in Boston. Eliza, the daughter lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and had been there for two months working with Josie and decided help was needed as Josie was dealing with dementia.

I spent a few days with Josie and it was clear she needed someone with her 24/7 and I worked out an agreement to live there with her for five days, 24 hours, with weekends off.
I also disclosed to her daughter that I was a transwoman who had just begun hormones.
She just lit up! She told me she had a cousin who was transgender. Here I find a job doing what I love and taking care of a woman who sees me as a woman. I began my transition and my life was far better than I could have ever dreamed.

Josie grew up very privileged. Her paternal great-grandfather was Gustavus Swift, the founder of a major meat processing company, and her maternal grandfather was Arthur G. Leonard, president of the Chicago Stockyards. He had built a beautiful big home right on the water at Eastern Point, Gloucester, Massachusetts which at some point a big storm had damaged it so badly they had it torn down. The property there is still owned by the family but only the Gatehouse still stands and Josie’s younger sister occupies the Playhouse next door, and another sister lives further up the road.

I began developing a deep bond with Josie. Her daughter returned to Santa Fe and I had yet to meet her two sons. One son is a photographer and was up at their ranch in Wyoming and the other son is in Rwanda coaching a bicycle team, he was the first American to ride in the Tour de France and he won the Race Across America back in the1980’s.

Josie was an Alpha Female and did what she wanted. She walked with two canes or used her walker. Every day at 5:00PM we had a fire in the fireplace and she wanted to go out and bring the wood in herself, forgetting she couldn’t do it carrying canes or pushing the walker. I was able to keep her dignity by letting her put the logs in my arms.

She always wore wrap around skirts and she thought any woman who wore slacks was suspect of being a lesbian. She seemed to be preoccupied with lesbians.

One time I was running through the house with a load of dirty laundry in my arms and she was sitting on the couch, knitting, which I called her office because she sat there and knitted all day and I stopped and kiddingly said to her, “Josie! We should go get drunk!”
She looked up at me and said, “I’d rather get laid.” and winked at me.

After dinner and her ice cream cone we would sit and talk and she disclosed things to me that were very personal. I felt honored she told me these things. Before bed time I would get her nightgown and place it over the fire screen to warm. She encouraged me to get in my nightgown and sit and knit with her. At first I wouldn’t because A. I didn’t own a nightgown and B. I didn’t know how to knit.

She taught me how to knit and went to Macy’s with me to pick out a nightgown.
We had a great time sitting and knitting in our night gowns at night or as she said, ”Shitting and knitting. She appreciated me helping her undress and get into her night gown. She would look down at her breasts and remark about her nipples. “I nursed three children.” she’d say. “Did you nurse yours?”

“I didn’t have children Josie.”

She really liked me tucking her in bed and giving her a kiss on each cheek and a hug.
I would then go to the door, turn and smile and say “Goodnight”, and go upstairs to my room and get in bed and read as I listened to the waves crashing at the beach. One time as I leaned down to kiss her she said to me “Lets hug like lesbians!” I laughed and hugged her, went to the door and smiled at her and as I turned to leave said “Lez be friends!”
I went upstairs, got in bed, and heard her door open.

“Are you still awake?” she called up to me.

“Yes I am” I replied.

“Then get on down here and lez get on it!”

I laughed. Ninety years old and she still has “it” on her mind. That August her grand daughter was getting married at the family estate out on Eastern Point and she began worrying how she was going to introduce me to everyone at the Yacht Club.

I had not quite decided what my female name was going to be so I hadn’t chose one yet.
We flew to Boston and the wedding had been moved up a day because Hurricane Irene was heading up the coast. We missed the actual ceremony which was held down by the water in the pitch dark with clouds of mosquitos all around. Both her sons had driven us from Logan up there, then jumped out of the car and ran down to the beach to catch the end of the ceremony leaving Josie and I in the pitch dark falling all over the patio furniture on her sisters back deck.

The ceremony ended and a mass of humans began coming into view out of the darkness as I held Josie up so she wouldn’t fall over. We were driven over to the Yacht Club and people began making toasts and one of her sisters made a toast to Josie in honor of her 90th birthday. Josie got up and thanked the 200 odd guests then had me stand up and introduced me as David. “This is David and HER parents had wanted a boy and that’s why they named HER David. She should have been a Betty!”

Everyone raised their glass to me and said “Welcome!” I was very surprised at such a warm welcome.

Josie has passed away now, and I miss her.  She was a character, but that is not why I tell her story.  I am telling you this because this dear woman afforded me the opportunity to be ME.  While I am not actually “a Betty”, I AM a Dana, and I do not have to pretend to the world that I am a David anymore.  Thank you, Josie, my angel.

Tolerance. Is it Enough?

toleranceart. 

tol·er·ance [tol-er-uhns]  

noun

1.a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions,      practices, racereligion,nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom       from bigotry.

2.a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

3.interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, un-dogmatic viewpoint.

4.the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

During the last few years, as I’ve been working with different Gay Rights and marriage equality pages, I’ve noticed the increasing use of the word tolerance. Recently, a rather large number of articles, opinions and blogs have been released asking for tolerance. Religion must learn to tolerate homosexuality if it wants to keep members, parents should tolerate their children when they come out, people should tolerate their gay co-workers, the list goes on. Is tolerance enough? I’m not sure it is.

In my opinion, tolerance is simply a grudging allowance of something. You tolerate a screaming child in a restaurant, a puppy making a mess, etc. Is this what we want of the world? Is this what we’re striving for? I don’t think so.

Okay, then. If this is the case, what do we want?

ac·cept·ance [ak-sep-tuhns]  

noun

  1. the act of taking or receiving something offered.
  2. favourable reception; approval; favour.
  3. the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.
  4. the fact or state of being accepted or acceptable.

Read #2. Read it again. THIS is what we should really be striving for. The difference between tolerance and acceptance is big, and I’m realistic enough to know that there are a large number of people in the world that simply will not accept, or even tolerate, the homosexual community as a whole, and we have to accept that. But, there are enough people who are “on the fence” and we can work to sway their opinions. We have made huge strides in the past decade, especially in the last four years. But we still have a lot of work to do.

In order to do this, it’s my opinion that we need to work more closely with our allies. With the people who have accepted us. These are probably the people who will be best able to change the minds of those that oppose us. They don’t really have a vested interest in our work for equality, but agree that it needs to happen. They’ve seen that opposition to their brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, parents, friends is wrong, and have decided to embrace us as equals. They are the people who can best explain why they made their decisions. In my opinion, the hardest of our opponents are more likely to listen to them than us. Now, I’m definitely NOT saying we should step back and allow others to do the work for us, but we should have more of our allies join us “on the front lines.”

With social media, we have, and are using, the perfect platform to increase exposure of our eventual goal. We need to figure out the best way to gain the acceptance of the majority of the population, not only here in North America, but world-wide. In a lot of ways, I’m not sure people realize the scale of the work we are doing. This is not a local problem, it’s global. Just because there are atrocities occurring in other countries, does not mean it’s not part of OUR struggle.

Even here, in North America, there are at least eighteen states considering so-called “Religious Freedom” bills. These bills will codify discrimination in state law. Anyone will be able to discriminate against anyone, (read the LGBT community) based on “religious belief.”   

Recently, a Florida church called a grieving mother, the night before her son’s funeral, to inform her that the ceremony could not take place in the church because the deceased was gay.  The pastor made this incredibly heartless decision because he said he’s a “man of god.”   “Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” the pastor said. “I’m not trying to condemn anyone’s lifestyle [sic], but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles.” 

As a Dad, I can’t begin to imagine the heartbreak of having to bury a child.  And to have salt rubbed into that wound by your family church and pastor is, in my opinion, unforgivable.  This is the kind of thing that started my personal divide with religion.  I used to volunteer as a leader of a church-based boy’s club, similar to scouts.  I was asked to resign, after five years, because my divorce, and upcoming second marriage made me an “unsuitable role model.” 

Another problem is that this lack of acceptance is not only from sources like religious institutions.  Unfortunately, it seems to be somewhat internal, as well.  Recently, there have been articles released detailing what looks like a separation within the LGBT community.  One explains in great detail how the LGB part of us is not only ignoring the T part, but essentially “throwing them to the wolves” in order to advance our own “agenda.”  http://prospect.org/article/45-years-after-stonewall-lgbt-movement-has-transphobia-problem

While I agree completely that greater transgender understanding, education and insight are needed in our movement, claiming that all LGB people are “against” all T people is a huge, and unfair generalization.  We NEED to work together as a cohesive unit in order to be taken seriously.  Those that oppose us are providing a united front in their opposition.  The main source of opposition is the religious front.  While they may be from different religions, with totally different views on a lot of subjects, they are definitely united in their anger and hatred of our community as a whole.  For this war, they’ve put their other differences aside.  They’ve strengthened themselves by agreeing on ONE small aspect of their beliefs.  We, as LGBT, allies and friends have so much more in common with each other than one tenuous belief.  Let’s use this commonality to stand up, together, and fight this war.

“Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they’re alive and human.”   ~   Albert Ellis

 

A final thought.  To quote a dear friend, “there are three words to this continuum.”  Once we’ve gotten past being “tolerated,” and gained acceptance as integral parts of the human race, then we, along with the rest of the world can…

Celebrate:

Verb

  1. To observe (a day) or commemorate (an event) with ceremonies or festivities.
  2. To praise widely or to present to widespread and favorable public notice, as through newspapers or novels.
  3. To have or participate in a party, drinking spree, or uninhibited good time

And trust me, the LGBT community KNOWS how to celebrate!

The Homophobic Truth Behind the Power Rangers

 Power ranger homophobic truth

In the year 1993 Fox, television network, released its first- real life action super hero show called (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). The show centered around five high school students Zack, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Jason who lived in the small, mythical town of Angel Grove. Two evil sorcerers Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, invade the earth with the soul intent of taking it over and making the earthlings their slaves. The five high school friends are given special powers by an ancient sorcerer of the light named Zordon, who is trapped inside a time-wharf, gives them special ancient powers which will allow them to transform into mighty super heroes in order to defend earth from the evil monsters Rita and Lord Zedd sent. The show was an instant hit and classic, right from its very first episode debut. The unique, and wonderful thing about the show was that each actor who was a power ranger were all from different races. The shows unique approach attracted kids and teens from around the world, myself included. I think the number one reason I fell in love with the show is because before its arrival, I really had no one I looked up to in my life. Kimberly Hart was my favorite, and the first person I really ever looked up to. She was everything I strived to be, and I have to admit I did have a crush on Jason. I was six at the time it first aired, and my friends today sometimes crack jokes about me watching power rangers, and trying to perform Kimberly’s flips and kicks in my back yard of which I must say, I was not good at.

Looking back on that one highlight of my life today, I have to say I have faced some disappointment in it. Not because of the fact I’m embarrassed that I watched the show, but because I had to suddenly embrace the harsh, troubling truth that went on behind the morphing cameras. When you are a kid you are pure of heart. The world seen through a fortunate six year olds eyes is perfect. There is no evil, everything his candy hearts and rainbows. It was that way for me. The Power Rangers weren’t actors, they were real. I could sleep better at night with the idea that the power rangers were somehow watching over me, and were protecting me from the evil in the world.

Just a few weeks ago the candy hearts and rainbows disappeared, and I will never view the show I watched as a kid the same ever again. It started with an interview I found on YouTube that featured the actor David Yost, who played Billy the blue power ranger. Three minutes into the interview, and my eyes brightened, the actor was gay. I couldn’t believe it… One of my childhood super heroes was someone who was just like me. I was immediately ready to find the directors and producers mailing addresses and thank them all for showing love for equality during the 90’s. Which was a horrible time for the LGBT’s. In that moment the tornado struck. The actor went into detail about what it was like working on set. He told of how he was humiliated and bullied by the producers and directors. They constantly yelled gay slurs in his direction. They even went as far as to humiliate him on camera, making his mighty, triceratops dinosaur battle robot, known as a Zord, into a unicorn for the soul purpose to make a mockery of him. Later on I did some research for myself, and found that not just he, but some of the other actors also experienced discrimination on set. The actor Walter Jones who play the Black Power Ranger was also horribly mistreated, and was suddenly axed out of the show with no explanation, along with actors Austin St John (Red Ranger) and Thuy Trang (Yellow Ranger).

The directors and producers were proud to present their international cast, but behind the cameras they were bullies, whose only desires were to make money off of something that turned out to be a big hit. I believe that the international team was something unexpected, but I think that was the most thrilling part of the show for me, was that you could experience other cultures. I just couldn’t believe the truth, I didn’t want to believe it. I refused to for a while.

One afternoon, for the first time in almost 18 years I decided to return and watch the show I loved growing up. It only took the first episode I watched to see the discrimination. The fact that the two bullies featured in the show were named Bulk because he was heavier set, and the other one Skull, and he was seen as being dumb and was always very clumsy. I witnessed the unicorn robot zord David Yost talked about. The more I watched, the more I realized how much prejudice behavior I grew up around. Being only six years old at the time, there was no way I could have noticed it, but it was there. I realize now that I should have paid more attention to Billy the blue ranger. To me, he is a true hero for going to work every day knowing he would face hate and humiliation. I am proud to call him a worthy ally in this fight for love and equality that we face today, and praise him for his courage to make himself known to his fans who grew up watching him as the blue ranger. Kimberly Hart will always be one I will remember as being meek and warmhearted, and now I can add a new role model to my collection. Billy the Blue Ranger. He was brave and very clever, and the actor who played him is also brave and a true hero.

If I had a chance to meet the producers of the show, I would tell them this:

In front of the audience you displayed equality and peace, and that anyone no matter their race or gender, can make a difference in the world. Behind the cameras, you were not the wonderful, loving hearted creators I thought you were. You can try to hide the truth all you want, but the proof is there for those of us who look back on it and wonder how we could laugh at a heavy set guy named Bulk, who was always being humiliated by having pies, smoothies, and mud tossed his way. Your unicorn zord that spits out rainbows doesn’t just make a mockery of David Yost, but for other LGBT’s as a whole. That rainbow you poke fun of means something more to me then you will ever comprehend. It resembles strength and hope, and that rainbow gives the LGBT’s, like me, a sense of honor. We can look at the rainbow and remember despite what people say we do matter and we deserve our spot in this world. Just like it happened with me, the show will be passed on to our younger generation of today, and when they get older the truth will happen and they will consider you a major disappointment. Your creativity and talent is not what made the show so special for me, it was the actors you placed in it. You created something very wonderful without even knowing it. You covered it all. You created nationality and you even had an LGBT member of whom you should have been proud to have on your show. No doubt I will pass your show onto kids like my baby cousin if I ever get the chance. I will show him that the power rangers are supposed to fight the encroachment of hate in the world. I won’t point out that you were hypocrites.

For representing equality, I will say thank you.   I only hope one day you hear the message of your own show, learn to walk its talk, and live it.

It is what the Blue Ranger would do.

 

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Without Peace, Equality Is A Pipedream

Recent human rights abuses by Israel in the Gaza strip has Israel facing backlash throughout Europe and Latin America, however the LGBT community remains divided on the subject in the United States, but why?

     Israel’s recent offensive attack on Hamas terrorists in Gaza has left at least 1836 people dead. Estimates of innocent, civilian causalities ranges from 50-77% including 330 dead children. Israel claims asymmetrical warfare justifies their actions but fewer and fewer people are convinced of that. Many look at Gaza and see targeted killings of innocent civilians at UN shelters, schools, hospitals, ambulances and thousands of Palestinian homes. In April 2013 Israel stated that it was phasing out the use of white phosphorus munitions whose use during it’s 2008-2009 offensive in the heavily populated Gaza strip drew war crimes allegations.
     Targeted or not the world is watching, reacting and condemning Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated, “Israel’s actions is a moral outrage and a criminal act” and “Yet another gross violation of international law” The U.S State Department denounced Israel’s shelling of a UN school with one word “disgraceful” France, Spain and other European countries have also spoke out and published warnings urging citizens to boycott Israel businesses and a recent poll in Britain found 2/3 of people thought Israel was guilty of war crimes. Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela also condemned Israel’s recent actions, in fact El Salvador, Chile and Peru have called back their ambassadors from Israel. When Brazil condemned Israel’s actions, Israel foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Brazil “A Diplomatic dwarf” in response. Four days ago Spain froze military exports to Israel.
     However many Americans seem unmoved by the recent Israeli offensive and even defend Israel’s actions as legitimate because “the war on terror”
Without questioning media bias we accept the corporate media’s narrative of good guy VS bad guy without ever asking questions, checking our nationalism or getting to the core of the problems. If we took the time to investigate we might discover what I believe to be the truth: Palestinians are suffering horrific human rights abuses right under our noses. In fact Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have sounded the alarm and people like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have described the situation in Gaza by saying “Apartheid in Gaza is far worse than it ever was in South Africa”
Palestinians are forced to suffer hunger and freezes to average workers salaries They have no running water or electricity and no freedom to come and go as they please. Some people have even described the Palestinian people as living in a large open prison.
     One of the goals of the LGBT movement is to infiltrate every culture and society globally to expand human rights and equality. So how are we supposed to lift fellow LGBT people up and give them a voice in Gaza and Palestine if they are living under oppressive occupations in war zones? We can’t, not as long as occupation and dropping bombs persists. Some people argue that the Arab world is inherently anti-gay and therefore not worthy of our attention. I argue that if any group of people have proven it’s possible to change a culture from the inside out its LGBT people and the social media machine behind us.
     Al-Qaws for sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society is a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer Palestinian activists who work collaboratively to break down gendered and hetero-normative barriers. Al-Qaws seeks to create an open space for all its members so that they may be engaged and energized in the struggle for equality and inclusion. PQBDS ( Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) formed from within Al-Qaws and targets the Israeli governments pinkwashing. Pinkwashing is a part of the bigger “Brand Israel” campaign which aims to divert international criticism from human rights abuses and to whitewash its crimes by promoting itself as a safe haven for gays.
     Ghaith Hilal is a queer Palestinian activist from the west bank who has been a part of Al-Qaws leadership since 2007. In his article 9 Questions Palestinian queers are tired of hearing; Hilal suggests that being out, pride celebrations and other western ideas of equality come secondary to living under decades of long military occupation. Hilal states “You cannot have queer liberation while apartheid, patriarchy, capitalism and other oppressions exist”
     Hamas was elected by the people of Palestine after urging from the United States to hold elections. When winning party emerged with a primitive army Israel and the United States (Bush Administration) turn around and labels them ‘terrorists’ Israel has continued to take land and resources from their brown skin neighbors while the United States turns a blind eye and continues to hand over $3 billion a year to Israel’s military which kills innocent people. Israel defends itself when it shoots down incoming rockets using Iron Dome. So the fundamental question becomes does Israel have the right to use so much force punishing it’s neighbors? The United States has used it’s veto power 42 times to trump the UN’s actions on Israeli abuse of power. Will we do it again?
     The business of war is profitable. Fresh out of Iraq and not yet out of Afghanistan a war weary public and President have had to fight off military interventions all over the globe from conservative warmongers with a financial interest in promoting war. (Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, John McCain) In 2011 the 100 largest contractors sold $400 billion in arms and military services. In 2000 the U.S. defense budget was approximately $312 billion by 2011 that figure had grown to $712 billion. Arms sales among the top 100 companies grew by 51%
     We’ve been down these warmongering roads before. The government and media lead us straight into Iraq on false information connecting Iraq and 9/11. Hillary Clinton’s vote supporting an illegal war in Iraq maybe one of her biggest obstacles to overcome assuming she runs for POTUS. Wherever you stand on the issues peace loving voters; LGBT activists especially, must do a better job of defending global human rights by searching for all perspectives and demanding military restraint from politicians who casually send other peoples kids off to war while beating the war drums.