Changing traditions

Posted on 05 Dec 2014 at 7:30am

Much gets left behind when you transition, so treasure the things and people that go along for the journey

I don’t think I’m alone in my love of the familiar. There is comfort in that, a predictability that doesn’t exist in this unpredictable world. Maybe that’s why we tend to be creatures of habit — getting up at the same time, taking the same route to work, eating at the same few restaurants.

My love of the familiar is strongest around the holidays, with all of the traditions that have been passed down through the years.

Leslie McMurrayGrowing up, it just wasn’t Christmas until my dad hung those tacky Christmas stars from the ceiling with string and thumbtacks. When I was little, my dad would pick me up so I could touch them gently, causing them to sway.

I lived in the same house in Southern California until I was grown and moved out on my own. I kept some of those traditions with me and started a few new ones along the way with my own children. The stars ended up with my brother after my parents passed.

Things are different now. I’ve had to let go of so many things — familiar things, traditions and even people. This has been perhaps one of the more emotionally difficult parts of gender transition.

This will be my third Christmas since I came out. Each one has been special and each one very different.

I will never forget the Christmas of 2012; my first Christmas since coming out to my family and friends as a transgender woman. I was in the midst of a divorce (things were spiraling downward, even though I didn’t know it for sure at the time) and emotionally drained. My oldest daughter invited me to Atlanta to spend Christmas with them.

I packed my car with enough clothes and shoes for a month (even though I was only staying four days), loaded Christmas presents for their family and then tried to sleep. I was excited but also scared. My daughter and son-in-law had never seen me as anyone other than “Dad.” How would they react?

After a 12-hour drive to Atlanta, that question was answered when I knocked on the door and was greeted by my 3-year-old granddaughter with “Grandma Leslie!!” and a great big hug.

Let that sink in. She had never met or seen me as “Grandma Leslie.” This came not from her, but from my daughter. That told me all I needed to know. I was accepted, even in my awkwardness.

That means more to me than I can ever explain. My tears told the story.

Still, the traditions from before were left behind. I was with her family now. Her husband has a huge extended family, and they have their own way of doing Christmas. So I blended in.

I had a great time, but it was all new. I felt loved, but also like a curiosity, especially to the older members of my son-in-law’s family. They just didn’t quite know what to say to me.

The following year, I spent Christmas with my other daughter in Phoenix. She lives with her boyfriend in a pretty house that she loves to decorate for the holidays — lights outside to rival the Griswolds and really cute and tasteful decorations inside.

She really went all out. Hanging by the chimney with care were the Christmas stockings.

I’d had my Christmas stocking since childhood. It was green with white trim and had candy canes glued to it. It had my birth name on it and I’d had it longer than my memory can recall.

But no longer.

When I looked at the stockings lovingly hung under the mantle, there was a new one there among the others. It was pink with white trim, with a green Christmas tree and a glitter snowflake. “LESLIE” was written in glitter along the top.

Once again, I felt the blessings of love and acceptance from my daughters, even as they struggled with their own sense of loss, change and new traditions.

This year will be different once again. I am staying home this Christmas.

I now share a townhouse with my girlfriend, who I love very much. We are doing Christmas together for the first time. Recently, the thought occurred to me that if we go get a tree, I have no ornaments to put on it. Most all of the Christmas stuff went to my ex-wife. I’m OK with that.

Still, there were ornaments that were accumulated over decades, some from childhood.

Gender transition is hard. I’ve said that before. Going into it, there is no possible way you can foresee all you will have to encounter.
The best advice I can offer is this: Be prepared to lose everything. Then celebrate the things you don’t lose and treat them as the most valuable gifts you have ever received.

Treasure the things and people that are familiar that you are able to bring along for your journey. Start new traditions and build from there. Remember the past, but be ready to let it go; there is so much that you just can’t take with you.

As for the people who stand by you through this journey — these people love you for you. Isn’t that the most precious gift of all?

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 5, 2014

 

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Ferguson: No easy answers

Posted on 05 Dec 2014 at 7:25am

Texas-Voices

Violence and nationwide protests in the wake of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer for the shooting death of a black teenager in August reveals the depth of the racial divide in this country and the distrust of our criminal justice system.

Despite weeks of preparation by government officials and civic leaders to avoid a riot, the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson erupted in a street war Nov. 24 as mostly black protesters set fire to buildings and police cars, broke business windows, looted stores, fired guns and threw bottles and rocks at police officers, firefighters and reporters. The deployment of smoke and tear gas by law enforcement officers and the presence of

National Guard troops failed to quell the civil unrest.

A shocked nation watched live coverage of the chaos on network television stations.

Soon after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch announced the grand jury rejected any indictments against Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson, hundreds standing in front of the Ferguson Police
Department began yelling insults and pelting a line of police officers standing guard with various objects.
David Webb
The destruction escalated during the night after the tearful breakdown of Michael Brown’s mother who cried that the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks denied her “justice” for the shooting of her 18-year-old son on a residential street. Brown’s stepfather jumped up on a platform with his wife, embracing her before he turned to the crowd and began yelling, “Burn this motherfucking place down.”

In St. Louis protesters blocked traffic on Interstate 44, and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport suspended flight traffic as a precaution against automatic gunfire striking airplanes. The fires burned through the night because of fears firefighters might be shot by protesters and the inability of law enforcement officers to control the situation.

Although accustomed to violence and riots, many Americans feel they witnessed a night of mayhem in Ferguson like no other one before it.

Only a small percentage of Ferguson’s black population participated in the rioting, but their community as a whole will suffer from the actions of the agitators. Black business owners experienced significant losses, and the community lost service and shopping venues.

Now, protests continue in cities nationwide, and arguments on social media sites such as Facebook flourish between advocates of law enforcement officers and activists who view the killing of Brown as an act of police brutality.

Civil rights leaders urge calm and lawful behavior, but the debate continues to rage about whether a police officer executed a teenager suspected of stealing tobacco products on Aug. 9, or if he justifiably shot an assailant who threatened his life with his fists and bulk. The police officer said the teenager refused to obey a command to get out of the street and walk on the sidewalk.

Further exacerbating the national tension, a New York City grand jury on Dec. 3 no-billed a police officer who strangled a 43-year-old black man with a chokehold when a group of policemen attempted to arrest him in July for the illegal sale of cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk. Thousands of people marched in the streets to protest that evening in a more peaceful assembly, but unrest across the nation began to brew over the new development.

Many prominent members of the LGBT community and their friends have joined both sides of the debate. Hostile arguments frequently break out, followed by “unfriending.” The video of Brown strong arming a store clerk and carrying unpurchased merchandise out of the door minutes before he came into contact with the policeman leads many to view him unsympathetically. They perceive him as a bully whose actions led to his own death.

The protesters’ rioting reinforces biases some have against black people as a whole. Others fear the start of a race war in the nation, and they blame the media’s coverage of the protests for exacerbating the situation.

Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen writes in an editorial that observers should not be second-guessing a grand jury that had access to voluminous information about the events leading up to Brown’s death. He attributes the protesters’ distrust of police officers to “a gulf that’s been formed by the history of discrimination in our country, a gulf that has been deepened by the systemic biases in our current criminal justice system.”

Cohen speculates the nation will likely experience more disastrous instances of civil unrest until there is reform to the criminal justice system and a healing of the racial wounds of the past that created the racial division. “It’s a gulf that breeds suspicion and mistrust, a gulf that undermines the very legitimacy of our system of justice,” he said.

Meanwhile law enforcement officers fear a pattern of resistance to authority might begin developing that could interfere with their ability to maintain order. Wilson has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department with the knowledge that his law enforcement career is over.

Ferguson’s Police Chief Tom Jackson vows to remain at the helm of the police department, and he is promising to recruit more black police officers and increase sensitivity training for the predominantly white police force working in a majority black community. Plans are also underway to install body cameras on all police officers so there will be a video recording of all law enforcement interactions.

All of the administrative solutions being examined by government officials on the local, state and national levels have merit. But ultimately it will require participation by all citizens in an effort to obey the law and respect each other regardless of their cultural differences for our nation to resolve this internal conflict.

Reporters who cover crime and examine police reports know that law enforcement officers witness and must contend with the types of violence that the average person cannot begin to comprehend. Often, it arises unexpectedly, and anyone coming into contact with police officers should be considerate of their apprehension.

It is a tragedy that Brown died as the direct consequence of a relatively minor crime. But the violence that ensued during the riots is inexcusable. All groups of people need to give a little, try to understand each other better and even extend a helping hand to the disadvantaged. The underprivileged need to try harder to improve their lot through education and hard work.

More importantly, cooler heads need to prevail. We face too many threats from beyond our borders to be fighting with each other.

David Webb is a veteran journalist with more than three decades of experience, including a stint as a staff reporter for Dallas Voice. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake and writes for publications nationwide

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 5, 2014

 

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New 007 film promises to be gayest yet … but ‘The Hobbit’ is still gayer

Posted on 04 Dec 2014 at 12:21pm
Ben Whishaw

Ben Whishaw

Skyfall, the last installment in the James Bond series, was about as gay as a spy thriller can be, with a clearly gay villain (Javier Bardem) hitting on a bondaged 007 (who didn’t seem offended at all, and even flirted back). But the upcoming one — which we just learned will be called Spectre — has even more gayness, though much of it behind the scenes.

In addition to the return of out actor Ben Whishaw, pictured, as Q, Lea Seydoux (who had steamy lesbian sex in last year’s Blue is the Warmest Color) and out actor Andrew Scott have joined the cast, which once again will be co-written by out scribe John Logan. And Daniel Craig is in it again, and we’ve long had our suspicions (fantasies?) about him.

Of course, gay blockbusters aren’t all that rare anymore. Consider: The main cast of the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, includes Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace and Stephen Fry. And that got me thinkin’ — isn’t it funny how gay Middle-earth is? Indeed, most of the residents correspond to gay “types:” Hobbits are pocket gays; elves are twinks; dwarves are bears; wizards are grey wolves; and orcs … I dunno … butch lesbians?

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The Conservative Conundrum: Does anti-gay bigotry trump negative economic impact?

Posted on 04 Dec 2014 at 8:13am

Which of these images really matters most to conservatives? Because their policies are at odds with themselves

holding handsConservatives have been beating the dual drumbeat of “family values” (i.e., hate-based bigotry) and “fiscal responsibility” (i.e., cutting taxes on the rich and denying services to the poor). But what if these policies were verifiably at odds with each other? What if being anti-marriage-equality was also anti-growth?

Well that’s just what the consulting firm Oliver Wyman has figured out.

In a report released last month called The Cost of Inconsistency: Quantifying the Economic Burden to American Business from the Patchwork Quilt of Marriage Laws, the authors arrived at some staggering conclusions. Among them: Every day of marriage inequality across the nation costs the private sector at least $3.5 million (the annual cost would pay the salaries of 19,000 workers); same-sex couples pay more in taxes than similarly-situated opposite-sex couples, and states without marriage equality bear the brunt of this burden (what about cutting taxes as a tenet of conservatism?); the five-year savings since the overturning of DOMA is estimated at $3.3 billion … but if marriage laws were uniform nationwide, it would amount to $9.7 billion.

So the question is: With marriage equality having such a profound fiscal impact, why resist it?

They might argue that inconsistency is the problem … so what we need is a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage. Of course, that’s idiotic, since they fought like dogs to let each state decide, and many states (and the Supreme Court more or less) have decided already that same-sex marriage is a right. If even one (not to mention 30-something) state finds the right, then the others much follow suit, not go regressive.

For the Huckabees and Santorums and Perrys still not convinced, the report offered this quote from an Ohio small businessman. He said:

“We are a fast-growing tech business committed to building our business in Cleveland. It’s been hard enough to compete with New York, Chicago, or D.C. for talent, but now we are at a further disadvantage because Ohio doesn’t recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples. I know of cases where corporations want key employees to transfer to Ohio but they refuse because our state doesn’t recognize their marriage. This puts Ohio business at a disadvantage in the fight for recruiting talent.”

Talent, GOPers. You want to encourage talent. Entrepreneurialship. Fairness. Equality is a tide that lifts all boats. If you weren’t so busy pandering to the Religious Right in this country because you’re terrified they won’t be terrified, you’d already have done the right thing. Which, as it turns out, is also the “Right” thing.

You can read (or download) the full report here.

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Gay art at the DMA

Posted on 04 Dec 2014 at 7:55am

Art Issue Cover 11/28In this week’s Art Issue, I did a story on Mark Leonard, the (gay) conservationist at the Dallas Museum of Art tasked with restoring and preserving important items in the collection. But a few weeks ago, during Gay History Month in October, Taylor Jeromos — an intern with the DMA and its Arts & Letters Live program — did a blog post on the museum’s website honoring out artists of the past whose work can be found in the collection. It’s a really interesting mini-history. Enjoy it — link to it here — and the other stories in our Art Issue (about fashion design [also a subject of art at the Crow Collection right now], pop art and abstract art among them).

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide online special: Getting social on the shelves

Posted on 03 Dec 2014 at 6:30pm

socialite cannisterIn Victorian times, the socialites were the ones always hobnobbing with the right crowd and schmoozing society’s elite. They were a staple at the most exclusive events. Now these Socialites Victorian bust ceramic canisters, designed by Michael Revil Madjus, are available to grace your counters and make sure that your holiday soirees are the must-be-at parties of the year.

Available in both male and female versions, $90 each, at Flower Reign, 3904 Cedar Springs Road. 214-774-9236.

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BREAKING: 11th Circuit refuses to extend stay on marriage equality in Florida

Posted on 03 Dec 2014 at 3:04pm

Screen shot 2014-12-03 at 3.02.46 PMEquality Florida has just announced that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the state of Florida’s request to extend the stay placed on a lower court’s ruling overturning the Sunshine State’s ban on marriage equality.

This clears the way for same-sex couples to begin applying for marriage licenses late on Jan. 5 when the current stay expires.

Nadine Smith, Equality Florida CEO, said, “We are thrilled … . Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. Now it’s time to break out the wedding bells. Florida is ready for the freedom to marry.”

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued his ruling declaring Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional on Aug. 21 in two federal marriage cases that had been consolidated — Brenner v. Scott  and Grimsley and Albu v. Scott. The state, represented by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, had asked the 11th Circuit Court to extend the stay until the appeals process is complete. Today, the 11th Circuit said no to that request.

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Wednesday Wine Walk and holiday festivities on The Strip tonight

Posted on 03 Dec 2014 at 1:49pm
santa

Santa has made it to Cedar Springs in years past. Maybe he will be there tonight for the CSMA’s Wine Walk.

If you are looking for a good way to get in the holiday spirit — while at the same time imbibing a few spirits — head down to Cedar Springs tonight for the Holidays on Cedar Springs Wine and Cider Walk, brought to you by the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

The event starts at 6 p.m., and the DWF Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will help out with the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. There will be live entertainment on the patio at TMC: The Mining Co., including the Oak Lawn Band. Purchase your wine glass or mug from the tent in front of Salon Aura to enjoy the wine or hot cider offered by participating merchants, and get some of your Christmas shopping done by taking advantage of the Wine Walk discounts.

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Arizona pastor says cure for AIDS is gay genocide

Posted on 03 Dec 2014 at 1:13pm
Screen shot 2014-12-03 at 1.07.06 PM

So-called “pastor,” Steven Anderson

Faithful Word Baptist Church Pastor Steven Anderson celebrated World AIDS Day 2014 by sharing with his Tempe, Az. congregation the cure for AIDS: kill all the gays.

According to RawStory.com, in a sermon he titled “AIDS: The Judgement of God,” said that the we could have an “AIDS-free world by Christmas” simply by following Old Testament scripture.”Turn to Leviticus 20:13, because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS. ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.’

“And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along. And they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and test. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant,” Anderson told his congregation Sunday, Nov. 30, the day before World AIDS Day,

In that same sermon, Anderson shouted out a furious denial of the idea that LGBT people can be Christian, declaring that “No homos will ever be allowed in this church as long as I am pastor here.”

But “the homos” aren’t the only folks Anderson hates. According to IfYouOnlyNews.com, he got in trouble with the Secret Service in 2009 after he posted a video online in which he openly prayed for President Obama to die (he did it again this year); he has preached that women have no purpose outside the kitchen and the bedroom and should certainly never speak in church; and he has preached that Jews are all vile liars.

If you have the stomach for it, here’s video of Anderson, first, calling for gay genocide, and second, declaring there will never be any homos in his church.
You can probably find more of his so-called sermons on YouTube; he seems to be quite proud of his ignorance, bigotry and hatefulness.

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A snippet about circumcision

Posted on 03 Dec 2014 at 10:34am
banana-1

Is one of these images more a-peel-ing to you?

Probably more in the gay male community than anywhere other than mohel school, circumcision is a topic almost everyone has an opinion about. And with us being in the ‘hood, I figured we could have an uncut discussion about it right here.

Think of it as group therapy: Are you foreskin or anti-skin?

Totally upfront here: I’m one of the majority who was bris’d as a babe. Hey, I was born on an army base, and the guvmint docs did it pretty much without asking permission. Anyway, it was the ’60s (1960s, haters — I wasn’t born in the Confederacy … well, I was, but only in the minds of the rednecks in Georgia at the time). As a kid, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t “miss” it (if memory serves, my dad was circumcised as well, so I “looked” like him). It was only as I got older that the subject came up at all. I was probably in my mid-20s before I’d ever seen an uncut male in person. It was kind of exciting.

Which brings up a point: A lot of guys I know have a near-fascination with uncut men. Mostly, they themselves are cut. It’s like some kind of taboo. Here’s the thing, though: I’ve never had strong feelings about it one way or the other. I’d imagine roughly half the men I’ve been with in a state of arousal were uncircumcised (in general, many of the African-American and Latinos I’ve dated). The ages of intact vs. untact varies significantly, as well. It’s not like only older men are cut and younger not; there seems little pattern to it.

Do I enjoy a circumcised penis? Hey, I’m not one to criticize any penis that shows an interest in me. I’ve had good experiences with cut men … and no-so-good. The same with the uncut. I try to judge on a wiener-by-wiener basis, without painting all tools with the same brush.

But I also have a strong libertarian streak in me. And news breaking this week that the Centers for Disease Control weighed in this week, for the first time, about the benefits of circumcision “health-wise” made me pause. The argument I heard mounted by one author of the policy explained how there are “few risks” involved in circumcision (swelling, bleeding, etc.) and that the benefits included a substantial decrease in rates of HIV contraction.

This, to me, is muddle-headed. The cut/uncut debate has nothing (or little) to do with health. It is first and foremost an issue of personal autonomy and, to an extent, aesthetics. It is a decision made by parents (often brand-new to having a son) about a tiny infant that ultimately affects a huge psychological issue he may have in his later life. For Jews, it is a sacrament that precedes inclusion in a faith community, which I don’t have a problem with. But what about people like my folks, who were basically told, “We’re snipping your newborn — be right back”?

And if the health benefits only manifest themselves when the child becomes sexually active — at a time of presumed physical and emotional maturity — why not leave it up to him, as a teenager, to decide for himself? Or just teach proper hygiene? Speaking from experience, that’s a good thing for anyone who’s sexually active.

There’s even the possibility that telling men (and their parents) that circumcision decreases the transmission of STIs leads to a false sense that cut men can be less careful about having safe sex. That’s not true — cut or uncut, you shove your willy in enough places unprotected, you’re gonna risk a disease. (And what about guys who are total bottoms anyway? Who’s thinking of them?!?!?)

So, let’s talk about it. Are you cut or uncut? Prefer one or the other in your partner? Have any mental scars from your parents decision?

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