Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Truth about... the Class Trip

In May 1984, I was a senior in High School.  I was working almost every night at Burger King, and volunteering with the Rescue Squad and Ambulance.  I'd been accepted to Drexel University, and finally had a girlfriend (in my book I called her Julianne.)

The whole year, I'd been making payments on the class trip.  Like the class the year before, we were going to Walt Disney World in Florida.  I used Burger King money (as I wasn't spending it on girl clothes anymore.)

The day finally arrived!  We boarded busses in front of the high school.  I remember listening to The Doors Greatest Hits on my walkman as we went.

We arrived at the hotel in Florida around noon.  There were palm trees!  I'd never seen those before!  It was a whole different world.  My assigned roommate was a guy named Mike.  I barely knew him, even though I worked with his brother, Scott, at BK.  Scott was one of the "cool kids-" a talented baseball player who the ladies adored.  Good guy, too.

The hotel was two L shaped buildings, forming a square around an inner courtyard.  That courtyard had a swimming pool.  Spring Ford had the two lower floors of one building (out of three stories), and, across the courtyard, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, New Brunswick, NJ had the entire other building.

The rules were typical: no alcohol or drugs, stay with the group, etc.  There was one atypical one.  Guys were on the first floor, and girls were on the second floor.  Girls obviously could be on the Ground floor, but guys couldn't be on the second floor.  Wouldn't want any hanky panky goin' on, would we?

The problems with these rules were numerous.  For one, there were many couples on this trip.  The girl would simply stay in her boyfriend's room, while the "roommate" would bunk in someone else's room using a pull out bed, which were available for free upon request.  So much for "no sex."  I know of several couples who made use of this loophole.  One of the guys who graduated the year before us was living in the Orlando area, and he supplied copious amounts of beer, weed, and whatever to his friends (essentially the "cool guys.")  Then there were a small group of classmates who drove down themselves to stay with the aforementioned alumnus, and stayed at his place.  They appeared at the hotel parties.  If I knew these things, then I have to assume all of us knew, because I was pretty out of touch.  (I knew because my co-workers at Burger King told me.)

We checked in, then we went to the brand new Wet N Wild- a water park.  We all had a blast!  I got a wicked sunburn on my chest, as I fell asleep during an inner tube ride that went in a large circle.  Ouch!

That night, there was a cookout and party by the pool in the center courtyard of the hotel.  I was recovering from a leg cramp while swimming, and was getting a soda and bumped into a cute black haired girl named Beverly.  Beverly was from the NJ school.  We chatted, and she was very nice.  We talked the entire picnic.  I told her I had a girlfriend, and she told me about her boyfriend back home.

The next day, my class went to the newly opened Epcot Center.  I hung around with my friends Bob and Scitman, and we had a blast.  That night, the class went to a restaurant for dinner and dancing.  I even danced a little (which was very rare.)  I was having a wonderful time!

Epcot Map, 1984

We went back to the hotel, where there was to be a pool party.  Actually, the party had already started by the time we arrived, and the Jersey folks were having a blast!  Beverly saw me and asked if I was going to go swimming again.  I said I was, and she said she was as well, but she had to go up to her room to give her roommate her keys.  She was staying on the third floor on the other side of the hotel.  Would I like to head up with her, and meet her roomie?  Sure, why not?

On our way up the stairs on their side of the hotel, we encountered one of my classmates, I'll call him Mal.  He was coming down from the third floor as we were going up.  I thought nothing of it at the time.

We arrived at Beverly's room.  The door was propped open, as there was a gentle breeze blowing, and, well, her roomie didn't have keys.  Beverly introduced me to her roomie, who was laying on the bed reading a book.  (I forget her name.)  She then went to the restroom.  I turned and looked out the door.  Walking past the door, I saw my 11th grade Chemistry teacher, I'll call her Mrs. B.  She was an elderly woman, heavyset with dyed black hair and thick glasses.

For a moment, I thought "Oh shit!" then I remembered- I was on the other side of the hotel!  So I immediately calmed down.  Beverly came out of the bathroom, and we headed downstairs to the party.

I took off my shirt and was heading for my room to get a towel when I was roughly grabbed by two teachers, and almost carried to a room.  There, I was left alone with the principal.  His posture was stiff, and his hands were behind his back.  The rhythm of his speech reminded me of Ed Sullivan, to match his posture.

"Now... I have heard...a ROOM-er... that YOU were on the third floor... of the hotel."

I hate lies, so I said I had been on the third floor of the other side.  I told him exactly what had happened.

He told me that the "student council" was "deliberating [my] fate" as we spoke.  Now remember, there were people swapping rooms, going out drinking, etc, but I was the one in trouble!  It didn't take long- the Student Council decided that my Horrendous Crime was worth my being sent home from the class trip.  The principal called my parents, and explained that I was being sent home, and that he'd call again with flight times.  I would have to pay the school for my ticket home AND for a chaperone!

I was permitted to go back to my hotel room with an escort of the same two teachers who grabbed me earlier.  I was not allowed to speak to anyone.  Everyone was staring.  Some hooted and hollered.  I packed my things, and was escorted back to the principal's room.  He ordered a cot brought to the room, and there I spent the night.

The principal snored.

Early the next morning, I was awakened and herded toward a van.  The chaperone was waiting.  He taught business, and had a waxed curling moustache.  He didn't want to come to Florida in the first place, and was glad to go home early.

I didn't speak on the way to the airport, waiting for the plane, boarding... but the teacher was chatting away, happy as can be.  About halfway back to Philadelphia, he took the hint and stopped trying to speak to me.  I just looked out the window, and seethed.  I also wrote in a book I had with me.  I'll come back to that.

How did Mrs. B know to look for me up there?  We were there for less than five minutes, and we told no one where we were going.  In fact there was only one person who knew: Mal.  he must've told the teachers where I was going.  Did I mention nobody liked that guy?

After we landed, my dad met me at baggage claim.  He exchanged curt pleasantries with the teacher, and led me to his truck.  He didn't say a word to me then, or for the entire ride home.  When we arrived home. we pulled up into the driveway and started walking toward the back door.  He pointed at the lawn mower sitting in the backyard.  He didn't speak to me for a week.

I thought that would be the end of it.  It was Friday, and I was home early.  The class were going to Disney World that day.  Sometime during that day, probably first thing after arriving, they were assembled for a class picture.  Obviously, as I was miles away (probably in flight) I am not in the picture.

After I finished cutting the grass and putting away the mower, I decided to go down to Burger King and pick up my check.  It was payday after all.  I walked into BK, and when the staff saw me, they gave me an ovation.  They had heard what happened.  People who were in Florida started spreading the word via phone probably as it happened.

The BK staff heard that I was caught naked having sex.  And that I had her arms tied to the bedposts with leather straps.  I told them what had actually happened.  Some of them believed me.  Others didn't.

At 4 PM, I called "Julianne" at home.  The first words out of her mouth were "You'd better have a great explanation for this."  She'd heard at HER school as well!  She said she'd heard that we were caught having sex, I was tied to the bed, and the girl was wearing a leather dominatrix outfit complete with whip.  I told Julianne the truth.  She believed me, but our relationship was doomed.  When we broke up, the class trip was one of the things she brought up.

Monday morning, I went to school.  With me, I brought a blank check from my bank account.  I stopped in the office, and was told the amount.  It all but emptied my account- the money I was saving for college.

I ended up being late for homeroom.  The homeroom teacher gave me two demerits for being late, despite my telling her where I was, and showing my hall pass.  I had NEVER, in all my school career, received a single demerit before this.  And that wasn't the only one.  By the time final exams rolled around, I had NINE demerits (ten meant suspension) for various offenses, none of which were demerit worthy.  (Like "taking too long going to the restroom.")

Suddenly, everyone was talking about me.  Everyone wanted the story.  I told them exactly what happened.  Most didn't believe me.  They heard all kinds of kinky stories.  I won't list them here, but some of them were quite outrageous and/or disgusting.  Whenever I saw Mal in the halls, he avoided me.  Good thing, too.  After all, if I were going to get demerits, I may as well earn them by knocking his teeth in.  This is when I was in peak condition, and I was still studying in the dojo.  It would've been over quickly.

High School Graduation

I won an award at graduation from the "Ladies Club of Royersford": Outstanding Writer of the Year.  It was supposed to have a $500 cash award attached, I was told.  It was reduced to $50.  They almost didn't give it to me.  When I walked up to receive my diploma, people laughed.  I heard chants of "Flor-i-da!"  The superintendent handed me my diploma, and, as rehearsed, I smiled and turned to my right for the "official picture."  I then turned to the superintendent and said "F*ck you."  Yes, I know, really mature.  I was an angry 17 year old.

I kept in touch with Beverly for a while.  We wrote to each other, and occasionally spoke on the phone.  She attended Rutgers.  I visited her there once during late 1985.  I was supposed to stay the weekend, but I ended up leaving the same night I arrived.  I last heard from her in 1987, when she wrote me telling me she was getting married.  I hope her life has been amazing.

At the five year reunion, what did most people ask/say to me?  "Remember Florida?" or some other comment to that idea.

Ten year reunion:  "Remember the class trip? *laughs*" Mal attended that reunion.  He became a police officer, and had a Hitler moustache to "protest" something or other.  I asked him why he "ratted me out."  He didn't answer- just turned and avoided me for the rest of the day.  I haven't seen nor heard of him since.

Twenty five year reunion: "Dude were you really caught f*cking that girl?"

At the Thirty year reunion, despite my showing up as a Woman, wearing a cleavage-baring dress, what did I hear?  "Class trip!"  Seriously!  They were seeing me as a female for the first time, and THAT'S all they could think to discuss?

And that's not all- for years after, my name was brought up at school assemblies as a threat- break the rules and you'll be sent home.  How do I know?  The younger siblings of friends told me.  I have had several SF grads, when introduced to me (in my old life) say "Aren't you the one they sent home from the class trip?"  I also heard that maybe ten years later, a large group was sent home for drug violations, ending class trips for a while.

So there it is- the Truth.  Unvarnished.  How do I remember this so clearly?  Aside from the fact that it's burned into my memory, I wrote the details in my journal I kept.  I wrote the details of the previous night in my journal on the plane ride home.

How did this make me feel?  As I've written before, in August 1983, I stopped crossdressing; resolving to be the Man I was expected to be.  I was angry at the world.  Miserable.  Depressed.  All my life, I'd been punished for things others had done, usually my brother.  This time, my "peers" decided to make an example of me, for a really minor thing.  As I wrote above, classmates were screwing, drinking, getting high, going out on the town- and EVERYONE knew it... but I'm the one who bore everyone's sins.  (No, I don't have a Christ complex.)  If I were one of the "popular" kids, would I have been sent home?  Of course not.  But I was a nobody, and a perfect target.

I hate lies.  I hate Hypocrisy even more (especially when I am guilty of it.)  And that's what I saw that day.   Everyone else gets a pass but me.

I was Bitter as Hell for years.  I would spit if the name "Spring Ford" were mentioned.  At the reunions, I avoided the honorable members of the student council, especially when I was drinking, lest I give them a strongly worded piece of my mind.  Or worse.  Why did I go to the reunions?  Because I wanted to see how many of my classmates had screwed up their lives.  And I wasn't disappointed in that regard.  At all.  Not that I've done much better.

Time heals all wounds is the cliche (which I don't believe by the way.)  However, in this case, I let the bitterness go.  I let it Die with Lance when I transitioned.  Do I still hold all the same opinions?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Do I care?  Not anymore.  I have far worse issues to concern myself with now.

For what it's worth, one of the members did eventually apologize to me, saying they thought what happened was wrong.  Over thirty years later.

I accepted the apology.

Be Well.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 35: Winter Break

This is the second to last chapter of the fall 1986 semester.  The last one concerns a Rescue Squad call during break, just before coming back to PSU.  It has nothing to do with PSU or the fraternity at all, so I wasn't going to post it.  Let me know if you think I should post it.

In any case, this is the longest chapter of the book.  A lot of it has nothing to do with Penn State, with people who are from the first part of the book (Drexel) so this is an edited version.  I'm leaving in just the Penn State parts.

I was only going to post my first Penn State semester in my blog.  I've received TONS of hits on the chapters, and received some wonderful comments, both public and private.  I'm glad that I've been able to help fellow alumni remember happy times from their days at PSU.  Maybe I'll post the Spring 1987 semester as well.  Please let me know what you think.  And comments are always appreciated!


Chapter 35: Winter Break

Saturday, December 20, 1986 Sakharov freed from Gorky exile

            First Dave went home, Then Virginia, Then, eventually, Judy.  I took the TV exam then walked to the bus terminal over on Atherton Street, from which I rode the Greyhound bus back to the King of Prussia bus terminal, maybe ten miles from home.  After four and a half hours, I arrived to dull grey skies and flurries.  The whole world seemed stripped of color.
            I was home, as it was.
            Mike Joy waited in his beat up grey camaro.
            “You’re late, Kandler!”
            “Take it up with the driver.  I think he aimed for every pothole he could hit,” I said while loading my laundry and book bag into the small back seat.  When that was done, I plopped down into the passenger seat.
            “Welcome home, asshole!”  Joy said, offering his hand.
            “Fuck off, shithead,” I said, shaking it.
            We made some small talk as he drove me past the mall and back to Spring City.

            Christmas break meant work: I went back to Wee Three Records as planned.  I wanted as many hours as possible.  I needed the money and I needed to be out of the house as much as I could.  Dave worked too, over at Diamond Glass.  I probably wouldn’t see him at all.  So it meant more time for work.

Friday, December 26, 1986 62 die on jet as hijack try causes crash

            [After playing hours of drinking games at the house of a friend's grandfather, which said friend was house sitting.]
After a few hours more of Three Man, Mexican, and Ace Face, I sat alone at the table.  Joy was passed out on the couch, Harry upstairs in a bed, and Chuck was face down on the table.  Even passed out, Chuck’s hat remained sideways on his head.  It was like a scene from a movie.  I was really drunk, but not so bad that I didn’t want to drink more, play more, or whatever.  Maybe I’d walk to the Wawa.  How did I manage to be the one still up?  Practice?
Then it struck me.  In my two years at Drexel, I came home most weekends.  I never let the “Drexel Experience” sink in- probably because I was afraid what would happen.  But now…


Now I knew that I didn’t belong here.  I didn’t want to just hang out at the mall, or go to Sensations hoping maybe to meet someone so I could stop thinking about the girl who just left me, or cruise my nights away on High Street.  I looked at my friends passed out and thought about them.  They were good people- I certainly was no better than them.  Chuck worked hard at the Mrs. Smith’s Pie factory.  Harry worked at another factory.  Joy worked two different retail jobs trying to afford school.  I was no better, but much as I denied it, I had changed.  I wanted a different life.  I was beginning to see things differently.  I met and studied with people from all over the country.  I drank in all Penn State had to offer.  Pardon the pun.  I really was, finally, a college man.  My path was diverging from theirs and was leading away.
Taken Winter Break '86.  My Letters are redacted.

So now what?  Having admitted that to myself, what’s the next step?  Be a snob?  Not associate with my friends?  No, can’t do that. 
Fuck, all I knew for sure was that I missed Penn State.  I missed the energy, the fun, the the…  I missed Judy.  I saw Virginia, but it was different here.  At Penn State, it was both of them.  Here, Judy was a voice on the phone.  A Memory.  Like Penn State.
I had another two weeks, or maybe my whole life, to wait until returning to school.
I knew this: I was tired of being different.


Friday, January 2, 1987 Students rally again in Peking

            “Intercepted, Giftopoulos!”  the announcer Charlie Jones said.
            Penn State had intercepted Miami’s Vinnie Testaverde AGAIN!  Gifto caught it on the one yard line, ran out to the eleven, and dropped to his knees, covering the ball.  Eight seconds left.  Vinnie threw five interceptions.  This one sealed the win!  Penn State beat Miami 14-10! 
            Penn State was National Champions!
            Virginia and I hugged and then I ran out into the snowy night, barefoot, jumping and cheering!  I could hear cheering from a couple of the houses.  WE WON!

Interception Giftopoulos!  Freeze frame capture from You Tube

            Ok, back up.  The Crew gathered at Joy’s parent’s place to watch the game.  I picked up Virginia because I said we needed “more Penn State representation.”  I just wanted someone who Knew.  Who was from There.  Virginia wore her green sweater.  I wore my bumblebee FKS shirt.  You’d figure one of us would wear something Penn State, but we didn’t.  My only Penn State shirt was at school.
            Anyway, no beer, no pretzels or anything.  Just the game with Chuck and Harry’s smart ass remarks.  But not Joy- he was from Florida, and said he was rooting for Miami, but he didn’t say shit.
At one point he mentioned that the Penn State defensive backs and linebackers were punishing the Miami receivers whenever they came near the ball- especially Michael Irvin (he’d eventually make the Pro Football Hall of Fame). 
            It was a battle between philosophies: flash and brash vs. class.  The Miami guys always wore sunglasses and combat fatigues.  Our guys wore jackets and ties.  This time, class won.
            I came back inside quickly after I realized I had bare feet.  Virginia hugged me again.
            The time ran out.  Coach Paterno was hoisted onto his players’ shoulders.  Charlie Jones said “And there it is- its official.  The Penn State Nittany Lions are the National Champions.”
            Joy stoically shook my hand.  He paid me the ten bucks he bet a couple days later.
            We were Champions!  I had nothing to do with it, but it somehow validated my choice of school- my very existence.  It was the cap to a magical time.
            Penn Staters didn’t stop celebrating until early the next season.
            Penn State: 14  Miami: 10.  Fuck you, Jimmy Johnson.  Up yours, Jerome Brown!  After all your posing, we won!
            I hugged Virginia again, and she kissed my cheek.

Tuesday, January 6, 1987 Budget Totals $1.024 Trillion
It took hours to drive back to Spring City, as the Rabbit kept stalling.  Add that to the fact the Schuylkill Expressway was still under construction, and I arrived at sunset.  The mail was waiting on the kitchen table, including an envelope from Penn State: opened.
What the fuck!
Well the paper was still in it.
HIST 107: Medieval Europe…..  C    I expected that
ENGL 133: Modern American Lit to WWII….C   Not unexpected.
STAT 200: Elementary Statistics….C    I’m glad I passed!
THEA 109 Drama in Mass media….C     What happened?  I expected a B.
EDPSY 014: Learning for Instruction….D   WHAT???  I expected an A here!
Overall GPA for the term: 1.81
            I felt sick.
            “LANCE!” my dad’s angry voice echoed off every wall.
            Run?  Join the military?  Become a hermit? 
            “Yeah?”  I answered the echoes.
            “Outside!  Now!” the angry voice said.
I walked out to the back yard where he was stacking firewood.  With the sun going down, it was becoming really fucking cold.
“What’s your problem, boy?”

[I'll end it here.  The rest of the chapter concerns a nasty argument with my dad, a trip to Philadelphia, and making arrangements for a ride back to PSU.  The chapter ends with...]

While we ate, we made arraignments for the trip back up to State College.  I couldn’t fucking wait.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Delia's Writing Challenger #3: Text

I was sent another writing challenge, this time by the incredible Delia.  I procrastinated.  Oops.

So here it is, Delia.  Top billing.  639 words.

Topic:  500 words: you accidentally text someone something revealing, who is it? What did you write? What were the repercussions?


It was another day after work.  Retail sucks, but I needed to pay the bills while going for my Master’s degree.  I spilled my soda down my dress walking to my night class and cursed myself as I blotted it up.  All over my left breast and skirt.  Great.  I found the classroom, and was waiting for class to begin when I received a text from my friend Charlotte. 

When you first went on HRT, were you scared?  Did it affect your penis?

My coworkers didn’t know it, but I’m transgender.  I was born with a male body.  I transitioned to female five years ago, having facial surgery and “bottom” surgery as well.  It was my secret- I didn’t want to be judged as a transwoman- just as a woman.  I scrubbed my online life the best I could, and moved to a different state.  

No one knew me here.  I was safe.  

Makeup and photo by Amanda Richards

In any case, I quietly mentored other women beginning their transitions.  Charlotte was one of them- she was 20, slim, and scared.  HRT is Hormone Replacement Therapy- where one takes hormones to block testosterone and also feminize the body.

I turned off my phone as class began.

At a break, I turned my phone on again, but I didn’t realize that another text arrived.  This one was from a coworker, asking about swapping shifts.  I read it, turned off my phone again, and forgot about it.  I didn’t really like the guy: Greg.  He was a misogynistic jerk.

After class, I walked to my car.  My dress felt cold where I’d tried to clean the spill during breaks.  I turned on my phone, and typed my response to Charlotte.  I usually respond to her quickly.

HRT is a scary step.  Once the changes start, there is now going back.  Yes, estrogen will make your penis shrink, possibly significantly.  It will also render you sterile, so if you want children, get some sperm frozen.  My penis lost over half its size from HRT, which didn’t help GCS.  (GCS is Gender Confirmation Surgery- “the Operation.”)

I sent it, and forgot about it. 

An hour later, I received another text from Charlotte. 

Hello?  Was my question too personal?  No answer?

I thought “wait, I DID answer” and checked my phone. 

I’d sent the text to Greg. 

Oh shit!

By then, it was past 11 pm, and there was nothing I could do.  What was done was done.
I arrived at work the next morning for an “opening” shift on “Customer Service.”  Greg was scheduled for 11 AM, so I had two hours before he arrived.  I was very nervous.  Would he tell others?  Would he think the text was a joke? 

At 10 AM, another coworker, Bob, arrived and clocked in.  He worked in another department, and we were cordial.  He didn’t speak to me- didn’t even look at me as he passed.  Normally he’d say “hello” or something.

Did he know?

At 11, Greg arrived and punched in.  He looked at me very intensely.  I said hello, as I always did.  He replied “what was with that text you sent last night?” 

All morning I’d thought of different possible answers to that inevitable question.  I decided that I’d be honest- otherwise lies would compound on lies, and I hated lies.

“That was meant for someone I’m mentoring.  I’m transgender, and I’d appreciate if you’d keep that to yourself.”

His face twisted into disgust for a flash before he caught himself.  “Well, a bit late for that,” he said and walked away.

I felt my heart sink.  It was like I’d learned of a death in the family- but that death was me.  My secret was out- there was no way to change it. 

No one would ever see me the same way again. 

I never felt so helpless.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 34: Sahn-Tah

As the semester neared its end, students' minds filled with Final exams, the Holidays (how to get home,) and, of course, getting in those last parties at PSU before break.

And so it was at Skull.  And like everything else, Skull had a Tradition to follow.

Sahn-Tah.  That's not how it was spelled- that's how it was pronounced.  Accent on the first syllable.

The way this works is explained in the chapter, so I won't spoil it.  Sahn-tah was always a graduating senior.

This was another day where I didn't know what to expect.  I would participate in three Sahn-tahs in my time at Skullhouse.  However, this was the only time I received a "gift."  I have mixed feelings about that.  In one way, it showed me that there were still people who didn't accept me.  In another, I was sort of thinking that may not be a bad thing.

Oh, and Sahn-Tah?  Usually ended up on the Campus Loop, going around and around and around.


Chapter 34: Sahn-tah

Friday, December 12, 1986 South Africa moves to silence dissent

            Like many large groups, the Skulls had a “Pollyanna” for Christmas.  Several of the guys were Jewish or whatever, but it didn’t matter- the Skull celebration had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with busting each others balls!
            Garbo filled me in after it was mentioned at chapter.  The gift could be as mean as you want it to be- or not.  The hat passed around, and I drew Chumpy.
            As I mentioned before, Chumpy was powerfully built, but short- five foot five at most.  He’d been dating Becky, the Zeta he met at Homecoming, since October.  Chumpy was the Gamma, which meant he was house handyman.  That was everything I knew about Chumpy.  Hell, I don’t think I knew his given name at that point.

Club Room: Post Sahn-Tah 1988.  I know I took more pictures, but they are lost to time.

            Judy and Virginia helped me shop.  I didn’t know nasty I should be with my gift- I mean after all I was still trying to be accepted by these guys.  Still, part of me just wanted to be mean: fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
            Eventually I settled on my first idea.  We shuffled through the falling snow to the Hardware store at the corner of Allen St and Highland Alley where I bought a metal step stool.  It was small, maybe a foot or so high.
            I didn’t know how seriously the brothers took this event, so I didn’t know how to wrap it.  Marni suggested the house colors, so off we went through the light snow to McClanahans.  There we found shiny gold wrapping paper and Melissa found black ribbon.  Figured I’d write a short verse to explain the gift, and this was done on my old Skull stationary.
            I wrapped the box an hour before heading over to the house for dinner.  I didn’t know that as I wrapped, Sahn-ta was also getting ready.
            The event started at seven, and was held in the Club Room.  We all finished dinner and most helped clean up!  After all, we needed the chairs.  A few guys had dinner brought upstairs to them, among them was King.  King was Sahn-tah this year.  The others were Flounder and Sauce- they were Sahn-tah’s elves.
            In front of the blazing fire was placed one of the large black leather high backed chairs- for Sahn-tah.  A dining room chair flanked either side for his elves.  All of the gifts were piled on the piano side of the room.  Most of them were wrapped shabbily in newspaper.  My gold and black box stood out- and everyone wondered about it.  What the fuck was Chumpy getting that rated such a wrap job?
            Someone put Christmas music on the house speakers and Sahn-tah made his appearance- staggering badly and supported by his elves.
            “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m tellin’ you why- Santa Claus is comin’ to town!”
            King was dressed in a red sweatshirt, fake beard, and a Santa hat.  He was so drunk it was a wonder he was upright.  His elves, dressed in green with red Santa hats, steered him to the large black chair.  “HO HO FUCKIN’ HO!”  Sahn-tah yelled, holding his arms up in a V, then he chugged the remaining beer from the bottle in his right hand and threw it to the floor.
            Everyone chanted “Sahn-tah!  Sahn-tah!”
            Flounder Elf handed Sahn-tah another beer, and Sahn-tah chugged that one as well.  The elves then pushed him into his chair, and the gift giving began.
            Ok, when your name was called, you came forward, drank the shot handed to you by an elf (cheap whiskey) then took your gift.  If there was something written attached, you read it out loud, then you opened the gift and held it up for all to see. 
            I figured that all out while watching everyone else.
            We were on tap of course.  I stood in the back by the keg, where I filled the occasional stray pitcher handed back to me.  I knew I didn’t need nor want to be sober for this. 
            I watched as the elves handed boxes to Sahn-tah, who read the names as best he could.  He was slurring and drooling drunk.  Every so often, an elf would declare “SOCIAL!” and we’d all drink- including Sahn-tah.
            After maybe ten others, my name was called.  King was surprised as I was- he called “Lance?”
            I walked around the gathered brothers to Sahn-tah and accepted a shot from Flounder elf.  Gulp!  Down it went, burning all the way to my stomach to the cheers of the assembled brothers.
            There was no card or written piece to accompany the flimsy item wrapped with that day’s Daily Collegian.  I opened the package and found a battered old white t-shirt.  I held it up and saw that someone wrote FSK on the front with red magic maker.  (FSK’s colors are red and silver.)  The brothers screamed and laughed.  High fives through the crowd.  Someone shouted “SOCIAL!”  I had no beer, so I turned and gestured to Flounder Elf for the whiskey bottle, which he gave me.  I gulped a big mouthful of whiskey, trying to drown the humiliation.  A couple of brothers cheered “Go Lance!”  After finishing, I shook my head, twirled the shirt around over my head and went back to the keg.  I needed a chaser.
            I tapped myself a beer, then another one.  Sahn-tah passed out, his chin resting on his chest, drooling into the now disgusting yellowish beard. 
            Finally, Chumpy was called.  By that point, he was fairly drunk.  He’d torn off his t-shirt and was wearing just khaki shorts.  When his name was called he walked over to the elves with an exaggerated strut that reminded me of a cross between John Wayne and Grape Ape.  He drank his shot, burped loudly into Sahn-tah’s face (Sahn-tah didn’t wake up) and accepted the gaudy gold box with black ribbon.
            Chumpy opened the envelope taped to the top and opened the paper inside.  “This must fuckin’ be from fuckin’ Lance.  Who fuckin’ else has Skull paper?”  He held up the paper for all to see.  Some people shouted and mocked, but not many.  I guess I wasn’t the only one who had that stationary. 
            He then started to read.

It’s amazing to all the respect you’ve found.
In fact, you’re known in the house all around.
Your ability to fix things is without a match.
It’s almost as bad as the way you get snatch.
We’re glad you found Becky so you can finally get laid.
We wonder sometimes how much she is paid.
In fact we’d salute you, yes we would,
If only we could see you when you stood.
So accept this help so thoughtfully given
It should help in this short life you’re livin’
A giant like you sometimes needs a hand
So enjoy this stool on which you can stand!”

Hey, I never claimed to be a poet. 
            Brothers were laughing their asses off as Chumpy unwrapped the gift to reveal the stool.  I guess I did all right. 

            The brothers were still laughing as the next name was called.  Chumpy stomped back to the keg and looked up at me with an angry look.  He then softened and started laughing and shook my hand.
            “Drink, you asshole!” he said, smiling.
            We toasted and drank.

            Now, the deltas never put away dinner.  Turkey, mashed potatoes and all that were sitting out in the kitchen as we all drank and laughed.  Nine o’clock rolled around and Delta Gamma (DG) showed up for the social we all forgot.  The House was a mess- paper everywhere- nothing was ready.  A bunch of guys helped King upstairs while the rest of us did our best to clean the house. 
The DGs thought it was really fucking funny.  We got them beers and they kicked in to help clean the club room.  We had a wrapping paper fight that ended up in one of the girls having the whole trash can dumped over her.  (She started it!)
While we worked(?) in the Club room, some of the sisters helped in the kitchen.  They helped put the food in the fridge and the pantry.  However, no one locked the pantry.
With the house in passable shape we started the social “officially.”  Groups sat at tables in the dining room talking or playing Thumper or Quarters.  I joined in a Quarters game called Chandeliers. 
In Chandeliers, you have a central cup filled to the top with beer.  Each player places their full beer cup around that central cup in a circle, rims touching.  The player with the quarter bounces it as normal.  If it lands in someone’s cup, they drink their beer and it becomes their turn.  They don’t have to chug, but don’t take all fucking night either.  If the shooter misses, they drink.  If the shooter gets the quarter in the center cup, everyone shouts “Light bulb!” and chugs down their beer as fast as possible.  Last cup on the table loses and chugs the central cup as well. 
Yeah, it got ugly in a hurry. 
So I’m dead last and chugging for like the third time when Chumpy came over with the whiskey bottle, his stool and two empty plastic cups.  He slapped me on the back, put down the stool and stepped up on it.  Smiling, he looked down at me (barely), poured two shots and handed one to me. 
“This fuckin’ rules” he said, toasting.  Down they went, burning as only whiskey could do.  I winced.  My stomach started to toss.  The other players “smelled blood” and Bix called a social.  Drink more!
I don’t know how I made it to the bathroom behind the kitchen in time, but I did.  I think I puked up everything I’d eaten since 1981.  After I finished, I staggered through the kitchen, where all these sisters were eating.  Turkey, potatoes, they were having a grand old feast.  I could care less.  I had to get back to the apartment.
What I didn’t know, is that the meal was supposed to be our lunch the next day as well.  DG completely finished it all off.  Not a scrap was left.  It was a great social…
Especially if you were a hungry DG.

Next Chapter

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How Do We Survive This?

How do we survive this?  Seriously?

Think about it- what does Gender Dysphoria do to a person?  It tears apart their soul.  From the moment you are cognizant of Gender, you KNOW something is wrong.  You may not be be able to verbalize it- but you KNOW it's wrong.  And if you don't know what the problem is- you can't solve it.

I KNEW I was a girl.  I didn't even tell my parents: I was beaten for playing a "girl's game" with the girl across the street.  "I'm not raising a sissy!"  He doesn't remember doing this.  Why would he?

Hiding it all my life.  Knowing I was living a lie.  Even at the best times, it was like having something stuck between your teeth that won't come out.  A rock in your shoe.

Constant.  Uncomfortable.  At times fierce and painful.


What does that kind of Pain do to a person?

Well, for many of us- it kills them.  So many suicides- it's numbing.  It seems like every week on facialbook I see that another friend of a friend is dead by their own hand.  It killed my best friend- my Sister- Lisa.

When Lisa died, it set off a wave through the community.  She was well loved, and everyone thought that, if any of us, SHE would be the one to succeed- SHE would be the one to live a happy life after transition.  Lisa waited until her wedding anniversary...

Then, she killed herself.   

Me and Lisa.  August 2013

Her death nearly killed me.  Still may.  If she couldn't survive this, how could I?  And how could I do it without her giving me strength?

Yet, here I am.  Still.  Nearly five years later.  I started living my Truth in 2014, and Yes, it does help.  But it isn't a "miracle cure."  The rock may be out of my shoe, but I've walked into a patch of sharp thorns.  They tear at me.  "SIR!"  "Are you a man?"  "I can see right through you."  "We've hired someone else for the position."  "Who do you think you're fooling?" "Bless your heart."


That last one is one of the many lovely comments I get on my blog.  Anonymous, of course.  But still, they read it.  Gotta wonder why.

So- the question stands: How do we survive this?

I can't answer for everyone.  There are so many people who not just survive, but thrive.  They are all over the media.  They are on facialbook, where they have thousands of friends.  They get published in newspapers and magazines and books.  They do TV and radio.  They are CEOs and move among the elite and powerful.  Their transitions go relatively smoothly (notice I did NOT say easily- there is nothing easy about transition.)  Or they are anonymously having incredible lives.

I am not one of those.  Obviously.  Would I be in this much Pain if I were?  Good question.

Some survive this with a "social network."  One cannot transition without one, really.  The "Safety Net."  In this community, we catch each other as we fall, or at least we try.  We are the only ones who understand each other- who understand This.

Picture and makeup by Amanda Richards, April 2018

I know many people.  I built a support network.  I rarely see them anymore.  I still get the occasional invitation, for which I am VERY appreciative, but I just... never feel like going out.  I often feel sick.  More often, I don't think it's fair that I inflict myself on their good times.  I stay home. 

Today, as I write this, is my 25th wedding anniversary.  We were married in 1993.  We are still married, but we've lived apart since August 2013.  I saw Wife today.  Sent roses to her work place.  Gave her candy that she likes.  We had lunch together at a Mexican place (we had our first date at a Mexican place.)  She went back to work.  That's all.

I've spent most of the day lying in bed, alternating between sleep and crying.  I really didn't think this day would hurt as much as it does.

How do I survive this?

Minute by minute.  Hour by hour.  Day by day. 

I really don't know.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 33: BSB

This is the third straight chapter featuring a "game."  This was intentional.  Remember all the chapters I skipped?  None of them had Anything to do with the fraternity.  They were all about my relationship "drama" (as it would be called today.)  

The multiple fraternity chapters were an attempt to balance that out.  Also, because the personal stuff was... on hold.  Also, these chapters happened pretty quickly.  The 'Hood wanted to get through this part of the pledge program before Christmas break.  They wanted to be at a certain "point" when classes resumed.  It made sense, if you knew the arc of the pledge program.  I didn't.  I just thought the program was really intense.  

Well, it was.

Of all the games, this was the only one I participated in.  I was chosen during my last semester.  I was shocked and honored, really.  I felt "included."  There's another word for it:  Complicit.

Oh, LPC means "last pledge class:" the last group of guys who were initiated.  You're not done pledging until you're done LPC!

Chapter 33:  BSB

Wednesday, December 10, 1986  Ex-Advisers keep silent on arms deal

            “You maggots fucking suck!”  Double D shouted down from his perch on the landing.  The pledges were bunched up beneath him.  “We’ve never had such shitty pledges!  Something needs to be done!”
            “Games!”  “Games!”  The shouts rose from the brothers on the carpet behind the pledges.
            Then, the inevitable suggestions from the Hood:
            “CIRCLE JERK!”
                        “ELEPHANT WALK!”
                                                SPIT SWALLOW!”
            It gained a rhythm as the hood chanted.  “B-S-B!” “B-S-B!” “B-S-B!”
            “B-S-B!  HEY!  B-S-B! HEY! B-S-B!”
            Double D held up his hands to stop the shouting.
            “B-S-B!”  he shouted.  “And like all games at Skull, there are a few rules!”
            “A FEW RULES!” the Hood shouts into the pledges ears.
            “First rule: No talking!”  Double D shouted.
            “NO TALKING!”
            “Second rule!  Line up and each of you chooses the brother you want to party with the most!”
They lined back up in order.  One by one, the pledges shouted the name of a brother.  The Hood would shout stuff like “Bad choice!  He’s the best at this!  “You’re fucked!”  Then the pledges were sent running back up to the pledge closet as the brothers set up.
LPC took the lead in this as always.  The dining room lights were turned on.  We were using the 4 tables visible from the foyer.  All chairs were removed from the “inside” side of the tables except one at each.  Opposite that seat were two chairs for brothers.
The full name of the game was “Bourbon, Scotch, Beer” after the George Thorogood cover song.  It was a relay race- the pledges vs. the brothers they picked.

The first table in was the shot table- first a shot a bourbon.  Then the player would move to the second table, where they’d chug a can of beer.  They’d go back to the first table where they’d down a shot of scotch.  Then they’d run back and tag the first person in line and it would be that person’s turn.  First team done wins. 

Now, as always, we knew what was coming, so during the pre-meeting all of us cracked open beers and drank about half.  These beers were on the hood’s table.  Each of the shot tables had two bottles of bourbon and scotch.  On the Hood table, one each was filled with iced tea.  In addition, as the pledges were upstairs, we shook the shit out of the cans on the pledge table.  While we set up, the selected brothers were upstairs getting “dressed.”  For some reason, this was a “costume” event
            After the brothers were ready, they told Double D how they wanted to be introduced, and then waited at the top of the Brotherhood steps.  The lights in the Foyer, Club Room, and dining room were turned off.  The siren sounded, and the pledges scrambled down the back steps to their position lined up in front of the Hood, and counted off.  The Hood shouted for them to turn around and face the Iota, who instructed them to line up behind Brother Good, who stood at the entry to the club room.  They did so, and then all the lights came back on.  The pledges looked at the set up and their faces seemed to say “what in hell do we have to do this time?”
            Me?  I sat at the brothers’ beer table with Wags.  Best place to sneak a few drinks myself.  “Watch me the first few times so you get the hang of it” Wags said, smiling as we toasted beers we’d just opened.
            Double D came down the stairs and stood in the middle of the foyer.
            “OK maggots!” he shouted.  “The name of the game is BSB!”
            “BSB! BSB! BSB!”  The Hood chanted until Double D motioned for quiet.  The Hood stood to the sides of the foyer and dining room, leaving the playing field clear.
            Double D explained the rules: shot, beer, shot, tag the next guy in line, first team finished wins.
            “As always, anyone who does not wish to participate may step away now.  No one will feel any less of you.”
            The pledges looked insulted, and stayed in line.
            “Are you ready to meet your opponents?”
            “Sir yes sir!”
            “First!” yelled Double D, pointing to the stairs, “From the jungles of the New Guinea: CHIEF BEEF!”
            Beef hopped down the hood steps dressed like an island headhunter complete with headdress and spear, shouting some kind of made up gibberish, while the brothers cheered and chanted “Hood! Hood!  Hood!”  Beef took his place at the head of a line next to the pledges, who were laughing their asses off.
            “Next: master of the martial arts and ninja extraordinaire: Kung Fu Ninja!”
            Ninja trotted down the stairs, wearing his gi and black belt, bowed to Double D, then to the pledges, and struck a kung fu pose.  He then got in line behind Beef, who high fived him.
            “From Ancient Rome: Doggus Maximus!”
            Dogger strolled regally down the stairs wearing a bedsheet as a toga. 
            “Hood!  Hood!  Hood!”
            After a few minutes, all of the brothers playing were introduced and lined up next to the pledge that chose him.  The rules were explained to the pledges.  Ask permission to sit down, ask politely for the drink, permission to drink, permission to leave.  Of course, the brothers didn’t have to do any of that shit.  First team through their line wins.  Simple enough.

From that day's Daily Collegian

            I'd put together a tape of the Thorogood song played over and over for forty five minutes.  I had a dual tape deck, so it was easy.  And it put me in the brothers' good graces.  I hoped.  One brother (LPC) stood at the top of the stairs, and another at the stereo closet across from the Alpha suite.  When Double D shouted “music!”, the guy at the top of the steps would relay the order to the other guy to start the tape.  Same for “stop!” at the end of the race. 
            For the pledges, it sounded like this:
            “Are you ready pledges?!?!”
            “Sir yes sir!”
            “I said are you ready pledges?!?!?”
            “SIR YES SIR!!!”
            The guitar riff started and faded in. 
            As George started singing “Wanna tell ya a story… about the house-man blues” I watched Beef do an exaggerated bunny hop/ tribal dance to the first table.  As he sat down, his pledge opponent was still asking permission.  Beef leisurely sipped his iced tea as the pledge asked the brothers behind the pledge shot table “May I please have a shot?  Pretty please with sugar on top?”
            Beef did some kind of tribal spinning dance from the first table to the next, where he sat in front of me.  Wags handed Beef a half filled beer, and he put his feet up on the table while drinking it.  The pledge was just seeking permission to leave the shot table.
            The pledge ran to the next table, eventually was seated, and asked for a beer.
            “Do you really want it?”  Clothsline asked.
            “Sir yes sir!”
            Clothsline opened the well shaken beer so that it sprayed all over the pledge, to the delight of everyone watching.
            By this time, Beef finished his shot of “scotch” and hopped back to the line, tagging Ninja as he passed.
From that day's Daily Collegian
            The pledge finished his sudsy beer, secured permission to leave and ran to the shot table.
            And so it went until all the pledges completed the course.  The brothers won by quite some time, of course.  The assembled spectators chanted “Hood!  Hood!  Hood!” and Double D called for the music to stop.  The whole first floor smelled badly of beer- worse than at a party.
            “Do you think you won that game?”  Double D asked the pledges.
            “Sir yes sir!”
            “Did you enjoy that game?”
            “Sir yes sir!”
            “OK!  Let’s do it!  Music!”
            George picked up where he left off  Well I ain’t seen my baby since I don’t know when. I’ve been drinkin’ bourbon whiskey, scotch, and gin…
            Beef tangoed to the first table with Double D.
            This time, the pledges were actually allowed to be competitive.  And the pledges all puked after drinking the warm foamy beer.
            The Hood won again.  LPC cleaned up.  I turned to Wags as we both finished a beer.
            “What was the point of this game?”
            “Point?  Does any of it have a point?  It’s just fun.  That’s all.”  He smiled and offered me another half empty beer.