book reviews

Repost: Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton

I originally posted this review on Epinions.com on March 4, 2012. It’s being reposted as/is.

A couple of months ago, I happened to see a Dr. Phil rerun about three adopted brothers who were estranged because the youngest brother had screwed the two older brothers out of an inheritance.  At first, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention.  The subject matter seemed to be very typical for a Dr. Phil show and I generally find Dr. Phil and his ilk annoying.  But after the brothers started to elaborate on their story, I sat up and took notice.  It turned out this particular episode of Dr. Phil was about much more than just squabbling siblings and inheritance money. 

These three men were the adopted sons of jazz musician Billy Tipton and his “wife” Kitty, a former stripper.  Kitty Tipton was one of several women who had married Billy Tipton, who was a moderately successful entertainer in the first half of the 20th century.  By most accounts, Billy Tipton appeared to be a somewhat short but entirely heterosexual man.  What almost no one knew until the day of Billy’s death in Spokane, Washington on January 21, 1989, was that Billy Tipton was actually a woman! 

Though I was around in the 1980s, somehow I missed all the talk show hype about this case that came out after Billy’s death.  I was just hearing about the case for the first time as I watched that episode of Dr. Phil.  I immediately went to Amazon.com to see if anyone had written a book about Billy Tipton.  Indeed, in 1998, Diane Wood Middlebrook published Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading about Billy Tipton’s remarkable life and death through reading Middlebrook’s very thorough and well-written book.

Why she became he…

Born in Oklahoma City in 1921, Dorothy Lucille Tipton grew up Kansas City, Missouri.  Dorothy’s parents had split up, so she was raised by an aunt who insisted that she learn how to play the piano. Dorothy turned out to be very musically talented.  She could sing, play saxophone, and play the piano.  She was also a very capable bandleader and entertainer.  Unfortunately, at the time Dorothy was coming along, women were not commonly accepted as jazz musicians. 

At age 19, Dorothy initially started dressing as a man so she could play the kind of music she wanted to play.  Noting that movie star Joan Crawford’s real name was Lucille and people had called her “Billie” as a nickname, Dorothy was inspired to use her middle name Lucille as the basis for changing her name to “Billy”.  At first, some of her fellow musicians knew that she was just dressing in uniform so she could play jazz with them. 

As time went on, Dorothy’s original gender identity went by the wayside and she lived as a man 24/7.  She totally passed as a man, mainly because she was careful never to let anyone see her naked, and dazzled her paramours by being suave and debonair.  The different women who had relationships with Billy over the years somehow instinctively understood that Billy treasured his privacy and knew that they weren’t to touch him or barge in on him when he was in the bathroom.  Indeed, Middlebook reports that “Billy Tipton” was so convincing that even his several “wives” never knew the secret after their unofficial unions were consummated.  They were all shocked when the truth came out after Billy’s death because they had all had sex with him.  Naturally, the lights were always off.  One woman even called Billy “the love of her life”.

My thoughts

This book is absolutely fascinating.  Diane Wood Middlebrook does a great job writing Billy Tipton’s story and explaining all the angles of Tipton’s life.  Her writing is very readable and conversational.  I had no trouble falling into this book and getting engrossed in Billy Tipton’s amazing story.  Middlebrook also includes pictures, which I think are essential to this particular book.  Every time I ran across photos, I stopped and studied them just to examine how the people in Billy’s life were fooled.  Personally, I think Billy looked quite feminine, but I guess I can see how people fifty or sixty years ago would just take his word for it that he was a man.  People didn’t talk about such personal things back then as much as they do now… or so my mother often scolds me!

I will warn that there are a few topless photos in this book.  They aren’t of Billy Tipton, though, who never let anyone see his chest, which he had bound with bandages.  Tipton explained the bandages were there because he’d had injuries from an accident that had never healed properly.  As I look down at my own D sized breasts, I couldn’t help but wonder about how Billy handled the more personal aspects of being a female… like menstrual periods!  How on earth did Billy sustain marriages to other women and keep his periods a secret?  This is just one of many questions I pondered as I read this incredible true story.

Overall

Sometimes you really can fool all of the people all of the time.  This is a fascinating book for music buffs, show biz mavens, psychology fans, and people who just love outrageous stories.  I happen to fall into all four categories.  If you do too, I definitely recommend reading Diane Wood Middlebrook’s book, Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton.

A video about Billy Tipton.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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language, musings, politics

“Chickenshot…”

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Looking at memories on Facebook is a reminder of how, in just a year’s time, our focus can shift. A year ago, people were up in arms about people in cages at the southern border of the United States. I was in Sweden with Bill, and we were going to pick up our brand new Volvo. Meanwhile, we spent a couple of heavenly nights at Gothenburg’s best hotel, the Upper House.

This year, we’re contemplating a quick weekend away in Gerolstein, a place two hours from us in the next state. It’s known for its mineral water, which I used to buy when we lived in North Carolina. It’s not Sweden, but I’ve been wanting to go there for years. And now that we live somewhat close and have a good reason not to travel far, it makes sense to consider a trip there.

Anyway… this topic comes up because as I was looking at my old memories, I ran across an epic argument I had three years ago about an ad the NRA had put out that was pro Trump. As of this writing, it’s still available.

She’s easy on the eyes as she spits out how evil liberals are…

As I watched this NRA ad again in 2020, it does seem oddly predictive. There have been a hell of a lot of protests lately, some of which have gotten violent. She seems to think the answer to this is a police state and everyone armed to the teeth, even though Trump is unraveling more and more by the day. It’s disturbing to watch him disintegrate. He’s supposed to be a leader, but I expect him to collapse and go into a fetal position any day now, a la Jim Bakker back in 1989 as he was convicted of fraud and sent to prison. Jim Bakker was initially sentenced to 45 years behind bars, but was paroled after almost five. You can now find him on YouTube, eagerly peddling doomsday “food” slop in buckets and stumping for Donald Trump.

This is an entertaining and disturbing video.

The NRA ad attracted a number of comments from my friends, including one of my conservative cousins (and I have a whole lot of conservative cousins). My cousin Timmy (not his real name) had to chime in on the NRA. Timmy is a dedicated gun owner and gun rights proponent. Despite having been arrested a time or two when he was younger and wilder, he’s very much in favor of the police. And yet, despite all of this bad-assery, my dear cousin will no longer say the word “shit”.

I’m not sure exactly how or why this change came about. I know he used to drink a lot. In fact, he is partly responsible for my very first drunken episode when I was fifteen, because he kept giving me bourbon and Cokes at a family party. I remember getting very sick in my hotel room… It was definitely not my finest hour. But I was a teenager at the time, while he was an adult. I later heard that alcohol had caused Timmy a lot of problems and he had finally sobered up. Now he’s exchanged booze for conservatism, legalism, and religion. And he won’t say “shit” anymore, probably because he thinks it offends God. Instead of “chickenshit”, he says “chickenshot”. Instead of “bullshit”, he says “bullshot”.

I’m not Facebook friends with Timmy anymore, because we had one too many contentious arguments in which he became overbearing, snide, and insulting. It reminded me of dealing with my dad, who would similarly be rude and disrespectful when discussions didn’t go his way. Still, because we’re family, I run across his comments now and again on stuff shared by mutual family members who are also “friends”. I have noticed that he substitutes the word “shot” for “shit” quite often. I wonder why he does it and if he really thinks it makes a difference. Does God really care if you swear? Seems to me like God would have much bigger issues to deal with than someone who says the word “shit”. It’s silly, and it makes it hard for me to take him seriously. But anyway, here’s an example. Timmy told Bill that he’s a “Constitutional Libertarian”. Bill asked him to explain what he meant. This was his first response:

I can only define myself. As Jenny would say “who are you that I must explain who I am or what I believe”. 

Since you took the military service oath it shouldn’t be hard…and as an officer there should be “no gray areas”

Actually, I only said that to Timmy once, and it was after he’d been relentlessly badgering me about some argument we were having. I basically told him that I’m not obligated to explain anything to him just because he says so. Bill’s query was a lot more respectful, as they generally are. To his credit, Timmy recognized that, and wrote this response:

Actually Bill…my answer was chicken shot. Yes I believe in the US Constitution in the “originalism” sense. 

I know it’s next to impossible for it t be applied in that sense…yet it’s what I feel we should strive for. So many years have passed with gross overreaching from representatives and our federal government into our personal liberties. Members of congress could enact Article V… but appear scared to do so. 

You join the ranks of many that ask me to explain what I mean…for crying out loud it’s written in black and white. 

It wasn’t fully applied as written for many years. We’ve made progress to instill those liberties but have much more to make. 

It was snide and childish to respond the way I did earlier. I respect you, your differences, your wife, and the service you embrace for our country.

He eventually annoyed me so much that I posted this photo. His response was, “Very nice! Good thing you have a Masters degree Jenny [sic]”
To which I responded, “I have two of them, Timmy. :)” I don’t think he likes “uppity women” like me.

Later that same day, he decided to chime in on a discussion some of my friends and I were having about a mother who wanted to have her seven year old transgendered child sterilized and save some of her own eggs so that the child could later have children biologically related. He left this comment, basically revealing how he feels about people who adhere to Islam. I don’t think he’s remotely interested in understanding transgendered people and has simplified it to a “perversion” that, at the very least, requires intervention and correction by a psychiatrist. I don’t know much about transgendered people myself, but I do think it’s a real thing and people who are transgendered aren’t necessarily mentally ill anymore than cisgendered people are.

I guess I over simply things when “sorting”. To me the bathroom issue appears to be about “plumbing” and possibly being sexually or physically assaulted. 

The desired “comfort level” while relieving oneself in a public restroom…cannot be reasonably achieved. 

Knowing 20-200 individuals have sat (or stood) on the same toilet seat never comforts me. Not knowing their level of hygiene, nor the frequency of janitorial services…what sex they were doesn’t affect my comfort. 

Surely I’m not the only one who feels this way

When no one responded to that, he left a snide comment about “Sybil”. I guess he was referring to Sybil, who had multiple personalities and was the subject of a book and a movie? I asked him if he had anything of substance to add to the conversation or if he was just there to add snarky comments. He finally backed off… and if I recall correctly, it wasn’t much longer before I kicked him off my page.

Timmy doesn’t mind being snarky, dismissive, and rude when he comments, but he has a big problem with the word “shit”. And I imagine that if he heard the word “fuck” uttered in front of him, he might have a major meltdown. It’s too much to bear. Actually, it kind of makes me chuckle, because my dad was much like that. My dad HATED it when people swore. When he was angry, you might hear him say any manner of hateful things. He’d turn beet red and his veins would pop out. He was legitimately scary when he was like that. But– I never once heard him say the word “fuck”. I think I might have heard him say “shit” once or twice in my lifetime. He would say “damn” or “hell” on occasion, but it wasn’t very often. And he would often lecture me about my language, but y’all know I’m a potty mouth. I cuss a lot. I would rather cuss than become hateful or violent. I have not seen Timmy get violent, but I know he has been that way. He proudly carries firearms and I know he’s been arrested for being drunk and fighting in public. Timmy is also a very short man– even shorter than Bill is (and Bill is only 5’7″). I imagine a lot of this behavior stems from the fact that he’s short, and carrying a gun and being an asshole makes him feel better and more powerful about his lack of stature.

Another one of my cousins shared a laughable meme… laughable especially since the person who posted it didn’t even consult Google Translate when he added German… Behold:

JamesJim Lawrence is not my relative, but my relative shared this. I think Mr. Lawrence should speak only for himself instead of declaring that “most Americans” have disgust for people who take a knee when the National Anthem is being played. Moreover, if the Germans had taken over the United States– minus Hitler, anyway– we might be better off than we are right now. Germany is not doing too badly.

Well, it’s probably a good thing that I live so far away from “home”. I do feel pangs of sadness when I see how close some of my relatives are to each other. I feel kind of jealous when I see how some of my friends are close to their friends and relatives and how all of the “social distancing” has been a real hardship for them. It hasn’t been much of a hardship for me, since I live so far away and I can’t relate to a lot of my family members anymore anyway. They have written me off as a “chicken shot” liberal, even though I definitely don’t agree with all liberal ideas.

I just think that right now, the liberals are much more in touch with reality than the conservatives are, and they have policies that seem more humane. I’m also pissed off that the conservatives cursed us with Donald Trump, who, I’m sorry to say, is the worst president in United States history. Or, at least, that’s my opinion. I will admit I’m not an expert, and I understand that a lot of other presidents reportedly were even worse. But, at least in my lifetime, Trump is the worst by far. He doesn’t even pretend to be a leader. My cousin, Timmy, the self-proclaimed “Constitutional Libertarian”, didn’t even have the cojones to vote for the Libertarian POTUS candidate in 2016. Oddly enough, this liberal “chicken shot” and her husband, did…

Incidentally, I think I could be persuaded to buy some chicken shit… I hear it’s a good way to season your poultry.

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politics, religion, social media

When learning guitar becomes contentious…

A few weeks ago, I bought a guitar. I’ve been wanting to learn how to play guitar for ages now, and since we’ve been locked down, it seemed like a good time to give it an honest try. I say “honest” try because back in the mid 90s, when I lived in Armenia, I bought a used guitar for $30 and tried to learn how to play it. But I only managed a few chords, and then one of the gears on the headstock broke. I was never able to get it repaired, so that little learning project went by the wayside until now.

At this point, I’m just using Fender Play for instruction, although I hope at some point to hire a real time teacher. I’ve made some progress. Changing chords is a bit challenging at this point, but I’m able to eke out songs very slowly and somewhat accurately. I have developed calluses on my left hand, too.

To enhance my study, I joined the Fender Play Community Facebook group. At this writing, the Fender Play Community has 48,879 members in it. In order to join the group, I had to agree to some rules. One of the main ones was not to use profanity, which is sometimes a challenge for me. The rest are pictured here…

Reasonable enough…

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the group. People have been very nice and it’s reassuring to see that other new players are having as much trouble making clean C chords as I am. I’m on the “Folk” path, but since I paid for a year of instruction, I’ll probably continue to other paths once I’m finished with Folk. I just started level 3 today, although my playing is still probably more akin to level 1 or early level 2. People post videos of themselves playing. Sometimes it’s very inspirational.

I’ve also really enjoyed the virtual instructors, who really seem to know their stuff. I even have kind of a crush on a couple of the teachers. Fortunately for them, I’m old, happily married, and living thousands of miles away. But I will admit, I like a couple of the teachers more than others. And one teacher, in particular, is very inspiring. His name is Jen Trani. Jen, short for Jensen, is transgendered and recently underwent a double mastectomy as he transfers from female to male. He’s very talented and encouraging and often does live “office hours” to show off technique. I found a couple of cool YouTube videos about his journey and will add them to the end of this post for those who are interested.

But then today, someone decided to post this…

I have to admit, I’m kind of on the side of those who don’t necessarily want to see a post like this in a group about playing guitar. And fortunately, just after I took these screenshots, the post was removed. It had been up for about an hour. As you can see, a lot of folks were not happy to see it and some people are starting to become kind of ugly.

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve felt really saturated by social media posts about certain topics. We’ve all been hit with post after post about the pandemic, for instance, and the importance of social distancing and wearing masks. I’ve already bitched about that more than a few times. Now, the emphasis is on the terrible issue of racism and police brutality. There have been riots and protests, and lots of people are making their voices heard both literally and on the Internet. I’m all for that. But– there is a time and a place for everything. A group that is devoted to learning guitar is not the place for posts about current events.

I’ve actually enjoyed the Fender Play group because the posts are mostly about learning to play guitar. That’s something fun, challenging, and exciting. It’s positive, and everyone in that group is looking to become better at playing guitar. That is one thing that everyone has in common, and it’s something in which everyone can share solidarity. However, as you can see by the comments above, not everyone is in agreement about the protests. Comments quickly become disparaging, and the mood of the group gets very contentious.

Aside from that, posts about the protests are literally everywhere on Facebook right now, except in groups that are about specific topics. For instance, I run a group about wine and food and we have not been discussing current events in that group, unless it has something to do with food or wine. Makes for a much more peaceful and fun environment, and everyone needs that sometimes. We all need a place where we can escape stress and forget about our problems or issues that affect us.

I’m not sure if a moderator removed the post or the original poster did, but it was gone immediately after I took screen shots. It was starting to heat up, though. I didn’t get all of the posts within it, but people were getting pissed off. It wasn’t the first political post I’d seen in there, either. I guess it just goes to show you the politics are everywhere right now. Everyone wants to talk about the protests and Trump’s ridiculous antics. But some places really should be sacred, otherwise people become jaded and bitter. We all need a rest sometimes.

Anyway… about Jen Trani. He came out as transgendered in 2018. Here are a couple of videos about his transition to becoming a man, and here’s a link to his official Web site. The first time I saw Jen, I was sure he was a “she”. In the videos on Fender, Jen appears to be a woman. Then, when I saw him playing guitar in a live office hours post, it was obvious Jen was transgendered. But I wasn’t sure if Jen was transitioning to female or male. Then I saw the mastectomy scars in a photo and found these videos about the transformation. They’re very interesting, so if this is a topic that intrigues you, I would recommend watching them.

Jen is already very much respected for playing a mean guitar and being a good teacher…
This is a very brave story, though, and I think he deserves a lot of respect for sharing it.

I’ve been enjoying learning how to play guitar, even if I still suck at it. Singing is a lot easier for me than playing instruments is. But I have always regretted not sticking with piano and I’ve been wanting to play guitar for a long time. I’ve even got Bill interested. He’s thinking about picking up a guitar, too. If he does, maybe I’ll learn bass or something.

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love, music, songs

… and cool, fresh, gender roles… My man is no knuckle dragger…

The other day, I was putting together my most recent jigsaw puzzle, listening to whatever Siri will play on the HomePod. For some reason, Siri won’t play specific albums or artists right now. Instead, I get a hodge-podged shuffle of my entire, very eclectic music library. One minute, I’m listening to opera or classic English hymns. The next minute, I hear Led Zeppelin or Rhonda Vincent. I have extremely BROAD musical tastes, and you’ll find a sample of just about everything on my iPod.

A lot of the music I have is classic stuff I grew up with, but I also have a lot of other stuff I download on a whim. Quite a lot of my downloads are what I refer to as “drunken downloads”… meaning I’m a bit lit when I decide to make a purchase. Consequently, I have a LOT of music from obscure artists. I’ll hear something I like and impulse buy. Such was the case on the day I discovered singer-songwriter Dar Williams. Fortunately, Bill doesn’t mind that I do this. In fact, he often appreciates my drunken downloads.

Such a pretty song. This is a live, solo version.

I don’t remember what day it was that I first heard her warm, comforting vocals. What I do remember was that she was singing with Alison Krauss, another singer I admire. I downloaded the song and it would occasionally come up on my shuffle. I’d think about how beautiful the melody was and how she and Alison were blending together.

Then one day, I got lit and downloaded another one of her albums, 2010’s Many Great Companions. I don’t remember why I downloaded it, and in fact, I don’t think I’ve even heard the whole thing. But there I was, a couple of days ago, listening to my HomePod and furiously finishing the 1000 piece puzzle I’d been working on for a couple of months (I had quit working on it for a few weeks). Dar Williams came on Siri, and I heard the incredibly moving song “When I Was a Boy” for the first time. It made me stop in my tracks.

I love this song… it’s deep on so many levels.

This song’s lyrics are incredibly profound to me. I went on YouTube to find a video so I could share it with friends. I noticed a lot of transgendered people had left comments on this video. The song really spoke to them, too, probably in ways I can never fathom. Of course, I am not transgendered myself, but I still really related to this. I was a tomboy as a kid, but later became more girly. I have never wanted to accept strict gender roles, though. I wasn’t one to fall into a specific role simply because I’m a woman, and I don’t necessarily expect that of other people, either.

Two or three days passed. My post got maybe two likes, both by people who like everything regardless. I was delighted this morning to find a comment from Lisa, a wonderful musician friend, who was once my accompanist when I was studying voice and is now herself a piano professor at the university that granted me my bachelor’s degree. She posted that she loves this song, too. It’s funny, because back in the early 90s, we didn’t know each other that well. I always suspected that back in those days, she thought I was obnoxious and weird. Her husband is also a music professor. He plays saxophone brilliantly and taught me sight singing. They are very cool, talented people, but when I saw them on a daily basis, I didn’t get to know them that well. Now that we’re on Facebook, she and I have discovered that we love a lot of the same music. Sometimes, it’s uncanny how close our tastes run.

Anyway, I got so excited that someone else liked Dar Williams that I shared Dar’s video with Bill. By the time the song was over, we were both in tears, profoundly moved by the lyrics, the music, and Dar’s voice. It struck me as pretty awesome that I could sit there at the breakfast table with my husband, play him some music, and share the emotions that came from hearing it. There was something really special about relating to that song with Bill– a sense of solidarity, closeness, and mutual understanding.

There we were, discussing how complex and incredible “When I Was a Boy” is… and sharing tears because we were both so moved by it. It occurred to me how lucky I am on so many levels… to be able to share this with Bill and talk about this and anything else with him over breakfast that he made for me. And that I have so many incredible, wonderful, talented friends who share this joy with me too, even if I was weird and obnoxious… and still am. I often have a bad attitude about things. I get depressed and hopeless, and feel like I haven’t amounted to much… or I write about how some jackass was mean to me because he thinks I’m fat and ugly and my only redeeming quality is a pretty singing voice. But then I have experiences like the one Bill and I shared today, and I realize how fortunate I am.

I am so grateful I married a guy who is in touch with his feminine side and can relate to Dar Williams’ poignant lyrics about how she was “a boy” as a little girl who liked climbing trees, getting in fights, and running around topless. And how, at some point, gender roles are forced upon us. Suddenly, Dar wasn’t tough enough to walk home alone and needed help from a “nice man”, even though she’d cut her teeth on playing with boys and knew how to fight.

Conversely, Bill talked about how men are always expected to be “on”. They aren’t allowed to cry or be emotional, and how so many people think men can’t be abused simply because they are men. They are expected to fix things and solve problems, with no tears and a minimum of fuss. We’ve talked about all of this before, too. The truth is, I have a lot of “male” qualities… it mostly comes out in my language and humor. I’m probably “tougher” in some ways than Bill is, despite his Army officer history. Bill, by contrast, is more of a soft touch. He’s kind, loving, and nurturing in ways I’m not, despite my bleeding heart social work/public health/writer/musician history. I used to cry a lot more than I do now. I can’t do that anymore, for some reason. Bill, on the other hand, can cry with ease.

Life is so strange. I met Bill in a place where one is very unlikely to find a life partner. I certainly never thought I’d meet him offline, and if you’d have asked me if I would have married him back in 1999, I would have laughed incredulously. In fact, the first time he asked to meet me, I was very reluctant and scared. But then it turned out he was this wonderful guy… a wonderful, intelligent, kind, sensitive, ethical guy, who would never hesitate to support me. I thought about the type of men I was exposed to growing up. A lot of them were perfectly decent people, but they would not care about a song like “When I Was a Boy”. They wouldn’t want to discuss current events with me. And they would expect ME to cook the grits. Some of them would not appreciate my greying hair or ample figure. They wouldn’t care about my writing or my music. And they sure as HELL would not cry over a song with me, especially one about gender roles.

I remember when Bill and I were dating. My sisters warned me about marrying a military guy. More than I had, they experienced the military lifestyle as kids. They knew it meant moving a lot, and putting up with some of the obnoxious sexism that can run rampant in military communities. They figured Bill, as an Army officer from Arkansas/Texas/Tennessee (he moved more than I did, and he wasn’t a military brat), would be a “knuckle dragger”. I was warned that I shouldn’t consider marrying Bill because, I guess, they figured I couldn’t choose my own spouse. I am, after all, the youngest of four. It’s true that a lot of their fears about the military lifestyle came to pass.

My planned career, that I worked so hard to train for and spent so much time and money on, went down the toilet. I have also seen a lot of people who fit the description of military guys that they knew, and if I had married one of them, I would probably be divorced today. And marrying a divorced guy with kids, particularly one whose ex wife is as batshit crazy as Bill’s ex is, is certainly a risky endeavor. But looking back on all the years that have so quickly passed, I realize that I could not have custom ordered a better partner for myself. I did just fine in choosing Bill, and I am so very grateful I took the plunge and met him offline… and married him despite all of the well-meaning advice to the contrary that I shouldn’t.

So… I love that man, and I love that we can share Dar Williams, and the emotional tears that came from her incredibly poignant music. I don’t know how it is that I got so lucky finding Bill in a chat room back in 1999. But I’m so glad I did… and I’m so grateful to friends like Lisa, who share a love for the same music, too. I’m also grateful that I went to Longwood University, which was not my first choice school. It was there that I was encouraged to study music, and there that I met Lisa and her husband… and twenty-six years later, I’m still remembered. That is amazing! I must be doing something right.

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true crime

The asshole gene…

This morning, I read a sad news story about a transgendered black woman who was found dead in Dallas, Texas. Muhlaysia Booker, aged 23, was shot and killed in Dallas, yesterday. That would have been sad enough. But Booker was also in the news a month ago, since she was attacked in a parking lot at a Dallas shopping center. Cellphone footage of the parking lot attack made national headlines.

The cellphone footage of the attack last month is absolutely horrifying.

Edward Thomas, 29, the man who attacked Ms. Booker last month, was arrested, and it appears that he had nothing to do with Ms. Booker’s murder. As Thomas was beating Ms. Booker last month, other people in the crowd shouted anti-gay slurs and some other men were kicking her before a group of women helped her escape. Ms. Booker suffered a broken wrist and a concussion and had to be hospitalized. What was the motive for the attack besides hate? A lousy $200. Thomas was offered that much to beat the ever loving shit out of a transgendered woman. Thomas was charged with aggravated assault and serious bodily injury.

Muhlaysia Booker, who was no doubt still recovering from last month’s attack, is now dead. She was only 23 years old and, besides being transgendered, was also black. Of course I didn’t know Ms. Booker, but she obviously didn’t have an easy time of it during her short life. Last year, 26 transgendered people were murdered in the United States; most of them, like Ms. Booker, were black. Not including Ms. Booker, three transgendered people have been killed this year. All were black women who were fatally shot.

This story would be sad enough if I hadn’t read the comments that followed the article. But, dopey me, I just couldn’t resist. I read, with much dismay, ignorant, hateful comments, mostly posted by white men. Behold, the comments by just three white guys:

Notice that this person is more concerned with unborn fetuses than someone who had already been born.
Such civility… not.
This guy was rather persistent, and soon made it clear that he’s a Trump fan…
And sadly, people were wasting their time responding.
Something tells me that if someone referred to this dude with a female pronoun, he would be very “butt hurt” about it. He might even cry.

Notice that one of the commenters brought up how “liberals” are upset over a transgendered black woman being murdered in cold blood, but they aren’t angry about the “murder” of unborn babies. Judging by the sheer disrespect and downright hatred these men have shown toward the deceased Ms. Booker, I am not convinced they care about unborn babies, either. It appears to me that they are disenfranchised, cowardly, little boys who feel emboldened by bullies like Donald Trump.

It’s very hard for me to believe that most of these men are actually “pro-life” so much as they just want to control and enslave other people. Most of them are very immature, ignorant, and completely lacking in compassion and empathy. It’s hard for me to imagine a human– or humane– side of these white guys who are commenting here. They seem to have inherited the “asshole gene”. It looks like the “asshole gene” is very prevalent these days, as uniformed twits show up on comment threads and reveal themselves to everyone with the stench of their hateful views.

I don’t know a whole lot about transgendered people. I have never been exposed to them. I did go to a high school that was somewhat recently in the national news, thanks to a transgendered student who wanted to force school officials to let him use the boys’ restroom. But I graduated in 1990, and he graduated many years after that. I read with much dismay, ignorant and hateful comments from people in the community that I called home for almost 20 years. I still have many friends there and consider it my hometown, even though it’s not where I was born. I know there are many good, decent, kind people there, but I also know that many of the people I thought of in that way would silently cheer on these guys with the “asshole gene”, callously commenting on a tragic story shared by The New York Times.

I don’t understand what difference it makes what gender Ms. Booker identified as. She was a human being who felt great pain in her last weeks of life. People were unspeakably cruel to her, simply because of who she was. Someone felt that it was worth $200 to beat her up in a parking lot, while a pack of rabid, hateful, homophobic men stood by and joined in the fray. Many of these people would have supposedly done anything for Ms. Booker when she was still in her mother’s womb, but they don’t give a shit about her now… and continue to spew vile hatred, even after she’s been gunned down in cold blood.

I’m sure if I met any of the three men whose quotes I’ve highlighted today, they’d probably be alright to talk to face to face. They might even convince me that they’re decent people. They’re probably “Christians”, and they wear the cloak of self-righteousness that comes from identifying as “Christian”. They have no problem forcing an eleven year old rape victim to give birth, since all life is “sacred”. But they also have no problem cheering on the death of a transgendered black woman, who no doubt felt every blow as people attacked her in parking lot. She probably felt the gunshot wound, too.

This being said… Edward Thomas, the man who took $200 to beat up Ms. Booker, is himself a black man. I guess that just goes to show that when it comes to hatred for the transgendered, there is no racial harmony. If you are a transgendered person– particularly if you were born with male parts but identify as female– your life will be in danger. If you also happen to be a person of color, your life will be worth nothing to some people. They’ll kill you simply for being yourself.

There are people out there who think the world would be better if it was like it was in the 1950s. I’ll admit, when I look at television shows and movies from that era, it does look like things were more… “whitewashed”, I guess. I can’t fathom how it must have been to be someone who didn’t fit in, back in those days. Maybe it was a “great” time to be a white person. For other people, I don’t think it was the best of times. As a society, Americans were making some strides into accepting people for who they are. But then, Donald Trump arrived, and hateful people have now been emboldened like the rabid vermin they are, coming out of the woodwork to literally stomp on people like Muhlaysia Booker.

See… this is why I remain very much “pro-choice”. The world is not a kind place, especially for those who aren’t like the “norm”. Every time I see some pro-life activist bring up the “millions of babies murdered in utero”, I think about how a good percentage of those babies might not have really been welcome in this world. The truth is, if you don’t fit neatly into the mold, your life will mean absolutely nothing to a lot of people, anyway. And, as you can see from the comments in The New York Times, many of those so called “pro-life” people are only pro-life when it comes to the unborn. After all, the unborn make no demands on or offenses toward anyone but pregnant women.

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