Monday, May 25, 2015

Talking about my Book

Since I posted the first chapter of the book I wrote, I have had several people ask me for more details about it.  And as you know, I do requests sometimes...

Ok, so I wrote a book.  I call it Men of the Skull and it's a memoir of my college years, covering 1985-89.  During that time I attended two universities: Drexel University (1984-6) and then I transferred to Penn State University (1986-89) from which I graduated.  The Skull in the title refers to Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, which I joined in 1985, and am still a member (a bit of a surprise, as I am now female...)

Phi Kappa Sigma "Skull House" Penn State  May 1987.

The book took seven years to research and write.  On standard paper (single sided, double spaced) it covers 761 pages in two parts.  The first part is my time at Drexel, covering pledging the fraternity and the reasons behind why I transferred.  That's the first third of the book.  The rest covers my time at Penn State, with an epilogue as well.  That's two thirds of the book (duh).  The two parts are written in slightly different styles.

Part 1 I wrote sequentially.  I wrote it to project a bit of a "claustrophobic" feel.  Part 2 was written in a scattershot way, jumping from place to place until I'd filled in all the blanks.  This gives it a more random spontaneous feel.  Sort of "making it up as I was going along," which is how I lived my life back then.

The picture on the left is from my PSU days

But I didn't make up anything in this book.  I've kept detailed journals since January 1984.  Those journals are the basis of the book.  I also have letters, etc to remind me.  Then there are parts I wrote down back when I was still at Penn State, wanting to preserve what happened, thinking it may make a good story some day.  I also did a LOT of research in newspapers, websites, conducting interviews, etc.  I wanted every detail to be correct; So if I say something happened on a given day, that's what and when it happened.  Except for names- I changed 90% of those.  I had permission to keep the two I kept.  Each chapter begins with a newspaper headline- almost always from the Philadelphia Inquirer of that cited day.

I finished the book on Wednesday, November 26, 2008.  I then printed out a full copy, photocopied ten more, and gave them to a few people to look over and make suggestions.  I received four of them back.  Reviews were mostly positive.  A couple of people never finished reading it, making some excuse or the other, but I guess they just didn't like it.  I currently have no complete printed copies of that book.  It is, however, on two different thumb drives and saved onto a CD.

I shopped around for agents and publishers and received a few bites, but in the end, it remains unpublished.

So.  Why slave away seven years just to not publish it?  Why not self publish?  I'll get to that second question.  To answer the first, I was in deep pain.  I was drinking very hard, and the only time in my life when it seemed I WASN'T in pain was at Penn State.  So I figured my answers lay there.  (Remember, this is while my Gender dysphoria was buried deep and festering inside me.)  So I wrote the book, hoping that somewhere, somehow, I would trigger whatever it was that was haunting me so I could deal with it.  And I also wanted to write a book.  On October 31, 2008, I went out dressed as a woman for Halloween.  And my dysphoria came flooding back.  I had found the source of all that Pain, anger, and insanity.

So in many ways, the book became superfluous.

I haven't self published because the book needs a good strong edit, and I'm too busy or too lazy to do it.  And I really wonder if all those agents and editors were right in thinking it wouldn't sell.  Maybe I'll self publish someday.  What do you think?

My writing style has changed a lot over the years.  The discipline of writing the book helped a lot, but more so the amount of writing I do for this blog.  So when I read the book, it's seeing me from long ago in many ways.

In any case, I've posted the first chapter a few times in various places.  What follows is the first chapter of Part 2:  the Penn State part.  I've never posted this anywhere before now.  Note: there are some naughty words and situations in the is piece, so if you don't like that sort of thing, don't read it.

So, those of you who asked now have the whole story.


Chapter 2.1:  Hat Party
Friday, August 29, 1986     Bolivia calls state of siege to halt strife.”

That night, State College burned.  The hot summer sun was gone, but the parties were on: parties beyond counting, fun without limit.  The whole campus- the whole town- the whole valley sizzled with possibility that tonight, maybe, it would all come together: that sparks would fly and that we would make explosions and flames of our own that would burn on forever.  Or at least until dawn.
            Her breasts stared at me through her lilac colored oxford.  Moderately sized (but bigger than any that I’d ever seen naked), big nipples-and the AC was up too high.  She wore a scarlet wide brimmed hat that looked like something from the 1940s.  Tight jeans. 
            “Oh let me be--- your sledge-hammer.  This will be my testimony.”
The music was loud, but not too loud.  Keg in the kitchen, beer in clear plastic cups.  And everyone wearing stupid hats.  The hostess was a girl who lived at the end of the hall- it was a Hat Party, and everyone was invited.  Price of admission?  Wear a hat: the goofier the better.  You wanna kick in a few bucks for the keg; that’s cool too.

Her face was broad- eastern European.  Freckles.  Biggish nose, permed curly brown hair and happy smallish eyes.  With nipples like hers, it was hard to keep eye contact.  The hat set off everything nicely.  She smiled and we talked about Drexel and Penn State and nothing in particular that mattered.  Eye contact, Lance.  I smiled and sipped my beer.  Her name was Sara.

My first Friday night at Penn State.  My first real apartment party.  And Sara was smiling at me.  She seemed interested in what I had to say.  I was scared shitless.  Don’t fuck up, Lance.  Eye contact.

Our hostess, Katie, lived at the end of our hall: third floor Beaver Hill Apartments.  My roommates and I met her the day we moved in.  We helped her carry stuff up from her dad’s truck.  She bought us pizza and beer and we sat among the boxes in her place.  She lived alone.

I wore my black and yellow painters cap- backwards.  Dark blue button down.  Tan shorts.  Sara was a senior, 21, from Pittsburgh.  She lived in Atherton Hall: the honors dorm bordering College Avenue a block away from the apartments.  She smiled modestly and looked toward her feet coquettishly as I offered to refill her beer.

Brought it back, and we slipped over to the corner next to the mirrored wall.  All the apartments in this building had a mirrored wall- made the rooms look bigger.  Ooh.  Ahh.

The windows were open, and Delta Upsilon right next door was partying as well.  The sound of the crowd there mixed with ours, the music, and Sara’s husky voice.

I so wanted to suck on those tits.  Feel them.  Nibble.

“He do the walk… he do the walk of life!”  Dire Straits sang from the speakers across the room.
“So, why Penn State?  A guy like you could’ve gone to lots of schools,” Sara asked.

I had a hard on that must’ve been sooooo obvious.

“Well, Penn State has the best looking women- like you!”  I smiled.  You fucking dork!  Jesus Christ! No wonder you can’t get laid to save your own life!

She smiled, laughed politely, and raised her cup.

“Well, here’s to Penn State!” she said.

We touched glasses and drank; my eyes never leaving hers.  Brown eyes.  She had brown eyes.  Chestnut.  A beer or two later, and she had to go.

“I have other parties I promised to attend” she said with a smile.

“It’s been nice talking to you!”  I said.  Ugh!  Dork!  Ask her for her phone number, you idiot!

“You too!”  She bent over and put her cup down on the table.  I had a great view down her shirt at those beautiful breasts in a white bra.  Wow!  Did she mean to do that?

“Um, can I have your number so we can, y’know, get together some time?”  DORK!

Sara smiled.  “Sure!”  She found a pen and a napkin.

Not a bad end for my first week of classes.  So far, Penn State was almost all I could ask for.  I moved in the Saturday before: Beaver Hill Apartments, room 324. 

The apartment was small, but furnished.  The carpet was tan and the walls white, except for one wall which was covered by paneled mirrors.  The living room had a brown sofa, loveseat and a square glass topped table as well as two end tables with brass lamps.  The kitchen had a very small table and had a linoleum floor.  There was a large opening to the living room making a little “breakfast nook” as the ad called it.  The bedroom had two closets and three beds.  I was the first one to move in, so I claimed the single bed.  The other two guys would get the bunk bed.  The windows in the bedroom and living room faced the back parking lot and neighboring Cedarbrook Apartments, so the view wasn’t exactly sensational.  Lots of apartments had balconies, but not this one.  Off to the left of the parking lot was a large fraternity house: Delta Upsilon.  (DU). 

Marc moved in a few hours later.  We left our door open to “invite” the neighbors, like we used to do in the dorm at Drexel.  Put a life sized stand up of Freddy Kruger in the door (got it from Julianne’s dad).  A couple of people gasped.  Then one girl screamed.  We scared the shit out of her.

She was really cute!  Tall, short blonde hair, nice breasts, perfect hips- just really cute.  We had a good laugh with her and invited her in for a beer.  She accepted- but after she unloaded the truck.  So we helped, and she bought the pizza and beer.

We met a lot of other girls on the floor as well that day and the days following.  It was gonna be a great year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Published in the New York Times!

Today was a Triple happy day!

First, my roomie Linda finally got her prescription for estrogen.  She was on it for years, but was self medicating, which is VERY dangerous.  Today we went to the Mazzoni Center in Philly where she finally got cleared by a doctor to be on HRT.  And she is so much happier!

Second, I received word that my dear friend Ally Raymond (whom I have written about many times here) has been featured in the New York Times.  You see, they're doing a series on transpeople, where you write about who you are, and maybe they'll publish it.  And she was published hours after submitting her amazing piece!  Read it HERE.

Third... wellllll..

I was also published in the New York Times!!!!!  The "Paper of Record!"  I'm no Jennifer Finney Boylan, but I can now say I've been published in the Times.  I can't tell you how excited I am.  As a writer, it's a dream come true!  It's only a short little piece, but I'm happy with it!

Find it HERE.  

Oh, and of course I mentioned the blog.  I haven't seen an uptick in hits though.  yet.  *crosses fingers*

Monday, May 18, 2015

What to Ask, and What not to Ask

I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s Online MSW Program’s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what NOT to ask trans*people. 


As veteran readers of this blog know, I do answer reader questions and requests for topics from time to time.  I received an email from Simmons College, a private all women's college in Boston, MA.  They informed me that they are "the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender." And they asked me to discuss the above point. They even provided a Nifty logo!

I think I've covered this ground before, but it's good to re-visit it. I can never do as well as Calpurnia Addams did on this, but here goes. After all, one of the purposes of this blog is Education. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Your mileage may vary. Read the prospectus before investing. Void where prohibited.

The first question is one I have heard a lot. "So does this mean you like guys or girls?"  

Well, I am starting with this because this covers a LOT of ground. It's pretty simple- would you ask this question of any other woman that you meet? Say, the person ahead of you in line at the grocery store? Unless you're colossally socially inept or five years old, you wouldn't.  All of these sort of questions come down to one thing- It's none of your fudging business. Only I don't say "fudge."

The really disappointing people who have asked this are the people who have known me for years, and know that I am married.

Folks, it's like this: Gender Identity and Gender preference are two different things: apples and oranges. Gender Preference is who you wish to go to bed/ have a relationship/ whatever with, and Gender Identity is who you ARE.

Pretty simple right? They are independent of each other. Always. Girls like boys; boys like girls. Some boys like boys; some girls like girls; vice versa, etc. Being trans has nothing to do with that. As if it's anyone's business. Ibid.

The second question I get a lot isn't as egregious, but it's common and invasive. "Are you going to get the surgery?"

I understand you wanting to know more about the TG condition. However, my medical history is no one's business but mine, my doctor, and my Wife. Do I ask you about your medical history? Tell me about your hysterectomy. How about that nose job?

Some TG people will answer this question. Depending upon the person, I will too. After all, it's all about education. But think about it- unless you're a medical professional, would you ask a stranger about their medical history or intentions? You wouldn't.

Then there's the rudest one. "What will it look like down there when it's all done?"

Yes, I've been asked this. That's like me asking a man about how many times he couldn't get it up or asking a random woman on the street about her menstrual cycle. Ask this one to a trans-person and all bets are off. That's slap worthy. That's defriending time. That's just plain rude. And again, none of your fudging business. I usually reply with something very pointed, like "why are you hung like a light switch?'

Yes folks, it's just common sense.

Photo by Cassandra Storm

Now for the second part, which is a bit nicer. Things to ask a trans-person.

What would you prefer to be called?

Him, her, whatever. Bruce Jenner said to call him "him" until otherwise informed. Fair enough. I am she/her. I am female.

"How can I help?"

Really, transition is brutal. I have said/ written/ used semaphore flags many times saying that if you don't HAVE to do it: DON'T. It's nice to have someone extend their hand and ask this. Often, the answer will be a polite "no" but it's always nice to ask. And it's ALWAYS appreciated.

"Tell me your story."

Not really a question, but a prompt. And a good one. But don't ask if you're not going to listen. By telling our stories, we become Real to people. We are no longer these strange societal outcasts. As Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan has written (and attributed to her mother) "You can't hate someone whose story you know." And the New York Times agrees- they're publishing trans-people's stories (I submitted mine but to date have not been published.) But a few friends of mine have been published. And all the stories are worth a read. All people have stories. All are worth hearing. That's part of being Human.

I could go on with these questions for a while, but those, to me are the Big ones. If you wish, submit your questions you Love/Hate in the comments here. And as always, if you have questions for me, you can either ask me here or at my email Maybe your question will be a blog entry! (With you receiving full credit of course!)

Thank you to Simmons College for supporting the Trans community, and for this opportunity.

Be Well,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Chapter... 30 Years Ago

I think I've mentioned more than once that I wrote a book.  To date, it hasn't been published.  I bring this up because yesterday, May 13, is the 30th anniversary of the event that leads off the book.  On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police stormed a fortified house in west Philadelphia occupied by a radical group called MOVE.  More information can be found HERE.

The first chapter of my book (which I think I posted on my Myspace blogs) takes place that night.  And it all happened exactly as I wrote it down.  The dates, times, everything were written down in my journal.  And this night is etched in my brain.

So here it is: the first chapter of my book, telling a tale now thirty years old.   The headline next to the date is from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.


Chapter 1.1: Black out
Monday, May 13, 1985:  “Police prepare to evict MOVE”

That night, the whole city burned.  The explosions started years before, but the bomb dropped that afternoon.  The concussion bomb fell from a police helicopter onto the concrete bunker, built to hold off an army, resting on the roof of a house in a west Philly neighborhood.  The night sky glowed orange against the low clouds of black smoke.
All of this we knew by watching the news- the reporters were orgasmic at the spectacle.  Now three full residential blocks were engulfed in flames.  MOVE, a heavily-armed “back to nature” group, builders of the bunker, was finished.
That was all great, but for me, lying on the floor of my darkened dorm thirty blocks east, it was not much comfort.  My room was about a hundred yards down the street from the original MOVE house, bulldozed by the police after the first shootout that killed an officer back in 1978.  Our dorm was new, but the surrounding buildings were spattered with bullet holes.  The locals were very pro-MOVE, and very pissed off.
Our R.A., Tyra, told us to strip the mattresses from our beds and lean them against the windows, turn off the lights and lie on the floor.  We were in a blackout; hoping that the mob would sweep past the building if we played dead. 
Outside, the chants were loud and bloodthirsty. 
“Fuck the Police!”
Windows shattered.  Gunfire punctuated their rage.
And this is college, Lance.  This is higher education in 1985.
My roommate “Ripper” and I lay on our floor, staring at the plaster ceiling.  Ripper was short- five foot eight at best.  He had an extremely boyish face which would’ve been more at home on a thirteen year old.  However, he was powerfully built: sculpted like a bodybuilder or a pro football player.  No one doubted he could kick ass.  Well, he could kick all of our wimpy asses anyway.  Ripper also had a dry sense of humor aided by a voice with the character of a deep dial tone.
A radio was playing in Mark and Tom’s room across the hall.  “We are the World” ended for the zillionth time, and the DJ came on.
            “We have news that the Boss is hitched!  That’s right- Bruce Springsteen has married his girlfriend Julianne Phillips today in a secret ceremony that everyone thought would happen tomorrow!  Way to go, Boss!  This one’s for you!”
Springsteen’s song “I Want to Marry You” drifted through the darkness.
Little girl, I wanna marry you
Oh yeah, little girl, I wanna marry you
Yes I do
Little girl, I wanna marry you
“She’s so hot!” drooled Ripper.
“Oh yeah!  Did you see her in that 38 Special video?” I replied.
“Which one?”
“The one with the horses.  Damn!  What’s it called?  I’ll think of it.”
“Just goes to show that an average guy with tons of bucks and a band can still score a hot model.  Look at Billy Joel!” Ripper smirked.
“If I’d Been the One” I almost shouted.
“If I’d been the One.  That’s the 38 Special video she’s in.”
“Oh yeah.  I’m bored.  Want to go to the study lounge?  There’s bound to be people there”
We crawled out our door then slowly felt our way down the darkened hallway wall to the study lounge at the end of the hall, where ten others were lying on the floor- some panicked, some re-assuring, all terrified.  We were on the 3rd floor, far above the crowd, but what was to stop them from coming in the dorm and looting?  Like a bunch of engineering students could stop an armed mob.
Back down the hall the radio started playing another newish overplayed song by Katrina and the Waves.  It was bouncy, happy, perky, poppy, and I just wanted to kick the singer in the teeth as she cheered “I’m walking on sunshine!  Wuh-oh!  And don’t it feel good!”  I groaned and put my head down in my arms.
Abbie was the first one to get the joke.  She started giggling to herself, then bouncing around singing the song in her nasal Cherry Hill accent, her long black hair flailing with her arms.

We all then saw the absurdity of this song playing while we  were laying on the floor of a darkened study lounge hoping that the bloodthirsty mob outside didn’t kill us.  By the end of the song, we were all singing along and rolling about the brown carpeted floor like idiots.

The dorm where this took place, circa 1986

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mid May Musings 2015

It's Tuesday night late, and I've had a few drinks.  Linda Lewis and I decided to get a bottle of Jack Daniels and stay home tonight.  So we did.  And we played Worms Armageddon on my Playstation 2.   My coworkers at Games Workshop gave me that Playstation on my last day working there in 2003.  It doubles as our DVD player.  Yes, we're poor.  :)

We have secured a new apartment.  We will be moving to Phoenixville.  Actually we will be a mile from Wife and Daughter.  The new apartment is far more affordable.  As Linda and I are used to bunking in the same room (two twin beds) it's a one bedroom.  We move on June 13.  We just couldn't afford this place anymore.  The new place is in a better neighborhood and did I mention we can afford it.  Thanks again to Zoey for moving into this place for many months and helping out.  Without her we'd be on the street.  She's back in Iowa now, taking care of her mother who needs her help.

From Keystone 2015

I'm reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  It's an amazing book.  I'm about 1/3 through it.  It's so well written that it almost makes me want to give up writing.  I can't recommend it enough!  It's so wonderful.

There is a certain bookstore out there that is being sued for discrimination by a Transwoman who was wrongfully terminated.  I will be commenting on this fully on TG Forum.  I have previously mentioned that I also work for a bookstore chain.  I must emphasize that the management of my store as well as the company in New York have been behind my transition 100%.  I couldn't ask for a more supportive place.  And the staff have been amazing.

I received my picture from Keystone 2015 taken by Cassandra Storm.  One is above.  I'm very happy with them.

It's getting late and the drink is making me very tired.  I can't drink like I used to (Thank God) and anymore when I drink I get a headache.  And I have one now.  My drinking has reduced to very little.  Which is great since I don't need it, and I need to lose weight.

In any case, I'm signing off.

Be Well!

Friday, May 8, 2015


As veteran readers of this blog know, I am married.  I have been married for 22 years as of two weeks ago.  For those of you who don't do math, that means we married in 1993.

I don't write much about Wife (she knows that this is how I refer to her in this blog, and approves.)  She is a very private person.  Sounds kind of weird, doesn't it?  I bare my soul in my writing, and she is so private.  But we are different in so many ways... but the same in so many.

So tonight, I'm going to write a little bit about her.  Because I miss her terribly late at night.  Like now.  (Nearly midnight.)

I am going to write about shared adventures.

When we first started dating in 1991, a coworker of mine at TGI Fridays named Joe had a graduation party.  He lived in a very rich suburb of Washington DC, as he father invented a very important piece of military equipment.  Oh and he's the direct descendant of a well known Civil War general.  In any case, Wife and I had been dating three months at this point when we drove down to this party.  On the way down, no matter what station we tuned to one the radio, the Steve Miller Band popped up.  It got downright spooky.  So we get there, and put our gift to Joe on the table: a bottle of Absolut Vodka... just like the four other bottles others had bought him (he ONLY drank Absolut.)  So Joe proceeded to make pitchers of Absolut screwdrivers.  And what did he put on his CD player?  Steve Miller Band Greatest hits.  Really.  So we all played drinking games, maybe eight of us, drinking strong Absolut screwdrivers.  To this day, when we hear Steve Miller Band, Wife and I say "Absolut Screwdrivers."

That may sound mundane, but it's a shared experience.  And she and I have had many shared experiences in our 24 years together.  We've taken two road trips to Virginia to tour Civil War battle sites, doing so with no plans for hotel rooms.  We played it by ear.  And it was a blast.  So many trips we've taken together- many with work.  We've been to Los Angeles together (twice), and driven up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco.  Canada.  A road trip south to Charleston, SC.  Road trips to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for Gen Con back when it was there.  Boston for a convention.

The Shrine, 2011

Then there was trip to Penn State in 1992.  My fraternity had an annual toga party the last weekend in April every year.  It was THE social event of the year, and we pulled out all the stops.  In 1992, I took Wife with me.  We got a room together at the nearby Days Inn, and on Toga morning, I was there all dressed in a bed sheet.  Wife went to get something to eat.  A couple of hours later, she came to the party, and drank some French 75s (a champagne drink that was always served at toga).  Wife is a very thin woman, and isn't a drinker by any stretch.  She also had only eaten a brownie for breakfast.  So she got REALLY drunk.  I took her back to the hotel room around one PM where she slept the rest of the day.  What she didn't know is that with me I had, in my pocket, an engagement ring, which I intended to give her at the Nittany Lion Shrine.  Nope.  She was wrecked.  And she slept the day, and night, away.  The next day, she was very hungover on the trip home.  I insisted that we go to Valley Forge Park, and I drove there over her objections (she just wanted to go home.)  But at VF Park, I got on one knee and proposed.  And her hangover mysteriously disappeared.

But our Greatest Adventure started around eight years ago, when she told me she was pregnant.  And the following October, our Daughter was born.  She desperately wanted children.  I didn't- I knew what was lurking in my soul and didn't want to have that responsibility.  But we had Daughter, and I couldn't be more proud.  Our daughter can be a handful (she gets it from me) as she is quite spirited.  However she is a good kid- an amazing artist and so very curious.  I still can't believe she's mine.

Now Wife and I are both in our late forties.  Gray has begun to speckle her dark brown hair, but her blue eyes are still mischievous and filled with life.  A wise man told me on my wedding day to look at her, and that she would become more beautiful every day from that day forward.  And he was so right.

I love my Wife.  And I know she loves me.  How do I know?  She loves me enough to allow me to transition.  She saw the Pain I was enduring, and couldn't stand to see me suffer.  But she doesn't want to be married to a woman, so where does that leave us?


On the path to a probable divorce.  As veteran readers know, when I told her about being TG, she said that if I ever got the surgery, she'd divorce me.  And she meant it.

But on late nights like this, while she sleeps miles away in the bed we shared, I miss her horribly.  I Cry.

Sunday is Mother's Day.  And I have no idea what to give her... or if she'll even accept a gift from me.

So I'll probably end up just sending her love from afar.  I work that day, so I probably won't see her.  And besides, she'll probably take her mother out somewhere, which means I won't be welcome.  That's fine- I understand that.  And I understand how she feels about the Transition.

But I still love her.

And so I cry.  And I write.  About her.

Happy Mother's Day.