Monday, February 28, 2011

Utah Senate: No Hearing for Anti-Discrimination Bill

In a rather disappointing manuever, the Utah Anti-Discrimination Bill was dropped yesterday. According to the article, the Utah Senator from West Jordan, Chris Buttars, apparently said that "he doesn’t believe there’s a problem that McAdams’ bill would solve."

Being a new resident of West Jordan, Utah since September of last year, I felt it was time to begin a little education process:

Subject: Your Decision to Block Employment and Residential Protection
Dear Mr. Buttars,

I am a constituent in your district and also a transgender woman. While I am lucky to have a job and a place to live, I consider myself very lucky. In a recent survey, over 40% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns have been denied employment or residences based solely on who they are. That number is over 60% for transgender people.

Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is not a choice. Medical  research supports the fact that physiological conditions at birth establishes sexual orientation and gender identity. Because of widespread myths surrounding them, the LGBT population is constantly harassed, denied employment, housing and the basic family rights to take care of loved ones, be they a loving monogamous partner of 14 or more years, or the children they lovingly raised.

Not quite 2 years ago, a friend of mine took her own life because she was denied employment for 2 years and didn't want to be a burden, another friend was gang-raped at a Sonic Drive In and I was sexually assaulted in my own apartment. Yet, all of us understood that being transgender is not a choice. We all tried to be the men society expected for several decades of our life, and found we could not show deep meaningful agape love, because we had trouble loving ourselves enough to be the women we were meant to be. Nobody chooses to be a different gender. Because many people don't understand or accept, transitioning genders means risking family, careers and even our lives. Yet, it is the best known cure--letting someone be who they know they are at birth.

Mr. Buttars, as a resident of your district (West Jordan), I implore you to reconsider your stance on providing equal protection for your LGBT residents, or to at least educate yourself to the science and stories of those who are persecuted by our culture for being honest with themselves and with God.

I am prepared and willing to risk my life and acceptance as any other woman to educate our community, your district, to the realities of what it means to be a transgender woman. In fact, I already do so, when I talk to some of my neighbors whom I trust as friends and take the risk to reveal something of my past, they understand and are supportive.

I am willing to meet you in person en officio to further discuss any of this with you.

Sophia Jean Hawes
Resident West Jordan, UT 84084

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie Jean

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seeing Myself as a Pseudo-Hermaphrodite

I trust my writing most, and others seem to trust it most when I sound like a person from Indianapolis, which I am.
- Kurt Vonnegut

As I stared at the print before me, I couldn't believe my eyes, but knew what the sexologist was telling me is most likely what is going on down there. In the picture before me, was a hermaphroditic condition in which a vagina was present below the penis, the testes high in the sacs on either side. The only potential difference between what I might have and the picture in front of me had, the doctor explained, is that in my case the cloacal line closed.

Their was no doubt in the doctor's opinion that I am suffering from an intersex condition, especially given the symptoms and medical history that I gave him, including my friend's description of what she felt down there.

I've been doing a little more exploration. I found that the muscle, or whatever it is, can be relaxed; and when it is, I can feel two fleshy concentric circles just inside the opening, and a little hard nub about the size of the head of a hat pin, which appears and then seems to slip away at the upper part of the orifice, going deeper inside, out of reach. I found I was able to stimulate myself to an explosive vaginal-like orgasm, rocketing my hips off the sofa, just by massaging the outer rings.

When I directed my friend's finger down there, just to have a second opinion, she described what she felt as some kind of rudimentary vagina; and that's what she told the sexologist.

At one point, I saw a picture of the concentric rings I had felt and pointed them out to the doctor as he was showing me conditions on hermaphroditism. I even saw a picture which could have been my father. He immediately noted the genetic link, and explaining that there are many things that could happen that could result in the cryptorchidism I shared with my father, he stopped on one particular page. It was the picture in which the fully formed vagina lay right under the penis. And he explained about the cloacal line.

He spoke the silent consensus that my friend and I shared: that I needed to find out what I already have before I walk into the Sexual Reassignment Surgeon's Office in Thailand. I need to find out what is left to be done before the SRS surgeon potentially blindly creates a second vagina parallel to the first. He showed me sonograms that have been taken of the vagina to show me it can be done and gave me the number of a urologist who should be able to help me get an accurate picture of what I have. With that documentation, I can lay it on the SRS surgeon's desk, and unlike my hematologist, who tried to tell me my menstrual cramps were due to a deteriorating spinal column, he will finally believe what I have to say and reuse what's already there.

Meanwhile, I have learned to access the pleasure from what has been giving me pain 4 days after every biweekly estrogen shot.

Hugs and God Bless,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Closing Night

This has been an incredibly busy week for me. Saturday and Monday nights were the final two performances in The Vagina Monologues at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. It was awesome! The audience was great and I was tweaking my performance every night. I could have kept doing that ad infinitum.

It was also good to see friends after the performance. Robin and her beau gave me a beautiful, sweet-smelling potted lilac, and I introduced the lilac to her step-sisters, the tulips that are about to start blooming. Two stems have the flower just barely tucked into them. I can't wait until what I assume is the last freeze to take all my plants outside.

Monday morning, I was informed that I was going to be leading the Scrum meetings in the morning for this sprint about 1 minute before the meeting as part of my team lead training.

Tuesday morning, I was invited to a talk with my current team lead and our development manager about my interest in a being a team lead. After being asked why I was interested in being a lead, he made sure that I understood this was more a management role than a leadership role. I assured him I was fine with that. Then we discussed making sure that I got the mentoring I needed as part of my objectives, to be ready for running for a lead position in August.

Tuesday night was Belly-Dancing lessons. We reviewed the transition steps from last week, and I was surprised to see that I was doing them so much easier. Then came undulations. Wow! We started from an upward undulation: chest lift, chest raise, drop, spinal roll and tummy tuck. Then we learned to do the whole process in reverse. The instructor likened the movement to changing your mind about sitting in a chair halfway down.

Afterward, we got an introduction to belly rolls and some simple exercises to perform so that we might someday be able to perform them. After enough of those exercises Tuesday night, my stomach muscles were swollen and looked as if they pudge out forever in a poochie.

Yesterday, I got my root canal. It's no fun having a full bladder in the middle of the process. Unable to talk, I starting shaking my fingers in the sign language for P (a trick I learned from my youngest daughter), until the nurse finally loosened the dam from my mouth so I could talk. At 5 PM, I was still numb and spent the rest of the evening napping. I still need to get the crown in place, because the tooth will become incredibly fragile without it; but we're waiting to see how much the insurance pays before we schedule.

I've got group support tonight after work, so the laundry gets to wait one more day and there's a light coating of snow on the ground. Meanwhile, it's off to 7/11 for my morning coffee and croissant.

Hugs and God Bless,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Opening Night

Things are going great right now. We're in the middle of our run of The Vagina Monologues at the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Last night's opening show was a packed house performance and the audience was great and they thought the show was great. My coworkers presented me with a dozen red roses and a name tag they designed and wore that said:

Until the violence stops.
We honor Sophie Hawes.
You go girlfriend.

I was so touched--especially when I read the last two lines when I got home. After the show, I met with church friends at a local restaurant, The Village Inn, to have some warm company and discuss the show. The next performance is tonight and our final performance is Monday night. Both shows are already packed with few remaining seats.

Meanwhile, friends are still asking to buy my book when they find out I have one. And they love it. They get about 20 pages from the end and twice I have answered the phone to listen to how much it moved them, tying in their own experiences. I donated 4 copies to the pride center. There are another 4 copies sitting in the local author section at The Golden Braid, a spiritual bookstore. The employees read the book and loved it as well, yet none of their local authors are selling. So, obviously, the problem is in marketing.

One of the counselors of the support group asked me to bring a couple of copies to this next week's meeting to push it. I think I'll bring the remaining copies to the show to sell to any cast members who would like a copy.

Hugs and God Bless,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Becoming Facile

I completed a three day course for Scrum Master Certification today that my company hosts every three months, taught by one of the pioneers of Agile. It also is good for Project Management and CMMI credits. All this is in perfect time, since one of my objectives for my next evaluation is to lead a Scrum iteration, in preparation for the lead position I applied for. A Scrum Master is also known as the Chief Impediment Remover.

Scrum is a process methodology that focuses on three concepts: frequent delivery, constant process improvement and communication. There are a lot of tips and tricks that have been invented to apply the concepts and over three days we covered quite a few of them. In almost every one of the group scenarios, I found myself stopping, looking around and automatically facilitating by returning people to focus and encouraging stepwise completion. I was instinctively doing what I had seen strong women do in assuming leadership. Of course, I kept hoping that others would step forward to facilitate, but I only had so much tolerance for utter chaos. But it also encouraged me that these men I work with willingly let me have the mantle of facilitator. It was a wonderful experience.

When I slipped into my jeans the other day, I was pleased to see my waist really cut in and my size 12 jeans once again loose fitting. I stepped up to the scale to see how much weight I had to have lost and was surprised to see I went up to 200 instead of down to 190. Oh right, muscle weighs more than fat. Carrying three loads of laundry across the apartment complex and back confirmed that I did feel stronger in my lower back muscles and not as painful as the previous week. The belly dancing is definitely having an effect.

Tuesday night, we reviewed undulation. I did much better on the chest lifts and drops, but still feel it almost impossible to hold my hips still while doing ribcage rolls. We then moved on to learn transition moves, including the grapevine, the step-cross and the choo-choo. There were accompanying arm movements on the last two movements of course, and we moved on to choreography way before I had mastered the simple coordination. I kept getting absolutely lost trying to do the choo-choo, not finding an easy way to get back in. All these transition moves take more space that my apartment has, and that leaves me unable to practice them for now.

Yesterday morning I woke to a strange surprise. What I had thought at 2 AM was a strange ribcage sweat was revealed in the mirror to actually be my second case of nocturnal lactation. A quick Google search on "belly dancing lactation" brings up an article that explains that ribcage rolls have been used in the middle east for exactly that purpose.

Tomorrow is the opening performance of the Vagina Monologues at the University of Utah. Its sold out and Saturday and Monday are close to selling out as well. There's talk already of adding a fourth performance Saturday as a matinee performance! It's going to be an incredibly long day tomorrow. I have to leave work in costume at 11, go through technical rehearsals from 12 to 5, and return at 6 for start of the show at 7. It's expected to run two hours, which means that I'll be leaving around 9:30 to 10 PM.

It will also be the three month marker to Sexual Reassignment Surgery. I contacted the passport information desk to see if there was any action on getting the vital documents. I had to speak to a supervisor in order to finally find out that the record states that the agency is doing a full search to find my documents. It's nice to have feedback that is more than "Trust them to have your best interest at heart and call back in a week."

That's about it for now.

Hugs and God Bless,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Number One Issue the Transgender Community Needs to Resolve

Some people are debating this question:

What do you see as the number one issue the transgender community needs to resolve?

That depends on the segment of the transgender population you are referring to. As my friend, Nikki, has pointed out, lack of self-confidence, finances, emotional and familial support plague the transsexual community. The greatest threat to many of our transsexual brothers and sisters are themselves. Homeless shelters are still a problem, as well as being able to establish new relationships, knowing when it's appropriate to reveal themselves and how long before it is considered being deceitful. Most of the external problems outside of this are maintaining the right to self identify their own gender, despite attacks from feminist separatists, conservative religious organizations and their adherents, people who feel that transsexuals "fake it" to steal available mates, and misunderstanding within some members of the gay and lesbian communities. If one's spirituality is not transformed to account for reality, that is often sacrificed. Too often, many valuable connections and their employment history are unnecessarily sacrificed in order for transsexual people to finally be themselves. Knowledgeable medical care is often difficult too find. Medical issues sometimes occur because of long-term hormone use, and ignorance abounds in the community about those effects.

People who live their lives in two genders have different issues to face. Most of their threats are external to them: e.g., loss of jobs and friends if found out. Typically, they have less of a chance of losing one's spouse than someone "going all the way." Their main concerns are that their secret life stay secret.

Then there are the gender queer, formerly referred to as androgynous or questioning, who feel they don't fit in either gender, and have difficulties expressing themselves in public without castigation, who struggle over which gender to put on forms, because they know they are bound to not be presenting as that gender.

Don't forget the intersex community who significantly overlap in all of the above categories.

There is no single greatest threat to the entire community, unless you say society. But that is too broad a topic, as you can't get rid of society or fix so many problems overnight.

There is no magic bullet. If you instead identify a problem to address in each category, you will find the right combination of problems to address to provide support to the community at large.

Hugs and Blessings,
- Sophie

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vital Document Request

The following letter is being sent overnight mail to the passport agency. The content speaks for itself: 

San Francisco Passport Agency
95 Hawthorne Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105-3901

Re. Application #: xxxxxxxxx
Applicant: Sophia Jean Hawes
Date of Birth: 07-14-1965

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for processing my passport application and returning my passport book with some of the vital documents which I sent you, including my birth certificate.

I respectfully request my vital documents back. Every document I sent was an original with an original signature that I need for my own records. If you need a copy, by all means, make one and keep it; but send my original documents back to me. They are not yours to keep.

I need them all back, but especially vital are the following two documents:

  • Sexual Reassignment Referral Letter signed by Carrie Hunter
  • Court-Ordered Name Change signed by the Jefferson, KY County Clerk

I have been compliant in providing the information you sought, despite the fact that I was put off by the main switchboard, lied to and ignored in my efforts to expedite the process.

Every time I called the switchboard, they were unable to provide the more specific details I sought, told me they put a flag in the data record for you to contact me because I had questions they couldn't answer, and was always informed that it would only be about three days before you replied. Every time I called, they required I read aloud the personal information in your letter to me, a very humiliating experience.

I never once received a phone call from your agency since I tried to establish contact in December.

Now you are retaining my documents illegitimately, discriminatorily and potentially illegally. Please don't force me to obtain legal counsel to have my documents returned.


Sophia J Hawes

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hormones and Adolescent Behavior

I have to be careful in my workout regimen. I have a leaky heart valve and am on beta blockers which tends to slow the heart's capability to respond to stimuli. That means I have to carefully milk my workout routine, because I can suddenly find myself in a kind of anaerobic shock where blood supply is not sufficient to deliver the oxygen where it's needed because the heart is medically being prevented from keeping up.

That said, belly dancing is an aerobic activity and it counts for some of my activity. Yeah, I'm not up to 30 minutes a workout, but I did 21 minutes this morning while getting ready for work and I had two 25 minute sessions of carrying 3 baskets of laundry across the apartment complex. I would have hit the treadmill, too, but I was out of socks. I've come a long way from where I was last year. The other effect the workouts are having is that I am exchanging more toned muscle tissue in my waist for fat. I surprised myself by noticing my size 12 jeans were a little baggy, I had nice waist indentations in the mirror, and yet the scale was now sitting at almost 200. But I also noticed my lower back muscles were stronger as I lugged the laundry baskets.

As to the effects of hormones, I noticed that the change in hormones changed the way I sensed the world. Particular colors became more vibrant, I was more sensitive to smell, including subliminal smell, and my skin became more sensual as well. When estrogen flooded my system, I craved to be touched. All of these changes in sensual stimuli were bound to have an effect on my way of perceiving and reacting to situations. I got myself in trouble a couple of times by being misled by men trying to coerce me to be with them, do things I didn't want to do, because they would do some things that woke the sensual nature and caused half of me to crave more, while the other half panicked and wanted out of there. This was a new emotional space to navigate, and I was completely lost.

A couple of other things occurred as well. The rejection monster deep in my psyche began to be more easily triggered and not easily calmed. I also felt a quickening of intuition building. The very nature of desire itself seemed to have changed, from wanting to be with someone to having someone be with me, touch me, stroke me.

In this way, I was like an adolescent. Having to learn to make rational decisions in a new world, a world made new because the way I perceived it had changed. They way I perceived myself had changed. I suddenly had to find out who I was and the kind of woman I was to be, in the face of new emotions.

And so, the only way to find ourselves is to explore, and we do so, we take chances and not always under the wisest of circumstances. But that is how wisdom is gained.

To be honest, I was so bound up in my own discovery that I didn't look for it in others. But when a girl in her 30's starts selling her dignity, thinking she'll never regret it, she is deceiving all the wisdom she had gained as a man beforehand.

Actions based purely on emotions, without temperance of experience is the hallmark of the adolescent years. And I'm sure if you put your mind to it you can recall many examples where t-girls or t-boys have done exactly that.

Hugs and God Bless,

Agender to Woman

I am sure that the guidelines of the intersex society will probably include getting a lower abdominal scan. Plus, after consultation, I will probably be referred to someone who can better diagnose whatever the results are that come back. It is very important to make sure that I am not overlooking something more chronic by dismissing it as endometrial tissue.

Whatever this is, in conjunction with the hormones, it has made me feel a sense of womanhood at a deeply physical level. Memories. Would you believe I have recalled that I used to masturbate through the light cramping before, not really knowing what it was, but using the only therapy I could think of? And it worked. The sensation would ebb off, at least enough to let me sleep. And then I would put out of my mind until it happened again.

Then enter estrogen, and in the right delivery method and dose, that annoying sensation increased in it's sharpness and duration, and I couldn't help but track its frequency. (Chuckling)

I was androgynous in the sense I was pretty much agender for practically all my life. Besides being hyper-emotional, I was also very much of a square peg. I was jealous of both boys and girls in some respects. I became a tomboy with a curiosity to explore the feminine, finding same sex group activities and expectations more than I could bear. I could neither maintain masculinity or femininity for very long. But I always felt I had a choice and would figure it out someday. My slowly developing body helped me push off that ultimate decision, while I played with light feminization, wanting to know what it would be like to be a woman. From a teenager on, until the military, I would splash some feminine expression within my male wardrobe, via more feminine ties, colors of attire, necklaces. I lived in a kind of Yin/Yang balance of the feminine and masculine, waiting for that moment when I would finally know what it was.

Then entering my late 30s, I looked in the mirror, saw the masculine build of my father and knew my days of physical androgynity had come to an end, and I did not feel like my father who I saw in the mirror. I knew deep in my psyche it wasn't me. I strived, struggled for a way to return to at least the middle world. And so I took longer when I finally found the path. The first part of my exploration under counseling was identifying the predominant gender. After a while I realized that all the joy of living, love of life was associated with feeling feminine. My decision centered around being a loving and happy person. So I gave the hormones a try, and my brain responded positively, soaking up the good feelings, while my male which hadn't thrived for 42 years, fell to backstage.

Now this awareness of something that to my mind is female between my legs, that ties to an ever-present cycle has pulled my mind completely into the feminine, and I am content. I am more comfortable now in either slacks or skirt, knowing, intensely and deeply knowing, that while the cramps suck, I am woman.

Last night, in belly dancing class, we reviewed the Egyptian and moved on to undulations. Doing chest lifts, drops and circles really targets the abdominals, using muscles that I didn't know existed. And learning how to move my breasts around with targeted muscle movement was an interesting education in itself. Adding in the new exercises to my morning practice, I have already hit 21 minutes of cardio for the day, and I'll get another 30, hauling laundry back and forth.

I think I stumbled upon the perfect exercise to prep for SRS and the recovery afterward. Belly dancing has been used as a pre- and post-natal exercise to strengthen the muscles involved in the birth process, targeting abdominals, back muscles and thighs.

I have a dental appointment at 1 today with the hygienist for a cleaning and to x-ray  the remainder of my teeth. If I have some time, after I return to work, I'll try to get my brows and hair done for The Vagina Monologues. Opening day is the 11th at 7 PM, at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. The doors lock at 6:45.

Hugs and God Bless,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Masculine Moments

A friend of mine wrote:

I have had some conflicts on the inside for the past several months about my transition. It seems my male side was still fighting to stay in control and this in turn brought about doubts on whether it was the right thing to do. I now know for a fact that it is the right thing; all I have to do is remember my past and how I felt. I made up my mind and I have never felt better. The first thing I did was to pack up all of my male clothes that I did not need for work. The next thing was to set a goal or should I say 2 goals the first is to drop 50 pounds by the end of this year, the next is to finish up my electrolysis, all to go full time by Jan 1 of next year. Wish me luck.

 I don't think there's a woman alive who didn't feel a little masculine once in a while. I found those moments confusing, until I realized that gender variance waves must me natural, and in the number of times I have broached the idea to women I know, no one has raised a doubt. I must conclude that if there are women out their that feel feminine all the time, they are rare.

The masculine energy sometimes comes in useful from time to time for me, such as at work where I must be extremely logical and analytical, asserting my own right to be there. I sometimes hear that my voice has dropped some and, even after 8 months of living full time, it is the one place that when I hear "she" or "her," I do a mental double-take and realize they're talking about me. I intimately understand the difficulty that other people who know me must have switching to the new pronoun use, and am very forgiving, while gently correcting.

I still have a few male clothes, mostly work out things and souvenirs. And sneakers and socks. I have a size 13W in women's shoes and have come to realize that tall women must purchase men's sneakers and socks or not have any. In time, my masculine and energies merged into an integrated whole.

It's good to have a transition plan. But don't be afraid to adjust your transition velocity to a rate that makes you comfortable. I initially set my target dates out to be safe, but once I got started, I found life much easier to proceed at a slightly faster pace.

I still don't have all of my beard removed, yet, and many women don't finish electrolysis for years. I accelerated the process in Kentucky when I found that laser treatment prices had dropped by 80%. It was almost a year for my 7 or 8 treatments. While my cheeks are clear, thanks to the laser hair removal, and some prior electrolysis, it didn't clear the sparser lighter colored hairs on my chin line and neck. When I'm done getting my teeth back in shape, I'll be seeking out a new electrologist to focus on the most visible areas.

With good planning, you don't need luck, you just need the opportunities for them to meet.

Hugs and God Bless,