Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dance With the Road

It was another wonderful weekend.

The weather was amazing, wonderful, incredible....in a word, perfect.  It was sunny, highs were slightly north of 90 degrees, and you couldn't ask for a better late summer day.  The kids in South Carolina start school again today so it was a last gasp of summer for many of them.

We spent part of Saturday on the water, pulling the kids on a big inner tube.  They talked me into trying it, as well, and I'm relieved to say that I held on for dear life.  I'm still held together pretty well and far from fragile but this can be a pretty bumpy ride.

And, yesterday was all about the bike.  We decided to go for a road trip down the coast to Beaufort but at the last minute ended up diverting to Edisto Island.  Neither of us had ever been there and we thought it would be a prettier ride.  It was wonderful.

Yesterday's motorcycle adventure to Edisto Island - 160 miles RT

One of the cool things about South Carolina is that everywhere you go is (a) filled with history and (b) very photogenic.  It's easy to stop just about anywhere and there'd be pictures to take (example here).




Anyway - It was a beautiful ride on a beautiful day.

Every time I ride it just gets better and better.  As we were navigating Hwy 174 yesterday it became apparent to me that riding a motorcycle is like dancing.  When I'm traveling on a highway in the car I'm typically 5 mph or more above the speed limit at any given time.  It's all about getting there.

But on the bike, I'm typically 5 mph below the speed limit.  When the road curves you lean into it.  When it's time to slow down you downshift, or pull the clutch to slow the bike.  It's a very active interaction between rider, bike, road, other traffic, and environment that I find intoxicating.  Plus, there's a unique sense of "community" among bikers, whether it's a simple two-finger acknowledgment as you pass one another on the road or chatting at a stop somewhere.  The simple fact that you're both on a motorcycle is enough to forge a bond.

Lunch on the Edisto Island

Maybe it's because it's still all so new, but I really wish I had found this 15 or 20 years ago.  Regardless, I've found it now.  As with many aspects of my life - better late than never.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Amazed

I haven't had any "official" responsibilities outside of work in a while.  It has been nice to have most of my free time to myself.  There was a time when I had very little of it - between HRC, GLAAD, other organizations, other commitments....it was like having several full-time jobs.  I'm still enjoying having my free-time to myself.

I went to Cleveland over the weekend - up on Saturday and back on Sunday.  It's a 530  mile drive from Charlotte - across Virginia, West Virginia, and into Ohio.  Honestly, those kinds of drives are almost "casual" - anything I can do in 8 hours or less really isn't much of a trip.  The drive was uneventful, the scenery was nice, I'm in good spirits - all things considered it was very pleasant.

The reason I went was to accept an Award for being inducted into the Gay Games Hall of Merit at a pre-opening-ceremony reception.  Everything went smoothly, and I had a good time.  It was nice to see some of the wrestlers from San Francisco who I first met when I attended a Memorial Day Camp/Tournament there in 2006.

Golden Gate Wrestling Club - May 2006
Both of the guys next to me in this photo were in Cleveland.  So was the only other girl in the photo.  I didn't stay to compete (for a number of reasons), but it was nice to reconnect with everyone.

I made a bunch of travel arrangements last week.  I'll be flying home to Rochester for Mom's Birthday Aug 26-31, I'll be in Atlanta at SCC the following weekend, I'll be in Washington DC for an event at the end of the month, and I'm flying to Denver to see my son and attend a Buffalo Bills game there in early December.  I also expect to be doing a trip to Epcot next month, and would love to get to Annapolis for the Boat Show in October.  We'll see how it goes.

The news on everyone's mind at the moment is the tragic suicide of Robin Williams.  Topics for discussion on FB these days seem confined to suicide or death, and although sadness seems to be a consistent theme thoughts on those two subjects - death and suicide - seem mixed.

I think about death more these days.  As I get older and see more and more people who die at an age at or near mine it becomes more of a reality.  I've said before and I very much believe that a significant portion of life involves preparing for death.  Whether it be accepting tenets of one's faith as they relate to death and beyond, recognition that life is finite so making the most of our time here, or any number of other very profound realities - it's something we'll all face sooner or later.

My mom's 85th birthday looms on the horizon - at the end of the month, to be specific.  We'll all be gathering in Rochester, NY.  This year will involve a bigger than usual celebration.  We've got relatives, friends and neighbors that we haven't seen for 30 or more years coming.  My sister has arranged a get-together at the local sailing club on Saturday.  I'm actually very much looking forward to it.  But there's very much a recognition that we need to enjoy these times while we can.

As life goes on I feel more and more pressure to do some of the things at the top of my bucket list.  The item at the top of that list is to visit Europe.  I've never been there.

Anyway - I don't mean to make this morose so I'll change topics....

As anyone who has been here for very long knows I mark significant annual dates as landmarks.  Perhaps no date is more significant than the day I had SRS - August 10, 2000.  That anniversary recently passed with little or no fanfare.  It's very much a non-thing these days.

Ironically, when I think of that week I think of three things.  I think of the unpleasant "prep" the night before.  I think of my mom and sister being there.  And, I think of what it was like to finally get out of bed to take a shower after the bandages had been removed.  It was gone.  Finally.  Although many years have passed the amazement I felt at that moment has never faded.  It still amazes me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Time Capsule

The final phase in the effort to move the rest of my "stuff" across country from Arizona to here is underway.  I'm unpacking boxes and putting stuff away.

I'm actually of two minds about this.  One of my minds realizes that I'm halfway through my lease so the possibility that I'll just have to pack it all back up again in a few months is very real.  The other mind wants to make my apartment as homey as I can, and is actually enjoying re-discovering everything I've been living without these past few years.

Case in point - today I'm wearing a top that was recently unpacked.  It's pretty, and thankfully it still fits. It's like having new clothes!  In fact - one of my co-workers already asked if it was new.

I don't like to think of myself as a hoarder, but at the same time I collect things I realize I'll probably never look at again.  Ever.  For example, I've got newspapers from during all the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl games, covering all the hype leading up to the game as well as the game itself.  They're in 2 mildly heavy boxes.  Why keep them?  I dunno - I just want to.

I know some who would rather forget their past.  I am not one of those.  My past is part of who I am.  Parts of my past brought me a significant amount of happiness.  They were part of who I was, and I suppose in some way I don't want to loose that.  I suppose it took me a long time to realize that I don't have to give it up.  Anyway - that's not an excuse for hoarding.  It's just something about me.

This was a bit of an odd weekend.  A typical weekend these days involves driving to Charleston on Friday after work, then back to Charlotte at dinnertime on Sunday or very early Monday.  Due to some schedule things and some pretty crummy weather in Charleston yesterday I was back in Charlotte by noon.  That gave a half a day here that I don't usually get.  It felt "odd", and I think it's going to throw my whole week off kilter.

I certainly had no problem filling the time.  I did some stuff with the dogs, I spent a little time doing some things outside, I washed all my bed linens, and of course there's the unpacking thing.  My apartment looks significantly smaller now with all this new old "stuff" in it.

I suppose I've got a pretty good life right now.  My career is going well - I'm being well paid and I seem to be fitting in well here.  I'm surrounded by my creature comforts.  Although I'm not in Charleston full-time I'm close by and get home on a regular basis.  My health seems to be good.  My head and my heart are happy.  I suppose I should enjoy this quiet time while I can.  But, to be honest, I'm restless.

I'm not sure why.  I just am.  I suspect I'll have more to say about that once I figure it out.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Green

I cancelled my car insurance policy today.  I have switched companies.

Under most circumstances I wouldn't mention this.  The thing that makes this special is that I've been with this company since 1980....almost 35 years.  That's a long time by any measure.

It's not that they necessarily did anything wrong.  I've got a few nits to pick with them but in the scheme of thing I haven't felt the need to go shopping for another company.  In all honesty, my insurance company has been the most consistent element of my entire adult life (odd to say that, but it's true).  Ya know what changed things?  The motorcycle.....

This company doesn't offer motorcycle insurance.  They use a 3rd party to quote rates but the rates are high compared to others.  And, it only makes sense to bundle to get the best rates.  So, because of the motorcycle I got coverage thru another company and switched the rest of my policies over as well.

When I called today to cancel the policy I spoke to someone who was 1 year old in 1980.  She apologized that the company couldn't serve my needs and invited me back if I find I'm not satisfied elsewhere.  But what's done is done.  And this is done.

I also went to the doctor today.  Under normal circumstances that's not big news, either.  The thing that made today's appointment unique was that I had decided that I needed a local doctor in Charlotte since that's where I spend most of my time so I needed to go thru the whole new-patient intake thing.  Ugh.

I did some research before picking this guy.  I've been turned down by doctors before....flat out refused because they're not comfortable working with people with my "diagnosis".  The key is finding someone who is going to be ok and who might even have experience working with our unique physiologies (for example, he was astute to ask if I still have a prostate or not).  Anyway, he wasn't phased, everything went smoothly, and I'm glad I've got someone locally just in case I get sick.

The highlight of the weekend was a loooonnnnnggg bike ride yesterday.  It was 98 degrees out but on the bike it felt comfortable.  We did a huge circle thru the National Forest and around near downtown.  Every time we go out I get more and more comfortable, and it just makes me want to go out and do it more.

The big circle route....

We stopped for something to eat and drink, but all told we were gone for over 4 hours.  Did I mention how much fun it was?  I had a blast.

One of the beautiful things right now is that everything is so green.  Here's a picture from near the house...


I doubt that this post will do the photo justice, but the version on my phone is bursting with various shades of green.  That's what caught my eye.  I was thinking of my friends suffering through the dry, brown, dog-days of summer in Phoenix.

Change....get comfortable with it.  It will not be denied.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quiet is good

When I set my mind on something....when it "matters"....I rarely let it go.  It's part of my personality that I've developed a love/hate relationship with.  I think part of what makes me effective is that once I've set a goal I'm tenacious, creative, and unyielding to get there.  Transition, wrestling, my career...I can think of a whole laundry list of examples.

In the early days of my transition I tried to explain to my wife that I wasn't sure what the outcome of my transition adventure would be.  After all, that's the purpose of the RLT and all the other "stuff" meant to separate the fantasy from the often difficult, sometimes grim, reality.  But my wife knew how I am, and she was right when she said that once I set my mind on something I don't stop until it happens.

The only reason I mention that today is that I passed my North Carolina Real Estate Licensing exam this week.  I failed it last time (its a very hard test), which was a major downer for me. The reality is that it's not something I "need", per se.  However, I set my sights on it and I was going to make it happen.

As I've already said - It was a very difficult test.  The passing rate of people taking it for the first time is a mere 31%, meaning that nearly 70% fail.  Well - I was one of those 70%.  But I've studied, and I've talked with seasoned realtors about some of the things that I find confusing, and ultimately I've found that knowing South Carolina licensing law and practices was actually a detriment here.  There are some significant differences.

Anyway - without going into too much detail the end result is that I passed.  And I'm happy and relieved about that because I would have taken this thing over and over again until I passed it. At $100 a pop it would have gotten expensive.

I've got my mind wrapped around something else at the moment...something I'm not ready to mention yet.  But, if things follow form, I know where it's going.

Here's a hint....



Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with my dermatologist.  I had a minor "issue" to show him when I saw him a couple of weeks ago and he things I might have a stitch buried from a previous excision.  Anyway, he went in to cut the area out yesterday.  I didn't feel anything after the shots other than a little tugging here and snipping there.  Still, it's surprising how much those kinds of things take out of you.  I was out of sorts for the better part of the afternoon.  Now that the shots have worn off I'm a little uncomfortable, but nothing horrible.

I've got some traveling coming up.  I'll be headed to central Ohio in August to attend the Gay Games in Cleveland.  I'm also scheduled to attend a women's motorcycle group event in Toledo - unfortunately the two overlap.  I'll be in Rochester, NY for a week at the end of the month for my mom's 85th birthday.  At the moment, tho, things are blissfully quiet.  I'm good with that.  Quiet is good.





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.