'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

Transgendered pianist at first shunned, now triumphant

A post-concert photo of the main hall's stage ...

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Call yourself Sara and hope bigoted jerks accept that you're a woman now. (Image via Wikipedia)

A story last week suggested America’s cross-dressing teenagers are earning more and more rights at school. The article made me feel both proud and old: Back in my day, you had to be a really brave, badass, or beautiful dude to pull off a skirt. And hapless administrators, when they weren’t too lazy or incompetent, generally always fell safely on the “don’t disrupt class” end of the freedom of expression spectrum.

Now there’s the story of Sara Buechner, who as David had made a successful career as a concert pianist. When in 1998 he began living as a woman, not only did a prominent therapist counsel his mom to choose rejection, but halls and universities began to shun the pianist as well. Too quickly, Sara’s career was over:

In the next years, Ms. Buechner largely disappeared from public view, though not by choice. David had done 50 concerts a year — performing with philharmonic orchestras in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco — but as Sara, she couldn’t get bookings. “Apart from local gigs, from 1998 to 2003, I did three to five concerts a year,” she said. David taught as an adjunct professor at Manhattan School of Music and New York University, but as Sara, seeking a full-time professorship, “I applied 35 places and wouldn’t even get a response. Behind my back, I’d hear, ‘Is it safe to leave him in a room with undergrads?’ ”

In a really graceful tale, Timesman Michael Winerip shares Sara’s growing success and acceptance. It’s awesome: Read it and marvel at how far she — and all of us — have come.

via Generation B – A Work of Courage and Determination – NYTimes.com.

Filed under: Music, New York City, New York Times, Women, Writing, , , , ,

Saudi Arabia: Where seeing a woman makes you gasp

Two women dressed in abayas.

Two women in full Riyadh-style covering. (Image via Wikipedia)

In an echoing, blast-chilled Riyadh mall today, I saw something unusual. At a series of tables outside an up-market cafe — rather than a chain-smoking Saudi dude or a pair of ill-dressed European businessmen looking jet-lagged and confused — I encountered a woman.

Usually relegated to the “ladies section,” where women covered head to to in black are packed into smoked-glass booths with curtains, this gal was instead sitting at one of the outdoor tables, sipping an orange juice. She wore the robe-like abaya and a scarf tightly covered her hair. But — behold — her face was utterly there, smiling and very real.

She tapped on a laptop and sipped more juice. It would be an utterly unremarkable scene anywhere else, but this was Riyadh and thusly cause for heart-beating surprise.

A few minutes later, still off-kilter, I passed  a block of shops under construction. On other days Afghan workers trudged in and out, lugging tools. Today, no one was in sight and one of the soaped-over glass doors was thrown open. Among the dusty confusion of plaster, paint buckets, and twisted metal I spied what looked like a pile of women. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Islam, Religion, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Women, , , , ,