Sunday, January 29, 2017

Published in a Journal

Some time ago, I was asked by my dear friend and former boss Dr. Dolores Fidishun to write an article for a library journal.  And a couple of months later she asked again.  Both times I said yes, and both times circumstances (usually the Darkness) prevented me from doing it.

Then she asked again.  I asked "when do you need it by?"  She replied "tomorrow."


I worked the closing shift at the bookstore that night.  And so it was that I sat at my computer madly typing and researching until 2:30 in the morning to complete this article.  They did some editing, and it was posted.

Gratuitous Sophie Picture

The journal is part of a wikigroup called FTF.

"ALA's SRRT Feminist Task Force (FTF) was founded in 1970 by women determined to address sexism in libraries and librarianship. FTF was the first ALA group to focus on women's issues. Other ALA women's groups fostered by FTF include the standing ALA Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL), the Committee on Pay Equity which is now the ALA-APA Standing Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers, the RASD Discussion Group on Women's Materials and Women Library Users, the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section, and the LAMA Women Administrators Discussion Group. The Feminist Task Force continues to be one of SRRT's largest and most active groups, concerned with a broad, evolving set of feminist issues."

All of which means that rethuglicans don't like them.  My kind of people!

Anyway, here is what I wrote.  The link to the story is HERE.


Assisting Transgender Patrons: Resources to Save Lives

Sophie **** , M.Ed., Instructional Design

Transgender people appear to be popping up out of nowhere. Ever since Caitlyn Jenner “came out” transpeople have been in the news, on TV, in books- everywhere. However, there have always been transgender people. There is evidence of transpeople in ancient civilizations. Native Americans called them “Two Spirits” and regarded them as Shamans. Many cultures recognize many genders, not just two.

In life, there is no true “black and white:” there are always shades of grey, and so it is with Gender. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary. The big differences are Visibility and Access to Information. In the past, transpeople suffered in isolation and silence. There were no ways to learn about their condition: Gender Dysphoria.

Gender Dysphoria is when the person’s gender identity does not match their body. For example, a biological male who has a female brain, vice versa, and many things in between are possible. In the past, they were just labeled as “queer” or worse. Many met with violent ends. Others suffered until they could suffer no more, and ended their own lives. Research has shown that 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, compared to 4.6 percent of Americans overall.

Today, with the internet and with the increased visibility of transgender people, many people who suffer with gender dysphoria realize that they are not alone, and, more important, that their condition is natural and biological, similar to, but not the same as, homosexuality.

Gender Dysphoria is a biological condition, not a mental condition. It is NOT a choice. No one would choose to be transgender. Why would anyone choose to be scorned, ridiculed, and attacked; to lose family, friends and loved ones; destroy their career or even their lives? They wouldn’t. No one would. It is thought that perhaps 0.3% of the world population is transgender, but no one is sure, as people have been afraid to disclose their identity. Many transgender people “go stealth” by moving to a new city and dropping contact with everyone they knew before. In fact, for years, this was a “standard of care.”

Gender is also independent of sexuality, although they are often confused. An easy way to remember the difference is that “Sexuality is who you want to love; Gender is who you want to be.”

These people may come to a library to find information about Gender Dysphoria, either for themselves or perhaps a loved one. After all, most transpeople report knowing that they are “different” from a very early age. (The author knew when she was four years old.)

How does a librarian handle this situation? How do we provide info for a young person who is searching for who they are? Are there ways libraries can provide safe havens for community groups? How can librarians find out about support systems or places to refer people? How can librarians help them?

These are all important questions.

First and foremost, remember that a transgender person is a human being- they are not a freak or “demonic abomination.” They are often very vulnerable as they try to find a solution to a pain they can’t describe. They will probably be embarrassed and afraid. They will make excuses like “it’s for a friend” or “I’m doing a report for school.” It is critical to treat a Transgender person just like any other library patron: with dignity and respect. Also very important: NEVER reveal to others that the patron is transgender if the person confides that to you. The effects could be disastrous for your patron, and could open your library to legal action.

Fortunately, there are many resources available online for people seeking to learn about Gender Dysphoria, with more information all of the time. Brain gender science is still a “cutting edge” research area, with new discoveries happening often.


Many organizations have an online presence, and they have a large amount of information. A Google search will uncover many. Start with the basics.

A few guidelines:
  • If the organization has the word “family” in its title, it is NOT LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) friendly. “Family” is a buzzword used by conservatives who believe that LGBT is a choice or a lifestyle or choice, which it is not.
  • Also avoid any use of the word “cure.” There is NO “cure” for gender Dysphoria. It is a natural state for transgender people.
  • If a group is particularly vilified by conservative or religious groups, they are usually good sources of facts. For example, GLAAD and HRC are often attacked as “evil” by these groups.
  • Be careful- there are MANY trans-centric pornographic sites on the internet. Stick to scientific terms (Gender Dysphoria, Transgender).

A quick internet search uncovers many good sources of information.

There are also many good sites assembled by individuals. A few are listed here.
  • Laura’s Playground
  • Lynn Conway Aside from her personal story, Ms. Conway assembled an impressive array of informative sites. This was one of sites that the author of this piece found very helpful in her own journey.
  • Susan’s Place

For personal stories, there are an endless supply of blogs available, which range in quality and appropriateness:
  • T-Central is a good place to start for blogs by transgender people (Disclosure: T-Central links to the author’s blog as well.)

There are many books written by and about transgender people, most of which are self-published. The author recommends the following as good starting points:
  • Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
  • She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

Once the librarian has found resources for the patron, what is next? A good next step is to search for local support groups. Support groups are vital for transgender people, as so many feel alone. Support groups bring transgender people with others from all walks of life who understand what it means to have Gender Dysphoria. Members of support groups could be further along in their journey than the patron, and could help mentor the person.

Local Support Groups

To find local support groups, simply perform an internet search “transgender support groups (name of your town/city/area).” Again, be careful of the words “family” and "cure.”

Many support groups meet in private places like homes and doctor’s offices. However, if a library wishes to provide a meeting space, one factor is critical: Privacy. Many transgender people are not “out” to the general public, and their being “outed” could have potentially devastating effects on their lives. Groups would need a private room, or, ideally a private entrance, so members who are not “out” may come and go in secret. However, few libraries will be able to make these accommodations.

There is another very easy way to learn about transgender people in both a library setting: speak to one. Many transgender people do outreach work to public and private institutions. A quick way to connect with a transgender activist or outreach person is through a local support group or organization. Note: some transgender people charge a nominal fee for presentations to organizations. Again, performing an internet search for “transgender support groups (name of your town/city/area)” will help connect the librarian with these groups.

Transgender people face many hardships. They are shunned by family, targeted by discriminatory laws, face high unemployment, and high suicide rates. Your library can be a valuable resource for transgender people, their families, and people wishing to learn more about Gender Dysphoria. Above all, remember: Transpeople are human beings who deserve the same treatment as any other person. By treating transpeople like all others, a librarian can make a difficult journey far easier.

Sophie *****  is an author, advocate, and lectures on Transgender issues. She is a member of several Transgender support organizations, and has been living her Truth for three years. She has been published in international magazines, as well as the New York Times. She holds Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in Education from Penn State University, and previously worked for the Penn State Great Valley Library. Sophie is available to speak at and/or work with libraries on understanding the Transgender experience. Her blog, Woman Named Sophie, is frequently updated. Sophie may be contacted at

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

For Lacey

Stef, dear friend and former coworker messaged me last night.  I'd had a rough night at work and was about to go to bed.  I haven't seen Stef in years, as she now lives across the country in Olympia, Washington.

"A thing happened to me at work today, and I thought it might cheer you up

my transitioning coworker was raving about this blog online that is helping her
and bits and pieces came through in details

until I was like, wait, is this a woman named Sophie??

and it was!

she is 22

and she loves your blog"

Picture by Samantha Riviera

I was seriously considering not posting any more entries.  After all, what good is it doing?  My energy and time could be spent writing to congressmen, senators, etc, to fight the dawning fascism.

Then Steph sent me this.

As I've written before, sometimes it takes a baseball bat to get through my Thick skull.

So Lacey, I'm so very glad I could help you.  I gave Steph my contact info if you ever want to get hold of me.  I wish you the best in living your Truth.  Here there be Monsters, but the journey is worth it!

Thank you so VERY much, Lacey, as you've given me renewed purpose!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Laska Story Challenge: Champagne!

My dear friend, author Paul Laska, gave me another writing challenge.  It took me far to long to complete it, but here it is!  500 word minimum.

"You're a bottle of champagne at a liquor store.  Someone purchases you for a celebration.  Listening to him, what's the occasion and how is he celebrating?"

Hello my friend!  I am the bottle you have been seeking!  Veuve Clicquot! “The Widow”  One of the finest champagnes ever made!
            Of course, the human couldn’t understand me.  Stupid Americans!  They don’t understand anything that is not English.  But, he bought me along with a California Red and a bottle of Absolut Vodka.  Neither of them spoke French either, but fortunately I speak English.  They didn’t speak much.  The vodka was busy trying to be mysterious, and I think the wine was meditating.
            Eventually, the human put me in the refrigerator, after showing me to a woman.  She was beautiful, with raven colored hair and grey eyes.  She seemed impressed by me- and who wouldn’t be? After all, I am Veuve Clicquot!

            I don’t know how long I spent in the refrigerator.  If the various other occupants that came and went are to be believed, it was several years.  After a year, I stopped seeing leftovers, and started seeing a lot of Chinese food and pre-prepared things from the market.  I saw many more bottles of beer though.  Most of them pretended to be German, but they were American.  They couldn’t even speak German! 
One day, the man removed me from the refrigerator.  He was dressed very well in a jacket and tie.  Worthy of an occasion that is worthy of Veuve Clicquot!  He wrapped me in a towel and put me in a cooler with ice and two champagne glasses.  I remember thinking “where are we going in the middle of the day?”  The two glasses said nothing. 
Ah!  A picnic!  It had to be!
Soon the chest opened, and he removed me.  He placed me on top of a stone.  My God- it’s a tombstone!  He placed the glasses net to me and opened me efficiently, yet with little flair.  He must’ve had some practice.  He then poured me into the two glasses, and lifted one.
“Happy five year anniversary, Angel!  I opened the champagne, just like we planned.”
He clinked his glass gently with the other, which sat next to me on the stone.  He then drank a sip. 
Tears started flowing from his eyes.  Water, condensed from the warming glasses and my bottle made us weep as well.
He knelt in front of the stone, where he cried and spoke quietly.  Occasionally he would sip from his glass.  When he finished his glass, he stood.  He took the full glass and poured it out on the ground where he had been kneeling in front of the stone.  He picked me up, looked at me for a long minute, and placed me on the ground in front of the stone.  Near me were some faded, warped pictures pinned my stones to the ground.  He then left a while picking up an old dead and withered one. 
He then packed up the glasses, and put them back in the cooler.  He also pocketed my cork.  He kissed the top of the stone and said “See you soon, Angel.”  And walked away, leaving me mostly full and weeping on the ground next to flowers and a tombstone.
And here I sit, now warm and flat.  Waiting.  Waiting. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Work Story

This happened maybe 9 or 10 years ago.  Long before my True Self re-emerged.

Back then, the bookstore had these positions called "Leads."  The leads were responsible for their area- they would curate the books that were there, ordering titles and trimming others to create a section that customers would enjoy.  They kept it clean, were responsible for stocking its shelves, etc.   This was THEIR area: they were the Experts.  The bookstore no longer has these positions, as I guess they don't want experts, or people really giving a damn about the areas of their responsibility. But I digress.  Hail the almighty dollar.

In any case, this takes place one late one Saturday night.  I was in the back of the store, near the restrooms at the time. I was checking stuck with the handheld device which is what we used to figure out what stays and what goes.  I was standing on a stool to reach the highest shelves, when out of the men's room come a huge younger guy (B) and a very powerful looking man (Aide.)  Right next to the restrooms is a fire door- it's still there, actually.   At the time we had been having problems with people opening that fire door- so many, in fact, that the fire department said that the next time they had to come for a false alarm on our fire doors, that the store would be fined.  So management made it VERY clear that we were to make sure to not let people open the fire doors.

Gratuitous Sophie Picture

So turns out that B was somewhere on the Autism Spectrum.  He was one of the special needs people who were there for the for their weekly outing at the bookstore.  At the time, there were two different groups that enjoyed the store.  One would come Friday, and the other on Saturday.  The Friday night group still comes.  The Saturday night group included this guy.  Usually the groups are about ten of the residents of these assisted living homes, and their Aides.

B decides he wants to go out the fire door. I say "you can't do that," and his Aide,  a very powerfully built but shorter man, is trying to steer him away from the door.  Now B was very strong, and this guy was doing his best to get through his Aide.  He got to the point where they started wrestling on the ground, right next to my step stool.

I looked down and said "you want me to call for help?" and he tossed his phone to the side.

He said "Call my colleagues! They'll come back and help me!"  So I did- I picked up the phone.  He said dial whatever.

Well, it turns out that his colleagues had gathered their flock and left these two behind.  They were gone.  They left this guy and his charge there wrestling on the floor.

The Aide managed to push his charge away for a little bit, and B started to smash his forehead against the wall until he started to bleed!  And then he ran toward the front of the store.  There was a large blood stain on the wall!

The Aide chased after B. I dialed my little portable phone, and call the manager and and said "Call 911- there's a guy assaulting someone!"

However, the manager on duty at the time was someone who absolutely did not like me.  Anyway, she didn't believe the urgency in my voice she said "No, it can't be that bad."  I tried to explain it to her.  She wouldn't listen.

Meanwhile, B was going through the entire store bashing his head on things, throwing books aside- getting blood everywhere.

I decided I would stand by the fire door in case he came back.  So there I was standing, trying to get a call out to 911 because my manager sure as hell wasn't going to do it.

At this point, a fellow employee came along.  I'll call him "Dolt."  Dolt was maybe six foot five and very thin, with a very deep voice.  He was in his early sixties.  I shouted at him to "Get away from this area!  It's dangerous!"  I pointed at the bloodstain on the wall.

He said "I'll go check the displays over here," pointing to a wall out of sight.  I didn't see him again until after it was all over.

So I stood waiting for whatever to happen. Suddenly B was there- maybe 15 feet in front of me.  He had blood flowing down his face and staining his shirt from the cuts in his forehead.  He was standing looking like a bull ready to charge.  He was coming through that door no matter what!  I was the only thing between him and it.  Now, I have run into burning buildings, and I've been in more fights than I can count, but this is the first time that in a fight situation that I was scared.  My knees were shaking! This guy was no doubt MUCH stronger than me.  And I couldn't fight him- if I defended myself and hurt him, I would be sued for hurting someone who is special needs.  This was a lose-lose situation, and I knew it.

At this point, the manager came around saying "what is going on?" B turned, and swung at her she ducked a little bit.  He still connected with her shoulder- barely grazing her. She's said something like "ohmyGodIcan'tbelievethisI'mgoingtocallthepolice!" I shouted at her "Now what the hell do you think I've been telling you to do!"

Of course she ran away.  B looked at me again and ran right at me, shouting.

I used to be on the wrestling team long ago, and, aside from my other fighting experience and training, I remembered a few things.  I charged at him- going low to attempt a "take down."  I succeeded, and had him on the floor.

Did I mention he was MUCH stronger than me?

I did my best to pin down his limbs, but he easily threw me off, and started hitting me in the head and chest.  His Aide returned, and the two of us managed to push him into the nearby Men's Room.  We held the door shut.  He pulled from his side once or twice, then gave up.

All was Quiet.

After an eternal few minutes, the police arrived.  Three officers- all them tall and burly.  I told the officers that the person in the men's room was very violent, and pointed out the bloodstains.  I was bloody too, as was the Aide, but that was mostly B's blood.  Mostly.  Two officers drew their weapons and knocked on the door.  The third had myself and the Aide step back.  When there was no answer to the knocking, the police went in.

All was quiet.

We heard some speaking.  The officer with me asked what happened.  At that moment, a gaggle of blondes came running toward the restrooms, wringing their hands and shouting.

The van that had left B and Aide had returned!  These were the other staff- the ones who had left without taking roll call.  And they were nigh hysterical as they swarmed into the men's room.

The Aide, Officer, and I looked at each other- stunned.  The Officer asked what I wanted done.  I said I wanted him in shackles and full restraints, as he was a danger to himself and others.

At this point, the manager returned.  She stood with Aide and me as the two police officers led B out of the men's room.  One was on either side of him, and he was fully restrained in cuffs and shackles.  Behind them were the wailing mass of blondes, crying and wringing their hands.

Officer Three explained to me and the manager that there was an ambulance waiting outside the receiving door, and they would take B there.  We just had to walk him across the store as quietly as possible.  The Aide?  He was as calmly as possible explaining exactly what happened to the teary eyed blondes.  He was extremely angry, yet in full control.  I envied him that control, as, at that time, my anger was consuming me.

I led the group to receiving, where the manager had unlocked the door.  The paramedics were waiting with a gurney that had been prepared with leather straps.  The police loaded B onto the gurney, and the paramedics fastened B with the straps.  At this point, B starting thrashing and yelling, but it was too late.  He was restrained.

I went back to the restroom, where Officer Three was waiting.  He motioned me to go into the restroom with him.  I went to the back stall, which had a couple of bloodstains on the wall, but also...

B had unscrewed the toilet from the floor.  With his bare hands.  There it sat, unmoored from the floor.  THAT took some strength!

By the time I went back to the sales floor, the two other officers were speaking to the Aide and the Gaggle of blondes.  Nearby was the manager.  And Dolt.  Manager was listening to the questions and waiting her turn.

I went back into the men's room and washed off the best I could.  When I came out, one of the Officers took my statement, and the manager asked me about what happened.  I doubt that the final report was anywhere near the truth.

In the years to come that Dolt still worked at the bookstore, he would brag about he and I BOTH were wrestling B.  Even though Dolt was nowhere in sight during the melee.  I corrected him at first, but stopped after a while.  No one cared what I had to say.

I insisted to management that this group be banned.  As I never saw them again, I assume they were.  I would hope that the people responsible for leaving B and his Aide behind were fired.  At least I hope so.

The manager at the time is no longer employed by the bookstore.

That, to this day, is till one of the Worst days I've ever had at work.  Not THE worst, but top 3.

But now, it makes for a good story.  That's something I guess.

Be Well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thoughts in the Night

When I turn out the light, I lay in a bed that is mine through charity.  It is a single bed, but plenty for just me.

In the night, across the room, my roomie and bestie sleeps in her bed, which is the same type as mine.  She sleeps quietly.  She does not snore.

It is after I turn out the light that the thoughts come.  My eyes adjust to the Darkness and I think of my Wife.

I think of how we will never again sleep in the same bed.  About how much I miss the scent of her hair as we lay together through the night; my arm around her.  How I will never feel the softness of her skin as she sleeps in my embrace.

I will never again here her murmur quietly in her sleep.

It has been over forty months since I was thrown out of the rooms we shared.  Thrown out because of who and what I am.  For my Truth.

True Pain is remembering every little detail of what you have lost.

And, in the Darkness, in the Night, I remember