Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On to Richmond!

Richmond, Virginia is a city with a long history.  In the US, it is best known as the capitol of the Confederacy during the US Civil War.

I've been to Richmond once before, and visited the Museum of the Confederacy among other places.  I was there with Wife.  It was long ago, not long after we were married, and we were taking a week to visit various Civil War sites.  yes, it was my idea, but she really enjoyed it as well, and at the end of it we visited some of her relatives in Virginia.  It was an Amazing Journey, and she and I still talk about it.

This past weekend I went back to Richmond, but not for the History.

I was going to see a show with my dear friend, Ally Raymond.  Among other things.  I met Ally and her partner (hereafter "C") at Lisa's Affirmation Party back in August.  I've seen her a few times since when visiting Sandy in Baltimore. She's absolutely beautiful and simply a blast to be near.  I look up to her a LOT as a person and as a Woman.

Friday morning dawned cold and icy.  There was freezing rain and wind.  And I was going to drive south for many hours.  No, I'm not exactly bright sometimes.  But Ally and I had planned this since our last trip to Baltimore, so I was going.  I woke before dawn to shower, shave, and put on my face.  I was "travelling pretty" like my dear friend Kim would say.

 About to Leave

It was slow traveling, and I made a side trip as well.   I stopped into the quiet peninsula area where my Sister Lisa passed away.  I knew where it was, but had never visited there.  So I stood in the rain at the spot where Lisa spent her last Earthly moments.  I prayed, said my piece to her, and cried my eyes out.  Then continued on my way.

150 years ago, the Union Army took four years to enter Richmond, after multiple bloody campaigns and a siege to the south around Petersburg.  And even THEN, they only entered as Lee fled west in a vain attempt to link up with the Army of the Tennessee... only to meet destiny at Appomattox.

It only took this Yankee a little over six hours until I finally arrived in Richmond.  I was tired and a little grumpy, but seeing Ally cured me of that immediately.

We sat around for a while, catching up, and relaxing.  I changed into a different outfit, one that was a little more fun.

Ally and I ready to go!

We went to a bar called Barcode.  Ally and C knew everyone, and it was a very friendly place.  I was greeted warmly.  I was Ally's friend, and that was enough for them.  Ally buzzed about the room as I spoke to C and a couple of others.  All were so very nice and knew how to treat a lady!

We partied as the rain outside intensified.  We then went next door for dinner to a nice place called Chez Foushee. The dinner was sublime.  We had wine.  A whole bottle.  We then went back to Barcode.

I drank and chatted with Ally's friends.  i flirted and had a fabulous time...

And got way too drunk.  I ended up as these nights often do... with my porcelain friend.

That night I dreamed that I was with Wife and daughter at a strange combination of a mall and a daycare center.  And I kept needing water.  All through the dream, I kept drinking more water.  Go figure- I was dehydrated.  Also, during the dream, I felt a pervasive sense of loss.

I awoke around dawn, and went to get water.

To get to Richmond in 1864, General Grant fought a brutal campaign of attrition against the Army of Northern Virginia.  Win or lose, he would march the next day trying to get around them and into Richmond- his goal.  But his true goals were twofold- Richmond... and the destruction of Lee's army.  He knew that only relentless determined action would achieve those goals.  Despite heavy losses, he kept moving.

The next day it rained.  I redid my makeup, and Ally made us eggs.  Yum!  Saturday's plan was to go to the nail salon, then a little shopping, then change for the night.

At the nail salon, I had my eyebrows done a little.  Ally had her nails sorted out.  We then went to Walmart (ew) where many looked at us, and a few people commented.  then off to Five Guys for lunch!  By the end of the lunch, Ally befriended everyone in the restaurant.  That's her amazing ability- to win over EVERYONE.

Lee stopped Grant's advance south of Richmond outside the city of Petersburg, where the armies settled in for a LONG siege.  They waited, fought, waited.  For an eternity as soldiers died.  Endless suffering... little progress.

Ally asked to do my makeup for the night.  I put on one of the black dresses that were Lisa's and Ally did my makeup in a way I'd never had it.  I hardly recognized myself.  She then did her makeup the same way.

Off into the night!  It was pouring rain, and C held the umbrella as I got into the car.  He was a perfect gentleman.  our first stop was Barcode again, but this time, I only had one drink.  While there, we spotted another transperson.  Ally was excited, as she's usually the only transperson in the bar.  This woman was Alex, and she was from Mexico City.  She transitioned years before, and was a delight.

We went to the show, which was at the Richmond Triangle Players.  the show was a one man show called Pure Imagination by Ally's friend Matt Beyer, and was sold out.  He commanded the stage, sang songs and told stories.  An absolutely magical evening.  The man can SING!

Before the Show

Before the play and during intermission, I watched Ally work the room.  These were her friends, and they loved her.  I thought that she really should run for office.  My admiration for her grew.  She is so comfortable in Who She Is.  Some people think I'm outgoing, but I'm an introvert next to her.  She electrified the room.  I was in awe.

Lee's army was coming apart.  They worshiped him, but that wasn't enough to stave off starvation.  And his men were starving.  Grant attacked again, and on April 2, 1865, Lee decided to break out to the west and link up with the Army of the Tennessee somewhere in North Carolina to continue the fight.  He abandoned the trenches and marched west along the Appomattox Creek.  Petersburg and Richmond were left defenseless, and the Union occupied both with small forces.  The bulk of Grant's Army of the Potomac marched west in pursuit of Grant's second objective- Lee's army.

The show ended, and we went out into the damp night.  The rain ended, and we went to a nearby club called NU.  Not Ni, as those who hear that word seldom live to tell the tale.

NU was a medium sized dance club that featured professionals dancing on blocks for tips, a loud booming sound, smoke and low lights.  I had a drink there.  Alex eventually joined us as Ally buzzed around this room as well.  Where did she get the energy?

At NU:  C, Ally, Alex, Me.

At one point, I was on the dance floor, that had a mirrored wall.  I saw a woman in the mirror, and, I felt, a fairly attractive one at that.  My breath caught in my throat.  I was that woman.  No pads.  Just me.  I saw my reflection.  I couldn't see any trace of the guy I once was.  

It was loud and dark.  As usual in this sort of place, I felt isolated.  I couldn't hear conversations.  So I smiled and watched people.  I had a couple drinks, but I was beginning to get tired.  As was Ally.  C drove us back to their house, where everyone retired fairly promptly.

I woke up the next morning crying.  I dreamed of the End of my marriage.  It was inevitable, I knew.  I thought I'd steeled myself to that.  But I felt Wife's absence keenly.

Lee camped the night of April 9 near the small village of Appomattox Court House. He attacked west toward supplies in Lynchburg, but Grant's V Corps infantry slid between him and his objective.  Surrounded by vastly superior numbers, Lee surrendered to Grant at 3 PM that day.  The war was effectively over.

I showered and redid my makeup as Ally made a huge breakfast.  Eventually, I was on the road back north, driving on a beautiful warm day.  I made several stops, some at redneck places, and didn't think twice that I was presenting as a woman.  And no one cared.

The Surrender itself helped heal the wounds of war.  In the words of General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who presided over the ceremony:

"When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to 'attention,' preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon's columns should pass before our front, each in turn. 
"The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse's head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation. 
"By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell. "

The War was over, but those who fought had nothing but admiration and respect for each other.  And the healing began.

I texted Wife and Ally with my progress at each stop.  Ally answered, but Wife didn't.  After four hours, i arrived at M's house and carried my suitcase inside.  The trip to Richmond was over.

But my Journey is not.  In many ways, I am camped out on the night of April 8-9, 1865, and the inevitable is before me.  But to do what needs doing will take incredible courage and cause massive damage.  I will lose my Wife.  We will always be friends, but... Twenty years of marriage... twenty two of history...  and for what?  For my identity?  So I can wear a dress?  MIL wants W to seek an annulment from the church- to say WE never happened.

Why am I tearing apart My Life, and the lives of my Wife and Daughter?

I know what I must do, but my old self is fighting hard.  I don't want to lose Wife.  I don't want to destroy everything.  I NEVER wanted to hurt anyone.

the battle rages in my dreams.  it rages in my waking life.  A Civil War for my Soul, to be a bit melodramatic.  To finish what NEEDS to be done, I, like Grant, need to be relentless.  Despite the cost.

If I don't do this... if I stop now... my destiny will be like so many others.  Like Lisa.  What has been done cannot be undone.

I pray that after this is over, that Wife and I can still be closest of friends.  that we may raise our daughter as a team.  Watch movies.  But I fear that MIL's influence may prevent that.  Wife and I want the best for each other and especially for Daughter, but I fear MIL only wants to burn Me to the ground, as Sherman did as he marched to the sea.  To inflict punishment.  Nothing I've seen proves this wrong.

Someday, I will have peace.  And many years later, God willing, I will pass from this life.  What happens between those two events, I can only guess, and hope to guide.  I want to see my daughter grow up.  i want to grow old with Wife in my life in a significant way.  And maybe that will happen.


Until then...

My War goes on...

And On...

(Most of my history I give here is from memory, with several Internet searches to confirm dates.  yes, I'm a Civil War nut.  If anyone wants more info on that campaign, please go HERE for a summary and the end of the article for a nice bibliography.)


  1. I know the feeling that you are having, that you are involved in a battle or that you sit on the edge of a great battle, a great mystery. The civil war in your soul is over, you've already won. When you decided not to lose your life but to win by becoming yourself, that was the victory. Now the war is being fought with everyone else, the rest of the world. You can win this one too but you have to believe.

    On other notes, everyone south of the Mason Dixon line goes to Wal Mart, it just can't be avoided. They have even built Super Wal Marts right next to some of the major Civil War battlefields. That way you can spend a day enjoying history, then go right to Wal Mart. And don't ever worry again about "traveling pretty". You aren't traveling pretty, you are traveling as yourself. Well you are in the sense that you are pretty but for us it is not a disguise. Traveling drab is a disguise and a miserable one, an experience you will hopefully never have again. As you sit on the hill overlooking the field where you will experience your victory, in the morning...

  2. Sophie,

    I have said it before but it bears repeating. You are a gifted writer. I tend to be very critical of people's writing style and while your's differs from mine I like to think that I can identify outstanding prose when I read it.

    I also like history and the history of the "War Between the States" has long been special to me. The battles between the two great generals, Grant and Lee were epic and were fought on many fronts. Lee ultimately had to surrender because he could not maintain the fight on all fronts.

    You are a battler. You are not one to shy away from conflict. You are facing issues on many fronts. Sometimes it is important to know that a cessation of hostilities is needed so that one may proceed forward. For me one of the most significant aspects of the surrender at Appamattox was Grant's decision to let Lee keep his sword. In fact, the last line of the surrender agreement extended this courtesy to the officers of the Confederacy when Grant, in writing out the terms of the surrender agreement allowed Lee and his men to keep their horses, swords and baggage when he wrote "This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage."

    As you proceed on your journey keep your dignity and remember that you will still carry your sword and baggage.

    Fortis in arduis,