Monday, February 28, 2011

Soggy Monday

It has been nice to have a "down" weekend for a change.  They don't happen that often, and I've enjoyed it.

Last week at this time I was driving from my mom's in  Dallas to get my pups in Austin and then turning around to do it all again backward.  I see that there is a nasty storm across the middle of the country at the moment and I'm glad that the timing of things worked so well.  Thankfully, weather wasn't one of the challenges I had to overcome.  It's rainy outside here now and they're calling for potential flooding through tomorrow.  Yuck.

I expect that there are lots of people watched the Academy Awards last night.  With all the "pre-game" coverage and the prognosticating it reminds me of the Super Bowl, except without the commercials.  I was not one of the viewers, although the fact that it was a good night for  "The King's Speech" was not much of a surprise.  Instead, I watched "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" on Netflix.

One of the biggest upheavals at the moment is watching the price of gas go up faster than a rocket.  It was only a matter of time - I remember when we had gas shortages and prices at $4 or more a few years ago and everyone was going crazy.  When the prices went back down a bit people quickly forgot the pain and the vulnerability - but here we are again.  Where's going to end?  Who knows.  The only good news for me right now is that the last time gas was this expensive the distance from my house to work in North Phoenix was almost 50 miles each way.  Now, it's 3.  And once the weather gets a little nicer I'm hoping to be able to bike it.

I weighed myself this morning, and my body is exactly where it likes to be.  Unfortunately, that's a dozen pounds more than I'd need to be at in 6 weeks if I decide to compete.  We'll see what happens.  I'm feeling the effects of a cold deep in my chest at the moment which is no fun.  Anyway - we'll see.

There has been quite a bit of visibility on girls wrestling lately.  The situation in Iowa last week where a boy competitor refused to compete against a female opponent made big news (details here).  And there was an article on the NY Times about the challenges that many girls face simply to compete (see it here).

Anyway - it's a fairly emotionally charged topic and I don't expect that to change any time soon.

Speaking of kicking the hornet's nest - it will be fascinating to watch reaction to the 7th version of the WPATH Standards of Care currently being considered and drafted.  Based on discussions I've had and recent statements from WPATH about the de-pathologization of Gender Variant expressions and the need for non-surgical pathways it promises to provide some interesting discussion given current sensitivities.

Anyway - time to get the day going.  Right now - I need a cough drop....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Full of Sound and Fury

I'm watching "Up in the Air" as I type this.  I can SO relate to this movie.  In SO many ways.  I remember seeing it the first time in the theater just after Christmas 2009 and it resonated with me then, too.

"Cocoon of self-banishment"....that's one of the terms in it.  I like that.....

There's a scene where she fires "Mr. Samuals" over a video-chat thing and he starts crying.  This stuff gets really personal.  I feel it every time I watch it.  The funny thing is that in many ways I consider myself an optimist but there are a number of pessimistic things in this movie that move me, that I feel, that I agree with.  Career things.  Relationship things.  Life things in general.  It's fascinating how movies or songs or books can bring out two different, sometimes directly opposite, aspects within yourself.

"Will you be my co-pilot??"  Great line.

This movie resonates.  With me, anyways.

One new take-away for me this time is that I need to get the soundtrack.


I went to the fitness center today.  That in and of itself is no big deal.  The significance today is that my visits there have been infrequent because of other obligations and I intend to change that.  I'm still in good shape but there are 6 weeks between now and the 2011 version of the US Wrestling Championships so if I'm going to do it again (which I might) it's time to get serious.  I'm sure others got serious about it many months ago but their bodies don't creak and crack nearly as much as mine does so more practice isn't necessarily a good thing once you get past some point in life that I think I've already passed.  I'm just saying......

I see the general pissing match going on by those who are yelling about "IS/TS" vs everyone else.  I've stated how I feel about it in the past and haven't changed my opinion.  I don't need to waste my time here writing too much about it - if you see me out and about I'm happy to say it in person.  The anonymity of the internet has given rise to a bunch of yahoos who in other contexts should just shut-up and provides a platform for them to shout.  Very well, then.  Keep shouting.  It doesn't make anyone any more valid or right just because they yell, or because they can build a private little empire on Facebook, or because they can regurgitate kitchy phrases in various combinations.  Shakespeare hit the nail on the head in Macbeth: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

If you expect respect you need to give respect.  It's that simple.  And those who cling to outdated theories, simplistic definitions, personal judgements, and empty arguments demonstrate time and again that THEY are that simple.  I truly don't care what terms people choose to use when they write or talk about me.  I outgrew that a long time ago.  It doesn't affect me one way or another to called trans or transgender or a mentally disturbed freak by cowards who hide behind a keyboard.  So when I say that many of these people are simply transphobic, homophobic snobs made from the exact same cloth as those who justify their hatred with their faith, or their religion, or their God that really doesn't matter either.  It also doesn't change the fact that each of us has an opinion - and that's mine.

Just because someone gets their photo taken time and time again with people who have achieved something in their lives doesn't bestow similar achievements to anyone else in the photo.  The more that these Sarah Palin clones continue to talk the more their true motivations become apparent, the emptier their convenient little arguments become, and the more they alienate.  As for me - I am not nor have I ever suffered from a "medical condition" regarding my gender.  I am not part of a "Transsexual Revolution".  Nobody has or will "co-opt my personal narrative.".  In short - although their realities may very well be very different than mine it doesn't make it better or more right for anyone else.

My advice to anyone who wants to gain some new perspective - go and spend a day or two at an LGBT Youth Center.  See the kids of today.  See how comfortable they are in the fluid nature of their expression and their identities.  See how much courage they show, see how resilient they are, and recognize that THEY are the future, not retread ideas from the 50's.  If you do that you will truly realize how unimportant it is to simplify the human condition to meet your own personal reality, or to one or two letters of the alphabet.

A couple of weeks ago my organization held a fundraising event to benefit our Youth programs.  Several drag queens in the area sold raffle tickets and all the proceeds supported the organization.  A handful of them raised well over $1,000 for us.  Why?  Because of the kids.

The drag queen who sold the most tickets became the Queen of Winter Hearts.  In this case, the person who won was deaf and had an interpreter.  When she found out she had won she cried like a baby - it was very touching.  And I personally dare reduce this person who has overcome so much to a simplistic definition that they can then stigmatize and judge.  No way.  Not on my watch.  Just because she and I are different I'd stand and defend her any day of the week because the thing that seems to get lost in all of these words and labels is the fact that it's not what outside that really counts - it's what's inside.  It's not WHAT you are - it's WHO you are.  And - those who choose to overlook that simple reality for the sake of their own self-importance clearly demonstrate who THEY are.

Our gender (or any one particular trait for that matter) , or how we perceive it/explain it/express it, is far less an important defining attribute of who we are than our character.   Character is the main ingredient in humanity.  Character endures.  And those who demonstrate their true character will eventually come to realize that, like dignity, once you've forfeited it you can't get it back.


She ends with, "I'm not ashamed, and I'm not afraid.  What a blessing that is."  Amen to that.

That said - it's time to get back to what's really important.  My pups are looking at me and are waiting for me to take them to the park for a run.  When all is said and done that's what matters, not yahoos sitting behind a keyboard gaining some level of credibility based on who they can pick a fight with.  In three short words, if any of this defines you and you somehow want to pick a fight with me then my message to you is a simple one - Kiss my a**.

In "Up in the Air" George Clooney's character is explaining who NOT to get behind in a line at the airport for various reasons:

Ryan Bingham: [on getting through airport security] Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love 'em. 
Natalie Keener: That's racist!
Ryan Bingham: I'm like my mother, I stereotype. It's faster. 

Yeah.  Stereotyping IS faster.  That doesn't make it better.....

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The pups and I finally pulled into the driveway of "home" last night shortly after 8:30pm.  I had driven 3,257 miles over 4 1/2 days since leaving here on Saturday afternoon.  The specific goal of the trip was a simple one - to pick up my puppies and bring them home.  In that regard - mission accomplished.

Along the way there were other admittedly short opportunities to satisfy deeper needs and break up the hour-after-hour drudgery of averaging 800 miles a day on the highway.  I spent a night at my mom's house.  I had breakfast with my son and spent a couple of hours with him in Austin.  And, my birthday on Tuesday ended up being a memorable one.

One of the first people I met during my transition now lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her partner.  We've always had a deep friendship and despite distance and time whenever we get together again it's wonderful.  The pups and I arrived at her house at 6:45pm after driving all the way from Jackson, Mississippi.  I had a glass of Cabernet in my hand by 7.  And we were enjoying the most wonderful NY Strip Steaks by 7:30.  Pure heaven.

The dogs loved it there.  The mountains have no end and they could run and jump and escape the confines of the car if only for a few hours.  They went splashing and swimming in a pond.  They had the best time, and it made me yearn for that kind of life.  Unfortunately, I had to re-plug into the matrix by for the final 500 miles of the drive.

The thing I've relearned about my pups is that they make me laugh out loud.  Still.  As far as I'm concerned, anything that makes you laugh can't be all bad.

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day - picking up the pups

This trip is epic.  I'm only halfway into it but it's already proving itself to be big.

Yesterday's component involved the 800+ miles into Dallas, and I spent the night at my mom's, sleeping on her fold-out couch.  I've slept on it many nights before and it's either actually fairly comfortable or I've just gotten used to it.  I was pooped by the time my head finally hit the pillow and don't remember falling asleep.  I barely remember turning off the light.

Although it was fairly late by the time I got here my mom had dinner waiting, and a glass of wine, AND a piece of cheese cake.  Now that's what I'm talkin' about!  After a long day on the road that was just what the doctor ordered.

My stay here will be less than 12 hours.  I spent part of last night calculating the various options to get back to Harrisburg.  There is a nasty storm moving thru the northeast, and another that will be moving across the country in the middle of the week.  My planning, both in route and in timing, is built around minimizing the opportunity to have to deal with any of that.

I had hoped to be able to spend a little more time visiting here but it's just not in the cards, partly because of the storms and partly because of the fact that it'll take me an extra night to get back and I've got some work obligations later in the week.  The route I'm considering is a little farther (that isn't such a big deal) distance-wise but more significant is that traveling with dogs slows me down.  They need to stop for a break every 4 hours or so.  And, just because I can spend 12 or 14 or 16 hours a day in the card doesn't mean they can.  I've traveled across country with them before but it involves extra consideration.

All that said, I'll probably be here for another hour or so.  Then I drive to Austin to have breakfast with my son and get the pups.  Rather than enjoy the day with him, I'm hoping to be on the road by 2.  I'm taking a southern route back and hope to get into Louisiana by the time we stop for the night.

Anyway - I wish I had something more substantive to write about but at the moment it's all about the trip.  Getting this far is only half the battle.  Fingers are crossed that the rest of it goes as smoothly....


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Halfway Gone

This morning I wake in little Crossville TN.  I drove 600+ miles yesterday on my way to Texas and sot here about midnight.  It's just about time to hit the road again.  I've got another 800 miles to drive today to get to my mom's.  I'll cover most of Tennessee, across Arkansas, and into TX.

I actually stayed at this hotel on my way east to Harrisburg in October, and I would have gotten farther than this except for a semi accident that closed down I-81 for 2 1/2 hours.  It's fascinating to see what people do when they're parked in the middle of an interstate and unable to move.  The guy in front of me was walking and feeding his dog.  The guy behind me was pacing.  The family behind him was taking pictures of each other posed on top of their car against the backdrop of a 3 mile line of traffic on a beautifully sunny (but windy) Saturday afternoon.  Anyway, when things like that happen there are zero other options except to wait it out and I did.  The only thing I lost wasn't patience - just time.

I figured I'd drop a quick note here before heading on the road again.  If all goes well (car, traffic, weather, health) I'll be at mom's tonight.  And, I'll make the final little drive to Austin to get the dogs tomorrow.  Depending on a number of things I'll probably spend tomorrow night at mom's, too, so I can wake up in her house on my birthday before hitting the road for the long drive back.

That's it from here.  Thanks to everyone I chatted with yesterday who helped to pass the time, and an early thanks to those who I'll talk to today.  When you've done this as many times as I seem to have done it having good phone chats not only passes the time but it provides good opportunities to catch up on things because the conversations aren't time-boxed by ending something and starting something else.

Anyway - happy Sunday!  And, off we go....

Friday, February 18, 2011


As I type this it's a bit after 6pm on Friday, February 18.  It's 65 degrees outside, and all of the bars along 2nd street have their windows open, outdoor seating, and the only thing that betrays that it's still actually winter is (a) the snow piles in the parking lots and (b) all the ice on the river.  Sadly, this is Mother Nature's tease as it's supposed to fall into the 30's tonight and be 20+ degrees cooler than this tomorrow.

I mentioned yesterday that the MA governor "quietly" signed a bill providing discrimination protection for trans state employees.  I also predicted that those who oppose this move would find the "quiet" nature of the signing to be upsetting.  As if on cue - they are mad (one story here).  Go figure.

As for me, I got lots done today.  I got some work done on my car.  I've got 127,000+ miles on her and am holding onto hope that she'll last until 200,000 or more if I keep taking care of her.  There are still a few things that need doing but for the first time in a long time the dashboard isn't lit up like a Christmas tree.

As for taking care - I went to the dermatologist today who checked me over for suspicious looking "stuff". These exams are pretty thorough - close inspection of your skin, between your toes, on your scalp.  The last time I had it done I had a couple of areas sliced off my back and sent to the lab and I was prepared for something similar today.  Thankfully, that didn't happen and everything appears clear.  Thank God, and Phew.

I also had blood drawn so we'll get the results of that next week.  They lab guy really did an amazing job - it was almost painless.  I sometimes get lightheaded if they take too long but today this happened so fast - I was honestly much impressed. I'm curious as to how things are looking in that regard....

As for my trip across country - it remains an effort in flux.  There are a couple of things that need to happen by specific times but frankly I had intended to be well on my way by now.  I've got a meeting tomorrow - as in, Saturday - that I need to attend that throws everything into a mess.  I've looked and looked for cost-effective ways to avoid having to drive down there and back but every other option I can find will end up costing me more than I can afford right now.

Plus, the weather forecast at this time of year can always be iffy (a new storm is a-comin!).

If you live in the area and want to watch my babies until I can get there let me know.  Or, if you're not doing anything and want to meet me partway let me know that too.  As I say - I really don't want to drive 3,000 miles next week but realistically I don't see many other options.

As I drove back to my office after my dermatologist appointment today I spent some time thinking about the relationships in my life, both in the past and at the moment.  I think there's a tendency to want everything-you-could-ever-want in one person.  Realistically, I don't think that happens all that much.  And even when it does, the passage of time can change it.

One of the things I like about YouTube is finding people doing interesting things.  Here's a woman singing a cover of a Matchbox Twenty song.  I love her voice, her piano playing, her general sense of "presence", and most of all the way she interprets the song.

There are people in my life that I've loved at prior stages of their lives (and mine) more than I do now.  The shifting sands of time, needs, life experience, and maturity make it seem sort of like surfing.  Enjoy standing up on the board while you can because eventually either a big wave or no wave at all will take you down.

I feel fortunate to have a number of key people in my life who I can turn to for various deeper needs.  I haven't found one person who seems to have all the complicated traits/attributes/skills that satisfy my deeper emotional and spiritual needs at any point in time, and I'm ok with that.   I've got dear friends who I can turn to when I need to talk about deeper stuff, others who can provide strength, others who with whom I feel there is equal investment, and still others who have become like sisters.  Many friends cross several of these boundaries.  I've got places to go when I need to disappear.  I've got people who have shown me amazing kindnesses and to whom I feel forever indebted.  And, the best thing is, I continue to meet more people like that.  When you're open to possibility it's amazing what the Universe can provide!

My son used to tell me that I know the coolest people, and I have to agree.  I do.

Some have expressed concern that my writing seems a bit  "down" lately and I assure you I'm really not all that down.  I have my moments, mind you, but then again we all do.  I only share a small part of my life here so the picture into my world is a very limited one.  There's lots going on.  Lots and lots and lots.  My days are very full.  There are long hours, and my life in general is admittedly out of balance at the moment.  That's ok.  I recognize it, and I'll pull it all back again.  It's not forever.  Nothing is forever.

Speaking of relationships, I noticed that Facebook added some new Relationship Types: Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships (story here).  It seems that simply adding "Partner" would be appropriate as well - maybe in the next go-around....

I was thinking back to other relatively recent birthday weekends earlier.  When I turned 40 a dozen years ago I was still married and it was pure hell.  Pure, pure hell.  We had been planning for our 40th birthdays for years but life got complicated.  My ex- got up in the middle of dinner and left the restaurant in tears.  In 2004 we participated in the V-Day event in Los Angeles.   One year a few years later a friend flew all the way from the East Coast to Scottsdale just to have dinner with me and flew home the next day.  All are memorable in one way or another.

When you deal with deeper stuff like melanoma, or the passing of another birthday, it can provide opportunities for introspection and appreciation.  I'll turn back into regular old Donna again tomorrow.  Or the next day.  ;~D

Like Mother Nature, life can be a tease.  But sometimes it's best to go along with it and enjoy it while you can.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick signed an executive order today banning discrimination of transgender State workers there (details here).  The article specifically mentions he did this "quietly" which I'm sure will be an additional source of consternation to those who oppose it.  Still - it was the right thing to do and kudos to Gov. Patrick for his leadership.

As I write this it's late afternoon in Harrisburg and the temperature is a sunny 61 degrees.  The funny thing is that the river outside the office is still frozen over from one shore to the other, but people are running along the jogging path in shorts and tank tops.  Too funny.  Tomorrow it's scheduled to get into the mid-60's here which is pretty good for late February.  Today was the first day I actually noticed that the trees have buds on them so there actually IS hope for spring.

I'm taking active steps to bring my life into more balance.  That concept - Balance - is a key one and moving here and taking this job and immersing myself in everything have taken a toll on my overall balance.  It's time to reclaim some of that.  And I will.

I've shared a sense of loneliness in recent posts.  I'm not sure that the traditional definition of "lonely" applies in this case - it's kind of hard to explain.  In any event - I remember feeling similarly a few years ago and the answer wasn't to find new relationships.  It was to find opportunities for familiarity, and comfort, and belonging.  I found those things in my puppies which is actually one of the reasons I felt compelled to get them in the first place.

Maggie and Cody

So - here we are - 4 years later.  And, I'm headed down to Texas this weekend to get my dogs.  They have lived in Austin with my son for the past year or 18 months - since we left Rochester - and it's time to get them back into my life because of a number of changes in his life.  The logistics of it all make the trip extra complicated, partly due to cost, partly due to time, and partly due to the fact that getting two mid-sized dogs across the country isn't as easy as you'd think.

The dogs have traveled with me before.  They've driven across country more than once.  And the woman that I live with assures me that she's fine with having them here.  But the one thing that having dogs in your life requires is making the time to be with them.  And, I will.

In the short term that may mean driving from here to Austin this weekend, picking them up, and then driving them back early next week.  It's a 1,600 mile drive.  Each way.  And I'm not looking forward to it.  In fact, I'm dreading it.  But it may mean that I can spend at least part of my birthday next week with my mom, which would be nice.

I'm a road warrior.  Anyone who has followed my travels for any length of time will know that for me to hop into my car and drive 650 miles or more for a weekend and then back again isn't that big of a deal.  And that's just the trips that I choose to mention here.  But driving 3,000+ miles with dogs, risking winter weather, and other hazards of the road make it quite the ordeal.

I haven't finalized the logistics yet and some of the details may change.  But at the moment that's what I'm looking at.  Uuuuuggghhhhh.

I miss my babies.  But they will require a lifestyle change.  More than that, they will force one.  And, for that I'm glad.  I suspect it's just one of several that are on the horizon....

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I'm following up on my note from yesterday.  It's 10am and I'm awake, still in bed, sipping a hot cup of coffee.  As I said yesterday - today is a day of rest.  The weather here is actually supposed to get over 40 degrees here today, too!  Balmy.

A couple of nights ago I attended the YMCA Valentine's Day dinner and one of the students there asked me to dance.  I've never been "led" before and we're both fortunate that I didn't step on his feet or twist an ankle.  At the end of the song, he dipped me.  Well, he tried to dip me.  Thanks and congrats to him - all were firsts and one of my learnings is that I need dance lessons to be better prepared next time.  :)

The Queen of Winter Hearts event in York last night was successful and even fun - thanks to everyone who attended, everyone who sold and bought raffle tickets for the iPad, and to everyone at Club XS for all their help.    After all was said and done I finally got into my car at 1:30am and was in my bed an hour later.  I can't even remember the last time I was in a club until that hour which is more a statement of how long it has been than me having a failing memory.

At some point during the night I woke up with one of those Charlie Horses in my calf that was excruciating.  The good news is that I was so tired I hardly remember it. But my calf is SO sore this morning.

Today?  Relax.  Going to call a friend and get together later.  And, I'll actually have breakfast today.  There's something re-grounding for me about having a good Sunday breakfast.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

20 days

It's Saturday morning and I'm at work.  Today is the 20th day in a row that I've either been at work or had work commitments (I include going to Minneapolis to participate in Creating Change in that).  To say that my life is somewhat out of balance at the moment would be both (a) obvious and (b) an understatement.

I'm tired.  I mean - really tired.  Deep tired.  Soul tired.  I need an energy recharge.  I'm going to take some time on Sunday just to chill and hope I don't get out of bed until noon.  Oh - and my birthday is coming up.

My best birthday in recent memory - perhaps ever - was when I turned 50 a couple of years ago.  It's ironic that it was shortly afterwards that I was diagnosed with my malignant melanoma so in a way it turned out to be one of my most profound ones as well.  I go for my semi-annual skin scan later this week so keep your fingers crossed on that....

I'm not here today to gripe or bellyache, though.  Much of what is going on in my world is big, important, stuff.  Talks with good people from local organizations about building alliances, doing speaking events at universities and events throughout the region, strategic planning, representing the organization at various functions (I attended a dinner last night to support the local YMCA), meeting with people who want to do programming through the Center - the days are full and long.

I have never been more committed to the concept of a Community Center as a central and critical resource for both inreach, support, outreach, and education.  But I have also never been more realistic about everything that it takes to build one, especially in an area that is as geographically large and diverse, rural, underserved, and that has as much potential as we do.  I take it all one day at a time which is often the best way given that I don't get home until 9 or 10 (tonight I won't get home until after 1am) and I often have appointments at 8 or earlier.

I made the mistake of trying to calculate how much I get paid an hour by dividing my salary by the number of hours I'm actually doing things for the Center.  My lesson out of that was to avoid doing that.  

On the positive side, one of the highlights last week was attending an interfaith breakfast with a roomful of faith leaders of various levels and denominations from around the area.  There were 20 of us in the room and we discussed the beginnings of providing resources and guidance for accepting and affirming congregations here.  At one point one of the people there suggested that all of us gathered around this large square of tables join hands and pray in our own way for continued strength, guidance, and support.  I had goose bumps as I took the hands of people on both sides, closed my eyes, and let my soul do the talking.  It was a powerful couple of minutes.

There are some big things coming up.  There's going to be an article in the NY Times about a workplace transition sometime next week.  There are a couple of other things in the works that I'm hopeful will have positive outcomes as well.  We shall see....

Lastly before I have to get going:  I was moving some of the photos from the past year into various folders and came across one that I look at from time to time when I get in "that" mood.  It was taken July 13, 2010 on the summit of Humphreys Peak near Flagstaff, AZ.  It is the highest point in the state and, in some ways, represents a high point of my own personal physical and mental capabilities and alignment.

It feels odd to look at a photo taken at that altitude as symbolic of "grounding".  But I do.  We could only spend 10 minutes or so on the summit because storms all around presented real, practical dangers.  But as with most things it is the journey that day that I will remember most (photos of it here).

I want to get back there someday.  I will require dedication to balance  and planning.  But have no doubt.  I will.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reflections on CC2011

Today it's Monday and the 2,500 of us who came from around the country to attend Creating Change are taking the collective energy, the skills and tactics that we've learned, and a renewed sense of purpose back with us and putting it all to practice out in the world.

The event itself is exhausting, and I mean that in a good way. Those who find themselves drawn into the work of promoting Equality, social justice, human rights, and basic human dignities can often get overwhelmed by the many challenges that we all face on a day-to-day basis. It'd be easy to throw up your hands in frustration and try to turn your back on it all, to fade back into society quietly. But to do that is to force your social consciousness back into a stupor where to see the many injustices that so many endure and not act up or speak up is to acknowledge that it's ok.

It was fascinating for me to see the broad range of flavors of people who attended the conference, and the various reasons why people were there. Movement leaders were there, and all were wonderfully open and accessible throughout the conference. Many of our youth were there, and in fact many of the workshops focused specifically on working with youth, organizing, engaging, using technology and social media, and other critical challenges.

Some were there to learn. I know I was. I've been involved with the "movement" for a long time now and this was the first time that I had an official role there. I did learn much. I met some great people with whom I expect to continue to talk and build relationships. In fact, the event couldn't have come at a better time for me and was invaluable in that regard.

I was able to have some face-to-face, one-on-one conversations with some people in the hopes of keeping lines of communication open and to avoid the typical online sniping and non-productive rhetoric that so often drags important topics into little more than a public pissing match. I hope those lines of communication remain open, that areas where we can agree provide a foundation for dialogue, and that areas where we fundamentally disagree can be respected as simply part of the diversity of life experience where there are no absolutes or fundamental truths.

I got to spend some personal one-on-one time with people I don't get to see or talk to very often, and I made a number of new friends.

Some were there to engage in productive and constructive dialogue.  Some were there to educate, and to be educated - the range of workshops was truly amazing.  Some were there to network, and there was lots of that going on.  Some were there to, well, shall we someone.  Seemed to be lots of that going on, too.

A video of Rae Carey's "State of the Movement" address is now available online (watch it here), and the text of the entire thing is available as well (read it here).

Here is part of it (begins about 37 minutes into the video):
Truly transformative change, change that shifts the very foundations of our society, change that seeks to impact hearts and minds and behavior, this is the change that lasts. And this is the change to which we are called.

As we seek this change, we must do so recommitted to our common future, and to each others successes.

As we move into this new decade we face new choices about how we do our work as a movement. Make new choices about who we partner with. And so, as we do make those new decisions about what’s next for us there are a few things I think we should consider.

First, we must make our movement one that truly represents the racial, gender, and economic diversity of our community. We cannot make the progress we need to make on the many issues that affect the lives of LGBT people with so many of our organizations run by white people. The more diverse we are, the more representative we are, the stronger we will be.

Second, we must work harder to make gender identity and expression central to all of our work. We all have a gender identity. We all express our gender in different ways.

Our transgender brothers and sisters are bearing the brunt of discrimination. The attack is also on those of us who do not identify as transgender. Just this morning we released a report on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, “Injustice at Every Turn”. We were proud to have done this in partner with the National Center for Transgender Equality.

This survey provides groundbreaking data about transgender and gender non-confirming people. The results show that transgender people, and especially people of color, face devastating levels of discrimination in every area of their lives. And, they show incredible resilience even in the face of this discrimination.

This survey is a wake-up call and a call to action for our movement. This must be a shared fight.
I agree....

A highlight was the release of the report that Rae mentioned in her address and that I briefly spoke about in my last post, "Injustice at Every Turn".

The importance of this cannot be understated because the numbers speak for themselves.  And we need to USE these numbers.  Whether you're part of an LGBT affinity group or an advocacy organization or you're part of government these levels of discrimination and the subsequent outcomes are staggering.

There are copies of this Executive Summary (read it here) as well as a version of the entire 260+ page report (read it here) online.

A warning in advance - it can be pretty depressing reading.  But reality can be depressing.

On another, less depressing topic (unless you're a Steelers fan) I was home and in front of my TV in time for kickoff last night.  I enjoyed the game.  I enjoyed the commercials.  I was stuffed by halftime (and actually, I'm still feeling stuffed this morning).  All in all, I'm glad that my streak of 45 Super Bowls in a row continues unbroken.

Lastly, I created a slideshow of some photographs that my mom shared with me over Christmas.  When my ex- suggested that I go away and stay away I lost all of my photographs from a significant and important time in my life - when my son was young (and so was I).  I really enjoyed getting these photos because, in a way, it feels like I've gotten part of my life back.

I put some of the photos into a short slideshow that I will share here.  Those of us who are parents or who have experienced the loss of similar portions of our lives - lives that have helped to make us who and what we are today - will understand what I'm saying.  If nothing else - I enjoy looking back at my son.  He sure was cute.  As for his dad??  Well, not so much.  :)

My Son. And his Dad. from Donna Rose on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Creating Change 2011

I'm in Minneapolis attending Creating Change.  We got here Wednesday  The good news is that the trip here was pretty much uneventful.  We had to rebook to avoid Chicago and thankfully the monster storm that closed Chicago missed the Charlotte area - our connection point.  It was friggin' cold outside when we arrived (wind chills -15 that night) but today the high is near 30 - allegedly the warmest day so far this year.  Once you're downtown you can get pretty much anywhere by going through walkways that connect everything although it seems kind of like a mouse maze to me.  I've only been outside once since we got here.

I've enjoyed the conference, but it's almost like sensory overload with so many things happening and so many people.  There was a full-day session on Thursday specifically for LGBT Centers that was particularly useful.  It was nice to meet others from around the country who manage LGBT Centers of all sizes to share strategies, concerns, challenges, and visions.

Highlights yesterday included Task Force ED Rea Carey's "State of the Movement" address and a 3-hour Executive Director round-table session the provided a forum for ED's of organizations from around the country to come together to share/discuss/support in similar fashion.  There were 55 people there and it was very helpful in a number of ways for a number of reasons.

Another highlight yesterday was the release of the joint Task Force/NCTE Report on transgender discrimination, "Injustice at Every Turn".  It has been called "groundbreaking" and I agree.  For the first time there is some quantifiable data to validate things that many of us have known for a long time (see some of the highlights here).  There was a press conference yesterday morning to release the report and it has received quite a bit of media coverage (local paperAP, Advocate, Huffington Post, others are easy to find), it was part of Rea's remarks yesterday afternoon, and there was a reception to review the findings last night.  An "Executive Summary" version was on every seat for the Plenary yesterday and I've collected a handful of them to bring home.

One of the things that gets highlighted among the many tragic statistics is that over 40% of the over 6,000 respondents admitted to having attempted suicide.  Part of the discussion at the event last night is  how all the various factors that were reported are inter-connected: How harassment at school often leads to isolation and homelessness/joblessness/dangerous life realities.  How loss of a job lead to other difficult life challenges.  It's a difficult reality that too many of us can relate personally in our own experiences.

One of the words that was used several times in the remarks about the findings was "Resilient".  As a group and individually we are resilient to make it through the day in the face of such oppressive odds.  To those who say that this is a "choice" I've always said and continue to say, "Are you kidding me?  Someone would choose this?  No friggin' way!"  Those realities are enough to scare even the hardiest, neediest, and most resilient soul.  I'll have to share that I sometimes get tired of being resilient.

As if on queue, a spot on Craig Ferguson last night was ignorant, hateful, despicable, and just plain disgusting.  If similar treatment was given to African Americans, or Muslims, or other groups it would have created an uproar and, in fact, would never have been aired.  But as is with the case of the skit on SNL last week there is absolutely nothing funny about this, it is totally without redeeming value, and in fact is indefensible in its bad taste and ignorance in ANY context.

Anyway - back to the Report.....

One thing that wasn't covered in the survey and that I personally believe is a pandemic directly related to all of these many challenges is isolation and loneliness.  Loss of hope is often fueled by a sense of being alone and that things will never get better.  If we go back to Psych 101 and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs the emotional needs of intimacy and warmth and appreciation are key human needs and the inability to address them can become overwhelming in and of themselves.  I admitted in an entry last week that I was lonely, and I am just as I think many of us are.  But there's no way to measure that other than to simply recognize that it's part of this difficult interconnection of challenges that we call life.

I have found the past few days very helpful but I've also needed to find time to balance.  I've enjoyed reconnecting with some friends locally, having an opportunity to sit down and chat with others who are here from around the country, and to soak up the energy that 2,500 people bring to something like this.  I have a feeling I'm going to need it.

The conference wraps up for me later today and I'll have dinner with a friend.  Our flight leaves tomorrow morning and I hope/expect to be in front of my TV in time to catch The Super Bowl.  I've watched all 44 so far and I've got a couple of friends coming over to watch as well.  Who will win?  I don't really have an opinion.  Regardless, I do expect that, as usual, there will be food involved.  :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I'm on my bed, letting whatever is going on outside happen while I hope it's better before morning.  It has been fascinating watching The Weather Channel as this storm has been making its way across the country.

I needed to scrape a layer of ice off my car before driving it to work this morning but whatever happened last night was just an appetizer and most of today was the lull before the storm.  It was actually kind of eerie walking thru downtown Harrisburg knowing that the storm was already crushing parts of Oklahoma and Indiana and Illinois and it was only a matter of hours before it would get here.

Back "home" in Rochester they're expecting the worst tonight and tomorrow - upwards of 2 feet of snow. Down here in Harrisburg we're apparently on the cusp of the snow/ice/rain boundary so anything could happen.  When I left work to drive home this evening it was drizzling and 31 degrees.  I'm thankful that the drive is only 3 miles.  Right now it's 29 degrees - not much different.

They're predicting upwards of a quarter of an inch of ice on things by morning.  If so, it could be worse. I lived through an ice storm in Rochester in 1991 that rocked my world.  We were without power for 13 days and neighborhoods looked like they had been hit by artillery.  It was amazing.

As I mentioned yesterday I'm scheduled to fly to Minneapolis tomorrow to attend Creating Change.  Our original flights were scheduled to go thru Chicago, which was an obvious impossibility given the path of this storm.  I called this morning and was able to re-book our flights through Charlotte so that's done.  It's supposed to be rainy and warm there tomorrow.

The big question mark is what the roads will be like to get to the airport by noon.  And, any delay in leaving here could very well cause us to miss our connection.  But we're locked and loaded to go so tomorrow will bring what tomorrow will bring.  All we can do is hope.