Sunday, November 22, 2015

Presentation at Abington

November 11 is a special day in this country, as it is in several countries.  Here in the US, we celebrate Veterans Day, as we honor those who have served our nation in the armed forces.  In other countries, it is called Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day.  All of the holidays have their roots in the ending of World War I, which ended at 11 AM, November 11, 1918.  38 million people died in that war, and none who served in that war, anywhere, are alive today, as the last known veteran died in 2012.  In this country, we used to have a minute of silence of 11 AM on that day, and several countries still do.  Here in the US, we changed it to Veterans Day in 1954 to also honor those who fought all wars.  And so it remains today.

Armistice Day celebration, 1918, Philadelphia

I had this in mind on November 11, 2015 as I drove to the Abington Campus of the Pennsylvania State University, where I was scheduled to give a presentation.

I'd reached out to the psychology and gender studies departments of several local universities, offering my services to speak about being Transgender.   I received several replies, and met some wonderful people from several campuses.  The first scheduled appearance was at Penn State Abington, as I had some help from my amazing former boss and mentor, Dr. Dolores Fidishun.

Flyer posted by PSU Abington advertising my visit

The Topic of my presentation was Transgender 101.  The plan was to have a short lecture, supported by power point, answer frequently asked questions, then take questions from the audience.  I had no idea how many people would attend.  I invited several friends to join me.  My roomie and bestie Linda Lewis happened to have the day off, so she came along.

I arrived at around 11:30, and we quickly found the room where I'd be presenting.  I set up my power point, and waited.  A dear friend and coworker, the beautiful Delia, volunteered to record the presentation with her ipad.  She and Linda sat front and center.  Soon, Dr Sessa, who had invited me, arrived.

Soon friends arrived as well.  Lilia, Beth, and Vanessa from my support group were welcome additions.  I've known Vanessa forever.  She doesn't get out much en femme due to her job, so I was very happy she could make it.  I took it as a good omen.

Linda and Delia set up the ipad.

I had no idea how many people would be coming, and was pleasantly surprised when students began arriving.  Eventually, around forty students and at least four professors were sitting in the room, patiently awaiting the noon hour.  All students at this campus have a break from 12- 12:50, which is why I was scheduled at that time.  At a few minutes after 12, Dr. Sessa introduced me, and I started the presentation.

One of my slides.  I used this one twice, actually.

I was nervous at first, and it showed.  My teaching style has always been an "active" one: I'm not a "podium hugger."  I like to walk a little and engage the audience.  However, early in the presentation, I paced like a tigress on acid in a cage.  I hadn't spoken to a group this large about trans topics before this.  I soon found my stride though.  I knew the material, and felt it in my heart.  All I had to do was to be able to convey the information in a way that the students would absorb it.

Still from the video.  Only picture of me doing the presentation that I have.

I was told that some students may pack up and leave early, as they had to get to their classes.  However only four did.  The rest stayed until the bitter end.  For those students: I apologize if I made you late to class.

The Q&A went well.  Lilia and Vanessa stood with me as we fielded questions.  Beth also chimed in.

I think it went well.  Dr. Sessa invited me back next semester, and shared some of the reaction papers with me.  In fact, I made the "banner headline" of the PSU Abington newspaper site.

Front page

The article.  I'm "jarring."

I shared the video with some people.  Why don't I share it with everyone?  Well, Vanessa appears in it, and she is very closeted.  For her, exposure could lead to job loss.  So I will not post it.

After the presentation, I spoke to some students individually, especially Jarabi Opulence, who runs the LGBT group at PSU Abington.  (She's so beautiful, she could be a model!)  Our group then went to lunch, where Delia kindly joined us.  Lunch was wonderful.

Vanessa left first, as she had to clean up before her son came home from school.  As it turns out, she had a magical day herself, full of acceptance from some she didn't expect.  She told me she thinks she passed a "tipping point."  I hope so.  She's an amazing person who has had a hard time with things, and she deserves happiness.

Linda and I drove back to the apartment.  I was very tired.  Delia uploaded the video to youtube (don't bother looking for it, it's private) and that night I analyzed it.  I sent it to a few people and solicited their opinions.

All in all, I'm happy with it.  I was invited back, and, according to the student reaction papers sent to me, my message came across.  Next semester, I'll revise it and try again.  I also hope to speak at Villanova and Penn State Brandywine, and I'll solicit other schools as well.  Why schools?  Most people attend schools to learn, so they are open minded.  They are willing to listen to ideas they had never considered (unless of course they were brought up in an environment of hate...).  If I can reach just a few, then slowly there will be change.  Change for the better.

Not a bad goal, I'd say!

Be well.

At the PSU Abington Lion, before the presentation

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

25 since Attempt

On November 1, 2015, I passed a milestone.  Is it one worth celebrating?  I'm not sure.

It was the 25th anniversary of a defining moment in my life.

Twenty five years ago on that date, I should've died.  I wanted to die.  I tried to die.

I didn't die.

In the early morning hours of November 1, 1990, all of the Fear, Anger, Self Hatred and Frustration reached a peak.  Earlier in the night, I learned that the girl I loved, the one I was going to marry, loved someone else.  We had already broken it off, but I thought we could eventually reconcile.  I was so angry at her that I punched a solid wall, and broke my hand.

I'd planned my suicide for weeks.  I knew the where and how.  Just in case, I had stopped wearing a seat belt while driving, hoping that I'd get into an accident that would kill me.

On November 1, 1990, I was still working at TGI Fridays.  The prospects of finding another job seemed so remote.  There I was with a college degree, and I was working the tables and occasionally bartending.  I still had a very hard time getting dates.  Back in December 1989, I met this person, whom I shall call F in this blog.  She was everything I wanted.  She was cute, funny, and a total geek.  We had similar senses of humor.  I met her when I waited on her and her mother one day.  She came back a couple of times on her own, eventually letting me know where she worked.  I visited her, and set up a date.  And from then on, we were inseparable.

In Fridays uniform, 1991.

She was a student, studying Education at Villanova.  I won't go in to our entire history.  Suffice it to say that she cheated, and it ended in September 1990, right after my birthday.  We briefly got back together in early October, but that didn't last.

There were many things against us, primarily our ages.  She was 20 and I was 24.  We were far too young to marry but I didn't care.  And when she declared her Love for the other guy, I was crushed.  I thought she was my best hope to ever be in a relationship, and that without her, I'd never find anyone else.  Yes, that's distorted thinking- a symptom of suicidal ideation.

So, just after midnight on November 1, 1990, my right hand aching and swollen, I drove to Valley Forge Park.  In the lot not far from the Grand Parade, the only one that the Rangers allowed for overnight parking, I parked.  In the car with me were Rat Poison and Southern Comfort, 100 proof.  I was crying my eyes out as I mixed a LOT of rat poison into the bottle of Southern Comfort (which was maybe 2/3 full at that point.)  On the tape deck was a mix tape I'd made of the Grateful Dead.

At Penn State, I was known for my ability to chug large amounts of liquor, specifically Southern Comfort.  I had hoped that ability would serve me well at this point.  I hoped that the Southern Comfort would mask the Poison long enough to keep it all down until it killed me.  And I'd be drunk enough not to care.

I lifted the bottle to my lips, threw my head back and chugged.  However, my plan had flaws.  I selected 100 proof as it wasn't as sweet.  However it WAS stronger.  I managed to get a good amount down, but my body revolted.  I opened the car door and vomited it all back up violently.  I ended up on my hands and knees out of the car, crying into a pool of vomit.

I don't know how long I was there.

Then I had a thought.  I'd try again.  But as I hadn't left a note, I'd do that first.  I wanted the world to know why.  I wanted to Punish F for what she did.  Not that she'd really care, I thought, but I'd try.  So I went back to my parents' house in Spring City where I lived, sat at the kitchen table, and tried to write a letter with my broken hand.

I still don't know where my Mum had been.  She was a home health care nurse, and I guess she'd worked very late.  In any case, the next thing I knew, she was behind me, asking what was wrong.  I have no doubt she read the letter over my shoulder.  I cried and told her that my hand was broken, and that I wanted to die.  She drove me to Phoenixville Hospital to "have then look at that hand."

I've told this part of the story before.  About her telling the doctors about my wish.  About the paramedics blocking the exit.  About being strapped tightly into a gurney and taken to Paoli Medical Center Psych ward "voluntarily."  I stayed there for the mandatory 72 hours, and missed a good friend's wedding.  Afterwards, I saw a therapist briefly, but stopped... until many years later.

Twenty five years later, I am still Alive.  I haven't attempted again, but I've come close.  My life is completely different.  Months after the attempt, I met my Wife in late April 1991.  We were engaged at Valley Forge Park in 1992.  We married in April of 1993.  We had a daughter in 2007.  We are still married, but separated, due to, well due to my Truth.  Wife is still my biggest supporter, but doesn't want to be married to a woman.

Which I am.

How did I mark the anniversary of what by all rights should've been my death?

Well, I slept.  And the next morning I went to work.  I didn't mark it whatsoever.  In fact, I had completely forgotten about the timing.  Not about the attempt, mind you, just the timing.  I realized it a few days later.  And I reflected on where I am today.  Who I am today.

Is my life perfect?  Hell no.  But now I know who and what I am.  I have dear friends and those that love me.  I have a daughter who is my World.  And, I like to think that I make a small difference in my little corner of reality.

I thought about all I would've missed if the poison had done its work.  I don't know if I would've been buried or cremated, but, if buried, my remains would be skeletal by now.  Instead, I'm a a living, breathing woman, still in the process of transition.  My Wife would've married someone else.  My Daughter wouldn't exist.  How many lives have I touched in those 25 years?

There is no answer.

November 7, 2015

Twenty Five years later, I am Alive.  And Happy of it.

Response to an Email: Fear

I received a very kind email from the person who hosted my talk at Penn State Abington on November 11.  She said, in a nutshell, that it must be hard discussing my personal story in front of strangers, but that the importance of the material must make it easier.

(Hey, I discuss my life on this blog all the time.  Does that count?)  ;)

When I wrote her back this morning, I jumped up on my soapbox more than a little.  I kind of liked what I wrote, so I'm sharing it here.

If you think I went overboard, or was a little too grandiose, let me know.  In any case, here is what I wrote, edited to keep the recipient's name private, as I don't have permission to reveal it at this time.  

Presenting at PSU Abington


As you know, my background is in teaching.  I am used to speaking in front of groups.  While this group is not the largest I've addressed, it's the largest I've done in some time, and the largest with whom  I've ever discussed Trans issues to date.  

Was I afraid?  Yes.  I think I was more afraid of failure than anything else.  In my mind, the material needs to be presented well, as I feel that it is of critical importance.  Mine is only one voice, but perhaps my one voice can change a heart.  And, in the end, isn't that what teaching is all about?

I'm a former paramedic, and I was with a rescue squad.  I have run into burning buildings, crawled into the wrecks of cars, and comforted the dying.  I always measure fear by those levels.  Transitioning dwarfs those fears.  The most scared I have ever been was in the minutes before I told my wife the truth about myself.  Not far behind that was coming out to my parents, then coming out at work.  

We all experience fear.  We all need to conquer it in our own ways to move forward with our lives.  I have learned over the years one great Truth:  Fear Kills.  

Fear keeps us from being who we are and from reaching our true potential.  So many Transpeople do not transition because they are afraid to do so.  Those fears are legitimate ones, to be sure: loss of jobs, homes, relationships, friends. Fear of injury and even Death.  It is only when our Pain becomes greater than our fear that we Must move forward.  

No one will ever completely conquer Fear.  There are still places, as a transwoman, that I fear to go (like certain bars, etc.)  I like to think that those transpeople who express themselves in public, be they crossdressers or transitioned women, have an intimate relationship with fear.  It is always there, but we understand it, live with it, and overcome it.  

John Wayne was quoted as saying “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”  So it is with transitioning, and so it is with public speaking.

Sorry if I rambled on a bit.  

Be well!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fraternity Reunion

All of us have a Past, especially Transpeople.

Many of us don't like to speak of it- because that past is like it happened to another person.  Because it WAS another person.  When we transition, we are born anew as the person we were meant to be.  Often we pay a heavy price to be that person- higher than most people would be willing to pay, including many of our trans brothers and sisters.  After all, how many times have you heard "I would transition, but..."   And that's OK.  Transition Should be the last resort.

As for my past, I have no issue writing about it.  I am the sum of my past experiences, for good or ill.

I joined Phi Kappa Sigma at Drexel University in May 1985, and, in 1986, transferred to Penn State.  My membership transferred with me.  I knew everything would be different- I just didn't know HOW different.

In 1986, I'd been denying myself for three years.  I was angry, bitter, and suffering a pain that I could never admit to anyone- especially myself.  After all, my secret was utterly shameful.  I was a freak.  Obviously demented.  I was transgender- but I would fight it with every ounce of my being.  And so I did.

Me in late 1986/early 1987.  The jacket is my 
Drexel fraternity jacket.  I still have it.

I thought Penn State would be a new beginning.  I could recreate myself as whoever I wanted to be.  Unfortunately, all I could manage was to maintain my angry shell.  That shell worked well enough- it pushed people away.  I thought myself unattractive, and many women were quick to agree.  The few I became close to, for the most part, saw me as friend material.  "I don't think of you as a guy."  "You're too nice."  I'm sure many others heard the same things.  I knew that these women were quite perceptive, as I really WASN'T a guy.  I was just pretending.  I was a caricature of a guy.  But this only added to my bitterness.

Soon that shell hardened and became the base of my armor against outside pain.

This was the person that the brothers at Penn State knew.  I did my best to fit in- be cheerful.  Eventually, I even found love- my first real adult relationship.  It ended badly when she cheated.  Another layer of Anger.  Of self hatred.

My last semester at Penn State before going to student teach was Fall of 1988.  During the year 1988, I met some great people.  Actually, as far as the House was concerned, I met some of the best people I'd meet.  I met people who didn't care that I was a "transfer."  They only cared how I handled myself and about my passion for the Fraternity.  Yes, I was passionate about the Fraternity.  I'd sworn an Oath, and I meant to keep it.

In early December 1988, the fraternity held a formal dinner for Graduating seniors, of which I was one.  We ate very well- ribeye steak and shrimp.  We sat at the head table, our backs to the fireplace in the dining room.  The guy sitting next to me at the table, Brett, loved shrimp, so I traded him shrimp for steak.  At the end of the dinner, we were given shots of whiskey.  The Brotherhood toasted us in song, we drank our shots, and each hurled our glasses into the fireplace in turn, and we became Alumni.

The graduating seniors then left to go to a bar together.  I was invited, but had other plans.  There was a party being given by my friends in the Secondary Education major, and there was a girl there who I desperately wanted to hook up with.  I failed.  I regret not going with the guys.  They invited me and I shrugged them off.

A week later, my time as a brother ended.  I wouldn't see many of these people for a long time.  Others I still haven't seen since.

Graduation, May 1989

During the weekend of November 6-8, 2015, the Psi Chapter (Penn State) of Phi Kappa Sigma celebrated its 125th year.   If one counts the several years when it was the Latin letter QTV society, it is the oldest fraternity on the campus.

I wasn't going to attend.  It cost quite a bit of money, between hotel and the event itself, and, well, I was very different.  The shell had broken, and my True self emerged.  I am now a Woman.

My time at Penn State was not an easy one.  Many of the brothers were abusive toward me.  They did their best to drive me away.  But not all of them.  The brothers and little sisters of my last year were different.  Many of them were Facialbook friends, and knew of my transition.  They were supportive.  However, none of them had ever seen me face to face.  In fact, only one brother had, as he came into the book store occasionally, but he didn't know it was me.

Most of the brothers did not know of my transition.  What would they think?  Was this really a can of worms I wanted to open?  I wrote about it in this blog some time ago.  Many wise people counseled against me attending.  After all, it was expensive, and it really could end badly.

However, a couple of the Brothers from my time pressed the case.  I wrote to one of them who is now Vice President of the Alumni board.  He is gay- out and proud.  He said I should attend, and that he would make sure that I received a good reception.

I thought about it.  Penn State means so much to me, and so much of that was the Fraternity.  But I couldn't afford it.  Well, of all things, Penn State came to the rescue!  I was hired to do a Transgender Presentation, and I was to be paid!  The amount would be enough for me to attend!  But, the presentation was AFTER the weekend.  Wife said she'd spot me the money and I would pay her when the check from Penn State arrived.  So I made my reservations.

Friday November 6 dawned a rainy cool day.  I awoke early, and got ready.  I then went to get a mani/pedi.  I wanted to look my best.  I then turned my car west toward State College.  As was my tradition, I blasted the Who Quadrophenia on the way (I always listen to it on a trip to Penn State.)  A few hours later, I arrived at Penn State, and checked into the Days Inn room 520.

I then walked to campus.  I went to the Heinz Alumni Center, where I met Tina Hay, the editor of the Penn Stater magazine.  I'd written to her about writing an article for the magazine about this weekend, and she politely turned it down.  I went to meet her to put a face to the name and to see if she had changed her mind.  She hadn't.

From there, I walked up to the Nittany Lion Shrine.  There I met two college girls.  I took their pictures at the Lion, and they took mine for me.

I then walked around campus a bit.  It was a busy Friday afternoon, and the paths were filled with students.  They all seemed so young.  Eventually, I went back to my room, showered to get the sweat off me, and made myself up for the night.  That night was a reception for alumni at the House.

The brother that convinced me to go was Ty.  He met me in the lobby with another brother, Dave.  He told me there was a small gathering up in someone's room, and we went there.  In the room were maybe five guys.  All but one welcomed me and hugged me.

One shook my hand (fraternity handshake) and said "Hi LANCE!"  I didn't recognize him at first.  In fact, I had to be told who he was.  He looked like a pudgy, middle age Charlie Brown, right down to the tuft of hair on his otherwise bare forehead.  He never addressed me as Sophie.  He was Jerk #1.

After a beer, most of the group walked the one block to the fraternity house.  I did my best to keep up, as I was wearing 2" strappy heels.  We walked in the back door, me in the middle of the group.  I felt a mixture of dread and excitement, like at the crest of a roller coaster.  What would happen next?

There was a table in the foyer, and on it were a Guest register and a bunch of name tags.  I took mine, and pinned it to my purple blouse.  I circulated around the room, greeting brothers from my time- some of whom I hadn't seen in decades.  All were receptive.  Some didn't recognize me (I can't imagine why) but remembered me when I said my Nickname.

The event was BYOB, and many alumni brought beer.  Lots of beer.  The current pledges made sure an alumni never lacked for a beer.  I don't think my hand was empty the whole night.  I drank more beer that night than I had in the previous two decades combined, it seemed.

I walked out onto the broad porch out front.  There I bumped into someone who I absolutely didn't expect.  He was one of the famous "Whereabouts Unknown" brothers.  In fact, I don't even know if he finished his degree.  He just one day up and disappeared.  But there he was!  We spoke maybe a couple of minutes.  He had no idea who I was.  When I explained my previous identity he literally jumped back four feet yelling "WHOA!  ICK!"   We didn't speak the rest of the night.  He was Jerk #2.  And, thankfully, the last jerk.  Later that night, I spoke to one of the brothers with whom I was close.  I told him what Jerk #2 said.  He asked how long we were speaking.  I said maybe two minutes.  He said that I held the record so far, as no one could stand speaking to him that long, as he was so incoherent.

Friday Night

Most of the night I spent circulating, especially with the active brothers and pledges.  After all, they are the future of the fraternity.  They were all quite nice.

By the end of the night, I was loopy.  I walked back to my hotel room.  I felt bloated with beer.  As an experienced drinker, I knew how this was going to end, so I changed into my PJs, went to the bathroom, and stuck my fingers down my throat.  As a result, I had no hangover the next day.

The next day was cloudy and very chilly.  I awoke, showered, and put on my makeup.  There were two events that day.  The first was a gathering at the house to watch the Penn State vs Northwestern game.  I arrived right before kickoff.  The crowd was sparse- mostly older guys in their 60s and older.  In other words, people who HADN'T attended the night before.  They paid me no mind, and I did the same.  I just watched the game.  As the game went on, more people arrived, including some who came in just for the day.  Lunch was set out, and it was AMAZING!  As I ate, I sat next to one of the pledges, who is from Istanbul.  We spoke a bit.  He is a very intelligent young man.

Game Day!

One of the people was a Little Sister named Iva.  Many fraternities in the 80s had Little Sisters, and their role varied from house to house.  Most of our Little Sisters were sorority girls who wanted the prestige of being a Skull little sister.  Some were girlfriends of brothers.  Others still were just girls who just liked hanging out with the brothers.  In other houses, the Little Sisters were like a "Ladies Auxiliary," helping out at events and such.  Our little sisters did some of that as well.  At still other houses, Little Sisters were just girls who wanted sex with the brothers.  Iva?  Iva was someone who cared about the brothers and cared about the House.  She was a good person, and, frankly, one of the few little sisters who even spoke to me back in the day (for whatever reason, most of the Little Sisters regarded me as one would regard a worm ridden corpse.)

Ty and Iva.  (Photo by Dave Sieling)

Iva has been one of the biggest supporters of my transition.  We even coordinated our Gala outfits online.  We hugged and caught up briefly, then she was making the rounds of the brothers, most of whom she hadn't seen in a long time.  We would hang out a lot that weekend.  One thing Iva mentioned struck home.  She said that back then I "radiated anger."  She was not the first to tell me this.  She said I seemed so much happier now.  I smiled.

Penn State lost a close game.  After the game, I returned to my hotel room, took a short nap, then prepped for the night.  I wanted to look as good as I possibly could.  I wore the same dress that I wore to my "Debutante Ball" some months ago.  I decided to forgo the corset.  I also wore contacts for the first time in a long time.

Ready for the Gala!

I arrived in the lobby.  The Gala dinner was the second big event of the day, and it was being held there at the hotel.  In the event area was a bar.  Each of us received two drink tickets.  Mixed drinks cost money, but Yuengling beer was free.  By that point, I had enough beer to float an ocean liner.  Before dinner were some speeches, including one by the Grand Alpha, who is in charge of the whole fraternity.  He and I had a chance to speak briefly.  We'd met back in 2008, when the Fraternity was re-established at PSU  (long story.)  We spoke about a few things.  I was going to pin him down about the lack of a National LGBT policy, but I decided that this event was neither the time nor the place.

I sat at a table with many of the brothers from my time.  Iva joined us.  To my left was a guy I didn't immediately recognize.  When I was told who it was, I couldn't believe it!  Hartzee!  He is a Native American who was a junior Olympic champion wrestler, and was now a lawyer and a lobbyist.  He was very nice to me at the dinner.  In fact, he treated me very much as a lady.  He even bought me a drink!  He'd had a reputation as a ladies man back in the day, and I could see why.  His manners were very polished and he was smooth!  I was very impressed.

With Hartzee

After other activities, we all gathered for group pictures.  First it was everyone in attendance.  Then it was just Brothers (I was included in this.)  Then it was just actives.  There were then pictures by decade, and I stood with the 1980s group.  I felt a strange mix of emotions.  At first, I felt old, as here I was with many guys who were gray haired and older looking.  But I also felt gratitude, as they had accepted me.  They accepted me enough that despite my transition, I still belonged.  Most of all, I felt Pride.  I was proud to stand with these people.  They are good men, some very different from the boys they used to be.  They are accepting, generous, and they too are proud of their Fraternity and University.

In many ways, I had conflicting feeling about coming to this event.  I knew as I stood for pictures that I had done the right thing.  I was Home.  I was with my Brothers.  Time had been hard on some of us, but here we were, all these years later, sharing a special bond.  I am a Woman- they now All know the secret that I hid from them for years.  And they accepted me.  I could argue that they even liked me better as a woman then they ever had as a guy.

The pictures taken, a DJ started playing, but lets face it- in a room of 95% men, most of whom are in their 40s and older, no one was going to dance.  Most people left to go back to the House.  I went up to my room.  I made a quick video for YouTube, then changed.  I was exhausted, but I wanted to go to the House one more time.

When I arrived, I mingled a bit.  I noticed one of the actives had passed out on the couch.  After verifying he was indeed alive, I asked some of his brothers if they were going to take him to his room.  "We're not going to haul his ass up to the third floor!"  was the reply.  So, in the time honored tradition, he was posed for pictures with various objects, etc.  If the actives got out Magic Markers, well, I know nothing.  I deny all rumors of a picture of him with my breasts resting on his head.  After all, I am a Lady!  ;)

Before leaving, I took a few more pictures.  (Back in the day, I was House photographer, and I did the scrapbook.  The brothers called me "Lens.")  One of the pictures was with a brother named Jim.  Back in the day, I couldn't stand him.  Let's just say I had a very low opinion of him, and his opinion of me wasn't much better.  A couple of years ago, out of nowhere, I received a Facialbook message from him.  It was an apology.  He apologized for the way he treated me back then, and wished me well.  I thanked him for the message and accepted his apology.  I wanted a picture with him.  As we posed, he told me that he was very impressed that I attended, and that many people were as well.  He said it took "a lot of balls" for me to show up.  I smiled.  I thanked him again for the note he sent all that time ago, and for his kind comment.  I am proud he is my Brother.

Jim and I

Soon after that picture, I returned to my hotel room, cleaned up and went to sleep.

The following morning, I awoke, showered, made myself up, and went downstairs for the last organized event.  It was a sponsored continental breakfast.  There I saw maybe a dozen brothers total from all eras.  They were telling stories, you know, the same old stories they'd told for years.  I sat apart from them intentionally.  I wanted to take some pictures, and just listen.  Iva arrived.  I hugged her goodbye, and parted from the others.

I then drove home.  The sun shone brightly as I rode through the Pennsylvania mountains.  A few hours later, I was back in my apartment.  From there, my full attention was on a presentation I would be giving three days later.  And I will tell you about that as well, dear readers!  I've had some time to consider what this visit meant to me.

I needed to do this.  It was a Rite of Passage.  I opened a new chapter in my life.  And I think I opened some eyes and hearts.

It may be a small thing.  Back when I was an undergrad, my hands were balled into fists at all times.  On campus, at parties, wherever.  That was the level of anger and self hatred I felt.

This weekend, especially at the House, my hands were freed.  Open.  Just as I was.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I'm Giving a Presentation!


Lots has been happening (wow, that's poor grammar) so I'll update soon.

Tomorrow, November 11, 2015, I will be giving a presentation at the Pennsylvania State University's Abington Campus.

I'll be in the Lares Building, which is their student center, starting at 12 Noon.  

The topic is Transgender 101, and it is open to the public.  And it's FREE!  

So if you want to come out, I'd love to see you!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Seven Sophie Years: Filling

As I type this, it's Halloween night, 2015.

It's chilly and a bit cloudy here in southeast Pennsylvania.  I started my day with Wife and Daughter, trick or treating at the King of Prussia mall.  We were joined by one of my daughter's friends and her mother, both of whom are very nice.  This was that mom's first time hearing about me and meeting me as Sophie.  She took it in stride.

Seven years ago was the night I re-emerged from over twenty years of repressing my true self.  I've told this story many times.  That night, Wife and I attended a party held by my dear friend Dawn.  Afterwards, I went to the Bookstore where I work, and surprised many people.  Then I went out with several coworkers to a bar called Fox and Hound.

Halloween 2008 with my friend David.  He looks VERY uncomfortable

The gender dysphoria stormed back into my conscious life, and, well, the rest is history.  Now, I'm sitting here at the computer, typing a blog.  I have been full time as a woman for over a year and a half, and on HRT for nearly three years.

Halloween 2015. David looks far more at ease

I've analyzed almost every aspect of that night over the years, either in this blog, or the one that preceded it.

However, there is one detail I have never discussed.  The week before Halloween 2008, I went shopping with my dear friend Elizabeth.  We bought my outfit at Lane Bryant; including the lingerie.  The bra was a 44D- purple with black lace trim.  Yes, I was much heavier then.  As I mentioned before, I filled it with birdseed filled pantyhose feet.  That was a LOT of birdseed to fill those D cups!

The bra in question

Birdseed Boobs

A few days later, I gave the birdseed boobs to my dear friend M, who used them to feed birds I guess. I put the bra in the box in the basement, where it was eventually joined by other feminine clothing over the years.  I continued to buy D cup bras, as I bought forms to fit them.  I had a vision of how I wanted to look as a woman, and that included big breasts.

The rest of my outfit from that night?  Well, the panties, cheap corset, cheap wig, Spanx, and the sweater are all long gone now.  I still have the skirt, belt, and the cheap shoes.  And the Bra.

When I went on HRT and my breasts grew enough that I could stop wearing forms, I put all my D cup bras into a box, and put that box in my storage space.  After all, I didn't think I'd ever need them again.  I couldn't be that lucky.

However, genetics had a different opinion.

Over the years, my breasts have grown.  I am now a D cup.  A couple of weeks ago, my roomie Linda and I went to my storage space to pick out a Halloween costume for this year.  One of the other things I brought back to the apartment was the box of D cup bras.  I was curious if they would fit.

I've been trying them on when I can.  A couple dry rotted and ripped.  However, there was one I didn't try on- the one from that Halloween.  I hadn't worn it since February 2009 (the last time I wore that outfit.)  A couple of nights ago, I tried it on... and it fit!  The band was a bit big (being a 44) but aside from that, my breasts filled the cups!  I was so very excited!

Yes, little things like that make me happy!

February 2009.  Makeup by Amanda Richards of True Colors Makeup Artistry

I had to work Halloween night this year. I decided that as a way to mark my "rebirth day," I'd wear that purple bra.  And so I did.  All day and night.  And let me say this- it isn't the most comfortable bra I've ever worn!  But, knowing I was wearing it made me smile several times during my shift.

Halloween 2015: Dressed for work

So here I sit, seven years after that fateful night.  So much has changed.  I am a completely different person.  What will the next year bring?  Heck, what will the next MONTH bring?  I the next couple of weeks, I will be attending my Fraternity's 125th anniversary at Penn State, and I will be speaking at a University about Transgender issues, Both are major milestones and hurdles for we to overcome.  Of course, I'll keep you, the reader, informed as to what happens!

Maybe I'll write about the events of last night, when I went to two parties.  Maybe I won't.  In any case, it's been a memorable holiday.  It brings to mind something a certain doctor once said, which applies to us all.

"Don't dream it: Be it."

Be well.