That’s what friends are for

WARNING: Contents may trigger memories in those who have suffered similar experience. I apologise in advance.

In all the years I’ve been writing these blogs, I have rarely delved into my personal history. Today I open that door a little. For a period of about ten years throughout my teens, from sometime in 1954 to November 22, 1963, I was physically and verbally abused by a psycho step-father. A small example: if I was alleged to have done something, he’d drag me by the ear to the scene of the supposed crime, usually something minor. I still can’t stand to have anyone touch my ears. The day President Kennedy was assassinated was the day my mother and I gathered the courage to escape. Why didn’t we leave sooner? Because we had become so demoralized by this monster we were more afraid of the unknown outside the door than of the hell we knew was inside.

Keep in mind this was in the early sixties and the support systems available today were non-existent. People were expected to “suck it up” and carry on with their lives. I suffered in silence for better than thirty years before a friend helped me place those memories behind a wall. That wall stayed intact until earlier this year. I can’t point to a specific incident, but something cracked that wall allowing memories to begin seeping back into my consciousness. Maybe something I watched on television, or something I heard, I don’t know.

This is 2019 and things have changed greatly. There is now help available for people combatting these dark memories, help that wasn’t even thought of fifty years ago. Another major change in my personal life is that I came out as transgender. That fact alone has been beneficial in this case.

In my previous, male, life, it was expected I would bear my burden in silence – I’d just “soldier on”. Asking for help was seen as a sign of weakness. Today, being perceived as a woman, I’m not bound by that convention. I can ask for help and support. And I have done just that. I spoke with my doctor, who directed me toward a support group. As well, I told both my best friend and my eldest son. The support and aid they have shown is amazing. An example: my best friend and I are fans of one particular show. I usually record the show to watch later, while she watches in when broadcast. We often talk about it and one night she advised me not to watch one particular episode since she felt it could be triggering to me.

Without the support of these two people, I don’t know that I’d have reached the point I could write this piece. But I have, thanks to their support and belief I can overcome this again.

As Ringo Starr said “I get by with help from my friends.”

Cat.

A very fine line

There can be a very fine line between free speech and hate speech but there are times when it can be difficult for the audience to determine whether the speaker crosses that line. In some cases, the listener’s perception is shaped by their personal views on the topic being discussed.

Last week a woman named Megan Murphy spoke at a public library in Toronto, and then later in the week, spoke at a venue in Vancouver. Both events were met with protests by the LGBT community regarding the content of her speeches. From what I could find on the website for her magazine, it appears she is very anti-trans, if not anti-LGBT in general.

Full disclosure here: I’m a transwoman. According to Ms Murphy, I am therefore not a woman by any definition. From articles I’ve read, she persists upon misgendering transmen and transwomen. But what really upsets me about her attitudes and pronouncements is that she has stated that when Ottawa passed Bill C-16, which, in essence, made trans people equal, in all ways, to the rest of the population, it diluted the rights of ciswomen. I could find nothing on her site to support her claim.

I spoke with two women on this issue. One said that I now had the same rights as she, and it in no way weakened her legal protections. The other said the following: Giving trans women, or trans people in general, doesn’t take away my rights; in fact, it does the opposite, because by pushing for the rights of another group of people, I am pushing for the rights of ALL people.

There you have the views of two women, one an artist and one a chef. That I now enjoy the same legal protections – and by extension, the same responsibilities – as do they, makes no difference to their lives.

Members of the transgender community already face discrimination on a frequent, if not daily, basis. There is enough violence directed toward the LGBT community and we don’t need people like Megan Murphy stirring up more animosity toward us, which her views have the potential to incite.

I have always been a proponent of free speech. It is because of that right I’m able to write some of the things I do in these blogs. At the same time, I am aware that using that right can be a balancing act because, as I wrote above, the perception of the reader can determine whether or not my words are hateful, or just mean-spirited. In my opinion, if Ms Murphy wasn’t guilty of hate speech in her presentations in Toronto and Vancouver, she was certainly skating very, very close to that fine line between free speech and hate speech and needs to be taken to task for her words and actions.

Cat.

Echoes from the past

I just watched a documentary on PBS called “The Lavender Scare” which began during the Eisenhower era. Much like the House Un-American Committee led by Joseph McCarthy, which rooted out Communists in government (the “Red Scare”), this group was devoted to uncovering homosexuals in government positions. Thousands lost their jobs over perceived “deviant” (their word) behaviour. It wasn’t until 1995 that President Clinton signed an order banning the practice.

Based on current events I see echoes of this, beginning with the banning of trans people from the military. I don’t think it will end there, at lease not with the current administration. This is a pessimistic view I know, but has been shown in the past couple of years, there doesn’t appear to be any depth to which they will not sink.

While not on a governmental level, such discrimination does occur in Canada. In the sixties and seventies, I worked with two people at different times who were fired for being gay. In the late ‘90s, I lost a job for being trans. I wasn’t fired outright, the company just made it impossible for me to do the job. At the time, I worked in a position that required a government licence. After I came out to my employer, when the licence was due to be renewed, they declined to give me a new application and when I insisted, they did, but then refused to submit it to the appropriate government body. The Human Rights Tribunal had fun with that one.

So even though the “Lavender Scare” is officially over, it continues in a lighter shade.

Cat.

You need to worry about this

In late November 2018, I was asked by my doctor if I could be available for media interviews in late January. St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had conducted a study of 120 trans people and found that, on average, trans people were 60% less likely to get screened for any form of cancer. The interviews with CTV network and Canadian Press were held this past Monday, January 21 and were related to the release of this study. The study itself was released on Wednesday January 23.

in my remarks, I stated that in my view, there were two main reasons for such a low screening rate. The first of these is a lack of training on the part of the medical profession. As I’m sure my trans readers are aware, many doctors and nurses have little or no training in trans health issues. Here in Ontario it is possible to change the gender marker on identification documents without having had any surgery. So, given that documents show one gender, and the appearance of the patient matches that identifier, the caregiver may not consider screening for certain types of cancer. For instance, if faced with what the documentation and appearance indicates “male”, the caregiver may not know the person in front of them was born female and consider screening for cervical cancer.

Again, if a transwoman is present, the idea of screening for prostrate cancer may not be considered.

The second problem lies within the trans population itself. I know that we are under pressure, often self-imposed, to blend in, or “pass” as our correct gender. The one place that can be a detriment is in our health care. First, let me state I’m fortunate in that my caregiver at St Mike’s is well-versed in trans medicine. Others may not have that luxury. If, as happens, you changed doctors after you transitioned, unless you’ve had a full physical exam with this new doctor, they may not be aware you were not born as you now present. And they won’t know this unless you tell them. I know that advice is probably not want you want to hear, but we’re talking about something that may save your life so maybe – just this once – you could break down that barrier you’ve erected between now and the past.

This is something you really do need to worry about.

Cat.

I’ve had trouble in the past posting links on WordPress, so if you want the links to both the televised interview and the print interview, just ask and I’ll provide them in a response to a comment.

C.

Don’t call me that

I did not set out intending to become a spokeswoman for anything or anyone. But over the past couple of months I’ve been involved in two separate events in which I’ve been called an advocate.

In both cases, my doctor asked me to take part in these events, and I agreed, so I knew what was coming. The first of these was a “health equity boot camp” put on by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. My doctor thought I’d be perfect for this one since I am both a senior and trans. As usual at these things, everyone wears a name tag. Mine also contained the notation “patient advocate”. The second, again through St Mike’s, was a study on cancer detection in trans people. I met with them and was once again identified as an advocate.

Here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself an advocate of any kind. In each case I made it clear at the outset that I spoke only for myself and did not represent any group or organisation. I’m in my mid-seventies, trans as I said above, and have strong opinions which I don’t mind sharing, usually in my blogs. But how can one person speaking strictly from a personal perspective be considered an advocate?

Here’s the definition of “advocate” from the Oxford University Press dictionary: advocate >noun 1 a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. 2 a person who pleads a case on someone else’s behalf. 3 Scottish term for barrister. Obviously that third definition is not me. As for the other two, I suppose if you squint really, really hard, you could fit my participation in those two events into one or both of those definitions. Even if you could, you’d have a hard time convincing me.

I’m reasonably intelligent and keep up with events in general and especially those that affect the trans community for they could, and often do, affect me. But the only policy I support or recommend is one that will make my life easier (I know, that sounds selfish of me.). Did I plead on behalf of someone else? Not intentionally, but if something I said in either of these events can benefit someone else, great.

Perhaps I’m being wilfully blind, but I fail to see how speaking up for myself can be considered being an advocate. Yes, my doctor recommended me for these two events because, to use her words, I hold strong opinions and I’m well-spoken. And yes, my best friend tells me I’m an advocate because I’m not afraid to speak out and she wishes I’d do it more often.

If my actions make me an advocate, well that’s your opinion.   But please, please, don’t call me that. I’ll probably laugh at you.

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

Cat.

America, where have you gone?

I am really worried about the future of the United States of America. Let me explain my concerns. Since the spring of 2017, America appears to be on a downward spiral.

Thanks to the rhetoric of the apprentice president, the country seems to be more divided than at any other time in recent history. Emboldened by the vile words that emanated from the election campaign, and the apparent tacit approval of the Oval Office, the white supremacists and other nationalistic groups have attacked, verbally and physically, minorities; people of colour and people of other faiths. Has the apprentice done or said anything to alleviate this dissent and social unrest? No. In fact, when referring to the Charlottesville murder, he is quoted as saying there were probably “good people” on both sides. How the hell can someone who deliberately ran their vehicle into a group of peaceful demonstrators, killing one, be called a “good person?” Just about every day, there are reports of some white person calling the police because they see some black person doing something innocent. The comments issuing from the White House and some of the legislation and executive orders are doing nothing to ease the “us against them’ mentality that seems to have taken hold in the so-called “land of the free”. Or does that phrase have an asterisk after it now: *provided you’re a white American citizen?

Immigrants are being targeted. We’ve all seen or heard of the current situation where children of all ages are being separated from their parents if they try to cross the southern border outside a regular border-crossing point.

The economy is another area the apprentice president seems to be intent on destroying. Trade barriers in the form of tariffs while good in theory, don’t work in practice. When a country imposes punitive duties on imports, two things happen. First, imported goods become more expensive. If the goods are materials for the manufacture of products, the costs are passed along to the end user – you. If finished products are imported, the same thing happens – you end up paying more for that product. Why is this? Simple. Because the manufacturer or importer isn’t going to eat those additional costs since it will affect their profits, therefore the consumer pays more. The second thing trade barriers do is cause the countries affected by American import duties to retaliate by imposing their own extra duties on American products. The result? The other country will buy less from American suppliers because of the extra duties; and they’ll find a manufacturer in some other country that can provide goods of a comparable quality at a lower cost. According to a news report I saw tonight on one of the news channels, at the moment, Washington has imposed punitive extra duties on goods from countries, and had those countries impose similar duties on American goods, that account for two-thirds of American foreign trade. I have read in the last couple of days that BMW, which manufactures vehicles in the US, is going to move some production to China to avoid the tariffs the Chinese have imposed on the import of automobiles manufactured in the US. Even if you’re not an economics major, you know what effect those actions are going to have on the economy of the United States? If you said they will cost jobs, you pass the course.

Internationally, in addition to the imposition of trade barriers, the apprentice appears to have made it his personal mission to alienate nations that have long been staunch allies of the US. His habit of meddling or commenting on the internal affairs of other nations have done much to ensure that other countries don’t like America much right now. Just today, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, he tore a strip of Germany for their reliance on natural gas from Russia, going so far as to call Germany “a slave of Russia”. I’m certain that Angela Merkel loved hearing that from someone many in her country consider a buffoon. In the meantime, while driving allies away, he is making efforts to become friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country long considered America’s sworn enemy.

The military is another area that seems to have attracted the attention of “the powers? that be”. Having failed to have any and all transgender members discharged, they have turned their attention to immigrants serving in the armed forces. Some are being discharged, often with no reason given, or a vague “national security” reason, with no specifics provided. Such action can only serve to weaken morale in the armed forces. Having worked for a company that at one time, was reducing staff, I know that such actions lead to a general feeling of “am I going to be here next week? Or am I the next on the chopping block?”

A country divided internally by strife; with a struggling economy and a weakened and demoralized military is a prime target for some power with a hatred of the US to consider an attack of some type. This may not be an actual physical occupation, it could take the form of an economic takeover of the United States instead. No fuss, no muss and the objective is still achieved.

I seriously hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, this appears to be very possible.

Cat.

Submissions wanted from LGBT and HIV communities

I’m a transwoman and my co-writer, a positive woman, are working on a project detailing how society treats members of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities at the various stages of our journeys. A few years ago, I spoke with a psychologist at CAMH in Toronto who thought such a book would be a great benefit to them in their work.

We have our own experiences to draw on, but would like to hear other people’s experiences. No names will be used in this and any submissions will be checked to remove any clues that might give away your location. For example, if a submission from Toronto refers to “streetcars”, that would be replaced with the term “public transit” and any route names or number removed. Additionally, specific cities will be removed and replaced with either the name of your province or state, or a more generic term such as “midwest” will be substituted. We will do everything we can to protect your identity.

We both have friends in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, so can call upon them for information, but that would be quite localized in scope. We need to hear from others, not just in Canada, but from anywhere. We especially would like to hear from transmen, for their experiences would no doubt be much different from my own. If you have generally found acceptance, great! Please tell us for that may give those just starting their new lives hope that things will get better. If you’ve experienced discrimination, or worse, please share that as well. Others need to know what pitfalls and danger may await them. Either way, we would like to share your story.

If you are willing to share your journey, you can send it to us at the following email address: 1outcastsofsociety@gmail.com Please remember the “1″ at the start of the address as the address without the numeral is taken.

Thank you,
Cat.