Friday, May 27, 2011

Earned it.

It's Friday again.  Sheesh.  It's amazing how much you look forward to Fridays when you actually have a work week.  Even though I'm very much enjoying what I'm doing the vision of the "weekend" is something to look forward to.  I'd go so far as to say it's one of the things that makes NOT having a regular schedule a bit unbalancing because every day is pretty much the same except that there's less traffic on the weekends.

More than just being a weekend, this is a long Holiday weekend.  Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer for many although here in Charleston temperatures have been in the high 80's and low 90's since I arrived.  It has been wonderful.

E and I are planning to take the boat to a nearby island and go camping there for the entire weekend.  Fishing, crabbing, shrimping, kayaking, relaxing, walking on the beach, photography, more relaxing - needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to it.

I wanted to follow-up on something from my last post.  Specifically, the situation in IL where the ACLU is suing the state for its Birth Certificate change policy that requires proof of surgery.  Several people left comments indicating that they support the requirement, and so do I.  That's why I indicated that it's a good thing nobody is asking me to support the lawsuit, because it's not something I can support.  I find it unfortunate that we're punishing those who have more supportive policies while other states who have stricter, less supportive ones (or downright prohibitive ones) aren't receiving that same kind of challenge. 

Perhaps it's a generational thing - I can't say - but as politically incorrect as it might be I admit that I can't wrap my mind around being able to change a birth certificate without that kind of disciplined structure.  I'd argue that that's what makes it legitimate.  I know as well as anyone reading this that anybody can get a letter from a psychologist saying pretty much anything so using that as the standard not only removes the discipline, it removes much of the validity.

The big news this week was a verdict in the Nikki Araguz trial in Texas.  Her husband was killed in a fire last year and she has been blocked from receiving widow benefits by his ex-wife because of Nikki's history.  More than that, they're looking to invalidate the entire marriage.  The case and the underlying questions have received national attention (NY Times article here).

I have to admit that I wasn't surprised by the outcome.  This is Texas, after all, and we've been down this path there before.  And I also have to admit that the entire thing is a mess.  There are a number of complications (like Nikki not having changed her birth certificate until after the marriage) that cloud the simpler question of whether or not a trans person can have a legal marriage there and, if so, to who.  To make things even messier shortly after the verdict was announced Nikki was arrested and charged with a felony for allegedly drugging a woman and stealing her Rolex watch a few months ago (details here). Whether that's true or not remains to be seen.  But the fact that it happened at all is indicative of the circus this has become.

Some are saying that this case will be appealed and may up in the Supreme Court.  Until someone can convince me that it has a reasonable chance of being overturned, all I can say is that I hope not. Whether or not you agree with the verdict, it's just to messy to use it to establish that kind of legal precedent.  Nikki is also hawking a Reality TV show featuring herself.  All I can say to that, too, is that I hope not.  That won't be good for anyone.  Including Nikki.

On another note I was chatting with Jamison Green yesterday catching up on things.  He recently earned his PhD so now I suppose I should refer to him as Dr. Green.  He will be running unopposed as the next Director for WPATH (formerly HBIGDA) which may not seem like much right now but I expect to become a big deal.  WPATH is currently in the process of revising the Standards of Care and doing other things to increase their relevancy and I can't think of anyone better to lead in that effort than Jamison. 

As for me - I'll be unreachable this weekend.  I'm unplugging, kicking back, and just relaxing.  Whether anyone else agrees or not - I feel I've earned it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nice to simply be

Today is Saturday.  The weekend is here.  Yesterday marked the end of the first full week I've spent anywhere in longer than I can remember. As I type this it's shortly after 6am and the day is still cool - highs today might reach 90.  I'm sitting on a bed with a puppy sleeping quietly next to me on a bed in a friend's house.  I suppose it's kinda sad when one week becomes a major milestone for staying settled but it is.  And I'm glad.

I've been watching a number of things happen in the trans world over the past week.  I watched TV Dr. Keith Ablow make a typically Fox-news like attack on Chaz Bono and anything trans in a transphobic rant posted to the Fox News website early this week (read it here).  I think I feel more amused than satisfied to learn that they have since removed it from their site.

I noticed that the ACLU is suing the State of Illinois over their Birth Certificate policy (details here).  I was born in IL and all I can say is that I'm glad they're not asking me to be involved in any of this.  My experience with them in changing my own birth certificate was smooth, and that the end result is among the best you could hope for.  Rather than amend the existing one they issue you a new one and seal the old one.  In all honesty, I would have rather seen a case against a state that refuses to change them at all, or has some kind of klugy process, rather than against one that is already generally on-board with a progressive policy.  I'm just saying....

The CT House passed a trans Discrimination bill (read here).

In MD they have decided that the attack on a woman in a McDonalds there recently would rightly be prosecuted as a Hate Crime (details here).  Of course it was a hate crime.  Does anyone doubt that?

Kye Allums, the trans basketball player at George Washington University quietly announced that he wouldn't be playing basketball next year (details here).

An editor at People magazine released an "It Gets Better" video where she comes out as trans.  She also did an interview about it with Marie Claire magazine (see here).  The San Francisco Giants became the first professional sports team to do an "It Gets Better" video (news here), and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton released a statement in support of International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (read it here).

The reason I mention any of this is because I remember a time when there was none of this kind of thing.  When I was growing up there were zero articles about anything even remotely trans related.  When I started to transition I subscribed to a weekly newsletter authored by San Francisco therapist Ann Vitale that provided links to recent media involved trans topics.  And here we are - a week full of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It is truly a war - a legal war, a cultural war.  And frankly these kinds of things provide the visibility that's necessary to get to where things need to be.  Some are steps forward and others aren't but for those of us who remember what it was like without these kinds of things it's pretty amazing.

As for me - my life is pretty balanced right now.  I'm going to the beach today.  I'm going to help a bit around the house.  I need to go and feed a friend's cat while she's away.  I'm hoping to go for a run.  None of it is earth shattering.  But all things considered - it's nice to simply be.  For now.

If today is the last day, as some doomsdayers are predicting - I'll be ok with it.  No regrets.  Just being.  And as I get the day going I take the time to appreciate just being.....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Relocated. Kinda.

So here I am.  In Charleston, SC.  Today was Day 2 of my job here and although I realize it's early on I'm still enjoying the honeymoon.  The people have been great, the project is interesting, and I've hit the ground running.  All good things....

I haven't provided an entry in a week and a lot has happened in that time.  I drove the 700 miles from here to Jackson, MS to meet my son last week, and then turned around and drove back the next day.  Thankfully the weather was pleasant, the roads were good, the car behaved, and all went well.  The hard part of the trip is that I gave my son one of the pups to take home with him.  With everything going on I have a hard enough time making arrangements for one of them, much less two.  So at least I know one is in good hands with my son.

The best part of the trip was being able to spend time, admittedly short, with my son.  The last time I saw him was February and our visit lasted a couple of hours before I had to turn around and head back east.

Losing one of the dogs and the continuing tumult surrounding the one I still have sometimes weighs heavily on me but I've learned time and time again that part of life is learning to let go.  To know that is one thing.  To be ok with it is another.  It's not something rational - it's emotional - and I have a tendency to find myself flooded by emotion from time to time.  I'm working through this but it has certainly been another significant effort.

This entire thing has been quite the challenge.  As I've said in the past there have been times when there have been more unknowns than knowns so making plans is like building castles in the sand.  Some days I wake up and there are a number of significant things that need to work out but somehow, by the end of the day, they do.  It's actually been pretty amazing in that regard.  I have no problem making decisions - whether they're good ones or not is another matter - but in this case I'm feeling generally good about things.

HOWEVER.  Although I'm doing something I've been enjoying and I'm settled somewhere I chose to be to think that I'm settled at this point would be a mistake.  I've still got a number of significant things to do before that happens.  But the good news is that I'm in a good frame of mind, I'm here because I chose to be here, and even in the face of the craziness of the last few weeks things are beginning to Balance out.  I spent the day in Myrtle Beach on Saturday watching some amazing thunderstorms descend upon the beach.  And part of Sunday was spent on a boat, walking on an amazing beach, and spending time with people I enjoy being with.  I think it was my first "down" weekend in over a month.

Charleston is a beautiful place.  I've been coming here for a number of years and it continues to feel special to me for some reason.  People may have all kinds of ideas why I'm here but nobody knows but it's actually pretty simple.  I like it here.  I chose to be here.  There were reasons I tried to relocate here in the past but the past is truly the past.  Life has moved on, I've grown, and all anyone needs to do is to watch a sunrise on the beach with me or walk downtown, as people come from all over the world to do, and you'll understand.  It's bigger than any one thing.  It just "feels" good.

I'm moving forward in a number of ways but as with most things growth involves risk, and change.  I've grown accustomed to both in recent years and this is another step in that process.

I need to send a special thanks to good friends who have been helping.  I'm still not good at asking for or accepting help but I've come to accept that I need it, and more than ever I appreciate it.  I've moved past the point of seeing the need for help as a sign of weakness but there are some things that take a while to sink in.  Anyway - thanks to friends who are helping to smooth some of the bumps in this transition.  You are truly a blessing.

As for Arizona - that feels good too.  I miss hiking, and friends, and general feel there.  I do expect I'll be back there again in some capacity again - at some point.  But for now this is home.  And as with the new job I'll just enjoy the Honeymoon.  While it lasts, and while I can.  :oD

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


There have been a number of fascinating things going on....

One is coverage of various trans "topics" and events in the media.

There was an article about Chaz Bono in the NY Times on Sunday that I found fascinating for a number of reasons (read it here).

One particularly telling snippet:
The operation is so graphic, and such a commitment — physically, emotionally and financially — that as a wincing viewer you come away with a palpable understanding of how unendurably he must be suffering in his body to want to have his own sex characteristics amputated.

Yet despite being a lifelong liberal from San Francisco and friendly with a number of transgender people, I found the film as unsettling as it was inspiring.

I came away forced to confront a whole swag-bag full of transphobias that I didn’t know I’d had.

Some people will never get this. Other people come away from it with this kind of profound recognition of this journey.

Not coincidentally, Chaz was on Oprah yesterday (details here) and his moving will be on the OWN Network tonight at 9ET (review here).

Another was the passage of a state-wide ENDA in Hawaii (details here), progress of a similar bill in Nevada (details here).

A third was the release of the 911 tapes in the savage beating at a Baltimore area McDonalds a couple of weeks ago (details here - video is embedded).

How about this take on a recent meeting between trans political folks and White House staff (read it here)?  Somebody not happy...

I was at the Empire Conference in Albany over the weekend and was interested to learn first hand that the conference website was blocked in the conference hotel Business Office because it contained a banned word: Transsexual.  How funked up is that?

As for me - I've been busy.  It's amazing to get comfortable that every day starts with a number of critical unknowns that have yet to be settled but by the end of the day they're settled.  Even for someone used to going with the flow it can be a bit unsettling to accept some of these huge things but all the pieces seem to keep falling into place.  I hope it continues.

The pups and I drove 600 miles yesterday.  Today is a down day, but tomorrow involves another 700 miles.  No rest for the weary...

The good news is that new opportunity seems to crop up when you least expect it, or when you're most open to it.  That's not meant as a bunch of Positive Thinking mumbo-jumbo - it's just about being aware and flexible.  Anyway - I'm very much both of those at the moment and I'm surprisingly comfortable with it all right now.  The pessimist in me knows that things can always change in a moment, but for now - we're good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

5 nights

I've spent the last 5 nights in different beds, and 4 of them in different states.  Over that time I've flown across all the time zones and driven a thousand miles.  This morning I wake up in sunny Allentown PA.

Over the weekend I attended the Empire Conference in Albany, NY - I drove the 300 miles to get there on Friday.  It was a very low-key event and one of the first I've attended where the center of activity wasn't the hotel bar.  It was nice to meet some new friends, to reconnect with some old ones, and to enjoy a little down time sandwiched between some of the crazy days.

Lots happens over any given week in my world (I realize I'm not alone in that regard) and this past one was a busy one.  The next one looks to be equally as crazed as I finish my exit from Harrisburg to what comes next.  I'm focused on one day at a time - taking care of whatever details happen to be at hand and very much going with the flowing.

Today is Mother's Day and I've already called my mom to wish her a Happy one.  I wish I were there to take her to her favorite seafood restaurant (Red Lobster) but that'll have to wait for the moment.  I told her she has an IOU.

I've had several friends write to wish me a Happy Mother's Day as well.  The sentiments are much appreciated despite the fact that I don't consider myself to be my son's mom.  Regardless, it is a day to take time to appreciate parents in general.  I remember how surprised I was when the first Father's Day after my dad's death sucker punched me with an acute realization that he was gone.

I'll enjoy a power breakfast at Dunkin Donuts after getting dressed and packed.  Most restaurants are packed on this particular holiday.  I'm hoping that Dunkin' is saner than that.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Last night at midnight, as I was getting ready for bed, I thought my body might finally be getting used to being on Pacific Time (just in time to go back east).  When I woke up at 4:30 in the morning I realized otherwise - that it's just the adrenaline talking.

When I got here I didn't realize that I had so many things to do.  Yesterday was full of doctor's visits, filling scripts, getting drug tested for the new position, getting some paperwork notarized, and various other errands that fill a day from early morning thru late evening.

On thing I will say is that the weather here has been magnificent.  I made the mistake of looking at the extended forecast and the next ten days are all sunny, 0% change of rain, low humidity, with highs in the 90's.  Sweet.  It reminds me of what drew me here in the first place.

I'm trying to squeeze a hike into today but I don't know if that'll happen.  I've still got a number of errands to run and need to turn my sights on what needs to happen over the rest of the week.  Anyway - we'll see how the day unfolds.

That said, I probably don't have time to be doing this either.  It's just that writing things down has always been a good way for me to sort out things that seem complicated when in the confines of my head.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Dun been moved.

It is done.  Thank God.

As I mentioned yesterday - it was moving day.  I've been wondering for weeks where I'd move all (well, most) of my worldly possessions.  It has has been living in the garage where I left it in Arizona during my last trip here in January.  Not knowing where I'd move it has been part of various complicated scenarios where everything is connected.  Anyway, yesterday I implemented Plan B and my stuff found a new home.  In a storage unit. Again.

One thing I will share is that I've been offered a position back east that would last thru the end of the year and am going through the background check and all the other screening that happens.  I'm superstitious with this kind of stuff so no details will be forthcoming until it actually begins.  I've lined up a furnished place to live, as well, and I'm cautiously excited about it all.  Fingers are crossed.

The fact that this is done now is a huge burden lifted.  I've still got some other significant things to accomplish this week but this was a biggie.

Yesterday was the perfect day around here.  The high was probably in the low 80's.  No humidity.  Amazing deep blue skies.  It was just heaven.  And early concerns that my storage unit wouldn't be large enough to hold my 3 loads worth of stuff thankfully didn't come to pass.  We did an amazing job of packing it from floor to ceiling.  By the time we finally locked it at 7:30 yesterday evening I was spent.  After a quick dip in the pool, a couple of glasses of wine, a couple of Tylenol PM to soothe the aches and pains, and a little unwind time I don't even remember falling asleep.

I'm thankful my body is still good at doing this stuff.  Although it creeks and cracks and groans more it's still a machine when it comes to picking up boxes and furniture for hours on end.  Once the adrenaline gets going I'm like the Everready Bunny and the lulls in the action spent driving to or from the storage unit only make it harder to get the engine going again (so to speak...).

Anyway, I'm more than thankful to Kimberly, Julie, and Jenifer for their help.  I couldn't have done it without them.  More than simply helping me to carry stuff their continued good humor, positive energy, and tireless support helped to make it through the day.  Again.  It was one of those times when you realize just how important having friends who are willing to help when you need it is.  I am truly truly blessed in that regard.

One of the things I've found is the unexpected comfort in being able to bring some of my "stuff" back east with me.  Specifically, I only brought a small wardrobe with me when I left last fall and since it was getting towards winter back east I didn't bring any of my warmer weather/summer stuff.  I've been spending the morning tying on my dresses and I'm finding comfort in wearing them again and bringing them back with me.  Ah, the smaller things...

Another smaller thing - technically I could take the early morning flight back east tomorrow but one thing I've been very much wanting to do is to hike Squaw Peak again.  As I've written in the past, it is a place of spiritual connection for me.  I went there the day after I learned my father died to contemplate in solitude and I've learned to go there for peace in times of stress.  Since this entire trip so far has been about doing things I have to do I want to be sure to make a small window of "me" time.  So, tomorrow I'll hike Squaw Peak and I'll fly east in the afternoon.  It's all about balance.

Now that that's done - on to the next challenge.  All I can say is that if you see me at the Empire Conference this weekend make sure to give a hug.  I'll need it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Move me

Today is moving day.  Quite literally.  I am moving all my "stuff" from one place to another.  Again.  The weather is perfect for it.

As I sit and type this it's the calm before the storm.  I can't go to pick up the truck for another couple of hours yet.  Although I've been here in Arizona for a few days now my body is still confused as to what time zone it's supposed to be on so I've been waking up early.  The good news is that mornings here are the  nicest, most productive part of the day.  The bad news is that it can often make for long days....

I attended the University of Phoenix commencement ceremony yesterday.  A dear friend was receiving her diploma so there was a full row of a dozen of us there to share her day - her mom, her dad, her son and daughter, her sister, and various other friends and relations.  It spurred some long forgotten memories of my own graduation from Syracuse University.  The date was May 2, 1981 - exactly 30 years ago tomorrow.  We were the first event in the Carrier Dome, and our keynote speaker was Secretary of State Alexander Haig.  It seems like more than a lifetime ago.

The thing that I noticed about the graduates yesterday was the age range.  People from their early 20's to their late 50's or early 60's were there to receive their degrees.  Truth be told - I'd love to go back to college - not for the paper so much as simply to learn again.  Of course, that implies I'm settled in one place long enough to actually attend classes.

Someone questioned a statement in my previous blog entry about why I'd rather be here than at a recent meeting at the White House with a group of trans community leaders (article here).  The reason is a simple one - that's not where my passions lie.  There are those in the community who are involved in the broad spectrum of "political activism" who should probably have been there.  When I served on the HRC board I had more than one discussion about my own passions being more geared toward social change as the catalyst for political change, and a general consensus there that in the end, everything is political.  I disagreed then, and I disagree now.

I don't in any way mean to diminish the importance of any single aspect of activism, of this meeting, of the huge shift involved with having a group of trans politicos at the White House.  It's like the space shuttle - the first few flights were amazing but after a while it just became commonplace until a tragedy happens.  Until only recently it was unimaginable to have openly trans people attending meetings at the White House.  The best news out of all of this is that it's not necessarily big news any more.

All that said - I still believe that no legislation would have changed what happened in that Baltimore area McDonald's a couple of weeks ago.  That's not to say that legislation isn't needed, or that those fighting to ensure political and legal rights aren't needed.  Of course they are.  But as for me - Donna - I'm much more comfortable talking with students at a university, or with corporate folks, or in any number of other forums than I am sitting in a room talking trans politics.  It's just that simple.

I'm at a stage of life where I have untangled myself from all of my various formal activism commitments.  For the first time in a long time I'm not serving on any boards, I'm not turning my schedule upside down to attend something somewhere, I'm not eating and breathing and thinking activism all day every day.  If I ever write another memoir I'll have to share some of what I know from the days when I was up to my neck in it all.  And although those days are gone and others are now carrying the load I feel fortunate to be able to do the things I enjoy and best suited to do.

Right now I'm just focusing on simple things.  Where is home?  What am I going to do?  What about a personal life?  Or a relationship?  And what about my health?  Or my pups?  That's where I need to focus my energies.  And, that's what I'm doing.  That doesn't mean turning my back on anything or anyone.  It means knowing when it's time to focus on what....

I have enjoyed being back in Arizona over these last few days.  There's something that continues to bring me back and that makes me feel comfortable here.  No matter where I go expect that I'll always feel that connection whether this eventually becomes home for me or not.  I've had a couple of opportunities to enjoy some down time with friends, and I've been running around doing what I came here to do.  It's the perfect mix.

So - today is moving day.  I hope it'll all be done by nightfall.  Tomorrow I go to the doctor, and take care of a number of other things.  Tuesday I'll head back east.  And next weekend I'll be at the Empire Conference in Albany.  After that?  Who knows.  We'll see what unfolds.