EVE ENSLER – IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD

THIS IS THE MOST RIVETING HONEST BRILLIANT BOOK I HAVE EVER READ
EVE ENSLER IS WHO I HOPE TO BECOME
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Divided
A mother’s body against a child’s body makes a place. It says you are here. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother. Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life.
I have been exiled from my body. I was ejected at a very young age and I got lost. I did not have a baby. I have been afraid of trees. I have felt the Earth as my enemy. I did not live in the forests. I lived in the concrete city where I could not see the sky or sunset or stars. I moved at the pace of engines and it was faster than my own breath. I became a stranger to myself and to the rhythms of the Earth. I aggrandized my alien identity and wore black and felt superior. My body was a burden. I saw it as something that unfortunately had to be maintained. I had little patience for its needs.

The absence of a body against my body made attachment abstract. Made my own body dislocated and unable to rest or settle. A body pressed against your body is the beginning of nest. I grew up not in a home but in a kind of free fall of anger and violence that led to a life of constant movement, of leaving and falling. It is why at one point I couldn’t stop drinking and fucking. Why I needed people to touch me all the time. It had less to do with sex than location. When you press against me, or put yourself inside me. When you hold me down or lift me up, when you lie on top of me and I can feel your weight, I exist. I am here.

For years I have been trying to find my way back to my body, and to the Earth. I guess you could say it has been a preoccupation. Although I have felt pleasure in both the Earth and my body, it has been more as a visitor than as an inhabitant. I have tried various routes to get back. Promiscuity, anorexia, performance art. I have spent time by the Adriatic and in the green Vermont mountains, but always I have felt estranged, just as I was estranged from my own mother. I was in awe of her beauty but could not find my way in. Her breasts were not the breasts that fed me. Everyone admired my mother in her tight tops and leggings, with her hair in a French twist, as she drove through our small rich town in her yellow convertible. One gawked at my mother. One desired my mother. And so I gawked and desired the Earth and my mother, and I despised my own body, which was not her body. My body that I had been forced to evacuate when my father invaded and then violated me. And so I lived as a breathless, rapacious machine programmed for striving and accomplishment. Because I did not, could not, inhabit my body or the Earth, I could not feel or know their pain. I could not intuit their unwillingness or refusals, and I most certainly never knew the boundaries of enough. I was driven. I called it working hard, being busy, on top of it, making things happen. But in fact, I could not stop. Stopping would mean experiencing separation, loss, tumbling into a suicidal dislocation.
As I had no reference point for my body, I began to ask other women about their bodies, in particular their vaginas (as I sensed vaginas were important). This led me to writing The Vagina Monologues, which then led me to talking incessantly and obsessively about vaginas. I did this in front of many strangers. As a result of me talking so much about vaginas, women started telling me stories about their bodies. I crisscrossed the Earth in planes, trains, and jeeps. I was hungry for the stories of other women who had experienced violence and suffering. These women and girls had also become exiled from their bodies and they, too, were desperate for a way home. I went to over sixty countries. I heard about women being molested in their beds, flogged in their burqas, acid-burned in their kitchens, left for dead in parking lots. I went to Jalalabad, Sarajevo, Alabama, Port-au-Prince, Peshawar, Pristina. I spent time in refugee camps, in burned-out buildings and backyards, in dark rooms where women whispered their stories by flashlight. Women showed me their ankle lashes and melted faces, the scars on their bodies from knives and burning cigarettes. Some could no longer walk or have sex. Some became quiet and disappeared. Others became driven machines like me.

Then I went somewhere else. I went outside what I thought I knew. I went to the Congo and I heard stories that shattered all the other stories. In 2007 I landed in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. I heard stories that got inside my body. I heard about a little girl who couldn’t stop peeing on herself because huge men had shoved themselves inside her. I heard about an eighty-year-old woman whose legs were broken and torn out of their sockets when the soldiers pulled them over her head and raped her. There were thousands of these stories. The stories saturated my cells and nerves. I stopped sleeping. All the stories began to bleed together. The raping of the Earth. The pillaging of minerals. The destruction of vaginas. They were not separate from each other or from me.
In the Congo there has been a war raging for almost thirteen years. Nearly eight million people have died and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped and tortured. It is an economic war fought over minerals that belong to the Congolese but are pillaged by the world. There are local and foreign militias from Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. They enter villages and they murder. They rape wives in front of their husbands. They force the husbands and sons to rape their daughters and sisters. They shame and destroy families and take over the villages and the mines. The minerals are abundant in the Congo—tin, copper, gold, and coltain, which are used in our iPhones and PlayStations and computers.
Of course by the time I got to the Congo, I had witnessed the epidemic of violence toward women that scoured the planet, but the Congo was where I witnessed the end of the body, the end of humanity, the end of the world. Femicide, the systematic rape, torture, and destruction of women and girls, was being employed as a military/corporate tactic to secure minerals. Thousands and thousands of women were not only exiled from their bodies, but their bodies and the functions and futures of their bodies were rendered obsolete: wombs and vaginas permanently destroyed.
The Congo and the individual horror stories of her women consumed me. Here I began to see the future—a monstrous vision of global disassociation and greed that not only allowed but encouraged the eradication of the female species in pursuit of minerals and wealth. But I found something else here as well. Inside these stories of unspeakable violence, inside the women of the Congo, was a determination and a life force I had never witnessed. There was grace and gratitude, fierceness and readiness. Inside this world of atrocities and horror was a red-hot energy on the verge of being born. The women had hunger and dreams, demands and a vision. They conceived of a place, a concept, called City of Joy. It would be their sanctuary. It would be a place of safety, of healing, of gathering strength, of coming together, of releasing their pain and trauma. A place where they would declare their joy and power. A place where they would rise as leaders. I, along with my team and the board at V-Day, were committed to finding the resources and energy to help them build it. We would work with UNICEF to do the construction and then, after V-Day, would find the way to support it. The process of building was arduous and seemingly impossible—delayed by rain and lack of roads and electricity, corrupt building managers, poor oversight by UNICEF, and rising prices. We were scheduled to open in May, but on March 17, 2010, they discovered a huge tumor in my uterus.

Cancer threw me through the window of my disassociation into the center of my body’s crisis. The Congo threw me deep into the crisis of the world, and these two experiences merged as I faced the disease and what I felt was the beginning of the end.

Suddenly the cancer in me was the cancer that is everywhere. The cancer of cruelty, the cancer of greed, the cancer that gets inside people who live downstream from chemical plants, the cancer inside the lungs of coal miners. The cancer from the stress of not achieving enough, the cancer of buried trauma. The cancer that lives in caged chickens and oil-drenched fish. The cancer of carelessness. The cancer in fast-paced must-make-it-have-it-smoke-it-own-it formaldehydeasbestospesticideshairdyecigarettescellphonesnow. My body was no longer an abstraction. There were men cutting into it and tubes coming out of it and bags and catheters draining it and needles bruising it and making it bleed. I was blood and poop and pee and puss. I was burning and nauseous and feverish and weak. I was of the body, in the body. I was body. Body. Body. Body. Cancer, a disease of pathologically dividing cells, burned away the walls of my separateness and landed me in my body, just as the Congo landed me in the body of the world.

Cancer was an alchemist, an agent of change. Don’t get me wrong. I am no apologist for cancer. I am fully aware of the agony of this disease. I appreciate every medical advance that has enabled me to be alive right now. I wake up every day and run my hand over my torso-length scar and am in awe that I had doctors and surgeons who were able to remove the disease from my body. I am humbled that I got to live where there are CAT scan machines and chemotherapy and that I had the money to pay for them through insurance. Absolutely none of these things are givens for most people in the world. I am particularly grateful for the women of the Congo whose strength, beauty, and joy in the midst of horror insisted I rise above my self-pity. I know their ongoing prayers also saved my life. I am in awe that it happens to be 2012, not twenty years ago even. I am gratefully aware that at just about any other point in history I would have been dead at fifty-seven.
In his book, The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee says, “Science is often described as an interactive and cumulative process, a puzzle solved piece by piece with each piece contributing a few hazy pixels to a much larger picture.” Science, then, is not unlike a CAT scan, a three-dimensional magnetic electronic beam that captures images as it rotates around the body. Each image is separate but somehow the machine makes them seem like one.
This book is like a CAT scan—a roving examination—capturing images, experiences, ideas, and memories, all of which began in my body. Scanning is somehow the only way I could tell this story. Being cut open, catheterized, chemofied, drugged, pricked, punctured, probed, and ported made a traditional narrative impossible. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, time changes. It both speeds up insanely and stops altogether. It all happened fast. Seven months. Impressions. Scenes. Light beams. Scans.

valerie

i warned michelle today would be tough
dakotas first shots
i was an old pro
mom of 5 and all

yet i was unable to stop
the tears flowing
as i tried – embarrassed –
all the tricks i know

bite the inside of my mouth
open my eyes wide
breathe thru my nose only
squeeze the back of my calfs tight

nothing works

my new baby girl
has cracked open my heart
leaving me powerless
reeling and raw

i remember crying at coffee commercials
in 1995 – right after parker arrived
every gurgle – smile – smell
swept me away

“i never knew love like this before
now i am lonely never more”

each and every child
has performed this miracle upon my soul
CLEAR the doctor screams
as we r jolted back to life

and death now
its familiar silent whisper
echoing all around me
a sound tattoo

life and death
love and loss
pain endures
on we go

my freshman college professor
assessing my talent said
“miss o’donnell”
“the part of rhoda morgenstern has already been cast”

i knew back then – in 1980
that i would one day tell her this – to her face
and we would laugh together
as we have

since day one
on a balcony in marys apartment
i have adored valerie
and i still do

it is possible
in one lifetime
to lose
many mothers

a baby born

i have a new baby
she smells delicious
cooing and blinking
welcome to the world

life has on occasion so much joy
babies anchor me
to souls here and gone
2 connection

which is how we cure lonely
together
humans need each other
plugged in and present

michelle is glowing
a first time mom
she has fallen in big love
pure grace in motion

life unfolds
revealing itself
over and again
ebb and flow

change
the only constant
i remind myself
when doubt sprouts

i am 50
woman grown
mother actor
public private

one

children arrive
parents depart
while u r on display
fame – muse as prey

i don’t know jodie foster
we have a few mutual friends
from what i have heard
she is kind smart and shy

i have admired her from afar
cheered her on as she soared the show biz skies
braver smarter prettier better – but still
i saw parts of myself in her

on we go – each of us
toward unknown tomorrows
thankful for the shared humanity
that moves us all forward

oh – p.s.

SHAMELESS is back on
everybody rejoice !!
frank is home
i have the tingles

a few days after

looks like its time to go
detox
a complete break
toward the positive

i managed to not watch it
til yesterday
and already …
like trying to scream underwater

says pink
on her brilliant new cd
the truth about love
the woman is right

i have had only small sips
knowing one gulp could take me out
just enough to feel the floor weaken
chutes and ladders

christmas is coming
and with it miamis sun
heart healing always
warm me i pray

gonna try to wean myself
from the net
its become
too intrusive

“let me not hit up my twitter
like its a crack pipe -
keep the browser closed”
said ze frank

a ze a day
keeps the gloom away
i want to thank him for that
thank u ze

so off i go
back to reality
without the virtual
back to reading and writing

and being here
The Sweetness – YouTube

pink – the truth about love

“The Great Escape”

I can understand how the edges are rough
And they cut you like the tiny slithers of glass
And you feel too much
And you don’t know how long you’re gonna last,

But everyone you know, is tryin’a smooth it over,
Find a way to make the hurt go away,
But everyone you know, is tryin’a smooth it over,
Like you’re trying to scream underwater,
But, I won’t let you make the great escape,
I’m never gonna watch you checkin out of this place
I’m not gonna lose you
Cause the passion and pain
Are gonna keep you alive someday
Gonna keep you alive someday

I feel like I could wave my fist in front of your face
And you wouldn’t flinch or even feel a thing
And you retreat to your silent corner
Like you decided the fight was over for ya,

Everyone you know, is tryin’a smooth it over,
Find a way to make the hurt go away,
Everyone you know, is tryin’a smooth it over,
Everyone needs a floor they can fall through
I won’t let you make the great escape,
I’m never gonna watch you checkin outta this place
I’m not gonna lose you
Cause the passion and pain
Are gonna keep you alive someday
They’re gonna keep you alive someday

Oh, Terrified of the dark, but not if you go with me
And I don’t need a pill to make me numb
And I wrote the book on runnin’,
But that chapter of my life will soon be done

I’m the king of the great escape
You’re not gonna watch me checkin outta this place
You’re not gonna lose me
Cause the passion and pain
Are gonna keep us alive, someday
Yeah the passion and the pain
Are gonna keep us alive someday, someday

The Anarchist Soccer Mom

Friday, December 14, 2012
Thinking the Unthinkable
In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

“You know where we are going,” I replied.

“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with….at what age did your child….were there any problems with…has your child ever experienced…does your child have….”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.

On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map). Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population. (http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/09/05/us-number-mentally-ill-prisons-quadrupled)

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail, and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011 (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/04/140167676/nations-jails-struggle-with-mentally-ill-prisoners)

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

This story was first published online by the Blue Review. Read more on current events at www.thebluereview.org

 

 

nys finest public school students

 

 

Ruby Dee – living legend – turns 90

lana wachowski

listen to this

or read the transcript:

OK. Phew. Haven’t given a speech ever. OK, OK, I get it — you’re very encouraging, I love you.

So I’m at my hairdresser’s. He’s gay, go figure. I say yeah, the HRC wants to give me an award. Award for what? I say, “I guess for kind of being myself.” He’s like playing with my hair and looking at me and he’s like, “Yeah, I guess you make a pretty good you.” And I was like, yeah, “Yeah, well there wasn’t a lot of competition.” And ‘cause he’s a catty bitch he said, “Yeah, it’s a good thing — just imagine if you had lost.”

I’ve been going to this hairdresser who’s this gorgeous lovely man for almost six years. He knows everything about my family, how close I was to my grandma, how I met and married the love of my life. He did the hair for our wedding three years ago, he’s seen the drunken pornographic pictures of our honeymoon in Mykonos. But he doesn’t know that I directed The Matrix trilogy with my brother Andy. So he knows all about who I am but he doesn’t know what I do.

Conversely, I was recently out to dinner with a mixture of friends and strangers who were all very excited to meet a “Hollywood” director, but all they want to do is ask about Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry, and throughout the dinner they repeatedly refer to me as “he” or one of the “Wachowski Brothers,” sometimes using half my name, “Laaaaaa,” as an awkward bridge between identities, unable or perhaps unwilling to see me as I am, but only for the things I do.

Every one of us, every person here, every human life presents a negotiation between public and private identity. For me that negotiation took a more literal form in a dialogue between me, Andy, Tom Tykwer — our new brother by love, who’s just gorgeous — with whom we directed our latest movie, Cloud Atlas. (Thanks for the plug; go see it.) Several months ago we were sitting in this Berlin club amid beer soaked haggardness in a space not intended to be inhabited by people and sunlight trying to decide if we should shoot this introduction to a trailer for our movie that was supposed to be posted online. Tom Hanks was supposed to do it but became unavailable.

Andy and I have not done press or made a public appearance including premieres in over 12 years. People have mistakenly assumed that this has something to do with my gender. It does not. After The Matrix was released in ‘99 we both experienced this alarming contraction of our world and thus our lives. We became acutely aware of the preciousness of anonymity — understanding it as a form of virginity, something you only lose once. Anonymity allows you access to civic space, to a form of participation in public life, to an egalitarian invisibility that neither of us wanted to give up. We told Warner Bros. that neither one of us wanted to do press anymore. They told us, “No. Absolutely not. This is non-negotiable. Directors are essential to selling and marketing a movie.” We said, “OK, we get it. So if it’s a choice between making movies or not doing press, we decided we’re not going to not make movies.” They said, “Hang on. Maybe there’s a little room for negotiation.”

So this position in that negotiation was being examined in Berlin three months ago. All of us are conscious of the fact that not only will it be Andy and my first public appearance in a long time, but it will also be the first time that I speak publicly since my transition. Parenthetically this is a word that has very complicated subject for me because of its complicity in a binary gender narrative that I am not particularly comfortable with. Yet I realize the moment I go on camera, that act will be subject to projections that are both personal and political.

I have been out to my family and friends for over a decade and for the majority of that time I have been discussing this, this particular moment with my therapist, with my family and my wife because I know eventually I will do it but I know there is going to be a price for it. I knew I was going to come out but I knew when I finally did come out I didn’t want it to be about my coming out. I am completely horrified by the “talk show,” the interrogation and confession format, the weeping, the tears of the host whose sympathy underscores the inherent tragedy of my life as a transgender person. And this moment fulfilling the cathartic arc of rejection to acceptance without ever interrogating the pathology of a society that refuses to acknowledge the spectrum of gender in the exact same blind way they have refused to see a spectrum of race or sexuality.

So the three of us talk. We like to talk. (You’re probably realizing right now, uh oh, we got a talker here. There will be an intermission after about an hour, so.) We’re alternating perspectives quite conscious of the fact that we have just made a film about this subject — about the responsibilities us humans have to one another, that our lives are not entirely our own. There is dialogue from the film merging easily with the discussion and I find myself repeating a line from a character who Iwas very attached to who speaks about her own decision to come out. She says, “If I had remained invisible, the truth would have remained hidden and I couldn’t allow that.” And she says this aware that even at the moment she’s saying it that the sacrifice she has made will cost her her life.

Suddenly I begin this very intense rush of images, thoughts and memories going through my mind — a kind of life flashing before my eyes that happens. People describe near-death experiences. As it begins I start to understand just how complex the relationship between visibility and invisibility has been throughout my life.

I remember the third grade, I remember recently moving and transferring from a public school to a Catholic school. In public school I played mostly with girls, I have long hair and everyone wears jeans and t-shirts. In Catholic school the girls wear skirts, the boys play pants. I am told I have to cut my hair. I want to play Four Square with the girls but now I’m one of them — I’m one of the boys. Early on I am told to get in line after a morning bell, girls in one line, boys in another. I walk past the girls feeling this strange, powerful gravity of association. Yet some part of me knows I have to keep walking. As soon as I look towards the other line, though, I feel a feeling of differentiation that confuses me. I don’t belong there, either.

I stop between them. The nun I realize is staring at me, she’s shouting at me. I don’t know what to do. She grabs me, she’s yelling at me. I’m not trying to disobey, I’m just trying to fit in. My silence starts to infuriate her, and she starts to hit me. Then suddenly, most improbably — if it happened in a movie you would never believe is — suddenly there’s these screeching tires and my mom just happens to be driving by, totally true, she jumps out of her car, she hurls herself at this nun. She rips me away from her, rescues me. She warns the nun never to touch me again.

And I think I’m safe, but then she takes me home and she’s trying to understand what happened, but I have no real language to describe it. I just stare at the floor and she keeps asking me over and over what happened. And I begin feeling the same mounting frustration, the same mounting fury that I felt with the nun. She tells me to look at her but I don’t want to, because when I do I am unable to understand why she cannot see me.

The last time I was asked to make a speech, like this one, I was at my eighth grade graduation. I was valedictorian of my class and Mr. Henderson my teacher informed me that I got to give a speech as a result of being valedictorian. I didn’t think this was a very big deal. I’m not sure about this little award thing, either, but. Being painfully shy I declined. I said, “Let someone else be valedictorian.” He didn’t like this answer. He said, “That’s not how this works.” He said he understood how I felt, no one likes giving speeches — why do we do it? — but sometimes I had to think not just about myself but about my class and my parents, who would be very proud of me, he said. There are some things that we have to do for ourselves, but there are other things that we have to do for other people.

So I wrote this speech back then much as I wrote this one with butterflies churning. I worked on it at night wearing the slip that I used as a nightie that I had stolen from my sister. I wrote about the way that knowledge had an actual materiality not unlike the materiality of a ladder that could be used to gain access to places and worlds that were previously unimaginable. I have no real memory of giving that speech. I remember afterwards being in the bathroom, hiding in a locked stall, feeling the slip I wore under my suit as I cried, feeling stupid and that I was a liar because I was unable myself to imagine a world where I would ever fit in.

In high school I joined the theater department partially because of my older sister, but mostly because of the storeroom high above the stage amongst the catwalks that was filmed with costumes. I fell in love with this storeroom as much for its dust-scented privacy where I would sit and read as for the racks of dresses and endless rows of shoes. I remember wearing this beautiful brocaded dress one day with a built-in corset when suddenly I heard the stage manager calling my name. Just before she opened the door I dove desperately between the shadowed folds between the racked dresses, my heart pounding like a mouse, listening to her call my name over and over, praying that somehow I might remain invisible.

As I grew older an intense anxious isolation coupled with constant insomnia began to inculcate an inescapable depression. I have never slept much but during my sophomore year in high school, while I watched many of my male friends start to develop facial hair, I kept this strange relentless vigil staring in the mirror for hours, afraid of what one day I might see. Here in the absence of words to defend myself, without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head — that I was a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be lovable.

After school I go to the nearby Burger King and write a suicide note. It ends up being over four pages. I’m a little talkative. But it was addressed to my parents and I really wanted to convince them that it wasn’t their fault, it was just that I didn’t belong. I cry a lot as I write this note, but the staff at Burger King has seen it all before, and they seem immune.

I was very used to traveling home quite late because of the theater, I know the train platform will be empty at night because it always is. I let the B train go by because I know the A train will be next and it doesn’t stop. When I see the headlight I take off my backpack and I put it on the bench. It has the note in front of it. I try not to think of anything but jumping as the train comes. Just as the platform begins to rumble suddenly I notice someone walking down the ramp. It is a skinny older old man wearing overly large, 1970s square-style glasses that remind of the ones my grandma wears. He stares at me the way animals stare at each other. I don’t know why he wouldn’t look away. All I know is that because he didn’t, I am still here.

Years later I find the courage to admit that I am transgender and this doesn’t mean that I am unlovable. I meet a woman, the first person that has made me understand that they love me not in spite of my difference but because of it. She is the first person to see me as a whole being. And every morning I get to wake up beside her I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for those two blue eyes in my life.

In Sydney, Australia, I finally came out to my family. When I told my mom what was going on, she jumped on a plane immediately. It was this big, tear-soaked baptism, and she confessed that she had been afraid to arrive and grieve the loss of her son. But when she arrived she found it wasn’t so much a death as it was a discovery. That there was this other part of me, an unseen part, and she felt it was like a gift because now she could get to know that part of me.

We went to dinner. I dressed as feminine as I could, wanting to be seen by strangers as Lana. Hoping that waiters would not call me “sir” or “he,” as if these people suddenly had the power to confirm or deny my existence. My mom is also a bit talkative. She always introduces herself to the waiter or waitress. And she’s like, “Hi, I’m Lynne. This is my daughter Lana.” And the waitress smiles and says, “Wow, she looks just like you.”

When my dad arrived he shrugged it off easier than accepting that his wife and daughter had once voted for Jane Byrne instead of Harold Washington [for Chicago mayor in 1983] — a choice that still rankles him today. He said, “Look, if my kid wants to sit down and talk to me I’m a lucky man. What matters is that you’re alive, you seem happy, and that I can put my arms around you and give you a kiss.” Having good parents is just like the lottery. You’re just like, “Oh my god, I won the lottery! What the — I didn’t do anything!”

I remember thinking about my dad’s words, his acceptance of me, when my wife and I first read about Gwen Araujo. It seemed impossible that something like that could happen so close to this city, yet here was this person like me murdered by ignorance, by prejudice, murdered by intolerance, it seemed in direct inverse proportion to the acceptance of my family. Murdered by a kind of fear that seeks to obliterate any evidence that the world is different from the way they want to see it, from the way they want to believe it to be.

Invisibility is indivisible from visibility; for the transgender this is not simply a philosophical conundrum — it can be the difference between life and death.

A few short weeks ago after my coming out, the three of us, Tom, Andy and I were being interviewed, one of the reporters ventured away from the subject of the film towards my gender. Imagine that, a reporter. My brother quickly stepped in, “Look, just so we’re clear,” he says, “if somebody asks something or says something about my sister that I don’t like, understand that I will break a bottle over their head.” Few words express love clearer than these.

I am here because Mr. Henderson taught me that there are some things we do for ourselves, but there are some things we do for others. I am here because when I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others.

If I can be that person for someone else then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value. I know I am also here because of the strength and courage and love that I am blessed to receive from my wife, my family and my friends. And in this way I hope to offer their love in the form of my materiality to a project like this one started by the HRC, so that this world that we imagine in this room might be used to gain access to other rooms, to other worlds previously unimaginable.

Thanks very much.

ARGO VOTE

saw ARGO today in toronto
a city i love
a country i adore
what an amazing movie

ben affleck is quite a film maker
the visuals – music – acting- all perfect
nothing like being swept away
in a dark room full of strangers

the ticket was 20 dollars
because the theater had a “VIP zone”
which was nothing more than a small screening room
with a waitress i never saw

no matter – i was thoroughly entertained
i love canadians
so many wearing red poppies on their coats
remembrance day – for all lost in war

its very moving
to see so many honoring the dead
a constant reminder of the sacrifice
the human cost of war

i am shooting an episode of BOMB GIRLS
a wonderful series on global tv
about canadian women who worked in bomb factories
during WW2

my friend Meg Tilly stars
with a cast of 20 somethings
it reminds me of LOTO
in so many ways

tomorrow i have a 4 40 am pick up
so i am now in bed
pretending it is time for sleep
fingers crossed

i left nyack on friday
we still have no power
but luckily do have a generator
i have never seen such damage

the storm shook us all
yet leaves still hang on the trees that stand
the hudson churned and roared
and now – is calm once more

may all those who lost loved ones
be held in comforting arms
as we pull together
and start healing

remember to vote on tuesday
remember women have the right to reproductive freedom
that 4 years is not enough to right the wrongs
we all were left with

vote with ur heart
u know what is right for u
its 2012 – not 1952
god bless america

peace