A few days ago, a good friend of mine from law school (known to attentive, long-time readers as BoSox) wrote to me asking if she could nominate me for an award that the University gives to students "who have made the greatest contributions to activities designed to advance the cause of social justice". Of course, I am flattered. But, as I looked back on my career at the University of Michigan Law School I realized that I was very involved in activism for the first year and a half and then, quite suddenly, became uninvolved.
The reason, of course, is obvious. I met my Girl and she became my world. I moved 40 minutes away from Ann Arbor and it was no longer easy to attend meetings or rallies. This certainly helped my GPA (I got all of my A grades in the second half of law school) but it did nothing to advance the cause of social justice. Don't get me wrong; I didn't completely drop out -- I still did things that people asked me to do, like speak at the TDOR rallies, or give talks to classes and student leaders about my experience of being transgender, but I no longer participated in the planning of events.
I am not at all disappointed in my choice of priorities. I know that people that really make a difference in the world are the ones who are single-minded and laser focused on the task at hand. I am just not that type of person. Sometimes, I long to be. Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to be a moving force in the destruction of gender stereotypes and the liberation of people to be who they really are. Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to achieve fame (a little fortune would be nice, too) in this regard. For example, I loved the little bit of noteriety I got from this blog; I relished it when people I didn't know would approach me in law school.
When I first began to transition, I lost my focus on what was important. That cost me a daughter. I realize now that it was inevitable that my marriage would end; I became a person different from who she had married (and I had very little say in that). But, losing my eldest daughter is a blow I will never recover from and I will forever blame my own self-centeredness, my focus on myself and my needs at the time.
Before that time, and since then, I know what's important to me -- my family. My mom and Augie, my sisters, my children and my Girl. They all mean so very much to me. They come first, middle, and last in my life.
It is from that space that I read this article. Renee Richards is sad now. Sad that she is alone in life. She was a beacon for so many. She was a true pioneer who helped map out a road for us to follow. She accomplished much. But she's lost so much more in her inability to find a fulfilling personal relationship. Fifty years from now her name will live on and no one will remember mine. I'm OK with that. I wish you peace, Renee.
"You have to be a pretty strong character to have a relationship with someone who has been a man originally, and famous. I haven't had any romance in a number of years."
"It is annoying to me," said Richards. "I'm so ordinary now; they're not interested. There's lots about transsexuals now."
UPDATE: Also, check out the preface (courtesy NPR) from her new book: "No Way, Renee: The Second Half of My Notorious Life".
But I have not written No Way Renée as a justification of my life; rather, it is a look at the second half of a life that I hope no longer needs justifying. It is the story of how I thought through and reconciled my bizarre family life; how my son and I coped with my changed persona; how I gave my new incarnation an adolescence; how I restored my medical career; how I searched for understanding, stability, romance, health, and a sense of my place in a changing world. It answers the question in the minds of so many, "Was your sex change a mistake?"