An open letter to Caitlyn Jenner

This was dictated to me by a friend who doesn’t have access to a computer. This friend is not trans, nor lesbian, so qualifies as a disinterested bystander.

Dear Caitlyn:

Despite what you may hear from the media and the costume makers, you are not a superhero. Despite all the media attention, know that you are the wrong person to be designated a spokesperson for the trans community. The reason is simple – you haven’t paid your dues yet. Had you completely embraced the idea of being trans, you wouldn’t refer to other trans people as “they” or “them”, but would use inclusive pronouns such as “we” and “us”.

From what I’ve seen on “I am Cait”, you live in a protected bubble in your gated mansion and have no idea with what the average transwoman has to deal. A short visit to speak with ordinary transwomen does not qualify you to speak on their behalf.

My best friend is a 71 year old transwoman and lesbian and has been for 19 years now. I’ve known her for 11 of those years and right from the beginning I saw her simply as a woman – no thoughts of “he” or “it” or “he/she” – just a very beautiful and likeable woman. Unlike many people, I never asked her what her name was; she volunteered it after about ten years. When she visits, my husband who knows of her past life, treats her as the lady she appears to be. She has been accepted whole-heartedly and without reservation by my own family. Over the time I’ve known her she has told me much of what she’s gone through – the discrimination in employment; the hurtful words heard on the streets and other less savoury things. To me, she is the superhero, not you, for she’s lived through a lot in her quest to be her true self.

If you truly want to live up to that “superhero” billing and become a true media spokesperson, donate some of your money to trans causes. Try living as an ordinary transwoman and see what real life is like. Then we can discuss your status.

Chris.

Sunday fiction from Cat

WHEN SPACE CAME TO THE RIVER
new fiction from Cat Howard
© 2009 gch

It was the murder of the young hag that started it all. I still don’t know where Aubrey got that pair of scissors. I’d have sworn he didn’t have them with him that morning.

We’d left home about three hours beforehand to travel downstream. I had business to attend to in the county seat and Aubrey, well, Aubrey was bored, so he volunteered to come with me as lookout. Normally a lookout wouldn’t be needed, but what with the drought and all, the river was running awfully shallow in places, so I said okay, you can come, but behave yourself. I’m kinda glad he did come along or I’d have probably torn the bottom out of the boat within the first mile. I knew where the hazards usually were and steered around those areas. But, even though the boat only drew two inches with both of us on board, it still got a little noisy as we scraped over some spots that usually had deep water.

Round about ten, we decided to take a break. Navigating with the river this shallow and still with its normal amount of traffic was very hard on the nerves and I for one could use a short break. Everyone seemed to be short tempered that day. Maybe it was the heat; maybe it was that everyone was a little more tense because of the low water. The reason didn’t really matter. All that was necessary was to know that people were touchy. We passed a hydra, busy arguing with itself over the best route, each head threatening the others with physical violence if such-and-such a course wasn’t followed. That wasn’t a problem for us. With our shallow draft, we could go just about anywhere for one thing, and Aubrey was his usual carefree self, which helped relieve the tension.

It was just before the bend where the inn stood that we came upon the two hags. The younger one was playing a musical instrument – playing it well, actually – but Aubrey, being Aubrey, had to make a disparaging comment about her ability. He made the comment to me, but the hags have hearing that puts a dog’s to shame and she heard what he said.

Well, it took a few minutes to thread a way through the other boats tied or anchored off the inn, so by the time I’d made the boat fast, the hags also arrived. Spotting Aubrey, the young hag made straight for him, screaming imprecations at him and threatening to rip his ears off and his tongue out. He just stood there, motionless, until she made the mistake of reaching for his ear. I mean, I’ve known Aubrey all his life and I’ve never seen him move so fast. One second he was standing there, the next he had one arm around that hag’s neck and the other holding a very long and viscous-looking pair of scissors. I don’t know what he said to her, because he was speaking very quietly into her ear, and the older hag, standing beside me, just gasped, but whatever it was, it only served to rile her even more. The young one reached up with her hands in what looked like an attempt to claw his eyes out and the scissors flashed.

He didn’t stab her in the neck. Not Aubrey. He opened the scissors and almost gently inserted one half of the now open blades into her neck, then, “snip, snip!” he cut her throat open that way, much like cutting a piece of cloth. Then he just let the body fall, calmly bent down and wiped the scissors on her clothes and then they vanished back into wherever he’d had them hidden. I didn’t know that boy had such a sadistic streak in him.

With the excitement over, the crowd dispersed, many of them returning to the inn and their refreshments.

We entered the inn and Aubrey excused himself to wash the blood from his hands. I sat down and ordered something light. Since we still had a couple of hours on the river ahead of us, I didn’t want anything too heavy for it might make me sleepy and I couldn’t afford that to happen as we were starting to get a lot of cross-river traffic as well. I knew when Aubrey entered the room, for all conversation stopped for a few seconds.

The old crone who ran the inn walked behind the counter to relieve her daughter for a while. Seeing her, a voice called out “Avenus, when did it start? When did all this violence and indifference to life begin?” A few other voices called out “Tell us, Avenus, you know.”

When I call Avenus “old” I’m not talking seventy or eighty. I’m talking six or seven hundred.

Pouring herself a drink of some sort, she stood quietly for a few minutes. Then, “you want to know when it started? All right, I’ll tell you what I remember.”

There was a sudden spurt of movement as people signalled for refills. She waited until everyone was satisfied and silent again. “I’ll tell you, but I guarantee you won’t believe me.”

She took a sip of her drink then began in a soft voice. “Would you believe that at one time there were no crones, no hags, no hydras, none of the others as well? Would you believe that at one time, there were only humans?”

Glancing around the room, I noticed that very few in attendance looked human, although we all called ourselves by that appellation.

“It was about, oh, five hundred years ago when it happened. The superstitious called it an omen. The religious claimed it was a sign from whatever deity they worshipped that he/she was displeased with the human race. Those who claimed to be scientists stated it was just a meteor. The lunatic fringe loudly proclaimed it was the beginning of an invasion. Me, I don’t know what it was, but I suspect the loonies were a lot closer to the truth than anyone else.

“Whatever it was apparently came to ground, or rather water, in the lake that feeds the river. People looked for it, but although it had been seen to strike, then sink below, the surface of the lake, nobody could ever find a trace of it. Other than a lot of dead fish, there was no outward sign anything unusual had happened there.

“Keep in mind the river wasn’t as busy as it is now. Over the centuries, we’ve moved away from the roads and used the river more and more. And you know”, she paused and took another sip. “There was no logical reason for that. You all use the river, so you know how dangerous and uncertain even a short voyage can be. And the roads meant we could travel farther and faster carrying heavier loads and more crops. No, I’m afraid whatever fell that day turned us into water people.”

A voice interrupted. “Avenus, what do you mean ‘turned us into water people’?”

“About a year after the Fall, as it came to be known, people began to die. The medical people were puzzled by the sudden spike in the death rate and did some autopsies and other less pleasant things and found strange organisms in the bodies. The stories were always eerily similar: each person or family had been fine until about six months previous and each person got their water supply from the river. So the white coats looked at the river water and sure enough, they found those same organisms, which were unlike anything ever seen before. It took some kid, fresh from college to put two and two together and actually get four. He was a hiker and on one of his trips, he ventured beyond Fall Lake, to use its current name – and now you know why it’s called that – and took water samples from the river feeding the lake. Tests on those samples came back clean. So he deduced that rather than agricultural or industrial pollution causing these alien things in the river, the real cause was whatever had fallen into the lake.”

“Avenus, if these organisms made people die, how are we here? Why isn’t this an unpopulated woodland?” I heard myself say.

She looked straight at me and smiled, almost as if I’d been planted to ask just that question. “Why? How? Because the human body adapted. Granted a lot of people died, but eventually our bodies adapted to these strange organisms and incorporated them into our systems.

“Did you know that people who move away from the river – I mean far away inland, not just away from the riverbanks – usually die within six months? In most cases doctors can’t figure out why a seemingly healthy person just keels over and dies. But, I think I know. It’s because they now have a different water supply that doesn’t contain the organisms.

“We, all of us, have now reached a stage in our development where we need those organisms in order to survive.”

She paused and looked at me, then took another sip of her drink. Looking around the room, she continued.

“Before the Fall, there were just humans, as I said. These alien organisms are the reason we now have hydras, hags, crones and all the rest. Every one of us has some ability not normally found in people. The crones, such as myself, have extreme longevity. I’m five hundred and twenty three years old and expect to live at least that long again. I don’t know why and the doctors can’t explain it, but for some reason, rather than kill me, my body was able to absorb and assimilate the organisms when I was younger.

“The hags, for example, have hearing far beyond the range of most creatures, not just humans. I’ve had a hag tell me she could hear the supersonic sounds a bat makes.

“The hydras have their own unique abilities. One day, right here in this room, one head told me they were telepathic, which the other heads vehemently and promptly denied, of course.”

Looking at Aubrey, she continued, “Some of us have super-human speed. Young man, I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as you did today, and I’ve seen a lot of fights and other things in my years running this place.”

Aubrey had the good sense to look embarrassed.

“As for the indifference and violence? I’m afraid that is just an old human trait honed over the centuries, from long before I was born. If someone or something looks different from you, they are fair game and their life doesn’t matter. It’s been that way a long, long time and I doubt we’ll ever change it.

“So, was the Fall an invasion? Was the lunatic fringe right? Look around the room and decide for yourselves.”

Scanning the room again, she spoke once more, in a much softer voice than previously “You wanted to know when it all started? You wanted to know when the violence and indifference started? Now you know. It started when space came to the river.”

 

This story came to me intact one night as I slept.  Cat.

From the campaigns

At the moment, there is a campaign for an upcoming federal election in Canada and at the same time the Republicans are trying to decide who will front their party in the next American federal election. As with any campaign, there are things being said that, taken at face value, defy all logic or in some cases, legality.

Let’s look at the Canadian campaign first. Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister (although I frequently call him “King Stephen the first of Canada) is saying that he will increase the size of the army reserve by 25% during his next mandate (should he get one). One problem with making that promise Stevie. The Canadian Army Reserve is a volunteer force. How are you going to persuade 6,000 people to join the reserves? Offer them a signing bonus like major league sports teams do? Where’s the money going to come from – money that could be used to help solve our homeless problems here at home? Sorry Stevie, you’re grasping at straws and tailoring your promises to your audience. This was made in New Brunswick, where Canadian Forces Base Gagetown is a big employer.

Now, south of the border. The Donald (who else) is once again proving you should engage your brain before putting your mouth in motion. According to an article I read, he says he would deport the American born children of illegal immigrants. I don’t claim to be an expert on American law, but as I understand it, if someone is born on American soil, they are automatically American citizens. If so, how could he deport them – they are already in their native land. And how could he revoke the citizenship of natural-born American? They don’t hold dual citizenship – they were born in the USA – so there is no place to send them.

Sounds to me as if he’s doing the same thing as Harper and tailoring his comments to his audience. That won’t work all the time because some people don’t blindly accept what they hear. So, no matter on which side of the border you’re reading this, take anything any politician says with a grain or two of salt. It may spoil the taste a bit, but think about it – how can they do what they’re promising without the co-operation of the rest of the legislative body (Congress or Parliament) or the public?

When the time comes, get out and vote – the future of your country depends upon you having your say at the polling booth.

Cat.

Caitlyn, cabs, caution

I’ve tried, but I find I just can’t watch “I am Cait”. Her life bears no relation to any other trans* person I know. Most of us do not come from privilege, instead we have to work and fight for everything we have or hope to have. Yet the media seems to have made her a spokesperson for the trans* community. Maybe if she would get out of that bubble she appears to live in I could take her more seriously. For example, she is reported to have said “lower income transwomen are lazy.” I honestly hope that was either misquoted or taken out of context. In my case, I had the good job, the paid-for house, the kids, the pets, the cars and I left it all behind. I spent 12 hours a day driving a taxi trying to make ends meet. I’d hardly call that “lazy”. In my opinion, the media have made her a spokesperson because they want someone with a recognizable name and right now Caitlyn Jenner is that person. A better person would be Jazz Jennings. She is young and the family support she receives is absolutely amazing. As she goes through this process, she is probably doing more for trans* awareness than Caitlin Jenner could ever hope to do.

 
There was a shooting at a night club in Toronto this week in which two people were shot and killed. One of them was a man “known to police” to use their phrase and apparently he shouldn’t have been anywhere near that club on the lakeshore, but rather at his home some 30 miles away under house arrest. The other victim was a young lady who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She and her friends were trying to get a taxi from the rank outside the club to escape the gunfire. Not one cab would take them because it was only a short run, about $8. The drop in a Toronto taxi is $4.25, so this was obviously only a couple of blocks. As I wrote above, I drove a cab for seven years and never once turned down a fare because it was a short run. The way I looked at it, the run was short, but it was money in my pocket and the fact it wouldn’t take long meant I’d be available again in no time at all. According to the Toronto taxi bylaw, drivers can refuse fares if they deem the destination to be dangerous; the person won’t give them a proper destination address; the person owes them money from a previous ride, or the person is “disruptive” (read “drunk”). I know from talking with friends that Toronto drivers have also been known to refuse fares because the destination is too far. A friend hailed a taxi outside her office one winter night to drive her home to Pickering, a trip of some 20 miles. About half-way there the driver realized how far it was, took her to a nearby coffee shop and left her there saying it was too far. Fortunately for her she had my number and called me. Despite the bad weather, I drove from Pickering and picked her up, so she got home safely. But, had she not had my number, or the number of another cab driver, she’d have been stranded. No, no. You can’t turn down a run because you don’t think it’s worth your while.

 
Aah, summer. Time we shed our winter clothing and wear as little as decently possible to stay cool. We walk out of the house, feeling cool and looking hot, taking in the admiring glances from men we pass. Keep in mind however that not all those looks may be admiration. Some of them could be from men assessing you for other reasons. I’m talking stalkers here. Just because you couldn’t be Beyonce’s body double doesn’t mean someone hasn’t taken an interest in you. I was stalked for over a year. Yeah, me – 5 foot 11, about 185 at the time and trans*. Yet someone decided to make me prey and stalk me. It was frightening and in my case was made worse by the fact my stalker was an EMS supervisor and would use his work vehicle to stalk me. This vehicle carried the same colour scheme as the local ambulances, so whenever I saw an ambulance coming, I’d search for a place to hide not knowing if it was him or an ambulance.

If you see someone who appears to be following you and it isn’t in a place such as a local shopping area, be careful. If you see them twice, it could be coincidence, but three times is probably stalking. My suggestion if this happens, is take their picture. Don’t try to be subtle about it – just hold that phone or camera up in plain sight and snap that shot. If they are indeed stalking you, that action may deter them. Always, always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you. To borrow a line from “Hill Street Blues” – “be careful out there”.

Cat.

Dream? Or ghost?

The phenomenon known as “recurring dreams” is not an unusual one. You know – the kind where you seem to revisit the same place night after night, or perhaps only two or three times a week, in your dreams.

From what I understand, many of these are like a video clip that just keeps repeating itself without change. You can’t figure out why you keep seeing the same thing over and over, but that’s the dream you’re stuck with. It could be a happy scene; something scary, or just a bland scene that keep repeating. In any case, it seems to be the dream you’re stuck with.

There is another kind as well – one in which the only constant is the location to which you keep returning. This is the kind I’ve been experiencing. The scene is the interior of a bicycle shop. Through the windows I can see the seasons change and movement on the street beyond the sidewalk. In the shop someone, either the owner or a mechanic, is working on a bicycle. This bicycle is never the same one whenever I visit this shop, so it appears that rather than a video loop, I’m actually watching things happen in “real time”. He finishes one project, then goes on to another.

The episodic rather than repetitive nature of this dream has given rise to a question. Since I am seeing life in this shop go on, am I really just seeing it in a dream? Or are the people in the shop aware of my presence, and if so, do they see me as a ghost or spectre of some kind? I suppose I’ll never know for certain unless I should somehow happen upon this shop and scare the daylights out of them when they see the flesh and blood embodiment of the spirit that’s been haunting the place.

Enjoy your weekend and if you’re fortunate enough to have a three day weekend, as am I, enjoy the extra day off. And remember to hug an artist – we need love too.
Cat.

Changes, changes

I’ve been thinking about all the changes in my life over the past 19 years. First, and most obvious, is the change from “him” to Cat. As a sidenote to that, I was the other woman in my own divorce.

Changing my name was a bit of an adventure as well. First, I had to decide upon a name. Some people choose to go with a feminised version of their male name. That didn’t appeal to me. Being left with having to choose a new name, I remembered my mother telling me that had I been born female, she was going to call me “Catharine”, so I decided to go with that. The city in which I lived had, as an acquaintance observed, had a “high redneck quotient”. Keeping in mind my sons were all in school I decided to change my surname as well, just to offer them some degree of separation from me. One more change I’m thinking of making is to reclaim my original surname. It’s been twenty years and the boys have moved away from that city, as have I.

Obviously my appearance has changed. I’ve also noticed a couple of minor changes in things as well. As “him” I would never wear shorts and I insisted upon always wearing shoes, even around the house. Now I much prefer miniskirts and never seem to wear shoes or socks when home. And I love my fishnets. Just minor things as I said, but a complete turnaround from before.

What else has changed? Well, I couldn’t find employment in my chosen field, so I drove a taxi for seven years until I got injured as the result of an accident, not an assault in the cab. Now that I’ve retired, I’ve become a photographer and writer. I write mainly blogs such as this one, as well as short fiction. I’ve also written my autobiography. I decided to end it with the new provincial documentation showing the new gender on my birth certificate. My life is, to be blunt, very white bread, so nothing would be gained by carrying it on further.

There are probably more changes, but at the moment I can’t think of any worth writing about, so, I’ll finish in my normal manner:

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Sorry, wrong number

I received the following in my Gmail spam over the weekend:

Your Navy Account Is Under Review
Navy Federal <inft@usamail.org>

26 Jun (1 day ago)

to Recipients

Navy Federal Credit Union

Attention !!!

Our system can not verify your account and this might
leads to account suspension

please click here to resolve the problem.

*Warning*

Do not login elsewhere after you verify the account within 24 hours

There are a couple of things wrong with this message from my perspective and a couple of general red flags. First, I’m Canadian and second, have never served in the U S Navy. I did serve in the Canadian Army however if that makes a difference.

Now, the general warnings. The address “to recipients” is a prime giveaway you are dealing with spam. If it was a message specifically for you, it would bear your name. I am also suspicious of the email address of the sender. “usamail.org” sounds official, but I somehow doubt it really comes from the USPS.

The warning at the end not to log in anywhere else for 24 hours is something I’ve not seen before, but it raises concerns. Why is it necessary that I stay off the computer for 24 hours after I click on their link? Would doing so somehow mess up their trojan or whatever they’ve put on your computer?

If you receive this email, even if you are a Navy veteran, just delete it. Or if you have some concerns, use the telephone and call whoever you need do. Just don’t click on the link.

Cat.