Sunday, March 31, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 47: Crow Formal

At this point, I was still very unsure of what I did.  Yes, I was dating Virginia, but I would've preferred Judy.

Here is yet another occasion that age and Transition has given me insight.  I was desperate for affection.  Where many of my fraternity brothers would've not cared about what She thought, and still pursued both women (youth and cockiness,) I couldn't comprehend that frame of mind- at all.  I still can't.

I couldn't admit that weakness to anyone, especially myself.  I felt that unless I had a girlfriend, that made me less of a guy.  Again, I had no idea what Manhood meant, only what I saw.  Frankly, the examples I'd seen of manhood by that point weren't good ones.

So, am I saying that "neediness" is a feminine attribute? Absolutely not.  However, I now recognize that having a partner is not the measure of a man... or a woman.

Did I mention I was young and stupid?


Chapter 47: Crow Formal

Friday, February 13, 1987 Iran panel probes for cover up
            There was no doubt that I was going to Virginia’s Crow formal.  She wanted it to be like a “grand revealing” so that everyone would know we were dating.  This left me with a problem: telling Judy.  How do you tell someone something you don’t want them to know?  Still, I wanted her to find out from me, not Virginia or by just “seeing us.”
            I asked Virginia not to tell her- let it be a surprise.  After all, Virginia was still supposedly dating Chuck.
            Fuck.  How did I get into this?
            So Judy and I went to the library to study and do research for papers.  She was in a foul mood.  Had Virginia told her?
We were walking back through clear freezing night.  The path was lit by the full moon reflecting off the snow and her pale skin.  I finally summoned the guts to tell her. 
“Judy, I have to, um, tell you something.”
“More good news” she said sullenly.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing.  Tell me.  Please.”
“I’m going to your formal with Virginia.”
“That’s good.”
“We’re kinda dating now.”
Judy’s expression didn’t change.
“Oh,” she said.  “I’m happy for you both.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Why?  You have a girlfriend.  That is what you’ve wanted.  Congratulations!”
“But you and I…”
“What about us?  All you’ve done is break promise after promise to me,” she said.
“What promise did I break this time?”
She paused, looked at me a moment, then kept walking.
“Nothing.  I hope you are happy together,” she said.
“You told me many times that I should date her!”
“I didn’t think you actually would!  Either way, it’s none of my business,” she said.
We walked in silence for a bit, our feet crunching on the occasional ice patch.
“Is Rich coming up?”  I asked.
“Yes,” she said, looking at her feet.
Was she crying?  Couldn’t be.

Collegian  February 13, 1987

Saturday, February 14, 1987 Valentines Day Broker admits to divulging inside information
            I met Virginia at their apartment around seven.  She was dressed in a slinky, curve hugging blue dress that showed lots of cleavage.  The bare shoulders made her neck look extremely long, especially with her short hair.  Her face was lightly made up, but she looked so different because she never wore makeup.  She was dressed to show off.  Me?  I wore my old polyester gray suit with a new red paisley tie.  (Paisley was the stylish thing to wear at the time.)
            As Judy and Rich had already left before I arrived, I wanted to fuck Virginia immediately.  After all, that’s why I signed up for this and hurt Judy.
            “No, this thing is a bitch to put on.  You’ll have to wait,” she said, then kissed me while caressing my crotch.
            I then helped her with her garnet colored Crow jacket, which seemed so out of place, but let’s face facts- it was fucking freezing outside.

            The formal itself was typical.  The Crows set up tables in the living room and we had catered food- chicken cordon bleu.  The open bar was at the front of the house, where they normally set up the DJ stuff.  People were pouring incredibly strong drinks for themselves.  I got beer and wine for Virginia and I.  We sat with Kathy, a few other little sisters and their dates.  Judy and Rich were a couple tables over but facing us.  Judy wore an elegant black dress with long sleeves.  It was tight in all the right places.  She looked beautiful. 
            Judy had yet to master the skill of pretending she was having a good time.  It looked like she and Rich were having a spat.
            “Judy keeps staring at us,” Virginia whispered in my ear before giving it a nibble.
            I noticed.  I wonder why?  Maybe your dress?”
            “The little bitch is probably jealous that I’m here with you.”
            “I doubt that,” I said.
            “I don’t.  She and Rich have been fighting all day.  She didn’t want to come tonight, but since he drove all the way here, he finally talked her into it.”
            “That doesn’t mean it’s because of me.”
            “It is.  I know,” Virginia said.
            Every time I stood up, be it to get drinks (several times I offered Judy and Rich a drink, and was politely refused), going to the john, whatever, Crows were asking if Virginia and I were a couple.  It felt really weird to say ‘yes,’ but kinda comforting all the same.  I mean, no one could argue that she looked absolutely beautiful that night.  I was a lucky guy- I was told so many times.  So why did I keep looking over at Judy?
                                                                        Collegian  February 13, 1987

         Later that night, I was leaning on the crowded Crow bar, my back against the one wall- my “usual” spot.  Virginia was away taking a leak in the ladies room.  I was enjoying the music- waiting for the cup of flipping to come, hic, come to me.  Def Leppard- good and loud.
I gotta feel it in my blood
I need your touch don't need your love
And I want, and I need, and I lust
And I want, and I need, and I lust
            Guy pushes himself in next to me.  Seen him before- he’s a brother here.  Think his nickname is Dildo or something.  Italian with thick black hair slicked straight back, unibrow, maybe five eight.  Hear he says he’s a black belt or something. 
            “So have you explored it yet?” he asks me.
            “Explored what?”  I leave off the customary “Your mom?”
            Virginia’s vagina, man!”  He starts to sing “Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina! Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina! Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!”  Guessing that this may be a fraternity song.
            “That’s none of your fucking biz-business,” I said, turning toward him.
            “Oh come on!  Almost everyone here has.  She’s a little sister after all.”
            Felt ballsy.  “Yeah she mentioned fucking some guys who couldn’t satisfy her.  Figured they were Crows.  Birds have small dicks.  She needed a real man like me to do the job.”
            “Fuckin’ asshole” he started to get all angry.
            “Hey, I’m a fuckin’ guest in your house.  You wanna start something, I’ll be happy to hurt you, but remember, I’m a Skull.  If you guys pile on me, can you handle all of Skull comin’ over, knockin’ on your door? Huh?  Can you?  I don’t think so.”
            He glared at me for a second, probably doing math in his head.   Then he turned and looked down the bar.
            “Hey people!  This fuckin’ Skull says he can out drink us all!” he yells.
            Some people shout abuse.  Others don’t care.  Doesn’t matter.  The avalanche begins.  Every hit, and I hear “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”
            Virginia comes back from the pisser (that took a fucking long time!).  “Skull!  Drink!”
            By then I had two full beers in front of me that needed emptying.  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”
            “What happened?”  Virginia said, laughing.
            “Dildo lied.  I’m pay-paying the price.”
            “What?” she said.
            “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!” “Skull!  Drink!”
            “Skull!  CHUG!”  Wondered how long it would take to hit one face up.
            I breathed heavy, and chugged one down.  Shook my head.  Don’t puke.  Not in front of them anyway.  Don’t puke!
            “Golden chair!”  I shouted as I headed to the bathroom.  (In case you forgot, Golden Chair means no one can give you drinks while you’re gone.) 
            Upstairs.  Stood in line.  Long piss in the sink.  Puke?  Nah.  Not now.  Rinse hands in other sink.
            Out of bathroom.  Virginia waiting.  She smiled. 
            “I found out what’s up.  I told the bar that Dildo lied and he’s getting hammered now.  Wanna go down and play some more?”
            “Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!  Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!  Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!" played in my head.
            “No.  Let’s go to my place.  Play there.”
            She smiled wider.  “Ok!  I just wanna say good bye to Kathy.”
            Sat on a window ledge.  Turned and promptly puked out the open window.  Hope no one was down there.  Should say goodbye to Judy…
            Virginia came back.  Walked to my place.
            Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Sleep Well Jeanine

My friend Dr. Jeanine Ruhsam died the other day.  She was an avid skier, and just finished a run on her favorite slope, when she collapsed.  Lifesaving efforts proved ineffective, and she was declared dead at a nearby hospital.

I met Jeanine in January 2009, on my second might out as Sophie.  She’d come to Angela’s Laptop Lounge at Shangrila to spread the word about a brand new Transgender conference.  She was tall, thin, stylish, and well spoken.  And I was really new and taking my first steps into a new world.  Frankly, I was scared as hell, and she was so well put together, I was intimidated.  However, she took time to speak with me, and welcomed me to the community.  We spoke briefly that night.  I admired her drive and spirit.  I bought her a drink.

Jeanine, Keystone Conference 2016

Jeanine was president of a Harrisburg based organization called Trans Central, and they’d organized the Keystone Conference.    At that first Keystone Conference, there I sat with maybe 80 other attendees, listening while Jeanine spoke to us as peers- as family.  I was so scared when I arrived, yet by this time, I'd found my courage.  (Donna Rose was the Keynote speaker- that was the first time I met her.)

She spoke about beginnings- about how every journey has one, and that many in the small dining room (only one of the three available- now the conference packs all three) were just beginning our journeys.  I was one of them.  She also spoke about Community.  How all of us were part of something larger- that everyone here Understood what we all felt.  Some would call that socialistic, but it was True.  For many of us, me included, it was what we needed to hear.  I'd grown up thinking I was alone: a freak.

I never forgot what she said, or how she made me feel.

The person who checked into that hotel that week, was not the same person who checked out.  That's because of the conference, yes, but mostly because of what Jeanine said.

I saw Jeanine occasionally over the years, usually at conferences.  She was at SCC in 2013, and we talked a bit about my situation at the time.  She encouraged me to persevere.  Essentially, it was a pep talk.  I really don't remember much about it, as I was in a haze of Pain and confusion, but I remember she knew about my situation, and took the time to sit down with me and talk.

With Jeanine, Vanity Club dinner, SCC 2013

Eventually, she earned her PhD in American Studies from Penn State, and she encouraged me to continue my education.  At that time, I was working for Penn State Great Valley, and was deep into planning my "coming out."  Jeanine drove over an hour down to GV, and we spent hours determining what a transitioning Penn State employee would need/want from the University.  PSU didn't have a plan in place, so she was developing one.  We spoke often during that time- planning, negotiating... laughing.  As it happened, days before I was going to sit down with my supervisor at PSU about transition, I was promoted at the book store, so Dr. F wasn't told.  Instead, I focused on my transition plan there.  However, I knew that Penn State now had a transition plan for Transgender employees, and they had it because of Jeanine.

She also twice served as president of Vanity Club, which is the transgender service sorority.  Her tenure was before my time, but those who were there remember her service fondly.

With Jeanine at the first Keystone Conference, 2009

Jeanine had so many friends- some of whom knew her for decades.  They obviously knew her FAR better than I.  In the end, she was like a friend and coworker to me, having worked as we did on that policy. 

But Jeanine made me feel Included.  She made me feel like I Mattered.  That is a LOT.  I'll never forget that she was there when I needed her to be.  And she was there for so many others as well.

Rest well, Jeanine.  May the four winds blow you safely home.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 46: Typical Day Spring Semester 1987

Not every day ay PSU was a party- no far from it.  Those who didn't learn to balance fun with work usually flunked out after first semester.

What made the experience of college was the day to day routine: classes, homework, sports/activities/clubs, and the people you cared about.

Many things have changed at PSU since i graduated, but that hasn't.

This was my typical day then.  It probably wasn't so different from other college alumni.


Chapter 46: Typical Day Spring Semester 1987

Wednesday, February 4, 1987 Flier says he briefed North on arms drop

            Weather in State College is predictable.  Rain, rain, rain.  There were two seasons- the rainy season, and the season in which no one was around (summer).  This held true especially during the winter.  White gray, brown, white.  Sky, everything else, snow.  The world was a dull slushy icy cold mess.  And we all went to class.  Uphill.  Both ways (really!)  Tons of books!  Oh sorry.  Got carried away.  In any case, the all consuming grayness made a sunny day almost a cause for celebration.  It was always bitter cold.  Go figure- we were in the mountains.
            Of course the worst part was that all the girls were wrapped up in so many layers that they looked like Randy from “A Christmas Story”- amorphous blobs of cold resistant textiles.  No shape, no curves, no nothing!
            So it was in this cold grey world that all of us went to class, worked, studied, fucked, drank, whatever.  Night fell so quickly, and often it was so cold no one wanted to go out.  Problem- we’re in the middle of nowhere.  If you’re under 21, which I was then, and broke, what is there to do?  Well, go to sporting events.  There was wrestling, basketball, volleyball, and they were all free.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons Penn Staters are such fanatics- we were all attending all of the events!

Collegian, Feb 4, 1987
            Of course some nights there were parties during the week, but I had to balance all that out as I didn’t want a repeat of the last semester’s grades.  Add to that, I now had Virginia, so I no longer had to worry about going out to meet people.  (Yeah, like I bothered anyway since meeting Judy!)
            Anyway a typical day went like this:  I woke up, went to classes straight until 2.  I had a couple of hours for lunch, which I ate at the house.  Sometimes, I’d see Virginia, sometimes not.  Then I would go to my afternoon classes.  This semester was different, in that Tuesday I had off, while Thursday I had student teaching all day.  So on Thursday, I’d wake up incredibly early, get dressed and walk all the way across campus to Chambers building for my ride to my class.  I’d get back around five-ish, have dinner at the house, homework and nap until party time. 

Am I the only one who misses this place?
            Tuesdays I had off, so I’d sleep in, recover from my hangover and do homework, usually at the library.
            Many afternoons, I’d have the apartment to myself.  I’d put on one of Bob Dylan’s “Biograph” tapes and just relax. 
“My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.”
            Sometimes Virginia would show up and listen with me, lying on the couch together.  She called them “Dylan chills.”  I learned a lot about a lot, if that makes sense, trying to interpret what the man was saying.
“I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.”

            Life at the house was the same.  I’d walk the halls, smell the pot, and hear the Grateful Dead.  I ate lunch and dinner there, and sometimes people talked to me, other times they didn’t.  But as time passed, more did.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Going Home for Further Studies

So something major happened this past month.  I thought I posted about it here, but I guess I didn't.  (I know I did on TG Forum.)  Seems my projects blend these days.

In any case, I mentioned previously that I'd applied to my alma mater, Penn State, for PhD study.

A little background for those new to this blog- I started college at Drexel University in 1984.  I was a Civil Engineering major, because I wanted to make a lot of money, and I chose a city school because I grew up in a tiny, dying foundry town.  I wanted the Bright Lights and Experience that the city implied.

Well, I hated it.  I hated Drexel; I hated the studies; and I HATED the city.  The only good experiences I had were the people I met, like my roomie "Ripper" Rob Young.  (I wonder what happened to him.)  I also pledged a fraternity.  In May 1985, I was initiated as a brother of Phi Kappa Sigma.

In any case, I hated Drexel SO much that I decided to transfer out.  Long story short (too late,) I transferred to Penn State Main campus, arriving in State College in August 1986.  It was the biggest decision in my life up to that point (that anyone knew.)  It was also one of the best.

With an Old Friend, Feb 2019

Oh, if you didn't know, I wrote a book about my Penn State experience called Men of the Skull, which I serialized some of here in the blog.  Find the first chapter HERE.

With the exception of breaks and Summer 1987, I lived at Penn State from August 1986 to December 1988, when I left for Student Teaching.  I graduated in May 1989, in the midst of deep depression.  So, subtracting that summer I wasn't there, I was at PSU for two whole years.  Not much in the scheme of things, really.

So why do I consider it "Home?"  Happy Valley is my Happy Place.  It's not like I had the four years many people have there.  In any case, like many alumni, I visit as often as I can.  Over the years, so much has changed, except one constant- the students are mostly between 17 and 22 years old.

When I was an undergrad, I was a person whose life was spinning out of control.  I buried my Truth- that I was really female, and did my best to be the male that I appeared on the outside.  I drank. I fought.  My fraternity brothers at Penn State sensed I was different, and I was- they were the Popular guys.  They were the creme de la creme of their high schools: athletes, rich kids... the guys who got any woman they wanted.  And then there was me: skinny, awkward, depressed, and hiding a Dark Secret.  Oh, and Initiated.  I was a transfer Brother, and many of them to this day never let me forget it.  This is one of the main topics of my book.

I received my Masters degree in Instructional Design from Penn State Great Valley in 2007, and worked there for a time.

This August, Thirty Three years after I first arrived in State College, I will return to start my PhD studies. 

Yes, I was accepted.

There are details yet to be ironed out, such as financial aid, place to live, etc.  My roomie/bestie will be moving with me.  For her, it's the opportunity to start fresh- full time as Linda. 

There are differences this time around. 

1) I want to live away from the undergrads.  I am too old to go to parties ("Who is that creepy old person?  Your grandmother?") and I want quiet in which to study.  Therefore, I'll be living away from downtown State College.  Also, I rarely drink any more. 

2) I am not the 19 year old who first moved there.  I am 52, and will turn 53 soon after starting.  I have been around the world.  I've learned so much, and know that I'll never stop learning.  Also, I know my weaknesses and failures.

3) The biggest difference: I am no longer hiding my Truth.  The person who will work for that degree is the woman I was born to be (almost.)  No more pretending and lying to everyone, especially myself. 

Does this mean I now won't visit my fraternity house?  Of course I will.  They hold events for alumni, and I'll attend those. 

In any case, I'll be going Home.  It will take at least 5 years to complete the degree.  Wife and daughter said they'd visit twice a month. 

How does this make me feel?  I don't feel anything yet.  I don't think it'll hit me until all the furniture and boxes are in the new place, and I'm settling in.

Still... Penn State...


Friday, March 8, 2019

Bit of a Lull


Sorry I haven't posted lately.

Haven't felt up to it.  Or anything.

Hopefully soon.

Darkness sucks.

Audition the Other day