Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2007

Well what's to be said?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was passed by the House of Representative of the US Congress, but without including gender identity. Non-Discrimination that is not inclusive is discriminatory.

And in Canada, gender reassignment surgery has not been added back to coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Ontario has the highest population of any of Canada's provinces.

The situation is not much better elsewhere.

The list below includes individuals who were killed by others out of fear and hatred as well as some who took their own lives out of pain and despair. We cannot accept this as simply status quo.

Those of us who call ourselves Christian have an obligation to include; to draw the circle of God's love as wide as possible.

God did not say to love your neighbours who are like yourself; but to love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.

We remember the ones we have lost--friends, neighbours, loved ones, family members, strangers, email friends--to the cruelty and pain and hatred of others.

Nakia Ladelle Baker, Nashville, Tennessee
Hasan Sabeh, Baghdad, Iraq
Keittirat Longnawa, Rassada, Thailand
Tatiana, Trani, Italy
Moira Donaire; Viña del Mar, Chile
Michelle Carrasco "Chela", Santiago, Chile
Ruby Rodriguez, San Francisco, California
Erica Keel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bret T. Turner, Madison, Wisconsin
Manuela Di Cesare, Pescara, Italy
Unidentified Male Clad in Female Attire, Kingston, Jamaica
Victoria Arellano, San Pedro, California
Oscar Mosqueda, Daytona Beach, Florida
Stefania, Roma, Italy
Maribelle Reyes, Houston, Texas
Ian Guarr, Holland, Michigan
And finally, all those who have no names, who died alone and unnamed…

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Give to Me Your Leather....

*Disclaimer: I am not a leather person, nor a part of the BDSM culture. What I say here is from observation and reading. Corrections/amplifications welcome!*


In the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, this has a very different connotation than for the straight or mainstream community.

First, being a leather person is simply about enjoying the touch, sensation, scent of leather—whether in clothing, upholstery or accessories. This is what I would call the first level.

Some members of the leather community are also a part of the BDSM (bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism) community. The two do not always go together, although they frequently do.

BDSM is a touchy subject in many circles, not least in the LGBT Christian world. Of course there are limits. But safe, sane and consensual is the mantra here. Testing the limits of your own body or another’s can be liberating and very spiritual. Think of the asceticism of some Roman Catholic orders or of some First Nations traditions.

Dr. Paul Brand, in his book The Gift Nobody Wants, points out that pain is actually good—pain shows us the limits of our bodies, tells us when to stop and shows us just how far we can go, how much strength we really have. Without pain, we would injure ourselves many times every day. Pain is not necessarily something to be avoided, but can be something to be embraced.

Individuals who practise bondage and discipline speak often of the transcendence of a “scene,” of a carefully planned and carried out experience, in which both the dominant partner and the submissive partner find a level of conscienceness akin to the spiritual ecstasy of a Saint Theresa or the nirvana of Zen meditation.

Yes, these experiences are on the edges of experience for most people; but can we deny the validity of these experiences, of this way of reaching the I-Thou presence of God many say they have reached through this practise? We cannot deny the power of these experiences simply because we do not understand or feel the same draw to such experiences. Each of us has our own spiritual practise, our own sexual preferences, food tastes, clothing style, communication methods. When we are sane, safe and consensual, I don’t see that anyone can judge or deny the spiritual experience of another.

It may not appeal to you, you may find BDSM or even leather distasteful or uncomfortable or frightening. If you are LGBT, remember that many heterosexual people find your sexuality, gender identity and sexual practises to be all those things. If you are heterosexual or LGBT, remember that we’re to do to others what we want done to us.

All of which is a digression. The term “leather” covers everything from a leather vest to a leather kilt to chaps and shorts and harnesses, dresses, armbands and stiletto-heel boots and even jackets and hats. It’s often seen as hyper-masculine, akin to the lumberjack or cowboy style.

I was going to talk about drag as well, but that’s really a whole other (although related) topic. Stay tuned!

And I invite comments. I’m always interested in educating myself—P.L.A.Y. (People of Leather Among You) members and others, please amplify what I’ve said here, correct me where I’ve gone astray—and compliments are welcome, too!

I also recommend this article about the founders of P.L.A.Y.which covers far more ground better than I ever could.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Youth Group of a Different Kind

OK, let’s talk about youth. No, I know we weren’t—or maybe you weren’t. But they remain one of the most vulnerable populations in society—kids from 13 to 21 years old. And of those youth, the most vulnerable are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. They face a higher rate of suicide than their straight peers, a greater risk of being homeless, of being forced into sex work, of substance abuse, and of being HIV/AIDS+.
Why? Simple. If they come out, they are often rejected by family, friends, church, school—the support system they so desperately need at that age, no matter their orientation. So they run away from home or are kicked out, and because most shelters aren’t set up for youth—or are not supportive of GLBT youth, especially trans youth—they end up on the street, often as sex workers.
Even if they are accepted by family and friends, it can be very difficult for them to feel at home in larger society at a time of life when all the forces of socialization are pushing them towards heterosexuality and gender conformity. Homecoming, prom, the whole dating scene, movies and popular music—it is all geared toward heterosexual teenagers. How do you learn how to flirt with another boy when all you see is how to flirt with a girl if you identify as a boy? How do you figure out how to be the gender you feel yourself to be, even if it doesn’t match what others think you are?
If they remain in the closet, they know they are living a lie, but they are also terrified of being found out and ostracized. They fake their way through a heterosexual world, never really feeling at home. Eventually they come out when they find themselves in a place where they can; or they live a double life; or they never do and live life denying who they are. Sometimes they commit suicide, unable to reconcile their knowledge of their own truth and what their family, friends, church, and school are telling them.
Yes. It’s depressing. And no, it’s not like that for all youth, everywhere. We can point to all kinds of exceptions—but they are exceptions.
One of the difficulties is that these issues cut across several areas—mental health, public health, spirituality, social services, child protection, criminal justice, substance abuse….and so on. No one agency can handle all these issues. And yet each of them is bound to deal with GLBT youth in some way—whether they know it or not, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, whether they want to deal with it or not, that’s the simple truth.
Here in Canada, any agency that receives government funds must abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—which includes sexual orientation, and soon, if my prayers and the prayers of many others are answered, gender identity. They simply do not have a choice, they must be prepared to treat all clients equably and well, according to their needs.
River City has a group, an alliance, an organization—we’re not sure what to call ourselves—of representatives from several agencies who work together on just these issues. The child protection agency, the youth health centre, the public health agency, the HIV/AIDS organization, the local GLBT Pride organization, the mental health and substance abuse agencies, and of course the church, are all involved, among others. We’re trying to work together to offer the kind of training the agencies need, the support the kids and families need, the information everyone needs—the whole thing. Our dream is a drop-in centre or even a safe house for the youth, as are available in many cities.
Wild dreaming? Maybe. But the kids need it. Desperately. In fact, lives may literally depend on it. So we’ll keep working. Keep us in prayer as we work to move forward.

(Yes, this is cross-posted from another of my blogs. But as so often, it works for both.)

Friday, August 03, 2007


Juniper posted this elsewhere, and I had to pass it on...

Pray for Peace

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.

If you're hungry, pray. If you're tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else's legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas--

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Ellen Bass Pray for Peace

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are, and Meet the Pastor Who Fell From A Star....

See, the thing is this. A few years ago, my mother moved back to the town where I (and my sisters) grew up. She went back to the family church. She became active. All this is great, totally in keeping with my mother's spirit and not the point of this spiel anyway. It's just to lead into the fact that she's come to know many of the other women at the church, through Bible study and the women's group and so on. Her last name is different from mine, by the way.

Well, at the mother-daughter Mother's Day brunch last month, a woman who looked vaguely familiar sat down next to my mother, and began talking. She looked at me intently, glanced at my name tag, and asked if my last name was "Pastor." At that moment, I recognized her, she recognized me, and much laughter ensued. She and I were part of a small group (four) that spent a lot of time together in high school. We were the four musketeers of TeenyTown. One of us has moved out of state and our lives. But the fourth member is not far away, and so we agreed that the three of us remaining in-state (or sort of in-state in my case) had to get together.

It's set for this coming week--dinner at a restaurant not far from my mother's home.

But. The reunion situation wasn't one in which I could exactly come out. You don't drop that on the table in the middle of a church Mother's Day brunch, just before the nice man gives his talk on Wild Birds of Our County. I couldn't mention "my partner" as a hint because I don't have one (partner, that is; and the way things are going currently, my next partner may be a guy--which is a whole other post--and so wouldn't have helped anyway). I did give her my card, but it doesn't out me either. On the other hand, if we're going to renew our friendship, I have to come out. I spent too long in the closet to go back in.

So. I will be coming out to two old friends from high school whom I haven't seen in close to twenty years.

In telling this to my current friends, the reaction has been mixed. Brit Boy thinks I'm a "madwoman" (yes, that's a direct quote). The denizens of the Yellow House think it will be interesting. Music Man says to have an alternate form of transportation home (I'm to ride with one of my friends). The Photographer wants to be a fly on the wall. Other reactions have ranged from a shrug to "it will be fine--they were your friends," to a wistful "wish I could have done that."

Well, I'm sure my mother would have warned me if she had thought there would be "issues." She knows the one woman well enough from working with her in the church to tell me.

I guess my musings are more around the topic of coming out as a continual process (or "pro-sess" as we say in the land of maple leaves). There's always someone who hasn't heard or you've just met, a new doctor or real estate agent or whatever. Now, I know my former partner was listed in the last reunion booklet (four years ago), , so if one or the other of these ladies was paying attention they would have picked up on it. But they may not have. Or they may have and didn't want to mention it.

So. There may be no drama at all--or one or the other may be startled. But I remember these two from a long way back. I'd like to think they haven't changed much from the accepting, intelligent, friendly people they were then.

I don't think I'm a madwoman for coming out to them--even in the British sense of the word (i.e., only slightly nuts), and while it may be highly entertaining for those not involved, my guess is that, in reality, it will be low-key and no surprises, with no need for extra money for cab fare.

Stay tuned. Promise to update later.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More of My Thoughts Than You Wanted to Know About Pansexuality...

This blog needs some punching up, and I realized that I haven’t discussed a topic near and dear to my heart—bisexuality/pansexuality..

I identify as pansexual. That is, I am attracted to a variety of people who may not fit in one particular slot on the gender spectrum. I think that everyone is a blend of masculine and feminine, male and female, and therefore to say I am attracted to men and women excludes the people in-between—to whom I am also attracted.

That said, I also have to say that I am most attracted to individuals on the masculine end of the spectrum—genetic men, drag kings, butch lesbians, and so on. Don’t know why, exactly—just how it is. Perhaps it is because I tend to the more stereotypically feminine end of the spectrum, and my subconscious is looking for a complement.

And therefore my pansexuality is expressed in a sense of being primarily attracted to masculinity—and also being attracted to the feminine as a complement. That can be blended in one person, or found in more than one person at any given time.

The common understanding of bisexuality seems to be that of hypersexuality—expressed ironically in the title of a now-extinct bi newsletter—Anything That Moves. In the gay and lesbian community, there are sometimes sneers that bisexual people simply cannot “make up their minds,” that we are “sitting on the fence.” It's because most of us are attracted to a variety of individuals and cannot deny our attraction to more than one gender.

I was asked recently what my ideal bisexual relationship would be. I had to say I didn’t know. It would depend, for me, on the person with whom I was in a relationship—because for me, there would be a primary relationship. It’s simply the way my psyche is constructed. I have known others who have other arrangements—that’s what works for them and their relationship (s) and obviously I have no issue with that. But for me, I need one person to be my partner—to be the one to whom I gravitate when I need comfort or want to celebrate; who is my shelter and my rock; and to whom I can offer comfort and nurture as well. How I expressed my attraction to someone of another gender than that primary partner would be worked out, then, with my primary partner. It would depend on his or her attractions and needs as well. Obviously, until I’m in such a relationship I don’t know what the details would be and again it would be partly dependent on the others involved.

The question was wonderful. I had to think about abstractions that I had never put into words before—and I’m generally pretty good at concretizing things!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What the L?

Sorry, I couldn't resist...

Well, I’ve now seen the entire first season (I know, I’m only about three years behind the rest of the woman-identified world).

This series has really generated a lot of conversation, on the web, at potlucks, over dinners and cocktails, in the bars, at basketball practice (not that I’m at the latter; what, exercise?!). Some people love it, some people hate it—and often for the same reasons.

My feelings and observations (as if the world needs more commentary on this show):

1. Physically, the women are NOT representin’. Every one of the characters is attractive and thin. None of them have weight issues, none of them even wears glasses, for cryin’ out loud, except one scene with Bette, and she just looks cuter.

2. Economically, they’re not realistic. I’ll give you Jenny (writer and grocery-store clerk), Shane (hair stylist), Alice (journalist), Marina (café owner) and Lara (chef); but a professional tennis player, a director of an art museum, a director of development at a major studio, a costume designer in demand by the biggest stars…puh-leeze. Hardly representative of reality.

3. Ethnically, they aren’t realistic. Where are the black lesbians (apart from the token angry woman in Bette and Tina’s therapy group)? How about some of our Latina sisters, or Asian? Dare I mention First Nations? Feh.

4. Do we really need the Web of Relationships?

5. The sex is unrealistic…it seems more like a straight man’s fantasy of what women do together than, um, reality. No, I am not going into detail.

6. Can we have some real issues? They touch on them, but just barely. Bette and Tina don’t face hassles when they want AI; yes, they get some nasty stuff from the fundanut woman, but the fact that they are lesbians is not even mentioned at the clinic. The conflict over the art exhibit is another example; and their “jail time.” Bette and Candace get off, for cryin’ out loud. Tough time, indeed. Again, a straight man’s fantasy.

7. Can they mention the B word (Bisexual) without snickering? Jenny is, at this point, clearly bi; but will they (i.e., the writers) let her be or will they make her “choose”? Alice comes under fire for being attracted to Lisa, too.

8. Give Alice more to do! She’s the most realistic person on that show!

OK. I know this is entertainment, and “Queer as Folk” wasn’t a reality show, “The Cosby Show’s Huxtables didn’t represent the African-American reality either, and “Chico and the Man” didn’t represent Latino/Latina reality. But still.

I do have some things I like about the show, some of them very much—someone get that woman some water, I think she’s fainting… Thank you. As I was saying, I did enjoy some things.

1. I realize there’s a lot of dissention on this out there, but…Shane is hot! OK? I just wish they would have let her stay the wild, love ‘em and leave ‘em woman she was in the first few episodes, instead of mooning over that shrew Sherry….

3. Kudos for their attempts, at least, to portray gender-different people (Lisa and Ivan). But there was much too much snickering about Lisa, and I hated it that Alice didn’t take seriously Lisa’s desire to be a lesbian (in spite of a male body). Ivan fared rather better—but then, I’ve only seen her in two episodes. I do like a good drag king…sigh.

Well, I can’t say I’d try to watch it if this were the second season. I’m not going to try to watch it now, because way too many seasons have gone by and I would still be lost. But I will rent/borrow the other seasons, just to be able to hold up my end of conversations.

And I do want to see if Ivan and Kit get together….and what about Shane?

Drag Kings...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I’m baaaack!

Life gets in the way, ya know?

At any rate, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading. Always dangerous.

And in a fit of masochism (not that there’s anything wrong with masochism…I’m just describing my state of mind), I began looking into doctoral programs recently. It’s going to be close to two years before I can begin such a program, assuming I decide to go with it. But I thought I’d start taking a look at what I could do—or rather, where I might be able to work on what I want to study.

My thought is to work on this theory of mine, to do with images of God, bisexuality (or pansexuality, more accurately) and transgender. The problem is, most “gender studies” programs turn out to be about women, which is limiting to say the least. Moreover, they seem to be certificate programs within other programs. So I could get a PhD in Women’s Studies and English, with a certificate in Gender Studies; but is that really appropriate, given what I want to study? My answer is no!

So I decided to try the other angle—the theology side—and look into programs at seminary and school of theology. Here the issue is that most doctoral programs at seminaries are DMin., the Doctor of Ministry, intended more for congregational work than abstract theological work. A couple programs do have PhDs available, or flexible DMin programs. So then the question becomes, can they handle my area of study? How accepting are they, really, of GLBT people?

There seem to be a three or four options out there for me to explore…early days yet.

Because, you see, there’s another issue, not theoretical or ideological this time. The language requirement. A reading knowledge of two languages besides English—so that I can access sources in another language. Now, I think this is a good idea in theory. But it’s a hard one to work with. I studied German, and lived in Germany for several years, so German won’t be a problem (and it’s considered a scholarly language, and will be very useful for theology). But. A second language? Sigh. I’ve been thinking (off and on, mostly off) that Spanish would be a useful language to know. On the other hand, since I’m living in Canada, French would come in mighty handy. Problem is IT’S A WHOLE OTHER LANGUAGE! I’m not sure I’m up for that. But the programs that require two languages are also the ones that seem to have the most focus on theology, which is what I want.

Sigh. Maybe I’ll look into that “Rosetta Stone” language software I see advertised in the New Yorker. Or find a Spanish girlfriend. On the other hand, it will be easier, here in Canada, to find a Francophone girlfriend. Or boyfriend. Just as long as s/he speaks a foreign language and will teach it to me! Oh, and DP might object.

Clearly, this whole enterprise is going to take some serious Thought.

And why a doctorate, you ask? Well, I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, and what I’ve come to realize is how much I don’t know, and how much I need to know if I’m going to explore these questions and issues properly and in depth. Each question’s answer leads to more questions. I need guidance and teaching and some suggestions and a whole lot of all of those. And probably a foreign language too. That adds up, pretty much, to a PhD.

Which scares the socks off me.