Friday, November 17, 2017

One Whole Year Full Time!

Today marks the one year anniversary of my first day living full time. That's right, it's been a year! One whole orbit around the sun. So, on this auspicious occasion, I thought it would be fun to look back at this first year. It's been tough, it's been frustrating at times, it's brought me to my emotional breaking point, but it's also been wonderful and amazing. 

Back this time last year I came out at work. It's nice that work is now fairly mundane. And so many new people have started who only know me as Faith. That's made me feel a lot better. In the past year I've noticed that my female coworkers are all much more friendly toward me, while many of my male coworkers are way more standoffish. Yes, there have been a least a couple occasions when I broke down crying at work, but for the most part it's been good and mundane, the way work always is.

Though, I've got to say, I'm much, much happier not having to wear guys' clothes. I hated male clothes. It always felt like they never fit and I couldn't possibly look good in them. I especially hated guys' shoes. So in general I'd wear my shoes until they literally fell apart because I hated shopping for shoes so much. Now my closet is nothing but girls' clothes and it's so much nicer!

In November of last year I also reached my first year on HRT. Back in the day, the very idea of being on HRT was something I thought I would never achieve. But I made it a year! Now I'm actually on my second year and I'm loving the effects. They really do take a while to start working, but now with two years of HRT, the effects can definitely be seen. The idea of ever going back grosses me out. I like my new body, especially the lack of body hair! And the other effects are nice too. 

This year, I came out to my partner's Kath's parents and her whole family. We took a trip to Chicago and I attended a huge family function. It was stressful, but everyone was amazingly nice and super accepting. It was such a great trip.

Also I came out to my own parents! Granted, I'm not as close to them as I am to Kath's folks, but it's still nice to not have to hide who I am around them. My mom and her husband were also super supportive. And my dad was...well, he didn't react that badly. I got a one sentence response from him and haven't heard back since. That works for me.

Back in January, I got political in DC at the women's march (though I wish I didn't have to). There's enough politics on the rest of the internet, so I'll avoid talking about it too much, but it was a fun trip to DC and it was great to know that I wasn't the only one crying on that morning in November 2016.

Back in March I had a serious health scare that landed me in the ER, worried that I was dying of a heart attack. Turns out I just have a genetic issue with my heart that isn't life threatening. So that's good to know. But, sitting on that bed in the ER, thinking I was going to die any minute, I realized that I needed to get certain things in order. 

So I started working out, which I've managed to keep up for eight months now. And most importantly, I got my drinking under control. Both things have improved my life greatly. I sleep better, I no longer deal with frequent hangovers, and most fun of all, I've lost a good amount of weight. It was enough weight loss that I went down two dress sizes, sadly rendering half my closet unwearable. But that does mean I get to buy more clothes, so that's fun. 

My goal weight is in sight, though I have found myself slipping back from time to time. But I think this is a journey, and even if I have a lazy lapse or two, I'm still way better off than where I was even eight months ago. I haven't earned my bandage dress yet, but I did pick up this nice black one at the Guess store, because c'mon, how could I not? Plus it was on clearance. 

The biggest thing about my first year full time is realizing how normal being a girl is. When I was part time, I remember the deepest sting I felt was when, after a weekend dressed up, I would have to take off my clothes, wash off the makeup, and look into the mirror at a guy. In an instant the spell was broken. I was no longer a woman, but just another boring guy. It would break my heart to have to go back. But now there is no going back. My heart, heavy though it may be at times, remains steadfastly unbroken. This is me. This is who I am now. And I love it.

We'll see what year two brings. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Deutschland- Tag Drei (Germany Day Three)

Here's a fun fact about me (hashtag #FaithFacts): I do not like eggs. They are gross and smell like farts. Also I don't like cake. I mean, I have a sweet tooth for gummi candy, but I don't like cake. It's just bread and butter only sweet. So I have long hated breakfast. I mean, most breakfast in the United States consists of eggs or cake. Gross. But, in Deutschland, breakfast, aka Frühstück, consists entirely of meat, cheese, bread and mustard. Now that is a meal I can get behind!  

We started pretty much all our days by heading downstairs to the hotel lobby to have breakfast. This presents a weird, tricky thing for me. In situations like these, do I get entirely dressed, do my makeup and all that, then go down to eat? Or do I just wear whatever, then get ready after breakfast? On this trip, I found that for the first half I would get ready first, but I got lazier as the trip went on.

On day three I still had the energy to get up and get ready before breakfast.
I even managed to get ready before Kathleen. 
And can you believe that eating that breakfast every morning, followed by lots of Haribo and beir throughout the day, I still somehow lost weight on my trip to Berlin? I think it must have been all the walking. We did a lot of walking, exploring different neighborhoods. For our third day though, we thought we could go further afield by renting bikes from the hotel.

Our third day was a Sunday, so unfortunately almost everything was closed. So, instead of further shopping,  we headed north west to find to Mauerpark. It's a large, open grassy area and is quite popular on Sundays.

There was a flea market, multiple musicians, and even an escape artist. People were hanging out with picnics or beers. It felt more like Brooklyn than Brooklyn actually does. That left Kath and I trying to debate why Berlin seemed to be cooler than New York. Ultimately I think, much of what is cool in New York City is really about being cooler than other people. And money. But we totally didn't get that vibe in Berlin at all. It just seemed more relaxed, like people had less to prove and were just having a good time.

After Mauerpark we biked west with no real destination in mind. Soon we found the the Berlin Wall museum and decided to stop. It's a rather interesting museum that is dedicated to telling the human stories that the wall impacted. Also, they have a small intact section of the wall, though without the nasty traps, dogs or motion sensor activated machine guns.

After the Wall Museum, we just explored East Berlin fairly randomly. It's what I really love doing and Berlin is such a great city for it. There are protected bike lanes everywhere and while there are some areas with high automotive traffic, everyone is respectful to bicyclists. 

While out exploring on our bikes, we did happen across this amazing piece of East German architecture from the Sixties or Seventies. You just have to love bright orange cubic sci-fi strangeness that's been left out to fall apart for a decade or more. How wonderfully, utterly dystopian. Of course we stopped to get some photos. 

On our way home, we found some dandelions, and we stopped there on Prenzlauer Allee to blow the seeds into the wind. We made a wish that we could one day live in Berlin. Now, after this trip, whenever we toast, we toast "Next year in Berlin." 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Deutschland- Tag Zwei (Germany Day Two)

For our second day in Deutschland, we didn't have anything planned other than to explore. It's how I love to do vacations and I'm lucky that I found a partner who likes to spend her vacations the same way. Growing up, I always hated vacations because my Dad ruined each and every one. His idea of fun was to get up as early as possible, preferably around 3am, then proceed to drive 18 or so hours, and then yell about how we were constantly behind schedule. It wasn't until I met Kath that I really learned to enjoy travelling.

So, day two in Berlin we set out on a walk with no particular destination in mind. We figured that we would simply explore the new city, starting with East Berlin.

I mean who wouldn't want to explore a city with five story high 50 Foot Woman murals? Plus, even signs with flowers seen ominous when they have German text on them. Geschutzte Grunanlage just means protected nature area, but imagine an angry German man shouting it at you. Geschutzte Grunanlage! You would definitely not pick those flowers. 

East Germany is full of Soviet Era art and architecture. Kath and I also refused to smile in many of these photos in order to properly display East German emotions. Having grown up during the Cold War, there's something so fascinating about Eastern Europe and its Soviet influences.The GDR was basically a Soviet puppet state and after WWII East Berlin was rebuilt by the Soviets. So it definitely has that feel; lots of gray, boxy buildings.

When we form an 80s inspired synth rock band, these photos will definitely be our album art. 

The buildings, and much of East Berlin, are now covered in graffiti. But, there were also some wonderful, Soviet-era murals. This one at the Haus des Lehrers is one of those great 60's era murals showing all the various industries; science, architecture, teaching, even home making. 

When we got home we watched a documentary about the Berlin Wall and saw this mural in it! The Central Committee would have been proud. 

We of course also stopped for some pictures with the Fernsehturm Berlin, aka the Alex Tower, in the background. Now, neither of like this demonstration of East German technical prowess since it's not quite aesthetically pleasing. But, I guess cities can't pick what becomes a landmark. Plus, in SimCity 3000, a game I've spent many hours playing, you can actually build the Fernsehturm Berlin in your city. Though, I rarely did. 

These bears were everywhere. Even our hotel had them. I want to say they're gummi bears, but we never actually thought to ask any locals or to look it up. One thing I loved about Deutschland was the abundance of Haribo! Every tabak in the city has tons of Haribo for sale, plus it comes in larger bags and it's cheaper!

Actually, that was one of the great things we discovered about Berlin. Everything is way cheaper than NYC, even taking into account the Euro conversion. Meals, beer, gummi bears, it was all so much cheaper than we're used to.

We wandered around the greater Alexanderplatz area taking some more pictures, and just, reveling at the fact that we were in Germany. We were in love with Berlin. 

Also, I took some pictures of the Berlin cathedral, but we didn't go in. Every time Kath tells me we should go to Italy, I'm always like "I've seen enough churches and art!" When I travel I want to see the real city, the real places that people live and work and eat and play. Hence why I think exploring is so nice. Thankfully Kath enjoys exploring too. Also, apparently Italy is beautiful and we're going next year.

For the first day or so, I felt fairy self-conscious. While I wasn't sure if I were imagining it or not, I felt like I was getting more looks than I get in America. You know. That Look. That look that transgender women hate. That one that seems to say "Ewww, what are you?" It kind of bummed me out a little. Maybe they were glaring at me because I was American. I mean, I'd glare at Americans too. We're kind of awful and look what we've done with our own country. But, of course my mind went to anxiety over my presentation and passing.

It didn't help that I had left the lace a little too long on my wig. That kind of made it unfortunately obvious that I was wearing a wig and maybe that's why I got some stares. At home I would have just cut it with some scissors, but being on vacation I didn't have access to any. I thought about asking at the hotel desk, but that would seem too weird. So I made a mental note to find scissors at an aptheke if we found one.

But, as I needed a better jacket, and because, hey who doesn't like shopping, we did spend some time at the Galeria Kaufhof. The fun thing about shopping in Berlin is that pretty much everything is my style. It's all solids, a lot of black, and slightly gothy and/or punky. It's wonderful. Plus there are tons of tall women around. Did I say wonderful? It's more like paradise. We also, yes, hit the mall. 

I found a cool motorcycle jacket, which something like 80% of the women I saw in Berlin seemed to be wearing. Plus, I found a nice beret that would help cover up my ugly wig lace screw-up. My anxiety and the looks did abate once I had my German outfit on; fashionable motorcycle jacket, all black clothes, skinny pants, boots, a hat, and sunglasses. Then I really felt like I was blending in a bit more. I even had people come up to me and start speaking German like I were a local. So maybe I was passing as a German and as a woman. Now that's a good feeling.

After a bit of shopping, we kept walking and headed out past Museum Island and past a bunch of touristy stuff, then sort of accidentally found ourselves at the Brandenburger Tor, the most famous symbol of Berlin. It's the site of Reagan's famous "Tear Down this Wall" speech and in Civilization V it grants you a Great General and earns new units 15 experience points. Yes, I do tend to know all my landmarks through video games. Okay, actually I have a degree in history and read a lot of history.

Back when Berlin was divided, the gate was something of a no-go area, but now you can actually walk under it toward the Unter der Linden and the Tier Garten. Naturally, we got quite a few pictures of the Brandenburger Tor.

Okay, yeah. Quite a few pictures. But, a really great surprise was that we stumbled across an LGBT rally on the other side of the gate. We even saw some people with transgender pride flags! While we did go up and say hi to them, and told them we liked their flag, they didn't really speak English. And I think they thought we wanted to see their flag. So they showed it to us. It was slightly confusing. But hey, I ran into other transgender women in Berlin! 

We later discovered that the rally we saw was actually a counter-rally. There was a large anti-abortion march, possibly affiliated with the Alternative für Deutschland party. AfD is basically Germany's Trump. So, we joined in the protest for a little bit. It helped that all the chants were in English anyway. It felt wonderful being part of the group that was fighting against awful people in Germany. Even if we were only part of that group for a little bit. 

Soon our stomachs were grumbling and we set off to look for food. Unfortunately, we were in a kind of tourist area so there weren't too many authentically German places. But, we did actually find German food, even if it was kind of fake German food at a place for tourists. Well, at least they had beir und wursts mit senf. Lots of senf (also known as mustard).

After lunch, I found a red VW bus! Okay, this will mean very little to anyone, but when I was in high school and college I drove a red VW bus for several years. I loved/hated that car and named it Dumm Wagen, or stupid car. I even wrote my own song about, set to the tune of Garbage's Stupid Girl. So, I did get quite a few likes from old friends when I posted this picture on Facebook. 

Eventually, we wandered our way to the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. For those unfamiliar, it consists of about a couple city blocks of space covered in concrete blocks. When I had first heard about this memorial, I had dismissed it as being a little too avant garde for its own good. I mean, a field of concrete blocks? 

But my opinion changed the first time I walked through it. You see, from the outside it looks as though all the blocks are the same height, but the ground there is actually convex, like a bowl. As you walk through, the concrete pillars begin to tower over you. You see nothing green or alive. It feels oppressive and dehumanizing. It's really an amazing structure that it can impart such clear feelings of dread and claustraphobia with such a simple design. As you walk back out though, you begin to feel relief. You find your breathing returning to normal and the feeling of oppression lifts. We actually walked through a few times in order to experience the feeling again. I tried to take one photo to show the sense of foreboding and oppression, but a mere photo cannot capture it. 

After the memorial, we visited the Tier Garten, Berlin's large park. There we saw the memorials to the Romani, to LGBTQ people, and also the Soviet-built memorial to the fallen Soviet soldiers of WWII. 

And of course I stopped for a selfie on the Straß des 17 Juni, the wide avenue that cuts through the Tier Garten. And some other selfies too. Cause we're cute. How can we not take selfies? 

Late that night we had plans to meet up with an old friend of mine from high school who now lives in Berlin. Of course I wore my best German frau outfit. I hoped I passed as a cis woman and also as German woman. These are my goals in life.

We ate dinner at a French restaurant in Prenzlaur Berg, then after dinner we stopped at the tabak to grab a beir for the walk. Yes, in Berlin you can totally buy a beer at the corner store and then drink it while walking down the street. It's great! I got the actual Budweiser. Not the crap American Budweiser, but the original, actual beer that the American company ripped off. This one is actually from Budweis. It's quite good. 

My friend took us out to a seedy punk bar in East Berlin. It was smoky and there were random art films being projected. It was amazing. I don't know if I've ever felt cooler in my life then I did hanging out at a punk bar in East Berlin. We had a couple drinks there, at the cost of like €1 each, with a €0.50 tip for every other one. I felt really bad about tipping so little, but my friend assured me that it's the European way.

Next we went out to another bar to see a Rockabilly band play. They were pretty good and we had a great time. After they finished their set, we even got up on stage and danced. Until some creepy guys joined us. That made us duck out quickly. We set out to try this Alice in Wonderland themed bar near our hotel, but for some reason they wouldn't let us in. Maybe it was a private party, or maybe we didn't say the code word. Or maybe we're not quite as cool as I thought. We tried looking for another bar, but it was 2am at that point, so time to bid my friend gute nacht and headed to bed. There was so much more Berlin to see!