Saturday, September 28, 2013

Southern Comfort Odyssey 1: Tarheels

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 2013 Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was a huge event, and I drove down there.  There is so much to write about that I will divide it into parts.  As I post the parts, I will link to them.  Just like I did with the Keystone Conference.  Everyone got that?  Is this thing on?  *tap tap*

If you'd like to read my column on TG Forum about this same event, you can find it HERE.

So.  I drove down to Atlanta with my "Big Sister" Mel.  We did this in two stages, as we drove first to Chapel Hill, NC, home of the University of North Carolina.  We went there as she wanted to visit her daughter, who is a student there, and so the drive would be broken into two days.

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning as I was picking up Mel at 5:30.  I really couldn't sleep, as I was excited about the trip and still reeling over the events of two days before.  I'd packed earlier in the night.  I was ready except for that whole "not a morning person" thing.

I picked her up and we set off in the fog and rain south towards Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond... Oh please let there be no traffic in the construction zones...

Thank you Labor Day!  The workers were off... so there were no real jam ups!  So we flew by those cities.  As I drove past Richmond, I waved to my friend Ally Raymond, who lives somewhere in the area.  A symbolic gesture, but fun anyway.

I've never seen as many police cars on a highway as I did in Virginia.  Over 50!  So I drove relatively slowly. 

We arrived in Chapel Hill before noon.  As we couldn't check into the hotel until 3, we went downtown to find something to eat.  As I had very little breakfast, I was hungry!

We walked down East Franklin Street and settled on a place.  Spanky's.  I had the BBQ platter.   It was predictably amazing.

Yum!

After lunch, Mel and I walked down onto campus.  All around were groups of girls in sundresses.  It was sorority rush at UNC, and they take their Greek system VERY seriously down south.  The girls were dressed to impress.

The Well

There were groups everywhere, listening to "Rush captains." 

The campus was simply beautiful.


It was incredibly hot there, and soon I was soaked with sweat.  Mel and I went to the Grille at Four Corners.  We ordered beer and wings.  And the wings were quite good.  While there, I saw one of the waitresses receive a blue dress from our waitress.  I guessed it was for a dance later.  From The Four Corners, Mel went to meet her daughter for dinner.  They were going to some other restaurant.  I decided to explore a bit.  I walked onto campus and looked at some of the monuments, then I decided to get some dinner.

As I walked down the street, I saw the waitress, now wearing the blue dress.  She seemed in a hurry.  Of course!  She was also rushing a sorority!  I took a quick picture.  Looking at her, I felt so jealous.  She was petite and beautiful.  I wished I had been a GG in college.  But I wasn't.  And wishing won't change that.


I ended up at the Top of the Hill, where I had a beer.  Then Mel and her daughter came in.  I didn't want to be there as I knew they wanted their privacy, I went back down the street to the Four Corners, where I sat at the bar, and ordered another round of wings.



Mel eventually rejoined me, and I drove her and her daughter back to her daughter's dorm on the other side of campus.  From there, we went and checked into the hotel.  We were both tired, so went to bed early. 

The next morning, we left early for the long trip to Atlanta.  It was a brilliant sunny day, just as hot as the day before.  We made good time and didn't hardly see any police officers.   By 1 PM, we arrived in Atlanta, and checked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  As she was rooming with me, Mel suggested I request a room on the second floor, which we got. I soon saw the wisdom in that, as the elevator situation would soon become quite ridiculous.


To be continued in Part 2.

And Concluded in Part 3
 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Final Farewell: Lisa Empanada's Memorial

I thought I'd finished writing about Lisa.  But so many people asked me about last Friday's events, I decided to post the story here.

The week of Crying culminated in Friday's memorial.  September 20, 2013

There was to be no funeral.  Lisa didn't want one.  Two viewings were scheduled.  The first was 3-5 PM and the second was 7-9.  Unannounced was another viewing for family only from 2-3 PM.

My day was a comedy of errors.  I had so much going on, and was late from the beginning.  I took forever to get my makeup right, and eventually gave up.  I went to the MAC store in the King of Prussia mall.  There a very talented woman worked on my eyes.  It occurred to me as I drove away, that I had walked into and out of the mall in a dress in broad daylight and didn't even think twice about it.  I remember not long ago when I almost hyper-ventilated doing the same thing.

I met Jane Air at the place where I live and we drove to Baltimore together.  I was making us both late.  However, the directions I received were perfect, and we arrived at the funeral home at 3:30 PM.  Outside in the brilliant sunlight I saw Jen Bryant and Suzanne Olivia among so many others.

The Funeral Home


I hugged them both and walked slowly up the stone steps to the door.  Inside the light seemed dim compared to the brilliant sunlight outside.  To the left of the small foyer was a small guest book, which I signed.  Once past the foyer, I saw my friend Hayden, dressed all in black (which actually isn't unusual for him.)  He pulled me aside and said "Sandy wants you to have this." 

He gave me the Four leaf Clover necklace that I had sent to Lisa a lifetime ago (was it only a couple of months?)  (I'm wearing it as I type this.)  I looked at the small silver charm and necklace in my hand, and my eyes began to mist.

There were maybe sixty people there, mostly family.  I went to Sandy and we hugged.  Lisa's daughter Kristy was holding a pink stuffed animal: Mudsey.  Mudsey was in the van with Lisa.  Apparently, Lisa would bring Mudsey to her therapist appointments to dry her tears.  There were mascara stains on its head. I saw Ally and a few others and spoke to them briefly, with my back to the casket.  Then I turned to face it. 

The body was in drab.  It was Tom dressed in a suit.  The shirt was purple, as that was Lisa's favorite color.  I knew that under his shirt was an Underarmor constriction shirt to hide Lisa's breasts.  His black hair was slicked back and his hands were folded over his abdomen.  He was heavily made up.  In the hairline I could see why.  The skin was hot pink (a side effect of carbon monoxide poisoning.)  I looked at the face for a moment, and I could see Lisa's feminine features.  This... guy... whom I never met, was indeed Lisa. 

I knelt at the provided kneeling thing, and said a prayer for Lisa,  I then looked into the lifeless face... and bitched her out for over a minute, crying the whole time.  "You were supposed to call when you felt this way.  Now look at you- decaying in men's clothing!"  I then stood and headed out the door, all but bawling. 

There was a bar across the street- the Laughing Pint.  It was a small dive bar.  Myself, Jane, Christina Tali and Danielle Roberts went over for a drink.  There we found many members of Lisa's family.  The barmaid was overwhelmed with the number of people in the bar.  Eventually, we all toasted to Lisa. 

While I was waiting for the drinks, I suggested the rest of us occupy a nearby table.  Danielle said "Aren't you bossy!"  I told her that I bartended for many years, and I was used to the bar being my domain.  But that wasn't totally true.  I mean, it was, but it wasn't the full story.  I was blustering.  It's one of my defense mechanisms when I am extreme pain.  I start giving orders and "assume command" hoping people will go away so I can suffer alone.  Never works.  Just makes me look bitchy.

After a couple of rounds, the party broke up and many people went to the Canton Dockside.  The family reserved a room with tables for thirty.  However, there we more than fifty of us.  So they made the room family only.  I understood why, but I admit being a little hurt.  After all, I had been told many times I was family.


Canton Dockside.

But that's ok.  Myself and my sisters sorted out tables and we all had a wonderful meal.  I started blustering again. though. 

"Dammit, we are here to celebrate Lisa's life so let's celebrate!"  All I wanted to do was curl into a ball and sob, but I refused to do so.

That's when Lisa's daughter Kristie and a few others left the back room and joined us at our tables.  I was SO moved by that gesture.  She objected to us being segregated and wanted to be among those of us who knew Lisa best. 

At the table.  Pic by Christina Tali

Dinner went well.  The food was great and the service was wonderful.  I dreaded the next step.  Back to the funeral home for the last part of the viewing. 
 
After parking, Jane and I walked to the funeral home.  It was packed!  So many people!  So many transpeople had come out to pay tribute and say goodbye to Lisa.  Maybe 120 people, mostly us.
 
I re-entered.   I saw Kristy, and held Mudsey rather roughly.  See, she had been in the van and hadn't stopped Tom from doing what he did. I then went back to the casket, where I waited in line for my turn.  The room was quite hot as it was fairly full of people.  Eventually it was my turn.  I knelt again, and said another prayer for Lisa.  I then quietly caught her up with events in my life, as I used to when she was alive.  Again, I cried the whole time.  This time I reached out and touched her arm.  Stone cold.
 
I hugged Sandy again, I went to the back of the room.  Someone had made Kristy a book of pictures of Lisa and her writings.  I was told I was "all over the book."  And I was.  In it were several pictures of Lisa and I together.  Also there was the piece I wrote for her, as well as her description of receiving the necklace I gave her.  The necklace that was now zipped into an inner compartment in my purse.
 
Soon a priest appeared.  He was older and Hispanic, and spoke with an accent.  He summoned "immediate family only" to the front of the room.  So it family in the front, transgenders in the back.  I stood next to my friend Cecilia Watkins from Harrisburg.  Many of us looked at each other in confusion.  Why was there a priest there?  Lisa was anti-religion!  I found out later that Sandy asked him there for her comfort, as she was Catholic.
 
The priest started by referring to "Brother Tommy" and led everyone in prayer.  Then he started in with "everyone knew about Tommy's identity issues" and kept on going.  "The pope has ordered we clergy to be tolerant of these poor misguided individuals" and "God will forgive them anyway,"  Cecilia and I held hands, both of us squeezing very hard.  All of us were so incredibly angry!  This... person... was not only insulting the deceased, but also insulting over 2/3 of the people in the room!  I had a clear line of sight to his face and glared at him angrily.  My eyes never leaving his face.  I was so pissed off!
 
The priest finished with a prayer, and took off like the hounds of hell were biting at his heels. 
 
Kristy then stepped to the spot he had vacated and introduced herself.  She spoke of how she was Lisa's daughter, and how so many of us never met Tommy, only Lisa, and continued from there to paint a loving portrait of the Lisa we all knew.  She always referred to Lisa, not Tom, and to her as "my mom."
 
She redeemed the service in all of our eyes.  And I told her so.  I also told her that at the Angle Inn later, that her money was no good.  And it wasn't.  All of Lisa's sisters lined up to buy her drinks.
 
After Kristie finished, there was another line to visit the coffin, and I joined it.  Eventually it was my turn.  The moment I dreaded was here- the moment I prayed would never, ever come.  It was time to say goodbye to one of my best friends.  To my "transition buddy."  To my Sister. 
 
To Lisa.
 
I again knelt and offered one last prayer in her presence.  I then looked into her pale, dead face and told her how I loved her, and how I would carry her in my heart all the days of my life.  That I would live by her example of welcoming everyone, and of loving all.  I placed one of my business cards in the crook of her left arm, on the back of which I had written "Goodbye Lisa.  I will always love and miss you."  I then said that to her as I held her lifeless right arm.  I then said goodbye, crying like I'd never cried before.  I turned my back on the coffin, on Lisa, and left the funeral home.  Now I had to do the impossible- go on with my life without her.
 
She was cremated the next morning.  All the beauty that was Lisa.  her smile, her eyes, are now ash. 
 
From there, the family and a few transpeople went to the Angle Inn, which was close to where Lisa lived.  Walking distance in fact.  There I set up Kristy's first drink, and a few of us settled into some tables back by the dartboards and quietly talked. 
 
The Angle Inn from the parking lot.
 
After a drink, I walked to Lisa and Sandy's house.  Sandy had asked me to come over.  Upon arrival, I sat with Sandy and Lisa's daughter Tiffany.  We sat and spoke quietly about some private things.  I looked over at a table and again saw the wedding picture that Lisa had with her in that horrible van.
 
 
 
Sandy and Tiffany told me some private things that made me cry again, but I also smiled through my tears.  She then led me downstairs to the basement, where, hanging everywhere were Lisa's things.  And she pointed out several full suitcases- all full.  Lisa was quite the shopper!  As she and I were the same size, Sandy started stuffing a bag with dresses and tops.  She tossed in six wigs, two of which had never been worn.  She then disappeared around a corner and said "wait here a sec." 
 
She returned holding a white floral dress: the one Lisa wore to her Affirmation Party.  Sandy said "you should have this."
 
I said "I... I am not worthy of this."
 
Sandy said "I can't think of anyone Lisa would've wanted to have it more than you."
 
I took the dress and looked at it.  I then placed it in the bag.  I WILL wear that dress.  I will wear it when I have MY affirmation party.  And I WILL have one... just to wear that dress.  And to educate those who come on what it means to be trans.
 
Lisa speaking at her Affirmation Party
 
 
We spoke for a little while longer, and then hugged.  I took my leave, and placed the bag in my car.  From there I went back to the Angle Inn.  I had a few more drinks with various members of Lisa's family.  I handed the keys to Jane.  I knew I couldn't drive at that point.
 
Soon after that, we left.  We took Hayden with us.  He had been sullen and silent most of the day- grieving in his own way.
 
At 1:30 AM, we were in the driveway of the house where I am staying.  I went inside and removed my black dress.  I will never wear that dress again.  I pulled off my wig and collapsed into bed without removing my makeup and slept a dreamless sleep.
 
In the days that followed, the picture of Lisa's final day became clearer. 
 
Lisa's last phone call was just after 10 AM to the foreman of the job she was working.  It lasted under two minutes.  She said "I'll be back to stain the stairs."
 
Her last known text was to Ally, but that message was private, so I won't say what it was. 
 
Sandy spoke to the man who found Lisa's body.  She told me what he said.
 
The van was there at 3 PM. ( Last prior sighting prior was 11:30 AM.)  The man saw it pull up and park across the road from his house, but this was not unusual.  The next morning, the van was still there, so he went over to look in it.  He looked in the front window and saw what he thought was a Hispanic sleeping in the back.  He went to the rear doors and opened one.  Lisa's foot flopped out lifelessly.  The man called the police.
 
Lisa was found with the pink stuffed animal, Mudsey, under one arm. Keys were in the other hand. Between that arm and her chest, facing out, was the wedding picture. It slid there after she died. The necklace and wedding ring were on her. Tiffany's makeup bag was next to her. In the bag was her carry letter and her driver's license. The machine was NOT running, as it automatically shuts off after 4 hours. 
 
It was the police who moved everything to the front seat to remove the body.  Lisa died with representations of her loved ones with her.
 
Since the estimated time of death was somewhere between 6 and 9 PM, and the van was parked there at 3, what did Lisa do before starting the compressor?  My educated guess is that it took maybe ten or fifteen minutes for the van to fill with the poison gas.  From there, it would take ten minutes for her to die, quietly.  She just fell asleep and left this world. 
 
I like to think those hours were filled with Lisa fighting for possession of Tom, trying to stop what was happening.  Maybe she sat crying in the van.  Maybe my estimate is all wrong, and it took her hours to die.
 
In any case, Sandy didn't go upstairs to see the note left for her until 9 that night.  By the time the search began, Lisa was already gone.
 
So Lisa is gone.  I keep looking for a silver lining to all this.  My friend Sharon Stones offered one.  She mentioned that Lisa's passing has "brought the community together like nothing [she'd] ever seen before."  And she's right.  We have pulled together in mourning.  We are talking to each other.  We are talking about suicide and how to avoid it.  And this is a good thing. 
 
As an aside to this story, I offer this.  Many have asked me "Why did she name herself Empanada?  Did she eat a lot of them?"  No.  She told me why. She named herself for a Goddess.
 
"Empanada, also called Empanda or simply Panda, is the Roman Goddess of asylum, charity, and hospitality. Her temple on the Capitoline Hill was always open, and from Her temple food was distributed to those in need. Her name derives from the Latin verb pandere, "to open" or "to spread out" (used in the phrase passis manibus "with hands outstretched") and means "She Who Opens". She is said to have originally been a Goddess of the countryside, worshipped by rural folk, which would seem to imply some connection with farming or nature."
 
 Fits doesn't it?
 
I think it's appropriate to give my sister Lisa the last word.  This is from a piece she posted on Facebook on December 24, 2012 at 8:27 AM. The last line is so appropriate to her memory.  It distills Lisa to her essence. 

Sleep well, my Sister.  I will never ever stop loving you or missing you.
Can you take some stuff away from us? We have too much of somethings that no one should have so much of. Could you please stop by on Christmas and take away the doubt. Can you remove the tremendous pain and grief from our shoulders...so many of us are buckling under the weight. Could you take away the nightmares that haunt our waking hours. Can you take away the feeling of loneliness? Can you take away the skepticism that we can ever manage to believe in the magic that moves us?
Santa can you take away our fears. We have too many of them already. If you can, please do. Because so many of us are trapped by fear and doubt, by regret and a lack of confidence.

If you could just take this stuff away ... or find a way to help us to, I know we can be stronger and soar higher. I know we can be the Angels on Earth we are destined to be.
 
 
SCC 2013.  Eight days before she died.
 
 
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Goodbye Lisa Empanada

What can I say?

Lisa Empanada is gone.

As I write these words in my notebook, I'm sitting on the back porch of Lisa's house in Baltimore.  She built this porch herself.

I'm here for Sandy, Lisa's wife.  And I'm here trying to make sense of it all.

The family is mostly inside finalizing arraignments for the viewing.  There will be no service.  No funeral.  Lisa didn't want one.

Dylan Thomas exhorted us to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."  Lisa did not do that.  So I will do it for her.  I will rage against the dying of HER light. 

So what can I say?

Lisa was a Sister to me.  She was close as blood.  Closer.  We talked about everything and anything.  We explored the darkness that I knew, and that eventually took her.

We laughed.  Oh, how we laughed.

Keystone Conference, March 2013


And we cried.

Lisa, to the world, was about happiness.  She had endless compassion.  Full of love.

Some would say it was love that caused her to do what she did.  They would be wrong.

Lisa was no stranger to Love.  When she passed, the internet became a tidal wave of love for her.  People related stories.  Wrote poems.  Quoted songs.  If Lisa saw it all, she would roll her eyes, blush,  and laugh.

Lisa was loved because she loved.  She loved everyone.  But the love her life was her wife, Sandy.  They are truly soulmates. 

And Lisa left her behind.


In a recent Newsweek article about suicide, Dr. Thomas Joiner theorizes that people who attempt suicide have three things in common, and that all three need to be present:  "Thwarted belongingness" or feeling alone; "Perceived Burdensomeness" or feeling like a burden; and "Capability for Suicide" or I am not afraid to die.

Remember that.  I'll  come back to it.


So what can I say? 

I met Lisa on January 14, 2012, at one of Jen Bryant's Raven parties in New Hope, PA.  She sat next to me at dinner, and was drinking Miller lite straight from the bottle.  She looked at me and said "those bitches think drinking beer from a bottle isn't feminine.  Well this is what I say to that!"  And she chugged one down.

Lisa the night I met her.  Between us is Victoria

I liked her immediately, and told her so.

So began our relationship.  We talked a lot as we moved forward through our lives.  She would come up to PA for Laptop Lounge.  We would hug and laugh when we were together.  It wasn't until later that we cried.

She was there the night I was stopped for DUI.  It was her "first birthday" as Lisa. 



And when she suddenly stopped her Facebook account in the spring, we spoke for hours as she fought the Darkness.  She was suicidal.  She had a plan and wasn't going to be turned from it.  She attempted suicide, but her daughter found her in time. 

She got help. 

And with Sandy's love, we thought she turned everything around.  But it was a lie.

She went full time as a woman, except for work.  There was a party for her thrown by her family.  I was honored to attend.

The affirmation party.  Ally is on the right.


Lisa was angelic and happy.

So what can I say?

Shall I write about how this woman changed my life?

After her Affirmation Party, I wrote her a letter that came to me in a dream.  I sent it to her via FB message.  And she wrote back.

I can't comment other to say...thank you so much. I am crying but I don't know if I am happy or sad. I feel pain for what could have been and for what I might have done to you and others, yet those missteps brought me to a real life dream come true. Yet still those feelings, that pain, so familiar to both of us is haunting. Thank you Sophie!

She used what I wrote as a part of what would be the finest thing I ever read from her.  And the most horrific.  But I'll get to that in a moment. 

Then we discussed my transition plan, and she wrote this:

It is a sometimes seemingly horrendous journey. Thankfully we don't have to do it alone. Take my hand.......

I am so thankful that you extended yours

And so I did.  We would transition together.  Sisters.  A promise of shared experiences.

So what can I say?

Shall I write some soaring rhetoric that will make me cry and make sure that all knew how much she meant so many?

No.  I won't.  Not now anyway.  Maybe soon.  No, now I'll tell you how she died.

After all, if you read what she wrote on Facebook, which included my letter to her, she already told you.  She told us all.  But we thought the darkness was gone.  It wasn't.

No.  It never left her.  And she knew we were all watching, so she hid it from all of us. 

She planned her death.  Meticulously.

On Monday September 16, the sun rose on Lisa's last day here on earth.  She left work at noon, and her foreman said she had a strange and sad look to her face.  The last person that we know saw her alive was a neighbor who saw her cleaning out the back of a Painting van.  The same van that she used to attempt suicide months ago.  The one with the gas powered compressor in the back.  She never cleaned out that van.  See, she wasn't the tidiest person.

She left a couple of things in the house for Sandy, including a short message, written with lipstick on a mirror.  Sandy showed me the mirror.  But those words are for Sandy alone, so I won't write them here.

From there, the details are known only to Lisa and God. 

The person driving the van was Tom.  Tom was Lisa's birth name.  Tom was a tortured soul.  He drove the van to a different part of the city, miles away.  Maybe he went elsewhere first.  No one knows when he parked the van.  Tom brought with him something to represent each of his children, his "carry letter" stating Lisa was Transgender, and his drivers license.  He brought a framed wedding picture.  These items he laid on the front seat in plain sight.  He carried something of Sandy's as well, but I won't say what. 

And he brought a pillow.  Sometime during that day or night, he started the compressor, layhis head on the pillow, and waited for the carbon monoxide to do its work.  Which it did.

It did.

And Lisa died.  Tom took her from us.

Sandy returned home from work, saw what was left for her, and started calling around, and texting people.  She called the police and filed a missing person's report. 

I woke early on Tuesday September 17.  4 AM.  And I saw messages from several people asking if I'd heard from Lisa.  I hadn't, which was unusual.  In fact, my last message from her was Saturday early morning, September 14, at 12:44 AM.  She wished me a happy belated birthday, as well as something else, which I will not write here.  That one is just for me.

It was odd I hadn't heard from her for a couple of days.  I wondered if I'd pissed her off.  But she had pushed me away.  As she had with everyone over the previous week, one by one.  She had her plan, and wasn't going to be deterred.  Not this time.

Tuesday September 17, 2013.  Lisa and Sandy's Eighth Wedding Anniversary.


So what can I say? 


I contacted Sandy, offered to help.  She said it wasn't necessary- that the police were on it.

At 1 PM, I received the text that I expected and dreaded from Sandy.  And with it, I left work and headed south toward Baltimore at high speed.

"They found Lisa in Essex.  She's gone."

And with that, my life changed.

My Sister was gone.

The last Picture I took of her.  She sat next to me during the Saturday night gala at SCC.  This was the last night I would see her alive.


I started this post two days ago with the scribbling in the notebook.  As I type this part, it's Thursday night.  Tomorrow is Lisa's viewing.  I will wear the black dress I wore the night we met.  Then I will pack it away and never wear it again. 

Tomorrow the community will say goodbye.  She had been doing that for weeks.  The stories I've been seeing online tell me this.  I saw her last at SCC.  I cried on her shoulder for an eternity.  The last things she told me was that only by being whole... by being Sophie, could I be the best possible parent to my daughter.  She urged me to be the best parent to my daughter that I could.  When we hugged goodnight, she held me firmer and longer than ever before.  I thought it was because I was upset.

I know now she was saying Goodbye.

I never said goodbye to her.  Tom deprived me of that.

All we have left are memories and questions for which we will never know the answers.  What were her last thoughts on Earth as she drifted off to that final sleep?  Was she smiling and at peace, like she wrote before?  Or did she cry, knowing who and what she was leaving behind? 

We know the last thing she heard- the sputtering rumble of a gas powered compressor that was her chosen method.

Now we are all without her.  And there is pain.  Why did she do it?  She told us all.

She felt she was hurting Sandy.  And she couldn't stand it.

Tom died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  That's the medical fact.  But Love was not the true reason Tom did this.

No.

Tom died because he was transgender.  And that fact led him to his death, of this I am sure.  As sure as I am of my daughter's love.

Tom died, taking Lisa with him.  Taking my Sister.  My dear friend. 

And I have cried for days.


Lisa, The Raven, the Night we met.


How will I feel many years from now about her?  Time will heal the pain, and someday I will be able to think of her and not cry.  Thirty years from now, God willing, what part of my heart will still ache for Lisa Empanada? 

Will Lisa be waiting for me on the other side when it is my turn to pass over?

After her April attempt, Lisa told me many times that I saved her life.  I didn't.  And I have found myself thinking about that.  Was that a waste of time?  And it struck me.  No.  It wasn't.  It bought us all five extra months of Lisa.

We all had five months more of her in our lives.  Her smile.  Her words.  I personally had one of the most moving and affirming experiences of my life thanks to her party.

Right now, I'd give everything but my wife and daughter to speak to Lisa for just a minute.  To hold her close and feel her tears.  But we had five months of "borrowed time" already.

And tomorrow is goodbye.

Keystone Conference, March 2012


Lisa made Sandy a promise eight years ago.  Their wedding song said

I'll be your dream,
I'll be your wish
I'll be your fantasy
I'll be your hope,
I'll be your love
Be everything that you need
I'll love you more with every breath
 
And now that promise is broken.  All her promises are broken.

She promised we would transition together.  She promised to call me before the Darkness took her.  She didn't.  And she's gone.

I previously mentioned Joiner's theory on Suicide.  And it fit Lisa to a T.  I have had those three things a few times in my life.  And survived.  Right now, I strongly feel two of them. 

But there is one that is NOT there.

I Know I am not alone.

That knowledge keeps me from calling out to my Sister "Hey Lisa! Wait up!  Let's explore the Light together!" and following her away.

I know that my sisters are there for me.  They've proved it these last few horrible days.  I know I will never be alone.  And even if they are not, I will always have Lisa in my heart, where I will keep her all the days of my life.

I will transition to the Woman I truly am, and carry Lisa with me into the life she denied for herself.

There have been many ways people have said "Goodbye" over the years.  I could paraphrase Shakespeare.

"Goodnight Sweet Princess.  And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

There are many songs I could quote.  But only one really fits.

One of the final verses of Brokedown Palace by the Grateful Dead.

Fare thee well,
Fare thee well,
I love you more
Than words can tell.


With Hayden, celebrating Lisa's failed attempt with Champagne and Banana Crème Pie.  May 2013



Goodbye Lisa.  I will always love you, my Sister, and I will always miss you.


 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tossed Out...

As my loyal readers know, I've been away for a bit.  My life has irrevocably changed.

It's been a couple of weeks since my last full post.  Since that time, I've been thrown out of my Mother In Law's (MIL) house, been to UNC, Atlanta for SCC, and back.

So much to write about, and I will get to it all in the fullness of time.  But first thing's first.

On Wednesday, August 28, I was informed by Wife that MIL wanted me out of the house, and that on that Friday she would be changing the alarm codes.  This meant that I could only come and go with Wife, as MIL would not let me in.  I was given two days to pack up and get out. 

Of course, there was no way in hell I could pack everything in that time, despite the fact that many books were already packed.  I posted about this on Facebook, and received many helpful comments.  I also received offers of help with the move.  Jamie and her husband as well as Jane Air and Hayden from Harrisburg came to help with their pickup trucks. As did another friend. Let's call her A.

I've known A for twenty years. She was dating someone in my old D&D group, and we clicked. We remained friends through the years and Wife and I attended her wedding. She volunteered to help. 

I thought for a bit. How could MIL really turn the knife if she wanted? Easy answer- announce to everyone I was TG while moving! And of everyone involved in the move, A was the only one who didn't know. She was there for the "Monique" outfit in 2009, had seen me in the Mary Marvel twice, and the Vampire once.  So she'd seen me dressed before.  Perhaps even suspected. 

So that Thursday night, I invited her to Rock Bottom. Yes, the same place I told Elizabeth, M, R, and Jamie. And I told her as well. Gave her the card. She looked at me and said "So what? I always though you were one of the girls." 

So now all that were helping knew about me.  That took away MIL's trump card.

So that Friday, I worked.  I also sent Wife a text.  You see, I thought when I was exiled, I would be gone from her and my daughter's life.  And I wanted one last night of "normal" life with them before leaving.  One of the things that Wife and I spoke about on our first date all those years ago was our mutual love of Star Wars.  She is as much a fanatic for the movies as I am.  We first bonded over this (and music and other things.)

So, as the last movie we'd watch together, I wanted to watch Star Wars one last time.  She agreed. 

I cried twice at work that day.  The idea that my whole life was coming apart and that I had no say in it was tearing me to pieces.

That night, after Daughter was in bed, I put on Star Wars, and as usual when watching it, she curled up and lay her head in my lap.  The opening crawl hadn't finished when she quietly said "This isn't the last movie we'll watch together.  We'll still watch movies."

I looked down at her with a questioning look. 

"I'm not throwing you out of our lives.  I fully expect you to be in [Daughter]'s life, and in mine."

I started crying again.

There is more to that conversation, but I'll keep that between she and I.

She fell asleep as the Millennium Falcon escaped from the Death Star.  I watched the whole thing.  And slept in my own bed for the last time.  At 3 AM, right on schedule, the dog put her paw in my face, wanting to go out.  I let her out and petted her a little extra when she came back in. 

The next morning, I packed like crazy.  As did Wife.  Jane and Hayden arrived first, then Jamie and her husband arrived.  A was thirty minutes later.  The day was extremely hot and humid, and I was quickly soaked thoroughly with sweat.  Thanks to their amazing help, most of my things were moved in a few hours, either into the storage space that used to hold my Sophie stuff, or to the place I'd be staying.

Before leaving for the last trip, I took the dog back to my old bedroom, and hugged her, petted her, and cried like crazy.  I also took a picture. 

My puppy.  :(

Then I went to the "living room" where Daughter was watching a movie.  I hugged and held her and told her I loved her.

"What's wrong daddy?"

"Daddy has to go away for a while."

Wife waited out by my car.  We hugged and kissed and cried.  Both of us.

I drove down the driveway, away from the place I called home for ten years, and my wife of twenty years.

I pulled over twice to cry on the way.


The plan was that I would treat everyone to dinner at Shangrila, and then some would come to Winberies, where Angela was having a special Laptop Lounge.  I also invited my "Big Sister" Mel.  I took a long, cold shower, as I was really overheated.  During the day, I went light headed a few times.  I then did a quick job on my makeup.  A was downstairs, and I introduced myself to her as Sophie for the first time.

Exiled

Dinner was great, and most people went to Laptop.  I introduced A to everyone, and she seemed to have a blast.  A is an outgoing person and enjoys herself wherever she goes.  I plopped her into a room with dozens of transgenders and she just took it in stride and embraced it.  She really is a remarkable person.

I returned to the house around midnight, as I was thoroughly exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually, and any "ally"s I may have missed.  I washed off my makeup, and collapsed into the bed I'd be sleeping in for a while.  And cried myself to sleep.

So, what does this mean?  In the short term, it means that I am living by the charity of a friend.  It means seeing my daughter when I can.  It means seeing my dog when I can. It means crying a lot.

But it also means that I am free to be Me.  I can come and go as a woman.  I can go anywhere as Sophie, save work.  I can be full time, except for work.  And so I shall be.

While in Atlanta, I had my eyebrows done in a feminine style.  I went everywhere as a woman.  because I am one.  And I'm now setting up a date for FFS, and, God willing, going Full time including work.  After that, all that's between me and GRS is... Me.

The old cliche is that every cloud has a silver lining.  And so this one does as well.  Being kicked out of the nest gives me two choices- fall or Fly.

I've spent my entire life Falling.  It's time for me to fly.  And thanks to the support of so many wonderful people, I am doing it.


God Help me, I am doing it.





 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sorry about the delay...

sorry ive been away.

i am alive and healthy, if a bit harried.

i am moved out of mother in law's house and staying with a friend. Still not really unpacked, then i went south to Atlanta for SCC.

Lots to tell you, and I will do so as soon as i can.