Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jury Duty

Last year I served on the grand jury.  For those who don’t know the difference – when most people think “jury duty”, they imagine getting sequestered for a couple of weeks while attending a single, drawn-out trial.  But the grand jury simply decides which cases go to trial at all.  We would hear about 30 cases a day, over the course of a few hours.  We didn't decide guilt or innocence, just whether or not there was enough evidence that a crime really happened.  The vast majority of the cases we heard did go to trial, but there were a few that we ruled would have been a waste of the court’s time.

I can’t talk about any specific cases.  Well, technically I probably can, as any cases I heard are likely public record by now.  But I’d rather not risk it.  More generally, I saw a lot of examples of just how evil people can be to each other.   Some of the crimes were funny, in a “world’s dumbest criminals” kind of way, but most of them were depressing.  I saw cases of theft, forgery, domestic violence, gang activity, murder, rape, child abuse, and so on.

We also went on a few field trips, and had a few guest speakers.  In order to help us understand just where we’re sending people, we visited a prison.  In order to understand how hard an officer’s job really is, we tried a “Shoot/Don’t Shoot” field training program.  We also got to watch K-9 training, tried on goggles that simulated being drunk, got to meet Nashville mayor Megan Barry, and even rode a helicopter around Nashville. 

The prison was pretty scary.  After going through several checkpoints where we had to surrender all personal items including phones, wallets, and even belts, we visited the building where they kept those who are in for life.  We got to go into a typical cell, which was small and efficient.  One of the inmates (in for murder) spoke to us for a while about his experiences in prison, mostly complaining about how bad the food is.  Then we got to see death row, and we were even allowed to sit in the electric chair. 

I was on the fence about that last one.  Before I sat down, I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons.  I didn’t want to be one of those callous jerks who makes light of such a serious machine.  I’m not a fan of the death penalty, and sitting in that chair almost feels like an endorsement of the process.  I finally decided to do it because it was probably my only chance ever to do so.  Maybe someday I’ll be glad I had the experience, maybe I’ll even write a story from a condemned inmate’s point of view.  So I made sure to note everything about the room, how the chair felt, and any other details I might want to remember later.

The “Shoot/Don’t Shoot” program was an eye-opener.  They give you a gun or taser, both of which were originally actual weapons that had been converted into harmless training weapons.  Then they show you a first person video of a dangerous situation an officer might face.  These videos had points at which they could branch into separate videos, like those old laserdisc light gun games (“Mad Dog McCree” for instance). 

For example, there was one where you go into a warehouse at night, and encounter a guy who shouldn’t be there.  He’s standing behind a table with a box on it, keeping his right hand behind the box.  He attempts to explain why he’s there, but he’s just talking to keep your attention of his hand.  Then he suddenly pulls his gun-wielding hand out from behind the box and shoots you… sometimes.  Other times it’s the same video, but he pulls out a stapler instead.  Less than half a second passes between the time you can see the gun, and the time he shoots you.  That’s how quickly you have to decide whether to shoot.  Too slow?  You’re dead.  Bad aim?  You’re dead.  Guess wrong?  You’re a murderer.

It really makes you think about how dangerous it is to be an officer, and you find yourself a little more sympathetic towards officers who have accidentally killed innocent people.  It doesn’t excuse a lot of the cases, but at the very least stepping into an officer’s shoes is enlightening.  And, I hate to say it, but it’s fun.  If they released that program as a video game, I’d buy it.

Nashville by Helicopter
The helicopter ride was my favorite part.  I had never ridden a copter before, and I really enjoyed seeing Nashville from that angle.  The copter was open on the sides, so the only thing keeping me in was the harness.  I was allowed to take pictures as long as I used the wrist strap – dropping a camera from that height could be deadly.  This was easily the high point of jury duty, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity.

All in all, I’m glad I was able to serve on the grand jury.  It was emotionally taxing and I don’t like being too familiar with the dark side of Nashville, but it’s something that has to be done.  I even hope I get the chance to do it again someday… but maybe not for a couple of decades.

Friday, August 12, 2016


I'm on Jury Duty right now - I can't talk much about individual cases, but I am allowed to talk about the job itself.  I'm on the Grand Jury, and we don't declare guilt or innocence, we just decide which cases go to trial. In an effort to make us understand the laws and police procedure better, we've been taking a few field trips.  So far I've watched them training the K9 dogs, I got to ride a helicopter, and I visited a maximum security prison.

Being in Nashville, my fellow jurors are mostly conservative.  They have a dim view of prisoners, and some of them complained about the few perks the prisoners got.  At the prison they mentioned how terrible the food is, and I heard at least one juror mutter that it was better than they deserve.  And so on.

In general, the public seems to agree with them.  For years I've seen Facebook posts praising Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who got famous for making sure his prison was the roughest one ever.  Look, I don't think prisons should be pleasure cruises either.  However, there is a huge difference between punishment and torture.

When someone says "prisoner", most people visualize the worst kind of serial murderers, rapists, and child molesters. But people are in there for all sorts of reasons. Some are serving 1-year terms for minor crimes. Some have been convicted of things that many Americans don't believe should be crimes. With such a large percentage of Americans lobbying for the legalization of Marijuana, is it fair that some guy who's only crime was possession, be given the same punishment as a murderer? Should he really be doing heavy labor in 138 degree weather, and eating spoiled bologna?

The punishment should fit the crime. And yet all of Arpaio's prisoners, who have committed different crimes, are getting the worst punishments available. One problem is that words like "prisoner" and "criminal" make most people think of rapists and murderers. But is there anyone in this country who hasn't broken a law at some point in their lives?  That's what bugs me most - I have friends who I have witnessed doing illegal things, complaining that prisoners have access to TV.  It's like they don't mind if someone's a criminal, as long as they don't get caught.

The general public needs to realize the difference between punishment and revenge. The ultimate goal is rehabilitation. But harsh prison sentences often serve only to make these people harsher criminals. If a prisoner seems beyond rehabilitation, fine, keep him in there longer, if only to keep him away from the rest of society. But don't piss him off for 10 years and then let him back on the street.

There's two kinds of people in the world. The first kind says, "It's better if a few guilty people go free than to risk wrongly punishing someone innocent." The second kind says, "It's better if a few innocent people get punished than to risk any guilty people going free." I'm the first kind, most people seem to be the second kind.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Double Standards

I'm just tired of being held to male standards.  If I say something that hurts my wife's feelings, it's my fault.  But if she says something that hurts my feelings, it's also my fault, because I'm being too sensitive.  Would she say that to a woman?  I don't know.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

And The Bathroom Debate Continues

And now the same friend (see earlier blog) posted this:

Your 12 year old daughter goes to the bathroom at the restaurant by herself. Your daughter doesn't return for a bit and you go to check on her and hear her crying in a bathroom stall. She runs to you and says a man just touched her privates. You call the police and they come to investigate.
Just outside the bathroom is security cameras that records everyone coming and going from the Restrooms.
(Cameras aren't allowed inside the bathrooms) duh!!
Your daughter enters the bathroom and just behind her enters what according to the camera appears to be a man. The man is identified later in the investigation and is interviewed by police but says he is transgender and he was just using the bathroom and the little girl is lying.
If people of both sexes are able to enter the bathroom of their choice the little girls statement holds no credibility.
"Her word against his"
Now with the "Bathroom Law" in place, preventing a person of the opposite biological sex from entering the bathroom of their choice the little girls statement is credible and the offender has to explain why he entered a women's restroom when knowing it was against the law. This is maybe the evidence that helps convict the defendant or maybe the only evidence.
Now does this help the liberals understand!!!!!!
It's not about discrimination folks.

Actually, in the scenario above, I seriously doubt the creep saying he was transgender would help his case at all. Nobody's just going to take his word for it.  At the very least I'm sure they would ask for further evidence that he was transgender.  People don't just wake up one day, say "I'm transgender!" and start using women's restroom.  Myself, I have public blogs going back 10 years that discuss my gender issues.  I have friends who can corroborate that I'm transgender.  I've seen four therapists,  who presumably kept records.  I have photos of me en femme, a box full of women's clothing in my size, and so on.  

As I said in the last blog, women molest children too.  And men usually molest girls in other places besides public restrooms  So I'm not sure how many people this law would actually protect.  Meanwhile these laws will harm many, many trans people in all stages of transition.

These bathroom bills are evil, period.  They put trans lives in danger, they treat trans people like criminals, and they don't actually protect the ciswomen they're trying to protect.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Only Time Will Tell

Time is too nebulous a concept for me to grasp sometimes.  I have no idea what happened 10 or 20 years ago, and so I anchor everything to where I lived or worked when such-and-such happened.  I have to check IMDB to remember how old my cat is, because we bought her the same day we saw the fourth “Die Hard” movie.  I've been in my current job for 16 years, and it amazes me how far we've come in that time.  When I started working here, everyone had dial-up internet, and cell phones were just starting to become common.  I remember the first year I worked here, the CEO declaring "no cell phones in the building" because he felt they were a distraction.  He'd never get away with that today, now that they're so ubiquitous.

New technology tends to make the old ways look barbaric within a few decades.  Look at all the memes making fun of cassette tapes and floppy disks, and that’s fairly recent technology in the grand scheme of things.  Once we've all had self-driving cars for 20 years, we'll look back and say, "People used to operate cars by hand?  How unsafe!"  Once we invent a healthy lab-grown meat that tastes good, and use it for a couple of decades, we'll wonder how we ever were so backwards as to slaughter living creatures.  The “I, Robot” movie jokes about how dangerous gasoline is going to seem someday.  Heck, if we all switched to Velcro shoes for a few years, laces would look absolutely antiquated.

Meanwhile, social progress just keeps going back and forth, ebbing and flowing like the tides.  If you keep looking to the past, you'll find eras where people were open-minded, then strict, then back again.  In some ways, homosexual activity was more acceptable in ancient Rome than it was 30 years ago.  As much as I like to see things change for the better in my lifetime, it's bittersweet because I know it's not permanent.  Maybe it'll be 100 years, maybe 1000, but gay marriage will eventually be illegal again.  Technological advancements are permanent, but social advancements have an expiration date.

So whenever I hear someone say they’re voting a certain way “for future generations,” I get a little skeptical.  It’s up to those future generations whether something stays a law, and all it takes is a resurgence of certain attitudes for society to take large steps backward.  At best, we can only vote to make things better for the next generation, and try to raise them in such a way that they continue to pay it forward to future generations.  But other people are having children too, and their backwards attitudes are also getting passed on.  Social justice is a war that can never be won by either side.

This feels like a lengthy introduction to a blog on a more specific subject, but really I'm just babbling.  Have a nice day!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

More on Bathrooms

A friend reposted this on Facebook:

"I DESERVE A CHOICE TOO! If people want a choice create Three! Everyone deserves a choice. There are way to many sexual Predators in this world to allow someone to Say they "identify" so they can use The female or The Male Restroom. There are creepy men and women in this world and if all a Predator has to do is look or Identify as the opposite sex to be in a private area then we have problems. I'm just saying create a safe area for all. Don't take away my rights by giving someone else a right."

Where to begin, where to begin...  I guess I'll ignore the "to/too" spelling error and all the random capitalization, but don't think it escaped my notice.

Okay, first off, I'd be overjoyed if there were always a third restroom open to all genders.  There are many reasons those can be useful, not just for trans people.  It's not a particularly new idea, I've already heard of some trans people using the "Family" restrooms available at some businesses.  Just relabel the Family restrooms as "Unisex", you have a nice alternative for those who can't decide which restroom to use.  That said, actually requiring trans people to use them is a bit reminiscent of the old "Separate but Equal" laws, and it sends the demeaning message that trans women/men aren't "real" women/men.  But it's nice to have it as an option.

But realistically, you're just not going to get every business out there to build a third restroom. Some buildings don't have the room, and some small businesses don't have the money for the construction.  Going forward I hope new buildings are designed with this in mind, but until then we will often have to work with just the two choices.

I know the author means well, but her statement contains so many unintentional insults that I'm having trouble keeping myself from really going off.  Putting "identify" in quotation marks is a red flag, it shows she doesn't take trans issues seriously.

I think this sentence is the root of it: "all a predator has to do is look or identify as the opposite sex to be in a private area..." That's actually two very different statements - "look" and "identify" are vastly different things - so I'm going to break it up into two versions.

First we have, "all a predator has to do is look... as the opposite sex to be in a private area".  So maybe it's not trans people that worry the author, it's the possibility of cis men pretending to be trans so they can sneak into restrooms.  Of course, they can disguise themselves already, with or without a law.  If cisgender people are going to disguise themselves as the opposite sex to sneak into restrooms for sexual assaults (and I'd like to see a cite that this actually happens with any regularity), then they'll still do so.  People planning a sexual assault probably won't be deterred by a law.

But I guess not every man is feminine enough to pull off such a disguise, so those men will just say, "I'm transgender!" so they can still go into the bathroom and assault women.  Who are they going to say this to?  Is it wise to have such a visible disguise when you're planning something as secretive as a sexual assault?  And what about manly-looking cis women?  Not every woman looks like a supermodel; is someone going to be checking the doors to make sure the more burly women are truly female?

But the second version of that sentence is the one I find insulting.  "all a predator has to do is... identify as the opposite sex to be in a private area."  I guess the author is worried about trans people after all.  Trans advocates argue that there are no reported cases of trans people harassing people in bathrooms.  If they actually identify as the opposite sex (which is the point of all this), then they probably aren't a predator.  A transwoman using a women's restroom is there for the same reason as the cis women. 

But the phrasing of that sentence is infuriating.  "All they have to do is identify", oh is that all?  What an idiot I've been!  Of course all my trans issues have been about wanting to use women's restrooms, and all I had to do was identify as a woman in order to get in there!  It was a cunning plan, involving four decades of psychological trickery to morph my inner psyche so that I'd identify as the opposite gender, all so I could be rewarded with using the toilets in the women's room.  Imagine my disappointment when I finally got in there and discovered the women's commodes were identical to the men's.  There was no magic unicorn spigot dispensing gold coins as I'd always believed.  I'm starting to think it wasn't worth it.

Has the author considered the fact that sexual predators come in both sexes, and target victims of both sexes?  There are already adult men who molest young boys, how do we protect the male children?  Should men not be allowed in the men's room?  There are also female pedophiles, how do you know that the woman in the stall next to your daughter isn't planning to kidnap her?  And what about lesbians?  They're attracted to women, and can legally use women's restrooms.  Aren't you afraid they'll sexually assault other women?  Looks like there's all kinds of checks we're going to have to do before we let people use the restroom.

As I've said before, I'm not comfortable in public restrooms.  I can definitely relate to those who get nervous by the presence of others.  If a woman has trouble peeing in a stall next to someone she perceives as a man in a dress, I sympathize.  But that "man in a dress" most likely agonized over which restroom to use.  She (and I do mean "she") might have held it in as long as she could, knowing that picking the wrong door could get her beaten up or arrested.  She probably even considered going home early, sacrificing the rest of her night out in order to relieve her bladder in the safety of her own home.  For someone like that, a third restroom would be a godsend.

But a lot of trans people are farther along than that.  Those who are late in their transition are no longer questioning.  They are who they feel they are, period.  You may have a transwoman who has spent years transitioning, and looks female, dresses female, and is never questioned.  Maybe she still has male genitalia, but you'd never know unless you saw her naked, and that's none of your business anyway.  It's ridiculous to say this woman should use the men's room based on her birth certificate.  You think you're uncomfortable peeing next to a "man in a dress"?  Don't you think the men feel a little uncomfortable when this obvious woman walks into their restroom?  Won't the women be a little uncomfortable when a fully transitioned female-to-male uses the women's room?

Yes, there's two sides to this, I get that.  On the one hand, we have trans people wanting to feel safe.  On the other hand, we have cis women wanting to feel safe.  Since cis women outnumber trans women, I can see the logic in giving them the priority.  But how likely is each scenario?  A trans woman, fully decked out en femme, could get killed going into the men's room.  "Trans panic" assaults are so depressingly common that a lot of trans folk are afraid to leave the house.  Meanwhile, the "guy pretends to be transgender to assault women in the restroom" scenario is much less common, if it happens at all.

Okay, but the author isn't necessarily saying it happens a lot right now, she's saying that it might start happening, now that the public knows that claiming to be transgender is an option.  In other words, "We have to make this activity illegal, because some people might take advantage of it to commit a crime."  Let's apply that logic to any other legal activity.   "We have to make driving illegal because some people might use their cars to run over people."  Well guess what, people do use their cars to run over people, a lot more often than people put on dresses to assault women in restrooms.  Yet driving is still legal.

Here's a little secret:  I hate guns.  I wish people didn't have them.  I think the world would be better without them.  Yet, out of 500+ blog posts, you haven't seen me talk about making guns illegal.  Why is that, I wonder?  Maybe because I don't believe we should punish the majority of law abiding citizens over the actions of a few criminals.  Other people's rights don't always benefit you - sometimes their rights even scare you - but they still deserve those rights.

And transgender people deserve to use whichever restroom makes them feel safe and comfortable.  Period.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Clocked - The Honesty of a Child

Being a part of any new group often requires learning a lot of new terminology.  You get on a trans-related board for more than a few minutes, and you'll see people toss around words like MTF, clocked, TERF, deadname, cisgender, dysphoria, stealth, passing, genderqueer, misgender, etc.  Most of them you'll figure out through context.  Some are inflammatory and can incite anger if you misuse them.

I'm not very active in the trans community, so I tend to learn these terms slowly.  I just recently came across the term "clocked", and at first I mistook it to mean the person got punched.  As it turns out, it means they didn't "pass".  In other words, they were recognized as their birth sex instead of the gender they were attempting to present.  Which, to be fair, can feel a lot like being punched.

Back in 2007, I dressed en femme to Nashville Pride in Centennial Park.  I hadn't dressed out very much, and I was very nervous about going out in public that way.  But Pride seemed like one of the safest places to do so.  Now when I say "safe", I don't just mean I was worried about getting physically attacked (though it is a genuine fear), I also mean psychologically safe.  Pride is a such an accepting, celebratory atmosphere that I thought I could handle it.

I wore a red-ish wig, which isn't a good color for me, but I liked it and this was a special occasion.  I shaved my legs, wore a skirt, a girdle, blouse, and a lightly stuffed bra.  I still wish I looked more feminine, but I loved how the outfit felt.  It felt like me.  It felt like coming home.

We parked as close as we could to the festival, but it was still a good walk across the park.  On the way there, I passed several park-goers who weren't there for the festival.  I could feel them staring at me.  Whether they really were, who knows.  But one thing I didn't imagine - I heard a child ask her mother, "Why's he dressed like that?"  The parent replied, "Don't stare at him, honey."  There weren't any other people around they could have been talking about.  I'd been clocked by a child.

So my true self looks like a disguise, a disguise so bad a child could see through it.  I didn't see how old the girl was, but she sounded young enough to believe in Santa Claus.  A kid that young will believe that's the real Goofy at Disneyland, but a man in a dress breaks her suspension of disbelief.  I think that says something about our society, and how early we push gender roles on our kids.

That incident was like a slow acting poison.  The moment it happened I was hurt, but I let it go because it was a fun day and there was a lot to see and do.  But ever since then, it's one of those things I keep remembering over and over.  It is easily the strongest memory I have of that day.  I can't fault the kid - it's their job to ask questions, and learn about the world.  I bear no ill will toward the mother, who was likely caught off guard and didn't know what to say.  There's no villains here.  There's just me and my issues, my lack of self esteem, my disconnect between mind and body, and my inability to let little things go.

It makes me feel better to wear dresses.  But it makes me feel worse to get stared at.  My fears of being clocked outweigh the benefits I feel from dressing out.  And that's why I don't.