Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Articles, Comments, and Trolls. Oh My!

The Tuesday, June 28, 2016 edition of the Philadelphia Daily News included a two page article on a certain Transgender woman.

Yours Truly.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I was interviewed by Stu Bykofski.

The article was supposed to be published last Friday (June 24) but it was bumped.  It was supposed to be on the front page on Tuesday, but bigger news happened.  (I guess I'm just not newsworthy.)

I any case, it made it onto pages six and seven.

Wow!  Color pictures and all!

I was told by many people, including the amazing Donna Rose, not to read the comments.  But I was curious.

So I read them.

Some of them were actually quite nice.  A few friends chimed in, including the wonderful Victoria Datta.

Most of the comments were pretty nasty though.

Picture by and copyright Ed Hille for the PDN

Not being one to shrink from a fight, I dove right in.  I did my best to educate, but there was no reasoning with any of them.

Typical GOP drones.

In any case, the article is up on their web page as well.  Have a look!


I'd appreciate thoughts and comments here.  :)

In any case, since the article was published in yesterday's paper, two customers at the bookstore have commented on it.  Maybe a third.  The two for sure were VERY complimentary (one called me a celebrity... oh puh leeze!).  The third called me a "rude tranny."  In front of maybe twenty people, including her three out of control, screaming kids.

I hope you enjoy the article.  I think Stu Bykofsky did a wonderful job.

Thank you Stu!

And thanks to all of you for reading!

Be well!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chain Reaction Interview

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference (PTHC) held at the Philadelphia convention center.

I went there for two days: Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, I volunteered to work a shift at the Equality Pennsylvania table with two wonderful friends, Beth and Lilia.  A bonus was finally meeting Daye Pope of that organization.  I thought she was quite nice, but I don't think she was too impressed with me.  Oh well.

I bumped into so many people, including many Vanity Club sisters.  Among them were the legendary JoAnne Carroll, who is currently President of Trans-Central PA, who run the Keystone Conference.  I also ran into my dear friend, the gorgeous Kimberly Moore, who was there running a table for TAVA (Transgender American Veterans Association).

Me, Kimberly Moore, Joanne Carroll

Part of the festivities was the raising of the Transgender Flag at Philadelphia City Hall.  Many people from the conference walked the couple of blocks to see this, including me.  As everyone waited in antici...


...pation, Molly Daly, a reporter from KYW News Radio 1060 was conducting interviews.  I was one of the people she selected.  I'm told that part of what I said was broadcast the next day, but I didn't hear it.  There was also a small news item on their web site.

Screen capture.  See me?

Molly Daly interviewing me.  Photo by Christina Tali Warburton

More on this later.

During the conference, I heard that National Geographic Magazine had a booth set up for pictures.  Another transwoman and I (whom I will not name) walked to the booth, only to discover that they were only interested in Trans Youth.  I guess we older folks don't matter.  Anyway, we all got to talking and the other TG and I started discussing our suicide attempts.  Casually.  Like we were talking about our first cars or something.  When, where, method...  And it occurred to me how common it was for TGs to have suicide attempts.  So common that it's assumed among us that we've all tried.  Horrifying.

Anyway, I had dinner with several people, including Joanne, Kimberly, the amazing Julie C, and Rebecca Juro, who was a delight!  Several people couldn't finish their pizza, so I decided to take it home to feed my roomie/bestie Linda (the Pizza Nut.)  However, walking back to the car along with Kimberly and Joanne, we passed some homeless people.  I decided to give the pizza to them.  Linda could feed her damn self!  (hee hee)  Then, it was the long drive out of the city to home.

The next day, Linda and I drove in together.  We saw many more people, including VC Sister Kelly Metzger.  Kelly was less than a week away from having THE dream come true.  (I hope she is recovering well!)  :)

4 VC Sisters:  Kimberly, Kelly, Linda, some fat chick

We walked around a bit.  That night, Kimberly stayed with us.  One the way out of town, we stopped at Valley Forge Park, where Kimberly had never been.  We drove around and I gave her the brief tour.  And of course, there had to be pictures.

Kimberly and Linda at the Valley Forge Chapel

We then went back to the apartment, freshened up and went to dinner at one of Linda and I's favorite places:  Rock Bottom.  Drinking and more pictures ensued.

Dramatic Selfie, my view

Then to another haunt:  McKenzies.

At McKenzies

Then back to the apartment, where we listened to music, drank, and talked until 2 AM.  The next morning, Kimberly was up early to get back to her table at PTHC.  She seemed to be moving a bit slowly.  Can't imagine why.

Ok.  Fast forward a few days.  I received a message from Nellie Fitzpatrick, Director of LGBT Affairs for Philadelphia City Government.  I never met her, but she apparently heard of me.  You see, a reporter reached out to her, trying to find me.  Stu Bykofski of the Philadelphia Daily News heard my bit on the radio and was intrigued enough to find me.  He wanted to know more.  So last Friday, I drove back down to Philly for an interview.  As I arrived very early, I decided to walk the two blocks down to Independence Hall.  In heels.  In the heat.

I've done smarter things.

So I showed up to the interview all sweaty, and looking my best (eye roll.)  Oh, and he neglected to mention that there would be a photographer.  Great.

So, he had many prepared questions, and follow ups if needed.  I gave him contact information for a few people, including Linda and Wife.  The interview lasted an hour and twenty minutes, after which, we found the photographer.

He was a staff photographer with the newspaper, and had been one for over thirty years.  He looked like an old hippie, and he walked with a shuffle. He had a look to his eyes that he was a person who had seen a LOT in his time, and now he was stuck with the unenviable assignment of trying to make me look human.  He was quite nice, and he took pictures for twenty some minutes, after which we parted ways.  I drove back home, coated in sweat.  I haven't seen the pictures yet.

After it all

The article will see print Friday.  If I remember, I will link to it.

Oh who am I kidding?

In any case, I don't know where this could lead.  I know this will be published on-line as well.  I know better than to look at the comments... but can I resist?

Maybe I'll get more speaking gigs.  More writing jobs.  Maybe rainbow colored unicorns will come flying out of my ass.

Who knows?

If nothing else, I had a wonderful time making new friends and catching up with old ones.

Be well!

Random Sophie Pic taken minutes before posting this


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Situation at Work

Today is the first day I have off in a while. I have several days off to attend the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. It is a much-needed time off.  However, I'm extremely worried. You see, I don't know if I will have a job waiting for me when I go back to work on Monday.

I've written several times before that I work for a bookstore chain.  I've worked there for 12 1/2 years. I do enjoy my job, and I really enjoy most of my coworkers. However, things have changed a little bit.  First off, I was told that I can't get another raise because I'm "capped." I've also been told that I would not be promoted. And since my wages even after 12 1/2 years are below poverty level, I'm sort of stuck.

As I am unable to get my name changed (don't get me started on that,) I am unable to find other work. Before I transitioned, I regularly put out 10 resumes a day.  I wouldn't go to bed until I did.  That lasted for over 3 years. You do the math.  During that time, only one of the resumes received the phone call.  I had a phone interview, and heard nothing after that.  I don't know why.

In any case, I can't have a resume with my dead name on it, and then show up as Sophie.  Nor can I put Sophie on the resume, and then, when they tried to research me, there is no Sophie legally. So I guess you can see my little quandary.

So why would I want to leave the bookstore, aside from the fact that I'm not making any money? Recently, the bookstore instituted a new metric when it was introduced. We were told that we would not be held to any quotas, that it was just mention the item in question. That item by the way is a credit card.  We've always offered a credit card- it's tied into MasterCard, but we've never actually pushed it.  I am not very happy with this development. I see it as putting loaded guns in people's hands.  I have problems with credit cards.  To offer free credit, or as the internal website says "unlimited credit," disturbs me greatly.

One of the managers asked me how many Applications I had in yesterday.  I said "none."  She asked if I was pushing the card.  I told her "I am doing my job."  She said "I don't think I like your attitude."

She hasn't sold one.  At all.  And as she's not a Line manager, she probably never will.

**********Time Passes***********************

My review is this week.  I've been told "not to worry."

I'm worried.

*************Time Passes************************

Obviously, things changed a little bit on Sunday.  Now I have more to worry about.

You see, I live in a rich, conservative area.  Many people around here own guns.  Lots of guns.  We sell MANY Ammosexual magazines.  I have seen many customers carrying pistols in shoulder holsters.  It's actually kind of common.

And, based upon how many times I am misgendered or worse, compounded by the fact that Bigots are using Trump's candidacy to let their Bigot flag fly, I am seriously worried for my safety.  Remember what corporate said when I had issues with the reparative therapy Bible thumper?  "Simply hide."  My station is next to the front doors.  If some right wing nut job decides I'm too (fill in the blank) to live, I won't stand a chance.

Am I being paranoid?  Ask the people of Orlando.

As God is my witness, I have no idea what I can do about this whole situation.

Several people have suggested I arm myself- buy a gun.  My reply to that is "My Mind is my Weapon."

But there's also the fact that I have a psychiatric hospitalization on my record from after my suicide attempt (1990.)  That should, according to law, prevent me from buying a gun.  But, given that someone on the FBI watch list easily waltzed into a gun shop and bought an AR-15 and a semi-automatic pistol along with tons of ammunition, I actually don't think I'd have an issue.

And that's scary.

I don't WANT a gun.  I know me well enough to understand that me carrying a gun would be a horrible idea.  Mace or pepper spray maybe.  But I can't carry those at work.  Ditto with any firearms, obviously.


In this past year, I have set store records for sales in two different categories.  My picture has been on the company intranet site twice (That's similar to the British "Mentioned in Dispatches.")  I've received many, many little "Way to Go!" sorts of things for my sales efforts.

I really enjoy the recognition!  Seriously!  It makes me feel appreciated.

Yet, all that means Zero.  I am just a replaceable part.  In fact, I'm more replaceable because I make more than the average bookseller.

I hope I'm so very wrong.  I hope it's just my complete lack of Hope talking.

But I don't think I am.

Be Well.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando, a Day Later

I had a blog entry all but ready to go.  I just wanted to sleep on it before posting it.  But then...

We all know what happened in Orlando.  A gunman opened fire at an LGBT nightclub.  The death toll currently stands around 50, with 53 wounded

I feel sick in my soul.

These patrons were looking for a Safe harbor where they could dance, socialize, connect with friends old and new.  And, because of one man's hate, their lives are either ended or forever changed.

Quickly, sides were drawn online.  Right wingers claimed the shooter was a democrat and an ISIL terrorist.  Everyone else is waiting for the facts.

We know he was armed with a legally obtained AR-15 assault rifle, the preferred weapon of mass murderers.  He purchased within 12 days before the massacre, despite being on an FBI watch list.  He was also armed with a legally obtained hand gun.

We know an off duty police officer was in the club with his gun.  He engaged the shooter, and was killed.

We know the shooter traveled over an hour to reach this target, and that he was extremely homophobic.

The following day, a man was arrested on his way to LA Pride with a car full of guns, ammunition, and bomb making equipment.  He had driven from Indiana.

On the morning after the massacre, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has ordered Texas schools to defy Obama's trans-bathroom order, posted this:

We already know that the GOP hates the LGBT.  Heck, it's part of their platform.  Here is the proof.  Instead of offering sympathy, this scum says the over 100 people shot DESERVED it.

Of course, Republicans everywhere joined the chorus of hate,  Very few GOP politicians even acknowledged the LGBT community while doing their best to demonize the shooter's religion.

Trump did his best to make the whole thing about himself, as usual.

I am so tired.

We in the trans community are forced to face organized Hate every day.  The GOP wants to legislate us out of existence.  Extremist "Christians" and Muslims target us for death.  The Catholic church calls us "God Killers."

Many among the TG community say we should respond with Love.  They appeal to the "Better angels of our nature."  And they are right.  But right now, I am so tired of being their target.  Their whipping girl.

I didn't ask for this life.  I was born this way.  All I want is to live my Life in peace.  But that, apparently is a threat to humanity.

The facts are still coming in about the shooting.  But one thing is completely clear.

It wasn't One Man's Hate that brought us to this day.  This is systemic hatred, preached from pulpits and on the Right wing hate machine.  And, dear reader, the LGBT, especially the Trans community, is the target.

My soul feels sick today.  And I don't see it getting better any time soon.

Be Well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Are you there God? it's me, Sophie

"Are you there God?  It's Me Margaret." by Judy Blume.

The Cover I remember

Back when I was in 5th grade, all the girls in my elementary school read it (back in the 70s) but, being a victim of testosterone poisoning, I did not.  They read it; shared it; talked about it.  For them, it was a window to their future.  It was, in Spring City Elementary, a rite of passage.

Fifth grade.  I'm front row, second from right.  At least 4 of these children are now dead.

I read this as a "rite of passage" as well.  I figured every other girl in my class did, so I should too. 

I see why they read it. It touches on menarche as an important milestone, but that's not the whole point, is it? It talks about the importance of Family, and of that slow detachment that adolescents must experience- family to friends. Religion? Yes, it's a major theme but I see it as a metaphor for family.

So now I've read it. There are touchstones that I will never experience, being trans, but I can still appreciate their importance and beauty.

So the book is about Margaret, a 6th grade girl who moves from NYC to a New Jersey suburb, where there are social hierarchies, etc.  This book was first published in 1970, and things were VERY different back then.  Like for example, the suburb is lily-white, and there are no mentions of people of different ethnicities.  It's like economic segregation.  

Come to think of it, things WEREN'T so different.

In any case, Margaret talks to God a lot.  I wouldn't call it praying, just talking.  She talks to God about life, her parents, grandparents... everything.  I got the impression she was really quite lonely and sheltered in NYC.  

Her father is Jewish and her mother is Catholic.  The parents have raised Margaret to make her own decisions.  Enter the grandparents on both sides; both very dogmatic in their particular religions.  It didn't escape my notice that the Jewish grandmother was FAR more tolerant of interfaith marriage than the Catholic one.  Funny that.

Margaret spends the entire book focused on three major topics:  her religion (or lack thereof), her period (or lack thereof), and her "club" of friends.  A sub topic of the friends part would be her obsession with the cutest boy in school.

The book is predictable in many ways.  There is a subplot that struck home for me though.  Laura Danker is one of the minor characters.  She is tall and preternaturally developed for a sixth grader.  I learned in my fancy book lernin' college stuff that early developing girls and late developing boys have the hardest time socially, especially in Middle school.  As such, all of the other girls shun her and spread rumors about her.  

Like many transpeople, I know what it's like to be shunned.  As a "late developing male" I was ridiculed.  I couldn't get a date even if I hung a necklace of $100 bills around my neck.  Not that it would've done any good- my idea of a "fancy" date was Pizza Hut or Dennys... after all, they actually had wait staff!  I graduated high school 5'6" and 120 pounds.

Oh to have transitioned then!!


Having read this book at the age of 49, I think a lot of the magic was lost on me.  (Similar to seeing ET for the first time when in my 30s:  meh)    However, it is well written, and I can see why it touches so many hearts.

That said, it made me feel very "left out" for missing all that growing up female meant.  

Such is life.

Be Well

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Michigan trip Part 2: The Voyage Home.

To see the beginning of this saga, click HERE.

We drove south through Michigan on the main road, heading toward Toledo, Ohio.

Unfortunately finding some road construction on the main road, we turned off to try to bypass it.

We drove through Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of some small school. The traffic was horrendous! It was gridlocked! I don't know why.

However, I managed to take some blurry pictures of some of the Greek houses.

The Poor Boulder covered with generations of Paint

Theta Xi fraternity

In any case, we finally pulled through it.  We grabbed some food, and then went back on the road, this time with my car in the lead.  We drove for a bit until we reached a service plaza, at which time we stopped to look at the maps. We agreed upon where we would stop for the night.
It was an extremely small town called Norwalk, Ohio. It may as well be named Nowhere. In any case, we bedded down for the night at a Days Inn, after getting a six pack of apple cider.  I didn't even finish one before I was out like a light.

Still following me!

We woke early and got on the road.  Our destination for the day: State College.

We arrived in State College in the rain. We would have been there an hour earlier if I had actually gone the right way. I came off I-80 a little soon; onto 322 maybe more than an hour before I should have. That meant we went through a bunch of very small Northwest Pennsylvania towns that I've never heard of.  It was a depressing experience, actually, to see these tiny towns in the rain, and I was wondering if these people here are as bored as I was going through through my childhood in such a small town. In any case, we eventually made it to State College, checked into the Days Inn, and immediately took a nap we were both very tired.

We decided to go take a look at the campus in the rain. It was a bit chilly, and neither has us had warm clothes, so one of the our first stops was to get something heavier. We stopped at Lions Pride and picked up a couple things, but one didn't fit Linda, so we stopped at Family Clothesline and sorted that out in a hurry.

Having dressed properly, umbrellas in hand we walked across campus. I pointed out such sights as Old Main, and some of the class buildings, etc, eventually ending up at the Nittany Lion shrine. As it was raining, no one was there, so we took several pictures.

With an Old Friend

She has been assimilated

Eventually, we made it was back to the room, where we both touched up our makeup, got changed, and went to dinner.  The dinner process was three phases: first we went to Mad Mex, which was in the hotel, to get Linda a Margarita. While we were there, we encountered a bachelorette party. I bought a shot of tequila for the bride.

From there we went to the Tavern, one of the oldest to Penn State restaurants and one of the fancier ones.  It also was empty, as it is inter-session, when there are very few students on campus.  For the most part we had a very nice dinner, and then decided to walk over to another place: the Allen room.

At the Tavern, having their signature drink: an Original Sin

The Allen room has always been a fancier (higher priced) place, and the few times I've been in it it's been full of alumni and a bunch of sorority girls hitting them; looking for sugar daddies.  However, this time however it was fairly empty.  The bartender was in his early thirties.  I asked them if they still rented out board games like that used to.  People used to sit on the balcony and play and have drinks.  They don't do that anymore, and they haven't for quite some time.

Sorry George, I can't crush you in Chess there any more!

In any case we had a drink there and went back to the hotel room.  I was wearing four-inch heels, which was a big mistake.  By the time we got back to the hotel room, my legs were killing me!  I had often seen women wear 6-inch platforms to fraternity parties, and wear them all night, and I still have no idea how they did it.

The next morning it was a little difficult to wake up.  We'd been on the road for days, and I was quite tired.  However, we did eventually, got ready, and went to the Waffle Shop for breakfast.

Yes, she ate it ALL

The Waffle Shop is a Penn State tradition, going back long before I started there.  We had a very nice breakfast. We didn't even have to wait in line, because, yet again no students means no lines. We then walked over to the Lions Pride to return the shirt that was too small, and drove up to the Lion Shrine. As always on a Sunday, there was a line of people wanting to take pictures.  We had a couple pictures taken, and then I decided we would make a video, but as we couldn't do it at the Lion itself, as there was a line. We made it near by.

After doing that we went to the Creamery. The Creamery: Penn State College of Agriculture, an incredible ice cream shop! It's world famous, and for good reason- the ice cream is Amazing.  So we both got a cone, went back to the car, and headed back to the hotel to load up. Linda picked up the truck, and we began the long trip; three hours back to Phoenixville and the apartment.

At the Creamery

For Linda, this was her first real time at Penn State. For me, it was the zillionth.  However, It seems that every time I go to Penn State, I see things that have changed, and in many ways the Penn State I attended doesn't exist anymore.  Oh sure, there are still landmarks like Old Main, the Lion Shrine, and some of the old bars are still there, but the changes are beginning to outnumber what Still Remains. For example, we were able to get into my fraternity house because a couple of the brothers were there, and I should Linda around. The Fraternity brother, who's the former president who just graduated, joined us on this little Expedition, and as I explained where things have changed. One of the things was that we used to go through 30 kegs a night at our parties. They can't do that anymore; in fact the tap system was removed decades ago. Phi Kappa Sigma is now a dry house. For that matter, Penn State doesn't allow kegs at parties anymore. I guess it's a liability thing, and I'm not saying it's a bad thing.

Times change- sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

One thing the brothers did do was install a bunch of Lights downstairs in the party room, and also a stripper pole.  They made it into a little nightclub, and apparently the sororities love it. At least that's what the brother told me. I have mixed feelings about a stripper pole in the basement. I understand why the guys would like it, but I wonder it how the sororities look at it. Sure, some of them will get all drunk and want to dance on the pole, but how about those women who have some respect for themselves?  What will they think of it and what will they think of the guys in that fraternity for having that pole?

Linda Couldn't resist

In any case, it's not up to me anymore. It's their house (well technically it's my house as I'm an alumni), but you get the idea. Penn State has become almost like an Amber insect in some ways: it's trapped in time, or maybe that's just me. Some things when I see them take me back those 30 years, and say "this is what I saw.  This is what I experienced.   These are the streets I walked."  But with all the changes... so many things are different.  Still, it's comforting sometimes to go back.

Even the road to Penn State is different. 322 heading east from State College to Harrisburg is a very different Road from when I was taking it all those years ago. They've done a lot of construction to widen the road alleviating traffic going up and down to Penn State.  That widening has changed the lives of all those people along the road.  It changed because of Penn State, and probably because of the football program.

I guess that's the power of money.

I am nearly 50 years old, and I've passed the midlife point of my life. Penn State will go on long after I'm gone; after I'm not even a memory anymore. I'll be part of a tradition, that's true, but how many of the students can I name from 1910, for example? I simply can't. Things are so different.

I keep reflecting upon what I saw it Kent State a few days ago. How the National Guard opened fire on unarmed students. I just can't get past that.  I mean, of course I KNEW about it, but BEING there... it made all the more real.

May 4 Museum, Kent State University

What if that had happened at my school during my time? What would I have done?  I probably would've charged, hoping to either stop them or Die.  Yes, being Trans hurts THAT bad.

(There was a sniper at PSU in 1996, but that's a far cry from having trained National Guardsmen firing from high ground.)

I've been back a week now.  I'm still tired.  I still think about all I saw on the trip.  Linda is now here in PA completely.  She's been going through the boxes; sorting things out.

It's amazing what we collect in life.  I have a storage site full of books and games.  I have a head full of memories.

In the Doorway of the Fraternity House

I've been a bit down since returning.  Fighting the Darkness again.  Long story, there, but not part of this one.

Be Well