Friday, April 29, 2011


I recently shared the link to an Op/Ed piece that appeared in the NY Times earlier this week.  The article was titled "Between Torment and Happiness" (read it here) and was ostensibly about the recent incident at a Baltimore area McDonald's last week.  It also wandered into some odd territory about Renee Richards, most likely because a movie about RR premiered at Tribeca last week (article here) - I can't think of any other connection.

I'll admit that the thing that surprised me a bit were the tone of the comments aimed at Ms. Richards.  She has said some fairly controversial things in recent years that seem to continue to cause significant anger towards her.

As for me, although she's said a number of things that I definitely don't agree with I don't share that same level of anger.  Some have criticized her memoir, Second Serve.  In my own journey it was the first book I ever read on the subject that helped to humanize it for me. I hid it in my locker at school and read it in secret.  As a teenager in the 70's who had, up to that point, searched in vain for human stories that contained some of the threads of my own sense of self - it was huge. 

It is not without irony that in her second memoir she indicated that she regretted many of the things that she had done and that my ex-wife used that as ammunitition to prevent me from moving forward in my own journey.  Needless to say, it didn't work.  And, recent comments about trans athletes and competition are seem to indicate a lane-shift whereby her efforts to play professional tennis forced a door open that she would now close if she could, denying deny others that same right.

She lived in an age that was very different than the one we enjoy today and I'm sure that's partly why she feels as she does.  And I can't for the life of me see how I could somehow "judge" her for that or why that might make her a little bitter or disillusioned today. Lynn Conway posted some interesting insight on her website (read it here).

Regardless, she had to endure a lot and for some reason I've thought about what I'd say if I did get the opportunity to meet her one day.  I can think of many things.  But I've come to realize that the words "Thank You" feel appropriate as the first words out of my mouth.

I woke up this morning in Arizona.  My journey here yesterday was not without drama but all I can say is that it felt good to be back.  It's my first visit back since January.  I've got so much on my mind that I woke up at 2am ET a coule of nights ago and the only sleep I had gotten since then were a couple of naps on the plane.  I'm thrilled to have gotten 6 hours of sleep, and I'll be even more thrilled once I've had my first cup of coffee.

At the beginning of this week my life was full of questions - far more questions than answers.  Some of them are logistical (where? how?) while others are more practical (what?).  With so much uncertainty flowing I've very much felt in flux in recent weeks, and that we never more apparent than this week.  However, over the last couple of days, things that seemed cloudy now have direction and the early indications of substance.  It's amazing how things can change over just a couple of days.

I only expect to be here in the Valley until early next week.  I've got lots to do in a short period of time, and then lots more to do between the point when I leave here and the following Monday.  But just as things I've been stressing over are actually becoming real so too will things that need to happen over the next 10 days play themselves out.  All I can say is that my fingers are crossed.  I really don't need a mess-up right now.

One thing has become obvious - my days of "political activism" in the traditional sense are pretty much over.  I'm finally at a piont where I'm not on any boards of directors, where I have no formal ties to any particular organization, and the commitments I make will be carefully selected to fit in with other aspects of my life (rather than the other way around).  There is a meeting today with several trans activists and the White House.  It's something I'm thrilled to see, if nothing else than for the recognition of our needs.  I'll also admit that I'd much rather be here than there.

Monday, April 25, 2011


By now I suspect that most people who read my blog have read or seen or heard about the incident at a Baltimore area McDonald's where a trans-woman was brutally attacked by 2 patrons - apparently over the bathroom (details here).  It was disturbing, disgusting, and just plain horrific.  But in reality - it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

The irony of it all is that trans-people are so often portrayed as predatory animals intent on little more than getting into the "other" bathroom.  In reality, as this brutal incident so vividly highlighted, the people who are most vulnerable in a bathroom are NOT others.  It's us.  And anyone who can in any way justify, condone, explain, or otherwise minimize what happened in this video is no better than anyone who participated or witnessed this crime.

Make no mistake about it.  What happened here was a crime.  It was a hate crime.  And anyone who watched and did nothing, anyone who laughed at this victim's anguish, anyone who turned their back on her is just as guilty as the people doing the beating.

As for me - when I watch this I see the Rodney King incident all over again.  I see Reginald Denny getting pulled from the cab of his truck and savagely beaten to the edge of death by a mob consumed by anger.

It's still sickening to watch today.  And to watch this poor girl have to deal with these animals invites the same kind of visceral response.

I'll tell you - the first thing I feel when I see this is anger.  I picture myself in a similar position and I assure you, if I had faced a similar attack at least one person would have been seriously injured and that person would be the first one I could reach and grab by the neck.  As it is, this video is an example of the horrible realities that so many of us face every day - events that dehumanize us and disrespect us to the point where some can somehow turn their back on this kind of violence.

Everyone's scurrying to cover their butts over this.  McDonald's needs to do a whole lot more than simply acknowledge that something "regrettable" happened.  Prosecutors need to take a more aggressive role in making sure that everyone who was involved is held accountable (story here).  Legislators need to take notice and recognize the need for public accommodation protections.  And those who actively did this need to face the most severe punishment available, as it WAS a hate crime.

There is little irony that this incident happened in Maryland, a state that just became the poster child for the inherent failure of incremental rights when public accommodation protections for transpeople was dropped because of concerns over the bathroom thing.  That failure helped lead to the departure of the ED for the state's political advocacy organization, Equality Maryland.  And, as this story highlights, one can only hope that people have learned from this and to do the right thing next time.

Thankfully - there will be a next time.  Given the brutality and the pack mentality of the incident there could very well have been a more horrific outcome.  The reality that seeps in for many of us is that it could have been, or very well could be in the future, and one of us.  When I think about that the anger I feel turns more to sadness.  Why does it have to be that way?

Anyway - enough of that for tonight.  My own life is complicated beyond explanation right now.  All I can say is, "Oy",

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deja Vu all over again.

It's like deja vu all over again.  I spent the day packing.  Have I even mentioned how much I HATE packing??!!  I lived in the same house for 15 years and over the last several years I've become a gypsy.  Not cool.  Not fun.  I don't even have that much stuff here in Harrisburg.  But even at that, putting it all into boxes and cleaning and trying to work through all of the logistics of it can be difficult.

By 6pm I was dead tired.  So a friend and I went out for Sushi, which helped.  Here in PA they have restaurants where you BYOB so we brought a bottle of wine with us and chilled.  It was just what the doctor ordered.

There's quite a bit of upheaval and uncertainty in my world right now.  It's a good thing I deal fairly well with this stuff, but even so it's nerve wracking and if I think about it too hard my stomach starts to flip.  Most likely I've got 3,000 miles of driving ahead of me over the next week and a number of major obligations to take care of, so in all honesty these next two weeks are going to be hell.  I wish I could get into a time machine and fast forward to the end of them.

There was a segment on Good Morning America titled "Extreme Proms".  To watch it is to believe that the economy is fixed and that discretionary income is flowing again as some of the girls they featured were spending $3,000 and up on this right of passage event.  It is also to acknowledge the pressure (especially on girls) to look "fabulous" and the competition-type importance paid to it.

When I was in high school I had no interest in proms and had no intention of going to my own.  I did end up going with a girl who had recently split with a friend of mine and we ended up dating for over a year.  I know many who look back over their prom years and are sad about NOT having been able to enjoy that right of passage as their authentic selves. I was just pleasantly surprised that it didn't suck as much as I expected that it would.

In more uplifting news:  In Nevada the state Assembly passed an inclusive ENDA bill (details here):
In a monumental vote for one of the state's least-known minorities, the state Assembly Monday backed a bill that would outlaw job discrimination against transgender people.

Members voted 29-13 for Assembly Bill 211, which would prevent discriminating against people based on their gender identity or expression.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where supporters think they have the votes to pass the bill. Gov. Brian Sandoval hasn't given an indication whether he will sign it.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, said transgender people testified they often are denied jobs because of how they look. There are 25,000 transgender people in Nevada.

There are three other bills on transgender rights coming up for votes in the Senate. One would abolish discrimination in public accommodations, and another would abolish discrimination in housing. The last would make crimes against transgender people hate crimes subject to longer prison sentences.

In Hawaii, there was similar news (details here):
A proposal to solidify civil rights protections for transgendered employees is headed for the governor's desk after the state House agreed to a Senate draft of the bill earlier this week.

House Bill 546 would bar employers from discriminating on the basis of gender expression, bringing Hawaii's labor law in line with similar protections in the areas of housing and public accommodations.

The House, in a 45-4 vote on Monday, agreed to accept the Senate's amended draft of the bill, allowing the proposal to skip the conference committee proc ess and move directly to Gov. Neil Aber crom bie for his signature.

In one of my obligations I'll be talking on a National Trans panel at the Equality Forum in Philadelphia next week (details here).
This panel explores civil rights issues relevant to transgender and transsexual individuals, such as health care access, political participation, immigration rights and employment law.

Then it's cross country....


Monday, April 18, 2011

ENDA Againda

It is Monday.  The big news from the weekend is that I got my taxes done and submitted.  It's good to have another year of them behind me.

ENDA was introduced into the US Senate last week.  Because of my various involvements in 2007 I found myself to be an active participant in the drama that unfolded.  This time around I consider myself to be more of an invested spectator than anything.  That's not to say that I'm not passionate about what this legislation represents any less than I was in 2007.  But life circumstances have changed such that I've been slowly extricating myself from my various formal LGBT activism roles.  I'm not on any boards of directors, I'm not on any steering committees, I'm not aligned with anyone.

I've also become somewhat jaded with regards to my confidence that organized activism is the best mechanism for that kind of change.  That's a much longer discussion that I have time to explain here but part of the reason I've slowly disengaged is precisely that.  Nonetheless, it's not healthy for the mind or the psyche to be fronting all the time so I'm happy to let others drive.

I know I haven't been keeping up with my blog well and I apologize.  Today I've got a 700 mile drive to do so I'll need to keep this short, as well.  I'll share some more thoughts shortly.  Until then - onwards.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Simply called "Life"....

The movie that I mentioned a few weeks ago, "Win Win", is out in theaters now.  It's getting great reviews.

I mention this because this is the weekend for the US Sr. Wrestling Championships.  Last year at this time I  had just gone through the ordeal of making weight and was preparing for my first match.  The competition starts today and lasts through the end of the day tomorrow.  One part of me wishes I was there to compete again, but a number of things conspired to keep that from happening this year.  I'll go there tomorrow, though, as a photographer.

So tonight I'll be at the Rush concert with my brother, and then I'll be up at God Awful Early to drive the 350 miles from here to Cleveland to take pictures.  I'm actually looking forward to it.

I've been out of town all week.  Part of me has been enjoying some down-time.  Another part of me has been doing some deep thinking.  And yet another part of me has been actively working a number of things to determine what comes next.  I've got lots of things going on at the moment and it'll be interesting to see which ones come through an which ones don't.  The message I got from the universe is that the right things will happen, and I'll have more to share on that as time goes on.

As I type this I'm writing the DVR recording of the premier episode of a new program on The Weather Channel called "From the Edge With Peter Lik".  Peter is a photographer and the series is all about following him to amazing locations and watching him take incredible photos.  I'll admit - it gives me goose bumps.  There's even a companion app for the iPad that I'll admit simply adds to the reasons I'd want to buy one.  It's only a matter of time, and watching this is like watching wrestling for me.  Lord I wish I could do some of this stuff....

I watched sunrise over the ocean yesterday morning and it was pure heaven.  I mean, it was PURE heaven.  My spiritual self finds those kinds of opportunities chances to actually experience God sharing splendor in a magical way.  It's hard to put into words, but it's just amazing and as the moment fades two things become obvious to me: (1) How much I miss those kinds of opportunities and (2) How much I need them.

I took this version of the photo with my iPhone (the better versions are in RAW format in my Canon camera!).  The fact that you can capture this kind of stuff with a phone camera is amazing in and of itself.    Anyway, one friend left a comment on Facebook that makes me smile.  Thanks so much to Samantha for saying something that makes me feel good:
Donna has the heart and soul of an artist, and the eye of one long accustomed to painting with light. These vistas are all around us all the time, it's people like Donna who have the presence of mind to freeze a moment in time for us to savor and enjoy. Every picture tells a story, this one is no different. Can you hear it as it speaks it's truth and beauty to you? :)
I don't read books very often but one I've got and am reading very carefully right now is "The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business".  I'm trying to build a portfolio but watching people like Peter Lik is so energizing because it stresses that as stunning as a photograph can be the backstory of capturing it is equally as amazing.  Anyway, I'm rambling but that's because I'm stoked at the moment....

On to other topics:

I did an interview with a writer from ESPN earlier this week who is writing a story about Renee Richards.  For many from my generation Renee Richards was the first person many of us recognized as being "like us".  I've never met or talked with Renee but would actually enjoy that opportunity as she's the beginning of the road for me.  I remember buying her autobiography, Second Serve, and hiding it in my locker at school while I read it so nobody found out.  Anyway, Renee has made an effort to really never be "part" of the community (there was no community at the time)  and I certainly respect her for that.  Still, I find her to be a fascinating person and I expect she has no idea the impact she's had by the seed she planted in so many of us.

The few times that she's said anything publicly in recent years about her history have been controversial. I'll be interested in seeing how this comes out.  And I continue to hope I have an opportunity to meet her.  I'm not a New York City kind of person but she's one person I'd travel there to meet.

Speaking of keeping out of the public eye, I noticed that Susan Stanton was in the news again this week (details here).  She's done a very good job of keeping a low profile in recent years.  She's a friend and when we talk I'm constantly amazed at how much she enjoys what she does and how much she's willing to put up with to do it.  Anyway, I hope things work out for her and that she can fade away again.

Back to my schedule:  I'm catching up on things back here today and then my brother arrives late this afternoon for the Rush concert tonight.  The two bonding opportunities we have in life are sports and music so I'm looking forward to this for a number of reasons.  Then I need to hit the road early tomorrow to drive to Cleveland to photograph the Championships.  I'll drive back on Sunday evening.  I need to take the dogs to the vets and start my taxes on Monday and then I'll be out of town again from Tuesday thru the weekend.  On Saturday I have a dear friend coming to visit for a week....

I've only shared a small portion of what's going on.  The good news is that I'm feeling good, my head and my heart and my spirit are healthy, and that each day brings new challenges and opportunities.  I suppose that's simply called "Life"....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I'm spending a few days of "What's Next" time while visiting a dear friend.  It has been a wonderful visit - very very enjoyable.  Most of the weekend was spent enjoying the amazing scenery around here and relaxing - it's a long trip to get here.  The last couple of days have been more business-oriented as I investigate my various options.  All in all - it has been nice to get away for a few days.  But the reality and pressure of having to get back to the "real world" is starting to creep into things.

I head back north tomorrow, and my brother gets into town on Friday for the Rush Concert.

There are some interesting things happening in the trans world....

The discrimination bill that was supposed to protect trans people from discrimination in Maryland (HB235 - the Gender Identity Antidiscrimination Act) has been on life support for a week but apparently has new life today (details here).   As far as I'm concerned the bill got neutered by removing protections for Public Accommodations.  Still, some in the broader community (especially Equality Maryland) have advocated for it - saying that it's better than nothing.  Others have been adamant that without protections for public accommodations - which were removed over discomfort with the "bathroom" thing - it's both empty and it sets a bad precedent based on unfounded fears.  I happen to agree with the second line of thought.

In my own simple ways of thinking, to buy into "incrementalism" as a positive thing was unacceptable in ENDA 2007 in the exact same way that it's unacceptable here.  We all know that this isn't what what we want or need, yet we're willing to settle for something "less than" simply because we're told that it's easier.  The Public Accommodations component is not a small deal - it's a BIG deal and is a significant portion of why we need these protections in the first place.  We all know that when these things get passed going back to add the things that get left out never happens.  So this is our one opportunity to get it right and if I had any influence I'd tell those who introduced the bill and who support it to grow a spine and get it right, not to pass some half-assed bill as little more than a symbolic victory.

The fact that these important rights always get tainted by "the bathroom issue" is a source of endless frustration but the reality is that it's something that needs to be addressed head on, not sidestepped for the sake of political convenience.  In fact, we now find ourselves on the defensive in some areas (Maine, for example) where hard fought rights are under attack by those who would revoke them because of "the bathroom issue".  And, in other areas (like CT) similar discrimination protections that do not remove any component of coverage are moving forward (details here).

When discussing this stuff it brings up some thorny issues in "the community" (whatever that means) about who gets to do what, and why.    Personally, I've never advocated that anyone and everyone gets to use whatever bathroom they want.  I defy anyone to find anything I've said - ever - that states or even implies that.  The day that I personally felt even remotely comfortable using the women's bathroom was the day that my therapist give me a letter indicating that I was transitioning should I get into trouble.  Before that day it never would have even crossed my mind and even afterwards it sometimes felt awkward.  But the day I got that letter I felt entitled, whether others agreed or not.

I'm not part of any group that advocates "use whatever bathroom you want".  I'll also admit that I'm not on board with changing birth certificates "just because" either.  I see that TLDEF has sued NYC because  of a requirement to provide proof of surgery to change birth certificates.  This seems counter productive to me and, in fact, is far beyond the line of bathrooms (please forgive the pun).

I sometimes question whether these kinds of things end up being counter productive.  In Texas a lawmaker has introduced legislation to remove recognition of transsexual marriages as valid there, recognition that had quietly been passed several years ago.  It wasn't until the Nikki Araguz case that this legislation became visible to the broader community, and anyone who doubted whether someone there would target it and try to revoke it once it had a spotlight on it is either incredibly naive or just plain foolish.

We've made some important gains in recent years, most significantly with regards to changing Passport gender markers and the impact that has on other practical realities.  We're continuing to gain ground in corporate America with the removal of exclusions to medical benefits for trans employees.  But the horrible realities of our community as outlined in the recent "Injustice at Every Turn" study continue to make life difficult for even the hardiest of souls.

As for me - I'm working on simple needs right now.  I need to get a job.  I need to pay my bills.  I need to do my taxes.  I need health insurance.  My plight is like millions of other Americans so I'm certainly not alone in that regard.  All I can say is that it's a good thing that I'm in a good head space at the moment.  I'm confident that things will work out.  One way or the other.  They always do.  I think that's called "Faith".....