‘The first thing we’ll do is round up all the homosexuals’

DSC_0218My head in the hand sink in the morning under the cold water spigot and now, my chest hanging out in the manner of a woman’s, with the hormonal levels petering out, the muscle tissue gone soft. I did a set of 10 push-ups but I don’t think it mattered. We drove into the city to the flower and garden show and on the drive over got to talking about transgender rights with the kids (loosely crossing over into discussions about gay rights), and Dawn said when she was that age she didn’t know any kids who were identifying as anything but kids, and neither did I. It wasn’t until I got to Starbucks in the ’90s I met my first gay friend, and started a drinking club with him and a few others, including a Navy SEAL friend who was definitely not gay, the time he left his sunglasses at a gay bar and asked if I’d go back with him to pick them up: trying to look casual in the afternoon walking in and nodding to the others and then walking out, like normal. We all just liked to drink, we had that much in common.

And it was around that time at Starbucks I got an email from a friend I’d lived with in Pittsburgh, who explained in a kind of cut and paste fashion that he was going through the procedure himself, and tried to simplify the explanation because I really didn’t know a damned thing about it, I thought it was tied to one’s sexual preference: I didn’t know or really want to.

Dan was one of the most guy-guys we knew, with the Metallica poster in the kitchen, the band giving middle fingers to the camera and scowling: and Dan, frying everything he ate, drinking canned beer, laundry everywhere. We lived in a house with five guys, dogs, cats, and there was the Halloween, that defining moment maybe, we had a party and Dan came down the stairs dressed as a woman, we all thought that’s kind of weird (it didn’t seem like him, to do that) but everyone said how strange, he actually looked good.

And at least one time the two of us were out of our minds somewhere and it looked like he had something to say but didn’t, and I wondered if he was going to tell me or try to talk about it then, but he never did and I don’t blame him.

In his email Dan described a key moment in utero a message was supposed to be relayed to a chromosome but wasn’t, and that was the reason he felt like a woman inside a man’s body. And I just didn’t understand what that meant for his sexuality, because Dan had the occasional girlfriend, at least I thought so. It was like trying to do the calculation on Daylight Savings time between time zones that did and didn’t recognize it and what that meant for the real time, I just couldn’t complete the circuit, the thought.

He said he’d be changing his name to Dana and left a number which I tried to call but he wasn’t there so I left a message saying I was happy for him and that was the last time we ever talked, he was in upstate New York and me, in Seattle.

Dawn heard an interview on NPR with the first transgender mayor, out of Oregon: although he cross-dressed and had gotten breasts done that’s as far as he went, so he still identified as male.

She got in touch with him for an interview and drove four hours each way down and back, as a possible film adaptation about his life, how it culminated with an angry far right Christian group that showed up with signs saying God Hates Stu and so on, which only roused the townspeople to come out in defense of their mayor (which they did by staging a cross-dressing protest that drove out the angry Christians); Dawn talked about film rights with Stu and Stu’s girlfriend, but then her friend Aldo took it over, got it workshopped even, and Dawn hoped she’d get some credit at least, if it ever got produced.

The kids said it really shouldn’t matter who wants to use which bathroom, that it should be a person’s rights…and Dawn said we live in a progressive part of the country here, not everyone thinks like that. It is easier not to know why people wind up that way, to keep some distance from them. And to lump them together in a bucket.

At the end of the day the kids got their hair trimmed with teal-colored streaks and I thought to myself I wonder if that’s the next thing they’re going to try to take away, kids getting their hair dyed, young.



Categories: musings, parenting

Tags: , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. The stories about Dan and Stu are interesting. The theory about a message not getting communicated en utero makes sense, it’s all so random anyway. I can’t imagine what it’s like and hit a wall there, but I don’t have to understand, only accept. Our kids already know such a different, more progressive world, even though it feels the opposite at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The acceptance is the big thing. I’m glad I’m accepting personally and got that from my parents. That’s really important right, what’s handed down there. Thanks for reading Kristen! Bill


  2. It’s what some people don’t get about authoritarianism and why they think it’s all hyperbole. It’s rarely a big action. It starts with creeping, negligible legislation. Propaganda and slander from leaders, undermining institutions, scapegoating. And one day you wake up and you’re on the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, and I wish some of the powers that be could read it and get a dose of reason. I had a Dan in my earlier years too, a female-to-male friend, who was so clearly male to the core that there was never any confusion on his part, or on his friends’ parts. If you know someone like that, there’s just no controversy.

    It’s kind of like how Dick Cheney is okay with gay because his daughter is gay. Extrapolate, people! Extrapolate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember you wrote a manuscript you said on that but it wasn’t the right time for it, or ahead of its time. I’m glad for the people I’ve met, who remind me how similar we are. Something we need to keep reminding ourselves as others try to split us up.


  4. Gosh! I enjoy your writing so much 🙂 Great.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There was a gay kid in high school, Gary Perry, who was tormented by the populous. You can imagine. I didn’t meet a gay person until I moved to New York with the Coast Guard. I sure made up for lost time then! But I’ve never known anyone who had their gender changed. I wonder what happened to Dana. It’d make a good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t even know where to begin in responding to this. I was curious about the title, thought it sounded familiar but didn’t bother to google it. The bathroom bill is one of many recent decisions resulting in some pretty serious head shaking, lowering, hiding my tears both literal and figurative. What a world we live in, what a country.

    A lot of the recent sentiments getting public attention, as well as peripheral actions, have terrified me: banning a religious group from entering, deporting people of a particular skin color, the loss of personal freedoms like the bathroom bill, Jewish cemeteries being vandalized, hate groups feeling empowered, swastikas tagged on bus signage, etc. It all goes fairly contrary to what I understood America to be founded on, things like personal freedom and the ability to do what you want (within reason), so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, your neighbors be damned.

    It was another good read and thank you for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I made up the title, was being cheeky. I managed to avoid all the bathroom bill coverage when it started but somehow got sucked into it in my car, with my kids. I think for myself, the best I can do is write stories of acceptance from my personal experience and that feels good. I don’t want to feed into the anger spectrum with the back and forth, but I also feel that’s being too passive. None of us have much experience with this…though our elders do, some of the Germans I met when we lived there last year. They are similar patterns.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. it’s all about fear and acceptance. understanding that people are different and that is okay, not a threat.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Eventually everything extreme becomes normal. It just takes a long time to get used to it.
    I know of a young girl, same age as my youngest, who has transitioned to male. He is now Ben. I remain uncomfortable with children (and by proxy their parents) making these decisions. Will that eventually seem normal as well?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve not heard of the bathroom bill – will have to google that.
    I’ve had several gay and bi friends, but no transgender ones. And you’re right, hopefully the next generation will grow up more accepting of difference – my son just shrugs when we discuss colour or sexuality, not undertsanding why anyone would worry about the differences. He has a friend who is already – and has since he was very small – identified as gay and it doesn’t seem to bother any of his mates. Long may it stay that way.
    Though, the older generation can be easy going too. Years ago, my late father in law went to a work reunion at a college he used to teach at. A woman came up and said hello and it took him a few seconds to realise she was one of his old colleagues who’d undergone gender reassignment. My dear father in law (a man in his 70s by then) said it was ‘odd at first’, hearing his old friend’s voice come out of a woman. But then he realised she was the same person at heart and they had a great evening reminiscing. I was never so proud of him than when he told us that tale.
    Great post Bill and as always, you plucking out the big truths from the seemingly tiny day to day details.


    • Great story! I recall you were close to him. There is something about that I think, where some might actually loosen as they get older like that. What the hell does it matter when you get right down to it? Glad your son feels the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love how you weaved your story of Dan into this much bigger conversation. And out came Dana.

    Liked by 1 person

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