Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Code of Support

Haunting him are the arguments against suicide that he offered to Captain Oshima.
-- John Hamamura, Color of the Sea

On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it's worth a moment to ponder the human dignity of the tens of thousands who died in a flash of light.

In Japan, the Samurai culture lived an intense code of honor. They believed that once they gave their word, they would sooner die than break their integrity. In a very real sense, this ethos forced people to live honestly, since promises were not handed out idly. If they felt that they dishonored their family name, the shame would drive them to suppuku, a ritual said to restore honor by immolating themselves on the point of a sword. In the movies, you usually see a clean thrust and then the person committing suppuku leans over and dies.

Somehow, this code of honor has bled into American culture, as evidenced by the amount of suicides that occur every year. The number of people taking the "easy way out" is even higher among LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people), who feel that they have shamed their family. So they quite often seek a quick and relatively painless death.

In reality, such a clean death would only add more shame to the family. I first heard this concept explained to me by my 8th grade American History teacher. Suppuku is designed to be slow, tortuous and sure in order to reflect the deep emotional trauma. The blade was inserted at the base of the abdomen, and the tortured soul was to cut around the abdomen, letting the intestines fall out. Only if this process was completed was this considered an honorable death. It would take an incredible amount of willpower to be able to continue with the loss of blood and the smell of feces and blood exposed and pouring out on the ground. And then someone would have to clean up the mess.

But there is a much better way, a better suppuku, a higher one. Live with your shame. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Everyone of us is born different, and everyone of us has felt shame. If everyone who ever felt intense shame killed themselves, this country would be a wasteland. Have the courage to live with your shame and die an old woman or man from your body breaking down on its own. Make amends to those you feel you have wronged or have them release you from your vow.

Live with your grief. Pain makes us human. The shame we have felt enables us to minister to others in deep emotional trauma, even those who ministered to us. Your family is 5 billion strong, and never forget it. Our home is the planet we live on. If you feel you've shamed all 5 billion people on this earth, then I encourage you to be a walking example of temerity. Let's call this The Code of Support. Someone out there needs your help, and someone out there is willing to help you.

Besides, all extreme emotions fade over time if you are willing to acknowledge them and let them go; although, some stick around longer than others. You'll get over it. Wise old women and men get that way because they know what suffering is. It's hard to live 80 or more years without experiencing some negative feelings.

I was going to talk a little about the Movie Night I hosted for my local support group, but I can see I have go on long enough.

Be a survivor. Deal with it. Get over it.

Hugs and God Bless,

Monday, July 26, 2010


Let the acting begin, I thought, and prepared to lay out the script that Ethan and I had prepared--details that might be useful as Robert attempted to build connections among the city's supernatural population.
-- Chloe Neill, Friday Night Bites

Let's talk about honesty and integrity. In particular, I would like to address self-honesty.

It was a long time ago, but when I was 19, I made a vow to myself that I would always be honest to myself from then on. The significance of my pledge was that I had to listen to my conscience when I wasn't honest to others. I wasn't going to let myself candy-coat the things I was doing, but instead try to understand the full impact of what living in what I called "survival mode" did to others. In fact, in order to be convincing in your lies to others, you have to deny yourself the fact that you did it.

And once you start lying to yourself, you can no longer trust yourself. Your faith in your visions becomes shattered, and you don't know who you are anymore. Part of your acting has become real, but what is real anymore. And once you don't even trust can't put trust in other people. You fail to see the good in them, only the "survivor" like yourself. In essence, you have lost your self-integrity.

So being honest to myself meant being honest to other people. meant not stealing from, taking advantage of, or harming people in any way. My best friend, my ex-roommate, had gone from shoplifting LP's (Long Playing Records, AKA albums) to stealing furniture from a store that he worked at. He marveled at the things he had access to take, while working at the university stadium working as a police dispatcher.

And I started to follow along in his footsteps, only I believed in taking things that I found more practical, like the TV that he helped me carry from storage to our apartment. After we moved to separate apartments, I "acquired" a telephone, which I removed from a dorm near my apartment, because someone left the window open. At the convenience store I worked at, I jokingly labeled a jar "starving students," trying to get people to donate their change to the legitimate charity jar sitting next to it, by asking customers which charity they'd prefer donating the change to. I was surprised to see them drop the coins, clinking, into the "starving students" jar, even when I told them it was only a joke and would only go to help me get my electricity turned back on--which was not a lie.

They trusted me. And I wanted them to continue to trust me. I learned that day that if people can trust you, they will help you out when you need it. Of course, the money was not enough to pay the electricity bill, but I had deep respect for the community. That's when I made my personal vow about self-honesty. I will always be honest to myself.

Shortly, after that, I was practically accused of stealing out of the till, something I would never do. Besides violating trust, I knew the money was counted every night. I was living in a more honest survival mode. Instead of throwing out all the deli sandwiches at night after I had marked them as loss because they had expired, I would microwave one as my dinner. I wasn't stealing or deliberately marking things off, but neither would I ever volunteer that I was eating garbage.

The day after I was accused of stealing from the drawer, using the evidence of my "charity jar," I started calling in sick. I decided that I couldn't return to a place of business that doubted my integrity, especially living under the conditions I was. I quit.

When we create a vision of a deceitful life, we don't leave room for an honest one. We can get so wrapped up in "survival mode" that we start deliberately harming others. Shoplifting is one example. When others find out about your deceit, they can never trust you, feeling that you might bite their hand if they try to feed you.

And in the worst case, you'll go to jail or be killed over it. Having misdemeanors of shoplifting on your record will not only preclude you from getting a professional job, it can even stop you from working at McDonald's.

So if you are living in "survival mode," before you hurt someone else with your actions, swallow your pride and keep your integrity and begin by asking family, friends and neighbors for help, before you lose them all.

Hugs and God Bless,


Sunday, July 25, 2010


The FBI are so heavily backlogged, eight months pass before they begin checking Sam's background.
-- John Hamamura, Color of the Sea

I'm trying to decide which images to have professionally retouched to be used as professional headshots, and the problem is that every time I go through the list, I find one I like better. The image at my right, for instance, is image number 29 of 50, and before I was thinking numbers 1 and 47 were the best ones to use, so much so that I used them as profile pics.

And then there's image number 38 to the left, that the photographer captured while I momentarily looked toward the ceiling before looking in the lens. That image just catches my spirit in an almost indescribable way.

And looking at the images, I have to say that I am really pleased with the direction my hair has taken in the last couple of months. It took me just over one year to get here from my last cut-back to just above the ears.

You're welcome to view all 50 of them if you'd like. It looks like I could really use some input making this decision. They are available at the photographer's site and I also reposted them at Facebook, so people could help me out with a little feedback, letting me know which images they liked.

This need for headshots goes back to the fourth Saturday of last month, when I was manning the booth at the Lexington Pride Festival for TransKentucky, a transgender support group that meets in Lexington once a month. The lighting manager for a very large entertainment complex featuring male to female entertainers stopped by and introduced himself. When I mentioned that he would be the person to talk to if I needed to make a little money on the side, he told me, "They always need entertainers," and proceeded to give me an email address to apply through.

Well, somehow I lost that email adress by the time I gave the opportunity serious thought two weeks later. I went to the complex's web page and found an email address for models. In my email, I told my story, including the talk with the lighting manager, and a few days later, on July 6, I received a reply in my inbox, which I hesitantly opened, bracing myself for rejection and I read:

Dear Sophie,
  Thank You for your letter, but to be honest... Just a Letter isnt going to get you work here. I need a Headshot as well.
Please send, and then I will look into a POSSIBLE booking for you…

The response was somewhat positive, but what seems to be proposed is a little scary. I was hoping to be just one of the chorus entertainers, and his reply seemed to imply a more prominent role? And why did he capitalize "possible?" Does that mean it's more or less possible.

So I got in touch with a photographer whose work I liked and contacted him about doing the work. He only does headshots on the weekend, and since his immediate Saturday was booked, and my next one was reserved for the kids,we wound up doing it yesterday.

He asked me when we met if the entertainment complex had referred him, since he had done recent work for them. I counted myself lucky as I told him that no, I had found his work on the internet. Because he had done work for the complex which was holding out the "possible booking," he would be able to help me with just the right poses.

So we spent the next hour with him directing me through various poses, turning one way and another, lifting my chin, trying on different smiles and different wardrobes. Just the experience modeling was worth doing the photos. It was actually fun.

I need to let him know by Wednesday at the latest which two photos I would like touched up since he'll be out of town after that. So back to choices, choices...

After the photoshoot, I changed into something more appropriate than the cocktail dress I was wearing for Families in Transition (a mandatory divorce education class). After I slipped into my jeans and creamy brown half-sleeve top with the white print across the bust, I tied my hair up in a tight pony tail. For the first time, my bangs were long enough to be completely included.

At Families in Transition, I somehow got tapped to be the spokesperson for our group. They do cover some really valuable things in there. At least the class is half over and when I attend this Saturday, I'll be done.

If you get a chance, check out my photos and let me know which ones you like.

Hugs and God Bless,


Friday, July 23, 2010

Becoming That Woman

She dipped her spoon into her oatmeal, then nibbled a bit off the end.
-- Chloe Neill, Friday Night Bites 

"The girls here really know how to ask a guy to dance," Steve, an impressed first-time Swing dancer said, shortly after we finished the first dance last night. In fact, I had a fantastic time dancing almost non-stop with several people, taking brief respites to cool down and allow my heart to catch up. Steve, at one point, made the comment, "All the other girls must be jealous, because you've danced to almost every song."

Eventually, I was called to the floor for my birthday dance. A few months ago, I wouldn't have even tried. It takes quite a bit of practice following to tune yourself every 15 seconds or so to a different lead, as you are passed from hand to hand. I started with Dan and, several leads later, as the song drew to a close,  finished with Sam walking me to my seat. On the way back, I thanked her for her invaluable advice.

Afterwards, the D.J. apologized for being so rude, for avoiding me all these nights, because of a "phobia." To him, I was not in stealth at all, even though I "dress like a lady," and during our chat about my story, he eventually pointed out my 13-inch arms to be what gave it away. To be honest, I didn't really notice his "phobia," because I had been so engrossed in my own passive paranoia, which I've had for decades.

A couple of nights previously, it was completely different. I was infuriated and frustrated that in the span of an hour after the lessons were over, I only was invited to dance a single song.

That evening, Brandy saw me laying on the grass in my misery, and as we talked, she was the first of three people to advise me to take charge of the situation, to not be afraid to ask for my dance. This advice was repeated by my coworker, Sandra, and online by Sam, who was my first instructor.

Sam's advice went a little deeper. Besides asking the guy to dance, when no one's dancing with you, she told me that more people will ask you to dance if you do so. Not understanding the dynamics at the time, what I discovered is that it is 100% true.

Between her advice and last night, I started thinking about the tattoo on my right arm. A female buccaneer, I had chosen it because it represented the type of woman I admired most: a woman that knew how to get what she desired. It was also what I had selected 23 years ago when I was looking for a tattoo to help mark my identity. It is time for me to become that woman.

I had been passively afraid to start social interactions, because I didn't want to offend anyone. So, I would sit as the wallflower, and wait for someone to invite me in. To sit, to dance or to talk. So I always went away hurt, when it appeared no one wanted to have anything to do with me.

I was ignoring reality. I was assigning too much assertiveness to the people around me that I, myself, failed to have. Almost everyone these days is shy, and is simply waiting to be asked, like I was. Modern women don't wait for the opportunities to come to them. They go to the opportunities. I needed to come a few decades into the present.

By deliberately approaching others (while taking care of my presentation), I become more approachable. Isn't it funny how that works? People are afraid that you are too sensitive, are afraid of hurting you or being hurt themselves, until they see you out there.

So, yeah. I danced my ass off. I did it by taking pleasure in asking for a dance from the very beginning. I made a new friend, feel better about myself and am seeing ways to apply this principle, to be more involved and fulfilled.

As I was leaving, I let Steve know, and he stepped into a nice hug.

Apparently, I had given myself a dancing workout that exercised me past my last limits, because I had to take ibuprofen for the leg and toe cramps in order to sleep fitfully. .

I feel great.

Hugs and God Bless,


Monday, July 19, 2010


The kids are headed back to Texas today. I made sure to give everyone a hug Sunday morning as the car was packed up and they drove out of sight.

It was great having the time to spend with them, to spoil them for a short time, to let them see how much my attitude has changed since I've gone full time. And they are both growing so much.

Friday, after work, my youngest had me change into my denim skorts from my work skirt and we headed out to watch The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a great movie, with romance, comedy and action.

Saturday, we headed off to the Frazier Museum in downtown Louisville to see the Pirates exhibit. Once inside, it was very clear the museum was a war museum, something I would not normally be interested in. But once we found the Pirate exhibit, and got a little attention from the curator, it was fun.

As we left the museum, classic Barbie dolls in the original container sitting on a couch a couple of store fronts on the way back to the car, drew my attention. While my daughters thought it was freaky and a little haunted, the old chinese proprietress invited us to look around her curio shop. It was indeed filled with treasures, from crystal chandeliers, china cabinets and settings to a Popeye mug, furniture and a nude lamp holding the globe light on her foot. I will probably be back when I have the money and a bigger place.

We spent the next two hours at the Atlantis water park in Indiana again, after getting a little lost trying to remember our way, It took instructions from Walgreen's and a nearby liquor store before I finally found the nestled park again. Next time, I'll just remember it's the road right behind the Holiday Inn.

After the kids left Sunday morning, I discovered I had time to get ready and go to the church. I fought nausea the whole way and I didn't have any appetite. As I was sitting down, chatting with Don, sipping a coffee and losing the battle with my inner ear in the fellowship area. Gail came whooshing down toward me in a white dress with flower print on it. I barely had time to breathe, "Hi Gail," before she reached down, hugged me and planted a kiss. When my focus cleared, and right before she turned to walk into the sanctuary, I noticed she had her grandkids in tow.

Peggy stopped by, smiled and said, "I was hoping Sophie was here. I need to check my mascara and lipstick." Somehow, several ladies of the church are using me as their model of femininity. That certainly makes it a lot easier for me to fit in.

Unfortunately, the nausea was getting the better part of me, and I let a couple people know of my apparent exhaustion. I started to veer from a man I saw wearing what appeared to be only a bathing suit. As I got to my car, I noticed he was walking around the church in only slacks, socks, and a wristband only. Digging into my bag in the trunk of my car, I pulled out one of my male golf shirts, ran after him and asked him if he could use it, because it was going to get "awfully hot." I finally had an opportunity to use my old male clothes for what I intended. He said, "Please" and "Thank you" and put the shirt on as I walked away, making me feel better. And I thought about the strange coincidence, allowing me to show kindness to a stranger, because I was feeling ill, but had tried to attend church anyway.

The rest of the day was spent in total exhaustion. I tried to spend some time with Brandy, but found comfort only in trying to sleep. About 8 PM, I confirmed I had left my glasses at Brandy's place, and she said she would come over after her shower. At 9, I changed into my only summer sleepwear left, which was this pink with polka-dotted set, and at 10, I braved the neighborhood eyes, and went to retrieve my glasses. Brandy was in a state of constant interruption, with a towel on her head, and remarked how she like my sleepwear.

My exhaustion didn't break until about 3 AM this morning, when I finally felt real hunger in my belly. I finished off the orange juice and chased in down with milk, not quite ready for solid food yet, as the heat of the bathroom alone was starting to get to me. The scale, however, had me at a new low: 188 pounds, not bad considering the day before had me back  up to 196.

Since I got to work this morning, I've polished off a granola bar and a nectarine. It's only 10:30 AM and I'm about to dig into my remaining orange I found in my purse.

I have gender counseling tonight. I suspect my referral letter for surgery is ready. I've already seen the first page, and it is well-written. I imagine that we'll also discuss how my transition at work is going, how my time with my two daughters fared, and how my ex and I are coping with the divorce.

Afterwards, it's off to the library to drop off The Evolution of Calpernia Tate. It seems someone else has requested it, and I only got 55 pages into the book in three weeks. It's been a long time since I've had to return a book unread. I am going to have to ignore the newly installed cable until I'm bored reading.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophia Jean

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Atlantis and Despicable Me

What did I do for my birthday? I took my kids to the Atlantis Water Park in Clarkesville, Indiana, 17 minutes from my front door, wearing my two piece bathing suit with the brown and pink spaghetti-strap top and the brown mid-thigh swim skirt. And no...that's not me in the photo.

We rented a tube and went to the lockers to put our things away. I was expecting a coin-operated locker, but instead saw that tiny padlocks were affixed to each locker. As I went back to the booth, I noticed a old man sitting next to a box that had a sign on it for lock rentals.

"I bet you don't take credit cards," I said. "Can I pay at the ticket window?" He held up his hand, motioning me to wait while he helped a couple in front of him. When he was done, he gestured with his fingers to approach.

As I got closer, he began rummaging in his box for the lock and said, "We don't want you to go through that trouble. What's your name?" Then he proceeded to just hand me the lock and record my name with the lock number. After we were done at the park, I handed the person at the box the padlock and key, and turned to walk to the car, when the person stopped me with, "Wait, you get this back," and handed me two dollars. Dazed, I vaguely remembered a deposit, was glad to get it back and replied, "Thanks, I almost forgot." As we got to the car, I realized that it was a mistake, because I didn't pay the deposit in the first place, and I had no way of returning it without getting someone nice in trouble.

The park was fun. My seven year-old was quite a bit upset about not getting to go down the big slide, because she has to stand on her toes to pass the height test. Her older sister encouraged me to go while she played with her in the Kiddie Pool. Then it was my turn, while my 12-year old went down the tube slides and I splashed across the pool with my youngest. As my daughter was backing her way to the life guard, I noticed that I was inadvertently giving him cleavage views as I was reaching down with my hands to splash. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking as my daughter raced by him to the slide calling me "Dad!"

Then there was the wave pool. We spent practically all our time hanging out in the rolling surf. Finally, when I had enough and was waiting on my girls, I dried out in the hot bright sun on the deck chairs and then headed to the shade by the lockers to put on my brown top and brush out my hair. Meanwhile, a young man sitting in a deck chair was obviously filming me on his cell phone from just a few feet away.

Once the kids finally tired, about 15 minutes before the park closed, we drove to downtown Louisville to drive slowly past the Louisville Slugger. Then, on a phone call from my wife, we finally found a Vietnamese restaurant (La Que) and grabbed a combination pho to take home.

Meanwhile, my mother had called to wish me Happy Birthday, Shirley had called to invite me out to the club and Brandi, DeeDee and Braneisha had left Happy Birthday balloons with their names on them and a card on my apartment door. She called to make sure I got them. When she started to come by the apartment later after 9, I happened to see her as I was closing the windows. She came over and we chatted at the window for a little while and she promised we would get our time together later, understanding that my focus is on my kids while they are here.

Tuesday night, it was a pleasant surprise to watch Despicable Me in 3D with my children for the low price of 6 dollars a ticket each, because, apparently, Tuesdays at the Rave are Super Tuesdays and every movie all day is only 6 dollars.

Finally, I got a chance to talk with my daughter about the great parts of having a "Girl Dad." I explained that she has a very special "Girl Dad," that most girls don't get to experience. I enjoy doing nails and makeup with her, going shopping and just talking about whatever. She didn't lose her Dad.  When we were done, she was grinning from ear-to-ear. She was back.

And I got some good bonding time with my older daughter as well, mostly through trusting her with spots of independence in the park while I took care of her little sister, playing together in the wave pool and just watching the two them have a really good time.

And I have a ton of Birthday Wishes on Facebook, and they started coming in faster than I could reply to them all. I still owe a few Thank Yous.

Hugs and God Bless,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nobody Ever Bought Me Flowers

"A boy learns a thing or two in four hundred years," he smartly said, then clapped his hands together.
-- Chloe Neill, Friday Night Bites

"I don't wear boy clothes," I said firmly to my daughter yesterday when she told me, "You have to change into boy clothes," after we walked into my apartment.

They were waiting in the parking lot when I arrived, having driven 750 miles from Texas over two days. They had been there maybe 10 minutes when I drove up after work. All I wanted to do was give them each a big hug.

Trying not to embarass my older daughter, I inadvertently wound up embarassing her, anyway. When they stepped out of the car, the place appeared to them to be a ghetto. And it's no wonder, because the low cost of the apartment allows many who are unemployed a place to live while they can still collect their unemployment benefits, and many of my neighbors don't make much. Since the population of urban Louisville does seem to be mostly black, among whom I have several friends, I can see they must be experiencing a bit of a culture shock.

I took my older daughter to go shopping, but before I did, I changed out of my long skirt and blouse into denim shorts and a sleeveless top, so I could blend in the heat and not embarrass her by being overdressed. It had the opposite effect. She thought I dressed like "trailer trash." Back home, I invited her to inspect my wardrobe before we went out, and showed her what I was wearing to work to see if it would be okay for going out when I get home. While I won't dress male, I won't let my wardrobe stand between us.

Before we went shopping, I called to activate one of the credit cards. They asked me my name and details off the card, and then they asked, "Can I talk to Robert..."

"I sent a name change in over a week ago. Didn't you get it?" After a couple of minutes of silence, she finally returned and I answered questions about personal details that only I would know.

Then at bedtime, my wife and I talked. We talked about how this would probably be the last time we could see each other, how we are going to move on, and she implored me to be safe in my relationships going forward and to try to get a place in a safer neighborhood.

I have a beautiful giant bouquet of fuschia, lavender, purple and green long stem flowers in a heavy vase sitting on my desk. It's the first bouquet anyone has ever given me in 45 years. I used to get jealous every Valentine's Day, because that's all I wanted for myself. Nobody ever bought me flowers. Now, for my birthday, Debbie surprised me with them and started suggesting I take one of the flowers and put in over my right ear. "Why the right ear?" I asked.

"Because left means you're taken and right means you're single," Sandra said next to me.

Debbie also took me out to dinner and bought me a gift. "Okay, I'll marry you," I teased. Wrapped in paper with the images of dogs in hair bows, I found a plush-feeling steering wheel cover.

Tonight, in little over an hour, I'll be home to spend more time with my kids. Wherever they want to go, whatever they want to do, as long as I can afford it, it's my week to give the happy memories before they leave me on Sunday.

One final note. Sophia. I am beginning to prefer Sophia to Sophie now. It feels more feminine and more serious at the same time. "I'm Sophia" just begs to be said more slowly with more of a feminine lilt than "I'm Sophie." I'll leave Sophie for those more intimate moments for now and put on my sophisticated airs.

Hugs and God Bless,

Monday, July 12, 2010

More Than Infinity

In a few hours, I will see my children. My oldest daughter has already emailed me the two places that she researched as the best shopping in Kentucky: WetSeal and Deb's. My youngest daughter made me promise to not go dancing when they come up or she will "hate [me] for more than infinity." That's a pomise she won't have to worry about me breaking. On Thursday, after having my toes kicked by half the leads during Balboa lessons and preparing to go home, I told the instructor that I was going to have to catch up the following week because my kids were coming up for my birthday. She told me I would get a birthday dance that Thursday. A week, maybe a week and a half, without dance, to spend time with my kids--but it's worth it.

My laundry's done, the house picked up, and the floor vacuumed with the new Bissel I bought last night at WalMart. I didn't finish until about 1 AM, so I skipped vacuuming the car, took advantage of the 7 minute snooze this morning and was still running a little slow when I got ready. Most likely, it was frying that bacon and egg that slowed me down. My kids have been living on bacon, sausage and  pancakes for as long as I can remember.

I've changed a lot since I last saw them in December. I'll be greeting them after work in my pastel blue and lavender chiffon top and fuschia-flower printed long skirt. Wearing makeup in the style taught at the M.A.C. counter, and my shoulder length, now blonde hair, will they recognize me? I have to say, that in the last 7 months, they only saw my image on my Facebook photos. Maybe that will be enough.

I am so happy. My birthday week is actually starting off pretty well. I started to get to know my neighbor Brandi a little better--we stayed up til 5:30 in the morning Friday night. Trying to draw me out the evening before, she told me she was lesbian and had a "something-gender" cousin as she put it. I filled in the prefix she couldn't remember and told her I was both. She invited me to tag along to her uncle's birthday party with her daughter and one of her cousins (it turned out to be her transgender cousin, D), and we spent a lot of time there. I found out that she had already told her family about me before we got there, and I was hit with sexual innuendoes as I met several of the guys before I found that tidbit out. Her beautiful cousin seeemed a little shy and she hung back with me for a while.

Sunday morning was almost a fiasco. It would have been if I hadn't shown up. The morning greeter apparently hadn't found someone to take her place, and one of the new greeters thought she was in the position she wasn't assigned. Once I took over the front door, and figured out which position she was supposed to be in, training on the spot, things began to right themselves. Roger showed up a week early to learn how to do coffee, hoping to work with the coffee server of the day. And it was a good thing he did, because the person scheduled to do the coffee came down with Lyme disease, as I learned during Joys and Sorrows.

While I was still greeting, before I went into the service, I got serenaded at the door by one woman who had colored her hair and let it out in tresses, something I hadn't seen her do before. And Gail gave me a kiss on the cheek as she entered. I could not suppress the blush either time.

That evening, my neighbor's cousin helped me bring in the groceries, telling me she rescued a kitten about 3 weeks old and wanted to find him a home because she couldn't take him in. He took to me so readily, and I did want to keep him, but my wife is driving my children up and her allergies wouldn't permit it. We asked several of our neighbors to take him in, if only for a week, but no one could.

Meanwhile, as I was complaining about being outed to someone before I met them, D told me she was transgender, too. It was then that I finally put the pieces together and realized this was the cousin Brandi was talking about. Brandi came by and promised me a phone call on my birthday.

Just a few hours to go. My coworker wants to take me out for a birthday lunch tomorrow, and I'm taking Wednesday itself off to spend the whole day with the kids. Meanwhile, I've got a big hug waiting for them and their mother. I miss her, too.

Hugs and God Bless,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

T is not the Middle of the Alphabet

"I said, freeze!" Terry Ryan yelled. But the thief had already made a break for it.
- Matthew Reilly, Contest
I was surprised to see that another online sister, who wrote candidly from her heart about T-issues, tear down her blog and go home. She posted something about "crazed T-girls," firing off an epithet and the snippet I can read ends before I can dig further into her rave. From the snippet of the previous post, not quite 24 hours old, I see that she mentions how, after 5 years, she can no longer blog about transgender issues. That's a long time to dedicate to a single topic. Though I didn't always agree with some of her assumptions, she did make valid points and bring to light many issues that we do need to think about. All of that information is now gone, archived, at least for a while, in Google's search engine archives. For her, and for us, life goes on.

T is not the center of the alphabet. Nor should the concept of being transgender or transsexual overshadow our lives if we transition. If we can't stop worrying and measuring everything from the aspect of shifting genders, we are living in an obsessive compulsive frame.

For our own sanity, especially when we're living as ourselves, we need to step out of the shadow of T and just experience life. There are a number of things to take note of as you live in a new gender, and not everyone experiences manhood, womanhood or androgynity the same way. For example, if you're interacting, living as a woman, just appreciate the intricacies, subtleties and challenges that being a woman provides. The same holds true if your interacting in the male: appreciate the day-to-day challenges of being male. If you can step out of the shadow, you will be able to fully experience yourself.

Think back to when you were a child. Can you remember a time before gender expectations, before you heard of terms like transsexual and transgender, when you were simply you? Maybe you can recapture the experience. Being transgender may be a part of your identity, but it is probably not your whole identity.

When I passed through the drive through on my way home last night, the young gentleman who hadn't waited on me in months, asked me, after taking my credit card, "Did you really change your name?"

"Yes. I did," I replied in my sweet feminine, yet firm, voice. Of course, this was not really an appropriate question to ask in my mind, since it violated my privacy by the implication that he had memorized my name from before. It also confirmed my suspicion from months ago that he "Sir'ed" me because of the name he read.

"Have a good day...Sophia," he tried to say in a suave and debonair wave as he handed my credit card back. As I drove forward to window number 2, he finger-waved me from the counter inside while the next person filled my order.

I registered for the Poetry Contest tomorrow night at the Riverbend Wine Factory. The original 25 dollar registration was waived because the show is going to use audience participation. As Miss Feathewind, I have to deliver one of my memorized pieces for the judges with about 11 other contestants. If I make it pass the first round, I will get to participate in the winner-determining second round, to be voted on by the audience. I selected my best pieces, one for the judges and one for the audience. First prize is 500 dollars with 250 dollars and 50 dollars going to 2nd and 3rd place finishers. There are also hours of photo opportunities, and a publisher will be present. I have a 25% chance of at least placing: pretty good odds I think. But even if I don't place, it will be a great chance to expand my visibility and network.

Tonight, we're doing Balboa lesson #2. Last week, I couldn't quite figure out one of the moves, unlike the first Hustle lesson Tuesday night where everything seemed to come together more easily. (And no, it's not disco hustle. It's more of the Latin Hustle, which involves a partner).

Besides waiting for a photographer to call me back for a headshot sitting, so I can have a shot at a possible booking at the world's largest drag show complex, that's about it.

Hugs and God Bless,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


You're not crazy. Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". And since you are exploring your feelings, and altering your behavior to match what you feel inside shows that you are definitely not repeating behavior, that you are on the verge of breaking out of the old patterns completely.

I understand the anxiety. The idea of seeing a counselor can make it seem official and that you would have no choice but to transition. Counselors can't peek into your head. Nor do they force you to transition. They can only lay the alternatives you have available based on the information that you give them. Like a medical doctor, the best prognosis is done only with the most complete and correct information. They are resources with access to other resources to help you plan your transition, and if you continue to experiment with hormones on your own, you are liable to feel some really uncomfortable emotions with no one there to help you navigate the waters. Unchecked, the potential emotional instability and any side effects you had from repressing yourself has the potential of disrupting relationships (which does include your work relationships), kind of like a young teenage girl has to learn how to keep her emotions under control. I'm pretty confident that you don't want to be compared to a teenager run amuck. I would ask around the MtFs to find a counselor that they feel comfortable using. I, and a couple others, see the same counselor in Louisville. I am in the final stages of my transition counseling as she prepares my letter for surgery for me, and I did find her useful for dealing with sexual trauma and family issues.

We are here for you. I am here for you. But I'm not a medical doctor, and I can't take hormone level and liver checks to see if the hormone level you are taking is safe and appropriate. If you are experimenting with hormones and you haven't clued a medical doctor in yet, please do so. Sooner or later, you won't be able to deny the effects, but if something happens to you and the doctor doesn't know you're on hormones, would you risk an incorrect diagnosis because they don't have all the facts?

To be honest, I resisted the deep emotional need to transition. I tried to reject it. I tried to compromise with it. But each compromise only reduced my anxiety to move further on. Meanwhile, I incorrectly blamed myself, my wife and my children for holding me back, trapping me in a man's world that I felt daily more uncomfortable with. I tried several times to save them the pain of a transition by killing myself. It wasn't until I moved to Louisville that I no longer acted on those urges (other than occasionally taking curves as fast as I could).

This has not been easy for me. I lied to myself that I had complete control, that I had a choice, that I could stop whenever I wanted. It took me a year to start hormones. But transitioning itself became an addiction, even though the end result of transitioning on the job scared me to death. But I am changed in many more ways now. The change runs deep. Most significantly, who you are emotionally is radically altered, but done carefully, is more integral. There are still aspects of the She that begin to bubble into words and I can bring them to my lips right before they burst, leaving the critical feeling missing. I catch myself saying, "I feel so..." and then it's gone, or "I need..." I remember one moment when the words, "I am so..." finally ended with "ready."

Transitioning is my lot in life. It is my destiny. It is a spiritual path I was put upon the day I was born. I am finally realizing "the person I was meant to be." But I had to pay the price. I am divorcing the only person who has ever loved me enough to marry me, and I haven't seen my children since December, when I was sick from driving all night to see them. And I am romantically alone, at 45 next week, realizing that there may never be another. And at a time when I have been sensually awakened by the hormones.

Your doing great just being yourself! Why would you want to hide yourself from people that can help you?

Hugs and God Bless,


Monday, July 5, 2010

Expected to Follow

He stood, moved to the door, and beckoned me to follow with two crooked fingers.
- Chloe Neill, Friday Night Bites

"I'm grooming Sophie to be the ministry chair," I heard Rita say at the next table over at Holly's house in reference to the Membership Ministry of the church, while we were drying after bathing in Holly's floor so that we wouldn't mess up her hard wood floor.

"I'll probably find out about it like the Chalice Night Team," I called over to her. "I'll probably find out after you nominate me and I get a letter thanking me for volunteering from Dawn. 'I didn't,' I mimicked in reply. Rita, who is the current chair and was  member of the prior Chalice Night Team, had also last month convinced Dawn, our minister that I had volunteered to be on the Chalice Night Committee, the group that oversees the administration of the weekly religious education opportunities for members and guests of the church, as the Membership Ministry representative. Because I found out by the congratulatory email to the new team from the minister, I'm taking her at her word.

Today is pleasantly quiet, the day after July 4th celebrations and a day off from work, it is refreshingly peaceful. When I finally crawled out of bed this morning, I threw on the first shirt in my short-sleeved section of the closet, and when I looked in the mirror to see how the blank workout tank top went with my brown skirt-style swimming trunks I slept in, I was pleasantly surprised to see cleavage. It wasn't really noticeable from the front, but from the sides it made me happy to finally see I had what I have been so jealous of. For the record, it's about a week over 26 months that I have been on feminizing hormones.

After a bath, a quick dry of my hair and lite makeup, I gathered up laundry and headed to the laundromat. I had exchanged the swim bottoms for my blue-jean skorts. There weren't many people there and I read about the first 30 pages of Friday Night Bites. As I grabbed a quick soda while folding my laundry, I noticed a gentleman staring at with me with a scowl. I didn't know why he could possibly be angry, and, defensively, returned a smile. Every time I glanced in his direction while folding, that look of disgusted hatred was on his face as he stared at me. Looking back now, I am thankful for the security guard who held the door open for me as I left.

I also got looks from a gentleman sitting in the passenger seat of a pickup right next to my car. An older white-haired woman sat in the driver's seat while they waited for their laundry to dry. There was something odd about the way he looked at me that made me feel very uncomfortable. I am hoping that one of these days I will not have to use the pepper spray I carry on my key chain. I have noticed at this particular laundromat that the time of day almost predicts which gender is present. Before 5 PM, the place is full of mostly men doing their laundry, and after 5 PM, it's mostly women. I should have waited until 5, but I wanted to get it over with. Next time, I'll wait until at least 4, when the men present are a bit more comfortable to be around and the the place will soon be packed with women and children.

Saturday night, I finally watched Soldier's Girl. I didn't realize it at the time, but it is an appropriate transgender-related movie to watch around Independence Day. There are adult moments in the movie, but they are key to understanding the story. It's the true story of the brutal murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell, who was murdered in his sleep for falling in love with a woman, Calpernia Addams, who happened to be transsexual. The events happen around Independence Day, 1999, and Don't Ask Don't Tell comes into the spotlight. The movie was brutal to me, because I identified too much with Calpernia's tale. I couldn't help but cry, and the only thing available to stem my tears was a role of paper towels on the table.

It was a long night that night. I didn't get back to my place until about 3:30 in the morning, fighting sleep on the hour and a half drive. I only got about 3 hours of sleep as I crawled out of bed on Sunday for church. As I was serving coffee afterward, I accidentally pointed to a couple of guests I hadn't met to remind myself to meet them, one of them noticed me pointing and came right over. As I presented my hand to introduce myself, he held it for the entire conversation as we continued to talk. And I met another guest, who happens to be working in Fort Knox, doesn't live that far from me, and I may have talked her into showing up at Jim Porter's for Swing Dancing Lessons on Tuesday. She came with her parents. Word is, she may be deploying to Afghanistan soon. I hope I can at least buy her a drink before she goes.

After church, I grabbed my bathing suit and spent the next six hours at a swim and barbeque at Holly's house. There were about 10 of us there, playing games in the pool and enjoying the wonderful buffet. My plate was loaded down with mostly vegetables, a piece of chicken, a deviled egg and a brownie. I had to go back for another deviled egg, fruit, and a wonderful homemade bean dip with chips shaped into little star-shaped bowls to hold the dip. Eventually, I made the 11 minute drive home to my place about 7 PM and crashed on my bed in my bathing suit until the fireworks woke me about 10 PM. Completely exhausted, I removed my bathing suit top and stubbornly tried to sleep through the booms, imagining what it must be like in a war zone, like it was in 1989 with all the missiles over Iraq. Finally, the noise ended, and I slept.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the scale this morning. All that exercise in the pool and right eating paid off. On Saturday, it read 196, and today it stopped at 190. If all these chips and homemade bean dip that I brought home doesn't put it back on, I only need to erase another 20 pounds in the next year.

Hugs and God Bless,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preparing for a Visit

The bed is ordered. I stopped by Cort Furniture about 30 minutes before they closed to buy a queen-sized bed in time for my daughters' visit in the next couple of weeks.

Alicia, the store manager, recognized me as I walked in the door, and asked how things were going for me, displaying an amazing memory of how far I was settled in the last time we had talked in person last November. As I explained to her what I needed, she simply walked me to the set she deemed was right for me (much like some hair dressers will do) and proceeded to tell me what I was getting: a new mattress and box spring with a simple roller frame for about 240 dollars after tax. She informed me quite simply that I do not need a headboard, and we rang it up, and scheduled delivery for sometime Saturday. I was pleased to hear that it was going to be Ronnie delivering, as he was amazing last time when he helped me move.

That done, I headed to Target to pick out some nice purple, pink and brown bedding, a security lock for the front door (the door jam type), a tower fan, electric outlet extensions and something in red, white and blue to wear to work tomorrow with my white jeans and something to wear on Saturday, since Target is having their 4th of July sale.

I also called the cable company to add cable television to my internet service on Saturday, since I'm not in the mood to handle the end-of-the-world should Qubo be interrupted by the pauses and skips in the signal. It should be installed sometime between 2:00 and 5:30 PM, and it comes with the Showtime channels free for the next year...

...Should I still be here next year. My job security right now lasts until the end of September, and I'm worried.

I got an email from a recruiter addressed to my old email address, asking for an update to my resume if I was still interested in technical placement.I replied from my new email address with a freshly updated resume, letting him know (without any explanations, thank you, Oprah) that there was a name change as well as an address change when he updates the database. He very politely replied to my new current email address that he had updated the database, instructed me to check his website from time to time to see if there were any positions that he was filling that I might be a fit for, and said he'd let me know if there were any potential matches. His office is based out of New Mexico, and if I remember correctly, he places at Sandia National Laboratory.

Meanwhile, here in Louisville, tonight is the first lesson in Balboa, my second time through. I am looking forward to it, already practicing the basic step, before I attempt a pretense as a complete newby during the lesson. Forward, forward, pause, back, back, back, pause, forward, forward, forward, pause...

I've been giving a lot of thought to the idea of whether I were to meet and spend time with someone special, and I don't think I could sacrifice my new-found social life to revolve around them. Nor would I expect them to revolve around me. Actually, the playing field is rather limited when I think about it, since I would expect them to at least be open spiritually, maybe join me in the church where I have a lot of friends and responsibility, and to share my desire for dance--a lead for my follow to enable us to spend time together doing the things we love. Since there are no obvious candidates, I will just continue to continue on.

Hugs and God Bless,