Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

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!

w00t!

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6 Comments»

  Christa wrote @

Penny,
First of all I want to thank you for coming to the show and am glad you enjoyed it. I am the Founder of Miss Trans Northampton Pageant and was also the host.
I am sorry that you took offence to a few of the things that I had said,But this is a Transsexual pageant and being a M2F transsexual myself I am happy to be a Trans woman. Thats what this pageant is about is imbrssing the fact that although we live our every day life as woman we are Transsexual and we should imbrace that and Let the world see we are here. Living out loud.
Once again un thank you so much for coming to the pageant and am glad you enjoyed it and sorry if I offended you It wasnt my intentions. And the Trans man you speak of is my best friend and he was ok with what I said and is a Trans activest as a mtter of fact we are on the board together of New England Trans United Pride March and rally
Peace,
Christa Hilfers (MTNP)

  pickypenelope wrote @

Hi Christa,

Thank you so much for writing! The event last night was awesome, and you have my respect and gratitude for pulling it all together. It was wonderful.

I think you misread some of what I said in my post, though. I wasn’t offended by anything that was said last night. Rather, some things that were said caused me to have certain reactions about how I would choose to word things myself, while at the same time accepting and celebrating how others use language and define themselves.

I’m ~not~ particularly happy to have been born with the wrong genitals. I am not proud to have suffered with transsexualism, and to have needed genital reconstruction surgery to remedy that condition. Having said that, I’m not ashamed of it either. I guess for me “living out loud” was just coming to the event as a straight female supporter who also happens to have a transsexual history.

It was completely clear that your friend was fine with being introduced as a transsexual man, and I have zero issue with that. I just don’t want to be introduced as a transsexual woman (I could probably deal with being introduced as a “woman of transsexual history” if it was in a setting where my history was relevant). I was speaking very specifically about what I would desire, while recognizing that it was clear that your friend was fine with how he was introduced.

Also, I’ll be bringing a group to march in the NETU parade next month, so I’m pretty on board with the concept of letting the world know that people from all different flavors of trans are just normal folk!

Thanks again for the amazing event, and I’m sorry you took comments to be more negative than I think I meant them – it’s one of those limitations of the medium, sometimes things come across to harsh or not harsh enough. 🙂

  Christa wrote @

Penny,
I didnt think what you said was negative at all, it is your opinion and I 100% respect it and glad you bloged about it hun. I just wanted to share what I feel and why I did say the things I said at the pageant maybe to shed some light as to why. I just wanted you to know that if I did offened you I was sorry as my goal was to empower other TRANS woman to come come out and enjoy this awesome event.

I am also siked that you will be coming to Trans Pride which will also be a great event. I am glad you had such a good time and felt good at the pageant. Thank you for bloging about it and as a matter of fact I LOVE what yo wrote. See you Oct 3rd……….
PeacE,
Christa

  pickypenelope wrote @

Hey Christa,

Super awesome! I’m glad I misunderstood, thanks for clarifying your thoughts for me!

YAY!

And again, the pageant was about as great as anything could ever be!

Thanks again!

~~Penny

  Before and after the Pageant « Penny's Story wrote @

[…] 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 […]

  Erisis wrote @

Hi Penny!!!!

I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful blog!!! I’m basically a storyteller and it was really nice to read such a personal point of view of the evenings events!! I really like your voice!
Thank you for all the kind things you had to say about myself and about the event. It was such an empowering and positive feeling to look out at that crowd and see so many different people, trans and otherwise, coming together and having fun!!
Thank you!!
Now I’m going to have to go track down an episode of Force Five…..

Slainte!
Lorelei Erisis


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