Monday, June 27, 2016

NYC Pride Parade 2016

Growing up my dad was, for better or worst (worst. definitely worst), a hardcore, Evangelical, Republican, former US military, Southern asshole. Yes, I'm going to say that my dad was an asshole about his beliefs. He forced his beliefs on my family, would berate us for not living up to his ideas of how Christian or right wing or conservative we were. Right wing radio always played in the house. Christian talk radio played in the car. Opposing viewpoints were angrily mocked and often shouted down. Looking back, I think this played a major role in my parents divorce and definitely played a major role in my leaving Georgia and never looking book. I'm still not close to my family. My dad never beat us or anything terrible. He was just an loud, obnoxious asshole.

Those beliefs of his zeroed in on gays. He hated gays. Maybe it was because of the whole gays in the military or the beginnings of the culture wars, but he hated gays with a passion. Gays were perverts, child molesters, sinners, horrible people, deviants and unworthy of life. Yes, my dad was outspoken that the death penalty should apply to gays. Only gay men obviously. Transgender people never quite came into his world view (at least in the 90s). There was no need for distinction; they all unworthy of life. He even wrote anti-gay editorials, some of which were published by my local newspaper.

This is my background. This is where I come from. For years I felt a deep and abiding shame over the feelings that I couldn't silence. Every night as I laid in bed I prayed to God to make me a girl or wished for magic that could make it real and every day I hid my feelings deep down inside, as deep as I could cram them down. I had to. Lest my dad find out and maybe kill me. Lest the people in my Christian school beat the shit out of me. Lest I declare myself unworthy of love and life. That's how I grew up. Hiding who I was because everyone around me said that I was a pervert, a sicko, a deviant sinner who should be killed. I don't mean to start this so negatively, but that just goes to show how far I've managed to come and how far we as a society have managed to come.

This is why I cried yesterday as I marched down Broadway in New York City, just a few steps behind my state's governor and one of my state's US senators. I cried because I was me and I was able to walk down the street with major political leaders from my state, as a transgender woman, and not be ashamed or fearful. I literally walked down the street in a dress, in makeup, with the governor and a senator. And people came out to cheer and show their love and support. It was validating, legitimizing in a way that I can't even begin to describe.

I remember hiding my dressing from my parents and sister, always hiding. Even when I finally moved away, I remember hiding inside my apartment, afraid to go out as a girl. My heart would pound and I'd spend an hour just psyching myself up to leave my house for even a few minutes. And then yesterday, in the daylight, in a parade, I was able to celebrate who I am really am. And I was able to celebrate with everyone in my city! We stood together and celebrated life and freedom  and love. We mourned those we've lost.

While I've been to other pride parades, this was my first time actually marching in one. It was beautiful. It was hot. I was gross by the end of it. But it was beautiful.

And honestly, it was pretty hard to get photos. Obviously I wanted to get some photos as this was something I really wanted to remember, but with the harsh direct light and moving crowd I didn't get too many good ones. Plus I also didn't want to be that girl taking selfies the whole time instead of celebrating LGBT pride. Also, I was sweaty and looked terrible. But, here are some good ones I snapped:

Near the Flatiron Building.

Our governor and Senator, and various other dignitaries. I forget who they were, though one of the funny things about marching in the parade instead of watching it is that you get to hear your contingent announced over and over again.

This is a terrible photo of me, but it's the best one I got of me and governor together. Yeah, like I said, it wasn't too great a day for photos and my mascara ran. What can I say, it was pretty hot.

Also my partner was clever enough to spot me in this photo from Getty Images. I included a handy arrow for everyone who isn't quite as eagle-eyed.

It took me a while to find myself in the above photo. But hey, check it out, the Governor of New York just posted a couple photos of Faith DaBrooke on his flickr page. Go me, right!

Stonewall Inn, now a National Monument! Woo hoo! Good for them. I love that it's a national monument and you can still just go there, grab a beer and play pool. You can't do that at George Washington's birthplace. 

At this point in the parade, I noticed that the cheers suddenly got insanely loud. I figured it was because we were near Stonewall on Christopher Street. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that Hillary Clinton had joined the march. Our presumptive nominee, governor and mayor were just about fifty feet in front me and I didn't even realize! If I had managed to maintain my proximity to the governor then I might have managed a Hillary selfie! Ah well. A loss for me, but it's awesome that she came out to support us. Can you believe that she's the first major party nominee who's ever marched in a pride parade? Good for her!

And pride pups. Who doesn't love dashing pride pups!

Right after I finished marching I needed water, shade, a bathroom and a place to sit. So, I found a bar nearby that wasn't too crowded and went in and had a pint and lots of water. And stopped in the bathroom to get myself cleaned up! Oh my gosh I needed it after standing around in the hot sun during assembly and then marching in the hot sun for the two mile parade route! Plus the bartender Emily was super cool. Will definitely head back there when I'm in the neighborhood again.

In all, it was an amazing day. Marching with the New York State contingent, something I was able to do because of my job, and having the governor and senator (and hopefully future president) march with me was an indescribable joy. LGBT people are not freaks or deviants or sinners. We're people and we can go out and celebrate our lives and our freedom and I'm so proud to be able to do that. No matter what happened in my early life, I was able to march down the street as me and I was not afraid, I was not shameful. I was proud of am I am and who we are as a nation and proud that we will win the future fights against bigotry. I cried tears of joy and it was all so beautiful.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Shopping for Casual Clothes

What's a girl in NYC to do on the first day of a week off of work? Well, the cliche answer would be shopping. Yes, I went shopping. Sorry to all you who wanted me to somehow break the mold and maybe study math or engineering or something. But, I had things I needed and stores that were selling those things and some Federal Reserve Notes that are exchangeable for goods and services, so shopping it is! See, if I'm going to be a girl full time, I really need some casual clothes. 

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not good at casual. In guy mode I'm super good at casual but at as a girl I want to dress up in a nice dress with perfect makeup, jewelry and maybe even heels. Of course that's a rarity for most women. Most of the cis women I know are jeans, T-shirts and yoga pants 24/7 unless they're going out with me, in which case they tend to dress up because, let's face it, I've raised the bar for women in my social group. If they're going to be out at the bar with me, they tend to step up their game. Who wants to be wearing yoga pants when the chick next to you in dressed to the nines? But alas, I don't have the energy to dress up 24/7 and I don't think it'll help me fit in either.

So, time for casual! My first stop was Banana Republic where I got some T-shirts and some basic black pants. Luckily I managed to find everything on sale, which makes me super happy. I was literally telling a trans friend of mine that I wanted clothes I could go grocery shopping in. Incredulously, she replied "Uh...that's all people ever wear." That pretty much sums up my need.

What I picked up were some Banana Republic Sloan Fit pants, which I thought fit pretty well.  Then I got some basic scoop neck T-shirts in a few different colors. Not crazy colors obviously. This is me we're talking about. I'm the person who once bought grey tights because, as I told my girlfriend, "they would add a pop of color to my usual look." My new purchases were dark green, grey and black. Almost colors. Here's the grey.

Also, I went to Target and got some fun stuff. Yes, Target. Honestly, I was slightly afraid to go to Target simply because of all the idiots hating on Target for their transgender bathroom policy. Now, I went to the Target in Brooklyn, so I probably wasn't that likely to run into many transphobic idiots, but I still feared getting clocked. Why? Because people shopping at Target might be thinking "Oh, Target, that store that recently took the right stand on LBGT rights. The T in that stands for transgender, I wonder if there are any transgender people in here....hmmm....hey! That person over there has wide shoulders and big feet. I bet she's transgender. Let's all gawk!"

So I didn't use the restroom. Actually, the real reason I didn't use the restroom there was because I didn't have to go. But I didn't use the fitting rooms either - for the reason that I didn't want to draw attention to myself. Fun Fact: As a transgender woman my main goal in life is not to attack children. Actually my main goal is to be invisible. I've even worried that my urine stream doesn't sound feminine enough, as though cis women in the stall next to me were straining to hear my urine stream, thinking to themselves "Hey...wait a second...that urine doesn't sound like it's coming out of a person with a vagina!" Yes, that's weird, but I can't help it. I'm just weird.

Also I didn't really want to try stuff on because I was there to get a new tankini! Yes, it's summer and this summer, dang it, I am going to the beach. Yes. I am going to the beach as a woman. Okay, I must admit that I don't yet have a bikini body. Maybe one day I will (fingers crossed), but right now I don't. Luckily through, the tankini is a little more modest without fitting weirdly or feeling dowdy like a one piece. But, it turns out, that it was okay that I didn't need to try it on at all. Once I got it home I was super happy with how it looked!

And yeah, I got black. It's funny, because I recently watched the movie Brooklyn, wherein Saoirse (pronounced Ser-shuh) Ronan's character Eilis (pronounced Eee-lesh) tries on a swimsuit and is told that she shouldn't get black because it doesn't work with her pale skin. And I'm like what? Black doesn't work with pale skin? Says who?! Either way she gets green.

Now, I unfortunately can't be quite as cute as Saoirse Ronan, but I'll blame that on me buying the black anyway. Yes, that's the only reason, literally the only reason why I'm not as cute as a movie star. Yep.

As avid readers of my adventures are already aware, literally the day after I went shopping, my friend texted me and invited me out with her friends to the beach. It was like fate! As nervous and exited as I was though, it ended up being too cold and windy to go to the beach. Stupid 60 degree June days! I thought about trying to at least lay out in the park or something, but my schedule was already too full. Ah well, I'll go to the beach later. That is my plan. July, I'm looking at you. I've already got my suit ready!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Am I Really Manic Pixie Cut Dream Girl?

With plenty of time off of work (a sabbatical if you will), I figured I had a good opportunity to live as a girl full time, even if only for a week or so. And, I figured this would be a good time to explore some low maintenance ways that I could do being a girl. You know, things that would make it a little easier with less grooming or combing or plucking. A short pixie cut wig seemed like a good way to cut down on annoying maintenance. Instead of worrying about how wind would affect my hair, or worrying that it looked tangled or frayed or wig-like, I could just pop on a short wig and head right outside, confident that my wind tunnel of a city wouldn't ruin my look. 

Well, I picked up a wig off eBay, careful to make sure I had the right hair color (which was a spot on match). With the style, I tried to get something with sort of longish bangs that still looked feminine enough and wouldn't leave me looking like a Beatle or something. I think it ended up looking okay.

The night I took these photos, my partner and I were meeting a friend for dinner. It was golden hour (when you get perfect sunset light). Throwing on my new short wig, I ran outside to snap some photos so I could get a feel for how I looked.

This wig, I think, is just a little too short for me. Honestly, I think I'd prefer something with longer bangs in front so that they cover up a little more of my face. I know, I know. It's like what the mom tells the teenage daughter "You have such a beautiful face, don't hide it behind your hair." But, I like having my hair in front of my face! At least on the sides. Despite six months of HRT I still think my face looks to masculine and I like haircuts that hide my face as much as possible.

With this short wig, I just felt a little exposed, at least facially, like all my facial bone structure flaws were there for the world to see. Plus, I worried the short hair just didn't help me pass the same way that long hair actually would. Maybe a slightly different pixie cut would work for me, and I used to have a blonde pixie wig that really worked well for me. Maybe it's just a matter of finding the right pixie cut look, and this one isn't it. Also, I felt weird because this wig, I think, made me look a little more middle aged and a little less young and hip. Again, I think maybe it's the wig style itself and not the short hair. I'll have to keep looking around to see what other styles are out there.

In the end though, I decided to go with my usual long hair for dinner that night. While I think that the short hair could look okay, I still felt like I was more passable (and thus more comfortable) with the longer hair, even if the wind did mess it up. Also, on the way to dinner, my partner managed to snap a few pictures for me, so we got some great sunset light shots that made me super happy. 

The day after this would be the real start of my staycation. Monday. I had big plans though. First, I would head to Banana Republic and Target to do some shopping, then maybe try and take some photos around NYC to show off my new clothes.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Busses and Beer Gardens

There are, I think, levels to being out in public. At least in my experience. There's out to the mailbox, there's driving in your own car but not getting out, there's going to a gay bar. Then there's the more advanced levels - levels where you're not just out in public. You're out in a big crowd with lots of people who may or may not smile upon gender variance. Those are the times I feel most vulnerable. 

Years ago in Queens, I remember the first time I went out to the huge beer garden in Astoria. It was full of douch bag frat boys fresh from Murray Hill or Long Island. Not generaly my favorite crowd. When I rode the Staten Island Ferry a couple years ago I remember being pushed into a large crowd as we boarded. As I got squeezed into tighter to fat tourist families from Iowa, Hasidic Jewish families and lord knows who else I thought to myself "This is literally the most 'in public' I've ever been out." Then the airport topped that. Maybe a White House press conference could top that. Or a TV appearance. That's probably about it.

This June, I decided to take a week off of work, just because I had a lot of vacation time saved up and wanted to use it when it was nice out. My initial thought was that it'd be a great opportunity to spend an extended period of time in girl-mode. And of course, that would mean lots of time out in public, often in some of those more vulnerability-inducing situations. In fact, I managed two of those situations on my first day; crowded public transit and a crowded beer garden full of bros and hip hop guys with baseball hats. The sort of places where a transgirl, even one comfortable with being out, sometimes fears to tread. 

Behold the fear in my eyes. Sort of.  Okay, not really. 
Before my vacation started, I'd picked up a couple of fit and flare dresses for summer. I figured I'd need some more casual looks if I'd be girling up every day. Not that I've ever been that good at casual looks. So, one was an indigo cotton eyelet dress from Gap, which you can see below, and the other was a similar dress in black, because I love black. 

Honestly, I do like the fit and flare dresses and they are super comfy and nice for summer. But the only problem with them is that they really look best on tiny, skinny girls. I may be many things, but sadly tiny and skinny are not among my qualities. Ah well, even if you can't be super skinny like a model, it's still so much fun to rock a comfy dress on a nice day.

And speaking of comfy, the other items I got were a new maxi skirt and some T-shirt tops from Banana Republic. They were in the clearance rack so I managed to snag them super cheap. And let me just say that I am absolutely in love with the maxi skirt as a concept. They are insanely comfortable. This one below has actually started replacing my usual yoga pants for my evening comfy wear.

Me in the city's new $4.5 billion dollar train station. I'd like to say it's worth it, but really? $4.5 billion? C'mon people. 

This is how happy maxi-skirts make me.
The item below I first wore out a barbecue at a friends' house and had a great moment. A friend of a friend, upon meeting me, remarked excitedly "Oh my god, you're tall too!" It was a nice little passing moment. Upon first meeting me her first thought wasn't "You're a dude in a dress," but rather "Here's a woman just like me." It made me so happy. Then we sat down, had drinks, and her and I talked about Star Wars all day. I totally want her to be my new best friend! 

Food, drinks, Star Wars, passing? Yes, these are a few of my favorite things. 
For those who may not be aware of the Brooklyn bus schedule, the B38 is a handy way to get from the government office and courthouse heavy Downtown Brooklyn to the wild, new hipster gentrified and restaurant/bar heavy Bushwick. This barbecue was actually in Bushwick, so we had to take the bus to get there. This is not one of my favorite things.

Me snapping selfies as I stand waiting for the bus.
Sure, I've ridden public transit as a girl a thousand times, but I'll never like it. First of all, you're thrown in the mix with everyone. And generally you have to either stand up, thus putting you out in the middle of the car making it hard to just blend in, or you sit down on a more empty car, right across from people who are looking right at you. Plus it's such bad light on a subway. I try to mind my own business, I try to read a book or play on my phone, but I swear sometimes I catch a look. Like someone is looking at me and clocking me. Or giving me that look like "what a weirdo." Maybe I'm imagining it. I don't know. But I hate transit. And I haven't even mentioned my fear that a group of teenagers will come on the train. Luckily, it's been a long time since I've had to deal with teenagers.

In the end, the bus ride was fine. Sure, a couple families with lots of loud, small children came on. But they sat behind us and didn't bother us at all (except by being loud obviously). And on the bus you can sit and not accidentally make eye contact with people. Plus when the light is good you can take lots of selfies.

We ended up at Greenwood Park, a beer garden in the neighborhood of South Slope. We'd been there before on a random afternoon day and it was really nice, with good food, good drinks and a nice open patio area with lots of tables. So we decided to head back there and maybe even make it a regular place to hang out.

Unfortunately this time we went there on one of the first nice weekend days of summer. It was insanely crowded. When we showed up around 7pm or so, every outdoor table and most of the indoor tables were taken. So, we stood with our drinks. I'm always weary of standing in a situation like that. Will I be too tall? Will I stand out? Will I attract attention? Especially with the crowd how it was.

Now, I try to not be judgmental with people. But, I've generally noticed that certain groups of people (I'm looking at you, groups of men and groups of teenagers, and groups of builders) tend to be less appreciative of gender variance than others. And you know, it's funny. It's always groups. If someone is going to make a comment, in my experience, it's because they're in a group. It provides insulation for these people like a castle for jerks.

This is how I glare at jerks. 
Luckily, no one bothered us at all and I didn't even feel like I got any weird looks. So either I'm passing well enough or maybe people are nicer than I give them credit for. Either way, all I really want to do is blend in. That's all. And thankfully I was able to blend in, even on public transit and even in a crowded beer garden. That's a good feeling.

Pictured: Blending in. 
As it got dark, the bar turned on strings of lights overhead, which actually produced some really nice diffuse photo light. So I figured I'd snap a few more photos while we waited for the car service to pick us up and take us home.

After we got back into the neighborhood, I stopped along the Brooklyn Promenade for some quick photos, happy that my first vacation day and girl day had gone really well. Of course, there were lots of fun plans running through my head for the rest of my time off. There's so much for a girl to do in this amazing city!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


There are far too many terrible things in this world and my natural inclination is to ignore them as best I can. Unless tragedy touches me personally or affects someone I know or care about, I can't help but view it through something of a detached lens, as though I'm just an observer of history unfolding. I would have no more emotional response then if I read about the Mongol conquest. I know it makes me a little strange - I've even googled it to see if it were a symptom of sociopathy or Aspbergers or some other condition that might give one a low sense of empathy. It doesn't seem to exist.

Every time there's a tragedy like Orlando, I see a different response from other people and honestly I don't quite understand it. There's the Facebook posts expressing sadness or solidarity. People change their profile picture to something with a flag. People get together to hold candle light vigils. Honestly, I never quite understood it. I saw it as fake. As though somehow people were clinging onto other people's grief so they could feel like maybe they were a part of a major event or something. I mean, do I really need my friends to post up flags and hearts on Facebook so I can know they're opposed to murder?

Last night though, my partner texted me after work and told me she wanted to go to the vigil being held at Stonewall Inn. After work I had to run to Callen-Lorde to pick up my prescriptions anyway, so I was in the neighborhood. I'm not sure why, but I told her I'd go with her.

We got there at maybe 6:30pm and already there was a huge crowd gathered. We ended up behind the band, which was behind the stage. Yes, it was that crowded. It was amazing how well the organizers had managed to put something like this together. They only had maybe 12 hours to schedule an entire marching band, schedule speakers including the Mayor and Governor. We couldn't hear many of the speakers but really that was our fault for showing up too late to snag a good spot.

But the speakers we heard all delivered the same basic message; we, as a community, are not going anywhere because our lives matter. We, as a community, will continue to fight for common sense gun control and continue to fight for LGBT rights. We're not afraid. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Love will triumph over hate. It'll be a long fight, but we'll win. We will win.

It was good to hear. The thing that really got to me was when they read the names of the Orlando victims. All 49 of them. And their ages too. It's the ages that got to me. Fifty is just a number. It's a statistic. But, when the read out the names I started feel what other people feel. Those kids. They were just kids. So many of them. People my age and younger. Kids who were just 18 or 19. Their whole lives were ahead of them and they were cut down for what? For petty, stupid hate. It got to me. It finally got to me. The vigil made it real for me. Seeing people around me in tears, heart broken but defiant. It brought tears to my eyes.

Maybe chanting doesn't accomplish anything. Maybe flag dancers don't help achieve our goals. Maybe political solutions are too complex for slogans, signs or speeches. But now, I think I understand that sometimes people need to heal. And sadly, some wounds can never heal. So you have to do something, anything. It's the only way you can escape the feeling of utter helplessness in the face or horror. I get now that some people need that. Some people see the hatred and evil in our world and they have to do something. Even if it is just a Facebook post, they have to do something. I get it now.

But we aren't helpless. We can do more. Write to your congresspeople.

And show love and support. Love is the greatest revenge.