I chose a song to share on Facebook last night after I got home from an evening with my ex-wife. Anyone who has been here for a while also knows the tumultuous nature of that relationship, where love and dedication and commitment that we both expected to last forever were derailed by hurt and anger and betrayal. I once wrote about it as a true tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, and the one step forward two steps back nature of trying to rebuild some sort of relationship in recent years. The fact that yesterday was the anniversary of the-point-of-no-return for both of us is more than ironic.
Last night was simple enough. We had appetizers and wine at her house. She cooked Tilapia over brown rice, and she had made a special point to buy what she knows I'd love for dessert. We drank wine, and sat on the back porch of the house we chose together - shortly after an early evening monsoon enjoying the sweet scents that only the wet Sonoran desert can provide. We looked at photos, talked about old times, talked about our son, and laughed. And, for a little while, for our second get-together in a row, all was good in the world.
For those who don't have FB, here's the song I shared. It's by Sheryl Crow, and the lyrics have particular relevance:
I Shall Believe
Come to me now
And lay your hands over me
Even if it's a lie
Say it will be alright
And I shall believe.
Broken in two
And I know you're on to me
That I'll only come home
When I'm so all alone
I do believe
That not everything is gonna be the way you think it ought to be.
Seems like every time I try to make it right it all comes down on me.
Please say honestly you won't give up on me.
And I shall believe.
The last time we got together she gave me a little pinky ring that she had in her jewelry box. I wear it pretty much every day. It's symbolic, in a way, of the way that a number of relationships in my life have truly blossomed in recent months while others have withered. Relationships are very much ebb and flow, like tides, and the key is enduring the ebb and enjoying the flow while it lasts. Right now, we're in a flow. At the same time, relationships change and mature and morph over the course of their lifetimes and one can only hope that the changing nature of the people involved in the relationship keeps up with the changing nature of the relationship itself. In this case, we're both different people than we were even a year ago so it will be interesting to see how things develop. In any event - back to my original comment - it was a very pleasant evening...
The reason that any of this matters to anyone but me, my ex, and my son is that many many of us who I'll call "mid-life transitioners" face the same horrific reality that I experienced - being involved in a marriage with someone we love deeply but reaching a point of being unable to be who or what that person expects of us. I get people writing to me every week about their inability to move forward because of the fear that they'll lose the most important person in their life. What kind of a choice is that? There are no easy answers, there is a world of hurt involved, and each of us needs to find our own way.
What is the goal? Is the goal to keep the marriage alive? Or, is the goal to find a way to build a friendship? Sometimes, you take what you can get and I certainly understand the challenges on ALL sides of this conundrum. I know couples who have stayed married and whose relationship seems to actually become stronger because of transition. I know couples who remain friends but who recognize that the marriage needs to end. I know couples who split with acrimony but eventually find that they can be friends on some level. I know couples where the anger and bitterness and betrayal never heals, where rejection and punishment become the unhealthy agenda. And, I know couples at all levels in-between.
If I could bottle all the hurt that my own ex-wife and I have experienced it would be enough to drown even the strongest swimmer. And although there have been times when I've thought we were making progress towards building a friendship something always seems to push us backwards. I'm hopeful that time is, indeed, a healer here and that we're finally on a path of friendship. But all I can do is all I can do. And, as the song says - I Shall Believe. Just as importantly, though, I'll continue to be cautiously optimistic.
On a less savory note, this situation in Texas where the family of a Texas fire fighter who recently died in the line of duty is trying to prevent his trans wife from getting his death benefits is going to be a big deal. The FOX station there included some video of an interview with her a dozen years ago:
A statement on the case was issued yesterday:
Statement from the 2nd Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit on the Araguz Case
HOUSTON, Texas (July 22, 2010) - We, the attendees of the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, issue this statement to demonstrate our support for Mrs. Nikki Araguz and to call attention to her plight and that of all transgender people in the state of Texas.
Mrs. Nikki Araguz legally married a man, and her marriage has been recognized under the laws of the state of Texas. Nikki's husband, a fireman in Wharton County, tragically was killed in the line of duty, and now other parties are attempting to use the courts to have her marriage legally overturned in an effort to deny her inheritance and insurance.
These parties are claiming that Nikki is not legally a woman under Texas law. Nikki's opponents are attempting to use an obscure Texas case, Littleton v. Prange (1999), to declare that her marriage should be invalid. The Littleton case says that a person's gender is determined by chromosomes, not physical attributes. The Littleton case was decided to deny a transgender woman her right to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband - even though Littleton had legally changed her gender and had been legally married in Texas.
The Littleton case was wrongfully decided at the time, and if taken literally stands for the proposition that a transgender person cannot marry anyone, of either gender, under Texas law. Clearly, this is wrong. Denying anyone the right to marry whom they love is a violation of the most basic freedoms under our laws. To deny the validity of an existing, legal marriage, after one of the spouses has died, as justification for the redistribution of inheritance and insurance, is abhorrent to the values of common decency, fair play, and justice that most Texans hold dear.
We, the attendees of this Summit, extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Araguz, and call for the swift dismissal of this lawsuit so that Mrs. Araguz may be left to mourn her loss in private without distraction or worry for her financial stability.
If necessary, we also call for the courts to consider the Littleton case superseded by the recent changes to the Texas Family Code that recognize a court ordered gender change as definitive proof of identity.
Sadly, discrimination against people because of either their gender identity or expression is common. There are few laws in the state of Texas to address this need. The purpose of our Summit is to find ways to help people confront and overcome the issues now facing all transgender people in Texas and, tragically, Mrs. Nikki Araguz.
A legal defense fund has been established. Here is the information:
Firefighter's TG Widow attacked as "same-sex" marriage
This is your opportunity to shape history and push forward equality for not only transgender Texans, but also for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans everywhere. Nikki Araguz needs your help.
Mrs. Nikki Araguz is the widow of a Wharton Co. fire fighter killed in the line of duty. In a compound tragedy, Mrs. Araguz’s in-laws are attempting to void her marriage, claiming that she is a transsexual woman and as such her marriage is unlawful and only they should inherit Mr. Araguz’s estate or benefit from his insurance and pension.
This will be a landmark case. We face a long legal battle which will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court and will define future law on transgender recognition and same-sex marriage. If we are going to win and protect Nikki from the deplorable actions of her in-laws we will need the funds to stage a first rate legal defense.
This is a rare opportunity for each of us to influence the arc of history by donating to the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund. Every $1000 donation received puts us one step closer to justice for Nikki. Individual contributions at any level are appreciated, even those as little as five dollars. We also encourage you to use your influence to persuade capable people, organizations, and foundations to contribute at higher levels.
Mrs. Araguz is represented by Phyllis Randolph Frye, a longtime supporter and member of the Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) and a transgender pioneer in her own right. You may drop off or send contributions to the TFA at:
Transgender Foundation of America
Houston, TX 77006
Make checks payable to Transgender Foundation of America. Please make sure to note that the payment is for the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund.
Credit card contributions can be made using the following link:
This stuff makes me crazy.....
I mentioned that there was a meeting last weekend of local, regional, and state Trans Advocacy Organizations. They issued a Press Release announcing the formation of a new organization:
Formation of National Organization to Link State and Local Transgender Advocacy Groups is AnnouncedPeople are always looking for ways to get involved. This is something well worth checking out.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2010 (Boston, MA)
A group of state and local transgender leaders are pleased to announce the formation of the Trans Advocacy Network. The Trans Advocacy Network held their first meeting in Memphis, Tennessee on July 10, 2010 with the purpose of defining their mission and goals for the upcoming year. Their mission statement is as follows:
"The Trans Advocacy Network is an alliance of transgender organizations that work at the state and local level, coming together to build a stronger trans movement by facilitating the sharing of resources, best practices, and organizing strategies."
The Trans Advocacy Network will serve local and state level trans advocacy groups that are both established and newly forming as well as support groups, college-based groups, and other organizations that are doing advocacy and policy work for transgender rights and protections. The Trans Advocacy Network will assist these groups by sharing policy, training materials, resources, tools, and best advocacy practices. It hopes to foster leadership development, sustainability, and to make the movement for trans rights stronger and more effective.
The Trans Advocacy Network will operate with a steering committee made up of leaders from state and local trans organizations from across the country. There will be a limited number of spaces on the steering committee for advisers from national organizations.
Plans for the first year of the Trans Advocacy Network include expanding the steering committee to include people who are not yet well-represented, connecting more state and local trans advocacy groups across the country, creating guiding principles, starting a list serve that all trans advocacy organizations will have access to, outreaching to other groups by region, creating a more cohesive communication network, creating a organizational survey to understand the needs, resources, and get a realistic view of where trans community organizations are across the country, and holding conference calls and webinars to share best practices and strategies.
The Trans Advocacy Network Steering Committee currently includes Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center, Marisa Richmond of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Lisa Scheps of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, Sadie-Ryanne Baker of the DC Trans Coalition, and Shane Morgan of TransOhio. Advisors to the Steering Committee include Lisa Mottet of the Transgender Civil Rights Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Jaan Williams of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The steering committee is interested in additional members who represent predominantly people of color trans organizations and low-income trans organizations.
Contact Gunner Scott for more information or how to become involved at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastly for today, I'll be in Ohio in a couple of weeks to participate in the TransOhio Transgender & Ally Symposium (details here). It looks like quite the impressive line-up of topics and presenters. As I've mentioned in the past, the growth of some of these regional efforts is amazing. I'm looking forward to this!