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

See me reading this blog entry  HERE


  1. Sophie -

    We all would like to relive the good times of our pasts. That is normal. But you are remaking yourself, and will have even better times in the future. I can see you being a Grandma (however you define your role) to your daughter's child in the future. And I see you being very happy and content after you resolve the problems you are dealing with now.

    Like you, I'd love to revisit my youth. And you describe the homecoming experience well - your college years are in your memories. The youth of today are building their memories. The tragedy of all this is that life is way too short for many of us to achieve our dreams. By the time we figure out what we really want, we are no longer able to get it. For many of us TG's, we'd like to experience life in our formative years in the gender that we identify as. All we can do is experience our futures that way. But that, in itself, is a gift, because we see life from a fuller perspective than most.

    So cherish the revisiting of those memories, as they will always remain precious to you. They bring you joy, and also are part of your arrow that is heading to a target in the future.....


  2. and you will pay for your doctorate HOW?