A Pride Week Essay: The Joyful Taste of Female Tears

I surely cried the day Sister Superior marched us kids to St. Patrick’s Church and told all of us children that someone had shot that nice man President John F. Kennedy.

I surely cried the day Sister Superior marched us kids to St. Patrick’s Church and told all of us children that someone had shot that nice man President John F. Kennedy. I truly did like that nice man President John F. Kennedy. I didn’t really understand why I cried ’cause I didn’t know him, but I think it was ’cause that nice man wasn’t gonna let that nasty man Nikita Khruschev blow us up with a nuclear bomb.

Advertisements

I suppose the first time I tasted my tears was the day I escaped from my mama’s womb.

Naturally, I have no recollection of that precise moment in time. I’m not even certain that I commenced to caterwaulin’. If I did cry, I can’t say why for certain. Perhaps it was ’cause the man who brought me into this here world gave me a stingin’ slap on the backside. I can’t imagine why he’d haul off and hit me, but I’m told that’s what they did back in the day. You know, just to make sure you were breathin’.

Lord knows why he couldn’t have taken my pulse to see if I was breathin’. I mean, they take an old person’s pulse to see if he or she’s breathin’, don’t they? Doctors don’t spank old folk just to see if they’re breathin’. Spankin’ someone just for being born is somethin’ I surely don’t take sides with.

It could be, of course, that the doctor didn’t spank me. If not, my daddy surely made up for that oversight. I felt the bite of his belt too many times to count. I still have the scars, if you’d care to see them. I cried plenty ’cause of that.

Maybe I cried that first time I was born ’cause I didn’t want to leave my mama’s womb. Maybe I knew what was in store for me. Maybe that’s why I cried. If I cried that first time I was born.

But that’s all I have to say about that first time I was born.

I can tell you this much about cryin’—it’s wet. I discovered that when Trixie died one day that was damp, dark and dreary. That sweet, ol’ girl came a-limpin’ home down the back alley, her coat wet and blood-soaked and stinkin’ of hurt and imminent death. She didn’t look so much like Lassie anymore. Trixie must have lost an argument to another dog’s teeth, which surprised me ’cause she was a Collie and she could outrun rain. Trixie was my granddaddy’s dog. But she was really my dog. At least that was my five-year-old way of thinkin’.

I surely cried that day Trixie died at 429 Melbourne Ave., not more than two days after she had wobbled home with matted blood wedged into the corners of her sad, gradually closing eyes. That was the first time I took a notion that I had tear ducts. At least that’s how I recollect it. I recollect thinkin’ that if Trixie had been a cat, I wouldn’t have cried, ’cause I don’t cry over cats or their graves or their spilled milk. But Trixie wasn’t a cat. She was a dog. So I cried and realized for the first time that my wet eyes needed a hanky.

But that’s all I have to say about that day Trixie died.

I know I cried my first day of schoolin’. My mama and daddy took me there and told me I had to go into that there school with all of them other children. I didn’t know a single one of them other children. They didn’t know me from Eve, either, and I was of a mind that none of them other children liked me much. I noticed that all of them other children were wearin’ better shoes than the pair that my tiny feet didn’t fit, and none of them other children were lookin’ towards me. That’s why I don’t think they liked me. They were all a-smilin’ and a-gigglin’ and havin’ themselves a fine, ol’ time, but not with me.

Then I heard the clanging of a loud bell and a lady wearin’ a black robe with a big white bib came out of the big front doors of that there school and she stood on the step. Her head was covered with a hood. It was black. The only skin I could see on that lady was her face and her hands. She told all of them other children to stop a-frolickin’ and get themselves into a lineup. My mama and daddy ordered me to join all of them other children in that lineup and get myself into that there school. I didn’t want to go into that there school any more than a hound dog wants two frisky fleas flittin’ about in his left ear, so I just stood there on the sidewalk a-bawlin’ my eyes out. I was petrified, save for the tears crawlin’ down my chubby cheeks and droppin’ on my scuffed, second-hand shoes that my tiny feet didn’t fit.

I didn’t want to wear them scuffed, second-hand shoes that first day of schoolin’ when I cried. I wanted to be in my sneakers, just like on the playground. But my daddy said young gentlemen didn’t wear ratty, ol’ sneakers the first day of school. I surely don’t know why my daddy told me young gentlemen didn’t wear ratty, ol’ runnin’ shoes to school, ’cause I was a young lady. Why couldn’t my daddy see that?

But that’s all I have to say about cryin’ on that first day of schoolin’ at St. Alphonsus on Munroe Avenue.

I also cried the day my granddaddy Pop died and I didn’t bother to rake the leaves that day. That’s what I did for Pop. I raked the leaves that had fallen in autumn. I did that once a week in the back yard of Pop’s house on Redfern Avenue that had an A&W drive-in on the corner. Sometimes he would buy a big, ol’ jug of A&W root beer as a treat after I had raked the leaves that had fallen. I was paid 25 cents each time I raked the leaves that had fallen in his back yard, no matter how meany leaves were still on the trees.

My tears didn’t taste very good, but I supposed that was what tears of sorrow were supposed to taste like. I don’t know how to describe the flavor. It wasn’t bitter, tangy or sour. It was blah, I suppose. I supposed a lot of things back then ’cause, until you know somethin’ for certain, surely you have to suppose things.

But that’s all I have to say about that day Pop died.

I surely cried the day Sister Superior marched us kids to St. Patrick’s Church and told all of us children that someone had shot that nice man President John F. Kennedy.

I truly did like that nice man President John F. Kennedy. I didn’t really understand why I cried ’cause I didn’t know him, but I think it was ’cause that nice man wasn’t gonna let that nasty man Nikita Khruschev blow us up with a nuclear bomb. Other kids cried, too, but not all of them. Sister Superior ran up and down the aisle in the middle of the church, and I truly thought that odd. I had never seen a nun run before. I had only seen them walk slowly with beads in their hands, like they was a-prayin’. Sister Superior told all of us kids to get on our knees and pray for that nice man President John F. Kennedy so he wouldn’t die. I found out later that he was already dead. I wasn’t mad at Sister Superior for lyin’ to all of us children, though.

But that’s all I have to say about that nice man President John F. Kennedy dyin’.

I did a whole lot of sorrowful cryin’ for 59 years less two days of my life. I never truly tasted the tears of my joy until 10:03 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2009. That’s when I awoke from the gender reassignment surgery at Centre Metropolitain de Chiraugie Plastique in Montreal. That’s the day I was truly born, and Dr. Pierre Brassard didn’t swat me on the backside to see if I was breathin’. He knew I was alive ’cause he saw my tears of joy that didn’t taste blah at all. They were sweet. A man in green hospital clothing told me, “The surgery is complete, madame.” I told that man in the green hospital clothing, “No. I am complete,” and then I spilled more tears of female joy.

I have plenty of happy things to say about my sex change.

Would you care to listen?

 

Is it possible to be a homophobic homosexual?

The very notion that I am homophobic is a misguided bit of blarney, of course, yet, at the same time, I must be homophobic because someone perceives me to be homophobic and perception is reality.

I have been called many unflattering things in this lifetime. Bitch is the first one that comes to mind. I’ve also had a couple of people drop the C-bomb on me when I was the weekend cover girl at a gay bar.

But homophobic?

I suppose I should be offended at such a slur. I mean, I’m homophobic like the Pope is an atheist. I am, however, not offended. I’m puzzled.

I am a girl who likes girls. I believe that qualifies me as homosexual. I have 24 Facebook friends, 16 of whom are gay. Two gay men have been signing my pay cheques for the past six years. I have won an award for my writing about the LGBT community. I did volunteer work at a gay-owned and operated boutique. I have counselled transgender youth. I have done promotional work for Paparazzi Nightclub, which is recognized as a gay venue in Victoria. I have written three gay-themed books and I am working on a fourth.

So, how is it possible that I am homophobic?

Well, the very notion that I am homophobic is a misguided bit of blarney, of course, yet, at the same time, I must be homophobic because someone perceives me to be homophobic and perception is reality.

I can assure you that I’m quite comfortable in my rapidly wrinkling skin, so I won’t get my knickers in a knot because I am accused of homophobia, nor do I feel an urgent requirement to present a vigorous defence. Were I to rage against this charge, it would open a window to a second accusation—thou doth protest too much.

Thus, rather than a rousing rant, I am given pause to ponder. Is it possible, I wonder, for a gay person to be homophobic?

I know gay men who are offended if another gay man speaks and acts “too gay.” That these “too gay” men propagate the notion that all gay men are limp-wristed, lisping divas. I know gay women who are put off by other gay women because they “aren’t butch enough.” That they’re too femme. It’s as if lipstick lesbians are lepers.

In the minds of some gay men, I have two strikes against me. I am transgender and I am a female who likes females. So, they would rather that I not share their oxygen.

For example, a few months ago I was the sole patron in Paparazzi. A gay man of my acquaintance walked in and asked if he could join me. Of course. We engaged in a rather pleasant tete-a-tete for approximately 10 minutes, then he lost the plot.

“I wish this bar was for gay men only,” he said.

“Excuse me?” I responded.

“I wish this bar was for gay men only.”

“So, you’re saying you don’t want me in here. That I shouldn’t be allowed in here.”

“That’s right. I would prefer it that way.”

This, I hasten to emphasize, was not a one-off. It’s happened on numerous occasions. Is this not homophobia by homosexual? Or do we call it lesphobia? Or transphobia?

By any term, it is homophobic.

I mean, if some lout in a mainstream bar stands up and announces that “gays aren’t welcome here,” he’s immediately branded a homophobe. Does it not follow that a gay man doing the same is homophobic?

I like to think of the gay collective as the vegetables in the garden. There is a row of peas, a row of carrots, a row of green beans, a row of lettuce, a row of onions. Each has its own identity. Yet, once tossed into the salad bowl, the vegetables are as one and they do not reject the boiled egg that joins them.

Why, then, do we reject another within the LGBT community?

Pride Week 2014 is upon us in Victoria, and I find it most discomforting that homosexual homophobes walk among us. We’re all in this thing together, people. We should act like it.

When you’re in the room, but you’re not in the room

It was the strangest sensation. I knew I was in attendance physically and emotionally, yet it was as if I could no longer be seen or heard. I thought to myself, “I’m alive and active. I can see all these people and I can hear all these people, but no one in this room can see me, hear me or reach out to touch me. Is this what it’s like to be dead? Is this what our spirits experience?”

 

My guardian angel, Whisper
My guardian angel, Whisper

I don’t know how I feel this morning about yesterday afternoon.

I know I don’t feel angry or bitter. I don’t feel hurt. I don’t feel as if I’ve been snubbed or ignored. I guess I just have this feeling of “Well, that was an interesting experience.”

There was this party, you see. A 60th birthday party for a longtime acquaintance. Prior to the birthday boy’s arrival, I had engaged in wonderful conversation with three of the party-goers. It was very, very enjoyable.

As the crowd grew in number, I noted that a couple of birthday cards were being passed around the room for people to sign. I thought it odd that neither of them found their way to to me. I, after all, knew everyone in the room and I believe most, if not all, in the room were aware that I was familiar with the party boy. He and I have had many discussions. We’ve shot pool. He’s bought me drinks, I’ve bought him drinks. I wouldn’t say we’re close, but, as I mentioned, our acquaintance has been lengthy.

Anyway, one card travelled as far as the chap standing to my left. He signed it. It wasn’t offered to me.

Suddenly, I had the clear and very real feeling that I didn’t belong. That I was horribly out of place.

I went to the washroom and, while freshening up, a rousing round of hand-clapping, cheering and jeering from about two dozen men signalled the overdue arrival of the party boy. The fellows then serenaded him with a robust chorus of Happy Birthday. It was quite nice and joyful.

When I returned to my station at the bar, I took a sip from my pint of beer and it immediately occurred to me that I no longer had a sense of being a peach in a land of pears—I didn’t even exist.

It was the strangest sensation. I knew I was in attendance physically and emotionally, yet it was as if I could no longer be seen or heard. I thought to myself, “I’m alive and active. I can see all these people and I can hear all these people, but no one in this room can see me, hear me or reach out to touch me. Is this what it’s like to be dead? Is this what our spirits experience?”

I departed shortly thereafter, walking past half a dozen men on my exit. It was as if I was invisible. It was surreal.

I gave ponder to this experience as I strolled home, wondering what to make of it. I have, on many occasions, been the only peach among all those pears, so what was different about this? What gave me such pause for contemplation?

Could it be that I wasn’t invisible to these fellows, after all? Could it be that it was they who were invisible to me? And if they didn’t exist, then I didn’t exist, either.

That’s why I don’t know how I feel this morning. Someone was in that room yesterday. I just don’t know who it wasn’t. I wonder if they do.

 

If time could talk, it would tell us that it doesn’t exist

If this thing we call time could talk, it would tell us that it exists only in our minds, therefore it is non-existent. It would tell us that although fond memories might provide nourishment, we should live for, and in, the moment, not in the remoteness of recollection. It would tell us where we are, not where we have been or where we are going.

 

My guardian angel, Whisper
My guardian angel, Whisper

We are taught that there is a beginning and an end. In between, there are seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades and centuries.

We call this time. But what is this thing we call time? What is its purpose?

Time is conceptual. We cannot reach out and touch time. We cannot hear time. We cannot smell time. We cannot see time. We cannot taste time. Time cannot be broken and time cannot be healed.

Time is a two-headed monster that disagrees with itself.

For example, to the hockey or soccer team that is frantically clinging to a one-goal lead in the final minute of a game, time goes too slowly. To the frantic hockey or soccer team that trails by one goal in the final minute, time goes too quickly. Both teams are operating with the same concept of time, yet their concepts of that time differ greatly. Similarly, the 21-year-old man believes time is on his side, whereas the 91-year-old man believes time is the enemy. Therefore, time is in conflict with itself; there is a congruence of friend and foe.

Time is without definition. In reality, time is the existence of the non-existent.

Yet, we follow the dictates of time. We become slaves to time. We look at our clocks and time tells us when to attend class; when to leave for work; when to turn on our favorite television show; when our assignment is due; when the concert begins; when the market closes; when the bus is scheduled to arrive; when the teenage daughter is expected home at night; when it is last call.

The birds of the sky, however, do not acknowledge the hands of the clock. They do not follow the dictates of time. Yet the geese know when to fly south. They follow the dictates of nature.

Does anybody really know what time it is? When my clock tells me the time is 5:53 p.m., it is already tomorrow in Jerusalem. So what time is it?

Our favorite fairy tales begin with the phrase, “Once upon a time…” But that time is not defined, nor does it require definition. We read the fairy tale, or watch the film, and realize that it is timeless because time is untethered.

Time cannot be stalled, time cannot be pushed back and time cannot be pushed forward.

We often ask ourselves, “Where did the time go?” or we say, “Time sure flies when you’re having fun.” But time does not go or fly anywhere because it never was there. Time does not pass us and we don’t pass time. We are not behind time and were are not in front of time. We are in lockstep with time because there is only one true time—now. What we call the past is the present and only in the present resides the future.

Time is immeasurable. How are we to measure 30 years? What might seem the blink of an eye or the beat of the heart to me is a lifetime to you.

We tend to think of life as sequential. We call it our time line. We use time to frame, catalogue and grant definition to the moments of our lives. To provide us with life landmarks, such as birth, marriage, anniversary, graduation, etc. We attach numbers and dates to those moments of our lives to acknowledge them each year, yet if we were to throw away our clocks and calendars those moments still exist, even if time does not. They would be as our fairy tales—they happened once upon a time. Those moments become untethered from time, just as time is untethered from the moments.

We curse time because we become withered, wrinkled and grow old, but that is a misplaced emotion. Time bears no guilt for our ageing. Like the flowers of the garden that eventually wither and land on the compost heap, ageing is the dictate of nature.

If this thing we call time could talk, it would tell us that it exists only in our minds, therefore it is non-existent. It would tell us that although fond memories might provide nourishment, we should live for, and in, the moment, not in the remoteness of recollection. It would tell us where we are, not where we have been or where we are going.

You have heard it said, “There’s no time like the present.” Time would tweak that slightly and tell us that there is no time but the present.

 

Gay youth should listen to what the NFL, the St. Louis Rams, ESPN and Michael Sam are saying

Derrick Ward and others don’t wish to see two men kissing on television because it might corrupt “little kids lookin at the draft.” Well, I’ve got news for them: Some of those “little kids lookin at the draft” are gay. They’re gay and they’re in hiding. They’re afraid to come out.

 

My guardian angel, Whisper
My guardian angel, Whisper

It has become the most talked-about kiss since Judas puckered up and planted his lips on Jesus’s cheek.

But in this case, there was no betrayal. No 30 pieces of silver. It was two men, Michael Sam and Vito Cammisano, locking lips in an emotional moment never before witnessed on national television.

Has anything changed in the scant hours since the gay football player and his boyfriend embraced? Not that you’d notice. Mother Earth did not make a stutter-step of shock when the two men swapped spit. The sun, the moon and the stars are maintaining their respective schedules. There has not been a seismic shift in society. It is no more bigoted, nor less bigoted, than it was before The Kiss.

They didn’t have to show it,” I heard someone with a screwed-up face and narrow mind say yesterday.

Well, no, they didn’t. ESPN didn’t have to show other drafted players kissing their girlfriends or wives, either. But that’s what ESPN does during its coverage of the National Football League’s annual beef sale. The name of a large lad is called out, he is handed a team cap, he shakes hands with a league official, he blubbers like a baby, he sometimes kisses his significant other and the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports documents it all.

In Sam’s case, the ESPN cameras were in San Diego when he received a phone call from Jeff Fisher, head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Two hundred and 48 players had already been selected in the three-day process. Fisher was about to make Sam No. 249. And, at the same time, No. 1—the first openly gay man to be chosen in the NFL draft.

Sam said “yes sir” to Fisher on two occasions. He thanked the coach. He wept. He turned to his teary-eyed boyfriend, Cammisano, and they kissed. More than once.

It was wonderful, true television. To censure the moment would have been broadcasting betrayal.

Yet, it had many squirming. Derrick Ward, for example.

“Man U got little kids lookin at the draft,” the former New York Giants running back tweeted. “I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.”

That’s right Derrick. You can allow all those little kiddies to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and all-star wrestling, but make certain you close their ears, their eyes and their minds to the reality that some men like to kiss other men.

There are many Derrick Wards among us. I know some of them. You probably do, too. They aren’t going away any time soon. The hope, though, is that the day will arrive when their overall numbers dwindle to the point whereby someone like Michael Sam is seen as a football player. Period.

As the trail blazer, Sam is positioned to further impact on society.

There is no guarantee, mind you, that the 24-year-old will make the Rams roster. Although an all-American and SEC defensive player of the year with the Missouri Tigers last year, Sam won’t earn a starting spot with St. Louis at defensive end. Or linebacker. At best, he will be a special teams player. At worst, he will be cut and become available to any other NFL outfit. Or a Canadian Football League club.

For now, though, it only matters that he’ll be given the opportunity to break down another barrier, not just for the benefit of the gay collective but for society as a whole.

Derrick Ward and others don’t wish to see two men kissing on television because it might corrupt “little kids lookin at the draft.” Well, I’ve got news for them: Some of those “little kids lookin at the draft” are gay. They’re gay and they’re in hiding. They’re afraid to come out.

So here’s what I’d say to the gay youth: Listen to what the National Football League, Michael Sam, the St. Louis Rams and ESPN are telling you. They’re telling you that it’s okay to be your true self. They’re telling you that it’s safe for you to come out and play with the other kids.

Listen to them…don’t listen to the Derrick Wards.

 

One more book, then the angels can come and get me

We change the lives of others with our deeds and words, both good and bad, often without knowing it. But they know it. Those are the people we meet on the other side.

My guardian angel, Whisper
My guardian angel, Whisper

I am not afraid to die…I’m just not quite ready to die.

I found myself in quiet ponder of such matters in the wee hours on this sixth day of May 2014 because my failing kidneys continue to fail. It was yesterday in the a.m. when I discovered the degree of their malfunction, with my doctor delivering both good and bad tidings.

The bad news is that I have arrived at Stage 4 chronic kidney disease. The good news is that I now know the bad news.

Yes, there are times when the negative falls under the banner of the positive. The days of our lives are often ill-spent dwelling on the unknown. We weaken ourselves with fret over notional bogeymen. We become, as they say, sick with worry. I’d rather not be consumed by the morbid thoughts and knee-jerkism that conjecture and hypothesis bring to the party. So tell me when, tell me how. Knowing trumps uncertainty.

The knowledge that my GFR (Glomerular filtration rate) has dipped to 18 is, to be sure, unsettling, because it means my kidneys are severely damaged and I am three percentage points away from Stage 5, or end-stage kidney failure. Yet, at the same time, I am experiencing a level of comfort. I’m okay with what’s happening.

My doctor, a nice, caring man, assures me that “For the rest of your life, I will be vigorously monitoring your kidneys.” What he can’t tell me is precisely how long the rest of my life will be. But, again, I’m okay with that.

I suppose this is one of those times when I should surrender to introspection.

I could look at two marriages that finished in a divorce court and posit that they were failures. But no. While it’s true that I failed at marriage, nothing that produces five beautiful children can be listed as a failure in the tally of one’s life.

I won’t pick at scabs. I won’t spare a second for the would have, could have and should have of reflective regret. My life has been 63 years and five months of imperfection. No one need remind me of that. I have stumbled and I have fallen in this lifetime. Others have picked me up and dusted me off. Just as I have picked up and dusted off others who have stumbled and fallen. Others have made me laugh and weep. Just as I have made others laugh and weep.

I have proved to be human.

I don’t feel cheated and I don’t feel that I have cheated life. I am, quite frankly, more curious about what is on the other side.

It is ironic that just last week I watched the tear-jerker movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It is a wonderful work based on the writings of Mitch Albom. It makes you want to believe in heaven. But it also makes you want to believe in yourself and the contributions you have made, regardless how insignificant they might appear to be.

We change the lives of others with our deeds and words, both good and bad, often without knowing it. But they know it. Those are the people we meet on the other side.

For a fleeting moment, I actually thought one of them had arrived to collect me last evening. I had dozed off while watching a John Wayne movie and awoke to a bright, white light behind me. I was rather hesitant to turn toward it.

Geez,” I whispered, “that didn’t take long. I just left the doctor’s office a few hours ago and they’ve already come to haul me off.”

Turns out it was my computer screen flashing back to life after an automatic shutdown for updates while I slept.

So I live to embrace another day with the hope, but no guarantee, that there shall be many more of them. Or at least enough of them that I complete my 10th book, which I began writing two weeks ago.

Beyond that, I suppose the angels can come and get me, because I arrived where I needed to be in this lifetime. I got to be my true self.

 

Those without tongues speak, those without ears listen

The wind and sky, the sun and moon speak to us each day, yet they without tongues are the greatest of orators. But who listens? Only that which grows in the garden and fields. Yet the rose bush, the peas in the pod and the sheaf of wheat are without ears.

 

My guardian angel, Whisper
My guardian angel, Whisper

What happens when you have nothing left to say?

I suppose you just listen to what others have to say.

Or not.

What others have to say is often simply the wagging of tongues and the flapping of lips. It is not worth the lending of our ears.

Why, I wonder, is listening not considered an art form, like speaking?

We admire the great orators, such as Sir Winston Churchill and Gandhi, yet we do not admire the great listeners. Indeed, who are the great listeners of history?

It is said that the teacher is not present until the student arrives. It follows that the orator is not present until the listener arrives.

Yet which came first, the great listener or the great orator?

Words in the wind, after all, are not but wind unless there are ears upon which to fall.

It must be that the great listeners of history are also the great orators of history. They have listened, therefore they speak. But who spoke to them? Does that not make she who spoke to Churchill and Gandhi the great orator?

They without tongues are the greatest of orators, for the wind and sky, the sun and moon speak to us each day. But who listens? Only that which grows in the garden and fields. Yet the rose bush, the peas in the pod and the sheaf of wheat are without ears.

Those without tongues speak, those without ears listen.

We wag our tongues when the clouds gather, yet the wind and sky, the sun and moon do not listen. Is that because they are without ears, or because we have nothing to say?

That says it all.