Finding Voice and Community
Shortly after I came out, I was contacted by someone from the local paper. I was told, "We're going to fo a story about you and wanted to know if you and your wife would agree to be interviewed." Clearly, they we're going to do the story whether or not I agreed to participate. I talked to my wife and she agreed that it would be better to do the interview so that we might have some input into how the story would be told. The article is regretably not online. I spent the past two days trying to locate the "hard copy" I have somewhere, but haven't found it yet. That's okay, I would probably cringe at it today anyway. The point is that I chose to speak up for myself. I've been doing that ever since. I still do it here. Some people recently have characterized what I have been writing about as revelling in self-pity. I don't see it that way at all, because I have anything but pity about myself. I am proud to be me.
Having spent those two days poring over old documents, I am struck by how much I have forgotten. I was reminded that when I came out, it was in the midst of hate-filled rhetoric directed towards gays and lesbians, both on campus, in Conway, and in Arkansas. I had forgotten that a major reason I had come out when I did it was because I wanted to add my voice to "our" side. If we were going to have it out, I believed we should have it all out.
The week before I came out, there was an editorial in the school newspaper, Echo, rebutting an anti-gay diatribe in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. On the day I came out, there was a letter to the editor of Echo, affirming that discrimination against gays and lesbians is supported by God and should be affirmed by man
...lest His wrath be kindled against America for its escalating deviate[sic] conduct and public official approval and should destroy us also.Two weeks after I came out, the featured news item in Echo was about harassing and obscene phone calls made to the faculty advisor and president of the Lesbian and Gay Student Alliance. I would like to say that I believe that things have improved, but I'm not sure I would be speaking the truth.
Life is ChangeI am also annoyed that most of the hard-copy documentation I have comes from the period 1996 - 2000, due to an abortive attempt to relocate to Seattle in the fall of 1995. While I was there, I was computerless. My documents from before that time are achived electronic files. I'm thinking that to really access them well, I should use the NSA data-mining software. Then I remembered that I should say something about e-space.
How it differs from the rocks
I've seen their ways too often for my liking
New worlds to gain
My life is to survive
and be alive
I had been using a computer for several years and even had a Prodigy account that I could never quite get to function properly. My daughter and her partner suggested that it was imperative that I get an email account, which I did. Almost none of the faculty on our campus had email in 1992. The first thing I learned was that I sucked at using the Unix-based emali program the school as using, called Mail, but the school soon migrated to using Pegasus. I found my medium. I joined the Sappho list in October to learn what it meant to be a lesbian and learned in addition much about what it meant to be a woman. It was from that list that I learned about the email list Transgen. I became a member of that list in December, where I began learning what it was like for people to be transgendered. Put together, what I was really learning was what it meant to be me. I was developing my voice. I will be investigating those archived Pegasus files when I figure out how to open them again. I also learned how to use IRC. It was there that I developed a sense of community.
Although transsexual people were few and far between in my everyday world, I discovered that there was a thriving transgender community online. That was due in no small part to the fact the our primary employment opportunities seemed to be the computer industry and academia. Of course, the fact that the medium we were forming community in was e-space contributed heavily to that impression. But offline studies have been done and this seems to actually be the case.
E-space conquered the distance gaps to bring us together. Even in our disagreements, which were legion, we were still being brought together. What is fantastic about it is that in e-space, we were free to be our words, to be the thoughts we had and could express. Gender was what we said it was, both personally and politically.
After two months on the Sappho list, it occurred to me that I had left one closet only to take up residence in another. I came out about being pre-operatively transsexual. This apparently had not been done before. There had been and were transsexual members of Sappho, but almost nobody admitted to being transsexual and those who did were post-op. I suspected that anyone could have figured it out since it was on Sappho where my daughter's partner had inquired about resources for me before I joined and I made no secret about being her partner's parent when I joined. Be that as it may, I came out there and found some attack, but also some amazing support. When Sappho spun off Older Wiser Lesbians (OWLS) for lesbians over 40 in June of 1993, I was extremely pleased to be one of the founding members. OWLS is the only email list I have stayed a part of. Even when I offline in the fall of 1995, my friends from OWLS were the people who were helping me try to relocate.
Bits and Bytes
(Click on image for full size version)
There is no sound but the clickety-clack of fingers on the keyboard
There are no sights but the electronically formed letters on the screen
But there are people in my computer
Riding the crest of the technological future
And I have joined them
We have stripped ourselves down to the thoughts we express
Mind meeting mind with no distractions
The carefully chosen phrase can be undone
By the carelessly tossed word
A misplaced comma may cost a friendship
We become our vocabulary and our usage of it
Our emotions are expressed only through punctuation
Yet we bare our souls to each other
And form relationships deeper than those in the real world
Because we must always trust each other
Finland, Australia, South Africa and Canada
Maine, Virginia, New Hampshire and Kansas
Baltimore, Cleveland, San Francisco and Boston
I have trod on your virtual streets today
And visited with some of your most caring inhabitants
We embrace each other thought to thought
And love each other's wisdom
We share our joys and pain
And support each other through our sorrows and triumphs
This is life in e-space
--Robyn Elaine Serven
Since that time I have regularly added and subtracted email connections as my interests changed or my need to discuss different issues grew or waned. At various times I have been a member of tg-spirit, tslesbian, tsmenace, trans-theory, trans-academic, tgs-pflag (where I was a co-moderator), pflag-talk, and glb-math. I've probably left some out. Some of them probably don't exist anymore. But they were where I built community, not just for me, but for everyone.
I'm all about building community. And teaching people how to do that for themselves of course, because I am also all about being a teacher.
Coming to Daily Kos is just a continuation of that effort.
One thing I have realized is that I have come to a place where proceeding chronologically, even linearly, is no longer an option. Not only do I doubt my ability to align events in order, I'm not sure that putting them in order is appropriate. Learning how to be is done one piece at a time, whenever and however the pieces arrive. It is also the case that my life took on a different texture...or scheme, if you will. My life was operating on so many different levels, not unlike the channels I work with in my multi-media programs. Investigating the channels separately rather than the frames of time that cut across the channels makes more sense to me.