The great thing about taking up cycling is that people can learn at their own pace, improve at their own skill level and decide what level of exercise they will enjoy from the sport. For Aere Greenway and Deborah Dean, partners in life and part of Utah’s Transgender community, the achievement of long-distance cycling parallels some of the changes they have made in their lives in helping them find happiness.
“The bike trips don’t have that much to do with being transgender but the process of transitions was very hard so I got used to doing the impossible,” said Greenway, who turns 60 in December and is post-op, or has made the change. “My transition was a series of half-way steps, thinking at each stage that this new step would be ‘enough.’ Somehow in the process, it did not occur to me that I could, and would, be able to have it all.”
Training for long distance cycling is also done in stages: getting used to the exertion required for more miles and longer rides, getting the body to endure the repetitive motion, and even handling the pressure of the bike seat on the derriere. Then there are the changes in weather on the road, preparing yourself for whatever Mother Nature throws in your path.
“It was something I did in the early part of my life,” said Dean, referring to cycling while in college in Little Rock, Ark. “One spring break I did a 200-mile trip.” After that Dean accomplished a 4,000-mile trip across the United States starting from the Pacific Ocean in Oregon to the beaches of the Atlantic in New Jersey, raising $5,000 from Baptist Student Union members from Arkansas State University who pledged for how many miles rode.
At that time Deborah Dean was James, and James liked to dress in women’s clothing. James says that sexual orientation is not the same as gender identification. “Sex is between the legs and gender is between the ears,” James told City Weekly in 2000.
James/Dean is heterosexual and as Greenway mentioned during this interview, “I’m not sure what gender walked out the door but Debra or James will be back to answer your questions.”
Dean and Greenway call each other their spouse and have lived together for 14 years. Greenway comes from the gay community which was more open about differences in gender and sexuality. “My first act of coming out was to attend the Metropolitan Community Church, which I liked a lot. I came to be involved with the Restoration Church, which was very valuable in my transition process,” said Greenway.
Greenway was married to a woman and had four children. At a certain point in their lives together, they both realized that neither could truly be happy together with the changes that Greenway felt she needed to take.
“My family, immediate and extended, have been good to me,” said Greenway. “My parents, now deceased, were really good. Despite being active LDS, they seemed to decide that ideological differences don’t need to get in the way of loving a child they had spent so many years raising.”
Greenway says that she has only lost one uncle through the process and even re-united with a member of her former spouse’s family on this past summer’s bicycle trip.
Greenway and Dean met at Lambda Lambda Tri-ess meetings in Salt Lake, which Greenway remembers was paranoid about other people that might be out to get them.
Because of this underlying paranoia, Greenway and Dean formed Engendered Species, Utah’s support and social group that welcomes cross dressers, transgender individuals, friends of both, their families and significant others. The goal of Engendered Species was and still is to create positive feelings of gender questioning with others that are proud and supportive of any inner struggle attendees are feeling. Engendered Species is still very active with support meetings, dinner socials and special events for all Utahns’ to attend.
“Once we did a Transgender bicycle trip in Grand Teton National Park and two other people from Engendered Species went with us,” said Greenway. “On our first trip, the length of Utah, we had another person with us who wanted out of the trip after the first day. We got her out successfully, but it cost us a day and extra expense.”
Greenway and Dean’s latest long adventure was a 12-day trip from Utah to Glacier National Park in Montana, this past June. Dean and Greenway plan on taking cycling trips after the snow disappears this spring and if Greenway retires, they plan to do a trip across the United States together.
“I was inspired to try this by my spouse talking glowingly about the experience of cycling across the continent,” said Greenway. “I got involved in cycling because it was a big part of my spouse’s world and one of the opportunities we have in being in a relationship is the chance to explore the other person’s world. I tried cycling and liked it.”
Greenway gets a great sense of accomplishment with each trip, particularly the long ones. “Decades ago, I would have sworn that the bicycle trips I’ve done would be impossible for me, a non-athlete,” Greenway reflects. “I’ve come to discover that doing the impossible, at least once a year, is really good for one’s self-esteem.
Greenway chronicles each trip with Dean accompanied by spectacular photos of scenery and commentary on specific routes taken at www.dvorak-keyboards.com/aere_greenway.html. For more information about Engendered Species, visit www.es-transgender.com.