Friday, September 15, 2017

A Transgirl Abroad

Though I'm hardly what one might call a frequent flyer, I've traveled before. In fact I've traveled thrice while presenting female: once to South Carolina, once to Washington DC, and once to Chicago. And all three of those went fine. I didn't encounter any issues with the TSA. The people in South Carolina were all friendly and I didn't encounter one lick of transphobia. Chicago and DC are probably the closest places to my own NYC in the US, so going there I really didn't worry about encountering transphobia or anything. So, yeah, my experience travelling as a transwoman has thus far not been too different from going about my daily life.

But, Chicago, DC and South Carolina, while charming in their own ways, are not what one would generally call exotic. It's been years since I've actually left the country and I haven't traveled abroad since I started living full time. But, my passport was the last and final thing on my massive list of documents on which to change my name. I've been wanting to travel abroad for a while and now I finally have the opportunity!

Yep, Kath and I are travelling to Deutschland, the place of my birth. I've not been back since I was born. It's been a while. When I was born there were still two different German states and the Berlin Wall was still stood. Now we're going back and I'm super excited.

But of course I'm also nervous. I'm always nervous when it comes to travel. Will people be cool? Will people stare at me? Will people be mean to me or assault me? I mean, it's Europe. It should be cool, right? Western Europe is more liberal than San Francisco and Brooklyn put together. But will people be jerks? It's an unknown. I'm hoping everything will be okay. A friend of mine lives in Berlin and we're seeing her and she didn't warn me or anything. It's still the unknown and it makes me nervous.

Plus I worry about passing in Europe. Sure, I'm probably slightly thinner than the average American. But I'm probably way fatter than the average European. No matter what I'll stand out like a dumb American, but I'm hoping I won't stand out as a dumb American transgender girl. Maybe the German people will be too polite to say anything. Hopefully.

Then there's the issue of passports and customs. It's a whole other TSA to get through. Now, I've luckily not had any difficulties going through the TSA, so hopefully customs won't be a big deal too. Though, I'm not going to lie - I do plan to bring back a good amount of Haribo. But for personal use. Just for personal use, okay!

But I'm more excited than nervous. I've never been to the Continent as an adult. And Europe is a huge place full of tons of walkable cities with good food. Why have I never been before? Plus it's historic and beautiful with so many opportunities for pictures! I can't wait!

Speaking of pictures, thought I'd share some I recently took during a break from packing. Hope you like them!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Being Transgender at Hogwarts

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has not shied away from her beliefs in LGBT equality. Though not mentioned in the text, she has admitted that she wrote key characters, such as Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, as gay. When asked by a fan if she thought that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was a safe place for LGBT students, she replied that of course it was. 

But is Hogwarts, and the rest of the Wizarding World shown to us in the Harry Potter series,  really all that friendly to LGBT people? Here, we'll focus mainly on transgender individuals within this universe. How are they they treated and how is their gender dysphoria addressed? Do transgender people exist in the Harry Potter books? There are no specifically transgender characters, and JK Rolwing has yet to announce such a thing on Twitter (though if she were planning to do such a thing, I would hope it was Luna Lovegood, just because she's my favorite character in the series). 

Rowling has, in tweets, hinted that transgender people exist in this world and that they might use magic to address their dysphoria.“All I’ve done so far this week is change three characters’ genders," she wrote "And I still don’t know whether their current genitalia are permanent.” Now, gender has nothing to do with genetalia, but the fact that she's stated that her characters' genders are not set in stone could imply that there are transgender kids in Hogwarts and that these kids are capable of using magic to deal with their dysphoria. I mean, you can't have LGBT kids Hogwarts without T kids right? But what it is like being one of those transgender kids? 

The Wizarding World of the Harry Potter books does seem quite conservative. Or should we rephrase that to "incredibly conservative?" Slavery still exists and is practiced even by Hogwarts. Minorities like werewolves are openly oppressed. The Ministry of Magic seems to entirely ignore the concept of human rights. Accused criminals are not given due process and the only punishment handed out is life in prison where the accused are subject to continued torture. In fact, the entire Ministry of Magic seems to be run with a Medieval  mindset, despite the series taking place in the 1990s. It's clear that the Wizarding World had not yet caught up with the rest of the UK when it came to liberal values such as equality.

We see this also in the name of the school that Harry and his friends attend. It's the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Gender differences are highlighted in the very name of institution. Terms like wizards and witches retains a hetero and cis normative view of gender. Boys are wizards. Girls are witches. There's no option for non-binary or gender queer magic users. We don't see single use restrooms. Instead they are all divided into male and female. Perhaps a gender queer student could use the Room of Requirement when they wanted privacy, but that clearly seems unfair.

So in a world where the gender binary rules, where the bureaucracy is unwieldingly byzantine, and where people have few (if any) rights, how does a transgender kid go about becoming their true self? Would they become forever stuck in front of the Mirror of Erised, staring endlessly at a reflection of themselves as their true gender? Or would they more likely turn to magic and use one of the various spells, incantations, and charms that can bend reality itself?

First off, there are the healing spells. Episkey can heal minor wounds and Vulnera Sanentur is a more powerful healing spell that can be used to repair more grievous injuries. We also see the Oculus Reparo, a type of mending charm, used to quickly and easily fix broken glasses. Could a tap from the wand and an uttering of Genus Reparo fix a transperson's gender too? Would healing or fixing erase dysphoria, making the person happily cis, or would it transform them into their preferred gender? It might depend on the skill of the spell caster, so you'd be better off getting help from Hermione and maybe leaving Ron out of it.

Would a Switching Spell allow one to switch out body parts for more preferred ones? It does allow Neville Longbottom to turn his ears into cacti. Could it allow one to turn a penis into a vagina, for instance? Again, it might depend on the skill of the magic user in question. The more powerful spells do seem to be more difficult after all. Luckily, though, there are a few more powerful spells that young Hogwarts students could turn to.

Metamorphmaguses like Nymphadora Tonks are described as rare, but a transfiguration spell seems a good bet. In the books these spells are described as being extremely difficult and dangerous. One slightly incorrect movement could cause the subject to turn into something else entirely. Though it really can't be that difficult, as we see mere students using it for pranks. There is however, a risk of getting stuck in your transformed state, which would be great it you do a good job and transform yourself into say, a female version of you. But if it goes wrong, you could be stuck as something horrible forever. So perhaps transfiguration is better left to only the best transgender witches, wizards and other magic users.

One other option of course polyjuice potion, the magical elixir which allows the imbiber to assume the complete physical appearance of another person. It can change your age, your height, and even your sex. We're told that it's difficult to make, but, when brewed by a skilled potions-master, it can last for a full day or more. It can't be that difficult to whip up a quick batch of polyjuice though. After all, we see Hermione make an effective batch in only her second year. What transgender kid wouldn't want their own batch of polyjuice potion?

Polyjuice potion does however present a major ethical question. It can't turn you into, say a female version of your assigned-male-at-birth self. It only turns the individual into a copy of an already existing person. Not only that, but making the potion requires using the other person's body parts, usually hair. In the one case we see of someone living as another person, they had actually kidnapped their subject to ensure they had a daily source of hair at their disposal.

Even if no kidnapping were involved, how would you feel if a classmate, even a close friend, decided to live as you? What would you do if classmate asked for your hair so that they could look exactly like you? Would you be flattered or, more likely, completely creeped out? What if they stole your hair from the Hogwarts barber shop? Would it feel like a violation? I think it would.

Perhaps a transgender kid would need to have a particularly close friend they could ask. It would probably need to be a quite selfless friend. Maybe Ginny, stuck in a house full of boys, wouldn't mind if Ron approached her, explained his deep feelings, and asked if he could have a bit of her hair every day so he could live as her twin sister. It's a tough question, and I think that it presents a lot of challenges to any transgender kid who plans to go the polyjuice potion route. And it also presents some serious challenges to any donor.

So are there no really good options for a young transgender Hogwarts student? Though JK Rowling has never discussed it, I would hope that any good and decent professor like Dumbldore or Minerva McGonagall would be willing to help any young Hogwarts student who came to them expressing transgender feelings. Perhaps they would then send an owl to the student's parents, explaining the situation. I'd like to think that even if you had terrible parents like the Malfoys, Dumbledore would still let the student take on their true form during their time at Hogwarts, even if their parents didn't agree. That seems like something Dumbledore would do, perhaps with a sly smile and a "We shall keep this within the walls of Hogwarts for the time being, and of course Hogsmead too." Then he would would make a deft move with his wand and and say "Revelare verum genus!" And in the end, all would be well.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Gender Rebels Podcast: Coming Out Transgender at Work

The Year of the Knife

November 2017 will be my first full time anniversary and my two HRT anniversary. Not only are those important moments in my transition, those dates are also goalposts, at least as far as my insurance provider is concerned. You see, my health insurance company isn't willing to pay for certain surgeries until I've been on HRT for two years and lived full time for an entire year. So it looks like 2018 is going to be my year for going under the knife.

This naturally presents a few challenges. For one thing, I've never actually had surgery before. Yes, I've ad procedures done under a local anesthetic, but I've never actually been put under for anything. So that scares me a little bit. I've never had to recover from surgery. I've never even stayed over night in a hospital. In fact, I've been quite lucky in that I've managed to avoid serious medical conditions throughout my life. Surgery is scary and it's not something I plan to jump into lightly.

Add on top of that the fact that I am, in general, baffled by the bureaucracy and procedural red tape of the of the American healthcare system. Dealing with my insurance, making doctors appointments - these are things that have often been confusing and intimidating for me. Maybe their structured that way on purpose or maybe I'm just frustrated easily. Luckily, Kath has often been happy to step in to help me with navigating my health insurance.

This time I'm trying to do it on my own. Mostly via Google, I found the laws governing what insurance providers are required to provide in New York State. So I've got that law printed out. Next, after a bunch of Googling, four phone calls to my health insurance company, two chats with HR, and looking through a bunch of publications, I finally have a copy of my insurance provider's Gender Dysphoria Treatment Policy. I've got that printed too.

And isn't it fun that my insurance provider says that they won't cover things that are mandated by the state of New York? Guess I'm going to have to try and take them to task on that and see if I can get them to update their policy. After all the laws of the great state of New York are on my side!

So, what are my plans for these surgeries, assuming I can get insurance to pay for some of them? Well, I've had a consultation and learned that hairline advancement will not work for me. That means I'm going to need hair transplants to give me a normal hairline. I'm on wigs till then. I'm doing some research on hair transplants, but that's tricky because it means dealing with salespeople and not medical personnel. I hate salespeople. But as soon as I can manage to get a hundred different photos of my head from various weird angles, I can try and get some quotes and consultations. Then I just have to find a good place that doesn't cost a ton. That's one problem with the North East. We have a lot of resources, but things always cost more. So I'm also looking for places that are a cheap plane flight away like Georgia or Florida where the same procedures might cost way less.

Beyond that, I'm also planning to head to Callen Lorde on my next day off so I can get some of the required letters one would need to get for GRS. My insurance company says I need a letter from a therapist, which I'm hoping Callen Lorde can help me with. The standards of care actually no longer require therapy, but I guess my insurance company hasn't updated their policies on that one either. Well, I think I can convince a therapist that I'm sane and know what I'm doing. Plus I'll need a doctor note too, but that won't be too difficult since I have had medical care throughout my transition. Then it's a matter of finding a doctor and that's no easy task either.

Next, I would like to get breast implants, but that's the tricky part. The State mandates that providers cover breast augmentation under certain circumstances, and I'm confident I can get a doctor's letter verifying that I fit those circumstances. I won't get into too much detail on what the precise circumstances, but it all hinges on the meaning of the word "significant." All the lawyers at my work tell me I should be a lawyer. I think I can make a good case that I deserve to have the insurance provider pay for my boobs. If that doesn't work, then I guess it's not so bad to have to pay for breasts out of pocket. It is probably the lowest priced surgery.

Lastly, I looked up rhinoplasty and the insurance company's policy on that. Well, at one point I was thinking that I could try an argument that it was reconstructive since I broke my nose twice when I was two or three years old. But, there's not much a case for me to make on that one. So if I were to get a nose job or a brow shave, then that would also be out of pocket. So I probably won't be getting that in 2018. Even with my new raise at work, I won't be swimming in cash and surgery is expensive.

But the nice thing about transition is that it's for life. If I can't get work done on my nose or face or chest or any other body part in 2018, then I have the rest of my life to get that work done. There's no real rush. I just wish navigating health insurance and finding the best doctors weren't so complicated. Ah well, guess I'm gonna need some serious spreadsheets on this one.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Final Coming Out

My dad is a complex person. And my relationship with him has been equally complex. I was not the kid and I was not the son he wanted. What he wanted was a small version of him. Or at least a small version of the idealized version of himself he liked to think he was. This ideal son would love and excel at sports, enjoy out-doorsey activities, be an Eagle Scout, be the life of every party, the most popular person in their peer group, and then go on to attend collage at West Point before becoming a career soldier and war hero. That's what my dad wanted.

What he got instead was a weird, shy, bookish kid who not only had zero interest in sports, but also had zero athletic ability or coordination. I wasn't the most popular in my social groups because I mostly kept to myself. I was imaginative, and, like today, enjoyed creating art and writing stories. I hated the outdoors. When it was time to choose a college, I picked mine based off the live music scene. I mean, it was Athens, Georgia after all.

Throughout my childhood, my dad forced me to play in every little league sport imaginable. There was soccer where I got in trouble for sitting down in the grass when I should have been playing. There was basketball where I sat on the bench. There was baseball where they stuck me far enough in the outfield that I could read a book in peace between strikeouts. Then there was football, where the so-called coaches (really just parents) encouraged my team members to beat me up and bully me. And my dad never let me quit, because I had made a "commitment." Fun times.

Of course my dad also made me join Boy Scouts. But, luckily, I discovered that I could avoid the meetings by simply not going in when my parents dropped me off. Instead I'd hang around the parking lot for an hour and wait for them to come pick me back up. They eventually figured out and of course I got in trouble. On camping trips I'd generally feign injuries like a sprained ankle or hypothermia so I could go home early.

My dad said I needed to join groups like these so I could learn how to socialize. When I tried to join the local Star Trek fan club though, I was told that I couldn't for reasons that were never adequately explained to me. I guess maybe it wasn't about community after all. It was really just about what he wanted.

See that was always the problem with my dad. My family was always forced to do what he wanted. We went where he wanted on vacation even if the rest of us were bored to tears. When he was home the TV showed what he wanted to watch. In the car or in the house Rush Limbaugh played at full volume when it was on. We ate what he wanted to eat, lived where he wanted to live. If we didn't believe what he believed about politics, religion or anything else, we were shouted down until we learned not to speak up again. It was only as an adult looking back that I was able to see how emotionally abusive he was to my mom.

My dad was evangelical in a way that gave him permission to bully anyone he perceived as being not as holy as he was. His politics leaned so far right that he sympathized with white separatists, the Christian Identity movement, sovereign citizens, militias and other crazies. We were forced to go to evangelical schools where we weren't taught basic science, and where we were taught that slavery and segregation weren't really that bad. A chapel speaker once preached about how the Bible calls for the murder of abortion doctors. My dad still believes all these things.

When I was about twelve (in 1992 or thereabouts), my dad used to brag, literally brag, about how neither of his kids were gay. I was 12. I wasn't anything yet. And what's worse is that at that age I already knew there was something different about me. I didn't quite have the vocabulary to understand what transgender was, but I knew I was sort of gay. My dad believed that gay people were not worthy of life. Yes, I recall him talking about how AIDS was a God-sent plague to kill the gay community and how the US should have a death penalty for gays.

But, like I said, he was complex and we had a complex relationship. I think he loved us, in his own weird way, and thought that he was raising us up properly. It's just that his idea of proper was absolutely wrong. He never hit any of us (as far as I know). He occasionally tried to take an interest in something that I liked. I had lots of toys (mostly war based toys) and a bike. He never drank or disappeared. I think he really, legitimately didn't understand how much of a self-righteous, egotistical bully he could be.

Back in March of 2016, my dad told me he was supporting Trump. This was before the primaries were even over. This seriously bothered me. It meant that he never really cared about the Constitution or small government or values or Christianity. All he ever cared about was his own white male privilege and the special treatment that white males get in our society. As someone who suffered because of his Christian and conservative beliefs, I did not appreciate the realization that he had never really actually believed any of those things. He had been a hypocrite all along and my family suffered for it. I haven't spoken to him since.

But on Tuesday, I wrote him and email and told him that I was transgender. Unlike my other carefully crafted coming out letters, this one was knocked out in a few minutes and sent via email. Kath suggested I take out some of the more antagonistic things I had written. So I took out the bit where I said I wouldn't listen to or tolerate any negative comments of his, and kept it simple. I took out the section where I explained that he didn't know anything factual about transgender people. Without any real thought I sent it. I just hit send. Here's the full and complete text:

Hi Dad, 

Hope you're doing well and keeping healthy. So, just you know, there's some news. I've already told Esther and Tom and Olivia and also Mom and her husband as well. I didn't want to leave you out of the loop, so to speak. And I especially didn't want to make things awkward for them when they are around you and the subject of me might come up. 

I'm transgender. I have been my whole life. Even back in Arendstville, PA I was experiencing gender dysphoria. It was some of my earliest memories. It wasn't until recently that I had the courage to be who I've really been my whole life. So last year I legally changed my name to Faith DaBrooke and got all my documents changed and have been happily living my life as Faith ever since. Life is good, life is great in fact.

Kath has been super cool with everything, and her and I as in love as ever. Work has been super great as well. I also came out to Kath's family and they've been accepting and fantastic.
I understand that this might not be what you want to hear, but if you can accept me as your daughter than there is a place for you in my life.



Other times I've come out to people, I've put great care into my words, worried deeply about the response, or fretted about sending it at all. But this time there was no courage involved. I just didn't really give a good god damn. I didn't come out to my dad so I could have a better relationship with him. I came out to my dad to get it over with.

And it's over. I'm out to everyone in my life. So we'll see how it goes.

Also, sorry, this was a really negative post. I've never really written this stuff down, so while it's negative, it's also quite cathartic as well. I am happy in life. Life is good. Life really is going great. No one makes me go to Boy Scout meeting any more. :)

Pictured: A former Boy Scout.

Edit: My dad sent an email response. In whole, it read "Surprised...still love you, dad." 

Well, not really sure what to make of that. Positive, but not crazy positive. Now I'm thinking if I should respond or hold off for now. Leaning toward the latter. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Faith DaBrooke and the Blazer of Destiny

Who am I? What we wear is, in a way, how we tell people who we are. You could drop out and enjoy punk music without a Mohawk or safety pins through your ears. You could smoke pot and listen to jam bands without a long flowing skirt and dreads. You could like football without wearing the jersey of your favorite player. But, we all tend to use our clothing and style as a way to broadcast something about the world. It can say I'm serious, I'm fun, or leave me alone. It can be how we find our peers and our community. 

Before transition, my style tended to be all over the place. I'd find a random dress or skirt I liked and add it to my closet. Heck I even owned pink. Sure, I tended to veer into goth territory, but I also, like I said, owned pink too. Really, I was just grabbing anything I wanted to try because I was still trying out the role.

Even after transition, I still feel like I'm trying on roles. Maybe everyone feels like that all the time. When I first came out full time, my style was fairly preppy. It was my first time working in an office while presenting female so all I wanted was a style that was conservative, professional, and bland. Yes, I wanted a bland style because the last thing I wanted was to stand out or get attention.

But as I head toward my first year of full time, I'm been feeling the urge to express more of my own favorite style - goth. I can't help. I love wearing black clothes, black nail polish and bold makeup. But obviously I can't go too goth. Not at the office at least. 

I save that for church.

So I've set myself a style goal. All my new work clothes are going to help me achieve (and perfect) the look of Business Goth. Actually, my partner and I didn't even come up with that phrase. It's a thing! So, I created a new Pinterest board. Yes, I do have a Pinterest account that I barely use. You can follow me if you like.

Previously, I mentioned my love of Vivienne Westwood clothing, especially the blazers, but I can't remotely afford them. Call me crazy, but I don't quite want to have to pick between a blazer and rent. But, one nice thing about fashion is that it changes from season to season and the rich people will get rid of their old clothes. Then the fashion peasants like me can get their cast offs!

So my plan was to head up to the Upper East Side of Manhattan where there are a number of slightly fancier thrift shops where once can occasionally find some really great deals on super expensive designer clothes. To prep, I looked them all up online and compiled a list along with an optimal route. Then I could take the train to 96th St. and walk down to 62nd so I could get them all.

Three hours, two miles, eight stores, and probably a good gallon of sweat later I had found nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was so frustrating. Most of the stores didn't have any blazers at all. I guess maybe it wasn't the season for them? Do thrift shops have seasons? I don't think they do. Yet there I was. Defeated, with sore feet, smeary makeup, and a broken heart, I headed home. Perhaps my blazer, and the rest of my business goth style was going to have to wait until autumn or winter.

Well, needless to say I was super frustrated. I wanted my blazer dang it! Well, it wasn't Vivienne Westwood, but I ended up going to Ann Taylor later that day. I thought why the heck not try one more place? Believe it or not, I finally found an amazing blazer. It fit great and it was on sale! Then I did that trick where you got to the store's website on your phone while you're waiting in line. I gave them my email and got a 20% off coupon in my email. It was priced at $160.00 and I got it for $59.00. I was quite pleased.

The next day I wore it to work with one of my black shifts and my new fairly comfy sandal heels. Well, I felt awesome, pretty, bold, and professional. For once I didn't feel intimidated by all the rich, beautiful, stylish women who work in and around my building. Heck, I didn't even have to listen to Bikini Kill in my headphones and secretly think to myself "I'm not one you and I don't want to be."

Interestingly, the only comments I got from my coworkers were questions about why I was bothering to dress up in a suit for work. See my office is kind of weird. All the men wear suits and ties and the women dress a thousand times more casually. I've even seen women in T-shirts and leggings. It's weird. Well, I felt like a blazer so I rocked a blazer. 

When I came home from work, I asked my partner Kath to be my photographer. She was nice enough to capture a few pics for me. The only problem is that a black blazer on top of a black dress looks amazing in person, but it gets a little lost in photographs. Ah well. I still liked the look.

Right now I'm not planning on any major clothes purchases since I'm saving up for my upcoming trip to Germany (exciting!). But, I've already noticed my weight loss has gotten to the point where it's begun to affect how my clothing fits. Talk about a fun problem. So in the coming months (if I can keep the weight down), I'll need to get some new basics anyway. Having a style goal for my wardrobe will make that really fun. I can't wait till I have a unified style down.

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Literary Ambitions

Over the years, I've had many different answers to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" There was astronaut (I'm too tall, and also grossly unqualified), engineer (I had no idea what an engineer was), garbage man (mostly I just liked big trucks), lawyer (after winning state debate in 11th grade), movie director (after watching my first Quentin Tarantino movie), and comedian (which I gave up after bombing on stage a few times, not realizing that the professionals keep going after they bomb). But, one of the things that I've always wanted was to be a writer.

It was back in high school that I first started writing seriously. After reading about Beowulf and the Epic of Gilgamesh, I set out to write the longest epic poem in the English language. It was a quasi-historical fantasy tale based mostly on ancient myths. In high school I also wrote my first screenplay titled Orange Dignity. Mostly it was full of inside jokes my friends and I shared. In college, I wrote more screenplays, I think around ten or so. There was a sci-fi trilogy, a wacky comedy that I actually started filming, a couple horror movies and some Clerks-esque ones too. In senior year of college, I wrote my first novel. Actually I took on a ghostwriting job for a conspiracy guy who paid me $1200 to write his book Counting to Zero. Call it the very, very poor man's Tom Clancy.

After college I had a couple brushes with success (well, more like brushes with people who'd had brushes with success) and actually managed to get a couple of my screenplays read by some Hollywood producers. I had a few meetings that went well (though I only later learned that all Hollywood meetings seem to go well), and I had a script optioned for a thousand bucks. Nothing ever came of it though. I once knocked out a 120 page screenplay in one night after I threw out an idea in a meeting and had a producer say "I like that. I have a meeting on Friday, can you send me the completed script by then?"

I thought about moving to LA to start a serious screenwriting career, but firstly I had just moved to New York and didn't want to move again to a city where I knew zero people. Secondly, all the Hollywood movie people I'd met seemed non-genuine, shallow, and only interested in people as resources to be used. It wasn't my scene so I kept my crappy apartment in Queens and my job at the art supply store.

Well, over the years, I kept writing. There were a handful more screenplays just for fun, and finally, my first adult novel, The Homebody's Guide to Falling in Like. It's a funny, bitter sweet, introspective piece that's sort of an anti-love story in that tells the story of a relationship from its beginning to its end.

Available now on Amazon.
But, I've just finished a new book and it's a more personal one. American Transgirl is a novel that approaches the transgender subject with humor and with honesty. It is about life and the relationships we form with friends, partners, our homes, and our own ideas of who we are.

The protagonist Matt has spent his whole life wishing he could be a girl.  But he doesn’t know if transition is right for him. As a high school student in suburban Georgia during the Nineties, he is able to take his first steps toward transition. With his friend Michelle by his side, Matt begins exploring local gay bars and discovering more about his own transgender feelings. Life gets even more confusing when he moves to New York and falls for Erin, a struggling artist and lesbian. Matt must decide if an ordinary life as a normal guy could work, or if his whole life has been leading toward transition. 

I thought I'd share the first chapter with you as a preview of the full story. Click on the image below to read it:  

So, I'm working on trying to get both of these published. No success yet, but I'm keeping on trying. I've also been looking for magazines and websites to pitch some ideas to, which is something I've never done before. But, I want to get some credits under my belt. Writing is a tough career to break into, but the thing is, I'm going to be writing anyway. It's something I love doing. I'm already thirteen thousand words into my next book. Since I'm writing anyway, maybe I should try and get paid for it.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Business Goth

Recently, at my partner's insistence, I watched the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. When it came out, I had zero interest in seeing it because I felt I was, at the time, essentially living that movie. When it came out, I was working as the executive assistant to an insanely rich woman who shall remain nameless. This woman was easily worth a cool hundred million, had an insanely amazing Manhattan house (where I worked), and was one of the most awful and useless human beings I've ever encountered in my life. So when I saw the premise of The Devil Wears Prada, I didn't want to see it because I only want movies that offer an escape from my life, not a reminder of it. 

But, as I mentioned, my partner insisted, mostly because we were on an Emily Blunt movie kick and this movie was, to quote my partner "Emily Blunt's apotheosis." She was right. If you haven't seen it, go watch it. It's fun. Here's the trailer: 

Emily Blunt really is fantastic in the movie. She was the highlight. She's cute and British, hilariously super snarky, and amazingly stylish. Watching it, I was completely and utterly blown away by her fashion sense. 

I loved it. Her dyed red hair, makeup, nearly all black wardrobe, and big jewelry accents were absolutely incredible. We nicknamed it Business Goth. This, this is my style goal. Business Goth. This is how I want to dress. It's how I've always wanted to dress. It's what I was born to wear. In my heart and in my soul, I have always been Business Goth. 

So what, you may be asking, is Business Goth? Well, it's black, slim fitting business wear (skirts, pants, tops), with seriously bold makeup, and with some eye-catching interesting, and artistic accessories. And then maybe an strikingly cut black jacket to top it off. It's ultra-feminine but with some conservative elements, accented with the artistic and the bold.

Looking it up, I found out that for the movie, Emily wardrobe consisted of clothing by designer Vivienne Westwood. While some of Ms. Westwood's designs aren't for me, there are some others that I instantly fell in love with. Seriously look at these! The asymmetry, the angles, the shapes. Oh my god! 

Now if only I could afford them! Well, when I have a chance, I plan to hit up some of the fancier thrift shops here in NYC. There are a few where rich people donate designer clothes, and maybe I'll luck out. It feels so fantastic to have style goals to guide me. Black shifts have always been my thing, but now I want to add cool, weird, dangerous looking jackets, big, bold jewelry pieces, and maybe even a scarf or two if I get crazy. Knowing me, I can probably put together some really great looks on the cheap. 

Yes, I think The Devil Wears Prada movie might have been life-changing. You see, years ago, I dated a girl who was, in a word, a fashionista. Fashion was her hobby, and I don't mean clothes, I mean Fashion with a capital F. At the time I dismissed Fashion and its entire industry as frivolous and shallow.  And of course, in Devil Wears Prada, there's the stupid boyfriend who says the exact same things I did. I was wrong.There are a great number of things to love about Fashion. And I'm super excited to start learning a bit more.

Plus, the day after watching, I was inspired to try and pull off a more serious business look. It's not quite Business Goth, but I did manage some bold Urban Decay eye colors (which random women complimented me on), a slim Calvin Klein shift dress (used to be too small for me before I started focusing on weight loss), and my four inch Coach heels. I even commuted in my heels. It was my first time ever wearing them to work. I looked fantastic. And I felt fantastic.

Of course by noon I had changed into my flats. But it's a start and I'm excited to see how I can really make Business Goth happen.

Friday, July 28, 2017

My Soul Bounces Back

When you make a post called "Curb Stomped in My Soul," I think it's natural for people to assume I'm down. In a way I am a little down, but not horribly so. There's been a lot going on and I've let myself get overwhelmed by it. I did feel bad. I really did. Transition is stressful. Body issues are stressful. For me, being social is stressful. Even my creative work schedule can be stressful. I was so stressed out that I've managed to exhaust myself. But, things are getting better; they really are. 

After a week with a deteriorating wig, I finally got my new one in the mail yesterday. It's so insane how much better I feel with great looking hair. This morning I got ready (and probably went a little too severe on my makeup - ah well) and then put it on. It immediately makes me feel better. As soon as I get it straightened and and look in the mirror, I'm able to think to myself "you look great, you're gonna rock today!"

Heck, walking to the subway I even got hit on by two different construction workers! Now, I certainly don't condone street harassment, but when you've been feeling down, a little attention can feel good. Hey, at least someone thinks I'm a girl, and what's more, an attractive girl at that. So yeah, while I normally hate getting hit on, today it perked up my spirits a little bit. Also, how come only really gross, creepy guys hit on me? Seriously, how come Ewan McGregor never hits on me? Just creepy dudes? Ah well, c'est la vie.

After being objectified, I headed over to the subway. As I was walking, this great feeling of "this is who I'm supposed to be" came over me. I had my nice hair, my makeup, a comfy dress, and I was headed to work. This is who was supposed to be. This is who I am.

If I were honest with myself, I still feel very much like an impostor. I don't always feel like I'm really a woman. I feel like I'm faking it and that I'm lucky if other people buy into my fakery. But then, there are other moments when I look in the mirror and I can really see myself as a woman. As I head toward my second HRT anniversary, I've started to notice way, way more changes. They're not kidding when they say that HRT is slow.

I've started to see less of a guy in the mirror and more of a girl, even when I'm in lazy mode, even when I'm not wearing a fancy new wig, even when I'm not wearing makeup. Slowly, but surely it's happening. Transition is becoming less of a new stage in life, and more a normal part of my life. That makes me super happy.

Another thing that's making me happy is that I'm inching more towards my life goal. It's a new life goal, one I only realized was achievable a couple months ago. I was watching a Vlogbrothers video, one by John Green, and I realized what I wanted out of life. I want John Green's job. He's an author, and a YouTuber, and he's successfully turned that into a thriving business. Half my favorite YouTube channels are produced by him and his brother.

And one day, I was watching one of his videos and I thought "Hey, I do videos, and I blog, and I have a podcast and write books. I love nothing more than being creative. And lots of people seem to like what I make. maybe I can do this as a job one day!" So, I've been working on coming up with ways to do what I love as my job.

First off was the Gender Rebels Patreon page and that's been going really well (thank you so much to all our patrons!). And I'm seriously itching to launch back onto YouTube with the channel Gender Rebels TV, and my own channel Transjedi, where I'll discuss Star Wars from a transgender point of view. I want these videos to look decently professional, so there's a lot to be done before I can start filming in earnest.

There's lighting, which is crucial because my apartment does not have good light. Kath and I will have to figure out a good space too, since we don't want clutter in the background. On top of all that, I'd like to get some lens upgrades for my iPhone. Thankfully the patrons have basically made getting that stuff affordable. Then, I'll also need to learn Adobe Premier. But, I tend to learn by doing, so I'm excited about that. Now that I have a weekend with no plans coming up, I'm thinking that I might buy the Premier subscription and start tinkering.

On the second creative front, I've finally finished my new novel, American Transgirl. Here's the skinny:

Matt has spent his whole life wishing he could be a girl.  But he doesn’t know if transition is right for him. As a high school student in suburban Georgia during the Nineties, he is able to take his first steps toward transition. With his friend Michelle by his side, Matt begins exploring local gay bars and discovering more about his own transgender feelings. Life gets even more confusing when he moves to New York and falls for Erin, a struggling artist and lesbian. Matt must decide if an ordinary life as a normal guy could work, or if his whole life has been leading toward transition. 

American Transgirl is a funny, heartfelt contemporary novel. Its protagonist is a transgender woman who deals with hormones, a name change, coming out, and other aspects of gender transition. The story also explores universal subjects like the longing for fulfilment, love, relationships, and friendship. Transition is presented as only one part of a larger life. 

I've submitted my American Transgirl to five publishers thus far (fingers crossed). If you know a good publisher who's looking for LGBT content, please let me know!

Also, I'd like to go back through my writings to see if I have any good pieces that I could submit to websites and magazines. I think building up my writing credit portfolio will make getting a publisher easier.

Until I become a rich and successful writing, I still have my day job. It's been eight months since I came out, and I just had my performance review. It looks like a raise and promotion are in my near future timeline! That's gonna help me get my finances back where they should be. Not spending $300 or $400 a month of booze is also helping me with that.

And speaking of not drinking, I've lost 12lbs (5.44kg) or so since April. Control over my drinking, coupled with a regular workout schedule are doing wonders for me. Right now, I'm at the lowest weight I've been since I quit smoking seven years ago. Not only am I getting skinny, I'm actually going to have to start getting new clothes! Yay, shopping! And I can actually justify buying dresses now - they're for work!

Another good thing happened on Wednesday night. After I'd worked out at the gym, Kath and I decided to go out to dinner to celebrate my performance review. As I had just finished up at the gym, all I did was switch out my workout pants for a skirt, and my sneakers for sandals. I went to the restaurant in my own natural hair, in super casual mode. And despite that, I got gendered correctly multiple times at the restaurant! I really should go back there.

Another plus, which isn't a great one, but it still counts, is that everyone cares about transgender rights all the sudden. The other day, our insanely unqualified President decided to randomly tweet some anti-transgender bullshit. Which is bullshit. But, what else can you expect from a completely useless moron like our dear leader?

But, as soon as he did that, the floodgates opened and social media, traditional media, and everyone else was full of pro-transgender statements, memes, videos, everything. It was, I admit, kind of nice to read Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, and others on a day when it seemed like every other item was a pro-transgender meme or graphic. It was nice. It's nice to know that Republican bigots are going to accomplish only thing here; making ordinary people from across the political spectrum, stand up for transgender rights.

And all it took was a horrible bigot attacking us. Yay?

Well, it seems like there's been a lot of good stuff going on in my life right now. And, most importantly, I have the rest of the summer with no social plans. I'm sure I'll throw some in there, 'cause I love all of my friends, but I need time to relax right now and get myself re-combobulated. Plus there's a lot of creative stuff that I'd love to really jump into; new bonuses for patrons, new podcast episodes, new videos. Heck, I'm even 13,000 words into my next novel.

Bring on the weekend!