Friday, July 21, 2017

The First Time My Mom Got to Meet the Real Me

It's been a crazy July. Seriously. In general I'm an introvert, but somehow in the first 18 days of July we managed to have two blocks of five social days in a row. Literally, we did five straight days hanging out with people around the 4th of July and five straight days hanging out with people this past week. As an introvert, that is insanely exhausting. I do have fun around people, but being around people also stresses me out. I need me-time to destress and untie all my knots. 

But, of course, the big stress factor was that this super busy social time involved my mom and her husband staying with us and meeting Faith for the first time. As regular readers of this blog will know, I came out to my mom back in January. It went really well. Both her and her husband have been super supportive of their new surprise daughter. They've even been going to PFLAG meetings where they've learned a lot and met a number of LGBTQ people. My mom even friended me on Facebook.

So she's seen a lot of pictures. The first time she liked one of my pictures (this one), my heart smiled. It was so nice that my mom accepted me enough to like my photos on Facebook. It's a such a small thing, but it's weird, it really meant a lot to me. 

Since I came out, she's been talking about wanting to come visit us here in Brooklyn. So we planned something for July. At the time July seemed like so far in the future, but it was quickly upon us. I wanted to look perfect. That was part of the reason I had put so much emotional stake in my most recent haircut. As I've said before, I feel like the better I look, the more serious I think people take me as a woman. You know, I don't want to show up looking like a joke. This is my own insecurity. I understand that, but it's something I get anxious about before big moments. What bigger moment is there than your mom meeting the real you for the first time? 

Years ago, I remember looking at a dress catalogue. In it there was this picture of a striking young woman in a beautiful dress. And I looked at that and imagined being that striking young woman and maybe wearing a beautiful dress like that to meet my mom for lunch or something. This is another weird one, but I used to listen to "If it Makes You Happy" from Liz Phair's whitechocolatespaceegg (one of my favorite albums). In it, Liz is talking to her mother about her new guy and in the chorus her mother responds "Listen here young lady / All that matter is what makes you happy." I have no idea why, but somehow that lyric always stuck with me. My mom had never called me "young lady." Maybe one day. Hopefully not in a scolding way though, even though that really is a term used only in scolding.

This meeting was going to be years in the making. I wanted it to go well. I wanted my mom to treat me like her daughter. So I bought a brand new wig and thought hard about what to wear. It had to be feminine, but also casual. 

They were arriving on Saturday morning. She'd let me know that they'd be around at 11ish. So, Kath and I got up early and, since we had some time, went out to get an early breakfast. At around 9:30am, we were sitting eating when I got a text that said "Flight got in early. We're in a car on the way over." Shit. I was in lazy mode and I did not want my mom to meet Faith for the first time in lazy mode. So I hightailed it home and started rushing through my makeup and prep. Inwardly I laughed, this was the first time I've ever rushed to put ON makeup because my mom was about to show up.

Well, luckily I got ready in time. I'm getting pretty quick with my makeup these days and can slap on a pretty good look in fifteen minutes or so. They showed up and it was great. At first we just talked and they were great; referring to me with those beloved female pronouns. 

The first day we decided to explore Brooklyn a little bit. Then we'd walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to see the 9/11 Memorial and some other parts of Lower Manhattan. I'd given Kathleen a secret mission; to get as many photographs as possible. But, unfortunately, we only ended up pausing a couple times to get pictures. The first spot was on the Brooklyn Bridge. And the second was down in DUMBO, where we explored on our second day. 

I'm okay with just a few photos. Not everyone enjoys taking pictures quite as much as I do. I can't help it. See, I'm making up for lost time. In my heart though, I know that memories are better than photographs. Pictures can never truly capture a beautiful vista or a wonderful moment. At best they can provide a memory aid. And I think on this weekend we made lots of memories.

It felt wonderful to just be out with my mom. It's so funny because while I feel totally normal as Faith (It's me. It's who I am and always have been), I still got all these weird moments where I thought "I'm wearing a dress and makeup around my mom! I'm out as a girl having lunch with my mom!" The same thing happened when I met Kath's parents; these little flashes of This Is Real! 

On the second day, we actually talked about the transgender subject. It's funny because I feel like people would love to leap right into that question but they also want to appear super cool and accepting. Still, it's a huge subject so it had to come up at some point. We had a really good discussion. I told them about how I felt growing up, like there was an itch that I couldn't scratch, that I knew something was wrong but I didn't have the language, heck society barely had the language, to talk about it. They told us about all transgender people they've met at PFLAG and how their stories sounded so similar to mine. It was really great to talk about it with them. And I am insanely thankful that they are so supportive.

Seriously I want to have them on an episode of Gender Rebels to talk about being a parent of a grown up trans kid. I almost blurted it out but I chose to keep cool for now. We didn't have time to record anyway. Maybe one day we'll have that episode. I think it would be fun and informative.

Speaking of fun, we even got to bash my dad a bit. I've told Kath about my dad but she's only met him once. So it's fun to have someone around to tell stories about his hoarding, his shitty behavior, his know-it-all attitude, and how terrible his attitudes are for his new family. I told my mom and her husband that I really didn't want my dad in my life and thus didn't really want to come out to him. But, they did explain that with my sister's kids it does create a sort of awkward situation about when to use boy name and when to use girl name. So, we'll see. Maybe I'll come out to him. I don't know. I did give them permission to refer to me as Faith, but the coming out should really be from me. Ah well, I don't have to make a decision today.

It was really amazing to get to meet my mom as the real me. But as I write this, nearly a week later, I'm still fairly exhausted. Thankfully this weekend I have nothing to do but relax and un-tie all my knots. I'm looking forward to it. And I'm also looking forward to getting closer with my family now that I no longer have to hide who I am. We already discussed a visit down to Atlanta in March where my sister and family can meet Faith too. 

And now I've gotta get some more goodies ready to be sent out to some of our new Patreon supporters.

I know a few people remember my old YouTube channel, well, I'm doing a Patreon because I want to get some new lighting equipment and camera bits to start filming some really professional looking YouTube videos. There are two channels in the works; Gender Rebels TV, which is going to be like the podcast but with pictures! Great for visual things like makeup. The other channel is going to be my person, which will be Transjedi where I discuss all things Star Wars from a transgender woman's perspective. If you can support, that will help us make some really awesome free content. Plus you get goodies.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Curb Stomped in My Soul

As summer of 2017 approached, I greeted it with wild optimism. And not without reason. Not only had my drinking been tamed, I had started going to the gym and my hair was so long that it was starting to brush my shoulders. I finally finished editing my new book and submitted it to some LGBT publishers. My weight was down and my hopes were up. June went so well with Chicago and coming out to my in-laws. Then July came and it sucker punched me hard, destroyed my optimism and left me feeling awful, depressed and curb stomped in my soul.

This is basically my own fault for setting my expectations too high. It started with a bikini. I've been losing a lot of weight. I'm down like 20lbs from my peak weight a couple years ago. That's been making me feel good. Right now I'm at my 1.75 years on HRT and the effects are starting to show more and more. So I went and bought a bikini. It was black, stringy, and cute. I was skinnier, curvier and I wanted to rock a bikini. I felt like I was ready.

I actually took Monday off work so that Kath and I could hit the beach on a non-busy day. Previously, Kath had been on a weekday and reported back that the beach was nearly deserted. Deserted was good. That meant that I could go in a bikini and not feel too self-conscious that I wasn't, like, Bond Girl levels of hot. I was super excited. I was gonna be a real girl in a bikini on the beach! No more of this tankini cheating like last time.

I showed off my new bikini for Kath to gauge her opinion. Excited though I was, I wasn't 100% sure that I could really pull it off. This began a long period of vacillation. Could I really pull off the bikini? Would it be better to save it for when I lost a few more pounds? I still have, for lack of a better word, a little bit of a gut. Not a huge one, mind you, but a little bit. 

Ultimately, I decided that I wasn't quite there yet. I wasn't going to be a beach babe. Not yet. So I went with the safe option even though it really bugged me to do that. So now my life has become like a Cathy cartoon. Bathing suits have become a source of stress and my own body issues are leaving me seriously depressed. After every meal I now feel guilty about having eaten. Even though I know I've been doing better, even though I know that I'm better now than I was even three months ago, even though I know that transition is a marathon and not a sprint, I'm still left feeling frustrated, insanely frustrated by how I look. 

Still, I went to the beach. And I realized, based on a number of people there, that I probably would have been okay if I had gone with the bikini. Ah well. There was one good thing though. This was not the same tankini that I wore the last time at the beach. At least this one was a size smaller. So there's that at least. 


While I did go in the water, because I was wearing a wig, I wasn't able to fully dunk my head under. It was okay. My hair still got wet though. And after the salt water and the insanely strong beach winds (it was so windy I could barely read my book without the pages flapping crazily), my hair was pretty darn wrecked. That's just how it is with wigs. At least with my wigs. They get fucking wrecked. 

After the beach day, I still had to wear that same wig to work. Sure, I had thought about getting a new one, but I didn't want to. I didn't want to because I had a made a hair salon appointment for Thursday night. The plan was that I would go in Thursday after work and maybe, fingers crossed, be done with wigs forever! 

This was my major mistake. Not the haircut, but rather letting myself think that I could be done with wigs forever. My hair is actually getting pretty long. It's almost down to my shoulders. Plus my hair has a really nice natural, wavy curls. My hairline is still an issue. Despite a year and half of finesteride, it hasn't really gotten better. This has been my hugest stumbling block and the thing that has caused me the most stress, frustration and depression during my transition. Other people have normal hairlines. Why does my hairline have to look so fucking awful?

But, I figured that maybe bangs could be my salvation. Maybe with bangs I could hide my hairline and still look cute. There'd be no more wigs. There'd be no more getting read as male when I was in lazy mode. This was going to be the thing that took my transition to the next level, that made it real. Finally I'd be a real person and not someone playing dress up. Bangs. This was the answer.

So many girls with bangs look fantastic. So I went into my hair dresser and presented her with a challenge. Give me some bangs that will hide my hairline and make me look cute. I'd searched the internet for cute, short haircuts with bangs and tried to find ones that sort of matched my hair's natural waviness. I printed out the pictures and gave my hair dresser a vision board. This was what I wanted. Make me look like this and then I could be a real girl. Finally. Please.

She spent two hours cutting my hair, doing a few styling things, adding various products. I have no doubt that she is a seriously skilled hair stylist. I have no doubt of that. But even the best artist can't work without a good canvas. And apparently, my hair was not the right canvas. When we finished, all the other hair dressers were gushing and saying things like "Oh it looks so good."

It did not look good. I was pissed. It looked horrible. It looked like a 70s bowl cut. But what can you do? I tried to smile and be positive. At least until I'd paid. A hundred bucks, including tip. And I came out looking like this:

Yes, I look pissed in that picture. Kath had texted to ask how it went. Well, it went badly. I looked terrible. Instead of cute bangs, I just had a bunch of hair brushed forward because that was the only way to hide my awful, awful, awful, hideous hairline. So I looked bad. Terrible. All my hopes were dashed into a million little defeated shards. 

I went home and tried to be positive. I futzed around with it. Pulling it back in a pony tail sort of looked okay. At least it looked better. It gave me a sort of weird looking chelsea cut, which is at least better that than a 70s bowl cut. I tried to be happy. I tried to be positive. I tried to chalk it up to how every haircut looks weird at first. But this wasn't just any haircut. This was the haircut that was supposed to free me from wigs forever. This was the haircut that was going to transform my life. This is the haircut that was going to make me normal. 

What's worse is that my mom is coming this weekend. She's staying with us. This is the first time she's meeting Faith. Already I've been stressing over this. There's so much to do before hand, so much cleaning, so much self-maintenance (my nails look like crap too). It's been a serious source of stress. The past couple weeks I've been preoccupied, busy and on edge. And now this. 

This morning I woke up, got ready, and tried to play with my hair, tried to do something, anything to make it look okay. Maybe I could look decent enough to show up at work with my real hair instead of a wig. The last thing I wanted to do was throw on a wig and go back into that prison. But it was no luck. I ended up breaking down in tears. I just couldn't handle it. 

Already I'm the freak at work. Looking my best is the only way to reduce my freakishness. I realized that there was no choice. I couldn't show up at work, I couldn't meet my mom looking like this. I still want to cry as I write this. Who knew transition would be this hard? So, I'm left realizing that I have to do the wigs again. I have to be fake. I have to deal with wigs getting ratty and nasty. I have to deal with them being hot and uncomfortable. That's my life for the foreseeable future. And the worst part is, this is all my own fault for getting my own hopes up too high.

Guess I'll throw the wig back on for now. Sigh.

Well, I guess surgery is my only option. I have to fix this hairline. It's destroying me. I don't know how much longer I can take this. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spironolactone- A Simple Solution to Most of Society's Problems

There are a lot of problems in this world [citation needed] and there have been quite a lot of proposed solutions, a lot of solutions tried, but thus far none have worked. Doing unto others, five years plans, anarcho-syndicalist communes, religion - they've all been tried but not have succeeded. Even the current US government's plan of starving the poor to make the super rich even richer might not succeed in solving our problems.

So what do we do then? Give up? Pack it in, pump our brains full of happy drugs and merrily await the total collapse of global society? While I know we're all kind of tempted to peruse a course of action like that, I for one refuse to sit idly by while the world falls apart. As it turns out that being a transgender woman has actually given me some unique insight into how to fix most of our problems. I've come up with a simple solution. This:

Specifically, we need to put spironolactone in the drinking water. Taking this simple step will actually help solve quite a few of the world's problems. Think about it. What does spiro do? It blocks testosterone. Testosterone is a chemical that is known to cause aggression, male sexual urges, higher risk taking behaviors, and competitiveness.  

Aggression, male sexual urges, higher risk taking behaviors and competitiveness. Think about that. Aggression leads to assault, fighting, even murder and war. Taking more risks leads to early death or to injuries that drive up health care costs for everyone. Male sexual urges can lead to sexual assaults, unwanted pregnancies and even overpopulation. Many of our current problems stem directly from competitiveness. Testosterone makes men unwilling to share resources or to accept compromise. In fact, things like sharing and compromise are often portrayed as weak. 

And what does taking spiro do? It causes erectile dysfunction, destroys sperm count and reduces aggression. It gets rid of all of testosterone's effects. Putting it in the water supply will help solve the following major issues that America, and the world, is currently facing: 
  • War
  • Crime
  • Abortion/Unwanted Pregnancy
  • Overpopulation
  • Uneven Distribution of Resources
  • Poverty
  • Political Gridlock 
Reducing aggression will help end a great number of violent crimes. Sure, it wouldn't get rid of all crime, but it would eliminate the crimes that most endanger people. Our criminal justice system wouldn't be so overworked or clogged with cases.

Reducing fertility would help end over population. Plus spiro's lowering of sperm counts would completely prevent unwanted pregnancies. You want to get rid of abortion? Put spiro in the water and, in a few months, the number of abortions would drop to zero.

With the population reduced and with competitiveness greatly decreased, equal distribution of resources will finally be a reality. Income inequality and poverty will be finally be solved. The social unrest caused by unfair treatment of the working classes will also be alleviated. Cooperation can finally replace competition in politics, in international relations, and even in the office. Utopia, here we come.

So, while things look bleak now, it's at least good to know that a solution to all these myriad problems does exist. All we have to do now is write to our representatives, write to the United Nations, and get them to start putting spiro in all the drinking water. And if they say no, we'll just have to do it ourselves. I'll go to my doctor and see if she'll give me a prescription that allows for 60 billion or so refills. Which way to the reservoir?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Become a Patreon Supporter!

Check out my Patreon page here and get some cool stuff!

As many of you know, I've had the podcast Gender Rebels for the past year. We've got 52 episodes all ready and more on the way! Our first year was amazing. It went better than we ever could have expected. The reactions we've gotten from listeners have been the best: funny, insightful, moving, and inspiring. We love you guys! We love you girls! We love you boths! We love you neithers!

And we want to take The Gender Rebels to the next level! Supporting us on Patreon will get you cool stuff! It'll also help us make the show even better! We're looking to upgrade our recording equipment and studio (our apartment does not have the best acoustics). I'm also looking to jump back into YouTube, which means - yikes - more equipment: lighting, camera components, and software. 
We're striving to make The Gender Rebels better so you can get better content every week!
This has been a huge journey and we could never have done this without you. We hope you'll come with us on this new adventure! 

Check it out!

Friday, June 30, 2017

NYC Pride Parade 2017

There are only two holidays that I celebrate with any real enthusiasm. Those are Halloween and Pride. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Flag Day, Arbor Day, Martinmas, Talk Like a Pirate Day. They can take a hike. I'm just not into them. Pride is particularly meaningful for me because of my past.

Growing up I hid who I was wasn't always easy. Whether it was homophobic rants from my dad about how all gays were perverts, or "faggot" being the go to insult in junior high and high school, or every preacher who denounced the sin of homosexuality and said that gay people were condemned to hell. Maybe it was the politicians, serious politicians, who called for the death penalty for gay people. Hiding seemed a good strategy, especially considering that I didn't really even know if I was gay.

It's hard growing up LGBT. A lot of us grew up like I did. We knew something wasn't right. We knew we were different. But often we didn't have the vocabulary or the road map to help us understand. There were no instructions. We were alone and we were confused. And we worried that if we talked about it to anyone we would be rejected; unloved, unwanted and maybe even unsafe.

During my own early life I didn't dare ever speak to anyone about what I felt inside. I didn't really even know how to articulate what I was feeling. I knew I was attracted to girls, so that meant I wasn't gay. Yet I wanted nothing in the world but to be a girl. So was I gay? I didn't know. Maybe I was? I was something a lot like gay I guess? Either way every message I heard was how gay people were sinful, evil perverts who deserved death and endless torture in hell. In that situation I didn't dare speak about how the confusion I was feeling.

Recently, I've been binge watching Supergirl on Netflix. Last night I just got to the story arc where one of the main characters comes out as gay. What I really loved about this, what it really did right, was show a character who was confused. So often coming out is pictured as someone who absolutely knows they're gay, but for many of us (me included), coming out is a long, slow process that starts with confusion and then proceeds to only more confusion. I loved this Supergirl story. I was home alone watching it and bawling my eyes out.

But, now I'm out. And Pride is a celebration of being out and accepting who we are. It's important. I spent my whole life being told that I deserved to die simply because of who I am. And now, because of the long and complicated journey I've taken I can go to Pride and celebrate who I am. I can say to the world "this is me and I'm not ashamed and I'm not afraid." And I can do that with my partner at my side.

This year again, we marched with the Governor's contingent. We had a backup group though, because we're smart like that. There's something I like about being me while marching with a prominent state leader. It's like I'm really being taken seriously, you know. This is my real identity and it's accepted by the State of New York. It's a good confirmation that makes me feel welcomed. I love that I can live in a place that values who I am and has passed numerous laws protecting my rights.

This year, I was excited that I finally got to wear my Rebel Alliance rainbow flag shirt! I'd ordered it for last year's pride but unfortunately it didn't come in time. This year I got quite a few compliments on the shirt. Now I think I need to get another in transgender colors. That'll probably have to be a custom job though.

One of the nice things about marching with the New York State contingent is that it's like the third float. So you get started super early. We began marching at like 12:05pm The march, a mile down Manhattan from 34th down to the Village is always fun. It's beautiful to see how many people come out to celebrate.

We met one transgender man who was so excited because this was his first time going out in public without a shirt. And that's the amazing thing about pride. It's just a place without judgement where you can be who you are. That's a beautiful thing and it's always worth celebrating.

It was especially meaningful for me this year. This is my first year full time and the year where I cam out to so many people. There was a lot to celebrate. I waved my transgender flag proudly. And I loved, loved, loved that my partner Kath was right there with me. This was our first time marching in the parade together. There's something so nice about being able to wave a transgender pride flag while marching with your partner. That's a good moment.

As the parade wound its way through the Village, I pulled out my phone to take a photo Stonewall. It's an icon. It's the birthplace of the LGBT rights movement. Trying to take a photo though, proved slightly problematic. My phone only had a black screen all the sudden. What was that? Oh, that's a phone call. I get so few I'd actually forgotten what getting a phone call looked like. It was my dad. Who I'm still not out to.

Why? Because I don't really have a relationship with him nor do I particularly want one. He's an evangelical nutjob Trump supporter who gets all his info on life from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. He's got a PhD yet denies anthropogenic climate change. He's a young earth creationist. I grew up listening to his rants about how horrible gay people were. I haven't spoken to him in over a year. I'm good.

But, a small part of me wanted to answer. Just so I could say "Hi dad, I am currently marching with Governor Cuomo in the New York City gay pride parade. And I'm actually standing in front of Stonewall Inn, birthplace of the LGBT rights movement. Because I'm a transgender woman and a lesbian to boot." It would have made a good story. Maybe I should have lied about it. Ah well.

After the march we were exhausted. There's something in particular about being in the sun that just exhausts me silly. Even though it was only a one mile walk, we were beat! It was like two o'clock and we were done! There were actually a few friends we wanted to meet up with, but after the march the last thing we wanted to do was fight our way through super dense crowds.

Instead we walked south and found Ear Inn, an old favorite haunt of mine. As I tweeted at the time "We're here, we're queer, it's hot and we need beer."

Next year, I think I'll skip marching. Sure, it's fun to actually be in the parade, but you miss so much stuff. It turns out Chelsea Manning was on the ACLU float, which was right in front of the New York State contingent! But we didn't see her because we were marching. Plus we missed the Broad City float too! Next year, I think it'll be more fun to go as an observer and enjoy the parade and party with some good friends. I'm sure there will be lots more to celebrate next year. 

Also here's a bonus! Kath is super good at Where's-Waldo'ing us in crowd shots. The fact that we were the only people in the group waving transgender pride flags made it fairly easy to spot us. Here's a few pics of us that Kath found on ABC 7's coverage of the parade. Plus one we found on the governor's flicker, where you can see our trans flags waving. 

Happy pride month, everyone!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Chicago Trip: Coming Out to My Partner's Family

Last week I came out to my partner Kath's parents. And her siblings. And their partners. And their kids. And her cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, family friends and phew, I think that's about it. First I came out via a letter to Kath's parents and then we followed that up with emails to everyone else. This was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. 

For weeks, maybe for months, leading up to this Kath had been gently nudging me to take the step of coming out to her family. Over time I guess it became a little more like roughly nudging me. It made total sense to come out. This is who I am. It's on my ID. It's on my passport. I don't actually have boy clothes anymore. We see them two or three times a year and it's become pretty difficult to keep hiding my transition. Plus, keeping the secret sort of means lying to people we care about. So coming out makes total sense right? 

In this past year I've come out to co-workers and to my own family. So why is this step so much harder than those? Well, it's because I'm not only coming out transgender but I'm also outing my partner as someone who dates a transgender person. I worry that Kath's family will see her as a failure because she can't land a "real man" or as someone who was tricked by a partner who betrayed her. I've always been a weirdo, but now I'm outing my partner as a weirdo too. It's different. It's difficult. 

Sure, Kath would be the first to tell me that she's also been a weirdo her life too, but it's such a weight to have to make a decision that will potentially ruin someone's relationship with their family. My own relationship with my family isn't great, so coming out to them didn't really risk too much for me emotionally. Sure, I wouldn't enjoy getting a mean response even from someone whose opinion I don't value, but I wouldn't be heart broken over it either. 

I would be heart broken if Kath's parents reacted badly though. In the past few years I've gotten closer to them. In fact I may be closer to Kath's parents than I am to my own parents. The idea of losing that relationship scares me quite a bit. And the idea that Kath could lose her relationship with her family scares me even more. So, to sum that all up - I was nervous. 

Pictured: Me being nervous. 
Kath's family is Catholic and they are fairly devout in their beliefs. Having grown up in an insane evangelical family, any time I have to come out to a religious person it makes my nervousness increase even more. The fact that we had a trip to Chicago where we were going to attend a big family event only increased my nervousness. It was at peak levels! Not only was I coming out, they were going to be meeting Faith in a couple weeks. Yikes!

Well, I drafted my usual letter for Kath's parents. I made sure to let them know that my transgender identity was a longtime thing, that it was serious, and that I loved their daughter and would always put her first. And their response was as good as we could have hoped. Yes, there was some stuff in there about Jesus, but mostly it was positive and supportive. Of course their first concern was about their daughter and that's to be expected. Thankfully I had a good supportive spouse in my corner who was able to reassure them that she was happy. 

With that major step taken, our next step was to send out an email to all of Kath's extended family. She actually drafted the email and it was really well written. She outlined the situation, explained everything really well and emphasized that we both loved each other and hoped they would accept the new me. We got some immediate responses. And they were all, 100% super duper supportive: 
  • Looking forward to meeting Faith! 
  • I love you and support you no matter what 
  • I promise not to be weird with Faith.
  • I'm happy you're both brave enough to be honest so meeting up with you both can be smooth. I'm happy to be seeing you soon!
  • Please don't stress out about reactions from family!!! And yes, I will let my kids know... worries!
  • I am not the person to be judging somebody or to say what's right or wrong for anybody other than myself. If both of you are happy, then I am happy for you.
So, that was good. Yet my nervousness didn't abate as we headed toward our Chicago trip. This was going to be a big trip. There was so much to plan and prepare for. 

Most important for me was having a brand new beautiful wig. My own hair is growing. It's still growing. It's getting there. But it's not there yet. So I bought a brand new wig that I think looked pretty good. Seriously, I'll often save a brand new wig for when I have a big day coming up. I like to look my best. And, the truth is the better I look the more I pass. And the more I pass, the more seriously people will take me. That's not right. That's not fair. But that's the way the world works.

On the day of the tip, I set out to look my absolute best while also trying to look as casual as possible. It's like getting ready at the expert level. I think I did okay. We took a train to another train to yet one more train (JFK is kinda hard to get to) and then a plane to Chicago where the family was going to meet their new daughter-in-law for the very first time.

The folks were going to be picking us up from the airport. When they arrived it was like they'd had me as their daughter-in-law for years. There were "she's" and "her's" and "Faith's" all around. The drive back to the house was really no big deal. We talked about the flight mostly and I feel like they went out of their way to act as normal as possible.

This is something I've noticed a lot with coming out to people. They will often go out of their way to act like it's no big deal. Everyone wants to be cool as Fonzie and no one wants to admit that a situation weirds them out. People try to act as unfazed as possible even if they are fazed as heck on the inside. Sometimes I swear I can see it in their eyes - they are longing to ask every question in the book but don't want to be that person. They want to be the cool, accepting person. I get it.

A good moment came when Kath's dad and I were sitting around hanging out. Her dad has this huge interest in model trains and in fact he has a whole area of the basement (i.e. most of the basement) dedicated to his trains. He read train magazines, goes to train meetups and you get it. He's really into trains. 

Now, I should admit, there is something I like about model railroads. I think it's because I always enjoyed models. My favorite parts of museums were often the meticulous model dioramas of farms or villages. Growing up Star Wars obsessed, I wanted to be a model maker when I grew up. So I'd build meticulous models, load them with fireworks and take videos of them blowing up. I wish I still had photos of the insanely detailed 8" x 10" HO scale Mos Eisley spaceport I made in high school. Yes, I was a weird kid. And yes, I totally get the appeal of model trains. 

From the first time Kath's dad met me and discovered this, spending time with him has usually involved hearing stories about model railroads, looking at photos or looking at his new builds. I think he just loves finally having someone around who appreciates it, not as much as he does, but still appreciates it. 

So the first evening, after dinner, we're sitting around chatting and he pipes up with, "Hey Faith, do you still like trains?" Yes, I explained. My transition hasn't changed my personality. I'm still the same person I always was. In fact I may even be more that person than I ever was before because now I'm not hiding a major part of who I am. And yes, I still like trains. 

That was, I think, a major moment in his acceptance of me. He was instantly back to his usual self and pulled out a new magazine to show me pictures. Things could be normal, just like they were before, but with me as a girl now.

Now, every time I walked out of the room, Kath did get bombarded with a few questions. None of them were rude questions, but they were curious. What bathroom does Faith use? Does she go to work as a girl? Things like that. Kath answered with the skill, diplomacy and humor of someone who's done 51 podcast episodes on these topics. There were a handful of gender or name screw ups, but they were accidental so I wasn't really bothered by them.

Best of all though, I was included in all the party prep. Traditionally, it seems like women end up being the ones who cook and clean and help with all these huge family events. And it was seriously nice when I was included too. Granted, I don't enjoy food prep that much, especially when I'm not the one cooking, but I do like being included in the traditional female roles. Even if they are domestic.

Seriouisly, though Mid-Westerners, once you add marshmallows to something you can no longer call it a "salad." Sorry, but there have to be some rules in a civilized society.

While we were in Chicago we stayed with Kath's parents and that created some of its own difficulties. Travelling and staying with other people present some interesting challenges for me. The first thing I do when I wake up is hit the bathroom to do my makeup. I don't like people seeing me without makeup or hair. Sure, it'd be more comfortable, but again, it's about acceptance. If people saw me fail to present 100% female, then I worry that they might not accept me as being "real" or serious about my transition. I want to be fully accepted. The big event, a baby baptism followed by a huge family party, was on Sunday. And I definitely wanted to be accepted and taken seriously by everyone.

First, we went to church. Religion in general tends to make me weary, but honestly, the baptism wasn't too bad. For one thing it was good and short (Catholics tend to be much better about time-management than the protestants I grew up with). But best of all, I don't think anyone really noticed anything out of the ordinary. Seriously, I didn't get any weird looks or anything. The family members I met at church were all cool as cucumbers and none of the other parishioners even seemed to notice me. Chances are they were more focused on their own babies than on me. That's the way I like things. 

The party itself was at my sister-in-law's house, which was huge. It still amazes me how non-New Yorkers live. What do they do with all that space?! Well, the home was seriously beautiful. It was large and despite being large it was full of people. There were parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, family friends, neighbors; all manner of kith and kin. Even though everyone was super nice, it was, in a word, overwhelming. 

Social situations are already overwhelming for me. I'm a serious introvert. Even at parties with my own friends I need regular breaks. Being around too many people for too long stresses me the hell out. Now imagine having introvert stress on top of the whole coming out transgender to a room full of people and you'll totally understand why I took many, many, many breaks from the proceedings. 

Thankfully there was a back yard and a bathroom and some other areas where I could sneak away for a little bit. Throughout the whole seven or eight hours of the party, Kath was awesome. She stood by my side even when I needed to retreat and helped me deal with all the stress. Isn't it amazing that even when people are super nice it can still be crazy stressful? That's life.

I mean it when I say that everyone was super nice. People were. And Kath and I even managed to have an impromptu live Gender Rebels when some of the family literally cornered us in a room and started asking questions. It really wasn't that bad though. Sometimes it's nice when people aren't acting all super cool as a cucumber and actually express their curiosity. I've heard every question a hundred times by now so I'm able to answer and be informative. Plus they didn't ask anything offensive or inappropriate. Even the kids were totally cool (which of requires cool parents who educate them).

All in all the party and the trip and the coming out went really, really well. They went as well as I ever could have hoped. Seriously, the only way it could have gone better is if they had handed us a gigantic check or gifted us a brownstone in Brooklyn or a giant 50 gallon drum of Haribo Saure Pommes, the finest candy known to humanity. 

Seriously. The best. And only available in Germany.
After everything, it actually took me a while to process things. It's been about two weeks and I still feel like I've barely had a chance to process this. It's a new thing. It changes everything. My brain has so many new neural connections to establish. It makes sense that it's been taking time. 

But overall, I'm happy that I'm out. And Kath is happy that I'm out. And that's great. Best of all, I'm out out. I'm done with coming out to everyone who matters to me. The last remnants of the old gender have been swept away. It's a good feeling. When family people visit I no longer have to duck back into boy presentation. I no longer have to hide my life and all that comes with it every single time people come to town. And that is seriously wonderful.  

Transition takes time. That's what every has always told me. Until you do it yourself though, it's hard to understand the glacial pace it seems to take. Right now I'm over a year and half in and I feel like I've barely started. But coming out to everyone, being out to everyone, feels good. I'm me. Just me. It's like a weight is off my shoulders and I look forward this new era of my transition. 

You can also check out the podcast we made about this topic. It's actually the 50th episode of The Gender Rebels!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Chicago Trip: Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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