What Your Trans Friends Hear When J.K. Opens Her Mouth

by Guest Blogger Maeve Mulholland

When J. K. Rowling wrote her infamous and succinctly named essay, “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues” (which is sometimes referred to as her TERF Wars essay), I defended her. That is an unusual position for a trans woman to take, but I thought I understood where Rowling was coming from. Her opinions were hot garbage, but it seemed clear to me that she was responding from a place of fear that was rooted in past trauma. I did not think she should be vilified and dragged through the mud for being open about her fears and concerns. I told everyone to be lenient with her. Let her express herself, ignore it, and move on. There are positive, knowledgeable trans voices out there advocating for change. What threat could this children’s author pose to the international movement for transgender rights?

I expected that she would have her say, people would take her political and philosophical positions about as seriously as we take Scott Adams, and we would all move on with our lives. Two years later, I find myself staring down middle age with a brand new set of boobs, a recycle basket of empty estradiol bottles, and with a New York Times article in front of me titled “HeY eVerYbody! J.k. rowLiNg Is SuPer rEAsonaBLE akshully!” Apparently we have not all moved on with our lives. Somehow we’re still paying attention to J.K. Rowling, and her TERF Wars essay is now serving as the playbook for an entire political movement. I am still picking bits of egg from my hair and from behind my ears. 

While it seems perfectly clear to me why everyone is so angry with Rowling, the general public seems to have trouble understanding where all the hate towards Rowling is coming from. Even the editors of the New York Times can’t seem to tell their heads from their ass (sorry—arse for all you Rowling fans) when it comes to trans issues, so let me step in like a magical trans fairy godmother and help ya’ll make some sense of why us trans folks have our panties (and boxers for you trans men out there) in a bunch. Non-binary folks, pick your preferred metaphor. 

Why is so much hate directed at J. K. Rowling? Why is she labeled a transphobe?

That’s too big of a morsel for me to chew, and whether or not she is truly transphobic matters less to me than the consequences of the positions she is using her platform to advocate for. Rowling is successfully popularizing a so-called gender critical perspective that is making my life and the lives of trans people all over the globe worse. In the recent opinion piece by Pamela Paul in the NYT, much text is spent bemoaning the treatment of Rowling, but Paul completely neglects to mention the consequences of what Rowling has spent the last few years loudly advocating for. I am going to expand on some of those consequences here so that those that are sympathetic towards Rowling know exactly what they are siding with.

 Paul highlights one of Rowling’s positions that has drawn accusations of transphobia: [Rowling] has asserted the right to spaces for biological women only, such as domestic abuse shelters and sex-segregated prisons.

Despite the rhetoric of the right and of those who side with Rowling, Rowling is not arguing against a widespread social movement here. She is arguing for the preservation of the status quo. Trans women are not enthusiastically accepted into women’s spaces. Even in places where it is technically policy to include them, trans women will often avoid women’s spaces out of fear of harassment and abuse. Organizations often don’t even know that it is policy to accommodate trans women.

In most places in the USA and in Britain, I would have a hard time gaining access to a women’s shelter if I were suffering homelessness or if I were the victim of domestic violence. I am 5’2 and weigh slightly more than a sack of potatoes. I am not an imposing, scary person. But when it comes to gender, I look trans. If a women’s shelter does accept trans women, even if I wanted to try and “pass as a woman,” I would not be able to. I would be recognized as trans and forced to find somewhere else to go. Since shelters are almost universally segregated by gender, my only other option would be to apply to a men’s shelter.

However, I would rather live on the streets than risk a men’s shelter. Attempting to pass as a man at this point would never work. I would immediately be identifiable as both transgender and an easy target. Many trans people in desperate need of assistance have to weigh that risk, which is why the homelessness rates are so much higher for trans people than the general population. They are not accepted into the shelter associated with their gender identity, and it is not safe for them in the alternative.

It is not just shelters that are segregated. Many social services and facilities for the vulnerable are divided along binary gender lines. From prisons to shelters, a trans person is never certain whether they will be accepted in the first place, and then if they are accepted (or involuntary incarcerated), it is unclear whether any effort will be made to keep them safe. Vulnerable trans people often resort to desperate measures like sex work when the normal social safety net rejects them or proves to be too dangerous. 

Gender segregation causes problems for trans people in lower stakes circumstances as well. I am employed and comfortable with little concern for needing the social safety net at the moment, but I am still vexed on a day to day basis by the division of basic public facilities by gender. While writing this, I am sitting in a coffee shop, desperately needing to pee. I have no idea in which bathroom I am least likely to be yelled at or assaulted. What if someone starts a scene? The owner might ask me not to come back to my neighborhood coffee shop, or I might be too embarrassed to come back after being shouted out of a restroom by someone like Rowling or Paul.

I haven’t been to the gym we belong to in a year, because I thought there was only a men and women’s locker room. I stopped going to the men’s locker room when my breasts got too noticeable, and I don’t feel like I would be welcome in the women’s locker room. I recently discovered that the gym has a gender neutral changing room—a single room in the basement. Trans rights… yay.

Excluding trans women from women’s spaces is so much deeper than Rowling would have you think. Her position is not that of a scolding school marm, driving naughty boys out of the girl’s restroom. Rowling is advocating that we turn some of the most vulnerable people in society away from essential services and more generally to alienate them from a wide variety of public spaces. For most trans women, once they are excluded women’s shelter, there is no safe and viable alternative. In telling us, “Don’t go there!” she is really telling us that we are not allowed anywhere.

Hold on! Wait! Rowling says she cares about trans people! She writes that we “need and deserve protection.” To that I ask, how? With what? Who is going to protect us when are you telling people that we belong nowhere? A trans man related to me a story to explain why he avoids DC now. When passing through Chinatown, he walked past a group of sex workers on the sidewalk and was almost dragged away by a stranger in full view of the police. The stranger walked up to him, grabbed him by the arm, said “Let’s go,” dragging him into an ally. He escaped and fled to his car. The police watched and ignored his attempted abduction, presumably because the police assumed he was “just another tr***y prostitute.”

The police don’t protect us. The prisons don’t protect us. Shelters don’t want us, and, if they take us, they won’t guarantee our safety. We can’t use bathrooms or locker rooms without worrying about being yelled at or assaulted.

The problem is that we rarely fit into your norms, and even though many of us are trying to keep our heads down, to fit in, and to blend in, we can’t. We can’t because even when we are trying our hardest to fit in, people like Rowling single us out and demand that we be kept apart.

Keep trans women out of women’s spaces, Rowling says. The unspoken follow up is, and if that means you have nowhere else to go, then that’s your fault for being trans.

The other pernicious nonsense that Rowling is pushing that deserves to be addressed is that there is a social contagion spreading among the youth, and that they are being hurried through treatment at gender identity clinics, resulting in permanent and irreversible changes to their bodies. She asserts that between 60% and 80% of the children who exhibit gender variance grow out of it by the time they are adults. Consequently, the progressive push to provide gender affirming care to minors is a misguided project doomed to ruin the lives of countless children by altering their bodies in ways that they will regret later.

The picture she is painting of how transness works at a young age is a fictional one, cobbled together by terrible researchers that could not care less about trans people. Her numbers for the rate of people outgrowing variant gender expression is probably based on Michael Bailey’s older work. After reading through a good amount of his The Man Who Would Be Queen, I would recommend dismissing most of his research on trans people out of hand. He himself highlights the difficulty he has had in in studying groups he is not a part of in a blog post describing his research into bisexual men. What he concludes from studying bisexual men is that bisexual men don’t exist. After consultation with a bisexual man, he redesigned his experiment and then determined, thank goodness, that bisexual men do in fact exist. Perhaps the rate for people outgrowing gender variance is similarly suspect?

My personal experience can illustrate the problem with a survey finding that people usually grow out of transgender identities. If you had asked me 5 years ago whether I had outgrown my inclination towards gender variance, I would have answered “yes”. It wasn’t until a few years later that I would have an emotional breakdown and realize that my mental health problems over the last several decades were largely due to repressed gender dysphoria. This is a common pattern for trans people. They repress their identities during childhood because it seems to be the only way to survive in a world deeply hostile towards gender variance, and it is not until later in life that they realize that repression is not a viable long term solution. Researchers did not observe children outgrowing being trans. They witnessed us adapting to survive oppression. 

Since Rowling does not believe that children are capable of understanding their gender, the corollary of of the increase in trans masculine children applying for treatment over the last decade is that they must be the victim of a social contagion. Rowling wrings her hands about these poor girls being misled by transgender ideology and turning to gender transition to escape from a misogynistic culture. These could not possibly be trans children—they have succumbed to rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), a theoretical diagnosis proposed in a 2018 article in the open access journal PLOS One. The article observes that many children seeking gender affirming care had not previously exhibited any signs of being trans. Their gender dysphoria seemed to have occurred suddenly and coincidentally with others in their peer group. ROGD is taken very seriously thanks to people like Rowling, and it is used as justification for much legislation banning healthcare for trans kids.

Since that article’s publication, numerous criticisms have been leveled at it, studies have refuted their finding, and the journal made the authors replace the original article with a revision that points out serious self-selection bias and highlights the fact that the researchers spoke to exactly 0 (pronounced ZERO) of the children being studied. The study only interviewed parents expressing concern because their child requested gender affirming care, but the parents did not believe that the child is trans. The parent’s disbelief was taken as evidence that the child’s sense of gender only recently changed—a sign of the sudden onset of gender dysphoria with no previous history of it. 

This assumption of the researchers that the parents are reliable reporters of the child’s history of experiencing gender dysphoria tells me that the researchers must have never listened to a trans person. My parents would have fit neatly into that study, supporting their theory of ROGD. When I came out in my 30’s, my parents said that they had no indication from my childhood that I was trans. I was a completely typical boy: most of my friends were girls, I played with My Little Ponies, repeatedly asked why I wasn’t allowed Barbies, wanted my ears pierced, and badgered them until they allowed me to grow my hair long. Somewhere there is a picture of me dressed up in my mother’s wedding dress. I don’t remember the experience well, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money that it was not my mom’s idea to dress me up like a bride. I did not tell them this (I was scared to), but I prayed every night to be turned into a girl. I desperately wanted to ask questions about the few trans women I saw on television, but, once again, I was afraid of the consequences. My family, like most others, made it clear to their children that they are boys or girls and that deviation from expected gender norms will be treated with disapproval at best and punishment at worst. That parents do not know that their child is experiencing gender dysphoria should surprise no one.

Rowling has, admirably, not let facts get in the way of accusing us of hysteria for insisting that children be given the care they’re asking for—for believing them when they come to us asking for help and telling us that they are suffering. Her position is that we need to stop providing gender affirming care to children. Ironically, despite her painting herself as a victim fighting against a powerful medical establishment that is performing hysterectomies on twelve-year-olds on demand, Rowling has already won on this point. Trans children are not receiving care in her country. The NHS gender services in 2018-2019 received 2,406 referrals for minors and only 230 (9.6%) of them were ten or under. With a wait time for treatment around 3 years, that means that 90% of the trans children seeking care had zero chance of starting puberty blockers before the onset of puberty. Often, after years of waiting and being admitted into the gender clinic, they are still not provided hormones or puberty blockers. In the year 2019-2020, only 22 children in the NHS system started using blockers before the age of thirteen (Faye, 2021, p. 102). The chance of a child obtaining puberty blockers through the NHS is vanishingly small. Score another one for Voldemort. Incidentally, the NHS is also not providing gender affirming care for adults, with adult wait lists for initial consultations nearing a decade in some areas. 

So, even though trans people are not getting the treatment we need, Rowling is pushing this narrative that medical gender transitions are being rushed, and gullible girls are being suckered into back alley gender clinics to receive puberty blockers and testosterone. Her public advocacy supports a movement that is reacting against a fiction while masking the actual problems that we are facing. 

Ultimately the perspective she is pushing regarding trans health care is that the number one priority is to protect people who are not trans from making a mistake, because the consequences for denying trans people transition care are inconsequential. Children are coming forward as trans at a much earlier age, because they are seeing representations of trans experience in the media. In those stories, they see their own faces reflected back at them. No matter, Rowling tells us, we can afford to ignore those children. What would be truly bad would be if a confused girl was put through a testosterone-based puberty. How could she cope? Her life would be ruined!

If you can sympathize with the girl going through the wrong puberty, having her body changed in ways that she finds profoundly alienating and distressing, then you can sympathize with a trans person. That is how all of us trans people experience puberty. Rowling has thrown the full weight of her public platform behind preventing a single person from regretting receiving hormone treatments, but she regards the same suffering we experience from not receiving hormones with contempt. To those that feel, like Rowling does, that the risks to trans youth is minimal if they are not provided with medical care, I assure you that you are wrong. A trans child going through the wrong puberty is in a life threatening situation. Some people can handle it going through the wrong puberty and some cannot. I barely managed. I thought about suicide a lot when I was a teenager. I made it into adulthood by disconnecting from my body and by using strategic depersonalization to cope. I felt alienated in my own skin, and I thought of my reflection as “that person in the mirror.” Living in that state—one of disconnection and self loathing—breeds intense feelings of anger and depression and makes all of life’s other challenges much harder to deal with. It should surprise no one that trans people who are forced to live in that state for too long eventually succumb to ultimate despair. 

I understand why Rowling is convincing. What she says seems to make sense if you do not understand what life is like as a trans person and the extent to which we are inadvertently and intentionally excluded from society. Her concerns are compelling if you do not realize that they are rooted in fear, fiction, and bogus research from decades ago. Her proposals sound inoffensive because she does not spell out that they would leave vulnerable trans people with no recourse and make public life inaccessible. 

I do not want Rowling canceled. In principle, I would prefer not to boycott her IP. I myself do not like Harry Potter, but I want people who enjoy it to be able to enjoy it without having to have a discussion about politics. We can get to that place by just ignoring Rowling. Please just stop listening to her? Listen to us if you want to hear about transgender issues. I promise you that we understand them far better than she does. For the moment though, she complicit in supporting governments all over the world in oppressing us and denying us fundamental rights. Whatever her intentions and however nicely she says it, she is advocating for our exclusion and erasure from society, and people are listening to her and taking her seriously.  

Thanks to Mike for inviting me to write this guest blog piece. It was probably too long, and I need to get going. I have a Soros funded safe space meeting I’m supposed to be at in a few minutes. We’re going to “trans” a bunch of kids. After that, the local Planned Parenthood is holding a drive where the first 100 people to sign up for a sex-change operation get a Nintendo Switch, and I don’t want to miss my place in line, so I need to trans ‘em really quick-like.

Maeve Mulholland is a data scientist who loves nature, board games, and science fiction. She has an unfortunate tendency to commit vulnerable moments to written record. Some of those she posts to her blog, and you can read those at https://amindasleep.blogspot.com/ but you probably shouldn’t, because there’s some embarrassing stuff on there. 

Life Sucks (and here’s why): A personal post

I haven’t posted on this blog as frequently as I normally do, but I’m going through a lot right now in my personal life. Please forgive me as I write this out as a cathartic exercise. (Those of you who only care about my political posts can stop now).

Let’s start with Marcia.

MARCIA FLAMMONDE was a real bohemian in Greenwich Village in the early ’60s. She appeared in off-Broadway plays and worked selling antiques. With Ukranian Jewish blood, you could be sure she always spoke her mind.

Her husband Paris Flammonde had a talk radio show where he interviewed and made friends with some of the New York science fiction community, including Isaac Asimov and Lester Del Rey. He loved secrets and conspiracy theories and wrote a few non-fiction books of his own. His biggest seller was “UFOs Exist” (which I read as a kid).

Paris, as painted by Marcia

In the 80s, they moved to the beautiful Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, buying a house that had been converted from an old barn. It had high ceilings, exposed beams, and lots of bookshelves, which Paris immediately filled. There were four acres of woods and a large back yard with a small pond and a beautiful creek.

Paris continued to write, including a huge three book treatise on the JFK assassination, and Marcia took up painting. Her work began selling and it was shown in local galleries.

We moved to the Poconos in 1997. My wife Heidi Hooper is an artist and through the local art community, got to know Marcia and Paris. We loved visiting them in their beautiful house.

But things were not going well for the two. Money was scarce. Paris’ books weren’t selling and they were both basically getting by on social security. They took an equity loan out on the house to pay the bills.

And then, about ten years ago, Paris died.

Marcia knew she couldn’t afford to keep the house, but also did not want to leave. So, after some discussions, we decided to buy the house from her by paying off her loan, with the agreement that she could live there for the rest of her life rent-free.

This worked out for both of us. We could never have been able to afford what the house is really worth, and the house was large enough that we could also easily split it in half. The back of the house had a separate bathroom and a room that could easily turn into a kitchen and laundry room. We built a temporary wall in the hallway connecting the two sides to give us both privacy, and bought Marcia a refrigerator and stove and apartment-sized washer and dryer combo. She had the back entrance and we had the front.

Marcia portrait by her friend Ka-son Reeves

Marcia continued to paint, and Heidi was glad to have someone to visit from time to time. Every year, we’d add something to the house to improve both our and Marcia’s life, including propane fireplaces, a generator, ductless air conditioning, and so on. Marcia was able to live comfortably on her social security income without worrying about rent or utilities.

And then, about six months ago, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

A more recent Marcia self-portrait

This is an incurable cancer. The doctors told her they could use all sorts of chemo and radiation but all it would do would be to extend her life another six months or so, and it would be painful. She said no. She said she wanted to go peacefully on her own. As an atheist, she handled it well, knowing this would be the end, and accepted her fate.

We helped her as she got thinner and weaker and had friends visit to watch over her and help her. Nurses were assigned to come and visit every few days to check on her and take care of her, and for the past two weeks or so, we made sure someone was staying with her at all times, by putting a small bed in her room.

Last night, her pain was unbearable to the point where I called the nurse. The nurse came and did everything she could, but it was clear that the extra medication was doing no good. Although Marcia said she always wanted to die in the house, when she was told that the best way to fight the pain was to go to the hospice, she agreed. An ambulance was called, and arrived around 3 a.m.

She died soon after arriving there.

So here’s to Marcia Flammonde — a true individual.

Now let me talk about my wife.

HEIDI HOOPER is the world’s most famous dryer lint artist, appearing on national TV and in magazines and shows all over. But how she got that way is interesting and sad.

I love this picture of Heidi with Mel Brooks when Heidi was a guest on ABC TV’s “To Tell the Truth”

Heidi was a metalsmith with a Master’s Degree in art. She had a booth at the New York Renaissance Faire selling her armor, and her smaller work could be found in galleries around the country. And then, in 1999 or so, she was diagnosed with a type of cancer called a desmoid tumor. It was a microscopic cancer that ate away at her right arm. She went through years of treatments, including radiation, and eventually the doctors were able to save her arm — but her entire upper muscle had to be removed. They took a muscle from her back to patch onto her arm just to protect the bone, but she had no use of it and cannot feel anything there.

This gave her lymphedema and they provided her with a machine she could place her arm in when the absence of lymph nodes would cause the arm to get infected and swell up.

Heidi is a DES child. That’s a medication they used to give to pregnant mothers in the 50s and 60s before they determined it caused birth defects. Heidi had previously had other tumors removed and had constantly had health problems, so in some way, this was not surprising.

Then, a few years ago, her machine broke and the insurance company gave us such a hassle about providing a replacement that she went some time without the treatment. This caused her arm to get infected and for her lymphedema to reach stage two. She now has to get into that machine three times a day for the rest of her life, for an hour each time. So not only does she have even less strength and agility in her right arm (and yes, she’s right-handed), she spends three hours a day doing nothing but sitting there. She also has to wear a tight-fitting sleeve on her arm 24 hours a day.

She has been unable to drive since the original operation and unable to work because of the need to rest often and her limited mobility. She had to find another way to make art since she could no longer work with metal, so she tried many things and ended up with dryer lint.

Then last year, she slipped on the ice and broke the wrist in her other hand. Two operations haven’t made things much better, so she has even less control now, and I have to do much of the housework and cooking and cleaning and so on. At least they finally have her on medical marijuana, which has helped her tremendously with her pain and has kept her mind clearer than when she was on the heavy duty painkillers previously.

Heidi’s latest dryer lint piece: “Mrs. Premise’s Tango Lesson”

But she never gave up, and last year, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society gave her the Bravery Award and featured her in their telethon.

Then around two months ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We kept that secret from Marcia and hardly told anyone else for fear it would get back to her. We were afraid that this extra news would stress Marcia to the point where it would affect her health. And although Marcia was indeed suspicious of all the doctor visits I was taking Heidi to, we were able to keep this secret.

So Marcia is gone now. We are meeting with Heidi’s doctor in a few days who will tell us the results of her biopsy, but we’re expecting she will have to go through radiation treatment again and probably have a mastectomy. (The only good news is that science has progressed to the point where maybe, when this is all over, she can have a lymph node transplant.)

So if I seem out of it, stressed, or upset a lot lately, you will know why.

“How can we help?” I know some of you will ask. And we appreciate that. We do have insurance but of course it doesn’t pay for everything. We’re not rich but at the same time, we’re not poor, so there are people who need your help more than we do.

However, if you want to support Heidi, maybe become a patron of hers. Even a dollar shows you care, and she very much appreciates it. I think the number of patrons is more important to her than how much they pledge. And you’ll get something out of it too…She always gives her patrons a gift every year (signed prints, a calendar, etc.) with her artwork.

Otherwise, just let her know you’re thinking of her. If you are friends with her, send her a message, give her a call. That will mean a lot to both of us.

OK, thanks for taking the time to read this. I needed this.

Merry War on Christmas, everybody!

Anger drives ratings, as Fox News is well aware. And that’s why they created the War on Christmas. Those poor Christians, being attacked and persecuted and treated terribly — how awful it must be to be a discriminated against majority. All those laws requiring people to never say “Merry Christmas” …  oh wait.

Every example Fox News gives for a “War on Christmas” always boils down to something like “They won’t let us force kids to sing our religious songs!” or “They say ‘Happy Holidays’ which acknowledges that not everyone is a Christian and therefore they are attacking us!” or “They are refusing to allow us to use their money (taxpayer dollars) for a religious display.”

You never heard of a “War on Christmas” until Fox News made it up as a way to gain ratings, because they have learned that the angrier they get their viewers, the more they tune in. So they create fake controversies each week, with this being the annual rerun.

So here we go again. It’s now the 9th year where I have challenged anyone to give me an example of a real “attack on Christmas,” because every one of these examples is, in reality, fought in defense. You wouldn’t even hear about them if these particular Christians weren’t trying to require everyone to obey their beliefs.

cartoon by Nick Anderson

Acknowledging other beliefs by saying “Happy holidays” does not diminish the belief in Christmas one bit. Those who complain are just mad that you aren’t treating them special. That’s hardly a war — it’s the temper tantrum spoiled kids get when you give attention to someone else.

Or else they’ll point out one misguided grinch who complains about a decoration or something as if that was evidence of a vast, coordinated attack.

So there’s my yearly challenge: find me one example of anyone trying to prevent people from celebrating a religious Christmas. Just one.

I have a feeling I know what the result will once again be.

EDITED TO CLARIFY: I’m talking about the US only; clearly there is a war against various religions in other countries that is not limited to Christmas

(And yes, of course, just to clarify: #notallChristians)

I Miss my Dad

It’s Father’s Day again.

My Dad taught me so much. Not through lectures or lessons — but by example.

He was an artist but a realist. He worked as the art director for the local TV station but quit when the station was bought by new owners he didn’t like. He then started his own business as a sign painter in the days before computers, when if you wanted lettering on your truck for your business, someone had to actually paint it on the truck for you. He worked out of the basement of our house, so he was always home and there for me.

He taught me about respecting women, because he loved my mother and never abused her. He taught me about the importance of honesty and doing the right thing even when no one would know. He never drank or used foul language, and I grew up never drinking or cursing. He never discouraged me from my interests in music or drama or any other crazy projects I had as a kid.

He taught me to be independent and enjoy life — and I think that was a lesson all of his kids learned, as each of us ended up starting our own businesses and/or being very independent in our lives.

He had a great sense of humor, loving his Pogo books and puns. I even got him laughing at Monty Python.

One Christmas, we hung the Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling. Another time, he got a huge one, put it in the living room so everyone driving by could see it from the window, and then put the top of the tree on the roof so it looked like it had crashed through the ceiling.

And our house was always full of kids and music and art, not just from me and my two brothers and one sister, but from lots of neighborhood kids who hung out there while mom made Chef Boy-ar-dee pizzas for everyone.

I had a happy childhood, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized it. We always saw happy families on TV sitcoms and thought that was normal, but I recall it was my friend Mark Waid in High School who opened my eyes. He pointed out that most of my friends came from broken families, and the reason everyone liked to hang out at our house was because “everybody wanted to be a Ventrella” and have a happy family.

He died soon after I had graduated from law school. He had smoked a pipe most of his life and the lung cancer got him.

But I knew he was proud of me and I was proud of him.

Notre Dame is a tragedy even for atheists

Look, let’s not get distracted.

The burning of Notre Dame is a tragedy. It’s a very old beautiful building — that in itself is a loss. It contained wonderful art and architecture that cannot be replaced.

The fact that it is a religious place diminishes that not one bit.


I’ve seen the posts some of my liberal friends have made. “How come you didn’t cry when black churches in Louisiana burned?” one said. “Haha, it’s a bunch of priests burning their child pornography and it got out of hand,” says another.

Just pretend for a minute that it was a museum instead if that helps — because it basically was. A museum of a time when the church ruled over people and religious leaders dictated what the laws should be. (Okay, maybe it’s not that much different today.)

Cry over the loss of art. Ignore the religious aspect.

(At the same time, seeing people pour donations into rebuilding kind of bugs me when there are people who could use that money to cure disease, provide clean water, house the homeless, and do the kind of things Jesus told the church to do.)


Abigail (2005 – 2018)

It is always difficult to say goodbye to a family member.

This afternoon, I was at my desk, working on my latest book, when I heard Abigail behind me. She liked to sleep in the hidden cubbyhole under our bed, and, as an old and overweight cat, she had health problems and would cough and hack up hairballs and such.  This time, the sound was different — and then it just stopped.Abigail

“Abby?” I said in my talking-to-cats voice. “Are you all right?” When she didn’t respond, I got nervous. This didn’t feel right. I pulled out my phone, turned on the flashlight, and peered under the bed. She was there, but not moving. I didn’t see her breathing. I reached in to touch her and her eyes were open and her tongue was out.

“Heidi!” I screamed. “Get up here now!”

Heidi came upstairs to see what I was so upset about, and soon we were both crying. We checked for a heartbeat or breathing and found nothing. We placed her in a box and took her to our vet — not because we thought anything could be done, but because we knew they could humanely have her cremated.

It’s never easy. We’ve outlived a number of cats over the years, and as anyone who has ever had a beloved pet knows, it is like losing a family member. We’re childless by choice, so we spoil our cats instead.

As we left the vets, Heidi said, “Let’s go look at kittens.” I reminded her that we still had three other cats to keep us company, but she was so sad, so I went along. We drove to the local no-kill animal shelter where we have adopted some of our previous family members.

Now we have two more — sisters from the same litter. 8 weeks old. No names yet. They’re currently in the downstairs bathroom, allowing them to get used to the area and the smells before we expand their world and let them meet their new housemates. Meanwhile, I fed the other three and mistakenly called one “Abigail.” So it’s not like adopting kittens makes you forget your past cats.

Heidi has no problem in becoming the crazy cat lady, and I guess I’m happy for our extended family.


Taking the country back from the bullies

“When they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama said.

Well, that didn’t work.

Liberals and progressives are now mad and are refusing to “take the high road” and look the other way. We’re fighting back.  And it’s about time.

Bullies will continue to bully you unless you fight back. You have to be willing to be just as aggressive as they are.

captain america

We’re not used to thinking like that. We liberals tend to want to work with others, and try to understand others. It’s due to the empathy we have that most conservatives are missing.

And that’s how conservatives have won over the years — by pushing their way in, by bullying, by demeaning anyone they disagree with, and by cheating (through gerrymandering, blocking legislation and appointments, and — let’s face it — by breaking the law). I am not advocating that we do these things at all. I am saying we have to stop allowing them to get away with it.

And we’re moving in that direction. We’re fighting back. We’re punching nazis. We’re staging counter protests. Recently, the alt-right’s rally in Washington DC turned out to have only about two dozen participants, facing off against hundreds of counter-protesters. The organizers of the march said some of their members did not attend because they didn’t want the confrontation, because, like all bullies, they can dish it out but they can’t take it.

Being nice only allows those who are not nice to take advantage of us. It’s how con men operate and it’s how the bad guys win. Wars are not won by “going high when they go low.”

Get angry. Fight back.



Birthday lesson: Don’t have regrets

Today’s my 60th trip around the sun. I look in the mirror and see a guy with bags under his eyes, gray in his beard, and wispy hair barely covering a balding head. That’s a scary thought, especially when I consider where I thought I’d be at this point in my life.

There are paths I chose in my life that, in retrospect, I wish I had not. But when I reflect on what I have accomplished, I’m fairly proud. This is the kind of retrospection everyone should do, and if you’re not pleased with what you find, to remember that it is never too late to make a change. grouchoYou only have one life, after all. This isn’t a computer game where you can start over and create a new character.

So let’s start with this: Try not to have big regrets.

Act on your dreams. No one was ever on their death bed saying, “I’m so glad I never tried to accomplish that dream of mine!”

I’ve done a lot of different things in my life. I’ve been successful at some, and not so much at others. (You’ll forgive me if I reminisce a bit here.)

When I was a kid, I decided I wanted to be an actor. So my mom took me to community theater, and I passed auditions and was in a number of plays. (I continued on through High School.)

Then I wanted to be a cartoonist. I ended up drawing comics for my school newspapers all the way through law school.

I thought it would be great to be in a band, so I taught myself guitar, bass and piano. I played in many bands and still do from time to time.

In High School, I decided to start an “underground” newspaper. It became quite popular, although it was more like Mad Magazine than a real newspaper. (I continued to write for the college and law school papers and later did a column for the Allston-Brighton Item, a real newspaper in Boston.)

Then I said, “I should write a musical comedy.” I did, and the High School drama coach liked it. The school put it on. It was held over an extra week and got good reviews from the local paper.

In college, I decided to run for the student government and received the highest number of votes of any candidate, and was later awarded the college’s Student Service Award in my senior year. I also became the college radio station’s Program Director.

Then I decided to go to law school, mostly because I was interested in politics. I became involved with the Massachusetts chapter of Americans for Democratic Action and ended up as their President for a year. I also worked as a lobbyist, and was campaign manager for a state representative for a summer.

After law school, I said, “There should be a magazine for animated films,” and started Animato!, which later grew into a real magazine carried in book stores everywhere.

Then I joined up with some friends and began one of the first live-action fantasy medieval role-playing games in America. I later broke away and started the Alliance LARP, which now has been running for more than 25 years. I have chapters all over the United States and Canada, and the Discovery channel even did a documentary about us. (Yes, you watch it on Netflix and yes, that’s me and my wife Heidi being interviewed.) We even had a booth at the New York Renaissance Faire for many years, which we sold when Heidi’s medical condition prevented her from working.

About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to write fiction, and I have so far published three novels and a bunch of short stories (no, they’re not self-published) as well as edited a few anthologies, featuring NY Times bestselling authors. A few were even made into audio books with professional actors reading the stories. I even have an agent now, and I started the Pocono Liars Club, a group of local writers who sponsor workshops and seminars.

Now, were all of these things successful? Absolutely not. I tried to make a living at the LARP but instead ended up living in poverty for a few years. My books are not best-sellers. My bands may have played all the big clubs but we never got a record deal. I gave up on the cartooning and never pursued the acting.

I’ve had regrets about life, just like everyone. But they are rarely of the “I wish I had tried that” variety.

And that’s today’s lesson: Take control and make things happen in your life. There is no “Life Fairy” who will come along, point a magic wand, and make all your dreams come true. Sitting around and watching TV won’t get you anywhere. Get off your butt and do something. Make something of your life.

Make sure that when you’re on your death bed, you have no big regrets.

It’s okay to discriminate against assholes

One of the Sad Puppies — a group of butthurt snowflake selfish white male Trumpites who whine about things like the 1% of female leads in science fiction movies — has been barred from attending a major science fiction convention after he planned to take disruptive action at the convention, having done similar things in the past.


This is literally the Sad Puppies logo. They’re apparently sad because people get mad at them for being assholes to everyone else.

So of course, he’s claiming he’s being “discriminated against” because of his political views. These Sad Puppies, along with all the other whiny white males, KKK members, nazis, religious fundamentalists and Trump supporters, consistently complain that they’re being discriminated against because they’re no longer allowed to discriminate against others like they’ve always done.

Look, genius: A private organization has the right to deny entry to anyone they think will disrupt their group, including for political disruptions.

You have every right to hold whatever terrible political viewpoints you want. That is guaranteed to you under the Constitution. You don’t have the right to demand that anyone else provide you with a place or a forum for you to express those opinions, nor do you have the right to demand that someone let you into their group when they believe you don’t meet their standards. No shirt no shoes no service.

Discrimination is when you are being prevented from entering because of things you have no control over, such as your race or gender or place of origin. If you choose to be the kind of guy people can’t stand to be around and they say they don’t want you near them, that’s not discrimination. You chose to be that person.

As Frank Zappa said, “It’s okay to discriminate against assholes, because nobody was born an asshole.”

It’s always amazing to me how these people who always scream about how the “market” can solve all our problems whine and scream like babies when the market decides to do just that against them.

Edit:  Friend of the Blog Jim C. Hines explains this particular person’s history in more detail on his blog

My fun with an artist scam artist

My wife Heidi Hooper is an award-winning artist who specializes in, believe it or not, dryer lint art. Seriously, she’s in Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums around the world (and in their books) and will soon be seen on a major TV show that we can’t tell you about yet.

So she sometimes gets people emailing her to buy her artwork or to ask for a special piece made just for them. But since I’m the lawyer and the writer, she often asks me to answer her email for her when these transactions come about.


“Docs Playing Poker” by Heidi Hooper

So today she received this request:


My name is Rob Carter from Virginia.. I was looking for some artwork online and I found your contact and works while searching and I must tell you, You are doing a great job, I would really love to purchase some of your works for my wife as a surprise present regarding our forthcoming 20th anniversary, I would like to receive further information about your piece of work and what inspires you..Also, kindly email me back with some images and price list of your inventory that is ready for immediate sales within my price range ($2,000- $13,000).. Hope to hear from you soon..

Thanks and best regards.

I was immediately suspicious. No mention of her unusual work? No description of the art? Just “Hello, I want art. Please sell me some.” But just in case it really was a legitimate offer, we sent this response:

You can see all my work on my web page (www.HeidiHooper.com) with the prices.  Just let me know what you like. And if you want a special order, let me know that as well. – Heidi

Soon the response came in:

Hello Heidi, thanks for writing back it’s nice hearing from you… Well, Can you please let me know the availability and pricing of this painting (Docs Playing Poker)? Kindly confirm the availability and pricing asap. Hope to hear from you soon, Rob.

Well, at least he looked at the website. But “Docs Playing Poker” is hardly a “painting” since it’s made out of dryer lint. And you’d think he’d make some comment like, “I want that one because my wife loves Dr. Who.” So we replied:

One of my favorites, as I’m clearly a Dr. Who fan. They’re all cheating, too.  That’s one of the larger pieces, 24 x 36 (not counting the frame, which is of course included). It sells for $5500.  Shipping would be extra, and I usually send them overnight because then it’s all insured and everything. That way you could get it for Christmas.  Where in Virginia are you?  I’m originally from Richmond and got my undergraduate degree in sculpting from VCU. I look forward to hearing from you. – Heidi

Note that since he mentioned Virginia, we did too just to see if he knew anything about Virginia. His response did not mention that, but he did start to run the scam now, thinking we were all excited about making that much money:

Dear Heidi, Thanks for writing back it’s nice hearing from you.. I must tell you I intend to give my wife a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you’d like to know, I’m relocating to the Philippines soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I’m trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a memorable one.. I’m okay with the painting and price (Docs playing poker $5,500) I think it’s worth it anyway, so I’ll be sending a Check..

As regarding shipping, you don’t have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise, as soon as you receive  the check and it clears with you, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up..

I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I’m an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won’t be back for another couple of weeks..


PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) cell phone no. and mailing address (preferably for USPS or FED-EX not P.O box) where a check can be mailed to so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you asap..

Here’s where it’s clear, and I’m mostly sharing this with you so that you don’t fall for these kinds of scams. Usually, it’s done when people are selling things through ebay or something, but they only want to send you a check and they want your phone number (because it’s easier to con you by phone) and your address.

So we responded as follows:

If you want to rush this, you can PayPal me at HeidiHooper1@gmail.com. Thanks!

Check payable to Heidi Hooper, PO Box 349, Tannersville, PA 18372

You can call my husband at his office if you have any problems:  570-629-6322

Note that we specifically did not give out our home address, and that phone number? Goes right to my law office.

This is how this scam works: They give you a bad check, usually from a fake bank or a bank far away, and they overpay and ask for you to refund them. Then the check bounces and you’ve just lost not only the money you gave them but the item you sold them as well. (Here’s a detailed article from Snopes on how this scam works.)

So, predictably, the next email from him was a bit more emphatic about how he would have someone come by to pick up the art and all we’d have to do is pay that person for picking it up — from the check he was sending, of course.

Dear Heidi, Thanks for the details which I’ve noted down, My wife handles the family credit card/bank issues, and in order not to leave any clue to her for the surprise,  I’ve contacted a client of mine to issue out a check which will include my shipping agent fees to you, But courtesy demand I must first appeal to your self interest and ask for your help in remitting the overage (after deducting your fee for the piece) to the shipping agent as soon as the check clears..

I would have handled this much differently if I’d been at home but am a bit pressed for time as our anniversary is fast approaching and do not have access to a lot of cash over here to expedite this transaction…. trying to kill two birds with a stone. kindly deduct any tax incurred on the overage before giving the balance the shipping agent, they are not sending any bill or holding you responsible for the payment of my shipping contract with them..

I am really sorry for the mix up and will appreciate if you get back to me asap to know if i can entrust you with this transaction..

Many thanks and talk to you soon..

To which we replied:

No, sorry, you need to take care of paying your shipping agent yourself.  I can arrange for the piece to be able to be picked up at my husband’s law office for you though so it can be done quickly. If you use a money order, then we don’t have to wait for it to clear. 

And then it was quiet. Perhaps the mention of the “law office” made our art collector change his mind.

So please beware of this very common scam.

EDIT:  The TV show I couldn’t mention when this post was written was ABC TV’s “To Tell The Truth”