Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Cruelty is the Whole Point

 No, actually, the cruelty is the whole point.

I often hear friends commenting that some law or act in the news seems so cruel, that the folks responsible somehow do not recognize that they are being cruel and need to be educated.  Alas, my friends are blessed or cursed with empathy, and that makes recognizing some things terribly difficult.

The cruelty behind these actions and laws is really the whole point.  It’s the chosen tool of a large fraction of the population for enforcing their social norms, and they know exactly what they are doing.

If someone is seen as “too different”, or “out of line”, if they make others uncomfortable in some way, then they are seen as failing to fit into their assigned slot in the social hierarchy.

Cruelty is the tool used to correct this.

It may be cruelty applied directly by self-appointed enforcers in the form of harassment, beatings, or killings.  It may be formalized cruelty, denying basic necessities, medical care, policing, and imprisonment or involuntary commitment to an institution.

About a quarter of US adults:

  • Are naturally submissive to authority figures they consider legitimate
  • act aggressively in the name of these authority figures
  • are conventional (ie conformist) in thought and behavior

These are “right-wing authoritarians.”  

“Right-wing” refers to their desire for a rigid hierarchical structure, and dates back to the loyal royalists who gathered in 1789 in the National Constitutive Assembly following the French Revolution, on the right side of the hall.  Those who wanted to reduce the powers of monarchy were on the left wing.

“Authoritarian” refers to favoring strict obedience to authority, particularly in government, at the expense of personal freedom.

The right-wing authoritarian seeks to increase uniformity and minimize diversity, using social control, coercion and the use of group authority to constrain those seen as undesirable.  They are drawn to leaders who are seen as being at the top of a hierarchy, and are themselves believers in rigid social hierarchies. 

Right-wing authoritarians are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold contradictory ideas resulting from compartmentalized thinking. They are also more likely to uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs and they are less likely to acknowledge their own limitations.  Measured against other factors of personality, authoritarians generally score lower on openness to experience and slightly higher on conscientiousness.

They believe they know better than those they see as stepping out of line.  They see the failure to adhere to what they see as the proper social hierarchy, and they will conscientiously work to correct this failure, for what they see as the good of all.  Oh, they almost certainly do not think through the rationale for their behavior in such detail.  If anything, they would consider themselves simply as people addressing a perceived problem, or perhaps as bullies for the greater good.

“One day you’ll thank me for this.”

Or not.

Morning Consult conducted a survey using the Altenmeyer scale for measurement of right-wing authoritarian tendencies.  The findings point to a significant problem growing in the USA.

  • A scale measuring propensity toward right-wing authoritarian tendencies found right-leaning Americans scored higher than their counterparts in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
  • 26% of the U.S. population qualified as highly right-wing authoritarian, Morning Consult research found, twice the share of the No. 2 countries, Canada and Australia. 
  • The beliefs that voter fraud decided the 2020 election, that Capitol rioters were doing more to protect than undermine the government and that masks and vaccines are not pivotal to stopping COVID-19 were similarly prevalent among right-leaning Americans and those that scored high for right-wing authoritarianism.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Call to Worship: Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, March 28

 A Call to Worship for the Transgender Day of Visibility

Welcome!  I am Michelle Paquette, and my pronouns are she/her/hers.

In our Unitarian Universalist faith we teach that we may each participate in a in free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Many of us have been engaged in a search for our personal truths, a personal voyage of discovery.  This search may lead us to uncover deep truths about ourselves, and bring those truths to the surface.

As we find and live our truths, we may change how we identify ourselves, how we present ourselves to others in appearance, role, and identity.   This is a deeply personal act, in which we reveal these deep truths to others, and render ourselves vulnerable to them as part of trying to live our authentic lives. 

We ask of others that they also do something in response to our revelation.  We ask that they honor our worth and dignity, and accept us as we accept them.  

This isn’t always an easy thing to do.

Something I have stumbled over quite a bit in my life is a tendency to commit what I call “acts of assumption.”   My mind tries to match  what I perceive at first glance against cultural templates I’ve been taught over my life, to try and produce conclusions about a person I see before me.

I unconsciously commit these acts of assumption with every person I meet.  If that person then reveals something to me that conflicts with my assumptions about them, there is a bit of an internal conflict.  Which is correct, my assumptions or their revealed truths?

It’s not easy to reveal a deep truth about ourselves, only to have it rejected out of hand with a gesture, a remark, or a misgendering pronoun.

It’s not easy to realize that our assumptions are wrong, that the person we see before us is not who we thought they were, that we have perhaps made an unconscious error.  Still, it is easy to recover from this, learn, reset our assumptions, and move on.  It’s not so easy to have deep truths about ourselves casually rejected, authenticity denied.

In our Unitarian Universalist faith we strive to see the worth and dignity of every person, accept one another, and engage in a in free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  I love this about our faith, and I love the experience that this provides me.  I love being able to enter into a space where I know I can express my deep truths, be my authentic self, and know that I am in the company of others who honor my worth and dignity, and who accept me as I accept them.   Thank you for your gift.

This week, on March 31, we celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility. 

We celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility  in today’s service, which affirms the truth in each of us. As a community, we support each other through each of life’s transformations.  Later in the service, we will hold the Ceremony of Renaming for members of the community who are claiming their identities by living with a new name.

Let’s celebrate our revealed truths today, as we worship together.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

I thought I'd share an update on how our little family is doing.  Laurie, her sister, and I are all living in a "new" 43 year old house in the Portland area.  Initially, after our wedding, Laurie and I were living in her old apartment with her sister while the house was being remodeled.

We are all living in the new house now. We shifted living/sleeping locations soon after the contractor finished remodeling, after a few other little changes were made, and then Laurie finished the huge job of emptying her old 3 bedroom apartment that she and her sister had occupied for a few decades. 

Our contractor had a plumber in for the bathroom work, who we asked to look at our low water flow problem. Throughout the entire house, we had a water flow problem. With no flow, the pressure was quite high, 80 PSI, but when any tap was opened the pressure dropped to something like 15-20 PSI, and the flow was maybe 2 gallons per minute. Running the kitchen faucet while someone was in the shower upstairs pretty much turned the shower into a dribble. This wasn’t really a livable situation yet.

We knew that the shutoff gate valve just outside the house didn’t fully close, and there was a fair chance that it had failed to fully open as well. The plumber replaced that, which let us finish the interior plumbing work with the water fully shut off. It didn’t improve the flow problem, though.

The plumber had mentioned that many homes had pressure regulator “bell valves” on the water line, often buried. If one of these had failed, essentially stuck slightly open, it could cause this problem. We started a hunt for the valve. It would be either by the shutoff at the house, or by the meter at the street. After a good bit of digging we found it at the meter, about 18” down, buried in the dirt.


We had that replaced, but again, there was no improvement. By then the contractor was done with the remodel, so we thanked and paid him. Laurie decided to excavate the line herself to see if we could find some clue as to the problem. As she dug out from the house, she found the copper pipe transition to old PVC plastic line about 5’ out. Additional digging uncovered a 90 degree bend straight down, and about 3 feet down, another elbow and the line headed more or less toward the meter. With the mess of pipe elbows at the street, we had a pretty twisty water line, although not enough to explain the whole low flow problem. With another 30 feet of three foot trench to dig, we thought it was time to call in the pros.


Cornel’s Plumbing agreed to come out and take a look. Alex, the plumber, suggested starting at the meter, opening up the line and checking the flow capacity, and then moving to the house and checking other points until the area with the restriction was found. He rigged a fitting onto the end of the meter, attaching a 50 foot hose. Opening up the meter valve, we had well over 10 gallons per minute out of the hose. Now we knew the problem was on our side of the meter, and not on the city side.

We knew at this point that the flow was poor at the connection to the house, and Alex the plumber had an idea. He took the other end of the hose up to the house, and screwed it onto the hose bib just past the house shutoff valve. Opening the hose valve and street shutoff valve, we had great water flow in the house’s plumbing. He said this lash up with the hose was how they normally supplied water while running a new water line in, but this was only the second time he had seen a home water line blocked in 7 years as a journeyman plumber. The hose lash up told us the water line from the street to the house was where the clog was.

The cost to dig up the old PVC line and find where it was plugged would be high, labor intensive as hand digging was needed to avoid destroying the pipe. It would be much cheaper to put in a new line, better materials, using modern boring technology. We concurred, and he gave us a quote that was much lower than I had expected from doing a little shopping around. So, we bought the replacement installation project.

The crew showed up on time, and went to work. They dove into the crawl space through the hatch in our pantry, scoped out what they needed to do, and started prep. The driller showed up around 11 AM, and set up by the water meter at the street. They started drilling into the gentle slope there, at about the depth of the water line, aiming to miss the other utility lines and tunnel under the house. The plan was to surface the drill head near the pantry crawl space hatch, and install the house shutoff and reducer there, rather than in a vault outside. This would be both more convenient, and avoid any possible frozen pipe issues in the winter. One worker walked along with a special instrument that read out the drill head position, and called out steering instructions to the drill operator. They ran the line over 3 feet deep, past the perimeter foundation, and hit their target. The plumbing crew attached a long length of extremely heavy-duty modern PEX line, and a grounding wire (per code), and this was pulled back through with the drill head. By noon the drill crew was packing up and leaving, and by 2 PM we had a completed new water line in service.

We were ready to move in. With some assistance from a medical supplier, we set up everything for Laurie’s sister, and got her room ready. We would be sleeping in the guest room with my furniture until we got Laurie’s stuff moved from her apartment. We spent a few weeks shifting accommodations, moving boxes and such, and settling in. We thought we had everything in great shape, what with the new roof, new floors, plumbing overhauled, lights working, and a new washer and dryer on the way. We would have a great Christmas in our new home.

Woman plans, Goddess laughs...

The 42 year old Jen-Aire cooktop had other plans. The grill and one burner control failed, and I had the choice of repair or replace in front of me. Replace? There are two downdraft 30” cooktops on the market, and both needed 40 Amp service. We had 30 Amp service installed, which meant that we would have to pull a larger line and install larger breakers. But, the power panel was a Fedeal Electric, which has it’s own issues. Local code would require us to replace the entire panel. The cost of replacing the cooktop was going to be well over $5,000, which wasn’t in the budget.

So, repair. Naturally, the original parts were discontinued about 35 years ago, but there was a suggested replacement. DIscontinued about 20 years ago... The parts are something called an “infinite switch”, the heat regulator for an electric range element. There are so-called “universal” replacements, but they didn’t consider the “unique” wiring of this old cooktop. The cooktop circuitry assumed that the switch internals worked in a certain way, which no modern switch actually does any more, for good reasons. They used their assumption to power up the vent fan whenever the grill was on, bypassing the fan switch. The new switches were wired differently, and resulted in the fan power momentarily being interrupted every few seconds while the grill was on. Even better, if the fan were switched on directly the grill ran at full power, with no temperature control!

Chasing down the internal design of the switches and the wiring of the grill I determined that I needed to disconnect one wire between the fan and the grill proper, and replace the fan switch with a proper double-pole single throw switch, along with the previous replacement of the “infinite switches.” It’s all working now, and the cooktop now largely uses standard parts I can get off the shelf. The fixed cost about $110. While Christmas dinner was cooked entirely in the oven, for New Years Eve we had our cooktop and grill, suitable for some T-bone steaks. Yay!

We’re still slowly unpacking and getting set up. I’m starting to work on proper radio antennas, and Laurie is weeding the backyard using a come-along and some rope rated to 5,600 lbs force (she broke one of her old ropes pulling blackberry vines). Life goes on, and we are enjoying our new home in the “woods.”

Friday, November 20, 2020

“Give me the roses while I live”

There’s an old bluegrass song that comes to mind today.

Wonderful things of folks are said

When they have passed away

Roses adorn their narrow bed

Over the sleeping clay

Yes, we often say wonderful things about the dead.  But, the song continues:

Give me the roses while I live

Trying to cheer me on

Useless are flowers that you give

After the soul is gone

Let us not wait to do good deeds

Till they have passed away

Now is the time to sow good seeds

While here on earth we stay

At least 37 transgender persons that we know of, mostly women of color, have died in violence in the past 12 months in the United States, and hundreds more around the world.  

These persons were killed by friends, partners, lovers, and strangers.  They died from anti-transgender violence, or when their transgender status put them at risk, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.

These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship. They were real people; people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.

These deaths weigh on the trans community every day.  Once a year, we ask you to notice.  We ask for change.  We ask that all lift up Black Trans lives, which will in turn lift up all. And yet we are here again this year.  Say their names...

Dustin Parker

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz

Yampa Méndez Arocho

Scott/Scottlyn Devore

Monika Diamond


Johanna Metzger

Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos

Layla Pelaez Sánchez

Penélope Diaz Ramirez

Nina Pop

Helle Jae O’Regan

Tony McDade

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells

Riah Milton

Jayne Thompson

Selena Reyes-Hernandez

Brian “Egypt” Powers

Brayla Stone

Merci Mack

Shaki Peters

Bree Black

Summer Taylor

Marilyn Cazares

Dior H Ova

Queasha D Hardy

Aja Raquel Rhone-Spears

Lea Rayshon Daye

Kee Sam

Aerrion Burnett

Mia Green

Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas

Felycya Harris

Brooklyn Deshuna

Angel Unique

Yunieski Carey Herrera

Give me the roses while I live

Trying to cheer me on

Useless are flowers that you give

After the soul is gone

Lyrics from “Give me the roses while I live” - The Carter Family

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Me and We; Call to Worship for National Coming Out Day

 Me and We; National Coming Out Day

Call to Worship for the October 11, 2020 service at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church

When we as individuals make choices, we each tend to consider what might be best for ourselves.  This is normal and natural, a way we act to keep ourselves safe.  Something I ask that we consider, though, is how our choices impact others who share our interconnected web of life.

Today we are faced with the consequences of choices made years ago.  As the President said last week; “Elections have consequences.”  Now, years ago, each of us may have been considering our tax situation, our own desires, or perhaps our frustration with The System when we cast our votes.  Those votes have had consequences, however, that have a much broader impact than ourselves.

These consequences are having a profound effect on me, my partner, and many others in my community.  

Today is National Coming Out Day, a day established by LGBTQ activists in order to maintain positivity and celebrate coming out.  Most people think they don't know anyone gay, lesbian, bi, queer, or trans, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out, let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.

There are a few things each person considering coming out really needs to be aware of:

  • You may lose friends and family.
  • You’re going to be OK; You are not always going to feel OK, but you’re going to be OK.
  • If you want to make it, you’re going to have to learn to ask for help.
  • It’s worth it!

When coming out as a transgender person, there are a few additional things to know:

  • A gender transition may be too much to bear even for liberal family members.
  • Should you try hormone replacement therapy… It’s like being a teenager all over again, both good and bad!
  • Your sexuality may shift.

I’d like to disclose that I am a woman who is attracted to other women, and just last week I was honored to be married to Laurie, my life partner, in a ceremony held right here at Mt Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, officiated by our own lead minister.

I am also a woman of transgender experience, forced to live part of my life pretending to be a man to try to avoid the abuse this culture heaps on anyone failing to meet narrow social standards.

Now, y’all know at least one LGBTQ person.

The consequences of the individual choices made by others have a profound impact on me.  In a 4 page opinion issued October 5, two Supreme Court justices referred to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that allowed Laurie and I to be married; “The court has created a problem that only it can fix.”  They explicitly want to invalidate my marriage and are awaiting the appointment of a new justice who shares their opinion, an appointment made and to be approved by elected officials in our government.

Elections have consequences, indeed.

As military veterans, Laurie and I were were happy to learn that on June 30, 2016, Secretary Carter and the Obama administration approved a policy rescinding the decades-old ban on transgender persons serving in the military, after a study found no real reason, no real impact on readiness for maintaining the old ban. 

We were dismayed when the current elected Commander in Chief revoked our ability to serve with a midnight tweet.

Elections have consequences, indeed.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, in a new ruling driven by elected officials, allows homeless shelters to assign individuals to housing based on their sex as assigned at birth.  If I am in a community where shelters operate under this rule, I would be assigned to a mens shelter.  I feel that I would rather sleep rough, on the street, than be placed at risk of violent abuse again.

Elections have consequences, indeed.

When we as individuals make choices, I ask that each of us consider not only our own wishes, but the impact of our choices on:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Let us consider this further today, as we worship together.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Marriage of Michelle Paquette & Laurie Wickwire

We were married on October 3, 2020 in a ceremony held in the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church Sancturary, with a total of 8 people including ourselves present.  Marriage in the time of COVID-19 is a strange experience.  Everyone was masked, and maintaining social distancing.  Contact zones were established for each small social bubble, to ensure no physical contacts outside of very specific controlled items occurred.

We were blessed to have Rev. Leslie Takahashi as our officiant, as well as our coordinator and author of much of our service.  We adapted a bit of the text for our needs, and in recognition of the pandemic denying many of our friends the ability to be present, we added a section to recognize those absent from physical presence.

We were honored to have our fellow UU and singer-songwriter Laura Zucker present to perform three of her songs that felt extraordinarily appropriate for Laurie and I.  Visit her website at, and listen and purchase her songs from Band Camp, at 

We also very much appreciated the witnessing and support of our friends, Linda Russell, Elisabeth Andreason, and Melissa Allen in the service, and the expertise of our MDUUC Music Director Mark Tuning in taking on sound setup and running the A/V deck and live stream. 

    - Laurie & Michelle

Rev. Leslie Takahashi

Witnesses: Linda Russell & Melissa Allen

Opening Music

“Life Wide Open”, from “Life Wide Open”, Laura Zucker

Unity Flowers

Laurie enters the ceremony with red flowers, Michelle with white.  The flowers are both placed in a single vase on a table, mixed together.

Michelle and Laurie place the rings on the table by the vase.

Opening Words

Good afternoon.  To all of you gathered here today, Laurie and Michelle extend a fond welcome and their sincere thanks for sharing this special time with them.  We have come together in spirit not to mark the start of a relationship, but to affirm a bond of love that has already proved its strengthThese pledges grow out of Michelle and Laurie’s love for one another, out of the merging of their lives this love has made possible, and out of their sense of joy in the expanding possibility this love creates.  We come to witness the creation of something about to come into being:  a mutual and true marriage.  

In this ceremonial moment, we are suspended between a beginning and a true unfolding.  And yet, this moment – this mere fragment of time – is filled with meaning and hope.  Laurie and Michelle come to pledge themselves to one another, and to life’s most rewarding and difficult adventure:  that of a life lived in partnership.

In the magic of this moment, warmed by love and lighted by hope, words are too fragile to carry all the meanings we would say...still we know that when this moment is but a memory, it will echo on in our hearts.

Chalice Lighting: Melissa Allen & Elisabeth Andreason

“When I first met her I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days rearranging my mind so there’d be room for her to stay.”

- Nick Carraway in  ‘The Great Gatsby”

Statement of Purpose

Michelle and Laurie, in presenting yourselves here today, you are formally announcing your desire to pledge your love to one another for life.  Each of you has chosen the other as your life’s partner and today you promise to make your love for each other your ongoing choice.  Your faith in this commitment should grow and mature and endure.  No other human ties are more tender, no other vows more sacred than those you now assume.  Do you now choose to enter this sacred union?



Be with us as we gather here today in a space made sacred by the presence of all assembled here, by the love professed here, by the hope burgeoning as the spring around us, and by the connecting and sacred nature of this occasion.  So may it be.

Remembering Those Present in Spirit - Linda Russell

A union of marriage is best created with loving purpose, maintained by abiding good will, and renewed by human intention and commitment.  These intentions and commitments are able to flower over time with the support of family and friends.  As we gather together here to share in the celebration of Laurie and  Michelle’s marriage, we would also like to remember those most dear to us who could not join us today:



Melissa and Jon,

Peggy and Jim,

Tia Anne and Deb, 

Beth, Saha, and Kendra

Jessica Rose and Susan,

Stephanie and Cassandra,


and all of our dear friends scattered and sheltered around the globe.

The care of this community shared with Michelle and Laurie contributes and supports the love that shapes this ceremony.

Declaration of Intention

Michelle and Laurie, you have freely decided to commit yourselves to each other in a close and continuing relationship in which your lives will be intertwined.  In the presence of these witnesses you will exchange your pledge of that commitment, affirming your intention to strengthen and cherish the relationship you are building together, and to find through the sharing of your lives with each other a unity which expands the boundaries of self.


(A brief expression from Rev. Leslie Takahashi)


“You’re The One”, from “Step Ahead”, by Laura Zucker 

Preface to the Vows

The vows through which you accept each other as life partners have no hidden power within themselves.  Only your continued intention and commitment give them meaning.  In the days to come, your commitment to one another will need to be re-expressed in many different ways and reiterated through the coming years.  The expression in today’s vows is of your aspiration and will remain as a goal toward which you will continue to strive.


Laurie/Michelle, I take you to be my life partner from this time onwards;

To shape all that is to come; giving and receiving, speaking and listening, inspiring and responding, cherishing your family as my own.  In all circumstances of our life together, I will be loyal to you with all my being, until life shall end.

Statement on the Symbolism of the Rings

(The minister shall take the rings from the table and while holding them will say:)

These are the rings Michelle and Laurie have chosen.

The giving and receiving of rings has long been a symbolic gesture representing the joining of two lives in loyalty and enduring love.  It is fitting that this symbol, the ring, should be a physical object, which you wear in constant contact with your own body.  In the years to come, these rings will serve as a tangible reminder to you of the presence of your partner in your life.  May your love be as unending and as simply immediate as these two small circles.

Exchange of Rings

(One person will place the ring on the other’s finger and then repeat after the minister the following words.  Then this is repeated by the other person.)

I give you this ring and ask you to accept it and to wear it always as a symbol of our love and union.  

Unity Flowers

(Laurie entered the ceremony with red flowers, Michelle with white.  The flowers were both placed in a single vase.)

When the two of you entered into this ceremony, you did so as two separate individuals.  Symbolic of your uniqueness, each of you brought with her a separate handful of flowers, which were placed into this vase. 

Just as each of the stems in this vase remains its own, so each of you retain your blessed individuality. And still, the gathering of these flowers together in one vase create a strong and unified presence which represents you as a couple.  Just as the stems in this vase mingle to form a bouquet, you will combine your gifts and talents to meet the rewards and challenges of married life.

The Pronouncement of Marriage

With these vows and with this exchange of rings, you have affirmed what your hearts already know – that you two are partnered for life.  You leave this place both more fully all that you each are and also as a committed part of this union.  As life partners, you will journey forward together in love and in strength, Michelle and Laurie, now I ask you, do you recognize yourselves to be married?

Couple:  We do.

Now I ask you, Laurie and Michelle’s gathered family and friends, do you recognize them to be married?


Then I too recognize you to be married and I pronounce you life partners.

Words of Celebration

We rejoice this day in your marriage!  We celebrate the love that has brought you to this moment.  With joy that deepens through many years, may you know its meaning and its mystery – how we become truly one in sharing ourselves with one another and in caring for one another, and yet remain truly two in our uniqueness.

May your house be a place of happiness for all who enter it, a place where the old and the young are renewed in each other’s company, a place for growing, a place for music, a place for laughter.

May no person be alien to your compassion.  May your larger family be the family of all humankind.  And may those who are nearest to you and dearest to you be constantly enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for one another.

Closing Music

“Haven”, from “Say Yes”, by Laura Zucker


“Life Wide Open”, from “Life Wide Open”, Laura Zucker

“You’re The One”, from “Step Ahead”, by Laura Zucker

“Haven”, from “Say Yes”, by Laura Zucker

Video of the Service: