Monday, December 11, 2017

Pleasure?

My first therapy session in months was Thursday.  My therapist asked me how I've been, and I reported that the Darkness has been really really rough lately- that day and night all I think about is why bother sticking around?

And she asked me "what gives you pleasure?"  I thought about that.  What currently gives me pleasure?   The answer I came up with was Nothing.

Nothing at all.

At this point, even writing is a chore.  I get no pleasure from it anymore- I still write but it just out of habit.  Maybe that's why it took so long for me to write my last entry.  I don't know: this one I'm dictating and then I'll edit it later. I guess.  I don't know- if I publish it at all.

In any case I thought about it, and something DID give me pleasure.  Wednesday December 6 was my roomie and bestie Linda's birthday, and I was absolutely determined that I was going to show her a good time.  I saved money so I could take her out to dinner and get her a few gifts.  We went out to dinner Wednesday night (Dec 6)- McKenzie's- and I had a good time.  But the part that gave me pleasure was the fact that I could give Linda a good time; that I could show her that people care, and that her birthday matters to people.  It matters to me.

I spent most of the dinner doing math in my head- calculating how much everything will cost, as I only had a certain amount of money.  I made sure she got whatever she wanted made sure to keep my part down.  In the end I had plenty.  I still have maybe $10, so my math was correct.


Dinner Wednesday night

But aside from that, the answer is Nothing.  Seeing my daughter has been not pleasant for various reasons.  Going to work is an absolute nightmare for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the misgendering, the insults, the looks- I'm just so tired of it. I feel like I'm being treated as an inferior to people: that they look at me and say "oh you work retail fuck you."  It's not like I don't have people that I get along with at work. I do. Some of my coworkers are very fine people, but they're going to move on, because most of the people I like tend to move on after a little while- usually sooner than later.

In any case, that's how I feel- and that's the Darkness.  It just saps me of everything.  It's like putting a blue filter over a movie or something.  Everything is dull, lifeless, and the Question comes again:

Why fucking bother?

I know some people be pissed off at this. The point I'm making to my therapist and to Linda is that I really don't believe that me disappearing, my death, would mean that much.  It would mean a bit to my Wife and to my daughter; and to Linda... but after that?  No, it wouldn't.  It wouldn't even be a ripple. I would just be gone.

Yeah the bookstore would have to hire a new head cashier, but they wouldn't. After all, I did the job for a year-and-a-half on my own. They don't like spending the money for it.

Not even a Ripple.

"But Sophie, didn't Lisa cause a huge tidal wave of emotion when she passed?"  Yes, she did, but she was an Icon.  She was known internationally- everyone loved her.  I don't know anyone who didn't.  But me? I'm no Lisa.  I never was.  I never will be. I'm no Linda- I never was and I never will be.

All I am is Sophie- a fat chick with a Blog.

And you know what?  I've made peace with that.

That's where the Darkness has put me right now.  It's the holiday season, and it's insane at work.  I was misgendered three times today.  (Maybe it's my face in profile?  I look like a caveman.)  Today marks five years on HRT, and I still look like a guy.

I'm holding on.  I have to- Linda can't afford rent on her own.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Breasts: One Transwoman's Perspective

I've now had four different transwomen ask me to write about my breasts.  I've been reluctant to do so, as I don't want to write something cheap and sleazy (if you want to see how I handle "sleazy," check out my stories on Fictionmania.)  So, the challenge is to write about my breasts while maintaining some kind of class.

Right.  Human female breasts are also known as mammary glands.  I should probably start with a dissertation on what breasts are, how they function, how they develop, etc, but that would be extremely dull and pedantic.

What do you mean "that's nothing new?"

Grumble grumble.


http://www.thinkingpinkfoundation.org/anatomy-breast

For some people, Breasts are the symbol of womanhood.  People can see them from a distance, and guys... well, I'll come back to that.


Prosthetic boobs- Raven January 2013

Anyway.  I began HRT on December 10, 2012.  As with everyone, I started slow then increased my dosage under a doctor's supervision.  I noticed a tingling sensation, then itching of my nipple area after around a month.  Then, soon after, I noticed a thickening behind the nipple.  I remember my "Big Sister" Mel saying "you can stop now- after this it will be very hard to turn back."  I started wearing compression shirts under my work shirts.  Eventually, the shirts were no longer enough.  During this time, my chest would occasionally hurt or itch.  I'm told that this was my breasts growing.

My breasts grew steadily.  One night in May 2013, I went to Angela's Laptop Lounge.  I was still wearing breast forms at that time.  A friend of mine said that my breasts looked comically large.  I slipped under the table where we sat, and removed my forms.  I haven't worn them since, and sold both of my sets of breast forms on ebay some years ago.  I still have the famous "prosthetic" in storage.


First time without forms- just me

That night, I went back to my motel room (where I was changing back to my drab self) and, after stripping down to my panties, I looked in the full length mirror.  I still had on my wig and makeup.  It was the first time I saw a Woman looking back at me.  I cried tears of joy.  I had BREASTS!  They weren't forms or a prosthetic- they were me!

When I first started as Sophie, I knew what I Wanted to look like: big hips, long hair, and big boobs. And it was starting to happen.

Every month since beginning HRT, I have taken pictures of myself, chest up, to track my development.  I still do this today.  It's amazing to see how I've changed over time- not just the boobs, but also my face and skin.

Many women in my matrilineal line were "well-blessed" by Mother Nature.  Due to lucky genetics, so am I.  My breasts kept steadily growing.  Now, five years later, I am blessed with natural DD cup breasts.  Yes, I know how lucky I am.

Ok, I've been asked many times what it feels like to have breasts.  Well, often they feel like nothing at all.  Seriously.  They are simply a part of me and I don't notice them.  If they bounce, I notice them.  When I feel them (breast exam, etc) I feel the pressure of my hands.  The nipples are very sensitive, and, if I'm not wearing a bra, they rub against the fabric and can get irritated.  When my arms bump into them, it feels like they've hit a soft muscle.  Being hit there hurts, but nothing compared to a shot "down low."

When wearing a bra, I feel the underwire and the shoulder straps.  And after eight long hours, removing the bra feels soooooo good!  It's liberating! The underwire is gone, and the cool air caresses them...  Heaven!


Cotton bra.  November 2017 "development" picture


So, is there a difference in sensation between the male breast and the female breast?  Absolutely!  It's like comparing a Whisper to a Scream.  Seriously!

Still all of this are matters of mere fact.  How do I feel ABOUT them?

Well, for me, breasts are the symbol of womanhood (with hips right there behind.)  (Get it?)

I have always wanted breasts.  In my mind, growing up, breasts were the most feminine attribute (remember- this is all I could see about women.)  I was in 7th grade when many of my classmates started to undergo puberty- both male and female.  I saw the girls beginning to blossom into women, and I felt left behind.  I was a late bloomer as it was, and seeing them growing hips and breasts made me very depressed.  I knew that would never happen for me.

Girls take their puberty for granted so to speak.  It is their birthright- they become women.  It's simple biology.  Girls become women and boys become men. 

I didn't WANT to be a man.  I was female- I knew it, even if I dared not ever breathe a word of it. 

They left me behind. 

So many years later, while my life was crumbling around me, I took the steps I Knew in my heart I had to take. 

Now?  Now I have breasts- big ones.  They are literally a dream come true- as I often through my life dreamed of having them.  I wanted them so badly.   I still get a thrill looking down and seeing them there and knowing they are real.  I often go topless around the apartment (my roomie and bestie, Linda, is probably tired of seeing me flop flop around.)  I do this because for one, it's cooler and I sweat easily, and for two- I just love seeing them.

Is this why I prefer low cut tops?  Partly, yes.  But that's mostly to give a Very Feminine indicator- to show all that see that I am a Woman.  Does it work?  Not really- I'm still misgendered often at work.  On Saturday, I had a guy misgender me twice while he stared at my boobs.  Seriously??? 


Late November before a shift: feminine indicators

I've been working on this blog entry for a week.  I'm finding it hard to put my feelings into words.  Transition is a very emotional process- I'm finally on the path to becoming the woman I've always known I am.  To be lucky enough to have been blessed with that which I've wanted all my life... I really can't describe how happy I feel about it.  So few things in my life make me happy- bring me joy.  Having my breasts is one of them.

I hope this answers your questions, ladies.  I wish I could articulate it better. 

Be well.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Excerpt: "Sailor's Ball" 1987

Another chapter from my never published book.  Yes this really happened, though I changed the names (and nicknames) to protect the guilty.

There is Profanity in this one-  just saying.

As with all the chapters, they begin with the date that the event occurred, followed by a headline from a newspaper from that day (usually the Philadelphia Inquirer.)  In this case, I added pictures (and  links) which didn't appear in the manuscript.

Comments welcome.

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


Chapter 2.62: Sailor’s Ball

Friday, April 11, 1987 Scarfo Held in Slaying of Testa 

Holy Shit!  A bright sunny afternoon in State College- so welcome after all the rain rain rain!  Everyone in State College had pruned fingers due to all the rain.  Thought Noah was building his ark somewhere up near Beaver Stadium.

My phone rang as I was writing a Shakespeare paper on my Mac.  It was Virginia.

“Hey Lancer!  Pink Elephant is having a big Greek only fundraiser today.  Would you care to accompany me?”  The last sentence she said like a snooty rich person.

“Sure!  When?”

“I’m at the house now, so come over anytime.  Wear letters, Skull!”

The great decisions of College: finish my paper or get shit faced?  Yeah, like that was a hard decision!  I tossed on my yellow letters hooded sweatshirt, which was beginning to look a bit ragged.  I then walked over to Crow house where I met Virginia out front.  She was wearing her maroon letters hooded sweatshirt, tight jeans and boots.  I loved that look!  I was so turned on!  I wanted to fuck her right there on the lawn.

Catty corner from Crow House was Pink Elephant: Delta Sigma Phi.  They lived in a huge mausoleum like house painted pink, which is why I assume they had that nickname.  What came first?  The name or the paint?  Hmmmm.  Anyway, out on their front lawn were bunches of greeks all colorfully dressed in their letters.  There were pink topped Tri Delts, green shirted Lambda Chis, magenta and silver Phi Sigs, baby blue Dee Gees, and so on.  Every house seemed to be there.  Except Skull.


Pink Elephant, circa 2015.  Collegian photograph by Camille Stefani

Virginia and I walked across the street and joined the line at the door.  We showed our student ID and paid five bucks (going to charity) and We were IN!

Sailor’s Ball!  Down to the basement party room where there were three wading pools full of little orange goldfish- each maybe and inch to an inch and a half long.  Several kegs of beer were set up around the room, as well as pledges behind the bar, so even as crowded as it was downstairs there was no shortage of beer.

Goldfish.

“Why all the goldfish?”  I said to Virginia over the loud music.  Gotta love the Hooters:


        She said something back I didn’t hear.  Then I saw: a Phi Psi grabbed a goldfish from the pool, dropped it in his beer, and chugged the beer!

Swallowed the goldfish!

What was this? The fifties?

Then I noticed others doing the same thing.

“What?”  I asked Virginia.

“You swallow them!” she said.

“Why?”

“Because that’s what you do at Sailor’s Ball!  I think the house that swallows the most gets a prize.”

“I would think sororities swallow the most.”

Virginia punched me hard in the shoulder.

“I’m not swallowing no fuckin’ goldfish,” I said.

“Wuss!”  Virginia said.  She accepted two beers from one of her brothers who happened to be at the keg.

“It would be flapping around in my stomach!  I mean- it’s still alive down there!  Then when you take a dump it’s staring at you!”

The Crow brother joined us.  “No, what you do is stick the fish into your beer and chug the beer.  The alcohol kills the fish instantly.”

There’s that chugging thing again.


2017:  Goldfish Chugging Survivor

The Crow grabbed a fish out of the pool, plopped it into his beer and down it went!  Sorry Charlie!

“How many is that for you?”  Virginia said.

“Six!” he said, then burped loudly.

“C’mon Skull!  You’re not going to let a Crow outdo you are you?”  Virginia said.

At that exact moment, I saw two of our pledges chug down beer fish.  Fuck.

Ok.  Grabbed a fish out of one of the pools.  It wriggled and fought.  Into the beer.  Drank as fast as I could.  Gagged.  Gone.

Holy shit!  I just swallowed a goldfish!

Virginia downed one as well.  I took her cup and went to the keg where I saw the Skull pledges.  They saw me, high-fived me, took my cups and started to fill them.


Me in 1987, around the time of this story. Members Only jacket!


“Hey Lancer!  We saw you swallow a goldfish!  Pretty cool, isn’t it?” said the tall one, Windex.  He was six fourish, with long arms and spiky hair.  He was wearing a black shirt with his pledge pin.

“Yeah, I guess.  How many have you guys done?”  I said.

“I’ve done four,” Windex said, “and he’s only done two.”

“Three!” said his pledge brother, Brick.  Brick was incredibly muscled- a body builder to the max.  He was maybe five eight, but I’d never seen muscles like that.

“I just did the one so far,” I said.

“Lame!” said Brick.

“I just got here!”  I accepted two full beers.

“Hold on a second” Windex said.  He had a pitcher he was filling.  He finished filling it and gave it to me.

“We have two we found upstairs,” he said.

“Hey Lancer!  Do one with us!”  Brick said.

Fuck.

“Ok.”

So we scooped out fish, stuck them in our beers and down

They

Went.

Ugh!

Whose fucking idea was this?


No one better than Springsteen for party music.

Windex refilled my beer.  We were hogging the keg, but since we were Skulls (and Brick was so big) no one said anything.  I headed back to Virginia and the Crow brother.


Typical late 80s Fraternity Basement party at my house.  I was standing on a bench.


“It’s about time!” she said, smiling.

I showed her the pitcher.

“All is forgiven,” she said.

“I’m one fish ahead of you.  Did one with my pledges over there.”

She looked.

“Oh yeah?” she said.  Grabbed a flapping fish and swallowed it raw- no beer.  Then she chugged a beer as a chaser.

We’re even, now…”  She grabbed another and swallowed it too.  Flip flap flip flap gone.

“I’m ahead,” she said, smiling.

The room was interrupted by a familiar sound to all: puking.  A purple clad Alpha Kappa Lambda puked into one of the pools.  The fish in that pool began a feeding frenzy.

“I only see two fish in there,” someone said.

“Lame” said a DG near me.

A cute girl pronouncing a guy lame for his lack of goldfish was enough to start a different frenzy- guys started downing goldfish like crazy.


Nothing like George Thorogood at a keg party.  And Springsteen.  And whatever else really.  As long as it rocks.

In the end, I did five goldfish.  I left Virginia there with a group of her brothers, as I needed to finish my paper.

Found out later she did 36.  Thirty six fucking goldfish.  Verified by others.  Fuck!

All I could think of was half of Penn State’s Greek community having goldfish diarrhea that stared up at them from the bowl.

Still, hell of a party.  Have you ever swallowed goldfish?

Lame.



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Watched in the Stall

Thursday November 16, I had to work 11-7.  I wasn't feeling right- my nose was a little stuffy, and I felt run down.  The holiday rush is upon us, and the customers were getting nastier.  I was literally dreading going into work.

I'd injected my estrogen that morning, which, along with the spironolactone, meant I'd have to use the restroom a bit more frequently that day.  That's usually not a big deal- I make sure I have coverage, slip away, do what's necessary, and come back.  And yes, I wash my hands.

Around twenty after 11, I had to use the ladies room.  At that point, I was working at the information desk, and a manager was there, so I went.  The ladies room at the bookstore has four stalls in an L shape lining the right side, with the first bordering a wall, and the fourth being an "accessible" stall.  The door to the second stall was closed, so I went to the first. (There is no "law of urinals" in the ladies room.) 

I was wearing my red "Minnie Mouse" dress. 


The dress, as worn last February

I finished doing what needed doing, sorted myself out, and stood.  I saw a head slowly lowering over the wall of the stall.  Someone in the next stall had been watching me.  African American with close cropped hair.  As we have many African American who frequent our store with close cropped hair, I assumed the person was a woman. 

My first thought was "were they trying to see what I had down there- to see if I'm a guy?"  I was stunned into silence.

I left the stall and washed my hands.  I was in a daze.  I went back to see who it was- no one was in the second stall now, but there was someone in the fourth stall... and they were looking through the crack in the door at me.  I glared at them, turned and left.

Now, a lot of people talk trash, and say things like "if that happened to me, I would've kicked that person's ass!" or something.  Before I "rediscovered" myself, I was a fairly violent person.  I figure I was perfectly capable of kicking this person's ass- but...

But I was completely stunned into inaction.

My next thought was that, as that person is a customer, and I've had it drilled into my head, time and time again that there is NOTHING I can do to customers who abuse me for being trans, that tied my hands further.

I sought out the manager, and told her what happened.  I mentioned that this person was still in the restroom.  I asked if I could confront this person.  I was told I could not- that the "moment had passed."  I went back in anyway, and saw that the 4th stall was still occupied (and I knew no one had left.)

Did they not hear what I said?  There was a predator in there! 

Badly shaken, I went back to work. 

Maybe twenty minutes later, I was on the cash registers.  I saw a different manager walking next to a swiftly walking African American male- late teens/ early twenties.  I recognized his head and hair- HE had been the one watching me.  I heard the manager tell him he was banned from the store.

That's all I SAW in this situation.  I went to the information desk, where the head manager was gathering information about whatever happened with that guy.  I told her what happened to me. 

From here on, it becomes what I'm TOLD.  I'm TOLD that the guy looked in on someone else, and that person cursed him out.  that he was allegedly "special needs."  That his pants were off when he was confronted.  That after I'd first reported what happened, the manager on duty checked the ladies room, and said she smelled something funny, which she assumed to be vomit. 

I cannot verify what I was TOLD.  Only what I saw.

I was very shaken.  Someone else had been victimized- due to my inaction.  Had I sorted this person out, no one else would've been hurt.



In addition to feeling violated- to feeling targeted because I'm trans (turns out that's not why he was looking, but that's how I felt at the time.)  I felt guilty as hell. 

After a couple of hours, I spoke to the store manager about how I felt, and how I felt guilty.  She told me it wasn't my fault.  Told me that the person had been told to wait by the information desk for the store manager to speak to him, but, not being stupid, he bolted.  The other manager followed.  That's what I saw.

That the person was "special needs" and didn't know what he was doing.

My hands were shaking badly.  I was on the verge of emotional collapse.  The store manager asked me if I wanted to go home.  And I did.

I called Wife on the way and told her what happened.  She asked if the store had called the police.  I said I didn't know.  She insisted that I do so.  And when I got back to the apartment, I did.  I called the police and reported what happened.

They said they'd get back to me.  A week later, they still haven't. 

RIght.  It's been a week, and I'm still a little rattled.  By what happened.  By what happened after.  By my (lack of) response.  I am absolutely petrified of going into work now.  I wonder what is the next indignity I'll suffer.  And when I go to the ladies room, I keep watching all around me- waiting for the next predator. 


Get a good look.  Why not?  I deserve it!

Before transition, I never worried about things like using a public restroom.  Now, I do.  I never worried for my safety- trusting in my own strength and skill.  Now, I do. 

Is this what Womanhood means?  Fear?

Do I need to arm myself just to go potty?

And the part that I've been brooding over is that I felt helpless to do ANYTHING, because I was afraid for my job.  Because I thought this person was doing it because I'm trans.  That in some way, society would say I DESERVED it for being who I am.

And that was WRONG that my thoughts went that way.  That those thoughts even crossed my mind.

I'm Tired of the Fear.  I'm Tired of the Hate.

I'm Tired of having to fight Every Day just to be who I am.

Yet here I am.

Be Well.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dead Flowers at NASA

I was listening to the radio on the way home from picking Linda up at work.  On WMMR, they were playing a block of The Rolling Stones country songs, and of course one of the songs they played was Dead Flowers.

Dead Flowers is a song from Sticky Fingers. I often sing it for karaoke because it's right within my range and it's a lot of fun.  In fact, it's pretty hard to screw that song up- assuming you know the words (and I do!)


Singing Dead Flowers Jan 2014 in New Hope

Whenever I hear or sing that song, it brings me back to an extremely happy memory.  (Yes, believe it or not, I have one or two of those.)  This one is back in June of 2016 when I was invited by Jennifer Finney Boylan to attend her talk down at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland.  I was one of several to answer the invitation.  I drove down with my dear friend Amy, who I've known for several years.  She's from the same support group I attend.

In any case, we drove to NASA in Greenbelt, and arrived a little early.  It was quite the process checking in, as they check your ID, check your invitation, injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff, as I guess would be obvious for a facility where they make satellites and that sort of thing.  We first stopped over to Visitor Center and museum, and we had a lot of fun hanging out there- looking at the exhibits.  Then we went over to the main facility, where we met with Jennifer Finney Boylan and the other people who were guests.  We sat in a very short meeting, and then went to the main Auditorium, which is where Jenny Boylan was speaking.  I sat in the front row, off to her right, and of course I made faces at her during the during the talk.


Our Group.  Amy is in the middle

After the talk we were invited to a picnic.  Yes it appears that we happen to be there on the day of the annual NASA picnic and we were invited.  It was a short drive to their picnic area, which had a basketball court, volleyball, some buildings- that sort of thing.  But the part that really stood out to me was a low porch and on it there was a bunch of people sitting having a "hootenanny." A hootenanny is when a bunch of people get together who know how to play instruments or don't, and sing songs.  Anyone is willing is invited to join, whether or not they have talent. I sat and watched for a while (after eating some wonderful fried chicken) and, after a couple drinks, decided that I may as well exercise my vocal cords.


Cringe in fear.

I asked if they knew Dead Flowers and they gave me knowing smiles.  Of course they knew it!  They started the opening chords and I started singing.  One of the people sang Harmony.  In any case, there was about eight people playing various instruments including one woman playing the brushes on drums, and of course Jenny Boylan playing her Autoharp. I won't say it was the best version of the song that's ever been sung, but I truly enjoyed it.  It was a magic moment for me: singing a song just for the joy of singing it and having no one judge (to my knowledge) my singing ability.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and later that day Jenny Boylan told me I was in "fine voice."



I've never written about this day, I was busy planning my... September event, but now on this very rainy November day, the song came on the radio, and I thought back to that wonderful time.  Many other things happened that day, and that wasn't the only song I sang- I also sang Uncle John's Band by The Grateful Dead. On that one I didn't quite get the words down right, even though I've sung it a zillion times.  At that point I was getting a little tired- I'd been up since four in the morning after all!  In any case, my performance of Dead Flowers was filmed and is up on YouTube.  You can find the link to it HERE if you want.

I enjoy singing and I enjoyed my time on stage.  When I performed in The Vagina Monologues last February, I really enjoyed the reaction when I did my solo piece- the piece that I wrote. It was very affirming that people were applauding something I did- something I added to the whole.


At NASA with Jennifer Finney Boylan

The best part is that while singing at the hootenanny, in front of a bunch of Rocket scientists and a New York Times bestselling author, I didn't feel one bit scared or self-conscious. I was just singing for the fun of it: enjoying myself, and hopefully adding to everyone else's enjoyment.  I let myself go. I was free.  I was singing like no one else was listening.

Maybe this is something I should do more often- not worry about who's clocking me as trans, not work worry about how I'm going to pay the next bill that's due yesterday.  Maybe, just maybe, once in a while I can learn to enjoy myself- to let go.  I think the biggest Legacy of my growing up and hiding all those years is that I don't let go.  I always felt that I had to be in complete control, otherwise my secret would slip.  Yes, I got drunk when I was younger.  Very drunk.  But at that point I was hiding my feminine side so deep that I didn't even consider it.  I knew it wouldn't come out.  I had buried it down in such a deep pit that it would NEVER ever come out.  And we can all see exactly how that worked out.


Buried (November 2017)

Dead Flowers is a wonderful song, and it means a lot to me.  It means more every time I sing it.  I wonder how it feels to Mick and Keith (the ones who wrote it) but, for them, it's one of thousands.  For me it's a part of my life.  A wonderful memory.

Thank you again Jenny, if I haven't thanked you enough for that invitation,  and to those who played with me that day Slainte chugat!

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Thousand Words for a Picture.

On Wednesday November 8, I was pondering.  I was thinking about writing a blog entry about a favorite picture someone took of me.  I figured I could do maybe 500 words about it.  Then I thought, "a picture is worth a thousand words."  Hmmm.  Could I write one thousand words about that picture?  It would be a challenge.  A challenge...

So I challenged two of my coworkers (both writers) and posted the following on facialbook:

A CHALLENGE:

For my writer friends:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Prove it.

Using a picture OF you or one you've taken (new, old, whatever) tell the story of what is happening in that picture. The story may be fiction or non-fiction.

1000 words. Due next Wednesday, 5 pm.

Are you lame or are you game?

I'll post mine in my blog. Or you can post here. Whatever.


To date, six people have taken up the challenge.  I can't wait to read the results!

As for mine, it follows the picture below.  And no, this introduction did NOT count toward the thousand words.  That would be cheating.  As it stands, my piece is 1,422 words. 

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



Saturday, October 29, 2011 was a snowy day.  The snow had been predicted for days.  It was going to be a massive storm: a “Nor’Easter,” they said.  “Frankenstorm.”  One to eight inches of snow predicted, maybe more. 

Back then, I planned a lot of parties for my friends and coworkers.  My usual co-conspirators were M and Elizabeth.  This one I planned extensively.  This was going to be the biggest party yet!  Elizabeth and I went out shopping for decorations.  I stocked up my bar (I was working two jobs back then- thirteen hour days- so I could afford it.)  I made special Halloween mix CDs.  M was living in a rented house as her house underwent extensive renovations, and it was there that we held the party.


But, the best part as far as I was concerned was the costume contest.  Back at the party in 2009, I won by a landslide using my “Monique” costume.  “Monique” was just me showing off all I’d learned in the year since my re-awakening on Halloween 2008.  In that time, I’d bought a real corset, and learned how to put it on.  Yes, there is a learning curve.  I also bought hip pads from Classic Curves to give me a feminine derriere.  But the biggest acquisition I ordered in March 2011.  It arrived October 29.  Yes, it took that long to make the piece- prosthetic breasts so real that people could NOT tell they were fake.  But I digress.


"Monique"


In 2010, my costume for the Halloween party was “God’s gift to women.”  I didn’t want people to suspect anything after going enfemme for two straight Halloweens.

Which left this party.  In 2009, I hired Lorraine Anderson, a friend of a friend, to make me a costume.  The costume was Mary Marvel, the comic book superhero, as she appeared in the 1940s.  Lorraine made the costume, which I wore to the Henri David Ball that year.  Lorrain has since become a very dear friend, and has made several costumes for me.

My plan was to surprise everyone by wearing the Mary Marvel costume to this party, and, hopefully, win the costume contest again.  I was supplying the top prize- a $100 bottle of Crystal Skull Vodka.  Supposedly filtered through diamonds.  I wanted that bottle.

As I said, I planned this party extensively. I started planning in late September.  Many people RSVPed- over forty if memory serves.  I advertised it on my “guy” facialbook page.  I called friends and emailed them.  I invited a few of my trans friends, but I didn’t think they would come.  After all, there was a trans event that same night. 

One of my two jobs was as an Instructional Designer at Penn State Great Valley.  In between assignments, I was teaching myself Photoshop.  As practice, I made posters for the party- six in all. 



The Second Poster

Oh, I was so excited for this party!  My plan was to go visit my dear friend Amanda Richards at True Colors Makeup Artistry in Bethlehem, Pa.  On a normal day, that trip is usually an hour and a half one way.  I would then stop at a comic book shop for a minute, just for the fun of it, then head to the party.  Sometime during the night, I’d slip over to the trans event- Angela’s Laptop Lounge- for a few minutes.  With over forty people attending, I wouldn’t be missed.  I would then return to the party.  My price for “doing a party” was that I get a bed for the night so I could drink a lot and not worry.  This was before my DUI curbed my drinking. I dropped off my stereo, the bar, and the CDs the night before.  M and Elizabeth would set everything up.


But as I said: Frankenstorm.  People began saying “I’ll be there if…” I hoped that the storm would miss us, as so many had in the past. 

But…

The snow started earlier than expected.  It was a wet, heavy snow.  The trees still had most of their leaves, which caught the snow.  All that weight snapped branches and brought down trees, and with them, power lines. 

I arrived at Amanda’s half an hour late.  She was worried, and wondered if I shouldn’t cancel.  But I was determined!  On the way up the turnpike, I saw five trees down on the road.  The going was slow.  Bethlehem would get over a foot of snow before this was over.   Back then, I was driving my del Sol, the front wheel drive two seater.  While small, it was a wide car, and handled well in the snow.

Amanda did her usual amazing job with my makeup and wig.  As no cleavage was showing, I just wore standard breast forms instead of the prosthetic.



Ready for the Snow and the Party

The trip back south was slower than the trip to Bethlehem.  Cars had spun out on the roads.  Braches were down everywhere.  I drove maybe thirty miles an hour at most.  I decided to skip the comic book store and go right to the party.  By the time I arrived at the party, eight inches of snow was on the ground.  Good thing I was wearing boots!

I quietly entered the front door and waited for someone to spot me.  It didn’t take long.  Elizabeth saw me first and whooped with joy!  She, M, and Phil (another coworker) were the only people at the party so far, and they all thought my costume was funny as hell.  Now came the hard part.  I felt so natural as Sophie, but I couldn’t let that show- I had to be “Lance in drag” and act awkward. 

I was in the party for maybe five minutes when The Picture was taken.  I was kneeling in front of the fireplace, which is where they put my stereo.  I was leaning on a hassock, turning on the music.  M and Elizabeth had been drinking heavily, and so couldn’t figure out the stereo.  (“Press the power button…”)

As I knelt, M’s dog, Gracie came over to me, tail wagging.  Gracie didn’t like me- at all.  Whenever she saw me, she barked like crazy and her fur stood on end.  Not so, this night.  She came over, tail wagging, happy to see me.  She was sniffing me.  I looked over at her, and smiled. After the picture was taken, I petted her.

Gracie never had a problem with me when I was female, but hated me as male.  I understood how she felt.

The party was a flop.  Only eight people showed up, including me.  We ended up getting almost ten inches of snow.  I did win the vodka- which I shared with the party.  It wasn’t very good.

So what is it about this picture that I love?

Of all the pre-transition, pre-HRT pictures taken of me, I think this is the most genuine and feminine.  I am happy, and at peace.  I’m happy that Gracie was accepting me.  My makeup is perfect.  Behind Gracie and my arm is my left breast, looking perfectly natural.  This is what I aspired to be- a woman at peace and happy.

I didn’t know that I eventually would transition.  I wanted to, but didn’t think I could.  Heck, my Wife still didn’t know about my feminine side.  It would be months before I confessed to her about that.  At that time, my female side was my monthly retreat into who I Truly was, and I needed it. 

I’ve worn this costume many times since, including three times at the bookstore.  I’ve pretty much retired it now- it hangs on a rack in my storage space.  The stereo was destroyed in August 2013, when I was forced to move out of where I was living.  The wig wore out, and is long gone.  I sold the breast forms on ebay, and haven’t worn the hip pads in years.  The corset wore out and was replaced in 2013.  M moved out of that house in 2012 and into another, where she would graciously welcome me as a tenant after I was thrown out.  Gracie passed peacefully in M’s arms in 2014.

So many changes. 

As of this writing, it’s been six years since that picture was taken.  “An image caught in time.”  I have been living my Truth for over three and a half years now.

And when I see this picture, I still smile.  And Remember a snowy night long ago. 



Last time out: April 2016


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Against Me

Back on October 10th, I did something that I hadn't done in a many years- I went to a concert.

It was my first concert ever as Sophie, and I kind of didn't know how to dress.  I mean, it's not like a fat fifty year old woman can wear a tight leather miniskirt and tease out my hair...

It was also my first punk rock show in more years than I care to admit: decades at least.  I went to see Against Me.  Laura Jane Grace's band.

I bought the tickets as soon as I heard about the show- I think it was back in July or August.  I bought two of them, thinking that my roomie and bestie Linda Lewis would come with me.  But, she had to work the next morning, and couldn't attend.  As I was a lot short on money, it didn't look like I was going to be able to attend either.  (Parking in Philadelphia is usually quite expensive.)


Ready for the show


However somebody online (and I won't say who because she asked for an anonymity) fronted me the funds for parking.  Also Laura Jane herself sent me a tweet saying that if I could make it she would cover my parking personally.  I thought that was really nice!  In any case I got myself dressed and drove down to Philadelphia- to the Union Transfer- found a place to park and went into the show.


As it turns out, there were some people there that I knew- Morgan was there with her Paramour.  I was standing at the edge of the bar area (which they couldn't enter neither of them are 21) talking to them as we waited for the first band to show up.

The first band was the Dirty Nil.  They were from Canada , and were pretty good.  The second band was Bleached, who were an all woman band from Los Angeles.  Both had a raw Punk sound, and their stage show was half decent.  Bleached is fronted by two sisters, who were both quite beautiful. I met them after their set out in the lobby, where they were signing CDs and selling their t-shirts.  They were kind enough to pose for a picture with me.


Me with Bleached

I went back in and found a place to stand: behind the soundboard (someone whose opinion I trust told me that was the best place to watch the show.)  Near where I was standing were several other people.   We got to talking, and I mentioned to them that I was trans.  They were really cool, and asked me some good questions.  One of them is on the Temple University Radio Station where she does a music show.  I'm sorry I don't remember her name, but she was very nice and very knowledgeable about Punk. Actually, she knew a lot more about the modern music then the past, so she was asking me questions about the punk of the 70s and 80s (which I knew very well as that was my time.)

The lights darkened and out came Against Me.   They kicked right in to True Trans Soul Rebel and everyone, including me, were singing along.  The entire room knew every word.  There were a lot of trans people in the audience. I didn't know any of them, except for the ones that I mentioned earlier.  I would meet some of them later.  I'll come back to that.

So as the show went on.  Laura Jane Grace was simply amazing!  She dominated the stage, and just projected a confidence and power that were palpable.  There were even two big blow-up ghosts that showed up on a song called Haunting Haunted Haunts.



For me the highlights were the songs from their album Transgender Dysphoria Blues.  It was my first Against Me album and I can pretty much sang every word- just like everyone else at the show it seemed.  Laura gave a great introduction to the song Transgender Dysphoria Blues. which I recorded on my phone and put up on YouTube.

Laura Jane Grace absolutely dominated the stage. The show was electrifying- I found myself completely Carried Away by the music.  As with most punk shows I've attended, there was a mosh pit up front, and a lot of people doing stage-diving, and by the end of the show, there are maybe about 30 people on the stage in addition to the band.  It was absolutely wonderful! 

After the show, I hung out for a while.

I had heard that Laura like to hang out after the show and would come and hang out with the fans if they were waiting for her.  However she had a case of bronchitis that night, which I didn't think affected her singing, but some people commented they could tell.  As I was waiting, I met a few of the trans people from Philadelphia.  I'd never met them before.  In fact, I'd never even seen them on Facebook.  They stayed in the city, they said, because none of them had cars.  They would take the subway or the bus wherever they were going.  Many of them lived in a "shitty place" in South Philadelphia.



They hung out for a while afterwards and I hung out with them.  They gave me their names, and I'm sorry I forgot them (I'm just horrible with names sometimes) but they were very nice people.

They eventually found their Uber and Lyft rides and went home.  I joined about ten other people at the side of the building next to a fence where we could see the tour buses and vans.  Some of the people from the Dirty Nil and Bleached were searching for the keys to one of the vans.  They left them somewhere so they were stuck without a van.  (They found them eventually.  They came over and joked with our group for a bit.)  I'm guessing just Against Me were on the buses.

After about two hours, a lone figure approached the fence where we stood.  She wore a black hoodie.  It was Laura Jane Grace!  She came over, smiled, and greeted us all.  Many of the people who I were there with had met her many times before.  She apologized for the show, saying that she had the bronchitis, and we were all said "no it was amazing!"  She very graciously signed things, including the CD I brought with me, and she was kind enough to take a picture with me.  She stood on top of the fence, and someone took the picture.


With Laura Jane Grace

She hung out for maybe twenty minutes talking and joking with us.  We had a very good time. However she was very tired, and eventually she turned to go back to the bus.  I watched her walk away back toward the bus through the empty parking lot, and I thought how small and fragile she looked- how vulnerable- so very different from the person that dominated that stage.

So who is the real Laura, I wondered.

I supposed they are both her- two halves of the same person.  After all, who's the real Sophie?  Is she the person who does all the writing, the activism, and the training?  Or is it that weak person who the Darkness ensnares, and who just wants to curl up in a ball and die?

We are all complex people and one can tell by Laura's music that she is a very complex person.

I enjoyed the show very much, and no, I didn't ask her to pay for my parking.

I finally got home around 2 a.m. and I had to be up at 5 to take Linda to work.  On my way home, I listened to the CD Transgender Dysphoria Blues: the one that she had signed for me

And I thought about that lonely figure walking back to a darkened bus.



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Visit from the Doctor

My best man for my wedding and one of my oldest still with me friends came to town.  Dr. Dave holds two doctorates- one in microbiology and one in dentistry- and he currently works for one of the Native American nations down in Arizona. I hadn't seen him in 2 years.  He was one of the first people that I came out to, and he said that he would support me

I met Dave in elementary school. I believe we were in first or second grade.  We became close friends in 4th grade, and then hung out together in high school (until I started working at Burger King.)  We learned many games together, including Dungeons & Dragons, and in fact he is one of the main reasons I transferred to Penn State; having visited him a few times at the campus while I was at Drexel.

Dr. Dave and I have so many shared experiences, and there are a lot of nights that it was just him and me talking and drinking and discussing personal things, and yet he never knew about my inner Pain. I wouldn't let him know.  I couldn't let anyone know.


Dr. Dave, 1987

He graduated a semester before me (I lost a year when I transferred and then I had student teaching) and he went to Rochester, New York, where he completed both of his phds.  He also got married for a time up there.  I rarely saw him when he was in Rochester. I would see him when he would come down to visit, and I on the rare occasion would drive all the way up to Rochester to see him- usually during cold weather for some reason, and during those times we always drank far too much

In any case that's a lot of History.  Dave was in town to visit his son who is now 16.  I don't know the exact circumstances of his relationship with his son's mother. I know that they got together after his marriage collapsed, and I know that they produced a son.  However that's really all I know as I've never met her, nor have I met the son.


Dave at my wedding, April 1993

After Dave got his second doctorate, he did postdoc work at the University of Pennsylvania.  While he was there, I saw him with some frequency- maybe twice a month.  When we got together we would drink just like in the old days, and we would talk and make fun of are each other and the people we knew- laughing like the old friends that we are.  Then he moved to Arizona to his current position.

I think I've seen him four times since. 

Two visits ago, I met his current lady.  It was at that conversation that I told him my Truth.  He was accepting.

Last visit, he met the real Me. 


Waiting...

He was in town again a week ago.  His sixteen year old son was in town with his mother- they live in Switzerland.  Dave rarely sees him.  Dave was kind enough to make some time to see me, as he also had a lot of family obligations.

We met at Molly Maguires in Phoenixville.  As always, Dave was late.  Like, half an hour late.  I chose to walk the mile and a half downtown from my apartment, because I didn't want to drink and drive, and I was STILL there first.  (People who know me well know that I'm the picture of promptness.)  (That's sarcasm.)

I sat at the bar, and I had a shot of scotch and a Guinness waiting for him.  he eventually showed, and we moved to a table.  We ordered wings and dinner.  And we drank.  We talked and laughed.  It was like no time had passed.  He told me he even reads this blog from time to time, which I really didn't expect.

After a while, we moved down the street to Iron Hill.  I had a deck of cards in my purse, so we played a drinking game (Ace face.)  Eventually, it was time to call it a night. 

I walked the mile and a half home.

Had a bit of a problem overnight- a mild case of food poisoning.  Dave had one as well.  Guess the wings weren't cooked enough.

Dave's visit reminded me of several truths. 

First is that friends endure, if the friendship is true.  We've both changed so much since we met.  If my transition made him uncomfortable, he didn't show it.

Second is it reminded me of how much I lost.  My remaining old friends are Few in number, as most faded away after my transition.  I was told to expect this- despite their solemn promises and entreaties that they were with me until the end.

And Third is that we are finite.  Dave and I have known each other more than forty years.  We are growing older.  There are many things we can't do any more- especially drink like fiends.  We both have had children, and they are growing up so fast.  Someday, we will both be a memory. 

I wonder if he will visit my grave.



Dave and I at Iron Hill, Oct 2017


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Leap of Faith

We change as we grow older.  When I was a child, I was very mousy and quiet.  I was afraid that if I said or did the wrong thing, I would be beaten or insulted.  I stayed within myself- isolated and pretty much friendless.

Doing things to get noticed?  No way in hell.  I just went where I was told, when I was told, and waited for the next humiliation.  (Kind of like now, really.)

When I was in eighth grade, my friend R moved to the area.  He was in several of my classes, including math.  In eighth grade in Spring Ford at the time, the advanced math was Algebra.  I was not in it, and nor was R.  We were both doing great in math, but most of the "smart kids" were in algebra.  And as that was the group I sort of hung around with, if any, they let me hear it.  Just like they did to R.

So, in December, R came up with an idea, which he shared with me.

His father was willing to speak to the school administration to get R into the algebra class.  And offered me the same.  I was shocked, and didn't know what to do.  Actually CHANGE a class?  Make waves?  At school?  Well, I did it.  And R's dad got the school to put us in the algebra class starting in the 3rd marking period.  I had no idea if I could do it.  I had no confidence in myself.


9th grade.  I have no 8th grade pictures

R excelled as always.  Me?  I floundered; my grades for math that year were A, B, C, D.  But from there I was on the advanced math track.  The next year, I did well, and in the years following I continued. 

In spring 1985, I visited my friend Dr. Dave at Penn State.  I fell in love with the school.  I hated Drexel, and wanted out.  My grades began to suffer.  I needed something to happen.  But what?  How?  I'd made my decision- I chose Drexel.  I was determined to succeed and show everyone, especially my dad, that I could succeed- that I WAS smart enough.

I needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

But to me, the city was Hell.  And Penn State was heaven.  My dad wanted an engineer.  I hated the idea at that point.  But could I...

I transferred to Penn State.  Changed my major to Education.  One of the best decisions of my life.  I didn't know if I would succeed there, or crash and burn.  And the first few weeks were touch and go until I got my feet under me. 


In 1994, I accepted a job in Baltimore.  Accepted it on a Friday and started Monday.  I stayed in a motel for weeks, without Wife. 

These were all Leaps of Faith.  I had choices to make, and I chose the hard path- the path of uncertainty. 


"Only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth."

Notice that I didn't include Transition in the list.  I didn't have a choice there.  It was transition or blow my head off.

Some people are planners.  Others not so much.  I planned my transition meticulously.  I had plans, backup plans, and backups for those.  I tried to foresee all possibilities.  Other things, I just leap "where angels fear to tread." 

My life is at a crossroads.  Decisions need to be made.  It's time, I fear, for another leap of faith.  I cannot continue on this Path. 

God help me.  Things are in motion.

Be well.





Gratuitous Sophie pic



Thursday, October 19, 2017

"People like you"

I was having a good day at work today- the customers were, for the most part, Pleasant. There were a lot of returns, but nobody was asking me to return something from 3 years ago, and it just seemed like a nice day.  I was enjoying doing my job.

However, about 20 minutes before the end of my shift, that changed.

Up came a young guy with an impeccably ironed shirt and a big smile.  He was buying a book on real estate investing.  I did my job professionally as always, and having a good day I joked around with him a little bit.

As he was leaving, he said he handed me a little flyer and said "so you know our doors are always open, and we welcome people- especially people like you."

I looked at the flyer.  It was for the same church that the DVD woman attends.  Before I could even draw another breath, he was gone and a middle-aged woman with bad plastic surgery had filled the spot in front of me, and instead of a greeting, she just started reciting her phone number for her member card.


Earlier today.

I didn't have a chance to react, so I just swallowed all the negative emotions I was feeling, smiled, and did my job.

I'm an expert at swallowing negative feelings.  I've been doing it my entire life.

Maybe five minutes later, I finally finished the cluster of customers, and I contacted the manager, informing him of what happened.  He offered for me to take a minute, and, for a change, I took him up on it.  I walked a slow lap around the store.

I am filled with anger and frustration- angry that they are still targeting me, and I frustrated that there's nothing I can do except stand there and take it.

Maybe corporate will tell me to run and hide again.

 I did exactly what was expected of me: I did my job.  So there I stood: angry, frustrated... and there was nothing I could do.  Absolutely nothing.  Yet another person has clocked me as trans, and has targeted me. I am so very tired of this. As I said, I reported it to a manager, so I guess we'll find out what happens next.

Part of me says I should email that church and tell him to stop harassing me or something bad's going to happen.  Another part of me says that I should attend a service and confront them- maybe invite a few of my trans friends along.  But, they're evangelicals.  Rich ones.  I won't win that battle.

In the past, people told me just to ignore it, but it's getting to the point that I can't ignore it any more. The hatred is coming from all sides; coming from the law, the church... it's coming from just people.  I'm not made of stone, and my armor, after the battering it it's been taking for the past few years, is almost gone.  What else can I do at this point?

What else can I do?

I have decisions to make.