Thursday, October 21, 2010


I arrived back to a cloudy and cool Phoenix yesterday afternoon and was full of energy until about 7 o'clock. That's when my body suddenly realized that it had been awake since the equivalent of 1am local time and that it was exhausted so it decided to shut down. I finally crawled in bed at 9.

A highlight of the today so far was bringing my car in to have the Electronic Throttle Module replaced.  It seems like that would have been an expensive proposition if it hadn't been under warranty.  The good news is that the car drives like a charm and it didn't cost me a penny.  That's a big relief given the road trip that's on my horizon.

Those who dare raise their heads out of the sand to stand up for things that may be unpopular in broader society need to be ready for response.  That's something I've learned well over the years and I've got no problem shouldering that burden.  Something in a forum as significant as tends to prompt particularly passionate responses.  There are two ways to approach this: (1) In a respectful manner where there is respect for the fact that people can agree to disagree or (2) by name-calling, ignorant comments, and loud-mouthed foolishness. My Op/Ed piece yesterday prompted all of the above.

I'll admit that I didn't read many of them. I'm comfortable enough with having an opinion that might be generally unpopular and with stating that opinion without getting into follow-up skirmishes over it. Some of the responses that I did read had to do with the belief that being transgender is a "choice" whereas race and other things are not, and that choices have consequences that should include being prevented from competing with "real" women.

One in particular deserves sharing here as it highlights something that all to often goes unrecognized but is very much there.  It is from a self-avowed "lesbian" named JoAnn who takes issue with my gender, and her rant is typical of "Womyn" who seem to somehow believe that they own womanhood, or, worse yet, that any one else cares what they think.

A passage from her email:
You are not a lesbian..... you are a transsexual who hinds behind the very thing that you claim to be so proud of. As a gay person I find this to be horrible and as a woman I find you nothing more than a man who is selfish and a lair. No matter what you attempt to do with the body you were born with you will never have the qualities of a person who is respectful of themselves and others around them. You just don't get it. You have disgraced yourself and turned yourself not into the truthful woman that you seek to be and rather transformed yourself into the ultimate of lairs. JoAnn

Although I didn't respond to many emails yesterday I did respond to this one.  A portion of my response:
The fact of the matter is that you don't get to define me - either my gender or my character. Your words mean nothing to me and, in fact, are the reason that narrow minded bigots looking to define someone by one single aspect of themselves can go to bed and feel at peace. I am not the one disgraced - you are.

You know nothing about me. And I could care less whether you believe I am a woman or not simply because my path to where I am is different than yours. I make no apologies. I do not pretend to believe that I deserve less than anyone else. Whether or not you "get it" is immaterial to me.

People like you seem to feel that they're a victim of their gender. I, however, feel it to be a gift and nobody is going to take that from me or any of my brothers and sisters. In short - take your ignorant judgement somewhere else. It has no place here.

I find people like her to be made of the same cloth that people who can justify their hate with their faith. Judgers who don't want to be judged themselves. I have no time for that nonsense.

When I wrestled at the Nationals I didn't mention the fact that I was transsexual.  It wasn't necessary, and my coach agreed.  I was within the rules and I knew it.  When I came out to my coach he said something that I will remember to the day I die.  He said he doesn't judge people by what's on the outside - it's the heart that counts.  Wrestling is, like, the ultimate of macho sports and for him to show me that kind of support was a big deal.

Still, I knew perfectly well that my unique history would become known at some point; let's face it,  I'm very Google-able (go figure).  But there's a fine line between keeping personal information personal, "hiding" it, or  defining yourself by it.  Often you'll find you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

I'm tremendously proud of the way my situation was handled by USA Wrestling at the Nationals and subsequently at the World Team Trials.  I was well aware of the possibility that it'd get all blown out of proportion the way that this thing with Lana Lawless did.   I didn't want that and neither did they so it became  very much the non-event as it should have been.  From everything I could see they handled it with dignity and respect and I was given the opportunity to compete just like everyone else.

Nobody knows what it took to get to that point.  I trained hard to get to a point of feeling able to be out there on that mat in Cleveland.  Weeks of punishing training that took a big toll on me - physically, mentally, emotionally.  It became an important life goal for me and I'll be damned if anyone was going to rob me of the opportunity to put it all out there on the mat.

In the end, the right things happened.

There is a large wrestling tournament here in Phoenix this weekend. It's the beginning of the International wrestling season and, ironically, the first event happens right here in my own backyard. Competitors from all over the world are coming - Canada, Japan, it's a big deal.  I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't considered competing because I'm in good enough shape to do it, and my weight is where it needs to be. But given all the other things happening in life right now so I'll have to pass on this one.

While I was at the airport in Salt Lake City yesterday someone carrying a wrestling bag and was clearly involved with the sport recognized me from the Nationals and sat down next to me.  He was on his way here for the tournament and we had a very pleasant 20-minute chat.  He was talking about the sport and he half-joked about how it's a "sickness" - that if he could find a way to get away from it he would. He competed all through high school and college and now he coaches.  I so get that.

He said something that's very true - "The reason you compete is that it has to be for yourself".  You can't wrestle for a cause, or for your parents, or for your coach. Ultimately your biggest obstacle isn't your opponent - it's yourself.  That philosophy transcends sports - I find it to be a pretty helpful life mantra in general.  Anyway - I'm not competing this weekend. But I will go and watch.

Back to my original point.  Transgender athletes, and gender non-conforming athletes, face ridiculous barriers simply to compete.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the limelight whether we want it or not.  But sometimes you've just got to take a stand.

I never imagined that I'd be involved with many of the causes that simply come with speaking out against injustice. This, apparently, is another one. They're doing a television segment on transgender athletes and I'm doing an interview for that next week. I have no idea how it's all going to fit as I expect to begin my 2,600 mile drive on Thursday but somehow it will all work out.  It always does.

Speaking of television, there's going to be a story about Nikki Araguz, the widow of the firefighter in Texas, on 20/20 Friday night

There is more about it on the 20/20 website.

I'll finish with this:  If you've got something to say to me that's different from my own opinion, or you feel like commenting on something I've done I always welcome comments. More than that - I respect difference. But be prepared to be held accountable for your words and, depending on what you say and how you say it, be prepared for a response.

Onwards.  And upwards!


Barbara said...

Well, I have something to say. You are the best person I know to move our cause to the front including the words and intellect to do it. I'm sorry but I can't tell you enough how much I admire your writing, spunk and attatude toward life itself. In your response to JoAnn, you were great! I only wish I had the words such as yours.

Anonymous said...

It's "couldn't care less",
not "could care less".

Stace said...

Somneone actually sent you that mail? Wow...

Nice response though.

I have to ask, do you ever stop for more than 2 minutes? Each blog I read tell of travels here there and everywhere - I'm exhausted just reading it, how you cope actually doing it is beyond me!


PS Appropriately enough for my comment the CAPCHA is 'outings' :)

Anonymous said...

Your black eye reminds of me of when my daughter got clocked with a soccer ball and it broke her glasses and gave her a black eye. She wore that black eye as a badge of courage until it healed.

Regarding the hate mail, it's hard to even understand what the person was so vitriolic about, but the post seemed incredibly unreasonable, like perhaps because you weren't born in a female body, you don't have the right to be a lesbian? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

I really like you; I am a long time admirer and supporter. I respect your advocacy, your tenacious approach and never-ending involvement. However, Donna, your athletic prowess notwithstanding don't you feel it unfair to compete against natal females? You certainly must have the right to compete, no doubt, but you are an intelligent woman and I can not help but think you "get" that you have a distinct advantage beyond your own talent. The answer? I am unsure but DNA alone suggests an unfair "fight" when going against natal females. It is intellectually dishonest to invoke a perceived advantage African Americans may (or may not) have in athletics as it is wholly different than those attritbutes male athletes have different than natal female athletes. Title IX is witness to that.