Friday, May 26, 2017

Boy Meets Girl: A Transgender Girl's Thoughts

 

Generally speaking, I'm not usually interested in movies or TV shows with transgender themes or characters. Mostly it's because a lot of them, like TransAmerica, Boys Don't Cry, or The Danish Girl were obvious Oscar Bait. And, Oscar Bait films annoy me. So when there are trans characters in a movie, I tend to see it as a cynical and manipulative attempt to commodify a marginalized group (in this case my marginalized group) for the sake of awards and ultimately the increased money that studio executives think those awards will bring. One of my all-time favorite YouTubers Lindsay Ellis did a great video on Oscar Bait.


The other reason I generally don't care to watch trans-related films is because I'm already living my life. I don't really feel the need to be reminded of what life is like for a transgender person or how their transition affects the cis people around them. This is especially true when the movie is written, directed by and most likely staring cis people. 

But, Boy Meets Girl, is a little bit different. In a world where there are Emmy speeches about how trans characters should be played by trans actors, Boy Meets Girl features a transgender character played by Michelle Hendley, an actual transgender actress. Plus I knew of star Michelle Hendley long before this movie came out. For years she had a YouTube channel that I subscribed to and I remember her making videos discussing this movie before production even started. So I figured I would watch Boy Meets Girl, since it isn't Oscar Bait, it is independent and hopefully my Netflix rental will result in at least an extra dime or two ending up in Ms. Hendley's bank account.


Boy Meets Girl tells the story of Ricky, a young transgender girl living in a small town in rural Kentucky. There she works at the coffee shop, makes YouTube videos about her own fashion designs, hangs out with her platonic best friend Robby and dreams of the day when she can move to New York to get a degree in fashion. Things get complicated, however, when she meets Francesca who's engaged to a Marine but unsure if she's comfortable settling down just yet.

As it's a low budget indie, I'm willing to forgive some of the slightly sloppy cinematography, editing and sound mixing. Generally the acting is good for unknown performers and Ms. Hendley brought a natural charm and likability that made her character work. The script is fairly full of cliches and lacks real weight despite touching on some incredibly serious topics like suicide, self-harm and violence against trans women. Where it could have brought some truly wrenching emotional moments to the forefront, it prefers to keep them at arms length, instead focusing on a slightly bouncy, carefree tone. 


As this film was written and directed by cis male Eric Schaeffer, I was interested to see how realistic its portrayal of a transgender woman's life could be. Mr. Schaeffer obviously did his homework. We are shown that Ricky takes hormones and is saving up for surgery. Life and relationships are shown to be difficult for the transgender main character. Like many LGBT people, Ricky longs to get the hell out of her small town so she can head to the big city. Plus Ricky has a YouTube channel, which I think is a requirement for all transgender girls. But the depiction of transgirl life is not entirely accurate. Some things the film portrays realistically and others not so much.

Ricky talks about not enjoying sports growing up but being forced to play anyway. She talks about how growing up she always felt more normal doing feminine things. As a transgirl who grew up in the South I can definitely relate. And I can also relate to the desire to get out of the South and move to New York. Ricky is shown commenting on how shorter Francesca is the "perfect height." Often transgender girls feel jealous of how cis girls look or sound.

Ricky's relationship with her parents is shown to be quite complicated. She fears her mom left (or committed suicide - it's not made clear) because Ricky wanted to transition. Because of this Ricky deals with self-doubt, anxiety and suicide; all things that many transgender women deal with throughout their lives. But, Ricky's father is shown to be loving and supportive and I think many transgender people are often surprised by how accepting people can be. 

During a fight, Ricky's BFF Robby accuses her of not being a boy or a girl. This particularly hurts Ricky. And I think would land hard on most trans people who struggle constantly with doubts about whether our transitions allow us to be seen as real members of our expressed genders. 

There are a few quotes that really struck me with how well they summed up some of my own feelings as a transgender person: 

"Living out loud comes with a pretty big price tag, but not as big a price as the alternative." 


"I know it seems like it doesn't, but it takes so much for me to put a smile on my face and go out in the world every day." 


Ultimately, the film shows a transgender woman who has self-doubts, often feels out of place, struggles to find real connections, longs for a better life, and whose transition has taken years but still hasn't gotten her to the point where she feels like it's complete. On the whole it's a fairly accurate portrayal of life as a transgender person.


But, there are some inaccuracies too that, I think, show that a cis person did create this character. For one Ricky randomly outs herself to people she doesn't know. In one exchange she makes a remark about men being unable to commit because they're "afraid of dicks," and in another she mentions how hard high school was because she "was a boy." In both cases she's talking to complete strangers she's never met. Not only that, but they are odd comments to make in the scene, and seem to have been written simply so they can be shown in the trailer. Most trans people don't like putting the spotlight on themselves especially by making odd comments to strangers. Trans people tend to want to fit in as best they can and generally don't out themselves at the drop of a hat.

There are some other inaccuracies that come up when Ricky and Francesca share a kiss and allow their mutual attraction to grow into a sexual relationship. Before engaging in sex with a cis girl, Ricky attempts to gather data from her best friend Robby, asking him detailed and graphic questions about how vaginas work. This stood out as an odd scene because this is information that Ricky should already know simply by living in society or having visited the internet. Seriously, what trans girl has never researched vaginas online or learned about them from schoolyard banter, media, or simple cultural osmosis? Additionally, Ricky has been on HRT for seven years, but when she finally beds down with Francesca she seems fully functional and there's no discussion about how HRT might have affected her body. 

There are some other inaccuracies that have been seen in many other films and are practically cliches. Transgender people in movies and TV always pass 100% of the time no matter what they look or sound like. This trope is most problematic when it's used in comedy with cis men in drag. But it's also seen in more serious works as well. I'm sure Ms. Hendley can pass in real life, but in Boy Meets Girl, its assumed she can pass. We never see Ricky struggle with this or experience anxiety about it.


Another issue with anxiety in particular involves the plot device of a video made by Ricky when she was younger (maybe 12 or 13 years old - it's not made clear). In the video she admits to cutting, drug use and suicidal ideation. These are all indications of a serious struggle with depression or other mental illness. But, when we see adult Ricky, seven years later, she seems to have gotten over her mental illness and never seems to be affected by it at all. Sadly, this is far too often seen in media, especially episodic television, but in movies as well. Characters, often with a single dramatic breakthrough moment, are able to instantly overcome serious mental illnesses. In real life these issues can stay with a person throughout their life and are never so easily overcome.

Boy Meets Girl missed a serious opportunity to honestly address these issues. As these issues weren't addressed, they really didn't need to be included at all. In the end, the video functions simply as a plot device (any time a movie character puts a video online it will go viral without fail). Ultimately, the movie cheapens real issues transgender people face by using them in a plot device and then simply hand-waiving them away.


Another serious issue that is not dealt with well is violence against transgender women. In Boy Meets Girl, it is shown, but also depicted as something that is easily stoppable and not really all that dangerous. There is a transphobic character who seems almost cartoonishly over-the-top. He even considers transgender people to be terrorists and enemies of the Untied States. But of course, it turns out that he isn't really hateful. He's just attracted to transgender women like Ricky. In Boy Meets Girl, the transphobe is really a good person deep down. Once he gets over his own issues, he turns into a smiling, happy fellow who is able to wish Ricky well.

Transgender people, especially transgender women, really do face serious issues of violence. In providing the violent transphobic character a complete redemption without his so much as apologizing to Ricky for attacking her, the movie makes light of a serious issue facing the LGBT community. What's worse is that transphobe's violent attack on Ricky is never something Ricky has to deal with. She's able to shrug it off without much bother. So while trying to address violence against transgender people, this movie ultimately stumbles.

How other characters react to Ricky is a major part of what makes the film unrealistic. She seems to be the most popular girl in her small Kentucky town. Everyone in the town (of what seems like no more than 8 people) either wants to sleep with Ricky or praise her. Sadly, Ricky seems to have creative a new type of trope; the Magic Transgender Woman. Everyone loves her and she's the catalyst that improves their lives. She heals Francesca and the transphobic fiance's relationship and gives Francesca the inspiration to live her life as she pleases. In the end, everyone comes together to help her out in a bit of a deus-ex-machina It's a Wonderful Life moment.



While real transgender people struggle to be accepted at work, or family, or even with peers or strangers, Ricky is universally beloved, even by the transphobe who attacks her. Needless to say, most transpeople do not experience this overabundance of love and acceptance from everyone in their lives. Sure, audiences like happy endings, but in this case, the happy ending seems a tad false.

There is one other major issue I had with this movie and that is the nude scene. In the third act, Ricky is shown exiting the water after skinny dipping and the camera lingers on her fully nude form. This felt completely and utterly unnecessary. The nudity seemed gratuitous and even exploitative. It served no function in the plot and scene would have worked just as well, if not better, with a fully clothed Ricky. I've heard that the director insisted that nudity was a deal breaker for any actress he signed. Because of this I suspect it was there simply so the director could "prove" that he cast a real life transgender girl in the part. This decision, I think, majorly detracted from the story as well as from the elements of the story that had, up to this point, been rather respectful of transgender women. 

 

Michelle Hendley's performance was ultimately what made this movie work. Firstly, let's get it out there; she looks great - especially in the black dress she wears for the party scene. This was a great debut performance and she infused every scene with a casual likability and charm. Even in the more emotionally complex scenes, she sold it well. The script wasn't perfect, but she worked with it and her performance makes the movie worth watching.

Boy Meets Girl did at least endeavor to create a realistic and respectful portrayal of a transgender character. Plus it actually cast a transgender actor. Except for the aforementioned nude scene, the movie didn't feel too gimmicky in a "see the real transgender girl," kind of way. There were a number of flaws, but it was clear that Eric Schaeffer was attempting to create an accurate depiction of a transgender character and her life.


Ricky is three dimensional and has more character traits than simply being trans. We see her self-doubts, worries and anxieties. She has hopes and dreams and is well-rounded person. It's a nearly spot-on portrayal of a transwoman and one that is much more authentic that what's usually seen in media.

Boy Meets Girl also tries to be respectful to the transgender experience. Characters defend Ricky, stick up for her and it's made clear that she is a woman.  The film points out that it's right to call her by her preferred pronouns. Trans people are seen as real people who deserve to be treated as such.

The flaws I think, are from, Ricky and her experience being shown from a cis point of view. Robby and Francesca function as audience surrogates. We experience the transgender Ricky through their eyes. They ask the questions the general audience wants to ask and the story shows Ricky's reaction to their choices.

As a trans girl, I am not the intended audience. But maybe a trans kid and their family might be. I could see Boy Meets Girl as a potential useful tool one could show cis family members so they can understand that trans people are normal, that they really are real members of their expressed gender, and that they deserve to be treated as such. The nude scene unfortunately ruins this. What we're left with is a decently accurate movie that tries to be respectful, has a good performance from its lead, but fundamentally misses the mark.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Callen-Lorde's Spring Fever


Callen-Lorde Community Health Center holds a special place in my heart. Ever since my first visit, when I was scared and confused about healthcare and how to get hormones, I've been as outspoken as I can in my praise for for them. They do great work. Seriously, they provide health care to some of the most marginalized groups in American society; LGBTQ people, especially the youth and those who are homeless or unable to pay. As someone who is sincerely appreciative of their work and has the ability to pay, I try to support Callen-Lorde financially when I can. 

My partner Kath and I have done a few events at Callen-Lorde in the past. The most recent one was a few weeks ago; Spring Fever. It was a event honoring influential women who have positively impacted LGBTQ communities in New York and beyond. I felt insanely super honored to be invited onto the host committee for this event. Especially since I got my name on a poster! 


Like most large events though, Kath and I are generally unsure what to do with ourselves. As a couple of serious introverts, we're not particularly good at mingling or networking. Mostly, we just stand around enjoying what appetizers pass us by, getting a drink here or there, and strategizing about how we can begin mingling. We strategize, but never actually mingle. We're idea people, not action people. Also, I take selfies. 




I mean, there's good light. I'm only human after all (a vain human, but human nonetheless). This night I was super excited to go out because for one thing it was going to be warm enough for dress weather. Also, because a friend of mine had just gifted me a ton of super good, high quality makeup. The Urban Decay shadow pallets were some of my favorites, but she also gave me some great items for contouring and the perfect, absolutely perfect neutral lip. Though, I should say it's perfect for work. For an event like this I wanted to shine with some bolder lip color.

Yes, I even went out and bought fake lashes. After my bad experiences with them (mostly caused by me putting them on crookedly), I hadn't done fake lashes in forever. For Spring Fever though, I bought some and was planning on rocking them. Unfortunately, that plan involved me being dexterous enough to actually apply them properly. After gluing one eyelid shut  and nearly ruining my eyeliner with glue smudges, I gave up and went ahead with my natural lashes. They were covered in Very Black mascara obviously, but at least they weren't pieces of plastic glued to my eyelids. Maybe one day I'll be able to pull them off again, and when I say, pull them off, I really mean put them on. 





Still, I thought I looked pretty cute. I even saved a brand new wig for the event so my hair would look its best. The one I got was my new favorite red color, but I think it's perhaps a little too curly for my taste. I'll probably switch again to a new look at least once or twice more before wigs become totally obsolete.

Also, besides one of my favorite dresses, I wore my 4" Coach heels. Actually, I didn't wear them to the event or after the event. As I was walking to the event in comfy sandals, I found a nearby stoop and switched to the heels. Four hours in heels was trying, to say the least. While I think these heels make my legs look great and make my feet look small, they also make me a giant. I'm already tall and adding four inches puts me into WNBA territory. Hence my towering over the fairly tall for a cis-girl Kath in our runway shots. 


Kath insisted on a superhero pose. 
Still, it was a great time, even if we didn't really make any new friends. Maybe next time we'll remember to make some Gender Rebels promotional cards so we can at least plug our podcast to everyone there. You know, so we can make the event all about us.  


Actually, Kath and I both support Callen-Lorde and its mission. So much so, that when we discussed getting some Gender Rebels merchandise, we thought it might be better to give the proceeds away rather than keep it for our greedy, greedy selves. So, as we have some extra transgender pride flags (you have to order them by the dozen), we are giving away personalized signed flags to anyone who donates to Callen-Lorde and sends us proof.  

Click below to donate! 





Also, one quick note I want to make. Yes, I am holding wine glasses full of wine in these pictures. But these were all taken before I stopped drinking completely. This was during my two-a-day cool down before abstaining entirely. I just knew someone would comment if I didn't say anything. I'm still going strong on day 19 without alcohol. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Ethanol Demon


After my recent medical emergency, I found out that I have Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome; a rare, and luckily not life threatening, genetic condition that causes supra-ventricular tachycardia. In short, it can flare up and randomly make your heart feel like it's about to jump right out of your chest. Alcohol and caffeine can trigger these flare ups. 

On March 19th, I sat there in a bed in the emergency room, a seeming thousand wires and tubes curling around my body, and was told that the doctors were going to stop my heart. Hearing that really shook me to my core. I legitimately thought there was a decent possibility of me dying that day. Of course, as I mentioned above, this isn't life-threatening, but I sure as hell didn't know that as I sat there scared out of my mind. Death, it seems, has a way of focusing the mind. 

During this freak out, I whispered to my partner the words "I need your help to stop drinking. Drinking is going to kill me." Why, you might ask, was drinking going to kill me? Because like many people, I've let drinking become a lazy habit and that habit was negatively affecting my life. It was a habit that I'd been in for years and hadn't ever wanted to face. I hadn't ever wanted to deal with the fact that I knew I drank too much. 

For years I had five, six or seven drinks in an evening. And I did that every single day. For years. As soon as I got home from work, I'd crack open a beer. On weekends, my partner and I would go for adventures and routinely stop for a couple of pints along the way. When we went out with friends it was invariably for drinks. When I'd host parties I'd drink way to much to the point where the hangover basically killed my entire next day. A drink was there to relax me, to celebrate anything and everything, to accompany every dinner in or out. I'd sit and surf the internet or play Civ and drink one after another all night. Then I'd turn around and lie to doctors when they asked the question "how much do you drink?" When I'd make out a budget, I'd realize that I was spending hundreds of dollars a month on alcohol, shrug it off and then throw it all under a category like "groceries" or "other." So why did I do this? Why did I drink every day for years? There were a number of reasons. 


Firstly, there's the fact that I've long dealt with social anxiety. As an introvert, I'm often happiest on my own or hanging out with one other person. Large groups make me tense up so much that I won't talk. Often all I can think at parties is "how long before I can leave?" Nothing makes me happier than when the other person cancels plans at the last moment. I am not, as they say, a social butterfly. But with alcohol I could be. 

Having a drink or two or three in a social situation would wash away my anxiety. It would loosen me up so that I could talk and interact with people and enjoy myself. Alcohol became the only way I could relax when meeting a new person. Then from there alcohol became a way to relax after a long work day. After all, there's nothing quite like a cold bitter pint to ease the stress of a work. Then after you've had one it's easy to have two, then three and four or more until it becomes a regular daily habit. Your tolerance grows so bad that you can drink six pints in a night and not feel a thing. You end up spending hundreds of dollars a month, consuming hundreds of extra calories a day and experiencing some gut wrenchingly bad hangovers. So there are so many negatives, why didn't I stop? 


For one, it's not all bad. I enjoyed the bitter hoppy taste of a good IPA. I relished the relaxation and the little celebratory moment of the day's first beer. I loved getting dressed up and going out with friends for cocktails. I enjoyed being a connoisseur of craft brews, I mean, I do live in Brooklyn after all. There was joy. But joy wasn't the only reason I kept drinking habitually for years. 

One major thing that kept me from stopping drinking was, ironically, fear that I wouldn't be able to stop. The last thing I wanted was to discover that I was unable to stop drinking. So I made sure that I always had alcohol in the house or that if I went on a trip I'd always have suitable access to booze. I didn't want there to be a situation where I didn't have a drink ready at hand. Because what if I found myself in such a situation? What if I tried to stop only to discover that I couldn't? Would I then start to experience the shakes, the anxiety and hallucinations of alcohol withdrawal, or even life threatening delirium tremens? If I stopped drinking would I suddenly discover that I was a bonafide honest-to-god alcoholic? 

Being an alcoholic meant having to take part in that whole recovery scene. You know, we've all seen the movies and the TV shows where they show a sad, sick recovering alcoholic culture. That was the last thing I ever wanted. I imagined a bunch of loser people in their depressing church basement AA meetings, beating themselves up over every failure, clinging desperately to their little plastic coins and leading sad, pathetic lives of sorrow, forever gripped with fear that the ethanol demon was waiting around every corner ready to drag them back to drinking. Or I imagined being at a detox center, lord knows I couldn't afford a celebrity quality luxury detox, so I'd be in there with the freaks and junkies, sitting in group meetings listening to toothless meth heads recount their own deep litanies of failure. No, I was not one of those people. I just enjoyed drinking. A lot. 


I was not a sad, pathetic alcoholic. I just enjoyed drinking socially or alone to relax. For many years, from about sixteen to thirty, I smoked cigarettes. By the end I was up to a pack a day. I smoked first thing in the morning, last thing before I went to bed, upon exiting any building, any time really. Before flights I would sit in those dirty smokers' lounges and chain-smoke one after another. Then, when I was finally good and tired of smoking I quit. I quit cold turkey and was fine. I honestly never felt a single withdrawal symptom. Quite the opposite, I actually felt kind of high  something I attributed to my brain finally getting the right amount of oxygen after a decade. I never looked back. I was happy to have quit smoking. 

And I figured just like smoking, I'd quit drinking when I was damn good and ready. And quite frankly, I wasn't good or ready yet. Maybe one day I'd be, but in the mean time I'd drink a six pack of cold, hoppy IPAs every night, enjoy a couple afternoon drinks on the weekend, and then party with friends until I got trashed and nurse a hangover whole the next day. It was fine and I wasn't an alcoholic, I tried to tell myself. 


Except there was this small part of me that knew the truth, even if I didn't want to admit it to myself. I know that my partner knew as well, though neither of us really wanted to talk about it. She would do alcohol free months and go long periods without having any alcohol in the house. I never even tried those things. While I worried about my heath and got depressed about my weight I kept drinking. When I let my mind wander, it would take me to dark places; would I drink myself to death at a young age? Was I going to need a liver transplant at some point only to be turned down for my years of boozing? Would I drink too much, do something stupid and get myself arrested? Was I, at best, going to end up one of those sad, pathetic ex-alcoholics? 

Those feelings were pushed down and I did my best to ignore them. I ignored them even as doctors suggested treatment programs, even as blood tests came back showing increased ferratin levels possibly caused by excessive drinking. I pushed them down and lied to myself even as my partner worried about me and tried to reach out to help. She even helped me get appointments with a couple of therapists. I met them once, only once each time, and then came home and cracked open another bottle. I partied, I drank, I nursed hangovers. But I still didn't want to give up my drinking. 

Then one day I felt my heart racing in my chest and I feared that I was going to die of a heart attack. Paramedics came to my house, put me in an ambulance and took me to the emergency room. They stripped me down, put me in a bed, put needles in my veins and hooked up wires all over me. They told me they were going to stop my heart from beating and if all went well, it would start up again. I sat there, reluctantly accepted my fate, fearful that I might die, not in the future, but right here, right now. These might have been my last moments on earth. I felt fear, sure. But the overwhelming feeling was one of intense sadness that I wouldn't get to spend any more moments on this earth with my partner Kath. I didn't want our time together to end. I wanted a lifetime more of moments with her, adventures and love and support and life with her. I wasn't ready to go. 


And that was it. That was the moment when I made my decision. I didn't want to die. I didn't want to let the alcohol or my Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome to kill me. In the literature that the hospital provided me, it said that caffeine and alcohol can trigger flareups of my supra ventricular tachycardia. So that meant no more caffeine and no more drinking to excess. I decided that I had to quit. And so I did. 

Fearing withdrawal or DTs, I took it slow. It was better to go down mellow. I started by limiting myself to only two drinks a day. There were no more six-packs of beer in my house. I changed to having two glasses of wine a day. This was surprisingly easy. Instead of drinking beer or wine all night, I began drinking loads of seltzer mixed with juice. It's a funny thing. Just having a beverage at hand made it easy to eschew alcohol. I found myself drinking seltzer after seltzer each evening and realized I didn't really miss alcohol. 

About a week in, we had friends over for a game night. These friends don't drink and so instead of having my usual two drinks, I had seltzer and juice all night. There was no awkwardness. The whole night I hung out with friends with zero alcohol in my system and had a good time. I didn't need a single beer or cocktail to be social. It ended up being my first day in maybe eight years where I hadn't had a single drink. There were no withdrawal symptoms, no anxiety, no hallucinations, no DTs. In fact, I felt great. I could do this. The next night we went out to a friends birthday party where I managed to limit myself to only two drinks even while hanging out and being social, even while taking to complete strangers. When I felt a slight temptation to have a third drink, Kath was right there, handing me a seltzer. It's like she knew. She's awesome like that. 


For six weeks I kept it up; only two drinks a day with a few days when I had one and a few days when I had none. Like the birthday party, there were a few moments where, for a brief second, my brain tried to fall back into old habits. On one occasion, I finished my first beer and then immediately went back for my second (and last of the day). When I finished the second, my brain automatically started on "let's have another now, just like we used to do." It was an automatic thing and was easy for my rational mind to push down and ignore. There were a couple more like that though not too many. Maybe I encountered one a week.

The absolute best part was that after as I let my drinking taper off, I slept better than I had in years. Seriously, when I was heavily into my drinking I had felt like I needed booze to be able to sleep at night. And yet, without any alcohol in my system I ended up out like a light. My sleep was more prolonged with fewer interruptions and I slept deeper that I even knew I could. Seriously, I don't remember sleeping this deeply ever. Instead of dragging myself out of bed, bleary eyed and groggy after the fourth snooze, I woke up early feeling refreshed and fully awake. It was amazing. 

May 2017, I decided, is my no alcohol month. As I write this, I'm over one week in. Seriously, I've managed to go a full week without so much as a drop of alcohol. There's been no withdrawal, but there have been some temptations. On stressful days I've come home from work feeling "I could really go for a beer." After a big work event I planned and executed, I felt the same way. Before I would have always celebrated such a moment with a drink, but this time a cold seltzer with lime when I got home was good enough to take my mind off it. There have been a couple other moments when I felt myself salivate at the thought of an expected drink, but I've found the temptations mostly easy to ignore. They say it takes six weeks to get into a habit, so maybe by mid-June I'll be over those sort of auto-pilot moments. 

We'll see how it goes. It's going to be a journey. I'm over a week in and doing great. And I never thought that would be possible. Not only am I sleeping better, but I've already lost some weight. I need a new belt and one of my skirts was slipping the other day. While I'm not looking forward to the expense of a new wardrobe, I am looking forward to attaining my goal weight, now only about ten pounds away. Maybe I'll even be able to rock a real bikini this summer. Can you imagine? In late May, I look forward to being able to go to my doctor for my regular checkup where I can tell her that I've haven't had a drink in almost a month. I look forward to knowing that I can have one drink and control myself. And most of all, I'm looking forward to being healthy and having many more adventures with my amazing partner. 


This is a highly personal thing and it's not something that I'm proud of. The reason I wanted to write this is in case anyone else in a similar situation may find it in any way helpful to know that they are not alone. We all have the same brains and the same bodies. Addiction is a physical problem with our bodies. It's not a moral failing, it doesn't mean we've screwed up and it doesn't mean that we are bad people. We can all get addicted and we can all get into unhealthy habits too. And we all have the capacity to overcome those habits and addictions as well. 

Often our addictions are about fear. I know mine were. Fear of the unknown is often what keeps us continuing on these unhealthy paths. It was fear of withdrawal that kept me smoking. It was fear of finding out I was an alcoholic, fear of being a social outcast, that kept me drinking. But ultimately, I was able to make a decision to change and luckily I had the support around me to help me along on that change. 

Addiction is a human experience. But it's the things that make us human are also the things that allows us to overcome addiction. That frontal lobe of ours, that uniquely large and wrinkled part of our brain can overcome the fears caused by our old reptile brain. Our social groups can help us through the rough patches. We all have the ability. 

So, if anyone is reading this and my struggles sound familiar, then I hope you can realize that you are not at all alone, and that you are more powerful than your habits and your addictions. Don't be afraid to face the unknown and don't be afraid to reach out for help. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Holy Crap - It's Finally Spring!


Having grown up in the South and then moved to the North East, I have to admit I have never gotten used to winter. In the South winter doesn't even happen. Remember reading about the Four Seasons; winter, spring, summer and autumn? Those only ended up in our collective culture because back in the 19th Century, when the US was figuring out its national identity, people from New England, who thought old Europe was the height of all culture, wrote all the school books. In New England there are four seasons.

Four seasons; each with their own fun outfits.
In the American South there are maybe two which I call hellsummer and greyfall. In hellsummer the thermometer creeps up to the high 90s or low 100s, the air is so humid you can cut it with a knife, and then every evening a horrendous thunderstorm breaks for about an hour. Then after the temperature starts slowly building up again. Grayfall is just a dull sort of slumber, where the temperature routinely dips down to the high 30s before dawn, only to climb to the 50s by midday. It's neither fall nor winter. It's a dull, four or five month long slumber before hellsummer returns.*

New York City has three seasons; darkfrost, longsummer and greyfall. Darkfrost is a deep cold that overtakes the city for five or six months at a time, a period when the sun dies, clouds reign and blizzards terrorize. Longsummer is like hellsummer but less intense temperature-wise. Though it is just as intense humidity-wise. Greyfall actually comes after darkfrost and is just like grayfall in the South, only it slowly melts into longsummer. New York also has some anomalies that aren't quite protracted enough to be considered actual seasons. There exist about twenty total perfect days scattered through the calendar year. Generally they pop up at the beginning or end of longsummer, but sometimes perfect days can randomly appear in the middle of greyfall or darkfrost. Perfect days are the best. They are what all New Yorkers live for.

It's been really nice lately because even though greyfall is upon us, there have been a number of perfect days. I love perfect days. They're the days when you can throw on a dress, go out, explore and live. Oh my gosh you can live! Seriously, darkfrost leaves me feeling down and depressed; it's dark, you can't go outside without tons of layers, and often it hurts to be outside. But perfect days. Those are, in a word, perfect. I love them.

Easter Sunday was one such day. We met up with some friends who hosted a brunch and afterward found ourselves right near Central Park. We couldn't resist the temptation to go exploring. As you can see in the above picture, about 600,000 other people had the same thought; Sheep's Meadow was packed. It's not just me, you see. On days like this New York City comes alive; the streets and parks are full of so many people, it's like we all awoke from a deep slumber. All the girls put on their dresses to feel the gentle breezes and the warm sun on our legs. It's wonderful.





We had another perfect day last Friday. There was going to be a high of 80F, so I wore a dress to work with no tights. All winter long I wear tights which isn't terrible, but I really love having my legs bare. Walking to work, I spied other women who were also rocking dresses on the nice day and it gave me a warm little feeling. I was just another girl enjoying a dress on a perfect day.










One nice weekend recently, I threw on a dress and then decided to go biking. Since a bike helmet would probably just destroy a wig, I went with my own natural hair. It's really growing out quite a bit and hopefully within a couple more months I'll be able to have my real hair and then never worry about wigs again.


When I came back home, I realized my hair kind of gave me a flapper style look. So, I quickly put on my most flappery dress (a black one with some fringe) and took a couple flapper pictures. Because, of course you have to! There are a number of 1920s themed parties in NYC in the summer and maybe I'll need to go check one of those out. The warm weather definitely portends the coming of summer and this girl, for one, can't wait to get out and enjoy it. 


* Yes, I'm using Fahrenheit. That's not because I'm a terrible, uncultured American. I am well-aware of Celsius and I think Celsius is a terrible temperature system. Fahrenheit has the obvious flaw of having negative temperatures, but Celsius shares that flaw. So, really Kelvin is the better temperature system since 0 is absolute zero. Of course that would make room temperature 295, which would take some getting used to. Fahrenheit has one great benefit over K and C. It allows for a greater range of temperatures in the normal human range of experience. Now, if someone wants to go and invent Kelvinheit, where 0 is absolute zero and where you have a range of at least 100 degrees for normal human experience, then I'd be all for using it. Until then, I'm using Fahrenheit. And don't even get me started on how the Metric system lacks a convenient human-tool sized measurement. A spatula, a hammer, they're all about a foot. Because we experience things in that scale, it's handy size for a base unit.

Geez, I'm pretty opinionated, aren't I?

Friday, April 28, 2017

My Final Coming Out Hurdles


Honestly, I don't even like hurdles. Or any sport for that matter. And yet here they are. A couple gigantic hurdles directly in front of my path and looming ever closer. So what are these final coming out hurdles? My in-laws. My partner Kath's parents and her family. Thus far this is the trickiest of them all. Previously, I came out to my sister and then to my mom. Both of those went really well and I feel like in both cases the relationships got a little closer after that.

Of course I haven't come out to my dad and my extended family on their side. For the most part I've already distanced myself from them quite a bit. Generally, I never really clicked with my extended family. Growing up, I was kind of an oddball, and I felt less loved and more tolerated at best. As I grew older this chasm grew wider until the point that I was actually quite happy to have a chasm there. I haven't seen them in probably ten or twelve years and I haven't spoken to my dad in over a year.



For the most part they are ultra-conservative, crazy evangelical religious and I'm, well, neither of those things. My aunt, for instance, works for Focus on the Family and is a quiverfull (a crazy Christian fringe belief that encourages having as many children as humanly possible). All my cousins were home schooled, as was my half-brother, so that they could be spared from unholy things like facts. You know, facts about biology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, climate change, history, etc. They are young earth creationists, they believe all the Founding Fathers were Christian fundamentalists who tried to create the US as a Christian theocracy, and they believe that climate change is a communist hoax. I grew up being told that people of all other religions were worshiping Satan, up to and including Catholics. My family, in a word, is fucking crazy. I'm happy to have nothing to do with these garbage people.

A part of me has considered coming out to them, just in case one of the many, many kids on that side of the family turns out to be LGBTQ. Then at least they would know that there was someone else in the family. Then again, I haven't actually been to a family gathering in over a decade, so I doubt they really remember me anyway. That side of my family is just not important to me.



My inlaws and my partner Kath's family are another matter. I feel like they are closer to me than my own family. I've spent countless holidays and important family milestones with them, I see them multiple times a year and I like them. What's more, while they are Christian, they showed me that not all Christians are crazy, bigoted assholes. That's important. My inlaws have accepted me into their family and I don't want that to change. They're good people and I like my partner's family a lot, including her siblings and their partners. I don't want to mess up my relationship with any of them.

Also, I don't want to hurt their relationship with their daughter. I don't want them to think their daughter was tricked by someone who misled her. I don't want them to see her as somehow suffering through this unbearable gender transition or see her as some failed woman who can't manage to land a "real man." So, this is super nervewracking because I'm not just outing myself as transgender, I'm also outing her as dating a transgender woman.


Thus, I find in my path, a gigantic hurdle, far larger than any I've faced before. Even worse, the inlaws are planning to visit in May and we're planning to visit them in June! So there's a deadline to this. It's been hanging over my head and I'm so terrified. Kath has been gently nudging me to come out to them because of the upcoming visits. Yes, I'm scared senseless, but I've been here before and one thing I've noticed is that all the moments I've been nervous for; coming out at work, to family, have all gone well in the end.

So here I stand. I've drafted a letter. It's similar to my others and follows this outline:
  1. Your daughter is the most important thing in the world to me. 
  2. I very much treasure my relationship with you. You are closer to me than my even my own family. 
  3. I very much want our relationship to continue or grow. 
  4. This makes me nervous. 
  5. I’m transgender. Yep. I know it’s weird. 
  6. I’ve been this way my whole life. Transition is not an easy decision. 
  7. I love your daughter more than anything. I love our life together. I treasure every moment with her. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She’s smart, funny, silly, adventurous, responsible, caring and all around wonderful. 
  8. I hope you can accept me.
  9. You are very important to me and Kath is very important to me. 
  10. Love, Faith! 
It's typed write now and saved. Before I send it I'll write it out on some nice stationary. Last year I actually went out and bought nice stationary and envelopes specifically for my various coming out letters. This one may end of being the final coming out letter I ever write. It would make me super happy to be able to let them see me as who I really am and to still be able to be a part of their family. And then I could totally get some great Millennium Park pictures in Chicago this June. Fingers crossed. 

Maybes my last coming out. Let's hope it goes well. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Snow Days (Pics)



Life in NYC has it benefits.There's our beautiful skyline, a bajillion food options featuring the best of the world's cuisines, world-class museums, theatre and arts, a multitude of live music options that'll leave your ears ringing for days, lovely parks, history, new neighborhoods to explore, people who are accepting of weirdos like me. It's great to live here.

Except for one thing - the weather. NYC has the worst weather. It's cold and dark for half the year, it's scorched and humid for the other half and it rains constantly. We probably have around seven or eight perfect days each year. And of course those'll always happen on weekdays when you have important projects at work.

But, bad weather isn't all bad. Sometimes it can bring unexpected fun. That's right. The snow day. Snow days are great because you get up and suddenly don't have to go to work that day. And unlike a sick day you don't have that nagging Calvinist guilt about taking off (does everyone get that or is it just me?). It's usually too gross to go outside, you can't order in food, and you're basically just stuck in your house for a good ten or twelve long hours.

This year I ended up getting two surprise snow days. Because I'm me, my first thought was "Let's play around with makeup and get pictures!" Yes, that's what I did. Actually, the weekend before some friends of mine and I had gone thrifting all over the city and I'd found some great items like my new jean jacket and a perfect black A-line skirt from Theory. First thing, show those off for some nice pics!



Also picked up a new work skirt too. Because you can never have too many skirts. Then again, I actually have all my skirts doubled up on skirt hangers so maybe I do have too many. 



In my drawer, I had a pair of false eyelashes and though I didn't have anywhere to go, I thought it would be fun to try them out. Long, long ago I did fake eyelashes a lot more. But I lost interest after a few days pics' were completely ruined by me having applied one the lashes incorrectly. Luckily, this time I managed okay so I might try again some another time.






Also I thought it would be fun to try out one of my absolute favorite dresses. It's red, white and black chiffon and feels fantastic to wear. Unfortunately it's a little too dressy for work and it really only works in warm weather. But, I'm crazy, so I thought a snow day would be a fun time to try it out. So I did and also added in my Coach heels, which I also absolutely love, even though I can't quite wear them all day. Kath was nice enough to take some pics while I mugged for the camera.




When I attend the Spring Fever event at Callen-Lorde, I'm thinking of this outfit. Of course, that event is after work, so I'm not quite sure if I should wear this dress the whole day at work or try to change in the bathroom or what. No matter what I do, I'll definitely change into my heels outside the party so I can walk over in comfy shoes. 






Of course, Kath and I decided that, since we were looking pretty cute, we should make some Gender Rebels videos. We did and aren't quite sure what to do with them yet. Maybe a Patreon page goodie if we ever start a Patreon page. 





And of course because I'm crazy, we went out in a snow for a couple of pictures. And yes, I did this without a coat. Because, as I mentioned, I am crazy.



Then we later donned all our winter great because, while I am crazy, I'm not that crazy. 





Well, I hope you, my dear readers, don't mind this giant wall of photos. But I had a bunch and thought'd share. Hope you enjoyed them and don't worry, I'll post walls of text in the future too.