This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

At least two


It’s been a fairly serious week or two with the lower back, so I’ve been scarce -- not turning up at a lot of meetings, not doing outside chores -- just struggling in to work and home to bed.

Granddaughter was here, and in lieu of playing together with the toy kitchen or roaming around the "back forty," we lolled around in the big bed watching anime -- something about a girl with super powers in the way of ballet dancing, who turned into a comical duck whenever she lost her necklace. It was a relatively quiet visit, not just because of my limitations; she seemed to have a lot on her mind. The world is much with us, even when we are in the third grade.

Today, a day or two after the harvest moon, was the first frost! I have seen them fifty days earlier than this. Very sobering, along with the fires in dry California and the continuing rapid disappearance of the Arctic ice and sliding away of Greenland's ice cap.

I felt up to working about the yard a bit, and spent a couple of hours in brilliant October sunshine getting the leaves out of the driveway, where they were five inches deep, and onto the garden, shredded. I'm hoping to go back and make a few weeks' worth of kindling as well.

The frost killed the tomatoes in the garden, finally -- they had grown to a great old age -- but has only touched the zucchinis, which might go on a bit longer, as well as the tomatoes around the house, which seem to have derived some protection from heat radiating from the foundations after yesterday's sunshine. The orb-weaving spider that has spent the last couple of weeks eating a nicely trapped and wrapped honeybee is nowhere to be seen; perhaps she's in hiding among the curled, brown-tinged Brandywine leaves.

Beloved has gone to more trouble than we usually do with fall-planted crops. I see the beets she planted for me are doing well, and some turnip greens, and some very large, healthy-looking Romaine-type lettuce practically dominates. She has been chopping corn stalks and sunflower stalks, and uprooting their stumps, which are lying about like root wads of timber after a storm salvage. She has taken all the pumpkins but the Hubbard squash are still hardening off. There are a lot of onions waiting to be pulled. She has trays of seeds in various places around the house and potting shed, and by this I see that she means to raise Roma, Brandywine, Jelly Bean tomatoes, scarlet runners, broad beans, among other things, and a spectacular nameless long-podded green bean, of which a few came to her in the mail from a friend, and all of whose progeny were dedicated to increase.

Thus one articulates hope by the work of one's hands.

:::

Auntie, whom some of you will remember from a few years ago -- my mother's childhood and lifetime friend, who has always been the cheerful one of us all, and a chaser away of clouds from others' horizons -- is beginning to lose ground. She's been on dialysis for her kidneys, which are giving up, and now her liver seems involved -- which means she faces constant bouts of debilitating nausea. I can imagine few things worse. She lives three thousand miles from here; she has family and friends. If I were to go there I'm afraid I would be underfoot; besides which there's a chihuahua in that house who is on my terrorist watch list. But if you are one of those whose prayers are effectual, please put in a word for her.

When I was very small -- I have told these two stories before, but bear with me -- I was prone to disasters involving bullies. The most spectacular instance occurred in my grandmother's back yard. The neighborhood kids were playing there, and I, age about eighteen months, as it is told me, toddled out to them while the grownups argued, as was their wont, over coffee at the kitchen table.

My grandma became aware of a sudden silence out back, and, feeling a prickling at the back of her neck, went out to investigate. She found me lying face down by the privet hedge under the plum tree by the back fence, with red stains on the sparse shade-grass. A chunk of quartz, with a bit of red Georgia clay adhering, lay beside me. I was not moving.

She clumped back into the house and sat down heavily at the table. Something about her expression caused the conversation to trail off.

"Well," she said, "The baby's gone."

"Gone?" asked her daughter, my mom. "Whaddya mean, GONE?"

She got up, ran down the stoop and across the yard, and rolled me over. My forehead was gashed -- the scar was prominent for decades -- and my lips, she tells me, had turned blue.

She breathed into me. I hiccuped, and began crying.

This story, which is, for me, hearsay, is linked in my mind for some reason with another, which, because no one has told it me, and I was too young to retain much of it, is hazy, but is one of my few early recollections.

Auntie's son, several years older than I, was having a birthday party. I was there because I was my mom's only child and there was no way my mom would have missed being there.

The kids in that neighborhood were, though, a bit of a rough crowd. The games tended to be participatory, athletic, ad hoc, and hard-edged. I was out of my element just by being in line of sight.

I do remember being surrounded by people bigger than me, and seem to remember they had some issue with me -- I was, I gathered, a sissy, would never amount to anything, and apparently ought not to have been born.

Something terrible was going to happen -- and I think I do remember a bit of deja vu -- as in "oh, no, not again -- "

-- at which Auntie interposed herself firmly between me and them and said something that scattered them, and as I remember it, I never left her side the rest of that day.

Fifty years later, when I had begun my transition but was not yet out to my mom, Auntie looked at the two of us and said, rather knowingly -- "you two would make a perfect mother and daughter" -- of course, she was right, as always.

Everyone should have at least two moms. I think I'll give her a call right now.

Monday, October 15, 2007

All the water in the river

East of here. Not so very far.

So, four of us went to the new Federal Courthouse (a massive, well-armed and rather paranoid Bauhaus construction to which one cannot cross the street from downtown -- "to prevent marches," someone laughed nervously) to talk with an aide to our Congressperson.

Steep, steep steps, designed to turn aside the wrath of Ryder rental trucks, guards (who radiated considerable Glock-ness), alarm gates, a left turn, another left, and there we were sharing out some peanut butter cookies, that we had brought, with the staffers.

Not with the unsmiling guards. They would have had to send them out to be tested for sheep-pox. As if anyone ever mailed sheep-pox to the executive branch. But I digress.

We were introduced to the aide, and each took our turn.

I told a capsule story of my life, beginning with my knowing who I was at age six and what I would have to do with myself someday (not knowing it would ever be possible, and yet knowing that I must); and reminded the aide that an inclusive ENDA protects at least three categories of people: trans, gay, and straight:

"Trans people are notable for transgressed gender signs, for which they are targeted.

"Gay people are sometimes noted for transgressed gender signs, for which they are then targeted.

"And straight-oriented, straight-identified people are occasionally mistakenly noted for transgressed gender signs, for which they are then targeted."

Whereas ENDA-Lite protects none of the above from the things which actually tend to attract discrimination:

"Gay people can hide. Transpeople, unless they have given up everything, wiped out all documentation and moved, and have an absolutely 'convincing' presentation, cannot."

And with the Real ID Act even this option will be taken from the few that had it.

The other three dwelt on the failure of incrementalism in our home town, while inclusive-up-front legislation has passed easily in other communities in our state, and has now passed at the state level itself.

We ended by reiterating that between the two bills, only H.R. 2015 comes close to being a just response to anti-LGBT bigotry in the workplace.

The aide was a sympathetic listener but, as one might expect, did not give away much about what is going to happen.

We thanked her and left.

As I was going, she put her hand on my sleeve, briefly, and thanked me for my story. It was more than I might have looked for.

Still ... exhausting.

I took the rest of the day off, went home, ate everything in sight, crawled into bed and pulled a blanket over my head.

The next day, I skipped out on assorted meetings for worthy causes and, grabbing my kayak, headed for the hills. Hence the photo above.

I went first to a favorite lake two miles into the local wilderness area. The colors at the lake were just -- stunning, as they were everywhere; we don't get this kind of October, here, especially above 5,000 feet elevation, with such bright sunshine and paddling about, in a tank top, and with butterflies dancing around one's head. But apparently now we do. The undoubtedly limited-duration silver lining of global warming. To which I contributed by driving to the trailhead. After a few hours, the mist had burned off the water, a chill breeze had whipped up, and other people were arriving, so I packed up and packed out, threw the boat in the back of the wagon, and freewheeled down off the mountain into the canyon, stopping at a favorite place along the river (photo above, again).

There has been enough rain lately to refill the aquifers above our mountain rivers, here, unlike the intense drought to the south of us in California and elsewhere in the West; the water beat like a thousand drums through the basaltic boulders scattered along the streambed. We can get a hydraulic minimum and maximum differential in these parts of 100,000 to one, so there are times when there is very little water in this river; other times it is thirty feet deep, tumbling the giant boulders like billiard balls.

In the spot where I sat, by the falls, with the wan sun on my shoulders and the cold reaching up from beneath me in the ancient, shaded stone, there was nothing to say and nothing to be said. I could sit there, if I like, and pull up my tank top and show the river my breasts, and say,"what?" -- if I so chose; the river would simply flow on. I stayed on, watching the shadows shift in the canyon, until my ears couldn't take the sound of the falls any more. I would have stayed for days if there was a way to do it.

All the water in the river might not be enough to wash the slime of politics from my soul.

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"There were sufficient votes three weeks ago"

A comment has been left on the preceding post by "anonymous" that either is or purports to be a direct communication from Mara Keisling of NCTE. (I have confirmed the original source: T-Equality Blog, to which Mara is a contributor.) Whether or not this is so, it certainly sounds like what she would say under the current circumstances, and as it agrees with my own take on events, I'm taking the liberty to re-post it here with the assumption that it came from a good-faith source:
Obviously, I should probably share my take on what most of you have probably heard happened yesterday. In general, we rarely talk about specific things said at specific meetings by specific people. I'll adhere to that guideline here as well, but since so many others have talked about the meeting including at least one organization that began making media calls before the meeting actually occurred, I will give you my straight take on what it all means.

Nothing new happened in terms of which ENDA bill will be running.

For the last couple of weeks, we have been told that our allies in Congress were 1) intending to have a vote on the non-inclusive bill (H.R. 3685) that no one wants and no one thinks will become law, while 2) the inclusive bill (H.R. 2015) might someday get a vote if we could prove we have the votes. The offer made yesterday and apparently brokered by HRC (according to them) without input or knowledge from NCTE or any other LGBT organization is exactly the same: our allies in Congress are 1) intending to have a vote on the non-inclusive bill (H.R. 3685) that no one wants and no one thinks will become law, while 2) the inclusive bill (H.R. 2015) might someday get a vote if we can prove we have the votes. Sounds the same, doesn't it? If you feel confused, it's because there hasn't been a "new deal" put on the table. It has though apparently been officially brokered and announced by HRC this time.

HRC's "new deal" is entirely spin meant to undermine the unprecedented grassroots efforts of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals in order to allow movement of their vanity bill that no one including Speaker Pelosi or Congressman Frank says they really want. Even HRC claims they don't want it even though they support it. Of course House leadership says they will hold a vote when there are sufficient votes, but it is our position (and the position of actual members of Congress) that there were sufficient votes three weeks ago. Yet the bill was pulled from consideration then and we have been promised that no vote will be held-that's what started this crisis. We have had and we do have the votes to pass H.R. 2015 and ask for a vote on this unified bill now.

We sincerely appreciate the work that the Speaker has put into advancing all LGBT rights and we acknowledge and treasure her commitment to seeing this through until the passage of rights for all of us. But we strongly disagree with and oppose this strategy. We oppose H.R. 3685 and believe taking Committee action on this bad bill is extremely harmful to our collective effort to win civil rights for all LGBT people.

NCTE is willing to hold double secret negotiations also to get this point across if that will help.

Mara Keisling
Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality
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Monday, October 08, 2007

About ENDA

I've been asked to do some politicking for myself and my peers in the matter of trans exclusion from Barney Frank's proposed last-minute rewrite of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I will be participating -- reluctantly. This is because I think that ENDA, in any form, should not have been necessary and in a way is a kind of wrongheaded thing to attempt to do. My reason is that we ought, as a nation, to have understood the Constitution all along as providing the protections enumerated. And it's a great mystery to me that we don't seem to be able as a people to see that and act accordingly.

Politics being "the art of the possible," politicians must strike deals, and the questions with which they are often faced are frequently questions of how much blood on the floor is too much blood. ENDA without transpeople would be an achievement (if achieved) -- of sorts. Democrats are saying "millions of people would benefit." Speaking as one of those who would perhaps be left behind, with a promise (frequently broken before in similar circumstances, including in my home town) of "we'll be back for you," I have to ask: Okay, how much injustice should we tolerate? And is that even measurable? Nearly all LGBT organizations have stood with transpeople against the idea of their exclusion, so the pain threshold on this is, for me, relatively survivable. But it's definitely out there.

Unlike many, though, I'm not upset with the Democrats in Congress on this. Some of them made promises, but many did not, and negotiation on the matter can be held to be in good faith. Sort of....

I do reserve some ire for the Human Rights Campaign, who did make unequivocal promises and who did -- just long enough to let the demon of exclusion out of the box -- renege. I'm not, I hope, a hopeless idealist, but there's a reason why I'm not in politics and the HRC has just forcibly reminded me. But, on to my intent in writing this post.

Dear ones, each addition of a protected class of citizens (the Americans with Disabilities Act, preparing to add "people with disabilities," mentions race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age) to our assorted codes and regulations should have been sufficiently rendered redundant by the use of the class "citizen." With a fillip of inclusion for those under our protection, such as green card carriers.

Unfortunately, those who argue against inclusion of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and those who, including some gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, argue against the inclusion of transpeople often seize upon this argument ("right; it's already there, so insisting on this is insisting on special rights" -- huh?) without much consideration of our long, often bloody and always, where found, unjust history of non-inclusion of individuals by race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability.

Why was anyone's citizenship and economic participation ever at issue on the basis of category? I say "on the basis of category" as an avoidance of what the ADA calls "based on characteristics that are beyond the control of such individuals" since "religion" does not always seem to fit that description. But just try telling a Southern Baptist that they shouldn't have this "special right" of non-discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation.

If it has been deemed necessary to redundantly protect people who have been excluded from justice by race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability, then it follows that ENDA is necessary.

Damn.

Another missed opportunity to just be a just society from the get-go.

So if ENDA is necessary, why not include transpeople?

I'm married to Beloved. That makes us, according to some, lesbians. If she divorces me and I marry a man, that makes me, according to, in most cases the same people, gay. Since I'm able to contemplate either fate, I'm presumably bi. In what way would an ENDA that mentions only gays, lesbians and bi people exclude me?

In this matter we transpeople are, perhaps, victims of our own effort not to be tarred with a sexual-deviancy brush.

We claim that we are about gender, not sex, thus effectively creating a new social category and inadvertently helping to define an excludable category. Since gays and lesbians are on the road to some kind of acceptability as different-from-but-not-less-than, transpeople (and perhaps intersexuals -- but the framers of the ADA have included them without realizing it, because their medical condition is less deniably evident) are left high and dry on the shrinking island labeled FREAKS. And the injustices, and they are quite real, to which transpeople are subject continue unabated.

But I remember Tod Browning's seminal, and at the time deemed too-shocking-to-be-shown movie, Freaks. It was about people with disabilities. How times change!

So....

What if the ADA had been written simply to eliminate all forms of gratuitous discrimination? Now that would have been an Act of a Congress with something on the ball! It might have read (deletions struck through; additions within square brackets; notes within parentheses; emphasis in bold):

TITLE 42 - THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE

CHAPTER 126 - EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

Sec. 12101. Findings and purpose

(a) Findings

The Congress finds that

(1) some 43,000,000 Americans have one or more physical or mental disabilities, and this number is increasing as the population as a whole is growing older;

(2) historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities [categorically] and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem;

(3) discrimination against individuals with disabilities [by category] persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services;

(4) unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination; (note that these enumerated discriminations do continue to occur)

(5) individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities;

(6) census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, [specific populations] occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally;

(7) individuals with disabilities are a discrete and insular minority who [specific populations] have been faced with restrictions and limitations, subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, and relegated to a position of political powerlessness in our society, based on characteristics that are beyond the control of such individuals and resulting from stereotypic assumptions not truly indicative of the individual ability of such individuals to participate in, and contribute to, society;

(8) the Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals; and

(9) the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.

(b) Purpose

It is the purpose of this chapter

(1) to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(2) to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(3) to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this chapter on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and

(4) to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities [in these United States].

I would, if necessary, lay down my life for a nation that has passed, and would be willing to enforce, such a law. Many people, I suspect have so done with their lives, thinking that they had done just that. Would it were so.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You better get on it, Cookie

A friend of ours, a happy person who was enjoying a visit from her family last week, had a brain hemorrhage and died in, as it were, mid-visit. She was ninety, so it was not a total surprise, but still.

For me she represents Winter. Fall is a little like growing old, growing toward the depth of winter, toward a personal solstice.

And so it is fall, now, around me, and also within me.

The iffy weather has arrived and I have taken to carrying an umbrella to work. As country people we don't think much, at home, about umbrellas, but in town, which is where I work (1,314 days until retirement!), it's preferable to suiting up in rain gear and serves the extra purpose of being a long, sharp object in hand as I walk to and from my parking place in the dark.

One of the things I'm experimenting with is I've given up my parking sticker, which costs about $200 a year and gives me the right to fight twenty-five thousand other people for four thousand parking spaces on campus, and am parking a mile away. The upsides are: I can always find a place; I'm driving about three less actual miles a day (15 each way instead of 18); adding two miles to my daily walking for a total of three; admiring the neighborhood, which is an attractive one with lots of quality architecture and landscaping. Downsides are: rain, darkness, and exposure to potential muggers. As some people (see here and here) are dealing with much more risk, I think this is manageable, to say the least.

This morning, on my commute, I stopped at our local utility's offices, where they were having an open house to celebrate their new solar roof. Beloved and I are part of their 100%-wind-ratepayer program, and we're hoping to swap out the hot water heater soon, but there's not that much more we can do to change our habits -- so it's nice that EPUD is pursuing as many options as they do. They're buying into another wind farm, they buy from high school and college rooftop panel programs, they run an exemplary methane plant out at the area's landfill, and are looking to finally install a turbine at Fall Creek Dam (I suspect about forty years behind schedule). I had thought perhaps their breakfast presentation would be about global warming, but, wouldn't you know, not a word on it!

Everything was about cost stabilization -- that they had learned their lesson from Enron, who had forced them into buying power, briefly, for ten times the rate they pay for hydro from the Columbia. So, wind and solar are suddenly very attractive at only three times that rate (and dropping). This is certainly the way to put across their program to most of the people in my neighborhood, to whom the price of oil is certainly a scandal but many of whom have never heard of peak oil -- and aren't likely to, as they get all their news from one cable channel and a couple of AM radio talk shows.

I indulged in a little self-praise: we had insulated the house, caulked all the small holes and stuffed dryer lint into some of the big ones, changed all the light bulbs, learned to turn off power strips, and use the clothes line when we can and have never had a dishwasher.

But it's not much. I read jewishfarmer's blog and she does the most amazing, dedicated things -- 52 lifestyle changes this year -- even though she admits herself that on the scale where it it matters -- that scale that would require an internationally enforced New Deal -- which would go over so well with the "black helicopters" crowd -- it's really futile. She applies grace and humor to a bleak outlook and doesn't rationalize her efforts, and I find her exemplary.

Beloved has been winding up the garden -- the Jerusalem artichokes, pictured above, are falling over, as are the sunflowers. She's chopping up cornstalks, cabbages, runaway zucchini, fallen apples, and the like, and having the chickens, ducks and geese pick through it all. She has blanched and frozen a lot of stuff, and put away many quarts of blackberries, plum sauce, apple sauce, and rhubarb. There's about 1/2 of one semi-dwarf apple tree still unpicked.

I've cut up the brush, mostly Himalaya berry and Japanese knotweed, along the pasture fence and reduced it to mulch, which I've spread around the poultry's shade trees to scratch over for their last blackberries of the year, and am carrying out my traditional fall projects -- storm windows, trouble-shooting our plumbing, re-routing wiring -- as time and energy allow. I have some time, such as it is, but my energy is very much less -- as I'm now fifty-eight -- and I find that while I may have plans for as soon as I get home, I'm much likelier to go directly to bed, falling asleep sometimes as early as eight o'clock! No reading, no media, just -- boom -- like an anvil had dropped on my head.

Time to begin letting some things go.

Last night, I did think I would go under the house and start ripping apart some pipes. Instead I sat awhile and watched the leaves turning brown outside. Before giving in to the impulse to get horizontal, I did one thing: the day's dishes. Beloved sometimes has trouble doing them, and many other things -- it's arthritis or something, the medical folks can't seem to make up their minds about her -- it affect her hands, her hips and her feet. Sometimes stairs are too much. That's why, as she says, "I'm getting my farming ya-ya's out while I can."

If I get too much impressed by our limitations, though, I can think about friends who have really gone down that road. One friend, more of a sister, really, is dealing with three chronic and rather life threatening conditions simultaneously, and she does it with grace, humor, and enough courage for any roomful of the rest of us. Talk about exemplary!

If you're under fifty, may I suggest that you consider your ambitious projects now? Not later? Later may never come, and if it does, it might not come in as handy as you're maybe thinking.

Beloved announced, when she was a teen-ager, that she thought she might want to be a child star. Her mom looked at her, wonderingly, and said, "Well, you better get on it, cookie."


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