Thursday, May 16, 2019

Dear Iowa -- from your Transgender Daughter

May 9, 2019
In the past nearly 18 months since I have been publicly out as the Woman I have always been, I get a quite a number of very positive and supportive comments. Often remarking how brave I am. And honestly I really do love these expressions of encouraging support. It gives me a lot of hope that more people in the world actually "get it" and can distinguish between Love and Judgment.

What may surprise some, however is that me being out publicly as myself is incredibly EASY. I lived closeted for nearly 48 years of my life, and while there are many lovely and great experiences I have had while I lived as a woman pretending to be a man. All in all, I look back on my life an reflect, "Why did I willingly subject myself to the tortured existence of denying me from the World, lying with every interaction, turning down jobs, pulling myself out of auditions, seeking therapy, prescriptions, anything to help me pretend to be a man and just hold on till I finished my one and only existence. 
May 8 - TC HIt Squad Open Jam
And then when other women like me were under attack, remembering what it was like for me as a little girl in the 1970s-80s to share male locker rooms and not wanting other little girls like me to endure the same torment, how could I live with myself by letting them take the force of victim blaming without outing myself and jeopardizing my family??!?"

By the time I reached my 40s practically all of my self-confidence was depleted and Depression took hold as I had spent all of my energy into keeping up this facade of masculinity.

Nearly 30 years ago (1991) when I was initially going to come out, there wasn't a lot of exposure to other women like me - and media portrayals really did a great deal of harm both for society and for us-- me as a frightened girl / young woman trying to find "Whom can I trust who isn't going to think I'm some sort of 'Silence of the Lambs' villain?!!? and run screaming" 

Back then it was incredibly scary for me to try to open up, just a little to anyone. And when I started, it was hard to be confident. Even when I began therapy in the 1990s you never knew which medical or psychological physicians would have experience - I didn't start noticing physicians really advertising experience in LGBTQIA issues until after 2012 (I was 42) 

May 3-4 Twin Cities Women's Chorus Gala
Fast forward to December 1, 2017 at 18:00 CST In the first 7-9 months since my announcement, I gradually eased into my public life here in the Twin Cities, I was still really in that mode that I didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities. Then one day in June 2018, I decided, I'm going to wear a sundress to my New Rx gig, cause dammit I am and always have been a woman and while I know I don't need clothes to tell me what I already know, I am doing it because I want to. 

* I should note that so much of my growth I can attribute to the unconditional love, support, and open counsel I have been fortunate to receive from a friend in Iowa City. She is incredible, always learning, always listening, and even after all of my experience and myriad friends who are themselves trans and gender non-binary, there is no one I have met who really grasps the trans experience better than her. - She got me to loosen up, learn how to dance, reclaim my fearlessness, find joy. And while I have always been a musician and shared 26 years of my life with another talented musician and singer, I have discovered So very much more depth, variety, and love in music with her. It is ironic to me that after all of these year hating my young experience in Iowa, that Iowa would be the first place I fully embraced my true self. -- Iowa City will always remain my city of rebirth.

Now, about 23 months with the proper body and brain chemistry due to hormones, I am full of confidence. I freely claim my space as the woman I have always been. Those doubts and worries I have had my whole life are gone. So when I appear in public whether getting groceries, walking around the lake, or up on stage, I am full of confidence - and that is Easy.

Another very good friend of mine, who happens to be a therapist, and has known me before and since coming out, remarked - "If there were such a thing as a "poster-child" for why people need to come out, it is Xenia."

Had all of this knowledge and support that the younger generations now enjoy been available when I was 13, I would have spoken up and started hormones right then and there. No question about it.
When people who aren't Transgender or Gender non-binary think of Transgender Healthcare - it seems in their mind is fixated on surgery- which for many of is really isn't the core concern of our healthcare issues. There is SO VERY MUCH MORE, and my little story above just scratches the surface.

Regarding terminology, I refer to myself simply as a woman. If I feel the need to clarify, I will say something like, "I am a woman...who is transgender. My mother is a woman who is cisgender."  I do not feel that bringing up that I am trans is necessary at all.

Love ya,

May 5, 2019:
An open letter to Iowa

Dear Home state of Iowa;
Thank you for justifying my move to St Paul, Minnesota.
After receiving the news of the recent mean spirited act by the Iowa State Legislative and Executive branches, I say this morning what I said when I left in 1993, 
Como Lake in St. Paul, MN
Is it really so hard to Love, Understand, to be nice? at the very least could you at least respect the expertise of Medical professionals, before signing BS into Law??
I was born in 1970, raised in the small community of Hudson, Iowa. And I have ALWAYS known myself to be female. I had no outside influence, no fashionable trendy ideology. If anything growing up, being trans had very serious negative consequences.

The reality is that my brain does not match my body. Unlike you, I actually put Hard work and effort into understanding myself and even harder work trying to remain closeted and learn to live like a man, which I did for the first 47 years of my life. 

I underwent Over 20 years of therapy, medications, Church... none of it worked because none of it addressed the fact that I Am a Woman. My brain has always been female. And Medical Professionals know this! 
Politicians do not!

By eliminating healthcare provisions which would help transgender citizens live productive and loving lives, You consign us to misery and death. You have no care to learn, no clue, no empathy, you refuse to work hard to help yourself, religious leaders, and other anti-trans constituents to overcome their own lurid fantasies of what they think trans is and their own base inclinations of fear and prejudice: the destructive agents of communities across America. You thus demonstrate your complete ineptitude to lead and protect all citizens in our inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.

With much Love,
Your native daughter
Hudson Community School, 1988
Luther College in Decorah, 1992

We read Ibsen in my Iowa Public High School (Where Chick Grassley’s sister (Lois West) was one of my favorite inspiring public school teachers!) as well as my northeastern Iowa college.
Apparently the current lawmakers and Governor of Iowa never did — or perhaps they just didn’t understand him

Como Park in St. Paul, MN

May 1, 2019
I’m just your run-of-the-mill free-spirited, egalitarian, Gen X, earthy, eco-feminist, Nature and people loving hippie-chick, single mother born and raised in rural Iowa who practices Yoga, martial arts, drinks whisky, plays darts, and LOVES Heavy Metal.
... and really the spirit of all music. Music is the first language —-the voice of the soul expressed through sound in space. (aUI)
(—and I’m a bit of a prankster (mostly just to get uptight people even More uptight until they finally release and loosen up. Live Life and Love others) : FYI my T-shirt says:
“If Karma won’t slap you,
I will.”)

May 1 - TC Hit Squad Open Jam

Some recent appearances of me at the open jam (its "karaoke for Musicians" - we just mix and match players on songs that we may or may not know how to play and jam them out in front of an audience)

Rock and Roll Band - Boston performed by Xenia with TC Hit Squad Open Jam
Cold Gin by KISS

Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas

Iron Maiden - Carol King - King Crimson - The Who - Motorhead - Queen - Stevie Wonder
Why everyone should play instrumental music together / Nature / Rural Iowa upbringing / Gillian’s Island / Academics / And other things...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Strength, Freedom and Joy Come from Within

I've been reading a lot of negativity in social media posts, many people seemingly feeling as if they have no power. This is a horrible place to be-- this cycle of rumination on negative feelings leads to bitterness, sadness, anger, depression etc.  Most days I cannot stand to read my FB feed as there is often post after post after post of negativity.

In these cases it is important to realize that FB, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Are not Life. 

I begin each day after my breakfast and coffee going out for a brisk 4-5 mile walk, working to maintain health as well as generate Endorphins! I also recently began attending various open jams and constantly trying to meet new people. In doing so, I have rediscovered my own inner strength.  I do not allow external factors control my mood.  While things can anger me, make me sad, etc I can chose how to respond. -- One thing is for certain, I do not cower or retreat into the shadows which would only begin a cycle of powerless negative ruminations again. <=== THIS is why being Closeted sucks so badly! It is a much worse place to be than being out in the open as you really are.

A lot of people have never had the chance to meet a woman like me in the flesh. So I go out with the intent to have fun as any bass playing gal should do. And I am grateful for those who ask me genuine questions -- who truly want to learn and understand. Most people are pretty darn nice when you talk to them in person.

I do not believe in "sides" - I do believe in Understanding.

Every War has begun when Understanding/Diplomacy has failed, and 
every War has ended when Diplomacy has resumed.

April 21, 2019
Riffing on some thoughts about Role of inner strength in Confidence, Truth, Joy, self Love and Understanding and living authentically

April 24, 2019
Freedom Comes from Within - No One Can Give It To You

April 25, 2019 
Riffing About My Baritone Voice

Just a recap for the benefit of my recent friends.

Yes I am and always have been female. 
It says so in my medical records and all of my legal documents including my original birth certificate. 
My body hasn’t produced testosterone for nearly 2 years (in fact most cisgender women have higher levels of testosterone than me and women like me). 
My brain, body chemistry, physical, mental and emotional being are most definitely female and responds accordingly. 
-- AND I have a baritone voice, which used to disturb me a lot. Now I’m like, fuck it, it’s my voice and if I want to sing out, sing out; be free. It no longer distresses me. 
I spent decades seeking understanding and therapy and antidepressants to try to live as male, none of those treatments are effective - in reality they are quite harmful and destructive. Yet in the past 5 years there was been a concerted anti-trans backlash. People who have no lived experience in being trans / gender non-binary nor do they have any credible expertise who make the assumption that we are some sort of "gender trend" or "ideology" - And thus they make shit up and say stuff like, "Those 'transgenders' need to get mental help!"
-- As I stated I've stated: Been there, done that for decades. And it is now understood that the best therapy IS for us to be out, to be on the proper hormones. 
If one do not have a medical degree nor expertise in transgender medicine, their contrary uninformed opinion means zilch. 

(oh, and FYI, "transgender" is an Adjective not a Noun.)
As in I am not "a transgender." (noun); I am a transgender woman (transgender is adjective / woman is noun) 
And actually I never bother with the transgender label anyway, I'm just a 49 year old woman born and raised in rural Iowa.

Sigyn and Xenia
(ZEE-gan and ZEN-ya)
April 26, 2019
Life is too short for Fear, Jealously, and Rage.
Seek to Understand
Get off FB and actually have a real conversation where you Learn about someone else’s view and experience. Do not assume you already know.

If you are not a Plumber, Don't presume you know what Plumbers believe

"...or how to do their job. If someone is angrily anti-plumber, they have probably never bothered to try and understand what it is plumbers do."
Facebook, like all social media and really all radio and tv media channels for the past 30 years are tools to manipulate peoples base emotions to distract them from LEARNING from each other, carrying on Civil conversations and Seeking to Understand.
So long as people are all enslaved to angry passions and pointlessly vent on Facebook, the REAL problems and issues of the world have Zero chance of being resolved.

Be Excellent to Each Other and Party On

For more about my life since coming out, visit:

Friday, March 1, 2019

About My Body (and Transgender Athletes)

Explore, Experience, and Love
Xenia - 30 years difference
That's how I roll!

For years, one of my frustrations before coming out was the dearth of in-depth information with regard to the full effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) not only on the body, but on the mind, heart, soul.
So as one who has always tried to track her physical and mental health (and aided by my insatiable curiosity and analysis techniques from Philosophy and Anthropology) I have been taking notes all along the way. Some things I have yet to share publicly, but many new things about myself have been revealed
In fact when it comes to my perceptions, tastes, emotions, and more -- I believe 'Revealed' is a more appropriate term than 'Changed.' For it seems when utilizing my "Explore, Experience, Love" strategy, loving (not judging) myself, I have been shown much about my own heart, interests -- which I have only shared in private with only my most trusted friends. Maybe someday I will share more for the sake of understanding.
Having said all of that, I want to return to some things regarding my physical body. There has been some recent talk and state legislation and school policies, not to mention from a high profile women's Tennis champion, regarding participation of transgender athletes. People who are wholly unfamiliar with transgender reality / those who are not field experts believe that women who are transgender have an unfair advantage over cisgender women - claiming that trans women are "male-bodied."  
The people who push this are neither medical professional field experts and definitely are not trans!
[* For professional insight visit the World Professional Association for Transgender Health WPATH ]

As a woman of moderate athletic ability, I have been tracking my physical changes for the past 20 months since I began HRT on June 24, 2017. I have not changed my workout routine much (save for the fact that I walk a great deal more than I used to and am probably in better cardio health because of it) 

In those 20 months, the absence of testosterone and introduction of estrogen and progesterone have diminished my muscle mass and ability to build muscle to the same degree as men, my BMI has increased (mostly accumulating on my thighs and waist). I can no longer magically lose weight just by walking up the stairs a few times a day, or build muscle just by moving a couple heavy objects.

With this winter, I have not been walking near as much as I do when the sidewalks are shoveled, but in 2 months since my last KISSin Time gig, I definitely noticed my legs are not as strong as they were in December - and a few people witnessed my embarrassment backstage just about 10-15 minutes before we were set to play, when I took a fall on the concrete (fortunately my 78 Ripper came away fine) - but my sore butt and leg have me realizing I need to actually work at maintaining strength, rather than relying on the natural muscle building advantage that men take for granted. (** also thanks to my MMA training for knowing how to fall back into a shoulder roll instead of using my arms and risk breaking my wrists - just forgot to compensate for the added distance with the 6" platforms).

I’ve had a few friends, outside of my late wife, who knew I was a woman since the 1990s. So when I told them that I was beginning HRT, one of these long time friends-in-the-know (Jendeen) warned me that in about 6 months time, people will notice that something is different about me. And funny enough, a few weeks before I came out publicly (December 1, 2017) my mother, who didn’t know I was trans (but is now one of my biggest supporters), noticed something different and wanted me to get checked for diabetes. 😆 🤣😅 —

Yesterday, I posted a comparison photo of my original Demon shirt which I made in December 2016 compared to my new one made earlier this week. Full disclosure There was a time in my life (senior year in High School, I had muscles and my chest size was about 42" (did a lot of push ups then). Most of my life I was between a 38-40" 

2016 Demon top
2019 Demon top

Now I am a 34" (band size -- ok well technically 33 1/2")

Another significant change is that after about 3-4 months on hormones I could no longer fit into my Levi 501 30”x30” Regulars which had been My jean since 1987! 30 years an never needing to worry about shopping for clothes that fit AND looked good. -- Now I cannot even pull these 501s up over my thighs!
Xenia, 20 months HRT
February 27, 2019

This winter, I have learned the benefit of keeping different sizes of jeans on hand — Here I am in a pair of my “fat jeans” - And 2 years ago, these jeans looked baggy on my legs (and I could button them rather easily) 

Here endeth today's trans ally lesson

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Nasty Women and Privilege

The other day, a friend had posted a list of a just few examples toward equal protection under the law which have been accomplished in under the past 60 years. 

This got me to reflecting again upon some important women in my life and their realities at various stages in their life when they had to make a decision with limited options and constant discouragement from family, friends, colleagues, society.

The women who came immediately to my mind:
- My mother who grew up in the Sandhills of northwestern Nebraska, not only went to college in music in the mid 1960s, but also finished her degree (despite strong discouragement from others), married, built a career as a respected music educator and also as a multiple time elected president of her education association, earning a Master's degree all while raising her children.

- My late wife, about whom I had written much (you can find more in my Victim Impact Statement on my blog, which I read at the sentencing of her killer). Krista remains the smartest human being I have ever known and a most capable leader. She seized every opportunity, she was discounted and looked down upon all the way, but she earned her BAs in Anthropology and History, a Master's in Education, a PhD in Organization Development, worked full time as a respected Executive Leadership coach and Organization Development Consultant for Ameriprise before serving as Director of Organization Development and Learning for HCMC from 2011-til her death in 2017. No man was ever her equal or as capable in a Leadership role, yet often the insecure men (really, just stupid men) would put her down as if she were just a little girl. She and I raised our kids and we built our home (literally). 

- And now I look at my 13 year old daughter, a softball slugger, swimmer, singer, bassoonist, dancer, martial artist, et al. and already more insightful than many adults I know.  I want to ensure that she enjoys the same opportunities (AND more), that her mother enjoyed and that her grandmother's generation fought to ensure.

When certain people make superficial criticisms and memes of women who have overcome such prejudices (e.g. Pelosi and Rodham Clinton) I take it personally - because these people are insulting my mother, my late wife, me, and my daughter. - and really All Women who dare to Work Hard and Be Free.

So here is that list I mentioned at the start of this post - keep in mind in a number of States in our Union, these rights are not guaranteed or enforced:

- Being able to apply for any job, not just the ones advertised "for women," 

  • Going to any college and majoring in any subject, 
  • Being able to have a career and children without facing criticism for doing both, 
  • Access to child care, 
  • Tax credits for child care, 
  • Competing in high school sports, 
  • Laws against spouse abuse and marital rape, 
  • Birth control pills, 
  • Terminating a pregnancy, 
  • No-fault divorce, 
  • Anti-discrimination laws, 
  • Family leave, 
  • Running for office and actually getting elected to important positions,
  • Being able to wear pants to work 

Despite these accomplishments, Today, February 6, 2019, women still do not have equal rights. Among us women of color, poor women, transgender women are far less likely to have any of these privileges. Furthermore those rights listed above are currently under threat - in fact they have always been threatened, but never more so than now.

I turn 49 years old this month I have experienced all of those years as a woman. And like many women my age who are transgender, we grew up with the encouragement that girls can grow up to do and be whatever they want to be [* except for you, you still must pretend to be a boy while you pursue your dreams of being an astronaut, rock star, explorer, and mother] During the 2nd term of the previous administration we were finally getting our rights recognized, and under the first two years of the current administration, our rights have been the first to be eliminated.

So whenever I see someone whine about how white cis-gendered men don't have privilege , I think "Get the fck over yourself."

Monday, February 4, 2019

Your Long Journey- Goodness and Grief without God

Last week I was listening to, Raising Sand, the 2007 duet album by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. It had been quite some time since last I listened to this.  It was an album that both my wife and I loved very much. It came out when our son was 3, and our daughter 22 months. Listening to it brought me back to those early times, the 4 of us singing and dancing in the living room. It was nostalgic, happy moments, singing duets together and laughing at the ways our kids were dancing to the music. It also brought the reality that my singing partner and Love is no longer with us.

Then the last track of the album, Your Long Journey, written by Doc and Rosa Watson came on. Its a beautiful melody, a beautiful mood, but the lyrics rather than bringing comfort and nostalgia felt hollow and empty. 
God's given us years of happiness here
Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pains of grief tug at my heart 
Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey 
Oh the days will be empty
The nights so long without you my love
And when God calls for you I'm left alone
But we will meet in heaven above
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
I reflected for a moment on how readily available grief consolation exists for people of Faith, It is such a default setting for most citizens in our nation, that lyrics like this are readily accepted and deemed spiritually uplifting.  But it is rare indeed to hear expressions of grief, to know the experience and means of consolation for those of us who no longer believe, those of us who are agnostic and practical atheists.  

As one who allows myself to experience the full and multiple emotions of grief as they wash over and through me, reliance upon Faith is not helpful for me. The lyric "And when God calls for you I'm left alone, But we will meet in heaven above" seems to push the full emotional impact of that experience aside, sweeping it under the rug to avoid the pain, with a promise of reunion in an eternal paradisaical afterlife. 

So, I wrote a few posts on Facebook expressing my grief as an atheist within the context of my own journey from Faith to atheism, My spiritual journey to study ways of thinking, feeling, knowing -- ultimately earning degrees in Philosophy and Classical Languages for this very purpose. I described this in order that people know that I have put a lot of deep and dedicated thought and reflection to arrive at my views. In these posts, I also intertwined the latest push by the Executive Branch of the US Government to teach the Bible in all schools, this after 2 years of policies of stripping away my human rights for the sake of certain religious reasons, but then trying to convince us that this is Good and Moral.

Perhaps I was a bit clumsy in my words. Perhaps it is because I rarely post anything other than unedited stream of consciousness epistles which are longer than the average FB post, providing  the average reader with many opportunities to be sidetracked. But I received some negative reactions both in public and in more than a few private messages.

These types of negative reactions were not new to me. 

The offense the authors of these reactions took reminded me much of my experience when I first became a vegetarian. It was as if my reasoned, well researched, personal choice not to eat flesh was an attack upon them. Just by stating "I am a vegetarian" prompted all sorts of needless responses from omnivores who took it upon themselves to make me defend my choice, then they proceeded to cite all sorts of bogus statistics about vegetarian diet being worse for the body, worse for the environment etc etc. Some would even try sneak meat into my food or say, just pick the meat out of this cooked dish. THEN they would go off and talk about how they hate how preachy and confrontational Vegetarians are as if they think they are better than omnivores. To which I'm thinking [????, "I just want to eat and live in peace."]

When I revealed have always been female, the same sort of reaction. Many responses from offended people who have not really thought that deeply about gender and sex, trying to convince me that I'm wrong, as if somehow they knew more about my 49 years of personal experience as a closeted woman better than me. Often stating false assumptions that I can never be a 'real woman' because, " were born a man, cannot bear children, never experienced mood swings, never experienced harassment, don't know how hard life is for 'real women', this is just an identity crises provoked by the problems of a Post-Modern worldview etc etc." 

In both of these cases, me simply stating my true identity and my meal preference - just me being me - dismissed my real experiences and elicited attacks which then put me on the defense.  This is sets up the conditions for an adversarial 'debate' which is wholly unnecessary. It compels people to 'take sides,' to compete, to defend.  

Adversarial Competition fails to promote Engagement through Empathy and Inquiry.

One cannot express Love if they are constantly defending their position.
One cannot Love and Learn if they are 'taking sides.'

So when it came to my posts last week, a common reaction I received from people of Faith was one which did not demonstrate Love, Empathy or Understanding toward me, but rather one which defended their position of Faith. Sharing with me why they believe, some suggesting (again) that I should really just try to open my heart and let God's love in, some going off and mis-characterizing atheists as close-minded and judgmental, thinking that they are smarter than everyone else.

Xenia & Krista in 1992
What they missed was the core of my message, my own experience - the rarely acknowledged expression of grief by an atheist.  

If they were trying to demonstrate the Love inherent in their Faith, they weren't doing a very convincing job. What they did was add more evidence that Love is independent of Faith, independent of God.

I am a widow, a single mother raising two teenagers, who misses her wife with whom she shared 26 years of her life.  It does not mean that I am perpetually morose and despondent.  I am actually in a good place in my life, and I experience such intense joy, happiness, and hope, I also live with grief, the reality that my wife is no more.  I will get into these periods where I just allow the sense of loss, sadness to wash over me, to envelope my whole being, but I also remember the Love, the happy and joyful moments of our lives together. The reality that all living creatures die.  That is how I deal with my grief, sometimes its nice to have a hug or some other expression of Love from others 
- what I do not like or need is pity.

January 31
Speaking only for myself, I do not see how resting on one's Faith enables one to effectively engage with emotions, empathy, loss of a loved one. It seems the relief is only illusory and discourages one from truly engaging with the real and visceral pain of loss and the True feeling of Love, True Empathy, True Selflessness. Religion and reliance on the Bible for the most part Hinder Love for others, personal growth and maturity. - I will expound upon this at a later date, but for now:

I think about this more and more often especially when considering the latest move in the 'Project Blitz' Christian Nationalist movement embraced by our current Government Executive and Judiciary Government in their recent overreach to teach the Bible in schools.

I did at one time seriously plan on becoming a Lutheran (ELCA) Minister. I studied the Bible, read the texts (I earned a degree in Classical Languages (Latin and Ancient Greek)), the commentaries, how it was put together, how it was transmitted down through the ages, the continuous ongoing scholarship, and multiple traditions and reception histories, and despite my ongoing questions, concerns and doubts throughout my childhood and teenage years, I for a long time rested on my Faith.

Now I am an Atheist / Humanist and have been since I was 20-21. I have multiple copies and various translations of the Bible. Three weeks ago, I pulled out one of them and read through Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, by most historical accounts one of his earliest. And while there are certain passages I really enjoy (Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." being a favorite in the whole Bible) - for the most part his writing style sucks. 

And I believe any Junior High or High School English or History teacher would probably get out their red pen and Challenge Paul on his assumptions and poor use of citations, let alone his poor capacity for logic. And then his redundancy as if he was given an assignment to write a 1,000 word essay and all he could muster was a 250 word essay and then just stretched the same theme over and over and over to complete his four pages.

Anyway, I am not saying this to dismiss the value that any Loving human being of Faith has in the Bible, but for me (as also with the Founders of the United States) There are much better works in Classical Literature, especially Philosophy, and continuous investigation into the workings of the Natural World from which to glean a moral, ethical and Loving life. True Love and Empathy is not dependent upon Faith in God.
--My Reply to a comment
I am familiar with quite a few, of the non-canonical Gospels -- but I haven't delved seriously in them - mostly through the works presented by Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels and I have a few other editions of texts and I do own a scholarly critical edition of Codex Tchacos which contains the extant fragments of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas which was known about - but lost for 1700 years.

ANYWAY - It is important that we understand these texts within the context of the communities when they were written. That is, History isn't "linear." Then as today, there are many differing viewpoints, religions and religious sects. But there was also Science & Philosophy where we find how some of the ancients were tackling issues in natural, ethics, morality, etc. without need of a divine cause. That's really were my interest lay and thus I don't really bother too much with reviewing the Theological and mystical literature.

When I was studying New Testament Greek at Luther, the prevailing view of historians is that of the 3 Synoptic Gospels, Mark was probably written between 70 C.E.; And Mathew And Luke (written around 80 CE.) both seemed to draw from both Mark as well as another lost Gospel, "Q." And John as a Spiritual Gospel was written around 110 C.E. - The Letters of Paul are believed to have been written starting around 50-60 C.E. -- The Acts of the Apostles seem to be written in the same style as Luke - so its thought to be by the same author.

With regard to the Catholic Church cutting away certain Gospels and books. It isn't because they were trying to "hide the true origins of Christianity" It is primarily because those books originated from a different tradition of Christianity and they were attempting to unify Christian Practice. In addition some of the books they banned were written by those who were trying to destroy Christianity during its early development. --- But that is a huge long history. And Catholic Church then was quite different than it was 500 years later with Charlemagne who also tried to unify Christian practice by eliminating the unique liturgical practices that had grown up in particular regions throughout the growing Holy Roman Empire (and thus the origin of Western Music Notation). Notwithstanding there are other Christian traditions still practiced today which are just as old as the Catholic Church- Ethiopia and the Eastern Orthodoxy comes to mind - though up until 1056 C.E. the East and Western Traditions were unified.

Despite all of those attempts to Unify the Church under a Catholic tradition, that has never really been a reality - I mean yes it was a dominant confederation of nation states in the West, but its not like the German nations weren't always shrugging off the "authority" of the Pope. At least in the 12th Century where my interests lay. 

ANYWAY - if you want to get some insight into other sacred traditions around the time of the development of Christianity - there are a few decent lay people oriented documentaries. "From Jesus to Christ" is one.

And I also (albeit hesitantly and not without caution) believe that some of the YouTube presentations by Richard Carrier do provide context and reveals a number of other sources - including other divine origin stories by virgin birth which pre-date the Jesus divine origin story --- BUT I am not entirely convinced of all of his conclusions (but then again, I am not an expert in his field). - And it really doesn't help (IMO) that despite his credentials with a PhD in Ancient History from Columbia University, that he seems to only lecture on the "lay-Atheist Circuit" rather than presents at Academic Congresses - maybe he does, but I kinda get a feeling that he is really pushing to sell his books. That could just be me and my skeptical nature though. 

Nonetheless he has some rather entertaining videos - There is a two hour presentation he has on YouTube called, "Why the Gospels Are Myth." Thats all I got for now.

February 2nd
I did not write this to criticize people of Faith. I wrote it to provide understanding as to how I (and many of the worlds atheists) have arrived at our lack of belief AND more importantly how we manage grief and live a life of Love and Authenticity. Yet presumptions of faith in a deity and an afterlife is so pervasive, that saying anything which disrupts this status quo is often dismissed, mis-characterized, and can really be a dangerous act. 

I am a widow who misses and grieves her wife, best friend and mother of her children. 

It is often communicated to me by others, that there exists a loving God who has welcomed her in Heaven, a loving God to whom I can turn for comfort. While I often simply say thank you, and I know they have good intentions try to pass along comfort and condolences to me, the act itself feels hollow—empty. I cannot fool myself into believing in God or an afterlife as a means for comfort and assurance. I would much rather have the Love, Comfort and understanding of a living breathing human being. A people who genuinely and selflessly care, and are tied into the reality of Nature, the life cycle, the impact of our actions upon each other and the world. I am fortunate that I have so many friends who have demonstrated just this.

I shared a bit of my history with my hardcore religious studies because as atheists we are often accused to having rejected God and God’s Love without due consideration. That if we just open our hearts and let him in, turn our lives over so that he can guide us, we will find peace and comfort. But when placing this idea within the context that there are certain sects of Christians who feel that the problem with society rests in that people have rejected (their interpretation of) Scripture – regardless of the negative impact that has upon Nature and reality… is that really selfless Love? Who then, is the voice of God? – 

There are many different interpretations of Scripture, of God, if God is in your heart, if God is Love. Then There is no need for a Bible, there is no need for an Afterlife, and no need for God. Just live in Love. 

I would much rather experience (as I have) the Love, Comfort and Understanding of humans who Live each day out of genuine selfless Love and Empathy for the known World, for their communities, their neighbors—than the stated love of those who are motivated by the promise of a paradisaical eternal life or feel that true love is dependent upon belief in a Deity.
February 2nd
Thinking of "triggers"

My major triggers now which I am struggling to overcome pertains to My first love: Western Art Music, and while I am getting myself back into it, seeing events and images of the Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Chorale, SPCO , Opera - They all remind me of Krista. Our lifetime of singing together, chatting backstage at Orchestra Hall with each other, our friends, driving to and from chorale practice together, her secret free parking spot on concert nights, singing together as we warm up, practicing together at home. And then sitting back and listening to her float these beautiful pianissimo tones above high C with her coloratura then sing down into her contralto almost tenor range. At our 10th wedding anniversary party we sang the Pappageno, Pappagena duet to announce that we were pregnant with our first born.

It just really sucks that she was killed the same night, we had our Minnesota Chorale re-auditions. She never made it to her 7:00pm audition, and I showed up to my 9:00pm audition - when I learned she never showed, I was worried but still sang through my audition, not knowing what happened to her. That whole experience is seared in my mind, my heart, my soul.

The Minnesota Orchestra / Chorale was working on Mahler's 2nd for the season finale, and we were saving up for the South Africa trip the following year. The last time I set foot inside Orchestra hall was at the season Finale. They gave me a special place all alone to experience the concert undisturbed, and they placed flowers and a spotlight on her empty chair throughout the performances.

I Love the Orchestra, and the Chorale and all of my friends in both,-- I just cannot bring myself yet to return to either - and that pisses me off greatly.

The other piece I cannot bear to hear ever again is A Case of You, by Joni Mitchell. Krista and I performed that together many times, again remembering us rehearse it in our music room - I did try overcoming that a few weeks ago by trying to play it on bass...I got through it, but not without drenching my bass in tears. -- Anyway I'm still working on all of these.

Related posts regarding my views on Religion and how it has impacted me:
CS Lewis is Not a Great Thinker: Or Why Apologetics is Unethical and Immoral 
And Yet She Moves
Authenticity, Love and Strength

Grief Beyond Belief
The aim of Grief Beyond Belief is to facilitate peer-to-peer grief support for atheists, Humanists, and other Freethinkers by providing spaces free of religion, spiritualism, mysticism, and evangelism in which to share sorrow and offer the comfort of rational compassion.

One last word I was thinking back to my retail management days.  Occasionally, I would have an unhappy customer talk to me about their bad service or product experience. My response was, "Tell me more, how would you like to see this resolved." Then I would listen to them tell their whole story and we'd come to an agreed solution.  
It is that same attitude which I am describing with regard to Loving Responses toward those who are grieving and hurt.
Do not dismiss their experience by reacting as if you were attacked.  The, "I Love you, but..." response falls into this category. It is often found in the form, "I Love and Pray for you even though your behavior is sinful." "I Love you but you did this first."  These responses discount the griever's experience and seeks to assign blame when in fact there is nothing to blame. They do not generate true empathy.

A few other examples of unloving responses:
When a hurt single mother expresses anger at her deadbeat husband
 do not respond: "Yeah, but there are dead beat mothers out there too."

When person of color expresses their most recent negative interaction with a police officer. 
 do not respond: "Blue Lives Matter!" or "All Lives Matter!"

If a woman who is transgender expresses her most recent experience with harassment.
 do not respond: "Welcome to Womanood"
  or if the harassment is from a TERF
 do not respond: "TERF lives matter too!" 

None of these responses give any indication that the respondent cares at all or is willing to offer any understanding. In fact they promote adversarial stances, and shut down the person who has been hurt.  There may indeed be dead beat mothers out there; yes there are good cops; and yes there are other women who are cisgender who have also experienced harassment - But in the very moment the grieving / person is expressing their experience, it is not the right, empathetic and loving response she needs.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Depersonalization and Derealization

At one of my support groups this past weekend, our topic was "Depersonalization-derealization" as referenced in Zinnia Jones article (linked here). We started by reading off some of the descriptions which included:

  • A sense of detachment or estrangement from your own thoughts, feelings, or body: “I know I have feelings but I don’t feel them”
  • Feeling split into two parts, with one going through the motions of participating in the world and one observing quietly: “There is this body that walks around and somebody else just watches”
  • Feeling as if you have an “unreal” or absent self: “I have no self”
  • Experiencing the world as distant, dreamlike, foggy, lifeless, colorless, artificial, like a picture with no depth, or less than real
  • Being absorbed in yourself and experiencing a compulsive self-scrutiny or extreme rumination
  • Feeling like a veil or glass wall separates you from the world
  • Emotional or physical numbness, such as a feeling of having a head filled with cotton
  • Lacking a sense of agency – feeling flat, robotic, dead, or like a “zombie”
  • Inability to imagine things
  • Being able to think clearly, but feeling as if some essential quality is lacking from your thoughts or experience of the world
  • A sense of disconnectedness from life, impeding you from creative and open involvement with the world
As the list of descriptions were read, I began to get a little choked up at the deep personal experience I have had with each and every one of those. This is what my physicians, therapists and I had been working on for the past five years, though I had been functioning for much of my life in this manner as a closeted woman. --

I did not begin to realize the severity of negative impact my being closeted had until about 10 years ago. Aside from talk-therapy, I tried treating it with anti-depressants which ended up making it worse and even less connected to my emotions, my senses and ability to empathize.

I tried it with ADHD meds which if anything helped me understand this disconnect and how my soul seemed fractured. In the process helped clarify for certain that indeed I am a woman and Being Closeted is the root of the problems I have been having. 
-- This of course is the consensus of medical professionals who deal with Gender Dysphoria, its just I had to get there on my own.

The resolution to re-integrating my whole being did not begin until I made that commitment to start HRT and come out. - 

But, The greatest impact upon me, my soul, my Growth as a fully realized human being occurred 
when I began my trips to Iowa City. For it was at my very first trip there in late December 2017 that I was affirmed as the woman I have always been-- Without question, without judgment, no explanation needed -- my soul was understood. Never before had I known this experience - an experience so many people take for granted. 

Hanging in Iowa City early 2018
Without those trips, those continuing conversations - I believe I would still be stunted emotionally, probably suffering still a bit from depersonalization, and my family life and care for my children probably might not be as healthy as it is.

When I think about women my age and the decisions we made in our youth and young adult lives to "buckle down, resign ourselves to a dedicated male persona" and remain closeted for our Love for our partners - which always seemed right at the time / easier to do in our younger years, I find that for so many of us have -- once we get into our forties the negative effects of being closeted really become too much to bear.

Perhaps one of these days I will share more, then again maybe not. In any event being closeted sucks and anyone who advocates for "Conversion" or "Reparative" therapy is either Ignorant or completely EVIL!

Discovering My Soul and Becoming Whole in Iowa City 2018

The Bass Chooses the Player

In 1993 I visited a little music store on the corner of Lyndale and 34th in Minneapolis. There was only one other person in the store. A cheerful woman who looked to be in her 30s (I was 23). It was a cool little store, full of good energy. I was looking for basses as I had just decided to make the full jump to become a fretless bass player. Well on the wall was this very cool looking fretless hollow body electric bass. I had tried quite a few basses, but I had seen nothing like this one. So the woman (Laurel) gave me a cable and encouraged me to try it. This beautiful instrument just sang. It was a joy to play and feel it vibrate my whole being. I thought to myself I need this instrument. Laurel then told me so much about music and her husband, that his artistry crafted these instruments direct from the tree. And me being a kind of spiritual pagan (yes I'm Atheist but - one of the great things I have learned to do this past year is to let go and allow myself to feel; rest with my emotions; to know them and integrate them with my whole being - that is spirituality and I no longer allow my skepticism to rob me of that experience when it happens.)

So I told Krista about this experience and we began setting funds aside for me to contract Roger Benedict to create for me my very own Semi-Hollow Fretless Bass... (more on this later)

TODAY (Friday, January 4) after a fabulous coffee date with a friend at Gingko. I thought, well its Friday, the weather is unnaturally warm and sunny, I'll stop down at Vig Guitars and say hey to Angela and Ted, and see if they have any cool gear in rotation. (I've actually been in the market for a good P-Bass for a very long while as my only Precision Bass is a Fretless!! ) - But ya know, finding something that "speaks to the player" is important. I never just buy things randomly or say, "yeah, I guess this will do..."

Custom Ted Vig P-Bass
with hand wound split coil pick-ups
No- Every bass, every guitar, I own has 'chosen me' (if I want to go all Olivander on ya here.) 

So I stop in at Vig's and lo and behold there is a Black P-Bass built by Ted just right there on the floor. And so I think, okay, so I'll give it a shot. I mean Ted is a Luthier and a fantastic musician (* side note he was a classmate of Krista's and I first met him ages ago in Northfield) ANYWAY...

This P-bass was well balanced, it sang through the amp and responded well to every nuance I threw into it. 
-- I knew the feeling well. 

For this is the feeling I get whenever I find that perfect instrument that works for me. But I wasn't going to buy it right then and there - I really needed to think about it.

So I decided, well I'm going to go to my usual haunts and drive around a bit.

My first stop, Willies American Guitars. The store was empty save for the employees. I headed over to the basses thinking - Oh, I still need a Rickenbacker 4001, and I look at the vintage P-basses, but none of them really spoke to me. Then just as I was about to leave, I saw this black early 90s Benedict Groove Master Fretless Electric Bass. I asked for a cable and plugged it in. And yes, it sang to me. I played just some long low tones to get inside the resonance, then my own slow plaintive improvisation of Jaco's "Continuum" and part of the Allemande to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1. - The bass felt and sounded beautifully 
- and I did indeed cry. 
Early 90s neck-thru Benedict Groove Master Fretless Bass
In fact I had to stop. I cradled the bass in my arms and sat with my emotions. Remembering Laurel talking with pride about her husband's work. Remembering my 23 year old Krista with that same enthusiasm for me to save up for my own bass.

- On November 15, 1994 Roger Benedict died suddenly at the age of 45 of adult onset leukemia. My thoughts back then were of Laurel and their three children-- and my own thoughts today drifted to suddenly losing Krista at the age of 47 in June 2017 to a drunk driver - now it is just me and our two children. My pride in all of her accomplishments in her career, in her artistry, the centrality of music in the Love we shared for 26 years; the looks of love and after show embraces she would provide at the end of my performances. And here I am, sitting there at Willies, now hugging this bass and remembering their joy and enthusiasm...

[-- The money that Krista and I were saving for my own Benedict Semi-Hollow Bass went to my G&L L2000 Fretless which I purchased at Willies in 1995. I could feel a lot of magic in that bass when I first played it, at it became my main ax for 7 years.]

After I regained composure I put the Benedict back on the wall. The memories were great but this wasn't the bass for me. I then went to Capitol Guitars and chatted with Billy for a bit (like Vig, I tend to buy cool things there) Did some more errands and kept thinking of my experiences. 
So, I drove back to Vig Guitars. Walked into the store, picked up the bass, and said, Yes I am buying this.

Too many good vibes I felt in this bass and too many "signs" (yeah, I know, I don't believe in "signs" but who cares, I've learned that when things feel right, just go with it. 
So I now have my P-Bass built by Ted Vig

Xenia with her Vig P-Bass
ADDENDUM: January 14, 2019 - No one is going to appreciate that Benedict Groove Master Fretless more than me... 
.... It is now my primary Fretless. I want to thank Eli, Cecilia, and Nate for their patience while I communed with during my recent store visits.

G&L L2000 Fretless with Leo Fender Signature
purchased from Willies in 1995
This was my main ax from 1995-2002
Xenia's Oxymoronic Fretless Precision Bass
[Ash Body; Maple Neck; Ebony Fingerboard;
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder Split Coil Pick-Up
Gold Anodized Pickguard from a Squier Bass that belonged to Joey Molland of Badfinder
Schaller Tuning Machines and Ken Smith Stainless Steel Heavy Metal Masters Round Wounds .050 - .110]

My Oxymoronic Fretless Precision Bass