Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bearing the Weight of One's Allies (Part 1)

This post got started when, once again, a homosexual person said something transphobic and a trans person somewhere on the Internet, once again, responded by saying that this is why trans people should disassociate themselves from the queer community.  In short, take the T out of LGBT.

My first response to that was, "And are you going to stop associating with the straight community because straight people can also be transphobic?"  Transphobia is a sad fact of life.  But if we refused to associate with all cis people we wouldn't get very far.  (I admit that I'm biased on the subject of LGBT.  I knew I was queer long before I knew I was trans, so for me the two things naturally go together.  That is my community.  I can't just leave.)

Anyway, I was all set to write a preachy little post on the importance of working with one's allies: which means both holding them accountable and making allowances for their ignorance and ingrained social prejudices.  I used to believe all the bad things that society said about trans people.  I know what it's like to be ignorant.  I can't judge other people for that.  Moreover, allies, by definition, are people who don't get it.  Allies, by definition, are people who don't share your experience.  But if they are true allies then they want to learn.  They can't ever really live it or understand it the way that you do.  But they can make room in their souls for people who are different from them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bullying in Schools

Here's an article about a trans girl who, with the support of her parents, started attending school as a female in fifth grade.  There's a lot of good stuff in the article, but I was especially struck by this description of how bullying gets started:
When fifth grade started, Wyatt was gone. Nicole showed up for school, sometimes wearing a dress and sporting shoulder-length hair. She began using the girls’ bathroom. Nikki’s friends didn’t have a problem with the transformation; there were playdates and sleepovers.

“They said, ‘It was about time!’ ’’ Nicole says. She was elected vice president of her class and excelled academically.

But one day a boy called her a “faggot,’’ objected to her using the girls’ bathroom, and reported the matter to his grandfather, who is his legal guardian. The grandfather complained to the Orono School Committee, with the Christian Civic League of Maine backing him. The superintendent of schools then decided Nicole should use a staff bathroom.

“It was like a switch had been turned on, saying it is now OK to question Nicole’s choice to be transgender and it was OK to pursue behavior that was not OK before,’’ [her father] says. “Every day she was reminded that she was different, and the other kids picked up on it.’’

According to a 2009 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 90 percent of transgender youth report being verbally harassed and more than half physically harassed. Two-thirds of them said they felt unsafe in school.

To protect her from bullying at school, Nicole was assigned an adult to watch her at all times between classes, following her to the cafeteria, to the bathroom. She found it intrusive and stressful. It made her feel like even more of an outsider.

“Separate but equal does not work,’’ she says.

It was a burden that [her brother] Jonas shouldered as well. The same boy who in fifth grade objected to her using the girls bathroom made the mistake of saying to Jonas in sixth grade that “freaking gay people’’ shouldn’t be allowed in the school. Jonas jumped on him and a scuffle ensued.
 I also want to point out that the school did try to help Nicole (although unfortunately the family ended up having to move to another town, where no one knew she was trans.)  I've been involved in some discussions lately about whether or not it's possible for schools to prevent bullying, and what their options are.  Too often they don't try to protect LGBT students at all.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"I wanted to show America a different kind of man."

Chaz Bono on his “Dancing with the Stars” stint:
I came on this show because I wanted to show America a different kind of man. If there was somebody like me on TV when I was growing up, my whole life would have been different. And so I dedicated everything I did to all the people out there like me and especially to kids and teens who are struggling. You can have a wonderful, great life and be successful and happy.
 I have to say that I've never paid much attention to Chaz (despite hearing about him now and then over the years.)  But that really expresses how I feel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Swallows and Amazons and Narnia

I love children's books.  Have I mentioned that before?  The best ones can be read over and over, by people of any age.

 As a child I liked the Narnia books.  I didn't recognize the Christian allegory, and when I figured it out I thought it showed a gross lack of imagination on Lewis' part. Couldn't he come up with his own ideas?  Nonetheless, I still read them occasionally, even though in the process I have to shut off parts of my brain and pretend that a white Oxbridge man's view of the world is the only one that matters.  But I digress.  I wanted to write about Swallows and Amazons.

In 1930 Arthur Ransome published Swallows and Amazons, the first book in the series.  In a later foreword, he wrote:
I have often been asked how I came to write Swallows and Amazons.  The answer is that it had its beginning long, long ago, when, as children, my brother, my sisters and I spent most of our holidays on a farm at the south end of Coniston [a large lake in the north of England] . . .
To a modern reader, one of the surprising things about the book is that the children spend most of their time without any adult supervision.  They go sailing up and down the lake - in a sailboat! By themselves! No adults on board!  They camp out on an island in the lake for several weeks - the grownups come by to check on them every so often, but really they're on their own.  They generally wander around.  And they have lots of fun.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Feminism and Transphobia

I used to be a feminist.  There, I said it.  I've been putting off writing this post, because to me people who say "I used to be a feminist" have always seemed ungrateful.  But the plain fact is that feminism does not meet my needs as a trans person. 

Feminism has always been about questioning traditional notions of gender. I believe it's not going too far to say that the fundamental axiom of feminism is that everything society teaches us about gender is wrong.  And yet most feminists, upon encountering the word "transgender," suddenly become extremely conventional.  Suddenly society's definitions of gender are not to be questioned.  Why is that?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spiritual Nourishment

The sermon at my Unitarian Universalist church one recent Sunday was on the topic of addictive behaviors and spiritual nourishment.  The general idea was that people stuff themselves with food, alcohol, etc. because they feel an emptiness inside - and it may be true that spiritual practice helps to fill that void better than addictive substances.

While listening to the speakers, I felt like I was looking in a mirror: and by that I mean, I saw my own image reversed.  For some reason I don't have an addictive personality.  As I've mentioned here before, the closest I come to any kind of compulsive behavior is undereating, rather than overeating; and even that has always seemed to me like a semi-instinctive response to stress, not a choice I make in order to make myself feel better.  Also I've done a lot of spiritual exploration.  If there is a void inside each one of us that can only be filled by spirituality, then my void has been pretty much taken care of.  I believe it is fair to say that I preferred spiritual practice to alcohol, or ice cream, or whatever else the people around me were using.

Nonetheless - and this is what struck me on that Sunday - even genuine spiritual nourishment didn't help me feel connected to other human beings.  The spiritual world and the human world seemed to be completely separate from each other.  I felt the love of the spirit, I felt compassion and universal connectedness - I knew it was real.  But when I looked into the human world I saw none of those things.

During my formative years, I don't recall ever hearing anyone say the word "compassion."  Even the word "love" was in short supply.  As for the idea that all life is sacred, that we are all connected in the web of life - I don't believe those concepts are part of traditional Western culture.  Of course, those are big ideas.  The people I knew were focused on daily events, the mundane world, the struggle to provide the necessities of life.  Maybe some of them were aware of the existence of compassion, and just didn't bother to mention it to me.

And yet, at the Unitarian Universalist church I heard people speak who were thoroughly familiar with the words "compassion," "love," "connectedness," "social justice," "sacred community."  They had devoted many years of their lives to speaking those words and trying, with others, to enact those concepts in the world.  They were experts and I was less than a novice - and yet they still couldn't bridge the gap between the human world and the spiritual world. They still felt something which they called "an emptiness inside." This actually encouraged me.  It really is hard, I thought.  It's not just me.

It would seem that spiritual practice and social practice are two different things.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey

I have enjoyed Jacqueline Carey's books for many years now.  One of the things I admire most about her writing is that she doesn't write the same thing over and over.  She hit the big time with Kushiel's Dart, and she could have dined out on that genre for the rest of her life, but in each of her subsequent series she has tried new things.  Many otherwise-good writers don't bother to do that.

Now with Santa Olivia she has made an even bigger leap:  from faux-medieval fantasy to near-future science fiction.  And she pulls it off pretty well.  For some reason it's difficult for people who got started in a different genre to switch to SF.  I can't really think of anyone who's done it successfully.  Walter Mosley is an example of a great writer whose SF writing sucks.  (I have only read his first SF book, and I am not going to read any more.)  Some people have started out doing SF and later produced good work in another field, such as Nicola Griffith (mystery) and Lois M. Bujold (fantasy.)  But apparently SF is tricky to get right.

The mistake most people make is to show off how much they know about science by inserting too many details.  I once read the first two pages of an SF novel by Felice Picano. He devotes a long paragraph to explaining how the automatic door works.  Hello?  Doors that open automatically have not been unusual since 1966, when they appeared on Star Trek.

Carey avoids that mistake.  In fact I would say that she errs in the opposite direction and doesn't put in enough detail.  Her Terre d'Ange books are all loaded with intricate descriptions of food, fabrics, buildings, landscapes, and people.  She doesn't do that here.  For example, she barely describes the town of Santa Olivia at all, and therefore it doesn't exactly come off like a real place.  I kind of wish she had chosen a real Texas town and described that.  As it is, I had to rely on whatever generic Southwestern images I have in my head, which is not sufficient.

The other big change in Santa Olivia is that there's a lot more swearing.  Faux-medieval worlds have very little swearing in them for some reason, and when people do swear they never use the words to which we have become accustomed.  (I seem to remember that Mary Gentle's Ash series is an exception to this rule.)  Carey appears to have decided to drop the F-bomb as often as possible.  And I guess that's okay.  But I'm afraid that her language still sounds a little stilted.

So what do I like about the book?  It was interesting to see Carey grappling with real-world problems, instead of mythic quests with the required happy endings.  I was totally pulled into the book, and at the climatic moment I was all excited, even though as you can tell from this review I had been having some reservations.  I also like the way Carey takes her usual themes - sex, religion, angels, war - and turns them upside down.

For example, Carey switched from writing about a sex-positive culture to a culture that more closely resembles our own.  She does it with subtlety - anyone who has read her earlier books knows how she feels, and yet she manages to avoid getting up on a soapbox.  Here's an example:  the town of Santa Olivia has been turned into a military base.  Lots of soldiers live there; that means prostitution is a major industry.  In Carey's near-future world, the US military has become an all-male institution once again.  (She mentions that without dwelling on it; that's one.)  So the military will only provide one form of contraception: condoms.  Santa Olivia has been cut off from the rest of the world, and it appears that no other forms of contraception are allowed in.  Think about that for a bit.  She mentions it and then she moves on.

There was one other thing that seemed odd to me:  in addition to being sex-positive, Carey has always been queer-positive.  Loup, the protagonist of Santa Olivia, gets involved in a same-sex romance.  But I never realized while reading Carey's other books that she writes queer romance from a heterosexual point of view.  Loup becomes a female boxer; her lover is an ultra-feminine woman.  In a lesbian novel someone would have pointed out that they're a butch-femme couple, even if it were only mentioned as a joke.  Nothing like that happens here.  In fact Loup and Pilar don't even identify as lesbians.  Loup is more or less asexual outside of this one relationship; Pilar thought of herself as straight and is very nervous about getting into a lesbian relationship.  That's realistic but it's also, I have to say, kind of a cheat.  It comes across as pandering to a straight audience that enjoys girl-on-girl.  I still admire Carey's work but that bothers me.

Nonetheless, if you want to see a talented writer branch out into a new genre, read Santa Olivia.  The sequel, Saints Astray, came out just recently and I am looking forward to reading it.  (Incidentally, a fan on Carey's Facebook page came up with the sequel's title.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Infighting, Part 2: Internalized Transphobia

These are things that trans people say about each other.  I believe they are all examples of internalized transphobia:
  1. I hate cross-dressers. 
  2. We need to conform to society's gender rules. 
  3. My closet is better than your closet. 
  4. In order to prove that you're trans, you have to suffer. 
  5. I'm not trans anymore (but I have to keep coming back to the trans community in order to announce how much I don't belong to the trans community.) 
  6. Everyone should do what I did. 
  7. Take the T out of LGBT. 
To go into detail:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Poetry Appreciation Segment

I have a guest post up at The Rumpus.   Very happy that someone else found it worthy of displaying on their blog.  (Incidentally, my original title was "Hafez:  The Persistence of Poetry.")

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wilfred Owen: "In poetry we call them the most glorious."

Wilfred Owen was a poet who was killed in the First World War, at the age of 25.  If you're familiar with his poems I don't need to tell you about them. If you're not, I don't know what to say.  I suppose his most famous poem is "Dulce et Decorum Est."

Recently I came across a collection of his letters, edited by John Bell (who published Owen's complete letters in 1967, and these selected letters thirty years later.)  Owen's war poetry is so bitter, sharp as bayonets, shaking with rage, that I was surprised to find another side to him in his letters:  light-hearted, enthusiastic, and frequently funny.  Most of them were written to his mother.

When war broke out in 1914, Owen was living in France, working as an English tutor.  He did not want to do this for the rest of his life; in fact, he had no clear plan for his life at all.  He wrote poetry but barely allowed himself to dream of making it his career.  He did not enlist until 1915, and spent over a year in officers' training.  Although he had been in no hurry to join up, military life seems to have suited him well.  His letters home are invariably cheerful.

On his first day in France (before reaching the front lines), he cut his thumb and joked about it being his first war wound: "I could only squeeze out a single drop of blood."  Once he arrived at the Somme, the tone of his letters changes completely:
16 Jan. 1917

I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these last 4 days.  I have suffered seventh hell.
I have not been at the front.
I have been in front of it.
I held an advanced post, that is a "dug-out" in the middle of No Man's Land.

We had a march of 3 miles over shelled road then nearly 3 along a flooded trench.  After that we came to where the trenches had been blown flat out and had to go over the top.  It was of course dark, too dark, and the ground was not mud, not sloppy mud, but an octopus of sucking clay, 3, 4, and 5 feet deep, relieved only by craters full of water.  Men have been known to drown in them.  Many stuck in the mud & only got out by leaving their waders, equipment and in some cases their clothes.

High explosives were dropping all around out, and machine guns spluttered every few minutes. But it was so dark that even the German flares did not reveal us.

My dug-out held 25 men tight packed. Water filled it to a depth of 1 or 2 feet, leaving say 4 feet of air.
One entrance had been blown in & blocked.
So far, the other remained.
The Germans knew we were staying there and decided we shouldn't.
Those fifty hours were the agony of my happy life.
I nearly broke down and let myself drown in the water that was now slowly rising over my knees.

In the Platoon on my left the sentries over the dug-out were blown to nothing.  One of these poor fellows was my first servant whom I rejected.  If I had kept him he would have lived, for [officers'] servants don't do Sentry Duty.
The short, choppy sentences are also atypical for him.  About a month later he wrote:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Infighting, Part 1: Transsexual vs. Transgender

Visitors to my blog may notice that it's described as "a transgender blog." You may also notice that I often don't write about trans-related stuff. There are two or three reasons for this:
  1. I spend a lot of time thinking about my gender. But my thoughts and feelings have not yet been organized into words.
  2. I spend a lot of time thinking about my gender, but I almost wish I didn't have to. I wish I could take it for granted. Non-trans people don't have to constantly interrogate their gender.
  3. I spend a lot of time thinking about my gender, but I recognize that it is more interesting to me than it is to anyone else. And since this blog is a public document, I do try to write about things that other people might possibly be interested in.
Now that I have finally come out as trans, I want to be out. But I know that doesn't mean I have to only talk about trans stuff. I'm still working this all out.

Nonetheless, there are times when I have something to say about transgender. And reading this article generated one of those times.  The basis of the article is the question, "What is the difference between 'transgender' and 'transsexual'?"  (Incidentally, the word "transsexual" was originally spelled wrong in the headline.  Kind of a bad sign.)

Obviously there is a difference between "transgender" and "transsexual."  But the definitions given in this article do not sit well with me at all.  Basically we are told that "transsexual" denotes real trans people (except when they're not - more on this below) and "transgender" denotes people who are faking it, who aren't serious, who are just playing dress-up games and don't deserve any respect.  This is where I have a problem.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why I'm Not an Atheist

Recently a friend caused me to watch an episode of Bill Moyers' show on PBS, Faith and Reason.  It was an interview with Dutch writer Anne Provoost, whom I had never heard of before, but she brought up some thought-provoking stuff.  The specific topic of this interview was her retelling of the Noah's Ark story.  She wants to know why God would destroy almost all life on earth, just because he didn't like the way people were behaving.  Didn't he create all these humans and animals?  If they don't function according to spec, isn't that a flaw in the original design?

At one point Moyers asks, "can you trust a God who doesn't get it right?" and Provoost replies:
Why would you trust a God that at this moment, doesn't come back to give us the right book. You know, through history, he's given the Jewish people a book. And he's given the Christians a book. And he's given the Muslim books, and so there's big similarities between these books, but there's also contradictions.  I would think that, you know, he needs to come back and create clarity and not let... he shouldn't let us fight over who's right. He should make it clear. So, my personal answer to your question, "Should we trust," I wouldn't.
She has a good point.  All the same, I'm not an atheist.  (Incidentally, Provoost is not an atheist either.)  Nor am I Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.  I don't have to believe in that god (and yes, the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god is pretty much all the same god.)  Some people say, if he doesn't come back and tell us which of those religions has his personal seal of approval, that proves there is no god.  I say, maybe it's not "his" job to provide a book with all the answers.

The other point that people use to disprove the existence of god is the question, why does he let good people suffer?  I actually think that this is an example of anthropomorphism.  God is not human.  God is not a person.  We don't ask, "why does god allow trees to be cut down?"  "Why does god allow our pets to run away and get hit by cars?"  "Why does god allow factory farming?"  Most of us accept those as valid forms of destruction . . . and even if we don't, there still seems to be an assumption that god is supposed to look out for people first.  If god were a tree, or a cat, or a cow (and god has been all of those things), wouldn't it have to protect those above all?

We think of ourselves as the Chosen People, or rather the Chosen Species.  Which brings up another comment by Provoost:
Now what strikes me is that never ever in history do you have a group of people that says well here's us, but that group there, these other people, they are chosen. So, whenever you have a proclamation of being chosen, it's always a self-defining process. It's always the people who are chosen who say they are chosen. They never say that about the other. They always say that about themselves.
I find that very interesting because in my experience, we as individuals do often feel that other people are better than us, other people are special and we are sinners, we are the bad ones.  And yet she's right that no group of people, as far as I know, have defined themselves as the un-Chosen.  It's as if we can only be rejected by God individually.  (Now, in the recent Rapture-that-didn't-happen many of us identified with those who would not be saved.  But if we really believed in that stuff we wouldn't say that, I don't think.)

I'm actually a Daoist.  The Dao fulfills many of the same functions as what people call "God," but it's not a person.  It's not an old white man with a long beard who lives up in the sky.  It doesn't talk.  There is an official book of Daoism - the Dao De Jing, which means "Book of the Way (Dao) and the Power (De)" - but it doesn't feel right to call it a "Bible."  And although Daoists are just as attached to their own religion as everybody else, I don't think any Daoist would say that the Dao De Jing contains The One and Only Truth.  In fact the very first line of the book says "the Dao that can be put into words is not the real Dao," thereby casting doubt on its own validity as a sacred text.

Like all religions, Daoism clearly defines right and wrong.  But one thing it's lacking is punishment.  The Dao (being neither a vengeful nor a jealous god) never sets out to punish anybody.  Perhaps the best Daoist metaphor for evil is "swimming against the current."  If you're out of harmony with the Dao, that's bad.  If you're out of harmony with the Dao, bad things are more likely to happen to you - but not because you are bad, just because you're not behaving the right way.  Here's another good analogy:  if you drop a rock on your foot, it hurts.  That's not a punishment.  It's just gravity.

So.  I'm not an atheist because I believe that there is something out there, a guiding force in the universe.  A power that is the universe.  It's not all random.  But it's not focused on humanity either - neither to exalt us nor to punish us.  It's bigger than that.

Here are the video and transcript of the Provoost interview.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I have a slightly unusual eating disorder:  when I get stressed out, I can't eat.  It seems unusual because when I hear people talk about anorexia, they define it as the false belief that one needs to lose weight.  I don't believe that I'm fat.  I've never "dieted" in my life.  I'm just not hungry.  Nor do I have issues about certain foods (known as orthorexia.)  I'm not disturbed by the sight of other people eating (although I guess it is a little bit gross, when you think about it.)

It's only recently that I realized this is an eating disorder - and ironically, the thing that tipped me off is reading some blog posts by people who eat more when they're stressed out, instead of less.  They acknowledge that it's not just about the food, or about feeling hungry - there's something else going on.  And I thought, "Yeah, obviously I am hungry.  And when I'm not in a bad mood I eat well.  So there's something overriding my natural desire to eat."

One of my cats died recently, and as he became seriously ill he stopped eating.  It made me think about my own loss of appetite and my suicidal tendencies.  It's a means of cutting myself off from the world, going on strike, refusing to engage.  It's an act of rebellion but also . . . a capitulation.

My poor little kitty really was on his way out.  There was no reason for him to eat.  But I'm still here and I have as much right to be here as anyone, although it's hard sometimes for me to remember that. I want to stay on top of this thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Animal Stories

I grew up with animals - mainly goats, but pigs, cats, chickens, and sheep also played formative roles in my childhood.  Imaginary animals did too; that is to say, animals which I had never met in real life.

One of the first books I remember reading showed all the different varieties of cat, and I made up a long series of stories about the Queen of the Cats.  She was half Persian and half Angora (based on the pictures in the book, those seemed to me to be the most regal species of cats.)  I had heard that cats had nine lives, so I decided that the Queen of the Cats should have nine times nine lives, and the magic of this concept was in no way impeded by the fact that I didn't know how much "nine times nine" actually was.  Most of my stories dealt with her running through her nine-times-nine lives: dying in various ways and then coming back to life and triumphing over her enemies.  Children do have gruesome imaginations, don't they?

Goats also featured in these stories somehow, although I can't remember if I took the goats that I knew and turned them into cats, or if they were still goats.  As a matter of fact, goats and cats have very similar personalities:  independent, stubborn, curious, and determined to get to the other side of whatever door or fence happens to be standing in their way.

Later I read The Jungle Book, and that transformed my fantasy life again.  I don't recall ever pretending to be a cat, or a goat, at least not in any serious way, but I pretended to be a wolf seriously and with dedication, for a long time.  At this moment I can't remember why wolves, of all animals, fascinated me so much.  I should read that book again.

Animals appealed to me more than people because they never gave me shit.  Also they were my role models in a way that the people around me (for whatever reasons) couldn't be.  It occurs to me now that they had more personality, or more attractive personalities, than the people that I knew. I could communicate with animals much better than with people . . . and I still find that people have some extra layer of consciousness, or something, that doesn't resonate with me.  I feel as if I can understand an animal simply by looking at it.  People have something else going on. Or maybe it's my fear of people that stands in the way.

I also find it significant that animals seemed to have greater variety.  That book of cats depicted so many different breeds of cat; The Jungle Book features several other animals besides wolves.  I felt as if the human world was barren, monotonous,and at its worst, hostile.  But animals came in all shapes and sizes, all different kinds.  The humans I knew didn't have that  much diversity.

Of course, identifying with animals was also my way of escaping gender.  Gender seems to be less important for animals.  I've never heard of anyone trying to force an animal to conform to strict gender roles.  They have gender, as everyone knows, but they're not defined first and foremost in terms of gender.  They're animals first and gendered second - so it seems to me.

In preadolescence I went from a fascination with wolves to a fascination with foxes.  Sly, cunning creatures who are good at escaping from the hounds, good at practicing deception.  I wanted that then; I couldn't be a wolf anymore.  And in adolescence, as I recall, I gave up my animal stories altogether.

Some people seem to disapprove of "fantasy worlds."  They're unrealistic?  But my imaginary life with animals was realistic in its own way.  Animals are real.  I had never seen a wolf or an Angora cat in person - that doesn't make them any less real.  We are supposed to learn, aren't we, about things outside our daily existence, our own little spot of the planet.  And I needed to know that other possibilities existed.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of Oscar Wilde.  I think he was a damned fool.  While I was reading Richard Ellmann's biography of him, I kept wondering, "What's Bosie's side of the story?"  Finally I sought out a biography of Lord Alfred Douglas.  In fact, I ended up reading two of them, both very partial to their subject, and I have to say it's a sad state of affairs when reading a biography by an author who is totally on the person's side leaves you disliking that person even more than you did formerly.

The two biographies I read are the ones by H. Montgomery Hyde and Douglas Murray.  They don't actually spend much time discussing Douglas' relationship with Wilde, and so in a sense I don't entirely feel as if I got Bosie's side of the story after all.  These books devote most of their pages to Douglas' life after Wilde . . . but in a very real way there never was an "after."  Wilde haunted Douglas all his life.

Well, I figured that since I read those two books I might as well get a blog post out of it.  And in order to keep this post to a reasonable length I decided to focus exclusively, despite extensive temptation, on the trials with which Douglas was involved. I'm not going to tell you about his early gay activism, his eventual marriage (to a woman who may well have been bisexual), his rather dubious poetry, or the habit his rich friends had of buying magazines for him to edit and use as a vehicle for his politics, even when they completely disagreed with said politics.  Nope.  Just the trials. Well, most of the trials.  I don't think I have room for the fake obituary trial.

Fortunately he was a litigious bastard, just like his father, so this should give a good overview of his life and attitudes.

Wilde vs. Queensberry, 1895

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas met in 1891.  By 1895 they had become inseparable companions and Douglas' father, the Marquis of Queensberry, was bothered by this.  Ostensibly he wanted to save his son from the depraved influence of an older homosexual man; and by the standards of his time he was justified in doing anything that might achieve this end. This is a crucial point.  It doesn't matter that Queensberry was violent, abusive, and quite possibly insane.  It doesn't matter that he believed himself to be surrounded by homosexuals:  his father-in-law, at least two of his sons, and the patron of his older son Francis.  It doesn't matter that he wrote letters to his son Alfred such as the following:
If you are my son, it is only confirming proof to me, if I needed any, how right I was to face every horror and misery I have done rather than run the risk of bringing more creatures into the world like yourself, and that was the entire and only reason of my breaking with your mother as a wife, so intensely was I dissatisfied with her as the mother of you children, and particularly yourself, whom, when quite a baby, I cried over you the bitterest tears a man ever shed, that I had brought such a creature into this world, and unwittingly had committed such a crime.
The only thing that matters is that homosexuality was "the worst of all crimes" - a phrase which is used over and over again during the Wilde trials.  Or, as Queensberry put it in another letter to his son:
With my own eyes I saw you both in the most loathsome and disgusting relationship as expressed by your manner and expression.  Never, in my experience, have I seen such a sight as that in your horrible features. It is no wonder people are talking as they are.
To the modern mind (at least, to mine) both of those quotes are the ravings of a madman.  Queensberry goes on to say that if he knew for sure that Wilde was a practicing sodomite, he would be "quite justified in shooting him on sight."  He was fond of making such threats, but in this case he probably spoke the absolute truth:  society considered death to be an appropriate punishment for homosexuality.  (In fact, in England it was the legal punishment for sodomy until 1861.)

After harassing Wilde for several months, Queensberry finally left a card for him at his club with the words "For Oscar Wilde posing somdomite [sic]" written on it, and Wilde decided to sue him for libel.  For those who don't already know, this was an incredibly stupid thing to do.  Wilde was a practicing sodomite; so first of all, that meant that Queensberry's statement was not libel.  And second of all, if Wilde's sexual activity became publicly known, he would go to jail for it.  Which he did.  What was he thinking?

Lord Alfred Douglas was eager to testify against his father, but he never really seems to have understood the nature of the case, or indeed the meaning of the term "libel."  (It strikes me as strange that the abusive letters quoted above, from a father to his son, don't count as libel but the two words "posing sodomite" do.)  What could he have said to help Wilde win his case?  "My father is a horrible person" would have done no good, even if it were true.  "Oscar Wilde and I love each other" would not have been helpful either.

There is no doubt that he saw this trial as an attack on his father, that he hoped it would provide him with some sort of vengeance, and so he egged Wilde on.  But he was not allowed to testify - in fact, his name was barely mentioned at the trial, even though there's no question that the trial was all about him, and logic would suggest that he was just as guilty of sodomy as Wilde.  Wilde and Douglas were inseparable companions; Wilde spent a great deal of time associating with rent boys; therefore, wouldn't Douglas have been present at many of these encounters?  (Some of the rent boys did in fact testify that he participated.) Nonetheless, the magistrates all agreed that Douglas was an innocent victim who had been introduced to homosexuality by Wilde and could still be saved, if only he were removed from that pernicious influence. Douglas insisted that this was not the case, but no one wanted to listen to him.  Only to his father.

Judging by Douglas' subsequent career, he believed that the courts are an appropriate venue in which to fight your personal conflicts.  I gather that many people feel this way. But it is not a likeable trait.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold"

One of my top three favorite writers, Diana Wynne Jones, died recently.  She was 76 years old and had been fighting lung cancer for over a year.  It's sad to think that we will have no more of her books, but at least her reputation is assured.  Aside from the slight problem of no one having heard of her.  I wrote about her books on my old blog.

For some reason the book that I found myself turning to is a favorite, but not the favorite of her works.  Maybe reading my favorite one (Fire and Hemlock) would be too sad.  Instead I picked up A Tale of Time City.

Time City exists outside of time.  The inhabitants can travel to any time period, and they keep records of all human history.  They also sell information to people who live 'in history," such as weather forecasts, and arrange family reunions in Time City, where you can meet your ancestors and your descendants.  For a fee, of course.

Time City is a peaceful place, but it has a problem.  The technology that keeps the city separate from the rest of time and space was created so long ago that nobody remembers how it works, and now it appears to be breaking down.  But that's not where the book starts:
The train journey was horrible.  There was a heat wave that September in 1939, and the railway authorities had fastened all the windows shut so that none of the children packed onto the train could fall out.  There were several hundred of them, and nearly all of them screamed when they saw a cow.  They were being sent away from London from the bombing, and most of them had no idea where milk came from.
One of the children on that train is eleven-year-old Vivian Smith.  Her parents are sending her to stay with a relative she's never met before. She's terrified . . . but she "had thought of every single thing that possibly could go wrong except the one that actually did."  Suddenly she finds herself in Time City, kidnapped by two boys who believe she's the key to repairing their technology. Vivian swears she knows nothing about it.  But does she?

I don't know why I like this book so much.  (Incidentally, Jones herself was only five when World War II broke out, but according to Wikipedia she was also evacuated from London.)  Probably it's the way she keeps the suspense going continually, while at the same time throwing in all kinds of little world-building details, like when the boys decide to give Vivian a bedroom that will make her feel at home, and put her in the Ancient Egyptian suite.  Her characters for the most part muddle through - I do enjoy books where nobody knows what they're doing.  Or maybe it's the fact that there are no cows in Time City or in London.

As a writer Diana Wynne Jones did have one flaw, and that was endings.  Even in her published works it took her a while to get the hang of an ending.  In this book it's not so much the ending itself that bothers me as the explanation.  I believe that I understand how it all worked, but the explanation given by the characters makes no sense at all.  (There's actually a typo near the end, which makes me think that whole passage was affected by an editing glitch.)  But that just goes to show what a good writer she was, in my opinion, that even with this flaw her books are still wonderful.

The title of this post is a quote from Milton; it doesn't appear in the book but it is definitely related.  Rest in peace, Diana.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gay Poetry

Recently I came across my battered copy of The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, edited by Stephen Coote.  It's a striking collection.  The introduction is also worth reading, as an overview of the LGB experience in Western history.  (He doesn't really mention the T's.)  For example, the early Christian era was surprisingly tolerant of homosexuality.  Coote tells this amusing story about a certain Archbishop of Canterbury:
In 1102 the Council of London wanted to make the public aware of how serious 'sodomy' was (evidently they weren't) and to insist on it being confessed as a sin.  This was the edict Anselm quashed, declaring, rather oddly for an archbishop, that sodomy was so widespread that nobody was embarrassed by it anyway.
Many of the poems in this book I cannot share with you, because I don't want this blog to be X-rated.  The ancient Greek and Roman ones are perhaps the most shocking - if you had any doubts, understand now that "Platonic" love does not mean what everybody thinks it means.  When I hear people say that true civilization originated in classical Greece, I wonder if they've ever read any of these poems.  Although to be fair, the Romans (not so much the Greeks) spent a lot of time complaining about the increase in sexual perversion and the loss of good old-fashioned family values.  And they described these sexual perversions in minute and accurate detail, almost as if they had personal experience in the matter.  (Incidentally, one of Juvenal's satires, aka rants, describes a marriage between two men.)

Anyway. Here is a poem by Meleager, a Greek who was born in what is now the country of Jordan, in the 1st century BCE (translated by Peter Whigham):
At 12 o'clock in the afternoon
in the middle of the street -
Summer had all but brought the fruit
to its perilous end:
& the summer sun & that boy's look
did their work on me.
Night hid the sun.
Your face consumes my dreams.
Others feel sleep as feathered rest;
mine but in flame refigures
your image lit in me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Someone asked me why I didn't blog about Mardi Gras.  As far as I can tell, if you're doing it right you have no clear memories of Mardi Gras.  It's all a blur of brightly colored beads, screaming, slightly less brightly colored floats, music, and multicolored flashing lights.  I didn't attain that level of Nirvana, but I had enough fun to be thoroughly tired out long before the Blue Parade rolled.  Got some good throws though, including two strings of glass beads.

I hear that permanent residents of New Orleans hate Mardi Gras.  This was only my second Carnival season as a resident, but I foresee trouble ahead.  Or, as my boyfriend put it, staring at the huge pile of beads on our living room floor, "If we continue to live here I don't see how I can keep doing this every year."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Krazy Kat: "Watta woil, watta woil."

I'm here to share with you another of my favorite things: the Krazy Kat comic strip, by George Herriman.  It's hard for me to describe things that I love.  I mean, squee!!!  The surrealistic art, the gentle yet twisted sense of humor, the unique dialect . . .  I don't know how he did it.  Maybe that's why I can't describe it?  Anyway.

Krazy Kat was created around 1913 and ran until the artist's death in 1944.  The thing that really endears Krazy to me is that s/he is androgynous.  As far as I can recall, Herriman always referred to the Kat as "he."  However, the editor of the book Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman says that it was sometimes "he" and sometimes "she."  He also gives this quote from Herriman, discussing the Kat's gender:
I don't know.  I fooled around with it once; began to think the Kat is a girl - even drew up some strips with her being pregnant.  It wasn't the Kat any longer . . . Then I realized Krazy was something like a sprite, an elf.  They have no sex.  So that Kat can't be a he or a she.
 The central theme of Krazy Kat is the love triangle between Kat, mouse and dog.  Incidentally, mouse and dog are definitely male - so if Krazy were male too, that makes them all queer.  And since the expression of love in the comic consists of mouse hitting Kat in the head with a brick, it's kinky too.

The characters in Krazy Kat have their own unique language - for example, "what a world" is pronounced "watta woil."  Krazy might have more of an accent than the others, but they do it too.  George Herriman was born in New Orleans, and some people have suggested that this is a New Orleanian accent. I don't know if it is or not.  But one thing is true:  in New Orleans the Herriman family was black.  When George was six years old they moved to California and somewhere along the way they became white.

I believe that six is old enough to understand the concept of race, to know what race you are - and more importantly, to remember any darker-skinned members of your family who might have been around.  There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not Herriman knew he was passing for white.  His daughter wrote on his death certificate that both of George Herriman's parents were born in France, but this is false.  Did he lie to his own children about his background?  Had his parents lied to him?

A black man would not have been hired as a newspaper cartoonist in the early 20th century.  A black man could not have worked alongside white newspaper men:  they seem to have been a rowdy bunch but some things were beyond the pale (as it were.)  Herriman's co-workers thought of him as an eccentric guy who didn't talk much about himself and always kept his hat on indoors.  (He did that in order to hide his possibly-kinky hair, which suggests to me that he must have known what he was hiding.)  They called him "The Greek," which was meant to indicate that no one knew what his ethnic background was. 

Apparently he did once tell someone that his family was Creole in origin and he thought he might have had some Negro blood.  What would it have been like to make that admission?  Was it the equivalent of hinting at homosexuality, or transsexuality?  There's no question in my mind that one of the things that draws me to Krazy Kat is the unspoken secrets.

The other arresting aspect of Krazy Kat is the scenery.  Many people have believed that Herriman made it up; but no.  It is based on Coconino County, Arizona, where Herriman frequently stayed on the Navajo reservation.  He said it was his favorite place on earth.  I wonder if he was aware of the Native American tradtions of transgendered, "two-spirit" people - certainly Krazy is one of them.  I also wonder if the reason he liked the reservation so much is that it was an escape from the white world, where he could go without revealing his black ancestry.

The great thing about art is that people can read into it whatever they want.  It's never just one thing. Which also means that it has an existence of its own, beyond any single interpretation.  Like that story about the blind men and the elephant.  Art is an elephant.  So is life.

From Wikimedia Commons.  (Krazy Kat, not being owned by Walt Disney, is in the public domain.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Attis, Agdistis, and Kybele

As I've mentioned before, I love mythology.  These stories which have endured for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, so old in most cases that their authors are no longer known . . . stripped down to their most basic elements, like stones polished by the ocean.  All that's left is meaning; some deep significance that speaks to us, even if we don't know why.

They have endured and they have also changed.  When you think of fairy tales, do you think of Walt Disney?  Or have you sought out the older versions, full of sex, violence, proactive heroines, and various other things of which the censors don't approve?

The purpose of mythology is not to teach conformity:  this I believe.  It is to open up to us another world - call it the collective unconscious, sacred space, the Dreaming, the shamanistic world of magic, what you will.  The purpose of mythology is to say there is another world.  And the fact that we feel drawn to it - those of us who feel drawn to it - proves that there is something there of value.  It is not "real" but it is real.

Recently I discovered the myth of Attis and Agdistis and it has stayed with me.  Here is the oldest version that we have (from
"The local [Phrygian] legend about him [Attis] being this. Zeus [equated here with the Phrygian sky-god], it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a Daimon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the daimon Agdistis. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Sangarios, they say, took the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy was born, and exposed, but was tended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis fell in love with him. When he had grown up, Attis was sent by his relatives to Pessinos, that he might wed the king’s daughter. The marriage-song was being sung, when Agdistis appeared, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals, as also did he who was giving him his daughter in marriage. But Agdistis repented of what she had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay. These are the most popular forms of the legend of Attis." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 7.17.8
So.  What is it, you ask, that I like about this myth?  First of all, I like it because it's transgendered.  The birth of an hermaphrodite sends the gods into a tizzy.  Why do they care?  I don't know.  Second, I like it because Agdistis suffers, but endures.  And third, I like it because it is the basis of a major religious movement.

Agdistis was associated with the goddess Kybele (also spelled Cybele.)  Some say that after Agdistis was castrated "she" became Kybele.  But Kybele was widely known as a mother goddess; the Greeks identified her with Rhea.  Does that mean that Rhea was once androgynous?  One source says that Cybele was the mother of Agdistis, which makes sense insofar as she is the Great Mother, but I'm not sure if they got that right.  Worship of Kybele and Attis spread from Turkey (Phrygia was in what is now Turkey) to Greece and then to Rome.

There are a couple different versions of the myth of Kybele (as opposed to Agdistis) and Attis.  One says that Attis was born a "eunuch" (which probably means in modern terms that he had some kind of intersex condition) and became a priest of Kybele.  He was killed by a wild boar and Kybele mourned for him.  This motif is widespread throughout mythology.  In any case, eunuchs - persons of unconventional gender - have always served as priests of Kybele.  They were considered to be men who dressed in women's clothing and behaved in an "effeminate" way.

In 204 BCE the Sibylline oracle announced that Rome would be victorious against Hannibal if the statue of Kybele was brought from Phrygia to Rome.  So they did that, and some of Kybele's eunuch priests came with her.  Rome had very strict gender roles, and many people were uncomfortable with the whole idea of eunuchs and castration and all the rest of it.  But they instituted the worship of Kybele and Attis nonetheless, and kept it up for at least 400 years.  What did it mean to them?  Why was it so popular?

Last of all, I like this story because it is only one version of the story.  It is a Greek interpretation of a Turkish myth. Maybe it leaves some stuff out.  Maybe it got some stuff wrong.  It's not the one and only version of The Truth.  It's just a story - one that resonates across time.  It doesn't explain everything.  It stands on its own terms.

Image source:  Wikimedia Commons.  This statue is from the mid 6th c. BCE and is currently located in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Butch Homage: "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself"

Oh, Radclyffe, Radclyffe, Radclyffe Hall.  I've never read The Well of Loneliness.  Is it okay for me to reject you because of your conservative political beliefs?  Guess I don't get to call you John, the way your friends did.

Hall wrote "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself" in 1926, shortly before starting work on The Well, and apparently it is rather like a short version of the novel.  Wilhelmina Ogilvy is what Hall called a "sexually inverted woman" and what we today would call a "gender-non-conforming individual," or "transgendered."  As a child she (Hall always refers to her with female pronouns) was a tomboy, which many girls are, but "she remembered insisting with tears and some temper that her real name was William and not Wilhelmina," which is not common, unless you're trans.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when this story is set, women's lives were so restricted that it's hard to tell sometimes if a woman is rebelling against her socially assigned gender role because she's trans, or because she just wants to do more than get married and have children.  Of course, by the same token, "inverts" often took up the cause of feminism, not necessarily because they identified as female, but because it gave them an opportunity to demand more freedom.  (Radclyffe Hall flirted briefly with feminism but I believe she ultimately rejected it.)

In the fictional Ogilvy family, William (shouldn't I call her William, if she said that was her name?) rejects the marriage market utterly.  Her two feminine sisters attempt to get married and fail.  After their father dies, William's womenfolk - her mother and sisters - encourage her to take over the male role and deal with all the things they don't want to be bothered with, like finances.  Not that they really approve of her butchness; it's just convenient for them.  She has no friends, no lovers, no one who understands her.

The years go by without any particular pleasure, and when war breaks out (World War I) William is fifty-six.  She realizes that now she has a chance to do things women are not normally allowed to do: she cuts her hair short, goes up to London, and pesters the authorities until they allow her to go to France and form an ambulance brigade.
During those years Miss Ogilvy forgot the bad joke that Nature seemed to have played her.  She was given the rank of a French lieutenant and she lived in a kind of blissful illusion; appalling reality lay on all sides and yet she managed to live in illusion.
Because war work is such a liberation for William, and because Hall would not have dreamed of criticizing the war, it's all presented as a great lark. There are no descriptions of battle, no deaths, none of the horrific details you can learn about in any book on the Great War.  Ambulances are mentioned - because that's the only way she could experience the danger and excitement of the front - but casualties are not.  (By the way, Hall based this plot point on the real-life exploits of her friend Toupie Lowther; she herself was extremely patriotic about the war, but not to the extent of risking her life for her country.)

After the war William sinks back into uselessness and misery.  One day she decides to take a vacation, and chooses, seemingly at random, to visit an island off the coast of Devon.  When she gets there she seems to recognize the place, and has a dream about her past life on the island, when she was a man and had a female lover.  I won't give away the ending.

Trans people have two choices:  to try to be as much like other people as possible, or not.
For Miss Ogilvy had found as her life went on that in this world it is better to be one with the herd, that the world has no wish to understand those who cannot conform to its stereotyped pattern.
Certainly Radclyffe Hall tried to conform as much as possible - or rather, she made a bargain with society:  if I agree with you about everything else, can I live my life as a butch and lover of women?  That  was her choice, and I can't disagree with other people's opinions on what they personally need to do in order to survive.  Hall wanted more tolerance for herself and people like her - that was her aim in writing works such as The Well of Loneliness. And yet I don't believe that conformity is what will save us.

"Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself" is the first story in The Persistent Desire: a Femme-Butch Reader, edited by Joan Nestle and published in 1992.  That's 66 years after the story was written - almost a lifetime.  Ironically, in 1992 lesbian publications were frequent and uncensored (usually) but butch and femme were verboten and transsexuality was still a perversion, according to lesbian-feminism and the world at large.  One wonders why that is.

Here's to the day when someone who insists that their name is William and not Wilhelmina gets taken at their word.

Recommended Reading: if you're interested in the intersection of queer experience and World War I, I highly recommend the book Lesbian Empire by Gay Wachman.  It is primarily about the work of lesbian writers, including Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf, and the person who is probably my most favorite writer, Sylvia Townsend Warner, but it discusses history and wartime propaganda too.  Did you know that the Germans recruited all the homosexuals in Britain to spy for them?

Also, here's some more information on Toupie Lowther:  tennis champion, fencer, decorated with the Croix de Guerre for her war work.  Lowther and Hall definitely lived more active - and hopefully happier - lives than fictional characters such as Miss Ogilvy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life in the Trenches

I was happy about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, even though it is unlikely to benefit me as a trans person.  (And I have serious moral reservations about the military, but that's a separate issue.)  Trans people are still banned from serving openly in the US military.  

There is only one way in which this makes sense to me:  if you've just had, or are planning to have, major surgery then you are probably unfit for service.  However, if your transition is completed, or you're not planning to have surgery then why can't you serve?  Yes, you might still have certain medical needs.  But in general you would be perfectly healthy.  I've been trying to find out what kinds of medical conditions you can have and still be allowed to serve.  It's easy to find lists of what will disqualify you; not so easy to find out what is allowed.  One thing I did learn is that being HIV positive does not seem to automatically result in a discharge.  They won't allow you to enlist if you're HIV+ but if you contract it while in the service they will let you stay as long as you're medically fit.  If that is true then I really don't understand why other medical needs would necessarily disqualify you.  (Incidentally, according to their website, the Department of Veterans Affairs "is the largest single provider of medical care to people with HIV in the United States."  Why might that be?)

As the military sees it, being trans is more of a mental health issue than a physical one.  In other words, "transsexualism" is classified as a mental illness and they don't want mentally ill people.  Of course, it has been more than thirty years since homosexuality was classified as a mental illness, and only now is the US military reluctantly admitting that it might be okay to let homosexual people serve.  So it's not about mental illness as such - it's only about what's socially acceptable.  Our society creates its own definition of "mental illness," and that definition has more to do with cultural norms than actual psychological well-being.

Even knowing all this, I was surprised to learn that military personnel can be court-martialed for cross-dressing.   Yes, that's right, the US military has nothing more important to worry about than whether or not some guys like to wear dresses while off-duty.  (Other court-martial offenses include "Jumping from vessel into the water" and "abusing [a] public animal.")  Now, if it turns out that the military is founded on the principle of not transgressing gender norms . . . I wouldn't be at all surprised.  But seriously, what difference does it make?

So, I wouldn't be allowed to serve in the literal trenches even if I wanted to.  But it's okay.  I've got trenches of my own.  Here's a story about transphobia in the workplace.  The good news is that this blogger, who gives good advice on a variety of employment-related issues, is trans-friendly and supportive of dignity and respect for all.  The bad news is that somebody thought it was okay to come and ask her an ignorant question about a transwoman using the "wrong" bathroom.  The worse news is that this woman is being gossiped about and made fun of by her co-workers behind her back because someone, somehow, found out she was trans.  Not because she's done anything in that bathroom that anyone could find inappropriate.  Not because anyone looking at her can tell that she's trans.  No, it's simply because being trans is wrong, wrong, wrong, and making fun of people who are different is a wonderful thing, just like we all learned in elementary school.

I try to be understanding when my family and friends express a lack of comprehension about my transgender.  I know where they're coming from, because it was a hard thing for me to understand and accept about myself.  Plus, I've had more time to think about it than they have.  But it's stuff like this that causes me to despair.  It's stuff like this that makes me afraid.  It's stuff like this that makes me angry, because life is hard enough as it is.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Solstice Poem

Throughout the year the sun and moon
tack back and forth across the sky.
They tapestry of heaven weave,
the web that binds us all.

Nature, some say, is full of senseless rage.
She lashes out in fire, floods and storm.
Her only work is to destroy -
just ask The Weather Channel.

The calm eternal patterns of the sky
are not the story that they want to tell.
And peaceful sleep upon the breast of nature,
the starry breast of over-arching heaven,
Egyptian Nut who gazes down upon us,
is no fit background for their tale of woe.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joyful all ye nations rise

I just came back from my grandmother's funeral.  Because she died on Christmas Day, one of the hymns played was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Although it might seem like a discordant choice, I'm here to say that it was very beautiful and powerful to hear a song celebrating birth at a funeral.