So who am I and why do I have a blog?
Who am I? Well, as another guy born as Francis might have said, I’ve been a journalist, a DJ, a man, a woman, a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king and a lot of other things. Or something to that effect. But that’s life …
In short: just another girl with a little something extra trying to get by and stand out and make something of herself among the 7 billion on this wretched and overcrowded planet …
I’m Fran Fried — pronounced freed, spelled fryed, pronounced the latter by telemarketers and Californians. But I’m not living in California anymore — in August 2012, after eight years in exile, in search of a steady job and the possibility of love, and also because I really needed to come back while my parents are still alive, I moved from Fresno, the cowtown of a half-million where I lived for eight years, across the country to Connecticut, where I lived most of my life. At least temporarily, I’m living in the house where I grew up, in the little hick town where, despite being the smartest kid in class, I was “faggot” and variations thereof.
My age is Shut the Fuck Up – at least that’s what a lot of people tell me when they learn I’m 52, since I often get pegged for 35 to 40. Usually I feel about 28 spiritually; rock’n’roll is the ultimate youth serum, after all. And I’m at the tail end of the wildest, weirdest, most turbulent and soul-searching time of my life. Talk about going through adolescence and mid-life crisis at the same time … emphasis on crisis … One day, if I live through this, I swear it’ll be my book. In fact, it’s part of why I started this here blog in February 2010 – to capture some of my experiences and firm up my writing for when I do get to the book.
You see, I’ve been navigating two major and unplanned life changes at once over the past five years. One of the two alone would be enough to stop a horse. Even though, as a hardcore Gemini, I feel fully equipped to live dualities, this has been a hell of a lot to chew off. And I can’t believe I’m still alive to talk about it.
On March 11, 2009, I was laid off as an assistant features editor and night sports editor at The Fresno Bee, along with about 40 percent of McClatchy employees across the country. It was the job for which I moved cross-country in March 2004 after 20 years as a journalist (sports, music and entertainment) at two papers in Connecticut. That started a seemingly neverending odyssey through the thick of the Recession That’s Really Been a Depression. I was brought back by the Bee in September 2011 as an on-call copy editor, but when my hours disappeared for good in late July 2012, I kickstarted enough money to be able to rent a truck and head home. (See the Going Home section of my blog for the whole harrowing story.)
It’s been an odyssey of frustration and self-doubt and high anxiety and sometimes the blackest of thoughts, and questions about self-worth and faith, both in a higher power and self. I’ve experienced the pain of uselessness and worthlessness; the mistreatment by people who either interviewed me or said they would and jerked me around; and the desperation that comes with having the unemployment run out.
And the stress of the joblessness and semi-joblessness was a Twin Tower of Stress to go along with the other wild trip I’ve been going through.
In January 2008, I began transitioning genders.
Simply, the plumbing says boy; the wiring has always said girl. I’ve always felt more comfortable with and around the girls (though I’ve always been attracted to them, too, and still am). After a lifetime of suppression — and decades of depression, low self-esteem and occasional suicidal thoughts (I’ve had many, but never acted upon them) – my epiphany came one night in January 2008. After nearly a year of baby steps, I let the girl loose that Christmastime to rave reviews in Fresno’s Tower District, the only cool section of a right-wing city.
The layoff helped hasten my transition, as I had to figure out whether I was interviewing for my next job as Fran or as Fran. In September 2009, I finally slayed my biggest dragon: I came out to my immediate family, then had the talk with most of the rest of my friends back home on three subsequent visits between November ’09 and February ’10. As of November 2010, after 14 months of weirdness and hell, my family was on board with me. My elderly, devoutly Roman Catholic parents are totally fine with me now, actually – a big star to them for that.
I also began therapy in September ’09 as a prelude to starting hormone replacement therapy, which I started in late April 2010 — which, to my surprise and great delight, cleared up 35 years of chronic depression, going back to puberty.
On Sept. 16, 2010, my name was legally changed to Fran; five days later, I went to the DMV for the new name, photo and gender on my license – I was legally recognized as female by the state of California. And now Connecticut does, too.
These days, I pass very well; you wouldn’t know unless you knew. And along the way, the support I’ve gotten from most people, friends, kin and strangers alike, has been far more than I ever could have hoped for; I must’ve racked up a supertanker full of karma points. I drank the Facebook Kool-Aid in January 2011, and my circle of friends on both sides of the country exploded. (Conversely, I’ve discovered that there is no such thing as a transgender “community”; I’ve been treated much, much better by the everyday, non-trans world.)
But my job (or lack thereof) and my gender (or double thereof) in no way define all of me. I’ve lived a cool and interesting life; that’s for damn sure. Not quite Zelig-like, but I’ve met and talked with enough famous people that you’d accuse me of being a shameless name-dropper.
Music has always been my big passion. I was a music writer for 20 years and since January 1991, I’ve hosted radio shows at WPKN, a 10,000-watt nonprofit community station at 89.5 FM (wpkn.org) in Bridgeport. And on my 20th anniversary on the air, Jan. 4, 2011, I had my coming-out to my radio listeners.
Favorite musical performers (aside from Brian Wilson, on a planet unto himself): The Fleshtones, Greenpoint’s masters of super rock, the uncrowned kings of pop and soul, since 1976. Other faves: the monks (the great lost American band), The Reducers (rocking New London 1978-2012), garage from the ’60s and beyond, The Beatles (pre-1967), Northern soul, NRBQ, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Black 47, The Shangri-Las, The Phil Spector girls (Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love), The Sonics, Bobby Fuller, The Kinks and a whole library of other sounds. Newer acts I like a lot: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, She & Him, Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents, Neko Case, The New Pornographers, Sara Borges & the Broken Singles, The Suzan and The Blind Shake.
Favorite albums: Pet Sounds and (finally!) SMiLE by The Beach Boys, Black Monk Time by the monks, Marshall Crenshaw’s self-titled first album, the first four Ramones albums, the first three Elvis Costello albums, NRBQ at Yankee Stadium, the first three Reducers albums (The Reducers, Let’s Go and Cruise to Nowhere), The Clash’s London Calling, Bruce Springsteen’s The River (and the killer outtakes that ended up on the “Tracks” box set), Skylarking by XTC.
But there are a lot of other cool things in my life. Like having both my favorite teams win Super Bowls the past six seasons. I’ve been a Giants fan since childhood and a Saints fan since my first visit to New Orleans in 1986.
Like Hot Wheels. I may have a girl’s fashion sense, but I’ve always been a sucker for cars. The Mongoose-Snake Drag Race Set was my all-time favorite Christmas toy, when I was 9, and I’ve been started collecting cars in 1995. I have a monster collection by average standards, small in comparison to some of the real hardcores.
Like pinball. (All time-faves include Gottlieb’s Hearts and Spades and Pro Football, The Addams Family, Terminator 2, Elvis and Family Guy.) Or movies. (All-time fave: Citizen Kane.) Or the Yankees.
Like real cars. (Personal wish-for: a ’65 Impala SS convertible, 327, Turbo 400 tranny, Artesian Turquoise/sea foam green with white interior, killer sound system and mad white/silver paisley trim.) Or paisley. Or purple. Or sushi. Or shoes. Or history and current events. Or shoes. Or shoes, my first visual cue as a child that I was a little different …
And Jeopardy! Been wanting to be on the show since it began in 1964. (Yes, that long.) I’ve made it to the contestant pool three times, trying out as Frannie 2.0 for the first time in November 2010. One of my life’s goals is to be a five-time champ — the old-school mark of excellence. I make a mean pub quiz teammate on either side of the country, but Jeopardy! will always be the platinum standard. And I guess being the first transgender contestant on the show would be pretty cool, too, but not nearly as cool as winning a bundle.
So anyway, this blog is about a little of this, a little of that, and a lot of passion. It might help you understand the whole gender transition thang and what I’m going through. It has also gotten me back to writing about music from time to time. And it keeps my writing chops up, gives me a little bit of structure … and the blogging, along with the bike riding, has been great therapy. And maybe this becomes the foundation of a book at some point.
And now, it seems, I have the logical ending for the book. The last Monday of July 2013, I headed down to midtown Manhattan, to the New York offices of Microsoft, to begin a part-time contract job as a copy editor for MSN. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore without the beret. It feels like the end of my hell and the start of something much better.
So strap in — here goes nothing …
1) Especially since I’m back in the work world again: All the opinions in the blog are mine, and are not necessarily the beliefs of any employer past, present or future.
2) All blog entries are original — written and copyrighted by me and not plagiarized in any way, shape or form. In the spirit of the journalist I once was and perhaps am again, any passages I take from elsewhere, such as quotes or pieces of a news story, will be accompanied by an attribution at the very least, as well a link to the original source occasionally.
If you see someone lifting any of my material without attribution, please let me know. Hell hath no fury like a woman plagiarized …