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Twenty Years On (2011)

Twenty Years On (2011)

©2011 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (2011, 7 March). Twenty years on. TG Forum.






TG Forum Version


Twenty Years On

By Dallas Denny


Years ago I wrote a column for TG Forum. Years ago. Now JoAnn and Angela have been kind enough to ask me to write again. So for those of you who might not be familiar with me and my work, I’ve written a bio of sorts. Just so you’ll know.

I transitioned in December, 1989. Even before my move to Atlanta I was flung semi-unwillingly into the abyss: I was put in charge of running The Montgomery Institute and its support group.

Those were heady days. New to one another, and, for most of us, new even to ourselves, we were as a national collective shopping about a new term—transgender—to see whether we liked it, even as we developed a healthy alternative to the then-dominant medical model. At the same time we were agitating for social change in the GLB and mainstream communities and calling attention to the appalling number of transgendered folk who were being murdered. In those days before the World Wide Web we were inventing ourselves, growing our community in three dimensions. That meant starting and running organizations, publishing magazines and newsletters, and mailing out thousands of envelopes stuffed with information to those trying to figure themselves out.

I did my share of publishing and organization-starting. In 1990 I founded the Atlanta Gender Explorations Support Group and launched a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit called The American Educational Gender Information Service. I sent out a flier announcing my intent to start the journal Chrysalis Quarterly and straightaway received an ad order from JoAnn Roberts; every issue of Chrysalis included an outside back cover featuring her Creative Design Services. JoAnn later became the chair of AEGIS’ Board of Directors.

I went to a lot of conferences and planning meetings, served on the boards of a half-dozen organizations, wrote a lot, stayed up late nights taking calls on AEGIS’ help line, and wrote and published flyers and pamphlets and books. One of my titles is, so far as I know, the first book-length contribution to the medical and psychological literature by an out transsexual. I was present at the first planning meeting of the Southern Comfort conference and went every fall to Fantasia Fair. I always took my guitar to conferences.

Things slowed for me in 1998 as AEGIS’ Board of Directors planned to change its locus of advocacy to cyberspace. In 2000 we re-launched as Gender Education & Advocacy, Inc. and donated our extensive collection of transgender historical materials to the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan, where they are available to scholars from all over the world. In 1999 I was asked by the International Foundation for Gender Education to be the editor of their journal Transgender Tapestry, and I accepted. I edited nineteen issues of Tapestry, ending my tenure in 2006. For six years during the 2000s I was Director of Fantasia Fair.

I retired in September 2009 from the job I had been lucky enough to land just weeks after my transition (I’m an applied behavior analyst). I’m looking forward to my social security benefits kicking in this fall, as I’ll have more money for travel and toys. My best toy is the little 1996 Mazda Miata two-seater roadster I bought upon retirement. It was $2800 on eBay. Sweet.

2012-07, Miatas At the Gap_0032

My 1996 Mazda Miata

I live in the tiny incorporated town of Pine Lake, which is pretty much a girl scout camp. Think water, trees, wild animals, walking trails, and lots of people who know your name. The city was created in the 1930s as a blue-collar resort for people eager to escape the bustling city of Atlanta, which at the time had all of 270,000 residents. At ten miles from city center, Pine Lake was far, far out in the country. Today Metropolitan Atlanta stretches 50 miles in every direction and has a population of nearly 6,000,000 and Pine Lake is desirably close in.

Pine Lake’s population of 800 consists of artists and eccentrics, including many gay and lesbian families and three transpeople besides myself. Everybody knows one another and there are frequent concerts, parades, breakfasts, dinners, classes, and assorted and often silly celebrations. I love my house and the sense of community.

Vientos del Pueblo, 9-2005, Photo by Jessica Xavier

The Andean band Vientos del Pueblo in Concert At Pine Lake.
Photo by Jessica Xavier

I continue to write widely on transgender issues and speak at various community conferences. Just now I’m working with Jamison Green on a chapter on media for the forthcoming book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and on an article for the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Studies. Every October I attend the Fantasia Fair conference in Provincetown, on Cape Cod; I’m recently retired from the Fair organizing committee. I was an invited speaker at the Empire conference in New York state last year and will be speaking again this year. This fall Jamison Green, Jason Cromwell, and myself will be presenting a paper at the WPATH meeting, which will, happily, be held just 10 miles from my home. The Southern Comfort conference is in the same hotel, and you bet I’ll be there and hopefully presenting. Every semester I teach a class for medical professionals at Emory University. So, you see, I keep my hand in.

Four years ago I found the virtual world Second Life. Within three weeks, by happy circumstance, I met the woman who is now my partner both in Second Life and here on Earth. I spent about a third of the year with her at her home in the Hudson Valley and the remainder of my time in Pine Lake.

Sweetie and Cheyenne Search in Vain for their Gaxis Golf Cart Emergency Getaway Vehicle

Exploring in the Virtual World Second Life. That’s My Avatar, Hovering.
Yes, I Can Fly in Second Life

Twenty years on, the fact of my transsexualism escapes me for the most part, even when I’m writing or talking about transgender issues. Every once in a while I think, “Oh, yeah, I am, aren’t I?” Life is comfortable and rewarding and easy, and I feel grateful beyond belief to be living it congruently, as a woman.