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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Halloween 2014

Another Halloween has come and gone.  Halloween 2014 was rather mercurial.  The prior weekend I attended a fun party, but my costume sucked, and then other factors made it a bad weekend.

Things improved a bit when the website T-Central published yours truly as a guest columnist.  I was very honored!

This past weekend was a full slate.  The drawback was that I was short on money.  But I went ahead the best I could.

Friday, October 31, 2014 dawned bright and sunny in SEPA.  I woke early to shower , shave and put on my costume.  That meant a corset, which I tied tightly, a wig, and boots with two inch heels.  I drove almost two hours to True Colors Makeup Artistry.  Amanda Richards did an amazing job as always.  I've missed seeing her, as I hadn't since Keystone.  She's a lot of fun to speak with, and a great friend.


From there, I drove back to my stomping grounds, stopping first at my favorite comic book store.  they'd never seen me as Sophie (really! No money means no comics) and obviously never saw the Mary Marvel costume.

At Showcase Comics, Bryn Mawr, PA

After my one roomie Linda was ready, we drove down to Baltimore, Maryland to hang out with Sandy Empanada.  The theme of our group was "superheroes."  I, as you can see, was Mary Marvel.  Linda was the comic book character "Death."

Linda as Death

The Group

We arrived and, after several pictures, went to Club Hippo which is in the city.  There we milled around until karaoke started.  Of course I indulged.  I did Friend of the Devil, the Ramones I wanna be Sedated, and Sweet Caroline.

The night had one small bump- an overzealous suitor who hit on all the women in our group before being warned away by Batman.

We stayed at the Hippo several hours.  A few friends joined us.  One of them, Ashley, had the following picture taken.  Following the picture is her facialbook description of what's in it.

"This picture requires some very special explanation... Sandy and I decided to have our picture taken under the Hippo sign... Not really breaking news... But look at the white streak that appeared in this picture. It wasn't in the picture before or the picture after... The fellow taking the pics took a bunch in a row... He even commented... "What's that?"... Well... This is the same place Lisa Empanada and I took a picture 2 Halloween's ago... When Sandy and I first looked at the picture we both had a look of fear on our faces and honestly we were a bit freaked out.... After some time we both found some comfort in our suspicions... Lisa we love you and are always glad to know you are watching over us..."

So a picture with ectoplasm: by far the creepiest thing to happen that night.  Is it Lisa?  I like to think so.  She and Sandy shared a special bond, and it makes sense that she'd watch over Sandy.

After the Hippo, a few of us went to the Angle Inn near Sandy's house.  That night, Linda and I stayed at Sandy's house.

The next morning was rainy and gloomy.  We left early to head back north.  I had lunch planned with my parents.  I'd forgotten to bring a change of shoes, so I drove barefoot.  My feet were blistered after 14 hours in those boots, and my chest had a sweat rash from the corset.

Lunch went well.  Wife and daughter were there.  I attended in male mode as I flat out didn't have the time to do my makeup, and I knew Wife would appreciate it.  My parents still referred to me as a female.

That night was a Halloween party at M's house.  You know, the place I used to live.  I supplied the decorations.  Remembering that my "Lance" costume failed so miserably the weekend before, I decided to try something different.  So I got my old male suit out of storage and paired it with a short black leather mini skirt and pumps.  A "Genderf*ck."  Or as I put it to some people: Me.

What is that supposed to be?

The party was fun, with former and current coworkers mingling.  A friend made brownies at the party and they were amazing.  I drank very little, as I just didn't feel like drinking that night.  I'd woken up with a hangover and that slowed me down all day.  One of the definite highlights of the night was a large game of "Cards Against Humanity" which is one of most inappropriate games ever made... and a LOT of fun.

Cards against Humanity

I enjoyed seeing many old friends again, and there were some great costumes as well.  I was almost ashamed of my lack of effort.  A game of Gloom also broke out, and it was fun watching.


As it stood, a wonderful time was had by all.  I left after midnight as many people were descending in babbling alcoholic madness.  In years past, I would've been right there with them.  In fact, some people wondered why I was so "quiet."  I just smiled at them.

Some things had changed since the last Halloween.  I was no longer the hard drinking jerk I was then.  Now I am at peace.

There are those who call me... Tim.

The next morning I woke up, showered, shaved, put on my makeup and dressed, and it was back to work:  just another day.

Another Halloween has come and gone, and with it, my sixth anniversary of going out for the first time en femme.  So much has changed, even since the last Halloween.  What will this next year bring?  By next Halloween, I will qualify for GCS.  Where will I be?  Who knows?

Now at work, it's full speed ahead toward Christmas.  The next couple of months will be a blur.

I hope your Halloweens were everything you wished them to be!