FIRST EVENT DIARY – 2018
DAY 5, 2/02/18 (Groundhog Day)
Emily Jo Donatello
(call me “Em”)
Please open the audio below in another window and listen while reading this entry:
MORE NOTES MUSICAL TO MY EARS
Wow! I‘ve struck a chord with so many! Thank you for your so very positive reactions to my attempt to find meaning in my week of “First Event.” Originally I had intended in this, the fifth of eight planned entries, to shift to a more frivolous side of the event and myself. I had picked out a bouncy background song to help get there. Then I received 3 notes, two from a pair who do exceptional work with “transgender folks:” Amanda Richards and Cassandra Storm. Neither is attending this year’s conference. Both are following me. This I never could have imagined. Cassandra writes, “What a wonderful way to share your experience.”
Last year at the Keystone Conference in Harrisburg, I witnessed her artistry first hand.
I’m signed up for two more sessions with Cassandra at this year’s Keystone Conference.
Amanda has a special place in my pantheon of photographers and makeup magicians. I first visited her studio three years ago upon deciding, after a lifetime of procrastination and denial, I had to explore this side within me. She was so gentle, so optimistic that I could see a glimpse of the woman inside. I’ve visited more times, the most recent 4 months ago.
To me Amanda writes, “I will enjoy living vicariously through you. Please… have fun, take care of yourself, and dance like no one is watching.”
Cassandra and Amanda, two amazing artists who somehow draw sweet syrup from the ungainliest of trees. Me, for example.
So, instead of starting this entry with that bouncy, frivolous tune, I choose “True Colors,” in homage to these two. (Amanda’s Studio in Bethlehem, where one goes to be re-born, is named, of course, “True Colors.”)
Now that third note I should note comes from my dear friend, the other notorious RBG, the tough, smart New Jersey lawyer. She most certainly can speak for herself. She writes, “So please take this in the spirit of helping you to be culturally competent – the word transgender is an adjective, not a noun. So it’s not we transgenders, but us transgender folks. Similarly, I am not transgendered, as a NJ State Bar post described me. I am a transgender woman!”
And — she goes on, “You’ll be happy to know Mass. law allows trans folks to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity – in other words, the same as NJ & CT. So feel free to pee in any woman’s room along the Mass Pike! And just an fyi, in case you take I95 back through RI, it’s the same there too.”
To all this I replied, “Thank you for the transgender correction. I’ll work on my verbal skills. At another time, perhaps over a decent glass of wine, we can debate the convoluted path to linguistic conformity. Perhaps not.
Now with respect to “bathroom law,” I discovered upon arriving here that Massachusetts has a repeal initiative on this November’s ballot. Should it pass, MA would become the first state to repeal transgender laws after enacting them. A lot of folks here are worked up about the dangers of this nasty campaign.”
Although doing this diary is a lot of work for me, I’m certainly getting paid beyond my worth.
Please keep sending your thoughts and comments, even the stern ones. I promise to answer each individually.
“Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
My friend, Grace Stevens, Co-Chair of First Event 2018, quotes this line, as imagined for Merlin the Magician by T.H. White. It’s one of the inspirations for Grace’s fascinating autobiography, “Living My Truth.”
Two years ago, when she attended one of our Pathways Support Group meetings in NJ, Grace graciously autographed my copy. I’ve enjoyed reading it. More, I’ve enjoyed seeing her grow in happiness. Fittingly she was working at the Registration Desk when I arrived Thursday afternoon. She remembered me, and we had a warm hug. She’s stepping away from First Event organizing after this one. She’ll be very hard to replace.
For her (and me too) I’ll keep Merlin’s wonderment in my mind too.
In the hotel lobby Thursday I also saw Shelley Hart, the volunteer coordinator. Last year in a rare moment of clarity for me, I volunteered to help the committee. Shelley gave me assignments. I enjoyed contributing in my small way. Also the work forced me to meet people, “get out there,” as friends tell me to do. This year I’m a volunteer again. Shelley says she has work for me to do!
Before I get on with that, I should recall the journey from NJ and the welcome on my arrival here in Marlboro, MA. Four hours driving with myself can be hard on the driver. Fortunately I’d negotiated a very good deal for a satellite radio subscription. I had lots of musical company and not once did I listen to news or talk.
I did stop at home in CT for those medications I’d forgotten. I was alone there too, which I’d hoped for. And, surprise, waiting on the front porch was a box with 4 items I’d ordered, anticipating Keystone. I opened the box, liked what I found, hung them in the SUV, and brought them along. Can one ever have enough choices in outfits?
Yes, I used the facilities at home, thereby averting the need to test Massachusetts. Not being timid, merely efficient, I said to myself.
After the lonesome drive, at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, a few hours later, I followed my arrival routine. Purse and computer bag on my shoulder I marched inside to register. The front desk people were very — yes I must — accommodating. My Check-in took less than a minute, most of that time spent fumbling in my purse for a “photo i.d.,” amusing seeing it myself. Cameron, the desk person, couldn’t have cared less. It seems, he seemed to think, this seems to be kind of me or someone, and I seemed willing to pay the bill. He signed me in. I checked the room, as is my way. It was just fine, updated a bit from the one I’d had last year.
Back to the parking lot I went. Just as I arrived at the lobby door I saw a luggage cart waiting for me. What luck, I thought. Then out of the corner of my eye I spied a forlorn bellman, his eyes facing the ground. What’s a few bucks, I thought. So I engaged Benjamin the Bellman. Not forlorn, at all, it turns out, but very shy. I had to cajole to get his photo.
It was nice being helped by such a nice young man. As he left my room, he wished me a “blessed day.” I wished him the same. Later in the lobby I saw him again. He smiled at me. Not forlorn at all, this Benjamin the Bellman.
It had been a long day. Half of me wanted to take a nap. The other half preferred freshening and getting some dinner. I chose the fresher half. To my list I went (oh, yes, I can be organized when I choose to be.) I followed its direction for outfit of the evening.
Dinner, I chose to eat alone. I wanted to decompress and also to study the conference book and workshop schedules. My waiter, Stephen (“call me Steve”) was amiable enough. But then he didn’t bring me a menu until I asked for one; he also didn’t bring a pen with the check. I signed with one from my purse. I then called him over and politely suggested he might not be “on his game,” there in the Sports Bar/Restaurant, and that he ought to consider upping it some. Although I gave him a decent tip, he left muttering. Was he saying “damn trannies” under his breath? Should I care? Not.
OK, enough of Em’s emetic. We’ll go out on that bouncy, frivolous song I’d intended for this entry.
Big day today, featuring a special lunch and a most special dinner. I can’t wait.
If you’re enjoying my musings, please feel free to tell your friends about them. I’d like that.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (mind the underscores, or you’ll — like me — trip in writing)