Tuesday, June 14, 2016

It's Not About the Guns

Fifteen years ago, my mom and I had an interesting discussion about the repercussions of being out. I came out the year before, just before graduating high school, and in the intervening time, had come out to my brother, my grandparents, my co-workers, my friends. Mom and I had danced around the topic a lot, but after my initial coming-out conversations with her, we'd essentially swept it under the rug. When things finally came to a head, I asked her why. Why, of all people, could I not talk to her about this topic?

"Because there are mean people in this world. There are people who will want to hurt you because of who you are, and who you love, and that scares me."

I took a minute to digest this information. "You work at a bank. If someone robs that bank tomorrow, and decides you're not moving fast enough for them, they could shoot and kill you, and it wouldn't matter to them that you are married, or that you have two sons at home. I could be afraid of what might happen to me, but if I let that consume me, I would never get out of bed, let alone leave the house." I'd like to think that my response was a good, honest one. My logic was sound, the statement true enough, and at the end of the day, the conversation did bridge the growing gap we had between us.

But I wasn't honest with her. Not completely, at least. Because there is, and always has been, fear. When my ex-husband and I were first dating, I wouldn't even hold his hand in the car, because I was afraid someone might see it. I softened my stance over time, but I've never been one for public displays of affection, and while I say it's just not my thing, it is most certainly in part because I am afraid of someone hurling insults, or worse. Fast forward a decade, some promising LGBT rights legislation, and a stunning Supreme Court decision or two, and I've finally begun to feel safe. I'll touch my boyfriend's hand in public, maybe give him a quick kiss when he's visiting me at work, call him "babe" without much thought as to who is nearby. But I'm always scanning the room at the back of my mind to make sure we're safe.

In the last month, I had an angry guest at work who threatened me over something I had no control over. "You're lucky I don't punch you in your fucking face and lay your ass out. Cut your hair, you fucking faggot." If you know me, you know I have a hair-trigger temper, and little control over my mouth when it goes off. You might expect that I would have lost my cool faced with something like that. It was much the opposite. This man was at least a head taller than I am, and military (having mentioned that in conversation with other guests earlier). I was frozen to my spot as he walked past me. I didn't even breathe. All I could do was hope that he didn't make good on his threat, because I was completely defenseless. I told the story to several friends and mostly, I tried to laugh it off, because doing anything else meant admitting that I felt unsafe.

And, of course, the bathroom bills. I've debated this off and on with friends and family who support them in the abstract, and don't understand the impact they would have on actual trans people, and not just the mythical pedophile or pervert pretending to be one. And that man is entirely mythical.

And then, someone bombs a Target bathroom, because of their trans-inclusive policies. My boyfriend is trans. He works at Target. Not the one that was bombed, but what about next time?

And then, Pulse in Orlando is attacked by a shooter. Fifty dead, fifty-two more wounded. Pulse is a gay nightclub. Say what you will about gay bars, and I certainly have some less-than-pleasant thoughts on the topic, they are a safe space. They were. They were supposed to be a safe space. But fifty cell phones rang Saturday night for owners who can never answer.

And then, a man in LA is found heavily armed and about to enter a Pride festival. He was stopped, and a friend of mine has it on video. She was there, and had he not been caught, it might have been her cell phone going unanswered.

I could spend all day debating the merits of gun legislation, or arguing with those who try to tell me that he could have done just as much damage with a knife had he been so inclined. I could remind those that say, "if only there had been others there with guns," that there was armed security on the fucking premises and fifty people are still dead. It isn't about the shooter's religion, nor his heritage, nor his allegiances. And it isn't about the guns. I'll say it again. It isn't about the fucking guns. The people who died were lesbians, gay men, bisexual, trans men, trans women. The target is us. I have spent the last two days cycling between sad and angry so many times I've lost count. One minute I want to scream, the next cry, and under it all I am afraid. I am thirty-three years old, and I have never in my life been so afraid to be who I am, nor so afraid for those I care about.

There is a vigil being held in West Side Park in Champaign tonight. I am going, as are many of my friends. And even as I decided to go, a horrible thought crossed my mind. What if someone shows up with a gun, or a knife, or a bomb? What if, tonight, it's my phone that is never answered again?

"I could be afraid of what might happen to me, but if I let that consume me, I would never get out of bed, let alone leave the house."

Tomorrow. We will worry about the solution tomorrow. But today, though we are afraid, we will stand together. Let us be seen. I will not back down again. And if your call rings to an empty home, you will know I did not let fear consume me.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Being a Man

Just over a year ago, I met someone. Pros: vibrant personality, intelligent, witty, attractive. Cons: sketchy living situation, somewhat checkered past, ten and a half years my junior. Mom was going to have a field day with that last one. We talked online, texted for a couple days, met for coffee, kept texting, and things went from there.

And, he's transgender. He was assigned female at birth and is transitioning to male. He started hormone replacement therapy in February of 2013, and as of this writing has had no surgeries. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. I didn't know what to expect, and to be honest, I had no clue about the vast majority of the "process" of transition. He was open about this fact from the onset, and was (mostly) patient with questions I asked, though he also coached me to do some research on my own. So I read, and I researched. Wikipedia articles, ftmguide.org, YouTube videos, you name it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What I Want

When I fall in love again, I don't want it to be the instant we lay eyes on each other. I want it to be gradual. I want to get to know you, really know you, and you, me. I want to understand each other on those deeper levels, knowing we can never learn everything about the other, because there is a lifetime to learn already, even as we build one together.

I want to miss you, but not when you're lying right beside me every night. I want to want you, but I want you to want me, too. I don't want to be your knight in shining armor, but to defend you when you need it nonetheless. I want to see you every day, but sometimes not. I want to be the center of your world, but never for you to forget that the rest of the world is there. I want to have adventures, sometimes together and sometimes not, so we always have something to say.

I want you to be intelligent and articulate, but not too serious. I want you to be creative, and passionate about the things you care about, but passionate about me, and the things I care about, too. I want to encourage each other in our arts and desires. I want you to know that just because I don't have a degree, it doesn't mean I'm unintelligent or uncultured.

I want to cook, if you'll clean, but not always. I want to do your laundry, and smell you in your clothes, but only if you'll do the same for me, too. I'll forgive you for singing off-key, if you'll forgive me for correcting your lyrics. I want to listen to Céline Dion all day, and you not to hate it. I want to buy you things, because I can, and I want to, and I don't want you to feel guilty if you can't return the favor. If you enjoy it, then it was worth the cost, and the balance of your bank account is unimportant.

I don't want to be in charge, but I want to know that my opinion matters to you. I want to make compromises, but never to compromise who I am, nor who you are. There should never be a tally of "wins" or "losses," just decisions we made together.

When we have sex, I don't want either of us to be in charge. I want us to go with the flow, with what feels good, or right, and let the control pass between us like the moon and the tides. I want to feel the swell of your breath, and know that I'm making you feel good, inside and out, because I know how to touch you just-so.

I want you to know that I'm often sad, but it's not your fault, and when those old horrors and pains and fears haunt my eyes, I want you to understand that I may need to be alone for a while, and when I call you, I'm ready. Then, I want you to hold me, and tell me things will be okay, or even that they won't. The truth from your lips as they're pressed against the back of my neck is more comfort than a thousand platitudes. And when old wounds haunt you instead, I want you to know that I'll do whatever you need me to. And if, sometimes, we are just holding each other in the darkness, because we are both sad from things that came years before we met each other, I want that to be okay.

I won't be a servant, but I can't be the world to you. We must be equals, if not in all things, then at least in ways that strike a balance. I want less give-and-take, and more freely-offered-and-openly-accepted. I want a partner.

Friday, September 6, 2013

One Last Letter

September 2013

Hi Grandma,

I always thought my world would fall apart the day you passed away. I also thought, since you said you would live to be 99, I wouldn't have to worry about it until 2031. Trust you to get those last two numbers backward on me.

You always told us how proud of us you were, but what you may never have realized is how proud we were of you. You had such strength, living through things like losing your mother, divorce, losing Grandpa last year, surviving breast cancer, and even the things we never talked about. Despite all that you were always proud, loving, and supportive of your family.

Thirteen years ago, when I graduated high school, you told me to walk tall and proud of what I had learned, but the most important things I know, I learned from you. Those things were: being friends with your family is way more fun, because you're stuck with them anyway; young girls in Springfield are the worst drivers in the world; and, no matter what happens, you always have to keep going. That last one has never been more important than it is today, because we will miss you, but as long as we keep going, and remember what you taught us, you will never really be gone.

Thank you for being our Grandma. You were better than anyone we could have asked for.

Love you forever,
Always your friend,

Friday, April 12, 2013

Talking about Fitness

I am five feet, eight inches tall, and I weigh about 167 pounds. I have a gym membership which I have used a total of once in the past six months, and I don't eat particularly well, nor particularly consistently. I drink fairly regularly, and in December I even started smoking cigarettes (I know, I know). All things considered, I am in pretty good shape, for a 30-year-old man who does nothing to take care of his body. The funny thing is, any time I start to talk about changing my habits for the better, I almost universally get the same responses. "Ugh. Like you need to lose any weight." "Oh, you look fine. What are you worried about?" "You know, if you start working out, you're not necessarily going to weigh less, because muscle weighs more than fat."

Okay, guys. It seems there are a few things I need to explain about my mentality here.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook are already aware of this, but most of my Twitter followers and blog readers are probably as yet unaware. The past week has been a hard one for my family, and there is more yet to come. I'll apologize now, as this post isn't particularly polished, but I think you'll probably understand under the circumstances.

About a month ago, I moved from the house I was sharing with four roommates, and into my own apartment. Due to the timing of my move, the only people who could help were my friend Dan, my mom, and my mom's mom and step-dad. Our little team was small but mighty, and we managed to get everything from the house to the apartment in two trips, followed by a stop at one of our favorite Urbana restaurants, Black Dog Ale & Smoke House.

What none of us knew at the time was that my grandfather hadn't been feeling particularly well leading up to moving day, and when he seemed a little extra creaky in the days just afterward, Grandma just chalked it up to his age, and his knees, which have given him trouble for years. He did go to the hospital for a couple of days, but his vitals were all good, and he didn't seem to have anything serious wrong with him, so he was released and brought home.

It's funny what you don't find when you're not running the right tests. Grandpa was tired, all the time. Out of an entire day, he might be awake only four hours or so, and then go back to bed. When he was awake, he wasn't feeling well. Last Sunday, Grandma finally talked him into going back to the hospital, where they ran more tests, and Monday evening, my mom got the phone call that gave us the answer we needed, but didn't want. Grandpa has leukemia. They discussed treatment options, but he declined them, and on the phone told Mom, "I've lived a good life. Why put myself through all that?"

The next day, the doctors informed us that he'd made the right decision, as the leukemia is extremely advanced, and at this point, no amount of treatment will cure him. My grandpa is dying, and there is nothing we can do about it. I went with my family to see him in Springfield on Wednesday, and he was awake and mentally still sharp. In all honesty, it was almost harder because while I got to spend some quality time with him, it seemed as if everything was fine, and there was no reason for him to even be in the hospital. The conversations with Grandma, in the other room, were hard, too, because she doesn't want him to know that he's not coming home. As it turns out, telling him or not makes little difference. Returning on Saturday to Springfield painted a much different picture. He was much less coherent, much less lucid, and slept most of the afternoon and evening. He drifts out of the conversation mid-sentence, and doesn't remember that you asked him something most of the time. It's surreal, and impossibly painful, realizing this is the man who was helping me load furniture into the back of a pickup just over a month ago.

My grandparents have been married 40 years; he may not be blood, but he's been here every day of my life. He's the very picture of the stern grandfather, gruff and extremely frugal. Until it comes to the grandsons. If any of the four of us have ever needed anything, he's been there to offer it up freely, and not one of our accomplishments has gone unnoticed or without congratulations. He's a man of few words, but those words have always been ones that counted. There has never been any doubt in my mind that I am loved, nor, I think, would my brother or cousins say any differently. Watching Grandma with him, and in his moments of lucidity, he with her, there's no question how much they love one another, either. At the end of my days, I can only hope to accomplish what he has in building a loving family and friends that care enough to gather at my bedside, too. He's absolutely right to say he's led a good life.

To say he will be missed is an understatement. I'm just asking that this last journey be an easy one, and if you believe in any higher power, please just ask that, too.

Thank you for reading, and blessèd be,

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A time of transition

I have sat down to write this post at least forty times, and every time have not been certain how to start it, or to word this. As it stands, I feel the time has come for me to just write it off the cuff, and let it go where it goes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Since I'm of a mood to share some scenes, here's another I wrote during the Writing on the Waves 2012 conference. I had a bit more time to work on it, so it is more complete than The Dreaming Sea, though it's still just a fragment. Comments would be quite welcome.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Dreaming Sea

Since I haven't posted anything writing-related in a while now, I thought I would put up a short scene I wrote during the 2011 Writing on the Waves conference. I haven't yet cobbled together the rest of the story, so this is likely to see some chopping and editing before it's all said and done, but let me know what you think of it. Happy reading!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bullies and Guilt

If you can watch the above video without crying, I have serious doubts about your humanity.