Being Dana… To My First Born,

You pluck at heart strings like a guitarist strumming perfect melodies.

You’ve kept your path through life hidden from all save a few.

Each note precisely tuned to tear away boundaries.

Choosing only to reach out when doing so benefits you.

My love for you always a tune to play.

My life still has armored standards forged like steel.

My heart, shattered glass in a pile lay.

The subtlety of your words crafted to evoke the “feels”.

We both fear the loss of the other.

I lay awake lamenting choices, yours and mine.

I’ve struggled with who I am, no longer dad, physically not mother.

You and I, always at odds, cannot combine.

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Being Dana… When I’m gone

When I’m gone will I be just another tally mark?
Bits in a database used to catalog another trans fatality?
Will my name, age, and a sentence or two summing up my life be printed on an index card to be read?
Will I be reduced to a few semi-viral shares on social media asking for “thoughts & prayers for the family”?

These questions have taken up residency in my grey matter.

Let me explain why.

This week is Transgender Awareness Week. A week meant to lift the spirits of trans folk and to bring more visibility to among other things, our successes. It precedes the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have a very deep and complex relationship with this day. It is a day if mourning for transgender folk all over the world. We gather in our respective communities to read the names of our siblings who were killed due to violent acts over the past year. The local group I am part of will be reading SIXTY names this year.

I help in a few online groups to ensure those lost are remembered using their true names and pronouns. We spend hours researching news sources for phrases such as “Man killed while wearing female clothing” or “Random masculine/feminine name was also known by…” We also search for mention of some gender neutral names that many who are non-binary choose.

When we find an article that may list a possible lost sibling, we perform many searches. They include but aren’t limited to: social media, local news outlets, law enforcement, coroner reports, obituaries, crowdfunding for final expenses, mentions by family & friends, balloon releases, and vigils. The searches are used to “prove” the person was killed violently, and they identified as trans or gender diverse. Collection of the statistics is where it seems many organizations stop. Semi-viral posts sweep social media usually reporting these statistics.

The weight a trans person feels when they find out a person similar to them was killed violently can be tremendous. It can foster deep feelings of doubt and worthlessness. Doubt that we will ever be good enough to be accepted in society. Fears that our existences are no longer worthwhile, which can drive us to suicide.

Many trans people have empathic personality types. That is we are capable of placing ourselves in the situations of others. Some also the capability to mimic and share the emotional states of those we are connecting with. I am one of these people. Each name I help research ends up feeling like a close sibling. Their family’s and friend’s statements bring joy, sorrow, and even hatred to me in a way I can’t explain. I often cry for hours over each person lost. I try to counter these feelings by doing my self-care routines. Sometimes they help, other times the losses come in such quick succession that I find myself unable to cry, but still all the feelings and emotions build inside. When this happens, I find it hard to find any of the joy their families express at having had such a person in their lives.

Why then do I do this?
It is because our siblings deserve so much more than to be reduced to a statistic.
I deserve more, when I am also gone.

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Being Dana… Understanding my hatred of Suicidal Ideation

If you can’t tell from the title, this entire article needs a huge, flashing content warning.

Content Warning: Discussion of suicide and how it formed a coping/survival mechanism in my life.

My first and only brush with suicide came when I was twelve years old.

  • I was nine or ten when I resigned my hopes of developing breasts and my penis changing so I could become the girl I dreamt I was.
  • I was about eleven when I first had anxiety attacks and developed ulcers due to overthinking how puberty would affect my body.
  • I was being taught by society through television and newspapers more each day that the person I knew I was would be ridiculed and shunned by those around me.
  • My family’s religion teaches that people like me would be the reason our family would never live together forever in presence of God & Christ.

These are the main reasons I had for developing my plan. I had decided that after attending an AYSO soccer practice/try out, I would “slip” into the Idaho Canal as it ran along South Holmes Avenue. I would be too tired from soccer to use my feeble swimming skills to make it out. I found my spot to “slip” while walking to practice. It was on a catwalk bridge with a cable handrail across the canal. The water below was turbulent and sure to drag me under for long enough.

Near this crossing was a vacant lot. I figured it can’t hurt one last time to spend some time enjoying the leaves, grass and sounds I found calming. I would use this calm to carry me through my plan. I began to enjoy the sounds of nature when I heard crying, sobbing, and screams of pain. I searched and soon found the source. It was one of my new school-mates, smashing his head repeatedly into a large sharp rock. He had been sniffing model glue to build up his courage and perhaps numb the pain of killing himself. I was instantly angry with him. Why would he choose such a painful method?

I ran. I ran to the nearest pay phone a few hundred yards away. I called the police and explained what was happening to him. The officer told me to go back to him and stay there until help could get there. I had no idea how much time passed before they arrived. I do know I heard him screaming out his reasons. A few were common to mine. He felt worthless, trapped, and alone. My anger built stronger with every word and action I saw him take. My sympathy also grew stronger. I had met someone that I could possibly connect with. As he was taken away in the ambulance I wondered if I would ever see him again.

A month passed. School had resumed for the fall session. I entered my math class and saw him. I should have been happy he was still alive and attending school. I was instead confused by anger welling deep within. I was angry first that he chose such a painful method. Then slowly my anger shifted to myself. Why hadn’t I followed through with my plan? Why am I still not a girl?

Over the years my anger shifted to different causes when suicide was a topic. It always remained when I thought of reasons why I wasn’t a girl. I used this anger to hide, and to deny myself. I’m now a fifty-four year old out and proud transgender woman. I still get angry when suicide is mentioned. I understand now that even though many see it as a quick way to end their problems, that it instead causes so many more problems for those who remain.

Recently while talking with my best friend I discovered something about myself and this anger I have for suicidal ideation. I am indeed angry. I’m angry that people I love feel this is an option. I’m angry that people don’t talk about their feelings enough to avoid suicide as a potential end.

Most of all I’m angry with myself that I ever felt suicide was an option for me.

Trans LifeLine:

The Trevor Project:

National Suicide Hotline:

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Being Dana… I came out as transgender, do I have to be an advocate and activist too?

First of all, I need to define what these two terms mean to me.
Being an advocate means that you are able and willing to speak for a group or community to promote an idea or further the knowledge and understanding of the group.
Being an activist means you take actions to further the cause of a group.
Sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably.

Photo by Oriel Frankie Ashcroft from Pexels

It has been just over two years since I made the public announcement on FaceBook that I am a transgender woman. One paragraph in my announcement instantly made me an advocate of sorts.

“If you have any questions which don’t involve personal or medical information, please ask me. If you are unsure if your question is too personal or concerning a medical topic, please ask me. I will let you know If I feel uncomfortable in answering and explain as best I can why I don’t wish to answer.”

I offered to everyone who comes across my post that I would try to answer any questions people had. These are my personal views and opinions of what I am experiencing as a transgender person. In 2015, GLADD released a study showing that only 16% of Americans think they know a transgender person. Because I chose to answer questions I became a defacto source of information on the transgender community. I became the person people mean when they say my friend has a friend who is trans and they said this or that.

Being an advocate can both build up and tear down a trans person. Especially for those of us who are considered empaths. There are times when I get a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment from educating others on how I view my gender. Providing this education can at times be extremely draining. One reason for this is that I am frequently justifying my existence and why I deserve my human rights. I want you to pause and reflect on that statement for a moment. Have you ever justified why you should exist or should be treated the same as anyone else? There are many who have to do this on a daily or near constant basis. They are forced into this situation by simply being who they are. The reasons are many including color, national origin, sexuality, and gender identity. Being forced to defend your very existence because of something you have no control over is exhausting.

Why then, do I advocate? The answer for me is simple. The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction I get from knowing that I helped another understand a little more about transgender people provides me with the energy and strength I need to survive most of the situations I face daily.

What drives an advocate to become an activist? I feel it has to do with what or how much is at stake if action is not taken. As a transgender person, my very life could be at stake if I don’t take action.

Things like using a restroom, playing a sport, obtaining health care, changing a name, and updating gender markers have thrust trans people and our rights into the spotlight. These are things most people take for granted. If you need to urinate you go into a restroom and do so. If you wish to play a sport you do so. A trans person is forced into evaluating many things before doing these things. Will I be raped, beaten, or killed? Will I be discovered as different? Will I be bullied and suffer emotional and psychological harm? Will I have to take out a newspaper ad and announce to people I don’t know that I am trans? Will I be allowed to see a doctor? If these were taken or even threatened to be taken away from you what would you do?

Why am I an activist? I take action because people like me are having these things taken from them. If I allow it to happen to them, it will set a precedent and potentially lead to these things being taken from me. I take action because just as being an advocate brings me energy and strength, being an active participant in my survival intensifies the amount of energy and strength I receive. I take action so others may have an easier path than I.

My answer to the article’s title question: I came out as transgender, do I have to be an advocate and activist too?
I can not answer for you, but for me, yes. I have to be both to ensure my survival. How much of each role I take is a balancing act involving survival, comfort, strength & energy.

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Being Dana… Virtually Proud

The speech I gave for NW PA Pride Alliance Virtual Pride Fest in June of 2021.

Good afternoon everyone.
I would like to apologize in advance if my thoughts today seem jumbled. I have been fighting a great deal of anxiety and depression for quite a while now. My struggles have been both directly and indirectly related to my being transgender. Anxiety and depression can impact how we see our own pride. I feel it is important to mention this because Pride is a celebration of who we are as individuals and as members of our communities. Let me say that again but in a slightly different way. Pride has been riots. Pride is a celebration. Pride is a demonstration. All of this to show the world who we are, that we are never going away, that we deserve our rights as does everyone in our communities.

I firmly believe that our Pride includes our current lives, histories, and heritages. History and heritage are what I would like to talk about today.
For those who do not know me, my name is Dana Rasmussen. I am a woman of transgender experience. My pronouns are she, her & hers. I am of Danish and English heritage. I grew up in a small, mostly conservative, and very religious area. I have been 100% out & open about being a transgender woman since September 19 of 2019. I share a similar set of background stories with many transgender people. I did not know I was trans at a young age, but I did know I was different. Like many of my trans and gender non-conforming siblings, I am a member of multiple groups within the LGBTQ+ family. I have a very loving and kind ally who has been with me on much of my journey. I am a writer of sorts. I enjoy giving back to communities which have helped me. I get a sense of fulfilment when I find out I have made another trans person’s path easier than mine. I am on the board of directors for TransFamily of NWPA. I am kind. I have an INF/TJ personality type. I am very empathetic and emotional. I am a parent of two children. I am a dog mom. I am independent. I am not religious, but I am somewhat spiritual. I am fighting and will win my battles with anxiety, depression, dysphoria, and dysmorphia. I am patient. I persevere. I am enough.

These are some but not all the things which I am. They are all parts of myself, my history, and my heritage which together help to build my personal “Pride”.
When I think about my transgender community’s history and heritage, I first think of the stories of Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera, and the Stonewall Inn riot in 1969. It was, after all, the event that began “Pride” right?
Many people do not know that “Pride” events have very long histories and tremendous heritages. It is rare that those who do know also understand how intertwined transgender people have always been in both.
Do the names Susan Cooke, Amanda St. James, Felicia Elizondo, and Tamara Ching sound familiar? These trans people are our siblings. They were involved in a riot much like Stonewall. It happened three years earlier in San Francisco. The riot was smaller, but its driving cause was similar. Police had been harassing and arresting drag queens, trans people, and gay people while they ate and talked at Gene Compton’s cafeteria. This led to a portion of the famous tenderloin district recently being designated as the first transgender district in the United States. You can watch their story in the documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria.
It was common practice in the ‘60s for many bars to deny service to gay, trans, and gender non-conforming people. Sip-in demonstrations were organized at Julius’ Bar in New York City in 1966 by the Mattachine Society. The demonstrators would gather before the bar got busy and then very slowly sip their drinks throughout the evenings and nights. Because there were so many people just sipping drinks other patrons had to wait or go elsewhere. The loss of profit caused by these sip-in demonstrations escalated the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people being served. Lawsuits were filed and eventually resulted in striking down the New York State Liquor Authority’s practice of revoking the liquor licenses of bars which served LGBTQ+ people.
Sit-in demonstrations happened at Dewey’s Lunch counter in Philadelphia in 1965. They were protesting Dewey’s policy of not serving “homosexuals, masculine women, and feminine men.” In the ‘60s the terms masculine women and feminine men were often used to describe transgender people. Three teens were arrested at the first sit-in. This caused a grassroots movement to organize weekly sit-ins. Soon after the 2nd demonstration and learning that more were scheduled, Dewey’s changed its policy.
These are just some of the demonstrations in the ‘60s which either centered around trans people or directly involved us. Trans involvement and inclusion is not limited to this time frame. In the late 1890’s a young Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin. Among the studies performed were psychological, physical, and social impacts and effects of a person’s gender and sexuality, and developing the first hormone therapy treatments. The institute quickly became the world’s foremost authority on the study of what Dr. Hirschfeld called “sexual intermediaries”, those who wished to wear clothes of the opposite sex and those who through their character should be considered the opposite sex. Dr. Hirshfeld would later coin the term “Transvestite” from which evolved the terms “Transsexual” and later “Transgender”. The institute created paying jobs for its patients who would have otherwise not been allowed to hold a job; some even lived at the institute. As the knowledge grew so did the medical understanding of trans people. Doctors at the institute even performed modern medicines first gender affirming surgeries, including that of Lili Elbe, the Danish girl’s multiple surgeries from 1930 through 1932.
Dr. Hirschfeld was in Belgium on a speaking engagement on May 10th, 1933, when rioters raided and looted the institute. This resulted in the library of nearly 20,000 books and publications being burned. I am sure you have seen the photos of Nazi’s burning books in a public square. These photos are of our transgender history and science being destroyed. However not everything was lost. The institute’s client lists were handed over to the authorities. Their names were placed on the first of the “pink-lists”.
“Pink-lists” were used in identifying and detaining transgender and gay people in concentration camps. They were the first to wear what would later be taken back as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride, the inverted pink triangle.
It is important for us all to understand that no group among us has had a more difficult past than another. We all have struggled to be able to exist, and we must all continue to fight for the most impacted and discriminated against. Another example of us showing up for each other happened last summer. The Black Trans Lives Matter rally in New York City brought together not just people of color but also LGBTQ+ organizations and many other allies who saw the injustices and could no longer stand by. It is estimated that some 15,000 people attended this rally, in the middle of the raging pandemic. They did this to bring attention to the fact that black transgender people, especially women, make up most of the deaths by violent means inflicted on our transgender siblings. They are being killed because they dare to live life as themselves. These people are our siblings. We must stand together to protect them.
These events, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and the innumerable others directly and indirectly impacted by them are part of our collective LGBTQ+ heritage. It is because of all of these that we can exist proudly as our LGBTQ+ selves.

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Op-Eds as submitted to GoErie/Erie Times & Gannett News Outlets in PA

Part 1/3 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People

This is the first article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

This series will hopefully inform you of things you may not know about transgender people and the legislation we face living in Pennsylvania. As with any subject we must establish a basic understanding.

Some Definitions

Gender” Non Physical characteristics defining a spectrum from femininity to masculinity.

Sex” Physical characteristics defining a spectrum from femininity to masculinity.

Cisgender” Adjective a person whose gender aligns with their sex.

Transgender” Adjective a person whose gender does not align with their sex.

Transgender girl/woman” A person whose gender is female regardless of her physical sexual characteristics.

Transgender boy/man” A person whose gender is male regardless of his physical sexual characteristics.

Gender fluid person” A person whose gender fluctuates.

Non-binary person” A person who whose gender may fall between female and male and usually does not fluctuate. This person may also not have a gender

Intersex person” A person whose physical sexual characteristics may be difficult to identify.

Gender Expression” External, visible characteristics such as clothing, makeup or the lack of, and actions.

Gender Dysphoria” The stress, anxiety, and discomfort one feels when a gender and sex do not match.

Puberty Blockers” Medications which delay the onset of puberty and its physical changes. They have been used safely since the ’70s to treat early onset puberty.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)” Medicinal therapy to suppress some hormones while supplementing others.

“World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)” A professional organization established in 1979 devoted to understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria. Membership consists of those working in medicine, psychology, law, social work, counseling, psychotherapy, family studies, sociology, anthropology, speech and voice therapy and sexology.


The WPATH-developed “Standards of Care” describes standards including safe hormone levels and the length of gender expression before surgeries. While primarily designed for safety, excessive application by people and organizations is referred to as gatekeeping. Some gates are justifiably placed to ensure medical safety. Others such as the requirement to obtain a doctor’s or therapist’s letter indicating we have lived our gender expression are time consuming and expensive barriers. Imagine needing a doctor’s or therapist’s approval before updating your license because you changed your hairstyle, shaved your beard, or grew facial hair. Failure to have updated IDs can lead to our harassment and discrimination.

We have existed throughout history. Julian Gill-Peterson a professor at the University of Pittsburgh has authored ”Histories of the Transgender Child” (ISBN: 9781517904678) shows examples from the 1900s forward.

Many attend regular therapy sessions for our mental general health and to comply with WPATH standards. Compliance allows us to get required recommendation letters for medical procedures as well as identification updates.

Some often suffer from depression brought on by gender dysphoria, accompanied by stresses society places on us. This starts for some at or before the onset of puberty. Think back to when you were young. Did you want to develop a curvy figure, or a muscular one? How excited were you to have a salon appointment or to shave? We feel these feelings too but they are complicated because our sex does not match our gender.

We are told repeatedly by many religions that our existence is wrong and evil.

We often hide our identities as part of our self preservation instinct, sometimes for decades.

We develop unhealthy methods for dealing with these stresses. We have a higher than average rate of turning to drugs or alcohol. These coping methods can foster deep, dangerous depressions. This depression is sometimes inescapable. It is estimated 40% of transgender people have contemplated or attempted suicide. To put this number in perspective: The 2017 report “Age of Individuals who identify as transgender in the United States — Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law” estimates there are 1.5 million transgender people 13 and up in the United States. Pennsylvania’s share is 48,850. We can calculate roughly 19,500 trans Pennsylvanians have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Trans people are just that, people. Trans girls/women are girls/women. Trans boys/men are boys/men. Gender non-conforming people are the gender and even the non-gender they say they are. Each trans person experiences gender and transition differently. There are some commonalities but each process is unique.

We prosper and falter based on how we experience the same situations cis people experience.

Part 2/3 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation

This is the second article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

Does enough of an issue exist with transgender girls/women participation in sports to warrant a law governing trans lives and hindering their social development? Let’s discuss three common questions on the topic.

Do trans girls/women have an unfair physical advantage in sports?

Before we begin, Can you name a trans girl or woman athlete, through college age who has dominated her sport after coming out or beginning her transition?

The effects of “Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)” and “Puberty Blockers” replace or reduce testosterone production in trans females to levels similar to that of cisgender females. Without higher levels of testosterone, our strength diminishes rather quickly. It diminishes so much that the International Olympic Committee allowed trans athletes to compete starting in 2004.

Name a trans girl or woman who has dominated her sport in the Olympics since 2004?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) trans guidelines stated this in 2011:

Transgender women display a great deal of physical variation, just as there is a great deal of natural variation in physical size and ability among non-transgender women and men. Many people may have a stereotype that all transgender women are unusually tall and have large bones and muscles. But that is not true. A male-to-female transgender woman may be small and slight, even if she is not on hormone blockers or taking estrogen. It is important not to overgeneralize. The assumption that all male-bodied people are taller, stronger, and more highly skilled in a sport than all female-bodied people is not accurate.

Name a trans girl or woman who has dominated her sport during her NCAA eligibility?

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) makes these statements in their policies and procedures guide.

(PIAA) is committed to the principles of equal opportunity and treatment for all individuals involved in interscholastic athletics. PIAA believes that all boys and girls, Coaches, Contest officials, and athletic administrators should have equal opportunity to participate in, Coach, officiate, and administer at all levels of interscholastic athletics and receive equal treatment, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, or ethnic background.

Where a student’s gender is questioned or uncertain, the decision of the Principal as to the student’s gender will be accepted by PIAA.”

The 2017 report “Age of Individuals who identify as transgender in the United States — The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law” estimates there are 5,250 trans Pennsylvanians aged 13–17. Assuming roughly two thirds of these are trans girls, gives us 3,465 trans girls. The Pennsylvania Department of Education lists 394,438 girls enrolled in 2016–17. The website indicates 38% (150,250) participated in sports. Applying this percentage to the number of trans girls, we arrive at 1,316 or 0.01% of Pennsylvania’s 12.79 million 2017 population.

Name any of these 1,316 Pennsylvania trans girls who have dominated her sport since 2017?

Will trans females sexually assault other girls and women in the locker room or bathroom?

Trans girls and women are generally incapable of the male functions needed to perpetrate these acts. Hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers bring testosterone to an extremely low level. Affecting libido and capability of sexual function. Without the capability to have a typical male sexual function the likelihood of a trans girl or woman being capable of such an attack becomes minimal.

Trans girls and women are often affected by gender dysphoria to the point that the concept of taking a typical man’s role for a sexual encounter is so extremely uncomfortable that we would remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible.

Are women’s sports threatened by trans girls/women’s participation?

On March 31, 2021 (Coincidentally the 12th annual Transgender Day of Visibility) reported on a letter penned by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “More than 465 superstars and everyday feminists added their names to the letter objecting to the targeting of trans women and girls.” Among those who signed were United States Women’s National Soccer Team members: Megan Rapinoe, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris.

One of the strongest statements in the letter:

We all must fight against the unnecessary and unethical barriers placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers and those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred. Our feminism must be unapologetically expansive so that we can leave the door open for future generations.

Trans girls/women are girls/women. Medical and mental health professionals have stated this. University researchers have stated this. Sports organizations have stated this. Should we not listen to the experts?

Part 3/3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

This is the third article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

Nearly everyone benefits from exercise. There have been hundreds if not thousands of studies by universities and medical facilities which show exercise has positive benefits.

Among these are the general health improvements of reduced chronic illnesses, like diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. The Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry v.8(2); 2006 PMC1470658 also lists some mental health benefits: “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.” Exercise has even removed the need for some usage of antidepressant medications.

Exercise has also been linked to better scholastic performance and higher grades. The 2013 report “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School” (ISBN 978–0–309–28313–7) lists these benefits:

  • Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These topics depend on efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness.
  • Executive function and brain health underlie academic performance. Basic cognitive functions related to attention and memory facilitate learning, and these functions are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.
  • Single sessions of and long-term participation in physical activity improve cognitive performance and brain health. Children who participate in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity benefit the most.

But what about sports? Sports, especially team based ones, add a social component. Sport after all is really just socially organized exercise. Athletes learn how to better interact with others. Some team members will develop into leaders, while some may take on a counseling or supporting role, and still others may only benefit from having a consistent structure and schedule. All who participate learn how to interact with each other and their coaches during their combined successes and failures. Individual sports such as track or swimming allow each athlete to compete more against themselves than others while still maintaining the social aspect of a team. Lifelong friendships and personal support networks form through these experiences.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) transgender inclusion guidelines from 2011 state:

School-based sports, even at the most competitive levels, remain an integral part of the process of education and development of young people, especially emerging leaders in our society.

We know from the previous articles in this series that transgender people experience depression, anxiety, stress, a higher rate of substance abuse, a higher rate of suicide, and isolation brought about by fear for our safety. Many of these issues are due to social influences outside of a trans person’s control. We don’t have to look up census statistics to know transgender females are a subset of a minority population. If there was a way to reduce or eliminate these issues should we not choose to apply it?

Let’s apply what we know to only one issue trans people face, depression. It is known that sport can in some cases eliminate said depression. It only follows that sport should be highly encouraged for trans people, even more so than antidepressants. Since team based sports foster more of the social aspect, they should be the preferred activity suggested for a trans person. The most tangible benefit of this combination would be a decreased risk of transgender suicide brought on by depression. The other benefits listed above would also apply to a trans athlete, including becoming a well rounded and socially adjusted person who no longer fears their environment but one who can live and thrive in it.

We as Pennsylvanians should be focusing on the things we can do to improve not only our lives but the lives of those around us, especially those who comprise a minority.

It has often been said one of the greatest gifts one can give a child is the freedom to be who they are. Components of this gift should be the ability to participate in sports and all the benefits which come with that ability. I am asking you to offer this gift to all Pennsylvania’s children, not just the cisgender ones.

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Being Dana… Good Grief

“Good Grief!” for many who are old enough this statement brings to mind the Peanuts character Charlie Brown. It was used mostly as his catch phrase to show disdain with a situation he was in. Sometimes it this was due to something minor that happened or to something someone said. This article is not about this kind of grief. This article is about the differences in how I experienced loss and grief before and after beginning my gender transition.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Content Warning:

This article details loss and grief regarding the deaths of my parents, and my brother(two of which are covid-19 related). I do mention portions of how my family accepts me as the transgender woman I am. It is a bit long but it is what I need to say.


During the winter of 2014/15, I was still attempting to show the world the gender I was assigned at birth. I don’t remember if I had my biker’s goatee and moustache or not. I would go through phases of being so irritated with facial hair and how I looked that would grow it out and shave it off frequently. I would also wear my feminine clothes in private to help put my mind at ease when stress situations were high.

My mother was hospitalized and diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It was not know at the time how long she was expected to survive. I traveled with my wife from Denver to Ogden UT expecting to say a final goodbye. I remember being emotional and crying quite a bit, but I refused to cry in a public settings. I felt an immense pressure to “be the man”, and to “be strong”. I wanted to weep and grieve for a mother not yet lost. I could only do this when alone or with close family members.

A surgery was suggested with a high possibility that she would not survive. A decision was made for her to be released and enter home hospice care. As her body began to fail I still refused to show emotions publicly. Instead I hid behind a smart alec’s wit and humour. I hid behind the comfort of knowing she had lived a full life and we were nearing her time. I visited a few times, and called some.

Mom would survive until April 21, 2017. On the flight to see her the night she passed I cried, publicly. I remember being both embarrassed & relieved that I shed tears for her. I arrived at her bedside near eleven pm. I was the last of her eight children to say goodbye. Again, I would force myself not to cry, even as I held her hand, told her I had made it, and that it was ok for her to go. She left this world with her hand in mine. Still I dared not cry. I had to be strong. Later that night, when I was alone in my brother’s camp trailer, I cried. I sobbed. I sought refuge by wearing the few articles of feminine clothing I had brought with me.

I continued to show my strong male persona as much as I could through the coming days and her service. Each time I slipped, I felt a false sense of embarrassment at showing my love for her. I refused to show my true emotions. I was completely shattered at the loss of my mother, but I couldn’t show it. I withheld because of incorrect social norms. Strong men do not show emotions. Emotions are weaknesses.

  • Did I experience grief?
  • Was it healthy or good?

I visited my mother’s grave on August 31st of 2019. I spent about an hour there. I came out as a transgender woman to her. I expressed my deep love for her. I apologized for not letting her know earlier that she actually had three daughters. This began a long period of me grieving her loss again. This time as her daughter. I cried off and on the entire length of my journey home. I was approached a couple times by other women while I waited on my flight. As I explained that I just came out as trans to my mother’s grave, they shared in my grief. One went so far as to tell me I was a good daughter.

I recently recounted my experience along with memories of mom to a good friend. During the discussions I noticed a whole new flood of emotions that were now available to me as a woman to experience. We discussed the care mom took in teaching me how to cook. Specific foods I remember helping prepare suddenly took on a whole new dimension of flavor. I even reached out to my sister’s and others for recipes which have been in the family for generations.

I prepared some of these foods and each step of the way I also remembered mom. I was finally experiencing good grief. I now understood that embracing my loss and the many emotions that came with it was a health thing to do.


I came out as a transgender woman to my father on July 31st of 2019. I don’t think he really understood even though I spent a day explaining to him. I expected this. He was after all in his eighties. I had been seen as his son for 52 years.

I began calling him weekly. Partly because his health was declining, and partly because I finally felt like I could have an emotional and satisfying relationship with my father. We mostly spoke of common things. Every now & then he would surprise me with a question about how my transition was going. I was so eager to tell him everything, but I limited my answers so he wouldn’t get overloaded with information.

Covid-19 came into our lives in early 2020. The conversations I had with my dad took a more inquisitive turn. Many times he was unsure of how the virus could affect such a large number of people. I would search out answers to his virus related questions during the week and discuss them at the beginning of our calls. I felt a strong urge to ensure his spirits were lifted by our calls. I feel this was one of my more feminine desires of wanting to be a caretaker being realized.

I asked him frequently to recount stories from my youth. As he relayed certain stories, I explained to him what I was feeling during those times. Many instances came to my mind where I felt distinctly female, but never had the words or ability to express what I felt or who I was safely. We shared many emotional times on the calls. I felt the comfort I imagine a father would give to his daughter.

Dad’s health began to fade. He began to use feminine pronouns to refer to me while on our calls. I still longed for him to call me Dana or his daughter. My brother, who lived with and cared for dad, told me that around the house he did use my name. At least one time he even corrected someone, telling them I was Dana now. My heart rejoiced, but also sank. The longing to hear him say my name turned to a craving.

Dad passed away due to old age November 1, 2020. We found out he was covid-19 positive the day he passed away. This was at the height of travel restrictions due to covid-19. This meant I could not travel and grieve his loss with the rest of my family. I was so struck with grief that I did not really leave my bed for a few days. In that time I cried my way through at least two full boxes of tissues. I had the local support of only my wife.

The day of the funeral, I did my hair and put on a black dress, then watched a poorly executed internet live stream of his services. I co-ordinated & recorded a Zoom video call of the shorter graveside service. I noticed that I was feeling many different emotions and feelings all at once. I had rage, love, longing, loneliness, grief, and happiness. I felt I was finally “allowed” to feel. My dad’s loss was the first I experienced as a woman undergoing transition. The range of emotions I had was new to me. They were overwhelming.

I slipped into a depression. I have know depression most of my life, but this was different. I had grief. I had memories of a rekindled deeply emotional relationship between father and daughter.

  • Did I experience grief?
  • Was it healthy or good?
    Yes, I believe it was.


This section is about my parent’s the fourth child, my brother. I have five brothers and two sisters the order of the family runs:
Me (Dana — Sister — YAY!)

Shortly after our father’s death and funeral, our oldest brother began his duties as executor of dad’s estate. Emails and text messages were exchanged. A Zoom video call was scheduled to go over estate business. Once the details were discussed, I asked if we could spend time listening to how we each were processing dad’s passing and how life was hopefully getting back into a routine.

My 4th brother discussed his liver health. He had been battling a condition which he didn’t discuss much with other family members. My 6th sibling, sister, is a nurse. The two had obviously had more conversations regarding his health. soon the rest of the family was up to speed. My brother was in dire need of a liver transplant. Preferably from a living donor from the immediate family.

I immediately began wondering if my health was sufficient that I could be his donor. I already knew we had the same blood type. The next business day I reached out to my doctor, who had no concerns with my being a donor. The following day I began the selection & testing process. I scheduled a couple calls with my brother to discuss the situation. I was fully prepared to give my brother part of myself so he could have years added to his life. The only question I had in the decision was if I was healthy enough to help.

A couple weeks went by. The transplant center stated my brother was no longer on the live donor recipient list. I called my brother to find out the details. The doctors had said they needed additional testing before allowing him to be active on the recipient list. Before the final test could be performed covid-19 entered our family’s lives again. Our brother’s family of five had been exposed and all but one had tested positive.

Our brother was soon admitted to the hospital, intubated, and passed on December 17th 2020 taken by a combination of his liver condition and covid-19.

While still in the midst of the deep depression following dad’s death, I had to again face the same feelings. This time I added to my list regret. I wish so much that I could have also rekindled an emotional relationship with my brother. Perhaps if that had happened he could have had part of my liver sooner. Perhaps then he could have had at least a fighting chance against covid-19.

I allowed myself again to feel all the emotions and feelings. Grief settled in to it’s still warm seat quickly. I mentioned regret joined this time. Hatred also followed. I absolutely had no room in my mind or heart for those who tried to minimize the virus or it’s impacts. It had taken two of my family. It has kept me from completing the mourning of my father. It was now preventing me from mourning my dear brother.

He was always the quiet but supportive one. He offered me counsel many times in my life. His example of serving others because it is the right thing to do is one of the most admirable traits I hope to someday have a portion. These are only some of the things said of him in the internet live stream funeral.

  • Did I experience grief?
  • Was it healthy or good?
    Yes, I believe it was even with the addition of regret and hatred.


I am so grateful that I am now able to feel emotions. Previous to beginning my transition, I would have not felt much. Yes, I knew some grief but the range of emotions that are available to me to fully express and experience have made living my life so much more worthwhile. I would have never allowed myself to even know what these feelings were let alone even embrace them. I now know what it means to have good grief.

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Being Dana… Another year passes by

I have just turned 54. Here are some of my thoughts.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

My birthday this year has hit me in ways I did not expect.

  • I have grey hair but I’ve had that for a few years now.
  • I have body aches, also present for some time.
  • Wrinkles? Yes, I have a few.
  • AARP? Yeah that age was 4 years ago.
  • Colonoscopy, scheduled again.

These are all things I expected. What I didn’t expect was how strong my craving for being complete has become. All through my youth something was missing. I would catch a brief sense of what was missing from time to time but it never lasted. Was it happiness? Yes but at the same time no. I’ve had many times of great happiness through my years. These times have included friends, family, children, and both my marriages. Still a portion of my sense of self was missing. Sometime in my 51st year I began a search in earnest for what I lacked. Those who read my articles and know me are aware this missing component was an accurate sense of my gender identity.

Since accepting that I am a woman I have been on a steady and rather rapid path to correcting how I present to the rest of the world. The first portion of my path went by so quickly, I often felt though as if the changes could not come fast enough. Rightfully so, I had 50+ years of being female to catch up on. This past year I have reached a slow-down section of my path. I changed jobs, and moved across the country. These two things resulted in a change of insurance, finding new affirming health care providers and more. Then the Covid-19 Pandemic reached the United States. Suddenly I was at a stand still on my path. Or was I?

I found myself searching for how I could proceed in my transition when most all services around me were being placed under operating restrictions. I had found a new electrologist for hair removal, but due to the pandemic I could not schedule an appointment for months. I had found the local transgender support group (Transfamily Of NWPA) and attended once in person before restrictions limited attendance. My only visible progress could only be seen in our finances. I had taken the new job as a way to prepare for the rest of my journey. This journey is not only my transition but also my journey through life. I felt as if ALL of my progress had halted. Only recently have I begun to understand that merely existing as Dana was still progress.

The months passed. Eventually restrictions lessened and I was able to resume Electric Stabby Hair Death (electrolysis). During the months of tight restrictions I had made a decision. I would change the focus of the hair removal to my genital area. While I’m still not 100% sure I need surgery, I do feel strongly that it will help with or even fulfill my need to feel complete. My progress had resumed. One hair follicle at a time. Due to the location of the hair my progress is only visible to myself & my electrologist. This results in quite a bit of anxiety regarding my visible progress.

Anxiety for me translates into doubts about how valid my path is. Should I continue? Is it worth the pain? Is it worth the excruciatingly slow pace? Will I be prepared before most surgeons would refuse to operate on a person of my age? I know I have a few years left before I reach this point. My birthday is just another reminder that a clock is ticking down. I spend many hours a week debating these questions and realities in my mind. The process almost always results in asking myself these two questions.

  • Am I happier presenting as the woman I am?
    Most definitely yes!
  • Would I want to go back to how I was existing?
    I do miss some components of who I presented but no, I do not wish to go back to a partial existence.

I will trod along, ever so slowly, one birthday at a time.

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Being Dana… Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) 2020

Opening and closing remarks given at TransFamily of NWPA’s Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) Virtual vigil Nov. 20, 2020


Good Evening Everyone,

Thank you for attending this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil.

We will be recording this call. We request that you keep microphones muted and video disabled. If you start your video it will be stopped. Violation of this request will result in removal from the call.

Over the last 8 years TransFamily of Northwest Pennsylvania has been actively supporting the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Erie and the surrounding area. Most recently we have been able to provide micro-grants to assist with legal name changes. We hold monthly peer support group meetings for transgender or gender non-conforming folk and their allies. We have participated in and helped plan yearly events such as Pride, the summer picnic, transgender day of visibility and this event.

The original day of remembrance was started in 1999 because San Francisco resident, Gwendolyn Smith showed her love, grief, and anger at the tragic loss of a murdered a Boston transgender woman, Rita Hester. She organized a candlelight vigil in San Francisco and Boston on the 1st anniversary of Rita’s death. This murder is still unsolved. Tonight, 21 years after that vigil, we continue the tradition of remembering those members of our family lost due to violence.

Last month the TransFamily board of directors discussed this event and if we should have an in-person vigil or a virtual one. Our biggest concerns hinged around fears. Fear for the safety of our community. Fear of possible civil unrest due to the outcome of the soon to be held election. Fear of the effects caused by restrictions the community may be under due to the pandemic. It is because of these fears and others we have chosen to hold this year’s event virtually.

Each of us have fears. Some are widely varied, and some are specific like the ones just mentioned. As I read the following fears, ask yourself if you fear these things also?

  • Will the world hate me for living as I truly am?
  • Will I be bullied because I look or dress differently?
  • Will my own brother shoot and kill me in a rampage?
  • Will the person I just went on a date with shoot and kill me?
  • Will my date return and continue shooting me even after I am already dead?
  • Will my friend and I be found burned to death in a car?
  • Will I be stabbed repeatedly and then set on fire to obscure my identity?
  • Will I be run over by a car while protesting for the rights of our fellow humans?
  • Will I have my legs severed and my body dumped in a river?
  • Will my partially clothed body be found, wrapped in a tarp, lying on the sidewalk?
  • Will my name be on next year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance list?

The people we are gathered to remember tonight experienced these fears as their lives were brutally taken.


Just in case you were not counting during the presentation.
The United States’ share of the estimated 350 reported deaths worldwide of transgender and gender non-conforming people due to violent acts.
This number does not include those who have been driven to suicide by the way society views and treats transgender and gender non-conforming people.
This number may be even higher because the police, the press and even our own families sometimes will not respect our identities, even after we are dead. Many times, this happens because the path to obtaining an updated ID such as a driver’s license contains roadblocks. Other times it is because society and family refuse to acknowledge our identities or existence.

When preparing this year’s presentation, I wanted to show you more than just a name, a date, and a cause of death. I wanted to show you glimpses into the lives of these people. They were family, mine, and yours. The search for this information was a daunting task. I spent hours poring over report after report which detailed the deaths, sometimes in gruesome detail. I searched news agencies, police reports, obituaries, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In a few cases the friends and family were very loving and kind about their lost loved ones. I was so happy when I found family members who were accepting. This meant I would more than likely be able to choose from several phrases to describe the people we mourn tonight. Some were much harder to find information than others. In one case I prepared the statement based on my impression from photos posted on social media with no descriptions, captions, or context.

I ask you to take a few things away from this evening:

  • That person you see when walking down the street or while at the store is just like you. They are trying to make the absolute best with what they have, help them by being kind.
  • Our human family comes in all colors, genders, orientations, sizes, and sexes. None are superior to another, help those who are having the most difficulties first.
  • Get involved with organizations that help, not hurt.
  • Urge your elected officials to support laws that ensure equality for all.
  • Most importantly love and support each other.

In closing TransFamily understands that tonight’s presentation has been difficult for many in attendance. Please take care of yourselves. Talk to a friend or loved one. If you do not feel you can talk to the people you know, please reach out to one of the resources listed on screen.

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Being Dana… Dana and the Dilemma of the Two Way Light Switches

Have you ever flipped a light switch expecting a light to turn off only to have it instantly turn back on because another person, using a second switch was also trying to turn off the light? What do you do? You flip the switch again and Voilà! the light remains ON. It is usually at this point when one person concedes and no longer attempts to flip the switch.

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

A little over a year ago I flipped a switch which turned on a myriad of lights. Included in these is one light which can not be turned off. It shines on a truth that I am Dana, a female, and a transgender person. Among the other lights which turned on are ones representing pretty much every aspect of how I experience life. Each light uses a specific amount of my energy to remain lit. I will discuss this energy source a little later on. Some of these lights are easy to turn off. For example; I feel the pain of a pin prick, the person at the other end of the switch circuit does also. Together we agree that we can turn off this light. There are thousands if not millions of lights that we, together, can turn off.

The dilemma comes into play when I find a light which shines on an aspect which has a unique variation and impact for a transgender person. Here is an example of such a situation.
Here is a partial listing of the lights which are on this particular circuit but have multiple switches.

Today I am resuming one preparation step for a possible GCS procedure. I am doing this while a pandemic still rages across the world. I can not begin to explain to someone who is not transgender what this statement means to me. Even another transgender person will not understand how I see this preparation step. This is because each of us have negotiated to have different lights turned off while others remain on. This changes my view.

Where does the energy to power all the lights come from? Self care, a good night’s sleep, maintaining my overall health, support from allies, etc. All of these things replenish how much energy I have to deal with everyday issues. if anything is left over it is stored in reserve for the times when a sudden surge of additional lights are turned on. The action of addressing each light expends energy. My thoughts of how I feel about each can either add or subtract energy from my reserve. Successful communication of these thoughts to others expends a great deal of energy. This energy is seen by those who witness it’s expenditure. Sometimes the energy is collected, nurtured, multiplied and returned. We call this person a true ally. Sometimes an ally returns the energy with a well intentioned gift; lights. This additional gift of lights which are usually lit and not noticed by the ally. This is because an ally can not, as much as they try, ever experience something the way a transgender person can. Allies, rest assured, we transgender people see your intentions. We accept the returned energy and quickly turn of any lights we have already determined are not needed.

Transgender people also expend energy sometimes in the wrong places. Our intentions are well meaning. Some of us try to engage with as many people as will listen to our plights. We attend rallies, push for social change, or any number of other actions. Those of us who do this are considered to be activists. This is not to be confused with being an advocate. In my mind there is a distinction between these terms. In simple terms if I advocate for something, I say it is favorable. Very little energy is expended on the advocate’s part. If I am an activist I not only say the thing is favorable, I actively take action(s) to promote it. I expend a great deal of energy doing so. One thing that has become much clearer to me is that my reserve of energy can fluctuate very rapidly due to these activist actions. I can be very well prepared for and event of even a discussion and during or after end up completely drained or even left with my reserve overflowing. I am quite sure this is the case for anyone.

To any allies who are reading this:

Please continue to learn from those you support. Do not get frustrated when your transgender friend makes a comment such as “You will never understand.” This comment can hurt, but it carries a truth.
Even a partial understanding yields better results than a lack of understanding. You may help turn off lights for a transgender person but always check to see if your friend is at the other switch.

To any transgender people reading this:

They are your allies. They are willing to learn, teach them. While you may be very eager to attempt to explain everything trans, this will take from your energy. Be sure to check your reserve level before beginning such a thing. Continue to check your energy level as you progress through it. Look for the ally at the other switch, communicate with them. Create boundaries for which lights are yours alone to turn off.

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