Trump campaign disavows Oak Lawn-based PAC

donald-trump

Donald Trump

The Donald Trump campaign filed paperwork today disavowing any connection with Ian Hawes or the American Horizons PAC. The address listed for the PAC is 3824 Cedar Springs Road, which is the UPS Store. The box # is 801-4905.

Hawes is promising that people who contribute will be entered into a drawing to have dinner with Trump.

The Trump committee filed a report “to disavow the below mentioned committee which appears to be using Donald J. Trump’s name, image, likeness, or slogans in connection with soliciting contributions and conducting other activities.”

The Trump filing claims Hawes’ activities are not authorized by Trump or his committee and that contributions made through the PAC are not being made to the Trump campaign.

According to The Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., American Horizons reported taking in $349,958 and had spent $261,760 in its latest report dated June 30. Donors who gave more than $200 are listed. Few are from Texas.

In 2010, when Hawes was 19, he was arrested in Maryland for theft of between $1,000 and $10,000 for which he was given probation.

The UPS Store has no information about anyone associated with the listed box number.

—  David Taffet

ilume Gallery remembers Jack Evans with exhibit of his art

Jack Evans

Ilume Gallery is now staging its 100th show, a retrospective of the art work and mementos of Jack Evans.

Evans, who died in June, and his partner George Harris are known, among other reasons, as LGBT community organizers who made the front page of the New York Times and appeared in People magazine after the Obergefell marriage equality decision in 2015. At the time of Evans’ death this summer, the couple had been together for 55 years.

Evans’ photography and art has previously been displayed at Northaven United Methodist Church, where the couple attended.

The Ilume exhibit opens with receptions from 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 9 and 10. The exhibit continues through Sept. 17.

Ilume Gallery is located in the original ilume, 4123 Cedar Springs Road.

—  David Taffet

The Rev. Todd Scoggins leaves CoH

Neil&Todd

The Rev. Todd Scoggins, right, with the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas on the pulpit at Cathedral of Hope.

The Rev. Todd Scoggins has announced he is leaving Cathedral of Hope after serving as associate pastor of the congregation since 2009.

Scoggins was instrumental in holding the congregation together after the church’s former senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, resigned suddenly in 2013. While going through a period of healing and a nationwide search for a new head pastor, Scoggins remained at Cathedral of Hope providing stability for the congregation while the Rev. Jim Mitulski served as interim senior pastor. After Mitulski left and before the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas arrived, Scoggins again offered the leadership the church needed.

A statement from the church read:

“On August 28, 2016, the Cathedral of Hope Church of Christ received the resignation of Reverend Todd Scoggins as Associate Pastor.  Todd has faithfully served our church for the past 7 years and we are extremely grateful for his service.

“In his resignation to the church Reverend Todd said this:

“‘Throughout scripture, the number 7 has great significance and it is often followed by a time of rest and restoration. I began to notice a feeling of imbalance in my life at the beginning of this year, but I allowed myself to be ‘too busy’ to give it much attention.’ He continued, ‘I want you to know my departure has nothing to do with Neil, the staff or the Board of Stewards…they have gone above and beyond in supporting me as I have wrestled with this reality that God is doing a new thing in me.’

“There will be a farewell reception to honor Todd scheduled for Friday, September 9, 2016 from 5:00 -8:00 pm at the Interfaith Peace Chapel located on the campus of Cathedral of Hope.”

—  David Taffet

Pet of the week • 08-26-16

2015-10-11-15.54.46

 

Fitzroy, a pocket shepherd, was found in a local shelter one year ago. He had more than 40 major puncture wounds on his back that, due to his thick shepherd coat, had gone unseen and untreated. The wounds were so badly infected that no one could tell if he had been mauled by some other animal, or if he had been stabbed by a person.

The wounds healed, but the infection had been so severe that the skin of Fitzroy’s back was so badly scarred that his hair will not regrow there. For that reason, Fitzroy has an amazing collection of T-shirts that he wears to protect his exposed and delicate skin.

Fitzroy is about 2 years old, weighs about 40 pounds and is a gorgeous solid white pocket shepherd. He enjoys other dogs and regularly goes to the dog park. He is very shy of new people but given very little time, he is warm, funny and loving with those around him.

Fitzroy has completed an extensive training program and even has his own Facebook page and blog.

If you are interested saving Fitzroy, visit Take Me Home Pet Rescue at TakeMeHomePetRescue.com.
Take Me Home Pet Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Richardson. The organization has rescued more than 2,500 pets since its inception and is committed to helping Fitzroy find his perfect forever home.

Other pets are available for adoption from Operation Kindness, 3201 Earhart Drive, Carrollton. The no-kill shelter is open six days: Monday, 3-8 p.m.; closed Tuesday; Wednesday, 3-8 p.m.; Thursday, noon-8 p.m.; Friday, noon- 5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. The cost is $110 for cats, $135 for kittens, $150 for dogs over 1 year, and $175 for puppies. The cost includes the spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, vaccinations, heartworm test for dogs, leukemia and FIV test for cats, and more. Those who adopt two pets at the same time receive a $20 discount.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Kim, Donald and the decisions we make

Being a reality star doesn’t qualify you as an entertainer nor as president

Trump-and-Kim

 

Brent PaxtonIn modern times, we have the luxury of witnessing history being made through mass and social media. We can watch a presidential candidate’s every move on the campaign trail or see our favorite reality stars’ lives play out on camera, whether it be staged or not. The Internet, television, extended cable and the 24-hour news cycle have dramatically increased the world’s ability to see, hear and experience every conceivable reality on earth.

It started with radio. Then came television, giving viewers the ability to see and hear what was happening all around the world as it was happening. Both radio and television dramatically changed not just national life, but home life. The living room would never be the same.

Now the Internet has taken the top spot for audience and engagement, due in large part to social media. However, instead of one medium usurping the other, they’ve reached a point of synergy, wherein media use all of their outlets together to achieve their goal: to entertain, to inform, to influence and (most importantly) to sell.

Since content online is so high in volume, it can seem like an assault, an onslaught of material that is impossible to sort through. Therefore, we edit. We edit ourselves, and we allow the content providers and powers that be to edit for us. But it’s all of us, together, who collectively drive the machine. After all, we won’t continue to consume that which we don’t want.

There are plenty of failed attempts to sell the pubic on something that was flatly rejected; think about the Internet’s (and box office’s) rejection of an all-female Ghostbusters cast or the public’s (and Congress’) resistance to Barak Obama’s gun control measures. Ultimately, it is “the people” who decide when and where change happens.

It’s very democratic at its best, but at its worst, dangerously ill-informed herd-like behavior. As Winston S. Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

These democratic decisions collectively made by a society result in what television shows continue to air, who we hold to high esteem, who makes the covers of magazines, which type of movies continue to get made, which companies get our money and — most importantly — who runs our country.

Today, we can see where our national values lie based on what is being produced by the media and subsequently consumed by the public. If an alien from outer space were to land in the United States he/she/it might mistakenly — or maybe accurately? — assume that Kim Kardashian is our most revered citizen, that twerking is the national dance and that Donald Trump is what we consider presidential material.

Just like that alien, our children are entering the world fresh-faced and bright-eyed, absorbing everything around them.

Are these really the messages we want them to hear?

Like Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump is on television at any given moment, ever so slightly influencing us through words and action. Thousands of videos are available at our fingertip to show what Kim and Donald are up to, who they are feuding with. The news headlines are full of Kim’s feud with Taylor Swift and with Trump’s latest ill-informed rants about Hillary’s supposed incompetence.

Trump and Kim Kardashian are similar in that they symbolize a shift in definitions, priorities and what we’re willing to accept as national news. Kim represents our changing definition of what it means to be an entertainer; Donald highlights our acceptance of entertainers and businessmen as politicians (or our inability to know the difference).

Neither Kim nor Donald is very good at what their supposed roles — entertainer or politician — traditionally imply. But both, for some reason, continue to mesmerize the public. Kim can’t — won’t? — sing or act or dance. Donald does not seem to know or care to learn about issues that previously seemed like prerequisite knowledge for an American president.  And still, Americans gobble up the news on gossip websites about Kim’s new haircut or booty pic, while major news outlets run months-long coverage of Donald Trump’s controversial tweets.

What brought us to the point? Is it a good place to be?

I say no. And I say that both Kim Kardashian and Donald J. Trump are the result of an American public that is becoming increasingly fickle and ill-informed about national issues and what we consider art.

The Kardashians of the world for many people. And I understand the escapism that those people seek by incessantly following reality stars’ every move.

But we cannot apply that same frivolity to the race for president of the United States, or to any democratic election at any time. Following Donald Trump on Twitter does not make you informed on the issues of the day; just like hosting the Miss Universe pageant doesn’t make you an expert on foreign policy – an argument Trump has tried to make.

So, I passionately implore all voters to inform themselves on the issues at hand and truly consider the decision we are about to make. I hope that drawing the connection between our national obsession with Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian will help you draw the line between an unqualified entertainer and a life-long public servant.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.               

—  Dallasvoice

Trans advocates decry latest Paxton lawsuit

After getting injunction against trans student guidelines, Texas AG targets transgender medical services

Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

 

From Staff Reports

Texas and four other Republican-led states have filed yet another lawsuit seeking to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen transgender rights, saying new federal nondiscrimination health rules could force doctors to act contrary to their medical judgment or religious beliefs.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, Aug. 23, is the second in recent months in which conservative states — led by Texas and its right-wing attorney general, Ken Paxton — have sued over federal efforts to defend transgender rights. On Sunday, Aug 21, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth issued a temporary injunction, in connection with an earlier lawsuit, that halted enactment of a set of guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on how school districts should interact with transgender students.

Those guidelines, which included allowing those students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, were not set-in-stone rules, administration officials said, but were instead guidelines that had been requested by many school districts. The administration has said, however, that prohibitions against sex-based discrimination included in Title IX include prohibitions against gender identity-based discrimination, and that schools that allow such discrimination could lose federal funds.

The new HHS rules affect health care providers that receive federal funds.

The newest lawsuit is asking Judge O’Connor to also block new regulations, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that ban gender identity-based discrimination by doctors, hospitals and insurers, based on the Affordable Care Act’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination.

The latest lawsuit contends that the rules, finalized in May, could force doctors to help patients with gender transition contrary to the physicians’ religious beliefs or medical judgment.

A press release from Paxton’s office on Tuesday announcing the lawsuit called the new regulations “regulatory overreach … invading the coffers of Texas, as well as violating the medical judgment and conscience rights of doctors and health care professionals across the country.”

Smith.Chuck.EQTX

Equality Texas CEO Cuck Smith said Paxton is wasting millions of dollars attacking transgender Texans.

The press release accuses the Obama administration of “trying to redefine the law,” and claims the new rules require taxpayers “to fund all treatments designed to transition to a different sex” and “forces health care workers, including physicians, to provide controversial services. Under the new rule, a physician that believes that certain treatments are not in a patient’s best interests may be in violation of federal law. And a physician that, for religious or conscientious reasons cannot perform a particular procedure, chooses to instead refer a patient to another health care provider may also be determined to be in violation of this new rule.”

But transgender rights advocates called that a far-fetched hypothetical, saying a person would not approach a doctor who lacked suitable experience and expertise.

Jillian Weiss, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who called the new rules groundbreaking, disputed Paxton’s interpretation.

“The only thing a doctor is obliged to do is treat all patients, including trans patients, with dignity and respect and to make treatment decisions free from bias,” Weiss said. “If a doctor has a sound, evidence-based, medical reason to delay transition care for a specific patient, that would be respected under the regulations.”

Trans rights advocates also noted that 10 states and Washington, D.C., already require private insurers to cover transgender health care, while six states plus D.C. cover such services through their Medicaid programs.

Joining Texas in the lawsuit are Wisconsin, Kentucky, Nebraska and Kansas, along with the Christian Medical and Dental Association and Franciscan Alliance, an Indiana-based network of religious hospitals.

Weiss is not alone in her condemnation of the lawsuit, which Paxton in his press release proudly noted is the 13th lawsuit he has filed against the Obama administration since taking office in January 2015. Advocates across the progressive spectrum have spoken out against the Texas AG’s latest assault on transgender rights.

Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, issued this statement Tuesday after Paxton announced the lawsuit: “Attorney General Ken Paxton continues his assault on the very existence of an estimated 1.4 million Americans who are transgender. Paxton is now seeking to deny transgender people access to competent medical care [and he] continues to waste millions of dollars filing lawsuits against the federal government and discriminating against his fellow taxpayers.

The attorney general needs to stop this assault against an already marginalized population and stop wasting taxpayer money.”

Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas, noted that the new lawsuit was announced while Texas leaders were still “patt[ing] themselves on the back for convincing a federal court that transgender schoolchildren should be excluded from the protections of Title IX.”

She added, “we don’t know what else the state has in store, but the people of Texas will not stand idly by and let the state make transgender Texans into second-class citizens with no legal recourse when they face stigma and bias. Texas is better than this. This is not who we are.”

And Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued a statement suggesting that the latest lawsuit was intentionally filed in the same court that had just issued the injunction in the case involving the schools guidelines.

“Shopping around for right-wing judges willing to block the enforcement of our nation’s civil rights laws is an abuse of the judicial system,” Zirkin said.

An article written by John Council and published Wednesday, Aug. 24, on Law.com, says that O’Connor’s “handling of the bathroom case was no accident.” The article notes that O’Connor is a former aide to the Senate Judiciary Committee appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2007. He previously worked with both the Tarrant County prosecutor’s office and with the U.S. attorney’s office in Fort Worth, and was an attorney for Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

After being appointed to the bench, O’Connor was assigned the docket for the Wichita Falls Division, but later made it known that he was willing to try interesting civil cases when appropriate, according to Council’s article. Council also says Paxton took his suit on the educational guidelines to O’Connor’s court because he knew that there he would have “a sympathetic judge,” since O’Connor had already ruled in Paxton’s favor once in a suit trying to derail LGBT rights. In 2015, O’Connor was the judge who granted Paxton’s request not to extend family and medical leave benefits to same-sex couples, although Paxton dropped that case after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June on marriage equality.

Jay Brown, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign said Paxton’s “continued attacks on transgender Americans are politically motivated, designed to intimidate, and simply beyond the pale. After months of demonizing and targeting transgender students, it seems he has decided that all transgender people must be the target of his machinations. We strongly oppose Paxton’s harmful lawsuit, and the courts should see if for what it is — a shameful, cheap, political attack.”

Paul J. Weber with the Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Trans woman sues former employer

Despite improving business at Cedar Hill restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings fired its manager when she began presenting as a woman

Buffalo-Wild-Wings

 

DAVID TAFFET   | Senior Staff Writer

Kellie Alise Batko has filed suit against her former employer, Buffalo Wild Wings, charging the company with sex discrimination against a woman because she is transgender.

The restaurant has filed for dismissal of the suit, Batko has filed a response and is waiting for the court to rule on those motions.

The question before the court is whether sex discrimination against a trans woman is covered under Title VII. Buffalo Wild Wings claims Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination “because of sex” does not apply to discrimination against transgender people.

Under current federal guidelines, nondiscrimination statutes based on sex do include protections based on gender identity and transgender status. In June, the U.S. Labor Department announced updated regulations for federal contractors “reflect the current state of the law and the reality of a modern and diverse workforce.”

Batko’s attorney, Michael Hindman, said there’s little question Buffalo Wild Wings fired Batko when she began presenting as a woman.  “When she was a woman who acted like a man, everything was fine,” he said. “When she presented as a woman, it wasn’t.”

Batko worked as a restaurant manager for Buffalo Wild Wings for four-and-a-half years. In 2007, she was assigned to the company’s Cedar Hill location where she “improved the restaurant’s reputation in the community and its operational soundness,” according to the response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

“The company recognized she had transformed the store and done an exemplary job there,” Hindman said.

Batko said before she took over, that store had been in the red every month. Within a year of her taking over the location, it ranked No. 5 out of 192 corporate-owned locations.

During her employment, Batko began to present as a woman and legally changed her gender markers, including on her state-issued IDs and her Social Security card. She gave human resources her new legal information and ordered a nametag to reflect her new legal name.

Nine days later she was terminated. Her employers claimed it was for poor performance.

But, she said, “There was no reason [other than her transgender status] for them to have done what they did to me.”

In her suit, Batko claims that as long as her employer believed she was a man and went by a man’s name, the company was happy with her performance. Although her performance at work remained the same, when she no longer appeared to be a man and made legal changes to her identity, she was fired because she was a woman.

Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hasn’t ruled on a transgender employment discrimination case under Title VII, the 6th, 9th and 11th circuits have. All those courts have held that discrimination based on gender identity is sexual discrimination. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has agreed them.

In Fabian v. Hospital of Central Connecticut, the court ruled, “Employment discrimination on the basis of transgender identity is employment discrimination ‘because of sex’ and constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

The EEOC has said, “When an employer discriminates against someone because the person is transgender, the employer has engaged in disparate treatment related to the sex of the victim.”

While protecting transgender employees may not have been the intent of lawmakers who wrote Title VII, Batko argues her sex was the basis of her firing. In her lawsuit, she compares expanding the definition of sex discrimination to discrimination based on race.

“Courts have recognized that Title VII’s prohibition against race discrimination protects employees from being discriminated against because of an interracial marriage, or based on friendships that cross racial lines,” the plaintiff’s response says.

Title VII is usually used in sex discrimination cases to protect someone who doesn’t present in a way expected of that gender — by a man who may be described as effeminate or a woman who doesn’t wear makeup or clothes that are considered feminine.

For Batko, failure to adhere to a gender stereotype wasn’t the problem; she was fired because she presented as a woman.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in the court of Judge Barbara Lynn — someone who knows  something about gender discrimination first hand.

When Lynn graduated first in her class from law school at Southern Methodist University in 1976, she noticed men in her class were getting offers from major Dallas law firms, while she and other women in her class were not. When they sued half a dozen firms for gender discrimination, those firms changed their policies.

If Batko’s case goes to trial, Lynn may rule that Buffalo Wild Wings needs to change its policies as well.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

 

—  David Taffet

Libertarian challenging Sessions for Congress

Ed Rankin has run before, but he believes this year presents an opportunity for a third party candidate without a Democratic rival

!ed-rankin_1314

Ed Rankin

 

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Ed Rankin has run for Congress before, but this year, he believes, some “interesting dynamics are lining up” that give him a better shot at winning a seat in Congress.

In the last election, Democrat Frank Perez received 35 percent of the vote in his bid to unseat long-time incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions. Rankin placed third in that race with 2.7 percent of the vote.

But in this election, there’s no Democrat running. That leaves those District 32 voters unhappy with their current representation and looking for an alternative to the Republican with a choice between Green Party candidate Gary Stuard and Rankin, who’s running on the Libertarian ticket.

Also in the last election, Donald Trump wasn’t at the top of the ticket, Rankin points out. And this year, District 32 didn’t vote for Trump in the primary. In the general election, in addition to votes from Democrats expected to turn out in strong numbers for Hillary Clinton in Dallas County, Rankin believes he’ll get votes of traditionally fiscally conservative Republicans who aren’t backing Trump and who don’t appreciate Sessions’ endorsement of him.

Many of those Republicans who won’t be voting for Trump certainly won’t vote for Clinton either, Rankin believes, which means they will probably vote Libertarian. He says his party probably has its strongest ticket ever, with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for president at the top of the ticket, and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld the candidate for vice president. Rankin even believes the Johnson-Weld team might have some coattail effects for his campaign.

Rankin also says he’s the obvious choice for LGBT voters in District 32, since he supports equality. “In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have the government involved,” he notes. “Since it is, I have to support marriage equality.”

Sessions, on the other hand, scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Score Card for the past two sessions, and he scored 3 out of 100 for the 111th Congress. One time when asked how he represents the LGBT community, Sessions claimed he doesn’t have any gays in his district — even through District 32 includes parts of Oak Lawn.

Rankin says government has no right to discriminate against people based solely on who they are. And he disdains the intolerance he’s seen at Trump rallies.

“One of the costs of living in a free society is getting along with people with whom you don’t agree,” he says.

Since no Democrat is running for the seat, Rankin could have registered with that party and received money and other support from the strong Dallas County Democratic Party, and even state party offices. But he says he doesn’t align with the Democratic Party on fiscal issues.

So if elected, would he sit with Republicans? “The party that wrote aversion therapy into its platform?” he asks, after a thoughtful pause. He’s just comfortable where he is — as a Libertarian, he Rankin also commented on several other issues in the election.

He doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act because providers aren’t paid until a person is sick, and because the insurance system doesn’t incentivize people to be wise consumers. “We don’t have adequate market forces to bring efficiency,” he explains.

Using cosmetic medicine as an example, Rankin says that those products were never covered by insurance, so to attract clientele, costs had to be kept under control.

He’d like to implement a system of medical savings accounts for general medical care supplemented by catastrophic health insurance policies. He’d like the Patriot Act repealed, calling it nothing more than spying on U.S. citizens. And Rankin believes consolidation of banks, drug companies, airlines, media and more is a national problem that prevents market forces from controlling prices.

He calls Sessions, who chairs the House Rules Committee, one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives.

“Any piece of legislation that gets to the House floor is because of Pete Sessions,” Rankin says. “He’s an influential guy from Dallas. Shouldn’t we keep him?”

Then he answered his own question with a resounding no, asking what Sessions has actually done for Dallas.

Rankin notes that straight-party-ticket voters can still cast a ballot for a third party candidate: Just go to the particular race and mark the ballot for the third-party candidate.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

—  Kevin Thomas

LULAC and friends collect thousands of dollars in school supplies

LULAC and Congregation Beth El Binah collected thousands of dollars in school supplies along with the offices of Councilman Adam Medrano and Justice of the Peace Sara Martinez. The collection party was held at Havana on Thursday, Aug. 18. The supplies will be distributed to Rusk, Sam Houston and Maple Lawn elementary schools.

—  David Taffet

Going home

Community-Voices-Art

 

Leslie McMurrayI was born and raised in Southern California — Long Beach, to be specific. I lived and worked there from birth until I was about 20. My first radio job took me to Jackson, Wyo., and I’ve never looked back.

OK, I’ve taken a few peeks, but I never moved back.

When I think of my childhood, I smile. I was raised by two parents who loved me more than anything in the world. (I know this because they told me — a lot). I lived within bike riding distance of the beach and spent much of my free time on or in the water. I had some good friends. Other than my nagging sense of identity, being that of a young girl and not a little boy, I was a happy kid. Except for puberty. That REALLY sucked.

I went to Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach. I was a member of the Class of ’76. Back in March of this year, I saw a notice that our 40th class reunion was scheduled for Aug. 6 in Long Beach.

Initially, the thought of showing up for this terrified me, like it does for so many of my transgender friends. Many of the kids we knew in high school either tormented us, or we worry that if they knew we had transitioned, they would either reject us at best or ridicule us at worst.

I decided to test the waters. I posted a picture of me on the reunion Facebook page with a caption that read: “You may remember me as ___ well, I’m now Leslie.”

The responses from people I went to school with were so warm, affirming and even congratulatory that it literally moved me to tears. Their love also inspired me to call Southwest and book airfare to L.A. for Aug. 4 for Katie and me.

We arrived in Long Beach on Thursday afternoon. The temperature was in the upper 70s with a cool breeze. I felt like I was home. Katie had never been this far south in California, so a tour was in order. Before going to our hotel in Seal Beach, we drove by the house I grew up in. I stopped in front and the tears started. It looked the same, but with a lot of TLC. The window in what was my old bedroom faced the street. I could see the spot where my dad would park his car, on the street, toss his suit coat across the hood of his car and shoot baskets with us when he got home from work. I wanted so badly to knock on the door and ask if we could come in … but I didn’t. My old neighborhood … it’s still there.

The next day I drove Katie around to my old haunts and we walked on the sand and waded in the ocean. We had lunch with my daughter who had come down from Phoenix. Then Friday evening, there was a cocktail reception at The Boathouse, a restaurant/bar on the water. On the patio were dozens of my old classmates. I donned a name tag and mingled. I was welcomed with open arms.

I saw a girl I’d missed so much. Her name is Shelley and I’ve known her since I was 4 years old. We were inseparable.

It felt SO good to reconnect to something that is a big part of me, yet separated by my transition. Leslie has no connection to any of this … HE did.

Turns out, Leslie has been accepted as one of the gang. A couple of the guys I went to school with had some questions and made comments like “You got balls.” To which I responded “Not anymore I don’t.”

The next night was the actual reunion. It was at the Long Beach Yacht Club, poolside. It was a gorgeous setting. We walked to the registration table to get our name tags. Mine had my senior picture on it, with “Leslie McMurray” for my name. I SO appreciated that. I was grinning from ear to ear and as I looked to my right, there was a table with pictures, names and candles. These are my classmates who had died. It about sucked the wind out of me. I was fighting back tears as I read the names. The radical swing of emotions swept over me like a wave. I was really struggling to hang on.

Then I heard the squeals of “Leslie!” as girls I went to school with ran over and wrapped me in hugs. These were girls that I SO wanted to be a part of when I was in school. Not in a dating sense, but in a social sense. I ached to be in those clusters of girls just talking, hanging out. As I looked around me, I was in a cluster of several girls, just talking and catching up. It took 40 years but it was no less sweet. I still fight tears just thinking about it.

There was no rudeness, not even a hint. My classmates made me so proud to be a member of the Class of ’76. Their hugs, genuine interest and welcoming of Katie into our group was a gift I can never re-pay.

I have since re-connected with many of them and I never want to lose touch again. We drove by the old house on the way to the airport and took a few pictures. I am SO glad I posted that picture and gave my classmates credit for accepting someone who had changed a little … I suppose we all have.

And that’s a good thing.

Who says you can’t go home?

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 August 19, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice