Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

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My new favorite google search for me…

So, I can see the Google search terms that people use to find (or stumble into) my blog. Some are funny, some are disturbing, and some are perplexing. Often I joke with the Darling Boyfriend that people had no idea what they were in for when they clicked on the link that lead to my blog. 😉 And sometimes someone is pretty obviously searching for me. Every once in a while one stands out as being truly brilliant; yesterday there was a winner, and it’s so good I’m thinking of changing the tagline of my blog for the first time in several years. Here it is:

“I am a Penny; this is my adventure.”

How sweet is that?

The Crossing marches in NETU Pride

I can’t start to write this without mentioning how completely exhausted I am. I may be blurry, but I’d really like to write this before I go to sleep and lose my initial impressions.

So, today was the New England Trans United Pride Parade in Northampton. I marched in the parade. Not only did I march, I brought some folks from my church (including my amazing priest) to march as well. It was pretty awesome. It was raining, and cold, and a lot smaller than the Pride parade in Boston (d’uh), but it was lovely and powerful.

I had to get to up at OhMyGod O’clock this morning to see Darling Boyfriend (I need a new nickname for him) off to work. I tried to go back to sleep, but I was much too wired. Last night I made myself a shirt to wear in the parade; it says: “I’m a Transsexual and Jesus Loves Me.”

It was really nasty this morning when I got to the church to rendezvous with the group, but our spirits weren’t troubled. Heck, I was super-excited for today. So, once the four of us were assembled, we headed off on the two-hour trek to Northampton.

When we got into town we took a few minutes to stop off and water-proof our banners. I was a little stressing because we were pushing the time a little bit, but we managed to get our business taken care of and get to the start of the parade with a little bit of time to spare.

Marching in the parade was neat. Northampton is just such an awesome place; it’s one of the most welcoming and friendly cities I’ve ever visited. There weren’t tons of people along the parade route, probably due to the lousy weather, but the people that were there were super-supportive and positive. We carried separate banners that said “God” “is” “Love”. I carried the banner that said “Love.” I just had the biggest smile on my face for the whole parade while my priest was yelling “Blessings” to folks along the route. It was another in what seems to be a string of very powerful experiences for me. The world is a wondrous place, and people are warm and loving. Yay.

Darling Boyfriend expressed interest in coming, but he had to work. It was really sweet, because he said that it was the type of thing that he could see going one of two ways, and if it was a positive and fun time he wished he could share that with me, and if it turned ugly with haters he wanted to be there to support me. He is just totally out-of-this world awesome. ~*swoon*~

When we got to the end of the parade there was a rally planned. We stayed for a little bit and chatted. Rev Steph chatted with Gunner Scott, the head of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, where I’ve been volunteering lately. It was very cool to have the two of them connect. I also ran around and said hi to a few of my “Facebook friends,” which was really cool. It’s always great to attach an actual person to an online identity.

I’ve made a pretty conscious decision to be pretty actively supportive of Transgender civil rights. It’s true that I’m still struggling a little bit with seeing myself as part of the “Transgender Umbrella,” and I even have some problems with what I wrote on my own shirt (“I’m a Transsexual”), but that has nothing to do with whether I believe that civil rights for marginalized folks is important. If gender variance, in ~all~ its forms, was better understood and more tolerated in this world, I bet SRS would be covered by insurance companies, I bet young trans kids would be diagnosed a lot earlier in life, I bet fewer repressed trans folk would marry only to divorce due to transition. In short, I think society understanding trans folks (of every type) better would make the world a better place. I certainly think it would make things easier for those that come after me, and my hope is that fewer people have to go through the emotional turmoil I did.

After we left the rally, my church friends and I went to a Tibetan place for lunch, where I had yak stew (~yes~, I said YAK!). It was wicked yummy. There were also veggie dumplings that we shared. It was just a great meal.

After lunch we headed off to the mall. Rev Steph and another woman from church who came with today thought I could use some new clothes. I had tons of fun shopping with them – it was like being with my sisters. I bought more than I should have, but I found some really nice stuff so it’s hard to feel all that terrible.

Finally we headed home and I am now going to crawl into bed around 9:00 PM and hope that my Honey comes over soon to crawl into bed with me.

It truly was an awesome day.


Pass it on…

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!


Illuminate Me

A bit over a month ago I asked my mom if she had any free days she could get at the Foxwoods hotel. She did, and she booked a few sets of dates. This Wednesday & Thursday were the only two that I was able to go. I really needed to just get away from my house and all the stuff around me. I needed to take a breath and recharge. Here’s the one good thing about my mom gambling too much: free vacation for Penny.

When I got here we went to one of the high-rollers rooms for free food and drinks. I ate too much and had four White Russians. Yummy, and as my mom would say, we were feeling no pain.

So, we went to see the Cirque production called Illumination this evening. It was great. We had seen Pandemonium last year, and I loved that, but I think Illumination was even better. The acrobats were great, as always. There was a very funny comedy bit in the middle using four audience members and one of the members of the show acting as the “director” of their scene. I laughed a lot. Towards the end of the performance there was a man/woman couple tandem. The man kept dunking himself in a tub and then spinning and climbing on two straps hanging from the ceiling. It was a very romantic setting and scene. I found myself wishing I was here with my boyfriend instead of my mom. 😉

It was a great show, I’m really glad we went.

Tomorrow I hope to go swimming in the pool and get some work done (see, I said I was busy – even here I have to work).

Now I’m off to hop in the tubby for a nice bath after watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

Favorite Google Search for Me

So, I can see the search terms that people use to find my blog. Sometimes they’re kind of wacky, sometimes they’re fairly disturbing, but sometimes they just make me smile. Sometimes it seems like the person searching was looking specifically for me, and then sometimes they were looking for something that made sense for them to find my blog, and then sometimes I’m pretty certain that I was ~not~ what they expected. 🙂 Yesterday I saw my favorite phrase that has lead anyone to my blog:

“I am God’s Penny.”

And that just made me smile all different colors of happy, because I am.


Life makes liars of us all


So, I have no idea what to write here, but there’s something I need to say…

Looking back through the glasses of three years of living the proper life, and five years of therapy, it might seem easy for me to say “oh, and I wanted to be a mommy so I kept my wrong parts and tried to find another woman who’d have a baby with me.”

That’s obviously not how it happened, though.

I was an incredibly depressed, repressed, and confused person in the “before time.” It’s not like I set out with a plan to keep my penis and testicle to hunt down a willing woman to have a child with. I was a mess. I was boderline agoraphobic for years. I was suicidal. I wanted to be a mommy. I did not want to be a daddy. I felt that if I was my true self that everyone in my life would abandon me and leave me completely isolated. I was struggling with my transsexualism. I had severe anxiety. I couldn’t ~do~ anything. I was a pretty broken and non-functional person for just about my entire twenties and into my thirties.

Looking back now, it might seem easy and obvious when I say “I wanted to be Wonder Woman;” “I had a crush on John Cusack;” “I wanted to be a mommy.” But the truth is that each of those revelations took tons of work and only now are starting to become clear. The realization process sort of happens like a flash – I might be talking about something and I’ll realize “OMG! ~THAT’S~ why I did that, or thought that.”

If I couldn’t even fully process my transsexualism, which is the core of every other problem, how could I have processed anything else?

And, it’s possibly even worse to think what would have happened if I ~had~ been the sperm donor of a child. Would I have ~ever~ transitioned? It certainly would have been much more difficult. I expect I would have buried everything that much further, and who knows, maybe all those suicidal thoughts would have finally become reality. It is incredibly heartbreaking for me to say that it’s probably for the best that I never managed to have a baby with another woman, but I can recognize that it is probably for the best. I never wanted to be a father.

Dredging this stuff up is very difficult work, but I think it’s important for me to process my past if I am to have a truly healthy and happy future. Trying to learn about myself and my previous trauma and issues I believe is invaluable when it comes to moving forward as an effective human being, both for myself as well as those who deal with me.

And it certainly doesn’t help trying to process this stuff while at the same time trying to live an active and engaged life. Past and present blur sometimes, and then it can really get tricky.

I think the only thing worse than knowing how messed up I was and having had to live through that is knowing that my issues spilled onto the person who, to this day, remains the person who has been the single most important person in my entire life. I wish I knew how to make amends, I wish I could wave my magic wand, at the very least I wish I could stop adding new pain.


I wish I knew how to make it right…

Not when you’re wrong

I’m such a noob at being part of a minorty. One of the things that I have learned is that when you kick ass and take names, other members of your minority will chafe against the expectation that they should be as successful. And then there’s the fact that people who aren’t part of the minority will think you’re all the same. And then there are the coat-tail riders. I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting right now, but probably the most annoying to me is when a member of the minority misbehaves and then expects unanimous support from the other members of the minority simply due to “shared experience.” (sort of)

[I’m possibly mixing a lot of things in here. I’m being a little flippant about being a member of a minority, since the group I’m talking about is “transgender,” and if I ever was a member of that group (which I doubt more and more everyday) I’m certainly not now. However, women with a history of surgically treated transsexualism are pretty small in number, so I guess I could count that – though I sort of resist referring to my medical condition as grounds for considering myself as part of a minority. The thing I’m really talking about is how we’re all, as sensitive and caring people whether or not we’re trans, supposed to get on board with anyone who is transgender even when they act a damn fool. Well, um, see the thing is, not so much.]

Transgender mayor’s clothes spur complaint
(story with video here)

See, this bothers me because it so plays into what was my worst fear before my transition. I teach drum lessons to (mostly) kids between 8 and 15 years old. I was really scared that people would have baseless fears about letting me continue as their kid’s drum teacher (the owner of the store ~specifically~ asked if I was going to come to work in mini-skirts – seriously). Fortunately, my students and their parents believed in me and my drumming and teaching ability, and my sense to not make a spectacle out of myself. Most people won’t even notice that this mayor self-identifies as a crossdresser and not transsexual, they’ll just lump us all together and question ~my~ competance under guilt-by-association. (And just for the record, that halter top looks like incredibly hot material – the “heat” excuse just doesn’t wash with me.)

M2F Transgender kept in male prison

Here’s where I become an essentialist hag (and yes, I’m well aware of the hole I’m creating for other people to attack me, so be it). You see, what are we supposed to do with a person in this situation? I’m not feeling super-groovy about funding a sex-change procedure (if that’s even desired) on tax-payer money (I paid for mine out-of-pocket, afterall, and if we’re not going to cover law-abiding citizens we really shouldn’t be covering people in jail). I chafed against the fact that I couldn’t change my birth certificate until I had surgery, and yet I understood why. This person, legally female, still has a penis, and wants to be put in women’s prison. Um, I really don’t think that makes sense. Likewise, I do understand that men’s prison is not a great alternative. I have a big enough heart that I can see that the reality for this prisoner is mostly protective-custody for the bulk of their prison stay. But I can also see that perhaps not committing the crime in the first place might have been prudent.

I know that I’m supposed to be all onboard the tranny-train, but I have my own impressions, and reservations. I admit to not being 100% comfortable with crossdressers using the ladies room (which isn’t the same as saying I think they ~shouldn’t~ use the ladies room, because I think they should, but I’m admitting to feeling a little iffy about it). I admit to thinking that there’s a difference between transgender folks and transsexuals; I don’t understand transgenderists, genderqueers, or the pregnant man (which isn’t to say that I think negatively of them, just that they’re different from me and that I don’t understand them).

I guess I’m combining a few similar but different thoughts in this post. First, I am uncomfortable with the concept of the “transgender umbrella;” I really do see transsexualism in a different way to the gender-deconstruction that seems so essential to transgender people. Next, if I see someone behaving badly I will acknowledge their bad behavior, especially if they’re associated with me (whether incorrectly or no) by others. Finally, while I often consider blurring my way into the woodwork, I do think it remains important for me to be at least reservedly open about my history. (I have noticed, though, that every time I think about it, the qualifiers get stronger – first it was “out,” then it was “partially” open, now it’s “reservedly” open. Hmm, I bet that means something.)

But, yeah, just because you’re trans I won’t stick up for you if you’re a bonehead (that’s one of my most fundamental rules of life: “Don’t be a bonehead”).

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