My Ideal Bookshelf – The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

During my junior year of high school, my AP English class was assigned to read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

I was not looking forward to it.

Two years prior, the same teacher, in my opinion, sapped any love I might have for John Steinbeck from me with a unit over The Pearl. Although one of his shorter novels, I could not stand it. I did not see the point of the grand story it was trying to tell. But, perhaps, I was still upset by the teacher’s ode-to-love unit with Romeo and Juliet. After both the teaching of Romeo and Juliet and The Pearl, I knew I would find myself loathing both Shakespeare and Steinbeck, not respectively. The musical, Something Rotten, had the lyric correct when it said, “God, I hate Shakespeare,” although for me, the lyric should have included, “and Steinbeck.”

Yet, with time, my opinion on both authors would change.

Shakespeare would not be until college when I studied in Oxford.

Steinbeck would be just two years later.

I remember having a conversation with my mother about The Grapes of Wrath, where she warned me not to tell my grandpa that I was reading it. As a former farmer in Oklahoma, it he had found the portrayal of the Oklahoma family offensive and condescending. I also remember talking to my grandfather about the book. I don’t remember what he said, but I do know that he was not upset or distraught by our conversation. The takeaway here is that I clearly was not heeding the advice of my parents even then.

. . . But, I also remember that coming back from the Route 66 Museum field trip, after finishing the novel in class, I was flashed by a school bus full of girls . . . So, perhaps my memories of The Grapes of Wrath are completely skewed.

Yet, I do remember how much I loved the structure the novel.

A pattern of every other chapter being either about the Oklahoma family or expanding out to say something profound about the way of life during the Dust Bowl.

The odd chapters were poetically beautiful, portraying the time period in complexity, ugliness, and beauty.

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A Far Cry from Boys Don’t Cry

During my senior year of high school, I rented Boys Don’t Cry, and while my family attended another college football game, I watched it in secret.

As I write this now, I am trying to remember why I rented it, but I find that my entire memory of renting and watching it has been blocked out.

And while the film’s story was based on actual events, it felt far removed from reality for me because just like Nip/tuck, another cis actor was playing a trans character. Although, at the time, I still had little to no understanding of what being transgender meant, what it meant to transition, or any other trans related details. All I knew was what Hollywood told me. Trans male characters were played by female actors. Trans female characters were played by male actors. For me, Hollywood reinforced the idea that being trans was acting a role, not being true to one’s self. Some, but not much, progress has been made since then.   

I simply remember a deep discomfort with watching the film, as if it left me in a trance that I could not shake. The film was violent and tragic, leaving a young viewer, such as myself with the impression that if you seek that “lifestyle,” there will be no happy endings.

Fast forward to today, two recent films standout.

Love, Simon and Blockers.

While Love, Simon focuses on queer acceptance, the core of the film is a love story. Not only does the main character find himself, but he finds love in the process. And, without providing any spoilers, the film does not end in a violent tragic murder, a media cliche all too common for queer characters.

With Blockers, a film I would not have seen had a friend not said we-are-seeing-this-let’s-go, it’s juvenile in its plot, but there is one area that was a pleasant surprise. While films of the past and those still current, treat queerness as a joke, an easy punchline to suggest someone is gay, this film treats a daughter’s coming out with an actual storyline. In a unique role reversal of sorts, which still deals with queer acceptance, the film never mocks or belittles the character’s queer identify. And again, no tragic and cliched queer death.

While much of mass media still fetishizes and mocks queerness, there are brights spots. Love, Simon and, I can’t believe I am saying this, Blockers are two examples of films that treat being queer as not just okay but something to be celebrated.

This is a far cry from how queerness is treated in Boys Don’t Cry.

Perhaps, given time, it will get better for all LGBTQ+ individuals.  

“What will it do. .”

My mother texted those words to me long, long ago during the first Women’s March.

It was a simpler time back then.

It was before the 45th president fired the FBI director over, as he said, eloquently as ever, “the Russia thing with Trump and Russia.”

It was before equating people protesting white supremacy to Nazis.

It was before the Muslim travel ban, and before the trans military ban, and before the countless lawsuits against an administration with no regard to the rule of law.

It was before the #MeToo movement.

It was before Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

It was before the wave of women running for political office.

It was at the beginning of 2017.

A simpler time.

Yet, in the midst of the “Red State Revolt,” the Oklahoma teachers go on strike.

Perhaps, I should not have sent the sardonic text of “I won’t ask you “What will it do. .” after my mom sent me images from the Oklahoma teacher walkout.

Her response of “Why not” told me I missed the mark.

A few back and forths between the two of us, and I am left wondering if things will really change in Oklahoma.

A state that has vilified Democrats while its Republican leaders equate striking teachers to whiny teenagers . . . well, let’s just say I have my doubts.

All I hope is that teachers, parents, and politicians remember what led them to this point, what led them to year after year of education cuts.

I hope they remember in November.

 

The Memo: The Top 10 Trump Controversies of 2017

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/366336-the-memo-the-top-10-trump-controversies-of-2017

Trump, contradicting his own words, denies firing Comey over Russia probe

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/18/politics/trump-comey-russia-investigation/index.html

All the president’s lawsuits

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/28/politics/president-donald-trump-lawsuits-analysis/index.html

More Than Twice As Many Women Are Running For Congress In 2018 Compared With 2016

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/20/585542531/more-than-twice-as-many-women-are-running-for-congress-in-2018-compared-to-2016

The Red-State Teacher Revolt Has Been Brewing For Decades

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/americas-growing-teacher-strikes-were-decades-in-the-making_us_5ac8f468e4b0337ad1e8979c

Oklahoma governor compares striking teachers to a ‘a teenage kid that wants a better car’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/04/04/oklahoma-governor-compares-striking-teachers-to-a-a-teenage-kid-that-wants-a-better-car/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fdba7b88bbe1

A Scream

Staring at the screen

A scream threatened to break free

It was a scream of frustration, disappointment, and choices

It was a scream of the unknown

But, I closed my eyes

To let it pass

But, I wonder

Should I have let it out?

Collecting Dust and Memories

One large duffle bag filled with shoes, pants, shirts and sweaters.

Six plastic grocery bags filled with shorts, shirts, belts, ties, and more.

I take the bags of clothes from my car and lay them out on desks across an empty classroom.

So many of the articles of clothing hold various memories.

An off-white striped sweater an ex dubbed the “hot boy sweater.”

A leather jacket the survived crashing my uncle’s electric scooter on a rainy afternoon as the tires slid out from under me on a wet and gravely turn.

A Freebird’s World Burrito t-shirt earned after accumulating too many points from too many build your own burritos.

Ties and shirts purchased in high school to help me look the part at speech tournaments around the state.

Ties and shirts purchased to try and help me look the part and fit in a role that everyone expected me to fill.

All of it laid before me as if from another life.

A life that was easier, yet harder at the same time.

For months, the clothes had hung or were folded in my closet collecting dust. After coming out at work, I’d traded out my business casual attire for something more femme and dapper. And so, the old life sat back collecting dust and memories.

Now, that life sits on desks ready to be picked up by any student, coworker, or anyone in need of a quality suit jacket.

As I close that empty classroom door, my black wedges clacking on the floor, I feel a little lighter and a little more me.

“I don’t want to say lifestyle”

Some of this is a rehash, but all of it leads to this: “Senators Are Scrutinizing A Trump Nominee After His Transgender Daughter Accused Him Of Using Slurs.”

In the spring of 2017, my relationship with my family was highly strained after coming out to them as transgender in 2015, but I decided to lay down the gauntlet by sending them my blog post, “To Whom It May Concern.” In that post, I laid out where I stood on the 45th president and how I needed to know if they would support me or if they would not. A follow-up post chronicled their responses. With the aftermath of that fatefully sent post, relations with my family strained further. And, it was during this strain that I was told of my father’s new position, one nominated by the 45th president.

From my father’s response to the sent post, I’d known he hadn’t bothered to read what I’d written, about the democracy destroying individual corrupting the presidential office and everything the administration touches. Yet, upon hearing the news, I’d thought there was nothing I could do. Another anti-LGBT+ official in a sea of many.

I was wrong.

While I did not speak much to my father over the course of the spring or summer, seeing him only once during my sister’s high school graduation and would have seen him another time had I not been uninvited to my brother’s collegial graduation, I did receive a text from him in October, which included the presidential press release about his nomination going forward to the senate for confirmation.

I’d been wrong.

There was something I could do.

I’d thought that the position was a done deal. I had not realized that this was a senate confirmed position. After spending months watching nearly every swampy and anti-LGBTQ+ nominee confirmed by the senate, regardless of the outcry, I had had enough.

I wrote to my senator and to various LGBTQ+ organizations.

I waited.

And after making a few connections, I did an interview with an Oklahoma LGBTQ+ news outlet called, The Gayly.

After “Child of Trump nominee speaks out” was released, familial relations continue to be strained as I was told that I am “wrong” and “mean” and “cruel” for speaking out against my father.

Perhaps, my favorite thing I was told was “He dosent think those things u said. He was just reacting in the heat of the moment. This isn’t easy.”

I opted to avoid Oklahoma for the holidays.

It was a good decision.

I heard nothing about when the confirmation hearing would be, nor did I seek out information from my family. But, I did browse the Web, attempting to find the information on my own.

It was an attempt that would lead nowhere.

Yet as the spring neared, I was contacted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, one of the organizations I had reached out to in October, about my father’s upcoming confirmation hearing. They wanted to know if I was interested in being contacted by a reporter.

Enter Buzzfeed.

I told the reporter my story.

And, when he reached out to my brother to confirm it, my brother denied the events that happened.

And, so, the story with Buzzfeed was shelved.

Except, that it wasn’t.

Not entirely.

As part of the confirmation process, my father would not only have to respond to the Gayly article but would also have to respond to the retweets from his Twitter account which had such gems as sports franchises having “lost their moral compass” by their support of trans rights and allowing trans people in the military was “immoral garbage.”

In regards to his Twitter account, he was only trying “to elicit conversation.”

But, with the Gayly article question, asked by Sen. Feinstein, he denied the things he said.

He lied to congress.

Another Trump nominee lied to congress.

And so, with the questions asked and his responses given, the article was published.

Where things go from here, I can’t say, but I am certainly doing more than just trying “to elicit conversation.”

Look.

You don’t have to agree with what I have done.

You don’t have to like it.

But, people deserve to know the views of who represents them in government.

And, if you don’t like it, well, I guess I’ll just say this. If you agree that trans people are corrupt and freaks, well, then, I guess I just don’t support your type of lifestyle.

 

Side note: Well I appreciate the exposure, I was totally surprised a version of the Buzzfeed article running on The Advocate, considering I had never spoken to anyone from there. Also, they used an old Facebook profile picture for the article . . . Fascinating.  

 

“To Whom It May Concern”

https://formergoldenchildblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/to-whom-it-may-concern/

“Three out of Four Reactions”

https://formergoldenchildblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/three-out-of-four-reactions/

“Child of Trump nominee speaks out”

http://www.gayly.com/child-trump-nominee-speaks-out

“Senators Are Scrutinizing A Trump Nominee After His Transgender Daughter Accused Him Of Using Slurs”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/senators-are-scrutinizing-a-trump-nominee-after-his?utm_term=.yegRyNRr2#.tlQ8dR8E1

“U.S. Marshals Nominee Accused of Transphobia–By His Trans Daughter”

https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2018/4/16/us-marshals-nominee-accused-transphobia-his-trans-daughter

Why Blog?

The very first question posed during the webinar stumped me.

Why are you sharing your story?

The second question only furthered my journey into my own mind.

What do you want from your audience?

Apparently before I started this blog, I should have asked myself these questions. At least, that is according to the National Center for Trans Equality representative leading the webinar.

Regardless, I did not ask myself these two questions.

And as the webinar continues, I keep coming back to them.

I can’t seem to shake their significance.

Why am I sharing my story?

What do I want from my audience?

I mull over these questions again and again. They fester in my brain, worming through the crevices of my thoughts.

So, I decide to blog about them.

I am sharing my story because, at the very least, it is a cathartic release for me. I can put words on a webpage and release them out into the blogosphere for the rando who happens upon the page. But more than that, I blog because I have a story to tell. Like all human stories, mine is unique.

It is unique because through all of the various facets that make me, well, me, these facets have led me to here. I am trans, and I spend endless nights wishing I had pride from my family. I am an educator, and I spend my days trying to find hope in our future. I am an adventurer, and I spend the time that I can gliding down the slopes of a snow covered mountain or wandering through the streets of Philadelphia or getting misgendered by an actor on stage in front of a packed theater. Each story is one either told, waiting to be told, or simply a memory for only me.

So, what do I want from my audience?

I could just claim that I don’t know and leave it at that.

Yet, I do know this.

My only wish is that when someone reads this blog that they see the person behind the screen. They see the various facets that make up me, and maybe, just maybe, the words here could inspire someone to be just a little better, to suck less.

Because in the end, that’s my goal.

To suck less.

Why?

Why speak out?

Why say anything?

Why not just let the metaphorical chips fall where they may?

 

Well,

Honestly,

Because it is the only way forward,

It is the only way to keep going.

 

How do you keep going?

Disappear

She pointed at me

and said

“her”

 

He pointed at me

and said

“that’s a guy”

and at the same time

I heard my father say

“you’ll always be just a freak in a dress”

 

When the audience laughed

I just wanted to disappear

As I Hike . . .

Another spring break celebration in Santa Fe, and as I hike, I cannot help but be consumed by thoughts.

I want to think about tomorrow’s trip to New York. I want to plan out the places to go. I want to not be bombarded by the realities of today.

As I hike, I think of Parkland and another attack on transgender military servicemen and women and corruption and lies and I simply lost in thought.

When will the tide turn?

How did it get to this point?

Where do we go from here?

Trump Follows Through On Banning Most Transgender Troops

https://www.buzzfeed.com/verabergengruen/trump-follows-through-on-banning-most-transgender-troops?utm_term=.fxqWwk0k4