Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

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Me and Old Photos

I’m sure I’ve written about pictures before, but it seems to come up from time-to-time. It’ll probably come up less and less, but there will always be a gigantic gap in my photographic history. At least the part I’m excited about looking at or comfortable displaying. In the last few days I’ve been hanging some pictures on the wall in my living room. There used to be a big mirror there. And then I decided that pictures would look nicer there, so I got this huge mosaic print with all these different pics of me and my ex boyfriend. It was something like 40”x60”. Naturally, when the ex went, so did the pic. Which left the wall over my couch empty. It stood like that for quite a while.

One of the things that the Darling Boyfriend has been requesting, in the pursuit of making my house more his home, has been to hang some pictures of his family on the wall. I realized that the living room wall would make a great place for pictures of important people. I can procrastinate, and I have, but I’ve finally gotten around to the project.

I’ve been hanging and sorting pictures for the last couple days. I have tons of pictures of my family from both my mom’s childhood and my grandparents’ childhoods. I have some pictures that are so far back that I’m not even sure who the people are. I have pictures of my parents’ wedding, my grandfather’s soccer team, and my grandmother’s confirmation, among lots of others. There are now tons of pictures on my wall, with a few more to be hung. It makes me feel so good having friends and family on my wall; it makes me feel as though they’re always with me.

As I go through old pictures, though, it always hits me anew: I’m really uncomfortable with lots of the pictures of me. There are pictures with my mom, and my grandparents, and my ex-girlfriends, and old friends, and my ex-wife, and even one with my dad. And I look at them all, and I feel disconnected from them in a way that just stinks. I look at the man I tried to be, and I barely know that person. I look happy in lots of the pictures, and as much as I was broken before, it’s nice to know that I did have some happy moments. But I have trouble recognizing the person in the pictures; I know it was “me,” but it doesn’t ~feel~ like me. And that makes some of the pictures feel foreign in a way that’s uncomfortable, and perhaps difficult to explain. Hanging pictures of me and my mom, or me and my gram, or me and my grampa, or me and any of my old bands, or me and any of my ex-girlfriends, or me and my ex-wife just seems wrong. Not wrong in the sense of a bad thing, just wrong in the sense that when I look at those pictures I don’t feel the connections between me and those people – I just see the pain I used to be in. I see these pictures and I wonder what could have been if I had been right all along. Maybe I would never have met some of these people, but maybe we would have had relationships that were even better. Maybe my ex-wife and I would have just been best friends all along. Maybe my mom would have had a daughter right from the start to dress in frills and bows. Maybe I’d have married and not gotten divorced and already have my family.

See?

The pictures trigger some heavy, not-entirely pleasant lines of thought.

And I’m not even really talking about how I look in those pics. Bluntly: I look like a guy.

I have some friends who can be so unabashed about displaying pictures of themselves before their transitions when they have beards and the like, but I just can’t do that. But some pictures of me pre-transition have made it on the wall. There’s a couple of me and my mom when I was very little, and my parents’ wedding picture. And I realized that it seems like facial and body hair are the biggies for me. When I look at pictures of myself when I was very young, I can see a girl dressed like a boy. I joke that I was butch, and such a tomboy, and that my mom was so silly dressing me in blue. But once my hair issues began, it’s hard to look at those pics and see ~me~. And so there are no pictures of me from when I was 13 (my parents’ wedding) until I was 36 on my wall. It’s a big gap in the “history of me.”

And I can be sanguine, and say that I do love my life right now, and I do. But I would be wicked lying if I said that those pictures didn’t remind of the way things were to supposed to have been.

And I really hate that I don’t have any pictures of me with my gram.

But the wall looks very nice.

Dragon*Con 2010

So, I just got attended my first Dragon*Con. It was pretty awesome. I very much hope it will not be my last.

I got some cool pictures of the parade and some awesome costumes. I went to some super-cool panels about feminism, gender, nuclear power, dealing with police, adult themes in Star Wars, steampunk fashions, skepticism in education, G-d in sci/fi and fantasy, and several others.

Some highlights from the weekend were:

The Venture Bros. panel was cool, but I really didn’t think it was worth the hour-long wait in line. It was neat seeing all the folks being excited about my favorite show and it was very cool seeing the clip of the upcoming season. However, I realized that I generally don’t get all that worked up about seeing celebrities (with at least one notable exception below), and so waiting for this panel convinced me to not wait in similar lines for the rest of the weekend.

The Clone Wars panel was super-cool. I’ve heard the cast interviewed before, so I knew they were all just down-to-earth lovely folks. I love the show, and the discussion was fun and informative.

The Browncoats: Redemption Firefly fan movie was super-awesome. Go to the website and buy it and see (it’s all for charity!).

By far the most memorable experience of the weekend was the q&a with Avery Brooks. He spoke for about an hour and took questions from the audience. He talked about the importance of the “ing,” as in “do-ing,” “act-ing,” “chang-ing,” “liv-ing.” He said that trying to remove anyone from the planet whether for race, or oil, or gender is creating a malignancy. He spoke of making the world better. And I cried at least three times. I was inspired, moved, called, and ministered to. I had always loved Avery Brooks’ roles and acting, but seeing him speak I feel like I am now a fan of Avery Brooks the man. I even asked him a question about the spirituality of Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and how his own spirituality helped him to play that role. It was towards the end of the time, so his answer was fairly brief. He talked about simply having the spiritual grounding by just being a man. The power of his speech, the penetration of his eyes (even through tinted glasses), and the general elegance of his presence all contributed to this being an hour I will never forget.

I did buy some art, as I am wont to do at cons, because it seems like a good way to personally memorialize the con for me as a special event. I got a print by Jasmine Becket-Griffith called “Skulls and Stars” and a print by Kate Lebherz-Gelinas called “Expecting.” Both pieces are just very ~me~ and are lovely additions to my slowly-growing meager art collection.

I went with a friend, and was super-great to spend some time with her. We did lots of stuff together, but also went our own way for things. I realized that this was the first time since my transition that I had traveled with a female friend for a vacation. It was very cool. We had lots of fun and I feel like our friendship is even stronger than before. Yay!

So, yea, Dragon*Con good!

[here are the pics]

An Easter Vigil Reception

So, last night was the Easter Vigil at church. I was received into The Episcopal Church, and I preached the sermon. It was a pretty amazing evening. The Darling Boyfriend and my mom and several of my dear friends were there to witness the night’s important moments.

Before I detail the service, I want to say that I took the step to formally rejoin a Christian church very deliberately (I was raised Lutheran, but haven’t considered myself a member of a church in twenty years). I have always turned to the teachings of Jesus when I’ve felt most challenged in my life. So, I guess in some ways I’ve been a Christian all along. But there is something about the Episcopal Church (and yes, clearly, The Crossing, ~my~ church is incredibly special) that has called me to join a community. For the last several weeks I took part in a catechesis study small group, and the more I learned about the Episcopal Church, the more sure I was that this was the right step for me to take. I don’t want to turn this into a history and explanation of the Episcopal Church, let’s just say the the Episcopal Church feels like a very good place for me to call “home.”

On to the Vigil…

We began in the bowels of the church in darkness. Liturgically we were still sitting with the fallen Christ, while Jesus was lost in Hell. The service started with a lighting of candles (“The Light of Christ”) and an amazing Blues version of the Exultant – I was already weepy. There was a light-hearted and fun spoken-word telling of the Creation story, a beautiful Psalm (with Crossing-style chanting), and an enactment of the story of the valley of the dry bones.

After the readings we moved to the group that was to be baptized or confirmed or received or to renew their baptism. There were several of us joining the church in one way or other, from one place or other. There was a woman who had been Muslim who was baptized in a full-immersion ceremony (~way~ cool!), a toddler who was baptized, and then a bunch of people that found the Episcopal Church from diverse paths (or grew up in it) who were deciding to make their commitments public. It was sort of interesting, in that I guess I’ve sort of been Episcopalian for a while now, in that I’ve believed and belonged for quite some time. My reception was merely a public acknowledgement of the connection that God and I already share.

After the baptism/confirmation/reception ceremony, the service progressed upstairs into the Sanctuary. The next thing I knew, the Gospel was done and I was up to deliver the sermon (I’ll include the text of my sermon at the end of this post). My sermon was very personal. I spoke about my journey, and how strongly I feel a connection to Jesus suffering and resurrection and triumph over death. I almost broke down a couple times, but I felt better about fighting the tears back than letting it go full throttle. I’m amazed by how comfortable I am with public speaking nowadays. I was sharing my deepest truths, showing people my heart, and I felt good and strong. I found it easy to make eye contact with folks in the congregation and I just generally felt pretty calm. Honestly, preaching the sermon is a bit of a blur, which always makes me feel like I was in the zone (to use a performance concept). I am so glad I did that, and I feel energized and empowered by the experience.

During the Eucharist the new members of the church distributed the bread and wine to the congregation. It was incredibly powerful to offer the body to people and say, “The Body of Christ.” The Eucharist is something I have grown to really love. There is something really powerful about sharing a meal together, and this meal is special for all sorts of reasons.

After that there was the sending (which I did also), and there were plenty of Hallelujahs and then we partied like God herself had come to party with us. 🙂

I was touched by how many folks sought me out to tell me how much they appreciated my sermon. I’m still slightly bemused by how much I seem to connect with people. I really sometimes don’t feel like I’m doing anything all that special. I’m just telling my truth. But, for whatever reason it often seems to have a powerful effect on people, and I admit that makes me very happy.

We partied and drank champagne and chatted and just had a wonderful time.

Then today my folks came over and we had a Easter feast!

It was a weekend I will never forget.

And now I am an Episcopalian. Yay!   🙂

Let the people say, “Amen!”

AMEN!

[here’s my sermon:]

Good Evening.

Happy Easter!

This is a little overwhelming. Here I am, just received into The Episcopal Church, taking my first real steps back into Christianity and I’m preaching at the Eater Vigil. Why? What did I feel called to tell you all tonight?

Just about a year ago I was in a catacomb similar to the one we just emerged from. For me it was the culmination of a several-year process in which I finally had the facts of my life brought into congruence.

But I should back up a little first. When I was very little I knew that something was different about me; in the fullness of time it became clear that the difference was that I was born with the wrong body. To put it simply: I was born with a female brain inside a male body. It took me three and a half decades to find the strength, courage, and wisdom to undertake the process of putting that right.

I walked through some very dark places on my journey. I battled depression and anxiety that required medication and hospitalization. I was afraid to venture out into the world. Jesus sat alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I sat alone in my room.

I wish I could say that I consciously decided to give in to God’s plan for me when I decided to fix my body and my life, but the truth is that I just gave up – I couldn’t fight anymore.

On September 5th, 2006, I finally began living my life as it should have been all along, as a woman. Ironically, it was also in the fall of 2006 that I found myself attending church for the first time in many years. Though at the time I thought I was in church just to drum, it quickly became clear that it was beyond mere coincidence.

When I met Jesus again nearly four years ago I was raw and weak, but I was open to the truth. I had been hurt by all the anger and misunderstanding that others had thrown at me – and that I had thrown at myself – because I was different. Jesus’ suffering at the hands of the ones who would crucify him hits me very hard, though I have never been tortured by others, I have tortured myself.

What does Jesus suffering, death, and renewal mean? What’s so important about Jesus claiming victory over death? What does it mean to a mere transsexual woman that Jesus rose from the dead and cast off his tomb? It’s a great story, and a glorious way for God to make a point, but what does it mean now? Today? For me?

Christ’s victory over the ultimate death is magnificent, and promises us paradise. But what about life? When I was suffering through the worst of my days, either harming myself, or contemplating suicide, or purposefully isolating myself from the world because I thought that no one could ever accept this very unique girl – least of all God, I felt like I was dead already. I despaired. I understand how the women felt as they walked to the tomb that morning. They had just watched their friend die. We all know death; it’s a truism that by being living creatures we also know death – sometimes we use a softer word: loss. The desolation that those women must have felt that morning, walking to the tomb is an experience that is universal.

I also know their shock upon finding the tomb empty and Jesus’ body missing and getting the news from the angels. I remember getting the news that everything was all set for the surgery that would finally bring my body into line with my being. I was sitting right over there, drumming during a service of The Crossing. And I got an email from my surgeon’s office. I couldn’t believe it. I sat there for a second. I knew the news was coming, and yet I felt unprepared for it. I’ll bet that Peter didn’t run back to the tomb any faster than I did when I ran out into the stairwell and literally jumped with glee. I overflowed so much that a member of The Crossing noticed that even my drumming sounded especially joyous.

And that’s the wonder of Jesus triumph over death. It’s said in a nuanced way in Luke, but in Revelation he says it directly: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” This is very difficult to believe. I get it. Indeed, even though Jesus had told everyone that he would be delivered to sinful men and killed and then rise three days later, the news was hard to believe. Even as the women were telling the others about the angels’ message their reaction was to scoff and call it nonsense. I remember being afraid that something was going to mess up my plans for surgery and speaking with therapist about it, and she said, “Penny, nothing is going to keep you from this victory.” And I started crying with the truth of the moment.

This night is when we honor the ultimate victory, not only because it was a victory for our friend Jesus, but because he shares the victory with each and every one of us. Every time there we suffer a loss, Christ has offered to turn it into a victory. It is pretty shocking. It takes some getting used to. And it’s easy to think it’s nonsense. Which is why it’s good that God is patient, even if it takes 35 years to get it, the promise of life is there.

When I emerged from that catacomb a year ago, the Department of Records at Boston’s City Hall, I had a corrected birth certificate that listed “Name of Child: Penelope Jane Larson” and “Sex: Female.” I had triumphed, and I am certain that God celebrated along with me.

Shortly after I got home from having surgery my family and friends threw me a party with a very special message: “It’s a girl!”

Tonight we throw a party to celebrate the most wondrous message of all: “He is Risen!”

And so are We All!

Hallelujah!

Duality

I’ve seen so many folks labeled under the Trans umbrella talk about duality, as in they feel the duality of both sexes inside. That’s not the kind of duality I want to write about today, for I don’t feel that duality. I feel 100% woman (whatever the hell any of these words mean – what I mean is, now that my soul and my brain and my body all “match,” there is no feeling in me that ever makes me question my womanhood). I am not a third gender. I am a woman who was born with the wrong body. Honestly at this point I feel fairly unremarkable (besides the drumming, I’m awesome for the drumming).

The duality I want to write about is my ability to see merit in both sides of almost every argument or disagreement (as a side note, The Darling Boyfriend is really great at this too, and I think it’s one of the things that makes us so compatible). I’ve joked that I’m nothing but gray. It’s funny, because lots of my closest friends are ~very~ black-and-white. I just can’t dismiss anyone’s point of view. I am trusting and naive, and I believe that what people say is what they really think. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I think that people are all basically good and just want to live happy lives. Those last few things actually get me in trouble sometimes, as the world tries to show me sometimes that they’re not true, but I still firmly cling to my beliefs about the goodness of all people, even when we disagree.

I’ve always been a peace-maker. I simply do not understand why people are horrible to each other, and I never have. This is a tiny world, and we’ve got to share it. I’ve always thought the best way for that to happen was for us all to get along (yes, I channel Rodney King, sorry).

And so the manifestation of this duality I want to write about today is a rift that exists between some folks who were also born with similar issues to my own [it’s hard to say “the same,” because there are so many variations that both the physical and neurological inter- or trans- birth anomalies can take that it seems nearly everyone has their own physical and historical experience and perspective and I don’t intend to minimize anyone’s individual story]. Duality might not even be the right word, as it seems there are several different points of view. I know lots of folks, and I read several blogs, and I read other resources on-line. I’d like to be specific, as it would make some of my points easier to follow in some ways, but I don’t want to single anyone out so I’ll keep this a bit general.

There are those who want to put their medical history behind them and live quiet lives. I sympathize with them. I read their blogs and I agree with so much of what they say. This group of folks isn’t too happy with any label or modifier being attached to their womanhood, and I really understand that (like ~really~). I didn’t do anything special to have a label. I was born with a birth defect. I had surgery when I was three, and another one when I was 38 to correct this birth defect. It’s not really an identity, it’s just a medical issue. My medical history is not what makes me special; the way I have lived my life makes me special. I didn’t sign up to be anyone’s poster-child just by being born and living my life. These folks talk about maintaining and protecting their privacy, and I completely respect that.

And then there are those who are out and proud about their history. I know many folks who proudly proclaim themselves as transgender. I confess that I do understand these people as well. Just as there was nothing I could do about having been born with the wrong body (and I certainly had no say in that genital surgery when I was three), short of having that wrong body surgically corrected, so too I have nothing to be ashamed about. I remember how completely alone and misunderstood I felt when I was six, and twelve, and seventeen, and twenty-three. I wish I had seen other people like me out in the world willing to talk about their stories. I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to be open and vocal about their histories.

And then there are people whom I don’t claim to understand, who feel more comfortable expressing some form of androgyny. I find these folks fascinating (and often they’re the strongest people I’ve ever seen), but I confess to not fully understanding their experience. Which is perhaps why I hang around with them and feel drawn to them, because I hope to understand their unique stories.

Let me stop and say that I recognize “transgender” as a flawed term. It is both a specific and a general. It specifically means folks who cross-dress and live full time as the opposite gender without hormonal or surgical intervention (usually), but it has also been gradually taken to mean anyone who has any sort of gender or sex-diversity. It’s sort of what it would be like if tomorrow we decided that we’d use the label “Chinese” not only to mean people from China, but also all Asian people. That wouldn’t work – neither, really, does “transgender.” It’s a flawed word, and it creates a flawed way that people who are lumped under the “transgender umbrella” are viewed. It annoys people to be labeled as something they are not (call a Vietnamese person Chinese, and see if they don’t correct you), and the word transgender forces that. I hate the word transgender. I’m not trans anything. I was always a woman. I was born with ambiguous genitalia and I had surgery to have it corrected. And don’t even get me started about all the misconceptions people have about the word transgender. I hate all the baggage and hate and misunderstanding that is attached to the word. And yet, at least for the time being, transgender is the word I have. I didn’t vote for it; I didn’t pick it; I don’t endorse it, but someone, somewhere, decided that this was the word that made sense, so until something better comes along, this is the word I’ll use. So, whatever, I hate the word, but I use it because even as flawed as it is, it is useful at this point to convey things in a general sense.

So, there are folks who eschew the word transgender, or any label that would add a qualifier to their womanhood (or manhood), and there are those who proudly embrace the term transgender and its derivatives such as “trans woman” and “trans man.” And I understand where all of them are coming from. But they all seem to think each other is wrong, and irredeemably so. They fight and troll and yell and call names. And it makes me very sad. I’ve met hateful people of every stripe, and I’ve met beautiful and sweet and lovely people of every stripe. I wish people could just judge each other on their individual merits and only take as interesting details what group someone is a part of. I like to mention the fact that I’m Swedish as a comparison to my medical history. There could be a time and place when being Swedish might be seen as a negative (Sweden occupied Finland for quite a while, and were fairly unkind to the Fins, and the Fins rightly felt pretty negative about Swedes), but I would hope that people would still see me as the person I am, with any modifiers attached to me as mere details. My merit as a human being wouldn’t change just because peoples perceptions of Swedes could change.

I sort of walk this middle-ground between the two sides, and I hope that I still can. I’m very supportive of people living quiet lives of privacy where their medical history fades into the background. I recognize their desire to just live a normal life (and I have a similar desire). And I’m also very supportive of people who are out and proud, and I recognize their hopes for the world. I’ve seen people act with grace and dignity whether they’re living quietly or openly, and I’ve seen people act poorly, whether they’re living quietly or openly. It seems like the way they choose to deal with the greater aspects of their lives aren’t necessarily pertinent in how they choose to act when interacting with others. I just try to tell my own story, and live my own life, and only once in a great while will I even talk about general stuff like this anymore. It’s much more fun blogging about drumming or the Darling Boyfriend or sci-fi conventions.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this whole examination process on my part has been the recognition that I admire so much people who so vehemently disagree with each other.

I think it might be relevant that I see myself as a straight ally to GLB folks. I’m also a monogamous ally to Polyamorous folks. I’m a fan of equality. But that seems like a separate point for another time.

And so I’ll continue to talk about my medical history, and I’ll continue doing it as a seeker. I’ll get frustrated with myself and others. I’ll still see the merit in both sides when others disagree. I’ll still naively hope for reconciliation. I’ll still believe that I can make the world a better place, especially for those born with similar issues to my own (here’s two of my pet issues: leave babies’ genitals alone {no non-emergency genital surgery on anyone before the age of consent} and insurance coverage of sex-affirming surgeries). I’ll still hope to make the world understand.

I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.

(Yes, I’m aware that I’m unrealistically optimistic, it’s just my nature – as someone said last night: I’m very New Age. But I believe in a perfect world, and I believe we can create it together.)

Trans Lobby Day 2010

“I might have to become politically active.”

I said that to my Gram about five years ago, when I first told her that I was trans.

I was never one to stand up for myself. I was never one to separate myself from the crowd. I was never one to be political. And yet here I am, going to meet with my state legislators to urge them to support the Trans Civil Rights Bill in Massachusetts.  My words to my Gram have come true, and I’ve become politically active.

Of course, it’s been building for a while. I met my state senator about two months ago and urged him to help move the bill out of the judiciary committee. I’ve volunteered a few times with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. I marched in the Trans Pride parade in Northampton. I marched in the Pride Parade in Boston. I organized an open mic night at my church to support Trans awareness. I went to The Day of Remembrance. I blog. I tease and pretend that I’m not really that active, or that I don’t do too much, but I guess I really am pretty out there.

And so it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t go to the Lobby Day today; it was just something that I knew I would do.

It was an amazing day. I saw so many people I know, and so many people that know me. This really is my community – not because we share some connection to the “trans-umbrella,” but because these are my friends; these are lovely people; these are special people. These are people that I am proud to call my community.

I listened to the speakers at the rally, and there were many, and they were moving. I was surrounded by members of my church, including my priest, and I was moved to tears several times. Hearing folks talk about the discrimination they had faced simply for not conforming to what society thinks a man or a woman is supposed to be was heart-breaking. Hearing some of the legislative co-sponsors of the bill speak helped to balance that heaviness with positivity.

After the rally I went off to see my legislators. I saw staff members in both offices. My Representative, A. Stephen Tobin, is a co-sponsor of the bill, so I offered my thanks. My Senator, Michael Morrissey, was on vacation somewhere warm (smart man). He is a supporter, though not a co-sponsor, so I again offered thanks and urged his staff member to have him write a letter to the judiciary committee to help move the bill to the full houses of the legislature for a vote.

I also made a new friend who lives about a mile from my house. That’s pretty cool!

From chatting with folks, it seems like Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, the chair on the house side of the joint judiciary committee, is holding the bill in committee. And it seems the issue, as it seems to always be, is scary trannies in bathrooms. It makes me really frustrated that the issue is framed this way. In my experience, people who are trans tend to get in and out of the restroom as quickly as possible to avoid any stir. When I was in the midst of my transition, for example, and wasn’t sure whether I would be seen as an intruder in the ladies room, I went to great lengths to avoid using public restrooms at all. I would purposely dehydrate myself so that I wouldn’t have to use a public facility that everyone should take as a public accommodation. When I would go out to gigs I would refuse to use the restroom out of fear that someone might make an issue of me being in the “wrong place.” I often ended up in great physical discomfort, and I’m sure it’s possible that I did some damage to my kidneys, but I was that terrified of using the ladies room. I finally got over it when I flew to Iowa for some gigs. When I was at the airport I had to pee, so I went and peed – I even stood in line. And the world didn’t end. I had been living full-time for eight months by that point, and I had still been too scared to use the proper restroom. It’s just so sad that something that most trans folk are terrified about is turned around and used as if we are just trying to get into public restrooms to cause mischief. *sigh* I have yet to see a report of a trans person causing trouble in a public restroom (short of “causing trouble” by merely having the temerity to exist). It’s just so sad.

So, I feel positive about the day, and my activism. But I also feel sad that it seems so easy for others to hate and fear people whom they don’t understand.

Trans. Rights. Now.

Arisia 2010

Yay, my first Arisia with a boyfriend in tow! 🙂

So, the Darling Boyfriend and I went to Arisia this past weekend, and had sort of a super-amazing time. This was my third Arisia, and his second. We both had professional concerns that pulled us away from the convention at various points on Saturday, but we were at the con for most of it.

We stayed in a lovely room at the Hyatt, with a balcony and an amazing view of Boston and the Charles River. I could have spent the whole weekend in the room looking at the picturesque scene. It was that lovely. The Hyatt is built sort of like a two-dimensional zigguart, and created this sort of “looking out from the peak of a mountain” effect that was just stunning. Seriously, just the room and the view would have made me incredibly happy.

But then there was the actual ~stuff~ to do…

We got there Friday, and it took a while to check-in, but I’ve dealt with bigger hassles before. We had dinner with a couple guys we know from a local game store, and it was really nice getting to chat with them and get to know them better. We bumped into some other friends and hung out and chatted and just got settled on Friday night. We also went up to the top floor to see the art show, which is always one of my favorite parts of the whole convention. We didn’t make it to any of the panels Friday night, but we had plenty of fun and good times.

On Saturday morning the Darling Boyfriend had to get up early and go to work for a few hours, so I was on my own. I went to a really great lecture on music called “Fantastic Film Music Before Star Wars.” It was good, but it was definitely more of a lecture than a panel (it was given by one person, and was very much a presentation). I heard a lot of great music that I had been unfamiliar with, and it was really interesting. It sort of reminded me of being back in school. 😉 After that I had lunch with a couple friends, whom I don’t see enough. After lunch I went to a panel called “1980’s – The Silver Age of SF Movies?” It was a fun panel, until my friend (donned in an awesome custom-made corset – ya gotta love sci/fi cons) pointed out that 1980 was ~30~ years ago. Ouch.

After being made to feel very old I went and tried to donate blood. I got cleared and found that even my iron levels were good (I’m sometimes anemic). I was excited; I’ve never donated blood before. But the nurse stuck me and got a vein but my body just wasn’t giving up any blood. She had to stop it, so I ended up with a big bruise for nothing. I had a bruise on my other arm from a blood test that I had done a couple days before so she couldn’t even try the other arm. *sigh* I felt like a loser. The Darling Boyfriend was back by this time and tried to console me, but I was really bummed. Oh well; I guess I’m just not meant to give blood. 😦

After that we went to a panel called “Queer SF&F,” which was okay, but sort of all over the map. Then I scaled “Mount Arisia,” which means I climbed 15 flights of stairs (remember I said it looks sort of like a mountain, well so do the stairs).

And then I was off to Northampton to play a gig with Leslie-Anne Rios. It was my first time playing with her with an actual drum set; the other time we played together I was playing on my djembe. We played in The Academy of Music, which is a beautiful old theater. I played okay, I’m still sort of learning the songs, but it was a fun gig.

I dashed back to Arisia in time for the reading of The Eye of Argon, which is a really cheesy fantasy story. The game is that each person reads aloud as far as they can, with typos and poor word choice and all – with no laughing. I actually tried reading this year, and didn’t do too badly, either.

On Sunday morning we met a friend for the breakfast buffet, which is awesome.

After breakfast I wasn’t feeling all that well, so I went up to the room and laid down.

The Darling Boyfriend and I had a little tiff, but I still managed to make it down to the Munchkin Brawl, which is a Munchkin game with all the different flavors of Munchkin crammed into one blended game. We played for four hours and still no one got to level 20 (we were playing with “Epic” rules), so the Darling Boyfriend was declared the winner. He was level 12 with a +25 combat bonus. I must point out that even though I was level nine, my combat bonus was +31-+37, so it could be argued that I was on par with, if not ahead of, the Darling Boyfriend. It’s really hard to accurately gauge who is in the lead at any point in a Munchkin game, and that makes games that end early due to time sort of annoying. Anyway, the game was really good for my mood, as it was a lot of fun and I just felt really great by the end of the game.

After Munchkin we went up to our room and had a little alone time, which was really nice, because even though we were at the con together, we had been doing a lot of stuff on our own.

I went to the panel on “Coming Out,” which I had also gone to last year. I’m in a very different place in my life this year, and this panel was different for me. I don’t have the same relationship with my medical history or my body that I did a year ago. I’ve made lots of peace with my past at this point, and so I noticed how much of a “reclaiming of space” and “ownership of self” coming out can be for people. It’s interesting to see that more from the observational side. I even caused a little bit of trouble. There had been a running gag about people needing to come out as Republicans (which, in a hippy-liberal-geeky space like Arisia is something that people are just assumed to ~not~ be). Any time it was mentioned that someone might need to come out as Republican, everyone laughed on cue. I felt a need to point out that in this liberal and progressive and individual-empowering group we might be pushing some of our friends into a closet of their own. It was actually a point well met by the panelists, which made me feel good.

We went and had dinner at the buffet and then went to a panel called “Scening and Catharsis” which was fascinating, and then we topped off the night by watching some Japanese Hentai (anime porn).

On Monday morning, squeezing the last bit of good out of Arisia that I could, I went to a panel called “Stereotype and Religion in Literature,” which I’m pretty sure I went to last year, and was just as fascinating, especially considering that I’m much more comfortable with my Christianity at this point. Then the Darling Boyfriend and I went to “The Casting Couch,” which is a discussion about recasting different roles with different actors (so, your “perfect” Star Wars cast, and so on).

And then we were done.

It was another fantastic Arisia. I absolutely had an amazing time. And I can’t wait till next year!

Accidental Stealth

So, as I’ve mentioned, I spent Christmas and New Year’s with the Darling Boyfriend and his family in Maryland. We stayed with his parents, and his big brother and his family stayed there as well for a few days while we were there. The Darling Boyfriend also has two older sisters who live in the same area as his parents with their families. So I got to meet and spend time with his whole family.

It was a great time. His family is all just sweet and lovely, and were super-warm and welcoming. I got to have pretty in-depth chats with most of them one-on-one, and I feel like I really got to know them, and they me. I think it went as well as I could have hoped. They said they hoped to see me again, and invited me back, and other lovely stuff. His oldest nephew even said that he felt like I’m already part of the family [yes, that made me cry mad tears of joy].

And the question on everyone’s mind ever since I started dating after my divorce seems to be: “Do they know?”

“Know,” of course, refers to whether or not people are aware of my medical history.

It’s sort of interesting that my medical history is so fascinating and all, though it does get tiring.

And the answer is that they don’t know, though they probably will at some point (and I did tell one of his sisters that I had surgery last February, and that it was genital surgery to correct a congenital birth defect), but they don’t know now. The Darling Boyfriend didn’t tell them before I met them, and we didn’t tell them while we were there. Who knows, maybe they’ll find my blog, which is rife with details about my life.

I actually felt the conversation veering in the direction of me telling them about my medical history a few times, but then the moment passed. I felt like it never really seemed relevant. If I had told them it would have been forced, and I saw no need to force it into a conversation. And as opposed to it feeling like an elephant in the room, which it used to feel like, it now sort of felt like some inconsequential piece of data that wasn’t that big of a piece of getting to know me.

We hung out with his best friend a few times, and the same thing happened. It almost came up a couple times, and I even talked about my church being GLBT-inclusive, but my own connection to the issue was never explored.

It was incredibly relaxing, just being a person for a change. Not being an identity. Not being a statement. Not being a controversy. Not being fascinating. Just being Penny. Truly.

The Darling Boyfriend’s acceptance and understanding of my past never ceases to amaze me. At this point I almost think he does a better job of explaining it than I do. And I think we both sort of decided to let it happen organically, or not. I think we were both fine with the way things progressed, and that it didn’t come up.

And yet it’s impossible for me to erase my life in the before time, and I would never want to. My ex is my ex, not my “friend” (I mean, she is my friend, but if someone asks how I know her, I’m going to tell them that she’s my ex, and not give some evasive answer), and a million other things like that. I went to an all-boys Catholic High School, and so on. I’m not about to re-write my life’s story. And yet, it is amazing how much of life happens in the here-and-now, and how history can be something that isn’t referenced all that much.

I mentioned to the Darling Boyfriend, toward the end of our stay, that I had sort of been “accidentally stealth.” I guess, since I knew we were staying for about ten days, that I had just figured it would come up at some point. The fact that I never ended up telling his family about my medical history, save for that brief mention to his oldest sister on our last day, surprised me.

It’ll be interesting to see when/how/if his family learns about my history.

But, just to reiterate, it was an incredible stay, and his family is all sorts of awesome and lovely.

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