Thursday, December 23, 2010

Peace on Earth

Below is the text of a piece I wrote December 23rd, 2006. It's pretty simple but seems appropriate again this year.

The day before Christmas Eve is one of my favorites. The following two days are always busy. This day seems like a quieter time to enjoy the season, the music and the message.
I saw the bumper sticker today, "Let Peace Begin With Me".
I began thinking of the Christmas songs we hear each year. We sing "next year, all our troubles will be miles away". But we sang the same song last year and the years before that. Yet our troubles remain as close as the next moment.
We sing of "Peace on Earth", but we know lasting peace will remain elusive until the final day of judgment.
Where then do we find the peace of which we sing or the freedom from trouble which we desire? As with all things in life that truly count, a peaceful heart will come from within.
Peace will come when we accept ourselves as unique individuals, each with our unique blessing.
Peace will come when we accept others without prejudice of any kind, not merely a tacit acceptance to which we pay lip service, but acceptance without reservation or condition.
Peace from within will often require making a stand for what we know to be right, knowing it may not be popular with coworkers or friends.
Peace may entail becoming an advocate for those unable to speak for themselves. The needs are many.
Peace will not come by self promotion or allowing our deeds to give us an inflated sense of importance.
Ultimately peace will come when we accept the true message of Christmas, "For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ The Lord".
Once we accept the real meaning of Christmas, our view of our world and ourselves is forever changed. A changed heart will be the source of our peace.
As the bumper sticker said, "Let peace begin with me".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

going away?

A couple people have asked why I've posted very little recently. Some probably think I've quietly faded into the night. That almost happened, but that time is apparently not quite yet.

I won't go into personal details but I came face to face with my own mortality three months ago. I had not felt well for some months and became violently ill in early September. Coincidentally I already had a doctor appointment scheduled. Within an hour of that appointment I was in the emergency room having a CT scan. The results of that scan indicated I may have a life threatening condition. 

I had emergency abdominal surgery that night. The next morning the doctor said what they thought they saw wasn't there after all. That was the good news. The bad news was they didn't know what was wrong. The next week was spent in the hospital with one day full of unforeseen complications. It was that evening I realized things were not going well.

It was during that night that I came to realize the faith I had for so long was really true. It's something I had always known but there was a quiet assurance that, no matter what happened, it was going to be all right.

You hear people talk about an epiphany, seeing the light or hearing voices. There was none of that. The nurse came in the next morning and asked why I felt so much better. It was as though I lay in that hospital room during the night with my mind playing sermons I'd heard over the years. I can still hear 1 John 4:4 even now, "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.." 

It can be a pretty amazing feeling when you know that no matter what the future holds, your future is secure. I have to say it's also amazing when you live to tell about it. I am moved to tears even now to think about that time.

I still have days when I don't feel well, but I've gained some of the weight I lost and am becoming more active. One thing I do know; I will never look at life, or death, in quite the same way. I've said that before but this experience gives a different perspective. Much of what used to be important, really isn't. 

So here we are three days before Christmas. I think of my church, my faith, family and friends. I can't think of anything else I could ever need. As I have often said, when we think we have hit bottom, that may be our feet touching our foundation. That can be a pretty cool feeling, pretty cool indeed. The question becomes, how strong is our foundation?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today, November 20th, is The Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day set aside to honor those transgender women and men who have lost their lives only because of who they are. We must not forget those who are walking through each day in a 'living death', barely surviving today and dreading the sunrise of tomorrow.

There are observances around the world this evening, including Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Myrtle Beach in the Carolinas.The list of names we read is long again this year. You can see them  here.

Below is the text of my remarks one year ago this evening. Unfortunately nothing has changed this last year.

If there is to be a better future, we must disturb the present.

If we speak eloquently of the quest for human dignity but lack the courage to put words into action, aren’t they no more than empty words?

If we cannot grant others that dignity which we would claim for ourselves, do we not do an injustice to ourselves and others?
We may wake up each morning wondering if this is the day that our true self will become apparent and if we will be the next to be judged as worthy of violence.
There are people in this room who have lost everything they had in order to be all they were meant to be. The miracle is in learning that our own dignity is worth the price.
Many of us spend a lifetime trying conform to what others think we should be, rather than who we were intended to be. There eventually comes a time when the need to be a real person takes precedence over all else. There comes that defining moment when we must take off the mask and become genuine. Before we can give the world our best, we must first give ourselves our best. We learn that it really is okay to be who we are, no matter who we are.
It is in these defining moments when we learn how to live, rather than to merely survive, when we feel that spark of hope that lies within each of us and come to the realization that our lives have a higher purpose than we ever dreamed. 
Tonight we stand upon the shoulders of those who have paved the way for us. Some day people will gather and speak of the progress we made, or the lack of it. 
History will be our final judge but above all, may no person have reason to ask, “Why did you wait so long to live?”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Charlotte Interfaith Connection

I posted recently that contributions at the Aids Walk last month went a long way towards stocking our toiletry pantry. We are at the point of readiness to begin coordinating with RAIN to distribute the items on a regular basis.

This outreach was the vision of my dear friend, Charley. RAIN has evolved from care for the dying to compassionate care for the living. The Charlotte Interfaith Connection shows again that when we begin an outreach, we never know what other doors will open and how we, and others, will be touched.

I visited with my dear friends in the Women Connecting For Justice group at Holy Covenant United Church of Christ this past Wednesday evening. It was exciting to see good friends for the first time in a while. Their contribution to our RAIN pantry is most appreciated. Holy Covenant UCC is one of the faith communities partnering with us in this outreach.

Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday. This past Friday was my ex wife's birthday. Unfortunately, I will not be able to speak with either of them. It will always be illogical that so many of us lose so much in order to be who we are. I think often of my friends where I worked 20 years. If any of you read this, know I miss you all. You have my continued respect and friendship.

We need to remind ourselves from time to time that so many people sacrifice most of who they are to conform to what others think they should be. We can do this to a degree, perhaps even for a lifetime. However, what we have traded eventually becomes evident. There comes that time when a person decides whether to take off the mask, or continue a day to day existence that doesn't even meet the definition of 'existence'. That is when we decide whether to really live. For me personally, the decision to not live was not an option.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day of Action

Within the climate of acceptance we enjoy today, I often reflect on the progress we have made as transgender people in the 41 years since the Stonewall Riots.

Tuesday, May 25 was one of those times of comparison. Equality NC organized the Day of Action, an opportunity to sit down with our legislators in Raleigh, NC and share our views on the most pressing issues we face. To meet with the legislators is one of those opportunities we once would have never imagined.

Equally important was a series of workshops during the day on issues ranging from Advocacy 101 to the Aids Drug Assistance Program. For a complete overview of these, and other issues, visit the Equality NC website.

One session that struck a cord personally was 'Speaking With Legislators From a Faith Based Perspective'. The presenter was Jack McKinney, former pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. He made the point that we have allowed the most intolerant to take control of the playing field.

That statement speaks volumes. It's time for people of faith, and no small amount of courage, to leave the bleachers and get on the playing field. There is no question that most of the ostracism faced by LGBT people is a result of religion based bigotry.

Each of us carries our own set of personal biases, even if on a subconscious level. There comes a time for us, as Christians, to search our own heart and bring that prejudice into the light of day. To do otherwise would mean we ourselves are not living a life of authenticity.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Third anniversary of Sean Kennedy's murder

I have learned to be aware that when I attend one event, there is a strong likelihood that God will open another door to something equally, or more, significant.

In 2008, I visited the venue for the HRC gala in Charlotte, neither as a protestor, nor a guest, but for an Educational Initiative with my friend Angela. The occasion was only months after the ENDA debacle in which transgender inclusion had been dropped in hopes of getting a bill through congress. Our reason for being there was honorable and the Educational Initiative was a success.

The memory of that weekend centers on neither the gala nor ENDA, but on a chance meeting that grew into a friendship. We were invited to speak to a group of students from Campus Pride that morning. Also speaking was Elke Kennedy, mother of Sean Kennedy. Upon hearing both her passion and compassion, anything I had to say became insignificant. She spoke of standing strong in the cause of human rights, never wavering and accepting oneself.

Sean had been murdered in Greenville, SC less than a year earlier. As a young gay man, he was accosted leaving a local night spot. The blow to his face knocked him to the curb with enough force to separate his brain from the brain stem. Sean lived a few hours.

Within days, Elke had formed an organization dedicated to'ending the hate', Sean's Last Wish.

Today is the third anniversary of Sean's murder. Elke commemorated the day by attending the first Pride event in Charleston, SC, Sean's hometown. You can view the news coverage here. I spoke with her this evening and she is still excited about being in Charleston for their event. She is naturally sad, but her strength remains.

We have so often seen a tragedy turned into a force for good. Total strangers are moved to tears by the power of Elke's message. As I have often told her, no one can tell the story like a mother. I think God means it to be that way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Charlotte Aids Walk

The AIDS Walk took place in Charlotte May 1st. I've been to a lot of Prides, but this was my first AIDS Walk. It's pretty amazing when approximately 2500 people come together for a worthy cause.

The Charlotte Interfaith Connection has partnered with RAIN (Regional Aids Interfaith Network) to maintain a pantry with toiletries which patients are not provided through other social services. There were two SUV's collecting toiletries from the participants at the Walk which means the pantry at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is sufficiently stocked to give us a head start. We are seeking other faith communities to maintain the pantry one month each year.

The Carolinas Gender Odyssey was going to be a June event similar to other conferences around the country. Scheduled were breakout sessions, a talent show and a formal ball. I speak in the past tense as the planning committee has announced postponement of the event until next year. There are a number of reasons but the attendance clearly was not going to be as hoped.

Former world heavyweight wrestling champion, Gene Kiniski, passed away last month. I've written a few times that my friends don't know the side of me that has the abiding interest in the history of wrestling, unless they read this blog.

Gene has been discussed at length on the Wrestling Legends newsgroup. The conversation has had me thinking of our LGBT community. Sometimes I think everything leads me back to the LGBT community. In any case, the wrestling newsgroup has one characteristic I appreciate, courtesy and respect. Whether they were in the business, or just old time fans, everyone is held in the same high regard. I try and imagine what we could accomplish in the way of true LGBT unity if we did the same.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Recovering The Spirit -N- Me

This past weekend, there was a conference in Winston Salem, NC which is similar to Carolinas Gender Odyssey. Recovering The Spirit -N- Me was presented by Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship. I was invited to make a few remarks during Sunday worship. It was an honor to be in worship with those good people. Wonderful things are happening in that church and the community. Below is a photo with my dear friend Krista (left) and her partner, Terri.

A transgender person was murdered in Charlotte, NC April 3. Read about it here. These things happen all too often, almost to the point of being routine. I think we will learn she was a trans woman living fulltime. Whether this was a bias motivated hate crime, we still don't know. I have already expressed a concern about rushing to judgment before we know all the facts. I have my strong opinion, but until we know, we risk our future credibility being put into question.

That becomes a concern, 'future credibility'. Transgender people often do to each other, the very thing we abhor. We stereotype each other and are unable to honor the diversity which we claim to embrace.

In the weeks after the Tony Alston murder, there was a discussion locally about whether a fund raising event called a 'drag race' was appropriate. I get it. These fundraisers happen all the time. I do think it's not the best PR, but it is what it is. Within days, the issue became not about the fund raiser, but the right of respected transgender people to express a strongly felt opinion without without their integrity being called into question, or accused of making anti gay comments.

A lot of transgender people have been knocked around pretty hard in this world, as has the gay community. I  long ago lost count of the number of people who desire a position of leadership, but when crunch time came, they were unable to honor an opinion different from theirs. The result is always the same. If a person is not what they say they are, it always comes to the surface and is seen for what it is. We will always be judged by our actions. This is exactly as it should be.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The National Day of Silence - April 16, 2010

Friday, April 16th, is officially the National Day of Silence observance, a day set aside on high school and college campuses around the nation to pause in silence to remember those who have been the victim of bullying or hate crimes.

Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC had their observance yesterday and last night. I was invited to visit with members of GloBal, the Gay-Straight Alliance and it was everything I knew it would be. It was an honor to be with them when it was time to Break the Silence. There were laughter and tears and it's okay that some of the tears were mine. When I look in the eyes of these young men and women, I see the courage that is going to change the future. I like to say they are the people who are going to make the future become the present.

I find it ironic that when we have supposedly mature LGBT people still trying to decide how, or even whether, to come together as one real community, these people have already done it. When I was at Winthrop two years ago for the observance, the photo I took with the students became my favorite. Most of them have graduated, but the photo we took last night is again my favorite, not because I am in it, but who is in it with me. They said it was cool to put the photo on my blog and I appreciate that. I hope to see you all again soon! As always, click on the photo to enlarge.

While last night was with the university students at Winthrop, exactly 24 hours earlier I was at the second Gay & Gray Progressive Dinner sponsored by the Centralina Area Agency on Aging. Someone joked with me about the dichotomy between the two events. I see none at all. When you have people interested in advocacy for the marginalized, I do not see age as a criteria. As I said at both events, the time we have left is not the real issue. It is what we do with that time left. The concept is the same whether a person is 21 or 71.

I initially became involved with the Area Agency on Aging last April when I was the luncheon speaker at their conference. I have told them many times that day became more than an important speech. It opened my mind to the needs of LGBT seniors and issues we all will face as we age. They have some interesting events ahead and I'm thrilled whenever I can be with them. Linda, Debi and Marilyn have become good friends. Their compassion for a marginalized segment of an already marginalized community is more important than most of us even realize.

Afternoons with Joyce

There is a book titled 'Tuesdays With Morrie', the lessons learned by a former student as his professor battles ALS, I find myself thinking about someday writing 'Afternoons With Joyce'.

I met Joyce several months ago during one of my marathon days of coffee and writing. We struck up a conversation and became fast friends. Joyce is originally from London, survived The Blitz and is a wonderful conversationalist. Our topics range from world affairs to cooking, to child rearing. She either waits for me, or I wait for her, depending on who gets there first. She's older than I am, which is saying a lot. I find her intellect so refreshing. I've enjoyed getting to know her daughter and grandchildren.

She spends summers in Canada with her husband and will be leaving within the next couple weeks. We will keep in touch and I will do something special for her when she comes back to Charlotte next fall to spend winter with her daughter. She is healthy and I pray that continues well into the future

Certain things put life into perspective. I spent a lifetime planning my transition. There were all the years of planning and worry, the electrolysis, counseling, a number of surgeries and all the losses so many of us endure. Then I realized what it was all about, and it's really pretty simple. The 'Afternoons With Joyce' were all I ever wanted. I mean that in the sense of living a normal life, having friends, church activities and all the things that give life meaning. Has it been worth it? You betcha.

My good friend, and favorite hairdresser, Swooz Glenn, got to know Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx during her own outreach work. She had her photo made with His Honor this past Monday. I told her I wanted to put it in my blog and she said that was cool. If you are close to Charlotte and want a good hair stylist who is a wonderful person, let me know and I will connect you with Swooz.

I'm doing more public speaking events these days, something I dearly love. This past Friday, I did a presentation at the Southern Organization for Human Services conference in Charlotte. It's important to speak to the helping professionals on LGBT issues. Their attendance is indicative of their own commitment to diversity. A social worker often asks what to do if a client has LGBT issues. My answer is to remember the limitations of your own knowledge and to be aware of your resources. Many of us seek multiple therapists before finding someone who has even heard of the SOC or is knowledgeable in hormone therapy.

I don't take many photos these days. A common theme I have observed is that before going full time, we often take all the photos we can. It's sort of like a validation of who we are. Once post transition, that need for validation is no longer there. Living one's life is it's own validation. Anyway, I took a photo before the conference Friday. I'm not fond of it, but several friends said I seem so content and happy. When we are able to not worry how we look in each photo, life is much less stress filled. For what it's worth, the photo is below.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

'You are who you are'

I have one particular coffee house where I go constantly. I joke with them that it's like Cheers, except you drive home wide awake. I've become very good friends there with Ronda, one of the employees. She gave me a poem titled, 'You are who you are for a reason'. It applies not only to the LGBT community, but to a world seeking answers. I want to repeat it here.

You are who you are for a reason. You're part of an intricate plan. You're a precious, perfect and unique design called God's special woman or man.

You look like you look for a reason. Our God made no mistake. He knit you together within the womb; you're just the person He wanted to make.

The parents you had were the ones he chose, no matter how you may feel. They were custom designed with God's plan in mind and they bear The Master's seal.

Know that the trauma you faced was not easy, and God wept that it hurt you so. But it was allowed to shape your heart so that in His likeness you'd grow.

You are who you are for a reason. You've been formed by The Master's hand. You are who you are, beloved, because there is a God!

Russell Keffer

I told Ronda I wanted to enter this in my blog. It speaks to the overwhelming depression that exists within the transgender and LGB community. I thought of Christine Daniels and the segment Bryant Gumbel did on HBO Real Sports this month. This is gut wrenching stuff. People have lost everything, only for the sake of being who they are.

But the reality is....we can join the ranks of the over comers by wrapping our minds around the concept that 'we are who we are for a reason'. Thanks, Ronda!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Carolinas Gender Odyssey and other events

During the weekend of June 3rd, the first event of it's kind is going to take place in the Carolinas, Carolinas Gender Odyssey. Take a look at our website and the list of events. Then don't forget to register.

A lot of people remember the Magnolia Ball that was held in Charlotte for many years. A different group was the sponsor and it drew people from all over the southeast and beyond. If the Magnolia Ball was all that took place that weekend, it would be huge. Factor in the Friday night talent show, Saturday workshops, art display, Sunday brunch and it's a monumental event.

I've written about the Gay & Gray events at the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center which are sponsored by the Centralina Area Agency on Aging. They are beginning a series of Progressive Dinners this coming Tuesday.

If you live close to Charlotte and would like to join us, we'd love to have you. You don't have to be either gay (or transgender) or gray to attend. Friends and allies are welcome. Visit the website and the link will take you to complete information.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19, 2010

The last weekend in February was the Building a Welcoming Church workshop in Charlotte. This three day event is sponsored by the Institute For Welcoming Resources. I have often said I can think of no more important outreach. I had the privilege of doing a Saturday morning presentation on what it means to be transgender. The one hour session lasted longer than planned, but everyone seemed interested in learning.

The Charlotte Interfaith Connection is the result of the last workshop I attended in 2008. I can't wait to see what will come from this one. One of the best parts of the weekend is networking with like minded people from around the country.

Charlotte Interfaith Connection is beginning a cooperative effort with RAIN - Regional Aids Interfaith Network. There are a number of toiletries for the patients that are not covered by the various social programs. Our goal will be to fill this need by means of a well stocked pantry.

I had a phone call from the NC LGBT newspaper, Q-Notes, a few weeks ago. They said they were doing an article on the movers and shakers in the North Carolina LGBT community. My first question was why were they calling me? Anyhow, the article turned out okay and without any misquotes. I always worry about print interviews, but these are good people. I realized I'm past worrying about how I look in photos these days. You can read the article here.

Last weekend was my first board meeting with Equality NC. It is going to be a pleasure to serve with this organization. We had a meet & greet social downtown Friday evening which gave the new board members an opportunity to get to know each other and the other members. Stay tuned for some good stuff coming from this, particularly the Day of Action taking place May 25.

We're having a Community Roundtable at the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center March 23. Our topic this month is LGBT and Reconciling Faith. We've invited a panel of leaders from a number of faith communities in Charlotte.

I said a couple months ago that I don't believe in burn out. I do believe in making best use of time. When I look at the calendar for the last few months and beyond, it's getting full, but I see a common theme of outreach. It all becomes inter connected, and that can only be a good thing.

Melanie had a rushed gall bladder operation last week. I don't use the word 'emergency', but it was pretty close. This surgery is often outpatient now but she was kept overnight and beyond. Her pain has left and she's almost back to normal. I spent the night on a couch in her room. Not only is my makeup the 24 hour kind, it went about 36 hours.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day always holds bittersweet memories, often leaning towards the 'bitter'; not as in angry, but melancholy. My marriage broke up ten years ago this day. I had already planned for a church related activity, but it also helped lighten my mood.

To my amazement, Facebook also lightens my mood. I never posted to these groups until the last few months. I must say, it's entertaining to read what acquaintances are doing hour by hour. I still can't see the lure of Farmville or the others. I woke up one morning and someone had tried to send me a supply of fuel for my tractor. Strange..

After all these years, I still see the same thread of conversation on some of the Yahoo groups. Specifically, how do we feel about other people seeing us as part of the LGB community, or even being considered 'transgender'.

The real question is not so much what uninformed people think of us, but who do we say we are? More importantly, are we really who we say we are? I speak not only in terms of gender identity, but integrity. With so many pressing issues facing us and our world, for the answer to be 'no', would be disastrous. Those of us involved in outreach and support will be judged not by what we say, but by what we do. It should be no other way.

The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center will present a Community Roundtable Thursday evening - the topic, 'Aging and the LGBT Community'. The Centralina Area Agency on Aging is hosting a series of Progressive Dinners beginning in March. This week is intended to be a segue to these dinners. I'm not sure the community in Charlotte realizes the importance of the Agency on Aging reaching out as yet. As we spread the word, I hope, and believe, we will raise awareness.

I'm going to have another hour or so of electrolysis. It's typical to see a little regrowth and I have a little on my neck. I can remember when I joked with my electrologist that I wouldn't live long enough to finish. Fortunately, I found someone who is top notch. I'm very selective about who I refer to her, but if you are near Charlotte and want a true professional, let me know. I'm a little protective of her in some ways, but you do that with friends.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

February 4, 2010

I don't talk a lot about my personal life. I think a few acquaintances wonder if I even have a personal life. Actually I do.

As I read over previous posts, I have talked more than I realized about refocusing and redirection. I suspect that means this has been more important than I even knew.

I wrote a few months ago that I had joined Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. A church home has always been important to me and I thought I had already found one. It goes to show God has plans for us when we least expect them. By virtue of our Charlotte Interfaith Connection, I was led to Holy Trinity.

I do a fair amount of public speaking, mostly to university classes, civic groups and at the corporate level when the occasion arises. This coming Sunday I will be preaching in morning worship.

Our pastor told us that preparing for our sermon would be a transformative experience, and so it has been. This has become a form of worship for me personally and thus is very special. I realized very quickly after joining that my new church home was the catalyst for that new sense of direction and even energy. I get emotional when I try to explain how thankful I am for God's direction. But very thankful I am.

Not many people know I have two grown children and one grandson. I saw my grandson for the first and only time last year. During the last six months I've had to deal with a number of issues concerning my ex wife. It's such a common story you could almost insert different names and it would apply to many friends. That doesn't make it any easier. I learned long ago that if you do your best, it always works out for the best. It's one of those immutable laws that can't be broken. That's what I'm counting on anyway.

I once felt that not having a partner is the missing piece of my life puzzle. I see it differently now. I think all the pieces have come into place. We've had conversation on the gender listserv this week about family. I think it's like we've heard, there are two kinds of family. Sometimes the one you gather through life is quite sufficient. In any case, as with a new church home, God sends surprises when we least expect them. I joke with people that my biological clock is ticking.

Only a few friends know that I have a deep interest in the history of professional wrestling, the period beginning in the early 1900's and continuing into the mid 80's. This is a much more fascinating business than most people know. But I digress.

Former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, Jack Brisco, passed away three days ago at age 68. Jack had been in ill health following open heart surgery.

There are a few guys in the business who can actually wrestle. Jack was what we call a pure wrestler. He won the 1965 NCAA championship while at Oklahoma State Univ. His series of matches in the seventies against Dory Funk, Jr. remain classics to this day. I was fortunate to be at ringside for a number of those matches and often think of them 35 years later.

I was moved to tears when I heard of Jack's death. As time passes, the legends are becoming fewer, but the memories remain. Rest in peace, Jack.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Equality NC

I have often talked about the importance of maintaining a balance in life and recognizing what is important. I don't believe in burnout. I do believe in new focus when it is appropriate.

I was recently elected to, and have accepted, a position on the board of directors of Equality NC. This will most definitely provide an avenue of new focusing.

It is a privilege to have an opportunity to work with so many people whom I hold in the highest personal regard. I've been part of the ENC transgender task force for sometime now. To serve on the board is an exceptional honor. An overview of the ENC website is indicative of the organization's commitment to the cause of human dignity.

Our annual weekend retreat, coupled with a meet and greet, was scheduled this past weekend in Charlotte. Due to icy roads, the event was postponed until early March.

This is going to be an exciting year on a number of levels. As we say so often, good things sometimes come to people who least expect it. It's enough to make a person excited.

Friday, January 22, 2010

domestic violence and other issues

We have held a series of community roundtable discussions at the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center. The purpose is to discuss issues pertaining to the community that seldom receive attention. Last night's topic was 'Domestic Violence and the LGBT Community'. Although this issue does not affect me personally, we heard stories of people who are affected. Approximately 1 in 4 LGBT people will be abused by an intimate partner. We know the victim often feels like the perpetrator which only continues the cycle. We are going to pursue this subject but if it touches your life, there is help. Visit Project Rainbow Net for further information.

It has been several months since the suicide of L.A. Times sportswriter, Christine Daniels. A portion of her eulogy has been uploaded to Youtube. You can watch it here. Her suicide happened one week after the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I often think of her coming out letter. "It took forty years and a million tears." So many of us can relate to that.

We've talked a lot about Amanda Simpson being the first transgender person to receive a presidential appointment. This is a wonderful for our community and there is no one more qualified or deserving than Amanda. Good things happen to good people.

David Letterman recently did a spot making fun of Amanda, which is pretty typical. Letterman has turned into an angry old man in the last few years, which is unfortunate for him. A lot of us were understandably upset over this bit, although I've seen much worse. However, some of us in the LGBT community have an issue with situational ethics.

There is seldom a night when Letterman doesn't rake Sarah Palin, or whoever happens to be the target du jour, over the coals. Our response to those routines is the sound of silence. If our community is to be taken seriously in the fight for human dignity, we need to understand that dignity applies to all.

We must wrap our minds around the fact that if someone disagrees with us, they are not necessarily evil or stupid. When we need it most, our integrity may be all we have left. Situational ethics not only causes us to appear disingenuous; we are.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Peace On Earth?

Below is a post I made three years ago today. In hindsight, I may change a word or two if I were to write it today. However, the message is the same as it has always been:

The day before Christmas Eve is one of my favorites. The following two days are always busy. This day seems like a quieter time to enjoy the season, the music and the message.

I saw the bumper sticker today, "Let Peace Begin With Me".

I began thinking of the Christmas songs we hear each year. We sing, "next year, all our troubles will be miles away". But we sang the same song last year and the years before that. Yet, our troubles remain as close as the next moment.

We sing of "Peace on Earth", but we know lasting peace will remain elusive until the final day of judgment.

Where then do we find the peace of which we sing, or the freedom from trouble which we desire? As with all things in life that truly count, a peaceful heart will come from within.

Peace will come when we accept ourselves as unique individuals, each with our unique blessing.

Peace will come when we accept others without prejudice of any kind, not merely a tacit acceptance to which we pay lip service, but acceptance without reservation or condition.

Peace from within will often require making a stand for what we know to be right, knowing it may not be popular with coworkers or friends.

Peace may entail becoming an advocate for those unable to speak for themselves. The needs are many.

Peace will not come by self promotion, or allowing our deeds to give us an inflated sense of importance.

Ultimately, peace will come when we accept the true message of Christmas, "For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ The Lord".

Once we accept the real meaning of Christmas, our view of our world, and ourselves is forever changed. A changed heart will be the source of our peace.

As the bumper sticker said, "Let peace begin with me".

Pamela Jones - 12/23/06

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22, 2009

The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center will again be open Christmas Day for an open house/potluck. If you happen to be close to Charlotte, we'd love to have you. Send me an email for directions.

This is the beginning of a tradition that last year was an experiment. After dinner last Christmas, we realized our discussion had become a Community Roundtable. That led us to the monthly roundtable discussions which continue even now. This month's topic was 'Diversity, are we as accepted as we think?' January's topic will be 'Domestic violence within the LGBT community'.

Below is a photo of a few of us who came to Thanksgiving dinner. I love the diversity within our community. If this isn't it, I don't know what is.

There has been conversation within the last week about the lack of understanding of transgender people within the gay community. For me, these discussions become about family. I understand the broad issue, having witnessed it the last 40 years. We have not had a discussion in the listserv as to whether our gay friends and allies should be welcome at meetings. I would find such a discussion to be morally reprehensible. As I said last week, I get crazy when it comes to family, only one of whom is Melanie.

A series of essays written by Dr. Jillian Weiss is posted on Bilerco. These essays speak to the heart of the issue of trans inclusion. This is not light reading, but it's not a light subject. You realize you've been around awhile when you remember the Mattachine Society and the Gay Liberation Front. You can link to parts two and three from this essay.

It's during Christmas and other holidays when I miss my family the most. Tears come more easily this time of year and that's not a bad thing. I will be at our church's late night Christmas Eve service and will spend Christmas evening with Melanie and her family. All in all, it's a nice Christmas.

Having someone significant in my life remains the missing piece of the puzzle. I just had a conversation with a dear friend who reminded me when I least expect it, someone will come along. I somehow have a feeling that is not destined to be. Even so, life is still pretty amazing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christine Daniels (1957-2009)

Los Angeles Times sports writer, Christine Daniels is dead at age 52. The story is making it's rounds within the transgender community. You can read about it here.

Pastor Randy of MCC in Greenville, SC officiated at her wedding before leaving L.A. He was aware she was having problems. She had detransitioned and was using her old name in her byline.

She may have detransitioned in her presentation, but she remained who she already was.

When asked how she was getting along, her reply: "just trying to get through it" could have been said by many. Was her transition really "this daily random hardship of trying to figure out gender assignment"? I believe it was much more. It was a person finding life's purpose.

Donna Rose, a transgender activist for whom I have great respect, said coming out at work was the single most terrifying thing she ever did.

She was right. It was a moment I will never forget, but it had to be done. I said from the start they did their best. I will always have utmost respect for management in that company. If any of you read this, you know my feelings already.

A number of my coworkers had known me 19 years. Once they knew the real me, I wasn't suitable to sit with at Christmas dinner that year. With other people, it became a matter of not understanding what it means to be transgender, or why I would choose this lifestyle.

The answer lies in Christine Daniels' coming out letter, "it took forty years and a million tears". This can be an agonizing and gut wrenching decision. It literally becomes a matter of life and death. I chose life.

It's not only trans or LGB people, but a world that is searching for answers while "trying to get through it". Life has to be more than "getting through it", or it's not living. I'm not sure it's even surviving.

When the final counting is done, the goal of each of us is to say "I found my way". Thinking of this story and hundreds of others, I can say that. I know who I am but more importantly, I know Whose I am. That has made the difference.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Charlotte Gender Alliance hosted the Transgender Day of Remembrance observance at The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center Friday, November 20th. I don't normally post my text of my remarks, but decided to make an exception.

As you have heard, ceremonies similar to this one were held around the world today and at this hour in Greensboro, Asheville and Charlotte. It is right and fitting for us to honor our sisters and brothers who have paid the ultimate price, only for being who they are.

These are more than names on a piece of paper. They are sons, daughters, friends and coworkers.

As we honor them, we honor anyone who has been stereotyped and marginalized. In the struggle for human dignity, our ultimate battle is for hearts and minds. The first victory lies within our own heart and mind.

As we seek a united LGBT community, we need to know that people can be different from us without being wrong. It is what we think of ourselves that controls our potential, not what others think we should be. We are today, the person we decided to be yesterday.

We see these names and may wonder, what defines a person’s life? Certainly our lives are not defined by sexual orientation or gender identity. The real measure of our life is what we do with our life.

You will notice the words on our banner, “Diversity will not only be respected; it will be honored.” This precept is at the heart of everything Charlotte Gender Alliance represents.

If there is to be a better future, we must disturb the present. If there is a crisis within the LGBT community, and I believe there is, it is a crisis of the heart. The task with which we are charged is to build bridges between those segments of society which have known only isolation and loneliness.

If we speak eloquently of the quest for human dignity but lack the courage to put words into action, aren’t they no more than empty words?

If we cannot grant others that dignity which we would claim for ourselves, do we not do an injustice to ourselves and others?

We may wake up each morning wondering if this is the day that our true self will become apparent and if we will be the next to be judged as worthy of violence.

There are people in this room who have lost everything they had in order to be all they were meant to be. The miracle is in learning that our own dignity is worth the price.

Many of us spend a lifetime trying conform to what others think we should be, rather than who we were intended to be. There eventually comes a time when the need to be a real person takes precedence over all else. There comes that defining moment when we must take off the mask and become genuine. Before we can give the world our best, we must first give ourselves our best. We learn that it really is okay to be who we are, no matter who we are.

It is in these defining moments when we learn how to live, rather than to merely survive, when we feel that spark of hope that lies within each of us and come to the realization that our lives have a higher purpose than we ever dreamed.

Tonight we stand upon the shoulders of those who have paved the way for us. Some day people will gather and speak of the progress we made, or the lack of it.

History will be our final judge but above all, may no person have reason to ask, “Why did you wait so long to live?”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 18th, 2009

I have often said the face of the LGBT community in Charlotte has changed during the last two years. One factor in that change is the ongoing effort to bring the transgender community into the mainstream.

The Community Roundtable topic in October was, 'What would you like to know about transgender people?' This month's topic was 'violence and the LGBT community' and was an intentional segue into The Transgender Day of Remembrance observance November 20th. You can read about these and other events on the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center website.

I was invited to speak to a workshop at the annual Centralina Area Agency on Aging conference recently. Until you interact with the helping professionals, the issues facing LGBT people as they go into their senior years are not fully clear. It is always a pleasure to share with these people and it's a huge thing for them to reach out. I believe the Gay & Gray conference last April was the start of something big.

I have a friend who is a professor at Mitchell College in Statesville (near Charlotte). He organized a workshop on LGBT issues last week. He already knows how much I enjoyed this class.

My last post alluded to prioritizing. I joined Holy Trinity Lutheran Church this month. My home church and interacting with other faith communities are where I hope to find much of my focus. I remain convinced the chasm between the community and what they perceive as 'the church' is our most pressing problem.

The Community Roundtable last night was a case in point. As we discussed violence, the conversation gravitated to religion and politics. I suppose the difficulty in living our life while honoring someone else's life is fundamental to the human condition. The issues are not unique to our community. It is clear however, that we have our own issues to address. As I have said, the battle is for hearts and minds. We often must begin with our own heart.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


It is no accident that I've not posted since August. I've been in one of those periods of reevaluation and setting priorities. It's not that I'm burnt out; I'm not so sure I even believe in burnout. I do think we have to continually consider where we can be most productive. Just to be clear, it's not that I'm an especially gifted person. Everyone has something to offer, including being a good listener. Having decided to put yourself out there to be all you can, word gets out.

One word I'm learning to say is 'no'. This is not an easy thing for me, but there comes a time, especially as we get older, that we need to put some priority on our own physical and emotional wellbeing.

I find I increasingly enjoy speaking to groups on not only the transgender condition, but the human condition. I remain convinced our biggest problem is a crisis of the spirit. Irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity, so many of us limp through life, never learning the meaning of letting go the old fears. We let past hurts define our lives, rather than reaching for the unlimited possibilities of the future.

A part of that is the ostracism of the LGBT community and organized religion, which I believe falls into the crisis of the spirit category I spoke of. This is the area that will become my top priority. The Charlotte Interfaith Connection has much yet to accomplish. I'm joining Holy Trinity Lutheran Church this coming Sunday and have found much of what I was seeking.

I keep having the thought that someone may come into my life. I have to admit after being divorced so many years, I miss having a life partner. Friends tell me the right person will come along when I least expect it, and that may well be. So far it hasn't shown signs of happening.

I've thought a lot lately about my friends at the company where I worked almost 20 years. To those of you who read this, I think of you often and will always value our friendships.

In other news, Elke Kennedy was invited to The White House last week to be present when President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Bill into law. It was a sort of vindication for her and Jim for the work they've done since Sean's death. They are back to work already, as I knew they would be.

Insofar as the Charlotte transgender community, we have some amazing things taking place. Within a month are two Community Roundtable discussions dealing with transgender issues. Attorney, Connie Vetter is presenting a Transgender Law 101 at the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center November 12th.

As last year, Charlotte Gender Alliance is presenting The Transgender Day of Remembrance observance at The Community Center November 20th at 7 PM. We will have a series of speakers followed by a candlelight service. It is a time of honoring those have lost their lives, but also a time to celebrate those who have had the courage to be who they are by 'paying it forward'. I often am in awe of the people I consider friends and associates.

Monday, August 10, 2009

definining ourselves

I read The Shack some months ago and subsequently passed it on to a friend who passed it to family members. Often when I visit my favorite coffee house, the conversation turns to matters of the heart.

I purchased a personal copy this weekend, one in which I will highlight the most thought provoking passages. I want to paraphrase the first one:

A bird is not defined by being grounded, but by it's ability to fly. Humans are not defined by their limitations but by the intentions God has for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in His image.

Thank goodness for that basic truth. If I were defined by my weaknesses, and they are more than most people know, my life would be one of drifting, ever searching and never finding.

As a transsexual woman, I am not defined by my gender identity or a quest for sense of self. I learned long ago it was there along, only waiting to be claimed. I would hope my life is defined by how I treat others and the way I live my faith while respecting that of others.

Many of us in the transgender community, and society, misunderstand the difference between goals and life's purpose. For a transgender woman, electrolysis, facial surgery, hormone therapy or SRS (sex reassignment surgery) are only goals along the journey, not the journey's end.

Given the emotional turmoil many of us face, it becomes natural to say if we can only undergo SRS, our purpose will have been fulfilled. The reality, we already are the person we wish to be by claiming our right. My sense of self was claimed long ago. It was only by becoming vulnerable to the point I could grant myself the chance to fail that I was able to succeed.

Too many of us have the victim mentality. There comes a time when we must move from defining ourselves not as victims, but as victors.

Many of us are pushing for a trans inclusive Employment Non Discrimination Act this year. This is one of our moral imperatives. Legal protections are vital but to change the world, we must change our part of it. There is an analogy to be drawn with the civil rights movement of the sixties. It was when a community of people developed their own sense of self and a common purpose that they were able to act as one.

The purpose of the 'transgender community' will likely not be achieved in my lifetime. In truth, the ultimate purpose is the uplifting of human dignity on all levels. However, our purpose as individuals can be claimed in an instant.

I attended a Shabbat Celebration and Dinner with some Jewish friends recently. A passage from the prayer book jumped out; "Redemption will come when we grant others what we claim for ourselves". I will state it another way,'how could we insist upon equality for ourselves and not grant it to others'.

This is the crux of our problem. It lies deep within the LGBT community and also clouds the perception of many faith communities towards diversity. To ostracize a segment of the population because of who they are, defies logic. Unfortunately, we do it to each other and yet are appalled when faith communities to it to us.

The answer? Claim our victory, thus changing our part of the world, then grant others that which we claim for ourselves.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

Even post Pride Charlotte, there is discussion about the protestors and their plans of last weekend. In a few blogs around the country, there was discussion Sunday about what happened in Charlotte Saturday.

I won't give the organization the courtesy of adding a potential Google search, but they had announced 1,000 protestors and outreach teams. Thursday evening, I learned they would be allowed inside the venue this year. As I posted earlier, it was a non issue and their numbers were small.

These organizations are skilled at writing press releases and publicity announcements. They are not good at doing what they say. I've seen repeated examples.

We cannot, and should not ignore those who would oppose us. We do grant them a certain legitimacy that is neither deserved nor earned. Our success will come to reality in focusing on what we do right, rather than what they are hoping to do.

When we know we are on the right side of history, and the future, nothing will stop us. We are, and nothing did.

Monday, July 27, 2009

the bookends

The last two weeks have been extraordinary for the Charlotte LGBT community, which means they have been extraordinary for the city of Charlotte.

Charlotte Black Gay Pride took place Saturday, July 18 and it was a well done event. We spent the entire day there, representing the Charlotte Interfaith Connection, Charlotte Gender Alliance and the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Community Center. It was a good time to network and meet some amazing people.

Two days earlier was the Town Hall meeting sponsored by Charlotte Black Gay Pride. There was some badly needed dialogue. If we do not begin to talk about the pressing issues of the day, nothing will ever happen.

Tuesday of last week was the Charlotte Gender Alliance transgender event at the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Community Center. We called it The Transgender Living Experience and Library. Mostly I sat and watched the talented people in our group do what they do best. Stephanie Marie did a wonderful job organizing. I have said so many times that our only real asset is our members. This event proved that fact.

Thursday evening last week was the second Community Roundtable at the Community Center. The topic was LGBT issues in the workplace and the turnout surprised even me. When people don't want to leave, we know we're doing the right thing. Some folks stayed an hour later and a few of us didn't leave until almost midnight. Attendance was way up over the first meeting. This will become a regular monthly event.

The bookends culminated in Pride Charlotte at Gateway Center Saturday, July 25. The Charlotte Observer estimated the crowd at 10,000 and it was easily that. Beyond a doubt, this was the largest and best organized Pride event I've been to.

We were concerned about protestors this year as a certain organization had supposedly organized 1,000 people for their 'outreach'. Their numbers were more like 450, if that, and they were mostly a non issue.

These days are always like coming home and meeting friends you may not have seen in a while. I was spread thin trying to spend time at Charlotte Gender Alliance, Sean's Last Wish, Charlotte Interfaith Connection and the Community Center Booth. It was worth every second of the time and the folks who did the real work were the Pride organizers and volunteers. For an event of this magnitude to take place while anticipating a mob of protestors is a huge achievement.

Also a huge achievement is the sense of unity I continue to see in Charlotte and North Carolina. We once thought of the transgender community as a separate entity and marginalized even by the LGBT community. Those days are gone.

The realization of the Charlotte Interfaith Connection is the result of what happens when people of passion come together. What was once only a dream is a vibrant organization dedicated to demonstrating to the LGBT community that there really are churches, temples and synogagues that welcome us with open arms. Our direct mail campaign several months ago was a major success.

We knew we would be reaching the churches and the community itself. We also reached out to each other. The support from our clergy, Pastor Nancy Kraft of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Rev. Ryusho Jeffus from the Buddhist Temple has shown the world first hand that we are what we say, open and inclusive. Our friends from Temple Beth El have invited us to a number of their events. We have only begun our work.

Elke Kennedy of Sean's Last Wish gave an impassioned speech clarifying the moral imperative of the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

I had the privilege of speaking at 4:15. My message is simple; the old days are past and now is the time for unity. There are two things we can do, something, or nothing. Together we can change the world.

Some of us have seen the future these past few months. I believe the future becomes the present through sheer will power. As I said elsewhere this morning, when you know you are on the right side of history and the future, nothing can stop you. We are, and nothing did.

What a fantastic week!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pride month

When I look at the calendar for July, I wonder how it ever got so full. We have Charlotte Black Gay Pride July 18 and Pride Charlotte July 25. Between and around those two dates are a number of LGBT events.

Charlotte Gender Alliance is presenting The Transgender Living Experience and Library July 21 at The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center. A member, Stephanie Marie is organizing the event and I have no doubt it will be first class.

I've told some of the groups here that I came out 40 years ago this month, the exact time of the Stonewall Riots. I know we have a lot of progress to yet make but sometimes we need to stop and realize how far we've come.

I am convinced that Charlotte Gender Alliance has helped change the face of the LGBT community in Charlotte and thus, the city itself. Oh, I still have gay friends who say they don't understand transgender people. I totally respect that and some of us don't understand them. As always, the key is in listening to each other.

Speaking of listening to each other, the Community Roundtable last month was such a success that we're making it a regular event. The next roundtable will be July 23, two days before Pride. This year's Pride theme is 'Out is In'. Building upon that, this month's roundtable topic will be 'Out is the workplace environment". I should add, 'or the lack of a workplace environment'. One of the ground rules will be that no labels are to be used. Our lives are not defined by being LGBT and I think we all have enough labels in our day to day lives. You can click here to visit the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center website.

The Charlotte Interfaith Connection continues to be a blessing. The purpose was to reach out to other faith communities and the LGBT community. We've also become friends with each other. I went to a July 4 cookout with some friends from Temple Beth El. Ryusho, priest at the Buddhist Temple in Charlotte has become a dear friend.

This organization has shown again that we not only need to think outside the box. We have to step outside the box and outside our comfort zone. As I say so often, we have to allow ourselves to fail before we can succeed. It took me a long time to learn that.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

NC Governor signs two bills on bullying/sex ed.

NC Governor Bev Berdue signed the School Violence Prevention Act and the Healthy Youth Act into law last evening. Both pieces of legislation include 'gender identity'. Congratulations and thanks to Equality North Carolina for not giving up! You can read about it here.

A friend just sent a piece from AP that the Obama administration will not appeal the $500,000 settlement awarded Diane Schroer whose job offer from the Library of Congress was rescinded when she announced her decision to transition from male to female.

That's at least some good news. On the other side, Sean Kennedy's killer was released one week early today. His sentence had already been reduced for good behavior. I hope this young man finds a sense of purpose in his life because surely there is one.

Speaking of finding your life's purpose, I finished reading 'The Shack' yesterday. It was as empowering as I'd been told. It turned a new light on certain issues of my faith walk. Emotional barely describes the feeling.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Charlotte Interfaith Connection

The Charlotte Interfaith Connection website is online. You can visit via this link.

Not everyone agrees but I continue to believe the most serious issue facing the community is ostracism from the church. It is a fact much of the discrimination we face originates in 'organized religion'. The Charlotte Interfaith Connection mailed a letter to every faith community in Charlotte last month. It was the right thing to do. We received a number of letters of support and added one O&A church to our links. There were several who are in the process of becoming welcoming and we are preparing to reach a hand out to them to offer help. We did not receive any negative responses. Somehow I was not surprised.

We are finalized on our booth at Pride Charlotte July 25th. That is going to be one busy day with three booths to work. We are also having a booth at Charlotte Black Gay Pride July 18th. That one is in Marshall Park downtown so we will bring a tent.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. I had just come out myself that summer and remember reading about the event in the tabloids. My friend Robbi Cohn has an insightful piece in the latest edition of Q-Notes. You can read it here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Stonewall was the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front. The major issue with the transgender community (a word not even in use at that time) was the wisdom of aligning with the LGB community. Discussions were intense and rifts were created among friends. It did not take long for the Queens Liberation Front to come into being. I have a photo of Lee Brewster at a QLF Rally in Central Park in the summer of 1971.

Even with our advances, and there have been many, we still don't get each other the way we must if we are to achieve our common goals. Issues remain among certain organizations about accepting gay people or transsexuals. It is not unique to any one faction. Forty years later and it continues. The difference now, it's about family....the issue upon which there is no compromise.

The reality is that it is time for unity. Now is the time to seriously build bridges among varied segments of the LGBT and even the transgender community. Sometimes I think one of the side effects of being out so long is that patience is often short. I was looking at some correspondence from that time the other day and the verbage is exactly the same today. It makes me crazy sometimes.

We have the ability to change the world but we have to start with our part of it. The first LGBT Community Roundtable was held in Charlotte last week. It was a total success. I knew that when some folks wanted to meet sooner than August, even with all the Pride events in Charlotte this month. Hopefully we can arrange it.

This is what I mean about building bridges to the faith communities and among our LGBT friends. This is what we are charged to do so my patience will no doubt continue to wear thin.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May 27, 2009

Whenever the LGBT community sits down for conversation, the subject of organized religion invariably comes up and with it, the fact we have been ostracized by the church. Arguably this is where much of the discrimination against the community originates.

This past Friday something unique happened in Charlotte. Members of Charlotte Interfaith Connection completed a mass mailing to every church and faith community in the city. My count was 411 but there may have been more and we may have inadvertantly missed a couple. I will say we did not mail the fundamentalist churches. We must pick our battles and will mail them later. No one is ever written off. Besides which, we will no doubt see them at Pride.

We sent a letter asking each house of worship where they are with the issue of Open & Affirming and included a questionnaire along with a return envelope. The phrase, 'if you want what you've never had, you have to do what you've never done' comes to mind. This was something I never thought I would see but there is nothing more important.

The content of the responses will determine how we word the brochure we will distribute at Pride Charlotte in July. As I said, this is rather unique.

I don't talk a lot about my personal life, mainly because I'm a private person but something happened recently that completely overwhelmed me.

I'm one of those people who finds writing easier in a coffee house surrounded by people. Brueggers Bagel has become a favorite. If you go to these places often enough, you become friends with the people there. It's like a Cheers bar except you drink coffee and drive home wide awake.

Two weeks ago my friend Ronda was off work but had left me a card. It was a thank you card for being so kind to her and touching her life. The first thought I had was what I always manage to work into my remarks when I'm invited to speak. There was a time long ago, before transition when I would have been afraid to even go in the place. I had to allow myself to become vulnerable in life in order to become strong. I had to be willing to fail. It's about being the person you were created. Ronda when you read this, you know how important you are in my life also. I have framed that card because it is significant on a number of levels.

Sometimes we don't realize the lessons we have learned until something happens to bring back the memories of the not so good days. Many in our community have plenty of those days.

A few friends and I will be having dinner at Denny's very soon. Why is that important? This link will explain. This stuff makes me nuts.

I alluded to community dialogue at the beginning of this post. We are doing exactly that at the LGBT Community Center the evening of June 23. I continually hear trans people say the gay community doesn't 'get us'. They are often right. Sometimes we don't get them. We can begin to do something about that with the roundtable discussion.

It is also gratifying to have the continuing opportunity to interact on transgender issues with Equality North Carolina. If you'd like to take a look at their interesting blog, you can see it here. My dear friend, Robbi made the post for this past Monday.

Their website is regularly updated to keep up with pending legislation in North Carolina.

To end today on a personal note, some friends wonder how I stay so optimistic, at least most of the time. I'm one of those people who always assumes everything will work out for the best. Things pretty much always do. This one is a little harder. I have a two month old grandson I have not seen. I have seen his photos on my son's Myspace front page. He's such a fine looking boy. Ever the optimist, I know the one constant in life is change. This too will work out for the best. It always does.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Break the Silence Before the Violence

This Saturday May 16 will be two years since the murder of Sean Kennedy. There will be a candlelight vigil in Greenville, SC this coming Sunday at 6 PM. It's hard to comprehend that there would even be debate on hate crime and anti bullying legislation both at the state and federal level.

There has been a less than overwhelming response to the passing of Virginia Prince. At most there have been announcements and a brief description of her as a pioneer in many of the blogs and newsgroups. Many may disagree but this is not an altogether bad thing. As I said, we respect the pioneers but look to the future. Unfortunately there are a few yet today who would remain mired in the past. To those who feel that way, I remind you again our future lies in a united LGBT community. The days of closeted support groups are over if indeed they ever were a good idea. The fear or the inability to change can stifle a support group as easily as it can an individual.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Homophobia is alive and well

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was reintroduced in the United States Senate last week. On April 29, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx made the statement that Matthew Shepard's murder was not a hate crime, but a robbery gone bad.

You can read about it and view the video via Media Matters and The Equality NC Blog.

Aside from calling attention to Rep. Foxx's absurd comments, I want to say well done to the good people at PFLAG Winston Salem. People of passion always stand up when the time comes and these folks definitely are. They are planning a number of events and/or actions. If any of you should read this, I salute you in whatever you do. You are an inspiration.

The implication that Matthew Shepard's murder was not a hate crime is beyond the pale. Coincidentally Elke Kennedy has been in Washington the last week. I hope we will be able to announce some new elements to the outreach and educational initiative's of Sean's Last Wish soon. The second year since Sean's murder is May 16.

Virginia Prince has passed away. She was the original founder of Free Personality Expression, which has been known as Tri Ess for many years. Anyone who was close to the transgender community in years past knows the controversy surrounding Virginia. The issue of a closed versus open group was debated in 1970 and, amazingly to me, continues to rear it's head here and there.

I was always on the side of total inclusion since I've always had this thing about embracing diversity. I said recently that those who advocate a closed group are on the wrong side of history. In hindsight, I believe that is incorrect. It was on the right side of history in 1960 when it was illegal to walk out the door crossdressed. Today it is on the wrong side of the future.

Times have thankfully changed, as have we. The question now is that of unified community. To debate whether to be unified is no longer an option. It is tantamount to a discussion of the validity of a person's skin color. I suggest to those who would even question whether the trans community should be part of the broader LGBT community, it's a non issue. We are forever joined and our cause is the same, the right to be who we are.

While we should honor and respect those who have paved the way, or as I often say, provided the shoulders upon which we stand, we must look to the future. What worked in 1960 won't work in 2010. People grow and a community grows. Thank heaven for it!

Melanie is doing better after the fall. I would have bet we'd have her in the hospital this week but she's actually doing pretty well, a little banged up but hanging in there.

Monday, May 04, 2009

May 4, 2009

Charlotte Gender Alliance will be two years old June 1st. The organization has come a long way since the first meeting when we had four of us around a dinner table. I knew it was the right thing to do. We also know any organization's greatest asset is it's people. I knew it was a good idea last year when we began rotating facilitators each month. It keeps ideas flowing and perhaps more important, brings new people into a position of leadership.

I also knew it was a good idea when we moved into The Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Community Center this past January. If anything, that has been the pivotal move for the organization. It's helped build bridges to the community and let us developed allies a lot of friends were never able to understand.

I could easily let myself become spread thin these days but that hasn't happened. The fact we have people of passion with leadership ability stepping to the forefront is why our organization will be a strong force for unity and education for a long time to come. Most of all, it will be about support. Above all it will be as stated on our banner and website, "Diversity will not only be respected; it will be honored". It will never be any other way.

I might also add it's a privilege to serve on The Board of Trustees at The Community Center. We have some good things ahead so stay tuned.

Anyone who has known me more than five minutes knows about my dear kindred spirit, Melanie. We had a scare this weekend. She's had trouble with her back for months. She slipped on gravel and hit her head on the car door over the weekend. We took her to the hospital for a possible concussion but the real problem became with her back. On a ten scale, her pain was a ten. She's resting but I suspect we'll be getting her to her personal physician next week. This one scared me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gay and Gray - at the crossroads

Thanks again to The Centralina Area Agency on Aging for sponsoring the Gay and Gray conference these last two days. It was an honor to be there and to have the opportunity to share from a first person transgender perspective.

The event was more than I expected. There were issues presented that hit home in a rather personal way. Today was primarily aimed at the helping professionals. As always there was time to meet old and new friends, along with some networking. It was a most worthwhile two days.

As a follow up on the murder trial of Allen Andrade, murderer of Angie Zapata, most people have heard by now he was convicted of a bias motivated crime. As such he will serve a lifetime sentence with no possibility of parole.

This is a landmark case inasmuch as it was the first conviction of the murderer of a transgender person based upon hate crime legislation. We hope the day will come when all states have equal protection. At this moment, South Carolina has no hate crime legislation while North Carolina's statutes are sorely lacking.

In that same line of thought, Equality North Carolina makes the following announcement:

"4/29/2009 - In a whirlwind of legislative action today, the Senate Mental Health & Youth Services Committee passed both the School Violence Prevention Act (SB 526) and the Healthy Youth Act (HB 88). The bills now go to the Senate floor for a vote, possibly as soon as early next week. Equality NC and our coalition partners are working to ensure passage of both bills."

If you live in North Carolina, you are encouraged to email your state senator and urge passage of this important legislation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gay & Gray - at the crossroads

The Gay & Gray Conference to address issues pertaining to LGBT seniors is being held in Charlotte next week. I will have an opportunity to speak to the helping professionals Wednesday. The Tuesday evening session is free to the public. The needs of this segment of the community are often overlooked. Thanks to The Centralina Area Agency on Aging for offering this conference.

I've been DVR'ing much of the Angie Zapata murder trial or more accurately the Allen Andrade murder trial. Jury instructions are being read as I type this. The issue is not whether he did it but whether it was a hate crime. Supposedly he went over the edge when he found Angie was transgender. Yet the evidence says he knew much earlier. Moreover in a telephone conversation from the jail, he said "gay things need to die".

This is one more example of the dehumanizing homophobia we see to varying degrees in society even today. It happens with people who should know better. A Court TV reporter cited a statistic that a transgender person has a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered. Whether it's that high, I don't know. However the chances of being subjected to harrasment or violence are astronomically high. It is incomprehensible to me that some people in the local transgender community do not yet think in terms of a united LGBT community.

A number of transgender people are in Greely, CO covering the trial. An excellent blog can be read here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Angie Zapata

The trial for the accused murderer of Angie Zapata began Tuesday April 14th. Court TV is covering the proceedings. Family and supporters have begun a personal website. Visit it here.

They have played the audio of phone calls the accused murderer made from the jail after he was arrested. Some of the verbage had to be bleeped out. Naturally I thought of Sean Kennedy and the fact the family was not even allowed to hear recordings of the voice mails Sean's killer left until after the trial.

Opening statements in the Angie Zapata trial are still taking place.

Sean's murderer will be released July 7th. We will have a vigil in Greenville, SC Sunday evening May 17th to commemorate two years since Sean's murder. I can't bring myself to call it a second anniversary.

My dear friend Ana invited me to her home church in Winston Salem last evening for a showing of Call Me Malcom. It's always amazing you can meet or listen to a total stranger and instantly relate to what he/she has lived through.

It was so nice meeting folks from another United Church of Christ. Visiting another church is always like coming home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April 16, 2009

We spent 12 hours at UNC Charlotte yesterday. The updated educational panels with the voice mails from the night of Sean's murder moved a lot of people.

Last year I spoke at Winthrop University and had the same feeling. There is something about seeing our future leaders come to the forefront that moves me to tears. These young folks are amazing. If any of you read this, I am proud to have met you all.

A drag performer was murdered in Fayetteville, NC two nights ago. You can read the article via this link at Pam's House Blend. It just goes on and on. In the auditorium last night there were photographs of slain LGBT people on the screen. Signs were posted outside with many photos. Then I come home and read this.

There is an issue of whether she identified as gender variant. What I do know is she identified as a human being.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Days of Silence

April 17 is the official National Day of Silence, a time to bring attention to bullying and harassment in our school systems. No child should get up in the morning wondering if they will be subjected to violence.

The University of NC Charlotte is having their observance tomorrow. Elke Kennedy is giving the keynote address at 6 PM. The updated educational panels will be on display all day. An addition to these panels is a CD with audio of the voice mails Sean's killer left as Sean was dying. Those of us on the Sean's Last Wish Board of Directors listened to the tape for the first time last month. Chilling is the only word that comes to mind. Listening for oneself brings home the urgency of the need for hate crime legislation, coupled with a never ending attempt to touch hearts. As I have often said, no one touches a heart like a mother does. I hope lots of people hear Elke tomorrow.

March 23 was The Equality North Carolina Day of Action. It was a day for people all over NC to travel to Raleigh to share their concerns with legislators from their home district. I am appreciative of my Representative Martha Alexander for granting me a few minutes of her time during a very busy day. Even though we had appointments there was pressing business in the chambers. It was an empowering day for everyone who participated. To spend time in the Legislative Building with your representative is something everyone should have the opportunity of doing.

Equality North Carolina continues to dialogue with the transgender community through their Transgender Task Force. We had a meeting in Raleigh April 2nd. It is a privilege to share ideas with people whom I hold in the highest personal regard, both as colleagues and friends.

Driving home that night in the rain I began thinking of how far we have come since I came out all those years ago. We talk a lot about what yet needs to be done. The needs are many and they are vital.... a trans inclusive ENDA, hate crime legislation, non discrimination at both the state and local level etc.

Even so, some of us have been around long enough to remember when it was not safe for a transgender person to walk out the front door, literally. I think often of friends from the seventies who would say all they wanted was freedom to be who they were. Well, things are not perfect but we sure do have that freedom now. Sometimes we need to remember to claim it. Those dear friends are a part of my personal history and who I am. I think of them each day.

Our faith group is now Charlotte Interfaith Connection. At only our third meeting we voted to have a booth at Pride Charlotte this July. We will have a website online soon. I have already set up a listserv realizing we will have the need for enhanced communication as we move forward.

Our Jewish friends invited us to Passover Seder last week. It was an honor to be with them that evening. As important as our outreach to the local faith community is, becoming friends with each other has been a huge blessing.

For so long it has been said we have a divided community. The rift among the LGBT community has been perceived. The chasm between the community and 'the church' has been experienced by far too many of us. We are doing things to bring unity in both areas. Complete success will certainly not happen in my lifetime. But when a heart is disposed to change, the world is more disposed to change. This is the truth we seek to spread.

This short video on Youtube illustrates that point in a most moving way.

My dear friend, Ana is Southern Conference ONA Director for United Church of Christ. She invited me to her home church in Winston Salem this Thursday for a showing of 'Call Me Malcolm', followed by a panel discussion. I'm looking forward to the evening and seeing some friends for the first time in a while.