Friday, January 19, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 5: Beginnings

In this chapter, I introduced one of the other main people in this story: "Judy."  As with all people in this book, Judy is a real person.  I wrote down our conversation in my journal that night.  I can't remember why I did, but, well, there it is.  So our conversation is word for word.  Yes, my reparte was that lame.  Wonder why I couldn't get dates?

I worked at Burger King in Spring City during my high school years- from 1982-84.  I've written blog entries about how that job changed me.  I was fifteen when I started... and a crossdresser.  I didn't let ANYONE into my life, lest they discover my shameful secret.  But, people managed to break through my barriers, and I made some wonderful friends there.  It was my first experience with people who were NOT in my high school.  Also, I used some of my BK money to order feminine clothes from the Sears catalogue- my first wardrobe!  (If you don't remember the Sears catalogue, ask your parents about it.)

In any case, Judy is still my friend all these years later.  She has been supportive of my transition, but has never met Sophie.  She also knows about this book, and asked me to keep her name private- hence the pseudonym Judy.

Everything else relevant about her will be revealed in the book.

Oh, and those uniforms?  They were as uncomfortable as they were ugly.


*********************************************************

Chapter 5: Beginnings

Wednesday, September 3, 1986 Soweto officials face a lethal rage

First day of work.  It was bright and warm, so I rode my bike down to University drive.  It’s all downhill, so it took five minutes.
Walking through the door into the back of the restaurant, I pulled on the rust color corduroy uniform over my T-shirt and bent the bill of the corduroy hat so I wouldn’t look so dorky- As if that could be helped in this outfit.  I then reported to the front next to the registers where the manager was waiting.  Joyce was youngish, maybe 30, with a tight butt but a face that showed the worry of an eighty hour a week job.  Her dark hair was tied back in a ponytail.

Burger King, University Drive.  July 1988

“Since you’ve worked at a BK before, I’m putting you back here on specialty board.  Think you can handle that?”  Specialty board was where things like chicken sandwiches or ham and cheese sandwiches were made.  It was relatively easy, but the food took longer to make there so it was kept separate from the burger boards.
“No problem.”
“If you run into trouble, just give a yell.”
She walked into the back area toward the office, and I promptly helped myself to a couple of chicken nuggets. Not two feet behind my back was the stainless steel back of the fryers, so it was very hot by the specialty board.  Fortunately, I was allowed to have a soda with me.  It was 11:30, and the lunch rush would be starting any time.  I looked over at the burger board, not five feet away.  A short girl with her black hair tied back stood there playing with the lettuce.  Her uniform was the same color as mine, but she wore a corduroy visor.  Her skin was light, and she seemed lost in her own world.
“You shouldn’t do that.  You’ll catch the dreaded Letticitus!”
She turned and smiled. 
“Oh, so I’ll turn green?”  Her voice was a pleasant alto, with a hint of New Jersey nasal.
“Something like that.  I’m Lance, you’re…”
“I’m Judy.”
She extended her hand and smiled wider.  I accepted her handshake and looked her over.  Her eyes were hazel and inviting.  Her bright smile immediately made me glad I spoke to her.  Her uniform stretched tightly around her large breasts.  The top button had popped off.  I tried not to stare. 

  
Burger King Uniforms circa 1983-87

“How long have you worked here, Judy?”
“Oh, a couple of weeks now.  Is this your first day?”
“Here, yeah.  I worked at a Burger King at home though.”
A bored sounding voice crackles over the speakers. 
“Three hamburgers, six piece tenders, two large fry, two Pepsis.”
The rush began, so talking time ended.  A couple of hours later, Judy clocked out.
“Well Lance, it was nice meeting you!”
“Nice meeting you too.  When do you work again?”
“Wednesday.  Same hours.”
“Well, I’ll see you then!”
I spent the rest of my shift working both specialty and burger boards.  An hour later, my shift ended.  I pulled off the uniform, put it in my bag, and rode back to my apartment.  The day was hotter, the ride was all uphill, and I smelled like pickles.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Apology Is...

You just don't get it, do you?

Your apology is not just Worthless- it's Hurtful.  Instead of taking a microsecond to think- a heartbeat to consider your words- you CHOSE to misgender me.  Maybe you think my situation is funny- the whole "guy thinks he's a girl" thing.  Maybe you think you're superior to me because you're cisgender, and don't have my problems.  Or maybe you think my existence is a Sin against your Evangelical beliefs and your version of a "loving God."

Slip of the tongue, my ass. 


Care to insult me some more?

In that moment- the moment you CHOSE to misgender me, you did the following:

You just told me that the YEARS I have spent working on my appearance; the hours of laser hair removal and painful electrolysis; the hours and years of makeup lessons and practice; years of practicing walking and comportment; expensive voice lessons; painful injections of expensive estrogen, and other hormones not covered by insurance; refining my wardrobe to blend in...

Have been COMPLETELY wasted- that even though when you CHOSE to misgender me I was at the absolute peak of my development as a woman, ALL of the time, effort, money, sweat, Tears, sacrifices, losses... was useless. 

I didn't CHOSE to be transgender.  No one chooses this.  I was born this way.  The only choice I made was to LIVE- to transition.  Because if I hadn't transitioned, I would be dead.  That's what the decision came down to- live my Truth, knowing I'd destroy my whole previous life, or Blowing my head off. 



But that doesn't matter one fucking bit to you, does it?  No.  You had to get your little dig in- you had to show that YOU knew that I was Trans.  You couldn't just let me live my life while you lived yours.  No, you had to inject yourself into my life as forcibly as if you raped me.  You had to rip me apart just to satisfy some inner need you had to be Superior to the fucking weird "tranny."

"Put on your big girl panties."  "Man up."  "Stop whining, you snowflake!"  "Grow a pair." 

Yeah, easy for you to say- no one is fucking insulting your basic humanity.  I hear it almost EVERY DAY. 

Almost 
EVERY
GODDAMN
DAY!

Been almost four years for me.  How about you?  Could you take that kind of abuse for so long?  And I have to smile and take it.  Because if I don't, I'M the bad person.  I'M not showing the proper respect and deference. 





And here's the kicker.  You don't even have the guts to say it where I can react.  No, you say it while I'm at work, behind a counter.  You KNOW that I can't respond.  You KNOW that I can't do a fucking thing back to you.  "Thank you sir, may I have another?"  You're a fucking coward, and you know it.  Would you say these things in a place where I could react?  Where your "freedom of speech" may have consequences?  Of course you wouldn't. 



You wouldn't give a fuck if I'd blown my head off instead of transitioning.  I'm just another replaceable servant to you- a forgettable cog in the machinery of your life.  If it weren't me, someone else would be there providing whatever service it is I'm providing.

So, No, I don't accept your lame-ass apology.  Because you don't mean it, and we both know it.  You don't give a shit about my feelings.  You just want to pretend.  Live your little fantasy of being a "good person."  You don't care about the damage you've inflicted, because you don't care to know.  You're just going to waltz on with your life.

So, just Go.  Get out of my face.  Don't even fucking pretend that you care.  You've already insulted my life and appearance- don't insult my intelligence as well.




(My dear friend Gina wrote something about this as well- and was far more eloquent than I)




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 4: Nickel Tour

This chapter was one of the last ones I wrote for the book.  It's really for people who don't know Penn State.

Of course, many things have changed in thirty years.  The HUB is completely different (and finding pictures of the old HUB is freaking HARD!)   The Lion has a new perch of stone.  Still, in one form or other, all of these landmarks are still there.

I was messaging with a friend this morning. (Hi Jenn!)  I wrote the following:
Our Penn State is long gone.  It lives in memories and fading photographs.  Many of the places are still the same- but WE aren't.  We are no longer the 20 something's inhabiting the fantasy land.

And that's True.  Penn State means something completely different to everyone who ever attended or visited there.  This book is my Penn State story- your mileage may vary.


*************************************************************

Chapter 2.4: Nickel Tour

August 28, 1986   Battles kill 13 and hurt 70 in Soweto

            I knew it had to be nearby.  Somewhere.  I finished class in Chambers building, which was on the extreme north side of campus.  I had some hours to kill before my next class, so I decided to find it.
            I opened the notebook that contained my campus map, figured out where I was, and headed west.  A couple of minutes later, I found it- just past Kern building.  It was behind the Rec Hall parking lot, on the crest of the hill.  It sat atop a large mound covered with wood chips, and the trees behind it framed it magnificently.
            The Nittany Lion Shrine.

Me at the Lion, April 1987
            It’s actually a statue of a mountain lion crouching on a rock.  Many Penn Staters can quote you the statistics:  sculpted by Heinz Warneke out of thirteen ton block of tan Indiana limestone, it was presented to the university in 1942.  I figure it’s about ten feet long and maybe 5 feet high.  However like many things, numbers don’t tell the story.
            This chunk of rock was and is the Heart of the University.  It is the Symbol.  Hell, I’d been on campus less than a week and I knew that. 
So there I stood: in front of this statue I’d seen on TV, in magazines, books, anywhere Penn State was mentioned.  It looked wise.  Impervious.  I put my hand on its nose, warmed by the late summer heat.  I felt drawn to it- like I was being welcomed- like I belonged.  Warm.
I stood there a couple of minutes.  Then, smiling, I turned and headed back to Beaver Hill, a mile away. 
Hell, while I’m at it, I may as well give a quick tour.  The Pennsylvania State University was founded in 1855 as a farm school.  Located in the middle of the mountains of Pennsylvania, the campus and the town that grew around it are in a long valley known as “Happy Valley.”  Really- that’s what it’s called. By the 1980s it was as well known for academics as it was for football.  From its very humble beginnings, the campus had grown to over a mile side to side.  The town of State College is right next to campus, and it has everything a young college student could want or need for studies and/or fun except for strip joints.  It was and is a fantasy land. 
Headed back from the Lion, I passed Pattee Library.  It sits at the crest of the hill, and the top of a long avenue of Elm trees and gardens that extend all the way down to College Avenue.  Pattee is a huge building, columned and solemn.  Stately.  It’s everything a grand old library should be- right down to the quotes carved in its face: “A Library is a summons to scholarship” and “A University is a collection of books.”  In the late 1990s, a large wing was added to the library, donated by Joe Paterno, the football coach.  However, as this wasn’t there when I was, that’s the only mention of the Paterno Library you’ll get. 

Old Main April 1987
Walking down the avenue toward College Ave, the first street I came across was Pollock Road.  Back then it was open to traffic.  Maybe fifty yards to the east of the Avenue along Pollock was Old Main.  Old Main is the building that most people associate with Penn State.  It’s the one with the bell tower that people always see on TV.  Old Main was once a dorm back in the old days.  It burnt down (I think) and the current building was built on the same site with the same stones.  The building houses the university administrative offices.  It’s also supposed to be haunted by a donkey named “Old Coaly.”  Really.
Old Coaly's bones are now in the HUB

            In front of Old Main is a large lawn which reaches all the way down to College Avenue.  Remember that Avenue of Elms?  It boarders the one side of the lawn.  The other side is bordered by another Avenue of Elms.  Some of these elms are over a hundred years old.  When one dies, it is replaced by a sapling grown from one of the original elms. 
            Maybe a hundred yards east of the second avenue, (the one bordering the east side of Old Main lawn- still with me?)  was the Hetzel Union Building: the “HUB.”  It’s the “student union” where people meet between classes to eat, study, nap, or whatever.  In the mid 1990s, the Hub was completely redone, so the building today bears no resemblance to the Hub I knew.  Next to the Hub is the Penn State bookstore.  Bordering the south side of the Hub is the imaginatively named Hub lawn.  On the rare sunny and warm days, people congregated there to play football, Frisbee, or sunbathe.

HUB Lawn  April 1987

            Ok, let’s backtrack to the first Avenue of Elms- the one that heads south from Pattee.  Heading south from Pollack, I passed the Obelisk.  It’s on the west side of the Avenue, maybe fifty yards from Old Main Lawn.  The Obelisk was built in 1896 to mark the Geographic center of Pennsylvania.  Turns out someone fucked up; because years later it was determined that the center of Pennsylvania was out by Beaver Stadium.  Oops.  Anyway, the Obelisk is built out of every type of rock native to the commonwealth in geographic order: “oldest” on the bottom to “youngest” on top, and it’s about thirty three feet high.  Tradition says that if a graduating senior who is still a virgin walks past the Obelisk, it will tumble to the ground.  After over a hundred years, it’s still standing.  I guess we’re all just a bunch of sluts.


Me at Lion  May 2016 (in the rain)

            Of course there are many other places that make up the campus, but these are the best known- aside from the stadium.  That’ll show up soon enough.  Like there are places like Hammond building, which takes up a whole block on College Ave and seems like it was built sideways.  Hell, there’s even a university president entombed on campus: Atherton.  It’s said he rises on nights when the moon is new and black to do shots with the prettiest of the freshman girls in Pollock Halls.  Ok, not really.  Still, every building on campus has a history of some kind, but I digress…

State College skyline, March 1987 from Beaver Hill.  Composite picture

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 3:

The third chapter of the book concerns my finally getting the guts to go to the fraternity house (which I would learn was affectionately called "the Bone."  My apartment, Beaver Hill was two blocks east on Beaver Ave, so it was a short walk geographically.  However, in my mind, it was eternal.  My mind was buzzing with thoughts like "what if they hate me?" and "what if they throw me out?" and similar things.

I remember back on late March 31, 2014- my first day of work as Sophie.  The staff all knew I was coming in as a Woman for the first time.  I was absolutely terrified.  Yet, I put one foot in front of the other, and entered the bookstore where I work.  In retrospect, the Fear I felt that March day was almost identical to the Fear I felt on that August day thirty years ago.

As I noted in Chapter 1, my fellow fraternity alumni have asked me not to use the fraternity name, so I'm not.  That said:  "Letters" are articles of clothing, usually a shirt or sweatshirt, which bear the letters of one's fraternity or sorority.  They are common on college campuses with Greek systems, even today.


*******************************************************************

Chapter 3:  First impression

Sunday, August 24, 1986 Trolley Crashes Into Terminal

I may as well have been holding a huge flashing neon sign saying “DORK!”  I headed to the house wearing my white letters polo shirt, black shorts with yellow letters, and wearing my letters hat.  I wanted to make a good impression- I just didn’t know how.  And did I ever fuck it up.
"The Bone"  I took this from a balcony on a tall apartment building, April 1987. 

            So I walked up Beaver Ave, and there it was: Skull House.  A couple of brothers stood around on the porch, holding beers and enjoying the sunny afternoon.  As I turned to head up the steps toward the house, they stared at me.  I reached the porch and smiled.
            “Hi!  I’m Lance!  I’m a Skull from Drexel, and I just transferred here!”
            The two guys looked at each other and back at me.  “Well, um, welcome to Penn State, I guess” the taller one said.  He had a deep voice.
            “Yeah” said the other one.  “I’m Flounder.  That’s Beef.  Nice to meet you.”
            “Flounder and Beef.  Surf and Turf!”  I said, smiling.  They just looked at me blankly.  “Um, I guess you’ve heard that a million times.”

Street View, same day as above

            Flounder was a little shorter than me.  He was a bit heavy, in a “construction worker who drinks too much beer” sort of way.  His brown hair was thinning on top, and he had wide set friendly eyes with the beginnings of crow’s feet.  I guess if there were a word for him, it would be “jolly.”  That said, he looked like a guy called “Flounder.”
            Beef was big.  Six foot five or more.  Pear shaped.  The first thing I thought of when I saw him was “Baby Huey,” the cartoon character.  He had an oblong pear shaped head with a crew cut.  His eyes were small, beady, and close set.  He looked like an overlarge child.  And he looked strong- “this isn’t fat its muscle” strong.  The name Beef fit him perfectly.
            “So why’d you come to Penn State?”  Flounder asked.
            “Lots of reasons.  Better programs, better women, better house, safety…”  I said.
            “I heard you guys at Drexel didn’t have a house” Beef said.
            “We don’t, but a bunch of guys rented out neighboring rooms in row houses, so that’s kinda the house.  How’d you hear that?”
            “One of the guys here is also a Drexel transfer.  Scott Kershaw.  Know him?”  Beef asked.
            “No.”  I shook my head.  Must be from before my time.  Is he around?”
            Flounder and Beef looked at each other.  “I don’t think so,” Flounder said.  “He goes back to Philly all the time.  He’s in a band there.”
            “Oh,” I said.  Then there was an uncomfortable silence as we shifted about looking at each other.  “Well,” I finally said, “I guess I’ll go in and look around if that’s ok.”
            “Um, sure!”  Beef said.  “There’s beer in the ice maker in the kitchen.  Help yourself!”
            “Thanks!  Pleasure meeting you!”  I said, and then I walked through the open door into the foyer. 
Foyer during a typical Thursday Night Party, 1987  Photo taken from the steps
            
            The house was quiet and smelled like stale beer.  Empty and half full beer cups were scattered everywhere.  Tiny insects of some kind flew in clouds above the cups that still had beer in them.  I could hear Beef and Flounder laughing.  Through a doorway, I could see the back door open and a guy carry in a box.  He was very tan and had shoulder length black hair parted in the middle. 
            “Need help?”  I asked.
            “Sure,” he said, not even looking. 
            I walked out the back door into the back parking lot.  It was mostly empty, and I spotted a blue Mustang and a black Chevy pickup both packed with boxes and furniture.  An older man was unloading the car and setting boxes on the ground.  I walked over and offered my help.  He looked up and smiled. 
            “That’s awfully nice.  Maybe Pat was right about you guys.  Do you know where this shit goes?” he asked.
            “No.  I guess I should wait until I’m shown.”
            I waited and helped pull boxes from the car.  After a minute or so the guy I saw came back out for another load.
            “Who are you?” he asked.
            “I’m Lance.  Just transferred up from Drexel.”
            “Oh.  Ok,” he said, looking me over with a puzzled look.
            “Figured I’d help out carrying, since I’ve moved in down Beaver Hill already.”
            He smiled, almost in relief.  “Ok.  I’m Pat.  Grab a box and follow me.”
            After several trips (including a heavy couch) later, we emptied both vehicles.  Pat’s nickname was “Dogger” (I never found out why.)  He lived on the second floor at the west end of the house, over the covered porch: the “Icebox suite” as the cold air beneath the floor made the whole three rooms there fucking cold during the winter.  Dogger had the room facing Beaver Ave.  He seemed friendly and thankful for the help. 
            After a while (and attempting to help set up Dogger’s stereo system with its four speakers) I decided to explore.  Eventually I found the kitchen, and the beat up ice machine with the beer: Cans of Busch.  I grabbed one and kept walking around.  I heard music playing behind a closed door on the third floor, and smelled the already familiar smell of weed.  I didn’t bother to interrupt them. 
            After exploring, I helped a couple other guys carry stuff in.  Not that they needed the help- they were all pretty big guys.  Eventually, my arms felt like they were going to fall off, and I was completely soaked by sweat, so I left. 
            I figured something out: the Skull brothers here at PSU were all the popular guys in high school: All the guys that got the girls, caught the touchdowns, wore the right clothes, partied with the right people, drove the cool cars, and everything else.  Here the cream of the “it” guys from across Pennsylvania (hell, across the country) gathered as a group to share their college experiences.
            Then there was me.

            I didn’t know what to expect that day, but I left feeling like an intruder.  How right I was.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 2: Fall 1986 Schedule

Chapter 2 is short (and, I think, dull.)  I included it for completeness, as later chapters refer to my schedule.  The big deal on this is how registration was handled back in the dark ages.

If I publish the book, this chapter goes bye bye


***************************************

Chapter 2.2: Fall 1986 Schedule

Wednesday, August 27, 1986  Report ties contras to drug deals

            I was warned. 
            Mark and Rich both laughed when I told them that I hadn’t registered for any classes yet- after all, I transferred after the class registration period for this term was already over.  There were two ways I could register for the term: stand in line at Shields building or use the phone registration service.  It would be several years until computerized registration would hit PSU.  Mark told me that the phone lines would be jammed and I probably wouldn’t get through.  However, if I wanted to stand in line, I should wake up really early, or I’d be there all day.
            So of course I slept in.  And when I arrived at Shields building- on the other end of campus near Beaver Stadium, the lines were huge.

Shields Building (Photo: PSU website)
            Most people were only dropping and adding one or two classes, while I had to add a whole schedule.  It took hours of standing in a gazillion lines, but I came up with this:
  • EDPSY 014: Learning for Instruction.  Basic education stuff.  MWF at 8-9 AM.  Recitation F at 5PM.  UGH.
  • ENGL 133: Modern American Lit to WWII.  This sounded like it could be cool.  MWF 9:10-10:10AM
  • HIST 107: Medieval Europe.  Taught by a visiting professor from Oxford.  T&TH 8-9 AM
  • STAT 200: Elementary Statistics.  Required.  After the Drexel math courses, this should be easy.  T&Th 6-8PM.  
  • THEA 109 Drama in Mass media.  A course about TV.  MW 5-7:30 PM

            Early mornings.  I hated early classes.  I’ve never been a morning person.  I’m still not.  Well, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Nothing else was open.

            Now, with my schedule set, I was ready to begin life at Penn State.  After I bought books...



Saturday, January 6, 2018

Fragments of a Life

There's a book out now called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.  I haven't read it yet, but I've glanced through it.  The idea is to de-clutter your life so that, after you're gone, no one else is stuck with the job.

It makes me think about my dear friend Big Al, who passed away five years ago in September.  Big Al lived alone, and he had a rich complexity.  He collected books, games, scotch, and other things.  He also had many friends, but he didn't collect them as much as he nurtured each one.  I spoke at his funeral before my transition.

I remember helping his family to clean out his apartment.  His family had first dibs on everything (goodbye scotch collection) then everything else was up for grabs.  We, his friends, grabbed all of his games (as we all were gamers and played with him.)  At his wake, we then divided the games between us in a fair and equitable way- by rolling dice for the choosing order.  Eventually, I obtained several games, a couple of them rare, as well as some books, DVDs, and CDs.  Everything else went to the dumpster.  I helped with that as well.

I helped throw out the things that Big Al collected over a life- the things that gave him pleasure.  I've never forgotten that.  I wondered if there were things he absolutely treasured that were among the items we trashed, and we simply did not know it.

When my dearest friend Lisa Empanada died, her wife Sandy was generous in giving her trans friends many items.  I have a lot from her (and when I lose weight I'll be able to fit in them again.)  That said, Sandy and Lisa's daughters had first dibs, as it should be.  I actually wonder what, if anything, Sandy threw out.  I doubt that she did.

I don't have a living will.  Or any will for that matter.  My Wife knows my wishes about DNR, etc.  I have a whole storage site full of books and games.  I assume that she would let whomever take what they wish.  Some of the books and games are rare, and some are quite valuable.

But, some things I have are valuable only to me, and these are the items that would probably be pitched.  Looking up from my computer, I see one of Lisa's wigs atop my bookshelf.  It is priceless to me.  But, I'm sure no one cleaning out my belongings would care about that, and away it would go.

Here's another example.  Back when I was in either junior high or high school (early 80s), my Mum knit me an afghan.  It was her hobby back then.  During the winter, it would be on my bed, and, in the summer, it would be under it.  More than once, I covered my girl clothes with it when someone came home unexpectedly and I needed to quickly change clothes and hide my stuff. (I'm guessing most transwomen who dressed as a teen became very adept at changing clothes in a BIG hurry!)   When I went to college, I brought it with me.  Again, winter it was on the bed, but in warmer weather, it was draped on the back of a couch. 

All through Drexel and Penn State, I kept that afghan.  And afterwards- usually on my bed, or, after I was married, it would be stored in a trunk.  When I was thrown out in 2013, I brought it with me.


The Afghan

In the winter, it is on my bed.  In warmer weather, it's stored in the couch (it has an area for storage under it.)

Is it the prettiest thing?  Well, no.  But it's REALLY warm.  And, my Mum made it for me.  So I have taken it with me from place to place.  I've had it now somewhere in the area of 37 years.  It has meaning for me.

Maybe my Wife would claim it- maybe not.  I'm guessing it would be donated or dumpstered.  After all, it's just an old afghan, right?

Moving as I've have several times, and having sold off so many things I'd collected over the years in order to make rent, has helped thin my possessions.  However, I still have that storage space.  If I were to spend a week going through it, I could probably donate a ton of the books to charities, throw out the old clothes (concert T shirts, etc), and figure out what to sell.  I've been a collector of things all my life.  But maybe I should just start shedding things. 

In that way, when it's Time, the things that are important to me find homes, not dumpsters. 


Be Well.






Thursday, January 4, 2018

Men of The Skull- Introduction and First PSU Chapter

Due to numerous requests, I've decided to post a part of my unpublished book of PSU fraternity life in the 1980s, Men of the Skull.

Here's a little background.  In the late 90s, I was in a lot of Pain.  I was drinking heavily, angry all the time, and couldn't figure out why.  Nor could my Wife.  My thoughts kept drifting back to my time at Penn State, and events that happened there that sent me into a deep depression- one from which I realized I'd never fully recovered, and eventually led to a suicide attempt in November 1990.  I decided to focus my "quest" to figure out what was wrong with me on my college years.

Up until that point, I had written some short stories, some gaming modules, and some pieces for international gaming magazines.  I decided to get serious about my writing- I would exorcise my demons by writing a memoir about my college days.  I have a remarkable memory for trivia, especially when prompted.  I had prompts- I have kept a journal since January 1984.  Also, I researched the events of the day for the book- the music that was popular, headlines, movies... anything to recreate the events which were at that point around ten years past.

That took time- a few years in fact.  I didn't go to Penn State first- I started at Drexel University as a Civil Engineering major.  I HATED it.  I hated the city, the school, the major... everything.  However, while at Drexel, I pledged a fraternity best known as Skull.  (At my brothers' request, I've redacted the name of the fraternity.)  After two years at Drexel, I transferred to Penn State as an Education major.  I wrote the Drexel part of the book first.  It, um, sucked.  All you need to know about that part was I joined Skull, I was a volunteer EMT, and, in the summer of '86, my girlfriend of 2 years ("Julianne") and I broke up.

That brings me to the PSU part of the book.  I finished it in July 2008.  In October 2008, I dressed as Lois Lane (accompanied by my Wife as Clark Kent) for Halloween.  A part of me that I had buried deep inside and fought desperately smashed into my consciousness.  But now there was a name for it: Transgender.  All the Pain, the anger- it was suppressing that part of me.  As the saying goes "You fight it and fight it and eventually it wins."  I transitioned in March 2014.  This blog is primarily about that journey.



However, that leaves the book- rejected by tons of editors and publishers.  Here in the blog I will post the chapters of my first semester at Penn State: fall 1986.  I will post one or two a week.  If enough people read it, maybe I'll self-publish the rest.  I'm posting it as written with few if any edits.  I added the pictures.

The format of each chapter starts with the date of the event, then a headline from the news that day, usually from the Philadelphia Inquirer.  All names have been changed to protect the innocent, guilty, and otherwise, but aside from that, everything I wrote about really happened.  Song lyrics of the day are interspersed in the text as well- they are in italics.  I was Lance then- and this is his story.

******************************************************************


Chapter 1:  Hat Party
Friday, August 29, 1986     Bolivia calls state of siege to halt strife.”

That night, State College burned.  The hot summer sun was gone, but the parties were on: parties beyond counting, fun without limit.  The whole campus- the whole town- the whole valley sizzled with possibility that tonight, maybe, it would all come together: that sparks would fly and that we would make explosions and flames of our own that would burn on forever.  Or at least until dawn.
            Her breasts stared at me through her lilac colored oxford.  Moderately sized (but bigger than any that I’d ever seen naked), big nipples-and the AC was up too high.  She wore a scarlet wide brimmed hat that looked like something from the 1940s.  Tight jeans. 
            “Oh let me be--- your sledge-hammer.  This will be my testimony.”
The music was loud, but not too loud.  Keg in the kitchen, beer in clear plastic cups.  And everyone wearing stupid hats.  The hostess was a girl who lived at the end of the hall- it was a Hat Party, and everyone was invited.  Price of admission?  Wear a hat: the goofier the better.  You wanna kick in a few bucks for the keg; that’s cool too.
Her face was broad- eastern European.  Freckles.  Biggish nose, permed curly brown hair and happy smallish eyes.  With nipples like hers, it was hard to keep eye contact.  The hat set off everything nicely.  She smiled and we talked about Drexel and Penn State and nothing in particular that mattered.  Eye contact, Lance.  I smiled and sipped my beer.  Her name was Sara.
My first Friday night at Penn State.  My first real apartment party.  And Sara was smiling at me.  She seemed interested in what I had to say.  I was scared shitless.  Don’t fuck up, Lance.  Eye contact.

Beaver Hill Apartments, April 1987

Our hostess, Katie, lived at the end of our hall: third floor Beaver Hill Apartments.  My roommates and I met her the day we moved in.  We helped her carry stuff up from her dad’s truck.  She bought us pizza and beer and we sat among the boxes in her place.  She lived alone.
I wore my black and yellow painters cap- backwards.  Dark blue button down.  Tan shorts.  Sara was a senior, 21, from Pittsburgh.  She lived in Atherton Hall: the honors dorm bordering College Avenue a block away from the apartments.  She smiled modestly and looked toward her feet coquettishly as I offered to refill her beer.
Brought it back, and we slipped over to the corner next to the mirrored wall.  All the apartments in this building had a mirrored wall- made the rooms look bigger.  Ooh.  Ahh.
The windows were open, and Delta Upsilon right next door was partying as well.  The sound of the crowd there mixed with ours, the music, and Sara’s husky voice.
I so wanted to suck on those tits.  Feel them.  Nibble.
“He do the walk… he do the walk of life!”  Dire Straits sang from the speakers across the room.
“So, why Penn State?  A guy like you could’ve gone to lots of schools,” Sara asked.
I had a hard on that must’ve been sooooo obvious.
“Well, Penn State has the best looking women- like you!”  I smiled.  You fucking dork!  Jesus Christ! No wonder you can’t get laid to save your own life!
She smiled, laughed politely, and raised her cup.
“Well, here’s to Penn State!” she said.
We touched glasses and drank; my eyes never leaving hers.  Brown eyes.  She had brown eyes.  Chestnut.  A beer or two later, and she had to go.
“I have other parties I promised to attend” she said with a smile.
“It’s been nice talking to you!”  I said.  Ugh!  Dork!  Ask her for her phone number, you idiot!
“You too!”  She bent over and put her cup down on the table.  I had a great view down her shirt at those beautiful breasts in a white bra.  Wow!  Did she mean to do that?
“Um, can I have your number so we can, y’know, get together some time?”  DORK!
Sara smiled.  “Sure!”  She found a pen and a napkin.

Not a bad end for my first week of classes.  So far, Penn State was almost all I could ask for.  I moved in the Saturday before: Beaver Hill Apartments, room 324. 
The apartment was small, but furnished.  The carpet was tan and the walls white, except for one wall which was covered by paneled mirrors.  The living room had a brown sofa, loveseat and a square glass topped table as well as two end tables with brass lamps.  The kitchen had a very small table and had a linoleum floor.  There was a large opening to the living room making a little “breakfast nook” as the ad called it.  The bedroom had two closets and three beds.  I was the first one to move in, so I claimed the single bed.  The other two guys would get the bunk bed.  The windows in the bedroom and living room faced the back parking lot and neighboring Cedarbrook Apartments, so the view wasn’t exactly sensational.  Lots of apartments had balconies, but not this one.  Off to the left of the parking lot was a large fraternity house: Delta Upsilon.  (DU). 


Marc moved in a few hours later.  We left our door open to “invite” the neighbors, like we used to do in the dorm at Drexel.  Put a life sized stand up of Freddy Kruger in the door (got it from Julianne’s dad).  A couple of people gasped.  Then one girl screamed.  We scared the shit out of her.
She was really cute!  Tall, short blonde hair, nice breasts, perfect hips- just really cute.  We had a good laugh with her and invited her in for a beer.  She accepted- but after she unloaded the truck.  So we helped, and she bought the pizza and beer.
We met a lot of other girls on the floor as well that day and the days following.  It was gonna be a great year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Another Christmas Meltdown

So the holiday has passed.  And I'm still here.  Still breathing.  And I'm recovering from my seemingly annual Christmas emotional/nervous breakdown.

Maybe I should start planning around it.

Cause this year?  Same as last?  Well, it was similar, but not the same.

This year, it was the incredibly rude customers again, yes.  It was not seeing my daughter again, and I'll get to that.  But there were some variations on the theme.

I can hear it now.  "Get over it!"  "Put on your big girl panties!"  "If you can't stand the heat..."   Most of that from people who are cisgender, or who have not transitioned and never will.

Transition is its own Hot corner of Hell.

So yes, it was customers.  The usual rudeness, with some going above and beyond in the "entitled asshole" department.  But there were some wonderful customers as well.  One example of each came from the same transaction.  They were a mother- 70s or 80s; and adult daughter- maybe mid 40s- early 50s.

Quick aside- every store in the chain does a book drive for the holidays, usually for a school, library, or underprivileged children.  Our store supports the Gesu school, and has done so for as long as I've been there.  As much as I HATE the holidays, this is the part I love- getting rich folks to donate books to kids who NEED the help.  I am convinced that if you give a book, you give a kid a chance; and these kids need all the chances they can get.  Growing up poor and (for the most part) African American in 45's reich means the odds are stacked astronomically against them.  Indeed, for many it's a death sentence. (See: Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher etc.)  I work hard at this book drive, and for the Nth straight year, I've not only ready the store, but sold over 1000 books for donation to the children.

Anyway, I asked mother and daughter, who were buying a basket of books, if they wished to donate in inexpensive book to the inner-city school.
Mother:  "I don't see why money should go to those lazy nig... people.  Their parents should get off welfare..."
Daughter:  *grabs a couple of the books I displayed for donation*  "I'll be glad to."
Mother:  "Why waste your money..."
Daughter:  *grabs the rest of the books I had at my register- 14 in total, some not cheap* "These too."
Mother:  *rolls her eyes and sighs loudly*

I thanked the Daughter profusely.  I could hear her mother complaining as they headed for the door and the next customer took their place.


Ok.  So the schedule for Christmas week was posted weeks ago.  I printed a copy from the scheduling program and wrote it on my calendar at home.  According to that schedule, I had to work hard through the 23rd, then I would have the 24th off (for the first time in years) as well as Christmas day.

So, last week of the holiday rush, where customers are rude, frantic, and numerous.  Most of them had many items, which made the cash registers sing and the managers smile.  That also meant that the cashiers had more time to interact with customers- they had no choice.

Now, this is what I had trained them for (and I trained better than 95% of them)- the Holiday rush.  Be efficient.  Don't worry about speed- worry about accuracy.  Get it right the first time.  I can't teach personality though.  That was up to the individual person.  Hopefully, when the managers interviewed/ hired them, they hired people who could hold up their end of a conversation.  Again, that was out of my hands- I work with who I'm given.

Most of the interactions I had with customers were wonderful.  They were delightful, and generally responded to my puns, etc, and were generous in their donations to the school.  Some were terse and rough.  Still others used that extra time to be as mean and nasty as possible for as long as they could.  And it seemed like the assholes congregated at my register.

All week, I worked hard, doing my job to the best of my ability, often shorthanded.  I knew that Saturday the 23rd would be the absolute busiest day of the year.  But, I took comfort in that all I had to do was get through it, and I had the next two days off.  I used that time off as my Hope, my armor to get me through.

Before I went in, I posted the following on facialbook:

"Today I work 1-9. This will be the busiest day of the year. Customers will be nasty, tempers will be short, I fully expect to be misgendered 4-5 times today.

I woke up this morning and thought about Games Day. When I worked for Games Workshop, there was an annual "celebration" of the GW hobby called Games Day. It was held at the Baltimore Convention Center. Over time, it grew to a 2 day event. 

It was GRUELING. The floors were concrete with no padding. If there was AC (this was mid summer) it must've never worked. The worst bit was when you finished day 1, you went to bed knowing that day 2 was still ahead- twice as long, twice as crowded. We weren't paid extra for working the whole weekend- but we DID get the legendary Games Day party after.

That feeling, knowing there was hours of total hell ahead, is exactly how I feel now."




Before work, Dec 23, 2017

I gave my all on Saturday, knowing that the next day I could rest.  I finished my shift late on Saturday.  I was physically and emotionally spent.  My arms and feet ached.

But it was over.  The worst was behind me.  I felt a wonderful sense of relief.

As I knew I wouldn't see my Wife or daughter on Christmas day (they were going to be with MIL,) I made plans to see them on Sunday.  We would exchange gifts, etc.  I would actually be able to see my daughter open gifts for the first time in years.  I also was going to see my "Big sister" Mel for the first time in months for a Christmas drink.  I was getting ready for this meeting when I received a phone call.

It was work.  A manager asked where I was.  I said I was at home, as I had off.  "No you don't.  You were supposed to be here at 11 AM."  This was at 1:15.  I said "But the schedule says I'm off."  "No, you're working today" she said, with no small about of smugness.

I mumbled that I had to get ready.  Actually, I was already made up, dressed... I just needed to do my hair.  I staggered into the living room, stunned.  Linda asked what was wrong.  I told her.  She was as incredulous as I was.  She said what I was thinking- someone must've changed the schedule and not told me.  (Yes, I'd seen that happen in the store before.)

Absolute rage boiled up inside me.  The Promise of this day off is what kept me going all week.  THAT day was going to be MY Christmas, as I'd see my daughter.  The restful peace I felt was replaced by every possible negative emotion.

After shouting, screaming, cursing, raging... I called my "Big Sister" to tell her I wouldn't make our 2 PM meeting.  I ranted and raved, and she tried to be the voice of reason (as always.)  But I was beyond reason.  I called Wife and told her that I wouldn't be able to see her and Daughter.  I ranted and shouted to her as well.  She also tried to be reasonable, but I wasn't hearing of it.

I was going to go in and Quit VERY loudly.  I was going to make sure EVERYONE knew how badly the store had fucked me.  The alternative was to simply not go in at all.

I posted on facialbook again:

I thought I had off today the schedule I printed out showed me as off today.
Apparently someone changed the fucking schedule and I not only have to work, but have to work late. 
I am in tears. I am in a rage. I thought I could relax and recover, but no, someone had to fuck with me.
Today, I'm quitting. Fuck this

I then turned off my phone and threw it as hard as I could at the wall, sat on my bed, and sobbed.  I hadn't cried this hard since Lisa died.  I wanted to simply Die.  Death was preferable to going into work.  I heard Linda speaking to someone on the phone- probably Wife.  I was inconsolable.  My every bit of remaining emotion was being spent on despair and crying.

I don't know how long I sat there crying.  When I simply had no strength to cry anymore, I sat and stared at the floor.  If I had a method, I would've killed myself on the spot.  (That's why I disposed of all methods in the apartment.)  Eventually, I stood, went into the bathroom, and finished doing my hair.  I fixed my makeup only a little.

I looked Horrible.

Broken and defeated, I went to my car, and slowly drove to work.  I arrived, and the parking lot was packed, as expected.  I parked and stared straight ahead, fighting tears.  I then got out of my car, and walked toward the store.

Coming from the store was a mother and grown 20 something son.  They saw me and he called out "Yo dude!  Wait a second!"  The mother rushed over to me and said "You're that one guy who works here, right?  Could you help me with my car?  If I leave it here..."  I didn't glare at her (I was told that may make her "uncomfortable" by management) and told her that my concern began when I passed through the front doors, and that neither I or anyone else inside cared about her car as long as it was legally parked.  She went back to her son who called out "Thanks!"  He may or may not have added "dude" to it- I'm not sure as I was dodging someone's speeding car who wasn't watching for pedestrians.

I'd been misgendered before even getting on the clock.  Yay me.


Needless to say, I was in a Rotten mood.  I did my job the best I could under the circumstances- waiting for the next customer to insult me or whatever.

And soon enough, I was misgendered again.  I reported both misgenderings to management, as I'm supposed to.  Of course, nothing was/could be done.

I was miserable all night.  And, of course, after closing we had to change out all the signs from Holiday to whatever, as well as re-do displays.  I'd done this every year forever, so I knew what needed to be done.  I didn't do it at top speed, but whatever.

We eventually were told we could go home, so I went back to the breakroom.  A well meaning coworker saw that I was miserable and asked what was wrong, so I told her.  I mentioned that because of this, I wouldn't see my daughter for Christmas.

"Those are times that once missed you never get back!" she said.

I told her I was very aware of that, and somehow managed to keep from bawling while standing there.  In fact, I made it to my car before I completely lost control and started sobbing again.  And that's how I drove home- crying my eyes out.  I stopped at Wawa to get a sandwich for me and one for Linda.  As always, I got some looks of horror and/or disgust.

I went home, where Linda and I ate the sandwiches and watched Dark Knight.  Because nothing says Christmas like Batman.  (I didn't want to see anything even remotely connected to the holiday.)

I called Wife, and told her she could come over to get Daughter's presents since she wasn't able to open them here.  She came, and I gave Wife her gifts as well.  I told her I absolutely didn't want to know from Christmas at all.  I just wanted to forget the whole thing.  Wife took the gifts, and drove back to MIL's.  She looked sad.

Linda and I finished the movie, and I trudged to bed.  I lay down, and started crying uncontrollably again.

I cried myself to sleep.  Again.


Tree this year

The next day was Christmas.  Just another day.  Still, Wife managed to get Daughter away from MIL for a little bit and they visited.  Daughter had already opened her gifts that morning, but Wife hadn't, so she opened hers.  She brought me a gift: a book I'd asked for.

I had off the next day.  I triple checked. 

Today (Thursday) I was called on the carpet because of my mood on Sunday.  At this point, I'm not at liberty to say more about that meeting.  However, I expect the worst.  I started crying in this meeting, and was asked if I wanted to go home.  I accepted the offer.  There will be "consequences."  Yeah, I get consequences- people who misgender me?  Not so much.

I thought about this- when was the last job where I had a major meltdown.  I had to go back almost thirty years- to TGI Fridays.  I had already put in my 2 weeks and been removed from the schedule, as I'd found another job.  The one manager I liked called me and asked me to cover a night shift as a favor.  He promised I'd be the first one OTLEd (allowed to leave when business slowed) as I'd already worked nine hours at my new job that day.   I took the shift- a table shift.  The manager I liked wasn't the closing manager; he was the "mid."  The closing manager said that any deal the other manager made weren't binding with him, and that I was closing- which meant being there until after 2 AM.  I'd been at work since 8 AM, and would do the same the next day.  I was in my early twenties and FAR angrier then.  That wasn't a pretty result.  Needless to say, I never worked another shift, even though the manager I liked called me several times to pick up more shifts.

I spoke to my therapist today.  We talked about the meltdown.  I told her about my mood, and where my head was.  She asked how I "recovered" from such breakdowns in the past.  I answered her truthfully- I didn't.  I just learned to live at a heightened level of despair, hopelessness, and deeper depression. 

I never "recover."  I don't know how.

And there's that chorus again:  "Get over it!"  "Put on your big girl panties!"  "If you can't stand the heat..." I'll even add "stop faking!"

So.  Here's where my head is at this moment.  I'm not going to bother applying for my PhD, because no one will accept someone as stupid as I am.  After all, if I'm so fucking smart, why am I stuck working as a retail drone?   Besides, to continue the process requires Hope.  And I have NONE.  Any time I DO have hope, it's completely crushed, leaving me worse off than before.

I'm never going to be promoted to management, so why bother with the extra bullshit of being a supervisor/trainer?  After all, no one listens to my recommendations anyway, (hell they didn't even listen when I told them there was a pervert in the women's room!) and I end up doing my job as well as that of the helpless person next to me.  So assuming I still have a job (which I don't assume) I'm going to step down from being head cashier.

If I want to keep working, I need to find a job.  At this point, I've literally tried everything except fast food.  Minimum wage.  Working with high school kids.  Assuming they'll hire a transwoman to make food.  Which I doubt.  See "Hope" above.

I'll probably drop out of all groups and clubs.  No money means no extra-curricular activities.  No conferences.  No talks, protests, or speeches.  No one cares what I think anyway- that's been proven again and again.  Also, to protest implies hope for a better future.  Ibid.

I need to find a new roomie for Linda.  If I can't pay my half of the rent, I'll only be a burden to her. 

After all that is done, I'll be Free.  Maybe I'll jump in my car and drive west or south until it breaks down.  And there, I'm sure the Trumpanzees will solve my problems the way they solve anyone "different."

Or I could just disappear.  That appeals to me as well.  But I probably won't even be able to do that right. 

That's where my head is right now. 

Melted. 

Happy fucking new year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Steps

I was re-reading my old TG Forum columns.  Twice I've written about bias between full time transwomen and part time "crossdressers."  Both times I concluded that we are the same but for circumstance.  And I still think that.

There IS a difference between part and full time transwomen, though.

Full timers (FT) were willing and able to take that next step.  Then the next one.  Then the next.  Part timers (PT) and FT take many of the same first steps.  That first time actually dressing. First time trying  makeup.  First photos.


One of my first Sophie pictures, Dec 2008.  Femme Fever.

Opening the door and having the courage to walk through it as a Woman for the first time.

We felt the same thrill- the same fear.  The same quiet feeling of being Right- being your True self, if only for a short span.

The difference stems from Fear.  Many PT are content to be as they are- expressing themselves occasionally.  For others, dressing is a fetish- a sexual thrill.  A fantasy.  Yet others aren't willing to pay the awful price of transition.

But for a few, just a few, it isn't enough. Some know this immediately.  They've always known.  Many of those of my generation Died by their own hand rather than live one more moment as a guy- another second living the lie.  Fortunately for the younger generations, this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem, as more are transitioning younger- becoming the women they were born to be with the bodies we could only wish for- indistinguishable from genetic girls.

Some need time to dig through the layers of denial, self-hatred, and Pain to discover their Truth.  That was my path.  I knew she was there.  I buried her deep, and did my best to forget her.

But she bubbled and stirred, torturing my soul.  Causing me so much Pain and anger.  I searched for the cause blindly for decades, denying a Truth I didn't dare admit to myself.

Melodramatic?  A bit, yes.  But true nonetheless.

Those few take that next step: admitting the Truth to themselves.  They have the strength to admit that they Need to change.

Many end here.  They can't face the steps that follow.  They Fear the Pain and humiliation and Hate they will face.  Their own demons devour them.  This is where we lost my dearest sister Lisa in 2013.

Everything about this is Fear.  Every step.  I've written about this before.  Each step is far more terrifying than the last.  Each step has its own costs and dangers, individual to the woman taking them.

And the worst Part?  The journey never ends, not as long as she lives.


Enduring somehow.  December 2017

Some have it competitively easy.  They keep their marriages and/or careers.  They have the means to get the surgeries they want/need.  Some even blend in with the world of genetic women and disappear, putting their past and Pain behind them and living the lives they were born to live.

But few.  So few.

The Dead far outnumber us all.  They whisper from their graves about the steps they could not take, and the step that they did.  The step they took promises peace- an end to the Pain.


We Transpeople have a blessing that so many don’t have- we KNOW who we are.  We have worked hard and suffered greatly to take what steps we have.  And our reward is derision, humiliation, violence, and even murder.  Transwomen are hated because we exist.  After all, what guy would WANT to be a woman?  And God forbid a man find one of us attractive.  That's too often a death sentence.

One of my dearest friends is about to take a major step.  She has been full time for a while.  She has changed her name legally, and works as a woman.  However, her ex-wife and dependent children have never met Her (even though extended family have.)  I remember this step well, and the Fear it engendered.

But she is Strong.  She will endure.

That's the difference between FT and PT.  FT have simply taken the next steps.  Does this make us better?  Worse?  No.  It makes us Sisters.  Sisters in different places, but sisters nonetheless.

Be well.