December 18, 2010

2nd Annual Santa Flight in Memory of Mike Bollea

Eleven hot air balloons rose from the back lot of Southington's Aquaturf Club this morning. The CT Lighter than Air Society (CLAS) sponsored a holiday balloon rally in memory of Mike Bollea, who passed away in March 2009.

Each year in December, Mike would don a Santa suit and fly his balloon, he and his crew handing out candy canes to the kids they encountered on their flight. In his honor, we recreated his flight this morning.

Most of us wore hats and festive garb, although we did manage to field two Santas and one Mrs. Claus. It was a beautiful day to fly, with most pilots heading northeast toward Camp Slopers and Timberlin Golf Course.

After the flight, a toast to our friend Mike, and a meet-up at the Plantsville truck stop for breakfast (not exactly haute cuisine, but a big enough space for the 30 or so pilots and crew)

At left, student pilot Kristen on the burner, initial ascent. Kristen bought a small basket a while back, with room for just two passengers. The propane tanks are suspended outside the basket, and the burner is affixed to a ring connected via cables and carabieners.








Below, the Berkshire Balloons team - pilot in training Kristen, pilot Robert, and crew Jude. The most entertaining balloon team in the state, bar none!



December 10, 2010

The Only Thing We Have to Fear.....

I'm going to break one of the cardinal rules of this blog.....

A young transwoman killed herself recently. You can see a video from the local ABC affiliate here, and read a news story posted on a local news radio site, here.

The flavor of the month, from the GLBT community, is bullies, and this story drops right in there. I posted a few things on Helen Boyd's message board, My Husband Betty, and this has gotten me torqued up enough to repost out here in public, which I usually avoid, ironically because I fear a different sort of bullying, coming from within the queer blogosphere.

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I watched the video. And nowhere in there did it say that Chloe was actually, you know, bullied. Over and over, the refrain was repeated....she FEARED being bullied.

"Overall, her peers accepted her for who she was....but she was still terrified of being bullied for coming out."

"She struggled with fears of harassment and abuse."

"Who wants to see a young man walking down the street with a dress on.....in his eyes that was the worse fear...."

"Her family said Chloe's death mirrors that of other teens who have committed suicide due to bullying...."

And some wisdom from step-dad "...that's what we are creating as a society, we are creating this incredible cloud of fear for these individuals..."

And going back to the print article:

"And while he wasn't outright bullied, Murphy says the pressure to fit into society grew increasingly heavy for Justin."

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself - apparently.

Look, I get bullying. I was not out as trans, but I was the smart kid, the nerdy kid, the unathletic kid who lived in fear for most of my youth. Fear in my case meant occasional incontinence - so you can imagine how popular I was when I was young. I guess I had the wrong roles models; it never entered my mind to kill myself. Or maybe I grew up so marginalized and used to being on the fringes that gender transition was not that big a deal.

And I get fear too - I was raised with fear. Thankfully, by the time I needed to transition, I had dealt with my fears - "I do not want you to get hurt" was fairly debilitating throughout my youth and young adulthood. Dating = fear. Moving out of state = fear. Marriage = fear. Taking career risks = fear. Flying overseas = fear. Stepping into a hot air balloon = fear. Visiting NYC = fear. By the time I decided to transition, I guess I had enough practice dealing with fear that I could ignore the internal messages.

Getting back to the whole idea of suicide contagion, let's look back to the print version of the story:

Dempsey says Justin "Chloe" medicated with marijuana, but that, unfortunately, fed the depression rather than eased it.

Following graduation from Buchanan High in 2009, Justin moved north to Eureka, where Dempsey says he found a close-knit circle of loving and acceptance and "was able to become more of 'Chloe'."

And the difference in perspective was remarkable when "Chloe" was able to express herself more freely. Dempsey says, "There was friendship, there was peace, there some happiness, and she loved that."

Justin slowly began to dress as "Chloe" while living in Eureka but lacked the confidence to do so outside the safety of home. Murphy says the process to fully transform into "Chloe", which could take 10 years or more, began to take its toll which became "really overwhelming" with regard to the already prevalent anxiety and depression.

So, Murphy proceeded to set up therapy sessions for "Chloe" but despite seeing several therapists, her outlook grew more grim. Murphy says she was completely hopeless "...like there is no way this is ever going to happen for me, so why am I here."

Seems (to me) like a kid already struggling with depression and addiction, faced with a pretty daunting life project, decided to end it. But instead of facing that reality, we blame bullies - it took about 24 hours for this sad story to be spun into the flavor of the month, bullies did it.

What is really sad is (a) that, looking at her photo, she seemed to have nothing to fear. Really quite beautiful. And (b) her family and the media seems to have ensured that he will be remembered as the son they lost (photographs, names, etc.), not the daughter she was becoming.

Look, I want young people to stop killing themselves. But my fear (there's that word, again) is, that the more we honor and mourn these kids as helpless and powerless victims, following a logical pathway in response to external stimuli, the more they are going to follow that script.

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