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Thread: Prejudice at Oshkosh, Experienced: We

  1. #1

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    Prejudice at Oshkosh, Experienced: We

    I love aviation. I love the EAA, am EAA Life. I love "Oshkosh," what we called it even before we called it "AirVenture": thousands of planes of all kinds--every make and model known to man--hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts...on miles of grass... I've come since 1987, seen Paul Poberezny driving around his in his show-converted VW Bug. He served me part of my lunch, one day in the pre-show Volunteer lunch hut. I've been to Theater in the Woods many times when they had that wonderful organ player/comedian to keep us company and warm us up before the show. I've seen Harrison Ford there twice, saw Sir Richard Branson talk to us about Virgin Galactic, saw a colonel give a seminar on the SR-71 (so my husband, Joe, and I could talk about it more fully), saw a major general talk about Area 51, seen astronauts, a real Rosie the Riviter, met Richard Bach who chatted with both of us about one of his quotes: "You're never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true." I've referred to myself now and then as Jennifer Livingston Seagull, or even Jenna Solo, feeling One with the Plane... Bringing a plane in for a landing, feeling the air, distance, altitude, slope and shape of the runway, drag on the plane, thrust...is a beautiful harmony of of physics, will, and love.

    But there has also been a problem at Oshkosh, and I'm experiencing it as growing more bold in recent years.

    I've volunteered a bit now and then in Oshkosh for decades, never really fitting in. I'm transsexual; I'm not obviously so for most on first impression, but people get it after a bit. I'm friendly, sometimes outgoing. I love people of all kinds and culture, greeting people in 39 languages, a hobby. I'm also a veteran and served in the NSA, NSOC, Ft. Meade, MD, a place I enjoyed very much.

    But there lies below the surface with most people, at Oshkosh as well, distaste for someone like me.

    Initially, in 1987, then for a couple of decades, distaste against me was present, but not terribly "in my face," so that I could ignore it or move on. But in recent years it has grown more bold. This year, it was put directly to me, slamming not only me but my husband and our marriage.

    Without naming any person, this kind of thing must be known as unacceptable for Oshkosh and the EAA.

    I'd been volunteering in an area for a couple of years, only a little at first (owing to my wariness), though I did help two Chairmen and institute a Donor program for the benefit of all Campers in our area. Last year I did a bit more, and I was invited back by one of the Chairmen to volunteer again. I got involved in pre-show set-up, organizing, producing a graphic depiction of camping in the area, organizing volunteer badges and orange vests...

    Then another Chairman in the area, whom I'd helped before and said I would again, called me unbidden on the phone and told me that I was a sinner for being what I am, that my husband was a sinner because he'd been with me sexually, and that our marriage was a sin. I was shocked at the the time. I'd come to know that Chairman, I thought. He'd been fully aware of me for 2 years, was accepting, enjoyable. I respected his position in life and him as a person. He'd known who Joe was--and I never expected this hurtful insult. I kindly confronted him on his insult, and he "said what [he] believed," and did it again, this time in writing.

    Slamming me because one doesn't like what I am is hurtful enough, but to slam Joe is way beyond. Joe Ware, my husband--together with me 22 years until his passing from Parkinson's, married to me for 17--was this man https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_F._Ware_Jr%2e He was Lockheed SkunkWorks, Dept. Manager, Engineering Flight Test over the SR-71, U-2, and many others as you might expect. He was a Right, Conservative, Christian, Elder in the Presbyterian Church...and the most decent person I've ever known. When we first met in 1989, I expected him to reject me after a period of curiosity, as is common, but over years I learned he was, instead, NOT prejudiced, a CalTech Master, slide-rule, SkunkWorks nerd with no concept of prejudice in his soul. He accepted people and had a way of nudging them toward something better by his very nature. His friends accepted me, too, such as Tony LeVier (SkunkWorks test pilot, U-2...who came to our home), Tom Morgenfeld (F-22 test pilot), Jack Real (used to work for Joe, became President of Hughes Helicopters, one of Howard Hughes' last friends), Willis Hawkins (VP of Lockheed), etc. Lockheed seems like it was a great place. Joe married me openly in his church, by his Pastor, among friends. I was his third wife; his children were by his first wife.

    To say Joe was a sinner for marrying me-- That is a knife to my heart. Joe is dead and can't defend himself. People liked Joe. He had a quiet, precise nature that people listened to like EF Hutton. When he spoke, it was kind and...right. And no one can see that, now, because he's passed in 2012, but for this Chairman to say that about him is a wrong on such a deep level it is beyond civil understanding.

    That crosses the line and is behavior not only unexpected but beneath the character I thought I knew of him, and of most persons I've come to know at Oshkosh. I've come to know his presentation as respectful to me prior to this was false--why false, I do not know.

    And to also speak against our marriage, that meant so much to both of us. You know, Joe and I took a lot of difficulty in our marriage, and other people could not drive us apart, such was our commitment to each other.

    I kindly confronted this Chairman about these hurtful comments from him. I pointed out that we need to live and let live. The EAA, like most of America, is a melting pot of different kinds of people, that we can't push religion on others, insult people for their basic being, and expect to get along, or expect the organization to thrive. Diversity sensitivity must be part of it.

    I used Joe and myself as an example: He was Christian, I was/am Jewish. If we were to push our own religious tenets on the other, we could never have gotten along. But, instead, we loved each other. He had me going to Church with him out of his sense of family love, needing support, and I gladly gave it.

    Joe is an example of the kind of person I think most could emulate: He was not prejudiced at all; he respected people for their actions and the content of their character--I'm proud to be one of them; he did not judge people; he did not put people down.

    I did not volunteer there, and won't again, which I think was the desired outcome by the Chairman. And the thing is, all he had to do was say he didn't want me. I'd have left. The hurtful nature of this event was unneeded and stays with me.

    I felt I shouldn't even come to AirVenture, which I also believe was desired, but I did. It's one of my places in life. And I did wind up doing some volunteer work with a group of ladies who, as far as I yet know, enjoyed my presence and my work.

    But people: We should not use beliefs to hurt others. We could all play that game, "finding fault," as Joe was known to say. Instead, a little discretion could be used bring out the best in each other, to generate a smile, thereby showing others what is good among us.

    Jenna Ware, MSW, LCSW, ATP/CFI
    Last edited by eaajen; 08-14-2023 at 05:51 AM. Reason: I wasn't finished, I was going to proof it, but it sent.

  2. #2

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    What a beautiful and heartfelt letter. The people in your circle of friends and acquaintances I've read about while on my aviation journey. I don't know how to respond to what that AirVenture individual did to you except to say I'm very sorry this happened to you.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by saber25 View Post
    What a beautiful and heartfelt letter. The people in your circle of friends and acquaintances I've read about while on my aviation journey. I don't know how to respond to what that AirVenture individual did to you except to say I'm very sorry this happened to you.
    Thank you so much.

    People—

    You don’t know how rare it is for someone to show me kindness, any more, about issues as serious as this one.

    Thank you so much.

    Jenna

  4. #4

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    For reference, I'm 74, a Vietnam Vet, and have a gay daughter I most proudly walked down the aisle when she married the female love of her life. I think EVERYONE has a right to live the life they choose, with whomever they choose. Free speech thankfully still 'kinda' exists in the USA, though more and more "less educated" types believe free speech only applies to the speech with which they agree.

    You have chosen to share with the planet a private interaction with a single individual, coincidentally but unrelatedly an EAA member, who if I am reading your lengthy missive correctly made PRIVATE comments to you expressing their personal opinion on the lifestyle you live? Free speech at its finest IMHO. Had the individual chosen to make commentary in a public way in a public setting while you were present, or even say a public post here at this EAA forum, that too would be free speech, albeit rude, ignorant and impolite free speech. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

    I can only bid you peace, happiness, strength and wisdom on your journey through this life.
    Last edited by CHICAGORANDY; 08-15-2023 at 02:51 PM.
    "Don't believe everything you see or read on the internet" - Abraham Lincoln

  5. #5
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHICAGORANDY View Post
    For reference, I'm 74, a Vietnam Vet, and have a gay daughter I most proudly walked down the aisle when she married the female love of her life. I think EVERYONE has a right to live the life they choose, with whomever they choose. Free speech thankfully still 'kinda' exists in the USA, though more and more "less educated" types believe free speech only applies to the speech with which they agree.

    You have chosen to share with the planet a private interaction with single individual, coincidentally but unrelatedly an EAA member, who if I am reading your lengthy missive correctly made PRIVATE comments to you expressing their personal opinion on the lifestyle you live? Free speech at its finest IMHO. Had the individual chosen to make commentary in a public way in a public setting while you were present, or even say a public post here at this EAA forum, that too would be free speech, albeit rude, ignorant and impolite free speech. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

    I can only bid you peace, happiness, strength and wisdom on your journey through this life.
    Wish the EAA forums had a "like" button.....

    Ron Wanttaja

  6. #6
    Auburntsts's Avatar
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    Ditto.
    Todd “I drink and know things” Stovall
    PP ASEL - IA
    RV-10 N728TT - Flying
    EAA Lifetime Member
    WAR DAMN EAGLE!

  7. #7

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    Thank you all for your kind responses.

    Yes, it is difficult to be what I am, transsexual, in a world of aviation. I'm different, and I've been treated harshly quite often. The EAA and the USA are both a compilation of various peoples. We depend on our numbers and community to thrive—and glorious thriving it is. Digressing for a sec, I remember how the EAA helped save our bacon at Camarillo, once, back in the 1990s, when the airport said we couldn't build airplanes in hangars any more, saying it was dangerous, that hangars were only to store airworthy aircraft, etc. We were quite alarmed. And I was there when the EAA sent us an emissary. At the Airport Authority meeting—it felt like I was watching a taping of "Boston Legal," or Alan Shore wheeling eloquent commentary, while maneuvering for success. At the Airport Authority meeting, the EAA representative from Oshkosh spoke kindly about various things, while he had copies of the EAA's position, law, and national standards passed by paper to each of the Authority members. Amazingly, the Authority's interest in restricting Experimental Aircraft building just...evaporated. Yoda might say of the EAA, "Smooth, they were."

    That Airport Authority had problems. Joe had been a prior member of that Authority. We were both FAA Aviation Safety Counselors. After Joe, they elected me to their Board, but that was so hated they, at the same time, changed their rules per number and elected another new member, as well. Ah!

    But I thought I'd comment on FREE SPEECH. We in the USA rely on such values, 1st Amendment, not only for communication but also for DISSENT, clarification, to hold leaders to account, to help maintain a free society—to be used, like other values, not in an extreme sense for the benefit just of one position, and not when designed to hurt. Liberty for all means we all get it, so how can we be ourselves while still getting along?

    I tend to share from my own life:

    1. To our own selves be true? How can we be ourselves and still get along with people who are different? Can we truly like or love someone who is different in a way vital to our soul? I tend to use Joe and myself as an example, because he was a Christian and I am a Jew—Freedom of Religion, also in the 1st Amendment—and we loved each other. He passed in 2012, and I still love him, he was so amazing. It's not just about being ourselves; it's also about NOT INSULTING the other for who or what they are or what they believe, about NOT PRESSURING the other to change to our ways. It's also about RESPECTING the other person, even if their ways are different. I can love and respect him, regardless of us each being different from the other, and we did have other things of common interest.

    2. Like you, I also depend on FREE SPEECH, and am in a dilemma of my own, per me. I'm believed, in society, to be other than I am, and people take me differently, in part because the meanings of the words have changed through the decades since my switch back in 1981. I actually have a conservative or independent set of values that people expect me not to have, and I can't shake them of their beliefs because they "know" I'm whatever they think, stereotyping. Other examples: Christine Jorgensen was not a fellow pilot, I think, was the more experienced sage, compared to me, but I think she liked me. Caitlyn Jenner is a fellow pilot, and relating to her, I was the more experienced sage, but—though she was always kind, nice to me—I'd guess she was not so pleased with me. The difference, I think, is that the meanings of words/terms changed through decades, from the 20th century to the 21st, and now, concepts and language relate to gender, where then they related to both sex and gender. My need is to be the other actual physical sex, something I can not be in this life. So I can never be myself. And now, thanks to the narrative of others applied falsely to me, even my doctors think I'm offensive. This is affecting my medical care.

    So when people get to know me, they tend to assume I'm of the narrative that is popular these days, for a larger minority, and they don't even remember the vital issues of my much smaller phenomenon.

    This affects everything from volunteering to friendships. When I interact with others, I not only need to attend to the issues of our interaction, I also need to navigate their awareness of the narrative they're using to falsely "understand" me, i need to navigate my own narrative as well—without actually saying what my own narrative is, because it's these days considered offensive to even mention. People think they know about me, when they don't, and I'm not allowed to set them straight, so we wind up in conflict over the false phantoms of someone else's narrative applied to me. I do not get the FREEDOM OF SPEECH others use to suppress me.

    Airplanes are soooo much easier to be around than people, these days.

    I do my best to be equitable about my speech, to find a balance between being truthful about what I am, my own needs, and also not in offending sensitive others. I support others in their way of living or being. I advocate for them, even, daily, and I have come to their defense when able. Just to make clear: I accept others with their needs; I just think that same consideration should go to me, as well.

    —There I am, struggling with free speech and being myself, as do others, even if my needs are different.

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