Friday, November 20, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015

I have a very dear friend who is trans (transgender, though she actually doesn’t like that umbrella term and prefers the more specific “transsexual” or just “trans”, but I’m saying “transgender” here because it is a bigger umbrella and what I’m about to talk about applies to everyone under that umbrella). Today, November 20th, is the national Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It’s a day to pause and remember the staggering, truly shocking number of transgender people who were violently murdered (and lost to suicide) this year, and to realize that the total number is made up of (I hate to quote Bush, Sr. at a moment like this—or ever! But it’s a poetic term here) “a thousand points of light”, so to speak: in other words, the huge, scary yet impersonal aggregate statistic is made up of very, very personal, individual lives. A rabbi I knew once said that every life is a whole world.

I may have let today go by without a mention, were it not for the fact that my aforementioned dear friend got harassed last night upon attempting to check in to a hotel when traveling, right here in the “free” United States of America. Right in her own country, just for daring to be herself. Try to imagine that you couldn’t walk down the street, check into a hotel, apply for a job, access a public bathroom, try something on in a dressing room in a department store, or have a meal out without the very real possibility, all the time, at any moment, wherever you are, of someone or a group coming up to you and harassing you, threatening you, discriminating against you, or worse. Try to imagine every day of your life being like that, 24/7. Just for a moment today, try to imagine that.

The fact that my friend got harassed last night made me realize I can’t let this day go by without stopping to acknowledge the importance of it. It can’t be just trans people who talk about this. It has to be all of us, for things to ever change. Most people who are not trans have no idea of what the statistics are--of how dangerous just going about your daily life while trans is. I’m asking those of you reading this to take a moment today just to take in how challenging it is for them, when all they are trying to do is be themselves. When someone’s internal wiring doesn’t conform to their external body specs, they should be free and indeed encouraged to express themselves, to live their lives, in a way that makes them feel comfortable, like their true selves, free and whole. It doesn’t hurt a flea for people to be free to live as their true selves. They are not threatening anyone by doing so, therefore they should not be threatened.

Gender is a spectrum and some people don’t fit into what the world expects of them based on their outer body. So just let them be different, it’s okay! We are all different and we all color outside of the lines in some way(s) in our lives. We should all be accepted for who we are, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and being transgender doesn’t. The only thing I won’t tolerate is intolerance, especially when it results in violence against innocent people just trying to live their lives. This is very personal for me due to my friend. My message today is live and let live. This is supposed to be the Land of the Free. Teach tolerance to your children and your friends, wherever you go, whatever lives you touch, too. Don’t be silent.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Keep the Golden Door Open

Well, Huckabee got himself on CNN and declared that we (America) need to "close our borders". Oh yes he did. And the CNN pup (Smerconish--who previously I was furious at for dissing my college ferociously a while back, but we won't go there--he redeemed himself in my eyes with the following) shot back with what I thought was a profoundly important point: he said, but if we close our borders, that will keep out, for example, Syrian refugees who are fleeing FROM terrorists, FROM ISIS. He said, what about "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"? Huckabee's response was that we need to keep out the terrorists. He stuck by his close the borders stance.

The America that I'm proud of is the one that welcomes immigrants, the one that is a melting pot, the one that celebrates diversity and the one that opens its borders to those fleeing terrorism, violence, war and certain death for their children. We ideally are an OPEN country.
Of COURSE we need to do everything in our power to screen out terrorists, but we are here to take in the "huddled masses". Not to close our borders, not to turn our backs on them! If we do that, we are no better, for example, than those (including us to an upsetting degree, so let's learn and not repeat history) who turned their backs on Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany during WWII, leaving many stranded in boats out at sea, with no country willing to take them. I have not forgotten that chapter of my own people's history, and that is why I look at the Syrian refugees and I say fling open the gates!

It is heartless and downright anti-American to say "close the borders". Screen as best we can, yes. But allow in refugees as is our proud history and part of our very ideals as America? Yes, or we cease to be the America that I can be proud of, the America symbolized (poignantly, today, as this was a gift from France) by the Statue of Liberty, holding her welcoming torch to light the way in for those who need it.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” - quote by Emma Lazarus -

Love to France

Love and prayers for you from America, France.

May all those who stand for tolerance, non-violence and peace imagine linking arms across the world, oceans, deserts, mountains, cultural divides, and all that keeps us apart, and may we stand together as one for a world in which love conquers all.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Answer was YES

Ten years ago today, I adopted two kittens from the Pinellas County Animal Shelter. My heart was broken at the time due to losing my beloved 20-year-old cat, Oliver, and the way it happened. I wasn’t at all sure I could allow any new furkids into my heart after that. I had a dog and a cat, but they were grandfathered in. I didn’t know if I could open my heart to anyone new, what with it being shattered into a million pieces, as was my very faith, too.

Because of the way Ollie went, I had gone to grief counseling to try to cope with it, and it was only after going through the whole course of that, that I drove to the shelter on October 22, 2005 to adopt a pair of Maine Coon kittens they had, which I had seen on their web site. Of course, I didn’t end up adopting those two kittens. But we’ll get to that.

On the way to the shelter, I burst into tears and pulled over. I almost did a U-turn and went home. I thought it might be unfair for me to adopt new pets, as what if I couldn’t love them? What if my heart was beyond repair? It sure felt like it was. But I decided to keep going. Just go to the shelter and see the kitties. If it doesn’t feel right, you can leave.

Well! The second I got there, I heard my little Kioko meowing pitimously—this unbelievably pitiful meow (more like a very traumatized, very high-pitched “MEW!”). I was set on adopting the Maine Coon kitten siblings I’d seen on the website, but first, I thought, someone has to do something about that poor tiny black kitten! She’s so upset! She was standing in her water bowl just crying her eyes out, and even though she was the tiniest being in the whole place, she was definitely the loudest, too.

Hey, hey—someone! What is wrong with this kitten? Oh, she’s just upset because her mother and siblings are all gone and she just got spayed. She’s fine. Fine? SHE’S HYSTERICAL. Let me hold her for a second. So, I get her in my hands and she immediately stops crying, cocks her head in what I later realized is her signature, INTELLIGENT, observant, sense-of-humor-possessing way, and gave me a look of: well, HI, who are you? Are you here to get me out of this place? Little did I know the answer was YES.

I then calmed her down for a moment or two, put her back in her cage (at which point she commenced her MEWing again), and went, half-heartedly at this point, around to the other cages in the cat area, looking for the Maine Coon sisters. Instead, this little white, strikingly GORGEOUS kitten comes barreling fearlessly at me from the back of a cage and meowed a confident “Hello! Will you pet me?!” I had an idea.

Excuse me! Excuse me: can I put the white kitten in with the little black one? I think I might adopt them both, but I need to see if they will be okay together (really, I wasn’t planning to adopt them, I just wanted to put someone in with Kioko, poor little thing! She needed another kitten in there with her, she was missing her family so much). Well, I don’t know, the shelter worker said, we usually don’t do that…but if you are thinking of adopting them both…okay. So, they unlocked the cages, I stuck Harmony in with Kioko, and Kioko immediately stopped crying again. At that point, I think my heart already knew what was going to happen, but STILL I went looking for the kittens I had seen on the web site.

What a heartbreaking place the shelter is. An adult cat in a cage at floor level tried to get my attention by sticking her front legs out through the bars at me. When I petted her, she was SO affectionate and definitely BEGGING me to take her. I only knew her for a few moments, but ten years later, I still remember her. I’ve thought of her over this decade and thought: I so hope someone adopted that affectionate cat. Every cage contained a special cat like that. And I could only take two. I already had two at home.

I finally saw the Maine Coon sisters but, by then, my heart and my focus were on Kioko (who, it turns out, is also a Maine Coon, though I didn't realize it at the time) and Harmony. Honestly, I was mainly concerned about “the little black one”—I KNEW she was meant to go home with me. She was sure meant to go home with SOMEONE immediately, or she was going to spontaneously combust! And, by the way, there was a Category Five hurricane swirling offshore with the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in any Atlantic hurricane (it was Hurricane Wilma), so I was the only FOOL in the animal shelter considering adopting animals that day—everyone else was at Home Depot buying plywood and generators, or getting the hell out of town. If I didn’t take Kioko, she would be there through the hurricane, and I knew she wouldn’t be okay in that place even for another hour. I had to get her out of there. “I’ll take these two.”

Kioko and Harmony proceeded, once adopted, to do what had seemed to me before I adopted them to be the impossible. They came into my shattered heart and healed it. They wove themselves through the broken pieces like cats purringly weave themselves through our ankles, and in doing so, they wove my heart back together again. I can’t believe it was ten years ago that I walked into the shelter and heard Kioko crying. She had me at “MEW!" Yes, Kioko, it turns out I was there to get you out of that place. I rescued Kioko and Harmony. Yet it's equally true that, when I said yes to them, when I let them into my heart, they rescued me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The First Democratic Debate of 2016 Made This Democrat Very Proud


I should wait until manana to write and post this. I have to be up at six a.m. and off to work. But I just CAN'T CONTAIN MY PRIDE AT BEING A LIFELONG DEMOCRAT at this moment!

The Republican debate and all the coverage of their candidates has been like watching some sort of grotesque hybrid of a professional wrestling match meets a witch hunt meets Reaganomics on crack.

Contrast that to the impressive Democratic Party debate we witnessed tonight. The candidates did not personally attack each other. Not once. They did not attack women. They did not attack immigrants. They did not attack Planned Parenthood. What did they do? They respectfully, passionately, substantively discussed THE ISSUES.

I am so proud of my party right now I honestly am fighting back tears (not sure if it is okay to cry a few weeks post-cataract-n-LRI surgery, or I would let 'em flow, babies). Our country desperately needs this kind of intelligent, thoughtful, respectful, substantive debate on the issues, and leadership in kind.

Instead of going on a witch hunt against Planned Parenthood​, Rosie O'Donnell and immigrants, the Democratic Party and our impressive field of candidates are trying to bring people together. Bernie Sanders wants people to wake up and realize their power over corporate money. Hillary Clinton wants to help women, children and the middle class. They both want us to have family leave and health care. Martin O'Malley wants us to move to a clean energy grid (not fast enough, but at least he is talking about it and wants to move us toward it). All of the candidates are talking about issues and what is best for the people, our country and our world.

I don't know about you, but I profoundly prefer that to the aforementioned professional wrestling match meets witch hunt we have been horrifyingly and embarrassingly-to-our-country witnessing from the other side of the aisle. I am so proud to be a Democrat tonight.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Stand with Planned Parenthood

From the time I was a very, very little girl—from as far back as I can remember, actually—my mom would always joke (yet she was serious) that, if she had ten minutes to live, “I would tack the phone number for Planned Parenthood next to the phone for you girls, and then I’d eat hamburgers until I died.” From the time I was tiny, I was taught how important what Planned Parenthood does is. What do they do? They provide birth control. They prevent unwanted pregnancies and children coming into this world when their parents are not ready for them. They empower girls and women to have choices in life. They provide affordable health care. They provide counseling. And yes, they do provide abortion services but that is only 3% of what they do. It’s the other 98% that is so important. It’s the other 98% that prevents more abortions than they will ever, ever do, and more than probably any other organization or entity in the world. They are about what their name is: planned parenthood. Not accidental parenthood—planned, wanted, welcomed, rejoiced-in parenthood. That is the way children should come into this world: when they are wanted, when their parents are ready for them and can afford to take care of them.

Now along come some divisive, patriarchy-supporting, rich MEN and they are convincing everyone that Planned Parenthood is bad, Planned Parenthood is evil. Why? How are they evil? They are not “selling baby parts”, that is utter despicable propaganda, designed to stop this fine organization from helping women. Because make no mistake about it, people: as unfathomable as this may sound/seem in 2015, these men want us barefoot and pregnant. Which sounds pretty good to me right now, actually, although I’m way too old but anyway it should be up to the person if she wants to be barefoot and/or pregnant, not up to some hateful, violent people who want to shut down Planned Parenthood.

They don’t give a hoot about stopping abortion, they want to stop BIRTH CONTROL. Birth control and affordable health care, that is what Planned Parenthood is about, that is what they have been doing since before I was born, that is what I was taught as a tiny girl I should REVERE about them and always know and always keep that phone number “tacked by the phone.”

And when I got old enough to need birth control, I was so blessed to have a parent whom I could pick up the phone and turn to, and actually a college health center I could go to. But if that amazing little health center hadn’t been there, do you know where I would have gone? PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Because I’d been taught. Because I knew. Because I had it told to me again and again even as a tiny child: Planned Parenthood is there for you when you need them. Be sure to know their name. Be sure to keep their phone number tacked by the phone.

I stand with Planned Parenthood!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Clinton or Rubio: Which One is Really Yesterday?

What gets me is Rubio trying to spin Hillary as "yesterday" and same old same old, when that is purely AGEISM: it is based SOLELY on the age/generational difference between Clinton and Rubio. If you base your vote on IDEAS versus ageism, you see that it is the Republicans and Rubio who espouse the profoundly TIRED, OLD, and utterly discredited ideas of the past, namely, three words: trickle down economics. I mean, REALLY? You can't get more YESTERDAY than that, Marco.

Hillary is older than Marco but her ideas are PROGRESSIVE, whereas Rubio's and the Republican party's are REGRESSIVE. No mas trickle down! NO MAS. That is the true bridge to the PAST.

Last time I checked, elections are about IDEAS, not biological age...unless you count the EXPERIENCE factor, which is a GOOD thing and usually (but not always) goes along with age. There are good things to be said for youth and good things to be said for age, but trying to paint someone as "yesterday" and "the past" just because they are older than you is PURE, unabashed ageism, period. Ask yourselves: which IDEAS are relevant and healthy for today? Then it becomes evident why Rubio is trying to spin your attention away from where it should be focused.