California’s Orange County is a state of mind, or so a billboard for the film Orange County more than suggested in 2002.1 Most people who live here could agree. Orange County has its cultural cookie-cutter funkiness typified by the beach and the mall. If someone isn’t wild about either beach or mall he gets told, “Dude! Get a life!”
It’s a strange backwater of Los Angeles in which cliques rule, mostly divided among hedonistic pleasure seekers, gold diggers with eyes upon the financial centers in Irvine and Newport Beach, religionists who think they aren’t, and Latino proponents of reconquista.2 It doesn’t leave much room for struggling transpeople unless a transperson also identifies with one of these 4 major groups, none of which are mutually exclusive despite claims to the contrary. Orange County isn’t known for friendliness, but a clear disconnect that too often leads to social toxicity and societal barriers, especially for transpeople.
This writer was born in the heart of Orange County and grew up in a toxic locale that at first glance wouldn’t be thought as toxic: Fullerton, a city those in neighboring Anaheim always scornfully considered to be its suburb. For those growing up in Fullerton, if they managed to survive the onslaught of neighborhood bands of bullies, regarded the greatest mark of success to move to another part of the United States, if not another continent. It’s strange because while so much of the world wants to live in a place with such great weather while they overlook many days of a smoggy miasma that emptied out into Palm Springs by 5 in the afternoon, most who grew up here couldn’t wait to leave.
Few places exceed Orange County when it comes to having “things”. We have so much stuff we choke on it. We also have venues galore. We even have Disneyland… not just any Disney theme park, mind you, but the granddaddy of them all. Like the developing subdivisions around it, Disney supplanted citrus and dairy farms for Mickey Mouse and hyped it into the “happiest place on Earth.”3 But for those of us who went there at least once a year, we ended up pretty unhappy people. Isn’t that strange?
We’re so disconnected here that church greeters typically respond with a terse, “Can I help you?” as if the newcomer is either going to pay for the highest priced item the greeter can steer them into or has come with intentions of shoplifting. It’s the attitude of a spitting camel that says, “Pooh! Who do you think you are? Pooh!”
It’s an environment that has left those who live here cold and incapable of responding to anything but a program and somehow we think that the more advertisers ostensibly back it, the better it must be. It has very little to do with ideas or matters of the heart, even if it’s a church. That mindset even desecrated the observance of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance in Santa Ana where the main features in 2015 were the tables including local “open and affirming” churches and local programs tootled their own horns like moneychangers in the temple, sometimes drowning out the speakers themselves. The program spread out the speakers with 10-15 minute intervals in between so the energy necessarily dropped back to the booths and the next speaker would have to speak louder to draw attendees back to the platform. Not that it mattered, of course: one speaker gave more attention to the progress of her transition than she did to the dead. Vigil and protest had given way to milling about and talking among advertisers so that the most poignant feature wasn’t hearts but shoes. Most wore their shoes down a bit with all the milling. Even the dead worldwide were most poignantly marked with pairs of shoes on display. Those in the United States were referenced on shrines with pictures amid votive candles and empty skulls, all made up in Latin fashion… even if most of U.S. dead were Black and without any Latin roots at all. The entire event said more about the local living than it did about the dead and the injustice done to them.4
Are we really that self-centered? Yes we are. Orange County folk could be described as the epitome of the cult of consumption; a people so hypnotized with a consumerist message we become incapable of responding to anything else.
When it comes to transpeople, the LGBT Center OC has recently gone out of its way to appeal to transpeople after years of appealing almost exclusively to gays and lesbians. I mean, look at their programs! (Yup… programs again). It has Transitions, a genuinely wonderful clinic set up for transitioning people. It also has group therapy for transpeople, a support group for female to male transfolk, a Latin trans group, a group for trans youth, as well as one for male to female types that appears to have replaced a discussion group that met twice a month. Got a new sub-cause? Great. Let’s start a new program for it.5
It isn’t that programs are inherently bad. They aren’t. The Center has done incredibly well, in some respects exceeding LGBT centers in other areas of the United States. But despite all the programs transpeople are little more connected with Orange County society then we were 10 years ago. So it’s time to stand back and assess just what’s going on.
What seems to be at the heart of the matter is the propensity for Orange County people to be so wrapped up in its consumerism that it has failed to develop a deep social consciousness. Consumerism appeals to a sensually hedonic idea of happiness. Eudemonic happiness results from service instead. It’s the kind of happiness to which Aristotle pointed when he wrote Nicomachean Ethics.6 It’s a profound joy that comes in the pursuit of virtue in serving others. It’s a kind of happiness that directs people away from themselves… the antithesis of the cult of consumption.
Where is this needed most? North Orange County has very little west of the Santa Ana River. South Orange County has some resources, mostly centered upon therapy. One group, TGCD, originally held its private club there before abandoning Orange County for the Oxwood Inn in the San Fernando Valley.7 Another therapy-centered discussion group opened recently in Huntington Beach. The real magnet today, apart from LGBT support groups at local schools and colleges, remains at the 2 facilities run by the LGBT Center OC on Spurgeon and Fourth in Santa Ana. That’s great, but the trans presence in North Orange County needs to be felt more, and that in a public and visible way. Similar could be said for the Los Angeles County cities near to North Orange County like Cerritos, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Downey, Lynwood, Montebello, Whittier, and the like. The county line is really only an imaginary boundary.
It isn’t that those areas are void of transpeople. They aren’t. I remember how a counselor approached me in Garden Grove not many years ago concerning a trans patient of hers who had become stuck in a co-dependent relationship with her pimp. She begged for resources available for transpeople. Unfortunately, I could offer little more than The Center, and local venues like The Frat House which is essentially a gay bar that can’t possibly provide the help a person like that really needs.
For that matter, could most businesses? Businesses exist to make money… something many struggling transpeople can’t offer. What transpeople often have more of is time, especially when discrimination makes it difficult to get hired onto anything in Orange County. Some may dispute this. But many who do need to examine how they have invested their efforts, whether it’s in acquiring the most toys or in people and making a better world.
So this writer has begun to take steps of her own. Our greatest need doesn’t consist of another therapy group. If anyone needs this, please go to one in Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, or South Orange County. We don’t need what amounts to another discussion group. Please check out places like the LGBT Center or TG Rainbow in Tustin. We don’t need something that only assures us of another party a couple of times a month. What we need is something designed to facilitate eudemonic happiness and to make the trans cause publicly visible while seeking to improve not just the trans community but the communities outside. We need a service organization in which its members decidedly get their hands into some good clean dirt if you pardon what initially appears to be a malapropism because working dirt is good for the soul.
Plenty of causes could be addressed by such an entity: literacies (yes, there’s more literacy than just being able to read and write), tutoring and mentoring, elder care, civic support, environmental support, and cooperation with other service organizations to address things like homelessness, education, and health. For that matter, the only real limitation on what we can do, apart from economic or legal constraint, is our own vision.
This writer right now is seeking out the assistance of those connected with social services and the legal field concerning how such a group could contribute to the objectives of public agencies. For the moment it consists of my own vision. But one person’s vision isn’t enough, neither is it healthy for any organization. We want open-ended avenues of service that enhance the visibility of the trans demographic and contribute to society at large. We don’t want a cult.
This writer, therefore, asks any transperson, family member or friend of a transperson, or an ally of the trans community to assist me in forming a focus group to examine the ways and means of making something like this happen for North Orange County and Southeast Los Angeles County. I’m also offering an initial name for this group subject to change by its members, “The Hieron,” mainly because I already have an outreach e-mail with that name that I can dedicate to the cause.
“The Hieron” is perhaps a bit of a misnomer for something like this. “Hieron” is from the Greek ἱερόν or “temple” in terms of a building per sé, not a congregation (ἐκκλησία or ecclēsía). I see it as a structuring of building blocks of ideas dedicated to something greater, which despite religious connotations in various literatures, need not be religious at all. Should others want a different name, so be it.
From what this writer has witnessed in past decades in terms of what works for transgender people, 2 aspects would have to be addressed: education (building up people within) and outreach (appealing to people outside). When both aspects are active, groups become powerhouses of advancement. When they aren’t, groups fade away.
Would you who live in the area contribute to something dynamic with the potential of expanding and reaching to successive generations for the betterment of the world and expansion of opportunities for the trans demographic? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s make something happen to build the trans community in a meaningful way. Let’s make something happen to make a better world.
- (n.a.) Orange County (2002) Web: Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/orange_county/ . Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- Reconquisa (Spanish) meaning, “reconquest”, most specifically to return California and the Southwest United States to Mexico.
- (n.a.) 12 Reasons Why Disneyland Is the Happiest Place on Earth (July 15, 2015) Web: BeautyLust: http://www.beautylust.co.nz/12-reasons-why-disneyland-is-the-happiest-place-on-earth . Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- The writer relies upon her own recollections of this event.
- Website: The LGBT Center OC: http://www.lgbtcenteroc.org/ . Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- Nicomachean Ethics (384-322 BCE) Hacket Publishing Company, Indianapolis, ISBN: 0-95145-66-9 (pbk) Book I, Chapter 8, 1098b25-1099a30
- (n.a.) NET O.C. Chapter, a Private Social Club August Meetup in Aliso Viejo (September 1, 2007) Web: Eventful: http://orangecounty.eventful.com/events/tgcdnet-oc-chapter-private-social-club-august-me-/E0-001-005647399-2 . Retrieved April 19, 2017.