Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

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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!”


[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!


New Year’s Eve Eve

The Darling Boyfriend and I went to a fancy-do in Washington, D.C. last night, and it was pretty super-awesome.

We had thought of going out on New Year’s Eve in Boston, but his little nephew’s birthday is on New Year’s Day, so we’re staying in Maryland for the birthday party. I still wanted to go out somewhere and dress up swell, so his friend found us this event hosted by the Washington Film Institute. It was sort of a party and a film exhibit and a chance to shmooze and dance and drink.

The Darling Boyfriend’s friend ended up not coming with us, so it was just the two of us. We went in, got a drink, looked at the photographic exhibit, watched some of the short films, and then found a couch off in a corner and just chatted amongst ourselves for nearly two hours. It was one of those moments when we were in a place full of people and yet we were the only two people in the world. It was incredible. We chatted about lots of stuff. The conversation turned very heavy at several points, and I had an amazing time.

We were sitting in such a way that the lights from the Christmas tree were sparkling in the Darling Boyfriend’s glasses, and it looked like he had stars in his eyes. It was really cute.

After a while we decided that we had enough of socializing with ourselves in a roomful of beautiful people, so we called his friend and a friend of mine who is visiting family in the area for the holidays as well. We all converged on Tastee Diner for another three hours of socializing and food and fun. We had a ball. The Darling Boyfriend described that Tastee Diner as not the type of place you go to for the food, or the service, or the atmosphere, but I actually think the atmosphere is kind of fun. It’s very much a neighborhood diner; you can tell the place oozes history. I’m sure countless other folks have shared conversations well into the night at the Tastee Diner.

We finally headed out at about 4:00 AM, after being well fed and watered, and having had wonderful and diverse conversation. Bewteen the fancy-do, and the diner hang, it was an awesome night.

Meeting the Family [part 2]

Here I am in Maryland, about to go to bed after meeting most of the Darling Boyfriend’s family. They’re lovely. I walked in and was greeted with hugs and felt right at home. We chatted a lot, and I got to know each member of his family a little bit. We ate Chinese food for dinner, and just had an overall wonderful time.

I love meeting people’s families, because I love seeing the context that a person grew up with. I always think it explains a lot. It was very true with today. Seeing the Darling Boyfriend interact with his family (and they with him) gave me even more insight into who this man is.

Yea, it was a pretty freakin’ good day.



It’s kinda weird when people who used to be really close (~really~ close) disappear from my life. I used to think the disappearance was easier to take than the change in the relationship, but I don’t think so anymore. Now when someone has been really close to my heart, they kind of always are, and it’s weird when the contact ends even though the love and care don’t.

Feh, just thinking out loud.

I’ll give the strongest example. When my ex and I were in the process of our divorce, I needed some space. If I had any contact with her at all it hurt too much, because it reminded me of what we had before, and the loss was too much to bear.


Once I calmed down a bit, and regained some perspective (and developed some perspective that I had never had before), not having her in my life just felt incredibly awful. My world felt like it was missing a star from the sky without her presence. I’m thankful very often that we were both able to realize how important we are to each other and be in each others lives again. She was there when I had my SRS in Colorado, and I was there when she had her baby. We’re pretty much super-best-friends, and I truly hope we always will be.

It isn’t always that way, though. Sometimes damaged relationships become fractured relationships, and then eventually I suppose they stop being relationships altogether.

There are lots of people I’ve lost through the years. Sometimes it was because of a contentious disagreement, other times it seems like it was more from neglect from one or both parties. There have been times when it’s been a romantic interest that has gone their own way, and times when it’s been a friend, and times when it’s been a colleague.

There are several people right now that aren’t in my life that used to be that I think about at least fairly often. There’s the girl that just turned 21 this past summer – whom I haven’t seen since she was two. There’s the friend from school that I used to have lunch with every week – and haven’t even exchanged a peep with in over a year. There’s the lovely people from my old support group – who mostly disappeared when I left the group. There’s that guy who was the perfect guy for the perfect time – who was there and now is gone. There’s the lady who ventured to Colorado to be there for me – but now doesn’t want anything to do with me. There’s that singer whose music I used to get high from performing – who called me the worst name you can call a woman. There’s that lady whose house I used to visit pretty regularly – who stopped having time for a social life.

There’s lots more, too, these are just the ones that hurt the most, that come to mind right now. I’m not accusing anyone but myself in these relationships falling to the point of estrangement. It doesn’t really matter to me why these people disappeared from my life; I miss them.

And I think that’s why I get more and more careful about the people I love. I hate losing people, in any way that I could lose someone. I mean it when I say that my friends and family are the stars in my sky. It’s sad when stars flicker and fade.

[Yes, I know that it happens sometimes, for any of a myriad of reasons, and that it’s part of life, but it’s still sad.]

Escort Me to the Faire, My Love…

The Darling Boyfriend and I went to King Richard’s Faire on Sunday. It was a pretty spectacular day. I had been planning it for a while, and I hoped that I could get some friends to come with us, but as the day approached it became apparent that we would be on our own. That turned out to be just fine – young love finds a way of entertaining itself.  😉

Anyway, I decided to wear a nice corset top that I got from Torrid a couple years ago, a black velvet skirt, and these really cool boots I got from Payless (yay Payless!).  I was really happy with how I looked, though I worried that I might get cold as the sun went down (it’s been chilly here lately). Here’s a pic of my outfit:

We got there pretty early, and after hitting a couple shops, and after the Darling Boyfriend bought me a rose, I headed off to get my face painted. It was on my agenda as one of the things I wanted to do, and I knew I wanted to do it early. Here’s a pic of the amazing design (it was called “Scorpion King”):

After getting my face painted, the Darling Boyfriend and I did quite a bit of browsing in the amazing shops. We did see the end of one magic show on our way by. We went into one of the sword shops (you gotta love Ren Faires – “~one~ of the sword shops” – lol) and I ~so~ wanted to buy a wakizashi, but I was good – I didn’t. We moseyed further on, and the Darling Boyfriend bought me this really cool hair-braider thing; you spin your hair around it and then insert a long pin to hold your hair in place – it works great even on my thin and frizzy hair. After getting the hair-braider we stopped at a pewter store, where the Darling Boyfriend bought a mug. He was so tickled with his purchase that we needed to get him some beverage to put in it, so we headed off to the food court. He got a turkey leg (of course) and I got fish and chips. He got hard cider to fill his mug and he was a happy camper. 🙂

After lunch we headed off to see a sword fighting show, which was really this cute comedy act with kids from the audience. It was funny and super-cute. The “good guy” sword-fighter was training the kids to be his “deputies,” and he told them to say, “God save the king.” He then turned to the crowd for our response. None of us knew that we were supposed to say, “Long live the king,” so my boyfriend said, “Go Sox.” The Good Guy was bemused, and said it was the first time he had ever heard anyone yell that. I was cracking up, and the Good Guy said that the children were about to go into battle and were possibly minutes away from death. I was still laughing and the Good Guy turned to me and said, “Lady, it’s not funny.” I dunno, I thought it was pretty funny. The guys in this show were just awesome with the kids, and the kids were adorable, and it was just sweet fun.

We were right next to the cape store, so I decided to look at capes, because I’ve wanted one forever, and I was really starting to get cold. I told myself I would only buy one if they had a pink one. Of course, they had ~one~ pink one, so I had to get it. C’mon, it was pink! I absolutely loved it, I just had to. It was too expensive, but that’s why you don’t go to the Faire everyday.

At that point I had to pee wicked bad. Like, wicked bad. So we headed off to the “Privies.” I think this is one of the first times that I’ve had to stand in line for the ladies room while having to pee that bad. I’ve had to stand in line before, and I’ve had to pee bad before, but this was the first time for both at the same time. I was in so much pain standing there in line. And Darling Boyfriend went into the men’s room. And came out. And I hadn’t moved. Ugh. So Darling Boyfriend stood with me while the line for the lady’s room was outside. It just sucked. And then, when I finally got into a stall I overheard two women talking and one of them said that this was the only time she wished she had that certain “appendage” so she could just whip it out and be done with it. And I felt like saying, “It’s not worth it!” So, yay, sweet relief. I learned a valuable lesson about not waiting that long when I know there’ll be a line; I should have dragged us to the privies sooner. A lot sooner. Well, lesson learned, and no harm done.

After that we went and threw some weapons around. Darling Boyfriend shot some arrows at the archery range and then threw some throwing knives. We both threw the throwing axes and the throwing stars. The throwing stars were awesome! Darling Boyfriend also shot a little canon at a canvas ship. They had a swing-the-hammer/ring-the-bell thing, and I decided that I wanted to give it a try. I honestly thought I’d be able to do it. Oh.My.God. I am such a wimp nowadays. I did good to even get the hammer over my head, and I think all three times I got it to hit the right spot, but the little slider thing barely made it half-way up the rail. I’ve fully assimilated into the proper side of the gender-binary, as after my miserable turn, the guy running the hammer used my performance to try to goad a few men into trying it, saying, “Hey, she did better than you guys who are afraid to even try.” Wow. And then Darling Boyfriend tried it, and he didn’t ring the bell, but he got a heck of a lot closer than I did. I am weak.

We ambled and browsed in more shops. We stood and watched a glass blower for a little while. That was pretty impressive. At some point in there we got some mead to fill Darling Boyfriend’s mug – it was yummy.

As it was getting late, we decided to go by the “creepy gypsy lady” (my words), and get our fortunes told. Darling Boyfriend went first and he had his palm read. I was laughing at so many of the things the woman said because they seemed so dead-on target. She said that he would fall in love in his late thirties (hmmm…), and said some other very interesting things about his love life and career. After that I had a Tarot reading. I got four of the Major Arcana cards, including two Magus cards. The woman said that was highly unusual, and that it showed destiny and that I was entering a time of being very powerful, which I think is pretty accurate, honestly. She said that I’d be financially successful – it’d be lovely if that proved to be true. She also said that I would be in a relationship with great sexual compatibility (hmmm…). When we left her stand I was almost creeped out, because the stuff she said just seemed crazy accurate, and she didn’t do any “fishing” for info before the readings.

We grabbed a quick dessert, and took a look at tiaras. I saw a couple girls wearing these really cool circlets with jewels dangling on their foreheads and I really wanted one, but I didn’t find any that I thought were that nice.

As we were headed out the front gate we watched a guy juggle with batons lit on fire, and I had the Darling Boyfriend take my picture standing next to a guy in a giant wizard costume (I’m wearing the new pink cape).

All-in-all it was an amazing day. The Darling Boyfriend and I seem to just have one awesome adventure after another, and I seem to just fall deeper and deeper in love with him all the time.


Performing the Written Word

So, as you saw in my last post, I read some of my poems at an open mic night last week. It was pretty interesting. My how things have changed. I spent so long hiding in my room. I lost years of my life because I was afraid to even go outside, and here I am reading stuff that I wrote in front of people. Just, wow.

I read at this queer-inclusive night called Transcriptions. I’ve been there a few times before, and I thought it was about time for me to actually participate. I gotta say, I was a little nervous, but I was far less terrified than I had expected. I’m still surprised that I enjoy public speaking. I guess I really am becoming powerful. It was super-fun, and I will definitely do it again.

The weird part was that I don’t really write with the intention of having my words read aloud, so it was a very different way to look at my writing. I think reading my own words out loud was really helpful in terms of me understanding some things about how words flow. It was very informative.

Most of the poems I read I had written before. I read four haiku that were from last year or before, then one longer piece that I wrote late last year, and then three haiku that I wrote fairly recently. The last one I wrote the day of the reading. The three newer ones were all written about my Darling Boyfriend. It was kinda cool to read love poems to my boyfriend from the stage.  🙂

Anyway, here’s the newest one:

we feel the same way
hints with pajamas and ra-
dio i love you

[Yes, I’m aware that I broke all sorts of haiku rules with that whole split “ra-dio” thing, but I don’t care.]

Only been? Already been?

I think it’s pretty clear that since my divorce I’ve been struggling, to greater or lesser degrees, to figure out what the heck “love” is. I talk my friends’ ears off about it; I read advice columns; I listen to Dan Savage; and I blog (a lot), and I feel further away than ever. I feel as though the more I learn, the less I know.

I am starting to think that trusting myself has got to be part of the equation. It was so easy back in the day when I thought that “love” was either/or. When I was looking for my “one true love” it was a lot less complicated. I didn’t have to reevaluate anything; once I was in “love,” I just ~was~. Nothing could dissuade me, because I had found my “one and only.”

Ah, the innocence of youth. Ha.

 Now that I more fully understand human relationships, with their ups and downs, and compromises, and gives and takes it’s so much more complicated. It’s more magical in some ways, too, though, because now when I’m with someone it’s a conscious choice. It isn’t some mystical hand of fate pushing me to be with this ~one~ “special” person – it’s me, myself, and I’s experience and wisdom ~choosing~ to spend my time and energy with another soul. It’s sort of more complicated and more simple at the same time. It’s sort of more wondrous and more banal in the same instant. Ah, more gray area.

Something that caused me to write this post today was that I was reading an advice column. A woman wrote and asked when it was okay to say, “I love you.” She wondered whether the woman is “allowed” to say it first and why her boyfriend hadn’t said it yet. She’s been with her boyfriend for five months. And one commenter said, “It’s only been five months.”

only five months

My ex and I were engaged after about three weeks of knowing each other (it was after three ~days~ of us being a “couple”). I think my marriage was an unparalled success, even though it ended. Sometimes you “know” almost instantly and sometimes it takes a while. When I was younger and life seemed to stretch forever I was much more likely to throw caution to the wind. Falling in love within a few weeks didn’t seem “quick” or “rushed” or “forced,” it felt perfectly natural. Now that I’m knocking loudly on the door of turning 40, everything seems so much more serious; every glance, every decision, every pronouncement has so many more consequences than it once did. And I’d be a big fat liar if I didn’t admit that my desire to have a family has made me consider the “big picture” much more than I ever thought was appropriate when choosing a partner in the long-distant past.

Way back when, “love” was all that mattered; if I “loved” someone, everything else would work itself out. It had to, right? That’s how “love” works, isn’t it? “Love conquers all” and all that.

Egad, I believed everything Disney and all such fairytale peddlers tried to sell me.


And so now that it “matters” more I feel paralyzed. The answers to questions that before flowed so easily are now inscrutable puzzles.

One thing I’m certain of is that there are no “time limits;” there is no schedule to how fast or slow love should or does flow. It happens when it happens. Or not. So for some people “five months” would be much too quick to even consider being in “love,” while for others, if they weren’t in “love” after five months they would consider it a sure sign that the relationship had no potential. We’re all different, and so is the way we love and fall in love.

As I grapple with this whole concept, I am gradually becoming more comfortable with the unknowns and uncertainties of the process. It is scary to know that at anytime whatever you have can vanish, but it’s also empowering to know that I have control over my own decisions. Of course, the corollary is realizing that I have no control over anyone else’s decisons. Damn two sides to every coin. :-p

Probably the scariest (and most amazing) part of everything is that I control my own choices. I have a hand in making my dreams come true. At the end of the day, what I choose is my own. I can seek advice, but I must seize the day and move forward as I think is best. I must trust myself, which is something I’ve been working on a lot lately in many areas.

I must trust myself.

“only five months”

“already five months”

Who cares how long it’s been? (I’m not even exactly sure how long I’ve been seeing my current boyfriend – a couple months, I guess. Maybe three?) It’s right when it’s right, and nothing so simple as ~time~ has any say in the matter.

You know when you know.

Ya know?


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