Sunday, May 29, 2016

Letter to Congressman Ryan Costello (R), 6th district, PA

My congressman (Ryan Costello, R) sent an email with a survey about Transgender bathroom use.

Before, you get out the pitchforks and torches, I will point out that Congressman Costello was one of a VERY few republicans to break ranks with his party and vote FOR LGBT rights last week, in defiance of the FRC.
In light of this, I sent him a letter, which I have reproduced below.  And NO, I haven't been replaced by a pod person, nor did I send it under duress.

I did my absolute best to be civil and diplomatic.



Dear Congressman Costello,

My name is Sophie [Lynne], and I am one of your constituents.  I also happen to be transgender.  You may not realize it, but there are many transgender people in your district.  Why?  There are several doctors in the Philadelphia area that perform the surgeries that help us realize our dreams. 

Sir, I will be blunt.  You are a republican, and your party has done everything in its power to legally eradicate me and people like me.  From the resolution on Title IX (since removed from the GOP website), to your party declaring my life a "social experiment," all the GOP have done is put transgender people in danger.

Then I received your email survey about bathrooms, to which I responded.  I also noted that you voted FOR LGBT rights last week, breaking ranks with your party and the FRC.

Well done, sir!

It is for that reason that I am writing you.  You seem to have a more open mind than your fellow republicans.

I did not choose to be transgender.  Why would I choose to destroy my marriage , ruin my career, cause pain to my daughter, and put myself in a position to be hated and lose my civil rights?  Do I enjoy wearing a skirt THAT much?  The common sense answer is "Of course not." 

Sir, being Transgender is biological: there is an ever increasing volume of science to prove it.  I know that the concept is hard to understand.  Be GLAD you don't understand it.  To understand it is to live it, and the Pain is horrific.  Congressman, had I not transitioned, I would have taken my own life: the pain is THAT bad.

Transgender people have NEVER been arrested for sexually assaulting minors. On the other hand, since HB2 has been passed, over a dozen Republican legislators or Pastors have been arrested for that very thing.  Yet, it would be ridiculous to pass a law prohibiting THEIR bathroom use.  It's even more so to pass laws about mine.

Congressman, we can't help being transgender.  All we want to do in a public restroom is do our biological function, wash our hands, and leave- just like everyone else.  I look like the woman I am.  If I am forced to use a men's room, I could be assaulted or worse. 

Sir, I lecture about Transgender issues at Universities, such as Penn State and Villanova (in the fall, I will be speaking at UNC.)  If you wish to learn about transgender people, don't ask the FRC (an SPLC Hate Group)- ask one of us.  Have you ever knowingly met a Transgender person?  Have you sat down to speak to one?  We aren't contagious- we're just people, just like you.  If you'd like, I could speak to you and/or your staff, either here in PA or in Washington.  I'd welcome the opportunity.

Respectfully yours,

Sophie [Lynne]

Monday, May 23, 2016

Michigan Trip: Phase 1

I tried something different with this entry and the next.  As I drove alone in the car, I used "Speech to text" on my phone (hands free, of course.)  I can't say I'm thrilled with the results, but I tried it.  It took HEAVY editing, as it wasn't punctuated at all, etc.

Oh well.


When Linda Lewis moved down to Pennsylvania she would didn't intend to stay; we were just a way-station on her way to Tampa, Florida, where she was to join her then love.

 For reasons that are none of our business, that fell through; stranding Linda in Pennsylvania.  Eventually, she found a job in Pennsylvania, and we moved out of the boarding house into an apartment. Fast forward two years later. Most of Linda's possessions were still in a storage area in Saginaw, Michigan. She'd been living out of a suitcase for over 2 years.

Now it was time to go and bring her things here. It took a while to save up, and in the end it was a very generous Grant from a mutual friend that allowed us to do this. My car had been repaired, and I even got an oil change. Linda had saved enough, again thanks to generosity, to afford a U-Haul truck one way.

And so it was that we went West on a rainy May 18th.  We jumped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed west for Ohio. We didn't know how far we would get before we got tired. We were supposed to start early in the morning, but for various reasons that did not happen.  We didn't leave until 2:30 in the afternoon.

Crossing the Border

We drove through the day, and as soon as we crossed the Ohio border with Pennsylvania, the sun came out. I wonder what that says about Pennsylvania? In any case, we had a very good time singing along to CDs, making fun of the other cars on the road, general road trip fun stuff.

We began to get very tired, especially me, since I was doing all the driving as Linda does not drive a stick shift. We'd planned to get to Toledo, which is on the other side of Ohio from Pennsylvania, but that just wasn't going to happen.  So we ended up stopping south of Cleveland in a place called Streetsville.  There we had dinner at the Happy Moose, and then went back to the hotel, which I think was the Wingate, and bedded down for the night.

Tired, but happy.  The wings were quite good

In the morning, we thought about going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is in Cleveland; but I would want to spend the whole day there, and we were on a time schedule. That night, we were to be at Linda's at sister's house. So instead we both noted on the map that we were close to Kent State University. For those who don't know history, on May 4th 1970 National Guardsmen opened up on a protest of unarmed students, who were protesting Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. They ended up killing four of them: four unarmed civilians whose only crime was to stand up for their first amendment rights of peaceful protest and assembly.

Kind of sounds like what happens under Republican presidents now.

In any case, there's a museum there ,and there are monuments to the Fallen where they fell in a parking lot.  The National Guardsmen were quite good at their craft.

Monument to Jeffery Miller, 265 ft from the shooters.  Shot through the mouth

We walked the grounds of the commons where the protest took place,  We stopped where the National Guard lined up before marching across to the Victory bell which rang that day to summon people to the protest.

View across the field towards the protest.  Point of view of the National Guard

Linda next to the Victory Bell

We walked over the hill to the Pagoda, which is where the where the students ran. They proceeded to run down the hill on the other side of Tyler Hall to a parking lot. The National Guard troops advanced over the hill and into a practice field flanking the students.  They then withdrew to the top of the hill by a pagoda, at which time many of them lined up and opened fire with live ammunition. The closest person hit was a mere 60 feet away.There's a sculpture near there that had been there at the time. It still has a bullet hole in it.


Bullet hole.

I can't begin to tell you how this occasion made me feel.  I was standing on sacred ground.

I made a video there with Linda, and Linda started to break down as we made it. She was 10 years old when this happened. I was only 3.  However, it affected her deeply, and affected me in many ways.

We stood on the ground where these people stood for their freedoms, and were shot down by an uncaring right wing government.

 View of the soldiers shooting at students

View from where Jeffery Miller fell to the Pagoda (center) from which the Guard fired.

Soldiers firing at the students.  From the Museum.

There is a Museum that tells the whole story, and does Justice to quote both sides. There are quotes there from newspapers and people at the time saying 'those dirty hippies deserved it.'

To say that my Kent State experience affected me deeply is to be sorrowfully lacking in words. I was very touched, even changed by it.  I texted with a dear friend about it.  As she is a retired Marine, she held a different perspective, which opened my mind further.

I suppose the NRA's answer would be that those students should've been armed.

In any case, we spent 4 hours there, which is three and a half hours more than we were going to.  We eventually got on the road, and headed west through Ohio; then briefly in Indiana, then North into Michigan.

Pure?  The water sure isn't!

We headed north to Grand Rapids. That's where Linda sister lives. We were met there by her sister, her sister's husband, and by Linda's niece and grand-niece, who also had a boyfriend with her. They were extremely nice people, and they spoke mostly of Linda's family.

Linda was catching up, as she has not seen these people in years, and for most of them it was their first time actually meeting Linda.  There were some questions about being trans.  Turns out Linda's grand-niece's best friend is trans, so she knew a lot about it. That made me happy, because it's her generation to which we will be handing this world. It's nice to see that not only is she trans friendly, but trans knowledgeable.

We spent the night downstairs in the den, and then, in the morning, Linda's sister made me breakfast. While Linda showered, she and I talked about Linda, and what growing up in that house meant to them both. Linda's sister is very much like Linda: is she has deep convictions and deep feelings, which sometimes she doesn't want to discuss.  However they are there. Linda is not the most forthcoming person in the world, but when she gets to know a person, she's extremely open.  I found the same with her sister.

Eventually, we got on the road headed east through Michigan towards Saginaw.  Going through Michigan, we passed through a very large Wind Farm. I was extremely impressed, as the windmills were hundreds of feet high with three blades turning in the wind. It wasn't just one of them either- they dotted the entire landscape: hundreds of them as far as the eye could see for over 30 miles.

Some of the Windmills

We were passing through some very small towns- smaller even than the one where I grew up. Some even had a traffic light, but they all had a church and they all had bars.

We eventually arrived at Saginaw where Linda's storage space was located, and where she lived.  We stopped by her old apartment, where she lived when I first started really speaking to her. We then drove over to the storage place, opened it, and Linda looked upon her possessions for the first time in two and a half years. There really wasn't much in there.

Unlocking the door

The Treasure within

We determined that the smallest possible U-Haul truck would be needed, so we went and grabbed some lunch near a mall that Linda used to go to back in the day. The mall looked like it was built in the eighties, and that's where it was stayed frozen in time.  We walked around a bit- it was Linda's first time in the mall as her true self.  Then we rented a truck.

 We did we took approximately an hour to empty the storage site.  There were some interesting things hiding there.  Both of Linda prosthetics from Proactive Prosthetics were there. She had a wedding dress that she'd gotten off of eBay.  Many other things as well;  from an old computer to old television sets and VCRs.

With Linda's Dual Cassette Boom Box

Within an hour I was completely drenched with sweat. We then drove down the road heading back toward Pennsylvania.

 I don't know what Linda was feeling at this point as we were in separate vehicles. I was following her in my car. How would she feel about leaving her home for so many years? The home where she had grown up?  I'm guessing that really wasn't home to her anymore, as her parents have rejected her and she couldn't find a job.

So we headed south on the road toward Pennsylvania.

End Part One

What I wrote on the sculpture beneath the bullet hole with the chalk provided.  Kent State

John Filo's Pulitzer Prize winning Photo of 14 year old 
Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffery Miller

For Part Two, CLICK HERE

Monday, May 9, 2016

Incident at Rite Aid

I went to my local Rite Aid to pick up a prescription (depression meds), like I have for years. Like... 12 of them.

My prescription wasn't ready, so I had to wait. That's fine. No problem.

Then, one of the pharmacy people (a heavy blonde woman) shouts my dead name across the store to come to her register. I didn't react immediately, as I don't respond to that name anymore. After she shouted it again (in front of maybe 6 customers) I went to her register. My auto-fill wasn't working for whatever reason, but the prescription would be filled ASAP. I quietly told her that my name is Sophie, then stood aside to wait.

Taken minutes after the Incident

One of the other pharmacy workers saw me waiting, and asked the blonde woman if I had been helped. She then shouted across the store "HE has been helped. HIS prescription is being worked on. We'll have HIS order ready soon."

A few minutes later, she said to that tech, loudly, "HIS prescription is ready." That man then called my dead name. I went to the counter, in front of what seemed like a store full of people (but probably was about 10) and said to the man "My name is Sophie." He said sorry, and rang me out. I then asked who the manager on duty was, and he pointed at the blonde woman, identifying her by name. I thanked him, and left.

I then went back to the apartment and immediately called Rite Aid customer service. The woman listened to what I had to say, asked a couple of questions, and asked me if I wanted the district manager to call. I said yes, and provided my contact information.

Friends, I am convinced that the blonde woman misgendered me intentionally and maliciously.

I'm not the only TG in this area.  Does Rite Aid treat us ALL like this?

 An hour later,  the district manager called.  He said he read my complaint (I also emailed their corporate).  The usual corporate platitudes.  "I'm so sorry."  I told him I'm filing a HIPAA complaint as well.

They have no LGBT training at Rite Aid. He didn't say as much ("oh, we have several computer based trainings...") but I asked him directly if he had the training, and his silence spoke volumes.  I pointed out that the bookstore has specific training about Transgender issues that are mandatory for all supervisors.  In any case. he said he "will partner with HR and address the situation."  But I'm not letting this go.

 I asked the district manager what would he do if that woman was prejudiced against an African-American or an Asian, what would he do then? And I also pointed out that if I did what she did at my job, I would have been fired on the spot. I also asked him if this is the way trans people are treated in Pennsylvania, how are they being treated in North Carolina or Mississippi?

One of the leaders of a local LGBT group contacted me, volunteering help.  I asked her to call Rite Aid.  Let them know I'm not alone in this.

This situation is still developing.  I’m not letting this go.  Our brothers and sisters are out doing far better work out there than I have ever done.  It’s time for me to do my part, even if it may not make a difference.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Our First Date

April 24th, 2016 was my 23rd wedding anniversary.  I celebrated it by working all day, then sitting in the apartment with my roomie and bestie Linda and our companion Jasper Newton Daniels.

I spoke to Wife later in the evening.

Not exactly how I expected to be celebrating the day.

In any case, I'm going to try to focus on the Positive.  And I'm going to do it in a different way: by having a guest Blogger... sort of.

May 10 will mark 25 years since Wife and I's first date.  Now, by all standards, that first date should've ended in miserable failure.  It's a tale I've told many times over the years... and which Wife has corrected me over the years.

So many times, that both of our parts are entirely predictable.

So, my Guest Blogger will be... my Wife.  Her comments will be in italics.


Ok, so I met Wife when I was working a table shift at TGI Fridays.  It was a Tuesday lunch shift, the first part of a double:  My standard Tuesday shift during spring of 1991.  Wife came in with her grandmother, and I waited on her.  I really don't remember what I said to her, as I had five different "spiels" I'd use for tables.  I remember she was wearing green eye shadow that made her beautiful blue eyes look moldy.

And I never wore it again.  Happy now?

Me, around that time.  Spring 1991

So, the following Tuesday, they came in again.  Wife and her grandmother, now dead these twenty years, did lunch every Tuesday.  They sat at the same table, but I was in a different section, so they had a different server: Robyn.  There was in big party of 8 in that area (far cafe), so I helped run out the food.  Wife saw me go by, and according to her sainted grandmother, her eyes locked on my butt.

I did NOT!  I was just trying to see if it was you!

Would your sainted grandmother lie?

Why do you always tell this story wrong?

It's MY story!

Anyway, so a few minutes later, Robyn tells me that one of her tables wants to say "hi" to me, and she gave me the table number (37, if you're curious).  So I went to the table, and there was Wife and grandmother.  I said hi, and thanks for remembering me.  They said they wanted me to be their server again, so that's why they sat where they did.  I asked why didn't they request me by name, and they replied that they didn't remember it.  I, of course, was heartbroken.

Cut me a break!  Your name tag was on your BACK!

So you should've seen it if you weren't staring at my butt.

I wasn't staring at your butt!

Whatever.  Anyway, she told me she worked in the jewelry and handbag department at Strawbridge and Clothier on the other side of the mall.  Now this is the King of Prussia mall, the largest in the US and maybe the world.  Fridays was at the extreme west side of the mall, while S&C was at the extreme other end... over half a mile away, I think.

It wasn't THAT far!  

You didn't have to walk it!

Anyway, I had a two hour break between shifts, so I decided to take one of the blank Fridays business cards over to her.  I wrote my name on the front... and being sneaky... wrote my phone number on the back, figuring she wouldn't look at the back until after I'd gone.

I found her in the jewelry department, and she was quite surprised.  I slid the card across the counter, saying "This card is handy for helping you remember my name..."

Then I immediately flipped the card over.

Yes, and I said "also for writing down your phone number."  I was so embarrassed.  She said "why would you want to give me that?"

So I asked if she was busy Saturday night, as I worked a day shift that day.  Much to my surprise, she said "yes!" and wrote her number on a yellow S&C bad using grease pencil (I still have that bag somewhere in storage.)  I told her I'd call her Thursday (my next night off) to make arrangements, and went back to work.

Which I did.

I was very nervous about this date.  I made reservations at three different places, not knowing what she'd like.  I consulted with a couple of the female servers I worked with for ideas.  One, Beth, would later be in Wife's wedding party.

So.  Saturday night May 10, 1991, arrived.  It was a beautiful sunny day, if a bit cool.  I was to pick her up at 6.  She gave me directions to her house... and I arrived a half hour early (I had over-estimated the time it would take to get there.)  I drove around for a bit, then pulled into the driveway.

I rang the bell.  Her mother let me in.  That's when the HUGE rottweiler started charging at me, snarling viciously, only to be tackled by Wife's youngest brother, then in middle school (he's now a veterinarian.)  It turns out the dog was named "Puddles."  Seriously!

I was seated at the kitchen table, where Wife's parents started asking questions, then got off on a tangent about teachers.  The local school district had settled a strike a couple of years before, and the both of them were accusing teachers of every evil since Cain smote Abel.  It was "teachers this" and "teachers that!"  for a good five minutes.

Then her father asked what my degree was in.


Stony silence.  That's when Wife chose to make her entrance...

You were twenty minutes early!  It's not my fault I wasn't ready!

... wearing a beautiful red mini dress.  She was gorgeous!

Yes, I looked good and I knew it.

And you're humble too.  So, I'd brought a single red rose, which she looked at it with contempt, like as if I'd just given her an incurable disease.

"I was playing it cool.  I was trying to contain my excitement!  "Oh my God he brought me a rose!"  

Then she went to put it in turpentine...

WATER!  I loved it!

And we beat a hasty retreat.  I asked her where she'd like dinner, and gave her the three choices.  She told me to choose.  So I chose Casa Marias in King of Prussia (now long gone.)  On the way down, Yes came on the radio, and I learned that Yes is her favorite group.

When we arrived, I thought "I can't order wings, because they're too messy and I'm trying to make a good impression..."

So you ordered fajitas instead.  Smart move.

We talked about lots of things and discovered we had a LOT in common... Music... books... and she was a fellow Star Wars fanatic!

Star Wars exhibit, summer 2008

We were playing "trust the bartender" so I ordered her a margarita and it was HUGE!  Almost as big as her head!

How was I supposed to drink that???

Anyway, she finished it!  I paid the bill and we left.  As we went outside, I held her hand for the first time, using a bad line.

I knew it was a line!  I LET you hold my hand.

So we went to Houlihans at the mall (now long gone) and I ordered her a Sex on the Beach.  Then a shot of Sambuca.  When I excused myself to the bathroom, I kissed her for the first time.

*silence* *sly smile*

After a beer there, we went back to Phoenixville, to a place called the Epicurean (also long gone), which is where Wife and her friends hung out.  As expected, they were there.  I met her friends, including the woman who would be Maid of Honor at our wedding.  She was very tipsy.  I told her what Wife had to drink (I was astounded by the sheer amount!)

She said "Oh, [Wife] you know how you get when you're drunk!"

I immediately ordered a round of drinks, kamikazes if I remember correctly.

Which I hardly touched.

You drank it!

I gave most of it to [Maid of Honor].

And how did you drink all that and keep sober?  Hollow legs?

I was running on pure adrenaline.  I'm a lightweight with alcohol, you know that!

Anyway, we went back to where I lived (parent's house) where Wife received a VERY frosty reception (My mum said "You're sitting in my chair!") to get a movie, then back to her place.  I left around 2:30 AM.  I had to open the store the next day, when I discovered... I'd left my class ring at her house!  I almost never took that thing off!

So, as soon as I could, I called Wife, and she had the ring.

You forgot it on purpose.

No I didn't!  Anyway, she said I could come over after work to retrieve it.  So I did, and that was our SECOND date, walking in Valley Forge Park, hand in hand.  One topic we discussed was baby names (she told me that if she had a daughter, she wanted her named [Daughter's name], and so it was!)

You left it on purpose so you had an excuse to see me again.  Don't deny it.

I really didn't!  But, that said, if I hadn't left the ring, I would've waited a couple of days to call, so I didn't seem too eager or desperate.

Aren't you glad you did?

That's beside the point.

What am I going to do with you?


Me, the other day.  

So, that's the story of our first date.  Twenty five years ago next week.  I proposed nearly a year later, and we were married a year after that, on April 24, 1993.

And we separated in August 2013, when I was thrown out of her mother's house.  Two and a half years ago.

So we limped to our 23rd wedding anniversary... where we didn't even see each other by Her choice (we DID go out two nights later.)

Next week is 25 years together.   We've endured MANY storms, and she is the biggest supporter of my transition.  But, she doesn't want to be married to a woman.

And so it is.