Friday, April 29, 2011

Private Lesson

I will be staying at the Chon Inter Hotel in Chonburi. They have Wi-Fi in the lobby and the rooms. It's probably not quite the dive you were expecting ;)

A friend had a great idea to keep a journal. I'll make sure to pick a blank one up on Sunday after church.

I just finished my fundamentals of belly dancing course on Tuesday and found someone to take me under her wing to see to it that I get continuing classes. She is trying to encourage my last instructor to take me one-on-one, but if my last instructor doesn't, Kitty--who says she feels a mother/daughter bond with me--will give me the lessons herself. In fact, I had a private lesson with her on Wednesday, and am looking forward to her next class next week before I leave. Everyone is encouraging me to also sign up for the basic performing class at Thia's school. I spoke with Thia over the phone, and she is anxious to get me started when I heal.

Kitty had an intersex friend who took her own life a few years back. I know, because I saw that she had friended a trans-advocacy organization and I was curious. Her friend, Candy, apparently was a belly dancer and a very good stripper. Apparently, Candy left behind quite a supportive wake, as this is the third time I have heard of her in the last few weeks. I felt comfortable at that point coming out to Kitty about my own intersex conditions; and she responded by telling me, "I wondered." One of the things people notice about me when they find out is that it explains my barely noticeable Adam's apple.

Saturday, I'm going to an annual belly-dancer fundraiser for birds, named, appropriately enough, Bellies for Birdies. Sunday, I'm having my send-off, and Sophia Featherwind, the belly dancer, will have action shots taken for TransAction calendar. Obviously, I'm not using my real last name, and my eyes will be heavily made up.

And then the rest of the events preparing for my trip. I cant' believe that in just over a week it will be over and I'll have a new rebirthday, May 11, 2011.

Isn't it appropriate that it's falling on the heals of Easter, symbolic of resurrection and new beginnings, and May Day, the celebration of the joining of male and female?

Hugs and God Bless,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Last Lesson

Tuesday night was the last of our belly dancing lessons. After warming up we divided into groups, drilling our individual choreographies a few times. Then we were assigned 15 minutes to come up movements for the last 16 counts of a very fast riff. Our group decided to swap the front and back groups in the first four beats while doing shoulder shimmies, and then spin into a tight group in the next four beats. In the last eight counts we touch step strike a clustered pose, with me at the front, leaning out to expose the rest of the group. Next Tuesday is the final.

I have less than 3 weeks now until surgery, and I have to say I am getting really nervous; especially when people are starting to read me while showing their encouragement. I am really, really needing some cuddling time.

I am starting to assess my situation with regards to my goal of not being alone on Christmas this year. Neither of my interests seem to have that potential. One only feels courageous enough at his work to tell me how he feels, and the other is off on a bicycle trip across the state of Utah with someone they have been calling spouse for the last 14 years. Odds are, I'll be alone again for Christmas.

I'm struggling not to end this entry on such a negative note, but have no clue what to say or even think at this point, other than:

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie Jean

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You Really Are Unique

Last Sunday, during meditation, I closed my eyes and tried to open myself to the divine. What I saw was a cerulean blue sky, crowded with fluffy cumulus clouds and, leaning over from the breast up, what could only be the feminine divine. As she reached her hand down to mine, I reached up to touch hers with mine. When our fingertips touched, I knew she was signaling an inside turn. God was leading me to dance.

And so I have danced. This week, I have spent over an hour-and-a-half running through my choreography, losing weight in the process. I am now down to 190 pounds and feeling good. On Tuesday, our group decided what moves we are going to add to the first 16 beats and proceeded to practice them while we drilled the entire choreography over and over again, sweat streaming down my body. Because the class stayed late, many of the girls left without a cool-down, and feeling that maybe we wouldn't be having one, I started to leave, too--until I noticed that the instructor went into cool-down routine. I joined the four other girls as we stretched our warmed up joints out. There are only two class periods left: one for the final drill, and one for the final assessment.

I took Deborah to a showing of Two-Spirits  at The Tower this week, and she took me to see Connected at Westminster College where I have my Belly Dance class. Both movies were well done and are a must to see when they come out on PBS.

Thursday evening I was asked if I can help someone do their makeup. I was a bit shocked, since it took me three makeovers to get mine right. The most I can do is show her the way I do mine to get her started; unlike the way I was snubbed when I asked for similar help in San Fransisco in 2007.

Deborah's off on her bicycle trip across the state of Utah for the next couple of weeks with Aere. I will miss her.

Last night, I went with Robin to support her while she supported her boyfriend. The venue was at a VFW out near a copper mine in Magma. The feel was incredibly redneck and I felt very anxious just stepping out of my car on the way to the bar. The high-heels I was wearing clacked noisily on the pavement, because the left heel was down to the nail. I'll miss that pair. It was the first pair of heels I ever bought, when I came out in San Francisco a few years ago. As I walked into the club, I was greeted by a couple of older vets, and one of them--Fred--said, "God, she's beautiful," as I walked toward my friend at the bar. Robin went to talk to him later and he kept asking her, "Who's your tall girlfriend? I like tall women." Later in the evening, Robin and I were accosted by a group of vets who were trying out all kinds of flirtatious come-on lines. At one point, one of the gentleman, shaking my limp hand, said, "You've got a grip." Knowing not to go there, I kept my silence.

The woman, Sandra, who designed my costume came over today to help me repair the bra and to check on me. When she arrived, I was near the end of my practice, struggling to get a twelfth time through the routine without a serious error and, of course, was drenched in sweat. When I told her what I was just doing, she said, "Let's see it." So, miraculously, I finally made it through the 12th repetition. I was elated when she said the words, "Much better." Of course, I had already come out to her a couple of weeks ago.  She had more questions, trying to understand my sexuality, especially wondering why I didn't let Deborah express her male side. Once I explained that it was because Deborah was doing it knowing I preferred women, we pressed our conversation further.

Sandra is eager to help me when I get back from Thailand. She lives just down the street. When I invited her to my Send-Off in two weeks, she begged me to remind her the day before. A belly dancer herself, she was curious. As she was leaving my place, she asked, "Are there any more like you?"

"What do you mean?"

"That like to dance [meaning belly dancing]."

"Not that I know of."

"You really are unique."

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie Jean

Friday, April 8, 2011

Emceeing for Charity, First Choreography Part 3 and Acknowledging the Obvious

It's hard to believe that one month from now I'll be on a plane to Thailand. This last week found me emceeing for a charity fundraiser, learning the final moves for my class choreography, attending a concert and acknowledging what's been in front of my face for many years with regards to my physiology.

Sunday evening, I had my debut as an emcee. We had worked out what I was supposed to say and when, and like all good plans, it devolved into utter chaos. I was supposed to introduce the speakers for the charities--the Crossroads Food Bank and the Homeless Youth Resource Center, then introduce the band, Circle of Fear. Then I would wait an hour, draw for thank you gifts, and thank everyone.

So much for the plan. The band introduced themselves and then me. I thanked everyone for coming, introduced our speakers and then turned it over to the band, and began a running joke about multiple orgasms. I figured I now had til 8:15 to just settle in and enjoy the band--until I was called to the stage and handed the drawing tickets and gift basket. I called out three numbers before we had our first winner. Deborah was holding the ticket I was given for our donations and quickly learned it was the first winner--a 20 dollar gift card to The Red Iguana. I called out two more winners before I was told that was enough and the band would start again.

And so it went, every 15 minutes the band would call me to the stage so I could announce three winners while they took a break. Meanwhile, I danced while the band played, and was surprised that Deborah had bid seriously on and won tickets and a hotel stay at the Redrock Women's Music Festival, with my promise that I would drive us there if she won.

In the end, I had experienced a total blast. I'll have to come up with more filler material next time.

Tuesday evening was back to my belly dancing class, and the third set of instruction for the material for our choreography. I discovered I was doing the Egyptian wrong, and with lots of practice since have got the foot work correct again. Kelsey added the last two movements to the choreography: shimmies layered with low undulating snake arms and 3/4 shimmy travels. The forward steps aren't that bad; but the backward steps are taking a lot of work to try to get it right--and so I practice the whole routine over and over every day this week that I can.

After class, Kelsey and I headed out separately to the club where Beats Antique played. She arrived with her friend and I eventually headed out to the crowd on the floor, where the drum beats rolled in the haze to a techno-Egyptian beat and three belly dancers performed tribal fusion style techniques, part showgirl, part cabaret. I was awed. I want to be at least half as good as those girls.

The band started about 10 PM. By midnight, my back was telling me that I had done enough gyrations, and as I headed off the floor, a young blonde, bearded gentleman looked at me and said, "You were fantastic in the Vagina Monologues." Shocked to hear I still had a fan, and that he recognized me in the crowd, instead of asking him which show he saw or if he was going to watch them again next year, I just demurely smiled and said, "Thank you." I was tired after all and desperately needing a good lower back stretch.

And so I went home. This week, I finished reading The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, and near the end I saw a range of numbers. They were the normal testosterone range for men (300-1000), and together with the normal testosterone range for women (max 70), I realized that mine wasn't normal after all, coming in less than 3 times the maximum for a woman and 2/3 the minimum for a man. When I Googled for testosterone ranges, I found something familiar turn up: hypogonatropic hypogonadism--the failure of testes to develop. I remembered being diagnosed by a doctor in Texas four years ago with a simple HGH written on my chart after I told him that Niaspan was causing sensitivity issues in my nipple and he discovered that my left testicle was smaller than the other. He ordered a testosterone level check.

Face-to-face with the obvious, my discoveries weren't done yet. HGH led me to Kallman's syndrome and soon I found a drawing of a patent processus vaginalis. In the patent processus vaginalis, the path that the testicle descends does not seal off. A tunnel is left, leaving the tissue larger in diameter, as seen in my CT scan. In fact, in 90-95% of cryptorchidism cases, especially in ascending or retractile testes, like mine, the individual also has a patent processus vaginalis.

But the most obvious thing I overlooked is the relationship between the nerve bundle in my processus vaginalis and the lack of nerves in the glans of my penis. At 12 and older, I had complained to my mother that I had very little to no sensation where boys were supposed to be the most erogenous. I blamed it on the surgery I had when I was 9 to correct my bladder. I found it incredibly easier to sense a vagina. I could picture it, and I could feel it.

That last piece is the clue to my gender identity problems. While HGH and cryptorchidism do not in themselves shift a boy's gender identity to the feminine, the lack of enough testosterone (due to the HGH) to burn away the female circuits in my mind, the tendency of a gonad to move toward ovary position and the sensation of the nerves where a woman finds her left labia were enough to overwhelm my mind with a desperation to escape the male world.

So it wasn't simply in my head. It's always been real.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sophie Jean