I am now writing on Medium, so I think something on the order of an introduction is called for.
I have never been crazy about talking about myself. I always thought that the world at large is a lot more interesting than I am. But I am part of this larger world, and when I talk about it I am in fact also talking a bit about myself and how that world shows itself to me. So look at this as a kind of informal curriculum vitae to give you an idea of who I am and what matters to me.
I am a baby-boomer. I say that with a great deal of embarrassment. My generation saturated itself with self-importance from the get-go and won’t stop until it dies out and takes the entire planet with it. The debut of the Boomers, also known as “the 60s”, appeared to be a return to moral seriousness and a rebellion against the acquisitive excesses and stifling conformism of 50s bourgeois culture. That turned out to be bullshit. The radicalism of the 1960s (in America, not in Europe) was basically a matter of self-display and self-indulgence, more a matter of good acid and feelin’ good than about doing good and actually flourishing as a human being. (The music, however, was damn wonderful, about which more later.) It came as no surprise to me that as the 60s waned and the 80s waxed (the 70s, as a socially significant event, never really happened), the Boomers donned business-wear and fell in line with Reagan and the money-culture, and simply re-defined their pointless pursuit of good times and comfort in line with the standard-script American Dream. If you want to blame a sociological group for Trump and Company, blame us: we were the ones who elected him. If my hostility to my aging cohort makes me a traitor to my generation, it’s a tag I embrace with gusto. Hopefully the millennials will at least start to undo all the damage we have wrought. We are fucked up. Do not follow our lead.
I am a philosopher — or, if that’s too pretentious a self-description, a student and teacher of philosophy. I fell in love with the discipline in college, and received my Ph.D. in philosophy from Fordham in 1984. It’s a Jesuit university, and while I am no longer a Roman Catholic I still think that the Jesuit conception of Christianity, one that demands rational inquiry and not leaving one’s brains at the church doors, is a noble one. And their commitment to liberal education has shaped my sensibility and development as a philosopher more deeply than anything else. They taught me three things: to argue logically and perceptively, to read critically yet generously, and to enjoy a glass of sherry on social occasions. The sherry has been replaced with beer and Sauvignon Blanc, but the general sentiment remains.
One of my philosophical hobby-horses has been viewing the “analytic/continental split” as so much professionalized bullshit. My former New School colleague Richard Bernstein was right when he said that the only true “split” in philosophy is between good and bad philosophy, and that there was enough of both to go around on both sides of the dispute. Thankfully the gap between analytics and continentals seems to be narrowing. But the kind of on-going idea of academic philosophy as a “pissing contest” unfortunately remains, and explains to a degree its unfortunate domination by cisgender males. (See the paragraph on being a trans woman below.)
I am a musician: guitar, bass, mandolin, and songwriting. I play rock and jazz; my favorite genres are 50s modal jazz, classic rock, the much and unfairly maligned “prog” rock, and fusion. When I write prose, however, I listen to classical — it, rather than the other genres, helps me think when creating the Word doc. There are only three musicians in my listening whose relation to music seemed as natural as breathing: Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Ludwig Von Beethoven. If there are others I have missed please let me know! As far as guitars go: for acoustic guitars, I have a fanatical brand loyalty to Martin (they even smell good!). For electrics, every guitarist needs a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster. The rest is gravy. I also like gravy.
Politically I describe myself as left-wing, somewhere between a social democrat and a democratic socialist (certainly left of liberal), and a “polite radical” — a phrase I copped from the late George Carlin. The three key events in my political education were the impeachment of Nixon, the fraudulent launch of the Iraq war, and the traumatic election of Donald Trump in 2016. The latter is both a significant break with the past of The United States and an intelligible consequence of the neoliberal and neoconservative rot that set in during the late 70s, which progressively undermined most of that which was good about this liberal democratic republic. (All three terms — liberal, democratic, and republic — are equally important, something I am bound to pursue in later essays posted to Medium.) The flaws that led to this dire result were there in germ from the beginning in 1776, if not 1619, and short of establishing the equivalent of a Second American Republic if and when the catastrophe of the past few years is erased, I think that The United States of America might die. And if we let that happen then we’d damn well deserve it.
I have a significant relationship to many dead people. I married my first wife many years ago: she died of sarcoma cancer just after our 24th anniversary. We adopted our son after many years of infertility: as a young adult, he fell into a deep depression (which he hid from everyone) and took his own life two years ago. My mother died at age 74 from a Parkinson’s-like neurological disease (Cerebellar Ataxia) after many years of immobility and speechlessness. My father died a little over a year ago at age 89, basically having drank himself to death. I was primary caretaker for all but my mother, and the sense of loss that follows upon the inevitable deaths of those for whom one cares cannot but affect one’s outlook on life and the world and everything. Such is the case with me. I am not kvetching or feeling sorry for myself. But them’s the facts.
I am a trans woman. My experience is unique — as are the experiences of all transgender people — but also I think unusual in that I am not very dysphoric. Since about the age of five I had the perception that things were not exactly right, that I would be better as female, but being male was at least endurable and at most something that was okay. I have historically been attracted to women, so I assumed that this perceived female gender identity was simply my own mishegoss, and since I was not miserable being male I could ignore it, more or less as one learns to ignore a “floater” spot in one’s field of vision. I married (twice) and became a father, and it didn’t seem fair to talk about transitioning, or even presenting as female as an occasional thing. I did not want to throw that at my kid and spouses. Later on, as primary caretaker to my father it didn’t make much sense to take transitioning seriously: taking care of an alcoholic leaves little time and energy for anything else. I make no apologies for this reluctance to fully embrace and become my “better self.” I don’t think I was “living a lie” or “not being true to myself” at all, since my dysphoria, to the extent that it was dysphoria, was more a matter of wistful longing to be my “better self” than the tortured existence as male felt by highly gender dysphoric trans women. After my father’s passing, and living alone for the first time since my 20’s, I thought that since no other obligations stood in my way, it was time to “own it.” I began presenting as a woman and seeing a gender therapist, who diagnosed me as “bi-gender”. This is probably a fair way to describe who I am, but as the days go on I am becoming more committed to a full transition in due course . I currently work as a male since my long record as an I.T. professional is entirely as a male, and also because tech can be either very receptive to trans women or very hostile to them, given the prevalence of “tech-bros” in the industry. But this could change. Outside of work I socialize almost exclusively as female, and am now publishing as a female. I don’t feel pressure to take hormones, but I am open to it if I become ready; likewise for surgery. If not, not. There is no rush, and no right answer. This is my epic, and I will push the plot along at the pace that is right for me.
As Monty Python once put it, “so much for pathos.” Ecce mulier. See you on Medium.