THE house in which I grew up was haunted by a cloud of cold mist, a mysterious woman in white, and an entity we called “the conductor,” since he walked around wearing a mourning coat and carrying a baton in one hand.
The house, in Devon, Pa., was creepy, to be certain. Still, it wasn’t exactly the Amityville Horror. As a teenager in the 1970s, I found my house’s ghosts mostly a social embarrassment. It was humiliating to have to explain to my friends spending the night in the Haunted Room: “Now don’t worry if you see a blob come out of that closet. Usually it will go away if you whistle Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. If that doesn’t work, try the Ninth.”
The 'newspaper of record' has apparently lowered its standards on what qualifies as "fit to print."
The most discouraging of our specters was the woman I called Mrs. Freeze. She appeared, occasionally, in the mirror of a third-floor lavatory. This was known as the Monkey Bathroom because the family who’d lived in the Coffin House before us, the Hunts, had kept a monkey in there.
The monkey’s name was Jesus.
One night, coming home late from a friend’s house, I looked into the mirror and saw her standing behind me. Mrs. Freeze was a middle-aged woman in a white nightgown. Her eyes were small red stars. Cold mist rose from her hair and shoulders.
I turned around, but of course there was no one there.
I went back to the Coffin House last year with someone whom I can only haplessly describe as a paranormal investigator. The woman, a cheerful, round Philadelphian named Shelly, was associated with an organization called Batty About Ghosts. When I asked her to check out the house, she’d said she’d be glad to. “Actually,” said Shelly, without a hint of sarcasm, “this is my dead season.”Oh, it gets worse. MUCH WORSE:
Shelly raised a pair of copper divining rods, which immediately began to spin around wildly, like the blades of a helicopter. “Is there anybody there?” she asked, but I could already sense my father’s shy, gentle presence.
“It’s my father,” I told Shelly.
“Talk to him,” she said. “Talk to him just like you used to.”
This was more difficult than it sounded, since I’m transgendered, and had morphed, since my father’s death, from the entity known as James to the current one, known as Jennifer.
Perhaps the fact that the man is DEAD is the most troublesome hurdle? Just a thought.
I'm all for doing what you want with your own name, body, sexuality, and identity. That is your right. But I don't think this op-ed is any service to transgendered people -- in fact, if one were to take this as any kind of indication on the mental health of transgendered people it could be exactly the opposite:
Last summer, late one night while I was visiting [my mother], I went into the Monkey Bathroom to get ready for bed. It had been a long day, and I was filled with the usual rush of melancholy and nostalgia that always accompanies a visit to my boyhood home.
And then, as I looked into the mirror, I saw Mrs. Freeze, just as in days of old, a middle-aged woman in a white nightgown. For a moment I felt my skin crawl, wondering what disaster was now imminent.
But then it occurred to me that I was seeing my own reflection. After all this time, I was only haunting myself.
I realized then the thing that the stranger might have been trying to tell me, for all these years. Don’t worry, Jenny. It’s only me.
If this is some sort of allegory, then it missed the mark. Furthermore, since when has this sort of nonsense been op-ed material? The New York Times has a reputation of being one of the hardest newspapers to get an op-ed published in -- particularly if your opinion isn't in total congruence with the editorial staff -- and yet they publish this aimless hallucinatory rant to get some (clearly lost) point across about transgender identity?
I know they are having some problems there, but some standards should be maintained.