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Tuesday, April 6, 2010


On Good Friday – and what an appropriate day for it, to be sure - Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker issued an executive order expanding the city's anti-discrimination policy. The policy already protected people based on race, religion, gender and sexual preference – but not gender expression. The existing policy of non-discrimination was first issued by Mayor Bill White, 6 years ago when he took office, and now Mayor Parker has expanded that to include transgendered individuals. That policy was just implemented in the last week.

Mayor Annise Parker downplayed the significance of her latest executive order, a wide-ranging non-discrimination order that expands what already in place at the city. She said, "Our belief has always been the city's non-discrimination policy protected gay and lesbian employees, as well as transgendered employees. This executive order now explicitly states that." Kris Banks, head of the Houston Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) Caucus, welcomes the move. "This also protects people against discrimination in use of city facilities, in restrooms and other facilities," Banks said. "They say that the city cannot tell anyone that they are not allowed to use any city facility based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."

The sweeping policy would affect every city employee from park workers to police officers, and not everyone thinks it's a good idea. Conservative activist Eric Story said, "It doesn't surprise me but it does trouble me." Story says it's just more government involvement in people's lives. "We're taking and expanding the role of the government in business even further by saying who you can and who you can't hire," he said. Mayor Parker, however, says she's simply putting in writing what's already in practice. "Any city employee ought to feel safe in the work place being who they are in daily life," she said.

So, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I’m reprising a column that I revisit every so often, that I wrote about my wife. THANK YOU, Mayor Parker, for making the smallest, most discriminated against and most misunderstood part of the GLBT equation a major part of the discourse.


My wife, who is normally a rational and intelligent woman, decided the other night that she wanted to make some chocolate chip cookies for herself. I need to explain to you all that she is a wonderful engineer, a terrific electrician, a designer and constructor of structures par excellence – and a not-so-great cook. Not that she’s afraid of the kitchen, oh, NO – but, by mutual decision, we split up the household chores a long time ago, and cooking is not something that she normally does (although, I must say, she makes the best chicken-fried steak in the world - but I digress). I do all of the easy and mundane stuff, like housework, cooking, balancing the checkbook, formulating plans for world peace – y'all know, the inconsequential stuff – and she does all the hard stuff, like designing and building machines that are 50% more energy-efficient and 40% less polluting, holding down an engineering job in a male-dominated profession, starting and successfully running an engineering consultancy that builds factories all over the world - and changing light bulbs.

So, on this eventful evening, we went into the kitchen, took down 60 or so cookbooks (out of the 3 bajillion or so that I've collected over the years), and set out to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe that we could find. She finally decided on the one that’s on the back of the chocolate chip package (what a surprize), and we got the ingredients all gathered together (I thought!), and I left her to her own devices. I went into the living room for some quiet, philosophical time alone (read serious Nintendo playing), and, about 20 minutes later, she came into the living room in tears. Something wasn’t working right and her cookie dough was not turning into cookie “dough”, and she wanted my help.

I went into the kitchen, and looked at the gooey, sticky mess in the bowl, and said ECH, YUCK, and various other wifely sounds of absolute disgust, and asked her how on earth she had managed to concoct such a mess (and a very gooey, slick, oily, nasty-looking mess it was, too). She told me that she had used cooking oil, like the recipe said to do, and that this was the result. I just looked at her, completely dumbfounded, and asked her if she’d read the recipe. She said that, yes, she had, and since she couldn’t find the solid shortening (or the butter, which was sitting smugly in plain sight in the butter compartment of the 'fridge), she’d used what she could find, which was the liquid cooking oil, and that she did not understand why it had turned out so badly. I didn’t laugh in her face – which, believe me, took a lot of doing – and pointed out that solid shortening or butter was required, found the solid shortening for her, and beat a very hasty retreat from the kitchen while she was dealing with the mess and starting over.

So, I can hear you asking, what on earth was the problem? After all, don’t all little girls learn how to cook when they’re very small? Well, yes, under normal circumstances, they do – but there’s a joker in this deck that y’all aren’t aware of. Let me explain:

My wonderful, feminine wife, you see, didn’t start life out as a girl. She is a male-to-female transsexual and started life out as a male – and everyone “knows” that “boys don’t cook”, unless, of course, they’re one of those fags on the Food Channel. Everything that a GG (genetic girl) learns practically from birth, she’s had to learn in her later life, and, if you think that’s easy, think again. It’s not. The difficulties range from easy (like learning how to cook simple meals and iron, sew on buttons, etc) to hard (learning how to be a second-class citizen whose brains are less valuable than your tit size) to heartbreaking (losing your entire family when you “come out” as a transsexual). That she has managed to overcome all these difficulties with style, grace and joy, while remaining sane is a miracle. That she has also managed to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude while doing so is also a miracle. That she is a kind, loving and giving person as well is a major miracle – and I am truly blessed to be her wife and lifemate. It’s a joy, a privilege – and it’s been fun as well.

Oh, and those cookies? The second batch that she made? Best damned cookies that I ever ate.

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