Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The December Darkness

Many people have sent me messages, both as comments on my post here and on Facialbook.

I am truly touched by the support.

One thing many people asked is how I can think the way I do, especially after seeing what happened after Lisa Empanada killed herself.

People don't understand.

I'm so glad of that.

I've often said to cisgender people that they should be glad that they don't understand what it means to be Trans, as the only way to understand it is to suffer with it.  I accept this as a Truism.

And so it is with the Darkness.

Holiday Blues?

For those new to the blog, the Darkness is my term for the suicidal depression that afflicts so many of us.  As we have all heard from NCTE, 41% of TGs attempt suicide.  I argue that number is low, as it only counted survivors.  I am one of the 41%, having attempted back in 1990, and coming close a couple of other times.

How can I seek death?  How can I even contemplate it?  How does the Darkness infect one so much?  I've been asked this by many people.  And my answer is this: Be glad you DON'T understand it.  To understand it is to suffer with it.  

That's how I connected with Lisa Emapanda at first.  We both knew the Darkness well.  We did our best to keep each other away from it, until, finally, I failed and she died.

I used to have a saying myself, before I transitioned. "If someone hits you in the head enough times with a baseball bat, you WILL go down." Yes, I was violent back then.

But the point is, a person can only take so much before they break. The Darkness never leaves me- it's always there, quietly calling for me. Usually I have the strength to ignore it (obviously, as I am still alive.) Sometimes though, the world hits me in the head too many times. The Darkness grabs me by the throat and won't let go.

As a former paramedic, I have seen death up close. I have heard the dying screams of a child burning to death. I have held a good friend in my arms as he breathed his last breath after a car accident, imploring me to save him. Death and I are old friends. I see Death as Peace.  Final peace.

It's from there that the Darkness calls... Peace. That's what Lisa Empanada sought when she killed herself. In the end, that's all I want- Peace. To be able to live a life that matters. If life doesn't matter, then why bother living it? And at this time, I don't see my life as mattering. What am I? I'm an overeducated retail worker who can barely afford to keep a roof over her head. I'm a statistic. And that is all. I like to think I have the potential for so much more, and that is why I fight. But fights are violent. See "baseball bat" above.

Several people suggested I work through this with a therapist.  Well, my therapist retired in February.  And therapy costs money.  The gender specialists around here don't accept insurance.  So it's a choice of paying the rent or getting therapy.  And as the rent also affects my roomie and bestie Linda, I pay the rent.  

I'm out of the Darkness I was in a few days ago.  All the problems are still with there though.  And they will be until I find some solutions.  Solutions like a better paying job.  Solutions like rebuilding my self esteem.  Losing weight.

My dream of total transition will never come true.  I accept that.  I will never have the money.  So I will be somewhere between genders physically for the rest of my life.  I can wish all I want, but wishes don't pay the bills.

Anyway, there's where I am today as 2015 fades to black.  2016 is coming.  I have no idea what it will hold, but if it's like 2015, it will be more of the same.

Be well.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Coda

In my last entry, I mentioned work.

As many of you know, I work in a book store.  I have worked there for over twelve years now, and, for the past three years, I have been Head Cashier.

I wore my new dress today

I had a horrific time at work this season.  But I managed to set personal records in several metrics.  One thing our store does every Christmas is a book drive for the Gesu school in Philadelphia.  It's in the worst part of town, as are its students, but it does an amazing job, especially since almost all of its funding comes from donors.

I am particularly passionate about this cause.  The book drive puts books in the hands of children.  As I am a former teacher. I firmly believe that a child who reads has a fighting chance in this world.  I especially support this knowing that the racist GOP would love to stop these children from reading, preferring to incarcerate them in a for-profit prison someday.

In any case, I managed to collect over 1000 books for the school from generous customers.  That's almost twice what the second place person did.

I figured that for my work I'd get a pat on the back, a laurel, and a hardy handshake.  If that.

A Laurel and a Hardy Handshake

I was wrong.  Very wrong.

Today I arrived for work after my three days off that I desperately needed.  On the break room table was a cake and a card.  For Me.

It was busy when I arrived, but when things calmed down a little, the head manager called me back into the break room to officially present me with the cake and card.  They took a picture as well, but I don't have that.

In the card, which was signed by many of my coworkers, was a gift card to a local restaurant.  Linda and I ate well tonight!


I needed this.  I really did.  I work VERY hard for poverty level wages.  It's nice to know my work is noticed and appreciated.

Thanks again to the management and staff of the book store for making me feel special!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

And So This Is Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone.

And I know this entry will affect some people.  Anger, outrage.  I'll lose more readers (which seems to be a trend of late anyway.)  I may even affect my career with this.  But this blog has been about one thing above all: Honesty.  If I can't be honest with myself here, then I can't anywhere.


Linda and I next to our Christmas tree

I hate Christmas.  Passionately.  With every fiber of my being.

Christmas began as a pagan holiday, and was forbidden in MANY places, including HERE in the US for many years.  The tree?  Pagan.  Yule log?  Pagan.  Almost everything about the holiday is PAGAN, but adopted by people in power centuries ago as a way to convert the pagans to Christianity (see: Easter.)

But is that why I hate it?  No.  I hate it because of People.

Tis the season to be assholes.

Here's some examples.

 On December 23, while I was carrying a very heavy box of books, an older woman on her phone blind sided me- full contact- and kept right on going. Sent me sprawling and I landed hard, wrenching my back. She didn't even stop. I was in agony the rest of my shift.

Maybe an hour later, a woman in the journal section wanted a very specific brand of eco-friendly journal that I'd never heard of. She said the the person at information said we had it. I offered to look it up as well, but told her I'd never heard of it. She proceeded to bitch me out, declaring that since I didn't know about this company, I obviously didn't give a "flying f**k about the environment"and so on. It got to the point where I was selecting targets as to where to hit her, so I turned and walked away. I took 5 minutes in the break room to pull myself back together.  I was so angry, I had reverted to "Lance mode."  

We sold out of "Merry Christmas" gift cards late on the 23rd. The next day, I was accused by two different fat old people of being part of the "liberal war on Christmas" since we didn't have them. Because obviously I personally planned it.

I made sure to wish them "Happy Holidays."

And this doesn't count the many times I was misgendered by customers and even by staff.  Including staff who had never met Lance.

These examples are just the worst of the worst, but by far, the customers were horrific.  Something about this season makes rich folks feral.

In the last two weeks of the Christmas rush, I had ONE day off, and that day I signed off to see Star Wars.  I normally get two days off a week, but was asked to come in for one of them for some overtime.  And, needing the money, I took it.  So I worked the toughest two weeks of the year straight through.  And remember, I did all this for poverty level wages.  I work retail, after all.

On the 23rd, we had torrential rains, which came flooding through our front window (AGAIN!).  So Linda and I did our best to sop it up with towels, and we both went out into the rain to try to clear a clogged drain spout above the window.  We were both soaked.  I called emergency maintenance.  The guy called back and was VERY condescending, even saying he couldn't do the work because it was raining.  As he told me this, I was dripping wet.

I tried to call Wife about getting a ladder, but my phone kept disconnecting.  I was in a fury.  I threw my phone as hard as I could against the wall.  Except I missed the wall.  And I hit Linda's birthday gift (an Enterprise bridge) smashing several pieces.  I then collapsed on the floor sobbing.

 And do you know what made it all worse?  What the cherry on top was?

I was out of wellbutrin.

I am on lexapro and wellbutrin for depression, and have been for over fifteen years.  Lately, I wondered if the depression was due to the gender dysphoria, and I intended to ask my doctor to see about lowering my doses.  But then I ran out of the one.  And the pharmacy wouldn't refill it without a prescription, which the doctor wasn't sending.

So yes, I was "off my meds" the whole time.

And what was the result of this perfect Holiday storm of Hell?

Christmas Eve, 2015, after work

I was a total mess.  I spent the week of Christmas trying to sort out plans for my death.  Who could I get to take my place in the apartment so Linda wouldn't be totally screwed?  How to leave behind a message so people understand why?  Should I even bother with that?  Method?  Had that sorted out.

And each time someone was insanely cruel, it was another nail in the coffin so to speak- another piece of proof that I no longer belonged in this world of Hate.  I would finish a shift, go to my car and bawl my eyes out.  And cry on the way home.  I'd get back to the apartment and go right back to the bedroom and cry some more.

Wife and I had been trying to sort out a time when I could come over to see Daughter on Christmas.  However, her idea of times and mine weren't meshing.  On the 24th I sent her a text during my break at work.  "Don't expect me for Christmas at all.  It isn't worth the horseshit.  Tell your mom she f**king won and you won't have to worry about the freak coming over."  I left gifts for her and Daughter outside the front door, out of the rain.  No one saw me, as they were having a party to which I was not invited.

As I saw it, the war was over.  I lost.  Just a matter of cleaning up the mess.  The Darkness had me.

I arrived back at the apartment, sat in my car, and sobbed.  The night was warm, humid, and misty.  I went to the bedroom, changed and cried again.  I received a text from a GG friend and coworker, Katie.  She wanted to get together.  I said no.  She insisted.  I said hell no (and took the picture above) insisting I would not be good company.  She said she'd bring wine.  I still didn't want any company, but asked Linda anyway.  She was up for it, so Katie came over.  We watched "Christmas Carol" with Patrick Stewart.  I drank a little.  My mood lightened a bit.  I decided I would not die that night.  I could wait until morning.

Christmas morning I slept in.  I received a text from Wife asking if I could be over there at 9:30.  I agreed.  And so I went over, only partially made up.  I was greeted by my dog, who I rarely see.

My old Puppy Nittany

I watched Daughter open the gifts I'd left, which were all books.  One of them was I am Jazz by Jazz Jennings.  I'd bet that this book, which I bought to help Daughter understand me, has already been removed from the house.

Wife gave me a Star Trek Christmas Ornament and some Omaha Steaks.  I went back to the apartment and finished my makeup.  Linda and I were due in southern Delaware for dinner with my parents.  The activity kept me preoccupied.

At my Parents.  Christmas Day 2015

The day was peaceful, and I began to feel better about life.  I was still exhausted, but I was on the first of three straight days off.  (As I write this, it is the third day off.)

We arrived home late, and we both went right to sleep.  I slept in the next day.  Again.  I needed it.  During the day, I went to the pharmacy to get my prescription for wellbutrin.  Wife had called the doctor AND the pharmacy on the 24th, and paid off an outstanding bill for me.

That night, Linda and I had dinner  my "Big Sister" Mel.  She made an amazing Eggplant Parmesan.

And now it's Sunday.  I slept in.  I spent a good amount of the day with Wife and Daughter (my eight year old, who said I was as "fat as Santa".)   I'm still a little moody, but better rested.  I needed the time off.  Tomorrow, it's back to work.

Work.  Despite doing some wonderful things this season, I'm not likely to ever see a positive result for it, or be promoted.  You see, in the end- I broke in the face of adversity.  I showed that I have limits, and to be promoted, and I can't have those.  So if I ever want to earn a living wage, what do I do?

This is actually the second attempt at this blog entry.  The first was an expletive laden tirade against Christmas and the world in general.  I concluded it by saying that I hope that I don't live to see another Christmas season.  In fact, I wrote that if it looked like I WOULD survive to next Christmas season then I'd sort it out myself.

Did I mention I hate Christmas?

Many people, especially cisgender people, say how much they admire my strength and bravery for transitioning.  I'm a fraud.  I am not Strong.  Is it strength to do what one must?  If I didn't transition, I would've followed Lisa into the Light long ago.  If I were so strong, I would've found a way to be more the front lines of the Fight for TG rights, instead of just quietly writing a blog.  If I were strong, I would've found a way to keep my family together despite my transition.

Part of transitioning is understanding Who you Are.  I've written that many times.  It's so true.  And I know who I am.  I look in the mirror now, and I see the Woman I was supposed to be.  Sort of.  But that doesn't mean I am happy with what I see.  After all, I can't even afford a f**cking name change- how am I ever going to ever afford GCS?  I will Never complete my transition, never mind all the other goals I set for myself.  And what about my loved ones?  How will I ever be able to help Ally and Linda afford their transitions if I can't even complete my own?

Picture taken today.  Dress by Omar the Tent Maker

Strong? Brave?  I'm useless.  Useless to the ones I love, and to myself.  That's what I see in the mirror every day.

2016 is coming within a week.  I will be fifty years old next year.  Most of my life will be behind me, and what am I?  What have I accomplished with my life?  As a paramedic, I saved lives.  But that was thirty years ago.  I stopped doing that because I broke.  My teaching career was short.  Why?  Me.  My depression and Pain.  I couldn't save my Best Friend from killing herself.  I am trained to see the signs, but she was smarter than me.  And now she's dead.

It seems I have two accomplishments to leave behind.  I have a Daughter who will, God willing, long outlive me.  And I have my writing.  For what its worth.

I hate Christmas because of People.  I hate life because of Myself.

So that's where I am tonight, December 27, 2015.  I am standing in yet another crossroads in a lifetime of crossroads.

Strong? Brave?  I wish I knew the person those people talk about.  I could sure use her help.

Be Well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Drifting Thoughts

It's Christmas time in Retail.  Usually my mind is on my work, but occasionally it wanders.

With the gorgeous Jone at the Renaissance Party

For example, last Saturday I worked all day.  It was extremely busy and I encountered some abusive customers.  But that night I attended two parties.  The first was the annual Renaissance Christmas party, hosted by the amazing Kristyn King.  The second was the 10th Anniversary Angela's Laptop Lounge Party at Baxters.

And both were a LOT of fun!  I wore my scarlet dress for the first time since Southern Comfort 2013 gala... the last night I saw Lisa Empanada alive.  I received many compliments on it, which helped my decidedly anti-holiday mood.

However, my roomie and I left them both early, as we both had to wake up early the next morning for work. As I undressed back at the apartment, a thought struck me.  I remembered all the times I changed in motel rooms before going home to my Wife.  And I remember how sad it made me.  I would usually take a few last pictures, then look in the mirror.  Looking back at me was the woman I knew was inside...and I had to say goodbye to her, usually for another whole month. Often I whispered "Goodbye Sophie" before first removing my false eyelashes, then my wig...

It was very hard to do.  And as time went on, it became almost impossible.  I would cry as I took that last look.  Then of course, in August 2013, I was thrown out of the house, so I no longer had to worry about changing in motel rooms.

Another bit I don't miss are the "Pink Hangovers."  That's the enormous letdown in the days following an event.  Think of it this way- for a full night, I was Myself, among people who Really understood me and who knew me for who I really was.  And during that time, I was my True Self.  Then I had to go back into my shell.  I had to go back to pretending- to playing the role that had grown onerous.  It was pure hell, knowing who I really was and having to hide.

With Katie and Linda at Laptop

Now, I see a woman whenever I look in a mirror.  But I do not take that for granted.  After all those times gazing at motel mirrors; after all the tears; I am proud of what I have earned.  Sometimes while getting ready for work in the morning, I pause in front of the full length mirror in the bedroom.  I look at myself- as I am now.   And I smile.  Am I where I want to be yet?  No.  Far from.  But I've come a long way.

However, there is another thought that keeps drifting in, especially when I lay in bed at night.  I think about who I was, and what I did to my Wife.  She thought she married a man.  What happened was so unfair to her.  Was our marriage perfect?  No.  But none are.  The picture that comes to me is one as I was, as a man.  And my hand is extended to her, waiting for her to take it.  Waiting for her to take the hand of her husband so that we may embrace.  So that we may express the Love that we share.

That man is gone.  Did he ever truly exist?  Replacing him is a middle age woman with whom my Wife now shares co-parenting duties.  We still get along very well.  in some ways, nothing has changed.  We went to see Star Wars last week.  We are both fanatics.  We discussed Star Wars and music on our first date back in 1991.  For her birthday years ago, I gave her a vintage Star Wars movie poster (Style A for those who know what that means.)  It cost a fortune, but she loved it.  My wedding gift to her was a Star Wars 10th anniversary print that I had framed.  And it was just like when we were dating.  Just the two of us, enjoying an afternoon at the movies.

Transition is about Loss.  I knew what I was giving up.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.  Badly.  When I think about that- when that image drifts into my mind, I always cry.

My life is currently far from perfect.  However, living my life authentically is so amazing.  This is what transition is all about- being who I truly am.  I've written it many times- that we as Transpeople have the advantage of knowing Who we really are.  How many people can say that?

May your Holidays bring you peace.

Be Well.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: Becoming Nicole

Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt was released in late October of 2015 with some media appearances and interviews.  The New York Times and Time Magazine gave the book a good review, and hopefully it has experienced some sales.  The author won a Pulitzer Prize with the Washington Post, and had complete access to the Maines family for the book.

In this book, the Journey is the story.

Here we have a contemporary microcosm of the Trans movement.  A child knows she is trans.  Her identical twin brother is first to acknowledge her.  her father, a right wing republican doesn't wish to accept this, but the mother does.  Compromises are made.  The father has a dream of raising two boys to be Men like he is, and can't let that go, despite all evidence to the contrary.  However, Nicole's classmates accept her as a girl.  Children are taught hate- they don't experience it naturally.

And there IS hate.  A "Christian" group gets involved and battle lines are drawn.  The family is forced to leave town.  But, justice eventually prevails in a small arena, which may help nationally.

This story has played over and over, with small variation, throughout the country.  The only difference is that this time, the Transperson won.  Her father came around to accepting his child as a daughter, and fought FOR her... hard.

Nicole was able to get hormone treatment early, so she doesn't look like many transwomen of earlier generations.  She looks like a young woman.  She has had her surgery (from a doctor near me, actually.)  If it weren't for all of the media circus, she could easily go stealth.

But what does it mean to a TG?

It means that we ARE winning, if slowly.  It means that the sacrifices of my generation and earlier are bearing fruit.  Nicole is one of the lucky ones.  She will never have the agony of growing up male.  And she is Strong, as are her whole family.

I'll admit- I'm a bit jealous.  She had resources at her disposal that I didn't, and is a beautiful young woman.  She was socialized female.  But in the end, that's all spilt milk.  Our lives are what we make them.  Lemonade and all that.

I've had the pleasure of meeting both Nicole and her father at two different Keystone Conferences.  They are both incredible speakers.  I remember that after Keystone 2014, I was scared out of my wits by the possibility of a right winger keeping me from my daughter for "her sake."

So.  The book.  It's well written, and due to the access that the author had, one really feels like they are part of the story.  The reader sees the conflict in the father, and rejoices when he defends his daughter.  I was so angry at the bully grandfather that I wanted to send him hate mail.

How good is this book?  I going to bring them a copy of it so they can understand just a little more.

With Nicole Maines at Keystone 2015

So.  If you are trans, I'd say that this is a must read.  Same if someone you love is trans.

Yes, it's that good.

Maybe we should send copies to the GOP candidates?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Three Years Out

Today, December 10, 2015, marks three years since I started HRT.  (That's Hormone Replacement Therapy, for those who aren't familiar with the acronym.)

Three years.  I'm trying to wrap my head around that.

Three years ago, I was still serving my license suspension for DUI.  I was still living with my Wife and daughter.  Lisa was still alive.  There were many people I had yet to meet.

November 2012.  I have no December 2012 pics.

My "Big Sister" Mel drove me down to the Mazzoni Center, as I couldn't drive.  I remember being just a little frightened, but more excited.  After I picked up the prescription, we went to lunch at California Pizza Kitchen.  She dropped me off back at the house, and I took the two pills: one blue and one white.  Estrogen and spironolactone.  Not long after, they would be joined by finasteride.

Things started slowly... until I started injections.  Then the changes came fast and furious.  By May, I was no longer wearing breast forms, and I had to wear constriction shirts to work.  My skin softened.  People began to notice differences, but attributed it to weight loss.

May 2013.  Laptop Lounge.  No forms!

Wife noticed the differences as well, but ignored them.  I celebrated them.  I was still only going out once a month, but felt so much better.  Then, one night after Laptop, I looked in a full length mirror, wearing nothing but a wig and panties.. Earlier that day, I'd shaved my whole body, which I'd never done before.  I was used to seeing a hairy stomach.  Without that, and with small breasts, makeup and wig, I saw, for the first time, a Woman looking back at me.  I cried.

Still, there was something wrong.  My injections were two weeks apart, and after nine days, I became angry, moody, and depressed- exactly what I was like before I rediscovered myself.  Dr. Goodman increased the frequency of my injections to once every ten days.  This solved that little issue fairly nicely.

August and September were horrible.  I was thrown out of MIL's house and Lisa killed herself.  I came close to falling into the Darkness as well.  But, thanks to dear friends, I am still here.

December 2013, at Sandy's house, wearing one of Lisa's push ups

In March 2014, I finally ditched the compression shirts when I went full time as a woman.  I was now Me.  That also meant wearing a bra full time.  I remember reading long ago that the difference between a crossdresser and a transwoman is that one can't wait to get home and put on her bra, while the other can't wait to get home and take her bra off!  There is some truth to this. But, I took it as a dream come true.  I had breasts, and needed a bra.  And like Donna Rose once wrote, she still enjoys putting on makeup because she's earned that right.  I feel the same way.

December 2014 at King of Prussia Mall

Since then, I keep growing as a woman, and the hormones keep working.  I am now a natural D cup.  Yes, I am very blessed by good genetics.  I will never have hips or, realistically, an hourglass figure like my friends Olivia and Kayden, but I will take the blessings I have been given.  One thing that makes me very happy is that my roomie and bestie Linda Lewis is now also on HRT injections, and is seeing wonderful results!  As it happens, we inject on the same day, so it makes remembering easier.

December 2015

As I type this, I am in my PJs.  Braless, as I usually am when at the apartment.  Reflecting back on the past three years, I ask myself- If I knew all that would happen when I took those two pills three years ago... would I still have done it?

If I understood all the life changes that this decision would cause; all the heartbreaks people would suffer, that I would endure, all the changes, would I have swallowed those pills so eagerly?

Absolutely.  This journey is one of many small steps.  There was getting my ears pierced.  Laser treatments.  Growing out my hair.  All conscious decisions, but all reversible.  HRT was where the possible futures diverged.  HRT was where my transition truly started.  Once I headed down this path, there truly was no turning back.

And now, three years later, I'm living my truth.  I have a woman's breasts and other features, and someday, maybe, I will be a complete Woman.  I love having breasts- it's everything I ever dreamed it would be.  I love being a Woman.  For the first time in my life, I love being Me.

I took the road less travelled by, and it has made all the difference.

Two Events

Ok, let's try to focus on the positive.

Last Friday, December 4, I had a day off work after 7 straight days of working retail during the holidays, including Black Friday.  I was physically, intellectually, and emotionally exhausted.

I slept in a bit.  Woke up... and received a text.   My dear friend Vanessa was coming to town for an appointment.  She lives ninety minutes north of me, and travels almost constantly for her job.  Add to that, she works as a contractor in a very male dominated field, where, if she were discovered as Trans, she would no longer be hired for jobs.  For this reason, she rarely gets to express herself as Vanessa.

I met Vanessa back in February 2009 at True Colors.  She had the appointment right after mine.  She saw Amanda's huge shoe selection, and immediately was in Heaven.  Vanessa loves shoes.  We spoke while Amanda finished my makeup.  We met later that night at the Renaissance meeting, then at Laptop Lounge.  She told me about her therapist, Dr. Maureen Osborne, and recommended her highly.  I called Dr. Osborne that Monday, and my life changed.  I can never repay Vanessa for that.

Vanessa and I the night we met.  February 2009

Vanessa has changed a lot over the years.  She no longer wears wigs, having grown out her hair.  Life has given her some nasty turns, but she still manages to keep going.  She recently attended my presentation at Penn State Abington, which she later said "may have been a tipping point in [her] life."

So, she was coming to town.  We made arrangements to meet for lunch, with my roomie and bestie Linda joining us at of our favorite bars, Rock Bottom.  Vanessa was a little late, so we had a glass of wine waiting for her.

Lunch was wonderful.  The three of us chatted and gossiped.  None of us wanted it to end.  So we all walked out into the mall.  Eventually, we found Santa Claus.  I insisted we have our picture taken with him.  And so we did.

I love this picture

Vanessa decided soon after that she had to go.  You see, her 21 year old son was getting done classes for the day, and needed a ride home.  He didn't know it, but he was going to meet Vanessa, not who he expected.  She had decided to finally come out to her son.  I don't have to tell you readers what a BIG step that is!

The next day, Vanessa texted me, saying it was awkward at first, then eventually went well.  Her son is gay, and understood having to keep her secret.  I am so unspeakably happy for her!

Oh, and Vanessa gave me gracious permission to post her pictures!  :)

A few days later, December 6, was Linda's birthday.  Linda's parents have disowned her for being trans, so birthdays aren't something she particularly enjoys.  In fact, she hates them.  A few weeks ago, when she was feeling particularly grouchy, she told me she didn't think anyone would even remember her birthday.

I was determined to prove her wrong.

I set a little scheme in motion.  I contacted local friends of us both, and invited them to a surprise birthday party. I told Linda that I wanted to take her out for her birthday for a nice dinner, and that our friend Kira would join us.  Kira lives in northern PA, so we rarely see her.  And Kira WAS there... I just didn't mention who else would be there.

The night before, my Wife wanted to go to dinner, and, when she learned that Linda's birthday was the next day, invited her to join us.  So Linda had a nice dinner the night before her birthday, and the staff sang happy birthday to her.

Linda enjoys a margarita the night before her birthday

I worked 11-7 that day.  The arrangements were that people were to gather at Rock Bottom around 7:30, and we'd arrive around 7:45.  And so we did.  Linda broke into huge smile when she saw everyone.  Hugs all around.

Jone, Lilia, and Kira.  Jane is photobombing

Linda isn't the most demonstrative person emotionally.  She keeps her feelings to herself for the most part.  However, I knew she was happy that night.  She couldn't stop smiling.  Ten people had shown up to celebrate her special day, and they all brought gifts.

Linda with Jake and Rhiannon, who we met at TDOR

Most of us had a little food, and several drinks.  Some of the people didn't know each other, but by the end of the night, it looked like they had become new friends.

The night ended too quickly.  Linda had to work the next morning, so we said our goodbyes and headed out into the chilly night.  Linda told me she was completely surprised by the party.  I smiled.  I wanted to give her a special birthday, and I think I succeeded.

Elizabeth and I

A special THANK YOU  to my dear friends Kristyn and Jone for helping me with the bill!  Without you two, I'd still be washing dishes at the restaurant to work off the check!

Dishpan hands for Sophie!

In the end, despite all the horrible news around the world, at least there were some vestiges of light here.  There's an old cliche that friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and it's true.  Especially for TGs.  So many of us lose their family, so our friends are sometimes all we have  keep us from the Darkness.

I am blessed to have people like Linda and Vanessa in my life.  And Jane, Diane, Jone, Kristyn, Lilia, Elizabeth, Kira, and new friend Selma!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rant #12 and 35

Long time readers of this blog, my column on TG Forum, or my facialbook postings know my politics.  I am a Liberal.  I am not a moderate one, and I freely admit that.  My politics were forged during the Reagan era and achieved their razor sharp edge during the days of the Bush Junta.  I never expect anyone to think like me, as I am a bit radical.  The world NEEDS moderates, which, fortunately, most liberals are.  Unfortunately, there are no more moderates left in the GOP, having been exorcised by "litmus tests" or hounded out by Tea Party radicals sponsored by the Koch brothers.

That said...

The past couple of weeks have been rather bloody in the USA.  Or as the BBC put it: "just another day in the USA."

So many dead.  The "high profile" murders recently both appear to have been caused by zealots.  The first shooter was a White man, Christian, who went specifically to shoot up a Planned Parenthood.  As PP is often attacked by these types, they are well armored, with bulletproof windows, steel plate in the walls, etc.  The murderer was, of course, taken alive.  After all: he's white.  He was reported as quoting an anti-abortion  video which has been debunked many times, but is still flaunted by GOP candidates.  To the GOP, he was a "good guy with a gun."


Several Good people, including police officers, died on his rampage.

And remember, GOP candidate for president and current Senator Cruz called him a "transgendered leftist."

More recent, a company event was attacked by two or three (depending upon who you talk to) shooters who were well armed and armored.  Some say the shooters were white, but as these people were on the scene and under attack, they obviously don't know what they're talking about.  The two people accused of the crime were killed in a massive gun battle with police.  Those two were well armed with legally purchased firearms, which they bought despite being on a Federal watch list.  Those two were muslims, one being from the Middle East, the other being a US Citizen.

As expected, the Right wing quickly blamed the victims in both cases.  "They should've been armed."

Folks, I am not anti-gun.  No one has yet to suggest that anyone take away anyone's guns... except the GOP and NRA.  They keep saying it will happen.  But it won't- it can't.  That simple.  All I would want is some common sense.  Hey- the guy is on a watch list or has been ruled mentally incompetent- let's STOP him from being able to buy a gun.  This other guy has over a hundred guns.  He has two hands- how many does he need?

I am so scared about the world my daughter will inherit.  People like Trump and Cruz have HUGE followings.  These two are fascists, pure and simple.  Read history.  Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer is a good start.  History CAN repeat here, folks... if enough people, scared by right wing propaganda like Fox News, let it happen.

Trump has already called for mass deportations, religious IDs on people's clothing, and religious litmus tests for immigrants.  Among many other things.

Cruz appeared at a rally sponsored by and featuring "kill the gays" pastor Kevin Swanson.  The 1700 people in attendance at this conference obviously agree with the Pastor.  Three GOP candidates, including Cruz, appeared at this event, seeking this group's votes.

Marco Rubio says he'll reverse all pro-LGBT legislation and court rulings.

Someone explain to me how ANY LGBT can support the GOP.

That's why I fight.  I love the USA.  I don't want to see it fall into the hands of right wing fascists.

That's my opinion.  I don't think I'm wrong, but my opinion could change if the facts do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Reviews: "George" and "Gracefully Grayson"

I recently finished two books back to back.  Both were about Trans people, and both were for children of various ages.  As they are similar, but not the same, I will review them together.


The first to be released chronologically was Gracefully Grayson, which was written by Ami Polonsky.  A quick google search took me to her website.  She is a teacher who decided to write a "middle age" book.  She is cisgender.  I'll come back to this.  This is her first published book, and it's aimed at a middle school audience.

Grayson is a sixth grader in Chicago.  As can be easily guessed, she is trans (I will refer to Grayson as female in this review because I think she'd prefer that.)  However, like so many of us at her age, we hide it.  Desperately.  Grayson lives with her aunt, uncle and their two children, making her the middle child.  Her parents died in a car accident when she was four.  This adds to her detachment from others, but has other significance as well.

The school is holding a play about the myth of Persephone and Hades.  Grayson is encouraged to try out by his humanities teacher, who plays the role of the "supportive adult who seems to know what's going on" that many of us wish we had.  Grayson decided she wants to play the female lead, and that's when it all goes to hell.

Of course, she gets the role- after all, aren't all TGs in hiding truly the best actors/actresses?  This ignites controversy within the school and without.  Ms Polonsky seems to have done her homework, as the people against Grayson having the role cite the usual reasons why she shouldn't.  This, of course, includes blaming/ investigating the teacher, "he'll be bullied," etc.

And of course, there ARE bullies.  There are always bullies.  There will always BE bullies.

Fortunately, Grayson also finds friends.  As is typical of early middle school, some of the friendships are shallow, and others are not.  Ms Polonsky is a middle school teacher and has an eye for behaviors, so reading these bits brought back memories of my own middle school years.  Don't worry, Ms Polonsky, I forgive you for that!  ;)  In any case, the characters should resonate very well with the intended audience.

So- does Grayson actually play Persephone?  Do the bullies finally get their chance at perpetrating their first hate crime?  What happens to the helpful teacher?

Well, I'm not going to say, as it would give things away.  That said, it's a young adult novel, so older readers, especially trans ones, should be able to figure out those answers quite quickly.  And also the repercussions of those answers.  Why?  Because we've lived them.

The ending seems a bit rushed, and maybe just a little unsatisfying.  I like to think of it as a happy ending, but, as I know the challenges that Grayson has yet to face, I wonder if it would be.  That said, I'm a bit jaded.  For the intended audience, it IS a happy ending.

I must say I REALLY enjoyed this book.  I identified with Grayson quickly, and many of the characters in the book could have attended my junior high school all those many years ago.  The pacing is a touch uneven here and there, but that doesn't detract from the read.  What impresses me most is Ms. Polonsky's method of introducing so many of the obstacles that TGs face in a way that the intended audience can understand and appreciate.  Is it simplified?  A bit, of course, but the core issues are there, and explored.  This is a wonderful read for teens and adults.  I recommend it as an easy way to introduce Adults to the issues we as TGs face, as it provides examples to which everyone can relate.

Gratuitous Sophie pic used to separate the two reviews.  

George is by Alex Gino, and was published in 2015.  Alex Gino is genderqueer, and is from New York.  They graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, has been an activist for the past twenty years, and George is their first published book.  A coworker told me about this book a day or so after the store received it, and I bought it immediately.  As my Daughter is eight, I wanted to see if this was something that could possibly help her see how I felt growing up trans.

George is for a younger audience, starting around eight years old.  One of the first things that strikes the reader is that Gino refers to the main character with female pronouns from the start, and exclusively.  An interesting tactic, as the reader instantly sees George as a female, despite everyone else saying differently.  I remember smiling and nodding when I first encountered the pronouns.  Simple.  Effective.  Brilliant.  I wish I'd thought of it. George quickly introduces her other name: Melissa, and it is as Melissa that I shall refer to her for the rest of this review.

Melissa lives with her parents and older brother, and, unlike Grayson, has a female friend who she's known a very long time.  Melissa is trans (obviously) and is keeping that secret as most of us do.  She is in fourth grade. Where Grayson wears towels and oversized shirts to simulate hair and dresses, Melissa does neither.   She reads Girls' teen magazines and wishes she were one of the girls pictured.

As in Gracefully Grayson (henceforth GG for this review), an opportunity presents itself to show herself as her true self in the form of a play, in this case Charlotte's Web.  There are try outs, but, being an "all inclusive" class thing, everyone has a part to play.  Melissa wants to play Charlotte, but, being biologically male, doesn't get the part.  The part goes to his best friend, Kelly.

Kelly is the type of girl we all wished to have as a friend.  She's fun, unpredictable, and loyal.    She hatches an idea- have Melissa replace her as Charlotte in the final performance of the play.

As always, there are obstacles.  As this book is for younger readers, they aren't as fearsome as in GG.  There are adults who just can't/won't see the Truth of Melissa's gender.  And, of course, there are bullies.  In this case, one of them is a former friend, and that adds just another twist of the knife, so to speak.

As the book moves on, Melissa grows as a girl, gaining confidence.  Kelly helps her in this, as she knows Melissa's secret.  In many ways, Melissa's growth is similar to many TGs during those first steps of realizing their Truth.  I wish I could've had a Kelly back in my youth, but in many ways, I HAVE had a "Kelly" later in life in the form of all my mentors, especially my "Big Sister" Mel.

Will Melissa and Kelly be able to pull off "the Switch."  What will the consequences be?  Will Melissa ever get to be herself?  Once again, I'm not saying.

George is a pleasant read, even for adults, but may be too simplistic to use for outreach purposes.  For the intended audience of late elementary school, it's a wonderful introduction into who TGs are, and how we feel.  In a more general sense, it applies to people who are different in ANY way.  Alex manages to make their points in a simple and universal way, and that way is quite effective.  I enjoyed this book as well, and will be giving it to my Daughter soon, but not when MIL is around.

I found the fact that both books used Theater as a method of discovery and exploration of identity interesting.  As I wrote above, TGs are consummate actors/actresses.  We have to be, if we are to keep our secrets.  I've read in several places that acting is a way to explore ones own soul- to get to the truth of the character one must find the truth of themselves.  Well, as I've written many times, we TGs Do know our truths... if we choose to face them.  The use of theater to "cushion the transition" of identities in public makes for an interesting metaphor.  If we, as TGs aren't accepted face value, and usually we aren't, (see: Wing, Right) the idea of baring one's true self has great appeal.  Of course, Shakespeare used male actors exclusively for all roles, including female ones, so there IS historical precedent.

Another commonality between the books are the Bullies.  We all face them, whatever our age (again, see: Wing, Right.)  My own bullies when I was younger were the typical physical ones with their taunts and beatings.  I shudder to think how bad it would've been if my Truth had been known back then.  The bullies in GG and George are of different intensities, as the books are for different audiences.  In both books, there are the expected taunts, and each has its own twist to the bullies.  And in both books, the bullies do some damage, especially in GG.  I think about how bullies have changed over time.  The bullies of childhood now have new weapons in their arsenals as they have the internet and social media.  In many areas, older bullies may be armed.  When I was growing up, if an adult saw a kid being beaten, they usually stepped in to end the fight.  Phone calls to parents were made.  Not so today- everyone is too afraid of being sued.  The bullies of GG were more real to me because they WERE physical, like mine were.  I hated seeing them on the page, but I understood their role in the story.  In both stories, actually.

The last commonality I'll comment upon is that of the "female friend/ mentor."  In George, Kelly is obviously the mentor and enabler.  She helps Melissa discover herself and allows her to blossom. In GG, the role belongs to Paige, the older student and "star actress of the school" who takes Grayson under her wing and nurtures her.  Kelly's role is far more involved and hand on, while Paige is more subtle, as is appropriate for the target audiences of the books.  As I mentioned above, these girls mirror the mentors most TGs find when they finally find the courage to stretch their wings and leave the safety of their seclusion.  I found mentors my first night out as Sophie, in my dear friends Jone and Jennifer.  Soon after, my "Big Sister" Mel entered my life, as did many others, thanks to the Renaissance support group and various TG gatherings in my area.

I mentioned above that Ami Polonsky is a cisgender woman, and Alex Gino is genderqueer.  Does this have a bearing on their books?  I'd say yes.

Ms. Polonsky, as I wrote above, has obviously done her homework.  She knows what challenges TGs face,  and writes about them intelligently.  Being a woman, she understands the feminine point of view, and for this reason, Grayson is imbued with an easy femininity.

As Alex Gino is genderqueer, and an activist, they understand instinctively how it feels to BE that outsider in a way a cisgender person can never understand.  George overflows with that feeling of "otherness" that so many TGs live every day, and Melissa has that awkwardness that is so very familiar to us.

Does this mean one author is in some way superior to the other?  Am I saying that a cisgender person can't write about trans topics because they just "don't get it?"  Absolutely not, and Ms. Polonsky proves that conclusively.  Both points of view have merit, and the topic needs to be explored from both.

I'll conclude by saying that both books are wonderful, and I hope other books will join them soon on the shelves.  I recommend them both highly.