Saturday, September 1, 2007


Women's Health has a recent article with a guide to the 100 Best Packaged Foods For Women. They state these will "fight disease and stop weight gain before it starts". I find both of these claims dubious (eating healthy will not necessarily mean you are not fat, fat is a naturally occurring body type) and these foods have no special claim for women vs. men or children. However, I do agree that for packaged foods, these knock the socks off other choices.

For those of us who cannot make things from scratch (including those of us who are disabled and can't keep fresh ingredients on hand all the time), these choices will make a huge difference. An ex of mine long ago taught me that whole grains are simply where it's at, in terms of your diet -- well worth any small extra cost, they give you energy and fiber without glucose spikes. All the "carb-free" bullshit is really about the benefits of eliminating white flour and processed grains from your diet. Here's the best way to tell if something is whole grain: Read the ingredients! If the FIRST ingredient is not "whole grain flour" or "brown rice" or another whole grain, then it ain't whole grain, move on to the next product. Also, if they feel the need to "enrich" it or add back in things like wheat germ, then it's been messed with in ways your body may not find optimal.

And these days, whole grain is very tasty. Brown rice leaves you feeling satisfied. Real bread makes a sandwich an entire meal. Go check out this website, make a list for yourself and, especially, your kids, and don't allow anything else in the house. I was a Wonder-Bread kind of girl before I made the switch, and honey, my cholesterol (despite eating red meat and pork whenever I want, lots of dairy, and having a strong family history for hypercholesterolemia) is always under 180. If I can learn to love these foods, you can too.

(Photo of Lorraine Barr by Amanda Friedman for Newsweek)

In a Newsweek "My Turn" essay titled The Love That Will Finally Speak Its Name, 88-year-old Lorraine Barr comes out, stating "Finally, after almost nine years since my beloved partner's death, I am able to do what I could never have braved in earlier years: pre-sent myself herewith to the world as a lesbian, along with all the women who ask to be judged by the full facet of our characters." Check out the photo of her -- she's a beauty.

(Roppingi Spider by Louise Bourgeouis)

Last summer, it was gigantic wasp nests filling entire barns and abandoned vehicles, with as many as 100,000 workers (compared to the usual 3000 for a formerly "large" nest) and multiple queens. In my own anecdotal way, I've noticed the yellow jacket constructions on my patio are bigger every year, and this year's has so many amazons they stud the boarding around it, unable to find a hold-fast on the nest itself. I've worked hard to overcome my fear of bees and wasps, inculcated in me by having two extremely allergic brothers and a consequently phobic mother. These matriarchies do only good in the world, and wasps in particular are first-class predators when it comes to other, less attractive insects. I send them good-will vibes whenever I go out my front door, and they leave me utterly alone.

But this summer, it's a ginormous spider web built cooperatively (almost unheard of) in a state park near Wills Point, Texas -- a park where I'm pretty sure I've camped. The female park ranger they interviewed on television said it was "beautiful", and I'll take her word for it. The guy who has to mow the grounds underneath the tree-filled webs was not as happy about it.

A photographer/blogger I know, Pam Isherwood in the UK, went to a London Zoo "Fear of Spiders" program last year to overcome her arachnophobia and wrote about it (with some great photos) at her website. I was and remain impressed. But I'm not sure it would be enough for her, with what we in Texas have conjured this summer.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


(Graphic from Steve Audio)

Tonight's Austin evening news was full of a story about a 5-year-old boy who was assaulted in a public swimming pool restroom by a man in his 50s. The little boy was punched in the stomach and forced to perform oral sex on the man. The locale, Lakeway, is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Austin, and the parents interviewed on TV were in disbelief that this could have occurred to one of "their" children.

Yesterday's national news cycle had a CBS story about how "over the last 60 years, at least 5,100 adult leaders were kicked out of the Boy Scouts because of allegations of sexual abuse". The lightweight and sensationalist story did not mention how many of those accused were married and heterosexual, although that's a natural enough question given the Boy Scouts overt homophobia toward gay scout leaders.

And, of course, the current "big shocker" story out there is about Senator Larry Craig (R, Idaho) tapping feet in the stall next to him at a Minneapolis airport men's room. I can (and will at some point) write in a traitorous way about how, gay rights aside, I'm fucking sick of male sexuality intruding on public spaces, especially bathrooms. I'm really not going to be interested in gender-neutral public facilities until those places have been made completely safe for children to go potty without male predation OR male sexual behavior in the environment, whatever the sexuality involved. Last night Letterman, a big old homophobe, said "As far as I'm concerned, if you spend more than two minutes in a men's bathroom, you've already crossed the line" and I had to agree with him on a basic level: It's for crapping and pissing, then washing your hands and getting the hell out.

Yeah, I know, gay oppression has driven people to desperate circumstances. But when the lurking you're doing is linked with body evacuation and pedophiles, you might want to rethink what territory you seek to defend.

But, where my mind has wandered tonight is how far off the mark all these stories are. Yes, Republicans should never again, under any circumstances, be allowed to call themselves a party of morality or family values. And clearly, as TRex at FireDogLake said, they're all secret pansies.

Yet, the real circumstances of child sexual assault and male predation is not about bathrooms or even the Boy Scouts. It's about what is going on in the average American home.

I did the math. The current report rate of child sexual assault (which is likely far below actual incidence, but we'll go with what we can say with certainty), averaged over both genders, indicates that about 30% of people will be sexually abused in some way before they are 18 years of age. The 2000 census for Austin listed a population of 656,562 people, of which 22.5% (or 118,181 people) were under the age of 18. If, over the period of 18 years, 30% of those young folks are sexually abused, that averages out to 1969 a year, or 5.4 kids per day.

Imagine a news show that covered this every day, as they give us allergy reports and endless stupid trivia about sports. It would, at least 90% of the time, be a report about 5 or 6 children each day who were molested by a member of their family or a very close friend of the family, 98% of the time a heterosexual male. Imagine having that reality being reflected back to us on a daily basis, and what changes you'd start demanding.

I don't agree that America is sex-phobic. Sexual content permeates everything around us, including our children's lives. But it's sexual dishonesty, conflated with power games.

Susie Bright has a good essay up right now that I want to quote from, Is There a Republican Senator Who's NOT Having Bathroom Sex?

"From now on, as far as I'm concerned, every single Republican legislator is a Reeking Freak Closet Case until proven innocent.

"These men wouldn't know 'safe, sane, and consensual' if you tied it to their weener with a red flag. I won't call them 'gay' or 'kinky' because that would be an insult to the healthy spectrum of human sexuality. Instead, they're the worst face of sexual repression, because they don't care who they hurt, or how many lies they tell. Their whole life is a SHAM.

"The GOP Narcissists aren't the exception to the rule— they ARE the rule. They personify the very sexuality they campaign against. If they vote against gays, we know they're queer. If they're hopped up about "child porn," we can guess their internet habits. If they hold up monogamous marriage as a Christian ideal, we know they're adulterous, blasphemous fools.

"Here's what they all have in common; They pretend it didn't happen. They try to buy people off to shut them up. They cry that they've been victimized. And then they continue to persecute everyone else by:
* Voting YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.
* Voting NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.
* Voting NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.
* Voting YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage.
* Voting NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation."

But, to address the issue more comprehensively, I'm going to reprint an essay I sent out via private e-mail last October, when the Mark Foley scandal fill the news cycle.

Okay, let's take a look at The Reality of Child Sexual Abuse.

The overwhelming majority of people who have a sexual interest in children and teenagers do not fit the classic definition of a 'pedophile'. They are, statistically, interested stimulated sexually by a variety of triggers, only some of which are young people; they are (around 98%) male; they are heterosexual; they are married or in strong relationship with another adult; and they would not identify their feelings as pedophilia.

The perception of those much younger than us as sexually arousing is completely interwoven into our culture. It is why we simultaneously, as a culture, support such things as child beauty pageants and also get upset when we see the actual photos of Jon-Benet Ramsey. It is the foundation of a high percentage of advertising strategy. It is why we have cheerleaders and Disney characters and the WB. It is part of the nuclear family dynamic.

As a culture, it is almost impossible for us to name desire without imagining it as occurring between two individuals who are "different" in a way that includes a power imbalance. Male desire, in particular, is taught to boys as being dependent on the greater helplessness, receptivity, and "softness" of their partners.

Sexual desire is imprinted on us in our culture while we are still children -- it's impossible to know at what age it would naturally occur, because we have no escape from sex as a commodity, so we have no control group. And this definition of desire is imprinted on children who will then learn to view those around them -- other children and teenagers -- as their first objects of longing. Some of us, many of us, never outgrow those first impressions and remain fixated on children and teenagers.

The child pornography industry is so voluminous that, even taking into account the reality that most consumers may be repeat consumers, more than half of adult American males are taking a dip in this world. It is the norm, rather than the aberration. It will remain the norm until we find another definition for desire, one that does not in any way include a power imbalance. A few people -- feminists of a certain stripe, mostly -- have begun the work of finding that definition for themselves without simultaneously embracing any ethic which declares sex "bad".

Neverthless, this effort has been persistently called "anti-sex". It is, definitely, an effort away from the Western male definition of desire and sex. And it takes a lot of hard work. The kind of work that most people find too disheartening to undertake, even if they understand and agree with its value.

So, the broader definition of pedophile includes more than half the population. The more focused definition -- those who have these desires and choose to act on them, either with physical contact or, as is far more common, with suggestive but non-physical interactions between themselves and those younger than them or as voyeurs and exhibitionists -- are a smaller but still significant category, perhaps 10 to 25% of the population. For these people, pedophile is a sexual orientation, in the same way that heterosexual or homosexual is a sexual orientation. It is compelling, it feels like a core identity, and suppressing it is difficult.

The majority of pedophiles (over 80%) identify as heterosexual and most (at least 90%) prey on children in their own families and friendship networks, Approximately two-thirds of repeat predators select girls when they are able, and about one-third choose boys. But access and proximity are far more relevant to this statistic than a gender preference. The one-third percentage for boys likely reflects the fact that boys are not as closely watched as girls, especially within family or close community settings. The identification of pedophilia as something that "gay people" do is erroneous and leaves children at grave risk.

At least 25% of women and 17% of men self-identify as having been sexually abused in some form as children. This statistic is undoubtedly much higher, considering how many people have a hard time making this self-identification. It is even more difficult to extrapolate from this how many active pedophiles there are in the general population, since the average number of victims per pedophile before he is stopped is around 100. (For pedophiles who act out on boys, the number is around 125 victims; for those who act out on girls, the number is around 85.)

At least 95% of pedophiles who have been caught say they were themselves molested as children. Most of these men (over half) claim their early molestation was not really harmful or was in some sense consensual. These same percentage claim the children they victimize are not really harmed and that the children likewise "consent". Most child predation is not violent; it is coercive, persuasive, and often does not involve frank acts of penetration. This confusion about the nature of consent is, likewise, woven into the fabric of our culture.

Clearly, then, pedophile as a sexual orientation is learned. The ability to undo this orientation depends on whether the pedophile also has other orientations equally strong, how early he is caught (repeated predation intensifies the orientation), what kind of reparative therapy is used, and probably other factors not yet clearly understood. Most of the methods used to deal with pedophiles are highly ineffective.

I personally believe that all sexual preferences and proclivities are learned. We pick it up from the adults around us as we go along, and we make a decision about ourselves based on the best information we have at the moment. All of the studies to date which claim to demonstrate a gay brain or a gay gene have serious scientific flaws. None of them demonstrate a shared biology between gay men and lesbians, and none of them demonstrate a biology that does not also occur in heterosexuals.

It is clear, at this point, that with our enormously plastic brains, behavior does a great deal to re-shape the brains we were both with. Conditioning remains the best-proven explanation for why we are who we are. And if you have a feminist understanding of the confusion of sex with power and the identification of women as the "abnormal" gender, then sexual preferences as choices (made so early they don't feel like a choice) becomes sensible.

The current scandal regarding Mark Foley is exposing all sorts of interesting things about our culture. The Right, desperate to reduce political fall-out, is now trying to claim Foley was not exposed as a predator because they were unwilling to out a gay man without proof. (If you fall that for that argument, from the same folks who consistently declare gays to be the number one problem in American, then I've got a Congress Street Bridge to sell you.)

The failure of Republican leadership to not only go public with the predation in their midst (and if you read all the instant messages and e-mails, it's clear it was predation of a virulent nature), but to also fail to even try to stop him, seems to be the most startling piece of the story. Except not for me, because I assume these Republican men in positions of leadership to have their own background with and preference for confused sex-power dynamics and desire based on power imbalance. He was one of their own, and not just politically.

Likewise, the reaction of Matt Drudge (a closeted Right-wing pundit) that these teenagers were someone "egging on" Matt Foley and are equally culpable, and the dismissal of the predation by Tony Snow, Bush's press secretary, as "naughty e-mails" reflect their comfort with this reality, not just their attempt to excuse any behavior by the party to which they have sworn unthinking allegience. Congressional pages are the bottom cogs in an intense hierarchy that uses servitude not far removed from slavery as a means of teaching and reinforcing the hierarchy. Of course they are perceived as fair game in that kind of setting.

So, then, this will consume the news cycle for a while to come. If it would give people information and an honest opportunity to re-examine their own conditioning and our larger culture, it would be a grand thing. I have no illusions that it will, except for those of us who are already doing such work. And in the meantime, the loss of the basic human rights first set out in the Magna Carta, the despicable war ravaging hopes for world harmony, the demonization of immigrants, the dismantling of liberation gains made in the past for women and people of color, the destruction of our economy and our environment -- all of these will recede to later in the news cycle, if they are covered at all.

Because sex sells. And that's the problem, right there. Anything you can do to not buy, do it.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

BROAD CAST, 28 August 2007

GONZO is gone. Two more threats to democracy to go.

(Image from Zaius Nation, copyright theirs)

Zaius Nation asks the question: How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

The answer is seven:

* One to deny that a light bulb needs to be replaced.
* One to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the light bulb.
* One to blame the previous administration for the need of a new light bulb.
* One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs.
* One to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton one million dollars for each light bulb.
* One to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the light bulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag.
* And finally, one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Reader Kat Miller from the East Bay turned me on to this article, Gay Unions Sanctioned in Medieval Europe
written by Jeanna Bryner -- It's short, so I'm going to reprint it here.

Civil unions between male couples existed around 600 years ago in medieval Europe, a historian now says.

Historical evidence, including legal documents and gravesites, can be interpreted as supporting the prevalence of homosexual relationships hundreds of years ago, said Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

If accurate, the results indicate socially sanctioned same-sex unions are nothing new, nor were they taboo in the past.

“Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize," Tulchin writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. "And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

For example, he found legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term "affrèrement," roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

In the contract, the "brothers" pledged to live together sharing "un pain, un vin, et une bourse," (that's French for one bread, one wine and one purse). The "one purse" referred to the idea that all of the couple's goods became joint property. Like marriage contracts, the "brotherments" had to be sworn before a notary and witnesses, Tulchin explained.

The same type of legal contract of the time also could provide the foundation for a variety of non-nuclear households, including arrangements in which two or more biological brothers inherited the family home from their parents and would continue to live together, Tulchin said.

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships."

The ins-and-outs of the medieval relationships are tricky at best to figure out.
"I suspect that some of these relationships were sexual, while others may not have been," Tulchin said. "It is impossible to prove either way and probably also somewhat irrelevant to understanding their way of thinking. They loved each other, and the community accepted that.”

(Quiet Sea by 6 Brago)

LiveScience has a number of interesting Top Ten lists. I'm going to excerpt a few items from one of them, 10 Things You Didn't Know About You

Number 9: Body Position Affects Your Memory
Can't remember your anniversary, hubby? Try getting down on one knee. Memories are highly embodied in our senses. A scent or sound may evoke a distant episode from one's childhood. The connections can be obvious (a bicycle bell makes you remember your old paper route) or inscrutable. A recent study helps decipher some of this embodiment. An article in the January 2007 issue of Cognition reports that episodes from your past are remembered faster and better while in a body position similar to the pose struck during the event.
My Note: The first time I every worked on an incest memory, it was triggered by re-enacting a scene where I was sitting in a bathtub and Shelley played the role of my older brother, putting his arm into my imaginary bathwater. The next thing I remembered, I was trying to choke her and the other women in the group were pulling me off her. One of them -- Angie Romagnoli -- said "You got some fucking issues, woman, you better get clear before you kill somebody." Yeah.

Number 6: Thousands of Eggs Unused by Ovaries
When a woman reaches her late 40s or early 50s, the monthly menstrual cycle that controls her hormone levels and readies ova for insemination ceases. Her ovaries have been producing less and less estrogen, inciting physical and emotional changes across her body. Her underdeveloped egg follicles begin to fail to release ova as regularly as before. The average adolescent girl has 34,000 underdeveloped egg follicles, although only 350 or so mature during her life (at the rate of about one per month). The unused egg follicles then deteriorate. With no potential pregnancy on the horizon, the brain can stop managing the release of ova.
My Note: Another fact I learned from Maria Limon years ago: All of the eggs you have inside you as a woman were formed while you were still in your mother's uterus. Thus, you were once an egg inside your grandmother as well as your mother! No wonder matrilineage is so powerful.

Number 5: Puberty Reshapes Brain Structure, Makes for Missed Curfews
We know that hormone-fueled changes in the body are necessary to encourage growth and ready the body for reproduction. But why is adolescence so emotionally unpleasant? Hormones like testosterone actually influence the development of neurons in the brain, and the changes made to brain structure have many behavioral consequences. Expect emotional awkwardness, apathy and poor decision-making skills as regions in the frontal cortex mature.
My Note: And you want to inject incompletely understood hormones WHY, exactly? Because it makes you "feel" like you can think better? Yeah, I used to hear that from druggies in the 70's, too.

Number 1: Your Skin Has Four Colors
All skin, without coloring, would appear creamy white. Near-surface blood vessels add a blush of red. A yellow pigment also tints the canvas. Lastly, sepia-toned melanin, created in response to ultraviolet rays, appears black in large amounts. These four hues mix in different proportions to create the skin colors of all the peoples of Earth.
My Note: Thus, skin color is simply how our human DNA for all colors is expressed by each individual. The genes are the same, which is why there is no genetic entity known as "race". The epigenetic expression of that gene is what makes you look the way you do. There is only one race, known as human.

I have to share a computer with Dinah and I frequently find the screen left on LOL Cats or I Can Has Cheeseburger. She likes not only the photos but also the fact that cat language (with its own spelling and grammar) is becoming recognized as a respected form of English. Her friend, Little Gator, turned her on to the following sites as well:

The Laugh Out Loud Cats -- LOLcats as early 20th century newspaper cartoons

An original Star Trek episode some with LOL Cats-style captioning

Same thing done with Star Trek: The Next Generation

And -- not cats but still interesting to Dinah because it's gerbils, a.k.a. snacks, with some gay innuendo thrown in at Gebrils (no, that's not a mispelling)


Sunday, August 26, 2007


The summer before I turned nine, we moved to Dilley, Texas, which is about 70 miles south of San Antonio. That summer is when I named myself as a Lesbian, and also when I began writing poetry. To paraphrase Dickens, our years in Dilley were the best of times and the worst of times. But this story will be about dolls, and identity, and Bobby Proctor.

By the time was nine, I had a stack of dolls. I do mean stack: I shoved them in a corner and never played with them. I had an original Chatty Cathy with a big square cut from her chest and glued back on, the result of my father's repair of her voicebox; a Chatty Baby and a Little Chatty Brother (flaxen and with a fixed blue gaze just like the Children of the Damned); Tiny Tears; Thumbelina; a "walking doll" with a carriage and her little brother from the late 1950s; a cowgirl doll I called Peggy; a Barbie which was the one I loathed the most; a Cherokee doll (whose skin paint kept flaking off); a monkey doll with a peeled banana forever in his fist; and a Madame Alexander doll sent to me by my Aunt Sarah, whose name was Ginny. I was not allowed to have plush animals because they thought I was allergic to them.

When Aunt Sarah sent me the Madame Alexander doll, she called not long afterward to ask how I liked it. I must have been honest, because from then on, she sent me books (Born Free, Sherlock Holmes, an American Heritage dictionary, Kon Tiki, The Sword in the Stone) that are still among my treasured possessions. Aunt Sarah listened. No one else did, not about the dolls.

Just as it was demanded of me that I like and play with dolls, it was also mandatory that when I grew up, I would get married. A woman was not really a woman if she didn't get married. Although I knew I was a Lesbian (I had the word, thanks to my mother), I had no expectation of getting to live as one. Indeed, I didn't know it was an option. So I worried about it much of the time: When would I finally have to give in and marry? And who would I be saddled with?

That small town was racially segregated by the railroad tracks. Everyone on "our" side of the tracks was white. Also on "our" side were the schools, the municipal offices, the Protestant churches, and the hospital. On "their" side were the Catholic churches, "their" grocery stories, and far more residents than on our side. It was mostly a farming community, so a lot of the kids lived out in the country and were bused in.

Bill and I were new kids, and he wasn't in school yet. But even when I started school, I was an outsider for a long time because Dilley didn't have a lot of new people coming through, I was skinny and wheezed all the time, my clothes were poor, and, the worst sin of all, I was smart. Freakishly smart.

Teachers adored me, which didn't help my social life at all. My fourth grade teacher, though, Frances Wilmeth, found out I liked to write and asked to read some of my stories and poems. She made a big fuss about it and told me I must never stop writing. Thank you, Ms. Wilmeth.

For a long time, Bill and I played with each other, since other kids weren't interested in me and he had no school connections yet. But after a few months, a boy two years older than me, a lofty sixth-grader, wandered down the street and came up to us where we were acting out one of my scripts in the yard. He asked if he could join in. I said sure. After that, Bobby Proctor came to play with us every Saturday, sometimes after school on weekdays, and all the next summer, day after day.

Bobby was 11 and on the brink of puberty but fighting it. He was funny and smart, and he allowed me to be in charge of our adventures. He had big dark lashes, skin that tanned easily, and a fluid way of walking. He was much more expressive with his hands and face than other boys. When we played Tarzan, he begged to be Jane, leaving me the plum role of King of Beasts and Bill got to choose between Cheetah or Boy. When we played Daniel Boone, I was Dan'l, Bobby was Jemima and Bill was Mingo. When we played Batman, Bill was Robin and Bobby was Catwoman. You get the drift.

Bobby let me write the screenplays, but he came up with his own voices and costumes. He began hauling his older sister's dresses and scarves to our house, things she had outgrown. We found a hiding place for them in the barn, and when he dressed up, we stuck to the side yard behind the oleander hedge where we weren't visible from the street. Often when he pulled off his shirt in the barn to slither into a slinky dress, there were bruises all over his chest and arms. He said the other boys didn't like him. I couldn't imagine why.

There were other kids who were freaks, outsiders. Sometimes it was because of class, not gender. And there was one girl, Penny Drew, whose family was well-off and religious but that didn't make her popular, either. She was in the same Baptist girls' club as me, GA's, and I was both attracted to her and frightened of her. She was Bobby's age, and what adults said about her is that she "out of control". She had been a change-of-life baby, and they said she was spoiled. She didn't seem spoiled to me, she seemed furious.

One day I realized I could marry Bobby. We got along just fine, and he would never try to be romantic with me, I knew it in my gut. I didn't mention it to him; I didn't think I had to. The solution was just obvious.

At the start of the next summer, Bobby's voice started changing and the long bones of his arms and legs began to grow. He was miserable about it. One day he saw the stack of dolls in the corner of our dining room where I slept and asked me why I had them piled up like that. I told him I didn't like them.

The next time he came to play, he had an ax hidden under his shirt. He suggested we form a club called the Doll Choppers Club. He and Bill were a lot more into it than I was, but I agreed, and for the first time, Bobby took charge. He wrote long rants that we had to chant in the field behind the barn, diatribes about how stupid grown-ups were and the horrors of "dressing up" -- not his kind of dressing up, with make-up and wigs, but the uniforms adults demanded from you. Then we'd take one of my dolls and chop its head off. Bobby would dance around wildly, holding the head by its nylon hair and screaming. After we were done, we'd dig a hole and bury the doll in one place, the head in another.

When I wound up with just the walking doll (which was too large to sneak outside) and her baby brother left, my mother finally noticed. I lied, saying I had no idea where my dolls were, but Bill caved and told her the whole thing. The Doll Choppers Club came to a screeching halt. And right after that, Bobby began junior high. He didn't come to play much after that. I started hearing other kids whisper and giggle about him, that he was a sissy. I didn't defend him. They wouldn't have listened to me, anyhow.

Right before we moved from Dilley, Penny Drew's father was found dead in his house from a shotgun blast at pointblank range. The murderer had killed him during broad daylight, and it was rumored that Penny had walked home from school for lunch that day. Penny left the Baptist Church but she was not arrested or charged. The murder remained unsolved.

At thirteen, I found out about Greenwich Village and the fact that women like me lived there with each other. I had a place to go when I got old enough. Feminism arrived and gave me a passport out of marriage. We moved away from Dilley and I never heard from anyone there again.

Until eight years ago, when I walked into a crowded party here in Austin and a friend from across the room yelled my name, my real name, the name I had as a girl. A fat gay man sitting at my elbow looked startled and said "That's odd. I used to know a girl by that name in Dilley, Texas."

No, it wasn't Bobby, it was one of his best friends, Rodney. Rodney remembered me, though try as I might, I've never conjured an image of him from back then. Part of what he remembered about me was that my older brother was hated by everyone else in high school for being a violent bully and a liar, and he said he wondered what kind of hell I lived in. He said Bobby worried about me.

Bobby moved to Houston after high school and became a dancer in a gay club. He had a good time of it until AIDS hit. He died in 1989, and is buried back in Dilley.

Rodney told me about all the other kids in that town who turned out to be queer. It was an astonishing number. I had had no idea how I was surrounded. Rodney and Bobby were part of a little clique that helped each other survive high school. Their other best friend was Penny Drew.

Penny's father was molesting her. She finally blew his brains out. The sheriff and town elite all knew what had happened, and covered it up so she wouldn't go to jail. That's how small towns deal with deviance -- they ignore it until it reaches a certain point, and then, when somebody blows, they close ranks against the justice system. Penny now lives about 45 minutes from me. We haven't talked; I'm not sure what I'd say, except, I'm glad you survived. I bet she didn't like dolls either.