Friday, December 28, 2018

Walking in a Graveyard on a Rainy Late December Day

I did this via speech to text, and did a light grammar/spelling edit, so this is unfiltered Sophie sh*t.


 I'm walking in the graveyard behind the Valley Forge Chapel. I come here often for the quiet; for the solitude, and to say prayers over those who stones are old and so probably don't get Prayers anymore.

It's been a difficult few days.  I'm almost out of my unemployment benefits, and things may go downhill fast.  Even Linda, my roomie and bestie sees the handwriting on the wall, because if I can't afford to live there, that will put her out as well, and that hurts me more than words.

Yesterday, Linda drove me to Limerick to pick up my car, which was getting some service due to a recall.  We drove through the town I grew up in- Spring City, and also through Royersford (which is the same town really just across the river.)

It was sunset into dusk when we passed through.  I couldn't help but think about all I've seen since I left Spring City those many years ago; about the people I've met, the places I've seen, things I've done- the changes in my life. I thought about those I knew who never left this area-who settled here after high school (assuming they finished.)

Spring City (via Google maps.)  The circle is where I grew up.

I can think of few worse fates than to be stuck in Spring City.  Somehow, I managed to avoid that fate, but now, as my life closes in on me, I think about how many of these people are doing so much better in their life than I ever have or ever will.  They have families- they have places to go; they are happy, maybe, not knowing what's out there.  What's the old saying?  Ignorance is bliss.

Walking here always lends me perspective. You can buy your lots long in advance here if you wish, so you would know exactly where your body will rot. and where it will lay in perpetuity.  Some of the stones here are very impressive.  There's one in particular that I'm looking at right now.  It has an arch and in that Arch is an angel reaching down from heaven, pulling the soul of the deceased to Heaven.  On that stone is the wife's name as well, but she's still alive- her husband long passed.  I can't imagine her pain.

There's a lot of Gaelic crosses here as well, and a lot of very old graves next to which trees are growing- the roots feeding upon the Dead.

It's raining harder now.  I'm standing in front of the graves of two different children- both infants.  One has a small Christmas tree, and the other a statue of an Angel. That child was born at the end of July and died in September 4th in the same year. Again, I can't imagine the pain that those parents have endured.

It's raining even harder now.  The sound of rain is always brought me peace.  I don't know why.  Maybe because it's the sky crying (to use the old cliche.). Maybe it's washing away the dirt in this world.  Someday I will hear it no more.  Someday, I'll be the Dirt washed away.  I'm okay with that.  I really am.

As I said, Death holds no fear to me: it's a friend.

2018 is coming to an end. I was with a friend of mine last night, and she told me that she can't wait for the year to end, because it's been one of the worst years of her life. I must say that my year has not been good at all either.  I spent most of it unemployed.  However, it is still not as bad as 2013. I still have no idea how I survived that year.

Heading back toward my car, and looking up hill, I see the Crypt of a Flying Tiger.  There aren't any of those left on this side of the Veil.  Maybe thirty feet away is the grave whose stone is shaped like a drum kit.  The person beneath it died in his early twenties by suicide.  I can't imagine how his parents feel, but I can't judge him.  I was 24 when I first attempted suicide.  I think about everything I would have missed- my daughter, my wife, some of the best people I've ever met in my life.  And some of the worst decisions I've ever made.

I usually visit this kid just to say hello; to tell him that I understand, and that I hope that his pain has gone away.  Much like when I visit Lisa- when I go down to Baltimore and visit the place where she left us, and I talk to her.

The year is ending and I'm in a far worse place than when it began.

God help me.

Be well.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 38: Spring Schedule

After the first semester, I needed to get my act together.  I thought I'd done well, but the "D" in EDPSY really crushed me.  Lesson learned- go to every class.

What I didn't know was that, while I'd do better academically from then on, my "best" semester was behind me.  Maybe it was the magic of discovering this new (to me) campus- or perhaps it was the amazing spirit of a Championship football season.  I think it was because the excitement of meeting new people- a few women in particular.  My GPA would improve, and eventually I would live in the house with my fraternity brothers, but that magic was over.

But then, I was happy to be back home- home at Penn State, after holiday break.  A new semester lay ahead- a blank paper, if you will.  I was content at that.


Chapter 38: Spring Schedule

Monday, January 12, 1987 Senator blames Reagan

            I needed to much better this semester.  During the new semester I’d start my first student teaching assignment.  Because of that, my schedule was very strange.  The student would take up a full day either on Tuesday or Thursday, so I couldn’t schedule any other classes on those days.  That meant that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday would be very full days.

  • ENGL 100: English Language Analysis 9:05- 9:55AM.  Diagramming sentences- something I’d never done
  • ENGL 212: Intro to Fiction Writing 10:10-11:00AM.  I was looking forward to that one
  • EDTHP 115: Education in American Society 12:20PM-1:10PM.  Oh boy!  Sounded thrilling!
  • ENGL 444: Shakespeare 3:35PM-4:25 PM.  This could be cool
  • SPCOM 100A: Public Speaking  4:40PM-5:30PM  Required for all Penn Staters
I applied, and was turned down.

That was a lot of shit to stuff into a day, and a lot of very heavy books to haul around.

Those left my Tuesdays and Thursdays open for:
  • CI295 Introductory Field Experience for Teacher Preparation.  This was the first student teaching course.  I was going to sit around and observe a teacher at work, and then the class would meet in small groups to discuss our observations.

This also meant that either Tuesday or Thursday would be free days.  Now most people would use that opportunity to catch up on homework, sleep, laundry, etc.  Me?  I saw it as an opportunity to have another night of partying without worrying about waking up the next morning.
Still, I had to buckle down.  The last semester was my worst ever, academically.  If I wanted to graduate, much less eventually have any kind of career, I had to do much better.
Collegian, January 14, 1987

            Winter at Penn State meant a lot of grey days.  It was as if God used up all the world’s color for the autumn and had none left for a few months until he restocked.  Low dark clouds and drizzle or flurries were the norm.  A sunny day was so rare that it was almost reason for a party.  I’m sure it was for someone somewhere.  If nothing else, the bad weather was reason enough to stay inside and do homework.

Or drink, or have sex, or…

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ten Years Gone By

I've written a LOT about "rediscovering myself."  In fact, the entire "MySpace blogs" is a record of those times as they happened.  (shameless plug.)  I've written about how I was "named" at Femme Fever.   Karen, the proprietor, did the makeup and asked what name I was using.  I told her but said it was not set in stone.  She stepped back and looked at me, as the makeup was finished, but I hadn't seen myself yet.  She looked at me and said "I have a strong feeling your name is Sophie."  She then turned the chair around so I faced the mirror and said "Say hello to Sophie!" I usually don't ignore strong feelings, so I kept the name.

The Second Picture of Sophie  "Reasonably Feminine?"

I went to that makeover with the thought that if I could look reasonably feminine, I'd continue exploring this side of me, and see how deep it ran inside of me.  I drove all the way up to Long Island, and found the place.  (I told Wife I was going to State College.)  I was scared out of my mind!  What was I doing? 

Karen was very welcoming, and she knew I was nervous.  I'd explained to her in our emails to each other that this would be my first time getting a makeover.  She'd seen this many times.  Her solution?  Before we would even really get talking, she took some measurements, and then handed me a bra and breast forms and said "Put these on."  I did as I was told, and so there I sat wearing a bra with fake boobs.  And she was right- it put me at ease.  It was like jumping into the deep end of a pool to get used to the cold water.  KER-SPLASH! 

In the first pictures, maybe the first dozen, I can see the fear in my eyes, then that fear subsiding.  (Most of the pictures from this session are at the very beginning of my Flickr page.)


We talked about what I wanted to do, etc.  I wanted to do "girl next door," "Bond Girl," "businesswoman," and "bombshell."  The orange dress was the Bond girl attempt.  Not very Bond-like, but oh well.  The next look was the businesswoman.  That was a change of clothes and a slight shift in makeup. 

Would you sit with the Girl Next Door?

We then did "girl next door."  That was back to the red wig.  I wore a turtleneck sweater and skirt.  All three outfits were with the same stockings,boots, corset, etc. so changing was fast.  The last outfit was very different.  I wore pantyhose, strappy shoes...and no bra.  The dress was holding up the forms... sort of.  It had the effect of making my boobs look either enormous or saggy. 

My attempt at "come hither"

Of all the outfits, I think the red one was the most fun.  By then, I'd been there four hours, and felt so alive! 

Before leaving, I bought the red wig (Karen said I seemed to "come alive" in it) and the bra.  I would later buy the red shoes.  I haven't worn them in forever because, um, I can't figure out how to put them on.

The date of that photo session?  December 8, 2008. 

It's been over ten years. 

After that session, I ordered a couple of items on ebay.  Within a few months, I opened a PO Box a few towns over- in Oaks, Pa.  That way, I could receive items, catalogues, etc. without fear of discovery.  I paid cash for that.

I continued doing research online.  I discovered that there was a Transgender support group near me- VERY near me.  They met (and still meet) the third Saturday of every month: Southeast Pennsylvania Renaissance.  I resolved to go.  I signed off of work and borrowed Wife's car (mine was in the shop.)  I stopped at a parking lot in Valley Forge Park where I attempted to dress.  All I succeeded in doing was breaking my cheap Fredericks of Hollywood corset I'd worn for Halloween. 

I arrived, but I wasn't sure if I was in the right place.  I saw a woman walking in the parking lot.  I rolled down my window, and asked her if this was Renaissance.  She was Rebecca Lohr, president of Ren at that time.  She is still a dear friend (and a gifted author.)  She told me I could go inside and change in the restrooms, as many people did.  I grabbed my things:  corset, bra and wig from Femme Fever, shoes, blouse, skirt... and the "breasts" I'd made for Halloween out of bird seed and pantyhose.  Once inside, a GG welcomed me, and directed me to the right place.  She was the wife of one of the officers, and is a wonderful person.  (I won't name her, as her husband is still closeted.)

And so there I was- badly dressed with no makeup.  The meeting was informative, and I met MANY people who are dear friends to this day (my "original gangsters" to be 90s about it.)  After the group went into session, I was taken aside to a room for newcomers, where that one officer and I talked about who Sophie was, and what I wanted her to be.  She gave me an analogy of a train, which I still use to this day.  This is being like a train.  Some people get off at a certain stop, and that's where they are comfortable.  That's their home.  Very few take the train to the end of the line- transition.

The Only Photo of me that night that I'm aware of

I found out that there would be a Christmas party that night at Shangri La.  I was invited, and I went.  The restaurant was RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO WHERE I WORKED!  I was so incredibly nervous.  Directly following the gathering was Angela's Laptop Lounge.  I didn't know that it was $10 to attend.  My dear friend Jone paid for me, as I had no cash.  Jone took me under her wing that night, as did so many others.  In any case, I made sure no one took pictures of me.  I wanted no evidence of my being there.  (I paid Jone back with drinks the next time I went.)

Still, pictures of me wearing that outfit exist.  I wore it again in March 2009 to Renaissance and Laptop.  I did my own makeup as well (for only the second time.)  So, Aside from the different wig (and different hose, and corset), this was my look that night.

March 2009.  I've gotten better at makeup since

My dear friend Jen Lehman (she called herself Jennifer Johns back then) told me when I mentioned it was my first time out ever "Pandora's box has opened!"  And she was so right.  It had opened.

Jen the night I met her.  She's gonna kill me for posting this!  :) 

That night was December 21, 2008.

Ten Years.

A whole decade passed since that night.  I've met so many since then.  I've lost some as well.  I've never forgotten the kindness shown to me on that first night out.  Those ladies are among my closest friends. I honor them by paying it forward.  I try to help "new" girls when I can.  As I don't go out often now, that tends to happen at the Keystone Conference.

I hid my Truth from myself, and my Wife.  I told her about Sophie in May 2012.  I started HRT on December 10. 2012.  Wife's mother threw me out of the house in August 2013.  A few weeks later, my dearest friend, Lisa, killed herself.  We were going to transition together.

After making plans and preparations for months, I started living my Truth full time on March 25, 2014.

First Day Full Time

Since then, people have come and gone in my life.  I planned suicide in September 2016, but I was too cowardly to carry it out.

And now here I am.  It's mid-December, and past 1 AM.  Insomnia strikes again!  I'm wearing my "PJs"- shorts and a tank top.  No bra. I'm drinking water and listening to the Grateful Dead on headphones.  I never thought I'd live this long.  I never thought that Sophie would ever be anything except a monthly occurrence- a monthly night out.  However, I didn't understand how deep she was rooted.  I didn't want to admit my Truth- even to myself. 

Last night.  "Reasonably Feminine?"

My Truth.  I am a Woman Named Sophie (roll credits.)  That's who I've always been, even if I didn't want to acknowledge it.

Ten years ago, I took those first steps. The journey never ends.

Be well.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 37 Cold Night

There's an old saying:  "Once is an accident- twice is a decision."

So once again, I did something despicable.  Why?  I was desperately lonely.  And so was she.  I played right into her plan.  Thing is, I knew there would be consequences.  I just didn't care that night.

So began my second semester at PSU.  In many ways, it was a great time.  All it cost was my honor, and my self respect.


Chapter 2.37:  Cold Night

Saturday, January 10, 1987 Memo Links Iran Deal, Hostages

            We lay on the couch together in the dim light.  Outside, the snow fell and the wind whistled between the buildings.  And we huddled on the couch holding each other.  We had the one lamp on its lowest setting, and the radio was on, but the volume was low.  97 QWIK rock.
            “Everybody have fun tonight!  Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”
            What the fuck was I doing?
            She was dressed in a long Kelly green knit sweater dress.  Very soft.  Her perfume was light and delicate as a snowflake outside, and I could feel her breasts press gently against my chest as she breathed.  Together we were warm. 

            Christmas break was over.  I came back home to PSU that day, escaping the hell of life with my family.  My roommates would be back in a day or two.  Her roommate would be back tomorrow, weather permitting.
            Funny how after only a few months I saw Penn State as home.
            Break was over.  The Nittany Lions were National Champions.  My second semester loomed- and I had to do better than the first.  1.8.   My God.  Guess I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.
            She nuzzled my neck gently. 
            “Mmmm.  You’re so warm” she almost whispered.
            “So are you.”
            We lay there silently for a few more minutes, and then she started slowly, gently caressing my back.
            “Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover.”
I invited her over because I knew she was back, and I wanted to see her.  And I was bored.  We started the evening eating Domino’s pizza and playing cards.  Rummy, War, Snap, whatever.  We had no beer so we couldn’t play drinking games.  Just soda.  So we drank that.  As the night grew darker, colder, we decided just to lie around and talk: me on the loveseat and her stretched out on the couch. 
Lounged around for a few minutes, talking about break.  What it meant.  What we wanted for the next semester.  Then she commented about how cold it was, and she invited me to join her on her couch.  After all- it was OK: it’s not like anything would happen.  We’d talked about that. 
So I did.
A few minutes of silence later, she asked me to turn down the lights a bit so she could watch the snow fall outside.  So I did.
I was really clueless.

“Take my hand and we'll make it I sweah-uh!  Wuh-OH! Livin' on a pray-uh!”
So there we were lying on the couch, and she’s caressing my back and it feels really good (especially after helping people on the floor unload their shit all day.  I was too fucking nice for my own good.)
“How does that make you feel?” she half-whispered into my ear.
“Feels great!”
“I’m sure it does, but how does it make you feel?”
Did I mention I was incredibly clueless?
“You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care.  Because I can tell what's going on.  It's hip to be square.”  No, it’s not, Huey.
Of course, lying on the couch with this girl; her ample breasts pressed against me; she’s caressing my back; her breath in my neck and ear, I mean- DUH!  I was getting really excited.  And she had to know. 
Time to say something stupid, Lance.
“I’d rub your back, but you probably wouldn’t feel it through that thick material.”
“No one said it had to stay on.”

I rolled off the couch and stood up.  She sat up and looked at me with a kind of half smile, head cocked slightly to the right.

“If we do this, then no one can know” I said quietly, nervously.
“Fine.”  She pulled the dress out from under her, and I helped her pull it off over her head.  It was very heavy.
“Now you have to keep me warm” she said, smiling.  All she was wearing was a shimmering white satin bra that cupped her beautiful breasts perfectly, and skimpy white panties.  She’d kicked off her boots a long time ago.  Sure I’d seen her breasts before, but presentation is everything!  Hypnotic!
She laid back down, and I next to her.  We kissed deeply.  And I caressed her back.

“Take these broken wings And learn to fly again And learn to live so free.”

Several songs later, we were in my bedroom, and she was pulling off the last of my clothes.  We fell into the cold bed and scrambled under the covers.
We rolled around for a minute of so, kissing greedily, then I rolled on top, she wrapped her legs around me, and I entered her. 
The radio was still playing in the other room, but we couldn’t hear it through the closed door.  The snow and wind stroked the window next to the bed.  Couldn’t hear it.  All I could hear was her gasping and breathing, and the sound of our motion on the bed.
Then she gasped out
“Oh…God… I love you!…. I love you!”
I stopped.  “What did you say?”
She opened her eyes.  “Nothing.  Nothing.  Don’t stop.”
So I did.  But not for long.  I was still fairly, um, inexperienced.
Soon we were holding each other, listening to the wind and the snow.  Then she got up to go to the bathroom, picking up her panties as she went.  I put my underwear back on and went out to the living room to gather her clothes. 

We met at my bedroom door, me carrying her dress. 
“I don’t think green is your color,” she said, smiling.
“Maybe I wanted to be a little bold- y’know, try something different.”
“You don’t have the legs for it.”
We went back to bed and cuddled under the covers for a while, listening to the snow and wind.  Then, she looked at my clock, kissed me, rolled out of bed and got dressed.  So did I.
I walked Virginia home through the thickening snow.  We didn’t talk.  Too cold.  At her apartment door, she turned to me and smiled.  Her eyes were clear- happy- dancing.  I’d never seen her happy before.  She kissed me lightly on the lips. 
“Night” she whispered, then went inside.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 29: Letter

In many ways, this one is cheating.  I didn't write this.  "Judy" did.  All I did was change the names.  I even left her spelling error there.  This was a handwritten letter in blue ink on a piece of notebook paper.  Obviously, I still have it.

Judy handed me this letter late in the day, when I ate dinner at her place with her and her roommate.  She asked me not to read it until I returned to my apartment.  I remember mixed feelings when I read it.  Part of me was confused- how could she not know her own heart?  Part of me was thrilled.  She left the door open for us to talk, and become closer.  And that's what I wanted.

Remember, that earlier that day, I'd screwed up any chance with a relationship with "Ashley."  I was in a bad mood that night.

"Informal Composite" picture: September 1986.  Yes, that sweater over tucked in collared shirt was the fashion then.

Now with hindsight, I know what it means not to know one's own heart.  I should've known then, but I'd buried my Truth under so many layers of denial, Pain, Rage, and alcohol, that my heart was all but dead.  The only thing that it longed for at that time was Judy.

This is the last of the "in-between" chapters that were requested (bet you're sorry you did that!)  That completes the narrative through the fall semester of 1986.  I still have gaps to fill between already posted pieces in Spring 1987, which I'll do.


Chapter 29: Letter

November 18, 1986

            I can realize now that you don’t know where I stand.  But to tell you the truth, I really don’t know where I stand myself.  I guess I have a lot of thinking to do myself.  Actually, I believe it is all based on feelings on my part.  I have never been one to understand my feelings.  I know that sounds real encouraging to you but I am being honest.  Maybe you can help?!
            I know I am interested.  Yesterday when I ran into you around Old Main, my heart stopped when I recognized it was you.  I was so glad to see you.  But, put me in the situation with you and Virginia I feel uncomfortable and often say to myself it isn’t worth it.
            Then there is Richard as well.  Between the two of you I don’t know what to do.  I’m happy with him.  I am not turning to you because I am dissatisfied with the relationship.  This I know for a fact.  When you told your roommate, Rich, that I am devoted to my boyfriend it was very true.  I am devoted.  However I do get lonely and I feel very comfortable with you.  You make me feel special.  This I have not felt for a while.  It is not that Richard does not make me feel good about myself because he does but it has been a long time since someone new has expressed interest in me.  You are a sensative person and caring at that.  These qualities are often unusual and it is great seeing them in you.  This is what has held my interest.
            You will be here soon and this class is boring me to death.  I just wanted to write down a few thoughts and feelings to share right now with you and maybe we will discuss them later today.  Till then-


Thursday, November 29, 2018

They Made Me Angry

So, Monday something happened to REALLY piss me off. 

After throwing a pity party for a while, I decided to take action.  What follows is what happened, as I reported it to interested parties.  Names have been changed, and I've redacted some parts for privacy. 


I changed my name legally in October 2016.  After I changed my SS card, passport, driver’s license, etc (all the government and bank stuff) I sent court stamped copies of the name change order to the registrar and the Alumni Association.  I also paid $80 to get my proper name on my diplomas (which are legal documents.)(That money came from friends, and I'm still very grateful!)

When I applied to PSU Harrisburg over a year ago, I created the FOPS [Friend of Penn State] account slk**** to do the application.  No problem.  Application, etc, sent.  (I didn't get accepted, but that's neither here nor there.)

When I attempted to send the application to PSU University Park (UPark), I was locked out.  I submitted a ticket to get it sorted.

And I was all out of bubblegum

Two hours later, I received a reply saying that the account was reset.  I tried it, and it didn't work.  So I called.  First I spoke to a pleasant young woman who told me that the account re-activated was lak***.  That was my account when I was studying for my master’s degree, and when I worked at PSU as an Instructional Designer.  I left PSU in Feb 2016, just before transition.  (That said, PSU HR was in the loop about my transition.)

The young woman didn't know how to fix the problem, and put me on hold.  Then IT Joe, IT consultant, picked up the phone.  He said that the accounts were merged last spring, and, since lak*** was my academic AND work one, they kept that. 

I pointed out to him that LAK was no longer an entity, neither legally nor physically.  Didn't matter.  I pointed out that I am transgender (which I shouldn't have had to do) and if I were to attend PSU for study, and I were stuck with lak***, I'd be misgendered and dead-named (called by my previous name) every time I logged onto a computer.  "To change it would be a long and complicated process, so this is your login."

I'd been very depressed of late , but this really hurt.  I posted the following on facebook:

Ok, so PSU asked me to submit my application for PhD. But I'm locked out of my account. I submit a ticket to the IT Support desk. Couple hours later, I get a reply: they insist I use the lak log in. I inform them that LAK no longer exists legally or physically.

PSU received legal copies of my name change paperwork years ago.

Nope, no dice. To change it would be too much work. I told him I'm transgender, and this would be misgendering, and it didn't matter. So I can go get a PhD and be misgendered the whole time, or just not go.

I told him that I'll be applying elsewhere. I have sent an almost word for word transcript to the people at PSU who wanted me to study there.

So JoeIT, thank you for saving me a lot of work and ruining another one of my dreams.

I can't believe my alma mater is doing this to me. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cry my eyes out for a while.

And so I did.  After a nap, I became very Angry.  I was angry that this happened.  I was angry at JoeIT's attitude.  I was angry that I, as a prospective student, a two time alumni (life member), and former employee was being treated in such a way.  I was angry that, as a human being, I was treated that way.

Before I transitioned, I had a very nasty temper (ask anyone who knew me then.)  These days, it's hard to make me angry.  JoeIT managed to do it.  I was boiling mad.  I decided then, at 11 pm, that I would go up to UPark first thing in the morning and make it right. 

I'd received messages from Dr. F about who to see.  I also received an email from my dear friend Lori, who was the contractor who designed the new PSU system.  (What are the odds?  I knew she worked for Universities, but...) She sent me the instructions for doing what needed to be done- three steps. 

I contacted some other friends in various organizations, and went to bed.

I woke up at 5 AM, and was on the road by 7.  My other friends responded over night that they stood ready to assist.  One (Joanne Carroll, Commissioner on the PA Governor’s Task Force for LGBTQ Equality) contacted the head of the PSU LGBT Center, Brian Patchcoski.  He is on the same commission.  At this point, I was still very angry, hurt, and very determined.

During the morning, I was also in touch with Dr. H and Dr. P (my PSU PhD contacts.)  Upon arrival, I stopped at the LGBT Center in Boucke building, and spoke to Brian.  From there, I went to Old Main to the office of Dr. Marcus Whitehurst, the Vice Provost for Educational Equity.

The assistant there was reluctant to schedule an appointment for me, until I mentioned that I wanted to lodge a complaint, and that I'd already spoken to some organizations (which I had.)  She made some calls, and made a 4 PM appointment for me with Dr. Sonia DeLuca Fernández, the Associate Vice Provost for Educational Equity.  It was, at that time, 11:30.  During the interim, I stopped to see Dr. P to keep her in the loop with my progress. 

At 4 PM I went to Dr. DeLuce Fernandez's office at 305 Grange building.  Also present was Brian Patchcoski. After I explained to Dr. DeLuca Fernandez what had happened, and showing my supporting documents (court order, passport, social security card,) Brian spoke. He'd been in touch with someone in IT (I forget whom) and was explaining about the merger of accounts, and the possible cause of the issue.  As I'm not IT savvy, most of what he said was over my head.  The bottom line was that my having been a student AND an employee was the difficulty.  The three of us spoke for a while.

The crux the solution was that, by eliminating lak***, my record of employment (seniority, etc) would be scrubbed.  Also, some documents in the system, like my previous application, may also be lost.  I said that if that was the price of a solution, so be it.  They did not ask for the paper I had from Lori with the solution, and I didn't offer it. 

Dr. DeLuca Fernandez said she didn't think it was an intentional misgendering.  I begged to differ, and repeated the conversation I'd had with JoeIT, and how my being transgender, and not wishing to be dead-named, made no difference to him.  I told her he needed some training, and that I was still filing a complaint against him.  She'd been taking comprehensive notes during the conversation, and wrote down his name. 

Before the meeting ended, both assured me that the issue would be solved.  Brian said I'd have access within 48 hours.  I contacted Dr. P about the application deadline, and she said it could be extended if necessary, for which I thanked her.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I left campus and drove home.  I did not get my hopes up, but was taking them both at their word.  If it were just me, I wouldn't be so upset.  However, I wondered if this was what happened to other transgender people applying.  That is what made me so angry. 

The next day, Wednesday, I received a phone call at 11:32 from a man from PSU IT.  He kindly informed me that slk**** was now active.  As I was in my car at the time, I couldn't check for myself.  When I arrived home at 4 pm, I logged in, and he was correct.  I discovered that much of the saved application was lost, including the uploaded pieces (resume, writing sample, references.)  My writing sample was my thesis, which is currently on a disc in storage.  I unsuccessfully tried to find it today, but I will try again tomorrow. 

That is the complete story to my knowledge.  I don't know what happened out of my knowledge, but it seems many people helped me, and for that I am profoundly grateful. I thank Dr. DeLuca Fernandez and Mr. Patchcoski for being generous with their time, knowledge, and compassion.

This incident really gets to the emotional heart of the research I wish to do at PSU.  JoeIT had no idea what being transgender meant, nor did he care.  In my opinion, he just didn't want to do the extra work.  Perhaps, if he'd been educated about the transgender experience, this would never had occurred.   As I wrote above, the incident made me very upset, depressed, then very angry.  These are common emotions daily for transgender people.  Another is frustration- why can't we just live our lives?  What is so difficult about letting others be who they truly are? 

As you see, I'm very passionate about this topic, about helping others, and about making the path easier for those who "come up" after me.  If all of my suffering, pain, and tears help just one person, than it will have been worth it all.  Melodramatic?  Maybe, but it is the Truth.  This Truth is why I want to study at Penn State for my PhD. 


With an Old Friend

I was completely exhausted when I got home.  I was still tired the next day, but I had things to do. 

I'm still exhausted.  I've had a lot of friends cheering me on.  My former therapist, Dr. O, said she was proud of me.  That helps, as does that support I received from friends. 

In any case, some people asked.  That's the story.

Be well.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 28: Grocery Shopping

Again, this is a chapter that will be eliminated if the book is ever published.  The first paragraph will be folded into chapter 30.

It's odd- the things one remembers clearly.  I remember the look on Ashley's face as clear as crystal, as well as her jogging down the driveway at Beaver Hill.  These days it'd be called "triggering" as, back then, it's how I imagined any woman I'd ever asked out would look at me.

Silly?  Maybe.  But that's what I thought.  That's what a life of self-hatred does to one's perceptions.


Chapter 28: Grocery Shopping

Tuesday, November 18, 1986 Reagan: No arms shipments planned

            Things were looking up!  Maybe the brothers were softening a bit- maybe the bullshit would stop soon.  After dinner the night before, Maple stopped to tell me that I could now attend pledge meetings.  They were Wednesdays and Sundays.
From that day's Collegian
            All of that was great, but it was yesterday.  Today I had to eat, and the refrigerator was empty.  Ashley drove me to the Weis market outside of town.  She seemed awkward and a little distant, but, being me, I really didn’t notice it.  My plan was to make her a nice dinner within the next few days and… continue what we started a couple of days ago.
            So after I carried my bag of groceries into Beaver Hill, Ashley said she had to go to class.  I walked her down the stairs and outside to the parking lot. 
            We stood looking at each other under the blue-gray cloudy sky.  She glanced around nervously. 
            “Thanks for the ride” I said.
            “You’re welcome” she said.  “I really have to go.”
            I moved closer to kiss her, and she pushed me away.
            “What’s wrong?”  I asked.
            She was several steps away, looking at me with panicked eyes.  I couldn’t understand.
            “Are you afraid of me?”  I asked. 
            She edged down the driveway.  “Yes” she said, her voice slightly cracking.
            “I…”  I shut up.  What could I say?
            She turned away and half jogged down the short steep hill to Beaver Avenue.  I watched her wait for a break in traffic, then run across the street.
            Stupid!  She opened her heart, and I was too dumb to take it!
            I felt the familiar hollowness- stupid and hollow.  I couldn’t even think about Judy and Virginia.  All I could think about was Ashley’s eyes and the fear, no- the pain, in them.
            Yet again, I was the dummy.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bye Big Sister

The older one gets, the more used to "goodbyes" they become.

I'm only 52, and I've lost so many friends for so many reasons.  Most due to transition (yeah, I know- "not really friends" and all that); some to distance; others still because we no longer work together and our circles just no longer intersect.  I've lost far too many to Death already.  Seems to be a curse: friends of mine die young.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I never had many friends.

In any case, I've often written about my "Big Sister" Mel.  From Codex SophieMel transitioned in 2003.  She is an incredibly intelligent woman, and very plain spoken.  My therapist asked Mel to advise and mentor me, and we've become good friends.  I wouldn't be where I am today with out her candid, sometimes brutal, advice.  Mel is very good friends with Donna Rose, who was HER big sister.

I met Mel in 2009, at Angela's Laptop Lounge.  She came specifically to meet me, she said.  She didn't do many transgender events anymore, as she was pretty much stealth.  That said, she loved Southern Comfort Conference, where she saw many friends (she and I roomed together at my only SCC in 2013.)

Dr. Osborne asked her to advise me since, when Mel transitioned, she had two young children.  When I started seeing Dr. Osborne, my daughter was just over a year old.  Aside from Laptop, I would see Mel once a month or so.  We'd go to lunch or happy hour.

She taught me many important lessons.  The most important was "Transition should be the last resort.  Don't transition unless you have no other choice."  She was absolutely right.  When I decided to transition, it was a decision literally between Transition vs Blow my head off.  (I've written about this a few times.)

Our relationship started as a "mentor-student" thing.  Eventually, it evolved to a solid friendship.  She is one of the most intelligent people I know (she predicted the crash of 2008 years before it happened, and exactly how it would happen.)  She worked on Wall Street in the early 80s, and does she ever have stories!  I keep telling her she should write a book, but she modestly demurs.  Aside from finance, she is a scholar of religious history.  Oh, and, like me, she's a MAJOR Bob Dylan fan.

She and I don't always see eye-to-eye.  Her politics are moderate/right (Rockefeller Republican), but she quit the party years ago, and hates what the party has become.  She's not shy when it comes to telling me when I screw up, yet she's always there to help me sort things out as well.

The day I was thrown out of MIL's house, I called both my therapist and Mel.  I went over to Mel's apartment, where we talked and I cried and cried.  God, that was a horrible day!

There was a bright spot: while I was walking from the car to Mel's door, I received an email telling me that I'd been accepted into Vanity Club.  On any other day, I would've been ecstatic.  But not that day.

On December 10, 2012, I was serving my license suspension.  Mel drove me to the Mazzoni Center, where I received my first prescription for HRT: Hormone Replacement Therapy.

She's been a rock on which I could depend.

Now, she's moving home.

Her elderly mother is ailing, and needs help, so Mel is moving back to her hometown in upper New York State.

We'll still talk, of course.  And text.  But there's nothing like face to face, and that will be VERY rare for a while, if not for good.

Heading out to see Mel last Monday.

Last Monday, we got together one last time at McKenzies.  (We used to go to Shangrila, but it closed.  She loved the sushi there.)  We had a drink or two, had some appetizers, talked a bit like we always did, and then parted.  I took a picture of the two of us, but I won't post it.  She's very strict about that- no pictures.  We hugged, and, when we were getting into our respective cars, I turned and thanked her for everything she's done for me.

She knows how I think of her.  I just wanted to say it publically as well.

Be well, Mel.  You're one of the main reasons that I'm alive to write this today.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Saturday Night Insomniac Talking

So it's late at night- 11:27 as I start dictating this.  November 10th, soon to be the 11th.  November 11, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

I've studied history.  I maintain that in many ways, we are still fighting WWI, particularly in the Middle East.  In many ways, we are still fighting the Civil War (see: "voter suppression in the South."). Though I thought World War II was over, apparently it isn't, as Nazis are here in the halls of power in the US.

We live in dangerous times.

 I was going to write a blog entry about the election and about how I volunteered. But I just couldn't be bothered. I started it, but I just couldn't finish it. I get depressed- very depressed- since the election.  I've spent more time lying in bed looking at the ceiling more than anything.   I can't even be bothered writing this- I'm dictating it voice to text. But I figured I'd put out something so my few readers will know I'm still alive.

 I am still unemployed. There's some agency who said they would help me find a job, but the only thing that they've come up with our cashier jobs in the city.  In the end, after transportation and city taxes, I'd be making less than minimum wage.   They said in my interview there's going to be hard time trying to find a job for "someone like me."  Transgender.

I can still fake smile.

 I want to apply to Penn State for my PhD but I haven't done it yet. I haven't even started my essays, or contacting people about letters, or anything. I just don't have the...

I don't have the energy or the drive.  For anything.  I feel fucking worthless.

There was this big class in Philadelphia today for doing transgender activism, and a friend went to it.  It was free, but I didn't go anyway. I didn't go, because I knew that everyone else there had a job, and a career, had a perfect transition, probably already had surgeries, and they were just having these wonderful lives- and here I am just a fat, useless nothing.

Yes, I know that's depression talking.

I don't want to be involved in anything.  Not the play I'm in, not writing... I'm seriously considering leaving Vanity Club.  VC is supposed to mean something, and I'm nothing. 

Early this week, rent was due.  I was very short on it.  I mentioned that online, and both dear friends and total strangers sent me enough money to cover rent.  I really appreciate their generosity- without it Linda and I would be homeless- but I hate taking charity.  I can't even earn my own way in the world.  Linda would be better off without me here.  A different roomie- one with a job.

Still, thank you so very much to those who helped.  Seriously.  I don't want to sound ungrateful, because I'm not.  I...

I'm not worth your friendship.

So here I sit on my couch, dictating.  It's now 12:03 am.  Armistice Day.  The temperature outside is below freezing for the first time this season, and I am inside, thanks to friends.  I'm waiting for the 2 melatonins I took to knock me out.  Been waiting over an hour.

God, I hate my life.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 27: Dinner

As I mentioned two chapters ago, this chapter, like that one would be cut if this were to be published.  While "Ashley" was an important part of my PSU experience, her part was short, and the narrative flows better with her chapters removed.

Ashley was my first Penn State "crush," but I thought she was FAR out of my league.  We went to a play, then to Homecoming together, but I felt like she was not attracted to me.  I figure that after the Homecoming chapter, she would drop away (she is mentioned in later chapters, but not much.)

I've always been one of those weird people who could easily spot when someone "had the hots" for someone else.  It always seemed so obvious to me by reading body language, watching facial expressions, etc.  However, I could never tell when someone liked ME.  If I saw those signs in someone who may like me, I always explained them away one way or the other.

Having zero self esteem does that to a person.

So, while what Ashley did was a total surprise, my inability to handle the situation was as lame as I could ever expect.  I still wince when I think about this.  Worse- I can't imagine how she felt: she put herself out there on a limb, and I walked away.

Ashley, if you ever read this, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.


Chapter 27: Dinner

Sunday, November 16, 1986 Sources: 50 covert plans OK’d

            I arrived at Ashley’s apartment at seven.  I wore nice pants and my purple sweater over the dark striped shirt- collar tucked in, of course.  Ashley was stunning.  She wore a white dress that reached her knees.  It was soft and feminine.  She looked better than she did at homecoming.  My jaw dropped.
            The table was already set.  She really went all out- white tablecloth, cloth napkins, even candles: light blue.  Playing in the background was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Concert in Central park.”
            We'd like to help you learn to help yourself.  Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes”.
            She offered me a coke and we talked briefly about the day.  [Insert topical reference]  She made steak that she’d marinated, veggies, potatoes, and it was all great.  I felt comfortable.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.  Yet I felt guilty.  I was seeing Judy.  Kinda sorta.  But Judy kept saying I should find someone else.

Collegian Nov 18, 1986

            Ashley had another paper for me to check.  As I helped gather the dishes after dinner, she brought it over to me.  I sat and looked at it.  She leaned over my shoulder.  Her beautiful long brown hair draped down below her face as she watched and tickled my shoulder.  Goosebumps.
            Make your move, Lance!  What’s your problem?!?!?
             I asked about a particular sentence and she answered quietly- almost a husky whisper.  Her breath was warm on my neck.  I looked at her and our eyes met. 
            Old Friends.  Memory brushes the same years.  Silently sharing the same fear.
Her eyes were a beautiful blue.  They usually seemed so strong- determined- but now they seemed open vulnerable:  Like she’d opened her soul.  I’d never seen her look this way. 
I had such a hard on!
Kiss her you asshole!
I finished reading.  Then I saw the time- past ten.
Judy wouldn’t be alone all night.  When did Rich leave?  When would Virginia be back?  If I were to have a chance to go down there and fuck her, I’d have to get going.  Of course, there was the issue of the fantastic dinner I just had and how rude it would be to leave so soon.  My mind was doing some quick calculations: Judy’s tits verses Ashley’s beautiful ass.  Which did I have a better chance of seeing?  Well…  I wasn’t going anywhere with Ashley…
Did I mention how incredibly stupid I was? 
Ashley and I talked about classes for a little while longer, and then I stood up. 
“I hate to do this, but one of brothers needs help with a paper so I have to head over to the house.”

Ashley’s expression didn’t change.  I didn’t think it would.  She stood too.
“Thanks for a fantastic dinner!”  I said.
“Thanks for coming over.  Are you sure you can’t stay?” she said.
“I really want to, but I should go.  Can I have a hug?”
She walked over slowly and instead of putting her arms around my body, she put them over my shoulders.  Our eyes met. 
Holy shit!
We started kissing, Tenderly.  She ran her hand through my hair.  We stopped and looked at each other.  She blushed ever so faintly.  I couldn’t believe this was happening!
We kissed again, deeper.  She pulled me closer.  Scenarios started running through my head.  Undoing her dress, caressing her, kissing her breasts, parting her legs, entering her.  I’d waited months for this.
Judy was waiting for me.
Ashley caressed my back.  I couldn’t believe she made a move- that was so unlike her!  But she was a born again, so probably wouldn’t have sex before marriage.
Her lips were so soft!
I kissed her neck and she sighed.
Judy was waiting for me.  This night could be the night that I finally have sex with her.  But she kept saying I should date Ashley.  Ashley, who just ran her nails down my back and pulled me closer by the hips.
So Lance, who could you fuck tonight?
Ashley was making a very strong case.  I could get lost in her eyes.  Her body was soft and…
Shit.  I couldn’t get Judy out of my mind.
There’s an old saying that a bird in the hand is as good as two in the (hmmm) bush.  I could stay here.  After all, I’d wanted this for months.  I even took her to my formal!
Another cliché: there will never be another now. 
Ashley looked at me, kissed my earlobe, and whispered “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing!  Everything is great!  I mean…  I’ve been wanting…”
I kissed her again.  She then started kissing my neck.  I ran my hand gently up her side and toward her breast.  She gently stopped and placed it on her face.  I put my other hand there as well and held her head as we kissed deeply. 
Licking her lips.
We stopped kissing and held each other.  I wondered what was going through her head.  Ashley really put herself out on a limb- exposed her heart to me.
So now was the perfect time to be stupid.
I looked at her.  “I really have to go.  I don’t want to.  I really don’t want to.”
I kissed her forehead and picked up my coat from the chair where it waited.
“I…I…” my lips moved, but I couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Tomorrow?”  I asked.  “Pick it up from here?”
Ashley smiled briefly.
“Sure.  Sure” she said.
I just stomped on her pride and her expression didn’t change.
“Thank you” I said quietly and kissed her again.  “I’ll call as soon as I’m done class.”
“Okay” Ashley said, smiling.
So I left and went out into the cold night, leaving Ashley in a beautiful white dress and dirty dishes.  All I could think of was Judy.  Judy was waiting for me.

I knocked on her apartment door, and Virginia answered.