Friday, February 23, 2018

Old West Gun Control and the Classroom Sheriff

Call me an old school Socratic method practitioner, but learning requires honesty, empathy, a courage to inquire, listen, challenges to beliefs, and dialog. (this is the basis of Civics too! we don't need cue cards to remind us). It is hard to foster that environment where students can truly learn when fear, defense of position, and justification for belief, agenda are at the root of every class period, every student-educator interaction.
Drawing upon my love of primary source history, I have long agreed with the Code of the Old West. In order to ensure civility, gun owners would either have to leave their guns at home or hand them over to the sheriff whenever they visited towns.

In my class room and in my office, I am the Sheriff. My job is to ensure that fearless dialog and learning can happen, possessing a firearm in such an environment is counterproductive and rooted in fear. Statistically we are at greater risk of getting killed with more guns present than not. And In Education we don't merely coddle fears and subjectivity, we strengthen our intelligence through use objectivity and reason and dialog to overcome ignorance and feeble minds.(but of course the administration operates in a post-reality world - remember the incompetent allocation of resources: We have a 1 in 19 (one in nineteen) chance of being killed by a drunk driver, vs. a 1 in 10,900,000,000 (one in 10.9 Billion) chance to be killed by an undocumented immigrant.- the truth that more guns actually increases the likelihood of being killed by guns is pointless to note on the feeble minded - they would rather "stick to their guns") 

So no, I do not allow firearms in my classroom. If someone is truly that fearful that they feel the need to bring a weapon to my classroom, then perhaps they are not cut out for learning and are probably wasting their money on tuition. Fortunately we do have psychological services for students which can help them overcome their fears. And Certainly, those who encourage such fear have demonstrated incompetence in leadership, enmity of trust, and in service to tyranny. 

But in the big picture lets remember that this whole arming teachers thing is yet ANOTHER distraction from the serious matters that chip away at our civil liberties and financial well being as citizens of a Constitutional Democratic-Republic. -

To anyone who chooses to be an enemy of education and disrespect the environment I provide for my students; I am not afraid to pry their weapon from their cold dead hands.
Xenia with her son, summer 2017

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Inter-Galactic Empress vs. Department of Edu-ma-cation

I am not now, never desired to be, nor have ever been a guy / a man though I have pretended to be for most of my public life.

I'm a chick, not a "dude"

I'm a She, definitely not a "he"

"Xen" is okay, but I really do prefer "Xenia"

And as Inter-Galactic Empress sounds just a tiny bit too lofty for me, my title is "Ms."

And if you do not believe me, any field expert can tell you that it is a matter of biology - and biology is not simple. Though the simpleton view of "biology" when uttered by non experts serves as the lazy excuse the current Secretary of Education and Attorney General seem to take with regard to the safety of transgender students. Yes We know their overall tactic is to destroy trust in the Federal Government and undermine the Secular values of the US Constitution. But it is time for experts as well as those with the actual lived experience of being transgender to assert themselves.

Having lived the hell of pretending to be a boy / a man their decisions are clearly not based with any desired awareness of reality, no empathy, and absolutely NO MORAL AUTHORITY! Using a mans locker-room, closeted or not - is a very scary and unsettling place for a girl. THAT is the essence they fail to grasp because of 1) their simpleton view of biology; 2) their so-called religious objections.

It is really time we stop coddling them and enabling their false perception that their subjective human belief in metaphyiscal dogma is more valuable and more moral than the objective findings of Expert Research! - THAT is what America is founded upon.

If they try to say some Bullsh that "Oh my cisgender daughter is going to be "uncomfortable" using a public bathroom with a transgender girl, then be a responsible parent and get your daughter some psychological help to overcome her discomfort or fear.

And then with this whole Conversion Therapy / Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I voluntarily tried Cognitive Behavior Therapy for a number of years because I did not want to disrupt other peoples lives if they found out I was trans - It was a misplaced move on my part, but I learned first hand that the reason it did not work is because being Transgender is not a behavior, it is an essence of identity.

Still I did not want to make waves, so I tried anti-depressants to take the edge off - which ended up taking away my joys too and deadened my already suppressed emotions. What it did do was increase my passive/aggressive responses AND make my female identity even more clear.

So I tried Ritalin and Adderall because the effects of constantly suppressing my true identity resulted in ADHD like symptoms in every day life. This helped a little in addressing those symptoms, And with added clarity it REALLY brought my true female identity out of the shadows. There was a small benefit in that it did make it a little easier to maintain both a male physical form while knowing very clearly my true female self. And thus made it easier to communicate and understand my own emotions.

But nothing compared to when my wife and I started talking seriously about me coming out to the public. Once I started hormones my world began to chill and everything started to come into full balance. Now being out -- It is so so so much better.

So I refuse to pretend to be a guy / a he / a man anymore. Its pointless. I will continue to use the women's restrooms and locker-rooms because I am a woman. I urge every one to make those public places safe for all trans children, teens, adults everywhere.

There is no reason to respect anyone's so called "religious convictions" to object to me using the restroom appropriate to my female gender - because they haven't lived it nor have they demonstrated any empathy to understand reality. I guarantee that I have thought, reflected and considered more about gender, the experiences of all women and all girls, history and the nature of religion in society than every TERF and defender of religious convictions I have ever read or met.

There has never been a better impetus to draw me out of the closet that the current Administration.

Emboldened Transwoman Jamming to Rush

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Community, Music, and Trans Roots

It has now been a little over 2 months since I revealed my true self to the world. What I have discovered is that Everything is different now that I am out. Experiences of emotion are not constantly being checked, decisions are rarely second guessed, empathy is easy and genuine. Self confidence and empowerment is definitely here!

Now I think back on my life with new eyes: the series of decisions I made, how I got to here. I got to thinking about how many children are told they can grow up to be whatever they want to be. This advice is difficult enough to sell to girls. In my own case, as a closeted transwoman, I never felt this to be true. I already felt a bit restricted from expressing everything I truly liked and associating with other girls without fear of physical retribution and ostracism. Being trans was considered being a freak. So, I denied myself many opportunities for community and future career occupations because of my self imposed stricture that I just did not think they would be open to me. I tried to tough it out pretending to be a man, but could never connect authentically. There was a time I aspired to be a n ELCA Lutheran Pastor, but as with most of society at the time, many religious institutions mistakenly viewed Transgender identities as a "behavior" -- and a sinful one at that - far worse than killing someone out of anger or in war. If it slipped I were trans or became openly trans - that would scare away the flock, the church board would fire me because I wasn't bringing in revenue. I thought it would be great to go to officer training school and becoming either a Navy pilot or intelligence officer, or better yet Become a career diplomat in the foreign service, that is really where my passion lay. My year as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol really solidified a few things for me: 1) I could never be openly trans, 2) I was reprimanded far too many times for insubordination (apparently our CO didn't like to have her nonsensical orders questioned.- I just asked her to give me the big picture / reason why behind the order. Its impossible to follow otherwise.)

I wanted to be a teacher. Again who in the early 90s would want a transsexual teaching their kids? (if you remember the hell that was raised by parents back in the 90s here in the Twin Cities with an openly trans school Librarian and shortly after an openly trans band-director who taught lessons through Schmitt Music Edina (I managed Maplewood at the time - and then hearing fellow managers unknowing of my own identity make the usual sexually disparaging jokes (everything from new gender "tests" for all employees, to remedying her surgery aspirations using a belt sander-- seriously guys get over your f'ng selves!!). So much for any possibility of being an openly trans store and sales manager at a family oriented music store either that or no more sales awards for me. 

Aspiring prog-metal bassist Xenia with Krista in 1991
a few months before Nirvana
Throughout it all, I needed a career where I could always feel myself and be free. I have always wanted to be a professional bassist / lead singer and composer of high art music. In High School in the 1980s, I was drawn to becoming a metal musician, not because I liked the music, but because it provided for me an option to feminize my appearance without drawing suspicion - and if you are a good musician people tend to give you a pass - "He's an artist" - The thing is, I was always more into underground Progressive metal, not the popular glam metal / Hair Band artists of the 80s. - But even here I would never really be able to be openly trans. I was rereading my journal from 1990-91, There is an entry in which I am clearly drunk and in despair that how the fk am I ever going to make it as a musician if people really knew I was trans - the dilemma, I created for myself - I can either be openly trans and live a secluded isolated life rejected by everyone or I can become a bassist -- MAYBE if I move to Northern California, I can find life as both. 

Throughout all of this, Krista was with me. There was a heckuva lot she however did not understand. Yet she did encourage me to find community. I rarely took her up on this, but she understood that because she was not trans and didn't have my experiences and did not know what it is like to be trans, to be closeted, that I needed others who did have that understanding. Before the Internet came into full swing in the late 1990s, finding community as a trans woman was a nearly impossible task. In the years before her tragic death, she further suggested that I seek care through the Gender and Sexual Health Clinic at HCMC (where she worked as a Director of Organization Development and Learning) because it is important for anyone's health to have open truthful communication with their healthcare provider without worry of stigma.

In the months after Krista's death and especially since coming out, I have made references to a group of friends whom I referred to as my "Inner Circle." Not that this is an official group and not even that they are very close to me, but these are the friends on whom I have always been able to call; who have always been willing to listen to me as I vent, cry, laugh whenever I needed to gather my wits in my closeted life. (of course my characteristic guilt gnaws at me, as it probably always will, in that I do not feel I reciprocate the same emotional care in return - though now I am finding opportunities to pay it forward and offer my shoulder). 

Dinner with Shoop! (at least 6 of us) 
This weekend I finally stepped out in public as a professional musician -- now openly trans, now Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire. - Black dress, necklace heeled boots and make-up.  It began Friday night, by me playing bass with my 11 piece vocal jazz band, Shoop! at the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony Gala. Yes I did notice a few double takes, some apparent whispers, but who cares. My band has my back and they did the best thing for me: No over the top congratulatory remarks on my appearance (though I did get some great compliments on my boots-- (I got to take the last open seat at the table as Karen remarked to John and Jim, "Heels trump Shoes") But it was music making as usual. I even walked confidently from the stage ordered my 2nd drink - no hassles - but a few friendly exchanges. So nice. - I will say however that I felt compelled to play bass better than I ever have as I don't want to embarrass transwomen everywhere. Actually, playing bass felt effortless, and my musical choices felt confident and creative. Maybe it was my imagination or maybe it was because I myself felt open and free - worth exploring.

Then yesterday afternoon, I, now open, experienced the wonderful intensity of having a community - a group of trans women from my generation (though I am the youngest ;) ), as Venus de Mars, having arrived from the funeral of one of her dear friends and former bandmates who died unexpectedly of the flu, to give her scheduled presentation on the "Trans Roots of Punk.", acoustic performance, and reading from her upcoming memoir.  
Presentation "Trans Roots of Punk"
Performance and Reading here:
silly faces with Lynette
A Little background: I first met Venus and her wife Lynette (English Professor, Poet, Radio Host) at a house party 20 years ago. Along with my Green Pyramids band mates, they were among the few people outside of Krista with whom I shared more about the depths of my trans identity. Their open hearts, patience to listen was of immense help to me in finding the safe place to express my true being.
quick selfie with Venus
Over the years, our bands shared the stage, gathered at Scott's epic house parties. Occasionally, Venus and I would grab a coffee at a cafĂ© above her art studio. She was always willing to listen, provide hugs and understanding that really no one else could understand. Heck, I even auditioned for her band All The Pretty Horses for an upcoming tour they planned (it was really fun to groove with Venus and Jendeen - terrific fluid rhythmic vibe) I don't know if I was ever seriously considered, but I could not justify joining for a tour when Krista and I were in the midst of adding on to our house, me in graduate school, et al. 

Then in 2003 Krista and I decided to have children. And I love my children. They are my world! With me as primary caregiver, I cut down on my social life and ended up letting so many of my friendships and sense of community drop. From time to time we would exchange emails, they always extended an invitation to their pre-Thanksgiving party. But now as I am once again venturing out with people my own age, I realized last night it has been far too long since we have been in the same room together. For me it was a good thing, kinda tearing up just by being there and being me.

with my beer enabler Susanna 
Anyway, I don't know what kind of impact Venus' presentation on the Trans Roots of Punk will have on non-trans people, But for me, what she provided was an intense visceral pricking of my knowing heart; recalling my own memories, feelings, fears; our devaluation of our own self-worth when not only did society at large make us feel unsafe, we were not welcome with the gay and lesbian community either. How things have shifted in just 25 years! With every sentence she expressed, describing, recounting her experiences, through songs, excerpts from her upcoming memoir, and trans music history - so many emotions, meanings, simultaneously running through my being that I often found myself in tears - holding it together so as not to distract - It was an incredibly moving experience for me. I found myself welling up with tears and wanting to shout out "Amen Sister!" (though that wouldn't be very Lutheran of me).

I was living a closeted life while she lived the experiences as an openly trans trailblazing artist. The transwoman who was once asked by rep if she would consider "Not being Trans" so that he could sell her art to a major record label, has made it possible for an artist like Laura Jane Grace to find major label success - The time was never right - until now. As a transgender musician and real human being, I am indebted to Venus and Lynette for setting the stage to make my life today possible. Thank you!
With my heart -- Jill

Friday, February 2, 2018

Turn ons, Turn offs, Favorites, and Nerd Test

Bass ~ Whisky ~ Ancient Greek ~ Fencing

True Confession: I played Dungeons and Dragons before it was cool.  Wait who am I kidding, AD&D will never be cool! I stopped playing shortly after the 2nd edition of AD&D was released. But really, what would the 1980s be without Heavy Metal, AD&D and certain parents (and other "old people who stare") freaking out about devil worship and cults? It was far more entertaining for us in this decade before the Internet, to feed their paranoia ;) Interestingly enough I have discovered that a great deal of us who were part of this underground Gen X cohort have now themselves become Professors of Medieval Studies - No longer the stereotype of Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. - the modern nerdy prof is the long-haired, bearded Heavy Metal aficionado.
Xenia age 11 (1981)

During my 2017 summer trek to the Sandhills of Northwestern Nebraska, I was visiting with my cousin the boot-builder in Cody (he's the son of my mother's oldest brother)-- ANYWAY  We got to talking about how all of these things that we naturally liked, which set us apart from other Gen X-ers -- heck our own family: Craft beer, good coffee, bacon, bluegrass, etc. have today become necessary accouterments of the Hipster crowd.  Furthermore, Kyle always sported the coolest waxed handlebar mustache long before many of these new hipsters were born.  But the question that distressed me was, "Now what are going to like now that what we truly like has become trendy?!?!" In his typical understated humorous response, he stated that he's not going to worry until they start building their own custom boots.

But I think its fair to state that, "All hipsters desire to be him!" 

[* FYI we had a recent phone conversation in which I laughed so f'n hard because, after I revealed my true identity in December, he started getting questions about me from friends and relatives. So let me set the record straight, No, I never revealed my trans identity to him ever. He found out the same time as the rest of you. Growing up we had so much fun doing other stuff that it was never something I needed to bring up. Below is an example of what Kyle and I typically did together. Here he is teaching my daughter.] 

This whole conversation sparked another question I have gotten since my public announcement. Have I suddenly stopped liking "guy things" and started liking "girl things?" -- No. What I have always liked I have always liked.  Yes over time tastes change, there are 2 things I have discovered. Now that I am confident in presenting who I am, I can publicly state many of the things I had previously kept hidden, AND I am open to discovering new things. Turns out, I like guacamole  - Its no longer one of those things you either yell when you are on fire, or cannot remember the name of. ("Where's that little...guacamole I had around here?")

So taking a cue from those old fanzines from the 60s and 70s, Here is my rockstar list of favorites, turn ons and turn offs.

Xenia's Favorites

Star Sign: Aquarius
Myers-Briggs: ENTP
Lucky Number: 13
Talisman: Swan / Cygnus
Patron Saint: Geetz Romo

Turn-offs: Fads, trends, Willful stupidity, feigned ignorance, learned helplessness, propaganda, vague interpretations, thin-skinned defensiveness, those who blame others for controlling them, those who make no willing effort to learn beyond their own experience

Turn ons: Honesty, Authenticity, Nature, biodiversity, thoughtful actions, empathy, confidence and purpose, personal responsibility

Favorite Color: Burgundy, Burnt Orange (and Black, Forest Green, Midnight Blue)
Favorite pastimes: Bucking stereotypes, upsetting people's expectations, debunking superstitions....well that, and playing darts (cricket)
Favorite Drink(s)
: Black & Dark Caribou Coffee; tap water; 
Uisge Beatha, Whisky, Whiskey, Rye and Bourbon; Though if you really want my attention -- 18 year old Macallan (25 year old even better!)
Favorite Food: homemade pizza topped with whatever is nearing expiration date.
Favorite Singers: Krista Sandstrom, Erika Miklosa, Kathleen Battle, Ferruccio Furlanetto
Favorite Pop Singers: Rosemary Clooney, Aretha, Ian Gillan, James Brown, John Arch, Dio
Favorite Guitarists: Les Paul, Adrian Belew, Brian May, Sharon Isbin; Syd Barrett, Mark Knopfler
Favorite Bass Players:  Jaco, The Ox, Esperanza Spalding, Tony Levin, Carol Kaye, Macca, Geddy,
Favorite Drummers: Zakir Hussain, Max Roach, Ringo, Gene Krupa; Bill Ward
Favorite Keyboardists: Herbie Hancock; Gonzalo Rubalcaba; Bill Evans, Marc-Andre Hamelin
Favorite Bands: The Beatles; Queen, Jethro Tull, Indigo Girls, The Who (Live); BS&T

Favorite Composers: Bach, Bela Bartok, Franz Josef Haydn, Josquin, Ravel, Vincenzo Galilei
Favorite Works of Art: "Don Giovanni" (1787) opera by Mozart / da Ponte; the late String Quartets by Beethoven
Favorite Visual Artist: JMW Turner, da Vinci
Favorite Authors: Carl SaganPlatoJohn Dewey
Favorite Naturalists: Charles Darwin and Sir David Attenborough
Favorite Maritime Vessel: Boaty McBoatface

Favorite Movies: Captain Blood2001: A Space OdysseyApollo 13Young Frankenstein
Favorite TV Shows: Have Gun Will Travel; Trackdown; Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes; The Rifleman; Vera, Law and Order Criminal Intent
Favorite Radio Program: Pipe Dreams with Michael Barrone
Favorite Comic Book Characters: 
        DC- Wonder Woman; Marvel - Storm and Spiderman
What AD&D Character are you?  Neutral Good Half-Elf Ranger (1st Edition)
Favorite LOTR Character: Sam

Favorite Doctor: Tom Baker 
Kirk or Picard? hmmmm....thats a tough Paladin from HGWT!
Who would win a fight between Han Solo and Indiana Jones? It would be a draw, Han would shoot first, but Indy would be saved by some dumb luck, like a Gasan string drum falling over just in time to absorb the blaster fire.
Favorite Vikings: Alan Page #88; Joe Kapp #11
Microsoft or Apple? Linux
First Computer: 1983 Commodore 64 with a 300 bpm modem (it still works)
Favorite video gamesUltima IV; Sid Meier's Pirates.
First Stadium Concert: Iron Maiden, 7th Son 1988, Five Season Center, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Favorite Iron Maiden albumKillers

Favorite quote about Xenia: "She is the only person I know who can pull off being both laid back and uptight at the same time." - D.B. at Schmitt Music, Maplewood


Seek to Understand and Always Assume Positive Intent

Krista Lynn Sandstrom (1970-2017)

Convictions are more dangerous enemies to truth than lies

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

The Un-examined Life is not worth living

Socrates (c. 470 - c. 399 BCE)

Destruction is weakness ~ True Power is Creating

Xenia (1970-)

Critically Question your own beliefs everyday without Fear

Xenia (1970-)

And of course learn more at: