Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
*"Will must be the harder, courage the bolder,
spirit must be greater, as our strength lessens…”
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This past summer I managed to snag yet another art commission at a local church where I have painted a lot of murals – most of the mural work in my sidebar on this blog comes from this church. So, I was working down on the school wing, where we have a Noah’s Ark theme of animals going in a simplified illustrational style on the walls. The latest painting – I don’t say the last, because we seem to keep adding to things over there – was a representation of the Lion and the Lamb, both from the scripture verse (“…the lion shall lie down with the lamb…”) and a tip of the hat to C S Lewis’s Narnia with Aslan and in particular, the Lamb that becomes Aslan in the last chapter of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. What does all this have to do with a hat…my hat in particular?
First of all, this sets up the context for where I got my hat. I was painting this particular painting, in a church where there are carefully researched, deeply religious murals that I have painted, on the school wing of that church, and working on a painting with deeply embedded Christian meaning…and I am a transgendered guy/lesbian identified individual. So, what is the nature of my relationship with this church? Amazingly enough, I am Out to them and they are very accepting and aware and loving. And I value that beyond any price, in the very conservative homophobic area that we live in. I have murals at one church that severed their relationship with me after they realized I was gay, although they left the paintings up, which surprised me. So this lovely church, where I was currently working on this Lion and Lamb mural, knows that I am indeed GLBT identified.
So the week I was painting this part of the installation, the church was setting up to hold an annual fundraising rummage sale, which given the efforts to organize the sheer raw amount of stuff, must have come from hundreds of donations, attics, garages and storage buildings! The sheer scope of it was huge. The sale was that Saturday, and they were organizing the loot into categories like clothing, kitchen ware, video tapes etc. The room that was the staging area was right next to the entry into that room where I was painting Lion and Lamb. Every so often I would take a break and stretch my legs – important, given my arthritis – and talk with the women who were organizing the mounds of stuff. I was prowling the room, looking at things, when I spotted “The Hat” – a gorgeous, high quality wool fedora with a jaunty little spray of feathers and rolled back brim and I went head over heels for it! I asked whether or not I could go ahead and purchase it, since the actual sale was Saturday and I knew I could not make it back over to the church on that day. They hemmed and hawed, and teased me and then relented (they weren’t really suppose to sell anything in advance) and charged me $3.00 dollars! Understand, wool fedora’s run anywhere from $30.00 to $80.00 dollars, so this was so close to stealing I felt guilty! I asked if they were sure, and they laughed and told me go ahead.
So I gave them my three dollars and scooped up the hat and tried it on (again – had already done so before buying it) and it was a perfect fit. I tipped it at a jaunty angle which made them all laugh again. These were several women in their 60’s and 80’s…the kind that are the mainstays and unsung unappreciated backbone of churches everywhere…you know what I am talking about. While the 20 and 30 something crowd was dropping off this incredible mound of stuff and then going merrily on about their business (which probably did include kids, work and errands, let’s be fair), these two older members of the congregation were organizing single handedly this over-their-head mountain of junk into usable categories, hanging clothing on hangers, tossing stuff that was not fit to use, shuffling stuff to different rooms for staging. It was huge! So, the older one of them paused after the laugh, and said, hesitantly, cautiously, and with deep curiosity “So, I suppose you are the…guy in your relationship with Wordweaving?” (they have all met my sweetheart) I could tell that she didn’t want to offend me, but she was intensely curious and truly had no clue about the GLBT subculture. I was actually pleased she asked…it was an opportunity to talk about the subject with people who live in a different world from mine.
I talked to them about myself and Dreamweaver, and the butch/femme cliché…that while superficially we did very much fit that idea, we also blurred the boundaries and had a very egalitarian relationship. They began to ask more questions – when did you know you were gay? When did you come out? Do your parents know? And each question I answered seemed to open up more connection and acceptance. They already accepted me – but I went from being known by what I was, to being seen as an individual. That had a unique life. And that life was not always easy, because of where I live and the culture around me.
It was a great conversation, and I finally regretfully wound it down and started back out into the hall to paint some more. And I stopped and turned and said to them, “I want to say thank you.” They looked up in surprise from their sorting and said “Why?” I went on, “Because ever since I have come to this church I have been accepted and loved for who I am…and no one here has ever made and issue of my orientation or gender, or suggested I not be allowed to paint here because of it. That is precious to me, and I treasure this church. You are a blessing!”
And the older woman of the two came to her feet and threw her arms around me and hugged me, and then the second woman joined in. They said “Why would we not want you here or would not want your art? We love you and we feel like you are one of our own!”
And that is the story of The Hat. So despite the gender bending trouble that it got me into the other day in Walmart, to me my hat is a reminder of acceptance and love. It is a troubled area that I live in. There is legislation on the books banning local businesses from offering partners benefits. We live in the shadow of Bob Jones University. There are Exodus style groups here, and billboards condemning homosexuality. Sean Kennedy, a young gay man, was killed here, murdered only minutes from where my wife worked at the time. His killer served only 14 months. We cannot legally marry here. We cannot hold hands in public without concern. We have been preached at. And then there is this small church where my art work lives and breathes that accepts and loves. It is an interracial church – they have had their share of trouble too. They regularly get nasty graffiti on the walls outside, which they handle with grace and a bucket of paint. There is a roaring lion – homophobic, hating, lashing out – that roams our streets in the form of our state government, conservative judging citizenry, and hating, angry violence. In this church is true Christianity – living the life that reflects the peace and unconditional love of the Lamb. This church gives me hope that someday, the Lion will lie down with the Lamb
…and there will be Peace.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It seems Walmart is a significant trouble spot for me as a transgender…last week, I was running errands, and one of them took me into Walmart. So, I trot up to the door, throw a donation at the Salvation Army bell ringer, and dive for the bathroom first thing, before acquiring a cart.
And I carefully checked before I went in the bathroom to be sure that I had the one that matches the “F” on my driver’s license. This is after all, the store that I used the Men’s room by completely accident and got away with it entirely…So I always check. Yep, right one at least for the societal perceptions. I went in, and of course, all stalls full. So I am waiting my turn, lingering hopefully near the back handicap stall, because it’s easier on the arthritis. The first stall door to open, however, was the one right in front of me. A woman in her fifties, I would say, came out, and we bumped into each other. She looked at me, got this *look* on her face, and said “…oh my…OH MY GOODNESS!...OH! OH!” and ran out of the bathroom, yelling loud enough to clearly carry back through the walls. “THERE’S A MAN IN THE WOMENS REST ROOM!!!”, repeatedly. Meanwhile I am standing there, speaking to her back on its way out the door, saying, “No, ma’am…ma’am, wait, I…MA’AM! HOLD UP!”
Too late. She was loose on the unsuspecting Walmart. I stood there for a moment, empty stall forgotten in front of me, and said out loud, “Oh boy…” Because the next thing that was very likely to happen was a Walmart security guard (probably male) would stick his head in and demand to know what was going on and possibly check my driver’s license. Just then a *snort* was heard from the behind the last stall door, and a woman emerged – a very regal, lovely black lady – who looked me up and down and said, “She’s a twit…*I* can tell you’re a woman!” and went out the door. Which then also, left me standing there, thinking, “Well, actually, I’m NOT, exactly…” *sigh*
At this point, hydraulic pressure was interfering with brain function, so I went on and used the bathroom, washed up, and cautiously stuck my head around the door to go out. Sure enough, next to the women’s room a big Walmart Security guard (male, 1, generic) was waiting for me - all nice and official, with the keys to the bat cave and everything. I groaned and walked out the door, and stepped over to him. “Sir, I can explain…” I began, thinking just HOW am I going to explain and what do you say to explain this. At which point, he looks me up and down, raises his eyebrows, clears his throat and says “The other woman that came out said you were a girl, so I waited just in case.” He eyed me some more, with a rather puzzled, disdainful look, and continued “its fine…go on.” Whereupon, I nodded and headed on to do my shopping. And I kinda thought to myself, ok…whatever I am, Cyndi loves me and so do all my friends. And that’s what matters.
To be fair, in the midst of the unseasonably cold weather we have been having in the south, I was wearing several layers of shirts, a black leather men’s jacket, and a hat…my favorite hat, which is a men’s brown fedora, with a spray of feathers on it. (It’s a really good quality wool fedora, which I managed to acquire for an insanely low price at a rummage sale – there is also a wonderful story behind it which I must post about it sometime.) I undoubtedly looked like a guy very easily, with the layers covering up any betraying curve of figure, and then the masculine jacket, hat, and short hair…so I can see why the first woman made the mistake, although I can’t account even now for her reaction. (If I encountered a guy in the women’s room, I would simply say “Um, sir, do you know which restroom you are in?”) My voice however is light and feminine, and the second woman very clearly heard me speak…so she knew I was physiologically female, even with all the clothing screaming otherwise. It was not a deliberate attempt at “passing” for a man on my part. It was a deliberate attempt at staying warm in subzero temperatures! And I was wearing clothing that l liked and felt comfortable in. I am used to being called “Sir, I mean, Ma’am, I’m sorry!” several times a week, but this reaction was off the scale.
And it left me feeling very confused. I mean…going into gender specific restrooms always twinges a little – it’s like a subtle, low grade reminder that I don’t fit with societal expectations and boundaries. But I REALLY got mistaken for a man that time – and the only thing I had on my mind initially was “Need to pee” so it caught me off guard. And somewhere out there is a poor flustered woman who thinks she collided with a man in the woman’s bathroom. By now she probably thinks I came on to her, since I did politely smile at her when she came out of the stall, initially. It’s distressing. It is rather enjoyable to be called “sir” by mistake – it feels affirming of being a transgender guy. But this put me in the position of having to very loudly assert that I was indeed a female – for all the good it did me – and that felt very uncomfortable. I felt like I was denying my true inner self. Then we have the other woman, who listened to my voice from the other stall, caught the main clue that does give me away, was not in the least fazed by the mixed signals of my clothing…and firmly pronounced me a woman. Which, female body notwithstanding, I am not. And while I am grateful, profoundly, that she set the security guard straight before he walked in and accosted me, that also very much left me feeling very strange…because in my head, I am a guy. *sigh*
Walmart is just getting too weird. But somehow I don’t think it would be any better at Target…
Thursday, December 9, 2010
in the distance, the great stone Tor of Glastonbury is just visible.
Many people bring offerings, ribbons, and prayers to the site of the Tree, and hang them on the protective fence around the trunk of the tree.
Every winter a 1oo year old tradition takes place - a sprig of thorns is taken from the Tree and sent to the Queen to be used at the table as a holy decoration on Christmas day. Last night, on December the 8th, the Mayor took the clipping and sent it off to the Palace. This morning on December the 9th the people of Sommerset rose to find the Holy Thorn Tree almost destroyed - its branches cut from it and thrown on the ground and left there.
Many wept and all were stunned at the blatant destruction. There are rumors of town rivalries and ugliness as the basis of the vandalism, but no one has been caught or accused of the act. People have gathered to weep and mourn the destruction of the sacred tree, and some are gleaning tenderly branches from the scattered limbs - maybe in hopes that a new shoot might be grafted and encouraged from the remains.
Such a mindless act of wanton destruction is almost more than I can comprehend. I do not understand why someone or someones would do such a thing, and desecrate what is surely a Holy Shrine, made so by the prayers and customs and the very Earth it grew in. All I could think of was the song sung by Loreena McKennit - "Bonny Portmore. I wish to offer that song here now as a lament for the loss of the Holy Tree of Glastonbury.
It must be pointed out that however desperately horrifying this vandalism it, and how gut wrenching it is to see, the trunk still stands intact...it is possible that it will respond as though it was deeply pruned and grow back fuller and richer in time than it was...
And if not, there are shoots and small trees growing in Britain that spring from cuttings of the Tree. It can be replanted, still stemming from the original roots, and the flowers will blossom still then, twice a year - at Winter Solstice and at Ostara, or Christmas and Easter.