Donna's Blog Archive
The View From OTHER Side.




Wednesday, December 29, 2004

As I write this entry, very probably the last entry for 2004, I'm sitting in the Rochester International Airport outside of gate B7, waiting for a delayed flight to Chicago and then on to Phoenix to get me back home.

This airport is one of those interesting airports that's big enough to be taken seriously, but small enough to be "intimate".  It's the only airport I travel thru that doesn't have any baggage X-Ray machines; they still check every single piece of checked baggage by hand.  There's a McDonald's here, but little else in the way of food.  The parking is still easy here, and traffic in and around the airport is rarely difficult.  All in all, I like this airport better than I like many larger airports that I've been thru lately (Las Vegas comes to mind).

Oddly enough, this gate (B7) and I have some "history".  I remember waiting at this gate for the flight that would take my ex-wife and I down to Scottsdale to search for a home there (1994).  I remember waiting here for the flight that would take me to Neenah, WI for my SRS (Aug. 2000).  And, I remember a subsequent flight to Neenah in the dead of winter for my labiaplasty (Nov. 2000).  There have been others, too, and if I think about it hard enough I'm sure I can name more - but I think that those are the biggies.  Apparently, all flights on American Airlines to Chicago leave thru gate B7 - so I've been here many times before.

I am of mixed emotions about going home again.  Being here around my family is such a nurturing, warm place for me.  I sometimes wonder how many of us realize how much we need those places in our lives - places where we can find shelter from the storms in our lives, where we are loved and accepted unconditionally, places where we feel protected and can regenerate our batteries for struggles yet to come.  Rochester is that place for me - not because of this place so much as because of my family here.

I look forward to my visits back here.  But I'm resigned to the knowledge that this isn't home for me anymore.  I tried to move back here once, only to be pulled away again.  And I think the real value for me is knowing that it's here when I need it - but I don't need it all the time.

I think this is the first time I've been back that I haven't driven by our old house - the house where my son was born, where we lived for almost 15 years, where we made plans for our lives together - at least once.  It's the first time I didn't warn many old friends and acquaintances that I was coming back, preferring to spend as much family-time here as possible.  It was nice to spend an afternoon shopping with my nieces, sitting around Barnes and Noble just doing lots of nothing, or spending an afternoon watching DVD's.

Last night was the anniversary of my dad's death.  He died sometime during the night...between December 29 and December 30 an assisted living home here.  He used to complain bitterly about the place although I must admit I did not have a sympathetic ear.  It was like a resort, with a restaurant where he could order whatever he wanted and the people there treated him with dignity and respect.  But it wasn't until after he was gone that I realized that it wasn't the specifics of the place that he hated - it was the fact that he needed to be there at all.  He hated to be dependent.

Dad was only 64 years old when he died, relatively young by many standards.  And although his memory and intellect were as razor sharp as they ever were, they were encased in a body that failed him to the point of taking away any joy he felt from life.  Each day had become a chore - getting from one place to another on legs that had no feeling, spending unending hours each week attached to a dialysis machine that performed the functions of his failed kidneys, losing his eyesight.  In the end, diabetes has slowly but surely eaten him up, and he was ready to go.  We all still miss him terribly, but take comfort in the knowledge that his passing was not unwelcome for him. 

We celebrated his life and his passing last night by going to dinner at a place he enjoyed - a place we've been many times before.  We raised our glasses to toast him, and those of us who loved him spent some quiet moments remembering him and honoring him.  And, just as with the warmth and strength that I feel here among my family, I feel it here from my father as well.  And I leave with a sense of peace and purpose that will serve me well over the months to come.


Monday, December 27, 2004

My Christmas was everything I hoped it would be.  As I went to bed on Christmas Eve, a little after midnight, the rest of the family was downstairs decorating Christmas cookies.  No pressure.  People really enjoying both giving and  opening gifts.  Lots of laughs.  We spent hours watching old video tapes from the late 1980's - music videos from MTV back when they actually showed videos (my niece loves them).  A wonderful dinner.  All in all, I can't imagine a nicer way to spend Christmas.

Last night we got snow - big fluffy flakes settling gently in the windless night - and by this morning everything was covered with five or six inches of the stuff.  It was wonderful. 

Today was bright and sunny which was actually of little consolation to the fact that the temperatures hovered around 10 degrees all day.  Mel and I drove to Canada to spend the day visiting some wineries and shopping at Niagara-on-the-Lake, a quaint little community just across the border in Ontario.  We had a very pleasant day.

I'm catching a cold, which is no fun, but so far it seems to be more of like one of those nuisance illnesses than anything that will stop me in my tracks.  Itchy throat.  Stuffy Nose.  I feel worse at night.  But so far so good....I'm sleeping relatively well so it hasn't put too much of a damper on things.

I've been watching the scenes of destruction from Southeast Asia.  It's just incredible.  I can't imagine what could be so powerful as to cause that kind of disaster from across the ocean.  My heart goes out to these poor people.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

I'm back in upstate NY at my sister's house for the holidays.  I've been shopping my little hiney off for the past two days.  I think I'm almost done.  Thank God. 

It's so nice to be home - I only get back her a couple of times a year but I look forward to it more than I can say.  It's one of those ironies that I really can't explain that no place feels more like home to me than Rochester (actually, we lived in Pittsford) - I lived here for almost 15 years.  But at the same time, I don't really ever want to move back here full-time. 

My sister is one of the most real people you could ever imagine meeting.  That probably sounds pretty silly, but those who have met her know what I mean.  She doesn't pretend to be anything she's not. What you see is what you get, and more. Visiting her house is always an "event" - she's got a handicapped daughter so there's always a nurse there.  Day and night. 

These nurses aren't just hired people who spend 8 hours a day there - 24/7.  They're family.  Many have seen this little girl develop from her earliest, saddest days to be the most precocious little thing you can imagine.  At six years old she's never eaten a full meal - she eats through a G-tube where food is pumped into her stomach.  She can't blow her nose - she can't even stop herself from choking - they have to use a suction machine to get it all up.  She falls asleep when you cup her back for an hour to loosen up all the "gunk" in her chest.  She just loves that.

She can't talk - she can't even make a sound.  But, she knows sign language.  When she cries all you see is a contorted little face. And tears.  There's no sound involved.  And she can walk - on two misshapen legs in casts and special shoes.  And she's got more attitude and strength and fight than anyone I know.  In some very real ways, she's a true inspiration and in the early days - when I started feeling sad or sorry for myself - all I needed to do was think about this little life and it almost made me embarrassed to feel so pathetic.  It really does put things into perspective.

Today was one of those odd days that only comes around every so often.  The high this morning was 57 degrees.  But as a cold front blew through the winds picked up and the temperatures plummeted and by evening the temperature was a frosty 24 degrees.  Rain had turned into driving snow, and it was more like the winters I remember here.

I talked with my son today, and he's doing well.  We spent a little time talking about a friend he knows from the internet.  Apparently they've written for a couple of years now, but have never met.  I asked him whether or not he had shared any of our "history" and he said said he had told her.  He says she's even visited my website.  Apparently, she thinks my little situation is "badass" (his words, not mine).  And, he said she said something I'll never forget: "Dude, you're father is beautiful."  I think that sentence pretty much sums up all the irony of my world.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Do you enjoy people-watching as much as I do?  I mean, it's just one of those simple things that never seems to get boring.  Once you find a good spot, where people seem continually "interesting" for any number of reasons, you can while away hours without even knowing it.

My current favorite place to people-watch is at the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall.  It's full of Christmas shoppers of all types coming and going, and it makes a most entertaining afternoon of strolling - even if you don't buy anything.  Of course, with a MAC store there, and a Sephora, and a Nordstrom's it's almost impossible not to buy anything, and excursions there turn into tests of willpower (and budget) as much as anything.

People in Scottsdale seem to be an endless fashion show.  I learn so much just from watching.  I think our little community is inherently hyper-observant as that's often our only way to learn for a long, long time.  And it seems so odd to see people doing their Christmas shopping in summer finery - the temperature was 72 degrees here today.  For those of us raised in colder parts of the country Christmastime has a much different "feel" to it. 

Ever since I transitioned I've spent every Christmas in Rochester with my brother and sister and their families - it's the source of some of my most treasured memories.  This year will be no different - I'll be flying there on Tuesday - so I had better get ready for some more Arctic-like weather.  It was seven degrees there yesterday.  BBBrrrrrrrr.....  I've sat through football games with wind chills well below zero with nary a shiver, but I think the combination of estrogen and general thinning of the blood caused by extended exposure to warm Southern climates has made my tolerance for cold go way down.

A dear friend from Philadelphia will drive up on Christmas day to spend a few days with us. 

I'll be back home in a week, only to leave again right away to tie up some loose ends in Austin.  Traveling over the holidays presents its own challenges and all I can say is that I hope the weather cooperates. 


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Becky Allison and I looking at photos

A recent group "outing" to the Olive Garden

  I don't like to spend time here, on my personal web page, talking about some of the things I do with our "community".  For some reason, I don't feel this is the place.  People who need to know what I'm talking about will find ways to know.

That being said, many wonderful brothers and sisters pass through the Phoenix area and I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to meet and spend time with them.  Although life can get pretty crazy for me sometimes, I think it's important to have some level of personal involvement where I can.  In addition,  Phoenix is fortunate to have an active community here, on top of the fact that this is home for a good number of "stalwarts" in our community.  Again, those who need to know what I'm talking about will know.

As people pass through the area, we sometime arrange weekend group "outings" to meet for dinner, or shopping, or whatever.  Last night was one of those nights as 10 of us met up at the local Olive Garden restaurant for dinner.  The group included local friends, as well as out-of-town guests from San Diego, Connecticut, Seattle, Detroit, and Virginia.  It was a ton-o-fun, and I think opportunities to be involved in things like this are way healthy to experience.

I'm including a couple of photos here as some have written over the past couple of months asking me to post some recent photos.  I really don't have that many, and I generally don't like photos of me anyway.  But, these are candid and give an idea of what I'm looking like these days, so they'll have to do for now....



Saturday, December 11, 2004

Today was one of those days that people move here for.  Crystal blue sunny sky.  Mid 70's.  Just perfect.  The first time my ex-wife and I visited Arizona was this same time of year 10 long years ago, and we fell in love with it then, too. 

To clear up any misunderstanding, some have written me expressing happiness that things between my ex- and I seemed to be improving based on the group-hug "incident" that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  For better or worse, that is certainly not the case. 

Perhaps it was a momentary lapse of reason.  Based on events both before and after, it was certainly an anomaly.  But things have descended back to normal where she's mad again and won't talk with me, and I'm comfortable not talking with her.  She even had her attorney call me last week, which was really a treat.  Still, I think it's really better this way in many respects; I had no small concern about moving here being dragged back in time to days I've long since left.

My son's birthday is coming up next week.  I asked him if there were any chance the 3 of us could celebrate it together like mature adults.  Apparently not.

The holidays can be incredibly difficult and painful for many, many people.  Our little community doesn't corner the market on sadness and rejection during the holidays, although it's certainly rampant here.  Many people seem to hunker down waiting for the holidays to come and go so they can get on with their life without being reminded of days gone by, things they don't have, things they wish they had, or any number of dreams that they fear are either broken or won't come true. Tragically, some people don't make it as the end of the year seems to be a stockpile for emotional debris and they fall prey to bottomless hopelessness.

As with many things, intellectually knowing this won't keep wounded hearts and psyches from hurting.  It's kind of like an insomniac who's dreading each nightfall as another futile opportunity to not sleep.  In many ways it's a self-fulfilling prophecy in that the dread prevents the sleep.  And frankly, it's a time when some pretty good-intentioned but poorly conceived decisions are made.

I don't have any profound answers.  I've gotten several calls from friends around the country who mark the season not with red, or green, or white - but with blue.  They miss their kids.  They remember happy holiday seasons gone by.  And whereas they don't really regret their life direction up to this point, they're hurting.  And all I can suggest to those who pine for memories of the past is to begin creating new memories in the present.  Do something special and meaningful - something spiritually fulfilling. 

I don't share these things to make anyone feel sorry for anyone; this isn't about pity.  I don't explain it as though it's not something many of us don't already know.  I share this here to reassure others - trans and non-trans alike - that they're feeling something we all feel.  And if you've convinced yourself that you  need to hunker down to get through to January and beyond - you might want to start hunkering.  There aren't a fixed number of shopping days left until the good feelings start. 


Saturday, December 4, 2004

I spent Thanksgiving in Texas with my mom.  It was wonderful.  As far as both of us are concerned, Thanksgiving is our most important holiday so we make a special effort to spend it together every year.  I used to joke that any holiday whose main features include food, football, and parades is my kind of holiday.  But actually, I do set aside quiet time to reflect on all the things that I'm thankful for.  I've been incredibly blessed in many, many ways and although I think it's important to remember that all throughout the year, having a special day to reflect is important.  Of course, the food and football isn't so bad either.  <grin>

My mom has a friend named Susan who is hosting a 16-year-old high school exchange student from the Ukraine named Alexandra.  Alexandra had never experienced an American Thanksgiving, or the shopping frenzy that follows.  So, we made arrangements to spend Friday shopping together - just the two of us.  We got to Best Buy before 6am and we couldn't even find a parking spot!  As I stood in line with a $14 DVD player for my mom, chatting with the people in line around us, I explained that under normal circumstances I wouldn't mind paying extra money to NOT have to wait in a line that weaves halfway around the store while it's still dark outside  with crazed people who are both full and tired.  But shopping on the day after Thanksgiving is as much an opportunity to be amused by all the people as anything (if approached with the right frame of mind).  Alexandra is blonde, and smart, and pretty, and size 00 (each of my thighs is bigger than that!), and her mastery of the English language is most impressive. (You should hear her pronounce "Dallas" vs. "Dulles").  Anyway, we had a blast and we didn't even buy all that much!  I think Alexandra was as amused by it all as I was.  And I bought her a pink knit hat that looks absolutely smashing!

The thing I'll remember most about our day of shopping was watching all the excitement in her face - experiencing things many of us have become jaded over, for the first time.  I understand the excitement of experiencing "firsts" and the wonder of it all.  I think so many people lose that by the time they're middle-aged, and as a result the general thirst for living and experiencing life diminishes to a mere flicker of what it could be.  I've made it a personal goal to NEVER lost that excitement and appreciation - if I get stagnant or jaded it's my own fault, and I need to kick myself in the rear to do and live and grow.  To be honest, the fact that I've rekindled that excitement is one of the things I'm most thankful for in my own life.

I think I mentioned that I had taped an interview with the Fox10 Morning Show here in Phoenix.  It was broadcast last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  I think they did a pretty good job with it, and have gotten several calls from friends who seemed to think so too.  In fact, I called the anchor guy who did the interview to thank him.  They included my webpage address for people who are looking for more information or support, and I did get a couple dozen emails afterwards.  Surprisingly, none were negative.  And three were from guys asking me out for a date.  Go figure.

I thought that the timing would prevent most people that I know from seeing it, which was okay with me.  But last week at work someone who I've never met before stopped me in the hallway to say that she had visited my website and it had changed her perspective on several things.  She said others in my area had been there, too.  I invited her to ask any questions that come to mind, and I think I'm happy to be able to do that.  We'll see how all this plays out in the long run.

I've had quite a bit of company visiting lately so things here have been hopping; I can't think of anyplace nicer than Scottsdale around this time of year.  My friends Elizabeth and Mel have been here all week, and watching the two of them together is absolutely hilarious.  They're like two sisters, and just like biological sisters they have a unique "chemistry" that's just so funny.  Elizabeth is the epitome of the Southern Belle, while Mel is a "typical" New Yorker, and they mix like oil and water.  Believe it or not, they even argue about some of the finer points of the Civil War (or the "War of Northern Aggression", as Elizabeth points out.) It's a good thing we all love each other - otherwise they'd  kill each other.  When they're around there is certainly no lack of entertainment.  I'm sad to see them go back home....


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Some of the events over these past couple of days are perfect examples of this unique balance of life that I'm currently enjoying. It's not like they're life-altering events, mind you.  Or even memorable ones.  They're just day-to-day kinds of things, but frankly that's what life is really made of, right?

Yesterday morning, I brought my car to my mechanic for some work.  My mechanics own an Econo-Lube, and from the best I can tell they're brothers.  Anyway, I've already been to them several times and I think they've come to appreciate my unique sense of humor a little bit - at least they laugh at my stories so that's all that really matters. 

It really is funny to see how car mechanics speak to women.  I mean, REALLY funny - especially when you they treated the man in line in front of you so differently.  And it's not something they're aware of.  I mean, it really isn't.  It's just the way it is, and I bet if I brought their attention to all the subtle things they do differently when they deal with women it'd really surprise them.  When they talk to me it's in a different tone of voice - a higher, gentler one as though they're talking to a child or something.  I don't mean to say it's condescending, as that's not really it.  It's just.....different.  And, they smile more.

They punctuate the conversation with "sweetie" and "hun" in an oddly familiar way.  And after I left he called me on my way home just to make sure everything was working okay.  Although I'm sure many women HATE dealing with mechanics, I really don't.  I mean, I've worked hard to be treated the same as they treat any other woman, so I think I appreciate it more than anything.

While they were working on the car I went to the movies.  I saw "The Incredibles".  I highly highly HIGHLY recommend it.  Somehow, I always find a way to connect the message in these kinds of things with the specifics of my life.  That being said, I'd sum up the message in this very well-done movie as, "It's good to be different."  Mr. Incredible is pressured to suppress his authentic super-hero self and becomes unhappy, unmotivated, and generally lethargic with life.  And it's not until he's able to let his real self out that he recaptures that spark, not only in himself but in his family.  I won't give any more away, but I encourage you to go see it and provide your own feelings.

Then, yesterday evening, I attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance observance here in Phoenix.  It was held in Encanto Park, and it was a very mild evening.  I find this event to be both somber and sad, and empowering all at the same time.  Hearing the graphic details of how many of us needlessly have our lives taken from us is enough to break your heart.  I sometimes wonder how people in our world can be so cruel, so barbaric.  But as I looked at the 50 or so people standing in a semi-circle in the dark on a cool November evening, holding candles, reading first-person accounts of murder and mutilation, I was struck at the unity of this unique little group.  There were people from the transgender community, people from the gay and lesbian community, parents, and a surprisingly high number of young people there.  And I realized that similar observances were happening all over the country.  There's a strange sort of "connection" there; it's really difficult to explain.

I will say that I was somewhat disappointed that some folks who should have been there weren't.  I think we could have had a much better 'showing".  I find it odd that our community somehow finds a way to show up en masse for a Halloween Party, but when it comes to something important like this they're strangely invisible.  I can understand the need for "stealth" that some people cling to, and it's not my goal to shame someone into participating who doesn't want to be there.  This is a time to forget petty differences and show support for something important.  I can only say that it's sobering to realize that someday, any of our names or any of our friends' names could be part of this observance.  And to me, showing up at these events is as much about sharing the hope for the future that it will not be needed someday as it is to mourn our dead brothers and sisters. 

Thankfully, my disappointment in the turnout here is balanced by the wonderful success of the Austin observance.  It's truly gratifying to see how far they've come.  My dear friend Lisa reports:

Last night at the vigil, I'd say we had between 70 and 90 people and it was POURING out!  I was truly thrilled... Makes me wanna stay active.  We took time to honor Beth Westbrook and Tesia Semara, it was quite moving... We really need to stress that violence comes in all forms.

Amen, sistah!


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Marci Bowers and Calpernia Adams were on the 100th episode of CSI on CBS tonight.  That's big.  No, that's huge!  For those of us who have dedicated ourselves to fighting the stereotypes that prime-time television seems to perpetuate, seeing the leading mainstream television show actually WANT to get us right is almost mind-boggling.  One week we're getting killed in the election, two weeks later we're getting sympathetic treatment in the number one show on television - during sweeps week?  Things sure can get confusing in the world these days....

I'm sure there will be those who loved the episode, as well as those who hated it.  Our community, and society in general, has a hard time agreeing on even the simplest things sometimes, and there was alot to dislike about the episode.  Frankly, though, the content of the episode isn't really what makes me excited.  What I'm thrilled about is the fact that Marci and Calpernia were asked to be involved in the first place.  To demonstrate my level of excitement, let me share I bought a brand new Tivo this week simply by justifying that I could use it to tape this show! 

If you need any further indication of just how broad this new exposure (with a capital "E"!) is, visit the Entertainment Tonight website.  There's an interview with Marci and Calpernia if you click on the camera icon under Marci's photo on the left of the page...

At the end of the episode there's a pretty amazing little conversation between one of the main characters, and one of the transgendered character's who's wondering how she should tell her murdered friend's parents about her transgendered-ness.

"Show them an oyster, " he says.

"I'm sorry?"

He explains: "There are two types of male oysters and one of them can change genders at will.
And before man crawled out of the muck maybe he had the same option.
Maybe originally, we were supposed to be able to switch genders
and being born with just one sex.... is a mutation."

When was the last time you saw that kind of depth in a prime time show featuring this topic?  Bravo!

For those who missed the episode, I used my new Tivo to record it (and the Entertainment Tonight show).  For those wanting a copy (although I'm sure this is breaking some rule somewhere) I can dupe it to tape and send it to you for simply the price of the tape and postage costs.  Email me for more information....

Update:  According to TV Guide: "Thursday's 100th episode of CSI was its most watched ever, drawing 31.4 million viewers."  Wow!


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

               Ron Hoon (Fox 10 Phoenix) and Donna
I did a television interview today.

I got a call while I was in Houston last week from Ron Hoon, the morning anchor for the Fox10 Morning News here in Phoenix.  He said that his producer had gotten a press release from Marie Claire about the article last month.  He said that he does a weekly segment titled People You Should Know, featuring "remarkable and intriguing" people from around the Valley (his words, not mine), and he wanted to interview me for next week's spot.

I invited my electrologist, Maria, to come and watch - just in case.  But Ron was very pleasant and actually seemed very interested.  It was actually a lot of fun, and I think it went well  The interview lasted nearly 40 minutes, and Ron acknowledged how difficult it would be to dilute it all to the 4-5 minute time allotment for the segment.  I just hope they don't butcher it all in the process.  After the Marie Claire article, I'm more than a little cynical.  I suppose we'll see.

The spot is scheduled to be broadcast next Wednesday morning, so I'll be able to use my Tivo again.  Although I've been in the media quite a bit before, this is the first time I'll have this kind of wide exposure in the city where I'm actually living.  Some have asked whether or not I'm concerned at being "out" like that here, but I really don't think many people who know me will see it.  They're supposed to be at work.  And I suppose the bottom line is, if you're worried about the fallout, then don't do it.  But the fact that there is even a potential for fallout is the very reason it needs to be done - and I'm more than up to the task.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

I'm on a plane flying home again.  I've been traveling so much recently that I really do wake up in the mornings and the first thought in my head is, "What city am I in?"   The second thought is, "What day is it?".  When I'm hopping from city to city days seem to flow one into another with no real feel to them.  By the way, this isn't meant as a complaint.  It's just an observation.

This plane is flying to Phoenix from Houston, the latest stop on my workplace diversity "tour".  I was invited to speak at a Diversity event sponsored by Shell Oil.  I had the opportunity to speak for 90 minutes, and it went very well.

The day before I was part of a remarkable event in Seattle, sponsored by Starbucks Coffee.  May Snowden, their Chief Diversity Officer, had contacted the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to sponsor an educational forum on Transgender Issues in the Workplace so Daryl Herrschaft (Deputy Director of Education and owner of the Corporate Equality Index) and I headed to the Pacific Northwest to talk with a group of Seattle businesses.  The turnout was very good, with representation from Microsoft, Costco, Nordstrom's, and at least a dozen other local and national  businesses from the area.

This was my first visit to Seattle, and I've always been told it's constantly gray and rainy there.  The weather, however, was bright and crisp - a perfect autumn day - and I joked that this reputation for dreariness seems to be a concoction that the people who live there spread to the rest of the country to keep us from relocating there.  :)

As Daryl and I sat in the reception area waiting for someone to escort us to the auditorium I called my friend, Elizabeth.  Anyone who knows her very well will know that she single-handedly keeps any Starbucks within 20 miles of wherever she happens to be in business.  When we travel, that's one of the first considerations - where's the closest Starbucks?  At home, she'll drive 15 miles - not once but several times a day - for her latte fix.  We joke about it, but it's true.

I told Elizabeth that I was visiting the Starbucks Mother Ship, the Mother of All Starbucks, the lair of the Starbucks Queen Bee.  I looked to see if the gift shop sold lifetime subscriptions but they don't, so I got a small trinket instead.

The reason I enjoy these trips is the opportunity they provide to meet people.  I really do enjoy that.  I'm glad that the groups are small enough to still feel somewhat intimate and personal, and I appreciate being able to talk one-on-one with people.  I sometimes joke that I'm on Step 7 of the 5-Step "Overcoming Shyness" Plan, but I find an odd sort of comfort meeting new people these days.  It's odd.

And perhaps most importantly, I'm amazed that events like these are even happening (almost as much as I'm amazed that they even have to happen).  I remember a time not all that long ago when nobody really cared about transgender issues in the workplace.  There was no visibility to the unique challenges involved.  There were no corporate "Best Practices".  But as more and more companies recognize the value of explicitly acknowledging their dedication to a discrimination-free workplace our issues are suddenly becoming more and more timely.  It really is remarkable, and of all the things I do I think being able to humanize the transgender journey in the workplace by providing a real face to a condition many have never experienced first-hand before is one of my most important roles.

I think this is my last trip for the year, other than planned visits with family over the Holidays and a possible short vacation.  That's fine, as I can't think of anywhere nicer at this time of year than the Valley of the Sun.  It'll be nice to wake up tomorrow morning and not wonder where I am.  I'll know I'm home.  :)


Sunday, November 7, 2004

An extraordinary thing happened today.  My son, my ex-wife and I had a group hug.  It was actually pretty unexpected, and I suppose the end result is anti-climatic in the grand scheme of things.

My son had been living with me in Austin, and it's actually the first time that he and his other parent have seen each other in almost two years (his choice).  That's big. 

It's the first time that my ex- and I have stood face to face since that day in mid-1999 when she saw my still-swollen FFS face, and realized that there could be no going back.  That's even bigger.

And perhaps the biggest, it's the first time that the three of us actually hugged - and meant it - in as long as I can remember.

We've gone to some pretty pathetic lengths to maintain this charade so that my ex-wife didn't have to actually see me.  It's almost embarrassing to admit being an accomplice to this silliness, but I did it out of respect for her wishes.  She wanted to remember in her mind as Dave, the person she married and loved, and who she mourns today as dead.  She didn't want to taint those memories with visions of me as I am today - something so unacceptable to her  that it killed not only our marriage, but our friendship as well.  In an odd way, I can understand that, and I can certainly respect that although there had been times when I just wanted to camp out in her driveway and force her to confront the reality of the situation so we could all just move on with our lives.

There has always been some viable excuse to put it off.  At the beginning she felt that perhaps the difficulty was the fact that we were still married, and once the divorce was final it might be easier.  It wasn't.  And as our relationship deteriorated into infrequent emails and pone calls that often ended in tears, accusations, bitterness and anger, the prospects to ever spend some time together again seemed dim.

To be honest, I had gotten to a point where I didn't really care if we saw each other or not.  I realize that she's still living in the past with a memory of a person who has long since morphed into someone different, someone I doubt she'll ever be able to accept.  To spend time with her is to be dragged back in time to a place I've long since left, a place that I'm not so sure I want to visit again.

I had returned to the Phoenix area because I enjoy it here, not because she's here.  In fact, although I've only been back since mid-September we haven't spoken since July so I doubt she even knew I was here.  It was just a non-issue.  The chances of bumping into each other seemed pretty slim (although Fate has an odd sense of humor sometimes) and I'm sure we could have lived the rest of our lives within 20 miles of one another and never actually met again.

All that became moot late this afternoon.

The circumstances are actually pretty unremarkable.  I had flown back to Austin late last week to spend a little time taking care of some business there and visiting with some friends.  It was supposed to be a quick trip - 2 days total.  But those plans changed when my son (who had remained in Austin when I left) indicated that he wanted to come back to Phoenix.  So instead of flying, we did a road trip together.

Some of my fondest memories with my son are some of the road trips we've done together.  There's some sort of odd "bonding" thing there - I really can't explain it.  but even though we've both changed quite a bit it's nice t know that our appreciation for road trips together is still there.  So, we put his drums into the back of the car and filled the trunk with his clothes, and off we drove on the 1,100 mile drive from there to here.

Those who have been following my escapades will realize that this is the third time I've done this drive in the last 2 months.  We drive the first 400 miles in darkness, and it's sad to admit that the scenery for the first half of the drive is better at night than it is in the bright of day.  Oh well.

Our little family reunion happened at the end of my trip as I dropped my son off at our old house.  I expected the same old silliness, and was preparing to unload the drums in the driveway before heading off.  But, to my surprise, there was a real appreciation for the fact that this is the first time that the three of us have lived in the same area since I fled the sting of rejection here in early 2000 and headed home to people who loved me.

I was invited in, and in the spirit of "new beginnings" my ex- came around the corner and wanted to start this new chapter with a family hug.  So that's what we did.

There were no tears.  Frankly, I think there was a sense of relief.  And although I wish I could say that some eloquent words highlighted this reunion, I can't.  She took one look up and down me and said, "You look horrible."  I almost told her that I'd like to see what she'd look like after driving 1,000 miles, but I decided to keep my mouth shut for once.  Silence sometimes says more than words.

Our Golden Retriever, Molly, remembered me and although she was older and greyer she's still a puppy in my eyes.  I remember when she was born, bringing her home, taking her to obedience classes, taking her for walks down to the e d of the cul-de-sac in the middle of the winter.  Those days seem like forever ago - a lifetime away.  I'm glad she hasn't forgotten me.

The house looked the same.  I lost all of our "stuff" in the divorce, and was actually a little relieved to realize that being back among it all wasn't uncomfortable or painful - at least not for me, it wasn't.

After we unloaded I didn't want to overstay my welcome.  Besides, I still needed to get back to the airport to pick up the car I'd parked there only three days before.  We ended this little event with another group hug before I hopped into the car to drive home.

Where will it go from here?  I have no clue.  I don't know if she'll consider what she saw and how she felt and decide that she's not ready for this.  Or, perhaps it will signal a new beginning where adults who were once a family can sit together and talk.  I suppose the importance of all of this will be measured in time - by what happens next.  I guess we'll see....


Wednesday, November 4, 2004

John Kerry conceded the election today.  That sucks.  I can't tell you how disappointed I am - not necessarily that John Kerry lost insomuch as what that says about the values that this country has.  I don't want to get into a diatribe on politics here - I avoid that at all costs - but I'll say it just shows how much work we have to do, and that the road ahead is bound to get more difficult. 

On a different note, I outed myself today.  Come to think of it, I outed myself yesterday, and last week, too.  Each was for a different reason, and I'm aware of the dangers involved (especially since a couple of these were in my new workplace) but I'll deal with any fallout that I have to.

I think the point to realize is that coming out isn't a short-term thing for many of us.  It lasts a lifetime.  You'll find yourself coming out again and again to new people in  your life for a variety of reasons: as a gesture of intimacy, or because you feel threatened somehow, or because you have to.  Outing yourself becomes one of those things you'll eventually cringe at doing but that just seem to keep on happening - like taxes.  I think your comfort in these "outings" depends on a number of factors, including how your news has been accepted in the past.  Rejection can make it more and more difficult to do.  And even in the best of cases, it's not easy because it often drags us to uncomfortable days gone by.  There are no guarantees.  Suddenly, some level of discomfort finds its way into a comfortable relationship.  Or, something changes when all you wanted was for it to be the same.


Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tonight was Halloween.  I spent the day ironing and watching football (my usual Sunday routine), putting up some shelves in my pantry, running a few errands, and having a nice, quiet dinner.  It was a day just like any other day. 

How times change.  There was a time when Halloween was a big deal for me.  It was the only chance for Donna to get out and experience life a little bit before she had to pack it back up for another year.  I remember weeks of excitement leading up to this one day of release.  It was like being in prison for 364 days of the year before getting one day of parole.  Then, it was back into the depths of the dungeon again. 

Sadly, once my wife learned that there was a deeper meaning to my annual excursions across the gender line she put an end to them.  In one way, I can understand that.  In another, I can't.  Some ask me whether I would have found the need to transition all the way if I had had opportunities to express Donna more in my day-to-day life.  I honestly don't know the answer to that question.  What I do know is that my enjoyment being Donna threatened my ex-wife so it became forbidden, and Halloween gained an unpleasant sense of tension between us. 

Later Halloweens were spent taking my son Trick-or-Treating.  Going house to house in late October in upstate NY is NOT like it is down here in Arizona.  It's cold.  Usually, it's wet with either rain or snow or some combination of the two.  Costumes need to be practical in order to keep a youngster warm and dry for a couple of hours.  And to be honest, some of my favorite Halloween memories are also some of my coldest ones. 

My life has evolved to a point where there are no costumes, and no trick-or-treating on Halloween.  Instead, it has become one of those milestone days to take some time to look back over the years at things that have happened, and how much they've changed.  And tonight, as I sit snacking on extra candy destined to come to work with me tomorrow, I look back with a sense of achievement, and forward with a sense of hope. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The more I deal with men as a woman, the more I come to realize that I never really was one.  At least, I wasn’t like most of the men I’ve met and I’ve got to admit, that surprises me a little.

I mean, I certainly seemed like one and I suppose technically, I was.  But in the same way that I’d argue to the death that gender has more to do about self-expression and interaction with society in general than the specifics of physical attributes, I’ve come to realize that my own interpretation of what a man should be like, and how I expressed that, just doesn’t match what I see time and time again in “real” men who approach me now. 

I could give a number of examples - most of which are far too personal to put here- but let me give a recent adventure:

I was having a late dinner with a woman friend on a recent Friday night.  We were at a nice restaurant in Scottsdale at a cozy booth for 2 – and we were just relaxing and having a nice conversation after a long week.  It was very pleasant.  No big deal, right?

Well, this man walks up to our booth and asks where a good place to go dancing would be.  He was about 50ish, I’d say, and proceeded to tell us that he was visiting from out of town and that he wanted to go have some fun, and that he loved dancing.  Before too long he’d made himself comfortable in our booth – telling us about his job, his divorce – all that stuff.  I watched this little drama unfold with both amusement and astonishment that this person would be so bold as to walk up to a booth where two women are having a quiet dinner and invite himself in!

It was obvious that this person had had a few drinks, and perhaps that’s what made him so bold.  I don’t know.  And my friend made it obvious that she had no use for this guy, so he set his sights across the table to the person who kept asking him personal questions – that would be me.

Eventually this little man got to the meat of his mission – he wanted a woman.  He asked if he could take me out dancing the next night.  I told him I really didn’t think that was a good idea, and he asked why not.  I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “Well, if you really want to know – I don’t think you could handle me.”

He looked startled.  “That’s a pretty bold statement,” he says.  “How so do you mean?” he asked.  “You mean sexually?” 

“Actually, I don’t think you could handle me in any way, shape, or form.” I said.

Well, this guy took this as a challenge.  This obviously intrigued him.  He wanted to try to handle me.  Needless to say, he never got the chance.

(As an aside, one guy who would be able to handle me as much as he wanted is Jason Bourne - as played by Matt Damon in "The Borne Supremacy".  This guy was no Jason Bourne!)

I think the thing I never really realized when I was a guy was the all-consuming importance of S-E-X in a man’s life (please forgive the generalization).  I never had that.  The pursuit never really interested me.  In fact, the physical part of sex was always secondary to the mental and emotional intimacies involved.  And, I think (no – I KNOW) most men don’t approach sex (and life in general) that way.

When I was younger I knew there must be a difference between the way that I viewed women, and they way that other "guys" viewed them.  I mean, it's got to be a different feeling to see a womanly woman and wish you could have her, than to wish you could be her.  And I know it's not a testosterone thing - I never had any lack of that.  I'll bet many who read this will understand what I mean....

One of these days I'll devote a paper (or more likely, a book) to some of the things I've experienced, and I've learned being on the "other" side.  But one thing I'll tell you is that generally, this cat-and-mouse game is far too tedious for me and sadly, there's not getting away from it (even when you're minding your own business having a quiet dinner with a friend).  Some people get validation from it, and I suppose there's something to be said for that.  Otherwise, it's tiring - especially when you know from the very beginning that it has no chance of it going anywhere; ever.  Once a guy sets his sights on somebody there's no question about what he wants, so the conversation/relationship/whatever-you-want-to-call-it becomes a constant push/pull, move/counter-move, wear-down-your-opponent grind.  Sometimes, it's amusing.  Eventually, though, as in the example I've outlined here, it just gets annoying.  I swear that some women finally give it up just to get the guy to stop!

You know why most men can’t imagine how being transgendered doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality?  Because in most men’s minds EVERYTHING has something to do with sex – so how could this not?  Think about it....


Sunday, October 10, 2004

I got home today after my wonderful weekend in Washington, DC.  This event was the pinnacle of an insanely busy last 6 weeks:

The comings and goings of the past several weeks have been a whirlwind, and looking forward at it all a few weeks ago I had no idea how the logistics of it all would work.  But somehow, these things seem to work themselves out and that was the case here, too.  Somehow, things just seemed to flow from one thing to the next, and sometimes I just felt as though I were along for the ride and not the driver - kind of like transition.

I feel a little like Cinderella the day after she lost her slipper at the moment, as it has all been too wonderful and it's actually a little sad to see it end - it's all been almost fairy-tale like.  Things look to quiet down now for a little while, which is a probably a good thing.  I could use some down time. 

At some point during the last few weeks I got an email from someone.  Apparently, I didn't answer their note right away (I answer ALL my email) so several days later I got a second note, this time a nastygram, accusing me of being one of those "trannies who build websites to say Look At Me but who don't really give back to the community."  I responded telling this person that they had no clue about who or what I am, and is in no place to judge me. 

If you write to me, know that life gets kind of crazy for me sometimes.  I make a very real effort to answer all my email, and I genuinely enjoy meeting new people.  I'm not much of a penpal, though.  So if you write and don't get a response in a week or so, please write again just to remind me.  Maybe your note got lost somewhere in my craziness...  :)

PS - I've got several new photos from my various adventures to post on my website, but still haven't been able to locate the little USB cable that connects my camera to my PC. I hope to have them up soon....


Saturday, October 9, 2004

This past weekend I traveled to Washington DC to do some work the the Human Rights Campaign.  I realize that there has been some bad blood between some folks in the trans community and HRC in the past, but to be perfectly honest, that rift has got to be healed.

I am a member of the HRC Business Council, which advises HRC on business matters and policy.  It is comprised of a very diverse and dynamic group of business leaders from across the country.  We're doing some pretty amazing work, including oversight for the Corporate Equality Index which rates businesses on their GLBT workplace policies, and the recent development of the Transgender Tool for Managers to help business leadership understand the implications and sensitivities involved in workplace transgender situations.

The following day Shannon Minter and I were invited to speak with the HRC Board of Governors about trans issues.  Although we were only given half an hour in their very busy schedule, it was a very warm and worthwhile discussion.

But I suppose the highlight of the trip was to attend the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner.  I had been asked to present Academy-Award winning actress Jessica Lange with an Equality Award for her performance in the HBO movie "Normal".  It was one of the greatest honors of my life.

The event was a massive affair.  There were over 3,100 attendees - I'm told it was the largest dinner ever in Washington DC.  The stage was huge, and tables stretched as far as the eye could see.  I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to plan and execute this kind of an event, and the people at HRC deserve recognition for making it go so smoothly.

The reason that this event was so special is that it's the first time the transgender community has been recognized in such a public and respected forum.  "Normal" made significant inroads in personalizing the transgender experience, and being able to represent our community to express our thanks for what she has been able to accomplish for us was an incredible honor. I truly believe that these kinds of opportunities to integrate into the larger community represent the next step in our evolution as a community.

Let it be known that I've never talked to that many people before, but for a first time I felt very comfortable and at ease.  Thanks to my friend, Sally, for helping to keep me calm and for being such a wonderful support for me.  We were both treated like royalty, and I pinched myself more than once to see if was all really happening.

For those who would like to see the event, video is available from the HRC website (you'll need RealPlayer in order to view it).  My portion is about 3/4 down the page, and Rosie O'Donnell is well worth watching too, if you have the time.

The link is:

HRC National Dinner video - October 8, 2004

HRC National Dinner photos - October 8, 2004


Sunday, October 3, 2004

Donna and Elizabeth at SCC 2004

I went to the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta yesterday on another of my whirlwind weekend trips.  People were telling me that I was crazy to go all the way to Atlanta just for a dinner, but the price was reasonable and there were some wonderful friends there that I haven't seen in a while, and wanted to be able to spend at least a little bit of time with.

By the time all was said and done I'd only spent a little over 12 hours there.  But I had a wonderful time and that's what really matters. (I'll post some pictures on my Photo page soon).

For those who have never been to one of the major conferences, they're very worthwhile events and provide a unique opportunity to spend some time just being comfortable being yourself.  In fact, I met Elizabeth at SCC just two years ago.  She sure has come a long way!


Friday, October 1, 2004

The article in Marie Claire came out yesterday.  It's on pages 152-154 of the November issue (their 10th Anniversary Edition, with Jessica Simpson on the front).  I've got to admit, I'm disappointed.  And I'm a little angry.

I still think it's valuable and worthwhile, as good opportunities to be included as ourselves in mainstream publications is critical to being more accepted and integrating overall.  In that way, it's good.  And I do think that intentions were good.  But where they had a chance to really do something special was in what they said in the article, and despite initial assurances and high expectations, they went back to the same old stuff.  I guess I keep forgetting that magazines like Marie Claire are written for entertainment, not education.  It's disappointing that this article panders totally to the first, and very little to the latter.

I suppose my first complaint is that they chose to write the article in the first person, as though I were saying those things.  Anyone who knows me will know that a) I don't talk like that and b) many of the things they say just aren't true for me.  Unfortunately, most people who read the article don't know how I talk, so they won't know these things.  They know what their readership wants to hear and that's what they get.

My second complaint is that they took pieces of different questions out of context to construct an answer that fit the direction they wanted to go with the story.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

Example 1:    Q:  What things are you happiest about these days?
                        A:  I'm happiest about the simple things, like being able to go out, and being called "ma'am".

                        Q: What things are different between how you're treated today and how you were treated before?
                        A: One thing that I have a hard time getting used to is when a man talks with me and looks at my chest, not my face.

When they put those two answers into a single quote in the article it becomes:

"Today, my greatest joys are those everyday moments - getting called ma'am and yes, even catching a man staring at my chest."

Example 2:   

I made a comment about my disappointment that too many people seem to sensationalize this, and all they want to know is whether I'm attracted to men or women.  She asked which it was?  I told her that I'm attracted to men and women - that it's not a person's physical sex that I find attractive so much as their attributes and how they make me feel.  Although I suppose all of what I need can come in a man or a woman, I generally find it in women.

In the article, they chose to include this despite the fact that I had hoped they'd rise above it.  Even worse, though, is that they chose to shorten my answer to the point where the end result isn't true.  The quote in the article becomes:

"People often want to know if I'm attracted to men or women (for the record, I like men)."

I could go on, but you get the picture...

So I suppose my message is twofold.  First, I'm still glad to have had this experience as I met some wonderful people and I had a lot of fun.  But the end result seems to be telling a story they had in mind all along, so people from our community who deal with the media need to be constantly vigilant in order to prevent having that same problem.  We can be our own worst enemy sometimes...

In a more positive note, I've been asked to be an award presenter at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Dinner in Washington, DC next week.  I'll be giving Academy Award winning actress Jessica Lange an Equality Award for her work in the HBO Production of Normal.  It's a big deal, as they'll be over 3,000 people from all over the country there (see the press release).  I can't tell you what an honor this is, and how amazing it is to find myself involved.


Thursday, September 30, 2004

Donna and Billy Jean King (with my book!)

I had an opportunity to meet Billy Jean King this morning.  She was the keynote speaker at the GLBT Diversity Conference I'm attending.  It's truly amazing to meet people who have changed the world - they have such a powerful energy about them.  Her talk about overcoming barriers and taking risks was both personal and riveting although I'm sure she's given the same thing thousands of times before. 

She took some time to talk about Renee Richards, who is a personal friend of hers and is still her doctor today.  I remember when her book, "Second Serve," came out.  I bought it and hid it in my locker at school - reading little pieces here and there so nobody could possibly find it.  I felt like a heretic or something, but I've got to say that it was one of the first stories of a transsexual that I had ever read and I remember it to this day.

All in all, I was very impressed.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Rochester Diversity Conference ended today.  It was an excellent event.

I gave the same talk twice (Transsexuals in the Workplace) - once on Monday and again on Tuesday - to allow attendees to see as many of the concurrent sessions as possible.  My talk on Monday morning was extremely well attended and received, and I met some wonderful new friends.  Apparently, word spread that this was a worthwhile session as my Tuesday session was standing-room only - they had to bring in more chairs and even that wasn't enough for everyone.  I think the turnout is testament to the interest in this topic, and perhaps to my laid-back comfortable style of presenting it.  In any event, I was happy with both sessions.

The conference brought people from all over the country.  Some of the keynote speakers included Martin Luther King's daughter, and Rain Pryor (daughter of comedian Richard Pryor).  The neat thing about these kinds of events is the unique bonds and friendships that get created - it's actually sad to say goodbye sometimes.  I can't thank everyone there enough for their hospitality and kindness.  Tomorrow I head back to Austin for a brief stop-over on my way back to Scottsdale.

For those who have been looking for the article in the October issue of Marie Claire, the article had been delayed a month and is currently scheduled for the November issue which should be available some time in early October...


Monday, September 13, 2004

The Buffalo Bills game on Sunday was wonderful fun, although the end result was a tremendous disappointment to most of the 73,000 sun-drenched fans in the stands, and Bills fans in general.  Even so, I'd have to say the highlight of the event happened just before kickoff - during the national anthem.  This past weekend was the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, so there was an extra special sense of patriotism in the air as the color guard approached mid-field.  During the anthem 3 gigantic C130 cargo planes flew low over the stadium.  Scenes from 9/11 were shown on the Jumbotron, bringing back the vivid memories of that day.  And finally, a bald eagle swooped down from somewhere in the sky to land on a trainer's arm near the 30 yard line.  It gave me goose bumps....

It was a glorious early fall/late summer day here - the kind that come along only once in a while.  Perhaps one of the biggest indications of how things have changed is that my brother was in the parking lot outside the stadium getting his tailgate party ready shortly after 6am (for a 1pm kickoff).  I got there at 11.  :)

When I left to beat the traffic with 2 minutes to go we were winning.  Perhaps it's best that I didn't see Jacksonville's last-second touchdown to win the game - it would almost certainly have made me crazy.  Oh well.  I had a great time in spite of the outcome, and hope to be able to do this for many years to come. 


Saturday, September 11, 2004

It has been quite a week.  Although I generally consider my life to be fast-paced and "interesting" this past week pushed the envelope to new lengths.

I started the week in Austin, TX preparing for an 1,100 mile drive across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to get to Phoenix.  What to pack?  How to get my house ready?  Who could take care of my dogs?  What's the plan over these next 6 weeks?  How is this ever all going to come together? 

Those who know me will most likely agree that I'm at my best when I'm focused, and when I'm faced with a challenge.  There in an inherent excitement to starting something new; to beginning a new adventure.  And although the logistics of it all sometimes seem staggering I'm very good at taking bite sized chunks, making tentative long-distance plans based on any number of eventualities, and at going with the flow.  And, to be honest, it's very and exciting and refreshing to be challenged right now. 

I'd have to say the adventure started a week ago, on Saturday, as I needed to get to Ft. Worth to pick up some things for my trip west.  Due to some logistical challenges (that I'd rather not discuss) I needed to find an alternative way to get there, so I decided to take the Greyhound bus.  So I picked up the bus at the teeny Round Rock bus station for the 4 hour drive north, and as I walked up the stairs I noticed that the entire bus was full!  I ended up in the back of the bus with two of the most interesting guys you could imagine.

One was a young military man from way north in Michigan who had traveled across the country to visit with his ex-wife and daughter.  He was a very striking man - short hair with a goatee - with a very welcoming way about him.  In the seat in front of us was a guy who had been everywhere and done everything- and his face told a hundred stories.  Once he started gabbing, it was all over...

He told stories about breaking down in the middle of Arizona and not having enough money to fix his truck, so he took a job as an itinerant farm-hand harvesting broccoli to earn enough to get himself out of there.  He had a really interesting way of telling stories, and we all chatted for pretty near the entire trip.

They were very polite - they cussed a few times during stories about going to little towns where everyone is expected to take a handgun into the one small-town bar deep in Texas, and to lay it on the table while you drink (it's almost like a custom there) - and each time they said an offending word they'd apologize to me about it.  So funny.

I haven't taken a bus trip since my college days - days before I bought a car to get from here to there.  I guess a bus really isn't one of the options that comes to mind when I think about traveling.  But as the bus stopped at every little town across central Texas - Killeen, Temple, Waco - I found this to be one of the most enjoyable trips I'd taken in a long time.  I was almost sad when I got to Ft. Worth and got off, leaving the others to go on their way to wherever they were going.

The trip I took on Tuesday was nowhere near as enjoyable.  I faced an 1,100 mile drive across country so barren it's like driving across Mars - nothing but flat and dust and rocks and heat.  Mile after mile.  I started at 7:30 in the morning, and actually talked to my car as we headed towards the highway.  Although this car is relatively new to me, it has quite a few years on it and quite a few miles.  Some might consider it "broken in" - better broken-in than broken-down.  I haven't taken it on a trip this long and the thought of being stranded in the middle of nowhere was not one I'd allow to enter my head.  But, I called AAA to be sure my account was still active and that they'd tow me - just in case.

The drive took almost 16 hours.  I didn't push myself or my car too hard, and spent the better part of the trip listening to music.  Steely Dan.  Sade.  The Doobie Brothers.  Jethro Tull.  And as the Texas Hill country became flat and barren desert, the miles passed and the music played.  Hour after hour. 

I pulled into Sal and Ray's driveway at 9:30 in the evening.  With the two-hour time difference it had taken me 16 1/2 hours.  I'd have to say it's the most I've ever driven in a single day.  And you know what?  As I pulled through Phoenix towards north Scottsdale I didn't feel all that tired or sore from the long day - I felt quiet and peaceful; a strange sense of satisfaction at arriving back "home".

The week has been full of interesting adventures.  For example, I registered my car in Arizona but learned to my amusement that it's more complicated to get my Texas Driver's License converted to an Arizona one than it was to get my name and gender marker changed on it while I lived there!  Oh well.  I accidentally drove over some pink paint that someone spilled in the road so I have interesting splashes of pink along the side of my white car now.  But if those are the worse things that happened, I think I'm doing pretty well.

As I write this it's Saturday, and I'm on a plane.  After only 3 days in Arizona I flew back to Texas late yesterday (arriving into Austin after midnight), and I'm on the second leg of my flight home to Rochester.  In fact, as I type this I'm flying over Buffalo, and I can see Niagara Falls in the distance.  I'm headed there to speak at a Diversity Conference for three days next week.  And, to visit with my family.

Rochester was home for 15 years, and in an odd way will always be home for me.  I haven't been back since the Holidays last year, which has been way too long.  I'm looking forward to a week filled with family, Diversity talk, visiting with old friends, and making new ones. 

I'll be in Buffalo tomorrow going to the Buffalo Bills home opener against Jacksonville.  I'm really looking forward to it.  But that story will have to come later, as it's almost time to land...


Sunday, September 5, 2004

It is almost midnight, and I am alone; really alone for the first time in a long time.  And, I've got to admit, it feels a little odd. 

It's not that it feels bad, or that I'm melancholy or even lonely right now.  That's really not it.  There was a time when learning to be alone after being part of a family for so long seemed to be the most overwhelming aspect of my transition.  I've learned to find quiet solace in being alone, not the desperation or emptiness that once filled that void.  It's actually a skill that, once learned, is really not all that difficult to find again. 

My son moved out a few weeks ago - he's a young man now and has his own life to live.  Letting go of our kids is hard, even under the best or circumstances, and this has been no different.  I take solace knowing that we all do it, and that we're actually better "friends" now that he's off doing his own thing, but even so I can't stop thinking like a parent.

And this afternoon, I took my dogs to live with him for a while.  I'm getting ready to leave this area, and they need to be with somebody who will take care of them and love them.  They've been constant companions - almost TOO constant sometimes, but knowing I don't need to get them more water, walk them, or get them little treats feels really strange right now.  I miss them.  In fact, the reason I got dogs in the first place was out of an odd sense of loneliness - knowing that there really wasn't any reason to come home in the evenings other than to sleep and go back to work.  Having dogs here - happy to see me - somehow made a big difference for me.  Although I've cursed the mess the make and the attention they need a thousand times I really don't mean it; it's a small price to pay for their unconditional love.

Friday was my last day of employment for a company that I actually moved to Texas to work for, nearly 4 years ago.  Somehow, knowing that I'm no longer an employee there makes being here - deep in the heart of Texas - feel empty and out of place. This is not home for me.

Although I've never been one to forge my self-identity around my work or my career I came here hoping that this would fit for a long time.  At that point, shortly after SRS, my need for stability coming here was matched only by my conviction to make this work, to live the "normal" life I had sacrificed so much to be able to live.  The fact that it has failed isn't an indication that my conviction has changed so much as an indication that I have.  As I've explained in other essays there's a time to recognize when something just doesn't fit anymore and to have the wherewithal to move on to something else - it's not that it's bad or that there's somebody to blame - it's just a natural part of change.  This is one of those times.

The person who returns to Phoenix later this week is not the same person who left it in 2000.  That person's life was fixated on  the impending pinnacle of her physical transformation.  That person was overcome by crushing rejection at the hands of those she loved the most.  That person really hadn't found herself yet.  And in the end, that person fled.

I have always believed that each place I've been, and each thing I've done, has been part of some bigger plan that has yet to fully make itself apparent.  My stay here in Austin provided an opportunity to meet the person who would eventually help me to write my book.  It helped me find people who would accept me as me.  It provided a springboard to get involved in corporate diversity efforts.  It introduced me to people who have become dear friends, and who I will not forget.

So, here I sit - in a reflective and pensive mood.  Tomorrow I pack up my car for an 1,100 mile drive across the most desolate section of highway you could ever imagine.  It's like driving across the moon.  And although these next few weeks look to be full of logistical challenges, new beginnings, and seemingly uncharted territory for me - in the end I can only say this: I wouldn't have it any other way.

I used to cry sometimes, wondering when my wandering would be over and I could take a moment to relax to just be.  It seemed like I was always searching for my place in the world, and it just got so tiring sometimes.  I've come to accept that people like me may not get that opportunity.  We move from challenge to challenge, thing to thing, as the normal pace of life.  When we do have an opportunity to be for too long we get stagnant, feeling unchallenged, and so we pick up the pace and move on.  The sooner we can accept that, the better off we are.

So, here we go again. 


Wednesday, September 1, 2004

My dear friend, Elizabeth, was a guest on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show that first broadcast in April.  The topic was about transgendered kids.  Needless to say, this is a very controversial topic.

Elizabeth appeared in the last ten minutes of the program.  She looked absolutely stunning (I told her she needs to hire that hair stylist full-time!) and her poise and presence were remarkable.  Her message was basically one of, "Just love your kids and let them figure out who they are."  Pretty simple stuff. 

That episode was re-broadcast last week and a whole new audience had an opportunity to see it.  Some are happy about its message.  Others are not.

I'll attach a link to a religious group that wrote an article about the show.  Titled "Oprah Winfrey: Agent of Moral Insanity," it has characterized the show as "one of the most frightening hours in television history."  And reading it shows why it's dangerous to be who and what we are in some places - even today - and just how far there is to go.

I hesitate to provide a broader audience for this kind of thing, but being a fair and balanced website we need to understand just what we're up against.  Read it and weep...

"Oprah Winfrey: Agent of Moral Insanity" by R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY [8/31/04]


Monday, August 30 2004

I had tickets to go see Chris Isaak in concert in Phoenix on Friday.  I bought them several months ago thinking that I might be relocating there sometime soon, and although that's turning out to be a reality it hasn't actually happened yet so this trip turned into another of my quick whirlwind weekends as I needed to get back to Austin.

I went to the concert with a friend who said she hadn't been to a concert since the 1980's, and who initially didn't seem to recognize Chris Isaak when I asked her to go with me so I bought her one of his CD's to listen to.  That helped jog her memory.  The concert was at a relatively small, intimate, circle-in-the-round theater in Phoenix, and we both noticed that the crowd was comprised of mostly white, middle-aged people just like us.

We went to visit the restroom before the show, but an enormous line made me realize I didn't need to go there so badly so I went to my seat to relax for a few minutes after a hectic day.  That's one of the big differences these days - lines at the restroom.  When was the last time you saw a line for the men's room?  Never, that's when...

So, when my friend got back to the seats she was smiling.  She said that the line was so long that eventually the women in line started using the men's room.  She mentioned that several of the women indicated that they had never been in a men's room before, and commented about how "different" it was.  I thought that was kind of funny.

One thing I didn't think was funny happened near the end of the concert.  The concert itself was wonderful, even though my friend mentioned that much of the music sounded like "country", followed by the statement, "I don't really care for country music all that much."  Oy. 

Anyway, Chris is a very, very engaging speaker.  He really connects with his audience - anyone who has seen his television show on Showtime will know this is true.  Near the end of the show he was telling a whimsical story about his Cuban percussionist and how this person floated to America on an inner tube.  He explained how this guy became enthralled with one of the bartenders, a big blonde woman.  Chris said something like, "Miguel took her big hands in his...and looked up at her past her big Adam's Apple.."  Essentially, he was making fun of us. 

I've got as much a sense of humor as the next person, but somehow this wasn't funny.  If it's okay to make fun of us like that where does it stop?  And to tell you the truth, I lost some respect for him.  I've been looking for an email address to write to him to share my displeasure, but I haven't been able to find one.  So, if you see him, please tell him for me....


Wednesday, August 25 2004

Some pretty big things have happened over the past few days.  BIG things.  I don't really want to give too much away yet as I don't want to jinx things.  But know this - it's BIG.

One thing that I will share, and that will get more visibility as time goes on:

My friend Elizabeth and I have been working with Dr. Toby Meltzer's office in Scottsdale to establish an Extended Recovery Facility for his patients there.  I think there has been a relatively new appreciation of SRS and FFS as an overall life "experience" - that's more than just surgery as a medical procedure.  And, I think some of us are in a unique position to help.

We've seen it before - the Cocoon House in San Francisco, and the facility in Montreal.  Both provide a place for our brothers and sisters and their families and friends, to heal, socialize, relax, and generally recover in a supportive, secure, nurturing environment.  

In my own case, my SRS was the first time that my mom had met any others of us, and I think the ability to interact with not only patients, but supportive parents and friends, helped her to come to a more comfortable sense of peace about what had just happened.  And, I remember my labiaplasty experience, where I had surgery first thing in the morning but was discharged from the hotel by noon - sent off to the shuttle bus to sit alone in a hotel room with ice on my groin for 4 days before heading home.  It wasn't terrible, but in comparison with what it could have been, it wasn't pleasant, either.

We are establishing a wonderful alternative to extended hotel stays in Scottsdale.  Dr. Meltzer has established a world-class operation (forgive the pun) there, and these facilities are meant to augment that experience for patients who need it.  

Who will stay there?

What will the Extended Recovery Facility provide?

Those who are interested in specifics can either contact me directly, or through Dr. Meltzer's office, for more information.   

More information to come....


Monday, August 22 2004

I spent most of this past weekend enjoying quality time around my house.  My life gets so hectic sometimes that weekends at home are few and far between.  I was actually supposed to be in Scottsdale this past weekend, but some last minute changes allowed me to stay at home.  

One of my favorite things to do when I'm home is yard work.  That is, if it's not too hot and humid - which is pretty much the name of the game here in Austin for most of the summer.  But, on Sunday it was an atypically cool, cloudy day that was perfect to do some outdoor things so I took advantage of opportunity.  I mowed and edged.  I weeded.  I trimmed bushes.

I was out front trimming one of two unruly bushes on my front lawn when my neighbor's landscape person approached.  He was there to check on bugs or something, and saw me out front sculpting this bush with shears, standing back every few seconds to look at it as though I were giving it a haircut or something.  

He asked me why I was shaping it the way I was, and I told him that the thing just grows all wild and crazy which makes it look unkempt.  He laughed.  He told me the thing was a Crepe Myrtle and is was a tree, not a bush - and that it was supposed to be that way.  Who knew?  

I told him I resented having a tree masquerading as a bush on my front lawn.  He laughed.

BTW - the lawn mower is fixed, except for a God-awful noise it makes until it gets warmed up.


Sunday, August 15 2004

I've never been handy.  I came to some sense of peace with that a long time ago.  There was a time when I actually felt guilty about it, as though being a guy meant I should be handy.  One of my brothers-in-law was a shop teacher at a high school, and any one of them could build a house from scratch.  I think my wife was disappointed that I couldn't do that, too - that I had a hard time hammering a nail much less actually build something that didn't break.  Apparently, she felt that men were inherently talented and interested in that stuff just because they were men, and that a manly man like me should be able to carve a canoe out of a telephone pole.  Maybe my lack of natural ability and my general apathy towards it all should have been her first clue...

Cars.  And engines.  I never got them either.  Thankfully, I never had any interest so it's not like I felt all that bad about it other than the appreciation that I got from watching people who were handy.  I was fortunate enough to: a) know my limitations and b) be able to afford to hire someone if I wanted it done right. 

I could paint - as a teenager my mom made me do the painting in the house.  But frankly, I don't count that. 

Well, my lawn mower broke the other night.  The blade fell off.  I know that sounds dangerous, but that's what happened - right in the middle of mowing.  And, as I collected all the debris that this mishap left on my lawn, I noticed that several other things had fallen off, too.

I think the main damage happened earlier this summer when I accidentally ran over a stump.  It was not a pleasant noise.  But ever since then, it just hasn't run right.  I looked underneath and saw that the blade had bent, and I suppose that's all I wanted to believe was wrong.  Apparently, there was more to it than that.

So today I went to Lowe's to see if I could find these parts so I could try to fix my lawnmower.  Based on my explanation thus far, you're probably thinking the same thing that I am - that I'm liable to get killed fixing this thing.  But money is tight and the grass is long, so you do what you have to do...

At Lowe's there were at least a dozen different kinds of mower blades - mulching blades, different lengths, different shapes.  Who knew this would be so complicated?

I must have looked as lost as I was feeling, and a very nice man in a blue Lowe's apron came over to help me.  I explained the situation to him.  He seemed amused.

"How long is the blade?" he asked.

"About that long," I say as I hold up the twisted piece of metal.  He smiled.  He took a tape measure off his belt and measured it.  Twenty-two inches.

"Well, what kind of a lawn mower is it?" he continued.

I thought about it for a second.  Ya know, I use that thing every week and the brand just wouldn't pop into my head.  So, I said the first thing that came to mind. 

"A green one," I said.

This time, he laughed.  He's probably still laughing tonight as I write this. 

Needless to say, my lawnmower is as broken now as it was this morning.  But I'm going back to Lowe's tomorrow for a second try.  I may not be handy, but I'm no quitter, either.  Funny thing is, if this were my friend Elizabeth she'd have that guy from Lowe's over to fix it in about 5 minutes flat.  Oh well.  That's a skill that I just don't have down yet, either.  :-)


Saturday, August 14 2004

It has been a week since my trip to Washington DC and HRC's public reaffirmation of unity with the transgender community.  The fallout is beginning - both good and bad - as we knew it would.  Here's a small smattering of it:

HCR Vows no ENDA if no trans protection.

Cheryl Jacques: Putting the 'T' into ENDA

Chris Crain: ENDA gets trans-jacked.

That last one made me angry.  Chris Crain is the executive editor of the Washington Blade, and in his OpEd piece he says, "The trans-jacking of ENDA is wrong politically, legally, and even morally" (among other things).  Who voted Mr. Crain as a vanguard of morality?  Anyway, not being able to keep myself quiet I sent a response to the Washington Blade.  Here it is:

To the editors:

I am responding to Chris Crain’s editorial entitled, “ENDA Gets Trans-jacked” (August 13).

Chris Crain just doesn’t get it.  And neither, I’m sure, do millions of Americans just like him all over this country. 

My observation isn’t meant to be a comment on Mr. Crain’s intelligence, as many intelligent people can’t see the big picture, either.  And, despite the fact that I could easily argue that Mr. Crain just doesn’t like transgendered people in general (his “morality” argument is unconscionable), I choose not to play that card either.

I am a transsexual, and we could argue the fine points of whether T belongs with GLB or not.  We could argue whether we’re one community, or whether we’re uncomfortable bed partners bound by little more than shared suffering.  We could argue the merits of incrementalism, and whether compromise means win-win, or lose-lose.  But frankly, none of those issues are the point here, and only serve to cloud the issue.

Whether Mr. Crain knows it or not, or likes it or not – he is us and we are him.  As far as most Americans are concerned, transsexuals are just queers who have gone overboard – taken things too far simply for the purpose of having sex.  They do not take the time to make a distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation; they really couldn’t give a damn.  A gay basher doesn’t stop to ask an effeminate teenaged boy about his underlying motivations – all he knows is that he doesn’t like it and he’s angry about it.  Hate is blind like that.  And so is discrimination.

I was one of a small group of transgendered people who were invited to speak with HRC leadership that sparkling Saturday morning.  The fact that we were there in the first place was proof enough that the world has changed.   And the discussions inside were both lively and profound.  For many who were there, it was an event we will not soon forget.

One of the most poignant comments came not from a transsexual, but from a self-identified lesbian.  She explained that, although most people consider her to be a lesbian, which is a label she accepts, she also considers herself to be transgendered.  She explained how she gets thrown out of Women’s washrooms – not because she’s a lesbian but because others think she looks to manly.

The truth of the matter is that passing ENDA to protect sexual orientation, but omitting gender identity and expression, is a bill with no teeth.  It leaves the door open to continuing discrimination not necessarily based on a person’s sexuality, but on the fact that they’re perceived to be too feminine a man, or too masculine a woman.  That’s what others see – not what happens in your bedroom.  And, that’s why ENDA had to change.

Don’t let Mr. Crain fool you.  HRC is not alone in embracing inclusion.  PFLAG is there.  So is NGLTF.  So are 85% of Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals surveyed in a recent poll. They all ‘get it’.  And, with HRC’s reaffirmation of it’s commitment to the transgender community, they get it too.  They realize that the easiest way to defeat an enemy is to divide and conquer, and their historic vote was as much about solidarity as one community as it was about support for a specific piece of legislation.

I’d like to assure Mr. Crain that ENDA was not “trans-jacked”.  Rather, it was welcomed into the 21st century and embraced as a maturing representation of our changing world. 

Many of us have learned the hard way that the most valuable things in life are the things we’ve had to work hardest to achieve.  Equality is one of those things.  As is freedom.  Thanks to strength and vision, the right thing happened that sunny August morning not because of trans-pressure from a small segment of HRC’s constituency, or simply because it was the right thing to do.  It happened because it just makes sense – for all of us. 

Whether Mr. Crain realizes it yet or not, when ENDA does pass he’ll thank his lucky stars that the people making the decisions that day were people of vision, and not him.

Donna Rose
, TX


The fact that I'm even involved in these discussions surprises me - even now.  I never imagined myself as a political activist, and in the purest sense I still don't.  I'd define myself more as a social advocate.  But what I think I'm learning is that one necessarily overlaps with the other.  My sister recently reminded me of a quote my dad once shared, something to the effect that when you get more than one person in a room, you have politics.  It's not as easy to separate politics from everything else, as it's inherently intertwined.  And so, as we work to educate, education on the political front it critical, too.


Friday, August 13 2004

I've had quite a bit of email about the changes to the web page and the new "look".  Thanks to everyone for their kind words.

One thing that people have been asking is whether I lost weight, how much, and if so - how.  I'll explain it.

The short answer is yes - I've lost weight.  As best I can tell I've lost anywhere between 25-30 pounds over the past couple of months.  I'm done now.  And I'm happy where I am. 

How?  Discipline.  Some simple rules.  A little exercise.  And, soup.

I got back from the GLAAD Awards in San Francisco in late June and felt like a blimp.  Just huge.  I'd felt that way for quite a while, actually, and during the previous year or so I'd tried any number of the fad diets out there.  They seemed to work a little, but once I got past the induction stage the weight always came back.  And, I came to the realization that I wasn't ready to cut things out of my diet that I enjoyed - pancakes with real maple syrup, breads, wine.  So, when I got home in June I decided that desperate times require desperate measures.

Although I haven't wrestled in 20+ years, the weight-loss mentality that being a wrestler drills in your head never really goes away.  I remember driving across Nova Scotia in our team van, on our way to a meet, and I'd be sitting in a rubber suit and spitting into a cup - needing to lose every ounce I could just to make weight.  It was not a fun, or healthy, existence.  But, it was effective.

I've also learned that it's easier for men to lose weight than it is for women.  In the old days I could exercise and the weight would fall off.  Not any more.  It's much more difficult to take it off, and more importantly, keep it off.  It's not fair, but it's true.

I know me pretty well, and I need some simple rules.  I need some guidelines I can follow so it's easy to make decisions.  So, I made some.  Here are the rules for Donna's Diet.

(Disclaimer: this is not a scientific diet, so if it doesn't work for you, or if you get sick, or if you fall off a treadmill and hurt yourself or any number other bad things happen - it's not my fault!)

Rule #1:  Throw away your scale.  Weigh yourself at the beginning just so you'll know where you started out, and after that resist the urge to hop back on at all costs.  It is not your friend.  It will taunt you, and demoralize you.  And, as time passes and you find the weight doesn't fall off as quickly as you think it should, your resolve will weaken until gradually you're back in your old bad habits.  The key, for me, was not to measure progress in terms of pounds, or even time.  It was to fit into clothes that I had at the very beginning of my transition, but had long since outgrown.  Every couple of weeks I'd try on that pair of size 10 slacks that used to fit, and I'd see some progress.  That's when you know when you're done.  Don't go overboard here - if you're a size 18 don't think you'll be a size 6 anytime soon.  And, don't try on the friggin' pants every day trying to see if they fit better than the day before - once a week will be enough.  But, know that if you fit into it once, you can fit into it again. 

Rule #2: Exercise.  In my case, I run on a treadmill, and I do sit-ups.  And, I sweat.  Four times a week.  It's funny to look around the fitness center at all the other exercisers wearing shorts and t-shirts, and I'm wearing long yoga tights and long sleeves, or a light sweatshirt.  People tell me the sweat doesn't really matter - that it's water weight and I'll gain it back as soon as I take a drink.  But in my mind I can almost see the muscle melting and the large frame becoming smaller.  Maybe it's in my mind, a leftover from my days bundled up in sweats to lose weight as a wrestler - maybe not.  But for me, it works.  You don't need to kill yourself here - you're not training for a marathon.  Twenty five minutes or so.  Listen to music.  Think.  Realize that it's hard at first, but as you get used to it it will become easier.  And, make it a priority.  I've been on my treadmill at 6am knowing that I won't have time to do it for the rest of the day. 

Rule #3:  Eat Soup.  For the first two weeks of my diet, that's all I ate.  Liquids (coffee, juice, etc.) and soup.  What kind of soup?  Any kind.  If all you're eating is soup don't scrimp .  Cream of Mushroom.  French Onion.  Minestrone.  Chicken Noodle.  It's actually quite a broad (and tasty) assortment.  You'll find that it's actually quite filling, and the liquid really makes you feel full.  Plus, the fact that there's solid stuff in there makes your stomach think it's real food.  Don't add extra stuff - like bread, or crackers.  Soup.  That's it.  To be honest, after the first couple of days I really wasn't even all that hungry.  I think you'll be surprised.

Rule #4: Moderation.  I maintain my weight now by doing only soup every other day.  On my in between days, I can eat anything I want.  But, I think you'll find that once you've lost a bunch of weight your mindset will prevent you from going overboard.  Earlier this week I made a white pizza on Boboli crust - with olive oil, some pesto, garlic salt, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes. Yumm.  Another night I had some stuffed salmon with a lemon-garlic sauce.  Of course, wine is served with all dinners - it's the most civilized thing I do all day.  The day in between - I had soup.  And, I ran. 

If you do it right, your diet will feed on itself.  You'll find yourself feeling better about yourself, which in turn will give you energy to lose the weight, which in turn will make you feel better.  And, that's the goal, right?  To feel better, to look better, to be healthier.  It's all there.  And, it's really not as difficult as you think.

I don't buy into the "scientific" rationalizations of many of these diets.  No matter how complicated some of these diets make it seem, I always go back to the equation that if you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight.  I've found something simple, something that works for me, and something that fits my lifestyle.  Look at the photos on my home page and throughout my website.  If I can lose that weight and that muscle, anyone can.

Will I gain it back?  Who knows.  I see pictures of professional athletes several years after they've retired and they've ballooned to twice their normal size.  It happens to the best of us.  But frankly, I don't worry about it.  I like where I am, and I think I'll be here for a while.



Wednesday, August 11 2004

I made the biggest change to my home page in a long time tonight.  I think the fact that yesterday was the 4-year anniversary of my SRS - I call it my rebirthday - had something to do with it.

In past years I've purposely celebrated this milestone alone - enjoying a quiet dinner at a nice restaurant.  It provides an opportunity for some quality me time; to reflect and appreciate who and what I am and all the people who are and have been in my life.  I find that I end up driving home with a sense of satisfaction and contentment that had been missing for a long, long time.  The fact that so much has changed so quickly for me still amazes me sometimes.  And although it often feels like things have been like this forever, in reality I'm still a relative newbie when it comes to experiences and life achievements in my new world. 

The photo that had been on my home page was taken in late 2001, and although I think it's one of the best photos ever taken that captures the essence of me, it's not really who I am now.  I'm older.  I think I've matured a bit.  I've gained a much better sense of me.  I'm not nearly so "glam".  And, I've gained a better perspective on the evolution that has slowly taken place - and that continues to happen.  Physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally - it's all different. 

So, I've changed my home page to reflect that.  I have little more than rudimentary HTML skills, so it's as good as it's going to get for now.  I've added photos that reflect some of the lives I've led, and some of the people I've been.  And the new portrait, taken just last week (photography by Andrew Shapter, hair and makeup by Autumn Ball) is in the center.  That's me - Donna - at 4 years old and counting.


Monday, August 9 2004

I was in Washington DC over the weekend.  I was part of a small contingent that had been invited to talk to the Board of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) about trans inclusion on ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act).  It was a historic trip.

If you need any background on what has been happening I've got some information on my Important Stuff page that explains.  Let's just say that the time for HRC to publicly explain who their "community" is had arrived.  We needed them to agree to support ONLY a trans inclusive ENDA, demonstrating that our community includes GLB and T Americans, and that we wouldn't be divided by political expediency.  And, in a dramatic turn of events - they did.

We had an hour to speak to the board.  It was a lively and productive discussion - and we got a standing ovation at the end.  Then, after speaking with the Board of Governers for another hour we went outside to talk with a group of protesters who had been quietly demonstrating there.  We explained what we'd said, and what we'd asked for.  And then we went to lunch. 

There were 10 of us - from across the country, with a variety of backgrounds.  And although I've been active and involved in many aspects of our community, I had only met three others in the group.  The rest are new friends.  And, I'm honored to have been a part of this dynamic collection.

We had walked several blocks, waited for a table for 10, gotten seated, and ordered, when Mara's phone rang.  It was Cheryl Jacques, Executive Director of HRC.  She told Mara that the board had just voted, and that we had won.  She indicated that they had invited the protesters in to have lunch with the Board, and suggested that we head back as well.  We let out a loud "whoop", left the waiter a $40 tip, and walked back to HRC headquarters to thank the board for this historic vote of solidarity.  Finally, we are one community.


Tuesday, July 27 2004

There are very few movies I enjoy watching time and time again.  The Matrix is one.  For some reason, so is A Knight's Tale.  A third is on right now, and it's probably the 10th time I've watched at least part of it.  It's called French Kiss with Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan.  I'm not quite sure what keeps drawing me back, other than perhaps the story of two people so totally opposite who are so perfect for each other, and both change in remarkable ways to actually realize it.  Or, it could be that it's just a fun movie.  Who's to say...

I got a call from my brother last night.  We don't talk all that often - not that we ever did.  Actually, I think the things we have most in common is our fan-dom for our football teams (mine has waned quite a bit), music, movies, and computers.  Now that training camp is about to start, I think our contact will increase.

Anyways, he called to tell me that a dear friend, the man who was the Best Man at his wedding and who we've both known for nearly 20 years, died in a car accident yesterday.  He was in his late 30's; married with two teenage sons.  And although I haven't really seen him in quite a while the fact that he's gone has been on my mind all day.  Death really has quite the extended reach; it can truly help to refocus priorities and goals, not to mention reinforce the transient nature of all of this. It could all be gone in an instant.

I drove up to Dallas this past weekend.  One reason for the visit was to spend some time with my mom, which I enjoyed as usual.  Another was to attend a free outdoor concert there.  My favorite smooth jazz saxophonist, Boney James, was playing a free outdoor concert in downtown Ft. Worth.  There are few things I enjoy more than a relaxing evening under the stars listening to good live music.  Well, it wasn't what I expected.  I brought a blanket and pillow to sit in the grass, but it turns out it was a parking lot - not a park.  And, there were so many people there that the Fire Marshal closed the place down before it even started, and people were stuffed into every nook and cranny - many couldn't even see the stage.  It didn't take long for me to decide that there was very little relaxing about this way-more-difficult-than-it-was-worth effort, and to leave before he took the stage.


Sunday, July 18 2004

As I write this, I am in Scottsdale, AZ, a place I called home for several years and where I was living when I actually found the strength to face my gender issues (instead of run from them).  In fact, I'm staying with my dear friends, Sally and Ray, who were neighbors when I lived here as David before my transition.  Although my old house, with my ex-wife, is probably 50 yards from here, she remains as angry and as bitter as she did that day 5 years ago this week when I left home for the last time.

I "fled" the Valley of the Sun in early 2000, shunned by my wife and family, and increasingly unhappy about the way that things seemed to be headed at work.  I left dear friends here to be closer to family and friends back in upstate NY.  At first, return visits here were difficult as they brought back memories of a very difficult time in my life.  Over the last couple of years, though, trips here have been very uplifting and fun.  Time has an interesting way of turning pain into nostalgia, where the difficult times gradually fade away and the good times somehow seem better.

Although far too brief, this has been a wonderful visit.  Some highlights:


Friday, July 9 2004

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City - my second trip to the East Coast in less than a week - where I participated in what turned out to be one of the most fun (and significant) events I've been involved with in a long time.  Marie Claire magazine is writing an article profiling a number of women who have overcome significant physical challenges, and whose appearance has changed significantly as a result.  I've long said that the next step towards integration with mainstream society is to be included in articles and stories that are about men or women, in general, and a trans man or woman is included as just another example.  This past Thursday we had the photo shoot in a neat loft in Brooklyn.

The writer, the editor, the organizer, the hair people, the makeup people, the wardrobe people, the photographer - everyone made this such a special event.  But most of all, though, it was the other women who are being featured who really made this something I'll never forget.  I think we all felt the power of being there together - people who have a quiet strength and determination coming together for a tremendously worthwhile reason.  We came to call ourselves "The Skootchie Girls" (not to be confused with "Hootchie Girls"), and we're all convinced that is a future for people such as ourselves sharing a message of courage and empowerment.  We'll see where this all ends up.

The article is scheduled for the October issue (which should be available in early September).  I'm told that nearly 3 and a half million readers in this country read Marie Claire each month, and I'm really excited about the potential.... 


Sunday, June 20 2004

Today was Father's Day. 

As I grew up no one in our family really made a big deal about Father's Day.  Maybe it was because my dad never really seemed to make much of it, so none of us kids did, either.  And it still mystifies me that the first Father's Day after my dad's death blind-sided me with all kinds of emotional debris.  But, that's a whole other story.

But here we are, on the day we specifically celebrate Fathers.

Believe it or not, this topic is the source of some not insignificant difficulty in the transsexual community.  Some of us with kids will continue to acknowledge our fatherhood even though the word father implies "male", and that's a term that doesn't fit anymore.  Others of us will argue to the death that they're not their children's father anymore.  As with so many other things in this crazy world, I guess we each deal with it the way that makes the most sense to us and to our kids.

Last year I was interviewed by a few reporters, one as far away as Australia, about how transsexual women celebrate Father's Day.  The fact that there was such interest in something I perceive to be so insignificant and trivial really astounded me.  The fact that limitations in the English language don't have modifiers for father or mother requires that we pick one, and I daresay no matter which one we pick we'll find someone who'll argue with us.  But, until such time as they declare a Transsexual Parent day or until I grow an ovary, I'll let my ex-wife keep Mother's Day to herself.  My son refers to me as his "Mom" in our day-to-day lives,  and that's good enough for me.


Saturday, June 19 2004

I went to see Shrek 2 last week.  I really enjoyed it. 

Someplace on my website I talk a little about what I consider to be one of the underlying meanings of Shrek, about acceptance,  empathy, and ignorance.  I said that if you replace the word "ogre" with "transsexual" every time you hear it ("Transsexuals are like onions....") - or pretty much any group that's marginalized just because people are so quick to judge us - the statement still holds true.

Well, someone must take all of this a little too seriously.  Read for yourself:

I didn't even know we had an agenda!  They must have forgotten to my copy in the Welcome Wagon gift bag at the sex change hospital.  I think they forgot to put the Owner's Manual on all my new "stuff" in there too, so maybe it's a quality control problem.  Hmmm. 

At first I wasn't all that thrilled with the "transgendered" portrayals.  That bartender scared the crap out of the little kid sitting next to me.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was really okay.  Although everyone else in the movie seemed to be trying to be somebody else, the transgendered characters seemed just fine with themselves.  And while everyone else in the movie was lying about something, none of the "transgendered" characters fibbed (except Pinocchio, but they made him do it).  So in the end, I guess it really wasn't all that bad!

Anyway, I've been playing with words a little bit, and perhaps we could refer to this so-called transgender agenda as a "Trans-genda".  But after saying it a few times I decided that it sounds way too much like someone at a Boston chapter Tri-Ess meeting so it could be a little confusing.


Sunday, June 13 2004

I heard a song yesterday that sometimes makes me cry.  It's called "Superman" by Five For Fighting.  Some of the lyrics:

        I can't stand to fly - I'm not that naive
        I'm just out to find the better part of me
        I'm more than a bird, I'm more than a plane
        I'm more than some pretty face beside a train
        And it's not easy
        to be me.

        I wish that I could cry - fall upon my knees
        Find a way to lie 'bout a home I'll never see.
        It may sound absurd, but don't be naive
        Even heroes have the right to bleed
        I may be disturbed, but won't you concede
        Even heroes have the right to dream
        And it's not easy
        to be me.

You know, I don't think we use that word enough: Heroes.  Have no doubt - many of those of us who transition are heroes.  And, many who do not transition are no less of a hero.  The fact that our particular life circumstances do or don't allow us to actively investigate or openly question our true nature doesn't diminish the heroism it takes to deal with these kinds of fundamental issues in the big scheme of things.  That's my thinking, anyways.

To get through a gender transition - battling our own doubts and fears, our perceived physical and social inadequacies, our families and loved ones, and just society in general - seems to take almost super-human strength and stamina.  Looking back on my transition, I sometime wonder where it came from, because Lord knows it wasn't there at the outset. 

I get so tired feeling that I have to be strong all the time.  I've gotten used to it so it's usually not that big of a deal, but sometimes it just gets to  feel so oppressive.  I often worried that my need to be continually strong and vigilant was a direct contradiction to my need to really develop and express my feminine nature.  My personal vision of femininity is some combination of a certain strength tempered by tenderness and vulnerability.  That's my nirvana.  I seemed to have the strength part down pat - it's the tenderness and vulnerability that are harder to achieve for those who have spent a lifetime in denial.

My typical Sunday morning routine (when I'm at home, anyway) usually involves watching a movie from Blockbuster while I iron.  For some reason, I enjoy ironing.  Something about taking these clothes with wrinkles and bumps, and smoothing them into nice, fresh cloth appeals to something in me.  Perhaps it's bring order out of chaos.  Or, perhaps it's the simple mindlessness of it all.  I don't know. 

Anyway, this morning I watched  "The Last Samurai" as I ironed.  And, it made me very sad.  Kind of tying into the original reason for this entry, I continue to ask myself "Why does life have to be so difficult?"  There are times when it's easy to shrug off the difficulty because our energy is high, and our defenses are up.  But on my simple Sunday morning, ironing, drinking freshly brewed coffee, watching the trees gently swaying through my bedroom blinds, my defensive energy is not high.  And things that would tend to pass unnoticed during any other day find their way to the soft spot behind all the defenses.  And, it makes me sad. 

By the way, anyone know where the strong people go when they need a break; when they need someone else to drive for a while?  If so, let me know.

On another note, I just want to go on record as saying I have the coolest friends.  I'll try to explain what I mean as time goes on... 

Last night my son and I were invited to the DVD Release party for the Texas Rollergirls (check them out on the web: at one of the clubs in downtown Austin.  A friend (her stage name is Cat Tastrophe - that's her on the right) plays on one of the teams and invited us. 

I met "Cat" at my hair salon 3 or 4 years ago.  She was a massage therapist there.  She's had the most interesting life - dancer, massage, and now she works a desk job for the state.  She says it has been quite the culture shock for her, and I can believe it!  She's got the most outgoing, friendly, say-what-I-mean, live-life-to-the-fullest attitude.  She seemed very happy and looked wonderful....


Thursday, June 10, 2004  8pm

It rained like crazy here yesterday.  Some parts of the city got over 6 inches!  My mom called and said it was coming down "bunkers" where she lives, which is a term I'd never heard before - by anybody.  I figured I'd heard just about everything in my mom's vocabulary, but at 74 years old she still surprises me.

Today was a big day here.  It is the day that the Austin City Council was supposed to vote on updating the list of who it's legal to discriminate against.  Specifically, it was to vote on adding "gender identity" to the list of protections it provides in employment, housing, and public accommodations for other protected groups.  Most people seem to take these protections for granted, that we live in a country where employers or landlords can't discriminate because it's illegal.  I know I did.  And it's realizing that we really are vulnerable, that someone has decided it's okay to discriminate against us and there's little or nothing we can do about it, that got me involved in this in the first place.

As of this morning, there were 2 cities in Texas that provided these protections (Dallas, El Paso).  I'm happy to say that, as of tonight, there are 3.

It was actually a pretty anticlimactic event.  I mean, as we arrived to watch, ready to talk only if needed, the mayor was passing out shiny new Texas quarters to the gathering throng.  He said that this may be the first roll of them distributed in Austin, and I put mine away in a safe place in my purse as a souvenir.  I'll probably forget about it and never see it again.

I met my friend Lisa there, and neither of us had ever attended a City Council session.  In the weeks leading up to this Lisa had worked with the various city council staffers, and the Austin Civil Rights Commission, and any number of other groups who might need educating about exactly what this was and who we are. And, we felt pretty confident that things would go okay.  I mean, this is Austin - a place where the most prized souvenir is a T-shirt or a coffee mug that says "Keep Austin Weird" on it.  But, you never know.  This is Texas, after all, and we envisioned some Bible thumping preacher hopping up in front to shout about what God wants and doesn't want. 

We didn't really know what to expect, so watching it all start was sort of like going to a Cricket match if you don't know the rules.  Procedural stuff.  What's going on?  What's next?  Should we be worried?  Who's winning?

The agenda had 50 some items on it for approval (or not).  Our item was item 7.  I was actually glad about that because it was near the front of the list so I figured we'd get done sooner.  But, it soon became apparent that they don't approach these things in numeric order.  The mayor went through a list of things that had been pulled or postponed to some future date.  Thankfully, item 7 survived the first cut.

We blinked, and it was over.  I mean, it was really that fast.  We missed it.  There was some procedural-sounding talking, and we heard everyone on the council say 'Aye', but as we waited to hear item 7 on the agenda come up for a vote we didn't realize that that 'Aye' meant everything on the agenda passed.  The mayor said something about the fact that someone wanted to talk about item 7, and we all held our breath, but nobody approached the microphone so the mayor looked at us and reiterated that it had already been approved. 

I hadn't really done anything other than show up in case I was needed.  But somehow, I felt good as I drove away.  I felt as if something big had happened.  There was little fanfare, and most people there probably couldn't care less, but for those of us who feel this very personally, it was very satisfying. 


Tuesday June 8, 2004

I spent a whirlwind weekend in San Francisco.  I flew out of Austin mid-afternoon on Friday, and by sundown on the West coast I was having dinner on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf. 

The main reason for the visit was that I had tickets to the GLAAD Media Awards.  Elizabeth and I attended last year, and we had a wonderful time hobnobbing with celebrities and schmoozing with the most fun, interesting people you could imagine.  Last year we were seated at Table #1 with movie producers and actors.  It was too cool.

Besides being fun, the main reason that I feel compelled to go again is that the ration of men to women was probably 20 to 1, and last year we were two of less than a dozen transsexuals in attendance.  I feel strongly that the work GLAAD does as a media watchdog for the GLBT community is absolutely critical, and I do what I can to be there to show support as a member of the trans community. 

Another thing that made this weekend special was the opportunity to spend some time reconnecting with my "big sister", Kate.  Kate was instrumental in helping me during my transition, and I haven't seen her in over a year.  We've both changed quite a bit since our last visit, and it was so nice to be able to reconnect after such a long time.  We spent Saturday afternoon in Napa, sipping a bottle of wine at a picnic table at Rutherford Hill winery - overlooking the Napa Valley below.  I've been to that same spot a half dozen times, and each time represents something memorable and meaningful in my life.

Then, it was time to rush home to primp for the main event....

As much as I enjoyed last year's event, this year's was even better.  Our seats were to die for!  Second row - front and center!  Tippy Hedron was at our table (she was a presenter this year), as was Clive Barker (who received the lifetime achievement award).  Two producers from Univision (the Spanish television network) were there too (they won an award).  At the next table there was Sharon and Kelly Osborne, and Megan Mullaly (Karen on Will  & Grace) and her husband.  I have no idea how we merited such prime real estate, but whoever is responsible - I can't thank you enough.

Some quick impressions: The MC did a wonderful job.  I was very impressed by the mayor of San Francisco, and even more impressed by his wife.  Esera's tie looked wonderful (he was nervous about it).  The big surprise of the evening was that Robin Williams showed up and talked for a while - he was absolutely hilarious!  Joan Garry's speech was perfect - she had Kate in tears.  Megan Mullaly doesn't look like herself in person.  I don't know what perfume she wears, but Sharon Osborne smells wonderful.  I was even impressed with Kelly Osborne, who was gracious and friendly with all the folks who wanted to take photos (like me).

Anyway, by the time we left the afterparty and got to the hotel it was almost 2am, and I put in my wakeup call for 5:30 to catch a 7:30 flight back home.  I'm just now catching up on my sleep....