Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rocking My Toddler At Christmastime

Last night I was rocking my restless toddler, trying to have him fall asleep and stay asleep. I was exhausted, and it was almost midnight--nearly four hours past his normal bedtime.

While rocking him I am often quiet and mindful; even more so if I feel tested. I take in the sensations of my arms around him; feeling the weight of his little body in my lap. His babyhood is passing quickly, and I want to savor every moment.

Soft Christmas music played from his radio: "O Holy Night," sung by Celine Dion.

After that, the menacing onslaught began. What could have possibly prepared me? It began innocently enough. Soon, though, it became clear: this would be no ordinary holiday favorite.

Odd inflections. Tuneless caterwauling and sour notes. Braying. Was this some drunk customer at karaoke night, stoned, trying in vain to carry a tune? No.

It became apparent that Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders were butchering "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Every fiber of my being wanted to lunge for the radio, raise the window, and toss the offending electronic ouside. But my son was finally sleeping, and I didn't dare risk waking him.

I listened on; rapt with horror. Isn't there someone to "fix" that stuff so a person who can't sing gets to pretend? I thought that's how it worked.

Hynde warbled on interminably, until finally, mercifully, the attack ended. I nearly shed tears of relief; clutching my son gratefully. He slept on, totally unaware of what just transpired.

Listen if you dare. But I'm warning you. Clinical depression or explosive rage may be triggered in otherwise healthy individuals.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Revisited: Rumors of Racism at Winston Salem KFC

A few weeks ago I wrote about an incident of racism at a Winston Salem KFC. Allegedly a white male was refused service by an African American woman working at the restaurant. (Read the inital report and subsequent discussion at Triad Forum).

Was I wrong to be skeptical the incident had occurred at all?

Why had I been immediately disbelieving? Was it because the victim is a white male? Was it about my overweening desire to seem "politically correct?"

The victim, below with friends, after leaving the restaurant.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Death of a Speakeasy

The Speakeasy jazz club in Winston is gone. It closed last month.

A friend gave me the sad news on Election night.

The town we moved from had a jazz venue, too. But I was never comfortable there. Folding chairs were lined up side by side, in rows, like little toy soldiers. I felt like I was at a child's dance recital or in a church fellowship hall. The atmosphere seemed stuffy; almost somber.

The Speakeasy was friendly and cozy. And I wasn't the only one who loved it. There was a mix of old and young; straight and gay, folks who looked like professors; and people who may have been a little down on their luck. A racially and socioeconomically diverse group, hanging out together in a small North Carolina city. It seemed right.

All that...and the music.

I used to joke about my intent to get a job at the Speakeasy, once I was more settled after our move. Oh, well. It wasn't to be.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"We're No Longer A Southern State"

I went to the drugstore today. Better living through chemistry, and all.

For the second time since I voted, I saw the man who helped me with my touch machine at election time. A big bear of a man, a white senior citizen, oozing friendliness and goodwill.

This time, in the drugstore, I decided to say hello. "Did you work at the polls?" I asked. "Yes," he said, "for early voting." "I thought you looked familiar," I said.

"Did you see me in the newspaper?"
"No, I saw you at the polls."
"You don't read the newspaper?"
"No. My husband does."
"I said some things I shouldn't have."
"Like what? That you were happy with how things went?" I smiled.
"I said 'We're no longer a Southern state.'"

I stared at him silently, uncomprehending. "What do you mean, 'we're no longer a Southern state?'"

"We're no longer a Southern state," he said regretfully. "Not like Kentucky. Or Tennessee. And Virginia--Virginia's no longer a Southern state." He elaborated, allowing as how he didn't like what had gone on with the election. No racist language was used, yet I was troubled by the sentiments implied.

I could feel my face become guarded. I looked at him blankly; disappointed, regretting I'd initiated conversation. He complained of people going to the polls in droves simply to vote Obama and a straight Democratic ticket. "That's what I did," I said. "Well, I voted for some Judges."

It became clear that while I had assumed he was a Democrat; he assumed I was Republican. Then I remembered. My candidate won. I can afford to be gracious. We discussed acne medications.

"Welcome back to North Carolina," he said; heading toward the cash register.

"Thank you."

As I walked away, he called out: "Forget everything I said."

I smiled. I can afford to be gracious.

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leaves Frozen

At noon I went for a walk, and thought of my son.

When I returned, the water in the birdbath was still frozen; several leaves rigid in the ice.

As I looked admiringly, I heard him call "Mama" from inside the house, where he played with his father.

This month, two years ago, the three of us became a family together.

A beautiful and innocent baby; his path forever entwined with ours.

Every day I am grateful for his love and his presence in my life.

Today: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Several years ago I temped for a few months in a church office, while continuing to look for a social work job. I attended services there sporadically, but never became a member.

After I moved on, the monthly church newsletter continued to arrive. I'll never forget the night I opened it up and read the customary letter from the minister to the congregation.

She expressed hope for a new year that was almost upon us. The letter then became a "thank you" to the church for their acceptance of her intent to become a man, and her request to be called a new name.

I was stunned. Over the years I had attended some drag shows at gay bars in which men impersonated women, or vice versa, on the stage. I'd certainly heard the word "transgender." But I'd never known anyone personally--to my knowledge, at least--in that category.

Though I hadn't known the minister well, I was deeply disturbed. She was firmly labeled in my mind. Minister. Lesbian. Wife. Impressive speaker. Activist.

I simply could not wrap my mind around her plan to leave womanhood.

A few days later, at a holiday concert, I shared the story with a friend during intermission. I continued to feel shock, disbelief, and discomfort.

Then I gasped. There was the minister herself, on the other side of the large sanctuary, wearing a tie.

Here's a video I found at Queers United. It's short. Please watch.

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held to memorialize those who have died due to anti-transgender hatred, and to raise awareness of the issue.

I still haven't figured it out. I don't need to. Even so--I'm a transgender ally.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gso Prop 8 Protest

I made it to the protest today in Greensboro, which was smaller than I expected. Hopefully lots of Triad folks attended the Raleigh event instead.

There were no frenzied groups of rabid wingnuts in sight.

I remarked on this to a fellow protester. "There wasn't enough time for them to organize," he said; holding a sign referencing Britney Spears' 55-hour marriage.

"Yeah, I guess most of the publicity was on the internet," I replied. "And they don't have internet."

"They probably communicate by carrier pigeon," he laughed.

No doubt some of the fine citizens passing by headed straight to their local Church of God and returned with a pickup load of angry Palin wackos. But by then, I had left.

Political rallies and protests always get me a little emotional. It's comforting to be with people who share our views; particularly when those opinions and ideas are less than popular.

It's like wrapping yourself in Memaw's afghan, sipping hot chocolate, and reading Hell's Harlot. Or going to church. A good church; not a bad church.

Leaving the demonstration was the best part of the afternoon. We drove past the protesters, car windows down, and laid on the horn. They went wild.

I repeated this routine for 10 minutes or so, driving up and down the block, doing donuts and driving back past them again. My son asked me to stop.

A Fox News crew and a squad car rounded the corner, and I reluctantly drove away; satisfied that we stood up--at least briefly--for marriage equality.

There will be more opportunities for all of us before the job is done.

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Find More Courage"

As Barack Obama delivered his magnificent victory speech on election night, he began a now-familiar refrain:

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled.

Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
Obama's desire for unity, his acknowledgment and respect for all of us--not just some of us--always captivated and comforted me. I was hungry for that, particularly after the divisiveness and polarization of the last eight years, and the war.

On Election Day, over 5 million Californians voted to support second-class status for same-sex couples in the Golden State, via passage of the discriminatory Proposition 8.

In what way is anti-equality a good thing? What of love and commitment? Are we still worried about "sin?" As for Christianity, it's evolving. The tired rhetoric condemning homosexuality is often rejected by today's Christians; seen as dated, stale, simplistic--entirely inappropriate for a living, breathing faith and spiritual practice.

Standing up for what's right is often unpopular, uncomfortable, or
even dangerous.

We have a responsibility to each other--even if we don't want to marry a same-sex partner; even if we're not Californian. The words of American civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) remind us that

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.

A blogger at BlueNC suggests "those that silently sympathize" need to "find more courage." He's right.

Let's rise to the challenge. Please join me Saturday, November 15, as we stand up for marriage equality and make our voices heard. For more information, visit Join the Impact to find specifics on local protest locations everywhere.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Rumors of Racism at Winston Salem KFC

I ran across an "unconfirmed" report this morning that a white man was refused service by a black Obama supporter at a Winston Salem Kentucky Fried Chicken a few days ago.


What the hell was he doing there? Meat is murder.

kfc Pictures, Images and Photos
I'm skeptical of this report. Very, very skeptical. Ok, I'm more than skeptical. I think it's bull. Not only bull, but predictable bull.

I'm going back to sleep now. Still trying to recover from celebrating Obama's victory.