Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

Thanks, Obama – to a point, anyway (riding the calm before the shitstorm)

January 19, 2017

the-calm-before-the-storm

Today, my social-media universe is a little bit quieter than usual. I’m guessing it’s just most of us riding out the calm before the shitstorm that officially hits us at noon tomorrow. (That would be Jan. 20.) Every bit of corruption and ignorance and stupidity and heartlessness that has been brewing beneath the surface of our country’s veneer of decency and fairness is set to officially explode in our face. If I don’t end up on the streets and/or dead between now and the end of this administration, it’ll be a miracle. And that’s not hyperbole or drama, as you’ll read.

So today, I pause and reflect on the man who has led the country the last eight years. The most important president in my lifetime. Barack Obama 2009 and Barack Obama 2017 have been the bookends of the most turbulent time of my life – some ways certainly for better, some ways most definitely for worse.

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Okay, it’s the new year — game on.

January 3, 2017

we_can_do_it

I’ve refrained from commenting much on the Looking Glass, Bizarro World shitstorm that has gripped our country the past two months because I wanted to step back, take a deep breath and see where some of the chips would land … and whether, miracle of miracles, the Electoral College would function the way Alexander Hamilton planned it.

Well, silly me.

I went to bed about 2 in the morning of Nov. 9 — a half-hour before the Associated Press called the race for the orange menace. On the hour drive to work a few hours later, I was kinda distraught, and when I walked into the office, my boss asked me, “Are you alright?” “Nothing different than a lot of other people this morning,” I choked out as I sat and fired up the desktop and buried myself in my daily tasks.

But by noontime, the emotional snow and ice had melted, replaced by a scorching sun. By mid-afternoon, the feelings of depression were replaced by a quiet rage.

I mean, it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor — the election wasn’t an end, it was a beginning. And I realized quickly enough that you can’t fight from the fetal position.

This is a fight for the soul of America. Maybe the world.

And now that the bad actors have (predictably) tipped their hands — we pretty much know what we’re up against — it’s time to face this and deal.

And I’m ready for a fight. And now that the holidays are over, the real fun begins later today (Jan. 3), when Congress reconvenes.

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‘I’m sorry’: Why?

March 3, 2016

brenda_lee-im_sorry_s_7“Stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done!” — Paul Weller, “Town Called Malice”

This has been on my mind for some time now.

Having come to womanhood at a moderately advanced age, I’ve only noticed this in the past year or two. And it’s been on my mind and in my craw for a while now.

But it came to the surface this afternoon in a place I didn’t expect.

Since last summer, every other Thursday has found me taking someone close to me for chemo. We head to the cancer center, he has blood drawn, every other visit he has an appointment with his oncologist, and then he settles into a recliner in the chemo room for the next two or three hours as the caustic chemicals drip into the port in his chest. And as he settles in, I go for lunch.

This afternoon, when I returned from lunch, I stopped to use the bathroom across the hall from the chemo room.

The door was locked. I only waited maybe two or three minutes. Quite often, a patient wheels his/her IV rack into the loo with them, so I figured that was what was happening.

And that’s indeed what it was. And the door opened, and slowly, a chrome stalk of metal with a plastic bag dangling from the top emerged, attached to the left arm of a young woman, late 20s/early 30s, in sweats and winter boots, dark head of hair shorn to the stubble. And she looked at me with a sheepish grin and said the magic words:

“I’m sorry.”

Wait. She’s sorry? The cancer patient lugging her IV around is apologizing to me for the crime of using the bathroom?

What’s wrong with this picture?!?

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Pictures of Lili (MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Danish Girl’)

December 28, 2015
Danish Girl 1

Eddie Redmayne, taking his formidable transformative powers to another level.

“I have known very few people in my life, and you’re two of them.”

That’s what Parisian art dealer Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts) tells Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) — formerly his childhood friend Einar Wegener — in The Danish Girl, a film that’s at once beautiful in cinematography, stunning in its performances (most especially Redmayne, coming off his Best Actor Oscar as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) … and problematic in other ways.

I’m allergic to films “based on a true story” and often avoid them, because the director and writer almost always have the hubris to take liberties with the story, as if real life can’t be better than fiction, as if the true story isn’t good enough to stand on its own. Even more so when the film is based on a novel based on the true story (David Ebershoff’s 2000 book of the same name). But I was drawn to this film in part because of the subject matter — Elbe is one of the first known people, if not the first, to undergo what was once known as sex-change surgery, gender reassignment surgery and, these days, gender affirmation surgery; partially because the first photos released of Redmayne in the role over the summer were astounding, and the trailer even more so.

As a moviegoer and transperson (non-op/pre-op female), I can tell you that the latest from director Tom Hooper (the Oscar-winner for The King’s Speech) is a strong film on first blush, at times difficult to sit through — but, with some time to let it soak in, too self-consciously artistic, striving too hard to be high art rather than focus on the subject matter, and ultimately not powerful enough. It could have been a whole lot more. The real-life story of Wegener/Elbe and wife Gerda, with its triumphs and tragedies, packs even more of a punch than what we see on the screen.

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Five years already? A hormonal balance

April 27, 2015
A molecular model of estradiol.

A molecular model of estradiol.

The date was April 27, 2010.

The location was the clinic next door to, and affiliated with, Adventist Medical Center in Selma, California, a small and dusty farming city (mainly grapes), 20 minutes south of Fresno via Highway 99.

The doctor (who, as of Spring 2015, retired from her practice to move to the Northwest to be closer to her son and daughter) was a post-op who had lost her job up in the Northwest a few years earlier due to prejudice, and the only place she could find to set up anew, after much searching, was there, in Fresno County. There, her patients included young families, mostly Mexican farm workers, looking to treat their sick children … and transgenders, mostly male-to-female, who were looking to take that next leap forward.

And this was huge because in a county of a million people, there were only two doctors at the time who prescribed hormones. One was in Fresno, a man who gave his patients their hormones in pill form. The other was this doctor in Selma, who not only administered the estradiol in injection form — a more effective method — she was post-op, using the same conservative protocol on patients that she used for her own transition.

And that afternoon, she left the honors to the nurse, who told me as she readied the needle, “Wow — You’ve really got a big butt” — which, at the time, wasn’t fat, but mostly muscle from bicycle riding, so it actually was kind of a compliment.

And a shot to the right cheek, in the delta area between my lower back and my ass, and it was done.

Except for all that has happened since. And as of today, it’s been five years after I crossed one of the biggest Rubicons I had to cross in my transition. (more…)

Five years on already

February 8, 2015

5th candleIt was a cloudy Friday afternoon in January 2010, about 12:30, at the place that was my de facto second home in Fresno, the Revue coffee shop (since sold and renamed Mia Cuppa) in the Tower District.

I met up for a lunch/coffee appointment with my former Fresno Bee colleague, Jennifer Ward. At that point, it had been eight months since I was discarded, in a mass layoff, by the McClatchy chain, from the job for which I had moved from Connecticut six years before, as an assistant features editor at the Bee. Jen was the paper’s interactive editor, brought in from the Dallas Morning News to implement and oversee the paper’s online operations.

But Jen had just been let go, too, and unlike this frustrated, depressed, middle-aged editor and writer who couldn’t even get a dog to sniff me despite a glowing resume, she had some ideas.

So she sat down with me this particular afternoon to introduce me to the world of social media.

She told me I needed to do three things — start a Facebook account, start a Twitter account and create a blog — so prospective employers would see that I was adept at social media.

I told her no Facebook — for one, I reasoned that the same people who told me “You need to get on Facebook!” were the same ones who told me “You need to get on MySpace!” two or three years before, and who’s to say that in a year they wouldn’t be telling me “You need to get on Zork.com!” or some other site? Also, while I was out as transgender to my family, my friends in Fresno and my closest friends back in Connecticut, I didn’t feel comfortable having a social-media page as Frannie 2.0 yet, and wouldn’t be for another year.

But I was more than amenable to Twitter and a blog. She walked me through both. She told me to go with WordPress, as it was an easy-to-manage content-management system. I came up with the name Franorama for my blog — same as my radio show back home at WPKN in Bridgeport — but someone had beaten me to it. So I settled on Franorama World, and she left me to play with the blog and learn to navigate my way around it.

But what to write?

I had the world in front of me, but what would I write that would make sense? And people would want to read?

Also, when I left my longtime job as the entertainment editor/music writer at the New Haven Register to move to bigger and better across the country, I was seriously burnt on writing. My job was two and a half full-time jobs compressed into 55-60 hours each week — planning, laying out and supervising a Weekend section, writing one or two feature stories, planning and lining up interview questions, writing a music column — and the new job in Fresno was strictly editing, no writing, 40 hours a week. And save for posting an occasional CD review on Amazon, and a handful of blog posts on MySpace and Fresnobeehive.com, I had done no writing for nearly six years. I had to dig a lot of ashes out of the furnace.

So I was seriously out of practice.

Technically, my first post was on Feb. 3, 2010 — an automated introductory post from WordPress on the day I finally activated the account. But I finally found some inspiration four days later, the first Sunday of February. One of my two football teams, the New Orleans Saints, was ending decades of frustration by playing in its first Super Bowl. I banged out a post before the game about the excitement level I felt going in … and afterward, a little more ragged (and buzzing) for the wear, I posted again about the glorious aftermath.

I figured I would go back to writing entertainment/review pieces — after all, I reviewed albums and the occasional movie for 20 years in my professional life — but I still didn’t feel I had a purpose.

Then came April — and I found my purpose, not to mention an outlet to keep me relatively sane as I went through both my transition and the looooooooong unemployment.

And here we are, five years later; I can’t believe that. And now, where the hell am I, really?

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Graduation day, or Frannie 2.0 goes to her high school reunion

December 15, 2014

You need to understand two things about me going to my 35th high school reunion the first Saturday of October, at Holy Cross in Waterbury, Ct.:

1) I was actually a little nervous heading into this. I have no clue why. I mean, granted, it was the first reunion I’d attended in 15 years, and a lot of things had transpired since — two

A years-ago shot of my old high school.

A years-ago shot of my old high school.

cross-country moves, one huge, honking stretch of unemployment, four jobs and, oh yeah, one gender transition. But I’m through the worst of my hell now, at least as long as I’m able to keep my job. And I’m out and living in the everyday world and either people don’t read me as trans, or they do and they don’t give a shit. And I really don’t give a shit what people think anymore, which is huge for someone who always strove to please everyone for most of my life (and often failed).

But when I do think of it, maybe I do know why I was so apprehensive — because I was a good Catholic boy, went to a Catholic high school, and due to a depression brought on by a combination of the harassment by the kids in my hometown of Prospect growing up and the hormonal imbalance that lasted from puberty to my first hormone shot in 2010, it was four of the most emotionally turbulent years of my life. Not to mention four of the most formative. And these were the people I shared those four years with, for better and worse. And I was going back to Waterbury, a place as provincial — and in some ways nearly as right-wing — as Fresno, my home-in-exile for eight years. (Three of my school’s most notable alumni include a former governor and two former Waterbury mayors — all Republicans, all of whom are doing, or have done, or have done and will do again, prison time.)

2) Five years ago, as the 30th reunion was going on, I was 3,000 miles away, laying in the fetal position on my bed in Fresno — the Waterbury of California — in the room I was renting from, what I was painfully starting to learn, an alcohol-dysfunctional family. While the gathering of successful businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, moms and the obligatory movie star (Dylan McDermott finally made it to a reunion) took place back here, I was in T-shirt and shorts, a couple days’ growth on my face, alternating between bouts of sobs and trying to sleep. After an hour or so, I would get up off the bed and make my way over to the desk and fire up the laptop and play online poker, and when I was too tired to concentrate any more, I walked back over to the bed, went fetal again and back to bouts of tears. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At that point, I was out of work for seven months, and in the time since I was laid off from The Fresno Bee, I got not one nibble, despite a solid resume — no jobs to be had, no prospects anywhere. And it was a little over two weeks since the night I came out to my parents, and I was starting to feel the weirdness from them. (It would take another 14 months, and more anguish, before they were finally on board with 2.0.) This was not what I bargained for when I moved across the country five-and-a-half years earlier. Instead of being an editor at one of the biggest papers in the most populous state in the country, I was now an utter, absolute, total, complete, supply-your-own-creative-redundant-synonym-here failure. And in between sobs, I prayed to a god that had abandoned me and asked for the courage, the energy, to get up off the bed, grab the bicycle and go riding to one of the many grade crossings in Fresno and wait for a train to come by and hit me. And like my many other prayers, and many resumes, over the coming years, it went ignored. I wussed out, eventually drifted off to sleep at some point, and there was a morning after, and the sun came out.

So yeah, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into this particular Saturday night.

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Dear Time: Thanks for nothing.

June 6, 2014
I guess transpeople are trendy, now that Time says so.

I guess transpeople are trendy, now that Time says so.

One of the big buzzes at the beginning of last week (the day after Memorial Day) was that a transperson was to be featured on the cover of Time — Laverne Cox, one of the co-stars of Orange Is the New Black. Time teased us with a Q-and-A with Ms. Cox but kept the online version of the cover story behind a subscriber paywall. Some of my wonderful and extremely supportive friends were excited about this and messaged me on Facebook and sent links to the Q-and-A and offered me their copies of the issue when they were finished with it. And I, too, was somewhat excited, cautiously curious at how Time would play this story.

I finally got a copy in the mail at the beginning of the week (courtesy of my friend and former Fresno Bee colleague, Diana Ramirez-Simon), and, well, I wanted to read it and let it swirl around a little bit before I added my two cents to what I’ve been calling the last frontier of civil rights for some time now.

Okay, I’ve read it, all nine pages — actually, four pages, after you take out the photos and the half-page of air on the lede page — and, well, I’m not happy. Time, thanks for nothing. I’ll explain …

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Why I do cry, or all good things do have to end (Chip Damiani, 1945-2014)

February 24, 2014
The Remains in their first prime. From left: Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian and Vern Miller.

The Remains in their first prime. From left: Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian and Vern Miller.

How I got through the last three hours of work this past evening and remained something resembling productive while being emotionally numb is beyond me.

I’ve written tributes to deceased musicians many times, both for newspapers and here on this blog. But until now, I had never been written one about a friend.

As in any instance when a friend dies suddenly, totally unexpectedly, it’s awfully hard to articulate. It’s hard to even say it.

Okay, I’ll just get the hard part out and let the rest flow. After jamming through a whole bunch of work, I stopped around 9 p.m. to have a bite and check out my Facebook messages. A writer from Westport named Dan Woog posted a link to his blog on my page: Chip Damiani, the drummer for one of the best rock’n’roll bands America ever produced, The Remains — and, what is really important to me, a good friend and former neighbor-of-sorts — died yesterday afternoon of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was 68 going on 35.

Go figure — trim, in a fighting shape forged from all those years as a roofer, in the best physical shape by far of everyone in the band, their backbone and fiery, no-bullshit, you-knew-where-you-stood presence. And he’s the one who went first.

And it was Chip who provided me with one of my favorite stories in two-plus decades as a music writer. And introduced me to the band that provided me with two of my favorite moments as a music fan.

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Almost old enough to drink (the blog turns 20), almost old enough for kindergarten (my blog turns 4)

January 30, 2014

Birthday cupcakeNormally, I would just post a news item to the Book of Faces and be done with it. But this one? Nah! That wouldn’t do it justice. It has to be answered in the form of a blog post:

Not sure of the exact birthdate, but the blog turns 20 this year. And all of us who have used this medium to share some of ourselves should give credit where credit’s due.

Until I read this story from the Guardian this morning (and thanks to Jim Romenesko for tipping us off via his blog), I hadn’t given much thought to how the weblog began or who invented it. I mean, do you think of Gottlieb Daimler when you sit behind the wheel and turn the key? I wouldn’t be able to pick Justin Hall or Meg Hourihan or Dave Winer out of a lineup if my life depended on it, but wherever you are, thanks much. Maybe my life would be a little different, and not for the better, had there not been a blogosphere.

Read on …

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