Sunday, October 21, 2018

Welcome for October 21, 2018 at MDUUC

One of the hats I wear in life is being a Worship Associate at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church.  The Worship Associate for a service handles some technical stuff, and also writes a few pieces for each service.  Here is the Welcome I wrote for October 21.  Our subject was Glancing Encounters: How we are touched by our small and random brushes with truths small and large, led by Rev.Takahashi.


Welcome.  I am Michelle Paquette, pronouns she, her, hers.

Small and random brushes with truths large and small seems to describe much of our mental life beyond the clockwork of simply getting through the day.  

There are the truths of simple physics.  Some things can be done, and some cannot.  Objects may be easily moved, or too heavy to lift.  Doors may be locked, or open.  There are the truths of everyday life. It’s safer to cross the street at a crosswalk.  Your car may vanish if you leave it in a ‘No Parking’ zone.

Then, there are the truths other people present to us, and the truths we respond with. These are what fascinate me.

We have evolved with certain survival traits, including trying to recognize threats to ourselves.  When we see other people, we look at their faces, and we proceed to overgeneralize from our evolved mechanism to spot emotional states in others.  We see a kernel of truth in others, and we proceed to layer assumptions and judgements atop this, based on cultural conditioning and life experience.

We are going to have expressions on our face as well.  That expression may very well reflect the assumptions and judgements we have made about someone we have just seen.  Others will see this expression, and, well...

That expression we see on someone’s face may reflect what assumptions and judgements they have made about us, or it may reflect internal issues with that curry they had for lunch.

We really don’t know what truth they may be expressing.  We do see it and commit acts of assumption and judgement, even if invalid.

Maya Angelou wrote:  “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I like that.

Our First Principle is “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  Our reverence and respect for human nature is at the core of our faith.  We carry the potential to do good, the capacity for observation and reason, and the ability to appreciate all that is around us.  We use our gifts in the service of love, justice, healing, and our search for joy.

Our Second Principle seeks justice, equity and compassion in human relations, and our Third Principle asks for acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth.

We can apply these principles to the hard work of examining our assumptions and judgements, and finding ways to improve how we perceive the truths others offer us.  We can identify our overgeneralizations, break down our poor assumptions, and remove inappropriate judgements, all of which interfere with our perceiving and exchanging personal truths with each other.

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think.
  - Maya Angelou

Again.  There’s wisdom there.

Let’s start this work.  Let’s prepare ourselves to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud, as we worship together.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Apple Brown Betty with Rolled Oats

Apple Brown Betty with Rolled Oats

I whipped up a Brown Betty recipe with rolled oats rather than breadcrumbs.  With the right oats this is gluten-free.  The recipe is for a small batch, serving two (or one hungry person).

The dish totals 500 calories, and should serve 2. Serve with milk or ice cream.
Assuming 2 servings:
250 calories; 50g carbs, 7g fats, 2g protein; carbs include 36g sugar

Prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes

1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice
2 pinches ground cloves
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup rolled oats

Baked at 350 degrees F

  1. Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and round cloves
  2. Toss the rolled oats with the melted butter
  3. Grease a small casserole or large ramiken
  4. Layer the apple slices, oats and butter, and the sugar mixture, maybe 3 layers of each
  5. Combine the 1/8 cup of water and lemon juice, and gently pour over the layers
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil, and bake an additional 15 minutes until apple is tender and oats are soft.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Notes on Exclusion, Liberty, and Equality

Just to be crystal clear...

I will *die* fighting for this country and your right to live your own life as you see fit.

I swore an oath to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will continue to honor that oath.

Let us be clear, though.  You do not have a right to tell me that I am not living my life correctly, simply because I do not live the way that you do, or believe in what you believe.  You do not have a right to impose your religious or ideological beliefs on me, nor do you have a right to deny my humanity or my very existence just because your belief system claims I should not exist.  

I am dismayed that political factions have formed around platforms that insist I cannot be permitted to exist, or that others should have the ability to deny my rights because I make them uncomfortable.  I am disturbed to hear religious leaders preaching a message of hatred and intolerance, with a few insisting that I should be murdered.

A politics of exclusion or a faith of hatred have no place in a free and civilized culture that promises liberty equality for all.

Liberty is the value that proclaims that people should be free to think, speak, and act as they choose as long as they do not offend the freedom and rights of others.

Equality is the value that holds that all people must be treated fairly and with dignity and be able to embrace opportunities for education, economic success, political involvement, and a fulfilling life.

These are supposed to be basic values of our society.  There are those who pine for a mythical ‘good old days’ where they would be free to deny liberty and equality to others, to preserve their position of privilege.  I hold these people to be the unwitting domestic enemies of our society, standing in the way of liberty and equality for those less privileged than themselves.

I fight for the rights of the marginalized, with education and the sword of knowledge, trying to break down the barriers of ideology and perverse belief systems that seek to preserve inequality.

I will act to defend myself and others, all of those who are accidentally or deliberately impacted by those seeking to reserve or expands mechanisms of inequality, who seek to suppress liberty.  I understand that there is a fear that as others gain some privilege, that the privileged may lose, but that fear is unfounded.

Privilege is not a zero-sum game.  There is not a finite supply to be hoarded.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Being Your Authentic Self - a collection of quotes

A friend recently sent me a collection of inspirational quotes.  I loved these, and want4ed to share them.
- Michelle

Being Your Authentic Self
 - quotes collected by Stephanie 

The real you does not need fixing. Only the surface layer of you seems to need improvement. Your innate wholeness has never been damaged except in your thoughts. You have been taught that life is a problem, you are defective, and you must face and overcome an endless series of issues and obstacles before you can be enough. None of that is true. You are not a black hole that needs to be filled. You are a light that needs to be shined.
- Alan Cohen

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
- Steve Jobs

Don’t Settle.
- Steve Jobs

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
- Maya Angelou

I do not exist to impress the world. I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy.
- Richard Bach

Don’t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
- Buckminster Fuller

Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.
- Alan Alda

We do not make friends, we recognize them.
- G Henrichs

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
- Walter Winchell

Wonder is remembering and acknowledging the uniqueness of our inner self. Of all the people in the world there is only one of each of us. That is a wonder in itself. And it follows then that not only is each of us wonderful, each of us is a wonder. Situations and events are temporary. Wonder is perpetual. And so are you.
- Gail Pursell Elliott

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.
- Janis Joplin
A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
- John A. Shedd

Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.
- Harvey Fierstein

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
- Judy Garland

Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
- Dr Seuss

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not let anything from your past inhibit you in this Present Moment. Start over. Start Fresh. Each day. Each hour, if it serves you. Heck, each minute. Just get going. Just do it. Just say it. With love. All else will take care of itself.
- Neale Donald Walsch

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don't mind.
- Dr Seuss

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face, and show the world all the love in your heart… You’re gonna find, yes you will, that you’re beautiful as you feel.
- Carole King

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Recognize that to be happy, you must live the life that you truly want to live. It's your life and you are the only one who can truly determine what is right for you.
- The Daily Guru

Don’t be afraid to shed the weight of those who don’t support you. As in aviation, you must add lightness to fly.
- Stephanie Rhapsody Bensinger

We tell lies when we are afraid… afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.
- Tad Williams

You don’t experience anxiety unless you’re attached to a thought that isn’t true for you. It’s that simple.
- Byron Katie

You gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience in which you stop and look fear in the face. You must do the thing you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn't you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn't most of them turn out all right after all?
- Dale Carnegie 

Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.
- Cherrie Moraga

A happy life is one which is in accordance with its own nature.
- Marcus Annaeus Seneca

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
-Steve Jobs

To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. 
-ee cummings

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

- Joseph Campbell

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hey, get my pronouns right!

Getting repeatedly misgendered, even if somehow innocently, at this stage of transition is both a real kick in the teeth, and a nasty reality check. 

Misgendering is the most common microaggression I encounter as a woman who happens to also be a transgender person.  Some practice deliberate misgendering, a not-so-micro bit of aggression.  Others try to some extent to get my gender right, but when distracted, not concentrating on their words, will misgender me, as they internally are thinking of me as something other than my correct gender.
Some people who know of my past are stuck on thinking of me as a man in a dress. I was never a man, although I could fake it well enough to pass after a few decades of work. The world provides some hellish incentives to fake it well and master suppressing ourselves. 

Faking it so long is emotionally and psychologically damaging, of course. I’m healing slowly from that.  It has taken me a very long time to accept myself and move forward with dropping the disguise and being my authentic self. 

When one of us is misgendered, it is a hammer blow, telling us we are failures, not working hard enough, and condemned to this living hell of being seen as something we are not. 

To one of us, that casual “oops” moment has an impact far greater than the intent. 

And no, the “fix” is not for me to “man up” or “grow a pair”.   That is not me. 

All I can do is work even harder at tracking down the last vestiges of “him” and ripping them out, while remaining true to myself and not becoming a caricature.  Others, on the other hand, can excuse callous behavior with a casual “oops” and a hand wave, and continue being casually offensive. 

No big deal, right?  “Sorry if I invalidated your identity, no biggie, I’ll try to not do it again in the next few minutes.”  While thinking “Damn, what does he want?  We put up with him wearing a dress, and didn’t use any of those offensive names for him. We are doing everything possible!”

See, this isn’t really being accepting. First, I am not and never was a man. Yes, this body had some male characteristics, but that didn’t match at all well with what was in my brain, where the primitive bits in the brain-body interface grew to run a female body. I’m a woman who was stuck with a male shell. 

I tried my best to get along in that but the distress from the mismatch became too much. Medically necessary treatments are bringing my body in line with the control systems in my brain.  

Second, I am now legally and medically a woman. My anatomy is typical of a woman post-hysterectomy with cervical closure. My blood chemistry is that of a post-menopausal woman on long term hormone replacement therapy.  My Kaiser card says “Gender: F”. My birth certificate says “Female”. My passport says “Female”. Even the mighty DMV says “SEX F”.

I have gone to a great deal of trouble to comply with this culture’s demands. With all due respect, what is wrong with you who casually call me a man?

Third, the issue of male privilege is something that comes up particularly in women’s spaces. 

When I was faking being a man, I had a passing acquaintance with male privilege. I was at the bottom of the pecking order as a wimpy effeminate introvert. I had to constantly be on guard lest I be caught out as a femme mind in that body, as the retribution would be swift and violent.

I tried to leave the assumption of my minimal male privilege behind as I transitioned to living as my authentic self. I do realize that I had a different experience than natal women growing up, but I do know what it is to be assaulted, harassed based on perceived sexuality, and have experienced “victim blaming” and “boys will be boys” (not me, my attackers) first hand. 

I am me. I am a woman. My path to womanhood is more complex than most, but I am a woman. 

Please don’t casually negate my identity. Please, make the tiniest effort to recognize me. 

Thank you.