Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life Paths....

I haven't done a good job at keeping up with things here lately.  Sorry about that.  Life has been going very fast for me in recent weeks, and it doesn’t look to slow down any time soon.  To be honest, it’s almost overwhelming.

Over these past 6 weeks: I was in Atlanta for SCC in early September.  I had a handful of days of "down time" before leaving on an extended 3-week east coast trip that included time in the Carolinas, speaking at the Out for Work Conference, doing 3 days of training in DC, a trip to Harrisburg PA for a job interview, and a number of other things.  I was home long enough to unpack and then pack again before heading to New Orleans to speak at SHRM.  Then I was home again for 2 days before flying out again last Friday.  I’m drained….

As I type this I'm in the Philadelphia airport waiting to board my flight back to Phoenix. My alarm went off at the unGodly early hour of 4am. My flight leaves at 7 and I get into Phoenix in mid-afternoon.

I came to Pennsylvania last Friday to speak at the annual Fall Achievement Benefit (FAB) Dinner for the LGBT Center of Central PA.  The Center’s area covers 8 counties around the state capitol in Harrisburg, serving a population of almost 2 million people.

I’ve been active in LGBT efforts for a long time and my two most significant passions have been youth and the workplace.  I continue to be active in both arenas and don’t see that going away any time soon.  Recent events regarding youth suicides and bullying of kids who may not appear masculine or feminine enough have only made the need to speak out more urgent.  It’s not that these things haven’t been happening for a long, long time.  It’s just that now they’re on the front burner getting the kind of attention that forces change.

I feel very strongly that LGBT Community Centers play in critical role in providing real, tangible support, and education.  I've spoken at a number of them around the country and am continually pleasantly surprised to see them as vibrant hubs in places where you'd least expect them.  Tulsa is a good example.  Their LGBT center is absolutely gorgeous and beyond providing services across the entire spectrum of the community it provides a visible, tangible "place" to gather.

The LGBT Center in Harrisburg has reached a point in its growth where they needed to make some big decisions about direction and leadership.  It is a non-profit agency that has an active youth program but, more importantly, it has unlimited potential.

The reason that any of this is relevant to this discussion is that I applied for the job as their first Executive Director a couple of months ago and after the interview process and subsequent contract negotiations I accepted that job last week.  It was announced at FAB, and I’m scheduled to officially start in my new capacity on Nov. 1.

This is big for a number of reasons.  First, it’s big for me personally because it’s an opportunity to finally align my passions with my career.  One of the things I’ve struggled with for quite a while is knowing that I outgrew my 30-year IT career several years ago.  The more difficult conundrum has been about accepting that and trying to figure out what comes next.

Being part of the non-profit world isn’t new to me given my long history serving on boards and as part of broader LGBT efforts.  But it’s one thing to serve on a board and an entire other thing to be responsible for planning, management, fund raising, and all the other responsibilities of an Executive Director.

Harrisburg is strategically located, especially given my own history.  It's 250 miles south of Rochester, NY where my brother and sister and their families still live, and was home for me for almost 20 years.  It's less than two hours from the western suburbs of Philadelphia - I've got lots of friends there.  It's 2 hours north of Baltimore and DC, both places are special to me for various reasons.  And, it's the state capitol.  One thing I’m not ready for is winter.

I have no idea how I’m going to fit everything that needs to fit into these next two weeks.  I truly feel overwhelmed by it all.  Unsettled.  A little scared.  A lot anxious. Sad at leaving some dear friends.  Excited at new horizons.  The scariest part is that I don’t think it has all sunk in yet and I’ll have lots of time to let my mind wander on the upcoming 2200 mile road trip that it’ll take to get from here to there.

To top it all off I wrote an Op/Ed piece for CNN about transgender athletes.  I originally titled it “Don’t Ask, Don’t Play” but they changed it to something a little more forceful that I think changes the substance a bit but I had no control over that.  Anyway,  I’ve been getting hate mail from it all morning long (and supportive mail, too, but usually it's the people who are angry who write).  I’m not reading any of the mail, though.  I've got too many other things going on to get wrapped up in all of that.

My dad was a biophysicist who was well ahead of his time.  He took no small amount of pride in prodding critical thinking and challenging the status quo.  Anyway, I’ll never forget when he told me, “When too many people start to agree with me is when I start to worry that I might be wrong.”  In this case – I’m not wrong. I’m right.

Transgender and gender non-confirming athletes face tremendous hurdles to inclusion and people can justify it all they want but in the end each of us has an inherent right to be athletic and to compete.  We’re taught that from our earliest ages and many of us take that to heart, enjoying a lifetime perfecting and competing at something we love.  The health benefits of athletics and the drive that pushes us to excellence is something none of us should have to hide or apologize for.  Period.

Before I finish, I'll share part of a blog post from someone I met at the SHRM Conference:
Another topic I am going to revisit in the future is Donna Rose's session on Transgender in the Workplace. This topic and my experience at this session will definitely be the subject of a future post. There is no way I can do this session justice in a few sentences. In short, Rose's session completely changed my viewpoints and left me realizing that I have a great deal to learn about this topic. 
It's nice to know that the simple act of sharing a part of ourselves with others - in this case, a little over an hour's worth - can make a difference.  Thanks to Paul for his kind words.  I'll share a link to his future post as an update when it's online....

Anyway – time to get going.  I wrote more than I expected and I hope most of this makes sense given the insane nature of my world lately.  A number of friends have told me they enjoy being part of Donna’s world.  I respond to them: “Just try living it all the time.”  Crazy.


Barbara said...

I am so happy for you getting your new job, congratulations on your new position. I wish you well as always.

Anonymous said...

DR - Congrats on your appointment! - Safe travels as always - Gretchen

mr. bubs said...

I found this by going through a variety of portals (cnn, your personal website, your older blog, your old blog, and now this one). And I kind of wanted to share my thoughts on everything.

Indeed, like how your bio states, it is insanely incredibly how you have cultivate two rich and full lives, and what's more important is that you were able to create an identity that was more true to who you are despite the overwhelmingly powerful social and cultural forces that affect each individual the moment they are born and identified as male or female. And I find your work to be both incredible and inspiring. It certainly has challenged my perception on what being transgendered and transsexual really means. And I guess what really caught me by surprise was how naturally feminine/masculine you and the multitude of other trans individuals look, and I say this as an otherwise accepting hetero-normative male.

So while I may be sort of positioning myself to appear as a misguided by well-intentioned male passerby, I do want to say that, though we have not met, and though I only know of you through a passing glimpse into your biography and writings, I feel that my understanding of people and their identity has been changed for the better. You have enriched my life. And I thank you for that.

Keep fighting that good fight.

Anonymous said...

Looks like everybody enjoyed your editorial on CNN about acceptance of transsexual women athletes.