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.