Losses – Coming Out as TransGender

11 11 2009

rememberance day crossKind of an odd day… and I have been reflecting on this for sometime now, here it is coming all together. I have avoided personal writing, for my own reasons – I have also satisfied my urges for personal writing by keeping them as drafts, here. This is article is a bit more personal.

Today is Remembrance Day. Have you forgotten what that is – or are you reflecting on it as an American, wondering what it really means?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Armistice Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918 (major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war.

Oddly enough, I found myself playing Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2, today. I reflected on what it means for people to lose others. We have losses nearly every day, a Policeman was killed in Seattle, some die in a plane crash, another with swine flu – many in vehicle accidents; the highest killer of all people under 25.

military cemetery

I had buried all my grandparents by 18 (carried the caskets of 3 of them). My father and biological mother (I cast her ashes in the Cromarty Firth in Scotland on a sunny November day) are both dead. All that is left for me of immediate older family is my mother who no longer remembers who I am or anything of my childhood – she was the last to know the child who was David (I think that is the first time I have ever mentioned that name!). I left my country, left behind friends and family more than 20 years ago now. Ad to that the experience I have had as a Wilderness E.M.T. and I think I know something about loss.

I lived with my father for nearly a year, back in Canada, as he wound down and died of cancer. I held his hand, with me crying when he died – and took out my stethoscope to hear his last rasping breaths and weak heartbeat cease.

Losses. “Becoming” (if that is what this is – but it is how others see it) transgender, incurs losses.

I came out first, publically, in March of 2007. I thought that I would start to come out publically after I had resumed the hormone treatments in Feb 2007 and had started body hair removal in Dec 2006. Physical changes and personal encouragement from supporters brought me ‘out’.

Before I tell you any stories – here is the data I offer… Of all the people (family, friends, coworkers), who knew / know you, that you tell when ‘coming out’, here are the results I observed:

50% will disappear, fading over a little time (or not) and they will drop right off the radar.

Of the remaining 50%:

75% will react based on beliefs, judgment and experiences that you never knew they had, and the relationship will be changed significantly from what it was. Sometimes this is for the better though.

25% will remain and they will accept you pretty much as you are.

What that means is that about 1 in 8 will still see you as they nearly always saw you. Then 3 in 8 will treat you differently and may hold some concept of who you are – they may also hold judgment and bias that will manifest itself in weird ways. Those other remaining 4 in 8 – they will drop you right away, or disappear quickly, being unable to come to terms with their loss of you as a person in their life.

Now the stories – first the positive, then some losses.

G: He was – and still is – my best friend. He knew that I had been on hormones back in my late 20’s. We had traveled together, camped, skinny dipped together. I told him about the hormones and breasts 6 years ago – and he had seen them when swimming with me. When he was first told about me transitioning, he reacted like I was kidding – like I was trying to say I was going to start cross dressing. It has taken over 2 years for him to refer to me as Sarah to others, he still calls me David to my face (and that is ok). He still struggles a bit with me as female – mostly because he thought that I would become another person. I think he thought that I would become a woman who knew nothing of what I had in my head and who never saw what my eyes have seen. He now seems to understand that we can still talk and play with Land Rovers. He is in the 1 in 8.

C: Thank God, I am working with / for and incredible women who is my direct supervisor with the company I work for and a person I am glad to call friend. She never batted an eye (although she does stare at my chest sometimes). She is the only person I interact on a daily basis with that I can make gender comments to. Like when we were in Safeway and I said “If I give to breast cancer I also have to give to prostate cancer – I can get both!”. She is always about the performance of the individual, not the gender – and she is quick to point out that the ‘innies’ get a harder shake of it. I remember when I told her (I then sent her this blog)… she said, so are you like a cross dresser on the weekend? Standing there, wearing a womans jacket, I took it off and said “I am wearing all women’s clothing, and have been – have you not noticed the make-up and everything else”? I have 7 ear piercings, long hair and breasts… yet, she met me as David and still sees me as ‘him’. C has never ‘betrayed’ me, never slighted me with a careless comment. The relationship is what I wanted – unchanged. I do not want to be Sarah to her.

DragQueenN: He is in the 3 of 8 category. N is a great friend, who became a better friend after I told him. It did change one thing – he still, no matter how much I explain it to him, wants to see me “in drag”. What that means, is that he wants me to look like some kind of performance drag queen! Sorry N. He is nice though (and he is gay) and has treated me great as a woman when we go out – he is the one guy I like going out to dinner with. His Thanksgiving dinners are as the family that I do not have.

The other 50% – who dropped off

J: G told J before I could talk to him. Now he has been a great friend, what else can you call a person who will help you drywall and insulate in your garage, live on your boat (and help pay for it), help you through a divorce?… the list goes on. I never got another email from him. I have seen him on three occasions in the past 2+ years at social Land Rover events and he treats me like I have an infection, that is contagious, in a cloud 20′ around me. WTF? 

J is the most glaring example of the 50% that fall off, but he is joined by

L: Who I at one time considered a soul mate and more, was the daughter of lesbians and feigned understanding and support until the truth caught her up – the lie that she held. L suffered from the Peter Syndrome – in private, she was all about support, but in public and with people she knew (in any way), I found that she did not even mention our relationship, about living with me or who I was. In the end, even with her here, I found that she would introduce me as a friend, David, while loving Sarah. L denied knowing me publically.

A: She is really in the 25%, but there was a wake of losses that my closest confidant, friend, lover and so much more affected because she was more than willing to share ‘who I was’. She told old coworkers and other acquaintances. She also told her conservative family before she had even worked out what was really happening – let alone how to talk about it. Not once was I there to share my truth. The mother of A was also able to fake support and understanding, for a short time, until I found out that she had portrayed me as a freak to all she knew (and she is the matriarch of the extended family) and her daughter as someone trying to ‘rescue me’. This is where I really learned the term “frienemy”. Honestly, those that have gone – the losses – the real loss is theirs. I gained knowing who are true friends to my being.

The relationships with women in intimacy have been most challenging. Beyond being TG, there has been other complications (like other relationships), but the “TG thing” always has a large bearing. I no longer know what is truth – honesty. There always seemed to be some kind of deception when all that I offered was the bearing of an innermost past that I buried for 30 years behind facial hair and outdoor leadership skills teaching. Being TG and transitioning is hard in intimacy, few relationships of this kind survive the transition phase.

Honestly, the most damage to relationships has been caused by others telling my “TG story” to friends that we both know together. Once you share “the secret” (because that is what it is to everyone you talk to), they will want to tell others; I promise you that.

So, the best way to share your coming out is organize yourself, figure out who, when, where and what you want to say – and in what order. After that, it will change your life, just like your transition will.

I have no regrets after more than 3 years of coming out. I look forward to the continuing journey.

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YouTube. WordPress does for writing what YouTube does for video

23 08 2009

I work as a writer and SEO, so my medium is understandably, writing.

Having said that, there is the medium of video and YouTube. YouTube has done for video what WordPress does for my writing. In the position I work in, for the company I work for (and I dare not put in a link to them because we monitor all links) I am the Communications Manager and Technical Writer; a nice title given to me without increasing my royalties! I also post instructional YouTube’s for work, but have yet to do any for myself.

If you are not used to YouTube, go there and type up a subject – from changing your oil to tuning your guitar (a friend found the subject of canning well covered!) to transgender and most anything you can think of. I found video instructions to reset the maintenance required light for my 2006 Scion Xb.

Here are a couple of my favorite people in the YouTube Transgender Community. Their videos are honest, educational, opinionated (sometimes), funny and often just plain entertaining.

Charlotte has a lot of videos – hours of amusement. I really liked her most recent one about detransitioning, so here is her link…

http://www.youtube.com/user/karmatic1110

This is honest and very nearly word for word my own experience; except for the fishy’s part! I knew I had ‘crossed the line’ when I was not trying to present and was being viewed as a woman. I go to work, with french braided hair (more days than not) and am still always seen and refered to as my male self – even though I am clearly over the line. And before you ask – I have no problem with people who used to know me as a male refering to me by my male name. I respond to either and my old name is like a ‘nick-name’ reminding me of who my long term friends have been.

<<>>

CandiFLA offers some very educational comments to help the beginner. Most impressive is her control of voice – although she is gorgous as well!

http://www.youtube.com/user/candiFLA

the video explains itself…





Gender Transitioning, Character Changes and Children

22 08 2009

For those of us in the TG community, there is a duty for support of each other as well as education for both inside and outside the community.

Warning, stop reading this right now. This article deals with the harshest subject in an honest manner.

You are not going to like what I am saying part of the time. You are going to think that I am wrong. Stop reading now.

IF you choose to start reading, then read it all, until the end, please. Please. It is a longish article and I will likely add to it upon more reflection and experiences.

Stop in the Name of Love

Stop in the Name of Love

I started this blog with who I am… a journeyer

Here is the fairytale, the story that you want to live. This is the story you tell yourself that will make you feel complete. So you woke up one day and thought – “I am not going to live the lie anymore. I am going to be who I was always meant to be. I am going to become the person who has been inside and hiding for all these years.”

For years, you just blended in, ‘kind of’. No one really knew what was in your head, the monsters that came to you at night, the dreams you masturbated to. Occasionally you reveled something of yourself and you were thought of as gay, or a dyke or a CD; by a partner or stranger that wanted to pigeon-hole you. You went to work and nobody knew what was inside you, dying to get out. You went to church, got married, had kids… and still they did not know. Then one day, you say a couple sentences to try to sum up all that you have felt, dreamt, wished, thought and all that you hope will happen and BOOM the bomb goes off.

The Big Bomb

The Big Bomb

Then you go see a doctor, go see a therapist, go to marriage counselling, go see a lawyer – get a divorce, fight for custody, have some surgery – and what do you have left? Who are you now?

If you have already exploded it all, if you have already blown up all your past life in a planned, rush of a sequence of timed detonations, then I am going to tell you the truths you know – the ones that you already know and live with everyday. If you have not blown it all up then take a look at what I am offering to help you transition.

calm

Calm Down

Take a calming breathe and repeat after me. Know who I am then what I want. FIRST – Know who you are, then SECOND – know what you want. Know who you are first and then what you want will just happen. Get it? Not quite yet, but this will help.

Time and time again when I encounter people who are unhappy and challenged, they are transitioning, or in love with someone transitioning. There is a swamp of feelings surrounding transition but most often I hear from people “I did not know I was (they were) like that. If your true goal in transitioning is to ostracize your past and try to start with very little in tow, then make grand announcements of a character, behavioral change. If you wish to maintain something of your old life (children, family, work, friends, sanity), then read on.

Transitioning need not be so painful. It need not be the rebirth that so many books and speakers seem to endorse. Not every person needs to fall from the sky, burn up to cinder then rise like the Phoenix (and that is the dream of many). If you think that you are prepared here for all the changes, read Astronaut Training first.

Missing the Right Arm

Missing the Right Arm

A Farmer looses an arm. Not an uncommon injury in some form or another across the country – much more common than F2M or M2F transitions, every year. The key here is what happens to the person after they lose the arm; the transition that might take place – and you should be able to imagine some tough scenarios here:

  • They wallow in self pity, retreating into a world with little social contact.
  • They feel like a freak, unable to do what others so easily do, and everyday is work just to keep up.
  • They change their character entirely towards the negative and become mean drunk and lose their family.

More often than not, a person with this sort of injury receives intensive therapy and, if they have the will, they return to their old life as they were. The lesson here is that if you were to lose an arm AND you want the people who always loved you to treat you the same, then keep your character. People can deal with the changes that come from you physically changing much more easily – they cannot adapt as well if you mentally change.

If your penis does not work, we have designed a drug so that you can make it work. The reason for that drug is two fold, less so for the operator but primarily so that things operate the same as they always have for the partner. It retains the ‘character’ of the act.

People have ‘character’ expectations of people they are with. If you change your character too much, people around you have a very hard time coping. Here is a man who retained his character after horrific life altering events. Read his story if you are not familiar with just how physically gifted he was before his accident and the character he maintained after the accident.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Reeve

Mastectomy and the body changing impact

Mastectomy and the body changing impact

Women are subjected to a constant threat of a major body change. The result often changes the person they were. Once again, I will be bold saying that a partner, husband, family and friends will have little trouble with the transition IF your character remains intact. But, move towards Shame or Anger; taken what has happened out on a family, or the partner – or one of the negative courses like the farmer above who lost his arm and that will send a message that you have changed, mentally. Mental – character changes are the toughest for people around you to comprehend and, in turn, continue with you in a relationship. Mental – Character changes leave those who love the altered person adrift in how they can be with them.

Also Liu Yan – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/arts/dance/19barb.html

You can transition, live a great life and continue with family and especially your children… but your character needs to be defined.

Double Mastectomy means freedom and life to some

Double Mastectomy means freedom and life to some

Who you are – Know who you are – FIRST.

What you want to do with transitioning comes after knowing who you are, first. Too often we become lost on the “who we are becoming” journey and forget that there are many things about who we are and have been that are what others (and often ourselves) enjoy most about us. We spent a childhood, adolescence, adulthood forming who we are; not all of it needs to be left behind during transition.

So, if you really want to “get lost” and be forgotten, transition how you are. Most people transition and leave behind all that they ever knew. But this is not the only way…

Now about Children…

So you have decided to transition and you want to freak your kids out. This is easy, tell them just the way you did your partner, wife/husband, friends and work. Now if you want to maintain being with your children and you are switching which gender you are attracted to in a partner, this will complicate things – but only a bit – but that is a different article.

NOW, the part about kids and family. This is the secret recipe to give you the best chance at happiness IF you wish to maintain those around you AND be able to transition with them. You are going to need to keep your character consistent here, in spite of all the other changes that you will be doing. It is the little things that shake up the situation. Here are some M2F examples…

  • Refuse to mow the lawn because it is not ‘womanly’; or you might break a nail
  • Stop working on cars and get to the point where changing your own tire is beyond you
  • Go from confident business adviser to shaken, insecure person
  • Only do ‘girley’ things in a ‘girley’ way

People who care about you just can’t handle the change – and that is not their fault. You have a responsibility to yourself first, and then to them. Ask yourself if you are being real when (and this is because I am such a car gal) you tell your wife, children that “even though you have been a mechanic for 15 years, you are not able to do anything on a car at all now because you are becoming a woman” – and this is a true story, because I heard the woman who was so proud of her new “F” on her driver’s license say this to me!! How are people who know you supposed to keep up if you change who you are as a result of what you want?

My son

My son

You want to make it easier for your children? It is easy (and I am using 17 years teaching and 10 years as a stay at home father as my basis here). Retain your character with your children. Regardless of what your character is, retain it or make your character better for your children.

The real secret here is that you have to be who you are before your transition.

As an afterthought (I stumbled upon this video late October), this is a good message to Transgender individuals who are ‘over doing it’ or who are trying to figure out how to ‘act’.





Transgender – Positive News

29 12 2008

I have written much about Gender; about society, the community and the person transitioning. Additionally, with the some 20,000 words here on this blog, I have increased the number of videos. If a picture is worth a 1000 words….

Here is some positive, social information. There are a number of agencies, companies and service agencies that are making some efforts to inform ‘norms’ to understand and even welcome transgender people.

From the Chicago Police Department, an informational video for the staff and the public.

20/20 – Gender, a 5 part episode. This series by Barbara Walters is societies attempt (with some success) at understanding Gender, what it means to families, their children and the media. This series concentrates on transgendered children.

From the moment we’re born, our gender identity is no secret. We’re either a boy or a girl. Gender organizes our world into pink or blue. As we grow up, most of us naturally fit into our gender roles. Girls wear dresses and play with dolls. For boys, it’s pants and trucks.

But for some children, what’s between their legs doesn’t match what’s between their ears — they insist they were born into the wrong body. They are transgender children, diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and their parents insist this is not a phase.
“A phase is called a phase because it is just that. It ends. And this is not ending. This is just getting stronger,” Renee Jennings told ABC News’ Barbara Walters. The Jennings asked that “20/20” not disclose their real name in order to protect the identity of their 6-year old transgender daughter, Jazz.

Most transgender children still live in the shadows, hiding from a world that sees them as freaks of nature. Rejected by their families, many grow up hating their bodies, and fall victim to high rates of depression, drug abuse, violence and suicide.
Today, hundreds of families with transgender children — who have found each other over the Internet — are taking a dramatically different course. They’re allowing their children to live in the gender they identify with in order to save them from a future of heartache and pain.
“I think we’re a very normal family,” said Renee’s husband, Scott. “I think we have a very healthy marriage. We love to watch our children in all of their activities, whether it’s at school, or on the field playing sports.”

On the surface, the Jennings and their four children are a typical American family. But their youngest child, Jazz, is only in kindergarten, and already she is one of the youngest known cases of an early transition from male to female.
“We’ll say things like, ‘You’re special. God made you special.’ Because there aren’t very many little girls out there that have a penis,” said Renee. “Renee and I are in 100 percent agreement as to how we should raise Jazz,” said Scott. “We don’t encourage, we support. And we just keep listening to what she tells us.”
From the moment he could speak, Jazz made it clear he wanted to wear a dress. At only 15 months, he would unsnap his onesies to make it look like a dress. When his parents praised Jazz as a “good boy,” he would correct them, saying he was a good girl.
The Jennings wanted to believe it would pass. Scott said he “was in a bit of denial” about what Jazz was trying to tell them. After all, even their rowdy twin boys, who are two years older than Jazz, had painted their nails growing up. But Jazz kept gravitating to girl things, insisting that his penis was a mistake.

There is a ground swell, a change from the 80’s ‘sex image’ of a TG Girl presenting her penis in a porn video. There is movement to “allow” transgender people to keep their jobs and to transition. Almost 125+ Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies in place that accommodate transgender peoples through their transition – while maintaining their jobs.





Transgender people step out, risk ridicule, worse

19 08 2008
Jobs, friends, families at risk, but transgender people take chance to understand themselves and be understood.

By Valryn Warren – Staff Writer – Dayton Daily News

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Little is widely or completely understood about why transgender people have gender identity conflicts.

What is unknown evokes fear, and fear provokes a negative reaction. It becomes a vicious circle as transgender people often hide their need to dress or live as a gender opposite the one they were identified as at birth.

“People are deeply closeted because of the extreme amount of ridicule,” said Jenny Caden, who was born male but began living as a woman full time six months ago.

And there is much to fear.

Jobs, friends, marriages and families sometimes are lost.

James Burgess understands how powerful the fear is because he’s experienced it from both sides.

Burgess, a local retired electrical engineer, is married and a heterosexual cross-dresser. He is analytical, intellectual and willing to talk about being a cross-dresser because he’s dedicated to better education about transgender issues.

And he’s honest. While seeking a high security clearance for work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he was asked what would happen if somebody outed him as a cross-dresser. He said, “Go ahead and let them try.”

He got his clearance.

But Burgess also remembers his first transgender conference in 1965.

“I was fearful,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to meet Hell’s Angels looking for a guy in a dress or what. I was worried about people not respecting my boundaries.”

Burgess said fear is the main reason transgender people avoid being “outed” and why others sometimes react negatively. But secrecy breeds further misunderstanding.

“The secrecy prevents us from understanding ourselves or getting understanding from others,” he said. “We need to connect, to share ideas. But classically, everybody learns to hide things about themselves they realize won’t be accepted. And then we can’t get the answers we need.”

Dr. Frederick Peterson, a Dayton-area sex therapist, Wright State University professor and author, said gender identity conflicts are classified in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV,” as “gender dysphoria,” but counseling focuses on helping the patient deal with the stress of their difference.

“This is not a mental illness,” Peterson said. “It’s in the book — but if you smoke, that’s nictoine dependence, and you’re in the book, too. There are a lot of things in the DSM-IV that aren’t really mental illnesses.”

Estimates of the transgender population are just estimates. Lynn Conway, a computer scientist, electrical engineer and professor, as well as a transsexual woman, has done extensive research and believes it is at about 6 percent of all males and three percent of females.

Conway’s data indicates two categories make up about 95 percent of transgender people — cross-dressers and transsexuals.

Cross-dressing

Cross-dressers, who dress and present as a gender other than the one they were born with, constitute the majority of all transgender persons.

Cross-dressers can be of either sex and any sexual orientation, but Conway estimates that more than 90 percent are heterosexual males, often married with families, who dress as women.

The frequency and type of cross-dressing behavior varies enormously — from very occasional to daily, from wearing a single item of clothing to being fully decked out with hair and makeup.

A cross-dresser’s need to sometimes dress as the opposite sex seems to be innate and powerful, but they are also comfortable with the gender identity associated with their biological sex.

At 79, Burgess has had plenty of time to think about what his cross-dressing means — and he has.

“You never get perfect answers, but as you get older, you do get better ones,” he said.

Twice married, the father of three believes cross-dressing is an example of Carl Jung’s theories of the unconscious shadow self seeking expression. He says that plays out in traditional romantic relationships too, as people project denied parts of themselves onto others and fall in love.

“For whatever reason, transgender people become consciously aware of that unconscious self,” he said.

Burgess said dealing with being transgender is not only difficult and confusing for the individual, but for friends and family, especially spouses.

“The spouse is involved, they have their own fears and feelings and it can be really bad for them,” he said. “Many do divorce, although it often seems they somehow end up being best friends.”

Burgess said cross-dressing was an issue in his first marriage, but something he and his current wife have been able to work through.

“I think for me it was always about the need to connect with the feminine,” he said. “I seem to have found the connection I sought with my current wife. I would argue that our marriage has been about growth for both of us.”

Transsexuals

Like cross-dressers, transsexuals assume an opposite sex gender identity because that’s who they feel they truly are. 

Like cross-dressers, they can be of any sexual orientation or biological sex, but most often are male.

For transsexuals, sometimes dressing in opposite gender clothing is usually not enough. They are not comfortable as their birth sex and feel “trapped in the wrong body.”

They usually desire and often seek some kind of permanent physical modification, including hormonal treatment, cosmetic and/or genital reassignment surgery, or some combination.

Caden, a software engineer, legally changed her name and made the leap to life as a woman six months ago.

Born and raised in the Dayton area, she’s been married, has two adult children, and once worked as a volunteer paramedic.

Her journey from being known as a man to being accepted as a woman has been a mixture of joy and panic, and she still doesn’t know how it all ends.

“You get so scared,” she said. “So much has been unexpected. I thought my sister would do better with it and my parents worse, and it’s been the opposite. My kids have been supportive. We decided they still call me Dad. That’s who I am to them, and no amount of surgery changes that.”

There have been bright spots — Caden was a contract worker at NCR, a company she says is very supportive of diversity and the best possible work environment she could have had as she began transition.

Caden continues with psychological and hormonal therapy. Medical protocol requires a full year of living as a woman before genital reassignment surgery can be done.

And life goes on as usual in other ways. Her contract with NCR recently expired, and she worries about finding another job.

“If you do this on a whim or think it’s going to solve all of life’s problems, you’re going to be very disappointed,” she said. “But am I happier as Jenny? Absolutely. I can now do something I wasn’t able to in my entire previous 55 years of life — like myself.”

Out

While transgender people may not be prevalent, they are becoming more visible and connected, particularly in the Internet age. In 2007, a number of high-profile cases came to public attention.

Locally, Steven Cole, who allegedly sometimes cross-dressed, was arrested in a Mason park in a bikini and blonde wig. There were also charges of intoxication, with the public indecency charges later dropped in a plea agreement. But Cole, married with children, lost his full-time job as a Waynesville volunteer firefighter.

Steve Stanton, city manager of Largo, Fla., began to become Susan, thinking he had a plan mapped out that would satisfy his employers. But Stanton lost his job, and as Susan, according to a recent story in the St. Petersburg Times, is still unemployed.

Mike Penner, sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, publicly disclosed to readers his intention of becoming Christine Daniels. As Christine, Penner is still a sportswriter and also blogs about her experiences as a transsexual woman.

The state of Ohio and the city of Dayton both recently passed legislation barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but that only covers state or city employees. In Ohio’s private sector, there is no protection against firings for sexual orientation or gender identity, whether the behavior is discovered on or off the job.

A federal law prohibiting employment discrimination by sexual orientation originally included gender identity, but it was dropped from protection in the latest version passed by the House in November.

“We did a poll, and Ohioans seem to be comfortable with passing laws that protect employment for both,” said Bo Shuff, director of education and public policy at Equality Ohio. “As people become more familiar with what it means, they seem to become more comfortable with eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Why?

Everybody always wants to know why,” Caden said. “They’ll say, can’t you cure this, give him a pill, make it go away? Sorry — doesn’t work that way.”

Theories abound, even among the transgender community. What does seem likely is that there is some kind of biological or neurological influence, but no one knows for sure.

Peterson said the professional view of transgender has shifted from “perversity to diversity.” He said it’s become clear that biological sex, gender identity and sexual orientation are variables, and not always fixed in a particular sequence.

“We’re moving from an old school full of sexual folklore and myths to more of a new school of sexual science,” he said. “That’s really moved us towards conceiving there are many different valid expressions once considered outside the range of normal.”

Caden said family and friends can often adjust, once they realize that the person living or dressing as another gender doesn’t change everything else about them.

“In most ways, we are still the same people they knew before,” Caden said. “People are afraid of what they don’t understand, but the way to fix that is education.”





Transgender people confront a puzzle of identity in a veil of secrecy

19 08 2008

By Valryn Warren

Staff Writer – Dayton Daily News

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Transgender people have existed for at least as long as there is written history, but the term “transgender” is relatively new, coined in the 1990s.

It broadly encompasses a number of ways a person’s biological sex can differ from their gender identity — the sense of who they are, the things they’re drawn to and the way they prefer to appear.

But many people are still uncertain exactly what it means to be transgender — and that sometimes even includes those who are.

“Dayton is still very deeply closeted,” said Jenny Caden, a transsexual who recently started living full-time as a woman. “A lot of transgender people are simply too scared to go out, for fear of losing their job or their families, or of being ridiculed. Progress is being made, but it’s painfully slow. I wonder sometimes how much I’ll see in my lifetime.”

“Gender identity” and “transgender” are terms largely puzzling to the general public, partly because of the secrecy surrounding transgender expression.

Transgender is often spoken in the same breath as gay, lesbian and bisexual, adding to the confusion — since those are terms related to sexual orientation. A person can be transgender and of any sexual orientation, although the largest group within the transgender community — cross-dressers — are primarily heterosexual men.

“Sexual orientation is who you are attracted to, gender identity is who you are in your head,” said Bo Shuff, director of education and public policy at Equality Ohio, a statewide educational and political action coalition advocating equality for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

A transgender person’s gender identity fluctuates, conflicts with, or varies from expected norms for their biological sex, or in some rare cases, the one they were assigned at birth.





Young, Gay and Murdered (Newsweek Title) – About Gender

22 07 2008
 

Please read through this. It is a tale of Murder… and Gender being mislabeled as being Gay (the easier to understand label or “box”). This is a hate crime

Hating people for anything is wrong. This is the story of a young, misunderstood teen with many other social challenges and difficulties going on since early youth. Larry also had strong support of an openly Lesbian Vice Principal who fostered confusion of this being only a Gay subject. Gender differences often fall into the common labels that society offers about sexual orientation, rather than gender identity. Ultimately, forcing anyone into any box or label is wrong, though Larry had little choice but to accept the only label offered him by a caring (and uncaring) teachers and misguided ‘parents’ – despite so many obvious gender crossing behaviors.

Larry and Brandon both suffered. Sexual Orientation is about who you want to have sex with – Gender is who you are. Live – Love – Be.

 

By Ramin Setoodeh | NEWSWEEK

Published Jul 19, 2008

Kids are coming out younger, but are schools ready to handle the complex issues of identity and sexuality? For Larry King, the question had tragic implications.

At 15, Lawrence King was small—5 feet 1 inch—but very hard to miss. In January, he started to show up for class at Oxnard, Calif.’s E. O. Green Junior High School decked out in women’s accessories. On some days, he would slick up his curly hair in a Prince-like bouffant. Sometimes he’d paint his fingernails hot pink and dab glitter or white foundation on his cheeks. “He wore makeup better than I did,” says Marissa Moreno, 13, one of his classmates. He bought a pair of stilettos at Target, and he couldn’t have been prouder if he had on a varsity football jersey. He thought nothing of chasing the boys around the school in them, teetering as he ran.

But on the morning of Feb. 12, Larry left his glitter and his heels at home. He came to school dressed like any other boy: tennis shoes, baggy pants, a loose sweater over a collared shirt. He seemed unhappy about something. He hadn’t slept much the night before, and he told one school employee that he threw up his breakfast that morning, which he sometimes did because he obsessed over his weight. But this was different. One student noticed that as Larry walked across the quad, he kept looking back nervously over his shoulder before he slipped into his first-period English class. The teacher, Dawn Boldrin, told the students to collect their belongings, and then marched them to a nearby computer lab, so they could type out their papers on World War II. Larry found a seat in the middle of the room. Behind him, Brandon McInerney pulled up a chair.

Brandon, 14, wasn’t working on his paper, because he told Mrs. Boldrin he’d finished it. Instead, he opened a history book and started to read. Or at least he pretended to. “He kept looking over at Larry,” says a student who was in the class that morning. “He’d look at the book and look at Larry, and look at the book and look at Larry.” At 8:30 a.m., a half hour into class, Brandon quietly stood up. Then, without anyone’s noticing, he removed a handgun that he had somehow sneaked to school, aimed it at Larry’s head, and fired a single shot. Boldrin, who was across the room looking at another student’s work, spun around. “Brandon, what the hell are you doing!” she screamed. Brandon fired at Larry a second time, tossed the gun on the ground and calmly walked through the classroom door. Police arrested him within seven minutes, a few blocks from school. Larry was rushed to the hospital, where he died two days later of brain injuries.

The Larry King shooting became the most prominent gay-bias crime since the murder of Matthew Shepard 10 years ago. But despite all the attention and outrage, the reason Larry died isn’t as clear-cut as many people think. California’s Supreme Court has just legalized gay marriage. There are gay characters on popular TV shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “Ugly Betty,” and no one seems to notice. Kids like Larry are so comfortable with the concept of being openly gay that they are coming out younger and younger. One study found that the average age when kids self-identify as gay has tumbled to 13.4; their parents usually find out a year later.

What you might call “the shrinking closet” is arguably a major factor in Larry’s death. Even as homosexuality has become more accepted, the prospect of being openly gay in middle school raises a troubling set of issues. Kids may want to express who they are, but they are playing grown-up without fully knowing what that means. At the same time, teachers and parents are often uncomfortable dealing with sexual issues in children so young. Schools are caught in between. How do you protect legitimate, personal expression while preventing inappropriate, sometimes harmful, behavior? Larry King was, admittedly, a problematical test case: he was a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon—it was often his first line of defense. But his story sheds light on the difficulty of defining the limits of tolerance. As E. O. Green found, finding that balance presents an enormous challenge.

Larry’s life was hard from the beginning. His biological mother was a drug user; his father wasn’t in the picture. When Greg and Dawn King took him in at age 2, the family was told he wasn’t being fed regularly. Early on, a speech impediment made Larry difficult to understand, and he repeated first grade because he had trouble reading. He was a gentle child who loved nature and crocheting, but he also acted out from an early age. “We couldn’t take him to the grocery store without him shoplifting,” Greg says. “We couldn’t get him to clean up his room. We sent him upstairs—he’d get a screwdriver and poke holes in the walls.” He was prescribed ADHD medication, and Greg says Larry was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, a rare condition in which children never fully bond with their caregivers or parents.

Kids started whispering about Larry when he was in third grade at Hathaway Elementary School. “In a school of 700 students, you’d know Larry,” says Sarah Ranjbar, one of Larry’s principals. “He was slightly effeminate but very sure of his personality.” Finally, his best friend, Averi Laskey, pulled him aside one day at the end of class. “I said, ‘Larry, are you gay?’ He said, ‘Yeah, why?’ ” He was 10. Averi remembers telling Larry she didn’t care either way, but Larry started telling other students, and they did. They called him slurs and avoided him at recess. One Halloween, someone threw a smoke bomb into his house, almost killing the family’s Jack Russell terrier. In the sixth grade, a girl started a “Burn Book”—an allusion to a book in the movie “Mean Girls,” where bullies scribble nasty rumors about the people they hate—about Larry. The Larry book talked about how he was gay and falsely asserted that he dressed in Goth and drag. And it ended with a threat: “I hate Larry King. I wish he was dead,” according to one parent’s memory of the book. “The principal called my wife on the phone and she was crying,” Greg says. “She found the book, and said we needed to do something to help protect Larry.” His parents transferred him to another elementary school, hoping he could get a fresh start before he started junior high.

E. O. Green is a white slab of concrete in a neighborhood of pink and yellow homes. In the afternoons, SUVs roll down the street like gumballs, the sound of hip-hop music thumping. Once the students leave the campus, two blue gates seal it shut, and teachers are told not to return to school after dark, because of gang violence. Outside, there’s a worn blue sign that greets visitors: this was a California distinguished school in 1994. The school is under a different administration now.

E. O. Green was a comfortable place for Larry when he arrived as a seventh grader. He hung out with a group of girls who, unlike in elementary school, didn’t judge him. But that didn’t mean he was entirely accepted. In gym class, some of his friends say that the boys would shove him around in the locker room. After he started dressing up, he was ridiculed even more. He lost a high heel once and the boys tossed it around at lunch like a football. “Random people would come up to him and start laughing,” Moreno says. “I thought that was very rude.” One day, in science class, he was singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to himself. Kids nearby taunted him for being gay. “He said to me, ‘It’s OK’,” says Vanessa Castillo, a classmate. ” ‘One day, they’ll regret it. One day, I’ll be famous’.”

Larry’s home life wasn’t getting any better. At 12, he was put on probation for vandalizing a tractor with a razor blade, and he entered a counseling program, according to his father. One therapist said Larry might be autistic. At 14, Larry told Greg he thought he was bisexual. “It wouldn’t matter either way to me,” Greg says. “I thought maybe some of the problems would go away if we supported him.” But the therapist told Greg he thought that Larry was just trying to get attention and might not understand what it meant to be gay. Larry began telling his teachers that his father was hitting him. Greg says he never harmed Larry; still, the authorities removed Larry from his home in November 2007. He moved to Casa Pacifica, a group home and treatment center in Camarillo, five miles away from Oxnard.

Larry seemed to like Casa Pacifica—”peaceful home” in Spanish. The 23-acre facility—more like a giant campground, with wooden cottages, a basketball court and a swimming pool—has 45 beds for crisis kids who need temporary shelter. Every day a driver would take Larry to school, and some weeks he went to nearby Ventura, where he attended gay youth-group meetings. “I heard this was the happiest time of his life,” says Vicki Murphy, the center’s director of operations. For Christmas, the home gave Larry a $75 gift card for Target. He spent it on a pair of brown stiletto shoes.

In January, after a few months at Casa Pacifica, Larry decided to dress like a girl. He went to school accessorized to the max, and his already colorful personality got louder. He accused a girl to her face of having breast implants. Another girl told him she didn’t like his shoes. “I don’t like your necklace,” Larry snapped back. Larry called his mom from Casa Pacifica to tell her that he wanted to get a sex-change operation. And he told a teacher that he wanted to be called Leticia, since no one at school knew he was half African-American. The teacher said firmly, “Larry, I’m not calling you Leticia.” He dropped the idea without an argument.

The staff at E. O. Green was clearly struggling with the Larry situation—how to balance his right to self-expression while preventing it from disrupting others. Legally, they couldn’t stop him from wearing girls’ clothes, according to the California Attorney General’s Office, because of a state hate-crime law that prevents gender discrimination. Larry, being Larry, pushed his rights as far as he could. During lunch, he’d sidle up to the popular boys’ table and say in a high-pitched voice, “Mind if I sit here?” In the locker room, where he was often ridiculed, he got even by telling the boys, “You look hot,” while they were changing, according to the mother of a student.

Larry was eventually moved out of the P.E. class, though the school didn’t seem to know the extent to which he was clashing with other boys. One teacher describes the gym transfer as more of a “preventative measure,” since Larry complained that one student wouldn’t stop looking at him. In other classes, teachers were baffled that Larry was allowed to draw so much attention to himself. “All the teachers were complaining, because it was disruptive,” says one of them. “Dress code is a huge issue at our school. We fight [over] it every day.” Some teachers thought Larry was clearly in violation of the code, which prevents students from wearing articles of clothing considered distracting. When Larry wore lipstick and eyeliner to school for the first time, a teacher told him to wash it off, and he did. But the next day, he was back wearing even more. Larry told the teacher he could wear makeup if he wanted to. He said that Ms. Epstein told him that was his right.

Joy Epstein was one of the school’s three assistant principals, and as Larry became less inhibited, Epstein became more a source of some teachers’ confusion and anger. Epstein, a calm, brown-haired woman with bifocals, was openly gay to her colleagues, and although she was generally not out to her students, she kept a picture of her partner on her desk that some students saw. While her job was to oversee the seventh graders, she formed a special bond with Larry, who was in the eighth grade. He dropped by her office regularly, either for counseling or just to talk—she won’t say exactly. “There was no reason why I specifically started working with Larry,” Epstein says. “He came to me.” Some teachers believe that she was encouraging Larry’s flamboyance, to help further an “agenda,” as some put it. One teacher complains that by being openly gay and discussing her girlfriend (presumably, no one would have complained if she had talked about a husband), Epstein brought the subject of sex into school. Epstein won’t elaborate on what exactly she said to Larry because she expects to be called to testify at Brandon’s trial, but it’s certain to become one of the key issues. William Quest, Brandon’s public defender, hasn’t disclosed his defense strategy, but he has accused the school of failing to intercede as the tension rose between Larry and Brandon. Quest calls Epstein “a lesbian vice principal with a political agenda.” Larry’s father also blames Epstein. He’s hired an attorney and says he is seriously contemplating a wrongful-death lawsuit. “She started to confuse her role as a junior-high principal,” Greg King says. “I think that she was asserting her beliefs for gay rights.” In a tragedy such as this, the natural impulse is to try to understand why it happened and to look for someone to blame. Epstein won’t discuss the case in detail and, until she testifies in court, it’s impossible to know what role—if any—she played in the events leading to Larry’s death.

Whatever Epstein said to Larry, it’s clear that his coming out proved to be a fraught process, as it can often be. For tweens, talking about being gay isn’t really about sex. They may be aware of their own sexual attraction by the time they’re 10, according to Caitlin Ryan, a researcher at San Francisco State University, but those feelings are too vague and unfamiliar to be their primary motivation. (In fact, Larry told a teacher that he’d never kissed anyone, male or female.) These kids are actually concerned with exploring their identity. “When you’re a baby, you cry when you’re hungry because you don’t know the word for it,” says Allan Acevedo, 19, of San Diego, who came out when he was in eighth grade. “Part of the reason why people are coming out earlier is they have the word ‘gay,’ and they know it explains the feeling.” Like older teenagers, tweens tend to tell their friends first, because they think they’ll be more accepting. But kids that age often aren’t equipped to deal with highly personal information, and middle-school staffs are almost never trained in handling kids who question their sexuality. More than 3,600 high schools sponsor gay-straight alliances designed to foster acceptance of gay students, but only 110 middle schools have them. Often the entire school finds out before either the student or the faculty is prepared for the attention and the backlash. “My name became a punch line very fast,” says Grady Keefe, 19, of Branford, Conn., who came out in the eighth grade. “The guidance counselors told me I should not have come out because I was being hurt.”

The staff at E. O. Green tried to help as Larry experimented with his identity, but he liked to talk in a roar. One teacher asked him why he taunted the boys in the halls, and Larry replied, “It’s fun to watch them squirm.” But Brandon McInerney was different. Larry really liked Brandon. One student remembered that Larry would often walk up close to Brandon and stare at him. Larry had studied Brandon so well, he once knew when he had a scratch on his arm—Larry even claimed that he had given it to Brandon by mistake, when the two were together. Larry told one of his close friends that he and Brandon had dated but had broken up. He also said that he’d threatened to tell the entire school about them, if Brandon wasn’t nicer to him. Quest, Brandon’s defense attorney, says there was no relationship between Larry and Brandon, and one of Larry’s teachers says that Larry was probably lying to get attention.

Like Larry, Brandon had his share of troubles. His parents, Kendra and Bill McInerney, had a difficult, tempestuous relationship. In 1993, Kendra alleged that Bill pointed a .45 handgun at her during a drunken evening and shot her in the arm, according to court records. She and Bill split in 2000, when Brandon was 6. One September morning, a fight broke out after Kendra accused her husband of stealing the ADHD medication prescribed to one of her older sons from her first marriage. Bill “grabbed Kendra by the hair,” and “began choking her until she was almost unconscious,” according to Kendra’s version of the events filed in court documents. He pleaded no contest to corporal injury to a spouse and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. In a December 2001 court filing for a restraining order against Kendra, he claimed that she had turned her home into a “drug house.” “I was very functional,” Kendra later explained to a local newspaper, in a story about meth addiction. By 2004, she had entered a rehab program, and Brandon went to live with his father. But he spent years caught in the middle of a war.

While his life did seem to become more routine living with his dad, Brandon’s troubles resurfaced in the eighth grade. His father was working in a town more than 60 miles away, and he was alone a lot. He began hanging out with a group of misfits on the beach. Although he was smart, he didn’t seem to have much interest in school. Except for Hitler—Brandon knew all about the Nuremberg trials and all the names of Hitler’s deputies. (When other kids asked him how he knew so much, he replied casually, “Don’t you watch the History Channel?” Brandon’s father says his son was interested in World War II, but not inappropriately.) By the end of the first semester, as his overall GPA tumbled from a 3.3 to a 1.9, he was kicked out of his English honors class for not doing his work and causing disruptions. He was transferred to Boldrin’s English class, where he joined Larry.

Larry’s grades were also dropping—he went from having a 1.71 GPA in November to a 1.0 in February, his father says. But he was too busy reveling in the spotlight to care. “He was like Britney Spears,” says one teacher who knew Larry. “Everyone wanted to know what’s the next thing he’s going to do.” Girls would take photos of him on their camera phones and discuss him with their friends. “My class was in a frenzy every day with Larry stories,” says a humanities teacher who didn’t have Larry as one of her students. He wore a Playboy-bunny necklace, which one of his teachers told him to remove because it was offensive to women. But those brown Target stilettos wobbled on.

The commotion over Larry’s appearance finally forced the school office to take formal action. On Jan. 29, every teacher received an e-mail with the subject line STUDENT RIGHTS. It was written by Sue Parsons, the eighth-grade assistant principal. “We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up,” the e-mail said without mentioning Larry by name. “It is his right to do so. Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and non-judgmental. They don’t have to like it but they need to give him his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If you wish to talk further about it please see me or Ms. Epstein.”

Jerry Dannenberg, the superintendent, says the front office received no complaints about Larry, but according to several faculty members, at least two teachers tried to formally protest what was going on. The first was the same teacher who told Larry to scrub the makeup off his face. She was approached by several boys in her class who said that Larry had started taunting them in the halls—”I know you want me,” he’d say—and their friends were calling them gay. The teacher told some of her colleagues that when she went to the office to file a complaint, Epstein said she would take it. “It’s about Larry,” the teacher said. “There’s nothing we can do about that,” Epstein replied. (Epstein denies she was ever approached.) A few days later another teacher claims to have gone to the school principal, Joel Lovstedt. The teacher says she told him that she was concerned about Larry and she thought he was a danger to himself—she worried that he might fall in his three-inch stilettos and injure himself. Lovstedt told the teacher that he had directions, though he wouldn’t say from where, that they couldn’t intervene with Larry’s sexual expression. (Lovstedt denied NEWSWEEK’s request for an interview.) There was an unusual student complaint, too. Larry’s younger brother, Rocky, 12, also attended E. O. Green, and the kids started picking on him the day in January when Larry showed up in hot pink knee-length boots. Rocky says he went to several school officials for help, including Epstein. “I went up to her at lunchtime,” he says. “I said, ‘Ms. Epstein, can you stop Larry from dressing like a girl? The kids are saying since Larry is gay, I must be gay, too, because I’m his brother’.”

As you talk to the teachers, many of them say they tried to support Larry, but they didn’t always know how. In blue-collar, immigrant Oxnard, there is no gay community to speak of and generally very little public discussion of gay issues, at least until Larry’s murder happened. One teacher was very protective of Larry, his English teacher, Mrs. Boldrin. To help Larry feel better about moving to Casa Pacifica, she brought Larry a present: a green evening dress that once belonged to her own daughter. Before school started, Larry ran to the bathroom to try it on. Then he showed it to some of his friends, telling them that he was going to wear it at graduation.

And then there was Valentine’s Day. A day or two before the shooting, the school was buzzing with the story about a game Larry was playing with a group of his girlfriends in the outdoor quad. The idea was, you had to go up to your crush and ask them to be your Valentine. Several girls named boys they liked, then marched off to complete the mission. When it was Larry’s turn, he named Brandon, who happened to be playing basketball nearby. Larry walked right on to the court in the middle of the game and asked Brandon to be his Valentine. Brandon’s friends were there and started joking that he and Larry were going to make “gay babies” together. At the end of lunch, Brandon passed by one of Larry’s friends in the hall. She says he told her to say goodbye to Larry, because she would never see him again.

The friend didn’t tell Larry about the threat—she thought Brandon was just kidding. There are many rumors of another confrontation between Larry and Brandon, on Feb. 11, the day before the shooting. Several students and teachers said they had heard about a fight between the two but they hadn’t actually witnessed it themselves. The next morning a counselor at Casa Pacifica asked Larry what was wrong, and he said, vaguely, “I’ve had enough.” When he got to school, his friends quizzed him about his noticeably unfabulous appearance. He said that he ran out of makeup and hair gel (which wasn’t true) and that he had a blister on his ankle (this was true—he’d just bought a new pair of boots). Larry walked alongside Boldrin to the computer class and sat in front of a computer. A few minutes later, a counselor summoned him to her office. She told him that his grades were so low, he was at risk of not graduating from the eighth grade. He went back to his computer. He had written his name on his paper as Leticia King. Most of the campus heard the gunshots. Some described it like a door slammed shut very hard.

On March 7, the school held a memorial service for Larry. Epstein stood at the podium with students who read from notecards about what they liked best about Larry: he was nice, he was unique, he was brave. The band played “Amazing Grace,” and two dozen doves were released into the sky. Averi read a poem about how her friend was like a garden seed that grew, and died; Larry’s mom wept in the front row. Deep in the audience, an eighth grader turned to one of Brandon’s friends and whispered, “That’s so gay.”

The obvious question now is whether Larry’s death could have been prevented. “Absolutely,” says Dannenberg. “Why do we have youngsters that have access to guns? Why don’t we have adequate funding to pay for social workers at the school to make sure students have resources? We have societal issues.” Many teachers and parents aren’t content with that answer. For them, the issue isn’t whether Larry was gay or straight—his father still isn’t convinced his son was gay—but whether he was allowed to push the boundaries so far that he put himself and others in danger. They’re not blaming Larry for his own death—as if anything could justify his murder—but their attitude toward his assailant is not unsympathetic. “We failed Brandon,” a teacher says. “We didn’t know the bullying was coming from the other side—Larry was pushing as hard as he could, because he liked the attention.”

Greg King doesn’t feel sympathy for Brandon, but he does believe his son sexually harassed him. He’s resentful that the gay community has appropriated his son’s murder as part of a larger cause. “I think the gay-rights people want it to be a gay-rights issue, because it makes a poster child out of my son,” King says. “That bothered me. I’m not anti-gay. I have a lot of co-workers and friends who are gay.” That anger was made worse when he heard this summer that Epstein would be promoted to principal of an elementary school. “This is a slap in the face of my family,” Greg says. Many teachers wonder if the district moved her because she had become a lightning rod for criticism after Larry’s death. Dannenberg, the superintendent, says that she was the most qualified person for the new principal job.

The school has conducted its own investigation, though its lawyer won’t make it public. But it will likely be brought up when Brandon goes to trial. He is charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime, and is scheduled to be arraigned this week. Hundreds of his classmates have signed a petition asking that he be tried in juvenile court. The district attorney wants him tried as an adult, which could result in a prison sentence of 51 years to life. “Brandon was being terrorized,” says Bill, who has set up a public defense fund in his son’s name. “He was being stalked almost, to the degree of the school should have never let this happen.” What happened to Larry and Brandon was certainly extreme, but it has implications for schools across the country. “If we’re going to be absolutely sure this isn’t going to happen again,” says Elaine Garber, 81, who has served on the school’s board for 48 years, “this has got to be discussed some more.”

As if anyone has stopped talking—and arguing—about Larry King. He had an entire page devoted to him in the E. O. Green yearbook. On the Internet, he’s become a gay martyr, and this year’s National Day of Silence, an annual event created to raise awareness of homophobia, was dedicated to Larry. And in Averi Laskey’s bedroom, she still keeps a handmade purple get-well card she made for Larry on the day after he was shot. At the time, there was still hope he would pull through. He had survived the night, which the doctors said was a good sign. Averi rounded up dozens of teachers and friends between classes to sign messages of encouragement. “Larry, I miss you. Get better,” Boldrin wrote in blue ink. “Keep up your spirit. A lot of people are rooting for you to get better,” the principal wrote. Some of Larry’s classmates apologized for how he had been treated. A few even left their phone numbers, so he could call them if he ever needed to talk to someone. But when Averi got home that day, she learned that Larry had suffered a fatal stroke. Larry was pronounced brain-dead that afternoon, and the family decided to donate his organs. The following day, Feb. 14, doctors harvested his pancreas, liver, lungs and the most important organ of all, which now beats inside the chest of a 10-year-old girl. On Valentine’s Day, Larry King gave away his heart, but not in the way he thought he would.

In the five months NEWSWEEK spent examining Larry King’s death, we spoke with several dozen people, including faculty, students and parents. All students named were interviewed with their parents’ permission. Some of our sources would speak only anonymously; the school’s staff was instructed not to speak to the media because of the criminal proceedings and the possibility of civil litigation. While they agreed to be interviewed on the record, Jerry Dannenberg, the district superintendent, and Joy Epstein, E. O. Green’s former assistant principal, were limited in what they could say for the same reasons.

With Andrew Murr and Jennifer Ordoñez