Archive for October, 2010

On their own merits

October 29, 2010

Brittany Novotny is the Democratic candidate for Oklahoma's 84th District state representative; an attorney who had sexual reassignment surgery three years ago, she's up against an anti-gay Republican incumbent.

Now that I’ve gotten past the legal part of my gender transition, wherever I go with my life — and I sure as hell would like to just make something out of my life, which doesn’t look very likely after you’ve been sharing a bed with unemployment for over a year and a half — I hope for one thing:

That the word “transgender” doesn’t become anyone’s shorthand description of me. And I’ll tell you now that I won’t accept it.

I just won’t stand for it. I’m not gonna be “Transgender best-selling author Fran Fried,” “Transgender ‘Jeopardy!’ champ Fran Fried” or “Transgender chief cook and bottle washer Fran Fried,” or whatever I might make of myself. It’s gonna be “Best-selling author Fran Fried,” etc., or nothing, though if someone feels compelled to point out the gender trip on second or third reference, then fine. After all, no one would say “Black basketball star LeBron James.” How you’re born shouldn’t be what defines you.

As I’ve maintained all along, 1) I hate the word “transgender,” because it sounds so damned clinical; and 2) My gender identity is only a facet of what defines me — a big, honking facet at the moment, of course, but certainly not the only thing. And my friends and family already know that very well.

I’m already seeing the day when life becomes “normal,” whatever that means. Being out for well over a year in Fresno, hanging out in local restaurants, coffee shops and bars, shopping around town — I’m just doing what I was doing all along, only I look and feel much better doing it. As far as I’m concerned, save for the lingering joblessness, my life is normal, with intermittent bursts of very interesting.

While being out might indeed open some doors for me someday, that won’t last. Judging by the way I’ve been able to work my way into the general population so far, there will be a day, sooner than later, when no one even gives me a second glance. If they do give me a second look, it’ll be as an afterthought.

And as we come up on Tuesday, the fact that there are so relatively many political candidates across the country this year who are trans — and not confined to one area of the political spectrum — can’t be anything but a huge help on this level. Whatever their political beliefs, the candidates, who by chance all happen to be male-to-females, are running on their own merits, which is how it should be. And one day soon, it won’t even be a topic of discussion.

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Five Songs, Episode 2

October 29, 2010

Just five songs off the top of my head this week for a Friday-on-our-minds. Links to the best files possible:

Biology — Joe Jackson

You Don’t Love Me — Kim & Grim

Stop Beating Around the Bush — The Velvelettes

I Can’t Hide — Flamin’ Groovies

If You Still Want Me — The Four Fifths

The Giants in the Series: They’re ours (well, some of them)

October 27, 2010

In my heart of hearts, the World Series would have started at Willie Mays Plaza tonight with the Giants hosting the Yankees. I’ve been a Yankee fan for most of my life — save for that period from 1981-98 when I was mad at Steinbrenner — and besides, it’s really not a Series without the Yankees, is it?

The Texas Rangers? Sheeeeesh. They’re synonymous with postseason baseball, alright. But I guess they should win a pennant once every 50 years or so. (Except that not so deep down, despite my surface sarcasm, I do know Nolan Ryan is putting together a contender to last through the next generation.)

But with New York out of the picture (and possibly at the start of a long decline), it frees me up to pull for San Fran, which is in its first Series since I moved here. And it saves Giants fans the chance of another heartbreak at the hands of the Yankees — like, say, 1962.

And let’s face it: It’s always fun to see guys you followed, or at least watched, in the minors make it to the show — and even more so if they make it to the Series. And in a city with little to be proud of, Fresnans are gonna be able to see several Giants they saw at Grizzlies Stadium and at least enjoy a small dose of civic pride.

I saw Tim Lincecum when …

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Living Proof’ — Buddy Guy (Silvertone/Jive)

October 26, 2010

You're trying to tell me Buddy Guy's 74 years old? He's playing like 24. OK, maybe 34. Photo from buddyguy.com.

“I’ve been all around the world/Everywhere is home/Drink wine with kings and The Rolling Stones/I’ve got a few scars from the battles I’ve won/’Cause I’m 74 years young.”

— Buddy Guy, “74 Years Young”

It took this long, at last, for Buddy Guy to get around to recording his valedictory lap. You know what I mean — the album where he can rest on his king-sized bed of laurels and look back on his long and illustrious and influential career. You know — the type of album B.B. King has been cutting for the past 20 years. Which is how long ago Guy stormed back into the collective consciousness of music fans with “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.”

Funny thing is, though, this new album, “Living Proof,” doesn’t sound like anyone’s resting on anything.

To some extent, it’s definitely “The Buddy Guy Story” as committed to digital recording machines. But while it’s a life in song, it sure doesn’t sound like a final chapter. The man’s as fiery as he ever was.

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Ask Aunt Fran: The attraction to girls

October 26, 2010

One of my friends recently asked a question that stemmed from my Ask Aunt Fran post about sexuality.

(And this is a good place to drop in that this column is where I answer questions people have had about my gender transition thang. If you have a question, email me at franoramaworld@gmail.com (or my personal address if you know it). All questions, such as this one, will be answered anonymously, unless you want the exposure. And keep in mind that I’m not a shrink or a doctor; my answers are based on my own experiences with gender matters.)

I mentioned that my attraction is to girls, either genetic or transgender. My friend had an uncomfortable question for me, but one I readily answered, since it’s something I’ve pondered several times myself:

“You had mentioned that your girlfriends didn’t feel threatened about you hitting on their husbands, or that your male friends were threatened either … but have you ever had girlfriends who wondered if you were hitting on them?

“I have a girlfriend who I have been friends with for almost half of my life. We were buds for about 2 years before she came out to me that she was a lesbian. I wasn’t completely shocked, but it did make me wonder about a few instances — like, ‘She has seen me naked!’ — and I wonder if those nights we crashed in the same bed if it had a different meaning for her? It took me an entire 2 seconds to get over this, but one of the first things she said to me was, ‘Don’t worry … I don’t like you that way.’ Even though it was funny, it got me thinking about the relationship that women have with other women. (I’m speaking of straight women because I am one and can’t speak for or about anyone else.)

“The relationships that women have with other women are a very special, sacred thing. Women have an emotional connection with each other that can run very deep (deeper than they do with their spouse sometimes).  I have older women in my life that I can look up to for wisdom and comfort. I have younger women in my life who look up to me for guidance and support. Women are always there for other women in a way men can’t be. I guess it’s very similar to male bonding, although the dynamics are a little different because we are different creatures.”

Turn the record over and find out …

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New to the Blogroll: Now That I’m All Grown Up

October 24, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve added someone new to my Blogroll, and while I’ve known her for some time, it wasn’t until a couple nights ago that I found out she has a blog.

Now That I’m All Grown Up is from the mind and laptop of Miriam Widenham. Miriam is not only my favorite bartender, playing den mother to a bunch of us overgrown adolescents four nights a week at the Landmark, in Fresno’s Tower District, but she’s been a very staunch and supportive friend to me since I came out, and sometimes I’ll stay late, after most of the other customers have left, just to talk.

Miriam came to the States from Vietnam as a very young child and saw her mom put herself through college, get a Master’s and become a Presbyterian minister. (And Miriam is pretty damn smart, too — she has her BA in English Lit from Fresno State.) Her blog chronicles the life of a woman in her mid-30s who is navigating the dual worlds of single motherhood and spirituality. Miriam is a seeker, and when she’s not tending to her Sophia or to the grown-up kids at the Landmark, she’s delving heavily into her Christian faith and exploring its role in her life.

In short, she’s a wonderful person, and for those of you who might think otherwise, she’s proof that Christianity and coolness are not mutually exclusive. (Her ready embrace of this transgirl and a plethora of gay/lesbian friends speaks volumes.) And if you’re a mom, or a seeker in general, I think you’ll get something out of what she has to say. Drop in on her and say hi sometime.

Five Songs, Episode 1

October 21, 2010

Hi. Just for shits and giggles — and because I’m a music fiend, and because it’s Friday — I think I’m gonna start a new regular feature: Five Songs.

No rhyme or reason — just five songs each week that have somehow stuck in my head, with links wherever possible. Maybe they’ll provoke some thinking or exploring on your end. Maybe they’ll make you smile, laugh, cry, hurl, groan or just scratch your head.

So here goes … the first installment of Five Songs. Happy Friday:

And now, the hangover kicks in

October 21, 2010

Before the party. Rocking pink with impunity.

Saturday night, Oct. 16. The patio at the Landmark, in Fresno’s Tower District. Heather, who’s Lucy to my Ethel, and our friend Dana threw me an “It’s a girl!” party to celebrate the legal end of my gender transition a month ago — my name change in court, followed by my name/gender/photo change on my driver’s license.

It was my re-birthday party, and it was a wonderful time. I don’t think it could have been much better — maybe if I really, truly dwelt a few hours I could come up with something.

(OK — I probably would’ve ditched the false lashes — between them, the platinum blonde wig and the MAC Pink Nouveau lipstick, I kinda looked like a drag queen, which I never usually do, but no one seemed to care. And I had never able to rock pink with such impunity before: pink rose in my hair, pink lips and eye shadow, sexy new pair of pale pink patent Nine West pumps. True, if you know your history, pink was associated with boys and blue with girls until early last century, when it somehow became reversed. But no way in hell could I have rocked pink like this as a boy. If you can’t rock pink at your own “It’s a girl!” party, where can you rock it?)

Without sounding too morbid about it, it was like being able to enjoy my own memorial — lots of drink, music in the background, people saying nice things to me while I’m alive to enjoy it. And I didn’t get to throw a Christmas party last year for the first time since 1987, but Saturday night I got to enjoy a little of the same vibe, decorations aside: a large crowd of friends from a very diverse set of backgrounds.

And something I learned totally blew me away. Robert, one of my ex-colleagues, and his wife, Sara, came, and Sara told me they printed out the invitation and left it on the kitchen counter. They have three daughters in the 7-11 age range, and one of the daughters asked who the woman in the flyer was and what the party was for. And for two weeks, the flyer was a topic of conversation in the house, as Sara and Robert used it to teach the girls about diversity — as well as the little girl across the street who belongs to a conservative Christian family. I got to be a role model without even trying.

Heather (left) and Dana.

Anyway, Heather told me the day I went to DMV, “I’m throwing a party for you and you have no say.” And for that, and her, and Dana, I’m eternally grateful.

And unlike my birthday in June, when I got drunk for the first time in 16 years, I managed to keep it all together. After all, I really wanted to savor this night. Stuck to my favorite, Absolut Peach-and-cranberry, all night, and no ill side effects. And, just as importantly, no hangover.

But now that all the revelry is over, the figurative hangover is starting to kick in. As in: What happens now that the transition is done, the novelty is past and this life becomes commonplace, day to day? And, worse, are people going to start drifting away from me now?

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Ask Aunt Fran: The voice

October 19, 2010

Welcome back to Ask Aunt Fran, the column that asks: What the hell are you and why are you doing this?

Well, I’m trying to explain to friends, family and strangers alike just what the hell my gender dysphoria is all about — and maybe clear up any misconceptions or ignorance about the subject.

I’m not a doctor or a mental healthcare pro, but I do have years of experience dealing with the transgender thing firsthand, so I must know at least some of what I’m talking about.

Anyway, if you have a question, please email it to franoramaworld@gmail.com (or if you know my personal email, that works fine, too). Remember that all questions will be answered anonymously unless you want the credit/attention.

So, this week’s question:

“Are the hormones gonna change your voice?”

As DJ Kool once said, let me clear my throat

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You want to kill yourself over THEM?

October 14, 2010

Anti-gay taunts, including "Why don't you kill yourself?" led 15-year-old Billy Lucas to hang himself last month in Indiana.

A hot national topic of discussion hit close to home Tuesday morning.

I was making my weekly run to WinCo for groceries when I ran into a familiar face in an unfamiliar place. Joey (a genetic woman, and very much one) is a friend from many nights running into each other in the Tower District, and she’s been 110% supportive of my gender transition. She happened to just leave the gym, and this was the closest WinCo to her, and there we were in the dairy aisle.

13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, who was gay and out, also hanged himself last month after much bullying at school.

It gave me a chance to tell her about the “It’s a girl!” party my friend Heather is throwing for me Saturday night, to celebrate my rebirth — my legal recognition as female by the state of California. And I pulled out my newly minted driver’s license to show her.

And she gave me a big hug. And then she started tearing up. I’ve gotten a lot of smiles and hugs over the new license, but not tears until this point.

Without me asking, she said, “I work with a gay-straight alliance. We lost one of ours to suicide last Friday. She was a male-to-female transgirl. She was only 19. So seeing this makes me very happy.”

I don’t know this girl’s particular story — whether it was hormones, harassment or family matters, or all of the above. All I know is what you know already if you’ve been keeping up with the news — that the epidemic of bullying-caused suicides among the young, especially gay students, has spiked in recent weeks, so much that People magazine led with it this week.

In an earlier time and place, it very well could have been me — not for being gay in my case, but just for being labeled as such. And I know some of you reading this — maybe gay, maybe perceived as such, maybe transgender — are saying the same thing.

And if you happen to be gay and/or trans and young enough to still be getting beaucoup bullshit from your alleged peers — well, let me tell you: This is only temporary. It will pass. These fuckers are not your peers. You will get past this, go on with life, and they will be no more than an annoying boil on your ass that flares up every so often.

Do not give them any more power over you than they deserve — which is none. You don’t want to give up what could turn out to be a wonderful life because of them.

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