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.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

November First

Back in college (1986) I wrote a short story for a writing class called "Nov. 1st."  It was, at the time, the best story I'd ever written- a ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost.

I have it saved on a Macintosh disk somewhere.  I also have a hard copy printed (I have a hard copy of every short story I wrote back then.)  Problem is, I can't find the folder holding those hard copies.  I remember taking it when I was thrown out in 2013, but haven't found it since.

It had some good ideas, I think; I'd love to see it again.  I think about it every November 1st.  Go figure.

Last Night's Costume

My fascination with this day goes further back.  When I was in junior high, I entered a Halloween window painting contest in Phoenixville.  I figured everyone else would be painting pumpkins, ghosts, etc.  My piece (sketched out in colored pencils in advance) was a sunrise.  There was a barn in the background.  The foreground was a cornfield after harvest.  There was a small burned out campfire, and next to it was a green domino mask with a large nose (the only green in a picture dominated with browns, oranges, black and red.)  In the middle, walking into the rising sun was a couple in silhouette, holding hands.  There may have been a small rooster crowing too.  I called that piece "November 1st."

It didn't win. 

The day after Halloween has always held an attraction to me.  As Halloween is my favorite holiday, I build up to it and anticipate it.  Then, it's over.  The day after.  World keeps turning.  That day after didn't even have an "afterglow."  It was like someone pulled the needle off the record- pulled the plug.  It just stopped.  I mean, people keep up Christmas decorations for weeks after the actual day, but Halloween?  Boom- done.

In my later years, November 1st also meant a nasty hangover.

However, November first has another significance.  November 1st, 1990 was the date of my first suicide attempt- somewhere after midnight.  I spent the next three days in a psych ward.  I will never, ever voluntarily go back to one.  It was appalling. 

All Saint's Day- a holiday created by the Catholic Church to "replace" Samhain.  That's November 1st as well. 

Out and About

So today is November first.  I woke up with a slight hangover, and my hair smelling of smoke.  I spent some time reading, and some time volunteering.  I saw my "big sister" Mel briefly.  Ten years ago, I was wrestling with the events of the night before.  Today, it's just another day.

I just felt like writing about it. 

Be well.