Donna's World
Notable People, Places and Things
In My Life

Welcome to My World. Actually, welcome to a small piece of it.

I hope to use this section of my website to introduce visitors to some of the people, places, and things that are an important part of my life in some way. Some are people who have played key roles. Some are places that are particularly worth of mentioning. I'm not sure exactly what this will become - I suppose we'll watch it develop together - which leaves lots of room for fun and creativity.

I do plan to incorporate photographs here. In fact, that's one of the main reasons for this areas of my website. I'd like to provide visual queues in a way that words just can't do. It invites visitors into my world in a more active way. And, I'm doing this to have some fun. In all of this - that's the one thing that all too often seems to get lost. Fun. Well, that won't be the case here.

My Son

My Son - Jan 2007 (21 years old)


My Son - Jan 2007 (21 years old)

I don't even know where to start. I mean, what words can you say when trying to explain how you feel about your son - your one and only child.  We've been through some incredible things together, and I could write for days about the roller-coaster that has been our relationship over the past dozen years.  I suppose the thing that's most important is that, through it all, we continue to love and respect each other.  Everything I have accomplished would be hollow without that.

My son is like me in many ways.  He's his own person.  His individually is very important to him and he really doesn't care what others think about it.  He's fiercely independent.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have the benefit of experience or maturity so he's learning some life lessons the hard way.  But that's just part of growing up, and lessons learned that way are usually the ones we learn best.

One of the things that gave me my greatest joy in life was being my son's father.  Our father/son bond was very important to me and I'm confident that if you asked anyone who knew us back then they'd tell you that it was special.  It really was.

When I first told my son about my unique gender gift he initially was very accepting.  Of course, he didn't really understand the full impact of what I was telling him, but he accepted it and he defended me - I was very proud of him.  Unfortunately, that initial acceptance didn't last.

As my transition started to become more and more visible he started to drift away.  I could sense it before I could actually see it.  He stopped returning my phone calls and emails.  He didn't want to see me.  Eventually, we lost touch altogether.  I initially blamed my ex-wife for preventing him from contacting me, for poisoning him and turning him against me.  But I eventually came to accept the he was avoiding me all on his own.  That was the single most difficult thing of my entire life.

After nearly a year, our relationship began to thaw.  He agreed to see me, and it was good.  We started spending a little time together, and I think he was relieved to see that the things that were important to him were still there.  Still, I had already started the wheels in motion to move away.  And, in mid-2000, I did.

Eventually I settled in Austin, and my son came to visit me over the summer and on his vacations.  Our relationship had come full circle to the point where I'd say it was as good or better than it had ever been.  He saw that my family accepted me, my friends accepted me, and that I was still me.  And, less than two years after I left Arizona to start my life over he moved in with me for his Junior year of high school. 

We have certainly had our moments.  Being a single parent to a high school boy can be challenging even without the unique circumstances of our family.  There have been good times, funny times, maddening times, sad times - you name it, we've been there.

Through it all, his support has never wavered.  He spoke at a PFLAG meeting in Austin and came away wondering, "What's the big deal about all of this?"  To him, it's such a non-issue. 

He has never made a pronoun mistake.  Not one.  He has never made me feel as though he is in any way ashamed or concerned.  He tells his friends when he feels they need to know, and I respect his right to his privacy.  At this stage of the game he's not a child any more (although he'll always be my baby) and we relate to each other more as adults now than as parent/child. 

He is truly the double edge sword in my life: my greatest source of pride AND my greatest source of frustration.  At one point, when we lived in Texas, one of our bonding experiencing involved attending the musical festival Ozzfest together.  My son enjoys a fairly edgy kind of metal music, and going to Ozzfest gave him an opportunity to celebrate his individuality with others like him.  There were all kinds of people there, and I'd be lying if I were to say I didn't enjoy going to these things with him.  He used to make fun of the fact that I'd put tissue in my ears, but we enjoyed bands like Korn, Marilyn Manson, Black Sabbath, and any number of others he enjoyed at the time.

The fact that he recently turned 21 reminds me that time is passing.  I remember the day he was born, bringing him home from the hospital, carrying him on my shoulders.  I have hours and hours of home video of him, from the day the home pregnancy test indicated that he was on his way to our trips to Disney, to Christmas mornings and Halloween candy countings, to his first day at school.  He was, is, and will always be my little man.

I took these photos earlier tonight.  I just talked him into getting a haircut (he's looking for a job) and he's not happy about it.  He said that it was too "poofy", so I trimmed it a little for him.  I think he looks great.  People who look at the photos of him in my book will see what he was like as a child.  This is what he looks like today - in all his glory.


Added 12/11/2007

From the "Where Does the Time Go?" Department: My son's birthday is less than a couple of weeks away.  He'll be 22.  I was watching "Knocked Up" last night and it make me think back to those days - getting ready for our first child, shortly afterwards, our early days as a family.  I have created a brief montage of photos from my collection featuring my son and I from those days (1986-1988) that are unlike photos I traditionally share here.  I include them here in the spirit of "change" - my son has grown and has changed significantly since those days.  So have I.

It's wild to look at those photos and recognize both my son and myself in them....


Maria - My Electrologist, My Friend.

Maria - My Electrologist

Maria and I at the V-Day Vagina Monologues in Los Angeles - 2002

Maria with Dr. Toby Meltzer - May 2005

There's no other way to say it.  I love Maria.  There are very few people in this world that I would step in front of a train for, but Maria is one of those people.  She absolutely rocks.

Maria owns Arizona Laser, Electrolysis, and Skincare. On any given weekend she's got people from the community here from all over the country - lured by both her tremendous talent, her wondrous empathy for the community, and her friendship.  For many of us, these ingredients are in short supply at a time when it's all we can do to make it through the day.

Maria has been working with our community for over 25 years, which is amazing in and of itself because she looks as though she was in high school 25 years ago.  She knows more about hair, specifically - about killing hair, than most people know about anything.  She has become a focal point for the trans community here to the point where many of us consider her one of us - an honorary member - and I think she's tremendously proud of that. 

The first time I met her was back in 1999 - as I started my transition and realized that I was already behind the 8-ball as far as the hair on my face was concerned.  I had read all kinds of things telling me how important it was to start this early and actually I really did - I had gone to an electrologist near my house - but we hadn't really gotten anywhere. 

I thought it would be awkward to call her and tell her I was trans, and that I needed my face cleared.  She knew it right away (of course) and made it easy.  And, for the next 6 or 8 months I think I saw her more than her family did.

How she does it I don't know.  We used to start at 5am.  And, she'd often work well into the evening.  On weekends, she'd clear an entire day to fit me in.  Hour after hour.  Hair after hair.  Single needle.  Multi-needle.  Galvanic.  Blend.  At one point she was recovering from the birth of her son so she treated me on a table in her house.  And, on top of all that, she still somehow had time to be a mom, a wife, a daughter, and a friend.

At the beginning, she worked out of a small office about 15 miles from here.  Eventually she bought a building that has become a bustling center for our community.  She was as much a social director as she was a hair remover.  Like a psychologist, I sincerely believe that we need to find an electrologist who has had experience working with our community, who knows the intricacies of removing large areas of male facial hair, who understands the tremendous pressures involved.  Maria is all that and more.  From my earliest newbie days I can't think of a single person who had a more profound impact on my transition than she did.

Our sessions weren't just endless hours.  We talked.  Or, at least she talked (it's hard to carry on a conversation with a face full of needles) and I did my best to participate.  She sang to me.  We've cried together.  We've laughed together.  Spending as much time together through as many life-changing things as we did creates a bond I just can't explain. 

As the clear spots on my face grew and grew the hairy parts became like an ice cube in hot water - shrinking away to the point where eventually there was none left.  I'd get up after any number of hours there and look at all the tree-trunk type hairs that she had killed - thousands of them.  It still amazes me.  And although those days were certainly tough, the passage of time has helped them to develop a sense of nostalgia about them. 

Things have changed since those early days - for me and for her.  There is so much hair that needs to be removed out there that she now owns an office with several treatment rooms.  Besides all her needles she has a laser so she can remove hair from head to toe. She's got a doctor on the premises who can give injections for the pain, and who provides other services as well.  But through it all, the beauty of it is that Maria is still Maria.  She calls me up on her drive home just to say hi and I'm happy to hear that voice.  On any given Sunday night when Dr. Becky, Margaux, Dr. Meltzer, Elizabeth, and any number of us descend on some restaurant for dinner she's always there.  I love her to death.

I encourage anyone who has an electrology question to call her (602-246-1966). Or, email her.  If you do, say 'hi' for me.  I know there are others out there who remove hair.  But, there's only one Maria.


Kyrie - as a baby

Kyrie - 4 years old.

Opening her Christmas gifts - 2003

Kyrie smiles, with mischievous eyes - 2005

"A Hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere
and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
– Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)

It’s important to have heroes. It’s important to have people in your life that you respect and to whom you can look for leadership, guidance, support, comfort, or motivation when you need those qualities most.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you’ll actually meet your heroes and sometimes you won’t. Perhaps they lived in another time, in another place. Perhaps they’ve accomplished things you only dream of doing. Perhaps they exhibit qualities that you admire – that you’d like to see in yourself. Sometimes they seem to gain a larger-than-life stature, while others seem grounded in the common, or the ordinary.

I have a hero. Actually, I have a couple of them. But, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about one of them in particular. She’s amazing.

Some may find it interesting to know that my hero is only 6 years old. But, she’s faced more adversity in her short 6 years than many of us face in a lifetime. My hero is my little niece, Kyrie (pronounced Kee-ree-yay).

They say that things happen in threes, and our family faced three significant events over a 6 month period beginning shortly before New Year’s 1999. First – in the week between Christmas and New Years Day – my father died. Then, in early April, my sister gave birth to her third daughter, Kyrie. Finally, in June and July I came out to my family.

Certainly, my father’s death impacted us all in profound ways that I think are still reverberating in each of us. Somehow, that never goes away.

And, my news was certainly surprising and unsettling at the time.

But I think perhaps the most tragic of the three was the rude welcome that Kyrie faced as she entered the world. For reasons we still don’t quite know, there were complications. She was born with the area between her upper palate and her voice box terribly under-developed to the point that she hardly had a lower jaw. She couldn’t swallow. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t talk. In fact, she couldn’t make any sound at all. Somehow during delivery her hip became dislocated, so that was a problem too.

I remember watching her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – this teeny little baby hooked to all these machines. She was trying to cry. No, she WAS crying. There was no noise. There was no sound – just this contorted little face wondering what she had done to deserve all of this. It was enough to break your heart.

There were no easy answers. Doctors couldn’t tell my sister and her husband what had happened – what could have caused this. They couldn’t tell her if would ever get better, if Kyrie could ever have anything resembling a “normal” life. They could only provide “maybe’s” and “let’s try this” – and it was Kyrie’s life that hung in the balance. My sister faced terrifying pressures to make the right decisions for Kyrie.

My sister tortured over their recommendations – to put a breathing tube into her little neck, and a G-Tube to feed her into her stomach. Why should this little soul have to endure this? What had she done to deserve this? And yet, she felt compelled to be strong for little Kyrie. She needed her.

For a long time, my sister’s house was more like a hospital ward than a home. There were medical supplies everywhere. When she slept the baby was hooked to a monitor that would alarm when her oxygen levels were low, or when her heart-rate slipped below a certain level. There were oxygen tanks to help her breathe. There were suction machines so they could insert a small vacuum tip into the trachea incision and suck out all the mucous and drainage. She can’t cough – she can’t sneeze. How many times has she fallen asleep at night – exhausted – with a nurse cupping her back for hours on end to loosen all the mucous and phlegm in her chest? Way too many to count.

Kyrie had to endure painful injections into her legs, and leg braces, in hopes that they would straighten her twisted little body. She couldn’t talk so she could never explain where she hurt, how she was feeling, and we could only do our best to explain that all of this torture was actually trying to help her.

This child has had 24-hour nursing care since birth. My sister’s house is always full of strangers (or of pseudo extended family members depending on how you want to look at it). Day nurses and night nurses. Physical therapists. Sign-language teachers. Always coming and going. Always there. Some have lasted for a few weeks. Others have grown to love Kyrie – because of her amazing spirit – and have proven to be miracle workers not unlike the Anne Sullivan/Helen Keller type. It has been amazing to see.

Kyrie is almost seven years old now. She’s never had a real meal – she still gets her food pumped into her stomach in big syringes – prunes, goopy cereal, yogurt. She can’t blow her nose. She can’t talk. But you know what? Miracle of miracles – she’s living a normal life!

She has learned sign language and can communicate with the rest of us. In fact, the entire family has learned sign language. She has gotten leg braces and special shoes, and she can walk. More than that, she can ride her tricycle! All by herself, with special pedals. She dances. She claps. She goes to the canal to feed the ducks. She has been mainstreamed in nursery school, so now she goes with all the other little boys and girls (her nurse is there, too) and she has just blossomed. She’s been locked inside herself for so long that interacting with all these other kids has just been fantastic for her.

Back in the early days of my transition, when I would start to feel sorry for myself and head towards that deep dark place we all have inside ourselves – wondering why life had to be so cruel to me - I’d think of her. I’d think of this little baby who never had a chance. How could someone like me, someone who has already lived a full life – a healthy life, a relatively happy life - feel so sorry for myself when little baby Kyrie never had a chance? It made me feel pretty pathetic. It really put things in perspective to the point where my little pity-parties were usually pretty short-lived.

This little child has more spirit in her than anybody I know. This child never quit. This child never stopped fighting. My sister and her husband never stopped believing. She’s got more fight, more resiliency, more grace than most of us can even imagine. Like me - like most of us - she didn't ask for the hand that she had been dealt in life.  But, for her, it's not a handicap.  It's not something to mourn.  It is what it is - and the thing that makes her special isn't what has happened, it's what she has become.

I only see Kyrie every few months when I get back to Rochester to visit. Her face lights up when I come into the room – she recognizes me. She claps in this special beat we have. She makes this funny face that she knows makes me laugh. She gestures for me to come over and to give her a hug. And you know what, when I’m hugging her and she’s hugging me back – it reminds me all over again of just how amazing she is.

Kyrie is my hero. She reminds me about all that is special in life by reducing things that sometimes seem so complicated to things that are actually pretty simple – things we already knew but somehow forget. She helps me to keep things in perspective – to stop and realize what’s really important in this fragile voyage called “life”. She embodies the enduring flame of the human spirit.

PS – I’ve asked my sister if she’d like to write her own piece on Kyrie, so you can expect that here soon.