Wednesday, January 16, 2019

An Old Story

This is an old story goes back to spring of 1990.  I think it was April.  (The journal that has that month and year in it has been in storage for a long time and I have no idea which box it's in.)  In any case, it was night and my girlfriend of the time (GF) was visiting.  I was living still at my parents house at the time, and we were both going to head down to her place to hang out for a little while.  She lived in Wayne.  We were each driving in our own cars.

Accident area circled

We were heading east on route 422, right around the Oaks exit, when I noticed a pretty serious car accident in the opposite lane.  At least two cars were involved, and there were a lot of other cars and trucks stopped in the area, but no Emergency Equipment yet.  GF was ahead of me in her car, but I pulled over- knowing that she knew that I was going to stop.  After all, I was still a paramedic at that point.

I ran across the grassy median, and went to the closest car.  The driver was a young woman- I found out later she was a college student, but I'll get back to that.  She was still alive.  In the back seat was someone I knew named Shannon, who who graduated from my high school.  As it turns, out she had some first aid training and stabilized the victim.

Knowing that she was there, I then went to the other car, where there were two Burly men doing their best to pull the door open using a crowbar.  That car was in far worse shape.  I looked inside and there, through the broken driver side window, and I saw one woman laying on the front seat with no seat belt.  Her body was pretty banged up.  I told them to stop for a second.  I reached in and took a pulse from her neck- carotid artery.

There was no pulse, and the body was already getting cold.  I couldn't declare anyone dead, but in this case, it was triage.  I understood that I should focus my efforts on the living, so I told those two men not to bother and instead focus on traffic control. I gave them directions what and where they should move their big rigs, which were blocking the entire Road.  It was my thought that help may be coming from that direction.  They moved their Rigs and began directing traffic around on the median.

I went back to the other car.  The victim was wearing a Drexel University jacket.  I figured she was around 20 years old, and the impact, even though she been secured by the seat belt, had caused both of her eyes to pop out of their sockets and rest on her cheeks.  I'd seen this before, and it's never pretty.  I did not have the equipment to do anything about that.  With Shannon's help, I finished stabilizing  the woman's knee injuries and did my best to stop the bleeding.

It seemed like an eternity that we were in there.

It's funny how you see someone who you haven't seen in years, and I was there in front of a person who's literally dying, and we were chatting about high school. What else could we talk about?  I mean, there was nothing we could do for the victim at that point.

As I said it seemed like an eternity, but eventually help came.  One of the paramedics with whatever fire company had come came to this car, and I explained to them the situation, gave the vitals as I had them, and they took over.  Shannon came out of the back seat.

The Drexel woman died the next day.

The cause of the accident was that the one car came up the exit ramp driving the wrong way at high speed.  She quickly found a target.  She left a suicide note at her house.

In this case, neither survived. Due to one person wanting to commit suicide, another innocent person died.  This girl who was around twenty years old at the time would now be around 47.  She would be a mother or maybe even a grandmother- but she's dead.

I never really considered that at the time, because she was only a couple years younger than me. I was 23, so I didn't have the perspective that I do now.

That November was my first suicide attempt.  If I could've given my life to that girl in the car so she could finish college, have a family, experience life, I would've happily done it.  I still would.  I still believe her life was more important than mine.

I still see her face at times, especially at night when I try to sleep- eyes on her cheeks.

I had a conversation with one of my dearest friends the other day.  I mentioned that my reward for being a volunteer paramedic was PTSD, bad hearing, and a bad back. 

Meanwhile, people who never worked or volunteered a day in their life make more money in an hour than I'll ever see in a lifetime. 

I hope my Pain has earned me Heaven.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 40: Peso Run

Yes, this actually happened.  I witnessed it twice. 

This chapter is Pure 80s misogyny.  Guys assumed that women WANTED to see their junk, and some showed it off.  The brutal truth is- some of the girls responded positively.  They WANTED what they saw.

There was and is a "rape culture" on campuses.  Usually, the more conservative (or "rich") the campus is, then the worse it is.  At PSU, usually 1-3 rapes were reported in my time there.  Figure ten times that went unreported.  All one needs to do is look at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings to see the Entitled feeling of privileged guys who saw women only as recreation.  I knew MANY guys like this in college... and after.  I'm sad to say some of them were my fraternity brothers. 

And what did I do about it?  Nothing.  If I'd seen attack happening, I would've stepped in, of course, but mostly these happened behind closed doors.  However, one attack happened behind our fraternity house, near the dumpster, which was ten feet from the window of the room I occupied at that time.  I heard nothing- probably because of drunken sleep.

Not speaking out was Cowardice, pure and simple.  I was so different from my brothers, and so desperately wanted to fit in, that I didn't speak up. 

Yes, the 80s were fun.  But, in some ways, they were a FAR darker time.

Chapter 40: Peso Run
Thursday, January 22, 1987 Shultz says Iran talks continued
            The party was fucking packed!  We had a social right before with Chi Omega so there were lots of hot girls.  I was in the foyer talking with Garbo when he said “Watch this” and pointed to the Brotherhood Steps.
            Down the steps came running one of the brothers- Peso.  He was Italian throughout: olive skin, black hair, dark eyes.  Even I could tell he was a good looking guy.  And if I could tell, the women must’ve drooled over him.  And they did.
            Peso came running down the Brotherhood stairs naked as the day he was born.  He jumped the rope at the bottom, ran a loop around the foyer, then ran back up the stairs.  He stopped at the landing, raised his arms as in victory, then ran the rest of the way up.  Totally naked.  Being naked, one couldn’t help but notice his dick.  It was huge.  He was extremely well hung.  I was envious.
            So he disappeared and the room broke out into cheers, gasps, and applause.  The girls looked wide eyed at each other, talking.  Some looked stunned.  A few stomped out the door.

            I looked at Garbo
            “Does he do that a lot?”  I said.
            “He does it at the beginning of a semester.  See, that way all the girls get talking about him.”
            “And his dick.”
            “Exactly.  He gets all the tail he wants, when he wants it,” Garbo said.
            “Pretty smart,” I said.
            “Yeah.  My pledge brother,” he said, and refilled my beer from the pitcher he held.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reply to an Anonymous Comment

On December 29, 2018, at 10:15 PM, an anonymous commenter posted the following on a previous entry:

I know it’s completely outside of the narrative here...but how about I suggest an idea? I suggest this knowing I might be wrong. However it’s worth bringing up. I’m betting you don’t hear this often but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a voice inside of you? How about if the whole Trans thing is bullshit? How about if you walked away from it your life and hope within it improves? Just sayin...cuz I think that totally rubs you wrong. Cuz you’re SO invested in this notion. But...what if you’re wrong?

What if you went back to Lance? Could you get support? Could you re-engage with “wife” and daughter? Could they be receptive? Could you get a job then? Could you have hope then? Maybe being a man wouldn’t actually make you suicidal? I only say this because it’s worth’s it going doing it the other way? Sounds like it sucks to me? There’s millions of men who don’t appreciate the roles our culture forces us into...maybe that’s you? Why is this such a bogus suggestion? You really don’t need or deserve to live like you are. It’s self imposed. You’re really better than your circumstances.

I replied to the comment saying I'd answer it in a separate entry.  And here it is.

There's a lot to unpack here.  First let me say that this isn't the first time I've heard this.  Or the 42nd.  Or... you get the idea.  When I first transitioned, I heard this sort of thing a LOT- mostly from "friends" who would soon either disappear immediately or fade away.  Actually, from the syntax, etc, I have a fair idea of the identity of "Anonymous."

And, actually, NO this isn't a voice inside of me.  I'll come back to this.

I'll tackle this by discussing Anonymous' (henceforth 'A') points separately-ish.

How about if the whole Trans thing is bullshit? 

Science says differently.  I could post MANY pieces about how being Transgender is BIOLOGICAL not psychological.  I'll just post this one from Harvard.  Or Michigan.  Or something a little less complex. 

Of course, I could IGNORE the mountains of scientific evidence and listen to the one or two evangelical doctors who deny the science, but that would make me a republican.

Many transgender people have mental issues, true, as do many cisgender people.  Usually, for transgender people, it's because many of us were bullied during our youth, and when we come out... well we get beaten, murdered, insulted (I've been called everything except "Child of God,") and so forth.  Not to mention the GOP doing their best to legislate us out of existence.

How about if you walked away from it your life and hope within it improves?  [edit] But...what if you’re wrong?

I can no more walk away from this than a black man can walk away from his skin color.  It's part of my biology.  As for being wrong, see above.

What if you went back to Lance? Could you get support? Could you re-engage with “wife” and daughter? Could they be receptive? 

Ok.  Let's say I wanted to do so.  Say tomorrow I declare to the world that I'm going back to being Lance.  First off, everyone who knew me before would still shun me, because I transitioned in the first place.  That genie never goes back in the bottle to use the cliche.  I'd have to change my name back, assuming I could find a judge who would do so, given that I changed it only a couple years ago.  That would be around $600.  Then there's the matter of the all-natural DD breasts I have.  They would have to go, leaving large scars.  That's around $24,000.  (Did I mention I love my boobs?  I mean, I only waited my whole life for them...) Then there's the matter of "down below."

Would Wife and daughter have me back?  As they live with MIL, the answer is "NO."  I've written so many times about that situation and I really don't feel like rehashing it.  MIL is the one who tossed me out in August 2013, not Wife.  Her opinions about LGBT have only hardened with the coming of 45.

Could you get a job then? 

I'm 52 years old.  I have no idea.  I WOULD regain my male privilege, which is a major advantage.

Could you have hope then? 

Hope for what?  Being male almost killed me, because I simply wasn't one.  Which leads to...

Maybe being a man wouldn’t actually make you suicidal? 

Ah, and here's the crux of it, isn't it?  I WAS suicidal as a guy.  (I never considered myself a "man" as I didn't think I met the criteria I set for that title.)  In December 2013, I had a choice- transition or blow my head off with a shotgun.  I borrowed a shotgun (loaded) and was on my way to my death when I decided I couldn't do that to my (then) five year old daughter.  I decided to transition.  As I've written before, I don't think I made the right choice.

I only say this because it’s worth’s it going doing it the other way? Sounds like it sucks to me? 

Big style.  Know why?  Because so many people HATE people like me just for existing.  They fear that which is different, and that fear leads directly to hatred.  Mostly it's guys who give me the most grief- they're worried about people judging them for being civil to someone they think is "gay" or "trying to trick them."

There’s millions of men who don’t appreciate the roles our culture forces us into...maybe that’s you? Why is this such a bogus suggestion? 

Which roles do they resent?  Acting like human beings?  Treating other people, like women and LGBT, with respect?  Men are still top of the heap.  Stop whining for f**k's sake!  ;)

You really don’t need or deserve to live like you are. 

I agree.  Maybe if there were no GOP or faux Evangelicals, people would keep their noses out of my life and let me just Live.  Can't have that, can we?  Nope- because fear and hate generate votes and money for their churches and parties.  That means power.

It’s self-imposed. 

No, it isn't.  No more than skin color or genetics are self-imposed.  The only thing I did was to start living my Truth instead of lying to myself and the world.

You’re really better than your circumstances.

Thank you- that's kind of you to say.  That begs the question "do the circumstances make the person?"  Would Superman still be super if he never faced a crisis?  "Hero's journey" and all that?

I could write on this topic for years.  In fact, I have.  Between this blog, TG Forum, New York Times, scholarly journals, talks I've done... wow.  Guess I should get a life!

Oh wait- I already did.  It isn't easy ("Being trans is life on 'hard mode'" I once heard) but at least I'm living my Truth instead of the lie.

I hope I've answered your questions.  Be well!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 39: Lies

This chapter was painful to write. It's not like I had problems with the details- because I didn't.  I remember this with crystal clarity.

It isn't every day when a person compromises everything they believe in- the very foundation of their self... to someone they really care about.

I flat out lied to her.  I lied to her face.  And she knew it.

Over the decades, I became quite adept at lying.  After all, I lied to myself my whole life, and lied to everyone else until I started admitting my Truth to myself, my Wife, and, in march 2014, to the rest of the world.

Lies have consequences.  They eat at one's soul.

I absolutely believe that even if I lost everything (and I have), I'd still have my Word.  I held that as sacred.

And, on that miserable evening, I looked into the gray eyes of a woman I really cared about, who I wanted to be with... and lied.

I never forgave myself for that.  I don't think she's forgiven me either.  I know she didn't while we were still in college.  We're still friends now, and a lifetime has passed- she may even have forgotten it.

I never did.

So, here it is- another moment where I'm an absolute a**hole.  Not the last either.  I became very adept at that over the years as well.

Chapter 39: Lies

Thursday, January 15, 1987 Scientists say trash-to-steam safety not automatic

            “We need to talk,” Judy said.
            Shit.  I’d already figured out that those words meant nothing but bad was coming my way.
            It had been a strange up and down kinda two days.  The day before, Mark got a call from Rich.  Rich said he wasn’t coming back.  He’d continue paying his part of the rent, though.  Now the tiny apartment was just two of us, and it seemed so much bigger.  As a bonus, Rich wasn’t going to reclaim his desk until the end of the semester.
            So Mark was out at the gym when Judy arrived, bundled against the cloudy cold State College dusk.  I was typing homework on the Mac when she showed.
            “We need to talk” she said as she removed her jacket.
            “Ok.  What’s wrong?”
            “Can we sit down?”
Jan. 15, 87 Collegian.  The "Den" was, at the time, the "greek" hangout.

            I pointed to the couch and love seat but she shook her head ‘no.’ So, I pulled the chair in from the kitchen.  I sat at the one in front of the desk.  The kitchen light was the only light on in the place, so it was as dim as the cloudy sky outside.
            Once we were settled, I asked again. 
            “So what’s up?”
            “Did you have sex with Virginia again?”  Judy asked with the cold tone I’ve heard too often.
            I felt that familiar ache in my chest, like everything was crashing down and finished.  Virginia and I talked after the last time and promised each other never to mention it to other people and deny it ever happened if asked.  This was mainly because I still wanted Judy, but I didn’t tell Virginia that.  I couldn’t lie to Judy.  I mean, after all that had happened, and I was hoping that everything was going to start coming together…
You don’t have a choice.  If she finds out, you’ll lose her forever.
            I cannot lie to her!  She’s…she’s
She’s gone if you tell the truth.
            Shit.  So what did I say?
            “No,” I said.
            I lied to her.
I looked straight into those beautiful gray eyes and lied.  I felt terrible.
            “Are you sure?”  Judy said.
            “I think I would know it if I got laid,” I said.  “Why?”
            “She’s been acting very strange.  Sometimes she’s very happy, sometimes very difficult.  The last time she acted this way was after the two of you hooked up.”
Jan 15, 87 Collegian

            “Oh.  Wow.  I didn’t notice.”
            “Are you sure you didn’t have sex with her again, Lance?  I won’t be angry.”
            Bullshit!  I remember the last time.
            “Yes, Judy, I’m sure.  I’m not about to make that same mistake twice.”
            “Do you think being with her was a mistake?”
            “We talked about this.  It hurt you.  I never want to see you hurt.”  I felt bad enough already.
            She looked at me for a moment.  She must’ve known I was full of shit.
            “Would you like to come down for dinner tonight?” she asked.
            “Sure!  I need to finish this bit of homework first though.  It’ll take me maybe twenty minutes.  Wanna wait?”
            “No.  I’ll go ahead.”  She stood and went to the closet for her coat.  I watched her ass for a moment, and then followed.  She turned to look at me.  Her eyes were cold- cold as that night at the Lion. 
            “I’ll be there in about an hour I guess” I said. 
            She left without saying a word.
            I felt absolutely horrible.  I just lied to the person who meant more to me than, well more than anyone in the world.  Lied to her face.  I felt sick.  I wanted to puke- no shit.
            I felt hollow.  The familiar plastic dummy hollow… no it was worse.  I wasn’t plastic.  I was hollow…


Friday, December 28, 2018

Walking in a Graveyard on a Rainy Late December Day

I did this via speech to text, and did a light grammar/spelling edit, so this is unfiltered Sophie sh*t.


 I'm walking in the graveyard behind the Valley Forge Chapel. I come here often for the quiet; for the solitude, and to say prayers over those who stones are old and so probably don't get Prayers anymore.

It's been a difficult few days.  I'm almost out of my unemployment benefits, and things may go downhill fast.  Even Linda, my roomie and bestie sees the handwriting on the wall, because if I can't afford to live there, that will put her out as well, and that hurts me more than words.

Yesterday, Linda drove me to Limerick to pick up my car, which was getting some service due to a recall.  We drove through the town I grew up in- Spring City, and also through Royersford (which is the same town really just across the river.)

It was sunset into dusk when we passed through.  I couldn't help but think about all I've seen since I left Spring City those many years ago; about the people I've met, the places I've seen, things I've done- the changes in my life. I thought about those I knew who never left this area-who settled here after high school (assuming they finished.)

Spring City (via Google maps.)  The circle is where I grew up.

I can think of few worse fates than to be stuck in Spring City.  Somehow, I managed to avoid that fate, but now, as my life closes in on me, I think about how many of these people are doing so much better in their life than I ever have or ever will.  They have families- they have places to go; they are happy, maybe, not knowing what's out there.  What's the old saying?  Ignorance is bliss.

Walking here always lends me perspective. You can buy your lots long in advance here if you wish, so you would know exactly where your body will rot. and where it will lay in perpetuity.  Some of the stones here are very impressive.  There's one in particular that I'm looking at right now.  It has an arch and in that Arch is an angel reaching down from heaven, pulling the soul of the deceased to Heaven.  On that stone is the wife's name as well, but she's still alive- her husband long passed.  I can't imagine her pain.

There's a lot of Gaelic crosses here as well, and a lot of very old graves next to which trees are growing- the roots feeding upon the Dead.

It's raining harder now.  I'm standing in front of the graves of two different children- both infants.  One has a small Christmas tree, and the other a statue of an Angel. That child was born at the end of July and died in September 4th in the same year. Again, I can't imagine the pain that those parents have endured.

It's raining even harder now.  The sound of rain is always brought me peace.  I don't know why.  Maybe because it's the sky crying (to use the old cliche.). Maybe it's washing away the dirt in this world.  Someday I will hear it no more.  Someday, I'll be the Dirt washed away.  I'm okay with that.  I really am.

As I said, Death holds no fear to me: it's a friend.

2018 is coming to an end. I was with a friend of mine last night, and she told me that she can't wait for the year to end, because it's been one of the worst years of her life. I must say that my year has not been good at all either.  I spent most of it unemployed.  However, it is still not as bad as 2013. I still have no idea how I survived that year.

Heading back toward my car, and looking up hill, I see the Crypt of a Flying Tiger.  There aren't any of those left on this side of the Veil.  Maybe thirty feet away is the grave whose stone is shaped like a drum kit.  The person beneath it died in his early twenties by suicide.  I can't imagine how his parents feel, but I can't judge him.  I was 24 when I first attempted suicide.  I think about everything I would have missed- my daughter, my wife, some of the best people I've ever met in my life.  And some of the worst decisions I've ever made.

I usually visit this kid just to say hello; to tell him that I understand, and that I hope that his pain has gone away.  Much like when I visit Lisa- when I go down to Baltimore and visit the place where she left us, and I talk to her.

The year is ending and I'm in a far worse place than when it began.

God help me.

Be well.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 38: Spring Schedule

After the first semester, I needed to get my act together.  I thought I'd done well, but the "D" in EDPSY really crushed me.  Lesson learned- go to every class.

What I didn't know was that, while I'd do better academically from then on, my "best" semester was behind me.  Maybe it was the magic of discovering this new (to me) campus- or perhaps it was the amazing spirit of a Championship football season.  I think it was because the excitement of meeting new people- a few women in particular.  My GPA would improve, and eventually I would live in the house with my fraternity brothers, but that magic was over.

But then, I was happy to be back home- home at Penn State, after holiday break.  A new semester lay ahead- a blank paper, if you will.  I was content at that.


Chapter 38: Spring Schedule

Monday, January 12, 1987 Senator blames Reagan

            I needed to much better this semester.  During the new semester I’d start my first student teaching assignment.  Because of that, my schedule was very strange.  The student would take up a full day either on Tuesday or Thursday, so I couldn’t schedule any other classes on those days.  That meant that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday would be very full days.

  • ENGL 100: English Language Analysis 9:05- 9:55AM.  Diagramming sentences- something I’d never done
  • ENGL 212: Intro to Fiction Writing 10:10-11:00AM.  I was looking forward to that one
  • EDTHP 115: Education in American Society 12:20PM-1:10PM.  Oh boy!  Sounded thrilling!
  • ENGL 444: Shakespeare 3:35PM-4:25 PM.  This could be cool
  • SPCOM 100A: Public Speaking  4:40PM-5:30PM  Required for all Penn Staters
I applied, and was turned down.

That was a lot of shit to stuff into a day, and a lot of very heavy books to haul around.

Those left my Tuesdays and Thursdays open for:
  • CI295 Introductory Field Experience for Teacher Preparation.  This was the first student teaching course.  I was going to sit around and observe a teacher at work, and then the class would meet in small groups to discuss our observations.

This also meant that either Tuesday or Thursday would be free days.  Now most people would use that opportunity to catch up on homework, sleep, laundry, etc.  Me?  I saw it as an opportunity to have another night of partying without worrying about waking up the next morning.
Still, I had to buckle down.  The last semester was my worst ever, academically.  If I wanted to graduate, much less eventually have any kind of career, I had to do much better.
Collegian, January 14, 1987

            Winter at Penn State meant a lot of grey days.  It was as if God used up all the world’s color for the autumn and had none left for a few months until he restocked.  Low dark clouds and drizzle or flurries were the norm.  A sunny day was so rare that it was almost reason for a party.  I’m sure it was for someone somewhere.  If nothing else, the bad weather was reason enough to stay inside and do homework.

Or drink, or have sex, or…

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ten Years Gone By

I've written a LOT about "rediscovering myself."  In fact, the entire "MySpace blogs" is a record of those times as they happened.  (shameless plug.)  I've written about how I was "named" at Femme Fever.   Karen, the proprietor, did the makeup and asked what name I was using.  I told her but said it was not set in stone.  She stepped back and looked at me, as the makeup was finished, but I hadn't seen myself yet.  She looked at me and said "I have a strong feeling your name is Sophie."  She then turned the chair around so I faced the mirror and said "Say hello to Sophie!" I usually don't ignore strong feelings, so I kept the name.

The Second Picture of Sophie  "Reasonably Feminine?"

I went to that makeover with the thought that if I could look reasonably feminine, I'd continue exploring this side of me, and see how deep it ran inside of me.  I drove all the way up to Long Island, and found the place.  (I told Wife I was going to State College.)  I was scared out of my mind!  What was I doing? 

Karen was very welcoming, and she knew I was nervous.  I'd explained to her in our emails to each other that this would be my first time getting a makeover.  She'd seen this many times.  Her solution?  Before we would even really get talking, she took some measurements, and then handed me a bra and breast forms and said "Put these on."  I did as I was told, and so there I sat wearing a bra with fake boobs.  And she was right- it put me at ease.  It was like jumping into the deep end of a pool to get used to the cold water.  KER-SPLASH! 

In the first pictures, maybe the first dozen, I can see the fear in my eyes, then that fear subsiding.  (Most of the pictures from this session are at the very beginning of my Flickr page.)


We talked about what I wanted to do, etc.  I wanted to do "girl next door," "Bond Girl," "businesswoman," and "bombshell."  The orange dress was the Bond girl attempt.  Not very Bond-like, but oh well.  The next look was the businesswoman.  That was a change of clothes and a slight shift in makeup. 

Would you sit with the Girl Next Door?

We then did "girl next door."  That was back to the red wig.  I wore a turtleneck sweater and skirt.  All three outfits were with the same stockings,boots, corset, etc. so changing was fast.  The last outfit was very different.  I wore pantyhose, strappy shoes...and no bra.  The dress was holding up the forms... sort of.  It had the effect of making my boobs look either enormous or saggy. 

My attempt at "come hither"

Of all the outfits, I think the red one was the most fun.  By then, I'd been there four hours, and felt so alive! 

Before leaving, I bought the red wig (Karen said I seemed to "come alive" in it) and the bra.  I would later buy the red shoes.  I haven't worn them in forever because, um, I can't figure out how to put them on.

The date of that photo session?  December 8, 2008. 

It's been over ten years. 

After that session, I ordered a couple of items on ebay.  Within a few months, I opened a PO Box a few towns over- in Oaks, Pa.  That way, I could receive items, catalogues, etc. without fear of discovery.  I paid cash for that.

I continued doing research online.  I discovered that there was a Transgender support group near me- VERY near me.  They met (and still meet) the third Saturday of every month: Southeast Pennsylvania Renaissance.  I resolved to go.  I signed off of work and borrowed Wife's car (mine was in the shop.)  I stopped at a parking lot in Valley Forge Park where I attempted to dress.  All I succeeded in doing was breaking my cheap Fredericks of Hollywood corset I'd worn for Halloween. 

I arrived, but I wasn't sure if I was in the right place.  I saw a woman walking in the parking lot.  I rolled down my window, and asked her if this was Renaissance.  She was Rebecca Lohr, president of Ren at that time.  She is still a dear friend (and a gifted author.)  She told me I could go inside and change in the restrooms, as many people did.  I grabbed my things:  corset, bra and wig from Femme Fever, shoes, blouse, skirt... and the "breasts" I'd made for Halloween out of bird seed and pantyhose.  Once inside, a GG welcomed me, and directed me to the right place.  She was the wife of one of the officers, and is a wonderful person.  (I won't name her, as her husband is still closeted.)

And so there I was- badly dressed with no makeup.  The meeting was informative, and I met MANY people who are dear friends to this day (my "original gangsters" to be 90s about it.)  After the group went into session, I was taken aside to a room for newcomers, where that one officer and I talked about who Sophie was, and what I wanted her to be.  She gave me an analogy of a train, which I still use to this day.  This is being like a train.  Some people get off at a certain stop, and that's where they are comfortable.  That's their home.  Very few take the train to the end of the line- transition.

The Only Photo of me that night that I'm aware of

I found out that there would be a Christmas party that night at Shangri La.  I was invited, and I went.  The restaurant was RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO WHERE I WORKED!  I was so incredibly nervous.  Directly following the gathering was Angela's Laptop Lounge.  I didn't know that it was $10 to attend.  My dear friend Jone paid for me, as I had no cash.  Jone took me under her wing that night, as did so many others.  In any case, I made sure no one took pictures of me.  I wanted no evidence of my being there.  (I paid Jone back with drinks the next time I went.)

Still, pictures of me wearing that outfit exist.  I wore it again in March 2009 to Renaissance and Laptop.  I did my own makeup as well (for only the second time.)  So, Aside from the different wig (and different hose, and corset), this was my look that night.

March 2009.  I've gotten better at makeup since

My dear friend Jen Lehman (she called herself Jennifer Johns back then) told me when I mentioned it was my first time out ever "Pandora's box has opened!"  And she was so right.  It had opened.

Jen the night I met her.  She's gonna kill me for posting this!  :) 

That night was December 21, 2008.

Ten Years.

A whole decade passed since that night.  I've met so many since then.  I've lost some as well.  I've never forgotten the kindness shown to me on that first night out.  Those ladies are among my closest friends. I honor them by paying it forward.  I try to help "new" girls when I can.  As I don't go out often now, that tends to happen at the Keystone Conference.

I hid my Truth from myself, and my Wife.  I told her about Sophie in May 2012.  I started HRT on December 10. 2012.  Wife's mother threw me out of the house in August 2013.  A few weeks later, my dearest friend, Lisa, killed herself.  We were going to transition together.

After making plans and preparations for months, I started living my Truth full time on March 25, 2014.

First Day Full Time

Since then, people have come and gone in my life.  I planned suicide in September 2016, but I was too cowardly to carry it out.

And now here I am.  It's mid-December, and past 1 AM.  Insomnia strikes again!  I'm wearing my "PJs"- shorts and a tank top.  No bra. I'm drinking water and listening to the Grateful Dead on headphones.  I never thought I'd live this long.  I never thought that Sophie would ever be anything except a monthly occurrence- a monthly night out.  However, I didn't understand how deep she was rooted.  I didn't want to admit my Truth- even to myself. 

Last night.  "Reasonably Feminine?"

My Truth.  I am a Woman Named Sophie (roll credits.)  That's who I've always been, even if I didn't want to acknowledge it.

Ten years ago, I took those first steps. The journey never ends.

Be well.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 37 Cold Night

There's an old saying:  "Once is an accident- twice is a decision."

So once again, I did something despicable.  Why?  I was desperately lonely.  And so was she.  I played right into her plan.  Thing is, I knew there would be consequences.  I just didn't care that night.

So began my second semester at PSU.  In many ways, it was a great time.  All it cost was my honor, and my self respect.


Chapter 2.37:  Cold Night

Saturday, January 10, 1987 Memo Links Iran Deal, Hostages

            We lay on the couch together in the dim light.  Outside, the snow fell and the wind whistled between the buildings.  And we huddled on the couch holding each other.  We had the one lamp on its lowest setting, and the radio was on, but the volume was low.  97 QWIK rock.
            “Everybody have fun tonight!  Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”
            What the fuck was I doing?
            She was dressed in a long Kelly green knit sweater dress.  Very soft.  Her perfume was light and delicate as a snowflake outside, and I could feel her breasts press gently against my chest as she breathed.  Together we were warm. 

            Christmas break was over.  I came back home to PSU that day, escaping the hell of life with my family.  My roommates would be back in a day or two.  Her roommate would be back tomorrow, weather permitting.
            Funny how after only a few months I saw Penn State as home.
            Break was over.  The Nittany Lions were National Champions.  My second semester loomed- and I had to do better than the first.  1.8.   My God.  Guess I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.
            She nuzzled my neck gently. 
            “Mmmm.  You’re so warm” she almost whispered.
            “So are you.”
            We lay there silently for a few more minutes, and then she started slowly, gently caressing my back.
            “Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover.”
I invited her over because I knew she was back, and I wanted to see her.  And I was bored.  We started the evening eating Domino’s pizza and playing cards.  Rummy, War, Snap, whatever.  We had no beer so we couldn’t play drinking games.  Just soda.  So we drank that.  As the night grew darker, colder, we decided just to lie around and talk: me on the loveseat and her stretched out on the couch. 
Lounged around for a few minutes, talking about break.  What it meant.  What we wanted for the next semester.  Then she commented about how cold it was, and she invited me to join her on her couch.  After all- it was OK: it’s not like anything would happen.  We’d talked about that. 
So I did.
A few minutes of silence later, she asked me to turn down the lights a bit so she could watch the snow fall outside.  So I did.
I was really clueless.

“Take my hand and we'll make it I sweah-uh!  Wuh-OH! Livin' on a pray-uh!”
So there we were lying on the couch, and she’s caressing my back and it feels really good (especially after helping people on the floor unload their shit all day.  I was too fucking nice for my own good.)
“How does that make you feel?” she half-whispered into my ear.
“Feels great!”
“I’m sure it does, but how does it make you feel?”
Did I mention I was incredibly clueless?
“You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care.  Because I can tell what's going on.  It's hip to be square.”  No, it’s not, Huey.
Of course, lying on the couch with this girl; her ample breasts pressed against me; she’s caressing my back; her breath in my neck and ear, I mean- DUH!  I was getting really excited.  And she had to know. 
Time to say something stupid, Lance.
“I’d rub your back, but you probably wouldn’t feel it through that thick material.”
“No one said it had to stay on.”

I rolled off the couch and stood up.  She sat up and looked at me with a kind of half smile, head cocked slightly to the right.

“If we do this, then no one can know” I said quietly, nervously.
“Fine.”  She pulled the dress out from under her, and I helped her pull it off over her head.  It was very heavy.
“Now you have to keep me warm” she said, smiling.  All she was wearing was a shimmering white satin bra that cupped her beautiful breasts perfectly, and skimpy white panties.  She’d kicked off her boots a long time ago.  Sure I’d seen her breasts before, but presentation is everything!  Hypnotic!
She laid back down, and I next to her.  We kissed deeply.  And I caressed her back.

“Take these broken wings And learn to fly again And learn to live so free.”

Several songs later, we were in my bedroom, and she was pulling off the last of my clothes.  We fell into the cold bed and scrambled under the covers.
We rolled around for a minute of so, kissing greedily, then I rolled on top, she wrapped her legs around me, and I entered her. 
The radio was still playing in the other room, but we couldn’t hear it through the closed door.  The snow and wind stroked the window next to the bed.  Couldn’t hear it.  All I could hear was her gasping and breathing, and the sound of our motion on the bed.
Then she gasped out
“Oh…God… I love you!…. I love you!”
I stopped.  “What did you say?”
She opened her eyes.  “Nothing.  Nothing.  Don’t stop.”
So I did.  But not for long.  I was still fairly, um, inexperienced.
Soon we were holding each other, listening to the wind and the snow.  Then she got up to go to the bathroom, picking up her panties as she went.  I put my underwear back on and went out to the living room to gather her clothes. 

We met at my bedroom door, me carrying her dress. 
“I don’t think green is your color,” she said, smiling.
“Maybe I wanted to be a little bold- y’know, try something different.”
“You don’t have the legs for it.”
We went back to bed and cuddled under the covers for a while, listening to the snow and wind.  Then, she looked at my clock, kissed me, rolled out of bed and got dressed.  So did I.
I walked Virginia home through the thickening snow.  We didn’t talk.  Too cold.  At her apartment door, she turned to me and smiled.  Her eyes were clear- happy- dancing.  I’d never seen her happy before.  She kissed me lightly on the lips. 
“Night” she whispered, then went inside.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 29: Letter

In many ways, this one is cheating.  I didn't write this.  "Judy" did.  All I did was change the names.  I even left her spelling error there.  This was a handwritten letter in blue ink on a piece of notebook paper.  Obviously, I still have it.

Judy handed me this letter late in the day, when I ate dinner at her place with her and her roommate.  She asked me not to read it until I returned to my apartment.  I remember mixed feelings when I read it.  Part of me was confused- how could she not know her own heart?  Part of me was thrilled.  She left the door open for us to talk, and become closer.  And that's what I wanted.

Remember, that earlier that day, I'd screwed up any chance with a relationship with "Ashley."  I was in a bad mood that night.

"Informal Composite" picture: September 1986.  Yes, that sweater over tucked in collared shirt was the fashion then.

Now with hindsight, I know what it means not to know one's own heart.  I should've known then, but I'd buried my Truth under so many layers of denial, Pain, Rage, and alcohol, that my heart was all but dead.  The only thing that it longed for at that time was Judy.

This is the last of the "in-between" chapters that were requested (bet you're sorry you did that!)  That completes the narrative through the fall semester of 1986.  I still have gaps to fill between already posted pieces in Spring 1987, which I'll do.


Chapter 29: Letter

November 18, 1986

            I can realize now that you don’t know where I stand.  But to tell you the truth, I really don’t know where I stand myself.  I guess I have a lot of thinking to do myself.  Actually, I believe it is all based on feelings on my part.  I have never been one to understand my feelings.  I know that sounds real encouraging to you but I am being honest.  Maybe you can help?!
            I know I am interested.  Yesterday when I ran into you around Old Main, my heart stopped when I recognized it was you.  I was so glad to see you.  But, put me in the situation with you and Virginia I feel uncomfortable and often say to myself it isn’t worth it.
            Then there is Richard as well.  Between the two of you I don’t know what to do.  I’m happy with him.  I am not turning to you because I am dissatisfied with the relationship.  This I know for a fact.  When you told your roommate, Rich, that I am devoted to my boyfriend it was very true.  I am devoted.  However I do get lonely and I feel very comfortable with you.  You make me feel special.  This I have not felt for a while.  It is not that Richard does not make me feel good about myself because he does but it has been a long time since someone new has expressed interest in me.  You are a sensative person and caring at that.  These qualities are often unusual and it is great seeing them in you.  This is what has held my interest.
            You will be here soon and this class is boring me to death.  I just wanted to write down a few thoughts and feelings to share right now with you and maybe we will discuss them later today.  Till then-


Thursday, November 29, 2018

They Made Me Angry

So, Monday something happened to REALLY piss me off. 

After throwing a pity party for a while, I decided to take action.  What follows is what happened, as I reported it to interested parties.  Names have been changed, and I've redacted some parts for privacy. 


I changed my name legally in October 2016.  After I changed my SS card, passport, driver’s license, etc (all the government and bank stuff) I sent court stamped copies of the name change order to the registrar and the Alumni Association.  I also paid $80 to get my proper name on my diplomas (which are legal documents.)(That money came from friends, and I'm still very grateful!)

When I applied to PSU Harrisburg over a year ago, I created the FOPS [Friend of Penn State] account slk**** to do the application.  No problem.  Application, etc, sent.  (I didn't get accepted, but that's neither here nor there.)

When I attempted to send the application to PSU University Park (UPark), I was locked out.  I submitted a ticket to get it sorted.

And I was all out of bubblegum

Two hours later, I received a reply saying that the account was reset.  I tried it, and it didn't work.  So I called.  First I spoke to a pleasant young woman who told me that the account re-activated was lak***.  That was my account when I was studying for my master’s degree, and when I worked at PSU as an Instructional Designer.  I left PSU in Feb 2016, just before transition.  (That said, PSU HR was in the loop about my transition.)

The young woman didn't know how to fix the problem, and put me on hold.  Then IT Joe, IT consultant, picked up the phone.  He said that the accounts were merged last spring, and, since lak*** was my academic AND work one, they kept that. 

I pointed out to him that LAK was no longer an entity, neither legally nor physically.  Didn't matter.  I pointed out that I am transgender (which I shouldn't have had to do) and if I were to attend PSU for study, and I were stuck with lak***, I'd be misgendered and dead-named (called by my previous name) every time I logged onto a computer.  "To change it would be a long and complicated process, so this is your login."

I'd been very depressed of late , but this really hurt.  I posted the following on facebook:

Ok, so PSU asked me to submit my application for PhD. But I'm locked out of my account. I submit a ticket to the IT Support desk. Couple hours later, I get a reply: they insist I use the lak log in. I inform them that LAK no longer exists legally or physically.

PSU received legal copies of my name change paperwork years ago.

Nope, no dice. To change it would be too much work. I told him I'm transgender, and this would be misgendering, and it didn't matter. So I can go get a PhD and be misgendered the whole time, or just not go.

I told him that I'll be applying elsewhere. I have sent an almost word for word transcript to the people at PSU who wanted me to study there.

So JoeIT, thank you for saving me a lot of work and ruining another one of my dreams.

I can't believe my alma mater is doing this to me. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cry my eyes out for a while.

And so I did.  After a nap, I became very Angry.  I was angry that this happened.  I was angry at JoeIT's attitude.  I was angry that I, as a prospective student, a two time alumni (life member), and former employee was being treated in such a way.  I was angry that, as a human being, I was treated that way.

Before I transitioned, I had a very nasty temper (ask anyone who knew me then.)  These days, it's hard to make me angry.  JoeIT managed to do it.  I was boiling mad.  I decided then, at 11 pm, that I would go up to UPark first thing in the morning and make it right. 

I'd received messages from Dr. F about who to see.  I also received an email from my dear friend Lori, who was the contractor who designed the new PSU system.  (What are the odds?  I knew she worked for Universities, but...) She sent me the instructions for doing what needed to be done- three steps. 

I contacted some other friends in various organizations, and went to bed.

I woke up at 5 AM, and was on the road by 7.  My other friends responded over night that they stood ready to assist.  One (Joanne Carroll, Commissioner on the PA Governor’s Task Force for LGBTQ Equality) contacted the head of the PSU LGBT Center, Brian Patchcoski.  He is on the same commission.  At this point, I was still very angry, hurt, and very determined.

During the morning, I was also in touch with Dr. H and Dr. P (my PSU PhD contacts.)  Upon arrival, I stopped at the LGBT Center in Boucke building, and spoke to Brian.  From there, I went to Old Main to the office of Dr. Marcus Whitehurst, the Vice Provost for Educational Equity.

The assistant there was reluctant to schedule an appointment for me, until I mentioned that I wanted to lodge a complaint, and that I'd already spoken to some organizations (which I had.)  She made some calls, and made a 4 PM appointment for me with Dr. Sonia DeLuca Fern├índez, the Associate Vice Provost for Educational Equity.  It was, at that time, 11:30.  During the interim, I stopped to see Dr. P to keep her in the loop with my progress. 

At 4 PM I went to Dr. DeLuce Fernandez's office at 305 Grange building.  Also present was Brian Patchcoski. After I explained to Dr. DeLuca Fernandez what had happened, and showing my supporting documents (court order, passport, social security card,) Brian spoke. He'd been in touch with someone in IT (I forget whom) and was explaining about the merger of accounts, and the possible cause of the issue.  As I'm not IT savvy, most of what he said was over my head.  The bottom line was that my having been a student AND an employee was the difficulty.  The three of us spoke for a while.

The crux the solution was that, by eliminating lak***, my record of employment (seniority, etc) would be scrubbed.  Also, some documents in the system, like my previous application, may also be lost.  I said that if that was the price of a solution, so be it.  They did not ask for the paper I had from Lori with the solution, and I didn't offer it. 

Dr. DeLuca Fernandez said she didn't think it was an intentional misgendering.  I begged to differ, and repeated the conversation I'd had with JoeIT, and how my being transgender, and not wishing to be dead-named, made no difference to him.  I told her he needed some training, and that I was still filing a complaint against him.  She'd been taking comprehensive notes during the conversation, and wrote down his name. 

Before the meeting ended, both assured me that the issue would be solved.  Brian said I'd have access within 48 hours.  I contacted Dr. P about the application deadline, and she said it could be extended if necessary, for which I thanked her.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I left campus and drove home.  I did not get my hopes up, but was taking them both at their word.  If it were just me, I wouldn't be so upset.  However, I wondered if this was what happened to other transgender people applying.  That is what made me so angry. 

The next day, Wednesday, I received a phone call at 11:32 from a man from PSU IT.  He kindly informed me that slk**** was now active.  As I was in my car at the time, I couldn't check for myself.  When I arrived home at 4 pm, I logged in, and he was correct.  I discovered that much of the saved application was lost, including the uploaded pieces (resume, writing sample, references.)  My writing sample was my thesis, which is currently on a disc in storage.  I unsuccessfully tried to find it today, but I will try again tomorrow. 

That is the complete story to my knowledge.  I don't know what happened out of my knowledge, but it seems many people helped me, and for that I am profoundly grateful. I thank Dr. DeLuca Fernandez and Mr. Patchcoski for being generous with their time, knowledge, and compassion.

This incident really gets to the emotional heart of the research I wish to do at PSU.  JoeIT had no idea what being transgender meant, nor did he care.  In my opinion, he just didn't want to do the extra work.  Perhaps, if he'd been educated about the transgender experience, this would never had occurred.   As I wrote above, the incident made me very upset, depressed, then very angry.  These are common emotions daily for transgender people.  Another is frustration- why can't we just live our lives?  What is so difficult about letting others be who they truly are? 

As you see, I'm very passionate about this topic, about helping others, and about making the path easier for those who "come up" after me.  If all of my suffering, pain, and tears help just one person, than it will have been worth it all.  Melodramatic?  Maybe, but it is the Truth.  This Truth is why I want to study at Penn State for my PhD. 


With an Old Friend

I was completely exhausted when I got home.  I was still tired the next day, but I had things to do. 

I'm still exhausted.  I've had a lot of friends cheering me on.  My former therapist, Dr. O, said she was proud of me.  That helps, as does that support I received from friends. 

In any case, some people asked.  That's the story.

Be well.