Yes. I am. Positively Speaking.

By Timber

I have struggled with writing this blog for some time. I didn’t know when the right time was going to be to do it. There have been many factors influencing my decision. My partner, family, friends, work, theatre, etc. It’s been a bumpy ride and very challenging spiritually, emotionally, socially and physically. As I sit here in the middle of a snow storm next to my roaring fire in the comfort of my own home, I am mostly content. It feels safe here. The dogs are relaxing, the birds are quiet and I have the house to myself. I can almost feel like I am strong and nothing is changed. Nothing is different. Everything is going to be okay. But, four innocuous words, put together, could change that in an instant. You see, I have a secret. But I don’t like secrets. They cause way too much stress. No, it’s not that I’m gay. That’s no secret to anyone. I mean, HELLO!!! Do you know me? The secret is even larger than that. It is earth-shattering, in some aspects. It is a heavy burden to bear. And I’m finally at the point where I don’t know if I can, or should, keep it in the closet any longer. This is my secret. And, it is very scary for me to share it with you. I don’t know what it will do to my social standing or my friendships. There are select people in my life that already know. My partner, first and foremost, my family and some of my very close friends. And they have all been overwhelmingly supportive. I am hoping that there are more people like that out there. I’m sure that others already know because of the way that gossip spreads through the “grapevine,” but I want to be sure that people are hearing it from the horse’s mouth.

You see, the reason I am giving away my secret is because I am an activist (if you hadn’t already noticed. . .tee hee). I want to educate people and I want to make people aware that this still happens. Let me give you just a little bit of background and we will kind of take it from there. I sit here and think of vipers like Dave Agema, the Michigan National Committeeman. “Folks, they (gay people) want free medical because they’re dying (when they’re) between 30 and 44 years old,” the paper quotes Agema saying last week. Funny. . .I’m almost 40 and I’m not dead. And, Dear Mr. Agema, I pay for my own health insurance. I pay all of my co-pays and even the costs that my insurance doesn’t cover. One of the things that the Affordable Care Act has done for me is to ensure that I don’t have to shell out 5 figures per year (yes, that much) because an insurance company might not want to cover my “pre-existing condition.” Perhaps Davey-boy thinks that I got what I deserved because I’m gay. Perhaps, he secretly rejoices with each new diagnosis of HIV because that means there will be one less queer in the world. Think again, Dave. I did not become HIV positive because I was promiscuous or because I was an IV drug user. As a matter of fact, I found out completely by mistake. That story will be told later. But, what I CAN tell you is that I got this disease because I loved and trusted someone. I was in a long term relationship. However, that person did not have the same respect for me and completely and totally betrayed my trust. The person lied to me about his status and there was ample opportunity to tell the truth. It would not have changed the way I felt about him, but it might have changed some of my behavior. That is the thing that I have struggled with the most out of all of this. I loved someone. I became HIV positive. The sense of betrayal is overwhelming at times. A friend of mine said it to me the best: The measure of a man and his heart is not the love he gives simply to feel validated and “loved” in return. Your heart is unconditional. . . But a human being that loves, that really understands being a living breathing man, doesn’t take advantage of that – he protects it and cares for it and nurtures is like the precious thing it is. He stole that and abused it and bent that into something twisted just to steal what he could, out of fear, of other’s love and affection. He put you all in harm’s way to protect himself, and he used love as his weapon to do it. It is the most awful sin a person who claims to be human can commit.  (Thank you, Amber Meyer) I found out the results on February 13th, 2012. How’s that for an early Valentine’s Day present? When I talked with my partner (who is negative, thankfully), I asked him how this was going to affect our relationship. He said, “I don’t understand what you mean. This is “For Better or For Worse, In Sickness and In Health.” Isn’t that what we decided? I love you for who you are, not what you have or don’t have.” I cried. But don’t you dare EVER tell anyone that! I will deny it with my last breath! I have an image to maintain, here. . . But, for the record, I am healthy. I have been seeing a doctor since I found out. I am on one pill a day that keeps my viral load undetectable and my T cells have been steadily climbing since I started. I am back to a normal level. I am sick less often and my energy has started to come back. And now, I am ready to fight. I am ready to educate. I am ready for whatever the world has to throw at me. I am here. I am LIVING!! And I am not going to die anytime soon. My doctor told me to expect to live to a ripe old age (80+), that is, if I quit smoking. My thoughts are along the same lines, but that is unless I push an old woman out from in front of a bus and I bite the dust saving her life. Although, it would be my luck that she would sue my estate because she broke a hip. . . If you feel that this blog would help someone, please share it. If it moved you, please share it. And remember, as I have said before, we all know someone who is HIV positive. And now, you know me. And this is what living with HIV looks like:

MT World AIDS Day Award Acceptance Speech

Once upon a time, there was a boy who grew up in a small town- in a time when things were said to be simple- but they were not.

For him.

He was unlike the other kids in ways that weren’t always noticeable to the people around him. He felt things a bit more keenly. He noticed things that other kids didn’t. He wasn’t great at sports, he wasn’t big and strong.

But he was smart.

And sometimes that meant he got picked on even more than other kids.

So he used that.

It made him tough. His parents were good, loving people. His church provided comfort. His books helped him escape.

Maybe it was God, maybe it was chance- it doesn’t really matter what made him different. He just was.

The fact remained that this boy- indistinguishable from a million other little boys- just wanted to be loved, even though he was different.

And when he grew up, he still wanted to be loved – sometimes desperately. Sometimes he trusted people who weren’t trustworthy- simply because the promise of love is often enough to make us overlook danger and potential tragedy.

The promise of love.

That’s what brings us here today.

That’s why I got infected. That’s how I got infected.

The promise of love. Not what you think about when you think of AIDS.

But I want you to think about it.

When I moved back to Montana almost seven years ago, I made a promise: that no gay kid would ever be so starved for love and support- would not be so handicapped by shame- that they couldn’t stay here and have a happy, successful, healthy and safe life if they wanted to. I would do everything in my power to make it happen.

So I came out as gay- and HIV positive- just to show that there is no shame in having a disease. It’s a virus, it’s not a judgment.

A microscopic being that happens to live in my body. And I want to keep it from living in any one else’s.

And so do you, I hope.

This disease  has been around for over three decades. And yet the state of Montana has never allocated state funds for its prevention. Not a penny.

Which begs the question- why?

Is it because of the shame at how the disease is transmitted?

Is it because we might have to talk about sex, needles, addiction and shame and fear?

Isn’t thirty two years long enough to avoid having this hard conversation?

In the Montana that little boy grew up in- that I grew up in- we prided ourselves on helping out where it was needed. We filled sandbags, we stopped when it looked like people were in trouble on the road, we ran to the fire house when the siren rang.

But not for HIV. Not for AIDS. Well, let me correct that.

A few very brave people did stand up. They braved ridicule and stigma to hold candlelight vigils and to hold the hands of people whose parents were too afraid to touch them. I know. I was there. I held some of those hands. And so did Laurie Kops and probably a few others in this room.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but it’s important that we get back to something very basic here in the state of Montana.

Caring for our people.

ALL people.

It’s time to recognize that all people deserve the promise of love in their lives. Deserve the dignity and respect that I believe God gives everyone simply by being born. Deserves the respect of having information and materials at their disposal provided by the state that is charged with enabling public health and well-being.  It’s what I want out of my taxes- I hope it’s what you want from yours.

There are a few legislators here you can tackle on the way out….

My life is good. I have family that love me, a partner who is always there for me and more friends than any man ever deserves.

But it could be better.

Somewhere in the state of Montana there is a kid who doesn’t believe that he’s worthy of love.

And he’s part of our responsibility. Because he does deserve love. And he deserves help to be healthy about it.

Shame is keeping us from health.

Kinda crazy, isn’t it?

It’s time to have those hard conversations.

It’s time to stop shame in its tracks.

It’s time to return the promise of love to all Montanans.

Thank you for listening- and for this awesome award.

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2013 World AIDS Day honorees Stephanie Cole, Chris Gehring, Chantz Thilmony, Greg Smith Lisa Fairman with Gov Bullock and DPHHS Director Opper

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Me and a really cool Governor

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Helloooo!!! Here I am!

I’m back!!

So, I know it’s been a while since I have written a blog post. Things have been very crazy in my world and they are just starting to settle down. I have been, somewhat, politically and socially active, but I haven’t really had the chance to write.

Fortunately, with most of this behind me, my time has opened up and you are going to be able to enjoy my snarky sense of humor!! My goodness, how I’ve missed all of you!

I have recently been involved in a court case. I’m not going to go into the details just now. That is for a later couple of blogs. I am also writing a book about that. Suffice to say, it wasn’t me that was in trouble. However, there are some things that have really opened my eyes as to the issue of equality for LGBTQI people here in the State of Montana.

I was told to shy away from the relationship aspect as the courts tend to be somewhat paternalistic in regard to LGBT relationships. It is better not to mention them. Why is that, I wonder? Just doesn’t seem really fair. And, that means that trials and hearings tend to move down a different path. Yuck. It’s glaringly obvious that we need marriage equality.

There are things that are taken for granted and things that are just naturally assumed for straight marriages, but those things are not just assumed for LGBT relationships. This is a problem. It’s just another area where we are left outside and we are somehow “different” and our relationships are somehow “different” than other people.

There are many reasons to promote marriage equality and this is just one of them. But, having it so close to home reminds me of how far we have yet to go.

My partner and I have tossed around the idea of heading down to Colorado, or possibly Washington to marry, but then we decided that we are probably going to hold on and fight for our home state. It may take a while. We want the legal recognition, but we also want to do this where our home is.

Montana has taken a step in the right direction by striking down language that would make us felons, but at the same time, there’s a long way to go. In the meantime, we will probably go through the proper legal channels in order to secure some of our rights. Although, with what we’ve seen in the news lately, that may not  necessarily help. But here’s hoping.

Anyhow, since I’m back, I’m prepping a few other blog posts to go up. Hopefully, you all will enjoy!

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ME

Yes, I am a father, and will always be a father even though I do not celebrate this special day. A friend intimated that there is a special kind of hurt when she said that I must have some way of dealing with this occasion, of coping with the loss of my relationship with my children. She is right.

She also wondered aloud what feelings my children experienced on this day. They must think about it – think about me, right? I don’t know, but I appreciated her conclusion that she would pray for them. I will too.

Many people feel a sort of angst when I tell them about this circumstance, about how my children could not make the transition with me from man to woman. Out of concern for me, they are often perturbed with the negative reaction of my children to my gender transition. My children have completely rejected me and think of me as dead. We have not spoken in nearly seven years.

It is harsh, but they are not entirely to blame. Their self-centered reaction is a reflection of their self-centered father. It is a function of the way they were raised, for children learn what they live.
Parents are responsible, at least in part, for the character defects of their children. Teach your children well.

So, my way of coping with the loss of familial association (as we lawyers would put it) on Father’s Day is one of understanding, responsibility and compassion. It must also be one of humility and acceptance. With humility serenity is certain to follow.

I am posting this blog because, not only many trans people, but I suspect many of the LGB folks as well, have a similar experience when they come out to their grown children. Well, not the Ls on Father’s day, but there is Mother’s Day too. The simple fact is that some children do reject their parent’s attempts to become authentic.

I suppose there is some stage of grief in which a person becomes philosophical about their loss, but I do wonder about the state of “familial association” in the LGBT universe. Do people have a natural inclination to resist change in the ones we love? I mean there is a whole childhood wrapped up in parents remaining the same – forever. Is not much of a young adult’s security attached to the stability, such as it is, of their parents? We like our parents the way they are, however they are. It is what we know. When they go changing stuff it shakes up our world. Sure, there are some who are mature and secure enough to focus altruistically on another’s health and wholeness, but many of us often focus on own feelings and needs first. Especially if you are self centered like me.

But, I have changed. Well, duh-uh! I have changed inside too. I now understand that my self centeredness is a character defect that I can grow beyond. In stead of drowning in self pity over the loss of my children, I can focus on their health and happiness. I can be happy for their happiness. I can be proud that they have their own lives, filled with the things that young people do and have. They have relationships and work and play. They are okay, and just as I am responsible in part for their character defects, I too can take some ownership in their successes.

And when Father’s Day is done I can wish me a Happy Father’s Day.

Authenticity is The Best Policy

(click to see the book)

(click to see the book)

I was moved today by the story of a young (30) trans woman who wants be a mother.  Not surprisingly, she is plagued with fears of the unknown.  Her parents have disowned her because she had the courage to reveal her truth.  What if her child did the same?  Can she find a man who can embrace her and walk with her and a child as a family?  Though she has much love to give, she searches for someone to give it to.  It is a familiar story, tragically repeated amongst so many trans persons.

It is one that daily resonates with me.  (Only, it is my children who have disowned me.)  “Who will love me?”  I often wonder.  “Who can love me?” is the great trans lament.

“I realized that gender transition, even under the best of circumstances, is unequivocal and unforgiving.  It required of me everything I had, and then some.  I was still paying for it.  Yet, there was no compromise, no half measure.  I had to make my way in the world as a woman or not at all. I had been blessed and fortunate to have done so as quickly as I had and with relative ease.  Still, I was resigned to accept the fact that some pieces would never be complete.  I doubted that I would overcome gender identity discrimination in Montana, and it did not seem likely that I would find a man who could accept me and love me as the whole person that I am.  I had a whole heart, and I wanted the person who could take the hard part and love that too.  (The “Hard Part” by Dave Wilcox).  I wanted the person with whom I could share every secret so that secrets would be no more.  That person was not to be found.

I began to accept that too, as I mused about just who would want a trans woman for a partner.  In the ordinary course, a heterosexual male is looking for a heterosexual woman, not a heterosexual trans woman.  Guys, with few exceptions, think it’s just too freaky for them to accept.  A lesbian woman likewise does not want a lesbian trans woman, as we are sometimes perceived as something less than a real woman.  And I get that.  Even though I have this hunger to be known, I’m not like the girl next door.”

TransMontana, pp 281-82. (I try here to write for the entire trans community – not just me.)

So, I try to stop speculating about what might or might not be.  I have no control over what is yet to come, so must try to let go of fear.  My life is now – not some distant point in the future.  It is right here, right now.  I must live it, even though not as full or complete as I might like.  I have peace and joy in whom and what I am.  I may be a social enigma, but I know in my heart that I am whole as a woman, even though born as a man.  I believe in myself.  That gives me great comfort and strength.  Thus, I am able to interact with the rest of the world with honesty, authenticity and integrity.  And if I may find someone who can love me like that, well, it will have been worth the wait.

Today- Canadia!

Calgary Tower, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary Tower, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I embark on my Spring Trip to Calgary, I will try to put content up whilst I am away, but no promises- after all, this is supposed to be a vacation. As usual, I’ll let you know what/where I eat/drink/dance in the beautiful Cowtown that is Calgary. With my guide, Nicole, I’m sure it will be amazing.

See you next Tuesday!

Dragon Babies

Since my Sisters-in-Law are expecting twins this April, Ken has been watching out for all things “baby”. Here’s a cool thing he found on Metafilter:

Dragon Zodiac

much anticipated birth is expected by many Chinese families after the New Moon on Monday, 23rd January ushers in the auspicious Year of the Dragon. The only mythological beast in the Chinese Zodiac, the Dragon as a symbol in China dates back to 3000 BC and stands for happiness, immortality, procreation, fertility and activity. This year’s babies will be Black Water Dragons, considered to be calmer, more flexible and even more charismatic than other elements. In previous dragon years, countries such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore have all experienced baby booms, and preparations are in place for this year’s influx of baby dragons.

Now, who wouldn’t want a baby like that? Especially when there’ll be two…. Make sure and check out the links in the post- they lead to a lot of interesting ephemera.

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