Growing into Himself: One Young Trans Man’s Experience

By Susan Stevens

As social democrats, we know that the people most affected by any policy should be the ones shaping that policy. Those of us who live in Kansas, Missouri and other red states are seeing the antithesis of this. Republican supermajorities have zero respect for the right to personal privacy and bodily autonomy — not only of people carrying pregnancies, but also of people whose gender identities diverge from the sex they were assigned at birth. It’s essential that we unite with, fortify, and magnify the message of, our trans brethren who just want what everyone in America wants and has a right to expect: the freedom to be themselves and live in safety, with full access to all the opportunities our country has to offer.

Yet for those among us who are not trans to be helpful, we must first listen, so I’ve been reaching out to trans people to see who might want to tell us about their feelings and experiences.

Nickali is the college-aged son of my compassionate, visually creative and social-justice-driven friend Cynthia Butcher, whom I’ve gotten to know during our many years together at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. She has six children all told. Nickali was in the midst of finals when I first contacted him, but as soon as he could, he poured himself into answering the questions I’d emailed to him. [Cynthia soon followed with her own in-depth responses]

1) What would you like to share about your early years, and your realization of your true gender identity?

Nickali: Hmm, well to start off, I’ve always been different ever since I came out of my mother’s womb.  I was never a traditional girl or a “regular” girl.  

My mother tells me stories of when I was little, that I personally do not remember, of how around the age of 4-5 she would read me these books about different ethnic groups and she would always ask me “Which one looks like you?”  And I would choose any ethnic person that was a boy, I would never choose a girl.

Another thing was when I started to become conscious, I never wanted to do the “traditional” girl stuff.  I never wanted to play with dolls or play dress up.  I always wanted to do sports and roughhouse.  I never wanted to wear a dress: I wanted to wear basketball shorts and t-shirts. 

I was considered a tom-boy for most of my life, only because I lacked education on what a transgender person was. Knowledge is power and enlightenment. 

The first word I learned from the LGBT community was “lesbian,” this was around age 10.  So I thought I was a lesbian because I was a girl and I had a huge crush on one of my girl friends at the time and for a very long time.  

Then as time went by, I learned the word “transgender.” This was when I was a teenager — around 15 or 16 — and my mom gave me the courage to take my first steps as a transgender person, because I was skeptical, scared and everything in between.  No one around me was doing what I was doing, so it’s hard doing stuff on your own, without having someone lead you that has been in your shoes.  Plus people are mean as hell and love to talk about the people who are different.

So my very first step in transitioning was going by he/him and Nickali.  This was at the beginning of my high school years and I loved it all.  People were mistaking my gender when I identified as female, which created bathroom anxiety for me, but the second I identified as male, I stopped getting misgendered: it was normal and natural for me.  I never looked back after I took my first step, then I went through hormone replacement therapy, changing my characteristics into more masculine ones, and then I got top surgery and I have never looked back. This is me.

So, in essence I’ve always been a boy since I came out of my mother’s womb, I just did not have the knowledge to realize exactly what I was, and society puts you in this box for whatever reason, and it’s not a good thing and never will be. I believe diversity is the most beautiful thing in this life, and you’re in charge of your own life and happiness, so why bring others down when you’re not going to be there for them through their hardships — and even if you are in their lives, why bring them down at all?

2) Cynthia, what would you like to share about your experiences raising your two youngest children, and about the emergence of Nickali’s true gender identity?

Cynthia: Being the mother of six children (four biological, two adopted from China) has been a grand adventure.  Whether you give birth or adopt babies with no known family information, medical or otherwise, it’s all a crapshoot.  None of us knows the medical/emotional issues any of our children are going to face in their lifetimes unless something is discovered in prenatal testing or within one’s own family history.  And frankly, I think adoptive parents are a step ahead in that we DON’T KNOW, but we are pretty certain that SOMETHING will eventually pop up.

With Lauren, our first child from China, that SOMETHING turned out to be an umbilical hernia, small deformities in the spinal vertebrae, and more seriously, oral apraxia, which is an inability to use the lips, cheeks, and tongue for speech or swallowing.

Nick came with a small bucket of issues that make him uniquely himself! We knew that he was born without a left ear canal and just a partial outer ear.  This is known as left ear atresia.  This would make him deaf on the left side, but we didn’t know what hearing he would have on the right side. We suspected that this might delay his speech as well.  We didn’t know at the time that this deformity was actually caused congenitally by an impingement of one of the cranial nerves and that it would also affect his spine and motor skills. 

We also didn’t know that we actually had a son.  At the time of his birth, Nick presented as female.  We actually thought we were adopting a 2-yr-old daughter.  The kids are actually 5 weeks apart in age, so we dressed them in the cutest dresses and shoes, put their hair in braids, and bought Nick the same toys that Lauren preferred—dolls and stuffed animals.

We came back to Missouri and started Nick on the same path of doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists that Lauren was on.  We are very fortunate to be in an excellent school district with early intervention programs and wonderful teachers.

Within a year, Nick had learned to get his point across thru baby sign language, using pictures and enough words that we could finally understand.  One day we were reading a picture book together and I asked him to find a picture of a girl that looked like Lauren.  He pointed to a drawing of an Asian girl with dark hair who looked much like his sister.  Then I asked him to point to a girl that looked like the person we thought he was, a darling little girl.  He quickly pointed to a blonde haired boy.  Thinking he didn’t understand, I said, “That is a boy.  Can you find a girl that looks like you?”  He pointed to a dark-haired boy.  Trying once more, he pointed to another boy.  I thought, “OhhhhhKayyyy!”  I’ve been an advocate within the LGBTQIA community for a while, so I wasn’t worried, just surprised.  Figured I would just take a wait and see approach.

By the time he was four, it became pretty clear that Nick preferred everything masculine, from clothes to toys to friends.  When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he started saying, “I’m a girl, but I want to be a boy.”  “You can be whatever you want to be,” was always my response.  It wasn’t until the night of a friend’s wedding that we knew we were dealing with something different.  I had dressed the kids in beautiful dresses I had made for them.  Nick didn’t want to wear his.  He wanted pants.  We told him it was a fancy wedding and asked him to wear the dress this one time.  He agreed.  When we arrived at the wedding, Nick made a dash under the table where we were seated and cried.  He didn’t come out the entire evening.  We were heartbroken for him.  The next day we went out and bought him boys clothes.  He was never happier.  

Nick’s brain works in a very literal manner.  He knew that he had a girl’s body, but also knew that he should be a boy.  We knew then that this wasn’t a fluke, a phase, a tomboy stage, or anything other than a transgender child.  

3) Question to Nickali and Cynthia: How would you describe the responses of people around you — family, friends, church, teachers and the larger community — as this identity emerged?

Nickali: My family did an amazing job at raising and accepting me for who I am.  

As for my friends, I’ve really only had one friend that burned me.

I won’t say her name, but she was my best friend for a decade and the second I “transitioned” she told me I was going to hell and that really made me mad at a lot of things.  It made me mad at God, because if she didn’t have God in her life she wouldn’t have said that, it made me mad at the world because I can’t control how I feel and if I dressed and acted like a female, then I would much rather kill myself than act as something I’m not. (Note: LGBTQ youth have a greater than quadruple risk of attempting suicide than their peers. people never really affected me because I didn’t go to church during the time period when I was transitioning and I still don’t go to church, not because of my ex-friend, just I never had time and I get very bored sitting still for an hour or so.

When I was a “girl,” random people would just be so judgmental.  

One example is I went to the state fair when I was a kid and this random man said I didn’t look like a girl and didn’t look like my girl name, and in my head I’m like, “Do you have anything better to do with your boring life, instead of telling a kid some crap like that?”

Another example was — and I love my father and he has done nothing but support me — but I think he just really didn’t understand me at the time, and this was mixed in with him not wanting to lose his baby girl.  

But I was shopping with my sister and my dad at Dollar Tree, let it be known I was still a “girl” at the time.  We were at the checkout, and for whatever reason my gender was mentioned, and all of sudden my dad and the cashier were arguing about my gender.  And I wanted my dad to stop arguing because it was embarrassing; I was just a little kid who didn’t want that kind of attention, and I grew more anxious because of it.  

One last example: I was in summer school with my sister, I was in my single digits and I was using the girls’ restroom, when this teacher saw me and blocked my way being like “Why aren’t you using the boys restroom?!”  And as a kid this made my anxiety go up and I told her very shakily “Because I’m a girl?” And she just kept arguing with me; it wasn’t until my sister came up to the teacher being like “Yo, this is literally my sister; I don’t know what you’re doing arguing with a little kid, but this is my sis.”  Then the teacher shut up and let me go to the restroom.  That day, I stopped using the restroom because I hated conflict like that and I couldn’t help what I looked like.

(Note: This restroom experience is an example of how even a trans child with a supportive family like Nickali is still at risk in an unsupportive society. Children, and people in general, who avoid going to the restroom when they need to because of anxiety over situations that they have no control over may develop urinary tract infections and other potentially-serious health problems.)

As a teenager, I was in Blue Springs, but I believe the hardest part is when you’re in the middle of transition or at the very beginning, because you’re confused about who you are, so when people ask questions, you just look like you’re not sure, but it just takes time to make your own mind up.  Personally, I’ve always looked more masculine than feminine and acted more masculine, so when I transitioned it was a breeze and mostly everyone in my life hopped on it really quickly.  I do know some other transgender people didn’t have it as easy as me, so when they’re in the middle of their transition, you’re looking at them like what are you?  And the best thing you can do is just straight up ask, “What are your pronouns?”  Don’t be nosy and ask for their whole life story, unless they want to talk about it, but just ask their pronouns and be respectful.  Even if you don’t agree, give them the respect you would give any other human.  “Love thy neighbor” right? So give them the respect and decency of a human being.

Cynthia: As the years progressed, I would start the school year off with an email or visit to his teacher.  I explained that Nick preferred to dress as a boy, hang with the boys, and thought of himself as a boy.  Pronouns weren’t an issue yet, but I warned the teachers that if they called kid groups by gender, Nick would only line up with the boys.  I cannot tell you how fortunate we were to have some of the most understanding, caring teachers on the planet.  Nick being Nick was NEVER a problem for them…

…As for the responses from people within our community, there were very few negative comments.  The kids were seeing an educational psychologist for a few years.  When we found out she believed children could be guided out of their dysphoria thru therapy if it was started  before puberty, we immediately cut ties with her.  I let her know in no uncertain terms that this line of therapy, or as I call it, the secular version of “praying the gay/trans away,” was not a valid process and would only do serious harm to our child.  

Other kids were accepting and supportive for the most part.  It wasn’t until Nick wanted to start dating that we discovered that some of their parents weren’t.  

And when Nick started living as his true self, using he/him pronouns and changing his name, I continued to send beginning-of-school emails to his various teachers.  I explained that Nick was listed by his old name and gender, but that he was now going by his new name and pronouns.  I told them that we were very supportive of our child, but that I recognized that some people may have personal or religious beliefs that did not see gender dysphoria in the same way.  I asked that if this included any of them, that they just be upfront with me so we could move Nick to another class.  My goal was to provide Nick with an educational experience that included acceptance and safety, and I also wanted to ensure that the teacher felt comfortable with all of their students.  Many of his teachers responded with supportive, loving comments, and no one ever asked to have him moved.  I don’t believe he ever had a problem with teachers or high school staff.

Of course, our school district had not always been that way.  There were other openly trans kids who paved the way legally for Nick to be allotted the rights to live as himself.  My heart and love goes to each of them.  I know it was not an easy path to pave.  

We chose to become members at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church because of their history of social justice work in the LGBT community.  We were accepted from day one.  No child or adult has ever been made to feel less than because of their gender or sexuality.  I’m very proud to continue that legacy by serving on the Advocates committee as the LGBTQIA Advocate whose goal it is to ensure that All Souls remains a supportive, protective and welcoming place for the gay and trans community. 


4) Question to Nickali and Cynthia: What would you like to share about your experiences within the Kansas City area healthcare community?

Nickali: Honestly, I’m not exactly all that sure, I know I’ve never had a problem with getting medication and getting the surgeries I’ve wanted, but my mother is the one that truly deals with all the healthcare, but personally I think they’re really helpful and amazing.

Cynthia: Actually transitioning into Nick started towards the end of middle school.  Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital had just started a Gender Pathway Services Department (GPS).  It’s actually an interdisciplinary approach involving physicians in the areas of  Adolescent Medicine, Endocrinology, Developmental and Behavioral Health, the hospital Chaplain, and Speech Therapy, a group whose goal it is to assist gender questioning, transgender, gender non-binary or gender fluid youth and their families.   Their team efforts help to determine the extent of gender dysphoria then providing treatments that include gender blockers and hormone replacement therapies as deemed appropriate for the individual.  They also have a parent assistance program that connects families with other parents who have gone thru or are navigating the transition journey.  Lists of community resources and referrals are made as adolescents near the time when they reach adulthood.  For us, these services made the transition process less scary.  We knew every step of the way what to expect and what would and wouldn’t be covered by insurance.  

Nick had already started puberty by his freshman year of high school.  With the help of GPS, we were able to get our insurance company to include hormone blockers under our plan.  At age 16, Nick could start hormone treatment.  Once again, GPS worked with our insurance company to cover his injections.  We were prepared to fight these battles on our own, but are so grateful that we didn’t have to.  

At age 18, Nick underwent top surgery.  This is not a service that CMH provides, so we were referred to an amazing surgeon in Kansas City that works almost exclusively with transgender people.  Again, we knew what to expect and what would and wouldn’t be covered by insurance.  By this time, our insurance company had made significant inroads to providing coverage for gender reassignment surgeries.  The surgery went perfectly.  When he woke up, Nick told me that he finally felt like the guy he’s always been.  I cried, his doctor cried, the recovery room nurses cried.  Nick just smiled.  

5) What thoughts and feelings are going through your mind in our current political climate?

Nickali: Honestly it makes me so mad, people in power are making laws about what people can and cannot do without even being in our shoes.  Without even realizing you’re playing the role of god of making these supreme laws when just like everyone else, you’re human and this is extreme, but if you got shot, you would bleed out too, so stop making these supreme laws because you’re indirectly killing people.  

If I can’t be who I am as a person, I really truly would rather kill myself, now it’s your fault that I couldn’t get the medication I needed to feel human and to feel like who I am as a person in my mind.

Cynthia: Where do I start on my thoughts concerning what is happening in Jefferson City right now?  There are currently 30 bills in the Missouri State Legislature that are designed to limit or eliminate medical services for transgender youth and adults.  It seems like the  Republicans are coming out of the woodwork to get their name on something in order to win the votes and funding from their anti-LGBT GOP constituents.  The hate pouring out of their rhetoric is shameful, to say the least, and harmfully dangerous at the other end.  I am a registered Democrat who leans Socialist on many issues, yet these legislators are supposed to be my voice at the Capital. I don’t feel heard.  Is it because I will not vote for these people?  Is it because my donations go to those who share my views?  Should that matter at all?  Aren’t they supposed to hear the concerns of all of the residents in their districts?  Why aren’t they offering support to marginalized populations?  Wouldn’t doing so strengthen the District as a whole, making it a healthier, safer place to live?  

When we heard about the Missouri Attorney General’s plan to make it significantly harder for transgender adults to get the care and services they need, my husband, Brian, and I decided that if this had an adverse effect on Nick getting testosterone or the hysterectomy he has planned for later this year, then one of us would be moving out of state with him so we could establish residency for college and get him the life affirming treatment he so desperately needs.  Is this a path we want to go down?  No.  But we made a promise to the Chinese people that we would love and protect our children as if we had given birth to them.  We see them in no other light.  They are our children.  We would do anything, and have  gone thru much, to ensure they grow into successful, healthy and happy adults.

Indeed, Nick and his adopted sister Lauren are high achievers. Both graduated with honors from high school.  Nick was in the Golden Regiment Marching Band and Lauren competed on the debate team.  Nick is studying accounting and Lauren will get her BS in K-12 Special Education.  Both plan to go on for Master’s Degrees. 

So far, the AG’s attempts at curtailing treatment for trans adults does not affect Nick’s access to medication.  It does, however, make him spend money getting three different referrals from mental health professionals before the surgeon can go forward with the hysterectomy.  Three—two from PhD level therapists and one from a Master’s level therapist.  Really.  He will be 21 years old.  He has been in treatment for gender dysphoria since age 12-13.  He’s had a double mastectomy to bring his body in alignment with his gender.  And still he needs to spend hundreds of dollars to get letters from three people to say he’s still transgender.  I’ve never heard of anything more asinine.  

6) Have you gotten to know any transgender people who lack adequate health insurance? What is it like for them, and what policies would you like to see put in place so everyone has access to good healthcare?

Nickali: No, not really, I don’t have that many transgender friends that are close to me.  I’ve heard stories though and when I put myself in their shoes, I just feel really bad because they can’t be who they think they are.

Cynthia: I have gotten to know other transgender youth and adults.  Many of them do not have the family support or financial resources that we do.  Most don’t have health insurance.  I’m talking young adults who are no longer welcome in their parents’ homes.  Some work multiple part time jobs while putting themselves through school.  Some are working just trying to keep a roof over their heads.  And some have no roof at all.  It’s heartbreaking.  We need our legislators working to provide people with affordable healthcare, with public housing, with a safe supportive community for these adults.  We need better mental health services for all people. Hell, forget better.  We need some semblance of a mental health care system in all of our communities. Our society deserves better than what we are getting.  Our more progressive political leaders shouldn’t have to make deals to get their legislative feet in the GOP door.  We deserve better.

Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of SDUSA.


By Sheldon Ranz

“We are a people who will not harm a fly, but if the fly bothers him, the fly must be killed and also his children if he hides behind them.” – Amihai Eliyahu, Israel’s Heritage Minister, May 13.

Considering the military advantage gained by eliminating these senior terrorists, it is irrelevant to ask how many children were incidentally killed.” – Maurice Hirsch, IDF Lt. Col.(res.), May 9

In public discourse around Israel/Palestine this year, the most oft-used term is Nakba. It means ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic and also refers to the 1947-1949 event – the ethnic cleansing of approximately 750,000 indigenous Palestinian Arabs from their homeland. This year marks the Nakba’s 75th anniversary since the nation responsible, Israel, was officially born in 1948.

For old-time SDUSAers and Labor Zionists in the US, the Nakba was unknown. We grew up with a heavily redacted, romanticized version of Israel’s beginnings, and it has been hard to accept that we had been lied to (some will never accept that and will remain Israel diehards). The parallels with red-diaper babies having grown up with a comparable version of the Soviet Union’s beginnings are hard to resist. However, for the here and now, the USSR is no more, so there are no relevant policy issues on that table. With Israel, however, nothing could be further from the truth: it is a nuclear-armed far-right apartheid state flirting with genocide.

How the hell did that happen? It helps to do a deep dive into Israel’s first Prime Minister and the man considered its founder, David Ben-Gurion. The consensus among Israel’s New Historians – Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe – as well as eminent Palestinian historians Walid Khalidi, Rashid Khalidi and Nur Masalha is that he was the mastermind of the Nakba.

He was born David Grun in Plonsk, Poland in 1886. He grew up in the Socialist Zionist Poalei Zion movement and soon emigrated to Ottoman Palestine, where he Hebraicized his last name to Ben-Gurion. From there, he would shuttle back and forth, from Palestine, to New York, to Europe, and back again to Palestine, all to build up and recruit for his movement. One place he stopped at was back in Poland, at the home of Pinchas Goldkranc, my paternal grandfather. Pinchas was a banking agent and Ben-Gurion needed him to set up an account for the local Poalei Zion branch, so Ben-Gurion stayed overnight as a guest in my father’s room. My father, John (nee Jochanan Goldkranc) was then just a little boy, but he recalled being charmed by this guest’s vision of a Jewish country that would be the “glory of the working class!”  In fact, Ben-Gurion had charm in abundance, and it was critical in hiding the terrible truth: he was a skilled sociopath. The masses of Jews who comprised the bulk of the Labor Zionist movement – the true believers, like my family – were unaware of his true intentions and war crimes.  

As head of the Jewish Agency, the leading Jewish communal organization in the British Mandate, Ben-Gurion was fully aware that most Palestinians did not follow the anti-Semitic Grand Mufti. He himself made deals with the Nashashibi Palestinian clan, some of whose members had rescued numerous Jews in Hebron during the infamous 1929 massacre committed by the Mufti’s followers. He and the senior leadership of the Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community) were fully aware that most Palestinians wanted peaceful coexistence with Jews. And when the British were in charge, Ben-Gurion’s militia, the Haganah, did not organize massacres against the Palestinians, but he revealed his racist ambitions to his inner circle:

  • On October 5, 1937, Ben-Gurion wrote in a letter to his son Amos: “We must expel the Arabs and take their places.”
  • In a 1941 memorandum entitled “Outlines of the Zionist Policy”, Ben-Gurion stated that “the majority of the Arabs could hardly be expected to leave voluntarily,” noting, “Complete transfer without compulsion – and ruthless compulsion, at that – is hardly imaginable.”
  • I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.” (Benny Morris, “Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1998”)

Once Ben-Gurion was certain the British were leaving Palestine for good in 1947, he decided to make his move. According to Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi’s “Before Their Diaspora“, on August 15, 1947 the house of the Abu Laban family, prosperous Palestinian orange growers near Petah Tikva, was attacked and blown up by the Haganah. Twelve occupants, including a mother and six children, were killed. (The Palestinians had not launched any offensive attacks since 1939, when the British expelled the Mufti). The massacre of the Abu Labans, innocent civilians by all reputable accounts, came during intense United Nations debate about partitioning the British Mandate. The massacre’s auspicious timing sent a clear signal to the Palestinian leadership that to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on partition later that November would make no difference. Ben-Gurion was going to invade the territory the UN gave to Palestine, regardless. And, he did make a promise a decade earlier to his son. As sociopaths go, David Ben-Gurion was a man of his word!

While the violence between Jews and Palestinians that followed the UN partition vote is widely considered by historians to be a “civil war”, its true Fort Sumter moment – the ‘first shot fired’ of the Nakba – was the aforementioned Abu Laban massacre. It set the tone for the atrocities to follow, up until the 1949 Armistice. The Armistice was the formal end of armed hostilities between Israel and the Arab states that were called in to invade Israel by the Palestinian leadership in a desperate attempt to prevent Ben-Gurion’s forces from expelling the Palestinians from their land.

And while much shade is thrown on the right-wing Zionist militia such as the Irgun and Lehi terrorist groups, whose members raped and murdered over 100 Palestinians at Deir Yassin, tossing their corpses into a well, that has served as a deflection from the far more numerous and horrifying massacres committed by the Labor Zionist Haganah militia and its offspring – the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) –  who brag about how much more civilized they are in combat and how they believe in a ‘purity of arms’. Here’s a Haganah/IDF sampler:

  • Contrary to stories about Arab propaganda advocating driving Jews into the sea, it was Israeli Jews who were actually doing that to Palestinian Arabs. In late April 1948, as nearly all the Arab inhabitants of the city of Haifa were being expelled, Haganah operation officer Mordechai Maklef ordered his troops to “Kill any Arab you encounter; torch all inflammable objects, and force doors open with explosives.” Crowds of Palestinians seeking safety in a marketplace near the port were deliberately shelled by his forces, causing a panicked flight towards the waterfront as people rushed to evacuate by sea. Many drowned as overloaded boats sank attempting to shuttle people to safety. One witness recalled: Men stepped on their friends and women on their own children. The boats in the port were soon filled with living cargo. The overcrowding in them was horrible. Many turned over and sank with all their passengers.” (Ilan Pappe, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, pp. 95 -6)
  • The Tantura Massacre. Yosef Diamont, IDF soldier: “We put Palestinians in cages and killed them. One of us raped a sixteen-year-old girl; some of us ran after them with flame throwers and burned them.” ( This testimony is from the award-winning documentary “Tantura”, which chronicles the slaughter by the IDF Alexandroni brigade of over 200 Palestinians in the village of Tantura, who were then buried in a mass grave.
  • Operation Cast Thy Bread. Ben-Gurion authorized the use of germ warfare to poison the wells of Palestinian villages and spread typhoid bacteria during the Nakba (Ha’Aretz, October 6, 2022). Whereas Jews for millennia had been falsely accused by anti-Semites of poisoning wells to victimize Gentile children, Ben-Gurion decided to give the anti-Semites a gift by doing it for real!

The current government of Israel, the most right-wing in its history, is really not an anomaly, but the logical outcome of Ben-Gurion’s sociopathy. It is not an actual coalition government of left, center and right as previous governments had been; there are no mitigating liberal or moderate elements. It consists of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and those even further to the right, period. In the crosshairs of the government are enemies both Jewish and Palestinian. This year started with a settler-led pogrom in the Palestinian town of Hawara. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Hawara should be erased, but professionally, by soldiers instead of settlers! And liberal Israeli Jews were targeted with the government proposal for ‘judicial reforms’, which would allow the Knesset (Parliament) to override the Supreme Court by a simple This has led to massive anti-government street demonstrations attended by hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews, who rightly fear open fascism.

However, there has been little meaningful outreach by the Jewish demonstrators to the Palestinian community to join forces thus far. Reluctance to raise the issue of the Occupation or even toting the Palestinian flag are cited as reasons; in any event, the far right in Israel intimidates the opposition.  But let’s be brutally honest here – many, if not most, of the Jewish demonstrators are caught up in the same anti-Palestinian bigotry that their right-wing counterparts display, except they’re a bit nicer about it. To them, it’s all about preserving ‘Jewish democracy.’ Not democracy per se, but ‘Jewish democracy’.

Left to their own devices, the Israeli masses don’t have what it takes to organize an ‘Israeli Spring’. Only enormous outside pressure has a chance of making that happen, and there’s nothing looming on the national horizon right now. The best bet is local organizing. In New York State, for example, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and State Senator Jabari Brisport are sponsoring the “Not On Our Dime” Act (A06943/S06992), which will stop charities registered in New York State from sending money in tax-deductible donations to West Bank settlements. Getting behind such legislation here and elsewhere throughout the US should be a no-brainer for social democrats working for an end to Israeli apartheid and justice for the Palestinian people.

Sheldon Ranz is the Director of Special Projects for SDUSA and the editor of Socialist Currents.

Poverty, Instability and the Aching Human-Animal Bond

By Susan Stevens

At the intersection of human poverty and mental instability, animals are engulfed in loneliness, hunger and neglect. Cheryl Gleason, my Kansas City, Kansas neighbor and impassioned volunteer with the Heart of America Humane Society and their TNR (trap, neuter, return) Angels — who also lovingly feeds and shelters numerous feral cats on her own property — writes:

‘It’s “Kitten Season” now and we’re coming across a lot of kittens being found in people’s yards with or without mama cats. So many of the mama cats are feral, and people can’t take them in. By the time the kittens are big enough for people to notice them, they usually have to be trapped if no one has interacted with them enough to socialize them. That’s a big problem, since we don’t have enough fosters at rescues that have the time to socialize feral kittens. They have their hands full with friendly ones. The root of the problem is that people aren’t getting their owned or feral/community cats spayed and neutered. We in rescue are having a very hard time keeping up with the amount of kitties needing help. Our clinics are having a hard time finding enough veterinarians and vet techs who can volunteer their time at feral cat clinics. There’s actually a shortage of veterinarians country wide. It’s just a huge problem in our area, and it’s an uphill battle sometimes, educating people about the benefits of TNR. Alley Cat Allies — — is a great source of information for the public about the benefits of TNR. Since October of 2020, my husband and I, and another volunteer in rescue and TNR have taken over 1300 cats, feral and owned to out of town clinics for altering and vaccines. The other 300 that we’ve taken have gone to local clinics — only 300, since that’s all the appointments that the local clinics could give us in that same period.’

It is a vicious cycle in poor communities. People raised in situations of economic deprivation, abuse, addiction or neglect often crave the faithful, unquestioning love and companionship of a forever pet and impulsively bring one home — but may lack the teaching or economic resources to provide that forever home. Situations of economic deprivation can increase the risk of abuse, addiction or neglect. Incomes that don’t keep pace with inflation and rising rents exacerbate the risk of eviction, and an overwhelmed individual or family may have to go someplace where they can’t take their pet. With shelters here often overflowing, they may abandon them to the mercy of the neighborhood.

According to our Catskills-based SDUSA Chair Patty Friend, a lot of people abandon their pets out in the country, which is devastating for domesticated animals who’ve “lost the only family they’ve ever known,” have no idea how to survive in the wild, and are therefore doomed to become either easy prey to the wild predators, or “feral-crazy” predators themselves. Patty has also lived in the mountains of Southern California in Los Padres National Forest and observed a similarly tragic situation, so she knows this behavior is not confined to any one region of the United States. She points out that changing policy will not change people’s behavior — that they’ll just continue doing whatever they want — and that what we need is “an all-out media campaign that goes after people’s conscience” — that makes it clear that rather than leaving a domesticated animal out in the wild to fend for itself, it would be much kinder to take it to a kill center where it could just go through death, rather than immeasurable suffering followed by death.

This campaign should get people to think about what they’re giving up of their own soul when they dump a living creature “that they have most likely fallen in love with,” Patty says, and also educate them about the enormous responsibility they must be ready to take on before bringing a pet home. For example, a puppy needs obedience training as well as food, vet care, love and exercise. She knows that when we start thinking this deeply about the needs of animals, the end result is that we’ll start treating each other better, too.

At a Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas Commission meeting last winter, a woman described the plight of her new neighbor who’d taken over the home of a previous tenant who simply left their dog behind, outdoors, when they moved. The new tenant already had a dog and couldn’t take in the new one, who was desperate to get inside and kept scratching and scratching, leaving streaks of blood on the door. Animal Control said there was no shelter space and nothing they could do.

Abandoned animals who haven’t been spayed or neutered scavenge for food, and follow the call of nature and make babies. As Cheryl shared above, kittens who lack sufficient human interaction become feral cats. The Heart of America Humane Society’s TNR Angels are doing a lot of good in diligently and creatively working to trap and location-tag feral cats, take them for vet care including spaying/neutering, and then return them to their familiar neighborhoods where they can live out their lives without multiplying quite so exponentially the number of kittens who have to be born into a life of hardship.

As social democrats who see our country’s trend towards ever-increasing economic and psychological instability as food, transportation and housing costs skyrocket and wages stagnate, we must get behind every initiative that increases warmth, well-being and love for every living creature.

Prison animal programs are one such initiative, such as the FORWARD program — Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication — at Pendleton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison outside of Indianapolis. (

We must also support incentives to exponentially increase the number of pet-friendly low-income apartments, and legislation to fund more training and resources for at-risk pet owners — those with barriers that threaten their ability to be consistently responsible in caring for their pets. In these soul-crushing times, it can be tempting to retreat into tunnel vision, and decide that any problems peripheral to our central focus will have to be left to others. I’m reminded of the old — possibly Hopi elders’ — quote: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

No one person can do everything, but as social democrats, we know that all change results from being willing to do at least one thing — whether volunteering at shelters or as TNR Angels ourselves, sheltering and feeding stray and feral cats on our own property while also seeking the Humane Society’s help in getting them spayed/neutered and vaccinated, or donating generously to worthy organizations like the Heart of America Humane Society (

This is part of a larger effort to keep encouraging others to add their own personal threads to our social safety net, until the gaps are filled and we evolve beyond this despair-inducing world of what novelist Raymond Chandler termed “mean streets”.

Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of SDUSA.

Creatively Avoiding Gentrification

Editor’s Note: Continuing our retrospective on the American “sewer socialism” movement.

By Jason Sibert

Today’s city politicians have banked their municipalities’ future on gentrifying neighborhoods. Sometimes this occurs through hubs based on a particular theme: immigrants, restaurants, arts, technology or media. I have nothing against those types of neighborhoods, as I live in St. Louis’ Central West End, a restaurant district. However, neighborhoods like these tend to push out people in the lower-to-middle end of the income spectrum. Many point to the influence of urban theorist Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) on the dominant thinking in big cities in the last few decades. Florida suggested that cities should revive themselves by attracting the “creative class” – information technology and scientific workers and entrepreneurs, artists, chefs, filmmakers and motion picture workers, writers, academics, fashion designers, and other “creative types.” Do these people really represent a ‘class’, sociologically speaking?

When I first read Florida’s book, it seemed like a feel-good, tech-boom treatise.  It makes a good point in that creativity makes a positive impact on cities because it creates wealth. However, this has historically been true of urban civilization (the city-states of ancient Greece were very creative before the information age)

Radical urban theorist Peter Marcuse, a former teacher of Florida’s, said of The Rise of the Creative Class: “well written in an almost chatty style, it reads like a series of well-crafted after dinner speeches at various Chamber of Commerce dinners.” Marcuse (1928-2022), the son of radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse, advocated Marxist ideas I’m not in sympathy with (ditto for Herbert Marcuse), but he held some fascinating ideas on housing as being transformed into a commodity over the years, making the inequalities of the city even greater; social needs taking a back seat to profit, as the poor are forced to pay more for worse housing. In other words, communities are faced with the violence of displacement and gentrification, and the benefits of decent housing are only available for those who can afford it. Peter Marcuse’s book, In Defense of Housing (co-authored by David Madden), provides a good introduction to his views. Housing co-ops are a good antidote to the problems outlined by Marcuse and Madden.

The implementation of Florida’s theories led to middle-to-lower income people being gentrified out of neighborhoods in city after city. Sometimes the people who started the initial gentrification end up being gentrified out of the neighborhoods they called home. While cities should remain open to the influences of creativity, they shouldn’t engage in major cosmetic changes to attract the “creative class”, as creative people will come on their own. Florida’s ideas also lead to cities becoming less diverse. Restaurant and arts districts are wonderful, but every neighborhood does not have to make themselves into one. Similarly, every neighborhood doesn’t have to have an industrial park. Diversity has historically been one of the strong points of cities, so why not keep it that way? 

Urban theorist Joel Kotkin, an opponent of Florida, published an op-ed in 2004 titled “Sewer Socialism” (Los Angeles Times, Sept 12, 2004) that has served as an influence on my series here. He defined sewer socialism as “a back-to-basics strategy that encourages business investment and the development of healthy neighborhoods.” Kotkin gave us a picture of sewer socialism on the West coast: “in the West, it unfolded under the tutelage of business-oriented progressives who invested heavily in basic infrastructure – public education, transit, water, and power systems – to encourage commerce and improve the living conditions for at least part of the middle and working classes. In Los Angeles, cheap water was brought to a dry city to benefit citizens and businesses. Nominally nonpartisan, but mostly Republican, city leaders fostered municipal ownership of utilities and worked to prevent the Southern Pacific Railroad from dominating the city’s new port. They also zoned to create a multipolar city to avoid the pitfalls of the traditional industrial one.”

The mayoralty of Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Tom Bradley (1973-1993) represented a version of sewer socialism, as stated by Kotkin: “to some extent, a variant of sewer socialism was practiced in Los Angeles during the 1980s when Mayor Tom Bradley united labor and corporate interests. Together, they pushed for the development of a job-creating infrastructure – most notably at the airport and port complexes – that help lay the foundation for the city’s ascendancy in the 1980s as the primary US hub for Pacific Rim trade and commerce.”  Sewer socialism took a different form in the Northeast and Midwest, as stated by Kotkin: “in the more industrialized Midwest and Northeast, the progressive impulse frequently took on a proletarian coloration. In places like Bridgeport, Milwaukee and, most remarkably, New York City under Fiorello LaGuardia, reformers were openly supported by socialists and leftist labor activists. The goal of their policies was to improve basic services and infrastructure for the vast majority of citizens, not just a designated elite.”

A modern sewer socialism would respect creativity and its economic benefits, but it would concentrate on delivering services to residents in an efficient manner. It would also support various forms of organized labor, municipalizing capital-intensive services, and housing co-ops for people in the middle-to-lower end of the income spectrum. However, it would not see gentrification as an end in itself!

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.


Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman

By Susan Stevens

In her service as a Monroe County NY legislator for the past 16 months, our 2021 endorsee and SDUSA comrade Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman has faithfully adhered to her mission of governing by listening to her constituents and applying her energy and influence as a restorative balm to the poverty that is the root cause of so much avoidable human suffering.

Central to her rallying cry is her mandate to “radically address poverty,” in full assurance that the reversal of dire economic troubles will ripple outward to increase housing and food security, improve mental and physical health, and make everyone safer.

As the daughter of a retired UAW auto worker, Carolyn knows that poverty is best reversed by organizing and empowering poor and working-class people in worldwide solidarity, so she has not missed a beat in joining forces with working people in her county, such as the RHG nurses who were successful in their drive to form a union, as well as the County social workers who protested for better wages. She therefore proudly bears the endorsements of the Rochester Labor Council, the Federation of Social Workers, Run for Something and the Working Families Party.

As part of her commitment to global solidarity, Carolyn was part of the SDUSA delegation at the Socialist International’s November 2022 Congress in Madrid. Without hesitation, Carolyn used every opportunity at her disposal to step forward, introduce herself, connect at the heart, and build lifelong friendships with comrades laboring for social and economic justice in various parts of the African continent as well as all over the world.

Carolyn is a staunch supporter of just-cause eviction policies and “truly affordable homes,” and has stood with renters in dire circumstances and procured government funding for them. In addition to upholding those workers who are empowering themselves by unionizing, Carolyn is also 100% in favor of living wages, increased housing subsidies, and a universal basic income. She’s excited that Rochester’s implementing a basic income pilot this year! She’s all about fairly taxing the rich and redistributing every dollar to the places of greatest need.

She will keep shining the light on a glaring healthcare discrepancy: Democrats — many of whom are publicly pro-universal healthcare — control the executive and legislative branches of New York State government — and yet the New York Health Act remains stalled. Carolyn has initiated pro-universal  healthcare memorializing resolutions with her fellow county legislators, directing these resolutions to state legislators, and stood with pro-universal healthcare organizers at both protests and press conferences. She will not tire of pushing her fellow Democrats to make good on their word.

We progressives are often disparaged as seeming “soft on crime” because of the mistaken assumption that fear of punishment is the basis for law-abiding behavior. Carolyn, in contrast, knows that what she calls “true public safety” is rooted in “well funded, housing-stable neighborhoods with green space, good schools, nutritious food, and the opportunity to pursue one’s dreams…”  She supports Daniel’s Law as an important piece of our transition “away from our racist criminal justice system,” towards an established policy of mental health calls being responded to by mental health and social workers. She’ll also keep up her unflagging advocacy for “a powerful and fully funded Public Defender’s office,” and for her District Attorney’s office to follow through with their responsibility to recognize and eliminate racial disparities in prosecution. She’s additionally in favor of harm reduction, and of increased funding for, and expansion of, Pathways to Peace, Advance Peace, and similar programs. She minces no words about her wholehearted and full-throated alignment with Black Lives Matter.

In 2021, we endorsed Carolyn based on her compassionate platform and strong background as a first responder, educator, strategist and organizer, and care professional. In 2023, we renew our endorsement of Carolyn as the living, breathing, and fierce embodiment of this platform and of compassion itself.

Susan Stevens is the Chair of Kansas City, Kansas SDUSA.