The Gift of Social Media

I have quite a presence on Facebook. Just ask any of my 943 Friends. I consider it one of my missions in life to make people laugh, or to feel better by lifting them out of the mundane or depressing for a moment. I often read posts from people slamming social media – people are disconnected from each other because they’re always on their phones, it’s too easy for disagreements to escalate to a point of never speaking to someone again, etc.

There is merit in these criticisms. There is a photo collage on a wall in my local queer community center. The collage depicts a time I remember well, the early 1990s when Oregon was facing the first of several anti-gay ballot measures. Most of the pictures were taken at public events of one kind or another – marches, rallies, political speeches. What struck me most was the undivided attention being given the speakers. Every eye was focused on one thing, and one thing only. Our attention was unanimous.

A photo of the same event today would capture a scene with half the people not paying attention because they are texting, and the other half not paying attention because they are taking pictures of the speaker and everyone else at the rally, including themselves. The remaining 5% are listening but not with full attention because they are irritated by the majority. Everyone is operating on the assumption they don’t need to pay attention in the moment because the speech will be widely available later via their favorite social medium. And they’re right.

I sing in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. I know full well that much of the power of our performance comes from sharing the air with our audience, singing live and in person. Recordings of the chorus are far less powerful than the chorus live. The same holds true for life in general – the point is to LIVE it, not RECORD it.

If I feel this way, then why have I titled this piece the GIFT of social media? Several reasons…

Sandra. Kathleen. Naomi. Dawn. Gayle. People from my past – some I haven’t seen in over 40 years – with whom I wouldn’t be in touch at all if we hadn’t found each other on Facebook. These reconnections are reason enough for me to look kindly on Facebook.

And there’s another reason. My brother died on March 13. Writing comes as naturally to me as breathing. Part of my grieving process meant sitting at the keyboard letting my feelings flow in words. I wrote a eulogy for my brother and posted it to Facebook. Within hours, I had received such an outpouring of loving support, exactly right for me in that moment.

For someone more on the introverted side, the support I received that day was perfect. I would not have wanted to face the in-person support of 150 people saying some variation of, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” As it is, I was able to feel the love and not feel alone, while being alone.

Used properly, social media provides a level of connection quite comfortable for an introvert. The danger for the introvert is to use Facebook to completely replace face-to-face interaction. Sharing the air is still important. At chorus rehearsal after I posted my brother’s eulogy, several people came up to me and gave me big hugs. Perfect support for this introvert – 150 people giving me support through Facebook, and five giving me heartfelt hugs. I felt the love.

A More Brilliant Country

The other evening, we had friends over for dinner, in celebration that our friend N had been granted political asylum in the United States. During the course of the conversation, our friend S, an ex-pat from Britain, commented that the original Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence was one of the most brilliant documents ever written on behalf of a people.

I was quite taken aback by this comment. My political awakening came during the Watergate era of Richard Nixon’s administration. I was in my mid-teens at the time, quite susceptible to cynicism. In recent years, I have wondered if I would have initially become a Republican if Nixon had been a Democrat. As it was, I found it a simple matter to demonize Republicans and exalt Democrats. In the ensuing years, the level of discourse between the two parties has increasingly degenerated into the type of name-calling more often heard on a playground. Hence my surprise at hearing our political system complimented.

And in truth, S was not complimenting our current political system; she was complimenting its roots. The Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights. Those were remarkable foundations to lay. These principles were laid down in such a way that with very little tweaking, they can be applied to everybody. And that is the beauty of the system that S was complimenting: the wording is such that no one is automatically excluded by virtue of identity or birth status. That it hasn’t worked out that way to date doesn’t negate the beauty of the system as it could be; it makes it more frustrating that the system has never worked to the degree that it could.

N was granted political asylum because he is a gay man who had been working as an activist in his own country on behalf of people who were HIV-positive or had AIDS. He was granted asylum because his life was in danger in his own country, largely because he was living gay in a country that refused to recognize that gay people existed within its borders. S and I attended his asylum hearing, waiting outside while he presented his case for several hours. He then waited several weeks to hear the decision. He cried with relief and happiness when he learned he would be allowed to remain in the United States.

Why did it surprise me so to hear my country’s original system called brilliant? Why was I surprised that N was so happy to be told he didn’t have to leave? I do have my cynicism about my own country’s system of government. Learning about the American governmental system as a child, I never took in its brilliance; all I saw was its flaws and faults, and it seemed hypocritical to me. “All men are created equal” seemed a hollow phrase given the backdrop of the 1960s civil rights movement, taking place before my youthful white eyes.

The current rancorous discourse has derailed the conversation away from the language of the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Now, seen through the eyes of my friends N and S, I appreciate the distinction: all are created equal. Yes. What we have been striving for since those words were written is that we all live equal.

My friend N is a reminder to me – what is brilliant about our system, as S pointed out, is that we have the legal freedom to undertake the pursuit of living equally for all. A dangerous pursuit? Yes, at times, here or elsewhere. N tried in his home country to make a difference, and had to leave to save his life. To honor him, to honor the personal sacrifice he has made in leaving his family behind, I work within my own system, so all may live equal. I would like our current system to be as brilliant as S stated about our founding. I may not live to see that day, but that does not negate my obligation to work toward it.

There’s No Place Like Home

1976… I turned 21 on September 1. On that date, I registered for classes at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. A few weeks earlier, I had left the cocoon of the San Francisco house I grew up in, moving 700 miles to attend college. A fateful decision, Pacific University. I could’ve gone to Hofstra University. I could’ve gone to the University of Iowa. I could’ve gone to UC Berkeley. All had accepted me. But I chose Oregon.

Two years later, I moved the thirty miles from Forest Grove into Portland. With the exception of three years away at graduate school, I have never lived anywhere else. At an age when I could not be expected to know any better, I had happened upon the place that is Home to me.

1997… Another 21 years has gone by. On June 20 of 1997, I experienced my first injection of testosterone. My physical transition had begun. By late summer, I was a baritone, no longer an alto. I was giddy as a 14-year-old boy usually is. Exhilarated. A bit terrified, having no idea how to live as a man. And at the same time, knowing that I could not continue to live as a lesbian once I realized I had misunderstood my identity all those years. Onward and forward, without the least idea what the journey would look like. I had happened upon the place that is Home to me.

2018… Another 21 years gone by. 21 years living as a man. Comfortable now living as a man, understanding better how to navigate the world and relationships with others as a man. Embracing the identity transman. Happily married for 10 years. Happily singing in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus for 11 years. A stable life. Then I went to China, on tour with PGMC. On September 1 I celebrated my 63rd birthday by singing with PGMC in the Forbidden City in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

I don’t think I will ever be able to convey in words why China changed me to the degree it did. The change was every bit as profound as every other 21 year change I’ve experienced in my life. I came back spiritually woke. I feel a sense of connectedness to life, the universe, and everything and everyone in it that I have never felt before. I have happened upon the place within that is Home to me.

OK… What does 2039 have in store for me, I wonder? I will turn 84 that year. And I fully expect that year to contain a change in my life every bit as profound as the previous three ‘21 years’ have done. Where will Home be?

A rather abrupt ending to this blog… might as well — how could I possibly have written my other ‘21 years’ in advance of their unfolding? Moving to Portland? Transitioning? Becoming religious? And at 84… becoming… … all I can safely say is, I will be Home.

Like Night and Day

In May of 1995, my then-partner said to me, “I’ve always felt like a man inside.” This revelation from a partner of seven years rocked me to the core. I was a founding member of the Portland Lesbian Choir, and that group was the center of my life. My spiritual self-care has always been connected to singing. Beyond singing, my family of choice, all my close friends, the structure of my life, my social center within lesbian community – the PLC was all that. I had never needed the Choir more than at that time, and it was devastating to me when June came and Choir was on summer break.

During the course of that summer, I experienced what I later learned to call the dark night of the soul. I was depressed, paralyzed by dread and self-doubt, bordering on suicidal. Along about August, I made an attempt to better understand my partner, tired of the repetitiousness of my thoughts spinning down into the same depression and recrimination. Breaking the cycle, I asked myself one day, “What WOULD it be like to walk around the world as a man?” Far from dread and self-doubt and anxiety, that question brought to the surface a most-unfamiliar feeling of excitement and a giddy exhilaration, startling me no end. From those feelings emerged the now-inevitable realization: “OMG – me too. I need to transition too.”

September… back to PLC. In June, I was ‘Nancy, a founding member of the PLC.’ In September, I looked the same. I sounded the same. And no one yet knew that I had become ‘Reid, the guy who is eventually going to transition.’ It was a surreal experience. I had changed so much I felt like a new member, yet everyone was treating me as they had in June, having no idea anything had changed.

September 2018… long living as a transman. Settled into Reid. Settled into baritone in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, now a member nearly as long as I was a singing member of the Portland Lesbian Choir. Married. Over 21 years on testosterone, the same amount of time I had lived in lesbian community. What could possibly change now?

Then I went to China. My dark night of the soul is easily explained. I know precisely why I cycled downward in 1995. I have no idea why I cycled upward in 2018. China exploded my heart open to life, the universe and everything. I came back looking the same, sounding the same, as I did when I left. And yet, as in 1995, changed to the core. Spiritually awakened. Energized. In the three months since my return, I have processed and puzzled and written reams, seeking the same level of understanding as 1995. And not getting it.

I have now blessed and released the question, “What just happened here???” I have adopted instead a new mantra, the closing line of the iconic lesbian novel Patience and Sarah: “You can’t tell a gift how to come.”

Reclaiming Thankfulness

When I was a kid, I gave little thought to the meaning or origin of Thanksgiving (or any other holiday, for that matter) — the celebration of holidays centered around time off school, and an all-family gathering at my house. Winston Churchill once said that history is written by the victors. Though probably not speaking of Thanksgiving, this saying is all too appropriate in considering this particular holiday.

When I was a kid, the official history of the U.S. (as written by the victors) went something like this: our ancestors landed on Plymouth Rock. There were some people there who fed them through their first winter. Later our ancestors fought off the global empire of Britain and declared themselves an independent country. We were inordinately proud of this. I grew up with the belief that the West was settled by brave souls who ventured into unpopulated lands, bringing order to previously uninhabited areas. Indians were depicted as savages who popped up randomly and unpredictably to attack the brave homesteaders. Manifest destiny epitomized.

I never knew until I was long adult that the westward movement of white people was a genocide. So this means… Thanksgiving is a holiday in celebration of genocide? Damn. ALL my ancestors, on both sides of my family, were on this continent long before any westward expansion began, but nowhere near as long as the folks who ended up being killed or displaced. Damn.

It is a nice idea to have a holiday dedicated to giving thanks. I am now attempting a reclamation, a day of thankfulness not for genocide but for the blessings in my own life. This is a new holiday for me, Thankfulness. This past year, I am thankful for:

January 4… every January 4, I am thankful for Cristina. Our first date. Every time I go in Peet’s Coffee on NE Broadway, my eye is drawn to a particular table, where we sat smiling shyly at each other in 2008. Every 4th is our monthaversary. (I never can decide how to spell that…)

Attending the Trans Voices Festival in Minneapolis in April. Despite a freakish blizzard that closed the festival early, this was a wonderful weekend. So energizing to meet other trans singers and performers. My peeps! In a moment of weakness I approached the organizers and said the next one would be in Portland. I am thankful for the committee that is helping me organize this endeavor. Go us!

I am thankful for the New Insurgency Revolutionary Choir. Connecting musically with Naomi Littlebear Morena has given me new singing connections with my past. Singing once more with some members of the Portland Lesbian Choir has brought me full circle to my roots. My first choral experience was with the PLC.

The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I’m not sure there are words enough to express what this organization means to me, especially after August 30. On that day, we took off from Seattle and flew to Beijing. The ten days in China that followed changed my life to the core, leading to the rest of what I’m thankful for.

I am thankful for a newfound connection to spirituality that has added a peaceful dimension to my life, and a deep sense of connectedness not only to others, but to myself. My life is now one continuous seamless thread, no longer pre-transition and post-transition. I am thankful for the reconnections I have made as a result — Amy, Lynda, Kathy, Adrian.

I am thankful for the profound bonds I formed with various chorus members as we shared this intense and exhausting and exhilarating trip. We have brought those connections back with us, revitalizing the chorus and deepening the bonds between all of us. Half the chorus went to China, and all of us are reaping the benefit.

Most of all — I am thankful to be me. PGMC is singing a song in our upcoming holiday concert, Nia. One of the seven principles of Kwaanza, nia means ‘purpose.’ I am thankful that my purpose in life has been, continues to be, fostering connection and hope. As a therapist I was aware every day of my impact on others. The awareness has been less tangible in the years since I left the profession. Now I understand — while I may not be part of the profession any longer, that doesn’t mean I have stopped practicing its guiding principles: understanding people in the service of fostering connection; giving support as needed and appropriate; giving advice rarely. Through writing, through teaching and mentoring, I continue to live out my nia.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I have to be thankful for in the coming year.

 

 

Thoughts of a caregiver

My wife has been disabled since 2014. The trajectory of her disability has been unpredictable, with no clear beginning or end. The exact nature of what’s wrong is unclear. The exact treatment that might help is unclear. Whether there IS a treatment that might help is unclear.

All that is beside the point of this blog because it’s about me, not about her. And that’s the crux of the Caregiver role with a capital C – it’s never really about us. It’s about disability and our role in facilitating someone else’s life. Such was my life for four years, during which time I gradually sank into a depression, so slowly and subtly I was unaware of the process. My depression might be titled, “Is this all there is?”

I had days off. I had time here and there when I went to visit relatives in other states. And, I was never off duty because I was always in range of text messages, phone calls, and email.

And then I went to China for ten days. My wife told me, “Don’t get a VPN that will give you full internet access while you’re there. This is YOUR time.” I had no access to Facebook. Little access to Words with Friends. And no email – which I didn’t count on. Both Facebook and Google are verboten in China – something about not agreeing to Chinese restrictions on security. Gmail is Google. So, no email for me while I was gone.

Ten days NOT a Caregiver. Ten days off duty. Ten jampacked days, jammed with tourism and concerts and rehearsals – MY tourism, MY concerts, MY rehearsals. For ten days it was all about ME and nothing about my wife. I came back from that trip rejuvenated, re-energized, revitalized. I have new purpose in life. I’m no longer depressed.

Strange and ironic – the self-focus of those ten days has allowed me to focus on my wife again. Our marriage is all the stronger because I am now more self-aware than I was, more focused on my own projects and goals. I am now a caregiver as opposed to a Caregiver. Switching from my front-and-center only role, I am now lower-case caregiver, allowing me to be upper-case Partner-in-Life once again.

These thoughts occurred to me last night. This morning as we were driving to church, my wife said to me, “I’ve been so happy with how you’ve been since you got back from China. You’re focusing on your own things and you’re doing so good.” We’re on the same wavelength. Her own life is a bit harder now because in switching to lower-case caregiver, I’m not focusing as much undivided attention on her, necessitating her doing more things for herself. I’m lucky; far from resentfully resisting this shift, she is embracing it, despite her fears about her own capacity. In the long run, this too will be a good thing, not only giving me my individual life back, but hers as well.

To the Caregivers among you: what would it take for you to become a lower-case caregiver? Highly recommended.

Finding Peace

In September of 2018, with 80 or so of my closest friends, I had the honor of traveling to China with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus — the first LGBTQ chorus to tour mainland China. It was an intense trip. 10 days. Four cities, four concerts. And in  between concerts and rehearsals, about twice as much tourism as you might think would fit our schedule. It was exhilarating. Inspiring. Exhausting. And one of the finest experiences of my life.

One gift of this trip was the opportunity to form friendships with various chorus members I’d seen across the room at rehearsal for years. “Hi, how are you?” during a fifteen minute break at rehearsal doesn’t allow for close connection. Sitting together for four hours on a bus? Yup.

Among the  people I connected with on this trip were several members of the Portland Lesbian Choir. They weren’t singing with us; they were along because they thought touring around mainland China with PGMC for ten days sounded like fun. I had never met these women before, and we had a great time getting to know each other.

This hanging out with the PLC had a familiar feel to it, reminiscent of concert tours from twenty-plus years ago. In 1986, I was a founding member of the Portland Lesbian Choir. I had come out as a lesbian twelve years before and was ensconced in the Portland lesbian community. I had no idea ‘transman’ was a more authentic identity for me. The Portland Lesbian Choir quickly became home to me, the only place I felt truly centered and at home in lesbian community. Singing has always been central to my spiritual self-care; the PLC gave me the space to take care of myself sufficiently to continue to live as a lesbian.

Until 1995. A partner came out to me as a transman, stripping away any possibility of my avoiding the self-knowledge, “Me too.” I fought as long and as hard as I could against the truth of me. I didn’t want it to be true, and wailed to the Universe, “Why does it have to be my VOICE???” I knew I was fighting a losing battle; authenticity finds a way.

I left the Choir in 1997. Choir members were upset about my transition, not because I was trans — they were upset because I was leaving. I left with a hole in my heart. Over time that hole healed, but I retained a bit of nostalgic grief over what I’d lost. Nothing ever replaced what that group had been to me.

In China, bonding with PLC members once again, I felt a bit of that grief in my heart heal.

A few weeks after my return from China, a friend of mine asked me to sing back-up vocals on a song she was going to record. Naomi was a lesbian singer-songwriter here in Portland during the 1970s, 80s and on into the 90s. Iconic. In certain circles around the world, her music is still iconic. Would I sing backup vocals? Did she have to ask? Of course!

At one early October rehearsal, we were standing in a circle in Naomi’s kitchen, singing to each other. Several younger PLC members. Several older lesbians. And me, the only person in the room with a testosterone-influenced voice. As we sang in unison, I in the alto octave with everyone else, I closed my eyes and felt the love — I was singing with the Portland Lesbian Choir again. And another bit of that nostalgic grief in my heart healed.

Toward the end of the rehearsal, one of the older lesbians referred to me as ‘she.’ I was more bemused than anything else. There is a milestone of transition that I passed long ago, an anniversary I wish I could toast every year but I have no idea when it actually is: the last time a stranger called me ‘she.’ How could I ever know when it was the last time? I can venture a guess, based on when I started introducing testosterone into my system. I’d say… mid-September-ish… of 1997. It’s been over 21 years.

I’d been out to coffee with this woman (I’ll call her Pam) the week before. At Stumptown Coffee, I was ‘Reid, he.’ What just happened in this singing circle to turn me into ‘Reid, she?’ I puzzled through this on the way home from rehearsal. It wasn’t long before I knew.

Pam and I are of a generation. Her lesbian community and mine intersected for years, this tight-knit circle. About half a degree of separation between any of us. She and I hadn’t been friends exactly, but we knew each other’s names. A good friend of mine had once been Pam’s partner.

Inside that lesbian community circle, in the heart of it, the ONLY pronoun is ‘she.’ Though Pam called me ‘she’ unconsciously in that singing circle, she did do so intentionally. Her intention was this:

I see you. I honor you. I trust you. I invite you back into the circle. You belong. In this space, in this singing circle, in this moment in time, you are an honorary lesbian.

In that moment, I felt my transition circle around back to my Portland Lesbian Choir roots, I felt my 19 year old self, proclaiming in 1974, “I’m a lesbian!” enfolded in the circle of my heart. My life became a seamless thread, no longer ‘pre transition’ and ‘post transition’ but simply me. All of me enfolded in the circle of my heart. I am an honorary lesbian transman married to a woman and singing baritone in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. All me, all the time, without contradiction of identity. How can there be a contradiction when all are me?

Welcome, my friend. Sing with us.

And in that moment, my heart was healed.

 

Coming Out Monologue

National Coming Out Day (shouldn’t that be International Coming Out Day?) originated in 1988, in celebration of the anniversary of the first LGBT and allies March on Washington. Oct. 11 (Oct 12 in some  parts of the world) has become a time of celebrating who we are. For the past four years, Basic Rights Oregon has produced an event honoring coming out: The Coming Out Monologues. I was honored this year to share the stage with eleven others sharing stories of self-realization and self-empowerment. Here is mine:

Racism as a Developmental Issue

I sing in a chorus. A few weeks ago, our director Bob passed out music for our next concert. One song is titled “Cielito Lindo.” Bob said, with a tad bit of embarrassment, “Those of you of a certain generation, like me, grew up thinking of this as the Frito Bandito song. Now we’re going to sing the real song.” Thanks, Bob. I hadn’t heard reference to that jingle since I was about 10; now I can’t get it out of my head, which of course is the point of an advertising jingle.

The obvious racism: changing the words of another culture’s song in order to sell corn chips, using a cartoon caricature figure intended to look Mexican. The more insidious racism: as a child, I never knew there was a song “Cielito Lindo” that had been appropriated. I never knew until I was long an adult that this is an iconic song, sung all over Mexico in many different contexts. I never knew.

I saw the Hollywood blockbuster How the West Was Won on television sometime in the mid-1960s. I always watched Bat Masterson, and the Rifleman. Bonanza. Nothing in my school history lessons challenged the view of the West I saw on TV. Insidious racism: I grew up with the belief that the West was settled by brave souls who ventured into unpopulated lands, bringing order to previously uninhabited areas. Indians were depicted as savages who popped up randomly and unpredictably to attack the brave homesteaders. Manifest destiny epitomized. Another interpretation? I never knew until I was long adult that the westward movement of white people was a genocide.

In 1965, a bus load of kids arrived at my elementary school. Perhaps we were told in advance this was going to happen – I don’t remember. If anyone tried to prepare us, it didn’t stick in my mind such that I remember what I was told. All I knew was, a bunch of black kids were now in our class. I was afraid of them. I was bullied pretty consistently by a trio who cornered anyone they saw alone with no teacher around.

Looking at this situation now, thoughts occur to me that didn’t at the time. There is a pretty close link between bullying and bravado. The buses made one-way trips; none of us white kids were driven to the mostly-black school. There was no attempt at helping us bond with the bused kids.

On a personal level, my mother once told me, “I wasn’t raised in a racist area. We were on the farm, and we played with the black kids who were around, like we played with everyone else. If you asked any of them, they’d say it was all fine and we all got along great.” The context? Rural  Missouri in the 1920s and early 1930s. My mother never did face either obvious or insidious racism in herself.

I don’t blame myself for not having such thoughts when I was 10 years old. I knew no more about the civil rights movement at that time than I did about the true nature of the westward colonization of this continent.

I am glad, however, that these kinds of thoughts occur to me now. The only way I, as a white person, can begin to change racism in myself is to look at where it came from. I’m a former therapist, so I’m big on self-examination and personal history. We were all shaped by our upbringing, from family dynamics to the overarching cultural milieu in which we came of age. I now recognize the insidious nature of racism playing out in my socialization. Can I overwrite my history such that I will never think of the Frito Bandito when I hear “Cielito Lindo?” Unfortunately, I don’t think memories that old can be erased completely. What I can do is listen to “Cielito Lindo” in its proper context, giving my brain new memories to access that help me overwrite the racism of my upbringing.

A Pioneer Passes

Some ten years ago, I got a call from a guy looking for a doctor who would renew his hormone prescription. He’d found me on the Internet. Nothing unusual about that — I was a therapist who worked mostly with trans clients. Then the guy said, ‘And, they have to be willing to not put it in my chart why I need the hormones.’

That WAS unusual. In telling me more about himself, turned out he’d started taking hormones the year I was born — 1955. We talked for a few more minutes, I gave him a doctor referral. But I couldn’t leave it at that. I asked if I could interview him, without the least idea what I would do with the information. With his permission, I later included his story in my second book, using Joe as his pseudonym.

I drove to Joe’s rural home a few weeks later and recorded his story. This was around the time I met Cristina, and we began making regular trips to visit him, bringing his favorite fast food meal and his grocery list.

Later, our visits were caregiving, cleaning and laundry and feeding the wood stove. Joe had a rare degenerative disease that gradually lessened his ability to move his arms and legs properly.

This past year, Joe’s physical incapacity had left him bedridden. But the stubbornness that got him thru transition in the 1950s also made it increasingly difficult for him to be willing to ask for help. (Caregiving nurse’s aides didn’t count, they were the hired help) In addition, he had a horror of anyone seeing him helpless. He didn’t want visitors. He didn’t want to hear about life moving on for others, feeling stuck in his own life.

We didn’t see Joe this past year. I thought of him often, but respected his distance. Though not holding out much hope he would take us up on it, we had told him in our last phone conversation to call us when he was up for a visit.

Joe died on December 24. He never wanted to see himself as a pioneer, he never owned his trans identity and couldn’t understand why anyone would. Nevertheless — he WAS a pioneer. Transition is that much easier today because of people like… it just isn’t right to use his pseudonym in this context. Because of people like Nick.