Friday, June 16, 2017

Chicago Trip: Adventures

Chicago is America's second city and I guess in a way it's sort of my second city too. That's where Kath's family lives and I think because of that it's actually the city I've visited the most. It's a cool city and I like it a lot. Now, the most fun thing about it is the fact that when I visit I have some locals who can help show me around. I mean who likes visiting a city and only seeing all the tourist traps? 

Plus this trip was my official coming out to Kath's parents and all of her family. More on that a little later though (or you can just listen to our podcast episode about it). As I mentioned, I'm still kind of emotionally processing all that. But I will share. Everyone keeps asking me about, so I have to share it at some point. First though, Chicago fun! 

This trip was actually my second time flying while presenting female. The first time I didn't have any problems at all, though my bag did get taken off the belt for special screening. This was because of my breast forms. I guess they look suspicious on the scanner. 

Going into this trip I wasn't too worried about the TSA though. Sure, there are horror stories about what trans people have experienced in TSA screenings. But, then again there are also horror stories about what cis people have experienced in TSA screenings too. I had my breast forms in my bag, but I'm a law abiding citizen, so I figured there wouldn't be any major issues. 

TSA screening line seflie time!
 And there weren't any major issues at security. They brought a female agent over to check my bra strap, so that was good at least. I like when they assign a female agent. Then my bag got pulled off for special searching again. Also by a female agent. So I guess I pass? Or JFK's TSA agents are used to dealing with trans-women.

After the TSA lady searched my bag, looking for the breast forms of course, I asked her what I could do in the future to speed the process up. Kath liked that I used the term "medical prosthesis." I learned that key word from the TSA website. It's good to use their own lingo with them. After all, they might seize a fake boob, but they're damn well not gonna seize a medical prosthesis are they? Anyway, the TSA lady said to put them in a clear bag on top of my backpack so they could search more easily. Life pro tip for girls like us I guess.

As we waited for the plane, I also took the opportunity for a few more selfies. I mean, we had good light and I felt like my hair looked really good. I wanted to capture the moment. Besides what else are you gonna do while you wait for your plane? Actually I had brought the third season of Broad City (my new favorite show) but I also had to take some pics. C'mon. It's me.

And yes, I also got some selfies aboard the plane. There wasn't particularly good light but honestly, a plane selfie is like a badge of honor to me. I mean, for years I was too nervous to leave the house when I was presenting female. I used to have to screw up my courage just to go outside and now I'm on a plane! I'm travelling. That's about as out of the house as you can get. Pictures like these remind me just how far I've come on this journey.

Of course I didn't take too many selfies. We had Broad City to watch after all.

In Chicago we landed and I was a little bit nervous because Kath's parents were about to meet Faith for the first time! But, there was more than just family stuff on this trip. Kath and I also had some serious Chicago fun planned. First up was the Field Museum! It's Chicago's museum of natural history. 

Now, I'd been to the Field Museum before. Though the one time I was there we did a scavenger hunt. Running around the various exhibits trying to solve puzzles was fun, but unfortunately it doesn't give you much time to really appreciate the museum. So, for that reason I really wanted to actually see what the museum held. 

Plus, for the past year I've been binge watching The Brain Scoop and learning tons of amazing stuff about the the Field Museum. Brain Scoop is a great YouTube channel, easily one of my top five favorite channels. Many of the episodes feature behind the scenes information about exhibits, museum collections and museum operations. There's so much good stuff. Because of this, I've been super eager to visit the Field Museum again. 

Check out this episode about some of the meteorites in the museum collection. In it you find out that the oldest known things in the entire solar system are insanely small nano-scale diamonds embedded in asteroids! And they're at the Field Museum. And you can look at them!

Because I'd seen that video, I knew a lot more about this tiny vial tucked away in the gem gallery. Seriously, there are like a quadrillion diamonds in this little vial! A quadrillion diamonds!

Another thing I've learned about because of Brain Scoop is taxidermy. I've even read some of the books that Brain Scoop recommended. There is, of course, lots of taxidermy in the museum. Much of it was done by Carl Akeley, generally recognized as the father of modern taxidermy. He did these magnificent elephants in the museum's main hall.  

Seriously. I love natural history museums because I'm a giant science nerd. I think my favorite part of the Field Museum was probably the dinosaurs. Who doesn't love dinosaurs? I'll tell you who, asteroids. Asteroids hate dinosaurs.  


Here's the mighty Apatosaurus. Do not confuse this with the brontosaurus. There is no such thing as a brontosaurus. The bones behind me are the actual bones that were studied by the scientist who determined that the so-called brontosaurs was actually just an example of the earlier-named Apatosaurus. 

Plus the museum has the perfect light coming in from the skylights of the Main Hall. So we snapped a few more selfies. Because you just have to. It's 2017 after all.

We ended up seeing almost everything in the museum, which was fantastic. So next time I can come back and do another scavenger hunt without feeling bad about missing exhibits. Also, as we were on the way out, we noticed that there were four statues overlooking the Main Hall. They represent, Recording, Researching, Disseminating Knowledge and my favorite Science. This is Science studying the human skull. 

Of course I bought something at the gift shop. I got a T-shirt featuring Sue the T-Rex. She's the best known example of a T-Rex skeleton. 

Plus the shirt I got was one of the few they had that were actually fitted for women. It bugs me that the default T-shirts are always boring shirts that are cut for men. So often I see a cool shirt online that I'd love to get only it's just cut for men. So, yeah, I got a cool Sue T-shirt perfectly cut for me. 

Afterward we explored the museum campus and then walked along the shore of Lake Michigan near Grant Park.  

It was kind of windy. And by kind of windy, I mean it was insanely windy. I know Chicago is supposed to be the "windy city," but I thought that referred to blowhard politicians in the 19th Century. Either way it was ridiculously windy that day. This really bothered me because I wanted to keep my wig 100% perfect and the darn wind was threatening to make it look frayed, frizzy and fake.

Kath kept reassuring me that I looked fine, but as every new gust of wind hit us, I inwardly cursed, hoping we would soon get into the Loop and away from the lake shore's wind. Ah well, I think maybe the wind loves me and always wants to be around me. Maybe I'm a wind goddess and I didn't even know it. 

The next day, Saturday, Kath and I had planned to take our own self-guided Drinking Buddies tour. If you haven't seen the movie Drinking Buddies, I heartily recommend it. It's on Netflix Instant and you can catch the trailer below.

Actually, the trailer isn't that great because this movie is the absolute anti-thesis of romantic comedies. It's funny, it's heartfelt, it has really unexpected moments and some great performances. what makes the performances even more amazing is that they were all improvised. The result is that the characters feel real and their story does too. It doesn't feel contrived and it doesn't seem like something a screen writer would type out. It's definitely worth checking out and it's one of my and Kath's favorite movies. 

Since it was filmed in Chicago, we decided it would be fun to go to the spots where the movie actually takes place. First up was the Revolution Brewery/Revolution Tap Room. The characters in Drinking Buddies work at the brewery and the movie was actually filmed there. When I saw online that there were tours, we knew this had to be on our Chicago list. 

The Tap Room is a gigantic beer hall adjacent to the main brewery. They've got all the brewery's beer, including brews that haven't been released to the general public yet. 

Of course we were mostly there for the tour and it didn't disappoint. Now, Kath and I have been on many brewery tours including at least two separate tours of the Brooklyn Brewery, so we are fairly well versed in how beer gets made. But it's still fun to visit a brewery and tour around. 

We had to wear safety glasses, as you can see here. This is me posing in front of a canning line. The line behind me used to belong to RC Cola. But because no one loves RC Cola, it was bought by Revolution and installed here. 

It was really cool to walk through the places where one of your favorite movies was shot. It's like the time I went to California and walked through the forest where they shot Return of the Jedi, or all the times I've walked right by the Ghostbusters firehouse in Tribeca. In fact, on the train ride home from the brewery we watched Drinking Buddies on my phone and kept pointing out all the spots where we'd been. "Look, there's the canning line!" or "There's the Tap Room bar!" Like that. Because we're weird.


Lastly, we headed over to The Empty Bottle, a Chicago bar that's featured in Drinking Buddies. In the movie it's got food and pool and we thought it would be the perfect post-brewery-tour destination. We would grab some food and chill out in a cool comfy bar.

Well, it turns out that while the movie used The Empty Bottle in an establishing shot, the bar scenes were actually filmed at another bar that's now closed. Since the characters in the movie name The Empty Bottle specifically, we headed in for a couple quick pics and then left as it was kind of dank and divey. Now I'm not anti-dive, but it wasn't what we were looking for.  Also, it doesn't make sense that the characters in the movie would go there for post-work drinks. It's way far way from the brewery anyway. 

Well, we ended up grabbing food nearby at a heavy metal and/or prison themed pub. Yes. That exists. And it was pretty busy so I guess enough people like that sort of thing. Food was pretty decent, but it is an odd idea for a restaurant theme. 

After that we decided to head back to Kath's folk's place where we were staying. After all, the next day was going to be the neices' baptism and the big family party. We would need our rest. Plus, I'm not sure my hair could have managed too much more wind. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Closet Be Gone!

Well, I'm out. Yes, I've finally outed myself a transgender woman to basically everyone in my life. In fact, I just got back from a trip to Chicago where I attended a baby baptism and the party afterward. Both were rather jam packed with Kath's family members including her parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, plus some neighbors, friends and casual acquaintances. It was a lot. I'm still kinda processing all of it actually. 

It was a lot. It really was and it really took a lot out of me. There were a lot of fun moments on this trip, but it also left me feeling more exhausted and stressed out than I've felt in a long while. It's my first day back and I still feel that way. The family was (mostly) good, far better than I could have expected and I'm super relieved that things went pretty well. But like I said, I'm still processing all this. 

Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. There's no more double life for me or for my partner. Things are simpler now. Things are better now. I flew for my second time as a trans-woman and it went well. I got to do some cool Chicago stuff. And I'm out to everyone now. It went well. It's all good. But I need some time to process.

So, at some point in the near future I will be posting all the details and sharing all my amazing Chicago pics. But in the meantime, phew. Give me a minute first okay.

Stay tuned. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Being Transgender at the Gym

Oh my gosh I have never been into physical exercise or sports.There is almost nothing I enjoy about either of those things. It amazes me that some people enjoy things like working out, jogging, lifting weights, or playing sports so much that it becomes like the central part of their life. It boggles my mind that anyone would enjoy this. So why am I posting a fairly unflattering picture of me after a work out a gym?

Well, as regular readers will know I had a health scare back in March. And because of that health scare I stopped by habitual drinking. I decided to join a gym. In for a penny, in for a pound I guess. My work provides me with a wellness benefit (that I barely use), so I figured it would be worth trying. Healthy is good right? Plus I'd love to be skinny and maybe be able to pull of that bandage dress like Blake Lively. Or at least like Abbi Jacobson.

Now, joining a gym presents several unique issues for transgender woman, and several more issues just for transwomen like me. First off, there's that whole binary-only changing and showering area to contend with. Then there's the fact that I kind of only know how to pass when I'm dolled up to the nines. But you can't really work out dolled up. You'd get all sweaty and ruin your makeup. Plus you'd look ridiculous and stand out. The last thing I want anywhere is for people to be staring at me. My hairline is another issue. A wig makes me look more feminine, but working out in a wig just makes you hotter and sweatier. Plus it'll probably wreck the wig. So there are some complications.

When I was trying to pick a gym, I did some research, first cancellation policies. I'd heard some gyms are basically impossible to leave. They'll keep billing you even if they have to forward the bills to the cemetery. Also, I wanted to find a gym that had a stated policy that they were okay with transgender members. So I ended up picking Planet Fitness since they were cheap, had a clear contract termination policy and most importantly, a clear policy for trans members.

"Planet Fitness is committed to creating a nonintimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity nondiscrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity."

Plus they defended that policy in court and have cancelled the memberships of people who've harassed transgender members. So that makes me a feel a little better. You know, even though I'm legally female, I worry about my ability to pass and I definitely don't want to have to deal with a conflict over my use of the female restroom or changing room.

The first time I went it was right after work. I brought some gym clothes to change into and I was wearing my usual wig. Of course I was intimidated going into the women's changing room. I sort of walked right in with a quick pace, went out of my way to avoid eye contact with anyone, and found a stall. Yes, I was going to change in a stall. Even if I were cis I think I would still change in a stall. What's up with people who like getting unclothed in front of strangers? Seriously?

That one time I worked out in a wig. Since then I've been doing a kind of androgynous look. Often I'll wear basic makeup. Also my tight workout clothes make it clear that I've got boobs. But I still don't feel like I would pass as remotely female due to my hair and my stupid hairline. I've been using a head band which covers my hairline but as my hair's not long, I worry that I'm still read as male.

It doesn't look too great. But then again I already struggle with a casual female presentation, much less a sweaty workout presentation. My clothes, however, I do love. I bought women's trainers, along with some nice, seriously tight pants and a tight shirt. Plus I finally bought a smaller hoodie so it hugs my curves a bit more. My gym outfit does show off what the HRT gave me. Plus my butt looks great in those pants. Still, I worry about my passability in gym girl mode.

Because of this, I no longer go to the gym after work. Instead, I go home first to change, then head over. Also, I regulate my liquid intake beforehand so I don't have to use the bathroom. I know some of you are reading this and thinking "Faith, you look great and the gym has an inclusive policy. Why are you worried?" Well, I worry. I worry that I don't pass and I worry that because of that someone is going to harass me. My avoidance of the changing room has been working for me thus far. Sure, I wish there were a gender-neutral option, but in the meantime I have my routine.

Still, working out has been good. Mostly I just do the elliptical which lets me burn 400 or 500 calories in a go. I've been keeping up a three-times-a-week routine. Combined with the beer I'm not drinking that means on the days I go to the gym I'm consuming 1200 fewer calories than I would have been doing a few months ago. Since March, when I made this change, I've already lost about 10 pounds. So I'm getting there. Slowly.

I don't love the actual working out, but I do like the feeling of having worked out, you know that nice tired but in a good way feeling? Plus being healthy means living longer which is great since, like most people, I have no interest in dying. And I can manage to lose weight and get skinny, which will help me with passing. And I've promised myself that when I get down to my goal weight (currently only 13 pounds away), I'll go out and get that bandage dress.

I'll have earned it. 

Gender Rebels Podcast: Shopping