I’m spending this Saturday giving Male Mode Me a deserved rest — and, by obvious extension, yours truly — after he had a somewhat draining week professionally. How draining, you ask? Well, it wasn’t so much physically draining as it was mentally. Let me explain by following up to my previous post recounting my satisfying yet not entirely enjoyable day of volunteering at a youth business event on Wednesday, which you can read about here if you haven’t done so already. During and after my “mentoring” of my assigned team in their business simulation (note the quote marks as they ran circles around me in terms of knowing how to manage a business), several thoughts ran through my mind: For one, unlike how I was at their age (or even now in my adulthood), these students are clearly bright and talented, and it’s for certain that their skills have been and continue to be molded and nurtured by their teachers and other educators who clearly want their students to succeed.
Time for some self-honesty about my professional life. As I’ve mentioned once or twice on here previously, I have been a devoted volunteer. I hesitate to specify who I volunteer for, out of a need to keep my male side’s professional integrity and dignity intact. I will, however, hint that part of my volunteering involves work with a certain educational organization that has a presence here in Dane County. It was with that organization that I volunteered with earlier today.
A couple of quick thoughts on this Sunday afternoon. First, I had mentioned in my last post about a bill in the Wisconsin State Assembly that would prevent local municipalities in the state (cities, counties, townships, etc.) from enacting and enforcing anti-discriminatory employment regulations and protections. A State Assembly committee had a hearing on the measure Wednesday afternoon. And from what I recall hearing Friday night at the trans/CD support group I regularly attend, there is a little bit of good news on the matter. Apparently, there were quite a bit of comments made in the hearing against the bill. And it may have made an influence on the conservative powers-that-be in the committee, who hinted they had no plans to send the bill to a full vote by the Assembly. That’s good, for it’s a piece of legislation that can potentially do a lot of harm to several groups of workers, including those who are trans or gender non-conforming. Needless to say, the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce is against the Assembly bill (as well as a similar measure in the State Senate), comparing it to the controversial HB2 measure in North Carolina, which was one of the most anti-LGBT ordinances in the United States.
Okay, I’m about to get serious. I’ve always admired how Wisconsin has, generally, had a history of progressive treatment of citizens who are part of diverse groups. A prime example of this was the 1982 legislation that prohibited discrimination in fields such as housing and public and private employment based on a person’s sexual orientation. That law had bipartisan support and was signed into law by a Republican governor who was fiscally conservative yet progressive on social/cultural issues.
An anecdote to lead off: Back in October, I joined fellow members of a trans support group at the OutReach Awards Banquet. One of our cis-gender allies joined us, and at first, she wasn’t sure exactly which table was which, but she checked her table number on her name tag and, by coincidence, sat right next to me. Ours was Table 44. “Good,” she chuckled, “because I like ’44’ better than ’45.'”
Note the quote marks around “44” and “45” in that last sentence, for our friend wasn’t joking about the tables on that night. No, hers was a remark about the era in which we’re stuck in right now. One year ago this weekend, You Know Who formally and officially became the 45th You Know What. In the 52 weeks since then, it’s felt as if we’ve collectively turned around an endless line of dark corners, each bend darker than the one before it. There are far too many of those dark corners to be specific about here, though I should note the latest… er, one of the latest of dark corners from this week concerned an “overhaul” of the Department of Health & Human Services’ Civil Rights Office. The proposal would add a division that protects those in the medical profession who desire to “profess their religious expressions,” up to and including their objections to providing services or caring for people they have religious objections to, including abortions or treatment to trans patients.
The other day, I heard a great quote uttered during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration here in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the speaker or the full quote. However, I do recall it being a “show me this and I’ll show you that” kind of quote, one where two people see the same thing but see it very different… like, say, one person seeing the glass as half-empty and the other seeing it as half-full.
The “show me… and I’ll show you…” portion of that quote stuck with me the rest of the holiday, and it inspired me to write… and rewrite… and rewrite (as I usually do) the following poem. As you’ll read (and especially notice in the last stanza), I’m not afraid to call out someone who is dismissive of those who do not live the same “pure” life they profess to live. What’s for sure, the holier-than-thou set aren’t saints themselves, no matter how much they proselytize with their “holy book” of choice.
Show me fields that have long been fallow
Overgrown with unsightly weeds
I’ll show you land that can spring to life
With someone’s ideas and dreams
Show me an artist’s canvas or a poet’s notebook
That are still blank and untouched
I’ll show you space that can be
The ground spring of a masterpiece
Show me someone immature and unruly
And I’ll show you a bright mind
That, if molded the right way
Will grow the fruits of their full potential
Show me someone not following the rules
And I’ll show you someone living free
Show me someone who doesn’t respect others
And I’ll show you someone who lets others be
Show me who should stay in a gilded cage
That with iron and lock and key you construct
And I’ll show you someone yearning to soar
To heights that will leave you awestruck
Show me someone who you prefer to stay quiet
And I’ll show you a person ready to roar
I’ll also show you someone ready to rebuild
If you only see someone you have no hope for
Show me someone who’s immoral
And I’ll show you someone on the straight and narrow
Show me someone that should conform
And I’ll show you someone who’s blazing their own trail
Show me someone whose existence you deny
And I’ll show you someone who needs to thrive
Even though caring for them is what you’re sworn to do
Would your “conscience” be quick to shun them…
And not care for them…
And seal their doom…
Just because they’re not like you?
Show me someone who’s only a gender
Or a skin color
Or a religion
Or an age
Or a behavior
Or “less” than you
And I’ll show you someone more than a label
For they’re much more than your closed mind
Forbids your open eyes to see
You think you see the scourges of the earth
But I see someone who can clear those fields
And plow those lands
And construct those buildings
And write those sonnets
And paint those masterpieces
And mold those minds
And help build a future
That will benefit the whole world
Show me all that you claim is ugly
And I’ll show you a mirror
So that you can look into it
And see true ugliness
Staring right back at you
Time to get back into prose with a little something that popped into my head this afternoon. I admit it feels similar in theme to this one, yet it has a clear theme of the vulnerability we all try to hide… but, ultimately, cannot keep masked forever.
“Masks of Honesty”
To the rest of the world
I appear carefree and witty
In a short skirt
And a smile
With the rest of the world
I converse merrily
Saying, “How do you do?”
Or “How have you been?”
Listening attentively to stories
And agreeing with opinions
With a nod
And a smile
When I tell them my stories
I do so candidly
Voicing words of wit
Thoughts from wisdom
And whispers of melancholy
With a nod of, “Yeah, it’s true”
And an occasional smile
With these true tales I tell
I begin to transmogrify
The makeup starts to fade
And the smile peels away
Slowly but surely
As if it were a mask
Until what once was a smile
Disappears for a while
And with that, the world sees
What is the real me
Not hidden maliciously
But revealed honestly
Bit by bit
So that others know
I’m more than a mask of beauty
And a smile
Oh… the others I see
Also express honestly
And bit by bit
Their own masks come off
Slowly but surely
Until we can all see
Our own peaks and valleys
And understand each other with empathy
This is the holiday season, a time usually observed with holiday-specific traditions, religious commemorations, parties, and gift giving. This time is also usually associated with being with or at least thinking about the family members you know, love, and hold dear to your heart. Or at least those who share with you some sort of trait. When one thinks “family,” they usually associate the word with being bound by blood or marriage. That includes the parents who raised you from youth to adolescence and wished you good luck and good guidance as you ventured into adulthood; the siblings who grew with you and look up and to you for mutual support; and the cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents who provide their own versions of love, support, and encouragement.
Unfortunately, for some in the broad LGBT+ community, the term “family” doesn’t mean the natural definition of parents, siblings, etc. noted above. Many has been the case where someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or even simply questioning has been blackballed by their relatives. Not only is it heartbreaking to think that those who identify as LGBT+ can face such shunning, it should also make one reconsider the traditional definition of “family.”
I want to devote this post to an emergency my family had to go through the past few days. Last Saturday, just as I was coincidentally adding my last post to this blog, I received a voice mail message from the eldest of my two sisters. Our stepfather was rushed to a hospital in Ohio with what was determined to be a stroke.
A small bit of background first: My stepfather, who is in his mid-70s, has been an over-the-road truck driver in one form or another for most of his life. It could be logs, food, corrugated cardboard: You name it, Dad more than likely hauled it from coast to coast or border to border. In recent years, Dad has done less of the 18-wheeler thing and more of small transport tasks, including what he had finished last Friday, transporting a large boat for winter storage.
As I write this, it’s Thanksgiving morning in the United States. As my fellow Americans surely know by now, this is a day to meet up with family, eat copious amounts of food, watch grown men hit each other on only 3 days’ rest… and try to think of what they’re thankful for. I’ve thought a bit about the intent of this holiday’s title, and in this post I’ve compiled some of things I’m thankful for — and a few I’m not thankful for — here in 2017.
- I am thankful for still being employed. Well, duh. And while some of the work may be tedious, and while this is one of the busiest times of year for our team, at least I am doing a job I mostly enjoy using skills I’m proud to possess.
- Despite my own employment and the fact that Madison has a pretty good climate for job prospects and growth, I am not thankful that this Thanksgiving finds some around here who, for reasons beyond their control, must go without gainful employment Case in point: Someone I’ve built a good friendship with this past year (more on how that came about in a little bit) was let go from her steady job last summer. As with other unemployed people around here, I sincerely hope my friend will gain a job with a company that will appreciate her skills, her work ethic, and especially her passion for those who have less and for life in general. (Side note to my friend: I apologize in advance that my bringing up your plight on here may make you sad on this day, but know that I am here to respect and support you and wish you nothing but the best.)
- I am thankful that I still live in such a wonderful, progressive, and wonderfully progressive community that is Madison.
- I am even more thankful that I’ve had the opportunity — and the gumption — to step out as Allison into a city so welcoming. I’ll likely bring this up again in an end-of-year post, but 2017 has been a big year for my stepping out of my wardrobe and into the world, from performing poetry to marching in a parade to attending a banquet. These are experiences that I will never forget.
- I am thankful for the health and happiness of my family. I’m also thankful that we’ve grown bigger through the uniting in marriage of my youngest sister with her husband and his extended family (including his daughters).
- I am also thankful that my four nieces are growing into wonderful young women. One of them graduated from high school this year, and I hope she has ventured into what will be a positive future for her. I hope, too, that my other nieces will have positive futures of their own.
- I am not thankful that some in my family have our differences. Those differences have been shown bare through Facebook: My mom is among a (thankfully) few of my Facebook friends who are not above sharing a conservative-leaning meme with their friends. At least I’m not one who uses Facebook much (at least as Male Mode Me), so I don’t have to see those irritating memes very much. When I do, however, I’m not above using the “angry” reaction button to show my displeasure (I hope Mom and my Facebook friends get the message).
- Needless to say, I am not thankful that our society has become more and more divided over the past year since You Know Who was elected You Know What. Most of the previous 8 years, we didn’t have that feeling of our country being ripped apart centimeter by centimeter. Now, in the past year, it’s as if those rips are not metaphoric and are miles in width — with the chasm being filled not by bridges but by walls.
- Despite that, I am thankful that a great many people in this country are willing to stand up for what’s right and just, rising above the hatred and vitriol to stand for a country that should not have fear and hatred as its bedrock.
- Above all else, I am very, very thankful to have joined and in and being a relatively active part of a transgender/crossdresser support group over the past year. I regularly meet up with this group’s members, and they have proven to be a wonderful group. They are ready to lend an an ear, their advice, and their support to those like me, regardless how how we identify. (Respect for others’ differences is our group’s own bedrock.)
- I have come to know my above mentioned friend through this TG/CD group; she is a cis-gender ally who respects and admires us for the people we are and the identity we know we are. Friendships like this can be a rare thing for some, and I’m very glad — and very, very thankful — to have found such a friendship.
And just as I am very, very thankful for the friends I’ve built over the past year, I am very, very thankful for your readership and kind words. Whoever you are, wherever you may be, whatever your identity, and whatever your background, here’s hoping Thanksgiving 2017 proves to be a happy time for you, and that you have your own reasons to be thankful. Have a safe and enjoyable day.