Transgendered and Military Service … Apples and Oranges?

When it comes to the issue of transgendered individuals serving in the military there appears to be a serious abundance of ignorance to go around … on both sides. And it all stems from the simple truth that both sides of the argument are clouded by a lot of emotion.

Let’s look at it from the military point of view.

I can do that with a certain amount of experience. I am surrounded by former military; The Blue Magnet is former Air Force; Her oldest son is former Marine corps; Her youngest son and his wife are former Army. One of her brothers is former Army and one is former Airforce.

My youngest son is military through and through. A West Point graduate, he was a Ranger Lieutenant in the Balkans and Captain in Special Operations in Iraq. He is honest with me when he says that he frankly doesn’t understand the set of emotions that have driven me most of my life. And, why should he? His emotional make up matches his physical body. It took me years to understand why normal people didn’t accept that my gender identity didn’t match my body. Understanding why another person isn’t like you is fairly easy when it involves just about anything but gender identity. And therein lies the problem.

The military for all the grand notions we have of bravery and honor has just one function … kill or be killed in defense of that which you hold dear. It’s the “be killed” part that drives the decisions of most military members. The driving mindset in our military is defend by conquest. In the minds of most military personel that leaves no room for experimentation with the way emotions affect the outcome of armed conflict.

I ask you, the reader, if you were facing a real live enemy bent on killing you without a trace of mercy in their eyes, wouldn’t you want the person next to you, backing you up, to have a set of emotions that matched the male gender identity 100%? I would. Pay close attention to the word gender and its meaning. I didn’t say sex. Sex is a physical issue that determines whether you can carry a child and give birth and physically nurture that child or plant the seed that creates the child. Gender identity is who a person senses themselves to be emotionally. Sadly, it has become synonymous with the term sex.

So, in an effort to get the proper perspective I posed the question of transgendered military service to my “family”. The Blue Magnet and my youngest son feel that as long as a person, any person, can meet the standards set for men to meet then they should be allowed to serve. I tend to agree.

The Blue Magnet’s youngest son, a friend who was also former army and was there at the time, as well as her daughter in law, feel that there is no place in the military at all for transgendered individuals and even extended that to the gay and lesbian community as well.

The greatest hurdle the trans community has to clear on a daily basis is “other acceptance”. In other words, acceptance by the other people, the normal people that they come in contact with every day, and that includes family members as often as not. That is a hurdle that exists everywhere but without personally experiencing it, I can assume that the highest hurdle is the one posed by the requirements of military service. However, even if that hurdle did not exist there is one that I don’t think the trans community realistically addresses. It’s this; just as in the “normal” world there is a difference between male and female only in this case it’s a difference in MtF (male to female) and FtM (female to male). Those differences are markedly different.

For instance, I know FtMs who are as physically fit as any ideal male military specimen. The male hormones they take make that physical transition very possible. On the other hand, and in this I speak from personal experience, MtFs tend to lose muscle mass and their features become very feminine in time. I’m not suited for military service and never would have been if I had transitioned at an age suited for military service.

The argument for trans inclusion in the military is based in notion that we shouldn’t be excluded just because our gender identity doesn’t match our bodies; we should have the same opportunities to serve as normal people. My question, and the question many others ask is, where does that stop? Where is the dividing line? Do we then let paraplegics join the military and serve in combat units? That is not a stupid question? It’s a question meant to highlight the fact that a line has to be drawn somewhere.

When I began this piece, I was of the opinion shared by my son and The Blue Magnet; “If they can meet the same standards that are required of normal everyday men then they should be allowed to serve.” However, that was before I ran into the vehement opposition of other family members as well as some other former military acquaintances. The opinion that I hold now is somewhat modified by some thought projection.

Let’s face it, it takes a certain unique mindset to place yourself in a position of possibly having to lay your life on the line for your country. Part of that mindset is a love of the regimented lifestyle. But a big part, possibly the biggest part, of what drives the military mind is the rush of encountering and overcoming impending danger and we should all be thankful that there are those people to whom that way of life appeals.  They are the ones that give us the freedom to voice our opinions, express what we think in spite of what others may think.

To sum it all up, I don’t particularly like the fact that I was born with a gender identity that doesn’t match my body because it has made some big parts of my life far more difficult that they would have been otherwise. But, facts are facts. I am who and what I am. Society doesn’t owe me a damn thing. Society doesn’t owe the transgendered world, of which I am a part a damn thing. Quite the opposite. As members of society it is we who owe a debt. We owe a debt of gratitude for being able to live our lives as we see fit in almost every part of society. The chip, that many of us carry around on our shoulders, just daring someone to knock it off, makes us targets for society not part of it.

That society is protected by our military and if our military feels that it can better protect us when it doesn’t have to serve as a petri dish for social experimentation then it should definitely not serve as a petri dish for social experimentation. I believe that those who have been serving should be allowed to serve out their current commitments, and to re-commit as long as their gender identity issues do not interfere with the mission. But, to open up the military to further experimentation will only lead to degradation of the military. It’s a tough line to draw but it’s a necessary line in my view.

Our community needs to learn that if we are to ever become acceptable to our society as a whole, and treated as normal people, then we have to act like normal people and not make every single issue one that demands special treatment. Normal people don’t get special treatment. Normal soldiers, sailors and airmen don’t get special treatment.

The 4th of July and what it means to me

Yes, it’s the 4th! The 4th of July! July 4th! July the 4th! Independence Day! For me it’s a day filled with memories and meanings. Great events have unfolded for me on July 4th. My most joyous and happiest 4th was the 4th of July 1952. I wrote about it in “Dear Mom and Dad.” That was the day that my old gray mare Ginger, presented me with a colt which I subsequently named Skyrocket. I think that from that day on I always expected great things to occur on July 4th. There were times when that did indeed happen.

In the early ‘50s do-gooders hadn’t yet stolen much of the excitement of American childhood by banning the stuff of a real 4th of July like real firecrackers, M-80’s, bottle rockets and the like. Of course that was supposed to protect the children, right? No, that was to absolve inattentive parents from the exercise of prudent judgement. But before that came to pass, there were battles along the shores of Kiddy Lake which involved small battlements of dirt and sand on which bottle necked bear cans were propped up. Then with the added assistance of small rocks and firecrackers those beer cans were converted to cannons. The battles would rage on for a couple of hours a day until that year’s supply of firecrackers was spent. From there we would move on to the latest model of sling shots or pea shooters.

The second greatest 4th of July event would of course happen 12 years later when I stopped for a midnight hamburger at the “Frostop” drive-in where I met the woman who would become the mother of my first 2 children. Although that memory does recall moments of joy it also recalls moments of hurt, betrayal and sadness.

Sadly, though the memories of 4ths of years past remain in vivid recall details, the meaning seems to have faded; not for me but for entirely too many of my fellow citizens. Without fail, there will be people like Jesse Watters of FOX news, interviewing what I can only classify as moronic products of an education system which has degenerated into a politically correct, though historically and educationally impotent production line which is aimed at determining time spent at a given level of education rather than lessons learned at a given level of education.

The question you might well be asking yourself is, why am I talking politics and education instead of gender identity issues? That’s a fair and reasonable question, especially on the subject of the 4th of July. I must admit that I think that answer should be fairly obvious. The independence declared on this date two hundred-forty years ago was a declaration of belief in the right of self-determination. Nowhere is the right of God given self-determination more infringed upon than the right of people like me, to determine to live lives that are congruent with our emotional and mental makeup as opposed to a life that is congruent with society’s norms based on the combination of 2 chromosomes.

Those 2 chromosomes are necessary for one simple reason … procreation. That’s it. They are not a determining factor in political outlook, who you love, where you live and who you associate with … and at the time the founding fathers stepped up to the plate and signed, what in many cases was the equivalent of their own death warrants, no one even knew how our anatomies would be determined. Furthermore, I don’t think they even cared. They simply wanted the freedom to determine the course of their own lives and the course of the lives of generations to follow.

The next question that’s asked of me is why would I choose to align myself with a political opinion which, on the surface is the very antithesis of the decision I’ve made about how to live my life? Another good question. The answer is just as good.

I’m not aligning myself with personalities. I’m aligning myself with a set of principles. It’s personalities not principles which condemn my choices. The principles of self-determination and personal freedom don’t give a damn what’s under my skirt. The principles of self-determination and freedom dictate that I make a careful examination of who in the government, established as a result of the declaration of July 4th, 1776 is going to best defend my right to self-determination and freedom.

It’s been my experience that while a certain segment of our political spectrum relies on a few biblical verses to restrict my freedoms, the other end of that spectrum demands laws which purport to defending me, i.e. hate crimes bills which are totally unnecessary if existing laws would just be enforced. In general, with each and every law passed another of the freedoms envisioned by the founding fathers all those years ago is eroded just a little bit further. And with each of those laws passed under the guise of helping the less fortunate, the people who are willing to work to achieve the results alluded to in “the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, another chunk of our freedoms is taken away.

For me … what I fear is that the same freedom eroding efforts of the people we elect to protect those freedoms; those efforts will eventually be turned against my community when our votes are no longer needed. Those same people who seem to not care what goes on in my bedroom want total control over everything that goes on in my life the minute I step out of my bedroom to, oh say to buy firecrackers, bottle rockets and M-80s. That is not what our founding fathers had in mind … at all.

What the 4th of July has come to represent for me is a time to re-commit to the principles which allow me the freedom to be … me.

One is Silver, the Other is Gold (re-visited)

I have been posting about friends recently. No particular reason that I can point to really. It’s just that friends have been on my mind a lot recently. Is it a natural progression because I am now ankle deep in my seventies? I assume that has something to do with it, but there’s more.

People who live relatively normal lives because they are born with bodies that match their gender identity are fortunate. They generally don’t know the feeling of rejection by the people in their lives due to something beyond their control. Before you go off on a rant about having control over the issue, bear this in mind; we all have control over our actions but control over emotions is a different matter. Emotions have a life of their own, and those are what cause the most grief in the life of anyone who is born with a body that doesn’t match their emotional set.

When I finally came face to face with that unorthodox set of emotions, I also came face to face with friends, and family too, who couldn’t see beyond the appearance to the spirit behind the screen. I soon found myself faced with a sorting process. Sorting out the relationships, both new and old became a painful exercise.

I have old friends that I’ve known, literally all my life. Jeanie and I were born in the same hospital room in the Texas Panhandle in 1944. Roger I’ve known since I was 4 years old. Vince and Connie since I was 9. Denny and Candy since high school. These friends are people who have stuck with me through all the chaos of redefining my person.

Family on the other hand is an entirely different story. A sad story but true. The closer the relationship, it seems, the more difficult the process of coming to grips with who I have revealed myself to be. The 2 oldest children haven’t spoken to me since the publication of Dear Mom and Dad; each for their own reasons; misguided as I deem those reasons to be. One first cousin is understanding and accepting the other 2 have pretty much disapproved. My only brother and only sister have more or less, followed the lead of the 2 disapproving cousins. Again, each for their own reasons. So, what am I left with?

Friends! At the close of my last blog I quoted a little ditty that we used to sing at camp. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver the other gold.” If I could convert all the silver and gold I have in friendships to hard currency I could retire and live comfortably for the rest of my life. The older I get the more precious that currency becomes, and it is never more evident than when I lose one of those gold coins like I did earlier this week.

I spoke of Daryll in a Facebook entry earlier this week. Tuesday morning, last week I awoke and reached for my phone, still pretty much in a stupor, to check the time. I inadvertently dialed his number. When I realized what I’d done I immediately canceled the call. Within a minute he called me back.

We hadn’t spoken in months. I hadn’t bugged him because I assumed he was getting on with life and building his fabricating business. Over the course of our 10-year friendship, Daryll had bailed me out of trouble, mostly vehicle trouble any number of times, always coming to my rescue with a tow or a battery or tires. He even set up an online parts business for me to run at one point.

We talked for the better part of a half hour and through the conversation I learned that his health wasn’t the best; that the Arizona heat was beginning to wear him down. He talked about closing up shop here and moving to Boise Idaho next year. But, I didn’t realize how bad his condition was until first thing in the morning, the day before yesterday, when once again my phone rang and it was his name on the caller id. But it wasn’t him. It was his wife.

“Georgia, it’s Vonda. Daryll passed away on Sunday. I need your help.”

It was like a bugler blowing reveille 6 inches from my ear. Death or the reality of impending death never comes gently to any door. That is a hard reality for anyone, especially for me to face. Up to the time Marilyn died, I had never, not one single time, lost anyone close to me. Daryll was not what I would classify as close, though we shared things that few understand. But he was a solid 24 carat gold friend and his death has shaken me to the core.

His death has brought home to me the very fragile nature of life and how easily it can be shattered. It’s only been a few weeks since a member of our church family suddenly and unexplainably lost her 12-year-old son. He just became ill and died one day.

These circumstances always remind us of that fact, but how often do we awake each morning and treat everyone in our sphere with the tenderness that we would if we knew that would be the last time we would ever be together? From my own experience, I would surmise that the answer to that question would be … never. But it should be “every time” shouldn’t it?

Who is sitting next to you right this minute, on the phone with you, right this minute, that you have given the slightest thought to the possibility that it might be the very last time? Would you be saying, thinking, feeling what you are at this moment if you knew it was the last moment?

At this point in history, the radio and television ads for precious metals and the importance possessing them are as numerous as the ads for beer, maybe more numerous. So how about the next time you see or hear one of those ads, why don’t you give some thought to the silver and gold people in your life and what you need to do to make sure they know that they are safe in your heart? And, never take their presence for granted.

The Waste of Anger

I never cease to be amazed at the attitude of so many people in the trans-gendered community when it comes the issue of acceptance. Sure, there are people out there who are narrow minded bigots, but in my experience most people are at least mildly curious enough to want to find out more about why we are the way we are and how we view our place in the world.

For more than fifteen years now I have been speaking to college classes from undergraduate level to master’s level and in all that time I have never been greeted by anything resembling hostility. On a few occasions, I have been warned in advance that certain individuals may prove to be hostile, but even those occurrences have been more of a challenge to meet than anything to dread.

I will never forget the lesson I learned inadvertently the first time I dared step out in the normal world … alone. It was six months after the passing of my wife Marilyn and I was already itching to get out and away from the trans venues that I’d become used to attending. They were okay, but they were not the normal life I so desperately wanted to be a part of.  I wrote in DM&D about the conclusion I reached concerning my first solo adventure into the real world and the sense of joy I felt when I realized that I was greeted with smiles or just plain apathy.

And that is the key to a happy life … a normal life as a transgendered individual; especially a transgendered woman. Smile!

In the intervening years, I have never had anything approaching hostility from even the most narrow-minded persons … as long as I have a smile on my face.

So why can’t that simple fact be appreciated and adopted as a normal way of life for so many of our community?

I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject. The first thought that comes to mind involves “anger.”  If there is a predominately common expression among the trans community it is “anger.” On the rare occasions that I attend gatherings of mostly transgendered individuals the atmosphere is overwhelmingly affected by an undercurrent of anger. So, what are they angry about?

The answer to that question lies in the word acceptance; self-acceptance and other-acceptance. Why is self-acceptance one of those answers? It’s probably the primary answer because without self-acceptance other-acceptance is virtually impossible. As long as the opinions of other people color our opinions of ourselves we can never be happy regardless of our gender identity. We just have a higher hurdle to clear than other people.

Among the transgendered community, Christian faith is not what one would call a normal state of belief. In my opinion, much of our community is mad at God for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that they were born with a set of emotions that don’t match their bodies. Why would He do that? I can’t begin to tally the number of times that I asked that same question over the years. The answer was slow in coming. When it did, it was so simple I couldn’t help but wonder why it took me so long to arrive at it. It was a matter of choice.

We all feel as though we must make a choice; neither of those choices appears to be acceptable to us … at least it did not appear acceptable to me.

On the one hand, it seemed as though I had to live unhappily in the physical gender of my birth or unhappily in the gender of my emotional mind set. Living in the gender identity of my physical birth meant a visible denial of what was a very real set of emotions lying just under the surface of what the world saw.

Making a decision to live my life in concurrence with my emotions meant saying to my children that I, Georgia, was to all intents and purposes, killing their father and that he would cease to exist. That, I simply could not bring myself to accept as a viable solution. The answer came in response to one of those heart felt, emotional prayers uttered in desperation. Again, it was a simple solution. The only choice I had to make was one of who I appeared to the world as, and not one of who I was emotionally.

In other words, if Georgia had existed behind the physical façade of George why couldn’t he exist behind the physical façade of Georgia. The emotions were consistent and would not change regardless of what I appeared to the world as. If I chose to appear to the world as a female named Georgia the only emotional change would be a lack of internal turmoil. But that would only work if I whole heartedly accepted the fact that if God had made me a happier person when my visible expression was female then that was the way I should live.

I am happy today because I accepted and embraced the way God made me. Sure, it would be nice if society accepted the decision I made but I don’t wake up in the morning and see society in the mirror … I see Georgia. I am not a figment. I am real. I accept self.

To summarize … being angry at society because life for me is not in line with society norms is a total and complete waste of energy and time. God did not intend for me to be miserable. He intended for me to be happy but to be happy means to totally surrender to His will for me. When I did that, His will filled my soul to a point where there was no room for anger.

Living in anger because I’ve accepted some things that I’ve felt I had to accept is an unhappy existence and I refuse to spend a single moment in that condition. I want the unhappiness I’ve experienced to be in the past. Living in anger because I feel cheated by God or nature or society is a sure source of misery. If you are reading this and think that I am just plain oblivious to the realities around me then I will offer the real source of my happiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

This has been my truth. If a person is unhappy with their life, for whatever reason, think about it. What do you have to lose? I am the way I am because that’s the way God made me so happiness has come to me because I embraced His wisdom and grace not the opinions of others.

The Counterfeit Coins of Politics

As much as I would love to have something else on my mind of late, it’s just been damned hard to avoid political opinion. I would love to say political discussions but what’s been going on for the last few months bears little resemblance to the definition of discussion or discourse. It has been nothing like the dictionary definition of those two words. Quite the contrary.

The term “freedom of speech” has become the target of a vicious and narrow minded segment of our society. That segment, however small, is of the mindset that it’s only their speech and actions that are protected by the first amendment to our constitution. Anyone who disagrees with them seems to have somehow forfeited their right to speak their minds and share their thoughts and philosophies. That notion has become so ingrained, that even otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people are mysteriously tolerant of the violence and viciousness.

I’ve seen viciousness in my life and I’ve even been the target of it. I accept that, like evil, viciousness will always exist in any population. The key question is this: Why has it become so acceptable to such a large portion of the population? Narrowmindedness used to be used to describe politically conservativeness. To my way of thinking the term can and should be applied to anyone who refuses to consider any point of view other than their own. People who, for instance, used to refuse to consider the compelling nature of sexual orientation apart from the societal norm of heterosexuality, were considered narrow minded … and they were.

The question then arises, aren’t those violent persons who attack anyone with a conservative political point of view in an effort to silence them, also refusing to consider any other point of view other than their own? Narrow minded? Absolutely!

Consider this also; There have been instances where members of the LGBT community have been physically assaulted and even murdered, but let’s get real here; they have generally been cases of a small handful of hateful bigoted individuals targeting a single individual. But, not since the 1960s has there been such hateful action taken by so many people against so many people. The difference here, of course is that the shoe is on the other foot … the so-called open minded peacenics of the past have now morphed into a violent hate filled mob … and people like our past president Obama have stood silently by. When they did speak to the issue it has always apologetically and in a voice so soft that it couldn’t be heard. That failure to speak out against the violence with the same vigor as that directed at conservatives is, in itself, a tacit approval of the violence.

In a couple of past posts I have highlighted my reasons for why I think it’s a monumental mistake for the LGBT community to blindly follow the democrat party line. (July 11, 2016 “Dirty Diapers … Oh poor me. Ain’t it awful.”) and (July 16, 2016 “I agree … To disagree!”) In addition I posted video on YouTube titled This Tranny’s for Trump” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVfFPqVrGgA) Text for that post is at this web site dated October 7, 2016.

My sentiments and reasons are given further credence by the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, Gregory T Angelo in an April 4, Los Angeles Times op-ed piece titled “Without Republican Support, much of the recent progress on LGBTQ rights would have been impossible.” (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-lgbt-republicans-support-20170405-story.html) In that article Angelo makes the important point that when the democrat party held the White House and both houses of congress they did practically nothing to advance or support the LGBTQ cause.

Another point to be made is this: Historically the democrat party has been the party of segregation and restricted rights for the African American community. If it hadn’t been for the Republican party, the civil rights movement and subsequent “Civil Rights Acts” would have never passed due the number of democrats who voted against it. Here’s the breakdown for the 1964 Civil Rights Act: only 63% of democrats in the house and 65% of democrats in the senate voted for the act. Compare that to 80% of Republicans in the house and 83% of Republicans in the Senate who voted for the act. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was pretty much the same break down for Republicans but the democrat party still wasn’t along for the ride. Only 61% of house democrats voted for it and barely two thirds of the democrat senators voted for it.  A truly sad statement of fact if you ask me.

I think a comparison to the fictional “Highlander” films where in sword wielding Scots from the past magically exist in the present, is a quite appropriate comparison to the democrat party of today. Has much changed for the majority of the black community in the last 50 years? No. Why not? Because the party that has been in the majority for most of that time has put in place programs designed to “feed them a fish each day instead of really teaching them to fish for themselves.” That has guaranteed the democrats votes in perpetuity.

The willing accomplices in the press have played along, billing the Republicans as the villains who want to keep them in chains. Former Vice President Joe Biden stated that specifically in a campaign speech a few years ago. The same could be said for the democrat party attitude toward the LGBTQ community … just give us enough support to keep our community voting for them but never really doing anything concrete.

The bottom line for me is this … The democrats play directly to emotions. It’s their coin in trade. Republicans play to practicality and common sense. I will take that coin to the bank any day thank you.

Before The Blue Magnet

All the emotions aside, The Blue Magnet, our feelings for one another and the way our lives are being played out at this time has brought about changes. There are changes in the way my daily life is lived; changes in the way I budget my time; changes in the way I view the future; changes in the way we communicate. In other words, nothing is the same.

BTBM (Before The Blue Magnet) I really didn’t care much about what hours I was assigned at work as long as I could work Sunday afternoons after church. For the last 16 years I have hated Sunday afternoons … alone Now I work a straight 8:00am to 5:00pm shift, Tuesday through Saturday. I work those hours and days because I requested the change and  the management at Home Depot 469 granted the request.

BTBM I ate a hasty lunch in the lunch room and then spent the remainder of my lunch hour napping in my car. Now I dash out the door, head for my car and make a beeline for The Blue Magnet’s condo just 8 minutes away. I dash up the stairs, open the door, grab the leash, a couple of baggies, then out the door, down the stairs with Bella the dog for a not so quick stroll to let her relieve herself. Then it’s back up the stairs, for a short nap before grabbing the lunch I haven’t eaten and back to work.

BTBM I didn’t worry too much about the clock at work. I worked until I had accomplished what I felt I needed to have accomplished by the end of the day. Now, I work with one eye on the clock, impatient to get back to the condo where I will find The Blue Magnet studying and as often as not Bella waiting to go for another stroll; this time not so quick. Then most evenings during the week I head for home sometime between 8:00 and 8:30.

BTBM my television was always on and generally tuned to FOX News. Now it’s still on most of the time, but it’s usually on Phoenix Channel 3. The Blue Magnet doesn’t have cable or satellite while she is in school so that’s what she likes to watch even when she’s at Casa Standage. (That’s what she’s dubbed my townhouse)

And speaking of Casa Standage. BTBM things were a bit cluttered. After all, I had been alone for sixteen years, except for the occasional short term roommate. My “stuff” was all there, scattered about, sometimes randomly, but generally strategically placed. At least I thought it was strategically placed. The Blue Magnet frequently makes not-so-subtle alterations in the various arrangements.

For instance, … she not-so-subtly bought me a set of Pyrex food storage containers, not-so-subtly suggesting that my collection of 20+ year old tupper ware type containers had to go. And then there was the poly-whatever cutting board, also 20+ years old, that was unceremoniously replaced by a new one and taken out the back door headed for the neighborhood dumpster.

These are just a few of the not-so-subtle changes The Blue Magnet has made, and is making in my life. But the real changes she’s making are in the way I view my personal world … the way I view my “space”.

BTBM I had made few changes in the way my possessions were arranged. The TV in my bedroom was an ancient tube type that I had scrounged out of a church I had attended when it was closing down. She didn’t have to say anything or make any indication that she thought it rather obsolete. I don’t even think she had ever set foot in my bedroom at the time I decided it was time to modernize.

BTBM I had not disposed of any possessions since leaving the house in Chandler. Now I think about the likely fact that we will soon be sharing a home and realize that I can’t hang on to all the inconsequential “stuff” of my life. And that is the crux of the most daunting part of sharing a home and a life with The Blue Magnet.

For practically all of my life, it has seemed as though when I have decided that I don’t need something anymore, and either give it away or throw it away, in less time than it took to dispose of whatever it was I didn’t think I needed anymore … a need for that item appeared. Add to that fact, that as a history buff I like to keep all of my “history” intact, and the result is a whole lot of “stuff”.

I have a storage shed, 2 walk-in closets and every crack and cranny in my home filled with “stuff”. Admittedly I do realize the uselessness of much of it, but I hate, absolutely hate, the prospect of simply throwing that “stuff” away.  Anyone want a George Foreman Griller … one large and/or one small, used only once? For the first time in recent memory I actually do want to dispose of a lot of “stuff” because it means making room for something far more important to me … the “stuff” of the life of The Blue Magnet.

Thank you Professor Jimmy and Crafton Hills College

Yesterday was another amazing day at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa California. Thanks to Professor Jimmy Urbanovich, A.K.A. Speech Teach … I was once again given the opportunity to speak at Crafton Hills College. The reception was, as it has been in the past, even more gratifying than the time before.
 
My experiences with the students and faculty there have continued to add support to my observations about people. The biggest complaint I have had with the LGBT community in general is that they make little effort to reach out to the rest of society to explain what it’s like to be in their shoes. Rather they tend to demand blind acceptance from society and when they meet with resistance, react with even more demands and anger. 
I have found in experiences like the one at CHC, that when I simply share my experience with people as I did yesterday, without an accompanying demand for acceptance that acceptance is the natural outcome. People tend become defensive when demands are made of them, especially when the demand is acceptance of something alien to them or something that they have been led to believe is somehow unnatural or evil.
To further advance my own perspective, I was overwhelmed by the responses I received yesterday, when after my main presentation in the auditorium we adjourned to Professor Jimmy’s classroom for some give-and-take questioning and answering.
There were the usual unenthusiastic attendees who were there simply because their attendance was a class requirement. Those individuals I always seek to find a way to draw out and challenge in a positive way. It’s part of the fun of what I do, but the real reward is from people like one young man who told me afterward that he had not wanted to come, but that a friend had challenged him to show up. This morning I had a lengthy e-mail from him explaining that I had given him a whole new, although uncertain, perspective on his own life.
One young woman, who attended the initial presentation wasn’t even a student, but chose to come to the more intimate session in the classroom even though it meant being late for work. She approached me before the session began to tell me that she would have to leave for work shortly and didn’t want me to think she didn’t want to hear anymore of what I had to say. She was still there nearly 2 hours later and was the first one ask for a picture with me.
Another student, a young man with a very athletic build shared his experience with seeing and individual in his locker room whose appearance was confusing to say the least; looked far more female than male in most respects in body but still apparently male. His concern was that the situation made him feel terribly uncomfortable, which bothered him. He asked me if that was wrong. I explained that his reaction was normal and not to be confused with disgust. He was simply experiencing a natural reaction to a new and unexpected situation. If there was something in the individuals behavior that added to the discomfort it was perfectly appropriate to avoid interacting with them.
These are just three of the reactions I received yesterday and they all point to my original statement above. Simply sharing your own story without demanding acceptance, understanding or approval is a far more acceptable way to gain acceptance, understanding or approval. It’s a far more effective approach with a far more rewarding outcome.
The discussion eventually led to “The Bathroom Issue”. On that I have some rather definite opinions which I shared and which are in line with what I stated above. I think the edict that former president Obama issued regarding transgender bathroom use was much to the same point I made in the second paragraph of this entry. There was no effort made to help people understand and furthermore, by virtue of it’s broad and general nature, it was an open invitation to abuse by individuals with less than noble intentions. And again it was made without regard to different regional moral and ethical standards which is why I personally agree with President Trump’s order to rescind the previous order on the grounds that it is a state’s prerogative issue.
My thanks, once again to Professor Jimmy and Crafton Hills College for the opportunity to share my story and views.

The Blue Magnet

For much of my life I have lived with an absurd notion. It goes like this … all the bad things, the unpleasant things, have always happened without warning. The good things that I dreamed of happening never seemed to materialize. The absurd notion that grew out of these two opposing yet symbiotic trains of thought was that since all the bad things that happened to me were things I hadn’t thought about and all the good things that I dreamed about never did come to pass, I needed to reverse the psychology. In other words, I put all the dreams and hopes out of my mind and instead spent my time thinking about all the bad things that could happen so they wouldn’t happen.

Of course, that silly notion didn’t do anything but make me unhappy. That psychological train wreck simply made me a miserable human being. Think about it. If I found myself dreaming of pleasant, happy events I immediately tried to wipe the thought away and began worrying about what evil event I needed to be thwarting by conjuring one up … so it wouldn’t happen.

Then somewhere in my early sobriety I began get the idea that maybe, just maybe, I had been wasting a whole lot of time, but trying to undo years of negative thought processing wasn’t easy, even sober. And then the worst of all unforeseen, never considered events occurred. The woman I had thought would bury me, died after more than twenty months of battling brain cancer. See, I was right. The bad stuff is always what you didn’t see coming.

That was sixteen years ago, and in the meantime, I have learned a lot … about expectations. The most important thing to know about expectations is that for the most part they are an exercise in futility.

When Marilyn died, I thought that I would immediately fall in love again, but with a few momentary exceptions, like the spur of the moment trip to Korea to see my number two, high school senior year sweetheart, nothing romantic materialized. Not infrequently people would ask me when or if I was going to start dating. To keep from appearing needy and/or desperate I generally replied that after all I was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, which wasn’t all that far from the truth. Then I generally added that it would take someone extremely special to fall in love with me.

I remembered Aunt Helen’s advice following my divorce when she told me that I wouldn’t find the woman God intended me to spend my life with until I was content to live alone. After trying to force contentment on myself for the better part of a year I gave up. Then within moments of finding total contentment in the alone state of being, Marilyn appeared.

After she died it took some time of course but again I found myself content to be alone and to be honest, after 16 years of being alone, I wasn’t really looking for another relationship … when it happened.

There I was, minding my own business, doing what I was paid to do for Home Depot 469 when she sat down across the desk from me and announced that she was thinking about remodeling her kitchen. How did she go about getting that done? For reasons unrelated to me or my performance as a kitchen designer she ultimately went to the competition for her kitchen. But, in the meantime, she had become something of an increasingly consistent presence in my thoughts.

On hearing the message she left on my voicemail at work, telling me that she had decided to go to the competition for her kitchen, I was first dismayed, then unsettled. I was dismayed because I had already told my boss that I was closing the sale that day and then unsettled because I soon realized that there was more to it than just losing a sale. I had been looking forward to spending more time with her. Experience in similar situations over the years had proven that when a customer chooses a competitor over you, they will generally stop answering the phone. Nevertheless, as soon as I heard the message I called her. Of course, she didn’t answer.

The message I left was that I understood her decision completely and didn’t blame her for her decision, which is the same one I would have made under similar circumstances. I then asked if she would call my manager and explain why she made that decision. I had told him that she was coming in that day to make the purchase. Roughly a half hour later he sat down at my desk and told me that she had called him and explained her decision. In the interim, the reality of most likely not seeing her again was the unsettling part.

You see, I had come to look forward to our visits. I wasn’t thinking about any more than spending time with someone whose company I totally enjoyed. When I thought about her I could hear her laugh and that made me smile. I thought “I could really enjoy doing things with her; taking a trip with her, going to a show with her, watching a sunset with her. That’s all. I had no romantic notions about her at all. I just saw her as a potential best friend.

So, a couple of weeks went by. I can’t tell you why I made no attempt to contact her. Maybe it was a lingering fear that in spite of the fact that she had told my manager that I had nothing to do with her decision to go elsewhere for her new kitchen, she would reject any attempt to establish a friendship. But, after a couple of weeks of beating myself up over it, I picked up the phone … and she actually answered.

When I asked if she would like to have lunch sometime she said yes. Two weeks later we met for lunch between my church and work at 3:00. (As I sit here writing this she is on the couch next to me correcting everything I say about our early meeting.) We made future plans for coffee but some unforeseen circumstance on her end precluded that. Instead we went to Mimi’s for lunch. (Now she tells me she hated Mimi’s but because she had picked Culver’s she agreed to Mimi’s) I have absolutely no memory of what we talked about. I just remember watching her walk to her car. I asked her what her memory of our parting was and for once it was the same. Amazing!

Neither one of us remembers exactly how long it was before I asked her to dinner. She had a gift certificate to Red Robin and there was one nearer to me, so that’s where we decided to go … she insisted on driving. That, in and of itself, was a new experience for me. I don’t remember what either of us ate, but I do remember that she paid for dinner … another new experience.

She drove me home and I asked if she wanted to come in for a minute. Simple truth is I just didn’t want the evening to end. I was totally enjoying her company without a romantic notion in my head … seriously! We must have talked for at least an hour and a half before she said it was time for her to head for home. It was just a hug. A parting hug between friends. She says that I kissed her on the forehead. As the lyrics in the KISS version of The Crystals original hit from 1963 go … “And then she kissed me.”

Aside from surprise, I can’t begin to put into words the overwhelming rush of emotion I experienced at that moment. I was instantly transported from simple attraction to a world of emotions I have no memory of ever experiencing in my life. To say that I was befuddled is a mild approximation of what I felt at that moment. The simple fact is that I felt my heart being snatched away in a sense that left me feeling as though I never wanted it back.

In the past sixteen years, I have on three occasions briefly fallen in love, but nothing to compare to this. Laughter has never been a big part of my life, until now. She makes me laugh. I don’t remember ever laughing on such a consistent and joyful level in my life.

All the dreams and aspirations for my dotage years simply evaporated. The desperation that I had begun to feel about Dear Mom and Dad never being more than a vanity project, vanished without so much as an emotional whimper. God, in his infinite wisdom, placed in my life the very last person I envisioned being the answer to all my prayers. And yet, I simply cannot imagine being in love with anyone but her. She is, what I can only describe, as reverently irreverent. Everything in her life is precision, orderly disorder. What I first thought was random placement of her cherished possessions in her home is actually a very well orchestrated arrangement … which precisely describes her and her essence.

Trying to describe here what she means to my life and the feelings I have for her is terribly inadequate to the reality. Simply put, I am now and I believe for the remainder of my life, totally and completely in love with God’s perfect selection of the perfect woman for me. We have laughed over the thought that we are like the opposite ends of a bar magnet; one end north the other end south. She is a lifelong east coast democrat and I’m … well the other end of that magnet. That was the thought behind a small Christmas present I gave her; two bar magnets painted red on one end with a “G” on it, and blue on the other end with a “B” on it.

She is a very private person and not given to publicity (another aspect of our “magnet” like attraction for one another).  For that reason, I am not publicizing her name. Those of you who know me well, know who she is and that is enough. Just think of her as “The Blue Magnet!” because she is a veritable people magnet. She draws people to her wherever she goes and I’m reasonably certain that when it happens that those people will never forget the encounter. I have seen her strike up conversations with absolute strangers in the grocery store and the next thing I know she’s helping them find something they need but can’t locate.

She is, in the words of my favorite Nat King Cole song which was a duet with his daughter, Natalie “Unfortgetable” … that’s what you are.

Bishop Eric … and My Mud Hut in Africa

What I’m about to discuss you may have seen before but I’m revisiting the subject with a definite purpose in mind. In my early high school years, I began to actually examine how, what I was learning and studying in what we used to call Sunday School (don’t have a clue what they call it now) was going to affect my life. I was affected deeply enough that for a time I actually considered becoming a Congregational minister. It seemed a rather easy life to me; listening to people’s woes and complaints, then giving sage advice on how to fix their lives. Then for one hour on Sunday, wearing a black robe and telling people how God expected them to conduct their affairs.

But then somewhere along the line I was exposed to the life of a missionary in Africa and that exposure changed my entire outlook. You see, my understanding of the two roles in Christendom, that of the stateside minister and that of a missionary in deepest darkest Africa were worlds apart in more than the geographical sense. What I saw in the life of the Congregational minister was a life of relative ease. What I saw in the life of a missionary to Africa was a life of tremendous sacrifice and commitment. The effect that had on me was not one of encouragement but rather one of discouragement.

In short … I came to believe that if I really turned my life over to Christ, became totally committed to being a full-fledged Christian, that I would be relegating my future to a mud hut in Africa … and that is not what I wanted to do with my future. I wanted to be pig farmer who happened to be a Christian … most of the time. It wasn’t until I was in my third month of sobriety that I received a piece of advice that I wish I’d had years before.

When I came face-t0-face with the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him” my mind went back to the mud hut in Africa notion. Thankfully, a perceptive Larry B, my sponsor, did as Granny would have said, jerked a not in my tail. He said, “That takes someone exceptional to do that. And besides He (God) probably has something else in mind for you.” Nevertheless, I have remained in awe of anyone, accustomed to the luxuries people in this country take for granted, who could give it all up for the equivalent of today’s mud hut in Africa. And that finally brings me to the point of this message.

There is a man I have come to know as Bishop Eric. He has devoted his life to “The Good News” and has affected lives all over the world. He has traveled the world planting the seeds of salvation and forgiveness for most of his adult life all the while maintaining a full time “civilian” job. A year and a half ago Bishop Eric gave up that lucrative “civilian” job and moved to “a mud hut in Africa” to found The Hope Center in Nigeria.

While it’s a bit of a stretch to call where he is living and conducting the affairs of The Hope Center a mud hut in Africa, it’s not much of a stretch. The accommodations were primitive in the beginning and much of what he has accomplished has been a true labor of love. The thing you, my readers, need to realize is that in countries like Nigeria in central Africa, being gay is not generally acceptable. Many families, upon learning of their child’s sexuality will disown them, shun them and in extreme cases murder them to avoid public humiliation. So, it shouldn’t take much imagination to realize what a burden Bishop Eric has taken upon his shoulders.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am in total awe of the man. He embodies everything that I felt I would never have the courage or the will to be. I don’t agree with him on all things, but what I don’t agree with him on pale in comparison to the respect and admiration I have for him.

So how does he manage the day to day operations of his “mud hut in Africa”? It isn’t easy and he needs financial support desperately. His needs aren’t overwhelming by our standards, but by Nigerian standards they are mountainous. I have in my possession a copy of his monthly budget and budgets for the projects he dreams of implementing. They are next to nothing by our standards but in Nigeria they are a lot.

My purpose in sharing this is to inspire you, my readers, to consider contributing to the financial requirements and investments needed to aid Bishop Eric in his mission to give hope and a future to the people of Nigeria who are most often overlooked at best or shunned and persecuted at worst because of their emotional make up.

Check out his website at www.TheHopeCenterNigeria.org  You can donate through the web site and if you want to know more about their financial need and plans please contact me and I will send you a detailed list of monthly expenses as well as proposed improvements. You can reach me through Facebook or at georgialeemcgowen@cox.net .