Sunday, April 27, 2014

Finally Seen

On Wednesday, April 16, 2014, I saw my Wife and Daughter.  Even now, this happens with some frequency, so what's the big deal?

No, this was special for another reason.

Well, MIL was away for the week, so I saw my dog too.  But that's not it.

This was the first time either of them met Sophie.  The Real Me.

Current Look.  All me, no pads.

Wife knew this day was coming that week- we'd discussed it.  She just didn't know when.  So I called her from the bottom of the street, and told her that I hadn't changed since work, so I was in female mode.  Was that ok?  It was.

The door was unlocked.  My dog greeted me first as usual.  Our "greeting ritual" usually takes a couple of minutes, and she is quite insistent about it.  Not that I need my arm twisted to pet my dog.

Then I walked into the living room, where my daughter sat playing with her computer tablet.  Wife looked at me and her face didn't change.  I called to my daughter for her to look, and she did.  She put down the tablet and stood, wide eyed.

"Wow! You're pretty!  You don't look like a guy in a dress!"  she said.

I hugged her and told her I loved her.

"Guy in a dress."  I wonder from where she heard that expression?

My purpose there accomplished, I stood and turned to Wife and said "I know this is making you uncomfortable.  If you want me to leave, I will."

She said "No, I have to get used to this.  Take off your coat and sit down.  And so I did.  We sat and talked for a bit, mostly about Daughter's school accomplishments.

The dog wanted lots of attention, which I was happy to provide.  She'd seen me as Sophie before, and in any case didn't care what I looked like.  People could learn a lot from dogs.  And we can learn a lot from children.  My daughter was able to look at me with fresh eyes- nonjudgmental despite outside influence.

Sandy Empanada gave me a bracelet of a butterfly just like one Lisa Empanada had. I gave it to Daughter to mark the day, as I explained my transition using a butterfly as an example.


The Bracelet

After maybe forty five minutes, I left.  I was relieved.  I'd done something that needed to happen, and it went well.  And that was a big one.  Wife and Daughter have seen me now.  They have seen Sophie.  There is no more denial.

So the next chapter begins.  Daughter has accepted me.  Wife has seen me.

With Daughter

This journey has so many milestones, and for those of us who are/were married and have children have additional milestones to achieve.  Many of us lose our families.  Most of us lose our marriages.  My wife was quite clear: if I transition, she's divorcing me.  And I am transitioning.

I love my Wife.  I don't need to say how much our separation and eventual break up hurts.  But I will always have my daughter's love.  Others may eventually try to keep us apart, but they can never take that away.

I am truly blessed.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Keystone Conference 2014 Part 2

Part One is HERE

Friday morning was quiet.  Ally, Linda and I awoke around the same time, and had fun discussing many topics of no major importance.

I attended my dear friend Victoria's presentation about transitioning in the workplace.  Victoria is a very confident and poised speaker and devastatingly gorgeous.

I bounced around a bit, and eventually ended up in Kristin Beck's talk.  As at SCC, she was dynamic and forceful.  Her piece was filmed by one of the network affiliates.  After her talk, I bought her a beer, and she posed for pictures.

Me and Kristin Beck
Soon after, I went to see Amanda Richards for a makeover, then it was out to dinner.  This year, I went to Carley's Ristorante.  I was there with Ally and Hayden, while Linda went to Cafe Fresco, where I went the previous years.

Ally peruses the menu

Kristin Beck was also there, and everyone had a wonderful time.  After dinner, many people went to Stocks on Second for drinks and dancing.  As a guy, I never danced much.  I took a ballroom dance class at Penn State, but dancing at a club, never.  Well, now I'm a Woman.  I was wearing a hot little black dress and, well, I danced.  I danced and danced.  I loved feeling my body bounce and move.  It was intoxicating and I didn't care how stupid I looked.  I had a blast and sweated my makeup off.

And I didn't care!
With Hayden at Carley's

Saturday I wandered around a bit.  I met more people and had a nice time.  It was a quiet day.  I wasn't hung over as I danced away all I drank the night before.  I had a very nice discussion with Sharon Rose on the nature of transition.  I see her every year at Keystone, and every year she is more beautiful.

That night was the annual gala.  Donna Miller did my hair for me again and Amanda Richards did my makeup.  This year I wore a blue gown I bought from my friend Jone.  It was my first "formal" event since going full time and I was a little self conscious.

Ally, Linda, and I

Of course, there were many cameras and pictures taken.  I was very happy to pose with people who mean the world to me.

With Sandy Empanada

And with new friends as well.

With Jenny North

Dinner was good.  I sat with many fun people, including one I didn't know.  Unfortunately she  sat across the table from me

Ally, Kelly Metzger, Olivia Loren

Linda, Me, Sandy Empanada.  Not pictured are John, Hayden, and the other person
The dinner speaker was Dr. Wayne Maines.  He had twin sons, one of whom was TG, and the "tea partiers" ran him out of town and into hiding.  He WAS a conservative republican, but saw the hatred and threats directed against his very young child and saw them for what they are.  And he discussed what happened in detail.  Fortunately, it was a happy ending.

But that whole issue bothered me deeply.  One person full of hate completely disrupted this man's life and that of his family.  What if the same happens to me?  What if someone tries to keep me from my daughter based upon Hate, or strikes at me through my daughter?  I was rattled.


With Linda and Julie

Eventually, I changed out of my gown to something a little more functional for drinking and dancing.  In the bar, I bumped into the amazingly beautiful and talented Monica Prada.

With Monica Prada 

I went to watch the band for a bit.  They were different this year- it was an all woman band called Wicked Jezabel.  At one point one of the lead singers came onto the dance floor to sing Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" along with anyone who would sing along.  I know all the words and she saw me singing along, and we ended up singing over half the song together.  Later that night, she invited me to sing with them the following year.  I was flattered.

The night went on, and the bar action continued.  But there were two things I couldn't get out of my mind.  One was the nagging fear of what could happen with my daughter as I described.  But the other was that I missed Lisa Empanada.

It wasn't the same without her there.  Sandy gave me one of Lisa's necklaces on Friday, and I wore it Saturday night.   And when I changed, I changed into one of the tops I inherited from her.  I was tired after a long week, and that, combined with fear and drink, caused me a profound sadness.  I ended my Saturday night sitting on the floor of our room's bathroom, sobbing for over an hour, trying to remain quiet so I didn't wake up my roomies.

The following morning was rainy.  Linda, Ally, Sandy, Hayden, John, and Olivia sat together for breakfast.  All around the restaurant were many tired looking guys that the night before shone brightly as women.  But not me- not this time.  I was my true self.

That small subtle difference- that I didn't have to change back, as there was no more changing back- made a huge difference.

The Keystone Conference is always an amazing time, and is my favorite conference.  It has things to offer everyone from the new person to the fully transitioned TG.  For me, Keystone means friendships and connections.  This year I was fortunate to stay with two amazing dear friends and to met some simply incredible new people.  Where will I be next year at Keystone?  Who will I be?

Stay tuned!


Jenny, Jane, Linda, a gargoyle

Friday, April 18, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Sorry to have been away, folks.

MIL is away this week, so the time I usually have to type has been taken up with seeing my daughter among other things.

Yes, I still owe you the rest of my Keystone Conference experience, and you will get it.  I also want to tell you about Wife and Daughter meeting Me for the first time.

Yes, it happened!

I also owe my editor an article for TG Forum.

So I WILL get to all of this!  I promise!  But for tonight, I will see my daughter, Wife, and dog again.  I will live life instead of just writing about it.

BTW: Tonight Wife and I are going to do our "Easter ritual" watching of the Ten Commandants.  21 years and we haven't missed yet!  :)

Last Saturday: GNO with coworkers.  Yes, I'll write about that too

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letter from Sarah

I received a message on facialbook on Monday (4:59 PM April 7, 2014 for those Joe Fridays out there)

Sarah is former coworker at the bookstore who long ago went on to bigger and better things.  She came in once in a while to say "hi" and stuff, and I'd invite her to parties, but I wouldn't say we were especially close.  I always thought she was really smart and drop dead gorgeous, and was very happy to see her find a better paying job (and her current long time gentleman).

Sarah's Profile Pic 

So I'll admit I was a bit surprised to see this in my message board.  I guess I shouldn't have been.  As I said, she's wildly intelligent. 

Her questions require answers, and, since they are such good questions, I felt that others may benefit from these answers.  So, with her very kind permission, I reproduce her letter here- unedited.  My replies to the questions will be embedded within, in italics, following ">>>" signs.  

************************************************************************

Hi Sophie! Thank you for liking my Facebook pic of the new hair cut! I love your hair too. I wanted to reach out to you sooner, but I decided to read your blog first. First off, you are an amazing writer. The quality of your writing is fantastic and as an on again off again blogger myself, I’m impressed how you’ve managed to stay on topic year after year. I found myself very impressed by the volume of your writing as well. I know professional bloggers who don’t post as much as you do. I really have no idea how you manage to do it all.

>>> You're going to give me a big head!  Thanks for your kind words.  They mean a lot.  I write every day, without fail.  I don't publish most of it, but I'm always writing.  I try to post at least once a week to keep my readers interested and involved.  Also, the blog allows me to look back at milestones and exactly how I felt at that time. People evolve, and how I feel today is so different than I was five and a half years ago. 

Of course, you’re not just inspiring me as a writer. Since I heard your good news, I’ve thought a lot about how I can never really know what others are living with on a day to day basis. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I always try to think, “maybe they are late for an interview,” or “maybe they feel really sick.” 

>>> You're a better person than I, Gunga Din!  I curse them, their parents, etc.  ;)

But you’ve made me reevaluate the way I interact with people in the bubble between complete stranger and good friend. I’ve always been excellent with good friends, and I’ve taught myself to empathize with strangers, but I’ve never considered the people in between. I think it’s because I consider myself a decent judge of character, and when I know some of the personal details of a person, I feel as though I understand what motivates them and some of who they are. Now I understand that though my tactics may typically work, there is pain, and also uniqueness and beauty that I’m missing out on by not opening myself up to these acquaintances.

>>> It comes down to time.  We have so many people dance though our lives, especially in the service industry.  Learning about people above all takes Time, and there aren't enough hours in the day to know EVERYONE.  So we triage the people we meet, and make the time for those that may last.  I do anyway.  Until I realized I was tg, I always pushed people away, so I had few close friends.  But I have been introduced to a whole tapestry of amazing people, and there are so many of them for which I would die.  I admit that since Lisa's death, I haven't allowed myself to get THAT close to people (Lisa and I were Sisters, and were going to transition together,) but that doesn't mean the people I know aren't worthy and deserving, it just means I'm still nursing that wound.

I’m so impressed with your ability to look inside yourself and find who you truly are. So few people truly ask themselves some of life’s most important questions. I took a Philosophy of Science class once. Going into the course, I thought it would be dull and uninspiring. I find that it was one of the most thought provoking classes I ever took. Kuhn wrote that science is a process of taking a collection of baseline assumptions, pulling out one, and seeing if it matches. The search for truth in science is success by approximation, underwritten by the difficulty of huge paradigm shifts. The search for an authentic life seems to ask us to go through the same kind of practice with our identity. We need to hold up one assumption against all else we know of ourselves. So few people even try, most are not brave enough to see, but you did it. And then you were brave enough to work through the obstacles and losses that stood between you and living an authentic life. I’m really impressed.

>>> In some ways, it comes down to Maslow's hierarchy.  few people reach the highest point "Self-actualization", but I'd argue that many Transpeople do.  We are forced, by the Pain, to seek inside the deepest parts of our selves to find the cause.  During this search, we often uncover many dark truths about ourselves.  Not all of us survive this journey (Transpeople have a 41% suicide attempt rate, compared to 3% for non-trans)  But those who do understand the Truth about who we are.  And some act on it.  Only 1% or so of transpeople actually transition.  I am one of them.  Like many, it came down to "Dead man or Live woman."  I chose to Live.

I recognize that having read your blog, I’d also be best served by reading sociological materials on gender and general materials about being transgendered. But I hope you can forgive me for asking you these questions directly instead. I’m interested in your perspective on these things. Though, of you’d rather refer me to a scholarly source I’ll read away.

>>> First, a point of order.  The term is "transgender."  One doesn't refer to someone as "gayed" or "lesbianed."  Same thing.  :)  I enjoy answering questions!  For some hardcore scholarly stuff, I refer you to the entry Codex Sophie

What is gender to you? From your blog, it seems that makeup, skirts, and earnings help you feel as though your physical appearance match your inner identity. I myself have nothing pierced. For me, I consider piercings to be a form of ritualistic body mutilation practiced in order to confirm to social norms of beauty by dangling metal pendants from unhealed wounds. Extreme, I know. So for me, not having a piercing is a reminder to myself that I never need to confirm to social norms for beauty. But that being said, I do conform to too many of them. I dye my hair and paint my nails. I keep both long. I wear skirts. I wear necklaces. I wear headbands. Do those things make me feel like a woman? I’m not sure.

>>> That's the point, isn't it?  What IS gender?  Is a person defined by their reproductive organs?  Or is gender in the mind?  This has been debated by many people over time, and really cuts to the core of identity.  Is a woman defined by her vagina?  Then what of women born without them?  Chromosomes?  To many variations to even mention.  My definition is that Gender is in the mind.  Our brains make us who we are.  I was born with a female brain, therefore  I am female.  Yes, there are differences in brain structure between males and females.  I feel female.  I (now) interact with people as a female.  I never considered myself male, despite my anatomy.

As to what makes me FEEL female, yes, for me the outward cues help.  I want the world to see me as I see myself, and conforming to the feminine social norms helps with that.  Do those things make you feel like a woman?  I'll counter that with "have you ever felt otherwise?"

How would being transgendered manifest if we lived in a society where gender roles and constructs were all but absent? If clothes, mannerisms, pronouns were absent, would being transgendered simply manifest as a surgical procedure and hormone treatments?

>>>  Another great question!  I think you may be correct- hormones and surgery.  In the end, it's about being who you were born to be.  To be otherwise causes tremendous psychological and spiritual Pain.

Do you find that being transgendered impacts your vision of parenting? I know that’s a personal one so feel free to say it’s none of my business. I am really asking a few things here: (1) when you look forward to teaching your daughter things or experiencing them with her, do you find yourself more interested in typically male or female activates (father daughter dances, hitting a baseball, going shopping, talking about boys or threatening boyfriends, etc.)? (2) has your journey of self-discovery and femininity caused you to encourage femininity in your daughter or to encourage her to explore both gender roles?

>>> No it doesn't.  Wife and I agree on the direction here.  If my daughter wants to hit a baseball, then that's what we'll do.  Some things i won't be able to do, like father/daughter dances.  As to encouraging or discouraging femininity, I feel that my journey will show her that it's ok to explore her own Truth. 

Some people object to this, like MIL.  In the end, it will be patience and love that win out, not prejudice and hate.  I have to believe that.

 In college, I did seriously ask myself if I was straight. I decided I was, though I can see women as lovely or sexy. I’ve never been sexually attracted to a woman, nor have I had a crush on one. However, I came to think that if I met the perfect partner for myself and that person just so happened to be a woman, I’d get over that. No one is exactly perfect in every way; that would be dull! I don’t think that makes me a lesbian or bisexual, I thought of it as meaning I wasn’t shallow. That I could look so far beyond someone’s physical appearance that I could overlook not only an awkward nose or an age gap or a pot belly, but also a vagina and boobs.

 I’m reflecting upon that thought experiment in reference to you for two reasons. On the one side, I think that makes me more open minded than most who find themselves married to transgendered folks. But on the other, I wonder about if I’m making gender out to be purely physical when your journey should have shown me that it’s so much more.

>>> It is.  For good or for ill, gender defines us at our core.


Female to the Core

But then, if gender is more than skin deep, how big is it? Is gender enough of a part of one’s identity that really, you’re asking your significant other to fall in love with a different person all over again? I suppose there’s a wide range of ways a person can change over the course of a relationship. Some are very minor or superficial, while others are more of a change in personality, goals, and dreams. I wonder if in the cases of friends where romantic relationships survived a change in gender, you’ve seen anything about those relationships which you think applies to surviving any kind of major change? Do you think those people are just lucky to have found such love and tolerance, or are their characteristics of that kind of resilience in a relationship?

>>> Thorny issue this.  I could dodge it by saying that most marriages do not survive transition.  My therapist called being TG the "ultimate solvent.  it dissolves everything: relationships, jobs... everything."  Being TG is extremely hard to handle, and I think just as bad for the spouse.  My wife was quite clear- if I transition, we're divorcing.  We are separated now.  The hard part is that we still love each other very much, but she can't get past me becoming a woman.  Some people are lucky enough that their spouse stays with them.  Lisa Empanada was very lucky that her wife Sandy accepted her fully.  

I don't blame Wife for her position on this.  I desperately wish that it hadn't come to this, but it has.  She knows this.  She knows that it meant "living Sophie or dead Lance."  And I know she doesn't wish me dead.


 I really want to stress that you don’t have to answer this one... I think I’m correct in stating that throughout your changes, you’ve remained consistent in being attracted to women, correct? Would you consider being with someone who was also transgendered? Would it make a difference in how far they had taken their physical transformation? If you were with a women and she realized she was transgendered and wanted to physically become a man, would you be able to accept that?

>>> I'll answer this because it brings up an important distinction between gender and sexuality.  My dear friend Ally Raymond put it well:  "Sexuality is who you want to go to bed with.  gender is who you want to wake up as."  The two might seem related, but they really aren't.  They are independent of each other.  As to whom I am attracted, it's currently women, cisgendered or transgendered.  Not that who I am am attracted to matters, as I am still currently married.  As to the last bit, is she were transgender, it would be quite hypocritical for me to refuse her.  That said, I know many transmen, and while they are great people, I don't find them attractive.  


 I am very tempted to delete the whole question section. Your blog makes it seem as though you are very open to answering questions, but it still feels very invasive and nosey to be asking these things (maybe that’s the New Englander in me). I hope that you don’t take offense to any of this, Sophie. Truly, my whole email comes from a place of support and curiosity. Congratulations on your ongoing journey and recent milestone! It’s a pleasure knowing you. - Sarah

>>> The only way we learn is by asking questions.  The only way we as transgender people will ever be accepted is if people understand us.  Education brings understanding, which brings acceptance.  Someday I may be accepted as who I am, but it will be a matter of educating one person at a time.  It's a long road, but I will walk it.  

And the pleasure is all mine!  :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Keystone Conference 2014 Part 1

The sixth annual Keystone Conference was held at the Sheraton Harrisburg/Hershey from March 26-29, 2014.

Seriously.  I know- I was there.  This was my sixth straight Keystone- I've never missed one.  It's grown from 75 people the first year to over 500 attendees this year.

Unlike the past few Keystones, this time I didn't take notes.  So everything I write will be based upon my fuzzy memory of events.  In any case, the feelings are true.

Monday night, I announced to the world that I am transgender.  The following morning, I put on my makeup and loaded the car with my stuff and Linda's and drove west to Harrisburg.




Ready to Roll!

So off we went through the early morning haze.

We arrived around noon and checked into the room.  Then we went to the Dog and Pony bar for lunch. Then a pedicure.  That night, Linda and I helped the Keystone staff stuff registration envelopes.  After that, we had dinner with them.


Dinner with the Staff

Wednesday I bummed around, bumping into friends and catching up.  Linda and I were supposed to have lunch with Amanda Richards, but it didn't happen as she had last minute things to do.  So Linda and I ate elsewhere.  I was going to go to the Devon Seafood Grille, but couldn't afford it.  And besides, I had to be up early the next morning for my seminar.  While in the bar, I met someone named Julie.  She is a Navy veteran and an EMT.  She looked so put together and beautiful.  As I am a former paramedic, we clicked immediately.  We shared some drinks, and I went to bed early.


Wednesday Night Dinner





For the fourth time, I gave a seminar on writing.  As always, I used the same learning objectives as always, but designed the lesson to be entirely different- trying to achieve the objectives from a different angle.  Last year, I used the setting of a beach party and constructivist learning theory.  This year, while I stayed with constructivism, I decided to supply just a hair less guidance, and answered questions.  This year's setting was a 10 year reunion of something very significant in their character's lives.  I would tell them what later.




The each participant created their character, and each person added something to him/her, like occupation or phobia.  The discussion began and I revealed what they were there for:  it was the 10 year reunion of the abduction by Aliens.  Some laughed, and then, as if on cue, the door opened and a beautiful woman entered.  She was Jenny North, and she apologized profusely for being late.  I briefed her on what was going on and she quickly created a character, and I told her I would supply her occupation.  

The conversation began again, and someone asked what she did for a living.  To which I said "Don't you recognize her- she's the one who abducted you!"  

And Jenny went with it immediately.  I found out later that she does improv comedy, so she was well suited to doing it.  So good that people thought she was a plant.  She wasn't.  But she was an amazing addition.

The session ended and my phone rang.  It was a relative, bearing very bad news.  I'm not at liberty to discuss this news, but I will say it has to do with something I am quite familiar with:  the Darkness.  This news necessitated certain actions and certain emotions.  I was quite upset.  I'll get back to this.

I went upstairs.  There I bumped into Amanda Richards and Kristin Beck.  For those who don't know that name, Kristin Beck was a Navy SEAL for over twenty years, and she came out as transgender.  This made headlines, and she's been in the news since as an advocate for TG and veterans' rights.

Amanda invited me to have drinks with them.  So I did.  And I found out how genuine and no-pretense Kristin is.  For all the fame, she is just Her.  And we share the same warped sense of humor.  Several people were sitting alone in the bar, including Julie, who I'd met the night before.  I mentioned to Kristin that Julie served in the Navy and Kristin immediately smiled brightly.  They spoke of being TG veterans and how it would affect her veteran's benefits.

After a little while, the group broke up.  After checking my dear friend, the gorgeous Ally Raymond into our room, I went to see Donna Miller for a hair appointment.  She cut my hair in a feminine style.  No more wigs for this chick!  Then I saw Amanda for makeup.  When she finished, I was ready for the Vanity Club dinner.


At the Final Cut

So it was off to the Hollywood Casino, and the Final Cut Steakhouse.  There I sat with the beautiful Linda Lewis as all the Sisters of VC in attendance had a wonderful dinner.  Also there was Jenny North, as she was also a sister of VC.  Small world. Jenny received her VC pin, as did my friend the beautiful Olivia Lauren.

After dinner we lingered around the casino waiting for the bus.  Some of the elderly patrons looked positively scandalized by us.  So scandalized they weren't playing their slot machines!

We returned the the hotel, where I had a couple of drinks before going to bed.  It had been a long day, and I was quite tired.  


Continued in Part 2




Friday, April 4, 2014

My Transition Plan

(Parts of this entry appeared first on TGForum, published March 24, 2014.)

I am now full time as Sophie.  As a woman,.

To get this place took a LOT of planning and a lot of help.  Everyone does it differently.  And here I am going to tell you how I approached it.  Remember, this is my approach, your mileage may vary. 

I've gone over some of this in the blog already, but I am putting it together to serve as a guidepost if you will.  So people can take what works for them, and avoid my mistakes


Also, and I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t HAVE to transition- DON’T DO IT.  Seriously.  It can and probably will destroy your life.

The process starts with the most important part- Realization.  After exhausting all other avenues, and still feeling the Intense Pain of Gender Dysphoria, to the point of knowing it means Change or…

After making that VERY difficult determination, I informed my Wife.  It led to a week of crying for us both.  It also led to me being thrown out of the house.  (We lived with her mother, and she threw me out for being a “freak.”)

Then the planning began in earnest.  In this phase, I worked closely with my therapist, Dr. Maureen Osborne, and my “Big Sister” Mel. 

Ok, what needed to happen?  I needed to: 

11)      Set a date.
22)      Inform my employers
33)      Inform family (for others this would be the first)
44)      Prepare wardrobe and necessities.

The first part was difficult.  Timing is always delicate.  I decided to emulate my beautiful friend and Vanity Club sister Stephanie by going full time at work upon returning from a conference.  In her case it was SCC.  In mine, it was Keystone.  That meant my last day as Lance would be Monday, March 24.  And my first day at work would be upon returning:  March 31. 

The second part required the most planning.  Months in advance, I contacted the regional HR for the book store and explained the situation.  Why?  Well, in case they DIDN’T have a plan in place.

So, having started the ball rolling at work, I began planning how to tell my parents.  I asked friends who had already done this, and they were incredibly helpful.  None of us transitions alone.  There’s a reason we’re a Community.  Others have walked where you are now, and are usually happy to provide advice.  Especially about their mistakes.

In the end, I decided to write them a letter.  I was going to just mail it to them, but at the advice of my sisters, I decided to read it to them.  This way they could see my face and hear my voice as I told them, and I could see theirs.  I expected the worst. 

They surprised me.  They accepted me.  To date, my mum has met her daughter, and embraced her.  My dad still hasn’t as he’s just not ready yet.  I understand that.  

Ok.  Parents finished, what about closest friends?  I actually started with them first.  One by one, I met with them over drinks and told them.  One by one, they accepted me.  I was extremely lucky.  Over time, I honed my “presentation” to what NEEDED saying.  I’ll come back to that.

But at this point, Bookstore HR and I reconnected.  It was two months until the day I was coming out.  The HR person told me their procedure, which they developed over time.  I would be the sixth transition on the job.  It started with me writing a letter to bookstore management.  I decided I would read the letter, as it worked very well with my parents.  And so I did.

HR determined that my first day back HAD to be Monday March 31, as Tuesday April 1 would be inappropriate.  I understood that.  Who wants to “come out” on April Fool’s Day?

I decided I wanted to tell others that I simply didn't have time to reach.  How to do it…  Well, I’d been making videos for YouTube, so why not make one in drab, and send it out? 

So that’s what I did.  I made two videos:  one for friends I've known ten years or more, and the other for more recent friends. 

Actually, I made three.  The first one didn't strike the proper tone.  So I tried again.  The links to the two videos are follow:


I sent the one for older friends first.  And so far, I have a better than 40% return rate, of which all but one was positive.  I expected the rate to be far lower.  The one that wasn't positive was essentially a “WTF?”

Then I sent out the other one, mostly to coworkers with whom I am close.  I think I chose well, as I have a 100% return rate with that, and all are positive.

I've been cautioned by many, including Donna Rose, that initial reaction is not necessarily long term reaction.  So all these positives my melt away like “tears in the rain.”  But I need these positives.

There were two problems with the videos.  One is that I hadn't included them in the long term plan- I just thought them up and did them.  It was my method of achieving a part of the long term plan, true:  inform close co-workers, but it wasn't the method I previously planned.  The second problem is that I didn't mention doing this to my therapist or to my “Big Sister” before I did it.  As they have been intimately involved in the planning and execution, they should’ve been told.  Dr. Osborne asked me “what if it blew up in [my] face?”  Point taken. 

Ok, so work was set.  Old friends told.  Select current friends told.  One part was missing, and was being delayed by my mother in law and Wife:  telling my daughter.  Well, that happened on Friday March 21.  I decided to take her to a neutral location, in this case a park, where Wife and I explained it to her.  She seemed to understand as best as a six year old can.

All that remains is to post my Truth for the world to see on Facebook on Tuesday.  And for that, I am following the advice of my dear friend Jen Lehman, who told me to approach it like a marketing campaign.  Keep it all positive- eliminate any negative.  All smiles.  All happiness.  Communicate with negatives privately, while thanking positives publicly.  For the message, I modified the letter I read to bookstore management.  I've simplified it and changed some of the verbiage. 

So that is where it all stands.  Wife knows.  Work knows. Friends are informed.  Family knows. Appropriate wardrobe for a woman my age is acquired.  Now?


Dear readers, I have run headlong into burning buildings as a paramedic.  I have done things that chill my blood to think of them now.  And this?  This scared the living Hell out of me.  I'd never been such a huge ball of anxiety.  Thank God I planned this thoroughly in advance, because as it came closer I couldn't plan the strategy for a game of Candyland.

I revealed my truth on Facialbook on the evening of Monday March 24.  The next morning I then headed west to Harrisburg for the Keystone Conference.  From there I monitored the messages, and contacted those that need to be contacted.

While I was away, the Bookstore management informed my coworkers of the change.  They posted my letter to them, and discussed it individually with each staff member.  Information about being Transgender was provided (which we obtained from the NCTE website- support them folks, as they support us!)

First Day

Upon returning, I had the Dreaded First Day of Work as a Woman.  I interacted with coworkers and customers.  If there’s an issue, I am not to engage- I am to let management handle it.  Will the customers object?  Well, the store is in a VERY rich and conservative area.  So yes, I anticipated some resistance from the extremist of the right wingers.  So far, nothing but a couple of looks and a single "sir."



So there it is, folks.  That’s how I did it.  It involved months of planning, consultations, reading, and tears.  Now I have embarked on the Voyage of the rest of my Life.

My life as a Woman.


As Sophie.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gettysburg

On Sunday March 9, 2014, I threw Linda Lewis head first into my car and carted her through the southern PA countryside to Gettysburg.  She'd never been there, and I love the place.

If you don't know what happened there, well just wow.  (If you're an American that is.)  Here's a quick synopsis.  

Here are some of the pictures I took.

Our first stop was to "The Pub" for lunch.  We were quite the attraction.  Literally the whole staff came out and gawked at us.  Glad we could entertain you, folks!

Like my outfit?  Apparently it was amusing

The food was great, though!



After touring the first day portion of the battlefield, where I showed her the tube of the cannon that fired the first shot of the battle, we went to the southern tip of the field.

Linda standing by the marker for General Reynolds of Pennsylvania, killed on the first day

Virginia monument

There Linda and I trudged through snow and ice up the steep slope of Big Round Top.  And WOW was it cold up there in the wind!

Linda:  "I'm doing this!"


The Summit, looking southeast

From there it was Little Round Top.



At the southern side of Little Round Top is where the battle, and arguably the war turned.  Here a few hundred men from Maine fought a few thousand men from Alabama to a standstill, eventually besting them.



There's something about the story of the 20th Maine that irresistibly draws me.  If you're interested, I suggest you read either THIS by their commander, the quiet college professor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, THIS which puts things in perspective , or THIS which tells the story from the perspective of the commander of the 15th Alabama, Colonel William C. Oates.  (Both commanders went on to become governors of their respective home states.)

From there, we crossed the "Valley of Death" to Devil's Den.  Linda knows more than a little about geology, and was fascinated by this rock outcropping.

Devil's Den

Linda looks at Little Round Top from Devils Den

From there, we drove past the Wheatfield and Peach Orchard while we defrosted.  We then stopped at the "High Water mark."  This is where the Union Center held against Pickett's Charge.

Looking from the Union position across the mile wide field the Confederates crossed.

We FINALLY got back in the car, and, frozen and full of history, headed back to the boarding house.

I love going to Gettysburg.  I love taking people there.  53,000 people died there in three days.  Wrap your head around that.  That's a staggering number.  And they were all Americans, separated by geography and ideology.  Now the fields are quiet and people come here to see a place where American history really took shape.

I'm going to take Linda back there in the summer, when it is warmer.  We'll linger about more.  And go to a different restaurant.

 Little Round Top, position of the 83rd Pennsylvania

My First Day at Work as a Woman

Today is March 31, 2014.

Yesterday I returned home from the 2014 Keystone Conference.  It was a cold rainy day.  On the way, I called my wife and I cried.  I miss her and my daughter.  And the final speaker at Keystone scared the hell out of me.  I could lose my Daughter because of someone filled with Hate. There are enough Hate filled people in this commonwealth to keep me from Her (as there are enough hate filled people to elect people just as hateful, see the connection?).  I'll detail THIS chain HERE.

But all of that was yesterday.  Today was sunny and nice.  My day started by stopping at Wife's workplace to get some money for doctor appointments.  She saw my new hair style and paused for a heartbeat.  You see, I was in my last remaining guy clothes to see her.  A concession.

On my way back to the house, I received a phone call from work.  They wanted me to come in Today instead of tomorrow, as one of the corporate directives was that Sophie NOT start on April Fools Day.

I had a therapist appointment at 12.  I was to go into work directly after.  When I arrived back at the house, it was 10:30 AM.  I had an hour to get pretty.  That included doing my hair.  It wasn't enough, and I began panicking and making mistakes.  I started losing it.  Fortunately, I had the help of M and Linda, who kept me calm and away from a full blown panic attack.  I was ready at 11:55.  As it takes twenty minutes to get to Dr. Osborne's office, I was going to be late.  I called her and we moved the appointment to tomorrow.  I then relaxed a little.  I had a little lunch.  Then went to work.

Ready for work.

I arrived at 1 PM, and sat in the parking lot for a bit, mustering my courage.  Then I grabbed my purse,and took that long walk through the parking lot.  The day before, I stopped in the store with Linda Lewis so I could be seen as a woman there for the first time.  This time I was alone.

I clocked in at 1:25 and walked up to the music section where I'd spend the next eight hours.  My fellow employees were so very supportive.



About three hours into the shift, I stopped dead in my tracks and looked down at myself.  My name tag said "Sophie."  I wasn't wearing a compression shirt, so my breasts stood out proudly.  I was at work as ME.  I thought to myself "this is really happening.  This isn't a dream.  I'm here at work as a woman!"  And I couldn't wipe the smile from my face.

As the shift progressed, I did all of the usual things:  I helped customers, answered the phone, and eventually went to the ladies room.  No issues- no problems.  During my breaks, I used my phone to check facialbook, and I saw so many affirming comments!  Thanks to all those who posted!

The shift went quickly.  It was a magical night.  I called my "Big Sister" Mel to talk about it.  When I arrived home, I found that my friend Michelle from Worcester, MA had called in a pizza order for me, and it was waiting.  Thanks Michelle!



Mel was happy that I'd had a great day, but cautioned that this was only one day.  Not all days would be like this.  And she's right.  Eventually, going into work as Sophie will be routine.  I welcome that.


I wore a special necklace today to work.  It is a silver butterfly, and it contains a small amount of Lisa Empanada's ashes.  I don't wear this necklace often- only when I need her to be with me.  Today I needed her strength.  I needed to feel that she was there, helping.



I texted the above picture to Sandy Empanada.  She wrote back "She's with you and me."  And so she is.

But so are so many others.  I am blessed to have Mel, Linda, and Ally in my life.  I am blessed by M's generosity by opening her home to me.  And I'm blessed and humbled by having so many people care about me.

Thanks to all of you, today a Dream came True!


(See me reading this, and some commentary, HERE)