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  • Transgender Explained

    • Posted on Nov 08, 2015
    Here's this morning's (11-8) Courier column.   I really had never understood what "transgender" means until I met Ellen Krug and read her book Getting to Ellen. I found it utterly engaging and clear, and can't recommend it highly enough.  
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    Ask a roomful of people what “transgender” means, and you’ll get mostly blank stares.People might know “transgender” as the “T” in “LGBT” for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people, but haven’t the faintest notion what it actually means.  

    As a child I had heard of Christine Jorgensen, the American GI who underwent gender transformation in the early 1950s.  For weeks her “case” caused consternation worldwide, since she underwent experimental sex-change surgery in Denmark.  She may as well have arrived from another planet.    

     Of course we all know that Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn, who declared “For all practical purposes, I am a woman.” She’s currently the most well-known transgender woman ever, the most successful at publicizing her journey.   
    “Normal” men and women find gender changing freaky, downright bizarre.

    Yet it happens, and we’re small-minded to condemn the Caitlyn Jenners of the world for their choices.  To transgendered people, it’s life and death.  And when you listen to what they’re saying, they’re right.  

     As the bard declares, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies.  Open-minded curiosity is a better attitude.   

     So I’ve felt curious about “transgender,” but mostly ignorant.  
    Then I heard Ellen Krug, whose 2013 memoir “Getting to Ellen” details her long transformation from male to female.  “Ellie” spoke on a panel at a writer’s conference at the Marion Public Library I attended last month, and we spoke briefly afterwards.  

    She was funny, engaging, articulate, and passionate about her journey.  

     She made so much sense speaking as a woman on the panel that I bought and read “Getting to Ellen.” 

     For anyone who’s curious, or who has struggled with the real and profound issue of gender identity, Krug’s book offers the perfect introduction. 

     Krug writes conversationally, with wit, energy, and such personal honesty that I felt only admiration. It’s full disclosure on every page. 

     As a seven-year-old boy he learned graphically that boys and girls were different.  He felt different too.  He found himself drawn to females, not by attraction, but by identification.  Ed, the intelligent seven-year-old, knew that he wanted to be a girl.  
    Those who believe that Ed Krug made a choice to become female need to read “Getting to Ellen.”   She in fact had no real choice.   

     Instead, Ed Krug chose only to deny and avoid his sense of being female. For  decades.  

     Born in 1956 in New Jersey, his family relocated to Cedar Rapids when he was 11. A very bright guy, he eventually graduated from Boston College Law School, then became a high-powered lawyer known as “Killer Krug.”  He succeeded at outwitting, outthinking, and outprosecuting other lawyers, and became a respected and feared attorney.  

     Oh yes, along the way he married Lydia, his childhood sweetheart.  They adopted two children and lived happily, but not ever after. 

     After five years in Boston, Ed and Lydia Krug moved back to Cedar Rapids.  Ed joined another law firm and continued his successes.  Yet he felt nothing but angst.  

     Depressed, even suicidal, numbing himself with alcohol, Krug realized that he couldn’t go on living a false life.  He tried dressing up as a woman and even “passed” as female at times.  But it didn’t change anything.     

     That word “authentic” comes up as a critical life goal in “Getting to Ellen.”  Living a false life offers nothing but psychological hell.     

     Gradually, with massive fortitude and perseverance, Krug began admitting that he could not live inauthentically.  Finally, after divorcing Lydia and undergoing serious medical procedures, she became Ellen in 2009, and completed the surgery in 2010.  

     Though she regrets the years of pain and indecision and hurt, she hasn’t for a moment regretted becoming herself.   

     We can only cheer.   



     
     

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  • Behaving Like Children

    • Posted on Oct 25, 2015
    Here's this morning's (10-25) Courier column.  The GOP, sorry to say, has devolved into a playground fight among adults behaving like children.  The comparisons between grownup leaders in the GOP and pre-teens are obvious and discouraging.   

    ******************************************************************
    Negative childhood memories often revolve around being told that you 
    “are” a bad person in some way.   “You’re a loser!” a father shouts at his mistake-prone son, and the kid slinks off, cut to the quick.   A nerd, a loser, an idiot, a pain—parents and siblings often toss those barbs at their children or brothers and sisters.  

     For no one “is” anything, good or bad, for long.   Yesterday’s loser is today’s winner.  Nerds become captains of industry.  We’re all becoming, not merely being.    

     Better and more accurate to say “Hey, you’re acting like a loser!”  Or  “Stop doing that, or you’ll become a pain!”   That’s a fixable situation.    

     One of the more demeaning labels you can pin on a grownup is “child.”  No adult  wants to be called a child or childish.   

     So I’m not going to hurl that particular insult at Republicans. I would never say some of them are children.  They’re merely behaving like children.  Not all, or even most, but many, and they're running for high office.     
     
    Consider:  
    • Children fantasize about their own power and abilities.  Superheroes are children’s fantasies brought to life as a response to children’s essential powerlessness.  Candidate Trump offers the best example of a child fantasizing about swooping down to impose truth, justice, and the American Way on the world. He seems to have no grasp on how government actually works, and how little influence any one person can exert without serious and widespread cooperation, compromise, and support.   “I’m really rich!” he announces, as if that will change anything.  

    • Children make up stories to explain the world, not understanding how evidence and logic works. Candidate Ben Carson behaves like a master childlike fantasy-spinner. Darwin’s research into evolution was motivated by Satan, he asserts.  The Jews could have saved themselves if they had had guns. (Did he ever read any histories of the holocaust?)   Straight men come out of prison gay.  When someone starts shooting at you, rush them.  

    These amount to childish fantasies, directly contradicted by evidence unless heavily cherry-picked or driven by ideology. When children grow up, they look harder at evidence and draw conclusions that fit reality.

    From what I’m seeing, neither Trump nor Carson seem headed in that direction.

    • Children throw tantrums unless they get their way.  The “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representative would have shut down the entire U.S. government over funding Planned Parenthood, an organization they despise.  Ted Cruz and his fellow GOP playmates actually did this on 2013 over Obamacare, and caused GOP leaders to openly scorn his half-baked scheme.  

    Children seem incapable of understanding the adult idea that compromise is not only helpful, it’s crucial.  

    • Finally, children often have to repeat their mistakes, over and over, before they actually learn anything.  The House GOP, with no chance of defeating Obamacare, nevertheless endlessly wasted time and resources voting on resolutions—fifty times.  Even when told by their own colleagues it was useless, they covered their ears and shouted Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, and went on their silly way.  

        Still don’t think the GOP behaves childishly?  Contrast the two Republican debates with the Democrats’ Oct. 13 debate.  News after both GOP debates focused on who insulted whom—name calling, insults, innuendo about physical features—the kind of talk that usually occurs on junior high playgrounds. 

    Chris Christie even pleaded with his fellow candidates to “stop this childish back and forth . . .” about whose career was most successful, referring specifically to Trump and Fiorina. “No one cares about your careers,” Christie scolded them, and rightly so.   

    As a Salon commentator wrote succinctly and accurately after the second GOP Debate,  “Adult children who dress up and give speeches as they role-play being President of the United States are competing in a real life Republican competition to be one of the most powerful people on Earth . . .”  

    They are adults, I’m convinced.  But their behavior reveals childishness.   
     
     
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    • Conservatives/Liberals
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