Saturday, July 31, 2010

All Here to Do

Tomorrow is the first of August.  It seems like just yesterday that I was writing about the year being half gone.  And now another month has passed.  How does that happen???

Here in Arizona school has already started for some, and is in the process of starting for others.  I grew up in places where school usually started the week after Memorial Day [oops, I mean Labor Day!] in early September but not here.  It starts early, and it ends early so as to avoid the hottest days of summer.  Stores are full of "Back to School" specials and kids buying supplies.  I so remember those days.  I'm glad they're in the past.  But the point is that the beginning of school represents the beginning of fall....

We had quite the monsoon thunderstorm last night.  When I went to bed at midnight most of the noise had moved into the distance but the rain was still coming down very hard.  When it gets like that the temperature often plummets, and the high today was 20 degrees below normal - only 88 degrees,

The story of the case to deny the widow of a fallen firefighter in Wharton, TX continues to get odder.  Among recent revelations:
The case of whether a fallen Wharton firefighter's benefits should go to his transgender widow.  lt just gets exponentially weirder: Frank Mann, the lawyer representing Thomas Araguz's ex-wife, is facing investigation by the State Bar of Texas's disciplinary office for a possible ethics violation related to an e-mail he sent "outing" the widow, Nikki Araguz, during her mayoral campaign.

Mann represented Araguz and her first husband in a 2002 bankruptcy case. Earlier this year, he represented Heather Delgado, Thomas Araguz's ex-wife, in a bitter custody dispute, and is now representing her in a motion to void Nikki's and Thomas' 2008 marriage.

Read entire story here


And here's a story that's been percolating for a week or so that exposes a nightmare for far too many of us - a woman who went to the hospital for treatment and was treated with ridicule and disrespect:
MUNCIE, Ind. — A transgender woman said she was ridiculed by hospital staff and eventually denied treatment when she went to a Muncie emergency room coughing up blood.

Officials at Ball Memorial Hospital said they are investigating Erin Vaught's allegations, which triggered complaints from advocacy groups.

"The irony here is that we spend so much time teaching about transgender issues at Ball State University," said Vivian Benge, president of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance. "And yet there is Ball Memorial Hospital treading a transgender like this. It is so sad."

Read the story here

I made a short video of a recent hike up Squaw Peak and copied it to YouTube.  I'll probably only keep it there for a little while before I delete it so if you want to see it - now's the time:

That particular day - July 18 - was my wedding anniversary.

As I type this the TV is on in the background and Matrix Reloaded is on.  The Oracle is talking to Neo as they sit on a park bench (watch it here, if you want).  I've written before about the profound nature of these movies for me, particularly the first one.  Some get it and some don't and that's fine - I find it fascinating about what connects with any of us and what doesn't.  Anyway, in this particular scene there are three significant quotes that have as much to do with "real life" as anything as anything I typically see.  Here are the lines:
  • "You did't come here to make the choice.  You've already made it.  You've come here to understand WHY you've made it."
  • "We're all here to do what we're all here to do."
  • "We can never see past the choices we don't understand."
Yes.  Yes.  and Yes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Doctor Doctor, give me the news...

I had a doctor's appointment this morning.  Why I made it for 7am I'll never know.  It seemed like a good idea at the time because his office is clear over on the other side of town and getting out of here by 6 means that I'll avoid the worst part of the morning traffic crush.  But still - leaving by 6 means getting up at some time during the 5am hour and that's early.  My body doesn't like that.

One thing I found ironic was that my blood pressure was the lowest I can remember when I haven't actually been a patient in a hospital.  When they take it and you're in a bed it's often pretty low - I think they keep it that way on purpose.  But this morning it was 104/68.  No wonder I was feeling lethargic.  And that's after two cups of coffee, too.

Compare that with a year ago when my BP was 150+ over 95.  I was stress city at the time and it was NOT a good time.  Don't get me wrong - I've got a number of significant stressors in my life at the moment as well.  Apparently, tho, my body is just handling them better.

I don't really want to go into detail about my health - it's generally good I think.  But there are some "quirks"....

As part of our conversation I asked him how his trans program is going.  When I first started seeing him back in 1996 or 1997 there were only two doctors in the Valley that my therapist recommended to me.  He's been working with us for a long time and take an active interest in our progress.  He said today that he's amazed that (a) he's got people in his program who are so much younger than they used to be and (b) that there are so many FTM's. Things are indeed changing.

One of my ongoing efforts is that I've been going through my website page by page rebuilding it.  I'll be getting rid of pieces of it that have outlived their usefulness and tightening things up - it's not as easy as you'd think because there's quite a bit there, some of which is buried and I don't even know if people could still get there even if they wanted.  I can't believe how big it got!

I come across pages like this one and I'll admit that I'm not quite sure what to do with them.  I don't know what relevance they have any more, although I'll admit that it's actually kind of fun to see how things change over the years.  I look at those photos at the top and can't help but smile.  Lower on the page there's a cornucopia of friends in there: Andrea James, Calpernia, Elizabeth, Amanda Simpson, Jenny Boylan, Marci Bowers, Jamison Green, Joanne Herman, Leslie Townsend, some of my HRC buddies (who are no longer there), and others.  I'm usually noting that time seems to go by quickly.  In this case most of that was 4 or more years ago, but it feels like so much more time has passed than that.

Later on I gave myself my estrogen shot.  That's one thing I still hate doing.  It's not that it really hurts all that much because it really doesn't  It's just the entire concept on sticking myself with that long needle that creeps me out.  In fact, something happened today that hasn't happened before.  I can't tell you how much of an effort it takes to muster enough gumption to stab myself in the hip with that monster intra-muscular needle sometimes (that's the sucker in the photo, next to my toothbrush).  It's like punching yourself in the face.  Anyway, today I gave myself my shot, took the darn syringe out, and noticed that there was still a significant amount of estrogen that hadn't been injected.  So, I had to do it a second time!  My a$$ felt like a pin cushion when I was done.  There's all kinds of discussion about injections vs. tabs.  All I know is that there's a difference I can "feel" so I'm willing to go through the hassle of it all.  (I do the tablets, too, but that's a longer discussion).

I went to dinner down by ASU with a friend tonight.  There have been impressive thunderstorms in the area today and it was actually kind of nice to drive on wet roads, smelling the sweet scent of the desert after a warm afternoon downpour.  It was very pleasant....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Here in the Phoenix area we've gotten a little over 4 inches of rain so far this year.  They say that that's almost a full inch more than normal, but truly we really haven't had anything more than a passing evening monsoon in months.  I've got some very ominous clouds passing overhead at the moment and things are windy but I'd be surprised to see anything more than a brief shower from it.  It's more bluster than substance.  That's just the way monsoons work.

A good movie is one the percolates for a few days after you've seen it.  "Inception" did that, but more in a "what the heck did I just see?" kind of way.  It was visually extraordinary, but those of us who go back to see it a second time are mainly doing it just to try to understand what we saw the first time.  Kinda like the Matrix.

"The Kids Are All Right" is one of those movies that stays with you for a while, too, but in a deeper kind of way.  I've been thinking about it today - digesting it, mulling it.  And, I feel like talking about it.

I don't want to give anything away but what I will say is that the trailers make it look light-hearted and funny.  Parts of it are.  But there are also some deeper, painful, emotional aspects that will hit home for some.  Me included.  As I watched this family struggling with the various issues that were percolating I couldn't help but remember back to the turmoil in my own family before things finally ended.

The theater was nearly full which is saying something for the buzz that this indie, limited-release gem is getting (details here).  There was an obviously lesbian couple in front of me in the theater - as soon as the lights went down one gal put her head on the others' shoulder.  It was very cute.

Going to see indie movies is different than going to a mainstream theater.  Even the previews were unique.  One trailer was for "Winter's Bone" which won Best Film at Sundance.  There were others where non-mainstream topics were full of top-shelf names.  Very interesting...

Back to this particular movie.  I've got a few observations to share, or perhaps more accurately I've got some broad topics to discuss that are pertinent to the plot of the movie.

1) Sexuality.  I don't perceive many things in life to be binary and sexuality is no different.  I recognize that there are those who want to draw strict boundaries around straight or gay or bi, but personally I recognize that the connection that crosses the boundary between "friend" and deeper intimacies is more about traits and individuals than it is about body parts.  Sexuality in this particular movie is a bit fluid which may sound odd about a movie featuring a lesbian couple.  But it is that fluidity that is causing a smattering of chatter (which I expect to become louder as more people see it) in the lesbian community - here's a sample.

2) Relationships.  There is no doubt that committed relationships can be/are complicated.  They take work, and it sounds counter-intuitive to recognize that sometimes the longer the relationship the more the "work" involved to keep it going.  I'm a romantic at heart but I'm also a realist.  When someone stops doing their fair share of the "work" one of two things happens - either the other person needs to bear the burden or they need to recognize that it's just done.  That requires communication, and somehow the breakdown in communication here is one of the most painful components of what happens.

There were scenes in this movie that were excruciating for me to watch.  Bad choices.  Short-term fixes that backfire.  Pain.  Betrayal.  Anger.  None of these things were portrayed in the trailer.  But they're all there and they all take a very personal tone.  I remember the crushing pressure of being in my own house when my marriage was dying, when communication came thru tears and yelling and avoidance.  It's difficult to watch things that bring all that back again.  This did.

I realize that it's just a movie.  But sometimes movies have a way of capturing real life better than life itself.  Without giving too much away, I find that the best part of it all is the appreciate the simplest things.  At the end, when one of the characters puts her hand on another character's knee and they hold hands - after everything that has happened that's what it's all about.

3) Family.  The main element here isn't simply the relationship between the two women.  It's the relationship in the entire family.  It's the son feeling the need for a "father figure".  It's the daughter getting ready to move away for college.  It's the complication that this man, the sperm donor, brings into the picture.  It's the fact that this man realizes that he wants to actually be part of this family in a real, tangible way that threatens to actually break the family apart.  And, in the end, it's the way that the family overcomes and endures.

Anyway - as I say it's pretty deep stuff and there's something there for everyone to digest and savor.  Plus, if you believe what you hear, there's already Oscar buzz around the movie.

So - there you go.

As for the situation in Wharton TX where the widow of a fallen firefighter is being challenged that her marriage never happened, the latest twist is that some guy came forward and indicated that Nikki appeared on an episode of Jerry Springer in 1995 (details here), and then twice again after that.  That doesn't have any here or there on what's going to happen but anything associate with Jerry Springer feels icky to me.

Per the article:
Araguz, who was 19 at the time of the incident and received $500 for her appearance on the TV show, called it a mistake.

"Just me being deceptive, appearing at all deceptive, was wrong," she said Tuesday. "It was a big lesson to be honest and upfront."

She said that error does not reflect how she has lived her life since then, insisting she was honest with her first husband of 11 years, whom she later divorced, and made full disclosure about her gender history to Thomas Araguz as well.

"Upfront honesty is the best policy," she said Tuesday. "I never ever did anything like that again. That's not my current character or moral standard."

Araguz said she appeared on four other TV talk shows — two more episodes of Jerry Springer, once on Maury Povich and once on Sally Jessy Raphael — in 1994 and 1995, all focusing on gender issues. Her mother appeared with her on two of the shows.

"I haven't hidden my gender from anybody — hello, I was on five national talk shows. I was not hiding it at all. ... Just because nobody else knew doesn't mean my husband and our close friends did not know."

Other news in the community....

Something that many of us have known for months now is finally becoming public so it's safe to discuss.  Dr. Marci Bowers is planning to move from Trinidad, CO to San Francisco this fall (see article here).  This is the culmination of events that have been ongoing for several years but that's a whole other story.  It looks like Trinidad's claim as the "Sex Change Capital of the World" are numbered.

Here in Arizona we've got bigger news on our plate.  It turns out that a teenage girl who was thought to have been killed in a traffic accident last week is actually still alive and the person that they thought was alive is dead (story here).

Tempe Town Lake, which was actually a dammed segment of a wash, suffered a broken barrier last week which caused the entire "Lake" to empty.  Here are some photos of the Lake - it was absolutely gorgeous.  Now, it's just dry.

People bought million dollar penthouses along the waterfront.  Now? Just a dusty mess...

And, perhaps most significantly - the new Immigration Law (SB1070) is set to go into effect on Thursday.  It's a big, passionate, controversial, topic around here.  The Obama administration sued to prevent it from happening as planned so we'll see what happens between now and then.  As I say - it's a big deal around here....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Delusion Confusion. Or, the Peace of Being.

This picture represents how I feel sometimes.  I'm a yellow smiley face in a blue frown face world.  In other words, I just don't "fit" into the neat little world that others seem to take for "real" sometimes.  Not just in some ways.  In LOTS of ways.  That was quite the revelation, and admittedly took some getting used to.

In the earliest days of my transition I was convinced that it was simply about being a boy or a girl and I knew where I belonged in that equation.  Imagine my surprise at learning that all of this is simply about being.  Period.  The most valuable thing that I've earned through this entire process is Freedom - Freedom to be.  Freedom from boxes and closets and decisions that were made for me and about me by others a long time ago.  It's also the scariest part of all of this sometimes.

I can remember when all I wanted to do was fit in and be just like everyone else.  Time, maturity, life experience, and personality (I suppose) have changed most of those early goals.  I have developed a healthy appreciation that I AM unique.  I AM different.  I don't care what others think.  I am not ashamed of who or what I am.  Most importantly,  I appreciate me.

There are those in the blueface world who would call me delusional for believing that I am not irretrievably defined by the physical body in which my spirit dwells.  I, in turn, feel them to be the delusional crowd by blindly believing otherwise or, even worse, to try to force their simplistic understandings of the complexity of the human condition upon me.

The reason that this is such an important concept right now is what's going on in Wharton, TX.  Nikki was living the quiet, "normal" life that so many of us seem to yearn for.  But here she is - fighting to validate her marriage, her gender, her personhood, and her dignity through no fault of her own.  It's all a mirage sometimes and we don't realize it until it suddenly disappears and we're forced to confront the ignorance of it all.

It seemed obvious to me a long time ago that there were two options.  One was to hide in hopes that nobody "discovered".  But hiding is simply trading one closet for another, and I'm done with closets.  The other is simply to live life without worrying or caring about which boxes you fit into and which ones you don't.  I don't do boxes, either.  Boxes and closets are out (unless, of course, they have shoes or clothes in them).

The Serenity Prayer helped serve as a guide for what needed to happen; for what I needed to do.  And, it does to this day.

Know this.  Those of us who are yellow smiley faces are far outnumbered by the blue frownies of the world.  Indeed, we're rarer than you'd think.  It's nice when we find each other along our life pathways, though.  There is kinship in finding others "like" you.  And, make no mistake - you do have a choice here.

On a less deep topic: I saw a trailer for a current movie that looked appealing more because I liked the the people in it (Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening) than anything I knew about the movie before I started checking.  The movie is "The Kids Are All Right" and apparently it generated quite the buzz at Sundance this year.  Reviews looked great (although I tend to take them with a grain of salt).

That is too funny!

Summer blockbusters be damned.  The movie is the 2nd best movie I've seen this summer (Toy Story 3 is #1). It's only showing at one theater in the entire Phoenix area - the "artsy" theater in Scottsdale.  All I can say is if it's showing anywhere around you I strongly urge you to try to make the time to go.  You won't regret it.  And if you do see it please feel free to send an email or leave a comment to let me know what you think.

A few days ago we talked about "When is it to young to address trans issues?"  There was a newspaper article about a 9-year old transgirl in Tucson over the weekend well worth reading (read it here).

In that same vein, here's the link to a new video produced by TransActive (see it here).

As for me - I spent the day job hunting.  I got stir crazy by late afternoon and ended up at the fitness center.  And tonight I'm enjoying a glass of wine before heading off to bed.  It was actually a pretty chill day for me after a fairly busy weekend.  Chill isn't a word we use here in Phoenix during the summer very often.  But sometimes, it just fits.

* * * * *

Hell is Coming to Breakfast.

Not much to say today.  In fact, I could probably capture it all in 3 words.  Hike.  Nap.  Steak.

I met a friend for breakfast before doing my regular hike up Squaw Peak.  It's a good workout and gets the blood flowing.  And, there's a spot on top where I sit and commune with greater powers, if you know what I mean.

Getting started as late a start as I did put me on the mountain at noontime - it was already 103 by then but the heat isn't all that big a deal for me.  I didn't realize how much it took out of me, though, until I got home and took a shower and lay down for a minute.  Somehow, that minute turned into a 2 hour nap.

I went over to a friend's house for dinner.  She grilled steak.  Double yummy delicious, cooked just perfect (I'm a medium rare kinda person).  I honestly think it was the biggest meal I've had in weeks.  I'm stuffed.

Lately my weight has been exactly where I like it.  I haven't been paying too much attention to it but the combination of lean diet, ongoing exercise, an ongoing tummy "issue", and general summer lifestyle seem to keep me where I want it to be.  As I think I wrote not long ago - I've come to a sense of peace between soul and body.  Finally.

The title of today's entry is a quote from one of my favorite movies, "The Outlaw Josie Wales" (see the particular clip here, if you'd like).  It effectively captures how I feel before all hell is about to break loose, as it does in the movie shortly after those lines are spoken.  It's how I feel about what is happening in Texas with Nikki, the firefighter's widow.  She's on trial there not only to defend the validity of her marriage in the face of hate and greed and bigotry but also having to defend her very personhood before another very public lynch mob.  It's disgusting, infuriating, and disappointing.

Something happened yesterday that hit home for me.  News reports indicated that Kaye Cowher, the wife of ex-Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, died of skin cancer.  She was only 54 years old (details here).  That is way too young.  It's a reminder that each of us runs out of time someday....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Multimedia Cornicopia

I'll start with today's song:

I've been getting quite a bit of email lately from people who seem stuck at that place so many of us know - early in our transition - where it's time to either move forward or get comfortable with where you are. Lord knows it's a terrifying, frustrating, lonely place to be and it's ground covered with a million tears.  But it's a place we all need to get past in life.

Often, the reason we're there is that others tell us who we are (or, just as importantly, who we aren't) and we try our best to be that.  If others could just step into our skin for a short while they might understand better, but they can't so it's easy to become confused and to lose ourselves.

There's a current song that sort of captures my feelings on getting past the point of letting others dictate to us who we are or how to be.

Sara Bareilles - King Of Anything

You've got opinions, man
We're all entitled to 'em
But I never asked.
So let me thank you for your time
And try not to waste any more of mine
And get out of here fast.

I hate to break it to you baby
But I'm not drowning
There's not one here to save....

Who cares if you disagree
You are not me
Who made you king of anything?
So you dare tell me who to be
Who died, and made you the king of anything?

All my life I've tried
to make everybody happy while I
just hurt, and hide
waiting for someone to tell me
it's my turn
to decide.

The bouncy tune can mask the powerful message of the the lyrics.

Good stuff.  She's one person I think I'd like to actually meet.

From time to time I find video blogs that I enjoy following and I found one of a young trans-girl a few weeks ago that struck a chord.  Each of us goes through a number of phases along the way.  The problem is that some of us get stuck and can't get past the harder parts but that's a much longer discussion than I want to have now.  One of the phases is the "F*ck what others think about me" phase.  People don't seem to realize that they become trapped by trying to please others and end up losing themselves in the process.  Here's the video blog post of what happens when you get to that stage:

She's got great facial expressions, and very expressive eyes.  Anyway - no matter how far along you get in life you've got to get past that stage and Jesslyn expresses it so effectively.  She plays a mean guitar, too (video here).

There are a couple of videos on CNN at the moment that I find particularly fascinating.  One is video of a whale jumping out of the water and landing on a sailboat near South Africa.  I saw this particular photo of the incident in recent days and was following questions that it was somehow not "real" and had been Photoshop'd somehow.  But CNN has a video of it actually happening that's pretty cool (see it here).

There's also footage of a pilot ejecting from a fighter just before it crashed at an airshow in Canada.

I'm sorry - but that's just amazing.

I love dogs.  I love animals in general.  There are a couple of videos of a playful dog and a young deer that I really like:

Video #1:


Why can't people be like that??  Actually - they can.  It's just disheartening when they choose NOT to be.

From that, to the latest news in the firefighter's widow "situation" in Houston where the widow's assets have now been frozen. (see the latest here) (and here).

This stuff is just hateful.  I SO wish I could go there....

I hope these people are exposed as the greedy, self-righteous, hateful, bigoted people that they are.  The more they open their mouths the more it becomes apparent why the EX- wife is now an ex.  She's beyond mean and I hope that she gets everything that's coming to her.  When I watch them I'm reminded of the scene in the movie "Million Dollar Baby" where Hillary Swank's character has broken her neck and her ignorant trailer-trash mother comes to have her sign some papers so that she can have all of Hillary's money.

If you've got the stomach for it, check this out, as well (see video).  That caller, "John", is typical of the hateful cowards who think they can hide behind the anonymity of hateful phone messages or emails but who shrink when called to be accountable for their words and deeds.

As I said earlier, getting past the "F*ck what everyone else thinks" stage is critical if you're going to ever be yourself.  And for transgender people, it can be especially difficult.  But I'll tell you this - if there's a choice between hiding for fear of being identified as one of "them" or standing on the front lines and standing up for what's right I'll choose the front lines every time.  As I've mentioned many times before - this is a culture war.  And it's unfortunate that we have to fight for our very personhood simply to live our lives.  But such is the way it is.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Shall Believe

Anyone who has been here for a while knows I'm a sucker for songs.  Lyrics have a direct connection to my psyche, my heart, and my Self.  They can give me goose bumps, make me smile, make me cry, and make me think.  Music is my muse.

I chose a song to share on Facebook last night after I got home from an evening with my ex-wife.  Anyone who has been here for a while also knows the tumultuous nature of that relationship, where love and dedication and commitment that we both expected to last forever were derailed by hurt and anger and betrayal.  I once wrote about it as a true tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, and the one step forward two steps back nature of trying to rebuild some sort of relationship in recent years.  The fact that yesterday was the anniversary of the-point-of-no-return for both of us is more than ironic.

Last night was simple enough.  We had appetizers and wine at her house.  She cooked Tilapia over brown rice, and she had made a special point to buy what she knows I'd love for dessert.  We drank wine, and sat on the back porch of the house we chose together - shortly after an early evening monsoon enjoying the sweet scents that only the wet Sonoran desert can provide.   We looked at photos, talked about old times, talked about our son, and laughed.  And, for a little while, for our second get-together in a row, all was good in the world.

For those who don't have FB, here's the song I shared.  It's by Sheryl Crow, and the lyrics have particular relevance:

I Shall Believe

Come to me now
And lay your hands over me
Even if it's a lie
Say it will be alright
And I shall believe.

Broken in two
And I know you're on to me
That I'll only come home
When I'm so all alone
I do believe

That not everything is gonna be the way you think it ought to be.
Seems like every time I try to make it right it all comes down on me.
Please say honestly you won't give up on me.
And I shall believe.

Good stuff.

The last time we got together she gave me a little pinky ring that she had in her jewelry box.  I wear it pretty much every day.  It's symbolic, in a way, of the way that a number of relationships in my life have truly blossomed in recent months while others have withered.  Relationships are very much ebb and flow, like tides, and the key is enduring the ebb and enjoying the flow while it lasts.  Right now, we're in a flow.  At the same time, relationships change and mature and morph over the course of their lifetimes and one can only hope that the changing nature of the people involved in the relationship keeps up with the changing nature of the relationship itself.  In this case, we're both different people than we were even a year ago so it will be interesting to see how things develop.  In any event - back to my original comment - it was a very pleasant evening...

The reason that any of this matters to anyone but me, my ex, and my son is that many many of us who I'll call "mid-life transitioners" face the same horrific reality that I experienced - being involved in a marriage with someone we love deeply but reaching a point of being unable to be who or what that person expects of us.  I get people writing to me every week about their inability to move forward because of the fear that they'll lose the most important person in their life.  What kind of a choice is that?  There are no easy answers, there is a world of hurt involved, and each of us needs to find our own way.

What is the goal?  Is the goal to keep the marriage alive?  Or, is the goal to find a way to build a friendship?  Sometimes, you take what you can get and I certainly understand the challenges on ALL sides of this conundrum.  I know couples who have stayed married and whose relationship seems to actually become stronger because of transition.  I know couples who remain friends but who recognize that the marriage needs to end.  I know couples who split with acrimony but eventually find that they can be friends on some level.  I know couples where the anger and bitterness and betrayal never heals, where rejection and punishment become the unhealthy agenda.  And, I know couples at all levels in-between.

If I could bottle all the hurt that my own ex-wife and I have experienced it would be enough to drown even the strongest swimmer.  And although there have been times when I've thought we were making progress towards building a friendship something always seems to push us backwards.  I'm hopeful that time is, indeed, a healer here and that we're finally on a path of friendship.  But all I can do is all I can do.  And, as the song says - I Shall Believe.  Just as importantly, though, I'll continue to be cautiously optimistic.

On a less savory note, this situation in Texas where the family of a Texas fire fighter who recently died in the line of duty is trying to prevent his trans wife from getting his death benefits is going to be a big deal.  The FOX station there included some video of an interview with her a dozen years ago:

A statement on the case was issued yesterday:
Statement from the 2nd Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit on the Araguz Case
HOUSTON, Texas (July 22, 2010) - We, the attendees of the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, issue this statement to demonstrate our support for Mrs. Nikki Araguz and to call attention to her plight and that of all transgender people in the state of Texas.
Mrs. Nikki Araguz legally married a man, and her marriage has been recognized under the laws of the state of Texas.  Nikki's husband, a fireman in Wharton County, tragically was killed in the line of duty, and now other parties are attempting to use the courts to have her marriage legally overturned in an effort to deny her inheritance and insurance.
These parties are claiming that Nikki is not legally a woman under Texas law.  Nikki's opponents are attempting to use an obscure Texas case, Littleton v. Prange (1999), to declare that her marriage should be invalid.  The Littleton case says that a person's gender is determined by chromosomes, not physical attributes.  The Littleton case was decided to deny a transgender woman her right to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband - even though Littleton had legally changed her gender and had been legally married in Texas.
The Littleton case was wrongfully decided at the time, and if taken literally stands for the proposition that a transgender person cannot marry anyone, of either gender, under Texas law.  Clearly, this is wrong.  Denying anyone the right to marry whom they love is a violation of the most basic freedoms under our laws.  To deny the validity of an existing, legal marriage, after one of the spouses has died, as justification for the redistribution of inheritance and insurance, is abhorrent to the values of common decency, fair play, and justice that most Texans hold dear.
We, the attendees of this Summit, extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Araguz, and call for the swift dismissal of this lawsuit so that Mrs. Araguz may be left to mourn her loss in private without distraction or worry for her financial stability.
If necessary, we also call for the courts to consider the Littleton case superseded by the recent changes to the Texas Family Code that recognize a court ordered gender change as definitive proof of identity.
Sadly, discrimination against people because of either their gender identity or expression is common.  There are few laws in the state of Texas to address this need.  The purpose of our Summit is to find ways to help people confront and overcome the issues now facing all transgender people in Texas and, tragically, Mrs. Nikki Araguz.

A legal defense fund has been established.  Here is the information:
Firefighter's TG Widow attacked as "same-sex" marriage

This is your opportunity to shape history and push forward equality for not only transgender Texans, but also for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans everywhere.  Nikki Araguz needs your help.

Mrs. Nikki Araguz is the widow of a Wharton Co. fire fighter killed in the line of duty.  In a compound tragedy, Mrs. Araguz’s in-laws are attempting to void her marriage, claiming that she is a transsexual woman and as such her marriage is unlawful and only they should inherit Mr. Araguz’s estate or benefit from his insurance and pension.

This will be a landmark case.  We face a long legal battle which will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court and will define future law on transgender recognition and same-sex marriage.  If we are going to win and protect Nikki from the deplorable actions of her in-laws we will need the funds to stage a first rate legal defense.

This is a rare opportunity for each of us to influence the arc of history by donating to the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund.  Every $1000 donation received puts us one step closer to justice for Nikki.  Individual contributions at any level are appreciated, even those as little as five dollars.  We also encourage you to use your influence to persuade capable people, organizations, and foundations to contribute at higher levels.

Mrs. Araguz is represented by Phyllis Randolph Frye, a longtime supporter and member of the Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) and a transgender pioneer in her own right.  You may drop off or send contributions to the TFA at:

Transgender Foundation of America
604 Pacific
Houston, TX 77006

Make checks payable to Transgender Foundation of America.  Please make sure to note that the payment is for the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund.

Credit card contributions can be made using the following link:

This stuff makes me crazy.....

I mentioned that there was a meeting last weekend of local, regional, and state Trans Advocacy Organizations.  They issued a Press Release announcing the formation of a new organization:

Formation of National Organization to Link State and Local Transgender Advocacy Groups is Announced


 July 23, 2010 (Boston, MA)
A group of state and local transgender leaders are pleased to announce the formation of the Trans Advocacy Network. The Trans Advocacy Network held their first meeting in Memphis, Tennessee on July 10, 2010 with the purpose of defining their mission and goals for the upcoming year. Their mission statement is as follows:

"The Trans Advocacy Network is an alliance of transgender organizations that work at the state and local level, coming together to build a stronger trans movement by facilitating the sharing of resources, best practices, and organizing strategies."

The Trans Advocacy Network will serve local and state level trans advocacy groups that are both established and newly forming as well as support groups, college-based groups, and other organizations that are doing advocacy and policy work for transgender rights and protections. The Trans Advocacy Network will assist these groups by sharing policy, training materials, resources, tools, and best advocacy practices. It hopes to foster leadership development, sustainability, and to make the movement for trans rights stronger and more effective.

The Trans Advocacy Network will operate with a steering committee made up of leaders from state and local trans organizations from across the country. There will be a limited number of spaces on the steering committee for advisers from national organizations.

Plans for the first year of the Trans Advocacy Network include expanding the steering committee to include people who are not yet well-represented, connecting more state and local trans advocacy groups across the country, creating guiding principles, starting a list serve that all trans advocacy organizations will have access to, outreaching to other groups by region, creating a more cohesive communication network, creating a organizational survey to understand the needs, resources, and get a realistic view of where trans community organizations are across the country, and holding conference calls and webinars to share best practices and strategies.

The Trans Advocacy Network Steering Committee currently includes Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center, Marisa Richmond of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Lisa Scheps of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, Sadie-Ryanne Baker of the DC Trans Coalition, and Shane Morgan of TransOhio. Advisors to the Steering Committee include Lisa Mottet of the Transgender Civil Rights Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Jaan Williams of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The steering committee is interested in additional members who represent predominantly people of color trans organizations and low-income trans organizations.

Contact Gunner Scott for more information or how to become involved at 

People are always looking for ways to get involved.  This is something well worth checking out.

Lastly for today, I'll be in Ohio in a couple of weeks to participate in the TransOhio Transgender & Ally Symposium (details here).  It looks like quite the impressive line-up of topics and presenters.  As I've mentioned in the past, the growth of some of these regional efforts is amazing.  I'm looking forward to this!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

11 yrs. And counting.

I'm feeling sort of nostalgic tonight.  I was looking back at some of my FFS photos (here's my FFS page).  Today is the 11th anniversary of my pre-op appointment with Dr. O, and tomorrow is the anniversary of my FFS.

People underestimate what these procedures are.  There is an admittedly physical component to it.  But I found the deeper changes that come with finally seeing your true self in the mirror for the first time to be far more profound, and enduring.  Those days set the tone for everything that has come after - good and bad, up and down.

I have been in a particularly introspective "mood" lately.  Part of it has to do with figuring out next chapters in life - there's far more to that than I feel like talking about here now.  But one thing I will share is that tomorrow - the anniversary of my FFS - I'm having dinner over at my ex's house.  She's cooking Tilapia.

I'm listening to the song "Say" by John Mayer tonight.  It was the theme song from the movie "The Bucket List" - it urges people to say what they need to say, while they can.

Life is full of ups and downs.  It's full of trade-off's.  It's full of uncertainty.  I'd go so far as to say that life is inherently pretty brutal - it's just that we do a pretty good job of putting a civilized face on it most of the time.  But things like careers and money and some of other practical realities of life sometimes actually pass themselves off AS life.  But they're not.

The only givens are that we're all born into this world and we'll all leave it someday.  It's what we do with that in-between part that matters.   There are no guarantees.  There are no roadmaps.  All any of us can do is our best.  Along the way that involves savoring the moments that are the good times, and surviving the challenges of the "down" times.  Hopefully, in the end, we can find balance.

That's probably a lot of mumbo jumbo to most but it makes perfect sense to me.

I have been pushing some envelopes lately.  I'm smiling as I'm thinking about them and perhaps one of these days I'll elaborate.  But these last couple of weeks have involved doing some things I've never imagined.  AND,  feeling good about it.  The only reason I mention it here is that the fact that I can do what I do can be traced directly back to July 22, 1999.  That's when it all started.

What has happened since then is more than I could ever have imagined.  It's amazing.  And there are things that happen to remind me why I'm not here to just live my life like everyone else - just being "normal".  One is happening now - it's the story of a woman who was married to a fireman who recently died, and whose family is trying to void the marriage (read story here).  This stuff infuriates me, and the fact that people can even think this way makes me know why I'm here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life. Revisited.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Not good or bad - actually, just another day.  Somehow I think we tend to take quiet days where nothing really happens for granted.  Not me.  It was a day where nothing hurt, where I was mentally in a good space, and where the pressures of some of my current realities never really crept in far enough to ruin things.

Outside it was hot - again - although the Heat Advisory that we've had in effect all week finally ended last hight.  It only got to 108 out there yesterday and again today.  And, last night we had some pretty impressive thunderstorms roll thru so I saw the first rain here in a long time.  There was much more show than blow, though, because according to the news the "official" rainfall here was 16/100 of an inch.  That's, like, almost nothing.  The rain never made it to the airport so it doesn't even count as "official" rain.

I hiked up Squaw Peak yesterday morning.  By the time I got there the heat of the day had already set in so there were only a half dozen cars in a parking lot that I'm used to seeing full.  It was actually a very pleasant hike - the heat really doesn't bother me.  I took a little video of it all so don't be surprised to see something here soon.  There was a story on the news this morning that a couple of people had to be rescued from the trail because the heat....

As for the balance of the day - I took care of a number of things I've been wanting to do.  I brought all of my drums in from the garage.  It's the first step to actually getting them set up which I hope to finish over the next week or so.  I've got two bikes - a road bike and a "hybrid" between road/mountain bikes - both of which needed air in their tires so I can ride them.  I got that done, too.

I found a website worth mentioning.  From time to time I see a YouTube video that I wish I could extract the audio from.  Well, there's a website that does that (visit it here).  Provide the URL of the video and it creates an mp3 of the audio and downloads it to your pc.  It really works, and I've used it a number of times.

There's a story this morning worth mentioning.  It's titled "When Is It Too Early to Decide to Change Genders?" (read it here)

The decision to transition from one gender to another should be among the most private matters. But when you’re the offspring of Hollywood power couple Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, it becomes a matter of public debate -- especially when you are 18 years old. Kathlyn Beatty, eldest child of the acting duo, had privately confided that she planned to transition and become a man. Once the tabloids got a hold of the news, the conflagration quickly ignited the Blogosphere.
The U.K. Daily Mail has reported that Kathlyn plans to go by the name Stephen and reportedly has been living as a man for two years. 
Some question whether an 18-year-old, though a legal adult, is old enough to make the drastic decision to transition.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer to the question of what age is appropriate or advantageous for transgender youth to transition is neither easy nor universally applicable. A number of factors -- such as the youth’s family, school and social environments -- are at work in influencing such decisions. Many transgender advocates argue the issue is often sensationalized in mainstream media and largely misunderstood by the general public.

This is, of course, a difficult question.  But it's an important one, as well.

I personally feel that by the time many of us from my generation - I'll call us "middle-age transitioners" - who recognize at a young age that we are some flavor of "trans" end up dealing with more issues caused by the debris of a lifetime of dealing with the guilt, shame and fear that our "secret" causes as anything specific to the "secret" itself.   Physical symptoms, failed relationships, dangerous behaviors, addictions, depression - there are lots of ways we deal with it, and they in turn can have profound consequences.  All too often we spend our lifetimes treating the symptoms and not the root cause, so to have the opportunity to proactively address it at a younger age is healthier all around.

In addition, coming to terms with this at mid-life involves overcoming challenges caused by a lifetime of hormones and physical development in a body that just doesn't fit.  How nice would it be to live in a world that provided the freedoms to avoid much of that and make the decisions necessary to move in the right direction earlier??

On another topic:  For those looking for information about some of the new rules/procedures for changing your gender marker on your passport or other official documentation, the MTPC has put together a toolkit to help.  It's available from their website (see it here).

To get out a bit tonight I decided to take one of the bikes for a ride.  It was actually very pleasant.  It reminded me of younger times in my life.  My wedding anniversary passed quietly yesterday - it would have been 29 years - and my ex and I texted back and forth a couple of times to mark the anniversary that never was.  I didn't have a car when I first met her so I rode my bike all the way across Syracuse from the campus where I lived to Fayetteville to see her.  I'm lucky I didn't get killed along Erie Blvd. - it was not a smart place to be riding a bike.  Even younger than that - I had a green 10-speed Schwinn that I rode everywhere during the summer.  I couldn't imagine why anyone would need more than 10 speeds.  Funny - the bike I rode tonight has 24.  Progress?  I suppose.....

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Today is one of those days that has come and gone and I have no idea where the time went.

The same thing happened last night but I've got a good excuse for that.  I've been wanting to play with some of my editing software and I wanted to go for a dip in the pool so I combined both of them to put together a little video of the evening.

It shows a little about where I live, as well.  Anyway - I started working on it and when I looked at the clock is was already 12:30am!  Time just flies when I get into this stuff - so much fun.

There's news of another trans role in a popular mainstream TV series.  This time it's on Nikelodeon, of all places, in a series titled DeGrassi (read details here).

Now entering its 10th season, the hit teen TV show Degrassi is once again charting new territory — this time by featuring a transgender character.
As Degrassi prepares to celebrate a decade on TeenNick, Nickelodeon’s programming block geared toward a teenage audience, the cast is excited to welcome a new character to the story. The show will feature Adam, a biological female who presents himself as a boy. 

This is at least the third of these that has come to light in recent weeks.  When mainstream media starts to get involved you know something is up.  Needless to say I'm very hopeful that these opportunities live up to their potential.

I went out to dinner tonight with a friend.  We always have a wonderful time together and tonight was no exception.  Dinner followed by a movie.  We went to the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie titled "Inception".  If I had to rate it from 1 to 10 I'd probably give it a 7.  It was very complex in terms of plot which isn't a bad thing - in fact it's kind of refreshing.  But it's one of those movies like the Matrix that will take repeated viewings to truly soak in everything that's going on.  And, I don't mind saying that Mr. DiCaprio was looking fine.

As I was watching all this complicated plot stuff I couldn't help but think to myself, "Who thinks up all this wild stuff, anyways?!"  There must have been some serious halucenigenics involved.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coyote Grace

I was reading back through some of my old blog entries last night.  Entries from 2006 and 2007 mostly.  Geez.  There's lots of stuff there - it brings back old memories.  One of the things you can do on Blogger is turn your blog into a book for some nominal fee.  Those blogs cover lots of ground in my life....yeesh.

Argentina approved gay marriage last night (details here).  The DC same-sex marriage decision survived a court challenge (details here).  There's an article in USA Today about the increase in "gay-marriage" lawsuits (read it here).  It's only a matter of time before it ends up in front of the Supreme Court here.  In the meantime, other countries are getting it right.

One of the CD's I've been listening to here at home recently is by Coyote Grace.  Most people have never heard of them, but should.  Their next concert is next week in Richmond, VA where they'll be opening for the Indigo Girls.  Remember the name:   Coyote Grace (read about them here).

Here's a little video about them giving an idea of who they are:

And, here's the "official" video of A Guy Named Joe.  Listen to the words carefully.

Awesome stuff.  Their music is available thru their website, and there are a number of other videos online.

I went to the gym twice today.  One to run - 45 minutes.  And, later in the day to do some other stuff.  I mentioned yesterday that I never made it out of the house to get to the gym so I suppose I made up for that today.  The reality is that I just didn't have time to finish this morning but didn't want to let the moment pass so now I'm feeling good about things.  Once you get used to being in shape you feel guilty for missing too many days.  It just becomes part of your lifestyle.

Some have asked me whether I'm going to wrestle again.  The Gay Games are in a couple of weeks so I won't count that.  The wrestling "season" starts again next year and I haven't given much thought to it so I have no idea what will happen.  One thing I'll say is that I enjoy doing it - I really do.  But I enjoy the practices far more than the competition of the real deal.  It's like a friend I sometimes play tennis with.  I enjoy hitting the ball over the net and rallying but she's far more into hitting the ball hard and winning.  And, people are much more careful about not injuring their training partners than they are in the real deal.  I do believe that there is such a thing as over-training and that the older you get the more likely you are to do more harm than good at some point.  What does any of that mean?  It all means I don't think that far ahead so we'll just see how things play out.

Speaking of healthy lifestyle, a recent report by the American Lung Association produced some startling results.  The bottom line is that the rate of smoking in the LGBT community is nearly double that of the general population in this country.  Double!!  (See details here).  That's crazy.  Why?  The report tries to explain:
To be clear, no one within the LGBT community is more prone to smoking because they're gay. The elevated risks are the result of common factors that are magnified within the LGBT community, namely stress and aggressive marketing techniques by tobacco companies.

Personally, I think there's more to it than that, but the numbers are indeed eye-opening.

There's an article in Friday's Washington Post titled "Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's transgender relative speaks out for gay rights"  (Read it Here).

And lastly, the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Inception, starts today. says that it's worth seeing and it's one of the few non-animated movies that has piqued my interest.  Maybe this weekend.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blame and the Culture War

Good evening!  First, let's start with the political stuff. has published a survey asking which of 4 people should be held accountable for the fact that ENDA is stalled and dead despite promises to the contrary (see it here).
Who should we hold accountable next?
Our so-called “friends” in Congress who promised passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year have already conceded defeat. It may not be nice and it certainly won’t get us invited to any fancy Washington cocktail parties, but we aren’t going down without a fight! Which Democratic leader do you think GetEQUAL should hold accountable?

Stop by and give an opinion if you've got one.  I'm interested in the results - who is perceived as the biggest villain here.  Personally, I believe that both blame and credit come with being in a position of power.  The person in the position of the highest power of those 4 is the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  However, I honestly don't know that any of those 4 is to blame.  I'm surprised that the President isn't on that list as well as, honestly, he's the one many would blame.

We are living in difficult times.  I don't need to remind anyone of that but somehow that gets forgotten in the context of promises and agendas and political realities.  Attention has been far more focused on Health Care reform, the financial mess, recent events in the Gulf, wars, unemployment, immigration, and any number of other things so the giddiness of the election has given way to the practical realities of politics.  Some would say that the moment has passed but I don't know if there ever really was a moment  in the first place.

That said, I remain as committed and as optimistic as I ever was.  ENDA will become the law of the land during my lifetime.  Not just any ENDA, but a fully inclusive one.  It may not happen during this session of Congress (I daresay, it won't).  To be perfectly honest, it may not even happen under this President - the November elections will change the landscape significantly.  But that doesn't change the fact that we're engaged in a culture war where a key element to ultimate victory is Time.  And, just as I'm confident that I'll be able to marry again so too am I confident that employment protections for future generations will become the law of the land.  It's just a matter of time.

Ironically, I'll bet if they added a blame box on that survey for "Transgender People" there are more than a handful in the LGB community who would blame us for it's non-movement more than any particular politician.  We're perceived to be the most controversial component of it and the incrementalists who threw us overboard last time would do it again in a heartbeat this time if given the chance.  You know who is preventing that?  The people on that blame survey!  Ironic, isn't it?

Honestly, though, I can't help but wonder.  Is the end-game of this really ENDA?  Or, is it a world where people who might express their gender in unique ways can get hired and work and take full advantage of ALL the benefits that a company offers to its employees without fear of harassment, being fired, or worse?  The same as I think people may have put too much confidence in what would happen with the election of a new President so too am I concerned that people are putting too much emphasis on a piece of legislation and what that would actually achieve.  I'm not trivializing ENDA - I'm simply saying that expectations need to be managed and people mustn't lose sight of what the legislation is supposed to achieve.  Those in the trenches of the culture war will still be there the day after ENDA passes (whenever that is) and for a long time afterwards.  That's just the reality of it....

I've mentioned before that in order for a company to receive a perfect 100 on the Corporate Equality Index starting next year they'll need to have at least one benefit plan that removes all exclusions for transgender procedures.  That means that more companies will be covering things that many of us have grown up simply expecting to have to pay for ourselves, and that financial barrier has been insurmountable for many of us.  More than that, though, is that these changes recognize the fact that these procedures are more than simply cosmetic.  It's all part of the same culture war I mentioned earlier.

Anyways, as companies write to me I find it interesting to see the words they use to describe what used to be crudely termed "sex change" surgeries.  For a while it seemed that many of us used the acronyms SRS or GRS - some of us could argue about these things for hours.  In any event, one company is calling these procedures "Gender Affirmation Surgeries" (GAS) and is adding them to their benefits package.  Now, if only we could get hired by these companies.

On the home front, I haven't been out of the house yet today.   I had expected to go to the fitness center but that never happened.  It's not like I'm missing anything because it's friggin' hot out there - right now it's 8:30pm and still 100 degrees.  The forecast high for tomorrow is 113+.   I don't think I'm over-sharing by admitting I've had some sort of intestinal thing going on for what seems like weeks now.  It's good for keeping my waistline trim, but not so good for other aspects of my life.  I wish it would pass.

There's an interview with Candis Cayne in Windy City Times today where she describes an upcoming role she's playing:
Windy City Times: Hey there. So you've got a new guest spot coming up on Drop Dead Diva.
Candis Cayne: Yes! I'm super-excited about that. They wanted to kind of discuss the idea of me playing a transgendered character who was married to a woman, and then went through the transition, and so it ended up that the two women were married. And so where's the legal ramification in that and how is that going to work out? Her wife dies and now my character has the house and the assets, and her parents want to take it all away from me because they say we weren't legally married. And so it kind of explores that law. It was a really good experience. And Lifetime was so happy with it, they're going to air it at OutFest next year, and we're going to do a panel afterwards with Cybill Shepherd, because she was on that episode, too.   (read the entire interview and drool over the photos here)

It sounds as though that has some potential, especially the fact that they're going to follow it up with a discussion.  We've come a long way from outdated stereotype stuff, but just when I think we're really making headway with meaty topics and characters like this I'm reminded of the Miller commercials that I showed yesterday.  As I say - culture war.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Higher Highs and Deeper Waters

Yesterday was spent hiking.  We hiked the Humphreys Peak Trail just north of Flagstaff (details here).

I've spent time uploading some of my photos to a couple of different albums.  They should be viewable by anyone....
My favorite way to look at these photos is to use the Flickr "Lightbox" effect and scroll thru the photos using the navigation buttons at the top.  Although it doesn't show the descriptions I like the larger sizes of the photos, and for some reason they look really nice against the black background....

Special thanks to my hiking partner for the day, Renee.  She's a much more experienced hiker than I am - we used the word "extreme" more than once - and her passion for it is energizing.  Carrying a 40 pound pack for 6+ hours on a strenuous climb to a peak that's over 12,500 in elevation, and then back down, can be quite the chore.  On our way down she reminded me that reaching the summit doesn't count until you get back down again so we high-fived when we finally got back to the parking lot again.

I'm figuring that I need to do these things while I'm in shape to do them.  There's a list of 57 peaks in the Lower 48 states with a prominence of 5,000 feet or more (a list of "The Ultras") and although I know it's a bit late in life to start on something like this I'd like to hike more of the peaks on this list.

As we were sipping refreshing "adult beverages" in Flagstaff afterwards we were talking about the nature of these kinds of hikes.  Part of it is certainly social - these kinds of physically and mentally demanding efforts involve some level of bonding.  But part of it is intensely personal, as well.  Although step by step where you put your feet requires constant attention your mind can't help but wander to deeper waters.  Anyway - it was a very full, wonderful day.   Next up, I think, is a hike down into the Grand Canyon....

I can't help but remember a time when I was concerned about visual "cues" with regards to my transition.  We each give off any number of signs as to whether we're a boy or a girl so in the early days it was a very important consideration.  Hair was a BIG DEAL and had to be just right.  Make-up?  You bet.  Clothes?  Had to be distinctly feminine.  Oh, how far I've come.  While I like to think I clean up well most of the recent photos of me are of me wrestling or hiking or some other activity where there are no cues.  Losing sensitivity to those kinds of things is important in just moving on with life...

Here in the Phoenix area we are looking at some pretty intense heat this week.  The high on Thursday is forecast to be 116, and the low that day will only be 94 ( says so!).  Rain?  I haven't seen any here in the Valley recently.  Even the local weather forecasters are getting ready for a blast of warmer-than-usual:


I've heard and a read a couple of things in the last couple of days but in an abstract way are related.  Let me share them.

The first is an article that recently appeared in a number of places titled "When Sex Realignment Surgery Goes Wrong".  It details the events surrounding a recent SRS procedure and of the significant complications that have ensued. (She recently posted an update which is equally as important to read).

I'll start by acknowledging that surgery is full of risks.  Even the most minor of surgeries has any number of potential hazards.  A couple of years ago the media was full of people who died during liposuction and the like - minor surgeries that turned tragically bad.  Anyone going under a knife has to be ready to recognize the risks and to accept them.  All any of us can do is to make decisions that minimize them.   That said, however, this particular story is a very sad one.

There are a number of holes in the "safety net" and one of them involves the lack of reporting or any visibility whatsoever to post-surgery complications.  Even more than that, what happens when these things occur?  There is truly an issue with regards to transgender procedures, the lack of broader understanding in people who support our community, and the fact that things like this happen much more than anyone realizes.

As Amy says in her article:
We talk about it a lot, except …when things go wrong. Then—we don’t say much at all. In fact, we won’t talk about it publicly, but it happens. 
We cover it up as if we should be ashamed. We feel damaged. Something odd ensues, much like 40 or 50 years ago. Back then, people spoke in hushed tones, if at all about the family member, colleague, or friend who had certain illnesses. The “C word” was only whispered. 
Many times this lack of openness about such matters led directly to preventable consequences—even deaths. 
We need to talk about healthcare for the trans individual.... 

Back when I had my SRS a decade ago I could count the number of surgeons who I'd actively consider to do my SRS on one hand.  Each of us uses different criteria to choose our surgeon and this is only one girl's opinion.  But I had specific criteria that needed to be met which narrowed the list of candidates to a very short one.

I find it sad that ten years later, when you'd think that others would have learned the necessary skills and would broaden the selection so that there would be more to choose from, my list is actually shorter.  In fact, if I were having SRS today and used those same criteria that I used way back when there is only one active surgeon I'd choose.  Just one.  That's not to say that there aren't others whose work I respect or who I admire.  But when it comes to allowing them to do this particular surgery for me - there's just one.

In her article Amy identifies several obstacles/challenges:
  • Lack of access
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of experience
  • Lack of inter-disciplinary collaboration
All are true.

I can think of at least two additional things:
  • First, I can name at least one very well-known surgeon community who is performing procedures that they are not specifically licensed to perform.  How can that be?  It's simple.  People look the other way and allow it to happen unchallenged.  Who is at fault here?  Everyone is.  From the surgeon to the hospital that allows it to happen to the patient who doesn't demand to see and scrutinize credentials - there are fundamental breakdowns and NO accountability.  
  • Then, when there are issues (as there inevitably are) there is NO visibility to post-op issues.  What?  How many? How were they addressed?  

Anyway - there's much more to say on the topic but that's it for me today.  My heart goes out to Amy and others of us who encounter post-op complications.

On another topic, I find it interesting what media "stuff" people get huffy about and what other stuff seems to pass unnoticed or at least without comment.  I remember a Taco Bell ad from a few months ago that got people hopping, but there's currently a Miller Lite series of ads that I haven't heard diddly about.  Here are a couple of them:

Are these offensive?  I'm not offering an opinion - I'm just asking....

And, lastly for today, one of the weekly Freebie songs on iTunes is pretty decent.  At least, I like it.  :~D

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My right to Marry.

As I sit here sipping on my first cup of coffee of the morning and clear the sleepiness from my eyes and head I'm reading something in USA Today that prompts me to write before my day gets going.  I will try to make this as cogent as I can given the fact that the caffeine hasn't kicked in yet.  

A Federal judge in Massachusetts recently ruled that the Federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was unconstitutional.  The ruling states:
Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.  (Read more here)
Duh.  I'm not a lawyer and even I could tell you that.  It's amazing to me that this isn't clear as day to everyone.  It has also been clear to me for a long time that this would happen.  It wasn't a question of if - it was a question of when.   Now the big question is whether or not the President will appeal and, if he does, what the Supreme Court will say about the issue.

Those chess moves are yet to be made but either way, this is a big deal.  It's a big deal for those of us who believe that putting the rights for a minority up to popular vote from a priviledged majority inherently leads to injustice, discrimination, and second-class citizenship status.  And, for something as fundamentally human as marriage - the ultimate expression of a truly committed relationship - it has as much to do about validating our love, our relationships, and our families as it does about higher ideals like "justice".

I think many people are unaware about what DOMA does.  It prevents married couples from being recognized as married as far as the Federal government is concerned.  Some would say "big deal", but it is a big deal.  If you're a same-sex couple married in a state that recognizes same sex marriages you still can't file your income tax as "married" - that's just one example - so all the benefits of marriage are denied.  And, that's just one simple example.

Why do I care?  Well, besides the fact that this just isn't right and my social consciousness has been all over this for a long time, the fact of the matter is that I expect to be married again someday and more likely than not my partner will be another woman.  I expect to have that kind of caring, loving relationship based on mutual respect, mutual goals, and we'll want to move the relationship to that level.  And, even if we don't for some reason the fact is that being told that it isn't an option for us is unacceptable.  It needs to be, and it will be.

Needless to say, the Right Wing and the Fundies are hopping all over this.  They're concerned that all their work to build walls state by state to prevent our relationships from being recognized are about to be laid to waste.  I don't blame them from being worried because it was only a matter of time before this happened, and even if something happens in the sort-term to put this on hold it's still only a matter of time before they're just a bunch of talking heads whose 15-minutes in the spotlight has come and gone.

It's infuriating but not surprising to see people touting "traditional values" who compare recognition of loving, committed same-sex couples to allowing bestiality, pedophilia, incest, or polygamy.  These are the same people who will twist a conversation about transgender discrimination into an argument about perverts and bathrooms.  The only Traditional Value that they're espousing is Hate.  And, although I respect everyone's right to have an opinion when that opinion directly affects me or my right to live my life it's probably best that we don't argue about it.

Paradigms are shifting.  For example, for many of us who grew up simply accepting that the expenses of having gender transition related surgeries would come out of our own pockets which prevented many of us from even considering them - that is changing.  For a company to receive a perfect score of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index next year they will need to have at least one benefit plan that removes ALL exclusions for transgender related wellness services and that includes surgeries.  I had dinner with one friend the other night whose entire set of SRS procedures with Dr. Meltzer were covered by their insurance - her total out of pocket expense was somewhere around $1,300.  That, my friends, is a BIG deal not only because it opens the door for many of us for whom the door had been tightly closed but because it recognizes the fact that these procedures are not simply cosmetic in nature.

Google recently updated their benefits plan to cover the extra expenses that same-sex couples incur because they are not covered by marriage benefits (details here).  That, too, is a big deal.  As has been true for a long time, corporate America is a step ahead of the legislative component of our culture in paving the way for equality and fairness.  And, I assure you, Google will not be alone in making these kinds of "cutting edge" moves.  But these are the efforts of corporate America to offset the inequities of injustice.

A "Marriage" contest on the Today show originally excluded same-sex couples from entering.  But pressure from GLAAD and from the community helped them to realize the inequity of this so they changed the rules several days later (read their statement here).  The so-called "American Family Association" is not amused and is telling anyone who visits their website to boycott Today.  Good luck with that.  They, too, recognize that they're losing this war and are trying to hold back the tide (here's an article attacking Home Depot for supporting LGBT rights).  But, the tide will not be held back so it's only a matter of time before they become the same thing as a White Supremicist group after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or for an anti-alcohol group after the end of Prohibition - all of whom predicted the collapse of Western Civilization but who eventually became irrelevant.

Will legislation magically fix things?  Of course not.  There is a cultural component to this that has been in progress for a long time and that will continue.  As more of us become visible, as more of us become "real" to others as living, breathing, healthy people rather than as some abstract concept built upon outdated stereotypes the barriers between "us" and "them" fall.  And, the easier it gets to codify the concepts of equality and justice that we like to believe are foundations upon which this country was built.

Back to my original intention for writing this.  As a group we need to recognize that not only are we entitled to the same rights as anyone else and that to accept anything less is unacceptable.  I have stepped back from many of my roles in more traditionally political efforts but I am far from done doing the work that stirs my passions.  I am confident that I will get married someday and when that day happens it will be a celebration.  It will be a celebration not only of love and commitment, but a celebration of personhood and respect.  And, until that day is possible - not in just a few states but anywhere in this country - this voice and this heart will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.