Gay Games VII – A Transgender Experience

July 15-22, 2006


I participated in Gay Games VII in Chicago, IL USA during the week of July 15-22, 2006.  I carefully chose the word ‘participated’ over other words I could have used, like ‘competed’ or ‘attended’ because that was really what this entire experience was all about for me.  Participation. 

Certainly, this event is far too large for any one person to experience it all.  Over 12,000 athletes of all ages, sizes, and skill levels from all around the world came to Chicago to give it their all.  The various sports competitions, educational activities, social opportunities, and informal networking went around the clock all across Chicago and the surrounding areas.  My small sliver of the entire Gay Games experience, as described here, is simply my opportunity to record my thoughts while they’re still fresh.  And, of course, to share.

I suppose in a way my experience was somewhat unique in that I understand there were very few transgender participants - less than a dozen of us self-identified as such - at the Games.  That's a shame.  I'm not sure whether that's because the outreach to the transgender community was somehow flawed, whether the trans community in general was apathetic, whether the trans community didn't feel comfortable being involved in something like this, or if there just aren't any trans athletes out there.  I expect it was some combination of all of the above, although I have a hard time believing that there is some lack of transgender athletes.  Perhaps they don't consider themselves competitive or athletic any more, or perhaps they were reluctant to self-identify on the registration, but I hope that my good experience there helps to overcome some of that reticence if that is indeed the case.

My 6 days in Chicago were actually a mixed bag of obligations and experiences.  I arrived a couple of days early to attend the Human Rights Campaign Board meeting, and then switched gears late Saturday after the meetings had ended and the Opening Ceremonies were about to begin.  Plus, my sweetie Elizabeth was here so finding some quiet time to spend together was a constant goal despite all the other things going on.

The first order of business after arriving in Chicago early Thursday evening was to meet up with Elizabeth and to go to the Hilton on Michigan Ave. to pick up my credentials as an athlete.  Everyone who registered for the Games had to go through a thorough process of providing paperwork, a photo, and any number of other sports-specific documentation items to be able to compete.  Every single athlete had to come to the Hilton to pick up their ID badge and goodie bags.  Those who had submitted everything ahead of time (as I did) were sent an email saying that they were “Green To Go”.  That meant that they went into the fast line.  Those who hadn’t provided everything found themselves stuck there for hours. 

Thankfully, not many athletes had arrived as of Thursday so getting through the whole process went quickly and was pretty painless.  There was a big vendor expo area that wasn’t quite open yet so we couldn’t go visit that, but the mile-or-so walk from our hotel was very pleasant so we actually enjoyed being able to stroll together at dusk.  Both Elizabeth and I were very impressed with downtown Chicago – it was bustling with people at parks, shopping, exercising, doing all kinds of things. 

The board meetings started bright and early on Friday.  As always it was nice to see some of the people on the board who I have come to consider friends.  I think the highlight was the opportunity to spend a little time with David Wilson and his husband from Massachusetts.  David is my Board co-chair for Diversity, and although we were both part of the same board “class” we’ve never really had an opportunity to get to know each other as people outside of our roles on the Board.  I’m really glad the 4 of us had the time to spend together that we did.

Another highlight was an HRC reception on Friday at a local art gallery.  HRC often schedules social things like this for us and it seems to be quite the complicated effort.  Three huge buses picked us up outside the hotel and drove us to Boystown for the event.  A key limitation for me over those first few days was the fact that my weight was hovering just over the maximum limit of my weight class (which is actually exactly where I hoped it would be), so continued vigilance in terms of food and drink required extra will power.  These meetings can often become eating orgies as they feed us very well.  I couldn’t afford to allow that to happen.

Elizabeth enjoyed meeting everyone, and from what I could tell everyone enjoyed meeting her as well.  She fit in perfectly, as always.  One humorous anecdote:  I was in Board Meetings all day Friday so Elizabeth had to find ways to amuse herself for most of the day.  I went to the lobby to make a phone call and there she was - sitting in the lobby using her laptop, surrounded by a basketball team of guys.  They were in town for some event and had a big bus parked out in front of the hotel.  She attracts that kind of attention and received several kind invitations to do various things during her stay there.  One guy actually called our room and left a message to see if she wanted to go to the Navy Pier with him for an afternoon.  Too funny. 

The weather was a factor each and every day we were there.  There was a mid-summer heat wave over much of the country, and Chicago felt the brunt of it.  Temperatures in the high 90’s and high humidity pushed the heat index up near 110, which is a dangerous situation when combined with bright sunshine and athletics.  There were heat warnings issued for the first several days of the Games, and I think that played a role in keeping some people away.  It certainly played a role in many of the competitions around the city.

I had a very good run on the treadmill on Friday that provided the final push to make my weight.  The fitness center at our hotel was on the 42nd floor and had a panoramic view of downtown, Lake Michigan, and the waterfront.  On my toughest days I go 5 some miles in 50 minutes which provides a good overall workout, while on others I run faster (I wouldn’t call them sprints because my little legs really don’t go that fast).  Watching the stop-and-go rush hour traffic along Lake Shore Blvd. helped the time to pass quickly, and was actually more entertaining than you might imagine.  I'm sure it wasn't entertaining if you were stuck in it, though.  It seemed to stretch for miles.  And, in hindsight I must admit that one of the things I’m most happy to have learned over the weekend was that my endurance wasn’t an issue at all.


Elizabeth's Birthday

Saturday was Elizabeth's birthday.  It had become increasingly apparent that our relationship had changed in recent months, and that her birthday was the perfect time to demonstrate my commitment to the new direction it has been heading.  Don't get me wrong - we've been friends for a long time.  We've been more than friends for a long time.  I don't even know that I can find a word to explain our relationship - everything I can think of somehow just doesn't seem to capture it all.  The only word that fits is Love.  But over recent months the realization that I didn't simply love her, but that I wanted to be near her.  All the time.  The fact that we've both got busy lives, various commitments, and miscellaneous other stuff going on makes our visits together all too infrequent and short.  We'll fix that eventually.

I gave Elizabeth a diamond ring for her birthday.  It's very pretty - 13 diamonds in all totaling a bit over a karat set in platinum.  I got it at during the silent auction at one of the various fundraiser dinners that I attend each year.  It actually surprised me to see it there - it's not the type of thing one typically sees at these kinds of events.  But there it was, sitting near the corner of the table, and somehow I took it as a sign.  I decided that this would be a test, and if I could get it for the money I was willing to pay then that would be an indication of the next step in this relationship. 

I don't really feel compelled to share the details of her birthday here, however I at least wanted to mention it.  I suppose I'll share the fact that the ring was a little small so we're getting it sized.  What does it mean?  Diamonds mean forever.  Diamonds mean beauty, and strength.  Diamonds mean endurance, and priceless.  Diamonds mean all these things, and perhaps most of all - diamonds mean Love.


The Opening Ceremony

Me and Greg, the captain of the San Diego Bulldogs Wrestling Club, in the staging area outside Soldiers Field before the Opening Ceremony.

Athletes filing into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony

The view from the field

The Fireworks Finale


The opening ceremony was held on Saturday night, July 15, in newly renovated Soldier Field.  Athletes were told to arrive at the stadium at 5pm for the 8pm event and I got there just a little fashionably late.  Lining up 12,000 people in any kind of an order is a difficult task  but although it probably looked like mass chaos to the casual observer I think they did a very good job with it all.  Each city/state/country team had a bullpen area outside the stadium that was assigned a color, and where everyone staged before being led into the stadium.

I can’t begin to explain what an entertaining spectacle the staging area was.  There were drag queens prancing up and down the aisles – some with exotic costumes from around the world.  There was a group of guys painted all in gold, posing like an ancient Roman statue.  There were exotic dancers from Africa.  There was entertainment on the stage – music, various cheerleading groups, and other interesting “stuff”.  All in all, it was the closest I’ve come to feeling as though I was in some sort of Twilight Zone Disneyland as anything I can remember. 

And, there was pin trading.  Many groups had pins that represented their teams, and we spent time prowling the other areas to find others willing to trade.  I had 25 Team Arizona pins to share, and traded most of mine away before it was time to start filing towards the stadium.

They had expected protestors, and I must admit that I did see one.  No, make that two.  I saw two protesters (although I'm sure there must have been more).  One was carrying around a big sign about Jesus and the other was apparently an ex-gay (I love that term) talking into a megaphone.  Although I don’t remember exactly what he was saying as we all filed past on our way into the stadium I do recall that he used the word “repent” quite a bit.  One of the athletes told him he thought he was hot….

When it was finally our time we marched single file towards the stadium - starting and stopping almost like a long line of ants on their way to the colony.  People were honking and waving-  it was quite the processional.  We weaved our way around to the gate that led into the stadium, and before you knew it - we were in.

Deep in the bowels of the stadium we were lined up by a drill sergeant trying keep everyone in the right place by running back and forth screaming and yelling to the point where his eyes were bulging out of their sockets.  I wish I had a picture of this guy: his face was beet red, he had sweat was pouring out of his entire body, and his neck veins seemed ready to pop into a geyser of blood at any moment.  He was a real trip.  This guy took his job very seriously and I give him all the credit in the world.  Somehow, when it came time to actually walk out onto the field we were all in the right place.  Go figure.

I can’t describe how it felt to stroll out onto Soldier Field at dusk in front of a stadium full of people – clapping and waving.  I’ll never forget it.  It is an experience I never imagined having, at an event I never imagined attending at this stage of my life.  It’s funny to see the places that life can take you if you just let it go.

Once all the teams had filled the field they turned off all the lights and the athletes on the field started twirling these colored flashlight thingy’s that they had distributed.  The effect was a huge glowing rainbow flag.  Very cool. 

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.  The athletes moved from the fields into the stands and most of the rest of the opening ceremony was drawn out, disjointed, angry, very long, very boring, mess.  I had pinpointed Elizabeth early on so we endured it all together.  There were a couple of interesting things, but most of it was pretty forgettable.  By 11pm there was no indication that it was anywhere near done, and people had already been filing out of the stadium for an hour.  I think most people expected a fun, gay, pump-it-up, exciting, extravaganza.  Those people were most certainly disappointed. 

I’m told that the last 20 minutes or so was exciting.  Too bad it happened after midnight and I’m sure only a few hundred people were left in the stands to watch it.  The rest were out sleeping or drinking or stuck in traffic trying to get away.  If I were to create a list of suggestions for the event organizers this would be one item on the list:  Don’t let the opening ceremony be a low-point.  It starts things off on the wrong foot.

Neither the plodding pace nor the lack of spark diminished this experience for me as a participant.  I will never forget it.  Standing there, in the middle of the field, looking up at the sky and the people and the color - it was beyond words.  That alone was worth the trip, worth the effort, worth the cost to be there.  It was more than that, though.  It was priceless....


(These photos are courtesy of Greg Lines, captain of the San Diego Bulldogs Wrestling Club.  To see more phots from the game, visit their website and open the album GGVII Chicago)

(You can view some of the Opening Ceremony at Logo Online by clicking on "Watch Now" under the text: "Coverage of the Gay Games VII opening ceremonies. Plus, an interview with Olympic diver Greg Louganis")


The Wrestling Competition

Sunday was the first of two days of wrestling.  The weather forecast was deadly – a heat advisory with temperatures near 100.  That’s 30 degrees hotter than the previous weekend, and the hottest day of the year so far.  Go figure.

The wrestling venue was the field house at Northwestern University which is located just north of Chicago in Evanston, IL.  If you follow the very pretty drive north along Lake Shore Drive for about 20 miles it eventually gets to Evanston, a pretty, quaint college town.  The best way to get there was to use one of the CTA rail passes that were distributed to each athlete – it took about an hour or so.


The GGVII Wrestling Venue at Northwestern University


The field house itself was fine as a venue.  There were some issues, though, that cannot be overlooked.  The main one is that there was no air conditioning.  That place turned into a sauna, and by the end of the competition on Monday I’m surprised that they hadn’t had to pull anyone out of there for heat exhaustion.  It was stiflingly hot and sticky – almost like a greenhouse – and spectators and wrestlers alike had sweat pouring down their faces.  I suppose that there was a positive side to it in that I lost 5 pounds from the minute I arrived and weighed myself to the time I officially weighed in at 5pm on Sunday. 

I’ll be honest, that in and of itself was a victory.  Shortly after Memorial Day I set a weight goal for myself and I’ve been incredibly disciplined and focused on it for several weeks.  My diet has been a thing of beauty, and I somehow found the will-power to avoid carbs and sweets that would have sent the entire effort back to the starting line.  My exercise regimen was a relentless gauntlet of aerobics and sweat – 5 days a week without fail.  All this for a self-imposed weight limit where it didn’t even really matter in the grand scheme of things.  But – it mattered to me, so making weight with 3 pounds to spare on Sunday night was a big deal for me. 

Another issue: they would not allow access to the locker rooms or shower facilities so people had to change in bathroom stalls, behind curtains, or wherever they could find.  The general consensus is that the university didn’t want their locker rooms exposed to any gay “cooties”, but who knows the real reason.  As with the air conditioning, there’s no excuse for that.

One humorous incident from Sunday:  Part of the process for wrestling involves drug testing.  That means you have to pee in a cup so it can be sent off to a lab to check for “performance enhancing drugs”.  Each wrestler had to go thru the process at some point during the day on Sunday in order to be able to wrestle in the competition on Monday.  No problem there.

Early in the day I went into the room where the medical team was managing this urine testing process to do my duty.  It was all very official – each of us had to take a urine sample kit from the table, walk into the bathroom with a chaperone, wash our hands (no soap), open the kit and pour the contents on the table, and then go into whatever stall we were directed to go into and pee into a cup.

Under most circumstances this would not be a problem.  However, at that point in the morning I was a little dehydrated so I really didn’t have much pee to give.  There was some minimum amount that they needed and my little sample wasn’t enough, so I would have to do it again.  The catch is that once you do it, you can’t leave the room until you finish the process.  There was no sign indicating anything like that, but the urine Gestapo was not in the mood for fooling around so there was a group of us trapped in that room, drinking water and waiting to have to pee.  In the meantime, the rules clinic started in the main gym.

After a half hour I decided to give it a second try.  We went thru the entire process again.  This time, there was even less pee than the first time. 

One of the wrestlers was pissed (please forgive the pun).  He was trying to make weight and refused to drink any water as it would add a few extra ounces.  I was not nearly so uptight about the water part and I started drinking until I thought I would explode.  After an hour, I decided to give it another try.

This time I peed so much I could have filled 3 of those little cups.  I could have been a urine donor.  The third time was the charm.  When I finally got free I made it back to the gym where Elizabeth was watching everything and it was already lunchtime. 

Speaking of eating, Sunday night is the first night I’ve been able to eat without the pressure of having to be careful about what and how much I eat in a long time.  That alone was worth celebrating.  Elizabeth and I had a quiet dinner at a restaurant near the hotel.  The dinner itself was good, although nothing really worth wasting memory cells to remember for a long time.  The best part was dessert.  We got a warm apple crisp thing with ice cream that was to die for – absolutely delicious.  It probably tasted better than it actually was to me because of my self-imposed deprivation, but boy-oh-boy was it good.  In an odd way, it was a highlight.

Our days were very long.  It seemed we were up ungodly early in order to catch the train somewhere, and somehow it was always after midnight by the time we finally went to bed.  Elizabeth is the type of person who hits a wall and that’s that.  She’s fine while she has energy, but once her tank becomes empty that’s it.  She falls asleep.  And once asleep, there very little in the world that will wake her.  It really is pretty remarkable.  I don’t think my internal clock ever really adjusted to the time change, because the worst part of the day for me was the morning – struggling to wake up after too little precious sleep.

I suppose I should mention that my only wrestling practice over these past 27 years were those 2 days over Memorial Day weekend in San Francisco.  To think that I had honed my moves to a fine point would be a mistake.  In fact, to think I had mastered even the most basic of takedowns again would be a big stretch.  I relied on the fact that I knew the basic moves, and that once I got into a match I could use a couple of them.  I realize that’s probably not the best strategy, but when it’s all you’ve got you need to believe in it.  I did.

The sad truth of the matter is that I didn’t really have anyone to wrestle.  There were only 6 or 8 women wrestlers in registered to compete, and none in my weight class.  That meant I automatically won a Gold Medal just for being there, and I didn’t have to wrestle a single match at all if I didn’t want to. 

But that’s not my style.  It never has been and I expect it never will be.  I didn’t go through all of this to be given a medal by default.  I wanted an opportunity to wrestle – to prove something to myself.  The goal wasn’t necessarily to win – certainly that would be nice but it wasn’t the be-all goal that it once was

There is something called an “Exhibition Match” which doesn’t count in the standings, but nonetheless is a match with all of the pressures of any other match.  Two wrestlers from different categories (weight, age, gender) can agree to wrestle and it becomes part of the tournament.  I was hoping to find someone who would wrestle me in an Exhibition Match, so I fully expected that I’d have an opportunity to wrestle at some point during the day.

We got  back to the field house early on Monday for the competition, and the weather looked to be a carbon copy of the day before.  Hot, steamy, and sweaty.  I really must say that Elizabeth was a real trooper during all of this – she sat in those stands through all the boring hours and was one of the only people in the entire place who didn’t have rivers of sweat rolling down her face and soaking through her clothes..  She certainly had a healthy sheen on her skin, but she somehow found a way to avoid becoming a total puddle like so many others.  It must be a southern thing.

Also, thanks to Erin from Indianapolis for being there and enduring both days with us.  She drove all the way to Chicago and stayed at a local hotel to be able to attend the wrestling events.  I originally met her in Austin several years ago, and she has come so far in her own journey since then. 

There were three mats down, and wrestling on all 3 was happening through most of the day.  The way the sport works is that wrestlers start by standing up and try to take each other to the mat and gain control.  That’s worth a point.  If you can somehow expose your opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a moment it’s worth two points.  If you can do it for a little longer, it’s worth 3.  There are other variations, but those are the main ways to score.

The goal of wrestling has changed quite a bit since my college years.  Certainly, the basic premise is the same – either pin your opponent or score more points.  However, the way to actually achieve that has changed in ways that significantly affect strategy.  Each 2-minute period is a mini-match and the person ahead on points at the end of that period “wins” that period.  The goal is to win two of the three periods.

If one wrestler is 6 or more points ahead of his/her opponent, they automatically win the period at that point so there is no need to continue wrestling, so that period ends.

If a wrestler wins the first 2 periods, there is no need to wrestle the third period.  They win.  And, of course, if one wrestler pins the other by touching both of their shoulder blades to the mat for even only a half a second the bout ends right there no matter who is ahead on points.  So, there are two main goals: to pin your opponent, and to not get pinned yourself.

Wrestlers are paired in weight classes so they generally wrestle people who are their own gender, age group, and size.  It’s not really fair to wrestle someone 25 pounds or more heavier than you are – and in fact they’re very strict about weight.  If you’re even an ounce over your weight class they’ll make you go away to lose it before allowing you to wrestle in that class.  It’s pretty serious stuff.  During the weigh-in’s on Sunday I was standing in line and noted to the person in front of me that this was the first time I had weighed-in in 27 years.  He said it was his first weigh-in in 18 years – the last time he competed in anything like this was high school.

At some point one of the photographers there approached me and asked if I was the wrestler who had been featured in the Chicago Sun Times.  I thought he was talking about the story a couple of weekends ago that included a couple of quotes from me, but apparently he was talking about a new article that had been featured just that morning.  I told him I didn’t know anything about it so he went into the Press room to get a copy.  There it was – big as life.  “Transgender Wrestler Hopes to Gain Acceptance”, with photos of me during my wrestling days and today.  It was well written and hardly took anything I said out of context.


By noontime the gym was as hot and steamy as the day before.  Elizabeth was there, and a small contingent of friends from HRC had made their way out in hopes of watching me wrestle.  Frankly, I think they really only wanted to see me in my singlet because they expected it to be funny but once they got there they felt obliged to actually watch me do something.  I spent the day warming up, stretching, watching matches, explaining what was happening, warming up some more, looking at the competition brackets, sweating, stretching, keeping myself hydrated, and generally hoping I could find someone who would wrestle me.

None of the girls in the weight class near mine wanted to wrestle me for various reasons.  That was disappointing.

Shortly after noon a wrestler from a club in Philadelphia came to me to say he would wrestle me.  His name was Ed, and he’s a tall guy with a shaved head.  He’s very nice, and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to wrestle me.  In my way of thinking, people really didn’t have anything to gain by wrestling me.  If the won people would say of course they won - they wrestled against a girl.  If they lost it could be embarrassing.  And, of course, someone could get hurt which is always a possibility.  One wrestler ripped the ligaments in his shoulder and had to be carted off the mats. 

So, in mid-afternoon I finally heard my name called to the mat to wrestle.  As I started warming up again it was almost surreal to realize that I’d be wrestling competitively again.  My last match was at in Montreal back in 1979.  This wasn’t practice.  Although it was an exhibition match, it was still a regulation match.  In fact, I’d expect that it was the first match involving a transsexual woman wrestler in this country, if not anywhere.  It was suddenly a big deal to me, and I worked to focus on the work at hand rather than the excitement of it all.

There are 3 referees at each mat, and as I stood at the scoring table getting ready to wrestle a couple of the referees started chatting to me.  They were wonderful, and actually helped to keep me calm.  We talked a little about how difficult it was for women to find training opportunities, and how the sport had changed.  And, but the time we were called to the center of the mat to shake hands, I was ready to go.



At the center of the mat - the match is about to begin


The match itself is a blur.  Elizabeth video taped it so I’ll have to watch it at some point. 

I tried a takedown throw but he was slippery and I lost my grip on his arm.  He got a point for taking me down about 30 seconds into the match. 

If nothing is happening after a few seconds when one wrestler is on top of the other the referee will blow his whistle and make both wrestlers stand up again.  I sprawled out to make it difficult for him to do anything, and it wasn’t long before we were up again.

I learned my lesson on that first takedown so the next time I shot something less risky - a basic single leg takedown.  It’s one of the first moves you learn as a wrestler, and lo and behold there it was.  As the move unfolded, though, we ended up on the mat in a position where his back became exposed.  And, as I cranked with my feet he became more and more vulnerable to the point where I had him in a difficult position.  He should have let go, but he made a mistake and didn’t until it was too late.  And, as fast as you can say “Pin” it was over.  I won. I couldn't believe it.


The match is almost over - it's amazing.


How do things like this happen?  How do people like me come back after all these years and all these changes to win wrestling matches?  Who knows?  All I can say is that I was surprised, amazed, thrilled, relieved, happy, and any number of other emotions all at the same time.  As the ref held my hand in the air I couldn’t help but think back all those years ago, and how this match meant just as much to me as matches all throughout high school and college.  Maybe even more.  And, I can’t thank Ed enough for giving me that chance.  He absolutely rocks!


A very special moment: The referee lifts my hand as the winner at the end of the match


Shortly afterwards someone approached me to ask if I’d like to wrestle another Exhibition match.  He was in a weight class above mine, but since my first match had ended relatively quickly I still had energy and adrenalin left to burn I agreed. 

This person was from Chicago, and ultimately won the Gold Medal in the Men’s 100 kg Open category.  In one of his matches that we were watching he was on top of his opponent and pulled this poor guy’s arm in an odd direction a little too hard.  It ripped tendons and muscles, and they eventually carted the injured opponent off the mat.  It was the worst injury of the day.  Because of this, Elizabeth dubbed him the “Terminator”.  I didn't stop to consider it at the time, but he weighed 20 pounds more than I did and I probably should have reconsidered not so much for fear of losing but for the risk of getting hurt.  I didn't.

Our match was one of the last of the day.  And, as should happen, the much better wrestler won.  He was bigger, stronger, and far superior in terms of skills than I was.  He had an answer to every move I tried, he didn’t make mental mistakes, and he seemed so long that his body went on forever.  I’m happy to say that he didn’t give me any respite because of the fact that I’m a girl, or that the match didn’t matter in the standings.  There is a move called a cross-face that’s particularly unpleasant, and he hit me with two of them – good and hard.  I had bruises on my chin and nose for three days.   His size advantage was apparent as he flipped me in the air not once, but twice.  I'm sure it all looked pretty spectacular from the stands.

The good news is that I didn’t give up, and I didn’t run out of gas.  All those hours of training on a treadmill paid off.  I got frustrated, and a little angry at myself for some of the things that happened during the match, but I didn’t give up.  And, I didn’t get pinned.  He won two periods, so there was no need to continue.  And, as the referee held up his hand and we walked off the mat I didn’t really feel all that bad for losing.  Sure, I was disappointed.  I’d be lying if I tried to say otherwise.  But as a little time passed I started to feel good about what I had done and for having taken the chance. 

I remember my very first match, way back in 8th grade.  I found myself overwhelmed.  My stomach was in knots, my mind was a blur, and by the second period my mouth was so dry I could hardly breathe.  I remember being pinned.  I hated that.  I really hated getting pinned.  Losing I could live with, but getting pinned really bothered me to the point where it was a significant motivator for me.

I finished this tournament with a Gold Medal.  I finished with two Exhibition matches under my belt – both against men.  I ended up with a victory against someone who made a mistake and it cost him, and a loss against someone who was bigger and much better who didn’t make mistakes.  I finished with my pride and my dignity intact, some bumps and bruises as reminders of the struggle, and a sense of satisfaction that the most significant opponent I faced really wasn’t another wrestler, it was myself.  And, in that context, I truly felt proud.

At the end of the day they called my name to come up and get my Gold Medal.  You create unique bonds as wrestlers, and when they called my name a shout went up as I made my way to the front of the gym to get my medal.  A Police officer put it around my neck and gave me a hug.  I stood there for a few seconds as people took photos, and that was that.


At the end of the day - a sweaty mess.  With the Gold Medal.


Truth be told, Elizabeth has the Gold Medal.  She wore it around for the remainder of our stay in Chicago and people congratulated her everywhere we went.  She's keeping it safe.  She looks better in gold than I do, anyways.

(You can view some of the Wrestling Competition at Logo Online by clicking on "Watch Now" under the text: "Gay Games officials and athletes talk about how they are dealing with the high temps in Chicago.")

Major achievements beg for major celebration. I think far too many people work far too hard for far too many things, and somehow they don't find or make the time to celebrate any of it.  One of my favorite sayings is "Life is all about dessert," and that's certainly true when it comes to celebrating.  There was so much to celebrate: Elizabeth's birthday, the wrestling achievements, the Gold Medal, and simply the opportunity to be together.

The first order of business when we got back to the hotel, however, was a nice long shower.  There are few things that can make a person who's feeling like a total rag feel almost human again like a nice, warm shower and in this case it's just what the doctor ordered.  My aching muscles cried out in joy.  All the sweat and grime from the day at the gym washed away.  Somehow, the warmth was like a rejuvenating late spring rain shower, and all the stress and exertion of the day was replaced by a warm sense of calm.  It's extraordinary that something so simple as a shower can do so much.

Where to eat?  We went to the concierge and told him we wanted a nearby restaurant where we'd be sure to have a wonderful dessert.  He recommended two possibilities, and within 20 minutes a cab took us to one of them.  Apparently, this place is like a sister restaurant to the Cheesecake Factory and we were not disappointed.  It was a wonderful way to end the day.


The Last Day

Elizabeth left early on Wednesday to catch her plane home. These kinds of good-bye's are simply part of the process any time we get together.  That's not to say they become easier - they don't.  But we each have lives in different parts of the country at the moment so it's just what we need to do right now.  I'm not sure when we'll see each other again.

I had a few things left to do so I couldn't leave until late in the day.  I packed.  I checked out of my hotel.  And, I prepared for my next event.

One of the highlights of the day was a Trans 101 workshop coordinated by HRC as an official Gay Games Event.  It was from 12:30-2 on the 3rd floor of Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, and provided  an opportunity to talk to a diverse group of people about trans issues, trans life, the work being done on behalf of the community, and pretty much anything anybody wanted to discuss.

I truly enjoy these kinds of things.  I enjoy meeting people, and sharing, and hearing what they have to say.  Unfortunately, the people who most need to hear these things aren't there so we end up preaching to the choir, but that's okay.  I think a significant portion of what needs to continue to happen involves community building, and events like these provide those opportunities.

There was a large immigration demonstration outside - with police, and chanting, and thousands of marchers.  I don't know that many in the room noticed, as the conversation was good and the time passed much too quickly.  There were perhaps 25 people there, representing a very diverse group, and I hope everyone there had as much fun as I did.  There were even a couple of sign language interpreters doing tag-team signing.  That was a nice touch.  One young woman asked me a question I've never been asked before.  She asked if I had developed a mental image of what Donna would look and be like, and how my current self compares to my initial expectations.  Anyway, I gave her a copy of my book for asking something so thought provoking....

After the talk I talked with a reporter for Sirius radio.  Then, it was time to get to the airport.

I wish I could report that the flight home was as smooth as the flight there, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.  Apparently there was an equipment issue on our plane so they had to swap it out.  That little maneuver delayed us by a little over an hour.  By the time we finally got settled on board it has started to rain, which is bad news when it comes to O'Hare.  They closed down a runway, which in turn made air traffic constipated all across the country.  The pilot taxi'd us to a remote spot on the tarmac and said there were over 30 planes in front of us so he was parking and turning off the engines for an hour or so.  Oy.

By the time we finally lifted off the ground we were a little over 3 hours late.  I passed the time doing work on my laptop and finishing some Sudoku puzzles.  I considered sleeping, but knew that I'd have trouble getting to sleep when I actually got home if I slept on the plane. 

By the time we landed it was almost midnight.  By the time I got home it was almost 1.  And, by the time I finally crawled into bed it was almost 2.  That's 4am Chicago time, making it a very long day for me.  The day, the trip, the event was over.  Now, it was time to move forward to whatever comes next.

I will never forget my Gay Games "Experience".  Elizabeth is already urging that we attend the 2010 games in Cologne, Germany.  We'll see.  There's lots of water that needs to pass under the bridge between now and then....


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