It’s a strange life when you suddenly find yourself channeling Sally Field as well as Wayne and Garth – at the same time. Not that I’m complaining.
My life has been punctuated by a series of grand attempts that ended up as false starts. A stand-up comedy career that started boldly and beautifully in front of a crowd of a thousand people – and then petered out because I got bored. A three-year stint as a novelist that produced five books, including an Amazon.com best-seller – and then petered out because I got bored. I suppose I could even look at my marriage that way, though it’s probably more fair to say we got bored with each other.
What all of these have in common is that their puttering demises didn’t really phase me, at least not after a while. Yes, the end of my marriage was harder to get over than not seeing my name on the bookshelf anymore. (But I can also say I have zero desire to be married again, while I wouldn’t mind making the best-seller list one more time.) In the end, though, they were all things I tried, didn’t find personally what I was looking for within them, and went on to something else with no regrets.
All except one, that is.
I always wanted to be great non-fiction writer, sort of a journalist on steroids, in the vein of people like Edna Buchanan, Bill Bryson, and Carl Hiaasen, all of whom started as journalists. I went off to the University of Missouri’s journalism program so I could learn how to be like them. There, I also got to study the works of writers like Pulitzer Prize winners Jacqui Banaszynski, Tom French, and Tom Hallman, Jr. While working on my masters I got to interview all of them – and even become friends with one of them.
What I never accomplished, however, was writing like them, not really, and eventually I left that goal behind, too. Not this time because I was bored, or unfulfilled. But rather because I knew I could never be as good as they were. Life, too, got in the way: marriage, parenthood, coming out as a transgender woman. You know, the basic stuff.
I never stopped reading their work, however. And as the years have gone on, I have added to the list of people whose work I like to read, including Mary Emily O’Hara, now a contributor on them, and Zach Ford of Think Progress. Like Bryson and Hallman before them, I am in awe of what they do And, like my literary loves before them, I got to meet them, too.
They, along with another four-dozen or so of the country’s most influential digital LGBT journalists, were part of the #LGBTMedia18 conference in Palm Springs, an event I’d been wonderfully and miraculously asked to host. For three days I got to listen to Ford and O’Hara, as well as newer voices I’m only now beginning to appreciate, like transgender documentarian Fiona Dawson and Teen Vogue writer Elly Belle. It was transgender writer geek nirvana – and at the end of the week they gave me a standing ovation.
They called me “funny,” “smart,” “quick-thinking,” “thoughtful,” and many other things that I’d always wanted to be, but had never felt, at least as a writer. All of these people that I celebrated, and they were returning the favor. I couldn’t have had a more affirming moment if I’d designed it myself. “You like me! You really like me!” I said to myself, with absolutely a touch of “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!”
It was incredible to me then, and it still is now. Not because I got to be one of them; that’s not what I want anymore. But rather because I finally feel like it’s enough to be me: a good writer, a funny person, and apparently a pretty good host – and someone worthy of being happy with that.