Monday, February 20, 2017

Thespian

A few weeks back I wrote about auditioning for a play: the Vagina Monologues.

Monday, February 13, 2017 was the day.  I was to be there by 3 pm for a run through, etc.  I took my time getting ready.  I had to do so quietly, as Linda, my roomie and bestie, was asleep.  She had worked very early that morning, and needed it.

I wish I could've afforded the time and money to go see Amanda Richards for a proper makeup job.  Or that Linda wasn't so bone tired, so she could do it (she is a Hollywood trained makeup artist,) but wishes are Lies, and I had to do it myself.

I put on my red polka dotted dress, my only pair of hose that fit, and red pumps.  I felt ready.  I felt VERY good about my hair.  Sophie's Luck:  Perfect hair... on a day with High winds.

Behind the seats before the show.


I got into my car and noticed that the hose had a major run in them.  DAMMIT!  So off they came.  They later came to rest in a dumpster near the theater.

The ride was around 45 minutes, during which I listened to the Grateful Dead to put me in a better mood.

I parked two blocks from the theater in the only free parking I could find.  It was a cold walk to the theater, and the door was locked.  I could see no one inside.  I looked for shelter from the freezing wind, then someone else walked up to the door, and they were let in.  I ran over as fast as I could in three inch heels and also went in.

I was met by one of the director/producers, Bethany.  She led me through the theater to the dressing room.  It was small and cramped.  I'd never been backstage at a theater before.  I was nervous.  Excited.  I walked around the stage area and began meeting other actresses.  Ebony, the other producer/director, and the one with whom I worked on my original piece, appeared later.

Most of them were younger than me, and most of them had acting experience.  Lots.  It seemed that most of them knew each other.  Yet, I didn't feel like an outsider.  I was there as part of something bigger.

Ebony (producer/director), some fat chick, "Messie", Kira, Tatiana, Bethany (producer/director), Jennifer.

Soon enough, my dear friend Kira arrived.  After auditions, I was asked if I knew transwomen who would be interested in joining the cast.  I thought about it, and asked two of my dear friends.  One couldn't make it due to a conflict, but the other- Kira- auditioned and won a part.  I was so happy she would be there with me.  And, in fact, during our group part, she would be standing next to me.  She is a pillar of strength and calm.


We were then given the structure of the show, and our places (stools).


View of the stage in the main theater

We then ran through the show once to iron out details.  Everyone was so wonderful at their parts!  The show was not filmed, but Kira was kind enough to record my final rehearsal.  Find that HERE.  (The first line was cut off.  It was "I am a woman.")

After that, the directors provided some food trays as well as some drinks.  We all ate, and while doing so I fell into conversation with several different people.  They were from all walks of life.

It's important to note, we were reading off cards.  No memorization.  Supposedly.

At 6 PM, the pre-show started in the "inner lobby."  You see, the show sold out completely, so chairs were set up in the inner lobby for 100 more people to see the show (at a discounted price.)  So the plan was that we do our bit in the main theater, then head out to the lobby to do the show again for that crowd.  There we would sit on the stools out there until the end of the show.


Backstage Waiting

Except for myself and a few others.  We would speak again later during the "Testimonials" part.  I would be the first of those.  So after my group part, I would then go back into the theater and wait backstage until my turn again.

In the crowd out in lobby, I spotted my roomie and bestie Linda, as well as my dear friend Lilia.  They had come to support me.  I knew that my friend Elizabeth was also there with two people, but I didn't see her.


Pre-show lobby crowd.

At around 6:30, we were told "doors are open," so all of us huddled in the cramped dressing room.  The people who knew each other chatted and joked.  I pretty much moved around silently.

Soon enough we lines up in the darkened backstage area, lit only by blue track lighting.  We waited through the introductions of the show's beneficiaries (it was a benefit.)  One of the rambled on and on, until someone said "Sister, this is a long show, and we still have one other person to speak to."  A laugh.  The second person spoke briefly.  And then, we filed out onto the stage to applause.  And the show began.


Backstage where we waited for our cue.

My first part, the group part with Kira and three others was early in the show.  It wasn't recorded, but there are youtube videos of the piece being performed by other groups.  Then, we filed off to applause, and went to the other room and did it again.

I watched for a little bit, then sneaked backstage.  There I took some pictures and waited.  Eventually i was told to take a seat out on the stools between speakers.  Then, when the time came for my "Testimony" piece, I was ready.

I gave my piece.  It was just me on the stage of a theater- 150 eyes and ears on me.  I did my piece, but one of the cards was missing.  Fortunately I had rehearsed it enough that I knew the missing part and plowed through it.  When I finished, I strutted off the stage defiantly, shoulders back.  I felt it fit the ending.  Applause!

For me!

I quickly went back to the dressing room and found the missing card, then waited to do my bit on the second stage.  Then, I was ON!

As I performed the second time, there were maybe 100 people.  But it was different this time.  The audience was more... responsive.  There were at least two African American women saying "Mmmhmm!!" and "that's right, sister!"  and "You tell' em!"  I felt wonderful!

Again I finished.  More applause.  I was floating on air.

A bit later, we took our group bows, both the outside stage and in the theater.

It sounded louder in the theater.  As we all bowed and curtsied (three or four times) the crowd stood and gave us a standing ovation.  I could see Linda and Lilia and Elizabeth (my three friends who attended) standing and applauding.  And smiling!

Oh God, it was wonderful!


After the Show, I was in Heaven

Then... it was over.  The theater emptied.  I spoke briefly to Linda and Lilia, then Elizabeth and her group.  I stopped back in the dressing room to drop off my cards.  Then, out to the lobby where everyone was crowding around.

So many people I didn't know came up and hugged me.  They thanked me.  They told me how courageous I was.  I thanked them all- I didn't know what else to say.  Soon, I had wine (in a plastic cup) in my hand.  I was numb- in a good way.  I felt like I was dreaming and I didn't want to wake up.

A very tall and strongly built African American man came up to me.  He was dressed in a way that a Republican would judge him as a "thug."  I'd seen him in the audience in the lobby part, and met his gaze once while performing.  He came up and gave me a gentle hug saying, in a voice soft as a memory, that he really enjoyed my piece- that he never understood what it meant to be Trans, but now he did.  I thanked him as well- tears forming in my eye.

I stayed close to people I knew mostly.  Linda and Lilia left quickly, as Linda had to get up early for work.  However I did meet new people as well.

I started speaking to a couple of women.  They were out and proud lesbians who were taking pictures of each other next to a huge chalk art vagina in the outer lobby.  I offered to take  pictures of them both, which I did.  We then started chatting.


Tart and Art

They had the usual questions.  Then one asked why a Man would CHOOSE to become a woman.

"Oh, like you chose your sexuality?" I replied.

I saw the light bulb come on.  They Understood now.  I felt wonderful.  I wonder how many minds and hearts were changed that night as well.

Soon the crowd thinned down.  Elizabeth drove me to my car, and I drove home.  Again, I listened to the Grateful Dead.  I couldn't stop smiling.

I woke the next morning in a Wonderful mood!  Best I'd felt in Years!  Decades! As I prepared for work, I thought about how great the day would be- how many customers I could turn on to new books and such.

Then I arrived at work...

And everything went straight to Hell.




Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day After Play

I can't give all the details, but here's what I can say.

So, I went into work feeling wonderful.  It was Valentine's Day. I was still feeling great from the play the night before.

I clocked in, and went to my station at the cash registers.  A cashier was there already.  I'll just say she put a damper on my mood by complaining constantly and repeating herself.

Later in the shift, we were busy.  It was lunch time and many people were in the store buying Valentine's Day gifts.  My fellow cashier was with a mother and daughter, and was taking her sweet old time.  There was a line.  Three people back in that line was a woman approximately my age (50s).  She kept looking at her watch, sighing loudly, and looked VERY impatient.  (I'll call her Impatient.)

I did my best to serve the customers in line, but it seemed like people were in slow motion.  Everyone had to grope around their purses for exact change, or write a check.  Impatient was loudly saying things like "come on!" and sighing loudly.  My fellow cashier was STILL on those two.  I finish my last person before Impatient, when the other cashier calls me over.  She needs to start over, so I aborted her transaction.  I then called Impatient to my register.

"Thank you for your patience," I said, while I started ringing up her three books.

"It's about time!  Some of us have REAL jobs, you know."  Full of attitude.

"I'm sorry, I can only move as quickly as the people in front of me."

She grumbled something, and I said "I'm sorry, ma'am, if you wish to speak to a manager, I can get one."

"You've already wasted enough of my time," she snapped.  I completed the transaction, and wished her a good day.  She snatched the bag from my hand, and as she walked away said "Fucking tranny!"

I was stunned.  And Furious.  At this point, my colleague finished with the mother/daughter.  I called for help, and as the three of us quickly reduced the line.  As we finished I heard an announcement:

"Sophie, please call [manager's office extension.]"

Within an hour, I left the bookstore crying and believing that my employment was over.

That is all I can say about that day at work right now.

I went home, sobbing.


Just After Work: the "fucking tranny"

I called a couple of friends and listened to what they had to say.  I then decided to remove myself from the company facialbook pages, one of which (LGBT and allies page) that I started.

I went to bed, crying quietly as my roomie and bestie Linda was asleep (she worked very early in the morning.)

She woke up and asked why I was there.  I told her.  I couldn't stop crying.

I was going to disengage my facialbook page completely, but I decided that I needed support.  I needed my friends.

The Darkness had me.

I called the Transgender suicide hotline.  Twice.  Both times I got "No one is available to take your call.  Please try again later."

I couldn't sleep.  I took melatonin as well as a muscle relaxant, and tried working on my blog.  What I wrote was all too dark, and I scrapped it.

I leaned HARD on my friends online.  And, after dropping out of the work facialbook groups, I suddenly received many messages of support and friend requests from employees of the bookstore across the country.

Thank you to everyone for your support.  And to my friends who I leaned on, I love you all.

So, I started the day at an amazing high and ended deeply low.

So, was that happiness a Lie?  Is any happiness in my life a Lie?  Yes.  And I HATE lies.  I hate lies, and I'm so good at lying.  I lied to myself and the world for decades.

That's where I am right now.  I'm typing this while watching the Katie Couric Gender special on Gender.  I'm watching Dr. Marci Bowers discussing people getting GCS.

And tears are in my eyes.  Because I will never be able to get this done.

Happiness is a Lie.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sharing

Note:  I dictated this on Sunday morning.  A lot has changed since then.  Not for the good.  But here it is anyway.

Oh, and that day I was misgendered three times.

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It is a rainy winter Sunday morning.  I woke up with my alarm.  I will have to go to work today.

However, as usual, after the alarm goes off,  I'm staring at the ceiling- wondering why why why should I even keep going?  The Darkness has me firmly,  and perhaps, if I hadn't gotten rid of the method, this entry would not be taking place.

But the fact of the matter is that I did get rid of the method, and this conversation is taking place, as are the feelings.  I considered going onto facial book and expressing how I feel; to get some support from my sisters  and from my friends.  But I decided against it. I don't want to be perceived as even more of a whiner than I am.  I don't want to be that person who's always looking for sympathy. I've gone through my entire life fending for myself, and perhaps I've been spoiled by the amazing support of the community.

Do I share too much?  That is the question.

This Blog has been going on for over eight years, and in it I have bared my soul.  I can't say that it's not without repercussions.  It's this blog that my mother-in-law found that caused her to throw me out.  This blog that has caused the company I work for  "concern." And yet I to continue I post some things that are happy some things that are fiction; some things that are political; however, for the most part I just post what I feel like.  I post how I feel like because to me that's what this blog is about. Maybe that's why I don't have that many readers.

Well that's fine.  In a way I do write it for readers.  I'd like to have my voice heard.  I like to think I make a difference, and, every once in a while, I hear that I do.  So that keeps me going, but it still doesn't answer the question: do I share too much?  Should I just shut up, man up, and keep rolling?

The male part of me is gone. It's dead- except for some loose ends that still need to be tied up, but probably never will be.  I am legally female.  My name is legally changed.  Both of these procedures took a long time.  Both these procedures are in danger of being lost.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared.  As I said before somewhere, I like to think I am past that or at least I'd like to think I am. I don't know, part of me still wants to curl up in a ball.  A bigger part of me just wants it to be over with to meet Lisa in the Light, but not today.

Gratuitous Sophie Pic

So I threw my legs over the side of the bed, stood up, heard my knees crack as they always do, and shuffled over to the bathroom to get a shower; to slap on my face; and to go to work-  because not only is that what's expected of me: it's required lest I lose the apartment. If I lose the apartment, myself and Linda are homeless. In the end, I absolutely do not care what happens to me, but I don't want Linda to be affected by it. I don't want my daughter to be.

Maybe that's why I'm still here and still breathing and wondering if I share too much.

So it is still a rainy winter Sunday morning.  It's gray; it's glum; and gloomy.  It is a typical Southeast Pennsylvania winter day, except that it is not snowing. As I go to work, I think about what will happen today.  How will I make a difference?

Yesterday, I was misgendered twice, so today I am wearing something that shows just a little more cleavage.  I did my makeup with just a little more care because the misgendering stabs me in the heart.  Every single time.  Still, every time, it hurts.

I know: "get over it."  But I can't help that part- I can't help my heart. I can't help myself. I can't help the way my brain was built. I can't help the Darkness.  All I can do is fight, fight, fight, and I am so tired of fighting.

But that's what they're counting on- those in power today.  That after so many atrocities, we as a nation will grow tired of fighting, and just let them have their way.  People keep saying that they know how this movie ends- that we will win, and I wish I could believe that.

But I don't.

I really don't.

Evil will have its way.  It did in Germany, and it took millions of brave lives to fix it. I wonder how many millions of lives it will take to fix this one.  Perhaps even billions.

Because it WILL happen.  It's already started.  The roundups have begun.  First they came for the Muslims... and they have Quotas to meet!  Because Evil is Evil, and now Evil is in charge.

Some people may disagree- that's your prerogative, but this is my blog and this is what I'm sharing for today.

Be well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Review: "Tr**ny" by Laura Jane Grace

Veteran readers of this blog know that occasionally I do book reviews.  I don't review EVERY trans-related book I read, but some of them scream to be discussed.

One such book is Tr**ny by Laura Jane Grace.  Ms. Grace is the lead singer of the punk group Against Me.  She came out as Transgender in May 2012 in a VERY public way- on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  And unlike a certain trans celebrity, she has been an amazing positive voice for the Trans community.



A little background may be in order.  I was introduced to Punk music in the 80s.  Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Ramones, Misfits... that sort of thing.  In the short time I attended Drexel University, I went to South Street many times, as back then it was punk heaven, with stores such as "Zipperhead," "Trash and Vaudeville," and "Philadelphia Record Exchange."  I even managed to get into JC Dobbs once in a while.  This was back when the Music mattered- and all that mattered was the Music.

Oh, and I worked at something called a "Record Store."  If you don't know what that is, ask your parents.

Punk appeals to the Anger in me- the sense of Outrage.  At the inequity of the world.  At Injustice.  But mostly at the fact that I was born- and that I was born Different.  It was cathartic.  I still listen to Punk- the Punk I know anyway.

In the early to mid 90s, the music started leaving me behind.  It all started sounding the same.  The Revolution started by the grunge bands was sanitized, especially by Stone Temple Pilots.  (Nirvana is popular?  STP sounded like them.  Pearl Jam is hot right now?  STP sounds just like them.  Ad nauseum.)  The last "new" music I picked up was Green Day Dookie.  Yeah, really.

Fast forward to 2012.  Ms Grace came out Very publicly.  By that time, my True self had reawakened and I was on the road to transition, even if I dared not admit it.  I'd never heard of Against Me.  But I was so glad for Ms Grace.  Even a little jealous.  After all, she was living her Truth, and, as a "rock star," could easily afford to transition.  Or so I thought.


Laura Jane Grace
Photo credit: http://www.altpress.com/news/entry/against_mes_laura_jane_grace_to_release_memoir_tranny


Fast forward again to Now.  Laura Jane Grace released her book.  Even the title is controversial.  Let's face it- the title is a slur.  She said "It's almost mentally taxing to look at my book in ways, but it captures a lot of what the book is about. And a lot of what the book is about is internalized transphobia and self-hate and that's an experience that I had and I went through."

Right.  I saw the book when it came in, and bought it with my next pay check.

Ok, so the review.

I read a LOT of music memoirs, biographies, etc.  Some are the same old sex and drugs and rock and roll.  Some rise above that to become something Special.  Three come to mind immediately:  Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Bruce Springsteen.  Make that Four.  Really.

Does Tr*nny have sex, drugs, and rock and roll?  Yes, of course.  And it has the requisite "struggling band lives in a van/bus/car" as well.  What makes this different- what sets this apart?  History.  Ms. Grace has kept journals for many years, and in those journals, she has been brutally honest.

And, I'm sure her words echoed in the minds of SO many of us.

Examples:

I tell myself every time that it's the last time.  I swear, just this one last time and then never again.


Cross-dressing feels like
self-mutilation.
I can never be anything more than a pervert dressed up in women's clothes.
So sick, sick, sick.
I want to black it all out.
I do not care if i am alive or dead.


Where are you supposed to go when you no longer feel welcome in the places you turned to because you didn't feel welcome anywhere else?


All of these, and many like them, hit me like a shot to the heart.  I felt physically hurt.  I KNOW those feelings.  I've lived them.  So many of us have.

However, a little later in the book, Ms. Grace completely tore out my heart.


I've had that conversation with my daughter.  And every year for Christmas, she asks Santa "I want my daddy to come home."

There is no Pain like it in the world- the pain of a child who just wants her world not to change.  All she wants is her daddy- and you can't give that to her.  Because daddy is dead.  Daddy was a shell- a poison killing the Soul.

Ms. Grace dealt with Pain through substance abuse and through her music.  And one day, when her male world was disintegrating around her, she finally made the only choice that she could make if she wanted to survive- to Transition.

But it is never easy- her band was all but gone.  She kept touring as her only form of income, but the cost of transition was far out of reach.  She did it anyway.  I understand completely.

The book tore my soul to pieces.  And, 3/4 through it, I wondered- here I was exploring the intense Pain of this woman's psyche, and I didn't know her music.  I knew what drove it- I knew its Source.  I felt like I was not getting the whole story.  So, I saved my pennies and bought Against Me's Transgender Dysphoria Blues.  

That was a month ago.  It has lived in my car's CD player since.

THIS... THIS...  This is what the Music used to mean to me.  Raw.  Powerful.  The Howl of a Soul who wanted- Needed to be heard.  Songs that spoke to not just my mind, but to my heart and hips.  THIS is the Punk rock I remember from that long ago day when I first heard the opening chords of Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols.  When I heard Joey Ramone's sneering voice.  Patti Smith half speaking "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine."

The Music of my Anger- of the Pain I felt from being born Wrong.  The Outrage of a Life that should have been.

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They'll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

But even if your love was unconditional
It still wouldn't be enough to save me

NOW I understood the book in a new way- a more complete way.

So.  Obviously, I loved this book.  It is not for the Timid.  Ms. Grace's prose writing style is as raw as her music.  An exposed nerve.

For my cisgender readers, if you want to know what being Trans does to a person's soul- especially when one has to deny it for so long- then THIS is the book you need.

For my Trans readers- get past the title, and read this.  Share in our sister's Pain and Triumph.  Because that's what this book (and CD) is: a Triumph.

I'm going to save my pennies and buy more of her music.  She has restored my faith in it.


Against Me is currently on tour.  The closest they will come to me in Philly is Washington DC.  Maybe next time.  My dear friend Amanda Farren saw them, and even met Ms. Grace.  She said they are amazing in concert- and she is a woman whose opinion I trust.

Ms. Grace- Thank you for your music, your writing, and for being You.

Seriously.  Thank you.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Proceedings: January 2017

A few major things happened this month, but I haven't written about them.  Why?  Well, lots of reasons.

First was the end of the United States of America.  It ended January 20 when a fascist was elevated to leader.  I don't think I need to say any more there.  LGBT, especially transpeople, are in BIG trouble.  As I've written before- I sincerely do not believe I will live to see the end of his reign- and it will not end peacefully.

I was going to ditch the blog and concentrate on writing letters and emails to government officials to fight this evil.  However, recently I decided I can do both.  After all- one of Pennsylvania's senators, Toomey, has shut down all ways for constituents to reach him.  Our voices do not matter to the GOP.

Millions took to the streets to protest Cheeto Mussolini and his Legion of Doom.  I was not among them.  I was with Wife as she was buying a new car. It took so long, I had to call out of work. I was there because I had to sign off on the trade-in as my dead name was on the registration of the old one.  The guy at the car dealership purposefully misgendered me, AFTER being told I'm trans.

At the dealership.


*********************************************************************

On Sunday January 22, it was a rainy, cold and miserable day.  I drove into the city to audition for a play:  The Vagina Monologues.  I saw that a dear friend of mine, Isabelle Nicole Herman, was doing it up in Bethlehem.  And i thought about how i would LOVE to have that courage.  So I googled Vagina Monologues Philadelphia, and found that there was an upcoming production which was having try outs... and they wanted people with no stage experience.  Well, I've spoken to large groups of people (and sung to small groups) but I'd never been in a play.  So it was that on this miserable day, I drove into Philly- to the Sedgwick Theater.  I'd written a piece on the topic of "Violence in the Workplace," had help from friends (especially Jennell Jaquays- THANK YOU!), and rehearsed it many times, much to my roomie and bestie Linda's dismay.

I managed to find the theater and park nearby.  (A miracle!)  I was the first supplicant to arrive.  There was a small table there, and two women (one of whom unlocked the door to let me in out of the rain.)  I never had done this before, so I didn't know if I had to wait for everyone else to arrive, if we'd be doing this in the theater proper, or what.  I had to use the restroom BADLY, but I was asked to perform immediately.  So, I did.  I read my piece exactly as it was, with four part harmony and full orchestration and all the phenomena...  sorry.  Got carried away.

High Hair in the wind after Audition

I was asked if I would want to also perform a part written for transwomen.  I said "sure."  But I wondered if that meant my piece was rejected.  No- I'd do both.  Eventually, other women arrived, including two other transwomen.  Long story short (too late) I was in.  I will be on stage.  A few days later, I recruited my dear friend Kara to the play.  She will outshine me big time- she is just that good at everything- and that's fine by me.

I made a video of my audition piece.  Find it HERE.

If you want to see me make an utter fool of myself, buy tickets HERE.  But be quick- it's a small theater and WILL sell out fast (if it hasn't already.)

*********************************************************


The following Sunday was sunny and cold.  I'd signed off, as there was a convention I wanted to attend.  It was a benefit for an old friend: Hugh Casey.

I first met Hugh in May 1993.  We'd both answered an ad for a Dungeons and Dragons group.  That day I met several people with whom would become very dear friends:  Hugh, Mari, and Deb (who I used to refer to in this blog as "A.")  Also that day, I met Big Al, gone these five years.  Hugh became a fixture at my games until I moved to Baltimore in November 2004.

While I lived in Baltimore, Hugh started running Philcon, which is a large science fiction convention.  He brought happiness and fun to many people.

After I returned from Baltimore in September 2003, I eventually got a job with Vanguard.  Hugh worked there as well, but in a different division.  We were in the same building though, so I saw him regularly.  We'd spoken of getting a new gaming group together, but it never happened.  Still hasn't.

In any case, Hugh has cancer.  And he's unemployed with no insurance.  So this convention was a fund raiser for Hugh, put on by his friends, especially the gorgeous Avi..  Did I mention how many lives Hugh has touched?  Many.

Ready to beam up!

So I said I'd donate a few pieces to a silent auction.  That morning, I dressed in my Star Trek uniform, and drove into Philly to the University of Pennsylvania campus.  There, in a building called the Rotunda, was HughCon.

I donated a VERY rare game, a rare Star Wars toy, and a one of a kind piece I made in 2002.  It was in White Dwarf magazine, Troll magazine and all.  I built it, wrote the scenario (which appeared in the book Warhammer Skirmish: "The Lost Tomb of Hamon Ra", and hand-painted the walls.

Page from White Dwarf

I KNOW the game sold.  The other stuff, I don't know.  I put together a flickr page with pictures of the Tomb, if you're interested.


When I arrived, I unloaded the car.  I quickly saw Avi; her mother the amazing Lorraine Anderson (of Occasional Woman); the Man of the Hour: Hugh... and no one else I knew.  Everyone was busy setting up (as I arrived early to deliver the pieces) so I did my best to stay out of the way.

I met some wonderful people there.  This was my kind of crowd:  Geeks.  Sci-fi, gaming, Trek... I was in my element.  I had a discussion with a young woman about what would happen if you put a Bag of Holding into a Portable Hole while inside a Tardis.  We concluded that if an answer were to be had to that dimensional quandary, this crowd would be the place to find it.


So, if I was in my element... why did I feel so alone?

Most of the time, I stood near walls, just watching.  The people I knew were busy, and Hugh was constantly surrounded by friends.  Eventually, another old friend, Mike, arrived, and we talked a little.   I didn't want to be a bother.  Everyone knew each other, except me.  Or so it seemed.  I met SOME people, yes.  But I just... I don't know.  Something inside me held me back.

With Hugh and Avi

There were three women I clocked as trans, but I didn't want to "out" them, so I only spoke to one.  She had to know I was trans as well.  I saw a transman as well- same thing.  I REALLY wanted to connect with them- I mean, they were Trans geeks, as am I.  Or I was.  I've been out of the scene for so many years.

And maybe that was it- I felt disconnected from it all.  Like I didn't belong.

Familiar territory.

And it made me retreat into my cocoon.

I left early.  I wanted to get home, and I knew it would take a LONG time with traffic (and it did.)

******************************************************

On Tuesday, January 31, I had some things to do.  On the way back, I went to Baltimore.  Why?  Well, one of my dearest friends, Major Kimberly Moore, was there.  We met for lunch at Red Brick Station, one of my old haunts.  It's always wonderful to see her.  She recently was forced from her home for being Trans.  However, she is Strong.  She'll be full time soon.  And, she'll be far more successful at it than I am.

She is simply amazing.

Fat chick with a True Heroine

While in Baltimore, I stopped at the spot where Lisa died.  I also made some inquiries about getting certain paperwork for the book I'm writing about her.  While at her spot, I had another one-sided conversation with her.  As always, I cried.  I miss her so much.

****************************************************************************

I guess in the end, the reason I didn't write was Me.  I spent a lot of the month fighting the Darkness.  I just went through the motions.  At work.  Home.  I go to work.  Come back to the apartment.  Watch a movie and eat dinner with Linda.  Go to bed early.  Rinse.  Repeat.

I've been having nightmares every night- there are things I have to do, and I continually am lost in a labyrinthine nightmare parody of places I know.  I'm always late- always lost.  And recently, I was even burned at the stake for being "different" by people I care about.

Writing in the Darkness is very difficult anymore.  I'm just so tired.

So.  There you have the events of January 2017.  Faithfully submitted, Sophie Lynne.  Sergeant at arms.


Be well.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Published in a Journal

Some time ago, I was asked by my dear friend and former boss Dr. Dolores Fidishun to write an article for a library journal.  And a couple of months later she asked again.  Both times I said yes, and both times circumstances (usually the Darkness) prevented me from doing it.

Then she asked again.  I asked "when do you need it by?"  She replied "tomorrow."

Oops.

I worked the closing shift at the bookstore that night.  And so it was that I sat at my computer madly typing and researching until 2:30 in the morning to complete this article.  They did some editing, and it was posted.

Gratuitous Sophie Picture

The journal is part of a wikigroup called FTF.

"ALA's SRRT Feminist Task Force (FTF) was founded in 1970 by women determined to address sexism in libraries and librarianship. FTF was the first ALA group to focus on women's issues. Other ALA women's groups fostered by FTF include the standing ALA Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL), the Committee on Pay Equity which is now the ALA-APA Standing Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers, the RASD Discussion Group on Women's Materials and Women Library Users, the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section, and the LAMA Women Administrators Discussion Group. The Feminist Task Force continues to be one of SRRT's largest and most active groups, concerned with a broad, evolving set of feminist issues."

All of which means that rethuglicans don't like them.  My kind of people!

Anyway, here is what I wrote.  The link to the story is HERE.

*****************************************************************************

Assisting Transgender Patrons: Resources to Save Lives

Sophie **** , M.Ed., Instructional Design





Transgender people appear to be popping up out of nowhere. Ever since Caitlyn Jenner “came out” transpeople have been in the news, on TV, in books- everywhere. However, there have always been transgender people. There is evidence of transpeople in ancient civilizations. Native Americans called them “Two Spirits” and regarded them as Shamans. Many cultures recognize many genders, not just two.

In life, there is no true “black and white:” there are always shades of grey, and so it is with Gender. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary. The big differences are Visibility and Access to Information. In the past, transpeople suffered in isolation and silence. There were no ways to learn about their condition: Gender Dysphoria.

Gender Dysphoria is when the person’s gender identity does not match their body. For example, a biological male who has a female brain, vice versa, and many things in between are possible. In the past, they were just labeled as “queer” or worse. Many met with violent ends. Others suffered until they could suffer no more, and ended their own lives. Research has shown that 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, compared to 4.6 percent of Americans overall.

Today, with the internet and with the increased visibility of transgender people, many people who suffer with gender dysphoria realize that they are not alone, and, more important, that their condition is natural and biological, similar to, but not the same as, homosexuality.

Gender Dysphoria is a biological condition, not a mental condition. It is NOT a choice. No one would choose to be transgender. Why would anyone choose to be scorned, ridiculed, and attacked; to lose family, friends and loved ones; destroy their career or even their lives? They wouldn’t. No one would. It is thought that perhaps 0.3% of the world population is transgender, but no one is sure, as people have been afraid to disclose their identity. Many transgender people “go stealth” by moving to a new city and dropping contact with everyone they knew before. In fact, for years, this was a “standard of care.”

Gender is also independent of sexuality, although they are often confused. An easy way to remember the difference is that “Sexuality is who you want to love; Gender is who you want to be.”

These people may come to a library to find information about Gender Dysphoria, either for themselves or perhaps a loved one. After all, most transpeople report knowing that they are “different” from a very early age. (The author knew when she was four years old.)

How does a librarian handle this situation? How do we provide info for a young person who is searching for who they are? Are there ways libraries can provide safe havens for community groups? How can librarians find out about support systems or places to refer people? How can librarians help them?

These are all important questions.

First and foremost, remember that a transgender person is a human being- they are not a freak or “demonic abomination.” They are often very vulnerable as they try to find a solution to a pain they can’t describe. They will probably be embarrassed and afraid. They will make excuses like “it’s for a friend” or “I’m doing a report for school.” It is critical to treat a Transgender person just like any other library patron: with dignity and respect. Also very important: NEVER reveal to others that the patron is transgender if the person confides that to you. The effects could be disastrous for your patron, and could open your library to legal action.

Fortunately, there are many resources available online for people seeking to learn about Gender Dysphoria, with more information all of the time. Brain gender science is still a “cutting edge” research area, with new discoveries happening often.

Internet

Many organizations have an online presence, and they have a large amount of information. A Google search will uncover many. Start with the basics.

A few guidelines:
  • If the organization has the word “family” in its title, it is NOT LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) friendly. “Family” is a buzzword used by conservatives who believe that LGBT is a choice or a lifestyle or choice, which it is not.
  • Also avoid any use of the word “cure.” There is NO “cure” for gender Dysphoria. It is a natural state for transgender people.
  • If a group is particularly vilified by conservative or religious groups, they are usually good sources of facts. For example, GLAAD and HRC are often attacked as “evil” by these groups.
  • Be careful- there are MANY trans-centric pornographic sites on the internet. Stick to scientific terms (Gender Dysphoria, Transgender).

A quick internet search uncovers many good sources of information.

There are also many good sites assembled by individuals. A few are listed here.
  • Laura’s Playground
  • Lynn Conway Aside from her personal story, Ms. Conway assembled an impressive array of informative sites. This was one of sites that the author of this piece found very helpful in her own journey.
  • Susan’s Place

For personal stories, there are an endless supply of blogs available, which range in quality and appropriateness:
  • T-Central is a good place to start for blogs by transgender people (Disclosure: T-Central links to the author’s blog as well.)

Books
There are many books written by and about transgender people, most of which are self-published. The author recommends the following as good starting points:
  • Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
  • She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

Once the librarian has found resources for the patron, what is next? A good next step is to search for local support groups. Support groups are vital for transgender people, as so many feel alone. Support groups bring transgender people with others from all walks of life who understand what it means to have Gender Dysphoria. Members of support groups could be further along in their journey than the patron, and could help mentor the person.

Local Support Groups

To find local support groups, simply perform an internet search “transgender support groups (name of your town/city/area).” Again, be careful of the words “family” and "cure.”

Many support groups meet in private places like homes and doctor’s offices. However, if a library wishes to provide a meeting space, one factor is critical: Privacy. Many transgender people are not “out” to the general public, and their being “outed” could have potentially devastating effects on their lives. Groups would need a private room, or, ideally a private entrance, so members who are not “out” may come and go in secret. However, few libraries will be able to make these accommodations.

There is another very easy way to learn about transgender people in both a library setting: speak to one. Many transgender people do outreach work to public and private institutions. A quick way to connect with a transgender activist or outreach person is through a local support group or organization. Note: some transgender people charge a nominal fee for presentations to organizations. Again, performing an internet search for “transgender support groups (name of your town/city/area)” will help connect the librarian with these groups.

Transgender people face many hardships. They are shunned by family, targeted by discriminatory laws, face high unemployment, and high suicide rates. Your library can be a valuable resource for transgender people, their families, and people wishing to learn more about Gender Dysphoria. Above all, remember: Transpeople are human beings who deserve the same treatment as any other person. By treating transpeople like all others, a librarian can make a difficult journey far easier.




Sophie *****  is an author, advocate, and lectures on Transgender issues. She is a member of several Transgender support organizations, and has been living her Truth for three years. She has been published in international magazines, as well as the New York Times. She holds Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in Education from Penn State University, and previously worked for the Penn State Great Valley Library. Sophie is available to speak at and/or work with libraries on understanding the Transgender experience. Her blog, Woman Named Sophie, is frequently updated. Sophie may be contacted at Sophie1lynne@yahoo.com








Tuesday, January 24, 2017

For Lacey

Stef, dear friend and former coworker messaged me last night.  I'd had a rough night at work and was about to go to bed.  I haven't seen Stef in years, as she now lives across the country in Olympia, Washington.



"A thing happened to me at work today, and I thought it might cheer you up

my transitioning coworker was raving about this blog online that is helping her
and bits and pieces came through in details

until I was like, wait, is this a woman named Sophie??

and it was!

she is 22

and she loves your blog"


Picture by Samantha Riviera

I was seriously considering not posting any more entries.  After all, what good is it doing?  My energy and time could be spent writing to congressmen, senators, etc, to fight the dawning fascism.

Then Steph sent me this.

As I've written before, sometimes it takes a baseball bat to get through my Thick skull.

So Lacey, I'm so very glad I could help you.  I gave Steph my contact info if you ever want to get hold of me.  I wish you the best in living your Truth.  Here there be Monsters, but the journey is worth it!

Thank you so VERY much, Lacey, as you've given me renewed purpose!




Monday, January 16, 2017

Laska Story Challenge: Champagne!

My dear friend, author Paul Laska, gave me another writing challenge.  It took me far to long to complete it, but here it is!  500 word minimum.


"You're a bottle of champagne at a liquor store.  Someone purchases you for a celebration.  Listening to him, what's the occasion and how is he celebrating?"


Hello my friend!  I am the bottle you have been seeking!  Veuve Clicquot! “The Widow”  One of the finest champagnes ever made!
            Of course, the human couldn’t understand me.  Stupid Americans!  They don’t understand anything that is not English.  But, he bought me along with a California Red and a bottle of Absolut Vodka.  Neither of them spoke French either, but fortunately I speak English.  They didn’t speak much.  The vodka was bust trying to be mysterious, and I think the wine was meditating.
            Eventually, the human put me in the refrigerator, after showing me to a woman.  She was beautiful, with raven colored hair and grey eyes.  She seemed impressed by me- and who wouldn’t be? After all, I am Veuve Clicquot!


            I don’t know how long I spent in the refrigerator.  If the various other occupants that came and went are to be believed, it was several years.  After a year, I stopped seeing leftovers, and started seeing a lot of Chinese food and pre-prepared things from the market.  I saw many more bottles of beer though.  Most of them pretended to be German, but they were American.  They couldn’t even speak German! 
Posers!
One day, the man removed me from the refrigerator.  He was dressed very well in a jacket and tie.  Worthy of an occasion that is worthy of Veuve Clicquot!  He wrapped me in a towel and put me in a cooler with ice and two champagne glasses.  I remember thinking “where are we going in the middle of the day?”  The two glasses said nothing. 
Ah!  A picnic!  It had to be!
Soon the chest opened, and he removed me.  He placed me on top of a stone.  My God- it’s a tombstone!  He placed the glasses net to me and opened me efficiently, yet with little flair.  He must’ve had some practice.  He then poured me into the two glasses, and lifted one.
“Happy five year anniversary, Angel!  I opened the champagne, just like we planned.”
He clinked his glass gently with the other, which sat next to me on the stone.  He then drank a sip. 
Tears started flowing from his eyes.  Water, condensed from the warming glasses and my bottle made us weep as well.
He knelt in front of the stone, where he cried and spoke quietly.  Occasionally he would sip from his glass.  When he finished his glass, he stood.  He took the full glass and poured it out on the ground where he had been kneeling in front of the stone.  He picked me up, looked at me for a long minute, and placed me on the ground in front of the stone.  Near me were some faded, warped pictures pinned my stones to the ground.  He then left a while picking up an old dead and withered one. 
He then packed up the glasses, and put them back in the cooler.  He also pocketed my cork.  He kissed the top of the stone and said “See you soon, Angel.”  And walked away, leaving me mostly full and weeping on the ground next to flowers and a tombstone.
And here I sit, now warm and flat.  Waiting.  Waiting. 




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Work Story

This happened maybe 9 or 10 years ago.  Long before my True Self re-emerged.

Back then, the bookstore had these positions called "Leads."  The leads were responsible for their area- they would curate the books that were there, ordering titles and trimming others to create a section that customers would enjoy.  They kept it clean, were responsible for stocking its shelves, etc.   This was THEIR area: they were the Experts.  The bookstore no longer has these positions, as I guess they don't want experts, or people really giving a damn about the areas of their responsibility. But I digress.  Hail the almighty dollar.

In any case, this takes place one late one Saturday night.  I was in the back of the store, near the restrooms at the time. I was checking stuck with the handheld device which is what we used to figure out what stays and what goes.  I was standing on a stool to reach the highest shelves, when out of the men's room come a huge younger guy (B) and a very powerful looking man (Aide.)  Right next to the restrooms is a fire door- it's still there, actually.   At the time we had been having problems with people opening that fire door- so many, in fact, that the fire department said that the next time they had to come for a false alarm on our fire doors, that the store would be fined.  So management made it VERY clear that we were to make sure to not let people open the fire doors.


Gratuitous Sophie Picture

So turns out that B was somewhere on the Autism Spectrum.  He was one of the special needs people who were there for the for their weekly outing at the bookstore.  At the time, there were two different groups that enjoyed the store.  One would come Friday, and the other on Saturday.  The Friday night group still comes.  The Saturday night group included this guy.  Usually the groups are about ten of the residents of these assisted living homes, and their Aides.

B decides he wants to go out the fire door. I say "you can't do that," and his Aide,  a very powerfully built but shorter man, is trying to steer him away from the door.  Now B was very strong, and this guy was doing his best to get through his Aide.  He got to the point where they started wrestling on the ground, right next to my step stool.

I looked down and said "you want me to call for help?" and he tossed his phone to the side.

He said "Call my colleagues! They'll come back and help me!"  So I did- I picked up the phone.  He said dial whatever.

Well, it turns out that his colleagues had gathered their flock and left these two behind.  They were gone.  They left this guy and his charge there wrestling on the floor.

The Aide managed to push his charge away for a little bit, and B started to smash his forehead against the wall until he started to bleed!  And then he ran toward the front of the store.  There was a large blood stain on the wall!

The Aide chased after B. I dialed my little portable phone, and call the manager and and said "Call 911- there's a guy assaulting someone!"

However, the manager on duty at the time was someone who absolutely did not like me.  Anyway, she didn't believe the urgency in my voice she said "No, it can't be that bad."  I tried to explain it to her.  She wouldn't listen.

Meanwhile, B was going through the entire store bashing his head on things, throwing books aside- getting blood everywhere.

I decided I would stand by the fire door in case he came back.  So there I was standing, trying to get a call out to 911 because my manager sure as hell wasn't going to do it.

At this point, a fellow employee came along.  I'll call him "Dolt."  Dolt was maybe six foot five and very thin, with a very deep voice.  He was in his early sixties.  I shouted at him to "Get away from this area!  It's dangerous!"  I pointed at the bloodstain on the wall.

He said "I'll go check the displays over here," pointing to a wall out of sight.  I didn't see him again until after it was all over.


So I stood waiting for whatever to happen. Suddenly B was there- maybe 15 feet in front of me.  He had blood flowing down his face and staining his shirt from the cuts in his forehead.  He was standing looking like a bull ready to charge.  He was coming through that door no matter what!  I was the only thing between him and it.  Now, I have run into burning buildings, and I've been in more fights than I can count, but this is the first time that in a fight situation that I was scared.  My knees were shaking! This guy was no doubt MUCH stronger than me.  And I couldn't fight him- if I defended myself and hurt him, I would be sued for hurting someone who is special needs.  This was a lose-lose situation, and I knew it.

At this point, the manager came around saying "what is going on?" B turned, and swung at her she ducked a little bit.  He still connected with her shoulder- barely grazing her. She's said something like "ohmyGodIcan'tbelievethisI'mgoingtocallthepolice!" I shouted at her "Now what the hell do you think I've been telling you to do!"

Of course she ran away.  B looked at me again and ran right at me, shouting.

I used to be on the wrestling team long ago, and, aside from my other fighting experience and training, I remembered a few things.  I charged at him- going low to attempt a "take down."  I succeeded, and had him on the floor.

Did I mention he was MUCH stronger than me?

I did my best to pin down his limbs, but he easily threw me off, and started hitting me in the head and chest.  His Aide returned, and the two of us managed to push him into the nearby Men's Room.  We held the door shut.  He pulled from his side once or twice, then gave up.

All was Quiet.

After an eternal few minutes, the police arrived.  Three officers- all them tall and burly.  I told the officers that the person in the men's room was very violent, and pointed out the bloodstains.  I was bloody too, as was the Aide, but that was mostly B's blood.  Mostly.  Two officers drew their weapons and knocked on the door.  The third had myself and the Aide step back.  When there was no answer to the knocking, the police went in.

All was quiet.

We heard some speaking.  The officer with me asked what happened.  At that moment, a gaggle of blondes came running toward the restrooms, wringing their hands and shouting.

The van that had left B and Aide had returned!  These were the other staff- the ones who had left without taking roll call.  And they were nigh hysterical as they swarmed into the men's room.

The Aide, Officer, and I looked at each other- stunned.  The Officer asked what I wanted done.  I said I wanted him in shackles and full restraints, as he was a danger to himself and others.

At this point, the manager returned.  She stood with Aide and me as the two police officers led B out of the men's room.  One was on either side of him, and he was fully restrained in cuffs and shackles.  Behind them were the wailing mass of blondes, crying and wringing their hands.

Officer Three explained to me and the manager that there was an ambulance waiting outside the receiving door, and they would take B there.  We just had to walk him across the store as quietly as possible.  The Aide?  He was as calmly as possible explaining exactly what happened to the teary eyed blondes.  He was extremely angry, yet in full control.  I envied him that control, as, at that time, my anger was consuming me.

I led the group to receiving, where the manager had unlocked the door.  The paramedics were waiting with a gurney that had been prepared with leather straps.  The police loaded B onto the gurney, and the paramedics fastened B with the straps.  At this point, B starting thrashing and yelling, but it was too late.  He was restrained.

I went back to the restroom, where Officer Three was waiting.  He motioned me to go into the restroom with him.  I went to the back stall, which had a couple of bloodstains on the wall, but also...

B had unscrewed the toilet from the floor.  With his bare hands.  There it sat, unmoored from the floor.  THAT took some strength!

By the time I went back to the sales floor, the two other officers were speaking to the Aide and the Gaggle of blondes.  Nearby was the manager.  And Dolt.  Manager was listening to the questions and waiting her turn.

I went back into the men's room and washed off the best I could.  When I came out, one of the Officers took my statement, and the manager asked me about what happened.  I doubt that the final report was anywhere near the truth.

In the years to come that Dolt still worked at the bookstore, he would brag about he and I BOTH were wrestling B.  Even though Dolt was nowhere in sight during the melee.  I corrected him at first, but stopped after a while.  No one cared what I had to say.

I insisted to management that this group be banned.  As I never saw them again, I assume they were.  I would hope that the people responsible for leaving B and his Aide behind were fired.  At least I hope so.

The manager at the time is no longer employed by the bookstore.

That, to this day, is till one of the Worst days I've ever had at work.  Not THE worst, but top 3.

But now, it makes for a good story.  That's something I guess.

Be Well.