Monday, March 31, 2008

skip the mouth-to-mouth

From the American Heart Association:

...hands-only CPR — rapid, deep presses on the victim's chest until help arrives — works just as well as standard CPR for sudden cardiac arrest in adults.

Experts hope bystanders will now be more willing to jump in and help if they see someone suddenly collapse. Hands-only CPR is simpler and easier to remember and removes a big barrier for people skittish about the mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

wearing fur


Thanks, Martha.

cruelty investigator attacked in NY

Two PETA horse-carriage monitors were attacked--and the idiot got himself on tape.

could schizophrenia be entirely genetic?

Interesting read...but I still like to think of an old quote I once read that was used in reference to eating disorders, but applies wonderfully to all mental illnesses:

Genetics may load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

would you remove your nipple rings with pliers at the airport?

Check out the story of a woman who was forced to painfully remove her nipple rings behind a curtain at the airport, with TSA personnel snickering in the background, to get through security.

Apparently protocol was being followed, and TSA supports the "thoroughness" of officers--I'm sorry, they were trying to humiliate her.

TSA now agrees that procedures need to be changed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

bottled vaginal odor?

In case you were craving intensified erotic fantasies, you can order VULVA original--"the erotic, intimate scent of an irresistable woman...The precious, vaginal odor filled into a small glass phial."

The website is so clever: smellmeand.com

Smell me and cum. Ha.

My problem is not the product. My problem is that the site focuses on the scent of a "beautiful" woman--do we really need to devalue the vaginas of less-than-"beautiful" women? Or undermine the sexual viability of everyone other than a slim (no pun intended) minority of "aesthetically elite"?

I really don't think a woman's face impacts the scent of her vaj, thanks.

That aside, I actually appreciate this sort of product. Female anatomy is often ridiculed and degraded; it's nice to see vaginal scents praised instead of called fishy or whatever else.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Antarctic shelf "hangs by thread"

wonderful:

A chunk of ice the size of the Isle of Man has started to break away from Antarctica in what scientists say is further evidence of a warming climate.

Satellite images suggest that part of the ice shelf is disintegrating, and will soon crumble away.

internal vs external validation: troops in uniform

As I was boarding my red eye the other night, I was very proud and excited to see a group of naval officers on my flight. Despite my deep criticisms of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, there was a time when I really wanted to join the military, and my admiration remains.

Then I got to thinking. This is a red eye. That uniform is not comfortable. Why are you really wearing that? So all of us on the plane can oogle over you? Actually, I appreciate your dedication so much that I wish you physical comfort on this shitty flight more than anything else.

Is that what asserting "status" is worth? Inconvenience and physical discomfort? Clearly these people have gone through worse, but who wouldn't want to be on a red eye in sweat pants and a pull over?

I know that this is protocol, and so it is not necessarily the result of individual decisions of those on my plane--but this just reminds me of how I try to live my life: internal validation. The greatest honor a person can receive isn't from 200 people on an aircraft--it's from yourself.

I would not compromise my own rest and physical comfort just to have people gawk and admire me at all times possible. I don't know why we raise people to think that status is the most important thing. External appraisal does nothing if you can't validate yourself and put your own needs over a bunch of bullshit.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

female oppression and pop culture at its finest



A friend of mine sent me an old Britney Spears video to look at something, and I was so shocked by the title.

"Born to make you happy"

Right. Because women are born to make men happy--not themselves.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

out of town

Seeing as I am out of town, attempting this whole "relaxation" bit, and catching up on some introspection, I am not sure that I will be blogging for the next few days.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

new rule

If you work in a restaurant or other food establishment, do not make faces at your customer's order.

I am sorry for you and your cardiovascular system that you eat everything with multiple forms of curdled bovine lactation oozing out, but I don't--so don't make fucking faces or comments. That is not what you're paid for, and that is not why I am standing in line.

Since I am stuck in an airport (going on hour 3) and am not particularly happy, let me also say, don't bother someone to move up one foot in line. Did your life really improve with that extra 12 inches, fuck face?

Something else that baffles my mind: educators encouraging trans fats and fast foods. I have interacted with two school groups, one middle school and one high school, and each set of teachers is sending kids to McDonalds or Wendy's. Disgusting. I love when the teacher asks, "what did you order?" and the kid responds something like, "Double bacon lard burger with cheese and fries" and the teacher says, "good choice!" Or how about when the supervisor exclaims, "Extra forty-cents for everyone. You can supersize!"

Another thought about planes and airports. If there is a screaming kid in the plane, everyone gets a credit. Or there needs to be a holding tank...or some sort of in-flight infanticide. If there is a screaming kid on my flight, I will be so angry. I don't understand why noise pollution and public nuisance regulations somehow disappear with babies. If you can't shut the thing up or drug it to sleep, leave it at home.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

why "y'all" is so great

Thanks to my roommate from Louisiana, I have learned the beauty of "y'all."

The more obvious plus is the verbal efficiency of the word--you can say something in less time. But that is only the surface, my friends.

What really tickles my pickle is the fact that "y'all" is a replacement for the ubiquitous and highly gendered "you guys." I have been trying to kick that dirty habit for a while.

I despise default male pronouns, and also find the fact that calling a crowd with mixed genitals "you girls" would be an insult.

Y'all. So simple. So perfect.

Monday, March 17, 2008

wiretapping's true danger

Great piece from the LA Times:

...But focusing on the privacy of the average Joe in this way obscures the deeper threat that warrantless wiretaps pose to a democratic society. Without meaningful oversight, presidents and intelligence agencies can -- and repeatedly have -- abused their surveillance authority to spy on political enemies and dissenters.

The original FISA law was passed in 1978 after a thorough congressional investigation headed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) revealed that for decades, intelligence analysts -- and the presidents they served -- had spied on the letters and phone conversations of union chiefs, civil rights leaders, journalists, antiwar activists, lobbyists, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices -- even Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Church Committee reports painstakingly documented how the information obtained was often "collected and disseminated in order to serve the purely political interests of an intelligence agency or the administration, and to influence social policy and political action."

veganism helps arthritis

Oh the wonders of veganism:

Rheumatoid arthritis patients may be able to reduce their high risk of heart attacks and strokes with a gluten-free, vegan diet, a study suggests.

Heart attacks and strokes are among the leading causes of death for sufferers, as the inflammation caused by the disease impacts upon the arteries.

But an Arthritis Research and Therapy study found those who pursued a vegan regime had less "bad" cholesterol.

By clogging arteries, this is seen as a key risk factor for heart problems.

France rejects right-to-die plea

A French woman suffering from a rare form of cancer is unable to receive medically assisted suicide, despite liberalized legislation governing euthanasia.

"The case of Ms Sebire has however sparked intense debate and sympathy.

She suffers from an extremely rare form of cancer in the nasal cavity known as an esthesioneuroblastoma. Only 200 cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide in the past two decades.

Appealing on French television last month for the right to die, Ms Sebire said she could no longer see properly, taste or smell. She described how children ran away from her in the street."

veganism, food, and framing

Now that I have been vegan for a solid block of time (around 4 months), I have been noticing the frame through which I view food drastically changing.

I was on the metro a few days ago, and an older pair of friends were switching cooking secrets. They began to speak in depth about preparing "legs" versus "breasts." But what was a normal conversation for them, and what would have been very normal for me, was completely jarring. Legs? Casually talking about eating body parts? It was so bizarre. I felt like an anthropologist who had been away and returned home, but home never felt the same. And so the anthropologist began to observing his/her native culture as an outsider--and everything became increasingly subjective, arbitrary and peculiar.

I have "othered" the mainstream culinary culture of my country--and it just feels so strange. I don't understand walking around in the market how people are grabbing and feeling cold chunks of raw, dead flesh in tight, plastic packages. I actually want to vomit when I see rosy-pink hunks of red meat, moist with juices and diluted blood.

Walking home from yoga today, a group of college students were barbecuing hunks of cow, and I wanted to stop and say, "do you know that is a dead animal?" Of course they know. And I always knew that growing up as an omnivore. But now the mental frame through which I previously viewed food has changed so much that I have an entirely new frame, and the old one does not fit, and I the two cannot match up.

Of course, I say this all as a huge hypocrite--but I prefer "work in progress"--because I am still wearing animals products, even if I am not eating them.

I think that most omnivores stomach animals because they do not truly connect food to having once been alive. It was finally internalizing that connection that catapulted me into veganism.

The thing is, my mind is not internalizing this connection with shoes and bags. I am hoping this will progress naturally in time, as my dietary convictions did. To be honest, I think that it will be much more challenging to dress vegan because I have a deep-seated and life-long interlock with materialism, of which I only became aware and began to question/challenge in the past couple years.

I should blog about growing up with strong material- and image-orientations, and absorbing those scripts before ever having the analytical skills to think twice about them or understand the implications--and never having the emotional health and introspection to grapple this matter until the latter part of my life.

Either way, this issue will present interesting and dynamic challenges and understandings to my continual evolution.

Come to think of it, I have not blogged about the dramatic turn-around that completely changed my life and everything I ever thought about my own future. I will have to do this. The Colonic is in need of a discussion on materialism, image-orientation, self-worth, activism, introspection, and the like.

Until next time, my friends.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pelosi on superdelegates and this election

I like this "Quote of the Day" featured on Political Wire:

"If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what's happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic party."

-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, quoted by the Associated Press in a "declaration that gives a boost to Sen. Barack Obama."

Friday, March 14, 2008

let's talk about being gay and terrorism

State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, declared "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation" and that homosexuality poses a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism. "According to God's word, that is not the right kind of lifestyle," she said.

You want to talk about terrorism? You want to talk about systematic fear and oppression instilled by social, professional, and governmental institutions and related organizations? Try being a sexual minority or a gender non-conformist in an intolerant, bible-beating, war zone. You can't even escape it in a big city.

I love how Kern talks about high suicide rates and depression among sexual minorities--huh, I wonder why? If you are not comfortable being yourself, if you are subject to violence and discrimination, if you are hiding or suppressing your lifestyle--you are susceptible to depression.

Then Kern moves onto "indoctrination" in schools. Please. You subscribe to an extreme ideological religious framework. You believe in god.

I am going to control myself from going into an atheist tirade on sin, ignorance, and the entire concept of the bible. I am just very concerned to see members of government promoting religious agendas.

The sad thing is, when Kern resigns or does not get re-elected or whatever her consequence is, she will feel proud that she is a martyr and spreading god's word or some other pathetic version of the same story. Then she will blame her joblessness on the gays.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

how women re-affirm sexism and male-privilege: a grocery store follow-up

In a recent post--male privilege, sexism, and invasion of privacy: a grocery store tale--I blogged about being treated as a piece of ass instead of a customer by an employee at Trader Joe's, and how male privilege gives men this idea that this is always okay, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstance. And any woman who disagrees is a bitch. In fact, I have absorbed this cultural script so well that I refrained from telling the manager that one of the employees is a lecherous creep that makes me uncomfortable and that I actually look to avoid him when shopping.

But I digress.

What I would like to re-visit is how I responded to T.J. (the lecherous creep) when he originally asked for my number, how I re-affirmed sexism and male privilege in my response--while well-understanding the socio-cultural implications of my response--and how my decision to rely on an oppressive and easy cultural crutch actually encouraged the situation.

I cannot recall the precise and entirely unoriginal words of T.J.'s request, but I clearly remember my pitiful response: "Sorry, I have a boyfriend."

I cringe even admitting to this offense. Here is what is really going on within this short exchange:

1) I am just a vagina, and a male would only ask for my contact information in this manner if he, in the eloquent words of Borat, was trying to "gain access." He doesn't need a friend, I didn't say something interesting, I am not wearing a t-shirt exclaiming his pet cause. I am a vagina. He knows it, and I know. Had this all began with "It's great to see customers who remember to bring re-usable bags"--then there would be wiggle room. Then I might be a person.

2) My response basically translates to the following: My apologies that you cannot claim me as your woman, for I am already claimed by another man. He owns me, so now I cannot give you my contact information. I can only interact with the man who lays claim on my body, and whomever ever else he approves.

3) I never actually said, implicitly or explicitly, "you disgust me, leave me alone." Instead, I said "I cannot offer my information because I am already claimed"--leaving the window of opportunity, "but if I were not claimed..." I never make that clear. By blaming it on my boyfriend, and not addressing how inappropriate and undesirable he is, I am implanting hope, or entertaining fantasy at the very least. And this is why the story continues.

I have been aware of these factors for quite some time, and consciously tell myself that I will never humor such gendered relations of power. But here I am, stuck in the moment with creeper, and I just took the cheapest, easiest way out.

Aside from my self-deprecation in re-affirming myself as only a vagina, and as subject to the regulation of a man, I also demeaned my boyfriend--who has and would never attempt to control my body, who supports all of my friendships regardless of genitals, and has always treated me as a human being.

Why did I feel so uncomfortable saying the truth: "I am not interested", or "this is unprofessional," or "treat me like a customer"?

Because I absorbed the bitch piece of male privilege. If I don't comply, I am a bitch. And what I should be is a smiley, pretty vagina, putting everyone else's feelings in front of my own.

I will never do that again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

sex hormones and mood stabilizers in drinking water?

Apparently all those pills we are popping are getting pissed out, but not filtered out.

Check out how pharmaceuticals make their way into your tap water.

A Legacy of Torture

A great read from the Washington Post, A Legacy of Torture, follows-up on a NY Times article, "Bush's Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms His Legacy."

Go read it...I just thought this was a particularly striking snippet:

By refusing to impose on the CIA the same anti-torture prohibitions mandated by the Army Field Manual-- prohibitions against such tactics as waterboarding, prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, mock executions, the use of attack dogs, the application of electric shocks and the withholding of food, water and medical care -- Bush cast his lot with the world's torturers and against the global human rights movement that was until recently the centerpiece of American foreign policy.

House Judiciary Committee sues to force Bush aides to testify

Regarding the neglect of congressional subpoenas of two Bush aides following the termination of nine US attorneys:

The House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking to force the White House chief of staff and the former White House counsel to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the firing of a group of federal prosecutors...

At the time of the House vote, the White House said it had tried to cooperate with the committee and provide evidence short of direct testimony. Both the White House and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, Mr. Gonzales’s successor, have said the Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten do not have to testify before the committee because of executive privilege. The Judiciary Committee said the Justice Department had declined to pursue the contempt citations, which led to the filing of the civil lawsuit.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bush Vetoes Bill Banning Torture

Not like we oppose cruel and unusual punishment...

President George W. Bush said Saturday he vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks.

"The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address taped for broadcast Saturday. "So today I vetoed it."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

male privilege, sexism, and invasion of privacy: a grocery-store tale

Oh, the boundless limits of male privilege: I am male, and I deserve access to all women unaccompanied (or "claimed") by other men at all times. Unclaimed women, you are always my business, and you are always available for my pleasure.

I am bothered my two things this evening: a) the encounter I will describe, and b) my reaction.

This all started a few weeks ago while shopping at Trader Joes, and I asked an employee to help me locate balsamic vinegar. I thanked him for his help, and moved along to the next item on my list. A few aisles down and a short time later, that same employee--we'll call him TJ--accosted me; he had clearly been looking for me, spotted me, and zeroed in.

He asked me for my number in some lame way. I declined (although my response deserves a blog in and of itself). Case closed.

So there I was tonight--very much exhausted and irritable after a long day of work and a disaster or two on my mind. And here comes TJ with a lecherous grin on his face.

"You always look so good whenever you come in."

And before I even registered what happened, I automatically smiled as I tilted my head a bit and replied "thank you."

Then I took two steps, realized what happened, was absolutely disgusted and more importantly, very unhappy as a customer.

But there is TJ's sense of male privilege--no amount of professionalism can surmount his sense of entitlement.

And then there is the reply of my inculcated female script: smile and nod. Just take it. You are here to be looked at, and you better like it. And if you don't, you are a bitch.

Is it so absurd that an employee should treat me as a customer, not a play thing? And the automatic compliance on my part is so perverse. I can't help but think of Marilyn Frye: I contribute to my own erasure.

What I should of said is how I feel. This is not professional; treat me like a customer. Is there no privacy for women?

Nope.

Eating Disorders Awareness Helps Mental Health Equity Bill Pass in the House

Press Release from the Eating Disorders Coalition, 03/06/08

Eating disorders were front and center in the debate leading to
yesterday’s passage of mental health parity in the U.S. House of
Representatives. The House passed the parity bill by a vote of
268 to 148.

The House version of a national mental health parity bill
includes broad definitions of mental illness that would include
eating disorders. A Senate bill passed last year offers fewer
protections but is likely to become the final version that
Congress will send for the president’s signature. The Eating
Disorders Coalition has supported both House and Senate versions,
but prefers the House bill.

Yesterday’s action in the House marks the first time in 12 years
that mental health parity has been brought to a vote. House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to schedule a vote, reversing the long-
held opposition of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The EDC
was in the front row during yesterday’s rally at the Capitol.
Speakers included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority
Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Jim Ramstad, Rep. Patrick Kennedy,
former first lady Rosalynn Carter, and David Wellstone. The
audience included singer-songwriter Carole King and U.S. Senate
candidate Al Franken.

Since the beginning of the 110th Congress, the Eating Disorders
Coalition and other mental health advocates have had numerous
opportunities to bring the issue to the attention of
congressional committees. EDC President Kitty Westin testified in
Congress and spoke at a parity rally with Speaker Pelosi in 2007,
recalling the loss of her daughter after the family’s insurance
company denied treatment for Anna Westin’s eating disorder.

EDC Executive Director Marc Lerro says, “We made our points so
often that members of Congress started making our points for us.
In committee meetings, Republicans and Democrats alike described
how parity could affect people with eating disorders.”

David Wellstone, founder of Wellstone Action, campaigned
aggressively for the passage of the House bill. He often cited
eating disorders as an example of mental health conditions that
may not be fully covered under the weaker Senate bill. Wellstone
was critical of the Senate bill and refused to allow the bill to
be named in memory of his father, the late Senator Paul
Wellstone.

Wellstone told National Public Radio’s Julie Rovner, “My dad
always believed that you can’t leave people out. You can’t have
people like Kitty Westin, who was his friend and my friend, who’s
daughter had an eating disorder and went in and was told ‘we have
to figure out if this is a medical necessity.’”

During a national speaking tour in support of parity, members of
Congress in several major cities appeared with speakers who had
first-hand experience with eating disorders. In Washington, D.C.,
the EDC hosted educational briefings and sent mailings that also
kept the issue before policymakers at the Capitol. Last week, the
Coalition hosted a briefing in the House of Representatives
titled “Eating Disorders: From Stigma to Science,” which drew a
capacity bipartisan audience.

Next, negotiations between the House and Senate must close the
gap between the two bills before a final piece of legislation can
be sent to the president. Rep. Kennedy is willing to compromise.
He told NPR, “I’m not an all-or-nothing person. I want something,
and then I can add to it next year, and the year after, and the
year after that. That’s the way Congress works. I’ve watched my
father over the years. I’ve taken lessons.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

challenging the boys' club

I spent my afternoon at a snazzy salon, and was wonderfully reminded of just how much women are challenging traditional power-brokers and avenues of privilege.

As I enjoyed foot exfoliation and a cherry-red polish that could brighten any mood, I began to talk to an older woman across from me whom I would come to learn is a regular, and has been since the 60's.

While she waited for her nails to dry, she told me of her days working in the White House, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, and of her adventures in the State Department--which took her to 40 countries around the world, a few in which she lived (Peru, Brussels, Costa Rica...). While she is formally retired, she now spends her days active in community work.

And then it hit me. This is the "boys' club" for women. Most powerful women, even with minimum levels of culturally sanctioned femininity, have groomed eyebrows and nails (just because they are nude does not mean they are not regularly manicured), sport expensive haircuts, and likely receive various skin and body treatments.

What does this mean? Powerful women with cash to spare and an appearance to maintain are in pricey salons schmoozing in between a cut and blow, after brows and before nails, and during whatever other interim period.

And no, I am not trying to suggest that all powerful, rich women are bleach-blond with long, Barbie-corvette-pink nails--but the truth of the matter is, that graceful brown shade on that woman in her late 40s? It has probably been chemically rejuvenated. For all the intense heat some heads incur from daily blowing/flat-ironing/whatever, that smooth shine is likely the result of extra-curricular conditioning and a gifted scissor. And as mentioned earlier, those short, perfectly rounded and "natural" nails have likely had their cuticles trimmed to say the least. Those thick, gorgeous eyebrows? Please--they've been cleaned.

What I'm saying is that if we as women regulate and alter our bodies to varying degrees on a continuous basis, we must and have begun to seize the opportunity to create networks and garner power among one another. The numbers of successful women are rising--and the more expensive the salon, the better.

Of course, this "women's club" has retained the crucial element of the "boys' club" that, aside from sexism, has preserved it as an elitist social hub--and that is class privilege.

Yes, powerful women may have a viable avenue to meet and mingle with other powerful women, but there are socio-economic dimensions to who is grooming what, how often, and where. And class, my friends, continues to divide women in ways that truly impede the movement.

Monday, March 3, 2008

CA Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage

The trial begins on Tuesday, and a ruling is due within 90 days. This could be very exciting.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

how dairy cows meet their end

The recent beef crisis, recall, and subsequent factory closure has put a spotlight on the plight of cattle in the consumption process--but perhaps most importantly, it is exposing the torture of dairy cows.

Many people, specifically vegetarians, like to pretend consuming animal products is okay, while consuming an animal is cruel. But the truth is, the two are inextricably linked, and dairy cows have it the worst.

Dairy cows can become so over-milked over the years that they undergo calcium depletion and are barely able to stand properly (or at all) on their weak bones.

These cows are bought for slaughter at around 1/10th the price of a healthy cow, and make up 17% of slaughterhouse meat.

Typically, they have often been milked for several years, leaving their bodies without the muscle, fat and calcium of grazing, well-fed beef cattle. Some dairy cows appear emaciated when they are sold to slaughter plants, their hides stretched tight over their hindquarters and ribs.

Dairy cows can also carry some common maladies, including mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder; foot rot, which they can develop from standing for long periods in manure, mud and damp straw; and Johne's (pronounced yo-neez) disease, a wasting illness.

Scientists believe these diseases are not carried into the human food chain, with one possible exception: Health and animal scientists are currently debating whether the traits of Johne's are responsible for Crohn's disease in humans. Crohn's disease is an intestinal disorder that can cause inflammation of the colon, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

another celebrity-inflused Obama video?

Ingrid Newkirk on Colbert

I mean, this is sweet if you are already down with the cause and respect Ingrid--but she couldn't get an effective word in edgewise and I can't quite say this accomplished anything.

Watch it here
.

a tale of transphobia

(The following is a first person account of the last fifteen months of my friend, Alice Johnston’s life, as if she may have told it. The events in this actually happened. – MFH –)

ALICE
by Monica F. Helms

I stared at the television screen in disbelief as one of the World Trade Center buildings crumbled into dust, then the next one. The horror I witnessed would haunt me for the rest of my life and the news estimated that over 3000 people lost their lives that day. What they didn’t say – or know – was how many more lives would become impacted by that fatal day. I would soon find out that I, Alice Johnston, would be one of them.

A few weeks after September 11, 2001, the reality of a less secure world and a devastating disaster hit home for me. My boss told us all that he would have to close the doors and let us all go. Business had dropped to near zero and his small company couldn’t absorb the loss. My roommate also worked there with me.

This news scared both my roommate and me because we’re both pre-operative transsexuals. The prospect of finding a job for many people after 9/11 looked grim at best, but for two transsexuals in Georgia, prospects looked grim even in the best of times. Discrimination runs ramped and is even seen as acceptable by most politicians and employers in the state when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. They would rather have us on the welfare rolls putting a drain on the state’s treasury than to have us as employed, tax-paying citizens. Drawing unemployment was how my roommate and I had to survive over the next several weeks. I have learned over the years that out of the entire human race, transgender people seem to be considered the most disposable in society. And yet, we have a lot to offer if people would only give us a chance to prove it.

Both my roommate and I had marketable skills to offer potential employers. She has training in computer repair and has extensive experience in warehouse management and I am a computer technician and programmer, plus I have a degree in Library Science. On top of that, I’m a decorated Army veteran of two wars. Someone was bound to hire me, or so I thought.

Over the next several months, my roommate and I applied for hundreds of jobs, but as soon as they found out – or guessed – that we were transsexuals, all bets were off. No one would call us back for a second interview. Even when we got that sacred second interview, we would be told things like, “You’re over-qualified,” or, “We’ll call you,” or, “We have other applicants to interview.” What they really wanted to say was, “Get yer sorry faggot ass out of my office!” I would have accepted that much better than their lies and deceit.

The time came when my roommate and I had to move out of our apartment and put our things in storage. We still had some weeks left on our unemployment, so that would help a little. I planned on moving in with a friend and my roommate decided to see if Iowa would provide her better opportunities than Georgia. I love Georgia too much to want to move.

Packing my things was a terrible time for me. I enjoyed my video collection and my music, but I wouldn’t be able to take them to my friend’s house. When my roommate and I finished packing and moving everything into the storage unit, we shut the door and locked it. I had a strange feeling that I would never see my things again. Sadness came over me and I began to cry. People I helped in the past rejected helping me. The transgender community of Georgia turned their backs on me. I lost my job and had no prospects and I would have to rely on the kindness of a person I hadn’t known very long. My roommate and I hugged, then parted ways.

The woman I moved in with had a very interesting profession. She was a Madam at an established bordello in the Atlanta area. One wouldn’t think a bordello could survive in the heart of the Bible Belt. But, since hypocrisy abounds in police departments throughout the South, the concept becomes a bit more plausible. The Madam probably paid protection money to keep her business open.

At first, I survived by doing side computer work for several people and to help keep the bordello’s computer system running. I also helped them maintain their security system and elaborate camera setups. It felt satisfying for a while, but I wasn’t making enough money to get out on my own. Something else needed to be done.

I continued applying for jobs in the computer industry, but they were getting harder to find, even a year after 9/11. The odd jobs I did couldn’t keep me in money, so I began doing something I never thought I would ever do. I started working at the bordello as a hooker. At first, the customers found it intriguing to have sex with a real live transsexual. I didn’t enjoy it, but the money was better than nothing. However, the novelty of having sex with a transsexual soon wore off with the regulars and the men stopped asking for me.

My personal relationships with the Madam also began to deteriorate. I really liked her, but she stopped finding me interesting any longer. One day, after a heated argument, she threw me out of the house. Luckily, another friend took me in and he tried to help me find a job. That never went anywhere. I began feeling helpless and alone. Many of my friends had either stopped calling or turned their backs on me. I heard from my old roommate that she got training as a truck driver and found work with one of the large carriers. She tried to talk me into going into the same business, but I could never picture myself as a truck driver.

Not too long after moving in with my friend, he had to move and I couldn’t stay with him. In December 2002, I realized I would soon become homeless for the first time in my life. The prospect of being homeless frightened me. “Why is this happening to me?” I asked myself. “I didn’t ask to be a transsexual. If I didn’t have a choice then why are people treating me so badly?”

I felt truly alone. No place to go. No friends to turn to. No hope. Only despair. I can do many jobs, but no one will hire me because I’m a transsexual. Where can I turn to?

The last chance I had was to see if a homeless shelter would take me. I began calling around to all the women’s shelters in Atlanta, but I had to be up front with them. Each time I told them that I was a pre-op transsexual they would tell me I wouldn’t be accepted in their facility. I called a few men’s shelters to see what they could tell me and they said they would accept me only if I presented as a man. They wanted me to deny my identity and lie to them and myself before I would be accepted. Even then, I could easily become a victim of rape or violence once they found out I was a transsexual. My options had run out.

My friend gave me access to his computer one last time, so I put an automatic message on my Yahoo E-mail address. The message said, “I will soon become homeless and since homeless shelters won’t take in transsexuals, I’m a goner.”

Where is my family? They have all abandoned me. Where are all my friends? What friends? The transgender community here in Georgia never wanted to help me. I didn’t fit their narrow viewpoint of what a transsexual is supposed to “properly” do to transition. Others who still say they’re my friends are either gone or in a situation no better than mine. Is this what I have left after all the things I’ve been through? Nothing? I was safer in Iraq during Desert Storm. At least I was treated better there.

My car still worked, just barely. I have only one thing to do. Time for a road trip. After driving for 45 minutes I arrived at my destination, the Chattahoochee River. My jacket kept me from freezing. I could hear the water moving and the moonlight reflected off of the ripples. No one else would have dared to be out on a night like this. But, I had a plan.

As I unwrapped the towel, I revealed my one last true friend, my trusty .357 Smith and Wesson. I felt its cold steel and its well-balanced weight in my hands. Out of everything I gave up in the last fifteen months, I could never part with my .357. Now, it has become my last piece of pleasure in my lonely, miserable life.

“Why am I a transsexual?” I screamed. The trees dampened my voice. “Why am I a transsexual?” I whispered. I got no answers. Tears flowed from my eyes as I cocked the hammer. “All I wanted to do was to live my life as me.” My .357 seemed lighter somehow. “I didn’t ask for this life.” I lifted the gun. “I just wanted to live.” I felt the cold steel barrel pressing against my temple. “But, they wouldn’t let me.” My hand shook and I lowered the pistol. “This is what they wanted me to do.” I raised the .357 once more. “They’re getting their wish.” My finger tightened around the trigger. “They got what they wanted.” I pulled my finger back. “They got me . . .”

----------

On December 17, 2002, Alice was found along the Chattahoochee River, a .357 slug had shattered her skull. This happened two years after the City of Atlanta passed a non-discrimination law that covered transgender people and included public accommodations, such as homeless shelters. Not only did homeless shelters break the law and failed to help her, but so did the rest of society.

Alice was my friend and I failed her, too.

hang in there, Dennis

According to the Washington Post, for the first time, Representative Dennis Kucinich is struggling to keep his congressional seat.

City Councilmember Joe Cimperman, Kucinich's main opponent, is using the "he is never around to represent us" tactic to take the 10th congressional district, and even went so far as to post up a "Missing" sign with a mock-mug shot on Dennis' Cleveland office.

"This attempt to paint me as a part-time congressman is just a lie. If anything, I was a part-time presidential candidate," said Kucinich, whose 11 percent absentee-voting rate was the best of any presidential contender.

I understand political strategy, and so the mug-shot stunt works in my book--but I am absolutely appalled by:

Cimperman also showed up at Kucinich's home with local pastries, sausage, Stadium Mustard and a map of Ohio, accusing the lawmaker of abandoning his roots in favor of "eating sushi with Sean Penn."

Hey dumb shit--did your opposition research forget to tell you that Kucinich is a vegan? Sending dead animals and their products to a vegan's home as part of a lame campaign tactic is in poor taste and only makes you look stupid. I love how the Washington Post did not even call that. No love for vegans.

Obviously Dennis is eating rice and vegetables--he does not eat cooked animal flesh or curdled bovine lactation.

back and forth with Clinton and Obama

Hillary pulls the fear card

Obama pulls the judgment/hope card in response

spanking can lead to sexual coercion later in life?

I am adamantly opposed to abusing children and calling it "spanking" or "discipline" or whatever other euphemism one can think of to cop out of actual parenting...but I am not sure what to think of this study:

Men who had experienced corporal punishment were four times more likely to physically coerce a partner into having sex, than those who had not experienced a lot of corporal punishment.

Physical coercion includes holding someone down or hitting them. Women who had experienced corporal punishment were also more likely to coerce sex from a partner than those who had not been spanked.

"People generalize that the use of coercion, physical coercion, is okay. They learn that from people they love and respect - their parents," said Straus, who presented the findings at a summit of the American Psychological Association.

I suppose the logic does follow: neutralizing children to violence promotes acceptance of violence as a tool in general.

apparently, no one has to listen to congressional subpoenas

According to Attorney General Mukasey, there will be no investigation of Bush aides who refused to comply with congressional subpoenas because, in his words, this "did not constitute a crime."

One more reason I heart Obama

Obama will co-sponsor legislation that allows anyone born to a U.S. citizen who is serving overseas as an active or reserve member of the U.S. armed forces to be eligible for the presidency.

This legislation was created specifically for John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal in 1936 for just this reason.

Why I heart Obama? He will make the reasonable and sound choice--not just the choice that works for him. And it only makes Barack look better.

"Senator McCain has earned the right to be his party's nominee, and no loophole should prevent him from competing in this campaign," Obama said.

Yes, and no loophole should prevent him from losing in this campaign.