Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big Big Deal

Every year I make special note of significant milestone dates as they come and go.  One of the most significant is today - July 22.  That's the date, 15 years ago, the I had my FFS with Dr. O.

Every year around this time I call Dr. O's office to catch up with them and see how everything is going.  This year I called and spoke with Dr. O himself.  He said that his last surgery is scheduled for Aug. 15.  He stressed that he is training a protege (thank God!) and expects to be active in both the operating room and the community for several more years to come - he's not going to disappear.  But he is retiring from private practice in less than a month.

He said he'd be at Southern Comfort this year.  To be honest - I wasn't planning to attend.  But now, I expect that I'll probably be there.  My friends Mel and a certain someone will most likely make trek to Atlanta in early September to see him.

The big news in the LGBT world is that the president has signed an Executive Order protecting federal LGBT employees and contractors from workplace discrimination (story here).  This is a significant move for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that the federal government is the largest single employer in the country.

His Order does two things.  First, it adds gender identity to the list of protected classes for federal employees and contractors.  Second, it prohibits discrimination in companies with whom the Federal Government does business.  And perhaps just as importantly - it isn't adding any new religious exemptions.  Needless to say, this is a big deal.

I watched the webcast of the event.  It was nice to see people I've known and worked with there to celebrate this occasion.  I found his comments to be spot on (see text here).

As you'd expect, Fox News isn't happy about this (story here).  I find that, most times, things that Fox News isn't happy about are things that make me happy.

I got a phone call yesterday from Chloe Prince.  She's on a cross-country road trip in a big RV with a production crew as part of a Reality Series that she's doing.  They were in Rochester, NY (my old home town) last week.  Today they'll be in Charlotte, tomorrow in Charleston, and so on.

I'd love to see Chloe - she's a good friend.  But I really have no interest in being part of a reality TV show.  I'm the first to vent that Reality TV is anything but Reality and I'm proud to say that I don't watch anything of that ilk (I don't classify Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in that category).  I've had more than my fair share of media opportunities so I'm happy to relinquish that platform to others.  Anyway - we'll see if we can arrange a time to meet up during her short visit here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The NEW Department

This was another of those wonderful weekends that make getting past the hard things worthwhile.

I got my hair cut and colored - it was much overdue.  That alone is a significant feel-good thing.  I had 2 inches cut off my hair, and it's still probably as long as it has ever been.  And blonder.

I did yard work.  I suppose that only makes sense if I explain that I very much enjoy yard work.  The weather was perfect for it.

But perhaps most significantly, it was a weekend of firsts for my motorcycle and I.

It was wonderful to ride again having been gone these past couple of weekends.  This was my first opportunity to ride since getting my license a couple of weeks ago.

Some of the firsts:

  • My first time on an Interstate Highway
  • My first customization - the new pipes I bought (they sound awesome)
  • My first time crossing some of the larger bridges in the Charleston area.
  • My first time riding in the rain
  • Last but not least, my first time riding as part of a group on an extended excursion

I also learned some important lessons in all of this.  First, I learned to tuck my top into my pants before getting onto a highway.  Duh.  As I was crossing the Don Holt bridge at 60 mph I realized that the wind was blowing up my shirt and exposing what was underneath far more than was appropriate.  I'll leave it at that..   :)

I learned how empowering it is to ride with a group.  We rode with our Women in the Wind friends from Mt. Pleasant up the coast to Murrells Inlet, just south of Myrtle Beach.  It's a 75 mile drive up the coastal highway, and provided a good opportunity to bond with a wonderful group of women.  We had lunch overlooking the water until the storm clouds in the distance made us head back home.

Anyway, it was a blast.  I can't wait to do it again.

In the "New" department, I've got a couple of things to share today....

News came out last week that a number of key organizations were withdrawing their support for ENDA.  The Task Force, the ACLU, and a host of other organizations are concerned over the religious exemptions in light of the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Decision, so they decided to pull their support for the bill as currently written (story here, and story here, statement here).  Is it appropriate to embed discriminatory practices into anti-discrimination legislation to make it more likely to pass?  The idealist in me says "no", but the pragmatist in me isn't quite so quick to make that leap.  Nobody asked my opinion, but in one of those unique life ironies I'd have no difficulty defending HRC's decision to continue supporting ENDA.

In other news, Dr. O's website has been updated to say that he is expecting to retire on 8/29.  I have been expecting this, but now that it's looming I don't know that anyone will really appreciate what he has done for this community until after he's gone.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the rise in visibility of the trans community over the past two decades is directly related to two things.  The first is the internet - it allowed us to find one another, to communicate with one another, to realize that we weren't the only ones who felt like we did.  The second is Dr. O's FFS procedures.

Dr. O represents a unique golden age for the trans community - the likes of which I suspect will never be seen again.  He helped us to develop from an embryo into something far more active and vibrant.  Some may scoff that a single doctor could have that kind of impact but I'm confident in what I say.  Both through his work, his energy, his creativity, his vision, and his generosity - he is singularly responsible for many things that we accept today as simply "normal" but for which he never asked or received credit.

I, as well as dozens (probably hundreds) of others can point directly to his work as the single most life-changing thing in our entire lives.  It was seeing his work, as shared via Andrea James' original website, that provided the glimmer of hope that transition was even a possibility for me.  Today, others are doing FFS.  But it all started with Dr. O.  I will be forever grateful to him and I hope to be able to thank him in person (again) before he leaves.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Over and Done.

I made it.  The GREAT DRIVE 2014 is over and done.

I finished the last 250 miles of the drive yesterday.  By the time I pulled up to my apartment I had driven just over 2100 miles.  I'm glad I had the luxury of finishing this last leg in a more leisurely way - it made for a more enjoyable and less tense end for the trip.  

All things considered I'm none the worse for wear.  The swelling in my foot seems to have gone away.  No aches in joints, or neck, or shoulders.  I've proven to myself that (1) I can still do 1,000+ miles a day without too much difficulty, (2) moving heavy stuff is getting harder as I get older and (3) I hope I don't every need to do this again. 

Of course, there is still work to do.  I need to unpack the truck and return it.  I'll start tackling that this evening....I wasn't in the mood to even think about that after I got home.

Now that I'm home I've got two things on my mind....

First, I need to take and pass the NC Real Estate Exam.  I'll schedule that for late next week, and start studying again....

Second, I'm looking forward to getting home to Charleston and hopping on my motorcycle.  It has been a couple of weeks since I've seen her - last weekend I was taking motorcycle classes and this past weekend I was moving - and I'm like a kid who can't wait to get back to new Christmas gifts.  I wanna ride.

One of the things with Harleys (and, probably, bikes in general) is the urge to customize them to suit your needs (or wants).  The stock Harley exhaust system is nice, but I'm looking for something a little deeper and throatier.  I very much believe that an important element of ensuring that other drivers on the road know you're around is via sound so there's more to it than simply being noisy.

I've already come to know my Harley parts guy, so I talked it over with him.  I told him what I wanted - not something so loud or obnoxious that I wanted to get in trouble with neighbors or drivers but something that provided more of a statement of "I'm here".  Typically, this adjustment involves a new set of slip-on mufflers of various lengths and diameters.

One of the popular brands is Vance and Hines.  My Harley guy said that for me to achieve what I said was the goal he'd forgo the V&H, and recommended some Cobra 3-inch mufflers made specifically for my type of Harley.

I'm planning to put them on this weekend.  I'll let you know how it goes....    :-)

But for now - I'm just getting re-acclimated.  To work, to life AFTER the move.  One of the best parts of having a blog for some significant period of time is to be able to go back and see some history.  I went back to look at my blog entry for when I first put my stuff into that storage unit (May 2011 - Dun Been Moved).  Every time I go back I condense a little more in preparation for this event (Aug. 2012 - Order Out of Chaos).  So now - finally - it's done.  Here's the picture of the storage unit that has been home to my "stuff" now that that story is complete:

Over and Dun.  I am storage unit free for the first time in a long, long, long time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Crunch Time

Last week at this time I commented about how much I wasn't looking forward to the trip to Phoenix to clean out my storage unit and drive back with all my "stuff".

Now that I'm on the tail end of the trip, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm good at these kinds of things.  I suppose that comes from having done similar efforts too many times in the past but regardless, a good end result comes from three things.  (1) planning (2) execution and (3) luck.

I flew to Phoenix late Wednesday.

The always wonderful Maria and Me.
On Thursday I picked up my truck, took care of a number of odds and ends, and spent some time with dear friends that I miss.  I haven't been back to Phoenix in over a year - way too long since we've seen one another.

It was hot.  I suppose that's to be expected but given that I needed to spend a full day packing my truck I knew it would be an issue.

The dust storm rolling in....
What I didn't expect was the dust storm that blew through the area late Thursday.  It was pretty spectacular and made national news (see more here).  We were safe in the house -

My 16' truck....she only had 3,500 miles on her when I started.

The storage unit....thankfully I've downsized quite a bit.
Behind all that stuff is 2 dressers, a sofa, a mattress and box spring,
a large leather recliner chair, two huge book shelves, and various
other furnishings.  I loaded it all myself (with the help of a dolly).

After 6 hot, sweaty hours - the truck is loaded. 

The route....2100 miles worth.

Sunrise over the Sonoran Desert - leaving the Valley....

The road....
I drove 1100 miles from Phoenix to Dallas the first day.  It took 16 hours, and I got to mom's just before 11pm.  Long day.

We had breakfast together yesterday before I left which made for a late start.  I drove 850 miles - stopping just east of Atlanta.  It was a relatively short 12+ hour drive across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

I'll finish the remaining 250 miles a little later today.

The good news is that the truck has been driving well, the weather has been wonderful, the roads have been generally good, and I'm feeling pretty good considering.  When I've done this kind of thing in the past I find myself getting sick shortly afterwards....the body isn't meant to sit still for as long as mine is.  I don't have any aches or pains to speak of yet, which is a good thing.  I do have a swollen left foot and ankle for some reason - not sure how that happened but I'm sure it has something to do with liquid and sitting too long.  If that's the worst of my ailments by the time this is all done I guess I'll be happy.

So that's it for now.  The trip continues.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Prelude

I've had my fair share of moving over the last dozen years or so.....maybe even more than my fair share.

When I was a kid we moved almost every year.  My dad was an academic in a very specialized field so we went from university to university while he worked setting up biophysics departments.  I remember each year based on the university we were at.  6th grade - University of Buffalo.  7th Grade - University of California Santa Barbara.  8th Grade - Michigan State.  9th Grade - back to Buffalo.  And on and on....

I went to 6 different schools over a span of 7 years.  I'm sure that had an effect on me...maybe it taught me to avoid making deep relationships knowing that they'd end.  Not sure - and although looking back on it now sounds bad it's just something you get used to....sorta like being an Army brat, I guess.

When I got married in 1981 one of our goals was to settle down.  We bought a house just outside of Rochester NY and that was home for the next 15 years.  That's where my son was born, that's where my career got going...there are too many "firsts" there to list.  It was wonderful.

But in the early 1990's we were already looking forward to the future.  We had visited the Scottsdale area just before Christmas one year and fell in love with the area.  So, before you knew it we had bought a home there and moved.  It was heaven.

That's when things got hard.  My gender issues were getting more profound and needed attention.  So, I started down that path.  Within 4 years I was divorced, I left the house and everything in it and was confined to a local apartment, and everything that I had known in life was in disarray.

The saving grace was that people I had met in Phoenix helped me overcome those crushing speed bumps and get to the other side.  People like Maria (my electrologist), my neighbors Sally and Ray, and others were instrumental in keeping my spirits up.  Those days helped forge lifelong bonds that I will cherish until my last day.

But the Valley had become tainted.  Memories had become unpleasant.  My wife and son didn't want anything to do with me so it became time to think about new beginnings.  In mid-2000 my brother flew down from Rochester to help me pack up my stuff.  As we drove north out of the city towards Flagstaff I thought I'd never be back.  I was wrong.

Fast forward to the end of 2004.  I had just finished working at Dell in Austin and was looking for whatever came next.  The lure of the Valley brought me back and I regained a foothold.  The bad memories that had tainted my perceptions had dulled and all that was left was my original sense of peace here, and my many friends.

I settled in the Valley again...for 4 years.  It was a wonderful time.  But eventually, it became time to go.  I put my stuff here into storage expecting to return again.

So - here we are.  Again I'm packing to leave.  Again I'm pulling up my roots here.  It is truly bittersweet, but I'm more focused on what needs to be done at this point than wallowing in the emotion of it.  Thankfully I'm pretty good at that.

The flights yesterday were uneventful.  This morning I'm at a friend's house in the East Valley, and the early morning view from her backyard is something I've come to enjoy.  It's peaceful.

The early morning view from here....in the Valley

Today is the prelude.  I'm taking my friend to work so I can use her car.  I'm going to the truck rental place to get that all set.  I'm heading to the storage unit to prepare.  I'm meeting Maria for lunch.  Then - the real meat of the trip starts....

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A different M

Irony is everywhere.

I took my DMV skills assessment yesterday.  If I passed, I'd get my motorcycle license.  If not, well, I'd need to try again under less familiar and comfortable circumstances.

I passed.  Honestly, it was easier than the skills assessment I had to do on Sunday to get my Motorcycle Safety Foundation card.  Under most circumstances I would have been able to do it 90 times out of 100.  But it's the tension of it that makes it more difficult.  I didn't realize how tense I was until after it was over and I had to sign my name.  I was still shaky.

So - back to the irony thing...

Here in South Carolina when you pass your motorcycle test you don't get a motorcycle license.  You get an additional category of vehicle added to your license.  In fact, they do give you a new license but the thing you need is that added endorsement for motorcycles.

One of my classmates and I went straight over to the DMV after passing our tests to get our licenses.  We were still sweaty from the helmets and the 90-degree humid weather so any thought of a flattering photo was pretty much out of the question.  Too bad, too, because I REALLY liked my old license picture.  I've got a newer photo on my learner's permit that's not horrible, but not nearly as nice as the license.

Anyway, the key to this whole thing is to get an "M" added to the license.  The "M" stands for Motorcycle.  I couldn't help but remember how excited I was to get my "M" taken OFF the license almost 15 years ago to the day.  Thankfully - this was a different "M".

Well - they processed the paperwork, took the picture, and I had a brand new license in my hand.  But there was a problem.  No "M".

Helmet Head

I showed it to the lady who took the picture who sent me back to the woman who processed the paperwork who re-did everything.  This time they didn't take a picture - they used one of the others.  I really didn't care...when I walked out of there I had my "M".

On the down-side I took my NC Real Estate Licensing Exam today.  I could miss 10 questions and pass.  I missed 11.  I'll need to do it again....  Sigh.  Perhaps it's a balance thing.  Regardless, I'll take it again mid-month.

Now that I've got those things out of the way my sights are squarely fixed on my upcoming trip to Phoenix.  My flight leaves tomorrow.  Know what I'm going to to on the plane?  Right.  Study.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Crazed Two-Weeks....

I was a Cyclin' fool all weekend long.

I'm taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation  course as offered at the local Harley Davidson dealership as part of their "Rider's Edge" program.  It does 3 things.  First - it teaches good basics and fundamentals in the classroom using a good little booklet, teacher/coaches who lead discussions, and videos.  Second, it teaches riding skills in a controlled setting...starting with pushing the bike and ending with a fairly comprehensive skills assessment test.  And, lastly, it allows students to take the state DMV exam as part of the class so if/when you pass you get your motorcycle rating added to your license.

They're long days.  5:30-8:30 Friday and Monday, and 8am-4pm both Saturday and Sunday.  The good news is that it didn't rain on us either day, although standing out there in the heat and humidity with a long-sleeve shirt (required) and a helmet (also required) can be harder than you'd think.

It was fun, but there was also a serious side.  Two people dropped out of the course the first day - they didn't feel ready.  Another didn't pass the skills assessment.  There are no "do-overs", and the scoring is very strict.  Skills include everything from weaving in and out of cones, emergency stopping, swerving and turning exercises, and the box.

That box - it's a killer.

It's basically a 20' by 40' box drawn on the pavement.  Riders need to enter the box, do a U-Turn/Figure-8, do another U-turn, then leave the box...all without putting a foot down or touching any of the edges (it's like the picture above except that the red line isn't on the pavement - it's just a box).

You need to manage this using the clutch and the brake and it's hard to avoid going too slow.  Putting down a foot is  4-point deduction.  Going out of the box is a 4-point-each-time infraction.  None of us did it cleanly in any of the "practice" runs, and none of us did it cleanly during the test.  Thankfully, most of us did well in the other things and passed.

I need to master this.  I'll be bringing my motorcycle  back and trying it on my own bike as many times as it takes until I can do it.  That's just how I am.

Anyway - I passed the skills assessment.  Today I take the DMV skills test and the written part of the exam.  Thankfully it's a good hair-day (so far, anyway) - just in case they need to take a photo for the driver's license.  Fingers are crossed that they do.

Kudos to our instructors and to the local Harley dealership for doing such a good job with this.  The facilities were great, they provided brand new Harley 500cc bikes for us to use, they provided a good dealership "walk-thru" on Saturday morning - all things considered it was money well spent.

Here are a few shots from the weekend:

Part 1 of my Crazed 2-Weeks...it's still not done but I'm hoping to put it to bed today.

Part 2 is tomorrow.  I'm taking the North Carolina Real Estate Licensing exam.  It's a difficult exam - only 30% of test-takers pass on the first attempt.  I've been studying but these last couple of days have cut into study time.  I'll do the best I can.

Part 3 starts on Wednesday when I fly to Phoenix....3a - get to Phoenix, 3b - pack the truck and 3c drive back across country.  If all goes as planned I'd like to arrive here a week from today....

I'm pretty jazzed right now.  The cycling stuff makes me feel like a kid.  I'm looking forward to seeing friends in Phoenix - I haven't been back in over a year.  And, I'm very very very much looking forward to finally getting all the rest of my "stuff" out of storage and back home.  I've been talking about that here for a couple of years or more - it's finally time to make it happen.  I'm not looking forward to packing it in the summer desert heat, or driving it all back.  But I've done it before so I'll just get it done.

One of the things I'm aware of is that this blog isn't really about being "T" very much anymore.  There was a time when that was the primary focus which isn't surprising given the various things I was doing at the time.  But I believed then and am relieved to see that it's true that each of us pays it forward to some degree before stepping aside for others to add their own energy and passion to the cause.  So, these days, my life is far more about simply living and doing things than about T-ness.  My blog reflects that.

I feel fully engaged.  My relationships are fulfilling.  I'm involved in lots of things that I enjoy.  Something as simple as going to the DMV to get my new drivers license was once a big, big deal.  Now, it's just something that you do.  The appreciation of that isn't lost on me.  

Anyway - lots going on.  Onwards!