Category Archives: In Memoriam

Bittersweet Memories

I was doing laundry today and I had to wash my backpack because I had spilled some sweet tea on it.

This is the backpack I have, I love corduroy for some reason. The fact that it’s now listed as “vintage” really helped my melancholy moment of nostalgia I must say. LOL

Suddenly I remembered that I got it when I was in NYC visiting my grandfather. My sister and I were going to pop in for visit for the weekend (and so we could go to the doctor with him to get a straight answer) then he wound up in NYU hospital in Manhattan for a week.

We could only visit 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, and parking for 2 hours was considered all day parking ($26 then, I’m afraid to think of what it is now) so we weren’t driving anywhere because we’d have to pay for it again.  And we’d been out of the city for so long that I didn’t feel comfortable taking the subway.  So to kill the time, since we left NYC when my sister was 4 and she didn’t really remember it, I would take her sightseeing. We’d walk as far as we could and then take a cab back.

I even managed to score tickets for a last-minute production of Lord of the Dance at Radio City Music Hall on St Patrick’s Day!  At the end of the week my sister went home to pack and put in her notice at work and I wound up there for another 4 weeks taking care of him until my sister could get back and move in and my mother and daughter were with her and we had a big party for my grandfather’s birthday.

Photo by Lanre Olusola

It was 1998 not all that long ago, but a lifetime ago. My mother’s gone, my grandfather went after her, then my godfather and almost all of my grandfather’s friends who were at the party…all gone. It’s almost a surreal feeling. Crazy how your brain can pour out so much information over looking at a piece of laundry.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Advertisements

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prose – Original Art by Maggie Valera

I looked it up on Google Maps and the historic Stonewall Inn is just 7.1 miles from my childhood home. On my 3rd birthday in the summer of ’69, after I was well asleep in my bed the grown folks were enjoying a cold drink on a hot summer night, history was about to be changed forever.   A poorly planned police raid would be the catalyst that changed our world, kicking off the visibility of the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

What started as a 1 a.m. raid, grew exponentially as word got out and continued to grow throughout the day.  By the evening, June 28th, 1969 would be remembered forever as the day that Pride day was born and though the Stonewall riot was credited to transwomen Sylvia Rivera and Martha P. Johnson, it was only recognized as a “gay movement” for a very long time.

We thankfully as things have progressed, our Rainbow Tribe has expanded the recognition of who makes up our family and as being inclusive in Pride and the equality movement.  We are LGBTQIA -Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. And while yes, the word queer traditionally has been used only in derogatory connotations, the community has retaken the word for our own purpose as a catchall to make an inclusive reference to the community.

 See:  LGBTQ Terms and Definitions

Trans folks are anyone who doesn’t fully identify with their “assigned gender at birth” based on our visible genitalia. I say visible because many intersex children are born appearing as boys, but will, later on, be found to have female sex organs discovered.  Intersex is an umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

Sadly, many parents opt to have their children surgically altered so that they don’t have to “explain” to others that their son is “different”.  Ironically it’s medically easier to have their son become their daughter, but of course, that leaves that awkward part for parents to explain that their child is beautiful, loved and a blessing.  Thankfully the trend is changing and parents are allowing their child to grow up, without being forcibly mutilated so they can decide how to proceed as they get older.

See:  What Is Intersex?

I identify as genderqueer/genderfluid. Genderqueer is the word describing someone who doesn’t fully identify as a girl/woman or boy/man. While I was born as a member of the female sex because of my plumbing and sex organs, I have never really identified as a girl. I was called a tomboy growing up and that didn’t sit right with me either and I knew I wasn’t a boy.

Genderfluid becomes even a bit more confusing because sometimes I feel very feminine, usually brought out by someone around me that is very masculine, other times I feel more masculine, I carry myself differently, my demeanor is more forward. Other times I’m just me… no discernible gender, just me.

What It Means When You Don’t Identify as a Girl or a Boy

We’ve all heard of people who feel that they are one gender trapped inside a body with the organs of the opposite sex. However, those of us in that gray area in the middle (and we are the majority in the trans community) have a really hard time figuring ourselves out feeling rather ambiguous and undefinable.

Find out more at It Gets Better.org

These are all new words to me, discovered just a few short years ago at the age of 47. This “label” did not confine me, it freed me. It allowed me to understand parts of myself, my identity, that just didn’t fit anywhere. I now know that I am not alone, and I am not different, I have a community of people who deal with the same things I do. Other people, and probably you know as well, finally have a means of identity.

Gender Variance Around the World Over Time

The best way that I have found to describe being transgender is the body is the sex, and the gender is the soul. And while many argue that “God doesn’t make mistakes”, the fact of the matter is that human bodies do. There is no rule that says that babies are born perfect. They are born with disease, deformities, and various other medical anomalies. That is the human body, it is ruled by science… the science of the genetics passed on to them, the science of their given environment during gestation, etc.

I’m sure that you have seen or met someone with physical issues from birth that leave a child handicapped in one way or another, but that child’s soul is intact. In their head, in their heart, in their smile and personality, you know they are an incredible person, regardless of their issues, or sometimes even in spite of their issue. This is no different.

We’ve all seen variations of the Freaky Friday movies.. It’s always mother and daughter, father and son, and in a favorite of mine starting George Burns, grandfather and grandson. It’s all good for a laugh, when they see their body as different and scream in the mirror, even when Tom Hanks was BIG!   A transgender person sees themselves in the mirror or in the shower the same way, as something very shocking that upsets them greatly, as something possibly deformed and very wrong… like waking up in the wrong body.  An image in the mirror or the shower, that does not match what their perception of how they feel they look.   This is where transgender folks struggle all the time, detesting and disgusted with their physical appearance that no diet or exercise can change.

Learn more about Gender Dysphoria

Hell, think of the kid in A Christmas Story, (“you’ll shoot your eye out!”) when he had to try on that humiliating bunny suit. An odd comparison I know, but surely one we all can identify with, having some moment in our past where we’ve been under the spotlight and bubbling over with anxiety, and feeling uncomfortably self-conscious. Now imagine what it would feel like to be born feeling that way about your body and appearance, without people getting to see or know you for who you are instead of how you look.

And when you try to shed some of those layers, to break free of the prison that confined and tortured you, then you deal with people spewing hate, vitriol, and even violence because you had the audacity to show your true self to them. And not just strangers and acquaintances, people who have been close friends, family members, living in a situation of constant bullying. People who should be supportive and mentoring turn into tormentors.  Parents should never be their child’s first bully, and should not emotional abuse or abandon their child. EVER.

The trans community has a 42% suicide rate, the numbers for self harm are staggering and transgender TEENS make up the make up a lion’s share of this country’s homeless population, left in abject poverty, drugs and both physical and sexual abuse.

It’s time to stop this. You can make a difference. Citizens shouldn’t just be celebrating pride of self and community for only one month a year, and they shouldn’t have to shed any signs of that celebration before traveling home to keep them from deal with harassment, assault, and possibly lose their life.

This country is supposed to be where “all men are created equal”, The Great Melting Pot, yet trans women are beaten and killed every day. We are Americans, we are one and we should all be recognizing that all citizens have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, not just in the area of marriage equality, but in employment, housing, and just being living from day to day. We’re worried from day to day about what can happen to us from outside forces, so we need to band together and not target our own citizens.

Trans Lifeline   US: (877) 565-8860                       Canada: (877) 330-6366

The Trans Lifeline, they are a 24/7 hotline for transgender people in crisis, along with just learning more about about transgender people and related political issues.  And by all means check out some of the other top organizations that work tirelessly to support the queer community.  Consider a donation, a purchase or volunteering in your area!

10 Amazing LGBT Organizations 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and show you care.  Just learning more about the topic enables you to be a strong ally for friends, family and coworkers who are LGBTQIA.  I encourage you to share this with others.   No one can have too many friends or allies.

And to my family members of the LGBTQIA Rainbow Tribe, I love you and we’re going to do this, together.  Let me hear your voices below!

Namaste ~ Maggie ॐ

Before Pride: 13 People Talk About Being LGBTQ In The 1960s

Why are you whispering? Check Them Before You Wreck Them!!

It’s that time of year again, and by that I mean it’s the time for slacktivism in the name of breast cancer. While the games haven’t surfaced (yet), There’s a different one currently going on.  I woke up to see a notification on messenger from my friend’s daughter that said the following:

She sent the words, I made the graphic.

As per my usual stance I had to tell her no because these things make me angry, but assured her that I would get a reminder out.  If you’re new to following me, I must explain that I get really angry with the slactivism.  You see both of my parents died of cancer.  My father died of a mesothelioma (the ones that the attorney’s advertise) and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer just 6 months later.

She went through months of medication and radiation, constantly in pain from the literal burns to her skin.  6-1/2 years later, and after yet another clean bill of health from her bi-annual checkups from her breast oncologist, we went on the vacation she’d always dreamed of to Alaska. She had fallen getting in and out the boat she boarded to go salmon fishing.  She caught a nice one too, over 2 feet long!


When we got home her shoulder suddenly started getting worse instead of better.  That’s when  they found a spot on her liver.  They did further testing and revealed that a tumor was in her liver and not on it as it appeared initially and was progressing pretty rapidly.   With the confirmation they gave her 4-6 months to live, but she died one month later when the tumor had grown so large that it literally caused her liver to rupture/explode.


Oddly enough her death certificate lists the cause of death, not as liver cancer, but as metastasized breast cancer, meaning that breast cancer returned has spread.  When I questioned this I was informed that any time someone has breast cancer and then dies of cancer, regardless of what type, the death certificate will always list it as metastasized breast cancer.  I always wonder how much the numbers are skewed by that policy since breast cancer is touted to be the biggest cancer risk to women.


Now for those who haven’t been around someone with cancer, there are several forms of treatment, chemo and radiation being to the two biggest.  Radiation therapy causes a burn to the skin that’s like the worst sunburn you’ve ever had. It was brutal, and it hurt her so bad, just putting a t-shirt on was painful and putting on a bra and going to work, much less going to work all day.  Think about working with the worst sunburn you’ve ever had and then multiply it several times.  It can also cause other issues like lumps under the skin (doesn’t that sound like it would be pleasant to add to already wonderful situation.

Chemotherapy is another type of radiation therapy but instead of being topical (directed to the skin from outside the body) it is invasive, meaning taken internally.  And because it’s an invasive therapy, it means that it can have side effects anywhere in the body instead of it remaining in the area targeted like radiation therapy does.  There’s too long of a list for me to cover all the side effects of chemotherapy;  if you’d like to see them and learn more please visit the National Cancer Institute’s Chemotherapy Side Effects series, there are 18 documents in total.

Educating yourself and others is what needs to be done to finally win this battle.  Cancer has claimed *BILLIONS* of lives.  There is nothing to whisper about behind the scenes. Preventing cancer is not in poor taste, it’s not obscene.  For the record not only do men have wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters and daughters who have, have had or possibly will have this and they need to know about this too, men can also get breast cancer.  Tell me the last time you saw a game of tag about that?

So speak up and speak out.  Stop whispering and playing online games, and thinking you’re off the hook because you bought something with a pink ribbon on it in the past 20 years.  We need to save the people, not the tatas.  So please, check them before cancer wrecks them.  If you’re a woman who is sexually active, consider doing it with your partner since chances are they are more intimate with your boobs than you are (or at least they try to be).  The Five Steps of a Breast Cancer Exam

So remember…

 

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

 

P.S.  While we’re talking about it, guys need to be reminded too.

 

 

No More Invisible Children!

It is with a heavy heart that I offer Safe Passage to 17 year old Skylar Lee, of Madison, WI, who took his own life on this day ~ September 28, 2015.    An active and powerful rising voice in the LGBTQ community, his light will be dearly missed. ~ Adam Lodestone

These words were spoken just yesterday, this time for Skylar Lee, the latest casualty in the silent war on the Transgender citizens of this country.  Trans* people are killed everyday from hatred, disgust, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, violence, bullying, and abuse, by complete strangers or by their own hands.

Transgender youth aren’t just under served, they are virtually invisible on the American media landscape.  There are no ice bucket challenges, no buying a cute little cutout at the grocery or gas station, no races to keep these kids off the streets when families turn their backs and send them out into the world unprepared with nowhere to go and no clue how to survive.

According to a research report issued by UCLA’s Williams Institute, based on the results from the respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS).  The survey was conducted in a joint effort of the National Gay and Lesbian Task force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.  The findings are both staggering and heartbreaking.

Respondents who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization, or violence had elevated prevalence of suicide attempts, such as those who experienced the following:

  • Family chose not to speak/spend time with them: 57%
  • Discrimination, victimization, or violence at school, at work, and when accessing health care
    • Harassed or bullied at school (any level): 50-54%
    • Experienced discrimination or harassment at work: 50-59%
    • Doctor or health care provider refused to treat them: 60%  
  • Suffered physical or sexual violence:
    • At work: 64-65%
    • At school (any level): 63-78%
  • Discrimination, victimization, or violence by law enforcement
    • Disrespected or harassed by law enforcement officers: 57-61% 
    • Suffered physical or sexual violence: By law enforcement officers: 60-70%
  • Experienced homelessness: 69%

Family Transcends is a fledgling nonprofit organization that is being built from the ashes of these staggering statistics of losses of life.  Its senior staff have a set, sole focus to creating sibling-style mentoring partnerships, much like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, specifically aimed at at-risk transgender youth;  understanding their unique and additional need for understanding, which greatly surpasses that of the average youth.  With the intent of saving lives, Family Transcends mentoring and support structure , will be able to immediately impact the current suicide rates. Transgender suicide in this country accounts for over 45% of national deaths while the national average is less than 5%.

For those following me for a while, you’ll notice several changes with my blog.  Starting with the name but especially the content. The things that are dear to my heart that I am passionate about are what I prefer to write as they are labors of love not tasks or obligations.  I am both pleased and proud to announce that I am a contributing writer for their blog site Family Transcends News where this piece will be shared, along with volunteering in other ways to help get their program up and running.

 

Skylar Lee
The photo is from a post dated September 17th, 2015 on the FB page for GSAFE: “Skylar Lee, an influential youth leader at GSAFE has made national news. Skylar addresses why Racial justice and LGBTQ justice need to be apart of the same conversation to truly be successful.”

In his own words from the Power In Partnerships publication:

WE CANNOT SEPARATE THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN RACIAL
JUSTICE AND LGBTQ JUSTICE when our oppression and liberation are interconnected with one another. Our identities are intersectional simply because we exist; to say that they are separate enforces White supremacy, creating a culture where it is acceptable for queer and trans POC to be invisible and pushed out of society. We must understand intersectionality to truly be a united force in the fight to dismantle these systems of oppression.

Being East-Asian, specifically Korean, with light skin, able-bodied, and being born a citizen of the U.S., I experience a huge privilege within our education system. I understand that if I was not queer and trans, I would not have been impacted by the pipeline. I also understand that I have still not been as severely impacted by the pipeline as those whom I share community with.

In my activism in racial justice and queer justice, I work with queer youth of color every day who have experienced push out or are actively being pushed out of school. The direct and indirect ways the School-to-Prison Pipeline have impacted me gives me greater awareness to the urgency of creating programs to combat the pipeline.

It is not justice if we leave behind members of our communities. It is not justice if we ignore the interconnected oppression of those we share community with. It is compliance to the systems that tell us we must fight against each other to uplift our own identity. To dismantle systems of oppression, we must be more creative than our oppressors. We are all socialized to protect these systems, a thought pattern we must actively fight against every moment. One cannot dismantle a system by working within it; rather, one must break outside the limitations of the system itself.

To begin the journey to unification, we must actively and loudly address our own privilege, power, and prejudice. No one can do this perfectly, including myself. We make mistakes, and it is never easy. However, we must never shy away from talking about intersectionality in our activism, for that is exactly what the systems have socialized us all to do. If we do not actively have these hard conversations around racial and queer identities, they will never be addressed nor recognized, and the systems will only maintain their power. I challenge everyone to start their own journey to self-awareness and actively participate in these conversations revolving around racial justice and queer justice.
~ Skylar Lee

This country has lost too many people to the hands of inflicted sorrow, anguish and torture.  These victims are our kids.

I will not feel remorse for expressing my own personal commentary that if you can turn your child away for the way he was born due to your own genetics, you shouldn’t have been a parent in the first place;  You are an unfit parent and I pity any remaining children in the home.

Demand that this news is news, that we recognize it for the national epidemic that it is and work our hardest to eradicate these staggering statistics.  If you are interested in donating time, talent or funds to Family Transcends to help get them up and running, please click on the link here, or connect with another organization locally or nationally; all of whom would be grateful for your caring just as much as your efforts.  We can handle this problem, but we need to be aware of it and we need to want to.  Please help to keep another Skylar Lee or Leelah Alcorn from becoming an invisible statistic.