Sunday, August 30, 2015

Trans Books that Changed My Life

One of the people in my support group started this topic.  Most of the people chimed in quickly, but I held off.  Frankly I was too busy to write anything, but also because I wanted to narrow my field.

Most people chose the same books:  She's Not There, My Husband Betty, Whipping Girl, Wrapped in Blue...

I chose a couple of those, but not all.  My reasons are my own.

What follows is what I sent to the group, lightly edited for people's anonymity and to keep certain things private.


I've given this a LOT of thought.  As a former English teacher (and current book store drone) I obviously read many many books.  But changed my life?  Well, some of them, weren't GD related when you first think about them.

She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan

This book needs no introduction as most of you have read it.  Jenny states in Stuck in the Middle With You that she realizes that her transition was very unusual, as everything broke her way.  It was one of the first books I read on the topic BY a transwoman.  And still one of the best.  I have had the pleasure of discussing this book with JFB, and reviewing it in this blog.  I've sold MANY copies of this book at the bookstore by recommending it.

Wrapped in Blue by Donna Rose

Another early TG read.  Donna's story is so inspirational.  She endured horrific pain, and came through it stronger.  I met Donna some years ago (she is my "big sister" Mel's "big sister") and many times since.  I am proud to call her friend.  Her conversational, candid writing style is a great influence on my blog.  She is still one of my heroines.  

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Not a TG book by any stretch of the imagination.  But it was the first "non-traditional" book I read.  It opened my mind to the possibilities of the written word- of the sentence as music.  And, most importantly, that life is about the Journey.  We are all on this journey, with its unexpected twists and turns.  And the journey will continue long after I am gone for so many.  But I will try to make that road easier for others.  Another point I took from this book is that it's OK to be different.  And I was different...

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Another non-TG book, and another non-traditional book.  This book is the single biggest influence on my writing style, and in many ways, my way of looking at things.  Sometimes one must see the absurd and call it for what it is.  Take risks.  Write honestly- even if you have to use metaphor to cushion the blow of the Truth, but always write that Truth.  No matter what the consequences to oneself.  It took me many years to accept my Truth after hiding it for so long.  I'd forgotten that one key lesson.  Always be honest with yourself.

Trans sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian

A TG book by a major cisgender author.  I was planning my transition when I was recommended this book.  It's a bit dated, but the truth it contains is still valid:  not everyone accepts us... but we must accept ourselves.  

I am Not Myself these Days by Josh Kilmer Purcell

A memoir about an advertising executive by day and drag queen by night.  I read this before that fateful Halloween 2008 when I rediscovered myself, but the cracks were beginning to show.  I was ashamed to be seen reading the book, because I felt someone would guess my secret.  In this book, I discovered an underground world so vastly different than my own, populated by strange and wonderful people who were living far more genuinely than I was.  At the end of the book, there are crossdressing tips that I followed when getting ready for Halloween 2008.  I have met JKP several times, and we periodically message each other on Facialbook.  He offers constructive criticism of my writing.  He was another example of living one's life openly and truthfully.  I've sold MANY copies of this book at the bookstore by recommending it.

You may have noticed a common thread in these books.  That's the point I think.  In the end, despite all the pain, I am living honestly.  Books can teach us a great many things, as long as our mind is open to hearing what they say, and learning.

Be Well

Friday, August 21, 2015


I've been on vacation from work the past week.  During that time, I've done some travelling.  I've been to Richmond, Washington DC... and took lots of pictures!  And I WILL write about these in due time.  But I need to write about this first.

My last blog entry was brutal.  It was brutal to write; brutal to read.  I sent the link to my parents and my sister in law, as I knew they'd hear about it, so I wanted them to hear it from me.

I received a Facialbook message from my sister-in-law (brother's wife) and we initiated a nice dialogue.

That Tuesday, I had my daughter for the afternoon.  I was driving her through the town where I grew up when my mum called me.  I pulled the car over to the curb, and answered the phone.

Mum was quite angry.  Words were exchanged.

Now, I'd already planned to go down to southern Delaware to see them, and hopefully to talk.  Now that need to talk had grown.  That night I sent my mum a letter via email.  I will not reveal the contents, as it was private, but I will say that it was, in the end, asking for a dialogue.

Wednesday, mum called again.  We made arraignments for my visit.

Thursday morning, I drove down to Delaware.  I wasn't looking forward to this visit.  On the way down, I decided that I'd stop for lunch down in Fenwick Island: one of my favorite places, Harpoon Hannahs.  While there, I also had some drinks.  Liquid courage.  My mum finally called and asked where I was, and I headed over to my parent's place.  On the way, I stopped at one of those beach stores that was advertising a sale on summer dresses.  And I bought one.  I would wear it the next day.

I was greeted like they always did.  Hugs.  Smiles.  Mum made dinner- steak.  I walked out onto the pier, where it was windy and a little cooler.  Mum then insisted that we go grocery shopping.  I agreed, thinking that this would be where we would talk.  She generously bought Linda and I a lot of groceries, but we didn't talk about anything substantive.  We also stopped at a liquor store and picked up wine: a German white for her and a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc for me.

We went back to the house, opened her wine, and sat in the living room.  My father, as he always does, went to bed early.

That's when mum started to speak.

I have been asked not to discuss the details of the conversations I had with my parents, and rightly so.  They were private.  I will say this though:

We both had denials, posturing, threats: blunt and veiled, feints, bluffs made and called, lecturing... but finally we got down to it being two wounded people sharing their hearts with each other.  I cried.
By one AM we had finished both bottles of wine.  I was very tired.  I knew my father would speak to me in the morning.

And I had an idea of what he would say.

How would I react?  What would I say?

I woke up at 8.  Showered, shaved, put on my makeup, and put on the dress I bought the day before.  I liked the way it looked on me.  I knew my cousin Brenda was coming at 9 to take me for breakfast.  I went downstairs to the kitchen, where my dad was sitting.  He had never seen me in a dress, and looked at me for a heartbeat.  I don't know where mum was.

Me, in the new dress.  Pic by Linda after I returned home

He started to talk.  And I listened.  And countered.  Then Brenda walked in.  We went to the diner up the road and shared a nice breakfast.  She told me things about the family that I didn't know.  We had a wonderful time.  And so, Brenda became the first of my cousins to meet Sophie.  Hopefully not the last!

Brenda dropped me off.  Dad asked me to join him on the pier, and we continued.  Just as before, I will not write what we discussed.  Dad was solemn and quiet, as he spoke.  He sounded tired.  And like the night before, in the end, it was two people hurting... suffering the pain of old wounds... two hearts finally understanding each other.  Both of us, in our own way, dropped our defenses, and allowed the other in.

I will mention one thing he said.  Because it needs saying.  He apologized for the way he raised me, and for any pain that he caused.  He did this before, back in 1999, when it looked like he wouldn't survive his cancer.  Back then, I threw it back in his face.  I was angry.  Vengeful.

Not this time.

You see, my dad is a proud man.  He always has been.  He was a soldier.  Everything he has, he earned.  He all but completely rebuilt the house where he now lives.  He has worked so hard.  And now, here he was, in the twilight of his years, quietly apologizing.  That... that must've hurt.

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to hug him.  I wanted so much... but all I could do was stand there...  and accept his apology.

He said his piece, I said mine... we talked.  And the relationship we had walking out onto the pier was not the same as it now is, back from the pier.

Within ten minutes, I was on the road for Pennsylvania.  I stopped at a new Wawa on the way to get gas and sodas (gas was only $2.24/gallon, compared to the $2.67 we pay up here.)  A man opened the door for me as I left Wawa, his eyes lingering on my breasts.  I smiled and thanked him.  And went to my car.

There are some things that bear mentioning before I continue.

Before transition, I was an asshole.  Total asshole.  And that was by design.  I was angry at the world and mostly at myself.  I hated being me.  I was an empty, rotted shell, and I tried to fill that shell with alcohol.  I caused a lot of pain in my life, through my words and actions.

I like to think I'm a lot better now, but I'm still not an easy person to live with.  Ask Zoey.  Ask Linda.  Ask my Wife.  I can be a total bitch.  But now I'm not trying to be.  And I try to NOT be one.

And my parents knew that.  They knew I was angry, but they didn't know why.  And now they do.  I got into trouble a lot, and as I have written, many times it was something I didn't start.  But I am far from blameless.  Like many children, I deserved punishment from time to time.  If I've ever given the impression otherwise, I'm sorry.

One of the things I tried to explain to the both of them was how it felt growing up with such a terrible secret.  But I really couldn't make them understand.  How could they?  I guess it's a lot like a combat veteran trying to talk to someone who has not known war.  The only people who really understand are those who have been there.  And so it is with being trans.  We are the only ones who understand that pain- who know what it's like to wake up...




wanting, needing, desperately needing... to be someone different from who they were born.  The agony of the morning.  Waking up to being male when you know that you are not.  Hiding from everyone, especially yourself.  That pain which is all consuming... and Deadly.

How do you explain that to someone who has absolutely no common point of reference?

And this is what I tried to convey to my parents.  They are trying to understand.  They really are.

My family has never been perfect.  No family is.  Everyone carries scars from their childhood, and sometimes we pass those scars down to the next generation, adding to their fresh scars.

I told my parents that I had a lot of growing up to do.  And that I've finally started to do it.  Now, growing up no longer means being a Man, which I am not.  Growing up means becoming the Woman I've always been.  I have a long way to go.

My parents are older.  And this past week, I have put them through a lot.  And for that I apologized.

But it opened the way to a dialogue- talking- which we never did before.  It truly is a new beginning for us.  There are no more secrets.  We all said our pieces.  We opened our hearts.

I love my parents.  And they love their daughter.  I sort of understood that when they accepted me back a year ago.  But I know it so much more now.  I think now I see us as a family, where I never really did before.  I took a big risk in opening my heart, as did they.  There was so much at stake.  And now I wonder what could have been.  But they don't.  No- they both said the same thing to me.  That the past is over.  We can't change it, so don't dwell on it.  Make your peace with it, and move on.

After a life time of Pain, maybe I've finally made that peace.

I sat in the Wawa parking lot, strapped into my car.  And I cried.

I cried.

Not because I was upset.  I'd cried enough of those tears in the past two days.

These were tears of Joy.

Thank you for listening to me Mum and Dad.  I love you both.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Childhood Memories: A Cousin's Question

Mum, you're not going to like this post much.  Just saying...

Like many people, I use Facialbook to occasionally communicate with family.

In my case, some of my family are very far away.  As my mum is from Scotland, fully half my family is there.  For many years, we didn't keep in touch.  However, thanks to Facialbook, I was reunited with my cousin Anne and her delightful family, and through her, to my Uncle John.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago.  Find that entry HERE.

My father is one of six children, of German/Polish descent.  My grandmother was Polish.  Dad is pretty much in the middle of the group, age wise.  The youngest of their generation died of cancer a few years back.  None of their fore-bearers lived extremely long lives (my paternal grandmother died in her 50's of cirrhosis; my paternal grandfather in his 70's of cancer) and that whole generation are already longer lived than their parents.

Right.  So all of my dad's siblings had multiple children: my cousins.  I saw a bit of them as I was growing- usually around holidays, but other times occasionally as my dad stayed close with them, and all lived relatively nearby.  I got along with pretty much all of my cousins to a degree.  There are some I haven't heard from in decades.  One example is a cousin who, the weekend before my wedding, wished to invite as a "plus one" some guy she met at a bar the night before.  As our wedding was small and on a tight budget, we said "no."  And she didn't come.  Aside from the courtesy invite to her wedding (which Wife and I attended), we haven't spoken since,  That's over twenty years.

Others are, as stated above, Facialbook friends, and our amount of communication varies.  Lately, one of my cousins and I have struck up a wonderful dialogue.  Brenda is older than me, and is the daughter of my Dad's older sister.  She has two sisters and a brother, all of whom are wonderful people.  (Note to any other relatives reading this- don't read anything into this as a slight against you if you're not mentioned.  This entry will be long enough, and do you REALLY want me to bring you up?)   She was among the first to send her support to me when I announced my transition (but far from the only one.)

Brenda and I share memories, and I answer her questions about being TG.  Recently, she brought up a memory that made me smile.

Some background.  My parents are now retired to southern Delaware on the north shore of Indian River Bay.  But before that, my grandfather had a house down there as well, and we would go down there occasionally for vacation.  Sometimes, my cousins would be there. as well.  I don't know the full history of that house, or why he chose that location, but my Aunt married a local down there as well, so there is a history.  In any case, around 1977 I think, my parents bought the house to which they would eventually retire, across the street from my grandfather's.  And Brenda's parents bought a house there as well.  My Uncle, the current family patriarch, bought a motel in Rehoboth Beach.

ANYWAY, I saw a LOT of Brenda and her family, as they were always down the shore.  When my would go, we'd go in my dad's pickup truck, with a cab on the back.  It was me, OB, and the 2 dogs riding in the back.  Despite the oak benches my dad built, it was a lonnnnng ride.  And when we'd take the 20 minute trip to the beach, my cousins would ride in the back with us.  Got all that?  Still there?  Is this thing on?  *tap tap*

So.  The following is re-posted unedited (except to redact a name and add links) with Brenda's permission.

Brenda: I'm listening to Cher n had a flashback of riding home from the beach on the back of a truck w/ u n [my older brother: OB]. We were singing a Cher song and he did not like her..... Do u remember that?

My reply:  Was the song Dark Lady?  :)

Brenda: Bwahahaha. Yes!!! Lol.

Oh wait. Cherokee nation....

It's was Cherokee nation... So proud to proud to die. Eeeeeeee (high pitch squeal). Lol

Me:  that was by Paul Revere and the Raiders. I hated that song. [OB] would always use it as an excuse to beat up on me. He claimed he couldn't help himself as the music made him do it. (He said the same thing about the Joker by Steve Miller Band) And my parents smiled and let it happen.

Brenda: Do u have any good memories from growing up, Sophie?? I can't imagine growing up in an environment like that. It makes me sad for you

Me: That's a very good question. Most of my childhood I've blocked out. Many of the good memories I have I was either alone or with the dogs. Actually one of my favorite memories was one time when my parents were REALLY fighting, they sent me to live with your family. I remember it as a wonderful time. And I remember being stung by a bee. I think I was like 6 or 7 and it was summer.

The exchange continued.  A few posts later, I wrote:

Me: That was a good memory. I liked seeing most of my cousins. I always felt like an outsider though. Like they knew something I didn't because they all seemed so happy

Brenda: Interesting....we were happy cuz we were kids. Never had a care back then, really. In thinking about feeling like I was in the wrong body, that I'm not right, that's just a lot for anyone to comprehend. Let alone a child.

Me: At first it was a strange feeling of longing. As I got older I figured out the what of it but not the why. I knew if I said anything I'd be in deep trouble. You see boys are taught from birth that we are "superior" to girls. And my dad demanded we be "men" from a very early age. I really thought I was a freak - that I was the only one in the world like this. So I learned to avoid people and never let them see inside.

A couple of posts later...

Brenda: It really does explain a lot. Don't take this the wrong way when I say it but you always were kind of I don't know standoffish maybe. Your own insecurities I suppose....

Me: Standoffish is a polite way of putting it. Withdrawn. Introverted. Angry at the world- lashing out as a reaction to a pain I couldn't understand

Brenda: Heartbreaking really. You went through all of this for a reason. You can now help others. Let them know it's gonna b ok

So.  I thought more about it, and told her I'd like to bring this up in my blog.  She gave me permission to reprint what I did.  

GOOD childhood memories.  Wow.  As I said, I really blocked out a lot of my childhood.  What I remember was being terrified of my father, who was the disciplinarian of the family.  He was always angry at something, and that something was usually his kids.  

In his defense, he worked VERY hard to provide for his family.  He worked swing shift for Philadelphia Electric, and so he would often be asleep during the day... when his young children (during summer anyway) were the most active and noisy.  I learned my work ethic from him- bust your ass and do your best.  And he learned how to raise children from HIS father, who I am told was incredibly strict and physical with his children.

My other prominent childhood memory was that feeling that something was wrong with me.  At all times.  I was skinny and disliked in the neighborhood, so I was alone a lot.  And then when OB was around, well he liked to beat me up when he was bored.  I guess he took out his frustrations and anger on me.  But it was always me who got in trouble for it.  Kind of like the NFL- the person who retaliates gets the penalty.

OB meets his sister for the first time: Christmas 2014

One memory I have was early.  It was before my dad renovated the house so I had to be around 6 or 7.  My mum bought me a little stuffed cat which I picked out.  It was orange and rather feminine looking.  I called it Linda.  I remember I had it maybe a week when it suddenly disappeared.  I thought maybe I'd left it in a closet at the base of the stairs that my dad subsequently boarded up and plastered over.  But now I'm not so sure.  You see, Linda was my first attempt at manifesting my femininity as I understood it.  And for a boy to show ANY outward signs of femininity in the early 1970s... well that was absolutely a major issue.  I will never know, but I'd bet my parents disposed of that stuffed cat.

Let's see.  A good memory.  Well, when I was 5, in the summer between kindergarten and first grades, my mum took my brother and I to Scotland.  My parents had been fighting a lot, but I'm not really sure if that's why we went.  In any case, I remember the time in Scotland as being a very good one.  That's, to date, the only time I've seen most of my Scots family, including my late grandparents.  I've seen pictures of that time- faded Kodak prints of a child wearing a Phillies jacket at Edinburgh Castle come to mind.  My parents have all those pictures.  When we returned, we found that my dad had been busy fixing up the house, and had built a dog pen for our German Shepherd: Sheba.

Another good memory.  I don't remember which birthday it was... maybe 6 or 7.  My mum was taking OB and I to the King of Prussia mall to get me birthday gifts.  The sun was setting- it was after school, and we were passing Cromby Station, where my dad worked.  On the radio was Chicago's Saturday in the Park.  I remember feeling at peace.  For whatever reason, that small sliver has stayed with me.

I remember when I was, I don't know, maybe 10, my parents let me take a friend to the shore with us.  I've written about him in this blog before:  DrD.  We goofed around as kids will, and tortured OB, as for a change it was two on one, and he couldn't beat us both up.  I remember one night in particular, when my parents friends were over along with some of my aunts and uncles.  The adults were playing pinochle and getting drunk, while OB, DrD, and I all tried to sleep in a nearby bedroom.  The adults were loud, and none of could sleep, so we started quietly making fun of them.

As stated above, most of my good childhood memories were solitary, or with the dogs.  But as far as my favorite childhood memory that involved family.,. the one that makes me tear up a little to this day...

It was Christmas morning.  I was maybe 8 or so.  My brother and I were still young enough to be in PJs.  OB was sitting next to a wall, unwrapping a gift.  My parents did their best to provide us with as good a Christmas as possible as far as gifts go, and I appreciated that to the best a child could.  Anyway, OB REALLY liked what he received. (I have no idea what it was now.)  He was so happy.  I remember his smile, his laughter, the flash in his eyes.  I remember even then thinking that seeing him happy (when he wasn't beating on me- he always smiled when he did that) was such a rare thing.  And it made me happy.

Despite all that has happened between OB and I over the years... all the thrashings and pain, anger, and later the Silence... that day is how I like to remember him.  A Child... a Happy child on Christmas.  I saw that happiness in my daughter's eyes back when I was allowed to be there on Christmas morning.  My God, I miss that.

I so miss that.

Being trans... and the fallout... hurts so much sometimes.

I try not to think about my childhood.  I prefer to think of things over which I had SOME control.  I think of where my life is headed.  And I wonder how my situation affects my Daughter's childhood.  As I stated at the top, I know my mum reads this blog, and she will definitely have words with me about this entry.  But the thing is- these are my memories I retain of my childhood.  I can't help that.  There are flashes and images of other things- impressions really.  But most of my childhood... blocked out.  Pain.  Violence.

My brother still rarely smiles.

This makes me acutely aware of how I treat my daughter.  What will SHE remember?  I want her to have as many good memories as possible, especially given the circumstances in which she currently lives.  Maybe, someday, I'll see her again on a Christmas morning; see her happy and smiling.  I'm missing too much of these magic years in her life.  As my father missed mine, but for a different reason.

I hope she never has to look back on her childhood and say "I blocked it all out."  I pray to God she won't.

.Daughter.  Christmas morning 2013.  The Last Christmas we shared.

So Brenda, I hope that answers your question a bit better.

This entry certainly went places I didn't expect.  I've been crying the past half an hour as I typed it.

May all your memories be happy ones, dear readers.

Job Opportunity

I just received the following phone call within the hour.  So what I write here is verbatim, except with edits to preserve their identity.


Me:  Hello?

Them:  May I speak to Lance please?

M:  Who may I say is calling?  [note: I guess my femme voice has improved]

T: XYZ with PDQ Technical recruiting.

M:  (without shifting voice) This was.

T:  Ok hello!  I came across your resume on  Are you still in the market for a full time position?

M: I am working full time.  Why?  What's the position?

T:  It's a contract to hire Instructional Design position.  Would you be interested in the details?

M:  I'm not really interested in contract work.  I have a full time job with benefits.

T:  Well, this one is almost sure to be full time in a year.  Would you like some information?

M:  Maybe.  But first, you need to know that my name is no longer Lance.  It's now Sophie.  I'm transgender.  Will that be an issue?

T:  [pause of a heartbeat or two]  I'll get back to you. Thanks for your time.  *click*

Professional? (makeup and photo: Amanda Richards of True Colors)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Clown Car Debate

So tonight is the GOP clown car debate, Parts 1 and 2.  Yes, there is a kids table for those who didn't make the cut.

There are 17 "major" candidates running for the spot.  Think of that.  17.  And the one polling highest?  Trump.


It's not that the number is so big.  It's that they are carbon copies of each other.  And as the rhetoric becomes more radical, they try to out-stupid each other.

I mean seriously:  they ALL have the same major positions.  And most of those positions are out of touch with the majority of the American people.

And what will we learn tonight?  Well, Fox News will be throwing them softballs for sure.  They're not in the business of making republicans intentionally look bad (especially when the GOP does that all by itself.)  Maybe we'll learn someone's favorite tree.  Or what they like least about the president (aside from his skin color.)

I didn't make this up- an actual GOP meme

Some people will make this debate into a bingo game, or a drinking game, and that's fine.  But this is a supposedly MAJOR political party holding a supposedly important debate about the future of our country... and frankly I don't know how anyone can take this event (or especially the candidates) seriously.

It scares me that the GOP has reached this low.  Eisenhower and Lincoln are on a rotisserie in their graves...