Saturday, August 13, 2011

Email of 8-13-11

Hey all, this is in reference to the conversation [----] and I had tonight so if it doesn't make sense at first, just bear with me...

First of all, I'd like to go on record and say that I want to volunteer to speak with the state representatives to give my perspective on why we need a law that prevents discrimination in public places. That will require some amount of personal disclosure though.

I'll freely admit that I continually go against the grain in many ways. When I identified as transgender, what was most important to me was how I felt with myself. At the time, it wasn't a comfortable place for me because something was wrong and I didn't know what. Identifying the problem and putting a plan into place to do something about it gave me a sense of peace that I didn't have before. I don't have it today, but I outlined the steps I want to take, the order in which I want to take them and the end result I want to achieve. I am still, after two and a half years, at the pre-hormonal stage. I don't want anyone to think that my lack of advancement along my journey is an indication of how little I want to do it, it's merely that I've decided to focus my funds on my education for the time being.

Over time, though, what I learned is that I can be comfortable in the body I have even though I don't enjoy it and would not have chosen it for myself. I see the male visage I present as just a temporary placeholder for the person who has been waiting, and will likely continue to wait. The one thing I didn't consider is that I didn't consider just how much people judge each other by their appearance. It's simply not enough to say you are transgender, you have to look the part and act like the gender you prefer. I find this regrettable because it's ultimately not about appearance, it's about an inner sense of self that you have. No matter what clothes you wear or how you choose to present yourself, if you say you are one gender, you should be able to be accepted as that gender. This is how I think.

[---] offered me a different perspective today, one which I'm grateful to have received. To some extent, I don't believe that we shouldn't have one set gender or the other. Yes, I think of myself as female and would like to live as such. But at the same time, it doesn't do any good walking around looking as anything but female and expect to be accorded privileges that females would normally get. Even if I don't believe in the gendered system our society has, most other people do and it's their rules we have to play by.

I will say, though, that the non-conforming rebellious streak in me will always be there. What I realized is that it's important to know where to direct those energies and in what form they have to take. To me, it should be enough to go up there dressed however I choose and explain my situation and they should see the logic of it. Yet I know this isn't how it works. Presentation is also important. I would like to change that part if I can, but for now we're all stuck with it.

I feel that we are either defined by our gender as society sees it or we take part in defining our gender with respect to society. In other words, we can do what other women do or we can take the chance we have in transitioning to create a whole new kind of person that doesn't necessarily conform to expected gender norms but is still nevertheless distinctly male or female. I have chosen to be in the second category of defining for myself what is female. This does not mean I am unwilling to accept input; instead, it merely means that if something doesn't work for me, I won't do it. In a somewhat feminist vein, I believe that if women choose not to shave their legs, they should still be accepted as women who have simply made a different choice. Societal ostracising, to me, is somewhat unfair and limiting. Freedom to choose for oneself becomes limited within a certain set of options that people other than yourself have put their stamp on. Thus, I then rationalize that I am a woman who has made a different choice: I choose to put my transition as a future plan and appear as male for now.

So, those are my thoughts regarding the whole "appear as you want to be perceived" thing. I have no problem appearing as female as best I can- with the understanding that I likely won't pass at all- if you all should decide to let me come on board with this plan you guys have. If not, that's okay too. I want to help wherever I can, so you all will have to let me know what's best. :)

-Winter

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Sledgehammer for the Statue

In order to tell this story, it is first necessary to tell the story of Gaius Julius Caesar, famous Roman general and statesman. Caesar is most often known in history for his military successes, but you have to dig a little deeper to find his political career. Although he was definitely the nonpariel solider of his day, he was a skilled politician. His skill at oratory, very much important to the ancient Romans, not only allowed him to obtain the office of consul a number of times but also to advance to the position of Dictator. The Dictator was allowed to do any number of unconstitutional things he wanted and would not face legal prosecution for his decisions later. As such, the Dictator was the man with the ultimate amount of power.

Rome began under the leadership of kings. As literacy and population grew, the idea of a Republic took hold in what historians mark as 508 BC. At this time in history, the greek city-states were beginning to make their presences felt. A Republic was not a unique Roman idea; as with many things, the Romans may have borrowed it from the Greeks. However, as the Roman Republic grew and as Athens lost their influence, the power of the elite in Rome eclipsed that of the people. The general populace of Rome, for the most part, relied on the government to bring in grain from other countries and did not grow food to support themselves. Because of this, the people were largely in thrall to whoever controlled the government. There was a plebian assembly, but one of the constant struggles in Roman was that of the wealthy Senators with established families and wealth trying to take away the power of the common people. Dissatisfaction often ran high enough to allow demagogues to come into their own, though it was rare for any such person to obtain high office in Rome. Rarer still was the person in high office who sought to use their power in ways that did not benefit them personally. This was a time where corruption was rampant, where people could bribe their way out of criminal trials and when most people went after their own self-interest.

Thus, enter Marcus Porcius Cato. Like his ancestor Cato the Elder, Cato lived his life according to the stoic philosophy which placed disdain upon extravagance and did not care about the size of one's fortune. It was a philosophy that went directly against the grain of the Roman thinking of his day. It just so happened that Cato was one of Caesar's contemporaries and that the two often clashed- mainly because their philosophies were markedly different. Caesar was a man of personal achievement and excellence, and he was not afraid to gain things for himself whenever possible. It was believed that Caesar's ascendancy into the position of Dictator- which the Senate voted him into- would lead back to another Roman monarchy. Cato thought that the Roman Republic would be destroyed by Caesar's influence upon the state.

In reality, the Roman Republic had been staggering for many years. It was never a solid arrangement and the life of Gaius Marius threw it further into chaos. Gaius Marius was elected consul seven times in his life- something that had never happened before. It was even more remarkable given that Marius did not come from an established family and was considered what we would term to be "new money" today. His birth status would lead to a civil war that many people did not foresee. For when Rome prepared an army to fight against King Mithridates in the kingdom of Pontus (today modern day Turkey), the Senate voted for the patrician Lucius Cornelius Sulla to command the army but the popular assembly voted for Gaius Marius. Before Sulla had begun the war in the east, he used it to fight against Rome itself. Marius had to flee and lived in exile and died shortly thereafter. Some years later, Sulla was become the first dictator of Rome to make decisions about foreign policy that the legislature was unable to make. Sulla used his power to proscribe certain citizens of Rome; people who were proscribed would be killed and a reward given to the one who did the deed.

Thus it was that Rome had a sour taste in its mouth from the last dictator, despite Caesar's overwhelming popularity (and leniency with his enemies).

Because of this, it might seem as though Cato had a justified position in constantly opposing Caesar in the political arena- even if he was just being a stick-in-the-mud. Caesar opposed the mos maiorum, the traditional way of doing things in Roman society while Cato, ever the stoic, were fine with the way things were. Although it is debatable whether Caesar's reforms were for the benefit of the state or himself, it is clear that they were departing from the old ways and this had the effect of upsetting many of the people who believed in the old ways.

Today, we are facing similar challenges to what the Roman Republic went through. We do not have a charismatic leader on the level of Julius Caesar, though we do have people who prefer the older ways of doing things. Unfortunately for us, such people would rather have it their own way at the expense of the state. In a segment on MSNBC's Meet the Press, John Kerry said the Tea Party wanted the country to default, that they wanted to "shoot the hostage."

What he's talking about is how the conservative Republicans didn't want to accept any deal- even one that was proposed by one of their leading members, John Boehner. The debt ceiling bill was passed, though this moment raises a few questions: was Boehner the only person allowed to propose a bill within the Republican party?

Interestingly enough, the name Tea Party refers to an incident during the American revolution in which citizens of Boston dressed up as Native Americans and threw British tea in the river to object over what they believed were unfair taxes. What no one seems to remember is that England's East India Company held a monopoly on the ships that brought tea into the colonies (this was also an age where people couldn't access purified water easily).

The Tea Party is largely known for its intransigent nature much like Cato, though I don't think you'll hear anyone claim that they are followers of stoicism. Instead, they are followers of another religion which has often been used for insidious ends in Christianity. The Boston Tea Party was one of the early catalysts of the American revolution, and their mission statement reads as though they want to make a revolution of their own. But it's a revolution based on quirky conclusions. Language such as "We must return the United States to the States and the people as spelled out in the U.S. Constitution." seems to imply that our government is not, in fact, held to the Constitution but some other nebulous set of laws randomly made up somewhere (but they don't elaborate about this on their website).

Instead, let's cut right to the heart of the matter: the Tea Party, as it exists today, is nothing more than squabbling demagoguery that seeks to serve itself and not the people. The phrase "take the country back" is really a simplistic way of saying, support me and let me get into power and do what I feel is right. Since the premise that the United States is not operating constitutionally is opinion-based, all else that follows is opinion-based as well. This is one reason why facts don't matter very much to the Tea Party. They are convinced they know what they are talking about, and they cannot be dissuaded from their often erroneous ideas nor can they be shown their premise may be fundamentally flawed. Instead, the Tea Party exists in an oppositional relationship to the current structure of power; they do not exist as anything on their own, but merely as a vehicle to change without an endgame.

Although I am liberal, I personally have no party preference one way or the other. It's just that, ever since Bush's presidency in which the Republicans all went along with the party line of Bush's less than ideal policies- so much so that Democrats adopted the strategy of tying Republican candidates to the increasingly unpopular Bush- I have been mistrusful of Republican leadership. Perhaps not without merit. Today, we are seeing a division in the Republican party that is a direct result of people getting on board with bad decisions; there are the Tea Party Republicans and there are the other Republicans. The result is that the legislature has become dysfunctional. Elected officials pursue their policies without any regard of the long-term consequences, even so much so that the country as a whole may suffer for it (I also include Democrats in this statement). We have in our midst many modern Catos, fanatics to a cause, people who will stop at nothing to impede change while claiming to bring about change themselves. They set themselves up as the only people who know any better, which leaves them above reproach (in their own minds) because if someone has a problem with what they do, it's because they're not informed. This is one way in which members of the Tea Party- indeed, any fanatic- maintains psychological health in the face of obvious contradiction and criticism.

Rather than putting the statue of George Washington back on its mantle, the Tea Party members are taking a sledgehammer to it. By claiming they want to restore what the Founding Fathers intended while disregarding those intentions entirely, they reveal themselves as using people's positive thoughts about a group of men who are beyond reproach...and never mind about the whole Aaron Burr killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel business.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the Tea Party puts us all in a difficult position: we can either come together and cooperate, thus defeating their purpose entirely or we can do nothing, as many American people have done nothing and not showed up at the polls and allowed zealots to come into the House of Representatives, a body which is still governed by people elected according to popular vote. The Tea Party thrives on apathy, and as long as we give it to them, they will continue to do what they have always done- these are lies, misrepresentations and appeals to emotion without logic. I won't compare them to the Nazi Party or the Communist Party. Instead, they are a dangerous entity all their own and we should compare other nefarious organizations to them. If we don't vote, they will continue to use their sledgehammer and smash the statues of great men who toiled their whole lives to see this country become what it is today.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Trick of Alchemy

So, it's self-disclosure time. I had/have problems with money. Namely, I spend when I should save. This has given me some long-term consequences I would rather have avoided I could, the most significant of which is having outstanding debts in addition to my college loans after I graduate (if I graduate).

The reason I mention this is because my dad made the last payment on a student loan he and I took out so I could go to Computer Learning Network (CLN) in order to learn how to program for a living. The instructors were good and they meant well, but the classes were four hours long each and I didn't learn languages that were- at that time- going to be important. This was in 2000 to 2001. Specifically, I remember sitting in class as 9/11 happened and driving home from school because I was worried. I never graduated from the institution and I believe that I would not have had the skill set necessary to be capable programmer/IT manager/whatever even if I did. So for ten years, my dad has paid on a debt that accomplished nothing other than an interesting life lesson.

That's something worth thinking and writing about, I believe. A man who is capable of supporting himself, who owns properties in three different states, cares enough about his children that he's willing to let them have their choice of where they want to go to school and is willing to continue working to pay it all off years later. I haven't looked at the figures, but I'm sure it goes well into the thousands.

This year, I'll turn 30 and I'm still in college. I'm struggling with it for various reasons, but mostly it comes down to the fact that I don't have enough money.

Getting a job isn't easy, either. I've spent most of the summer looking for work and received interest from one place only, and after two and a half months, it now looks like I'll be employed there. Well, gee, no wonder today's economy is in the tank. Just think of how much subsidies the government pays in the form of unemployment compensation that could be avoided if only businesses hired more efficiently (or hired at all).

In the meantime, I've been "donating" plasma. I had a conversation this summer with someone who wanted to call it "selling" plasma. And, that's true since I do get money for it. I like to think of myself as an alchemist because I'm turning blood plasma into other things like gasoline for my car or organic fat-free milk. But, really, I wouldn't go there if I didn't need the money and I wouldn't need the money had I not been so irresponsible with money in my younger days.

Perhaps this is my way of proselytizing a little bit. I mean this not as a way of expounding my personal difficulties but as a way of giving everyone who's reading a word of warning. Save when you're young, spend when you're old. If you do it in reverse, you might find yourself in a position where you have to have a needle put in your arm twice a week for fifty-five dollars.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Finding Myself Again (In a Bathroom)

I first began going to a transgender support group about this time last year and while I haven't been a consistent attendee, I generally enjoyed my time there. I had grown accustomed to the fact that I wouldn't expand my horizons very much. I was fine with that because my purpose in going was to support the group, not so much to educate myself.

Somewhere along the way, though, the transgender aspect of myself took a backseat. It became a secondary priority. While I still felt as though I wanted surgery and wanted to go forward with all the steps, I kept putting it off. Mainly, I felt as though the people at Shippensburg University would accept me even less than they already do because I would be trying to pass for female and not really succeeding. The administration's stance on matters has often left me wondering if the University is a safe and welcoming environment in which to transition. In other words, I felt as though I wouldn't be accepted. Because of that, I had made up my mind to put things off until I graduated at which point I hoped to be able to have a good paying job to support the things I wanted to do. Saving up for surgery has never occurred to me, even once.

Today, I felt differently. I met some younger transgender people at the support meeting and felt more at home than I usually do. I realized that meeting with the older women simply didn't give me that sense of community that I was looking for. They often have different priorities- their spouses, their children, the jobs they have held for many years; as a person of a younger generation, my priorities often revolve around being able to afford the next thing I need, finding a job that I will actually enjoy and figuring out whether my family will be open to my change or not. When I found that other young transgender people have the same concerns as I do, I felt as though I could be accepted, even if it was only once a month and for a few hours. Tonight, I feel as though I've discovered a place where I can be me.

I also believe that there comes a point where transgender are acting as the gender they prefer or their actions are something that their gender does. In other words, it's a question of whether or not they are defining their gender or they are defined by their gender. Early on, I decided it would be the first for me. I wanted not only to be a woman, but to be the best woman that I could. I didn't want to be a thin, makeup-wearing stereotypical fashion model type. Instead, I wanted to be a woman that radiated class and intelligence. If people recognize me for anything, I want it to be for who I am, not what I look like. To me, this has the feeling of re-defining the female gender. As someone who is still trying to figure out what it means to be female, this leaves me with a number of options. I don't have to fit into any one category, I can make up the gender as I go along. I don't have to completely reject my masculine side, despite the fact that I don't like the male gender very much. I can be anything I want. That is a very liberating realization.

About the bathroom part of this post...today, I also passed a significant milestone. At least, that's what any counselor would say. I used a women's bathroom. This was in a group of transgender people who would understand, but it didn't happen easily. I wanted to make sure there was no one else in there so I waited until the first person I had seen go in there left. But as it turns out, two other people were in there with me as well. Because it was a women's bathroom, I also urinated sitting down, which is uncommon for me. I felt a little bit closer to myself again.

With that feeling came the idea that I want to transition, irregardless of whether the people at Shippensburg will accept it or not. The majority of college students are 18 to 25, traditional students who have no idea what it means to be transgender? How can they, when high school classes are not allowed to teach issues regarding queer studies? So it is then at college where they learn what they should have been taught already.

Also, as a not inconsiderable sidenote, I met a lot of great people today who were coming to TransCentral for the first or second time. In particular, I met a woman named Kairi. I heard about ten times that night how her name was from a Kingdom Hearts game. Some google research tells me the name Kai means "sea" and Kairi means "nautical mile." She named her dog Kairi as well.

All in all, today was a very good day. For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to falling asleep. Tomorrow is full of possibilities.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Short Entry at 1 AM

There are various things on my mind right now.

Why doesn't the profession of psychology recognize that human beings- even all sentient beings- value themselves first before others? Is everyone so caught up in data and experimentation that the broader issues are being missed?

Why do businesses have a great demand for customer service positions while failing to recognize that eight hours on the telephone isn't something just anyone can do? With all our technology, is it so hard to break out of the old ways of doing things?

Forward thinkers are rare. People who are stuck with tradition and emphasize things of the past do not grow as individuals because they do not change. Without individual growth, the growth of society is limited. When societal growth is limited, people become marginalized because the old ways don't work for new times. Thus, embracing change is essential to the perpetuance of happy society.

People in positions of authority should automatically be distrusted. No one knows your experiences better than you do and the rules they make will benefit themselves and ignore what you need. Consequently, rebellion and resistance will always be a part of the human experience.

The 9 to 5 workday no longer makes sense. Anyone who has sat through traffic burning away expensive gasoline while waiting to get home after a long day can attest to the fact that working-class people are being punished on a daily basis simply because they chose to use their labor to support a company in exchange for monetary gain. We should stop punishing our workers and think of ways to benefit the people that keep our economy running. These are people we should not take for granted.

Variance and deviance are the surest signs of psychology health in an individual. Conformity often produces effects in the opposite direction.

In order to effectively deal with others, you must first understand that they don't care about what you think.

A life without television is a life that leads towards greater understanding. A life spent in front of the background radiation of pixelated images is a life that produces nothing and benefits no one.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Clearing in the Forest




When I first came out as transgender in the spring of 2009, I didn't really know what it meant beyond the academic definition of the word. I knew that this fit me, this was a good way to describe who I was. That summer, as I lived on campus to do classwork, I wondered whether or not I should come out to my roommate. He was an early freshmen and I don't know what all they teach in high school these days, but I'm pretty sure Queer Theory isn't one of the subjects. It's a very hard sell to get taxpayer dollars used to teach people about LGBT things- despite the fact that the taxes are going to be deducted irregardless. We live very much in a heteronormative world and while this often doesn't have consequences for people in their everyday lives, for me it meant that I had to wait 27 years until I found out who I was and then I had to go through the process of deciding who I want to share this aspect of myself with.

As it turns out, I didn't come out to my roommate that summer. He knew that I was a person who enjoyed watching professional wrestling from Japan and that I drank exactly one bottle of Propel every day, but other than that, not much disclosure happened. I tried out my bras in secret with the curtains drawn and scheduled an appointment to get hair removed from my face without telling anyone- even my family.

The appointment didn't work out because I couldn't afford it and I still haven't found a bra that fits me. However, over time, I've become more comfortable coming out to others.

We had an LGBT group on campus whose name involves an acronym within an acronym. This was the place that I was directed to seek as a support system and it was the first place where I came out in front of a large group. I was really shy at the time and I felt uncomfortable hearing all the other people introduce themselves as gay or lesbian or bisexual. There was variation within sexual object choice, but there was not variation within gender identification; I was the only self-identified transgender person there. It was not without difficulty that I came out to those people because- despite the fact that they were the campus' only support group- I didn't know how they would react to me. It was unknown territory for me as well as them and for a while, it was as though we were lost in a forest without a compass or a map.

At the time, I knew very little about the dynamics of a student group, but I have since learned that such groups exist mostly for socialization. This has to do with the priorities of the individuals involved. Freshmen coming to college are still stuck in the whole high school mindset where people were ranked according to their popularity. To some extent, this mindset exists in the "adult" world as well. Consequently, the goal for a lot of college students is to become popular- both to satisfy their desire to be well-liked among their peers and to ascend to the highest social position they can. All of this is well and good, but it ignores the question that all LGBT people (especially transgender people)- why are we discriminated against?

As I explored my options for housing on campus, I discovered that the university I attend- Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania- was not going to allow women to live together in the same dorm room with men. I tried to explain to them that I did not consider myself male and that the university would in fact be placing a woman together with a woman. This is how the university started out, ironically enough. The problem lies in their perception of what is a woman and what is a man. In my journey to discover what the word transgender means, I suddenly found myself holding a very radical opinion that seemed ahead of its time. I learned that not everyone viewed gender the same way and a further revelation occurred, though it should have been obvious had I thought about it: not everyone is taught the same things.

This also applies to our LGBT group on campus. My presence in the group seems to have informed them more about what transgender issues are and there have been more gender variant people in the group since I first came out to them two years ago. However, in many ways, they are still behind in recognizing how transgender people are treated, how we expose ourselves to risk on a daily basis simply by being who we are. The most recent case that comes to mind is an incident where a transwoman was attacked by two younger people for trying to use a bathroom. Out of all the letters in the alphabet soup that is LGBTQIA (and more), the T seems to be the most invisible. I didn't realize how my act of coming out and standing up would change things at the time. I just wanted to be able to talk about this to someone who wasn't a therapist.

I've been told that I have challenged the university on many levels, and I've also heard that they needed to be challenged. I also learned that quite a bit of university policy is influenced by advice the university receives from their legal counsel. I would like to call it rule-mongering, except the word monger has a somewhat negative connotation. Instead, they are often behind because the law itself is behind. The university I attend does not make a point of being progressive and making common sense decisions to protect students who need protected. It does not come from a willful malignant attitude of minority issues, but rather a passive ignorance of not knowing what the proper course of action is. Their attitudes can only be changed through people coming out, expressing the difficulties they encounter, and challenging the current power structure at every turn.

I'll give an example of why I believe this to be true. It is largely opinion, and there are no studies that I know of which confirm what I'm saying. Mostly, though, I don't pay attention to studies anyway.

People in positions of power, whether that be the president of a university or the president of a student group, will often be resistant to change because the structure as it is has benefited them to the point where they now have this position. For them, the system works and to change the system would be to change the very thing that benefited them in the first place. Most politicians run on a platform of change because it's what everyone wants to see; in reality, though, things mostly stay the same from year to year. Republicans marginalize and discriminate while Democrats (the men at least) can't keep their pants on. Examples of moral leadership are few and far between these days.

As a consequence, our societal system has a lot of problems. We passively or actively oppress others and others passively or actively oppress us. The individual human experiences life only through their own eyes and thus values themselves more than others. Because of this, people want power for themselves and not for others. In searching for such power, people disregard the needs of others or exploit other people they haven't even met in order to gain their power. Since the self is held at greater value than another person, it doesn't seem morally wrong to do this. Other people are "less good" or "less valuable" or less anything, so their needs don't have to be taken into consideration. This is how the majority of humanity existed until the rise of a literate, educated culture existed where challenges could be placed at the door of the traditional way of doing things.

Thomas Jefferson was the first American leader to suggest a public school system, though it wasn't until transportation improved that more people were attending institutes of higher learning. Higher learning in American society led to the challenge of racist policy, to the formation of Feminism, to the establishment of Queer Theory as an academic discipline and finally to the internet where anyone can learn anything they want provided they have time and patience.

With the many challenges to social inequalities has come an advancement towards treating everyone the same. But we've only challenged the institutional barriers people face. We aren't actively challenging what beliefs cause a person to discriminate against others or why a person who might be gay-identified would still be transphobic. The reason, as with most things, comes from a lack of education, a lack of awareness about these issues. If not learning about LGBT issues in high school would increase the likelihood of a person growing up to be a homophobic fool, then why do we not insist that LGBT issues are taught in classrooms? Why do our leaders even go so far as to pass a bill that forbids Queer Theory education in classrooms?

Fortunately, rather than trivializing the LGBT rights cause, legislation such as this only more firmly reinforces the need for education to end the bigotry. Queer Theory is now being taught in the periphery; it's a subject that is seeping into the mainstream culture through the use of LGBT characters on shows targeted towards a younger audience. Here's an example.

The situation that exists, then is one of idealogical conflict between society's leadership and the majority of people who are influenced by their decisions. Conservative politicians dare to appear out of touch with what's happening in the country at the expense of the rights of LGBT people. It's not the first time, nor will it be the last. Conservative politicians took the wrong side in the Civil Rights struggle and they have continually taken the wrong side on women's issues- such as the issue of whether or not to fund Planned Parenthood, an organization that strives to provide reproductive health services for women. Their argument is that taxpayer dollars are not supposed to be used to fund abortions. This is already against the law under Title X of the Public Health Service Act.

All of this has a trickle-down effect. When people say that Shippensburg is a conservative university, what they really mean is that they are behind the times, they discriminate against minority groups and prefer to give opportunities to people with wealth rather than those without. These are some of the basic tenets that most conservative politicians hold true to.

On an individual level, it meant for me that I had to spend two years meeting with the administrators of the university in an attempt to receive the same benefit in campus housing that everyone else has: the ability to use a bathroom with people of the same identified gender and to share living quarters with the same.

Eventually, we settled on something of a compromise, which is still an ongoing process. I now live in a medical single room with its own bathroom. The Dean of Students at the university declared, in open defiance of university policy, that he would allow me to have the room at the normal rate which people with medical disabilities would receive them. Whether this decision will cost the individual his job or not remains to be seen.

The point that I'm making here is that we, as members of minority groups, have to go this far because no one else is doing it for us. Our limited time on this planet is consumed with making sure that we are safe and that we enjoy the privileges that others have automatically. There is, however, a reward for doing so. I have found that I have become more empathic towards other people and that I am more willing to help people than I used to be. Having been put in a situation where I sought help and did not receive it, I now find myself more motivated to help others.

I do not suggest that serving others should be the guiding principle of one's life; unpaid and required labor is a form of slavery. Instead, we ought to live in such a way that we do not pass up the chance to enable others to live a better life if we have the chance to do so. We should consider that other people matter just as much as we do. To reduce the status of another person is to reduce us all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Looking Back



Towards the end of the last semester, I came close to killing myself. Well, obviously, I didn't go through with it. At the start of the spring 2010 semester, I feel much better now. Not only is suicide the furthest thing from my mind, I'm feeling very positive about this coming semester. One of the things that I've noticed is that my body apparently likes it when I go to bed early and wake up early too. Maybe Benjamin Franklin was right after all.

But before I start talking about what's coming up for me this time around, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on my mistakes of the previous semester. I fell in love with someone who couldn't love me back and I kept thinking that if I tried hard enough, she would change her mind. She never did, and I started getting depressed. I started reading into things too much and wanting her to hug me. This morning, I realized that when she hugged someone else last night at supper, I wasn't at all concerned or envious or anything. The very fact that it didn't occur to me until the day after feels like a big positive right now.

Overall, I was expecting too much from people. I wanted things that weren't going to happen and I wanted my way without considering what others were doing. Now, I don't expect as much from people and I don't feel disappointed if someone doesn't have the time to hang out with me. I'm not sure if I matured or if the new sleeping schedule has made more calm, but it's a nice feeling not to be so dependent upon others for my happiness.

With that being said though, I still want a romantic relationship. I'm just not sure if I'm ready. That too, strikes me as a sign of maturation. Before, I just wanted a relationship at any cost. Now, it's not necessary for me to be happy. I would enjoy having one, but if one doesn't come, then that's fine too. Personally, I find it somewhat ironic how I always seem to look back on my actions in the past and see how stupid I was while having optimism for the future that I won't be stupid anymore. Perhaps the idea that the future will be better than the past is the one thing that keeps people productive and healthy and hopeful in this world.