Hi All, Happy New Year...
I do not have a new edition of "My Great Journey" this week, but I am working on one.
Please enjoy the New Year's Celebration safely and responsibly, and I'll see you all "Next Year..."
ps. Please note that my blog is now RabbahRona.Blogspot.com
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Many cultures observe a festival of lights in the darkest days of winter. For us it is Hanukkah, for others Christmas; as well there are Pagan festivals of light in the winter. For Jews and Christians, the winter festival also represents salvation.
This winter, however, no amount of candles, LED lights or bonfires, will lighten the darkness in our hearts. In mid-December, there have been at least three mass shootings in public areas. The most heartbreaking of course is the loss of all those precious children at the school in Newtown CT.
In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a, we find:
“Man was created alone, to teach you that whoever takes a single life... Scripture ascribes to him the guilt of having destroyed the whole world; and whoever saves a single life..., Scripture ascribes to him the merit of having saved the whole world.”
The world of those parents in CT, as well as in other places of mass murder, HAS in fact been destroyed. No parent should ever have to bury a child; that it was from senseless murder makes it that much worse.
There is no answer in Torah for such acts of violence. The Torah tells us we were created “B’tzelem El-him”, in G*d’s image. The Torah also commands that we shall not murder. These acts of murder, in essence serve as an attempt to destroy G*d from the world.
On December 19, 2012, President Obama gave a charge to his cabinet to find answers and real fixes for several problems in our country. I would like to elaborate on what I see are the issues, and how we can address them:
- The glorification of gun violence in movies, TV and video games: Just as it is not legal, according to interpretation of the First Amendment, to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, other incendiary speech should be limited too. This includes, as I see it, limiting the glorification of gun violence in the media.
- This country has become, in the last few decades, morally bankrupt. We no longer teach ethics, values and personal responsibility in schools. I firmly believe that these topics CAN and should be taught, without resorting to the Bible or other religious teachings.
- With the current trends in healthcare, mental health care has become very difficult to afford or access. We need much more available mental health care in this country.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has, based on my experiences as a teacher, forced, far too many students into inappropriate main stream settings. The schools are not equipped or staffed for this, and most teachers do not have the requisite special training needed. By mainstreaming such children, they are then shunned by their classmates, leading them to be socially isolated, and often hated for the disruptions they cause due to their difficulties. If these students were taught in special needs programs with similar students, they would be able to function at a higher level, and would be more socialized. This would result in such developmentally or educationally disabled people feeling more at home in society. Some Chabad schools have been very successful with this.
So, what can we do about this horrible trend? I have seen many calls for more gun control laws. In my opinion, adding broad based gun control is really tilting at windmills. In the case of the Newtown shooting, the rifle was apparently legally obtained. One thing to observe is that these weapons are sold as semi-automatic, which means one shot per trigger pull. Amazingly, while gun shops cannot legally sell full-automatic (one trigger pull, many bullets) versions of these rifles, they can sell the conversion kit to switch to full auto separately. This is certainly one area where gun control might have effect.
However, rather than putting a spot Band-Aid on an arterial bleed, we need to stay focused on the root causes – guns are the tool but not the source of the violence. None of the ideas I have suggested are easy. Making mental health care accessible would be expensive, as is special needs instruction in schools. We need to provide motivation for good people to go into these fields with scholarships for advanced degrees in mental health care and special needs education, with the recipients committing to at least four years of public service to pay for their scholarships.
It seems to me that we have been placing a value on human life by refusing to confront these issues, which are mainly economic. It is a very cynical calculus when people monetize the value of human life. Please consider talking or writing to your State and Federal legislators to fully fund the fixes to these issues, so that we can restore some sense of freedom and safety in our lands, and restore value to human life, instead of having greed be the capital we operate on.
Rabbah Rona Matlow is a Veteran Pastoral Counselor in Olympia WA. She has taught in Jewish Day Schools, in classrooms with students with special needs in the mainstream, and has seen first-hand how difficult mainstreaming can be.
Friday, December 25, 2015
My Great Journey Part 5
Positive Experiences So Far...
In my last post, I wrote about challenges that I’ve faced in the month since I came out as a Transwoman. In this post, I’d like to talk about some of the many amazing things I’ve experienced so far.
First and foremost, this journey would not be possible without the love and support of a number of important people in my life:
- My wife, life partner, best friend Susan. Her full acceptance and love of me through this transition is the only reason this has been possible. We have been together for over 32 years, and I hope we have at least another 32 to go...
- · My sister Ros. She has been there for me through this, and has unconditionally loved and supported me through this.
- · My “sister-OUT-law” Joanna Free, http://joannafree.com/ who has been an adviser and confidante of mine throughout this journey. Her wise counsel has been invaluable to me in this venture, as well as in many other important facets of my life.
- · My teacher, Yiscah Smith, http://on.fb.me/1mfARAt, author of “Forty Years in the Wilderness” http://amzn.to/1YyvZmv. She is an outstanding teacher of Judaism, as well as an experienced Transwoman, who openly shares her experiences with others in their transitions. If you are interested in learning about Judaism or transgender experiences, please reach out to her.
- · My teacher and friend, Hope Raine, http://on.fb.me/1U3Szlt. Hope transitioned over 25 years ago. She now works to help other transwomen grow and flourish, in their journeys. She teaches us how to live, dress, and act like the women we are. If you are beginning your journey, PLEASE reach out to her. Her services are invaluable to new transwomen, wherever you live.
- · My friends, the T-sisters, the transwomen of the Olympia WA community. This group of amazing women is open, loving and supportive of all who come to this journey, whether you are brand new, or have been living it for a lifetime.
In addition to the amazing support from my community and my family, I have had some other wonderful things happen in this last month.
Starting Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), also known as Cross-Gender Hormone Therapy, has been amazing. For many, there are growing pains going on HRT. For me, subduing the testosterone and having the increased Estradiol in my system has brought me a sense of calm and contentment that I’ve never had before. I have found a new smile, that I never could present before; an open, cheerful one. Many have commented on what I discovered in myself – how wonderful it is to be able to truly smile and be happy. I wish that all transgender people could find this happiness, but I do know that far too many have huge struggles, rather than happiness.
With our T-Sisters here in Olympia, Susan and I have found a new and engaged socialization. We have done more social things, including dinners and parties, in the last month, than we did in all of 2015 combined. The Sisters have created such a loving, supporting, nurturing environment, that those of us who are new to this can flourish. They have welcomed Susan, my wife/partner of over 32 years, with open arms, as a Trans-Ally. It is amazing to have an Ally in your life, and I wish all find theirs...
When I started boxing up my male clothing, Susan told me “don’t start crying.” I imagine this is hard for many. I felt a sense of achievement, but I have a lot more to pack up. I just haven’t had time.
I have also found new opportunities professionally. I recently took the Washington State Certified Peer Counselor program. I will take the certification exam/board in January, but I am already putting those skills, in addition to my pastoral counseling skills, to work, as a phone operator for the Trans Lifeline – www.translifeline.org. Brothers and sisters – if you’re having a crisis, or just want more info, please reach out to us. We are there for you...
I am very eager to start seeing changes in my body from the HRT. It usually takes at least 3 months for changes to be noticed. I’ve been on them for five weeks at this point. I know I need to be patient. I am also eager for my hair to grow out. I know that HRT will help this as well.
The thing that is most amazing, I would have to say, is that when I look in the mirror, I am starting to see RONA; I don’t see Jaron so much anymore. Many have commented on how far I’ve come. I may not see it in the same way because I’m living it, but the changes are positive and amazing.
I can’t promise weekly updates on my blog, but will post things when I have them to say...
I welcome comments, but please keep them polite and friendly. To my Christian friends, Merry Christmas. To all, Happy New Year...