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Ramadan

A look at the Silicon Valley billionaires remaking America’s schools.

Five CEOs who value humanity over profits.

Here are the details about Apertus AXIOM Beta, an open source camera.

Here’s a look at the oldest color photographs that vividly show what the world looked like 100 years ago.

The necessity of the Millennial side-hustle.

Google Drive will soon back up your entire computer.

A recent report shows that knitting can slow the onset of dementia.

A photo essay looks back on a groundbreaking interracial marriage on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court Loving v. Virginia decision.

Alice Seeley Harris’ photos exposed the horrors of colonialism in Africa.

Open source TurtleBot 3 Robot Kit runs Ubuntu and ROS on Raspberry Pi.

Meet the Aussie man crocheting his way to Instagram stardom.

Iowa IT firm caught posting “No Americans” job listing, which raised the continuing controversial issue of hiring foreign-born H-1B workers.

Millennials are obsessed with side hustles because it’s all they’ve got.

The inventor of the Roomba has just launched a weed-killing robot named Tertill.

How photography shapes our view of Native Americans.

Konami reportedly blacklisting ex-employees across Japanese video game industry.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com (which currently houses this blog that you are currently reading), is closing its San Francisco office because most of its employees prefer to telecommute instead of showing up to work in person.

New York Public Library turns subway cars into mobile ebook libraries.

How the recently-deceased Batman actor Adam West played a prank on anyone who tried to look him up in the local phone book.

A free tutorial on how to make wind-up paper butterflies.

Over a decade later the first YouTube stars reflect on their fame and changes that happened to the YouTube platform over the years.

Ramadan

As you may have heard, Bill Cosby was accused of raping up to 60 women (the earliest allegation took place in the mid-1960’s) but, due to statue of limitations, prosecutors were only able to charge him with one of the rapes. In time Cosby’s original deposition from a 2005 lawsuit was unsealed where he admitted sneaking drugs to women so he could have sex with them.

This week his criminal trial ended in a mistrial. You’d think that with such an outcome Bill Cosby would decide to lay low for a while. Well, you’d think wrong for Bill Cosby is planning to go on tour. As The New York Times reports:

Bill Cosby is planning a series of town hall meetings this summer to educate people, including young athletes and married men, on how to avoid accusations of sexual assault, two of his representatives said Wednesday.

WTF?!? This is just like Adolf Hitler giving talks on how to avoid being accused of anti-semitism. This is totally unbelievable.

I’m going to save you the time, money, and effort that it would take to attend one of Bill Cosby’s town hall meetings and just tell you about how you can avoid accusations of sexual assault.

1) Don’t slip mickeys in other people’s drinks with any kind of drug—regardless of whether the drug is legal or illegal.

2) Always get the other person’s consent before starting sex. If the person says “NO” either before or even during sex, stop immediately.

3) Don’t even THINK about having sex with anyone who’s legally incapable of giving consent, such as underaged minors and people who are passed out from being drunk and/or stoned.

4) Try not to be the only adult who’s alone with a minor, especially one who’s not related to you. (That includes hosting unsupervised sleepovers in your home.)

That’s it. Now you won’t have to go to one of Bill Cosby’s town halls to learn about how to avoid sexual assault accusations. You’re welcome.

Ramadan

Like I wrote yesterday, I decided to devote a separate post to my attendance at the latest installment of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC because it would have made my last post extremely long otherwise.

This event was held during DC Pride Weekend and it was also held on the same day as a big demonstration on the Mall for LGBTQ rights. I wasn’t able to make it because I attended Sunday service at my church that morning, Dr. Sketchy’s was supposed to begin at 3 p.m., and there’s the issue of Metro’s unreliable weekend service where you typically have to wait between 15 minutes to a half-an-hour for the next train. I wasn’t too bitter about missing the march because it was very hot outside. (The temperature went as high as 95 degrees with high humidity.)

I saw rainbow flags everywhere in Dupont Circle as I was walking to the Bier Baron, where the event was held. Even the Bier Baron itself was decked out in rainbow colors.

Once I was inside I even got in on the act by laying out my pencils in a rainbow pattern.

Once again Reverend Valentine hosted the event. I gave her this toy dinosaur that I found outside Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, which was among the items that the STEM center invited the general public to take for free. (Makerspace 125 is currently undergoing some major spring cleaning and reorganization of the space.) I knew she was into dinosaurs so I figured what the hell since it was free and everything. (Besides, it gives me the excuse to post this picture right here.)

She loved it when I gave it to her. She said that it will live with the other toy dinosaurs that she has on display in her kitchen.

The event was pretty well-attended despite the fact that it was scheduled during DC Pride Weekend and that big march was still going on at the Mall just a few miles away. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Amira Jade and some of these drawings are definitely NSFW.

There was only one contest at that event. This one was a beach theme. She said that she would also give extra points for including a dinosaur. So I had Amira Jade with Dino the Dinosaur.

I also decided to ad Batman surfing on a surfboard in the ocean as my personal tribute to Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960’s TV series who had died the day before. It was based on this incredibly campy clip from the TV show.

My drawing made it among the finalists but I didn’t win. Oh well. You win some and you lose some.

I did a couple of more drawings of Amira Jade before the event ended.

Ramadan

For all the times I’ve been to Dupont Circle, I’ve never went there during DC Pride Weekend, even though I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area for years. The only reason why I went this year was because Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School was held at the Bier Baron that day. I originally planned on writing one post until I looked through the pictures and realized that I had taken so many that it really warranted writing two separate blog posts about my one day in Dupont Circle during DC Pride Weekend. This post will focus on the photographs I took that day while the Dr. Sketchy’s post will have to wait until the next one.

DC Pride Weekend had a big parade and party that took place in Dupont Circle the previous day. I wasn’t able to make it because of tight finances (the Metro system is not only getting more expensive but yet another fare increase is set to take place by the end of this month) and this heatwave has settled in the area so the temperature reached a high of around 95 degrees F.

The following day it was still very hot and humid with highs reaching 95 once again. At least the Metro trains are air conditioned and I spent as much time in the various air conditioned stores as possible. While Saturday was the big party and parade in Dupont Circle, Sunday was slated as a day of protest on the Mall. I wasn’t able to make it to that protest mainly because I attended church in the morning and Dr. Sketchy’s started at 3 p.m. so there was literally no way I could squeeze going to the National Mall in between (especially given Metro’s flaky weekend schedule where you could wait anywhere from 15 minutes to a half-an-hour or even longer depending on which stop you’re at and if Metro is doing any kind of maintenance work on a certain line at a certain station). I saw this couple who were clearly on their way to the Mall march.

I arrived at the Dupont Circle Metro station, which was definitely decorative for the occasion by having its list of scheduled trains arranged like the rainbow flag.

It was also fitting that the same station had this banner ad for Cher’s upcoming concert at the MGM casino in nearby National Harbor.

I didn’t mind missing the big march on the Mall, especially when I stepped outside and felt the high heat and high humidity smack me in the face. There were people milling around in Dupont Circle but I suspect that there were far more people protesting at the Mall. The first thing I did was head over to Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe where I saw these LGBTQ-friendly signs.

There was also this excellent sign that made fun of Donald Trump’s notorious “covfefe” tweet by announcing a new Covfefe cocktail featuring White Russian while providing quotes from former FBI director James Comey’s recent testimony that introduced the phrase “honest loyalty” into the English language.

I browsed among the books at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe while noticing this prominent shelf towards the front of the store featuring LGBTQ books.

I also saw rainbow flags and store patrons who were all decked out in rainbow and/or LGBTQ-themed attire .

After Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe I walked along the streets of Dupont Circle where I noticed rainbow flags everywhere and people dressed in rainbows. I took the bulk of these pictures before and after Dr. Sketchy’s. (Hooray for longer daylight hours!)

I eventually made my way to the Bier Baron, where Dr. Sketchy’s took place. Even that place was decked out in rainbows.

I even got into the rainbow festivities by taking pictures of my colored pencils all lined up in a loose Roy G Biv rainbow pattern (which also included colors one usually don’t see in a rainbow like brown and white) before Dr. Sketchy’s began.

Like I wrote earlier, I’ll devote my next post to what I drew at Dr. Sketchy’s.

While there were rainbow colored palettes everywhere in Dupont Circle, I found this one interesting non-rainbow thing that I photographed. This is a tiny statue (which reaches no higher than my calf) of a baby sleeping on top of a baby elephant. How cute!

I ended my time at the fountain that’s located right in the middle of Dupont Circle. There were a few people chilling out even though it was dinnertime and the temperature was very hot and humid. Strangely the fountain was turned off that day plus the basin had no water in it. (I honestly don’t know what is going on with that fountain.)

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for my next post on attending Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Bier Baron during DC Pride Weekend. 🙂

Ramadan

A survey of the open source community finds widespread harassment and gender imbalance.

Teacher launches crochet campaign to fund the victims of the Manchester attack.

Dubai gets its first robot cop.

Verizon will slash more than 2,000 jobs from Yahoo-AOL when the deal closes this month.

Why the mainstream media should pay for the right to use videos and photos that were originally shared on social media.

Prison inmates crochet 150 blankets for veterans.

Security experts warn that the My Friend Cayla doll is susceptible to being hacked.

How YouTube celebrities have lead to the rise of YouTube tabloids that keep tabs on them.

Learn about Karen Wetterhahn, the chemist whose poisoning death changed safety standards.

Your grandma’s crochet is wildly in fashion.

This startup wants to turn YouTube unboxing videos into a big business.

These three industries are making the most out of 3D printing.

New report says Walmart punishes employees for taking sick days.

How banks are using artificial intelligence up front and behind the scenes.

Israeli police unveil first-ever 3D printed police car.

Why Adobe pays creatives to do whatever they want for a whole year.

FCTRY has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a Senator Elizabeth Warren doll, the proceeds of which will be used to fund Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign (if she decides to run).

One of the first computer video games is born again in open source.

A robot could cut your hair in the future.

Robot dog has an artificial woof that sounds like the real thing.

How Adobe got its users hooked on subscriptions.

Ramadan

Right now the big scandal is whether President Donald Trump was elected with a little help from his friend, Russian Premiere Vladimir Putin. Then-FBI Director James Comey was investigating the matter until President Trump abruptly fired him.

I could write a long separate blog post about this scandal except for the fact that there have already been so much written about this matter that anything I write here would be redundant. I’ll keep this post short by saying that James Comey was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate on his investigation, which began at 10 a.m. on June 8, 2017. I live outside of Washington, DC so naturally this scheduled testimony became the big talk of the town. In fact, some of the local bars decided to open way earlier than usual so people can watch the proceedings live on the TV screens while drinking alcohol. (Only in DC would the bars do something like this for a Senate hearing.)

The Greenbelt Theater decided to get in on the action by opening at 10 a.m. so it can broadcast the proceedings on the big screen. (The big difference is that the theater doesn’t serve alcohol.) I wasn’t able to get to the theater right at 10 because I was busy getting ready for another job hunting-related event at the state-run Maryland Workforce Exchange that was being held at the Laurel office that afternoon. I managed to arrive around noon. I set the alarm on my smartphone because I could only devote a half-an-hour to watching this because I had to get to Laurel. It turned out that I arrived at the tail end of the proceeding and it ended after I was there for 20 minutes. I managed to take a few token pictures to give you an idea of what it’s like to see something like this on the big screen.

In case you’ve missed it, you can read a summary of Comey’s testimony right here.

Ramadan

A new shopping center has just been opened a few months ago in Riverdale Park, Maryland but I decided to wait a few months until the crowds drawn by the novelty of a new place have died down. In addition, I decided to go on a weeknight because I’ve seen the parking lot filled with cars on the weekend. Here are the photographs I took.

The new shopping center’s main draw is a Whole Foods Market.

In the middle of the new shopping center is this really interesting statue of a blue bear.

If you look up close at that statue you’d see the statue is composed of little blue butterfly-shaped pieces.

Behind the bear statue is this low-level fountain where the water seems to spout from the ground. I can imagine kids splashing around in that fountain once the summer heatwave begins in earnest.

The new shopping center is located on what was once a farm. Here is some background. Riverdale Park was originally a big plantation known as Riversdale Park (note the additional “s”), which was founded by descendants of the original Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (who founded what eventually became the state of Maryland). One of his descendants, Charles Baltimore Calvert, inherited a portion of the original Riversdale Park plantation and he named it MacAlpine Farm after his wife’s family home in Scotland. While Riversdale Park grew tobacco using slave labor, MacAlpine Farm was more of a general farm that grew a variety of crops and raised livestock while using paid labor.

Eventually much of the land surrounding both Riversdale Park and MacAlpine Farm were sold to developers. The original Riversdale mansion still stands with just a small portion of the original grounds remaining. (Last summer I took extensive photos of the place while I was attending a drawing event there.) Much of MacAlpine Farm was razed with the exception of this building in the next two photographs.

This building is the remains of a 19th century icehouse that once served MacAlpine Farm. The sign in the next photo provides information about this icehouse. Basically icehouses were once common prior to electricity being widely adopted. Ice would be harvested further north from either freshwater rivers and lakes or ice manufactured by electrically powered factories. The ice would be stored in an icehouse, whose foundation ran several feet below the earth. Icehouses like this one became obsolete when government-supported rural electrification programs started in the 1930’s. This icehouse can be found on the perimeter of the shopping center parking lot.

So far there are only two places opened at this new shopping center. One is Whole Foods Market and the other is a Starbucks that’s located directly around the corner from Whole Foods.

A few people decide to socialize and eat al fresco outside one of the Whole Foods side entrances. (It was pretty balmy weather that evening.)

This Whole Foods have a few nice touches, such as this place where bicyclists can inflate their tires and maker other minor repairs.

Not only does this store promotes composting and recycling but it even provides a special water fountain for pets.

There are designated parking spots for electric cars along with a recharging pump.

This Whole Foods Market has only been opened for a few months so everything is still brand-new.

I walked around it and I basically limited my purchase to a couple of cookies because the store is a bit on the pricey side. (There’s a reason why many detractors refer to this store as “Whole Paycheck.”) There was an area where people can order artisanal hearth baked pizza for either consuming on the premises (there were tables provided nearby) or to take home. I really liked that large blue-tiled oven in the background that had “RIVERDALE” in written in white tile.

Next to the area where you can order pizza there is a baking area that’s behind transparent plexiglass so shoppers can see various baked goods made on the premises.

This new shopping center is still a work in progress (so far Whole Foods and Starbucks are the only places currently opened). The last two photos show addition store space currently under construction. I have no idea when the construction will be finished or what stores are scheduled to move in there.

UPDATE (June 16, 2017): Who could’ve predicted that just a few months after this particular Whole Foods opened and a mere two days after this post went live that Amazon.com would buy the entire Whole Foods chain? Not me, that’s for sure. That announcement came from out of the blue since I hadn’t previously heard of Amazon even publicly expressing any kind of interest in Whole Foods. It’ll be interesting to see whether this merger will have an effect on prices at Whole Foods since that chain has long had a reputation for prices so high that it’s been dubbed “Whole Paycheck” while Amazon has long been into keeping prices as cheap as possible.

Ramadan

Last fall I started a separate YouTube channel after a friend of mine urged me to do so. It’s supposed to be a “professional channel” that’s designed to build my personal brand. He was saying that doing everything that he told me to do would result in my getting hired. He wanted me to start doing book reviews where I would check nonfiction books (preferably with “uplift”) out of the library, read them, and do video book reviews just like what he does on his channel. I also added some videos I did using the MySimpleShow.com platform plus one video that I shot when the local shopping center started playing Christmas music the day after Halloween. (Yeah, that one was strange.)

I started to lose enthusiasm for that channel after the first few tries. I think the problem is that I had created that channel to someone else’s specifications instead of my own, even though it’s supposed to be my channel in theory. I attempted to put my own personal touch by doing this video review for this book I found in the library—a book on the history of 20th century fashion called Dressing the Decades by Emmanuelle Dirix. I enjoyed working on that book review the most because it was on a topic that interested me. While that video review got more hits than the others I’ve done, I decided to stop doing the video book reviews because it wasn’t worth the effort I had put into those video book reviews only to get very anemic responses.

But then last month I got a message through Facebook from Emmanuelle Dirix herself saying that she liked what I did. I was so thrilled with the response that I wrote a blog post about it.

At the same time this happened I had just started reading the latest library book I had checked out. It’s called Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol and it’s Steve Jones’ memoir about his life and career as The Sex Pistols guitarist. I originally had no intention of doing any kind of book review—I just wanted to read it because I’ve been a Sex Pistols fan since I was a teen.

But after hearing from Emmanuelle Dirix about my review of her book, I decided to try doing a video book review of Lonely Boy just to see what kind of response I’ll get from it. I may or may not do more video book reviews depending on the response I get to this one. It takes a lot of effort to make these videos (including using Post-It Notes to mark excerpts that I need to digitally copy, writing a script, and making the video itself).

So, without further ado, here is my video review of Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol written by Steve Jones and Ben Thompson.

Ramadan

The best way to learn HTML is by watching this death metal video.

The story behind Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica.

Studio Ghibli to open its first anime theme park in Japan.

Captain Underpants could dramatically alter the U.S. feature animation industry.

Violent rabbit illustrations found in the margins of medieval manuscripts.

Meet the British student who wants people to study in North Korea.

When Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg sound the same dire warning about jobs, it’s time to listen.

Birdhouse window feeders that look like little houses inside.

Diversity in open source is even worse than in tech overall.

Mark 1, an open source and cute alternative to Amazon Echo.

Traditional capitalism needs “extra” people, but managerial capitalism has no use for them.

50 people spend 2 months to crochet giant urchins above Singapore’s Marina Bay that each weigh 220 pounds.

The wartime spies who used knitting as an espionage tool.

A fan of VHS tapes builds a functional video store in his basement.

This computer can predict if you’ll die within five years.

Knitting beats gang culture in South Africa.

Google and Rhizome team up for digital art preservation.

Ramadan

I’m devoting this Throwback Thursday post to my wedding day mainly because today is not only what would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not left me for someone else but June 8 falls on a Thursday this year. June is the month that many couples in the U.S. traditionally get married. On top of it this month is LGBTQ Pride Month and I have a wedding-related story that definitely fits with that theme.

A couple of months ago on March 31 I saw a bunch of stories suddenly crop up on my Facebook feed about people speaking openly about either being transgender themselves or having a friend or loved one who is transgender. I didn’t know that the transgender community have been having an International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 since 2009. This year it really took off with all of the testimonials about transgender people and issues. I only wished someone had given me advanced notice because I would’ve told my own particular story then. So I decided to wait until Pride Month to tell my own story.

I grew up being completely ignorant about transgender people. I was raised Roman Catholic and the topic of being transgender was simply never brought up in church. The local public school system never mentioned that topic either in all the years I was a student there. The first person I recalled who actually had sex-reassignment surgery was a British man named James Morris, who became known as Jan Morris after having the surgery. I was a kid then and I thought it was pretty mind-blowing that one could change genders like that. I remember Jan Morris got tons of publicity and it ignited all kinds of debate about transsexuals (which is what transgender people were referred as at the time).

A few years later a tennis player named Renée Richards attempted to compete in the U.S Open as a female athlete. She became controversial when it was revealed that she was originally born a man and she, too, had a sex change operation. There were female tennis players who protested the idea of her being included in their tournaments.

When I was in college I picked up a copy of Gloria Steinem’s book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, which was a compilation of articles that she wrote in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Among those articles was a 1977 essay about the Renée Richards controversy called “Transsexualism.” Her hypothesis was that people opted for sex change operations because of the rigid gender roles that were proscribed in society, which dictates that boys don’t cry and girls don’t play sports. She basically said that if society were to loosen gender roles then men won’t feel the need to have sex change operations so they can express emotions more easily and women could play sports without having sex change operations to become men. Her closing words were “But the question remains: If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

In the years since Gloria Steinem wrote her “Transsexualism” essay, there have been major changes in terms of gender roles. More men are opting to become stay-at-home dads while their wives work full-time. There are now male nurses, female doctors, male flight attendants, and female postal workers. The WNBA is a professional women’s basketball team and there is the FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer. Women’s basketball, women’s hockey, and women’s soccer are all Olympic sports. Yet, despite these advances in gender equality, more and more people are coming out as transgender because they feel that they have literally been born in the wrong body, with the most prominent being Caitlyn Jenner, who once won an Olympic gold medal as Bruce Jenner.

During my college years at the University of Maryland at College Park, I met a couple of gay and lesbian students but my first-hand experience with transgender people was limited to going to a midnight screening of a certain cult film that has this musical number:

After college my fiancee and I decided to get married and it was my fiancee who, out of the blue, said that he wanted a church wedding. (I was always surprised by his preference. He told me that his family was basically nonreligious when he was growing up, with the exception of a few years when his family attended a Quaker congregation only to leave it when that congregation went through a nasty congregational split that disgusted his parents so much that they quit.) I had stopped going to mass and I would’ve been content with a civil marriage by a justice of the peace. I told him that we would’ve had to go to marriage classes if we were to be married in the Roman Catholic church while he would have to promise that any future children we had would be raised Catholic. He remembered an ad I had shown him that was published in The Washington Post a year earlier that was for Unitarian Universalism that said “Instead of having to fit in with a church, I found a church that fits me” while telling him that I was impressed with it. (I remember when I found that ad while I was going through the Sunday paper. There were no Unitarian Universalist groups on campus and the nearest congregation was only available by car, which I didn’t have at the time, so I never followed up on that ad and I soon forgot about it.) He even found a local UU congregation that he said we could try. (He also lined up a few other denominations we could try as well—namely Quaker and the United Church of Christ—in case the UU church didn’t work out for either of us.)

So we went to our first UU service and we were impressed with the minister. We found out after the service that the woman was a visiting minister and the regular minister would be speaking the following week. We were still impressed with the fact that the church had a weekly coffee hour where people stuck around and socialized after Sunday service. (In contrast, my old Roman Catholic parish had something similar called “Hospitality Sunday” that was only held once a month. Otherwise, people basically spilled into the parking lot and drove home once mass ended.) We were also impressed with how friendly the people there were. We went back the following week to check out the regular minister and we were impressed with him as well. We started going every week and, after a few months, we signed the membership book. We even managed to get the minister to officiate at our wedding so my husband got his way on having a religious wedding.

So we were married by a UU minister. During the reception I threw my wedding bouquet and one of the single ladies caught it. Then my new husband removed the garter from my leg and one of his single friends caught it. Then the bouquet catcher and garter catcher posed for a photo with me and my newly wedded husband.

The guy who caught my garter was named Dave Norris. Dave’s mother and my husband’s mother were friends and there were times when Dave hung around with my husband and his neighborhood friends in Long Island even though Dave was a few years younger than my husband.

Traditionally there is this old wives’ tale that says that people who catch the bouquet and garter are the ones who will be married next. That doesn’t usually happen in real life but Dave was the rare exception because he got married the following year while my husband was the best man at his wedding. It was a short-lived marriage that happened soon after his girlfriend found out that she was pregnant. The bride was six months pregnant at the wedding. Three months later she had the baby. Three months after the birth, Dave and his new wife separated and they were soon divorced.

My husband and I saw Dave in person a few more times after the quick wedding/separation/divorce. The last time we saw Dave was when he traveled to Maryland with his then-latest girlfriend because he was going to a conference in Washington, DC. The four of us ate at a local restaurant. After that we lost touch with Dave for a few years.

Meanwhile my husband and I became more involved in our new UU congregation where we made new friends. About a year or two later my husband and I ended up as co-chairs of the church’s Social Action Committee. During that time AIDS was starting to ravish the nation. At the same time there was a big March on Washington for LGBTQ people that was announced. A long-time member came to us about doing a lay service about AIDS. We knew that he was previously married to a woman and he had two children (one of whom would tragically die in a car accident when she was only in her early 20’s). It was during that time he came out to us as gay. A short time later he came out as gay to the rest of the congregation. I have to admit that the congregation was shocked but ultimately accepted him because he had been an active member. (If he had been a member of my old religion, he would’ve been driven away no matter how long he had been a member.)

I’ve already written plenty about that longtime member coming out as gay in this blog so I suggest reading this post if you want to learn more about Ed Kobee and his spouse, Al Usack. After Ed managed to rally his fellow congregation members (including my husband and I) to actually attend the March on Washington for LGBTQ rights, he and Al became activists within both our congregation, the Joseph Priestley District, and in the greater UUA for that faith to become more welcoming to LGBTQ people (which resulted in the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program). Due to those efforts we started to seeing people who were openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual attending our Sunday services. Some became members for years while others attended for a short while then moved on.

I met my first openly transgender person through my UU congregation. One of the newer members was an open bisexual who had joined with her then-husband, who was also bisexual. (They gave a forum at my congregation on bisexuality where they said they had extramarital dalliances with same-sex partners.) That marriage subsequently ended and her husband left the church. She started a new relationship with a person who was born a man but he underwent a sex change operation and was now living as a woman. Yet she was still sexually attracted to women. I attended a forum on transgender at my church and this person spoke openly about how she felt like she was born in the wrong body yet she was still attracted to women. That was how I learned that gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. This person was born in a male body and was sexually attracted to females so society designated him as a heterosexual. After the surgery this person was a woman yet was still sexually attracted to females so society designated her as a lesbian.

Basically the bisexual woman and the transgender woman started a relationship and stayed together for many years until the transgender woman died a few years ago. Over the years we’ve had other transgender people attend our Sunday services. I really can’t elaborate further on these other people because it’s really not my story to tell. On top of it, even though these people are openly transgender to my congregation, they aren’t quite as open to the general public outside of church. That’s because there have been too many cases of transgender discrimination on the job and in housing. And that’s not to mention the fact that there have been Republican lawmakers who are trying to pass those bathroom bills that only exist to make a transgender person’s live much harder. If that weren’t enough, there’s the fact that transgender folks are frequently targets of beatings, sexual assaults, and other acts of violence perpetrated against them by transphobic criminals.

Getting back to my husband’s friend who caught my garter at our wedding, we basically didn’t hear from Dave Norris for a number of years. One day, out of the blue, Dave called our house. My husband and Dave had an enjoyable conversation on the phone. Dave told my husband that he had started his own consulting firm and he gave my husband the URL to his new website.

My husband visited the website and saw the page that had the list of the small staff that the consulting firm had along with headshots. He saw the name “Denise Norris” on the list. At first he assumed that Dave had gotten remarried and his wife was helping out in the new venture. But then he took a closer look at that photo and saw that it looked like Dave dressing in drag. My husband soon called his old friend back and asked point blank if this person now a woman. His friend admitted it.

I remember that night my husband decided to take me out to dinner and he relayed that story about his friend is now living as a woman while we were in the car. We had the car radio on at the time while my husband was telling me this and this song suddenly came on the air.

Talk about serendipity! My husband and I got a good laugh out of it.

I have to admit that accepting my husband’s friend as a woman was slightly more challenging for this reason. The other transgender people I met through my UU congregation had already made the change so I never knew them in their previous gender. On the other hand, both my husband and I knew this person when he was a guy. (And my husband knew this person longer than I did since my husband hung around with this person while they were growing up on Long Island.)

A month or so later Denise was in the DC area attending a conference so we decided to get together for dinner at a local restaurant. It was awkward at first but then we hit it off, especially when my husband and Denise started talking about the old days when they were growing up and they would get into some escapades together.

We also learned that basically Denise had long felt like she was a female even though she was born a boy but she had kept those feelings to herself while she was growing up. I can understand why she felt she had to do this. There have been too many cases of transgender children being rejected by their parents and being targeted by bullies in school. It was only after she reached adulthood that her feelings became stronger and it reached the point where she felt that she had to have the surgery. I also remember that her mother was dead by then. (I don’t know if Denise ever came out to her mother before her death or not.) I’m only paraphrasing here because I don’t have an exact transcript of our conversation from that night and I’m just relying on my less-than-perfect memories here.

I have to credit Unitarian Universalism for my husband and I quickly adjusting to the fact that Dave Norris was now living as a woman named Denise Norris. If we hadn’t met other transgender people before seeing Denise, I think it would’ve taken both of us longer to accept Denise as she is now.

We would see Denise in person a few more times after that. I think the last time we met in person was sometime before 2008 (the year I had my hip replacement).

As for the woman who caught my bouquet at my wedding who is also in that photo I posted a few paragraphs ago, her name is Trisha and she’s my godfather’s daughter. I last saw her in person when my father died in 2000 and she stopped by the funeral home one evening during the viewing period. My husband and I told her what happened to the guy who caught the garter at the wedding and how he is now living as a woman. I remember Trisha smiling and deadpanning, “I have that effect on men sometimes.” (LOL!)

Denise Norris now works at Accenture and she is also a transgender activist whose speciality is getting corporations to not only end job discrimination among transgender people but also offer benefits to them (such as health insurance that’s broad enough to afford such expenses as hormone therapy and sex change surgery). She frequently gives media interviews on the topic, such as this recent example. I follow her on Facebook where I read her posts on transgender issues and fellow transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner. (Like many in the transgender community, Denise basically has a dim view of Caitlyn mainly because Caitlyn continues to support the same Republican Party that has been coming out with those notorious bathroom bills in recent years.) I haven’t directly communicated with her in years, especially since I am now divorced and Denise had been more of a friend of my ex-husband’s than mine. On top of it, our paths simply haven’t crossed in real life. There are times I wonder if Denise still has my old wedding garter and, if so, had she ever worn it. (LOL!)

As for my UU congregation there are still LGBTQ members who are active. The most recent transgender member is a person who originally joined my congregation as a man a few years ago. He was open about admitting that he was suffering from gender dysphoria and he was seeing a therapist about that. Last year this person decided to undergo medical treatment and she is now living as a woman. She is also in a relationship with a cis woman who’s a lesbian. This member now looks happier than before the change.

That’s it for my story.

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