It’s that day again, and believe it or not, I’m feeling a bit of–pride?
Before and after of my time in derby.
The night I was recruited:
And a year later:
Anything interesting happen to you on this day, Cassidy?
Why, I’m glad you asked…
7 July, 2014, I headed out to Sterling, NJ, to see a doctor. Actually, I was seeing her for the second time in two weeks because I’d had an initial consultation with her at the end of June. This time I wasn’t going back for a check up, or for another consultation, or to even discuss possible medical options.
I was going there to get a shot.
As many of you know, during May of 2014 I decided to take a big step in my transition and get on the Estradiol train. As Kerry can now tell you, Estradiol is the primary hormone found in that soup known as estrogen and it’s the most powerful of the lot. You start taking that and before you know it, your body starts heading off down Girl Street. And that was where I wanted to head, so the time came that in order to go that way I had to find a doctor. Which I did. In New Jersey.
And three years ago today I received my first injection.
It was really kind of interesting to watch her, my doctor, go through the steps I’d need to follow in order to inject myself in the leg. I watched, I learned, and I sat there while I got the needle in the leg. It was a life changing experience, it really was, and I was in sort of a daze all the way on the two-hour drive back to Harrisburg.
And since some of you don’t remember what I was like back there, here’s a reminder.
Yep, that was me right after I returned home, fraying wig, old glasses, and bushy eyebrows to complete the look. At this point in my life I was still going to work as “that other guy” and the next day I dressed like the person I used to pretend I was and headed off to work.
Only I was a little different. And I’d get more different every day.
Two weeks later I had to return to my doctor’s office for another injection, only this time I was required to do the injection. Which I did. My doctor told me at the time that she expected me to get it right the first time because she knew I would. I’m glad I didn’t let her down.
And that brings me to this point in time. Three years later, I’m pretty happy with myself. I’ve worked on a political campaign, I’ve marched against the Orange Menace, I’ve gotten more left and aware, and I’ve joined roller derby. Oh, and I’m still writing after all these years.
Plus, I certainly look a lot better now than I did three years ago.
I don’t know what’s ahead. Three years from now I’ll be 63 and likely doing much of the same things I’m doing now. Maybe I’ll be published by then–maybe not. Maybe I’ll have competed in a derby game–maybe not. Maybe I won’t even be here–maybe not.
I don’t know: I’m not Deanna so I can’t see the future. All I can do is live from one moment to the next and hope for the best.
And when my fourth anniversary rolls around I’ll talk about it and shoot another picture of myself, just so I know what I look like.
No words of writing today; no words about was edited. ‘Cause a lot went down yesterday, and it involved me doing something I’ve never attempted before–
I went and got political.
Pennsylvania had gone a long time without non-discrimination laws for LGBT people, and the one that people have tried to pass has been sitting in committee for years, being held up from going to the floor of either chamber for a vote. Now, as a state employee I have workplace protections, but away from the Capitol Complex (what we call the area where all the state business is conducted), people could discriminate against me all day and night were housing and public spaces are concerned.
When I received the notice from Equality Pennsylvania to come out and help lobby I had to take some time to figure out if I really wanted to go or not. After all, I’ve always been the sort of person who never got involved. Yes, I’ll help out where finances are concerned and such, but I’ve always been afraid to go out and get involved, mostly because I’m not good with people face-to-face.
But a lot of that has changed since I’ve changed, and the new motto is “Bitches get shit done.” And the time had come to get some stuff done.
First off, presentation. I work for the state, and I like to look professional. So I figured if I was going to meet with politicians I needed to look like I’d just come over from another office to speak with them–which, actually, I was doing. So I got out what I call my “lady armor”: nice blouse, black skirt, hose, heels. Yes, I walked around in heels most of the day inside because, yo, I’m professional.
The new phone came in extra handy yesterday because of the ability to get pictures and upload them to social media, and to stay in touch with people. After one day with a smart phone I’m totally sold.
So about 9:40 I left the office and walked over to the capitol building, which I pass twice a day walking to and from work. Ten minutes later I was ready to enter:
Believe it or not this was my first time inside the capitol, only because I had no reason to ever go here. It’s not as if I do business with these people–I’m just a lowly computer programmer. Not only was I there, but so were a lot of other people. I didn’t realize that there would be other groups there to do tours, and there were a lot of kids getting ready to do that. But I found the people I needed after about five minutes.
Right on time, we started getting into position. A speaker’s podium was set up at the bottom of those stairs, a banner was set up above the podium, and the speeches started. Governor Wolf spoke, as did Representative Brian Sims, the only openly gay politician in either house of the state congress, and the one person who’s worked to get equality measures passed for most of tenure–and, I should point out, the person who spoke at one of my trans support groups back in January, 22015, and helped convince me that I needed to really be myself.
As to where I was? High up on the steps looking down upon the festivities as best I could.
Now I should point out that we weren’t there by the thousands: it was more like a hundred hard-core who showed up for support, and about sixty who stayed behind to lobby. We were later told that a usual number to remain and lobby is about twenty-five, so we hit the jackpot–in a way.
After being inside to rotunda we headed outside, where it was a bit cooler and for sure windier, and that sort of off-set the face we were standing in direct sunlight the whole time. By this time I’ve been standing for about ninety minutes straight and I’m feeling it–and it would be about another hour and fifteen minutes before I could sit. Again we heard speeches, mostly from people who are in organization that support us, and from a few of the Pennsylvania politicians who support the bills in committee.
And where was I?
That picture makes it look as if I’m right next to the podium, but really I was about ten feet/three meters away. But you know me: I gotta stand out.
Also in that picture is someone who’s acquaintance I made. There were actually three people I hung out with most of the day: Celeste and her trans son Alex, and Lexi, who was from outside Harrisburg and had driven in for the event. After the outside speeches we headed back into the capitol building and went to the cafeteria to sit and eat. By this time I was back in my flats so I could give my feet a rest, and Lexi and I got in line to get lunch. (Celeste brought lunch for Alex and her, so they saved the table.)
After lunch came the meeting to help us understand how to lobby people who might be on the fence about helping pass the bills, or who were outright hostile to passage. First, here are the bills in question:
SB 1306–Employment Non-discrimination bill
SB 1307–Housing Non-discrimination bill
SB 1316–Public Spaces Non-discrimination bill
Rep. Sims was with us in the conference room where we met–yes, it was one of those rooms where committees meet to decide what bills to pass–and he explained how this time around the bills were split up into different areas of coverage, so that three different committees would hear them. This way, he explained, the possibility of passage was easier, as there wouldn’t be an opportunity to shut down all non-discrimination legislation at once–which has happened for years with the House bill that covers these things.
His advice was simple: don’t be confrontational; don’t be angry; don’t get into arguments. Be reasonable and understanding, and most of all be polite. Even if someone pisses you off, just smile and thank them for their time, and take out your aggression somewhere later in the day away from the Capitol Complex. Truly all great, sound advice.
Then someone from Equality Pennsylvania got up and told us one of the secrets to lobbying for this bill: tell your story and make it personal. Don’t try and rattle off facts and figures because these people have heard them all: instead, talk about how fear of being fired has kept you from coming out. Talk about how you’re afraid you won’t be able to get an apartment or buy a house and be refused service in a public place because you or your significant other or your children are LGBT. And talk about how passage of these bills will improve their lives and the lives of others.
After a short workshop we lined up to find out who we were supposed to see. We each got a senator and a representative, and, of course, I was out on my own, alone, ready to meet people. However . . . the people in my district were already supporters of the bills in question, so it wasn’t like I had to go bend their arms to get them to vote the right way. For those of us who had supportive reps, the advice was to go to their offices and tell the people there–usually the clerks manning the place–that we were happy that they were on our side, and to thank them for their support, as most of the time all they heard were negative comments. So even if we weren’t fighting to change minds, we were helping to congratulate those who were by our sides.
Now, where did I go?
The senator I needed to see was in the State Capitol East Wing, and the representative I would see had an office in the building in the upper right hand corner, the Irvis Office Building. First up was Sen. Robert Teplitz, who was not in when I visited, but was rather in committee hearing legislation. I passed along my thanks and left.
On the way over to my next meeting I was humming The Ties That Bind, because I was in a good mood, and I like a good song. So a quick musical interlude here–
And then I reached the offices of Rep. Patty Kim, who was also in a committee meeting. I gave my thanks to her clerk and left.
Then it was time to head back to the rotunda and wait for Lexi, who I discovered managed to make it into the committee hearing on SB 1307, the Housing Non-discrimination Bill. I want to point out that walking underground wasn’t a treat, as the corridor floors were these little tiles that were almost like cobblestones, and if you’ve ever tried walking on cobblestones in heels, it’s a real pain. But I didn’t let that deter me, ’cause I was in Warrior Princess Mode and wasn’t about to let something like that get me down.
So back to the rotunda to rest, but mostly to snap a few pictures.
The upshot of all was reported when Lexi showed. She was happy: SB 1307 made it out of committee even though some asshat tried, at the last minute, to add in some HB2-type bullshit, and when that didn’t work, tried to delay the committee vote for a day. That didn’t work, either, and according to a post by Rep. Sims that came after the vote, Sen. Asshat admitted he didn’t even really understand the bill. See? This is the sort of bullshit that goes one with these guys.
After all this we did a check-in with Equality Pennsylvania, waited for Celeste and Alex to show, then went together to get something to eat. After that we all went our separate ways, and it wasn’t until I was home that I realized how tired and sore I was from being on my feet most of the day, proven by the fact I was in bed by ten and slept soundly the entire night.
I don’t know if the other bills will make it out of committee, but the betting is good they will. Attitudes are changing, and politicians in this start are realizing that acting like a bunch of regressive bigots isn’t good for business, which is the logic being used to bring on Republican support for these bills. Will all these bills get passed before the end of the year? We can certainly keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
And if I’m asked again to come and work a few politicians, will I don my lady armor and work for the cause? You know it.
Was there editing last night? Yes, some. I didn’t finish want I wanted to edit, in part because I was tired. Why was I tired? Well, I was out on a walk. Though it’s not the sort of walk you might imagine . . .
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days you’re aware of what happened in Orlando Sunday morning. I’ve felt like I’ve wanted to say something, but since hearing about this I’ve been a bit numb. Externally I got a bit drunk Sunday noon, and yesterday I was sort of like, “Oh, how am I supposed to feel right now?” for most of the day. You know, all the work stuff and whatnot.
But what do you say to something where over a hundred people are killed and wounded? Oh, I know what a few people I know is saying: “Islamic terrorism!” Yeah, right. The more you dig into the shooter’s life, the more you discover he was an abusive husband, a racist, that he had a whackadoodle for a father, and now, the biggest tip in of all, he was a regular at Pulse, he was using gay dating apps on his phone, and he was once so drunk in the club that security tossed his ass out. It sound to me like another self-hating gay man so deep in the closet he sent out mail from the Narnia post office couldn’t take it anymore and snapped.
I’m still a little numb, but I’m getting angry. Why? The last few months have seen a rise in the hate: against immigrants, against people of color, against the LGBT community and the push to legally discriminate against us, and, specifically, against transpeople like me, who have been labeled a danger to anyone who uses a public bathroom. The guy on a FBI watch list who goes out and buys an assault rifle, no, he’s not a problem: me taking a piss in pubic is, it would seem.
I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been spared a lot of hate. Sure, there was the scree left by some assnoggin a few weeks back who was trying to get me to answer him so he could likely spam my comment section with hate–and who got sent right fast to the Memory Hole–but that’s the exception to the rule.
However, I know the stats. I know that I’m twice as likely as a csiwoman to be assaulted, and have a fifty percent greater chance of being murdered. I’m in the group with one of the highest levels of suicide in the country–if I were a transwoman of color I’d be in the highest–and suddenly I find myself among one of the most demonized groups of late. It’s a lot to fall into after two years of transitioning; you give up your man card and put a target on your back.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I was out to a vigil and walk last night. It’s really the first time I’ve done something with the LGBT community other than attend my support meetings, which have because less over time, and in a way it was nice. Sad, so sad, but nice to feel the solidarity. I was there with several hundred people–probably around five hundred, maybe more–and Gov. Wolf was in attendance, as was our physician general Dr. Rachel Levine, who is also a transwoman, and even though my feet and legs were sort from standing for so long, I stuck it out. Because I can.
And after that we walked just under a half mile to one of the main gay nightclubs in the city of Harrisburg and did our thing, which included chanting, cheering, and reaffirming that, yes, we are here, we are queer, and we will not disappear.
Yeah, that’s me on the left in bright blouse and skirt. Right out in front ’cause I wanted to be seen. And that’s probably the biggest contribution I can make: to be out every day just being me. ‘Cause if you see me, you can’t ignore me.
And if you can’t ignore me, then you have to accept me as a person.
Seriously, I was going to have something here for you to read–well, technically, I do have something for you to read and you’re reading it now. But no, I was gonna work on the novel, and even got eighty words into it, before I was massively side tracked–
Last night I was finally attacked online for being trans.
It was really kinda of strange and stupid how it came up, because the troll–and I have no other word for her–rose up from out of nowhere and just started lobbing non sequiturs at me in a thread on Facebook that had nothing to do with anything even remotely LGBTA. She was just like, “You’re not a woman. You don’t know what sex you are,” and then threw in a Caitlyn Jenner jab because of course you have to do that if you wanna keep your Transphobic Card current these days.
I commented back to this person, but in a rather snarky and comical way–at one point she said I didn’t know what my type was, because of dating or some shit, and I told her it was Times New Roman. She’s never tried to engage me directly, because that would require digging into her bag of tricks and actually coming up with something intelligent to say, and we all know that wasn’t gonna happen.
And then, come to discover, someone else in the same group, in another completely unrelated thread, decided to make an ultra snarky comment about me being the only person in the group who tucks “her” penis. First off, how would she know? Does she work for the NSA and she’s Secret Squirreling my ass when I dress in the morning? And second: for the record I don’t bother tucking ’cause there ain’t enough there to make tucking worth my while. The strangest damn things people come up with, I’m tellin’ ya.
A lot of people came to my defense, which was heartening, and I did ask them on a few occasions to keep it classy and not get pulled into the growing whirlpool of ignorant suck. Remember: Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. It’s good advice that’s true in any situation where you’re dealing with slack-jawed mouth breathers.
I’ve expected that sort of thing to happen for a while, and given I’ve been really public on social media of late, I expected the bigots and haters to get their spine up and say something. And it will happen again, of that I’m certain. But so what? As I told this person last night, she sounded a lot like my grandparent telling me “the truth” about minorities, and when they died their took their ignorance with them, and she could expect the same treatment. Not to mention I have friends from various ethnic and religious backgrounds who probably hear far worse shit like that on a daily basis. If that’s the case I’m in good company.
I won’t ever let these people get the best of me because they are wrong: that’s all there is to that deal. Flap those jaws, fool, but don’t expect me to get bent out of shape and start yelling back at you. It won’t ever happen. If there is one thing I’m pleased with it’s who I am as a person–and you, loser, had nothing to do with me getting to this point. By attacking me you’re going straight to the ad hominem, and that means you instantly lose any moral high ground you believed you possessed. As I told this person last night after she accused me of attacking her when I said she was a bigot, “You pushed that button and opened the door: I only kicked it wide open.” Ah, yup.
Tonight I’ll get back to my kids and their instructors, one whom, as an A Level, dragged a girl by her hair from the Dining Hall to the Rotunda to “have a talk” because the dragged girl made the mistake of calling the instructor a racial slur. I would truly love to do that same thing to the haters, but hey, we can’t have everything, right? But I’ll be back to Salem this evening–I promise.
There are crazy things in my life, that’s for certain. One of them is writing, which seemed to take up a bit of my personal time here and there, though you’re going to discover that yesterday wasn’t one of those times. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to write, but . . . well, that’s the whole point of this post, right?
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that it was going to be a busy day. Right in the first paragraph I wrote, “Today I start working on the forms for my name change–“, and that was more true than you can imagine. Probably fifteen minutes after I created that post I went out to the State of Indiana website and found the electronic form I need to fill out my petitions. It’s nice they had that option, otherwise I would have needed to fill out four different forms, eight pages of information, all by hand, before making a copy.
I will tell you, I was more than just a bit nervous: those suckers were rattling around hard, and it was one of those moments when I started printing things out. That’s when you realize you’re about to take another of those “big steps” that will change your life, and changing your name over from what you were given at birth to the name you feel you want to carry with you the rest of your life, that moment starts growing inside, and it scared me. Not that I haven’t been here before, but this . . . another step in the right direction.
Then it was off to the courthouse to do the filing. Went in, walked through security, headed up to the clerk, and had them process my papers. I paid and then headed up to see the judge who would do the actual change–one nice thing that I didn’t know is you get to pick your judge. So I picked to only judge who is a woman, because I felt I’d be more comfortable that way. Got a court date and then it was back down to the clerk to get my forms notarized so everything was official.
This all took about forty-five minutes and ran me $160. I then went home and had lunch before running off to a local paper to run the ad that I need to show I’ve told everyone in the area I’m changing my name–that was $85. So $245 total for something that would have run me over a thousand dollars if I’d gone through a lawyer. Sure, they’ll be the expense of driving back from The Burg for my court date, but I was coming back for Thanksgiving anyway, so no biggie.
The result of all this will come 9 November, 2015, when I stand before a judge and she’ll tell me if she approves my petition or not. The chances are she will, and that means when I walk out of her chambers, I’ll be totally legal name-wise. Since that’s a Monday I can spend the rest of the week getting a new social security card and changing my bank information, and even updating my licence. I’ll get new credit and debit cards. My tax ID info will be updated, and next year, when I file, I’ll have my new name on the forms.
I may even be able to get my gender marker changed at the same time. I’ll work on that info when I see my HRT doctor next week.
It’s all coming together, slowly but surely. And now, the end of this trip is finally coming into view.
It’s all becoming real–
In case you hadn’t heard, something happened to me yesterday. Something . . . well, few things don’t get bigger.
Besides being Imbolc (in some parts of the world, that is) and the celebration of an oversized squirrel somewhere in western Pennsylvania, it was also my coming out day at work. They’ve known about this for three weeks, and from what I’d understood the higher ups had already told their people this was coming, and that people should be ready.
So . . . that said, I’d been waiting, and–no lie–dreading the moment just a little. Waiting for it because something like this only comes around once in your lifetime, and dreading it because it was something that wasn’t quite what you see every day, particularly in an office environment.
Like it or not, it had been affecting me. I had a bit more in the way of nerves than I wanted to admit, and it was affecting my sleeping, my ability to do things correctly, and even my writing, because as I wasn’t sleeping well, then I was coming home and crashing out hard at night, and remaining sleepy throughout the evening.
But this was something that needed to get done, and done it would become.
I didn’t sleep well the night before, which meant I was dragging a bit when I got up yesterday. And up I was at five-fifteen. I tried to write my post the best I could, then checked the weather, looked outside and saw it was a mess, looked over the outfit I was going to wear . . . yeah, everything was ready, so all I had to do was get ready as well. Cleanup, change, put on my makeup–all the good things.
With everything out of the way in my morning routine, it was time to start walking and head into work. I threw on my walking shoes–no way I’m trying to cover a mile in heeled pumps–and headed out into the cold. Along the way I passed three people who greeted me with a “Good Morning”, which is something I never got when I was in male mode. I half expected someone to tell me to smile . . .
Since I’m usually one of the first ones in the office, I just entered an went to my office, which is actually an oversized cubical–sort of like the groundhog, only it doesn’t pretend to predict the weather. I got my jacket off, changed my shoes, and then snapped a picture to prove I really was in the office and not fooling with people.
I got my coffee, stomping all the way to the break room at the other side of the building, because when you wear a size 11 women’s wedge heeled shoe, and the floor is covered without insulated padding between the pull-up carpet squares above and the concrete below, you’re gonna make some noise when you walk. Then it was back to the office cube and another picture.
People came down to see me a few times during the day to tell me they had my back. People who spoke with me that day were kind and curious–and you can’t help but be curious, can you? I wa in a couple of meetings that day, and no one thought it strange. Everyone addressed me by my chosen name after I told them what it was, and I expect that to continue.
In short, by the time I got home last night I was pretty high on myself. I felt great, although I was tired: not getting a lot of sleep the night before took its told, and I was nodding on and off from about eight-thirty on. I had the story ready to go, but there was no way I was going to write anything worthwhile: I was simply too tired.
But I’m better now, and I expect to do some writing when I get home from work tonight. I’ll get right to that after I eat.
There you have it: the tale of a new office lady. One who I believe will be around for while.
A lot of people were gorging themselves on burnt meats and playing with explosives–and in some cases heading to a local ER because of one, the other, or both. Me? I wrote. Nearly two thousand words, split between the morning (which you saw if you read yesterday’s post) and the evening. I know, I have an exciting life.
There was something that came out of yesterday’s scene, and if you notice in the graphic above, you’ll see that another scene was added to Chapter Sixteen. And why is that?
Someone is suffering from Outing Guilt. Allow me to explain . . .
While a lot of strange thing happen in sorcery class–and that’s saying something–trying to control other students with a mixture of your own black magic making tends to bring out things in students. They may go places with their questions where they might not otherwise go. When that happens, things can go to hell in rather sudden fashion.
Which is exactly what happened in the Kerry/Lisa Open Sorcery Cage Match. She thought she has a winning formula and went personal, hoping she was going to either (a) get some juicy, and embarrassing, sexual info, or (b) watch Kerry writhe in pain. That didn’t happen, however, but it did happen to her, and when Kerry took it personal and managed to pull out of Lisa that there could be some girl crushing going on, he hit her with a magical chair and took her down.
Like it or not, he also outed her in front of all the A Levels. Or at least that”s how Kerry sees it in the next scene.
Outing is not fun. I’ve never outed anyone in my life, and now that I’m a member of the LGBT community, I’m well away of the fear associated with getting outed–particularly when I’m presenting as myself everywhere but work. I’m pretty much open and presenting everywhere these days, and I’ve grown comfortable with how people see me. The only time I’ve been outed was when one of my cousins outed me to my sister–someone I almost never speak with–and she decided not to bitch to me about it, but called someone else I’m close to and spent forty-five minutes going on about what an embarrassment I was to my family full of racists, drunks, and the occasional drug addict.
Oh, and that’s taken while I write this, so now you know how I roll when I’m blogging on the weekends.
That’s Kerry’s predicament: he ended up with the excellent proficiencies in sorcery, but he’s feeling terrible about doing something that he wouldn’t normally do to another person–
Welcome to the World of Black Magic, kid.
Sure, some may think it sounds a little too PC for kids to think this way, but it’s not. I picked this up from my daughter, who passed through middle school and will soon start her second year of high school. She has many friends who are LGBT, and takes a dim view on people who out others, so it’s not out of the question for Kerry suffer with this internal struggle.
And the strange thing is, this is gonna play up well with something that happens two novels down the line.
What? You know I’ve always gone there.
No turkey today for me: it’s duck all the way. Not a big eater of the gobbler, but love a duck slow cooked on the grill, so that’s where it’s at today, taking advantage of what will likely be the last 60 degree day for some time. Then eat, rest, computer time–I have some programs I want to check out–then writing.
Back to the NaNo, which is down to its last four chapters, and may inch over sixty thousand words tonight if I’m lucky. The wordage tells me that I may, just may, hit seventy thousand words when this is over, which is a good thing, because that puts it in an area where I can shop it in a lot of places if I go that route.
So all is good there. Just get through the holiday–or as Rocky called it, “Thursday”–and move to the next day, which will not involve shopping. Stick your Black Friday where the sun is non-luminescent: I’ll be here.
This is, so I’m told, the day to give thanks. Okay, thanks. There you go, I’ve done given them. I know what I have thanks for, and what I don’t–
There are a number of people on social media–and you know what social media I’m talking about–who like to put up pictures of stuff from like the 1960’s and ’70’s, and ask, “Hey, Like if you remember this!” or “Like this if you remember how great your childhood was!” or “Like this if you weren’t stoned on heroin by the time you were in college.” Okay, maybe not so much that last one, but you know what I’m talking about.
There always seems to be a rush to some nostalgic time in a person’s life where they talk about how cool it was to run around outside barefoot, or having your parent yell out the backdoor that it was time for dinner, and no one hovered over them while they played. (Oh, and for the meme going around that the people born in the 1950’s and ’60’s were the last to play out in the street: come to my neighborhood. You’ll be surprised.)
One thing you should know about the past: it wasn’t as great as you remembered. There were a lot of interesting things that happened back in them days, but compared to today–naw, I’ll stay in the future.
Sure, you had hand cranked kitchen appliances, and rotary phones, and maybe a TV that was the size of a Buick–but the chances are also good that you probably grew up for a while without air conditioning (as I did), and if you lived in any part of the country that had brutal summers (in other words, everywhere), there were probably more than a few times when you couldn’t get to sleep because it was 80 degrees outside, and the humidity was 85 percent, and there wasn’t a breeze in sight, so you laid there and suffered, hoping you passed out from exhaustion very, very soon.
It wasn’t always easy to make a long distance call; I can still remember my mother having to get an operator if she wanted to call her parents in Florida, because those long distant direct dial systems weren’t always working. And if you wanted to call someone overseas, you usually went through an operator, and then your call was routed through an undersea cable–as happened with the first international call I made in 1989. The echo was fantastic, let me tell you. These days, I can pretty much call seventy percent of the world while I’m driving down the road if I know the number.
As for that huge TV: three networks, plus a couple of local shows if you happened to live near a city big enough to support them. For the longest time in the Chicago area, it was CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, WTTW, and WFLD–or, Channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 32. You watched what they gave you, and you were happy–mostly. And none of those stations ran twenty four hours; leave any station on long enough, and that damn Star Spangled Banner was gonna blast you awake at some point.
Oh, sure: go ahead and bitch about there being nothing on TV, but I can get my favorite shows out of the UK six hours after they were broadcast there–or faster, if I hop on my computer and look for an upload of the episode. If you can’t find something to watch across eight hundred channels, you’re not trying.
Speaking of computes . . . when I was growing up, they were either something you saw in science fiction, or they filled a room and pumped out enough heat to cook today’s dinner. When I went to school to get my degree in computers, I was on of the first lab techs to rule the roost when we got out own computer–an IBM Series-1. We had the Model 3, with 32 kilobytes of memory to run our COBOL and RPG programs. Yeah, you heard me: 32k of memory. Kept that a year, then moved up to an IBM System 34, with 64 kilobytes of memory, 128 megabytes of hard drive storage, and enough tools to make your programming experience a sweet one. Yeah, baby: we were cookin’ with gas!
Today I fire up my laptop, connect to my wireless router, and I’m working here, in the cloud–from whence this blog post cometh–and chatting with people all over the world. I can take it with me and work just about anywhere. I have access to as much information and as many cat pictures as I can handle, and if I want to see what the city I’m writing about looks like, I can call it up on a map and get ideas for a story–as I’m doing with my NaNo Novel this year.
Science and medicine . . . if you forget for a moment that you might not be able to pay for treatment, if you can, you’ll probably beat most most stuff that’s out to get you. As a child I was often afflicted with parasites of the lower intestine, and it wasn’t pleasant. My daughter has never had to worry about that. Most of the time you can get something to help you with illness by going to the story and buying it over the counter. If you have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or depression, you can get something to help with that.
When I was a kid, if you had something with one of your organs, you were gone. Today, we have transplants. I was still getting tuberculosis tests until the fourth grade, and since I always came up with a false positive, I’d have to go off and have a chest x-ray, just to be sure that my lungs weren’t bleeding out on me. My daughter only knows of these things through school–the same with polio and smallpox. We haven’t figured out how to cure everything these days, but in the 1960’s, a lot of things that could kill you back then are only bad memories today.
I am a huge geek when it comes to space, and the 1960’s was a good time to be alive if you followed anything in orbit. But I also remember reading in school science books that, as far as anyone knew, it was possible there were canals on Mars, and those clouds covering Venus could hide a huge, planet-wide jungle filled with dinosaurs! Then the Mariner space probes came along and spoiled it all . . .
Or did they? We know that Venus is about as strange a world as they come, where the heat will kill ya if the air pressure didn’t–we won’t mention the acid rain. And while Mars doesn’t have canals, there are cannons as big as the U.S., old volcanoes that rise twenty-seven kilometers above the plains upon which it sits, And huge depressions that were likely sea beds at one time. It is, for me, a world of wonder–
As are the other planets–and smaller bodies, too–in the solar system. We’ve visited every planet and taken pictures of them and their moons, we’ve sent probes to comets and asteroids, and in a few years we’ll have our first look look at Pluto. We’re discovering planets around other stars, sometimes with the help of amateurs who are given access to data collected by the larger scopes, or by data from orbiting satellites–or even using their own equipment. To paraphrase a line from Goodfellas, “It’s a glorious time to look at the cosmos.”
Believe it or not, there are a lot of things that are far better for people in terms of how things are done socially these days, than they were when I was a kid. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was hard to vote in some places if you were black; if you were a woman, getting an abortion or contraceptives were difficult, impossible, or illegal. Some states didn’t allow people of different ethnicities to marry. And if you were LGBT, you damn well had better stay in that closet–or else.
It’s not quite perfect, mostly because you’ve still got idiots roaming about who are scared of all the the stuff in that last paragraph, but it’s getting there. Just about anyone can get married regardless skin color, and people are becoming far cooling with gays being allowed the same. It’s going to happen everywhere, and in time the anti-marriage equality people will be a bad memory, just as were the people against people of different ethnicities getting married.
LGBT people are becoming far more a part of life than they ever were “back in my day”. Neil Patrick Harris is pretty much a household name; Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow are all over TV; George Takei . . . oh, myyyyyyyy. Enough said.
It’s not a perfect world for LGBT, but it’s a hell of a lot better than things were before Stonewall. How many people my age remember Rock Hudson’s life, spelled out in the same fashion as Neil Patrick Harris’? No, you don’t. People didn’t know about his life, because coming out as a gay man, in the 1960’s, would have destroyed him as an actor. We don’t remember much of his life: we only remember his death.
I don’t look back. For me, there were a lot of interesting things that happened, too many to recount, so many that shaped me. But I’ll never post something like the picture of a cassette tape and say, “Remember these? Like them if they remind you of a better time!”, because all I remember was when the damn things were eaten by your tape player, turning Benny and the Jets or Bohemian Rhapsody into some gibbering, fever dream creature straight outta Lovecraft, and your normal reaction was to curse loudly, eject the sucker, and toss it in a bin or, as I often did, out the window of your car as you cruised down the highway going sixty.
Forward, I say. Let the past collect dust, and keep it there to use as a reference–but don’t kid yourself that it was super fantastic adventure time . . .
That’s coming on in twenty minutes. And if you’re busy on the computer, DVR it.
We can do those things today, you know?