Monthly Archives: December 2011
Moment of Zen: Champagne and A Bubble Bath
Top 10 Gay New Year’s Resolutions
Start the New Year with a promise or resolution that will guarantee a better 2012. Here are the top New Year’s resolutions for gay men.
Don’t go down the bitter highway. Release all of your baggage from the previous year by blogging or journaling. If you’re dear to the old school like I am, grab a decorative notebook and write your thoughts freestyle every day. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This journal is for you. For the tech kings, create a personal blog.
2. No More Drama
Must gay and drama go hand-in-hand? This New Year, gays around the world are making a pact to eliminate the nasty rumors, lost friendships and petty arguments that spice up our everyday lives. Try a new approach for the New Year: forgiveness. A more peaceful life can lead to better health by releasing any internalized anger and resentment. Give others room to make mistakes and trust in the positive aspects of your relationships.
3. Mentor LGBT Youth
Why let your life lessons go to waste when you can help guide a young LGBT adult? There are more out pop culture figures than ever, but nothing beats an in-person role model. Career guidance to life coaching, there are many ways you can help LGBT youth. Start by volunteering for a youth group at your local gay community center.
4. Fight for Gay Rights
Even if you’re not the flag waving type, there is still an opportunity to help further gay equality. Here are 10 ways you can support gay rights.
5. Get Tested
The anxiety of getting an HIV test and the fear of a life-changing result is overwhelming, but the freedom that comes along with knowing your status is worth the tension. Why leave your health up to chance? Understand HIV/AIDS and read the top reasons to get an HIV test.
6. Come Out to Yourself
Coming out is a process that unfolds at your own pace. This may be the year for you to be free! The first step to understanding your sexuality is self-reflection. Don’t skip this important step on your way out of the closet. Get to know yourself this New Year and create the life you desire. Follow these steps to coming out.
7. Shed Bad Influences
Bad influences come in many forms: drug and alcohol addiction, sex addiction or even that cute guy who tells you he can’t have sex while wearing a condom. You don’t have to be a victim. Besides, doing drugs and barebacking is so last year! Create a brand new you in a brand new year by kicking an old habit and knowing your boundaries. Recognize your own addictions and test your safe sex practices.
8. Actually Workout at the Gym
While some vow they will finally get a gym membership this upcoming year, other veteran gym bunnies resolve that they will actually work out at the gym instead of cruising boys and talking to their friends. Lift a bar bell or two and work on that V. Just make sure you do it for you and not because you want to join the parade of shirtless guys at the club. Also, read about gay men and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Volunteering is not only fun; it’s an opportunity for you to give back to something greater than yourself. You can also meet other gay people with similar interests. There are many gay organizations that need your help.
You don’t need a special talent to volunteer, just your dedication. Call your local gay community center and offer your assistance with some of their programs. Or choose a gay organization that best fits your interests.
10. Stop Smoking
Do you know, back in my smoking days I couldn’t even dance without a cigarette in hand? Somehow I thought the weight of the stick was essential to certain moves. This silly excuse is one of many smokers give to justify their drag addiction (cigarette drag, that is). But, did you know gay men are at higher risk for lung cancer? This year, break the habit, reduce your smoky laundry bill and try that dance spin without a fag (cigarette, that is).
Some of these I am already doing, some I need to do, and some I want to do more of. The fact is, the number one thing on my list of New Year’s Resolutions is to finish my dissertation, defend it, and graduate with my PhD. I swear this will be the year.
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
So as the song says:
Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays
|Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays|
|by Charles Reznikoff|
Twin Boys, One Transgender, Become Brother and Sister
Twin Boys, One Transgender, Become Brother and Sister
By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES (ABCNews.com)
|Identical 14-year-old twins, Nicole and Jonas Maines, started out life as Wyatt and Jonas. Nicole is transgender.|
As early as age 4, Wyatt Maines asked his mother, “When do I get to be a girl?” And he told his father he hated his penis.
Wyatt always liked girl’s clothes and movies, while his twin brother Jonas played with traditional boy toys.
Born identical twins, the siblings share the same DNA, but their gender identification took divergent paths. Now, at age 14, they are brother and sister, as Wyatt’s transition to Nicole is well under way.
Nicole is 5-feet, 1-inch tall and 100 pounds; her twin brother is 5-feet, 6-inches and weighs 115 pounds — and they are best friends.
Their story — marked by tearful emotions, bullying at their first school and eventually a lawsuit and a move to a different town — was chronicled in the Boston Globe.
Their parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, said they brought their transgender daughter into the spotlight in the hopes that their story might shed light on the struggle of others.
“We sat down with our kids at the breakfast table when they were 9 and talked about fear, hate, evil and freedom of speech before sending them to school,” their father, Wayne Maines, 52, wrote in an email to ABCNews.com.
“I was very angry and sad to have to talk to our small children in this manner,” he said. “We also told them to keep their heads-up, be proud and take care of each other and their friends. I am very proud of them both because they have not forgotten that lesson and they continue to help others whenever it is safe to do so.”
Maines, who is director of safety and environmental management at the University of Maine in Orono, said his “biggest concern” was the safety of his son and daughter after the Globe ran its front-page story.
A hunter and a political conservative, Maines told the newspaper that he at first had trouble calling Nicole by the name she adopted in fourth grade: “I was grieving,” he said. “I was losing a son.”
But Nicole said, “The thought of being a boy makes me cringe.”
“It is important for people to understand some of the challenges we and other families are dealing with at home, at work and in our communities,” Maines wrote, declining to do a full interview.
“We need to watch for a little while to see how this recent step out in the world impacts their safety and ability to function normally at their new school,” he said.
He has warned his daughter since she began speaking out before advocacy groups and even at the Maine State House, to watch her back.
A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States. The 2011 survey, “Injustice at Every Turn,” found that discrimination is pervasive in “nearly every system and institution.”
Transgender youth, in particular, are at disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.
And unlike in the Maines twins, many children do not get the vital support of their own parents and end up homeless.
ABC’s “20/20” recently profiled homeless teens, including 13-year-old June, of Portland, Ore., who is transgender. She faced bullying from her brothers and said she feels like an outsider in her own home.
“They don’t meet the family’s expectation of how a boy or girl should behave,” said Family Acceptance Project Director Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker. “They see them as disobedient or disrespectful or willful. To punish a child or force them to wear clothes that feel wrong for them and make them feel humiliated damages their self-worth.”
Ryan said there is a “dearth of information” for parents on how to deal with a child who is gender nonconformist.
While Nicole has been sure about her gender since she was a toddler, her parents faced enormous confusion, wondering if their son had a feminine side, was gay or, as it turns out, was a female trapped in a male body, according to the Globe.
Even their pediatrician wouldn’t address the issue with them.
She excelled in middle school, serving as vice-president in the fifth grade, but one day a bully called her “faggot” and told his guardian that Nicole was using the boys’ room. The school required her to use the staff bathroom, then assigned an adult to follow her daily routine so she wouldn’t be further bullied. Jonas was teased as well.
The Maineses got the backing of the Maine Human Rights Commission, which agreed that Nicole had been discriminated against, according to the Globe. They joined the family in a lawsuit against the Orono School District, which is now pending.
The Boston legal organization Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is representing the family, which says the stigma got so bad after they took legal action that they had to move to a more diverse and open-minded town in southern Maine.
“It’s the first time they’ve gone to school since this story has come out and the family is understandably cautious of the kinds of reactions they might get based on past experiences,” GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham told ABCNews.com.
But Nicole has been sure from the start: “I’ve always known I was a girl,” she told the Globe. “I think what I am aiming for is to undergo surgery to get a physical female body that matches up to my image of myself.”
Her mother, Kelly Maines, who is 50 and works in law enforcement, went online to learn more and came across the Gender Management Service at Children’s Hospital in Boston, founded in 2007 by endocrinologist Dr. Normal Spack and urologist Dr. David Diamond, the first of its kind in the Western hemisphere.
The clinic serves children with disorders of sexual development and physical deformities, as well as those with gender identity issues with a team of geneticists, urologists, endocrinologists and mental health specialists.
At about 12, Nicole was given puberty blockers to stop the development of secondary sexual characteristics like male body hair, which can later make sex reassignment surgery more painful and expensive.
Later in adolescence, she will begin estrogen treatment and continue on testosterone suppressers until she is 18 — old enough for surgery.
After the testes are surgically removed, there will be no need for the hormone blockers. But the entire procedure will render Nicole infertile, which is why she continues counseling to help her make a final decision.
The majority of all children who express the belief that they are the wrong gender, will enter puberty and go on to identify with their biological gender, according to Spack.
“Of all little kids who are gender variant, 20 percent will stick with it,” he said. “Over 80 percent will accept looking like Jonas and would push talk about cutting off [their penis.]”
That is why doctors wait for children like Nicole to show the first sign of puberty before giving them blockers and the treatments are reversible.
But giving a prepubescent child hormones of the opposite sex has permanent effects like halting their development, closing up growth plates. Using puberty blockers “buys us time, so they can extend the diagnostic phase,” Spack said.
Spack said GeMS has sent a half dozen children all the way to sex change surgery from male to female. Using estrogen in combination with testosterone blockers allows them to develop curves and grow “normal” size breasts without implants.
Surgery is also sophisticated. “They have learned to use tissue to form the vagina and some surgery is so incredible even gynecologists have been a bit fooled.”
Sensation tissue can also be preserved so male to female patients can experience orgasm. Even fertility may one day be resolved, he said.
“Nicole has a hopeful future,” said Spack. “The field is growing faster than I am getting old. Who knows about the future of reproductive endocrinology.”
The fact that Nicole and her brother are identical twins gives scientists a window into the causes of transgenderism. Though Nicole is the first in this clinic, twins like the Maines ones are not unknown.
“Obviously everything isn’t DNA,” said Spack. “Parents tell you identical twins are different. But what this means in terms of transgenderism altogether, we are in a primitive state of understanding this.”
Several neurological studies from Europe show brain differences in transgender people, suggesting they may be “wired” differently. Spack said that he has noticed that about 10 percent of his patients display “something in the autistic spectrum, very mild, like Asperger’s [syndrome].”
As for Nicole, Spack said her strong voice helped the family support her and eventually seek help. She has even been able to attend a summer camp for transgender children — Camp Arunu’ Tiq.
“She needed to push the envelope,” said Spack, who now only consults on her case every few months. “I have this phenomenal image of her. I saw Nicole and other kids who had seemed reticent in my office playing the piano and doing dance numbers, just like at any other camp.”
Spack, who once yearned to deliver babies, said he gets a special thrill working with transgender children like Nicole.
“It’s sort of like being a midwife to a person who has the courage to give birth to themselves,” he said.
Post Holiday Rest
Too bad Santa didn’t bring me a man to share my bed with, but we can’t have everything. I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday, and that you are able to get some rest today.
Tradition #3: Merry Christmas
I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas (or a Happy Hanukkah for some of you). I will be attending church this morning and then helping my mother get ready for Christmas Dinner. The holidays are a wonderful time, though they can be quite stressful. When the times get stressful, I just remember the true meaning of Christmas. Though the story of Christ’s birth is in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, I have always loved Luke’s version best. It has long been a tradition in our family to read Luke Chapter 2 together as a family.
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
Luke Chapter 2: 1-25
Tradition #2: Christmas Eve
I have to admit, that Christmas Eve in my household growing up was never an especially fun time. We did not go to to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (unless Sunday fell on one of these days) because as members of the church of Christ, it is not considered a religious holiday, since there is no mention of an actual date for Christmas in the New Testament. We rarely even sang Christmas songs; the only exceptions being when I used to lead the singing. The only thing that signified Christmas in our church was the poinsettias that were placed in the church.
The reason for Christmas Even not being especially fun was because we had to go to my maternal grandparent’s house for Christmas Eve, and then as soon as we opened gifts we had to go to my paternal grandmother’s family Christmas party. My father was always ill-tempered because we would always arrive late to the second party and he blamed it all on my mother. This made for a really uncomfortable ride between the two parties. My father hates being late, and sees another Christmas party as not a good excuse. My father could be a real jackass at times, and every Christmas Eve we had to hear him bitch and complain. Then as soon as we got home from the second party, it was off to bed, so that “Santa Claus” could come. I always hated trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. Even on a good night, I have never been one to simply lay my head down and go to sleep, and with the anticipation of Christmas morning, Christmas Eve night was never an easy night to go to sleep, but I always did, and never once heard my parents (yes, contrary to yesterday’s post, I knew it was them) putting the presents under the tree.
However, there was one thing that I loved about Christmas Eve. It was the night that Santa Claus would be coming to visit. I have always loved Clement C. Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, and so I wanted to share it with you for my Christmas Eve post.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clark Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
By the way, did you know that A Visit from St. Nicholas was not the only poem that Moore wrote about Santa Claus. He wrote another one, that I had never read until recently called Old Santeclaus. I hope that you enjoy it as well.
by Clement Clark Moore
Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night,
O’er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.
The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home.
Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen;
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seemed for pigs intended.
Where e’er I found good girls or boys,
That hated quarrels, strife and noise,
I left an apple, or a tart,
Or wooden gun, or painted cart.
To some I gave a pretty doll,
To some a peg-top, or a ball;
No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,
To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.
No drums to stun their Mother’s ear,
Nor swords to make their sisters fear;
But pretty books to store their mind
With knowledge of each various kind.
But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,
I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent’s hand to use
When virtue’s path his sons refuse.
Tradition #1: Santa Claus
|A Santa that I can believe in.|
As a kid, you invariably get to the age when other kids no longer believe in Santa Claus, and you go and ask your parents if he is real. I remember doing this when I was about 7 or 8 years old and my mother pulling down a book of Christmas Traditions and reading to my sister and me the story of Virginia O’Hanlon. To this day, I still love this story, and it was one of our Christmas traditions for my mom to read it to us when we were kids. It is more about the spirit of Christmas instead of “Is there a Santa Claus?”, but it is beautifully written and my favorite editorial of all-time. We always have to keep in mind that we should not be “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” Over a hundred years later, Mr. Church’s words still ring true.
Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
|Francis Pharcellus Church|
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
NOTE: First of all, if you read this blog you most certainly believe in faeries. As gay men, we’ve been called faeries for many years. And many times I have seen ” fairies dancing on the lawn” or at least in bars. And if anyone takes offense to my little endnote, well then shame on you. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then who the hell can we laugh at.
Family Christmas Traditions
Christmas with the immediate family (Mom, Dad, my sister, and I) in my house was a very special occasion. Until my sister got married, it always took place on December 23, because we had two family Christmas gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning was for Santa Claus and breakfast with my grandparents. Christmas Day was always a day when the family just spent together. We probably all have certain family holiday traditions. Over the next three days, I want to tell you about my family’s traditions. The posts for the 23rd, 24th, and 25th are all about things that my mother read to us as children, generally on the 23rd or the night before.
Our dinner on the 23rd was always a special meal. My mother used her fine china, crystal, and silverware only once a year, and this was the night. My mother prepared the meal, which began with shrimp cocktails and salads, then we usually had Cornish game hens, various vegetables, and real yeast rolls. Dessert was usually a homemade cheesecake. While my mother prepared the meal, my sister and I were to set the table. She would get out the Auburn Extension Cookbook which had the diagram above for setting the table, and my sister and I had to have it just perfect. We always had the meal by candlelight, and when we were finished, we then were able to sit in the living room, which was next to the dining room, and open presents (These were the presents that Santa was not going to bring us; Santa always brought the big stuff).
Since my sister has been married, we have move this tradition to Christmas Night, which seems more appropriate anyway. So what family traditions do you cherish the memories of?