I Got A Lesbian Republican for Christmas

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Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

This time on RiseUP With Dawn Ennis, I’m delighted to have Mary Fay in the studio. We discuss the recent election and its result, being a Republican in a progressive community, Connecticut politics and how she can be both an out lesbian and a Republican.

IMG_4380You might recall that last month, I interviewed her empty chair. She was a no-show!

Well, she showed up this time! And we had a great conversation, even if we didn’t agree on much. She was the first Republican to be my guest, and hopefully not the last.

Watch here, and scroll down for links mentioned in this month’s episode!

To know more about Mary Fay, you can go to her campaign’s Facebook page here.

And you can find out more about our representative government here in West Hartford, Connecticut, by clicking here.I myself  am an alternate representative to the town Democratic committee, representing District 1. Find out about us here, and please join us! If you’re interested in the Republican committee, they have a website, too. 

One of the issues we discussed were tolls coming to Connecticut, and although Ms. Fay told me I was wrong, you can read for yourself that a study shows they will bring $1B to our financially-strapped state. Here’s the report in the Hartford Courant.

And if you’d like to communicate with the woman who beat Ms. Fay for the 18th Legislative district seat, you’ll find Jillian Gilchrest on Twitter.  Incidentally, I’ve learned Jillian still has not received a promised call from Ms. Fay conceding the election.

Here’s the link I promised you about Connecticut Voice Magazine! Launch is set for March 2019!

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That’s all for our January episode of RiseUP, and I invite you to like, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Also listen to the podcast I’m now doing with Chardonnay Merlot, Before The War. We discuss politics, transgender issues and news of the week.

IMG_4873We took some time off recently because of the holidays, the death of Chardonnay’s grandfather and my own recovery from surgery at Mount Sinai’s NY Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Despite the name of the facility, my surgeon is now performing vaginoplasty surgeries there. I suffered a complication in June from the operation he performed in May, and so my recent surgery was aimed at correcting that. All is well!

More good news: I will be teaching courses in journalism in the new year at the University of Hartford and you can also find my work at my portfolio page. Just click on the “articles” tab.

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Since this is the Christmas season, I thought I’d leave you with three “gifts.” First, two articles just published by The Advocate Magazine, profiling some amazing people I met at the NYC Pride march… Kaia Naadira and Ty Defoe! Click on their names to read!

Then, some politically-inspired carols… (SCROLL DOWN)

And last, the latest video from my BFF Maia Monet in which she wrangled Santa Claus (Dev Zebra) into listening to the Christmas wishes of transgender people! (KEEP SCROLLING)

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I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There’s just one change we need.
I don’t care about Jared or Junior
Let them spend this Christmas free.
I just want 
#Trump‘s mobile phone
Then let him go to Mar-A-Lago
We’ll end the shutdown, too.
All I want for Christmas
Is a COUP.

Silent night, Shutdown night
Everyone’s gone, turn out the lights
‘Round the world, allies gone wild
Holy shit, Trump is out of his mind
Sleep with porn stars, grab pussy
Sleep with porn stars, grab pussy!

We wish you a Mueller Christmas
We wish you a Mueller Christmas
We wish you a Mueller Christmas and a Happy Indictment
Fake Newscasts we bring to you and your kin
We wish you a Mueller Christmas and a Happy Indictment!

Closing bells ring, are you listening
On Wall Street, stocks are slipping
A terrible fright
We’re crying tonight
Watching our markets crashland.
Gone away are our investments
Here to stay is a depressment
#Trump was so wrong
To boast all along
While our markets crashland.

Donald the Conman
Was a lying racist clown 
With combover hair and tiny hands
And pouting lips in a permanent frown
Donald the President
Lied ’bout the wall: Mexico won’t pay
And his base was surprised when
Before their eyes
All those promised jobs went away.

You know Flynn and Manafort and Gates and Cohen
Kellyanne and Sarah and Jared and Stephen
But do you recall
The most famous Trumpster of all?
Ivanka the President’s Daughter
Plays a very shady role
And if you ever saw her
You would even say she knows
More than the other reindeer!

Mueller baby, slip your report under the tree for me
Been an awful good girl
Mueller baby, and hurry up with your Trump indictment 
Mueller baby, more indictments, too, for Mike Pence, too
I’ll wait up for you, Robert
Mueller baby, so hurry to the White House tonight

I really can’t wait (Baby Mueller’s outside)
I gotta go to Mar-A-Lago (Baby Mueller’s outside)
This term has been (Been hoping that it would end)
So very sad (I’ve noticed your hands really are tiny like a toy)
Mike Pence will start to worry (Not as much as we worry!)

Just hear breaking news alerts jingling, ring tingle tingling, too 
Come on, it drives me crazy my phone blows up ‘cuz of you 
Feels like the sky is falling and friends are crying “boo hoo!” 
Come on, it’s time for Mueller to finish so we can get rid of you!

‘Twas the Sunday before Christmas, when all thro’ the House, Not a congressman was stirring, not even The shutdown begun by the POTUS who dared Hoping his base soon would not care; The children nestled in cages of dread Forget freedom, just don’t let them be dead.

Well,
I have a little witness
I made him talk today
And when the indictment’s ready
Then, a video I shall play
Oh, Jared, Jared, Jared
What you told me I can’t say
But when the indictment’s ready
Then, #Trump will say, OY VEY.

Happy Holidays and here’s wishing to a fabulous 2019!

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Yeah, Bye

IMG_3552Connecticut State Senator Beth Bye took time from the campaign trail to talk with me about her re-election bid, #MeToo, taxes, tolls, Trump and Brett Kavanagh.

And we discussed our wives. Like me, Bye married a teacher, and together they made history as the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Connecticut.

My late wife knew her, since Bye served on West Hartford’s Board of Education and supported her first bid to run for the state senate in 2010.

Watch my interview with Sen. Bye at the link below, and scroll down for links mentioned in episode 15 of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis. 

Here is where you can weigh-in on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Click here to tweet to me, or add your comment below. Who do you believe? Dr. Christine Blasey Ford? Or Judge Kavanaugh?

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you are not alone. Now more than ever, victims like us are coming forward to share our stories. Help is available, too. Call 800-656-HOPE or go to the website for the National Sexual Assault  Hotline by clicking here. You can chat online with someone there, too. My own story is here. 

Here’s the link to Senator Bye’s website. Election Day is November 6th and West Hartford Democrats are eager to help if you need an absentee ballot, a ride to the polls, or if you’re looking to volunteer. They’re also happy to plant a yard sign on your lawn. Get in touch with them here or email the party at info@westhartforddemocrats.org 

Find out about the ballot in Connecticut by clicking on this link to the League of Women Voters.

Register to vote in Connecticut by clicking here. 

Find out how to register to vote in your state by clicking this link. 

You can read about Bye’s GOP opponent, Phil Chaboton his website here. 

Bye supports Democrat Ned Lamont in his bid to succeed my prior guest, Gov. Dan Malloy as Governor of Connecticut. You can read about his campaign here. 

If you’d like to read about Lamont’s opponents, click on these links to the websites of Bob Stefanowski and Oz Griebel.  Are Stefanowski’s pledges to cut taxes a false promise? Read what the Connecticut Mirror reported. 

CNN reported on the shocking lack of safe sex education in America’s schools. Read the report here, or click here for the original report from the nonpartisan Center for American Progress. 

So you want to tell your story? For 13 of our 15 episodes so far, I’ve been blessed to have friends, acquaintances and social media superstars join me as “special correspondents.”

Send me a message in the comments or via Twitter or Facebook and tell me how you’re “rising up!”

Thanks for reading and for watching! Catch up on prior episodes of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis by clicking here. 

16196003_10211796575569994_8450269662268401269_nOne last note: I mentioned my late spouse Wendy Lachs Ennis both here in my blog and during this month’s episode, because she was how I first learned about Sen. Bye, and because I think about her every day ending in “Y.” Saturday would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary… if not for my transition, and her passing.

Despite being gone 2 years and 9 months, she is always on our minds and in our hearts. It’s been especially hard sending our firstborn off to college without her, teaching our only daughter how to drive, planning our youngest’s Bar Mitzvah, mindful of her spirit but missing her presence and participation.

And our financial struggle to support our children’s education is no less difficult, having lost my most recent steady job to budget cuts last month.

If you are not already one of the many wonderful friends and strangers who have generously supported our children’s education fund, I hope you will consider making a contribution. All the money, every penny, goes to our eldest son’s college fund and the bank account set aside to educate his younger brother and sister. You can do so by clicking here for the GoFundMe account or send a check, payable to “Ennis Family Scholarship Fund Trust” to Robert Lachs, 1729 E Prairie Ave., Wheaton, IL 60137.

Thank you!

 

The History Maker

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – philosopher George Santayana, from  The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress

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William Tong has already made history. But if Connecticut voters choose him on August 14th, he’ll be on his way to making history again.

Tong, a native of my current hometown, West Hartford, Conn. and a state representative from Stamford, is running to be Connecticut’s next Attorney General. He has already won the endorsement of the state Democratic party and of fellow Democrats here in his original hometown of West Hartford, including our prior guest and his former competitor, assistant attorney general Clare Kindall. Other famous names on Tong’s bandwagon include Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., the United Auto Workers and the Working Families party.

tong_legislatureThose endorsements are significant because Tong is the first Asian-American in state history to win that level of crucial political support. He was already the first Asian-American elected to the state House of Representatives, and if he wins the upcoming primary and the general election in November, will be the first constitutional officer in the history of Connecticut of Asian heritage. 

Who is Tong? His biography reveals he studied under Barack Obama before he became president, and he is the son of immigrant parents:

“The Tongs owned a Chinese restaurant where William worked alongside his parents before going to Brown University and then the University of Chicago Law School where he was taught by then-Professor Barack Obama. He is currently a lawyer at Finn, Dixon & Herling LLP, one of Connecticut’s leading law firms where he practiced law for 14 years… William lives with his wife, Elizabeth, their three children and many pets in Stamford. Elizabeth is Vice President of Tax for North America for the Diageo Corporation.” 

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Tong and I sat down this week for a wide-ranging interview on RiseUp With Dawn Ennis, the talk show I’ve been hosting on WHC-TV and YouTube for about a year and a half. We discussed immigration, politics, President Trump, civil rights, the second amendment and 3D printed guns as well as Republican candidates’ calls to abolish the state income tax.

Watch the show here:

If you’re interested in learning more about William Tong, click here for his campaign website and click here for his state representative page which is of special interest to those living and working in Stamford and Darien.

Who else is running to succeed Democrat George Jepsen? It’s a crowded field. His Democratic primary opponents are:

And on the Republican side:

Hatfield, like Mattei, has experience as a prosecutor, a job Tong claims is not relevant to the post they are all seeking, since the A.G. doesn’t deal with criminal law so much as civil law. Hatfield won the Republican party’s endorsement.

Learn more about all the candidates by clicking here, RiseUP has extended an invitation to all the candidates running, but so far, only Tong has accepted.

The primary is August 14th, the general election is November 6th, and the online deadline to register to vote in Connecticut is August 9th, but you can register in person right up until and including August 14th. Details on how to do that are right here.

If you’re interested in learning more about 3D printed guns, the Washington Post and USA Today each have a good overview here. After we recorded this episode, a federal judge on Tuesday, July 31st blocked a Texas man from uploading blueprints for such weapons to the internet.

The issue of transgender rights remains contentious across America. The ACLU outlines how that battle was won in Connecticut, but for those who live elsewhere, being trans can be a fireable offense, a reason to be evicted, and too often makes people a target for violence. See how your state stacks up by clicking here for a look at the Equality Maps from the Movement Advancement Project. 

And if you’re interested in learning more about this month’s special correspondent, Mya Byrne, check out her website here and connect with her on Facebook and click here for to follow her on Instagram. And you can subscribe to her YouTube channel here.

If you’d like to be our next special correspondent, you’ll find some simple guidelines on our Facebook page. Please like, share and subscribe and follow us on Twitter and now also on Instagram!

Later this fall, I’ll share more details about the reality show taped in West Hartford last month, that connected my family with the Connecticut Humane Society. With the help of producers from The CW we adopted a 7-month-old Labrador/Retriever possibly German Shepherd mix who we have named Dahlia. 

Finally: August is typically a “hiatus” month for West Hartford Community Television, so I am very grateful to WHC-TV Executive Director Jennifer Evans for making an exception for this election-focused timely episode! See y’all in September with a new episode of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis. 

 

Pride in the name of… Dawn

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Just because June is over doesn’t mean it’s the end of pride celebrations. This month on my talk show, RiseUP with Dawn Ennis,we cover a lot of ground, and if you’ll forgive me for boasting… I have a lot to boast about.

IMG_1597.PNGThis summer has been one big event after another for me, personally. And for my eleventh episode of this series on WHC-TV and YouTube, I’ve decided to navel-gaze, and share some personal milestones:

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  • My victory over Connecticut’s state Medicaid program, Husky, to have the surgeon of my choice perform a life-saving and affirming operation culminated in that surgery on May 15th;
  • My children and I welcomed a new addition to our happy home (NO, I am not and never will be pregnant!);
  • And my selection as a community hero by Heritage of Pride (organizers of the NYC Pride March), which put me front and center at the historic 49th annual event on June 24th, alongside several genuine LGBTQ icons. Click here for the link to the names of all of this year’s honorees.

Hello, imposter syndrome! 

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Kaia Naadira (left), Emma Gonzalez and Dawn Ennis

Yes, that woman with the crew cut standing to my right is indeed Emma Gonzalez,18, a graduate of Parkland, Fla.’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and survivor of the deadly school shooting rampage on February 14th.

36177311_10216645339866071_383963565091979264_nWe talked at length about how she’s dealt with all she’s seen, handling haters, her hairstyle and her choice for college. Her mom is a sweetheart and entrusted me to keep an eye on Emma as she walked ahead of the float we rode through Lower Manhattan.

IMG_1579And because I am a journalist first and foremost, I also took time before and after the march to do my job: I interviewed the woman in the center of this photo, the queer-identified gender nonconforming artist and video innovator Kaia Naadira, whose mother Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement. I also spoke with Two Spirit performance artist Ty Defoe, right, who followed Pride with a stint on Broadway alongside transgender icon Kate Bornstein in Straight White Men. 

You can read the interviews in an upcoming print issue of The Advocate Magazine as well as watch the interviews in this month’s episode, on YouTube, below. And below the episode, you’ll find links promised during the show.

My friend Kati and I also met one of my lifelong heroes, Billie Jean King, one of the grand marshals.

IMG_1769If you don’t know how she single-handedly changed the world — not just the world of sports — watch this Peabody Award-winning documentary about the tennis and women’s movement and lesbian legend here. 

I asked King about “Battle of the Sexes,” the recent movie about her historic 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs, and how producers had suggested they “leave out” that she was lesbian, since at the time she was married to her ex-husband. “You can’t leave that out!” she told them.

King also had this to say, in the Portrait of a Pioneer documentary:

“Even though I get discouraged sometimes, if you’re a girl or a woman, you’re supposed to be really happy when you get the crumbs. I don’t want just the crumbs! I want the cake and the icing. Everybody deserves the cake and the icing.”

The other grand marshals for 2018 were Lambda Legal, Tyler Ford, and Kenita Placide.

  • Placide, pictured above left with King, is OutRight Action International’s Caribbean-based Advisor and the Executive Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE). She has been an advocate for HIV and human rights, youth and LGBTI issues, for over 12 years. Instrumental in organizing the first OECS regional security and human rights training for LGBT and sexual rights defenders in 2011, she made history co-coordinating the Caribbean’s first International Dialogue on Human Rights in 2012.
  • Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve the full recognition of the civil rights of the LGBTQ community and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. In the past year alone, Lambda Legal has sued to stop the transgender military ban, defended marriage equality nationally, fought federal, state and local-level discrimination, and continued to advocate for the most vulnerable members of our community – including youth, seniors, the trans community, and communities of color.
  • Tyler Ford is an award-winning agender advocate, writer, and speaker, whose creative and critical writing on queer and trans identity inspires, comforts, and challenges a diverse spectrum of audiences. Ford is also the Deputy Editor at Condé Nast’s them, a next-generation LGBTQ community platform.
Tyler Ford, Photo by D. Strutt

If you’re like my youngest son and you’d like to know more about Stonewall and the 1969 protests and riots that sparked the LGBTQ pride movement (there were several other uprisings, such as in Philadelphia and San Francisco that preceded Stonewall, incidentally), read this history of how it came to be here. If not for Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, it might never have.

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I met two heroes who are living witnesses to history,  riding along with me on the Community Heroes float: trans activist Victoria Cruz, and Tree Sequoia, who’s tended bar at The Stonewall Inn for decades.

For details about the Center for Transgender Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospitalin New York City, you can visit their website here, and don’t be surprised when you see my familiar mug online! The hospital hired several LGBTQ actors and trans models for their promotional material and in-house videos, me among them.

36442620_10156579209593408_7411668171846844416_o.jpgIf you’re interested in the surgeon who performed my operation, he’s Dr. Jess Ting, Not only is he famous for innovating a technique that provides women like me natural lubrication — a groundbreaking medical breakthrough featured prominently on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy”  — he also recently worked with Dr. Marci Bowers to perform that same surgery on Jazz Jennings, the teen reality star. She’s someone I have been blessed to meet twice in the last five years. IMG_0901

The New Haven Register reported on my surgery last month, and not for any reason but to raise awareness of the battle I waged. I fought for me, but I also don’t believe it’s fair that I should be the first and last transgender resident of Connecticut to be allowed this oppportunity.

I would never have granted the reporter the interview just to talk about me; I talked about this fight in an episode last fall and you can read about it here. The battle is not over just because I got mine.

Speaking of names in the news, I was interviewed by The New York Times for a story that was published on the same day as the NYC Pride March, about traveling while trans and people around the world who identify as LGBTQ. Or as The Times put it, L.G.B.T.Q.  You can read that story here, and although it’s the first time I’ve had my name in the newspaper of record, I hope it’s not the last!

Find out about NYC Pride by clicking here, and make plans now for the 50th anniversary celebration in June 2019!

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Outsports Prideis an annual event that anyone interested in sports and equality should definitely add to your calendar!

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At The Advocate I earned the nickname “SportsGirl” so this was a genuine honor to be asked to moderate a panel, featuring:

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  • Nevin Caple. The former NCAA basketball player for Farleigh-Dickinson University is a co-founder of LGBT SportSafe, which seeks to build inclusion for athletes and coaches of any sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Sarah Axelson. Axelson is a former softball player at the University of Mary Washington. She is currently the Director of Advocacy for theWomen’s Sports Foundation, and:
  • Clare Kenny. Now campaigns manager at GLAAD and working with campus programs, Kenny is a former volleyball player at Skidmore College and build an LGBTQ inclusion program in her athletics department.

IMG_5330Thank you to Cyd Ziegler of Outsports for inviting me, and for being so generous as to also welcome my friend Kati Ennis, who has been my right hand, my helper, my chauffeur, cook, and co-mom while I’ve been focused on my recovery. She and her dogs have moved in with us at our home in Connecticut and we are all ever so grateful!

Together we met San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers — the first woman to coach in the NFL — and Ryan O’Callaghan, the out former Patriots star. I urge you to donate to his Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation — which supports talented LGBTQ youth with college scholarships. Find out more about their important work by clicking here, Or email Ryan here: ryantocallaghan@yahoo.com

If you’re looking for other ways to celebrate Pride in Connecticut, go to CT Visit.com for a complete list, including New Haven and New London Pride as well as details about Hartford Capital City Pride September 7th and 8th.

IMG_8381And learn more about this month’s special correspondent, Karleigh Merlot, by following her on Twitter or emailing her at charlenechardonnay@gmail.com

If Karleigh looks familiar, she was my videographer, editor, producer and brilliant collaborator on the episode last fall we taped in Provincetown, Mass. She’s incredibly talented!

35927127_10216638305890226_5101582628297900032_nFind out more about New York City’s Museum of Sex by going to their website or visiting them at 233 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, at the corner of East 27th Street.

I heartily recommend the Magic Wand, by the way. It’s great for… massaging.

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By the way, we stayed at the Evelyn Hotel just down the block, and had a lovely time! It’s steps away from the end of the new parade route and around the corner from Madison Square Park. IMG_1546

Did you like the “RESIST” tee with the transgender colors — from the flag created by Monica Helms — which I wore during the NYC Pride March, and the recording of this episode? Click here for a link to get your own!

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I can also connect you with Nolan Custom Craft on Etsy, who produced the RiseUP With Dawn Ennis Pride 2018 stainless steel water bottle seen in this episode. I own another one, too, as you can see below!

Thanks to Emma for recording a greeting for one-time special correspondent and popular YouTuber Melody Maia Monet! You can watch Maia’s videos by clicking here.

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Thanks for watching and for reading lifeafterdawn.com Your comments on the show and my blog are welcome in the comments, and that’s also how you can let me know if you’d like to be our next special correspondent.

Next month: Another candidate in Connecticut’s embattled race for attorney general! Until then… Remember to RISE UP! 

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RiseUP with Gov. Malloy and Sarah McBride

A new episode of my talk show RiseUP With Dawn Ennis is live on YouTube in advance of tonight’s premiere on WHC-TV at 9:30pm.

My guests are Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, and Sarah McBride of HRC, who is out with a stunning memoir, Tomorrow Will Be Different.

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Gov. Malloy talked with me one on one about his accomplishments over his two terms in office, responded to his critics and answered questions from viewers, one of which is: why don’t you just resign now? His answer? “Walk in my shoes” before he’ll consider that viewer’s advice. Malloy told another viewer inquiring about taxes, “Wake up!”

We’ll also look at the newest candidate to enter the competitive race to replace Malloy, former West Hartford mayor Jonathan Harris.

Also in this episode, Sarah McBride explains what motivated her to work in activism and told me what she hopes readers who aren’t LGBTQ will learn from her book, now on sale.

You’ll find links to help you learn more about the people and topics we cover in this episode by scrolling down below the video link! If you enjoy what you see, please like. share and subscribe:

If you’re looking to contact Gov. Dannel Malloy, here’s the link to send him (or, more accurately, his staff) an email. They are very responsive! And if you have a specific problem or issue you want the governor and his staff to address, click here to contact the Constituent Services Office.

Watch the governor’s final state of the state address here and read the transcript here. 

You can read up on Connecticut politics by clicking here for the Hartford Courant’s section devoted to political news coverage.

Find out more about Jonathan Harris’s campaign for governor of Connecticut by clicking here. 

Harris, of course, faces some stiff competition later this year in the state primary:

DEMOCRATS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT

MARK STEWART GREENSTEIN

REPUBLICANS CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR SO FAR

This episode’s special correspondent is Sarah McBride, the national press secretary for Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the first out transgender person to ever address a national political convention. Sarah is the author of Tomorrow Will Be Different, her memoir which the cover explains is about love, loss, and the fight for trans equality.

Read about Sarah and find out how you can get a copy of her book by clicking here

Sarah’s page at HRC can be found here. She’s on Twitter, and Instagram, too. And she’s written powerful stories at medium.com as well. Click here to read what else she’s written.

Click here to watch a short excerpt from Jennifer Finney Boylan’s powerful interview with Sarah at The Strand bookstore in New York City, on March 6th.

You can also order Sarah’s book on Amazon.com by clicking here. For information about Sarah’s book tour, you’ll find a list of cities and dates here. 

If you would like more information about Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, reform Judaism or about the celebration of Purim and other Jewish holidays, visit CBI’s new and improved website for everything you ever wanted to know, but didn’t know who to ask! And expect to hear more in upcoming episodes about CBI’s 175th anniversary celebration!

If you like what you see, please like, share and subscribe, to both WHC-TV’s YouTube channel and to my own, as well as to this blog. Thank you!

 

 

The War of 2016

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We are at war.

Don’t believe me? Post anything involving politics, race, religion or criminal justice on social media… and count to ten.

Let me state at the start, I’m no psychologist (not yet, but that is most definitely my next career, after my kids finish college). That said, I consider myself intelligent, insightful and well-educated, and willing to put forth my own analysis with the full knowledge it is informed opinion, and not fact; I stand ready to receive criticism, commentary and challenges to my thinking.

And my thoughts of late are WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?

In just seven months, I count 14 incidents: mass shootings, murders of police officers, police-involved deadly shootings and mass killings by terrorists and military clashes around the world. Here’s the toll since January:

  • 6 murdered in Chesapeake, VA.
  • 5 murdered in Glendale, AZ.
  • 5 murdered in Pittsburgh, PA.
  • 5 murdered in Kansas City, KS.
  • 8 murdered in Piketon, OH.
  • 5 murdered in Moultrie, GA.
  • 49 murdered in Orlando, FL.
  • 290 murdered by bombers in Baghdad, Iraq.
  • Alton Sterling killed by police in Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Philandro Castile killed by police in Falcon Heights, MN.
  • 5 police officers murdered in Dallas, TX.
  • 84 murdered in Nice, France.
  • 265 killed in failed military coup in Turkey.
  • And today, at least 3 police officers murdered in Baton Rouge, LA.

That’s at least 93 dead here in the U.S., 462 overseas, a total of 555 lives lost. The last seven of those incidents above happened all in the space of the last two weeks, and the massacre in Orlando was just a little over one month ago.

Amid all that bloodshed, we live in a world that is more divided than ever before. Isolationism is catching fire around the globe. The U.K. voted to quit the European Union, the leading Republican candidate for president in the U.S. wants to build a wall on our border with Mexico and put a halt to legal immigration by those of the Muslim faith, the Black Lives Matter movement is marching for social justice, police officers nationwide are under fire, literally, and those opposed to transgender rights have encouraged followers to oppress, restrict and even shoot to kill anyone who dares to use a bathroom matching their gender identity.

Social media right now is a cesspool of opposing views, anti-Hillary Clinton, anti-Donald Trump, antigay, anti-LGBT, anti-BLM, anti-police, anti-Obama, anti-foreigners, anti-Democrat, anti-Republican, anti-establishment, anti-Wall Street, anti-politics, anti-government, anti-white, anti-Mexican American, anti-Muslim, antisemitism, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-religion, anti-feminist, anti-men, anti-Ghostbusters… anti-anybody who doesn’t think the way I do.

Posting an opinion online is equivalent to lighting a firecracker in your hand: no matter how great an idea you think it is to do it, be aware: you’re likely to wind up hurt.

And the question I see most often asked is, “why?” Why are we like this? What is behind this spate of rudeness, disrespect, hatred, divisiveness, violence, murder?

We humans have had differences of opinion since Adam and Eve, since the first Cro Magnon man beat the shit out of the second Cro Magnon man, since Ren fought Stimpy.

The late Rodney King, the man whose beating by police was caught on video, said it best:

So it’s not new:  we don’t get along. Too many of us don’t play well together.

I believe there is no one cause, or one person to blame, but in the background of all of this divisiveness is the rising empowerment via technology of fringe or alternate opinions, outside the mainstream, which has fueled a new, unrestricted mindset. We are connected in a way with the rest of the planet that gives everyone with access to the internet an opportunity to speak our mind, no matter how arcane or antiestablishment our views are.

troll 2I see the seed in this development in the evolution of the internet troll. He or she is afforded total anonymity with which they can speak from a virtual soapbox. They are attracted to cultural icons who boast, berate and bellow via reality television, who win kudos for being rude and “speaking their mind.” I think a significant segment of our society has decided it’s okay, even better, to be divisive. Perhaps, they consider finding compromise a sign of weakness: better to “stand your ground” against “others” unlike “us.”

The “others” are not just strange or different, they are dangerous. They must be stopped. They must be defriended, denounced, denied rights, and ultimately, denied life. The world is not big enough for “others.” Their existence threatens my own, goes the thinking.

It’s reminiscent to me of survivalist mentality, as if an entire population of our nation has decided we are at war. And so we are.

The Nice, Baghdad and Turkey incidents may seem unrelated to this mindset, but to my mind, there is a connection: terrorists commit mass murder to advance a cause against “others,” military juntas overthrow governments because they see their leaders as representing views other than their own.

And Brexit was a democratic, non-violent reaction to that same principle. How far will we, as Americans, go?

clinton-trump1Will our next leader pull us out of the United Nations? Will our economy suffer because of whom we elected? Will we shutter our borders to certain foreigners who are deemed “too foreign?” Will we become the Earth’s policeman and go to war in Syria, with Korea, or China? Will a new record for low turnout be set, tainting our next presidential election, given the negative opinions we have of our leading candidates? How will whoever wins govern a country that stays home on Election Day out of disgust for the choices available?

How can any man or woman heal the rift that is now wider than at any point since our civil war? My friend Jennifer Finney Boylan — professor, writer, author, mentor and oh, she happens to be a transgender woman like me — has long advocated love as the proper response to these times. I don’t disagree, we need more love. But I believe we need something more.

I looked to the words of Abraham Lincoln, and those of John F. Kennedy, two beloved presidents separated by a century, unpopular in office but revered and hallowed following their assassinations.

Abraham Lincoln “won the presidency in 1860 with just 39.8% of the vote and was considered so offensive by half of the polity that the country split in two because of him,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” said Lincoln.

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future,” declared Kennedy, who also said:  “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960 with a 0.17% margin of victory, the narrowest of the 20th century, according to the L.A. Times. And his popularity plummeted each year he was in office. But he is now revered, in part because of the stand he took for civil rights:

“Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence… those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality… A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.”

I close with Lincoln, whose words are as timely today as when he first delivered his Lyceum address, in 1838. He’s commonly quoted as having said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” But the actual quote, far darker, is below:

“If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

I am taking up Jenny Boylan’s challenge to love more, and to raise my voice to call for a better way forward, for my children and yours. My hope is that we “live through all time,” even this time, and together find a way to heal the rift, and end The War of 2016.

 

 

Shame On Me

Fool me once, shame on you. 

Fool me again, shame on me.

That little ditty has been running through my head as I have learned — the hard way — the price of being authentic. Of expressing my opinion. Of trusting the universe will allow me to be without slapping me back down. Shame on me for thinking I can have all those things.

Just two people reached out to me this week, among the hundreds who read and responded to a recent opinion piece I wrote for The Advocate Magazine, offering to help me better understand a situation with which I am somewhat familiar, but not intimately nor with any personal experience; that of the detention of undocumented immigrants who are transgender.

That actually was not the subject I set out to write about, but for the central figure in the story and her supporters, it’s all that matters. What Jennicet Gutiérrez and her story represent is something that I have spent some time considering these last couple days. 4c72cc56a00532cd25647e0044b663569b27a672343c9dfd942c43ce6252b56c_thumb_medium

I did so, not because hundreds of mean people in their pajamas trash-talked me on Twitter, or because fringe “journalists” denounced my point of view as “privileged” and “classist.”

I did it because I enjoy learning things, especially when it’s something I don’t know well enough.

I took time to better acquaint myself with the views of people I respect, who were kind enough to constructively criticize my opinion without doing to me what I accused Gutiérrez of doing to the president.

What I wrote about was respect. I went so far as to call Gutiérrez rude. My point was to discuss civility, not activism or rape or race or the immigration status of any individual.

But no matter how many times I echoed the comments of others in praising Gutiérrez for achieving a policy change and for standing-up, no matter how I denounced those who booed her, all my detractors saw was me “shaming” or “shitting on” a trans Latina woman, and judging me “on the color of my skin,” and not “on the content of my character,” to quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

One “friend” saw an opportunity to drag my name through the media mud once more: she misquoted me, mocked and dishonored the memory of my grandmother and aunt in suggesting they and all Irish immigrants were liars, and took me to the woodshed in a rival publication which someone I respect and admire once described as “one step below writing for al Qaeda.”

Well, friends and followers, I’m not going to flip-flop, or print a retraction, or apologize — my response tweet Wednesday basically said it wasn’t my intention to offend anyone, and I’m sorry that anyone took offense about anything I wrote — but, well, that’s the nature of opinion writing. Or as my grandfather said, “that’s why we have horse racing.” Because we all have opinions that lead us to think we’re right and the other guy is wrong.

But to those who blasted me for putting my preference for showing manners ahead of her cause, for spotlighting what Gutiérrez did in the context of civility, and for deploring the disrespect she showed the president — for putting those things ahead of the need for action and for change, I’ve got a message for you:

You’re right.

I’ve pondered, read, watched, listened and listened some more to trans, gay, bi, lesbian (LGBT), people of color (POC), white allies, and cis queer women, who instead of spitting at me online shared with me some of the experiences they and people they know have endured. I learned how bisexuals were once again the victims of erasure and shook my head in disgust at those who blasted Gutiérrez for being undocumented, as if that invalidated her opinion.

I even considered the position of someone who is a vicious bigot herself, giving grief to people who don’t match her standards, who demanded I unfriend her on Facebook because of my opinion piece (by the way, who does that? Why not just unfriend me? Oh, right; if you do that, then you lose influence over the people I connect you to in my vast media universe. Ah.).

Well, I must admit, she’s right when she says Jennicet Gutiérrez is brave. I’m sure Gutiérrez is also compassionate and I’ll agree she is beautiful. There is no doubt in my mind she is selfless and I trust those who know her who have told me she is a good person.

The only area where this woman on Facebook and I disagree (not counting this woman’s derogatory opinion of late transitioners) is that she said Gutiérrez “asked the president.”

C’mon now, let’s not pretend: she didn’t ask, Gutiérrez demanded.

She did what Sylvia Rivera and countless activists and civil rights leaders and everyday people have done when given an opportunity: she stepped up and challenged authority. She stood up for those who have no voice. She spoke truth to power. She grabbed the spotlight away from the president to shove it — not on herself — but toward those who only want two things: to become American citizens and live authentically without fear or retribution or danger.

And I’m certain what Gutiérrez did provoked change that would not have happened otherwise. For that she deserves our praise and all the credit, and those who booed her should be ashamed of themselves, because in booing Jennicet they booed all trans people. I said as much in my Op Ed. I never called for Gutiérrez to be silent, nor silenced, but in focusing on the disrespect I believe now I did Gutiérrez an injustice, by not recognizing that for someone like her, there appeared to be no other opportunity. If you favor sports analogies, this was her shot, her one and only shot, and she took it. Or maybe that’s a sniper’s analogy, but either way, she took it.

And I will concede her doing so frankly makes me uncomfortable, because of my own history. That’s why what I wrote is my opinion, because it’s based on who I am. 

I was raised to mind my manners and to respect authority, to work within the system, to network among those with similar backgrounds and to use the proper channels for communication and in addressing authority figures and institutions. To my parents, protesters were “hippies,” radicals, undesirable.

Challenging authority in my house was met with a beltstrap, a spanking, a slap across the face. I was taught to turn the other cheek, and that to cry or to complain was to be weak.

I was raised to be obsequious, with white privilege and upper middle class privilege and male privilege.  I have been reminded of all this recently, very much so, to the point at which I am humbled to now say: I believe rude was right, in this circumstance.

Despite my habit of being snarky and having a smart mouth, I failed to rebel as a youth, and bring that perspective to my adult life. As a parent myself, I have distilled the strict disciplines of my birth family to become more forgiving in the family I raise, to be more loving, more considerate, more patient and more accepting of ways that are different. I have been an active participant in my unions and have used my skills as a journalist to bring truth to light and expose the excesses of power and corruption. I’ve been arrested, seen the inside of a jail cell, had my days in court, and I’ve endured misgendering.

And I’ve educated myself further over the past 48 hours, reading up, opening my eyes to better understand and appreciate and truly listen to those who are willing to take time to share experiences, without casting aspersions. So I can now say: my opinion on Jennicet Gutiérrez evolved.

I consider opinion and thought to be different things. To me, thought is a process, an evolution of ideas; opinion is the result of that process, but it is not an end product unto itself, because thought continues. And so opinion can evolve as well, given more information and perspective.

Thanks go out to my friends who are like-minded on the topic of civility, as well as to those whose opinions contrast with mine — who gave me the impetus to grow rather than denouncing me as a heretic, for having a contrary view.

I will not back down from my position — that it’s usually best to show respect and manners — and I don’t write this to win converts. I am still a believer in doing whatever your conscience tells you is the right thing, and I am one who tries to walk that line on the side of civility.

But I will concede I could have done a better job expressing there are always exceptions and extenuating circumstances.

I am a reasonable enough person to admit, as much as I wish she didn’t have to, Gutiérrez did the right thing in seizing what she saw as her only opportunity, no matter the cost to herself or to respectability. Making change is a dirty business, and it takes someone willing to get her hands dirty or her name sullied to make a difference. I am proud of Gutiérrez, and can say without exception that I support her actions that day.

With respect to those who won’t see my statement as anything other than eating crow, well, that’s your opinion. The difference between us is, I will respect yours.

I send you wishes of peace and solidarity for LGBT people everywhere — and for all kinds of people, everywhere — from the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love.

XOXO