Monday, April 27, 2015

The Bruce Jenner Interview

Yes, I watched it too, like most of the transworld, and many in cis-America as well.  Did you see the ratings?  Yowza!

I was asked by no less than Six of my co-workers for my thoughts on the Interview.  And I always asked what THEY thought.  Their reactions were always of "I didn't realize how much pain you were in" or "You're so brave to do this!"   Both of which I'll take, btw.

So.  I assume that you, dear reader, saw the interview.  If not you can find it HERE.  It's about two hours long with commercials, and doubles as a history lesson on Jenner's life, as well as a "Trans 101."  As part of that, we see Janet Mock and Jennifer Finney Boylan (I won't call you a sage, Professor, as I agree- parsley is more fun!) (Facialbook humor: it is not logical.)

Right.  So Bruce Jenner has come out as TG.  Something we in the community kinda figured out long ago, but I for one didn't know of his previous transition attempt in the 1980s.  Or that this was the cause of the collapse of two of his marriages.  I still wonder how he fathered two children after being on hormones for a year and a half, but that's small potatoes.  In any case.

Damn- what an interview!  I thought he came across as genuine and nuanced.  A little snarky at times, but who wouldn't be after being part of the whole Khardashian thing.  (I still use "He" as he asked us all to do so for some odd reason.)

In any case, the amazing Donna Rose summed it up perfectly on Facialbook when she wrote "What happens from here on out is yet to be seen, but in the big picture it separates everything that came before from everything that comes after."

With Donna Rose at SCC 2013

And she is absolutely right.  This was a turning point.  People are, if even for a moment, talking about us in a positive light.  They have learned about who and what we really are- not bathroom perverts, but just people.  People who have a horrible burden... but people who have incredible strength.  

Those of us who survive the incredible pain, that is.  How do we articulate that?  Even Jenner really couldn't.  It's hard to explain to those who haven't experienced.  As my dear sister Lisa said, her name was an acronym for Living In Silent Agony.

Silent Agony.  That's the best description I've heard.

I tried to explain it to a coworker yesterday, and words failed me.  My eyes welled up a bit with tears.  I just told her that the pain is so bad, it kills us.  Because it is.  And it does.  

God help us, it does.

Of note was the reaction of Diane Sawyer to several of Bruce Jenner's points.  She seemed shocked by some, which made me wonder when she did her research- before or after she did the interview, as the entire show seemed very well researched.  

And she seemed genuinely shocked that he's a republican.  I was too, but I shouldn't have been.  I've made my thoughts on republican TGs clear both here and on TG Forum.  But Bruce Jenner has "juice"- maybe he CAN get the republican leadership to stop their persecution of us.  But I doubt it.  I think he's in for a rude eye opening.

Bruce Jenner also discussed religion- that didn't surprise me.  Many TGs try to square our religious beliefs with who we Are.  I did.  And what he said is fairly close to how I finally sorted it out.  Maybe someday I'll go further into this topic.

In the end, Donna Rose is correct.  The Transgender community has entered a new era.  Jenny Boylan and Mara Keisling have been doing the rounds of talk shows.  Kristin Beck is running for congress.  We're this news cycle's darlings.  Now it's up to us... it's always been up to us.

We Transpeople who are out in the world, as I am, have to show others that we aren't Freaks or monsters.  We need to show the cis-community that we're people, with strengths and weaknesses like any other.  But we need to accentuate our strengths- our resilience and our adaptability.  

Then maybe, just maybe, we'll start to be accepted.  

The Interview showed a statistic, that on 8% of Americans say they Know a Transgender person.  So each of us who is out is important.  As Jenny Boylan said "You can't hate someone whose story you know."  We need to get our stories out there- someway somehow.  

You know, Wife told me that MIL watched the whole interview.  I haven't heard a reaction from her yet.  Wife didn't watch much of it.  Her reasons are her own.  Perhaps MIL learned something.  perhaps she understands us better- understands Me better.

Time will tell... for All of us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Awe

Ever been Star Struck?  I have.

I've met many celebrities, usually when bartending, but some by sheer coincidence.  And the first few I met I was struck dumb.  I didn't say much as I didn't want to seem an idiot.  The first "celebrity" I met was in 1985, when I met Roger Daltrey of the Who after his solo show at the Tower Theater in Philly.  I was so star struck I didn't even ask for an autograph.  I shook his hand though.

In time I got better at it.  I was at my best when I met Paul Simon at a Yes concert (also at the Tower) some years ago.  He was cool, really nice, and shook my hand as well.  I told him I loved his music.

For that matter, I met most of Yes, but at a different occasion.

I have gotten better at it, but that means it still doesn't happen.  And the funny thing is, for me, it happens at TG conventions.

Here's an example.

Back in 2013, I attended my first Southern Comfort Conference (I wrote about it HERE.) There I met several women whom I had admired for their beauty and seeming grace.  Ana Cristina Garcia, Laura Lenley, Stephanie Yates and others. I was friends with several on Facialbook, but meeting them?

With Ana Cristina Garcia

Yes, I was a Fan girl.  And I tried my best not to make an ass of myself.  But I did.  And I discovered that they were so very nice and accepting.  Ana is a warm and fun person, and Laura is as fun as I imagined.  And Stephanie Yates didn't disappoint either!  I am a better person for having met them.

One in particular I was a fan girl of was Linda Lewis.  And I managed to make her angry.  Over time, I got to know her, and I was able to help her in her time of need.  We are now roomies and best friends.  I learned a valuable lesson at SCC, and since... that people we admire are People.  Linda is one of the most down to Earth and practical people I know, yet has a wicked sense of humor.  And did you know she's a fellow Trekker?


Another example is the amazing Donna Rose.  I met her on several occasions and she is simply a treasure.  It turns out she's a "Big Sister" to my "Big Sister" Mel.  When I first met her I was absolutely tongue tied.

But even that knowledge didn't help at Keystone.  Nope, I was stunned into gaping silence by the beauty of several women, most of them Vanity Club sisters.

Here's an example.

Stephanie Wardlow is a fellow VC sister.  She's absolutely stunning, and by all accounts an extremely nice person.  I've posed with pictures with her.  Heck, we sat at the same table at the Keystone Gala this year.  But she'd so damn beautiful I was star struck. I don't think I said even a word to her, and those who know me know how strange that is, as I'm a talker.

With Stephanie at SCC 2013

There are women I'd love to meet someday, but I fear I'd be a blithering idiot.  Women like Heidi Phox and Samantha Johns.  There are others of course, but I'll keep this entry short.

Something I just thought about.  I write occasionally about people coming up to me and complimenting me on my blog and stuff.  Do they feel that way about me?  Nahhh... they all seemed quite in control.

Star Struck.  It's seems so strange.  I know these people are just human like me, but, without even knowing them, I elevate them to a higher plane than myself.  Self esteem issue?  Maybe.  At least I know I'm not a narcissist.

In any case, I wonder how many people get star struck out there.  Do you dear reader?  Hey, you could share your experience in the comment section!  That could be fun!  :)

Be Well!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tradition and a Raven

Wife and I have a tradition that we started the first year we were married, way back in 1994.  Easter was approaching, and we found The Ten Commandments on TV.  Near the beginning.  So we decided to watch it on our TV screen smaller than the monitor I'm looking at now. And watched... and watched... through commercials... until midnight.  We both had early wake up times the next day, and hadn't expected the movie to last five hours, but it did with commercials.

But we both loved it.  And the next year we bought a copy on VHS so we didn't get commercials.  And so it went as the years passed.  Every Easter week/weekend, we would watch the movie.  Eventually we upgraded to DVD.

Wife and I have been separated for nearly two years. including two Easters.  But the one tradition we managed to keep when all others have withered away has been that one.  And last week, MIL went away for a few days, which allowed me to see my daughter, my dog, and watch the movie with Wife.  We broke it up over two nights, both after I was finished work.  Daughter wasn't into the movie, but we watched it.  And yes, I was there as Sophie.

My 15 year old dog, Nittany

As we watched, we told many of the same jokes as we watched it that we've developed over the years.  It was like nothing had changed.  But it had.  I'm a woman now.  And we weren't living together.

But I'm very glad we could keep at least one tradition alive.  And maybe someday Daughter will join in as well.

The day after we finished watching the movie, I was in New Hope with my roomie, Linda Lewis.  The occasion was Raven 28.  I've talked about the Raven gatherings in previous entries.  They were started by the beautiful Jen Bryant who hosted them through number 27.  But now Jen is out and full time,.  Her work and boyfriend are taking up a lot of her time and she was ready to move on.  And so she did.

Jen Moves on.  Pic courtesy Jennifer Bryant

But she didn't want the tradition to die.  You see, TGs up and down the Eastern seaboard attend this event.  For many, this is the biggest event on their calendar.  For some, this is the only time they can be en femme.  So Jen passed the baton to Jane Reynolds.  Yes, the same Jane who I helped on her first night out a couple of years ago.  She is now full time as well, and has the responsibility of running this huge event.

Linda and I both wanted to show our support to Jane, so we headed to New Hope for the day.  We walked around downtown for a bit before stopping at Havana for lunch.  The time before when we visited there, the food and service were good.  Not this time.  The burgers were way undercooked, and they took a long time to arrive.  Linda and I were underwhelmed to say the least.

From there we went to the Raven Cub room.  On our way we bumped into Jane, who took a picture of us crossing the parking lot.  We then went to the Cub room where I bumped into many others including the gorgeous Valentina.  I don't see her often so it's always a treat.  Kristyn King took many pictures, as did several others.

In the Cub Room with Marie Lamonte, Linda Lewis, Valentina Torrelli

From there a quick stop in Jane's hotel room, as she invited us for a beer.  Then over to the Raven itself.  While we were there, Linda engaged two GG's in conversation about makeup (they admired hers) and suddenly we had new friends!  While we sat there, a TG named Michelle (I hope I got your name right) came over to me and told me how much she loves this blog.  As always I was very flattered.  She says she reads it regularly, so here you go!  Shout out to you!  :)

Linda had to work early the next morning, so we had to go early.  I missed seeing many people, including my dear sister Sandy Empanada.  But we had to get home.  I had to work as well, but not until 11 so I could sleep in.

I'm glad the Raven is in good hands.  I wasn't there to see if the whole thing went off without a hitch, but Jane seemed to have it under control.  I know it has to be difficult- even if Jen Bryant made it look so easy with her endless charm.

I hope everyone had a great time!

Random bitz:

This is the 302nd post in this blog.  If you count the 41 posts from my MySpace blogs, it's the 343rd.  For those of you who didn't know it, I have an older set of blogs:  The Myspace Blogs.  These were done on Myspace (duh) and documented the early part of my journey.  I started writing them directly after my first time out as Sophie.  So if you want to see how I've changed, have a look at them.  For those who care, you can also track how my writing style has changed over time.  And how my look has changed, etc.

Have a look!  Comment!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How Long Does It Take?

So today at work, I had a rare day at customer service (I'm a Head Cashier, so normally I'm at the cash registers.)  It was wonderful to stretch my legs and recommend books again.  I miss that part of the job.

So anyway, in comes a regular customer.  I'll call him Stench.  Why?  Because he stinks.  Really.  Bad.  He isn't the stinkiest customer we have but he's close.  In any case, I wrote about him before.  When I first came out, he called me by my male name, and said he would continue to do so as it's my "legal name."  I complained to management, and they spoke to him.  Since then he's tried to be my buddy.  I want nothing to with him.

So anyway, today I'm at customer service and he asks me for a book that was just released.  As I'm trained to do, I escort him to the book and place the book in his hand.  It's my Job- and I do my job.

As I'm walking away, he says "Thank you SIR."  Quite emphatically.

I turned around and glared at him.  "That's ma'am."  I was seething.

He said "Oh right.  Sorry.  I'm still not used to it."

"I took a step closer.  "It's been a WHOLE YEAR.  How long does it take?"  I glared and made sure not to blink (it's unnerving.)

In my mind, I'm thinking  "Good job Sophie, you're about to be fired."

He apologized again and tried to put his hand on my shoulder.  I backed away- I didn't want his hands on me.  You see, I love hugging Friends, but if you're not my friend, I don't want you touching me.  At all.

I turned and walked away.

As I walked back to the Customer Service station, he babbled more apologies.  And I thought about the interaction.  Management has been always been very clear about two things.  1) That they FULLY support my transition, and 2) That if a customer ever gets out of line, we do NOT have to just stand there and take it.  Normally, I do, because the rude people are usually old and rich and privileged, and arguing with them won't change their ways.

I still get sir'ed occasionally.  I always will.  I understand that's my lot in life, as I'll never be able to afford FFS.  But when someone is emphatic about it- that's just rude.  And that's when I get offended.

A few minutes later, I was fine.  I helped a coworker put away the new issues of magazines that arrived.  And suddenly Stench is there.  He apologizes again, doing his best to sound sincere.  And he touched my shoulder.  I recoiled and told him to forget about it.

I didn't go to management about this.  In my mind, I said my piece, and I feel I should be educating people about the trans-condition, not management.  I want to be an example.  And, he seemed corrected.  But if it happens again with him, I will go to management.  Three strikes and all...


Monday, April 6, 2015

Keystone Conference 2015 Part 2

Friday morning dawned with... SNOW!  Harrisburg was forecast to get three to six inches of snow there on the first day of Spring.

View out the hotel room window

Fortunately, we didn't get all that much- really it was just a nuisance.  I didn't have to go anywhere so I didn't care.

Dr. Rachel Levine

The lunch speaker was Acting Physician General of Pennsylvania Dr. Rachel Levine.  She spoke about working hard to reach goals, oh, and by the way, she also happens to be trans.  I thought the speech was quite appropriate and damn good- she didn't get her position from an accident of birth- she worked hard for it!

While everyone was listening to the Doctor, Sandy Empanada arrived at the hotel.  I bumped into her after lunch, and we sat in the Dog and Pony catching up.

Me and Sandy

Our table grew, as it is wont to do when Sandy is around, as everyone wants to be around her.  Joining us, among others, was Dr. Ken Dollarhide, who speaks on religious topics at conferences and has made helping transpeople his mission.  We talked about his recent trip to Thailand, where he followed a group of Kathoey (thai transexual women) who worked in prostitution.  He wanted to see how they lived and see what, if anything could be done to help their condition.  We spoke about this for 45 minutes and it was fascinating.  The only reason we stopped was that I wanted to go to a writing seminar, which I did.

The writing seminar was chaired by three people, and they all did a reading from their works, then opened the discussion about Why we write, and other topics.  It was wonderful.  During the session I entered a dialogue with a former reporter from Chicago who was an experienced interviewer, but wanted the answers for her questions to be what she expected, not what they were.  It was lively and came down to again- WHY do we write?  Her reason for writing is different from mine- she specifically wants to inform and expose, but wants to change that to something "softer" while I write this stuff.  ;)

Evening came, and I dressed for the Vanity Club dinner.  We had a bus to ourselves as we were going to a different part of downtown Harrisburg.  But first there were cocktails in the dealer area!  I caught up with a few people, and stood for many pictures.

With the beautiful Olivia

Dinner was at the Firehouse.  I watched my dear friend Ally receive her pin.  I was also introduced to a woman named Samantha, who was a delight.  She sat next to me at the dinner.  Many pictures were taken, as usual.  Dinner was phenomenal.  Linda ordered the fish and chips, and got Moby Dick breaded!  It was HUGE!  I had steak that was so big I took half of it back to the hotel.  

With the gorgeous Ally.  I'm wearing her necklace

After dinner, some people stayed in downtown Harrisburg to dance the night away.  I decided to go back to the hotel.  I arrived to find the sisters of my support group deep in discussion.  The next day was to be a tribute to Dr. Osborne for her retirement and there were many details to be hammered out.  There was a bit of debate, several people including myself, made suggestions, and eventually everything was settled.  Two people would mesh their great speeches together and present them together.  

I was tired and went to bed around midnight.  The next day was the Gala.

Saturday was the final day of the conference.  I woke and got ready as there were seminars to attend and people to see.  Before the speaker took the stage, our group was introduced and we took the stage.  Our speakers Lilia and Victoria masterfully gave their speech and I presented a collage that group member Tammi made for Dr. Osborne.  Dr. Osborne received a standing ovation as she joined us on stage, and gave a tear filled thank you.  The surprise was total!

 My Dear Friends Amy and Victoria

Linda and me at lunch

The lunch speaker was Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who spoke about how many victories we’ve won and how a certain political party is desperately trying to destroy those victories.  Yes, the tea partiers and their bathroom bills weren't mentioned by name, but they were referenced many times.  

Michael Silverman

After lunch I attended a session and drifted about a bit, catching up with still more people.  That night was the Gala.  I kept my appointment with Donna Miller to get my hair styled then changed into my gown for the evening.  

My gown was simple and flamenco flavored.  I'd worn it to New Years at the Raven a few years before.  Ally lent me a necklace that went with it perfectly.  I knew I'd be underdressed compared to most of the women, but I didn't care.  I was comfortable in my own skin.  

Photo by Kristyn King

The dinner speaker was seventeen year old Nicole Maines, who made history in Maine by winning a landmark TG rights case there. Nicole really impressed me.  She was introduced by her father, who gave the keynote last year.  As some may remember, Nicole's family was chased from their town by tea partiers who thought she was some kind of pervert for wanting to use the ladies room.  Death threats against a nine year old child- THAT'S the GOP.  They had to go into hiding.  But Nicole's family eventually won, and the case set precedent for other cases like it around the country. 

Nicole was a fantastic speaker, especially for her age.  Later in the night, after I'd changed out of my gown, I had the chance to meet her and I told her how polished I thought her speech was.  She was so happy to hear it!  (Not that my opinion matters- I told her I am a former English teacher, which I am.)

 I spent the rest of the night bouncing between watching the band and going to the bar.  So many people were there!  Such a change from the first year!

And while I'm thinking about it, without the volunteers, there would be no Keystone Conference.  Thanks to Transcentral PA and specifically Jenny Jensen, Katie Ward, Julie Berry, Becky Leight, Robin and Monica Nin, Kendra and Sara Edwards, Dee Anne Fields, Janelle and Cindy Whitman, Suzanne and Judy Robinson, Tyler Joel Davies, Tammy Christine Morgan, Hayden Denton, Suzanne Olivia, Gretchen Lyons, and Steffie.  

And did I mention how grateful I am to the conference for the scholarship?  THANKS AGAIN!

So, how did I pay for everything else?  Well, I've lived without credit cards for over a decade.  But I took up American Express on its offer of a card specifically for conference expenses.  And that's how I paid for everything else.  I'm paying it off monthly.  

End tangent.

With the beautiful Sandy Empanada

The night ended for me around 1 AM.  I was so tired, and just didn't feel like drinking.  The band ended its set, and while there were after parties in many rooms, I decided not to partake.  And so the next morning, I went to breakfast and wasn't hungover.  And like in years past, there were so many sad male faces at breakfast.  I was reminded of my dear friend Hayden's words from a few years ago: 

"It was eerie. When I close my eyes and think about the walk to the Dog & Pony on Sunday morning I swear I can hear dying echos of the most genuinely delightful laughter. It's like hearing ghosts from the past, Sophie."

And so it was again.  This time, Linda and I sat with friends at breakfast.  And this time, the Conference made the front page of the Harrisburg Newspaper.  There had also been a news crew on Thursday.  They interviewed me, but I don't think my little bit (they asked me about "the pain of being trans") made it to air.  
"The" Jenny North looks mischievous 

Anyway, breakfast was quiet and even a bit sedate.  There were more hangovers than waffles in that room.  After we ate (mmm Bacon) Linda and I packed my car, then went around and said our goodbyes.  Ally had to wait for her ride to wake up.  So after all the farewells, my final image of the Keystone Conference 2015 was the gorgeous Ally standing outside the hotel on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, waving us goodbye.

And an two hours later, we were back at the apartment, needing to do laundry.  It's amazing how swiftly the Fantastic becomes mundane.  

Keystone always makes me reflective.  I've written before about why we need conferences.  And we do.  They are an outlet.  I wonder how many more of us would commit suicide if we didn't have conferences as an outlet.  A bit morose, but there it is.  Keystone has been, for me over the years; a source of terror, pain, but mostly tremendous Joy.  This year, was not an exception- for the Joy.  So many new faces blossoming and learning about themselves.  So many new Journeys.  

Like the Necklace?

Journeys.  So many speak of this condition this way.  But really, there isn't a better metaphor.  It IS a journey.  For some, that journey just means an occasional expression of femininity on a weekend or two.  For others, still more, and for a few of us, the Journey consumes our life.  It sure as hell isn't easy.  As I told the news people, I wouldn't wish this Pain on anyone.  And those who can accept that this is the Path that they must walk, no matter how often they tread it,  They are among the bravest of people.  

So for those for whom this was their first conference, Welcome to your Journey.  To my friends with whom I reconnected, seeing you again is the beauty of this conference.  To those who may attend someday, if you can afford it please come.  You won't find a more welcoming family anywhere.

Thanks to Jeanine Ruhsam and Kristy Snow, and all of your volunteers for a wonderful time.