Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fitting Week Part 2: Sushi, Shopping, Smiles

Ok, this is part 2 of a two parter.  The first part is HERE.  If you don't feel like looking at it, here's the summary:

A magic elevator transported me to the Land of Elven Elephants, which is currently under the rule of the Dark Ninja Lord Mullarkius.  She's actually NOT an elephant, but a Hippo in disguise.  She's quite good at that, being a Ninja.  The Elephant Resistance Party (ERP) saved me from the Dark forces and recruited me to their cause.  After some narrow escapes, I found myself hanging off a cliff with nothing but my wits and a pair of strappy heels to save me...

Now, to continue where I left off on Part 1:


Friday morning, June 22, 2013.  The morning was cloudy and humid.  I woke up early as I had a big day ahead.  I shaved my face and chest, did my makeup and threw on a Phillies shirt and shorts, and drove off to the King of Prussia mall.  I was quite nervous.  Why?

I'd scheduled my first Bra Fitting.

Yes, it's come to that point.  I measured myself, but the bras still didn't fit.  So, I decided to let a professional figure it out.

In the King of Prussia Mall is a store called Intimacies, that specializes in Fittings.  I called them early in the week and asked if they worked with Transgender women.  They replied that they had.  I said I am one, and may I have an appointment?  I was scheduled for Friday at 10 AM.

I was a few minutes late, but that was fine- so were they.  I waited in their lobby area with an older woman who didn't look at me.  Two employees came from the back, and, after confirming both our appointments,  the taller one asked the shorter one which one of us she wanted to help.  She chose the older woman.  The taller one didn't miss a beat, and showed me to a changing room, where she had me remove my shirt and the bra I was wearing, which she checked.  I indicated that I usually wore it with breast forms and she nodded.  She indicated a black satin robe on a hook and went to fetch some bras. 

After some initial nervousness, I settled down and looked in the mirror.  And there was a woman wearing a black robe, her small breasts caressed by the silk of the robe. 

Silky

The salesperson returned after a minute and we tried a couple of bras.  She pointed out that for me, the issue is the length of the bra base as I have a wider chest than "most women."  I smiled and said "Gee I wonder why?"  She laughed.


So she fetched some more bras, and eventually determined that the best fit for me is a 38C demi cup.  The reason it's C is for the width, and the demi is because I don't quite fill the cups.  Yet.  I bought one of the bras that I liked.  $105.00.  It better last forever!  LOL 

I left the store, bag in hand and went to the family restroom on the level below.  There I changed into the new bra.  It felt so comfortable.

So, there they are!

From there I walked around a bit, then went home to do some work on my TG Forum column. I remember when I almost fainted from fear the first time I walked in the mall as Sophie.  Now I do it with almost no fear.  Time changes everything.

At one o'clock, I met a several ladies from my therapy group for lunch at Blue Pacific.  Jen stopped by but left early to go to Transhealth.  Victoria and Amy stayed around.  We drank and chatted... then headed out into the mall to shop.  I'd been in the mall as Sophie alone, but never "shopping with the girls."  I was so excited!

L to R: Victoria, Jen, Me, Amy

Ad we left the restaurant and walked into the mall, we passed a group of teens, three guys and two girls.  They all turned to look, some giggling.  Maybe five seconds later we heard them shout together "OH HELL NO!"  Victoria and I turned to look at each other.  Amy was busy talking about her Transhealth experience earlier in the day, and missed it.

The first stop was Macys.  Victoria wanted more comfortable shoes.  Rumor has it that her shoe collection dwarfs even Imelda Marcos.  Amy and I sat down as Victoria tried on different pairs, and we chatted.  In guy mode, I would've been bored, but as Sophie it was fun!  Watching Victoria assess shoes was like watching a sommolier rate fine wine.  An education! 

Soon enough, she was wearing new shoes, and we were on our way back into the mall.  KOP is actually two malls next to each other: the Plaza and the Court.  (In a few years, they'll be connected.)  Our plan was to go to the Mortons Steak house at the farthest tip of the Court and have a glass of wine.  But... it was closed.  So back to the other side of the Court to Legal Seafoods, where we had wine and Amy had chowder.  (Sorry- chowdah!)

I could've stayed there all night, but I had to work.  The ladies were kind enough to walk back with me.  Victoria says that we were followed out of the restaurant by a woman staring at us, but I missed it.  So what?

Back across the Plaza to my car.  Hugs.  Home.  Then a shower and back to drab.  Then to work at my retail job.

I couldn't stop thinking of the experiences of the day.  A bra fitting.  Shopping with the Girls.  It was such an amazing day.  So Affirming.  So Fun!  I could hardly concentrate on my job.

That night, Lauren stopped by.  Remember Lauren?  I met her the day before at Transhealth.  She was wearing a green Ann Taylor dress and an auburn wig.  She looked much better, if unsteady on her heels.  I told her about Renaissance and Angela's Laptop Lounge, as she hadn't heard of either.  And so another one of us learns she isn't alone.  Knowing that has been such an amazing Help.

The shift eventually ended.  I went home, logged onto Second Life briefly, then went to bed.

Saturday, June 15.  Everyone was coming home around noon, so I checked around the house for any sign of Sophie, then left.  I went to my storage space to pick out my outfit for the night, then it was off to Amanda Richards for makeup.  I went a little early, which was fine by her, as she could take her time.

Feeling Floral

I wore a floral dress I'd had for a while.  But this time, no forms, just me.  After she finished my makeup, I drove back at a leisurely pace.  I stopped at Renaissance briefly, then went to Shangrila for dinner with Victoria and my dear friend Katie (from York.)  We chatted about everything under the sun and had a marvelous time.  I had to leave before them, as I was going back to the Renaissance meeting.  After all, as I had invited the guest speakers, it'd be rude not to be there.  In any case, I wanted to hear what they had to say.

The speakers were Sara and Lorrie from T.R..U.S.T:  Truth, Respect, Understanding and Support life's Transitions.  They are a Transgender Support Group for spouses, significant others and family; a group from the Harrisburg area.  As I am telling Wife about my intention to transition soon, I wanted to get some help for her. 

The presentation and conversation were wonderful, and I recommend this group highly.  They have online resources (link above) so anyone anywhere can reach out to them.

To my delight, Lisa Emapanada was there!  We spoke briefly, and talked more over at Winberies.  This time I didn't have to work the door, as Avi was doing so.  Avi is a beautiful genetic woman who is a Trans-ally.  Oh, and her mom is Lorraine Anderson of Occasional Woman.

Dipping Avi (picture courtesy of her)

My "Big Sister" Mel was there as well, as was Hayden from Harrisburg and so many others.  I had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends.  I live for these Nights.  Someday I'll be Full time, then transitioned, and I hope connecting with the community will still be as special!

I even received a swing dance lesson from one of the gentlemen there.  I know how to swing dance, but not backward in heels!

The party was in full swing when in came Lauren!  I was glad to see her, and introduced her around to everyone.  Well, not everyone, but as many as I could.  Turns out she knows the one bartender well, and she flirted with him quite often.  I teased her about it a bit. 

With Lauren (pic courtesy Angela's Laptop Lounge)

Eventually, the night ended as it always does.  back to the motel room, clean off and change.  Off to Wawa... oh sh*t!  I forgot something at the room!  Fortunately, Hayden was still there, and I was able to retrieve the item.  I then stopped by the Winberies parking lot to eat my late dinner.  I saw the lovely Jane Air and a few others leaving Winberies, and decided to say hi.  This group had never seen me in drab, and were a bit surprised.  They couldn't believe it was me.  Well it wasn't but...

I drove home and arrived at 2:30 AM.  Everyone was back and asleep.  I let the dog out, then slipped into bed.  My amazing week was over. 

The next day, Wife had a Loooooong list of chores for me.  You know, to make me pay for going out as she always does after a Laptop night.

The week was so incredible... like a dream.  I did so much as a Woman... it was the closest I'd been to full time since the Keystone Conference.  Oh, did I love it!

And the Crash was just as bad.  Oh, what a Pink Hangover!  Going back to drab was Agony!

But I did.  Because I had to do so. 

I haven't been Me since then.  However that will change this Saturday, as there is a memorial for JoAnn Roberts I'll be attending.  This one as Myself. 

Sometime in the VERY near future, I'll tell Wife about my intentions.

So, was this week the calm before the storm, or a preview of a Life to come?

Stay tuned.

 

This Guy Nailed it: A repost from a blog called "Wit's End"

Every once in a while, a cisgendered person gets it.  And this guy does.

Please hit the following link and read what he has to say.  And comment.  Show him that he's appreciated.

And thanks!

http://witendz.blogspot.com/2013/06/identity.html

A quick preview... the first few lines, and I quote:

"Do you know any transgendered people?

(I'm listening to your answer, but I don't think you are listening to the question.)

Do you KNOW any transgendered people?

(What's the difference, you ask, between my two questions?)

Let me phrase it this way: Do you openly and genuinely associate on a personal basis with a Transgendered person?"

 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fitting Week Part 1

As I mentioned a couple of entries ago, I was alone for the week where I live- just me and the dog.  Wife, Mother In law (MIL) and Daughter were all at the beach.

I tried to make the most of it.

Tuesday, I woke up early to prep myself for my therapy appointment.

 It was so calming, doing my makeup in the mirror.  I tried a couple of different things with middling success. 

Ready for the Day!


At therapy, we spoke about many things, but primarily about my inability to forgive my parents for the abuse I had growing up.  I've heard all the reasons: that I'm just hurting myself, that the hate will eat me alive, etc.  And they're great reasons.  But I'm not prepared to forgive them. 

We talked about this because I told Wife I wanted to tell them about my being transgender.  Her reply was "You must really hate them."  I asked for an explanation and she said "They never need to know- no one does."

As you can guess, we still haven't discussed our future yet.

Later that afternoon, I went to a memorial gathering for JoAnn Roberts.  It was held at her home, and was drab only.  (I also talk about this gathering at my TG Forum column.)  There were maybe sixty people there, mostly family, but I saw many of the TG community there in drab (many for the first time.)

It was a very nice townhouse decorated in art and science fiction memorabilia.  JoAnn was a major Sci-fi fiend.  There were also many plastic models of Corvettes.

Yes, JoAnn collected many things, including trains. She had a Lionel lay out in her basement. At one point, I went downstairs to look at it. In a former life, I worked at a company that made toy soldiers and war games. To play these games, we built hills and houses — just like model train folks. I looked at her workbench and thought of the pleasant hours JoAnn must have spent there, puttering away at her hobby. On the bench was an unfinished building kit.

It will never be finished. It was left undone. So many things, left undone.

I fell to my knees and cried my eyes out.

After a few minutes, I gathered myself and rejoined the party.  Many of us sat on the patio speaking to her widow.  JoAnn ran Beauty and the Beach, and it WILL go on this year... as a tribute to her.  The patio group were pitching ideas on how to do this.  I volunteered my meager talents to whatever use they could be put.

There WILL be a Transgender memorial for JoAnn in the Philly suburbs.  It will be held at the same place we have Renaissance meetings on Saturday, June 29 at 7:30.  BYOB and a pot luck dish.  Black attire requested.

Thursday was the Transhealth Conference in Philly.  I went to Amanda Richards as I wanted to stun, and she didn't disappoint! 

I decided to go a bit casual, so I wore my Penn State t-shirt and a denim skirt.  I also wore some new wedges.  They took a while (and a couple of stumbles) to learn!

I parked in a nearby lot and carried over all of the things I brought, as I was setting up the Renaissance Table.  I bumped into so many people I knew!  After a bit, I finally arrived at the table which was FAR from the action, but oh well.  Our spot was next to the wonderful  Dr. Michelle Angello, who was there promoting her new book.  She was kind enough to sign a copy for me.

After being at the table for a bit, I decided to go to lunch.  Where to go?  I decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe... alone.  Why alone?  I needed to do it to prove to myself I could do it.  As I've written many times, if I'm going to be a Woman, I need to have experience as one.

I sat at the bar.  No one looked at me twice.  I had a wonderful lunch, and walked back.

At the Hard Rock

I sat at the Renaissance table for a bit when a grad student from the University of Florida came over.  She was a pretty redhead, petite and pale.  There were many grad students in the crowd, and they were easy to identify- they were the only ones not smiling.  She asked lots of questions about Renaissance, and i answered them.  She then asked if I would mind being interviewed for her research.  As I was alone at the table i said I would, but it had to be in an hour (after the others came back from lunch.)  She agreed, and walked away.

As she did, I saw a familiar face.  This person is one of the regular customers at the retail store where I work, and I'd heard that "He'd been coming in lately wearing a dress."  And there she was.  I called over to her in my fem voice, and no reaction.  I said in a louder (and more male) voice "Hey I know you!" at which she turned.  I smiled at her, and said "You don't recognize me, do you?"  A quizzical look.  Then I mentioned an item she had once generously given me. 

Her eyes widened, followed by a huge smile.  She mouthed my drab name (designated by random letter "L").  We both laughed.  She came over and we hugged.  And I said, "No, I'm Sophie.  L is just a shell."

We chatted about how she would've never guessed in a million years, as I was always so dour and all business at work.  I smiled at her.  Her name was Lauren.

She hung out for a while, and went to Wawa with myself and another Renaissance member on a munchie run. 

An hour later, the grad student returned.  I'll call her Julie.  We walked about the Convention Center looking for a quiet place to talk, and found an empty cafe on the third floor.  We sat, and i signed her consent form.

The questions were rather standard.  "When did I know I was transgender?"  "How did it first manifest itself?"  However, her follow up questions were excellent, and we ended up talking for a couple of hours.  I asked her questions as well.  Turned out she's married with a small child, and wants to be a doctor.  We talked about my paramedic days.  She asked why I stopped, and I told her. 

And I cried about the event.  It happened in 1989, and I never cried about it.  But there in an empty cafe, I did.

After the interview, I attended a talk by someone in my support group about "Sobriety and Transgender."  Aside from people in our support group there to lend support, there were many Transmen.  it was an amazing talk.

After that, the group went to Maggianos for dinner.  This was set up previously... and I had a plan.  See, we were eating with our therapist, Dr. Osborne.  At Keystone, we all posed together for a group picture.  I bought this picture, bought matting supplies and a name plate, and matted the pic.  I also bought a frame.  I wrapped the frame in some REALLY ugly wrapping paper. 



After we ordered, I stood and called the group's attention.  I gave a very short speech about how Dr. Osborne did a lot for us all, and how we all got together to give her this...  and she opened it.  An empty frame.  Then I explained a frame is all about potential, and meant nothing without something inside it.  I showed her the matted picture, and told her I wouldn't give it to her.  Instead, I signed it with a sharpie, and passed it to the person to my left.  It went around the table, and we all signed the matting.  She was stunned and very surprised. later she asked if I planned the whole thing.  Of course! 

Dinner was wonderful.  Eventually, the group broke up.  I drove home.  If the week had ended there, it would've been amazing.  But the best was yet to come...

End part 1.

Yes, I'm a bitch.  ;)





 

Friday, June 14, 2013

How I Achieved Cleave.

For three years, people have looked at some of my pictures on Facebook and Flickr, and asked "How did you get your cleavage?"  "Did you have implants?"

And I for the most part replied with answers like "Clean living," or "Ancient Chinese secret."



Well, my 66 crazy readers know that I've been on HRT for six months now.  I went for my first real and for true bra fitting today.  So now it's time to spill the boobs, I mean beans about How I did It.




Ok, so how DID I do it?  Tape?  Special undies?  Very small rocks? 

Welll...  here's the answer.





Ready?




It's...



Slightly photoshopped

A prosthetic. 

Yes really.  It is manufactured by a company in the UK called Proactive Prosthetics.  It's part of their "Croptop" range.  Each one is made to order and the waiting list was nine months for mine.  First they send you 70 "skin color" samples, which you match to your neck, and sent back.

You send VERY precise measurements.  And what size cup you want.

And eventually, they arrive. 

So... bonuses are that they look absolutely real.  I couldn't be happier.  But there ARE some restrictions.  You'll notice that in all pictures except the bottom one, I'm wearing something on my neck.  That's to cover the line there.  Sleeveless is out, as the shoulders will show a line.  The last picture above has those lines photoshopped out.

Also, it adheres to your skin using sweat.  Seriously.  So there's no way to wear it in warmer months.  They are quite specific about it.  Can you say "Heat stroke?"

And, they ARE expensive.  Mine were $1400.00 three years ago.  The best are worth it.

I've had my "girls" for three years, and they're in great shape.  As long as you maintain them (wash after every use) and store them properly, they are built to last.

That all said, I have my own now, so I'm retiring the prosthetic. 

If you can afford the best, Proactive simply IS the best. 

So now you know.  And knowing is half the battle.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Death, Disclosure and Delaware

I wish I could sugar-coat this entry, but sorry folks, this one is gonna be brutal.

If you read the last entry, you know that my friend JoAnne Roberts passed away.  I'm still trying to sort that out in my head.  I mean, I heard that she was sick, and the very next day I heard she's gone.

And there was nothing ANY of us could do.

Angela Gardner wrote a wonderful piece about it for TG Forum.

The day after she passed, I had to go on a trip.  I didn't want to, really, but Wife called in a marker.  You see, her family was renting two vacation houses down in Bethany Beach, Delaware for the week.  One was for Wife's middle brother, his wife (the homophobic bitch I mentioned here), and their litter of five.  The other was for Wife's youngest brother, his wife and their four kids (one of whom was 10 days old on Saturday), Wife, Daughter, Mother in law (MIL), Wife's Uncle (MIL's brother) and his wife... and me.  At least for one night, as Wife wanted me to drive her down there. 

So, as no one would be home, we brought the Dog with us to my parents, who live in southern Delaware not far from Bethany Beach.  We were to stop there, drop off the dog, then head to Bethany.  I would stay the day.  That night, we would take my parents out to dinner for Fathers Day, then the next morning early, I'd pick up the dog and head home, where I'd be alone for a whole week.

A day at the beach.  Even with my wife's horrific family, how bad could it be, right? 

So we woke up early Saturday and hit the road.  On the way down, Wife happens to mention something.

"My mom told me she thinks you're a crossdresser.  She mentioned you shave your legs and wear earrings and then there was the laundry thing."

"What did you tell her?" I said.

"I didn't say anything.  I kept stone faced.  Thank God she's not good at reading people."

And that was all she said about it before changing subjects.  And she would discuss it no further.

Gee thanks.

So.  My incredibly everything-phobic right-wing hate filled MIL thinks I'm a crossdresser.  Which I'm really not, but that's splitting hairs.  The fact is she'll be LOOKING for evidence of transgender activity.

In my educated opinion, I am SCREWED.

It will only be a matter of time before she finds some form of proof that I'm transgender.  And then all hell will break loose.  Needless to say, this news made me very anxious.  I texted and emailed people for advice.  Mostly they said "she can't prove anything" or "so what?"

Well, Wife and I live under her roof... THAT'S what!

Before I told my wife about being a woman, I made plans and back up plans.  I still have these plans.  Part one is to pack up everything I want to keep or that I can sell for food money. 

We arrived at the beach house, and MIL was already there.  It was pouring rain.  We unpacked our car... and hers.  I was soaked.  Then, my daughter, being so excited was hyperactive... and Loud.

Within an hour, the Uncle and Aunt arrived.  He is a Navy retiree.  Submarine service.  He and his wife are evangelicals...and hard core right wingers.  They are both quite pleasant except when politics are discussed.  They passionately hate anything to do with President Obama. "N" words are commonly used by them in reference to him.

He looked at me strangely, but said nothing about my appearance.  He offered me a beer, which I accepted.  Before it was finished, the youngest brother and his family arrived... and the noise began.  There were now five kids under the age of six... and all were over excited... and trapped indoors by the rain.

There was no escaping them anywhere in the house.  I tried to take a nap and they jumped onto the bed, shouting.  I wanted to take a ride somewhere... anywhere.  I was still dealing with JoAnn's death and the news Wife gave me... and all the screaming didn't help.

Wife said "No, you are NOT leaving me here alone with them."

Ummmm SHE was the one that WANTED to be there!

Then the middle brother arrived with his wife and five kids...

At one point, I locked myself in a bathroom and cried quietly.  Twice.  The kids started knocking on the door wondering what I was doing.

Eventually, the time came to go to dinner.  The sun finally came out.  We went to Harpoon Hannahs, which is a great place.  Dinner was good.  My daughter fell asleep.  Go figure.  On the way back, I stopped to get wine.  I knew it was going to a long night.  When we arrived back at the house, the middle brother and his family were gone, but the kids were in overdrive.  And my daughter had her second wind. 

And the TV was tuned to Fox news, so MIL and the other two old people were fired up.

As the weather was clear, I asked Wife to take a walk with me.  It took her fifteen minutes to clear it with her mom.  Then we walked for a little while.  I asked her again about what her mom said... and she refused to discuss it. 

Wonderful.

We stopped and got ice cream, then walked back to the house.  Then the long process of taming all those kids and putting them to bed began. 

After that, I had a glass of wine.  I walked out onto one of the porches, sat down and cried again.  I was the only one awake at that point.  I was completely broken and felt hopeless. 

I was supposed to go to Harrisburg that night for a TCPA meeting, and see friends.  Be Me.  Be happy.  Instead I was trapped miles away.  In drab.  Yes, I was feeling VERY sorry for myself.

During the night, I was awakened several times by children crying in the darkness. 

At 7:30, my daughter one of the nephews jumped on top of me, shouting "Daddy wake up!  One of them punched my right boob.  Ow!

Within an hour, I was on the road for picking up the dog, then to Pennsylvania.  Then to work.  This morning (Monday), I was up early for work.  Tonight, I started packing.

Crossdresser or Woman?


One other thing happened Saturday that I'm still sorting out. In the AM when we dropped off my dog at my parents for the night, my dad indicated that he wanted to talk before we left for Bethany. So me, him and my dog walked out onto the pier as Wife, daughter, and mum waited by the car. He didn't look at me when he said "My days are numbered. I want you to take care of your mother when I'm gone."

My dad is not one for hyperbole. Or to discuss his health.  Ever.

He said he wanted to sell the house and move inland, but mum didn't want to sell. He bought it for $28,000 back in 1977, and did a LOT of work on it himself. It was just assessed at $550,000.


Eventually dad went to the bathroom, so I told mum what he said, and asked what was wrong. She rolled her eyes and said "Ach, he's just being dramatic. He's convinced since all his siblings are having such poor health, he's next."

So.  One of them is lying.

Which one?

So, after this brutally long weekend, I woke up this morning for work, listening to a thunder storm.  It was peaceful.  I showered, then injected my estrogen.  Today marks six months on HRT.

This whole week they are all in Delaware.  it's just me and the dog.  I'll be out and about tomorrow during the day, maybe Wednesday, Thursday is the Transhealth conference, and Friday during the day I'll be out as well.

I need to be me...  all the time.  Soon.  And if I'm right, I'll get the chance whether I want it or not.



 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sleep well, Jo Ann

Many people knew JoAnn Roberts.

Photo Courtesy Amanda Richards

She was one of the Founders of Renaissance.  She started Ladylike magazine.  She started and ran Beauty and the Beach.  Wrote many books.  Wrote the Gender Bill of Rights.  And so much more.  Her accomplishments for the TG community are endless.

I've been Lucky to have many mentors on this journey.  My first night out, I met Jone, who took me under her wing.  My "Big Sister" Mel... has been an amazing, plain-speaking friend and Mentor.  Amanda Richards has been amazing.  Tammyrae has cared enough to (deservedly) smack me around for wardrobe choices and has given invaluable advice.    And I was so very lucky to have had JoAnn.

I met her when I started writing for TG Forum, for which she was the publisher. We sat and talked a while, and she seemed genuinely interested in who I was and where my path would take me. I hung on her every Word, knowing I was learning from someone whose knowledge and heart were far superior to my own.

Over the years, we spoke many times. She was always so kind and caring. I wanted to do good by her- to make her proud.

A couple of years ago, I attended Beauty and the Beach, which she hosted.  Even busy as she was with the event, she found time to pull me aside and sit down with me.  She wanted to know how I was, how I felt, where my head was about this journey.  She cared.  She genuinely cared.

JoAnn introducing me at BatB

before the end of that conference, I felt physically and emotionally sick.  But I had committed to do my part for the Variety Show, and I would NOT let her down.  I stayed, and did a comedy routine.  JoAnn basked me in praise the rest of the night.  I was in heaven. 

Linda Lewis told me she'd heard JoAnn was sick.  I contacted Angela Gardner, who confirmed that JoAnn had terminal lung cancer.  I was at work at the time.  I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and cried as quietly as I could.

I spoke to JoAnn's wife Thursday. I gave her a message to pass on to JoAnn, and maybe She even got it before she passed.

I told her that I wouldn't be the person I am today if not for her unselfish guidance. And that I would honor her by passing in what she taught me. 

Its a small gesture. Its all I can do.

JoAnn's glory is that I am far from the only one who she helped.  Her heart was so large, her generosity so great, that she touched the lives of countless people all over the world.  The TG movement, our very lives, would not be where we are today if not for JoAnn Roberts.

There are many who knew her better than I, and who feel her loss more profoundly. Together we as a community remember her as a friend, a mentor, and a Sister.

Rest well, JoAnn. You've earned it, and we will never forget you.

May the four winds blow you safely home. 


 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Family?

Some of you know my tale of Woe when it comes to my family. The abuse, being called a "mistake"... etc.

Many times in my group therapy meetings I listened to one of the women (I'll call her "D") discuss her loving family, and the issues she was suffering through. She, her parents and siblings have a deep bond of love.  And I said many times that while understand she has those feelings, I could not comprehend them. I was able to do this without feeling any sense of loss. In fact, I felt nothing toward the idea of family except pain and hate.

Yes, really positive I know.

The past few days have caused me to re-evaluate my thoughts and feelings.

As I've shared on this blog, I told my cousin in Scotland and she has embraced me. She has called me several times and sent me Facebook messages. We've had more contact in the past week than ever before in our lives.

This awakened new feelings. I've never given a damn about my birth family, as I saw it as nothing but a millstone around my neck. Pure Pain.

But now... to be accepted and loved unconditionally by someone who is genetically linked to me... what are these feelings?

Loyalty? Gratitude? Love?

I want to embrace her and cry. And cry. And laugh.

I think I'm beginning to understand just a little of that comfort and security of family that D experiences. 

My People Magazine Cover Pic


My family has always been my few friends.  Since I emerged as Sophie, I have met so many wonderful people, many of whom are now my friends. 

Friends.  I don't use that term lightly.  Never have.  Is that a Male thing?  Isolating myself from others?  Is the secret to being a Woman the ability to Love and be Loved?

In the past four years I've met people that mean the world to me.  But none of them are related to me.  I considered that a Gift, as they didn't share my family's defects.  They have become my family (aside from Wife and daughter.)  They are my Strength and my support.  I live and die by their triumphs and set backs.

Now I have an extended family member I can cherish, and I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it.

I'm beginning to understand what it CAN mean to have a family... and it makes me mourn for what I didn't have. And it makes me absolutely determined to ensure my daughter has that comfort and love.

Especially since I never had it... until now.

 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bawl-mer

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!