Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Against Me

Back on October 10th, I did something that I hadn't done in a many years- I went to a concert.

It was my first concert ever as Sophie, and I kind of didn't know how to dress.  I mean, it's not like a fat fifty year old woman can wear a tight leather miniskirt and tease out my hair...

It was also my first punk rock show in more years than I care to admit: decades at least.  I went to see Against Me.  Laura Jane Grace's band.

I bought the tickets as soon as I heard about the show- I think it was back in July or August.  I bought two of them, thinking that my roomie and bestie Linda Lewis would come with me.  But, she had to work the next morning, and couldn't attend.  As I was a lot short on money, it didn't look like I was going to be able to attend either.  (Parking in Philadelphia is usually quite expensive.)

Ready for the show

However somebody online (and I won't say who because she asked for an anonymity) fronted me the funds for parking.  Also Laura Jane herself sent me a tweet saying that if I could make it she would cover my parking personally.  I thought that was really nice!  In any case I got myself dressed and drove down to Philadelphia- to the Union Transfer- found a place to park and went into the show.

As it turns out, there were some people there that I knew- Morgan was there with her Paramour.  I was standing at the edge of the bar area (which they couldn't enter neither of them are 21) talking to them as we waited for the first band to show up.

The first band was the Dirty Nil.  They were from Canada , and were pretty good.  The second band was Bleached, who were an all woman band from Los Angeles.  Both had a raw Punk sound, and their stage show was half decent.  Bleached is fronted by two sisters, who were both quite beautiful. I met them after their set out in the lobby, where they were signing CDs and selling their t-shirts.  They were kind enough to pose for a picture with me.

Me with Bleached

I went back in and found a place to stand: behind the soundboard (someone whose opinion I trust told me that was the best place to watch the show.)  Near where I was standing were several other people.   We got to talking, and I mentioned to them that I was trans.  They were really cool, and asked me some good questions.  One of them is on the Temple University Radio Station where she does a music show.  I'm sorry I don't remember her name, but she was very nice and very knowledgeable about Punk. Actually, she knew a lot more about the modern music then the past, so she was asking me questions about the punk of the 70s and 80s (which I knew very well as that was my time.)

The lights darkened and out came Against Me.   They kicked right in to True Trans Soul Rebel and everyone, including me, were singing along.  The entire room knew every word.  There were a lot of trans people in the audience. I didn't know any of them, except for the ones that I mentioned earlier.  I would meet some of them later.  I'll come back to that.

So as the show went on.  Laura Jane Grace was simply amazing!  She dominated the stage, and just projected a confidence and power that were palpable.  There were even two big blow-up ghosts that showed up on a song called Haunting Haunted Haunts.

For me the highlights were the songs from their album Transgender Dysphoria Blues.  It was my first Against Me album and I can pretty much sang every word- just like everyone else at the show it seemed.  Laura gave a great introduction to the song Transgender Dysphoria Blues. which I recorded on my phone and put up on YouTube.

Laura Jane Grace absolutely dominated the stage. The show was electrifying- I found myself completely Carried Away by the music.  As with most punk shows I've attended, there was a mosh pit up front, and a lot of people doing stage-diving, and by the end of the show, there are maybe about 30 people on the stage in addition to the band.  It was absolutely wonderful! 

After the show, I hung out for a while.

I had heard that Laura like to hang out after the show and would come and hang out with the fans if they were waiting for her.  However she had a case of bronchitis that night, which I didn't think affected her singing, but some people commented they could tell.  As I was waiting, I met a few of the trans people from Philadelphia.  I'd never met them before.  In fact, I'd never even seen them on Facebook.  They stayed in the city, they said, because none of them had cars.  They would take the subway or the bus wherever they were going.  Many of them lived in a "shitty place" in South Philadelphia.

They hung out for a while afterwards and I hung out with them.  They gave me their names, and I'm sorry I forgot them (I'm just horrible with names sometimes) but they were very nice people.

They eventually found their Uber and Lyft rides and went home.  I joined about ten other people at the side of the building next to a fence where we could see the tour buses and vans.  Some of the people from the Dirty Nil and Bleached were searching for the keys to one of the vans.  They left them somewhere so they were stuck without a van.  (They found them eventually.  They came over and joked with our group for a bit.)  I'm guessing just Against Me were on the buses.

After about two hours, a lone figure approached the fence where we stood.  She wore a black hoodie.  It was Laura Jane Grace!  She came over, smiled, and greeted us all.  Many of the people who I were there with had met her many times before.  She apologized for the show, saying that she had the bronchitis, and we were all said "no it was amazing!"  She very graciously signed things, including the CD I brought with me, and she was kind enough to take a picture with me.  She stood on top of the fence, and someone took the picture.

With Laura Jane Grace

She hung out for maybe twenty minutes talking and joking with us.  We had a very good time. However she was very tired, and eventually she turned to go back to the bus.  I watched her walk away back toward the bus through the empty parking lot, and I thought how small and fragile she looked- how vulnerable- so very different from the person that dominated that stage.

So who is the real Laura, I wondered.

I supposed they are both her- two halves of the same person.  After all, who's the real Sophie?  Is she the person who does all the writing, the activism, and the training?  Or is it that weak person who the Darkness ensnares, and who just wants to curl up in a ball and die?

We are all complex people and one can tell by Laura's music that she is a very complex person.

I enjoyed the show very much, and no, I didn't ask her to pay for my parking.

I finally got home around 2 a.m. and I had to be up at 5 to take Linda to work.  On my way home, I listened to the CD Transgender Dysphoria Blues: the one that she had signed for me

And I thought about that lonely figure walking back to a darkened bus.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Visit from the Doctor

My best man for my wedding and one of my oldest still with me friends came to town.  Dr. Dave holds two doctorates- one in microbiology and one in dentistry- and he currently works for one of the Native American nations down in Arizona. I hadn't seen him in 2 years.  He was one of the first people that I came out to, and he said that he would support me

I met Dave in elementary school. I believe we were in first or second grade.  We became close friends in 4th grade, and then hung out together in high school (until I started working at Burger King.)  We learned many games together, including Dungeons & Dragons, and in fact he is one of the main reasons I transferred to Penn State; having visited him a few times at the campus while I was at Drexel.

Dr. Dave and I have so many shared experiences, and there are a lot of nights that it was just him and me talking and drinking and discussing personal things, and yet he never knew about my inner Pain. I wouldn't let him know.  I couldn't let anyone know.

Dr. Dave, 1987

He graduated a semester before me (I lost a year when I transferred and then I had student teaching) and he went to Rochester, New York, where he completed both of his phds.  He also got married for a time up there.  I rarely saw him when he was in Rochester. I would see him when he would come down to visit, and I on the rare occasion would drive all the way up to Rochester to see him- usually during cold weather for some reason, and during those times we always drank far too much

In any case that's a lot of History.  Dave was in town to visit his son who is now 16.  I don't know the exact circumstances of his relationship with his son's mother. I know that they got together after his marriage collapsed, and I know that they produced a son.  However that's really all I know as I've never met her, nor have I met the son.

Dave at my wedding, April 1993

After Dave got his second doctorate, he did postdoc work at the University of Pennsylvania.  While he was there, I saw him with some frequency- maybe twice a month.  When we got together we would drink just like in the old days, and we would talk and make fun of are each other and the people we knew- laughing like the old friends that we are.  Then he moved to Arizona to his current position.

I think I've seen him four times since. 

Two visits ago, I met his current lady.  It was at that conversation that I told him my Truth.  He was accepting.

Last visit, he met the real Me. 


He was in town again a week ago.  His sixteen year old son was in town with his mother- they live in Switzerland.  Dave rarely sees him.  Dave was kind enough to make some time to see me, as he also had a lot of family obligations.

We met at Molly Maguires in Phoenixville.  As always, Dave was late.  Like, half an hour late.  I chose to walk the mile and a half downtown from my apartment, because I didn't want to drink and drive, and I was STILL there first.  (People who know me well know that I'm the picture of promptness.)  (That's sarcasm.)

I sat at the bar, and I had a shot of scotch and a Guinness waiting for him.  he eventually showed, and we moved to a table.  We ordered wings and dinner.  And we drank.  We talked and laughed.  It was like no time had passed.  He told me he even reads this blog from time to time, which I really didn't expect.

After a while, we moved down the street to Iron Hill.  I had a deck of cards in my purse, so we played a drinking game (Ace face.)  Eventually, it was time to call it a night. 

I walked the mile and a half home.

Had a bit of a problem overnight- a mild case of food poisoning.  Dave had one as well.  Guess the wings weren't cooked enough.

Dave's visit reminded me of several truths. 

First is that friends endure, if the friendship is true.  We've both changed so much since we met.  If my transition made him uncomfortable, he didn't show it.

Second is it reminded me of how much I lost.  My remaining old friends are Few in number, as most faded away after my transition.  I was told to expect this- despite their solemn promises and entreaties that they were with me until the end.

And Third is that we are finite.  Dave and I have known each other more than forty years.  We are growing older.  There are many things we can't do any more- especially drink like fiends.  We both have had children, and they are growing up so fast.  Someday, we will both be a memory. 

I wonder if he will visit my grave.

Dave and I at Iron Hill, Oct 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Leap of Faith

We change as we grow older.  When I was a child, I was very mousy and quiet.  I was afraid that if I said or did the wrong thing, I would be beaten or insulted.  I stayed within myself- isolated and pretty much friendless.

Doing things to get noticed?  No way in hell.  I just went where I was told, when I was told, and waited for the next humiliation.  (Kind of like now, really.)

When I was in eighth grade, my friend R moved to the area.  He was in several of my classes, including math.  In eighth grade in Spring Ford at the time, the advanced math was Algebra.  I was not in it, and nor was R.  We were both doing great in math, but most of the "smart kids" were in algebra.  And as that was the group I sort of hung around with, if any, they let me hear it.  Just like they did to R.

So, in December, R came up with an idea, which he shared with me.

His father was willing to speak to the school administration to get R into the algebra class.  And offered me the same.  I was shocked, and didn't know what to do.  Actually CHANGE a class?  Make waves?  At school?  Well, I did it.  And R's dad got the school to put us in the algebra class starting in the 3rd marking period.  I had no idea if I could do it.  I had no confidence in myself.

9th grade.  I have no 8th grade pictures

R excelled as always.  Me?  I floundered; my grades for math that year were A, B, C, D.  But from there I was on the advanced math track.  The next year, I did well, and in the years following I continued. 

In spring 1985, I visited my friend Dr. Dave at Penn State.  I fell in love with the school.  I hated Drexel, and wanted out.  My grades began to suffer.  I needed something to happen.  But what?  How?  I'd made my decision- I chose Drexel.  I was determined to succeed and show everyone, especially my dad, that I could succeed- that I WAS smart enough.

I needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

But to me, the city was Hell.  And Penn State was heaven.  My dad wanted an engineer.  I hated the idea at that point.  But could I...

I transferred to Penn State.  Changed my major to Education.  One of the best decisions of my life.  I didn't know if I would succeed there, or crash and burn.  And the first few weeks were touch and go until I got my feet under me. 

In 1994, I accepted a job in Baltimore.  Accepted it on a Friday and started Monday.  I stayed in a motel for weeks, without Wife. 

These were all Leaps of Faith.  I had choices to make, and I chose the hard path- the path of uncertainty. 

"Only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth."

Notice that I didn't include Transition in the list.  I didn't have a choice there.  It was transition or blow my head off.

Some people are planners.  Others not so much.  I planned my transition meticulously.  I had plans, backup plans, and backups for those.  I tried to foresee all possibilities.  Other things, I just leap "where angels fear to tread." 

My life is at a crossroads.  Decisions need to be made.  It's time, I fear, for another leap of faith.  I cannot continue on this Path. 

God help me.  Things are in motion.

Be well.

Gratuitous Sophie pic

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"People like you"

I was having a good day at work today- the customers were, for the most part, Pleasant. There were a lot of returns, but nobody was asking me to return something from 3 years ago, and it just seemed like a nice day.  I was enjoying doing my job.

However, about 20 minutes before the end of my shift, that changed.

Up came a young guy with an impeccably ironed shirt and a big smile.  He was buying a book on real estate investing.  I did my job professionally as always, and having a good day I joked around with him a little bit.

As he was leaving, he said he handed me a little flyer and said "so you know our doors are always open, and we welcome people- especially people like you."

I looked at the flyer.  It was for the same church that the DVD woman attends.  Before I could even draw another breath, he was gone and a middle-aged woman with bad plastic surgery had filled the spot in front of me, and instead of a greeting, she just started reciting her phone number for her member card.

Earlier today.

I didn't have a chance to react, so I just swallowed all the negative emotions I was feeling, smiled, and did my job.

I'm an expert at swallowing negative feelings.  I've been doing it my entire life.

Maybe five minutes later, I finally finished the cluster of customers, and I contacted the manager, informing him of what happened.  He offered for me to take a minute, and, for a change, I took him up on it.  I walked a slow lap around the store.

I am filled with anger and frustration- angry that they are still targeting me, and I frustrated that there's nothing I can do except stand there and take it.

Maybe corporate will tell me to run and hide again.

 I did exactly what was expected of me: I did my job.  So there I stood: angry, frustrated... and there was nothing I could do.  Absolutely nothing.  Yet another person has clocked me as trans, and has targeted me. I am so very tired of this. As I said, I reported it to a manager, so I guess we'll find out what happens next.

Part of me says I should email that church and tell him to stop harassing me or something bad's going to happen.  Another part of me says that I should attend a service and confront them- maybe invite a few of my trans friends along.  But, they're evangelicals.  Rich ones.  I won't win that battle.

In the past, people told me just to ignore it, but it's getting to the point that I can't ignore it any more. The hatred is coming from all sides; coming from the law, the church... it's coming from just people.  I'm not made of stone, and my armor, after the battering it it's been taking for the past few years, is almost gone.  What else can I do at this point?

What else can I do?

I have decisions to make.

Legalizing Discrimination

The past couple of weeks have been pretty nasty as far as the current United States government versus trans people.

First off attorney general Jeff Sessions declared that the LGBT especially the transgender protections that were in place by President Obama are no longer in effect he has made them null and void which means that there are no more protections federal law after all does supersedes state law

In addition to that the Republicans have introduced several bills to essentially destroy the nation (dismantling the EPA, etc).  The only one that I'll discuss is House Bill 2796 which is titled Civil Rights Uniformity Act of 2017.  It states:

"This bill prohibits the word "sex" or "gender" from being interpreted to mean "gender identity," and requires "man" or "woman" to be interpreted to refer exclusively to a person's genetic sex, for purposes determining the meaning of federal civil rights laws or related federal administrative agency regulations or guidance.

No federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless it expressly designates "gender identity" or "transgender status" as a protected class."

So what does that mean?

Well, put succinctly, that means that they are going to legislate me and mine out of existence.


There will be no such thing as transgender- it will only be boy or girl.  No intersex.  No gradual shades of grey when it comes to gender- even though gender is all about the shades of grey.  I have no doubt that the FRC is behind this. In fact, 45 went and address them at with their "Value Voters Summit." It's the first time a sitting president has addressed a known hate group in the history of this country.

Given Trump's record on human rights- after all he says Nazis are "good people"- this should not be a surprise.

Oh, then there's 45 joking that his vice president, Pence, "wants to hang all gay people."  This is in the New Yorker.

How bad has it gotten?  Even Clueless Caitlyn Jenner has said “They are by far the worst administration ever towards the LGBT community and particularly the trans community."

Also in possibly related news, Azerbaijan which is one of the former Soviet Republics, just this past week rounded up LGBT people: especially transgender women.  Why?

Historically, Azerbaijan’s anti-Western campaigns targeted civil society and pro-democracy groups. This time, the regime targeted the LGBT community, more vulnerable in the Trump era. The LGBT community is also widely disliked in Azerbaijan; it’s a group no one is willing to defend. (emphasis mine)

Chechnya, another former Soviet republic, did the same thing last April.

It is my belief that this is what's coming to the US as well- that we will be rounded up. I thought this when I found out that Trump won the election- that it was only a matter of time before they came for us.  So what will I do if they do?

I've said it many times- I don't expect to survive a Trump regime.

And you wonder why I think this?

What will I do?  What can any of us do?  We Fight. We document.  We Agitate.  And when they come, we fight like Hell.

I am older.  I do not pass.  I am a known Liberal.  I have a Big Mouth.

And when they come, I will Fight.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Falling Stars

Last week was pretty horrific.  One of the things that happened was the sudden death of Tom Petty.

Don't worry- I'll be writing about Sessions stripping me of my civil rights, and the GOP launching legislation outlawing me soon enough.

Many of my friends were deeply affected by Tom Petty's death.  While I understand how they feel, I do not feel it.

I was very sad when David Bowie died.  Prince's death also left a mark.  Jerry Garcia affected me most.  One of my close friends made fun of me for being so down, and he was absolutely ruthless about it for days, especially after I asked him to lay off.  Our relationship soured, and hasn't been the same since.

A friend should acknowledge another friend's Pain.  

Tom Petty was an amazing musician.  I saw him in 1985, when he was touring with Bob Dylan.  He and his band believed in the Power of music, and it showed.  He had some great songs as well (though, that said, I'm SO tired of every song from Full Moon Fever!)

Music has Power.  For many, the Music is a major part of their lives (I'm one of them.)  To drag an old cliche out, the Music we love is the soundtrack of our lives.

I saw Tom Petty live when he and the Heartbreakers toured as Bob Dylan's backing band in 1985.  he was amazing, with and without Dylan.  But that isn't my favorite Tom Petty memory.

No, that came in 1986-7: my first year at Penn State.  I met a pair of girls through working at Burger King.  In my book, I call them Judy, and Virginia, so that is what I'll call them here (in the wildly unlikely case my book gets published.)  They were roommates in Sutton Court apartments, and the relationship I had with them really defined my PSU experience.

I'd go down there most nights to study, do homework, drink, etc,  and we'd listen to music.  Judy had a record player, but only a few albums.  The ones we listened to the most were a Queen hits compilation... and Tom Petty Damn the Torpedoes.  Usually only side one.  On that side was a song that spoke deeply to me:  Even the Losers.

I saw myself as the biggest Loser of all time.

Still do.

But that's out of the scope of this entry.

I shared some amazing times with those two, and, in many ways, this was a year that defined me.  And Tom Petty had a part in it.

Years later, I bought the CD.  Listening to it takes me back to those months at Penn State in that apartment with the two of them.  Oh, and it's a damn good album too!

Part of the soundtrack of my life.

Be well

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


I attended a birthday party last Wednesday night.  It was a birthday for the boyfriend of someone I used to work with at the bookstore. I was the oldest person there by far at 51.  The next youngest person was the birthday boy, who turned 42.  Everyone else was in their 20s or very early 30s.

The host was a fellow Penn Stater who I met an on a few previous occasions, and he also invited another Penn Stater who used to be his roommate. Also present was a woman who graduated from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.  My friend who graduated from University of Alabama (who is very proud of it) and a couple other people.  It was a fun night, and quickly the discussion turned to colleges and drinking games.

Now when I was in college, I knew a lot of drinking games.  In fact, I used to say I was a walking Encyclopedia of drinking games.  I knew them all.

Talk about a useless skill.

However, they were talking about a game that I'd heard of many times.  I know it's extremely popular now, but I had never played it- in fact I didn't know the rules:  Kings.

As it turns out, Kings isn't too much different from a game that I knew in college called Ace Face.  The similarities are that each card means something- each card makes everyone or someone do something- usually drink.  I asked the Goucher Grad if she could teach it to me.  She was drinking water, so we decided that we will play the game, but we would not drink.  Well, we would all drink water or whatever, and I was fine with that.  After all, I was driving.

And so she taught me Kings.  There were four of us at the table; all women.  Again, I was by far the oldest. I don't think any other woman was past 32.  We had a good time of it, and I learned the rules fairly quickly.  Little rules like "the little green man" that I've never heard of, as well as other rules that I was quite familiar with, such as "Questions" and that sort of thing.  In fact, they were rather surprised that I knew "Questions" so well.

Well, it was a game we played back in the day.

And so I have learned another drinking game.  So what?  Aren't I a little old for that?  Well, it made me think of times long past (as most things often do nowadays.)  In this case, in college and for many years after, the only time that I was happy drinking was when I was playing drinking games.

I love drinking games.  The idea of drinking, getting drunk, but also showing my superiority- my manhood- in defeating others in a game simply by outlasting them (because I could drink more than them.)  It stoked my ego, what little I had of one.  It showed me that I was a Man.

Macho... at the party

Yeah, we know how all that turned out.

After she showed me Kings, I told her about Ace Face, which apparently is completely unknown to people of this era. I know the games right now are Kings and Beirut (which is also known as Beer pong.)   We used to play Ace Face.  We used to play a lot of Thumper, Up the river Down the river; Quarters was a major one.  All kinds of games. 3 man was major as well.

So I taught Ace face, again with water, and, as it stood, if we have been playing with alcohol I would have been crushed! Ace face is a type of poker game. I drew a 5 Card flush.  Why can't I do that when I'm playing for money?  It's funny- the only times I've ever drawn natural straight flushes in a seven card hand was it at Ace face, and I've done it twice.  (In Ace face the winning hand loses and drinks very substantially.) 

We followed up with another card game called "that's what she said" which is essentially a rip-off of Cards Against Humanity. 

It turns out two people with the the party have been laid off from their jobs within the past couple days.  I thought about how things have changed so much (aside from transition) and how even if I WANTED to play drinking games like I used to, there's no way my body could handle it anymore.  I just don't like drinking now, because it doesn't make me feel good like it used to.  The Hangover afterward is just horrible! I could have one drink these days and have a hangover.  In any case, I'm also not used to drinking in a group setting.  It's easier with just me, or just me and Linda, and that's all.

Also being in the presence of so many younger people, I felt a LOT out of place. I was 20 to 30 years older than some of them, and I felt a little awkward.  Not only were all these people cisgender and single, but they were half my age- sometimes more.  That sort of thing shouldn't bother me, I know, but it did- because after all, I'm a human being.  I was actually a lot more Awkward about being older than everyone else then I was about being the only transperson in the room.  There were two people in that room tonight whom I've never met, and I'm wondering if either of them clocked me.

As I said before, so much has changed in my life.  So many things that I was able to do before I can't now.  Twenty years ago, I could still drink a ton.  Twenty years from now will I even still be alive?  I don't know.  If I could predict the future would I be in the lousy situation I am today?

As I was leaving, the Goucher woman said that she would love to play games with me someday when we were drinking, and I smiled.  I said "that would be wonderful.  Maybe then I can teach you other games that we played back in the 80s."  She looked at me with this strange look, and I thought about it.

Swell party!

That would be like someone telling me during my college days that they wanted to teach me drinking games from the 1950s or even the 1940s.  It's that far long ago now.  I'm a relic to them- a museum piece.

This is why I rarely go to parties now. 

I overthink everything.  I figure everyone else sees weaknesses and failures, and that they look at me as "why is that OLD person here?"  It would be like me attending an apartment party at Penn State now.  It would be creepy for the students.

Yes, I've gotten old and lame.  I've aged out of partying.

Be well.