Telling My Stories

A life lived outside

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“She’s a Witch!!”

Posted by catkisser on September 24, 2009

I come from two old New England families, on both sides of my family tree is a Salem Witchcraft victim, Susanna Martin on my mother’s side, Sarah Good on my father’s. I have identified myself as Pagan most of my life, began actively practicing as one early in my teenage years when only the most obscure works from the prior turn of the century were available and then only with great difficulty.
I’ve been alternately open and low key about this most of my life. During the sixties, it was considered ‘cool’, by the mid seventies I was a very out Pagan contact person. I was targeted by the first wave fundies back then. This was a time when many mid-west police departments still had “occult squads”. What happened back then I may or may not write about at some future time, but it was horrific and life changing and put me back in the broom closet for almost twenty years.

Today I am quite quite out there as the head of a reclamation of the ancient Goddess traditions, the Maetreum of Cybele. Some now claim I made it all up but in reality what we do is a culmination of a lifetime of gathering information, historical research, Divine inspiration. It is a faith with the simplest of theologies but that have an impact on every aspect of my own life, that each of us, all that we encounter, the world, the rocks, the trees and all the animals are part of the Divine which I understand as feminine in nature. Rather than blindly reclaim ancient rituals, we have sought to go to the essence and use that to understand our rituals with a rejection of dogma. We understand each element we use in ritual and our rituals are aimed at a specific goal, a connection with at least part of the whole. This is gnosticism, which loosely translates as “knowing”. Once you have experienced something, you know it and don’t have to use faith.

I’ve gladly used the term “witch” to refer to myself, proud of our family history. Occasionally I find myself in an odd position as a result. Back when the Phrygianum was first established we had an intent of helping transsexual women find a place to pull themselves back up by their bootstraps by providing a safe place, a sanctuary. One of the young women we took in was a street prostitute. She started to turn her life around while living with us, cleaned up off the drugs, got work of the day labour type with locals, had many long discussions with me about the morality issues in magickal practice. She was Santerian and into dark practises.

All that changed abruptly when another person we took in, a human disaster I’ll call D/D, started making shots at Jasmine’s womanhood, which was the height of irony because Jasmine was 100% female and this other individual embodied all the worst of a fetishistic transgender. But it came to threats of violence involving a weapon and both were told to leave. Jasmine left, D/D we had to start eviction proceedures against. While I don’t use it often, I am well versed in magick myself and I cast a simple banishing spell on D/D, within 24 hours (s)he left. I began lobbying for Jasmine’s return because she had shown such promise.

About a month later the others agreed providing Jasmine did not live in the main house with us. We had a smaller caretakers house on the property so we agreed to rent it to her. Unfortunately Jasmine immediately backslid, found local drug connections, started using again and hooked on to an older local man and used him skillfully to provide for her every need. We finally had to ask her to leave and this time, under the directions of D/D strangely enough, she decided to fight us through an eviction proceedure. Unlike D/D it went to court.

While both of us were in front of the Judge, she suddenly pointed a finger at me and yelled “she’s a witch!” I had an interesting flashback to my ancestors at Salem. The Judge asked her why she thought I was a witch and told how I used banishing oil to remove D/D from our home. The Judge looked at me and asked “is this true?” I replied “yes your Honour, it is”. Then he asked “did it work?” and I replied “yes your Honour it did, (s)he left within 24 hours without any further contact.”

You could see the wheels in motion in the Judge’s eyes “hmmmmm, stubborn tenant refuses to leave, Cathryn throws simple spell, they leave….note to self, call Cathryn the next time one of these things presents itself.”

But I still had a Salem moment of accusation of being a witch in an open court.


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Old Wives Tales vs. Crone Wisdom

Posted by catkisser on August 12, 2009

One of the least noticed but most “in your face” symptoms of overall patriarchal mysogyny is the expression “old wives tale” to dismiss any wisdom that fails the male logic test.  How much do we lose as a society by dismissing in this fashion what, thousands of years ago, was considered one of the best sources of interpersonal wisdom, that of post menopausal women or Crones.

My first experience of feminist awakening I’ve already written about here, but it was my older aunt, Hope, who explained it to me clearly long before second wave feminism reached it’s zenith.  Thinking back, it’s remarkable in itself that she would do so at all, but then I was not shy at all asking about the world from my older female relations and I listened to what they told me.  She was totally honest in telling me her assessment of the nature of my parents relationship and she was dead on accurate as well without being nasty, mean or demeaning about it.

My mother’s side of the family was the old New England down to earth type.  I learned a different set of morals and “correct” behaviour from them that had little to do with traditional “right and wrong” and very strong on treating others with respect sans “moral judgment” on things that actually should be no one else’s concern.  Hope and Vinny didn’t bother to get married until the twins were on their way….almost two years after my cousin, little Hope, was born.  This wasn’t a family scandal, it was barely considered worth noting.  In fact, the joke among my many aunts and uncles on my mothers side of the family was I was the first eldest child actually conceived within marriage.

My female role models among my family were all strong, outspoken women, the men, equally strong and unthreatened by this, with the possible exception of only my own father.

Which brings me to the friendship I shared with my neighbor’s mother, Mrs. Weathersby.  The summer we returned from India my own mother and Diana, who lived across the street on Plum Island became good friends despite the fact Diana was closer to my own age, in her mid twenties, than my mother’s.  All of us got involved in holding seances, playing with the ouija board and assorted craziness which will be the topic of another entry sometime in the future, but through Diana, I got to know Mrs. Weathersby, her mother.  And from her I learned to truly appreciate Crone wisdom.  I was seventeen years old and had I been “normal” I probably never would have paid her much attention but there is something compelling in long conversations with someone who feels free to tell you precisely how she sees the world around her from both long experience and with no “gender” considerations added.  I learned more from her about art appreciation, local politics, relations between the sexes and seeing the world as it is rather than what we want to see than anyone else in my life.  Diana and my own mother joked about our friendship, but in no small part my own transition later in life was to Crone with an appreciation of exactly how wonderful a state of life that can be.

Thank you Mrs. Weathersby for that wondrous gift.

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“They Could Smell the Girl On Me”

Posted by catkisser on August 12, 2009

One of the ways women like me are dismissed is “socialization” as males rather than females. The response to this is often to deny any participation in male privilege as a child. That’s nonsense but the truth is a little harder to put your finger on.

My childhood was during the fifties and sixties, a time long before a kid unaccounted for more than 24 hours found their picture on a milk carton…..if you were male, or considered male. I’ve addressed elsewhere exactly how rigid the gender roles were during this time, if you didn’t grow up during this period of history, you’d be shocked. But while I would not deny I benefited from the greater freedom granted males during my childhood, it’s far from a complete picture on the other hand. With that greater freedom came all the problems of not fitting in with boys and the costs of that.

I never “got” the male dominance games that seem to be hardwired in to the male psyche. Let me explain. Among mammalian males this need to organize in hierarchies with established pecking orders seems to be an essential part of maleness. Among human males this means establishing who is the alpha and so forth. Boys will fight each other (or sometimes use sports instead) to establish who the alpha is. Once established, everyone is supposed to resume friendships as if it never happened. I “get” this intellectually, I never “got” it emotionally. And it got me in a lot of hot water as a child and left me a perpetual outsider in childhood. To me, someone trying to beat the crap out of me for no apparent reason was an enemy….period. Friendship was out of the question, especially if they had fifty pounds on me, towered over me or in some other fashion physically imposing. Allied with this hard wired male instinct seems to be the concept of a “fair fight” meaning if you were smaller, you weren’t supposed to equalize that. Opps, another concept I didn’t “get” and the source of my getting in a lot of hot water.

I was named after my father’s favorite uncle. This was a man who almost certainly was a repressed homosexual, hated women far beyond simple mysogyny and ran a boy scout “camp” on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. My paternal aunts and uncles convinced my parents this camp was just the thing to make a man out of me. For three summers in a row, between the ages of seven to ten, I was shipped off for several weeks to be, let’s be completely honest here, tortured by a sadist who hated me because I was named after him, very girly when he hated anything feminine, and probably worst of all in his mind, better than him at some areas of “woodcraft” which he held in highest esteem because I spent most of my free time in the woods. There is the distinct possibility he also sexually assaulted me as well, but if so, I totally repressed those memories. I was constantly beaten on by older, larger boys. I was punished for not “fighting fair” by using whatever was at hand to defend myself, I felt my life was in danger the entire time. “Uncle Foster” believed that taking us to the country store to buy the fixing for our next day’s meals taught us to learn how to manage money. I had to walk the three miles each way while the others rode in the truck as part of my punishment….almost every single night. Even when I had a large cut on the bottom of my foot that should have required stitches, but I was denied medical treatment for I literally had to walk six miles round trip in order to be able to eat the next day.

For three weeks a summer for three summers in a row I was tortured almost 24/7. The only relief was when I snuck out in the middle of the night and did incredibly dangerous things like trying to swim to an island 1/2 mile out from the camp and back not really caring if I made it or not. The third summer my little brother was also sent to the camp and told my parents that everything I had told them was true about what was happening to me. I stood up to “Uncle Foster”, told him to his face I would piss on his grave. Family members will not tell me where he is buried knowing, to this day, I’d do it and exactly how satisfying it would be now as a woman.

So, was I socialized as a male? I had a large measure of the relative freedom granted males over females, but little of the other advantages, almost none of the “male bonding” experiences and a large measure of similar self esteem destructive abuse heaped on girls. You tell me.

I explained all this in my own mind as “they somehow could smell the girl on me”.

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Practical Magick

Posted by catkisser on August 8, 2009

I come from two very old New England families, one dirt poor “swamp yankees” the other with a linage that includes John and John Quincy Adams, the composer Stephen Foster and other semi famous personages mixed with a Swedish grandfather.

My mother’s side of the family always felt like my “true” family.  On that side was William Wood, who wrote the book “New England Prospects” that triggered the immigration to New England and Susanna Martin, the witch of Amesbury called by Newsweek the first American Feminist.  She was hung for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials, but only at the end of a long life that saw her raise nine children mostly by herself while managing her farm.  My mother’s side of the family practiced magick, accepted the realities of ghosts and spirits and were quite open about family stories of the supernatural.  We played with Ouija boards, did seances and communed with the spirits in those marvelous pre-revolutionary homes in the family.

One family story was about the closet in my Grandmother’s bedroom.  Apparently all my aunts and uncles had had the same dream about it growing up.  My grandparent’s home was in a small town called Groveland just east of Haverhill.  Our family was connected to Plum Island, off Newbury and Newburyport back as far as Susanna Martin.  Every one of my aunts and uncles and my mother had dreamed as children that there was a portal to Plum Island in my Grandmother’s closet.  As a young child, I had the same dream and was told about theirs after revealing mine.  So you see, my childhood was filled with magick, it was second nature to me.  I also was drawn from the earliest memories to any wild space accessible to me and back then even New England had no shortage of them.

When we lived in Framingham, Mass. one such place was along the river a  few blocks from our home.  A “woods” as we called it then about 30 or so acres with encroaching suburban tract homes pressing on two sides.  I practically lived in those woods.  On one visit from my paternal Grandmother, who never approved of me at all and made little secret of that, she deliberately let my parakeet, Petey, out the window.  Petey was allowed to fly around the house most of the time and never before had flown out of the house.  I was devastated and obsessed over his survival in the coming winter.  I searched for him in the woods for months.  Paying particular attention to the treetops as a result, one day the idea occurred to me to “invent” a new animal that was part bird, part mammal that had both feathers and fur.  I was quite skilled at visualization even then and had no problem at all “seeing” this animal at will while aware it was something I had made up.  To my amazement, I had no trouble at all getting others to see it too!  In just a few weeks kids I didn’t even know were reporting sightings of my animal/bird.  Call it the power of suggestion, mass hypnosis or magick, it taught me an early lesson in perceptions of reality and how they could be malleable.  It was my first experience with practical magick, it would be far from my last.

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Posted by catkisser on August 8, 2009

In the earlier entry called Life’s Turning Points I talked about my “feminist awakening” in the pre-dawn of the Second Wave of Feminism. How I became aware of male privilege by having it extended to me by my father and I rejected it causing a rift that never healed between us.

I had trouble since his death forgiving him still. Privilege is a hot button topic these days but having lived a life essentially outside I have had unique experiences with it. I was born in Grosse Point, the wealthiest place in America at the time. I joke I was born with a plastic spork in my mouth because we were the “token poor folk”, my father being a teacher at Detroit University School. I attended nursery school, kindergarten and first grade with the wealthy elite but not one of them. Class distinctions were something I was aware of at a very early age as a result.

The summer of 1964 we moved to India. Perhaps because of my early experience with class in the supposedly classless society of 1950’s America, the culture shock for myself was quite different that those of my American classmates. I say American classmates because the American International School in New Delhi was truly international. Students from all over the world attended. I knew and socialize and played with kids from Soviet blog nations, South America, India, Europe. And it was not lost on me how ill equipped many of my American classmates were to deal with a society with the caste system. I ate India up……..loved it. Unlike my peers, I listened raptly to stories from our “servants” about Indian culture, religion, ghost stories. And apparently, in retrospect, they knew more about me than I realized.

Our live in cook was an incredible man named Lakshman. It was strange enough suddenly going from suburban middle class to having servants but here was a man who spoke seven languages and could read and write in five of them…and he was a servant because of his caste. Lakshman never once called me by my birth name in two full years even in response to others using it when answering the phone or in conversation. He insisted on calling me Jackie instead, often to the great confusion of those trying to leave me a message. It took me years to figure out why along with remembering some very stern warnings he gave me whenever I planned a trip to villages outside the Delhi metro area. During this time shortly after the assassination of JFK, Jackie Kennedy had a position in the rest of the world similar to that which Princess Di would have later. She was literally the royalty to the world. Calling me Jackie was Lakshman’s way of telling me he knew me and who I was and he approved and honoured that. He used to warn me that my hair colour, red, would get me in a lot of trouble if I was seen as female. At the time I made no sense of why he would tell me this but he and others (all Indian) repeated this to me constantly. Red haired women were considered witches outside the urban areas. I did not know at the time about the Hijra, no one told me of them and if I ever met any, I was unaware of it………but every Indian knew of them and apparently recognized my similarity to them with no problem.

Other than Christine Jorgensen, no one in “polite” Western circles ever discussed people like me. Despite having devoured my father’s psychology text books from the time I first cut my reading teeth, I found almost nothing but very vague references to anyone like me, anyone intersexed but Indian myths, religion and folk tales were full of them. It was at my first “western” party I met first person who set off my intersex radar as well. Western kids in India socialized with dance and music mixers at each other’s home a lot. New arrivals were expected to bring along the newest records from the US and England so the parties were a big deal. At my first one I met a girl who was leaving India for the States and something happened between us I’ve rarely experience since. She and I were drawn to each other like we were opposite poles of a magnet and it wasn’t sexual. We talked all night long as if we were long time friends and I can still see her face clearly in my mind..but I have never been able to find a picture of her in the school yearbooks from the immediate prior years. I am certain she was intersexed like myself.

In India I cut across all class lines and borders constantly. Many classmates were from much poorer situations, some from totally different cultures and ideologies. I met with adults who would later be a head of State, the governor of the state I was to live in later, servants and beggers and even did volunteer work in a leper colony. Economic class never meant much to me after that and the rest of my life I went from poor to well off to poor many times without much concern. Racism was also a concept pretty much outside my personal experience until my senior year of high school in West Virgina.

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Bringing Out the Worst in Me

Posted by catkisser on August 5, 2009

It’s past time, way past time.

I cannot write to anything “trans” anymore because it is so damn crazy making, the entire communities are so unwilling to compromise on anything, the writing and back and forth so damn entitled I cannot stand it anymore.

When I first transitioned I was utterly shunned by the local gender community, especially the transsexual one because I refused to
transition on any terms but my own, rejected the “revealed wisdom” and would not go to the local gender clinic cult. And make no mistake, it
was a cult.

I had already, pre-transition, established a new circle of friends, all non trans women, (I refuse to use that ‘cis’ nonsense) mostly lesbian, a
few bisexual women. I received almost total immediate acceptance there. I was immediately just one of the “girls”. My history was only
mentioned rarely and when actually appropriate, never thrown in my face even once. I fit, I was finally home, for the first time in my life I
came out of my loner shell… and I let my one remaining trans-woman friend drag me back into trans activism, at least online. I regret that
to this day.

I am a very compassionate woman, one who tries to address wrongs which saw me involved in a wide variety of causes my entire life. I let
transness back in. Big mistake. It still is. It has brought almost no joy into my life, only stress, abuse and people I wish I’d never met but
still I tried to advocate for them, help them. I simply cannot do so anymore. They bring out the worst in me and I do not like that at all
and cannot afford that in my position as head of a faith that is centred about the Divine Feminine principles of the universe.

Trans people seem incapable of any compromises on anything. Most seem to lack any empathy for others. Most apparently cannot see any position but their own. It’s not hard to understand why, I’ve written essays in the past that mention the reason. In order to maintain a sense of your own
identity in the face of a world that continues to tell you otherwise, you almost are forced to become stubborn beyond belief and absolutely
iron willed in your own position just to survive……

But that should change when you do, and all too often it doesn’t. An infant sees only mirrors of herself but as she grows, one by one those
mirrors become other people. Other people, with their own lives, their own opinions, their own ways of viewing the world. This is the essence
of growing out of childhood. Of becoming human. And I raised my daughter and feel I’m too old to raise an entire community of people who
will not grow up.

When I moved to upstate New York it was to pool resources with three other women of trans backgrounds to try to create something unique, an
actual supportive trans embracing women’s home. We located and bought an old run down former Catskill Resort Inn, 18 bedrooms and sets of
“rules”, the most basic being you had to be fully transitioned to live here. Pretty basic eh? The idea was a women’s home with a bend towards
Women’s Spirituality since the three of us in actual residence were Priestess’s of the Goddess.

The very first “trans woman” to join us lied about everything right from the start. Not transitioned, none of the resources to contribute we were
told, a tranny hooker. This set a pattern for the next couple of years.

Oh we tried like hell to be accommodating given “she”‘d move from the South and had no place to go. We found ourselves covering ALL of the
living expenses, our various rules broken over and over and finally that “she” was running her whoring using our post office box and telephone
number! Finally, when there was a confrontation with a street girl we took in from NYC that nearly went to a knife fight, we told her to leave
immediately. “She” refused and forced us to court action even though a declaimer had been signed that stated our right to do exactly that.
This person owned only male clothing and latex slutwear.

I could go on with more stories, there were a lot of them. Mixed in were some actual women (trans variety) but not a single non trans woman.

Then came the year and a half of literal hell, the less said about it the better. Today we are undoing physical damages to the property still but
now it is a thriving, if poor Women’s Spirituality Centre and the Convent home of our priestesses.

I am a gentle woman by nature. A perpetual “mother” to most who come into my life. A nurturer by nature… and I want to return to that
completely without the battles, bullshit, drama that anyone trans identified seems to bring my life. Women identified women finally live here for the first time. Women visitors outnumber the “trans” women now, again for the first time… life is better. I really missed that. I thrive in a woman’s world. And I cannot go back into those dark mindsets that seem to be the entirety of transland and it’s mindset. Not because of the pain of the past but because it is a dark way of thinking that I fear will drag me in and bring out the worst impulses that lurk in all our deep psyche, wanting to strike back rather than walk away as I long ago learned to do….so I walk away.

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Confessions of a Deeply Closeted College Co-Ed, circa 1969

Posted by catkisser on June 18, 2009

There really is only one word that sums up being a woman in a male body…..weird. I lost my virginity in 1969 during the age of “free sex” under bizarre circumstances. But first some background. (they are my stories after-all so you have to indulge me)

Being born with a female neurology (central nervous system) means regardless of the attempts to make a man out of you, you still think and feel in female norm fashions. Knowing since I was very young what my situation was, I was intensely interested in the differences between men and women and the mechanics of sex were mysteries to learn everything I could about….intellectually. Being bisexual and knowing everyone expected me to be interested in girls, it was fairly easy to just not think much about being interested in men. For some reason I never had any homophobia which apparently was required for hetero malehood, but then other than having every chicken hawk (old men who cruise for teenaged boys) who encountered me trying to bed me, it just didn’t come up much. So, as I was expected to do, I pursued girls as romantic interests. Looking back it was pretty pathetic. As a total sexual submissive by nature, unless I encountered a very sexually aggressive girl absolutely nothing happened at all. In lesbian circles this is sometimes known as lesbian sheep syndrome. Female sheep indicate sexual availability by standing perfectly still, you get the picture.

So, although every one of my circle of friends both in India and the US thought I was quite sexually active and experienced due to my knowledge of the mechanics of sex, I wasn’t, the instincts and my sexual responses worked against that. This was also the time of my first dysphoric “crisis”. It appears these strike women such as myself at roughly ten to fifteen year intervals until they finally get so bad you finally transition or suicide. Many of us of bisexual or lesbian nature can make adjustments (deals with the devil) through several of these crisises before they finally reach the breaking point. Mine was stepping up the adjustment I’d made as a child of honouring a parallel, but totally closeted female life. But I wanted, craved and was overwhelmed with the need for estrogen and seeking desperately for a reliable source of birth control pills, the estrogen levels of which were magnitudes greater than the ones today. As a friend today has pointed out to me (she suffers from PCOS), due to my actually having ovaries that had shutdown during the great puberty hormone wars within my body, they might have actually killed me had I succeeded. No place for the flow to go = blood poisoning.

This was at the height of the military draft and my induction center was in Kentucky, across from Huntington W. Va. They made multiple attempts to draft me despite my 2-S student deferment. Ah the blindness that comes from keeping a deep dark secret. It never once occurred to me that the answer to the draft was simply tell them the truth! Instead I did things like paste one of those enormous plastic flowers made to put on VW bugs on my chest and answer questions on the forms that asked badly worded questions such as “have you ever committed suicide?” Figuring they couldn’t draft you if you were dead, I answered “yes”. That led to an interesting session with a draft board shrink.

So here I was, sexual confused, a female libido fueled by testosterone, (that particular brand of hell is known only to classic transsexuals and women suffering PCOS) and instincts that worked against my ever having sex. A tri-delta sorority girl decided I was just the thing to make her pre-yuppie boyfriend jealous and her uptight family crazy. After all I was a genuine hippy activist who lived in a basement apartment we oh so cleverly called the A-P-T with a beer tap frig and was on the crash pad circuit. A crash pad was a place that traveling hippies told each other about that let anyone sleep there. Gross Glenn and my roommate, Fred, travelled around spreading the word so at any given time my place was filled with strangers.

The sorority girl, who’s name escapes me, and I were chatting away in the living room when Debbie and Gypsy from Arizona appeared at the door looking to crash for the night. Ms. Tri-Delt found that just too weird and immediately left. She and I had been drinking heavily, so I showed the two hippy girls how to set up the couch as a bed and retired to the bedroom and basically passed out. When I woke Debbie was on top of me and we were having sex. Talk about mixed emotions! I was pissed my body had betrayed me by responding, felt I was being raped for all practical purposes and aware I could not express that to anyone….all while having an orgasm. I did get up immediately afterwards and shower.

Three weeks later my friends told me Debbie was pregnant and it was my child. Actually she had left Arizona because she was pregnant but this cruel joke on me was continued right up until she gave birth. The other joke on me was I was practically sterile so the odds it was my child approached zero but I had no idea at the time.

My second attempt at sex was stoned with a good friend. It was a disaster. Third time being the charm, I drove down to Huntington from Columbus on a tiny 150cc motorcycle to spend a weekend with a woman I’d dated in high school…finally I experienced sex.

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The People’s Army of Ohio State

Posted by catkisser on June 18, 2009

It was a Friday, May Day, 1970 at Ohio State University. The night before a fire had been set at the ROTC building, a national student strike had been called for over the invasion of Cambodia announced the day before….but it was a beautiful day, spring day at OSU and May Day was the traditional start of the annual spring demonstration on the Oval.

I was in Botany class near the south gate of the campus and just as class let out, the march was on it’s way to the gate so I found myself at the head of the crowd leaving class. It was a happy crowd of laughing students doing something against the war and enjoying the fun of spring all at once. We were set up as it turns out. Jim Rhodes, the republican governor of Ohio wanted a major confrontation to put down the student anti-war movement. National Guard troops were already in place just outside several campuses. Just a few days before a number of us piled into Jeff-freak’s 38 Buick for a road trip all dressed up as Bonnie and Clyde characters complete with toy machine guns and ran into the Guard unit on it’s way to Kent State. We cruised along side the convey pretending to shoot. I’ll never forget that.

When we arrived at the South Gate, we were confronted with the Columbus Police “Goon Squad” as they were called then. They literally read us the riot act. That was apparently the signal for four undercover State police posing as students to close the gate. Literally the first tear gas canister landed at my feet and I was overcome as the police proceeded to advance and start clubbing everyone. Several people grabbed me and dragged me back to the Oval at mid campus. It was a pitched battle all the way back to the Oval where the public address system had already been set up for the day’s rallys. Someone got on the podium and started yelling “It’s our campus, push the pigs off!” and everything changed. We’d had enough, we fought back. Every building around the Oval was stripped of the CO2 fire extinguishers. We learned quickly to cover our faces with rags, grab the tear gas canisters with another and throw them back. Seems the police hadn’t figured on that and didn’t have gas masks either. If you hit a cansiters with the CO2, it held the gas in place and didn’t disperse.

A pitched battle went on for what seemed like hours all across the campus. We gave at least as good as we got. Dorms and Frat houses were gassed making instant radicals of those who would have be neutral. Some of us were able to rip the electrical tape covered badges off the cops for IDing them later. At the end of the day we slipped off to our apartments and dorms…I lived off campus back then near the Fairgrounds where the National Guard was camped. We smoked dope and planned for the next day. A lot of us had been hurt, some badly. I came up with the idea of a student medic corps and called my contacts at the United Christian Center to see if we could set it up there since I worked there on weekends as a janitor, Friday nights as a receptionist and Saturday nights as MC of the Cockroach Coffee House. It seems the Center was gassed during the day and they refused out of fear, so did the Newman Center (Catholics) but the Hillel Center said yes.

The next day I was on the Oval and got up on the podium and announced what we were trying to organize. By that evening we had a full scale “MASH” style unit set up complete with nurses, medical students, the first CB radios I’d seen set up in mobile units (people’s cars) and tonnes of donated medical supplies! That was one of the proudest moments of my life and never again did I ever witness that level of organic, spontaneous organizing in almost no time flat. That evening I was on the phone to the police, campus officials and the University Hospital arranging recognition of our white armbands as “neutral non combatants”.

Saturday night and Sunday the area around the campus was literally a war zone. Checkpoints everywhere on and off campus, helicopters circling endlessly, National Guard everywhere. On Saturday, right after I spoke the Guard commander spoke and announced the Guard recognized it was our campus and would get between us and police if necessary to the cheers of the crowd. Pitched battles were still breaking out all over the campus. We viewed them as our allies and Saturday and Sunday students were bringing food and drink to the Guard. This was the day before Kent State. Monday, as classes tried to resume, all hell broke out. The police were major pissed off. We had dozens of their badges and they were desperate to get them back and invading apartments, bashing students on their way to class and shooting…some rubber bullets, some live ammo. Some had rifles with fixed bayonets. While trying to aid injured students I was shot at several times and in one case, while bent over giving first aid to an unconsious student, a cop tried to run me through with a bayonet ignoring my yelling and pointing at the white arm band and the clearly marked medical bag. He was apparently pissed off I had a surplus gas mask.

I didn’t like cops much before then having had several run ins with rogue pigs, mostly over “driving while hippy” offenses, but from that day on I never trusted any cop I didn’t know personally ever again.

Four people died at Ohio State in those four days. No one but a few of us ever heard about it. All died from injuries inflicted by the police ranging from gunshot wounds to being beaten to death. There was never any justice done.

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Life’s Turning Points

Posted by catkisser on June 16, 2009

In everyone’s life there are points where a decision or event changes the entire course of one’s life. Mine has been no exception. I suppose my birth was the first major one. Apparently I was born a hermaphrodite. That’s right, someone born with the supposedly extremely rare condition of both male and female genitals. The decision must have seem easy to the doctor who delivered me, just sew up the labia and toss a blue blanket over the area. Afterall, it must have seemed a no brainer at that time that being a boy would be vastly superior to being a girl and back then no one had a clue what gender identity was, babies were supposed to be a tabla rasa, a blank slate for life to write on.

By the time I was three I knew something was very very wrong with that, by the time I was four or five, I learned never to speak of it aloud…but it was always there, always present, my shameful secret. My maternal grandmother was present at my birth and quite telling is she always honoured my female nature in a covert but supportive fashion. I was told in no uncertain terms that boys did not play “house” or have dolls but I did have a wonderful assortment of homemade stuffed animals Grandma made for me…..and I played “village” with them. I was an avid reader so my parents bought me the Hardy Boys books. Around age nine I discovered a tomboy who had a Nancy Drew collection….we exchanged books.

But the major turning point at that stage in my life was the night my mother tried to leave my father. I was about nine years old at the time and understood that my father’s treatment of my mother pretty darn patriarchal (no I didn’t have that word then but I sure as hell got the concept). Finally being fed up that treatment my mother attempted the bravest thing I’d ever seen, to leave him even in the face of the threats my father made that she’d never see us kids again. She actually did walk out and I came out of my hiding place crying. My father totally misread my feelings for one’s of abandonment and “comforted” me by telling me “don’t worry, she’ll be back because she has no place to go.” This was the late fifties and second wave feminism was just barely getting started and I sure wasn’t aware of it but I had my feminist awakening right then and there. My father’s attitude was just plain wrong, I wanted no part of his male entitlement. That wedge existed between him and me up to the day he died.

Another turning point that was unexpected happened when I was 15 years old. Our family was living in India and I was practically an emancipated minor in the freedom I had. Walking alone on a dusty road outside of Jaipur I was suddenly aware the entire world around me was paired. Monkeys, insects, reptiles, people, everything was in male/female pairs but me…..and I was struck with the realization I would never actually be part of such a pair because of who I was. It was a powerful but unbelievably sad moment in my life, the realization that I was something not quite human, not quite of the world and probably never would be. That sense of being in the world but not of it has been with me in some fashion ever since.

There are lot’s more, one appropriate for Pride month on the 40’th anniversary of Stonewall, but maybe later.

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Come the Revolution

Posted by catkisser on June 16, 2009

I attended Ohio State during the late sixties, early seventies, the “hippy” era and definitely considered myself a “freak” in the political, radical sense. We said this back then, we believed it. The Revolution was coming any day, the country would embrace counter culture values, we would change the world.

If you didn’t live through that period no amount of documentaries or movies can convey how much we believed that. It was a period of time of political change, martyrs to the causes of justice, street action, liberation movements springing up almost daily. It was a period of time when you could safely hitchhike almost anywhere knowing that arriving in a strange city you would be able to find a place to sleep and someone would feed you. It was a time of free clinics, free stores, shared resources. Never before or after had I ever felt a sense of community to even come close with any group. In that respect, it was probably the highlight of my life. The people I met and associated with even called ourselves “the Family”, feeling closer to each other than our birth families who often rejected us for our lifestyles and life philosophies.

My non-birth Family stayed close over the years through the raising of our own individual families, sea changes of politics and values, careers choices and even the spreading out of socio-economic class. That ended for me personally when I finally transitioned and to this day the hurt is as fresh as when it happened.

I bring this up because I see the same consciousness trying to arise anew split up by identity politics but fueled by the same disgust in our government and liberal broken policies as then. Like then we are involved in a seemingly endless, pointless war but lacking the unfairness of the draft to finish uniting opposition. No, today economics fuel who’s bodies are put at risk in war rather than a draft that cut across socio-economic classes. Makes it much easier for the middle class to be able to be less involved…..but the economic collapse is changing that as the middle class is less and less secure and only a layoff or two away from being poor. Stonewall 2.0 is poised to happen if only the same Mattachine conserva-queers who openly opposed it then get out of the way today.

Feminism is slowly being reborn again in the face of the most rigid gender role enforcing point our society has ever been at since the mid-fifties when I grew up. America is almost at a point of civil war dealing with our own homegrown terrorists, the religious right and frustration with the “change we can believe in” broken promises for equal rights, this time economic justice and social justice for lesbian, gays, trans, bisexuals and others in some fashion “queer”.

Once again it feels to me that “Come the Revolution” is in the air but this time the violence promises to kill far far more than the Goodman, Schwerner and Chaneys, the Martins and Bobbies, the Jackson State and Kent State students, those three little girls in a church basement.

Come the Revolution….it’s finally coming I think some forty years later than I thought but it lacks the sense of community we had back then……and that’s a shame.  And I confess, the older me fears it as much as welcomes it.

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