Sunday, June 2, 2013


Baltimore, Maryland (known to locals as "Bawl-mer: home of the Oreos baseball team").  I lived there for nine years.  I owned my only house in a suburb of the city.  I was there when the GID began forcing its way back into the forefront of my mind.

I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2003, when my job there was eliminated.  I'd only gone back twice- both times for weddings. 

Friday, May 31, 2013.  The original plan was to go to an Orioles game with my dear friend Lisa Empanada.  The plans changed, but I was still going down to visit.  I made hotel reservations in White Marsh, which is a northeastern suburb right off of I-95, and some other arrangements.

At 10 AM, I was dressed in a casual pink t-shirt and denim short and sitting in Amanda Richards' chair. No breast forms.  I wanted to look my best for this day.  I knew it would be important.

At 11:30, it was 92 degrees, and I was headed south.  I decided to stop at Blue Pacific for a quick lunch, and my "Big Sis" Mel joined me.  We talked about baseball, books, and my plans for the day and the immediate future. 

At 1 PM, I headed south on I-95 toward Baltimore.  I stopped at a large rest stop in Delaware to use the restroom.  I used the family one, as it was the closest.  No one even gave me a second look.  I didn't give it a second thought.  Just another woman travelling on a steamy hot day.

I arrived at the hotel at 4 PM and checked in.  Two old ladies decided to form a different line then the one I was in at registration, and when the next person became available, she called the old ladies to approach.  They pointed at me and said "I think she was here first."  I smiled and thanked them.  Inside, I jumped for joy.

After putting my things into the room and unpacking just a little, I freshened my makeup and drove the short distance to the Avenue at White Marsh.  By then, it was 95 degrees out and very humid. 

When I lived in Baltimore, I used to come to the Avenue a LOT... for movies, the bookstore, and the restaurants.  One in particular was a brew pub called Red Brick Station.  I was one of the first members of the Mug Club (mug #84)

My drab self (whom I will henceforth refer to as the random letter "L") was well known to the staff, and Wife's cousin worked there as a waitress.  But all of that was ten years ago.  I wanted to go there as my true self.  I wondered how I'd feel doing that.

Well, I walked through the door and to the bar, where I sat at a table.  What did I feel?  Like I walked into a bar and sat down.  Nothing special.  No fear.  Just like it always was. "A girl walks into a bar..."

I sat at the table and had a glass of pinot grigio.  It was happy hour, but the place had empty seats.  That was odd.  I looked to my right, and saw a familiar face enter the bar area: a former co-worker at my Baltimore job, carrying an infant and followed by a woman (I assume the mother.)

A year ago, this would've been one of my Greatest Fears- being seen out as Sophie by someone who knows L.  I looked directly at him, but he didn't give me a second look.  He was busy looking for a table.  He wasn't looking for L, especially not L dressed as a woman.  So he didn't see me.  He saw just another person.  Maybe he saw a transgender person, maybe not.   

My heart didn't even skip a beat.  It simply didn't matter.

I had a pint of Honeygo Light (one of their beers) after the wine, then left.  I needed to get ready for the Night.
Bar Fly at Red Brick
I went back to the hotel, painted my toe nails, and took my makeup from "day" to "night."  I changed into a short LBD, and I was ready.  Lisa was waiting in her car by the door. 
She drove us into the city, showing me around areas I haven't seen in a decade.  It's amazing how much has changed!  She showed me the places she hangs out, then we went to dinner at a new place called WaterStone Bar and Grille.
Lisa is a great conversationalist.  We discussed many things, some deeply personal.  We covered a lot of ground, especially Identity and coping skills.

We discussed who we were and who we are. 

Her story is hers to tell, so I will not do so.  We discussed who I was as L.  As L, I had Zero self confidence. I thought I was pond scum. I was a freak. Once I understood that I am Sophie, my confidence began to grow.
I told this to Lisa. I was bemoaning how L is really a horrible person and how I passionately hate having to be him. She looked at me, half smiled and asked in a matter of fact way "Would you, as Sophie, a woman, go out with L?" And I looked at her. I thought for a moment and said "Yes.  Yes I would. Because when you come down to it, He is a good person- a caring person. He would do anything for those he cares about." Lisa smiled and said "So you hate L, and see him as such a horrible person... but as a woman, you see the good qualities, and would date him."
I was floored.
Sometimes it takes a Friend's perspective to realize your own worth.
A little later, we discussed dealing with Life.  Lisa said her philosophy is this (I'm paraphrasing.)  "Things are either a burden, a challenge, or an opportunity.  And I get to choose which.  I decide if something is a burden, or if I will see it as a challenge, or if it is an opportunity." 

She gave a few examples.  I thought of a few of my own.  I have so many Burdens.  What if I can change my way of thinking about them?  Some I believe will always be burdens- watching people die horribly comes to mind. 
Being Transgender is NOT a burden.  Maybe it was at one time, but now it is both a Challenge and an Opportunity. 
Lisa is an amazing person.  Her strength is boundless.  Her beauty flawless.  And her Wisdom outshines both.
We finished dinner, and headed over to one of Lisa's haunts, a place called Hippos.  Hippos has three rooms- a large bar is in one, there is a nightclub in another, which Lisa said was "typically dark, loud and smoky" so I didn't go into there.  In the third room, there was a smaller bar and karaoke.  It was there we would spend most of the rest of the night.
I'd been practicing my feminine voice for months and I used it all day.  I like doing karaoke, but I usually sing in my male register.  Badly.  This time I determined I would sing in my feminine register and I selected songs that fit that.
I would be the fourth person up.  The three ahead of me?  Absolutely amazing.  They had to be pros.  All three sang show tunes as if they belonged on Broadway.  Then there was me.
I stepped up on the small stage and figured "ok, do your best, have fun, and enjoy the moment." Then I didn't turn on the microphone.  Oops.  Someone helped me with that.
My first song was  Joe Jackson's "Is She really Going Out with Him?"  My friend Vanessa rocked this one at Keystone.  I think I did well enough, and people were encouraging.  Singing in my feminine register came naturally and I think I sound better singing as a woman.  I can't say if my audience thought so or not.
Then back to the pros.  More show tunes.  The table next to us had several people, one of whom was singing along.  He asked why I wasn't singing along as well.  I said I didn't know the song.  He shouted "And you call yourself gay?" and went back to his drink.  Lisa and I laughed.
My next song was the Grateful Dead's "Ripple."  Turns out that my questioner was a huge Dead head.  He joined me onstage halfway through the song to sing along.
After the song, he had a few other questions about my musical tastes, then he said "You ARE gay aren't you?"  "I'm Trans!" I said proudly.  He laughed and said "That explains why you don't know show tunes!  Ok, you get a pass!"
Ok, who gave her a drink?
Later I sang Elvis Costello's "Olivers Army".  I was the last person of the night with Shania Twain's "Man I feel Like a Woman."   Yes, I did the cliche.  At Lisa's suggestion, I changed the words to "Man I KNOW I'm a woman" for the last few refrains.  Only five people were left to hear me mutilate that song as my voice gave out.  One of the women in the audience helped me out by dueting with me and singing the high parts.
So by the end of the night, I'd had maybe eight drinks.  And some water.  I was hammered... and not driving.  I fell asleep in the car back to the hotel.  I cleaned up a bit and went to bed at 2:30.  My wake up call was seven.  I had to be at work at ten.
I was five minutes late.
I spent Saturday hung-over and having a "Pink Hangover."  On my way home, my cousin B from Scotland called me and we chatted a bit.  I reflected on what Lisa had to say, and how I could apply it all going forward. 
I had a Wonderful, Affirming time.  I visited places that meant something to me as a Woman for the first time... but not the last.  Lisa was a wonderful Hostess and is a great friend, and I have her to thank for an amazing day and night.
Being Sophie is easy now.  That wasn't always the case, but it is now.  My Opportunity is to be the best woman I can be- and to Live my Life.  Being L is a challenge.  The challenge is how to be L and Sophie until the time comes that L disappears.
B said it to me on the phone and in a message:
"Another wee thought, remember L and you have shared that body for 46yrs ,high time Sophie came out of the shadows, it's her time now, I believe in 50/50 and L has had his fair share ,so step forward Sophie, the daughter, sister ,parent ,cousin, Aunt , who has been waiting in the wings:)"
The night in "Bawl-Mer" has provided more stepping stones to that time.  Thanks again Lisa!


  1. Sophie
    When I do go out the goal is to have a wonderful, affirming time. Every time that occurs we garner strenght from that continued affirmation that we are doing alright.

    That night that you and I met for about a nanosecond at Jen's party at the Raven the crew in the back room spent the night singing show tunes. It seemed like most of the regulars knew all the words. That must be more than a coincidence.

    Last week I had a similar experience to your karaoke night in Bawl-Mer. There is a small LGBT bar that I go to near where I live. Usually I will go either on a Wednesday for Drag Bingo or Thursday for karaoke. Last Thursday I went. Normally I go early and leave early but the weather was so hot that I just did not have the energy to dress and go out but after dark things cooled and I pulled myself together and went.

    Some of the regulars commented that I was 'already past my bedtime' which is my normal line for leaving early. I was not expecting to sing since I only planned to stay for one drink and typically the line up of submitted songs gets long quickly. Joanne, who runs the karaoke and knows that I leave early called me up and we played the first song that I ever sang karaoke style, Dylan's "Just Like a Woman". It is a fun song for me and it can be sung with a limited vocal range.

    Before leaving I had a nice conversation with a few guys that I had seen there before. They automatically assumed I am an older, single gay guy and after a few minutes of conversation I explained that I was a very happily married totally heterosexual trans and that I just like dressing and getting out and about. I suppose it is a form of outreach.


  2. you see being Sophie is easy ONLY because you have come to accept who you are. this has given you confidence.
    i mus say that is a really great photo of you in pink at the counter or table there in the 2nd photo there.