Sunday, March 31, 2013

Keystone Afterward

Two quick comments about the Keystone comment that I feel need reading.  

Both appear by the kind permission of their authors. 

"I read your column about the woman complaining to the manager and I felt compelled to tell you this short story:

Saturday night at Keystone I was walking to my room and I asked a woman from the kids soccer tournament what the kids thought of all this. She replied, "the kids understand and we sat them down and explained to them why there were men dressed as woman, please be respectful, etc." She then asked me if any of the kids had behaved badly toward any of us. I told her no, not at all, they've been great.

Quite the opposite attitude from the intolerant woman who was complaining to the Sheraton manager

Lisa Walker

(Lisa is a cartoonist.  I posted one of her works last year.  She sent 5 this year and I'll be posting them VERY soon!)

"It was eerie. When I close my eyes and think about the walk to the Dog & Pony on Sunday morning I swear I can hear dying echos of the most genuinely delightful laughter. It's like hearing ghosts from the past, Sophie."

Hayden Denton,  TCPA staff


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Early Sophie

I've mentioned before that I had a blog on Myspace before starting one here.

Remember Myspace?

I was never in anyone's Top 8.  At least not my drab self.   *Loser*

They changed their blog format and I hated it, so I switched here (following my good friend Kimberly.)

With Kimberly, July 2010

I closed down my Myspace account and I THOUGHT I scrubbed it.  But no, it was DRAB one that went away.  So, my blog there still existed.  The pictures were gone, but everything else was there.

So I transported them here.

A couple of them I've already reproduced in this blog (like the short story "Crying for Ogre") but most I haven't read in a long time.

So I read through them all.  There are 41 entries dating from 12/21/08 to 12/20/10.  So that's from just after my first time at Renaissance (and my first time out as Sophie) until two years later.  That time period encompasses two Keystone Conferences, multiple photo shoots, and the Empire Conference.

But more important (to me anyway,) they traced my confusion and growing realization of who I really am.  Most of the entries are quite short, but most address my basic identity in some way.

I've collected them into their own Blog separate from this one.  I currently call it "A Woman Named Sophie: The Myspace Blogs."  Really original I know.  I haven't decorated the page yet either.  I will sometime soon, with pictures from that time.

From my second Sophie outing: January 2009

So there they are.  In sequential order, without pictures.  A couple of the links I updated (changed from their Myspace counterparts) but that's all the editing I did.

When I switched over from Myspace to here, there was one thing that struck me.  I almost gave up on the blog because after two years of work... NO COMMENTS.  None.  Zip.  Nada.  I figured no one was reading it, so why bother?

But I didn't stop.  I needed to write to sort my thoughts.  And now I get comments.  :)  I like comments.  (Subtlety is not my strong suit.) And now I can trace my development and growth as a Woman.  And so can you.

Each entry is seperate there and can be commented upon.  I will not be adding to that blog (as this one is now my blog of record) but will reply to comments as needed.  And I will make it look better. 

So there you have it.  If you're interested (or a masochist) you can find it HERE.

I hope you enjoy it.  Or at least don't hate it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Major Problems

Well, my life became a LOT more complicated on Sunday. (3/24/13)

As some of you know, my Wife and I live with my wife's mother due to our inability to afford anything else, which directly correlates to my inability to find a "real job." We pay rent.

Mother in law (MIL) is in her 60s. She is a an extreme conservative. She is extremely racist and intolerant of any viewpoints that differ from her own. For example, she has two sons. One married a Latina, and the other a Filipino. MIL complained about "N****rs and ch**ks taking over this country" In FRONT of the Filipino. She didn't take that well. She has remarked to me on several
occasions that she regrets that she only has one "all white" grandchild (my daughter.) That always causes an argument as I point out her views are archaic and hurtful.


As usual on Sunday morning, my Wife, MIL, and my daughter went to church.  MIL does the babysitting there and is usually the last one home. And it was Palm Sunday, so I figured it would be a longer mass than usual.

So, I brought home some laundry leftover from Keystone. The "unmentionables" were in the wash when MIL arrived home a couple hours early. She went directly to the washing machine, which stopped seconds before she reached it. She opened it, pulled out everything, looked at them, put them in the dryer, turned to me and said "Interesting stuff."

I said I was selling it on eBay for someone. First excuse I could think of. As I sell things for her, I hoped it wasn't too much of a stretch.

After maybe 10 minutes, I pulled everything from the dryer, threw it in a bag, and went to their church, where my Wife and daughter were participating in an Easter Egg hunt.

When I arrived, I asked Wife if her mom had called. Not yet. I explained to her exactly what happened (Thank God she knows about me being TG) and asked her to confirm my story if asked. Literally FIVE seconds later, her phone rang. MIL.

Wife confirmed my story. She was on the phone for several minutes.

Turns out MIL didn't buy the story, and thinks I'm cheating on her. She was pressuring her to talk. I started texting people for help, including Dr. Osborne.

Needs Help.  Obviously.

After the Easter Egg hunt, we went home. MIL was just leaving for another babysitting job. MIL and Wife spoke a few minutes as I went inside with my daughter.

Wife came in a few minutes later, obviously rattled. She then said "I want to tell her about your crossdressing."

My stomach dropped out.

"I'd prefer if you let me think about that. She won't take it well and there will be fallout" I said. I have no illusions- she hates LGBT peoplePassionately.

"I can't take this. She thinks I'm being a fool."

We went back and forth a bit. She categorized being TG as being an addiction. I said it wasn't- that it is biological.

Dr. Osborne offered to meet with her, but can't until next week. Jen doesn't want to be part of the "Spouse support group" because "Why should I pay $50 to share my private life with people I don't know and don't want to know?"

I then left for work, a 4-9 shift. Her mom would be home at 7. I was visibly shaking my whole shift.

I'm a former paramedic. As I say a lot, I used to run into burning buildings with no fear. Yet now I was so scared. I was sure she'd spill everything to her mom before I returned home.

On my way home after work, I had to pull over and get sick. My stomach was a knot. I was more scared about this than I was telling my Wife about Sophie in the first place. At least there, I had some control in the situation, some options. Here, I was totally helpless.

I arrived home, and sat in the driveway a couple minutes, summoning my courage.

Then I went in.

MIL was already in bed. Wife asked why I was sitting out there. I told her I got sick on the way home. She asked "Is it because of me?" I said yes.

She sighed and said "I haven't told her. Yet. I probably won't."

 So I texted people. Asked people in my therapy group for advice. I even asked for prayers, as if I have the right to them.

Monday. I worked until 8. Wife was home before 6:30. That night was "DWTS" which MIL and Wife watch religiously. Would she spill?

Later that night, I was sitting on the couch back in our "living room" when Wife came back to join me.  She told me she HADN'T told her mom, but the topic came up.

She said "I told her you had a crossdresser friend named Mel who was in financial trouble, and you were selling this stuff to help them out.  He knows how intolerant you are and didn't want to hear you complain, so he fudged the story a little bit."

I told my "Big Sis" Mel this story.  She was amused by it.  (Wife met Mel once soon after I came out to her, when I invited Mel to dinner.)

Wife says MIL seemed to buy this story.

BUT...Knowing my relentless MIL, I don't think Wife will be able to hold out for long if she DOESN'T buy it.

As I mentioned, I'm scared. Very scared. It's like waiting for a bomb to go off, and knowing I can't do anything to stop it.

Things are going to change in my life in a BIG hurry.

I've messaged with some people about this as well.  Lisa Empanada summed it up perfectly when she wrote me "I am always afraid when I fear someone will find out, then after they don't I yearn for the liberation that I did not get."

And that's True.  The Die being cast.  Out. 

Dr. Osborne says I "need to control the narrative."  And I know that's Vital.

But what if I can't?

In a short story I wrote back in 1990, the narrator posited the question "What if you AREN'T the hero of your own story?  What if you're the villain, or worse- just a secondary character?"

I thought about that last night.  If I control the narrative, am I the Heroine?  the Villain?  Or just the Subject?

And does it matter?

This story is far from over.  My story is far from over.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Keystone Conference Part 3: Out Like a Lioness

This is Part 3 (hence the title.)  If you haven't read the other parts, you can find links below:

Part 1
Part 2

You don't need to read them first, but it helps. 

Caught up now?  Right.

Saturday morning was grey and sleeting.  I mean Sleeting HARD.  No one was going anywhere it seemed, which was fine by me.  That said the Hockey parents came and went as if it were a sunny summer day, hauling their kids over icy roads.  

I woke up fairly early, shaved, dressed, and put on my face, and went downstairs for breakfast.  I wore my favorite purple sweater.  Down in the restaurant, I bumped into Henry (I introduced you to him in Part 1).  He invited me to dine with him, and I did. 

We talked about his experiences as a trans-man.  Aside from the gender part of this, his story is similar to most Trans-women I know.  Knew from an early age, uncomfortable in his skin, etc.  he asked for advice on his presentation, which I gave, and vice versa.  It was a pleasant breakfast, after which he resumed his duties for the convention.

I ran into my dear friend Charlotte and her wife.  We walked around for a bit and talked.  I started sweating a LOT.  The hotel had cranked the heat a bit to counter the ice storm outside.  I excused myself to go change.  Charlotte said she'd save a seat for me at lunch.

I changed into a lighter top, reapplied deodorant, fixed my makeup, and went back downstairs.  I met some people.  Caught up with others, then went to lunch.  I couldn't find Charlotte (an hour later a text arrived from her, saying where she was sitting.  Thank you AT&T.)  As I couldn't find her, I sat with some other people.  Later Charlotte found me, saying she'd saved a seat.  I felt like an ass.

The lunch speaker was Mara Keisling, founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.  She's spoken at every Keystone so far.  This time she updated us all on what was accomplished last year, and what was on the docket this year.  She also mentioned that she was able to hug the First Lady!

 After her talk, I went over to say "Hi."  She remembered me from past years (and the fact that I applied for a job with NCTE), and was kind enough to pose for a picture with me.

Does Mara make me look Fat, or just my lack of corset?

I bounced around a while after lunch, connecting with some people who were there just for the day.  At 2, I went upstairs to wash off my makeup and prep for the night.  My appointment with Amanda Richards was at 3.

My gala dress this year was actually something given to me by Charlotte.  It was a little big (as she's taller than me) so I had Lorraine Anderson at Occasional Woman do her usual alteration magic.  I also bought a bolero jacket, as I hate spaghetti straps, and the jacket covered them.

I then went downstairs to the reception before the dinner.  Cassandra Storm took some more pictures.  She was kind enough to take one with my phone picture as well.

The Gala Dress, Pic by Cassandra Storm

In the bar, I bumped into a dear friend, the gorgeous and talented Lisa Empanada, who I bought a drink.  We fell into conversation with a Tgirl at the bar who was a lawyer.  Somehow she and Lisa started getting into a heated argument (the lawyer called Lisa "arrogant" for being an atheist.)  I tried to diffuse the spat, but it got worse.  Eventually, Lisa walked away.  I thought "Make sure to stay on her good side!"  I spoke a little more with the lawyer, then went to the dinner.

For weeks in advance, the ladies in my therapy group and I spoke of sitting together.  And many of us did, but several of the group sat elsewhere.  I was a bit disappointed, as I'd looked forward to this. I invited Henry to join us, as we had several empty seats.  At the beginning, there was a twenty minute slide show of a photographer's work, so the room darkened and loud music started playing.  Henry excused himself for a smoke.  There was now no one seated on either side of me.  Ambient noise gives me great difficulty these days, so there I sat in the dark.  Isolated by sound and distance from people a few feet away.

Eventually the slide show ended, the lights came up, and dinner was served.  It was good.  The dinner speaker was Dr. Jillian Weiss, Professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College of New Jersey.  her list of accomplishments is VERY long.  And she is a great speaker!

After dinner the room was cleared for the band to play.  I went to the bar, as I knew it would be LOUD, and there were people with whom I wanted to connect.  I bounced around there for a bit, and eventually settled in at a table with Dr. Ousterhout and staff.  He's always a riot!  other people joined the party there until the manager asked us to relocate to a "PDR"  so they could set up the restaurant for the

"Physician's Desk Reference?" asked Dr. Ousterhout.

 "Private Dining Room" was the reply.

At that point, it was 12:45.  My eyes were drooping.  I looked around.  The bar was crowded with Us and Hockey parents.  All were having a great time.  I walked over to the ballroom, where I saw the band packing up.  I felt just a little tipsy.  I still had to pack to leave.  So, reluctantly, I made my rounds and said good night. 

I went to my room, and slowly removed my heels, dress, hose, corset...  And looked in the mirror.  And frowned.  I then showered.

I then started packing things into the boxes I brought from my car earlier.  I drank water.  Eventually, I went to sleep.

The next morning was cold and dreary.  I showered again, but didn't shave.  I only brought one pair of guy clothes- the ones I wore up (and a change of boxers.)  I put on the guy clothes slowly.  It almost physically hurt to do so.  I packed the last of my boxes.  The last thing I packed were my wigs. 

As there were no carts available, it took six trips to get everything to my car.  Some folks offered to help, but I refused.  I didn't want this to be easy.  I didn't want it to be quick.

After the car was packed, I went to the bar and restaurant.  The bar was all but empty.  The restaurant full of Guys.  Some tgirls.  Many of the guys, well, they were like me.  Sullen.  Empty eyed.  I said goodbyes to those I recognized.  Some recognized me.  Some handshakes, some hugs.

I saw Tessa and her wife didn't recognize me (she's in my therapy group.)  Tessa said later that her wife "didn't recognize you in your man-suit until you smiled."

After scraping the ice from my car, I finally was on the road at 11:30.  It was raining.

Fitting , really.

So.  The 2013 Keystone Conference ended.  I spent a lot of time, energy and money on this event. 

To quote a segment of our population:  "What was the ROI?"  (Return on Investment)

This was the best Keystone Conference so far.  I had certain objectives for my growth, and did almost all of them.  I went out alone to a downtown area (which I will do again... in Philly.)  I met new people, and reconnected with old friends.  I presented a Topic, and achieved all my objectives with that.

In Keystones past, at night I would sleep in boxers.  TMI, I know.  Not this time.  From the time I dressed Tuesday until Sunday morning, I didn't so much as touch my drab clothes.  Total Sophie time. 

And it was RIGHT.

At Keystone this year, I confirmed to myself beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I AM a Woman. 

That I AM on the Right path for Me.

That I CAN contribute to our cause and to society as a Woman.

And that I have many, many wonderful people to help me along this path.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Keystone Conference Part 2: Wrath of Sophie

(If you haven't read part 1, that's HERE.  You don't need to do so, but there it is.)

Friday morning dawned cloudy and cold. 

I woke up several times during the night to go to the bathroom and to drink water.  My hangover set in during the night.  My only hangover of the conference. 


I rumbled into the shower, shaved, and made myself up.  I didn't want to waste too much time in bed.  I'd slept in as it was.  I'd been working so much the past few months that I kept oversleeping at the conference. Friday was the day Jennifer Finney Boylan was to speak and I wanted to be fresh and ready to meet her.  She'd agireed to sign my copy of one of her books, so I put that in my purse. 

It's a big purse.

 I bounced around downstairs a bit.  I was wearing a casual pink top and a denim skirt.  The past few days, when dressed casually, I hadn't been wearing my corset.  I made sure what I wore was at least a bit blousy.  I saved my corset for the nights and dresses when I needed an hourglass.  So I was far more comfortable, and sweat a LOT less.

Happy and Comfy

Before lunch, I saw Professor Boylan speaking to some people I knew.  I went over and was introduced.  She said to call her "Jenny" so I will from here on out.  We spoke for a few minutes about writing and I thanked her in advance for signing the book.  She said "Authors who don't sign books won't have readers.  Authors without readers have blogs."  I replied "Ouch" and she smiled at me.

In her speech she hit a nerve.  She talked about trans-activism, and how Telling our Stories is activism.  Showing our hearts and that we ARE people.  Well, as my masochistic 58 followers (Welcome Tessa!) know, I am very interested in Our stories. 

It's just a matter of the telling, and someone Will listen.  One heart, one mind at a time. 

After the lunch, I waited in line briefly for an opportunity to have her sign the book.  And she did!

Jenny has been one of my inspirations since before I re-discovered myself.  When I first heard of "She's Not There" I thought "I wish that were me- that I could take that journey."  Now, years later, I AM on that journey. 

Dreams come true if we have the courage to follow them, I guess.  Of course, I still have a way to go on this journey, but even starting it is a blessing.

After lunch, I met my "Big Sis" Mel in the bar, and gave her a room key (as she was staying with me.)  She was having lunch with a couple of her old friends. She was elegantly dressed in a black skirt and sweater ensemble. I bought her (and myself) a Macallan and sat with her for a bit.  She was having a wonderful time.  I also spoke briefly with Chloe Prince

I went to see Amanda Richards for Friday night makeup.  I decided to wear one of my favorite outfits, but... the skirt wouldn't fully zip up!  I last wore it in October, with hip pads, and while tight, it fit fine.  Since then I've lost lots of weight.  So why wouldn't the damn thing zip?  GRRR!!!

I went up to Amanda's room and the two of us labored to zip it.  No dice.  After struggling a couple minutes, she calmly said "Sophie, since you last wore this, your started hormones.  Do you think maybe some of your fat has shifted?"

So we gave up, and she did my makeup.

I then went back to my room and removed the hip pads.  And I looked at myself.  Things DID look just a little different.  Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I thought my thighs were a bit thicker and had a very slight curve.  I did a happy dance!

Without the pads, the skirt zipped right up.  Go figure.

Mel was asleep on the bed.  I found out later that she was quite sick.  Eventually it turned out to be food poisoning.  She decided to go home.  I was disappointed, but I understood.  She felt better a couple days later.

That night I went to Cafe Fresco again.  I sat with my dear friend Jone and with a couple of people I didn't know, but would discover to be simply amazing: Olivia Lauren and Jacqlyn Tressa.  I had such a wonderful time speaking with them! 

With Olivia at Cafe Fresno

After dinner there was another small snafu with the buses, but it was quickly sorted and we were soon back at the hotel. 

Now, during Thursday, a children's hockey tournament hit town, which meant parents and kids running about the hotel.  The kids were somewhere between eight and eleven.  Puberty was still a distant dream for them.  And here they were all thrown in with maybe 600 Transgender people.  The bar manager was a little concerned.  Not about Us, but about the Hockey parents and how they would react.  If you read the Prologue, you saw how one did.

I bring this up now as this was the first night both groups mingled in the bar.  Many of us were out late dancing in downtown Harrisburg, so there were only maybe fifty of us in the bar listening to the beautiful harmonies of Indian Summer Jars.

I took many more pictures and managed to hook up with some of the people in my support group.  I didn't drink.  I'd had a Shiraz at the restaurant that just wasn't sitting right and, for a change, I took the hint from my stomach.

I enjoyed hanging out with people, hearing stories of their night- their triumphs and basking in their Joy.  I watched a lot of Tgirls interacting with the Hockey parents.  All was well.  We were ambassadors.

You know, with all of us in that hotel with those kids, statistically at least one of them HAD to be like us.  And now they saw people like themselves; surviving, thriving.  And they now know they aren't alone.  That thought makes me smile.

Anyway, after a few more pictures, I went to bed. 

With the Gorgeous Lisa Empanada Friday Night

The Next Day was the last day... and the Gala. 

I wanted to be fresh and ready for that day.  I didn't want to miss any of it.

End of Part 2.

Part 3 HERE

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keystone Conference, Part 1

Ok, as I mentioned before, I attended the Keystone Conference last week.

My TG Forum column about it is HERE.  (Registration needed, but it's free.)

I am really still processing all that happened.  You know, getting it straight in my head.

I went to therapy this morning and discussed it with Dr. Osborne.  We discussed the conference (which she attended and at which she gave seminars) and some shared experiences there.

So, in effort to sort all this out in my head, and reach some conclusions about How the conference affected my development as a Woman and as a person, I'm going to write it all down here and attempt to make sense of it.

You lucky people!

In any case, I'll probably do this over multiple entries as I can definitely see two times when, for me, the tone of the conference changed.  There were moments of realization there.  Part 1 will be up to including one moment.  Part 2 will be to the second, as it were.  Part 3 will finish it up.

Chapter content subject to change without notice.  Offer void where prohibited.  Always wear your seat belt. Always read prospectus before investing.  Do not attempt this at home.  Deluxe model shown.  Fnord.

Anyway.  The Keystone Conference was last week- Thursday March 14- Saturday March 16, 2013, at the Sheraton Harrisburg/Hershey.  The conference is run by Trans-Central PA, who are a bunch of very hard working and dedicated people.  And dear friends as well.

So the conference started on Tuesday.  I registered last December and submitted my proposal for my presentation, which was accepted.  I'd be presenting at Keystone for the third time.  The title and basic objectives of the presentation would remain the same, but I had some different ideas for it.

Back in December I also reserved the hotel room.  I knew waiting would be bad.  I expected to room with my friend Jen, but she got her own room in case her wife came up again.  So I started saving in case I couldn't find another roomie.

So now it was time.  I arrived Tuesday night- two days early.  I just wanted more time, and to help set up.  And to get Away from well, everything.  And so I did.

Tuesday Afternoon Casual

I arrived and immediately changed.  Showered, Naired, shaved.  makeup.  Casual top.  Denim skirt.
Then off to get a pedicure at Lee Nails. 

Then to the Dog and Pony Bar... but first a stop at the room to drop off some things.

As I walked past the room next to mine the door opened. I saw a person in their late fifties, maybe five foot six with tired eyes, graying hair, and a battered ball cap. I smiled and said “hi.”
The person’s eyes lit up, and they said “Are you with the Conference?” I said that I was.

This person was one of us — here only for a couple nights. She would leave Wednesday night for work in Baltimore.

She had never been outside her hotel room as a woman — ever.

We spoke briefly, and I invited the person to the bar for a drink.  Her name was Miranda.  Turns out she reads my blog. In the bar, Miranda told me her story. Like many of us, she’d been dressing since a young age. In her case, she traveled a lot on business, so brought a few girl things along and would dress in her room.

“More of a hobby, really” she said.

When we arrived at the bar, the bar manager shouted my name across the room.  She remembered me from years past.  That made me feel wonderful. 

At the bar, I introduced her to a few people. We talked about those awful, terrible frightening first steps out the door. I told her about mine. She smiled sadly. After we ate, she disappeared. I told her I’d be in the bar later as well. I walked back to my room, and as I walked past hers, the door cracked open.



“Could you knock on my door in ten minutes?”

And I did. The woman who answered the door was petite with a cute black bob and wearing a black top with a denim skirt. She wore very modest heels. Her eyes showed none of the sadness I saw earlier. Here was a happy, vibrant, alive woman. I complimented her and her appearance. A few minutes later she walked out the hotel room door, and we spent much of the night in the bar, with Miranda meeting people, smiling and laughing.

The next night, Miranda had an appointment with Amanda Richards. She was going to Carabba’s for dinner with fifty other girls. I’d changed my reservation to a different place, as I’d heard good things about it. I saw Miranda in Amanda’s chair, being made beautiful for her dinner. She was beaming. She’d never before had a makeover.

I’m told she had a great time at the restaurant. And she was gone before dawn the next morning — her Keystone experience over. I’ll never forget her smile as she sat in Amanda’s chair.

Wednesday I woke up around 8.  Showered, shaved, and made up my face.  I took extra time, as I was on a mission that day.

Last year, I wanted to go to downtown Harrisburg alone, in my suit, and have lunch.  I didn't, as I was too afraid. 

This year, I did just that.

I put on my suit and looked in the mirror.  I'd lost weight since the last time I wore the suit- a year ago.  But it still fit.  I smiled, and the reflected woman smiled back.

On my way to my car, I bumped into Cassandra Storm.  She was carrying a large box and said that I just HAD to see what was in it.  Ok.  She and her mother (who helped her at the conference) unpacked the box and showed their fancy new lighted sign.

I was stunned!  Speechless!  She said she didn't think I'd mind as she knew I was a little more "out and about" than others. 

I've never been a cover girl before this.  Never imagined I COULD be one.  Yet there I was- my face in lights.

Perhaps she was trying to scare away business?  Or saying "If I can make HER look good, think what I can do for YOU?"

For the rest of the conference I was floating about, marvelling at the idea that a GG thought I was pretty enough to use on a very expensive sign. 

In any case, wearing the very suit in that picture, I drove to downtown Harrisburg and parked.  I walked across the sun- bathed street to Stocks on Second.  My shoulders were back and my head held high as I walked... and no one gave me a second look.  I sat at the bar and had lunch. 

At Stocks.  Bartender had shaky hands

As i ate, an old man sat at the end of the bar.  He was old and bald on top with long stringy gray hair- like a character from a Dickens novel.  The bartender called him "Louie" and made him a Manhattan up with beer chaser.  When i finished my lunch and paid, I started out.  he looked at me and said "Hello Gorgeous!"

I smiled at him.

Then I turned left out the door and walked around the block as planned.  My skirt was tight around my legs as I walked.  It was such a beautiful day, and I was so happy!  As I approached the Capitol Building, a man in a nice suit walked toward me and glared.  On his lapel was a pin in the shape of an elephant with "GOP" on it.  He was the only one to show any kind of disapproval on this trip.  And I take HIS glare as a badge of honor.

I smiled at him as well.

I returned to my car, drove back to the hotel and changed in to jeans and a t-shirt for the afternoon.  I helped people carry things in as they arrived.  I reconnected with people.  I was happy.

That night was an organized dinner.  The past few years there were impromptu trips, but enough people were around to make it a trip.  I went to the Devon Seafood Grill in Hershey, as I'd heard good things about it.  They set up a special room for us.  We got a few looks, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The staff was great and the food superb.

"What a Long Strange Trip it's Been"

Back at the hotel there was karaoke in the bar.  I sang "Truckin'" to the assembled throng.  See, there was a group of computer programmers there for the night- mostly Indians and Asians.  And they accepted the growing number of transgenders in the bar without complaint.  But they didn't sing along to the Grateful Dead, either.  When my dear friend Vanessa sang Joe Jackson, everyone joined in.  And she sang it so very very well.

I didn't drink much, as the next morning was my presentation.  I had a makeup appointment at 8 AM with Amanda Richards.  I wanted to look my best.

My topic was "Writing Transgender Fiction: Releasing your Inner Person."

I arrived at my assigned room.  There was my requested flip chart and markers.  I brought pens and note cards.  On the first page of the flip chart I wrote "Why are we here?"

Soon enough, I had seventeen people in the room and the chairs arraigned in a semi-circle.  To my mild surprise, there were five cisgender women and two cisgender men. 

I started by saying "Welcome to Advanced String Theory and Physics.  If you're not in here for this, you're in the wrong room." 

Polite laughter.

Then I flipped the flip chart page to "Writing TG Fiction."  Three women and one guy stood and said "oh, we thought this was Buddhism."  Well... I could see why! 

So in the end, I had thirteen people, including two cis women and one cis man.  I would learn that he was studying transgenderism to understand us for his practice as a social worker.  One of the women, I never found out about, but the other was the spouse of a TG woman.  She writes a blog on the topic, a link to which is HERE.  She has 77 followers to my 58, but I'm not jealous.  Really.  *grumble*

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and I think I was able to achieve the Learning Objectives I set.  (that's teacher jargon.)  ;)

Ready to Teach!

After the session, I went upstairs and had a photo session with Cassandra Storm.  Then lunch.

That night was the Casino trip, and I went again, if only to eat at the Final Cut.    I wore a low cut blouse and conservative black skirt.  During dinner, I told the waitress that it was Jennifur's birthday (something I do to someone every year- especially if it ISN'T their birthday).  She was shocked as they brought her dessert and we all sang loudly to her.

Yes, I'm a bitch.

I didn't gamble this time, but I did walk around the casino a bit.  There was a little confusion about the buses, but eventually I made it back to the hotel.  There I sang karaoke again, and had a couple more drinks with friends, including "Henry."

I met Henry at Laptop Lounge a couple months ago.  He's a trans-man, in his early thirties, and was one of the growing numbers of trans-men attending Keystone. He is a sharp dresser, slim, maybe five seven, with gelled blond hair. He spoke with an accent slightly flavored by the Heartland.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Henry was quite popular at the conference, as he was a member of the staff. He was everywhere — opening doors for ladies, smiling, laughing, and moving among others with an easy confidence.

I also drank with a very nice TG at the bar.  We spoke a bit on the bus back and continued in the bar.  The topic quickly became politics.  I once again was questioning WHY, WHY, WHY any trans-person supports the GOP when they actively want us to be stripped of what rights we have, or worse.  We discussed Bush's illegal war, and I started to cry. 

I lost two friends in that war, but that's not the reason I cried.  As a guy, I NEVER cry.  Ever.  Just my emotions got the better of me.  I learned an important lesson:  Hormones and alcohol don't mix.

Emotional Wreck

Later that night, I encountered a spot of difficulty in the bar with a rather aggressive admirer.  Just after last call, a blond GG tapped my shoulder and said she wanted to buy me a drink.  I never saw her before (or since.)  I thanked her, but said the bar was closing and I'd had enough already.

She called the bartender over and ordered us both shots of flavored rum.  I smiled, rolled my eyes and drank it.  That's when I noticed her boyfriend.  To my drunk eyes he looked like a young, tall Andy Garcia.  He was an Italian national and his English was broken.  And he was laying it on thick.

"You are so beautiful!  A Woman among girls!"

"I'm married" I said.

"Ah, you are a married MAN, but not a married WOMAN!"

"I am married."

he kept inching closer.  Gazing into my eyes.  I looked back at him, choosing targets in case this were to become... uncomfortable.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't flattered by the attention, though.  He touched my hair... tried to kiss me...

Before I had a chance to react, Henry and another trans-man were between the Italian and myself. The other guy, all five foot seven of him, was in the man’s face as Henry gently escorted me through the nearby bar door. Outside in the lobby, I steadied myself on my heels, staggered a bit, and thanked him for his courtesy. I told him I could handle myself. He smiled, and reminded me that not only was I drunk, but I was wearing heels which were not suited to a bar fight.

That's when one of my hip pads plopped to the floor.  With all the drunken dignity I could muster, I picked it up. 

He then offered his arm, and escorted me back to my room.  At my door, I kissed him in the cheek and thanked him, inadvertently leaving a lipstick mark.  I then safely went into my room and plopped onto my bed.  I'm told he took a little ribbing for that lipstick on his cheek, but he took it in stride.

I lay on my bed, looking at the ceiling.  The next day my Big Sis would be coming up and staying in the room with me.  There would be more sessions, and I'd meet Jennifer Finney Boylan.  I was drunk, but the room wasn't spinning.  I looked around, and started tidying up.  After all, I wouldn't want Big Sis to think me a slob.

And I thought about the night.  I thought about my Tears.  I thought about my Destination.  My eyes began to mist again, but this time with happiness.  I was on my way.  I'd grown so much in a year. 

I WILL be a Woman, Body and Soul.

It will just take Time.

End Part 1

Part 2 HERE

Part 3 HERE


Monday, March 18, 2013

Keystone Prologue: Why we Need Conferences

I attended the Keystone Conference in Harrisburg, PA this past week.  I'll be writing a LOT about it in the coming days.  In fact, I already have a TG Forum column on it (registration necessary, but it's free).

During and right after the conference, I found the following bits on Facebook.  They are reproduced here, unedited, by the kind permission of their authors.  The facebook posts are italicized.

Posted Friday, March 15, 2013 at 1:46 PM by Amanda Farren

Funny story. We were at the casino last night. I passed through security and immediately an older woman holding some sort of gambling can. She grabbed my arm and said worriedly, "Honey, you better be on guard, (looks around whispering) there are men walking around dressed as women." I said, "Noo, really? That's odd, hmm. Well maybe they like to have fun too." She replied, "Well just be on alert." I whispered, "OK, I will."

(Amanda is a beautiful woman and has a great sense of humor.  I met her briefly at Keystone, and I wish I'd had more time to speak with her more than I did.)

Posted Sunday March 17, 2013 at 3:19 PM by Kristyn King

At Keystone Conference, and had a GREAT time....till checkout. I went up to ask for a manager, to express my thanks, for having us, and being open minded, as well as to thank his staff, as they ALL treated us great. When i got to the desk, though, a woman was aready in his face, in Mid-Rant, about us. So I had to listen to a 10 minute tirade, about how could the hotel, subject, their kids to such depreavity, and have been put in the same hallway, as those things! She wanted money off her room charge (no suprise there) she wanted another manager, as this one wasn't agreeing with her, she wanted the event managers #, as SHE would understand what "we" were doing to her kids. However, after being compaired to axe murderers, pedofiles, and other fine things...I had enough of biting my tongue (clean off, by now!)...I had to confront her. So, what was SO bad, that she was this bent?? Not missing a beat, she says, Im not talking to you, "sir"!...and continued spewing. Well, now Im ready to club her, like a baby seal! But, the manager, bless him, put his foot down, and very calmly told her, she could call corperate in the morning, she could complain to the event people, but she was NOT getting any discount. People, like this woman, are the EXACT reason, we need to get together in places, and events like this, to combat this type of thinking and abuse!
Kristyn is a dear friend and is President of South Eastern PA Renaissance Transgender Education Association, of which I am a member.
I just called the Sheraton Harrisburg and spoke to the manager on duty about the incident described above. I told him that I REALLY appreciated that the manager stood up for the attendees of the conference and Trans-people in general the way he did.
The manager, Dan, was very happy to get this call and told me that the manager in question was Andrew Lee. I am writing a letter to Sheraton Corporate about his bravery and for taking a stand for Us. 
I encourage others to do so as well.
Or just call. Sheraton Harrisburg 717-564-5511.
If local, please patronize the hotel and its bar to show support.
Contact the Sheraton Corporate HERE
I'll post more about the conference as fast as I can organize my thoughts.
Friday night at Keystone 2013
 Complete Keystone Blogs
Part 1 HERE
Part 2 HERE
Part 3 HERE

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend in Delaware

Well, I wasn't going to write until after Keystone, but I felt like I should.

Sometimes I hate being right.  I'll explain.

So on Friday I drove down to southern Delaware with my wife, dog, and daughter.  I hadn't seen my parents in months (intentionally) and they were pestering me to see their granddaughter.  And that's fair.  just because I don't want to see them doesn't mean she shouldn't.

So we drove down Friday morning through the rain and snow.  It was a pleasant enough ride as there was little traffic.  We stopped for lunch in Midway then went to my parents.

They told me there was some flooding on the road, as there often is after a major storm.  They also said the house was untouched from Sandy.  That was true.

Swamp overflow.  This was low tide.

However their pier was totally destroyed. 

My parents live on a bay, and used to own a boat.  They docked it at this pier.  Back in the early 90s, all males of my extended family were conscripted to replace this pier, bit by bit over a few years (always during the spring.)  I hated it.  Wading through foot deep smelly mud and hauling heavy wooden poles was not my idea of fun, especially with my dad (and my aunt, who watched from shore) berating my strength and inability to build things.  But over the course of three years, it was completely finished. 

And in one day the battered aging pier was gone.

So my parents spent $30,000 replacing it.  Piers aren't insurable.

Thirty thousand dollars worth of Wood

At first I wondered "why have a pier when you sold the boat?"  Then I thought of it- THEY don't, but whomever owns the house next might.  And that pier would make a great selling point.

In any case, we all went to dinner, then went back to their place.  I took the dog for walk just to get out of the house (which they keep heated to 80 degrees year round.)   My mum and my daughter watched Brave which my mum hadn't seen. 

She kept saying "There's no bears in Scotland!"  I said "because these guys killed them all." (Mum grew up in Scotland, and still speaks with a heavy brogue infused with Gaelic.)

After that, we put my daughter to bed, and my mum and I watched Skyfall, which she also hadn't seen.  When Javier Bardim makes his big entrance, my mum scoffed and said "oh, is he gay?"

I said "what if he is?  So what?"

"Ach.  That's horrid!  The only thing worse is a tranny."

Only thing worse than a Bond Villain

So.  I mentioned that I hated being right.  I have maintained to all who listen that coming out to my parents would mean being disowned by them.  Some scoffed, as I said the same about my Wife, but I was wrong about that one. 

And my proof struck me between the eyes Friday night.  As she had been drinking (so was I- I'd had a couple glasses of wine), I decided that this was not the time to attempt to educate her.

I said "They're just people.  All of them."

She sneered.

As I mentioned previously, she often told me "You're useless," "you were a mistake," and "we didn't want you" as I was growing up. 

So Friday night, she added another insult to the pile.  How did that make me feel?  I didn't feel a thing.  I expected it.  I detached from my parents long ago.  I guess I SHOULD feel bad- another layer of pain. 


Saturday Morning

Saturday we took my parents to lunch in Rehoboth, then took our leave.  We headed south to Bethany Beach to walk around.  The beach was closed and boarded off.  That's because the beach was gone- washed away

I drove us home as the sun began to set.  My daughter fell asleep in her child-booster seat.  My wife played solitaire on her phone.  And I was lost in thought.

Friday night at dinner, I sat across from my mum.  Now, I've been on HRT for three months.  My parents haven't seen me in a long time, during which I've lost weight.  Oh, and my hair has been growing.  They commented on that, disapprovingly.

Did they comment on any change aside from my hair?  At one point during dinner, my mum looked at me strangely and told me to take off my glasses (in drab mode, I wear glasses.)  She looked at me closely. 

"Why do you have dark circles under your eyes?" she asked.

"I work seventy hour weeks and have a five year old."

And one hell of a fact that I'm keeping from most people in the world.  Especially my parents.

For now anyway. 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thoroughly Thursday Thoughts

Next week is the Keystone Conference.  After all the waiting, saving, and dieting (yeah right), it'll be several days as Myself among old friends and ones I haven't yet met.

My Seminar is pretty much ready.  I have a couple of ideas for ways to do it differently from last year.  Whether they'll work or not...

I'm pretty comfortable doing these seminars.  It's easier for me to do them in a skirt than in drab clothes!  I feel more alive and I think it helps my teaching style.  I guess it helped during my interview last week, but who knows?  Cassandra Storm (photographer for last year and this year's Keystone Conference) took some wonderful pics of me teaching last year.  Here's one of them.

I think at that particular moment I was discussing the "Chopped off length of the Tapeworm of Time."  Really!  :)  It's an E.M. Forster concept from Aspects of the Novel

Cassandra is a Wonderful photographer and puts a person at ease.  if you get a chance (and you're in PA) she's worth the visit!

I still have some shopping to do for the conference.  I need makeup remover wipes for one.  Some Kiss Nails.  Nair.  Dark red nail polish. 

In other news, I've seen several posts from people on Facebook about how they're wanting to "break away" from the whole TG world and just Be.  One dear friend in particular had an eloquent post which caused an interesting discussion in the comments under it.  Right Lisa?  ;)

I have mixed feelings on this, and I'm sure I'll go into more depth someday on another entry.  My first reaction is total jealousy.  I wish I could just assimilate into Womanhood seamlessly, and live a fulfilled life as Myself.  But the reality is this- even with voice lessons, FFS, etc, I will always be clocked by someone.  Maybe not ALL the time, but it will happen.  I'll always be an outsider looking in.  And when I see a Transwoman who CAN go stealth (like those who transition in their teens, or Lisa) I wonder what could've been.  What SHOULD'VE been.

Then the other side of me says "Well isn't that a bit selfish?  Couldn't they help a another sister through their journey?"  I have been helped by many Transitioned Women.  Some are just inspirations whom I haven't yet met, others are heroines whom I have met; like Donna Rose, Mara Keisling, and Chloe Prince.  (And next week I hope to meet Jennifer Boylan!)

But Especially my "Big Sis" Mel.  She is stealth, and only comes to TG events to support me.  (She does conferences to reconnect with friends, though.)  I say this a lot, but it's true: without her, I don't know where I would be on this journey.  I owe her a lot.

And I feel obligated to pass on that knowledge- to help others who are on this crazy ride.  Maybe it's just that whole "helping others" part of my personality.  You know- the one that compelled me to go into Education, to be a paramedic, etc.  In any case, by helping others along, maybe I can pay the debt I owe to those who came before me.  That said, I read This Article which says that in the future a TG won't be easily identified- that those of us who can be clocked are "Gender Dinosaurs." 

Did I mention that "jealousy" thing already?  Ok, just making sure.

Shifting Gears again.  I've been IMing with a new friend, whom I'll call "A."  She is out to her supportive wife and two of her five children.  However, her wife is concerned about "how far" being A will go.  Will she transition, and what does this mean to the family?

Wow.  Wish I had some answers for her.  I pointed out that my wife was quite clear about things- I get the surgery and it's over.  And yet I move forward anyway.  It's not like I have a choice really.  Once I realized that I'm a Woman, there was no turning back.  I don't know how I'll tell my daughter.  A told me how she told her two daughters.  And I know how my Big Sis told her kids.  And I've read how others have done it.  Seems like the answers are as individual as the people involved.  There's no right way.

And that is so scary.

And speaking of Transition, if you're anywhere in the TG rainbow, you should read this Great Piece.

Does anyone look at my links?  To see if I'm actually linking to stuff?

So next week is Keystone, so I won't be posting anything until it's over.  Probably.  Then I'll be posting about it here and at TG Forum.  And I'll have another Seminar under my belt.

Class is in Session!  (Photoshopped)

And more stories.

And maybe I'll have a picture or two.  Just maybe.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ruby Tuesdays on a Thursday

As my loyal 57 know (yes, there are now FIFTY SEVEN of you!) I've been in therapy for years. 

Part of this sort of therapy is group therapy.  As such I belong to a group.  (I also attend a non- medical Trans support group:  Renaissance.)

The idea is to meet with people who have the same issues I do, and discuss them openly.  I'm very fortunate that our group has a great cross-section of different people.  I've learned so much from them.

In any case, a member of our group is moving away to North Carolina- sailing into retirement.  I'll call her "K."

K is a wonderful, caring person who is very open with support and shares her considerable wisdom with the group.  We will all miss her.

Usually after the group session, a few of us go to a local restaurant, usually Ruby Tuesdays to socialize.

As I usually attend coming directly from work (and always late as the meeting begins the exact minute I finish at my second job), I am always in drab.  Usually most people are presenting as female. 

So with K leaving, everyone decided (via various modes of communication) to take her out for one last night.  K had never seen me en femme, and I really wanted her to see my True Self.  So I left work an hour early and parked behind the building where we meet.  There I changed and did my makeup.

Ever done makeup in a dark car using only your interior light and the rear view mirror?  Well this was my first time.

I did my makeup in 40 minutes.  Yes, I was flying and skipping steps... and it showed.  Oh well.

At Ruby Tuesdays in Forgiving Lighting

I walked into the meeting a few minutes late (as usual) but this time I was Sophie outside as well as in.  No one even missed a beat or blinked.  After all, it was just me.

The meeting went well, as we discussed the topic at hand (How do we see Gender, and where do we see ourselves on our paths.)  We had a new person this time ("M"), and a good turn out of our regulars.  That said, there were a couple unfortunate absences due to life events, and they were missed.

The group presented K with a commemorative plate with an Irish blessing.  K read it out loud, her voice choked with emotion.  A powerful moment for us all.

From there, we adjourned and eight of us went to the nearby Ruby Tuesdays.  As we've gone there many times, the staff were very welcoming.  We tend to get the same waiter, and he treats us as he would any group of people- with respect. That's so comforting.  He also remembered people's usual drink orders, which is a MAJOR plus.

We sat and ate and had drinks (I had two light drinks with food and water), laughed and had a great time.  I sat next to M and learned a lot about her.  Across from me was the person who'd been with the group the longest ("R"), and the conversation was wonderful.  M had lots of questions about the journey.  I answered some but deferred usually to R, as she's been on the path far longer than I have.

We toasted K and had a wonderful experience.  Too soon, I had to leave, as I needed to clean up and get home by a certain time.  By then most of us were ready to go as well so we all left together.  I said my goodbyes and hugged K.

As I cleaned off my makeup in the car, I saw K under one of the lights of the parking lot speaking with a few people.  She didn't want the night to end.  None of us did.  I watched as she hugged others goodbye, and drove off into the night.

In her car was the plate she received, a token of the love we have for her.  The plate which reads:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

K will be missed.  And the journey continues.  The beat goes on.


Interview. Film at 11

I had a Job interview last Tuesday. 

I haven't done well with interviews in the past few years. 

The job is in my field: Education, and is in a corporate setting.

I was really worried about the interview, as I'm on a losing streak.  I had lots of negativity.  My therapist suggested I "be Sophie" in the interview.  I replied "I'm always Sophie."  She meant that I could tap into the confidence I show when I'm out and about as a woman.  Easier said than done.

My initial idea for helping this along was to wear pantyhose under my suit.  As I had to work at my retail job before the interview, I wore them to work.  I was really busy resetting displays, and was sweating.  When I changed into my suit, I removed the hose. 

On to Plan B.  Instead of my drab navy blue guy suit, I imagined I was wearing my gray skirt suit that I love so much.  That really helped.

Would You hire me?

I entered the building and quickly found the office where the interview was conducted.  The interview was "assessment style" which means I had to develop a piece of instruction from scratch.  Three others were doing the same.  One of the other applicants worked for the company previously and left to raise kids, and she was really sharp (I'll call her "the Mom.")

We were required to use a laptop computer.  As I don't own one (I'm poor), they loaned me one.  We would have an hour to throw something together, them we were to present our ideas to the other interviewees, and to two "high up the food chain" types.  The presentation was to be done on power point.

We were given the test parameters.  We were to create Business Etiquette training for two hundred new salespeople at a major pharmaceutical corporation.  Last minute questions were answered and we all went to work...

... and my borrowed laptop didn't work.

An IT person came in and worked on it.  I started outlining my learning objectives and sketching out ideas for storyboards.

In the end, I lost 15 minutes of work time.  The person in charge said that my difficulty wouldn't be held against me.

We presented our pieces (and defended the methodology) were then peer reviewed by the other applicants and two higher up the food chain designers (to be referred to as "BC1" and "BC2") (Oh, BC mans "Big Cheese" in this case.) (Hey, I'm writing this- you're not.)  Both are in my line of work, and hold the same masters degree I do.

As my second job is at a World Class University, I keep abreast of the latest theories in my chosen profession.  Go figure- this sort of thing fascinates me.  I'll get back to this.

Time ran out, and while I had something to present, I was worried that it wouldn't be enough.  The one guy ("the Guy") in the interview group did his presentation first.  He was an OK speaker, and based his entire presentation on humor.  "BC1"hated the idea of using so much humor, and cited some studies about humor use in training. 

The second person to present was "the Mom."  Her report was crisp, and her presentation skills were impressive.  Her slide style was really good.  I was seriously out-classed. And she was wearing a beautiful navy pantsuit with a white silk blouse.  Great outfit!

I went third. 

I started by pointing out that the target audience were Salespeople (who I have experience training) and that as a general guideline, they are Type A people who will think they know more about the topic than any training program.  They tend to be very self confident (and would be useless as salespeople otherwise) and very driven.  None of my competitors mentioned any analysis of the learners. 

Ok, so I'd be doing a training about soft skills as a Computer Based training.  That's pretty much a "shouldn't happen" as soft skills are better taught with guided practice.  I told the BCs this and said that I'd be using a DIFFERENT theory as the basis of my presentation.  I named the theory, the person who created it, and the university where he works.  My competitors had blank looks on their faces, but the BCs smiled and nodded in agreement.  They knew what I was saying!

Yes, I played the "I know more than you do" card.

Me got book lernin

I then described my idea, and went through my slides.  My competitors reviewed my work, then the BCs did.  BC1 said "Obviously you are thoroughly grounded in theory, which is really good!'  They had a few questions about why I used the theory I did, and some other questions . 

 The fourth person, well... she was, um.. well dressed.

I think I did well, but Mom really rocked it.  objectively, if I were doing the hiring, I'd hire her over me.

So it was no surprise this afternoon when I received a call from the company saying "We're going in a different direction than your skill set' which is code for "you suck."

C'est la Vie.

Next week is the Keystone Conference.  I'm counting the hours...