Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Speed of Life

Last night the Commander and Chief of this country reiterated that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the military.

This proclamation, which should have been a surprise to nobody, caused a wave of anger, frustration, indignation, and fiery backlash throughout my Facebook world.  Although disappointed, I don't feel that same level of emotion.  It's another skirmish in the culture war we've been fighting, and is yet another reminder why we fight it.

To be clear, I'm not complacent nor unaffected by all of this.  On the contrary.  It's just that when I'm focused one of the things I'm typically good at is blotting out emotional "noise" that tends to cloud that focus.  I know that about myself.  Otherwise I end up swinging at the wind and losing track of things I can actually affect.  This is one of those things.

I had a friend who was trans, and who served in the military.  She ended up attempting suicide because of the way she was treated.  She was successful on the second attempt, after the first attempt left her broken and hopeless.  The story of many of our trans brothers and sisters isn't simply one of honor on the battlefield.  It's of the battles that happen behind the lines - with their own military and their own government.  The end up as part of the body count, not from enemy fire but from "friendly" fire.  They become collateral damage.  Those stories rarely get told because there's nobody around to tell them.

I've got a lot happening in the next couple of weeks.  I joined the Board of Out and Equal late last year and we've got an event in San Francisco on Thu-Fri this week, preceded by an all day Board Meeting on Wednesday.  It's a very exciting time for the organization as the founding Executive Director recently retired so there a new captain at the helm.  They sent me my itinerary and my script for the brief speaking portion of this I'll be doing.  I'm sure I'll have more to say on this as it unfolds.

I fly back to Phoenix for a day - for Easter - before heading to Dallas for the balance of the week.  I've got offices in both Phoenix and Dallas and have made the commitment to spend the first full week of every month there.  Most of the engineers who work in my organization and our main body of management is there so I typically have meetings and other face-to-face things I can't do when I'm in Phoenix. 

From Dallas I fly to Miami for an American Airlines National Equality Board meeting on Friday.  Then I fly home to participate in the Phoenix PRIDE Parade.  I'm the President of the American Airlines PRIDE EBRG here in PHX so I've been coordinating that for weeks.  The parade is typically our largest event so it's quite the logistical feat to pull it all together.

And lastly, I have applied for a couple of new roles at American Airlines.  I've got an interview for one of them while I'm in Dallas.  I don't have much more to share on that at the moment other than I've made my peace with a number of things.  Peace is a good thing.

I do a weekly podcast called "The Deeper End".  It's a lot of fun to do.  This past week we tried something new - we had a group of 4 women as guests to discuss something at my podcast partner Diana felt would be a fertile topic.  It was.  The best part of it was getting to meet some new friends.  Anyway, we'll publish that in a couple of weeks once the editing is done.

Today I've got a meeting at Arizona State University to learn a bit about what's involved in pursuing an MBA.  Monday I've got a Board Meeting for One n Ten.  I need to finish my taxes.  The list of "stuff" going on is a long one.  But for anyone who knows me, it's just the speed of life for me.  I guess I'm used to it.  :)

Monday, March 12, 2018

One More Day

There was a time when I wrote a lot.  I mean, a LOT.  So much was happening in my life and I felt a need to express it in writing...every day. 

The value of my writing to anyone but me can be debated, but I'm comfortable that, as a collection, it still stands on its merit given the time it was written and my overall maturity.  That element - maturity - is a function of time and experience and I've see my fair share of both.  If nothing else, my writing is a valuable time capsule to myself.

I figure that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while so the more I wrote the more likely I was to express something that others were feeling, too.  That's not to say I'm right and anyone else is wrong.  It's actually the opposite.  It's recognition that our individual narratives do not necessarily align into some greater, universal, or even "common" story.  Each needs to be told and processed because if life has taught us anything it's that none of us truly is "the only one". 

It is indeed unfortunate that we sometimes create what I call a pack mentality.  That is, when anyone dares to speak out and says something that someone else disagrees with they become a target for attack.  Lord knows, I've been there.  But back to that maturity thing...I've long since passed a point of caring if anyone else agrees or not.  It doesn't invalidate what I think or what I write. 

All that is a long Introduction to the fact that I'm writing again.  I see things happening and feel things, and I feel compelled to write.  I'm closer to the end of my life's journey than the beginning and I feel that, alone, provides a unique perspective worthwhile of being added to the greater collective of our life experiences.  That faint candle has survived all these years and finally has something to share.  Again.  Or Still.

I read something last month and wanted to comment.  The following essay is the result:

I Didn’t Transition to Simply Survive, I Did It to Be Happy

Donna Rose
Jan 13, 2018

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about the broad spectrum of communities that comprise what many commonly refer to as the “Transgender Community” is a general acknowledgement that our varied narratives are as broad as our realities.  Those differences don’t invalidate them.  If anything, they serve as testament to those who follow that there are innumerable paths to the same destination…to becoming.

I recently read an article titled “I Didn’t Transition to Be Happy, I Did It to Survive”.  I transitioned from male to female nearly 20 years ago and as I read the article I found that the author and I share many of the unique elements that are often common to this journey.  There was much there that resonated.  However the core concept – that transition was about survival rather than happiness – did not, and it never did.  In fact, my own narrative is exactly the opposite.  I truly, truly transitioned to find two things – happiness, and peace.  Today, two decades later, I’m happy to say that I’ve had them both for a long time.

The specter of suicide across the Trans community is beyond alarming.  A 2015 study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute reported that 41% of the almost 28,000 self-identified Trans respondents had attempted suicide at some point in their lives (compared with 4.6% of the general population).  Think about that….that’s not the percent who considered it; it’s the percent that actually attempted it.  Those numbers are terrifying.

I am not part of that 41%.  I feel no shame acknowledging that this journey was never one of life or death for me, at least not in the traditional sense.  I've never had my own gun in my mouth, or been in a car filling with its own exhaust and made a last minute desperate decision to live.  My heart truly hurts for those who have been there.  But one thing I know about myself is that once I allow myself to get there I've given myself permission to consider that as a reasonable option in other contexts.  That's a whole other conversation, but it's simply the long way of saying I've never been there.

When I found myself struggling I found focus by putting things in perspective.  I’ve seen people with far bigger problems than mine – people dealing with unimaginable physical and situational issues in their lives.  When compared to their challenges, mine seemed trivial to me to the point where I almost felt embarrassed.  If they could find ways to deal with their challenges then I could find ways to deal with mine, at least for one more day.  That concept - One More Day - made all the difference.  So, although there was lots of complex “stuff” going on in my head at the time, this was really simple for me.

The thing that provided the driving force during the difficult times was my pillar belief that Maslow’s concept of self-actualization requires inner peace.  Each of us has only one life to live and we don’t have to spend it being scared and miserable.  Peace, though, doesn’t always come easily.  It has a price, and I was about to pay it.    

I’m what some commonly refer to as a “mid-life transitioner”.  At almost 40 years old I was approaching the 20th year of happy marriage to a woman I very much loved.  I was the father of our teenage son.  I had a successful career and we had many of the trappings that pass for success in our culture – homes, cars, money, and “stuff”.  I easily lived the charade of being male and could probably have lived the rest of my life that way – unfulfilled – just as generations before me had done.   

My options at that stage of my life were gradually become clear to me.  I could begin taking baby steps to live fully, authentically, without regret.  Or not.  It was the choice to knowingly live a lie, or to shed the suffocating burden of that dishonesty.  It was the choice to accept things as they were, or to take action to affirm that there’s more to life than simply existing.  In all those contexts – the choice was clear.  The next biggest question was “How?”

As time passed I gradually built the inner courage it took to confront myself rather than run from myself.  I chose to acknowledge that I had the power to change my fate.  That change necessarily started with one monumental thing: Coming out….first to myself, then to others.  For many of us, THAT’S the choice, because once you do that other things will happen….things you can’t even envision or guess. 

The year was 1997 – a long time ago.  At that time there were two therapists specializing in transgender clientele in the Phoenix area and I started to see one of them.  I went every two weeks for almost two years, during my lunch hour at work, without any outward expression of who I am or who I knew myself to be.  Our sessions consisted of me talking for almost the entire time – I had a whole lifetime pent up inside me that needed to come out.  That seemingly simple act of articulating my fears, hopes, confusions, frustrations, needs, and dreams helped me get to know myself better.  They were a Godsend.

At that point I couldn’t even imagine transition or living as me, much less begin to plan for it.  Nothing could prepare me for what was to come.  It was joyous, terrifying, exciting, confusing and awkward – all at the same time.  I found comfort knowing that it was like a car alarm had been going off in my head for my entire life and I was finally making a conscious effort to silence it.  The farther I progressed, the more I realized that I was on the right track, that I could actually silence it.

By the time I was ready to share my hidden self with others my need for authenticity was greater than my sense of terror.  So I did it.  I came out.  To my wife, my son, my family, my work, my friends;  it was harder than I ever imagined.  I was acutely aware that once I came out I couldn’t un-come out, so regardless of what happened next my life from that point on was profoundly changed.  I had absolute faith that life after could be better than life before.

Reactions were immediate and intense.  My marriage collapsed.  My son didn’t want to see me.  I was rejected at work to the point I moved away to start a new life as generations before me attempted to do.  I was truly, truly alone for the first time in my life, a story that many of us know all too well.  But after the initial shock started to wear off things began to even out.  A new normal settled into my life.  A new, better me emerged from the debris of my old life and started to move on.   That car alarm in my head had faded to silence, and has been silent ever since.

That was almost 20 years ago.  Life since then has never been all Rainbows and Unicorns but I never expected it would be.  It has settled into a comfortable groove that’s far more satisfying and comfortable than my old life ever was.  I have a career I enjoy.  Relationships with my family, my son, and my dearest friends are deeper and more fulfilling than I could have imagined.  My comfort moving through the world as the real me is unconstrained and natural.  In short - my faith and patience have been rewarded to a level I could never have imagined when facing those early decisions.  I am keenly aware of my many blessings, and that it all started with Faith.

The concept that “I have always been a woman” has never resonated with me either.  I’ve certainly always been aware of the prominent female presence in my psyche.  My earliest coping mechanisms involved envisioning that there were two distinct people inhabiting this body, fighting for it.  One was unquestionably male and the other was unquestionably female.  The only question was whether or not I could give the female part of me permission to exist outside the deep, dark dungeons of my mind.  Over time, the harder I tried to prevent it the harder she pushed back.  Eventually I became dark and angry over the gradual realization that it would never go away.  The pathway to peace for me wasn’t to consider killing myself – it was to find a way to come to peace within myself, which I’ve done.  Over time I have come to embrace the unique opportunity to incorporate both my selves into a harmonious whole.

So am I happy?  Yes, I am.  I am truly, deeply, profoundly, authentically happy being this unique, generally well-balanced, sometimes self-actualized person I have come to be.  Perhaps recognition of that happiness has become keener over the years as the difficulties from those tumultuous times have faded in the rear view mirror of my life.  Regardless – the goal has been clear to me all along. Happiness was the goal, and goal acieved.

The goal for me has never been merely to survive.  And, by that measure, I’m finally truly living.....  One day at a time.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Time Passes

I visited my blog today.  Like an old friend, it has patiently waited for me.  I almost felt a little guilty acknowledging that it has been 14 months since my last post.  Regardless, I feel a need to be back here.

When I first started the blog, a dozen years ago, I never expected anyone would find it much less follow it.  It has always been something I turn to when I need to say something....whether it's to myself or to others.  The fact that anyone knows or cares it's here but me is secondary to the fact that it IS here.  It's like my pups - it doesn't judge when I've been away for a while.  It's always just happy that I'm back.

We are 2 1/2 months into 2018.  So far this year I've had a root canal, I've been to Urgent Care and spent an afternoon at the Emergency Room, and I turned 59.  That last thing is the most crazy of them all....that I could possibly be nearing the end of my 5th decade of life.  None of these are complaints because Lord knows things could be far worse.  At this point of his life my dad was already pretty much done.  His diabetes was killing him slowly, and he ended up succumbing at 64 years young.  That's always in the back of my mind.

I like to think I've got lots of time ahead.  Whether or not I do or don't isn't what's important.  I live with a sense of urgency knowing that there's lots of stuff I want to fit into whatever time I can do it in.  There's always more "stuff" than time. 

I'm happy to say I'm continuing to get to understand myself.  I get little pieces of information here and there and fill blank pieces of the puzzle...that help me make sense of some things I've known about myself but have never been able to understand.  Again, whether or not these things are THE answer is secondary.  They help to bridge gaps and add to my thinking in ways I've never done before.  That's what's important.

It's be easy for me to say that I suspect that there is Change in the future because that applies pretty much all the time.  But I think I'll be talking about it quite a bit as things unfold.  I've started some things in motion that should prove interesting over these next couple of months.  More to come on that. 

This short missive is simply meant to acknowledge that I've been gone for a while, and I'm still here.

One thing I will share is that a we published a new episode of our Podcast today.  There shows are truly a labor of love and I'm thrilled that they remain relevant.  I'll invite anyone who's got an hour to spend to drop a way it's an extension of this blog.

Episode 64 – Hanging Up On A Dial-Tone Life. Guest: Judith Rosen

That said, I'll leave this short and pick up again next time.  Time passes, but we're still here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How I Feel

A highlight of yesterday here in PHX and around the world was the Woman's March.  It was organized in response to our President's crude and mysogonistic statements prior to the election, and a demonstration that the power of the people to express themselves matters.  It exceeded expectations everywhere, with hundreds of thousands of marchers in major cities around the country and the world, and significant marches in smaller areas.  It's already estimated to be the largest single day of marches in our history.

I find the fact that these were universally peaceful events to be testament to the power to protest in this country.  Recently, when we think about protests, we think about large police presence, looting, violence, and an overall aura of danger.  From everything I've seen these events had an aura of unity, of hope, and community.  The seemed to be celebrations and most of the photos I've seen involved smiles, as well as some wickedly funny signs.

I said in our most recent podcast - yet to be published - that I think the election of Mr. Trump will prove to be a positive thing when analyzed in the context of time.  If anything, it was a wake-up call and a call-to-action, and yesterday that call was hear (and demonstrated) loud and clear.  This most recent election was the most divisive event in my memory, and events like today are a stark reminder that we haven't forgotten how do "do" unity.

It wasn't about a candidate.  It wasn't about a political agenda.  It wasn't about I'm-right-so-you're-wrong.  It was about solidarity in declaring the dignity of personhood.  I'd go so far as to say it was a necessary healing event, and it reminded everyone in the power of the people.  That power has been dormant for a long time.  Sure, we have the power of our vote at the ballot box, but this kind of power is a more active and visible one.  That's one of the things that makes it so important.

To be honest, though - I'm not sure that I noticed a consistent message.  Some were there to express support for womanhood in general.  Others were there for LGBT causes, and Black Lives Matter.  Many were seemingly there in hopes they could affect the election, but that ship has sailed baby and it ain't coming back.  The question of "Is this a movement or a moment in time?" still lingers because if it's a Movement I'm still looking for the theme and the goal.  Getting our President to voluntarily leave, or even change, isn't gonna happen.  Show of solidarity?  Excellent.  Sense of community?  Off the charts.

More importantly, do I sense that it will have any affect at all to substantively affect anything that happens politically afterwards?  Serious doubts....  Does that mean I don't feel it was a waste of time or purely symbolic?  Of course not.  But if people think that the good feeling that they shared yesterday will turn itself into change I fear they're going to be disappointed.  In other words, although I'd love to be proven wrong, my expectations are low.

All that said - I did not attend the march here in PHX.  I was there in spirit, but I was not one of the tens of thousands who marched here in Phoenix.  I spent the balance of the day with wonderful Maria, and taking care of some things in preparation for a very busy next several weeks.

I think I've only been in two "marches" over the course of my life.  One was the Trans March prior to the San Francisco Pride Parade in 2008.  The other was an effort form a human chain across the bridge between Mt. Pleasant and Charleston SC a couple of years ago after the shootings in the church there.  Both were very impressive, empowering events.  I'm sure those who participated yesterday came away with a renewed sent of people-power, and I hope it lasts.


For as many people who showed up to march yesterday, it's important to note that the essence of what they were marching for was not universally felt.  One Friend on FB shared a different perspective:
To all the Women Million Marchers - don't include me in your number. I do not need nor want anyone to march for me based on my gender. You say, "but what will we tell our daughters?" How about sometimes people don't get their own way. Take it on the chin and keep on going, like women always have. Pick yourself up and march figuratively, not literally, back to your jobs or school. You wanted change - we got change. You want gender fluidity - then don't vote for someone based on gender. Trump said some really crude and obscene things. That doesn't mean you fight back with crude and obscene signs to protest. We all have hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren. Give our new President an opportunity to get to work to perhaps change the things he can. You want your voices heard but you're just making noise. Like fingernails on a chalkboard noise.
This Friend is a real friend - someone I've known for almost a quarter century.  I respect her, and most importantly I like her.  Whether I agree with her or not (I don't) is unimportant, and it doesn't affect how I feel about her.  I'm not going to argue with her, un-Friend her, or demean her perspective in any way.  I'm sure I can find other similar feelings.  My point is that what happened was powerful, but it certainly wasn't universal.

Talking about different perspectives and FB, I made a recent statement there that I wasn't planning to use that forum to talk about a number of things.  As will explained in an upcoming Podcast episode, I perceive FB to server a purpose, but at the end of the day it's more toxic than beneficial.

One of the items I mentioned was the recent decision by President Obama to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning.  I had a couple of people write to me to ask my opinion in private.  I'll share what I wrote in response.
You asked about my thoughts on Chelsea Manning....I think it was a mistake to commute her sentence, for a number of reasons.  First, I believe one of the reasons she was pardoned was specifically because she's trans.  I don't think it would have happened otherwise.  If we're truly asking for equal rights, not "special" rights, then this violates that end.  Second, what she did was treason.  I've done top secret DoD work and I'm well aware of the oath that is taken to know what people in those roles come to know.  To make a decision that secret information should be public information isn't up to her, and she put the lives of people she'll never know at risk.  Third, I find it troublesome how so many in the Trans community are so quick to celebrate her and they have absolutely no clue as to what she's done.  All they know is that she's trans and they're trans so they support her for that reason alone.  It doesn't work like that.  And lastly, I fear that the community will look to her as a leadership voice.  The community is starved for one - Caitlyn Jenner did not turn out to be that person for many.  But hers is a tainted legacy and if she's smart she'll lay low.  But I doubt that will happen, and it will reflect negatively on many of us.  Criminals, mentally ill, perverts, narcissists ....  The parade continues.  Not good.  
 So there.  That's how I feel.   I suppose time will tell.....

And lastly this morning, I feel like I might be coming down with a cold or something.  I can't even remember the last time I was ill, as in sort throat/stuffy nose/no energy/fever ill.  It's been years.  But I have the beginnings of it and I'm rushing to try to quash it before it gets going.  Between all the travel I've been doing, the hectic schedule, and the many people I know who are ALREADY sick it's a wonder I've been as healthy as I have.

I've got a guest arriving later in the week so I want to take care of it by then.  In the meantime, I've got some work stuff, some cleaning, preparing, nesting....and take care of today.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Just another Day

So,  yesterday was Inauguration Day 2017.  Here in this country, whether any of us likes it or not, our Commander in Chief is President Donald J Trump.  As I say - whether we like it or not that's just the way it is.

I've given up worrying about what that can or will mean.  As those who know me have come to realize, I'm not a worrier anyway.  But social media seems intent on whipping itself into a frenzy about things and this particular situation is at the top of that list.  Just go onto your Wall (or, that's what they used to call it) and write a strong statement either supporting/denouncing either Trump or Obama and see what happens.  It's not healthy.

I had dinner with a friend last night who enjoys stirring the pot and posts stuff like that just to see what it causes.  He's fairly unique in that he surrounds himself by people of diverse thought so no matter what he says someone will disagree.  Most of my friends have made a post in the vein of "If you'e done so-and-so then unfriend me now!"

In my FB world, I've got a few rules.  First and foremost - be respectful.  If you're an a$$hole, I don't want you trolling around my world.  Other than that, tho, I find it hard to espouse respect and diversity but then shut down those who feel differently than you do.  I suppose it's one of the many flavors of hypocricy we all see in our day to day worlds.

For me - I can censor what I allow into my world but I can't censor the world itself.  Whether or not I watched any of the inauguration events yesterday (I didn't) or not, it doesn't change the fact that it has happened.  I've said before that one of my strengths is that I'm incredibly focused on things once I've set my sights on them, and that can be both a blessing and a curse.

One of the reasons it works for me is that I'm good at filtering out what I perceive to be "noise".  Currently, there's lots and lots of noise.  Many people wade into it full throttle, feeling that it's important to thrash at everything that makes them angry.  These people are typically well intentioned, but they'll eventually drown in their own darkness or die trying.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not criticizing people's passion.  I'm just saying my own approach is much more strategic.  That's not by design, it's just the way I'm built.  That's how I'm able to stay calm when others are whipped into a froth.  I can certainly get frothy myself, but the triggers to get there are few and far between.  If you find one, tho, watch out.

Betrayal is one.  I get frothy over my perceptions on betrayal.  A few of my closest friends have done it.  HRC did it.  And I've reacted very strongly.  Thankfully it doesn't happen very often...either because I've become more guarded in who/what I'll allow to betray me or because I've simply grown wiser over the years.  Regardless, the point is that I'll focus on things that I can focus on and I won't paint anyone or anything with a single brush.  Again - hypocracy rules the day more often than not.

Today is a Saturday.  I woke up in my own bed, made my coffee, took my dogs for a walk, published our most recent episode of our podcast (link here), and I've got a pretty full day planned.  Although in the big picture the world may have changed between last Saturday and this one I'm not out marching, I'm not yelling, I'm not even outraged.  I take it for what it is, and I'll do what I have to do.

My work is fascinating.  As I think I mentioned I manage all the engagements coming into our Enterprise Network Services group from anyone outside a data center.  My engagements range from the mundane (opening a port so a postage machine can download postage) to the large (we're moving all our gates at the Athens airport) to the huge (we just started brand new service into Havana) and everything in between.  I don't actually do any of the work...I just manage it and at the end of the day I'm the person who gets blamed for any number of perceived transgressions.  I've got a large team of engineers around the world to do this work so I coordinate it...I'm the central point of contact.

I doubt that there are many jobs like mine.  Anywhere.  I mean, I realize that there are similar positions at networking or shared service groups in any large company but the thing that makes it really interesting to me is the airline angle.  Working with airport authorities around the world, especially given that we fly almost everywhere, involves an additional layer of complexity that I seem to enjoy.  One of the reasons I'm effective in this role is that same thing I said earlier - I'm very focused and I filter noise well.  Things can get pretty hairy sometimes and engineers sometimes need a calming buffer to do what they do.  I am that buffer.

This is my last "calm" weekend for a while.  Next weekend I head to Dallas.  The week after that I've got a good friend coming as my guest for several days.  When she leaves another arrives.  Then I've got to go back to Dallas for several days, and a side-trip to Austin.  I'm also hoping to fit a brief visit home to Charleston into the mix as well.  So - I'll enjoy this quiet while I can.

I was at dinner with a friend and a friend of hers earlier this week and mentioned the word "dilating". My friend's friend took offense at the word, saying that she felt it "objectified" us and was inappropriate to even mention.  I have to admit to being taken aback by her sensitivity, especially given that I have no idea what she's talking about.  I've grown very comfortable in my body and don't know why that word should provoke that response.  I respect it - I just don't "get" it.

In a completely separate conversation, without any connection whatsoever, another trans woman at lunch today referred to the "D" word.  I had no idea what the "D" word was so I had to ponder it for a moment.  Then it hit me.  As aI say - I'm not sure why it should be such a sensitive subject.  Good thing I didn't bring up M and O - Masturbation and Orgasms.  Things could have gotten REALLY uncomfortable.

Anyway, it brings up a couple of funny stories.  One year I was coming to visit my son here in PHX and I had my dilators in my luggage.  He must have been 16 or so at the time.  He saw one of them and said, "That's a dildo!"  I said (a) no, it's not a dildo and (b) how the heck do you what a dildo is anyways?!  I know I didn't teach him that word.  Our kids grow up so fast.

Another time I was traveling and had one in my carry on baggage.  In the x-ray machine I think it probably looks like a large bullet so the TSA lady pulled me aside for some extra screening.  She found it and took it out...I told her what it was - without any shame or discomfort at all - and that was that.  Afterwards I reflected that if she stopped to consider where it had been she'd be extra glad she was wearing gloves.

Anyway - I digress.  It's time to get this day going.  Onwards!

Monday, January 16, 2017

More than Symbolic

I'm spending a rare weekend at home.  I spent part of this weekend simply "nesting".  Catching up.  Getting things done around the house that I've wanted to do for a while but haven't had time to do.

For example, I finally opened some things I bought myself for Christmas.  I've lived in this house I'm renting for a year now and I unpacked some things and re-arranged some things.  And, of course, I watched some football.  I love this time of year for a fan  of the sport I live for games like yesterday's Cowboys/Packers game, or last week's Clemson/Alabama game.  Just amazing.

One thing I did - an it's not trivial - is to set up my drum kit.

Why is this not trivial?  Because it's more than symbolic for me.  For years I've lived in places where a drum kit would be a no-no.  One year I was living in a town-house in Mesa and I set them up just because I could.  I was tuning them...not playing them, but tuning them....for a half hour one Saturday afternoon when someone knocked on the door complaining about the "noise".  Drums inherently involve "noise".

I'm living in a house where (a) I have the space and (b) I have the freedom to make some noise.  So - after several years of NOT having them....I've set them up.  My bedroom looks like a cross between a recording studio with a bed in it but I'm ok with that.  Simply having them there means something.  Now I need to re-learn how to play them again.....

Brynn Tannehill recently published a list on Bilerico titled "The top 50 successful transgender Americans you should know" (link here).  It made me smile.  It reminds me of Lynn Conway's Transsexual Successes page (link here) from my generation.  That page, and what it represented, was a big big deal for many of us struggling to envision a life that was just.....a life.  Not a transgender life.  Not a life focused on "being" transgender, or on having to justify it.  Just....a well-balanced, multi-faceted, well-lived life....with a career, relationships,  interests, and everything else that comes with it.  I tend to shrug off lists as many of them come from people who don't have a clue.  But I applaud what Brynn has done with this.
This list is not comprehensive, and there are literally hundreds more we did not list. The careers represented are deliberately eclectic, as are their genders, ages, races, and are intended to show the diversity of the community.
Transgender people can accomplish great and admirable things as out and proud individuals. They should be role models not only for queer youth, but for anyone. 
Of course - it's like publishing a "hit list" for anyone looking to attack the community as a whole, but that's always the risk of being visible.   But to Brynn's point - it demonstrates the diversity of our community.  Finding that myself with the rudimentary tools available 15 or more years ago was a key component in my own journey.

Speaking about components of the journey, another thing from that time that helped were the annual documentaries that traditionally appeared around ratings week featuring transpeople.  They were usually cliche, formulaic, things but that didn't stop me from watching.  At the time, that's all we had.  I've actually been in a few of them because I think they served a purpose at the time.

Nowadays we're everywhere.  I avoid "Reality TV" and have said before the I won't watch shows like Caitlyn Jenner's or Jazz's.  I just won't.  Documentaries as we knew them are few and far between these days and I'm not so sure that's a good thing.  Regardless, it's the way of our world.

The reason I mention any of this is that a documentary titled "Gender Revolution", produced by National Geographic, will be broadcast in early February.  It supports the theme of their controversial current cover story featuring a spectrum of trans kids, and kids who demonstrate that gender isn't as simple as the binary.  Rather than provide any more detail I'll simply provide a link to Andrea James' blog - she's involved so I'm confident it's well done (link here).

Oh - and to provide a resource where List meets Documentary there's a recent HBO production titled "The Trans List"  (link here).  I have no comments on it because I haven't seen it.  I'd be interested to hear from those who have - what'd you think?

This is a big week in our nation's history.  Whether anyone likes it or not it's the last week for our current President and the swearing in of our next one.  8 years ago I was invited to attend the inauguration and I'll never forget it.  This week - I'll be as far from it as I can get.  I've considered leaving the country.  I'll avoid TV and news at all costs.  I suppose that sounds immature - like a young child closing their eyes and plugging their ears in hopes that they can escape something that's happening that they don't want to happen - but I don't care.  I can't control anything that happens there - all I can control is how I react to it and how I allow it to affect me.  I realize that there are people who may read this that are happy about what's happening and I respect that.  I'm not.

One of the things I'm proudest about from this past year was starting a podcast (link here).  I bought the equipment needed over a decade ago but the stars never aligned that were needed to transform it from vision to reality.  My college degree is in Radio/Television/Film and although that my career took a different direction I've always loved this stuff.

This year I met someone who could help to finally make it happen.  Her name is Diana, and I met her thru our electrologist....the always wonderful Maria.  She's a broadcaster, but more than that we "blend" well.  Starting this podcast was a highlight of my year.

Anyway - the sun is up and it's time to take the pups for a walk.  More than that, it's time to get on with the day.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My New Normal

I've been in Dallas all week.  My mom half-joked that airplanes are like taxi's for people who work for the airlines and that's almost true.  My commute is either 30 minutes between where I live and the data center where I work, or 2 hrs between Phoenix and Dallas where the balance of my team is located.

I realize I've complained about my commutes before but this is different.  I've got no complaints.  It's a balance and I actually enjoy both worlds.  I Phoenix I get, well..."home".  In Dallas I've got mom.

When I was hired last January I was a project manager for a large effort to replace out-of-date network gear at our two largest data centers...routers, switches, and such.  It was a big effort...well over a million dollars....and very visible.  The routers we were replacing affect every aspect our our business.

Part of the fun of this last year is learning about how airlines work, and all the behind-the-scenes stuff most people will never see or ever even consider.  The thing that connects it all is the network.  From our website, to ticketing, to the kiosks at every airport we service around the world, to the routing of the baggage, to the tools the gate agents's all connected by the network.  But there's so much more.

There's an app that has pictures of each pilot and a gate agent needs to verify the pilot's identify before they are allowed in the cockpit.  All our maintenance records, manuals, fueling, scheduling, crew management, catering....I could go on and on.  It's all connected by a network.  And the devices we were replacing are the devices that connect it all.  So, when we touch one it requires quite a bit of communication, planning, coordination.  And guts.  Managing these replacements is not for the timid.

That was my job for the first 10 months at AA.  I had a team of engineers, a boatload of new equipment, and an aggressive schedule.  My weeks were comprised of days full of planning, long long nights of actually doing these changes, and lots of other stuff stuck in between.  I've never been part of anything like it before and at the outset the fact I'd be working late night hours in addition to the daytime requirements was a concern.  But once I got into the rhythm it was just the way it was.  It all clicked.

I managed these change calls where we'd have a dozen or more people involved.  As the engineers were unplugging the devices and moving the configs to the new devices the Help Desk could chime in at any minute indicating that Athens was reporting printing problems, or Tokyo couldn't print boarding passes and was doing them by hand, or that some other issue somewhere in the world was affecting our service.  It's really amazing to realize what even one of those cables among rows and rows of them can impact.

Once I got comfortable in it I could handle the change, manage the impacts, coordinate the various teams that would take part in the call, and then communicate the outcomes effectively. I like "different" - that's one of the things I enjoyed about consulting - and this was unlike anything I've ever done.  In some ways, it was a perfect job for me.

American Airlines as it exists today is the result of many airlines getting combined over the years.  Airlines from the past - Piedmont, Allegheny, US West, and dozens of others - are now part of AA.  The reason that's important in my world is that 3 or 4 years ago American Airlines (based out of DFW) bought US Airways (based here in PHX) to form what we proudly claim as "The World's Largest Airline".  As part of that merger several parts of US Airways based here stayed here - including the data center.

Most of the people here are here to support that in one way or another.  But our management hub is in Dallas.  That was another good thing....I was  PM hired to work with an engineering team based in PHX but my management was in DFW.  I didn't have anyone breathing down my throat, and I had the flexibility I needed to do what needed to be done.  As I say - in some ways it was perfect for me.

I was 8 months into it when I was approached by an engineering manager about my interest in becoming a full-time employee for AA.  I had expressed that interest to my own manager early in our relationship but he was non-committal, saying that it would be easier to do if I lived in Dallas.  But I didn't live in Dallas and wasn't planning to move again.  So, when I got the call to gauge my interest I was open to the conversation.

The role I was approached to do was different than anything I had done before, too.  The title is "Manager of Remote Network Engagements".  What it means is that our IT networking is divided in two ways: (1) Data Centers - there are 4 of them and (2) anything NOT a data center.  That includes every airport, maintenance facility, Admiral's Club, reservation center, and all sorts of other miscellaneous locations around the world.  There are well over 400 of them.

In this current role any time any of these groups needs anything done that involves a networking component they need to go through my group.  The things we're asked to do range from bringing up service in a new airport we haven't served before (for example, Havana Cuba) to moving/adding gates in an airport to expanding an Admiral's Club to expanding capacity...the list of things we do is a long one. I am responsible for all of them - from the intake, to assigning an engineer, to managing the engagement.  I'm responsible for maintaining our relationships with our biggest internal customers as well as external ones, I'm responsible for status reporting from a portfolio perspective.  I'm part of the management team that includes a Sr. Manager, a Team Lead, and a Sr. Architect.  And, perhaps most importantly, I thing I'm perfect for it.

They "officially" hired me in late September and it took a few weeks to transition my old role and into my new one.  This is the first job-job I've had since I left Dell in 2004, and I'm planning to spend the rest of my career here.

One day is rarely like another.  There's lots going on.  I get to use a variety of skills I've built over the years. The travel benefits are great.  The people are great.  And that's not to say there aren't some frustrations in there, too, but I'm in this for the long haul.  I'm committed, and this has become my new "normal".

More later.