Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Basking

I'm still basking in the glow of a very pleasant weekend topped off by the Bills win against the Patriots on Sunday.  It really was the icing on the cake.  As with many things in life, it's important to savor the good times while they last because they eventually fade so I'm enjoying soaking it in while I can (one story here, another here)....

Speaking of basking, I've alluded in the past to the fact that my sweetie will be visiting me.  She arrives tomorrow, and will be staying for a week.

I told her when we met that long-distance relationships suck, and they do.  I know this from experience.  But we've been forced to make creative use of the time between the last time we were together and when we were both free enough of other obligations to get together again.  We have both been counting down the days, and that "next time" finally happens tomorrow.

I'm confident that she'd agree that although the last several weeks have been difficult they've also provided a unique opportunity to get to know one another.  She is honestly the first person I've met since my ex-wife who I could talk to for hours and never run out of things to talk about.  Communication and the ability for it to flow naturally is such an important thing to me and we've already got that down.  It's not forced or uncomfortable - it almost flows organically.

Common goals, similar interests, same overall outlook on life - we share so many themes that we can sometimes almost finish each other's sentences.  She's got dogs.  She's physically active.  She's got a strong sense of social justice and is in a position to do something about it.  She actually likes to watch football!  She's at the same stage of life as I am, and has the same zeal for adventure and doing as I do.  And, just as important as all of this - she makes me feel special.   That mixture is new for me, and we're both still wondering how the heck we found each other in this crazy world....

My special someone has a name.  Her name is Tracy.  In the future when I mention her I'll use her name so at least there will be some context for this new person suddenly appearing in my life.  I don't expect to share too too much detail as we both feel a very strong sense of privacy.  But at the same time neither of us feel a need to hide it either.  I expect that our relationship will have a significant impact on my life, so some of the things that unfold over coming weeks and months now have a significant new motivator.

We are planning to be together quite a bit over the coming weeks.  She'll be coming to Provincetown with me next month so we'll enjoy a few days of  "real" autumn in Cape Cod.  And then I'll be in Phoenix at the end of the month.  In one of those ironies of life she lives in Phoenix.   So does my furniture....

After that?  We'll see.  That's too far into the future to plan right now.  But I'll share that I don't expect we'll be having a long-distance relationship for very long.  'Nuff said.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thrilled

6:45am

It's 6:45am and I'm in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver.  I strayed down here to get a cup of coffee - I'll admit I didn't sleep nearly as well as the night before so I'm dragging a little this morning.  I think the craziness of all the traveling help propel me to get a good night sleep on Friday.  This morning my body remembered that it's actually on the East Time Zone so it woke up at 5am and wasn't going back to sleep.  So here I am....

I enjoy Denver.  I've been here a number of times in recent years and I really do enjoy it here.  And I get the sense that Denver enjoys me too.  One thing I do know is that my hair loves it here - it has been the best couple of hair days I've had in a long time.

The weather in Denver has been perfect each time I've visited and yesterday was no different.  Someone told me that Denver is second behind Phoenix in the country as days with the most sunshine (300+) and although I haven't verified it I do know that my own experiences here tend to support something like that.

Yesterday was a full day - breakfast with a good friend, an afternoon visit to the Gender Identity Center of Colorado, some time in the fitness center here, a bit of time polishing my remarks for the evening, primping and prepping for the event, and then off for showtime.  The day went at just the right pace, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every piece of it.

My hostess-with-the-mostest, Courtney, was honored with one of the awards last night and has been the perfect hostess.  Both she and her wife have wonderful positive energy about them and I can't thank both of them enough for their wonderful hospitality.  I hope we continue to have the opportunity to stay in contact after I leave...

The dinner was great.  The location was very pretty, it was sold out (450 people), the band was awesome, it was meticulously planned and run - all things considered I can't think of anything that didn't go well.  Thanks to everyone who attended - all I can say is that it was an honor to be part of the evening and I hope you had as much fun there as I did.

I brought two dresses in my luggage - one black and one red.  One was more elegant, and the other was more of a statement.  I wore the red statement dress and thought it looked nice.  Those shoes have been broken in over years of big dinners and are generally pretty and comfortable, an important combination when it comes to heels.

This is my new Facebook profile pic.  I like it....

Rachel, Courtney, and me

My feelings on the importance of LGBT Centers are no secret and this particular Center has a special place in my world.  I felt completely at home there last night and I'm thrilled that they chose to honor Courtney with the Volunteer of the Year award.  She was radiant, and did such a wonderful job....

Earlier in the day we stopped at the GIC to attend the annual cook-out for a while.  It was great to see some good friends there.

10pm
Well - I'm home now.  The flights were mercifully uneventful, and it was nice to get home to see Maggie.

As I mentioned in an earlier note, the new version of the Standards of Care are being released (ver 7) at the WPATH Conference in Atlanta.  If you're interested in reading them it's already online (see it here).  There are also already early critiques of the contents (here's a good one).  Those who support a surgery approach to our unique "situation" will most likely not like the revisions as they move away from the one-size-fits-all, transition, surgery-based model.  I expect there will be quite a bit more discussion of this in coming days....

Me?  The highlight of the day was the Bills last-second comeback win against the Patriots.  This team is really something.  Anyway, as a long-suffering Bills fan I have to admit that I was thrilled by it all.  They're replaying it on the NFL Network on Tuesday night....

Speaking of thrilled - my GF arrives on Wednesday for a week.  I am truly thrilled about that.

I was in Starbucks yesterday and noticed that their "Pick of the Week" is a song titled "Just a Kiss" by Lady Antebellum.  It's a free download from iTunes if you stop in and get a card for it at a Starbucks.  It has GREAT lyrics that remind me of her, and I sent her a text about it.  She already knew....  :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Denver

I'm sitting in a Starbucks that's part of the hotel where I'm staying here in Denver.  I'm drinking my morning savior - coffee - waking up.  And I'm listening to my Coldplay station on Pandora.

Man, oh, man did I sleep well last night.  I needed it.  By the time I finally closed my eyes it was almost midnight here so given the 2-hr time difference from Charleston it was way past my bedtime.  The adrenaline of getting ready to travel, getting last-minute things accomplished at work, flying here, doing the meet-and-greet at Hamburger Mary's and being excited for my GF's Masters Degree stuff yesterday had worn off and I was worn out.

Thankfully the traveling was uneventful.  I only had 35-minutes between connections in Atlanta which is cutting things close given the size of the airport and the inclination for delays arriving or leaving there but everything worked out.  It was a very pleasant day.

Weather here in Denver is perfect this weekend - high around 80 or so and sunny.  I'm loving it already. A friend is coming to meet me for breakfast, someone is picking me up at noon to go to the Gender Identity Center picnic, and we need to be back at the hotel by 3 to begin preparing for the evening events.

I brought 2 dresses - one black and one red - for the gala tonight.  I figured I'd decide based on how I was feeling at the time.  Red stands out.  Black is classic.  If I needed to make that decision right now I'm in the Red zone.  We'll see how things progress today and if anything changes.

We stopped by one of the local bars and it was just beginning to get busy there at 11.  I don't miss the days of going out to bars until all hours.  I don't miss the craziness of bars in general, unless there's live music or some other interesting diversion going on.  But going to a place that smells with people who are drinking too much and pushing one another because they're packed too close together has no allure for me whatsoever.  I guess that makes me either an old fart or someone who has finally matured to the point of asking "Why?".  No need for that.

There are several bars in Charleston that I visit from time to time.  I know all the bartenders there by name.  They're relatively small, quiet bars usually attached to one of the nicer restaurants.  They're nice places to go and unwind, not places to go to get wound up.  Anyway - I haven't been around a bar like that in a long time and it reminded me of how far I've drifted from wanting to do that.

I'll probably update this later if I have the time.  My friend is getting here in a few minutes so I need to get ready.  She calls me every single Sunday - without fail - and it's nice when we have the chance to actually meet up in person.

Until later...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mainstreaming

The Chaz Effect continues.

There's an entry on a Christian blog worth reading (read it here).

Kieth Ablow continues his heightening hysteria over Chaz on Bill O'Reilly the other night (details here). 

GLAAD provided an astute Op/Ed response (read it here).  One paragraph particularly articulates how I feel:
Dr. Ablow is using his medical credentials as a cover for espousing discrimination against transgender people. As Americans get to know and understand Chaz Bono, they are learning that transgender people can lead happy, healthy lives and deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. By suggesting that they should live in the shadows, instead of allowing them to celebrate living their lives authentically, Dr. Ablow does a disservice to his profession by promoting harm instead of health.

There's an article on Salon.com that articulates some of this very well (read it here).  Here are some snippets:
Last fall, it was all about Bristol Palin, and whether she was being ballot stuffed by Tea Party fanatics. Last spring, it was Kirstie Alley, and her dramatic, week by week weight loss. Now, the big story is whether a person who was born a female should be hoofing it up as a dude. Once again, a televised ballroom dancing competition is the most radical, divisive, hot-button show in America.
They go on to explain the ruckus that Chaz's participation is causing:
The man at the center of the dance floor, meanwhile, seems surprised at the fuss. Appearing on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, Bono suggested critics "Watch the show and decide after that. It's a dancing show. I'm not there talking about anything other than dancing." But he added, "I think it's going to have a really positive impact. I know that if, when I was growing up, I would have seen someone like me on a show like this, it would have made all the difference in the world in my life."

It is just a dancing show. It is also, its participants know, an opportunity to make a statement. A year ago, in the heartbreaking wake of a rash of suicides by gay teens, Margaret Cho donned a rainbow dress and shimmied to "Copacabana" in the name of pride. "Dancing With the Stars" is light entertainment but it's also, quite clearly, a powerful barometer of the values that unite and divide us. That's what makes it fascinating, the way it plays out our national mood in three-quarter time.

While nobody is going to see Bono do the cha-cha and suddenly decide to swap gender, it's possible that viewers out there who feel alone or confused may see him and realize they're not alone. Others might get the chance to learn that being yourself isn't necessarily being who you were born. Still others might just enjoy watching individuals of different ages, orientations and abilities shaking their groove things. But if there's one thing the show has already proven over the years, it's that being a winner has absolutely nothing to do with going backward in high heels.

It's that last paragraph that's so important. I realize that some who read my blog, for some reason I still can't for the life of me fathom, seem to percieve Chaz's participation there as a negative thing. We all have our opinions and I've been consistently clear in mine. But what it is doing cannot be underestimated.

My neighbor who knows about my situation was talking about it. I went in to my doctor's office this morning and they were talking about it. It's everywhere. And the words I've been hearing are universally supportive. Except, of course, for Keith Ablow and some who choose to comment here. But in the bigger picture exactly what Ablow talks about - the "mainstreaming of transgender" - is happening in ways that neither you nor I nor activists nor years of trying to humanize ourselves one person at a time could do.

For years I've half-joked that the trans community hasn't had it's "Will and Grace" moment yet. It hadn't had something that could make the word "transgender" not-so-scary to mainstream America. We've been slowly chipping away at walls that prevent inclusion in any number of aspects of life where others participate so why can't we?

Does Chaz reflect everyone? Of course not. But does what he's doing affect us? You bet your butt it does. And as with most things I don't think the true impact of all of this will truly be known until it can be considered in the context of time.

Last year at this time Chaz was at SCC. He is an affable, fun, very comfortable guy and the fact that he was surrounded by the largest trans conference didn't seem to affect him at all.

SCC is happening this weekend and it's the first year I'll miss the whole thing since 2002, I think. It's happening in conjunction with the WPATH conference, and with the GLMA (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) Conference.  I'll miss hanging out in the bar, but I'll be in Denver....

The big news that will be coming out of WPATH is that Jamison Green is taking over the role as President.  I can't think of anyone more qualified or more perfect for the role.  But what many don't know yet is that the new/revised Standards of Care (Version 7) will be launched during a session on Monday.  Expect it to be a significant change from previous versions.  And, expect it to have multiple tracks - not all of which involve surgical interventions.

As for me - my biggest headache right now is finding a dog-sitter for Maggie.  The places I usually go are filled so the evening will be spent getting creative.  I've had some job-related tumult so I'm hoping that's in the past for now.  I'm on Day 4 of Atkins and I've lost 4 pounds - still feeling good about it. 

BTW: I've had a few people express concern that I'm getting too skinny.  I assure you, with all the intense working out I'm doing to prepare for my wrestling insanity I'm neither too skinny nor unhealthy.  I don't have much body fat right now - I'll agree with that.  But unfortunately one of the first places that weight falls away from when I get to this point is my face and my butt.  I don't want a smaller butt.  However when it comes to other "parts" I'm as healthy as healthy can be.  Here's a quick pic I took yesterday for my GFF.  She liked it.  :)


Tomorrow at this time I'll be on a plane for Denver.  If you're anywhere nearby they've scheduled a Meet and Greet event at Hamburger Mary's starting at 7:30.  The good news is that hamburgers are protein and I'll be hungry by then so I see a patty or two in my future.  The best part of all of that is (a) it's ok according to my "diet" and (b) it's working.  :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aloha

It's Day 3 of my 2011 Atkins Diet.  So far so good.

I've had a couple of people ask me what it is.  Basically, it's protein.  The diet is divided into "Phases", with the first phase called "Induction".  It's designed to wean your body off carbs.  Actually, it doesn't wean.  It's like hitting a brick wall.

The crazy thing about the diet is that everything about it is counter-intuitive.  For example, I had a 3-egg omlette and sausage for breakfast and that's perfectly fine.  I couldn't have any of the added starches (toast, home fries, grits, etc) but that's ok.  Small salad for lunch.  Last night I had a half-price burger night at the Pub near my house and that's perfectly fine as well (without the bun or fries, of course).

I've done this diet in the past and know how it goes.  The first couple of days are fine.  But as your body starts to crave carbs it reacts.  There is a day-long headache in my future, and some gastro-intestinal "cleansing".  And a cranky mood for at least a couple of days.  It's truly amazing to see how your body comes to count on things like sugars so cutting them out "cold turkey" have an effect.  I also find it interesting how I just snack on little things here or there throughout the day without even thinking.

The reason I'm on it at all is that I need to lose some weight to get to my weight limit.  8 Measly pounds over the next 6 weeks.  Last year I had absolutely no energy for the last week leading up to the Nationals - I had 6 pounds to lose and was a mess.  Not this time.  I also realize that there are many different diets I could be doing and that some are concerned that this isn't the healthiest choice.  But I've come to accept that wrestling diets are inherently unhealthy, and this is a relatively short-term thing for me, so I'm good with it all for now.  Of course, if I get a week into it and I haven't lost any weight I'll have to re-evaluate but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

I'm actually pretty happy with my body at the moment.  Between all the work at the gym, my bike, and generally feeling good overall I think it's all aligned.  The weight itself is a detail as I honestly rarely weigh myself (except for competing).  I have a pair of Size 4 pants that generally tell me how I'm doing....

Chaz Bono danced on DWTS Monday night.  I didn't watch.  But reviews are positive (here's one).  I make it a point to never watch anything that looks, seems, or could otherwise be described as a Reality Show so it's not like I was doing anything out of the ordinary by not watching.  And I'm glad (and relieved) that he did well.  He had a LOT of pressure to deliver and he did.

Facebook recently changed their "look" and people are up in arms about it.  I figure people will complain no matter what they do at this point and the answer to that is simple.  Quit.  Leave FB.  And although some of the people I know do end up leaving and staying away most people who leave seem to come back.  I told my sister the other night that I perceive FB as a curse more than a blessing and she doesn't see it that way, probably because she's got a fairly insular world on it.  But I have a pretty broad world there despite the fact that I don't share too much, that most of my posting is simply photos I take from my little world.  I'll admit that I've made some friends there who have turned into real-life friends, and I've re-connected with people from other times in my life so that has been good.  But goobers who write you disrespectful stuff, who tag themselves in your photos (when they're not there), who post creepy stuff on your wall because they can, who sign you up to be in a Group without asking, or who tag you in Notes/Conversations with a dozen other people don't last long with me.  Anyway, I digress...

I have a certain someone special in my life at the moment who will be graduating on Friday with her Master's Degree.  The good news is that I'm incredibly proud of her and very happy about this amazing achievement.  The bad news is that I'll start the day on the other side of the country from her, and I'll end the day in Denver so I won't be able to share it with her.  I generally avoid talking too much about my personal personal stuff in my blog - I've learned my lessons in that regard the hard way - but I will share that she doesn't live here but will be coming to Charleston next week for a belated celebration.  We're both very excited about that and have been counting down the days.   I may have more to share on that topic at some point, but for now that's enough....  Except for - Congratulations!!

I've seen a number of friends making interesting relationship decisions in their lives lately.  More power to 'em.  Part of the problem is to think we can approach these things rationally rather than emotionally which generally doesn't happen.  I, personally, don't buy into the "A Bad Relationship is Better Than No Relationship" school of thought.  But I'll admit that the early stages of a budding relationship is a pretty exciting time.

Others of my friends are very lonely and I understand that as well.  I've written about it in the past and nothing has changed - it's still an epidemic.  But the difference between being "alone" and being "lonely" is something each of us needs to come to peace with in various ways.  They're not the same and one can have either of them without the other.

Anyway - I need to get going.  That's enough for one day.  Stay tuned tomorrow for Day 4 of Donna's Atkins Diet....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chatty

Another weekend has come and gone. It was as busy as they've all been lately - in a good way. Long bike ride. Time at the gym. Laundry at the laundromat. Some time with friends. A nice dinner to close out "Restaurant Week". A little bit of cleaning. My football team won in the last minute after being down 21-3 at halftime. All things considered - it was a very very full weekend. I very much enjoyed it.

I worked from home this morning. Here's a picture of my simple backyard "office". We had beautiful late summer/early autumn weather here today, the pup sits out there with me and keeps a vigilant eye out for her constant nemesis. Squirrels.



I enjoy autumn.  It has a unique "feel" to it - especially here on the East coast.  I don't enjoy being cold, though, which is one of those paradoxes as part of autumn is that I remember it getting progressively more winter-ish.

I think I've mentioned before that I have a circulation "issue" (Raynaud's Syndrome) that affects my fingers and hands mostly.  It sometimes when it's not even all that cold out, like if I'm just chilly for some reason, or after a long day in a too-air-conditioned office.  I'm told that there is an emotional/physcho-physical component to it and I think that's probably true.  Anyway, it's pesky and inconvenient more than anything dangerous at this point but we're getting to that time of year.

I realize that some people have purses for various different occasions.  I only have a few.  I traded out my summer purse for my fall/winter one yesterday.  It's the same one I used last year, and the year before.  I don't feel any pressure to get a new purse when I very much like the purses I have and they're still in good shape.  A purse if a very personal thing so swapping one out for another is a transition in a way.  Anyway, it's not as significant a sign that winter is coming as the fact Costco already has Christmas stuff up but it's certainly something.

If it's fall then it must be time for football. My team did wonderfully well on Sunday.  Sports Illustrated sports writer Peter King spend some time explaining why this team is so easy to root for (read it here):
But this is why you root for the Bills: Their most important offensive players are everymen, and they can really play. Last year, Buffalo hung up 30 on New England, 34 on Baltimore, 49 on Cincinnati ... lost on a heartbreaking dropped pass against Pittsburgh for what would have been the winning touchdown ... and after starting 0-8, won four of their last eight with nothing to play for.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the quarterback, a seventh-round pick of the Rams six years ago, played at Harvard and is singing for his supper in the last year of his contract. The winning touchdown pass in the 38-35 win over Oakland Sunday was caught by David Nelson, an undrafted wide receiver who wasn't even a full-time college starter. Their touchdown leader, tight end Scott Chandler, was a waiver pickup from Dallas last December. And their starting running back, Fred Jackson, also undrafted (isn't everyone on this team?), went to mighty Coe College, enrollment 1,300, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There is one key receiver who was drafted -- Stevie Johnson. In the seventh round of the 2008 draft.

Anyway - I expect that they'll need to wake up one of these weeks.  But they've already make it a memorable and exciting season.

Another quick topic - make-up.  I have several friends who transitioned and who now either rarely or never wear make-up.  That's certainly fine - everyone kind of works out where/if it has a place in their lives as time goes on I suppose.  As for me - I still very much enjoy it.  It's part of my morning routine and I haven't gotten tired of it in the least.  I wish I were better at it but left to my own devices I'm thinking I'm doing ok.

I got my 3rd iPhone 4 today.  The first one fell into the ocean over Memorial Day and, despite heroic efforts to save it, she succombed to 5 seconds in salt water.  Well, I've been having trouble with a couple of odd "quirks" so today they just swapped it out for a new one.  No matter how easy they make it seem to back-up and restore it always turns into a labor intensive effort.  All my folders are gone, some of the apps somehow don't get downloaded to the phone, passwords and other "things" need to be re-entered.  Honestly, it turns into a days worth of work to get things back to where they were.

Lastly for today - I started the Induction Phase of the Atkins diet today.  When I've done it in the past for a couple of weeks I've lost 8 or 10 pounds and that's what I need to get down to my weight class.  It's actually a very counter-intuitive diet (and many would say unhealthy) because the key is to cut carbs and eat as much protein as you want.  For example, I could eat a 3-egg omlette and as much bacon as I want for breakfast, have a piece of salmon and a salad for lunch, and a big piece of steak and a vegetable for dinner.  It works, though.

I've learned a  number of things the hard way.  (1) The carb withdrawal headache starts 2 or 3 days into it (2) despite the fact that you can eat as much protein as you want you'll start craving carbs and (3) moments of light-headedness are to be expected.  Anyway, I've made it thru the first day without much difficulty.  We'll see how it goes tomorrow....

Friday, September 16, 2011

Life is all about Dessert....

I mentioned in my previous post about Charleston Restaurant Week and the wide variety of wonderful food available here.  Food is to Charleston as music is to Austin - it has become part of the area's DNA.  Last night a friend and I went to High Cotton as part of the 3 for $30 deal.   In a word - Yumm!  God, I love a good meal.  I don't know if it's a good thing that I've been there enough over recent weeks to know the bartenders as well as I do but they've got live jazz most nights and it's a very relaxing place to go.

I couldn't even begin to explain what the appetizer I got was - it was some kind of beef carved a micron thin with a very pretty (and tasty) sauce drizzled on it.  Main course was pork loin on a bed of jalapeno grits.  And for dessert - apple cobbler with Cinnamon ice cream.  Mmmmm.

Sunday I'm doing another 3 for $30 thing.  It's the last day for it.  Phew.

As advertised, today is very autumn-like.  Chilly, even.  It was raining and in the low 60's, and still dark, this morning when I took pup for her walk and I needed a sweatshirt.  Brrr.  I haven't been in my house for a chilly day yet so we'll have to see if the heater works....not that I need heat quite yet but I'm just saying,....I hate being cold.  I do sense an extra blanket in my near future, tho.

I suppose it's no secret since I mention it again and again that I like music.  It truly is the backdrop of my world.  I listen to Pandora when I'm on my bike, I listen to Spotify on my laptop, I'm usually connected to my headphones at work....I'm just wired that way.

One of the cool things about the Internet is finding artists who leverage the mediums available to them to do unique, interesting things.  One of those people is Darryl Hall.  He does an "Internet" show titled "Live from Darryl's House" that I've mentioned before but is worth mentioning again.  He brings various artists to his house, talks with them, often eats with them, and (of course) plays music with them.  He's got a good variety of guests, the audio and video quality are superb, and it's just something unique. 

Also this weekend (9/16-9/18), the Austin City Limits Music Festival is being broadcast live on YouTube (link here).  The schedule of performers is at the bottom of the screen.  Coldplay will be performing this evening.  Watching Zilker Park makes me miss being in Austin....

In wrestling the US won a bronze medal in my weight class )72kg) at the World Championships.  Ali made it to the semi-finals before losing to a 5-time world champion from Bulgaria.



People can poo-poo Women's Wrestling all they want, but these are some tremendously well-trained and talented athletes.  Last year the only medals the US broguth home were from the Women's Freestyle team, and so far this year that's true as well. Anyway, Congratulations to Ali.

After I shared a little about what I do for my "career" someone write to ask me how I find contract opportunities.  I've done contracting for the majority of my life and I'll say that back in the old days contracting was much different than it is today.  For example, I've never met anyone from the contracting company that I work for at the moment.  They recruited me online, arranged the interview, and we only know each other through phone calls and email.  That's fine - but that's not how it usually works.
My main source for finding contract opportunities is Dice.com.  Another online resource that I use from time to time is Sologig.  But as I get older the cities I'd go to work and live have dwindled down to a small few.  I'm just sayin...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Personal

Some of the things that Charleston is known for are scenery, history, climate, and a unique Low Country culture.  Any list of allures, however, would be incomplete if it didn't include food.

Charleston is fortunate to have a significant number of wonderful restaurants.  From local delicacies seafood delicacies like flounder or shrimp right off the boat to she-crab soup, to grits - the cuisine here ranges from fairly simple to very fou-fou and elegant.  I'm only a little embarrassed to admit that one of my weekly "habits" is half-price burger night at one of the local pubs.

The reason I mention this here is that we're in the middle of something called "Charleston Restaurant Week".  It's actually more than a week - it's 11 days - and it's a city wide opportunity to sample the broad range of eateries that the area has to offer.  Participating restaurants include several of the higher end places who prepare special menus of 3-course meals for $20, $30, or $40.  Given my budget and my diet I have done an excellent job of avoiding these temptations, but tonight I am meeting a friend at one local place I particularly like.  I've got reservations at another over the weekend, and may try to squeeze in a 3rd.  What can I say - I'm only human.....

In some ways today feels like the last day of summer here.  It's supposed to get to 90 degrees, but the Jet Stream is apparently going to dip down and send some much cooler, unsettled air our way for the next week or more.  It'll struggle to get out of the 70's and parts of it may be wet.  I'm still planning to do my usual long bike-ride, and I'm hoping to be able to spend some time in the kayak, but it's the first weekend in a long time that I've had to plan around potential weather considerations.

Dr. Jillian Weiss posted an article on Bilerico recently to comment about a recent reminder that Don't Ask Don't Tell doesn't apply to trans men and women in the military, and is still grounds for discharge (read it here).  As with most things, the words of what that really means doesn't begin to communicate the real-life implications of what that means.

One of the reasons that I stay actively involved in trans rights and trans visibility is that it isn't just a cause.  It's not an "identity" either.  It's personal.  When you've gone to vigils for young trans-people who have been brutally murdered and met their families it's not something abstract, it's real and tangible and emotional.  When you're trying to console someone who has just been outed and lost their job, been kicked out of their house, and is absolutely terrified it's not simply sitting safely behind a keyboard and armchair-quarterbacking from the sidelines.  It's personal, because we've been there too.  And when it comes to serving in the military, my own personal experience with a friend who served openly as trans ended in suicide because of the pressures involved.

Nobody wants to become a martyr.  And MJ's tragic story is only known to a handful of us.  But the fact of the matter is that the US Army had an amazing field nurse who was bright and full of life, but that's all gone now.  MJ served in Iraq, was buried with full military honors, and whose memory serves as a vivid reminder of the life and death struggle that many of us face each and every day.  But even in death, the only reminder of MJ's authentic self is in those of us who knew.

MJ had been rejected by family as a teen.  MJ loved photography, and was hoping to publish two books.  MJ found passion in nursing.  And one of the last emails MJ sent to a small group of friends from time to time ended with, "In all seriousness to everyone; please take care and enjoy life."  Hey MJ - I'm doing my best.

I wrote in my last post that the world can still be a brutal place, and Lord knows it can.  That's why it's important to re-energize when we can, to enjoy the simple pleasures that come our way, and to actually like ourselves when we go to bed each night. But things in our lives can provide vivid reminders of why we're here.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm very clear on that for me.  Why?  Because it's more than words.  It's real, and it has a face, and it's personal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

News Bites....

There are a couple of unrelated but similar items in the news so far this week worth mentioning. 

The first is an announcement from Australia that citizens there will be allowed to obtain a passport consistent with their gender identity without proof or surgical interventions (details here).  And, the Netherlands are currently working on implementing a similar policy (details here). 

These changes are consistent with current United States passport procedures (as of July 2010).  I still contend that easing the Passport restrictions are the single most significant identity advance, even moreso than Birth Certificates.  One example: When you apply for a job here in the States you need to provide proof of identity/citizenship at the time of hire.  The rules indicate that you can provide either (a) a US passport OR (b) two other forms of government provided identification (ie Social Security card, driver's license, birth certificate).  As a result, regardless of any particular state's policy on changing the gender marker on driver's licenses or birth certificates having a passport that is consistent with identity and/or presentation is the trump card.  And while I absolutely agree that neither surgery status nor a piece of paper define a person's gender, for the purposes of day-to-day situations and practical life-realities this has been a big deal and sets a critical precedence.

The second piece of news is near and dear to my heart.  The NCAA announced this week that it has adopted a new policy more inclusive of trans student athletes (read details here).  The key element of the policy is that it, too, is NOT surgery-based.  It allows student athletes to compete on the team consistent with their gender identity based solely on hormone therapy:

The NCAA—which governs sports for more than 1,200 colleges and institutions—worked closely with the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Sports Project and Griffin Educational Consulting to develop the policy, which according to the announcement “will allow a transgender student athlete to participate in sex-separated sports activities so long as the athlete’s use of hormone therapy is consistent with the NCAA policies and current medical standards.”
As a trans athlete it's huge to recognize that those of us who enjoy competitive athletics can play within supportive defined policies, and that there is recognition of some of the unique challenges/needs we face. 

However, we all know that regardless of policy, the intersection of gender-based athletics and trans identities is often a very messy place.  It has been for a very long time and will likely continue to ignite passions.  Add trans youth into the mix and it's sure to get crazed.  A boy wrestler in Iowa refused to wrestle a girl there last year - imagine how it can become with something more complicated than that.  But as trans kids confront their realities in healthy, supportive environments earlier and earlier in life so too does the need to support them in the broad range of interests that comprise their lives need to happen earlier as well.

Contrast this with news this week that a 20-year old man in DC is charged with shooting a trans woman there (details here), a 5-year prison term for the woman who attacked a trans woman in a Baltimore area McDonalds (details here), and the recent attack on 2 trans people by an off-duty DC cop (details here).  The world is still a very harsh place.  And, regardless of how others may feel about it, I'm happy with my place in it.  I do what I can to make it better, even in simple ways.

The annual Out and Equal Workplace Summit is around the corner.  Until last year I had attended every one since 2003, and was co-chair of the event in Austin in 2008.  I continue to very much support the organization's mission and find that this unique forum is a great way to raise awareness, fuel passion, make connections, learn best practices, and leverage broader identities in the workplace.

The 2011 Summit will be in Dallas at the end of October.  It's life changing - I highly recommend attending to anyone who can make it happen. They created a video with short snippets from various speakers over the years that's worth watching:



I'm going to try to be there for the first couple of days. I miss seeing friends there as much as anything, and the energy of being in that environment is amazing. I need to be in Phoenix by the end of that week but getting there to spend some time with mom and to visit the Summit would be awesome....

On the other side of the world, The World Wrestling Championships are continuing in Istanbul.  Women's Freestyle started - no medals for the USA yet.  ESPN3 will be webcasting the finals each day (details here).  As for me - I'm going to the recently-opened local wrestling training center after work today to get some mat time.  I'm happy just to roll around for a while.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Against the Wind

I cooked fried shrimp for dinner last night.  It was a first.  From cleaning the shrimp to de-veining the little suckers to dipping them into the breading to frying 'em in the deep fryer.  I absolutely love fried shrimp and admit that I bought this deep fryer specifically to be able to do this.  And, despite being an addmittedly green rookie at it, I'm happy with the results.  I'm not rapturing about the outcome and I learned a lot, but the good news is that I'll do it again.  I'll also admit that I was a little dismayed by how much cleaning was involved afterwards.  But then again, that's all part of the process.

The downer of the evening was finding out that my internet service wasn't working.  It's not like I'm a novice at this stuff and I did all the necessary home trouble-shooting but for some reason it was working before I went to work and when I got home it wasn't.  I called Comcast and eventually spoke with an agent who talked with me like I'm a child and basically told me (a) the problem was with my equipment and (b) they'd have to send someone out to investigate further.  So he scheduled someone for tomorrow.  In the meantime, I got a call from Comcast saying that they've discovered a "problem" in my area and that they're going to work on it today.  Oh, and they cancelled my service call.

My football team won on Sunday!  Jeez Louise.  I've gotten so used to starting off the season just accepting the fact that we're going to stink again this year that rushing out of the gate like that was a shocker.  As a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan (I didn't ask for it, I assure you....it's just the way I am) I've learned to (a) manage expectations (b) accept that sucking happens and (b) learn the meaning of frustration.  Anyway - I've followed them since the mid 1960's thru thick and thin.   As with my current europhoria here in Charleston I need to enjoy the good times while I can.

They announced yesterday that Bob Seger's music will be available on iTunes.  For those of us who grew up with his songs as anthems of our youth that's good news.  They're offering a 6-song EP of his music FREE (link here) but it was allegedly only available for one day.   I downloaded it and have listened to it several times already.  One of my personal Segar favorites (not on the EP, though) is "Sunspot Baby".  And although many of us have heard songs like "Against the Wind", "Night Moves", and "Turn the Page" a thousand times they seem to never get old.  At least for me they don't.

In my ongoing effort to find and appreciate good live music I'll be attending a concert here in Charleston by Mat Kearney on Friday.

I don't know that most people know his name. But they know some of his music. Here's a popular one...



I really like his new song:



Anyway, I'm looking forward to it.
This next weekend will be my last "down" weekend for a while.  On the weekend of the 24th I'll be in Denver for the Gala celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the LGBT Center there.  I'm told it's already sold out.  I've been asked to present the awards that night which is a tremendous honor.  I have also been asked to speak about activism and it's role.  Needless to say, I have some thoughts on the subject and will be happy to share some of them.

BTW: I noticed an interesting article: "Transsexual Model Lea T. in Blue Man’s Swimsuit Campaign Shot by Terry Richardson". The photos there are just beautiful.  It's another shot in this ongoing broader cultural war for inclusion that's currently playing itself out in some very public and controversial ways.  I, for one, am thrilled by this stuff. 

The more progress we make the angrier people who want us to disappear get.  I have to admit some level of satisfaction at this cause-and-effect scenario, as when they get the most rabid is when we're the most visible.  I continue to be intrigued at the uproar over Chaz Bono's appearance on Dancing With the Stars (one example here).  A couple of weeks ago Fox shink Keith Ablow wrote an absolutely ignorant Op/Ed piece urging parents to avoid allowing their kids to watch for fear that they'll get confused.  Here's one of the responses to his idiotic rant.

Someone I very much respect, Julia Serano, recently wrote a couple of extended blog entries where she waded into the shark-infested TS/TG/IS LMNOP waters that seems to want to reach flood-stage at some point.  Her first post was dated Sept. 8 and is a particularly well thought-out and presented piece titled A "Transsexual vs. Transgender" Intervention.  Needless to say, that generated quite a bit of response and Julia did a similarly interesting job of sharing some of  the feedback it generated a couple of days later in her follow-up, not surprisingly (and aptly) titled Postscript for my "TS-vs-TG-Intervention" Piece.  I, for one, applaud Julia for her insights and think they are well worth sharing here.

I don't usually talk much about clothes or "style" here on my blog.  Maybe it's because style is something that has always seemed to elude me, or at least has always felt that way.  I've come to a sense of peace that I've found my own unique sense of style by trial and error, without having mentors or others who could help.  The reason I mention this is that I'm wearing my highest heels today.  They're not so high that my head is in the clouds, but they're high for me.  I recently bought them - partly because they looked nice despite being Size 10's, partly because they were on sale, and partly because they felt comfortable (well, as comfortable as 3" heels can be) as I paced back and forth at the store.

Of course, the real test comes when you have to wear them for hours on end. So today I wore them and have a back-up pair at the ready in case these start rubbing or chafing too much (I have a couple of band-aids ready, too). So far so good. I just hope I don't twist an ankle, or break my neck going down the stairs....

As a Yin to that Yang, I'm also buying a new pair of wrestling shoes.  My first tournament is 6 weeks away and I've found a pair that has a unique sense of "style" to them, too.  They're blue and white.  I expect to be on the mat regularly again starting tomorrow as my training continues....  In unrelated news that nobody but me cares about the World Championships are happening in Istanbul this week.  The woman who beat me at the World Team Trials last  year is representing the US in my weight class.  I'll be following the results online and wish the entire team the best of luck.

Sometimes people ask me what I do for a living.  I do IT contract work.  That is, I work projects of varying durations that require "temporary" supplemental staffing with a specific skill-set.  At the moment I'm managing a web Upgrade project for a Fortune 200 company here (and, I might add, I'm enjoying it!).  The temporary nature of the assignments typically provide a greater sense of flexibility which I find helpful given all the other various demands on my time and energies.  Anyway - I've been here since April and the project is scheduled to go thru the end of the year.  After that?  Don't know yet.  Another reality of this kind of lifestyle is getting comfortable with the temporary nature of not necessarily being able to plan too far in advance. 

As I've articulated before - the key is to enjoy today for today because tomorrow it will be yesterday.  And that's what I'm doing.  :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

An Excellent Weekend

9/10:

It's the night before 9/11.  I spent it watching an amazing sunset over Sullivan's Island beach not far from here.  Now I'm watching a show on the History Channel titled "Voices from Inside the Tower".  It's very powerful.

It includes many phone messages from people in the towers to loved ones telling "good-bye" as things deteriorated.  Initial calls were hopeful, but later calls were simple - I love you, tell the kids and my parents I love them, those kinds of things....

I can't help but wondering who I'd call in that situation.  I know I'd call my mom, my sister, and my brother first.  That's a no brainer.  But after that - not sure.  It's a very short list.  And even if I did know who I'd call I have no idea what I'd say.  How do you say good-bye for the last time on the phone?  I really don't know.  But regardless, it's very powerful.

Death seems to be a taboo topic, but I truly don't know how you can talk or think about life without also talking or thinking about death.  Ss far as I can tell, reminding ourselves that each of us will eventually run out of tomorrows is a very powerful motivator to make the most of the time between now and then.  That, to me, is truly the goal of life.  Whatever that means to each of us is certainly unique but I've got a long list of things I'd like to do between now and that day and I'm actively working to make those things a reality.  Not someday.  But someday soon.

I had a good day today.  It wasn't anything all that special, but then again I enjoyed it.  I did laundry at the laundromat.  I went to spinning class.  I did some shopping at Trader Joe's.  I went to the wrestling center.  As usual I took some photos with my iPhone, so I'll share some of them...

Sunset 9/9 - St. Michael's steeple from my backyard
Cruise ship in harbor shortly after sunrise this morning
The Wrestling facility where I'll be training in the coming weeks

This afternoon pup and I spent some time at the park

Sunset on the beach at Sullivan's Island
Self-portrait - Full moon over my shoulder
9/11:

Today was similarly as amazing as yesterday.  I did my 45 mile bike ride.  I spent some time at the beach.  I cleaned the kitchen, watched a little football and USA Open Tennis, and did a little shopping.  None of that is earth shattering but for some reason when you're in a good mood it seems to bring something extra to it all.  I'm in a great mood for some reason, and the entire weekend was great.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tomorrow is Today's Dream

As we arrive at the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks reminders of what happened that day and what it has meant to our overall psyche and our individual worlds, will be everywhere.

I was on an airplane that morning.  I suppose if there's anywhere I can think of where I'd rather NOT be that day (other than in Manhattan, or at the Pentagon) it would be on an airplane, flying in the Northeast.  I had been visiting my family in upstate NY to celebrate my mom's 72nd birthday and was on a flight from Buffalo to get home to Austin.  We never made it.

Anyway, what happened that day means something different to each of us. When I got back from lunch today it was on my mind so I did a little video "test" on YouTube with my iPhone.



It haven't done a video blog since the end of last year! Crazy. I generally enjoy doing them but I haven't felt as though I've had the right equipment to do one so I haven't even thought of it in quite a while. Early experiments were time-consuming, clunky, and ultimately the video quality was poor or the audio was mis-aligned; there were any number of challenges.

But this was clean and easy. I just did the video on my iPhone, saved it to the Camera Roll, chose to "Share It", and told it to load it to YouTube. Although it's certainly nothing profound and was very impromptu/spur-of-the-moment I'm actually fairly happy with the audio and video quality of the results.

One thing to do differently next time - the video would rather be landscape than vertical. It did a good job of letter-boxing what was there but that'll mean holding the camera sideways instead of longways. I'd also be interested to see the end result coming out of the version of iMovie that's on my phone.

All things considered - more experimenting is on the way.

I'm very much looking forward to this weekend, not that I have anything all that special planned but because I seem to enjoy every weekend here. The weather is supposed to be as gorgeous tomorrow as it is today, and Sunday looks to be mostly wonderful as well. I do spinning class on Saturday mornings, I've got wrestling tomorrow mid-day, I need to do laundry, shopping, and a few other things....

I've gotten somewhat "Spiritual" in recent years.  I suppose a more accurate sentence would be that my Spiritual Self has become much more active and aware, but either way the end results are the same.  With all of this talk about transition and how it fits into the context of an overall life one of the things that often gets forgotten (or at least, minimal attention) is our spirituality. 

As my mom was coming to terms with the changes in my life she shared that a specific passage from Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet" very much spoke to her and helped her to move past her sadness.  Since then I, too, have found profound wisdom and comfort in many of the passages there. 

One of my favorites is "On Reason and Passion".  I've shared it here before but it's worth repeating because it's still relevant....

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.
Good, good stuff.

I've been a remarkably good mood this week.  I'm not quite sure why and I'm certainly not complaining but it's true.  I can think of a number of contributing factors but the end result is a continuing stream of good energy and enjoyment. 

I have an admission to make.  I went to Costco yesterday and the good news is that I didn't succomb to whatever it is that they pump into the air there that makes you spend a hundred dollars or more and not even realize it.  What I did buy, though, was a recipe book.  It's a book titled "Charleston Classic Desserts: Recipes from Favorite Restaurants" and although I know I'll end up kicking myself for it it was less than $10 and the photos were absolutely scrumptious.  So I bought it.  And I'll even share with you when I actually use one of the recipes from it.  I can only hope the end result looks (and tastes) like the photos.

I need to enjoy these quiet weekends while I can.  I've gotten spoiled this summer - I can't remember such an extended stretch of relaxation in many-a-year.  And next weekend looks to be quiet, too.  But in the 6 weeks between mid-September thru the end of October I've got trips to Denver, Cape Cod, and Phoenix on tap.

Beyond that?  Who knows.  I don't plan that far in advance.  I'm too busy enjoying today for today. 

Before I end for today I'll share one of my most significant memories of the week after 9/11 ten years ago. My plane was grounded in Baltimore and I made my way to Alexandria, VA where I spent the week before they started allowing air travel again with some dear friends.  One of those friends, Nancy, has since passed away but she was an incredibly talented artist and she wanted to do a portrait of me.  So, she spent several hours taking simple photographs and making sketches for a picture she never ended up doing. And we whiled away the time by talking....

Since I hadn't expected a detour on my way home I didn't have anything nice to wear so she let me borrow something - we spent the afternoon looking for something she felt was suitably elegant - as well as a strand of her pearls.  She wanted the look to be natural so there was no makeup involved.  To this day - those simple raw photos she took that day remain tremendously special to me.  Partly it's because they capture a moment of time in my life that I'll never forget.  And partly because they reminds me of her.

September 2001
I have come a long way since then.....

In The Prophet Kalil Gibran writes a passage titled On Time:
You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.
Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness,
And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gems

I don't mean this in a snarky kind of way, but I'm thankful I'm here in South Carolina tonight and not back in Harrisburg.  From what they're showing on the Weather Channel people in Central PA will need to start building Arks soon - rain and flooding there have turned rivers into torrents.  I hope my friends there are doing ok.

Here in Charleston it was sunny, high was 85 or so, and I can't think of a nicer weather day than we had here.  Again - I'm not gloating.  I'm just counting my lucky stars.

It's Charleston Restaurant Week here.  One of the things that the city is known for is the many really nice restaurants here, and this week is full of special events and special prices at many of the finer local eateries. I could realistically see myself eating out every night here.  Really.  But neither my waist nor my pocketbook could handle that.  I've enjoyed living downtown as one of the things everyone shares at the dog park is where the quaint, local places are.  There are "tourist" places, and "local" places so finding those rare gems is actually a fun find.

I'm also getting into cooking more.  Tonight I made some chicken Alfredo with mushrooms and rotini pasta.  Yummm.  I probably shouldn't have had seconds - one of the things about cooking for one is that there is almost always left overs.  Now I'm stuffed....

Another fun thing about living down here is going for a run with Maggie.  The scenery is wonderful, the weather has been accommodating, and we try to do our usual route at least a couple of times a week.  Now that school has started at the College of Charleston there are lots and lots of runners, both in the morning and especially in the evenings.

But the real gems here are the mornings.  A few weeks ago it was already light by shortly after 6 but now it doesn't start getting light until closer to 7.  I take Maggie for a nice long walk every morning - and we end up down by the waterfront where we have a front-row view to sunrise.  One of the really cool things is taking pictures of it every morning - each day is a little different but each is also uniformly amazing.

Here are iPhone pics from almost the exact same spot on each of the last 3 mornings:

Tuesday

Wed
Today

Oy.  See what I mean?  It's amazing.  I'm soaking it all up and enjoying it while I can.

So - here I sit.  Back door is open, I'm full from dinner but a glass of wine is still on the table, I'm about to do Skype video with my sweetie, and NFL Football is on.  All things considered - life is good.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Anything but Ordinary

I love my bike.  I really do.  I've never really been a bike person before (not quite sure what that is, but I know I haven't been one) but over recent weeks that has changed.

One of my initial purchases here was a half-decent Hybrid bike to navigate downtown cobblestone streets while at the same time provide the ability to hit some open road.  Until recently the farthest I can remember biking in one day was to visit my ex-wife when we were in college in Syracuse.  I lived on campus and she lived in a local suburb so it was a 10-mile schlep each way.  More difficult than the actual pedaling was navigating the busy traffic on the streets to get there.

Fast forward to now.  I have this Specialized bike that just feels good to sit on, to pedal, and to feel the wind while driving.  My legs are like little pistons and when I'm on it the bike is an extension, not something extra.  On the weekends I'll take the bike anywhere within 20 miles of my hourse as long as whatever I need to bring (or pick up) fits into the little backpack I use for traveling. 

I'm taking my bike to the shop later today for a check-up/tune-up.  When I pick her up tomorrow she'll be ready for another weekend to road-tripping.  The best thing about it is that the weather is getting even more awesome.  I don't have a single complaint about the hot, humid days of summer here.  Not one. But now the nights are getting into the 60's and the days are in the mid 80's and much less humid - absolutely beautiful.  These are days meant to be enjoyed and experienced, not stuck indoors.

Part of training for wrestling involves making weight.  I'm within 10 pounds of my limit with a little over 6 weeks to go until the first tournament of the year.  I'm comfortable that I'll make it.  I still make time to go to half-price burger night at BTP on Tuesdays but now (a) I get a salad instead of fries (b) I give the bun to the dog and (c) I spend a half-hour on the eliptical trainer earlier in the day doing pre-pennance to make up for it.

 

I was struck by a recent comment here by someone who questioned my transition because all she ever wanted to be was "just a woman" and I admittedly do not.  I suppose that I don't want to be "just" an anything.  I suppose my transition was a gateway, not a destination, and the path that it made available to me is the day-to-day life that I enjoy today.  It is as much (or more) mental than physical, and has as much (or more) to do with a deep sense of profound inner peace than anything tangible or visible.  I hope we can at least agree that there is no single one path to inner peace, and that none of those paths are any more or less relevant than others. 

Our path changes as we change. it "becomes" as we live and learn and do.  It is affected by time and experience, and at the same time it helps to shape those very things.  I truly believe that far too many people transition without ever recognizing it for what it is and in doing so they do themselves a huge disservice.  I also think many people seize control of their lives during the process, but then gradually relinquish it again afterwards.  As the person said in her comment to me, "It's your life" and yes - it very much is. 

Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, I don't feel that transition is something you get through and then move on with life.  For me, it IS life, and although physical aspects or social aspects of it may dwindle with time the emotional aspects, the spiritual aspects, the life-altering perspective that it provided for me has not waned.  I went to a theological discussion not long ago given by someone who challenged that God was not an external entity as is so often depicted but rather, God was like water and we are like fish.  We live in it always and everywhere - it is part of us, and we are part of it.  I like that metaphor for other aspects of my life, as well. 

These are not simply words in my day-to-day life.  It is a calling.  It is a challenge.  It is a constant reminder that there is only so much time and so much to do.  And whereas I respect that others do not share a similar perspectives or life-goals I also don't feel the need to apologize for mine. And, I choose to fill my life with those who share a similar life energy as it's highly contageous.

I've got a number of "theme songs" in life. That is, there are a number of songs that effectively articulate different things that I feel, that I feel passionate about, or that evoke a strong emotional response in me. Music is the back-drop of my life and I'm always looking for new and interesting and fresh.  One theme song in particular comes to mind right now.



Anything but ordinary...

To walk within the lines
Would make my life so boring
I want to know that I have been
To the extreme.

So knock me off my feet
C'mon now, give it to me.
Anything to make me feel alive.

Is it enough to love?
Is it enough to breathe?
Somebody rip my heart out
and leave me here to bleed.
Is it enough to die?
Somebody save my life
I'd rather be anything but ordinary, please.
Good, good stuff.  It just seems self-evident to me. Anyway....

When I'm on my bike I typically  have to go over a bridge to get anywhere outside of downtown.  The largest bridge is a couple of miles long over the Cooper River, and is quite steep.  Running or biking up it can be a challenge, but once  you've reached the top the downhill ride can be pretty intense.  According to the cycling app on my iPhone I've reached 49 mph going down that hill and the wind in your hair while the world buzzes by is quite the rush.  It gets extra dicey when it's windy out and the bike shimmies a little bit while you plummet down this sidewalk.  Anyway - this song reminds me of that....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ancient History

A couple of people have written to me in recent days asking for my thoughts on the recent announcement that HRC President, Joe Solmonese, will be stepping down when his contract ends in early 2012.  I don't really have anything to say because I don't really think it matters at this point.  But now that he's leaving the process for finding a replacement begins.

I'll share a story.  I share it because there are very few people who know it, and I don't want it to get lost.  I haven't written anything very political lately and I really don't want to get pulled back there.  But I think this is a story worth sharing given Joe's upcoming departure.  I want to go back and start at the beginning....

Back in late 2004 I was on the HRC Business Council, but at that point there were still no trans people on HRC's board.  HRC ED Sheryl Jacques had just ended her bumpy 11-month tenure with the organization and they found themselves in a similar position of needing to find a new ED.  The process to do this is typically to put together an internal "ED Search" team entrusted with bringing forth a recommendation to the rest of the board.  That team usually has a small group of core members, and a larger group of board members representing different interests in the organization.

Despite the fact that I wat not a board member I was asked to be on that team.   We set in motion a national search with the goal of casting as wide a net as possible, narrowing the field to a select few, and then bringing the entire team to Washington DC to interview each of the finalists before making a decision.  At the time we were facing a number of very real time pressures.  One was that our annual Leadership event that brings HRC people from all over the country to DC for a couple of days of training, rah-rah, and organizing was happening in early March and we wanted to be able to make the announcement there.  Secondly, the organization was putting the finishing touches on its 5-year plan and wanted at least some level of input from the new ED before finalizing it.

So, the search process started.  The larger team convened on a phone conference every couple of weeks to get a status update on how many candidates there were, who might be seriously considered, and people who had declined to be considered for some reason.  As we moved into February the core team had whittled the field down to what they described as 4 "strong" finalists.  They didn't share the identity of the finalists with us, but we all made travel plans to come to DC for the final round of interviews.

Well, one of the finalists withdrew early that week which reduced the number of finalists to three.  And, when we all arrived in DC and convened to interview the 3 remaining candidates we were dismayed to learn that two of those three had similarly withdrawn their names from consideration.  So, in fact, there was only one candidate left.

This posed no end of potential problems for us.  One was the real possibility of having to start all over again and having to explain why.  Another concern was why had these supposedly "strong" candidates withdrawn at the 11th hour?  What weren't we doing right?  So, rather than having a choice to make between several candidates our choice was to pick the one finalist who hadn't withdrawn, or to start again.

At the time Joe was the President of Emily's List, a large national women's organization.  We brought him in to interview him and I'll admit it was one of the most unique interviews I've ever seen.  There were specific situational questions, role-playing scenarios, and a round-table where each of us was given the opportunity to ask a question.  He did a good job and despite we didn't have other options we voted unanimously to recommend hiring Joe to the Board.  The rest is history.

Until the end of 2007 my own relationship with Joe was a good one.  In late 2005 there had been an "incident" with diversity so the board had asked myself and David Wilson to take on the roles of national co-chairs of Diversity.  It was more than coincidence that the only trans-person and the only African-American on the board were asked to manage diversity, and we were both justifiably concerned that we were being used as symbolic figure-heads with no real power.

Before accepting the position we met with Joe to outline our vision for the Diversity organization inside of HRC which up to that point was comprised of 2 staffers who reported to the Director of the Foundation.  David and I envisioned a structured Diversity organization that followed the lead of corporate America.  We envisioned a leader (Chief Diversity Officer), a reporting structure where that leader reported directly to the ED (not to the Foundation), a staff of diversity specialists, and an organizational commitment to include Diversity in everything we did. 

As of mid-2007 we were well on our way to achiving that and our results were not merely symbolic - they were tangible.  The role of CDO was created and after a number of interviews we hired someone that Joe had recommended.  She did a great job.  We started to hire a diverse staff to support her.  We built Diversity training that was required for every board member.  And we re-shaped the relationship between HRC National and our various Steering Committees across the country.  A highlight was arranging for Joe to come to speak at SCC.  That was a big deal, and it could have been something truly special.

That's partly why the events of late 2007 and early 2008 were such a bitter pill to swallow.  Because it effectively unmasked the organization as simply another political animal where the day-to-day touchy-feely trappings of the Foundation were proven to be merely window dressing.  And regardless of how many press-releases HRC issues about his accomplishments while at the helm, I firmly believe that Joe's most significant legacy will be as a divider, not a uniter, and was forged over the character-defining decisions surrounding ENDA.  And nothing he's done in the meantime has done anything to change that.



I'm in no position to judge - the tribunal of Time will do that. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Scenes from a Weekend.

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer.  In Phoenix temperatures continue to soar to 110 degrees, and in Texas the weather is similarly toasty so you'd be hard-pressed to prove that it's the end of anything, but in fact days are getting shorter, some of the leaves here in Charleston are starting to fall, mornings are significantly cooler (as are most of the days, for that matter), so it's easier to envision.

Labor Day also represents a number of other things - none of which I recognize.  One is the informal rule that you're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day and before Memorial Day.  Phooey on that.  I've got some white clothes I like and I'll continue to wear them.  Stores here are having all kinds of Labor Day sales featuring fall fashions (sweaters, long sleeve tops, boots) but I've said it before and it's true that I've made a lifestyle choice to wear open-toed shoes all year long.

I'm a visual person and I've said before that living here is a continual visual smorgasbord.  Every day I find myself doing things that fill my senses with the wonderful energy that the area seems uniquely able to provide.  There is a same-wavelength resonance that fills my days that I just get enough of.   Here are a few photos I took using my iPhone over these last couple of days....

Saturday I went for a wonderful kayak trip down some of the local waterways.  There are small islands with small strips of beach that are untouched by anyone and have some wonderful scenery for those willing to see it.





Mags and I spent the evening sitting on the lawn at a local park nearby...



Yesterday was a typically diverse weather day here.  I took the pup for her walk shortly after sun-up and although I've shared photos of the scene down by the water here before it's always different, always breath-taking, and a constant reminded of what makes this area so special for me.



Yesterday afternoon I took a ride on my bike and crossed the Cooper River Bridge - there was rain in the distance.  Another fascinating scene...



Anyway - my iPhone is always at the ready to capture these things.  It's a constant visual feast.

I was planning to take a day-trip in the car today and may still do that a little later.  Most important is to go to the gym shortly.  I've got a lot of energy and am looking forward to burning it off.  I've also got a number of things I should do around the house and am trying to work up my muster to justify doing them on a Holiday.  If I were a betting person I'd bet that I don't stray too far today....especially if it starts raining as they say.

I also find living here takes me back to earlier stages of my life.  For example, I don't have a washer or dryer here so Saturdays often involve going to the Laundromat.  I've found one that I like, and the Korean woman who works there always greets me warmly and enjoys chatting.  They have a drop-off service but I prefer to do it myself - it actually reminds me of when I was in college.

Another thing that takes me back to earlier stages of my life are some of the things that seem to be coming up time and again that, for me, haven't changed a bit.  In early 2004 I wrote an essay and shared it on my website titled "A Stealth Life" that remains as true for me now as it was then.  I read Jamison Green's keynote at SCC 2005 titled "Becoming Visible" and am struck by how his powerful theme continues to resonate today, just as back then.

I'm going to say this once simply for the sake of ensuring that there is no confusion:  Who and what I am, what I think, what I do, what I say, and what I will continue to advocate for has remained consistent for a long time.  It's not up for popular consensus, democratic vote, popularity contests, and is not derailed by noisy distractions.


Whether anyone likes it or not, my will and my character is stronger than those who would disrespect it, trivialize it, misrepresent it, or try to control it.  Whether anyone else cares, understands, or likes what I have to say or how I say it here is irrelevant - my little blog has always been my own personal outlet for me.  I'm always open to hearing from those who have other perspectives but my tolerance for crass, ignorant, disrespectful, non-productive behavior here simply depends on my mood at the time.  Despite what some may think, I do get cranky sometimes.

My idea of "activism" these days is far more social than political.  And the role that it plays in my day-to-day world has become much less formal and much less time-intensive than it once was.  That all trickles down here to my blog, and the things I choose to share here.  Anyone who has met me will know that the things I say and how I say them are consistent with how I am.  For better or for worse.

If this isn't your kind of place for whatever reason the answer is simple - go someplace else!  How difficult is that to get?  I'm enjoying life far too much right now to let those who apparently have bad energy to spare to infect my own little world.  Just not gonna happen.

iTunes is having a Labor Day Sale this weekend on a few select CD's.  One is by Maroon 5 that has one of my current favorite songs...Moves Like Jagger.  It's a great spinning song - the beat goes at the same speed as my feet (or vice versa).




Now, it's time to take the pup (she's fresh and soft from a bath yesterday) for a walk down by the water, and then to get on with the day.  She can still make me laugh out loud and that certainly stands for something.  Onwards...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fine days

Some days are just good days.  Yesterday was one.  Today was another.  Various components were actually pretty unremarkable but at the same time it all added up to a wonderful time.

I had a friend visiting yesterday and we spent the afternoon getting a mani/pedi and doing some shopping.  The first Friday of every month is the Gallery Walk where all the local art galleries have wine, munchies, music, and artists on hand to chat. It was a blast.  We went out for drinks and live music afterwards and didn't get home until almost midnight.  Thankfully I said "no" to those last Chocolate Martini's, but my friend was paying for them this morning.  :)

Today included spinning class and some time at the gym this morning, a wonderful afternoon kayaking along some of the local waterways, a long walk downtown, and some time just laying in the grass with Maggie at a nearby park.  The weather was pristine.  All things considered - good "soul" days.

To revisit my comments about Chaz Bono appearing on Dancing With the Stars, I reiterate my strong support for him and for the importance that these kinds of things play in the cultural war for validation.  Fox News published an outrageously transphobic but sadly predictable op-ed urging parents to avoid letting their kids watch it (read it here).  ABC News published a much more supportive piece on how to talk to kids about Chaz (see it here).

NPR did a story on it, too, and there's a line in it I find particularly interesting:
...One of the things that makes this an interesting development is that ABC — and its parent company, Disney — apparently decided that it's safe to cast a transgender person on a show that appeals largely to middle-aged affluent women.
There's an audio segment (listen here).  One particular quote:
MARTIN: You know, Eric, there are certain moments that are seen as breakthrough moments in television, like for example "Julia," the series "Julia," where Diahann Carroll was the star, you know, the first African-American to kind of lead in a mainstream television show. Is this that kind of moment?

DEGGANS: Yeah, I think it is. "Dancing with the Stars" is the second-most-watched show on television. When it airs, it's usually the most-watched show on television, depending on whether "American Idol" was on. And that is an audience that's mostly middle-aged, affluent white women. And this is a message that hey, a transgendered person is equal to everyone else, get to know this person.
I agree.

People can argue with me all they want about whether or not this is a good thing but the fact that it's happening at all is indicative about how things are changing.  I mentioned in my last post about how I feel regarding those who are opposed to it specifically because of his "surgical status".  Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will know that I do not share those reservations or feelings and I'm not about to change now.  I'm comfortable with how I feel, and I'm still thrilled to see this....

I'll go a step further and say that any time I have an opportunity to talk in public - I've got some training events coming up, I'm speaking at Fantasia Fair, I'm doing a thing for CNN, I'm speaking at a dinner in Denver later this month to name a few - I will reiterate my support for the tide of transpeople of all kinds stepping up and taking active, visible roles in society.  That includes Chaz.  And that includes my wrestling....I'm actively training to qualify for the US Olympic Team Trials next April.

The last thing that comes to mind as being as big as this on the Culture Meter was the Newsweek Cover Story in May 2007 titled "The Mystery of Gender".



Pause:  As I was typing this I something caught my eye up near the ceiling and I noticed that there was a bat flitting around the room.  I opened the back doors and tried to "herd" it out - it finally found it's way out after 5 minutes of flying back and forth around the room.  Sheesh.

In closing - good day today.  I'm looking forward to another good one tomorrow.  TLM and the Posse are out doing a pub crawl in AZ tonight.  Wish I could be there with them....