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

Monday, January 7, 2019

C.S. Lewis is Not a 'Great Thinker', or Why Apologetics is Unethical and Immoral

Recently I was encouraged to read the non-fiction works of C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity. The person who encouraged me stressed that Lewis is a ‘great thinker’ and can really help open my mind. 

I had trudged through these works years before, and I came away with the impression that as important as he was as a scholar of late medieval literature in the 1930s, he utterly fails when it comes to serious consideration as a ‘great thinker’. His faulty reasoning is why none of his works made the reading lists during my course studies and seminars as a Philosophy major at both Luther College and the University of Nottingham.

At this point, some might assume that I don’t like C.S. Lewis simply because he is a ‘Christian.’ C.S. Lewis’ target audience is in fact those who already believe. But I have no problem with Christians who remain on task talking about Love. For those of us who are not – or as in my case those of us who were so deeply vested in their Christian faith until she began to critically examine the errors in reasoning, - these works are INSIDIOUS: divisive and harmful to fostering a society based upon Love and Reason. 

I use the word insidious because fans of C.S. Lewis as a Christian apologist remark on how this “great thinker” is inspiring in their own Faith. I have to ask, when analyzing these works, ‘upon what is this Faith built?’ This is the problem I have with all authors who delve into the realm of apologetics / Defending the Faith. From Tertullian to Anselm to Lewis, their writings are not much more than dressed up polemical rants, they lack the ethics of fair argumentation, they misrepresent other viewpoints and make up for their faulty logic and multiple logical fallacies by appealing to emotion.
The very first time I tried to read the ‘Men without Chests’ chapter in Abolition of Man I could barely get through the first page without tripping over multiple errors in reasoning. As I continued to read the more painfully bad this chapter was. I was utterly shocked that some people found it “uplifting.”

And that is the ethical issue here. For it is this very method of illogic, faulty and prejudicial argumentation is the template used by hate groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family in their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. 

Approaching Mere Christianity, Abolition of Man and other like apologist works without critical examination, primes the mind of the faithful to turn away from the message and practice of Love and Reason. 

On the whole Apologetic works like these by CS Lewis Closes minds and hearts. Apologetics is destructive to morality, ethics, and civil society. For one cannot express Love if they are constantly defending ‘Faith.’ 

[* Addendum: C.S. Lewis is Neither a scientist and definitely not a philosopher. and while in the past I was okay with Lewis and apologists works for the sake of the Faithful. - My most recent look at these works and the lack of critical insight (or is it purposeful "straw man", "false dichotomies" and other errors in reasoning) by the apologists themselves have left me with the conclusion that the whole field of apologetics is immoral. Just as the classical philosophers described the methods of the apologists, sophists. Rhetoric without Logic and Evidence is unethical.]

Anyway, here is one of many writings demonstrating the reasoning errors in CS Lewis.
C.S. Lewis' Argument Against Atheism is a Joke, and Here's Why.

C.S. Lewis' Abolition of Man, 'Men Without Chests,' a Critique

Naturalism Undeafeated (A Refutation of C.S. Lewis Argument from Reason)

8 Reasons to Reject C.S. Lewis' Argument from Desire
From my blog:
Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Gene Veith, Andrew Kern and Public Classical Education

Xenia with a few of her books