Monday, May 31, 2010


Today is Memorial Day, the unofficial first day of summer.

I realize that people are doing all kinds of out-doors things all around the country today but I feel no guilt in sharing that I took another nap this afternoon. It's not that the hike up Squaw Peak in the 100 degree mid-day heat earlier today took so much out of me as the fact that I find my body consistently wanting to nap by mid-afternoon lately and I'm listening to it. Having the time to actually get into bed for an hour has been a luxury.

Dinner with my ex-wife last night was wonderful. I don't have details to share other than the fact that it was fun and comfortable - two words I questioned I'd ever use when talking about our spending time together. I have learned to never say never and this is another of those times.

A herd of Javelina came strolling by before dins so we went into the back yard to say 'hi' and throw out a little celery out to them. There were 13 or 14 in this group - one of them was the cutest little baby - and they sometimes come strolling down the washes behind the houses in the development at duskish. When we first moved there we saw lots of them but as civilization has pushed further and further north you'd think that there would be fewer of them. One of the reasons we liked this particular development of homes is that there is a significant amount of wild space and washes between houses so there's still cool "stuff" living there.

We've had these kinds of good days before but they consistently turn backwards again. But somehow this time it felt different. I'm a big believer that doors are opening and closing in our lives all the time, and when some close that provides the opportunities for others to open or at least makes us open to the "opportunity" of recognizing that others are open. Anyway - we'll see what this means in the bigger picture.

As I mentioned, my major outdoor event today was another hike up Squaw Peak. I'm still in good shape so despite the 100-degree heat and the fairly strenuous climb it wasn't too terribly difficult. I really don't mind the afternoon heat so much, either. The key is to have something to drink because the desert will dry you out quickly. I was a little worried that the trails would be packed with other Memorial Day hikers but I was glad to see that there really weren't all that many people there.

I find my time at the top to be special time. There's a particular place I go to sit, close my eyes, and connect with the Universe. I did that today. And, it was good.

I recorded a little video blog yesterday:

My jaw is still swollen and parts of it are still numb. But at least I'm feeling generally better. Finally.

For those of us who are Apple nerds, there's an article in advance of a major Apple event in San Francisco next week making some predictions, debunking others, and generally setting the stage (read it here).

And finally, while many are out enjoying traditional American fare for dinner on this day to remember those who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country I feel almost embarrassed to admit that I had sushi. If there's a saving grace, though - I ordered California rolls. :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Earned Laughter

I talked with me ex-wife for almost an hour this afternoon. It was a pleasant, upbeat, fun, interesting chat that meandered from topic to topic in the same way as our earliest conversations when we first met - 30 years ago. It truly was a throw back.

Most of those words: pleasant, upbeat, fun, interesting....they're not words I typically use when I talk about my ex. I can think of a number of words that I choose not to use right not. But in this case these "happy" words are appropriate for today's conversation.

I hope they continue to be appropriate tomorrow too. I'm going over to her house (it used to be our house) for dinner. I can count the number of meals we've had together since I left that house for FFS in 1999 on two hands and I can count the number of "pleasant" ones on one hand. It has been a long road full of bumps - really. And there are a number of times when I've just thrown up my hands in the air and given up that it'll ever get better. But I'm an eternal optimist and time is an amazing healer. So is 20 years of memories and having an adult son - but I'm hopeful for tomorrow.

I hope she doesn't spit on it. :)

It's time. No - it's way past time - for us to be able to laugh together again. Lord knows there have been more than enough tears. But sometimes I think you need to earn laughter. Some would say it just comes but I don't know that's true. Real, easy, unforced, fun, laughter is something special. Anyway - we'll see.

One quote that I like: “Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

One thing I want to fade from my memory as soon as possible is the drudgery of yesterday's drive. Yuck. The good news is that there were no lasting ill effects. I went to the gym today for a little workout and was happy with how things went.

Here's my song for the day. Instead of embedding it today I'll just link to it (see it here). I really like this version....

Since I'm on a John Mayer kick - here's song #2. Good stuff (see it here).

I'm heading out tonight and wearing makeup for the first time in quite a while. It feels good. :)

Friday, May 28, 2010


My dad, and my grandparents, used to use the word "kvetch". They used it both as a verb and as a noun depending on the circumstance. It's actually a Yiddish word that means "to complain", but more specifically it has an attribute of sharing to it. I mention this because I called a friend tonight to Kvetch. Thankfully - I felt better for it.

I haven't been very specific on my comings and goings lately but I'll share that I drove 1,052 miles in 14.5 hours today. That distance and that much time in a car, combined with Memorial Day traffic, is insane. Just crazy. I'll admit that I was ready to call it a day at the 800 mile mark but there were no other options so I just endured those last 250 miles. It was NOT fun.

I looked at my Memorial Day entry from last year and I drove 950 miles from Rochester to Charleston. Oy. I don't want to make driving on this holiday an ongoing tradition. Thankfully the weather today was accommodating and the traffic wasn't horrible so it certainly could have been worse. There were LOTS of cops along the way, though, and I was very careful.

How does one pass the time while driving for that long? Of course, keeping attention on focused on traffic is probably at or near the top of the list. But listening to music, thinking, chatting on the phone, and counting the miles between cities are also part of the game. Lord knows I've got enough experience with this stuff to know how to do it but it's not something I look forward to. Sigh. The good news is that there was a nice bottle of wine waiting for me. And, I'm already halfway into it. I wish I could say that there was some ice cream here waiting for me, too, but that's not the case. And I refuse to get back into that car again today for any reason whatsoever.

I'm supposed to be in San Francisco this weekend for a wrestling clinic/tournament and I had the best of intentions of getting there. This is the same group that helped me prepare for the Gay Games in 2006 when I couldn't find resources locally and is a wonderful group of guys. The sad fact of the matter is that I have too many places to be and not enough of me (or enough money) to be in all of them. So - here I sit. Wine in hand, recovering from a long, long, long day on the road.

Part of the additional challenge from a day like today is my continuing recuperation from my Dr. O jaw work. It happened 4 weeks ago today but I know from previous experience how slowly some of this stuff can heal. The good/bad news about jaw work is that it swells and gets numb for quite a while, but being vertical for long periods of time (like - 14 hours in a car) make things particularly uncomfortable. Dr. O wrote a book (details here) outlining lots and lots of FFS stuff and I'm sure he mentions it in there but I'll mention it again - this stuff takes quite a bit of time to fully recover.

One of the key people in the HRC Workplace Project celebrated his last day there today. He is moving on and although I'm thrilled to see him move into a new organization and a new role he will be sorely, sorely missed. He called today as he cleaned out his desk to share that something we'd been discussing for a while has come to pass. The "Understanding Transgender Issues" video on the HRC website is available for people who want a copy of their own (details here). Best of luck to Samir!

If you've been in or around Austin very much you'll know who Bob Schneider is. He seems to be one of Austin's best kept musical secrets. Anyway, my song of the day is from his Lovely Creatures CD and is titled "Bicycle vs. Car". The particular video features the words - well worth a listen (there are other versions of it on YouTube if you want to do the work to search them out).

Now - time for bed. I need to get horizontal. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Today is Thursday. I've been "resting" for a while. That is, I've been taking it easy. I'll admit, though, that THAT hasn't been easy. Slowing down after being in so much motion for so long becomes a hard habit to break. But I'm getting there.

My mom went to the senior dance tonight. She goes pretty much every Thursday evening and, at 80 years old, is far from the most "senior" dancer there. There's lots that I think helps to keep my mom young and continuing to go to these dances is one of them.

I recently re-read my blog entries from the past month or so and it's no wonder that my soul has needed a bit of a nap. These least few weeks have been full of significant change and I expect that will continue. They have also been full of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stressors. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to re-charge because I've got some big stuff coming up. Again.

The neat thing is to see that my mom still sees the importance of mothering me, even at this stage of our lives. I think she's actually enjoying this. It makes her feel good. As for me, it makes me smile.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


"It's kind of fun to do the impossible" - Walt Disney.

I'd argue that one of the most important things that any of us can do is to find people and things that inspire us. To be inspired is to become motivated, energized, and focused. Motivated people can do amazing (some would say "impossible") things.

In the past I've mentioned my niece, Kyrie. I have a short description of why I've always found her to be so special on one of my website pages (she's near the bottom of the page). She recently turned 11 years old and her courage, determination, refusal to accept societal expectations of "normal" and general life energy are contagious to anyone who meets her.

Although she was born into this world with a number of physical "handicaps" she refuses to accept the concept of "can't". She refuses to be limited or otherwise accept that she should expect less out of life than anyone else. She's amazing,

One example - At the beginning of the school year she indicated that she wanted to join the choir. The initial problem for some is the fact that she can't talk. She's got a traech tube in her throat and communicates to the world using basic sounds and sign language. BUT - she can hum. And, she LOVES music. So, a highlight of this past school year for her was to get all dressed up and to participate in the Holiday choir performance.

Kyrie is the personification of "Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you deal with it." And, she continues to inspire me - my recent wrestling adventure is a good example.

The reason I mention her here today is because she had surgery yesterday. Among her many "challenges" is the fact that one leg is 2 inches longer than the other so she needs a special shoe to be able to walk. So they put some screws into one leg in hopes of evening them out, and that her knees will end up at approximately the same level. She's handling it like she handles everything else - like a trooper. Please send good thoughts her way.

If you check my Facebook updates recently I've been on a flower "kick" lately. I think I've mentioned in the past that my mom's Iris garden is a pretty amazing thing. The fact that she keeps it as organized, clean, fresh, and healthy as she does at 80 years old is another pretty amazing thing.

When her garden is in bloom it's breathtaking. And, all the hard work that goes into keeping it healthy to achieve those couple or three weeks is a commitment of time and energy that keeps my mom going. Thankfully, there are people who help her. This thing has raised beds, carpeting, labels on carefully measured rows - it's far more impressive than in this photo.

I'm on this flower kick because it's a reminder that so much is about the journey rather than the destination (plus, it's just beautiful). When life gets going fast it's easy to miss the simple beauty that's all around. I'm at a point where I'm purposefully slowing things down, taking deep breaths, refocusing, and in the process I'm noticing so much to appreciate. Expect more flower "stuff" for a while....

Yesterday I was talking about some of the hamburger yummies that I particularly enjoy. Today there was an article in USA Today highlighting some restaurant foods particularly high in sodium, calories, and/or saturated fat (read article here). Some of my favorite foods are on that list! Sigh.

I was talking with a friend tonight about how this blog has changed over the years. There was a time when it focused on news articles, politics, and other bigger picture things. The advent of other avenues - whether they be blogs, social networking, or other online channels - as well as the daily barrage of trans "stuff" has filled that need. This blog has become a more personal opportunity to share day-to-day stuff, some of which can be pretty interesting and some of which can be pretty mundane. Either way - this blog continues to evolve as do I.

Next up - major changes to the website. I hope to have some time to make major inroads there over the next couple of days. Today? I drove 200 miles this morning and took a nap this afternoon. And although I planned on saving half my dins for tomorrow the entire thing somehow disappeared. All in all - Donna Time is in full swing.

That said, there's a an article that just came out in the Los Angeles Times on trans rights (read it here). It's worth a read.

I'll end with a music video. I've been on the road quite a bit lately and one of the CD's that I've been playing over and over is one of the first inspirational CD's I found when I started my transition. I used to half-joke that they should include it in every transition "Welcome Wagon" goodie bag because every song seemed to hit a nerve in one way or another for me. I find it still does.

Here's one song of particular relevance. It's by Sarah McLachlan and is titled "Good Enough".

Good night.

Monday, May 24, 2010

TV, videos, and Stuff

As I type this I'm sipping on a glass of red wine and listening to Jim Croce's Greatest Hits. He's one of those talents who was taken way before his time so I'm just jammin'. There are a number of songs on it that bring me back to previous times in my life - a LONG time ago - and a couple that have particular pertinence now. I love that kind of stuff.

Apparently, this is the week for big TV finales. I'll admit that I don't watch much TV and haven't followed a single one of these big series. Still, I'm taking endless interest in watching the reactions of people who, apparently, do follow these things to get their feelings on how things ended up. The end of the LOST finale seems to be a topic of particular interest.

What I will comment on tonight, however, is something near and dear to my heart. Or, more accurately, to my tummy. I've visited a number of "chain" hamburger places around the country during my travels - In 'n Out Burger, Fudddruckers, and Five Guys come to mind. I've also been to a number of local burger "institutions" (Hut's Hamburgers in Austin immediately comes to mind). Tonight was my first visit to "Mighty Fine" (visit their website here). Yum.

I realize that most wouldn't consider a big half-pound burger to be "health food" but I'd challenge that a good burger is good "soul" food. My son asked me to rank where our overall burger "experience" fell in relation to other places we've been and I'll admit that I enjoyed it a lot. His chocolate shake was tasty, too, but for me the key is the burger and this was good - not too "foofy" but not too greasy and goopy either. Yum.

The amazing thing about Five Guys is that there were very few of them anywhere just a couple of years ago and they seem to be everywhere now. It's amazing how fast they've grown. Anyway - our dinner tonight had no down side other than thinking too hard about the number of calories involved.

I learned today that one of my fairly recent talks, a talk I did on the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Nov. 2009 at Grand Valley State College in Michigan, is on iTunes. There are two parts and although the image is fairly small (it probably looks good on an iPhone or some other mobil device) it gives a flavor of the kind of speaking I often do. Every event is a little different but it's interesting to contrast this event to the Kodak video that we put online for HRC in 2007 (although it was actually taped in 2005).

Grand Valley State Videos (2009):
HRC Videos (2005):

One humorous thing I notice in the Grand Valley State video is my luggage in the background. It was another of those crazy trips....

I've had some wonderful conversations and reconnections recently with people who in one way or another have affected my life. One was with the woman who encouraged me to turn my notes and writings into a book, edited it, and played a huge role in getting it out there. It was SO wonderful to reconnect with her. We haven't seen each other in several years.

I also spent some time with someone who took care of my son when he needed it. Details are unimportant but this person went out of her way to help him at a time when he really needed an angel, and she was that angel. That was several years ago but her help is something I'll never forget and for which I'll be forever grateful.

And, there's a small group of people from Dell that I still keep in contact with - they were the first people I came out to when I was living here. Despite the fact that we only talk from time to time and that we see each other fairly rarely the warmth of their hugs and the genuine connection that we have is something I'll always look forward to when I get anywhere near them.

Reconnections seem to be a recurring theme in my life at the moment. I don't see that as a coincidence, or as an accident. Certainly, some of the opportunities to find people or do things from earlier in my life have had interesting timing but I've actively worked to keep these connections alive. And, at the same time balancing the future - where it leads, what it holds, who will be involved - remains an active component of my days. All in all - good stuff.

Finally - in keeping with the earlier theme about TV - my son called earlier and encouraged me to watch tonight's Family Guy episode. Apparently, one of the character's fathers has a "sex change". Family Guy is generally pretty raunchy so this can't be good.

It's just at the beginning so he hasn't told anyone yet. Apparently he's a Vietnam Vet and he wants a Cosmo so they all think he's gay....

The funny thing, when I was in college I used to drink Tequila Sunrises. All the other wrestlers ordered beer but NOBODY dared make fun of my colorful little drink. Anyway - this looks like it's going to be "interesting".....

The dad is promising his son that he's not gay. But he just told everyone that he's going to have a "sex change". Oy.

I can't help but admit that I've laughed more than once at this already. That's probably not PC to admit, but it's true.....

But there's a point where things aren't funny. I didn't laugh when they started calling her an "it", though. Or when she found a "friend" at the hotel who threw up for half a minute when he found out. Or when Quagmire got violent over it all. Sigh. Some things aren't funny. (Here's an article about it).

Apparently, the entire episode is already online on Hulu (watch it here).

Now that it's over - I'm glad I don't watch all that much TV.....


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bows and Arrows

It's funny. As is probably not a secret to anyone who has followed my blog for very long I travel quite a bit. Different places where I've spent much time have often have a unique smell to them. I don't know that I use the term "smell" to mean simply odor, or aroma, or any number of other various synonyms that our language uses to articulate the sensation of experiencing "smell" through our nose. And I'm not saying that it's good or bad. It's just that I'm confident that, if I got off an airplane and didn't know what city I was in, I could differentiate Charleston from Austin from San Francisco from Phoenix.

Part of it is probably the proximity to the ocean. Some of it has to do with the humidity (or lack of it). But as a short add-on to my previous tome on Emotion, so too does the smell of each city to which I've developed a connection evoke different feelings.

In my adventures recently I had the joy of being able so spend a little time with my son. He lives in Austin, TX. He's 24 now. 24 friggin years old. Where has all the time gone??

Here's my little man holding one of the pups. He's gotten so big - both my son and the pup!

My son will always be my son. And I will always be his parent. Even though other life "stuff" comes and goes for both of us that bond is something that transcends words. During my talks I'll sometimes explain that my favorite "role" from life before transition was being my son's father. There are people who want to get wrapped up in words or definitions but I have no problem admitting that I still enjoy our bond, how it has changed, what it has become, and the fact that I continue to be my son's dad. When we're together we don't feel the need to explain it or quantify it - it's just found a comfortable place for us and that's all that's important. The complexities of relationships often transcend words and, certainly, in this case that is true.

Last year we did a couple of cross-country road trips together and he lived with me for a while but he has been on his own for a while now. He seems to have gotten his act together pretty well - looks good, seems strong, and he's wonderful parents to "our" pups. It was wonderful to see him again, and to be part of his world for a little while.

As a parent we always hope our kids will be OK. I don't know if that ever goes away no matter how old we or they get. There have been times when I've called my son to ask that he work through his own drama as my plate gets overly full at the time so I need to my energies on my own world sometimes. He always seems to be able to do it.

Somewhere buried in all of my writing I share a passage that my mom said was key to helping her come to a sense of Peace with my transition. I have found it to be helpful in my own life, as well, in terms of recognizing or at least articulating the unique relationship that we as parents have to our children. It's from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I read and re-read that, chewing and savoring every word and phrase like a delicious piece of steak. Digesting it - but coming back again later so as not to forget.

I think one of the things my son has finally realized is that decisions he made earlier in life have come home to roost and have slowly impacted his life today, and his options for tomorrow. So too is he realizing that decisions he is making now will open doors for his future just as NOT making decisions may keep those doors closed. It's one of those things we try to teach our kids as they're growing up but that we all seem to need to learn the hard way.

I remember being his age. I remember how there were so many choices needing to be made and just hoping to be able to make the right ones. That's a lot of pressure to put onto a young adult - forcing them to make decisions about careers and relationships and other things that will likely be the foundation for the rest of their lives. So, too, is that a lot of pressure for an older adult facing many of those same choices.

At this stage of life I refuse to believe that all the foundational decisions in my life have already been made and I just need to live with them - whether they were good decisions or bad decisions, right decisions or wrong decisions, decisions made with the best information at the time, or simply decisions that fit at one point in time but which I've since outgrown. There are still big decisions to be made - like, what do I want to be when I grow up? - and I don't find those choices to be daunting or scary. In a way, they're exciting. I'll admit that they can be confusing sometimes, but the bottom line is that the day we stop making forward thinking decisions for our future is the day we admit that we really have no future.

The line from "The Prophet" that has the most meaning to me right now is one that, perhaps, is the least obvious: life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

I have been blessed with a couple of attributes that help me keep myself forward focused. One is that I'm OK making decisions, being comfortable with them, not second guessing them, and not constantly looking over my shoulder to question them. I have learned that that's a rarer quality than you'd think.

It's easy to re-think decisions at some future point and forget the the complex forces that come together to help you make decisions in the first place. For example, the decision that so many of us struggle with is whether or not to start to transition, and the tendency to continue to look over our shoulders once we've made that decision seems to be an ongoing one. I've come to recognize that - for me, anyways - that decision is simply one part of a broader life goal of not having regrets.

Secondly - thankfully - I'm not a worrier. I'm a thinker, and an analyzer, and I've got a very active mind but I'm tremendously thankful that the anxiety caused by worrying rarely creeps into my mind and when it goes I'm pretty good at forcing it aside. Worry is simply Fear in the guise of "What if?" I learned a long time ago that it serves no good purpose and simply saps energy needed for more positive pursuits.

Life is very much like a chess game. It's a series of moves that are made in response to other moves and at the same time it's forward thinking in terms of strategy of putting yourself in position to make future moves. I've learned that there are three dangers in that analogy, however.

One is that those making other moves (whether they be people, events, or whatever) - and they happen all the time - are "opponents". They're not. They're simply others doing their best to make moves in their own chess match of life.

And the second is that the goal of it all is to "win". I don't know what winning would look like.

And, the third is to take all of this out of context. What seems like losing at one moment is simply an opportunity at some later moment.

One of my favorite memories of my dad is when he was teaching me how to play chess. At the beginning he played me without his queen in order to make it more fair. And, he'd make "bad" moves to see if I'd notice, and take advantage of them. But as I got better at it he added his queen, and he got more serious in considering the moves.

One thing I've grown to appreciate is that when I'd make a move - I'd keep my hand on the piece considering whether it was a good move because the move doesn't become "official" until you take your hand off - he's sometimes question, "Are you sure you want to do that?" When he'd say that it was implying that this was probably not a wise move and that I'd probably missed something and, in fact, that there was an opportunity for a do-over. I'd re-think the move and sometimes I'd recognize danger that I somehow missed the first time around and sometimes not.

A word that my dad used in the context of chess - I can still hear him saying the word - is "blunder". Blunder is not a word I use all that much in everyday conversation but, as a concept, it still invokes thoughts of my dad. And whereas I suppose the true meaning of the word is "mistake" in my own vernacular it's a boo-boo. That's not as severe as a mistake. It's all part of this chess-game of life we play. And, it's something we all do. But something we perceive as a mistake today is actually an opportunity for tomorrow.

It's important to be comfortable with the fact that simply because we eventually outgrow a move we've made doesn't mean it was a blunder. I've outgrown a number of things in my life - careers, jobs, things I've done, relationships - and still refuse to acknowledge them as "blunders". Not every decision we made needs to be "right" for a lifetime. And, just because something changes doesn't mean it was a blunder.

This all brings me back to my son because that's the context of this line of thought. He's 24 years old now. When I look at him I see an adult with positive qualities and foibles, just like me. I see someone doing their best to work their way through the complexities of life but at the same time making blunders, just like me. I see someone with qualities that makes me tremendously proud, but at the same time with foibles that I recognize. So when I re-read that passage from The Prophet at this stage of our lives it has a meaning different than at other times.

He's done some things that, if we were playing chess and I were my dad, I would have asked, "Are you sure you want to do that?" But he did. And we've survived. I'd argue that we've more than survived - that we've thrived. Blunders - on his part and on mine - and all. I can't get away from the thought process of "How do you know what's right until you've tried what's wrong?" and that doesn't mean that what's wrong was a blunder. It was a learning experience. It was an opportunity for growth. It was a time of challenge. And, eventually, it simply becomes another move in this complex game we call "life".

That's probably a lot of rambling, but as far as I'm concerned that's what blogs are for. Blogs are outlets for thinking, emotion, and all the other "stuff" that any of us want to share. Recently I've done lots of reconnecting with things from my past - this particular missive is about my son - but at the same time I'm making plans for my future. I'm reminded that I'm still my mom's arrow, and my dad's arrow - that they gave life. I'm reminded that I'm still in flight, and perhaps most importantly, that I've still got a long way to go.

I'm going to close with a song I heard on the radio that I haven't heard in a long, long time. The cool thing about Austin is that you'll hear music that you generally wouldn't hear anywhere else. This particular song struck me because it connects with something I've been writing about lately.

Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.....

Good stuff.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Emotional Selves

I've had several friends who have recently started on hormones. I've also had several who have gone off hormones, who have closed down their online presence to one degree or another, and who have had to second guess some of the big decisions in their lives.

The bottom line for much of this can be traced to a simple word with complex and far-reaching implications. Emotion.

In my own experience, starting on hormones was one of those paradoxes we face from time to time where I was incredibly excited but at the same time I was utterly terrified. I knew that, no matter what else happened from that point on, whether I decided to move forward or not at some point in the future, that I was opening a Pandora's Box from which there would be no return. Allowing that needle with that hormone into this butt was to introduce something into my world that would change it forever. It was that simple.

I think that despite the fact that more than a dozen years has passed between my first estrogen shot and today many of us are still completely blind-sided as to the impact of these potent chemicals. They are life transforming. They are amazing. And, they are scary. Even to me. Even all these years later.

One of the reasons for this, I think, is that people over-emphasize or are overly focused on the physical changes that they're expecting. MTF's think more about breast development (how big am I going to be?) or fat re-distribution or softening of the body hair than they do about anything else. So, when the physical changes (a) take a while and (b) aren't as significant as they expected (and, as a result, sometimes increase their dosages in order to "hurry things up") they're sucker-punched by all these rushes of new emotions and sensations that they either don't know how or just can't handle. Even under the best of circumstances a gender transition is a stressful thing. Add a bucket-full of emotion to it and it can easily become overwhelming. Oh - if I'd only known that at the time.....

Here's a little story..... When I first moved to Phoenix I made my first efforts to meet other people "like" me by contacting the local Tri-Ess group. I was told that I needed to meet a couple of people for dinner so that they could "screen" me so we met at a restaurant near my house. They sent a husband/wife team to check me out. And, it only took a few minutes for them to make up their minds.

I'll never forget it. The wife asked me if I had started on hormones and I had, so of course I said so. Well - her response was to roll her eyes and to inform me that my mind was forever poisoned so that we really had nothing more to discuss. I was flabbergasted. Poisoned? Forever? From estrogen? Are you kidding?

But it wasn't long before I was asking myself that same question. My life under the influence of testosterone included kinda happy, kinda sad, and any number of levels of angry. It was actually a pretty simple range of emotions to manage. Once I started on hormones it was like going on overload and was far more than I could handle. After just a few months I stopped - as my friends are - to reassess. I needed to cleanse my system to be sure I was making the right decisions for the right reasons. I just couldn't handle it all.

I think each of us experiences this in our own way and my heart goes out to my friends who are struggling with these decisions at the moment. I've been there so I understand how complicated it is. But it's unfortunate that we need to try to turn this into a rational discussion because when it comes to hormones, and specifically to emotion, there is nothing rational about it.

There was a time when I was worried that I couldn't feel at all, when my ability to cry was all but gone, when the walls I had built had become so thick that very little penetrated it. It was a safe little world but one that was just an effective mask.

Today - a dozen years later - emotions rule my life. I don't say that in a negative way other than to express how important a component that single factor has become in what I think, what I do, how I act, or what I say. I had one person write to me recently to tell me that I'm "mentally ill" and if that's the clinical name you give to someone who acts on their emotions then I'm certainly guilty as charged, your honor.

For example, yesterday I had to "come out" to someone who felt betrayed that I hadn't done it sooner - all due to a big misunderstanding - and I just started crying. I've got a lot of emotion swirling in me at the moment and it all just kind of built up and, well, out it came. He didn't know what to do but he sensed how difficult all this was for me and it helped us to have a better discussion (after I composed myself).

Being emotional is a double edged sword. In fact, I'd go so far that it's one of those "Be careful what you ask for because you might get more than you bargained for" things. At least, that's how I've found it to be. And no matter what I say here it's not something that you can really effectively explain because I doubt any of us experience it exactly the same. It's one of those things you have to figure out for yourself which is what makes it so complicated. And, so emotional.

I can think of a number of synonyms for emotion. One is Passion. In my world, passion is emotion squared or emotion cubed. It is the overwhelming rush of emotion that many of us feel and can come in many flavors - love, hate, happiness, sadness, fear, desire. Passion is to emotion as the sky is to the ground. Where does one end and the other begin? That's hard to say. But once tapped the ends are boundless.

I've mentioned the movie "Serendipity" in my writing before and there are a number of lines from the movie that stand out for me. One is: You know the Greeks didn't write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: "Did he have passion?" I like that. For without passion - without the drive of emotion - what's the point?

Sometimes people ask me to explain things in my life. Well - sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. To explain implies that there's a logical "reason" or "cause" but to indicate that something happened because of emotion - however accurate that might be - feels like a cop out sometimes. I can go down a whole list of things that are, on the surface, irrational, unwise, stupid, misguided, or otherwise just bad ideas but the fact of the matter is that what I (or any of us) do can be complicated and there are no easy answers.

As for me - my emotions continue to be as real a component of myself as my arms or my legs. To remove them would be impossible, and just as my need for seemingly obvious answers obtained thru pure logic can be a friend or an enemy at any point in time so too can my emotions. I sometimes wonder if we're made up of a number of different (and often disconnected) selves: our physical self, our spiritual self, our emotional self, our ideal self - the list could be endless. Actions of one can have significant on the actions of all. That's just the way it is.

Just as my physical self, through my arms or my legs, can move or cause things to happen in the world so too can my emotional self. They have a real presence in the world simply by being a driving force, a motivator, or a trap. William James, a philosopher from the late 1800's who is perhaps best known as a leader in the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, once said "The emotions aren't always subject to reason but they are always immediately subject to action". Amen to that.

Fear is an emotion. Sadness is an emotion. Vulnerability is an emotion. Love is an emotion. And so is need. All of them are powerful motivators that can have profound impacts on actions, and words. Not being able to feel these things would be a curse. But then again, so too is feeling them too deeply.

If there were a roomful of people listening to this I expect that there would be lots of heads nodding in recognition of what I'm saying. There's nothing here that most of us don't already know. But sometimes it's nice to be reminded of things we know or that we think we know. And, it's nice to realize that what we're feeling isn't unique to just us. That we're not alone.

I recently re-read something my sister wrote about me way back in 2003. It's about when she first learned of my true self. Here's part of it:
I was utterly astonished. “David???” I thought, totally stunned with the sensation of abject, absolute incredulity. “No. ..… WAY!!! It CAN’T be!!!!!!” Disbelief warred with my profound amazement. My brother, David, in my experience was just about the most masculine, rugged, athletic, aggressive, virile kind of a guy you could ever find! He was a hunk. He was a jock. He was sooooooo……. bloody MALE. Like I said, testosterone poisoning. I had a long moment where I was sure David was setting me up for a nasty practical joke (he always said I was gullible, in a sneering tone of voice, usually right after I had just embarrassed myself by falling for one of his nasty practical jokes…). But this was not a joke, not at all. And as I began to realize what it meant and what life had done to him, I just wanted to put my arms around him. Or rather, HER. My sister, Donna. Compared to the agonizing double tragedies of the loss of my Dad and my newborn daughter’s very rough beginning in life, the news about David was not even in the same league. In fact, I didn’t regard it as a tragedy at all, except for Donna, being stuck in that situation all alone for so very long. And for David’s wife and son, who were about to go through some very rough times of their own. But, as a sister, my first concern was my own family—my sibling. My sibling who had been facing this all along, hiding it, trying to overcome it, feeling that constant pain. And doing it alone. Well, I thought, not anymore. I told her she could count on me, and I meant it. I wanted to make up for all those years when I was so angry at Dave, and Donna was right behind those beautiful blue eyes, hurting. It still makes my throat ache, thinking about that.

Donna is amazing. All the sensitivity that David lacked is right there in her. David was her armor; it’s a tough world out there… especially to people who don’t “fit” society’s expectations of them. I read everything I could get my hands on about transgendered or transsexual syndromes. The more I read, the more empathy I felt for my poor sister who had been trapped for forty years in the prison of the wrong gendered body. I was delighted to realize that my brother Dave wasn’t the aggressive, unfeeling brute I had feared. So much talking was done over the months after this information came out… endless hours on the phone, on the computer, and during visits. I built a strong, multidimensional friendship with my new sister that means a great deal to me and it has healed many of the old wounds that were left over from David’s attitude towards me while we were growing up. Suddenly, I understood. It made sense. Wow. I can only hope that I’ve helped heal some of the similar scars that she was carrying, as well.

For those struggling with decisions about transition and hormones - I'm confident that you'll figure out what's right for you. I'm a big believer in "How do you know what's right until you've tried what's wrong?". Lord knows, I've played that game before. And, one of the things I've learned is that the key to this as to so many things isn't desire or courage or need so much as it is about patience. Letting time do its work can be a hard lesson to learn sometimes.

For friends who are dealing with my own emotional frailties all I can say is thank you for your patience and understanding. For better or for worse - I'm a passionate person.

For myself - or should I say - for my various selves, we try to live and work in harmony the best we can. That's not mental illness. That's just being human.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ghost of a Chance

I went to the doctor today. I had a number of things to discuss. My doctor here has been my doctor since pre Donna Day 1 so he's seen me at my best and at my worst. We've got history.

Anyway, basic "measurements" were good. BP was exactly where I wanted it: 120/80. Weight was consistent - I had gained almost 10 much-needed pounds in the week between the wrestling weigh-in and my surgery. I've lost those same 10 pounds since then so I'm skinny again. And, some of the blood "anomalies" that I was concerned about don't seem to be that big of a deal. Apparently, lots of it is tied in with being dehydrated which - duh - is part of wrestling.

I've had a number of interesting experiences today. For example, today was my first day back for a visit to the wrestling center where I trained for the Nationals since my jaw procedure. I can't say enough good things about the people there. I was just there for a visit but it was a little emotional.

I've pretty much made up my mind to compete at the US World Team Trials in Iowa next month. That's a tournament you need to qualify for in order to enter, and my #6 finish at the Nationals qualifies me to participate. I need things to focus on at the moment and this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing so I'll focus on not getting my ass kicked too badly.

As preparation I'm also planning to participate in a weekend of workshops and a tournament in San Francisco over Memorial Day weekend. It's a great group of guys that helped me get ready for the Gay Games in 2006 and it'll be nice to see the "gang" again.

If I do this what I really need is a headgear. Or. more specifically, something resembling a football helmet, or a hockey goalie mask. I'm not a hat person but my jaw isn't ready for a hard cross-face or a clumsy knee to it yet. They do have face-masks and although they're certainly not attractive I'm not above wearing one. It'll be almost like WWF. Hmmmmm. Perhaps I have a future there.

Iowa is to wrestling as the Taj Majal is to buildings, or the Grand Canyon is to gorges. It's crazy there - almost like a religion - and I'm actually looking forward to seeing it for myself. Of course, things could get "interesting" for me, specifically, but that's just the way it goes. The best part of my experience in Ohio was having Chloe and a friendly group of faces there so I wasn't all alone. I'll hope for similar support in Iowa but will be ready to go it alone if I have to.

Wrestlers are unique animals. I've said in the past and I said it again tonight - I wouldn't be who or what I am without the physical and mental toughness I learned the hard way on that mat all those years ago.

That's me doing a single-leg - 1979

And although people can make all kinds of judgements about it the fact of the matter is that it's part of me that I still enjoy. Surgery didn't remove it. The difference between then and now, though, is that my biggest barrier isn't an opposing wrestler. It's my own heart, and body, and mind. And, although it sounds odd to admit as the oldest athlete there - my inexperience.

There's a movie coming out about wrestling. I wish I could embed the trailer here but you'll have to go to their website to see it if you want. That's the kind of wrestling I remember.

Changing gears a bit, a back-stage movie about one of my all-time favorite bands - Rush - won the audience award at Tribeca. It's called Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and I can't wait to see it. Rush is another of those things I've never outgrown. The first time I saw them live was 1978 and I've seen them at least a dozen times over the years.

So Cool.

One of the reasons I've always loved the band, beyond the fact that they're just bad-ass musicians (I can't believe all that sound comes from just 3 people) is the connection I've always felt with their lyrics. I've got a number of their songs on my Inspirational web page. One of my favorites there is Time Stand Still:
I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath
Before I start off again.
Driven on without a moment to spend
To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I'd like to pause
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim
Who learns to transcend
Learns to live as if each step was the end

Their lyrics seem to resonate most in their live performances, especially if you close your eyes and let them soak in:

One more that I've always loved - Ghost of a Chance. It seems appropriate given my earlier comment about competing at the World Team Trials:

And for the drummers among us - do you see that drum set?? Are you kidding me?? Oy.

Anyway. Rush. Onwards....

Monday, May 17, 2010


I went to church yesterday. I haven't been able to go for a few weeks because it seems that my Sundays have been full of travel, recovery, or other "stuff". That logistical detail hasn't dulled my ongoing connection with my spiritual self, however, and I'd argue that my time at the beach in South Carolina was far more "spiritual" than time spent in any building anywhere.

One reason I do like to go to church is to listen to the sermons. I typically use the level of connection that I feel to what the sermoner has to say as the metric by which I measure whether it's a place I want to be. Anyway, this particular church here in the Valley often has interesting things to say. So, I go there.

Yesterday the pastor was talking about the various morning readings and one of the things he talked about was this mistaken sense we get sometimes that we - each of us - are the center of the universe. Life can get so overwhelming sometimes with so many things going on that it's important to have reminders that it's not all about US. It's a much bigger picture in which we are simply players, and how we need to keep things in perspective. Anyway - the way he explained it was amusing and I found the general approach to be a good one. I'm glad I went - I typically leave there feeling good.

On the news this morning they mentioned a website you can use to identify whether your photos have been "hijacked" anywhere on the internet. It looks all over the internet to see if it can find your stuff. It's at "" so that's today's technical tip. I've had people use my photos for all kinds of stuff ranging from forced domination stories to people using my photo as their own profile picture and people are generally good about warning be about this stuff when they find it. Anyway - I haven't tried this website yet but I find the concept interesting.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a website titled "Pandora" that was particularly cool because you could build music playlists of artists you like and it would somehow magically identify others that are similar in style or genre for you to listen to. Pandora has become pretty well known over the last couple of years, especially since it because one of the coolest early free apps for iPhone. I still listen to it all the time.

Today's music video doesn't have any deeper meaning other than it's a song I heard on Pandora and ended up liking. It's fun to find new bands that you wouldn't otherwise hear. Anyways - here's today's song:

I find it coincidental that the name of the planet in Avatar is also "Pandora". It is interesting to research the various meanings of the word "Pandora" (here's one). Anyway - that doesn't have anything to do with the song or the software - it's just interesting.

Speaking of "interesting" - Living in Arizona has been "interesting" recently. As many may know the state recently passed a strict new immigration law that is causing all kinds of uproar across the country. In my opinion - rightfully so, but that's a much deeper discussion than I'm willing to have this morning.

The Phoenix Suns are starting their playoff series against the Lakers tonight so that's big news here at the moment.

Summer is around the corner so many of the "snow-birds" who come here for the winter are beginning their escape to more temperate climates, while others who live here year round are soaking up these last few days of sub-100 degree weather.

All in all - it's a very "interesting" place to be at the moment. Come to think of it - my life is an interesting place to be. Period.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The most evil thing about Haagen-Dasz ice cream isn't the creaminess, the taste, or the number of calories in each sinful spoonful. It's the fact that they pack it into pint containers. If you're not careful and you sit down with the container in front of you you'll find that it's gone faster than you can imagine. The pint just disappears. That's just wrong.

Of course, the most effective way to combat this (other than to simply not buy it) is to put a couple of spoonfuls into a bowl. But the bowl typically dwarfs the small size so they key - as to most things in life - is willpower.

Today was my first day back at the fitness center with any sense of purpose (I was given strict orders to keep my blood pressure low and to avoid "stressful" exercise for at least 2 weeks). I didn't touch a weight, but worked on tummy and was on the treadmill for 5 good miles. My body handled it pretty well and I was happy with the way it seems to have maintained itself over the past couple of weeks.

I tried on a pair of Size 6 pants and still fit comfortably in them, as well. Apparently, this soft, mushy food diet that I've been on must be good for the waistline. Except, of course, for the ice cream.

I put together a couple of slideshows of photos I've taken over the past few weeks. I put one of them from over Easter weekend onto Facebook but for some reason the music ends near the middle of the song. And, I made it a "Medium" version but that's ok.

It was beautiful. I wish the photos did it justice.

I only expect to be home here for a few days while I heal up a bit and get some strength back. And, I've got some things to take care of. Then, I'm going to unplug for a while. My writing has been a helpful source of catharsis in recent weeks but there's also a need for quiet time. I feel some quiet time coming on.

It's odd how you see things that put other things into perspective. Tonight was the last episode of the HBO mini-series "Pacific" and they spent the last 20 minutes providing updates on the characters we've come to know as we've watched the weeks of hell that was the Pacific theater of WW2. Each week has been pretty intense. Courage has new meaning seeing even these fictionalized versions of what these "kids" - most of them were under 20 at the time - endured. It puts other things into a much clearer perspective.

I remember watching the last episode of "Band of Brothers", a similar kind of thing about the European theater, while sitting in my living room back in Austin several years ago. I was crying - something about the music finally put me over the edge. This time I'm not that fragile but it's still pretty amazing stuff.

I was talking with a friend tonight who watches "Gilmore Girls" with her daughters. Is that the kind of stuff I watch? No. I suppose that says something about my personality. I'm just not quite sure what....

In case anyone wants to watch - they're planning to replay all ten parts over Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


It's a theme I've sung before. Simplify.

And, as many times as that seemingly simple one-word answer comes back loud and clear and I actually DO it, time passes and things get complicated again. I'm not quite sure how that happens. It just does. It's feels like an oxymoron to recognize that making things simple can be complicated but it's true.

I've already started taking steps to try to make that a reality in my world. Again.

But before too much more of that happens - I need at least a few days of rest. These last few weeks have been extremely difficult on this old body, heart, spirit, and mind. Unplugging for a while is key and I am doing just that.

As an "adult" with an admittedly introspective mind I can't help but look over events of the past couple of the weeks to see if there's something that couldn't have been done to somehow have changed it. Simple, stupid, petty things escalated to a point of no return. Bubbling emotion that had been there for some time came gushing to the surface And I doubt anyone - myself included - anticipated the depth of the emotional eruption that it caused in me as I lay in that hospital bed. Those emotions of disappointment, anger, frustration, betrayal - you name them - continue to bubble and I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling them. But the day I apologize for being passionate about the things that are important in my life is the day I apologize for being me. It's part of the package.

It'd be easy to rationalize that my very public emotional outburst was spurred by the physical pain of the surgery, or the meds, or any number of other specific causes. Some of that may actually be true. But the plain fact is that there was no one cause I've stopped looking for "why" as it was more complicated than any one thing. All I can and will say is that there are people in my life that I've loved and that I continue to love. But, contrary to idealistic notions to the contrary sometimes (a) love takes work and (b) love isn't enough. If I hadn't had cared as much as I did I wouldn't have been as hurt and angry as I was. I've learned a lot about myself in the last week - some of which I've liked and some of which I haven't.

I'm home now - back in Arizona - safe and sound. The time is here to look forwards and not backwards. Physically I'm ok. The sutures in my mouth seem to have all dissolved although the terrain of that area still feels pretty yucky. I'm eating "regular" food again, for the most part, which is a good sign. A good portion of my jaw feels like that in-between stage where you have an injection of novacaine from the dentist and it's just beginning to get its feeling back. It'll take a while for it to "feel" normal again and I expected that so no worries.

Mentally - I think I'm ok too. I can't thank the friends who have done things in the past couple of weeks to help me out when I really needed it. It's one thing to count on friends and hope they'll be there (but who aren't) in your times of need and another to find that there are people who step up at just the right time. In one of those typical paradoxes of life I've learned quite a bit about disappointment but at the same time quite a bit about inherent goodness of friends as well. Neither will be forgotten.

I'll unpack this morning, head to church today, spend some time this afternoon helping a friend, and perhaps go to a movie this evening. I've been wanting to see "How To Train Your Dragon" in 3D for a while now and need to see it before it's gone from the theaters - replaced by movies like Robin Hood and Iron Man 2 that I have absolutely no wish to see.

Words are words, and unless they're backed up by deeds sometimes all they are is an attempt to rationalize things we want to believe - but our actions or inactions prove them to be simply so much noise. I have proven to myself time and again that I am more than simply empty words. Others have proven that to me recently, as well, on both sides. And, even when words CAN make the difference the key is choosing to say them or not. That decision is what sends a message far more than the words themselves do.

The time to appreciate the things in our lives is not when it's too late and they're gone. The time to take action to show the special people in our lives that they ARE special is an ongoing one. Just like the ongoing learning and re-learning about the need to simplify is one of those life lessons that's too important to forget. So, when I'm feeling better later in the week I'm going to see my mom and my son. My commitment to my family and my need to be around them is more than words. It will just be.

As with many previous posts I'll end this one with a song that has meant a lot to me - not just recently but for many years. The Sun can be any number of symbolic things, but in my way of thinking the sun represents a healthiness that is the source of life. I like this particular version because it's a particularly happy version:


Friday, May 14, 2010

An Ocean

The ocean holds an odd source of energy. Actually, I don't know it it's the ocean itself so much as the shoreline where the ocean and the land come together. Whatever it is - I have always felt it to be a tremendous source of spiritual nourishment.

It's one of those things you can't put into words because there's no one thing about it. And, it's something that you can "feel". Perhaps one of the most amazing parts of visiting South Carolina since I've been coming here over these past few years has been the opportunity it has provided to spend some quality time at or near the ocean.

I remember one of the first times we visited the beach here in South Carolina. It was nighttime and we packed flashlights. The ocean is different at night and as we strolled along the beach there was all kinds of movement barely visible in the moonlight. The crabs that come out at night were "strolling" - very very cool. That section of beach has become a special place for me for a number of reasons.

My big sister, Kate, took me to the ocean near the Bay Area when I first visited her back in 2000. It was my first visit to San Francisco and we strolled along the beach with surf pounding on a chilly, foggy, windy, misty morning it was one of those times when all the senses seemed to realize they were all working together. The feeling, smell, taste, and memory of that morning are things I'll never forget. And, the fact that we actually found a message in a bottle half buried in the sand made it even more memorable.

If you look back over my blog over the past several years you'll notice a number of special events that happened at beaches. Today was one of them.

I refuse to turn this trip into some melancholy, soul-sapping, sad exercise of retreat. It's not about retreat - it's actually about moving forward. As I've written in the past I have come to truly enjoy this area and I expect to find/make reasons to be back here again. Part of the reason is the city of Charleston itself - it's a beautiful, picturesque, unique city. And, part of it is the relationship that it has with the ocean.

I think part of this appreciation is something that comes with maturity. I lived in Nova Scotia for several years in my late teen years and couldn't wait to leave it. People came from all over the world to see Peggy's Cove and some of the other incredible waterfront experiences that are available there but I was pretty oblivious to it all. I'm hoping to get back there one of these days as part of this need to reconnect with my past but that's another story for another time.

It's far more complicated than simply the ocean and the beach and I'm sure that to people who've lived in the area for most of their lives it's probably something they don't even realize. But for those of us who are "visitors" it's really fascinating, very profound, and something truly special. Somehow when I look across some of the areas near the shoreline I can't help but imagine what they look like during Hurricane force winds which seem to be an annual threat up and down the entire coast but I'm glad I haven't been through that.

Anyway, the reason I mention any of this is that yesterday was a day full of doing things that needed to be done - going down a list of things that needed to be retrieved, packed, closed, or otherwise ended. I had dinner with a dear friend I've known for 25 years - she attended my ex-wife's baby shower for my son, that's how long I've known her. Anyway, after a long day of working through all of these "endings" it was wonderful to take a shower, put on a dress, to meet up with her, and to spend some time reminiscing, laughing, catching up, and generally having a very pleasant evening. Her timing couldn't have been better.

I've mentioned before that one of my life philosophies is recognizing that life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how you deal with it. I decided to make today a day of spiritual nourishment; not of endings but of beginnings. I brought a small baggie with me on this trip that contained two things: (1) a small container of some of my father's ashes and (2) a rose that was given to me as part of a bouquet for Mother's Day. So - I was up early and headed for this special section of beach on Sullivan's Island to sprinkle the ashes and the rose in the early morning tide.

It has taken me quite a while to actually be able to look at the ashes. The first time I took some of them to sprinkle - at the Grand Canyon - the "chunkiness" of the ashes made me queazy. That is, there are white "chunks" in it that could be tooth, bone, or any number of things. I can't but it into words other than to say that knowing that this was all part of the body that was my dad - it was hard to get used to that. Now it's not a problem, but getting comfortable with it has been a journey.

So - I get to the beach, roll up my pants, take off my flip-flops, grab the small baggie of ashes and rose, and I stroll out into the water to a point where the surge of the surf gets my pants wet. I close my eyes - say some personal things to my dad and to God - and let the ashes go into the water. They shimmered like silver as they blended with the surf - it was magical.

The rose, on the other hand, didn't want to go. When I made my way back to shore and collected myself I turned and there it was, lying on the beach. I took it back out a little way in hopes it would find it's way but no - it came back. And, this scene of the vast beach meeting this vast ocean meeting this vast sky - with that one red rose that came halfway across a continent to be there - is one I'll never forget.

I took a picture of it with my phone. I wish the photo could do the nature of it all justice....

It was a magical morning. And, it was the first time I've sprinkled my dad's ashes and I haven't cried. I felt empowered more than sad. It was really good.

I can think of any symbolic ways to try to explain what happened this morning, this resilient red rose sitting in the sand with the vastness of beach and ocean and sky in the background. All I'm really left with is the fact that it was important to do, and I'm glad to have been able to do it given all the other "tumult" in my life lately. This has been a very strong thing and, as much as anything, is reason for being here today.

The ocean can be symbolic of many things. For me - it is a symbol of tides. Tides of life. Tides of forces pushing and pulling beyond our control. Cycles. My life seems to be going through some interesting cycles many of which I won't or can't control. They're just part of the way things are....

And then, after I did what I came to do - I left. I'm gone.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I'm in South Carolina today. All the flights yesterday seemed to work themselves out, my luggage made it, I was able to find my car in the parking lot where Elizabeth left it, so all in all what could have become a logistical nightmare went smoothly for a change. And, once everything calmed down here I slept like a baby. Thank God.

Even though it's not summer here yet the humidity makes my hair crazy. It was like that when I lived in Austin, too. One thing about Phoenix is that there's little or no humidity so (a) hair behaves itself and (b) everything dries out. Having moisturizing lotion, lip balm, and water available at all times is a necessity.

Today has been full of taking care of business. I'm a list person - that's what keeps me whatever level of organized that I am - so I put one together of the things I need to do here before I leave. I'm working my way thru the list item by item. As I said in an earlier post I need to be careful not to overdo things because I'm still far from 100% so I'm sitting down for a few minutes before taking care of the next items. I'm a very focused person so handling all of this in a workmanlike way is just the way I do things. So far so good.

The flight from Phoenix to Atlanta is over 3 hours long so I had some time on my hands. I decided to write a little bit about relationships. It's not necessarily specific to me or my current situation and I'm certainly no "expert" but that doesn't stop me from writing. As I've mentioned - it's a cathartic thing for me so the more I do the better I am.

I wrote this yesterday while I was flying:

I’m somewhere over America, as usual. I’m sitting in what I call a “double jeapordy” seat. That is, I’ve got the bulkhead just in front of me and I’m sitting right next to the emergency door so if there’s a problem I’ll either (a) be the first one out of the airplane after throwing the door open or (b) be trampled to death by everyone who ran over me before I could get rid of the stupid door. The good news about these seats is that there’s lots of extra legroom – I’ve got lots and lots of space. The bad news is that you can’t have anything on the floor in front of you so my stuff is all up in the bins.

I didn’t want to leave the perception in my last entry that I’m some tragically wounded love-struck fool. Sad? Yes. Confused as to how things got here? Very much so. Despondent? No. Disappointed? Hell, yes. Hoping that things get back to where they seemed to be a couple of weeks ago? To be honest - no. That is gone.

In all of this the thing I’m saddest about is the loss of a friendship that has been a special one for a long time. I don’t even have the words to describe our relationship – since the earliest days it seemed to defy simple one or two or three word labels. I remember her earliest days and I've watched her grow over the years just as I've watched our relationship change. But the foundational pillars to any sort of relationship have got to be friendship, trust, commitment, and respect. Everything else is extra.

I used to have a rule. When I say “used to have” I mean that it has always been there and I had always respected it until fairly recently. I think it's a good rule, and it has proven to be a wise one. My rule was – to paraphrase – that I “never get intimately involved with my friends”. The thinking was that when a friendship moves past the friendship phase and becomes physical or otherwise deeper in terms of intimacy things change. And, if issues with the intimacy part get in the way it can undermine the entire friendship – something I’m generally not willing to do. It's all about risk, and whether you're willing to risk the simpler friendship things for the sake of taking it deeper. There are no easy answers.

I’m not going to use my time here in the air to rehash details that are personal and that I plan to keep that way. I don't feel that sharing my disappointments of recent events are a breach of trust, but by and large I think I've done a good job of keeping relationship stuff private. I don't expect that to change. In light of recent events, however, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking and want to articulate a number of general things here.

When I first transitioned I wrote an essay about things I missed. I should probably write an updated version of it – ten years into it. One of the wittiest responses to the question “Do you miss anything about your old life?” that I’ve heard is when Oprah asked Jenny and without missing a beat Jenny said, “Yes. Pockets.” Now THAT was funny.

That has led me to ask myself about some of the things that I miss at this point. Many of them are pretty simple. For example, I miss holding hands. I miss being kissed to the point of closing my eyes and getting lost in it. I miss sharing the weight of the world instead of feeling as though I need to carry it by myself. And, there are things I do that I hate doing. For example – I hate being the one making all the decisions. I hate being the one who’s expected to be the strong one all the time. I hate long-distance relationships. There is an entire world or need/don’t want/don’t get things that I think each of us faces in the relationships in our lives. I’m certainly not unique in any of this. It’s just that sometimes things happen to either gently or forcefully remind you.

As with most things in life I think there’s a tendency to focus an urgency try to fix something when it’s causing acute pain for some reason but when the pain subsides so too does the urgency to fix it. It’s easy to become passive again to things we’re not getting or that we need from the relationships in our lives. I’ve seen it in others, and I’ve seen it in my own relationships.

We’re all also forced to make trade-off’s. It’s very rare to find Mister or Ms. Wonderful that provides every single thing you want and need in a relationship. If you’ve got that – you’ve got Nirvana. On one hand I feel almost hypocritical to imply that anyone needs to “settle” for anything less than perfect (whatever that is) but the simple fact of the matter is that life in general and certainly intimate relationships in our lives involve some level of compromise. That doesn’t devalue or somehow diminish the relationship. It’s simply the way it is. The question isn’t whether a relationship in it’s current form involves compromise so much as how much compromise are we willing to make in order to have the things we want? That’s not an easy question to answer and, in fact, I’d argue that it’s a moving target.

Regardless of any of this there are some basic principles that need to be a focus. For example, the special friends in our lives need to be a priority. That’s not to say that your intimate friendships or relationships need to be the TOP priority – if that’s the case then there may be bigger problems at hand – but the relationship can’t be a priority in our lives where words and actions imply that it doesn’t really matter.

Each of us needs to be there for our most special friends when they need us. That’s what differentiates them from more casual relationships that come and go in our lives. There’s a commitment involved and if we can’t or won’t live up so even the basic levels of that commitment then we need to be honest with each other to manage expectations accordingly.

We can’t wield the emotional connections that we develop as weapons. That’s abuse.

We need to find ways to remind the special people in our lives that they ARE special. We need to focus on simple things like fun, and laughter, and smiles. Perhaps most importantly in all of this – we need to communicate. When the fun is gone - it becomes apparent. It needs discussing before it

This is all pretty obvious stuff, I think. I’m certainly no genius when it comes to relationships or needs or the complex interrelationships between our selves and the people in our lives. But when any one or more of these things is missing and gets missing for a long time it’s an indication of something. Special relationships give rise to expectations – that’s part of the blessing and the curse – so when expectations aren’t either set or met then that’s an indication of something. And, despite romantic notions of unconditional love that I’d argue any day of the week there are ALWAYS conditions.

If you ever come to hear me speak you’ll probably hear me talk about some of the basic stuff we learn in Psych 101. I’ve written about some of it here on my website in the past. Most pertinent to this specific discussion is the model that is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. In it he outlines 5 levels of increasingly complex human need that require fulfillment to move up this hiercharchy to the top – the nirvana that ALL of us are seeking – of becoming self-actualized.

Some of these needs involve feeling appreciated, feeling loved, feeling secure. And, if we don’t find these things in our lives there is NO way to move forward to become fully “happy”. Happy is one of those nebulous words that means different things to different people and I’d argue that it’s more of a mood than an enduring state of being but that’s neither here nor there in this context. These are things we need to find in our lives and that we need to provide to others. They don’t just happen by themselves. And, just because we have it today doesn’t mean we’ll have it tomorrow or the next day. As with anything – giving and getting these things requires ongoing effort.

This is probably all a lot of psycho-babble for some who are reading it but I’m confident that there are people nodding their heads in recognition that what I say is true.

The bottom line is that if we’re not getting these things in our lives we need to do something about that. Or, something will happen to force change. And that’s what brings us back full circle to how I started this little tome – about the pressures to change things in our lives that just aren’t working for some reason or to wait until the pressure passes and continue as is.

The hardest part of losing my family as a result of my transition was the hole that it left in my life. Something that had been very, very important for a long, long time – that took energy and attention and was a source of both happiness and sadness – was now gone. I had no say in the matter – it just was. That was a decision borne from the chess-game of move, counter-move that is life and it was a decision that I respected just as I would have expected it to be respected if I were the one who made it.

I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of special relationships in my life over the years. All of them helped to make me who I am today. All of them were treasured and valued. Some of them lasted past the point where one or both of us outgrew it – they transformed into something different – while others didn’t. When you’re emotionally invested it’s easy to see things in purely black and white terms. But the good news is that each of us has the capacity to love and be loved back. As far as I’m concerned – none of us can ever afford to forget that.

In the future if/when I talk about any of this again it’ll be simply in the terms of the logistics and the basics. I’ve said what I’ve said over the past week or so – and I’m comfortable with all of it – and it’s just time to move on. I’m tremendously thankful that I’ve got the capacity to feel, I have been blessed to be a passionate person in ALL aspects of my life. I have high expectations for myself and for others, and I believe in a bigger picture that will eventually make itself clear. I don’t see any negatives in any of that – that’s certainly not to say I’m perfect – but by and large I don’t see anything to apologize for in any of that. If I do find something to apologize for I certainly won’t be shy about doing it.

And that, my friends, is that. I hope to make my connection. I hope things go smoothly tomorrow. And I hope that things heal quickly. Other than that – life goes on. ☺


Time to get back to work. Still stuff to do, and only so much time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Dust

I'm sitting at the airport waiting for my flight which is supposed to leave in less than an hour. The plane isn't at the gate yet, which is a little bit of a concern, considering that I've only got 45 minutes between flights in Atlanta. The good news is that the weather there looks ok today, and the other good news is that they haven't noted any delays on this flight in particular yet, but this is one trip I'd rather not have problems with.

I've never been on a trip quite like this before. I travel quite a bit - anyone who has followed my journeys for very long will know that the term "road warrior" applies. Last weekend I was in Connecticut. The weekend before that I was in San Francisco recovering from surgery. The weekend before that I was in Cleveland at the Wrestling event. The weekend before that I was at the University of CT. Anyway - you get the picture.

But this is the first time I've been on a trip that has the emotion that this one does. I very much approach things in a workman-like way and there are a number of things that need to happen so while I'm focused it's ok. Like the wrestling thing. But once all the "work" is done and there's time to let down the defenses that's when the emotion hits. As I mentioned I went into the back and cried like a baby - no real reason other than all the emotion that had pent up in the weeks and months leading up to it. I need those kinds of outlets.

Most of the time people see me as this strong, confident person and most of the time that's true. But the beauty of my life these days is the added dimension of feeling more emotion than simply anger or indifference. For someone who couldn't cry for over 30 years the mere fact that I CAN cry is a minor miracle because that, I've learned, is my humanity. I'm not some autobot that runs on autopilot that doesn't feel. If anything, I feel acutely. And, this trip is full of feeling.

The underlying reason for the trip is to collect the few pieces of my world, including my car, and retrieve them from Charleston. Events of the past few weeks seem to have led down a path where done is done. And although I think much could have been accomplished with a simple phone call - either from me or TO me - the fact that we are where we are. I have nothing negative to say. But it is sad to watch friendships die.

I've packed a number of special things for this trip. For example, my niece Kyrie who was born with all kinds of birth "problems" used to love to watch "Finding Nemo". She'd watch it time and time again (although we usually skipped over the beginning part where the mom gets eaten - too scary). I have come to believe that most things you need to know if life can be found in that movie and I brought it along to watch on the plane. We all need reminders sometimes.

I also packed a small bottle of my father's ashes. Typically I spread some of them at places around the country that were important to him in his life. Most of these events have become deeply spiritual for me and remain a real-life connection to him for me. I want to put some of his ashes into the Atlantic along a section of beach near Charleston that has become important to me. So, there's a small container in a small plastic bag (the last time I brought his ashes anywhere the TSA actually opened the container - not good) with a single rose. My dad is coming with me on this because I'd prefer not to do it alone. And, I'll leave part of him there just as I leave part of myself there.

I'm trying to avoid too much exertion - I already got a call from the surgeon's office telling me not to lift things that are too heavy yet and to especially avoid clenching my teeth to avoid bleeding so I'm doing my best to listen to that advice.

Other than that - I'm headed to do what needs to be done. And then, I'll heal some more.

(They just announced an oversold "situation" on the flight to Atlanta - even though we're past the scheduled boarding time the plane is just arriving. This isn't a trip I can delay).

It's still amazing to me how much strength I've lost in the last ten days. Anyone going for surgeries needs to recognize the longer term effects of getting energy back. I don't know if or when I will but it'll take a while. I think all the work to get ready for the Nationals had me at peak performance. Part of that is that I'm a very focused, purpose driven person so I had something to work towards. Sometimes, though, we get reminded to slow down. I'm feeling as though this is one of those times.

Generally - I'm ok. My jaw feels funky in that it hurts but it's numb (it's hard to be both, but it is) and when you're not 100% physically and/or emotionally it's important to have focus. For the moment, I do. One friend suggested that I make sure to see a therapist and the good news is that I started seeing one in July - back when I REALLY hit a wall and needed some help. The question she always asks given all I do is - "What about Donna? When are you going to stop and thing about what Donna needs?" Going to see a therapist was actually one of the best parts of my transition - there was lots that needed to come out - and I think it's unfortunate that there's a whole in the safety net for our community for those of us who have surgery who somehow believe we don't need it anymore. I've come to learn that many of these issues - intimacy, self-acceptance, self-identify, coming out, life direction, etc - make themselves more apparent LATER so it's important to have resources to discuss them. I know I'm strong - but I've also come to accept (along with my emotion) that I sometimes need help.

Anyway, they're going to start loading the plane soon so I'll close. I find my writing to be a cathartic thing so I may be doing more of it. Much of the writing I did during my transition eventually became my book. This is actually the cheapest form of therapy that there is.