Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TDOR in Black and White

Last week I attended two Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) events. The purpose of TDOR is to honor trans people who were murdered in the past year.  There were about 260 such deaths around the world in 2013, and the majority of the victims are always trans women of color.

Of the events I attended, one set out to remember all 260, and was organized by a white trans group. The other one memorialized four black trans women who died in New Orleans this past year and was organized by a black trans group - specifically, by women who had known and loved the deceased.

I had figured out that those two events would be very different from each other, but that was only a logical deduction. It didn't prepare me for the actual experience of being there.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Barley Stew with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

A while ago I bought a soup mix that was composed of black beans, black-eyed peas, and barley. There wasn't enough barley in it for my taste. But this recipe is based on the recipe that came with the soup mix. (It featured butternut squash and roasted corn.)


  • about 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup barley
  • 14 oz can tomatoes (I used a can of seasoned stewed tomatoes)
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, cut into large bite-size cubes
  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts, cleaned, stems cut off
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Protein source: when I make this dish again I think I'll just use black-eyed peas. Meat-eaters would no doubt enjoy some kind of meat in it.


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts in a large bowl, drizzle with oil and toss to coat.
  3. Spread them out on an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and roast for about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large pot and sautée the onion until caramelized. Add the garlic and spices once the onion starts to brown.
  5. Add the barley, beans, tomatoes and enough water to fill the pot about halfway. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. (You can use broth instead of water if you like.)
  6. Now add the roasted vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Check the seasonings. I think a little soy sauce rounds out the flavor nicely.
If you had some celery sitting around you could add celery. Also, barley soaks up a lot of water as it cools. You might choose to add some extra water. And then add some more salt, because water dilutes the flavor of the soup.

Anyway. This is very tasty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

That's my Gary Cooper

(Yeah, I've been busy this year. First post in a while.)

Cooper in The Texan (1930)
Gary Cooper is probably my favorite Hollywood actor. I gather that most people know him from the Westerns he did in the 1940s and 50s, but I must have seen him first in 1933's Design for Living, a pre-Code movie about a ménage à trois that everyone absolutely has to watch.

Before becoming a movie cowboy, he typically played soft-hearted, rather goofy types. Two of the best examples of this are Ball of Fire and Meet John Doe, in both of which he was paired with Barbara Stanwyck. She's another wonderful actor, and they work very well together. She's feisty and he's shy. And his big, sad, puzzled eyes are to die for.

I haven't seen The Texan, but it looks a treat, judging from the photo at left. So far the only Cooper Western I've seen is Along Came Jones (1945), in which Cooper plays a hapless galoot named Melody (!) Jones, who has to be rescued by sharpshooter Loretta Young. I assume that he toughened up at some point. I might check out some of his other Westerns. (I do advise you to stay away from Love in the Afternoon, though. He's much too old to be romancing Audrey Hepburn.)

Finally, here's some awesome dish on Cooper.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Leadership Conference

Recently I was selected by my Unitarian Universalist church to attend a week-long leadership conference. "Leadership?" I thought. "What does that have to do with me?" But I was, of course, flattered and I decided to go and see what it was like.

They sent us an online questionnaire to fill out: what church I belong to, am I a vegetarian, etc. They also asked me my gender. This was a bit of a problem. I suspected that they would be assigning people roommates of the same gender. And the thing is: I identify as a trans man. If I put "male" as my gender they would expect me to share a room with some guy I've never met, and that made me nervous. If I put "female" . . . well, that wasn't happening.

Fortunately, the conference organizers had set up a blank field where I could fill in my gender. I wasn't being forced to choose "male" or "female." So I wrote in "transgender." And I thought to myself, "that might cause some confusion."

A week later I got a call from one of the conference organizers. I understood her to say that no one else who had ever attended this conference had ever specified a gender that was something other than "male" or "female." She was not sure where to put me. She was very polite and kept repeating that they just wanted to do whatever it would take to make me feel comfortable. But the sad truth is that she was making me feel very uncomfortable.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I don't blame her. It's not her fault that she had never had to deal with this issue before. It's not her fault that there was no policy in place. It's not her fault, because none of us really know what gender non-conformity means or how to handle it. I blame society. Nonetheless, it was an unpleasant experience for me. To use the terminology we were taught at this leadership conference: she was feeling anxiety because of a disruption in homeostasis, and her anxiety infected me.

She was very polite and I was polite too. I said "I want to thank you and the other conference organizers for setting up the questionnaire so that people could fill in their own gender." I am sincerely grateful for that, because if I'd been forced to select "male" or "female" things would have been even worse. She told me they had set it up that way on purpose because they wanted to be mindful and considerate of non-gender-conforming people. However,  it did occur to me after I'd gotten off the phone with her that, although they had set the form up that way, they obviously hadn't made any plan for what to do if someone actually took advantage of the opportunity they'd been given to list a non-standard gender. They had decided it was a good idea in theory. But in practice . . . they hadn't really come to terms with it.

She and I discussed the various options. In the interests of brevity I won't list them all - you can probably figure out what they were. We ended the conversation with her promising to find a solution. I closed my phone and then started freaking out. She had said that she didn't know where to put me. She had sounded kind of unsure about the whole situation. I had no idea what was going to happen.

The days went by and the time for the conference approached. I didn't hear back from her and I was scared to call her. In the most fearful part of my mind I fully expected to show up at the conference and be told, "Sorry, we don't have accommodations for you, you can't stay here. And I don't know how you're going to get back to the airport." You may think that sounds crazy. But discrimination and prejudice against trans people are still rampant in our society, even in Unitarian Universalist churches. And it wouldn't even take outright prejudice. Discomfort and fear of change cause many well-intentioned people to fail in their attempts to be inclusive. (Of course, my own insecurities about whether I was "qualified" to attend this Leadership Conference also came into play.)

The conference started on Sunday. On Saturday the thought occurred to me: "If they assign two men or two women to a room, then that assumes they have an even number of men and women. But sometimes they must have a person left over." That made me feel better. I was the person left over. I felt like I had a right to bring my transgender self to the conference after all. Although I didn't know if the person assigning bedrooms had thought of this.