Donna's Blog
The View From OTHER Side.


Jan. 1 thru Dec. 31, 2007

I'm sorry about the fact you'll need to start at the bottom and work your way upward to read things in sequence.  I'll try to get around to re-sequencing one of these days....

 

Monday, December 31, 2007

11:00pm:  The ball will be falling in Times Square in a half hour to ring in the New Year on the East Coast.  I like to be able to celebrate New Year's in each time zone, although my celebration is certainly a tame one.

I received a call from a friend in the frigid northeast late this afternoon.  She was cross-country skiing with her dogs and took a photo of where she was with her iPhone and mailed them to me.  They were beautiful to the point where I played with them a little, added some text, and am sharing them here.  They look like they could be part of a calendar or something:

For my part,  I spent the afternoon hiking, spending tonight's sundown at the highest point in the Valley - Piestawa Peak.  I wanted to see the last sunset in 2007 from a symbolically high point and my effort was rewarded.  The view was spectacular and was a great way to spend the end of this year.  Here are a couple of photos from my own afternoon:

I cooked myself a T-Bone steak (on the BBQ) with fresh mushrooms cooked in a Cream Sherry glaze, baked potato, corn, and a good glass of Cab for dinner.  It's a fittingly civilized way to close out a very trying year.

I do feel compelled to say a couple of political things.  I've gotten a few inquiries about the names that I've heard are on the list that Barney/HRC are hoping to engage to talk to Congress.  The reason I haven't shared the names is that none of them, to my knowledge, have actually said that they'd participate.  They didn't ask to be on the list so exposing them to criticism or other unwarranted attention simply for being considered just isn't fair.  I have spoken directly with one of the people who has already been approached - she's conflicted about participating and I have certainly urged caution.  It it's done right it will be a wonderful thing.  If it's done wrong it will be a disaster. 

The problem at hand is larger than ENDA.  It's larger than the relationship between GLB and T.  The sooner that the supposed "leaders" who seem blind to that have one of those a-ha moments the better for all of us.  One blogster wrote this in his year-end review: "The HRC's own credibility remains the most glaring casualty of this very public schism which exposed an ever-growing rift between the lobbying organizations and those on whose behalf it repeatedly claims to advocate." That's it.  That hits the nail on the head. That's the schism - this rift between politicos who treat everyone and anyone who doesn't agree with their half-baked, short-sighted strategies as naive, wrong, stupid, or as "the enemy".  Their disdainful, we-know-what's-best-for-you attitude represents thinking that many of us left a long time ago.  The people who make up the community today are far more knowledgeable, far more engaged, far more involved than ever before.  Times have changed, and if I hear that scripted rhetoric about the incremental way that civil rights legislation gets passed in this country one more time I'm going to poke somebody in the eye.  Times have changed.  The community has changed.  It's the thinking of its "leaders" that remains in the past.

The first thing to go is your credibility.  Once that's gone, your relevancy won't be far behind.

The Presidential election will kick into high gear before the week is over and things won't quiet down until the end of the year.  I don't know about anyone else but I'm already tired of it. Let's just vote already and get it over with.  Unfortunately, we need to go through the motions of it all.  Who is best on "our" issues?  I don't know that I trust a single one of them.  My trust-factor in politicians after the ENDA mess is not high.  One certainty is that HRC will support HRC - it's just a matter of time before they announce it officially.  I'm working to see if I can talk with any of the candidates on their feelings specific to transgender issues and although I'm pretty sure my name is "mud" in political circles these days I think having a candidate talk specifically on trans issues would be huge. 

Lastly for tonight, I'm headed to my ex-home town of Austin tomorrow and will be there for a couple of days.  I'm looking forward to seeing friends there I haven't visited in way too long.  There's a little post-New Year's get-together on Wednesday so if anyone from the area wants to participate I can forward specifics.  The Holidays are a difficult time for many - I've gotten a dozen calls from friends who are experiencing some sort of difficulty over these past couple of days.  I wish I could make it better, but sometimes all any of us can offer is a shoulder to cry on, words of support, or an empathetic ear.  There are people I will be thinking about tonight as the New Year finally passes over Phoenix.  Some of them are my blood.  Some of them are people who have stood by me and who I have come to love.  And some are friends with whom I have a deeper connection than words can convey. 

With that - I'm headed to pack and to spend the final hour of 2007 on my own.  Happy New Year's to all.  Be well.  Love yourself.  Question everything.  Appreciate the small things.  And live for today, because tomorrow may never come.

1:15am:  Technically, it's already Monday although I'm still working on closing out Sunday.  Still, that would make this my first entry for the last day of the year.  I feel compelled to write a little something before going to bed.

It's funny how Serendipity happens.  As I have always understood it, the general definition of Serendipity is finding something while looking for something else.  I tend to think of it in a broader sense of finding things you didn't know you were looking for in the first place.  I did that tonight.

As may be apparent from recent writing I'm in one of those introspective times and that tends to come with a price.  I don't know how anyone can be introspective without acknowledging the emotional component that these kinds of things inherently require, and subsequently frequently cause.  For those of us who had been effective at shutting out the emotional aspect of pretty much anything for years and years opening those doors can be a floodgate.  It's important to realize what those emotions are, what they're telling you about yourself, and to acknowledge the important role they play in making you you.

That said, I was flipping channels tonight and stopped on a movie that I've seen before but I haven't really been open to any kind of deeper message.  It's actually one of my 7-year-old neice Kyrie's favorite movies and I'm told she's seen it dozens of times.  The movie is titled "Music and Lyrics" and it came out last year.  It's a cute little movie - funny, poignant, entertaining, with a good message.  The thing that strikes a chord with me tonight is the song at the heart of the movie, the song that Hugh Grant as a fading 80's pop star and Drew Barrymore as a quirky, eclectic foil with a talent for writing lyrics, get together to craft.  There's more to it, but that's the gist.

Anyway - If I could write songs to articulate how I sometimes feel, this would be one of them.  The title is "Way Back Into Love" and it fits me.  I can feel it, and it articulates how I sometime feel at introspective times like this. I actually like the "demo" version that they create in the movie the best - it's simpler and the words don't get overpowered by the strong voices and orchestration so much (see it here) (or here).  The "full" version is available as well (Hear a version on YouTube). 

It may be the late hour, the introspective mindset, or the opportunity to add a lyrical component to what I said earlier about love, intimacy, and partnership (and wedding dresses!) that's prompting me to share this but I may read it in the morning and decide I don't quite feel so open.  So, if you read it and it disappears subsequently - you'll know why.

That said - good night.   :)

 

Sunday, December 30, 2007 

11:00am:  I'm not going to talk about today as the anniversary of my dad's death other than to share that I went through a box of things from him that I got as executor of his will.  His wallet is in there.  So is his birth certificate.  There are some photos, and some things that hold sentimental value.  I'm dealing with it in my own personal way. And, I share a photo from a couple of years before his death, in 1996, of dad with his first-born. The dad that I remember is significantly younger than the version in this photo, and that he had become by the time of his death.  I miss him....

As Forrest Gump would say, "And that's all I have to say about that.....".  However, I have a couple of comments on previous entries this morning.

I attended the Grand Opening of "Club Forbidden" on Friday night with my friend Linda and we had fun.  We didn't stay very late but there are 2 dance floors there and one of them played the kind of music that can actually make me dance. It takes a unique combination of things to actually get up and dance: the right kind of music, the right amount of alcohol (a very effective "social lubricant"), the right people who are already on the dance floor, a persistent partner, the right mood.  Reading back over that sentence reminds me of many of the same ingredients that help facilitate romance but that's a whole other subject.  I did dance - they seemed to be featuring music from the 80's which is always a good bet for me.  I find that the infrequent times that I do go out to a club they're playing much more current music (most of which does not tickle my dance vibe) and perhaps more pertinent - I feel like a grandmother there.  It's generally full of younger kids and I just feel out of place.  Anyway, there was a wonderfully diverse, eclectic, fun group of people there and I hope they continue to go there.

This thing made big news.  When we drove up shortly before 8pm there were a number of TV News trucks in the parking lot and after talking to Tom apparently the media crush has been nonstop.  It made all the local newscasts and papers (The Arizona Republic, AZCentral, The East Valley Tribune, KPHO-TV), and has spotty national coverage as well.  Tom has been saying all the right things - emphasizing that this was a business decision.  He is a businessman and saw a need and an underserved group so he is working to fill that niche.  I met his wife on Friday who seems like a lovely person and I thanked them both -they're going to take a heap of crap over this.  His one news comment I found most interesting came in the context of the yearlong drama :

Anderson said the yearlong dispute did give him a new business perspective.

“If anything, it gave me a better understanding of their needs,” Anderson said. “I’m a businessman in the entertainment business, and I want to provide the best entertainment that’s out there for markets that don’t get what they need.”

Somehow, that seems like education to me.  And frankly, I think what he's doing - in a round about way - is education, as well.  Bravo to Tom, and I'll do what I can to help him cut through the crap that's likely to come.  Of course, the mostly naked guy lying on a table with strawberry deserts on his body or the topless woman with a body-paint top might have been a bit over-the-top but maybe that's just me....

On the topic of the guy from the Toyota dealership who invited me to dinner I have several things to say. First, I perceive my sexuality to be a fluid thing.  Others try to define it with a label, but the fact of the matter is that I find attraction/connection comes in many different flavors.  I tried to explain this to a reporter once and after hearing that she said, "So would you define yourself as bisexual?"  Not really.  I explained that I need a certain number of traits and that the traits I need I typically find in woman.  "So would you label yourself as a lesbian?"  Not necessarily, but I think others probably would.  It's not just a physical thing - that's what I can't seem to articulate to people who see it in purely black and white terms. 

For me, sexuality and partnership aren't purely about sex or even anything that's purely physical.  It's about intimacy - emotional, spiritual, and physical.  It's deeper than any one component and although I've certainly had my share of "fun" in recent years when I look to deeper relationships the  key to it all are those different flavors are intimacy.  Thankfully I don't need to validate my own self-worth by whether I'm in a committed relationship or not.  And - I don't need the drama or the inevitable deep-bruise to my self-esteem that trying to meet men always seems to involve.  I'd rather be alone than deal with that - it's not healthy.  I sometimes half-joke that men are generally my third choice, but I'll also admit that maybe that's just because I haven't met the right man yet who can move them up on my list. 

After I transitioned and before I started this blog I certainly experimented with guys and in fact had some very nice times.  I find that the connection with a guy is very different than the connection with women and, in fact, there's very little that makes me feel more feminine than when I'm with a guy who's treating me right. Unfortunately, it begins to feel like a competition all too quickly where he knows what he wants and I know what he wants so we're going through the motions of "courtship".  Yawn.  Still - the fact that I gave this guy my number didn't have anything to do with my sexuality (from my perspective, anyways).  He asked if he could take me to dinner and I said yes.  If "dinner" is a code-word for something more involved then maybe someone should fill me in.  In my still naive little world - dinner means dinner.

Part of what I find attractive in people is a deep comfort in who they are and an ability to overcome the typical male macho stuff.  And, this guy from the Toyota place said the right things to perk my interest but subsequently has said all the wrong things.  When we met he asked if he could take me out to dinner - I'd like that.  Dinner is good.  Non-threatening.  A good place to talk.  Well, he called me up that evening to explain to me that he wasn't a good husband but he's a great boyfriend (who's talking about wanting a boyfriend in this?  I thought it was dinner), that he's a very affectionate person (again....I thought this was dinner, and this is TMI),  that his son is very good with women and is currently laying everything that moves in San Francisco (watch out, girls).  This is the kind of stuff I'm talking about....it turns into drama right from the get go.  Opportunity lost.  There will be no dinner.

One humorous aside: I have a friend who went on a date last night with a guy who recently invited her to dinner, too.  The reason that she accepted is that she assumed that this man was gay.  She thought he was nice and figured that the dinner would be non-threatening and fun.  Anyway, she has subsequently learned that this man is apparently not gay and she was suddenly a little nervous.  I told her it was probably best that she not mention to him that she thought he was gay - despite the fact that she would mean it as a compliment straight guys typically don't take it as such.  It's probably more than a little worrisome to a straight guy to be told that he's giving off gay vibes. 

For anyone who has read my book - I had a dear man named Ralph from San Francisco in my life from early in my transition.  Ralph was wonderful to me.  He was gentle but at the same time had a strength to him.  He was respectful, and sensitive, and attentive.  He made me feel comfortable, and special, and appreciated.  He took the lead and I trusted him, he let me slowly let my guard down so I could feel vulnerable around him, he respected my boundaries, and he was patient with me as I started moving into new territory (physically, emotionally, mentally) that I had never dared allow myself to visit before.  Those are the ingredients that work for me, and my relationship with Ralph was a special one.  I experienced many firsts with him and they remain memories I enjoy and cherish to this day.  Ralph was wonderful, and I've told him more times than I can count that every woman needs a Ralph in their lives.  I miss having someone call me up and asking me out, where I don't have to do all the work, and I get tired of having to take the lead all the time.  (for those who are interested: Ralph is in Trapped In Blue, the notes that eventually became the book.  Just search on the word Ralph and you'll find it starting around April 4th).  Although we haven't spoken in a few years, Ralph rocks.

Over the past 3 or 4 months I've had 3 friends from the community get married to guys.  One called me out of the blue a month ago to tell me that she had gotten married the previous weekend.  They were going to be driving through Phoenix on their honeymoon and wanted to introduce me to her husband.  He was a very nice guy and the two of them seemed very happy - I was thrilled for both of them.  In a way, I envy them.  I'll tell anyone who asks that many of my life goals are actually pretty simple, and one near the top of the list is to be a bride and wear a wedding gown.  I really don't care what others think about that - it doesn't change he fact that I hope to experience that someday.  I'd be sad to realize that my life were ending and that dream went unfulfilled.  Anyway, I haven't lost faith.

Anyway, I hadn't expected to go off on that tangent but there you have it....

Odds and ends:


Friday, December 28, 2007
 

1:00pm:  It's only noontime and the day has already been overfull with unexpected twists and turns (some pleasant, some not).   I don't even know how these things happen.

I got up early with good intentions - my Toyota needed an oil change.  The "Maintenance Req'd" light had come on which certainly wasn't surprising since I had put almost 3,000 miles on it just by driving it across country.  I bought this car a year ago and at the time it already had 70,000 miles on it (that's how I could afford it)..  Since I got it I've criss-crossed the country with it and added nearly 20,000 miles.  Over the course of our relationship we've grown to enjoy one another.  I know it sounds silly to say that about a car but we've bonded over hours and miles to the point where I really like that car and will take care of it as long as it takes care of me.

There's a Toyota dealer not too far from here and I have a coupon for a free oil change so this seemed like it would be the most inexpensive part of my day.  Not.  Over the course of inspecting it they found several things that need to be changed/fixed/flushed/replaced to the tune of hundreds of dollars.  One salesman tried to talk me into trading it in for something newer but, as I said, I like the car and will do the maintenance to keep it healthy.  So, the shuttle van took me home until it'll be ready later today.  I don't mind sharing that this unexpected expense puts a dent in my already fragile economic health right now.  Ouch.

Anyway, while I was there I started talking to this particular salesman that I just mentioned.  He was a nice guy and we had a very pleasant conversation - lots in common.  He's a very gregarious guy who has lived all over the world and seems to enjoy life the same way that I do.  To make a long story short he asked for my number and I gave it to him.  Selling cars must be a great job for meeting women as the guy from the other dealership where I bought my car continues to call me to this day to the point where it actually makes me a little uncomfortable.  Anyway, I expect that we'll meet for dinner at some point.

Also while I was there, I got a call from Tom Anderson.  Tom is the owner of Anderson's Fifth Estate, a very popular nightclub in Scottsdale that got national notoriety when he  kicked a transgender customer out because of some complaints about things that were happening in the bathroom.  The details remain murky and, at this point, don't really matter.  It turned into a huge deal when Michelle filed a discrimination complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's office.  Things became very unpleasant on both sides.  Anyway, I met Tom  few weeks ago when I was asked to sit in on the mediation effort to put this thing to bed.  He was a nice guy - really - and I liked him from the get-go.  Fast forward to today: He called to tell me that he closed his club recently, which is shocking because it just passed it's 25-year anniversary here and has always been very popular.  Just as shocking was his news that he was re-opening it tonight as.....a gay dance club!  I think he said the new name is "Club Forbidden".  Too funny.  He kind of joked about that back when we talked but now he's actually done it.  Bravo to him for having the business sense, for recognizing the need, and for having the guts to do it.  He invited me to the Grand Opening tonight and I'll change my previous plans so I can be there. 

That's probably more information about my morning than anyone cared to hear but I think it provides a good bridge for some of the things I've been considering.  Somehow, when I visit Oak Creek Canyon to contemplate life and future the message always comes back loud and clear - Simplify.  That's easier said than done, but I'll be actively taking steps to do that over the next few weeks.  I expect that there will be changes, some of which may be surprising.

I also need to focus on my financial well-being.  I don't talk about money here because, frankly, it's personal information.  But what I'll say is that many people who go through what I've gone through make financial concessions that will haunt them for years to come.  We forfeit retirement.  We drain savings to zero.  We cut corners to make ends meet, and struggle with court imposed obligations that last long past when they should have ended.  We live paycheck to paycheck just like millions of other people do so when unexpected expenses arise there's nothing to fall back on, and it can be scary.  I have long since forgotten what it feels like to have the reassuring satisfaction of a few thousand extra dollars...."just in case". 

During my recent move I was looking through some boxes that hadn't been opened in quite a while and found my old wallet.  It was like digging up a time capsule, almost like it had been frozen in time waiting to be unsealed.  There are photos of my son - the last one is from Grade 5.  There's a Platinum American Express card, 2 debit cards from different banks, 4 Visa charge cards, a Master Card, and a Discover card.  There's a library card, an old photo of me, some receipts, but sadly - no money.  All are like artifacts from a once-affluent civilization that has long since disappeared in the sands of time.

I'm going to take my own advice to simplify by lightening my load.  I remember doing this in years past - shedding things you don't need, don't use, or simply can't afford to keep.  It's like shedding, and I expect I'll be using Craig's List quite a bit in upcoming weeks.  Some of what I'll sell has sentimental value: there's the 1940's Lionel Train Set that was my dad's, and that I got when he passed.  It has been sitting in a box in my garage for the past 8 years.  I'll sell the top I wore to the HRC National Dinner where I introduced Jessica Lange.  There is some brand-new electronic stuff that I bought with specific projects in mind that have yet to materialize so I'll need to make hard decisions on whether they'll ever come to pass.  I've got a number of football cards with various autographs (Gale Sayers, Tony Dorsett, and others) that are probably worth something.  I've got a few boxes of hard-bound copies of "Wrapped In Blue" that are my own personal stash. I've got more furniture than I can fit in this house.  All in all - I'll be lightening my load in more ways than one in coming weeks.
 

Thursday, December 27, 2007 

11:00pm:  Continuing a bit on the topic of video, I'll be attending the IFGE Conference on April 1-5, 2008.  This year it's being held in Tucson so it's almost a local event for me (details are here).  I mention this because I'm expecting to reserve a room specifically to tape interviews as part of "Our Stories, Our Selves" with those who are interested in sharing.  I expect I'll be able to offer half-hour blocks to people who want to come in, talk about their lives, their families, their experiences, or wherever the conversation goes.  I'll need help with this because I won't be able to stay in the room for the entire time so I'm actively working on that.  In any event, I'll be posting an online sign-up sheet so people who will be attending can participate if they want once things get confirmed. I'll be sure to save some spots so people can sign-up onsite, as well. 

As I type this I've been semi-watching a documentary on MSNBC that was originally broadcast last May titled "Born in the Wrong Body".  There's new version after this - apparently updates on some of the original stories.  I like that kind of stuff and I think it's so important - follow-up.  These things follow people for a short sliver of time in their lives and once they're done I'm always left wondering...."How are they doing?"  

One documentary that had a profound impact on my own journey was a 1985 HBO Production titled "What Sex Am I".  It was narrated by Lee Remick and was the first time I ever "saw" transgender people other than on Phil Donahue.  I probably have a video tape of it buried among all my other videos somewhere.  To this day I wonder whatever happened to the people they profiled in that show.  I'd love to know. 

The neat thing about these stories is that the people they're following are all young - teens or perhaps slightly older.  All seem to have lots of support and friends, and some even have boyfriends or girlfriends.  That's so amazing, so wonderful....I can't put it into words.  Those of us who held out for as long as we could never had those opportunities, and I hope these kinds of stories become the norm instead of the exception.  Life for transgender people has changed quite a bit in the past 20 years.  It blows me away to realize that most of the people they're profiling in this MSNBC documentary weren't even born when the HBO show originally came out.  Oy.

I'm beginning this introspective phase I've been talking about.  It's not like I plan it - it just seems to happen at this time of year. 

I have a personal wish list for next year. Some items on it:

I've seen a couple of very different political Op/Ed pieces recently.  One is from Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center.  It's titled "The journey to inclusion: Reflections on ENDA" and it received widespread attention in both the Advocate and on Gay.com a few weeks ago.

...We have a long, but not impassable, road before us. And we have some decisions to make as we set out on the next stage of our journey toward a fully inclusive ENDA: Do we emphasize the disappointment we feel that ENDA passed the House without gender identity included, or do we celebrate the transformation and solidarity evidenced by United ENDA? Do we vilify the people and institutions with whom we disagree, or do we increase our education and engagement efforts to lead them to the right conclusion next time?

Many people may feel disappointed and angry about the narrow and shortsighted decisions made by Congressional leaders and others in the last month or so, and rightfully so. Yet our movement's energy is generated by principles that personify our better selves -- the selves that we have the potential to be as a people and a movement. When our friends stumble and make decisions that may not represent the best in themselves, our responses need to point to the best that we can all become. These responses may (and must) critique bad decisions, but must also invite, pressure and facilitate transformation. In that spirit, I urge you to join me in celebrating the solidarity demonstrated by the United ENDA coalition, and redoubling our educational efforts in the coming months and years. Like it or not, we have a long, difficult path ahead of us. How we walk the path is just as important as where it is leading us.

Read the entire article here

It's a very optimistic piece.  I contrast that with an Opinion recently posted by Vanessa Foster titled "Want Ads: Looking for Mr. or Ms. Goodbar":

...As Jessica Xavier taught me in a phone conversation about six years ago, HRC is in the business of Political Management. It’s not about advocacy or civil rights as much as it is about ‘managing’ the sociopolitical environment to help mold public opinion favorable to the gay and lesbian rights agenda. They have not just a desire or an addiction to control, it’s in their very business description. It’s their job.

Therefore it’s easier to see why they feel need to choose our leaders for us, why they need to tell us what is inclusive language and how is the best way to achieve it, why they need to instruct us on what is politically feasible.

It’s not easier for us to take, much less accept. This is not only dismissive, but it’s flagrantly arrogant. Knowing their calculated nature, and watching their movement patterns, I’m relatively certain they intend to not only get their slate of items on their political agenda (yes, we’ll be left out), but then move to co-opt “transgender” and make it their next cottage industry in an effort to keep the paychecks and funding rolling in. As a bonus, they get more media face-time, and stand above us as self-envisioned heroes leading we hapless trans folk to our equality (and to craftily manage to assuage any former guilt).

Read the entire article here

This, as you might immediately recognize from the short passage I've included, is not an optimistic piece.  There's anger there.  There's frustration and disappointment - the same emotions that many of us feel.  My personal opinion is that she's unnecessarily harsh in her feelings about NCTE and about Mara in particular but I understand the personal dynamics involved.  That aside, her views are dead on.  Or at least, they might be.

The question I'm left asking myself is the same question that makes my beloved "A Christmas Carol" so compelling: Is the future set or can it be changed?  If we could see our future would we do something differently at some point to change it?  Based on recent history I haven't seen any indication that much of the bleak political future that Vanessa lays out won't actually come to pass.  The question at hand is whether this is destiny that cannot be changed or if there's some major shift ahead that can save it. 

Time will tell. 

Lastly for tonight, I got my first HRC boycott email for 2008:

Boycott HRC's L-Word Event

Friends,

On January 3, 2008, HRC is sponsoring the L-Word season premier at the Wild Mustang (formerly The Jungle,) at 2115 Faulkner Rd. in Atlanta. The doors open at 7 and the screening begins at 8. The Transgender Community and our supporters urge you NOT to attend this event, or to give money to HRC...

The email goes on to say that local trans-activists will be passing out flyers to people attending this event.  The first HRC dinner of 2008 will be at the end of January in Austin.  Perhaps not coincidentally, I'm working on arrangements to visit beautiful Austin for a couple of days next week.  Don't be surprised if there's another road trip in my near future...

10:30am:  I've got a few videos to share this morning: 

This video stuff is like a Pandora's Box for me.  The more I do it the more I want to do more - my head is full of ideas that have been patiently waiting.  And I don't think YouTube is the best platform for much of what I'm hoping to do.  It's great in that you can easily upload videos and share them, but there are limitations that I find chafing.  I watch videos on the internet that are crystal clear and amazing - that's my goal.  Muddy, choppy video that typically happens during compression bothers me the same way that generational loss bothered me when I made a copy of a VHS video tape.

Each of us needs something to aspire to, and my role model in this is CNET-TV at CNET.com.  If you look at the videos there - that's my goal.  Good production.  Great quality.  No delay in streaming.  I'm just at the front end of this, but stay tuned.  I've got a domain and hosting specifically reserved for uploading and hosting my own videos so we'll see where this goes.  Oh, and podcasts.  I haven't given up on that, either. As I say, this stuff is too much fun.  I feel like a kid in a candy store. (By the way, CNET.com is the one place I always go before I buy anything electronic to see what they have to say about it...it's a great resource).

One thing I typically associate with he Holidays is food.  I'll admit that I've cooked more in the last 4 days than in the last 3 months combined (that doesn't include heating up prepared foods).  Last night I cooked a steak on my grill.  Mmmmm-mmm-mmmmm.  That wouldn't be news in and of itself, but my steak knife has an amusing story: 

I was in Austin a couple of years ago visiting my friend Lisa and we went out for dinner at a nice steak restaurant downtown.  I didn't quite finish my steak and asked for a take-home box when the waiter came to take our plates into the back. A couple of minutes later someone with a very serious look on her face (that I would soon learn was the manager) approached our table.  "We have a situation," she says.  I'm wondering what kind of "situation" we could possibly have at this stage - we were done and almost ready to go.  She proceeds to explain that the waiter mistakenly threw away my small piece of left-over meat and suggested that she could cook up an entire new one for me to take home if we had the time to wait.  The thing that had particularly intrigued me about this restaurant were the steak knives.  They were big, sharp, felt good in your hand, "real" steak knives made specifically for the restaurant.  I mean, a knife has got to be pretty impressive for you to stop and take notice of it, and these were very impressive.  I've got a half-dozen Henckel steak knives in my knife block at home but, truth be told, they're kind of dainty when compared to more substantial knives like these.  Anyway, it was really no big deal but I told the manager that we had been admiring the knives and if perhaps I could have one we'd call it even.  She did me one better and I ended up with a pair of them, brand new in the box.  Too funny.

On a more personal note, it struck me this morning that the anniversary of my dad's death is a couple of days away.  He died unexpectedly sometime during the night of Dec. 29 or the early morning of Dec. 30, 1998 from complications of diabetes.  At that point he had been bi-weekly dialysis for couple of years, had lost much of the function in his fingers and toes due to neuropathy, and much of the joy in life had long since drained for him.   I still can't believe he's gone sometimes and I wonder if that ever goes away.  And even though we chose to celebrate his life more than mourn his passing we all still miss him in our own way.  I wonder if that ever goes away, too.

I was still living at home at the time, with my wife and son, hanging on to that old life by a thread.  I had been on hormones for a couple of years and life in our house had been absolutely hell for a number of months and the irony is that much of the joy in life had drained at that point for me, as well.  I had been relegated to the guest bedroom which was fine, except that my wife turned off the telephones at night so she wouldn't be disturbed.  I didn't find out that my dad had died until I got to work the next morning and heard the message that my mom had left for me there.  The impacts large and small that this has had on me are incalculable, an in fact continue to reverberate. 

I will do something special to mark Dec. 29.  I still have some of my dad's ashes, and depending on weather I wouldn't be surprised if a road trip to somewhere beautiful were in my very near future. 
 

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 

11:30pm:  Another Chritsmas quietly comes to an end.  The list of things I had hoped to do today remains largely undone and that's fine.  Go-with-the-flow means never having to say you're sorry. 

I only have a couple of thing to share tonight before heading to bed.  First, I spoke with dear Elizabeth today and the big news from her is that she resurrected her website.  This is the 3rd incarnation since I've known her and the first since she took the last one down a couple of years or more ago.  For those who want to visit, her url is www.mselizabeth.com.  Just know that the email link doesn't actually send an email - if you go there you'll see what I mean.

I got a piece of trans-political mail in my in-box today that probably deserves comment but it's Christmas and I refuse to mix the two.  It can wait.

I finished my video "production" from Day 2 of my cross-country trip.  I uploaded it to YouTube in a number of different formats to see what difference, if any, that had on output quality.  YouTube converts all the videos that you upload so videos that appear clear and sharp locally might lose quite a bit of detail during the conversion/compression process to actually get it on YouTube - especially if there's lots of motion in them.  I expect to post the originals of my videos - not the compressed versions - on a separately hosted site sometime soon but that'll be one of my 2008 resolutions.

 

2:00pm:  I hope everyone is enjoying a happy, healthy, peaceful Christmas.  Mine has been wonderful so far.

I don't have stocking.  I don't have a tree.  I don't have anything to unwrap.  But I've got so much more in terms of personal peace to the point where none of that has any importance.  Part of the problem with what Christmas has become for many is that people's self-worth is somehow perceived to be connected to the number/value of the gifts they receive.  That's a fool's game, and those who choose to play are destined to lose one way or another.

I've been feeling like a kid with a brand new toy today.  It started late last night when I began importing clips for Part 2 of My Trans-America video and it hasn't worn off yet.  I stayed up until after 2am working on it, and was at it again this morning.  Hours have just flown by and I don't know where they've gone.  It's just so much fun to get into the creative/technical work it takes to do this kind of stuff, and the tools are amazing.  I've got more full-featured, complicated, expensive, and impressive tools to edit video on my Apple than iMovie, but for what I'm doing it's more than fine.  The real beauty is that you can become functional on it in a relatively short period of time and although I'm still certainly learning I'm thrilled to death with the results.

I could go into detail about what I've learned but perhaps the most interesting recent discovery is the potential for interaction between these movies, iTunes, and an iPod (I don't have an iPod, an iPhone, or any other iToys, either).  I have tested all of the "Export" features to determine the quality of the output (different sizes, frame rates, formats) and I've learned that the best that this tool produces is to export it to a M4V file that it automatically loads into iTunes.  The output is gorgeous.  Way cool. 

Anyway, I want to create a brief intro for it sometime today to put it into context and I hope to upload the end result to YouTube sometime later today or tomorrow. This is a blast.  Now I know why I went to college for this stuff.  At the time (late 70's, early 80's) I was frustrated by the tedious linear nature of it and the limitations of the medium, both of which seemed to get in the way of the creative possibilities.  But now, it's a whole new world that people like me can enter with an $89 video recorder and a fairly basic computer.  Amazing.

Oh.  One more thing.  I was with my friend Roberta-Ann at the Apple Store last weekend waiting to take one of the free workshops that they offer (this one was on .Mac) when one of the sales-people came up and asked if we needed help.  I had a question on uploading content from iWeb to a hosting server and showed this person what I had been able to do after a 1-hour One-on-one training using iWeb: I showed them the TransEducate website.  Anyway, this email popped up in my in-box yesterday...

Hi. I don't know if you remember me or not, but we met at Apple. I'm an employee there; You were waiting for a .Mac workshop with your friend, and you showed me your websites. I just wanted to say that you were fun and interesting to talk to, and that I really respect what it is that you are putting out there. Feel free to email me back or to ask for me next time you are in Apple. I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

The word "education" is getting tossed around quite a bit these days but this is the kind of education that "feels" best to me.  It's opportunities to share with a complete stranger in a non-threatening, non-in-your-face, totally unplanned yet personal way.  To share what I did with her doesn't diminish, threaten or concern me in any way and the fact that this person took the time to write this email is testament to the power simple gestures can have.  It doesn't have to happen in a classroom, or in front of a big group of people.  The education that transcends politics, media, and sensationalism is the one-on-one interaction we experience each and every day.  I respect this person for writing to me, and I'll probably write to the store manager in appreciation for this extra "personal" service.  Rock on...

The day is half gone and I have no idea where it all went.  The sun is streaming in my windows.  I have straightening to do.  I've got a 5-mile run ahead of me.  I have ham to cook for dinner.   I still haven't given up on "A Christmas Carol" yet.   I don't have to be anywhere or anything to anyone today so time feels fluid.  All in all - a very good Christmas.
 

Monday, December 24, 2007

10:00pm:  It's Christmas Eve.  For everyone who reads this - whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you are able to  enjoy the spirit of this Holiday Season (and whatever that means to you).  This time of year means different things to each of us.  For me, to distill it to one word - the word would be "Hope".  It is a time to renew hope as one year closes, and another opens.  The fact that my father passed away at this time of year makes that feeling of "Hope" even more profound for me as it takes on a very personal shape.  It's hard to explain but then again deeply felt emotion doesn't always lend itself well to words.

I have defined the Holiday in ways that are personally relevant to me.  The fact that they may not match what others traditionally expect or celebrate at this time of year doesn't make it any less real or important for me.  I'm not willing to debate the meaning of the Holidays - whether it be Christmas, Hanukah, New Years - with anyone because it means whatever we want it to.  It means whatever gives it personal relevance.  There was a time in my life when Christmas was grounded in family, and more specifically, in my son when he was a child. Those days have gone, and that's not a good or a bad thing so much as a simple reality, and I have since redefined the meaning in ways more appropriate to my current life needs. 

One of our favorite things to do on Christmas Eve while growing up was to watch A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. I've been surfing channels all night long and haven't found it, which is disappointing.  I have 200+ channels and it's not on a single one of them?  Very disappointing.  The Godfather is on tonight.  Forrest Gump is on, too. Goodfellas is even on.  There are a couple of more recent Christmas movies: Bad Santa, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Story.  But no classic version of A Christmas Carol.  <Sigh>

In it's place, during my surfing I somehow landed on MTV-Hits which is showing back-to-back MTV Unplugged shows. I just watched one I didn't even know they did - Korn.  If any band would seem a difficult fit for an "Unplugged" treatment it would be Korn.  I've seen them in concert and the scene can be almost surreal.  Really.  Someone uploaded a clip of "Blind" to YouTube and if you can wait until about a minute and a half into it when it really gets cranked watch the crowd and you'll see what I mean. See it here, or here

Still, the one thing that impressed me at the time and certainly comes through in the Unplugged is the musical talent of the band.  By stripping away some of the louder and more frenetic layers you get almost a whole new song.  Very cool.  The guest vocalists were pretty eclectic, too: Robert Smith (the lead singer for The Cure) and Amy Lee (Evanescence).  Anyway - a very enjoyable way to spend the evening.

I noted earlier today that there are some things from the "old" days that seem to have disappeared, and that I actually miss.  For example - Warner Brothers cartoons.  They're not on anymore!  I can't believe we have generations of kids growing up not watching Bugs Bunny on Saturday mornings.  Crazy.  I found that you can actually buy episodes on iTunes for $1.99 and download them - so I did. 

I saw a funny commercial this evening.  I've watched it a dozen times and the ending still makes me laugh (watch it here). 

Anyway, I didn't expect that tonight's entry would cover so much ground but I suppose that's just how my mind is working this evening.  And with that I'm going to go and pour myself an eggnog and rum, and "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night."


Sunday, December 23, 2007

11:00pm:  Today was one of those important "soul" days that each of us needs every once in a while.  I got up early and spent the day traveling around Arizona: Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon,  Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Jerome, Prescott.  The sky was clear blue, morning temperatures in the low 40's warmed into the 60's by midday, roads were clear, there was snow up north.  I hiked a bit.  I took lots of photographs.  On the way home a huge full moon fresh from the winter solstice rose like a spotlight in the sky.  After nearly 400 miles on the road  I got home, cooked Chicken Cordon Bleu, and enjoyed a nice glass of wine.  All in all - a fine day.

I had some specific photography goals today and am interested to see the results.  I didn't want to take any panorama shots, focusing instead on more close-up perspectives. I find it makes you look at things more closely, and with a more critical eye.  I wanted water shots - Oak Creek has some wonderful locations for that.  And, I wanted to play around a bit with some of the controls on my camera.  I downloaded a couple dozen of the photos to see how they turned out and am sharing some of them on my Blog Photo page.

A couple of times during the day I stopped to remind myself that today is Christmas Eve eve.  In fact, on my drive back home my brother called.  He was finishing up some last minute shopping and had a question.  My day was far removed from that.  Thankfully...
 

Saturday, December 22, 2007

11:30am:  I uploaded a new video to YouTube last night.  It's Part 1 of what I expect will be a Trilogy of videos documenting my drive cross country last month.  It's certainly not deep and, in fact, is probably little more than a glorified home movie but the drive was fun, the scenery was nice, filming it helped pass the time, and I think it's important to keep the "fun" in the things we do. Anyway, here it is:

This was as much a learning experience for me as anything.  I learned about some of the shortcomings of this cute little camera that I got (it records using a DivX codec that requires third-party software to work on the Mac, and although it was compatible with the previous version of iMovie it doesn't work with the most recent one).  I learned a bit about the basics of using iMovie.  The best part of the entire thing is that it took me 6 hours and the time just flew by.  I got into one of those zones where you just lose track of time for hours at a time.  The last time I can remember being like that was when I'd sit down to write what eventually became my book.  I miss it. 

The disappointing aspect of this is that he version that's on YouTube doesn't come close to matching the quality of the version on my Mac.  By the time it gets converted, compressed, and otherwise "handled" it's a muddier version that's a pale copy of the original.  I'd love to be able to distribute things to people who would be interested via CD - to keep the original quality and, in fact, to offer additional things it's difficult (or simply not appropriate) to share to the broader audience on the internet. Anyway, I may investigate options there. We'll see.

Oh, BTW - there are a few shots from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce dinner in the video.  It was held at the Building Museum in Washington DC which was as amazing a venue for something like this as I've seen.  I was intrigued by the ice bar in the video - and that's what it was, a bar totally made out of ice.  For those looking for photos from the actual event you can see them here.  I helped to present one of the awards but didn't stay late - I had a lot of driving to do the next day.

Speaking of using new tools and learning, Jamison and I have been working on a more robust web presence for TransEducate.com and I uploaded our most recent changes there.  I think it looks great - certainly lots left to do there but it's a good beginning and it sets a foundation that we can build upon.

I've got lots of things on my list over this next week.  I want to set up my drum kit.  I want to spent time learning the photo software on my Mac and working with the photos from Glacier National Park, and from my Autumn in Rochester.  I want to do a road trip to a National Park for a couple of days with some of my dad's ashes.  There are some things I want to write.  All in all, that's the extent of my Holiday Spirit and I'm fine with it.

The Holidays can be horribly difficult for many because they remind you of the things you don't have in your life.  If you don't have family, or a partner, or money, or spiritual outlets - it's easy to let the weight of it all become oppressive.  I celebrate this time of year in my own way and it keeps my mind from wandering into places where it shouldn't go.  Some of us don't celebrate the Holidays - we endure them.  We survive them for another year.  The key, I think, has been to redefining thing in life in ways that are healthy for you.  Being able to go someplace quiet, to bring my dad's ashes, to spent some quiet time reflecting on things - that's what the Holidays mean to me now. 

The UPS truck delivered a box from my sister yesterday.  In it was a live 18" Christmas tree in a pot, a dozen 1" ornaments, and a strand of 20 Christmas lights.  She knows that I'm not very festive at this time of year so she sent me all the "equipment" to do it.  Too cute.  Anyway, I'll find a place to set it up as my shrine to the Holidays.  :)

Speaking of a shrine for the Holidays, various people in the community are making end-of-year statements looking back on events of this past year.  I'm finding the various spins to be very interesting.  For example, Kevin Naff (the editor of the Washington Blade) titled his piece "A disappointing year."

...And so 2007 draws to a frustrating and disappointing close. Hate crimes legislation appears dead. ENDA faces an uncertain future in the Senate and the House debate proved unnecessarily divisive. No hearings on ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and no movement on efforts to address immigration rights for bi-national gay couples.

The recent setbacks remind us that achieving equality under the law will take more time and patience and will require us to hold elected officials accountable for their promises.

(Read the article here) - The Washington Blade, Dec. 14, 2007

Joe Solmonese from HRC released his End of Year Message yesterday:

...2007 was a year that began with great hope, and ends with promise. Looking back on this momentous year, I am proud of how far we have come.

Behind us is 2007, the year of hope, when our community’s voice was more powerful and more relevant than it had ever been.  Down by the White House, the National Christmas Tree glows beneath a grim grey sky.  It is a beautiful sight. Like so many Washington traditions, from Fourth of July fireworks to election night parties, it reminds me that we are in the center of everything.  In 2007, George W. Bush lit that tree for the seventh time.  Ironically, he is what keeps us in the periphery, at the brink of great accomplishments, but short of making law.  By this time next year, we could be celebrating the election of a supportive president.  We know that this is what it will take to translate promise to results, and we are committed to making it happen.

(Read the entire message here) - End of year Message from HRC President Joe Solmonese

The online outlet for Logo Television is 365Gay.com and they list their top Top 10 Gay Stories of 2007 (read the list here).

I agree that there is optimism although not as much as many seem to want to portray.  I think we've learned a lot which, will prove to be good or bad depending on how we use what we think we've learned.  There is certainly promise.  But the thing I can't quite understand is how anyone can write about this past year without acknowledging the pain, the hurt, the anger, the disappointment and frustration, the disillusionment that so many feel right now. It's not a political discussion so much as more personal one about the health of "community" and whatever that means to us. 

To me, the big story this year is not that no pro-Gay legislation got passed despite the early promise.  It's not about scandal.  It's not about the election.  It's about the bruise on the community that threatens to become infected even now.  Any end-of-year message that doesn't at least mention that is like a FEMA 2005 end-of-year retrospect that somehow omits mention of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that she wrought.  Or, Larry Craig's 2007 Christmas Letter without the word "bathroom" in it .  It demonstrates a fundamental disconnect about priority and community that concerns me.  Anyway - I'll sit down with a glass of wine one of these evenings and pen my own thoughts.  It's a good way of gaining mental closure on one year, and getting ready for the next.

Who will speak for "community"?  There's certainly no one person who can do that.  But if nobody does it simply because there's no single voice who can speak for everyone then there's a serious problem. Anyway....it's certainly a deeper topic than I have time for right now.

Ethan St. Pierre interviewed the always amazing Jamison Green on his radio show last weekend and it's available online now (Listen to it here).  It's worth a listen.

I've got a few things on my plate today.  I want to get a rug to put under my drum kit, and perhaps a few new drum heads.  I have some photos of my son that I was planning to mail to him, but would feel more comfortable delivering in person.  I want to see the movie "I am Legend."  I need to do a shopping, to do some cleaning, and to decorate my new tree (that ought to take about 10 minutes).  Anyway, Happy Holidays to all. 

Thursday, December 20, 2007

11:30pm:  In my retrospective mood I've been thinking about the past lately. So tonight we play a new game I'll call "Then or Now?"   Tonight's entry is a statement released by the Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign.  It's titled "ENDA and the Transgender Community".

ENDA and the Transgender Community

One of the most intricate, important and challenging issues to ever face the Human Rights Campaign is how to grapple both legally and authentically with the issue of "gender identity and expression."

Transgender people have always been part of our community. We have marched together, been brutalized together and embraced each other in the hardest of times. Usually, it is transgender people both transitioning individuals and gender nonconforming gay and lesbian folks who are on the front lines. They are the first to be fired, the first to be rolled into a ditch for kicks, the first to be humiliated in ways large and small each day.

For years, transgender leaders have been adamant that protection based on "gender identity and expression" be incorporated into the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). There have been a number of challenges in this regard. First, many of us actually believed there was a better and faster way to achieve protection for gender identity and expression under gender protection laws. The challenge on that front stems from concern about opening up Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which some feel is the logical route to achieve such protection.

Second, with the near passage of ENDA in the Senate in 1996, we hoped against all odds we could pull it through before President Clinton left office. That was then, this is now.

Since December, our team of professional lobbyists has done yeoman's work, advocating with everything they've got to make this specific change to ENDA. This work has been done passionately, using every imaginable moral and legal argument that was developed by a working group of transgender leaders, community litigators and HRC staff.

Make no mistake, in our hearts and minds, the boards and staff of HRC are committed to including and protecting the transgender community. We will leave no one behind. As we continue on this odyssey, we are searching for a pragmatic, just and timely key that will unlock the door for transgender civil rights and protections.

It took decades to educate the country on gay issues, and we must now educate America about the bias and discrimination facing our transgender brothers and sisters. HRC working with transgender and community leaders is opting to work with members of Congress to educate them and to develop a new strategy for a fresh unified bill that will address the discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. In this way, we will have an opportunity to reposition the issues, and redouble our efforts to provide the extensive education that will be required to make progress.

A dual track will not satisfy the hearts of those who have focused on ENDA only as a solution. Some will be angry, and we respect that anger. But, the reality of the current situation is clear: At this point, we cannot get where we need to through that one narrow tunnel.

This new bill approach may not feel as pure, or as noble, or as emotionally satisfying to some, but we believe that the broader path we are pursuing is the best course of action for our entire community.

The simple truth is that this is not an ideal solution, but it is the best and brightest work of a group of idealists working within an imperfect system. HRC is committed, heart and soul, to achieving equality for the entire GLBT community. It will take time and hard work and we will have to bring our nation along slowly. But make no mistake, history is unfolding before us, faster than ever before, and we will not stop our pursuit of equality for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans until victory has been won.

Who said this?  And when?  Actually, these are the words of former HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch in a statement released June 16, 2003. (read it here)

For those engaged in activism at that point the events of 2007 must seem maddeningly familiar.  In fact, these words are ever bit as appropriate today as they were four and a half years ago when they were written.  She talks about how we're one community.  "We will leave no one behind" - got it.  ..."redouble our efforts to provide the extensive education that will be required to make progress" - here we go again.  "...not an ideal solution..."  - you got that right.

Elizabeth Birch was demonized in the community for this. The difference between then and now is that at least Elizabeth tried to reach out to the community personally.  Elizabeth demonstrated at least a shred of respect for transgender leaders, and for the collective anger of the community.  Current leadership has not.  Other than that - the arguments are the same, the "cure" is the same, and the outcome seeming painfully familiar.

There is an effort underway to engage transgender people to speak to Congress - targeting late January or early February.  The effort is being led by Barney Frank's office and they have reached out to someone they perceive as politically astute, pragmatic, and a "friend" to take that message forward.  They have engaged Susan Stanton who has in turn contacted some on the very short list of people who Barney's office has identified as meeting 2 criteria: 1) they are well regarded in the trans community and 2) they have not been overly publicly critical of recent ENDA shenanigans.  Needless to say, it's a short list.

I heard 5 names on that list - many of which most would probably recognize.  It is not a diverse group.  There were no FTM's.  All are white, and come from professional backgrounds. All are relatively affluent, and live on the East side of the country. To be sure, all would be wonderful representatives.  Some have contacted me to get my thoughts on whether they should be involved or not, worried about how they'll be perceived in the community if they do, wanting to do the right thing.  But the problem is that this group, as esteemed as it is, sends the wrong message.  Partly because it is hand picked by politicians who have demonstrated their own ignorance about us without any input from the community.  And partly because many of the voices who should be talking are not being given consideration. 

Is this progress?  I sure hope so.  Somehow, though, it doesn't feel like it.   We've come so far in recent years in some respects.  In others, it's apparent we haven't moved much at all.  Then or now?  The answer is "yes". 

11:30am:  Another story in the news recently are some comments that Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made in 1992 that AIDS patients should be isolated (read more here).  Needless to say, this raised hackles in the GLBT community (and rightly so).  HRC engaged Ryan White's mother and asked for a meeting with Gov. Huckabee.  After repeated requests - no response.  Nothing.  Shut out.  Dis-empowered.  Left standing on the outside looking in.  It's maddening, frustrating, infuriating to be dismissed like that.  I sympathize with her.  Somehow, I think we all know how she feels.

8:30am:  The recent news story about a Southern Utah University student denied student housing until he can "prove" his sex is the tip of a much deeper problem.  The sad fact of the matter is that we've been focused on Employment discrimination (and ENDA)  but transgender people face legal, institutionalized discrimination in housing, public accommodations and other areas all across this country.  It needs to become a priority for someone to fix these things, but since it's not on the radar (can you spell agenda?) we flail our arms and bark at the moon for a couple of weeks when they happen, but nothing gets done to address the source of the problem. 

I want to share just how deeply engrained into the fundamental laws of this country the prejudices of the past regarding transgender people are, why language is critical, and why it's important to change them.

There is a section in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that specifically deals with "Transvestites".  Section 508 reads:

SEC. 508. TRANSVESTITES.
For the purposes of this Act, the term "disabled" or "disability" shall not apply to an individual solely because 
that individual is a transvestite.

A little farther down there is a section that outlines the definitions used in the Act:

SEC. 511. DEFINITIONS.

(a) Homosexuality and Bisexuality.--For purposes of the definition of "disability" in section 3(2), homosexuality and bisexuality are not impairments and as such are not disabilities under this Act.

(b) Certain Conditions.--Under this Act, the term "disability" shall not include--

(1) transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders;

(2) compulsive gambling, kleptomania, or pyromania; or

(3) psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.

Why is this important?  Why should anyone care?

First, a probably least important, is that it perpetuates the outdated and pejorative term "Transvestite".

Second, does it strike anyone as curious that Homosexuality and Bisexuality are identified all by themselves in definition (A), but "transvestism" and "transsexualism" are listed right along with pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and "other sexual behavior disorders" in (b)(1)?  Somebody made a conscious decision to do this at a time when we didn't have the visibility to stop it, and it continues the stigma that somehow all these things are related.  I'm not advocating that transgender be considered a disability.  What I'm saying is that by including transgender with others identified as "sexual behavior disorders" it enables people to discriminate in other ways.  It sends a message beyond this particular piece of legislation. 

Third, beyond the symbolic value of this, why should anyone care?  Because in the Fair Housing Act, and in other applications ranging from employment law, to university housing, to any number of local ordinances, this wording is extracted and used verbatim.  Some examples:

The term for this is institutionalized discrimination.  The deeper you look, the more you'll find. It's scary and it gets thrown back in our face time after time.

Lastly, I think a key learning is that once you've passed legislation it's much, much, much harder to go back and change it.  People move on to other things.  It's not important.  If ENDA gets passed without protection on the ground of Gender Identity does anyone really believe the cavalry will be coming over the hill to fix it?  It will stay broken - institutionalized discrimination - for a long time. That's why people should be so angry about current strategy.  The scariest (and most maddening) thing is that our "leaders" will have allowed it to happen.

I approached HRC lobbyists almost 2 years ago to try to get some kind of engagement internally so we could actively work to change the wording.  The political landscape was such that opportunities to move the ball forward were few and far between, but highlighting this as a target so we could move when the opportunity presented itself was important.  At the very least, we need to move the transgender definitions to their own bullet-point similar to (a) homosexuality and bisexuality.  I arranged 2 separate phone conversations on this topic with our lobbyists and political strategists, and we agreed that our best opportunity to change this would be when something was happening to amend the ADA.  We agreed to keep our eyes open for potential opportunities. 

Fast forward to today.  Does it surprise anyone to learn that there is, indeed, a bill to amend the ADA of 1990 currently in play in the Senate?  Right now.  S. 1881 would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to restore the intent and protections of that Act.  How?  By updating some of the definitions.  When was it last discussed?  A month ago.  On 11/15/2007 hearings were held. (details here).  Is there anything in it dealing with the definitions for "transvestism" and "transsexualism"?  Of course not.  Is anyone from any GLBT organization even aware?  I seriously doubt it.  Opportunity lost.

When are leading GLBT political advocacy organizations going to go to bat on issues that are uniquely T-related?  When someone pushes them hard enough to.  And where is NCTE on this?  I cut them some slack because they've been over-stretched by ENDA in recent months and remain under-staffed, under-funded, and under-appreciated but I hope they make it priority #1 to develop an offensive game plan that get to the heart of many of these institutionalized problems.  The sad reality for so many of these things is that until we can get to the bottom and fix them at their roots we're doomed to seeing them happen again and again - and flailing our arms and barking at the moon. 

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

11:30pm: There are less than 2 weeks left in the year.  I'll be doing some sort of Year-In-Review as we get closer to the ball falling in Times Square.  It has certainly been quite a year and I think it requires some time for honest reflection.

I spent some of my time today writing my annual Christmas letter.  I have had it half-written for a few days now but the inevitability of Christmas has finally pushed me to get it done. It's quite the process and involves no small level of time and effort to write, reproduce, fold, address and mail.  Anyway, the first batch went out tonight and the rest will be done by this time tomorrow.

During my various errands this afternoon I stopped by Best Buy.  It was surprisingly calm there which would concern me if I were a stock holder but thrilled me as a crazed last-minute shopper.  I will share a recent epiphany: I have come to recognize that the most significant invention of recent years is not the iPod or the iPhone.  It's the gift card.  

I also stopped by the Apple Store for another of my One on One trainings.  I have been trying to create the video from my drive across the country last month and have been having a problem I can't get past so I had two people there helping me today.  We fixed it.

I'm going to mention a couple of recent news stories here this evening.  A couple of weeks ago I included a YouTube clip from The View where one of the hosts argued that she could not accept it if her child asked to express himself/herself in ways that were not "appropriate" to their gender  (see it here).  I'm not saying there's a cause and affect, but that's the thing that immediately came to mind as I read a news article from yesterday:  

7-year-old Beaten for Wearing Nail Polish

A man was arrested after allegedly beating a 7-year-old boy with a belt because the boy applied pink polish to his nails, according to Orange County, Fla., sheriff's deputies.

Read the entire article - Dec. 17, 2007

The second news story is about a student at Southern Utah University:

Transgender student asked for proof

A transgender student at Southern Utah University is being told he must prove he is a male before housing officials will accommodate him.

The school's policy requires that Kourt Osborn, 22, who two years ago initiated transgender treatment and has been living as a man, must either provide school officials proof he's undergone medical interventions or that he's been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday.

Read the entire article - United Press International - Dec. 19, 2007

And the last thing I want to mention is about setting expectations...

I listened to a few clips from the most current edition of HRC President Joe Solmonese's weekly XM Radio program, "The Agenda'. One segment includes 3 different news writers/editors/bloggers in a roundtable discussion about the year in review.  One of the things they discussed was the high expectations that the gay community had for real progress on its issues after the 2006 elections.  Joe seems to feel that expectations were not managed appropriately. 

I share that because the show also includes an interview with openly gay Mass. Representative Barney Frank that they have hopefully titled "The State of the GLBT Movement".  Frankly, I don't think either Joe or Barney are in a position to provide anything more than opinion about "the movement" but that's neither here nor there.  The thing that's most important to hear is that Barney confirms something that many have been suspecting for a while now - that he expects to push a "sexual orientation" only version of ENDA again in 2009.  He talks a little about the "ick" factor and how he feels that transgender people are facing that same "eeeew" reaction that gays and lesbians faced 35 years ago.  But when it comes to his legislative vision for the next couple of years I transcribed his comments and here's what he says:

"At this point three important pieces of legislation to vindicate our rights, or – there have been three votes: two in the House and one in the Senate saying, “No. It’s wrong to mistreat people because of their sexual orientation and with regard to hate crimes on their gender identity.”  That doesn’t yet become law. It does mean this, and I’m confident of this: If in 2009 people who are pro-LGBT win the presidential election – I wish I wasn’t partisan but right now that means the Democrats – and we have a couple more Senators who are pro-LGBT, they you’re going to see, I think, by the end of 2009 the Employment Non-Discrimination Law will become law.  It will be illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation anywhere in the country.  A hate crimes law including protection for people who are transgender will have passed.  And we will be, at that point, well on our way to try to extend this to people who are transgender and to getting rid of the ban of gays in the military."

Barney Frank on "The Agenda" - Dec. 17, 2007  (listen to it here)

The reason I share this here is that somebody (Joe?  Barney?) needs to be forthcoming and to come clean about the next round of ENDA long before 2009.  If they're already setting their sights low then what, exactly, have they learned?  Expectations need to be set early so people are not confused by conflicting strategies, stories, commitments, and excuses.  HRC will do whatever Barney tells them to do and if Barney has already made up his mind (as his statement seems to indicate that he has) then things will get bigger and badder the next time around.  Oy.
 

Monday, December 17, 2007

10:30pm: This morning I wrote about the days before I could go and sit in a make-up chair at a cosmetics counter.  This afternoon I went to have a pre-employment drug test and couldn't help but remember a similar experience shortly before I started to transition.  I knew I didn't have anything to worry about in terms of drugs so that was no problem.  But in my overall life-frenzy I was afraid they'd somehow detect that I was on estrogen and THAT was how I'd be outed.  Looking back on it, it wasn't an intellectual fear but a purely emotional one - as the moment of truth got closer the more worried I got about everything.  I am SO glad to be past those days.

I've been reminded of times past by several things recently.  I see that Dan Fogelberg died yesterday.  He was only 56 years old, and I remember him from high school.  In a way, his voice is one of the things that defined my teen years.  If you've read here very long you'll know that music is a significant part of my life, and when I think back to late high school/early college (late 70's) the artists that immediately come to mind are Kiss, Peter Frampton, the Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, and Dan Fobelberg.  I'm sure I could think of other if I set my mind to it but there are artists who define times of our lives and those are some of mine.  Their passing does not go unnoticed.

As I type this I'm watching the end of Led Zepplin Live on VH1 Classic.  Talk about the passing of time - they just reunited for a concert in the UK and there's all kinds of talk about the possibility of a tour.  I was watching VH1 the other morning as background noise and noticed a video of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss from their new CD together.  It's kinda country/rockabily-ish, very different for Robert Plant (see it here).  They harmonize well together.

The Buffalo Bills game in Cleveland yesterday was one of those winter games that seems to happen once every 5 or ten years (see photos here).   It was played in a driving snowstorm that made it almost impossible to see the field, much less play a professional football game on it, and these kinds of things are becoming more and more rare as traditionally cold-weather winter cities build domed stadiums.  I have endured more than my fair share of those kinds of games during my many years as a season ticket holder of an autumn/winter sport played in a city synonymous to "snow" for many in this country.  The words "lake effect" are enough to send chills down the spine of anyone from Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, or Syracuse.  Sunday afternoon's storm made me smile, even though the outcome of the game was disappointing.

I had lunch with my son today.  My ex- wants a nice photo of him which is problematic because a) he hates having his picture taken and b) makes goofy faces as a result.  I brought my good camera with me so after lunch we went outside, found a shady spot, and I took a bunch of pictures figuring that at least ONE of them would be acceptable to the powers that be.  I was right.  There are a couple of really great ones.  Speaking of photography one of the things I'm hoping to do over the next few weeks is to spend some time with my photos from this past year: Glacier National Park, Autumn in Rochester, various other things.  I'm going to find a way to sell some of them - not so much to make money (any money I make would just go into more lenses, cameras, or gadgets anyways) but to realize a dream of taking photographs that others would like enough to actually want to own. 

As these next couple of weeks come and go to close 2007 I'll be sifting through things, seeking closure in some areas, and making decisions about 2008.  One big event on the horizon is to finally finish paying my ex-wife the court-mandated monthly support; anything I can do to make that happen sooner than planned is good in my book.  That single thing impacts so much in my world that finally getting past it is almost unimaginable.  Career stuff?  Community stuff?  Relationship stuff?  Health stuff?  General life stuff?  All will be on my mind in coming weeks and months and I expect my writings to reflect the introspection that these considerations require. 

9:00am: There are 8 shopping days before Christmas.  It doesn't "feel" like the Holidays in the typical sense.  I see that the Northeast has gotten slapped with freezing rain, ice, and now a mountain of snow over the last week.  I know there are those who enjoy the winter weather as a part of the Holiday "package" - romantic notions of a White Christmas are a big deal.  I do not count myself among them and, if anything, seeing what this storm has done to travel and airports simply reinforces my plan to avoid airports and crowds over the Holidays wherever possible.  It's not a Bah-Humbug so much as a need to close our the year with some level of calm.

I was watching the news this morning and they said that 40% of people don't decorate at all over the Holidays.  Conversely, that indicates that 60% do.  That number seems high to me.  What I will say is that many of the people in my neighborhood take their Holiday decorating very seriously so those numbers probably hold true here.  One house has a life sized manger in front.  Another has a blow-up snow globe on the front walkway and another has a blow-up gigantic Scooby-doo with a Santa hat on the roof.  By day it's just a pile of cloth on the roof but sometime around dusk they turn on the generator and it's transformed to a cartoon animal.  It's too funny.

I live my Holidays vicariously through others.  Last Thursday I went over to a friend's house to enjoy her tree and holiday decorations.   And, the single biggest indicator for me of the Holidays isn't the weather, it's the parties.  Dr. Meltzer has his annual Holiday party on Saturday night, and last night a group of us including some out of town friends, Dr. Becky and Margaux, and some other local folk got together for a very pleasant dinner. 

This was truly a weekend of balance.  I went for good, long runs both days and I indulged on Holiday sweets.  I watched some football yesterday afternoon and got a make-over yesterday evening.  I spent time at the mall (crazy) and time at home catching up on cleaning, paying bills, and starting my Christmas cards.  It was a very pleasant weekend.

I'm including a few pics from the various weekend festivities here.  In the photos from last night (bottom row) you'll notice more dramatic than usual eyes - I stopped by the MAC store to exchange some of my empties (they have a program where you can trade in 6 empty containers for free stuff) and since it wasn't too busy they did an eye make-over.  Those things are too fun and I couldn't help but think back to the days when the thought of being able to walk into a store, sit in a makeup chair, and do that kind of thing was something I could only dream about.  I hope I never lose my appreciation or my sense of enjoyment from those simple things.


The band at Dr. Meltzer's Holiday Party


Me, Roberta-Ann, Mel, Margaux, Dr. Becky, friend, and Monica Helms

Mara from NCTE is visiting Texas this week.  She was in Austin on Saturday and is headed across the state for the rest of the week.  Here's the schedule - If you live in Texas and can get a chance to see her it's well worth your time.  Please say 'hi' for me:

Dallas, Monday:  6:30 pm at the Resource Center of Dallas; 2701 Regan Street (214) 528-0144

 Houston, Tuesday:  7:30pm at the Houston  GLBT Community Center; 3400 Montrose (corner of Hawthorne)
on 2nd floor (turn left as you exit elevator or stairway).

San Antonio, Thursday:  7:00pm at the Metropolitan Community Church; 611 East Myrtle St.

 

A story picked up by several major news outlets last week dealt with the fact that several Guitanamo Bay military folks were unleashing their own propaganda campaign to improve their image and to spread rumors about Cuba leader Fidel Castro. Evidence of these efforts was collected and shared by the Wiki people last week (see it here) to the dismay of President Bush who indicates that they were only doing their job.  The reason this news is appropriate here is because one of the assertions made against Mr. Castro is that he is (oh, horror!) an "admitted transsexual".  Where do they come up with this stuff? 

Of Orwell, Wikipedia, and Guantanamo Bay

Winston Smith, the protagonist in George Orwell’s “1984,” worked at a government job he hated, rewriting history to conform to current propaganda imperatives. This week, a group called Wikileaks asserted that the United States military appeared to have a Winston Smith of its own at the Guantánamo Bay naval base, mucking about with the way Wikipedia and news sites portray the base and, curiously, posting odd assertions about Fidel Castro...

Read the entire article - The New York Times, Dec. 14, 2007

 

Thursday, December 13, 2007

11:00pm: I had some fun today.  I started re-building the TransEducate.com website using my iMac.  I suppose the inner geek in me really enjoys opportunities to get creative and technical both at the same time.  I went to a One-on-One training at the Apple store this morning at the ridiculously early hour of 7am to learn how to use iWeb and spent a good part of the day trying to put the specific skillset that I had learned into practice before I forgot it.  The website only contains a half dozen photos at this point and is generally built.  I need to find a way to actually publish it somewhere so Jamison and I can look it over and tweak it before uploading the end result to our site.  All in all, I had a blast and I've still got lots to learn.  I almost can't wait to get back at it tomorrow!

Speaking of Jamison, there was a long article in the Bay Area Reporter this morning:

Former HRC trans business leaders pave their own path

Two transgender business leaders once involved with the Human Rights Campaign have taken matters into their own hands and launched their own employment education project.

The move comes in response to HRC's decision to back a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that does not include protections for gender identity. HRC, the nation's largest gay rights group, had previously committed to supporting a trans-inclusive version of ENDA.

The sexual orientation-only version of ENDA passed the House of Representatives last month.

Bay Area resident Jamison Green, 59, and Donna Rose, 48, of Arizona, tendered a joint resignation from HRC's business advisory council November 27 and launched the Transgender Employment Partnership to continue the work they began at HRC, they said.

Rose had previously resigned from HRC's board of directors, but had remained on the business council until her recent resignation....

Read the entire article - Bay Area Reporter, Dec. 13, 2007

This whole escapade of political activism has made me feel dirty.  There's a paragraph of quotes by Dana Beyers, a friend who remains the only trans-person engaged in any role of leadership at HRC (she's on the Board of Governors):

"I believe that we will move forward and be stronger as a result of this," said Beyer, who sees the ENDA debacle as an educational opportunity. "It's too bad that we didn't do this right, but since we did it wrong, I think there is a lot to be learned from it ... I hope that this whole ENDA experience will encourage more trans people to come out and get involved however difficult it may be."

Try as I might, I don't believe any of that.  I don't believe this has made us stronger, or will do so in the near future.  It's not that I don't see any good that has come from the political mess but the idealist in me has seen too much to be able to believe that this will make us stronger.  If anything, it will encourage more of us NOT to come out and get involved.  I got an email from a dear friend today who confided that the entire ENDA debacle is making her re-think her advocacy efforts.  I'm pulling back in some significant ways, too.  I'm hearing from others around the country with similar outlooks.  I don't see what in the entire miserable ENDA experience would encourage anyone to do anything, especially when it comes to national politics.   The ramifications are far reaching and truly tragic.

Speaking of tragic, something happened to me this evening that has never happened to me before.  My car got towed.  I was invited to Happy Hour in Tempe so I drove there, parked, found my small group of friends, and spent only 45 minutes or so inside before we all had to leave for various reasons.  I got back to where I parked my car and it was gone.  I looked on the wall and there was a small sign, a couple of parking spots down, indicating that this was Private Parking and that cars parked there without a permit would be towed.  To make a long story short my friends doubled back, picked me up, took me to the tow lot, and helped me get the $140 CASH to get my car out from behind the razor-wire fence.  Yeesh.  What a hassle.  (See below)

I swear - there's some business arrangement between the towing company and the people who own those parking spots.  As I stood there wondering where my car was another tow truck drove up and I asked the driver if he had taken my car.  He said probably not, but that there were 8 trucks and they were going back and forth all night long.  I won't be going back to Tempe anytime soon - that's for sure.

Speaking of photos, I've been getting some nice ones from the Snowball events in Seattle last Friday.  Finally, some informal shots that I can like....

 

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

11:00pm: I met my son for dinner this evening - an early celebration for his birthday next week.  He has made arrangements to meet up with friends on his actual birthday and has work most evenings between now and then so I'm thankful we could find the time to meet up.  We had dinner at one of his favorite restaurants - a place I actually found when I made Valentine's Day reservations for my ex-wife and I maybe ten years ago.  We had a very nice time.

I ran 5 miles in 46 minutes on the treadmill today so I felt ok about splitting his birthday sundae with him.  As I've mentioned, I've been enjoying the spirit of the season a little too much recently and it was nice to push myself at the fitness centertoday.  A good workout affects my entire outlook on things - it's really amazing.  Anyway, I'm going to be sure to do it again tomorrow.

The City Council meeting in Scottsdale was a week ago tonight.  Video of the entire thing is available online for those who want to see some of it.  I watched it for a while tonight and it's actually very well produced in terms of video and audio quality - better than I expected.  When you get to the City Council 2007 page scroll down to "Archived Videos" and click on Video for the Dec. 4, 2007 meeting.  It will pop up in a separate window.  The section of the meeting dealing with the non-discrimination ordinance is item 11 in the agenda and you can scroll down and select it, or on any of the individual speakers, in the right pane of the video window.  If you check it out you'll see what I'm talking about.... (click here to go to the City Council page)

I received an email from TAVA (Transgender American Veterans Association) tonight about a survey they're taking:

New Transgender Veterans Survey
Immediate release. Please post this everywhere.
Transgender American Veterans Association
Contact: Monica F. Helms, President
president@tavausa.org
www.tavausa.org

A new survey has been created to achieve a more accurate picture of the state of the transgender American veteran population.  Many of the issues facing transgender veterans are no different than those facing the rest of the transgender community.  However negotiating healthcare thru the Veterans Administration and dealing with the Department of Defense poses its own unique set of challenges.  This survey is also for those transgender people who are still serving in the military and those veterans who identify and are diagnosed as intersex.

The detailed survey of 117 short questions only takes between ten and twenty minutes of your time and it is the first of its kind to be undertakenMany of the questions have several choices to them, but just a few will take multiple answers.  A large percentage of the questions are a simple “Yes/No.”  Some require a written response.  While transgender veterans who do not, or have not ever used the VA for their medical needs, can skip that entire section.

 

The survey can be accessed at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=SpQUvMM5ZvidQ8hNGCcIQA_3d_3d

TAVA would appreciate as many transgender/intersex veterans and active duty service members to take this survey as possible.  If anyone knows of a transgender veteran who does not have access to a computer, then please help them log on at a local library or community center so TAVA can obtain their responses as well.  The answers to this survey will not only help veterans’ organizations in providing assistance to their transgender members, but it will benefit other organizations from the answers not having to do with the military.  Since there are no questions about personal contact information, this survey is completely confidential.  For additional inquiries about this survey, please contact the Transgender American Veterans Association at: info@tavausa.org, or go to our web site at www.tavausa.org.

 

I've got my crystal ball out again tonight so I'll tell you what I see: 

That's it for tonight.  Time for bed.  :)

8:00am: Now that I'm telecommuting all day I generally have the TV playing in the background.  I don't know how people watch all this stuff all day, every day.  It's mind numbing.

The big story this morning was the shooting at a Colorado mega-church where a woman shot and killed an angry gunman who apparently had over 1,000 rounds of ammunition. She says she had God on her side (see it here).  There's a big of a stir over soccer mega-star Beckam's recently released underwear ad for Armani (see it here).  Maybe it's because I'm not really all that into guys but when I look at him like that I see a puppy on its back waiting to have its tummy scratched.  There is a story about the continuing writer strike in Hollywood and what that will mean to TV come January.  It looks like "Reality TV" is going to become even more outrageous and prevalent.  Oy.  There is all kinds of analysis about the presidential campaign - the Oprah Factor, Huckabe's surging ratings, one poll indicates that the thing many people like most about Hillary is her husband, Bill.  Double-Oy.  There's former NFL superstar Michael Vick being sentenced to nearly 2-years in prison for dog-fighting - I'm still of the mind that a more fitting punishment would be to put him into a pit with the dogs that he tortured.  They're already debating on whether he will be allowed to play football again after his sentence.

Anyway, watching this stuff on an ongoing basis will kill brain cells by the thousands.  I'm glad I choose to comment only on a very narrow slice of "news" because some of this stuff isn't worthy of comment.  Yuck.

One event I've been looking forward to happens today - The Bourne Ultimatum is out on DVD.  Now THAT'S a Christmas present worth giving to yourself.  :)

I've got a brief follow-up to my Buffalo Bills remarks from yesterday which - by the way - constitute REAL, HARD NEWS.  This team started 0-3, choked in a game-for-the-ages kind of way against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, got absolutely crushed by the Patriots a few weeks ago, have suffered through injury after injury that have decimated their roster.  But still, here they are.  Do they deserve it?  That would open the door to a discussion on whether or not anyone deserves anything which is a topic near and dear to my heart.  Still - whether they deserve it or not is irrelevant.  They're a resilient group.

Being a Buffalo Bills fan is an odd thing.  ESPN did a commercial a couple of years ago that still brings a smile to my face because its so true-to-life for so many of us.  Sigh.

 

Monday, December 10, 2007

10:00pm: I'm cold.  I don't know why.  It's kind of chilly and wet here in Phoenix today but certainly warmer than it was in Seattle over the weekend where I was fine.  I even lay down and took a little nap late this afternoon.  I hope I'm not coming down with something.

I've got a few various odds and ends to share tonight.  First, I got an email from someone I met at the Out For Work Conference in Washington DC this past September.  She's doing a master's thesis on transgender employment discrimination.  If you'd like to participate in her thesis here's a letter outlining what she's doing and her contact information.  Tell her 'hi' from me....   :)

November 18, 2007

Dear Prospective Participant,

I am a graduate student in the Women’s Studies Department at Towson University. I am writing my master’s thesis on the topic of transgender employment discrimination. I will be conducting personal interviews with people who self-identify as trans about their employment experiences. I am interested in hearing from all trans identities, including but not limited to transvestites, transsexuals, intersexuals, bigenders, genderqueers, and drag queens or kings. The study will examine the effects of transgender identities on employment discrimination. I am interested in all experiences, both positive and negative. The purpose of the study is to understand the experiences of transgender people with workplace issues and offer recommendations for further research.

I am looking for participants willing to be interviewed. The interviews should last about an hour. The participants will select the location of the interview. Their confidentiality will also be secured through the use of pseudonyms. Only the pseudonyms will appear on interview notes and the thesis paper. The name and contact information of each participant will be secured in a locked cabinet. Only the researcher and her thesis chair will have access to this information. Upon completion of the thesis, this information will be stored for three years and destroyed thereafter. The interviews will be audio taped. However, if participants are uncomfortable, they will have the option on the consent form to decline to being taped and the researcher will rely on notes.

If you are interested in participating, please contact me. Also, please forward this letter to anyone who might be interested in my research.

Thank you for you assistance.

Sincerely,

Kyla Bender-Baird
kyla.benderbaird@gmail.com

There was finally some reaction in mainstream press to the failure of Democratic Party leadership (that means you, Speak Pelosi) to move "gay" bills this year.  Hate Crimes was particularly disappointing because it passed in both houses with impressive numbers only to fall victim of misguided/miscalculated strategy.  Who is to blame?  As we all know - somebody needs to be at fault and one of the pressures of Leadership is that the buck stops there.  Anyway, there was an Op/Ed piece in the NY Times today titled "Caving In On Hate Crimes" (read it here).  I have lamented on the lack of leadership, of commitment, of strategy on Hate Crimes and ENDA and it's a shame that we end the year where we started it with Nada.  Actually, it's more than a shame because the year started with such high expectation and promise on the heels of the new Democratic majority in Congress.  Much of that hopefulness is gone now as we lick our collective wounds and look to collect our fragmented wits.  I'll be honest in admitting that my confidence that any of the Presidential candidates will miraculously make things better died with my political idealism; casualties of ENDA.

There are some photos of the weekend events in Seattle available now.  The group that photographed the event has made the proofs available online.  You can seem them here, and by typing in the Secret Keyword: snowball1.  There are some there that I actually like.  Also, thanks to Allison for sending some to me.  I'll share one here:


Allison, me, and Claire at the Snowball 2007 Pre-event.

I've had a few people comment on my Likely to Happen / Should Happen scenarios regarding HRC.  A couple of people noted that I didn't mention anything about an apology, which is something I've been adamant about in recent weeks.  The fact of the matter is that the window of opportunity for that has closed.  At this point it would actually be pointless as the time it would have made a difference was shortly afterwards.  Too much time has passed for it to mean anything.  Another opportunity lost...

Speaking of "Opportunity" - I was approached by Leslie Townsend and our friend Dee Dee about a project they're working on in Los Angeles.  They're producing an event that they're calling the "Trans Sister Tales".  Here is a brief write-up that Leslie forwarded to explain:

TRANS SISTER TALES

Trans Sister Tales is a unique theatre piece with an all transgender cast performing their original monologues. This ninety minute play emphasizes not only the shared experience of being transgender but more importantly the individual perspectives of each of the eight cast members as they tell their stories in their own words. It is time for the world to see and hear a true representation of what it means to be transgender in this society. You will see and hear it directly from these awe-inspiring women. They lay their hearts on the stage giving the audience a revealing and touching look into the transgender experience.
 

It will be performed at a theater in Los Angeles on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008.  I'll provide more specifics as I get them, but they've done a great job engaging many of the people who participated in the V-Day event in 2004 and they hope to turn this into an ongoing effort.  I'm working on my monologue in my "spare time" but these kinds of things take more time and energy than you'd think.  Anyway, I'll have more to say on this in coming weeks.

From the "Where Does the Time Go?" Department: My son's birthday is less than a couple of weeks away.  I posted a bunch of photos of my son and I from his first couple of years of life (1986-1988) on my Donna's World page.  It's wild to look at those photos and recognize both my son and myself in them....

Some people in our unique "situation" seem to have a difficult time reconciling their past lives with their current one.  That's not much of a problem for me.  It's all one lifetime - different chapters certainly but still, all one lifetime.  It doesn't diminish how I perceive myself today to acknowledge that the path that got me here was unique.  I don't dwell on life experiences I never got to enjoy, or of lives never lived.  Those things will eat you alive if you let them.  I choose to instead celebrate the things I did get to experience, and on the opportunities I've had. 

Speaking of opportunities, Martina Navratilova recently participated in a "Be an Ally" PSA produced by GLAAD (see it here).  I created my own little impromptu PSA with Martina while at the NGLCC National Dinner last month.  It's not flashy, not "produced", and is just my own creative energies playing around a little, but it's a start:

Wherever I can I'm going to get and create clips like this....

Lastly for tonight - I have officially become a Table Captain at the GLAAD Award Dinners in Los Angeles and New York.  I'm inviting anyone and everyone who wants to sit at my table for either of these events to please buy your tickets.  All are welcome.  The New York event will be on March 17 (details here) and the Los Angeles event will be on Saturday April 26 at the glitzy Kodak Theater (details here).  If you're at my table I will promise you an introduction to some of the speakers/celebrities who will be participating at that event.  At past Award dinners I've met Pamela Anderson, BD Wong, the Osbornes, the cast of Will and Grace, and others.  What's the point of being a board member if there aren't any perks??!  GLAAD is doing some wonderful work on behalf of our community (more forthcoming on current efforts in the next few weeks) and it's important that we demonstrate our support.  Plus, these things don't have the same political flavor as most HRC events and are just plain fun.

At our first one of these in San Francisco in 2004 Elizabeth and I went out beforehand and got up-do's at a local salon.  The vodka flows freely (and when I say freely, the emphasis is on the free) so by the VIP reception afterwards Elizabeth could hardly see.  I eventually collected her and brought her back to our hotel room and she fell asleep within seconds.  It took me 45 minutes to carefully get all of the bobby pins out of her hair while she slept.  That's actually one of my more treasured memories of our adventures together...
 

Sunday, December 9, 2007

11:30pm: I'm home.  It was a very nice, pleasant, relaxing, worthwhile trip.  I spent all day yesterday with friends - downtown, sightseeing, at the Public Market, eating, and generally getting to know Seattle a little.  By early evening I was relaxed, tired, full, chilled from walking downtown all afternoon, and ready to fall asleep.

I really don't have much more to say - I'll let my photos do the talking.  I uploaded several of them to My Blog Photo page.

One thing I enjoy doing on these trips is to take photos out of the plane window.  It sometimes makes the flights much more interesting and although I'm sure people sitting nearby probably think I'm whacked I'm okay with that.  You can really take some interesting photos from up there - of clouds, ground formations, or other interesting things.  I have dozens of them and rarely post them here.  But the flight between Seattle and Phoenix is particularly interesting (when it's not too cloudy) so I'm going to share a few from today that probably aren't interesting to anyone but me.  Again - that's okay. (The last one is the countdown clock in baggage claim that I mentioned in yesterday's post; less than two months to kickoff):


Part of Las Vegas, NV - from the air - makes an interesting design.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead - from 32,000 feet

Interesting geological textures from high above - Northwestern Arizona

The Super Bowl countdown clock in Baggage Claim of Terminal 4

One thing that looking out of plane windows and looking down provides is a big-picture view of things.  I'll bet those geological textures in the photo above don't look nearly as interesting from the ground as from the air, when you can see the various patterns and textures in some sort of a bigger context.  I continue to get people writing to me about their own personal difficult decisions on whether to get (or stay) involved with HRC or not.  My response remains unchanged - there are no easy answers and everyone needs to do what they feel is right.

That said, recent maneuvers by HRC to re-engage the transgender community make it appear that nobody is at the helm steering this train.  There is nobody there giving direction or advice on what to do - and perhaps even more importantly what not to do - so we have what amounts to an organization flailing and failing with every decision, only making a bad situation worse.  I've read "Project Win-Back" and if HRC is wise they'll throw it away and start over.  It's not the right people, it's not the right strategy, it's not the right time, and it demonstrates a complete misunderstanding for what got us in this position in the first place and what it will take to begin the path back. 

Here is my crystal ball view (the short-version) of what I think is likely to happen over the next few weeks, as opposed to what I think should happen.

 

Likely to happen

HRC will try to engage what they perceive as a trans "leader" as their mouthpiece into and for the community.  Based on recent maneuverings the most likely candidate for this move is Susan Stanton.  I don't know if she'll bite, but if she does she'll be in a very precarious position as it will make things worse.  They're going to throw money at her to make it more tempting, which makes it even more important to pass on it.

HRC will continue to argue the validity of what has happened without respecting the impacts.  It will continue to work these efforts as part of the political branch of the organization and it will continue to face pushback at every turn.

Part of the problem with this approach is that the transgender community already has a number of very talented and respected leaders.  This approach by HRC will be perceived as rejecting that leadership, and in effect trying to put its own leadership in power.  If it comes to pass, it will make things worse.

Should Happen

HRC should dust off the game-plan from the 2004 Board Meeting and invite a number of transgender leaders to Washington as part of some sort of Leadership discussion as soon as possible.  The wisdom of this move is that it respects the community leadership - it doesn't reject it.  HRC participants should include Joe, his senior staff, and board co-chairs. 

The goal of the discussion isn't to come up with a plan, but simply to begin some sort of face-to-face dialogue.  Currently, there is none and without the cover of a group no single person will touch it. 

The "Win Back" effort needs to be led by someone perceived as empathetic, dynamic, understanding, and supportive.  I can't name a single person on the HRC political side of the house who is perceived that way (no insult intended). 

HRC needs to get passed trying to rationalize/explain what has happened.  None of us is buying it and the fact that we feel like we're being lied to only makes it harder to repair the damage. 

Anyway, enough political talk.  On to other topics of interest...

Another item from the nobody-cares-but-me Department: The Buffalo Bills won today and are in a good place for a potential Playoff spot.  There was a time when the Bills/Dolphins was THE rivalry.  Even though the Dolphins haven't won a game yet this year beating them is still somehow particularly sweet.  I doubt that will ever change.  Next week is Bills/Browns and the stakes will be high.  It has been quite a while since I've been able to use the words "Buffalo Bills" and "playoffs" in the same sentence in December and I'm hopeful but still skeptical.  I'm managing my expectations appropriately... 

I have eaten more in the last couple of days than I can remember eating in a long, long time. I'm still full.  I can rationalize it by telling myself I deserved a treat and a weekend off, although I'll be paying for it later by doing mile after sweaty mile on the treadmill.  The deal-breaker was our visit this morning to my mecca of Donuts: Top Pot Donuts in Belltown in downtown Seattle.  It's like a shrine to donuts and for people like me for whom donuts are chocolate, steak, pizza and every other favorite food it is ground zero.  It even looks cool with its big glass front, two-story library shelves full of books, and upstairs seating loft.  I got a dozen assorted donuts and some of them even survived the trip home - they're in my refrigerator chillin'.  As we drove to the donut place and then off to the airport there were little pieces of snow in the air - it was very chilly this morning - so as I think of words that go together in December somehow "Buffalo" and "snow" seem like natural partners.
 

Saturday, December 8, 2007

10:30am: It's a sunny, crisp (as in 34 degree F) morning in the Pacific northwest.  I'm staying with friends in Seattle - arrived here yesterday afternoon to attend Snowball.  It's actually very pretty - looking out the back window across the patio through the trees as the blue morning sky.  It's a nice way to start a day.

The event last night was wonderful - thanks to all who came out and participated.  It was nice to finally meet people I've gotten to know via email (Yo, Jeannette!), to have the chance to spend a little time with Marsha Botzer from Ingersoll Gender Center, to chill with Christine Daniels and Claire, and to re-connect with people I met during my visit to Esprit earlier this year.  There was a reception prior to the actual Snowball that was quieter and gave a chance to talk and socialize a bit - once we got to the club it was loud and my throat is not happy about that this morning.

This is my first trip in several weeks - since going to Dallas.  The airport was like a ghost town.  I wish it was like that every time I have to fly anywhere as getting luggage checked and zipping right through security without a line or significant delay is far more the exception than the rule.  The city is getting Super-bowl fever and that's certainly apparent at the airport.  If you're coming to town any time between now and the end of January there will be no way to escape it.  There's a countdown clock in baggage claim that has been ticking down the seconds until kickoff for almost a year now, and T-shirts, hats, signs, and general "stuff" is everywhere...

I have been approached by several friends in recent weeks who have offered to help me move my blog into a more "bloggy" place or have provided thoughts on better/newer/more effective ways to do it.  I realize that more formal blogs have all kinds of tools and things associated with them and that there are ways to provide RSS feeds and other technical niceties.  I have been thinking about this lately.

My blog has changed quite a bit since I started it in 2004, when the initial inspiration was simply to provide some way to let people who visited my then-small website know that it was "alive", that there was somebody "home", and to provide some insight into a life that is far more ordinary than most would want to believe.  At that point I wasn't involved in advocacy the way I find myself now and in many ways life was much simpler.  My posts were just snippets of my life I felt free to share, not knowing if anyone was reading them or even had any interest.  I joked with someone last week that I would take my blog down for a while to see if it was missed - half joking.

My website has become like a house too big for the people who live there to care for, and there are corners and in fact entire rooms I haven't visited in quite a while.  Plus, it just needs a good dose of modernizing - in terms of tools, look and feel, and structure.  I just don't have the time of the energy to be able to do it all.  There are parts that aren't up to date, that I couldn't keep current even if I wanted to, and in fact it's probably time to consolidate, to re-invent, to re-engineer, to mature, and to move to a smaller home.  I expect that there will be a DonnaRose.com version 2.0 sometime in the not-too-distant future, as it has changed both in flavor, in reason for existing, and in simple ability to maintain to the point where it's time for a rebirth.  I don't know exactly when that will happen - I expect it will roll out in phases - but it's on my radar and I hope to get to it sooner rather than later.
 

Thursday, December 6, 2007

5 pm: I have a couple more things to share today before heading to the gym.

On Pam's House Blend, Autumn Sundeen is featuring a video clip of a segment from "The View" discussing gender-variance in children.  It's worth watching. (see it here).

Speaking of video, I have the individual segments from the ET "Transgender Summit" series from last May but hesitate posting them to YouTube.  There's some additional stuff on there that expands on the theme but I'm not sure it adds enough to warrant uploading these clips there.  I may load them somewhere else - we'll see. 

I'm headed to Seattle tomorrow for "Snow Ball" and hope to take some video there that I can share.  More on that later...

The late afternoon news out of Washington DC that the Hate Crimes bill has been stripped from the Defense Authorization Act is not a surprise, but is nonetheless a shame.  There are many reasons, not least of which there are many Democrats who actually support the Hate Crimes bill but will refuse to support ANY legislation on the war.  The short version is that Hate crime legislation is dead for this year (read about it here) and I'm sure there will be finger pointing and second-guessing about it.  There is a glimmer of good news in this - there is already talk about bringing it back early next year in hopes of getting it passed again and there seems to be some momentum to making that happen.  We shall see - I've heard far too much talk lately and seen far too little to show for it. 

I'm seeing reporting and coverage of recent HRC outreach efforts.  Part of me doesn't want to talk about the organization any more right now.  Another part compels me to share it as "news" that is simply part of a discussion that we've already started.  So, I will share.  I will not comment, however.

HRC Doublespeak Wins No Hearts or Minds
By Pauline Park

What’s the point of damage control if it only compounds the damage?

That’s the question I asked myself after last night’s community forum at the LGBT Community Center of New York City sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. The forum on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 7 drew nearly 100 people, including a substantial number of transgendered people as well as non-transgendered lesbian, gay, and bisexual community members. But despite the demographic diversity of the audience, there was unanimity regarding the HRC and its betrayal of transgendered people in supporting the stripped-down, sexual orientation-only version of ENDA that passed the House with the support of HRC and over the opposition of United ENDA, a coalition of more than 360 national, state, and local LGBT organizations from throughout the country....

...If one is to judge from last night’s forum here in New York, the ‘listening tour’ that David Smith and other senior and junior HRC staff have now embarked on will not bear fruit, because HRC seems incapable of offering anything but double-speak and spin. The comments from Smith were dripping with condescension and disdain for members of the audience and members of the LGBT community more generally. The attitude seemed to be that only HRC knows how to do legislation. As someone who has actually led a successful legislative campaign at the local level and who has participated in several legislative campaigns both at the city and state level here in New York, know how difficult legislative work is and how difficult it is to work with self-interested politicians.

Read the entire article here on The Visible Vote 08

And another...

No Gotham Welcome Wagon for HRC
By
Duncan Osborne

After repeatedly defending the Human Rights Campaign strategy for passing the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) without protections for transgendered people, a senior HRC staffer said the lobbying group would have employed a different strategy had it known its efforts would result in an angry response.

"We probably would not have played it out the same way," said David M. Smith, HRC's vice president of programs, when asked what HRC would do if the group got a "do-over."

Smith's comments came at the close of a 90-minute town meeting held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center on December 5.
Smith and Sultan Shakir, HRC's regional field director, faced withering and often angry questioning about the organization's shifting positions on ENDA - that went from supporting transgender inclusion, to neutrality after transgender protections were tossed out, and finally to aggressively backing the bill before its November 7 vote....

Read the entire article here on Gay City News

I'll close by sharing some good news.  I received news today that my alma-mater, Syracuse University, is one of only 8 institutions nationwide to receive a perfect score on a LGBT Climate index.  Congratulations to Adrea and the entire group there.  You rock!

SU achieves perfect score in national rankings for LGBT campus climate

Campus Pride, the leading national organization that promotes collaboration among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) student leaders and campus groups, has named Syracuse University one of only eight institutions nationwide to earn a perfect, five-star rating in its LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. This honor exemplifies SU's commitment to LGBT students, faculty and staff through policy inclusion, support services and focus on academic and student life initiatives

Read the entire article here

11 am: It seems as though I can't escape a continued role as a focal point for HRC emotion/activity/communication.  I'll take a minute to address some of the recent email I have been getting.

First, people have been asking whether they can or should get/stay involved with HRC in any number of capacities.  My response: do whatever you feel is right in your heart.  I'm in no position to tell anyone what to do.  Just be careful, and know that there may be consequences.  I have already seen Susan Stanton's reputation come under attack - from those in the community - for coming to Chicago to speak on behalf of HRC last weekend.  Things are very hot right now.

I received a copy of an HRC memo that outlines something that seems to be dubbed "Project Win Back" aimed at trying to re-engage the community.  I have a number of opinions on what it contains but will keep most of them to myself at the moment.  The largest, and most significant mistake that's apparent to me right off the bat is that this effort is being managed by the political part of the organization - the part that did the damage in the first place.  Last night in NYC there was an HRC sponsored town hall attended by 100 or more from the community and the people giving the presentation were David Smith and the regional political field organizer.  No offense intended, but these are not the right people to be doing this work and the fact that they have apparently been tasked to do it demonstrates to me that they still don't get it.  I wouldn't go across the street to hear an HRC politico talk, and this entire "Win Back" plan is politically centered, motivated, and fueled.  IMHO - that's not the kind of education we need to change hearts and minds in this country. 

This effort needs to be managed in the Diversity group, or at even as part of a brand new program internally that is NOT political.  They need to hire a transgender leader, or even someone who's not transgender but who the community can trust, to give it direction and legitimacy.  Fixing this begins with identifying resources, money, and commitment - not with a politically-centric plan.  Oy.

I can't stoop to simple HRC bashing without offering more constructive thoughts and goals.  Somewhere in this document there needs to be the word "apology" or something that at least recognizes the significant damage that they have done.  I don't see it.  I don't feel it.  The fact that they don't seem to get that, or seem unwilling to acknowledge that, makes other discussions moot at this point because, until that happens, many of us will see only words. 

The vote in Scottsdale on Wednesday was a good example of a missed opportunity to turn words into actions.  HRC signed on as one of the groups supporting adding sexual orientation and gender identity protections for city employees.  A large group of people from across the entire community showed up to demonstrate support for this important initiative.  I would have expected to see some level of actual HRC presence there - we've got a board member from Phoenix, and several leaders of the local steering committee.  How many were there?  Guess...

9 am: In yesterday's entry I mentioned some of the leadership roles where we're seeing well qualified candidates who are trans, as well as the glass ceiling so many of us find keeps us from breaking through to higher levels.  One of these days - and I think it will be sooner than we think - the various elements that will be necessary to break through that barrier will all come together: the right person, with the right qualifications, with the right message, in the right place, at the right time, who is able to keep the discussion focused on substantive issues rather than personal attacks. Politically, we've been knocking at the door but it has been a difficult door to open.

One area where we're finally seeing transgender identified brothers and sisters moving into areas of leadership is within the GLBT movement itself.  If we can't integrate into the broader GLBT community what makes anyone think we'll be able to do it in broader society?  Those same things that I mentioned earlier, that need to happen for one of us to break through, need to happen internal to the GLBT community as well. Thankfully, that is happening.

The most recent example is that my dear friend and "big sister", Katherine Dean, was officially introduced as the new Executive Director of the Golden Gate Business Association in San Francisco this past Monday.  The GGBA is the oldest LGBT Chamber of Commerce in the country and has a record of leadership and innovation, and I think this move certainly continues that record.    You can count the number of ED's of major GLBT organizations on one hand so this is not a trivial achievement.  You can read the official introduction here, and if you have any doubts as to what this means in the broader context - especially in the shadow of ENDA -  know that the significance is not lost on the local press:

Gay Chamber Hires Transgender ED

With the country's LGBT community embroiled in a debate over protecting transgender people in the workplace, the nation's oldest gay chamber of commerce announced this week it has hired a post-op transsexual woman as its new executive director.

Katherine Dean, 53, took over leadership of the San Francisco-based Golden Gate Business Association Tuesday, November 27, but the chamber waited until this week to officially announce its decision.

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter Monday, December 3, Dean said she decided to come out publicly about her transgender status due to the fight over the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the decision by congressional leaders to drop gender identity protections from the bill. Known as ENDA, the bill passed the House in November and is now awaiting approval in the Senate.

"I personally felt it was time to make a stand and come out," Dean said. "I've spent over a decade trying to hide my history of being transgendered, but after what happened last month with ENDA, I chose to come help make a difference."

Peggy Hughes, GGBA's newly elected board president, said in a statement that Dean not only brings needed experience to move the chamber forward but also is certain to raise the visibility of transgender inclusion within LGBT leadership roles.

"First and foremost, we chose the best qualified person for the job," stated Hughes. "At the same time, San Francisco always leads by example, and I do believe having an openly transgendered woman in this highly visible role strengthens the inclusiveness of our diverse business community."

Read the entire article here - Bay Area Reporter, Dec. 6

Congratulations to sister Kate and to the Board of the GGBA for their leadership. 

For those looking for ways that they might be able to get involved but don't know where to start, there is a conference every year well worth investigating.  The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (The Task Force, for short) holds the Creating Change Conference each year and attracts national leaders as well as aspiring activists.  The 2008 edition, to be held in Detroit in February, looks to be the largest and most expansive yet so if there's any way for you to attend it will be well worth your efforts.  I'll be there for the first couple of days before I have to leave for a GLAAD Board meeting.  See you there!

Speaking of leaders, the always wonderful Jenny Boylan is on the launch-pad for her next book, "I'm Looking Through You", to be officially released in mid-January.  She's got a Message Board on jenniferboylan.net that seems to be a happening place.  I went there and created an account so if you're there sometime maybe we'll bump into one another. 
 

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

11am: Some additional thoughts on last night's Scottsdale City Council meeting.  First, some photos:

One of the words that rose to the top of the heap in a night filled with words was "Leadership".  There were those on the council who obviously didn't want these protections for any number of reasons, but when the word Leadership was put forward it became a rallying point for those who supported the initiative.  Some argued that there wasn't any discrimination going on, that people would be covered by other protections, that this was giving "special" rights to some.  But when the word Leadership came forward I'll have to say that Mayor Manross won me over by showing exactly that - Leadership.

Others have made good on past failures of leadership (in my opinion) demonstrating to me that we do learn from past mistakes.  I was very harsh about the role that Equality Arizona played in the non-event of not granting protections for City of Phoenix employees 18 months ago, characterizing it as a "Failure of Leadership".  I sat next to Equality Arizona Executive Director Barbara McCullough-Jones during last night's meeting and she redeemed herself mightily, having done all the legwork to educate the council and coordinating things so we had our best chance to get this passed.  She had provided them with the tools.  She had done all she could to help make the right thing happen so that, by the time the meeting started the hard work to even get to that point had been done - now it was up to the individual council-members to do the right thing.  Bravo to Barb and to Sam Holdren, to the folks from the Arizona Transgender Alliance, and to all who helped do that work.  It paid off last night.

These things do not happen by themselves.  It requires quite a bit of work to push initiatives to the point where they're even up for debate.  That's what makes things like what happened in the House of Representatives on ENDA so difficult to stomach.  All of the hard work to get to that point went for naught when the gender-identity language was stripped.  Even more galling is that the people who did the stripping would turn around and blame the people who had been doing the work as not having worked hard enough.  Don't even get me going on that again..

The impact of the ENDA mess on future city and state efforts will reverberate until the damage is fixed.  HRC and other supporters on the "Incremental Gain Train" argued that getting ANY version of ENDA passed set an important precedent for the future.  What they fail to recognize is that the precedent it sets isn't for passing Employment Non-Discrimination legislation.  It's for stripping off Gender Identity.  More than one speaker argued against this amendment to local code by pointing out that gender identity wasn't included in the national bill, and should be considered separately.  It's testament to the leadership of those involved who would not allow the discussion to wander into that rat-hole and kept it focused on providing protections for ALL.

The bathroom thing kept coming up, warning that GLBT people would suddenly be using bathrooms in parks, and in other places that they might come into contact with kids.  It was the worst kind of scare tactic and again, the speakers who supported us were able to refocus the discussion on the topic at hand.  One of the real ironies of the night is that the entire meeting started with the Pledge of Allegiance led by a half-dozen 6-year-olds from a local Brownie troop.  They were so cute.  And the room was packed to the brim with many who represent the entire spectrum of our beautiful communities.  I don't think single one of them suffered any permanent emotional damage by being in that room last night.  In fact, I'll bet most didn't even notice anything out of the ordinary. 

One attorney arguing against us pointed out that Gender Identity Disorder (he stressed the word Disorder) is a mental disease and that these poor misguided people were mutilating their bodies.  After one of the particularly harsh speakers finished some in the audience hissed, bringing a rebuke from the Mayor, and it took no small amount of self-control to avoid jumping up and telling these people that they have no clue about what they're saying.  But there is a process, and we need to work within the process, and by the time it all came down to Mayor Manross's tie-breaking vote I felt all had handled the situation with dignity and respect.

As we filed out of the building afterwards new crews pulled a few people aside to get reaction.  If you watch the report on the local CBS affiliate you can see yours truly.  (see it here)  The word I used to describe how I was feeling is "Elated".  And, I am.

On to other things....

Lastly, I got an alert from NCTE this morning on events in Indiana with regards to Driver's License data mismatches:

Success in Indiana!
Indiana BMV Stops Practice of Using Gender to Invalidate Driver Licenses
 

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has agreed to immediately discontinue using gender mismatches solely as a reason for invalidating driver licenses.  Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) successfully worked with officials at the Indiana BMV to bring about this policy change.

On November 6th, the Indiana BMV began issuing warning letters to people in the BMV database whose information did not match Social Security Administration's (SSA) records.  Information compared between the two databases included name, Social Security number, date of birth, and gender.  Letters instructed recipients to resolve discrepancies within 30 days or risk losing their driving privileges.

INTRAA and NCTE brought to the Indiana BMV's attention that Social Security uses a different standard for changing gender markers than what the BMV uses.  Because of these differing standards, some transgender people legitimately have an Indiana driver license or identification card with one gender marker and SSA records with a different gender marker.  Through the work of INTRAA and NCTE, Indiana BMV Commissioner Ron Stiver realized the difficulties surrounding gender marker verification and issued an immediate policy change.  The newest policy is that gender mismatches will be ignored by the BMV.

 

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

11pm: The Scottsdale City Council meeting was tonight.  It was quite the experience - almost surreal.

Scottsdale is a very upscale community.  You can replace the word "upscale" with any number of synonyms - affluent and expensive come to mind - and they all apply.  It and Paradise Valley are like the Beverly Hills of the Phoenix area.  Movie stars live there.  Million dollar homes are the rule, not the exception.  You see the most amazing cars just driving down the beautifully manicured streets.  Others call this city - just northeast of Phoenix - "Snottsdale" as a reference to the perceived snob factor of the area.  Today's paper listed several recent local real estate transactions here: one for over $4 million, and another at $2.25 million (the article specifically mentions that the buyers paid cash for it) - read the article here.  Anyway, you get the picture.  That's partly why what happened tonight was such big news...

I got to the meeting early to ensure that I got a parking spot, and a seat.  Since I had a little time to kill I strolled the beautiful grounds of the Civic Center, enjoying the sunshine-warmed 75 degree weather (they got a foot of snow in upstate NY last night and today), the deep blue skies, the fountains and carefully manicured flower beds.  It's a very pretty area with walking paths, the library and the Performing Arts Center, benches around a large pond filled with fountains and artsy statues (and ducks, and 2 swans).  It's a fitting centerpiece to the city.  Ironically, there's a bit statue saying "LOVE" nearby that I thought was particularly ironic given what we were there to discuss.

As time passed the small City Council meeting area filled to bursting with people wanting to say something about this ordinance.

I don't know if there's anything that can prepare you to sit in a room with a couple hundred other people and have to listen to people argue why it's right to deny you basic human rights because it's not necessary, or it's too expensive, or it's inconvenient.  There were more supporters than opponents there, but to listen to grown adults talk about gender reassignment surgery as "self-mutilation" and transgender people as mentally disturbed isn't something I have to do very often.  It was a long night - lasting almost 4 hours - but in the end the Mayor herself held the tiebreaking vote.  Thankfully, she voted with us.  And the measure passed. (news article here)

Some photos of the afternoon and evening:


The grounds of the Scottsdale Civic Center

Christmas tree near Scottsdale Civic Center

All you need is "LOVE".  On the grounds of the Scottsdale Civic Center.

Michelle and me before the City Council meeting

The crowd is growing

Standing room only

I'll have more to say on this.  I'm too tired to write more now.  I just wanted to share the good news.  I talked with a couple of the news crews that were covering it afterwards and told them I was ecstatic about how things unfolded.  And, I am.  :)

10am: The Scottsdale City Council meeting to decide whether to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of non-discrimination protections is this afternoon.  I've seen a flurry of email about it - on both sides.  Some of the very right-wind opponents indicate that they'll be there to oppose.  Local GLBT allies will be there in force, as well.  I will be there as a supporter - no active role - and will provide an update on proceedings afterwards.  It should be interesting.  I'll even try to take some photos to share.

The current print edition of  The Advocate is of particular interest right now, featuring a cover story titled "Gay vs. Trans: The Great Divide?"  Some of the write-up on the Advocate.com website explains the story as follows:

The LGBT “community” has never seemed less communal than in the last few months. When Barney Frank decided in September to move forward with a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act that covered sexual orientation and not gender identity, it was as if an earthquake had gone off in the queer world, laying bare the differences between us. Within days, 300-plus LGBT organizations around the country had united in opposition to that version of ENDA, saying it wasn’t fair for some members of the community to gain rights when others would not, while Frank, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, and political insiders savvy to the legislative process argued that passing an imperfect measure was better than no measure at all. Caught in between was the Human Rights Campaign, which initially declined to support or oppose ENDA in an effort both to preserve its valuable Capitol Hill relationships and placate its allies in the movement.

Do we all belong together anyway, or has the acronym LGBT outlived its usefulness, both in name and in practice? How do we all feel -- really feel -- about each other?

The Advocate decided to find out. On Wednesday, November 7, 10 very different New Yorkers -- three transgender women, two transgender men, three gay men, a gender-ambiguous lesbian, and her bisexual girlfriend -- joined moderator Tim Murphy at the West Village restaurant Barbuto for a mini town-hall meeting about this thing we call community. Coincidentally, it was the same night that ENDA passed the House in a tight 235–184 vote. The following are excerpts from the two-hour-long conversation, by turns funny, serious, combative, and poignant, along with portraits of the participants.

I haven't read the article yet so I really can't comment on content, other than I think it's a very timely and important discussion and I'm glad to see it taking center stage like this.  I also can't help but wonder if they had that discussion today - following events of the past month - whether the feelings would be the same or different.  Anyway, I'll be visiting Barnes and Noble to pick it up later today.  I hope the story does the topic justice.  Each of us has our own opinions on these questions - all of which are valid - so if you ask any ten people you're likely to get ten very interesting and different answers.  I expect there will be common themes, one of which is that there are no easy answers or quick fixes.  If we truly are a family more than simply a hodge-podge collection of alphabet soup then we'll need to find a way to solidify that in ways that all will be welcome and all will be appreciated.  If not, we'll still need to find a way to work together. 

I expect that the conversations will we working their way out of Washington and the halls of Congress and into cities across the country.  HRC brought Susan Stanton to Chicago to speak last weekend.  HRC is holding a Town Hall in NYC tomorrow (Dec. 5) titled "ENDA: Where are we now? How do we get to full inclusion?".  (Details are here)  I've heard that Joe Solmonese is arranging to travel to San Francisco to speak to trans leaders there and I'll provide details on any public discussions as they become available.  I think it's important to participate in these discussions and I'm happy to provide additional visibility to them as they occur.

Mara Keisling from NCTE is out on the road, as well.  I'm told she's be visiting several cities in Texas later this month.  One confirmed stop is in San Antonio:

A Trans Discussion with Mara Keisling

Thursday Dec. 20, 2007
7 to 8:15 p.m.
Metropolitan Community Church
611 E. Myrtle Street, San Antonio., TX

ADMISSION IS FREE

This program, co-sponsored by San Antonio Gender Association, Stonewall Democrats of S.A., and Metropolitan Community Church will feature Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality. Mara is a graduate of Penn State University and did her graduate work at Harvard University in American Government. You know her as a key figure who lobbied for passage of a trans-inclusive federal hate crimes bill and a trans-inclusive employment non-discrimination act

. She is touring the country to talk to us and to listen to our concerns. The evening will focus on issues of gender identity that affect our daily lives; employment, societal exclusion, Social Security gender-record matching, a National ID card, use of the bathroom, and other issues that challenge us.

 


 

Speaking of working together, I see a Blog entry on TransAdvocate.com titled "YouTube Goes Trans" that includes several recent video clips that have been posted on YouTube. 

As a follow-up to the situation in Georgia where Michelle Bruce was accused of "fraud" by sore-losers in a Riverdale city council election - a judge threw out the complaint clearing the way for the runoff election to proceed as scheduled.  Today.  (Read about it here).  It boils my blood to know that ignorant people can make those kinds of unfounded, personal attacks that are blatant examples of their own bigotry.  It makes me want to run for office just so I could expose these kinds of people for just what they are.
 

Monday, December 3, 2007

8am:  This was the most productive weekend I've had in a long time.  I spent time continuing to "nest" here and, for the first time, it's finally feeling like home.  I'm really enjoying it.

I've had more opportunity to get out these last several days than in recent weeks.  I had a friend traveling through town on Friday so we met for dinner, despite all the rain that flooded the valley.  She got married last weekend and they were on their way to their honeymoon so who could say no to that?  I had dinner with my friend Laura on Saturday.  Last night, a friend driving from TX to Palm Springs spent the night on her way through, and I did a segment with Ethan St. Pierre on TransFM (I expect it will be available online at some point soon).  I'm scheduled to meet another friend tonight who is in town for an extended session with Maria, our electrologist.  Tomorrow is the City Council meeting in Scottsdale. On Wednesday there's something, too. I leave Friday for a couple of days in Seattle.  I'm  firmly back on my workout schedule so that's good.  I've got a ton of email to return (if you've written but haven't gotten a response lately I'm sorry - I'm way behind).  I've got a ton of stuff to do with Jamison to move things forward with TransEducate.com - I'll have more on that in a subsequent post.  All in all - life is busy.

I've got a couple of video things to mention today.  I uploaded the Weekend Edition version of the Entertainment Tonight "Transgender Summit" series from last may to YouTube.

There were 3 individual segments, as well, that had some additional stuff but I didn't see a need to upload them.

Those interested in the political side of things might be interested to see some comments that Representative Tammy Baldwin had to say to Pam Spaulding from Pam's House Blend this past weekend.  They were attending the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, and Pam had an opportunity to sit down with Rep. Baldwin and ask some questions about Hate Crimes and ENDA.  The nugget that I glean from her answers is that she, too, believes that the votes were there to pass an inclusive ENDA.  The argument that the votes weren't there is simply vaporware in my book.  The question she poses is whether or not the votes were there to fend off potential Republican "mischief", but she argues that we never gave it that chance.  You can watch her comments here.  Thanks to Pam for posting that.
 

Friday, November 30, 2007

4pm:  Well, the project is implemented.  All seems to be going well.  That's a big relief. 

It's raining outside.  My front and back doors are open and I can hear the rain coming off the roof and hitting the ground out front.  Rain here is an event - I can't even remember the last time I felt a raindrop.  The part I like best about rain in the desert isn't the wet or the clouds - it's the smell afterwards.  It's a fresh smell.  I was trying to explain it in an email to a friend this morning and it's not something you can really describe.  I wish I could bottle it - fresh, and sweet, and clean.  They say we're in for an inch or two which is just fine by me.  I'd take rain this time of year over snow ten times out of ten.

As I've been working today I've had a Tom Petty DVD playing in the background.  You know how lyrics seem to jump out at you just at the right time to take on a life of their own sometimes?  That happened as I my attention was grabbed to one of the songs that's a Bonus Track on the Soundstage DVD.  The song is Walls, and here are some of the lyrics....

  Sundowns are golden
Then fade away
But if I never do nothing
I'll come back some day

Cause you got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down

And all around your island
There's a barricade
It keeps out the danger
It holds in the pain

Sometimes you're happy
Sometimes you cry
Half of me is ocean
Half of me is sky

 The version on the DVD I have is a fairly up-tempo one.  There's a version on YouTube that is more acoustic, but somehow I think the harmonies add to the song.  Anyway, I uploaded it to YouTube so you can watch if you'd like.

Speaking of walls coming down, I hate to continue to harp on this crazy poll (or is it pole?) that HRC released the exact same moment that they decided to publicly announce their policy shift but apparently I'm not the only one who refuses to allow it to die.  There are way too many questions around if for reasonable people to just take it and not question it.  How was it created?  When?  Who did you talk to?  Why, specifically?  Even people who can somehow rationalize and support HRC's political decisions have got to take notice of this and wonder because it raises some very serious questions not only about credibility, but about integrity.  Someone needs to be accountable for this kind of damage.

The latest blast comes from none other than Mike Signorile - he of the Sirius radio fame and fellow SU alum.  He posted something about it on his blog today:

HRC has been accused of mismanaging its relationship with Democrats in Congress, losing control of the politics surrounding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as well as going back on it's word regarding ENDA and trans-inclusion. Two months after HRC executive director Joe Solmonese said HRC would not support a bill that didn't included protections for transgender people his group backed and pushed a trans-free ENDA.

Now add another low point: skewing polls to back up HRC's bad decisions and dishonest dealings. At the height of the debacle in October over dropping transgender protections of ENDA, a poll suddenly materialized, commissioned by HRC, that magically backed up their new position and their turnaround. Contrary to a previous poll of gays, lesbians and bisexuals (which showed widespread support for trans-inclusion in ENDA), this poll showed that a huge majority -- 68% -- supported dropping trans-inclusion.

Now, the Washington Blade exposes the bias built into in the poll, quoting experts who describe the poll as troubling, nonsensical and not worthy of publication. It becomes clear that HRC was purposely trying to manipulate the results.

The Human Rights Campaign's Sleazy Poll Manipulation - Signorile.com, Nov. 30 2007

If I said this kind of stuff I'd be accused of having an axe to grind, or of being bitter.  Well, Mike says it better than I ever could.  And, I love the words: sleazy, bad decisions, dishonest dealings, debacle, nonsensical, not worthy of publication. 

Since I seem to be a media whore this week I may as well end it on a high note.  I'll be on TransFM with the always electric Ethan St. Pierre and Teeg on Sunday evening (details here).  We've been talking about doing this for well over a year.  Ethan wanted it way back when, and even promised to be "nice", but it just never happened for any number of reasons.  Anyway, knowing Ethan and knowing me I expect it will be a lively discussion.  I'm looking forward to it.

11:00am:  The wheels of our legal system turn slowly.  There are a couple of high-profile cases involving transgender people that were in the news for a while but have gone into that limbo time between when things actually happen and decisions are made.

One is the case where Diane Schroer, a former Special Forces officer, sued the Library of Congress for discrimination in 2005.  The government asked that the suit be dismissed, but a judge ruled this week that it can proceed (read about it here).

Diane has a wonderful video on YouTube that is a model each of us can use to share our stories.

The other case is Rhainnon O'Donnabhain and her suit against the IRS to deduct medical expenses towards SRS.

I asked Rhiannon for an update on how things were going and she sent me this last week:

GLAD and the IRS filed their briefs with the tax court last week. Response briefs will be filed in early February. Could be a year after that b4 the judge makes a decision.

With respect to companies adding srs to its benefits…… typically health insurance companies base decisions to cover or not cover a medical expense based on what they consider “medical necessity”. The internal revenue code for medical deductions (irc 213) doesn’t rely on “medical necessity. Rather IRC 213 allows deductions for expenses for what it calls “medical care”. And IRC defines medical care like this….

The term ''medical care'' means amounts paid -

(A) for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body,

This is what my case is all about – expenses paid for medical care iaw IRC 213.

 

I'm sure both will make a big splash when they're finally decided.  Until then, both are still in flight....

7:00am:  Yawn.  My project implemented successfully overnight.  Users will be testing to be sure everything is working this morning and we'll make a final decision to move forward or back-out at noontime.  This is good news.  We're expected to get a couple of inches of rain here in the Valley later today, which I suppose is good news as well.  We need it.  I truly can't remember the last time I saw rain here which says something about eithe my memory or the dry conditions - I don't know which.

I noticed a couple of things to mention this morning and, for once, I'm a little hesitant to be too harsh. 

First, there's an article in FAIR this week titled "Transforming Coverage: Transgender issues get greater respect - but anatomy remains destiny" about he greater visibility transgender people are getting in popular media.  Not just visibility but positive visibility.  There's a difference.

Transgender is hardly a new concept, but until recently it’s been considered by the media to be a topic for tabloid talkshows, not serious news programs. The tide is turning, though; as more and more public figures are coming out as having a gender identity different from their birth-assigned sex, and transgender characters are finding their way into more mainstream entertainment media (on TV shows like All My Children and movies like Transamerica), transgender stories are likewise moving from Jerry Springer to CNN at a remarkable pace....

Transforming Coverage by Julie Hollar at FAIR.com

This is huge and I expect this trend to do nothing but continue.  In many was, this is how things that at one time were considered marginal eventually become accepted (it's hard to estimate the huge role that Will and Grace had on gay and lesbian acceptance).

Two of the leaders in our community in this regard are Calpernia Adams and Andrea James, who combined make up "Deep Stealth Productions".  I first met Calpernia through the V-Day event in Los Angeles that she and Andrea arranged in 2004.  I knew Andrea, at least by reputation long before that.  Her story and photos as posted online, chronicling her amazing transformation through FFS, had a profound affect on me and for the first time planted the seed that this might be possible. 

Calpernia's name pops up in two different contexts.  First, author and playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) is planning a star-studded 10th Anniversary of V-Day. 

On April 12, 2008, V-Day will stage a once in a lifetime event - V TO THE TENTH - featuring international performances of The Vagina Monologues, musical guests, V-Day activists from across the globe, including Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eastern Europe, men standing up for women and much more.

Calpernia Addams, Glenn Close, Rosario Dawson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Hudson, Julia Stiles, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Washington, Oprah Winfrey and musicians Peter Buffett, Eve, Toni Childs, Common, Charmaine Neville, and Joss Stone have already signed on.

The evening will open minds and hearts and raise much needed attention and funds for groups working to end violence against women and girls around the world, and in New Orleans and the Gulf South.

Eve Ensler: V to the Tenth

The fact that Calpernia has gotten top billing over the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey has got to be a coup.  Way to go, Calpernia!  :)

The other context has me scratching my head a little.  She's starring in a Reality TV series recently announced by Logo titled "Transamerican Love Story" where she gets to pick between 8 men, all brought together and who participate in a series of challenges to win her affections. 

Guy Turned Girl Seeks Love on Reality TV
ABC News - November 29, 2007
Calpernia Addams was born male but transitioned to female in her early twenties. Now she's looking for love on reality TV. By SHEILA MARIKAR Dashing boy ...
 
 
Love, Transamerican Style
365Gay.com - Nov 29, 2007
by Erin Carlson, AP A new TV reality dating series slated for February has a twist – the bachelorette is a transgender woman. ...

I dunno.  I'm not a fan of so-called Reality shows but I really hope this goes well for Calpernia.  She's truly a sweetheart.  I've got to believe she's thought this one thru because this borders on some pretty treacherous slopes.  I, for one, don't buy into the philosophy of "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

 

Thursday, November 29, 2007

9:30pm:  I've had a chance to look at the results of the Hunter College poll mentioned earlier - the one that shows Hillary in the lead among LGB voters (details here).

One of the findings that perks my interest, but won't get the visibility it deserves because of the other data, reads as follows:

-- When asked about the proposed federal law making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in employment, a majority of LGBs (by a margin of 60% to 37%) said that those seeking to pass the law were wrong to remove protections for transgender people in order to get the votes necessary for passage in Congress.

-- Asked what gay rights goals are “extremely important,” respondents said:

  • Enacting employment nondiscrimination laws: 59%
  • Protections from bias crimes: 59%
  • Securing spousal benefits: 58%
  • AIDS funding: 53%
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage: 50%
  • Rights of transgender people: 36%
  • Ending the military’s ban on being openly gay: 36%

The first finding is important because it refutes that dubious poll HRC released the night before the ENDA vote.  Part of me wants to say something that rhymes with "Keys my axe". The fact of the matter is that no matter what happens now to discredit the way the original poll was managed or what other numbers come out at this point to refute it, the damage has been done.  And, I can't even begin to over-estimate the damage.

Not for nothing, here's part of the analysis of that original HRC Survey as published in the Blade:

The survey’s results, circulated last month by HRC when many gays were locked in heated debate over the measure’s lack of transgender protections, show most people who responded support the bill as written.

But John Stahura, who specializes in survey research and directs the Purdue University Social Research Institute, said the survey’s methodology is problematic.

“They’re playing games,” he said after reviewing survey excerpts at the Blade’s request. “It doesn’t make sense.”


Read the article here

The second finding is important for a few reasons.  First, Rights of Transgender People are identified as a "Gay Rights Goal".  Interesting.  Second, 1 in 3 GLB people who were asked identified it as being extremely important, the same number as for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and just a bit less than the number who identify same-sex marriage. 

There's more here than simply the fact that the majority of people polled said they'll vote for Hillary....  

5:30pm:  My project is implementing, as we speak.  Keep yer fingers crossed.  It's a long process full of database migration, server work, security work, configuration changes, and will be ongoing all night.  We'll know the outcome by noon tomorrow.  I don't know if anyone cares except for my users, my project team, and me but I just felt like sharing that.

I've done a couple of interviews over the past couple of days that I have found to be cathartic which is really odd.  I mean, I've done lots of interviews over the years and I tend to approach them in a guarded sort of way.  These two, in particular, seemed to sense the emotional nature of what has happened with regard to my relationship with HRC in recent weeks and the discussions turned more into reflections on the rise and subsequent collapse of a deeply personal relationship than specifically on resignation or any other particular event.

In the first one the editor of Gay City News, Paul Schinder, noted that the tone of my writing about the organization seemed to change from my original resignation from the Board to through my Op/Ed piece on Advocate.com to our most recent divorce from the Business Council.  He asked if there was anything in particular that made it angrier.  I told him that there was.  First and foremost was the last-minute policy change to actively support the non-inclusive version of ENDA.  Worse, that poll that they contracted and released to support it was over the top unnecessary and sent a message that contradicts everything I had been working to build at the organization - a sense of community.  I don't think anyone truly understands what those two things mean in a deeper sense, or at least how I feel them.  Suddenly, the word "betrayal" has become part of my vernacular with relation to the organization and I can't think of any other words to use.  Even more infuriating is the fact that Joe actively played the board by arguing that we couldn't actively oppose ENDA because we can't punish a lawmaker our our scorecard for voting for a pro-gay bill (which is what that would mean), but somehow could justify using it to beat lawmakers over the head who later voted AGAINST the non-inclusive ENDA for symbolic reasons.  None of this washes.  Anyway, the results of his interviews with both Jamison and I are up now (read it here).

I did another one today with with similar deeper "stuff".  I hope the end-result reflects the input.

Autumn Sundeen has a post on Pam's House Blend highlighting that Hillary Clinton's most recent press release has left off the "T" (read it here).  The headline reads "New Poll Shows Hillary Leading Among LGB Voters".  I agree with her - very poor form.  You know, o course, that Hillary doesn't write her own Press Releases.  The person I'd expect to have caught this is Mark Walsh, Hillary's National Director of LGBT Outreach.  If you'd like him to clarify, or to get it right next time, feel free to write to him (mwalsh@hillaryclinton.com).  He's actually a good guy and HE'S probably the one who needs the education.....

11:30am:  There are a bunch of things I should talk about this morning... 

I got an update from NCTE saying that the Department of Homeland Security was dropping their new No-Match procedures. 

DHS Drops New "No Match" Enforcement Procedures

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has dropped its attempt at enforcing their new "No Match" enforcement procedures, issued in mid-August.  The enforcement procedures encountered obstacles from the beginning with a lawsuit by labor and immigration groups blocking the rule's progress only a couple weeks after their issuance.  During the rule's open-comment period, many organizations, including NCTE, filed comments opposing adoption of the rules, arguing that the procedures would unfairly jeopardize workers' jobs.  To read NCTE's comments, click here.

The DHS rules would have required employers to either fire employees or face stiff penalties when employee records do not match information in the Social Security Administration (SSA) database, such as name, Social Security number, or gender.  Transgender employees who are listed as one gender in SSA records, but who live and work in another gender, would have been one of the groups at greater risk of losing their jobs as a result of the DHS enforcement procedures.

This is a good thing.  For those who don't know, one of the issues transgender people often face in the workplace is that the gender marker on their Social Security record may not match the gender marker on their Driver's License, or simply the gender with which they self identify.  It can have far-reaching consequences.  Anyway, if you want to read the entire explanation you can read about it here.

News reports started coming out earlier this week confirming something we've known or a while now.  The Hate Crimes bill seems to be in jeopardy:

News surfaced last week that the hate crimes bill, which includes protections for gay and transgender persons, was in jeopardy because an undetermined number of Democrats who support it did not want to vote for a defense authorization measure to which it was attached in the Senate.

At least 20 gay-supportive Democrats were ready to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act because it includes provisions that support President Bush’s effort to continue the Iraq war, according to Capitol Hill sources.

Democrats may drop hate crimes from defense bill -Washington Blade, Nov. 22, 2007

HRC Issued an Action Alert about it titled, "Matthew Shepard Act in Serious Jeopardy". 

Speaking of HRC, the Washington Blade is reporting that "experts" are questioning HRC's dubious "ENDA Survey" they released at the 11th hour and 59th minute before the vote to support their change of policy from "neutral" to actively support the non-inclusive ENDA (read it here).  This is one of the things that galls me most - this survey- and I hate to sound bitter but I hope it gets exposed for what it is.

I've been getting email about efforts at various HRC sponsored events around the country over the next few weeks.  Susan Stanton is apparently taking part in an HRC event in Chicago next weekend and I got an email from a group there that was not-so-thrilled about it.  I expected that HRC would engage Susan sooner or later - she did a good job speaking during lunch at the last Board meeting.  I think her heart is in the right place but my only advice to her - if she's listening - is to be careful.  There's also a protest being planned in Hartford, CT during an HRC sponsored event at UConn (details here). 

I want to put something out there.  I'd like to make myself available or to help to find people who would be available to come to communities around the country to talk about things over these next few months.  I'm going to see who else I can get to be involved in this - maybe Elizabeth?  others who would be willing? - but I'm thinking it's time we find ways to have constructive discussions about education, to begin telling our stories, to share our concerns, and generally to "bond".  As a community, we and our allies are hurting right now and at some point we need a big community hug.  We need constructive ways to express how we're feeling.  And, we need a consistent direction to promote positive change.  I'm not in any way, shape, or form saying that I can provide those things.  What I'm saying is that I'm willing to play my part if there are ways it can be arranged.

We need community "town halls".  We need ways to collect our stories through video, and audio, and I'd bring those tools with me on my travels.  We need organization.  The people attending these things need to include both ourselves, our allies, and those who could be an ally given the proper information.  In short, we need to be more of a "community" because that's what it will take to move this discussion forward.  The change that will occur won't start or end in Washington.  It will start in your town, where you work, with you and your family and friends.  I don't necessarily need to be involved in making this happen in your community, but I'm willing to do what I can to help.

One thing I can do is to help develop tools.  I talked with the folks at GLAAD yesterday about putting together a Transgender educational/training tool that people can use as they carry these messages out there.  It will combine educational stuff, video of current popular-culture transgender characters and themes, and information on what messages resonate and which ones don't.  GLAAD does media training for people who are going to be doing media work and I think it's important that we carry that a step further to provide the training, the tools, and the strategy for this "education" that people are talking about.  Anyway, those discussions are moving forward and we're targeting to have something available early next year.  Stay tuned. 

As for my own involvement, there need to be some guidelines about what I can realistically do and what I can't.  There are realities of travel and logistics that would need to be addressed.  It would be nice to find ways to sponsor these kinds of things - corporate sponsors, organizations, universities, etc.  And, of course, there's the reality that my schedule is already busy so this would need to necessarily work  into that.  I know it comes as a shock to some but I do have a job, and I do need to be good at what I do (because I can't afford to lose it), and I live paycheck to paycheck just like many of us do. 

I remember my own initiation into all of this - at the very beginning of my transition - when then-prominent transwoman Dana Rivers came to Phoenix to talk and I went to watch.  If nothing else, I wanted to make up my own mind on this "celebrity" transperson - she had been on 20/20, in People Magazine, and on Oprah - and to hear what she had to say.  While she was here she talked about advocacy and doing your part and, although it was nice to meet her when I left at the end of the day I had no idea that she had planted seeds that would eventually take root and grow.  I sometimes joke that if I ever meet her again I'm going to throttle her because I need someone to blame for all this (it's easier to blame someone else rather than ourselves) and she's a convenient target.  But it's true - meeting her, seeing her, hearing her words - those were the things that started me down this path some call "activism", but others just call life.

Let me talk about incrementalism for a moment.  There are different flavors of incrementalism.  One flavor involves being strategic about incrementally adding or gaining additional scope in terms of rights.  Another involves incrementally adding (or subtracting) people to be covered by the rights.  What we've been talking about in terms of ENDA is the latter flavor, which necessarily involves fragmenting the community to achieve (some get rights, others don't).  The former involves gaining a foothold of rights for ALL, and then working to increase the scope of those rights over time.

There is a City Council meeting right here in Scottsdale next week.  At stake is adding 'gender identity' and 'sexual orientation' to the non-discrimination policy that covers employees of the city of Scottsdale.  In short, it's a workplace protection for city employees and is in line with workplace protections being enacted at corporations and workplaces around the country.  On a broader scale though, it will need to cover businesses who do work with the city and, indeed, everyone who lives or works in the city.  The city has the power to apply these protections to itself.  However, to apply it in a broader scale necessarily involves education (there's that word again) about what it means. 

That said, I sent an email supporting the proposal and here's the email I got in return (from the mayor, no less)...

Subject: Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Thank you for taking the time to contact me and for sharing your thoughts on the Scottsdale City Council's upcoming vote on the non-discrimination ordinance.

Scottsdale has a rich tradition of being an inclusive, diverse and safe community where individuals are treated with respect and fairness. Discrimination, in any form or manner, is wrong and should not be tolerated.

The next step in our community dialogue will take place on Tuesday, December 4th where the Scottsdale City Council will consider expanding the non-discrimination section of the city's personnel ordinance to prohibit discrimination against city employees based on sexual orientation or gender identification.

The City's Human Relations Commission has also recommended that Scottsdale consider ordinances that would include similar non-discrimination requirements for city contractors and businesses within Scottsdale. While the City Council will have an opportunity to discuss these recommendations on December 4th, it's important to note that a great deal of public involvement within our business community will need to take place before such action would be considered by the City Council. As such, only the city's personnel ordinance will be considered for amendment on December 4th.

I have attached a link to our City's website so you can obtain a copy of the meeting agenda and review the proposed ordinance in its entirety.

Thank you, again, for contacting me on this very important issue

There seems to be a large contingent pushing this: HRC, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Equality Arizona.  Even Al Sharpton (read it here)....

Perhaps not coincidentally, I received an Alert from Equality Arizona this morning about another bias motivated crime in the city:

Dear Donna,

Another anti-gay attack has been reported in Scottsdale! 

During the early morning hours of November 17th, two gay men were reportedly targeted with anti-gay slurs as they walked to their car.  According to a Scottsdale Police Incident Report, the alleged assailant was heard yelling “You cock sucking faggots, just keep walking,” before throwing a beer bottle at their car.  The windshield of their vehicle was damaged.

Scottsdale Police responded right away and made an arrest that night, and thankfully, nobody was physically injured.  By appropriately labeling this crime as a bias-motivated incident, the Scottsdale Police Department has demonstrated a sincere commitment to serve and protect everyone in Scottsdale, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Equality Arizona applauds the Scottsdale Police Department’s efforts to ensure that everyone who works, visits or lives in Scottsdale is protected. Read the East Valley Tribune story about this latest crime.

This latest incident, the third reported anti-gay crime in Scottsdale in the past year, emphasizes the need for the Scottsdale City Council to enact ordinances to stop discrimination before it escalates into violence.  Equality Arizona, in collaboration with the Scottsdale Human Relations Commission and several civil rights organizations, has called on the Scottsdale City Council to adopt a citywide ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education. Read the Phoenix Business Journal article about the ordinance.

The Scottsdale City Council is scheduled to vote December 4th on the first piece of the civil rights ordinance, which would expand the city’s equal employment opportunity policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity.  The council will also discuss two other components, which would apply to city contractors and businesses within Scottsdale’s city limits.

The Scottsdale City Council needs to hear from you.  If you live or work in the City of Scottsdale, or if you spend money in Scottsdale, please let the Scottsdale Mayor and City Council know that you expect them to support equality and oppose discrimination.

Please Take Action!

                                                                 TAKE ACTION:

Attend the Scottsdale City Council Meeting
Tuesday, December 4th – 5:00 p.m.
Please arrive by 4:30 p.m. to fill the auditorium and sign the petition
3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd, Scottsdale – City Hall Kiva Forum

 

Send a message to the Mayor and City Council Members
Take action online at
http://eqfed.org/campaign/scottsdaleordinance to send a message before the meeting


Our success depends on your participation. We need as many people as possible to attend the December 4th meeting and to send messages to the Mayor and City Council.
 

If you live or work in Scottsdale please write.  And, I'll see you at the City Council Meeting next Tuesday.

Lastly, I thought my 20-minutes on Mike Signorile's show yesterday afternoon went well and will try to get a copy of the audio and post it here.

That's more than enough for one morning.  My project is scheduled to begin implementation later today so keep your fingers crossed.  Mine are.
 

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11:30am:  Is it Wednesday already?  So much has happened in such a short time (again) if somehow doesn't feel like it's this far into the middle of the week.  I felt like getting up this morning and going to look at my new Chamber Coil - it cost me a couple hundred dollars so I'd like to see what my money bought me.  It only took a second to realize that a) I don't know where to look and b) even if I did know I probably wouldn't be able to pick it out among all the other engine "stuff".  The good news, I suppose, is that the car is purring like a kitten which is a good thing for a car that has almost 90,000 miles on it. 

I'm scheduled to be on Mike Signorile's Sirius OutQ radio show today.  That should be interesting.  I'll try to get a copy of the audio and post it here.  It turns out that Mike and I graduated not only from the same university (Syracuse) but from the same school there (SI Newhouse School of Public Communication), and only a year apart.  Small world.

I'm trying to concentrate on my project as much as possible - we're scheduled to go live again this weekend.  We've got a Go/No-Go decision meeting this afternoon.  So far, things are looking promising.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

9:00pm:  It has been a long day.  The good news is that I finished the last of the turkey tonight  It's amazing how long one of those birds can last, or how many different ways you can dress it to make it seem like it's not the same thing you had the night before, and the night before that.  I'm sitting here with a glass of wine, listening to the Best of Bread - chilling.

My car hasn't been running right for a little while - I couldn't pinpoint it but it just didn't feel right.  It's probably not a good thing to admit that I have my own service agent who knows me on a first name basis so I made arrangements to bring it in so they could check it out.  Well, I needed something called a coil - apparently one off them wasn't working.  And, I got a new set of spark plugs.  I told my man, Brian, that I had asked for something sparkly for Christmas but "spark plugs" wasn't what I had in mind.  I suppose I'll need to be more descriptive next time.  Anyway, the good news is that the car feels right again.  The bad news was the cost.  Ouch.

I was there for several hours, and had my computer plugged into the business center there so I could work.  CNN was on a large TV nearby and I saw every news story for the day at least a dozen times.  There's the guy in South Carolina who got his arm stuck in a farm machine and cut it off with a pocket knife.  There's the tragedy about the Washington Redskin football player who was shot and killed in his home a couple of nights ago.  And, there was a story about a group of cross-dressers who apparently got upset with someone at a McDonald's drive-in in Memphis and came into the restaurant swinging a tire iron and generally very unhappy.  It did not receive nice treatment in the CNN report - I've never heard the words "drag queen" and transvestite used so many times in such a short span of time before.  (details here).

On to deeper topics....

There's a good article on the San Francisco Day of Remembrance vigil from last week.  It's Jamison Green's words from the event, interwoven with photographs and other multimedia "stuff" to provide an overall DOR experience (read it here).  For those who couldn't attend a local even for some reason, or those who don't have one nearby, this is as close as you can get to the real thing.  Experience it.  Some of Jamison's words:

Anti-trans prejudice and violence cuts across class and racial lines, cuts through economic strata, cuts to the heart of the matter. Anti-trans violence is base and primitive. It’s about fear of difference, about disgust and shame. It’s about judgment, and it’s about power. It’s about someone else’s fear and shame and agitation in the face of something they don’t understand, but they feel powerful enough to condemn, and righteous enough to carry out the sentence.

There were human beings who embodied the names we’ll say tonight.

Human beings who did not deserve to die just because they were different. Human beings whose murderers often go un-apprehended and unpunished. We call this an enlightened society, a free society, with liberty and justice for all. Where is the liberty and justice for transgendered, transsexual, and intersexed people?

Are we to believe that we are less than human?

Are we to accept the ignorant judgment of others?

Are we to ignore the love we feel for ourselves, our families, our friends, our very lives and to take on the burden of other people’s shame?

Are we to be denied the capacity for love and human connection?

These were human beings who were killed. We come here to remember.

We want to live. We want to remember so that the pain and the tears and the screams and the shock and bewilderment of untimely and violent death will one day be unconscionable in human society.

We want to live.

We want all our sisters and brothers and children to thrive, to fulfill themselves, to age gracefully. We want our elders to pass peacefully from this life, knowing they made a difference and were loved. We want to live. Please keep those we remember tonight alive in your hearts to bring peace to their souls, to bring peace to this world.

- Jamison Green

Speaking of Jamison, some may realize that he and I have been the only two transgender members of the HRC Business Council since we both were asked to join in 2002 to increase the diversity of the group.  Since that time, there's nary a piece of transgender workplace effort with an HRC stamp on it that doesn't involve either one or both of us.  The Business Council is a collection of GLBT (and ally) professionals from corporate America acting as a steering committee for HRC workplace efforts.  Since HRC has been primarily in a defensive posture legislatively for most of these past few years I think it's safe to say that some of HRC's most significant achievements have come through the Workplace Project.  In fact, I'd go a step further and say with confidence that ENDA wouldn't be ripe for discussion in Congress if it were not for our efforts over these past several years to help corporate America realize that these protections are necessary, and are good for business.

Shortly after I was asked to be on the Board of Directors, Workplace Project Director Daryl Herrschaft asked me if I still planned to stay on the Business Council.  I was a little taken aback by his question, and told him that if I could only be on one or the other I'd choose to be on the Business Council because that's the place where we actually get things done.  The Business Council was my doorway to the organization and I sometimes joke with Daryl that this entire mess is his fault - he's the one who got me involved.  Anyway, it's a great group of people.

Jamison and I submitted our resignation from the Business Council today (read it here).  We struggled with this for quite a while, but in the end we knew what we needed to do and we did it.  I don't feel that it's necessary to rehash everything we've done and felt over these past few weeks to reconcile today's announcement, but suffice it to say that the fact we didn't get a response at all from Joe Solmonese to our request to meet with him personally indicated to us that our time there was up.  It was that simple.  And frankly, that's a shame as it leaves a number of critical initiatives that directly affect the transgender community in workplaces around this country without any transgender champions.  Not being included in a symbolic piece of legislation like ENDA that most don't give a prayer of passing under the current administration is one thing.  But to lose people who have given their heart, their trust, and their efforts to achieve real results that affect real people is a huge blow.  The work we were doing on the Business Council was not symbolic.  It was real, and the saddest part of it all is that the people most affected by not having us there to continue this work is the transgender community.  Our goal is to be able to continue this work in other capacities and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to do that. 

I'll need to document everything I know and everything that has happened someday soon - before I start to forget it.  The things that have happened with me over the past couple of months - from the high of arranging for Joe and other national GLBT leaders to speak at SCC to the low of today, an everything in between.  I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined things could fall so far so fast.

One thing I'll share that I don't think anyone else knows yet.  The day of our HRC Board Call to make a policy decision on ENDA (10/1) we held a Business Council call that afternoon to discuss the situation amongst ourselves as corporate leaders and to make an uninvited recommendation to the Sr. Staff and Board about the decision we were going to be asked to make.  I have always found the fact that HRC leadership kept Daryl and the Workplace Project totally out of the loop throughout the entire ENDA debacle to be troubling.  As I've said before, those are the people who should have been most engaged.  In any event, although we hadn't been asked to provide an opinion (something else I find odd) we felt that it was important to meet as a group and to have one.  So, we met in the later part of the afternoon, we talked, and we forwarded our recommendation to Joe, David Smith, and to others.  Thinking back on it, I doubt the board ever saw it.

I have that email that outlines our recommendation and some of the potential issues of taking a more tepid stance, but don't feel it appropriate to share the specifics here.  Let's just say that the fact that the Business Council supported a more assertive stance was one of the reasons I felt it was appropriate to continue engagement there.  Until today.

Anyway, the news of our resignations was picked up by the Associated Press so it seems to be all over the place.  Go figure.

The website Queerty seem to think up innovative headlines for things.  They've titled a story about our resignations, "HRC Has No Trans Business" (read it here).  Cute. 

I think the coverage that really gets closest to the heart of things was done by Marc Gunther.  Marc wrote an article for Fortune.com titled "Trans-Forming Corporate America" back in  August - not all that long ago - based on the data released in the most recent HRC State of the Workplace report (read it here).  I thought he did a great job with the article - in a mainstream publication no less - and I had an opportunity to thank him in person when I met him at an Out and Equal Workplace Summit session a few weeks later.  I sent him a copy of our resignation statement this afternoon and he subsequently made a blog entry about it: "Civil Rights, but not for all" (read it here).  It's so refreshing to have an opportunity to interact with people who just "get it". 

As of this afternoon there's nothing left for me to resign from at HRC.  What once were deep connections are now gone.  I'm back where I started - not even a $35 member at this point.  I still consider many of the people who work there as dear friends and I'm still committed to the work we've all started.  It's just that we'll need to do it differently in the future.  I sometimes joke that I feel like a poster-child for change.  If I needed to think of my own headline for all that has happened recently it would be simple, direct, and to the point: Change Happens.

I have gone out of my way to avoid jumping on the bandwagon of HRC-haters that is beating its drums.  I feel many emotions right now, but hate isn't one of them.  I recently got some artwork that is a variation of the HRC logo that I think is unique, original, and even amusing, but I won't share it here because I don't want to get more involved in things I perceive as negative and non-productive.  It's done.  Onwards.
 

Monday, November 26, 2007

4:00pm:  My son called and mentioned that one of his friends stopped by over the weekend and brought some left-over "turducken" (Wikipedia definition here) for him.  He says it tasted ok, and he asked me if I have ever tried any.  I told him I didn't want to sound square or old-fashioned but I'm very hesitant to eat food that starts with the word "turd".  So, no, I've never tried it.

Have you ever Google'd the word transgender?  I tried it on a lark and really wasn't surprised at what I found.  There are almost 8 million hits for the word!  Wow.  On the right side of the page are a number of "Sponsored Links".  One is for "She-male and Tranny sites".  Another is for "Bisexual Threesomes".  A little farther down there's a link to "Shemale Live Cams".  Oy.  I Google'd the word transsexual and actually was surprised to see that here aren't any Sponsored Links there.  I expected similar unfortunate pandering.

Words.  It's interesting to see how the mind processes them when it reads them - often based on life experience.  For example, I often run into the word "Exchange" in my profesional world (MS-Exchange).  Somehow, my mind always reads it with an "S" at the beginning so I have to do a double-take to realize that it's not what I thought I read the first time around.  The brain works in mysterious ways.

Someone recently sent me something I find fascinating. 

The animated image below is labeled as a "Right Brain / Left Brain test".  Different people can watch it at the same time and the woman will appear to be spinning in different directions.  I had four people from work looking over my shoulder at this and two disagreed on what direction she was turning, and the other two indicated that she kept switching directions.  I'll admit that when I look at it, without concentrating too much, she's almost always turning clockwise.

The Right Brain vs Left Brain test ... do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.
 

  LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
  • uses logic
  • detail oriented
  • facts rule
  • words and language
  • present and past
  • math and science
  • can comprehend
  • knowing
  • acknowledges
  • order/pattern perception
  • knows object name
  • reality based
  • forms strategies
  • practical
  • safe
RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
  • uses feeling
  • "big picture" oriented
  • imagination rules
  • symbols and images
  • present and future
  • philosophy & religion
  • can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
  • believes
  • appreciates
  • spatial perception
  • knows object function
  • fantasy based
  • presents possibilities
  • impetuous
  • risk taking

I've seen websites dedicated to hacking this but, whether you believe the right brain/left brain thing or the various traits it describes it's still fascinating if only as an optical illusion.

Have fun!

10:00am:  Mom just left.  Her friend, who spent the Holiday with family near here, stopped by, they loaded up, and they're on their way back to Texas.

The end-of-visit good-bye's are particularly bittersweet these days.  As I've shared in the past, I can't help but face the possibility that every good-bye is the last one.  I'm not a worrier, and I don't think that's the worrier in me talking.  It's the realist.  Mom is getting more and more frail - she joked that she has shrunk 2 inches in recent years - and I think the general effort to live in her house sometimes gets overwhelming for her.  When I visited last month she wanted to get her name on a list to potentially get into an assisted living facility near her house.  The list is apparently a year or more long so I suppose the good news is that she's thinking that far in advance.  Anyway, it was sad to see her drive away.

We had a wonderful visit.  Mom helped me to decide which pieces of art go best where and helped me to hang them.  We bought a few simple household items that she thought would be nice here and she was thrilled with the results.  We spent an afternoon at Arizona Mills, the local (huge) outlet mall.  Jordin Sparks, winner of the last American Idol competition who lives here in the Valley, was doing a meet-and-greet to support her new CD at the Virgin Megastore there (see photos here) so as if the crowds weren't crazy enough there was a huge line of people waiting to say 'hi' to her. The good news is that neither of us spent much money so we escaped relatively lightly.  The bad news, of course, is that neither of us had much money to blow there.

One thing I've found myself doing more lately is taking notice of women I see here or there throughout the day.  It usually happens every once in a while that I'll see someone who perks my interest for some unknown reason.  It has been happening more and more lately - like, two or three times a day.  It happened on Saturday at the Deli counter in the supermarket.  And a little later, someone I passed in the mall.  It's not creepy or anything - I assure you - other than one of those interesting examples about the phenomena of attraction.  The sad part, of course, is that there's not even an opportunity to start a conversation.  Sigh.  I'll have to write more about this stuff at some point....

Mom and I had a busy visit.  We went to the Zoo Lights display at the Phoenix Zoo on Friday evening.  We did our fair share of Shopping even if only to get out and do some walking. Too much eating (did the two of us really finish off that entire Apple pie?).  She watched HGTV and the Weather Channel during the quiet times.  She only likes two movies, one of which was on last night so we watched it together (Sister Act).  We touched base with my sister and brother.  We explored.  I can't imagine it being a nicer weekend.

Now it's back to the real world.  She's gone, and I'm working.  My project is scheduled to implement (re-scheduled from a couple of weeks ago) this weekend and it's critical that we do it this time.  Things are looking good.  I expect to share some significant news in the next few days so I'm getting ready for that.  I need to get back on my exercise regimen - the Holidays are generally not kind to me in that regard.  I need to catch up on my backlog of email.  And I've got a list of loose-ends that need to be tied off.  All in all, I expect it to be a busy week.

Speaking of exercise, I went for a good long run on Saturday afternoon.  It was my first outdoor run since moving here.  Chandler, AZ is south of Scottsdale and Southeast of Phoenix itself although you'd be hard pressed to see any gap between the cities that make up the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  Here in the east valley you've got Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler all large cities in and of themselves and very much clumped together seamlessly.  Two of these cities (Chandler and Gilbert) were on the CNN Money list of the Top 10 Fastest Growing US Suburbs for 2006 (see the list here).  It's funny, too, as on my running route I run down a major street, 4 lanes plus a turn lane in the middle, and on one side is a brand new community surrounded by a wall and on the other are houses with chickens and roosters running around in the front yard.  As I turned the corner there's a brand new shopping center on one corner and a big flat field filled with a hundred or more grazing sheep on the other.  Anyway, it struck me as funny.

Speaking of funny, the people who do the Geico ads are really amazing.  Besides the cavemen and the lizard they've got a series of commercials where a "regular" Geico customer is paired with a "celebrity" to pitch their insurance.  There's one with Little Richard, Verne Troyer, and another recent one with Peter Frampton.  One I particularly like is with a guy who does sound effects:

It feels good to smile.  And, speaking of smiling, my mom saw something while we were shopping that made her smile so she decided I needed it as a house-warming gift.  I share it here without comment.  They're made of blown glass, and the larger one is about the size (and weight) of a bowling ball.  Somehow, it makes me smile, too.  Ya gotta love moms...


 

Friday, November 23, 2007

5:00pm:  It's almost time for left-over turkey for dinner and I'm still full from yesterday.  I got to a point last night when I felt as though my rib cage would split open from everything I had eaten and that would be that.  Game over.  Wow.  I won't have to eat again for a week.

Yesterday was nearly the perfect Thanksgiving.  It was sunny and warm so I spent some time outside while things were cooking to wash my car.  It was still covered with bugs and various other road-muck from my drive across country a couple of weeks ago and was crying for a good washing.  I was happy to oblige.  Mom and I went for a little drive to explore the area.  My son came over for dinner.  A friend recovering from some surgery with Dr. Meltzer stopped by.  All the food was ready at nearly the same time and was delicious.  My son helped me move a large piece of furniture that I've been needing moved.  Football.  Parades.  The thick Thanksgiving Day newspaper with all the day-after-Thanksgiving door-buster ads.  All in all - a wonderful day.

Today is "Black Friday".  It's the official beginning of the Holiday shopping season when retailers pull out all the stop to lure shoppers into their stores.  I was shocked to  see a line already forming outside Circuit City at 2pm yesterday - the people at the front of the line were building a tent and blowing up air mattresses.  I must admit that I looked over the Door Buster stuff from their flyer when I got home and I didn't see anything on there worth spending 18 hours waiting in line to buy.  Oh well.  Anyway, people get crazy over this stuff.

This was the first time in recent years I didn't get up early and wade out there with the other crazies.  I enjoy it more for the people-experience than for the purchases.  Last year Elizabeth and I did it together - it's more fun to have someone to go shopping with.  But this year I don't have the cash to put out, my needs are relatively few, my son only  wants cash, so I decided to sleep in rather than subject myself to that.  I didn't leave the house until a little before 8am and despite the fact that I stopped by Best Buy, Circuit City and Costco all during their "Early Bird Specials"  the only thing I ended up with was my free Costco Holiday Cookbook.  One of the door-busters at Costco was a 50" flat-panel TV for $999 and people were grabbing them as fast as they could stock them.  One of my funniest visions from the day was this young guy with a baseball hat on sideways and his small Kia pulled in front of the Costco with one of these large TV's on a cart behind it. The doors were open and the trunk was up, but really - the TV was almost as long as the entire car.  I have no idea how he thought he was going to get it home.  Too funny - where's a camera when you need one?!

Mom and I did a little shopping this afternoon and had a blast.  Now she's glued to the TV watching "The Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic channel.  She's never seen it before and mentioned she'd like to watch.  It just so happens it's a Dog Whisperer marathon today so she can watch it pretty much until midnight if she wants. I can tell she likes it, and she just might.

On the trans front there was good news out of Michigan earlier this week:

Michigan Governor Signs Transgender Antidiscrimination Law

Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm has signed an executive order banning discrimination in state employment based on gender identity or expression, according to Michigan LGBT rights group Triangle Foundation. The legislation applies to the approximately 50,000 state employees in Michigan's executive branch, which makes up 95% of all state employees. The order will protect not only transgender workers but also any state employee who faces discrimination because he or she does not conform to traditional gender norms in behavior or appearance.

Triangle Foundation director of policy Sean Kosofsky said the move sends the message that discrimination is not tolerated in the state.

"We can only hope that our national leaders, who are currently debating whether or not to protect transgender workers in federal law, will share our governor's vision," Kosofsky said in the Triangle Foundation press release.

Read the article - Advocate.com - November 22, 2007

This is how to crack this nut.  Local efforts.  Congratulations to all involved, and the the leadership of governor Granholm.

Trans-activist Gwen Smith has an Op/Ed in today's Washington Blade titled "Nothing to be Thankful For" (read it here).  It's good reading.

Speaking of reading, trans columnist Jacob Anderson-Minshall contacted me shortly after ENDA started to pop to do an interview.  After brief delay we finally connected and had a chance to chat.  I didn't realize it was his 100th column milestone (read about him here) and wish him thanks and congratulations!  Anyway, for those who are interested his article is here (read it).
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

5:30pm:  Today has been an interesting day.  I spent a good part of the afternoon going through boxes and big plastic containers in my garage.  I haven't been through most of it since I packed it to leave Austin in late Sept. 2004 so it was almost like the stuff in there was "new" again.  You might think that if you haven't missed something in over 3 years you probably didn't really need it in the first place but that word, need, is a funny word.  Sometimes you need things to remind you of what you need.

For example, I went through a box of my dad's old stuff.  My sister has most of it, but I was the executor of his will after he died so I've got folders full of stuff and various other things.  To my surprise, I found that I have his birth certificate.  I have his wallet with his driver's license, his social security card, and all his other "things" in it almost as though he forgot it here during his last visit and needs me to bring it to him so he doesn't worry too much about not having it.  I found his ashes, and realized that I haven't taken a trip to bring them anywhere to sprinkle in a couple of years and I need to do that. 

In the middle of it all my son called to say that he'll be over for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.  He wasn't sure if he could make it but called to say he'll be here.  I told him I was hoping that would be the case and bought extra turkey just to be sure to have enough.

All in all, it was more than simply unpacking boxes.  It was revisiting the past.  It made me both happy and sad.  The final piece of this puzzle is my mom who should be here any time now.  I've been expecting her for the last couple of hours and I suppose she'll get here when she gets here.  Her bedroom is all ready.

The day after Thanksgiving is the busy shopping day and I'll be out there with the rest of the crazies.  My own reality right now is that I'm low on "discretionary funds" right now so there's only so much I can do.  I have learned to live within my means over recent years so I'm comfortable with that.

I spoke with Elizabeth earlier this week who asked if I would be spending Christmas with her and her family this year.  I told her I didn't think so - that I would probably arrange to go spend the holiday someplace quiet and beautiful.  She wasn't happy about that.  I find that ever since my dad passed - the week between Christmas and New Year 1998 - the Holidays have taken on a different tone for me.  I don't have memories of Christmases growing up as a child - my only Christmas memories are with my wife and son - so it's not as though I have a lifetime of holiday  memories to deal with or to torment me.  And although I appreciate the "family" aspect of the Season for so many I celebrate that aspect on Thanksgiving.  I find myself becoming more introspective at the end of the year and I have no problem whatsoever taking the time to get away, appreciate life, and re-connect with myself.

We'll see how it all unfolds.  In the meantime I'll be happy to see mom when she shows up at my door.  I'll help her get settled.  I'll make dinner, and I expect she'll want to do a bit of a shopping.  She'll want to give input on how to decorate the house and I'll accept it gladly.  We'll cook together tomorrow - watching parades and football.  My son will be over, and I've invited another friend by, and we'll all eat entirely too much.  It may not sound like much, but these are the times I'll remember going forward.  For me, these are holiday memories to be cherished because a time will come when any number of the special parts of this puzzle will be missing. 

I looked back at my journal entry for 11/21/1999.  It was about 6 weeks after I started to transition and apparently I spent the week before that in Dallas (sound familiar).  This trip was the first time I went back to Rochester as Donna:

11/21/99 ===================================================================

I'm in Rochester at my sister's house. So much is happening...it's really odd....

The flight up yesterday was ok. I got back from Dallas, and by the time I had my nails done, had 6 hrs. of electrolysis, got something to eat, stopped by work, and gone home, it was after 1. I decided I needed at least a couple of hours of sleep to even function at all, which I did, and that was just enough to keep me going.

I spent most of today with my old neighbors...the Topolskis. We went to church together and I cried like a baby.....We spent the day talking and it was just wonderful.

I feel like I've gained 20 lbs. After church we went back to their house and they made a full breakfast....omelettes and hash browns and all the fixin's....I went over to my brother's place to watch the Bills game (most disappointing), and they made tacos and stuff at halftime. All in all, I probably haven't eaten a terribly lot...it just feels as though I have.

Tomorrow I'm meeting many people as Donna for the first time. I meet with the guy whose wedding I am video taping on Friday at 9. I'm having lunch with my brother's boss, and I'm going to some other friend's house for dinner. It should be interesting....

 

It all seems like a lifetime ago....

 

9:00am:  It's the day before Thanksgiving and it feels more like spring than late fall.  Weather here is sunny for the foreseeable future with temps plunging through the 80's down into the high 60's for the long Holiday weekend.  Somehow, I can't complain about any of that.

There are a couple of things to share this morning before I get to unpacking/straightening/cleaning in preparation for mom's arrival later today.

First, there is a maddening situation brewing in Georgia with openly transgender City Council member Michelle Bruce.

Ga. trans politician accused of gender fraud
Lawsuit claims Michelle Bruce lied by identifying as female

One of the few openly transgender elected officials in the U.S. faces a lawsuit from opponents who allege she deceived the public by identifying as female.

Two losing candidates in the Nov. 6 city council election in Riverdale, Ga., filed a lawsuit last week in Clayton County Superior Court against incumbent City Councilmember Michelle Bruce, accusing her of fraud for identifying as female.The lawsuit also alleges election fraud and seeks to stop a Dec. 4 runoff election between Bruce and the second-place finisher for her post.

Read the article - Washington Blade - Nov. 20, 2007

If there were ever a stinky can of sore losers this is it.  Michelle is exactly right by saying that her opponents could not attack her on the issues so they attacked her personally.  I hope the proceedings there unmask these bigots for the narrow-minded losers that they are, and condemns their hateful attacks as inappropriate and unacceptable.

Second, I wanted to revisit my talk at mom's church on Sunday for a minute.  My mom goes to a Unitarian Church and they have become like a second family to her.  It helps me to rest easier knowing that she's got people who care about her checking on her and ready to help if she needs it.  Anyway, the timing of my talk (which we arranged a couple of months ago) was particularly appropriate as there's a large article in the UUWorld Magazine this month titled: Congregations Welcome Transgender People (read it here).  I have several friends who are members of the UU Church so they're not really saying anything I didn't already know.  But it's nice to see it out there so publicly.  These kinds of things provide ongoing opportunities to talk about it in mainstream forums.

If you live in a city with a UU church and aren't sure whether they've got any transpeople as part of their congregation, and you want some experience talking to a group, you might want to print this article and contact them.  It might provide an opportunity for you to be able to talk at one of their services, making us human rather than simply people others write about.  If you belong to some other community of faith perhaps this will provide an opportunity to begin a discussion.  These kinds of things open doors - all any of us need to do is to take the first step and to open them.

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2:30pm:  As I mentioned this morning, today is TDoR (Transgender Day of Remembrance).  I've gotten a couple of things to share.  The first is the statement from NCTE:

Honoring the Day of Remembrance
 

Today, transgender communities across the country gather to commemorate those who have lost their lives to hate-motivated violence and neglect. The Day of Remembrance gives us the opportunity to express our grief at the lives we've lost, thinking about the transgender people whose lives were cut short and whose gifts our world will never know. It is a time to mourn the deadly impact of prejudice and intolerance.

 

In their report released yesterday, the FBI cited a 7% increase in hate crime violence over the past year, with the majority of victims being targeted because of their race. No one should be targeted for violence because of who they are, for their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. We must take a stand against this deplorable rise in attacks and stand in solidarity with all of the communities impacted.

 

The Day of Remembrance provides us with the chance to recommit ourselves to creating a world in which violence against transgender people--and all others--is unacceptable, illegal and known to be immoral. It is a poignant reminder of the preciousness of transgender lives and our need to advocate for the wellbeing of all transgender people. In the immortal words of the labor activist Mother Jones, "honor the dead and fight like hell for the living."

 

This year, we have seen the U.S. Congress for the first time pass transgender inclusive legislation at the federal level, in the form of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We've seen members of Congress grappling with issues of gender identity in ways that they never have before as they struggled with whether to consider a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination. Even though they passed a sexual orientation only ENDA, they are more aware of gender-identity issues than ever before in our history. All of this work is in preparation for 2009, so we can pass these bills and have them signed into law by a President who shares our commitment to equal rights for all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

 

We are at a crucial point in our organizing and advocacy on behalf of the transgender community. We need to continue the work of educating our representatives in Washington about the need for transgender-inclusive legislation to prevent hate crimes, to ban discrimination and to send a message that the United States of America should never tolerate prejudice. Over the next year, we'll be asking you to sign petitions, call your legislators and join us here in Washington to help educate Congress about the need for transgender-inclusive legislation.

 

We encourage you to commit yourself again tonight to helping to ensure legal rights for transgender people and join with us in the movement for transgender equality. Working together, we can outlaw hate-motivated violence, employment discrimination, and much, much more. In memory of the dead, in honor of the living ... thank you.

 

We also want to extend our thanks to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who has worked for so many years to raise awareness about this issue through the Remembering Our Dead website. For more information about the Day of Remembrance, please visit their site.

 

The other is a video.  At many TDoR vigils it is customary to read first-person accounts of the deaths of those we are mourning for that year.  Someone forwarded me this video which is simple, sobering, and sad.

Chicago held it's vigil on Sunday evening.  There are photos of the event (see them here) and an article about it in Windy City Times

The DOR event there capped a full week of Transgender awareness events that included a meeting with local HRC folks (article about it here).  I had originally been invited to participate but recent events changed that.  John Barry, who this article mentions, is on the Board of Directors and is a friend, but must necessarily shoulder some of the accountability for the fact that things unfolded as they did.  That's part of what being on a board entails, and is part of the reason I couldn't stay.  Bob Berry, on the other hand, is one of the local Chicago HRC folks, is a sweetheart of a guy, is trying to be a good foot soldier, and I'm sad to see the hard work he has put in to build bridges fall apart like this.  But the local people are the ones who will bear the brunt of it. 

HRC Chicago’s John Barry said he feels the organization’s long-term goal is an inclusive ENDA. “I do think HRC wants to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA,” Barry said. He received negative feedback when he suggested the national organization backed the trans-less ENDA as part of a “tactical decision.”

Many feel deceived by HRC, and wondered what happened behind the scenes. “I wish I knew what happened in those meetings,” Smith said in response to questions regarding how informed HRC Chicago is. “We were just as surprised as you are. We don’t know, and we’re getting the same mixed messages you are.”

Chicago HRC representatives told the crowd that they have been kept in the dark. Robert Berry said the local steering committee had “no idea” HRC would support the trans-less bill until it was said and done.

However, McCurdy said that HRC National is “well aware” of their personal stances. Many HRC Chicago representatives voiced their disdain for the national organization’s actions. Berry added that state HRC representatives are having similar town hall meetings all across the country to start a dialogue, and that notes taken from the meeting will be delivered to HRC National.

CGS’ [Chicago Gender Society] Carol Rodgers suggested that since HRC Chicago appears to be powerless, the trans community should cease supporting it. Rodgers proposed that those in the room sever all ties with HRC until it changes its stance. The room filled with wild applause, with nearly everyone standing up in support of her suggestion.
 

I agree with Carol Rodgers.  I just can't rationalize engaging with them until there is an apology from the top.  Unless something unexpected happens, expect to see a joint statement from myself and Jamison Green very shortly.  I'll leave it at that for now...

In a blog entry dated today at Straight, Not Narrow titled "Anger Still Festering Against HRC" the author closes by saying: "Someone is going to need to reach across to the other side and begin some healing, and the sooner that happens the better. There is much more to lose by working separately than there is to gain by doing so."  I agree.  The thing we probably don't agree on, though is who that Someone should be.  I think it needs to be Joe.

 

7:30am:  In light of recent events with ENDA there may be those who have lost faith in advocacy organizations in general.  I can understand why people would feel that way initially, but it's important to realize that there are still very important - I'd go so far as to say critically important - advocacy assistance efforts that are specifically doing outreach to the transgender community.

One of these groups is the Point Foundation.  The Point Foundation gives scholarships to GLBT students.  That's pretty much all they do.

Actually, it's a little more complicated than that due to the fact that there's only so much money to go around and there are so many amazingly deserving students who need it.  They awarded $1.1 million in scholarships to 35 amazing people in the 2007-2008 school year (an avg. of $13,600 per student).  If you really want to read about courage go to the webpage listing this year's group of scholars (see it here), click on the photos, and read the stories.  I went to an event in Los Angeles last year and one young woman talked about how she came out to her parents as lesbian, was kicked out of the house at 15 years old, got a place to live, got a job, and survived her way through high school always dreaming that she'd be able to go to college.  I'm telling you - it gives you goosebumps to hear these kids.

The Point Foundation has been featured on Oprah, in the New York Times, and in newspapers around the country.  As a result, they get far more applications for aid than they can fill so the process of selecting the scholars is a difficult one.  But it all starts with an application, and the application window for the 2008-2009 school year starts in January 2008 and runs through March.  Joanne Herman is a dear friend and as a member of their National Board of Regents is having a huge impact there. 

The Point Foundation is making a specific effort to reach transgender and gender-variant students, and sent me the following statement to share:

Point Foundation
www.pointfoundation.org

Submitted by Kelli Bailey, Scholar and Alumni Program Director
kelli@pointfoundation.org

and Joanne Herman, member of Point’s National Board of Regents 

“With Point Foundation, the “T” in LGBT is not just an afterthought.  They really mean it,” states Point Scholar Ben Singer.  Point Foundation (Point) is the nation’s largest LGBT scholarship organization.  Point provides financial support, mentorship, and hope to meritorious students who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.  Point is currently supporting 84 undergraduate and graduate college students with an average scholarship amount of $13,600 annually.  Of its 84 current scholars 10% identify as transgender (7 FtM, 1 MtF).  Additionally, Point’s Alumni Association is comprised of 26 alumni, 3 of which are members of the Transgender community (3 FtM).  While Point Foundation is pleased to support this many Transgender scholars, it is not enough.  “The applicant pool in 2007 consisted of only 4% Transgender identified candidates.  We need to get the word out that this support is available,” urges Joanne Herman, member of Point’s National Board of Regents.  Please visit our website at www.pointfoundation.org for more information and help us spread the word. 

 

Spread the word to people you know so that when the application window opens we have transgender students applying.  These students are our future.

Today is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I received the following statement from the Stonewall Democrats to commemorate the day:

Stonewall Democrats Statement on Transgender Day of Remembrance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC   Today, the National Stonewall Democrats released the following statement in commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance:
 
Today, our community remembers the those among us whose lives were lost because of the bigotry shown towards their expression of gender. Transgender Americans are routinely asked to employ a level of courage which few of us maintain. Where ignorance responds to that courage with a display of violence, our community must reward courage with a demonstration of commitment.

Violence towards transgender Americans can be dramatically reduced by affirming individual dignity through equal enforcement of employment and hate crime laws. If we are serious about reducing violence towards transgender Americans, then we must proactively work towards providing all of our community equal protection under the law. It is our actions, rather than words, which which will demonstrate our tribute.

Stonewall Democrats take our own name from an historic catalyst, the Stonewall Inn riots, an event largely created under the leadership of transgender members of our community. Today, transgender Democrats continue to demonstrate their contribution to LGBT advancement within our organization as chapter presidents, board members and officers of individual state Democratic parties.

Whenever transgender citizens are told that their inclusion hinders the advancement of the LGBT movement, our own history is ignored and strategic lessons forgotten. As we remember the lives of those we have lost, we must work to secure equal protections for our entire movement. We owe a special duty towards those whose contributions have already led to legal protections for many in our community but not for themselves. If we are to reduce violence against transgender citizens, we must reduce attempts to marginalize transgender Americans within the law and, when necessary, within our own community.

Jon Hoadley, Executive Director


The Day of Remembrance is a tribute to the lives of transgender Americans who have lost their lives as victims of hate crimes targetting individuals based on gender identity. It is marked on November 20. Begun in 1998, the day was first organized as a vigil in San Francisco to remember the life of Rita Hester following her murder the year before. Today, the LGBT community marks this day with vigils and events across the country.
 

 

Monday, November 19, 2007

10:00pm:  There are some very exciting things are just over the horizon.  I can't really share details yet except to say that I haven't been this energized about doing something for quite a while.  There's something that really makes you feel alive to be bursting with enthusiasm about something, and some of the pieces falling into place are making me feel like that.  More to come.

I had a job interview today.  Actually, it wasn't a job job - it was for another contract position.  I've explained in the past that I enjoy doing shorter term projects as they allow me the flexibility to do the other things that make up my unique life-balance, so we'll see what happens.  For those who might be interested in similar opportunities the website I typically use to find these things is dice.com.  If you've got any sort of a technical background and are looking for opportunities that's a good place to start.  I've gotten jobs through there and I haven't even had to interview in person - it was all done over the phone.  Anyway, there are ways to limit your search to a specific city or region so if you've got a little time check it out. 

Speaking of checking it out, they video-taped my interview at the Dallas Voice last week and put a small snippet of it into a weekend report on their website  You can watch it here if you want - it starts about 50 seconds into it.  I have asked them to forward me the entire interview and I'm hopeful they'll do that.  More to come on that, too.

Mom is driving here from Dallas with a friend (and her friend's dog) and is scheduled to get here sometime Wednesday evening.  If you add the ages of these two women together they probably total 150 and I joked with my mom that I picture some kind of senior citizen Thelma and Louise thing.  Of course, she's never seen Thelma and Louise so she had no idea what I was talking about.  I thought it was funny, tho.

Mom and I seem to spend every other Thanksgiving together and she's pretty excited about coming here and seeing my now place.  She gets all kinds of ideas on decorating that she learns as an HGTV junkie so it'll be interesting to see what she comes up with.  I went shopping for our Thanksgiving meal today which was an experience.  I'm already getting ready to eat myself into a stupor.  It was 85 degrees and sunny here today - it so doesn't feel like Thanksgiving.

Last year I spent Thanksgiving in Charleston with Elizabeth.  It still makes me chuckle to admit that I spent the night before Thanksgiving de-veining collard greens so she could cook them up with pork fat.  Who even knew that collards had veins in the first place?  Or, that people ate them for Thanksgiving?  Anyway, there are no collards on the menu this year. 

Speaking of turkey, someone forwarded me a blurb that former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain put on his website last Friday.  Chris has had some choice things to say over the years about his belief that ENDA was being "Transjacked" and a few other choice things.  He was the victim of a hate crime while visiting Europe several years ago and I'll never forget the photograph of his beaten face.  I'll always be able to cut him some slack because of that and I wrote to tell him that, despite the fact we may disagree on political things he was in my thoughts and prayers as he healed.  I respect him.

Anyway, the man is certainly not shy and although I find we often disagree I'm a little concerned to admit that I've been agreeing with him more lately than in the past.  And although his comments feel suspiciously like a backhanded compliment I can't help but smile:

EDITOR'S PICK
  • Trans activist showdown set for Dallas HRC dinner: QUICK LOOK: It’s beginning to sound like Dallas’ 2007 Black Tie Dinner could turn into a food fight.  At the very least, there will be some big issues on the table at the annual... (MORE)

It's hard to decide who is more deserving of this public spat, the transgender activists foiled at the last minute from completely hijacking historic gay rights legislation, or "the nation's largest LGBT group," which tried until the last minute to play all sides of the controversy and ended up (further) eroding its credibility with everyone.

Personally, I've got my money Donna Rose over Joe Solmonese. In my run-ins with the two, she packs the much bigger wallop.

from Citizen Crain - November 15, 2007

 

Sunday, November 18, 2007

5:30pm:  I'm sitting at the DFW airport waiting on my flight back to Phoenix.  I got here with a couple of hours to spare, because I wanted to give extra time to go through security as much s because my mom doesn't like to drive at night so I needed to be sure she got home before dark.  I've been gone a week, but it seems like more.

Someone from the Frito Lay event last Wednesday took photos and posted them online (see them here).  These things are so important.  I was approached by at least a dozen people last night who had either attended or who had heard feedback.  And I received several emails similar to this one:

I work at Frito-Lay and attended the workshop last week. Your story has been on my mind quite a bit since then, and I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be educated on transgender issues. As a lesbian, I'm embarrassed at just how little I know about the trans community; however, after hearing you speak, I'm encouraged to learn more. I am disappointed about the way ENDA went down, but am heartened that you still came to share your story at our event last week. What you are doing is very important, and I thank you for sharing your time and energy.

We need to persevere in our efforts, and I expect to have more to say about this in the coming couple of weeks.  Stay tuned...

Gotta go get ready to board the flight.

7:30am:  The DFW Black Tie Dinner last night was fun.  For those hanging on the sensational headline from the Dallas Voice earlier in the week it was certainly anticlimactic but things went just as I thought they would.  Other than his time speaking on stage I didn't even see Joe much less talk to him which is certainly fine.  That was never a goal.  There were over 3,000 people there so finding any one person even if you wanted to would have been a challenge.  If I had seen him I probably would have simply said 'hello' as these events aren't the time or place for deeper discussion.

The theme this year was "All You Need is Love".  They run this event very, very well.  It flows as smoothly as any I attend which is certainly a feat given it's size (remember - this is Texas).  My friend Jamy and I were treated very well, and I couldn't even begin to count the number of people who approached me to tell me how happy they were that I was there (given recent events).  The food was good, and I quietly slipped out at 10:45pm just as Keynote speaker Martin Sheen was getting ready to take the stage.


Martin Sheen and I at the Dallas Black Tie Dinner


As best I could tell there were perhaps a half dozen trans-people there, or less.  A small group of us met up in the lobby during Joe's remarks - getting up politely before his talk and walking out of the room as a personal demonstration of disappointment over recent ENDA events .  I truly didn't hear a thing he said but I asked the person sitting next to me if the word "transgender" came out of his mouth at all and was told that it did not. 

My Buffalo Bills play the undefeated New England Patriots in Buffalo tonight.  I won't be home to see most of it but that's probably going to be a good thing.  The Pats have looked unstoppable in recent weeks and it's easier to take the defeats when I don't have to actually watch them.  I'm a dreamer at heart and cling to the hope that we can pull out a win but I'm a realist, too, so I recognize how unlikely that is.  I admire the Pats so if you've got to lose there's some small solace in losing to a team you don't actually hate.

Today I speak at my mom's church before flying home.  Transgender Day of Remembrance events will be held in cities around the country over these next couple of days so the timing is certainly appropriate.  I saw a posting by Autumn Sundeen indicating that HRC had cancelled the event that had been scheduled at their building today which surprised me.  I had been copied on an email exchange with minister Drew Phoenix who was scheduled to speak at the event indicating the discomfort with the place and the timing.  I don't know what happened in the background but it's gone.  HRC posted a couple of video remarks from clergy to honor the event (see them here).

 

Friday, November 16, 2007

11:00pm:  I'm tired.   Is the week really over?  I guess it almost is.  Phew.

I went down to the Adam's Mark Hotel in Dallas tonight for the Silent Auction preview.  It was nice to see friends there and have a chance to talk.  This dinner it truly Texan - bigger than big.  They'll have over 3,000 people there and it's run with machine-like precision.  Really - it's a marvel.  Once things get going tomorrow it's wall to wall people so tonight was the better night for visiting.

I'm planning to wear the outfit I wore in 2004 when I introduced Jessica Lange at the HRC National Dinner.  Some might say it's gauche to wear the same thing more than once but I don't live in an income bracket that can afford that kind of lifestyle.  I've only worn this particular outfit that one time which was - by the way - a big deal for me, so there's some symbolic meaning to wearing it again tomorrow in light of recent events.  That, plus I'm finally at a point where I can finally fit into it again.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, was featured on Washington Journal on CSPAN last Saturday.  I recorded it and watched it and was happy with the way things went.  I talked to her mid-week and she said she was happy with it, too.  Anyway, the video of it is available online for those who have a little time on their hands (Watch it here).  Note that the link seems to break sometimes....must be due to technical difficulties.

One caller was livid that transgender people should expect to be treated equally in the workplace.  When she's done ranting Mara says simply, "That's why we really need these protections."

I'm headed home late on Sunday.  This is not a good week to be flying but I expect I'll be at the front end of the Holiday crush so I'm not expecting any problems.  I guess we'll see.

6:00am:  The week is slowly moving towards its climax. At home I've been helping mom in her garden, raking leaves, getting holiday decorations out of the attic, washing her dog, and generally doing stuff she can't do herself.  At work my project hit a speed bump at the last minute and our implementation is delayed for a couple of weeks.  The corporate event at Frito Lay yesterday went very well, and I had dinner tonight with friends that was very enjoyable and pleasant.  Now, the "fun" starts.

Tomorrow night there is a preview party before the Black Tie dinner downtown at the Adam's Mark Hotel.  On Saturday night is the dinner itself.  And on Sunday I speak at my mom's church before catching an early evening flight home to Phoenix. 

I did an interview with the Dallas Voice on Tuesday morning and apparently they were surprised to learn I was planning to attend the Black Tie Dinner.  The story came out late Thursday and from the looks of things it will be prominently featured in their print edition:

 

ENDA debate spices up Black Tie
Dallas Voice, TX - Nov. 15, 2007
That’s because leading transgender activist Donna Rose will be there, and so will Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. Rose recently resigned from ...

They quoted me directly so everything they print is exactly as I said it although they left some stuff out that I wish they had included.  They video taped it and I expect they'll have video of our more extended discussion available on their website shortly for those who want to see it.  I was a little taken aback to see the story being framed as though there's some kind of show-down at hand - that's a bit over-dramatic, I think.  Bottom line, though, is that I do feel that Joe and the organization have betrayed the transgender community in historically significant ways, that they have lost any shred of credibility they ever had, and that a personal apology - from Joe - to the community is in order.  I don't know how to say it any gentler than that and I've said it all before so it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. 

I'm working on a piece titled "What Next?"  I expect to have it finished in the next couple of days....

 

Thursday, November 15, 2007

7:00am:  It's early and I figured I'd update a couple of things before the day gets going.  Between work, helping mom, and various other obligations once the day gets going it's pretty hard to stop so the best time to fit it in is first thing.

At work my project is scheduled to implement this weekend.  I'm managing a project to update the accounting software for a large company, and it includes hardware upgrades, new security, and enhanced functionality.  In addition, because of the sensitive nature of financial software we've got IT auditors, Corporate auditors, SOX auditors, and other "interested parties" to satisfy.  We met with our project executive sponsors yesterday to do a Go/No-Go for implementation this weekend.  It's a GO, so everything will come to a head Friday and Saturday.  Keep your fingers crossed.

I did a corporate event at Frito Lay.  Thanks to everyone there for making it such a success.  And thanks to the panel that included Jessica and Michelle who added greatly to the overall presentation.  Well done.  Here's a couple of photos from the event:

 

As follow-up to my previous post on Day of Remembrance events in the DC area, I have some confirmed details:

Washington, D.C., USA
Will hold a Transgender Day of Remembrance Event
At the Whitman Walker Clinic on Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Located at 1407 S Street, N.W. from 5-8pm (event starts at 6pm)
A reception will be held at the Austin Center, which will allow for local and national leaders, organizations to speak  about the TDOR.
Contact: Earline Budd earline_budd@yahoo.com

Here are details of a couple of other events at cities around the country:

Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Will hold a transgender day of remembrance event on
Sunday November 18, 2007 at the MCC Sunshine Cathedral,
1480 SW 9th Avenue, Ft Lauderdale, FL at 5:00 PM.
The program includes invited speakers followed by a candlelight vigil.
A reception will follow immediately in the Cathedral courtyard.
Ft Lauderdale's transgender and LGB community extends a warm welcome
to all who would like to attend this important event to memorialize
our dead and underscore the seriousness of the suffering of our
communities. There is no charge for this event.
This event sponsored by TERI Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Will be holding a TDOR event on Sunday, November 18, 2007 from 4:30 - 7:00 pm
at the rooftop garden of the Center on Halsted,
3656 N. Halsted St., Chicago IL., 773-472-6469
http://www.genderadvocates.org/FrontFrames/poster07.jpg
Following the vigil, will be
"Night of the Fallen Stars", a trans-youth event
celebrating the Chicago TG/TS community.
There is a $5 donation requested, and all proceeds will benefit TYRA,
the Trans Youth Resource Advocacy,
co-sponsored by IGA and Howard Brown Health Center
http://www.centeronhalsted.org/home.cfm

 

 

I also have details on a fantastic opportunity at GLAAD and I encourage anyone interested to apply or contact them for more information:

Apply Now: 2008 GLAAD Media Transgender Advocacy Fellowship Announced

GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has announced 11 Media Fellowships for 2008. Fellows will be based in either GLAAD’s New York or Los Angeles office, work nearly full time from Jan. 7 – Dec. 31, 2008, and receive a monthly stipend of $1,600.

This is a unique opportunity for students or recent graduates to develop media activism experience and leadership skills in the movement for LGBT equality. GLAAD Media Fellows work in areas as diverse as National News, Entertainment, Spanish-Language Media, Transgender Advocacy, Communities of African Descent Media and more.

Deadline to apply is Nov. 30, 2007. Find out more at GLAAD.org, http://www.glaad.org/about/fellowship_opps.php

 


 

 

 

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

9:00pm:  I see that Equality Arizona issued a press release indicating that the long-running feud between a local trans-woman and a local nightclub owner is finally over.  Phew.  I'll admit that I was a participant at the mediation meeting on Friday where they came to an agreement on the resolution.  Other than that, I have no details to share. 

 

Scottsdale club settles transgender dispute
Arizona Republic - Phoenix,AZ,USA
A transgender woman and a Scottsdale nightclub owner have settled their dispute over the use of the bar's bathrooms. Michele deLaFreniere agreed to drop her ...

 

Oh.  Actually, I will share one additional detail.  As I walked up the steps to the meeting I saw one of the most amazing sunsets you could hope to see.  I took this photo from just outside the door to Equality Arizona (sorry for the power lines in the foreground).  It's nice to have a camera available when you see scenes like this - although the photo doesn't do the fiery sky justice.

 

There will be Day of Remembrance observances across the country this weekend.  I've gotten several emails over the past few days from people in the DC/Virginia/Baltimore area who are unhappy about the fact that HRC is having an observance at their building (details here) after political events of these past couple of weeks.  They have asked if there are alternative options and although I understand that there are I don't have specifics.  Anyone who has details is free to send them to me.  I'm happy to post them.

The observance here in Phoenix will be on Sunday evening.  The always wonderful Margaux has done her usual fantastic job of pulling the event together again this year.  I remember the event when I first arrived here, and how there was unhappiness at the way it was run, where it was held, and in the general quality of the event.  Margaux has been masterful at planning and promoting over these past several years so anyone in the Phoenix area is invited to join this year's event.  Details are here.

I'm scheduled to arrive back in Phoenix shortly after dusk so if I don't make it to the vigil I'll stop at the after-event at FEZ for a little while.  I hope we have a great turnout, as it's truly a community event.


I have a couple of things as follow-up to recent posts.  We were talking about transgender people crossing barriers in the media.  There's an ABC News article about Candis Cayne, the transgender actress in "Dirty Sexy Money".

ABC News - 13 Nov 07

Transgendered Actress Breaks Hollywood Barriers Candis Cayne Is One of the Few Transgendered Actresses on Television

Actress Candis Cayne heats up primetime TV in her role as Carmelita in the hit show drama "Dirty Sexy Money."

The sultry actress, who plays the transgendered mistress of a New York attorney general and senatorial candidate on the show, has made headlines as one of the few transgendered characters on television. She is also transgendered in real life.

Read on:  http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=3857930

I went to Dallas Voice this morning to do an interview, and a video.  I'm told it will be online sometime in the next couple of days so I'll pass that along when I get it.  You'll never guess what we talked about...

Lastly, Hate Crimes - which is fully-inclusive and  has been passed by both houses of Congress - is apparently getting ready to go to the President (read about it here).  Somehow, I've gotten so used to watching people strip protections on the basis of gender identity and expression from federal legislation over these past few weeks that I'm just waiting for it to happen there, too.  I can only muster so much enthusiasm about anything even remotely political right now, which is truly a shame.

 

Monday, November 12, 2007

9:00pm:  I'm in Dallas, with mom.  The flight here yesterday was relatively painless, especially when compared to the 1,200 drive of last Sunday.  Ouch. 

One of my mom's favorite restaurants is Red Lobster so went there for dinner to celebrate: she had a "nuclear stress test" to check the blood supply to her heart last week and the results were very good.  She's pretty spry for 78 years old - I should be so lucky to be half as healthy if I make it that far.  As usual she has a list of things she needs help with so I spent the afternoon, after work, raking and blowing the leaves from her front lawn.  It was a beautiful day here so I'm certainly not complaining - if it makes mom happy then it makes me happy, too.

GLAAD is releasing a Public Service Announcement specifically to honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance that will be honored in cities around the country this weekend:


A Message from Rex Lee, TR Knight, Jamie Bamber, Alexandra Billings and more

Their Press Release reads as follows:

In Honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance
GLAAD Releases a Powerful Message Calling for Dignity and Respect

"Be an Ally & a Friend" PSA Features Transgender Actress Alexandra Billings


Los Angeles, November 13, 2007 – Tuesday, November 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to memorialize those killed because of anti-transgender violence or prejudice. To mark this event, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is releasing a PSA encouraging viewers to treat others with dignity and respect regardless of gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.

The 20-second spot is part of GLAAD's ongoing "Be an Ally & a Friend" campaign and features transgender actress Alexandra Billings (Grey's Anatomy, ER), as well as T.R. Knight (Grey's Anatomy), Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters), Rex Lee (Entourage), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica) and retired NBA player John Amaechi.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded nine years ago to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered November 28, 1998. The annual event is designed to raise public awareness of anti-transgender hate crimes and to encourage people to be allies to the transgender community.

"It is of vital importance that all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance," says GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano. "Transgender people face violence and discrimination every day. We all need to show our support by being allies and friends to the transgender community."

GLAAD's "Be an Ally & a Friend" PSA campaign features 22 public figures from television, film and sports. The spots encourage people to be allies to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and to help combat discrimination, directing viewers to resources at GLAAD.org.

GLAAD is releasing a new 20- or 30-second version of the PSA approximately every two weeks to be aired through broadcast collaborations with Access Hollywood, national cable networks such as Fox Reality, GSN, IFC, Lifetime, The N, Sci Fi Channel and Sundance Channel; local cable systems and network affiliates; online at LiveVideo, YouTube, AOL Video and MySpace; and others to be announced.

Media outlets interested in running the PSAs should e-mail a request to entertainment@glaad.org or call (323) 634-2013. Artwork of select participants can be downloaded here: http://www.glaad.org/ally/photos.php. The spots can be embedded from LiveVideo here: http://www.livevideo.com/GLAAD.

The PSAs were directed by Nadine Licostie and produced by Licostie and Connie Grazia for Red Thread Productions.

About GLAAD
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org.

###

 

Now that we're moving into a post-ENDA world - at least I am - the key becomes messaging.  And, as discussed here before trans characters are showing up as never before in mainstream media channels.  One timely story about this trend appeared in newspapers across the country over the past couple of weeks:

...To add shock to TV shows in 2007, writers have turned to transsexuals.

How surprising was it last season on Ugly Betty when Alex, the long-lost brother of Mode magazine editor-in-chief Daniel Mead, returned as Alexis, who was not only a woman but also a woman who looks like Rebecca Romijn (exactly like her, as it turned out)?

A story line over the summer on Entourage involved Johnny Drama trying to get in good with the mayor of Beverly Hills by hooking him up with what appeared to be a beautiful woman at a trendy bar. Her pre-op secret was revealed in one of those skirt flash shots the paparazzi so love. But the mayor (Stephen Tobolowsky) decided he liked his exotic new acquaintance, anyway.

Another politician on a TV series who decided to stick with his transsexual is William Baldwin's Patrick Darling on ABC's Dirty Sexy Money. Although a married New York state attorney general running for U.S. Senate, he is determined to continue his illicit relationship with Carmelita, despite entreaties from his family lawyer.

Carmelita, a sultry blonde with a very low voice, is notable because she might be broadcast TV's first recurring transsexual character who actually is played by a transsexual.

Pushing the Transsexual Envelope - The Houston Chronicle Nov. 4, 2007

 

My mom cuts out everything she reads that in any way relates to transgender and saves them to give to me.  The small pile of newspaper she collected for me this time includes :

Life goes on....

We talk about discrimination in workplaces around this country, but I can't let today pass without saying something about Veteran's Day.  I got an email over the weekend from Monica Helms, a friend from my earliest support group meetings in Phoenix and current present of TAVA .  It included an article she had written:

The Forgotten Veterans
By Monica F. Helms

Veterans Day is one the three most important days in this country when it comes to patriotism and pride. At the eleventh minute, of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, we start the day honoring all the veterans who have served this country, both in peace and in war. Today, we have 26 million military veterans in America, but sadly, we lose 1500 WWII each day and a similar number of Korean War veterans as well. Soon, the Vietnam War veterans will pass away in similar numbers.

The men and women who fought in those wars over the last 230-plus years came from every diverse background this country has ever known. People from every race, religion, ethnicity, economic status, social status and sexual orientation have fought, been wounded or died for this country. A current example of sexual orientation is the first person wounded in the current war in Iraq. Eric Alva lost a leg in the very early days of the war and then came out as being gay after his discharge.

Amongst the wide diversity of people who have served this country, Transgender Americans have been an important part of the military since the Revolutionary War. The word “transgender” has come to mean “Anyone who crosses the gender lines, regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent.” Dictionary.com has the definition as, “Noun: A person appearing or attempting to be a member of the opposite sex, as a transsexual or habitual cross-dresser,” and, “Adjective: Being, pertaining to, or characteristic of a transgender or transgenders: the transgender movement.”

We have found that in the early part of American history, women could easily fight as men because they didn’t have to go through a physical exam before enlisting. That changed during the Spanish American War. Some of the women who did fight in those early wars indeed returned to a life as a woman, but many did not.

In the early and middle parts of the 20th Century, we found that most of the transgender veterans who served at that time started life as boys, but became women in the years after the wars had ended. Others crossdressed throughout their lives and even did so while serving in the military. In the middle 20th Century and early 21st Century, women began serving more frequently and even in combat roles where they could not previously serve. We started seeing more women who later became men after those wars were over.

One of the notable examples of a woman who fought as a man was Deborah Sampson, a tall woman for her day, served in the Revolutionary War as Robert Shurtliff and even became wounded. Another person was Lucy Brewer, who started her early adult life as a prostitute, but served as a Marine on board of the USS Constitution in the War of 1812. After the War, she appeared as a man several times. Around 400 women served as men in the Civil War, for both sides. Some continued their lives as men after the war.

One of the most interesting stories is that of Cathy Williams, a slave who changed her name to William Cathey and served two years as a Buffalo Solider before she told a doctor she was a woman. She did as well as her male counterparts, surviving the harsh conditions of the desert Southwest.

As the understanding of transgenderism improved, stories of thousands of transgender people who served this country in the military surfaced. The famous writer, B-movie producer and crossdresser, Ed Wood, fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal. The first known transsexual, Christine Jorgensen, spent eleven months in the Army and when she came back from Denmark after her surgery in 1952, the headlines in the paper read, “GI becomes Blonde Bombshell.” The headlines knocked the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb off the front page. Later, Eisenhower even invited her to the White House.

We know of many transgender people who have fought in every late 20th Century and 21st Century wars we have been in. I have a friend, Jane Fee, who served during WWII. I served during the Vietnam War, in the Navy, on two submarines. We know of another transgender person who headed a special anti-terrorist unit for the Army and even reported to the Vice President.

Transgender people have been in every war, served in every branch of the service, have achieved every rank and have been awarded every medal this country has, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. We have done every job the military has, served in every base, port, ship, drove every vehicle, operated every weapon, flown every aircraft and served in every hospital the American military has. We have done our part to preserve the freedom of everyone in this country. If you ask us, we will tell you that we are veterans first, who just happen to be transgender people. And, we are proud to have served this great country.

I have a friend who is currently serving in the war in Iraq.  This person is dealing with gender issues, and is even on hormones there.  But few if any will ever know about her secret.  She hides it from most.  Does her job.  Loves her job.  Endures the days. And wonders about her future. 

Keep her and all those like her in your thoughts and prayers.  These people are true heroes. 
 

Saturday, November 10, 2007

3:00pm:  Today is "Do Work Around The House" day.  I'm maybe 40% unpacked from my move a few weeks ago so although most of the boxes of important stuff are unpacked there's still a lot to do.  I need to put pictures up on the walls.  I need to go thru all the stuff in my garage.  I need to check into additional storage because I've got beds and dressers and noplace to put them and I don't want them in my garage.  I've got a friend coming over tomorrow to take me to the airport and she's bringing a dolly so we can move a big piece of furniture to where it belongs.  All in all, the "nesting" continues.

I need to find the time to put my TransAmerica videos into something I'm willing to share.  It was actually kinda fun to tape the road from behind the wheel as I drove last week.  It certainly helped pass the time.  But I think putting it all together will be a blast and I'm expecting to do that soon.  It's hard to believe it was only a week ago that I was on the road.

I had a good talk with a friend this morning and we were talking about social needs and relationships.  She's visiting with a group of women alumni from her college and is having a great time reconnecting with them in that space.  She went on an Olivia Cruise a couple of months ago - by herself - and had a blast.  It's so nice to see some of us able to go out and experience that.  She made a comment about how she's making up for things she never got to do back then and it's really true.  I'm proud of her.

As I've been working today I'm playing a Sarah McLachlan DVD in the background and the lyrics of one of her lesser known songs reached out and grabbed me to stop and to listen and re-listen.  It's from a song titled "Dirty Little Secret" and it pretty well sums up how I feel sometimes:

If I had the chance to love
I would not hesitate
To tell you all things I never said before
Don't tell me its too late
Cause I've relied on my illusions
to keep me warm at night
and I denied in my capacity to love
but I am willing to give up this fight.

Dirty Little Secret - by Sarah McLachlan  (see the video here)

A friend and I were exchanging images of how we're feeling right now and I sent one of a long, narrow road heading into the barren distance, with far-away mountains waiting to be crossed (it's here).  I don't know what that says about me other than maybe I drove a little too much last week, or that a vacation to the tropics is in order. 
 

Friday, November 9, 2007

10:00pm:  It's Friday night, and the "fun" of my evening is a half-bottle of Shiraz, some pasta, and the movie Help! featuring the Beatles.  I was on the treadmill earlier this week and saw a commercial for the DVD at Best Buy so I ran out to get it.  I hate to admit this but I remember seeing it in the late 60's or early 70's.  I was living outside Buffalo, NY at the time and there was no such thing as cable back then.  People who were fortunate had one of those antennas with a controller box so you could change the direction on the thing and get better reception from far away stations. People who were even more fortunate had color tv's - there were two of those households on our block so of course they were very popular.  I remember watching the NBC peacock - amazed at all the color.  Anyway, I'm dating myself with all this.

In Buffalo we could get local stations, but we could also get stations from Toronto (channels 6, 9, and 11 - I remember to this day).  We used to enjoy watching the Canadian stations because although they were kind of snowy and fuzzy they didn't edit things.  The American channels did.  For example, The Godfather was on Canadian TV and they didn't edit a single thing.  We watched it later in the week on US stations and they edited all the sex and violence out of it.  Didn't make any sense, but that's the way it was.

I share all this because when I first watched Help! it was on one of the Canadian stations.  I remember.  And over the years I've been waiting for it to become available so I could watch it on my own.  And now, I can.  As I said in my earlier post - life is good.

One last ENDA piece here for today: I wrote an Op/Ed piece for The Advocate and it went online today (After ENDA - read it here).  As with most things like that I write, it came from the heart.

Time for bed. 

1:00pm:  I want to talk about HRC for a moment.  I know it's not a pleasant topic for many of us right now but I feel a need to articulate something so please bear with me.  And I promise, this will be my last rant on this.  At least, for now.

First off, there are many, many, many people on staff at HRC that I continue to admire, trust, and I'm honored to consider them as friends.  My thanks, dedication, appreciation, and affection for them and the work they do is NOT affected by what has happened in recent days.  Not one ounce.  Not an inch.  None.  Zero.  Daryl, Mark, Cuc, Harry, Betsy - there are too many to list here.  These people are still on my Christmas list and nothing that happens politically can or should change that.

Even Joe.  I'm incredibly angry at Joe right now.  When you're a leader you get credit for things aren't yours to take credit for, and you get blame for things that might not be your fault.  That's part of leadership.  HRC has done some horribly bad things to my community (and by default, to me) in recent weeks, and my anger and hurt is something I don't feel I need to justify to anyone.  In an earlier post I said something that has been taken as a personal attack at Joe and for that I apologize. I really do.  That has never been my style and it wasn't meant to be personal.  I've seen people saying really nasty things about him and what I said is really tame in comparison but still, I won't jump on that bandwagon. 

I was one of the people on the search committee that actually interviewed and hired Joe in 2005.  Over the course of the following couple of years I grew to like Joe and considered him a friend.  Other trans-activists I know felt similarly - they felt conflicted speaking out against HRC as an organization but liking Joe as a person.  Perhaps that's part of what has made me so angry.  Friends don't NOT call friends to warn them before something that affects them is about to happen.  Friends don't NOT call friends to explain.  Friend's don't rub salt in the wounds by publishing suspicious poll results at the 11th hour to give the impression that, actually, nobody gives a damn about transgender inclusion.  Friends don't behave like that.  Obviously (to me, anyway), I was alone in how I felt about our friendship.  So be it.  I'll need to get past that someday.

Still, at some point we will need to work together.  That's a reality.  To ignore that is to ignore all that has happened.  HRC has been waiting to play offense for a great many years and now that it's got the ball it's going to run with it no matter what it has to do.  Credibility.  Trust.  Foundation programs. Relationships in the GLBT Community.  All have been proven to be secondary to its goal of finally moving the ball down the field.  I'm as angry and as hurt as anyone out there - bar none - by what has happened but at some point there will be a need to re-engage.  They know that.  Trans-activists know that.  The irony is that they need us to do education as much as we need them to open doors.  Until and unless that changes there will need to be some level of relationship.  That's just a fact of life.

The question, I think, is what does that engagement look like.  Those discussions are already under way. 

Both Jamison Green and I are still on the Business Council.  For now.  Our roles there are as business professionals working with other business professionals to help GLBT employees get the rights they need.  It's not about HRC - it's about our community in the workplace.  We're working on exciting new changes to the CEI, new tools, a new FTM DVD similar to the one they did with me earlier this year, broader education, increased work around wellness and insurance, updates to the Transition Guide for Managers.  This is important, critical, stuff that affects our lives and there's nobody better suited to do it right now than Jamison and I.  Nobody.  If someone were to ask me what was more important: getting trans inclusion in this version of ENDA or ensuring that more companies were hiring and retaining qualified trans people I'd answer the latter is the key - by far - ten time out of ten.  I'm mad as hell that politics is getting in the way of our ability to do this stuff.  But it has, at least for now.

All that said.  Do I espouse people giving money?  Hell, no  (and I don't think it's appropriate for HRC to be donating it's money to the community, either - seems too much like blood-money right now).    Do I espouse people donating their time?  No.  Join PFLAG.  Donate some time to a local GLBT Youth Group if you've got one nearby.  Meet your local political representatives.  But I don't espouse picketing dinners, sending personal insults, or doing other things that would diminish our own integrity either.  I don't see what positive goal that accomplishes.  I had someone contact me to help with a website against HRC - not doing that either.

So, back to the issue at hand.  My faith and trust in the political machine that is HRC and the commitment of that machine to full-inclusion is zero.  If it were possible to be less than zero it would be whatever that looks like.  However I don't believe, as many others do, that it's specifically a "trans" thing.  I don't feel they're intentionally keeping us out because they're trans-phobic - individually or collectively (some certainly "get" the trans thing more than others, but that's a whole other discussion).  But at the same time I don't think they (the political machine of HRC, that is) really see us as part of the "community", either, as is evidenced by their willingness to separate us.  Their job is to pass legislation so they did it - very strategically and ruthlessly workman-like - by making whatever sacrifices were necessary and that included torpedoing us.  I don't necessarily take what they did personally.  But I take how they did it VERY personal. 

I will continue to speak out about the political betrayal until a) we get a personal heartfelt apology for what has happened (I'm old fashioned like that), b) there is a workable plan to move forward in place and c) I've cooled off a bit.  Even then, it cannot be business-as-usual.  No more promises.  No more good-faith commitments.  Those days are sadly gone. 

Oddly, my faith in the OTHER parts of the organization remains pretty much unchanged.  I got a letter from Harry Knox last night and I continue to believe him - he hasn't lied to me yet.  I talk with Daryl and with Mark and their calls will always be answered.  I hope my outspoken work against their political escapades won't interfere with those relationships - I don't think it has to - but I won't be the one making that decision. 

I strongly, adamantly, vehemently believe that whatever educational effort that HRC does around trans issues CAN NOT be part of their political program.  The money, the people, the planning - it needs to come from the Foundation.  There needs to be a budget.  There needs to be a plan.  There needs to be meat on the bones.  No offence to Marty or anyone in the political circle there but that just won't fly.  This can't be just about politics.  It's much bigger than that.

Personally, I'd live to see a Trans-Education Tour.  Like, 40 cities.  Tulsa.  St. Louis.  Memphis.  San Antonio.  Columbus, OH.  Honolulu.   Engage local corporations, local politicians, local entities.  There has never been anything like that and it would be a huge first. To me, that's the scope of this thing.  Not onsey-twosey meetings here and there.

I didn't mean for this to be this long, but I guess there's lots to say.  Now that I've gotten that off my chest it's time to move on to other things.  It's Friday.  The sun is shining.  I had a job interview this morning.  I'll be at mom's in a couple of days.  Other than "Post ENDA Trauma Syndrome" (PETS, for short) - life is good.

Oh - one more thing.  GLAAD has produced a PSA specifically to be release around the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  They're scheduled to release it next Tuesday along with a press release.  I've got a copy of it and have been given the green light to post it here on Monday as an "exclusive".  Check back to see it.

 

Thursday, November 8, 2007

11:30am:  Today is the day after ENDA.  I watched it all unfold on CSPAN yesterday.  And I really don't have much to say about it here right now.

I have formulated my feelings into an OpEd piece and posted it (The Mourning After).  I didn't take the time to carefully consider what I wanted to say or how I was saying it - I just let the words flow and that's the result.  I think it's important to articulate how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking while these emotions are still fresh.  Whether what I share has meaning to anyone but me is up to others.  It's just my thinking today, and how I'm feeling.

As I mentioned in my ENDABlog it was amazing to hear the word "transgender" spoken so many times on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday.  How many of us ever imagined we'd see that?  And although there was certainly much to be proud about there have been some very sobering learnings these past few days and weeks.  Perhaps that is the Yin and Yang of this thing.  We shall see.

I got an email this morning talking about ways to take HRC down, as though that was even possible.  It was sent to a large group of people and although I typically don't respond to large groups because it tends to turn into a melee I did respond to this one.  I share my response here:

Quitting HRC and joining (or forming) other organizations is exactly appropriate.   They don't deserve our support.  

I have a problem, though, with undermining HRC in terms of what that means, how it's accomplished, and how we'll be portrayed as a result of it.  The fact of the matter is that HRC is incredibly effective politically and undermining it doesn't serve any purpose except allow us to express our outrage over what they've done.  A far more productive strategy would be working to establish something that ensure we don't find ourselves in this position again.  

I feel as betrayed as any of us.  And, there needs to be consequences.  But lashing out in the heat of the moment may not serve our long-term interests best.   

You're exactly right when you say that HRC isn't going anywhere.  Their credibility is gone but their ruthless effectiveness has never been more evident.  We need to leverage the support that was evident on Capitol Hill yesterday in productive ways.  How?  Don't know yet.  But there's no need to hurry with any of this.  A restrained response allows for escalation.  A knee-jerk one doesn't.  

Anyway - just my 2 cents worth.

I'll be at a large dinner in Dallas next Saturday (in Texas things need to be larger than life).  It's called the Black Tie Dinner and I attended a couple of years ago with my mom (Sharon Stone and Lily Tomlin were award winners that year).  The model is a unique one in that some of the money it generates (there will be over 3,000 attendees so there will be lots of $$$) goes to the HRC Foundation (this is important - it's not the PAC, it's efforts like the Workplace Project, the Coming Out Project, the Religion and Faith Project) but the bulk goes to support local and regional GLBT efforts.  I spoke at a youth group in Dallas last year - YouthFirst Texas - and they get a significant portion of their funding from the dinner.  Anyway, I think it's a model that needs to be adopted in other cities but that's just me thinking out loud again...

Anyway, HRC President Joe Solmonese will be there (as will his partner, whose friendship I continue to appreciate).  Perhaps we'll meet up.  Perhaps we won't - 3,000 people is ALOT of people.  I'll tell you this, though, that when it's his turn to talk I'll politely leave the room.  Not because I'm angry (although, believe me, I am angry).  It's because I expect he will be talking about celebration and progress and I don't feel as though I'm part of that.  I would only serve to make me sad and I don't need to be sad right now.  I will certainly be feeling mixed emotions.

I've been telecommuting to work this week.  That's both good and bad.  The good news is that it allows some level of freedom.  The bad news is that there is no social interaction.  I've become aware of my social needs and I need to be out doing things and having some level of structure in my world.  It's almost 10am and I'm still in my PJ's.  Oy.  I'm having some initial "next-move" career discussions so we'll see what, if anything comes from them.  I approach them with restrained optimism.

I talked with my mom last night. I will be seeing her next week and we're both looking forward to that.  She said I sounded "a little down".  I didn't feel like having to explain the whole ENDA thing to her and I admitted that I was but that it was nothing serious.  She's got a list going of things she wants me to do while I'm there.  Somehow, things never change.  There was a time when I did everything I could to avoid doing things on her lists.  Now, I'm happy doing whatever I can to make her smile.  It's important to keep all this in perspective.  Hopefully, I am.

 

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

9:00pm:  It has been a long day for me.  Between all the ENDA crap and general life "stuff" it seems like this morning was more than a day ago.  One friend wrote to me, knowing that I've been up to my ears in it all, and suggested that I sit down, relax, and have a glass of wine.  That was good advice.

I've got lots of irons in the fire.  I've got some significant exciting career opportunities that are in early stages of discussion.  ENDA is burning.  I'm supposed to be in Dallas next week. Somehow, sitting in a car going 75 miles an hour along open highway for the better part of a day doesn't seem half bad after all.

The thing that really bothers me most in everything that happened today, I think, is the fact that HRC commissioned a poll that they say indicates 70% of GLBT people support a non-inclusive bill over none at all.  Do you have any idea what kind of message that sends? The fact that HRC would do that - would hire people, sit on those results, and then publish them to support dropping us from ENDA is a knife in the back.  I can't think of any other words to describe it.  It's inexcusable, unconscionable, and just plain wrong and to the day I die I will never forget it. 

You don't do that to family.  You can't stroke us with one hand and ream us both at the same time.  You can't tell us you support us and then hire people to massage numbers that make us look expendable and think we'll be okay with that.  I find this "Daddy knows best" attitude that Joe seems to take towards us, as though he and Barney Frank know what's best for the movement and everyone else just doesn't "get" it, as condescending, patronizing, and egotistical.  He's setting himself for a fall and I can't say I'll feel sorry when that happens.  I hope ENDA gets torpedoed tomorrow and then we'll see what he's got to say. 

When I think of how I feel about all of this my first response is to say "F*uck 'em".  They don't deserve my time, my energy, my trust, my effort, or my support.  I've given them all the above and more and look at what has happened.  I'm just being honest....

I'd love to turn my back on all of this, put my head back into a warm, dark, comfortable hole, and get on with life without any of this hassle.  But I can't do that.  That's not my way.  And, no matter what happens tomorrow on the ENDA vote we'll need to take back our destiny from those who feel empowered to own it.  That's the learning from all of this.  We can't count on others to do it right, to care the way we do, to understand.  Coming out of all this we'll need to own what happens next - the education, the integration into broader society, the workplace efforts.  We've accepted the fact that others have wanted to lead in the past and we have become complacent in allowing that.  Not any more.  In future months, we'll lead.  Others can choose to get on board or not.  Know this: this is not the end.  It's just the beginning.

As I ran on the treadmill this evening a song came to mind that captures how I feel.  I've mentioned it here before, but it's a song I've come to accept as a theme song.  It's a song that helps me put things in perspective, and moves me. It's a song about being true to yourself, and being able to share your authenticity with pride.  Listen to it here.  Closer your eyes and really listen.  You'll feel it, too.

7:45am:  I made it.  Phew.  These kinds of long trips have an added level of anxiety in that you never know what can go wrong.  Flat tire in the middle of nowhere.  Car breaks (my car has 90,000 miles on it).  Bad drivers.  Bad weather.  Road hazards.  There are any number of things that can go wrong.  Like most things I do, I choose to push those worries to the background and just do what I have to do.  Thankfully, things went smoothly this time.

I was thinking about the trips I've done in that car over the past year.  I drove from Charleston to Phoenix at the end of last year.  I drove from Charleston to Miami and back in January.  I drove from Charleston to Rochester in early August.  And, this latest trip.  All in all I think I put almost 20,000 miles on it last year but I really, really, really enjoy that car.  Despite the fact that I was sitting in that driver's seat for hours on end I have absolutely zero complaints.  How many of us can say that about our cars?

Trip totals:

Day From/To Miles Hours
Day 1: Thursday, Nov. 1 Rochester NY / Washington DC 471 7 hrs.
Day 2: Saturday, Nov. 3 Washington DC / Little Rock AR 1,005 14.5 hrs
Day 3: Sunday, Nov. 4 Little Rock AR / Douglas AZ 1,154 16.5 hrs
Day 4: Monday, Nov. 5 Douglas AZ / Chandler AZ 254 3.5 hrs
TOTALS   2,884 41.5 hrs

Ouch.  I'm glad it's behind me. 

The one thing that I enjoyed was being able to take a little video along the way.  It was a pleasant distraction, and I'll try to put it all together into something I'm willing to share.  It's really quite the amazing trip and like so many things I don't know if we can really appreciate it until after it's over.

One thing I did while I was driving is keep a list of the many things I need to do, follow-up on, and remember.  Now, I just need to actually do them all.

As I type this I'm watching C-SPAN to see for myself what happens when ENDA makes its way to the floor.  Yawn.  I don't know what's less tedious - watching politicians jockey for position or sitting behind the wheel of a car for hours on end.  If I ever lose my senses to the point where I threaten to run for office someone needs to poke me and force me to watch C-SPAN for a day.  That'll snap me back to my senses.  Anyway, if there were ever an odd day to consider ENDA today would be the day.  They've been talking for well over an hour about service men and women in preparation for Veteran's Day.  Soldier stuff in the morning, GLBT workplace discussion later.  Interesting combination.

I finally pulled into my driveway at 4:30 yesterday afternoon.  By 6:30 I was on a treadmill, running 4 miles.  After that kind of a trip I had a ton of energy to burn (not to mention road food) and my mental health felt a need to do something to get the blood flowing.  It was just what the doctor ordered.

It's nice to be home.  I feel centered for the first time in a while.  I've been scattered here and there and for the first time in a long time most of my world is in the same place at the same time.  As comfortable as I seem to be with "scatter" it's nice when everything comes back together again, if even for only a short time.  I've got some decisions ahead of me - the most pressing of which will be about my job.  My project implements in a couple of weeks and we'll see what happens next.  I like to have options.

 

Sunday, November 4, 2007

11:30pm CT:  It has been another loooonnngg day.  The weather today was a carbon copy of yesterday - honestly not a single cloud - and the only real construction I hit was a brief delay in Oklahoma City.  I drove almost 1,200 miles today (16 hours) and could probably have made it the last 200 miles if I really pushed it.  The point is that I don't see any reason to push it, so I checked into a motel to get some sleep.  Driving the windy road out of the mountains into Phoenix is not something wise to do at night, if you're tired.  Plus, I expect a night of sleep will help me to feel more "human" human tomorrow.

G'night. 

Saturday, November 3, 2007

11:30pm CT:  It has been a loooonnngg day.  The good news is that if there was ever a perfect day for a cross-country drive, this was it.  Bright, sunny, blue skies.  No construction.  Traffic not too bad.  Incredible fall colors.  I really enjoyed the drive, that is until it got dark.  And, until I started to get tired.  I drove 1,000 miles today in 15 hours.  I'll sleep well tonight - I'm not made for this anymore.  The clocks get turned back tonight so I get an extra hour out of the deal as well.  It'll be much needed, as I've got another 1,000+ miles to drive tomorrow, too.

7:00am:  I'm at the tail-end my my quick visit to Washington DC, just getting ready to hit the road across country.  I must be certifiably insane for this - really - but that won't change the fact that I'll be on the road in hour heading west.  I hope the road is kind to me.

The drive down here on Thursday afternoon/evening was uneventful and almost pleasant.  I packed the car with the remainder of my world in Rochester: a bunch of clothes, my bike, shoes, various odds and ends.  One of my trips across country involved packing my car so full there was barely room for a driver.  Thankfully, I'm not so fully laden this time.  I've been taking little snippets of video here and there along the way to amuse myself and to feel as though I've got a "project" to keep me company.  The harder part of the journey is that I'm sleeping on a couch in a building that's got more creaks and groans than all my joints combined so I haven't gotten a good, full, night of sleep lately.  Such is life on the road I suppose.

I spent yesterday morning attending the first day of the GLBT Health and Wellness event sponsored by the NGLCC and HRC.  This stuff is so important, and I'm finding myself becoming more and more involved.  For example, did you know that there is a book of procedure codes that medical practitioners use to submit claims to insurance companies, and that there are only 2 general codes that apply to ALL trans related surgeries?  There are two broad categories of Intersex procedures (their description, not mine): one for MTF procedures and the other for FTM.  There are no codes to further differentiate from there, so cost or more detailed explanations aren't part covered yet.  Part of the problem is that we're finally working with insurance companies and corporations to add tras-related surgeries as wellness benefits, and they're doing that, but the insurance industry itself doesn't have the appropriate infrastructure yet to effectively handle it.  We'll work to identify what those codes need to look like and then work with the AMA to add them when it updates the Procedure book, which happens every year.  That's just a small part of a bigger puzzle. Anyway, there's lots of stuff going on and I'm glad to see these kinds of events to at least bring visibility to some of them.

I had a meeting about the HRC Business Council at the HRC building yesterday.  It was good to see some dear friends that I've missed there, and those friendships are unchanged by my disappointment in the political side of the organization.  Those relationships will endure, and they remain very special to me.  In fact, they're the most important part of my relationship with the organization as a whole and as long as they're there I'll find a way to be involved in some way if only just to be able to interact with them.

Lastly, I attended the NGLCC National Dinner at the National Building Museum last night.  I've attended lots of dinners in lots of places but this takes the cake as far as venue is concerned.  It was simply amazing.  I took a little video there, but I doubt it effectively captures the 100+ foot ceilings, the dramatic lighting, the huge pillars, the fountain, the ice sculptures (the entire bar was made of ice!) and all the other stuff that made it something I won't soon forget.

I had a small speaking part to introduce one of the award winners so I got to sit at the table with Martina Navratalova, who by the way was just wonderful.  Great sense of humor.  Nice smile.  Engaging.  Her attorney was there and she's a blast, as well.  I'd love to do a road trip with those two.  Anyway, it's really interesting to meet pioneers is GLB acceptance from a time when it was just in its infancy.  I marvel at what it must have been like to have been on the forefront, in a visible role, fighting stereotypes and injustice.  But in the next thought I remind myself that I know what that's like in my own little, personal way.  Many of us are living it each and every day, and we accept it simply as part of life.  Anyway, people like Martina are true heroes for being able to conduct themselves with dignity through it all.

Anyway, I had a very nice time and it was great to see people I've known for a while but haven't seen in forever, and to meet new friends as well.  Here are a couple of pics:


Mara Keisling, me, Andre Wilson, Martina Navratilova, Selisse Berry (O&E)

I've made it to the 'big' screen...this screen was HUGE

I don't want to allow too much time to pass before mentioning a couple of things:

The always fantabulous and irreverent Jenny Boylan (who needs no further introduction) has another book coming out in January and is already getting ready for a promotional tour to support it.  She had a piece on, of all places, the New York Times Op/Ed page last week.  (Seems out of place as an Opinion piece to me, but oh well).  Anyway, it's titled "The Ghosts of Halloweens Past" and you can read it here if you'd like.

Lastly, I had lunch with my ex-partner Joe before leaving Rochester on Thursday.  I've known Joe for 25+ years and the two of us had lots in common.  We both had kids at about the same age.  We were both IT consultants, and met each other through reputation and a project at Kodak a long time ago.  We had similar mindsets on things and worked well together and at one point we were managing the day-to-day operations of a Fortune 500 IT operation while they were preparing to move to a new platform.  Anyway, when I first told Joe about my little situation he was dumbfounded and said something I'll never forget.  The first time he saw me he said, "If you told me the sky was purple right now I'd believe you."  Anyway, it was great to see him and reconnect a bit.  He's gotten grayer, but it's really nice to realize those relationships and connections don't necessarily fade with time or distance or "life". 

So now it's time to collect my things and hit the road.  I expect to drive 800-1000 miles today and I'll stop when I have to.  We'll see how it goes.  Onwards and upwards.

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1:30pm:  Today is Halloween, the unofficial Holiday for transgender people everywhere, where you're never too old to find a reason to dress up.  I remember looking forward to Halloween for weeks, looking for an excuse to let Donna out of her exile if only for just that one evening.  It was certainly a double edged sword, though, as to let her out meant that she needed to go back into hiding again, and the end results of my "costume" were reminders of a life that could never be (or so I thought).  Anyway, to Halloweenies out there everywhere - have fun today!

The Halloween weather forecast in Rochester is unseasonably warm with high temperatures perhaps reaching 70 degrees here today.  I remember many a Halloween trudging through the leaves and wet snow with my son, bundled warmly under his costume.  Taking him house to house was my job, while my ex-wife stayed home handing out candy.  I have no special plans at all today or tonight - I'll probably go out for a late dinner with my sister.  I think she's feeling a need to spend as much time together as we can knowing that my departure (again) is imminent.

It feels odd to realize that I'm just over 24 hours away from leaving here again.  I went for a nice, long run along the canal after work yesterday and it struck me at some point that it would probably be the last time I do that for quite a while.  The fact that, unless I make other arrangements, I'll be driving almost 3,000 miles in a few days hasn't sunk in yet.  I don't know that it ever will - I'll probably be a couple of hours into the drive before it really hits home that I'm moving on to the next chapter.

I'm still a little bit in the air about arrangements - so many things to balance.  First - I could fly from here to Phoenix (one way) on Sunday for only $130.  That's a great fare at this late date and it holds the allure of avoiding the long cross-country drive.  On the other side, however, is the fact that I'd need to find someplace to keep my car here and although I have options I really don't want it to experience a winter, and I'll probably need to drive it home eventually anyways.  Plus, I need to drive it to Washington DC tomorrow so when I leave there I can either drive it back here or start heading west.  All in all, I'm leaning towards my original plan of driving it although that's certainly subject to change.

If I drive, I've got two different routes that have been mapped out for me.  Mapquest takes me on the more scenic route down I81 to I40 which goes over 1,000 miles across the country - through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.  My AAA Triptik takes me on a more northerly route - taking I70 to I44 which connects with I40 in Oklahoma City.  That route would take me through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Montana, and into Oklahoma.  Both seem to be about the same distance.  The southerly route seems to be more scenic.  Decisions, decisions.

I think I'm going to do a short video of the drive across country: 12 to 15 minutes max.  Snippets of the drive.  I enjoy doing road trips - really I do.  I'd prefer that this one wasn't quite so long but as long as my car behaves we're good.

I'll continue to telecommute to my job here - my project will be going for at least another month and I expect to stay on beyond that.  I also expect they'll want to see me here every six weeks or so so it's not like I'm leaving and not coming back.  It's just that this won't be "home" for much longer. 

I saw some graffiti on a bridge over the canal on one of my recent runs that struck a chord with me so I took a picture of it to share.  It seemed so out of place, along the pretty canal walkway, surrounded by greenery, hidden under a picturesque bridge.  It seemed more than symbolic to me in more ways than one.

I'll admit that sometimes, it applies.  When I think of ignorance and the impact it has.  When I think of why things that should be so easy become so hard.  When I think of things that seem so obvious seem so invisible to so many.  I'd be lying if I were to say that there wasn't a sense of this deep within me that bubbles to the surface every now and again. 

It's one of those deeper, animal emotions that we like to think we can control and when it's controlled, perhaps it doesn't exist.  I find it far more productive to channel those emotions in productive ways than to wallow in themselves without direction, without outlet, without release.

As I was running and thinking about this word and these emotions it became apparent to me that what others perceive as my activism is, in a large part, the healthy outlet for my deeper anger that things are the way they are.  I'm not the kind of person to be swinging at the wind, shouting at the moon, or wallowing in my own self-pity.  None of those things achieves anything productive and, more importantly, none lead to happiness. 

I own my anger.  I acknowledge that it's there - a constant companion.  And, I like to think that it provides fuel in the form of motivation and passion in an almost unending supply.  It's not that we don't have it.  It's what we do with it that counts...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

2:00pm:  I'm back in Rochester and it's a beautiful, crisp, autumn day here.  I'm told it was a raw, wet weekend and they actually had their first frost here locally a couple of nights ago.  It's a stark contrast to the 90+ degrees I was enjoying back in Phoenix, but I suppose such is the Ying/Yang of my world these days.

Every community seems to have local institutions that are uniquely "home".  One of those institutions here is Wegmans and I've talked about this supermarket-thats-more-than-a-supermarket before.  I did a major shopping there last week to lug supplies back to Phoenix.

Sometimes these institutions involve food.  Another that is near and dear to me is Zweigle's Hot Dogs.  The reason I mention that is because there's a hot dog stand on the corner near where I work so I took an opportunity to get out and stretch in the cool midday sun, and stopped for a jumbo white hot.  Some would argue that a hot dog isn't a delicacy, but I beg to differ.  Top Pot Donuts in Seattle are a delicacy.  Zweigle's hot dogs are a delicacy.  Chicago Style deep dish pizza from Giordano's is a delicacy.  Real Philadelphia-made Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches are a delicacy.  Yummmm.  To me - it's all in the palate of the observer and this observer's palate certainly appreciates a local flair.

My travels yesterday were pleasantly uneventful.  Sudoku puzzles.  USA Today (football results, and World Series celebration).  Writing some email.  Snoozing a little.  No problems.  It was wonderful to see my sister's smiling face on the other end.

Although I seem to be coming and going as much as I ever have for some reason it doesn't feel as hectic.  As I look at my schedule through the end of the year I see all kinds of events that will keep me on the road:

Dates Where? What?
Nov. 2 Washington DC 2007 National LGBT Health Conference and Expo.  Also, the NGLCC National Dinner
Nov 3-4 Drive to Phoenix? Roadtrip across America....a true-life TransAmerica.
Nov 14 Dallas TX HRC Corporate Equality Series event - Gender Identity and Expression Diversity Workshop sponsored by Frito Lay
Nov 17 Dallas TX Black Tie Dinner
Dec 7 Seattle WA Snowball 2007 sponsored by Ingersoll Gender Center and the Seattle LGBT Center
If you live anywhere near Seattle and can make it, there will be a VIP Party to raise money for Ingersoll that will be fun, as well.  Christine Daniels, the sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, will be among the attendees.

Plus, mom is coming to spend Thanksgiving with me in my new house and Elizabeth is trying to get to Phoenix for a couple of holiday parties in mid December.  All in all, the holiday frenzy is almost upon us.

If you've visited my Video Page in the last day or so you'll notice that I put another impromptu video there.  Nothing fancy - just my thoughts.  I taped it on my back patio on Sunday afternoon.  It's about the "TransLives: Our Stories, Our Selves" Project that I explained here on my blog a couple of weeks ago.  I'll also be uploading a brief snippet of scenes from a social event at SCC a few weeks ago shortly.  Nothing earth shattering - just kinda fun, and great people.

I've been uploading these to YouTube but will probably eventually move them to a dedicated server.  I'm also looking to create DVD's that provide extended footage of events, travels, information, people and finding a way to make them available if there is interest.  I'll be bringing my little camera to the various events I attend and the places that I go to share some of those experiences.  There's a world of opportunity there that I think is important, interesting, and fun.

These are the first steps in this so stay tuned...
 

Sunday, October 28, 2007

8am:  Daylight Savings time was supposed to end today, except the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 apparently takes effect this year and delays it by a week.  The clock next to my bed is so smart it thinks it needs to change so it did.  Actually, not so smart.  First, apparently the policy change didn't get to my clock and second, we don't change time here in AZ anyways. 

Lots on my plate today.  I'm meeting my son for a late morning breakfast. I'm meeting my friend Laura for a little shopping - she's my movie partner and we were planning to go to the movies but we've both got commitments later in the afternoon so we'll save it for another day.  I've got a One-on-One training at the Apple store this afternoon.  I'm meeting Dr. Becky, Margaux, Dr. Meltzer, my electrologist Maria, and a couple of other friends for dinner.  I need to visit my friend at the hospital.  I need to pack because I'm flying back east tomorrow morning.  I hope to watch a little football at some point.  I need to make enough room in my garage for my car.  And, I hope to find someone to help me bring a piece of furniture that's too heavy for me into my bedroom.

I've got a couple of reasons for writing this morning before getting on with the day.  One is to share the video created by my friend, Jillian, who took my request to take video of ourselves so we can share our stories to heart.  In an email to me this morning she says, "This is a video that came about as I was preparing footage for your 'put a face on transgender people' project. I couldn't resist putting some of the pieces together and posting it."  The reason I share it here is because I think it's a fantastic example of what can be done simply by talking.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing creepy.  Human.  Honest.  And, she's got the prettiest eyes and an awesome smile.  :)

Yesterday I shared a song that somehow makes me stop in my tracks and grabs something deep inside.  I've got another one.  It's on my running mix, and when it comes on I typically listen to it 3 or 4 times in a row.  I'm not a religious person (a topic for another day) but I'm spiritually healthy.  From a spiritual perspective this song expresses what I'd write in terms of self and God if I could actually write a song.  I felt it was particularly appropriate for a Sunday.  The name of the song is "In The Sun" and it was originally written by REM but the version that gets to me is a version that lead singer Michael Stipe did with Coldplay on Austin City Limits a couple of years ago.  I envision this as a conversation between a person and their deeper self, questioning, confused, full of human frailty, and the fact that we can be lonely but we don't have to be alone.  Close your eyes and listen to the words.  You'll feel them, and perhaps they'll give you goosebumps the same way they do for me.  (Listen here).

Lastly, I hate to bring ENDA into this blog but since I've already shared 2 YouTube clips here I may as well make it 3.  Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner from New York spoke on the House Floor about a fully-inclusive ENDA last week and it's important to hear his words.  He said:

If we’re going to make a symbolic stand the symbolic stand shouldn’t be, “Let’s pass a one-house bill with only part of the protections we need.” Let’s let the symbolic message be that we’re sticking together. That when we say GLB T we mean it.

And, we should do something else. We should also make it very clear to those watching this discussion that we’re not going to negotiate against ourselves. We’re not going to say, “Well, if we toss this element or that element off to the side maybe we’ll be able to get what we need.” There are some things that are immutable – some civil rights that are immutable – and this is one of them. We’re going to stick together, pass an inclusive ENDA or we’re going to come back again and do it right.
 

Amen.  We do have friends that truly 'get it'.  We need to clone this man and put 212 of the clones in the House of Representatives.  He absolutely rocks.  In my simplistic view of things he is the antithesis to Barney Frank, and we can argue all day long about whether or not there are the votes to pass a fully-inclusive version but I'll tell you now, if Barney had this kind of a commitment and used his influence to make it happen it would happen.  He doesn't, he won't, and so here we are.

When I meet this man I am going to hug him.

Lastly, my sense of humor gets tickled by this ad.  It makes me laugh out loud at the end (See it here).  See the look on the Bigfoot's face?  Too funny.  Maybe it's just me...

Anyway, time to go and embrace the day.  Onwards and upwards....

 

Saturday, October 27, 2007

8am:  Yesterday was one of those busy days that just seemed to go on and on.  I suppose part of it is the fact I'm waking up at 4:45am so I can work on East Coast time, but going to bed on west coast time, so I add 3 extra hours to the day.  I know there are only 24 of them to play with on any given day, but they just seem longer lately.  That's not a bad thing - it's just a thing.

One of my errands was to stop and visit someone at the hospital who had SRS yesterday.  She'll be 70 years old in 3 months, and spent a couple of days staying with me before her surgery.  She's doing fine, is in good spirits, and jokes that it's better to get here late than never.

I stopped by the mall.  I went to the fitness center and had a nice 5 mile run.  I had an appointment with my electrolygist and dear friend Maria.  I go back every few months for quick look-over for any stray hairs that might be there.  She found 5 of them so we spent more time yapping than zapping.  I had an appointment with my hair stylist here in AZ for a color and bit of a trim to "clean things up" (if you're in town and need a stylist call her - she absolutely rocks.  contact info here).

I had dinner with one of my favorite men, Steve.  I originally met him through HRC.  He's on their Board of Governors and is one of the most interesting, fun, classy guys I have ever met in my entire life.  The funny comment of the day: he was talking to me and his eyes wandered down to my "girls".  He stopped in mid-sentence to comment about them.  I smiled and asked him if he liked them.  Steve's gay, and if you knew him you'd know how funny his response was: "Well, I'm certainly finding them very intriguing."  I've had them called lots of things but I think this is the first time anyone described them as "intriguing".  To funny.  Steve is my kind of guy.

Anyway, it didn't take long for the conversation to turn to ENDA, HRC, me, the bigger picture, and what happens next?  These conversations seem to be much more productive when there is alcohol involved.  I still believe the non-inclusive ENDA will pass, and I freely admit I'm significantly conflicted in how I feel about that.  Still, nothing I do or say will have an effect on the outcome at this point, unless of course I become a member of Congress really quickly. I've done what I felt I had to do.  I'm comfortable with my decisions.  I continue to be disappointed in many things that I've learned throughout all this.  And, I agree that there needs to be an "after" strategy that will result in the ultimate passage of  fully-inclusive ENDA. 

Whether anyone wants to like it, or agree with it, or even accept it - HRC will play a major role in that unless and until something else comes along.  That's just one of the realities of life in Washington right now.  There isn't anyone internally there at the moment - on the Board or on staff - to provide guidance and direction on this so they'll need to get someone or engage someone who can then engage others.  Given the temperature of the situation right now there will need to be some serious discussion and commitment.

There needs to be a well-planned, well-managed, multi-phase effort to educate on trans issues.  This needs to be part of the budgeting process so the commitment isn't simply there in terms of promises, but it's there in terms of allocated money and resources too.  In fact, I'd argue that people need to be allowed to donate money specifically to the Trans Education Program so money given for that is only used for that.  That would be a worthwhile investment.  Major donors need to step up.  Board members need to step up.  The commitment to rebuild the bridges and to move forward needs to come from everyone - not simply the organization leadership.

One of the things the board co-chairs asked of me before the ENDA mess blew up was to help them bring at least one more transperson onto the Board during my time there.  I followed up on that earlier this week and I made a recommendation to them of someone I think would be a very good replacement for me on their board.  I haven't heard anything back, which in a way I suppose isn't surprising but in another way it is.  I expect more than that, and they'll be getting a follow-up letter from me today or tomorrow asking for at least an acknowledgement of receipt.

I expect to be back in Washington DC at the end of next week.  I'm also on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and our National Dinner is on Friday.  The following day we're co-sponsoring the first annual GLBT Health Symposium in partnership with HRC.  I don't know that I'll be involved in anything other than enjoying the dinner but the point is that everything is connected. 

For me, things will never go back to being the same as they were: between me and HRC, me and politics, me and activism in general.  It reminds me of coming out and starting to transition.  You can always decide to go back, that you've decided for one reason or another to retreat to your original starting point.  The key, though, is that the life you had before you shared your "news" is gone so the life you return to is different from the one you left.  That's how this is.  No matter how things unfold in coming weeks and months things have been changed and although relationships can perhaps be rebuilt they'll be different than they were before.  Better or worse?  I suppose that depends on the outcomes, and expectations for the level of trust involved.  My days of being responsible to establish and defend policy for the organization are over. 

Speaking of "being over", SI.com is featuring what they have decided are the "Top 10 Cities in a Sports Slump".  Their number one slump city is Philadelphia.  Number two is Atlanta.  Number 3 is a city near and dear to me: Buffalo (see their assessment here).  Being a Buffalo sports fan certainly prepares you for disappointment and frustration in life.  Sigh.  I keep trying to tell people that it's not a choice or a lifestyle.  I'd change it if I could but I just can't help it.  Maybe I was born this way....

One thing I'll share before I go is that my friend, Michelle Angelo (a psychologist from the Philadelphia area), is teaching a university class about transgender.  Apparently, these are future therapists so she's trying to help them become knowledgeable of all the many facets involved in working with the transgender community.  She's using my book, and Jamison Green's book, and I think Jenny Boylan's book, as required reading and asked each of us to provide a short video clip talking about our experience and perhaps some learnings  that we gained from working with our therapists.  I've had a couple of months to do this but life gets to speeding along and it never got done.  She called me yesterday and told me she needs it by this morning as today is the day she's going to show them to her class.  There is no more time to delay.  So, after I got home from dinner with Steve last night I recorded a crude little something for her to use.

I didn't know how to get it to her in a timely way so I posted it on YouTube.  I don't expect that I'll keep it there for very long but it's there for now and I'll hesitatingly share the link for those who want to see.  I expect to be doing much more video in the coming weeks and my standards for video are much higher than reflected in this clip.  Still, I've started a page for my videos that will work for now - there are no links to it anywhere other than right here (Donna's Videos) for the moment.  We'll see how it goes..

While on the topic of YouTube, in past blog entries I've mentioned that I bought a DVD titled "An Evening With the Dixie Chicks".  There's a song on there that gives me goose bumps every time I hear it.  I don't know why it strikes such a deep nerve in me but it does.  It's titled "Traveling Soldier " (see it here).  It's some combination of the music, the lyrics and my own deeper needs I think.  Sometimes I suppose I feel like a traveling soldier and I can appreciate the loneliness that this young kid is feeling, and the appreciation he feels for the kindness of the girl in the song.  Anyway, whether you perceive the Dixie Chicks as "country" music and perhaps you don't think you like country music - this song transcends type and somehow hits home.

Time to get back to unpacking.  I've only got these next couple of days before I head back East again and I've got a long list of things to do.


Friday, October 26, 2007

7:30am:  It's still early here, but it seems like half the day is gone.  I've been setting my alarm for 4:50am so I can be dialed into work by 8am ET (5am locally) so by the time it's a half decent hour of the morning here it's already lunchtime by my work clock.  It makes for extra long days, starting on east coast time but going to bed on west coast time.  That's not a complaint so much as an observation.  Lord knows I've got enough stuff to fill all that time.

My training at the Apple Store yesterday was typically great.  So much to learn.  So many creativity options.  I'm like a kid in a candy store.  The upgrade to the Apple OS is out today and I'll get that sometime in the next couple of weeks.  I was joking with a couple of the other people in the class that when Windows Vista came out I decided that I have no intention of upgrading from XP for as long as I can hold out.  Anyway, it was a good session.

The moon last night was incredible.  As I drove to meet Maria for dinner the sun was low in the sky, casting a reddish low over things and the moon was a big, round, full, bright  ball low in the sky.  Amazing.

HRC has arranged a meeting for today titled "Trans-action steps".  They invited what looks to be 25 or so transpeople who are in some way involved with the organization - volunteer, steering committee, etc. - or are trans-activists.  The goal is to provide an update on ENDA, and to begin a dialogue on where things go from here.  Although I received the invitation and think that this needs to happen sooner or later I'm not at a point where I'd feel comfortable participating.  I won't be there.  If all goes according to my day plan I'll be on a treadmill while it's happening.

Speaking of HRC, I've had a few people approach me to ask about their financial support for the organization.  They've donated in the past and want to know if they should continue at those same levels or at all and, if not, where else their money would do the most good.  I'm certainly in no position to tell people how to spend their money so anything I say is just my own personal opinion.  Each of us needs to do what each of us needs to do.

One friend called and used a phrase that I liked.  She said she was a "non-trivial donor" - meaning she gave them significant financial support - and was rethinking that.  I've had people write to me telling me that they contacted HRC and told them they want their membership dollars back. 

That said, one of the reasons I felt compelled to resign from the board is that I refuse to contribute financially to an organization when I question whether that organization has my own best interests, and the best interests of people like me, at heart.  There are any number of ways people can contribute: time, energy, ideas, connections.  But when it comes to money - I just can't do it given what has happened.  I can't go to a dinner and ask people to give money, and if I can't (or won't) do that then I certainly wouldn't go to friends and peers and suggest that they give, either.  When it comes to politics you speak with your vote.  When it comes to non-profit advocacy you speak with your donation dollars.  It all comes down to dollars.

The difficult part of the equation with HRC, as I've mentioned in the past, is that it's really 2 organizations in one.  There's the political side - the PAC - which is the part that people tend to think about when they discuss the organization.  However, the other side of the equation is the HRC Foundation which is where most of their education and advocacy work happens.  The Workplace Project.  The Religion and Faith Project.  The Coming Out Project.  The Diversity budget.  All the reasons that I got involved there in the first place live on the Foundation side.  As a Business Council we met on that Monday before the ENDA board meeting and made a strong recommendation to the board.  It was not followed.

The biggest tragedy of all would be for the mess with HRC and ENDA to cause people to get soured about advocacy and to stop donating altogether.  If people want specific recommendations of other places where their donations would make a difference: GLAAD is working on a transgender program for media awareness that I'll have more details to share shortly (donations there help my Board obligation so if you do give please mention me).  NCTE, The Task Force, PFLAG - all do specific things it's important that they remain financially healthy.  Follow your passions and spread the wealth if you can.  It all helps.  I'll probably post a page highlighting each of the national organizations - what they do, who they serve, their record on Trans issues - at some point soon to help people make decisions.

 

Thursday, October 25, 2007

12:30pm:  I'm mixing work with unpacking.  Little by little, box by box, things are finally getting settled around here.  I made a promise to myself to go through every single box - even the ones that had been in my garage over these past 3 years - and to throw out what I didn't need.  Of course, logic would tell you that if you haven't used something for 3 years you probably don't need it but need is a very fluid concept for me at the moment.

I've made a couple of minor adjustments to this page.  I changed the links at the top of the page a little.  I added photos to my Blog Photo page from my autumn adventures in and around Rochester last week.  I'll be uploading them to Flickr at some point when I have time to polish them a little but these photos are just the way they came out of the camera - only smaller.

Several months ago I was given an alumni award from my Alma Mater, Syracuse University.  While I was there I inquired about the possibility of getting a new diploma from SU with my new name on it.  I changed all my college records way back when I was just starting out, but I never asked for a new diploma.  Anyway, it arrived in the mail the other day and I was very proud to see it.  I had forgotten about it and it was a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of forgetting, I did an interview with a writer for a publication called Pink Magazine several months ago.  When she first contacted me I thought Pink was some soft-porn magazine or something (it's hard to tell by the name) but she explained that it's a magazine for professional working women.  Anyway, she was writing a story about gender bias in the workplace and she realized that transpeople would likely have an interesting perspective on that.  Anyway, I met her in Atlanta earlier this year at while I was there for another event so we had a chance to sit down and chat over lunch.  Fast forward to yesterday - I got an email from Jillian Weiss that she's in the article, too, and apparently it's out on newsstands now (see the description here).  I'll have to go and buy a copy or two - I think they have them at Barnes and Noble.  Jillian seems pleased with the way it came out so I'm not too worried.  Plus, I don't know if anyone actually reads it.

That's the kind of cultural integration I'm hopeful we'll be seeing more of.  Mainstream publications and outlets talking to us about typically human experience, just from a unique perspective.  Frankly, I'm waiting for Oprah to do that one of these days.

Speaking of Oprah - a friend called and asked me if I knew anyone who had recorded either of the Oprah episodes dealing with trans issues last month.  If anyone did, or knows of a way to see them, please let me know and I'll pass the information along.

I signed up for a class at the Apple store this afternoon.  It's a class on making "movies" with iMovie, one of the video editing programs that's part of the new iLife07 suite.  Every time I go to that friggin' store I come away jazzed.  I'm already looking forward to spending an hour there.  While I'm at the mall I'm going to see if there's anyplace I'd want to spend some time as Christmas help.  I'm serious about finding a job for the holidays - not for the extra money so much as the extra social interaction and the extra time doing something different. 

Speaking of something different, my digital cable package here in the new house includes Logo, the GLBT network from MTV (I don't see much T on there and they don't seem receptive to help that would change that, but that's another topic for another day). It's channel 159.  The next channel after that is the NFL Network, all football all the time.  It's channel 162 and I'll admit that I spend time there.  How funny is that?  Can you imagine beer soaked football fans inching their way up the channels to find the NFL Network and having to stop at Logo on their way there?  For instance, tonight at 6 people can watch "Same Sex America" on Logo at the same time that Football Follies is on the NFL Network.  I don't know if anyone else finds that as humorous as I do.  Oh well....

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10:00am:  I can't believe the scenes I'm seeing out of Southern California.  It's like Dante's Inferno come to the real world.  Unbelievable doesn't seem to be strong enough of a word to explain what is happening, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this monstrously huge tragedy.  I'm watching a story on CNN about a family of "refugees" that fled with horses, cats, birds - it's almost like a modern-day Noah's Arc.  Can you imagine experiencing something like this??  I can't.

One friend lives in Poway which seems to be pretty much ground-zero for one of these fires.  She's retired - ironically from the fire department there - and is still living in the same house she grew up in.  She's out of town this week - in Seattle because she got tickets to the HRC dinner there - the one that I was supposed to speak at but got un-invited from this past Saturday.  She was one of several friends who went to the dinner and said they were pleasantly surprised at the support they received.

Anyway, all this somehow looses any sense if importance knowing that her neighborhood has been evacuated, and questioning whether or not she's even got a house to return to.   Please keep her, and the hundreds of people like her, in your thoughts and prayers. 

Most of the scenes I'm seeing are scenes of support - strangers helping strangers.  I'm seeing altruism at its best, and people who have nothing but the clothes they're wearing are finding some sense of support in their grief.  One reported described the scene at Qualcomm stadium as an "Unbelievably well-organized orchestrated machine".  Churches, businesses, the military, ordinary people - everyone is pitching in.  Low income, high income.  Black, white, Latino.  She said you an get everything from food, to support, to yoga classes, to medical attention, to acupuncture - it's amazing.

When asked why this is different from Katrina - a comparison you know is inevitable - the answer was immediate and obvious.  Leadership.  That's a word near and dear to me lately, and I couldn't agree more.  Effective leadership has made a huge difference in turning what could have been even more tragic into something that at least provides hope.  Are you as surprised that there haven't been dozens of deaths from this as I am?  Based on the fact that many people had only minutes to collect their most treasured belongings and get out as fire exploded all around them I'm just amazed.

Oddly, part of me wonders when the tide is going to turn.  At some point the finger pointing will start.  Why did this happen?  Who didn't do what?  Who should have been doing what but didn't?  Why did things take so long?  Stories of price gauging and scams will start to emerge - you'll see. I can only begin to imagine what the fallout will look like.  In the days following 9-11 there was a tremendous sense of community.  That didn't last long.  It eventually faded.

I hope I'm wrong.  I've seen nothing but heroes - ordinary people forced to do extraordinary things.  But experience tells me that the other shoe will drop. 

The reverberations of this will continue for years.  Every time there's a mudslide in CA we get an influx of people moving into Arizona because there are people who just can't take anymore.  How many people will leave?  Where will they go?  What will rebuilding look like?  These next months and years will look far different for many than they did just a week ago.

I just re-read this entry and one word pops out to me.  I used it several times, but it's the best word to describe how I'm feeling as I watch all this. It's simply amazing.

One thing that I think things like this does is it forces each of us to consider the things in our lives and to re-visit our priorities.  It's natural to put yourself in the position of any of these victims, and I'm certainly going through that process.  I'm nearing a natural break-point in my world so I would have been doing something like that anyways.  This just forces it in a deeper, more urgent way.

The thing that is far too apparent to me is that my life is out of balance in that I'm got too much "activist" and not enough living going on.  I'm very seriously considering getting a part-time job over the holidays - someplace where I can go to just be Donna.  As Donna.  Someplace to socialize, and meet people, and to break free from some of my constraints.  Stay tuned on that - it will happen

I'm seriously looking at my needs in terms of a relationship and making some moves to address those needs. 

I've got other decisions to make, as well.  Same old, same old isn't good enough, good enough. 

A couple of quick updates before I go.  I brought my car in to get some things fixed and felt fortunate to walk out only $400 lighter.  It put a crimp in my budget, but my car's health is a critical investment.  Also, my mom will be coming to Phoenix to see my new house and spend Thanksgiving with me.  I'm sure I'll have more to say on that in coming days, as well.

 

Monday, October 22, 2007

9:00pm:  Actually, the clock on my computer says it's 12:08am.  I'm in Arizona, living in an interesting sort of "time-warp" where I'm online and working remotely by 8am ET (5am here) but in the evenings I tend to live by Arizona time.  Tonight I made myself a nice dinner - the first one in quite a while, actually.   I was thinking back to when I transitioned I made it a point to make nice dinners (with wine!) on a regular basis.  It was the most civilized part of my days.  Over the past couple of years I've gotten away from that.  I need to make it a priority.

It's not easy cooking for one, or I should say it's easy to rationalize reasons not to do it.  I made Rigatoni and sauce tonight, with Italian Sausage, and it took me almost an hour to cook everything up.  Then, it took me 20 minutes to clean up.  A by-product, of course, is that I've got left overs to last me for the rest of the week.

This past weekend was the absolutely perfect way to celebrate autumn, and if there was a reason that I wanted to come back to Rochester for these past 10 weeks - this was it.  On Saturday my sister and I decided to spend a day enjoying autumn together so we headed south of Rochester to go to some wineries in the Finger Lakes.  We never made it that far.  The colors in the southern tier were some of the most amazing either of us had ever seen, and we spent hours riding back roads "oohing" and "aahhing" and "wowing" around every corner.  I rarely use the word "magical" - this was magical.  I took photos - I doubt they'll do the colors, the magic, justice.  That's ok.  I won't forget it.

I got up early on Sunday morning - it was going to be unseasonably warm and sunny and I wanted to spend a little time at one of the local ponds.  There's a pretty little park called "Mendon Ponds Park" that's got some beautiful trails around unspoiled waterways.  I specifically wanted to spend some time at 100 Acre Pond (a winter photo of it here, and another one here).  I got there shortly after sunrise and the water was as smooth as glass.  With the autumn colors in the background - I can't wait to see the photos I took.  It truly took my breath away. 

I'll have some photos online shortly.  As I say - I hope they do the wonder of the weekend justice.  I could only stay at the pond for on hour and half before I had to get going to make my noontime flight. 

There have been a couple of interesting articles in the news this week.  In one, Harry Potter J.K. Rowling said that Professor Dumbledore is gay.  It has elicited some very strong responses (read an interesting overview here).  Believe it or not, this is BIG news, and one of the by-products is that it provides the kind of odd social legitimacy that transgender people can hope to enjoy one day.  Still, there are a number of people expressing outrage, anger, and even doubt.  Let's not forget that we're talking about fictional characters here, right?

Wow. We really did not see that coming. It's exciting, isn't it?

According to the Globe and Mail, which calls this "the biggest outing in the entertainment industry since Ellen DeGeneres," fans have so far reacted positively.

Cultural conservatives are, naturally, horrified, but (1) good luck with a boycott and (2) they have no one to blame but themselves. Since the death of Jerry Falwell, they've been asleep at the wheel when it comes to casting aspersions on the inner lives of fictional characters like Tinky Winky. And now Rowling herself has beaten them to the punch!

"Dumbledore's Gay," Says J.K. Rowling

Another thread I've seen says that the White House helped to craft the language of ENDA which is leading to all kinds of conspiracy theories.  Read an article on it here, and another here. The GLBT community isn't the only group that is interested in what is happening.  Most have been operating under the assumption that the President would provide the coup de gras in the unlikely event that the bill comes to his desk.  What if that weren't so?  Anyway, it's interesting to ready a different perspective.

The proposal, for which homosexual and transsexual activists are crusading, "has tremendous potential to criminalize Christianity in the United States by creating federal 'rights' based on wrong and destructive lifestyle," he said. The plan was approved just days ago by the House Education and Labor Committee and is headed for a House floor vote.

White House helped craft 'gay'/transsexual rights bill

Criminalize Christianity?  Are you kidding me? 

The action alerts have been coming fast and furious - telling people to call their representatives in Washington and be sure they vote for the Baldwin Amendment.  I got an HRC message today saying: "Even as the House is poised to act on ENDA, our right wing opponents have ratcheted up their activities opposing the bill. Members’ offices are beginning to be flooded with demands that ENDA be voted down."  I suspect  they're right.  "The "Family Values" groups have been sending similar action alerts, but with a much different message (see one here, another here).

Concerned Women for America sent the following e-mail memo to all members of Congress on Monday:

"Signing this pledge will commit you to hiring and retaining in your office transvestites (people who dress as if they were members of the opposite sex) and transsexuals (people who have undergone surgical mutilation in order to act out a role as a member of the opposite sex).

Ultimately, your signature on this pledge will be used to advance the legislative goal of requiring all employers to hire and retain transvestites and transsexuals or face lawsuits for employment discrimination.

This is not the way to healing and health for troubled individuals. Creating new “rights” for those trapped in disordered behavior serves to discourage them from seeking the help they need. "

CWA Opposes Men in Dresses Lobbying Congressmen for ‘Gender’ Rights

Ironically, if the likely event that the Baldwin Amendment is not added to the version of ENDA that came out of committee last week the people who have been pressuring Congress to defeat ENDA based on all these "Family Values" will be on the same side of the vote as most GLBT advocacy groups in this country.  How's that for strange bed-fellows?

One last observation on the HRC note I received today:

HRC is working in conjunction with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and other groups, including the groups in United ENDA, to lobby Members to vote for the Baldwin Amendment. As part of this effort, HRC’s lobbying team is reaching out to Member offices and directly to Members. HRC’s field team is generating another round of grassroots action to support this final effort to secure the votes for an inclusive bill.... How Members of Congress vote on the Baldwin Amendment will be reflected on our HRC Congressional Scorecard.

That last sentence is news to me.  Ever since the board vote I've heard Joe explain time and again why HRC couldn't oppose the bill, using the rationale of the Congressional Scorecard (read an extended version of Joe's remarks here) and the difficulty of penalizing a congressional ally for a pro-gay vote on a non-inclusive bill.  This implies that it will actually be scored somehow?  Now I'm even more confused than ever. 

Time for bed.  The East Coast clock on my computer says 2:12am.  I'll need to be online and working before you know it...

 

Friday, October 19, 2007

7:00pm:  If things hadn't changed for me in recent weeks I'd be in a plane right now, flying across country to Seattle to speak at the HRC dinner there.  I spoke there last year and met some wonderful people, and they specifically asked if I'd come back again this year.  I don't think it would be wise to put a microphone in front of me at an HRC fundraiser right now.  So, I've reclaimed my weekend.

My plans for the next few weks are coming more into focus.  Instead of driving to Phoenix this time I'm flying - leaving on Sunday and staying there for a week.  I've got enough frequent flyer miles to make it happen so I did and the arrangements are all set.  I need to be back on the east coast the week of Nov. 2 so I've got to come back anyway.  I'm attending the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Dinner in Washington DC that night so that might be my opportunity to drive - stopping there on my way before continuing across country. We'll see how that unfolds.  The downside is that according to Mapquest it's actually farther from Washington DC to Phoenix than it is from Rochester to Phoenix - sounds odd, I know.  Plus, there's the extra 400 miles from here to there.  Anyway, there's still time to figure this out.  If you live in the Washington DC/Virginia/Maryland area and want to attend the dinner there are details here.  The next day they're co-sponsoring a GLBT Health Conference if you want to stay around for that, as well.

Speaking of conferences, I participated in the Equality Leadership Conference here in Rochester at the Convention Center today (see photo at left).  I was asked to fill-in for the keynote speaker who had to cancel at the last minute - my sister even came out for the event.  I don't think she has seen me speak since my earliest days as a budding activist.  Anyway, it was a wonderful group and I was pleased with how things went.  I can't thank everyone who attended enough for making me feel so welcome.  I had a blast.

Tomorrow is a "down" day for me.  I need it.  I'll get out early in hopes of spending as much of the day doing "autumn" things as I can.  This will probably be the last really nice weekend here before things turn much more seasonable. Even though I've had quite a bit of traveling on my plate since arriving here in mid-August I think I've done a pretty good job of accomplishing what I came here for.  Time passes, things change, and then it's time to move on.  That's how I'm starting to feel.

Sometimes I wish I had a partner in all of this.  I'm starting to miss that - more than I think I'll allow myself to admit.  That's the biggest hole in my life right now - not the politics, or the advocacy, or the career, or the finances.  Those things seem to balance out pretty well.  It's the deeper connection with someone who has the same passions, the same drive, the strength to share the load, the sense of self that allows you to do your own thing but that also embraces you when you come back home. 

I won't say that I'm lonesome, or lonely, as that's not really it, I don't think.  Maybe it's that I'm just looking for someone to share with.  Life.  Happiness.  Sadness.  Future.  Burden.  I said it before and I'll say it again - if I've met that person then I haven't realized it yet.  It's a tall order, I know, but such is life.  I'll just need to make it more of a priority.

 

Thursday, October 18, 2007

11:00pm:  I've been wallowing in nostalgia all this week, even with stuff I'd prefer not to do.  For example, I went to see my dentist yesterday - he's been my dentist for over 20 years.  He's my sister's dentist.  When my mom comes to visit from Dallas she goes to see him.  He was my father's dentist.  When I first started going to him a lifetime ago we were both in our mid-20's and we had lots to talk about.  Oddly - we still have lots to talk about.  He's a really nice guy and he's in charge of my teeth.  I don't expect that will change, no matter where I go.

The same is true of my hair stylist, Christopher.  I've known him longer than I've known my dentist - longer than I've known my son, for that matter.  I used to follow him as he went from salon to salon around Rochester.  Now he owns his own salon and it's fun to go back and see him, especially since my "change".  He mentioned yesterday that it felt almost like I'd never gone away.  He's right.  Old friendships are like that.  As he was cutting he mentioned that the hair on the top of my head had thinned a bit since my last visit a few weeks ago and attributed it to "stress".  I haven't felt stressed in the typical sense - certainly there has been quite a bit going on but I don't know that the two are related. Oh well.   

I weighed myself and found that I've lost ten pounds in the past month.  Part of it is probably that I've been exercising regularly and am feeling pretty good about that.  I'm in good shape right now.  Another part of it is probably due to the fact that I just haven't felt hungry lately so I sometimes go an entire day without eating much - not on purpose but just because.  The good news is that I fit in a pant size that I don't know that I've ever fit in before.  The bad news is that I don't like getting too thin so I'll be making extra sure not to let it go much further.

I have visited many of my favorite local autumn places over these past few days.  I visited the tepees at Powers Farmers Market (photo below), and watched all the kids selecting their pumpkins.  I remember when my son was that age, doing that.  I went to Wegman's, the hometown grocery store that I've mentioned before, and was amused to see that they've already got their Christmas displays up (photo below of that, too).  It's not even November yet, and the weather forecast says it's going to be 80 degrees by Monday!  Before you know it they'll be putting up the Christmas stuff right after Labor Day.  You watch...

I went for a pleasant run along the canal a couple of nights ago.  It's very pretty in the autumn in the evenings, and I'm posting a couple of photos to show what it looks like.  I think I'll have one more opportunity to do that before I leave.  That time is coming very soon...

<< These 2 photos are from along my running route on the canal path between Pittsford and Bushnell's Basin.  It's a very pretty run...
<<  The photo on the left is of the Christmas decorations in Wegmans.  The photo on the right is of the pumpkins and tepees at Powers Farmers Market. 

I went to Best Buy yesterday and bought a new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers multi-DVD set directed by Peter Bogdanovich.  I'm a Tom Petty fan from way back and I'm looking forward to this.  I also bought one of my favorite Disney movies that was just re-released on DVD, Jungle Book.  I still remember seeing it in the theater as a child.  As I mentioned at the outset - I'm wallowing in nostalgia this week..

I'm also mentally preparing to disconnect.  I'll be heading back to Phoenix sometime in the next couple of weeks - haven't worked out the details yet.  I might drive, which is a 2300 mile road trip that I've done a couple of times before.  I've got a car here, and I have any number of options to leave it so I'll have something to drive when I come back here but the fact of the matter is that I really enjoy the car and I don't want to put it through a full winter here.  Plus, I've got more "stuff" here than will fit into a couple of suitcases, including a bicycle, so in a way it makes sense to drive home with it all.  Anyway, I've got a little time to figure that out.  Logistics aside, the mental effort of re-focusing back in Phoenix will take a little effort.  And time.  I've already started to do that.

My sister and I went out for dinner tonight - just the two of us - and had a wonderful time.  I'll miss that.  I'm scheduled to be the keynote speaker at an event here in Rochester at the Convention Center tomorrow and I think she'll come to see that.  It's nice to have family there to be with you - it really is.

When I get back to Phoenix I'll have to spend some quality "me" time.  The September/October stretch has been fuller than full so I'm very much looking forward to having my time back for a little while.  Like this weekend - I'm planning to visit some wineries in the Finger Lakes, to stroll and take photos in Mendon Ponds Park, and to generally enjoy what will probably be my last relaxing weekend here.  No plans yet - just going with the flow.  I might even sleep in for a morning or two!  What a concept.

I've also got some relationship decisions to make.  These things are more fun to do with someone than alone.  Now that I'll have some time I'll need to make some of those things a priority.  All in all, lots of stuff bubbling.  As usual.

On the the advocacy front I got something from GLAAD condemning an on-air rant about trans-people by Rush Limbaugh (read it here).  I'd love to meet him face-to-face someday.  I've got a response that I'd like to deliver in person.

 

Monday, October 15, 2007

11:00pm:  Just a short entry tonight...

People sometimes ask what happens at a board meeting.  Here's a picture to show you.  Generally, we sit around a big table and work through business.  This particular meeting included presentations on the budget (we were asked to approve it), program updates, various formalities, an Executive Session open only to board members, and the President's update.  The days are very full - from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, often followed by some type of a reception or event. 

Our next GLAAD board meetings will be in Las Vegas in February.  We're starting discussion on a trans project that I think will be very exciting.  More to come on that.

Also, GLAAD has award dinners in several cities each year.  I'm hoping to attend the events in NYC and Los Angeles in 2008.  If anyone wants to sit with me in either of these cities perhaps we can get enough people to fill a table.  Let me know if you're interested as I'll need to reserve the table sooner rather than later.

The drive home was pretty and uneventful, other than the fact that I missed an exit and spent a half hour trying to get back.  I took some photos from along the way and am offering them on my Blog Photo Page for those who are interested in sitting up front with me in a cyber kind of way...

 

 
Saturday, October 13, 2007

9:30pm:  I lay down late this afternoon after getting back to my hotel room following the GLAAD board meeting and fell asleep.  I just woke up a little while ago and realize I've missed a fund-raiser they had scheduled for tonight.  Lord knows, I needed the rest.

It's a mild evening here in NYC so I decided to go for a little walk to enjoy autumn a little and to get some fresh air.  I started walking down Broadway towards Times Square and felt compelled to take a few photos.  I'll call this little collage "An Evening Stroll Down Broadway".  (see the photos on my Donna's Blog Photos page)

I was planning to grab one of those 4-inch high Pastrami sandwiches at one of the Deli's along the way for dinner until I saw that they cost upwards of $12.  I don't want one quite that much.

One of the words that has been coming up quite a bit over the course of the past couple of weeks is 'Education'.  They're saying that we haven't done enough 'education' on trans lives and trans issues at this point, which is why we don't have the votes to pass the inclusive ENDA.  I received an email that I think makes an important point:

"As far as education goes, look at what we have given the country. There have been countless documentaries on TV as you very well know. How about all the books that have been written, especially first person autobiographies. Then there are the talk shows, some good some not so good, still education. What about all that is on the Internet? If all these Congress people cannot see all this, then we need others to lead us in this country. This is so simple. They use education as an excuse to leave a group of people out. I don't recall any education on homosexuality or race issues, just programs on the TV, not documentaries, and articles about people doing illegal acts in the paper."

Very true.  In one sense, I find 'education' to be one of those excuses that we can't get past.  How do you know  when it's done?  How do you know you've done enough?  When you have enough 'votes'?  When other people accept you enough?  Because other people can't or won't accept it's somehow becomes your fault for not doing enough 'education'?  I think not.  "Education" is often a smokescreen for what's really going on, which is that people can't or won't get past their own discomforts/prejudices and they're looking for something to blame for that.  We're easy targets.

Sill, educating people about ourselves is an ongoing process.  The kind of education we're talking about is a deeper kind of education to the point that I wish we had a different word for it.  In the typical sense to educate is to teach.  We're not necessarily teaching.  We're familiarizing.  We're humanizing.  We're sharing - openly and honestly.  One on one, person to person. Educating?  I suppose. But if I could make up a new word for it I'd say we're Authenticizing.  We need to authenticize ourselves to others.  Then maybe we won't have to argue that we deserve basic rights that other people have, like a job.  Then maybe we wouldn't have to deal with the indignities that come with being forced to fitting into other people's boxes.

I've got Board Meetings - Part 2 tomorrow morning until a little before noon, and then I'll hit the road back to Rochester (that is, if I can find my way to the Lincoln Tunnel in this maze of one way streets named Manhattan).  I hope the weather is decent for my drive - I see that they're having heavy rain up through Cortland and Syracuse tonight.  I looked at my schedule for the next couple of months, deleted all my HRC obligations, and I was pleased to see that I've only got one more weekend actually spoken for thru the end of the year.  That's amazing.  Next, I'll turn my attention to doing what I need to do to get back home to Phoenix.  I need to find my way back home...
 

Friday, October 12, 2007

11:15pm:  I'm in Manhattan and I have one question on my mind.  How does anyone live in this town?  I see why they call it the town that never sleeps.  I'm sitting in my hotel room, thankful that (a) I found this place, buried deep in Manhattan (b) my car isn't dented or otherwise injured and (c) I haven't been robbed yet.  It's nuts!  I can see Times Square a little ways down the street from where I'm staying but I have no intention to make my way there.  It looks like Disneyland at night, or Las Vegas "plus".  This is a nice room so I'll have a nice time decompressing and chilling before trying to get a few hours of sleep.

4:30pm:  Has another week one by already?  Where or where has it gone?  As I reflect on the last couple of weeks - 2 weeks ago in Washington DC for Out and Equal when the ENDA mess blew up and last week back in DC for the HRC Board Meeting it feels as though everything that has been happening has been a dream.  Or, a nightmare.

I will be back on the road today, driving from upstate NY to Manhattan for the GLAAD board meeting.  There is a pre-meeting reception tonight that I won't be able to make because I've got something that I can't afford to take for granted - a job - so I won't be able to start the 340 mile drive until late this afternoon.  The weather last night was wet and a bit raw here - typical autumn weather - but the forecast for the next few days is relatively calm and cool so it should make for pleasant driving. 

I'm not a New York city kind of person, although I'll admit that my last couple of trips there have been ok. Our meetings will be across from Central Park but I doubt there will be any free time to go exploring - they keep us pretty busy at these meetings.  Drive down tonight, meetings tomorrow, drive home Sunday morning. 

I do want to share a couple of things today.  One, I think, is particularly important.

As a follow-up to my discussion yesterday about the need to education others about ourselves and how critical that effort will be on an ongoing basis I'm planning to begin something I'm calling it "The TranSelf Project: Our Lives, Our Selves" (or TLP, for those of us who are techie like meand need acronyms).  I am inviting people from around the country to provide video of themselves and the people in their lives, telling their story.  Tell me how you feel, what you think, how you're doing.  Share your struggle.  What have you lost, what has disappointed you most, what has hurt you?  On the other hand share what you've gained, your perspective on yourself and your gender.  All in all, this is free form so there is no fixed format.  There is no "right" way to do this.  Take all the time you need.  Share your story, your life, the people in your world, and how you're feeling.

HRC has launched a similar effort as part of their "Coming Out Project".  But as long as we allow others to tell our stories we find ourselves dependent, and the fact of the matter is that nobody can tell our stories better than we can.  We need to own that, and that process starts now.  I know a doctor who lives in North Carolina whose wife has stayed with her during transition, who was forced to leave her church, who was forced out of the medical practice that she helped to establish only to move across town and start all over again.  I know someone in Dallas who was outed by a friend at work and showed up the next day and was told that she was no longer welcome at the company, despite a 12-year history of excellence there.  I know someone in Phoenix who struggled with her gender issues but it wasn't until she was arrested for DUI, sitting in the Tent City jail, that she realized what she had to do.  I know of people who are the children of a trans parent who are proud and supportive.  I know of spouses who have struggled to accept something they can't begin to understand, and who come to a sense of peace.  We need to tell these stories.  We need to share them with each other, and with the world. 

Watch the HRC video outlining what they're looking for (see it here, note: there isn't a single transgender face there).  That's what we're looking for, too.  Personal stories.  Not necessarily simply of coming out, but of anything you want to share.  Your life.  Your family.  Your job.  Your relationships.  Your spirituality.  Your perspective.  Your dreams and your fears.  We want whatever you can share.  If you go to that Youtube page and click on any of the Video Responses below it you'll see what people are doing.  One is here.

Take the video.  Use a webcam if that's all you have.  You can buy a neat little camera that records video meant for uploading to the web (see one here) for less than $100.  Or, use a regular video camera if you've got one.  Video quality isn't necessarily important but audio quality makes a huge difference.  Be creative.  I'll edit them if necessary so don't worry too much about that. 

I'm setting up a couple of different ways to get the videos to me.  I'll be setting up an ftp site for those who know how that works.  Also, I'll be providing a mailing address if you want to burn your video to a CD or send the raw video from your camera.  Or, upload it yourself onto Youtube or some other video site and send me the link so I can post it.  Don't trash people.  Don't be disrespectful of others.  But most importantly, be honest.

Our Lives, Our Selves.  It will be as successful (or not) as the videos that you provide.  I'll provide the hosting.  I'll provide the effort to get the videos ready, and to upload them.  All you need to do is to share.  It's not that sharing our stories makes a big difference - it makes all the difference.  I'll have more detail on this as it becomes real, but the time to start thinking about it and working on it is now.

Speaking of sharing our lives, The Oprah Show today is titled Transgender Families (see details here).  It's the second of the two shows I mentioned last month.  Could it be any more timely??

Next Friday I'll be speaking at the Equality Leadership Conference here in Rochester.  I was supposed to leave later that day to speak at the HRC dinner in Seattle but my days of raising money for them are over.  The bad news is that I was looking forward to seeing dear friends who live in the Seattle area who made plans to attend specifically because I was going to be there.  To them, I'm sorry but we'll have other opportunities to get together.  The good news is that I'll have a weekend freeing up.  I expect it won't stay free for long.  I'm already looking at how to fill it.

BTW: Those here to see new ENDA developments won't find them here.  I've created an ENDABlog page to offload all the ENDA stuff that continues to rage.  I don't want to turn this blog into a purely political rant so I've been struggling with the fact that so much of it has been consumed by ENDA lately.  It makes it seem as though my life is totally consumed by it, when in fact it's not.  Today I met with Corporate Auditors who are doing an audit of my project at work.  I talked with my son.  I got directions on getting to Manhattan.  I met with my project team to map out strategy for next week.  Those who want to follow those events have any number of options, my ENDABlog page being just one of them. 

 

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer"
Sun-Tzu, Chinese General and Military Strategist (~400BC)

After a good night sleep, I realize that them more I think of what Barney Frank is doing the angrier I get.  His Blame the Victim campaign, launched from the floor of Congress on Tuesday evening, is nothing short of a narrow-minded smear. It reeks of contempt and prejudice, it provides no sense of awareness of how the GLB and T are actually blended communities, and it sends the message that we somehow haven't suffered enough yet to be included in his bill.  It's outrageous, and his second salvo comes today at his press conference.

This is not a dialogue.  This is a one-sided conversation from a man with a mission, leveraging his power and position in Congress as a pulpit to preach.  I've heard others praise Barney Frank for all the work he's done on behalf of gay rights over the years.  Great.  Thanks.  The problem is that he is clearly still living in the 1980's in terms of his perspective on the broader GLBT community and what we have become.  If there's anyone out of touch here it's Barney, and the person who needs to realize that is Barney.  But he doesn't, and he won't, and perhaps he can't.  That's what scares me, as his misguided efforts threaten to drag us back to a time when trans-people were neither seen nor heard.  That's what gets me upset with HRC's stance in all of this.  They had the chance to be the voice of the future.  Instead, they chose to support the voice of the past.

Don't for a minute think that anyone is taking Barney's escalating offensive sitting down.  A press release was issued this morning to address Barney's contention that the push for full inclusion is coming from a small, out-of-touch, minority.  I'm told that it will be distributed at Barney's press conference this morning in an effort to set the record straight.

Nearly 300 Organizations From Across the Nation Unite to Press Congress to Secure Transgender-Inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Legislation
10-10-2007 10:05:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly 300 organizations from throughout the nation -- and representing the full scope and breadth of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community -- have launched a vigorous and vocal united lobbying and advocacy campaign to win passage of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), H.R. 2015. Called United ENDA, the campaign builds off the past week's unprecedented efforts by legal groups, political organizations, grassroots activists and many others to maintain protections on the basis of gender identity in ENDA as the measure was originally introduced.

The groups, which include leading legal organizations such as Lambda Legal and faith groups such as the Religious Coalition for Equality, have signed a joint letter to Congress objecting to a diminished bill that abandons transgender people. These organizations, in an ever-expanding list, comprise United ENDA. As a result of letter and direct lobbying by staff from LGBT organizations and constituents, a scheduled House committee hearing on a version of ENDA that strips protections for transgender people was postponed last week.

United ENDA groups are coordinating lobbying and communicating daily to keep pressure on Congress. In the past week alone, thousands of constituents have called or sent e-mails to their U.S. representatives urging them to support a transgender-inclusive ENDA.

Below the listed media resources is additional information, including an update about what United ENDA has accomplished within the last week.

    Media Resources:
    Get background on ENDA.

    Read the letter to Congress signed by nearly 300 organizations.

Read responses and analysis from leading LGBT legal organizations: joint statement from legal groups and additional analysis from Lambda Legal.

Key Facts about United ENDA:

United ENDA was formed officially on Oct. 3 by the 150 organizations that signed a letter urging Congress to only support a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There are now 282 organizations that belong to the United ENDA campaign and the list continues to grow every day.

United ENDA has coordinated a broad campaign to pass the original Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 2015) with unified protections for all LGBT people and to oppose any amendment or bill that would leave some in our community behind.

Nearly every statewide LGBT advocacy organization has joined United ENDA as well as nearly every national LGBT advocacy organization that lobbies members of Congress. Every national LGBT legal group has joined the campaign.

The combined membership of the United ENDA member organizations is at least 1.7 million. (This number only reflects membership data from 120 of the 282 member organizations.)

While United ENDA is a campaign of primarily LGBT-specific organizations, United ENDA is helping to coordinate lobbying strategies with numerous non- LGBT groups who share the goal of passing a trans-inclusive ENDA this Congress, including USAction and its state affiliates, the Young Democrats of America, and the National Organization for Women.

    Key Actions of United ENDA and Member Organizations:

    -- Coordination of Lobby Efforts. United ENDA helps to coordinate the
       lobbying efforts of the member organizations of United ENDA, including
       Hill meetings, keeping track of who is committing to support the bill,
       providing lobby report mechanisms for grassroots lobbyists, and
       maintaining communication with members of Congress who share the
       position of United ENDA.

    -- Action Alerts. Alerts were sent to members of United ENDA organizations
       asking members to call or e-mail members of Congress with the message
       to support H.R. 2015 and oppose any effort to strip protections for
       gender identity from the bill. For a PDF copy of a sampling of alerts,
       contact Roberta Sklar, communications director of the National Gay and
       Lesbian Task Force, at rsklar@theTaskForce.org.

    -- Organizational Coordination. The United ENDA campaign holds daily
       briefing calls to coordinate activity. The United ENDA coalition
       maintains the list of supporting organizations and coordinates the
       delivery of the updated letter to members of Congress supporting H.R.
       2015 and opposing any amendment or bill that would leave some in our
       community behind.

    -- Faith Organizing. United ENDA member organizations and volunteers have
       alerted more than 2,000 pro-LGBT congregations and asked their members
       to take action in support of H.R. 2015, and created flyers for church
       bulletins to engage congregants. The National Religious Leadership
       Roundtable, the Institute for Welcoming Resources and the Bishops and
       Elders Council have all organized faith leaders of multiple
       denominations to weigh in with their members of Congress.

    -- Student Mobilization. United ENDA member organizations have mobilized
       student activists by contacting more than 120 LGBT campus resource
       centers and giving them tools so their students can take action to
       preserve a fully inclusive bill. Through Campus Pride, GLSEN, Campus
       Progress and other organizations, students have coordinated and
       participated in lobby visits at home and in D.C.

    -- Phone Banking. United ENDA volunteers have engaged in phone banking to
       ask members to call their representative using scripts provided by
       United ENDA.

    -- Press/Media Outreach. A number of United ENDA member organizations have
       released press releases stating organizational positions. (Many of
       these statements are available in the previously mentioned PDF.)  An
       audio press conference attended by 30-plus media outlets was held Oct,
       1, the day before the originally scheduled committee mark-up, to
       amplify the messages of the various organizations that have since
       formed United ENDA.

    -- Additional Letters to Members of Congress. United ENDA member
       organizations have also initiated a religious organization sign-on
       letter and a letter from HIV/AIDS organizations has been delivered to
       Congress. A number of statewide organizations have developed state-
       specific sign on letters to their congressional delegations.

    -- Online Activism. United ENDA member organizations have established two
       online petitions and a Facebook group. More than 10,000 people have
       joined or taken action through these sites over the last week. See
       www.nosubstitutes.org developed by National Stonewall Democrats and
       http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/transgender_inclusive_ENDA/
       developed by National Center for Transgender Equality and
       Transgender Law Center.

As much as it pains me to admit it, there's one speck of truth in Barney's entire 60-minute trans-blast from the other evening.  He expresses the need for education.  Agreed.  At some point soon there will need to be a coordinated, strategic, unrelenting, consistent plan for education - not just for members of Congress but nationally in districts around the country.  Trans people will need to tell their stories.  Trans people need to become "people" instead of simply some abstract concept.  We can't simply do town-halls and educational events as the people who already believe will attend and the people who do not won't.  It's that simple.  We need to begin moving out of whatever transgender "ghetto" we live in and we need to join things, not simply as people but as trans-people.  That's no small task for people who have been trying to hide for their entire lives.

To take this conversation to the next level, who do you think has the depth and breadth to actually carry this out?  NCTE?  As much as I respect and like Mara - they don't have the money, the resources, the connections, or the bandwidth to do something this huge.  At least not yet.  The Task Force?  Perhaps - I'd love it if they could.  PFLAG?  Maybe.  Some coalition of organizations?  That might work, but asking for that kind of strategic plan from something that's just forming even as we speak would certainly be asking quite a bit.  This effort will require clout, money, presence, legitimacy, direction, money, motivation, visibility, accountability, money, connections and commitment.  Who do you think can provide all those things?

There is one obvious answer.  HRC.  People may not like the answer, and work needs to happen to change it, but I don't see how you can reasonably escape it.  Everyone will play a part, I think, but who has the weight to force their way to the front? The good news is that they've got the motivation to make it happen.  I have reason to believe that the conversations are already happening internally to establish the groundwork.  And it does need to happen.  But the difficulty is balancing the feelings of betrayal, hurt, and anger that are festering right now and a longer view of what needs to happen and who can help to make it happen.  They will need this effort to be led by trans-leaders, not HRC voices, so the thing that will be happening in the not too distant future is a call to engage the trans community again.  You watch.  It will happen.

The dilemma we'll all be facing - to help an organization with whom we (me included) have significant trust issues help to educate America about ourselves and our lives in an effort to pass a fully inclusive ENDA, or to let our anger prevent us from participating in an effort that will move forward with or without us.  There's more to it, but as I look into my crystal ball for these next few weeks that's what I see. 

I feel compelled to share a personal analogy.  It's about my relationship with my son.

My son lived with me in Texas during his last two years of high school.  He's a stubborn, hard-headed, individualist who really doesn't care all that much what others think about him and, in fact, often goes out of his way to provoke a response (I have no clue where he gets that from).  He took it as his personal mission to give a middle-finger to mainstream society that he perceived as judgmental, shallow, hypocritical, and generally bad.  He spiked his hair, pierced his tongue, dressed in black, and everything he did made a statement about individuality.  One of our bonding opportunities each year was to go to Ozzfest together.  I truly respect him for that, as to make those kinds of statements in a culture that wants people to conform (especially in Texas) has consequences.

Anyway, throughout the course of those two years we had a few "incidents".  I'd find things that parents would rather not find in their child's possession.  Things disappeared.   I found out that the things he told me were lies.  Things broke with no explanation.  He crashed my car saying it was a hit-and-run, when it quickly became apparent that he hit a wall due to bad driving or showboating.  Little by little, my trust in what he was telling me was tested and although I wanted to believe the best more often than not I was crushed to learn otherwise.  We had some very difficult times and feelings of anger and betrayal became a consistent part of our relationship landscape.  Eventually, a couple of significant things happened and the trust was gone.

Now, I love my son.  He is part of me and I am part of him.  He is family, and I would actually give my life for the little bugger if I needed to.  But, I still can't trust him, even to this day.  I take what he tells me with a healthy dose of skepticism and doubt.  I've learned over time that our relationship works best if neither of us puts ourselves in a position where trust is tested.  The idealist in me says that trust is a key component to any meaningful relationship, but the realist in me has learned otherwise.  Will my trust ever be rebuilt?  Perhaps.  We're working on it.  Time is a wonderful healer and I have learned the hard way to never say never.  But I don't really think about tomorrow right now.  I'm still working on today.

I share this because this very same thinking will necessarily be part of the dynamics of our community in coming weeks and months.  Trust and faith have been broken.  Does that necessarily mean that we can afford to turn our backs on the longer-term view?  I think not.  What do I think would help this healing?  Call me naive, but I still believe than an honest and heartfelt apology is in order.  HRC never really answers the question raised by the third "talking point" in their list that I shared yesterday.  And although a heart-felt "I'm sorry" doesn't make it all better, it's certainly good place to start.

Whichever version of ENDA is introduced and perhaps gets passed in one House of Congress will merely set the stage for what needs to happen next.  Education.  My emotional response to this is to get angry and to stay angry.  However, my rational response is to take a break, take some deep breaths, to assess the situation, and to move forward.  My idealist nature wants to believe that good will eventually come of this and that, at some point in the future, we'll be able to look back upon it as a truly remarkable time.  It's hard to see that right now with people like Barney Frank looking to hang the scapegoat horns on the trans community and those who support the larger concept of "community".  And, the same as what happens next will be judged in the context of time so too will lost-in-the-past opportunists like Congressman Frank. I'd submit that his legacy may not prove to be what he wants it to be.

Despite my lingering distrust of the press, I spoke with a reporter from Bay Windows earlier this week who did a pretty good job of capturing my sentiments although I would have used a different headline as that's not really what I'm saying.  Just as Joe Solmonese has been going out of his way to explain that there's an important distinction between "oppose" and "do not support" there's a big difference between "engage" and "do not totally disengage" (read the story here).  Bay Windows also provided a couple of additional perspectives on the ENDA debacle - one from Joe Solmonese at HRC (read it here) and one from other local and national trans activists (read it here).  Lastly, they published a comprehensive piece by Monica Roberts titled "A Brief History of the Trans/HRC Schism" that is well worth a read.  Friend and nationally recognized sports writer Christine Daniels waded into the toxic waters to provide her perspective (ENDA: We've Only Just Begun).  And finally, Vanessa Edwards Foster wrote an interesting article titled "Hero Worship" (read it here). 

Enough of that.  My brain hurts.  On to other things...

Speaking of legacy, I can't let today pass without taking a moment to remind people that today is National Coming Out Day.  As this mess brews in Washington, the real message of today is one of authenticity - none of us can afford to forget that.  Each of us struggles in our own way to come out as who we are - whatever that might be.  I suppose the short view of the day is that it's relegated to GLBT people and certainly we have a significant stake in coming out.  But I think that the decision to live openly and authentically or to relent to our fears and confusions is one that every single person faces time and time again over the course of their lives.  To come out is to publicly proclaim freedom, and in that context we all have a stake in it. 

Courage is truly contagious.  If you've been able to come out please offer your courage to others to use, and request that they pass it along when they're done.  If you haven't been able to come out know that it's not a personal failing or a flaw.  Perhaps it's just not your time yet.  It's like a flower that hasn't blossomed yet - the key ingredient isn't desire, it's nurturing and it's time.  Seeing others who are living authentically will eventually help you to do whatever it is you need to do. 

In the meantime, I challenge each of us to come out to ourselves.  That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but each of us needs to truly come out to ourselves before we can realistically come out to others.  This is a day more about thought than about action and if that thought leads to action that's great - know that you've got a family of people waiting to support you and welcome you.  If not, the simple process of birthing yourself to yourself is a critical step in the process of self-acceptance, and will plant seeds that will eventually ripen and blossom.

To me, THAT is legacy worth leaving.

5pm:

Did I mention that my brain hurts??!

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My ENDA thought for the day: If Congressman Barney Frank put half as much effort in getting the fully inclusive version of ENDA passed as he is spending on trying NOT to pass it, it'd actually have a chance.

He gave a speech on C-SPAN last night about ENDA and it was horribly bad but very revealing.  He has started his effort to make the trans-community look like the bad guy in all of this.  He is trying to paint the 300+ organizations that have signed on as part of OneENDA as out-of-touch, on the fringe kooks.  300 to one - It looks to me as though he's using a different kind of math than the rest of us.  This is nothing short of a smear campaign to deflect

His speech is long (10,134 words - I counted) and he gets to the heart of the matter right off the bat.  Here's the beginning of his speech:

"Mr. Speaker, I want to address today a very important issue that is generating an intense discussion among a fairly small segment of people who follow things, and it seems to us it's not healthy and that we ought to have a broader discussion, both of the specific issue, which is a question of how to protect people against discrimination based on their sexual orientation and at some point I would hope their gender and their gender identity....."

First off - and I'm no English professor here (but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night) - but it seems to me that this is one long run-on sentence filled with bad grammar that doesn't really go anywhere.  Read it out loud - there seem to be lots of extra words there.  No wonder there are so many of them.  One of the questions that comes to mind: Who is the us in his statement "it seems to us it's not healthy". Who do you think the us is? 

I get the feeling, and I might be wrong here <tongue firmly in cheek>,  that Barney Frank doesn't give a rat's a$$ about trans-people if they interfere in any way, shape, or form with his own personal legacy.  Right now he perceives that we're interfering in big way, and he's not a happy camper.  He sat at my table at the Out and Equal award dinner a couple of weeks ago and he should have come over to chat while he had the chance. Oh well.  Maybe next year.  I'll tell you this, though, I'm going to take him off my Christmas card list if he keeps this up.

Based on that humdrum statement of "support" for full inclusion ("...at some point I would hope their gender and their gender identity..."), does anyone believe that Barney Frank will ever do anything to add gender identity to the bill if he can escape without it??  Hell, no. 

Midway through it he says:

"On September 5, I testified in favor of including people of transgender. We then learned from conversations with our colleagues that we didn't have the votes to do it."

People of transgender???!!  What's that?  A town somewhere?  If he's going to make up new terms as he goes no wonder we're having difficult with education in Congress.  Note to self: if a bill sponsor doesn't have the terms down he probably doesn't really care all that much.

"I do not accept the argument that I am somehow morally lacking if I say, you know what, I would like to protect everybody, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, I am only at this point able to get a vote passed that protects the millions of people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual; but I will withhold from them that protection until I do anything. Because any time you insist on doing everything all at once, you will do nothing."
 

So now he's trying to play the Morality card?  Are you kidding me?  Accept it or not, Barney.  Morally lacking.  It is what it is.

He has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to talk about ENDA.  Part of the description:

The subject will be the obligation of the Democratic Party to govern responsibly when confronted by a demand to react emotionally by a deeply committed, single-issue faction insisting on putting ideological purity over achievable advancement of our values.

Look at all the emotion-laden words and terms in that single sentence: "obligation", "govern responsibly" vs. "react emotionally", "confronted", "demand", "single-issue faction", "ideological purity over achievement advancement of our values".  Wow.

This stuff is crazy.  And the madder he gets and the harder he tries to sell it the more obvious the underlying contempt surfaces.  I don't know about anyone else, but I hope he keeps on talking.

For some interesting analysis of last night's action:

And the furor grows...

HRC is good at talking points.  I don't say that in a bad way - it's just the way it is.  I appreciated that as a board member because it provided background and information to be able to respond to questions on significant issues.  Apparently, they've drafted talking points on my resignation from the board.  Someone forwarded them to me and I supply them here without comment or analysis: 

Subject: Regarding the resignation of Donna Rose from HRC's Board of Directors
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2007 12:19:37 -0400
From: hrc@hrc.org CC: hrc@hrc.org

Thank you for contacting the Human Rights Campaign with your perspective. We always appreciate hearing from our members and supporters, and members of the community.

Below I am including a few helpful questions and answers regarding HRC’s position on ENDA, and about Donna’s resignation. If you have future questions, concerns or comments please feel free to contact us.


Question: Why has Donna Rose resigned as a board member of HRC?

The entire HRC family is deeply saddened by Donna’s decision to leave the board of directors. Donna has given a tremendous amount of time, energy and passion to this organization, and we are forever in her debt.

On Monday, October 1st, the HRC Board of Directors voted to affirm its 2004 decision not to support a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that does not explicitly include protections based on gender identity. We do not support the current version of ENDA that is being considered by the House, and are not advocating for it on the Hill.

HRC is heartened that Donna will continue her work as a member of HRC’s Business Council, and we look forward to working together to pass a complete ENDA and continue to make corporate America more fair and equal for GLBT employees.

Question: “I feel betrayed” – or “HRC threw the transgender community under the bus.” What is your response?

We completely understand and acknowledge that this is a difficult time for many in our community, and we have been deeply troubled by the process that has unfolded as well.

The House Leadership informed HRC and other community leaders in late September that they do not have the votes to move forward with the complete ENDA, and that they are moving forward with a new version that only protects against sexual orientation discrimination. HRC was profoundly disappointed in this decision and exhausted every possible avenue to avoid this course from being taken.

HRC does not support the incomplete version of ENDA that is moving forward in the House, and we will not advocate for it in any way.

We support passage of a complete ENDA that covers the entire GLBT Community.

Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Frank have made clear that they believe the House vote on this bill later this month – which is not expected to be signed into law – will provide a legislative baseline of support for a complete ENDA in the next Congress, and that this is part of their strategy to passing a complete version of the bill with protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in one bill on a shorter timeline than not.

Our commitment to passing one bill that protects the entire GLBT community is steadfast and unwavering.

Question: What about the You Tube video of Joe speaking at the Southern Comfort Conference where he promises to both not support and oppose a non-inclusive ENDA?

The Human Rights Campaign supports a full version of ENDA that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. HRC does not support the current version of ENDA that is moving through the House, and is doing nothing to pass it.

HRC made the difficult decision not to full oppose the bill as that would incapacitate our ability to work with leaders on the Hill to pass a full ENDA in the near future. By withholding our support from the bill, without actively opposing, we will continue to be a part of the dialogue moving forward, and will be able to working with leaders in Congress to educate and advocate for a complete bill.
 

So there you have it.

Speaking of the Business Council, I have a photo of a group of us that met up for dinner last week in Washington.  It's a great group....


The tallest person in the photo is Jamison Green, next to his wife Heidi.
The man standing, with the pink tie, is Samir Luther.  He manages all the data for the Corporate Equality Index.
Next to me on the left is John Sullivan.  He's the person who brought me on the board.  He left last year - I really miss him.
The woman next to John is Louise Young from Raytheon. 

In other news, my Buffalo Bills offered up another spectacular last second collapse against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.  I'll tell you what - being a Bills fan or a Buffalo sports fan in general truly prepares you for heartbreak, suffering, shattered dreams, and disappointment.  I sometime argue that being from Buffalo and a fan of their sports teams is not a lifestyle, and it's not a choice.  I was just born that way.  I'm hoping it goes away but it never has.  (sound familiar?)  Anyway, the good news is that I'm already emotionally spent so I couldn't get too bent about it even if I wanted to. 

The game is already being hailed as a "Monday Night Classic" (read it here) and along with the Yankees loss to Cleveland was part of "A Sports Night for the Ages."  Bah humbug.  I recoded it on my DVR so I can relive it again and again if I ever get to start feeling too giddy.

I'm back in Rochester tonight as I write this.  My flight today went without a hitch, and the warm skies of Phoenix seem a million miles away now.  I'll be headed to NYC this weekend for a GLAAD board meeting so there's really no down-time for me in the foreseeable future.  A congressman wrote to me and wants to talk.  I've got about 1,000 emails to return (I'm not exaggerating).  And, things continue to bubble at work with my project.  There's never a dull moment in Donna-world.
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I've got a couple of ENDA/HRC observations today.  It's late, and I've got a 9am flight back across the country tomorrow morning so this shouldn't take long.

First, I expect that HRC will move fairly quickly to bring a transperson into their ranks.  Now that there isn't a single person on the board or on staff, given the current situation, it leaves them with their pants around their ankles.  I've got a couple of thoughts on who will step forward to claim the board seat that I've vacated but I'll warn whoever steps into that role that the seat is probably still very, very warm.  And, I mentioned last week that they got approval to hire a trans-person on staff but I reiterate that it's a great idea whose timing couldn't be worse. 

Second, I'm told that the bill will go into markup next Thursday (10/18) and get voted on the following Tuesday (10/23).  The question at hand is which bill will be submitted for markup?  The fully inclusive bill or the sexual orientation only bill?  I don't know what magic needs to happen between now and then to get Barney Frank to make a decision (assuming that decision isn't already made, which is another leap of faith I'm not willing to take).  But that's the timeframe we're looking at.

I find it interesting that politicians who weren't voted into office to represent a community (in this case, the gay community or perhaps the broader GLBT community) feel compelled to speak for, or to know what's best for, the entire community.  We didn't vote him there and we can't vote him out so he's really accountable to nobody but himself here.  The fact that this actions clearly go against overwhelming community sentiment should tell him something.  The fact that he's choosing to ignore it all tells me that he's more interested in his own legacy than in representing the "community".  Or worse, that he's completely out of touch with it.

I find the argument that HRC is making to rationalize it's decision to be more unpalatable with each passing day.  The notion that congressional doors would somehow become closed if they had used their political muscle is contrary to everything we've been led to believe lately - that HRC has gained more political power now that it's more active at the state level, that HRC had a significant hand in the outcomes of key election races, that HRC has a stronger presence than ever on the Hill.  To take a posture that, as an organization, we don't want to make our friends "mad," or that every other organization in this country has somehow become politically impotent for taking a principled stand, is almost an insult to the intelligence.  I used to tell my son, "I was born at night but I wasn't born last night."

One local activist visited his local Congress representative today to lobby for the inclusive ENDA.  He was told flat out, no sugar coating it, that this Congressman looks to HRC for direction on these issues. Period.  End of story.  So, although HRC is saying it won't support a non-inclusive bill, in a round-about way it's saying that it will continue to support the politicians who do.  What kind of message does that send?  You be the judge.

This isn't just a GLBT fight.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLE) released a statement on Transgender inclusion in ENDA today.  Here is part of it:

No one is more aware than the ACLU that compromise is a critical part of the legislative process, and that change in a large republic is almost always incremental. But a compromise that cuts out some of the community, as a group, as opposed to one that cuts out some employers or some situations, is wrong. It would create the belief that this is a less worthy group of LGBT people, something that doesn't happen when you leave people who work for small employers uncovered (something most civil rights laws do). There has been plenty of compromise in ENDA. It allows employers to keep same-sex partners out of health plans. It doesn't apply to the military. But some bargains are just not worth it. Cutting out people who have been on the front lines of the LGBT movement is not a concession we should make.

Amen.  Although she's been on 20/20, Diane Schroer is a name that few in the community probably know.  That will change as the effort to educate kicks into high gear.  She's got a video describing her story on YouTube, and the ACLU is providing a link to it (see it here).  Her story is as compelling as Susan Stanton's in terms of the sheer gall of people who make ignorant hiring/firing decisions.

There will be lots of healing to do once this is all done.  Trust is gone.  Relationships are broken.  Credibility is in tatters.  I truly believe that this entire schism will have a profound affect on the GLBT playing field from here through the foreseeable future.  How does the healing process begin?  It's not by buying trans people onto staff.  It's by offering a heartfelt personal apology to the entire community.  Then, perhaps, we can talk about healing.

 

Monday, October 8, 2007

4pm:  Before the day is over I want to share some writing by IFGE 2000 Trinity Award recipient Dawn Wilson (see the full post here).  Some of her thinking on recent events with ENDA:

Before we start castigating HRC and Rep. Frank for their failures of moral leadership, we need to take a look in the mirror ourselves. We need visionary, intelligent, morally upright, and scrupulously honest people of integrity to step forward to represent us.

But what we get is misbehaving egocentric kindergartners that refuse to play nice and work well with other transgender leaders that may be more skilled than they are. In some cases personal issues such as racism and jealously factor into this equation.

It not only makes us look bad and puts us at risk of undoing all the hard work of our transgender pioneers, it nearly had catastrophic political repercussions for our community.
 

Amen.

11am:  I'm thinking that it's time to share a little good news, for a change.  My football team, the Buffalo Bills, will be playing Dallas on Monday Night Football tonight.  It's their first home MNF game since 1994.  I've been to probably a dozen MNF games in Buffalo through the years back to the days that OJ Simpson played there.  In fact, I was 14 years old on Oct. 29 1973 when the Bills played their first MNF home game ever, against the Kansas City Chiefs.  It was big deal.  My brother, my dad, and I had tickets but it was a wet, raw, typically unpleasant October night so my dad decided that we should stay home - that only crazy people braved the traffic, the cold, and the wet for 3 hours to watch a football game.  It wasn't even sold out, so we couldn't even watch it on TV.  I was bitter about it for weeks.

We did, however, go to a game the next year when the Bills played the Oakland Raiders.  There were 21 points scored in the last two minutes, and the Bills won 21-20 on a touchdown pass with 21 seconds left.  I remember that soooo clearly.

Anyway, tonight we play again.  I'll be watching.  Adding to the excitement is the fact that our opponent is the Dallas Cowboys, a team we rarely play (and is undefeated so far this year).  I really like the Bills new rookie quarterback and think he's got a chance to really make a name for himself (or not) on a national stage tonight.  I'm meeting some friends for dinner so I'll need to leave shortly after halftime, though.  In my new place I have one of those digital DVR boxes that I don't know how to use so I'm going to try to master it between now and then.  That is, unless the Bills are getting pounded by the time I leave in which case I don't need to see it.

From the "Baby Steps" Department: I want to share a recent situation with the New York Post.  In an Oct. 4 article they referred to a pre-operative transsexual woman as a "she-male". 

From the NCTE update dated Oct. 7:

I saw a very interesting note in the New York Post, which has never been very supportive of transgender people.  The note said: " THAT we erred yesterday in referring to a pre-op transsexual as "a she-male" - a term GLAAD informs us is "a dehumanizing slur." We apologize to any and all we may have offended . . ."  It is amazing progress that the post would apologize to transgender people for using insulting language.  I also think it bears noting that GLAAD has been doing a very solid job in recent years working with media outlets on ever more fair coverage of transgender people and our lives.

I receive weekly updates from GLAAD President Neil Giuliano (he spoke at the Saturday luncheon at SCC - I'm still on that Board) similar to the ones I was receiving from Joe for HRC.  In his most recent update he provides further detail:

GLAAD Secures Apology from New York Post’s Page Six for Anti-Transgender Slur

On Thursday, October 4, the New York Post’s Page Six referred to a transgender woman as a “she-male.” When GLAAD’s National News team contacted Richard Johnson, Page Six editor, to discuss the term, his response was: “You're kidding me, aren't you? I would have used ‘chick with a dick’ but we're as [sic] family newspaper.”

GLAAD released a statement taking the New York Post, a News Corporation publication, to task and incorporating Johnson’s response. Less than an hour after our release went out, Johnson admitted he was wrong and sent us the text of his apology which ran in the Friday, October 5 print edition.

“We hear that we erred yesterday in referring to a pre-op transsexual as ‘a she-male’ - a term GLAAD informs us is ‘a dehumanizing slur.’ We apologize to any and all we may have offended.”

GLAAD’s press release: http://www.glaad.org/media/release_detail.php?id=4061

STAFF CONTACT: Cindi Creager, Director of National News, 646/871-8019, creager@glaad.org

 

We have GLAAD board meetings in NYC this weekend.  I'll be there for that.  I expect there will be much less drama than at the HRC board meeting.  Come to think of it, I doubt there could be more...

7:45am:  I have decided that I'm tired of allowing my blog to become totally consumed by ENDA.  I'm going to start a separate webpage specifically dedicated to my ENDA comments and allow this page to back to what it has always been.  I apologize to those who come here simply to catch up on things for taking this detour through politics and activism over the past couple of weeks.  I expect to have that new page up and running in a day or so.

In the meantime, the ENDA mess is having significant repercussions throughout the country.  It's the realization of my worst fears, and frankly it makes me profoundly sad to see all this work and trust come tumbling down.  More than that, though, is that all the disappointment, anger, frustration, and hurt is palpable.  I admit to being one of those who has been deeply affected.  A few examples from around the country:

In Philadelphia, a letter was sent to HRC last Thursday signed by several local community leaders - both trans and non-trans:

Dear HRC Dinner Co-Chairs, Steering Committee Members and Supporters:

As you know, the latest version of ENDA is being modified to remove transgender people from the bill. This occurred without consultation from lgbt constituency groups and after years of work to reach consensus from all the national lgbt groups that we all will only support a bill that includes the entire community.

We all know that transgender people are the most fragile in our community; experiencing violence, unemployment and homelessness at appalling rates. And we all know that removing gender identity from the bill leaves lgb people open to being fired due to gender stereotypes as a proxy for sexual orientation discrimination.

Every national lgbt organization has opposed this change and has reaffirmed their commitment to the entire community except one – HRC. HRC even went so far as to use its veto power at the Leadership Council on Civil Rights to prevent the rest of the Council from opposing this change before it reversed course under extreme pressure to allow the LCCR to lobby against a split bill.

HRC was the last group to state it fully includes all within our community. We all know what a difficult and long journey that was. Many of us who have supported HRC serving on their Steering Committees and Boards are beyond saddened over HRC yet again breaking faith with the community over the most vulnerable among us. On Monday evening – after just that afternoon carefully giving the impression to the community that they would only support a bill that includes us all – HRC has backtracked again. Their published statement specifically says that while they will advocate for an inclusive ENDA they will not ask Members of Congress to oppose a sexual orientation only bill. That is tantamount to giving Congress a pass on moving forward with a separate ENDA bill covering "sexual orientation" only in the near future. What is consistent about HRC's support is that it is at the very least inconsistent, at its worst incomparably damaging to the LGBT community's efforts to eradicate discrimination for every member of this society.

It has to stop. HRC can no longer expect our support when it continues to act in ways that divide and harm the community.

We are asking HRC Dinner Co-Chairs, Steering Committee Members and those who donate generously to contact the HRC Board and Executive Director to express your profound disappointment over HRC's actions. And to further state that if this rift with the rest of the community is not repaired; they will have to reconsider their roles in representing HRC to the Philadelphia region.

Sincerely,

Kathy Padilla, Co-President, OutFront!, Former HRC Steering Committee Member

Stephen A. Glassman, Chairperson, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

Michael Hinson , Mayor's Liaison to LGBT Communities, City of Philadelphia

Stormy Lundy, Co-Chair, HRC Annual Dinner, Philadelphia Region

Doug Shaps, HRC Board of Governors, OutFront! Board Member

Stacy Sobel

Nurit Shein, Executive Director, Mazzoni Center

Lee F. Carson, President- Black Gay Men's Leadership Council

Peter J.M. Salometo- President, Log Cabin Republicans- Philadelphia

Michael P. Williams, Esq., Co-President, OutFront!

Rue Landau, Co-Chair, Liberty City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club

Ray Murphy, Co-Chair, Liberty City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club

Chris Alston, President, Philadelphia Black Gay Pride, Inc.

Matthew Ray, Editor HX Philadelphia

John Cunningham

Mr. Luis A. Arcila and Mrs. Charlene J. Arcila

Victor Seltzer, PhD, Executive Director, The Colours Organization

Ben Singer, Activist

Paul Blaney, Writer in Residence, SAS Honors Program, Rutgers University

Stuart Alter

Jennifer L. Lauby, Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

 

I received a follow-up email late yesterday:

Today is OutFest in Philadelphia. OutFest is a street fair that closes many blocks in the Gayborhood and where all the LGBT orgs. take out booths to show solidarity, to inform each other of the services the different organizations provide and the important issues of the day.

And to celebrate and have fun together.

Everyone was there. Democratic Mayoral candidate Michael Nutter was present as was his Republican counterpart Al Taubenberger. Every LGBT group in the area was represented. Many large corporations had booths recruiting employees. Real estate developers touting their latest projects were there. Even the regrettable Michael Marcavage of Repent America attended with his usual band of protesters.

It's the first time that any of us can remember that that HRC did not have a presence at this extremely important community event. Leaders in the Philadelphia HRC steering committee signed the recent letter expressing the deep concern of so many in the community over HRC's lonely insistence in not opposing an ENDA that doesn't cover the entire community. Many other steering committee members have expressed their solidarity with the overwhelming majority of the LGBT community on this issue.

I don't think the local steering committees reluctance to represent HRC at one of the major LGBT events in Philadelphia is a coincidence.
 

One organization that has been overwhelmed by events of these past 10 days is the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).  They have been sending Action Alerts, providing Daily Updates, and working to keep people informed on what has been happening (read their T-Blog here).  Trying to provide the resources to address the situation has been financially draining so any help people can provide as they work through this in the eye of the storm would be greatly appreciated.

One side effect of all of this sudden somewhat unexpected activity is that our expenses have gone up tremendously. Suddenly we are paying for meals for volunteers, lots of taxis to Capitol Hill, consultants, cell phone minutes. This coming week, it looks like there will be some travel costs and hotel rooms for specific people who we need to have here in DC. All in all, we think that this may cost us an additional $10,000-15,000--all of which is very difficult for a small organization like NCTE. Though so many people are doing so much, your financial support would also be very helpful. One donor sent us $150--one dollar in honor of each of the LGBT organizations who has stepped up in solidarity to support transgender people and our effort of keep ENDA inclusive of all LGBT people. If you would like to make a donation, please go to our website at http://nctequality.org/donate.html. It would help a lot.

Finally, if you haven't already been overloaded by all of this (I know I have) Helen Boyd has created a comprehensive collection of links related to ENDA.  See it here, if you dare.

 

Sunday, October 7, 2007

"I strongly believe that transgender individuals deserve the same rights and the same protections as any other Americans
and will work to see that ENDA also protects their rights."
Nancy Pelosi at the HRC National Dinner last night

5pm:  I'm told that the HRC National Dinner last night was actually a very well done event.  Some of the remarks I've heard:

On Americablog.com, John Aravosis observes:

Say what you will about the effectiveness of the Democratic congress, but the Speaker of the House of Representatives last night put the credibility of the entire Democratic party behind openly supporting transsexuals. I tend to lean towards the cultural side of things - meaning, cultural change is at least as important as, and is often a necessary precursor to, legislative change. And I think what Nancy Pelosi did was HUGE in terms of advancing change in the culture. It was also rather risky - I can't imagine a lot of Democrats being thrilled that she said that, as they don't want to be asked on the campaign trail, in front of their constituents in Nebraska, whether they agree with their party's leader that they fully endorse trans rights.
 

One thing that troubled me a bit was that a staffer approached me on Friday evening to talk about things.  During our conversation I mentioned the fact that I felt Joe and David had done me a significant disservice by keeping me out of the loop during the entire week, and that I felt they had done that by design.  She told me that the staff had been updated on my resignation and had been told otherwise - that I had been engaged, that I had been consulted, that I had been involved.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and that vacuum of communication led to some of the events of this past week.

I'm not a believer in "fate" in the usual definition of having things pre-planned, and that you can't change them.  Still, I believe that things happen for reasons.  As we prepared for the vote last Monday I prayed that the right thing would happen - I mean, I actually prayed.  I knew how important this would be.  I want to believe that this is all part of some greater plan that will somehow make sense at some point in the future.  Right now it's too messy and confusing to see the connection.  But I continue to believe.

One thing I continue to struggle with, in this rationalization process of political strategy vs. community responsibility, is whether the vote would have been the same if the HRC Board was being asked to divide the gay and lesbian communities.  If Barney Frank had decided that gay men should get their own version of ENDA, and lesbian women should get theirs too because one or the other was perceived to be more difficult to pass, would the Board have voted to remain neutral?  Or, would they have made decision that stressed community?  To me, these questions are one and the same.  Either we're one community and you make a statement consistent with that, or we're not.  Come to your own conclusions...

I spoke with one Executive Director of a national GLBT organization today who said that this was the first HRC dinner that he had missed in several years.  He couldn't justify going.  As we chatted he mentioned that he and some of the other ED's took some exception to some of the remarks in Joe's statement from last Tuesday.

"Some may say we should have joined the growing chorus of public dissenters earlier.  We believed, and still do, that the correct course of action was to continue dialogue with our allies on the Hill and work to the last minute to effect change," said Solmonese.
 

He said that Joe is implying in this statement, and in others before and since, that to take a more severe stand would be to lose the ear of Congressional allies and to stifle dialogue.  This ED said that that's a crock - that he continues to be able to work with Congressional allies who are actually very sympathetic to their principled stance.  I'll have to admit that I have difficulty believe it, too.

I'm having dinner this evening with Dr. Becky Allison and Margaux.  It will be nice to see them again.  They recently returned from the GLMA Board Meetings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I am so looking forward to relaxing and catching up with them.  Lots to discuss.

* * * * *

7am:  I caught a late afternoon flight from BWI to Phoenix yesterday, and I'm sitting at my desk surrounded by boxes.  I was exhausted when I finally crawled into bed, and I don't remember anything past that.  I was asleep within a minute.

I almost hate to talk more about ENDA right now as this blog seems to have become the "All-ENDA All-the-Time" Channel lately, but there are a few pertinent things that I think need mention while they're on my mind.

I want to share some of the logic and the thought involved in the HRC strategy for ENDA.  One of the lead lobbyists compared the ENDA strategy to the effort to pass the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.  It's especially pertinent because  both are workplace related.  Previous to passage, women routinely lost their jobs when they took 4 weeks or more off to have a child.  FMLA provides unpaid time off for women after the birth or adoption of a child.  In addition, if provided time off for those who are seriously ill or who need to care for a relative who's seriously ill.

FMLA was submitted to Congress 4 times.  The first 3 times it did not pass.  However, each time there was a vote a precedent was set.  Each subsequent time it was introduced new things were added to broaden and strengthen the legislation.  By the time it passed in Feb. 1993 it was the strongest, most comprehensive version and was actually very close to what the original sponsors had in mind.  It's just that they had to work the political machinery to get there.  According to my friend at HRC, that's the way Civil Rights legislation typically gets passed in this country.  They believe that ENDA will be no different.

If a non-inclusive ENDA gets introduced - specifically, because that's what Barney Frank wants and makes happen - most people I've talked with believe it has the votes to pass the House.  It most likely does not have the votes to pass in the Senate.  And, even if it did, the chances that the President would sign it are slim to none.  The thought is that the good coming from the vote is that it would set a precedent.

When it gets voted down, as will likely happen, step 2 begins.  Trans inclusion.  The key component to this is a comprehensive, coordinated, strategic education effort designed to address the obvious continuing discomfort about this issue with some legislators.  We've done that in Corporate America with amazing success.  Now, we'll need to begin it in Congress and beyond. I'm disappointed that we haven't had a more focused approach to this before this so that we wouldn't end up where it appears that we are.  We can chalk that up to lessons learned.  But as we look to the longer term that will be a key component to whatever happens next.  Although NCTE is the "official" trans voice in Washington, I expect that the leader in this effort will need to be HRC.  They've got the connections.  They've got the leverage.  They've even got the motivation.  What they'll need are the resources and the direction.

Realistically, nothing will happen legislatively in 2008 due to the election.  So, that gives 2 years to do this work with the expectation that a fully-inclusive ENDA will be introduced again in 2009.  At that point the legislation will have a record.  It will have the benefit of an education campaign.  It will continue to be supported by the broader GLBT community.  And then, perhaps, the bill that we all want will be passed.

That's one of the things that makes this such a dilemma.  As we abandon the HRC ship to take a moral stance, which I continue to believe is the right thing by the way, we'll need to recognize that to stay angry would be counter-productive to achieving what we all need - not just trans people but everyone who is supportive of a fully inclusive ENDA.  Will that involve Trust? Probably not.  That's broken and I expect it will stay that way for quite a while.  Will it require Cooperation?  Necessarily so.

I was approached by a number of people to discuss this approach.  Mark Walsh is the manager of Hilary Clinton's LGBT Steering Committee and we sat for a half hour Friday afternoon talking about it.  I understand it.  I'm on board with the political logic, and with the need for education.  The thing I'm not on board with is that I believe the version of ENDA that should get the legislators on record is the fully-inclusive version.

Also, I think it's critical to note that HRC is hearing your voices loud and clear and is working harder than ever to make that happen.  The thing to remember, however, is that although they can certainly apply pressure they don't get to make that call.  That's up to the Democratic leadership.  I got a call from a corporate leader from the Business Coalition for Equality who wanted to to a "Bullsh*t Check" on some of the things he had been hearing.  He was dead on when he said that, from all he had heard in his various conversations, the real "bad guys" in all of this appear to be Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Henry Miller.  They're the ones who decided to do what they did.  He said that it appears as though HRC is caught in the middle and is taking a ton of heat for its position - I won't get in that debate again here - but that Dem leaders are the reason that we are where we are. 

He expressed, again rightly, that the pressure needs to be put on the legislators who might be wavering on the issue and that he would work with his lobbyists in Washington to make that happen.  Yesterday at the Board Meeting the lunchtime speaker was Susan Stanton (who looks wonderful in red, by the way), the ex-city manager from Largo FL who captured the national spotlight earlier this year.  I thought she did a wonderful job sharing her story, and she received an extended standing ovation when she was finished.  Her voice and her story will be a critical component of this dialogue, have no doubt, and she needs our support.  She mentioned that several trans advocates have approached her in recent days to call her a traitor or a turn-coat for being associated with HRC.  That's misguided and hurtful to the cause and people need to lay off.

After her talk HRC distributed an extended list of "targets" who might be wavering on the issue to the 200+ people who had come from all over the country to attend, and told them to begin lobbying those targets like crazy.  These are the legislators who are perceived as "on-the-fence" and need education about why a fully-inclusive is important.  I'd share the list here but it's marked as "Confidential" so I can't do that.  Still, the point here is that the fight isn't over.  All may not be as it appears.  Hard work is ongoing.  People within the organization are trying to make the right thing happen.

My brain hurts from thinking about all this stuff so constantly in recent days.  I've had more hugs in the last couple of days than in the last 6 months combined.  People seem to understand how difficult this has all been for me, and I truly appreciate the outpouring of support that I've received.  One person who has been on the sidelines for all of this is Elizabeth.  This isn't her bag.  In fact, I doubt if she even knows it's going on.  We haven't talked for more than 10 minutes total in the past couple of weeks. 

As I close my morning entry I'll share a couple of recent photos.  The first is of Susan Stanton and I after her lunchtime talk at HRC yesterday (did I mention that she looks wonderful in red?).  The second is a picture I took in front of the Phoenix airport on my way to catch an early morning flight the last time I was here.  I don't know if these guys realize it or not, but they'll never get those guns through security screening.  I hope they're planning to pack them into their checked luggage. That reminds me, Kate Clinton (the comedienne) was the speaker during the Out and Equal Awards dinner last week and was her usual hilarious/raunchy/frisky self.  One of her memorable lines:  "George Bush gives new meaning to the term unattended luggage.

Onwards and upwards.  I've got a day of unpacking, furniture moving, errands, football watching, a visit to the fitness center, and unwinding ahead of me.


Susan Stanton and I after her lunchtime talk


Outside the Phoenix airport...

 

Saturday, October 6, 2007

7:30am:  The Board Meetings yesterday went as well as can be expected.  I attended a general session in the morning, I skipped lunch, and I did not attend the Executive Session in the afternoon so it was actually pretty anticlimactic.  There was a get-together afterwards and then a dinner to honor the outgoing board members.  They made me cry.

I know that there are those waiting for me to bash HRC, or to say something negative but I won't do that.  There's nothing to say that hasn't already been said.  I truly appreciate the outpouring of support by friends on the board who seem to understand the difficult position I found myself in and at least tried to understand why I've done what I've done.  Others, I'm sure will never get it and that's ok. 

I think the things that's getting lost in the hooplah is that I really don't believe that HRC has foresaken pushing for and achieving a fully-inclusive ENDA and nobody else should, either.  That's not what I'm saying.  In fact, if anything they're pushing harder than ever because that's the best way to help all this noise go away.  Thursday was Lobby Day where they send their Board of Governors and others to the Hill to lobby Congress and I've heard that the message was clear and consistent for the passage of nothing less than full inclusion.  Work is ongoing until the markup in a couple of weeks, and there is significant weight being brought to bear from all sides to make that happen.  The coalition of groups who have signed on to oppose any non-trans inclusive version of ENDA has grown to over 200 organizations.  One friend says this amazing solidarity and show of support passed the "Holy Sh*t" stage a long time ago.  It truly is extraordinary.

The source of my dissatisfaction over what has happened is the message that this sends in terms of community and in terms of worth.  I can understand and appreciate the political practicality and the reasonable nature of the decision in terms of being a political advocacy organization and doing what feel will provide the best path to a fully inclusive bill in the most expeditious manner.  I get that.  I really do.  And, as odd as this might sound.  I appreciate that.  And, God, I hope it works.

The thing I can't for the life of me get past is the cost.  It almost feels like we're making a mad dash for the finish line and we don't care how many body parts we lose on the way to get there.  Most people around this country don't have the Beltway vernacular down so what HRC has done, in essence, is to give a feeling of abandonment to the very people who need support most.  It's not an intellectual discussion, a political discussion, or even a rational one.  It's an emotional one about the value of any single one of us, and the sense that we belong and have value.  I do understand the political rationale behind what they've done.  It's just that I question the moral implications of the cost.

People are sending me email saying that "HRC has abandoned us!" or "HRC is throwing us under the bus!"  I think it's premature to say that and, at this point, I can't and won't believe it.  It's all very complicated and confusing to me right now but the most profound emotions I'm feeling at this point are sadness and disappointment - not anger.  I've gone out of my way to explain that I truly do believe that the organization and the board made a policy decision that they believe will work without leaving anyone behind. 

I'll be heading to the second day of Board Meetings shortly.  As Diversity co-chair I helped to implement a survey to gauge the attitudes of board members about diversity and the importance of the role it plays in achieving the HRC mission and and the morning is devoted to sharing and discussing the results.  I've seen them, and I expect it will be enlightening.  Susan Stanton is speaking during lunch and that should be interesting.  I'm told that the CNN crew that has been following her around for the past 6 months to document her journey will be there.  I saw her briefly from across the room yesterday and we waved, but we haven't had a chance to chat yet.  I hope she's doing ok, and I hope she's carefully considered what her comments will be. 

Tonight is the National Dinner here in Washington.  There will be over 3,000 people jammed into the Convention Center to attend.  I will not be there.  I donated my ticket to someone from the NAACP, and I joked that the person doing the seating probably put me in the back of the room after all that has happened this week so I' apologize to whoever gets my seat.  I had arranged for NCTE board members to get discount tickets and I know that several had come to town to attend.  They've cancelled out, as well.  I've seen an Action Alert by one organization to picket at the event, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

I can't celebrate right now.  There's no way I can sit there and listen to Joe, or to Nancy Pelosi talk about equality after this very difficult week and have any sense of happiness, satisfaction, or peace.  I can't guarantee what I'll say or do there so it's best that I avoid it.  Instead, I've made flight arrangements to go and visit my furniture in Phoenix.  I'm going to spend a couple of days unpacking the boxes I left after my move a few weeks ago.  I need to heal.

 

Friday, October 5, 2007

7am:  I'm in Washington DC this morning to attend the HRC Board Meeting, as I said I would do.  To leave with an e-mail goodbye is just not my way.  It should be interesting.  I spoke briefly with the board co-chairs last night and offered to step out of the room if they're talking about something that they're not comfortable saying in front of me.  I completely understand, and I'm happy to oblige.

This is certainly a day of mixed emotion, as many of these people have become friends over the course of my association with the organization.  Although I don't like good-bye's, time will tell how those relationships work in the future.  I haven't heard from anyone from Sr. Staff although after all that has happened I wouldn't be surprised to be asked to step out of the room to have a conversation.  That's fine.

I can't dally so this will be short.  I'm sure I'll have more to say later.

 

Thursday, October 4, 2007

10am:  I'm supposed to be in Washington DC this morning attending Business Council meetings at the HRC building.  I would, in fact be there, except for the fact that my work obligations are keeping me busier than I'd like to be right now.  I've been able to do all the things I do because my work is flexible with me, and I get the work done.  It's a fine balance, and right now I need to focus on my project.  I do, however, expect to get to Washington either later today or tomorrow to attend the HRC Board Meeting there.  My resignation is not effective until Monday specifically so I could attend these face-to-face meetings.

The outpouring of support since I posted my statement yesterday has been nothing short of amazing.  I can't thank all who have written or called enough for your words of encouragement and support. It's at difficult times when you truly realize who your friends are, and who they aren't.  This is just the beginning, I fear, so let's be sure we're ready for the longer effort that it's going to take to work together to make the right thing happen.

The thing that particularly pains me is that all the amazing work we have done on the Foundation side of the HRC house has been left in tatters due to this short-sighted policy decision.  The Diversity program has been hit hardest, as I'd be hard pressed to find a single transperson who will trust HRC at this point given what has happened.  The irony is that I got an email from the Chief Diversity Officer indicating that she had just gotten approval to add a Trans-Outreach coordinator to her diversity staff. Great news.  Horrible timing.  If that's a job you want I can steer you in the right direction.

Other communities, as well, are standing in solidarity and are as dismayed by the questionable integrity of this direction. 

The Business Council is hit hard, as well, and although we made a very strong unanimous recommendation to the board that anything less than full inclusion would be devastating to our ability to do our charter we're now left facing that possibility. The Religion and Faith coalition created by Harry Know made a strong similar recommendation and I have received emails from several religious leaders expressing support for my position, and dismay at HRC for this divisive stance.

Besides writing to HRC, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and whoever else will listen there's something very important that each of us can do to ensure that only a fully-inclusive bill be introduced.  A significant portion of the work we've done on the Business Council over the past year is to engage small and large companies into a "Business Coalition For Workplace Fairness".  These are companies who have signed on to actively support ENDA, and are a key component of justifying that Business wants and needs this legislation.

The problem is that the ENDA they signed up to support is not the ENDA that is now under consideration.  In fact, companies that have passed inclusive policy in their workplaces would be hard-pressed to justify supporting federal legislation that is something less.  That's not what they pledged to support.  This appears to be a sort of "bait and switch" tactic and companies need to truly understand what is happening, what is at stake, and the pledge their support for ONLY an inclusive ENDA.

Here is a list of the companies that have signed on to the coalition.  If you work for any of these companies, if you're part of the ERG, if you do business with them - the time is now to engage them to make sure they know what is happening.  Point them to UnitedENDA.org as a central location for news, updates, and statements of support.  Every single other organization in the country, including Out and Equal, has pledged to support only a fully inclusive ENDA.  By ensuring that the corporate support is gone for anything less, we seriously undermine the argument and the power of anything less.

We only have a week.  The split ENDA bill is scheduled for markup next week so the time to have those discussions is NOW. 

Before I end for this morning, I want to share how dismayed I am that Nancy Pelosi has been chosen as the keynote speaker for the HRC National Dinner on Saturday.  Just two years ago, civil rights legend Julian Bond, President of the NAACP, stood on that stage and pledged how GLBT rights were civil rights.  His words were deeply moving and did not make a distinction about who should get them, and who should not.  This year, Nancy Pelosi who is one of the key strategists in this mess, is scheduled to speak.  My father used to tell me that you're measured by the company you keep.  I'll leave it at that....

1 pm:  I'm on my way to the airport before flying to Washington but there are a couple of things I wanted to mention.

First, the my departure from the HRC Board is currently the lead headline at Advocate.com (see the full story here).  Her article is accurate and very well written.

Second, it struck me that today marks the 8th anniversary of my very first day at work as Donna.  It was a significant milestone in my life, and as I consider all that's happening now it gives me pause to think back to those early, terrified, electrifying days.  I've had reams of email from people telling me that what I have done over these past couple of days is courageous.  I think back to remember the courage it takes to look your son in the eye and tell him you're not really who or what you seem, to come out to your parents, your family, your friends your co-workers. I remember being unable to sleep the night before my first day as Donna, and the effort it took simply to get out of my car that morning.  Those things take courage.  That's the courage we're fighting for.  These things, in comparison, are pretty tame on the courage-scale.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post - it's important to keep things in perspective.

Gotta run.  I have a plane to catch.

 

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's odd how things happen in your life to truly put things into perspective.  I have been dealing with the weight of what has been happening with ENDA and made a call to a friend that I haven't heard from in a while.  She answered and we made some small-talk but I could tell from the sound of her voice that there was something wrong.  I asked if she was really doing ok, and she thought for a second, and proceeded to tell me that no, everything's not ok.  She's a single parent of a 14-year old daughter and she explained that she had spent the entire previous night at the hospital in the Emergency Room because her daughter had overdosed on Ritalin.  Apparently, her daughter indicated that she was trying to hurt herself, but as the effects of the overdose started to happen she got scared and woke up her mom.  When they got to the hospital she was turning purple, was incoherent and couldn't move very well.  It was too late to pump her stomach, so they hooked her up to IV's in an attempt to flush her system and began other efforts to keep her from slipping into a coma.  She's going to be ok, but her mom is racked with sadness, guilt, and confusion.

Somehow, big decisions seem small when compared to the realities we face in life. 

With that preface, it became easy for me to make a very difficult decision.  Yesterday morning I crafted a letter of resignation from the HRC Board of Directors.  It came from my heart, and somehow the words seemed to flow in a way that I really can't explain.  I sat on that letter, wanting to be sure I was doing the right thing, weighing all the seemingly complex factors that needed to be considered before truly deciding what to do.  But in the end, I realized that each of us needs to put what we're feeling into action.  The opening paragraph of my statement truly captures the essence of what I believe.  And, knowing what I know and feeling what I feel, the answer became clear.

You can read my full statement here.

That being said, there may be other machines in motion.  There may be things at play that I don't know.  In fact, I'd hope that were so.  But once I get past that the confusing conflict of emotion and reason to truly put things in perspective I knew what I had to do.  And I did it.

I hope I'm wrong.  The thing I'd be happiest about is for whatever strategy that Joe and the rest of the leadership at HRC are pursuing to lead to a fully inclusive ENDA.  I'd happily eat his "I told you so's" until I was ready to explode.  But the reality is that his efforts will work or not work irregardless of what I do.  And if I follow my heart I'll know that at least this one conflicted person has done the right thing.

The people at HRC have become like family to me.  They're not simply a cold, calculating political money-making machine as so many seem bent on portraying them to be.  They're people who come from all over the country with the fire of making this world a better place for GLBT people burning brightly in their eyes.  They have embraced me and I have embraced them right back.  They have believed in me, trusted me, confided in me, and made me feel as though I had found a safe haven from the sometimes stormy seas of activism.  Oddly, the same drive to follow my heart and to support the organization when others accused me of selling-out, of copping-out, and of being one of "them" is the same drive that has driven me to do what I did this morning.  None of us can be reproached for doing what we feel is right.  I want to believe that Joe, the leadership at HRC, and the Board truly believes that.  I know I do.

I hold no animosity, and in fact I see this as a family feud more than a divorce.  But there's a difference between being a worker bee, a foot soldier, or a supportive resource and being in a position of accountability for the leadership decisions of the organization.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I'm good with things.  I suppose time will tell if that sentiment is returned in kind.

What happens now is anyone's guess.  I remain open to possibility and opportunity.  I don't believe that all is done yet.  But that doesn't change the fact that I'm letting the difficult reality of what I've done soak in.  And I'll figure out what to do next.

I'm supposed to be in Washington tomorrow to attend Business Council meetings and I'm really going to try to make that happen.  Besides all of this I actually have a job to do and this is a critical week for my project.  I've got fires burning on all sides and I'm trying manage communication, deal with escalation, coordinate resources, and generally keep the boat floating and moving.  As I say, with all of the churn around all this stuff happening so far away, life still happens.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I am physically and emotionally spent.  These last few days have been a significant drain on me and almost seem dream-like.  Oddly, even after all that has happened, I slept like a baby last night after I finally trudged home to decompress from it all.  In all the hubbub I forgot to eat so no wonder I was starving when I woke up this morning.

We had the HRC Board Meeting last night and the question of the hour is what HRC will do, what it will say, and what happens next.  Although I know the answers to those questions I can't share them as I haven't seen an official statement from HRC on the matter.  One of the words that came up over and over again last night is Integrity, and part of my commitment as a board member is to maintain confidentiality.  I will not break that commitment.

At the same time, however, there are some things that I think I can share.  We started at 6pm ET and didn't get done until almost 10pm.  It was exhausting.  The crux of the matter is that everyone really does want the same thing and the big question of the day was about the "best" way to get there.  I was granted the privilege of being the first speaker and, as I always did, I spoke from my heart.  Over the next 3+ hours there was passionate discussion to the point that a couple of times I came close to tears at the weight and impact of this decision.  Say what you will about HRC as an organization but as a board there is more passion than most will ever know.  Unfortunately, that seems to get lost in the mix.  If people could see, as I have, the back workings and the discussion on things I'm sure there would be more appreciation for just how gut-wrenchingly difficult it can be to accept that role.  Still, that doesn't forgive or absolve anyone from anything - including me.  I'm all about accountability and I expect that will be a word used quite a bit over these next few days.

I never imagined that I'd say that the best thing to happen right now is for ENDA to die.  It's just not time.  This entire firestorm is over a piece of legislation that's meant to unite the community, not to divide it.  I realize that people have been working long and hard for years to get it passed, but the qualities that will best facilitate that right now are patience and courage.  Those looking to force whatever version of ENDA they can get across the finish-line, regardless of the compromises or victims, are looking at what is at best a symbolic victory and what is at worst a community schism from which it will take years to recover.

The community fever continues to boil.  It truly is remarkable.  Here are a couple of online posts from yesterday:

Barney Frank bails on the transgender community
By SARA WHITMAN
The Huffington Post
Oct 1, 12:35 PM

The ENDA debacle
By MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE
The Gist
Oct 1, 12:15 PM

 

One influential player called me over the weekend in an attempt to persuade me to support Barney Frank's incremental strategy.  He was looking for a transgender leader to calm things down and thought I might be that person.  He was wrong.  He explained how it was better to get something rather than nothing, and said we should support that with the promise of pushing trans-inclusive language.  I could not disagree more.  He asked me if I felt that there would be backlash against the transgender community if we were identified as the reason that ENDA doesn't pass.  We're already feeling that pressure from the usual suspects - former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain dusted off his well-worn 2005 sound-bite to charge that ENDA has been "Trans-Jacked" (read it here).  But the thing that has truly amazed me is the strong support for the entire community approach from the broader GLBT community.  That was confirmed in my calls to HRC Board Members over the weekend.  Don't be fooled - it's the incrementalists who are willing to forsake people perceived as gender "different" who are in the minority this time around.

The good news, if one can call it that, is that the committee markup scheduled for today has been postponed.  HRC finally added their name to the impressive list of organizations calling on Democratic House leadership to delay it (see the statement and the list of organizations here).  Nancy Pelosi relented and put it on the back burner (details here).  Apparently, there is a stay of execution.

One important distinction is that this letter that HRC signed is NOT the same letter signed by the 50+ various organizations who have lined up to actively oppose any form of non-inclusive ENDA.  That's the position we want them to take.   I think with all these lists and organizations flying here and there it's easy to mistake one thing for another.  HRC did the right thing to help delay this markup but, unless something significant happens it will go through markup later this month in the hope that the furor around it dies down.  I still expect that, unless someone does something amazing to stop it, the political machinery is primed to send a non-trans inclusive ENDA to the floor of the House for a vote by the end of the month.  And when it passes people will be disappointed but they won't be mad.

In all of this, it may sound trite but the thing I'm personally most bitter about is the obvious effort by HRC senior staff to keep me on the sidelines and in the dark for as long as possible.  I expected and deserved the respect of being informed on what was happening.  This didn't happen, and other than my own inquiries to Joe, to David Smith, to other legislative leaders there I learned about things after the fact, often leaving me in an uncomfortable position.  I know that Joe was talking with other board leadership.  I know that politiking was going on.  All I asked was for Joe to avoid allowing me to be surprised by any of this.  The thing I'm surprised about is that they allowed me to be surprised.  No matter how all of this shakes out, I won' forget that. 

During the 45 minutes that I've been writing this the HRC statement has become public.  Read it here.  I'm not ready to discuss it yet.  I'm sure that I'll have more than enough to say about it in coming days and weeks.  Stay tuned on that....

 

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I drove home today.  The 6+ hour drive through the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania, in sparkling sunshine and Indian Summer temperatures, was just what the doctor ordered after these last couple of days.

Before getting to the topic of the day, I do want to mention a couple of other things...

After I got home from my drive this evening I went for a good, long run along the canal.  I ate way too much this weekend and I had alot of energy to burn.  Plus, I do some of my best thinking when I'm running.  Anyway, it was nearly dusk and as I approached an area where there was a grassy area along the canal path I saw that there was a young doe carefully eating grass 10 or 15 yards off the path.  It put its head up as I got closer, but it didn't bolt, and it watched me as I passed before going back to eating.  It was still there on my way back, and although it was a little nervous it watched me run past again.  Somehow, I felt some symbolism in that (I don't know what it is....I'm just thinking it's there somewhere).

Although events of these past several days kept me from seeing it, I'm told that the Oprah show on trans kids from Friday was generally well done.  You can see short snippets of the show here.  Even with everything else going on, we can't forget how important these kinds of things are.  The number of comments on the discussion board for this show at this point is only 96 (see them here if you dare).  They'll be having a follow-up show about a family that stayed together thru transition on Oct. 15.

From the "What's Good for the Goose" Department:  In 2005 Microsoft withdrew its active support of a bill in Washington state that would have banned discrimination against GLBT employees in the state (similar to ENDA). Read details about it here.  They became "neutral" on it and, as a result, it was defeated.  HRC chastised Microsoft, went to visit them, and eventually pressured them to change their stance from neutral.  Read their words (from their own Press Release):

For Immediate Release
Friday, April 22, 2005

HRC EXPRESSES PROFOUND DISAPPOINTMENT WITH MICROSOFT'S WITHDRAWAL OF SUPPORT FOR HB 1515

"The Human Rights Campaign, along with your many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, would like to express our profound disappointment," said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign sent the following letter to Microsoft today following news reports regarding Microsoft's withdrawal of support for Washington's non-discrimination bill.

Steven A. Ballmer CEO, Microsoft Corporation 1 Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052-6399

CC: Bradford L. Smith

Dear Mr. Ballmer:

The Human Rights Campaign, along with your many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, would like to express our profound disappointment at Microsoft Corp.'s withdrawal of support for Washington State House Bill 1515 that would have banned discrimination against GLBT Washingtonians in housing, employment and insurance.

The defeat of this bill struck a blow to fairness for all Washingtonians. No Washingtonian or American should ever be fired for who they are. Corporations in Washington, especially Microsoft, must recognize the enormous impact this bill could have had at delivering equal protection to GLBT people.

In media reports, your company spokesperson said that workplace fairness is not directly "related to our business" and that the short legislative schedule precluded the company from supporting the bill. That position belies your own policies and those of countless other companies who believe firmly that workplace protections for all are essential to maintaining a competitive business environment. Successful businesses embrace diversity not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it the right thing to do for their business.

We also find it troubling that public reports allege that Microsoft made this decision not based on a business rationale, but under pressure from conservative religious-political groups. The reported rationale that Microsoft officials were afraid of offending "Christians" is itself deeply offensive to the many Christians who believe in non-discrimination and were proud of Microsoft's previous position. Further, giving in to threats from a small group fighting to impose their own view of religion on the company and the state will only encourage more such threats. We urge you to work to change this perception.

While Microsoft's internal policies regarding GLBT diversity have been trend setting, its reversal sends a signal, intended or not, that it is no longer supportive of its GLBT employees, customers and shareholders. It implies a lack of support for its own employees as they seek housing and insurance coverage and creates the impression that Microsoft does not support equal treatment at businesses elsewhere in Washington. In fact, the strong stance of Microsoft on behalf of the GLBT community and our partnership with the organization in the past makes this feel like even more of a betrayal.

In addition, Microsoft's position is the exception to many other leading companies that support the bill and the timing of the withdrawal of your support has created the perception that Microsoft was partly responsible for the bill's demise.

Microsoft should reinstate its support for this bill when it returns to the Legislature. It's simply the right thing to do for Microsoft's employees and its business. Further, we call on Microsoft to unambiguously state its support for non-discrimination legislation at the state and federal levels. This lack of clarity may have already had a devastating effect and it's past time to clear the air.

We appreciate our 10-year relationship with Microsoft. We are hopeful the issues raised in this letter can be resolved and we look forward to working with you to that end.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese HRC President

Now...ENDA.  Here are a couple of recent new articles and Op/Ed pieces of interest.  The first surmises that the rush to push ENDA through this week at all costs (meaning, dumping transgender people) is so speaker Pelosi can gloat about it at the HRC National Dinner on Saturday (read it here).  I can't even begin to imagine what that "celebration" would look like.  Here's another interesting article on Trans Politics (read it here).  Pam from Pam's House Blend has some very interesting insight:

* The rationalizations of the trans-stripped ENDA crowd fall flat
* More on the ENDA 'family fight'
* The battle over ENDA
* ENDA in trouble over trans inclusion - and weak Dem spines

The Washington Blade is running a poll to gauge the feeling of the broader GLBT community on this topic.  It asks, "Should gay rights groups support ENDA if transgender protections are removed?"  Go there to vote.  As of the last time I checked here are the numbers:

Should gay rights groups support ENDA if transgender protections are removed?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

a. Yes, we need to win rights incrementally. 9%

b. No, we should stick together. 88%

c. Who cares? Bush is going to veto it anyway. 3%

 

There is an online petition created by the Stonewall Democrats to tell congress that anything but the fully-inclusive original ENDA is unacceptable (they have dubbed this new, split ENDA strategy as "Splenda" which would actually be funny if this weren't so serious).  Sign the petition here.  Encourage others to sign, as well.

As you may imagine, I've received a ton of email over these past several days.  I have decided that it's important to provide a place to post them so that HRC leadership, congress, and others, can see what we're saying and how we're feeling.  I'll be posting letters I receive there (anonymously, or course) so please encourage friends, co-workers, GLBT brothers and sisters, and other supportive people to write to share their thoughts and their stories.  I'll update the page throughout the day and as long as I can.  Furthermore, I'm happy to forward the notes to HRC if you'd like (anonymously, as well - if you'd like).  Just give me the word. (See my ENDA mail page here)

There is an important HRC Board Meeting call scheduled for tomorrow night.  I won't be able to discuss specifics of what transpires due to confidentiality obligations.  Although I'm not sure what we'll asked to decide I expect that it will be a 'lively" discussion.  I will share the outcome however, as soon afterwards as I can.  A number of people have suggested to me that I resign from the board and my continued participation there is certainly in the balance.  I feel that I still have more to do there, and to give in to the emotional response is to forsake the reason I got involved in the first place which is that I truly believe that we're better served, as a community, by having representation at the table when issues about us, affecting us, and including us (or not) are taking place. 

Some on the board (and on staff) have become friends which is what makes this doubly painful and difficult.  Friendship or not, I have difficulty reconciling maintaining a relationship with an organization that I can't trust.  Depending on what happens in the next couple of days and my reaction to it, I may find myself with extra time on my hands in coming weeks.

I doubt that I'll do it this week, though (if at all).  We've got face-to-face board meetings in Washington DC next week.  I want to see them.  I want the people who are willing to give in to their own transphobia and to cut us out of ENDA to have to look me in the eye.  It's easy to do when it's someone you don't know, when it's a vote over the phone, when you won't have to face the people you're discriminating against.  I will not be chased away before having that opportunity.  That's just not my way.
 

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I traveled to Washington, DC last Wednesday to attend the Out and Equal Workplace Summit here.  There were over 2,300 registered attendees representing businesses and corporations from from around the country.  It was as amazing as always.

My visit here has been overshadowed by what's happening on Capitol Hill with ENDA, and I found myself spending less time attending the Summit than working the ever-changing situation.  It's a mess. My days have been consumer by meetings, phone calls, briefings, strategy sessions, and other work I didn't count on when I first set out on my drive here last Wednesday.

It's after midnight and I'm finally getting ready for bed but now that I've got a few quiet minutes I want to at least share some things.  I think the best way to do that is through a timeline.

Friday Sept 14:  HRC President Joe Solmonese gives the keynote speech during lunch at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta.  He assured the nearly 900 registered attendees that not only would HRC support ONLY a fully inclusive ENDA, it would actively OPPOSE anything less (see a video of his remarks here).

Mon Sept 24:  I knew this was going to be a tumultuous week so I contacted Joe Solmonese to chat about a few things.  Shortly before hanging up I asked him to please alert me about anything that might be happening as I didn't want to be surprised.  He assured me that I would be his first phone call.  At this point - after all that has happened over these last few days - he has not contacted me other than a call in response to one I made to him.  I think that speaks volumes.

Wed Sept 26:  As I drove from Rochester to Washington I got a calls alerting me that deals were being made regarding ENDA involving bill sponsor Barney Frank and HRC - that the the provision protecting employees on the grounds of 'gender identity' in the bill was going to be removed.  I immediately called to get a comment from HRC leadership.  Joe called me about an hour later, and said that Democratic leadership had done a "whip count" to identify how many votes they had to pass the inclusive bill.  The result was disappointing so Barney Frank would probably decide to remove the gender identity language to make it easier to pass.  It was not a pleasant conversation.

Thu Sept 27: An article in the Washington Blade confirms the situation (read it here).  An emergency HRC Board Meeting is scheduled for 6pm.  In late afternoon, the meeting is suddenly cancelled to be rescheduled for Monday for no apparent good reason.  I am incensed by this, and call to get it rescheduled at an earlier time.  Board Leadership refuses to see the urgency.  I go to the HRC Building to see what's happening and speak with David Smith.  In the meantime, an alert went out signed by 13 of the major major GLBT rights organizations criticizing this move, and opposing a non-inclusive bill (read it here).  Individual organizations wrote forceful Press Releases denouncing this move (read The Task Force's statement here).   It should be noted that HRC did not sign the coalition letter, and did not issue a statement about the situation until Friday. 

Late Thursday Barney Frank decides to break the bill into 2 pieces - submitting nearly identical bills.  One would protect ONLY on the grounds of Sexual Orientation, and the other (which, by the way, has no chance of ever passing) covers only Gender Identity (read about it here). 

Fri Sept 28:  HRC released a very disappointing statement on the situation (read it here).  Barney Frank, mastermind of this mess, released a rambling statement (read it here).  House speaker Nancy Pelosi, another very disappointing figure in all of this, issued her own statement (read it here).  Significantly, openly lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin refuses to support the new bills (read about it here).

A letter was released, signed by transgender advocacy leaders, urging HRC to hold true to its commitment and to join the rest of the coalition partners in strongly denouncing and opposing this strategy:

Dear Human Rights Campaign Board and Staff:

As transgender rights leaders, many of whom have worked with you and stood by HRC for many years, we call upon you to show the leadership that this moment—and your commitment to a unified LGBT community—demands.

Our allies in Congress have announced their intention to cut transgender people from ENDA. Across the country, LGBT groups and individuals have expressed their outrage and dismay at this shocking development. The failure of HRC to publicly state its opposition to a non-inclusive bill will undermine more than a decade of incredibly hard work, healing, and consensus-building in our community. We understand there are many times when progress requires incremental strategies. This is different. This is about a foundational principle of community identity and unity that has been more than a decade in the making. No amount of rhetoric about incremental gains or political pragmatism will make up for the catastrophic rift that HRC’s failure to publicly oppose a non-inclusive bill will re-open within our community.

Let us be clear, a generic statement of support for transgender people and your best efforts in support of an inclusive bill are not sufficient now. We are asking for an unequivocal statement that HRC will oppose this new strategy and any bill that is not inclusive.

**Affiliations listed are for identification purposes only. Please note that many LGBT organizations do not permit individual staff members to sign public letters or statements. Please also note that the window of opportunity for joining this letter was very short. For both of these reasons, this is by no means an exhaustive list of trans rights leaders who share these views.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

Donna Rose, HRC Board Member

Jennifer Levi, Senior Staff Attorney, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders

Shannon Minter, Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Evan Wolfson, Executive Director, Freedom to Marry

Lee Swislow, Executive Director, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Kate Kendell, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director, Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY, Inc.), Vice-Chair, Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth

Chai Feldblum, Professor of Law, Georgetown University

Nan Hunter, Professor Law, Washington D.C.

Nancy D. Polikoff, Professor of Law, Washington College of Law American University

Arthur S. Leonard, Professor of Law, New York Law School

Julie Greenberg, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Theresa Spark, President, San Francisco Police Commission

Dana Beyer, HRC Board of Governors, Equality MD

Joanne Herman, Boston, Board Member of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD); and Board Member of Point Foundation (the national LGBT scholarship fund)

Paisley Currah, Professor, City University of New York; Director, Transgender Law and Policy Institute

Kylar Broadus, Board Member, National Black Justice Coalition; Board Member, Transgender Law and Policy Institute

Diego M. Sanchez, Director of Public Relations and External Affairs, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc.

Masen Davis, Executive Director, Transgender Law Center

Cecilia Chung, Deputy Director, Transgender Law Center

Kristina Wertz, Legal Director, Transgender Law Center

Chris Daley, former Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center

Rebecca Rolfe, Interim Executive Director, SF LGBT Community Center

Cat Turner, Southern Comfort Conference 2007 Conference Chair

Cianán Russell, Chair, Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance

Denise Leclair, Executive Director, International Foundation for Gender Education

Kelley Winters, Ph.D., Founder, GID Reform Advocates, Keystone, CO

Arlene Istar Lev, LCSW, CASAC Choices Counseling and Consulting, Albany New York

Treasurer, Steering Committee, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC)

Meredith Bacon, Omaha, Nebraska, NCTE Board Chair

Charlie Anders, other magazine, San Francisco, California

Alyson Meiselman, Chair, Legal Issues Committee, World Professional Association For Transgender Health, Inc.

Nancy Nangeroni, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition

Gordene MacKenzie, Merrimack College director of Women's and Gender Studies

Lance Toma, Executive Director, Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss, Associate Professor of Law and Society, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Lisa Rae Dummer, Board Chair, Transgender Law Center

M. Barusch, Co-coordinator, Harvard Trans Task Force

Rosalyne Blumenstein, ACSW/LMSW, World Professional Association for Transgender Health

Helen Boyd, author

Jacob Anderson-Minshall, Trans-Nation columnist

Kathy Padilla, Co-President OutFront!, and member, Philadelphia Mayor's LGBT Advisory Board

Andy Marra, Board Co-Chair, National Center for Transgender Equality

Karen Doering, Senior Counsel, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Randi A. Barnabee, Board of Directors for TransFamily of Cleveland

Maya Gomez

Deborah A. Smith, Board of Directors for TransFamily of Cleveland

Jacob B. Nash, Board of Directors for The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland and TransFamily of Cleveland

Janson Wu, Staff Attorney, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Monica Helms, President of the Transgender American Veterans Association

Martin Rawlings-Fein, former Board Member of Female-to-Male international and Lou Sullivan Society Organizer

Ethan St. Pierre, Board, Families United Against Hate

Denise E. Brogan-Kator, Managing Attorney, Rainbow Law Center

Mary Kator, Rainbow Law Center

Debra Oppenheimer Rochester, NY LGBT task force chair, ochester Chapter of NOW / Associate Director of the greater Rochester of NYTRO (New York Transgender Rights Organization)

Lore M. Dickey, Grand Forks, ND

Leslie A. Farber, Montclair New Jersey

Jody Marksamer, Staff Attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Shelbi Day, Staff Attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Vanessa Eisemann, Staff Attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Marti Abernathey, Founder - Transadvocate.com

Richard M. Juang, Member, Committee on Transgender Inclusion, Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association

Diana Langton, Fairpoint, New York

Anderson Toone

Valerie Spencer

Spencer Bergstedt, Transgender Law & Policy Institute

Linda Gephart, West Palm Beach, Florida

Barbara Ann Coombs, Miami, Florida

Barbra Casbar Siperstein, NJ Stonewall Democrats – President; National Stonewall Democrats -Chair, DNC Relations Committee

 

Things have been changing rapidly with all of this and I expect that to continue next week and this brief timeline only scratches the surface of what has been happening.  However, as it stands right now:

Although I don't blame them for causing the current situation, I am tremendously disappointed in HRC for refusing to speak out loudly and publicly, along with the other coalition partners, in OPPOSING this wrong-minded strategy and these bills.  The credibility and integrity of the organization is at stake, and I cannot and will not defend them on this in any way, shape, or form.  I am disappointed in the lack of decisive direction being shown by the board leadership.  I am disappointed by the delay by to board to meet to discuss this.  And I am incredibly sad to see all the hard work of building bridges and repairing relationships with HRC become tatters and shreds.  This isn't just business - for me, it's personal.

I am angry at HRC leadership for what I can't help but perceive as lying and deceiving, for betraying my trust, and for putting me in this position.  Damage has been done and continues to be done that cannot be repaired.  What happens next is, at best, too little too late.  At a time when I should be celebrating the historic passage of Hate Crimes on Thursday, and the amazing work of the Out and Equal Workplace Summit, I'm consumed by feelings of betrayal and disappointment.  The conspirist in me feels that I've been played, that this has been in the works for a long time, that people and organizations with a vested interest in passing ENDA at any cost believe that there will be some unhappiness but that it will be short-lived if and when ENDA passes (without trans inclusion).  However, the idealist in me cares too much to give up.  For now.

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I still don't know how things somehow generally come together in my world.  The moving effort was bigger and more unpleasant than I had anticipated.  Still, as I prepared to catch the 5am Super Shuttle that would take me to the airport on Sunday morning I was actually quite disappointed.  As unpleasant as the process of actually moving can be, the redeeming part of the entire effort is the unpacking.  It's that experience of the new that I've talked about before, of setting up a brand new household with the same old stuff.  I do enjoy that part, and as I left the house not knowing if I'll be back for another 6 weeks I felt as if I had been cheated out of that.  Go figure.  Anyway, I have a house full of boxes waiting for me when I return. 

I went to Circuit City yesterday to buy the DVD of "Knocked Up" (I suppose that provides some sort of glimpse into my taste in movies) and there was a 40-something inch Sony 1080i HDTV right in the front.  I had to stop and marvel at it - the picture was absolutely stunning.  I couldn't get over it.  At some point when I actually have a little money I need to get one of those.  The downside, though, is that I may actually never leave the house.  I'm a visual person, and I find something almost hypnotic about that kind of clarity - a clarity that seems keener than in the "real" world.  Anyway, it was amazing.

Speaking of visually stunning - there's a new music video that has my attention.  It's by Finger Eleven and the name of the song is "Paralyzer".  I can't quite put my finger on why when it's on I stop what I'm doing to watch it.  Somehow, they guy looks alot like the woman, don't you think?  I find the way they move is interesting, too.  Anyway, I like it.

The first of two transgender-themed Oprah shows is scheduled for broadcast on Friday.  If you go to her website there's a brief blurb about it:

Born in the Wrong Body (TV-14)
What would you do if your 7-year-old daughter said, "Mom, I really should be a boy?"  Meet guests who say they were born in the wrong body.  Their stories on facing the world transgender.

I don't know - sounds like the same old treatment to me.  Except, of course, that it's Oprah.

I've been slowly trying to catch up on email from these past couple of weeks.  I completely unplugged for both SCC and moving so I'm way behind.  I'm also at a busy spot at work so I'm doubly challenged for time.  The weather here is perfect autumn weather and I have been making time to go for a run, or at least a walk, in the evenings.  So between all that stuff, my days have been jam-packed.

I leave today to go to Washington, DC for the Out and Equal Workplace Summit.  I could have flown, but as I looked at my schedule and the available flights I decided that what I really need isn't another airport - it's a nice early-autumn drive.  So, my car is packed and I'll leave work this afternoon to make the 400-mile drive from here to there. 

This event is well worth attending, it's worth urging your company to attend, and it's just an incredible experience.  There are 3 different main attractions: (1) The workshops bring out the best of the best (2) the attendees come from all over the world to attend - they're expecting 2,000+ this year and (3) the Expo area dwarfs anything you'll see at other similar events.  If you take the Career Expo at SCC and multiply it by 100 you'll come close to what this is.  It's probably a good thing I'm bringing my car because there's so much good swag at the event you'll need an extra suitcase just to get it all home.  Anyway, I've got some fun, interesting things lined up and I'm looking forward to these next few days.

On Saturday there's another event that I've spoken at over the past few years.  It's called "Out For Work" and is geared to college students entering the job market.  I see on their website that I'm a "Special Guest".  Too funny.  Anyway, Riley does a great job with this event and it has been gratifying to see it grow and mature.  It has outgrown the space where it has been held since it began, and their list of corporate sponsors continues to grow, so that's a good sign.  Last year Kristin from SCC attended this event with me - the 2nd day is a Career Fair - to get ideas and make connections for the SCC Career Expo that happened a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of the Career Expo and corporate stuff, HRC released the 2008 Corporate Equality Index last week.  The numbers are encouraging, and the headlines I've seen are about the significant rise in the number of companies that are implementing supportive transgender policies.  One resource I've asked HRC to post on their website is a list of companies who have gone above and beyond by implementing all 5 Transgender Wellness Benefits.  These are companies that say they cover everything, including surgical procedures (the list is here).  I'm a little skeptical of at least a couple of companies on this list, which underscores some of the difficulty in actually following up on some of these things.  HRC doesn't have the staff or the bandwidth to track down every single one of these so I'm sure companies are getting credit for things they shouldn't be.  Still, I never imagined that I'd see this kind of support in my lifetime and if I were just beginning my transition I'd start with the companies on this list.

I've written an Op-Ed about some of the Corporate Support concerns that I have, titled "Corporate Support for the Trans Community: Reality and Illusion".  While I'm thrilled to see the numbers, I'm skeptical that the numbers necessarily reflect what's really happening in many of these companies.  Supportive policy is NOT reflected in hiring, in engagement, in active support, or in overall corporate culture.  To think that the job ends at simply passing a supportive policy to get a good diversity score would be to miss what's really important here.  The people who need to press Corporate America in terms of education, accountability, and more active support is each of us.  Anyway, I've tried to articulate my thoughts in that piece.  I expect that I'll be writing a job-seeker guide in the not too distant future, as well.

I drive back to Rochester on Sunday, only to turn around and go back (flying this time) next week for HRC Business Council meetings, a Board Meeting, and finally the HRC National Dinner next Saturday.  It's a huge event, and all 3,000 tickets are sold-out.  Speaker Pelosi is the featured speaker.  I talked with Joe Solmonese earlier this week and told him I'd like to meet Rebecca Romijn (from X-men).  She was recently added to the list of award-recipients for her work as a transsexual character in Ugly Betty.  He laughed, and he promised that he'd make it happen.  I hope so.  It doesn't look as though Elizabeth is going to be able to attend so I even offered to sit at her table.  He laughed even harder at that one...

This looks to be a big week in Washington, so it could be an exceedingly celebratory or a very unhappy event.  The Hate Crimes bill that passed the House of Representatives a couple of months ago is apparently coming up for a vote in the Senate tomorrow (details here).  Senator Kennedy will be reading a prepared statement from the floor of the Senate before the vote (read it here).  If you haven't contacted your Senator on this - now is the time.

ENDA is also moving this week (details here).  I've gotten email from people ranging from panic that the sky is falling, to worry about what the final language will look like, to resignation that even if these bills pass they'll fall victim of a threatened Presidential veto once they reach his desk.  I am in none of those places.  I'm confident that the right thing will happen, I'm confident that now is the time, and I'm confident that - even if our President continues his failure of leadership - we're almost there.  I've said before that the most important attribute in so many things isn't necessarily courage, strength, intelligence, or guile. It's patience.  I've got patience to spare, so if anyone needs to borrow any for a little while let me know.  I'll email you some.

This is all big, big stuff.  I'm actually glad to be in Washington for the better part of the next 10-days.  It'll be interesting to experience what happens, rather than to simply read about it.  Remember, I've been to 4 Super Bowls only to watch my Buffalo Bills fall short every time.  I've trudged out of the stadium with my heart in my heels, looking for the silver lining, saying to myself - "Maybe next year".  I know what it's like to be there, to hope, and to come out on the short end.  I'm looking forward to coming out on the other side for a change - in something that means more than a football game.  I can promise you this - whenever these bills become law, whether this year, next year, or the year after - I'll be in Washington to celebrate.  It's only a matter of time, and I've got patience to spare.
 

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's Saturday morning and I'm coming up for air for a minute.  I have been stuck in moving "hell" these last few days and although I don't know how - it looks like everything is almost done.  These last few days have been physically and emotionally exhausting.  The physical part is easy to explain - I've been getting up at 5:30am and going without a break until midnight or later.  I haven't even really had time to eat over these past few days - the only thing I've been able to sneak is yogurt, a little cereal, and a burger with my son a couple of days ago. Box after box, piece of furniture after piece of furniture, 5 truckloads worth, in 100 degree temperatures - it has been a physically demanding few days.  I have bruises, I'm sore, and I'm generally worn out right now but I'll admit to a sense of satisfaction in still having the physical stamina to do stuff like this.

The emotional part is harder to explain.  Heading into unknown territory always has a deeper component to it.  It reminds me of starting over in a new relationship - going all the way back to the beginning.  Based on all the work over these past few days it's no wonder that people stay in dead-end situations throughout their lives - the unpleasant prospect of starting over is worse than the unfulfilling prospect of just staying put.  But as I sit here among boxes, furniture here and there, and my entire world moved 22.44 miles across town it already feels good, and I'm over that hump. 

I doubt I'll have much time to enjoy it.  I'm headed back to my empty townhouse today to clean, and turn over the keys this afternoon at 4.  I should make a beeline right back home and spend some time arranging my world - I'm lucky to have found the coffeemaker and coffee this morning - but I've decided to take some time to celebrate and decompress.  A friend and I are headed out for dinner.

Thanks so much to the people who helped me move this weekend.  My son, and Norann - you both did amazing work.  Stevie - you rocked. Thanks for taking time out of your life, and for risking life and limb to help me. 

I apologize to anyone who has written to me in the last 10 day.  I have been so singularly focused on SCC, and now on moving, that I haven't answered email (or even read it) in quite a while.  I expect to have a little downtime over these next few days and will catch up on things.  I promise.
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm back in Scottsdale, and I'm on a mission.  I'm here to pack my entire world, move it across town, unpack it, and clean - all by the end of the day on Saturday.  It's a tall order, but there is no Plan B so it needs to come to pass.  Today was a mix of work, various conference calls (a couple of planning meetings for Out and Equal), running a couple of errands, and packing.  I'm tired, sitting in bed, waiting to drift away to sleep.

There are a few things to mention tonight.  First, I chatted with Susan Stanton a couple of nights ago and she mentioned that she recently participated in an episode of Montel Williams.  It's scheduled to be shown tomorrow (9/20).  You can watch a preview of it at the show website (see it here - click on "Thursday").  Marci Bowers said she thinks that the episode of Oprah that she taped a couple of weeks ago is scheduled to be broadcast on 9/28.  They taped a second show today about a family that stayed together during transition.  No word yet on when that will be shown.

With all this visibility - it must be sweeps....

Speaking about visibility, in Joe Solmonese's weekly update to the HRC board last week he had a long paragraph about SCC:

As we speak, I’m on the ground in Atlanta, Georgia, preparing to deliver the keynote address at the seventeenth annual Southern Comfort conference. If you aren’t already familiar with the event, the conference offers transpeople, their loved ones and helping professionals support, information and friends in a welcoming atmosphere of Southern hospitality. Southern Comfort features educational seminars, speeches and performances by prominent and emerging leaders in the community, as well as celebratory banquets, receptions and parties. Today, the first-ever Transgender Community Career Expo on a national scale is going on, with over 1,000 attendees and nearly two dozen major employers, as well as HRC, participating. This is a huge milestone, as more employers than ever are truly recognizing the value of diversity and are implementing innovative and inclusive policy specifically designed to support their transgender employees. I am incredibly excited to contribute to the conference, especially this year as issues facing the transgender community have received so much attention. We at HRC have been working hard to raise the visibility of both the conference and the attendees by reaching out to mainstream media outlets, so keep a look out for stories about this year’s events. For more information on Southern Comfort, read HRC Back Story’s post on the event at http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/09/hrc-report-from.html.

I still need to upload my photos and will get around to that.  I've been crazy busy since I got back but I'll eventually find the time.

HRC released the most recent Corporate Equality Index on Monday.  I've got something 90% written about it and expect to post it soon.  I also expect to provide a list of companies that say they cover SRS for their employees.  Stay tuned for that.

Time for sleep.  By 9 tomorrow I'll have a rental truck and expect to be loading my stuff on it.  Lord, I hate moving.
 

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This will probably be a fairly short entry, not because I'm at a loss for things to share but because I'm sitting in the Chicago airport (again!) waiting for my connecting flight home from Southern Comfort.  We're scheduled to begin boarding soon.

These events tend to go at about 180 miles an hour for me.  From the time I arrive to the time I leave I find myself on the go, go, go.  That's not a complaint, as the reason I continue to come back to events like Southern Comfort is that I truly enjoy meeting people, seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and seeing the progress of people I've met in previous years. Elizabeth is a great example of that, as I first met her at SCC in 2002 as a newbie looking for some direction.  She sure found direction.

This year's SCC seemed to be a significant step above previous ones I've attended - I'm not sure why.  Perhaps part of it was the new hotel, which I really enjoyed.  The weather finally got sunny yesterday and there was a wonderful lush garden path behind the hotel that was just delightful.  The bar in the lobby of the other hotel seemed to be the focal point of things, and I didn't get that sense this time (maybe it's just because I didn't spend much time there).  The layout of everything just seemed to click and although I've heard a few things will need to be fixed before next year overall I was very impressed. 

Part of it was the Career Expo and the leap we've made into advancing visibility of the trans community in corporate America.  I was so busy on Friday that I didn't even have time to do a quick walk through of it, but everyone I've spoken with says it was wonderful.  The significance of the career fair can't be under-emphasized.  It was over 14 months in the making, and initial low expectations of attracting 5 or maybe 10 companies were quickly surpassed as companies we approached stepped up one after another to participate.  A story about the Career Expo in this morning's Los Angeles Times is indicative of the reach and significance of this event (read it here).  We're already planning the next one. (I have been working on an Op/Ed piece about some of the corporate stuff that I expect to publish in the next day or so).

Part of it was the programming, which I thought was particularly varied and interesting.  And part, I think, was the crowd of attendees from around the country and around the world.  When I walked into lunch on Friday it gave me goose bumps to see the main ballroom filled like that.  I'm told that the official number of registrations was 871 people, so if you can imagine what that looks like you can imagine what a ballroom full of accepting, non-judgmental, diverse, uninhibited people looks like.  What I doubt you'll really be able to imagine is the wonderful energy that this kind of environment radiates.  It was fantastic, and I think those who were there all felt it.

I won't give a detailed explanation of everything that happened over these past few days as that would be far too tedious and I'm bound to leave something significant out.  It was great to see Elizabeth and to be able to spend a little time together.  My electrologist and dear friend Maria made the trip and it was wonderful to see her smiling face there, as well.  A group including Elizabeth and I, Jenny Boylan, Marci Bowers, Christine McGinn and her partner, and Maria, went out to dinner one evening that good fun.  I ate too much, I probably talked too much, I didn't drink too much, I didn't get enough sleep, and I'm already looking forward to going back next year.  I'm a little concerned about the tentative dates I heard (early October rather than mid/late September) and the potential conflict with of the other events typically scheduled for that time but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

I was proud of all the national GLBT leadership that attended.  Joe Solmonese, Executive Director of HRC, gave the keynote address during lunch on Friday and said that not only would HRC only support ONLY a trans-inclusive ENDA, they would oppose anything else.  That was huge for everyone in attendance to hear.  Neil Giuliano, President of GLAAD, spoke during lunch on Saturday and was part of a Leadership Panel that I moderated that also included Justin Nelson (President of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce), Dave Noble (Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs for The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) and our own Mara Keisling (Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality).  All in all - big stuff.

I took a bunch of photos at the Gala last night and will be uploading them to Webshots in the next couple of days.  Elizabeth had to be back in Charleston by 11am this morning for some parental obligations so she had a wake-up call for 3am.  I sort of remember hearing her gett up and kissing her goodbye before she hit the road, but we wanted to enjoy a little quiet time before going to sleep so we didn't stay around after the dinner festivities for music or dancing.  Oh well. 


Me and Elizabeth at the SCC 2007 Gala

With a group of friends....


Marci Bowers, me, Jenny Boylan, and Eden (she made that dress!) at dinner


I've known Kara since our days together in Austin.  It was so nice to see her.

 

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


My brother, my nephew, and I staying dry at the tailgate party.


A Bills player suffered a serious spinal injury at the beginning of the 2nd half.

It's football season in upstate NY.  For those of us who have been lifelong Buffalo Bills fan, it means the beginning of another painful, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing season.  Thankfully, I have emotionally disconnected with the team and with the sport in general.  Still, I enjoy going to games and I enjoy watching.  I find it funny that I can explain a 2-deep zone defense, a weak-side screen pass, the value of a play-action pass once you've established something of a running game, and many of the other nuances of the game. 

This football team was, at one point, the main connection between my brother and I.  DNA isn't something tangible, so that doesn't count.  We had season tickets together and trudged the 80 miles from Rochester down the Thruway to Orchard Park more times than I can remember.  I remember taking my son to preseason games when he was only 4 or 5 years old.  I wouldn't dare take him to a regular season game as he had a had time concentrating for an entire game and leaving early just wasn't an option.  My brother and I and the other people in section 137 bonded over big wins, and emotional losses.  We traveled together to all 4 Super Bowls that the Bills played in (and lost) and at one point a significant portion of my wardrobe had a Buffalo Bills logo on it.

In short - I was insane.

The funny thing is how life has changed.  I have done a pretty good job of coming back to Buffalo to attend the home opener in recent years.  The fun these days is more about the celebration of fall, the tailgating experience, the excitement in the air, the promise of a good team, and the memories.  We have it down to a science - the roads we take, where we park, stopping for food on the way home - it's like clockwork.  The funny thing is that, although I have progressed to other things in life, my brother hasn't.  He's still there, in the clutches of a sport played by very large men who hit each other very hard, and a team that has become recognized as a symbol of futility and disappointment.  He's still insane.

I have some observations on the game.  It was wet, but tailgating was fun.  I had a hotdog and 2 hamburgers, and I was back in Rochester and on a treadmill by 6pm to pay my penance.  Our seats are wonderful, and it was nice to meet the people who sit around us (when I say "us" I really mean my brother and whoever he brings to a game....they're his tickets now).  The excitement is still worth the hassle of going to watch the game in person rather than staying at home and watching in person, where you can change the channel when things start to get too painful to watch.  The new scoreboard video screen there is amazing.  The colors and the detail were captivating.  Those of us who remember the state-of-the-art black and white replay screen from OJ's days of scampering up and down the field will really appreciate how far things have come.  I need one of those in my living room.  The Bills lost on a last-second field goal, but I knew what was coming so I was already on the Thruway on my way home by then.

Still, the thing people are talking about most around here is the injury to a Bills player on the opening kickoff of the second half (see my photo of it, above).  A reserve tight end hit his head in an odd way and crushed a couple of his vertebrae.  They stopped the game for 20 minutes while medical people did what they could to help, an ambulance drove onto the field, the teams huddled and prayed together, and a general pall fell over the entire stadium as it became apparent that this was really serious.  I'll never forget it, and my heart goes out to this player and his family (read a couple of stories about it here, and here, and here).  It's chilling to hear the words 'catastrophic', and 'paralyzed', and 'potentially fatal' used in a sentence about a football player who's just doing his job.  Football players are modern day gladiators and although we try to put a civilized face on it with bouncy cheerleaders and colorful logos and amazingly clear video screens and the sanitization  of television entertainment at the end of the day it's a brutal, dangerous sport in a brutal, dangerous, uncivilized world.

The combination of that, along with the remembrances of 9/11, are fresh reminders of the fragile nature of our world.  Unfortunately, it often takes tragedy to remember that.  I think that's partly because we go to great lengths to try to forget it, but every once in a while something happens to shake us back to the brutal reality.  People want to believe in a world of order, and justice, and rules, and structure.  In a world, they want to believe in civilization.  Sometimes it's hard to shake the feeling that what passes for civilization is simply another name for the Matrix.  And, every once in a while something happens to remind us of the Truth: There is no spoon. 

I got home from work one day last week and the people I'm staying with asked me if I believe in God.  That's not a discussion I plan to have here, but I told them that I do but not in the sense that I think most people do.  I don't believe in a God who is humanlike in any way.  I don't believe in a God who plays an active role in the day-to-day occurrances of the world.  I don't believe in a God who causes things to happen or not happen, or who has any sense of awareness than any of us even exist.  My belief in God is more of a scientific nature, in terms of energy, than a religious one.  Still, that doesn't stop me from feeling as though I have a personal relationship with it - whether I do or not isn't really the issue.  The fact of the matter is that I have faith, and I cherish my faith.  I don't need to try to convince others of my faith just as I won't allow others to convince me of theirs.  Discussions of faith aren't intellectual discussions.  They're emotional ones.  And at times when the world feels fragile I don't think the specifics of your faith are important.  The fact that it provides comfort to you is the main thing, and I have a hard time understanding why that's so hard for people to accept.  It seems so simple to me.

Anyway, it's odd how this entry has made its way from tailgating to God, but such is the nature of my thinking.  I'm getting ready to go to SCC tomorrow so get ready.  It's going to be crazy.  Elizabeth arrives on Friday, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.  Safe travels to all who are going -
 

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oprah Alert

I'm including part of an email I got today in case someone knows someone who is interested. 

The taping of Oprah’s transgender youth show went so well last week that they are looking to do a transgender family (spouses who stayed together during/after the transition, have kids) next week, and are looking for the right family to perhaps build an entire hour around.

They’ve spoken to some people but are still looking. They are trying to identify a guest today (Monday) so they can send out a crew for b-roll of the family at home.

Should you know of anyone, please contact me as soon as possible today so I can pass on the information to the Oprah producer.

I explained to the producer that this is a difficult request to fill in a short period of time for a number of reasons.  Most of the people I know don't necessarily mind talking about themselves, and some even have partners/spouses/family willing to share as well.  The difficulty comes with the kids - including them crosses a boundary that sometimes carries unexpected consequences and needs very careful consideration (especially if the kids are young).  I'll share something from Elizabeth's world - shortly after Elizabeth was on Oprah the teacher at school who had a couple of Elizabeth's kids in her class got a call from another parent.  This parent wanted to ensure that her children weren't seated near Elizabeth's kids in class.  Elizabeth has a very strict rule that her kids are not to be included in any of the stuff that she does, but they still feel the repercussions sometimes.  It's not fair, it may sound ridiculous, but that's how the world work sometimes.  Ignorance is everywhere.

Anyway, if this is something you're interested in pursuing please contact me.  Although they're pushing to do this next week I'm hopeful they're willing to wait for the right family to come forward. 

 

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I don't get sick very often, which is actually pretty remarkable considering the overall life I lead.  Changing time zones, sleep challenges, time spent on planes and in other areas that are rife with opportunities to catch something - it's surprising I don't come down with something every month.  I've been struggling with this cold-like thing and although I don't want to sound like a big  baby it has not  been fun and I need it to get better.  It has been taking a leisurely scenic route through my respiratory system, starting in the back of my throat, moving into my nose (I must have blown it 200 times yesterday), and is now in my nose and chest.  Yucko.  My head feels full, I have no energy - not fun.  I seem to be feeling a little more human each day so I'm hopeful that I'm on the mend.

I spent an hour today at the Apple store doing my one-on-one training.  Every time I go I come away jazzed and excited so I make a point of doing it every week.  It's $99 for a year of  one-hour personal one-on-one training sessions on anything pertaining to Apple.  I've been threatening to share more multi-media "stuff" and I'm well on the way to making it happen.  Anyway, I'm enjoying it and already looking forward to next week.

Right now it's after 10pm and I'm sitting at a table in the local Barnes and Noble.  Its like a social networking spot here - every seat is taken and the place is hopping (well, as hopping as a book store can be).  The thing I've been noticing is that there are lots of couples here.  Some look as though they're studying together.  Others are reading together.  I miss that stuff.  One of the questions that the Oprah producer asked was about sexuality (no surprise there) and I tried to explain how difficult it is to adjust to being perceived as a lesbian.  It's not the same as coming to terms with my gender "gift" and in some ways it's the more frustrating effort at this point.  Anyway, it's a deep discussion that deserves further elaboration sometime.

There are several things of interest to mention today.

Last week I included a snippet from Joe Solmonese's weekly message to the Board.  In this week's message he talked a bit about ENDA, some of the work being done, and set some of expectations for the coming weeks.  I wanted to share one paragraph:

The backlash against ENDA has already begun. The Traditional Values Coalition posted on its website claims that “ENDA Protects Mental Disorders and Seeks to Silence People of Faith” (despite ENDA’s religious exemption) and that “ENDA will force businesses with 15 or more employees to bow to the demands of homosexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens, transsexuals and she-males.” To fight back against this hateful ignorance and persist in advocating for fairness in the workplace, go to www.passendanow.org and find out what you can do to encourage lawmakers to put ENDA on the president’s desk. And, as always, keep checking our blog at www.hrcbackstory.org for the most up-to-date information available.
 

This stuff infuriates me.  The fact that people who purport to represent people of faith can be so hateful and deceitful is one of those life lessons I never would have learned in the safe little cocoon of a life that I was living.  Anyway, Joe's phrase is one that sticks with me: "hateful ignorance". 

An incident happened in Seattle last week during the Gender Odyssey conference:

Mall-restroom evictions raise transgender ire
Seattle Times - United States
By Lornet Turnbull Two transgender individuals attending a weekend conference in Seattle were kicked out of a men's bathroom at Pacific Place and then ...

 

One thing that happened while I was in Washington DC for NCTE Lobby Day last May: I was walking the in the hallway of one of the congressional buildings chatting with Simon Aronoff when one of the people from our group approached us to tell us that she had just been told to leave the women's bathroom by a woman police officer.  Apparently, someone in the restroom complained about her so the police woman confronted her and asked to see her driver's license.  She's from a state that doesn't allow people who are transitioning to change the gender marker until after surgery so although she had a female name and tried to provide details the police officer would have none of it and asked her to leave.  This is all the more galling considering the fact that the District of Columbia has an ordinance in place that doesn't simply protect people based on gender identity, but on gender characteristics/perceived gender as well. 

I don't put these two incidents in the same league as the situation that happened in Scottsdale that I've written about in the past.  The difference is that usually all we're doing is trying to go to the bathroom and leave - just like everyone else.  If that had been the case in the Scottsdale "incident" I believe there wouldn't have been an "incident".  Anyway, I doubt if most people can imagine having to take out an ID to validate their gender the same way that kids are asked for their ID when they're trying to buy alcohol.  Not good.

SCC is just around the corner and the Career Expo is already making news:

Southern Comfort Conference Larger crowds, more corporate backing ...
Southern Voice - Atlanta,GA,USA
By ZACK HUDSON Organizers of the 2007 Southern Comfort Conference for transgender men, women and their families are preparing to greet record crowds with a ...
 

HRC sent out a press release, as did the folks at SCC, so I'm hopeful it gets the attention it deserves.  On one hand I'm tremendously proud of the way that so many corporate sponsors stepped up to participate, especially given the fact that this is the first year for this important effort.  On the other hand, I'm disappointed that companies that should be there aren't.  Local companies with perfect scores on the Corporate Equality Index chose NOT to be there: Coca Cola, Cox, Sun Trust.  There are others.  I'm in the process of writing an Op/Ed piece about the fact that companies are getting credit for having workplace policy that supports GLBT employees and are enjoying the kudos that come with it.  But when it comes to actively supporting us (especially when cost is negligible), or even more importantly, when it comes to hiring and recruiting us - it's just not happening.  Anyway, I'll have more to say on that shortly.

They just announced that the bookstore is closing in 15 minutes so I suppose I better get my stuff together and get home to bed.  I've got another night in a Nyquil haze ahead of me.  Tomorrow I'm going to the Buffalo Bills home opener against the Denver Broncos.  These last several days here have been glorious late summer/early autumn days, but that's supposed to end tomorrow - potentially heavy rains are being forecast.  Oh well.  I've sat in that stadium through blizzards, 25 degree below zero wind chills, freezing rain, and all the other interesting elements that Buffalo weather has to offer.  We're pretty hardy stock (you need to be when you're a Bills fan), and we almost revel in inclement weather.  Anyway, the home opener is a tradition with us so I'm looking forward to tailgating and chilling as much as I am to watching football.  I don't expect this to be a particularly successful year but that's ok.  I'm glad to say that the success (or not) of my football team no longer has much of a bearing on my emotional landscape.  Still, the games are fun to go to.  :)
 

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Yesterday and today were the first days of school for students in the Rochester area.  School has been in session for over a month back in Arizona, but the difference in climate gets the kids in earlier and out earlier down in the desert.  I got stuck behind a school bus this morning and patiently waited as kids piled on to it.  I remember waiting at the bus stop with my son when he was a kid - his book bag full of new school "stuff".  He was so cute.

I had lunch with my little man on Sunday and it was wonderful to see him.  He's not so "cute" any more, although despite the fact that he needs a haircut (once a parent, always a parent) he is certainly handsome.  He's got beautiful soulful green eyes and very masculine features.  Anyway - we had a nice visit.

The trip to Phoenix was about a week too short.  I filled it from morning to night and still had more to do when I left on Tuesday morning.  The big effort right now is to find a house to rent, and although I saw some good candidates that I'm still considering.  I didn't have one of those "a-ha!" moments where you walk into a house and it immediately feels like home but my time was limited so I only had a little time to devote to it.  Anyways, I'll be happier once that's settled.

Somewhere between my comings and goings I seem to have picked up a bit of a summer cold.  My throat is scratchy and raw and I'm not feeling up to my usual energy levels.  I hope things improve by next week.  I'm looking forward to staying busy at SCC. 

I've got  couple of brief things to mention today.  First, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has finally started the process of making its way through committee on Capitol Hill.  Discussion started yesterday as several witnesses were invited to share their stories with the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (read about it here , and here).  This is truly historic opportunity, and the expectation is that it will make its way to the floor for a vote within a month or so. 

I got email updates from HRC and from the Task Force on it.  The thing I found conspicuously absent was any kind of a notice from NCTE (the National Center for Transgender Equality).  In fact, I haven't heard a peep from them since news of the sudden departure of NCTE Deputy Director Simon Aronoff became public.  I went to their website and it hasn't been updated in a while.  I clicked on the T-Blog there and the button has been disabled (I got there in a round-about way and the last entry there was on July 11).  I arranged to get some discounted seats to the HRC National Dinner next month for NCTE board members and didn't get a response to my email providing specifics.  All in all, it feels a bit odd.  I expect that I'll see Mara at SCC next week so I'll see what (if anything) she's willing to share.

They were scheduled to do the taping for Oprah yesterday. I heard through the grapevine that Marci Bowers was scheduled to be one of the participants, but I haven't been able to confirm that yet.  After this last go-around I decided that I won't provide any of my family members to these shows.  They always ask if my son or my mom or someone who's "normal" will be on the show, too, and my sister was the person most disappointed about how things played out.  It always seems to work that way, and frankly that's a formula I just don't buy any more.  It's more than simply intrusive. It's old, and stale, and I like to think we've gotten past that.  Anyway, I hope the taping went well.  I got an email that Montel Williams seems to be doing a show on a similar theme.

Speaking of getting past something, the always wonderful Joanne Herman's latest article in the Advocate is about the ongoing J. Michael Bailey/autogynophelia feud that seems to have regained some steam and visibility (read her article here).  Joanne is stepping into a hornet's nest with this topic, and her writings have gotten increasingly provocative and sharp.  There are people with very strong opinions on this topic and I expect she'll be hearing from some of them.  I, for one, support her and encourage her to continue with her insightful and informative writing.  It's refreshing to see these topics being shared in a popular GLBT forum.  I'm still disappointed that it's not included in their print version and I think that's a significant disservice.  The need and the desire for education on trans issues within the GLB community is huge.  I have allowed my subscription to lapse and somehow I don't feel compelled to renew it.
 

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The flight from Buffalo to Phoenix is a long one - taking 4+ hours.  There's not much to do - Southwest doesn't show movies (but they do give you a Snack Box!) so unless you bring something to amuse you or can sleep through most of it you can find it seems more like 40 hours than 4.  It was a glorious sunny day for most of the flight- as we took off from Buffalo you could see downtown Toronto and the unmistakable profile of the CN Tower that hovers over it as clear as a bell all the way across Lake Erie.  The last half hour of the flight was particularly interesting and I had a field day taking photos through the airplane window of impressive storm clouds as we weaved our way through them - descending into Phoenix. 

I'll share a few of them here.  The first is a photo of a dust storm as it rolls across the valley.  I haven't touched up the photo, but I think it shows how these things just crop up and slowly move across the area like a wind-fueled blanket of dust.  The second is a photo of downown Phoenix, with the ballpark where the Arizona Diamondbacks play in the foreground on the right and America West Arena across the street.  The downtown area here is relatively small for a city as large as we are, but the valley spreads for miles in all directions so we're wider, not taller.  The last photo is of where I live (soon to be moving).  We flew right over it and I got a good photo - it looks like one of those things you'd see on Google Earth or something.


Dust storm rolling across Chandler, AZ


Aerial view of downtown Phoenix


Aerial view of my home in Scottsdale as we flew over it - preparing to land

Although I've been away for a while my eyes cracked open this morning within 5 minutes of when they typically do here - shortly after 6.  I got up and started shuffling around as I have a full day on tap today.  I've got a friend coming over to do some work with me on some podcast stuff we've been working on (it's hard to do that kind of stuff remotely).  I've got an appointment for some training at the Apple store.  I'm going to look at some houses here that I'm considering to rent.  There is an open house in my condo this afternoon so I need tot clean and get the place ready for that.  I've got a handful of errands to run.  I need to start packing my stuff into boxes, and I need to find time to work out.  Tonight I'm going to the movies and a late dinner with a friend.  All in all - it looks to be a very busy day from beginning to end.

It's nice to be back. 

I'm going to share a personal opinion about the mess surrounding recently resigned ex Idaho Senator Larry Craig.  He was accused of soliciting sex in a men's bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and was busted by an undercover police officer.  He plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, saying that he wasn't really guilty but just wanted to keep things quiet and make it go away.  Needless to day, it didn't stay quiet and didn't go away.

Sen. Craig is a long standing conservative Republican representing a very Red state.  He has personally been very vocal in his disdain for the GLBT community, and for the "gay agenda".  So it is particularly appropriate that he find himself in the situation that has consumed his career, his reputation, his livelihood, relationships in his life, and his prospects for the future as a direct result of some of his efforts. 

Personally, I believe that Mr. Craig was entrapped by an over-zealous police officer.  At this point, though, that doesn't seem important any more.  The mere suspicion of being gay has strangled him, and whether he was actually doing as charged or he pled guilty for the sake of expediency as he claims seems to an afterthought at this point.  I raised my son to realize that there are consequences for the things we do (or don't do) in life - that's part of what defines us as adults.  Mr. Craig is simply facing the consequences of his own very public homophobia.

I saw an Op/Ed piece on CBS Sunday morning that expressed how I feel - that the rush to judgment has been a feeding frenzy.  Particularly distasteful, I think, has been the way his own Republican Party has tossed him under the bus so quickly.  He has been abandoned by people who should have been there to support him.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Most probably, nobody will ever really know the true motivations of what happened in that bathroom that day.  The mess it has caused, however, is likely to have a life of its own for quite a while now.  One part of me feels that Mr. Craig simply got what was coming to him - that he is deserving of his fate.  Another part of me, however, hates to see these kinds of public floggings. 

I mention this because I'm getting myself involved in a local situation that involves a similar public flogging.  I'll explain more in greater detail in a couple of days, but I see similarities.  One part of me wants to turn away and simply be a spectator as the mess unfolds.  Another part of me, however, wants to see it get better and I think I can help.  So, here we go again.

 

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I can't imagine a nicer day than today here.  It's 75 degrees, puffy clouds are slowly moving across a bright sunny blue sky, and it's absolutely glorious.  I'm sitting near gate 18 in the Buffalo airport waiting on my flight to take me from here to Phoenix, where the high is scheduled to be 105 degrees today.  I must be crazy to leave this.  I saw all kinds of warning that travel was going to be crazy this holiday weekend so I got to the airport early, and the place is half-deserted.  I didn't have anyone at all in front of me as I went through the security screening and it seems as though I've seen nearly as many police/TSA/security people as passengers. 

I wasn't all that surprised to hear from the Oprah producer yesterday afternoon.  She said the usual speil about keeping my information on hand for future consideration and I thanked her.  I told her my dream would be for Oprah to have a show about a topic and to have a trans-person on the show as simply another person with a valuable human story to share.  Courage.  Fulfillment.  Overcoming societal rejection.  Body image discussions.  Discussions on womanhood or manhood, on overcoming adversity, on living authentically.  We don't see ourselves included in these things, and we find ourselves confined to one show a year featuring a sellable "trans" topic full of  pretty, unthreatening "trans" people (and typically the "normal" people who love and accept them).  As long as they have these shows where trans-people and trans-topics are segregated it perpetuates the trouble so many of us have simply integrating into society as functional men and women.  Anyway, I'd like to see that in my lifetime.

Speaking of things I'd like to see in my lifetime, every week I get an HRC Board update from Joe Solmonese.  Here's part of yesterday's message:

As we head into Labor Day take a moment to catch your breath because we have an enormously important September ahead of us.  In fact, the next few weeks may be the most important we have had in Congress in a long time – maybe ever.

We just got word a few days ago that next week will be an historic moment in our community’s history.  For the first time ever, on Tuesday, September 5th, the House Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee will begin hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  The subcommittee hearing is the first step to be followed by a full committee hearing and then to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote on final passage – all likely to happen within the month of September.  We are already gearing up for this historic action and utilizing the great resources here at HRC to assist Congress in preparation for the hearings.  But rest assured, our opponents are already planning a full assault to make sure our vision of equality never becomes reality. 

But it is going to take every single person who reads this email to make a commitment. A commitment to rededicate to the fight because we have fought for over a decade for these two pieces of legislation and this time we have gotten too close -- we can’t afford to let it slip through our hands.  Please go to, and encourage all of the people around you to go to:  www.hrc.org/fighthate to speak out in support of the hate crimes bill and www.passENDAnow.org to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
 

We also expect that Hate Crimes legislation will start moving again in the Senate. This is going to be a historic month - one way or the other.  For those attending SCC, we've arranged for Joe to be the lunchtime speaker on Friday. We've never had an Executive Director from HRC address the community directly, so that in and of itself is significant.  I was involved in the Career Expo effort, and the HRC Workplace Project team was invaluable in helping us to secure some of the corporate sponsors that will be there.

I can't believe The Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) is less than two weeks away at this point.  We've been talking and planning for almost a year now and here we are.  I'm looking forward to seeing old friends there, and making new ones.  If you're going there please make sure we have a chance to meet.  We're expecting almost 900 people there this year so finding anyone in particular might be a challenge.  It seems that the safest bet to find someone at these things is to stay around the bar.  Go figure.

Why is it that people stand up an hour before a Southwest Airlines flight in hopes of getting a good seat?  I'm in the "A" boarding group and I couldn't care less if I were the last person in the A group to board.  There will still be good seats.  There will still be pillows, and overhead bin space.  I dunno - I don't see that it makes much sense.  Maybe most of them are infrequent flyers so they're not sure how this works or something.  Or, maybe people who see a line feel a need to be near the front of it.  Either way, I plan to sit here until the last possible moment.

I got a haircut this morning.  It looks nice.  Of course, I'll never be able to get it like this again but knowing that it COULD look like this if the person styling it knew what they were doing is enough for me.  My mom even said she liked it, and she can be brutally honest, so if it passes muster with mom then it's all good. 
 

Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Friday!  More than that, it's the Friday before a long weekend!  And, it's the end of August already.  Symbolically, Labor Day is the beginning of autumn and is a milestone past which you're not supposed to wear white shoes or carry a white purse.  That's a rule I intend to break within the first week.

I heard a song this morning that caused me to stop and listen.  It's particularly a propos given my last entry on actually living life.  It's titled "Change" and is by Tracy Chapman.  Some lyrics:

If you knew that you would find a truth
That would bring a pain that can't be soothed
Would you change?
Would you change?

If everything you think you know
Makes your life unbearable
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

There is a video of it on Youtube (see it here).  I think it has become my newest theme song. 

I suppose that I'll share the fact that I've been talking with the folks at Oprah about a show she'll be taping next week.  It seems that Oprah typically does one show per year on a transgender theme, and when they do they seem to cast a pretty wide net in terms of talking to people.  As it gets closer to the taping they seem to determine the particular focus for the program and to select the people that they want to be involved.  We've been talking back and forth for a week now, and they've even spoken with my sister and my niece.  Today is the day where they make decisions.

I've given them the names of several folks that they have asked about, and several friends have mentioned that they have had conversations, so it appears that they've spoken with quite a few of us.  This happened with me a couple of times before, and the first time I got really excited about it.  I had some very good conversations and actually even got to like the people who seemed to call every few hours to follow-up on this or that.  When I got the "Sorry, but we won't be needing you" call I was very disappointed, and have used that experience to temper my excitement in subsequent go-arounds.  I have come to a sense of peace with hoping that they choose good topics, and that the people that they select will do a good job of representing us.  I told the producer that I had resigned myself to a life of being a bridesmaid, and not a bride.  Still, they uncertainty of it is on my mind and the outcome affects the logistics of an already full week next week. 

Anyway, I'll provide an update when I hear something.  There's part of me that is hopeful, but I'm prepared for another "Sorry" call.

On to other topics...

I picked up my bike from the Bike Shop earlier this week where I had brought it for a "tune-up".  I expect that a tune-up includes oiling the gears and chain, checking the tires and the tire pressure, adjusting the brakes, and generally ensuring that it's safe to ride.  As I mentioned, this was a used 12-speed road bike that is apparently a dozen years old or so, and seems to be in pretty good shape.  I got it at a reasonable price, such that the tune-up cost more than half than what the bike itself cost, and is less than the prices of some of the helmets I'm looking at!  It needed a little love to make it road-worthy and as I picked it up earlier this week I was looking forward to testing it out.

Imagine my disappointment when I got it back to the house and unloaded it out of my trunk and found that the back tire was flat, and the front tire seemed low.  I couldn't help but wonder if they actually did anything on it.  Back into the trunk it went, and during lunch yesterday I made a trip back to the bike store.  The manager approached me when I got there to ask if he could help and I explained the situation.  He said he'd ensure that the person who did the "tune-up" was tortured and came out to help me to bring it in.  When he saw it he indicated that he's the person who did it, and proceeded to replace the inner tubes at no charge - apologizing profusely.

That's the second time I've had a customer service issue in 2 days.  My mom is scheduled to fly home next week and had received an email from US Air telling her that they had changed the times of her flights to the point where there was only 25 minutes for her to make her connection.  She was rightfully concerned that either she or her luggage would miss the flight and wanted me to call them to fix it.  I called and talked with an operator who really had no interest in helping me: "She'll probably be able to make it.  If she misses it they'll find a way to accommodate her on one of the flights later in the day."  No, I told they guy.  This is my mom.  She's 78 years old and doesn't need that kind of stress because they decided to change her flight times.  So, the guy escalated me to someone else who had the same kind of "always say die" attitude.  He didn't want to help me either, telling me that to rebook her on flights with more reasonable connection times would cost a $100 change fee.  I told him that was unacceptable and wanted to speak with a supervisor.  He put me on hold for, like, 20 minutes before coming back on to say that he spoke with his manager and would change my mom's flights without any additional charges.  Why did that need to be so difficult? 

It looks to be a picture perfect weekend here.  Weather back in Scottsdale will be 105 which I suppose is typical for this time of year.  I think they passed a record last week, in that the previous record for the total number of days where the temperatures reached 110 or above for a given year was 28.  They're at 29 and counting, and I can't help but be thankful that I wasn't there to experience that record.  I have been enjoying the weather here immensely and in a way it feels like it has energized me.  I'm a little concerned that my car, which is parked outside, has melted into a pile of metal and plastic.  I guess we'll cross that bridge when I get there tomorrow. 

There have been a couple of "interesting" news articles involving transgender topics in the last couple of days.  In one, JonBenet Ramsey murder ex-suspect and still crazy yahoo John Mark Karr said in an interview that he considered sex reassignment surgery as a way to avoid capture by police.  That'll do our reputation some good:

Onetime JonBenet murder suspect began gender transition
Bay Area Reporter - San Francisco,CA,USA
Karr explained that he researched laws that apply to transgender people in the United States and learned that it would be impossible for him to change the ...

Another news story is about a music teacher who is apparently transitioning from Female to Male in North Carolina:

Private School Keeps Transgender Teacher On Staff
abc11tv.com - Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville,NC,USA
Now he's speaking up for his children's transgender teacher. "It used to be that schools made teachers leave the classroom when their pregnancy began to ...

A third article indicates that there will be 2 new transgender characters in TV shows coming out this fall.  And, Brad Pitt is working with the brainchild of Nip/Tuck to develop a series about a sportswriter to decides to transition.  Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about when I mention getting involved in mainstream media.  :)

Onwards and upwards.

6pm:  I got a call late this afternoon indicating that the topic that the Oprah people have decided to focus on is trans teens.  I shall remain a bridesmaid (in this context, anyways) for the foreseeable future.
 

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today is mom's birthday.  She's 78 years old, and still going strong.  She's getting more frail, and she says she has shrunk by a couple of inches, and she's certainly feeling a few more aches and pains, but other than that she seems to be in a good frame of mind.  I hope any of us can be as hardy as she is at that stage of our lives.  Frankly, I don't envision living that long but then again, we don't get to choose that.  The key, I think, it to make the most of the time we do have knowing that we will all eventually run out of tomorrows.

As a culture I think we've got it backwards.  We spend our first 20+ years going to school and our next 40 years trying to make ends meet and building/keeping careers/jobs as productive members of society. We allow ourselves to forego our "freedom" until a time that may never come by falling into the trap that our life path is somehow inherently based on the same dead-end rat-race that everyone else has been lulled to accept as just the way it is.   We mortgage the promise of tomorrow for the practicalities of today and in the process, I think, we lose part of our soul.  There has got to be some in-between strategy to balance the two.  That is my path.

Somehow, we seem to cram actual "living" into the free spaces we can find in-between all the other things in our lives: our career, our families, our marriage, our complicated restrictive cocoon of roles.  All too often there are no cracks so it just doesn't happen - life becomes one long drudgery of making it from one day to the next.  That's not living.  That's existing.  For some, existing is good enough, although I would have done anything I could to escape that fate.  Why is it that something traumatic or profound has to happen in our lives to shake us from our complacency and to see life for what it is?  If we treat it as a chore, or as a fate that we cannot change, rather than as a precious gift to be appreciated and actually lived we'll have nobody but ourselves to blame when we get to a point where it's too late to do anything about it.  Anyway, I don't know how I went off on that tangent but my own secret wish as my mom blew out the candles on her home-made birthday cake was that we're all together again next year on this day.  I hope that's not asking too much.

Life has been fairly uncomplicated lately.  It's like I've been on vacation from parts of my interesting little world.  That's not to say there has been much extra time as it seems as though my days are as full as can be.  The good news is that part of that busy-ness is "me" time: running on the canal, spending time with family, meeting friends, enjoying the area.  That's about to change.  I head to Phoenix in a couple of days and one of my main goals is to make some decisions about all my "stuff".  I've rented a condo for 3 years and have already told the person who owns it that I won't be renewing the lease when it runs out in mid-September.  I have several options on the table but need to make a decision.  I hope that, by the time I leave on Tuesday I will have made some firm decisions so I can make the plans to actually make it happen. 

I'm also about to get into prime season for GLBT "stuff".  These last couple of months have been fairly calm but that, too, is about to change.  September brings Southern Comfort in Atlanta.  It brings Out and Equal.  It brings a National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Board Retreat.  October brings HRC Board Meetings, an HRC Business Council meeting, and the HRC National Dinner.  It brings a GLAAD Board Meeting, speaking engagements here in Rochester and in Seattle, and a number of other commitments.  I expect that ENDA will be introduced in early September, and we're hoping for some movement on Hate Crimes in the Senate, so there may be quite a bit going on.  All in all, I need to enjoy what's left of my down-time while I can.

 

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Have you had one of those days when you've been in a good mood, just jazzed at life, but you don't know why?  Today was one of those days for me.  I appreciate these days because they don't come around all that often, and its even twin - the bad mood day for no reason - is often lurking just around the corner.

It turned into a fine, early-autumn like day here.  As I drove home this evening it was a comfortable 65 degrees, and a large bright full moon was rising in the cloudless sky.  It's a refreshing change to the humid, 90-degree weather from these past couple of days.  And, it's a VERY refreshing change from the 110+ degrees we typically endure in Phoenix at this time of the year. 

I did a number of things that I think are indicative of my state of mind at the moment.  I bought a bike.  I enjoy bike riding and it's one of those things I've missed doing.  I found a used road bike for sale online and went to check it out this morning.  It seemed to be a good fit, cost less than $100, so I bought it and took it to the local bike store for a "tune-up".  I'm looking forward to getting it back and spending some miles on the road together.

I found some great bargains at the mall today.  I have a small wardrobe here and augmented it a bit: a $9 skirt from Anne Taylor, a $14 pair of slacks from J. Jill.  More than that, there's the inherent fun in spending a day at the mall, and in feeling as though you got a bargain.  I'm sure there are those who will dismiss this as silly or trite.  I don't really care - it's part of what I enjoy and I don't feel compelled to explain to those who don't get it.  I didn't spend much money and I had a very enjoyable afternoon.  It's as simple as that.

I went to the fitness center this morning and had a very good 90-minute workout.  I spent a little time visiting with my mom and my sister.  I spent some time at the local Barnes and Noble getting psyched about some of the things I'm thinking of doing, and some of the things I'm thinking of writing.  I'm feeling good, I'm happy with the outcomes of my surgery, I've lost about 20 pounds (I don't weigh myself so I can't tell for sure), I've been sleeping well, and I got my first paycheck in a couple of months late last week.  All in all, it was just one of those days where all the planets feel aligned; everything felt like it clicked.

It won't last long.  Now that I've gotten a little $$$ I have to send my ex-wife my monthly spousal obligation tomorrow.  That's the fastest way I know to deflate a good mood.  Only a year to go...

I'd like to comment on a couple of things:

First, the brou-ha-ha involving some transgender patrons at a popular nightclub in Scottsdale gets worse and worse.  I've discussed my feelings on this fiasco in the past, but somehow if there's something that someone can do to make things worse the people involved in this mess are doing it (read the latest events here).  The thing that boggles my mind, based on this article, is that Tom Anderson feels he can "ban" a group of people from his club.  If he were to say that he was banning African Americans, or Hispanics, he'd be slapped with lawsuits so fast it'd make your head spin.  What he's really saying is that transgender people who his door staff can identify will be banned.  How are they going to know?  Can you picture what would happen if they asked to check?  Or, if they prevented someone who wasn't trans from entering or going to the bathroom because they suspected that they were?  What a mess.

Second, I heard on Friday that the National Center for Transgender Equality is looking for a new Managing Director.  This is a surprising turn of events.  Justin Aronoff had been ably filling that role since March of last year and from everything I've seen and heard he's done wonderful things there  (the way we learned about his sudden departure was that email to him suddenly started to bounce).  Only a month ago he was the cover-story of the well-read local Washington DC publication Metro Weekly (see the article here).   In it, he says:

ARONOFF: My job is wonderful, so I'm glad that I'm here doing this. But my goal is to be back in San Francisco. I think the work needs to happen here, in D.C. It's really important that transgender people have a voice on Capitol Hill, and are here with the other national organizations to have a voice at the table. But I definitely prefer the vibe of San Francisco and the West Coast.

The last question the interviewer asks Justin is when he thinks he'll leave NCTE.  His response:

ARONOFF:  When I feel NCTE is sustainable, I'll feel I'm in a good place about leaving. But I certainly wouldn't dismiss staying here and filling Mara's shoes if she should ever go on to have a less stressful job.

Hmmmm.  That was fast.  Do you think the article had anything to do with his sudden and unexpected departure ?  I do.  I haven't talked to Mara (or anyone else, for that matter) but it's just a hunch - it seems more than coincidence.  If that is the case, it's a shame and I expect there will be drama about it.  He will be missed.  Anyway, if anyone is interested in applying the job description is already available online (see it here).

Simon manages a Trans Media Watch blog.  The purpose is "to empower fair-minded TV viewers to stop trans-bashing in the news media." This is important stuff.  I hope he continues to update it.  Speaking of media - a well-known talk show is planning to do a trans-themed segment in the next couple of weeks.  Stay tuned on that.

Anyway, it's almost 11pm and time to end this entry, and this day.  A new week starts tomorrow.  I want to go and enjoy a last few minutes of today before letting it go.
 

Friday, August 24, 2007

One of the benefits of having work-week again is a renewed appreciation for Fridays.  When I was taking time off earlier this summer one day was like another so weekends, or the anticipation of a few days "off" really didn't have much value.  Fridays always give you something to look forward to in the same way that Mondays always seem to come too soon.  Anyway, I'm glad it's Friday!

As I work I listen to music.  I work better with music.  I recently found the coolest website: www.pandora.com.  Once you indicate an artist you like it finds music from that artist and other similar ones and streams them endlessly.  I've heard the best music over these past few days, much of which I've never heard before and just love.  I've got a David Gray station, a Sarah McLachlan station, and several others that provide crystal clear, interesting listening all day long. 

For those interested in the broader topic of workplace diversity, one really good resource is DiversityInc.  It's a magazine and website that I've followed for several years, and has grown into quite the resource.  There is even a place to search for jobs at companies that stress diversity which is a big deal for many of us.  You can sign up for free daily updates, there's an area of free content that anyone can access, or for a fee you can access a broader array of tools and stories (they call it "Premium Content").  There's even a quarterly magazine that's part of the subscription package that is a good resource in terms of companies that are truly stressing diversity and inclusion.

Speaking of looking for a job, one tool that I use quite a bit that has proven to be very helpful for me is Dice.com.  It's mainly for people in technical roles (IT, Engineers, etc.) but I think there's broader opportunity there.  There are jobs for trainers, technical writers, and other roles that I wouldn't necessarily consider technical so don't let it scare you away.  The reason I like it is that it's geared towards contract/temporary assignments, or contract-to-hire opportunities, which is what I need in order to have the flexibility that I need.  This website is how I've found my last few jobs, and I get solicitations every single day about contract opportunities both locally and around the country based on my resume there.  You can search  by city, by skillset, or by any number of other criteria.  Anyway, for those who are looking for jobs - I highly recommend it.

Another website that I check every single day is Craigslist.  I look for things that are for sale (I just bought a tripod thru there).  I look at jobs.  I look for tickets to events I want to attend.  I helped my son get a place to live there.  I haven't put anything for sale there yet, but I expect that I will.  All in all, checking it is part of my day. 

I had hoped to get to the fitness center tonight but events conspired to keep me away, and now it's too late.  No matter, I'll do it in the morning.  My mom asked me to take her to visit our old neighborhood outside of Buffalo tomorrow so my mom, my sister, and I will make that pilgrimage.  I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, there's a glass of wine (or two) in my very near future.  And, for better or worse, here are a couple of photos from this week.


My bro, my mom, and moi.....


Me today....

 

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm starting my second week at work and the honeymoon still isn't over.  I'm still enjoying the work, the pace, the people I'm working with, my desk, the yummy soups in the cafeteria at lunch, the commute, and since I should get my first paycheck today I'm happy about the $$$ too.  All in all, absolutely no complaints yet other than the fact that it costs me $6.35 to park every day (but there's a covered indoor walkway from there to here so it could be worse). I have been half-joking that it's like the early days of dating - when you still look forward to seeing one another and you haven't gotten to the point where you want to gauge each others' eyes out yet.

Yesterday was the first day I didn't feel like walking wounded.  I mean, I've still got some stitches in my mouth and scalp, and I've got surgical tape covering incisions in other places that are all reminders that I'm still healing.  But yesterday was the first day I that I didn't stop at some point during the day and realize that I'm sore or feel a need to curl up and take a late afternoon nap.  In fact, I had been given the go-ahead to begin working out again at the 2-week mark so I spent an hour at the fitness center last night easing back into it, on the elliptical trainer and doing some tummy work.  I have a tendency to overdo things but I was careful and think I did just enough.  It felt good.

Mom arrived so we're all here - my brother, sister, me, and mom.  It won't last long, though, as my brother and his family are headed out of town for vacation (the kids start school here right after Labor Day) and when he gets back I'll be gone in Phoenix for a few days.  We're all going out to dinner tonight before we start scattering.  I'm looking forward to it and have my camera ready.  I don't know the next time we'll all be in the same place again.  My mom turns 78 next week so I enjoy the times we have and hope there are more in the future.

Since I've had other stuff going on lately I haven't been all that active in some of my advocacy efforts.  It's that balance thing again.  I've been able to keep up on my email pretty well, I think, but some of the external stuff will have to wait.  I've got HRC, GLAAD, and NGLCC board meetings over these next several weeks so I'm sure things will ramp back up again, but like most things I think some time away, or at least some down time, is healthy.  I had an HRC Diversity call earlier this week, and an Out and Equal Transgender Advisory Committee call yesterday but other than that things have been quiet. 

HRC is beginning to do some Diversity Training for its steering committees around the country, which is a good thing.  We've been talking about this for a year and a half and its nice to see that its finally actually going to happen.  The initial training will be in Phoenix sometime in the next few weeks, which I will of course miss.  They're also in the midst of a significant effort known as the "National Dialogue" where they've identified a number of diverse "communities" and they're looking to get some quantitative information on how people in these communities feel about themselves, how they perceive the various labels assigned to them, what their concerns are, etc.  The good news is that it's a very ambitious effort.  The bad news, at least from a trans perspective, is that the people they've been looking to to provide some direction in this regard haven't done a good job in providing it.  As a result the trans component is a concern and I'm scheduling some time to talk with the Chief Diversity Officer about it.  I'm also interested to see what they're planning to do with this data once they get it, especially if what they find blow the doors off some of the assumptions being made in terms of political interest, priorities, or identities (as I think it will).  Still working on that.  The fact that it's even happening at all is big change for HRC and I think this first go around will be as much a learning experience as a research effort. Stay tuned.

There have been some interesting stories in the media over these past couple of days.  The first is about the ongoing war between J. Michael Bailey (author of "The Man Who Would Be Queen" and autogynophelia advocate) vs. transgender "activists" and people concerned about true scientific methodology.  An article about it was printed in the New York Times on Tuesday (read it here) which put it back into the spotlight again.

It has given rise to several articles and I expect that the entire situation (the book, the "hostile" response from transgender leaders, the "science", the bigger picture) will be on the front burner for a little while. Somehow, Mr. Bailey seems to be portrayed as the victim here which is more than a little disconcerting. 

Academics, Transsexuals Try to Ruin Psychology Prof Over Book on ...
Lifesite, NY - Aug. 22, 2007
In his book "The Man Who Would be Queen," Professor J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University explained that a man's desire to be a woman is based on a ...
 
Doctrinal battles in academia
GetReligion, DC - Aug. 22, 2007
Bailey argued, in his 2003 book The Man Who Would Be Queen, that some men who desire to change their sex are driven by an erotic fascination with being ...
 
Can Professors Say the Truth?
Yahoo! News - Aug 16, 2007
The most impressive professorial truth-telling in my lifetime has been The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism (2003) ...

My own take away on this is that this book is not grounded in science in any way, shape, or form but that's not the real learning.  My father was a scientist and he would have laughed  this guy out of town, which is fine except for the fact that others are taking this fluff as fact.  They're using it to teach in psychology classes around the country.  They're purporting to explain every single transsexual person as one of two kinds of homosexual/fetishistic responses which is absolutely ridiculous.  This isn't anything new, and J. Michael Bailey isn't the first.

The thing that's new is that, for the first time, the "community" effectively and publicly defended itself.  In times past people could say this stuff without fear of reprisal because there was no coordinated, directed, credible channel of response so we were an easy target.  The fact that the J. Michael Bailey episode demonstrates otherwise is an indication of how we had gown and developed as a community, that you can't simply say what you want and expect to get away with it, that there are consequences.  That's as true for advocacy organizations, workplaces, political parties, and other groups as it is for individuals.  They must be held accountable for the things they do (and don't do).

That's a key word in my vernacular these days: "accountable".  I hold myself accountable.  I hold others accountable.  It seems that people want to say and do things, and not be held accountable, or a least to shift accountability to others (the word for that, in our language, is blame). Part of being adult is being accountable. That's just the way it is.

Another article is about the ongoing tax case in Boston where the IRS is trying to prevent a trans-woman from deducting her SRS from her taxes:

Transgender Tax Case Resumes Thursday
EDGE Boston - Boston,MA,USA
by Kilian Melloy Closing arguments in the potentially precedent-setting case O'Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue are scheduled for tomorrow, ...

The last article of interest hits closer to home.  It's about Susan Stanton and an open City Manager position at Tempe, AZ (read it here).  I'll have more to say on this in the future.  For now, it's a shame that rumor like this takes the form of "news".  I hate to give it more visibility than it deserves but I think this monkey will follow Susan wherever she goes which is totally, absolutely, ridiculously unfair.  In this case it didn't follow her to Tempe.  It beat her there - whether she ever intended to go or not.

 

Monday, August 20, 2007

Check this out.  The Eagles have a new song/video out in preparation for a whole new CD.  Way cool.  Somehow, it takes me back to their "Already Gone"/"Take It Easy" days.  It'll be cool if the entire CD is full of this stuff.  (see the video here).  As of tomorrow there will be a new Foo Fighters video there, as well, so it'll be doubly worth a visit.

As I strolled through Mendon Pond Park on Saturday, enjoying the day, I was listening to my little Apple mp3 player.  I have quite the eclectic mix on there.  There's some raw/angry music on there (Marlilyn Manson, Static-X, Drowning Pool, Ozzy) that appeals to my rawer/angrier/edgier side, often followed by something a  bit lighter and brighter (Dixie Chicks, Donna Summer, Billy Idol) to take the edge off.  Anyway, when I allow it to play randomly it makes for some particularly interesting combinations.

Speaking of music (but completely unrelated), there is a clip of lyrics from the most recent song by The Fray titled "All At Once" that has been sticking with me lately.  "Sometime the hardest thing and the right thing are the same."  Amen to that, brother.

I have been unable to do any significant amount of exercise since my surgery by doctor's orders, which is probably a good idea.  He said I could resume pretty much any activity after two weeks which is coming up in a couple of days.  I expect to wait until the weekend before trying to ease back into it.  I'm actually looking forward to that - as I've written before my frame of mind and my ability to get some exercise are somehow directly related.

My mom is flying into town tomorrow.  Her birthday is at the end of the month and she has been coming here to Rochester to celebrate it ever since my father passed away in 1998, and probably for several years before that.  It was during our gathering here to celebrate her 70th birthday in 1999 that the family was first introduced to Donna - I was concerned that the big unveiling would overshadow her birthday but everyone seemed to take it in stride.  Anyway, this will be the first time our entire family has been together in several years and I'm looking forward to it.

Still, we've all got comings and goings over the next couple of weeks.  My brother and his family are scheduled to head out of town on vacation next week - school starts for the kids during the first week of September.  I'm headed back to Phoenix over Labor Day weekend for a few days.  Somehow we'll all coordinate to do something special together.  It always seems to work out somehow.
 

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I don't remember the last time I had a weekend like this.  My soul has been lapping it up all weekend log.  I think the general sense of peace that I've been feeling lately is best demonstrated by the fact that I finally got a good night of sleep last night.  By the time I cracked my eyes open this morning it was almost 10am!  That kind of rest is almost unheard of for me, and I lay there for an extra half an hour just enjoying it.

I did push myself a little yesterday, so perhaps it's not surprising that I needed some rest.  It was one of those days that felt far more like early autumn than the dog days of August, with a few lonely white clouds wandering slowly across a bright blue sky, and high temperatures just slightly over 70 degrees.  It was a celebration of outdoors, and I took the opportunity to drive to a park not far from here where there are a number of trails around large ponds, and through wooded hills.  The drive out there, which is only a dozen miles from where I'm staying, is wonderful and in and of itself: rolling hills of ripe corn stalks, picturesque barns, sunflower farms with row after row of large ripe sun flowers bowing their heavy heads in the afternoon warmth.  It was a feast of greenery that's typical of Central New York, and that I have found I miss in other parts of the country where I've lived.

I did a fairly brisk walk, the highlight of which was probably a large doe that leaped gracefully out of the woods just 20 yards in front of me - across the trail and into the overgrowth on the other side.  I sat for a few minutes by an area full of lily pads, some of which were adorned with large white blooms, and fully grown cottontails at the banks of the glass smooth pond.  The entire thing took almost two hours, and I stopped at the Nature Center afterwards and chatted with a couple of the wildlife people there: one who had a large horned owl on her arm and the other who had a red-tail hawk.  They were magnificent birds, and capped a wonderful afternoon.  My sister and I went to dinner at PF Chang's and got that belated drink together - just a day late but oh so enjoyable.

Today has been a continuation of that slow pace.  I finally got up, washed my face, went to the local coffee roaster for a large cup of coffee, got the Sunday  paper, and found a place on the cool grass, in the shade on the front lawn enjoying the warmth that made its way through the leaves.  I read the paper, paid my bills, opened my mail, and chatted with my niece who invited me to a baby shower later this afternoon (I declined).  And, as I type this, I'm sitting in a bagel shop that's part of the local library in the center of town, enjoying a cookie and watching people stroll by - enjoying the day.

I'm still sore, but today is the first day I haven't had any pain relief and I'm doing ok.  My body finally feels as though it's over the effects of the meds/anesthesia and I want to keep it that way.  I like it when I'm in tune with my body, and it finally feels like we've gotten back in sync.  I'm taking a little time to look at some college courses I'd like to take, make a list of stuff to do this week, and enjoy the afternoon.  I'm strongly considering signing up on Matchmaker, so stay tuned on that.  I'll probably go for a walk along the canal later, and my niece and I may go to a movie.  We'll see how it unfolds, as I'm enjoying not having to plan anything.

All this probably sounds mundane to anyone reading it and it probably is.  Sorry about that.  I don't get to write these kinds of things very often as my life rarely slows down to these levels.  I'm enjoying allowing myself to enjoy it.  And, as I think about it, this is what I came back here for.  Tomorrow is Monday, and the work week starts again.  I have enjoyed savoring a weekend for a change, rather than planning how I can possible fit everything into it that needs to get done.  I expect to make these a regular part of my new balance.  I forgot how much I enjoy them, and need them.

 

Friday, August 17, 2007

I think I know myself pretty well.  I was driving home from work today and is struck me what's missing from my life every time I come here.  Friends.  It's not that I don't have family - I do and I love being with them and around them.  And, it's not that I don't have friends in the broader sense - I do and they are much loved and appreciated as well.  What I don't have is genetic women friends to do things with; I have come to realize that those times and those experiences and those relationships are among the truly important things in my life.  It's a big deal for me.

As I drove home from work, ending a very busy week, I thought how much I'd like to go out and have a drink to celebrate but the very next thought in my head was that there's really nobody for me to do that with here.  My sister has her family.  Other friends have their families and other obligations.  There's nobody I can call to meet at Starbucks, or go to a movie, or go shopping with.  I miss that already, and I miss the special friends with whom I have special relationships borne out of these kinds of things.

I'm not saying that to feel sorry for myself, as I'm not really all that upset by it (at least, not yet).  I'm sharing it because to realize our needs as people is one thing, and to do something about them is something else.  I plan to actively seek out opportunities to socialize and meet people so that, on future Fridays when I feel some sort of celebration or drink might be in order, I'm not at a loss for takers.

Like tomorrow.  Since I'm not up to working out quite yet I'm going to go for a nice long, brisk walk. It's supposed to be nice and fall-like here this weekend - the high tomorrow might now even make 70 degrees - and there's a thunder storm rumbling through as I type his.  I'll walk alone - with my mp3 player and my thoughts. 

Now that I think of it, it kind of reminds me of when I was growing up.  Some people whose parents are in the military call themselves army brats, and move from base to base to base through the course of their childhoods.  I was an academic brat, and our family moved every year based on whatever university my dad would be teaching at.  I went to 6 different schools in 7 years at one point.  We had the choice of making friends, or of being alone.  Thankfully, we usually made friends.  School was a good way to meet them, so I'll need to find something to replace the school component.  When we become adults many of the contexts for meeting people we took for granted as kids or young adults are gone so people have to find other social magnets to replace them.

Truly, I can't under-emphasize the social component of this journey for me.  Having friends, being able to be me around them, learning from them, sharing with them, those are truly the highlights of my days.  Simple?  Yes.  But oh so important.

It seems that every place I go there's at least one aspect of my needy little world in short supply.  In Charleston I can't find a job I'd want to do, and I've got some deeper social concerns there.  In Rochester I'm lacking girlfriends to do things with.  In Scottsdale I'm lacking a sense of family.  To be honest, it's nice to realize that I have these needs.  In the life I lived before Donna there were walls preventing me from feeling it.  Now, they drive me.  As much as anything has changed - that has.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

The question hanging out there - how to fix?  We shall see.

 

Thursday, August 16, 2007

You know how you see a bumper sticker from time to time that makes you smile, or at least catches your attention.  I saw one today with a quotation that keenly explains my cynicism about all affairs regarding government, people, and democracy.   It's a quotation by H.L. Mencken:

"Democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."

Amen to that!

Back in Scottsdale the mayor and a group of city officials met with the local GLBT group - the one I've had some issues with in the past - in hopes of explaining some of the horrendous recent gaffes that have unmasked the local government there for what it is.  They don't want to have to tolerate you, or protect you, or even make you feel all that welcome.  What they want is your money.  Anyway, the dog and pony show was staged as a cozy little press spectacle and was far too little far too late to mean anything.  It's little more than lip service as far as I'm concerned and the local headlines about it are laughable (read one of the stories here).  Given recent history, does anyone really think that Scottsdale gives a rat's a$$ about diversity?  Please....

I just finished my 2nd day on the job, and so far so good.  They seem to like me, and I still like them, so as far as I'm concerned we're doing great.  It's like the early days of dating, before you've had time to get to know each other enough to want to gauge each others' eyes out.  It's a pretty relaxed group - most people show up somewhere around 8 and by 5 in the afternoon the place is pretty much a ghost town.  Frankly, it's a nice change of pace to some of the pressure cookers I've been in before.  This company is one of the larger local companies, with facilities throughout Western and Central NY and I've scheduled meetings in Syracuse next week to meet some of my project team there. 

I'm 8 days out from surgery, and still has happy as a honey-bee.  I've got nothing but happiness about how things are turning out other than one small spot that hurts more than the rest and continuing digestive distress.  As with other surgeries I've had, there is a psychological component to it all that can't be dismissed.  It's interesting to see how all this is affected my own sense of myself, and how that continues to evolve.  I'll leave it at that for now.

I can't do any exercise until 2 weeks out from surgery so I've got another week before I can do anything.  If the weather holds I expect I'll go for a nice long walk this weekend.  That's not "exercise" in any kind of a strenuous sense and I think it'll do me some good. I haven't been feeling all that perky lately - with the physical recovery still ongoing, my time zones all confused, and the difficulty I'm having sleeping I'm far from my best.  I'm focusing on the issues at hand, though: healing, work, getting settled.  Things that aren't part of that threesome automatically fall to a lower priority.  That's just the way it has to be.

I was in bed by 8:30 last night which made for an extra long night of waking, tossing, and drowsing.  Somehow it all comes together by morning, though, and I'm actually feeling ok tonight.  For now.  That's not a complaint, mind you.  It's just a fact.

The next few weeks look to be busy.  I need to go back to Phoenix at some point - maybe over Labor Day weekend.  The following week is the kickoff for the NFL Season and my brother gave me his season tickets to the Bills home opener - I hope to get Elizabeth here for that.  The weekend after that is Southern Comfort in Atlanta.  A couple of weekends later is a National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Board Retreat in Washington DC followed by the Out and Equal Workplace Summit there as well.  The following week is the HRC Board Meeting, back in Washington DC, and their monstrously large National Dinner.  Weekends in October include a GLAAD Board meeting, and a speaking role at the Seattle HRC Dinner.  It's a good thing I got as much down time as I did over these past couple of months, as September/October are just crazy.

With that, I'll say goodnight.  The windows are open, the crickets are chirping outside, and it's time for me to wash up and try to get some sleep.  Somehow, I'm feeling pretty calm about things in my world right now.  As with most things - I'm sure it will pass.  :)

 

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's amazing how much better the world looks once you've gotten where you're going.  The plane issue was resolved - after an last-minute snafu in which we were all loaded and ready, but there was no pilot or co-pilot on board. Once that situation fixed itself we finally got off the ground, although most of us were too tired to applaud.  They also moved Day 1 at work from today to tomorrow - which is probably wise.  Now, I've got the balance of the day to catch up on things, get settled, and start on the right foot tomorrow.  All good, as I'm in a half-stupor at the moment.

As I sat in the airport, waiting for something to happen, I did a little sniffing online to see how people were feeling, or at least what they were saying, about the Presidential Forum event last week.  I'm not surprised to see that reaction with regards to the trans inclusion aspect of the event ran a range from bad to good and everything in between.  I expected that there'd be a broad range of reactions overall - not just from the trans community - about what was said and what wasn't said, about the quality of the questions, about the honesty of the responses, about who was in the audience and who wasn't.  I said it before and I still feel this way - I give HRC a lot of credit for pulling this together and making it happen at all. 

Anyway, a collection of online blog comments has been compiled at Transadvocate.com (see them here).  For me, since I still haven't had the time when I'm not on Percocet to actually sit and watch it, it's better than nothing.

Physically, I'm ok.  Not great, but not in pain or severe discomfort either.  It just goes with the territory, and sitting - whether it's at home in front of a TV, in my bed, or at an airport, is pretty much just what the doctor ordered.  Since I don't start work until tomorrow, I have one extra day to do it.
 

Monday, August 13, 2007

I had a doctor's appointment with Dr. Meltzer this morning to take out a few stitches and get the go-ahead to leave.  Although we'd all prefer that I have an extra few days of down time that's not in the cards so we'll make do as best we can with the cards on the table.

I'm still very puffy, but I'm really liking what I'm seeing.  We'll see how I'm feeling about it once it all settles down.  I expect it'll be one of those things where it'll get to a point where I think it's just perfect, hoping that it's done healing, but it'll still go down more.  We'll see.

9:45pm:  It's a good thing I don't believe in fate.  As I type I'm sitting in O'Hare airport in Chicago, and I've been here for over 3 hours.  On my last trip to Rochester the connection was delayed because they had to change the windshield on the plane as it sat there at the gate (how crazy is that?).  This time they've apparently got autopilot issues so the flight is delayed again - they can't say if or when they'll be able to fix it or swap it out for another plane.  Twice in a row isn't good.

Under normal circumstances I could probably take this in stride ok.  The fact of the matter is that I went to Dr. Meltzer's office today to have stitches removed, I'm 5 days after some significant surgery, I didn't sleep well last night, and I'm supposed to be at my new job at 8:30 tomorrow morning - so, I'm not very happy right now. 

12 midnight:  They waited another half hour before canceling my flight and there was a crush to service counter to re-book.  I'm at a Westin near the airport, booked on a 7am flight out of here - no luggage, 4am wakeup call.  Not good.  I need to get to bed - every minute of sleep counts. 

Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday 5:30am: Why do things that should be so simple get so difficult?  I got my 3 1/2 hours of sleep, made it to the lobby to catch the 5am shuttle bus to the airport, got here ok, only to find that the flight has already been delayed until 8:30 because of "mechanical problems" (it's probably the same friggin' broken plane from last night!).  To top things off, it just started pouring outside and there are bright flashes of lightening.  CNN just said they'd be surprised to see anything on time here for at least the next 3 or 4 hours.  My confidence that we'll be off the ground by 11, or even by noon, is not high.  As I splashed water on my tired face this morning in hopes of kick-starting my day I couldn't help but notice the pink, tired eyes staring back at me in the mirror.  As I said - it's a good thing that I don't believe in fate.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I have been thinking about the simplistic nature of the discussion on Larry King the other night and it reminds me why I turned off his last effort to talk about this, with Jenny Boylan, when Larry couldn't seem to wrap his head around the revelation (he asked) that she could actually have an orgasm.  The saddest part is that, although many of us who know better might find the questioning silly at best, I hate to admit that I think it represents the thinking - or at least the level of knowledge/sophistication in terms of trans awareness - of most people. 

The first question he asked Susan was to ask what her kids call her.  The second question was to ask is she's dating yet, and specifically - if she expects to be dating men.  A couple of minutes later he started a line of questioning destined to go down as classic in the illustrious annals of Larry King Live: 

KING: What was the surgery like?

STANTON: I've not had surgery yet. I scheduled it. I'm excited about it but I've not had it yet.

KING: Well, now I understand. You're a transgender but you haven't had surgery.

STANTON: Yes.

KING: So basically you're a cross-dresser?

STANTON: No. I think what's important is who you are, what's in your heart and what's in your head and not between your legs. And that -- the genitalia does not define you as an individual. So no, I am who I am. Unfortunately, in our society we do tend to define people in very binary terms. That's silly.

KING: Don't you feel funny with the wrong genitalia?

STANTON: Yes, it feels out of whack now. So maybe I'll have to have it corrected. But yes, and some people do and some people don't. I do.

KING: Not as a joke, you stand up in the women's bathroom?

STANTON: No, I don't. No, I sit down in the woman's bathroom.

KING: You do sit down?

STANTON: Sure. But I don't go in the men's bathroom because that would be inappropriate.

 

Double-Oy.  As painful as that is - there's more.  If you want to see for yourself there's a transcript of the show online (read it here).  

Thanks to my continuing recovery from surgery I still haven't seen the Presidential Forum that HRC did with Logo on Thursday night.  I've heard that the balance of the questioning dealt with same-sex-marriage which I think was a tactical mistake - the playing field is so much larger than that now.  I'm also hearing that not every candidate was asked a trans-related question as I had been personally assured would happen.  This would be a significant disappointment and I'll withhold further comment on that until I've had a chance to see it and consider it for myself. 

Speaking of my surgery, I'm continuing to recover.  The good news is that I don't feel horrible.  The bad news is that I don't feel great, either.  I need to pack today and I expect I'll get around to it at some point - later this evening.  I've spent the balance of the day resting, visiting, I took a walk to the store, and I made homemade waffles with fresh strawberries for breakfast.  It has been a wonderful way to spend a hot summer Arizona Sunday.   Things will get busy tomorrow.  I need to enjoy this down time while I can.

 

Saturday, August 11, 2007

If you've had any substantial surgery before you'll know that one of the side-effects of anesthesia and of the accompanying pain meds is that it tends to bring your digestive system to a standstill.  Getting that going again is part of the post-surgery recovery, and that's part of what I'm dealing with.  I don't really want to get into specifics, but right now that's my biggest complaint.  I can't tell you how happy I'll be when things are working smoothly again.  And, I'll leave it at that.

My big sister, Kate, is arriving today.  I wish I were more alert in terms of being able to socialize but we've been in this position before.  She has taken care of me before during some of my earliest surgery experiences, so it appears that some things never change.  I'll share that I'm not in too much pain, I'm swollen, and that the healing process is continuing slowly.  I'm concerned about leaving here in 2 days, but I'll deal with that obstacle at the time.  There's still lots of healing to do between now and then.

I watched Larry King Live last night, and learned some new words.  I thought I'd heard every variation of "transgender" but he used a new one - transgenderite.  I haven't been impressed with past shows dealing with transgender topics and found myself feeling the same way after this one. It's really frustrating to see stuff that seems to be so obvious and natural be twisted into something so seemingly complicated and difficult. I think the people they gathered as part of their panel generally did a pretty good job of trying to explain, but I wasn't surprised to see the questioning somehow make it's way to one of sex, sexuality, and whether or not Susan Stanton stands to pee. 

I haven't seen the Presidential Forum that HRC did in Los Angeles on Thursday, but I've been getting lots of feedback on it.  It is available online (watch it here), and I expect I'll watch it when I'm a little more alert.  I did see that one of the questions I provided was asked and I hope that's not the only one.  For those who might be interested, here are the "T-related" questions that I sent:

I, for one, am thankful that HRC was able to pull this historic event together and I offer them thanks and congratulations.  I've had a couple of people write to me to criticize, and although I certainly respect their opinions I think it's easy to miss the bigger picture here.  I continue to be amazed that a topic that was widely regarded as the key wedge-issue of the 2004 Elections has now become a topic on which ALL the major candidates are actively campaigning.  The fact that this event happened at all is testament to both leadership and the rapidly changing landscape of our country.  These kinds of opportunities are like big family events that can serve either to bring people together, or to fragment them. 

Were there any major revelations?  I doubt it, and anyone expecting otherwise needs to have their head examined.  None of these candidates willingly signed up for this to be fried.  I said at the beginning of this that I'm glad I wasn't the person choosing either the guest list or the questions.  There is bound to be unhappiness on both counts no matter what happens, so accepting that from the get go helps to assess what the event itself.  I expect it to be second-guessed to death and I hope that doesn't overshadow the accomplishment.

Not surprisingly, it has gotten a tremendous amount of press.  I particularly like Nancy Scola's comments on The Huffington Post, but there are any number of articles that might be of interest for the avid reader or the insomniac:

A Gay Presidential Forum in Prime Time
Gay City News
While HRC said it received over 3500 questions from community members, only two were put to the candidates. The forum received coverage in major newspapers ...
Celebs hijack gay ‘debate’ Gay Washington Blade
The Democrats' "gay debate" dance Salon
Dems Get Candid at Gay Forum ABC News
USA Today - Huffington Post
all 524 news articles »
 

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm home, and all indications are that the surgery went without incident.  Yaaaaay!  Here we are a couple of days later and I still feel as though I had been hit by a truck and I expect to be taking a couple of pills and lying down for a nap shortly.  I've got some definite sore spots, and some swelling that's worse today than it was yesterday, but all in all I don't have any significant complaints.  Anyone who has undergone any surgeries will know that these kinds of things can be emotionally and physically draining for quite a while, so I expect it'll be several more days before I feel anything like "normal".  Days 2 and 3 are typically the worst in terms of swelling, and that seems to be the case here as well.

Today marks my seven year anniversary for SRS, and it will certainly be a muted celebration of this milestone in my life.  For the first few years I chose to celebrate it quietly and alone, as it's one of those deeply personal milestones that seems to call for quiet reflection more than it does for celebration.  My night passed fairly quietly, which is a good thing, and I've found a few things to keep me busy this morning between bouts of laying down and regaining strength.

Larry King's show tonight is titled "Transgender World".  That sounds scary.  The description reads: "Men who have surgery to become women, women who become men. I go inside the world of transgender people. Tonight, 9 ET."  I hope it doesn't simply focus on surgeries, or on orgasms.  Anyway, I expect I'll watch it tonight if I'm sufficiently cogent.  I know that Susan Stanton is scheduled to participate.

Other than that I don't have much to share.  I'm in healing mode so I'm going to go and get back into bed.

 

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's almost 10:30 and the car will be coming any minute to take me to the hospital.  I wanted to write a couple of things before I go.

I had hoped to be able to attend the Presidential Forum in LA tomorrow but there's just no way.  It was an either/or choice, and I've been waiting on this so I made the decision that needed to be made.  Susan Stanton will be there, and as I think I mentioned in a previous post I've been told that each candidate will be asked a "trans" question.  I don't get Logo but I'm sure I'll see it soon. HRC has put together a PSA comprised of some memorable snippets from speakers at the National Dinner to be shown at the event, and a clip of my comments from 2004 will be included.

Speaking of Susan Stanton, she's doing an interview with Larry King for his program on Friday.  Barring any unforeseen calamities or celebrity meltdowns, she tells me it's scheduled to be broadcast on Friday.

Now, it's show time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tonight is the last night of my summer "off".  Things are going to shift into high gear again tomorrow.  I'm scheduled for some surgery tomorrow and I've spent the day taking care of last-minute details.  As the day progressed I couldn't help but feel as though I were preparing for a trip, or scurrying to get prepred in the hours before severe weather.  The day has been spent doing errand after errand: the bank, shopping, I got my hair colored, the post office, paying bills, filling up the car with gas, stopping by the Apple store to get the new version of iLife 08 that was released today, stopping by the dry cleaners, 45 minutes on the treadmill.  All in all - it has been a busy day and right now - at quarter to 11 at night - I'm finally sitting down to relax.

I'm not ready to share all the specifics of my surgery yet.  I expect that I will, but that will come at some future time.  I'm considering it as partly routine maintenance, and part upgrade.  What I will share is that it is sufficiently serious that I'll need to spend tomorrow night at the hospital, which is a first for me since SRS.  I mean, I've had some things done since then but I've always been able to go home that first night to recover.  Not tomorrow.  I have a feeling I'll be pretty uncomfortable for a few days and I'm mentally preparing myself for that.

My last day in Rochester highlighted this sense of "community" there that I've been talking about.  Before catching my flight Saturday afternoon I decided to go and spend a little time strolling around the Park Avenue Festival, an annual big deal there.  It's an arts and crafts fair that attracts upwards of 250,000 people over the two days to enjoy a couple of miles of street lined with artisan work, live music, food, and the general eclectic festive nature of it all (read a news report of it here).  The weather on Saturday was as perfect as perfect can be, so it was wall to wall people.  I had a great time.

As I strolled among the throng I heard someone call my name.  I turned to see a couple of gals who recognized me from a speaking event I did a couple of years ago, and I had a very nice time chatting with them as the streams of people passed by.  I'm looking forward to getting involved with the group there, and this was really my first opportunity to talk with someone about it.  After a few minutes we parted ways but I'm sure we'll be seeing more of one another as I get settled there.

As I strolled a little further I recognized someone that I worked with for several years there before moving away in 1995.  I approached him and said 'hi', and he seemed genuinely happy to see me again.  We reminisced over years gone by and established that we first met 19 years ago, when my son was just a little guy.  He told me about people that I worked with who are still around, some who have moved away, and even a few who have passed away. 

The point of sharing these two brief meetings is that I think it represents how comfortable I am there and how opportunities to reconnect with "community" can spring up out of nowhere.  I expect to have more of these interesting opportunities to reconnect with people I've known in the past.  And, I'm actually looking forward to some of that.

Then, yesterday afternoon, a friend came over so we could actually begin the process of doing podcasts.  I've got a nice little setup here taking up the space where my dining room table used to be, and she's got a background as a sound engineer and a musician so we're both geeky when it comes to some of this stuff.  We met in a round-about way and from our first conversations we realized that we had common interests and a common desire to build something fun and interesting.  She came over yesterday because we agreed that these kinds of things are much more fun and interesting to do if you have someone to actually do them with.  I think this is going to work out wonderfully and I find it all very exciting.  The road to this point certainly has been slow, and it reminds me of my transition in a way because once it got rolling it rolled like a freight train. 

Anyway, we laid some groundwork, we got the equipment up and running, and we generally had some fun for 3 or 4 hours while it rained outside.  I would so love to do that kind of stuff every day although I have learned from experience that as soon as you turn a hobby into something you do for money - something changes.  It's like having sex with a friend - it's never the same after that.  When the need to earn income or to build something that's commercially viable becomes part of the picture some of the fun goes away.  So, although I'd love to find ways to do this kind of stuff more regularly I'm cautious about it. Fun is the operative word here.

Between now and early next week, however, is this surgery, a few days of uncomfortable recovery, a long overdue visit from my big "sister" Kate, some packing, and a flight back across country to start my new job.  I really wish I could delay it by a few days so I can recover a little longer but I can't.  So, although certainly not ideal and I expect that I'll be far less than 100% that's what's on the plate right now and unless there are significant health issues that's what will happen. 

Well, it's almost midnight.  Anyone who has had surgery knows that one of the directions you get is "no food or drink after midnight".  I think I'll go and take a couple of sips of water and try to get some sleep.  I've got a few more errands to run in the morning before Dr. Meltzer's driver comes to pick me up at 10:30.  As I say, this feels like the calm before the storm.

 

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I hope this is what heaven is like.  It's a bit before 8am and the sun is already up.  I'm sitting on my sister's back patio and the still coolish sun is filtering down from a cloudless blue sky through a canopy of greenery.  My sister is quite the gardener, and the deck is full of potted plants of all sizes and colors - tomatoes, sun flowers, exotic looking fruit, ripe looking zuchini.  It's completely still, not even a hint of wind, and the sounds of birds and chirping of crickets are the only sounds (other than the clickety clack of my keyboard as I type).  There's a squirrel bounding along the power lines, silently, that looks like a gymnast carefully navigating the balance beam.  I have a cup of coffee, and if nothing changed I could be here forever. 

I was doing some thinking yesterday and I think I've come to realize why I needed to come back here.  In a word, it's community.  The one thing I always felt here - and I do mean that I actually felt it - was the still small-town sense of being part of something.  Last night I went for another of my runs along the canal into the Village of Pittsford and people were everywhere enjoying the fine summer evening.  There was live music playing in a bandstand on the other side of the canal and a couple hundred people were huddled around - in lawn chairs, on blankets, with kids.  I turned off my iPod to hear it for myself and they were playing "Stand By Me".  I chose to give that some symbolic importance in the scheme of things.

Couples of all ages were out strolling along the canal, hand-in-hand or pushing strollers with young children.  All the seats outside the ice-cream shop were filled with people munching on ice cream cones.  There were groups of people feeding the ducks, and a group of 3 men with big cigars sitting in chairs fishing in the canal.  It was a scene right out of small-town America where people came out to enjoy a pleasant summer evening together, and to actually be part of a community.  It struck me how much I miss that.  And, it doesn't surprise me now the realize that I need to be part of it if even only for a while.  I suppose it's part of my nature.

Some have asked me if I'm moving back here and that's not a simple yes/no question for me right now.  I've accepted a contract here and will be living here for the foreseeable future - most probably to be measured in some number of months (depending on the work).  I'm not moving any of my furniture here, so I'll still have a place in the Phoenix area and expect to be back there on a fairly regular basis to visit it.  Somehow, although the romantics among us like to say that home is where the heart is, the realist in me says home is where your furniture lives.  Go figure.

I went to see the "Bourne Ultimatum" yesterday, and it was great.  That's what I go to the movies for - some drama, a little humor, lots of action, characters I care about, and a boatload of fun.  It was very entertaining and I see why USA Today gave it 4 stars, the local paper gave it 9 out of 10, and most of the reviews I have seen have been glowing.  One thing I found interesting was that there were at least 8 (maybe more) trailers for upcoming movies at the beginning, and there were consistent dark themes among all these movies.  One was about a woman whose husband is apparently suspected of being a terrorist so he's whisked away without a trace to be tortured in some Middle Eastern country.  Another was about a group of FBI people sent to the Middle East to investigate somebody who blew themselves up and killed lots of people, and the team gets ambushed and kidnapped.  There were a couple of other dark movies centering on government corruption and other dark issues.  Frankly, I think those kinds of things are on the minds of lots of people these days and Hollywood is simply bringing them out in the open, to the screen.

I have a busy day.  I'm bringing some of my things over to where I'll be living while I'm here.  I bought some hangers for the clothes I brought, so I'll start getting that set up.  There is an annual Arts Festival down on Park Avenue this weekend that I'd like to spend a little time visiting.  I have a couple of errands to run, and then I need to be at the airport in mid-afternoon to make my 4:30 flight back to Phoenix.  If all goes according to schedule, I should arrive there just before 10 this evening.

The 7-year anniversary of my SRS will be this coming Friday.  That's amazing to me.  I'm putting the second part of "Trapped In Blue" online today that covers that period of my life.  I was reading it a little last night before bed and it still all feels like a dream sometimes - as though it all happened to someone else and I were just reading it.  If all goes according to plan I'll be healing from some additional "touch-ups" as I celebrate later this week.  My spiritual big-sister Kate, from San Francisco, is scheduled to come out to visit for a couple of days.  She was an integral part of my transition and remains a dear, dear friend that I don't get to see nearly enough.  I don't know how you can help someone get through these kinds of things and have it be otherwise.  She has babied me and nursed me as I healed from previous surgeries, so it will be almost like old times.

Onwards and upwards.

 

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The last few days have reminded me that the whirlwind pace I sometimes find myself living life is still there, patiently waiting for me, as I enjoy this brief summer respite.  I took care of details before traveling on Sunday, set my alarm for 3:30am to make my 6:30 flight on Monday, and got to Charleston in a torrential downpour.  Elizabeth's parents got 4 inches of rain in a couple of hours - it flooded some of their house.  I had a day to visit (Tuesday) before getting on the road yesterday for the 950 mile drive from Charleston to Rochester.  I pulled into my sister's driveway just before midnight. 

I really don't mind driving.  As long as the weather is ok, the roads are ok, and I've got enough music I figure that anything within a thousand miles is within a days drive.  Even at that, I've extended myself to do more but I find myself paying for it.  As I closed my eyes to fall asleep last night I could still see cars and trucks from all those hours on the road - through South Carolina, North Carolina, the mountains of West Virginia, and Virginia.  The green hills of Pennsylvania, and finally the New York State Thruway.  I really wasn't all that tired when I arrived so much as I was just tired of being cooped up in a car for hours on end.

The highlight of my visit with Elizabeth was a wonderful walk on the beach on Tuesday evening.  It had rained earlier in the day but the storms had blown off shore, so as the sun set it made some spectacular colors and shapes in the distance.  The tide was coming in, there were comfortable warm breezes, and we rolled up our pants and strolled along the short.  n a word, it was fantastic.  We stopped at the small Irish pub where we had lunch on Valentine's Day for dinner - which was equally as perfect.  All in all, although one day isn't enough to really do much visiting, I think we made the most of our time together.

Now I'm in Rochester and I'm taking care of details so everything is ready for me to hit the ground running when I get back here to start my new contract in 10 days.  It's hotter than usual here - over 95 muggy degrees - but I expect to be on the canal doing my run at dinnertime. 

I've been getting a ton of email over these past few days so if you've written and I haven't answered I apologize.  I'm going to try to catch up on things over the next few days. 

A few recent news articles seem to be worthy of some brief discussion (believe it or not - I have opinions on them):

The first:

Are sex change operations justified?
BBC News - UK
"I should never have had sex change surgery," Claudia MacLean, a transsexual woman told the audience at a recent debate organised by the BBC Radio 4 ...

I don't know about anyone else, but when I read this kind of stuff - when someone who has no clue feels both capable and compelled of making these kinds of sweeping sensational generalities it smacks of someone who'd be better served by either a) keeping their mouth shut or b) if incapable of that, sticking to topics where they have something constructive or new to add.  This sounds like the same re-treaded stuff that feminist Janice Raymond was dishing back in 1979 in her infamous manifesto The Transsexual Empire.  It's simply another example of a loud-mouthed feminist looking to grab headlines by declaring who is a "real" woman and who is not.  It's no secret that transphobia remains rampant in many circles of the so-called Feminist Movement (see an interesting article on this topic) so I don't see anything worthy of new attention here.  The good news is that these self-appointed guardians of womanhood don't get to make those decisions.  Somehow, the more I think about people compelled to make these kinds of statements the more the Feminist scene from Borat comes to mind (see it here). The operative word in that entire thing is "demeaning". 

The second:

Timing of transgender protection effort divides gay leaders in ...
Sun-Sentinel.com - Fort Lauderdale,FL,USA
An array of gay and lesbian leaders want the County Commission to add transgender protection to the Broward ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on ...

There's a person in the article that is worth mentioning.  Robin Bodiford is a lesbian attorney who argues vehemently that transgender discrimination protections should not be added because it would attract the attention of the religious right and that protections already passed on the grounds of sexual orientation would be at risk.  I have two things to say to this.  First, there is NO precedent for this kind of fearful argument.  Second, if you haven't got the stomach to stand up for EQUAL Rights for ALL, stay home.  The same as some of these Feministas feel compelled to act as gatekeepers of womanhood, there are also those who would act in a similar position when it comes to GLBT rights and protections, and who deserves them.  There are some who feel that the transgender community hasn't suffered enough, that we haven't paid our dues, that we're too small and that we make people uncomfortable (themselves included) to the point where we're a detriment. The good news, again, is that these people do NOT get to make these decisions.  News Flash: Just because you have an opinion and you might be loud about sharing it doesn't make you a decision-maker.   These kinds of myopic strategies do more harm to overall equality than they do good.  People need to see these kinds of things for what they are - FEAR.

BTW- I just wanted to re-iterate that there is a Transgender event in Ft. Lauderdale with Susan Stanton. 

The last:

Banned from a bar, Arizona transgender woman claims discrimination
The Advocate - Los Angeles,CA,USA
Human Relations Commission has called out a local establishment over their ban on transgender bar patrons, according to The Associated Press. ...

Needless to say, this hits close to home.  This event happened several months ago and I thought it had died out.  Apparently not.  Frankly, I wish it would.

If this were as simple as a group of trans-women minding their own business in a nightclub and being told they can't use the bathrooms that's one thing.  From everything I'm hearing, that's not what happened here. I'm hearing rumblings that some of these trans-women were harassing other patrons.  I'm hearing whispers that one or more of these women took part in a "Dude Looks Like A Lady" contest shortly before this incident.  Does anyone wonder why others would be uncomfortable around that?  I don't.  Being trans does not give free license to do or be anything you want with impunity, thinking that you can wield the "discrimination" card whenever it suits you.  You still need to respect others as you would expect them to do for you.  That's stuff you learn in kindergarten.

If the facts do indicate that this is a clear-cut case of discrimination, then I'm all for ensuring that justice is served.  Hang the club owners out to dry.  If, however, there are other agendas involved that will ultimately indicate otherwise then that will make me angry.  I work hard to overcome all the outdated stereotypes and that kind of boorish behavior would simply  reinforce them.  Either way, I think it underscores our need to act with a sense of dignity and respect - both towards others and towards ourselves. 

 

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I haven't had a Saturday like this in a long time.  I haven't felt pressured to do a single thing.  It has been one of those days that I've been able to do whatever - from start to finish.  I was originally planning to meet a friend for dinner but we've postponed that until tomorrow so today it's just me.  I climbed Piestawa Peak again.  I got my hair done.  I loaded a bunch of software onto my iMac, and brought it up to date.  I returned a little email, and did a little shopping.  All in all, I've missed these kinds of days.

I cheated on my hair people in Austin today.  Don't get me wrong - I still love them as much as ever.  It's just that I desperately needed something done with my hair and I don't have the time or the money to make a trip to Texas to do it.  So, I typed 3 words into Google - "Cute Haircut Scottsdale" - and I made an appointment with the first stylist that came up. Her name is Lisa, and she did a wonderful job.  She was fun, had a great smile and a really good energy about her.  When you use such unscientific methods like that to choose your hair stylist you've probably got as much a chance as being unhappy as being happy.  In this case I'm happy, and I'll be back there in a couple of weeks for a color.

When I buy a new music DVD I find that I typically obsess over it for a few days.  Such is the case in my most recent purchase.  I bought "An Evening with the Dixie Chicks" a couple of days ago at Best Buy - it was only $12.99  - and I think it's my best purchase for less than fifteen dollars in a long time.  I'm watching it as I type this, and it's probably the tenth or eleventh time I've watched it (I've lost count).  The first five or six songs are spellbinding, and although they're all incredibly talented musicians I can't tell you how much I enjoy watching Natalie Maines (the lead singer).  She's got a unique style and look that I find simply captivating.  I've decided that I want to meet her someday.  This DVD is from a performance where they played every single song from their "Home" CD, followed by a few of their more notable early work.  And, if I may be so bold (and totally un-PC), the audience is full of the prettiest, hottest, most yummiest gals you could imagine.  All in all, I'm loving everything about it.

I leave on my next adventure bright and early on Monday, to Charleston, so I've got one more day before things get complicated.  The main purpose of the trip, as I've mentioned, is that I absolutely need to get my car from there to Rochester so it'll be there when I go back to start my new job in a couple of weeks.  It has several side benefits, in that I get to spend a day with Elizabeth and the kids and a couple of days visiting in Rochester before I have to head back.  Of course, there' a thousand miles of driving in there as well, so it's certainly not all fun.  But anyone who has followed my adventures for very long will know that I have no problem taking long road trips so it's no big deal.  At least it's not December.

For those who might be interested, I'll be posting the 2nd part of "Trapped In Blue" sometime in the next day or so.  It has been nearly a year since I published the first installment, and I'm ready to share the next piece.  For those who are unaware as to what this is, my book originally started as a collection of emails, journal entries, and thoughts from throughout my transition.  I decided to share the raw documents as I think it gives a much deeper sense of what was happening.  I haven't edited these things, I don't have the time or the inclination, so there's lots of mundane day-to-day stuff but I think that actually helps to provide the bigger picture of everything that was happening.  Anyway, when it shows up today or tomorrow I'll update my web page about it (see it here).
 

Friday, July 27, 2007

Happy Friday!

I don't envy HRC with regards to the upcoming Presidential Forum that is being planned in conjunction with LOGO, to be held in Los Angeles on Aug. 9.  Everyone will have their own idea of what questions to ask, how it should be done, who should be in the audience, who the moderators should be, and any number of other real and perceived issues surrounding this event.  It seems to be a thankless task although I, for one, think they're doing a great job working through it all.  If you could see what's happening in the background as I do I think you'd feel the same way.

One of the key questions I have been asked is who gets a ticket to the event?  It's being broadcast live from a small television studio and as you might imagine there are lots of people who want to be there.  I've seen the breakdown of how tickets are being allocated, and all I can say is that I'm glad I'm not the one making these decisions. It's like throwing a wedding for someone from a large family, and having a small place for the reception.  Someone is going to be unhappy about not being invited.  I provided some names of some grassroots activist transpeople and I expect at least one if not two will be invited.  I found out late today that I've got a ticket reserved in my name, which is certainly a tremendous honor.  I'm still not sure how someone like me who never imagined getting involved politically, or at all for that matter, gets engaged at this level but here we are. 

What about the questions?  Who is deciding what gets asked?  You do.  We all do.  There's a website (go there) that allows you to provide questions, so feel free to share your question if you've got something specific on your mind.  I was approached to provide trans-related questions and invited people - both through this blog and through personal outreach - to provide their thoughts and I want to thank everyone who responded.  This is larger than any one or two or three of us, and it's important to be sure that as many of our voices and concerns as possible are heard.  I share Monica Helms' feelings as articulated in this morning's Washington Blade Letters (read it here).

I have been told by people who would know that a decision has already been made that each candidate will be given a "T" question (their words, not mine).  When I sent my list of questions this morning (the deadline was noon), part of the response I got back was that they particularly "like the more general ones because it requires them to be more forthcoming."  I agree.  I don't really feel like sharing my list of questions yet, but I expect I'll do that at some point before the event.

I'm sure I'll have more details to share as it gets closer.  I just wanted to let people know what's happening, and that I'm feeling good about it so far.  Onwards and upwards.

 

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What is the line between good-natured humor and intentional antagonism?  How far can or should someone push the line before they cross it?  Where's the boundary between "Ha ha ha, I'm trying to be funny" and "You're an ass!"  And, what's the point of getting angry or upset about it vs, shrugging it off when the line gets crossed?  Those are all questions on my mind this evening. 

I really don't plan to get into specifics of my unhappiness right now, other than to say I'll get over it.  It's probably just my hormones at work, anyway.  There was a time when this kind of stuff would have made me incredibly angry.  I was really good at angry for many many years.  Angry and I were good friends.  These days I guess I'm more disappointed than I am angry.  I expected better.  Shame on me.

Speaking of shame, the case of the trans-woman in Boston who is suing the IRS because they disallowed her deduction for SRS got underway yesterday.  This case is a big deal for any number of reasons.  First, listen to the lead attorney in the case, Jennifer Levi, as she discussed the implications on Joe Solmonese's XM Radio show The Agenda this past Monday - on the 7/23 show (listen to it here).  Then, read about how the first couple of days went (read it here).  Now THAT makes me angry.  I hope this judge sees what is happening and smacks the IRS down hard - calling out the obviously hateful mindset and tactics.  Yeah, right.

And, speaking of stupid - Scottsdale (the city where I live) has been doing some pretty bone-headed things lately.  I don't know that the intelligence vacuume includes the entire city council, or if it can be localized to the mayor.  Either way, Scottsdale has been doing whatever the opposite of diversity is for quite a while now and it's finally getting called on it.  There was an incident last year when a local night club owner had an issue with some transwomen patrons.  Then, the mayor was supposed to proclaim June GLBT month but decided that she really didn't want to do that so she declared it Diversity month.  There have been a couple of gay-bashings at clubs, and some other insensitive remarks.  (See details here).  This is the same mayor who wanted to deny a local restaurant a liquor permit because she didn't like the name.  "The Pink Taco".  It'd be like watching the 3 Stooges fall all over each other if it weren't so sad, or so important.  It kind of makes me want to run for office. (Just kidding)

I had to make some difficult decisions tonight regarding things I can and can't do over the next couple of weeks.  I absolutely need to get to Charleston so I can drive my car that's sitting in Elizabeth's driveway the 900+ miles to Rochester so it will be there when I start work in mid-August.  Also, I've got various details to arrange there, and then I'll need to get home again.   After that - I'm having a relatively minor procedure done during the week of Aug. 6 so I need to be back in time for my pre-op, and for the surgery itself (actually, it's significant enough so that I'll need to spend a night in the hospital - something I haven't done since SRS).  Then, I need to heal to a point where I can get back across the country and start my new job less than a week later.  I guess that will signify that my "down" time is over.

Trying to coordinate all that with the blackout dates for my frequent flyer awards and all the other various flight options I was considering was quite the task.  The fact that I've nailed down a plan is a testament to patience as much as it is to planning.  Still, it's nice to have a game plan in place.

On the topic of surgery, my little niece Kyrie has some surgery on her legs this past Monday.  She walks with the help of leg braces, and they've been trying to get her legs strong enough so they can cut some tendons in the hope it lets her legs straighten out so she won't need the braces anymore.  I talked with my sister today who tells me that the surgery seemed to go well, the doctors was great, and that Kyrie is home and is almost her usual self - other than the fact she'll be bed-ridden for some period of time and have casts on her legs for 6-8 weeks.  My sister sounded as relieved as she was happy - this has been hard on her. 

Thanks to those who have provided questions for me to provide to the folks arranging the presidential Forum in LA on Aug. 9.  I'll be sending them off tomorrow.  Some people I had hoped to hear from didn't respond to my requests which is certainly fine.  I guess we'll see what ends up getting used.

 

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's 8am and I'm sitting at my gate in Philadelphia, waiting for my flight to Phoenix.  I spent the night at Dr. McGinn's house - it was great to have the opportunity to finally spend some quality time together - and we left early just in case there were traffic issues.  Thankfully, the drive was uneventful so I've got some extra time to chill before my flight.

It's a bright, sparkling morning here so weather shouldn't pose any delays or problems.  Come to think of it, the weather has been amazing for this entire trip.  I went for a run yesterday on a track at a high school near Michelle's house.  It was a gorgeous day, and this track was made of some kind of spongy substance that made it feel as though you were almost bouncing along as you ran.  It was really cool.  I ran 3 miles on it in the warm, bright, late morning summer sunshine and could have run a couple more except for the fact that I ran out of time.  It was energizing....

The article on Fortune.com came out yesterday ('Trans'-forming Corporate America), as did the 2006-2007 HRC SOW Report and the Understanding Transgender DVD (see the press release here), so I've gotten quite a bit of email in the past 24 hours.  I'm thrilled to be able to play an active role on the workplace side of things - it has been the driving force of my advocacy energies since my earliest days - and it's nice to see our issues and the progress we're making getting this kind of incredible visibility.  I don't think any of us are naive enough to believe that things in the trenches that each of us face in our workplaces are quite as universally rosy as these metrics might indicate, but at the same time I'm happy with the general direction of things.  These kinds of cultural shifts don't happen overnight and the saving grace in this, as it is on so many of our issues, is that time is on our side so patience and continued vigilance are key.

I have a few general community service announcements to share today.

First, if people have questions relating to the trans community that they'd like to have considered for the GLBT Presidential Forum in Los Angeles on August 9 please feel free to send them to me.  I'm happy to forward them along to the people organizing the event. 

Next, there will be continued interest in the ongoing case where a trans-woman in Massachusetts is suing the IRS to be able to deduct her SRS expenses on her income tax (read a NY Times article on it here).  One of the groups representing her is GLAD (not to be confused with GLAAD)  and they sent me an email about it yesterday:

GLAD will be doing a daily blog update on the O'Donnabhain case.  We're kicking it off with an interview with Jennifer Levi, one of the team of attorneys representing Rhiannon. 

You can follow this blog at: http://blog.glad.org

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I mentioned a trans event being planned for Aug. 3 in Ft. Lauderdale.  I've gotten specifics of the event - titled "Equality For All - A Town Hall Dialogue on Transgender Issues".  Susan Stanton, and others, will be part of a panel discussion being co-sponsored by an impressive array of national and local organizations.  If you live in the South Florida area, can make arrangements to be there, or have friends there that you can encourage to attend, it's important to have a good turnout  to support this important event. (see details here)

Although I've really enjoyed my trip - it seems like it started weeks and weeks ago - I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.  As I've shared before, that's one of those simple pleasures that never gets old.  I was talking with Elizabeth the other day about the concept of "home", and although where I live doesn't feel like "home" to me I do miss my bed.  Some might say that home is where the heart is.  For me, home is where my bed is. 

 

Monday, July 23, 2007


The HRC contingent at the White Attire Affair in Washington DC. 

My friend Michelle and I went to see the movie Hairspray tonight.  I had a blast.  I can't remember the last time I saw a musical, or a movie in general, that was as fun, as interesting, and as catchy as this.  If you're looking for something fun, with a positive message, then you'll do well to consider this movie.  You won't regret it.  RottenTomatoes.com gives it a 94% rating which is the highest I've seen for any move (see more here).  I wouldn't be surprised if I end up seeing it again sometime soon.

The visit here to the Philadelphia area has been wonderful so far.  I went for a run yesterday afternoon after I arrived to chase away the cobwebs from the late-night partying on Saturday.  It was a sparkling summer day here, and 4 miles of road was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Then, a group of friends including Christine McGinn and her partner stopped by for a cookout.  Christine has started doing SRS here in the Philadelphia area, and I expect she'll quickly become a major player just as Marci Bowers has done.  She told me I can provide her contact information to anyone who wants information: papilloncenter@aol.com.

Michelle Angello (who I'm staying with here) is a dear friend.  Some may know her as a psychologist from the Philadelphia area, although I must admit I've never met anyone quite like her.  We have been coordinating some exciting things from afar in recent weeks but reached a point where we really needed to spend some time together - part of the reason for my trip here - so we took the better part of today working through it all.  The good news is that we had a very productive day.  I've been having similar discussions with Christine, and will be spending tomorrow afternoon and night with her, as well.  These are truly exciting things, and I expect to have quite a bit more to share about it all very shortly. 

Some may remember that my major in college was TV/Radio, and I'm still very much a video geek.  The fact that video and computers have come together in this digital age make it all the more exciting to have a background in both.  I'm jazzed about opportunities to upload video to the web for a variety of purposes -  both educational and fun - so you can expect to see some here shortly.  As far as I'm concerned, the easier that is the more I'm likely to do it.  I bought a neat little gadget today - on sale at Circuit City - that's the simplest, smallest video camera I've ever seen (see details here).  I expect to use it to capture stuff I do and see in my day-to-day existence.

The HRC State of the Workplace Report comes out tomorrow.  HRC has loaded the Transgender DVD that we created onto their website:  www.hrc.org/transgender/dvd. You can watch it online there, or request a copy of the DVD to be sent to you.  If you believe, as I do, that this is a valuable and timely resource feel free to write them to let them know (email HRC).  If you have other comments - positive or negative - feel free to write as well.  Feedback is important.  Telling our stories is crucial, and having this kind of support and visibility is amazing. 

The goal of the video is to start the discussion, not to be the be-all/end-all.  I think the key is to provide opportunities to meet us and to talk with us in person, so if this video provides additional opportunities to meet face-to-face and share our stories it will have served its purpose well. 

Lastly, for those who might be interested, the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta had completely sold out their room block but I'm told they were able to secure 20 more rooms.  If you plan to attend but haven't made your hotel reservations the time is now - before they're gone.  I had a discussion with Cat this afternoon and she said that 400 of the 493 rooms at the hotel are booked by people attending SCC.  That's incredible!

 

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm on a train, taking the 2 hour trip from Washington DC to Philadelphia.  I probably should be sleeping as I had a late night, but there's something oddly fun about watching the world go by thru the window of a train.  I can't even remember the last time I took a train anywhere (other than various subways and metros), so this has been a new experience.

The board meeting went well.  There was lots to discuss.  Hate Crimes.  ENDA.  The upcoming GLBT Presidential debate (actually, the word we're using is "Forum" as it's not a debate in the typical sense) in LA on August 9.  The elections.  The upcoming release of the State of the Workplace Report.  Some of our Foundation work.  Diversity.  The days, as usual were full.  Now that it's over, I think things went well.  There was some good discussion.  And, the general "tone" was positive and upbeat.

I have couple of items of particular interest to mention.... 

Each year HRC releases a document titled "The State of the Workplace" (not to be confused with the annual Corporate Equality Index Survey).  If outlines trends, issues, and general items of interest relating to GLBT issues in the workplace.  It gets quite a bit of press each year - a couple of years ago I heard a news item about it on my local FM station in Phoenix as I drove to work in the morning. I mention this because it will officially be released on Tuesday.  There were pre-release versions available for the board this weekend.

I don't want to steal anyone's thunder so I won't provide specifics of what it contains.  I'll wait for the official announcement.  Suffice to say that the biggest trend continues to be the surge in awareness and corporate policy support regarding transgender issues in the workplace.  I did an interview with a writer from Fortune magazine for an article about it (he says it will be available at Fortune.com on Tuesday).  We had a nice chat, and it's nice to see this topic get that kind of supportive attention.

Secondly, HRC is releasing the DVD of a Trans 101 session I did at Eastman Kodak a couple of summers ago.  They had copies of it available to board members, too, and although I haven't watched it yet I'm thrilled to see it finally come to fruition.  Thanks to everyone at HRC who wouldn't let this idea die, and who helped to make this valuable tool available.  The writer from Fortune watched it and says he thinks it was well done.  I'll find out how to get one and pass that information along....

Last night a group of us attended a local event called "The White Attire Affair".  It's to raise funds and awareness of HIV/AIDS in the African American community, and had over 1,000 attendees.  It was a blast, and the group from HRC (we were a major sponsor) included several members of the Board of Directors, HRC President Joe Solmonese, Chief Diversity Officer Cuc Vu, the the Diversity co-chairs from the Board of Directors (including yours truly) and the Board of Governors.  Everyone looked great, and by the end of the night we were all up dancing and having fun.  I offered to trade Joe my heels for his comfy looking white flip-flops, but his feet were too big for them.  Oh well.

When the first group of us left the party at 1am it was just moving into high gear.  There were some beautiful people there, and everyone I met was wonderfully friendly and fun.  Although we wished we could have stayed to boogey some of us were just dead tired.  I'll be honest - I'm not used to that kind of partying, and I'm paying for it this morning.  Not good.

Here are a couple of pictures:


The White Attire Affair in Washington DC.  What a blast!


The HRC Board Diversity crew, including Chief Diversity Officer Cuc Vu (3rd from left) and HRC President Joe Solmonese (far right)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Today is the anniversary of my Facial Feminization Surgery (in San Francisco - 7/21/1999), certainly a pivotal event in my life.  I had left a note on the island in the kitchen a couple of days before telling my wife where I was going and what I was doing, knowing full well that I would be making permanent changes that crossed a boundary that could not be crossed back.  So more than simply being a trip to have surgery it represents my last days at home wearing all the roles that David wore - husband, father, man.

In some real ways, it represents the day that my new life took root.  I say this not simply because it was a cosmetic procedure and I finally "looked" different..  As anyone who has been through it can attest, it is a profoundly changing experience.  Somehow, it's like there's a switch in your head that gets flipped that tells you that you can finally let your authentic self out.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - people who focus only on the physical aspects of these procedures are truly missing the biggest part of what happens.

 
Anyways, I don't plan any special events to commemorate this day other than this recognition of the impact it has had on my life.  I'm in Washington DC attending HRC Board Meetings, and I've got a full day ahead of me. 
 
I've been wallowing in nostalgia over these past several days.  On Thursday my sister, my oldest niece, and I drove the 80 miles from Rochester to Kenmore (a suburb outside Buffalo) to visit our old neighborhood.  We drove through brief torrential downpours, which were welcome considering the fact that I really don't see all that much rain.  Of course, living in it and seeing it every day can dampen the romanticism of it, but I thought it was actually kind of nice.
 
When I was growing up there was a family that lived 7 houses down from us that had 4 kids - they were the same ages as the kids in my family so we soon became friends.  Their mom was much cooler than our mom.  She let them stay up as late as they wanted (our mom made sure we were in bed by 9), she took them out for ice cream or other "treats" (we never got that), and things in their household were just much less strict than in ours.  We visited there as often as we could.
 
We have stayed in touch with their various families over the years, and their parents are still living in that same place - 7 houses down.  Two of their kids (of course, they're not kids anymore) just happened to be in town visiting so they invited us to stop by for lunch.  Now, of course, there are children and grand children involved so it's quite the extended family but it's nice to be able to reconnect with people from your childhood like that.
 
As we drove down our old street we were shocked.  The trees that lined the street, which had always been huge and plush and I'd say the most notable feature of the street, were completely devastated.  Many were gone.  Others were mere twigs of their former selves.  Apparently, they had an early-winter snowstorm last October that hit before the leaves fell from the trees so the added snow-weight destroyed EVERYTHING.  We were heartsick to see it, as it represented generations of growth.  Oh well.
 


Me, Kyrie, my sister Jude, and my nieces Rhiannon and Rachel


The house outside Buffalo where I spent most of my childhood years

 
We spent the afternoon talking about old times, catching up on new times, and generally having a very pleasant visit.  Then, I had to catch my late afternoon flight to Washington.

As usual I can't afford to stay at the hotel where most of the rest of the board stays so I'm staying on Mara Keisling's couch while I'm here.   I've gotten comfortable with that dynamic.  The meetings have gone well, and there has been much to talk about.  I truly do care about this organization and what it represents to me, otherwise I wouldn't be here putting in the effort and energy to be here.

I'm scheduled to attend a big party tonight - something that our diversity organization is sponsoring - that doesn't even get going until after 9pm.  Usually, that's when I'm starting to get ready for bed, not to go out.  And, I'm expecting to catch a train to Philadelphia tomorrow.  I'm actually looking forward to that. 
 

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

One of my nieces reminds me of my sister.  She's 16, and she loves to cook.  More specifically, she loves to bake.  As a teenager I use to come home from wrestling practice, needing to lose five or ten or twelve pounds in some short period of time to make weight, only to be greeted by the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, or cake, or something delicious.  Sometimes I had to leave - really.  To the movies.  To a friends.  Somewhere, because the smell alone would make me crazy.  The reason I mention it is because my niece is at it again, and the house is full of sweet smell of warm gingerbread.  Good thing I'm leaving soon...my waistline can't take this.

I'm sitting in the same place I was yesterday as I typed, looking out the front window of my sister's house.  We had rain showers yesterday evening and last night, and today is pleasantly cool and cloudy.  I saw some video of a dust storm in Phoenix that was pretty amazing  (see it here - click on the link that says Raw Video).  I also hear there has been quite a bit of heat lightening lately during the evenings.  All in all, I can't say I'm sorry not to be there right now.

Early yesterday evening I decided to do my run along the Erie Canal, from the center of Pittsford to near our old house in Bushnell's Basin.  It's about 5 and a half miles total, I seem to run it at least once during every visit here (at least, when the weather is generous enough to permit it).  Not surprisingly, every time I run it my mind is flooded with memories.  I remember running with our German Sheppard, Murphi, when she was just a puppy in the late 80's.  I remember running along there when my son was just learning to ride his bike, worrying that he'd drive right over the edge into the water.  I remember running along there many an evening, when swarms of teeny flying bugs would ambush unsuspecting runners and end up in eyes and mouth.  I remember when the beautiful park along Marsh Road, that now has a boat launch, several soccer fields, and a bunch of baseball diamonds was a stinky landfill.  I remember running and running along that stretch of canal through the years, often finding my mind wandering to my gender "stuff", never daring to imagine that it could possibly turn into anything more than fantasy.  Somehow, when I finish these runs I'm oddly at peace.  It's like going to the Fountain of Youth from time to time to take another sip.

I've said it before and I find it to be so true - there's something very important to me in maintaining touch with the past.  I know many of us seem to want to forget our pasts for any number of reasons, but in my own case I just can't do that.  My past is part of who I am, and to deny it is to deny part of me.  The important thing, I think, has been finding how I can integrate it in a healthy, forward-looking way.  Still, visits back down memory lane to visit places and people I've known at various stages of my life - although sometimes bittersweet - are important reminders of days gone by and continue to act as important anchors.

I've booked a flight from Buffalo to Baltimore late tomorrow, and my sister and I will take part of the day to revisit the neighborhood where we grew up in Kenmore (a suburb).  Some of our old neighbors from when we first moved there - I was in 2nd grade - still live there so we're hoping to be able to stop by for a visit. My nostalgic side seems to be a family trait, and I know my sister gets as much out of these kinds of things as I do.

My sister, my oldest niece, and I went shopping at Eastview Mall yesterday afternoon.  I had an in-person interview pop up out of nowhere for this morning and needed to buy something to wear.  I hadn't counted on this so I really didn't pack anything that I considered "interview" appropriate.  I bought a nice brown dress and a blazer - both on sale - that were wonderful.  It's funny to see how opportunity knocks at the most "interesting" times.  I found a role with an established company that seems interesting, seems to provide provide flexibility, and the money is good.  Really, I don't see any significant downsides at the moment other than the fact that it provides some significant logistical challenges for me.  Our initial phone interview yesterday went very well so they scheduled a follow-up face-to-face interview this morning.  My sister gave me a thumbs-up as I left the house, and I was feeling particularly good about things.  I met with two managers and a technical lead, and had as much fun with them in person as I did on the phone yesterday. 

One of the questions they asked is where I see myself and my career 4 or 5 years from now.  I told them I don't think that far in advance.  I know what makes me tick, I know I need some balance between career and other "stuff", I know that there are any number of opportunities that come my way from time to time.  Trying to guess where that will put me 5 years from now would be the same as trying to guess where I'll be a year from now.  Who knows?  I enjoy the fact that life continues to be like an interesting book, and sometimes I like to be as surprised by the plot-twists as any other reader would be.  Anyway, I felt things went well.

Apparently, they felt that way too.  They made me an offer early this afternoon.  Now, the only thing left is to work out is a start date which would most likely be sometime in early August.  If I take it, which I most likely will, I'll be coming back to Rochester for some period of time (this is contract work).  I have a place to stay here, which is a big deal in the scheme of things.  I have history here.  I have friends here.  Most importantly, I have family here.  And, if I had to choose one single place that represents home for me - this is it.  I didn't plan for it to work out this way, but here we are.

It raises all kinds of logistical challenges - I wouldn't move my furniture here and expect to maintain a foothold in the Phoenix area - but I've worked through these kinds of things before and can do so again.  What this tells me loud and clear is that I need to enjoy what's left of my down time as it will be over soon. The short term is far more packed with promise than it was yesterday at this time, and it seems as though a significant burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

Finally, on the trans/advocacy front, here are a couple of articles from the past couple of days that I'm finding particularly interesting:

A Culture in Trans-ition
PopPolitics - July 17, 2007
When HBO's "Entourage" made a transgender character the punchline on last week's episode, I cringed. Now, to be fair, "Entourage" could be described as a ...

Corporate America: The New Gay Activists
Huffington Post - July 17, 2007
...Corporate America is shaping up to be the most persuasive gay activists of the decade.
 

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's funny - I had to think for a moment what day of the week it is.  This little "vacation" doesn't have the traditional markers in it to immediately recognize whether it's a work day or a weekend so it takes a brief timeout to realize that today is Tuesday.

I'm in Rochester, NY today.  As I write this I'm sitting on my niece's bed, looking out of her second-story bedroom window at the front lawn and the street below.  It's one of those summer days I remember from my childhood - green, comfortably warm, no wind, sun beaming through the carpet of trees, sounds of people working on their lawns and on their houses.  It's wonderful.  There's something interesting about how things can connect you with your childhood again - a sound, a smell, a taste. 

I had an interesting experience in Cleveland yesterday as I was changing planes to get here.  We were supposed to board the flight at 2:45pm, but they came on the loudspeaker to say that they were having a mechanical problem with the plane and would give another update at 3.  At 3 they said they were continuing to have this mysterious problem and would have another update by 3:30.  Shortly afterward, they came on to say that they were having a problem with the windshield of the plan and would need to change it.  Change the windshield??  On a plane?  Does that strike anyone as odd?  Somehow, I envision one of those glass replacement trucks driving up and saying, "Oh, sh*t!" as they stared up at this big jet.  One person asked why they felt the need to explain it in that much detail, but we could see the plane from the window at the gate so it wasn't something they could hide.  Anyway, we eventually got off the ground and I made it here safely.

Rochester is a world away from Phoenix.  As we prepared to take off yesterday the pilot was giving a weather update.  "The weather in Rochester is partly cloudy, winds from the South at 10 miles per hour, visibility is 15 miles.  The current temperature is....." and he paused, obviously needing to look that up.  The man behind me continued for him, " 29 degrees."  A bunch of us chuckled out loud and nodded knowingly, because it's often chilly here.  Of course, when compared to the 115 temperature in Phoenix yesterday most places would be considered chilly, but the 75 degree afternoons here are wonderful when you're used to getting into your car and melting or burning your hands on the steering wheel.

This trip will be a mixture of a little business, a lot of visiting, and a pinch of pampering.  I'm headed out to get a pedicure later today.  My feet have been hating me ever since I made them trudge up and down mountains last week so this is my way of loving on them.  I think they'll be happy.  Then, I expect to go for a run on the Erie canal later this evening - something I did for years when I lived here.  I'm actually looking forward to that.

One of the challenges is that one of the family cars recently passed away so coordinating schedules to use the remaining vehicle is a constant juggling act.  Who needs to be where when, and how can we double up in the car to make sure it all happens as it's supposed to?  My little neice, Kyrie, is scheduled for some surgery on her legs next week in hopes of getting to a point where she won't need to walk using braces any more.  My sister is anxious about it - who wouldn't be? - so we're hoping to do things to keep her mind off of it as much as possible.  She's talking about coming with me to Washington DC later this week which I think would be a wonderful adventure.  Realistically, I'd be surprised to see it actually happen but it would be nice.

I'll tell you this - I expect to be back here.  There's something that keeps pulling me back, that I try to explain but never really do very well because I don't know that I can put it into words.  That's not to say I expect to actually relocate here permanently - partly because the term "permanently" doesn't really mean much to me.  As far as I can tell everything is temporary.  Part of my upcoming temporary adventures will happen back here, where autumn is a magical time, where quaint is more than a word, where community is part of the fabric.  Don't be surprised...

There were a couple of pertinent news events yesterday pertaining to the trans community.  Last week, the American Medial Association updated it's non-discrimination policy to include trans-people (read about it here).  This week, they came out in support of a Boston trans-woman battling the IRS to have her gender reassignment surgery included as a deductible medical expense.  Some may remember the beginnings of this story a couple of years ago (here's a blurb on it).  Things have been escalating, and it now appears as though it's headed to court:

Mass. woman sues IRS over sex-change tax deduction
Eyewitness News, RI - July 16
Rhiannon O'Donnabhain (O'-DONOVAN) is hoping to force the tax agency to treat sex-change operations the same as appendectomies, heart bypasses and other ...
        Woman sues US, wanting tax deduction for sex-change operation International Herald Tribune
        IRS denies sex-change writeoff Boston Globe
        all 120 news articles »

The heart of the matter is that the IRS has identified the surgery as "non-medically necessary" so it has denied the deduction.  Rhiannon insists otherwise, and her efforts are gaining support from some significant allies.  Stay tuned on this, as I think it'll be the next big trans-related news story.  The reason it's so important is her contention - one that I share, by the way - that "the ruling against her was rooted in politics and prejudice."  

Oh, speaking of politics and prejudice, my wedding anniversary would have been tomorrow.  It would be 26 years.  Wow.  I find it more than happenstance that my wedding anniversary and the anniversary of my FFS fall within the same week.  Go figure.  As Morpheus says in the Matrix, "Fate, is seems, is not without a sense of irony."

I'll keep this short.  I've got a phone call to make soon, and then I need to get ready for the day.  I'm here.  I'm with family.  And, life is good.
 

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I had a nice time at the TGHarmony meeting last night.  It's kind of nostalgic to go there, as I remember the very first meeting of the group way back in my most newbie days.  It has come a long way since then.  Thanks to everyone who was there - it was an enjoyable evening.

I got up this morning and made myself some home-made pancakes.  Yum.  Today is Elizabeth's birthday so I called her to say "Happy Birthday".  It's hard to believe that last year at this time we were in Chicago for the Gay Games.  Where has the year gone??  Oh well. From the sounds of things there isn't anything special planned to celebrate her day.  I wish I could be there to share it with her.  But I'm comfortable that I can't be in two places at once and that going to Rochester tomorrow is the most important thing I need to do.

As I type this I'm listening to the NFL channel in the background.  Sundays are for football, even after all the changes in my life, and I'm glad that they spend the day replaying the best games from previous seasons.  The difference is that I don't need to be glued to my screen to watch as I likely would have been in a previous incarnation. There's something comfortable about listening to it in the background that I can't explain.  The off-season is usually unbearably long, so it's nice to find something to fill that gap even if it's not quite the real deal.  The 2007 season will be here before you know it.  As a young kid I'd ride my bike to the local pharmacy every single day from this point on to see if the new season of football cards had come out yet.  It wasn't like today when there are dozens of different kinds that seem to come out the minute the draft is over.  There was only one kind, and I saved my money all summer to be able to afford to buy some of those magical packs.  Life was so much simpler then.

I've gone thru a process over the past few days of letting go of some of the relationships in my life.  There are a few people from back in Rochester that I haven't spoken with in quite a while but who, at one point, I considered to be good friends.  I called several and left messages about my upcoming visit there next week and haven't heard back.  I understand what that means and I suppose I'm more disappointed than anything.  There are also several people in my cell phone who have been friends for quite a while.  It has become obvious that, for one reason or another, some of those friendships have run their course so it's time to delete them.  And, I did.

I have a fairly busy day today.  Paying bills.  Cleaning.  Packing.  I'm meeting Dr. Becky and Margaux out for dinner.  I want to go for a run.  My flight leaves at 7am tomorrow and I'll be gone for ten days.  The trip includes stays in Rochester, Washington DC (HRC Board Meeting), and Philadelphia before coming back home next Wednesday.  This down time has been wonderful, and I'm ready to go again.
 

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I was planning to go hiking this morning before it got too hot, but I didn't wake up until 9:30.  That's nine thirty!  I can't remember when I woke up that late in ANY time zone!  I was in bed at a reasonable time - midnight or so - and it's not like I'm sleep deprived from the week.  I guess I'm just relaxed and whatever automatic mechanism that seems to wake me up at 6 every morning is allowing itself to become irrelevant.  Sheesh.  I better not get used to this, although this morning I can justify it to myself by saying that it's the weekend.  Anyway, it's already a hundred degrees so I'll have to do it tomorrow.

It's hard to believe I was on a trail in Montana last week at this time.  This past week is a blur.  I'm finally catching up on some things. 

I've got a story from our trip that probably makes sense to nobody but me, but in retrospect I've been thinking about it quite a bit so I'd like to share it.  No matter how hard I try to articulate this I know I won't be able to capture the essence of what I'm trying to express, but I'll do my best.  At face value, it's a pretty mundane story.  Those willing to look a little deeper, however, will see more.  Things take on meanings based on how we choose to perceive them, how we process them in the context of our life experience, our needs, and our understandings.  Many times in life we don't take the time to stop and think about things as simple as what I'm about to share.  Frankly, that's a shame.  Furthermore, I see symbolism in many things these days.  Anyway, here we go....

A week ago today Molly and I decided to hike the Scenic Point Trail.  We spent the night at the Two Medicine campground, at the end of Two Medicine Lake.  Since we wanted to get an early start we were at the trailhead by 8am.  The hike is listed in the guide as "Difficult'; the distance from the parking lot to Scenic Point is only 3.1 miles but after a relatively flat beginning it gains 2,300 feet of height over some rough terrain (I took some amazing photos from along the trail, but that's another story).

It took couple of hours of steep switchbacks, rocky slopes, amazing views, and windy trail before we arrived at the our destination: Scenic Point.  It was the very top of one of the peaks with a panoramic view overlooking the entire valley, and was so high that it was actually above the clouds.  It was a rocky summit, strewn with flat shale-type rocks leading to a steep drop off and there - at the very highest point of it - was a lazy Marmot sunning himself on a rock and watching the world go by.  He didn't seem to really care that we were there and, before long, a second marmot appeared.

We sat there on the rocky summit for almost an hour, taking photos, relaxing after our difficult hike, and just taking it all in.  Eventually, clouds started rolling in and overtaking the peak to the point that, by the time we started our hike down, we were engulfed by fog.  At the beginning of our hike what had provided a view of the entire world had now become a gray sea of clouds rushing  by, fueled by winds pushing them above and over where we were.  It was a very dramatic scene.

Anyway, as we sat there I noticed a particular interesting large rock on the ground nearby.  There were thousands and thousands of them all around us; a red shale kind of rock in various sizes and shapes.  This particular piece of rock was about 6 inches wide by 16 inches long by an inch thick, almost a perfect rectangle except for a bite-shaped chunk out of one of the corners.  On the face of this rock, part of it had ridges that you'd find in sand near the shoreline of an ocean while another part had definite gravel and rock sediment in it.  It had a unique sort of "personality" to it and Molly (she is a geologist) explained that the entire area had once been covered by water and that these rocks were from that time.  Her latest email to me estimates that they're between 1.5 and 1.6 billion years old!

As we sat there, this piece of rock seemed to gain some sort of symbolic connection to me, with it's variety of interesting contours, it's ancient history, it's experience of changing from being at the bottom of a sea to the top of a mountain, from being soft ocean sand to hard, red rock.  That day, what had originally been clear and provided a view above the entire world had become clouded in fog which seemed to symbolize how life seems sometimes. It was an interesting paradox of enduring, and yet of change. 

Our paths intersected that day at that place, and although any number of other people have been there and could have taken it and there were any number of other rocks I could have picked up to study, the fact of the matter is that one single rock made the drip down the mountain with me that day.  You could take this to be a metaphor about people - about finding one special person in your life.  You could take it to be symbolic of change, and how things that were once clear sometimes become clouded by confusion, or things that were once submerged can eventually break through the surface in time.  It could be symbolic of patience - that this rock waited over a billion years to come back down the mountain.

It also makes you think about the unique set of life events that brought me there.  If any number of things had or hadn't happened in my life, of if I had made other decisions, I never would have been there in the first place.  I'm not one to believe in fate, but at the same time I don't know how you all these crazy things happen in our lives if they're simply based on happenstance.  I find no small sense of irony in the fact that one of my father's main interests as an academic was Chaos Theory (there are nearly 1,000 Google hits on him for that) which is fundamentally about finding the underlying order in apparently random data or events. Chaos?  I think not.

This rock didn't choose to end up on that mountain, or in my backpack, or here with me today any more than I chose to be born physically a healthy boy, an American, or to my parents.  I didn't get to choose my gender, or the mountain of suffocating pressures I inherited simply by my birthright of having been born as male.   The difference is that I get to make choices about myself and my future, and the rock doesn't.  I can choose to be like the rock, to allow my future to happen to me, or I can choose to direct it.  Given chance or my own efforts, I'll put my money on me every time.

All I ever wanted out of my transition was to be Donna.  To live life as any other person.  To fit in, and to escape the stigma that automatically comes with being perceived as different.  I don't think that's really asking too much.  The irony is that I've come to realize that, although that path was open to me and was there for the taking it's not what I really wanted after all.   The fact of the matter is that I'm not just like everyone else, and neither is anyone unless they choose to allow it.  I think it's a serious problem that we accept the mindset that the status quo involves living out the balance of your life simply trying to make it from week to week, submerged in responsibility, accepting the notion that being part of the greater good is somehow our own good, as well.  The false prophets are complacency, the fragile pretext of security, and the anticipation of ultimate reward.  Many of us know what I'm saying is true, but become resigned to a belief that there's nothing we can do about it - like the rock.

When you really think about it I think you'll realize that to break free from the common is to transition, in a whole other way.  It is to overcome your fears and doubts.  It is to choose your destiny rather than to allow it to be chosen for you.  It is to take control of decisions made for you and that you made for yourself but have long since outgrown, and to refocus the direction of your life.  It is to infuse your psyche with excitement, with hope, with energy, and with purpose.  It is to risk everything, to leave your comfort zone, to throw caution for the wind.  In short, it is to choose to live rather than to allow life to happen as a spectator, an unengaged participant, or a victim.  

The rock at the top of that mountain is all of us.  Thousands and thousands of them.  The difference is that we can choose to stay there, to hope that someone will find us and bring us down, or to realize that we have the legs to make it down ourselves.  Although we have a million reasons to convince ourselves otherwise, or to put it off until some other day, the fact of the matter is that the biggest barrier - as it most often is - is us.  To dare to dream is to dare to break away.  Well, the day I stop dreaming is the day I stop living.  Hopefully, that day will not come any time soon.

Why am I thinking about this?  Because I'm at a decision point: What comes next?  I've got a mountain of responsibility on my shoulders and I can choose to seek and accept simpler, more traditional answers to address them.  Or, I can find my legs and have faith that they'll lead me where I need to be.  The key in all of this is time - that's the kicker - and it's ticking.  To choose to be different is to accept the fact that there are consequences, to realize that when our society encourages people to be different it doesn't really mean it.  Well, we'll see. 

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm still not used to being at home during a workday.  I don't know that I'll ever get used to this, although I suppose people can get used to pretty much anything.  I'm meeting my son this afternoon to do a couple of errands together, I've got a conference call for Out and Equal a little later, and I expect to make it out to the fitness center at some point as well.  The rest of the day is being spent writing letters, catching up on phone calls, and investigating career opportunities on the Internet.

I have a couple of significant political items to discuss today. 

The first is that the first ever presidential candidate debate on GLBT issues will be held in Los Angeles on August 9.  It's being arranged by HRC and Logo television, and it has garnered significant visibility since it was announced yesterday.  Here's a small cross-section of the coverage:

GAY FOCUS IN DEMS' DEBATE

New York Post - Washington DC Bureau

Logo, Viacom's Gay-Lesbian-Transgender Cable Network, To Host Democrat Debate

News Busters

Logo airing Democratic debate on gay issues

Variety

Pride at the pump: Fueling discrimination?

PlanetOut.com

Presidential hopefuls to participate in gay TV debate

PinkNews.co.uk

Democrats to debate LGBT issues

GaySocialites.com

Democrats will attend forum on gay issues

Associated Press (AP)

Leading presidential candidates to discuss LGBT issues on Logo network

Advocate, The

Dems to Participate in Gay Debate

NewsMax.com

The Presidential Debates Just Got a Little More Fabulous

California Majority Report

Democrats to hold Gay Debate

Willamette Week

Democrats to Debate at Gay and Lesbian Forum

Lone Star Times

HRC, Logo to host candidate forum

Associated Press (AP)

The Gay Debate; Thompson's Troubles; Edwards, Clinton and Obama

Atlantic, The

The First Gay Debate

CBN News

Clinton, Edwards and Obama agree to participate in historic debate on LGBT issues

PageOneQ

Dems Sign On for First ‘Gay Debate’

Truthdig

Clinton to participate in gay-issues forum

Politics on the Hudson

Obama, Clinton Go Gay For Debate

Queerty

Leading Presidential Candidates to speak at televised LGBT forum -- are we getting our place at the

After Elton

Presidential Candidates In First Ever Gay Debate

365Gay.com

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards to participate in forum on gay issues

AfterEllen.com

HRC to sponsor presidential candidates' forum

Southern Voice

This is absolutely, totally huge.  It was less than 4 years ago that many believe gay rights were successfully used as the wedge issue to determine the last presidential election outcome.  The political winds have changed significantly since that time, as demonstrated by the fact that the leading Democrat hopefuls have already signed on for this historic event.  As The Atlantic article states, "It suggests that the Democratic presidential candidates either no longer believe gay rights is a real wedge issue, or that they don't care anymore -- gays deserve rights."  I think you'll be hearing quite a bit about this in upcoming weeks - both positively and negatively.

Secondly, we've been waiting patiently for the Hate Crimes bill to be introduced for a vote in the Senate (where it is known as the Matthew Shepard Act).  It was passed by the House a couple of months ago by a vote of 237 to 180, and the heat has been turned up in recent weeks as it waits for a vote in the Senate.  This legislation is supported by 230 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations and a significant majority of the American public.  I find it inexcusable that opponents are trying to refocus the discussion from one of violence and hate to one about freedoms of speech and religion. One recent example is a print ad against the bill recently appeared in the Capitol Hill Roll Call (see it here), which was met with a quick response in support of the bill (see it here).  HRC's simple but effective video in support of the bill is the most viewed video they've ever created (watch it here). 

I received an email addressed to HRC Board members this morning with some potentially exciting news: 

Today, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) filed the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the FY 08 Department of Defense Authorization bill currently being considered on the Senate floor. The vote could come as early as today; however there is a chance that it could also slip to later in the week.

As you may recall, the Senate last voted on hate crimes legislation in 2004, when a Kennedy-Smith amendment to the FY 05 Department of Defense Authorization bill passed by a broad, bipartisan margin of 65-33. We are hopeful that the Matthew Shepard Act will be just as successful this week.

Today’s action is just one of many steps toward passing this legislation. Now is the time to keep the pressure on and call your Senators, or Senators you have a personal relationship with, to let them know how important the Matthew Shepard Act is.
 

We're coming down to crunch time.  Stay tuned...

It seems as though so-called "gay" stuff is everywhere.  Hate Crimes.  Employment Non-Discrimination. Religion.  Gay Marriage.  The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.  Mainstream magazines and media.  People using the "f" word and making themselves look like ignorant idiots. Visible people coming out here there and everywhere - almost every week.  I don't know how the presidential campaign can tiptoe around any of this. 

When I went to the movie last week I saw a trailer for a new Adam Sandler comedy coming next week about two straight guys pretending to be a gay couple to get domestic partnership benefits for their families (see the trailer here).  It sounds pretty creepy, and I don't know if it's politically correct to admit that we think it's funny (one young girl asks her dad if he's a homosexicle), but I have to admit that if the movie is half as funny as the trailer I'll be laughing out loud for the entire thing.  I mentioned it at the GLAAD Board Meeting a couple of weeks ago knowing that it could probably get pretty bad and they said  they had been involved and aware - there's an online interview with Damon Romine, Entertainment Director for GLAAD, about it (read it here). Still, it cracks me up.

Speaking of movies, I went to see the Pixar animated movie "Ratatouille" yesterday (see the trailer here).  It was wonderful, and as usual Pixar did a magical job of crafting a story that was visually stunning that carried a universal message that was pertinent to movie-goers of all ages.  I think each of us watches these kinds of things through a lens tinted by our own experience and beliefs and as a result the impact can be both unexpected and powerful.  Watching Remy try to deny/channel/control/hide his inner passion for cooking, and the knowledge he was more than he appeared to be, simply because of his reality of being born a rat had obvious symbolic meaning for me. Others in Remy's life had no clue as to how to deal with his unique situation, and his own father teetered on the brink of rejection simply out of ignorance.  Thankfully, this movie had a happy ending.  I only wish other, real-life adventures had similarly happy resolutions.  As many of us know from personal experience, we're not there yet.
 

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm starting to download the photos I took during our trip to Glacier into my computer.  I'm sharing 8 of them here to give a glimpse of what made the trip so special.  It truly is magical place, and although I doubt my photos do justice to the scenery I'm pretty happy with the way they seem to be turning out.  These photos are pretty raw - I haven't retouched them in any way yet other than to shrink them to fit here - so what you see is what you get....


The view across Lake McDonald thru the early morning mist.

Approaching Hidden Lake from Logan's Pass

Mountain Reflections

The sky, the cliffs, and the crystal clear water at Hidden Lake

A panorama of wilderness

Above the clouds, touching the sky


Molly took this one of me - I like it.


As I made headway yesterday through the pile of email, return phone calls, logistical planning, and general stuff that piled up while I was away it became abundantly apparent that I was back in the "real" world.  The good news is that the seeds that were planted while I was away continue to percolate, and all I need to do is to close my eyes and take deep breaths to get back there.  The bad news is that the memory will fade with time.

I think I'm going to put together a bit of a multi-media DVD of the trip including perhaps a hundred photos, some voice commentary, and a couple of other touches that I've been considering.  That'll be fun.

It has become apparent to me that the resource that is most constrained in my world these days is time.  I necessarily need to spend a significant amount of time tending to my career, where I am an hourly Information Technology Consultant.  I'm paid fairly well - for my time, my experience, and my ability - and that allows me to do other things in my life.  The revelation at hand is that I have those same things to provide for our community - time, experience, ability.  Instead of looking at them as two separate and always competing efforts finding ways to align them has been the struggle.  I've found what I feel to be some viable opportunities to do that, which seem to me to be win-win endeavors and that haven't been done before to the level I'm envisioning.  I'm still in the process of formalizing what that will look like, but I'm also at a point of beginning to share some of what is cooking in preparation for rolling out a proof-of-concept effort.

I've spoken with a number of respected friends in our community facing similar challenges of having to balance other efforts with opportunities to provide more direct support and outreach.  Elizabeth.  Jamison Green.  Michelle Angelo, a psychologist from the Philadelphia area who is amazing.  I plan to continuing doing what I've always done here at my website, but also to offer an expanded array of services for those who need/want that.  We're talking about setting up regular hours where others can call and we can talk directly to provide support, guidance, or simply a friendly voice on the other end of the phone - a chat line, for lack of a better description.  We're talking about establishing web video connections.  We're talking about doing group support that could involve guests on any number of important topics, and archiving them online as ongoing support tools.  We're talking about creating a number of video tools.  All in all, there's quite a bit on the burner at the moment.  This a whole new tier of service and it's very exciting.  I know that the need is there.  The question at hand is whether the market is there, as there would be costs involved.  I suppose time will tell.

Anyway, more to come on all that.  As always, input is appreciated.  Just be forewarned that if you write to me, I'll write back.  :)

 

Monday, July 9, 2007

I'm back from my wilderness adventure.  It was incredible.  I'll never forget it, for a variety of reasons.

There's nothing like getting away to the vastness of the mountains to help put things into perspective.  It's simply amazing - I can't even find the words to explain how insignificant all the day-to-day issues that seem so large suddenly seem when surrounded by that.   I was reminded of the movie "Jeremiah Johnson" more than once, where Robert Redford's character becomes disillusioned with the world after the Civil War and retreats from civilization to live in the mountains.  As I sat on a ridge on the far side of Hidden Lake - the only sound being the wind and the distant rush of water falls, taking in the peace and the seemingly endless grandeur of it all - I could understand that.  I'll have to admit that coming back to "reality" is taking a little bit of time...

I'm not sure how much of the trip I want to share.  We drove from Oregon to Glacier Park on July 4, and somehow I don't think I'll ever forget driving along Flathead Lake at 10pm, with it still being a little bit light outside, watching fireworks going off all around the lake.  We stopped for a bite to eat at a 24-hour diner in Kalispell, MO and marveled at the fact that the 800 miles of driving had passed so quickly and easily.  It was a blur at that point.  By the time we got to our campsite in Glacier National Park it was after midnight, and as I crawled into my sleeping bag after setting up the tent it was 1am.  I was pooped, and it was pitch black - I mean, it was darker than dark.  The last thing I remember was Molly clicking photos of the carpet of stars in the amazing Northern night sky through the tall pines.

Our days were long ones.  We were up between 5-6am every morning, we filled our days with hiking and climbing, and by the time we drifted off to sleep it was usually near midnight.  We spent our 3 nights there in 3 different campgrounds, and I'll admit that one of my main excitements leading up to this trip was simply the camping part.  Camping has changed quite a bit since the last time I slept in a tent as a high school senior more years ago than I care to remember.  At the time tents included two poles, stakes in the ground, ropes, and they were triangular in shape.  New tents these days are far removed from the tents I remember.  The same is true for sleeping bags.  The sleeping bag I bought at REI reminds me of something from 2001: A Space Odyssey more than the square, boring, puffy sleeping bags I remember from my youth.  And, one staple I remember from camping was Tang - the drink the NASA astronauts used.  We didn't bring any Tang with us.

We did allow ourselves a few luxuries.  Molly brought a small Coleman propane stove so one of the first aromas of the morning was often coffee.  Thank God.  We had a delightful pasta dinner one night, and enjoyed a bottle of Cabernet until the mosquitoes got too thick to sit still for more than a minute.  One evening we stopped at a restaurant outside the park to soothe our tired bodies with an ice-cold Margarita, and we took an opportunity to take a warm shower at a nearby KOA campground.  Other than that, though, it was pretty primitive.  Tent.  Thin sleeping pad.  Sleeping bag.  Day pack.  And, lots of photography.  It was amazing in that regard.

The weather was spectacular.  Thankfully, there was no need for the rain gear and I don't think we even saw a cloud until our last day.  The high temperatures were pretty stifling - late afternoon was at or near 100 on our first couple of days but fell dramatically 20 degrees or so on Saturday.  We saw all kinds of wildlife: from big horn sheep to goats to a big black bear that came out onto the trail and walked along it before disappearing back into the thickets not more than 20 yards in front of us.  As I say, no matter how much I try to describe of it I'm bound to leave something significant off - so, suffice it to say I don't have a single complaint.

After we left the park we drove 250 miles to spend the evening with some dear friends in Helena.  They took us out on their boat and the sunset was as spectacular as any I've seen in a long time.  It felt a little odd to get ready to fly home yesterday - doing my hair and putting on make-up for the first time in a week.  All that stuff just isn't important in other contexts - I think it's pretty interesting.  Anyway, I got home late last night (my luggage decided to take a bit of a detour and is scheduled to arrive this afternoon).  And that's that.

I expect to post some photos of the trip here once I have a chance to download them.  There are a couple hundred of them and I'm happy to burn them to a CD for those who have never been to Glacier, or who have been there and want to relive it through my camera lens.  One of the things I'm coming to appreciate is the opportunity to do so many amazing things, and sharing them with others who don't have those luxuries for whatever reason is important.  I expect to be documenting more of these kinds of things in coming months to share with those who want it, so stay tuned on that.

Lastly, I spent time each day to retreat into myself to do some thinking.  Actually, it was more like soul-searching than thinking in the typical sense.  It seems like it's so easy to get caught up in the flow of our lives that opportunities to pause and examine ourselves from a more detached, unemotional perspective get lost so they never happen.  I took time to sit on sun-drenched slopes with warm mountain winds melting snow all around me, to connect with my emotions, my needs, my fears, and my dreams.  As I consider what comes next, where to go, what I need that I'm not getting at my deepest levels, and how to address those deeper needs - some of the answers become obvious to me.  Other things remain question marks.  And, I'll move forward with what I know while still asking the difficult questions about what I don't.

I went through a similar process during visit to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon in 2004, during a very confusing and difficult time for me.  Financial issues, career issues, competing priorities, relationship questions, future direction needs, and a pile of emotional debris that was a mountain high - they were all part of that volatile package.  If I were to dilute the results of that introspective effort into a single word, it would be "Simplify" - it was a message that became absolutely and totally apparent to me.  And, I did.  I let go of many things I had been doing that I realized I didn't need to be doing - that were only burdening me.  I let go of things that had been important to me at one point in my life but that I had outgrown, or that had become unhealthy based on how my life was unfolding for me.  I ended up leaving Dell, moving here to Scottsdale, starting fresh, and to setting some new courses.  I don't know that I've gotten to a point where I can express all my thinking over these past few days into a single word or phrase - it's still too fresh and complicated for that.  I expect the end result will be as profound as last time, however.  And, I'm ready to do what I need to do with confidence and a sense of purpose.  Even the hard things.  That's the thing....so often we know the answers.  Whether we want to accept them or not is a whole other issue.  But knowing the answers and doing the things that need doing with a sense of peace can be difficult.  Some never get there.  My suggestion to them would be: go to the mountains (symbolically, or really).  I assure you, it will help.

Now, I'm back and trying to get caught up on things that have piled up while I was gone.  I'm supposed to go to Hollywood tomorrow to see an advance screening of the movie "Hairspray".  I don't know that I'll make it - we'll see.  I'm talking at our local support group on Saturday evening so if you're here in the Phoenix area and want to connect with us let me know and I can provide details.  And, next Monday I'm headed to Rochester, NY to spend a little time with my sister and brother and their families before heading to Washington DC later in the week for the summer HRC Board Meeting.   My niece, Kyrie, who is truly an incredible inspiration to me will be going in for some surgery later this month so I need to go and pour some loving on her before it happens.  And, I need to help my sister keep her mind off things.  Maybe we'll do a road trip to DC together.  That'd do the trick, I think.

So, onwards and upwards.  More to come on all fronts.  I was recently watching something about Bob Dylan.  He said, "As an artist, we need to be constantly in a state of becoming.  I was born far from where I was supposed to be, so I'm just finding my way home."  Hallelujah.  I can relate.  I wouldn't have it any other way.   :)
 

Monday, July 2, 2007

I'm riding the wave of one of those emotional jags that seems to come out of nowhere from time to time.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as part of my efforts over these "down" weeks is to do some introspection and self-analysis and somehow that often becomes an emotional process.  That, plus the pressures of the instability (what next for work?  where to live?  what about my deeper needs?) I'm facing right now add up to an interesting cocktail of emotions.  I actually appreciate these times.  Rather than fight them, I yield to them as they remind me of the sensitive,  human side that's always there, just below the surface. 

I find myself being particularly sensitive and vulnerable in that things I wouldn't expect to have much of an emotional impact on me can send me to the verge of tears.  For example, I watched a bit of the Concert for Diana yesterday to celebrate what would have been her 47th birthday.  Somehow, although I've never been caught up in what I'd call Diana-mania she embodies a sort of unique innocence and a life tragically and uselessly cut short.  She was selfless in so many ways - they showed clips of her visiting AIDS patients at a time when the illness continued to have such a horrific stigma, and impact.  And, I envision how her kids must feel at losing their mom and how she's missing out on watching them grow up  Anyway, I enjoyed watching the concert as it was quite the walk down memory lane (Duran Duran, Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, Elton John, Tom Jones, Bryan Ferry a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Weber) but there were a couple or three heart-tugging emotional moments in there for me.

A friend forwarded me a video clip this morning that had the same effect, only more (watch it here). And, there have been a couple of other things that somehow send me there.   I can't explain why.  One thing I've never been able to get past is all the hurt in so many of the things that have happened.  I mean, we compartmentalize and deal with all the hurt and sadness simply because we need to do that to survive in our day-to-lives, just to get through  them.  I wonder how much of that is really getting passed it and how much is simply relegating it to an exile in some deep, dark, cavern of ourselves - as far from our emotional receptors as possible.  Sometime, things will remind us that it's there - the hurt, the innocence, wondering why bad things have to happen, feeling sorry for ourselves and for the people in our lives.  It all wells up as sadness, and it wants to come out.  It's healthy, but it can be hard.

Speaking of sadness, I received an e-mail from Equality Texas today.  Rather than try to explain it here, I'll simply provide it for you to read (read it here).  It breaks my heart that this kind of horrific stuff happens.  No wonder we can't get past all the senseless pain sometimes.  Oddly, it's terrible news like that that makes me realize the value in the things we do to create awareness and to get support.  Brutal tragedies like that need to spur change.  They need to have an impact that lasts beyond today, or tomorrow.  This demonstrates that the effects of hate crimes never go away.  They linger and fester, transforming lives, killing innocence, end eventually becoming too much to bear.  This victim was only 18 years old - can you imagine what he had to endure??  If there's any question about the need for Hate Crime protections these kinds of senseless, brutal crimes make the answer an obvious one.  Unfortunately, that won't help David Ritcheson.  Read some of what has been written: (one is here, here's another, and a third).  The single word that comes to mind to describe all of this is "Tragic".  Keep David Ritcheson in your prayers.

On the awareness front, there are some significant events coming up.  The HRC South Florida steering committee is working with a number of co-sponsoring organizations (the GLCC of South Florida, the Transgender Coalition, Equality Florida, and GLSEN) to do a Transgender Town Hall in Ft. Lauderdale on the evening of Friday, August 3.  It will be held at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of South Florida and will feature a panel talking about transgender issues.  One particular notable feature is that It will mark the Susan Stanton’s first South Florida appearance since her firing by the City of Largo.  As other panelists are announced I think it will attract significant visibility, so if you live nearby or can get there please mark it on your calendar, and tell others about it.  It's important to have a strong showing there.

This may be my last entry for several days.  I leave tomorrow morning to meet up with my friend Molly in Oregon, and we embark on our 13 hour road trip to Glacier National Park on Wednesday.  I'm planning to unplug for several days - no computers, no cell phones, no nothing - to get some much needed rest.  I mention this so that if you write to me and are waiting for a reply you'll know what's happening.  I fly back here on Sunday and I'm very much looking forward to this trip.  It's sort of out-of-character for me, which is what makes it such a good thing in the first place. 

Until next time...   
 

Sunday, July 1, 2007

There was an article in the paper, written by the Associated Press, titled "Iranian law gives advantages to men".  It says that "Iran's penal code is strongly influenced by interpretations of Islam that favor men over women" and provides some examples:

I share this for a couple of reasons.  First, I sometimes wonder if being transgender transcends culture.  That is, if people who self-identify as transgender (a need to express themselves in gender atypical ways) would still feel that way in a culture where gender is expressed differently.  If I self-identify as female because my sense of myself is more aligned with the roles, customs, and expectations of women in the particular culture where I live culture would that necessarily be true in a culture where those norms are different?  I tend to think not.  Perhaps even more interestingly, if we decide that the way a culture expresses masculinity and femininity plays at least some role in this dynamic, then would someone who doesn't self-identify as transgender in their own culture then feel transgender in ours?  Although I doubt there's a way to answer these questions due to the simple fact that I don't think there are any one or two or three reasons any of us feel this way that hasn't stopped my mind from wondering.  I'm inquisitive like that.

I also question whether identifying yourself as transsexual necessarily means you need to transition, or that surgery is the end goal.  I find that mindset very disturbing but in a culture based on binaries I understand how it happens.  Someone recently asked me if I thought it had become easier for people to transition in the last 5 or 10 years and the answer is undeniably 'yes'.  Resources are much more plentiful.  There are more "role-models" than ever before.  Culture is slowly changing to make life a little easier for some of us.  But I think all this progress is a double edged sword.  Lowering the barriers and making it easier to transition doesn't necessary equate to living happy, fulfilling lives.  I'd like to think it does, but I know better.  That being said, however, I don't think that's a possibility for many of us.  That's the biggest curse in all of this.  We won't be happy living unauthentic lives trapped in a world we didn't choose, but we can never find fulfillment in the world we feel should have been ours in the first place (for a variety of reasons).  Pick your poison.  I think the key is to make your decisions on whatever works for you for whatever reasons are pertinent to you, and to be comfortable with them.  That's the hard part. 

The main reason I'm as comfortable with myself and my life as I am is that I've become comfortable with my decisions.  I have been incredibly fortunate in any number of ways, and if any number of things had been different I don't know that I would have made the decisions that I did.

One question I've been asked that I truly can't answer is whether or not I would have felt compelled to go all the way if my wife had been more accepting, and if we could have found a way to integrate opportunities to express that part of me that was Donna inside the life we had built.  I honestly don't know the answer to that, although I know I certainly would have tried.  Sometimes I envision being able to make that happen, but sometimes not.  Other times I envision making promises of things I would or wouldn't do only to break them time and time again as I searched for my answers.  The point, however, is that this can be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't proposition and I often find myself ending up exactly where I am.  I just took a little different path to get here.

Sorry for being so introspective today.  I probably had a little too much sun.  I went hiking early this morning before it got too hot.  Later, I sat by the pool for an hour to read the paper and get a little color.  The temperature was 104 by noon and it's probably no surprise that I was the only nut at the pool - people stay out of the sun when it's like this around here.  I was trying not to overdo it, but I'm getting pinker by the hour so I may have stayed out a little too long. 

You know those Geico commercials featuring the Caveman?  There are a couple that make me laugh every time I see them (here's my favorite).  Speaking of YouTube, here's another video I'm enjoying at them moment (see it here).  And, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago several of the cellphone video clips from the Police concert here in Phoenix have made their way online (one here - this person had GREAT seats!, here's another, and another, and a last one). Cool stuff.

Oh, and lastly - there's a lengthy article about Marci Bowers in the Denver Post today (Trinidad's Transgender Rock Star).   I think you'll be hearing more about Dr. Christine McGinn, another soon-to-be "rock star", in the near future.  Her practice is getting up and going near Philadelphia, PA.  It's nice to see that our community is finally integrating itself into the service provider network in a big way.  Rock on!
 

Saturday, June 30, 2007

These have been busy days.  I don't know where the time goes, but it's certainly nice to have some space for a change.  I've got a list of things I need to do and some things get done while others get added, but it feels like I'm slowly making headway. 

At the same time, I'm making a conscious effort to enjoy some down time.  A friend and I went to the movies last night.  She wanted to see the new Die Hard movie and my choice was Ratatouille.  She won (I didn't struggle all that hard) and in fact we both enjoyed the movie.  It was one of those action movies that works best if you can suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours.  The funniest part is the character played by Jason Long, the guy from the "I'm a Mac....and I'm a PC" ads (they're very funny - see them here - he's the Mac guy), although certainly it's nice to see how our dear friend John McLain (played by Bruce Willis) has aged over these past 20 years.  Amidst all the crashes, shooting, chasing, and carnage there's a quiet scene that hit home for me where they muse about the nature of stepping up - of being "that guy" - despite the fact it that it leads to losing other things, and lonely nights alone, simply because there's nobody else there who wants to do it.  Anyway, we both enjoyed it as good summer movie entertainment.

We'll go see Ratatouille next time. 

The Most Watched video on CNN at the moment is a segment from Paula Zahn's show the other night.  It's a 6-minute clip about a 7-year old transgender girl (watch it here).  Those parents are amazing.  At the end, she talks about her "Happy Dream".  How many of us have a similar happy dream? 

Oddly, the story at the top of the US Headlines isn't a story about the recent wildfires in the southwest, or the pro wrestler who it appears killed his family and himself, or about taxes, or healthcare or immigration or crime.  It's about a transgender inmate in MA whose bid to get SRS is bogged down in the courts (read it here).  I'm sure there are those who will see the two stories and figure that one leads to the other, that the decisions the parents are making to support their daughter at this young age will inevitably lead to a life of unhappiness and failure. Others of us know better.

I've got a friend arriving today I've come to know over the past couple of years - at first through our email conversations and lately through our phone chats.  We even met once on her trip through Scottsdale, although her schedule and mine rarely seem to jive and constantly conspire to keep us apart (she typically arrives in town just as I'm leaving).  Part of the most fulfilling aspect of knowing as many people as I do is the privilege of watching them move from their earliest newbie days full of doubt and angst, slowly blossoming to amazing incredible people.  Starting with Elizabeth, I've seen it time and time again and it never fails to give me goosebumps.  Molly, the friend I'm going with to Glacier National Park next week, is another.  Jamy - you're another one, and the list just keeps getting longer and longer.  Anyway, Meghan is arriving today with her daughter for a little down-time and I'm looking forward to finally having the opportunity to spend a little time with her.

Down time.  What a concept.  I could actually get used to this....   :)

It won't last so I need to soak it all in while I can.  When I get back from Glacier I've got quite a bit on my plate.  I've got an HRC Board meeting in Washington DC in mid-month.  I've been invited to an advanced preview of the movie Hairspray in Hollywood and I'm going to go there for that.  I've promised myself that I'm going to get to Rochester NY to see my family and friends there for a few days during the month, even if I have to drive there.  Plus, I've got things that need to be finished and "what next?" job pressures that will begin to mount.  One thing I'm doubtful I can find a way to fit into the mix is another trip to Charleston which is a bummer because Elizabeth's birthday is in July.  Sigh.

Oh, before I forget.  I've had several people write to see if I have all of the segments from the Entertainment Tonight "Transgender Summit" 4-part series that they did in May.  They sent me a DVD that has all 4 parts on it so I can dupe it and send to people who are interested.  There would be a minor cost to cover the DVD and shipping, and I'll eventually get around to loading them on he website.  HRC will also be releasing the Trans 101 DVD that I've been mentioning for well over a year now.  It's finally done, and packaged.  Latest discussions are about the best way to do it and last I heard they're targeting mid-July.  The fact it's coming out at all is a true testament to patience and perseverance.  Last I saw they had done a great job with it so it will have been worth the wait.

Anyway, the day is waiting so I'd better finish my morning coffee and go embrace it before it gets too hot.  The weather all next week is forecast to be 111 or above (see it here).  Ouch!  It'll be nice to get away to the mountains.
 

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Those who know me will recognize one of my mantra's these days: "Be careful what you ask for."  Oh so true.

For the longest time I've bemoaned the fact that I've been too busy to work on many of the efforts that I find important, about which I'm passionate, but that somehow don't seem to happen due to the ongoing time squeeze that becomes my life.  The constant tug-of-war between career, relationships, community efforts, and other obligations is something we all face and I suppose some of us get used to making trade-offs to keep things in balance.  For me, the ongoing struggle between career efforts (that generate income) and more fulfilling community efforts (that don't) is always ongoing.  This week I've given myself a bit of a reprieve from the struggle by having no career, and to be honest I feel like a kid in a candy store.  I don't know what to taste first.

I've got some important things on my plate at the moment.  I'm doing some work with the Hillary Clinton for President campaign, which doesn't take much time yet but which I find to be interesting.  I'm helping to solidify support for the Southern Comfort Conference Career Expo, and the leadership panel there that will feature leaders from most of the national GLBT advocacy organizations.  I'm writing a Diversity vision for HRC as part of my role as Diversity co-chair.  I'll be speaking at the Out for Work Conference in Atlanta in September so I'm talking with Riley about logistics, content, and other details.  I'm finally meeting with some local gals just starting out, where our schedules just haven't jived.  I'm organizing some stuff to do more corporate speaking.  I'm participating in some conference calls to get updates on Federal legislative efforts.  I'm writing up a proposal for an event that would feature notable celebrities and supporters that would raise awareness of Transgender issues (very excited about this).  I'll be part of a university speaker series that includes WNBA player Sheryl Swoops, retired NBA player John Amechi, and others so I'm in the process of formalizing that.  I'll be doing a workshop at Out and Equal, and have been asked to be a judge on the Outtie Awards there so there's a little work to do on that, as well. And, I need to make arrangements on where to move in September when my lease runs out.  There are all kinds of logistical decisions to be made on that.  When I need to stretch I'm trying to do a little work around the house.  All in all, my days have been full from beginning to end and I finally feel like I'm making some headway.

Of course, the nagging knowledge that without income I can only last for a short while without making other arrangements and that time is ticking away creeps into the front of my mind from time to time.  Thankfully, I can usually take a deep breath and turn my attention to more productive thoughts and it goes away before settling in the pit of my stomach.  I've got some very exciting prospects on the drawing board, and I hope to be able to share and put them into motion in the near future.  I think two things I learned early on are helping me to address my situation.  The first is a lesson I learned as I started a small video production company in Rochester NY.  The goal is to find things you enjoy or that you're passionate about and then to find ways to build a business around them.  The second is the knowledge that unconventional problems often require unconventional solutions.  I'm not really ready to share more yet but I expect to have finished with most of the logistical work in a few days so stay tuned on that.

I will say that it's nice to be home.  The weather outside is frightfully hot (it was still 105 degrees here at 8:30 last night) but I've been too busy to get out much during the day.  I had dinner with a friend last night and we talked and talked for so long we ended up closing the place.  It's nice to have people like that (thanks Sara) with whom I can share some pretty personal stuff and not feel uncomfortable.  I'm in "training" for my trip to Glacier National Park next week so I make it a point to do some aerobic exercise every day.  I'm heading to the Hyatt Regency resort tomorrow night to watch Craig Chaquico play (those who have read for any length of time will know I'm a big fan).  And, this weekend I have a friend arriving so we'll be heading out to dinner to celebrate her recent name change, her upcoming transition, and life in general. 

I guess the point is that I'm doing more now than I do on most days when I actually have a job.  And, for the moment, I couldn't be happier to have the time to devote to it.  There are some amazing things coming up....

Oh - by the way.  Today is "gay" day on CNN.  They're spending the day doing reports on GLBT themed things as part of PRIDE month today.  Paula Zahn tonight is all about GLBT stuff, and one note I received indicates they'll be showing a story on Marci Bowers somewhere along the way.  (See some details here)

Gotta run.  As I said...I'm like a kid in a candy store.  So much to do, so little time.  :)

 

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm pooped.  I went to the fitness center yesterday and did some squats.  There wasn't much weight on the bar, but somehow my thighs and butt are getting sorer by the hour.  I hate getting old.  All I know is that getting out of bed tomorrow is not gonna be fun.

I spent a good part of today working through the list of stuff my mom can't do.  Somehow, as she gets older the list gets longer.  I really don't mind because it makes her very happy and that's a big deal for me these days.  So far today I've washed her dog, trimmed her bushes, cleaned her gutters, taken out her storm windows and screens so she can clean them (I'll put them back tomorrow), stained a table, cut some remnant carpet for her, done some weeding, and I went for a 45 minute walk/run in the 90+ degree sun.  No wonder I'm pooped.  And sunburned. 

I've got some big decisions to make over these next few weeks.  My lease runs out in September and I've already decided that I'm not renewing it.  So, I need to find where I'll live next.  I know that there are those who want to see me going to Charleston but to be perfectly honest, although I don't completely rule that out I don't see it happening.  It's too complicated (and personal) to try to explain.  Will I stay in the Phoenix area?  I expect so, but at the same time I wouldn't rule out leaving either.  Where else?  Who knows.  Should I stay by myself, or find a roomie or a housemate? 

Part of it depends on the outcome of my career discussion with myself.  As I say, I have lots to think about.

On July 3 I'm flying to see a friend in Oregon.  She's a geologist, and we both love photography.  We're going to drive from Oregon to Glacier National Park in Montana for a four days of hiking, camping, photography, and just getting away.  That's just what the doctor ordered.  Camping is one of those things I've always planned to do but life has always gotten in the way.  I think the last time I slept in a tent I was a senior in high school.  When I was married I even bought camping "stuff", hoping that actually having the gear would help me to find the time, but that never happened.  I think my ex-wife got custody of it all.

Last night I met a small group of friends from here in the Dallas area for some drinks and dinner.  There is really a wonderful group of people here - really, truly, wonderful people.  While we were chatting a woman came in wearing a headpiece of sparkling balls on the end of springs - very cool.  I was so impressed I found her (it wasn't hard) and asked if we could have our picture taken together.  Anyway, the group of us chatted for a while and when I looked at my watch I was amazed to see that it was 11pm already.  The time flew by.


The Dallas gang after dinner last night

The woman with the springy balls on her head.

Have you ever seen the movie Hitch?  It's too funny.  It's on TV as I write this and I'm stopping from time to time to laugh.  Even though I've seen it a dozen times it still makes me smile, and laugh out loud.  The romantic in me remains alive and well.  Thank God.  It's one of my favorite parts of me, and although it still tends to make me sad from time to time I hope it never goes away.  When it comes to romantic movies there has got to be comedy involved or I just can't watch.  I've learned from experience that the fact I and many people like me continue to miss that kind of romance and intimacy in our lives will cause me to feel bad, and ultimately to cry, ten times out of ten.  The good news is - when you're a hopeless romantic, hope springs eternal.
 

Friday, June 22, 2007

I almost saw rain last night.  I can't remember the last time I saw a raindrop, and I'm actually hoping to see some while I'm here in Dallas.  The weather is warm and muggy, and one thing I miss is simply sitting outside and watching rain showers.  I hope to have a chance to do that while I'm here - it's one of those simple pleasures that somehow gets lost in the speed of life.

The trip to Dallas was uneventful, although the flight was delayed by a little over an hour as we waited in a rush-hour traffic jam on the tarmac.  If that's the worst part of the trip, I'm not complaining.  Mom was waiting when I got to DFW so seeing her smiling face and hugging her when I arrived is all that mattered.  There's something special about a mom's hug.

I want to make a comment on an Op/Ed that appeared in today's Washington Blade.  It was written by Becky Juro who many in the community know from her writing and broadcasting activism.  It's about HRC, and I agree with her observations, especially the parts about diversity, elitism, and the organization (Read It Here). 

One thing that needs to be said, however, is that some of what she highlights in terms of attracting and engaging more diverse board members are things that Joe can't change.  These are decisions that rest with the Board of Directors, and although we time on the agenda to talk about this at every single board meeting, in my role as Diversity co-chair I feel that we pay it little more than lip-service.  I'm approaching the end of my first term on the board and I'm seriously wondering how much headway any one or two or three people can make in a culture based on money and power.  Those of us who advocate for a paradigm shift that involves recognizing HRC's most valuable resource as its people, not its money, encounter a wall of reluctance from those who seem hell bent on protecting the elite nature of board membership there.  It's a very uncomfortable dynamic for people like me whose motivations for being there are not typical for HRC Board membership.

Let me provide some context.  Many non-profit organizations rely on their board members as sources of fundraising, which of course is the life-blood of the organization.  This expectation often involves some level of commitment that board members must make in terms of raising money.  Typically, board members must give (or get, through relationships or other fundraising efforts) a specific level of money, which is known as a Give or Get obligation.  You can't "buy" yourself onto most boards, as board membership often involves a number of different criteria, however fundraising ability is certainly consideration for potential board members.  For some organizations the expectation is what I'd call reasonable, perhaps upwards of $5-10 thousand dollars.  Other organizations, however, have higher obligations.  The higher the obligation, the more difficult it is to find people who can actually reach it.

To be on HRC's board a person must give or get an astronomical $50,000 a year.  I don't know about you, but that's out of the reach of most (including me, but that's another story).  Not only that, it has to be a specific kind of money.  It has to be major donor money ($5,000 a year, and up).  That's it.  Nothing else counts.  Corporate sponsorship money we raise doesn't count.  Federal Club memberships ($1,250 a year) that we bring on board don't count.  It doesn't include selling tickets to HRC dinners, or being a table captain.  It doesn't include anything having to do with your every day $35 membership.  It doesn't include money out of your own pocket to host an HRC event intended to raise money, or to support something.  None of that is counted, which I think is a significant statement in and of itself.  The only money that counts for a board member against their annual obligation is major donor money, and in my mind that's a huge problem when it comes to engaging diversity or to changing the elitism mindset that Becky writes about.  The entire thing needs to be revisited, and more creative and flexible options need to be identified.

Compare that to the policy for fundraising at GLAAD, the 3rd largest national GLBT advocacy organization.  I recently attended my first GLAAD board meeting in Atlanta, and came away very impressed and energized.  For them, the give or get obligation for board members is $20,000 (going up to $25,000 next year in 2008).  The good news is that everything counts.  If I host a table and sell tickets at one of the Media Awards (which I will) - that money goes towards my obligation.  If I need to spend money to have a party, or to host a function, that money goes towards my obligation.  If I pay money to attend a GLAAD function, that money is counted.  Donations of any amount are counted, from me or from people I engage (so long as they do it in my name).   A major donor at GLAAD is a quarter of what it is for HRC ($1,500 for GLAAD vs. $5,000 for HRC) so the focus on money, although still necessarily a priority, is not stifling to the point of suffocation.  All in all, it's a model that I think does a great job of highlighting that a significant role of being a board member is to ensure the ongoing financial health of the organization while at the same time providing a variety of flexible ways to achieve that.  The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.  It's a big difference, and that perspective permeates every aspect of board membership. 

The way to make this change isn't to push on Joe.  This isn't in his sphere of influence.  He doesn't manage the board (we hired him, and we can fire him).  That's not to say, however, that Joe doesn't need to hear it.  He does.  He especially needs to hear that it's unacceptable to have a single transgender person on staff in a position of leadership, or that HRC continues to fail to have anything resembling a transgender "face" to it.  That IS something he can change, and although I'm very happy with the support we're getting on some of the Foundation programs the fact that staff diversity has gone unaddressed for so long is as embarrassing as it is inexcusable (I discussed in depth in an entry a few weeks ago).  

I have lots of ideas how this can be done.  We could identify 3 or 4 board seats as specifically diversity seats and identify more realistic fundraising goals for them.  We could relax what counts as money towards the give/get to provide greater opportunity to actually reach it.  We could provide broader support as local communities to find ways to support diverse board members.  There are many options.  Unfortunately, nobody is listening.

At the last board meeting there was a discussion, spurred by what I'll call the board political hawks, about adding additional political fundraising expectations on board members above and beyond the existing give/get commitment.  I, as you might guess, am vehemently opposed to such a move and argued that there are those of us who are on the board for reasons other than simple political advocacy.  If we agree that diversity is truly a goal for this board then adding political responsibilities should also involve adding diversity responsibilities.  It's no secret that there are key members of that board who couldn't give a damn about diversity and they're not shy about saying so.  So when I suggested revisiting/revising the give/get policy to identify ways it could be managed to also allow greater diversity it wasn't a surprise when one board member felt a need to reply, saying that he would consider any move to change the policy personally "insulting".  There you have it.

If the HRC board is to change in ways that will allow greater diversity the place to push is on the board leadership.  There are male and female co-chairs that need to understand that this is a priority for more than simply the few of us on the board who won't shut up.  I hesitate to provide their email addresses here simply out of respect for their privacy.  However, if anyone has anything they'd like me to share with them please feel free to send it to me and ask me to forward it.  I promise to forward everything I receive, and to encourage board leadership to respond to you personally.  Please know that I will not respond to you - I'm only the messenger here.

If you live in the DFW area perhaps we'll see you tonight at Ciudad. Mom might even be there, if I can coax her away from her Friday evening Senior Dance. 

 

Thursday, June 21, 2007

So today is the first official day of summer.  I'm told there is a chance for record heat back home in Phoenix - upwards of 115 degrees - and the blast furnace is supposed to last thru the weekend (actually, thru the whole summer).  That kind of news makes me glad to be away.  Yeesh.

I'm in Wilmington, Delaware at the moment.  I arrived yesterday to speak at Chase Bank here.  They've been great to work with, and a small group of us went out for a very nice dinner last night.  All these fancy dinners take their toll on my waistline so all I had was soup and a salad.  Although it took tremendous will power to forgo a steak (it was a steak restaurant, and I'm a steak person), I decided to treat myself so I split a piece of pound cake soaked in some sort of liqueur for dessert. One of my mantras is, ""Llife is all about dessert," which I find helps when it comes to justifying the delicate balance of the guiltier pleasures.

My talk here went well, and the energy in the room was wonderful (see photos below).  They broadcast it to Chase locations around the country - some had a video feed while others had a phone connection - so I'm not sure how many people in total heard it but I've gotten good feedback so I think it was generally well received.  They video taped it, and I expect I'll be getting a DVD of it shortly.  I'd like to find ways to make it more widely available (HRC will be releasing a Trans 101 DVD shortly).  The only downside of it was that it was a lunchtime event so I only had an hour, and by the time we got rolling and the introductions were done that was 50 minutes of talk time (actually less, if you include time for Q&A).  That's alot to fit into a relatively short amount of time - I usually have at least twice that which seems just about right - but I'm happy with the way things went. 

Next, I'm headed to Dallas to spend a few days with mom.  She says she's got a long list of things she needs me to do, so I don't know how much actual "down" time there will be.  I need to take some time to catch up on some email, some writing, and some phone calls.  I'm planning to work out each day.  And, I'm planning to go to a Happy Hour at Ciudad tomorrow (Friday) evening in case anyone in the area wants to stop by.  All in all it looks to be fairly busy, but then again what else is new?  I'm really looking forward to it.
 

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Concerts certainly have changed over the years.  I suppose watching The Police in concert isn't typical to most concerts, but I think it provides a stark contrast to what I remember from attending concerts in the 70s and 80s, beginning with the fact that the musicians are legally senior citizens, and the ticket prices put a choice seat out of reach for all but the most affluent.

From a musical perspective, I'd say it was a great show even though I didn't leave with my head spinning saying "Wow!" as I have with a few others I remember.  It was a well-paced set of hits, back-to-back-to-back with little conversation or banter in between.  The set was amazing and a technological marvel - simple but yet complex at the same time with lots of space, lots of moving parts, large video screens overhead, and a stunning lighting arrangement.  The musicians were tighter than tight, and played with energy and exuberance that did not seem contrived that, I daresay, it admirable considering they're playing songs they've played a hundred thousand times before.  Perhaps because of that, they took creative liberties with many of their songs with varying degrees of success.  Of course, some people came to hear what they're used to and would bawk at the notion of tampering with a classic - these people would have left disappointed.  Some of the updated reworking enhanced well-worn classics in brilliant ways.  Others were true to the "win some/lose some" reality most of us face and were less successful.  Either way, I applaud the effort.  And, whereas some bands find a way to highlight their musicianship with complicated extended solos embedded into a song at some point in the evening, these musicians needed none of that.  In fact, it probably would have come across as show-boating.

The thing I really noticed was the audience.  I remember concert-going as a sweaty, smoky, pushy experience.  Often, the house lights would go up after the opening act and a haze of smoke would already have descended over the crowd.  Not last night.  Clean as a whistle, orderly, well-behaved. One thing I found really humorous was watching people watching the concert.  Three or four or five people in a row would be recording any particular song with their cell phone or Blackberry, truly funny to watch.  Ages ranged from 10 years old to 70 - many of us can remember listening to these songs for the first time in the late 70s and early 80s as the band transformed/matured from the raw energy of Roxanne and I Can't Stand Losing You to the gentle flow of I'll Be Watching You and King of Pain.

Lastly, I remember leaving concerts and my ears would be ringing for a day or two.  Not last night.  That's not to say it wasn't loud.  It just wasn't over-poweringly loud.

I enjoyed myself and the two hours of music were a much appreciated walk down memory lane with comfortable companions.  There are photos from the concert online (see them here) and I expect some of the cell-phone video will be online before long.  As I say, the world has certainly changed.

Speaking of concerts, another 80s icon - Cyndi Lauper - is touring this summer (with Debbie Harry from Blondie, Erasure, and others) at part of the True Colors tour.  The tour is to raise money and awareness for HRC and has been garnering quite a bit of visibility and press lately:

True Colors: Rainbow of celebrities joins Lauper
USA Today - Jun 17, 2007
... Cyndi Lauper pulled together a few friends such as Rosie O'Donnell (appearing on some dates), Margaret Cho, Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright and Erasure ...

Lauper's colors shine brightly
Boston Globe, United States - Jun 19, 2007
The True Colors tour, which takes its name from Cyndi Lauper's 1986 hit, benefits the Human Rights Campaign, and nowhere was the show's message about ...

Fantastic 'Colors'
New York Blade, NY - Jun 18, 2007
Last night, I attended the DC-leg of HRC's True Colors tour, headlined by Cyndi Lauper, among other gay artists and icons. It was a surprisingly magnificent ...

Those who attended the HRC National Dinner a couple of years ago my remember when she received the Equality Award, and sang an haunting a capella version of "True Colors" in support of her lesbian sister (the video of it is still available from the HRC website) at the end of her acceptance speech.  It still gives me goose bumps to this day, and given the right mood it brings tears to my eyes - tears of sadness, of pain, of hope, of pride.  I don't even understand it, but when it comes to emotion I don't need to understand.  So, when I sometimes find myself going to the dark place and question whether all the sacrifices I/we make in terms of advocacy/activism/outreach and the impact it has on our careers, our relationships, our finances, and our efforts to just fit in - all I need to do is remember this and how it makes me feel.  When I find myself weakening to the temptation of just trying to mold my life to be like everyone else's I remember this and I know that it is not my destiny to become numb or complacent.  At this point I couldn't do it even if I thought I wanted to.   I have come to understand that people who refuse to remain victim to decisions made about them and for them are advocates for empowerment and self-actualization simply by being themselves.  There is always a price for freedom, just as there is a price for being different.  If this burden is the price, it is a price worth paying.  There are no other acceptable options.
 

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day to all fathers, pseudo-fathers, wanna-be fathers, and otherwise fatherly folks.  My son called me this afternoon to wish me a happy Father's Day which was certainly a nice touch, and much appreciated.  I told him I loved him, that I'm glad to be his father, and that I'm glad he's my son.  No matter what else happens in life, that won't change and my role as his dad is still the most important single role in my world. 

I've mentioned in the past that my own dad never made a big deal out of Father's Day so I was surprised that the first Father's Day after his death hit me so hard, like a sucker punch to the heart - coming from nowhere.  Thankfully, subsequent years have softened the impact, but there's still more than a twinge of sadness at not having my own dad here to celebrate with, or to call.  He is on my mind quite a bit today, and certainly in my heart.  After getting home from the airport I took a brief walk this evening just as the sun was going down, and the sliver of the moon was shining brightly along with one lone beaming nearby star.  It probably sounds corny but I stopped for a moment to do a little "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight...." specifically for my dad, hoping that listening and watching over me wherever he is.  I love you, dad. 

They say that the Atlanta airport the busiest in the world and it certainly seemed that way today.  There were throngs of people everywhere - it reminded me of the mall the week before Christmas.  Except bigger, and with luggage.  The good news is that they seem to have the process - through ticketing, through security, and to the gate - down to a science.  The line to get through the security checkpoint must have had a thousand people in it (I'm not making this up) but it moved quickly - back and forth, almost like at Disneyworld.  Once you finally get through the screener there are 21 rows of scanning lanes so that went relatively quickly, too.  All in all, although things are very busy it only took 20 minutes to wind my way from the back of the line through security, onto the tram to the gates.  I'm sure there are times when it's a God-awful mess, but other than being busy today it wasn't bad.  On the other side, the Phoenix airport was much less active, although the temperature outside at that late afternoon hour was still 105 degrees (but it's a dry heat).

I don't have a job to go to tomorrow, but as I think about all the odds and ends on my plate the day already seems full. The highlight comes tomorrow evening: I've got a ticket to and see The Police perform at the US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix.  Although it feels like one of those guilty pleasures I'm really looking forward to it.  There are less than half a dozen bands that could tempt me to pay this kind of money for a ticket and lure me away from the comfort of my home on a Monday evening, and a reunion of The Police is one of them.  "Roaxanne....You don't have to turn on the red light...." .  I justify it by saying it's my Father's Day present to myself. 

There are times when I pine for someone can take charge for a while.  In this case they'd call me and say they had some tickets to this or that and ask if I wanted to go.  Those things rarely happen in my world - unfortunately.  There's a bigger issue with all of this than I really want to talk about right now, but it comes down to the simple fact that I've expressed before: I get tired of driving sometimes.  It's mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting, and sometimes I just need a break.  I have no problem making decisions and being comfortable with the outcome, so if a decision needs to be made or something needs to be done and people are looking to me to do it (or worse, nobody else will step up to do it) I will.  And I do.  But, I'd love it if someone would take the wheel from time to time, knowing that I don't give it up very easily.  That's a more 50-50 kind of a thing and would help me to keep my balance better.  I don't feel as though I've found that person in my life yet, to my own detriment.

Also, I'm starting to doing some serious thinking about what comes next in terms of professional direction for me.  One of the songs on my ipod, "Break Away" by Kelly Clarkson, has been resonating with me lately.  Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, clear your mind, and listen to the words.  "Make a wish, take a chance, make a change.  And break away..."  Then, actually do it.  Truly, words to live by.
 

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I'm in Atlanta for the GLAAD Board Meeting.  I got here late Thursday, took care of some business during the day on Friday, and have been pretty much non-stop on board stuff since then (new board member orientation and dinner yesterday, and board meetings from 8-5 today).  There's an event this evening, too, so I'm chilling in my room for an hour before heading off to that.  I'm tired.

I think I've mentioned in the past that GLAAD is to media as HRC is to politics.  It serves many purposes in that regard, from helping the media to craft the right messages, to criticizing homophobic or trans-phobic content, to media training for people who might be in the media spotlight, to their flagships events: the annual GLAAD Media Award dinners that occur annually in a number of cities.  My first contact with them came in 2003 when an article that I was in was nominated for an award at the San Francisco event and Elizabeth and I went to receive the award if it won (it didn't).  We had a great time, met some great folks, and it set the stage for a more significant relationship.  Anyway, I'm sure I'll be writing more about them in the future.

One of my favorite memories of that night isn't meeting Pamela Anderson or any of the other celebrities in attendance.  It's getting back to the hotel room with Elizabeth who had had a couple of Vodka martinis too many.  She found me at some point during the after-party and told me she was so drunk she couldn't see any more.  When we got back to our room she immediately fell asleep - it took only as long as the number of steps to the bed.  It took me 45 minutes to carefully take all of the bobby pins out of her hair (she had a beautiful up-do and there seemed to be a hundred or more), to get her out of her gown, and to tuck her carefully into bed.

Anyway - I digress.  There are between 35-40 board members, and they distribute binders of board business to be discussed at the board meetings a couple of weeks before the meetings.  We've been working our way through the binder.  Some of the business involves updates from various departments (the budget, programmatic work, other things that the board has asked), a closed session with the Executive Director, meetings with the Leadership Institute, breakout sessions for the various committees, and discussion to make specific decisions as necessary.  I've learned through experience that things can get pretty testy.

Anyway, time to get ready for tonight's event.  No rest for the weary...

10pm:  Well, I'm back to the relative safety of my hotel room.  This kind of socializing can be a lot like exercising - the more you think about it the more you don't want to do it but once you get going you're actually glad you did.  A group of folks is heading out - soft of as an ftr-party - to taste the Atlanta weekend nightlife scene, but I resisted temptation and am going to be sliding into bed shortly.

The event tonight was at a local supporter's home, and I'll say I've never seen so much artwork in a home before.  It was gorgeous.  It was an event for major donors, and there was food and alcohol aplenty.  The special guest for the evening was Thomas Roberts, a CNN new anchor who's newscast was cancelled last year shortly after coming out as gay.  I'll tell you something here and now - this guy is drop dead gorgeous.  I don't even like guys all that much (well, not THAT way) and this guy is someone you just want to stop and look at. I hate to be a pig about it but he's THAT beautiful.  My photos of him don't do him justice, but here are a few pics from the evening festivities:


Dramatic evening sky over Atlanta


ex-CNN News Anchor Thomas Roberts speaking


Thomas Roberts and I - hunkalicious!

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Today was my last day at work.  It was pretty anticlimactic, and I'm actually looking forward to a few weeks of catching up on things I have been remiss on doing thanks to all the other craziness in my life.  I'm going to be in the Dallas area next week for a few days on my way home from another speaking event so I'll be able to spend some time with mom.  One friend who shares a passion for photography is driving from Oregon to Glacier National Park in Montana at the beginning of July to spend a few days of camping, hiking, and photography in the mountains. That very much appeals to me so I'm working to make that happen. I'm also trying to work the logistics of getting back to Rochester to see my sister and brother and their families.  Each of these provides some sort of spiritual renewal for me, and I'm looking to make that a priority in the coming weeks.  I've got some serious thinking to do about a number of things in my life, so the timing couldn't be better.

I "celebrated" my newfound freedom from the shackles of employment by going to the movies with a friend to see "Knocked Up".  It was very funny - lots of laughs - and somewhat poignant, too.  There was one brief scene when they were walking together in the mall, just starting to actually become friends, where they tentatively start holding hands.  I miss being able to do that.  In fact, I miss someone taking the lead like that - I'm tired of that role, but that's much deeper, longer discussion than I have time for right now.  Anyway, we enjoyed the movie.

I had a couple of interesting experiences yesterday.  First, I got to spend a little time with Sandra.  It was great to see her again.

I suppose a little context is in order here.  Way back at the beginning of all of this - ten years ago - when I was on hormones and just beginning to realize that a transition might actually be possible for me, it became obvious that there were so many things I needed to know but that I had no clue about.  Specifically, how a woman moves, tips about makeup and wardrobe, and a general sensibility about things most girls seem to learn early on.  More than that, though, I needed someone who could help me begin to feel comfortable in being me - not an easy task given the circumstances.   I noticed a small modeling school near work that offered tips on poise and all the other things that it seemed like I needed to learn.  So, I made arrangements to go.  Sandra is the owner.

I lied to Sandra about why I was there.  First, I was still too terrified of having to explain it to anyone to come "out".  And second, I was sure she'd tell me to leave if she knew the truth.  I didn't want her to get freaky on me, and I was certainly no threat to her, so I figured the ends justified the means.  I ended up learning a lesson in honesty. 

Sandra worked with me for several months, and we had quite a bit of fun.  I used to go there during lunch with a small bag full of Donna's stuff - a pair of pumps, some makeup, a few other things.  She took me out as Donna for my very first time - anywhere.  She started shaping my eyebrows little by little and I was worried someone at work (or worse, my wife) would notice and say something, but that never happened.  She helped me to select a wig, and taught me how to style it.  She was shopping for a wedding gown, and let me come with her for my first excursion into the world as Donna.  Terrified is a mild word compared to how I felt, and the entire experience is a blur.  We were about the same age, we both had kids, I like to think we both had a good sense of humor, and I felt as though we were truly becoming friends.  I suppose that's why it hurt when I finally did tell her the truth; she had someone from her staff call to tell me she couldn't work with me any more.

As I told her yesterday, that was the first time I had ever been rejected like that, and I suppose it was a lesson I needed to learn to prepare me for what was to come.  She had her reasons, and I certainly understood and respected them.  But still - it hurt and it was very confusing.  For months afterwards, I wanted to go over there to talk with her about it, to explain and ask her to take me back as a client, but she didn't need that drama so I respected her wishes.  So, it was really nice to see her smiling face yesterday as she played a big role at a very important time in my life.  She's a special person to me to this day. We're both in different places now, and I hope we have more time to catch up on things at some point (I had an appointment to get to so I could only stay for a short time).  It was like seeing an old friend after quite a bit of time has passed.  She seemed genuinely happy to see me, and I know I was happy to see her, too.

Then, I met a friend out for dinner last night and noticed someone from across the room who looked like my first hair-stylist as Donna.  He was part of a salon that I called my 'beauty brigade' - I got my nails done there, too.  I met him shortly after my experiences with Sandra and although I've stopped by the salon to say 'hi' a few times in the last few years I can't even remember the last time I saw him.  Eventually we made eye contact, he recognized me too, and spent some time catching up on things.  He looked great, and as with Sandra it's nice to see people who were an important part of those formative experiences now, at this stage of the game.  He has opened his own salon, and I'll be sure to stop by there when I can.

The thing I found interesting was the fact the I reconnected with both of these people - people I haven't seen in years who were both part of the same time in my life - on the same day.  I haven't seen either in years, and the thought I'd be able to meet both in the same week would be a stretch.  Both in the same day - my last day at work, as another chapter of life closed - is almost a miracle.  I'm not sure what cosmic message is being sent here, but I'm open to finding out.

I'm flying to Atlanta tomorrow for my first GLAAD Board meeting.  I'm looking forward to meeting all the other board members and to getting involved.  I'm sure I'll have more to say about the organization in future entries.  I'll be there thru Sunday.  Onwards and upwards...

Oh - one more thing.  In June/July I typically archive half of my current-year blog so the recent entries are in a smaller file that loads faster.  I just did that, so anything from Jan thru May is now in a separate file.  I've had several people write to me in recent weeks with suggestions about updating by blog - specific software, RSS feeds, other recommendations - and although I appreciate the input I'll be slow to implement it.  This works for me right now - it's easy for me to maintain, it's comfortable, and although I expect I'll be doing something to upgrade it at some point I'm not sure when that point will be.  Not today.

 

Monday, June 11, 2007

The bad: my  flight yesterday morning to try to get home was delayed.  Again.  The good: they felt sorry for me and upgraded me to First Class. Nice touch.  I flew through Atlanta, which is a long flight (almost 4 hours).  I'm headed back there on Thursday thru the weekend for the GLAAD Board meeting. 

I really don't have much to share this morning, and I'm pressed for time as I need to get to work.  The trip home was uneventful, and I spent the late afternoon and evening opening a pile of mail, doing a shopping, slowly unpacking, and generally getting reacquainted with my world here.  The cherry on top of it all was the Sopranos finale, which I thought about for a while afterwards and have concluded was brilliant. 

One thing I'm watching with interest is President Bush's nomination for Surgeon General.  The guy wrote some ignorant stuff about gays in 1991 and it's coming back to haunt him.  He's trying to distance himself from it but he can't back pedal fast enough.  The GLBT organizations are all over him, and I'll be interested to see just how much success that has in terms of moving him forward or dropping him.

Something I'm particularly miffed about at the moment is the lack-of-involvement of supposedly supportive companies in Atlanta for the Southern Comfort Conference Transgender Career Expo that I'm helping to organize for September.  It's a first-of-its-kind showcase, an opportunity for companies who have enacted supportive policy to come face-to-face with a community that it historically plagued by unemployment and under-employment.  The cost is minimal as that's not the goal.  And, although we've gotten wonderful support from other corporations around the country the group that has no excuse NOT to be there are the local Atlanta companies (Coca-Cola, Cox, Sun Trust and others - you know who you are).  I'm sick of watching companies go through the motions of passing policy but not actually having to do anything to help us.  If you've got a job there that's one thing.  If you're trying to get through the door - you can't.  It's as blocked as it ever was.  And, these companies are leveraging perfect 100 scores when it comes to GLBT workplace inclusion?  Somebody needs to expose this, and I'm in the process of putting my thoughts in order.  Stay tuned.

Another thing that's making me crazy is the fact that a Grand Jury has refused to indict the person arrested for the murder of Amancio Corrales on second degree murder charges (read the details here).  Instead, they came back with a manslaughter charge, which is an absolute travesty.  I'm thinking that a trip to Yuma may be in order.  Stay tuned on that, too.

Gotta get to work.  Three days left, then off to Atlanta.  It looks to be another busy week.  Oddly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
 

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I'm flying home to Scottsdale this afternoon.  I can't believe that these two weeks are over.  Like most things in life these days for me, they've been a paradox of having zipped by quickly at the same time as feeling much longer than simply fourteen days.  And, my feelings of leaving are the sadness and ache of good-bye while at the same time excitement about returning to the simple peace of going home.

This week has been a busy one.  Elizabeth and I traveled to Dulles, Va for a couple of days.  I was invited to speak at America Online HQ there, and they treated us wonderfully.  Thanks so much to Julie, and Gracie, and everyone who made the trip so much fun.  I gave 4 sessions over two days, so by Friday morning my voice was deep and raspy from all of the talking.  The last session on Thursday included a group from HRC in Washington, Jody Huckabee (Executive Director of PFLAG) and other friends/esteemed colleagues, so there was added pressure not to suck.  I think things went well.

One highlight, believe it or not, was that there is a Wegman's just across the street from the main campus.  Wegman's is a supermarket chain based in my adopted hometown of Rochester, NY but to say it's simply a store is to say that the Queen Elizabeth is simply a boat or that the Grand Canyon is just a canyon.  I made sure that Julie saved a little time so we could stop and I could stroll through for a little while before catching our flight home.  That probably sounds stupid but I don't care.  It's one of those simple things that I don't feel compelled to have to explain or justify, and I really enjoyed it.  BTW- Wegman's was chosen as the BEST place to work in America by Fortune Magazine in 2006, and fell to Number 2 behind Google in this year's ratings.  The place just rocks.

My last day at work will be Wednesday.  We've agreed that their needs and mine just don't jive, so we've mutually decided that the best strategy at this point is to go our separate ways.  Another paradox: I greet this outcome with both a twinge of sadness but I think more with a sigh of relief. 

There was a time when I just wanted to be like everyone else - to have a career, to fit in, to just be another person.  Those days have gone, and I have found to my surprise that I expect more out of life than that.  Things it seems that others accept without question I cannot help but to question.  Becoming a casual observer of my life as it slips back into some mind-numbing, soul-squelching, life-sucking trance where the mundane is somehow acceptable and the trivial passes itself off as something special is not an option. In that mindset, my career MUST fit into the other priorities in my life and not vice versa, and I'm thankful that I have opportunities to make that happen.  Important things are more important than unimportant things.  That sounds almost ridiculous to say, but I think it's something we need to remind ourselves of on a daily basis.  Moreover, we need to identify what those important things are.

I'm planning to take a month or 6 weeks off to do things I've been wanting to do for quite a while now and have actually felt frustrated in NOT being able to do because of other commitments.  I'm going to spend a little time with mom in Texas.  My niece, Kyrie, will be having some surgery in August and I haven't been back home in a long time so I plan to spend some time in Rochester (hoping to lure Elizabeth and some of her kids there for a few days, too).  I'd like to do a little hiking, and camping.  All in all, I'd like to take a bit of a vacation between now and whatever comes next, so I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity at hand.  In between, I've got a GLAAD Board Meeting in Atlanta next weekend, another corporate speaking engagement in Delaware the following week, and some other important work to do.  All in all, I expect it will be a good mix.  It's a Balance thing.

Before I end this I want to provide visibility to a couple of recent articles published about the transgender community.  Perhaps not surprisingly, these articles are from "Christian" sources.  I said a long time ago that there would be pushback to the continuing visibility and support for the transgender community, and it's happening.  I don't have anything to say about these articles.  I think they speak for themselves:

Male, Female, or Other?
renewamerica.us - Washington,DC,USA
And how scary is this: PFLAG has the largest representation of any group on the new Massachusetts Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth." ...

Interview: Transgenderism Emerging on the Heels of Homosexuality ...
Christian Post - June 9, 2007
CP: Pete LaBarbera, executive director of Americans for Truth, had mentioned how media has been glorifying the transgender movement. ...

Time to go.  My flight is in a couple of hours.  I'll upload some additional pics and perhaps provide a little more detail after I get back to Phoenix.  .

Update 2:30pm -  Well, apparently I'm not destined to go home yet.  It's a beautiful, sunny, somewhat humid, very warm day here in Charleston, but my flight to Cincinnati (to catch my connection to Phoenix) is delayed.  It's scheduled to leave an hour or so late.  The bad news (for me) is that my time between connections is only 45 minutes and the flight I'm supposed to catch is in entirely different terminal so more likely than not I won't make it.  That flight is the last one to Phoenix today.  At best we'd make some time in the air and the Phoenix flight will be delayed so I'd miraculously somehow catch it, but my luggage wouldn't.  More likely, though, is that I'd get stuck in Cincinnati until tomorrow.  I'm not willing to wager on either of those options so they've rebooked me on an 8:30am flight thru Atlanta.

Elizabeth is coming to pick me up and we get to spend another night together.  Somehow, I don't see a downside there.  :)

While I'm waiting....

We went to see Ocean's Thirteen yesterday.  It was okay - certainly not the deepest of movies but certainly good eye candy in terms of scenery, action, gadgets, and men.  I'd give it maybe 7 stars out of 10.  After it was over I wanted to find a hunky guy to go out with.  Just because.  Oddly, in the middle of the movie the power for the entire theater complex went out so we sat there for fifteen minutes while things slowly came back online.  They gave movie passes to everyone for the inconvenience - nice touch.

One movie I really WANT to see is "Knocked Up".  I haven't even seen it yet and I know it's my kind of movie (I'm not sure what that says about me but it's true).  When I go to the movies I generally don't want to come out depressed, or terrified, or disgusted, or even necessarily more intelligent than when I went in.  There's something fun about simply being entertained, and laughing.  I felt that way about Little Miss Sunshine last year.  And, as I watched the trailers for Knocked Up at RottenTomatoes.com and I can't wait to go see it.  It's on my list of thing to do while I'm on "vacation".

Another couple of movies I'm waiting for:  The Bourne Ultimatum - the next movie in the Bourne saga, and the Pixar animated film Ratatouille.  I was at Costco with Elizabeth yesterday and she was picking out a new frame for her glasses.  She said "You can really learn a lot about a person by watching them choose eyeglass frames."  I think you can learn a lot about a person by the kinds of movies they like.  I'm not sure what all this says about me, but then again, I don't know if I really care. 

 

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My drive  back to Charleston on Saturday was far more of an adventure than it should have been.  First, they closed Interstate 95 North about 60 miles from Miami (near Palm Beach) thanks to an apparent sink hole in the middle of the road (it made the news). The entire mess wasn't being managed, so people were scrambling to get off the final couple of exits near the closure.  Semi trucks were crossing 4 lanes of traffic, blocking everything, when they realized what was ahead. Then, once people somehow miraculously managed to get off the highway, there were no detour signs telling people where to go or how to get back on.  I turned right, hoping that the line of traffic in front of me knew where it was going and ended up on the Dixie Highway which eventually led me back on the other side of the closure. Not good.

Then, I caught up with the TS Barry again as I crossed into Georgia.  I'm the only person I know who actually drove to catch up with the thing, and my payback was that it really got nasty for the last hour or so of the trip as I got further into it.  The news said it picked up energy over land somehow, and by the time I pulled into the driveway there were 60mph winds, driving sheets of rain (in excess of 4 inches), spectacular lightning - not fun.  In any event, it was pretty spectacular to watch, the power flickered off and on a couple of times, and it wreaked havoc with all of the preparations for the LPGA golf event locally.  I must admit that I got a good night sleep, and I'm glad it all worked out ok.  It was a good conference, and I suppose the trip itself is just another one of those stories that adds spice to life.

Things have been fairly low-key these last couple of days.  We took the kids to the South Carolina Aquarium on Sunday which was very nice.  Elizabeth's ex- invited us to have dinner over there, and her husband made spaghetti.  And, I spent most of yesterday working, as Monday waits for no one.  Low key, low stress, and low energy.  That's just what the doctor ordered.  It won't last for long.

I've already got an issue to deal with involving my management at work.  Apparently we have a disconnect on who gets to set various aspects of my work there.  As I have explained in the past, my life is a complicated mix of obligations that require flexibility and trust.  It's a delicate balance, and anything that threatens to throw that balance out of whack needs to be fixed, or removed from the mix.  Even though my advocacy efforts are totally volunteer they still represent substantial commitments of time, energy, money, and dedication and are as important in my mix of priorities as my career and any number or other aspects of my life.  To be an adult is to be able to make difficult decisions, and decisions about myself have become easier over time because my main tenets are clear to me.  That doesn't change the fact that I feel sadness or disappointment at things that some of the outcomes, but at the same time that won't affect my ability to make the decisions that need to be made.

I truly feel that one of the significant aspects of the push-back we get from many in society stems from resentment that takes the form of anger.  Some truly appreciate the fact that people like us take control of our live as we do, and that we have the courage to make the decisions that need to be made.  If you really think about it - it's fairly rare.  Others, however, resent their perception that we're making decisions in our lives that they don't feel empowered to make in theirs.  We are re-taking freedoms of self-determination and re-making decisions about ourselves in aspects of our lives where others feel trapped by circumstance.  I'll tell anyone who asks that the most significant thing I've gained through all of this isn't specific to sex or gender.  It's the freedom that comes with truly knowing yourself, and being yourself.  Nobody can take that unless I allow that to happen.  And, I won't.

Stay tuned.  Stormy weather ahead.

 

Friday, June 1, 2007

Today is the first official day of Hurricane Season.  I'm in my hotel room at the Hyatt Regency overlooking downtown Miami and - no lie - there's a tropical storm going on outside: TS Barry.  Palm trees are blowing this way and that.  Rain is peppering down.  Wind is gusting.  Yeesh.  How does a simple gal from the desert get stuck in the middle of a tropical storm when it's 105 degrees back home?  That's a good question....

I'm attending a NGLCC International Business and Leadership Conference here.  I drove the 600 miles from Charleston to Miami yesterday - it took me about 8 1/2 hours or so.  I left in late-afternoon after the pre-K "graduation" event at school for a Elizabeth's younger kids.  It's funny to be attending those kinds of things again.  I remember when my own son did them; it seems like a lifetime ago.

Speaking of Florida, I see that Susan Stanton didn't get chosen for the City Planner position in Sarasota (read about it here).  I wonder if anyone is truly surprised.  The good news is that she was one of the finalists, and their 3rd choice.  In the end, they picked someone who also had past city manager experience (before leaving to support his terminally ill wife) so it seems that this person has the experience to do the job. 

The thing I find somewhat troubling was Susan's comment about it being "too soon for a transgender city manager".  Although I understand that this may have been an emotional response to the outcome, I question whether that's really being fair.  If I had to guess (and this is just a guess) I'd say her T-ness wasn't really as big of an issue in the outcome as her newfound notoriety as a transgender "champion" was.  It's one thing to be transgender and interviewing for a job: to keep it low-key, and to keep the discussion focused on the business at hand.  It's another to be traveling the country doing interviews on Larry King and Comedy Central, to have a CNN TV crew following you around because they're doing a documentary, and to have any number of other distractions as part of the package.  Susan tried to take all that stuff off the table and calm the fears, but I doubt she was able to do that.  I'm not say she's doing anything wrong, and in fact her grace under pressure has been nothing short of remarkable.  Still, the key word in that entire sentence is "distraction", and I think all of that extra stuff was just too much for the city. 

Speaking of jobs, there's something that has been nagging at me for a while now.  Guess how many openly transgender people are employed on staff at HRC in any kind of a Senior/Leadership role?  Right.  There are Zero.  Guess how many openly transgender people that HRC has working on the entire staff?  One.  Does anybody else besides me see a problem with this?  I've written a few times - hoping to stir some change.  Still - nothing.  I don't want to see a trans person get a job that they're not qualified to do, or if they're not the best candidate.  But, the metric that I use to measure true workplace diversity isn't the policy that has been implemented, it's the number "diverse" people they're hiring, or that make up the workforce.  In this case, for this organization - zero is unacceptable.  That needs to change.   Either we're not applying for jobs, or we're not getting visibility to jobs, or it's simply not a priority for the organization.  Whatever it is, that number needs to grow.

Up until a year or so ago there were a couple of people there, but they have since left and the vacuum caused by their departure has not been filled.  Not good....

That same nonchalance is apparent on the Understanding Transgender DVD that I've been talking about for well over a year now.  It has been 95% done for months - I can find emails from late last summer telling me it'll be done within weeks.  Here we are - almost 2 years after it was originally shot and we're still short of the finish line.  It's totally embarrassing, and if it weren't so important I would have thrown my hands up in disgust a long time ago.  Why the delay?  To be painfully honest: Because it has never been a priority for anyone, that's why.  It hasn't had a champion except some crazy board member writing emails and not giving up.  Someone needs to push on them about this stuff besides me.  The last completion date we had was June 1.  Here we are.  Still not done.

Sorry to belly ache.  I'll move on to tamer topics....

Wednesday night Elizabeth and I had another of those wonderful evenings.  We spent the afternoon enjoying the scenery at Shem Creek (again).  This time we paddled out into open ocean, to a small island out in the harbor that's apparently a bird sanctuary now.  If we had enough time and energy we could have paddled all the way to Fort Sumter, the site of the first battle of the Civil War (or as Elizabeth calls it, The War of Northern Aggression).  Again, dolphins came right up along our kayak - it was flippin' amazing.  I can't imagine that ever getting old or passe.

One unique aspect to Tuesday's adventure that I suppose I'll share.  I wore a bikini.  That's a first for me (at least, in public) and Elizabeth is still reveling in the fact that she was able to talk me into it. I figured that it wouldn't be so bad since I had shorts and a life jacket on, but still. The funniest part happened when a tour boat full of people (mostly men) passed us in the harbor.  I took a picture of them looking at us.  And, taking pictures of the dolphins reminded me of what it's like trying to photograph lightning.  By the time you take it the most spectacular part has passed...

We had dinner at a local restaurant where the shrimp is cooked hours after it's caught.  We enjoyed an incredible sunset over the harbor.  Then, we went out to a scenic outlook to enjoy the full moon.  I've included a few photos here for your viewing pleasure:

An Afternoon on Shem Creek


Navigating the late afternoon marshes


Shem Creek - the view from under the bridge...


Fishing boats docked along Shem Creek...


The late afternoon fishing fleet at Shem Creek...


Thar she blows!!  (notice the number carved into the fin)


2 dolphins investigate an orange that Elizabeth tossed to them


only six or 8 feet away....just huge!


Intrepid, sweaty, sunburned, ocean voyagers (self-portrait)


The tour ship gawks at your intrepid adventurers.


Coming in for a landing....


Sunset over Shem Creek...


The full moon reflects in the marsh waters, ending a perfect day.

 

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

As I sit here and begin to type, Elizabeth's cat is having a field day playing with the hem of my dress.  She's purring, and sounds so content and at peace with the world. 

We had the best time Monday afternoon and evening.  Elizabeth recently bought a 2-person kayak, so we dropped off the kids, strapped the kayak to the top of the minivan, grabbed some liquid refreshments, and we headed out for a little R&R (rowing and relaxing).  There are several places to kayak in and around the Charleston area, and we chose a launch at a place called Shem Creek.

One of the unique things about the South Carolina coastal areas is the marshland.  Shem Creek winds itself from it's opening into the Atlantic inland through marshes and thickets.  From the launch, if you paddle west you find yourself navigating the marshlands (see photo1 and photo2 to get an idea of what I'm talking about).  After we launched we had a great time paddling, resting, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, and just spending quiet time together.  At times we laughed (I swallowed a flying bug, I somehow got water in my seat so my butt was wetter than wet, making fun of our unique rowing style, sipping on a couple of drinks).  Other times we just enjoyed the calm of it all.

Eventually, we turned around, passed the launch, and headed west towards the Atlantic.  The creek narrows and right at the point that it connects with the ocean is a unique mile or so.  At that point the creek is perhaps 100 feet wide, and is lined by restaurants with docks, hotels overlooking the waterway, marine businesses of all types, and docks.  Moored all along that stretch are fishing boats, shrimping boats, larger pleasure craft, and all sorts of seafaring transportation.  It's quite the unique mix of stuff - picturesque just doesn't seem to capture it all.  Here's a photo of it at sunset, a shot of some of the fishing boats, some of the restaurants, and an aerial view/map of the area (the area I'm talking about is to the left of the bridge - Coleman Blvd).

As we passed under the bridge we noticed dolphin slowly arcing about 50 years ahead of us.  Elizabeth says that all the fishing and shrimping boats throw extra "stuff" overboard so the dolphins come there to feed.  As we got closer we noticed that there were many of them, in several groups along Shem Creek.  Eventually, they came within 6 feet of our kayak - so close we could almost reach over and touch them.  They didn't seem spooked by our being there, and lazily moved around us.  It was absolutely wild, and an experience I'll never forget.  I'm kicking myself that I didn't have my camera - I was worried it'd get wet - but these kinds of things don't come very often for me.  I was so entranced by the entire experience we're headed back there this evening.  This time I'll have my camera.  You watch - there will be no dolphins to be found.

Eventually, we moored at a dock owned by one of the restaurants lining the Creek and I finally got my burger.  It was a perfect way to end the day.

After another quiet evening today, things get busy.  Elizabeth's kids are finishing the school year so we'll be attending an event for that. Then, I've got a 600 mile drive to Miami.  I'll be mixing work obligations with conference obligations there on Friday, attending a variety of conference related events Saturday, doing a board meeting for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, then packing up and driving back to Charleston (late Saturday or Sunday) .  To top things off, there's an LPGA golf event here this weekend (it'll be televised on NBC Saturday and Sunday) so we have tickets for that.  I doubt I'll make it there.

As we were drifting in the raft on Monday it struck me just how amazing my life can be sometimes, and how fortunate I really am.  Last weekend I was in the snow covered mountains of Olympic National Park, almost as far northwest in this country as you can get.  This week I'm floating with dolphins, watching the sunset in Charleston, with Elizabeth.  Life is truly for living, and although I certainly have my fair share of obligations and expectations,  ups and downs, gives and takes - it's the opportunity to fit soul-recharging things like this into the mix that truly provide the balance.  From time to time, I continue to find myself astonished by my life, almost like I'm a bystander watching it unfold for someone else.  That fact that I'm actually living it is nothing short of a blessing. 

I'll finish by sharing some lyrics from a song that has somehow seeped into my consciousness.  It's by Holly Brook, and the title is "Wanted" (a haunting video clip someone has created and set to the beginning of the song is on YouTube - watch it)

I will be wanted
I will not fall from grace
Daylight has waited
Just to live upon your face
I won't be haunted
I will not sleep to dream
All that I wanted
Has been right in front of me

All the hell just gets me higher than before
Now an angel has come knocking on my door
To tell me I can fly

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's Memorial Day weekend, and places NOT to be right now would include airports, highways, parks, or beaches.  Thankfully my flight on Saturday morning was early enough to avoid the worst of the rush, and the flights were uneventful and smooth.  School is already out in Arizona, as they will be in many part of the country in coming weeks, and it's obvious by the different mix of people at the airport.

Today is Memorial Day.  For many, it is the unofficial beginning of summer celebrated by cook-outs, beaches, or other outdoor enjoyments.  It's day when people around the country pause to remember people who have paid the ultimate price in defense of this country. 

One friend recently asked me if my unique "situation" has affected my patriotism.   It has affected everything, so by default it would be disingenuous to argue that my sense of patriotism has remained intact.   The question I asked in return is what, exactly, is patriotism?  Like other ideals and beliefs, patriotism is an intangible, and attempts to definitively define it or explain it necessarily limit it.  In fact, I believe that much of what others perceive as my activism is simply and indication of my unique sense of patriotism - although probably not in the same sense that most would define it. 

For example, I am committed more strongly than ever to ideals that somehow seem to become trite buzz-words for too many: justice, equality, respect.  These ideals do not abide by the arbitrary confines of nations or cultures, but it seems to me that standing up for them, and even dying for them, is the ultimate expression of patriotism.  It saddens me to see that so many people somehow confuse a misguided "My Country, Right or Wrong" mentality for anything more than fanaticism.  Patriotism cannot be a blind allegiance to a flag or to a government - history has demonstrated over and over again what that leads to.  No, patriotism is a dedication to higher ideals.  That, for me, is the key.  

Somebody on a Memorial Day thing on CNN this morning said "Patriotism isn't about politics.  It's about loving our country."  It's not that simple. Patriotism is a commitment to what we like to believe that this (or any) country represents to any of us. There's a world of difference between the two.  A patriot isn't simply someone who blindly loves their country.  It's someone willing to stand up for ideals that form the foundation of what it can be, what it should be, and what it needs to be.

It has been a nice weekend here in South Carolina.  The weather has been absolutely perfect - I can't imagine it being any nicer.  Elizabeth and I spent much of yesterday with all 4 kids at a local water park, and although I swathed myself in sunscreen I've got a couple of places that are pretty tender this morning.  I've got to dial in for work this week so my daytimes are pretty much spoken for.  And, I'll be headed to Miami sometime in the next couple of days.  Elizabeth had originally planned to come along, but her kids are done with school this week and there are various family and other social obligations so it doesn't look like that'll work out.  Sigh.

I'm doing work today, and Elizabeth has taken the kids to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  The late afternoon will involve kayaking on a local waterway, hamburgers on the grill, and an evening under the stars.  I can't think of a better way to spend Memorial Day (or any day, for that matter)...

 

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another week comes to a close.  I stopped for a second and realized that it'll be June in a few days.  Somehow, it feels like only yesterday that it was Christmas.  Yikes.  Honestly, the biggest obstacle I feel I face sometimes is that there just isn't enough time.  There's so much I want to do, so much I want to experience, so much I want to cram into whatever time I've got left here that it sometimes feels like the only way to fit it all in is to add more time.  Since that's not an option (adding another day to the week would mess up too many calendars, although I'm certain any day I'd add would be a weekend day) the thing that's probably most reasonable is to prioritize.  So many things, so little time.  So, which ones to do?  Prioritize.

I've got a couple of things on my mind this morning.  The first regards Amancio Corrales, a 23-year old gay man who was brutally murdered in Yuma, AZ in April 2005.  Amancio often performed under the stage name Dalila, and his battered body was found floating in the Colorado River after a night out with friends.  He was truly a beautiful person and his vigil several months after his death, to keep visibility on the case when it seemed like it was becoming forgotten, is something I'll never ever forget.  We can talk about whatever fire inside of us fuels activism: it can be outrage, or frustration, or desperation, or any number of similar emotions.  I'll never forget hugging Amancio's mom at the vigil, watching the videos of him on the large screen TV that they had brought to the dusty riverside that evening, and the realization that none of us can afford to allow the Amancios of the world to be forgotten.  It was a transformative event for me.  You can't look into the eyes of a mom who has just lost a son to unspeakable brutality like that and not be somehow changed...

 I was shocked to see an email pop up in my in-basked yesterday afternoon indicating that an arrest had finally been made in the case  (read one news account here, and another here) after an anonymous tip was provided to the Yuma Police.  These things are almost never solved, especially after so much time has passed, so I'm elated, excited, amazed and any number of other emotions at this news.  There's still a long way to go to prove what happened, who did what, and to ensure that the appropriate level punishment is assessed (do they still allow drawing and quartering?) but this is indeed wonderful news.

I uploaded my photos from the NCTE Lobby Day events in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago.  You can see them here.

Image hosted by Webshots.com

I've got a ton of things to do today before heading to Charleston again tomorrow.  The next couple of weeks will involve trips to Miami to participate in the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce 2007 National Business and Leadership Conference, and a corporate training event in Virginia.  I'll be dialed into work each day so it's certainly no vacation.  Still, I'm also hoping to catch a little down time here and there so we'll see how it all pans out.  I'm not looking forward to going to the airport tomorrow morning - not just because it's another one of those early morning flights that I seem to be catching with increasing frequency, but because it's a holiday weekend and they're anticipating that more than 125,000 people per day will be streaming through Sky Harbor Airport each of the 3 days.  It'll all work out.  It always does.

Lastly, my son is doing great.  He's back to us usual self - none the worse for wear.  Thanks to all for the kind wishes and words.  They worked.  :)
 

Monday, May 21, 2007

My son had surgery today.  I'm wondering if we're the first parent/son that Dr. Meltzer has worked on.  During our pre-op appointment a few weeks Elizabeth called to chat.  I mentioned that I was in Dr. Meltzer's waiting room, and that I was there with my son who had an appointment to meet with him about a procedure.  She was quiet for a couple of moments.  "Ummmm," she said.  "Is there something you need to tell me?"  Too funny.  (some probably won't see the humor in that...)

My son was supposed to come home with me and spend tonight in one of my spare bedrooms, but there was a little bit of complication so they called to tell me they were going to keep him here overnight for observation.  It's nothing overly significant, I'm told, but it's just one of those things.  So, here I sit, in a barely lit room with my son deep breathing, waking up every ten or fifteen minutes to complain about something, machines around his bed buzzing and whirring. 

I have a couple of things to share tonight.  First, there's an article about LA Times sportswriter Christine Daniels in the current edition of The Advocate (Read it here).  It's well done and perhaps more importantly, she's pleased with it.  At the end of the day, that's what matters.  Everyone and their brother will have an opinion on what you do, what you don't do, how you do it, how you should do it, how you didn't do it....and on and on and on.  She's being very careful about controlling her exposure, and my own opinion is that she's being very wise.

Second, for some reason I'd like to share part of an email I recently received from a friend.  I think she enjoys psycho-analyzing me. Here are her thoughts:  

In reading your blogs I am constantly impressed by your drive, your stamina and your dedication. Still, I note every now and then a hint of something else, something I am quite familiar with. Being something of an expert at running away every so often you allow your readers and people you chat with candidly to catch a glimpse of the true you.

Now I am most probably out of line here and if I’m wandering into territory you’d rather not have me venture into please do don’t hesitate to tell me to bugger off and I will. But there are a few things that are clear to me that I would like to share with you.

The first is that you are not exactly happy with your life at the moment. Sure, you enjoy most of the things you are doing and have a great circle of friends. You derive a great deal of satisfaction knowing that you are helping others and making a difference. Trust me, I know the feeling. But your current circumstances are not what Donna wants them to be. Your goal in life, the place where you are striving to reach is like the dawning of a new day, one that is out there ahead of you, just below the horizon. You can see the soft glow off in the distance and you are working your way toward it but you are taking a most cautious and curious route, much like a sailor tacking into the wind. It’s not fear that is holding you back. Lord knows you’re well past that stage in your life. Rather, it is a reluctance to leave behind all that you’ve known for something that is new and still quite mysterious. So you busy yourself doing things, things that are important, things that need to be done but things that hold Donna back from reaching that ever illusive goal that is out there just below the horizon, just beyond your reach.

The second thing that is obvious to me is that Elizabeth is in every way your besheret. And yet you hesitate. I can appreciate this feeling. In the Army we had a saying, “Once you’ve commanded you can never be commanded.” In your case I believe you face the greatest challenge that all people face when it comes time to give themselves over to another. Having been free and independent for so long, being the master of your world the idea of lashing yourself to the fate of another, of relinquishing some of your freedoms and accepting the burdens of another as your own is a very scary prospect. “Ever After” is a very scary thing, a commitment that one cannot take lightly.

Interesting.  I don't really feel a need to explain (or defend) myself, or admit that she's right or wrong or somewhere in between.  She is, however, correct in her observation that I'm not exactly happy right now - although the word I'd use isn't happy, it's content (satisfied).  In the bigger scheme of things I'm generally happy, however I'm not content right now.  I don't agree that the reason is a reluctance to leave behind all I've known - I've done it before and I'd do it again if I felt I needed to.  That's not it.  The thing that has me unhappy is something I've tried to articulate in the past: the constant tug-of-war between a career that I have, in many ways, outgrown and the freedoms I need to do other things that have deeper meaning to me.  The hesitation isn't reluctance - it's dependence.  It's on my mind quite a bit these days.

As for dearest Elizabeth - well, we shall see how things unfold.  That's part of the excitement of life, no? 

Anyway, my son is resting quietly so I'll take this opportunity to pack up and go home.  That's enough sharing for one night. :)
 

Sunday, May 20, 2007

When I left cloudy Seattle shortly after noon today it was 50 something degrees.  Three hours later, as I got into my car in long-term parking here in Phoenix, the temperature gauge said 114.  That's nutso.  I hope this kind of crazy stuff doesn't get me sick.  My digestive system hasn't been very happy these last few days, so I'll hope it's just one of those short-term bugs.

The trip to Esprit was wonderful.  Smaller conferences like this are much more intimate than the bigger ones, and this particular conference has a unique personality I haven't seen before.  It's held at the Red Lion Inn in little Port Angeles, WA - a small coast town northwest of Seattle just on the outskirts of Olympia National Park.  On one side you've got the ocean, and on the others you have the mountains.  It's a very impressive location.

Perhaps even more impressive than the scenery is the town itself.  The town seems to embrace the conference, which has been held there since 1990.  There are "Welcome Esprit" signs in businesses near the hotel.  The hotel staff is among the most pleasant and friendly that I've encountered at these kinds of events.  As large groups of us walked down the street cars driving by waved at us.   During the wonderful talent event on Friday night townspeople lined the upper deck, and seem to be enjoying themselves almost as much as the attendees were.  It's an extraordinary relationship.

The highlight of the week was the graduation event yesterday afternoon where first-timers (newbies) were awarded a very impressive butterfly broach during an emotional ceremony at the Elk Lodge across the street from the hotel (there are stuffed moose heads and elk heads looking down off the walls - it's surreal).  Each first-timer is assigned a big sister for the week in what I believe represents what many of us are to each other.  The week is far less structured in terms of workshops than other conferences I've attended, and seems to emphasize more social aspects of getting out and doing things.  There were nearly 200 people there, and by the end of the week it was truly a close-knit group.

I had the pleasure of meeting Christine Daniels, the sports writer for the Los Angeles Times who came out several weeks ago and created a bit of a stir (understatement).  She's truly a sweetheart, and from what I've seen she's got her head firmly on her shoulders.  It's interesting to see how she's handling things so much differently and more low-key than Susan Stanton.  For example, she turned down an interview with Larry King - she said she realizes that she's just not ready for that yet.  It's not that there's any right or wrong - it's just interesting to see the difference.  Anyway, kudos to her and best of luck to her as she heads back home to return to work as Christine.  She's in my prayers.

It was an honor to be invited to do the lunchtime keynote on Saturday.  I specifically tried to avoid getting too political as this just wasn't the place or time.  At some point I had a flashback to my own early days when transgender Sacramento teacher Dana Rivers came to talk Phoenix. I went to watch her simply because I'd never seen a "high profile" transgender person before and I wanted to see for myself what she had to say, and what she was like.  She talked about some of the everyday challenges we face as transgender people simply trying to live our lives and make it through the day, and although she didn't get too political about it she planted seeds in my consciousness that I have come to realize eventually took root.  These things can have powerful delayed long-term impacts, and to this day I don't know whether to thank her or to curse her (just kidding).

Here are a couple of photos of the weekend.  I made many new friends, and met people I've only known via email.  Thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.  I'll be uploading a few dozen that I took to Webshots in the next couple of days...


The incredible views at windy Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

The ladies in Red at Mardi Gras night

 

 

Party time at Esprit

One highlight from the trip was the opportunity to spend a little time in Olympic National Park (see above).  We took a couple of hours to drive up to Hurricane Ridge, less than an hour from the hotel, yesterday afternoon.  It was a trip I very much needed, as those kinds of things recharge my spiritual batteries in ways I can't describe.  I expect that the coming week will drain my energies in some potentially significant ways, so as the weekend comes to an end I'm feeling prepared to do what needs to be done.

My son is having some minor surgery tomorrow to fix some damage to the bridge of his nose.  He'll be here at my place recovering tomorrow night, and although the procedure is relatively minor surgery is still surgery.  Nobody likes to see their baby hurting.

Secondly, I've got some things to settle at work.  We'll see how it all sorts itself out.  Brace for turbulance.

Finally, tonight is the second to last episode of The Sopranos.  I don't watch much TV, but I got hooked on it last year and it's one series I make a definite effort to watch.  It's getting down to crunch time, and my prediction is that Tony's son isn't long for this world.  We'll see how it shakes out.
 

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm sitting in my hotel room, on a bright, brisk Friday morning; with my door ajar to let in a little of the morning coolness and the fresh sea air. The symphony of sounds is wonderful: sea gulls cawing, morning birds singing, the horn from what is undoubtedly a large ship off in the distance.  It's a wonderful respite from my usual craziness.  Needless to say, it's much needed. 

When I landed in Seattle last night it was 10pm.  The 3 hour flight from Phoenix was uneventful, and I wish it had been light outside as we flew over the Grand Canyon and some of the snow covered mountains that make this particular flight spectacular.  At that point, it had already been a long day with a full schedule of work, all the logistics to re-pack and make it to the airport, and the general hubub involved with traveling.  I had friends (thanks Claire and Roberta-Ann!) waiting there to take me on the 2nd half of the trip - the 3 hour drive from SeaTac across the Puget Sound and north to little Port Angeles right on the Washington coast, for the Esprit Conference there.

At some point after the boat ride the weight of my fatigue combined with the relaxation of the night road caught up with me.  I remember struggling against it, and eventually relenting and drifting off to sleep as Claire piloted us along the 2-lane roads.  We arrived at the hotel at 1:30am, I was in bed by 2, and now at shortly after 8 I'm already up and enjoying the morning air.  Go figure.

I've never attended this Conference before.  I've heard wonderful things from people who have been here before, and the organizers have been great.  There's a different atmosphere at these smaller events - and I enjoy that.  It's not the same level of go-go-go I typically experience at the large events: SCC and IFGE.  I'm told they're expecting about 180 people here which is about all they can handle, and that sounds just perfect.  They attract some of the key players you see at the larger events: Dr. O, Dr. Meltzer, and others, who make the same fly/drive marathon we did last night to get here which certainly says something about the event.  It sounds like a perfect blend.  I've been looking forward to this for a while, and the opportunity to mix a little relaxation with meeting with old friends and making new ones is the perfect way to cap a very busy couple of weeks.

The ET! folks tell me that they'll be devoting a segment in their Entertainment Tonight Weekend show this weekend to more footage from our event last week.  The good news is that I'm told they'll include some of the talk with Stephan - the FTM in our group - which is important to me.  He provided a different perspective, one that so often seems to get overshadowed by the more sensational MTF stuff, and I think it's important that his voice get heard.  They also said they'd create a DVD of the segments for us after they've all aired, and I'm thankful for that. 

As always, I think it's important to thank people when you think they've done a good job the same as it's important to speak out when you're not happy about something.  The folks at ET! took a significant risk by dreaming this up and including it in their show, and my own feeling is that their treatment of it never wandered across the line into the creepy territory that we've all seen before.  The discussions were about substantive topics: suicide, surgery, discrimination, courage, authenticity, and were done in a dignified and respectful way.   If anyone has anything to say to the ET folks, please take a the time to do it.  Jennifer is the person who first contacted me, who helped arrange all the logistics, who called time after time to be sure they didn't say anything that would in any way offend me, and who's bright personality made the entire thing so much more fun.  She absolutely rocks, and she created a mailbox where people can provide feedback.  You can send your comments to ET! here.

I need to go and see if I can find an Ethernet connection around here to dial into work.  It's not the weekend yet, and I have things to do.  Something tells me I may have a problem there, but we'll work thru it.  Once I get a cup of coffee, it's onwards and upwards....
 

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Well.  It has certainly been a busy several days.  I'm back home in Scottsdale this evening, and it has been a long day of traveling, working, speaking and now unpacking/cleaning/repacking before going to bed.  Although there's quite a bit to say I don't expect this will be a long entry.  I'm too tired to type.

I've got a few photos to share from the last few days.  I expect I'll upload the balance of them to share shortly.  Here are a few....


Mara Keisling (Exec Dir of NCTE) and Lisa Mottet (NGLTF) conducting the training session

A friend, me, Susan Stanton and Elizabeth at the Reception on Monday evening 

Jenny Boylan and cutie Jeffrey Carlson (All My Children)

Me, Elizabeth's grandmother, and Elizabeth on the steps of the Capitol

There were quite a few sub-plots, perhaps the most obvious of which was the constant stalking of Susan Stanton.  I wouldn't have wanted to be in her shoes for anything - paparazzi, press, reporters were everywhere looking for her.  One photographer approached me in one of the House buildings and asked if she would be coming at some point.  I asked the guy if he even knew what she looked like - he didn't.  Then how does he expect to take a photo of her?  Anyway, it was wonderful to meet her and to have a little while to chat. 

I'm told that CNN is planning to do a special on her.  I've read that she's a front-runner for a City Planner job in Sarasota.  For her own sake, I hope all this blows over soon so she can get on with her life.  This kind of visibility for any extended time is suffocating, and Lord knows she has other more practical things to worry about. 

I think the ET! "Transgender Summit" series is over, although I was told there would be 4 segments and there have only been 3 so far.  From what I saw (not all that much) and the feedback I've gotten - it was well done.  A condensed version of some of our discussion is available on YouTube (search for Transgender Summit), and on the ETOnline website.  One thing I didn't see, and I don't know that they included, was Stephan - the Female-to-Male who participated for the last half hour of our discussion.  That would be a shame, and if that's the case I plan to call to see what can be done.

This breather for me will be a short one.  I'm off again tomorrow, headed to Port Angeles WA to attend the Esprit Conference there.  I've never attended it before and am looking forward to checking it out.  I'll need to pack accordingly, as the highs there are supposed to be almost half of what they'll be in Scottsdale this weekend (50 something vs. 100).  To tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to a little quiet time there. 

 

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!  I'm on the road again - currently on I-95 heading north to Washington DC.  It's one of those road trips that can't help but make you smile: Elizabeth, me, and Elizabeth's grandmom, Dee (she's spunkier than the two of us, combined!).  The GPS says we've got 476 miles to go. 

I've got more information on the Newsweek feature coming out next week.  It'll be on sale tomorrow (Monday) but is available online now (“Rethinking Gender,” this week’s cover story in Newsweek Magazine).  Be sure you purchase a copy and let Newsweek know what you think of their piece.  One organization featured in it is Trans Youth Family Advocates, a very worthwhile group that has been growing in leaps and bounds.  If you contact them please say 'hi' for me.   :)

Also, there's a cover story today in the St. Petersburg Times: Introducing Susan Stanton.  She and I  and Jenny Boylan and Elizabeth are scheduled to have dinner tonight so it will be nice to have a chance to meet and relax before all the craziness begins tomorrow.

Other topics for today....

Music.  I haven't written about music in a while.  I bought a CD last week that I've already come to love.  It's the new CD by Michael Buble called "Call Me Irresponsible".  Mr. Buble has a couple of songs from past efforts that are important to me.  One is called "Home" (see the video here).  It has deep, personal meaning to me in that I don't know that I've found that place I feel comfortable calling home - deep to my soul.  That's a much longer and deeper discussion than I plan to have about here right now...

He also sings the version of "Beyond the Sea" at the end of Finding Nemo, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Anyway, on this current CD he's got 2 songs that hit home for me.  The first is track 6, titled "Lost" (You can hear it here).  Close your eyes and listen to the lyrics.  "You are not alone, I'm always there with you, and we'll get lost together 'til the light comes pouring through. So when you feel like you're done, and the darkness has won, babe you're not lost.  When your world's crashing down, and you can't bare the thought, I said babe you're not lost."  It chokes me up every time....

The other is my favorite upbeat love song right now.  It's track 9: "Everything".  (See the video here).  "''Cause in this crazy life, And through these crazy times, It's you, it's you.  You make me sing, you're every line, you're every word, you're every thing."  To me, that's love.  That's happiness.  Sigh.

 

Friday, May 11, 2007

10am:  Well, Entertainment Tonight has a blurb for the "Transgender Summit"  on their web page.  (See it here).  So far so good, I think.  I'm glad that they labeled me as "the Dad".  They asked me if it was ok and I told them it was.  I'll always be that to my son, and especially this weekend - I would never infringe on my ex-wife's claim as his mother.  When you see us in these outdoors shots, remember that we did them at, like, midnight after all the interview stuff was done.  We were walking up and down Hollywood Blvd. - it was chilly, and they were filming a music video across the street.  People drove by and honked, and people who passed recognized Alexis so we paused from time to time.  It was funny, too, because as soon as we started all of he sudden paparazzi were there in front of us taking pictures.  Apparently, there is a swanky nightclub as part of the hotel so they camp out there to get photos of whoever shows up.  Somehow I can see a picture of the 5 of us showing up in the National Enquirer or something.  Stranger things have happened.

1pm:  It has been an interesting morning.  I've gotten a couple of calls from the folks at ET! confirming that it's ok to use some of the terms that they'd like to use about me.  They asked if it was okay to refer to me as a "Soccer Mom" which is fine - I've certainly been called worse things.  I appreciate the fact that they're checking with me on this stuff - it's remarkable.  I don't know if I've said it enough - everyone there has been nothing short of wonderful with us.

I uploaded my photos from the ET! shoot to Webshots.  You can see them here:

Image hosted by Webshots.com
ET! Shoot - 5/19

I got an email from Terri O'Connell indicating that she's being featured on Insider tonight, as well.  That's wonderful news....

And, I just received the HRC Weekly Message email from Joe Solmonese that goes to board members each Friday.  Here's a paragraph from it:

We, however, do have great citizen-lobbyists telling the truth all the time.  And one group that will be walking the halls of Congress, next Tuesday, is over 120 members and supporters of the National Center for Transgender Equality.  With the first ever transgender inclusive version of ENDA now introduced, it is vitally important that transgender members of our community tell their personal stories and educate lawmakers.  A special training for the NCTE Lobby Day will take place at the HRC Equality Forum on this Monday and then the lobbying and a rally will take place the next day.  If you'd like to learn more about the great work of NCTE, check out: http://www.nctequality.org/

 

If you can possibly get there to attend, please do.  I think it's going to be the beginning of another amazing week....
 

8:45pm:  I don't know what I feel more: satisfaction or relief.  I thought they did a good job with tonight's segment.  And, I'm comfortable that they'll do okay on the other segments.  As Forrest Gump would say, "...and that's all I have to say 'bout that."
 

Thursday, May 10, 2007

First, here are a couple more photos from yesterday as we were preparing for the ET shoot yesterday:


Me, Sasha, and Reina.

The two wardrobe girls (I rarely saw one without the other), and me. 

This has been quite the whirlwind 36 hours.  Somehow, I think something has happened that moves things to a new level.  Not just in what I've done, but in the bigger scheme of things.  I consider myself to be a "big-picture" person, and somehow the big picture seems too big to fit in the frame sometimes.  This feels like one of those times.  As anyone who has loitered here for long can attest, I've believed that the next critical step in our growth as a community, as has been proven time and time again by other marginalized communities that made this difficult journey, is to gain broader mainstream integration.  It feels like springtime, because I see the seeds that have been planted in recent years are coming to bloom all over the place, at an unprecedented pace, and it's almost scary.

Some examples:  I'm told that, barring a big news event in the next day or two, the front cover of Newsweek will feature Transgender "stuff" next week.  In case there's any way someone misread that - I'm talking about the cover of Newsweek.  And, whether or not it gets bumped it will still be featured significantly in it, including trans NASCAR driver Terri O'Connell's efforts to get back onto the track again.  You don't get much more mainstream than Newsweek, and this stuff doesn't happen all by itself.

In politics, Nondiscrimination Protections for transgender people have surged in an unprecedented way. Since Jan. 1, 2007, the legislatures in four states have passed nondiscrimination laws. Three of those states — Iowa, Oregon and Colorado — moved to extend protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and the Vermont Legislature passed a bill amending its existing nondiscrimination laws to include transgender people. As a result, the percentage of the U.S. population living in jurisdictions protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination will rise to 52 percent, crossing the halfway point for the first time.

In addition, earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives passed a hate crimes bill containing explicit protections for transgender people by a vote of 237–180.  A similar bill is working its way through the Senate.  And, there is widespread expectation that both houses of Congress will take up the trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) before the end of the year. This is huge.

Susan Stanton in Largo.  Christine Penner in Los Angeles.  A transitioning character in "All My Children".  A transsexual character in ABC's hit show, "Ugly Betty".  A well received movie at the Tribeca Film Festival (She's My Brother).  Barbara Walters spending an entire hour talking about transgender kids.  And, next up, Entertainment Tonight.

I saw a teaser for the Transgender story on ET! this evening and it's hard to believe we were actually taping it last night at this time.  And, as with most things, I think the level that people will like the end result depends on two things: both the result itself, and their expectations.

I'll share a few things.  The ET! feature starts tomorrow (Friday 5/11), and was originally envisioned as a two-part story.  It has since grown to a 4-part story, and will continue on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.  I can't remember ever seeing a 4-part story on ET!.  I like to think it's because we covered some important ground that will hold people's attention for that long.  We'll see.  People will need to realize that this isn't PBS, or TLC, or the Discovery Channel.  It's popular, mainstream television where the first word of the title (Entertainment) isn't simply a prop.  The key is to feed these topics in ways that are palatable and that others can digest.  All too often we find ourselves preaching to the choir, and in this case there's no choir in sight. 

I've asked them to provide a list of resources where people can go to get additional information.  They said they'll put a spot for that onto their website.  I also asked if they could provide a copy of the video on their website or on YouTube so people can see it on an ongoing basis.  They're investigating that.  All in all, it has promise...

I'll be honest by saying that I expect that it will contain some of the sensational stuff we're used to seeing.  That's always the hook.  The good news is that they didn't shoot any footage of any of us getting dressed, putting on our make-up, or doing our hair.  Many of their questions were serious: suicide, violence, discrimination.  As many might imagine, they asked about sex, and it's a topic I think we handled head on, in a good way.  They asked about our relationships, and they wanted to know what it's like to come out to your child.  I think these are all topics that need discussion, and I'm interested to see how it comes out.

Part of the problem with these kinds of things, as I've shared in the past, is that by doing them you and only you know what was actually said.  Nobody watching knows what ended up on the cutting room floor, or what is taken out of context in the final product. What may have been an insignificant discussion point in a larger conversation can be made to be the conversation itself, and taking that risk is part of sticking your neck out. 

I'll admit, I sometimes get burned by these things.  In the Marie Claire article a couple of years ago I was furious they twisted my statements to say that I particularly enjoy it when men stare at my breasts. Even as recently as this winter when I talked to the local GLBT rag, ECHO Magazine, about transitioning and they decided that they needed to add fiction about polishing my nails, and putting on makeup.  I balance that against good work, like the article from the Arizona Republic a 18 months ago.  There's a price to pay, and all I've got is my credibility.  As long as I and the people I care about know what's real and what's not I figure we're good.  And, at this point - we're still good. 

I've got a little movie that I took with my digital camera during one of our breaks last night.  It gives a driver's seat perspective of what I saw: Alexis, the other gals, the lights, the two camera guys over to my right, the hair stylist, the wardrobe gal....It's not high art, but it's the first video I've posted here.  I'm actually happy about that.  And, I expect there will be more.

I'll have more to say on my trip.  But, for now, I'm done.  Watch my video by clicking here.  It takes quite a while to load at this point, and is only :41 long, but I expect I'll be tweaking it over coming weeks in order to get it to run faster and cleaner.  Still, you've got to start somewhere, and this is that somewhere for me.

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Actually, it's early on Thursday, 1:25am to be exact.  We finished with our shooting for the Entertainment Tonight event about an hour ago and I'm settling into my room for a little sleep. I've got a 5:00am wakeup call so even under the best of circumstances I'll only get 3 hours of sleep before then.  Not good.

I don't have the energy to explain everything that happened here tonight.  They did a great job of collecting a very diverse group of us, and all out stories were different yet in many ways the same.  They got some GREAT footage, and everyone who participated deserves a medal for courage and honesty.  They were awesome!!  The only question on the table is how they're going to edit it.  I have no clue how they're going to edit almost 8 hours of intense talking into the 5 or six minute it will eventually get.  The one thing you can be sure of is that some very good stuff will be lost.  That's a shame.

Alexis was a sweetheart, as were the others in our group. These kinds of things forge unique bonds, and these gals have become like sisters in a few short hours.  I share some photos here, as I head to bed.  I'll have some thoughts to share, but my mind is too tired to contemplate even the simplest things right now. 

Enjoy, and goodnight.


Setting up.

The group of us. 

The set, in the penthouse of the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood......

Hugging Alexis at the end.  It was a long day!


 

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

7:00 pm:  As if my life weren't busy, crazy, or exciting enough, along comes another opportunity that I just can't pass up.  I'm headed to Los Angeles tomorrow to tape a segment for Entertainment Tonight  I'll be back home again Thursday morning

A movie recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC titled "Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother".  Alexis is part of the Arquette acting family that includes David (married to Courteney Cox), Patricia, Rosanna, and Richmond, and has an interesting resume.  Without going into too much detail a small group of us are being invited to screen the film with her, and then to talk about being transgender.  As most know, I'm very cautious when approached about this kind of stuff but I've learned to trust my intuition, and I think this will be done right.  Anyway, I'll be headed off tomorrow morning for a day of taping and fun.

Of course, the first question that comes to mind is, "What to wear?"  I'll be deep in thought on that as soon as I'm done here.  During our planning yesterday we discussed tentative plans to air this story as two parts: one on Friday and another on Monday - straddling the weekend.  I'll verify that when I get more concrete information.  I hope to God this goes well....

Starting on Saturday, I'm scheduled to fly to Charleston (another one of those dreadful 5am flights), drive with Elizabeth and her grandmother the 500+ miles to Washington DC on Sunday, attend NCTE Lobby Day there on Monday and Tuesday, fly back to Phoenix early on Wednesday to do an event here that evening, then fly to Port Angeles, WA on Thursday to attend the Esprit Conference there through the weekend.  At the front end of this it looks daunting.  Somehow, I expect I'll look back over it and marvel that it all somehow came together.

I'll keep this short, as I've got lots to do before tomorrow.  Keep your fingers crossed....

10:45pm:   It's getting late, and I'm just back from 40 minutes on the treadmill and a hundred sit-ups.  I decided early in the day that I wanted to run today so even though I had an unexpected detour through the mall thanks to my trip to LA I kept my word to myself.  I'm glad I did, although this kind of exercise at this late hour often leads to difficulty sleeping for me so we'll see how happy I am with myself in the morning.

I'm finally having a little dinner - yogurt and fresh fruit with honey and walnuts (yumm!) - and cooling down a bit before bed.  I can't shake the feeling that this is the calm before the storm.

My shopping excursion this evening was a success.  Well, let's say I found some clothes that fit beautifully, that are well made, that look good, and that were on sale.  That's all the good news.  The bad news is that I bought them at St. John, where I couldn't afford some of the other SALE stuff much less the full price stuff.  The word that comes to mind when I see their racks of classic styles is elegant, and even though I don't have the body to do most of these fine clothes justice I still like to try.  Whether it fits or not, that's how I like to see myself.  I'll admit that I'm still suffering from sticker shock, although if these clothes and they look as good on TV as they did in the dressing room I won't let it bother me for too long.  These kinds of opportunities don't come around very often.

I have to admit: There really is something special about well made clothes.  It's odd for me to say that considering half my wardrobe came from Costco, but it's true.  I bought a salmon colored dress, and a black jacket to go over it.  There were a couple of other nice pieces that fit and looked nice on me as well, but I'm sure I'll be back there before too long.  The sales lady was a blast, and we had the entire store to ourselves, so it was almost a lesson in mixing and matching to create various outfits from a few basic elements.  I love that stuff!  Of course, if I had left it to her I would have dropped a couple thousand dollars or more.  Cha-ching!

Good night....
 

Sunday, May 6, 2007

My ex called yesterday to remind me how much money I still owe her.  That was not a conversation I wanted to have on my weekend "off".  Still, it's like the finish line is in sight.  Now all I need to do is make it there.

I expect some significant changes in my accommodation situation between the middle of summer and the end of the year.  I've been renting since I moved here in late 2004 and I don't expect to renew my lease when it expires this autumn.  So, I'll need to find something else.  One reason is that I've simply outgrown where I am.  Another is that there are things I want to be able to do but can't.  Like, play my drum set.  They frown on that when you have connecting walls to people above you and next to you.  And, having a BBQ.  That's another big no-no; something about a fire hazard.  I expect to start seriously thinking about what and where sometime over the next few weeks.  We'll see where it all ends up.

I went out with a good friend last night, for a little shopping and then some dinner.  One of the things I particularly enjoy with this friend is the deep conversations we have.  I don't have this kind of sharing with anyone, and it's really healthy to have those kinds of opportunities.  I'm so thankful to have these kinds of friends in my life, and I know the feeling is mutual.  Honestly, I don't know what I'd do without them....

I didn't transition to be an advocate, or to write, or to have a website - those things somehow seemed to happen as a by-product of a newly awakened sense of social consciousness that's very disappointed by all the unfairness it sees.  The unfairness is based on ignorance and fear, and that's what makes life so hard and so unhappy for so many.  All too often we find ourselves living in some fringe, isolated to some little transgender 'ghetto' as though that's all there is.  It's not all there is. 

I didn't do what I've done to be alone; to live in an isolated world of my own making.  I didn't transition so I could suddenly expect less out of life, or out of myself, than before.  I transitioned so I could finally find some peace and happiness, so I could finally be, and to learn what I needed to make decisions about my life.  That necessarily involves other people as gender, to me, is more about interactions and roles than it is about a particular body part.  I'm incredibly fortunate to know the people I do, and to have the opportunities that I have.  Not a single day goes by that I don't remember that, and that I'm not thankful.  Still, I do the many things that make up my ever-more-complicated life because I like to believe that dignity and respect are meant for all of us - not simply as trans-people but as people.  And although my naive notions about fairness and justice have long since faded and tarnished that doesn't mean any of us needs to accept less.

HRC is putting the finishing touches on a Trans 101 DVD that I've been talking about for well over a year.  It's sad, frustrating, aggravating, and almost funny that it has taken so long, but I hope it will be worth the wait.  I saw a pre-final version of it but I'm almost afraid to hope that it'll be done soon.  Then, when it does finally come out I can already hear the complaints from the usual suspects.  Sometimes, you can't win for losing....

I've got a friend visiting from Eugene, OR tonight and we've had a very pleasant evening.  She's an incredibly talented photographer, and she has been showing me all the neat tools and tricks to make your photos better than new.  For example, there's a program for the Apple called Aperture.  It's astounding, and it gets all my creative juices going.  I just love photography - simply for the sake of doing it, and it's just another one of those things I need to stop and make time for.  Sigh.

Speaking of photographs, every once in a while I'll see a picture of me that I actually like.  It doesn't happen very often, and I post many of the photos of me here despite the fact I'm less than thrilled with them for one reason or another.  I got several photos today that were taken at the Syracuse University alumni event a couple of weeks ago.  I'll share them here.  The first one is one that, for some reason, makes me smile.  I'll admit - I like it and I may put some version of it on my main page somewhere.  But for now, it's late and I need to get to bed.... 


I don't know why - I like this photo......

Me, Adrea Jaehnig (Director of the SU LGBT Resource Center), and Matt Foreman

The SU alumni in town for the Rainbow weekend....

A group of us at brunch...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

I wrote this last night, but never had a chance to post it:

Holy Crap!  I know it probably doesn't mean anything to anyone who might be reading this but me (and Angie), but I just watched a hockey game the likes of which I haven't seen before.  I don't feel like rehashing all the details, other than to say that the Sabres tied the game with 7 seconds left, and then won it 4 minutes into overtime.  When that winning goal went between the goalie's legs into the net I jumped to my feet and let out an a yell: "GOAL!!!"; it's one of those involuntary responses - like a reflex.  When the Sabres score in overtime, or the Bills score a touchdown - I automatically find myself jumping up.  It's a good thing I didn't have anything messy in front of me. It would have ended up on the ceiling, propelled there by my jump.

For anyone who wants to see what all the excitement was about, there's video of it on YouTube.

I had planned to spend a good part of the weekend putzing around my house but that's not the way it's working out.  I signed up for a 2-week free membership at a local tennis club (I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago) so today was my first visit.  I had a lesson.  It was a blast, and we spent the entire hour working on my backhand.  Then, I spent another hour practicing against a ball machine.  I had to call it a day when a) I had a blister on my thumb, b) I started to realize just how sunburned I was getting, and c) I saw that I'd been there for over two hours.  There's something wonderful about hitting a tennis ball on one of those rare occasions then it hits the sweet spot on the strings of a tennis racket.  The sound.