SJR39

A controversial amendment is being proposed by Missouri legislatures. Supporters say it protects religious freedoms, but really it feels like thinly veiled rights to discriminate.

I’m all for religious freedoms, but that is already in Constitution. It’s one of those big first ones, right?

So I went in support of Promo petitioning lawmakers to strike down this amendment. There was also some pondering as to why these bills and amendments are cropping up all over the nation. In Missouri, the effect is that it is pushing back a sorely needed statewide non discrimination bill called MONA. So perhaps part of it is a stall tactic since the session is nearly over.

I’m not that deep into politics to be able to adequately explain all the details, but I read SJR39 and it just looks like discrimination to me.

Pictures beneath the cut.

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Carrying Feminism

This is a lot of where I am at the moment, feeling a little crushed by so much caring and wanting to do more to help, but I have extremely limited resources. And not just financial resources, but I have an unmedicated chronic pain condition which severely limits how much emotional and physical energy I have.

Sometimes it is tough caring about so much and feeling so helpless. I want to change the world! I can’t carry the entire world though, I have to have some ‘me’ left over at the end of it.

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Three Months

Last week I decided to get out and go to a homeless awareness march downtown. This city has quite a serious poverty and homeless problem, and I feel bad that I can’t do more to help. I share and network, give whenever I have anything to give, try to help when I see people in need, offer rides where possible, but it feels like painfully little compared to the size of the problem.

Homelessness is a personal issue for me. It brings up a lot of feelings, a lot of memories. Even though this is something which happened to me many years ago, the effects have rippled down through the years. I worry about becoming homeless every single day. As a transgender person with very little income, this is a very real possibility, and I have been very careful through to years to never let my children experience homelessness firsthand.

My own experience happened in 1996. I had graduated high school a year ahead of schedule. Suddenly I had to choose a college, rush the applications, and move onto a campus far from home. A great deal was thrust onto me in a very short period of time. In addition to the academic woes of a budding adult in their first foray out of the nest, I had found myself in an abusive relationship.

I remember distinctly the first drive up to the campus, Northwest Missouri State in the beautiful town of Maryville. It was far enough away from home to feel independence, but close enough to visit, and even closer to Iowa where my beloved cousin was living. However, my thoughts were not on having fun with my cousin or how I would adjust to living in a dorm with a roommate or the hectic life of a student with eighteen credit hours jammed into their schedule. I already knew I was pregnant.

My fears were realized when the morning sickness prevented me from attending nearly all of my classes. I was sick constantly, it seemed. I had no idea what to do, where to turn. This would devastate my family, being so irresponsible, even though I had used protection. My grandparents had invested so much into me going to college. So I turned to the father and trusted him to take care of us.

By the beginning of October, I found myself living in my car in Kansas City. His family was there and he had promised they would help, but they would not take us in. Instead we were left to sleep in our vehicles in truck stop parking lots and under railroad bridges, chased from here to there by police, trying desperately to work even though we could barely groom ourselves.

Hell was my contacts being frozen in their case and having to put them in using my rear view mirror just so I could see and stumble my way to the nearest bathroom to throw up. Hell was knowing that for the first trimester, the most important trimester, I was reliant on the nutrition of soup kitchens and food pantries. Hell was trusting the father of my child to find us a place to live and ending up under a bridge. Hell was finally, after three months, calling my grandparents to tell them the heartbreaking truth of how I had failed them.

It was only three months, but it changed me. The passionate person I had been was now obsessive, paranoid, and anxious. I could not let go of things because they might one day be useful. But I also could not stand useless clutter because what if I had to pack it all in a car again? Then I could not junk my van when it broke down because that was my back-up housing. It has been twenty years, and the effects of those three months are still with me.

And it was only three months.

The threat of being homeless again has edged closer and closer in recent years. There were several times when I had to secure shelter for my children without knowing where I would be going if this or that strategy were to fail. Thankfully things worked out each time and my children have not yet experienced homelessness. It has its lessons; a certain freedom, a way of teaching humility, and giving me an appreciation for things I do have. Still, I would not wish it on anyone.

I’m grateful every day for a space that is mine and a warm bed to sleep in. My situation has me only a few dollars each month away from becoming homeless again. For others it may be a paycheck or two, or a few bad decisions. It can happen to anyone, and we should help each other when it does.

SOGI Repealed

It’s been one week. One week since Springfield voters went to the polls to repeal the Non-Discrimination ordinance addition of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Already depressed and feeling gloomy, I forced myself out of the house and went to the watch party. There was chatting, dancing, and good food as we waited for the vote. First the opposition was slightly ahead, then our side was slightly ahead, but ultimately we lost by 850 some votes.

That margin is so painfully slim. While it gives others hope, and I can understand their argument given where we are in the country and the mindset of most people around here, I still can only feel heartbreak.

I went to city council meetings, but by the time I had drummed up the courage to speak, they did not want any more speakers. Every time there is an interview, I speak up too late and miss it. I try to tell my story, but no one wanted to run it. I went to phone banking, but could only secure a ride a few times, and my anxiety prevented me from being all that useful.

Did I personally fail the campaign? I could have contacted that many people. I could have spoken at any number of events, done a graphic and spread it around, or committed more time to phone banking and canvassing.

I feel like I failed. As irrational as I realize that is, that is my feeling. I failed Springfield.

Such an ordinance is really just window dressing. It doesn’t stop the hatred against transgender or non-binary people. However, it is an important step. A small one, but a step just the same. This campaign has created more visibility and awareness, and the solution is just to push forward.

However, at this moment, I just want to collapse and mourn.

Non-discrimination Please

My city is soon voting on a change to the non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Simple matter, right? Don’t discriminate against anyone. Apparently not. The city council meeting I attended was… heartbreaking. I could not find the courage to speak, so instead I sent this email to our mayor, as per his request.

~*~

Honorable Mayor Stephens,

First, I must applaud you for the work that you do and the patience I saw exercised at the City Council meeting on Monday, September 8th. A meeting so incredibly long, yet amazingly civil despite the passions on both sides.

I realize that the non-discrimination ordinance before you is just a small step, but a journey can not be taken without that first small step. This will by no means change things overnight, but it is a change that is needed.

I am a non-gender binary person, a demi-guy, or more simply a trans man. This means that, although I was born and raised with the societal expectations of being female, I identify more strongly with being male. Not completely, only partially. The council heard from several trans women, but sadly I did not have the courage to speak. The night was long enough anyway, right?

For thirty-five years I have tried to deny myself; pressured by parents and society. Only recently in May of 2014 did I give up this battle against conventional standards and came out as transgender.

I am unemployed, living on the bare minimum required to keep a roof over my head, doing my best to raise two children on my own without the support of their other parent. We live on food stamps, my son’s disability SSI, and little else. I do not have health insurance, no coverage for any transgender care. It is a difficult enough life. My children suffer discrimination daily for being poor, for riding the city bus, for having thrift store clothes. I have suffered long acting as a female so they did not suffer more by having a transgender parent.

I learned my lesson once. I was dating a woman, a neighbor took offense, and she called a hotline for child abuse. My children were taken from me and I fought hard for eleven months to get them back. Those eleven months are burned into me. That is time I will never get back. Time of my children’s lives that can never be returned to me. And thank goodness they themselves were returned to me. I worry still about speaking out only for their sake. I can suffer for this cause, and I will, but please do not take it out on my children. They are the reason I did not speak that night. I have to keep them safe.

I came to Springfield in 2003 to attend Forest Institute and obtain my PsyD. I thought moving to a bigger city would be more tolerant. Particularly since this was a city with a professional school of psychology. There are so many colleges here, so much education and potential for greatness. It is also a beautiful city. There are times when I wish very much to move away from this area and its pervasive religion. Even if I were not so torn inside, I do not have the financial means to leave.

Coming out as transgender has brought me a happiness I was not able to realize until now. However, as private as a decision as it is, I found the process to be – by its very nature – very public. What bathroom do I use when I am not entirely either gender? Do I avoid going out completely? Many times, yes. How much productivity and revenue is being lost because I’m afraid to leave my home and not patronize local businesses? I would greatly prefer if there were a more subtle option, let me make my transition in peace and in private, and not have to worry about how it might endanger me or my children. Especially my children.

I wish I could speak out with confidence and know that they are safe. Or at least protected in some manner by the law.

I have suffered discrimination and abuse many times. My children have suffered, and they have both made it plainly clear that they are interested in the opposite gender. The difference is that they accept me, and love me though they won’t always say it, as I am. That is all I am wanting from anyone else, from employer to medical professional to my server at a restaurant. Just accept me for who I am, please. You don’t have to like me, or sing the praises of the gender spectrum, just allow me to do what I need to do to survive.

Though it would be really great if you could sing the praises of the gender spectrum with me.

Sincerely,

Mr. Naomi “Nil” McFarland

ps. If you wish to share this letter, feel free to do so. I think I’m tired of being quiet, so it’s okay.

Addition, not Division

Today was a glorious day. I spent it outside in a beautiful park with two very beautiful souls. They didn’t know me from Adam, but they still picked me up and took me berry hunting. It was an amazing few hours that really lifted me up, even though it exhausted me at the same time. Good, content exhaustion.

Back at home, back to my Twitter activism.

What? Don’t look at me like that. It’s not like there’s a protest or a rally I can go to at 7pm on a Saturday, especially when I’m already exhausted. Twitter reaches people and that matters.

If nothing else, it makes me feel better, and my feelings matter. So don’t dismiss the power of social media. Maybe it is only helping me, but that’s still helping someone, and that’s better than no one.

So back to Twitter. Have some fun, share a few Change.org petitions, like some YouTube videos that speak on various issues, or just advertise other awesome gamers (what? I have hobbies!).

Then I see, as I have on many other days, a lot of word policing and ‘my oppression is worse than your oppression’ themed arguments.

No. Stop right there. Yes, women of color have it terrible, poor people have it awful, a lot of different groups have it really bad. Everyone deserves to be heard. Bickering among one another only serves the agenda of those in power – keeping us from forming a significant push back against their oppression.

I am not trying to erase your struggles by saying this. We all have struggles, some are the same, but even those aren’t experienced the same way by anyone. Everyone is unique. If we divide and divide by color and gender and sexual orientation and blood type and astrological sign and what state and county and city you were born in – then what are we left with?

Divide down enough and you’re left with one lonely voice.

One lonely voice can make a difference, absolutely, but a thousand voices is a lot less lonely.

Stop dividing. Please. Add to the cause. When a woman of color is speaking up about her experience as a woman of color – SHUSH UP AND LISTEN. When a gay man speaks up, same principle.

Listen does NOT mean ‘and then one-up her with your own story.’ She gets a voice, I get a voice, then you get a voice. And we all earn free and equal voices together.

I have no idea what trans women go through, no idea what a person of color goes through, I only know my experience. And my experience is not going to be the same as every other white, poor, disabled, trans man. Every story is unique, and they should build on one another in a long narrative that leads toward equality, not shout over one another for top position.

In the words of my good Twitter friend (who can be credited if he so desires, but default is not for his privacy/safety) – “Proud of the rainbow? Be proud of every color!”

I’m proud of you, wherever you fall in that rainbow.