Mycroft Masada is a trans and queer faith leader who moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland (Montgomery County near Washington DC) from their lifelong home of Boston in 2014. A TransFaith National Council member, TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member and former Congregation Am Tikva board member, Mycroft is particularly called to pursue LGBTQI+ and fat justice, and is an advocate, organizer, consultant, educator, trainer, writer and artist. They are married to Julia McCrossin, the massculine fatshion blogger, and with her they co-parent a dogter. Their central online home is MasadArts.blogspot.com.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire (Boston) -- 76th anniversary (1942 - 2018)


Tonight is the 76th anniversary of the fire in Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub, and thus also the 76th yarzeit of my paternal grandparents Adelaide “Addie” (Levin) Wasserman and Theodore “Ted” Wasserman (pictured, probably on their honeymoon in Bermuda), and my paternal great-aunt Sarah “Sadie” (Levin) Levin* (her husband, my great-uncle Benjamin “Ben” Levin, was with her at the Grove but survived). My father and his two brothers were orphaned, and two of their cousins lost their mother; my father was two, and his brothers were in infancy and seven. On the night of Saturday November 28th 1942 -- havdalah of Thanksgiving weekend -- corruption and other issues led to the deaths of almost 500 people (and injured more than 160 others). May their memories be a blessing, and blessed be the True Judge, as we say in Judaism.


(*Yes, Sadie was a Levin who married a Levin!)

When my father's parents and aunt were killed, they were much younger than even their youngest grandchild my brother is now (and my brother Ted was named after this grandfather).  The Wassermans had recently moved from Portland Maine to Brookline Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston where my father and my brother and I spent part of our childhoods). 


Another of Adelaide's sisters, Lillian "Libby" (Levin) Finn, and her husband Irving Finn, were part of the family party that night, but as usual Libby and Irving opted to go to a performance at Boston's Symphony Hall instead.  They began to find out about the fire after they left the Hall and saw all of the emergency vehicles.  Libby wrote a letter about the night not long afterwards, which I hope to read someday.  Libby and Irving adopted their three orphaned nephews.


Two months after the fire, on January 31st of 1943, Adelaide and Sadie’s eldest brother, Major Clarence “Clarry” Levin, was killed by a German landmine in North Africa (during his service in World War II). Their brothers Harold and Dr. Sydney Levin survived for many years.  


Apparently there are at most eight Grove survivors left now.   


And I do believe that this is a social in/justice story -- though I also believe that all stories are – especially as the fire was largely the result of corruption within and between the club management and the City, and the deaths and injuries largely due to the club’s furnishings releasing extremely toxic gas when overheated.  And this is the primary reason why there has been so much silence around the Grove.  And as far too often, even though many positive changes resulted from the fire, the corruption and silence has led to the forgetting and thus repetition of history -- for instance, the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island's West Warwick in 2003.  And of course, as I write this some of the incredibly deadly and otherwise destructive wildfires in California are still burning. 


However, the 70th anniversary of the Grove fire in 2012 inspired more acknowledgement and even some action, including the formation of the Cocoanut Grove Coalition -- though I'm not sure how active they've had the time and energy to be.


And in 2013, the 71st anniversary, there was an official ceremony at the site followed by a reception at a nearby hotel, and I attended both with my father; this included survivors and their families as well as the unveiling of a street sign saying “Cocoanut Grove Lane”, which joined a plaque in the sidewalk that had taken many years to install and had long been the only marker.


In January 2014, I moved to Gaithersburg Maryland (Montgomery County, bordering DC) after a lifetime in the Boston area, to begin living with my spouse Julia (who has always lived in this area, and needed to remain here).  I have missed my usual annual visit(s) to the Grove site, where I would leave flowers and/or other small gifts.  My father continued to visit, but then moved out of state to join my brother -- who is a firefighter and EMT.  My father and I have been visited Boston a few times since we moved, but we haven't been back to the site yet.

These other two photos are by my father, Bill Wasserman, a professional photographer (who doesn't have a website).  



I have been angered and saddened to learn that since I moved, luxury condos have been built on the Grove site -- and how much more so that their management, some tenants and others have added insult to injury by complaining about having to remember the Grove fire, and have managed to have the commemorative plaque removed and moved down the street.  But, I am glad to hear that this mishigas prompted the mayor to announce that he supports the installation of a full-on memorial.  Too, an old friend of our family called the mayor's office to complain about the plaque's move, and the person who took the call said that they have been receiving a lot of calls about it and most if not all were also complaints. 

A great thing that happened in this past year or so was that I connected online with Jessica Pollard Lantos, Research and Outreach Coordinator at Documenting Maine Jewry, because she found this blog post through Googling about the Grove (I'm not sure if her comment or the other will still appear here, after this update). Her grandparents and parents were friends and neighbors of my grandparents, in Massachusetts and Maine -- indeed, her grandfather was called from Portland to Boston to identify my grandfather's body. Jessica has her father's World War II journal and photographs, and has posted them on Facebook, and two entries mention my family (one when he hears about the fire, and the other when he hears about the death of his fellow soldier Great Uncle Clarry). She has written an article about the fire for DMJ's newsletter, and I look forward to reading and sharing it. As she says, while the Grove was never a Jewish place or filled with Jewish people, the loss of Jewish and other lives there was a particular loss for the Jewish communities in Auburn and Portland Maine.


There has been a great deal of other material published for last year's anniversary, because it was the 75th, and I am going through it as I have time and energy.  I saw that there was another official  memorial event in Boston last November, and that it included the premiere of a new 30-minute documentary about the Grove fire -- Zachary Graves-Miller's Six Locked Doors : The Legacy Of Cocoanut Grove, which has been at a few events since then, including a Boston Public Library one.  And not too surprisingly, "Six" is not the only movie about the Grove in process.  


There is also a newish play about the Grove fire -- James Hansen Prince's "Inferno : Fire At The Cocoanut Grove 1942" (Prince, who wrote and directed, had a relative at the Grove that night); I have heard some good things, and hope to at least read it soon.  And I intend to read the old and new books about the fire -- especially now that eBook technology is making them much more accessible (though it turns out that a photo labeled as having Sadie in the background and Adelaide and Ted in the fore is incorrect about at least the latter).  Over the years, I have also been to presentations about the Grove at the Brighton and Boston Public Libraries.  


I will continue to work on this blog post, as well as a fuller piece about this part of our family’s story -- though I think a truly full version may need to wait until after more people pass away.  And I don't know how much information I will ever have. Sad to say, the trauma of the fire intensified the existing issues in our family, and I'm sure in many others.  Which is a large part of why I feel so strongly about something that happened many years before I was born, and about family members and others who I never met.  It is also fascinating and challenging to me -- as a transgender person and advocate -- that the Grove anniversary is a week after the international Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR, November 20th, and this year was the 20th annual); too, all of November is Trans Month.  And November is also Native Month -- and Thanksgiving Day is also the Day Of Mourning for many Native / Indigenous people.   



ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דין האמת.
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam, dayan ha-emet.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Judge of Truth, the Just Judge.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Blessed is the True Judge.

Monday, November 26, 2018

MY ARTWORK!! Or, How I Put the Arts in MasadArts

Pictured is one of my sushi stationery sets -- little kits for creating offline mail that look like boxes of takeaway sushi!


Happy Cyber Monday, and welcome to the MasadArts art department.   


While I wouldn't say I'm well-prepared for this day or season, I have updated my artwork portfolio, and it's in three albums: 

  • Stationery (greeting cards in several formats, gift tags / ornaments, keepsake books, sushi stationery sets…) 
  • Jewelry (earrings, pendants, friendship pins…) 
  • Miscellaneous (wrapped pomegranates and candles, juice bottle cap tea-light holders, eyeglass cases…)

My work is mostly handmade, and made mostly of vintage / recycled / found / thrifted / gifted etc. materials.  And I do take commissions, personalize, customize and so on. 


I invite you to enjoy, Like, comment, share, shop, etc.



Also, my Aunt Pat in Boston is also an artist, and offers lessons, paintings, photography, greeting cards, hand-painted eggs and more

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Shalom, on this Thanksgiving Day / Day Of Mourning

Shalom. Rest, cessation, peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility. On this Thanksgiving Day.
I am thankful to be spending today at home with my wonderful spouse, our dogter, and my mother-in-sin and law. I am mindful of my privilege that makes this possible. I am also struggling today, for a variety of reasons, and thinking of those who struggle in ways like and unlike mine.
Native people, many of whom are observing the 49th annual Day Of Mourning -- including those in Plymouth in my home state of Massachusetts, where today’s high will be 23 degrees and the low 14.
Trans people, like myself, who are transitioning from observing the 20th annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) just two days ago.
Fat people, like my spouse, most of whom will experience an intense increase in fatphobia today, even in some of the most radical spaces.
People who are in two or more of these communities, including Two Spirit people. People who struggle with this Day for other reasons. People who struggle every day.
May we all have a meaningful fast and feast, however we define those things.
May we be comforted by the Addams family credo. Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc -- We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us. “Not just pretty words.”
May this day next year find us in a better place and a better world -- and may we each do our part in creating it.
Amen!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Today is the 20th annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR)


Today, Tuesday, November 20th, 2018, is the 20th annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR).

In 1998, the murder of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman, in my hometown of Boston, led to the creation of this Day. The other known trans people murdered in my home state of Massachusetts are Denise Pugliesi, Georgette Hart, Diane Carter, Monique Rogers, Debra Forte (the aunt of a trans colleague), Chanelle Pickett, Monique Thomas, and Lisa Daniels. I also remember CJ Garber, the trans son of two colleagues (one of whom has since passed away), who died of an overdose.

At that time, I was 22, and living in Boston, as I always had; born there in 1976, I had been out and about for several years as a trans person and advocate.

In 2018, at least 22 of my trans siblings have been murdered in this country, and the great majority are Black trans women. Christa Steele Knudslien (in my home state of Massachusetts -- a colleague there and a Friend here), Viccky Gutierrez, Celine Walker, Tonya Harvey, Phylicia Mitchell, Zakaria Fry, Amia Tyrae Berryman, Sasha Wall, Carla Patricia Flores-Pavón, Nino Fortson, Gigi Pierce, Antasha English, Cathalina Christina James, Keisha Wells, Diamond Stephens, Sasha Garden, Shantee Tucker, Vontashia Bell, and Dejanay Stanton, Londonn Moore, Nikki Enriquez, and Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier.

Also this year, Roxsana Hernandez, a Latina trans woman, died in ICE custody; Nicole Hall, a Black trans woman, was found dead in Dallas; SJ Brooks, a trans person of color, was killed by a mountain lion in North Bend, Washington (and was the partner of a colleague).

And well over 300 trans people have been murdered elsewhere in our world, and the great majority are Latinx trans women.

Too, many of my trans siblings have been lost to suicide, and the attempt rate in our community is over 40%.

And there have been trans deaths that haven’t been reported, and reported ones where the victim has not been identified as trans.

At this time, I am 42, and living in Gaithersburg, Maryland (Montgomery County, next to Washington, DC), where I moved in 2014 to begin living with my spouse Julia, who is gender nonconforming. I still hope, pray and work for tikkun olam, world repair. But on days like today, the world feels especially broken, and so do I. At the same time, I am mindful of my white and other privilege, even as a Jewish trans person who is nonbinary and queer.

November is Trans Month and also Native Month -- and this Thursday, “Thanksgiving” Day, is the 49th annual Day Of Mourning -- and we must remember the Two Spirit people who have been taken, including Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow last year.

May all of my trans sisters, brothers and other siblings’ memories be a blessing, as we say in Judaism -- and one that calls us to act, especially at trans justice’s intersection with racial, immigration and economic justice. May we continue schlepping towards tikkun olam, world repair, at the intersection of LGBTQI+, climate, racial, immigration, spiritual, fat, disability, and all other stripes of the rainbow of justice. May we never forget that white supremacy has always included cis supremacy and transphobia. Amen!

(The photo is mine -- I set it up and took it at my home a few years ago.)

#TDOR #TDOR2018 #TransDayOfRemembrance #TransWeek#TransMonth #WontBeErased #TuesdayThoughts #TuesdayMotivation

Friday, November 16, 2018

TODAH RABAH to everyone who worked on Yes On 3 for Massachusetts' trans rights law!

On this seventh anniversary of the first #TransLawMA’s passage, in this Trans Week in Trans Month, I want to more formally say todah rabah, many thanks, to everyone who worked on the second Trans Law MA -- and the #YesOn3 campaign that kept it law! Thank you to Freedom for All MassachusettsMass Trans Political Coalition (MTPC), and the many other trans and allied groups and individuals!
On this day in 2011, Massachusetts passed a trans rights law that included gender identity and expression in its anti-discrimination laws around housing, employment, education and credit. In October 2016, they passed another, that added public accommodations. Opponents of the second law gathered enough signatures to put it on this November’s ballot, as Question 3, and tried to convince enough voters to vote No and repeal the law, but thankfully failed.
I’m an Election Judge for our county (Montgomery County, Maryland), so on Election Day I was working from 6 a.m. to after 11 p.m., and most of us aren’t allowed to use our phones or the internet while we’re serving, talk about politics with anyone, or leave the polling place. It was very difficult to wait and pray, hoping that I and everyone else had done all we could, and that the Massachusetts voters would do as they should. I really didn’t know what would happen, and it was so hard to be alone with that for so long. It was so good to get on Facebook late that night, see that it was indeed Yes On 3, and text my spouse Julia who had already seen that.
I was born in the Boston area in 1976 and lived there until 2014 when I moved here to Gaithersburg -- to begin living with my Julia, who has always lived around here. I came out as queer and trans in high school, began by working to pass Massachusetts’ LGBTQ student rights law, and continued my work through the trans rights laws -- primarily by co-leading the faith campaigns for them, as co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality. (And I have lots of stories...but many of them start with “back in my day” and end with “get off my lawn”, so we’ll save those for later.) I moved to Maryland in what turned out to be the last few months of their trans right law’s campaign, and I worked on that -- the Fairness For All Marylanders Act passed in October 2014. Its opponents tried to gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot in hopes of repealing it, but failed, largely thanks to Equality Maryland (since merged with FreeState Legal into FreeState Justice) and the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality.
I’ve been thinking about my history, and the history. Back through the trans organizing I was part of, and before. Back through the history of Massachusetts and Maryland. Back through the thousands of Native people who lived on those lands for ten thousand years before colonists arrived. Back through all the trans people who were among them, as we have been among all peoples, always. Back through all the secular and spiritual histories and mysteries of my people to the first person, the first human, created both/neither/other than male/female, man/woman.
I’m remembering and mourning those who died waiting for this day -- especially as the twentieth annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance is next Tuesday November 20th. In many ways the #TDOR journey began with the Massachusetts trans community’s response to the murder of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman, in Allston/Brighton in November 1998 -- and her murderer has yet to be brought to justice, which is still not at all unusual. So many trans people have been taken by murder and lost to suicide, before and since Rita. At least twenty-two trans people have been murdered in 2018 in this country alone, and the great majority are Black women. May their memories be a blessing, and blessed be the True Judge, as we say in Judaism.
And I’ve been thinking about the future. How will we heal from witnessing many of our fellow Massh...erm, Massachusettsians struggle with voting Yes, or voting No? How will we recover from the loss of resources -- the millions of minutes and dollars? How will we help the two-thirds of Yes voters continue to progress, and reach the third who voted No? How will we continue to work with the faith community, who is mostly exempt from these laws? How will we move beyond the limits of laws to liberation? And how will we be more intersectional? November is also Native Month, including the Day Of Mourning next Thursday November 22nd (Thanksgiving Day) -- how will we be better partners with Two Spirit people?
We still have so much work to do, for trans justice and all justice -- how much more so liberation -- in Maryland, Massachusetts, the rest of the country and the world. May we continue schlepping towards tikkun olam, world repair, at the intersection of LGBTQI+, climate, racial, immigration, spiritual, fat, disability, and all other stripes of the rainbow of justice. Never forgetting that white supremacy has always included cis supremacy and transphobia. Amen!
💚💚💚

Friday, November 9, 2018

80th anniversary of Kristallnacht

Shabbat shalom. On this Erev Shabbat that is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Crystal Night, Night Of Broken Glass, November Pogrom, a Day Of Fate. Hundreds were killed and injured, thousands taken to prisons and concentration camps, and dozens took their own lives; thousands of synagogues, cemeteries, schools, homes and businesses were damaged and destroyed, in Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. May their memories be a blessing, and blessed be the True Judge, as we say in Judaism.
My family wasn’t directly affected -- in that by 1938, they had been in this country for at least two decades, the Jewish side having left Ukraine due to the pogroms there.
Tonight, tomorrow, always and in all ways, may we find, create and share more shalom -- rest, cessation, peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility. Schlepping towards tikkun olam, world repair, at the intersection of climate, racial, immigration, spiritual, LGBTQI+, fat, disability, and all other stripes of the rainbow of justice. Never forgetting that anti-Semitism has always been an inseparable part of white supremacy.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Shooting at the Tree Of Life * Or L'Simcha Congregation last Shabbat


Shabbat shalom -- on this #ShowUpForShabbat, this first Shabbat after the mass shooting at the Tree Of Life * Or L'Simcha Congregation last Shabbat. May their memories be a blessing, and blessed be the True Judge, as we say in Judaism. And refuah shlemah, full recovery, to those who were wounded and survived, in all senses.
Last Shabbat I was Election Judging at Early Voting here in Gaithersburg -- my spouse Julia's hometown, symbolized by the Forest Oak, which passed away in a storm in 1997 when they were 295. And I was wearing the pendant on the left -- one of my engagement gifts from my Julia, who gave it to me in April when she proposed. And as always, I was wearing it partly because that makes me feel safer -- safety being a feeling and fact that continues to be challenging for me, even with my privilege and location, especially as a visibly trans and queer person. As havdalah approached, a voter commented that it was especially appropriate that I was wearing a Tree Of Life on that particular day. Half-expecting what I would hear, I asked her why she sounded sad when she said that, and that’s how I found out about the shooting. Election Judges here are generally not allowed access to the internet while serving, and our workdays are usually at least twelve hours. For most of the rest of my service as an election judge, I wore the pendant on the right, as well as Tree Of Life earrings.
I’ve only been to Pittsburgh once, many years ago, but I did stay in Squirrel Hill, and my visit was part of a Jewish journey (not that the rest of my last forty-two years haven’t been). Here on Facebook and elsewhere, I’ve been learning about my other connections to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. And about the racist shooting in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, that almost included a Black church. And of course the hateful attempted mail bombings, and oh so much more.
Tonight, tomorrow and always, may we find, create and share more shalom -- rest, cessation, peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility. Schlepping towards tikkun olam, world repair, at the intersection of climate, racial, immigration, spiritual, LGBTQI+, fat, disability, and all other stripes of the rainbow of justice. Never forgetting that anti-Semitism has always been an inseparable part of white supremacy. ✡️🌳🔯