Now, for ten years (3,653-plus days of gender-traveling) …

March 7, 2018

Note: I had every intention of having this up in time for the actual anniversary, but it’s been a crazy month or nearly two (???). Hence, my road to hell is well-paved now, but I have a good excuse! Really! Better late than never …

January 9, 2018.

At the Eric Ambel-Joe Flood Sunday Buzz matinee, Cafe Nine, 5-21-17

May 21, 2017, Cafe Nine, New Haven. At the Cygnus Radio Sunday Buzz show with Eric Ambel and Joe Flood. Happiness, a tinge of sadness and some touches of resilience. (Tom Hearn photo)

I’m not gonna rehash too much, as I wrote a rather long piece on the fifth anniversary of the Feast of My Epiphany – the night when the years of suppressing my gender identity exploded in my face with a simple, blindsiding question from my inner voice: “Can you do this?”

But this made it 10 years since that crucial night – 1/9/2008, 7 p.m. PST, sitting on the bed after work out in Fresno, where I lived at the time.

It’s been one hell of a ride since then … and it’s not over. After all, 1) People don’t live in vacuums; and 2) If you ain’t learnin’, you ain’t livin’. And I’ve certainly not been in a vacuum, and my gender trip is still a learning experience, for me as much as anyone.

But I can tell you it’s one of the most difficult, yet wisest, decisions I’ve ever made – to confront this after all those decades, take it head-on, and (hopefully) become a much better person for it.

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The first interview I’ve given (Thanks, Monika)

September 19, 2017

The Facebook friend request came early this summer. It was from a transwoman in Poland named Monika Kowalska. She told me she had a blog called The Heroines of My Life, she had seen the online “Transgender Today” piece I wrote in The New York Times two years ago, and she asked if she could interview me.

Naturally, I checked out the blog before I said yes. What I found shocked me. In four years-plus, she has done a fantastic job of shining spotlights on our worlds. interviewed over 400 transwomen from many corners of the globe, famous and unknown, across the age, experience and ethnicity spectra.

And I can’t believe the company in which she’s included me: Kate Bornstein, former Army Col. Sheri Sorkowski (the highest-ranked out-trans American military veteran), Caroline Cossey (aka Tula, the first trans Bond girl), Kristin Beck (ex-Navy SEAL and bestselling author), Carla (Lewis) Combs (an Army veteran and trans activist whose defiant meme went viral after Trump’s military ban), Alexandra Billings (the first trans actress to play a woman on TV), Jennifer Leitham (renowned jazz bassist), Calpernia Addams (actress), Dana Beyer (well-known trans activist), Annie Wallace (UK soap opera star and the first trans actress to earn a BAFTA nomination), MJ Rodriguez (TV and film actress), Erin Swenson (the first-known mainstream Protestant minister to come out and keep her position), Deirdre McCloskey (economist, historian and trans activist), Riki Wilchins (noted activist), Pauline Park (longtime NYC trans/human rights activist), Michelle Diamond (the first trans Australian rules football goal umpire), Karine Solene Espineira (noted French trans activist), KarenAdell Scot (Yosemite High science teacher and trans advocate), Mina Caputo (singer for Life of Agony), Nancy Nangeroni (longtime trans activist from Boston), Donna Rose (educator and activist), and Eden Lane (the only known U.S. trans broadcast journalist).

Not worthy! Not worthy!

Anyway, life happens, and some of the narrative changed in the course of writing the interview, and there was the back-and-forth of (ahem) trans-continental emailing corrections and revisions. (The story has even changed since it was posted; I moved to another position at the company where I work part-time.)

But it’s the most I’ve ever talked about my life in print – a pretty solid overview of who I am and where I am at the moment (don’t ask me about the future; I have no clue right now, and everything’s wide-open). And here it is – the finished piece. I’m interview No. 426.

One good turn deserves another. And I recommend you turn to Monika’s blog and check out some of the other women she’s interviewed through the years.  And thanks again, Monika, for all you do.

 

Miss Sharon Jones (One Night Only)

May 28, 2017

Part of Sharon Jones’ encore of “Get Up and Get Out,” College Street Music Hall, New Haven, 5/27/16. From YouTube.

I thought of this yesterday with the news of Gregg Allman’s death; I free-associated to this version of “Midnight Rider.” And, coincidentally, it was year ago yesterday I saw maybe the most emotionally wrenching show I’ll ever see.

5/27/16, Friday of Memorial weekend, four days after my father’s funeral, after he died of cancer. Finally (!!!) got to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, at College Street in New Haven (with my bestie, Paola, who turned me on to them many years ago). Sharon had obviously lost some weight in her second battle with cancer, but she looked fab in that sequined dress.

But I could see her constantly talking with Bosco between songs, and the look of distress, occasionally anger, on her face and in her body language as the show went on. The cancer acting up, maybe? Well, I got the answer about two-thirds of the way through, when she had to take herself off the stage, slightly hunched over in pain. The band and her singers carried on, and I figured that she wouldn’t be coming back.

But about 10 minutes later, there she was, walking slowly back to the stage. She sang “This Land Is Your Land”; most of the way through the song, after breaking into some dancing, she took herself over to the riser to sit for the rest of the song, not missing a beat. Then, after another break, a full-lunged encore of “Get Up and Get Out” and “Retreat!” A huge fuck-you to the disease that eventually got the upper hand on her.

She didn’t have to come out again for the end of the set, let alone an encore. For this night at least, she had gotten the better of her cancer. And while she didn’t intend it this way, she had given us a great gift — herself, in a way most artists never have to, sharing with us whatever she could while she still had breath.

I walked away shaken.

Like my father, who was tough as you’d expect from a child of the Depression — he was on his feet until four days before he died — I had been optimistic that Sharon would conquer her cancer again. After this show, not so much. I knew it would be my first and last Sharon Jones show. It didn’t make the news go down any easier the night of Nov. 18.

I still choke up as often as not when I hear one of her songs. It might be on one of my mixdiscs. It might be the night of May 4, in honor of Sharon’s first birthday without Sharon, when The Dap-Kings sat in with Stephen Colbert’s house band. Or a segue from “Midnight Rider” to another. Today, it’s not so much eyes welling up as it is a heavy sigh.

Thanks, Obama – to a point, anyway (riding the calm before the shitstorm)

January 19, 2017

the-calm-before-the-storm

Today, my social-media universe is a little bit quieter than usual. I’m guessing it’s just most of us riding out the calm before the shitstorm that officially hits us at noon tomorrow. (That would be Jan. 20.) Every bit of corruption and ignorance and stupidity and heartlessness that has been brewing beneath the surface of our country’s veneer of decency and fairness is set to officially explode in our face. If I don’t end up on the streets and/or dead between now and the end of this administration, it’ll be a miracle. And that’s not hyperbole or drama, as you’ll read.

So today, I pause and reflect on the man who has led the country the last eight years. The most important president in my lifetime. Barack Obama 2009 and Barack Obama 2017 have been the bookends of the most turbulent time of my life – some ways certainly for better, some ways most definitely for worse.

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Okay, it’s the new year — game on.

January 3, 2017

we_can_do_it

I’ve refrained from commenting much on the Looking Glass, Bizarro World shitstorm that has gripped our country the past two months because I wanted to step back, take a deep breath and see where some of the chips would land … and whether, miracle of miracles, the Electoral College would function the way Alexander Hamilton planned it.

Well, silly me.

I went to bed about 2 in the morning of Nov. 9 — a half-hour before the Associated Press called the race for the orange menace. On the hour drive to work a few hours later, I was kinda distraught, and when I walked into the office, my boss asked me, “Are you alright?” “Nothing different than a lot of other people this morning,” I choked out as I sat and fired up the desktop and buried myself in my daily tasks.

But by noontime, the emotional snow and ice had melted, replaced by a scorching sun. By mid-afternoon, the feelings of depression were replaced by a quiet rage.

I mean, it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor — the election wasn’t an end, it was a beginning. And I realized quickly enough that you can’t fight from the fetal position.

This is a fight for the soul of America. Maybe the world.

And now that the bad actors have (predictably) tipped their hands — we pretty much know what we’re up against — it’s time to face this and deal.

And I’m ready for a fight. And now that the holidays are over, the real fun begins later today (Jan. 3), when Congress reconvenes.

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Proper Etiquette (Buck Ormsby, 1941-2016)

October 31, 2016

A huge passing took place in my small music world this past weekend.

This is what Buck Ormsby’s son posted on Buck’s Facebook page Saturday (Oct. 29):

buck-ormsby-1

Buck Ormsby in his later years.

Thank you to everyone who is sending birthday wishes to my father. He died early this morning. As many of you know he was down in Mexico for alternative cancer treatment, though cancer was not the cause of death. It was an unfortunate accident. Please know that his last months have been trans-formative in so many ways, and he was in a special place. Please give us time to adjust to our new reality. We will post information regarding services as plans form. Thank you everyone for all of your love and support.

Every punk, garage, grunge and/or indie act owes John “Buck” Ormsby a massive debt of gratitude.

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The Fall of Troy, or How to Make a Day Go Away: A Saturday Afternoon with The Fleshtones …

October 16, 2016
fleshtones-1-the-hangar-troy-10-15-16

In this case, Fall refers to Autumn. And the Troy to which I refer isn’t the Wooden Horse City; it’s Troy, N.Y., a few miles north of Albany – The Collar City, hometown of the real Uncle Sam (Wilson, whose grave is a tourist attraction), Maureen Stapleton, Robert Fuller (Dr. Brackett from Emergency!), longtime New York Times sportswriter Dave Anderson … and Bill Milhizer, the drummer since 1979 for the World’s Greatest Rock’n’roll Band, the ‘Shtones. Not the Stones, the ‘Shtones – as in The Fleshtones, purveyors of the world’s finest super rock since 1976. Bill, Peter Zaremba, Keith Streng and Ken Fox. And “How to Make a Day” refers to a song from their latest album, last month’s The Band Drinks for Free, about spending – and cherishing – a wonderful day while you have the time.

And the band was playing a matinee show yesterday in the Land of Milhizer & Honey, at the Hangar, a place on River Road, in a onetime industrial section of town slowly being reclaimed by artistic-type folks, separated only by a layer of trees from the Hudson. And I Google-Mapped it last week and realized, to my surprise, that Troy is just two hours from me! And the ticket was pretty cheap. And since it was peak leaf season, and the show would be over come nightfall, why not make a Saturday of it?

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‘I’m sorry’: Why?

March 3, 2016

brenda_lee-im_sorry_s_7“Stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done!” — Paul Weller, “Town Called Malice”

This has been on my mind for some time now.

Having come to womanhood at a moderately advanced age, I’ve only noticed this in the past year or two. And it’s been on my mind and in my craw for a while now.

But it came to the surface this afternoon in a place I didn’t expect.

Since last summer, every other Thursday has found me taking someone close to me for chemo. We head to the cancer center, he has blood drawn, every other visit he has an appointment with his oncologist, and then he settles into a recliner in the chemo room for the next two or three hours as the caustic chemicals drip into the port in his chest. And as he settles in, I go for lunch.

This afternoon, when I returned from lunch, I stopped to use the bathroom across the hall from the chemo room.

The door was locked. I only waited maybe two or three minutes. Quite often, a patient wheels his/her IV rack into the loo with them, so I figured that was what was happening.

And that’s indeed what it was. And the door opened, and slowly, a chrome stalk of metal with a plastic bag dangling from the top emerged, attached to the left arm of a young woman, late 20s/early 30s, in sweats and winter boots, dark head of hair shorn to the stubble. And she looked at me with a sheepish grin and said the magic words:

“I’m sorry.”

Wait. She’s sorry? The cancer patient lugging her IV around is apologizing to me for the crime of using the bathroom?

What’s wrong with this picture?!?

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Pictures of Lili (MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Danish Girl’)

December 28, 2015
Danish Girl 1

Eddie Redmayne, taking his formidable transformative powers to another level.

“I have known very few people in my life, and you’re two of them.”

That’s what Parisian art dealer Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts) tells Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) — formerly his childhood friend Einar Wegener — in The Danish Girl, a film that’s at once beautiful in cinematography, stunning in its performances (most especially Redmayne, coming off his Best Actor Oscar as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) … and problematic in other ways.

I’m allergic to films “based on a true story” and often avoid them, because the director and writer almost always have the hubris to take liberties with the story, as if real life can’t be better than fiction, as if the true story isn’t good enough to stand on its own. Even more so when the film is based on a novel based on the true story (David Ebershoff’s 2000 book of the same name). But I was drawn to this film in part because of the subject matter — Elbe is one of the first known people, if not the first, to undergo what was once known as sex-change surgery, gender reassignment surgery and, these days, gender affirmation surgery; partially because the first photos released of Redmayne in the role over the summer were astounding, and the trailer even more so.

As a moviegoer and transperson (non-op/pre-op female), I can tell you that the latest from director Tom Hooper (the Oscar-winner for The King’s Speech) is a strong film on first blush, at times difficult to sit through — but, with some time to let it soak in, too self-consciously artistic, striving too hard to be high art rather than focus on the subject matter, and ultimately not powerful enough. It could have been a whole lot more. The real-life story of Wegener/Elbe and wife Gerda, with its triumphs and tragedies, packs even more of a punch than what we see on the screen.

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Five years already? A hormonal balance

April 27, 2015
A molecular model of estradiol.

A molecular model of estradiol.

The date was April 27, 2010.

The location was the clinic next door to, and affiliated with, Adventist Medical Center in Selma, California, a small and dusty farming city (mainly grapes), 20 minutes south of Fresno via Highway 99.

The doctor (who, as of Spring 2015, retired from her practice to move to the Northwest to be closer to her son and daughter) was a post-op who had lost her job up in the Northwest a few years earlier due to prejudice, and the only place she could find to set up anew, after much searching, was there, in Fresno County. There, her patients included young families, mostly Mexican farm workers, looking to treat their sick children … and transgenders, mostly male-to-female, who were looking to take that next leap forward.

And this was huge because in a county of a million people, there were only two doctors at the time who prescribed hormones. One was in Fresno, a man who gave his patients their hormones in pill form. The other was this doctor in Selma, who not only administered the estradiol in injection form — a more effective method — she was post-op, using the same conservative protocol on patients that she used for her own transition.

And that afternoon, she left the honors to the nurse, who told me as she readied the needle, “Wow — You’ve really got a big butt” — which, at the time, wasn’t fat, but mostly muscle from bicycle riding, so it actually was kind of a compliment.

And a shot to the right cheek, in the delta area between my lower back and my ass, and it was done.

Except for all that has happened since. And as of today, it’s been five years after I crossed one of the biggest Rubicons I had to cross in my transition. Read the rest of this entry »