Sunday, April 30, 2017

Thinking About Going Back

I posted the following on facialbook the other day.

Thinking out loud.

Doctorate.

Well, for me to do this will require a LOT of planning and "selling." None of the 3 people I spoke with seemed thrilled with the idea of me applying.

I would need to retake the GRE. Get my recommendation letters, which will require coming out to at least 2 former professors.

I will have to pitch have what I want to do, which will essentially be transgender studies. What cisgender prof would sponsor that?

Then there's paying for it all.

Insurmountable? No. Difficult? Perhaps.

Then there's Linda Michelle Lewis. Will she want to move to State College?

How often will I see my daughter when I'm 3 hours away?

And in the end- will it be worth it?


I received many wonderful replies.  Some people said I shouldn't go to PSU.  So people wondered how I'd pay for it, while others suggested foundations, grants, etc.


Another Saturday night at work

My academic dream has always been to write books and teach at Penn State.  I have worked at Penn State as an instructional designer, and seen the politics of academia.  Yet, I still want it.

And, as you can see, my career and life are thriving.  *eye roll*

But the question becomes "why?"  Why would I want to do this?

I've ALWAYS felt the need to do something- a compulsion, really.  I volunteered as a paramedic at 16.  I chose teaching instead of something lucrative.  Veteran readers know these things.  Is that because I've always felt others were more deserving than myself?


November 2015

Perhaps, in the end, I want to prove to myself that I CAN scale that mountain- that I CAN get a Phd.  I can look at myself in the mirror and say I've done something few others can do.  Verification of intelligence and all that.  Validation.

Hey world, See?  Sophie IS intelligent.  She IS worthy.  She is MORE than just some freak of nature.

Or maybe, just maybe, I will look into that mirror and say the same things...  and believe it.

That would be the most difficult challenge of them all.

Be well.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hopes, Dreams, and PSU

Today, my roomie and bestie Linda and I went to State College.  Penn State!  I'd been planning the trip ever since I received my schedule for the time.  You see, I am seriously considering getting my doctorate, so I wanted to talk to some people about the programs.  And while I was there, I stopped in at the Penn State LGBT Center.

And yes, I called ahead, so they knew I was coming.  And they didn't evacuate the building.


Linda and I before setting out for PSU


When we left the apartment, it was raining.  Rained most of the way up as well.  But, as we approached Penn State, the clouds broke and the sun shone.  The temperature hit the high 70s and it was humid as hell.  And as we were doing a lot of walking, that meant Sweaty Sophie.


Music Memories

Walking onto campus, I stopped to take this picture.  Bit of history here. This is a courtyard next to Atherton Hall (the honors dorm.) Here, on a beautiful April afternoon in 1987 (30 years ago???) 2 guys with acoustic guitars sat playing on a bench which was where the bush on the left is now.
They played current hits, including the new song by REM It's the End of the World as we know it. They knew every word, and played brilliantly. I was with my girlfriend of the time, walking around. maybe 15 people saw this performance, mostly curious people like me.

It's one of my favorite memories of college. Two guys, enjoying the day making music just for the fun of it. And I was having a wonderful day with my girlfriend.  THIS, to me, was Penn State.

Our first stop was at the HUB (student center) to use the restroom.  There was quite a celebration going on- a LOUD DJ, cake, many "staff" in striped shirts.  I found out that this was part of the annual "Movin' On" celebration for the seniors.



Our next stop was across the street at Boucke Building.  The Penn State LGBT center was there.

When I was at PSU in the 80s, there was no LGBT center.  In fact, to be LGBT at that time was downright dangerous.  There was (and still is) a gay bar downtown (Chumleys) but to be seen going there meant social ostracization or a beating.  When I was a student, a story circulated about a "guy who a friend knew" whose roommate was "gay," and dressed as a girl for Halloween.  This person apparently did it quite well, because at this apartment party, the roomie was being hit on by, and eventually left with, a member of the football team.  That's when people would laugh.  Everyone KNEW what happened next.  Football player- paragon of Manhood- finds out the girl is a guy and the fag gets his ass KICKED.  But no one knew what happened next.  If it ever happened.

But that was the attitude towards Transpeople back then.  And now?  Now Penn State has an LGBT Center.

I was greeted by an intern.  I introduced myself, and she immediately contacted Sonya Wilmoth, the Assistant Director of the Center.  We spoke for a while about many things.  I told them that I was at their service, and they seemed very happy to hear that.  In fact, she wants to bring me up sometime in the fall to do a program.  I did my best to play it cool, but failed miserably, as I was VERY excited.  Speak at Main Campus?  Sign me up!

After a wonderful time there, Linda and I went to three different offices for various departments, hoping to speak to people about their programs.  I managed to speak to someone at Women's Studies, but at the other two places, I encountered staff.  They all said the same- everything is online.  look it up.

So I guess I won't be talking to people.

A quick stop at the Penn State book store, then to the Deli for a late lunch.

All over campus were people with graduation gowns.  I didn't think graduation was until after finals, but there were SO many.  They were all over campus- getting pictures taken in groups and alone.  (The Nittany Lion Shrine was MOBBED.)


See that line of white dresses?  Graduates.

I thought about this a lot on the way home.  I'll come back to this.

Anyway, after lunch, a quick drive by my fraternity house for some pictures, then I pointed my car east for the three hour drive back to the apartment.


At the House

The apartment.  Where Linda and I live.  But in many ways, Penn State will Always be my Home.  It is my happy place.

Anyway, as I said, on the way back, I was thinking.

I thought about those new grads- and about how their Penn State time was at a close.  They would be entering the "Real World."  They would become "Adults" and live their lives.  Many would marry.  Have children.  Careers.  This was the end of their childhoods.

And how many of them realized it?  Or cared?

And the more I thought of it, the more I thought of what college means.  The entire idea of going to university is based on Hope.  The Dream.  The Dream of finding a great career doing something they love- of being a success.  Of making a difference.  All Hopes and Dreams.

And, as I have written before- Dreams Lie.

How many graduates actually use their degrees?  How many end up in dead end jobs because no one is hiring?  Real life is Harsh.

But for them- the students- it is still ahead of them.  Life is but a Dream.

How I envy them.


"The Elms" view looking south toward College Avenue

I wrote about this in the last chapter of my book, which I quote here.


Penn State has left me and my classmates behind.  As we visit the campus, we see new buildings, small or significant changes, and we watch the campus grow.  Stores open and close.  Fashions change.  New kinds of music blare from the balconies in Beaver Canyon.  But one thing never changes- the students are frozen in time.  The students will always be somewhere between seventeen and twenty three years old.  Yet we alumni continue to get older and older.  We continue with our lives, which for the most part have taken us far away from the place most of us love so dearly.


My Penn State no longer exists as a physical place.  It exists as a memory in the minds of those who were there at that time.  We are now all in our late forties and early fifties.  My Penn State lives in my soul.  It visits me in my dreams.  In unguarded moments, it makes me wistful- or sad.

I hated leaving.  When I graduated, I fell into a very deep depression.  I wanted nothing more than to go back through time and start it over- to have that time and experience again.  And again.

Eternal Youth.  Eternal Hope.

Eternal Tears.

Be Well.


1987 Fraternity Pic by Chuck Fong








Monday, April 24, 2017

Because the Night...

I haven't posted in a bit.  Sorry.

It's the same reason as many other times- writer's block caused by the Darkness.

For those of you new(ish) to this blog, I define the terms I use HERE.  But, for brevity's sake, I'll just define what I mean by the Darkness here as well.

"The Darkness":  My name for the pain and thoughts surrounding suicidal depression.

I've started and abandoned several entries.  One actually became my TG Forum column last week.  See that HERE.

The others never made it out of the notebook.  This one is being typed directly from my head, as I don't intend it to be long.

I know so many of you are tired of me whining.  Tired about hearing about the Darkness.  I don't blame you.  I am too.  I'm trying not to even talk/write about it anymore.  It is there, but talking about it isn't doing anyone any good.


[deletes an hour's worth of typing]


My therapist thinks I'm my "own worst enemy."  Maybe she's right.

But in any case, that's where I've been.  And Am.


Art: Jim Starlin  Death of Captain Marvel  1982


Monday, April 10, 2017

Forgiving

If I didn't mention it, I am back in therapy.

Last week, the therapist (yes, she understands Trans issues- very well in fact) and I discussed Forgiveness.  She asked me what I saw it as- how I defined it.  The only word I could think of is "Surrender."

Yes, I know that's not good.  In fact, it's really bad.  I have never been a forgiving person at all, and I know it's a nasty character flaw.  So the therapist asked me, as a bit of homework, to try to define it better than that.

I figured to define it, I had to understand Why I can't do it.  I mean, it's easy to say "I forgive you" but it's FAR harder to actually mean it.  To let go of whatever Pain the other entity caused.  As my veteran readers know, I'm not very good at letting go of Pain- in fact, I hoard it.



Why?  That's outside of the scope of this entry.  And I have no idea in the first place.  Speaking of that, Religion is also out of the scope of this entry, so spare me the theology, please.

I've spent several days thinking about it.  Last night, I worked from 8 PM to 5 AM, and I had a lot of time to think.  And, I think I may have dug something up.

I don't Forgive- because I'm rarely Forgiven.


I'm not talking for stupid little things like accidentally spilling someone's drink or passing gas in an elevator (which, of course, I've never done.)  I'm talking the Big Ones.  Like Transitioning.  *

How do I know this?  Because people keep throwing my Sins back in my face.  Even years later in some cases.  It seems like my every misstep is recorded and ready to play back at a moment's notice- even things I didn't realize were mistakes.  It's like watching your life roll past your eyes, but only the parts where you screwed up.

"It`s not the torment of the flames
That finally see your flesh corrupted
It`s the small humiliations that your memory piles up"

And people wonder why I have Trust issues.

In any case, Forgiveness, like Trust, goes both ways.  In any case, some things are beyond forgiveness.

Of course, carrying all those grudges gets heavy.  But I don't see it as carrying a grudge- I just cut the person out of my life (if possible.)  It's much harder if the entity in question is your employer, and Yes, I have had employers who seemed to delight in cataloguing my every Sin (but not the good things I accomplished- funny that.)

Ok, so having identified the WHY of it, can't I be the bigger person?  You know- Grace and all that?  Forgive even when They don't?  I'll come back to this.

A very dear friend last week was very hurt by someone they deeply cared about from their past.  She asked my advice, and I gave it.  But it made me think- how would I have responded to that situation?  Well, knowing me, I would've been crushed for quite some time, taken it out on myself, and never spoken of it to anyone.  And I'd never have forgiven or contacted said person again.  That is NOT the advice I gave this person.  I told them how I TRY to purge it- by writing.

This person, like most people, has a far greater capacity for forgiveness than me.  Maybe that's why they are happier.

So, why not just forgive and forget?  Release the burden?  Well, that's the problem of having a sharp memory- it's VERY hard to forget.  And I have the scars to prove it.

So, this appears to be the crux of the issue- WHY can't I just do that?  Why can't I be the bigger person?  Well, maybe I'm TIRED of being the "bigger person."  Maybe I'm tired of "turning the other cheek" only to have it beaten bloody.  Maybe I'm tired of constantly being the person who "let's things go" only to be stepped on again and again.  Maybe I'm tired of being perceived as Weak.

Maybe I have drawn the line and said "NO MORE!"

Or maybe I did- years ago.  Maybe one of those many nights of quietly crying myself to sleep as a teen, I made the conscious decision NEVER to forgive and NEVER to forget while there was breath in my body.  Maybe I wanted- NEEDED to inflict the Pain back at my tormentors.  To have my Vengeance.

Sounds corny as hell, right?  Like a bad Batman plot.

Maybe that happened- but if it did, it's lost in the blur of Pain that time has become.  I remember a LOT of pain from my childhood/ teen years.  I remember the insults.  The beatings.  The loneliness.

So, it could be said, I was practicing for transition.


Going into work the other day

Wow.  I just typed all of that in a burst of like three minutes.  And I feel drained.  And I'm not going to edit it.  (Except to put an asterisk where it began.)

So, if that's the heart of the matter- that's why I said that forgiveness is "surrender."  And I'm so very very tired of surrendering.

To be Transgender is to Fight.  Every day.  For your dignity.  Your human rights that others would deny you.  For your very Life.  We Fight.  We Fight.  And we Die.

We Die. At Their hands and our own.

There is no forgiving that.

Be well.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Keystone Conference 2017- Passing Moments

The Ninth annual Keystone Conference was held last week from March 22-26 at the Sheraton Harrisburg/Hershey.  I have never missed one to date.  Over 700 people attended this year's conference, which again sold out the hotel and spillover hotels.

Each year, I take away something different from the conference.  Usually, I present a seminar as well.  This year, I learned a few things, met new people, and saw old friends

Some memories stand out- scenes from a week.




With the Gorgeous Stephanie Wardlow Friday night

Wednesday night, I went to the Lancaster Brewing Company with a few dear friends.  Mary was the first to leave the table, so while she was gone, I informed our waiter, Arlee (who looked like Dean Cain) that it was her birthday.  So as the meal was winding down, Arlee brought a bread pudding dessert, and we all sang Happy Birthday to her.  She looked like a deer in the headlights.

She didn't want the dessert.  Now, during our dinner, three busloads of ladies from the conference arrived at the restaurant.  This was a Vanity Club run shopping function for attendees.  There was dinner then a shopping trip to a Dress Barn that was staying open after hours just for them.


L to R:  M, Kimberly, Mary, Stephanie, Ashlee

Leading that group was Vanity Club president Colleen O'Donnell.  Knowing that, I took the dessert, and went over to the area where that group was sitting.  I called for the crowd's attention, told them it was Colleen's birthday, and then everyone sang to her.  Colleen looked ready to kill me.

Oh, it bears mentioning that I have NO idea when their birthdays actually are.


Later that night, I was sitting at the bar speaking to my dear friend Gina Marie Conners.  A guy who looked like Touche Turtle came over and stood behind me.

Guy: Are your toenails painted?

Me: Yes

Guy: Can I see them?

Me: No.

Guy: Can I suck on your toes?

Me: No. I'm married.

Guy: I don't see why that means I can't suck on your toes!

I turned my back on him.  That's when I noticed what was sitting on the bar in front of me.



Ummmm...

Thursday night was karaoke night.  I tried a different song this time:  867-5309 (Jenny) by Tommy Tutone.  It was, unfortunately, recorded.  So... HERE it is.  You were warned.

Friday morning, I was having breakfast with a couple of girls, when a few tables over, a girl stood up and fluffed out her gorgeous natural black hair.  She swished it side to side like a hair model in a commercial.  All three of us at the table commented about how jealous we were.  She and her companion walked past our table, and I mentioned to the Hair Model how amazing we all thought her hair was.  She smiled and thanked us, and her companion pointed out the hair care regimen she was on.  She then pointed out how dry MY hair was, and how it needed some products.  I said that I thought products dried it out.  She said "absolutely not!  And believe me- I KNOW hair!"

I looked at her nametag.  "Dr, Marci Bowers."  I stood and introduced myself.  She smiled and shook my hand.  So I had a Rock Star of the community tell me my hair was too dry.  I have since purchased moisturizing shampoo.  Oh, and the hair model?  According to Marci's website, her name is Angelita, and she works with Dr. Bowers.


Friday I spent some time in the hotel hot tub with some friends.  I wore my Star Trek bathing suit.  Most of the other women rocked bikinis.  And I mean ROCKED!  A woman wearing a black one piece came in who I didn't know.  I was struck by her beauty and poise.  She kinda dismissed me though, but was friendly to many others.  Oh well.  



Tonight's Special:  Boiled Sophie


Friday was also the Vanity Club dinner.  It was the largest Vanity Club dinner to date, and was held at Duke's Bar and Grill, which sounded like a redneck dive bar.  I was very pleasantly surprised at what it really was.  We had to walk through the entire bar, with a Friday night crowd's eyes all following us, but there was no trouble.  It was a wonderful time with amazing people.

Saturday morning at 9 AM was my presentation:  Crafting your Coming Out Letter.  This was my first time doing this particular seminar, and I'd re-written it twice.  Where my other Keystone seminars had a light touch, I set the tone for this one as serious.



I started with my story, then my letter to my parents.  Using that, I had the class draw inferences, and went into structure.  I emphasized that this is a One Way Path, and is deadly serious.  I had an audience of eight, most of whom stayed the whole time.  I received good reviews.


My bestie Linda was enthralled by my presentation


Saturday afternoon was a Vanity Club social.  Wine was free.  I brought Jack Daniels.  

I also made sure that Gina West was invited.  You see, I met her Wednesday night.  It was her second night out- ever.  Yet she seemed so comfortable and genuine.  I was so impressed.  She was speaking with someone for whom it was the FIRST night out.  Both were gorgeous and seemed like they'd been "out" for years.  I bought them both a Laphroaig scotch to toast.  On Thursday, I bumped into Gina again, and she said she was "still tasting the scotch."  So I bought her a Jack Daniels as "mouthwash."


Me, Jack, and Gina

In any case, she was at the social, where we spoke some more.  Hell, at MY first Keystone, I was scared to leave the hotel room.  Here she was mingling like she was a GG.  Yes, I was jealous.

Saturday night was, as always, the Gala.  I had some trouble finding a seat.  After some rearranging at one of the VC tables, I was seated next to a person from another table.  Dana was wonderful company.  She pointed over to another table and mentioned that she knew Sandy Empanada.  So we started talking about Lisa.  After a few minutes, Dana said "Wait a minute.  Sophie... you're Sophie LYNNE?"  I said I am.  We continued discussing Lisa, but the questions became more... personal.  How it affected me, etc.  She'd heard of me through mutual friends, and of my connection to Lisa.

She would later write to me:

Didn't realize I startled you.  I had seen your pics and writings connectected to Lisa's story as well as here and there online.  When I sat down I was about 12 inches from your face, a much different perspective than seeing a digital, full body photo on the computer.  

... I suppose hearing Lisa's back story was illuminating.  So many people were quick to attribute her death to the stereotypical hard life of most TS's. Certainly that was a component but, like I suspected, there were many more moving parts.



Gala Gown

As usual, I spent the rest of Saturday night in the bar, chatting with dear friends.  I had a wonderful conversation (and several drinks) with the incredible Diana Fronterhouse from Arizona.  She and Donna Rose co-host a wonderful podcast The Deeper End.  Required listening!  Diana was just fun to speak with and went movie line for movie line with Linda and myself.  No small feat!


Lacy, Me, Linda, and Diana

Sunday, Linda and I had breakfast with friends, packed and left for home.  And, as always, I think of what my dear friend David Denton wrote about the end of the conference back in 2013.  I'll close with that.

"It was eerie. When I close my eyes and think about the walk to the Dog & Pony on Sunday morning I swear I can hear dying echos of the most genuinely delightful laughter. It's like hearing ghosts from the past, Sophie."

Be well.