Accepting an award on behalf of gay youth

I have just returned to Victoria after a wonderful, delightful weekend in Winnipeg, where I was inducted into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Media Roll of Honour. It was so nice to see friends, former colleagues and sporting people such as guest speaker Troy Westwood, the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker, and Brian Dobie, head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons football team.

It was also a true honor to become the first member of the LGBT community to receive this award. Following is the acceptance speech I delivered:


Hello…how nice it is to be back home.

I left here 15 years ago and I can’t help but notice how many famous Winnipeg landmarks have disappeared since 1999.

Winnipeg Stadium—gone.

Winnipeg Arena—gone.

Kelekis’ Restaurant—gone.

The Wagon Wheel Restaurant—gone.

Papa George’s Restaurant—gone.

Troy Westwood’s hair—gone.

The last time I saw Troy, his hair was down to his butt cheeks. Now it’s…all gone. Actually, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen Troy without Bob Cameron standing beside him. When I left, they were still playing for the Blue Bombers. They were the two quirky kickers. The kid and the old man.

Someone once mentioned to me that Troy always looks so young. I said, “Ya, that’s what people always said about Mick Jagger, too. But there’s only one reason Mick Jagger looked so young for so long—he was always standing beside Keith Richards! Same thing with Troy and Bob.”


I don’t know if this is my Sally Field moment, my Jodie Foster moment or my Lana Wachowski moment, but it surely is a very special moment for me on a number of levels and I’m absolutely delighted to be here.

I would first like to offer congratulations to all of tonight’s nominees and honorees, to the young recipients of the Jack Matheson Award, to Ernie Nairn, a truly lovely man who was always kind to me, and to Bruce Luebke for his induction into the Media Roll of Honour. The thought of riding the iron lung across Western Canada for 20 years is…can you say hemmorhoids? Bruce is very deserving of his award.

I would like to acknowledge a couple of people. First, Judy Owen, for the wonderful lies she just told about me in her introduction and for her unwavering support over the years. Judy, I want you to know how much I admire you, a woman in what is very much a man’s game. I admire you and Ashley Prest so much. It must have been very difficult at times, being a woman and dealing with all those beastly men. So, please know how much I admire you both.

Second, Dave Komosky, for his friendship, his support and for hiring me to write in his curling newspapers—the Tankard Times, the Heart Chart and the Morning Cup. Not everyone is bold enough to have a transgender girl write sports. That’s one of the things that makes you so special.

As a member of the LGBT community, I also want to take this opportunity to salute Mo Glimcher and the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association for its initiative on transgender student-athletes. It’s a contentious issue and no doubt will meet with strong opposition, but if it prevents even one transgender person from self-harm—or worse—it will be worthwhile.

The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is suffering. We all will suffer in this lifetime. The Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering. None of us, especially our youth, should suffer because they are being bullied, harrassed or discriminated against due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. I know what it’s like. It’s a very unpleasant, painful, punitive place to be. I know what it’s like to stand on a street corner…during rush hour…and contemplate the merits of stepping into oncoming traffic to make the pain, the torment and the despair disappear. I’ve been there…I almost did that.

If any of you have gay kids in your family—and I know at least two people in this room who do—please don’t shun them, don’t ridicule them and don’t reject them. Embrace them. Accept them. Love them…as you would any other child.

Gay youth don’t wish to be treated special…they wish to be treated normal.

Gay youth can open the door from the inside, but it’s up to each of us to let them out.

So I accept this award, this honor, not so much for myself but on behalf of gay youth. I hope they hear about it or read about it and realize it’s okay to be “different.” That it’s okay for them to be true to themselves and let the world see their true selves. I want them to know that they don’t have to hide. That they can be appreciated, accepted and achieve previously believed-to-be-unattainable goals. Let them dream of being the next Jennifer Jones. Or Mike McEwen. Or Jonathan Toews. Or even a sports writer at a big city newspaper.

I also want our youth—all youth, not just gay youth—to know this: If someone tells you the sky is the limit, don’t believe it. I say to you, reach beyond the sky…for nothing is beyond your reach.

Thank you to the MSSA for this night…kindness and love to you all.

A rose is a rose is a person

Acknowledging the impermanence of life is not a negative thought. It is a positive thought that produces positive and loving emotion and action.

By patti dawn swansson

When we are given a rose, or when we purchase a rose, we regard its beauty. We comment on the lovely color. We place it beneath our nose so we might delight in its sweet scent. We handle it with extreme care as we snip the bottom of the stem, then put it in a vase filled with water. Finally, we place it on a table or ledge, we stand back, and we admire the beautiful rose.

This rose has brought joy into our life.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Similarly, when a child is born, we regard her beauty. We gather the dear one in our arms and softly stroke her smooth, fine hair or run a finger along her chubby cheeks and bow down in order to kiss her on the forehead. We coo and speak softly and soothingly. We welcome her into the world. We tell her we love her. All our actions and movements are performed with loving care, as if the child is as delicate as the finest piece of crystal.

This child has brought joy into our life.

There is, however, a difference between the joy of the rose and the joy of the child—we acknowledge the impermanence of the rose immediately, but not that of the child.

We know the joy of the rose will be very limited. We hope it is with us for a week or more, but we realize that it might only be a few days before it is in wither and we must put it on the compost heap. We know our time together is very limited, so we enjoy it as much as we can in those few days.

“I wish you would live longer, but I know you will leave me in a short while,” we say.

With a child, on the other hand, we don’t consider impermanence at the moment of birth or in the days to come. We assume she will be with us for many, many years. We will have plenty of time to enjoy her.

This is wrong-thinking.

We are on borrowed time from the moment we squeeze our way out of our mother’s womb. The child is a rose. We must acknowledge her impermanence every day of her life so we can fully appreciate and fully love her at all times throughout her years. We must not take the presence of the child/rose for granted. We know the dear one will leave us one day, but we should not posit that the day will be five, 15, 50 or 85 years down the road.

That does not mean we should live in constant fear that the child/rose will be gone any second. It means we should value her existence in our life every second of our life.

The same can be said of all our dear ones. Appreciate that they are here. Now. Let them know it. Tell them you know they are a beautiful rose and that they will be leaving you one day, so your time together is very special. It is too late to say such things at their memorial service.

I have heard it said many times that “I never got a chance to tell her how much she meant to me.” Or, “The last thing I said to her wasn’t very nice.”

That’s because we refuse to acknowledge impermanence.

It often isn’t until a dear one arrives at a certain age, or when disease or an accident intrudes, that we begin to contemplate the brevity and frailty of life. We our told that mother has cancer, for example, so we automatically draw closer to her because we know the end is near. The rose is wilting. We learn that a loved one has been wounded in an auto mishap and she is in a coma, so we scurry to the hospital. The rose is wilting.

Acknowledging the impermanence of life is not a negative thought. It is a positive thought that produces positive and loving emotion and action.

For example, I know of a rose who had been wilting. Her name is Doris. She’s the lovely lady who sells me many of the cosmetics I purchase at Shoppers Drug Mart. I hadn’t seen her for quite some time and none of her fellow workers would enlighten me as to her whereabouts and/or well-being. It turns out she had breast cancer. Upon her return from a five-month retreat for radiation treatment, rest and other medical matters, we shared meaningful hugs and kind words, and the reality of impermanence visited us both. I now think of Doris with a heightened fondness, because I recognize she won’t be here forever.

As much as we wish for our physical life to linger, we know it isn’t possible. Each of us is a rose. Each of us will wilt and move on to an afterlife. That’s why we must appreciate our dear ones now. Today.

Karma doesn’t do our dirty work for us

We shouldn’t ever think of karma in such a way that we derive glee from another’s misfortune.

By patti dawn swansson

Some people view karma as an avenging angel.

You are the victim of an injustice and you rationalize by saying, “What goes around comes around.” Or, “Karma will bite you in the butt.”

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Sometimes karma does that very thing. Other times, not so much.

But whose butt is being bitten? If we wish for negative karma to visit herself upon another, are we not also asking negative karma to visit herself upon us?

Karma is not a blunt object to be used as a weapon. It is not the destructive mechanism of wishful thinking. We should never say “Karma will get you for this.”

That sounds too much like a threat.

Karma does not manifest itself in a threatening manner. If we wish that to be so, then we are welcoming negative karma to visit ourselves. How can we say “I hope he/she gets what’s coming to them” without negative karma visiting us? Placing a negative atop a negative produces a negative.

In other words, if you have been mistreated and wish for karma to settle the score for you, then you are wishing for karma to settle the score with yourself. Karma isn’t about getting even. You can’t cast the spell of negative karma on another without it falling upon yourself. Being the victim of an injustice doesn’t grant us license to be unjust.

Karma isn’t something we can manipulate. Karma is. Full stop.

We shouldn’t ever think of karma in such a way that we derive glee from another’s misfortune.

Karma, like most everything in the human realm, is a concept. If you make me suffer then karma will make you suffer. We see someone punished after a misdeed and we say, “He deserved it. Karma caught up to him.” But I say to you again, karma is not an avenging angel.

If we were to await karma to exact revenge for us, how long must we wait? A day? A week? A month? A year? Forever? Eternity?

We should not count on karma to do our deeds. It might never happen. Then what? Do we go to our graves or urns cursing karma for not addressing our demands and expectations of retribution?

Don’t seek retribution. Move on. If karma chooses to involve herself, she will. But she won’t do so simply because you are angry and vengeful. She doesn’t have the time nor the will to serve all those who wish to subvert for the sake of get-evenism.

Letting go is so hard to do, but I must before my heart explodes

If we look deeply enough, we will see that attachment and suffering are one. We won’t let go, therefore we suffer.

By patti dawn swansson

Overall, I would say I’ve done a decent job of letting go.

I have let go of a journalism career and its accompanying rewards. I have let go of marriage. I have let go of family. I have let go of places. I have let go of my cherished, 63-album Beatles collection.

It surely is difficult, though.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

I mean, we get attached to things and to people, don’t we? We get attached to concepts and beliefs and policy. Men get attached to their ratty, old underwear. They simply can’t bring themselves to throw the shabby garments out. I know some men who have underwear older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Women…well, we get attached to shoes. They might sit in the closet for a year without slipping on to our dainty feet, but they’ll be there when we find the perfect outfit.

But letting go is about more than a pair of Hanes boxers or a pair of open-toe pumps.

For example, it can be very difficult to let go of a relationship, even though it is not working. You might be a husband clinging to a relationship while your wife is letting go. You want it to work. It must work. So you will go to many lengths to preserve that relationship. The difficulty of letting go of a relationship is magnified if there are children involved. So you suffer every minute of every hour of every day because you know it cannot and will not work, yet you can’t let go.

I have a son with whom I had a wonderful relationship, albeit at a great distance. He lives in London, I live in Canada. Our communication was always thoughtful, engaging and insightful. Then one day it stopped. Cold turkey. He had disappeared and I didn’t know why. I feared that he and his partner were experiencing difficulties. I feared they had parted. After a number of failed attempts to restore our communication, I finally heard from his partner. He reassured me that all was well with their union and I was not to worry. Why did my son break away from me? His partner explained that something had transpired on one of his trips home to Canada and he needed to retreat. He had to let go. This wounded me because I wasn’t prepared to let go.

My suffering was my attachment.

If we look deeply enough, we will see that attachment and suffering are one. We won’t let go, therefore we suffer.

Suffering, of course, is the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. We all suffer in life. Emotionally. Physically. It is unavoidable. But it is not always inescapable.

Letting go can unshackle us from the suffering of attachment. But it is only when we realize that our attachment and our suffering are the same that we can begin to let go.

I mention this today because I am again experiencing the great life tussle of letting go.

I wish to let go of a specific environment and, by extension, the people who gather at this venue. I have done this in the past. More than once. I have always felt freedom when I have untethered myself, yet its come-hither charms have always lured me back, even though I was totally aware my suffering would return. This reality has been reinforced repeatedly. I let go. I re-attach. I let go. I re-attach. This is causing me considerable stress which, in turn, will develop into physical impairment. But, I quarrel with the stress level of letting go as opposed to the stress level of the attachment. As much as the environment is stressful, I wonder what letting go will do, because I would be losing something that was paramount during the most significant period of my life.

So I am in pain. How can I turn away from people who served as my source of strength during the run-up to my gender reassignment surgery and post-surgery? They were my angels. Is it not betrayal if I clip their wings?

I rationalize by reminding myself of the not-so-angelic things some of them have said and done to me. Calling me Patrick, making crude jokes about my vagina, using male pronouns to reference me, spreading malicious gossip to distort my relationship with those for whom I work, attempting to have me fired, telling me I don’t belong, screaming at me…this should make it easy to let go.

Yet there remain beautiful people who gather at this place. People I love. People I admire and respect. People who make me laugh and whose company I enjoy and whose friendship I treasure.

Alas, my blood pressure is telling me I must let go. Now. My most recent reading was 174/106, which is alarmingly high for anyone, but particularly for someone with kidney disease. I know I must let go before my heart stops beating.

I believe letting go is the most difficult of life’s demands.

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