Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The bathroom bill brings a very personal response

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 1:48 PM

A former Arkansas Times co-worker wrote me today, prompted by news of the bathroom bill aiming to make birth gender the determination of what public restroom a person may  use.

click to enlarge WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: From Justin Sarlo - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson

Dear Max:

Hope all is well with you and the Arkansas Times. I do miss you folks. I just thought I would add my 2 cents to your blog about the “bathroom bill” - and feel free to use it, if you wish. It’s my story. I cannot speak for all trans folks, but I can speak for myself, in hopes that folks attempt to understand. Many young kids are scared to death and they need to be reassured as often as humanly possible.

I was 8 when I told my parents that I was a boy. My parents told me that the doctor thought I was a boy, but he was wrong. I have no idea what that meant, and I failed to ask then. Now, of course, it is too late, as they are both gone. Over the years, I tried really hard to conform. I cannot even begin to explain to folks the feeling of having your body betray you. We know so many things now, scientifically, that we didn’t know then. But then, I felt as if my skin was continually on fire and I wanted to rip it off. I hated every inch of my body and the more it matured, the more I hated it. When I was 18, I discovered that if I could drink enough, I could dull the pain until the eventual hangover came. When I was 22, even alcohol couldn’t dull the pain enough and I stepped in front of a dump truck. The driver swerved and missed. Finally, I convinced myself that if I would just find a man, marry, and have kids, eventually the pain would stop and I could be like everyone else. I did marry - a man who was not a bad man, just a man in pain, like me. A different pain, but agony all the same. We had two sons - two amazing sons. Eventually, I sobered up, he didn’t. And after 12 years of a miserable marriage, we finally divorced. He moved onto marry a wonderful woman and found sobriety, as well. I lived my life as a lesbian, but didn’t really date, instead focusing on raising our sons to the best of my ability. I don’t know if it had anything to do with their upbringing, or if they are just amazing young men all on their own. But, they are both college professors - one math and one history. One is happily married with their first child and the other is dating a wonderful woman.

At any rate, I continued to live my life as a single mom and a lesbian - figuring that was doing them enough damage. I was afraid that if I came out as who I truly was, I would cause my children irreparable harm. But as the years went by, every day I would cringe when I looked in the mirror. Every night just before I would drift off to sleep, I would dream of someday becoming who I was. I became really good at staying sober (32 years now), smiling through pain, and living a lie. Seven years ago this Memorial Day, my children, who were grown by then, came to me out of the blue and said, “Mom, if you want to transition, we fully support you.” I had never told anyone, but they were my children. My own flesh and blood. They knew. The only two people who ever really mattered to me had just told me that they fully supported me. I flew out of that closet, yet again, and started on the long, difficult path of becoming me. Yes, the physical part is difficult, but more importantly, the emotional part is a trial. I knew how to be a boy. I knew how to pretend as best I could, how to be a woman. I had to learn how to be a man. I don’t know if I will ever fully get there, but I’m not sure any man does, so I’m okay with that. But, I can tell you this - I am finally happy, I am finally free, and I am loving every single day of my life.

Shortly before I was laid off from the Times, I met the mom of a recently deceased young transgender woman, while doing one of our benefits. We have a group of folks who do benefits for various groups - AIDS Care, Lucie’s Place, the Christmas Caravan, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, etc. Anyway, we became friends, and even when I moved back to the northeast for a job, we still corresponded via FB from time to time. When I finally had the chance for a job back home, I messaged her and asked her if she wanted to go out to dinner when I got back. Dinner lasted until 4am - I have never hit it off with someone like that before. Someone that I didn’t have to explain anything to - she had seen it all, with her daughter. We talked all night, we laughed all night, and she even cried, while telling me all about her daughter. We are getting married this July. And this time, I get to wear the tux. :)

What is important to understand, is that I didn’t wake up one day and decide to become a man. One day, thanks to my children, I was able to tell the world that I was a man and had known that for my entire life. Only my body betrayed me. At this point, I could live my life, as just an ordinary guy who happens to be getting married this July. But, if I did that, I could not look into the many faces of the kids on my FB page who desperately need someone to look up to, someone who is happy, someone who does not judge. Those filled with ignorance and hatred can no longer hurt me. I’m old and tough. But they can wreak devastation on the young. And I am determined to do my very best to be a shield for them. I was lucky. The truck missed. I found sobriety. Not everyone is lucky.

And one last thing - no one would welcome me in the ladies room, now, that’s for sure. LOL Thanks for “listening,” Max. If you need to use this, or even want to, please feel free. Have a great day!

Justin Keith Sarlo

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Speaking of Bathroom Bill, Justin Keith Sarlo

  • ACLU, HRC, Ark. Trans Equality Coalition decry anti-trans bills

    March 20, 2017
    In a press conference on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol this morning, representatives of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition (ARTEC), ACLU of Arkansas and a transgender pioneer spoke out against a number of anti-trans and anti-LGBT bills working their way through the state legislature. Citing the economic and political fallout for North Carolina over their "bathroom bill," the groups say the bills will harm the Arkansas economy. /more/
  • Filmmaker criticizes Arkansas bathroom bill

    March 19, 2017
    The House Friday adopted legislation by Rep. Bob Ballinger that advocates of transgender people say is a "Bathroom Lite" bill aimed at creating a means for a criminal penalty for people who use a restroom or locker room for a gender different than their gender at birth. /more/
  • Hospitality, restaurant groups oppose bathroom bill

    March 16, 2017
    Add the restaurant and hospitality association to those opposed to Sen. Linda Collins-Smith's bill to keep transgender people out of public restrooms that match their gender identity. /more/
  • Bathroom bill fight is far from over

    March 3, 2017
    Don't be misled by headlines that say Sen. Greg Standridge (R-Russellville) will withdraw a broad bill to prohibit use of any public restroom by someone with a birth certificate that doesn't match the posted gender. The bathroom fight isn't over. /more/
  • Bathroom bill retreat, but not total surrender

    March 2, 2017
    The Associated Press' Andrew DeMillo says Sen. Greg Standridge intends to drop a broad bathroom bill to prohibit public restroom use except by people with matching birth gender.But he says he still has something in mind on school facilities /more/
  • Hot Springs chamber opposes bathroom bill

    February 24, 2017
    Add a Hot Springs business group to the list opposing proposed legislation to require that public restrooms be used by people with matching birth gender (the final legislation isn't on file; who knows what it will require for those with indeterminate gender at birth.) It's cold comfort giving the multiple ways in which the legislature, governor, attorney general and others defend legal discrimination against LGBT people in Arkansas. /more/
  • More objections to the bathroom bill from Buffalo River businessman

    February 19, 2017
    A tourism operator in the district of a senator who's sponsored a "bathroom bill" to discourage transgender use of public facilities has joined those objecting to the legislation as damaging to business. /more/
  • Jerry Jones reported with concerns about a Texas bathroom bill

    February 16, 2017
    The Texas Tribune reports that Arkansas native Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is among those who've contacted Texas officials in apparent opposition to a "bathroom bill" banning transgender restroom use other than facilities that match birth gender, even though it contains a stadium exemption meant to deter North Carolina-style blowback by outfits like the NBA and NCAA. /more/
  • Coming soon to a women's bathroom in Arkansas

    February 16, 2017
    If the Arkansas legislature passes a proposal to require that people use restrooms that match their birth gender (in the supposed name of keeping men out of the ladies' rooms), some shocks might be in store, as I've mentioned before. /more/
  • LR Convention and Visitors Bureau denounces bathroom bill

    February 15, 2017
    The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau has announced its opposition to SB 346, now in shell form but intended to prohibit use of restrooms except by people born with the same gender identity. /more/
  • More »

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