Ann Landers was a pen name taken by an advice columnist that became a regular feature in most newspapers across the country for 56 years, and was a cultural icon as I was growing up. She offered practical advice on a broad range of topics, from marital problems to drug abuse to petty squabbles, to become one of the most trusted sources of advice in America.

It's funny how the past shows the way to solutions now.

I have become the Ann Landers of Slab City, CA by default, and with a veterinary and psych tech degree. My advice is usually dispensed verbally at the Music Range, Oasis Cafe, Salvation Mountain, hot spring, or on desert hikes in and about this city of 1000 nonconformists caught in a net of free choice without the anchors of solutions.

Some of the recent counsels have been to a new arrival from New York who had given birth and raised her baby for two years without papers among the human underground dwellers in the subway tunnels; a hostel proprietor who questioned his own morality of giving his clients free drugs to secretly video them having sex to sell around the world, a girl who wears bumble bee wings and wishes to keep her feet on the ground, a man who asks the decency of putting an artificial vagina on his favorite mannequin of the harem, and a husband who wants his wife to quit spraying herself with Raid before they have sex.

Yesterday's advice was to a gorgeous girl who asked me to a walk up a wash on a private matter, and soon we sat under a Palo Verde tree. She claimed to be a hermaphrodite. I told her that in biology a hermaphrodite is an organism that has reproductive organs associated with both male and female sexes. Wordlessly, she shed her clothes, and I gazed with great scientific interest at her dual parts. There was a 1" small vulva, one diminished testicle, and a 2" perfect penis. Most newborn babies are sexed by their gonads, but it had been impossible in this case and she was genetically gendered before female was written on the birth certificate. The obstetrician normally decides on how large the vulva opening is if it should be sutured shut, or how small a penis is if it should be clipped, and her doctor shirked the duty and so she displayed both.

She redressed, and admitted to being confused about her sexuality. I advised, 'This is an intellectual question. There are three answers: You can be a male, but that would be a lie. You can be a female, but that would be a lie. Or, you can be both and live with the truth. Most flowering plants, or angiosperms, are bisexual, and the invertebrates such as worms, snails, and barnacles are hermaphroditic. Humans are called intersex. Don't think of yourself as disadvantaged but privileged.'

'I will learn to love myself,' she smiled, and left me under the tree.

I think Ann Landers would agree that every problem can be solved with an open mind and large enough bank of knowledge.


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