Saturday, March 24, 2012

Preparing for Keystone

The Keystone Conference is next week and I'm making my final preparations.

I've begun packing my clothes for the week, my makeup, shoes, etc.  My lies are in place to both work and wife.  I have money set aside and the conference and room are already paid in full.

Keystone, as I've said many times, is my favorite conference.  It was my first conference.  My first time there was 2010, the first year of its existence.  I roomed alone and had one HELL of a time putting on my brand new corset. 

I had an even harder time walking out my door.  I was so scared!  yes, there were maybe 150 of use there, but that didn't help.  I was about to walk out into the daylight world as a woman and I was petrified.

But I did it, and was instantly accosted by a housekeeper, who despite my putting a "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door, was determined to interrogate me about the state of the room and force me to sign off on it.  My makeup was rudimentary at best, and I was shaking and being questioned by someone who wouldn't let me alone.  Finally an elevator came and I got away from her.  I was afraid she'd come on the elevator with me!

I was immensely rattled, and went directly to my appointment with Amanda Richards.  Then to the bar.  I got very drunk that night and made new friends.

What I was wearing that night

That Saturday was the gala, and I dressed in a red gown I bought from ebay and had tailored by my friend Lorraine.  I went as a blonde for that.

Since then, I've returned twice. Each time the conference has grown by leaps and bounds.  Last year, I was privileged to have my own workshop.  I guess i did something right because this year I'm doing it again.  This year my topic is "Writing Transgender Fiction: Releasing your Inner Person."

My seminar last year

This year I've heard estimates of maybe 500 attendees.  Last year was 350.  I may be wrong but I think the only US conference that's bigger is Southern Comfort.  We're taking over the hotel!  And this year, the wrestling championships are already over, so we won't have the wrestling parents in the bar with us.  That's a shame- they really were nice people and most of them were lots of fun... when they got past their transphobia.

So what stories will be written this year?  Who will be that girl who is scared to leave her room?  Who will blossom and gain confidence?  On a different line, will I meet new friends?  Will my dress for the gala be well received?  The anticipation is killing me but in a good way!

So today I will go over to the storage unit and finish packing.  I'll go buy the last couple things I need for the trip.  Wednesday I will pack my car and head to Harrisburg and shed the male disguise. 

I can't wait!

My gowns from the last three Keystone Galas

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pink Hangover

Saint Patrick's Day was a Saturday this year.  Here in the US, it's a day that people pretend to be Irish and drink far too much.  (People with actual Irish blood skip the pretend part.)

Saturday was also my usual night out as Sophie. 

I live in a suburb of Philadelphia.  St. Patrick's Day is a major thing around here.  I've had some big drinking times on this day in the past.  But I've also learned a few things.  First, that it's amateur night: every idiot will be out drinking far too much and Second: every cop on the payroll would be out there waiting for them.  So I resolved that it would be far too dangerous for me to drink that night- I'd need my wits about me.  Besides, I needed to save money.

So, I did my own makeup, threw on a green sweater dress and headed out.

Wearin' o' the Green

My friend Suzanne from Harrisburg was down, and we went to ShangriLa for some dinner.  While we sat there at the bar, a woman sat close to us.  She started asking me questions.  It turns out she was a psychologist, and she knew very little about Transpeople.  She asked some good questions, and was surprised by some of the answers.  Suzanne and I told her about Renaissance, Laptop Lounge, and about the upcoming Keystone Conference.  I get the opinion that a seed was planted there and she will go learn more.

From there to the Renaissance meeting, then to Laptop. 

Now came the hard part- I promised myself I wouldn't drink.  Could I keep my resolve?  What if someone bought one for me?

Laptop wasn't as crowded as usual.  I'm guessing that many people were out at other places.  There were some new faces there, though.  One of them was flirting with my "Big Sister" Mel when I came over.
He said I looked like a cross between Vivien Leigh (As Scarlett O'Hara) or Olivia DeHaviland.  I rolled my eyes.  Oh please!

Ummm, I don't think so.

I had a fun night.  I had a great time talking to people and met some new people.  As the night went on, people got their usual good time drunk on, and there was dancing.  Many people complimented my makeup, which really helped my confidence.

Eventually, it was time to go. As I said my goodbyes, I noticed a couple people who were very drunk and I hoped they would get home safely. 

I went back to the motel, cleaned up, and headed toward home.  I encountered a police checkpoint on the way and saw a couple people undergoing "the test." 

I did it!  I was out the whole night- on Saint Patrick's Day no less- and didn't have a drink!  I was really proud of myself!


I woke up the next morning without one hangover, caused by alcohol.  However I have another familiar hangover, which I call the "Pink Hangover." 

The Pink Hangover holds me hard in its grip.  It is the feeling after having a wonderful night out as Sophie, then waking up as a drab male.  I can't talk to anyone about the fun I had: about the conversations, the jokes, the happenings that made us all laugh and smile.  I can't discuss how wearing a certain outfit felt, or how happy I was when someone complimented my look.

I can't tell anyone how I am Sophie and the rest is increasingly the lie.

That's the Pink Hangover- feeling miserable after a great time and wishing I could still be out and about as Sophie.  Yes, I know life isn't just about nights out and that being a transperson is hard.  But it's who I am.  And so I endure this hangover with no cure.  (And I know others feel it as well- my friend Lisa from Baltimore described it perfectly in private correspondence.)

And so I wait.  In a couple weeks, I will be at the Keystone Conference, and I will have a week as Sophie.  I will learn more about being me, and learn new things about myself.  And the hangover will be really hard after that.  Until the next time comes.

Who will I be meet next time?  And who will I be compared to?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let's talk Music

I just wrote a rant for my TGForum Column, so I'm a little drained.  Figured I'd write about something a little lighter.

Everyone has passions.  Music is one of mine.  Specifically 80's music.  Why would i like that kind of music that's (for the most part) all style and no substance?  Good question.

Do I look like I have a clue?

If you listen to the music of the 1940s, specifically during the war, you'll hear slower music.  Soothing.  I've read and heard several veterans say that the reason people liked soothing music was because the War was exciting enough and they wanted something to calm them.  Makes sense.

The 1950s gave us Rock and Roll.  White musicians co-opted black music and it was a sensation.  Make no mistake; Rock and roll was about two things- Rebellion and Sex.  And during the conservative 1950s, people needed both!

The 1960s began with a corporate "take over" of rock and it became the era of Pat Boone and other soothing and safe teen idols.  After all, Elvis was now in the Army so things could be changed.  That wouldn't last, as there were these guys from Liverpool ready to change it all.  And they did.  War in Southeast Asia and a draft led to unrest among the new generation.  The Beatles changed the entire popular culture:  Music, clothes, attitude.  And they weren't alone.  Bob Dylan, Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, the Who, the Grateful Dead...

The 1970s brought, guess what?  More soothing corporate rock with the ascendency of the "Singer/Songwriter."  James Taylor, Carly Simon, Seals and Crofts.  By the middle of the decade, dance music came to the fore, as a movement named Disco.  The Bee Gees led this particular genre.

As a reaction to the soft rock of the 70s, a movement began in Detroit, New York and London.  Kids with little musical knowledge but plenty of attitude brought us Punk.  MC5, Ramones, Sex pistols, the Clash...

Punk combined with pop as the decade closed and the New Wave was born.  And that brings us to the 1980s.  Elvis Costello, the Police, Missing Persons...

I was 13 in 1980 and I knew nothing of pop music.  In 1981,  two things happened to change that.  MTV debuted and I was watching.  Also a show called "Rock Over London" debuted on the hot local radio station.  My ears were treated to new sounds like Haircut 100, Joe Jackson, and so many more. 

A movement in the New Wave was more about clothes and image and they were very video friendly.  These are who most people think of when they think 80s music.  Neon colors and bright whites.  Duran Duran, Adam and the Ants, Spandau Ballet, Wham...

It also helped that I grew up near Philly and that the city had a vibrant music scene.  The Hooters, John Eddie and the Front St Runners, Robert Hazard and the Heroes, the A's...

By mid-decade, the pendulum swung back a bit and corporations took back control, and the radios started featuring "Classic rock."  Once again, it was all the Beatles, Stones,Who and groups of the 60s.  MTV even sponsored a revival of the tv show "The Monkees."  But also, the rise of Rap as a popular form.  Public Enemy and Ice T told everyone the news of the inner city streets.

In 1985, I got a job with Wee Three Records.  There I learned even more about music.  I was introduced to Sinatra.  Doo Wop.  Country.  Blues. 

By the end of the 80s?  Corporate rock.  Milli Vanilli, Taylor Dayne, and corporate metal like Bon Jovi. 

90s?  The reaction to the corporate rock- Grunge.

So why do I like 80s music?  Is it because it was the music of my teen years?  Well, yes.  But lets go back to the music of the 40s.  They needed a distraction from war.  We in the 80s had the Cold War.  President Reagan talked tough about the Soviet union and it seemed we were on the brink of nuclear war.  Every day, the tension was always there.  There were portests against the Nukes, and against Reagan's policies.  (The people who worship him today selectively forget how unpopular he was while in office.)  The mindless pop we had allowed us an escape from the horrible news we heard and read daily.  Don't even get me started on yuppies and conspicuos consumption.

80s music is still popular today.  Many twenty somethings and teens know all the words to many of the 80s biggest songs.  And look in the clothing stores.  Neons are back... again!  So are skinny ties.

I'm in my 40s now and still listen to the music of my youth.  I listen to other music as well, but I always fall back on that.  My trivial mind has latched upon 80s music minutia.  I don't have any neon clothing really, just one pink dress that I wore once.  I think at my age I'd look kind of stupid wearing it.


So, like my look?

So there it is.  I am a child of the 1980s and that is my music.  I can imagine me as a grey haired old person in my old age home listening to my Police cds.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Few Quick Words about Raven 8

This past Saturday was "Raven 8" which was a large T-gathering at the Raven in New Hope, PA

This was the second event I attended there and I couldn't have attended without the generosity of my friends.  I'm trying to save money, so I'm rather broke.

Lisa Empanata allowed me her room to change and clean up.  That was very generous.  I am in her debt.

Mostly the generous part was that people messaged me and emailed me and said "You need to be there."  They were generous enough to say "I'd love to see you there."

I've been feeling a bit down lately.  Ok, a lot down.  And these women perked me up.  They made me feel wanted and special.  I needed that.  God knows I don't feel it in my drab life.  That's one of the reason it's drab, I guess.

The weather is warming here in the Philadelphia area.  Soon I'll be ready to tell my wife about being Sophie.  Then events like this will be out of the question.

But for that night, and those hours, I was carefree and with friends who WANTED me to be there.  To them I am Sophie, and a Woman:  I always have been and always shall be.

Pic courtesy Jen Bryant

I can say I have a safety net, and I'll need it.

Thanks to you all.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"What's wrong with being a Man?"

My “big sister” sent me this article and it spoke to me. Spot on. Joy Ladin said exactly how I feel. Here’s the URL. Go read it. I’ll wait.


Ok. I’m guessing that if you read my blog you have a passing interest in transgender issues. Either that or you are a literary agent waiting to sign me up for a lucrative contract. No? Then that article may speak to you as well. It’s her book: Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders.

“What’s so bad about being a man?” That’s a good question. And Ms. Ladin’s answer is correct- "nothing… if you’re a man." There are many passages that rang out. I quote:

“To her, I am sacrificing our family for a panty-hosed version of a typical male midlife crisis, abdicating relationships and responsibilities to roar off on the Harley-Davidson of transsexuality (the metaphor is hers) toward a fluffy pink Shangri-la of self-centered gratification.”

She discusses family obligations, which I feel and debate:

“This seemed to me a supremely moral decision, a form of transcendence, a triumph of mind over matter. In the deepest sense, I was living my life for others, and isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Years of parenting turned this lie—I was as selfish and self-centered as anyone, despite the hollowness of the self I was centered on—into a semblance of truth. Like most parents, I had to ignore my own needs to care for my children’s.”

And she discusses the feelings inside that I couldn’t discuss for so many years:

“Nothing else mattered to me but fantasies of transformation. The realities of my life, my career, my family seemed like shadows on a distant wall.”

“A body is there, but it’s not yours. A voice is coming out of your throat, but you don’t recognize it. The mirror contains another person’s face. When your children wrap their arms around you, they seem to be hugging someone else. Every morning you wake up shocked to find that parts of you have disappeared, that you are smothered in flesh you cannot recognize as yours. That you have lost the body you never had. This isn’t me, you say to yourself. This isn’t me, you say to anyone you trust. Of course it isn’t. There is no “me,” no body that fits the map, no identity that fits your sense of self, no way to orient yourself in a world in which you exist only as an hysterical rejection of what, to everyone around you, is the simple, obvious fact of your gender.”

That’s really how it feels to me, and I’ll bet to many others too.

So what’s stopping me? Well, as she wrote:

“I have no illusions that becoming a jobless, homeless approximation of a middle-aged woman is a recipe for bliss.”

Homelessness. And then there’s hurting my wife. Well, she’ll be hurt no matter what. As soon as she finds out about Sophie. Does that excuse it?  Am I hurting her for nothing?

I’m 45 years old. Even as a man, finding a job is difficult. I work two jobs that don’t pay much. However I’m working and that’s something. Would I lose these jobs by transitioning? Maybe one of them. Can I live on one of those salaries? Nope. Not even close. And I know it. That’s why if my wife tosses me out, I’m in trouble.  (I've made plans though.)

So. Stop thinking about it, right? Stiff upper lip. Carry on. After all, I have a family and all. Well, that’s easy enough to say, isn’t it?

As Ms. Ladin wrote:

“The more I outwardly surrendered my life to those around me, the more I thought about gender. When I walked to the bathroom, I thought about gender; when I sang my daughters to sleep, I thought about gender; when I sat in my office, I thought about gender; when I stood in the classroom, I thought about gender. Finally, I realized I was thinking about gender every waking minute. There was no relief anymore, no moment when I was unaware of my estrangement from my skin.”

That’s really it, isn’t it? I think about it constantly. I am out and about once a month and that leaves 30 days... a total of 720 hours...43,200 minutes... to think of being out as Sophie but not be able to do so. (But who’s counting?)

Worth Waiting For?

I spoke to my therapist about the article (I forwarded it to her.) We had a good discussion. She forwarded it to two different therapy groups. One meets tonight, but I can’t go as I will be working.

Ms. Ladin writes many things in her article, but she has an amazing metaphor that stuck with me.

“Happiness was right there, all around me, like a fragrance, if only I would let myself breathe.

But, for me, being a man meant holding my breath. If I couldn’t breathe as myself, I wouldn’t breathe at all.”

When will I let myself breathe?

Can I?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So what happened last Saturday?

Last Saturday, I went to Angela's Laptop Lounge

If you've been following along, you'll remember that I wasn't going to go due to monetary reasons.  So I compromised.  I went in drab (dressed as a guy.)  I don't like going in drab, but I really wanted to see my friends.  I didn't spend much.

And I did see my friends.  Most of them know me in drab as well as when I am Sophie.  I also met new friends.  But something happened first.

I arrived around 9:30.  The event starts at 10, but there were some tgirls there already.  I bellied up to the bar.  There was a short guy to the left of me (1) with his beautiful blond girlfriend..  He was talking to another guy (2).  1 was trying to get 2 to have a shot of JD.  2 wasn't going to have any.  1 was VERY drunk and slurring badly.  He was shouting loudly "This guy's a pussy!  He won't have a shot with me!"  Over and over.

1 tapped me on the arm "Isn't that guy a pussy?  He won't do a sh-sh-shot!'

I replied "I think you've had enough.  I hope you're not driving!" 

He shouted back "What are you?  One of those gay trannys?"

Everyone in the place, trans and other, turned and looked.  Shit.

Now everyone is looking.  What would I do?  What could I do?

I turned to him and straightened.  "You have a problem?  You want some?"  I glared at him.  I didn't want a fight.  I'd outgrown bar fights when he was in diapers.  But I didn't have much of a choice.  He'd insulted my friends.

The blonde had her hands on 1's shoulder.  "No please he didn't mean it. I'm driving.  C'mon (name) lets go" she pleaded.

Suddenly, Andrew the owner/bartender was between us.  Andrew is tall and a big guy- strong.  His back was to me as he addressed 1.  "No one wants trouble.  Everyone is having a good time.  It's time for you to go."

And the blonde started pulling the guy out.  He put on his coat.  I offered my hand as a conciliatory gesture, and he accepted it.  They left out the front door into the mall.

I apologized to Andrew for the trouble.  He smiled and rolled his eyes.  "No problem" he said. 

This was a difficult position.  Everyone was watching.  I didn't want to be "The Guy" in this situation, but I didn't have a choice.  Honor demanded otherwise.

He Man?

It's been well documented how men with Gender Dysphoria usually try to prove their manhood to themselves and others by doing very Manly things, like joining the military, becoming police officers, etc.  I learned to fight, and I fought a lot.  I had a big mouth, and was very slight back then, so I often was challenged.  I never backed down. 

I felt that accepting that I am truly a woman inside would end my need to prove myself.  I found out I was wrong a couple years ago (wrote about it Here.)  I guess I still need to prove myself: not as a man, but as a woman.  Does that mean I will not defend my friends?  No.  I will always be there for them, however they need me.

I'm glad nothing really happened.  I didn't want a fight.  My battle is internal now.  How do I become the best woman- the best Person I can be?  And how will this affect my friends and loved ones?

That's going to be one hell of a fight.

Monday, March 5, 2012

For Fionnuala

As a comment to my last post, a blogger named Fionnuala took me to task about my relationship to my daughter.  I quote:

"It sounds to me, at least from what I found here, that you care far more about yourself and your crossdressing than you do your daughter.
Step up to your responsibility as a husband and a father. Be honest with your wife and stop doing whatever-it-is-you're-doing in these hotel rooms you rent while you lie to your wife, who is at home with your young child, about what you're doing."

I replied to her in the comments as well:

"You raise some very good points, Fionnuala. I also re-read what I wrote and all I can say is "Guilty."[cut]
As for my responsibility as a father, I have never shirked that. Most of my money goes to the family, and most of THAT to caring for my daughter.

As a husband? Well, I'm a bad husband and I know it. Does that make me a bad father? Maybe."

I've been thinking of what she wrote the past couple days.

My initial reaction was along the lines of "my relationship with my daughter is none of your fu**ing business."  And you know what?  I still think that.  But Fionnuala raises a good point, even if she misses mine:

Selfishness of parents, especially in this situation.  It will take me a bit to develop my point, so stay with me.

My daughter is four.  She is my only child, and will always be that as my wife and I will not have another.  I work two jobs to provide food for her and to save for her future education.   Pretty selfish of me I know.  BUT- I also spend money on my feminine life.  The feminine life that I hide from my wife, my family, and my friends, and especially my daughter.

I grew up in a one income household.  My dad busted his ass to provide for his family.  He worked swing-shift work, which meant he was often asleep or tired when I saw him.  I preferred him asleep because he used to beat the hell out of me and my brother.  he raised us in the way he was raised- "spare the rod, spoil the child."  His father was very abusive to him, and I'd bet that went up the generations.  My brother was known to beat on his girlfriends, but I don't know if he is violent toward his wife.  I don't think she'd tolerate that.

So, what did I learn from my dad?  Hard work and fear.  I have never forgotten those lessons.  My dad is now a broken down old man.  The effects of defoliants he was exposed to overseas are taking their toll.  I tower over him by four inches and am much stronger.  He can hardly walk.  He still terrifies me.

I swore long ago that I would break this cycle of abuse.  My solution- never have kids.  End the line.

My wife had other ideas, obviously.  After a miscarriage that nearly ended the marriage, she eventually became pregnant... while supposedly on the pill. 

So.  Now I'm a father.  My model for fatherhood?  An abusive bastard.  Great.  So what do I do?  Exactly the opposite of what he would in a given situation.  Being a father terrifies me.  If I screw up, it's not just my daughter that is affected, but her heirs as well.

My daughter was about a year old when I rediscovered myself.  So while trying to be a good dad, I also am learning to be the woman inside.

So, having been what everyone else expects/demands for 41 years of my life, is it selfish to discover who I am?  To learn about my true self?  I say it is not... but my daughter should not (and as far as it's in my power will not) suffer for it.  Many say that when a person becomes a parent, their life ends.  It's all about the kid from then on.  And I see the truth in there.  I counter with this- if my life is over, why continue it?  No, my life is NOT over.  It's fighting to begin.

Fionnuala says she sees a lot of selfish crossdressers ignoring their kids.  And that is probably true.  I've read her blog.  It's a passionate read, and tears at the heart.  I recommend it.  She is at a different stage in her life- she has had SRS and lives as a woman 24/7.  Her wife is fighting her tooth and nail for the children they both love.  So I understand why the very idea of someone ignoring their children would get her angry. 

I am NOT 24/7 yet.  Right now, my female time starts and ends in motel rooms.  When the time comes, and the fecal matter hits the rotating cooling device, I know my wife will fight hard to paint me as a freak and get total custody of my daughter.  And I will lack the financial resources to fight it. 

Do I love my daughter, Fionnuala?  Yes, I do.  Do I discuss this outside of my family?  No, I don't.  Why?  Because my family is no one else's business.  My blog is about my fem side, not about my family except for how it touches them- which right NOW it doesn't.  Except for the one night a month (sometimes two) I am away from them to be Sophie.  Am I just a crossdresser, using that night to cheat on my wife while wearing a dress in a sleazy motel room?  No.  I am on a journey- and my journey continues.  I am guessing that most of the people who read my blog understand that.  I have never cheated on my wife, unless you count myself as the other woman.  Do I cheat her of time?  Am I a bad husband?  You'd have to ask her. 

My daughter will learn of Sophie someday, that is true.  And she will have to deal with it as all the children of transgendered parents do.  I pray God gives her the strength.

I wish Fionnuala all the luck in the world.  That said, as for her judgment of my life based upon what little of it I share here?   I say Learn more about your target before judging.

To do otherwise?


Loving father?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Being Practical

Today is Saturday, and tonight is a Laptop Lounge.
So the plans were in place. I told my wife I was working. I reserved a room at Motel 6. I had my outfit picked out. And beforehand, I was going to go somewhere as Sophie. Be it the mall or wherever, I was going as a woman and expanding my horizons.

Wanna go to the mall?

Then I got sick.

Not horrible sick, but just a bad cold. And I looked at my bank account.

And I looked at my schedule.

And I cancelled my reservations and decided to stay in tonight. No Sophie time.

This was a very practical decision. After all, next week is the Raven party. The week after is my usual outing to Renaissance and third Saturday Laptop. And the week after that is the Keystone Conference.

A typical Sophie outing, including room and typical drinking, runs me about $200. If I get a makeover, add $80 to that.(I tip Amanda well.) Tonight I was doing my own makeup so that wasn't a consideration. Still, that's $200.

Then the Raven next week, then Rennaisance and  Laptop. Then Keystone.

Keystone. I've paid for it already, and the money is set aside for the room. Still that's four nights out with three dinners, then the bar scene. Oh, and if I go shopping? More.  And did I mention I'm presenting? 

I work two jobs, but realize maybe $250/week. The rest goes to family expenses. So going out crushes my weekly income. Then there's the storage space to pay.

So I made the absolutely practical decision here. I mean, besides, I feel sick so I won't enjoy it as much, and I don't want to get my friends sick. So I made the indisputable right choice.

Does this look like a practical woman to you?

So why is it that when I made this decision, I got very, very depressed.

An opportunity to be myself is passing and I'm not taking it. I could be out as a woman, learning and experiencing. But I'm not. I'll sit at home, practically grounded, with my wife, her mother, and my four year old. And while sitting there I'll know that my sisters are out having fun and being themselves without me.
I don't make sense. At all. Practice self denial tonight so I can have a better time later. And I understand that. But that doesn't make me feel any better.
Ah well. I'll get over it. I'll get over this cold and the depression. Tonight I'll have some wine at home and silently toast my sisters' health.

And next week I'll go to the Raven.

Quoth the Raven "Drinksomemore"