I didn’t realize it at the time, nobody did, but I was a transgendered kid. I never had a good explanation for all the woes of my childhood while it was happening. It just seemed like my life was really difficult and challenging with a lot of stumbling blocks. On the other hand, there were segments of my childhood living that were a joy. I loved school and excelled in every subject but art and physical education. I hung out with my mom, her mom, whom I called “grandmother” and her mom’s mom, whom I called “grandma.” My social world tended to be the Erb children who lived next door (three girls, one boy), my first cousins who lived next door (three girls), and the cluster of women friends who regularly visited and played cards with the female trio of our household. Not that I didn’t relate to my dad. Though he struggled with alcohol addiction, he parented me thoroughly enough that even today he is often my go-to moral reference. When dad was drunk, he could terrorize indiscriminantly. When dad was sober, most of the time we worked out an uneasy truce and tried to get along. We were so different from one another.
In changing their name to “Jayms,” they are coming out as nonbinary.
I recently decided to change my Twitter and Facebook first name from “James” to “Jayms.” While my friends and family have been largely accepting and unquestioning, I would like to explain why for me this makes a significant statement about who I am and how I have evolved in my lifetime.
My delayed reaction to the Orlando Massacre.
Sunday morning I awoke to the horrifying news: 20 had been killed in a mass shooting in Orlando. Stunned, I went about the business of getting Stephen and me to church. As usual, we picked up our neighbor, Jim, to give him a ride. His first words in the car were, “Did you hear that 50 people were killed in an attack on a gay bar?” There was something about having that initial estimate of deaths more than doubled that threw me into one of the worst places that I have ever found myself in. I almost couldn’t function. Thank God, our Rector, Jon, started the sermon with silence and a prayer for healing. But I couldn’t even watch the news that day, I was so much in a state of shock.
All of our problems in this world are not due to us queers. All of the problems of this world are due to the killers. The people who hate queer, fear queer, are pissed off at queer.
I didn’t have an easy time accepting my sexuality. I grew up loved, but I lived in fear of saying that I was gay, let alone acting on that fact. I was 30 before I came out, and essentially lived a second teenage during that decade. I did my share of exploration, but always, I was looking for and not finding another man with whom to share my life.
Social media are powerful. Suddenly everyone’s voice carries far. My voice cannot change much, but here it is on the subject of Shaw and Ferguson.
Most everyone who stays in touch with the news knows that the Episcopal Church USA is undergoing a seismic shift towards the full inclusion of gays and lesbians into the life and liturgy of the Church. As reported in the New York Times, at the Church’s tri-annual convention in Anaheim yesterday, the House of Bishops hammered out a broadly supported resolution which, among other things, “gives latitude to bishops who wish to go ahead and bless [same-sex] unions, particularly in states that have legalized such marriages.” Of course, as a gay man whose committed relationship has already received the blessing of the Church in 1993, I was delighted to see this move towards equal treatment. However, millions of people worldwide are as appalled and disgusted with this progressive move as I was thrilled and gratified. One line from the NYT article particularly caught my attention.
The Rev. Steve Wood, pastor of St. Andrews Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C., said: “The conservatives are treated more as zoological oddities. We’re patted on the head, nice-nice, and then we get steamrolled.”
Today, June 28, 2009 is the 30th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots, often cited as the first instance where homosexuals fought back against oppression. For 25 of those years, I have been a gay activist, although age and decreased energy have diminished my passion. For several years now, my church, Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis, under the leadership of Rev. Anne Kelsey, has held a “mass on the grass” under a large tree in the corner of Tower Grove Park, the current site of St. Louis Pride activities during the last weekend in June. I have been to every one of these masses, and wasn’t about to miss this one. I even proudly wore my original tee shirt from the first full pride celebration April 12-20, 1980, although it has shrunk, and I have not.