Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Costume - Rey from Star Wars

This year Halloween falls on a Monday, which basically meant that everyone had a whole weekend to celebrate. Halloween is a big holiday for me, actually I think it's the biggest holiday for me. By far. Thanksgiving is boring, Christmas is too cutesy but Halloween is basically all about fun. As a kid growing up in a crazy religious household we didn't get to celebrate it, but as an adult I've found it's super fun. Probably because I love dressing up. And I love candy and partying too. 

Since my partner had to work Saturday, we planned most of our celebrations this year for Friday. And I must say that  October 28th, 2016 was a pretty good day for me. It was was one of those days where you don't even need to get past 2pm before you're like "Today's a really good day." Ahh. Such a nice day.

So, I took the day off work because I had some doctor's appointments and wanted time to get to court to finish my name change. I got to the court building at about 9:15. There was no one in line at the name change window so it only took about five minutes for the clerk to look over all my paperwork and to give me four additional stamps (bringing my stamp total up to 14). Then, believe it or not, I got down to the cashier and there was no line either. I was in and out of the Civil Court in 15 minutes! Plus I have a new legal name! Woo hoo!

Next I headed to the doctor for my checkup and she not only upped my drug dosage (yay to more femininity!) but also gave me  a shiny new certified copy of the letter I need to update my drivers license. Here's the fun part of the letter "In my medical opinion, Ms. DaBrooke is a woman. Ms. DaBrooke has had appropriate clinical treatment and has successfully completed her transition from male to female!" Well, I don't quite feel like I've "completed" much of anything, but hey, I'll take it. So I've got a girl name and I've got the letter the government requires to legally change my gender! Go me!

Then after that I went home to get into my Halloween costume.

This year, I was super excited to be going as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You know, that movie with the transgender droid BB-8.

I loved The Force Awakens, saw it 6 times in theaters and Rey was one of my favorite parts. She's an awesome new addition to the world of Star Wars and c'mon who wouldn't want to be her? I mean, the kicking ass parts, not the growing up unloved in desperate poverty parts.

As I mentioned, I like to take Halloween seriously, so I started my costume back in August. Yes. In August. That's when I picked up the fabric and started a Google doc of supplies, notes and reference photos. You know, I never got to dress up when I was little because Halloween was satanic, so I'm making up for it.

Plus, this was going to be my first time doing Halloween as a girl (not counting all those times in past years when I went as "a girl" because I finally had an excuse go out in public in girl mode).

My first step was the hair. My girlfriend was happy to help me get Rey's buns just right. I took a few preliminary photos just as a test. Normally I like letting my hair hang down in my face because I think it helps me pass better. This look was a little different since Rey's hair is pulled back. But I think I reach a nice compromise with a bit of hair still down to frame my face but most of it pulled back.

I got the Disney store lightsaber which is so much fun. It lights up and it does all the sound effects so you don't have to go "vmmmmm" with your mouth. It even has the iconic start up and turn off sounds and it makes the crackle when you hit something. Super fun. Though, it's slightly unfortunate that my poor dog is afraid of the hum. Poor little pup.

Well, it didn't take long to get dressed and then I was Rey!

My next step was to head to work. Yes, I was going to work in girl mode. Sure it was costume girl mode, but it was still girl mode. Consider it a soft coming out.

The thing was there was a big outdoor movie event that I organized and was instrumental in making happen. So I totally had to be there. Plus we were showing Beetlejuice which was my girlfriend's favorite movie when she was growing up. So, her and I and a few of our friends were going to watch the movie then head back into Brooklyn for a big party at Littlefield in Gowanus.

I was a little early, so I had some time to take a few selfies. And I even managed to catch a bit of golden hour.

No one from work seemed to bat an eye. You know, it's Halloween. As I write this, I have only eleven work shifts left in guy mode and then I'm out as Faith at work. So, at least now people won't be too surprised.

Pictured: Me with co-workers who don't technically know I'm transgender. Technically. 
It worked out pretty well, I guess. At least with the whole presenting female around co-workers thing. I think I can nail working as Faith. I'm honestly looking forward to it at this point. Don't get me wrong, I'm still terrified, but the soft coming out really helped me feel a little less nervous about the whole thing.

It was freezing Friday night, but I managed to brave the cold for at least a few pictures. I mean, c'mon, this is me we're talking about. There's gonna be pictures.

Not only was it cold as heck, but it was also insanely windy. My hair ended up getting whipped all around like crazy, but I managed as best I could. As cold as I was, Rey must have been freezing on Starkiller Base. Which reminds me, as soon as it snows, I totally need to run to the park to get some pictures. Those'll be awesome.

It was nice though, to finally get back inside. We stopped at a bar for food and a friend of mine (who was dressed as Beetlejuice) ended up getting lots of attention as everyone seemed to want a photo with her.

Can you blame 'em? 
After that, we headed out to a Stranger Things themed party in Brooklyn. For a bit I wondered if I were committing a faux pas showing up at such a party not dressed as Eleven or Barb, but there were lots of different costumes on display. Okay, I'd say probably 20% of people went as Eleven, another 20% went as Dustin, and another 20% went as Joyce. Then the remaining 40% of people had all kinds of crazy costumes. 

I ended up making friends with a girl dressed as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill, Vol. 1. Mostly, I think she was just happy that someone finally recognized her costume. And speaking of recognizing things, I happened to randomly run into someone that I went to high school with. How random is that? He totally didn't recognize me, and so I had to out myself, but he and his wife were quite friendly and they actually adapted to my gender change pretty quickly. 

I do know that some people would hate to out themselves but a part of me doesn't mind. You know, when I get down it it I'm actually a little bit proud of my transition. It hasn't been the easiest thing and it has involved a lot of risk and courage. So, I do think it's an accomplishment that I can take pride in. Maybe one day I'll try be stealth but for now I'm happy to say, you know, I've come a long way and I'm not ashamed of who I am. 

Plus I have a lightsaber. And that's pretty cool too.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Haunting My Work & Other Transgender Fun

Well, it's official. I'm starting work as Faith on Monday, November 11th. And yes, I even drafted a written plan for my supervisor and for HR, because that's the kind of worker that I am. Here's a few highlights:

2. Communication and Training Plan
Having identified the different stakeholder groups, I think this will provide a guide in the levels of communication and information required throughout the organization.
My goals for communication and training are:
  • To minimize disruption and create as little spectacle as possible. Emphasizing, as much as
  • is feasible, that this is an ordinary, normal event.
  • Emphasize that I am still the same person and that I will continue to act professionally.
  • Explain that this may be difficult to understand, but that all I ask is that people treat me with the same respect that they would any other employee.
  • Make clear that my name is Faith, it is my legal name, and that she/her are my pronouns.
Generally I’m comfortable with people just asking me questions, though I understand that with issues of gender, sexuality or protected status such conversations could easily veer off into unprofessional or unproductive areas. 

Yes, that's just how I am. My work has actually been pretty cool and I've had a few meetings with different people so it's coming along well. They're  going to be working in some extra transgender elements into our annual EEO (equal employment opportunity) training and everyone I've talked to has been really nice about it.

But I'm seriously ready to come out. I'm bursting at the seams to come out. When I have conversations about makeup with coworkers, when I buy a new pair of cute ankle boots and want to tell one of my work people. I just really want to be out and be me. 

Obviously, I'm still super nervous. I don't want to be seen as some sad, ridiculous person. So I'm reminded of what one of my trans-heroes, Kate Bornstein said "you have to let your freak flag fly." So I think as long as I'm confident and rock this without apology then other people will pick up on it. Friends have told me that I seem happier and more confident as a woman, so hopefully that'll be something that I can project. I'm hoping. 

So, there's a lot going on at this stage of transition. On Friday I've got one more court visit left to get my name paperwork completed. Then that day I can pick up my gender change letter from Callen-Lorde so I can also hit the DMV for my new driver's license. Then from there I've got to get multiple name changes sent around to bank, health care and other places. I've got a Google doc going and it seems like every time I turn around there's another document or account with my name on it. Then it's out at work.

There's a reason, I guess, why they call it transition and not immediate change. It's a process and when I started, people told me "It'll be longer than you think." It's been taking a while, but it's getting there. It's about a year since I officially came out transgender and started taking HRT. So that's kind of a nice symmetry I guess. 

Well, the other day I had off work for a doctor's appointment and so afterward, I took a stroll through my work area in girl mode. I even stopped at the deli, got a sandwich and ate my lunch outside like I normally do when there's nice weather. It felt normal. Wonderfully, wonderfully normal. Hopefully it'll be normal for my coworkers too. 

So, a few more weeks and that'll be every day. I even put a photo of my girlfriend and me (in girl mode) up at my desk. We'll see if anyone notices. A part of me is terrified of coming out, being full time, starting work. But another part of me can't hardly wait. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Callen-Lorde Events

Though I never once thought of myself as any sort of activist or socially conscious person (more a scoundrel really), I think it's just fate that I would end up being active in the transgender community. After all I'm kind of a loud mouth too. Plus I grew up being bullied and so I have a well developed desire to fight against bullies and stand up for the more marginalized people. Of course, don't let me get ahead of myself. I'm not Gandhi or anything. I'm still pretty much on the side of scoundrel. But, I have found myself getting more involved in the the trans community and yes, I've had fun doing so.

Okay, it actually started with a something I saw on the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center Facebook page. Those of you who are regular readers may know that I get my hormones from Callen-Lorde, They are such an amazing place and honestly I can't sing their praises enough. I love the place. When I saw that they were having an open call for a photo shoot I couldn't resist. Seriously, how could I miss that? Professional photographers with professional lighting offering to take photos of me? Hell, yeah! Plus they'd put me on all their brochures and website. I'd be the face of Callen-Lorde! I'd be famous!

It was super fun, I must say. Mostly because I love being a model. Well actually it was a little nerve wracking at first. This is because I've got a fair degree of social anxiety, so going into a random room full of strangers tends to make me quite anxious. Luckily I had my phone and could tap on that. What did we do before smart phones?

Luckily though I was one of the first people there so I got to start with pictures almost instantly. The photographers came over and asked for a couple of people to do a group photo and I figured why the hell not? After all it was either being a model (which I love) or sitting there nervously playing on my phone. So, yeah, pictures!

They paired me up with another transgender girl (way prettier than me, but it's not a contest right?). The photographer took a first shot of us holding up our name card and waiver, then proceeded to start posing us, making us run through a few different poses including serious and fun ones. They even had us pose with toothbrushes for some dental health promotion they'll be running.

Then they actually had us pretend to be a couple, which was a little awkward. And I thought to myself, yep, that's gonna be the picture they use. My girlfriend is gonna go to the Callen-Lorde website and the first thing she'll see is me with some other girl! And of course the photographer then broke out the condoms and was like "Okay, now you're sharing condoms with each other and you're excited about that!" Yep. Ah well. That's modelling. It's like acting. I bet Kate Moss doesn't even use Rimmel London mascara.

There were some solo photos too and some larger group photos. It was pretty fun and I ended up meeting some really cool transgender girls (and some annoying ones too who kept sharing way too much personal info. I get that we're all trans, but I do not need to hear about your genitals or sex life, okay). All in all though, it was a super fun experience and I'm so glad I did it. Can't wait until I can do it again.

Plus I got recognized! Seriously, someone was like "I read your blog!" How cool is that? I'm semi-famous with a very, very small niche group. Hey, that counts. And maybe when Callen-Lorde Community Health Center starts putting me on their promotional materials I'll be even more of a major celebrity.
Coming soon to a brochure near you. 
Though I just know that they're going to end up using an ugly photo of me on their website at some point. I like having complete and total control over what photos of mine get released. That's why people think I'm pretty. Trust me. I take lots of ugly photos - I just make sure people never see them and thus people think I'm prettier than I am. It works. 

The photoshoot was so fun that when Callen-Lorde announced their Transcendence event to celebrate the transgender community, I immediately bought a ticket. And then later that afternoon got an email letting me know that I was on the guest list. I could've gotten in for free! Ah well, I'm happy to spend money on a good cause. And Callen-Lorde Community Health Center is an amazing cause. Seriously, they do so much good for the LGBTQ community.

Well, the party was packed. It was so packed that it was actually hard to get around. But it was a lot of fun. Though, my partner and I are both introverts, so we have a really hard time mingling. It's a skill we both wish we had. But unfortunately, our skill sets don't quite cover chit chat. Seriously, we're so bad at it! All we do at events is talk to each other, then we feel bad that we're not mingling, so then we spend a bunch of time strategizing different ways to start mingling and trying to develop a plan to begin mingling. We even try to identify the best people with whom we could start mingling. But we never do. Ah, the life of an introvert. 

At least I had my fake girlfriend to hang out with.
Now, we did manage to sneak into a few other people's photos, so when they posted up the pictures we got to play a fun game of "Where's Waldo" looking for ourselves in the backgrounds of other people's pictures. 

It was a fun night and it actually felt great to be out with people from the LGBTQ community. A large part of me still carries a lot of residual shame about being transgender. It's true. It was something that I had to spend most of my life burying and hiding from everyone I knew. But, the idea of actually being part of a community is going to take some getting used to. Either way, I definitely want to go to some more events and see. Between being out in the community, my blog and podcast, maybe I'll accidentally find myself being an advocate. Well, if I do, I'll promise to try and not be preachy about it. 

And I should add one more quick thing that all these photos are by Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My Trip Through The Central Bureaucracy: Legally Changing Your Name in Brooklyn

A few weeks ago I started the process of legally changing my name here in King's County, New York (that's Brooklyn to those of you outside the Empire State). I say "process" because it really is a process. Five visits to window 906, ten stamps, six different forms of ID, a judge playing on her cell phone, and, as I write this, it's not even done yet. So let's take a fun spin through the processing of legally changing your name in Brooklyn,

The first step involved going to the King's County Civil Court website and seeing what they said about what proof you needed to bring and where to go if you're planning on changing your name in Brooklyn.

Don't go to the website. It's wrong. Not only did they send me to the entirely wrong building, but they also neglected to mention several key pieces of ID that I had to bring. Luckily, the correct building was only a couple blocks away (you can't swing a cat in Downtown Brooklyn without hitting at least three or four court buildings).

So, after my first failure, I headed over to 141 Livingston Street, went through another metal detector and found a directory telling me to go to Room 908. Up to the 9th floor I went. Only there is no Room 908. It's actually Room 906. Luckily for me there wasn't a line, so it didn't take me longer than ten minutes to be told that I didn't have the correct documents. Here's what you actually need:
  • Driver's License or state-issued ID. 
  • Social Security Card
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of address by way of a government letter mailed to your address. Can't be a Time-Warner bill. Has to be government. Luckily I work for the government, so I regularly get healthcare and pension updates mailed to me. 
  • Notarized copy of your Adult Name Change Petition (check out this website which will guide you through the process of creating one). I got mine notarized at the UPS store for $2.00. 
Now it gets complicated. Of course it does.

I do not have a birth certificate. Okay, I did at one time. But decades ago, my hoarder father decided to put all my documents somewhere for "safe keeping." He claims he knows exactly where they are and will send them to me this week. He's been claiming this since 2002. My birth certificate is gone. And the military base where I was born is closed, which is fun because the DOD website says to contact the base hospital for a copy. My next bet is to pay the State Department $50 so they can see if they can track it down via records the Army might have issued to the German government. No guarantees. So, yeah, I have no birth certificate. Luckily, as I marked down that I was born in Germany, they accepted my passport as proof of birth. Yay!

Next, when the clerk at window 906 (it's a really a window not a room) asked if I was married, I said "Oh, I have a domestic partnership." Oh so because of that, she gave me another form for my partner to sign and notarize verifying that she was aware of, and approved of, my name change. Yep, can't do something legally without my spouse's approval - it's like I'm a woman already! So, my partner would need to do this, and bring in her ID to show the clerk and we'd have to provide a copy of of our certificate of domestic partnership.

Now, knowing this meant I was pretty much done for the day. I was gonna have take another day off, my partner was gonna have to take a day off and then we could try again.

Attempt number two went better. I got a lot further this time. In a way it's kind of like playing a video game I guess. See how far you can get before having to start over.

Well, at least this time I knew which window to go so I was able to go straight there. We had all the right documents and and it was going smoothly until the clerk saw that we had brought a photocopy of our certificate of domestic partnership instead of the original. Ugh oh. I was seriously worried that it would mean going all the way home, getting the paper and bringing it all the way back. Luckily though, all my paperwork was good! So, they sent me down the cashier on the sixth floor to pay. 

Bring cash and bring exact change. $65.00 exactly. They won't take cards and they won't make change. Don't you just love these guys?

Okay, I paid. Got the cashier to stamp my forms a few times and then went right back up to 906 again to get the payment stamps verified by the clerk so she could add some more stamps to prove those stamps were genuine. Stamp away, lady, stamp away!

The next step was to go up to 11 and an actual court room! It was the dumpiest court room you could imagine. The judge was an old lady who was sitting there playing on her phone while the clerk and the bailiff shuffled people up to the bench, gave them paperwork and sent them on their way.

What they do is they call you up, hand you paperwork that you have to read over and approve. If it's all good, then they stamp it again and send you back down to 906 for more stamping!

When I got called up, the clerk was like "Oh, I need one more piece of info - what are your parents' names?" So I told here. Then she printed out the paperwork for me to approve and it said I had to do the following things in order to get to next phase of my name change: 
  • Publish a notice of my name change in a specific Brooklyn newspaper. 
  • Send a certified copy of the order to Homeland Security. 
  • Send a certified copy of the order to Immigration and Citizenship. 
  • Send a certified copy to the Social Security Administration 
  • Send a certified copy to my parents. 
And I was like "What the fuck!" Not literally. But internally. What I literally did was go up and say "My parents? I'm thirty-six years old, I'm not beholden to my parents."

"What if you have kids?" the judge asked, looking up briefly from her phone, "There could be inheritance issues."

"I understand." was I all I said and they took it at that and removed my parents. Thankfully. While I do want to come out to my mom, this is not the way I'd like to start that conversation. Plus it just irked me that as an adult they expected me to have to inform my parents. I'm a grown up. I pay my taxes. I am not beholden to my parents, thank you.

Having won that point I didn't even want to ask why a natural born citizen would have to inform Immigration. But I had won the major battle. I can pay $2.50 to mail a letter to a government office where I'm sure they'll promptly throw it away.

Well, my first time ever being involved in a court of law now over, I headed back down to 906 one more time. Why not?

The clerk at the window looked over my paperwork and was like "Oh, you got that judge. She always makes people send notices everywhere." Chalk it up to bad luck I guess. She explained that I had to bring in the little green Certified Mail notices once I had them. I'd also have to go to the paper and publish my notice and the paper would send me a certified note of publication or something like that. I'd need to bring those in and then I would get the chance to buy certified copies of name change order ($6.00 a piece - buy at at least ten) and then my name change would be official.

So, I figured that since I had the day off, I'd head over to the paper. It was in a fairly nice office actually and I soon realized that they were one of the those companies that published like eighty different "neighborhood" papers that were 98% ads. You know the kind that you've seen but have never read? Yeah, no one else has ever read those either. They basically exist so people with birds can line the cage and so people who move can wrap up their wine glasses.

Well, they had a form ready for a name change notice, and  I paid them $55.00 (what a racket, right?!) and then waited about ten minutes. They came out with the ad copy that I had to approve. I approved it and went on my merry way. 

I still need to send out my certified letters. That's not so bad, just a trip to the Post Office which I can do on lunch. Then the paper will mail me my certification and then I can go back to Room 906 once more. 

All in all, it wasn't so bad. It was silly and bureaucratic, but at least there wasn't like a crazy line or anything. The court part took about two hours all together, once I had the right paperwork that is.  

And it's still not official, but at least the hardest part is over. Then I just have to do the DMV, a new passport, a new social security card, and lord knows what else. Every time I think I've listed everyone that needs notice I think up two more. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Reality Hits You Like a Ton of Bricks

Oddly enough what gave me a panic attack wasn't my first meeting with HR about coming out at work. It was my second meeting. This time it was with the head of my department and the head of the legal department. I mean, don't get me wrong. It was a good meeting. Both of them said the organization supported me, they had my backs, etc. etc. etc. But what really smacked me in the face was the reality of the situation. Coming out at work and being a woman at work is no longer something I just think about or hope for. It's a reality and it's coming pretty darn quickly.

The reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Suddenly my brain started spinning a twisting, twirling web of fear. Was I really going to do this? Was I really going to put on a wig, and a dress and makeup and walk into my office, sit down and start working? What would my coworkers think? Would everyone mock me endlessly? Would they mock me behind my back or to my face? Were the women of my office going to think I was some sort of pervert because I was gonna be in the women's room? Would anyone take me seriously?

Then the real doubts started to weigh me down.

Did I take myself seriously? Was I really transgender? Was I sure? Am I maybe just a crossdresser who dressed up for the fun of it and not a real transgender person? It's not like I would commit suicide if I had to live as a guy. Did I have the courage to live every day as a woman? Did I have the energy to live every day as a woman? Did I have the financial means to live every day as a woman. Was I making a huge, career destroying, bank account destroying, friendship destroying, relationship destroying mistake? What the hell was I thinking?

My partner tried her best to calm me down and pointed out that dysphoria can wax and wane in its intensity but will never disappear. And I was just in a waxing point. Or a waning point. I forget which is which. But the bad one. My dysphoria would return.

I tried my best to remember that I had been down this road before (though not nearly this far) and had chickened out once. And though I do very much like where my life is now, I still regret not going through with transition back then. I lament the lost years that could have been spent as me.

It's tricky this whole thing, transition. It's hard. I worry that I don't pass at all and that I'm ridiculous. I'm a naturally anxious person and I'm one of those people who, as soon as their head hits the pillow at night, start letting their imagination run wild with all the horrible things that could happen.

For a couple days the knot in my stomach got tighter and I grew more anxiety ridden and depressed. This happens to me from time to time, but luckily it had been many, many years since it had gotten this bad.

Then I felt better. I felt better because I got dressed up, looked in the mirror and saw myself. I saw her. I saw me.

And instantly my mind snapped right back and my brain said to me "You can do this. You were born to do this. This is who you are. This is what makes you happy. Every birthday candle and coin in a fountain your whole life, you have wished for this. You can do this."

Right now I still have boy mode and girl mode. I work in boy mode and I still struggle with finding my makeup free, wig free, lounge around the house in yoga pants girl mode. I don't feel like a girl when I'm not done up to the nines. I might have on yoga pants, a girl's cut t-shirt and a girl's hoodie but I don't feel like I'm in girl mode. That's kinda when I get down. But then when I glam up to the nines I really see her and I feel wonderful. Hopefully I can find a way to reconcile those two feelings. 

Because I love feeling wonderful and would much rather feel that way all the time. 

Well, 42 days till full time. And in that time I'll get a get the paperwork I need for a new legal name and new legal gender, I'll have two more laser sessions. my hair will grow a little over half an inch, my fingernails will grow another couple millimeters. Hopefully it'll be enough that I can go to a salon, get my hair cut and styled in such a way that will hide my hairline. If so, I'll get my hair done, get a manicure and then that's it. That's me. That's my presentation. I'll toss out all my boy clothes and then that'll be that. I'm full time.

If my hair can't be styled, then I'll be wearing wigs until it grows long enough. Maybe January or February we can see. I remain, as ever, hopeful. Terrified and hopeful. 

Watch the first 49 seconds of this video. That's exactly I feel right now. 

Wish me luck.