Helping a friend fundraise for gender-affirming surgery

This is a page created by a friend of our family. Every time I think about her, I first get really happy, because she's an awesome person who frequently makes me laugh as well as make me think. But then I get really mad, because it's just so wrong that we live in such a wealthy country, yet money is the only thing standing between my friend and the healthcare she desperately needs. She spends entirely too much of her time dealing with harassment and anguish when she should be spending that time kicking ass in the sociology world and the world in general. 

Pretty much every mainstream healthcare provider agrees that she needs this care, but our country's healthcare laws are made by politicians based on opinions rather than healthcare experts based on best practices, so she can't get it covered. It makes me really mad that pretty much the only option she has for having the correct body parts is to post about her genitals on the internet. No one should have to do that; I didn't have to post about mine on the internet to have the right ones show up. I think it's incredibly brave and admirable that she's doing this, but it's also extremely aggravating to me that she's had to. Please, if you're able, check out her beautifully written page, share it, spread the word that all insurance companies need to cover all medically necessary treatment, and donate to my friend if you can. Thanks!


Kids' sports equipment is going beyond pointless gendering into, hm, antithetical gendering?

I shop at REI when they have good sales, and basically consider them a good business, but I always wonder why they of all places have fallen into the mass-media-land trap of needing to specify the gender of children's items such as bikes, skis, raincoats, etc. While my general view is that I wish gender would just go away, I do get that items meant for grown adults are arranged by gender to help people narrow down what type of pubescent body things are meant for. Women's clothing accommodates butts and boobs and women's equipment often assumes a different center of gravity and different dominant muscles. But kids? Their bodies are the same before puberty except for their genitalia (which may or may not match their gender...), and I tend to discourage kids from involving their genitalia in their outdoor recreational activities.

The gendering of most of this stuff just doesn't make sense. REI seems to specify genders for all sorts of things, even ones that I would say come from the manufacturer as a pretty non-gendered product. (Sure, the manufacturer might specify a gender, but REI then does their own tagging on the website and in the store, and their system allows them to not specify gender on items.) Even if one is subscribing to western gender norms, wouldn't that mean that most things are either "girl" or "everybody?" We all know that most products are designed in the default version and then the female version, right? So shouldn't the plain black bike that looks like a bike be "everyone" and the pink bike covered in flowers and fairies be "girl?" Again, putting aside that I know plenty of boys who like pink flowers and plenty of girls who like robots and zombies, shouldn't "boy" be reserved for the things that are speficially conventionally gendered, like the bikes with flames on them or whatever? Why does REI label so much plain stuff as "boy"?

The way in which it's gendered gets interesting too, and is particularly odd with athletic brands. In the adult lines, outdoor and athletic equipment and clothing seem to have some traditional gendering between men's and women's items, but I would say that the female items exude girl power and feminine diva strength, not "I'm a pretty princess who will be sitting inside while you men hike." The children's items, though, tend to differ in that the boys' items look like they're encouraging vigor and perseverance, but the girls' look like they're encouraging, um, being pretty. Even the names reflect this! There's an identical-except-for-color Novara bike called "Stinger" for the boys and "Firefly" for the girls. While I actually think "stinger" sounds a little trashy and reminds me too much of professional wrestling, I want my female kids and my male kids to ride like a stinger, fast and fearless and with a goal in mind, not like a firefly that flits around being pretty.

It gets even better. Rossignol has a model of skis that are actually called princess skis! Other than the name, this particular model is kind of cute. When I googled it I found another model of Rossignol princess skis that actually have imagery of (white and blonde, naturally) princesses on them. I assume that when these arrive, they're just decoy skis that are designed for leaning up against while talking to handsome young men outside the lodge. I don't imagine that princesses do any skiing; those kinds of skills tend to throw a wrench in the plot of needing to be rescued by strong brave men.

This is not, of course, to say that there's anything wrong with feminine young girls. I definitely subscribe to a feminism that's more in line with Black feminism and womanism and encourages females to fully participate in the world in whatever way they see fit, rather than one of the "feminists need to emulate men while at the same time hating them" schools of feminism. But there is something inherently wrong with trying to appeal to young girls by slapping princesses on very non-princessy things. It's insulting to the girl to imply that "princess" is all she is. A girl (or a boy!) who loves flowers and frills and femininity should feel elated to delicately prance around the house, taking care to make sure her delicate white tutu stays white and unrumpled, but something is really not right when her bike is all-white and decked out in flowers and screams to be polished and decorated, while her brother's screams to be taken out and ridden through the mud.

I worry about girls (and boys) who are living in a culture where people aren't seeing the whole child. I worry that she has to be convinced to try getting out in nature and using her strength and endurance by the promise that the bike or skis have princesses on them, because female socialization has removed the instinct that most kids have to try different types of activities. In the same vein, I worry about the boys who are expected to like the bike because it's a bike, when maybe they like yoga or hiking better. I think if we downplayed gender several notches, it would be a lot easier to really think about our kids as individuals, and think about which kids might be happier with individual versus team sports, or high-stimulation activities versus low-stimulation activities. It's disappointing that the backsliding of gendering has gotten to the point that even companies selling outdoor equipment are sending the message of "buy our stuff, girls, but you shouldn't really use it." And that there's demand for this.


Commonwealth employees continue to lack understanding of basic math

We frequently have to verify our family income since we have a child who participates in a number of services that are state funded and need to collect data on income of people served. Like, we have to do this so often that I automatically scan in our income that's on paper and have a file on my computer ready to send to anyone who needs it.

Why is it that state agencies can't wrap their head around per-diem income? I've had this happen with multiple agencies now.

None of them seem to get that if a person doesn't have income from a particular company every week, they can look at the year-to-date figures and add them up to verify that there isn't a paystub skipped. Even when I explain this, the people say that they need a paystub for each of the past X pay periods. Some of the agencies have insisted that if I didn't work, there would be a paystub for that pay period showing zero income.

For the sake of making things easier, I asked my two employers if they could set their software to print paystubs with zeros on them. The finance and IT people both places said they had never heard of such a thing. One person told me it would be impossible to code the software to do this, which I don't think is actually true. (Couldn't it just be set so that every payday, if there's nothing inputed, it prints out a paystub with zeroes? Seems like a simple line of code.)

These organizations also don't seem to get how to calculate per-diem income. If they have three weekly paystubs over a six-week period, which means that the other three weeks were zero, they're dividing by three instead of six to get a weekly average. One place that uses a sliding scale called saying we owed them a bunch of money, because they insisted our yearly income was twice what it actually is.

I get that people who work for the state in non-financial positions don't actually understand simple math. I don't like that this is the case or agree that people should be making that kind of money as state administrative-type people when they don't understand basic math, but I get it. Can the state do something about this? Like writing a computer program that people who are verifying income are required to use, that uses the year-to-date figures and does the averaging for them? Or can there be a state law that gives people the option of using our tax return, where we've already done the math correctly, instead of requiring paystubs? 

(Or, even better, can we just get rid of all these administrative departments and all this time spent not understand how paystubs work, and just have a single-payer system that provides health and social services to people with and without special needs at every income level?)


Dammit, Zappos!

Hm, Zappos used to let you search by size without specifying gender. My preschooler likes a lot of colors and styles that get classified as "girls" as well as "boys," and I specifically liked that Zappos didn't make me go to both sections to browse stuff for my kid.

Are there ANY clothing or shoe places anymore that don't have the stuff separated by gender?! Locally, Fancy Pants does, but it's the only place I can think of. 

EDIT: I figured it out; you can do shoes --> girls/boys --> size and then delete the gender in the top tab. But still, what? Why not just allow a search by size? Or not have them divided up by gender at all? 


Quickest, cheapest fix for all those "Thomas M. Menino, Mayor" signs

Just print out a whole bunch of stickers in various sizes so people can paste "guy" over "mayor" on all of them once there's a new mayor. Then they won't ever have to redo it again. And it will make about as much sense to have some guy's name on every flat surface in Boston as the mayor's name does. 


No, really, people in Boston don't understand crosswalks

At this point, after 13 years here, I've basically accepted that drivers and pedestrians alike don't know the rules of the road, particularly as pertains to pedestrians crossing the street. For those who are thinking that everyone surely does know the laws about crossing the street, but people ignore them, I can point you to an interesting phenomenon; every time something comes up on Universal Hub about this very topic, inevitably, someone will insist that all people know about crossing in marked crosswalks and crossing only when they have a walk signal, but they just don't care. Then several people will chime in and insist that pedestrians have the right-of-way everywhere all the time, and that cars are supposed to stop on a green light when a pedestrian is walking out against a BIGREDHAND™. This of course is incorrect, and just illogical, because why would there be pedestrian signals at all if this were the case? The laws actually say that pedestrians have to wait for the walk signal when there is one (I think this is pretty universal in all cities in the world that have the lights, otherwise, again, why have them?), and that pedestrians have to cross inside the crosswalk unless there isn't one within 300 feet. 

Nonetheless, it's a pretty pervasive belief that pedestrians have the right-of-way at all times. People frequently cross against the walk signal, while the BIGREDHAND™ is displayed, then yell at drivers to stop for pedestrians or that pedestrians have the right of way. It makes me wonder; are traffic signals and crossing the street safely not taught in elementary schools here? It's one thing to not care, but it's oddly fascinating that so many people really think the crosswalks and walk signals are just there for no reason.

The thing though that I really can't understand is all of the drivers who will stop and motion me across while I'm waiting at a BIGREDHAND™with my preschool-aged child, many of whom will get aggravated when I don't cross against the light as they've suggested. I've had people with their windows rolled down tell me they're letting me go, and what am I standing there for if I don't want to cross, etc. I assume it's coming from a good place, but then why do they become more aggravated when I tell them "I appreciate it, but...", then gesture toward the HAND™ and motion toward the child next to me? 

No, really, I think people don't know what the lights are for. I mean, sure, I will cross against the HAND™ when no one is coming and I don't have my child with me, but are other people really not teaching their children basic traffic light rules while the kids are at that concrete stage where rules are rules? What happens when their kids see a segment on Sesame Street about traffic lights and ask about it? Or those street-light/street-sign posters that decorate so many elementary school classrooms? I'm honestly curious; are these families telling their children that the lights in Boston are different and don't mean anything? Or that our family doesn't believe in traffic lights? Or just telling them to shut up and walk out in front of the dumptruck?


Commonwealth of Massachusetts refusing to recognize same-sex marriages and adoptions

On the state virtual gateway for getting info about our family's state health insurance, they have Spousal Unit and I listed as one another's spouse.

They also have me listed as our child's "mother" and spousal unit as child's "stepmother." "Stepparent," while often someone who provides amazing parenting to a child, is not someone who is fully a legal parent to said child.

We jointly adopted said child in Massachusetts, as a married couple. On our health insurance application, we listed ourselves as spouses and our child as our child.

Apparently the people who manage the healthcare benefits decided that the family relationships we have that are backed up by a bunch of legal paperwork aren't actually real.

Nice to see that the supposed equal rights laws haven't actually gotten us equal legal status.



EDITED 02/15/13:
They've now updated it so we are both the parents of our child. The computer had no problem allowing this. The person who entered our information did indeed change what we entered to match their homophobic assumptions.

Hey Commonwealth of Massachusetts! Your own Department of Public Health offers free trainings on providing appropriate customer service to LGBT folks. Maybe sign yourselves up for some?


Apparently sitting is no longer allowed at the Boston Public Library

I was informed today, while sitting on the floor in a corner reading a book at the main library, that sitting on floors is not allowed, and all patrons must be in chairs. I talked to the person in charge of such things, mentioning that sitting on the floor is often more comfortable for my back because I can shift my position around, and was told that the policy is in place because, "blind people come in here and could trip over you."

I was told that if I am claiming to have a disability (which, I could go this route, since I do have a condition related to pain and lower-back and lower-body movement, though never really needed to put the two and two together since I've never been told in the 16 years I've had it that I couldn't sit on a freakin' floor somewhere), I could most likely get a reasonable accommodation, which would involve being allowed to sit on a specific place on the floor where the library people permitted me to sit during the visit and involve the staff informing all the other staff that I was allowed to be there. Uh, yeah, no thanks. I did ask for the person to e-mail me about looking into an accommodation though, because I'm really curious as to where this does or doesn't go.

The BPL website only says that blocking the aisles by sitting or lying in them is not permitted, not that no one can ever sit on any floor. It also doesn't say anything about prohibiting chairs, books, shelves, carts, potted plants, walls, toilets, backpacks, etc. that blind people could also trip over, because I assume the person who made the policy is aware that blind people are always prepared for the possibility of all different types of moving and stationary objects, just like anyone else.

I suspect that, like many things, this is an anti-people-with-persistent-mental-illness issue, aimed at behaviors common to people who tend to be tired, confused, medicated, sleep-deprived, etc. I've also heard, less recently, of BPL security guards telling people who fit this demographic that they need to have a book open in front of them or else they're "loitering."


Improve Boston in so many ways without spending a cent

From the City of Boston recycling page:

For every ton of bottles, cans, and plastic containers that residents recycle (rather than throw away in the trash), the City saves $80. That means that a 1% change in the City’s recycling rate would save more than $200,000 each year.

Next time you complain about something in the city being underfunded, take a second to make sure you aren't putting recyclables in the trash. Even better, make sure you're telling your neighbors to do the same. The city trash regulations say that recyclables may not go in the trash, so if you're a landlord or a member of a homeowners association, make sure you're telling your tenants or your fellow HOA members that they need to be following the city regulations. Also, reduce your trash output even further by composting (there are many options for composting on a balcony or even in your kitchen) and encourage the city to start collecting curbside compostables.

But what we really need to do is get the city to do pay-as-you-throw metered trash:

Communities have doubled and even tripled their recycling rates after implementing the WasteZero System.

The programs are fair. When the cost of trash disposal is hidden in property taxes or charged at a flat rate, households that recycle and prevent waste subsidize their neighbors' wastefulness. Under Trash Metering, households pay only for what they throw away.

Or, at the very least, we need to get them to enforce the code when people are filling trash cans and trash bags with obvious recyclables. This would get revenue for the city and get people to stop killing the planet as much. Hmm, I wonder if a massive Citizens Connect movement over the next few trash days would get anything done? We could submit hundreds of reports of recyclables in the trash.

By the way, while we're talking about the city and its recycling programs, I still think the giant plastic recycling bags are stupid for the most part. I might get some once in a while for massive file-cabinet cleanouts, but otherwise, I still don't think these bags are going to get people to recycle who can't be bothered to put out recycling in paper bags or blue bins. However, if they're going to have such a program, how about if they sell the bags in all of the neighborhoods where the program is active? There aren't any locations in Roxbury, South Boston, or Mission Hill, all of which are allowed to use the bags. As usual, we know which neighborhoods city hall cares about.


Let's play MBTA bingo!

Over at Universal Hub, Adam is in the process of creating an MBTA bingo game. As one might guess, most of the boxes are annoying things -- train out of service, person sprawled across two seats, and bottle rolling around. There are also some positive/funny things, like clinical studies ad, Zipcar ad, and dog.

I love people-watching as much as the next guy, and my readers should know by now that this also includes a healthy dose of snarking, but really, I think the bingo cards need more happy things to look for. The T, as with any crowded space of randomly selected people, can be quite the annoying place as it is.

Here are the ones I've submitted so far:

  • Sweet parent-child interaction
  • Quietly reading a book
  • Colorful shoes
  • Person making something
  • Classy/subtle PDA
  • Litter-picker-upper
  • Operator visible from first car
  • Person offering seat
  • Healthy snack
What others can people think of? Positive, neutral, funny, annoying, happy, etc? Go over to the thread and add away!


This bag is not a toy

A plastic bag just showed up rubber-banded to our front railing. Look, it even has the mayor's name on it, lest you forget who the mayor is while putting it in a crib or whatever it is people do with plastic bags:


Oh, and it also came with an instruction sheet, including which neighborhoods are allowed to use it:


According to this sheet, not only can I put my recyclables in this bag, but I can also go spend my own money to buy more similar bags, rather than using the big wheely cart that showed up for free, or a box or paper bag that are also available in many locations for free

Now, I'm a huge fan of recycling, and I support anything that encourages recycling (and I especially support things that keep people's shit contained and not blowing around in my street), but what? The way that the city is choosing to encourage recycling is to spend money giving out plastic bags?

How about if they start enforcing the city code, which says that recyclables are not permitted in trash and that trash and recycling all need to be securely contained? They could change a lot of people's behavior really quickly and get a lot of revenue for the city if they fined all the people who put out bags and cans full of obvious recyclables. These bags aren't going to change the behavior of people who don't follow regulations and don't respect their neighborhoods.


Heard on the police scanner just now

"The folks from the Blue Cross have now arrived on scene."

"...What? Do you mean the red or the blue?"

"Oh, sorry, the red."


There really should be a longassgermanword for

...when you hear that some famousish person died, except you had no idea they'd been still alive any time recently.


Siri doesn't care about football either



One more gay-tax-related post

So, on my W2, my federal income is showing up as 5000-something higher than my state income. Based on the federal income number, my family makes slightly too much money to get assistance from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund, which we desperately could use after all of the unexpected medical bills and repair bills to various household things this year. (And the $1500 gay tax I probably will end up paying unless I decide to follow through with the previously mentioned subversive plan).

I'm going to get an appointment and see whether they will go by the Massachusetts figure. I would think that they would be required to be, since they're in Massachusetts, but this could be interesting since I don't expect anyone in their office to actually understand what I'm talking about. Most of the administration at my own job doesn't know about the federal gay tax and still doesn't understand it when I show them my forms when I'm trying to complain about how stupid and unjust it is.

Also could be interesting since the Salvation Homophobic Army doesn't have to abide by state or local nondiscrimination policies since it's legally a church even though they masquerade as a community agency and get referrals from nonsectarian nonprofits that would never refer people to an actual church that wasn't the person's stated religious preference. Which, again, I wouldn't expect anyone in their office to know or understand, because why would they? The SHA operates under so many layers of deceit that several people I know who've worked for them locally in social-work-type jobs had no idea that the national corporate website of their employer states that homosexuality is a sin.

I like taking their money periodically though. And making them uncomfortable.

Barring that though, does anyone know of anywhere that does energy assistance that would be aware and accepting? 


Trying to figure out a way to get back the money from paying the gay tax

As I mentioned in earlier posts, my employer* has decided to start putting the gay tax on our W2s instead of leaving it up to the employee whether to choose to pay it. My W2 this year shows $5783 in "other income," which isn't income at all, but is part of the money they've paid toward my family's insurance premium.

This is of course stupid, because it doesn't affect my employer in any way. They have to pay for the insurance anyway by state law. If my spouse or I legally changed one of our sexes, we wouldn't have that extra "income" on our W2 and we'd still have the same insurance and I'd still be doing the same excellent work for my employer at the same pay rate. However, my excellent work would still continue to be slightly affected by being pissed off every time I'm there that they pay people in same-sex partnerships less than people in different-sex partnerships instead of grossing up to offset it like progressive companies do.

Anyway, so I'm doing my taxes, and I'm trying to find a way to avoid paying $1500 to the federal government as a penalty for being gay. Right now I'm pondering IRS Topic 515: Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Losses. According to the IRS, "A theft is the taking and removing of money or property with the intent to deprive the owner of it. The taking must be illegal under the law of the state where it occurred and it must have been done with criminal intent." That seems like it should be applicable. It's illegal in Massachusetts for someone to impose a tax on queer people but not straight people, right? And it's the government; of course they have criminal intent. In terms of my employer, wouldn't it make it criminal intent since I've pointed out to them that my money is being taken because of their policies, and have shown them the information on how to gross up to make it fair, but they've decided to continue aiding and abetting the government. Sounds like theft to me.

*In the interest of avoiding being libelous, I will not refer to my employer as homophobic, since that's up to interpretation, but I will mention that they don't have any sort of LGBT employee resource group, don't have gender identity and expression in the nondiscrimination policy as is required by City of Boston law (even though I've brought this up to them), won't march in Pride like most other healthcare providers and nonprofits do because they say it's a political event so nonprofits shouldn't march in it, don't do any trainings on providing LGBT-sensitive healthcare or on being welcoming to LGBT employees, and out of 2000ish employees have only 7 people with same-sex partners on their insurance according to the benefits person in HR.


I watched a First Night ice sculpture get assembleded. Squee.

Because I'm a dork -- do I even need to preface my blog posts with that, as if anyone didn't know? -- I really enjoyed seeing an ice sculpture get taken off the truck and assembled in front of Golden Temple.

At about 1:30, Molly and I went out to walk a dog we were dogsitting. We saw the Brookline Ice and Coal truck unloading the beginning of the ice sculpture. Even the dog thought it was interesting.



There's a chainsaw there (above photo), the orange thing on the ground next to the planter to the left of the dog. I'm not sure why either, but hey, chainsaw!







But after a few minutes of Molly and me watching amazedly at what frozen wonders would come out of the truck, our doggie friend was kind of like, wait, what? Because he is a dog. So we walked to Coolidge Corner and ran into someone awesome who I hadn't seen in a while. Then we took the dog to Paper Source because he needed some craft supplies they allow dogs and we were looking for something to do. We bought a giant M made out of paper pulp. Then we wandered around.

Also we saw this, which is funny if you're me. Or the person who did it, apparently:



When we came back at about 3:00, the ice sculpture was pretty much done and they were putting the lights up.



(Apologies to this Brookline Ice and Coal employee for the unflattering picture of his ass along with the photo of his most excellent ice artistry.)



Well we're on the subject of Golden Temple, I suggest going there some night other than tonight. We went there on Christmas to fulfill stereotypes about our people eat delicious food with some Jews friends and were most disappointed to find out that their "special" holiday menu means that they don't have any vegetable tempura or mushroom egg foo yung, except they still use the regular printed menus and you're expecting these fine dishes but you go to order them and they tell you about their "special" holiday menu. Also the drinks are weaker on holidays. But go there when it isn't a holiday, because the place is awesome. Szechuan eggplant, yo.



I like how it looks from the front. Our doggie friend thinks it looks better from the other side though with the lights shining through the ice, and I don't think he cares that the lettering is backwards that way.








Boston radio stations playing Alice's Resturant today

  • WUMB apparently played it at 9:00 already, will be playing it again at noon. Sometimes they play the 30th anniversary edition. ("And I asked myself, I said, Arlo, how many things in the world are 18 minutes and 20 seconds long?")

  • WZLX is once again doing it at 9, noon, and 4.

  • WXRV 92.5 The River often plays it at noon, but doesn't mention it this year on their site or on their facebook.

Let me know if there are any others!


Boston Tour of Bigass Heads

So, I got the brilliant (?) idea to do a tour of all of the giant heads of Boston. Not sure if I'd want to do, say, a bike tour, or more like a party bus tour (bike tour is better for the planet and urban living and such, but party bus would be accessible to people who can't ride a bike).

The heads I've come up with so far are:





Joseph Wheelwright's "Sleeping Moon" sculpture at Ashmont Station


Antonio Lopez Garcia's "Day and Night" sculptures outside the Mofa











John Wilson's "Eternal Presence" at the National Center of Afro-American Artists



Ralph Helmick's Arthur Fiedler Memorial on the Charles River Esplanade







Can anyone think of any more giant heads in Boston?

All images ganked from the respective linked websites. Please notify me if you would like your photo taken down. 


Dear Capital One

You know those e-mails you keep sending me?

The ones that promise $100 for opening a Capital One savings account?

The ones that address me by first and last name and refer to me as a valued customer, which indicates that they're being sent to cardholders rather than just to generic mailing lists?

The ones that say in the tiny print at the bottom that the average balance during the first year must be more than $10,000?

Well jeez, you people have full access to my credit report and other financial information. Shouldn't you be able to tell that there's no way in fuck that I have $10,000 lying around, nor am likely to any time soon?

(And you realize, don't you, that a $100 return on $10,000 over 12 months is, well, 1% APR. Which you damn well better be paying people if you're using their large sums of cash to fund sketchy e-mail campaigns about car loan ripoffs your financial institution. What kind of person who has $10,000 puts it in some gimmicky Capital One account anyway?)