Different Faces, Different Places

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When you miss a connection on MARTA (Atlanta’s subway and bus system) you can find yourself waiting up to 30 minutes for the next bus or train.

Today a young man and I found ourselves in just such a predicament.

After we exchanged the look commuters give each other when you just miss a connection, he spoke to me, in a soft and friendly voice.

“I don’t mind waiting, so long as I can use that time to make a new friend or just enjoy another person’s company,” he said to me.

Despite being pickpocketed just last week in New York City, despite being a woman all alone in a subway station with a young man I didn’t know, and not being at my strongest. I didn’t even hesitate.

I introduced myself and confided I had recently moved here from NY and that I found Atlanta’s mass transit system frustrating.

He told me his name was Chris, he was 23, and just moved here from Chicago.

I didn’t mention my age, of course, and when he guessed 35 I was tempted to nod my head, but decided honesty was the best policy.

“No, I’m 50.”

Chris was quite the gentleman. He offered me a flirtatious compliment — “Uh, you’re young enough to be one of my children” was my reply — and I learned he was headed to his college class for video production.

He was dressed casually, but stylin’, in comfy slacks and a tan suede jacket and brown cap — clothes befitting a college kid, even if he was older than your average freshman.

And I was wearing my WJLA-TV winter coat, betraying my profession, so we talked a bit about being a visual storyteller.

He told me his ultimate ambition was to be a spoken artist. Not sure what that entailed, I inquired: “like a standup comic?”

“That’s one possibility,” said Chris. “I do write comedy.”

We agreed writing comedy was among the hardest challenges, and I encouraged him to keep at it, to write every day, and to watch and listen and read the works of great writers and comics to find the artist he would be.

He revealed that a former lover, a woman he said was 43 years old who was not African-American like him but “of another ethnicity,” as he described her, had asked him to share with her an example of his writing.

“But I have,” he said he had told her. “Every day.”

“What are you talking about?” he says she asked.

Chris paused, stepped closer to me to tell me his answer, his eyes wide and alive. “I write to you, and on you, and in you, and all over you, every day. If you want to see what it is that I write, it is here, between us, right this moment. I write onto your heart.”

Wow, I thought to myself. This kid is smooth!

But to him I said, “That’s very poetic, Chris. You should blog. Write something every day, not just on the heart of a woman but somewhere where others can see it.”

“Thanks,” he said, as if that hadn’t occured to him. And then suddenly we were no longer alone. Chris and I boarded the train that had just pulled into the Sandy Springs station. We took seats next to each other, my new friend and I, and discussed poetry.

He admired a ring upon my finger that I told him was given to me by my lost love.

Chris mentioned race once more and I told him I know that for many people the difference is an issue, in making friends or enemies or creating alliances or division.

“Not for me,” Chris told me. And what followed was something I could tell were not just words fresh from his lips, but prose drawn from his memory. He shared this with me as one would reveal a treasured jewel.

“I don’t see races.
I see faces.
I see people, from different places.
And those people all have different faces.
That is the basis, that all of us being from different places means, even if I have a different face, together we are still part of the same human race.”

Amen, Chris.

I thanked him for sharing this and for keeping me company. We said farewell, then I left the train to continue my odyssey.

I committed to memory his spoken art, and committed to my heart his beautiful sentiment, so I could share it with you.

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Me, the Pope, Two Guys Named Benedict and the late Alan Turing

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Sometimes I hate the fact that I have a Google setting to alert me whenever someone has written about me. It is both a blessing and a curse.

I received yet another alert today, the first in months. I’m writing this to help me deal with the effects of that alert. While lessened, these kinds of things still cause me great distress, even at this late date. Fortunately, I’m a lot stronger now than I once was.

I will not provide you a link and ask you to not bother googling it yourself, because I don’t want this blogpost to become a conduit to give my critics page views. Suffice to say: a priest overseas wrote something about one of the bravest men of the last century, Alan Turing, whose life is the subject of a new film starring actor Benedict Cumberbatch (I loved him in “Star Trek Into Darkness”), This priest drew comparisons to Turing’s cruel prosecution for being gay, and the ordeal of my seizure, amnesia and subsequent involuntary detransition, to express his opposition to a gender identity bill in his native land. That country is pictured below, if you care to guess.

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Far be it from me to ever consider myself worthy of comparison to the hero who ended WWII, with his Enigma code-breaking machine and his brilliant mind. This priest did rightly condemn the mistreatment of Turing and others like him… then, a few words later, to make all trans folks look like lunatics and to make his point, he invoked both Pope Emeritus Benedict, Pope Francis… and the New York Post. In fact, he quoted liberally from that seedy tabloid’s fabricated account of my experiences.

Last time I checked, being trans in America now and being gay in post-war Europe are not at all similar. And even if you’re not an American you ought to know better than to quote The New York Post.

It seems “The Don Ennis Controversy” as the Huffington Post once labeled it, is an albatross that will stalk me long after I am dead. And the truth is, it really isn’t anyone’s business. I am not a public figure, and never was.

All that matters now is that I am me, and I am just one of many trans folk whose transitions were not smooth (even though mine admittedly started out better than I could have ever dreamed).

The really awful part of my transition was that it occurred under a spotlight, which I did not seek nor do not want to ever repeat. I didn’t ask to be famous, infamous or notorious. I hesitated even writing about it for fear some bozo will say “look! She’s seeking attention again!”

No, I’m complaining that my rights to my privacy are being violated, again.

Why can’t they just leave me alone? Seriously, I think I may need to vanish to make that happen.

Siri, Google: “abracadabra.”

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Remember Them, Not Me

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Today you may notice a lot of stories online and in the media about transgender people, like me.

That’s because today is TDoR: The Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day dedicated to honoring the lives of those we lost because of violence, ignorance, hatred and because living was just too hard.

Their names, and their faces, are HERE.

Look at them. Scroll through. There are so many from all around the world.

Among the general population, the average rate of attempted suicide or serious consideration of suicide is estimated to be about 2-to-3%.

But for transgender people, researchers say it’s 41%. No, not 4.1%. Forty-one.

This year I became one of the 41%, and I can thank my friends and my kids that my name will not be among those read tonight. My eight year journey is finally on the right track, and heading in the right direction… although, to be fair, this train of mine could afford to shed some of the extra baggage that’s accumulated over time. Still, these are better days for me.

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Not so much for others. In the last few months, transwomen of color have been killed at an alarming rate; one group estimates a transgender woman is murdered every 32 hours somewhere on our planet.

My children and I will stand up tonight at the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, and light candles in remembrance, and join others around the world in a call for an end to the hate. Find a gathering near you HERE.

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Leaving My Refuge

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I am taking a break from packing up my Bronx apartment, to write down my thoughts. And to cry.

The need to vent my emotions is overpowering.  I do that, as easily as I open the windows, to let in some fresh air, and (hopefully) carry out on the breeze my pain and my sorrow.

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This small space was my refuge.

My first home alone in a new name, at the tail end of an old life.

IMG_0334In May, I moved here with such dreams that I might just one more time rise like the phoenix from the ashes… that’s what I always did back when people called me Don… but it was not to be, not this time.

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This is where I crashed: apartment 806 here in Kingsbridge.

This is the site of a disaster that even the NTSB would walk away from, heads down, saying: it was bound to happen and nothing could have prevented it.

I call that time: my downfall.

Six months…. it’s been six months since I moved here in hopes that moving to New York City might save my job, my career, my reputation, my life of risk and gambles.

Most people won’t tell you that gender dysphoria screws with you in ways that are hard to detect. It tears you out from the inside. Maybe not everybody goes through this; I didn’t last year. I guess it wasn’t my time, because everything about my original transition went so well! And then it ended, involuntarily, abruptly, frighteningly.

When I awoke from my delusion, I found myself trapped. So I made an escape plan, and I gambled one last time, resuming my transition in private and in the company of close friends and roommates, until I was ready to do so — quietly — at work.

But the gamble didn’t pay off.

A year of losses mounted: close friends died… I wound up in emergency rooms every month of this year, from January through June… I crashed a car (or two), and another one vanished… the lease on my room on the beach was terminated and before I could pack-up and leave, a flood struck the condo… the tabloids and gossip pages knocked me down another notch of disgrace… “friendships” ended… job opportunities turned into closed doors, unanswered calls and deleted emails.

Oh, right, and I tried to end my life. Twice. I was a failure at that, too.

And I am so glad I was! It is because of friends and God’s mercy and grace that I did survive.

This is where I survived all of that. This is where I spent the summer of my downfall.

I thought. I prayed. I cried — every night, for months. I wrote. I was plagued by nightmares. I prayed harder. I wrote more. And I begged, and help did come.

Four months into my downfall, right to the day it began… somebody hired me. Then I found a second job a few weeks later. FINALLY: something I accomplished, as me!

But when I did the math — which you all know I hate (because I’m bad at it) — I realized, an apartment like this is for someone who has the kind of job I can’t get.

Moving back home was what I wanted, but without drama, and without forcing a no-win scenario. I had learned from my downfall, that was not a risk worth taking.

I became something over the summer I had never been: pragmatic. Oh, sure, from time to time, I’ll still leap and expect a net to appear, and go where angels (and devils) fear to tread. But hey, I’m Irish, and we do that. Usually after a pint. Or two.

It was without even a sip of wine I realized I had to find a new refuge. And as God works Her or His miracles, I found one outside Atlanta. Thank you, Lord, for sending me my dear friend, Stacey, and for making it possible that I can help her, just as she helps me. By becoming roommates, we are helping each other.

A new life is underway; it is not a rebuilding. I am not bringing that old life with me to Marietta. A lot of it is going in the trash, and the rest is being given away or sold. I have never in my life moved anywhere without a job waiting… except once, when I was a year old and my parents moved from an apartment around the corner to my first house in Bellerose, Queens. Yes, I have been working since I was four years old (see my earlier blog entry HERE for that part of the story), and except for a few months here and there, I’ve never stopped. Even when we moved to Stewart Manor, Long Island, it was because my sister and I were earning enough to make that happen.

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My friend and longtime mentor Steve Majors asked me earlier this summer: have I considered that maybe instead of trying to be the breadwinner I have always been, that perhaps this is the time that I need to heal, to regroup and recover from all that’s happened in the past year? I confessed to him that with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD, yes: I should. I so desperately wanted to. But I couldn’t. Three children and a spouse depended on me for support. And so, I kept knocking on those doors, in vain.

Now, here it is a few months later, and I see that God has once again provided the way for me to do just what Steve suggested. My part-time jobs will move along with me, and I pray I find peace in my new home.

II fly south November 1st. Me and all the birds.

As the song goes, the devil went down to Georgia… but my friends, they ain’t seen nothing like Dawn Ennis.

Keep in touch, and as Rick always said: “Be Good!”

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Rejection Dejection

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I found this online and found it to be helpful in processing my thoughts about a recent rejection:

“Viewing rejection as “you’re not good enough” will cause you to try to change in order to become “good enough” for that person or circumstance.

Seeing rejection as “it’s not right for you, but another person happened to recognize it first,” frees you to find something or someone who is right for you instead.

At the heart of this shift in thinking are four very important things:

1. LOVE yourself.

2. ACCEPT yourself.

3. DO YOUR BEST!

4. Have CONFIDENCE in the first three!

– Doe Zantamata

Click HERE for more insight and information.

The Journey of Our Lifetime

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Thirty years ago, I was a junior in college and I rented a car from the airport in Oakland, and after visiting San Francisco, I headed north. No destination in particular, I had no idea where I was going, and yet I didn’t feel lost at all.

I was out west for Columbus Day weekend, taking advantage of a still incredible bargain $99 flight on People Express — the airline where you paid after you boarded and the flight was already en route. It’s no wonder they went out of business.

I had no plans other than to enjoy myself and see what I could see. My drive north led me, inexplicably, to Point Reyes National Seashore, and its historic lighthouse.

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These pictures posted here are from the internet; I don’t have any pictures from that part of my trip, because I wasn’t there to take any. I just wanted to experience this place, and create memories for myself that have stood the test of time… and amnesia. When I reached Point Reyes near sunset, I knew I had traveled where I was supposed to be: my new, all-time and still-forever favorite place on Planet Earth.

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It was 16 years before I returned to California. I took my college sweetheart, now my wife, and our first-born there, to share with them what I had discovered. It wasn’t sunset, and it didn’t make any impression on an 18-month-old baby, but my beloved understood how special this was to me, and that was all that mattered. Now 14 years have elapsed and so much has changed in my life, I have made a promise to myself that I will return sometime in 2015. It’s time.

Why is Point Reyes so special? I don’t know. I have always felt a close connection to water, since my earliest days. Bodies of water, the sounds of waves, the vastness of an ocean in particular, calms my soul. Pretty funny for a kid who grew up so scared of water that I wouldn’t take a bath unless I could sit on a folded towel in the tub and didn’t learn to swim in a pool until I was eight.

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When you climb down the steep stairs to the lighthouse, and venture to the side where it faces the Pacific Ocean, you feel something like the character Kate Winslet played in James Cameron’s “Titanic,” Rose DeWitt, as Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) held her aloft at the stem of the mighty ship.

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You look to your left, and to your right, and all around you, all you see is the magnificent Pacific Ocean. It is as if you are, indeed, king or queen of the world. I have never witnessed such a view before or since.

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Every day has the potential to bring you new opportunities as well as obstacles, and that can lead to new perspectives and new feelings.

Even a new outlook. That happened to me recently. I’m still processing the experience and I remain a little tingly, in a good way.

I believe that when you’ve found a special place or a special person, seized an opportunity or overcome an obstacle, real or imagined, I think it is good to take time to consider how you got there, how you accomplished that feat, and what lessons you might draw for the next step on your journey.

That’s where my head has been at today.

And tonight, I am reminded to never miss the chance to tell someone: “I love you,” “I’m sorry, or “I hope you can forgive me,” thinking that it can wait until tomorrow.

The reminder came to me from my old, dormant “Don” Facebook account, where every once in awhile I find a reason to re-activate it for a short time, like just now. And almost always, I stumble upon something unexpected.

There, I happened to notice something I hadn’t seen before tonight: Darryl duPont, a dear friend of mine, posted a beautiful and heartwarming comment on a post about the passing of my pal, Rick Regan, earlier this year.

It stunned me because just a few days later, this friend, too, lost his life, and I failed to acknowledge his kindness. Darryl and I had other conversations, of course, and I know he knew of my fondness for him. This observation struck me as a reminder, there isn’t always time to say what needs to be said, right then and there.

So, covering my bases: I love you all, and for those to whom I owe my apologies, I ask forgiveness, and I am sorry.

Looking forward to another day and more adventures tomorrow and all the days to follow on this journey!

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Our Lifeboat

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I am a cast away.
I am lost and have been for some time now.
Once upon a time, i shared a rocking lifeboat with you.
And then came a day when you told me I needed to get out.
I did so, but felt as it I were tossed out, because you chose to sail on without me, feeling as though I must be lost to you forever, rather than keep your vow to stay by my side and help me through whatever came our way.
You told me you had had enough of sharing that space and need your own.
You said you’d added up the days of sitting by side and decided when it was time for me to go.
And so, I struggled, but I let you know, I’ve never let go.
You only hung on in the one place you would not admit there was still a chance I might find my way back aboard.
And even as I hung on, you encouraged me to let go.
You behaved as if me hanging on was holding you back.
And yet I hung on, clinging, refusing to let go.
And you refused to move even an inch toward me to bring me back in.
I wanted to spend the rest of our lives in our lifeboat.
Sail the high seas with our family until we could sail no more.
I’ve come as far as I can without your help.
I need you to move toward me to get me back aboard.
I cannot do it myself. It takes two.
I wanted nothing more than to forget the choppy sea.
And yet all you threw in my face was more of the same old water.
You doubted I could hang on, and said so.
You didn’t encourage me, and in fact discouraged me.
I let my passions be known, I did not let go of them, nor you.
And yet you refused to yield.
You never took stock of how far we had come together.
You only reminded me how far I had gone outside the lifeboat.
You said it changed me and refused to help me back inside.
Never admitting how much you had changed from someone who shared their seat to someone who saw only room for you and our kids.
You changed from someone who cared about all of us to someone who cared about all of us except for me.
Today I told you, there are other lifeboats out there. Maybe one of them is for me?
I reminded you, I want nothing else but to be beside you, but just like last night and yesterday and all the other yesterdays, you only see the hurt you feel and the old water between us and never consider what I need, just that you are not satisfied.
I thought, will you ever be?
Will you ever see that I have never let go? Despite how being in the water has changed me, right down to my fingers and toes, how the years of piled-up insults and recriminations and reminders of my shortcomings have hurt me, could you ever move just enough to help me back aboard? I know you are hurt, too, and I thought we could help each other heal those wounds.
But I wondered whether you would let that part still clinging to me overtake your own doubts and memories of what’s in our past and give me your hand?
Or will you let me drift here until I finally am unable to hang on for even another day?
You’ve said you need time to think about it.
I’ve said I have needs, too, and it’s time for you to show me that one of your needs is me.
But again, and again, and again, what you show me is that you will sail along without me unless I find my own way back into your lifeboat, on my own.
You feel assured that you’ve done enough, even though we both know, it takes two. And it always has.
I shared with you a story that touches my heart, about how even after a husband goes beyond what it takes to be together, how his love for the woman who refuses to move even an inch costs him everything. How much I feel that this is our story, too. And how the woman in the story saves him by finally seeing him as he is, not as she thinks he is. And how I feel I am losing you because you cannot see beyond your own version of who and what I am.
And you say all you take away from that story is that it’s depressing. You don’t see deeper meaning. It doesn’t affect you deep down like it does me. You only see the surface, like the old water between us.
You don’t even see a lifeboat for all of us, just for you and our children, and you let me go.
So I let go.
Still you make not one move to bring me back in.
I hope perhaps I will find another lifeboat, but all I want is for that vessel to carry me home.
Home, back to you.
But you instead see me as “once again” abandoning you.
As I drift away, alone. Cast away.
If I find another lifeboat, I know you will only see it as further proof of your suffering and what you perceive as my abandonment. You would never see that I came as far as I could without you, and that you made your choice by sitting still, taking time, and leaving me outside.
So what happens next?
If you choose to look away, and not consider what happens to me to be relevant to you, I will drift away toward uncharted waters.
After all, it was you let me go.

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