Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back to the Book Store

I read in USA Today this week about the US publication of a mystery by Turkish author Mehmet Murat Somer, The Kiss Murder. The protagonist is a computer programmer by day, drag queen by night. I might not have read it, but I was intrigued by an interview with the author. He said that he wanted to create a series centered around a trans character who is depicted in a positive light. I was delighted to find it in stock at a local Barnes & Noble. After my last experience, I reserved the book at the store, and I went out tonight to pick it up. I decided to have a look around the store, and I also picked up Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw. I'm in the middle of reading a fantasy novel right now, Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself, but at least I won't run out of reading material for some time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Didn't I Read this on Fictionmania?

A 17 year-old boy dressed as a girl to take the Regents exam for an unnamed female student. This isn't the kind of publicity we need. I know, the suspect probably isn't really one of us anyway. It just seems like every time I turn around, there's a negative portrayal of trans persons in the news. Last year we had the Burger King robbery, and the Walmart bank robbery. A couple of years ago, there were the drag queens robbing clothing stores in New Orleans. Now, we get this.

Edit: I forgot something. If this story had appeared on Fictionmania, the boy would have passed flawlessly. Moreover, he would have been HOT, and assorted characters would have drooled over him, culminating in a scene where he makes out with the teacher giving the exam. Afterwards, it would be revealed that the test was merely a pretext for setting up said encounter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I forgot something last week

I haven't watched MTV in years, not since they stopped showing videos 24/7. One of my coworkers had the lobby TV tuned there when I came on the other night, and I came on just in time to see an episode of the latest season of The Real World. One of the current cast members is post-op, and she was sitting in a car with her housemates talking about her childhood, growing up with gender dysphoria. I ended up watching the whole program.

I posted a message about this on a message board I frequent, but totally blanked on posting it here. I found a news story that I linked to there.

So, anyway, I was flipping channels earlier this evening, and I saw a listing for a new episode. In the show description was the following phrase "the girls take a pole-dancing class". I find myself having mixed feelings about a situation like that. On the one hand, I applaud women for seizing a symbol of their own objectification and making it their own. I've thought about taking such a class myself. On the other tentacle, this sort of thing falls into the commentary I've been reading about the hyper-sexualization of transwomen. I'm not sure what to think. Comments?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Night

So here I was, on my third weekend off in a row, with no plans for my nights off. I emailed around to see if anyone was doing anything, and ended up hooking up with my friend Debbie. We had a nice, casual dinner (Red Robin), then went to the movies, where we saw 'Gran Torino'. This is the latest film starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. It's a beautiful story, not quite what I was expecting.

While we were at dinner, Debbie corrected my language once. I should have said, "May I", instead of "Let me". This wasn't the first time she's reproached me on something I did or said, that wasn't ladylike. We were at a club last year, waiting to get into the ladies room (one toilet). When I got my turn, in the interest of speed and trying to be considerate of the ladies behind me, I peed standing up. I was wearing jeans. My male genitalia are functional, despite being useless. I got out of the bathroom in record time. I told Debbie what I'd done, and she acted like I'd sinned or something. Apparently, I was supposed to pee sitting down, even though no one could see me, and no one would have known, otherwise.

On a related note, I've been thinking about something all week. I attended a meeting of the Richmond-area James River Transgender Society last April. One of the members there gave a presentation on the importance of planning transition. She gave a step-by-step plan of how she transitioned. This lady is of an old school. She talked about moving to new community, changing jobs, cutting ties with people and finding new, more feminine hobbies. I don't have many hobbies, but I don't want to give any of them up. I'm an aircraft nut, and I love to go to airshows and take pictures. I take lots of pictures, and not just of planes. I love video games. I am a mediocre player, but I love the "Halo" series. Give all that up and take up knitting? I don't think so.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens

No, that's not a description of my feelings about transgender relations. It's a movie coming out in March. It doesn't have anything to do with transgendered people at all, save for a teeny smidge of dialogue from the trailer.

The female lead character is being introduced to her teammates, and the conversation goes like this:

The Missing Link: "She's speechless."
B.O.B.: "She? It's a boy; look at his boobies!"

I laughed out loud.

Ahem. I now return you to your regularly-scheduled, serious discussion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope for the Future

Remember what I said earlier about hoping that transgendered persons were included in Obama's vision of the future? Well, the new administration have wasted no time in setting up a new White House website. If you check out the link in the title, it's a listing of their goals for civil rights legislation. I am especially enamored of this section:

Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The italics are mine, of course.

A New Day

I'm going to allow myself to drift off-topic for just a moment here. Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States yesterday. He didn't mention us by name anywhere in any of his many speeches, but I can't help but hope that transgendered persons are included in his statements of inclusion and equality.

There's a lot of work ahead, for all of us. Nothing worth having is easy to come by. That's all I've got right now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Color Me Frustrated

Last night was NLTO Movie Night. I drove out to Virginia Beach to watch Neil Jordan's The Crying Game. Most of my friends hadn't seen it, so it was fun to share a beloved film with new friends. The gathering broke up earlier than I expected, so I took advantage of the extra time to visit a nearby Barnes & Noble store. A couple of my friends had recommended I read a particular book, and, according to the website, this store was the only location (within 40 miles) that stocked that book. I know, I know. I could order it off the web. Guess I'm old-fashioned that way. I LIKE to visit brick-and-mortar stores. If nothing else, it gives me an opportunity to get out in public, to interact with people.

So, I drove over to the store. This location is the biggest B&N I've ever seen! F***ing huge! I thought, if I wandered about a bit, that I could find the book myself, without assistance. Alas, it was not to be. So I wandered over to the Customer Service counter. I told them what I was looking for, and the woman behind the counter grimaced. "I'm sorry," she said. "That title's been marked for return."

"Marked for return? What does that mean?" I asked.

"It means we've decided to not carry that book. In fact, I remember seeing it in a box in the back." She then apologized and went to the back of the store to see if it was still there. It was not. She apologized again, and went on to tell me that she could order it for me. You don't pay for shipping if you order it delivered to a store. I asked if they could order it shipped to a different location, because VB is a little out of my way. She said I would have to contact that store, and get them to order it. It was all I could do to not scream.

So, yeah, I'm feeling frustrated. The situation is made ironic by the book I was searching for: Julia Serano's Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. I go hunting for a book about the marginalization of transwomen, and I'm left feeling... marginalized. Interested parties can read about the book here:

Edit: I wonder if it would help if I complained to anyone. I would complain to B&N, certainly, but I wonder if I should alert the author.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why now? Why not?

I've got a lot on my mind right now. As I type this, it is my third attempt at this particular entry, but I am determined to finish it this time.

As I said, there's lots on my mind. I've got expenses, and not near enough money to cover it all at once. I love my brother to death, but if he doesn't find some sort of work, and soon, I fear we'll be living out of a box before too long. I told a friend a couple of weeks ago that I cared feck-all about the national financial crisis, and it's true. I've got much more personal problems, and the moving and shaking of banks and auto manufacturers doesn't touch me at all. To borrow a phrase from George Thorogood's landlady, "That don't confront me."

With serious mundane matters like that on my plate, I shouldn't worry about anything else, right? Well, here I am. My big issue now is how much longer I can continue as I am. I tried to live as a man, in denial of my true self, and all that came of it was pain. I'm tired of pain.

Almost from the start, I lied to myself and everyone. From my earliest memory I was drawn to femininity, but I didn't dare to show it. Little boys who did girly things got beaten up, and I didn't want any of that. It's not that I went out of my way to be manly or anything; I was too bookish for that. I did strongly resist doing anything that would make people think I was a sissy. When I was in the second grade, Mom wanted to dress me up as a girl for Halloween. Oh, how I wanted to do that. Alas, I whined about being called a sissy, and Dad made me a robot costume out of cardboard boxes and dryer hose (I took first prize in the school costume contest!).

I started dressing in my mother's clothes when I was eight or nine. When Mom found out, she went through the roof. When the phenomenon lasted into my tween years, she sent me to a psychologist. My doctor was a nice enough fellow, but I don't think he got it. He told my mother it was an adolescent masturbatory thing, and that I would get over it.

Along came puberty, and my child's body grew into a man-thing seemingly overnight. All of a sudden, my body became a strange thing, and I was very out of sorts with myself. I still wasn't much of an athlete, but in high school I threw myself into track and cross country. I found a sport I was actually good at. It is only now that I see the irony in being good at running. I've been running away from myself my entire life.

From the earliest, one of the things I always wanted was to have a child. Not to be father, but to bear a child. When, as a child, I first heard of a sex change, I thought, "I can have a baby!" Then I learned the reality of it, and my joy turned to sorrow. What use is a wish to be a woman if she cannot bear a child? That's what I thought, then. It seemed better to try to be a man, even if I was only pretending. So I labeled myself a crossdresser, and tried to content myself as a man who sometimes dressed as a woman.

I had some good times with some amazingly open-minded people in my early twenties. One thing led to another and I met "D", a woman who I would one day marry. D made me open up, about everything. She took me under her wing as a "summer project". She encouraged me to dress, and accompanied me on shopping trips. She taught me to do my own makeup, and hair. She coached me on feminine mannerisms and behavior. For Halloween that year, we went to a costume contest at Bennigan's. It was my first major outing en femme. I thought I looked good. A guy tried to pick me up. The judges made a point of calling me up to their table, because I had written on my entry that I was a man dressed as a woman. They disqualified me from the competition because (they said) they thought I was a professional female impersonator.

That event led to another chapter of my life. We started going to clubs to watch drag shows. A couple of visits in, D suggests to me that I should try out. One of the clubs hosted an "amateur night" once a week, and she got me to enter one. At this point in my life, I was what Gene Kelly called a "triple threat". I couldn't act, sing or dance. D's background was in theatre, so again she started coaching me. I entered one show. I didn't win, but I placed. All it got me was a free drink, but it was a nice feeling. I didn't know it at the time, but there were never more than one or two "amateurs" in any contest. The club would always fill the rest of the slots with established performers. That made it hard for girls like me, but I learned a lot about the drag show business. One of the older queens took me under her arm, so to speak. She tuned up my makeup, coached me on numbers and got me into a few real shows. That lasted a little over a year.

In the meantime, my relationship with D had gotten serious. D's eight years older than me, and I was pretty young then. I didn't know it at the time, but D is a control freak, and an attention whore. She was all for me doing shows when I needed her help to prepare, but once I started going off on my own, she didn't want me to do it anymore. It took me a few years to catch on, but this was to be the pattern for our life together. About a year after I stopped doing shows, we got married. Do a Google search for "A faire to remember" and you'll find the old Pilot article about our wedding.

I won't go into all the gory details of eight years of marriage, but it was both fun and not. She made me stop dressing up. "I don't need you to do that anymore," she'd say. I think she knew what I was. D was really perceptive about such things. When we went to see a counselor four years in, she made me tell the counselor that I was a crossdresser, and that was all. The counselor probed a little, to see if there was more to it, but I bit my tongue and told him no. When we split up eight years later, she told all of her friends, and anyone else who would listen, that it was because I was a crossdresser.

After D left, I was out on my own for a couple of years before I felt comfortable enough to start dressing again, and it was another six months before I got up the courage to go out. In March of 2006, I contacted the local chapter of Tri-Ess, a sort of crossdressers' sorority. At my first meeting, and most of the subsequent functions, I was the youngest person there. Most of the members were in their 40s or 50s. They were my people, but they were of another generation. They were set in their ways, too. A regular meeting consisted of meeting at a hotel, dinner at a gay sports bar and later drinking at another club. It was the same all the time, and it made me sick. I started to venture out on my own, whenever I wasn't working. I'd shop, run errands, go out to eat or the movies, all the normal stuff. I'd occasionally run into a little hostility, but the majority of the people I've dealt with have been cool.

Now it's a couple of years later. I've been through some major upheavals, but I'm slowly getting back on my feet. Or not. At the beginning of this post, I was almost frantic. I guess I have my ups and downs. The point of all this is, as I've grown more comfortable with myself, and expressing my true gender, the harder it's gotten for me to switch back. I came out to my employers back in July, and I started coming to company functions en femme. I expressed an interest in working that way. My employers politely told me "No." People have been telling me that all my life, and I'm tired of it. A lot of people wait until they've attained a measure of financial security before they change. If I wait for that time, it might never come. I can't wait for much longer. Before she died, Mom told me she wanted me to be happy. I'm trying to honor her wish.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Night in Purgatory, or Why Can't It Always Be Like This?

A couple of years ago, when I lived in Charlotte, NC, I read a piece in one of the local papers about a fetish show event called "Purgatory". It's held every couple of months in a warehouse-sized concert venue, and the paper listed it as one of the top places to "people-watch". There were a couple of photos from the event in the article, and one of them featured a human swing, a girl trussed up in some fancy knotwork, suspended from the ceiling by chains. I'd never seen anything like it, and I immediately wanted to go.

Ninety-five percent of the time, I dress to blend in. It's hard enough to escape people's attention when you're six feet tall, so I don't usually wear a lot of flashy clothes or costumes. That said, I occasionally like to DRESS UP. An event where I could wear sky-high heels and whatnot was just the thing, even if I wasn't too sure about the rest of it.

Single Cell Productions, the hosts of the event, maintain a mailing list on Yahoo for getting out info about the show. I bought a ticket, and simultaneously signed up for the mailing list. Just to be safe, I emailed SCP about to tell them a little about myself. I told them I was transgendered, and looking for an opportunity to play. They told me that as long as I abided by their code of conduct and followed event rules, I could wear whatever I wanted.

I found a corset-style top at Torrid, and paired it with a pleather miniskirt I found at Hot Topic. I wore these with a pair of black vinyl knee-high boots with skyscraper heels. It's a cool outfit, but it's about a million miles from my typical tank or tunic with jeans. In an effort to glam up the Goth theme, I spent a chunk of money on eyeshadow and lipcolor from the MAC counter at Nordstrom.

The event started at 8, but they advise you to get there early. My first visit was to the fifth anniversary show, so there were a lot of people there, all of them friendly, and very welcoming to newcomers. I mentioned the event rules before; they are pretty simple. First, everyone is entitled to respect and common courtesy. Personal space is to be respected at all times. If someone doesn't want to play, don't play with them. "Scenes" are only to be done with consenting individuals, and all play is to be safeworded. The dress code is pretty simple, too. As long as your genitals and nipples are covered, anything goes. And it goes.

I saw all kinds of outfits and costumes, ranging from fetishwear to street clothes to period costumes to electrical tape. Yeah, strategically-placed electrical tape. Several people complimented my outfit, but it was pretty tame by the standards of the event.

Here's the thing: not one person had a harsh word for me all night. I was able to be myself, and no one judged me for it. Towards the end of the show, they started selling cheap tickets at the door in order to sell the event out, and there ended up being a few looky-loos from the bar next door. These people were NOT into any sort of fetish lifestyle, and you could tell by the facial expressions. One (very) straight couple approached me, and they guy looked like he wanted to say something rude, but his companion said, "Leave her alone. I think she's kinda hot." Then she winked at me, and pulled him away.

Purgatory's not something I can do all the time, especially not now that I live 300 miles away. I might try to get down there again in April. It's the seventh anniversary show, and, alas, the last one. The theme is "Ragnarok", which has given me all sorts of ideas for costumes. I might try to rock an Amazon Valkyrie look, if I can scrounge the money for a trip.

All this nostalgia is nice, but what I've been trying to convey is the sense I get at these events of being in an oasis. There's no hate, no prejudice. It's an all-night gathering of people doing their own thing, in their own way. I'm still iffy on the whole fetish scene, but I'll miss the acceptance.