Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Blood: My Cousin Knew???

As I mention...often... I have Scots blood.  My mum is a Scots national, and she married my dad, an American soldier.  A couple years later, they got me- their youngest of two- the "mistake."  My mum and her sister both came to the US; the rest of her family remain in Scotland.  All who remain now are her older brother and his family.  He has two children, a girl and a boy.  She is a little older than me, he is younger.  I last saw them in 1972, which was the last time I was in Scotland.  I was five years old.  I already knew I was different then.

So, I told my first blood family member.  My female Scots cousin, whom I will refer to as "B."

B and I are Facebook (FB) friends.  We trade messages when we can, and very occasionally speak on the phone.  We reconnected a couple years ago after no communication for nearly forty years.

B is married, works in a professional job, and has several kids.  That's all I'll say about her background. 

She called me last night, and we talked about the topic of secrets, which we'd discussed on FB chat. 

"Well my lovely cousin you can always tell me, cos I love you to bits ,we I have learned over our time on FB more a like than I ever thought, I think of you as my wee brother and I would defend you to the hilt.  I love your stats and you make me smile, when yer friends get their knickers in a twist."  
 
(That's un-translated southern Scots Gaelic for your pleasure.)(All excerpts used by kind permission of their author.  Certain portions redacted for her privacy.)

Turns out that branch of the family has a few.  I mentioned I had a deep secret.  She said (translated from Scots Gaelic) "I already know what it is.  You're transgender."  After I managed to pick my jaw off the floor I asked how she guessed.  "I've always known.  You've always been more female than male." 

Mind you, I've only met her once, back when I was five...

She saw pictures posted on FB from Halloween (on my drab FB) and thought "He looks much better as a woman than a man."  She also said that some of the superhero pics "looked a lot like her."

Cuz?


We chatted about that for a bit.  And how she knows a couple of transpeople and how hard it is for them.

We discussed transition and hormones and disclosure.  Everything.

The next morning, I found this in my FB messages:


Morning Doll, now that's an expression I use for all my female relatives and friends, so get use to it.
I now have a female cousin, i have no sister , a brother with xxxxxxx  who is lost to me, who I can't talk to, but I have you, I have gained you, family and blood linked, so everything has positives, EVERYTHING, You know that after reading me rabbiting on about xxxx  etc...everything has a positive ,way of the universe.
You will never be homeless, it would maybe mean a long flight to work and back but I loves ya ,only a phone call away and you are embarking on a journey that will change you forever at the same time as I travel mine, we will both be different at the end of it ,so I am cyberally taking your hand and saying "C'mon then hen" xxxx

Then later during the night...

What a journey ,my regret is that we hadn't lived next door to each other when you were in so much turmoil, oh ,gosh ,I like Sophie ,my girls will love Sophie ,you will end up being great friends with (daughter) and (other daughter),they are my fashin ,makeup gurus so god help you,lol They got me outta my hillwalking gear and all femmed up ,well being xxxxxxxxxx ,a girl has to try harder...so hence I make the most of what I have and less of wits missin,lol.
 
It just doesn't seem right to call you by your birth name anymore ,my boy cousin has gone for me and I am so delighted to a female relative apart from my girls, you are it, the girls and you

That made me feel so good!
 
We chatted again today.  I was about to sign off when I received this:
 
Hi Sophie it's (daughter), my mum spoke to me and I know that it's important that nobody knows. When she told me about you I really wasn't that shocked, it's normal over here in Scotland. It's definitely nothing major and this is who you are, i'm so glad that you're able to express yourself. Just to let you know that I accept you for whoever you want to be, and I understand that you don't have a choice in this as it's who you are. Just remember you've got a family here that will support you no matter what, we're not quick to judge. Never feel alone. We're just a really expensive plane ticket away, that's all lol
 
B had showed her daughter the picture below, and she identified me fairly quickly.
 
Clocked
 
So.  "Normal over here."  Can you imagine?  I wonder if that's true?  (Can any of my UK readers verify this?)
 
Ok.  So that's one blood relation- one resounding success.  But it makes me wonder- if she knew... who else does?  Other cousins?  Co-workers?
 
Having her on my side gives me courage.  Even if she ends up the only cousin or family member behind me, her strength gives me strength.  (There I go quoting Springsteen again.)
 
That strength will take me to my next step.  The next round of disclosures... the next step to Womanhood. 
 
To Life.
 


 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Meeting...Meeting...Moron?

Last Thursday was my monthly group therapy meeting. 

Yes, I can sense your excitement from here.

Why would i write about something like this?  Well, for several reasons.

I took off from my evening job to get myself ready.  Originally I was going to find a place to park the car and do my makeup in there.  However one of the group members offered the use of her place to change.  I'd never met "S", but we have been facebook friends for a while. She'd been in the group for a month.  I accepted her gracious offer as she only lived a half hour or so from me.

So I finished work at my retail job and headed over to her place, which in a relatively affluent Philly suburb.  She lives close to where some of my old friends lived before they moved to other parts of the world, so I knew the area well enough to find her.  I knocked on her door in drab, and she answered- halfway done getting herself ready.

We introduced ourselves to each other and she showed me her place.  Turns out her apartment is a Trekker's dream.  She had lots of Star Trek stuff hanging on the walls and adorning shelves.  Her makeup mirror was set up in her dining room as she prefers natural light.  She showed me to an immense bathroom with a large well-lit mirror where I could change and make myself as pretty as I can.



It took me maybe 45 minutes.  I was dressed casually in a red top, flats, and denim short shorts.  As we both worked, she played some great tunes and we talked to each other from a room away.  When she finished, we left together, as I was going to follow her at least part of the way.  The dark clouds to the west were quite foreboding.

Within a minute of heading out, the skies opened and began a torrential downpour.  "It even rained straight up!" as Gump would say.  That slowed traffic to a crawl.

I was in a bit of a hurry as I had a therapy appointment before group therapy.  (I had to move my therapy appointment from earlier in the week as I had to watch my daughter.)  Needless to say, I was late. 

At therapy, we discussed disclosing my true self to my parents and telling Wife that I am on the road to transition.  Yes, we discuss easy topics!  *sarcasm*

After therapy, the second meeting of the night started- Group therapy.  There was a new girl there as well, and she had good input.  Group therapy lasted two hours.  It's always good to be with people who share a commonality.  The group has many different types of personalities, and sometimes we clash, but we're family.

After the meeting, five of us went to the local Ruby Tuesdays for drinks and food.  The staff there is used to us, and we usually get the same waitress who we tip like crazy.  S\ joined us for this, and she fit right in. 

However there was a wild card that night.  One of the other waitresses kept trying to deliver other people's food and drinks to our table.  She was bottle-blond and older, maybe in her 40s.  Now, I've worked the tables in my day.  The tables are numbered and each food ticket has the table number on it for fast delivery.  So once- it's a mistake.  It happens.  Four times?  Either she was a total incompetent, or she just wanted to get a closer look at the table of T-girls.

I would figure out which later.

After dinner, we went our separate ways.  The restaurant closed.  I drove to the back part of the parking lot to change and clean off the makeup.  That took some time, but I finally finished.  Next to this Ruby Tuesdays is a Wawa, where I then went to check myself in better light and to pick up a soda (or Pop or Coke or Fizzy, or whatever you call it.  In SEPA, we call it soda.) 

Which I did.  I re-washed my face as I still had traces of eye liner, then waited in line to buy the drink.  In came the blond, who was done for the night and wearing a faded pink jacket over her black uniform.  She joined the line two people back from me.  I paid her no mind, as I figured I look VERY different in drab than I do as Sophie.

Apparently not THAT different.  This Wawa has a group of windows across the front allowing people to see in.  As I left I looked back, I saw the blond pointing wildly at me and excitedly saying something to the bored cashier.  Like he cared.  in any case, I'm fairly sure she clocked me.  She wasn't too bright, so I have no clue how she sorted it out.

A couple of years ago, this would've sent me scurrying into a cave somewhere, as this is a Wawa I go to a LOT.  Now?  I could care less.  She's the one with the problem- not I.  And her problems are FAR more than her need to disclose my being transgender.

 In any case, from there I drove through the rainy night to home, and went to bed.  I dreamed that I was out as Sophie at a place I'd never been.  No one saw me as anything but female.  I was out and about and then went to lunch at an outdoor cafe.  I remember speaking with someone, but I don't remember who.

It's rare that I remember my dreams.  It's even more rare that I dream of being Sophie (specifically.)    The next day when I awoke, I stared at the ceiling.  Being Drab hurts more every day. 

It really does.

 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Formless

Last Saturday was "another exciting edition" of Sophie goes out- and another series of firsts.

Ever since I told my coworker "M" about being transgender, she's been asking quiet questions.  As this past weekend was my usual Renaissance and Angela's Laptop Lounge outings, I invited M to dinner beforehand.  She graciously accepted and even asked me what outfit I was wearing.


That Saturday, I worked in the morning as usual, but left an hour early.  Amanda Richards asked me to come earlier so she could possibly get everyone finished faster and go out herself.


I was maybe twenty minutes into the trip to her studio when she called me.  The tenant above her store's hot water heater burst and caused a waterfall/flood of Biblical proportions, so she had to cancel.  That was ok.  I already had my room at the motel, so I turned around and went to my storage unit to get my makeup. 

I also stopped at Target to get eyelashes and some new nail polish. 

I then settled in and slowly did my makeup as the Phillies game played in the background and the rain fell outside.

I tried a different method for doing my eyes that Linda Lewis suggested.  And a different lipstick for the dress I was wearing (which I hadn't worn in a long time.)



After some trial and error, I was finished, and I headed over to Renaissance.  I helped set up and hung around for a little bit, then went to dinner at Winberies, where I was meeting M.

Also dining with me would be some people from a Harrisburg spouse support group, and my friends Hayden and Katie.

I was seated, and M arrived a minute later.  When she saw me, she smiled broadly.  We hugged.  There wasn't a trace of "WTF?" or anything but friendship in her eyes as she said "Hello Sophie!"

M and I at Winberies

We talked alone for a few minutes before the others arrived.  it was a wonderful dinner and so very affirming.  It's the small moments and the smiles they bring that make me believe that I CAN do this- that I CAN be the person I need to be.

During the dinner, I decided that due to the bra I was wearing and my own breast growth, that my breast forms made me look cartoonish.  So I slipped down in my seat and quickly removed them.  For the first time, it was just me in the (admittedly too big) bra cups.  It was an intoxicating feeling.

Near the end of dinner, Lisa Empanada arrived from Baltimore.  She was happy, bubbly and hungry!

Most of us adjourned to the bar, as Katie and M talked for a while.  About what, I have no idea.  At around 9:45, M took her leave.  I walked her outside and thanked her for coming out.  She hugged me and said "I'm not used to you having such a soft chest!"  We laughed, and she went to her car.  It started to rain again, as it had been off and on all day.

At 10 PM, I sat at the door, as Angela asked me to be the Door Person for an hour, which I was glad to do. 

Working the door, sans forms.


At around 10:15 a group of four high school aged kids came in- a guy and three girls.  He asked for a table, and I signaled the restaurant manager for help.  he went to prepare a table when the girls whispered something to each other, laughed, then said something to the guy and literally ran out the door into the rain.  He turned tail and walked out quickly, and I heard them laughing as they went to their car. 

Many people arrived, and soon enough I was done my shift.  I hung around with Lisa and many others.  My one false eyelash started coming off, and she helped my by putting it back on for me.  :)

Too soon, the night ended.  I left a little early as I was very tired.  Drove back to the motel and stared into the mirror.  I removed my dress and contemplated the woman in the mirror.  She wore a beige bra and shaper.  No forms.  No pads.

I reached out to the mirror, and she did as well.  I saw her smile ever so slightly.  How different she is now from a year ago.  Physically.  Emotionally.  So much closer to her true self and a life that at one time was just a fantasy.

A fantasy?  Not even that.  A whispered wish that had no real definition. 

Undefined. 

Formless.




 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jargon, Joy, and Jenny: A Review of Stuck in the Middle with You by Jennifer Finney Boylan

I'm back in Book Review mode!  As I mentioned previously Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan sent me a couple of books to be reviewed.  I did the first one already.  This past weekend, I finished reading (and taking notes on) the second.

As I hadn't read this book previously, I went about the reading of this book in a different way.  I'm also doing the review in a different way.  It will take a little bit to develop, so please stick with it.

So.

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan.



This new book is the third "memoir" from this author, following She's not There and I'm Looking Through You: Growing up Haunted.  However, this book is far different from the other two, as it isn't strictly HER story.  Well the others aren't either as the family is involved, but in this case, about half the book is interviews with friends and colleagues on the topic of Parenting.

The people interviewed are *takes deep breath*:

Richard Russo, Ralph James Savarese, Trey Ellis, Augusten Burroughs, Edward Albee, Barbara Spiegel, Timothy Kreider, Dr. Christine McGinn, Ann Beattie, Veronica Gerhardf (her former nanny), Susan Minot, and Anne Quindlen.

Want to know who they are?  Google them.  Most of them are best selling authors.

As before, Professor Boylan gave me permission to call her Jenny, so I will do so for this review.  And, as before, it's not the most formal way to do a review, but I don't care.  For more information call 555-1212.

Ok, to develop my point, I'd like to indulge in a little Jargon.  As many people know, I have my degrees in Education.  So aside from making me a "Liberal Union Thug" (according to the GOP,) I learned a thing or two about educational theory.  One of the central theories is known as Bloom's Taxonomy.

The short explanation is that Bloom's Taxonomy helps teachers tailor lessons to the depth in the intellect that it needs to go.  Example: memorizing a fact to pass a test is low level.  Using that fact to help analyze a problem and synthesize a solution is much higher level. 

The idea is to start low, and then go higher.

Still with me?

Right.  So the way I'm approaching this book is by seeing if it applies to MY situation as a trans- parent.  "But you're just one person- how is that fair?" you ask.

Well, my reading of the book indicates that she wrote it to inform others of the ways different "types" of people cope with the immense challenges of parenting.  So, as a member of the reading audience, I will attempt to APPLY the information.  Higher level Bloom stuff.  BTW, while reading, I wrote down passages that jumped at me as being especially meaningful. I will quote some, citing page numbers. 

I'm a parent.  I have a daughter who is currently five.  She doesn't know about my being Transgender... yet.  But she will.  So the concept of parenting as a TG person is something I am VERY interested in learning.  How will my transition affect my daughter?  Can she still have a rewarding, fulfilling life?

One of the first things Jenny does is to update the reader on who she is, where she is, why she is, and so on.  State of the Jenny Address if you will, done through stories.  She then defines her terms so to speak, first defining Fatherhood, then Motherhood.

Then deconstructing them... wondering if a male can be a mother and a female can be a father.  Her conclusion?  I'll get back to that.

Her take on fatherhood?  I think she nailed it.  Whether her judgement about the difference is sound, I will find out.

p 10;  One of the things about manhood I learned from my father is that it's a solitary experience, a land of silences and understatements, a place where a lot of important things have to be learned alone.  Whereas womanhood, a lot of the time, is a thing you get to share.

My father was a Lone Wolf if you will.  Depend upon no one but yourself.  He was a military man (US Army, Vietnam era)  From him, I learned that guys are sullen.  They do not express any emotion except anger.  That everyone can and will betray you, so a guy has to fend for himself.  Asking for help is a cardinal sin- and crying a mortal one.  And any hint of femininity?  Unspeakable.

But I also learned from him what the difference is between a Guy and a Man... and I learned this by seeing him and other males.  A Man is not a guy.  A Man respects others who have earned respect.  A Man shows emotion when necessary.  A Man is not afraid to be afraid.  A Man asks for help, and gives it without being asked.  A Man defends those who need defending.

Most of this is the opposite of my father, and it took me until my teens to sort out much of it.

Males are built for Defending... for Death.

A Father is a human being.

So.  From my father, I learned a male is to be quiet, emotionless and solitary.  Angry.  Fights all that opposes.  As a Woman inside, one can imagine how this tore my psyche far worse than the many many beatings.  When he wasn't angry, I was ignored.  I wasn't alone.

p60: Richard Russo.  "[my father] said 'I didn't care about you at all. There was a poker game to go to. The track was there.'"

 
A Mother. Jenny defines this as well.  Well actually, she allows her Grandmother to define it.

p29:  “That’s not what makes someone a mother,” she said.
“Really? What does?”
Gammie took a long drag on her cigarette.
“Suffering,” she said.

My mother is from Scotland.  Her manners, customs, beliefs are all European pre-war.  From her I learned that the Father rules the home and is to be feared. 

I always wondered why that was.  Why couldn't she stand up to him?  It took me sixteen years until I did... and longer to answer the question.

It wasn't her place.  And she was afraid.

Her example of motherhood was chilling.

Females are built for birthing and nurturing children.  They are built for Life.

Mothers are human beings



So Jenny defined her terms, and now so have I. 

Jenny's parents were loving, if a bit distant.  They encouraged her, and, while not knowing or understanding Jenny's torment, did their best to raise her.
 
Yet, in the book's interviews, she seems to be searching for something missing.  She probes others about their parents, and for the most part, it isn't at all pretty.  One of her interviewees answers her question about growing up with an amazing observation.
 
p87  Augusten Burroughs  "We break free, but just because we leave our parents doesn't mean they leave us."

I have done everything in my power to be the opposite of my parents.  The Quest to conquer the Windmills against which I tilt have been hampered by own lack of understanding of my own self... as a person... as a woman.  And my parents are still here with me.  Always will be.  Even after they are long gone, the effect of their lives will ripple through mine.  And, if I am not careful, my daughter's.  Will my Transgender life amplify those ripples to waves?  Tsunami

Jenny covers her Quest for self in her earlier books.  Here, she questions the results.  She wonders if her wife Deedie was right in staying with her, despite what their friends insisted.
 
 p104 "She [Deedie] would be like some twenty-first-century nether-version of Miss Havisham, frozen in time, still going through the rituals of a life that had long since gone on without her."

Yet, as we learn, her children are Fine.  In fact, more than fine, as Jenny points out all over the book.  She brags about them a bit- and that's allowed.  After all the work and questioning... her children are stronger for the experience. 

That said, Jenny is under no illusions.
 
p110: "I'm aware that my own story as a trans person is unique, at least in part because many things that could have gone wrong failed to do so, and I have worried over the years about the many ways in which my tale may have given false hope to some readers; my story is surely only that, and is almost certainly the particular result of circumstances unique to my life."

So... that's just Peachy.  I'm reading a book about parenting as a TG... reading how fantastic her kids are... her wonderful marriage... and it probably won't apply to me or mine.  How the hell am I supposed to do this?  How am I supposed to draw examples and applications if she is an outlier?

How will I be the parent my daughter needs?  Can't anyone tell me this?  Answer my questions? 
 
 
p129:  Edward Albee  ""There is no one to tell you who you are except yourself."

*stunned silence*

*looks up something*

"Don’t Take Anything Personally.  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering."
Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements. (that one is number two.)

*flips back in Jenny's book*

p60: Richard Russo. "[my father] said "I didn't care about you at all..."

*references back in this entry*

"When he wasn't angry, I was ignored."   "Jenny's parents were loving, if a bit distant. They encouraged her, and, while not knowing or understanding Jenny's torment, did their best to raise her."

The Central Issue with being Transgender is defining Yourself as who YOU are.  We defy conventions.  We defy biology.  We sacrifice so much to be True to ourselves.  To Be.

Loving Yourself.

Jenny's parents loved her.  She loves her children.  That shines through every word in this book.  And her past ones as well.  And... Jenny finally loves herself.

And that's her point.  It isn't about Gender of the parent.  The Father need NOT be male.  The Mother need NOT be Female.  Same sex couples love their children as well as any other.  Fatherhood and motherhood are more than biology... it's about Love and Responsibility.

p 204-5:  "And yet to accept the wondrous scope of gender is to affirm the vast potential of life, in all its messy, unfathomable beauty.  Surely if we make room for the mutability of gender, we have to accept that motherhood and fatherhood themselves are no longer unalterable binaries either."

So maybe there's my answer.

Yes, Jenny is an outlier.  By definition, all trans-people are outliers.  We are not the norm.  But we are capable of love, despite horrific psychic wounds that so many of us suffer.

If I love my daughter, if I am her parent: her Father, then maybe it can all turn out for the best. 

If I can love myself... and be capable of love....

She'll have a chance for a fulfilling life.  And as a parent, that's all I can hope for, really.

Late in the book, Jenny reflects on her life.  She lays in her childhood bed after a day tending to her dying elderly mother.

p208: "I lay back on my pillow thinking how strange it was that most of the wishes I had ever had in this life had come true- although almost never in the manner that I had expected."

Most parents wish for their children to lives that enrich them and fulfil them.  Many see the wish come true.

I have an idea what my parents wanted from their youngest- the unplanned "mistake."  My dad wanted an engineer.  My mum never ventured an opinion.  What they got was a tormented child who is working her way to that fulfilling life.  A child who has yet to share her wishes and destiny with them, and fears their reaction.

You're no son of mine!

A Child who has wishes for herself... and HER child. 

So.  In applying Jenny's book to my own situation and life, I accessed deep areas that I did not intend to enter and found some answers. 

Answers are what education is all about
 
In any case, I'm guessing that this is not the review Jenny expected when she sent the offer of the books.  It wasn't the review I expected to write.

It's the review I wrote, though. 

And I conclude it in this way:  If you want to learn about a crucial facet of the human experience: of Parenting, of family, and loving; if you wish to learn about this from a wide variety of sources and with Jenny's gift for storytelling, humor and insight; (and if you've read this far, I think you do), then go to your local brick and mortar bookstore (that pays its taxes and depends upon you for its life) and buy a copy of Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders.

You won't be disappointed.  And you may learn something that applies to your life.

I did.



 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Waiting for Sophie

My old college writing teacher used to always say "Write with Fire- edit with Ice."  It was like a mantra with him.

Sorry, professor, but this time I'm writing with an Inferno and NOT editing (except for spelling) as I'm in a really angry mood.

Also, I haven't been out since over a week (which I wrote about here) so, Godot-like, Sophie doesn't really appear in this entry.

Waiting...


Except for the fact that I am Sophie.  If that makes sense.

Anyway.  The weekend was rather nice.  As our anniversary gift, Mother In law (MIL) volunteered to watch my daughter for a full day and night at no charge (she normally charges for baby sitting her own grandchild.  Yes really.)  So my wife booked a package deal at the nearby Radisson Valley Forge.  So we had a room and dinner for two. 


We checked in, then went to get lunch at a nearby Champps.  After lunch we stopped at Blue Pacific briefly, and I introduced her to Andrew. 

Then we saw Iron Man 3.  Very enjoyable.

Then off to dinner at Pacific Prime at the Valley Forge Casino (connected to the Radisson.)  great meal! 

All during the day, she asked questions about this blog and other Sophie activities.  I was considering bringing up transition, but since we REALLY were having a wonderful time, I didn't.

After dinner we went to the casino briefly, then up to bed.  One of the things she said she desperately wanted to do was have time to read- something she hasn't had time to do in years.  So when we went to the room, we both read.  Nothing else.

Sorry folks, no titillation here.

The next morning was mother's Day.  We had breakfast at the hotel.  I called my mum.  We then went to Valley Forge Park for a walk.  In the parking lot of Wayne's Woods, she found a wallet on the ground.  The owner's ID was in it, and he didn't live too far away.  First I called the number belonging to that address.  No answer.  Left a message.  So I drove over and dropped it in his mailbox, and left my drab business card in his door saying "look in the mailbox for your W."  Today at my work email I found an emailed "Thank you."

It was the right think for me to do.

After all that, we went back home, I changed and went to work. 

So why am I pissed off?  Not because any of that.  Stick with me.

Today I went into the city; to the Mazzoni Center for my HRT checkup.  My appointment was at 11:20. 

The doctor saw me at 11:45.  He asked how things were, etc.  We discussed injectable estrogen verses the pills I had been taking.  He increased my dosage of estrogen and made it injectable.  he said that the injectables would make "things happen a little faster" and asked "are you ok with that?"

Let me think about that for a millisecond.

There's a Walgreens attached to the Mazzoni Center, and he sent the prescription over to it.  I was told that it would be a half hour. 

Ninety minutes later, I'm still waiting.  And I'm not happy.

That's when Wife called.  "My mom wants you home so she can run errands without [our daughter.]"  MIL watches her on Mondays and Fridays, for which we pay her (tacked onto our rent.) 

As I had to work at 3, and I was in Philly at that moment, this wasn't going to happen. 

My prescription was filled, so I went back to the Mazzoni for instruction on doing the injection.  It's nothing I didn't know, but a refresher is always nice.  BUT... the pharmacy forgot the smaller gauge needles that were prescribed.  Y'know, the ones to actually use on my body?

So I used one of theirs.  At 1:40 PM, I had my first estrogen injection. I chose the femoral artery in my right leg.  Next injection: two weeks in my left leg. 

Back to the pharmacy for fifteen MORE minutes.  By now, it's a foregone conclusion that I will be late for work.  Now I'm more than unhappy.

I got the needles and ran to my car.  The city was fairly traffic clogged, as was the Schuylkill Expressway.  I called MIL to explain the hold up (she knew I had a doctor appointment, but not why.  And she still doesn't know why.) 

First my daughter answers.  She's five.  She talks for a minute and hangs up.  So I call back.  MIL answers.  I explain that where I am and I'm sorry but...

"Don't bother! I don't need you now!"  SLAM!  She hung up on me.

Now I'm seething angry.  Pissed off.  Hanging up is rude, and especially rude when SHE does it.

I call Wife and point out to her what happened... to her voicemail.

So I stewed in my anger the rest of the forty minutes home. 

My drab self had several bad reputations... one of which was my NASTY temper.  I think I mentioned this before at least once.  And I was REALLY angry.

I was thinking of how I was going to handle this.  Hmmm, I gave her an azalea bush for Mothers Day.  Maybe pour a few gallons of weed killer on it? 

Anyway, as i walked into work, I called Wife back and told her quite forcefully that we were having a discussion about Leaving tonight.  As in I was moving out, and I'd love it if she joined me, but I was leaving either way.

She said "I can't talk about this now."

Yeah, no kidding- her being at work.  I was just informing her of the coming conversation. 

So my timetable shifts a little.  Time to repack boxes and prep for moving.  I did this a little more than a year ago, preparing for the worst when I told Wife. 

I am firmly of the opinion that Wife will NOT move away from her mom without a boot in the butt.  And if me moving first is that boot, so be it.

So... should I tell her about transition before moving?  Good question.  I don't have that answer.

In any case, it's been some hours.  I'm calming down a bit.  I'll credit the estrogen with that.  In older times, once I lost my temper, it was lost for the rest of the day.  I'd stew and the anger would fester and grow inside of me.  Then I'd often try to drink it down.  Yes, smart I know- throwing alcohol on a fire.

So.  I had a great weekend, and Wife asked questions about Sophie.  And I had a good appointment and moved forward in my transition. 

And my MIL managed to ruin that.

I'm going to try to focus on the positive here... and think about the GOOD things that happened today.  And tomorrow go back to both of my jobs and my drab life.

*Pulls up my trousers*

Shall we go?

Yes, let's go.

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book review: "She's Not There; 10th Anniversary Edition" by Jennifer Finney Boylan

I've reviewed many books in my day.  I've done them on TG Forum and in my teaching jobs. 

I received a message from Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan asking bloggers to review her two new releases.  The first is She's Not There; 10th Anniversary Edition and the other is Stuck in the Middle with You.  Both were released a couple of days ago.



I agreed to do so.  The review of Stuck in the Middle with You will happen when I finish reading it.  Funny that.

As my fanatical readers will recall, I met Professor Boylan at the Keystone Conference, where she spoke.  She was kind enough to sign a copy of her book for me.  Full story here.



She told me to call her Jenny, so having said that, I will do so for the rest of this review.  Even though it's kind of informal.  But then again, so is this blog.  So there.  Nyah.

Disclosure:  She's Not There changed my life, and I'm a bit of a fan-girl.  That said, I'll be as impartial as I can... and as a professional educator and editor I can do impartial VERY well.

Right.  So what does one say about a book so many have already reviewed and read?  A quick search of the net reveals reviews by the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc. 

Well, that's easy- by discussing what I found in the book, and what it meant to me, and answering three important questions:

1) Why should someone who may be Transgender read this book?

2) Why should someone who ISN'T Transgender read this book?

3) Should the loved ones of a Transgender person read this book?

Ok, I encountered this book for the first time several years ago.  This was back when I was deep in denial.  I'd just finished reading Josh Kilmer Purcell's  I am Not Myself these Days, which is about a former drag queen.  A friend recommended I read Jenny's book as well.  So I did.  Never admitted to it to her though.  No, I'm not proud of that.

If you've never read it, (and if you haven't shame on you!  Run out and buy it right now.  I'll wait.)
She's Not There is Jenny's Journey.  She starts in her youth in Devon, PA (maybe two miles from where I sit typing this) in a Haunted House perfectly named Coffin House.  She discusses how she reacts to people.  And to herself and the growing knowledge of who she truly is.  Her journey has many interesting Ports of Call, including Ireland and exotic places like... Baltimore. 

And, not to spoil it, it discusses her transition to inevitable Womanhood.  She discusses how it affected her wife and friends.  Oh, did I mention she's friends with Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo, and that he ALSO wrote an afterward to the book?  No?  Well I just did.

Jenny's prose is extremely engaging and draws the reader into her life.  I felt like a confidant, not a reader.  When I finished, I was left with a sadness... that I was leaving a friend behind.  I wanted to know more.  Fortunately, she had the second book available-  I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted.  That continued the story and explored different themes.

That story now continues in Stuck in the Middle with You.  Which, as I mentioned, I am reading, and will review.  And I'm savoring that book, btw.

Scholarly Enough?

So.  Reading Jenny's book was a very personal journey, and not just because of her prose style.  To drag a cliche screaming from the vault, it was like a Bomb went off inside me.  She Knew!  She knew how I felt... and that was dangerous.  Very.  After all, there was the denial thing.  I spun into a bit more of a depression until I managed to bury the feelings.  And when Sophie emerged some months later, I re-read the book.

Her story is like so many of ours.  Most of us know the pain she felt.  That said, the way she dealt with it is comforting.  The fact that she managed to rise above all the possible issues is nothing short of incredible.  Is hers a typical transition? 

IS there a typical transition?

No.  She was very fortunate, and she know it.  She gives all credit to her family.  Speaking of family, the new 10th anniversary edition has a new preface by the author and an afterward by her wife, Deidre. 

That's the bit that even people who have read the book before have not read.  So... is that bit alone worth the price of purchase?  I'll come back to that one.

So, the answer to question one:  Why should someone who may be Transgender read this book?

Because she tells our story.  Extremely Well.  So if you know the story, why read hers?  Because it's in the telling.  The WAY it's told.  The WAY she approaches it all.  She mixes pain and humor brilliantly.  One moment you're wallowing in her pain, the next laughing at an absurdity deftly chronicled.  One hell of a ride!

Why should someone who ISN'T Transgender read this book? 
See above.  If a cisgender person wants a window to our world, to understand how and why we are, this book is perfect. 

Should the loved ones of a Transgender person read this book?

Absolutely.  There are other books out there that address this audience very specifically (Helen Boyd's come directly to mind), but the reasons I cite above apply here as well.  Then there's the wonderful example of Jenny's wife and her perseverance.

Remember I mentioned that she wrote an afterward?  Bingo!  Her afterward is short, but powerful. In it, she discusses her side  of the saga.  She also discusses the feedback she has received, and she makes a very good point about it.  What was that point?  Read the book.

So, are the additional bits worth the price of repurchasing the book for people who have the previous edition?  (at your favorite local bookstore, naturally- keep them in business!)  I say Yes.  Jenny brings the story up to date and it's like catching up with an old friend.  Also, the aforementioned part by Deidre really lends the book perspective and another layer to ponder.  We can look into their lives, and feel maybe a little bit of comfort.

Comfort.  Ours is a lonely path.  Many times we sit alone, crying to ourselves and wishing the pain away.  Others have done this as well, though, if not all of us.  The greatest gift that books like She's Not There give us is to show us that we aren't the only ones who feel this way.  And sometimes, it can all work out.  And even if it doesn't, well sometimes we can laugh away the pain.

That's the joy of Reading.  Of Stories.  And of this Book.



 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A New Chapter

"It was amazing.  It was literally life changing.  For the first time ever going out, I didn't think of myself as a freak, outcast, or even as transgender.  I thought of myself as a woman like any other.  And in fact, most of the time I didn't think of it at all, I just was."
Text to Lisa E., Sun May 5, 2013.

And it was.

Early last week, I determined that I couldn't wait three weeks to be Me again.  So, as I had off from both jobs on Saturday, I decided to figure out a way to go out as me.  As the week slowly plodded by, I decided that I'd get my makeup done and go to Laptop Lounge that night.

All Amanda Richards had open was earlier or later.  I chose earlier.  Noon in fact.  That meant having the whole day as Sophie. 


My friend Hayden came in from Harrisburg, and I picked him up at the train station around 3:30.  From there we went to the motel where we were splitting a room (strictly platonic), then off to New Hope!

Hayden had never been to New Hope, and I'd never been there during the day as Sophie.


At New Hope, PA, by the Delaware River


We arrived to an amazingly crowded scene.  Saturday was a gorgeous spring day, and everyone was out enjoying it.  One woman walked in front of my car, and was pulled back by her boyfriend who then shouted at me.  I literally couldn't see them for the crowds.  I apologized... I mean what else could I do?  No one was hurt.  I was a little rattled though.

We searched around for a place called Havana which was recommended by Jen Bryant (who we invited to join us, but couldn't make it.)  It was packed at that place so we stopped at Karla's.  We found a nice corner seat and enjoyed a good dinner.

...and the dressing on the side!

After dinner, we walked about for a while, then went to the Raven for a quick drink (as he'd never been there either.)  There I saw Holly from Asbury Park, NJ.  I'd met her at one of Jen Bryant's Raven parties, but couldn't remember her name.  *embarrassed*


After that, we stopped at Blue Pacific in the King of Prussia Mall to say "Hi" to Andy.

That's a lot of places.

 And not once did I feel out of place.  Yes, New Hope is a "safe area" but King of Prussia Mall?

As I wrote to Lisa, it was so totally different.  For many reasons... but it comes down to something trivial.  Doesn't it always?

As I've mentioned many times, I have Scots blood.  My mother was a Scots national.  So due to that genetic marker, I am a wookie.  Very hairy.  Thanks to laser and electrolysis I'm sorting this out.  And I'm been shaving my legs, arm pits, and upper chest for years. Oh, and I keep things tidy down south as well.   My Wife helps me by applying Nair to my back occasionally (she hates back hair too.)

But there's one area I never touched... my stomach.  I mean, it's always under my top or my corset so why bother?

Well, now my breasts are noticeably growing, and looking down I see them... and Hair. 

So Friday night and Saturday morning, using Nair, shaving, weed whacker, and machete, I cleaned off the belly hair.  I haven't been this bare since I was maybe 18.

And I looked down and saw... skin.  Soft skin. 

And that made me feel so feminine, and that carried through the whole day.  Also, during the day I wasn't wearing a corset.  The only padding of any kind were breast forms.  So it was just me, really.  That added so much to it as well.

After the Blue Pacific visit, we went to the motel room, and while Hayden showered, I changed and adjusted my makeup to more of a "night look."

Then we walked over to Winberies for Angela's Laptop Lounge

Hayden and I at Laptop.  Photo courtesy Angela's Laptop Lounge

The turnout was good.  I saw some dear friends, including my "Big Sis" Mel.  I met someone named Jane Air, who contacted me earlier about attending.  It was her first time anywhere ever.  I introduced her around.  She was so nice, and very pretty.  (Why is it all the "new girls" look SO much better than I did/do?)

A couple of times during the evening, I went outside to gather my thoughts.  On both occasions my dear friend Alexis was outside smoking, and called over to me asking if I was ok.  I was touched by her concern.  I was fine.  Well, actually I felt a little tipsy, but I needed to get my head around all that had already happened that day.  The second time out, I leaned against a tree next to the parking lot, and prayed.  Yes, prayed.  I asked for guidance.

Later, after Mel left, I decided to call it a night as well.  My feet hurt just a little, so I removed my shoes and walked across the parking lot barefoot.  Warm weather is great for that!  Hayden, ever the gentleman, walked me back.


Hayden was in the bathroom brushing his teeth as I changed back.  My normal routine was always nails first, then lashes, then wig, then everything else.  Not that night.  I first stripped off my blouse, corset (which I put on for the night), skirt, removed my breasts forms and my bra.  I removed the tape from my chest.  I stood all but naked, still wearing my wig and made up. 

No pads.  Just me.

I saw the nearly Nude Woman looking back at me.  I looked at her hairless body, and her small but noticeable breasts, and her soft skin. 

I started to cry tears of happiness.

I kept whispering to myself.  "It's a Dream come true.  It's a Dream come true."

I caressed my body, and she did the same.  Her blue eyes sparkled with happiness as tears ran down her cheeks.  Her smile was so genuine.

I've crossed a boundary between what Was and what Will Be.  My drab self is disappearing.  My body is becoming what it always should have been.

Will I ever be a perfect woman?  Hell no.  Will I pass as a woman?  Maybe.  But Saturday night in a cheap motel room looking into a mirror, none of that mattered.  I think I really SAW myself for the first time in 46 years.  No pads.  No prosthetics.  Just Me.

My life as I knew it is over. 

The Journey enters a New Chapter.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Third Times a Charm

Many trans-people who know me in "Real Life" have seen me in drab.  As they have seen me as a Woman, I feel they know MY deepest secret, as I know theirs, so I'm not really concerned.  Of course, there are health care providers (and two police officers) who also know about me.

Aside from them, there were only two people who I told about being Sophie.  A friend and co-worker was first (E), so I could practice coming out.  She was cool with it.

My Wife was second.  She accepts but isn't happy with it. 

On Monday, April 29, I added a third.  I'll call her M. 

I've known M maybe five years.  We are coworkers at my retail job.  M is a hippie.  As in from the 1960s.  She is also one of the most giving and friendly people I know.  When I grow up, I want to be just like her!

M also is usually the hostess of the work parties I attend, so she's seen me dressed as a woman several times.  Five times in fact, as she was around that fateful Halloween night in 2008 when I went out as Lois Lane. 

E once told me that M suspected I was a crossdresser.  You think?

At M's place during the infamous "Snowy Halloween Party" of 2011


Anyway, we hadn't gone out for drinks in forever, so we went out Monday night to her favorite place, Bahama Breeze.

She showed me pictures of her home renovation, which has been proceeding for three years (it's the Winchester Mystery house!)

She asked how things were going with me, and what was new.  And I said "a LOT."

I swore her to secrecy (not that I was worried about her telling) and pulled out my business card to show her.



And she looked at it and said "Oh isn't that cute?  Wait- what are you saying- that this is..."

I said "that I am Sophie, yes."

I then explained being transgender to her and gave the the whole story (knowing since I was four, etc) and explained the difference between gender and sexuality.  (Explaining to her that I'm attracted to women, etc)

I told her about telling E, and about telling Wife.  And how good that made me feel.  She said "I noticed that about a year ago you started to seem so much happier.  Is that why?"  I said it was.

I told her about HRT.  M is a very slight woman with small breasts which fit her frame.  She asked if the hormones had any effect.  I pulled my shirt tight, showing that there was breast growth after four months.  She said "Now you're just showing off!"  Hee hee!

She had many questions, which I answered.  She asked if I wanted to "get the operation" and I said yes.  I said it was a matter of many plans falling into place, specifically raising the money. 

She asked if I'd prefer to be called Sophie.  I said while in "male mode," use my given name.

It was actually a fun conversation, and she hugged me many times.  Then she paid the tab (over my objections.) 

She asked who would be the next person I told, and I said probably my Best Man.  He lives in Arizona and won't be in the area until Labor Day though...  She said I should visit him.  I laughed. 

"I'm not rich!"

I told her that soon I'd be telling Wife about Transition, and I may end up homeless after that.  She said "you'll always have a place in my house."  I smiled at her and said thanks.

As we were preparing to leave, a man swept into the bar area.  Long black hair, heavy metal look... but old.  He looked like a cliche.  He was Tom Keifer, lead singer of Cinderella.  (He lives locally.)  I told M this and she went all fan-girl on me.  She loves 80s hair bands.

Let's RAWK!


We walked out to the parking lot and into the rainy night.  She kept smiling at me.

Earlier in the night, before I told her she said something like "I knew there was a reason we're friends- you're one of the odd ones!"

As the night went on, she repeated this and revised it "I knew there was a reason we're friends- you're so special!"

That's why I told her- SHE'S special.