Friday, August 25, 2017

The Final Coming Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi Dad, 

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

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

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



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

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

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

Pictured: A former Boy Scout.

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Faith DaBrooke and the Blazer of Destiny

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

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

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

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

I save that for church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Literary Ambitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Business Goth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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