The intolerant church…

I clicked the link to an article a couple of days ago about a woman who had her church membership revoked for being in a four year long same sex relationship. The name of the church was familiar then I realized it was that Calvary Baptist Church. I passed it every day when I worked and I still pass it on a regular basis. It’s within walking distance of my home.

The church itself is huge. The main building looms at the corner of Rossland and Ritson and it has a big enough membership to afford a huge animated billboard (that runs 24/7) and the church across the street.

Every time I’ve gone past that church, I’ve felt a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, a knowledge that I would not be accepted there as myself. I’m an atheist, asexual, and interested romantically in all genders. I’m also pro trans rights and have a son who’s transgender (even if he’s not interested in transitioning at the moment). And now I’ve had it verified that I would not be accepted at all.

It’s easy to pass the church and know I wouldn’t be accepted. It’s not a church I’d want to attend anyway. The hard part is how big that church is. How many people attend there? I’d guess at least a hundred. My neighbours? The cashier at the grocery store? The elderly couple who smiled and said hi as we passed each other outside? If I do manage to find someone to date, what would their reactions be? I feel safe walking around my neighbourhood now. Would I still feel safe if I held hands with a girlfriend?

Calvary is the church that came under media attention but there’s another church, the Embassy, to the west of us. It is even bigger than Calvary, a gargantuan church that requires police assistance to guide cars out of their parking lot after service. There are that many people. I’ve never attended there but I’ve seen some of their flyers and listened to people on the bus. It’s also evangelical. How many of my neighbours attend there? How many sermons have they heard that were against the LGBTQIA community? I feel pinned between the two churches, hemmed in by hatred.

I feel badly for the woman who received the letter. She’d been a member for years and volunteered to help with the children there. She considered it her spiritual home even though they had preached against the LGBTQIA community before. I’ve dropped some pretty blatant hints but have never actually come out, in person, and told friends or family that my romantic interests are not solely for men. I’ve been too worried. She came out to her church friends and got thoroughly rebuffed. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for her. And still she went back right until they told her she was no longer welcome.

I wish her all the best in her search for a welcoming congregation, the United Church and UU church both have that distinction. And I will continue to be friendly with the people I meet and continue wondering if they’d accept me if they knew who I’m interested in.

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What is trans…

Sleepy Colin posing filteredI woke up this morning to a call from my daughter Kait and, while we were chatting, Colin woke up and sleepily leaned against my door frame.

I loved the way he looked and managed to get a shot of him, which was nice because he’s usually not fond of having his picture taken. I guess the promise that he just had to stand there and do nothing was a bonus.

Kait and I commented he’d look so much prettier if he shaved his face and he immediately went to the washroom to do just that. I’d love to have a shaved version of the photo but he was too awake by the time he finished shaving. The picture still looks good though. Trans is beautiful.

Colin and I had a little talk yesterday after he said he wasn’t trans, which would definitely be a surprise. Obviously nothing would change either way but it’s nice to know if something that integral to his identity was still a thing. It turned out he thought you were only trans if you were actively transitioning but he still was female. I explained that if he still was female and was born with a penis, he was trans whether he was transitioning or not. It was the feeling female and being perceived as male that made him trans, not the act of taking hormones or having surgery. That sense of disassociation when he sees himself in the mirror… that sense of joy when he’s seen as a woman. As he subsequently explained to me, he feels female but is upset he’s never going to transition.

Colin’s getting tested for ADHD this month and, hopefully he’ll get put on a medication that will help him keep his scatterbrain in check. This is something he’s looking forward to. It’s not just missing part of the definition of transgender, it’s keeping track of his teacher’s lectures and remembering the information long enough to finish homework and write tests. It’s hard to be in school and miss half of what the teacher’s saying, even when he’s concentrating.

As usual, gender is not the forefront of our lives. Colin is much more interested in anime and computers. And now is time to combine both. We’re going to watch an anime called Planetarium on the computer he just rebuilt. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Everything’s coming up aces…

This whole week is Asexuality Awareness Week, which is so needed because most people have absolutely no idea what asexuality is… and quite a few who think they do actually don’t know either.

The very short definition of asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction. That’s pretty much it. There is more though. Asexuality is an umbrella term with several kinds of asexuality under that one definition. There are people who experience romantic attraction (hugging, kissing, snuggling, holding hands) and there are people who don’t. The people who don’t are called aromantic. And there are people who experience sexual attraction only rarely. They’re called grey-sexual. Grey-romantic exists too and is very close to aromantic.

There are also sexual orientations that fall under the definition. People can be pan-romantic (like me) and experience a romantic attraction to people of all genders. Or they can be bi-romantic, hetero-romantic, or homo-romantic. And some people are attracted to intelligence (sapio-romantic). This last one is controversial with people claiming it’s ableist. I personally think it should be your own choice who you’re attracted to. A relationship is going to tank if you’re only together to be politically correct.

Then there’s sex repulsed, sex indifferent, and sex favourable asexuals. Sex repulsed can’t stand even the thought of sex. Sex indifferent will have sex, usually to please a partner but would just as happily not have it. And sex favourable asexuals like sex and enjoy having it. They don’t experience sexual attraction but it doesn’t stop them from having fun with sex. And, yes, asexuals can and do masturbate. That has nothing to do with attraction of any sort.

Asexual’s often are referred to as ace or aces (aromantics are known as aros) and there’s a running joke that asexuals want cake instead of sex. It’s probably lasted so long because it’s 99% true (I’d like chocolate salted caramel please). Aces will sometimes wear a black ring on their right middle finger but this isn’t very well known and the couple of people I saw wearing one weren’t asexual at all (and were really confused to be asked).

When you see the A in LGBTQIA, that stands for asexual, aromantic, and agender. There is no ally in the LGBTQIA panoply. It’s not an acronym for straight people.

If you have a question I haven’t covered, please feel free to ask me!

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The asexual flag

 

 

Gender questions…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well not really but I do have almost all of my presents bought, including the ones for Colin. They’re tucked away in my dresser drawer and in the closet, just waiting to be sorted a bit more and eventually wrapped.

Yesterday Colin came up to me and asked, “Mom? Did you buy me a feminine present?”

His voice hovered halfway between longing and worry, as if he wasn’t quite sure which he wanted.

“No, I didn’t,” I replied then watched as disappointment spread across his face. “The presents I bought you are gender neutral.”

That brought out a wide grin. Neutral is safe. Neutral means no disappointment for traditionally male presents and no reminder that he isn’t transitioning to female.

Then came today. I had my group this morning then I walked halfway home on a local trail. By the time I got home I was starving and Colin wasn’t there. He called me from the gym and asked me to meet him at the front door. He also wanted me to guess what he fixed in our apartment.

I had no clue what he’d fixed and no idea even where to start, so I just guessed weird things.

“You fixed your messy habits”

He snorted. “Have you seen my room?” he asked.

“You’ve fixed your gender,” I continued.

That one got a chuckle. “I’m in the male gym so that should answer your question,” he replied.

Anyone, except for the trolls, will realize that if being in the male gym meant he wasn’t fixed, he’d only be fixed if he was in the female gym and therefore female.

The thing he’d ended up fixing was our sticky door latch, which is great. I also would have never guessed it. But the rest just makes me sigh. I know he’s female (because he’s told me multiple times). He knows he’s female. He admits it and still keeps putting up road blocks for transition.

I wish he could be happy in his own skin, whether that involves transitioning or not. It’s like watching someone hit their foot with a hammer and complain it hurts. Then don’t do it! But they keep on going. Colin talks about transitioning, talks about gender dysphoria, but he just won’t transition even though it keeps on hurting. Hopefully someday he’ll let himself be Emma again. Hopefully it’ll be soon.

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Kathleen and Colin on an autumn walk

“I won’t transition unless…”

I’d just got home from my group and a long walk and was enjoying my lunch when Colin asked me to come out of my room and go into the living room to watch a video. It was a long video and so to summarize, it talked about turning blood cells into immature eggs. So far they’re only immature but if this technology works, it means that male couples could have a baby that’s biologically both of theirs.

I watched the video in silence then Colin suddenly blurted, “What are the things scientists are doing that are good for trans people?”

“Well, those egg cells you just showed me and womb transplants into someone without a womb.” He seemed agitated so I tried to stay as calm as possible. Apparently that was the wrong choice.

Colin got very silent then yelled, “Can’t you see why this is important to me?”

“Of course I can,” I replied. “You want to have a baby of your own and grow it inside you like most women.”

He immediately calmed down then said, “I won’t transition unless I can have a womb to carry my baby.” And, with that, he left the living room.

I stood there for a few extra minutes. Obviously Colin’s still thinking of transitioning and, because he’s Colin, he’s thinking of the hardest choice possible instead of taking the easy route. It would be easy for him to stop HRT for half a year and produce his own sperm. He’s interested in women so there would already be a womb and egg in the equation.

Next step would be to use donor sperm. The baby wouldn’t be biologically his but he’d be there from conception. Those options are too easy though and, well, he wouldn’t be Colin if he didn’t pick the hardest path possible.

This conversation has long passed for him, even though it was only two days ago. Now he’s on to more important things like ordering his favourite noodle soup from Amazon. He got them this morning and is so excited. He thinks they’re being discontinued (the evidence backs him up) so finding them on Amazon made him happy.

I wish, for once, that he’d pick the easy route. I know he struggles with gender dysphoria, he’s mentioned it in passing a few times, and I know he was happy being Emma… the name he was going by just a year ago. I know he’s worried (legitimately) about being too tall and big boned but, as I’ve told him, there are cis women who are 6+ feet tall. He’d stand out but not like a clown at a funeral. And it’s okay to stand out. As the saying goes, you were born to stand out… not to fit in.

Even if womb transplants became available to the general public any time soon, they wouldn’t be immediately covered under provincial health care, they’d be an elective surgery and way out of our price range. I didn’t get into that with Colin, there’s no point yet and I have no reason to discourage him any farther.

Maybe someday I’ll have my daughter Emma back again but it won’t be today. And so I’m going to redye my hair and let Colin sort himself out. While he eats his soup of course.

Matthew Shepard revisited…

The evening started out like usual. Kait and Colin played with their toys on the living room floor, my ex sat on the computer playing video games, and I read the paper. I started with the comics, moved on to the Life section, and then mosied on over to the Front section. And that’s where I dissolved into tears. Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, accepted a ride home from two men he thought were friends. Instead they drove him to a rural road, tied him to a fence, and beat him nearly to death with their rifles. He died of severe head trauma six days later.

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Photo from GBMNews

I cried while I read his article. Ugly cried to the point where my ex asked why I continued to read. But I couldn’t stop. At the time I told myself that I was crying for Matthew and for Colin, who was a sweet and gentle one year old at the time. I was also crying for me although I wouldn’t admit it. I clung to the label of “straight” like it was a lifeline although, to be fair, panromantic asexual wasn’t in my vocabulary in 1998. And it hadn’t been that long since I’d been a college student myself.

Now Colin’s 21 years old and part of the LGBTQIA community. He’s in continuing education, getting the education he couldn’t receive in high school, and planning on taking robotics. He’s young and bright with his whole future ahead of him. I worried for him every day when he was Emma and I still worry for him, albeit much less.

Matthew Shepard was also young and bright. A well travelled young man who loved politics and was studying it in university. He’d have been 40 years old now. What would he have accomplished as a gay HIV positive man to help the LGBTQIA community? What would he have fought for? What dreams did he have? What goals? What potential did we, as a society, lose when we lost him?

I still cry. I don’t think there’s a day when I read about him that I won’t.

 

A letter to Pam Wilkinson…

You don’t know me and, with any luck, you will never know me. I was the confused teenager going through high school in the 1980’s. No one raised a rainbow flag back then.  What we raised for was religion. We still were standing for the Lord’s Prayer. Too bad for the kids who weren’t Christian but it wasn’t an option to avoid. We could stand in the hall but we were still standing for the prayer no matter where we went. And there was a teacher in the hall to make sure of that. I bet you loved those days.

My classmates all grew up with Three’s Company and Jack’s over the top pretending of being gay. Being gay was a joke… when it wasn’t simply disgusting. Fellow classmates and even some of the teachers talked about driving into the gay section of Toronto just to throw rocks at people on the side walk. It was fun, they said. I hardly thought it was fun for the people getting pelted by stones but they didn’t matter. This was the 80’s.

I don’t have fond memories of school in the 80’s.

I started having suicidal ideation in high school, strong urges to jump over the railings in our local mall, strong enough that I walked by the wall at all times, just in case. I pushed those thoughts away, just like I pushed away any romantic thoughts about girls. I was already being teased, I wasn’t going to be a joke too. Those weren’t my thoughts, they were an aberration.

Sexual education was strictly cisgender and heterosexual. We learned how to make babies and the names of the genitals. Thanks to that education, I learned that what I was feeling was wrong. I didn’t know my own sexual orientation until I was in my mid 40’s. And I certainly never saw a rainbow flag until I was an adult with children of my own.

You were interviewed in an article claiming the rainbow flag is a wall. I disagree. The wall in my school years was built with ignorance, hatred, and ridicule and it kept me from learning who I was for decades. The rainbow flag is a bridge and a sign of community and hope. Countless faith groups support it, it’s not anti-Christian.

The sad part is you have taught your own daughter hatred. The part of the song you disagree with? The song that was played at flag raising?

If you preach hate at the service/those words aren’t anointed/and that holy water that you soak in, is poisoned.”

It’s not anti-Christianity, it’s anti-hatred. He’s saying that hate is not part of Christianity and God will not accept those words. How much hate is in your religion that both you and your daughter felt personally affronted by this.

You said that the rainbow flag builds “walls, not bridges. You can’t get groups to respect each other that way. You cannot broker peace if half the stakeholders have left the table in anger.”

I say that if someone sees a flag, which is widely known as a symbol of love, hope, and unity and see nothing but a wall, there wasn’t going to be a chance to broker peace in the first place. If you can’t handle the symbol of LGBTQIA unity, how can you handle the reality of talking to actual gay, lesbian, and trans people? What are you going to do when a drag queen wants a say, in all their glory? How about when a lesbian couple wants at least one book in the library with same sex partners so their child doesn’t feel invisible? Or a gay thirteen year old wants a Gay-Straight Alliance in his elementary school?

How can you broker peace with someone who wants you to be less than yourself, wants you to hide yourself to make them feel comfortable? You can’t. First it’s the rainbow flag but that won’t be last. You don’t want peace, you want ignorance. You want to not have to face any sign that the LGBTQ community even exists. And that’s not going to happen. So many of us struggled to simply be ourselves and we’re not going to let you push us back into being less than we are.

The rainbow flag is staying. We are staying. Get used to it.

rainbow_flag_insert_by_torbakhopper_via_Flickr