Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for September 6, 2009

Before and after the Pageant

So, yeasterday I went with my boyfriend and an old friend and a new friend to see the Miss Trans Northampton 2009 pageant in Northampton, MA. I blogged about the event separately here. I wanted to write about the before and after, and sort of felt like it made sense to keep the thoughts a little separate.

Anyway, I had decided the other day to go to the event, which I guess is sort of a big deal. I’ve never really done much in either the GLBT community or the T community. It didn’t feel “safe” before, and now in some ways I feel like I’ve moved beyond the GLBT or T communities – it’s weird. I’m just a pretty boring woman with a moderately interesting history. Yet, I do understand how important it is for me to be open to being connected to the T community to try and make the world better for T people, and really ~all~ people. Because I firmly believe that T people are exactly as important as everyone else, but are so easily marginalized by society. I guess what I’m saying is that just because I’ve found my little slice of heaven doesn’t mean I’m going to run off into the sunset; there is still so much work to be done legally, societally, and interpersonally when it comes to all things T, and I will be part of that. I am still connecting with my own power and voice and story and figuring out how best to do that, but it is very important to me, and I will be a part of it.

So, I decided to go. lol

Yesterday morning, my boyfriend basically came out and asked if he was invited. I had decided not to invite him, not because I didn’t want him to come, but because I thought it might be overwhelming for him. He’s very open-minded in lots of ways, but I wasn’t sure if this would be the best thing to expose him to as his first trans event. Needless to say, I was wicked happy when he asked if he was invited, and instantly said yes. This man continues to just blow my mind. Just, wow.

I picked him up after teaching and we headed out on the two-hour drive to Northampton. We chatted about everything on the drive, as we always do.

We got to Northampton and met up with a couple friends. As my boyfriend and I were at the pageant, we talked about some stuff about my history, and some stuff about the pageant itself. I am so impressed with his open-mindedness (and I mean that in a very general way, not just about trans stuff), and his clarity of thought. It’s just really neat to talk to him about just about anything.

As we sat there I found myself thinking that not just every straight guy would come to the Miss Trans pageant with his girlfriend. He’s really pretty special.

Anyway, after the pageant, my two friends, my boyfriend and I wandered around town for a little bit before deciding to have dinner before heading home. We ended up at the Northampton Brewery. It was amazing. We sat in the outdoor seating, which is essentially on the roof! The four of us chatted and laughed and had a wonderful time. I got a burger that was great and a cookie covered in ice cream for dessert. Yummy. My boyfriend got a beer that I tried and I thought was good (my boyfriend said that it was “nutty,” which makes sense, since I always say I don’t like hops – I usually say I don’t like beer). Perhaps the most amazing part, though, was the sky. The moon was full and the night was just gorgeous. It was a magnificant night to be dining under the stars.

After dinner we said our goodbyes and my boyfriend and I headed home.

What a magical day and night.

Miss Trans Notrhampton 2009

So, I went to a pageant last night. I don’t really want to call it a “Beauty” Pageant, because even though it was sort of in that format, it was so much more than a pageant about beauty. It was a pageant about authenticity, and strength, and courage, and community. It was a celebration of spirit in about as truest a sense of the word I’ve ever known. I am awed by the contestants’ willingness to completely bear their souls on the stage in such an open way. It was a very special night.

Anyway, the pageant that I attended was Miss Trans Northampton 2009. There were eight contestants and I was impressed by each and every one of them. Some clearly had more performance experience than others, some were more comfortable being in front of an audience than others, but all of them gave so much of themselves that it’d be hard to say that any of them won’t look at the pageant as a hugely positive experience in their lives. Truly, I think for some of them just walking down that runway, being supported and cheered could very well be life-changing. It’s hard not to be moved in that sort of environment.

The fabulous and wonderful Ms. Lorelei Erisis was crowned “Miss Trans Northampton 2009,” and it was a well-deserved win, in my opinion.

The contestants engaged in talent and evening gown rounds, and the five finalists answered questions from the judges and then we had our winner. I found Amy George (4th runner-up) to be absolutely enchanting; she just had an energy that was sweet and endearing beyond belief. I hope this event continues, because it was just out-of-this-world positive, and both trans folk and the world at large needs all the positivity we can get.

So many thoughts hit me from being in that space, and from watching the women on stage, and from having my awesome boyfriend there with me (I’ll blog about him coming and dinner in a separate post), and from meeting a new friend, and hanging with an old friend. It was an intense experience. Though, I’m stronger now. I’m stronger than I was even a few months ago. Once upon a time I would have been overwhelmed by this event, and while I still felt a little disconnected and reverted slightly into “observer-mode,” I enjoyed myself and felt energized and positive leaving.

A thought came to my mind while sitting there before the event, and that is what Jamison Green said in Becoming a Visible Man: “There is no right way to be trans.” It occured to me that possibly “trans” people are one of the most diverse groups of community I’ve ever seen. I saw every race in that room last night. I saw myriad ethnicities. I saw people from every class and social station. I saw people everywhere on the gender identity spectrum, and everywhere on the concept of gender binary (I make no bones about personally feeling very comfortable being part of the binary while at the same time wanting there to be room for people who feel chafed by the “either/or” dichotomy). I saw tons of authentic people celebrating their strength to be themselves. How could I, or anyone, say that any of these people are doing anything but living respectable, authentic lives? And there were only a couple hundred people there. It was incredibly powerful, touching, and moving.

And it occured to me: maybe one of the reasons there can be so much infighting and animosity within the trans community is because sometimes the only thing we have in common is an accident of our birth. I’m Swedish, for example, but I don’t get along with all other Swedes just because we have that one random thing in common. I think it’s not fair for people (both within and outside the community) to expect everyone who has had some sort of trans experience to get along, or agree on everything (or, even, ~anything~). [Like, many people, me included, bristle at the very concept of a “trans community,” simply because we share some variation of some similar issue/condition, and yet we continue to be lumped together, for reasons both good and bad, both harmful and helpful (everything is grey).]

Anyway, last night there was none of that angst, it was just about celebrating these eight women, and I was carried right along with it. Some of the contestants shared quite a bit of pain from the stage when they told their stories, and I connected heavily with their pain (which isn’t really surprising, I suppose), but I also shared their elation and triumph in overcoming their pain.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the things that touched nerves in me. First, one of the judges was introduced as a “transsexual man.” Please, no one, ever, ~EVER~, introduce me anywhere as a “transsexual woman.” I’m just a woman, thanks. I’ve had an interesting history, which includes suffering from transsexualism, but I am not “a transsexual.” That seems like it was the biggest one – it really made my head go “OUCH!” (And this goes back to the “no right way” thing, right? Because clearly the judge in question was fine with being introduced that way.) Next, the hostess made a joke at one point about it being hot backstage and she said, “There’s no air conditioning back there, one fan, and eight trannies, you figure it out.” I dunno, I vacilate so much on the word “tranny.” I guess the thing is at this point, since I don’t consider myself “trans,” I don’t really feel like it applies to me anyway (having said that, I’m very aware that the haters would definitely consider me a “tranny,” so I clearly have some stake in the word). Dunno; I guess I’m back to my “context & meaning is more important than specific words” stance. Finally, one of the specific moments that a contestant shared was when Lorelei shared that when she was younger she came home from school and watched Transformers and then stole her mom’s panty hose and went off to her room to dress up. I ~so~ related to that thought, though for me it was Force Five. 🙂

And I guess it’s interesting for me now that I consider my transition “done,” to be in a room with so many people still somewhere more in the middle of either their process or the binary or both. As my boyfriend and I were finding our seats I said to him that this was one of the first community (there’s that word again) trans things I’d ever done, and that it seems interesting to me that I only felt safe doing it once my transition was complete, almost doing it out of strength instead of out of need. Weird.

All-in-all it was an amazing time, and I’m incredibly glad I went. The couple negative thoughts that occured did not detract from what was a very special evening.

Congratulations Lorelei, and congratulations to all of the contestants and judges and to Northampton. Huzzah!


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