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Archive for November, 2012

From the Mind of a Radical Humanist–[aka. April Rose Schneider]

Greetings from the Far Reaches, where the men are macho, and the sheep are nervous. I am April Rose-Trans author, activist, iconoclast and agent provocateur. And I’m proud to be here as a contributor to the premier issue of Proud Times but with a caveat: I’m a fly in the ointment…a dissonant note in an otherwise beautiful chorus…and a pimple on the ass of the conformist society. In otherwords, I am a troublemaker. If I had a rabble I’d be quick to rouse them. So be forewarned: I detest political correctness in all of its pervasively shallow, dogmatic, debilitating urges to qualify, quantify and otherwise restrict the full expression of our human-ness. If diversity is the color of the rainbow, political correctness is color of mud.

Rather than promote a personal identity, I eshew the concept of the fixed persona, much of which is purely the result of unconscious, involuntary cultural conditioning. This sort of calculated obtuseness invariably places me at odds with so many others who walk the Trans path where the movement from one extreme of the male-female paradigm to the ‘opposite’ end is de- rigueur for so many Trans folk. But for reasons unknown, and in consideration of the possiblity that my mom dropped me on my head as a baby, I got the whole thing backwards.

Over the course of my plus sixty years on the planet as aTrans person, my perspective has moved from polar extreme to the center. Picture that ubiquitous symbol for Yin Yang which, to most people, represents the male/female duality. See that tiny little black line that separates the black and the white? That’s where I live-The Abyss, the Void…the place of pure undifferentiated spirit.

Thus in search of an all inclusive description of my perspective, I call myself a Radical Humanist, a label that serves two very important functions. First, it assigns me to the only group identity that describes the entirety of my existence. Secondly it draws a distinct line between me and organized religion which I consider the enemy of human potential. One can only imagine the immense contribution of human potential lost to the historically documented, violent repression of diversity by organized religion everywhere.

Every human being born, past and present, represents a brilliant spark of divine life. Our personalities or identity combine predetermined gentic influences with a powerful, relentless program of sociological imperatives that shape our identity and the course of our lives in myriad mysterious ways. This refers to a paradigm traditionally known as Nature versus Nurture, though more precisely we are Nature bullied, subdued and re-formed by Nurture. And the main tool of oppression is so basic, so effectively built in to our social conditioning that we rarely consider its creative power. I call this tool is ‘agreement’.

Through our agreements to the conditions of our survival, we become, perform, behave, and are rewarded for ‘appropriate behavior’. Here is the genesis of the virus that corrupts the human spirit. Profoundly influenced by the superficial nature of perception, consciousness is easily seduced into dualistic thinking by language which creates a false duality. Words set up a dichotomy which implies the existence of the absolute: black and white, good and bad, hot and cold and of course the first and foremost of these….man and woman.

Concepts outside of this duality-like homosexuality or Transsexualism-receive far less agreement. Thus this imposed dream of dualism presented me, as a young trans person with a linguistic, performative conundrum which could not be resolved in a social context. Without the words to describe myself, I wandered alone in a fearful, neurotic limbo, the pain of which would only be lessened with drugs and alcohol.

As a human with basic education, I know what defines male and female -the presence of specific genitalia. But as a Trans Woman, I have no idea how to define man or woman. No absolute exists which clearly defines the the two groups despite the linguistic persistence of the concepts. Now comes my personal medicine, and my power as a self identified Two Spirits person : Having traveled from one polar extreme to the other, I now stand with one foot on yin and one on yang and peer into the void and see a vision Ifeel compelled to share with you.

We are one spirit…one being manifesting as beautiful, diverse wildflowers in the field of life. The same beautiful sun shines down upon us all. Our bodies, our language and the distance between us may lend credence to the illusion of separation so often exploited by politics and religion,but this is the BIG LIE that perpetuates our loneliness and isolation. The truth, and the path to our salvation lies in the realization that we are one race of human beings sharing one planet.

What empowers you empowers me. That which imprisons you imprisons me. That which diminishes you, and what lifts you up does the same to me. The universal binding force that has the power to save us, all of us, is love. Without love, we die. How we love, whom we love, the clothes we wear to invite love stand incidental to what the heart requires.

Love is the medicine that will heal a fractured world, so here is your prescription: Love yourself completely, without judgment, without reservation…without condemnation. And if you persist this love will flow outward from your heart-erasing superficial boundaries and healing the fractures between us. And you will begin to see what I already know. I am you. You are me.

WE ARE ONE

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My Angel

April Rose Schneider

Nineteen-eighty was, for me, the culmination of three decades of chaos and misery. The wages of life as a closet transexual had left a typical wake of ruination. Friends, families. jobs, and self esteem turned flotsam in the stormy sea of my gender dysphoria. Even according to my devalued standards my life was a sham The decade of the seventies had be an exercise in failure and humility in which I had burned tenuous bridges using drugs and alcohol as implements of destruction. I had arrived at a place in my life where there was little else to live for, or so I thought. Regarding my love affair with alcohol, it was a small miracle that I wasn’t in prison. Drinking and driving, that was my specialty

By the spring of 1980 I spent most of my time in a pool hall in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida trying with every beer I guzzled to figure out what to do with the disaster I called my life. In a concerted effort to survive, I had become a master of the disguise. Anyone who saw me sitting in the sordid place would have typecast me as just another beer drinking, pool playing, rock and roll biker type. I had long hair, a beard. and bad teeth. I wore dirty jeans, a cutoff t-shirt and carried a knife purely for the sake of image. I donated plasma and used the money to buy beer. A 29 year old drifter, I had no friends no money, no job and no prospects. My life was rapidly gaining tragic overtones but with my flair for drama I was adjusting nicely. I would be the tragic muse whom no one cared to understand, quietly drinking my way to a sad demise. . In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous this is referred to as the jumping off place. I didn’t know it then but I was standing on the precipice of my very own doom…staring into the abyss

In the dark, smoky confines of my favorite bar, I sat often and stayed late. My goal was solitary pursuit of a level of intoxication that would enable me to forget the folly of my tortured existence. On a typically balmy night in April of 1980, I had hitched a ride to my favorite bar with a couple of friends. I had one thing and only one thing in mind for the duration: to get blotto. It wouldn’t be easy with the amount of money I had to my name but I love a challenge. I took my seat facing the door and ordered my first beer.

 

 As a caveat, I should say that by this point in my decline that I had become a confirmed atheist. I held closely to the infamous quote by W.C. Fields; “ Everyone believes in something, I believe I’ll have another drink”. What I didn’t believe in was the existence of miracles. Or angels. I vehemently rejected the whole concept as the province of addle brained zealots scrounging for good press. And even if good things did happen to certain religious types, they would never happen to me. I was beyond redemption.

I was on my third beer when an angel walked into the bar. Admittedly a most unusual place for angel, I would have missed her completely had I not been vigilant. To be very honest she didn’t look like an angel. That realization was to come much later. On that particular night she blazed through the front door with a vengeance and headed straight for some guy sitting at the end of the bar. Uh-oh I thought, here comes trouble. Turned out it was just her cousin. When the dust settled, I realized that I was hypnotized by her essence. I couldn’t keep from watching her.. I was intrigued by her fiery spirit….. and the palest Florida skin I had ever seen barely covered by a hot pink, mid-thigh length spaghetti strap sun dress.. I watched with amusement as the act played itself out and eventually she left the bar but stuck in my mind..

Three days later she came back and I was still there, leaning against the juke box rippin’ a funky solo on my beloved air guitar. Our eyes met and later in the bliss of an alcoholic haze we struck up a casual conversation. We discovered mutual acquaintances among the local riff- raff .Otherwise I cannot recall one tiny sliver of the conversation we had that night. But I do know that nothing I could have said should have caused her to trust me as much as she eventually did. Had I been in her place I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have trusted me. Desperate for a ride as I was I imposed on her with no other motive than to get home. Adventurous young thing that she was, she gave in without a fight. She fell asleep behind the steering wheel two blocks from the bar and I drove the rest of the way from the passenger seat. A few more drinks at my place and we gratefully passed out. The following day brought a welcome surprise. We liked each other sober… enough to spend the day together. And the day turned to weeks, the weeks to months and months to years.

Thus began one of the most wondrous love stories never told. For one must delve beneath the  shallow facade of political correctness that permeates modern culture to appreciate a love so unique, sotranscendent. Ours is a love that surpasses the ties that bind “ordinary’ couples. Beyond the familial, defiant   of the authority of church and state, and despite the finite limitations of the gendered bodies we inhabit, our love is the embodiment of spiritual love. And this is my tribute to that mystical, ineffable force that binds us beyond the limitations of time and space To the special one who shares my heart, my joy, my sorrow and my life. For I am only a transexual with all the rotten smelly baggage that is de rigueur for the gender dysphoric But the light and the love of my life is so much more. Indeed she is friend, lover, and confessor. An angel who loves beyond my flesh

Within the edgy borders of the ever changing geography of our relationship, sex has never been paramount.. We were friends from the very start. She was nineteen, weighed ninety-two ringing wet pounds and had recently extricated herself from an abusive relationship. I still remember the way she would flinch every time my hand came near her face. I was a twenty nine year old drifter generally too drunk to get it up even if I wanted to and I rarely wanted to. I was a miserable failure at playing a man and the many losses had taken their toll on my desire My urge was only to protect her from predators of the human variety.. It was maternal instinct that guided me and nothing else .

I was astonished to find out that she had never really been out of the state of Florida. Her parents had been advocating a change of environment for the sake of her mental health.. We hitch hiked to Ohio only weeks after we met. It was my idea. I took it upon myself to test her mettle and she came through with flying colors. Just as I had surmised, she was a tough little package with plenty of moxie.

When we returned to Florida, I bought a nineteen seventy- six Plymouth station wagon for seventy-five dollars. . I had lived in California in the early seventies and fallen in love with the place. I suggested we take a trip and use the road the get acquainted.. There’s nothing like adventure to put things in perspective and light a fire to the soul. She agreed but I’m quite sure in retrospect that she got a lot more than she bargained for..

 

 

We had only made as far as the panhandle of Florida when the alcohol kicked in and guilt forced me to confess that I “ liked to wear women’s undies‘. This was akin to saying that there is some water in the ocean.. She seemed to be okay with it but we were pretty drunk that night. Actually we were drunk for about three years. After three years with adequate motivation, a person can adapt to just about anything. After we had been in California for a couple of months, she started to notice that the nail polish I wore surreptitiously, never came completely off. She remained unperturbed .and our love continued to flourish.

We quit drinking together in nineteen eighty-three and by the late eighties we were living in Jacksonville, Florida. I was cross dressing with a vengeance but it was never an issue between us. At least as long as it was our little secret. In nineteen ninety-two I acquired Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, and began a slow descent into madness. For a couple of years I underwent severe temporary personality disorder and it put a serious strain on our relationship It was at this pivotal point during the height of my affliction that I realized that keeping a secret had caused me to become dis-eased. I finally faced the truth that I had ran from all my life. I was a male to female transexual. I knew intuitively that staying in the closet was no longer an option.

We began an ongoing discussion of our relationship from every conceivable angle. As these nightly deliberations continued, fourteen years of true love lay bare on the kitchen table. I realized in a nanosecond that I had few options from which to choose. I was back at that metaphorical jumping off place courtesy of fate’s little peccadillo. I would be virtually back in the same straits as the day we had met. This realization was somewhat comforting. Angst ridden transexual that I was I had always secretly envisioned an early suicide with a dramatic flair. As the nightly discussions dragged on ad infinitum, I began to lose hope. I felt the love that had become the fabric of my life begin to shred. Things looked bleak. I prayed to the patron saint of transexuals, Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering.

During the next night’s discussion I played the last card I had. In a move no doubt designed to salvage what little dignity I had left. I told her that I understood her predicament as well if no better than she did. The life of a transexual is a psychological minefield. The life of a spouse of a transexual is equally problematic. I told her that I loved her deeply for the time she had spent supporting me. I told her that I loved her so much that I didn’t want her to suffer anymore. I said I was giving her freedom and would love her no matter what. We cried rivers of tears together.

Now so many years later, I drift back in time to that day back in nineteen-ninety four when my happiness hung in the balance for one terrifying moment. I casually ponder the implications of a darker outcome of those intense nightly discussions. Clearly I see how love, in human form, saved my life. For without love, my life would be as barren and cold as arctic tundra.

We have been married now for thirty-two years. She says that an epiphany caused her to realize that if I was willing to let her go then I truly did .love her deeply. And that she always knew I was “different’ She tells me I’m beautiful and I pretend that I believe her. In 2001, she supported me as I worked, saved and flew to Bangkok for SRS She graciously accepts the monumental lifestyle switch from heterosexual to lesbian These days we kiss only in private. . She says that’s the hardest part.

And so it is that today I am a woman transformed– a convert. saved by the grace of a love beyond my understanding… a non-believer with a value system make over. A reluctant wayfarer stumbling blindly down life‘s rocky road, where I found an angel to help share my load..

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