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Alternating his leg-strengthening rollerblading rituals with upper-body workouts, Abbott spends much of his time either on the street or in Bally's health club on 40th Street. (For the record, Abbott now changes clothes in the women's locker room. "The women seem to be much more open-minded about this," reports one spa employee.)
Every Sunday, she skates to services at a nondenominational gay church. Several times a month, she blades over to the Veteran's Administration Hospital for medical treatment or to a private doctor for the biweekly hormone therapy that has enabled Abbott to become reclassified as "a disabled female." Extracting the plastic ID card validating that claim from her fanny pack, Abbott proudly shows off the document as if it were the Purple Heart.
Not all of her fellow vets share Abbott's enthusiasm for her transgender triumph. Dressed in full female regalia during a recent trip to the hospital, Abbott heard the fellow behind her in line announce, "Now I know why we lost the war!"
Spinning on her heels, Abbott countered, "Listen, you son of a bitch--we didn't lose no war because of me!"
Donna Abbott sighs wistfully. "No matter how often it happens, you never really get used to remarks like that. I try to ignore them, but they hurt. And if I'm having a bad day, watch out!"
Or so a Jeep full of teenage hooligans discovered after hurling a few choice, antigay sentiments at Abbott en route to high school one day last semester. "You should have seen their faces when I caught up with them in the parking lot," says Abbott, who dumped a cup of hot coffee in the ringleader's lap. And when she's in a friskier mood, Abbott says she gets even with gawkers by flashing her tits--a stunt that once earned her a lecture from a befuddled cop. "When I first got here, police officers--mainly the lady cops--were stopping me all the time," she reports. "They were curious about who I was and what I was doing, so I'd tell them. They were polite, so the way I see it, if I tell em how and why, maybe the next time they see someone who's a little different, they might leave them alone."
Watching the faces of rush-hour commuters as she laces up blades outside the coffee shop, it becomes clear that the chances of Donna Marie Abbott ever becoming just another face in the crowd are somewhere between zero and nil.
Preparing to blade off in the direction of her gym, Abbott announces, "My next goal is to be a female bodybuilder. All my friends think I'm nuts. They say, 'What do you want to do that for? You'll look weird!'
"But, hey, what do I have to lose?" asks the woman who's definitely her own man. "I already look weird." Somewhere in the distance, a car honks.