Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"Michelle, any regrets?" "No, never, never; not a one"

I was talking today with one of the people I have come to know while working at Exony. In the course of that conversation, that person said the following (it was an online conversation, and I quote this part of it verbatim):

"Let me say this though: You have challenged me and many others I am sure. You challenge people (indeed society) to examine ourselves, and our ideas. You may not be aware, but you have profoundly changed people at Exony."

I was completely taken aback by that statement. Is that true? That's not the way that I see things... but the person concerned doesn't lie. Whether *I* believe it or not... *they* believe it. Which started me thinking... so now it's *your* turn. ;-)

Think of a person you admire; someone who inspires you. Why did you choose them? Maybe they embody characteristics that you value, and wish you could emulate. Maybe they've struggled through adversity with courage, determination and effort; or maybe they're an unsung person whom people don't notice, because they don't sing their own praises (nor induce others to sing them for them). I'd like to tell you a little about one of *my* personal heroines.

I'm not a particularly sporty person; at school, I was usually among the last to be picked for team games; never mind, you can't be good at *everything*! ;-) That said, I enjoyed playing some sports, Rugby Union in particular, and I can at least say that I regularly represented my school in the First XV when I was in the Sixth Form (no idea what they call it these days; when I was 17 and 18). I played hooker (no jokes, please!) and might have continued to play once I went to University, had I not been put off by a spate of three broken necks to front-row players for College teams at my University in my first two weeks. I wasn't *that* keen on the game. I haven't really played competitive sport since; I used to ride my horse, Bally, but not competitively, and I tended to enjoy outdoor activities (especially scuba diving) which were, by their nature, non-competitive. So it's fair to say that I'm not aware of any sense in which I stand to lose out on participating in something I love doing by completing my journey towards womanhood. But for others, they face just such a potential conflict; and how they respond can be a huge indicator of their qualities as a person.

In case you haven't heard of her, Michelle Dumaresq is the Canadian women's downhill mountain biking champion. She's represented her country in international sporting competition, as a woman. To finance her sporting dreams, she works as a welder in a primarily male workforce.

Oh, and she spent the first twenty years of her life as Michael.

Michelle is the subject of a new documentary film, "100% Woman", which I , for one, cannot wait to see. As it says on the film's website:

"Shot over two years, 100% Woman is an adrenaline-fueled ride-along on Michelle's controversial foray into international women's competition. Combining verite scenes, interviews, home movies and dynamic footage of some of the best mountain bikers in the world, we follow Michelle from her first local race, to the World Championships where she makes history as the first transgendered athlete on a national team, to the glare of the media spotlight."

So, is that why I rate her as a personal heroine? Admirable as her achievements are, that's not the reason. Michelle describes a little of her personal journey on Lynn Conway's "Transsexual Women's Successes" web site. It's not a particularly long piece of writing, and well worth the reading. The key quote, for me, is:

"I have found as a trans person it's acceptable to compete but don't you dare win. Well I did just that."

Now, *that's* an attitude I admire! :-) As well as that piece (and numerous other articles linked to from that site, or easily found via e.g. Google, Michelle was recently interviewed on GenderTalk; and right at the end of the interview, Nancy Nangeroni asked Michelle the question that forms the first part of the title of this post, and Michelle gave the answer that forms the second. And you can hear in her voice that she means it. Even having been through the indignities that she had in pursuit of her competitive dream. "That's* why she's a personal heroine of mine; regret nothing.

Michelle, you go girl! And do I *ever* wish my voice was as cool as yours! :-)

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  • At 9:17 pm, Blogger Amy said…

    Hey, Koan -- you're one of my heroines already! That's why I added you to my list of must-read feeds.

    As for other heroines, well, one of my favorites has always been Ida Tarbell, one of the pioneers of modern investigative journalism.

    Of course, when I think of the word "hero" the very first image that comes to mind is this.

    - Amy Gahran

  • At 9:29 pm, Blogger Koan said…

    Ummm... Amy... thank you! I am frankly humbled to read your comment; and I'm going to assume that it's merely alphabetisation that puts this blog at the top of that category.

    I don't *think* I've come across Ida Tarbell before, but I'll certainly correct that oversight; "Newspaper and magazine writer and editor, lecturer, muckraker" - now, that's a combination to whet the appetite (especially the muckraker part!)

    And that picture is, I think, one of the most enduring of the last century; I'd like to think that the circumstances of Tiananmen Square will never be repeated again, in China or anywhere else... but I'm afraid I don't have *that* much faith in human nature. :-(

    Thanks, again, for your comment, Amy.


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