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Nov. 3, 2016: Halloween Hippies

Mara and I went to a Halloween party last Saturday. We didn’t have much time to put costumes together, so we went as hippies, because we had most of the clothes we needed, like some tie-dye stuff; just had to buy a few accessories. Plus, the costumes required comfortable shoes and not a lot of make-up. Sweet. Here we are with one of the other guests. Groovy, huh?

But going as hippies was also actually apropos. We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love next year. And with major world events like terrorism and a brutally contentious and incredibly bizarre presidential election, all I can say is we could use a little peace. (A lot, actually.)

On another note, Mara and I are traveling to Ireland next week. Should be pretty interesting. Despite the fact that Catholicism is the dominant religion there, it’s one of the most progressive in terms of LGBT rights: It was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage (in 2015), and transgender rights are recognized on a national level. So, although we might raise a few eyebrows, we can travel openly as a trans couple.

Oct. 13, 2016:  Happy Birthday Mara!

Happy birthday to my best friend and soul mate, Mara Wells! Every day is a celebration with her. Tonight we’re going out to dinner, but we’re celebrating on and off throughout the month.

Last Saturday we went to the Annenberg space for Photography to see an exhibit called “Identity: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders The List Portraits.” It features portraits of accomplished people who are members of marginalized societal “classes,” five of which are represented in the exhibit: African-American, Latino, women, gay/lesbian, and the latest installment, transgender. It was really a great representation, because it included portraits not only of well-known people, like Janet Mock and Caitlyn Jenner, but also of lesser-known but equally accomplished activists, artists, authors and others from different walks of life, as well as brief descriptions of them and a short video featuring one person from each group.

There’s also some interactive stuff, like this “portrait” of Mara and me. I posted it on Facebook and it got 130 likes — most of them within 24 hours — plus more than two dozen comments, all positive. (Not to mention the likes Mara got when she reposted it.) Mara’s best birthday gift this year. And a wonderful gift to me, too.

Final thought for today’s blog post: If you live in the Los Angeles area or plan to visit within the next four months, the exhibit is a well-spent morning or afternoon. It’s free, and parking in the underground garage is $1 with validation from the museum. Honestly, if there was an admission fee, we would have gladly paid it.

Sept. 30, 2016: Texting Turkey

Recent text conversation with my nephew in Phoenix:

Nephew: Hey… we are having Thanksgiving at our house this year if u guys can make it.

Me: We’re in! Let us know if we can bring anything and what time we should be at your house on Thanksgiving Day.

Nephew: Very cool. I will talk w [girlfriend] to see if she needs anything. And jsyk [family members, including those who have shunned Mara] will all be here, along with [girlfriend]’s family as well.

Me: No problem on our end, although it might be a bit awkward, knowing how [family members who have shunned Mara] feel about Mara. Do they know Mara and I are coming?

Nephew: I told them that I have invited everyone…anyone who would like is welcome. I would hope they could grow the F up and have a nice family dinner. It is important to me and [girlfriend] and the kids that everyone is there to celebrate and have a good time!

Me: [thumbs-up emoji]

Nephew: I know it’s no problem on ur end. I love and respect both of u. I really wish on their side the nonsense would stop ya know. Just not necessary!

Me: Totally agree. We love you — and [girlfriend] and the kids — too.

My mom once told me that Mara is never welcome in her house. And when any of my siblings have hosted a holiday at their place, they didn’t invite us there, either. I was wondering if any of my nieces or nephews, all of whom accept us, would follow that lead, just to keep the peace.

I’m so happy that they are taking a stand — not just for us, but for themselves and their values and beliefs. On the other hand, it really could be awkward — or even hostile. Mara is mostly concerned that some family members will mis-gender her on purpose and make snide remarks. (We’ve met my nephew’s girlfriend’s family, and they are totally cool with Mara. And so are most of the other people who will be there. It’s just a few people in my immediate family who don’t accept her.)

This isn’t like the wedding of another nephew, which took place a few months ago. That was a major rite of passage; it was at a large, outdoor event center; and there were a lot more people there. Thanksgiving is an annual holiday, and not everyone in my family spends it together every year; it will be at a house (a much more intimate space than a sprawling ranch); and there will be fewer people there. (It sucks that we have to consider all of these things.)

Still, Mara and I are going, and we will stay positive and treat it like the celebration that it is. And we hope that everyone else who goes does the same.

Sept. 16, 2016: Dive Bar Duo

Mara was invited to sit in with a blues band on harmonica last Saturday night. It was at a dive bar tucked away in a semi-rural neighborhood. Kinda cool. The people were friendly, the place was homey, and everyone loved Mara’s playing. Mara and I didn’t get all gussied up, but we were wearing make-up and “nice” jeans and tops. Nothing tight or revealing. So it was a bit of a surprise that we both drew attention from some of the guys there.

One guy, who had had a few drinks, started up a conversation with me when Mara was onstage and I was sitting alone. I talked with him a bit but didn’t give him any personal information, even though he was digging around. But I did make sure my wedding ring was clearly in his sightlines. Not sure he got the message, but his friend finally came over and started talking to him; and they both retreated.

Later, when Mara came back to our table, another guy asked her to dance. She politely declined. And when we left, two guys at the bar stared us down — like wolves stalking prey.

First, I was surprised that middle-aged (and older) men still prowl the bars at night. (C’mon, we’re not twenty-something. I was so over that scene by the time I was 30.) Second, being in a transgender relationship is different than being in a heterosexual relationship, especially in not-so-urban areas, where the gender binary is more strictly adhered to. So we didn’t feel comfortable telling these men that we’re married to each other. And we didn’t hold hands or engage in other types of PDA (public displays of affection). You just never know when someone might react negatively — or even violently.

It’s unlikely we’ll go to that bar (or any other place that’s out in the boonies) anytime soon. We’ll stick to places that are closer to city centers, where no one seems to care who we are, and no one (at least no one our age) is looking for a pick-up.

Aug. 24, 2016: Good Friends

MM_VRPhotoShoot2_060416Here are a couple of other photos from the event I wrote about in my Aug. 8 blog post. Mara and I are really fortunate to have such good friends across the diversity spectrum: trans, gay, straight, different races and ethnicities, and from all walks of life. MM_VRPhotoShoot1_060416

Aug. 8, 2016: Diva Duo

MM_VRPhotoShoot3_060416Check out this diva duo!

A friend of ours took this photo of Mara and me in June. We staged a faux vow renewal, complete with a ceremony and dinner reception for about 12 people, so our friend could shoot it for her fledgling LGBTQ wedding photography portfolio. It wasn’t a real vow renewal, since we’re coming up on our 20th wedding anniversary next February, and we want to officially renew our vows then.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share this photo. It’s my favorite one of the bunch — a great illustration of our relationship: fun, playful, best friends, partners, joy, and a bit of double-diva. Yeah, we have disagreements and petty annoyances, just like any other couple. But they aren’t deal-breakers.

Can’t wait for our 20th anniversary.

 

 

July 21, 2016: RNC Platform — A Scary Read

Wanna read something really scary? Take a look at the Republican National Convention’s 2016 platform that was released earlier this week. I didn’t read the entire 66-page, ultra-conservative document, but I skimmed it and stopped to read what it says about LGBTQ rights. I also read several articles and analyses of it, including this New York Times article, which was published the week before the official platform was ratified, and this Raw Story article, which summarizes 50 of the planks (10, 11 and 41 specifically address LGBTQ issues). There’s even language in the platform that calls for prohibiting transgender people from using school restrooms that correspond with their gender identities. (Here’s a Yahoo.com article that delves into that issue.)

Although most of the planks don’t have any scientific backing (in fact, there is strong evidence that refutes them), if they were acted on, it would plunge the LGBTQ community back into the pre-Stonewall Inn era of oppression and even criminalization. LGBTQ couples would not have the constitutional right to marry; and unless the states where they live allow it, they would be shut out of that right. And even though California and other states allow same-sex marriage, a constitutional ban would leave the door wide open for lawsuits challenging those rights, any of which could reach what could become a very conservative Supreme Court.

That brings me to other planks of the platform, one of which calls for the appointment of Supreme Court Justices that espouse “traditional family values.” I have nothing against family values; they are an important part of our society. It’s the “traditional” part I’m wary of. Coupled with planks that call for required teaching of the Bible in public schools and requiring lawmakers to use the Bible when legislating, “traditional family values” isn’t a phrase that bodes well for the LGBTQ community.

I don’t have anything against the Bible, either. It’s full of stories that offer great life lessons — like “love your neighbor as yourself,” and “judge not lest ye be judged.” But when people interpret it in a way that they say justifies hatred and discrimination, which in turn leads to laws that strip human beings of dignity, civil rights and human rights, that’s what I call blasphemy.