Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Old Drab Blog Entry: "Old Toys"

Some years back, 2008-9, I kept a Drab blog.  It was called STFU, and I didn't post to it very much.  Usually the posts were very political.

But this one wasn't.  I just rediscovered this blog, and am reprinting it here.  Why?  Because I liked it.

STFU, like my Myspace blogs, never received any comments, so I don't know what people thought of this entry... if anyone even read it.

So here it is, unedited... a piece of my mind from March 26, 2009 called "Old Toys."

I've been selling a lot on ebay lately.  I sell old games and old Games Workshop pieces (painted and unpainted) and also stuff for my mother in law.  I usually do pretty well too.

Lately, I've been going through unpacked boxes looking to raise some funds, and I found a box of all that remains of my old toys from growing up.  I didn't have an overabundance of toys.  Enough I guess.  One of the things I had were Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.  They were cheap and I could buy them easily with my allowance.  

My brother and I didn't play much together but we would race the cars.  We had Hot Wheels track and while he had more cars,  I had good ones.  My favorite (and second fastest) was a blue Hot Wheels 55 Chevy Nomad.  My brother only had one car that could beat it.  But I had one that was even faster. Still the Nomad was cooler.

So somewhere along the line, a lot of my cars vanished.  I have one Matchbox case left, holding 20 cars.  Some of them I sloppily repainted back in the early 80s as I honed my painting skills.  It was this case that I found a couple days ago.

I looked at it and wondered if any of these cars were worth anything.  After all, most were over 30 years old and in good enough condition.  I mean, they raced on a track and all, and had some chipped paint, but were still good.  I looked at them through the eyes of a 42 year old, looking for value.

Then I picked up the Nomad.  There it was, just as I left it oh it had to be nearly 30 years ago.  My favorite.  The one car that gave my brother fits.  And I was a kid again.  

I don't have many happy childhood memories, but this little piece of metal was definitely one of them.  Oh, and of course it's by far the most valuable of the bunch on ebay.

These cars sat in this box for nearly 30 years, waiting for me to come back and play with them, and I never would.  There's few things sadder than an old toy that is no longer played with.  It waits and waits for the love and imagination of a child to give it life once more.  My world had changed to become one of work and after-school sports and trying to get dates.  No time for cars.  Too old.

And now after all these years, I am here just to sell them off.  Dispose of them.  Eliminate them from my life.

And so I will.  I have taken pics of them and put the ones worth anything on ebay.  I need the money.   

Except the Nomad.  I'm keeping her and keeping her safe.  I even raced her across the desktop just now.  She still moves just fine, thanks for asking.  

I need to save what few good memories I can.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014

Work at the bookstore was insane the past week.  The lines were long but fast moving, as the cashiers seemed well motivated.  Mostly the cashiers were the Christmas help I trained, and for the most part they did a great job.  Some may even be asked to stay on.  (I was hired as Christmas help and eleven years later I'm still there.)

But eventually the final day passed and it was Christmas Eve.  On the 24th I wore a red dress I hadn't worn in years  along with a white cardigan sweater.  I received several compliments.  My day ended, and I drove back to the apartment.  There Linda and I (Zoey is back in Iowa for the holiday) had some dinner (microwaved chicken patties) and watched Star Wars.  I was thoroughly exhausted, and went to bed early.

The next morning Linda was up early as always.  I slept in a little, but woke up and gave her a Christmas gift:  a new Barbie doll.  The other night at the group therapy session, Linda told the story of her Barbie collection that she had to get rid of before moving to PA (as she thought there would be no room at the place in Florida that she thought she was moving) and it struck a chord with me.  Her last Christmas, 2013, was, according to her, her worst Christmas ever, so I was determined that this Christmas would be far better.  So, I gave her a Barbie.  It doesn't replace all that she lost, but it's something frivolous that she'd never get for herself, so I felt it was perfect.

Linda got ready first, and I went back to bed for a bit.  When she finished in the bathroom, I showered and put on my makeup.  I wanted to give feminine cues (like showing a bit of cleavage) but not overdo it, nor outdo Linda, who was radiant in a red dress.

Christmas Outfit

The original plan was to leave at ten.  We were on the road at 10:45, as I worked a bit slowly.  I drove the rental car.  Why a rental car?  My car's transmission broke- bad clutch.  So it's in the shop.  Wife is helping me with this, as I can't pay for it.

As my EZ-Pass was in my car, I had to pay tolls.  At the first toll we reached (in Delaware) the toll booth attendant said that the woman ahead of us had taken care of our toll and wished us a Merry Christmas.  So I paid my toll, and said it was for the person behind me- paying it forward.

Why was this trip so different?  Well, this time my Older Brother (OB) would be there.  I hadn't spoken to him since last December, when I told him I was a woman... and he laughed.  This would be his first time meeting his Sister.

His Sister.  Me.

I still have a hard time believing I did this.

So we arrived at my parents' house.  I took a deep breath, and Linda and I went up the steps to the door.  My dad opened it for us, and my mum was there to greet us.  (The door opens into the kitchen, where both were working on dinner.)  OB, his wife and his daughter were all on the enclosed porch on the other side of the house.  Out of sight from this door.

I can only imagine what was going through their minds before we arrived, and when we arrived.

I do know this much- my Mum read me the riot act before I came down, insisting upon peace between my brother and I.  I assured her that I would be good, but that also that I would not just sit there and take any insults.  I know my brother was similarly cautioned.

I walked to the other side of the house and greeted OB and his family.  His mother in law was also there, as this was her first Christmas since her husband passed away.  She is an absolute delight.  I'd met her before (and her husband, who was also a wonderful person) and she was very open and friendly this time as well.

OB was rather quiet and sedate.  But, as he promised, he was a perfect gentleman.

After being there for a bit, OB and I had a moment alone.  I said "Hi.  I'm your sister, Sophie" and extended my hand, which he took.  And he didn't laugh or even roll his eyes.  Not at all.  I was so relieved.

Dinner was wonderful- turkey and all the trimmings with various pies for dessert.  Linda and I both ate our fill and more.  Linda was the perfect guest- witty and engaging.  She definitely shines in social situations.  I was very glad she could share this dinner with my family.

After dinner, I did my best to help clean up as the guests (after offering to help, having said offer rebuffed repeatedly, and still helping anyway) retired back to the porch.

When I joined them, Linda was discussing the Trans experience with them.  OB's mother in law was asking intelligent questions as was OB's wife.  And, as always, Linda answered them in a straight forward way, but not in a harsh way.  I joined the conversation.  One of the points I made as that so few people actually KNOW a trans-person, but now they, OB's family, knew one.  From there is born understanding.  And they WANTED to understand.

Before Linda and I left., OB and I posed for a picture.

With OB.  First pic together

As we both had early mornings the next day, Linda and I left relatively early.  OB's wife hugged me and told me to "Keep up the fight."  I will.

The ride home was mostly through darkness.  At different toll than had been previously paid by another, the toll person informed me that again someone had already paid for me, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

We had one more stop to make.  Wife asked me to stop by MILs so I could pick up a gift.  I also really wanted to see my Daughter.  And I did, for five minutes.  But those five minutes were much appreciated.

Ready for Christmas

We arrived back at the apartment later than I'd hoped, then we both went to bed, exhausted.  The next morning it was back to work at the bookstore.

Christmas was over.

All that hard work and frantic pace, and it ended so quickly.

So now it's waiting for 2014 to end.  2015 here we come!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lisa Empanada's "Dear Santa, This Year Can You Take Some Stuff Away?"

I write a lot about Lisa, gone now these 15 months.  For those new to this blog, the key entries about her are HERE, HERE, and HERE.  One thing I've mentioned before is that she was an amazing writer.

Last night, I re-read a Christmas post that she published on Facialbook on December 24, 2012 at 8:42 AM.    I cried myself to sleep last night.  She was such an amazing person, and to think that she is gone...  I'm tearing up again.

Today I contacted her soul mate, the beautiful Sandy Empanada, who granted me permission to repost that entry here.

Lisa Empanada was my "transition sister" and I miss her every day.  She was truly one of the finest people I ever met.  The following piece of writing really cuts to the core of who she was.

Dear reader, here is Lisa's entry, unedited, as she posted it.  I miss you, Lisa.  Desperately.


Dear Jolly Santa,

I don't know if I've been naughty or nice. I think I have been average and sometimes that feels like winning. I want lots of stuff Santa. I want a new face. I'd like an 'innie' but I hear that is not in your job description. I want you to magically make Micheal Khors and Steve Madden to start selling all the cutest heels in wide wide widths or, if its easier,  you could just give me smaller feet...I'm cool with that too.

Some people don't believe in you, I guess I could be considered one of them. They say you are an essence, a force, the embodiment (sans body) of compassion, hope and joy. You are as real and as powerful as our willingness to accept and strive for the things you represent. I wanna believe in those things Santa, I really do.

I'm not a selfish girl, (at least I hope I'm not) although I really want my hair to flow down my back and my nails to grow long and hard....also I want the latest designer purse. Chanel would be nice.

But I need you in a more profound way this year Santa, so many of us do. I need to believe in the things you stand for...the hope, the joy, the selflessness without the selfishness. I need to understand that magic is a natural phenomenon that results from a willingness to believe, a willingness to embrace happiness in spite of how life challenges us to the contrary. If you can believe it, you can be it. And many of my friends have blossomed into beautiful woman, not just because they always were but mostly because they believed they could be and in believing they overcame their fear.

Santa, I don't want any gifts this year. The long hair and nails can wait. The 'innie' will not be tightly packaged in a pretty VS  bow, the materialistic trappings have no real value. Santa please keep the presents. Can I ask one thing of you for myself and for my friends...

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 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.

Without fear we are capable.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Questions

I have mentioned several times in the past that I attend a private support group for transpeople.  I've been going for years and the members are like family to me.  I don't discuss this group much because it is private and so I keep it that way.

Christmas 2010

Once before, I shared the topic questions on this blog.  Tonight I do it again as I think they are particularly thought provoking.  

I have mentioned many times that I hate Christmas.  So that adds another edge to these questions.  These questions come from my therapist.  Yes, these are personal questions, as are the answers but I've shared FAR deeper secrets on this blog already, so...

1) I'd like you to share two Christmas memories with the group - a positive one, and a negative one. Please be very specific and personal, rather than generic.
2) How do you feel overall about the Christmas season?
3) Are there ways in which your being transgender affect your experience of the holidays? 

4) If your feelings are mostly negative, how can you turn that around? 

So here are my answers as they stand this minute, subject to change.

Christmas 2011: my "draggiest" look

1) I'd like you to share two Christmas memories with the group - a positive one, and a negative one. Please be very specific and personal, rather than generic.

The positive one is easy- watching my daughter on Christmas morning the past five years.  She still sees Christmas as Magic, and I wish I could keep it that way for her forever.  But how can I when my own Christmas spirit is well and truly dead?

The negative one?  There are so many.  But above them all has to be Christmas 1990.  I was a couple of months since my first suicide attempt, and I was working at TGI Fridays in King of Prussia Mall.  The customers were simply miserable all season.  But what made it worse was a Broken Promise.  You see the person who left me a few months before LOVED Christmas.  And she promised to show me what Christmas was all about.  We met just before Christmas 1989, and our affair flared hot and bright just after the New Year Ball dropped.  And she promised this, and of all the promises she broke, this was the one I regret the most.  I spent that Christmas desperately lonely and still tiptoeing close to my own death, thinking of what could've been- what Should've been.  

Wow I cried so hard.  

This person who left me; we didn't speak for many years and then we became friends again.  We are still friends today.  In fact, last Friday, I attended the Christmas Open House she and her husband throw every year.  And it was a wonderful time with fantastic food and fun company.

2) How do you feel overall about the Christmas season?

I think I've answered this many times.  I HATE it.  All these years in retail, wholesale, and food service have soured me on People in general and Christmas in specific.  I firmly believe that the Holiday season bring out the absolute Worst in people.  'Tis the season to be a**holes.

Photoshop Practice 2012

3) Are there ways in which your being transgender affect your experience of the holidays? 

Well, yes, very much so.  I am no longer living with my family and probably will not see my daughter this Christmas.  I DEFINITELY won't see her open gifts this year.  That said, this year I'll spend the holiday as my true self and my roomie Linda will be joining me at my parents' house for dinner, where last year she spent the holiday alone.  So I guess there is a positive outcome.  

Being TG is part of the tapestry of my life, and affects every little bit of it.  

December 2013 Renaissance Christmas party

4) If your feelings are mostly negative, how can you turn that around? 

I'm open to suggestions.  I try to latch on to the positives, like my daughter's face or helping friends, but my experiences with people are so damn horrible and so hardwired...

So there they are.  I think they're very insightful and probing questions.  How would you answer them?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Two Years of HRT

Two years ago today was a rainy, sleety day around the Philly area.  I didn't have my driver's licence as it had been suspended for DUI.  So my "Big Sister" Mel drove me into Philadelphia to the Mazzoni Center to get a prescription.

Estrogen and Spironolactone.

On the way back, we stopped at the California Pizza Kitchen for lunch.  I contemplated taking the pills in the restaurant but decided to wait until I read the accompanying literature.  So, after she dropped me back at MIL's house (I was still living there), I read all of it.

I dispensed the proper pills: one blue and one white.  (Penn State colors!) and took them.  No ceremony.  Just down the hatch with a glass of water.  And so my life changed.

Pre- HRT

Within a few months I started seeing changes.  My breasts at first hurt, then grew.  I took to wearing compression shirts under loose shirts.

Somewhere in mid 2013

I let my hair grow out.  Eventually my facial features softened as did my skin.  I switched to estrogen injections instead of pills.  The drugs did their work and feminized me.

December 2014

I've paid quite the price for the decision to take those pills.  I no longer live with Wife and family.  My marriage is all but over after over twenty years. I rarely see my daughter. I have lost friends.

Currently my body is feminine except for just below the waist.  And that won't change until I manage to scrape the many thousands of dollars that Gender Confirmation Surgery costs.  I may never get there.  But I AM here... living as a Woman full time.

It's amazing what time does.  In two years my life is completely different.

Where will I be in two more years?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Regarding David Bowie

My teen years began in late 1979.

My love affair with popular music started around that same time.  It was around then that I became aware of the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Police... and David Bowie.  (My love of the Grateful Dead didn't start until college.)

I always thought of Bowie as "City Music" (kinda like I still think of Steely Dan that way.)  I grew up in a very small town, and this was long before the internet.  I heard Bowie on WMMR, and this was in his "I'm more drugged out then you'll ever be" phase.

An example of this is the Fashion video.

David Bowie adjusts his nose in the Fashion video

I had a friend who was two years ahead on me in high school.  We worked together at Burger King, and he introduced me to a lot of music.  He then went to art school.  I went to visit him one day and there were pictures of Bowie everywhere- in many different incarnations:  Ziggy, the Thin White Duke, and the aforementioned drugged phase.  Everyone in Art School LOVED Bowie.  They all seemed so cool to this little hick.  It made me wonder if I was ALLOWED to like Bowie.  After all, I was so provincial.

Then came 1983, and Bowie, like a lot of things in the early 1980s, changed.  He cleaned up his act and suddenly was the epitome of style.  And with his new album Let's Dance, he was the hottest act alive.  His Serious Moonlight tour sold out around the world.

Everyone loved Bowie- not just the cool kids anymore.  In fact, he was on the cover of Time magazine.  I still have a copy of that issue.

Bowie seemed to change at will.  I remember visiting South Street in Philadelphia, then a haunt for art students, punk rockers and other social outsiders, and seeing a huge portrait of Bowie as he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.  It was painted on a shop window.

All of this made a major impression upon me.  I didn't feel cool enough to like Bowie, but I did.  And he could change so effortlessly.  So maybe I could too-  if I only had the courage.

To this day, I still feel that if a person claims to "Know" music, they must like David Bowie... or they just don't know music.  But of course, times have changed.  Bowie put out his first record in a decade last year.  How many teens know him at all, never mind enjoy his music?  To them, he's just an old man.  Old music.

Bowie 2014

Or is he?

You see, just as in 1980, I am hopelessly out of touch.  Unlike then, when I had great radio and this new fangled thing called MTV to open my mind to new music and therefore new ideas, there is nothing like that any more.  It's all corporate.  I still love listening to new bands but damn if they don't all sound the same any more.

David Bowie taught me that it was OK to be different, and that even if I was the skinniest geek on the planet, I could still find a home in Music.

And you know what?  I'll bet some younger people still listen.

The other day I drove a coworker in her early 20s to the hospital from work.  She'd hurt her knee.  In my car I was listening to the Changes Bowie CD.  I offered to turn it off, as I figured she wouldn't want to listen to it.  Now she is a stylish young woman- very "rockabilly" if you will.  She's been offered modelling jobs and seems to be in touch with her generation's music.  And she told me she LOVED David Bowie.  I smiled.  We listened to Bowie all the way to the hospital, and, later, all the way back to work.

I guess there is hope for the world after all.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Seeing Old Chums

I have been blessed with friends.

My Wedding Party 1993.  L to R: M***, R, DrD, Me

One of my friends has been around since elementary school.  A few others from high school.  Most of this old group of friends learned about my transition via a video I sent them.  A few, like R and DrD, learned in person.

Saturday November 29 was a cold day, and I worked.  However, that night would be a new first. Many of my old friends would be meeting Sophie for the first time.  One of them was R.

I was quite nervous.  Most of these guys were star wrestlers in high school and/or college, as well as being typical guys: football, beer, scratch scratch, BUUUURP!  But they've also been very loyal friends.

So why was I so nervous?

I was nervous because in some ways I wanted their approval, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't get it.  Why do I need their approval?  After all, I'm 48 years old and hardly see these people anymore.  Hell, I've hardly seen them since moving to Baltimore in 1994, and even less after moving back to PA in 2003.  We are scattered now- all around the country.  And I don't have the money to jump on a plane on a whim.

So we see each other usually once or twice a year.  We call these events "Chum Con", and the past few have been to honor our friend Big Al, dead now these three years.  (I wrote about that in my TG Forum column HERE, calling him "Bob."  The eulogy I wrote for him is HERE.)  We always toast to his memory, and usually with good scotch.

This time we toasted with beer.

I wasn't last to arrive, but next to it.  I went into the lobby and asked about R's room number, and the woman at the desk looked me up and down, then called up to the room.  I was told they would come down to the lobby.

And why is that?  Did R not want his kids seeing a TG?  Was he embarrassed for me?  Or was it that the rest of the night would be spent at a side room of the lobby, drinking and playing cards?

I was dressed in jeggings and boots, and wore a cleavage bearing top under a cardigan.  I'd darkened my makeup from my usual work look.  I wanted to give them all possible feminine cues.  I knew it was going to be a rough night for everyone as far as pronouns and proper names.  And I was right.

We sat and talked and four of us played euchre while the others sat nearby and we all talked.  Only one of them asked me about being TG.  He had recently fallen and suffered a severe concussion.  I asked him how his head was.  He said "Fine.  How's yours?"

I replied.  "Fine.  Finally."

So we drank (I didn't drink much as I had to drive) and played cards and the conversation centered around wrestling and former coaches we'd had as well as a music video that R saw the day before and was singing over and over and over and over.

I felt out of place.  I was the only woman there but that shouldn't matter: these are old friends after all.  But it DID matter.  I felt the tension.  People were a little uncomfortable, especially at first.  And, as I said, pronouns and name were an issue.  But I expected that and didn't get bent out of shape over it.

I stayed five hours, then it the party broke up.  There were early morning planes to catch after all.  One of the group, "Prime," left an hour earlier.  Before the rest of us left, we posed for a couple of pictures.

"Dayum Dayum DAYUM!"

And the night Ended.

And I'm still uneasy.

Why?  It went better than expected, after all.  These very manly type guys were respectful and made an effort.  So what possibly could be wrong?

I have an uneasy feeling that my time with this group is limited.  After all, I'm no longer "one of the guys."  I'm a Woman.  To add to that, I'm Different.  They respect me, but that doesn't mean they'll keep me around.  But this is probably all in my head, and me over-thinking the thing.

One of my friends' son spent the time with all of us.  He was turning twelve.  As the night ended, one of the guys said to him "I really hope you have friends like this."  And that stuck with me.  I HAVE these friends.  These people were one of my considerations before I went full time and told everyone about who I truly am.  I really wondered how they'd react.  Now I've seen it.

I am blessed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two Trips to LSD

LSD:  Lower Slower Delaware.  (They have bumper stickers with this.  Seriously)

So last week I put many miles on my car.  I took two trips to see my parents in southern Delaware.  They live on the north shore of Indian River Bay.  It's a trip of 2 1/2 to 3 hours each way.

Indian River Bay is circled above

The first trip was Monday.  I went down there with Wife and daughter.  The whole idea was so daughter could see her grandparents.  I woke up early Monday and went to pick them up.  I was in a "butch" mode:  I wore makeup and female jeans, but I wore a loose t shirt which only slightly obscured my breasts.  Wife wasn't happy with this, as she "didn't expect me to be 'dressed'" meaning in female mode.  She only commented on it once.

At my Parent's house on windy day

The three of us went to the beach at Rehoboth so Daughter could collect shells.  It was VERY windy, and the water kicked up white caps.  Daughter had a good time though.  We went back to my parents' house where mom had made lasagna.  It was quite good. As we both had to work on Tuesday, we were going to leave right after dinner.  As Wife helped Daughter strap into her seat, my Dad asked me when was the last time I saw Daughter.  I said it had been three weeks.

He said "well, you chose this."  I turned to him and said "no one chooses this."

Thursday November 27 was Thanksgiving Day here in the US.  Both of my roomies, Linda and Zoey, were going to come with me for dinner at my parents'.  However, Zoey came down sick and bowed out, so it was just Linda and I making the trip.  We left at 9 am and were at my parents by noon (after listening to Alice's Restaurant twice.)  We were there for a bit when we decided to rectify my forgetting to bring wine by going to find some.  That meant, I knew, going to Ocean City, MD, where they sell wine in convenience stores.  It wouldn't be anything great, but as I had promised wine...

So we arrived at Ocean City and quickly found wine at a 7-11.  We then stopped at the very chilly and windy beach at the Carousel, where I'd been with Sandy Empanada a couple of months ago.  We went to the beach, took a few pictures and quickly retreated to the car.  We then headed back to my parents' place for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat.

On the Beach at OC

Just like last time, Linda got along with my parents very well.  In fact, it was as if nothing had changed recently- I was just their child there for Thanksgiving.  I felt comfortable.  Were there mistakes- misgendering?  Of course, but they're making a major effort.  They treated me like their Daughter.

I am so very lucky on this score... and Thankful.

And I told them so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Whatever You Are"

It was 11:45 AM on Tuesday November 25, 2014.  I was at work at the bookstore.  The store was busy, and I was alone on the cash register as the other cashier was on break.
The customer was old, maybe in her seventies or eighties.  She was maybe five feet tall, counting her Q-tip hair cut.  She was round as a bowling ball; wearing a shapeless black sweater.  She bought a single book, one of the inaccurate history books written by Bill O'Reilly.  her face looked like she'd been weaned on a lemon.
I rang up her purchase like I was supposed to be, being polite and chipper, as I'm supposed to be.  She was grumpy and curt with her answers.  
I finished the transaction.  She snatched the bag and started walking away.

Me: "Thank you and have a happy Thanksgiving"
Customer: "Thanks... Whatever you are."

My jaw didn't have time to drop as the next customer stepped up to my register quickly, and I had to provide them with the best possible service.  In fact it was a good twenty minutes before I had helped all the customers in the ever replenishing line and I had time to reflect.

Everyone knows that Transition is hard.  Everyone gets their share of remarks and comments (remind me to tell you the story of my trip to Popeyes the other day.)  And we who are full time have to have very thick skin, or we fail.  Transition is not for the faint of heart.

And my Armor IS thick.


That one got to me a little.  So I posted it on Facialbook, and received an avalanche of wonderfully, viciously funny replies.  I'm not posting these replies without the writers' permission.  But they raised my spirits. 

One person pointed out what I already concluded- that I should expect no less from someone buying a republican book.  But many people buy republican books and while many of those give me looks, most do not comment.  Most. (Usually, the comment would be to call me "sir.")

This woman was just mean.  Sour.  And I pity her.  She has to live in her hate.  I however am living my life.

That said, she has given me the title for the book I'm writing:  "Whatever You Are."

So I guess I owe her thanks.  Or at least publicity.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Letter to 1984 Lance

Dear Lance,

I send this letter back to you, the person I was, from the year 2014.  Yes, you're still alive, despite your best efforts to the contrary.  I am now 48 years old, while you are just 18.

Lance, July 1983

At this time of your life, November 1984, you are reeling over your first real betrayal in Love, and have yet to meet your first Real girlfriend.  You will meet her in January at a school dance.  You will stay together over two years, and she will hurt you terribly over and over.  But when you finally break it off for good, that's when you'll meet three women who will define your adult life,  One will be your wife.

Her you won't meet until 1991, after the biggest heartbreak of your life up until that point.  I wish you would learn to relax and enjoy your youth but I realize first that I can't change the past, and even if I told you, you STILL wouldn't do it out of sheer stupidity.  Yes, I'm still currently married to the same person, and we have a wonderful daughter.  Despite your wish, you HAVE reproduced, and it wasn't as bad as you thought it would be.

In 1990, you will attempt suicide.  I know now what the underlying driver to that feeling was, and it sure as hell wasn't that girl cheating and leaving.  You know the reason now, but you don't dare admit it.

Yes, you will graduate from University, Lance.  But not the one you think.  And the courage it took to make that change was a harbinger of the courage it would take for you to make other changes through your life.  You have more courage than you know.  You're already an EMT.  You will continue that, though that too will break your spirit.

I know all of this because I'm you with many years of experience.  But I am also no longer you.  I have changed so much.  How?

Well Lance, to tell you how I've changed, I must tell you this- I know your deep dark secret.  And I know that you failed to contain it.

Because, Lance, I am now Sophie.  I am a Woman.  I look down on my chest and see my own breasts; not fake ones or rolled up socks-  I see MY breasts.  My legs are shaven and shapely (if I do say so myself,) and I wear heels with some frequency.  My ears are pierced, and I wear the hoop earrings you always wanted to wear.  Estrogen courses through my body, albeit injected estrogen.  All who know Me know your secret, Lance.  They don't know about the outfits you bought through the mail with your Burger King money, nor of how you'd dress when everyone was away.  But they know that you are different, and they know why.

All those wishes and all those mid teen tears you shed about being stuck in your body were not shed in vain.  You are on your way to being the woman you knew you were, and, God willing, I will be there someday.  But for now, I am on the path.  I have met many like myself, and so many have helped me on the way.

You will travel the world, Lance.  You will see different cultures.  Your eyes will be opened to many things and you will learn truths.  Some truths you will learn in the dust of New Mexico, while others you will learn with your feet in the Pacific Ocean.  You will shoot arrows in Sherwood Forest.  You will walk the streets of Buenos Aires looking for a bookstore, and will drink wine in Chile.  You will meet a beautiful Jewish girl from New Jersey who will grab your soul, and a wild man from Boyertown who will be your counterpoint for years, even when you don't see him.  And then you will meet your Wife, who will nurse your shattered heart back to health and share with you so many wonderful years.  And you will break her heart doing what you need to do to survive.  Because 1990 wasn't the only time you'd attempt suicide- you'll come close to death again in 2013 when your dearest friend kills herself, taking with her so many dreams.

But don't worry- you won't be doing this alone.  You will have mentors.  The old cliche is that "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  And they have.  Your primary mentor will be Mel, and her wisdom and wit will lead you through many traps.  She will be referred to you by a doctor who will also guide you.  There are others, like Jone and Linda (who is currently a roommate), and I am grateful for them.  That's something you and I share- we both know to be grateful, if not gracious.

I wish I could tell you a few things.  I wish I could steer you from some of the major heartbreaks you will face.  I wish I could warn you away from all that drinking you did for all those years.  I wish like hell you wrote about all these things you've done in detail as they happened instead of concentrating on self-pitying short stories.  You don't need to fight to prove yourself a man, because you aren't one.  All the pain from all those fights could be avoided if you just embraced that truth instead of drowning it with drink and self-hate.

Some things remain.  You've maintained contact with a few of your friends that you have now, though you don't see them often as you're scattered about the country.  Many of the people who mean the most to you through life you have yet to meet.  In many ways I envy you parts of the journey.  I wish I could relive some parts of the journey, pain and all.

But now I am living the Life we were supposed to lead.  Many of your friends will support you, and you will learn you have more friends than you ever dreamed.  That courage you showed running into burning buildings will inspire others, or so they will tell you.

Even back in 1984.  But you won't believe that.  No you're too busy drowning in self pity.

That's what I wish I could tell you, Lance.  It gets better.  It really does.  Stay with it and follow the dream.  I wish I could tell you to transition back before you finished growing, but you're still so scared of that feminine side.  Embrace her.  She is You- the best part of you.  Embracing her is embracing yourself.

I have found Peace.  I know that seems like such a distant dream to you in the throes of adolescence, but it WILL come.

Stay with it.


Be Well, Lance.  Be Yourself.

With Love,

November 23, 2014.

Sophie, November 2014

PS.  Before the 1986 football season, Bet the farm on Penn State winning the National Championship in 1986 and the Redskins winning the Superbowl the following year.  That should pay your tuition.  Would I lie to you?

Monday, November 17, 2014


Thanksgiving is almost upon us here in the US.  For my readers around the world, if you didn't know, Thanksgiving is a US holiday held in late November.  It was created by Abe Lincoln in 1863, and the idea is that we remember that for which we are thankful.  It is traditionally a day spent with family.

However, it is currently the official beginning of the Season of Greed, I mean holiday shopping season, otherwise known as Retail Hell.  And more and more, it's a shopping day as well.

Of all the major US holidays, Thanksgiving was my least favorite- to the point that I've always hated it.  Why?  Am I not thankful?  No that's not the case.  I have no argument with the IDEA behind Thanksgiving.  Just the execution.  My mum always put on a very good dinner, so that was something to anticipate.

I was always stuck at home. The weather was often miserable.  I couldn't see my friends.  Being stuck at home meant being stuck with my older brother, who, when bored, would pick fights with me.  And he was always bored.  So we always fought, and I would always get in trouble.  Thanksgiving was a day to get punished.  Every year.

Year after Year.

So I'd want to get out as much as possible.  I'd take long walks to nowhere- anything to be out of that house and out of trouble.  I wouldn't be surprised if my parents were glad I wasn't around so they had relative peace.

But often my Dad wasn't there.  He worked for Philadelphia Electric (PECO) and often worked holidays.  In fact, he preferred it as PECO paid a LOT of overtime for working that day.  So not only did he get paid a LOT for the day, he wouldn't have his two kids fighting to deal with.  Who could blame him?

So, I hate Thanksgiving.

Through the years, if I had a job (bartending, etc) where the place was open Thanksgiving and Christmas, I always volunteered to work.  Or I took someone's shift which had the advantage of that person would owe me big in their eyes.  Several years in a row, I worked on Thanksgiving and had a shot of Wild Turkey for my dinner.

After I got married, I'd split the holidays with Wife's family.  Thanksgiving at their place was always a big affair, with too much of really good food, good wine, and often good conversation.  At least while her father was alive- he was a man of rare intelligence and I loved hearing his stories of twenty years as a ship captain.  The times we went to my parents were always shorter visits, usually because I always had to work the following day in almost every job I ever had.

Last Saturday at Angela's Laptop Lounge

But this Thanksgiving is going to be very different.  Like last year, I am not invited to Wife's family dinner, which she and Daughter are attending.  I fully expected that.  Last year Wife insisted we have dinner as a FAMILY.  Not so this year.  This year, I'm going south again to see my parents in lower Delaware.

By their invitation.

And they invited my roomies to come as well.

Let me put this in perspective if I may.  This time last year, I fully expected to be disowned by my parents when I came out.  I figured that last Thanksgiving was my last with them.  Now this year, they have Accepted me as Sophie (as well as they can- it's difficult.)  But the point is, that they're making a major effort.  And this year they invited three transpeople to dinner.  For my conservative family, this is really unprecedented.  My brother won't be there this year as he will be at his in-laws.

I had already said I'd be at another dinner just for transpeople.  But how can I NOT attend when my parents have extended such a generous invitation.  I'll be there if I have to walk.

I work the next morning.  Linda does at well- she works before dawn.  Zoey doesn't, but with her bad back the trip will be rough.  But they are both coming.  I'm glad.

Last year at this time, I wrote a piece on Forgiveness.  I don't forgive easily if at all.  It's a character flaw.  But my parents are TRYING.  They ACCEPT me.  That's a luxury that so many transpeople do not have.  So many lose their families over this horrible condition we have.  I am slowly building a relationship with my parents stronger than any we've had before.  It takes time.  I have so many years of built up issues that I need to sort out.  But they love me unconditionally.

I'm very lucky.

And Thankful.

May your day be Peaceful, dear readers.  I wish you all the best on this holiday, whether you celebrate it or not.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thirtieth High School Reunion

In June of 1984, 275 students of Spring Ford High School graduated.  Most of them sat on the football field on a sultry summer evening to get diplomas.  The thunderstorm held off until a few hours after the ceremony ended.  Among them was a skinny, withdrawn kid who had recently gained notoriety by being the first person sent home from the class trip:  Me.

You won't find me in this class picture

I graduated 26 out of 275 after a senior year of not caring about my grades (except in English) and working many many hours at the local Burger King.  All I remember from graduation was a guy named George L running around after getting his diploma with total joy on his face.  I won the award for Outstanding Writer of the Year.  I remember standing up for that when my name was announced.

By that time, I'd repressed my feminine side, and already the anger and pain were obvious to any who bothered to look.  But no one did, as I pushed almost everyone else away.  I couldn't let anyone know my shameful Dark Secret!

Yearbook Picture

Few in the class went to college; fewer still graduated.  Very few gained higher degrees.  Many served our country in the armed forces.

The years went by slowly at first.  I attended the five year reunion, where I got very drunk, almost got into a fight with a Marine (note to self: never call a Marine a "boy scout" even in jest!), and stole someone else's date.  I shouldn't have driven home that night.  Many of my classmates had already gone through their first divorce by then.

The ten year reunion was during the day and was a picnic so it would be "family friendly" as most of us by then had small children running around.  What I remember most from that reunion was a great volleyball game and classmate (who was then a police officer) sporting a Hitler mustache.  Really!

The next reunion I attended was the 25th.  We held it in conjunction with the class of 1983 as we had a lack of interest.  The VFW where we were to hold it burned to the ground, so we had it in a tent on the grounds next to an old cemetery.  The metaphor was not lost on me.

Me, the tent, 25 year reunion

So now it was time for our 30th.  The surviving members of the class (we'd had several suicides and accidents) are all in their late forties with all that implies.  Balding, graying, expanding.  We've all changed.  And I've changed a LOT.

I wasn't going to attend.  The cost was $45 per person and I just couldn't afford it.  Then there was the whole "why bother going when I really wasn't close to anyone who will be there?"  Yes, I had friends in High School, but most would not be there as they now live far away.  Then of course there was the elephant in the room:  I was now Full time as my true self, and almost none of them had seen me that way.  Our school had its share of hell raisers, and I frankly worried about a confrontation.

Well, as it turns out, several of my classmates are facialbook friends.  One of them, Eva, reached out to me and asked me to attend.  I told her I couldn't.  She offered to pay my way.  I was dubious.  Why would a person I really barely knew back then and hadn't seen in thirty years want to pay for me?  My mind pondered paranoid possibilities until I finally decided "what the hell- why not?"  With Eva paying, I'd have "no skin in the game" and could leave at any time with no real loss.

So the night arrived: Saturday, November 8, 2014.  Thirty years ago, I was at Drexel University.  Now I was sitting in my car outside Spring Hollow Country Club, wearing my polka dot dress, nervous as hell.  I tried to call my "Big Sister" Mel to get some last second advice, but she was busy and couldn't answer.  I remembered all the advice I received from my facialbook friends.  I took a deep breath and left my car for the chilly walk across the parking lot.

Ready for the Reunion!

The first person I encountered inside was a classmate who asked if I was one of her classmates.  I replied that I was.  She asked my name,  I told her my last name.  She looked at me, pondering, then her eyes grew so very wide.  She gave me a big hug, and greeted me.  We didn't talk the rest of the night, as we really barely knew each other then and now.

The second person to greet me was our class president: Shelly.  She thanked me for coming, and asked me to sign a class picture someone had blown up.  I loved the idea, and asked if I could sign it despite not being in the picture.  Shelly laughed.  I also made a name tag.  Also at the "greeting table" was a box for donations.  One of our classmates had been killed by a drunk driver while jogging the previous spring.  She was one of the popular girls, and the donations were for her family.

Bob C was the real force behind organizing this reunion, and he also promptly greeted me and thanked me for coming.  Later that night, he was speak to me privately and tell me that he was "very glad" I could make it.  I smiled.  He's a class act.

As I waited at the bar to order a drink, George L approached me and was very chatty.  he bought me a drink.  I would later buy him one.  His chattiness toward me died down suddenly as the night progressed.  I guess someone briefed him as to who I was.  That's fine though.

I spent my time updating my memories.  One of my classmates, Michelle G, and I had a wonderful conversation that inexplicably turned to abortion (not my fault!  Honest!).  We agreed to disagree, and spoke several times during the night.

With Eva

Eva arrived and we hugged.  I thanked her again for her generosity.  She hung out mostly with one of my few dear friends from high school:Sue G.  Sue is a fantastic writer.  In school, all the writing awards were either won by her or me.  She has also become a great friend and confidant over the years.  This was her first reunion.

With Sue G

Halfway through the night, a classmate who shall go unnamed sat next to me as I was sitting for a minute and proceeded to have a conversation with my breasts.  I decided to have a little fun, and moved them to the left and right, and his head followed them like when I tease my dog with a piece of food.  Still the conversation was pleasant and my boobs enjoyed it immensely.

The person I spoke with the most is someone I'd known since first grade:  Tony S.  It was his first reunion as well, and he brought his beautiful wife.  Tony and I used to be quite good friends in elementary school but drifted apart.  Remind me to write about the only high school party I hosted and tell you what he and Joe J did that got me caught.  In any case, Tony served a stint in the army and has become quite successful in his chosen field.  We had a wonderful conversation, and he was very supportive.  And his wife was an absolute delight!

With Tony S.  My arm looks HUGE.

Many of my classmates and I didn't talk, but that's ok, as we never did.

I was a bit surprised to hear that several of my classmates read this blog with some regularity!  Well Hi classmates!  84 forevermore!

Some of my classmates had respectful questions, but one of them HAD to go there- to the crotch.  He asked about mine, and I countered by asking him how HIS crotch was functioning, whether or not he could still get it up at our age.  He smiled and apologized for the question.

The night was to go from 7-11 PM.  I'd stopped drinking early and danced a bit to rid myself of some of the alcohol.  As the night was near its end Shelly P dragged many to the dance floor including me.  As Lance, I never danced, but as Sophie, I do.  So I did, and I enjoyed myself.

The venue extended our event by half an hour, but I decided to leave a little early.  I said my goodbyes and headed out into the cold night to my car.  I stopped briefly at Mckenzies to say hi to my friend Valerie and to straighten out all of what happened in my head.  She poured me a drink that I barely touched, as I was very concerned about drinking and driving.  My night ended quietly.

I made it into this class picture!

72 people attended this reunion out of the 275 who graduated, making this the best attended of all the reunions.  That's 26.2% for you math types.  What brought me to this event?  What brought the others?  I think it's the need for Connection.  All we have in common is that we lived in the same area and were about the same age, so that made us classmates.

But by seeing each other all through our school years, friendships formed.  Some of them lasted- others didn't.  But that need to reconnect with these old friends with whom we shared experiences in our now fading youth... it's a powerful draw. We're all in our late forties now, and most of us have children.  Some of us even have grandchildren.  Our lives have all changed and most of us have grown.  But that delicate thread of experiences and friendship, so tenuous... is that what I was seeking perhaps even unconsciously?  Was I there seeking approval?  Redemption?  Or just a smile and a kind word from people with whom I share history if not friendship.  I'm glad I went- I had a wonderful time.

Connection.  We all need it.  Maybe in time all wounds heal,  but they never heal alone.   Sometimes it takes Change... and someone extending their hand.

Thank you Eva, for talking me into going.  And thank you Class of 84 for your acceptance.

As  I wrote this entry, I received a message from a classmate on facialbook.  It read in part "just wanted to say how much credit I give you for coming last night. You were so confident and very comfortable in your own skin. I'm sure it was not easy, but you made it look seamless."

I smiled and felt so very warm inside.