Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Difficulties With the New Passport Guidelines for Gender Marker Change

I am having issues getting my gender marker set correctly on my passport. Yesterday, I got a letter back from the State department stating that I needed to provide a letter from an endocrinologist or other accepted professional stating that I had clinically transitioned to female. I had submitted one from my endocrinologist and one from my therapist, both in Kentucky. The letter from the Department of State didn't detail what exactly was not sufficient and I have been having difficulties trying to elicit that information. I dropped the following letter off a few minutes ago at the US Department of State website.

Attn: United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Dear Ms. Clinton,

I understand that the new guidelines for gender marker change were targeted to make things easier for non-operative transsexuals to obtain a passport in their target gender.

It does do that, but it makes it much more difficult for pre-operative transsexual women like myself to obtain a gender appropriate passport for flying overseas to have gender reassignment surgery. They fly to a foreign country because they have to pay for the procedure out of their own pocket due to the fact they are often refused coverage for AMA-deemed necessary coverage by health insurance organizations via the default standard policy with discriminatory exclusions that most employers don't see.

The difficulty comes in the fact that what referring health care providers used to deliver for a passport to have surgery in a foreign country now does not meet the guidelines, and they assume otherwise, since the standard has been established for some years. This results in wasted time for the patient having to prove to the doctor via US DOS notification that the guidelines were not met--essentially, proof by rejection.

Doctors are busy people and having to redo a recommendation letter takes time--valuable time.

I submitted my passport application about 4 weeks ago with original documentation for my court-ordered name change, birth certificate, and two letters of recommendation detailing my readiness for surgery--one from my therapist (an LCSW) and one from my endocrinologist.

I received by mail 2 days ago a letter that stated that I needed to provide a letter from an accepted provider that had 7 specific bullet points. I know at least some of those bullet points were more that adequately addressed. Because it took a week for the notification to arrive, I was greeted with the bad news that I had 83 days left to provide the information--76 days if you account for the mail taking the same time to return--before I am issued a passport in my birth-assigned gender. This is going to cause an issue for me because I already reserved the flight tickets with a female gender.

I immediately contacted the State Department help line so they could give me a better clue as what was exactly wrong with the doctor's recommendation so I could provide feedback to my endocrinologist to make the necessary corrections. I was told that the information was not available on line and they would call me back within 48 hours. It has now been over 50 hours since the contact request has been made and I have not had a response yet.

Without an accurate response, the likelihood of my doctor writing another not-good-enough recommendation is significant, and I still don't have my original documents back.

Furthermore, when I called yesterday, the support staff risked the exposure to the fact that I am transsexual to my coworkers by requiring me to read the entire letter, which includes very sensitive and therefore private information, to her over the phone, saying she understood my humiliation.

This procedure should not be this difficult, nor should the burden of responsiveness rest solely on my shoulders and not be shared by the agents processing the application.

Thank you for consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

Sophia Jean Hawes
sophie_jean@sbcglobal.net

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Agenda 2011

Of the 14 executives, a core group of at least 7 or 8 advocates signed up for the new agenda.
-- Jack Welch, Jack

Christmas is almost over, I had some comfort time with one of my friends last night and cravings for pizza from my hormone injection sent me out to watch a movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. It has been a while since I read the book, and the movie left me sitting there with one word: wow. The intensity of the drama was definitely deeper in my opinion than any of the rest of the movies.

It also left me thinking of resolutions, and one in particular. Come this next Christmas, I am not going to be living alone. I don't care if I have a roommate or a partner that I can snuggle up to, I intend to be with someone.

I am also going to start getting on the treadmill after work. The ideal objective is to lose weight and get down to 155 from the 190 pounds that I am sitting at now, but I am going to set the bar low and measurable. I am going to do at least 52 intervals of cardiovascular workouts of 20 minutes or more each, whether it's on the treadmill, walking the apartment grounds, swimming or dancing.

I've already signed up for belly dancing lessons. I had the opportunity last year to stumble across great deals on matching belly dancing costume pieces, and noticed that this Spring Westminster College is offering Beginner Belly Dancing, which I am going to take with one of my new co-worker friends, Nadya. That should take care of at least 12 workout intervals for the year.

Then I've got to deliver a performance to remember at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Valentine's Day Weekend. This will be my first time doing a full monologue by myself of a piece that when done right is extremely powerful and educative of the transsexual experience.

Nadya turned up the heat for me by so far having gotten commitments from 35 of my coworkers to attend one of the three performances. As a result, she unknowingly numbered my remaining days of stealth on the job. I was trying so hard not to let my activism encroach in the workplace. I have little over two months to be permanently instilled mentally as simply another woman on the job before the my history is revealed. I've got to make them love me.

Meanwhile, I am planning to meet sometime next month with the director of a local theater company which is intentionally diverse to see if there's a way I can fit in and be a part. It's a coffee meeting I am looking forward to.

In May, 3 months after my Valentine's Day performance, I am flying to Thailand to have the surgery. The only thing not paid for at this point is the hotel room in Chonburri where I will be staying for 20 days.

Come July, I plan to pay for my kids to come up and spend some time with me, then I need to trade in my car for the lowest cost hybrid I can find.

So by August, I need to take a break from Farmville and start writing Memoirs. That will leave me 4 months to find a friend to live with, preferably a good cuddle friend who can nurse me back to health when I overdo it, who won't run away when I am sick or in pain, who will enjoy at least one of the activities I am involved in, and will grow spiritually with me. Of course, the requirements of having a gentle, considerate, respecting and kind personality still hold and I would love to meet that person today, whoever and wherever you are (even if I already know you).

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Closets and Circles

If I didn't hang out with some TS folks, where would I find the adorable trans men? They are my preferred gender.

But seriously, I found that finding the right set of trans friends to get to know and sometimes hang out with gives a level of support that's hard to find anywhere else. I found a wonderful network here in Utah.

It seems each person has a closet level that's right for what they can emotionally handle at a given stage of their transition. My closet progressively enlarged from cross-dressing support groups to LGBT support groups to cities in which gender identity is a protected attribute. There is a constant fear of the danger of not passing and not having the privilege that goes with it. A person's closet size is tied to how intrinsically deep that fear is.

But if someone fully transitions, they need to interact with the community at large, but they don't need to leave their support behind. That's one of the biggest mistakes that people who go stealth tend to make: they sever the two-way support that is provided by smaller community. In Kentucky, I found a wonderful group, but was shocked to find that anyone who had progressed as far as I did stopped coming. I was suddenly the big sister when I needed a big sister of my own.

The world can be a shit-hole to women, and to trans-women in particular. If bad things happen, you need someone who can provide emotional support, who can understand and whom you can trust. That's the world that Memoirs of a Transsexual: Welcome to Womanhood is going to open up to. It's not pretty. But it's real. At the same time, I value being there for people to guide them through what I rediscovered on my own with no guide available, except through what I read.

I guess what I am saying is that I move in multiple circles. There's Sophie the woman, Sophie the pan-sexual lesbian, Sophie the trans woman, Sophie the Unitarian Universalist and Sophie the programmer. Some of these areas intersect, and I can navigate those places by dealing with the intersections only.

When I am at work or about town, I am stealth--I am simply a woman. When I am on stage, in print, among transsexual support groups or campaigning for fairness, I am a transsexual woman.

I feel a passion when I am on the stage. I have a thirst for making something as real as possible, emoting and maybe educating at the same time. I feel really part of something to interact with a troupe. Doing any kind of presentation of what it means to be a trans woman, whether on stage, in front of a mic or in print lies at the intersection of my passion and something I can be really good at. It only needs the economic incentive to make it the perfect career for me.

Speaking of which, I just heard back from the director. My audition is going to be on the University of Utah Campus at 6:30 PM tomorrow, after hanging out with the Ladies from Development for a little while. I  have the monologue memorized end-to-end and know exactly where I make mistakes in its recital without having to refer to the printed page. At this point, I know the mistakes will become fewer and I will learn how to graciously recover when I do slip up. I am so excited!

Hugs and God(dess) Bless,
Sophie

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Preparing to Audition--Vagina Monologues, 2011

My vagina is so much friendlier.
I cherish it.
It gives me joy.

-- Eve Ensler, "They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy...Or So They Tried," The Vagina Monologues




Yesterday marked exactly 5 months until surgery, and 3 months until I stop taking hormones in preparation, and, as I find myself having memorized the "They Beat the Girl..." since Friday, it marks exactly 2 months before I am delivering a piece that was first written as a Greek chorus as a full monologue.

Since the last time I did them at Fort Worth in 2009, I have missed doing The Vagina Monologues. When I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, I discovered that the auditions were closed to students only. So I missed out.

Then I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for a permanent software development position. I wound up getting invited to a pre-screen performance of "She Was My Brother," directed by Jerry Rapier of Plan-B Theater. When I heard that they are an intentionally diverse acting troupe, I contacted him with positive results. He is anxious to meet with me in January to see how I can be involved. At his request, I sent a head shot and a resume I threw together.

I discovered Westminster College is giving belly dancing lessons, and I enthusiastically registered, especially since I now have my coin garment to go with my skirt.

On Tuesday, during a TransAction meeting, before leaving to watch a historic vote at Salt Lake City School District, which added sexual identity and gender identity to the list of protected attributes in the district's non-discrimination clause, I discovered through the grapevine that the director for Vagina Monologues at the University of Utah, Victoria Nones, has been looking for transwomen to perform a monologue for the last couple of years. 

When I finally got in contact with Ms. Nones, I found out the auditions have passed and, even though the rest of the parts have been cast, she wants me to come audition sometime this week for "They Beat the Girl..," delivered as a monologue. After not even a day of read-throughs, I surpised myself at my ability to have it almost memorized from end-to-end, and am confident I'll be able to perform it in February.

"They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy...Or So They Tried" has never been performed at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, home of the LDS Church. This monologue was written as a Greek Chorus of 5 by Eve Ensler to be added to the Vagina Monologues as an optional monologue based on interviews with transgender women, and first performed in 2004 by a cast of all transgender women, including names such as Calpernia Addams, whose story is told in Soldier's Girl, and Andrea James.

Over time, the number of cast members has shrunk, making the performance more realistic. In 2009, I had the honor of performing this piece as a dialogue. Now, I have the chance of delivering lines written for 5 people as the monologue of a single character.

As far as I know, I'm the only candidate, since the few other transgender actresses in the area have already committed to performing at Westminster College. The rest of the cast has already been set, and this is a late fill.

If I get the part, I will be involved in three performances Valentine's Day weekend. If you haven't ever been to Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues, I strongly encourage you to make plans to go. The proceeds go to help stop the battery of women around the world. The University of Utah is going to be having their performance on Valentine's Day weekend at the Utah Fine Arts Gallery.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Monday, November 29, 2010

Something I Cannot Give

Not at all. We’re simply asking that you stop forcing an “identity” onto other people’s body parts, and that you stop “identifying” as the body parts of another person.

You say this: “Transsexuals who elect to get the operation, do so because they hate the male genitalia for causing society to force them to act like men.”
 

What we are suggesting is that you go against patriarchal society and act any way you want without attributing particular characteristics, feelings, thoughts and attributes to one’s body. And certainly not to the bodies of other people against their wishes. Body parts are simply body parts. Please help us to spread self-love and acceptance for our bodies just as they are without imposing surgical amputations on them or insisting that certain behaviors or characteristics are caused by our body parts. You are male because you have male reproductive organs. If you want to be a feminine man, or wear pretty dresses, or anything else non-steriotypical- please do! Enjoy! Be our ally!
-- FAB4Life, “Transwomen” Are Merely Castrated Men"
  I really need to stop responding to this hate, but when someone attacks your identity as FAB4Life did above, although with disguised good graces, I can't hold back. My last series of replies were:


You are asking something of me that I cannot give.
I wish I could. What you are suggesting is to deny my identity, my emotions, my state of consciousness. I would never ask the same of you.

I live comfortably now 24/7. I first repressed these emotions because I first didn’t know I could transition. What little male I was able to resurrect from myself had no ability to grow spiritually. My innermost body ached with the knowledge that my genitals were wrong, and I suppressed those feelings as long as I could because people would think I was crazy. Soon gone was my hope of self-transitioning hippy-style through college, when I suddenly found myself in the military reserve just to pay my bills. The first thing I missed was my long hair being shorn off.

I went active because my job sucked. When I got out of the military at 25, I fell in love with an Asian woman, and we had a child on the way before I had a chance to tell her I envied her, like I envied the breasts of my school mates when I was 10, knowing I would never have them and be forced apart from my true friends forever. After 10 years of marriage, the need to be female had gotten so strong that I started seeing a counselor.

I tried going to meetings wearing a pretty dress and being a feminine man to save my marriage, but believe me, the others were men to me, playing Tea Party. It was fun for a time, but I needed to express myself as myself in reality.

At a Unitarian church, I was able to finally emerge, like a butterfly from a cocoon. Meanwhile, I had started taking hormones because I found out that a testosterone-inhibiting drug I was taking for blood pressure was relieving my anxiety. The effect of the estrogen hitting my brain was like a starved child receiving the sweetest candy in the world.

As my identity also emerged, I found a new level of spirituality in myself, saw my functionality increasing and was better able to interact with people. So much so that I soon found myself the greeting coordinator of a church in Louisville, Kentucky.

I began hearing that my femininity was strong enough to be cut like a knife. My sister eagerly embrace her new big sister. And I could feel when people thought of me as female, creating in me a reverberation to match, unlike the constant anxiety I feel when people uphold male expectations of me.

This sense of identity was so strong that, after I spent 3 days being emotionally and physically abused by two men a month after I went full time, I was more determined than ever to not repress my feelings again. My sense of running away from who I was in times passed shattered.

I took a chance with my career and transitioned on the job shortly after. My productivity increased as I was no longer living two lives, and being the person I was meant to be.

My confidence with myself led me into relationships with men and women, but I could not emotionally consummate the relationship because what was between my legs was not what was supposed to be there in my mind to love them with. To consummate anything sexually all my life, I have had to let myself experience the contradictory sense of the genitalia my mind insisted was there, instead of what I could see with my eyes.

I have known since I was little I was not a boy, yet I felt blank because I couldn’t acknowledge what I felt. This May, I am getting surgery. I don’t like living in between.

I live life pretty much like any other woman at my job. I typically wear what’s next in my closet, whether it’s a skirt or slacks, (although I have more skirts), I force my razor to last a week, even though it’s already dull, I update the polish on my nails every three weeks, and my toenails are a couple of weeks past due, I get horrible cramps about every 4 to 6 weeks and the morning sickness that lasts for almost 24 hours that goes with it.

Yet, this is my identity. I am not a man, nor am I a crossdresser, I am who I am, I live in the feminine zone, even though it requires more work and more harassment, because I am more comfortable there and I can now get along with the boys. I better, since I am a programmer.
My goals are for the acceptance of everyone the way they are, for people to be treated with the inherent worth and dignity they deserve, and to break the heteronormative agenda.

Is that truly different from yours?

You want an Ally as do I, but in order to have an ally you must trust them and understand that their point of view is just as valid as yours. I accept that I am biologically male. Can you accept and respect that I am psychologically and emotionally a woman?

If not, then I fear I cannot trust you as an ally for the higher cause of oppression against all people who are either born as women or identify as women and I wish you luck.





Sunday, November 21, 2010

What Makes a Woman

@ Sophia, preach it to the choir. Let the man know the truth about your operation, talking about you gay and proud, be proud enough and tell a man who you lying to. Why wont you tell, because you know he would not want you if he did know the real truth. all that start out female crap is bull. Waht you ended up with? huh? stuff you had to alter and remove, let the man know!
--CaramelChocolate, "Dude Looks Like a Lady"

HipHopWired published a piece on the top 10 celebrities who were discovered to be in relationships with trans women. The response was varied, and one individual, CaramelChocolate, took on a line of reasoning that was full of false assumptions and in her way of thinking, she insisted that trans women are not women and should be proud that they are gay men.


I am amazed at how much urban myth there is out there, and how so many people still buy into it.

A transsexual woman goes through a lot to make life worth living. Society has taught them to just be men, and deal with it, and as hard as they try, they ultimately fail at being men.

It takes many years of self-repression, followed by many counseling sessions to come to appreciate who they are, and accept that they can live a meaningful, fulfilling life.

It takes a lot of time to transition from male to female--from 3 years and up--and the costs are hard to absorb by individuals who are now denied jobs because of their transition and the cost is nothing to sneeze at, because insurance doesn't pay.

Thank God, most transsexual women aren't limited to lives of prostitution. Many who are, however, are brutally murdered or abused under the assumption that they're only good for sex.

Most transsexual women can be found as doctors, engineers, lawyers and many other professions.

Gay men are not attracted to transsexual women, as I can tell you from my own experience. Normal, heterosexual men, and lesbians can be. Also, the majority of TS women are lesbian.

These people who have the courage to finally just be themselves are brutally murdered, assaulted, denied life-saving medical treatment, and denied life-sustaining shelter. Even at the age of 17 months a young child was strangled to death for appearing to effeminate.

This is by no means an easy life, and it is actually an act of human decency to recognize trans people for who they are.

Some people might think that trans women would never be attracted to trans men, because they are gay men after heterosexual men. That's a fallacy. It's quite often that the woman sees the man and is comfortable with them. I know trans men that are better men than many cisgendered men.

I also know of transwomen that are naturally lubricating, and uteruses have been found while operating on male genitalia. It is a form of intersex called male pseudohermaphroditism. To all outward appearances, the body is male, although just barely, and just barely fertile.

In addition, everyone starts out female in the womb. A male brain develops at a critical period when the gonads drop. If too much estrogen makes it across the placenta or there is a deficiency in anti-mullerian hormone generation, the brain does not lay out the normal male pathways, and still has a map that insists it is female.

But this gets even more complex, because the variance in hormone levels causes a spectrum of gender identities.

Fairly uniformly across cultures, there is strong evidence that 1 in 200 people experience gender incongruity. This has been happening for 1000's of years at minimum, and gender identity has been proven to be wholly separate from sexual orientation.

Men do not become women to have sex with men. The cost alone is prohibitive, and most men shiver at the concept of having their genitalia removed.

What makes you a woman? Your desire to be a woman, and your knowledge of what your body should be like, what your brain tells you is supposed to be there.

The true sin is denying yourself, because you can't love others as yourself, when you can't accept your own innate sense of self.

There is no devil inside you, whispering for you to break divine commands. There is instead the evil outside trying to convince you that you can't trust yourself.

I never lie to any person about what I have had if the situation warrants it, like intimate relations or just being a roommate with someone.

The fact is, unless the transsexual woman (and yes she is a woman, emotions and all) is raped or taken advantage of, they are up front in intimate encounters.

I spend most of my time alone, never trolling in bars. I've never slept with someone else in a committed relationship. I have been forced into sexual encounters against my will with men three times, every one of them fully aware of my sexuality.

And I am not gay, unless you count a preference for women. My mind has always told me I have a vagina
.
The neo-vagina is constructed using the original genital material--just reshaping it in a way that is bio-identical to if it had been formed that way.

The hormone production of natal women eventually stops. It's called menopause. Many girls have problems producing hormones to start with, requiring supplemental hormones.

Female genitalia does not make a woman, nor does male genitalia make a man. Neither do hormones or chromosomes.

Heterosexual men have been abusing, raping and murdering all kinds of women, including transgender women, in order to teach them their place in the pecking order. And they do so, fully knowing the genitalia.

Let me put it another way. A gay man or heterosexual man loves or identifies themselves with what is between their legs. They enjoy the sense of power it gives them in relationships and the bigger it is, the more manly they believe they are.

Gay men love men, love things that look, move and smell like men. This is oversimplified, because they don't love just any man like you wouldn't love just any man or woman.

Transsexuals who elect to get the operation, do so because they hate the male genitalia for causing society to force them to act like men. I hate mine, because in intimate relations, I feel that I am blocked by expressing my love with what should be there. I have been through three counselors who all agreed that I am a woman trapped in a man's universe. I have spoken with multiple doctors who also agree. I have two letters of referral from degreed individuals recommending my surgery this May.

I was married for 13 years to a woman and have two daughters through the same woman. Yet, the male parts were practically invisible to my mind and I felt separated because of them, because they were wrong.

I know this is a mental issue, but reparative therapy does not work, because the mental pathways are female, as science has proven. My father tried to toughen me up, but nothing he did ever worked, just sending me into tears of frustration and anger. There is no pill that will change what for 1 in 200 people is a sense of not belonging to one gender and not being admitted to the other.

I am praying, as well I should since I missed church to tell CaramelChocolate all this, that she comes to understand that the deceit is in not being honest with your emotions when you simply tell people what you've been trained to tell them. The deceit is in not sharing who you are on an intimate level. The courage comes in being honest about what you are feeling, because in the end, that is all we truly know, in the face of abuse and hatred.

Trust me. I have no desire to knowingly sleep with any celebrity. The number of unresolved emotional issues they carry to the table, the infidelity that is rampant among them, as well as the depression and stress that they live through is enough to keep me away.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie Jean

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ranging My Life

And it was the old lady, Mrs. Goodman, who first made of me a confidant. Looking back, I see now that her eccentricity was really only a powerful refusal to have truck with the superficial, her incantatory way of talking only that ancestral harking back of the elders, which we reject to our loss. She was one of those interior monologuists who are driven by a lifelong need to see the formal design of their own lives, to fix its rubric firmly among the chapters of the world, and she ruminated best in the presence of a listener manque--a servant, a stranger, or a child. Since she was also one of those blessed of the earth whose own family is the hub of their sky, it was of the Goodmans that, incessantly, I learned. She ranged her life, theirs, with the passion of a critic, and like the best of these, with a wildness of phrase and a soundness of judgment that gave me something of the method, too.
-- Hortense Calisher, False Entry


Tonight, after midnight, I am going to finalize the booking of my flight to Thailand when the withdrawal check from my retirement moves from a pending deposit to funds available; then I am going to transfer the remainder of my surgery balance to a Bangkok bank, and move on to focusing on my passport. I now have less than 6 months to go before I have my genitals surgically corrected to remove a chronic annoyance.

I saw a hematologist/oncologist on Friday. An expert in her field, she doubts that I have hemochromatosis, so she ordered me to get genetic marker testing done for C282Y and H63D , two genes that are known to be the source of hereditary hemochromatosis (HH). She deduced from my hematocrit levels and my medications that I was transsexual. Her child is going to school with two "sex-changers," as she called it, and she was very accepting of me. I finally had an upper physical check done, while wearing a robe to cover my breasts, because she likes to do a physical on all new patients. She suspects that my iron may be elevated because of some metabolic stress; she mentioned the phrase "liver biopsy," which makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

After the two vials of blood were drawn from me, I headed back home, finding myself incredibly drowsy. After a short nap, I opted to draw a bath and do my estrogen injection in the evening, because I didn't want the PMS wave to make me so ill I couldn't attend the Gender Conference on Saturday.

The conference was great! I met and did performance poetry under the tutelage of Elisha Lim, took part in a focus group on the barriers to transgender health care, and enjoyed a closed interactive session on Transgender Romance. I met so many of my emerging friends, and felt an incredible synergy as we all came together.

Afterwards, we danced at an after-conference party at the Sugar Place and listened to music and prose from Elisha Lim. He sat for a moment to read off my cell-phone what I am planning to present tomorrow at Sugar House Coffee. He is a very buoyant, positive-energy individual and I feel fortunate to have met him.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Little Sprout

What is there to show for all the effort and energy expended at home?
-- Linda Weltner, No Place Like Home

Like the pea green nose cone of a trident missile, the first of my tulips has sprouted in my window box in my kitchen--almost right in the very center of the box.

Just last week, the weather was incredibly icy, forcing me to bring the plants inside. I had heard that it's important to let tulips and lillies get the first frost so the seedling can break through the bulb. And sure enough, at least one did.

The same thing occurred to me in my transition. It seems that when I had planted the seeds of growth in myself and first immersed myself in the new environment, that the harsh conditions I immediately encountered actually weakened my shell until I saw it clearly for what it was, its purpose outlived. If it had not been for the tender care of a counselor, friends and supportive church environment, I may not have survived in my weakened state, at least emotionally.

In order to grow and not suffocate, the shell did have to be compromised, but the love expressed afterwards to the now vulnerable me enabled me to survive and thrive and become the woman I am today.

I am going to tend that little seedling and watch for more of it's siblings to emerge. When the winter is over and Spring has sprung, when I return them to the outdoors, I hope to see the most beautiful blooms.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Bikini Wax Cell

"You are Brazilian. What kind of cell would you be part of? A bikini wax cell?"
-- Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs

When the direction finder on my phone said I had arrived at my location, I felt sure I must have put in the wrong address. I was obviously in a a residential district and there was no sign of the Sacred Light of Christ Church anywhere.

As I parked my car and looked at the map application, I noticed the address had appended Metropolitan Community Church to the name of the church, which meant that the address was a match on Google.

As I got out of my car, I asked a young man who had just parked in front of me, "Is there an MCC church around here somewhere?"

"It's that red brick building over there" he said pointing two houses behind me on the side on which I parked.

"Are you looking for the Chili Cookoff?" he asked me when I finished relaying my fears of being in the wrong place, walking around to my passenger door to take out the crock pot filled with Bean and Corn chili I had brought with me. I had spent two hours yesterday morning chopping the ingredients, frying the onions and filling the crock pot to let it simmer during the work day.

That afternoon after work, my neighbor Barb had walked with me to my apartment after I checked my mail, and we chatted while I washed dishes and changed into a nice green dress. After debating on several shoes, we decided on the patent leather high heels I bought in San Francisco three years ago--the same heels that were sinking into the soggy grass covered ground trying to remove the chili from the passenger side of my car.

Barb and I had talked about how I felt male when I was angry or frustrated. She blew me away when she said it was perfectly normal--that she, too, felt male under those circumstances. Today, when I was filling out the forms to transfer medical records from all my doctors, the receptionist also confirmed that those feelings are quite natural for women, and she is so incredibly feminine!

At the cook-off, I met Brandy, a transgender woman who is the church secretary, and many other, mostly young, mostly female-to-male, transgender people with whom I played Yahtzee, before we had a secret ballot on which of the four chilis we thought tasted the best. Mine tied for second, which actually means I didn't come in last. It was a tough vote, because all of the entries were delicious.

Before the night was over, Brandy invited me to attend service at her church, I was invited to a private wine-and-cheese this coming Tuesday and, immediately after being told I was cute, I was encouraged to come to all the TransAction meetings, which occur every Tuesday at 7 PM.

I'm looking forward to them.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Monday, November 1, 2010

Good at Everything

And that's the point. Not even a Herald can be good at everything.
-- Mercedes Lackey, "A Herald's Journey"

I so want to be involved. There are so many organizations showing their colors here for Transgender Awareness Month in Utah. I know I can't be good at everything, but I do want to find what it is I can do to help people be more accepting and accepted of one another.

In less than two months, I have met and befriended the Interweave organizer for the local Unitarian church, the founder of Engendered Species, the leadership of TEA of Utah (the Transgender Education Advocacy), the facilitator for the Adult Transgender Group and an activist for TransAction. I guess you can say my fingers are now in the pie. The question still remains where will I ultimately find a fit.

Almost all of the organizations are providing education services for Transgender Awareness Month. Tomorrow, one of them (I believe TransAction) is hosting a Transgender Tuesday: Chili Cookoff tomorrow. I heard there were only two other people providing, so I dug into my crockpot cookbook and the first Chili recipe I came across is for Beans and Corn Chili, perfect for someone like myself who has to watch their red meat consumption. I'll be starting it first thing in the morning.

It will be another week and a half before I am able to have my iron levels forcibly reduced to normal levels again. I finally have an appointment with a hematologist. It took this long for the referral to go through; but it's Friday, November 12 just after lunch, so I'll have to beg off early from work.

While picking up my ingredients for the Chili, my last acrylic nail was killing me. It had been hanging in there for over two months and was tearing into the quick. As I stood there in line staring at the nail salon, I strongly debated giving up on growing my own nails back out and having acrylics put back on. After checking out, I walked up to the price board and couldn't make up my mind. A young lady sitting just outside on the bench asked me what was going on, took me inside the salon, and as a freebie, removed the painful acrylic nail and applied tip glue to stop the bleeding. She told me not to worry about the nails. I have to be honest: They look horrible. I can't keep a clean cut tip without it shredding right now. Almost every nail has jagged edges past where the nail trimmers can reach.

I also had to take advantage of a bra sale while at Walmart. The B-cup bra I was wearing was already causing pain from the constriction. I tried on a pair of 38-C soft bras and 38-B push-up bras and found the 38-C more comfortable. It was a good thing, too, because they're cheaper at 2 for 16 dollars. It's still hard for me to contemplate needing something that size. Kind of scary, really.

I was pleased to find one of my retirement rollover checks in my mailbox. It's little over half of what I'm going to need for my surgery and plane ticket; but it will be enough to go ahead and order my plane ticket to Thailand probably by the end of next week.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Friday, October 29, 2010

No Finite Answers

I have always felt that chemical engineering was one of the best backgrounds for a business career, because both the classwork and the required thesis teach you one very important lesson: There are no finite answers to many questions.
-- Jack Welch, Jack

As I complete 6 months post transition, I realize that the last couple of weeks and the weeks to come hold memorable events. From wearing purple on October 20, an invitation-only prescreening of "She Was My Brother" on Wednesday, and engaging group therapy discussion yesterday to dressing out for Halloween today, getting my picture taken at a local studio in costume with a friend, a Halloween music festival at my church tomorrow and hosting trick-or-treaters Sunday evening.

My thesis for my Master's degree was more about trying to find emerging patterns in the presence of uncertainty. What I learned is that the patterns that are learned are not always true patterns, though they seem to hold true for a time. It is the things we have not experienced yet that hold the key to finding true patterns. We must always be ready to adjust our patterns when they no longer fit new information.

Looking at the photos I had taken today, and walking through my FaceBook photos to the earliest photos I kept of myself prior to starting hormone replacement therapy 2 1/2 years ago, and I am amazed. Laying the latest photo to a crossdressing photo from the Summer of 2007 looks like two completely different people. The neck muscles are greatly toned, the cheeks and dimples are more refined. My natural hair just feathers in and looks a whole lot better than my wig did.

I was filled with so much uncertainty, yet I was certain that I would never pass as a woman. The testosterone had belatedly shaped in ways that I could never recover from: large neck, shoulders and arms; a chin and nose line that didn't seem to be feminine in the slightest; a bushy unibrow and a persistent beard; and a bald spot forming on my crown.

Somehow, someway, I started drawing stares and comments today; but that's only because people admired my costume.

Wednesday night, I took advantage of theater night to slip into my purple dress, and apply evening makeup that I hadn't tried for months. It was an invitation-only event to certain members of the LGBT community to experience a drama based on two Victorian anthropologists experiences with a Lhamana (two-spirit person of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico).

Loosely based on these historical facts, the play was 90 minutes without intermission, and cast transgender people in a good light. After the performance, the Playwright answered questions from the audience. Miraculously, the real Me'wha, whom the character Lhamana was based on, eventually traveled to Washington, D.C., where she passed as a natal woman with everyone she met. The presisdent of the U.S, just remarked, "They sure do grow them tall out there." At 5 foot 10 to 11 inches, I have found a hero in Me'Wha.

At the support group meeting, I realized a couple of things. First, I can never forgive my father for trying to toughen me into a boy. I still love him, but he owns that sin not me. From what I knew about him before, and what I found out later about his own battles with trying to be a man, he should have tried to get to know me better, to understand me, instead of rough-housing, yelling and trying to get a testosterone rise out of me. When I did eventually respond, not only the physical pain, but the emotional pain of being forced to act in ways I felt uncomfortable left emotional scars. I harbor no ill will, even though he's been passed away for almost 12 years; but he owns that hurt, and not me. I also know that it's okay if I never forgive him. It's not always healthy to completely forgive and absolve someone of the pain that they have inflicted.

The second thing I took away from the support group meeting is that it is quite possible that my ex-wife will never forgive me for the betrayal that she feels that I am guilty of. It is her right to be unforgiving of me, as much as it is my right to be unforgiving of my father. I have no right to demand that she forgive me for my actions as she sees them, and, consequently, I shouldn't be compelled to try to force her forgiveness by making her see the "light." It's her right to withhold forgiveness, and I'm okay with that.

I had so much more I wanted to squeeze in here, but after a long chat with a friend in Texas, for whom I mistook deep friendship signals for romantic interest, I have decided that this is enough to ponder and digest.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tired of the BS

I filed for divorce June 24, 2010, after agreeing to a peaceful settlement and going step by step through the settlement agreement--twice.

After 60 days, after the 23rd of August, I notarized the agreement and mailed it to my spouse, who didn't like what we agreed on. Taking into account her demanded changes, I notarized the new copy and waited to mail it to her when I got to Salt Lake City. It's now a month after that, I have been sending child support and agreed upon expenses since August, and because my pay dates have changed to the 5th and 20th from the 1st and 15th, she accuses me of not sending enough, "pushing it out," and she hasn't signed the paperwork yet, because she wants "to get a lawyer to look it over."

I want to scream. I want to shout. I want to hit something. I just want to go to bed and forget about it. I definitely don't want to talk to her anymore.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Sigh of Relief

Something was going on inside me, something I refused to look at until the weekend our older daughter, Laura, came home from college. When we went to visit her dad in the hospital, she got behind the wheel and I slipped into the passenger seat with a sigh of relief. 
-- Linda Weltner, No Place Like Home

There's something about that moment, when after a period of time in which what you feared would happen never did, that brings a sense of relief. We don't usually notice the anxiety until it's gone. In fact, the loss of old anxieties can in some ways prepare you to deal with new ones. There's that moment before we get wound up in the new set of stressors that we can just breathe, if only for a moment.

I felt in between, neither male nor female, before I started hormone replacement thereapy. While my anatomy seemed to indicate boy, I knew I wasn't really like the other anatomical boys running around. There propensity for pecking orders and dominance was something I could never understand.

I also knew I wasn't a girl, at least I couldn't see myself chattering about babies, clothes, makeup and playing house. But living as a boy, I was always curious what it would be like on the other side.

In a way, I was lucky. I did fairly well as a man, even though I found the whole concept of man as difficult to wear as a lead suit. I tried body building and just couldn't maintain interest for long in any kind of involvement in team sports. I closed up around guys, and made very few friends.

I did well. Even though I had a difficulty adjusting to my genital in my adolescent years and beyond, I lasted until my 40's, before I began to just not be able to function as male anymore. I knew I wasn't male. And my toying with the idea of being a woman finally began to emerge as a possibility.

Did I have any clue then that I would feel much more comfortable being a woman? No. Did I know the amount of discomfort and how dysfunctional my social skills were? Well, a little. But it didn't erase the fact that I felt  like I was a blank slate as far as gender identity was concerned. I didn't know if I was a man or a woman at 42 years old.

After some experimentation taking on a female persona, I found my social dysfunction starting to ebb. I began to worry less in the new persona, and as the anxiety of looking like a crazy fool were dispelled by the people who came to know me, their expectations of me as female fueled a new spiritual growth and I began to more fully identify and feel comfortable in a female persona. My inner woman had been starved, while my inner man had failed to thrive.

The conflicts this opened became intense, since I was married and had two young children. Fervent prayers and begging for signs seemed to always point in one direction. My male days were coming to an end. Of course, this was not good news to my wife, who saw my energies become more selfish and pushing me to keep going one step farther. The mental shift happened rather abruptly, as I finally accepted what I was and what I had to do, being accelerated by hormones and being in the presence of people who saw me as a woman. My mind settled in on the fact that, whatever it was before, it was now female.

So I am simply transgender, right? Actually, no. You see, this whole time, since I hit puberty, I couldn't ejaculate unless I let go of the male image I was forcing on myself until I allowed myself to feel a female image. The sex of my brain was hooked up to imaginary female parts. I thought that was not significant enough to spend the money on SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery) and as I became more comfortable, it became easier to transition socially and then finally at work. And I began to fall in love as a woman.

It became predominant in my mind that I can't love someone the way I am with male parts. I want to love them with female parts, no matter where they lie on the gender spectrum, and I realized that I have always felt that way.

But having now worked for two employers, both very accepting, I have lost one of my primary fears--that I would be unemployed. And through my church, I lost another--that I would be unaccepted. And finally, I lost the fear that I would be unloved, and now for the first time in my life, I feel comfortably alone and not lonely, though I will not reject love if it shadows my door.

So I can breathe a sigh of relief, even knowing there are some things that still need tending to. My iron count is high and my doctor is, hopefully, scheduling a phlebotomy. I need to see a financial manager to severely deplete my retirement savings to pay for the SRS and the plane ticket to get there in a few months. I am having severe premenstrual sysmptoms like clockwork every 28 days, including nausea, dizziness and lower abdominal cramps that keep me in bed all day, even though I shouldn't have a uterus to cramp. But I remember telling my wife before I started hormones that I seemed to have a monthly cycle, and called it a male period (I never asked another man if they suffered the same thing).

But yet, my total anxiety is low, even though I have old bills still to pay.

Home is the place where you feel comfortable being yourself. Perhaps, I have finally found home.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TSA's Response

I received a response from the TSA today; however, they completely dodged my question about their proposed SecureFlight system supposed to roll out on November 1:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policy for screening transgender travelers.

TSA develops requirements and policies for the security of the Nation's transportation systems. The primary purpose of passenger screening is to prevent or deter the introduction of deadly or dangerous items into an airport secured area or onboard an aircraft. TSA policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers are treated with respect and courtesy and every Federal screener receives training on professional conduct. In addition, TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties ensures that TSA screens all traveling persons equally, without regard to a person's race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender.


Passengers may be directed for additional screening if the information on their identification (ID) does not match their appearance; if the name on their boarding pass does not match a valid, Government-issued ID; if their clothing is loose fitting or large enough to hide prohibited items; or if the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) cannot reasonably determine that clothing is free of any detectable threats. Passenger may also be chosen for additional screening on a random basis.


Passengers may wear whatever clothing they choose when approaching the screening checkpoint, but enhanced security measures require that all passengers remove outer coats and jackets for x-ray before proceeding through metal detectors. Passengers that alarm the metal detector will be required to undergo additional screening. Passengers directed for additional screening may undergo hand-wand screening and/or pat-down inspections. Passengers may request the screening be performed in a private screening area at anytime. TSOs are instructed to honor a passenger's request.


If additional screening is merited, the transgender passenger will receive screening by a TSO of the same gender as what the passenger presents himself or herself to be. If a passenger chooses to have additional screening done in a private screening area, a traveling companion is permitted to accompany the passenger during the private screening. If the passenger refuses additional screening, they will be denied access to the secured area.


For more information on the screening process, we recommend that you visit our "For Travelers" section located on our website at www.tsa.gov. This information is updated periodically.


Thank you for contacting us.


TSA Contact Center

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Flight Restrictions Specifying Gender

I sent the following question to the Trasportation Security Administration today:

How are full time transgender people supposed to specify their gender when flying?

Most states still have very restrictive regulations, requiring costly sexual reassignment surgery prior to changing the gender marker.

It is also a WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) requirement that if the individual elects surgery, and more don't than do, the person electing the surgery must live full time in the new gender role prior to the surgery.

As a transgender woman, living full time in my preferred gender, I need to know what to report as my gender when I book my flight to get surgery, to travel across country on business or for job interviews outside my current state.

My gender is female. My driver's license is marked male. I should not have to present as male just to take a plane ride.

On behalf of myself and my fellow transgender human beings,

Sincerely,
Sophia Hawes

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Puzzling Reactions

My memories of the previous night were jumbled but clear enough to understand, from Evening's last frantic phone call to being ordered away by the Queen of the Mists, the discovery of the hope chest, and my bargain with Tybalt. It was the Queen's reaction that puzzled me the most. Evening's death was a mystery and a tragedy, but there was an answer waiting there for me to find it; the existence of the hope chest told me that, if nothing else. The Queen's response to her death was another matter. I could have understood shock, sorrow, or even anger at the messenger.
-- Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue

It was bound to happen. I was warned by several of my friends who went before, but I still find it hard to believe. When I first transitioned in Louisville 5 months ago, I shifted rapidly to all skirts and more femme, even though I was planning to half-and-half between skirts and slacks.

As I looked in the mirror today, after putting on my forest green button-up blouse draped over my jeans in preparation for going to The Paper Moon tonight, I noticed I was settling for less femme for going out clubbing. I haven't been to this lesbian club, yet, so I don't know what the moderately femme expectation is. I know I'm dressed not too differently from the majority of femme lesbians in Louisville or Fort Worth. I am bringing my dress and makeup along, just in case the wardrobe expectations are a little higher. It's supposed to be eclectic dance night on Saturdays, so it seems like the ideal time for me to introduce myself.

The other significant change in my attitude is that I'm not lonely. I'm open to love, but I'm not craving a companion, craving someone to hold me and touch me as I did almost the entire time I was in Louisville. I'm home, I'm alone, and I'm fine. Perhaps, it was the anxiety combined with the hormones that left me aching for someone's lap or shoulder. Perhaps, it was the fear of ultimate rejection that made me look in people's eyes for romance. Perhaps it's because people are so friendly here.

I seem to have reached a point where I'm comfortable just being me.

There is, however, one thing remaining that makes me feel uncomfortable: feeling like I have the wrong genitalia for a relationship. Whether it's with a woman or a man, I want to love them with a woman's parts and not a man's.

That being said, I have a tentative surgery date now set for May 11, which is 7 months and 2 days away, having arranged to send my deposit to the office in Thailand. My next steps are to arrange to have retirement funds rolled over into an IRA, so I can book my flight to Bangkok. The cost right now is 1,020 US dollars. Then comes getting my passport and visa, if necessary.

Monday afternoon, I have a visit with the person who is to be my primary physician in Salt Lake City. I found her through my insurance, and called the family health clinic which is her office. I spoke with the receptionist, and because I want to see the doctor to check my iron levels, she started asking if I wanted a referral to an endocrynologist. I told her about the endo I was seeing in Louisville, and when she asked why I was seeing her, she asked and I told her why. She assured me that I was not the first person of my type with her, but I might be with the doctor she assigned me to. She also asked if I was wanting the doctor to handle my hormone treatments.

In the end, I was scheduled for a physical Monday afternoon. I was asked if I wanted to have an internist do it, or a regular doctor. I decided I wanted a regular doctor to do it, at least for now.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rally

Better remember how to put everything back how we found it!
-- Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

As I found the end of the line and began to lie down in black in front of the LDS offices last night with thousands of other people on a chill night, I reflected on the events that had brought me to this point.

I got an email from Peter on Wednesday, reflecting on how well our conversation after church went. He went on to state as "just a gay man," he felt concern for the hatred directed at fellow human beings--a hatred that was designed to infectiously poison the soul, honestly felt by some to be salvation, completely ignorant of what scientific research has shown us to be true.

Doesn't the book of revelation state that there will be false prophets, who will turn the people's hearts against the teachings of the one known as Christ. Is it a coincidence, therefore, that the leadership of the Mormon church are known by its clergy as prophets? Is it also a coincidence that they are teaching that people cannot trust how they are created and can evolve beyond homosexuality? But psychologists agree that self-repression is only a temporary cure and can lead to inability to grow spiritually.

Peter's email told me that a rally was being organized to protest the ignorance spouted by the LDS prophets. We were to meet at the park across the street from the temple grounds about 7 PM.

When I finally got to the location, I had to park up a hill on State Street, where I had difficulty parallel parking the car and wound up leaving it on the curb. As I walked down State Street toward S. Temple Street, I joined a lesbian couple walking down the hill, introducing myself in our short journey together.

We parted ways at the park, where I looked for Peter, moving closer to the center of the immense crowd of thousands to more clearly here what the speaker was saying. We were there, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, and of all faiths to send a clear message to gay LDS youth: that they are loved and supported in the very heart of South Lake City, home of the LDS Church. Instructions were given out, the police were thanked for their support, and we crossed the street to the temple to lie head-to-toe, the chill wind blowing.

Many people began to walk around us, some carrying signs, while passer-by honked there horns in support, sending up cheers from the human chain.

Eventually a second ring formed, but as people began to have to move for fear of hypothermia, the first ring joined the second. After about 30 minutes, we heard someone loudly proclaiming thank you, the ring dismantled and many people remained talking, deciding where to spend the rest of the night. I went back to my car, and unable to hold my bladder in the icy cold winds, I had to make a call of nature by the right rear tire.

As I drove home, I saw the hundreds of people still milling around the temple and let my GPS navigation system on my cell phone take me home, refelecting on the fact that I have indeed found the LGBT culture in Salt Lake City, and it's alive and vibrant. I am looking forward to getting to know many of these people over the years I will be here.

To the gay and trans youth: Know that you are loved, and don't forget to be proud of how God made you.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Outings Rethought

As soon as I saw them in the lobby, I realized my mistake. They were looking at their watches, holding hands, then looking at their watches again. Their glance up at me was quick, perfunctory, and when I got into the car and sat in the back like their sullen teenage daughter I could see that this was not an outing I should be on.
-- Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs

I had made plans to find a local lesbian club to better integrate into the community. It was to be my next step to building my support safety net--but I changed my mind.

I am alone, but not lonely. I don't have a craving to have someone right now (although I did have a craving for sticky sweet chicken when I gave myself my estrogen shot yesterday). I need to get in touch with the trans community here, but I'm procrastinating--and maybe that's best.


I have been stealth for two weeks now. If anyone at work besides the human resource department knows I was not born female, they haven't even dropped a hint. I'm just the new girl. And I have already shown in this last week that I can program as creatively and and efficiently as the guys. I finished my task for the two-week period plus two more. I literally ran out of things to do.

Robin gave me 2 boxes of soup, a mug to heat it in and a crock pot, simply because she first wanted to apologize for some mood she thought she was projecting and then just to make space in her own pantry. She had even loaned me 5 unsolicited dollars to have enough gas until payday on Friday. Fortunately, I didn't need to use her money and returned it Friday once I was had my last check from my last job. We have become office buddies and lunch partners as we walk each day to the cafeteria for a salad.

Filling up Friday morning, I went inside the 7-11 to get a breakfast item as I usually do when an older male clerk suddenly took over the register from a younger woman as I walked up to the register. I was dressed for the first time for work in jeans and a subdued black and white top, my long sleeved shawl on top; so I was surprised when he brightend up, started telling me how I made his day and told me I had such a beautiful smile. When he tried to run my debit card, the pump locked the transaction out, forcing me to hang up the fuel pump.

Back inside, as I walked up to the register, with a big smile, he asked to see my smile again. Handing me my receipt, he made sure to lingeringly hold his hand on me, and told me to come again. I told him, "Probably in a couple of weeks."

"You promise?" he asked, as he gently let me have my hand back.

At work, one of my team members accepted a promotion, and we all went to lunch to celebrate at The Bohemian, a German restaurant not too far from my apartment. I, of course, wound up settling for the Reuben sandwich with garlic fries. We had a couple sides of hugs onion rings served with a thousand-island like dressing.

Yesterday, I was just sleeping in lethargically, until I gave myself my hormone shot. My stomach started to turm right away. As I was contemplating a mood change in the next few minutes, I began thinking of orange chicken, like you might have at a Chinese buffet. Those thoughts plagued me for several hours until I finally stopped by Panda Express on the way home to get my sticky sweet chicken.

Meanwhile, I got a new Android phone at Verizon, cancelling my AT&T service, since AT&T had pushed a Windows Mobile Update that killed my phone. Now I'm on a new phone with a new OS and a new carrier, but my number's the same.

My next stop was Ross superstore. I missed Ross when I was in Kentucky. I have always gotten really gret clothes at Ross for incredibly cheap prices, even though I have to browse the racks for what few items are in my taste and size. I settled for two long burlap-like skirts, one a size 14 in brown and the other a size 12 in black to replace the two torn silk skirts, one of which was torn in a small conference room by the tray for a dry-erase board. I also picked up two button-up business blouses to replace the blouse that started to lose its sleeve during my interview. One of the blouses is a lime green and the other is forest green. They both accentuated my figure really well and looked fantastic with the skirts. The total cost for two business mix-and-match outfits was 51 dollars before tax.

Back home, I copied important contact information to my new phone, let everyone know I was reachable again and had and hour-and-a-half phone call with my youngest daughter, killing both of our phones.

This morning, I sat with Peter during church, listening to an author tell about writing "the perfect story," followed by beautiful music and storytelling performed live in our church by Irish singer, songwriter and storyteller Celia. The music was incredible, and her stories rapturous. She was still entertaining the children when I left to come home.

Please be sure to thank Amy, who guilted me into writing this week's entry, because she told other people that it's an example of a great way blogs can be used to keep in touch with friends who have moved and was handing out the URL.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dead Phone Zone

Most Black lesbians were closeted, correctly recognizing the Black community's lack of interest in our position, as well as the many more immediate threats to our survival as Black people in a racist society.
-- Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

My phone died and it will be the weekend before I can take it to be fixed. Sunday morning, a Windows Mobile update was pushed to the phone and by 8 PM, it was dead and refused to take a charge.


I found some incredibly nice people at the South Valley Unitarian Society (read: Church) a few miles from my place. The women of the church gave me a wonderful welcome Sunday and I attended the Interweave (the UU organization for promoting LGBT rights) potluck halfway up the mountain. As usual, I was the only trans person there, among the wonderful gay men and lesbians, and we just talked about whatever was on our minds. Peter told me as I was sitting there that I just radiated "woman." (Pretty amazing for someone who was once "all boy" before puberty.) I understand that more specific trans community support is available at the Pride Center.

A coworker took me to lunch yesterday and today. There's a cafeteria we walk to where I can get a small soup, salad and small fountain drink for little over three dollars; besides, it's nice to have her along for company. She tells me there is a lesbian club in town called the Paper Moon, picking up on the fact that I'm mostly lesbian. It sounds so similar to the hangout in Louisville I sometimes frequented that it's worth checking out.

Again, my supposed reputation seems to proceed me, as the Senior Vice President of Technology asked me yesterday on the way out the door if I was Sophie, was glad they finally got to meet me and said, "I have heard great things about you." I could only meekly reply, "I hope I can live up to my expectations."


My children are thriving. My oldest, almost 13, has made honor band, the volleyball team and is in AP courses. My youngest, just turned 7, is in Excel, expects me to call and tell her "Good Night" every night. Sometimes, on the phone, she slips and calls me "Mom," pauses and corrects it before I realize she was actually talking to me. It's going to be hard the next few days since my cell phone just died out of the clear blue Sunday. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my chat window open until 8:30 PM mountain time.

I am starting to finally adjust to my new place. It's starting to feel like home--my home. I am back to playing a lot of Farmville and reading to while away the time. Eventually, I'll restore my activity levels to their former state.

Meanwhile, I think I have crops to harvest.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Monday, September 27, 2010

Laid Bare

She is laid bare
For all to see
This creature that once
Was inside me.

No 5 o'clock shadow
Mars her face
The locks of hair
Her jawline grace.

Is this comely woman
In the mirror I see
Really my reality?

I'm lovely.
I'm me.
My image fits,
Resonating
Reality.

This woman outside
Was once trapped inside.
No wonder she clawed
Through the facade.

I fought this battle
To hold on...
Only to lose...
To win.

Is this really me
I see
My reality
Unfettered
Lovely
Me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tremendous Shift

The next thing I knew, Cortez was grabbing my shoulders.
-- Kelly Armstrong, Dime Store Magic

I have made a tremendous shift, and I don't know when it will feel like home. As I was at a rest stop at the highest point of Interstate 80, high up in the rocky mountains of Wyoming, the moment of crossing a tremendous hurdle was made absolutely physical to me.

Two time zones separate me now from my support group and friends in Kentucky, one from my family and friends in Texas. In the last week and a half, I have been starting over.

Last week, I arrived at my apartment; I had two to select from, preferring the upstairs apartment with balconies front and back. The lawns are well kept, I got my furniture on the same day and I found myself making multiple runs to the store to get everything I need.

I live right across the street from a Target. From the store, the mountain range is absolutely beautiful. The road that separates the apartment from Target is on the same side as my bedroom and the traffic is quite noisy. Yet, somehow, I do get to sleep.

Sunday morning, I explored Salt Lake City Unitarian Church. I had some culture shock as I walked in and sat through the morning service. The greeter introduced herself after I had signed in and was preparing my own badge, there was no Adult Round Table, no Story for All Ages and no sharing of Joys and Concerns. As I listened from my pew near the back, I noticed that the minister performed the entire service solo. It was after the service, however, that everyone seemed to warm up around cups of coffee and ministry tables during the coffee hour.

Monday morning, I started crying, because I put the wrong address into the GPS of AT&T Navigator on my cell phone. It was rapdily approaching 9 AM, the time I was supposed to start work and I was utterly lost. The number 411 gave me was not answered, I tried several gas stations and finally it dawned on me that I had my supervisor's number in my call history--he had called me Saturday as I was driving cross country. With his help I eventually made it in.

I met my supervisor downstairs, he showed me my new cubicle and we went downstairs to find out when the next employee orientation was; it was 15 minutes in progress, already. So as I was filling out my paperwork, making a mess with a blueberry muffin, one of the Human Resources representatives came over to snap my badge picture in my red gold and black blouse. When I saw how well that turned out, I made a vow to scan it and use it as my new profile. During the orientation, I was pleased to see that sexual orientation and gender identity have been added to the company's list of protected categories, even though they don't appear on the application. I also found out that if I know any other Java developers, they will pay an $8000 referral for anyone that I recommend that lasts 6 months or longer.

It took about a week, but my computer has been set up, I am back at work with my first task, and we are overcoming the last "new employee" hurdles so that I can start developing. I have already jumped in with some intellectual discussion with my team members and am starting to get really involved.

I had to break stealth with human resources to try to find out whether or not the medical plan will cover sexual reassignment surgery. The exclusions were deliberately vague, and in the end, I received the following confirmation from SelectHealth:

Unfortunately, Sophie is correct, SelectHealth does not provide  coverage for this type of procedure.  The member would have the opportunity to
appeal and we can certainly provide information with regard to that process.

With regard to which plan would be most advantageous for the member - I don't fee comfortable making a recomendation, although, if they have truly confirmed that IRS guidelines allow the HSA funds to be used for the procedure they would at least benefit from the tax savings. 

It looks like I am still going to be faced with the same fight.

I have almost finished putting everything away, I finally got decent internet service the day before yesterday (my first attempt with Clear was a mistake), got to know a couple of my neighbors and got the address of the other Unitarian community and their directions today. The Interweave group (for LGBT concerns) of the church appears to be having a Potluck tomorrow at 5 PM, and, even though I am not in a state to bring something to the potluck, contacted the organizers, leaving them my number to call back.

I noticed there is some local Transgender support here in Salt Lake City, via a few web searches, and my next priority after establishing a church home is to get involved with them again.


Last Saturday, I discovered an open mic event at the coffee shop down the street and relatively cute guy by the name of Owen introduced himself as I was leaving, saying he was a talent scout in search of poets for open mic events.

I had already made up my mind I was returning.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Emptying the Abode

He noticed a young fair-haired woman watching him with a yearning expression as he cheerfully lost stacks of silver pennies on the throw of the dice.
--Ken Follett, World Without End
I have little over one work day left, before I am temporarily unemployed, before I start my three day trip to Salt Lake City. I just solved probably my last programming challenge at my current employer (the elimination of a Transactional annotation that was causing TransactionNotFoundExceptions), but enough geek talk.

My living room is fairly empty. I hauled the bookcase, mini-trampoline, coffee table and sleeper sofa out by the bin where all but the sleeper sofa were claimed by other residents. The furniture costs me less to replace than hiring professional movers. I was almost talked into renting a U-Haul, but since I am traveling alone, it would put me in a vulnerable situation needing someone to help me unload, and I'd rather not put myself in that kind of position again.

I still have more packing to do, and more furniture to carry out.

Meanwhile, it seems that everyone is going to the hospital these days. My mother is in for a heart attack she suffered. They have her on a medicated stint to help prevent clotting, a genetic condition that I just found out runs in the family. She's really weak, but there was no permanent damage done to her heart.

My Aunt, my dad's sister, fell in the bathtub and hurt either her shoulder or her hip. I heard both as my foster sister explained it to me. She had to wait until my cousin showed up to help her out of the bathtub and to the hospital.

And then last night around 1 AM I got a call from a girlfriend asking me to pick her up from the local hospital because of an altercation she got into with her parents. She was fine. One of her therapists insisted that she get an immediate psychiatric evaluation done. As a result, I brought her back home with me so that she can recover.

And I wound up having heart-to-heart chats with my adopted little brother trying to help him understand how someone who was "all boy" would have needed to change genders over 30 years later. It had been 13 or more years since we last talked, and we caught up, filling in the details. We have both changed significantly over the years, but I would have to say I probably have changed a bit more. After chatting online via Facebook the night before last, I heard his voice and his wife's voice and they heard mine. All-in-all, our friendship still stands, while I get to know him a little better and vice versa.

So my plans tonight are to print out my last timesheet for tomorrow and focus on having all the packing done and large furniture out the door. It might be a late night, and for some reason, I'm thinking cheap 5 dollar pizza.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tying It All Together

The thing that really bothers me of late is the fact that I had another inguinal hernia caused by my retractile testes again over the weekend. As usually happens, I was experiencing pain in my lower abdomen, significantly above the groin. When I investigated, I found that, as it chronically happens every few months, my significantly smaller testicle on the left side had retracted, and by applying pressure on the abdomen, I eventually returned it to the upper groin, where I was able to finally get it back out. It's ipsilateral, which means it only occurs on my left side.

Technically, this is considered a version of cryptorchidism, which I may have inherited from my father, who was born with an undescended testicle on the same side, and had to have it surgically corrected through a process called orchipexy, where the testes is surgically attached to the scrotum. If uterine tissue is present, usually a hysterectomy is also performed. In my case, it descends and stays down most of the time, so the doctors only repeatedly threatened an operation if it became problematic.

My first recallable incident, according to my mother, occurred when she took me to the doctor afraid that I may have appendicitis because of my abdominal pain. The doctor at the time noticed the "undescenced" testicle and issued the first "threat of surgery" that I can recall.

There is a possiblity that the condition may have been engendered by my own mother's high hormone counts, as she recalls a checkup with the doctor for her own puberty giving her such a diagnosis.

I found the following article snippet suggesting evidence to support a link between natal estrogen levels  and cryptorchidism:

The major clinical data concern the boys born of women treated during their pregnancy with diethylstilbestrol (DES), a very potent estrogen agonist, from 1950 to 1970. Some studies have reported alterations in sperm quality and a higher incidence of genital malformations, cryptorchidism, and testicular cancer than for the control population (Glaze 1984, Strohsnitter et al. 2001), whereas others found no such change (Wilcox et al. 1995). These discrepancies may be due to differences in the period of treatment during pregnancy, suggesting that there may be a specific period of sensitivity to xenoestrogens in the testis. A recent analysis of these epidemiological studies by Storgaard et al.(2006) pointed out that DES seems to have a negative effect on sperm count only if administered at high dose during the first semester of pregnancy.

-- Géraldine Delbès, Christine Levacher, and René Habert, "Estrogen effects on fetal and neonatal testicular development"

But it doesn't explain the fact that my rectractile experience is so intense, that it only occurs on one side or that I can swear there is a cervix and at least a vaginal cavity under my left scrotum, where someone drunkenly thought they were penetrating a vagina, and being able to penetrate deeply using my own hand.

But then I found in an article on Wikipedia that there is a genetic hormone deficiency that might explain not only the potentially hidden female parts, but also the cryptorchidism and the specific form of gender identity disorder that I have, where I have a fluid sense that is predominantly female and feminine, but slightly androgynous male from time to time:

Anti-Müllerian hormone also known as AMH is a protein that, in humans, is encoded by the AMH gene. It inhibits the development of the Müllerian ducts (paramesonephric ducts) in the male embryo...

...AMH prevents the development of the mullerian ducts into the uterus and other mullerian structures. The effect is ipsilateral, that is each testis suppresses Müllerian development only on its own side. In humans, this action takes place during the first 8 weeks of gestation. If no hormone is produced from the gonads, the Mullerian ducts automatically develop, while the Wolffian ducts, which are responsible for male reproductive ducts, automatically die...

Functional AMH receptors have also been found to be expressed on neurons in the brains of embryonic mice, and are thought to play a role in sexually diamorphic brain development and consequent development of gender-specific behaviours...

In men, inadequate embryonal AMH activity can lead to the Persistent Müllerian duct syndrome (PMDS), in which a rudimentary uterus is present and testes are usually undescended. The AMH gene (AMH) or the gene (AMH-RII) for its receptor are usually abnormal. AMH measurements have also become widely used in the evaluation of testicular presence and function in infants with intersex conditions, ambiguous genitalia, and cryptorchidism.
-- "Anti-Müllerian hormone

So an AMH defiency is a very plausible hypothesis for me, and as the following Wikipedia suggests explains that what I have felt physically since I was 16 is potentially grounded in reality, and not wishful thinking. As a matter of fact, it seems a reasonable diagnosis, via Occam's razor. The actual Wikipedia article on PMDS (Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome) is rather enlightening:

Typical features include undescended testes (cryptorchidism) and the presence of a small, underdeveloped uterus in a male infant or adult...

Cryptorchidism in AMH deficiency suggests that AMH may play a role in transabdominal testicular descent, perhaps by facilitating contraction of the gubernaculum.



Other Müllerian derivatives which may be present in at least a rudimentary form are the cervix, upper part of the vagina, and fallopian tubes.

Although persistent Müllerian duct syndrome is classified as an intersex condition, it does not involve ambiguity or malformation of the external genitalia.

-- "Persistent Mullerian duct syndrome"

As likely as it may seem in my case, it usually takes surgery to confirm, even though I have seen no other condition, yet, that adequately "explains the pain."


The other concern is that there are SRS doctors who will refuse to operate on intersex patients, possibly because it implies custom procedures, rather than something that can be reliably factorized.

The good news is that while I did disclose my retractile testicle, the surgeon saw no indicators that he could not perform my SRS.

It's just a matter now of getting to Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks, getting my relocation bonus once I start working, and use part of it to schedule the procedure with the required downpayment, then "things" should indeed seem normal for once in my life.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie



Friday, September 3, 2010

Yang for My Yin


The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic. Fortune and misfortune, life and death, whether on small scale or vast, come and go everlastingly without beginning or end, and the whole system is protected from monotony by the fact that, in just the same way, remembering alternates with forgetting.
-- Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way

"I'll do it," I heard a voice say and looked up from the mats I had just spread in front of the shredded tire to see a clean-cut handsome young gentleman walking up the road toward me.

And behind him, another gentleman asked, "Do you need any help?"

After they conferred for a few moments among themselves, it was decided who would change my tire.

That made the third time in a row that gentlemen have taken oven the tire changing process for me.When I told Mike a little later, he snarked, "Maybe I should wear a dress."

That was yesterday morning on the way to work.

To make matters more interesting, I got a call later that morning from my hiring manager that the company I am leaving was willing to do something for me that they have never done for anyone else. They offered to up my hourly rate to almost match the company, offered to convert me to salaried contract with not quite as much paid time off as the new company and a promise to do what the could to fix my insurance next April.

This made my decision to leave tougher. But in the end three factors decided it for me: 1) the benefits at the new company are hard to ignore, 2) where were these benefits when I asked for them 4 1/2 months ago, and 3) I have already announced to people that I am leaving for Salt Lake City. I told her today when she called back that I was incredibly honored by their proposal and that made it an even tougher decision. She replied that she is not looking forward to breaking my supervisor's heart.

Yesterday, after work, I notified my landlord I was moving. We discussed the purse snatching and he told me that he was waiving the break-lease so that I could put the unfortunate events behind me. I was given the apartment checklist so that I would know exactly what I would be charged for if I failed to clean and vacate the apartment.

This morning, I noticed a huge blister leaking water high up on the bathroom wall. I called emergency maintenance this morning for them to take care of it. There were definite traces indicating that the leak was probably coming from upstairs.

I don't know if they checked the apartment upstairs, but the last I heard they had peeled the blister open and the water was still leaking--then went off somewhere.

I still have to call the Salt Lake City landlord to let her know that I am ready to move forward, given the photos and information she sent me. Of course, I don't know yet how I am going to afford it if my application for a new credit card to cover the moving expenses until my first paycheck arrives gets denied.

It seems like I am in a tight Yin-Yang spiral where fortune and misfortune are following rapidly on each others' heels.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie