Saturday, February 4, 2012

Transitional Bicycling and a Night of Lunacy

One part of my life I thought I would need to give up for some time after my workplace transition last November was commuting by bicycle.  I expected there to be a period during which my work colleagues would have trouble adapting to my new appearance.  For that reason, in the first days after November 10, I worked extra hard to make sure I was impeccably dressed and groomed as I walked through the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest each morning.  My makeup, hair, and everything about my appearance had to be as close to perfect as my still evolving abilities could make them. 

That period lasted for about three weeks.  To my own happy surprise, all my colleagues adapted to the new me within days, not weeks or months.  After all the planning, my transition in the workplace was trouble free beyond my wildest hopes.  So. . . .
As the weather remained remarkably mild, I thought, "Why not?"  My bicycling has firm roots going back to my failed attempt to come to terms with being transgender in 1990.  (For more on that, see Hubble Goes Up, I Go Down.)  Why should I give it up?  Moreover, HRT does change the metabolism, and I needed the exercise.  

I got back on the bicycle and began carrying my clothes to work just as I always had.  The department I work in is blessed with its own well-equipped shower facilities, and there was nothing I couldn't do there that I wasn't doing at home.  All I needed was to show up a half hour earlier to change and groom.  It worked.

In the end, I rode over 2500 miles last year, and I only stopped a week ago when a delayed winter finally caught up with us.  The bottom fell out of the thermometer as temperatures dropped to -20C (-4F) and a blizzard moved in.  The Embassy closed early on Thursday the 26th of January and remained closed on Friday.  Two feet of snow fell, roads were closed, and public transit outside the city center stopped.  The bicycle is now put away, likely for weeks if not for months.  My exercise will have to come from other means as I go back to being a daily bus commuter.

I noted the change in season with a Night of Lunacy by inviting nine friends for dinner.  Several of them were instrumental in making my workplace transition possible.  As focussed as I have been on myself, I had lost track of the calendar.  Several of my friends will soon be leaving Bucharest for the last time, and I wanted to show my gratitude before they were all too engrossed in pack-out and moving.  I used every chair and every dining room table extension leaf I had.

Why a Night of Lunacy?  I now have a small telescope again for the first time in many years, and my friends had all asked me to set it up for a look at the first quarter Moon.  The snow had ended, and the sky was crystal clear.  Still, what can you call a star party on a -15C evening other than an act of lunacy?  I have no shovel, and we had to stomp down the snow drifts to set up the telescope.  It was worth it, though, as several of my friends had never looked through a telescope before.  After the Moon, it was on to Venus, Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula.  One friend who has known me since Moscow was so excited that he couldn't restrain himself . . . and used my old name as he exclaimed his delight.

Which brings me back to transgender DADT.  Next in line for the telescope was a much newer friend from a different embassy who knows nothing of my past.  There was a surprised look on her face.  I put my hand on her shoulder and said, "If you didn't know before, I'm trans."  It was fine.

My young Peace Corps friend had come also, but by now she already knew.  When she accepted my invitation, I told her she would likely find out something about me that evening, and so I'd rather tell her straight out.  As I had hoped, she was wonderfully accepting of the new knowledge, even if I was a sad to lose the wonder of a new friendship in which I had simply been accepted as a woman.

We retired inside from our lunacy and settled down to an evening of lasagna made from my mother's recipe using local Romanian cheese.  We reminisced over the events of the past year, and I raised a toast, muffled by emotion, to so many old and new friends who have been part of this year of miracles.

Transitional Bicycling and a Night of Lunacy.  That is the report this week from Bucharest, where the snow, ice, and wind are melted and calmed by the warmth of friends.

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