Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bad Coffee

I'm not doing well right now. Not well at all.

I've come to the conclusion that working at Starbucks is just not for me. This is a job for young people, those who can work at top speed for several hours at all hours of the day and do lots of running, bending, and lifting. Simply put, I'm having a lot trouble keeping up with the physical demands of this job.

I come home from every shift tired and aching. I really don't know what I'm doing yet and it shows. I dread going to work, even for a few hours. The kids I work with all know their jobs and have no trouble dealing the demands of a busy store while I slowly bumble around, barely getting anything done.

I fucking hate this.

Even worse, the stress is seriously getting to me. I had a panic attack tonight, my first one in months. I have some Xanax but I have to be at work by 7am and if I take any it'll knock me out until at least mid-morning. There's no way I'll sleep tonight without it, so here I am at 2:30 in the morning writing a blog post.

Even though it goes against every fiber of my being in terms of being responsible, I'm seriously considering calling out today because I just don't want to face it. The more I consider going into work in a few hours, the higher my anxiety level rises. I don't know what I'm going to do.

Maybe it's time for me to finally admit to myself that I just can't do this kind of work anymore. Sure, I can still run a cash register, do sales, maybe even be a manager if it's not too physically demanding, but I think my days as a retail grunt are over. I'm just too old for this shit, and between the effects of both middle age and injectable estrogen my body simply isn't up to it anymore.

I'm thinking it might be more than that, though. I don't think it's a coincidence that I just had my first panic attack in months, a few days after I started this job. When I'm in my own space, doing what I do well, writing, I'm fine...well mostly fine anyway. At Starbucks, I'm outside my comfort zone, working at a job I'm not particularly good at, and I'm just a ball of stress and anxiety. I've done a good job of concealing it at work so far, but it's there all the time and it's getting to me, more every time I go in. I worry that one day soon I won't be able to tamp it down on the job without taking something, and that would be bad, bad, bad.

Maybe it's time to re-apply for disability. I tried once, years ago, but was denied. I don't know, but I know I have to do something, and I have to do it soon. Very soon.

Shit.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

What's Old Is New Again

So today was my first day of training at Starbucks. Mostly it was sitting in front of a laptop watching videos and learning about the company's culture and values. Pretty easy stuff, especially since they mesh so well with my own values as well as my idea of what working for a modern retail establishment should be like.

It's kinda funny. On the one hand, a goal I set for myself a long time ago when I was maneuvered out of my last job in retail several years ago was to avoid anything that involved uniforms and nametags ever again. Of course, that was before I came to the unavoidable conclusion that it would be a long time, if ever, before I'd be able to make a living as a writer. I do make money on my writing, but it's not enough to live on. Even when I was the Media Correspondent for the Advocate I didn't make what most people would consider a living wage, certainly not if living includes paying rent and feeding oneself.

On the other hand, I've been surprised to discover that I like the idea of working at Starbucks. Of course I can't fully judge the experience yet, but I can say that I like the idea of working for a company with progressive values that reflect my own. It motivates me to see just how far I can take this job on my own skills and abilities, knowing that my being trans isn't going to get in the way.

That's a big deal for me. I've had other retail jobs where I've all but begged my bosses to let me do more and demonstrate that I can handle more responsibility only to run up against a solid pink ceiling that would never allow me to progress beyond an entry level position. In fact, in many of these situations the feeling seemed to be that my ambition to be and do more was evidence of my being ungrateful, of not knowing my place and being eternally thankful that the company was willing to employ me at all.

I'm not going to name names here of course, but I will say that on the vast majority of retail jobs I've had since going fulltime it wasn't a long time on the job before I discovered that I'd never be promoted above the position I was hired for, no matter how hard I worked, how good at my job I was, or how deserving I could prove myself to be.

In every case, the problem was the same: Someone(s) in the chain of command had a problem with me because I'm trans and as a result I'd never be seriously considered for promotion. They'd usually be ok with me ringing a cash register or stocking shelves, but not with anything that involved close customer contact like sales or management.

For example, when I worked at a big-name electronics store, they literally hid me behind a curtain, apparently so customers wouldn't see me. I repeatedly asked my managers to put me on the sales floor, where I knew I'd do well, but they staunchly refused.

At one point, there was a fire in the store I worked at and the employees were loaned out to work in other stores while our store was being repaired. I decided to see if I could take advantage of the situation and make a point to upper management in the process.

I was assigned to another local store and asked the manager there to put me on the sales floor in the computer department. He did, and with absolutely no training, going only by my own sales skills, product knowledge, the store signage, and an occasional question to those working in the department, I sold over ten thousand dollars worth of computers and accessories in one afternoon. Needless to say, I was kept working in that department until it was time for me to return to my own store.

When I returned to my home store, I went to the store manager, told him what I'd accomplished at the other store, and asked him to reassign me to the computer department. He told me I was needed where I was and ushered me right back to my phone operator desk behind the curtain. It was at that point it became clear to me that I'd never be anything more than what I was at that store because the store manager simply wouldn't allow it. When I asked for a transfer to the other store, where I felt I had the best opportunity to succeed, I was told there were no positions available there and laid off soon afterward.

I could tell several other similar stories, but you get the idea. As a trans woman, I was expected to know my place and to be eternally grateful for it. Trying to rise above that position and demonstrate I was more valuable than I was being allowed to be was considered "not fitting in", as one manager told me, and reason enough to let me go.

I've been around long enough to be a little wary of any company I work for, at least initially, but if Starbucks corporate culture is what they say it is and my ability to move up and succeed there is entirely dependent on me and how good of an employee I am, then I think I'll do well there.

There's another factor too, one which probably means less at Starbucks than it does elsewhere, but I bet it'll still make life easier on the job: No one makes me as trans anymore. The store manager knows (because I told her), but no one else there knows as far as I can tell. This is the first customer contact job I've ever had where that's been the case, probably because it's the first one I've ever had without a fully functional testosterone factory between my legs.

Tomorrow, I get to go in for more training and learn how to actually do stuff like make the various coffees. I'm looking forward to it.

*****

Another extremely cool thing that happened today is a pair of sneakers I ordered came. My feet are pretty big, 11.5 EEE in men's shoes, which translates to a 12D in women's. Finding women's shoes that actually fit me has been an exercise in frustration since I came out. Estrogen can feminize a body in a lot of ways but changing shoe size isn't one of them. Right now as I sit here typing this, I'm wearing women's sneakers that actually fit me for the first time in my life. I have a feeling that I'm going to be using this site a lot.

For ladies who are also in need of such sizes, I can't recommend this site enough. The prices are very reasonable, the fit is excellent, and they showed up exactly when promised. Go get 'em, girls. http://www.onlineshoes.com/  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Officially Official

So today I went into Starbucks, filled out my paperwork, and got my first scheduled hours for training, Thursday and Friday 10-1. Next week, I'll have a much fuller schedule. I'm told I can have as many hours as I can handle, which is a very good thing, and it seems I can pretty much set my own schedule as far as timing goes, which is a truly great thing. There's no way I want to be traveling to work at 4:30 in the morning in Philly the middle of winter (or anytime really).

I already knew that Starbucks is a pretty progressive company, but really I had no idea. Full benefits for working over 20 hours, free food, coffee, and lots of other perks, plenty of opportunity to move up and grow, and a company culture that not only accepts diversity in its workforce but actively welcomes and promotes it.

The last part is really a new thing in my experience. I've worked for plenty of companies that say they hire and fire without regard to race, sexuality, gender ID, etc., but never one which actually goes out of its way to say not just "We don't care what you are." but takes it a step further and says "There's a place for you here." There's a big difference between just being tolerated and actually being welcomed. For me, as a trans woman, that's new.

So yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about this new job. If I can just get the housing thing worked out, I'll feel even better. I think I'll give my landlord a buzz tomorrow and see if we can work something out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Call Comes...

...and I got the job!

Next Monday, I go in to fill out paperwork and then at some point soon after that, I'll start.

Now I guess I can tell you. I'm gonna be a barista. Yeah Starbucks, and a pretty busy one too. When I was there at about 3pm yesterday there was a fairly long line so it's pretty safe to assume that this place does a good business throughout the day. That's not surprising since it's a corner store in one of the busiest areas of Center City.

Busy is good. I like busy. Busy makes the day go by faster, plus if and when there's an opportunity to move up it's always an advantage to have experience in a well-trafficked store, especially when you live and work in a major city. It's much easier to find people who can handle slow and easy. Being able to deal with fast and busy is much more valuable, especially here.

Now I have to make a Jersey run at some point this week and hit a few places for things like some (more) black tops and a new pair of sneakers to wear to work. My current pair are nice and comfy but they look like shit.

Here's the funny thing: I don't even know how much I'll be making yet. I guess I was so happy to finally be seriously considered and hired I forgot to ask. I guess it can wait until I go in on Monday.

Holy crap, I have a job. An actual, non-freelance, show-up-for-work-and-get-an-actually-decent-paycheck-with-benefits job.

Cool (coffee) beans.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Job Interview Update

So I had my interview today, and I think it went really well. It's for a position at a small place in Center City. The manager who interviewed me is pretty new to the company and is in the process of trying to put together a good team to run this store. That's the best kind of situation to be in as an applicant because you're coming into something new, not trying to replace or compete with others.

She asked good questions and I think my answers were pretty good. I also think there was a little retail manager bonding happening. I get her and she gets me, and I think that came through during the interview. It's an important thing when you're looking to put together a retail store team. She knows that I've been where she is so aside from the actual specifics of my job duties she's not going to have to put a lot of effort into training me. That makes her life easier. Also, she knows that I have experience with training retail staff so once I get comfortable in the job I can probably help out there as well. In short, I think I managed to successfully talk myself up and highlight the benefits of hiring me without sounding like I was bragging or narcissistic, which is exactly what I was trying to do.

There's no way to be certain of course, but I have a strong feeling that I aced the interview. She promised me a call tomorrow before 2. With any luck, tonight will be my last night among the almost totally unemployed. I do see potential in this job and with this company, but even if that proves not to be the case, it's almost always easier to get hired when you're already working somewhere.

So, I guess I'll know and will report more tomorrow. Right now, it's almost time for Maddow.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Clearing Hurdles

On Monday, I'll get to do something which until now I haven't been able to successfully manage since I moved here:

I have a job interview. An actual, face-to-face, come-on-down-and-meet-the-boss, opportunity to score myself some work. It's part-time at a local retail establishment which I don't think it's appropriate to name unless and until I actually get the job.

Sure, I wish it was for something full-time, but hey, I gotta start somewhere and this is a job I know I can do and be good at. It's also for a company with a pretty progressive rep and I know the trans thing isn't going to be an issue. It shouldn't matter, of course, but it does.

If there's anything I've learned looking for work here in Philly, it's that too many employers just don't want to hire a trans person. It's no surprise that they're not open about it. After all, it's illegal here to refuse to hire someone because they're trans so no smart employer is ever going to admit to it. Still, there are plenty of clues which tell me that's what's been going on.

Many of the jobs I've applied for I'm fully qualified for, some even overqualified, especially the ones in retail. Yet in no case until now have I gotten an actual interview. Instead, I get a "Thanks for applying, but..." form email in just about every case.

Having been a retail manager who's made and participated in hiring decisions myself, I have a good idea of what companies are looking for as well as what constitutes a red flag. I've seen candidates rejected for all kinds of reasons, but most commonly for two things: Potential longevity on the job, and physical appearance.

The first one is usually when the job is something that will require an investment in time and (sometimes) money to train a new hire. Many employers are reluctant to make that kind of investment in an employee they believe will quit as soon as something better comes along. This includes young people who will likely be off to college soon as well as those who (like me) also work in other industries.

The other is tied up in how a potential new hire appears and how management thinks they might be seen by customers. Sometimes, it's genuine racism or anti-LGBT sentiment where a manager believes that customers don't want to see a person of color or someone visibly Queer behind the counter. Other times, it's when someone comes in for an interview inappropriately dressed.

While racism and anti-LGBT bigotry are always the wrong things to base hiring decisions on, I have far less sympathy for those who dress inappropriately for interviews. Showing up for a job interview in clothes that make you look like you just walked off the basketball court, a street corner, or out of a club sends a message you don't respect the job, that getting hired isn't important enough to you to dress to impress.

No one expects an applicant for a low-level retail position to show up in Brooks Brothers or Lord and Taylor, but you can say a lot to a potential employer by wearing an outfit that indicates respect, both for yourself and for the company you're hoping to work for. I've seen many potentially good candidates rejected out-of-hand because they showed up in baggy pants and a backward cap, a skirt that was too short, a top that was too revealing, too much or too slutty makeup, etc. These cases can often be sad, because even though the applicant might be fully qualified, no one's going to consider their qualifications once it's been determined that their manner of dress is inappropriate and/or disrespectful.

It's important to remember that regardless of the level of the position, you're applying for work at a place of business, one which the manager interviewing you is highly invested in. If your appearance doesn't reflect the same kind of respect for that job and that business your interviewer has, you might as well just turn around and go home because you're not getting the job.

Simply put, managers hire people who they believe are going to make their own jobs easier and make them look good. If you don't convey that message through how you present yourself for an interview, a good manager will keep looking for someone else who does.

In many cases, trans applicants start with one strike against us the moment we walk in the door. We're trans, and that itself can bring with it a fair amount of baggage in terms or who and what people think we are and how we live our lives. If you can get past the hurdle of actually getting the interview in the first place, proper presentation at an interview can go a long way toward quelling those kinds of fears and inspiring your interviewer to judge you based on your qualifications rather than your trans status.

I've already got two possible outfits picked out for Monday. I'll make a final decision that morning, when I see what the weather's like. For this interview, business casual is the look I'm going for.

Fingers crossed. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Here We Go Again...

Yeah, I know it's been a while since I posted here, but I was just in the mood so here goes...

I just found out that I'm going to have to move again soon. Apparently, my landlord thinks she can do better on rent by adding a few appliances and jacking up the rent so I have until February to find a new place to live.

Five months is a decent amount of time to find a new place but it sucks, and of course it's going to be expensive.

Honestly, I like it here in Philadelphia,and I can't really afford more than I'm paying now. And yet, suddenly all of my options are open once again and I find that intriguing. I'd definitely be willing to move, even far away from this area, for the right job.

That said, if I can find a place I can afford I'm seriously considering moving back to Jersey. Even after seven months here, New Jersey still feels like home. Much to my surprise, that still matters to me more than I thought it would.

I know New Jersey. I feel centered there. A lot of my friends and family are there. I do enjoy living in Philly but it makes me feel kind of detached from the rest of my world.

I wish I could find an affordable situation in New York City. It's another place where I feel centered and at home.

I dunno...I guess I need to give this more thought and do some research.

Leads and suggestions are most welcome.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Why It's Good To Be A Woman

So today I had to go back to the same T-Mobile store in Center City I was at yesterday. Last night I tried to download a game on my phone and in the middle of the download the thing just froze dead. The little lights were blinking but I couldn't get it to start. Not good. Luckily, I still have my old LG phone in case of emergencies so I used that until this morning. The lady I spoke with at the store got it working for me in short order, and after another stop at Old Navy, this time for some leggings, I Ubered it back to the apartment.

When we got to my block there was a line of cars about halfway down. Some idiot had run out of gas and was stuck at the corner. A few men got out of their cars and helped the idiot push his car far enough to the side of the road so the rest could get by, including one man who originally had just sat in his car waiting until the woman with him, presumably his wife, admonished him to get out and help.

As I watched this scene unfold, it occurred to me that this is one of the great things about being a woman: No one expects you to get out and push. We are the rescued, not the rescuers. It isn't very feminist, nor does it realistically apply in any number of real-life situations anymore, but when it comes to everyday life problems that require an application of brute force to get the job done, it's still men who are expected stand up and pitch in, not women. On the other hand, of course, as women we're expected to clean up the mess the men make afterward.

I'll admit to being glad about that. Clothes cost money and women's clothes are usually more expensive than men's. Plus, I hate getting dirty if I don't have to. Even before I transitioned, while a lot of my male friends were motorheads, I'd never stick my hands inside an engine compartment. I was always the one they'd send out for pizza and beer while they worked. I was frequently mocked for this, but I didn't care. I can check my oil and even change a flat tire or an air filter in a pinch, but I'll never volunteer for that kind of job if there's a man willing to do it for me, even if I have to pay for it. After all, manicures cost money too.

In my twentieth year of living fulltime as a woman, and my fifth year of using injectable estrogen, I I've noticed that I seem to have crossed into a place where no one who doesn't know me personally makes me as trans. I can't remember the last time I was "sir"ed, which was a frequent occurrence for a long time. The rest of the world consistently sees me as a woman now and accepts me as such out of hand, rather than just accommodating me out of politeness. Even those who knew me pre-transition often seem to forget I once lived as male. Needless to say, this makes me very happy.

I know this is a form of female privilege which many trans women will never enjoy, but I won't apologize for taking joy in the fact that I now have it. I didn't get a choice in growing into a 5'10" adult instead of 6'4". 5'10" is on the tall side for women but not tall enough to raise eyebrows. I also won't apologize for being fortunate enough to be able to afford gender confirmation surgery and injectable estrogen. These too were not in my control.

Sure, I know that I'm lucky in some ways, and I try to do what I can to help level the playing field and support the community. At the same time, I refuse to apologize for doing everything I can to live my dream, to be the person I've always wanted to be as best as I am able. To me, that's ultimately what life is all about, to know that when it's finally time for me to say goodbye to this world that I did the best I could to live my life the way I wanted to.

As I get older and middle age continues to catch up with me in different ways, I think about these things a lot and I'm more conscious of them than I used to be. There are a lot of things I just can't do anymore, or at least I can't do them at the same level as I used to. I try to let it get in the way as little as possible, but reality can and does intrude from time to time.

There's a great slogan that sums up how I feel a lot of the time these days. If I ever find it on a t-shirt I'll probably buy one:

"Old punks never die, we just stand in the back."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Walking Center City

Yeah, I know, it's been a while since I posted here, almost two months in fact. Why? I really don't know. Maybe it's just laziness, maybe it's because I haven't done much worth writing about, or maybe I just haven't been in the mood. Whatever. Today has been an interesting day and it's still just early afternoon.

When I went to Pride a few weeks ago, I ended up getting a free tablet from the T-Mobile trailer there, just for being a good customer. While some of their dealings with their unionized employees don't make me happy, this company has treated me better as a customer than just about any other company I've ever dealt with. No other company will give me credit. None, even though I haven't missed a payment on anything since the mid-90's. With T-Mobile, I've already paid off one phone and I'm currently paying off another, my new Samsung S7, which I love. I briefly flirted with the idea of getting the Android version of an Apple watch and paying it off through them but in the end decided it was really just an totally unnecessary $300 expense. Maybe once I have some of this other stuff paid off, I'll reconsider.

I decided that I wanted to upgrade the memory in the tablet from 16 gig to 64, but after what happened at the T-Mobile store nearest the apartment I refuse to shop there anymore. So instead I Ubered it down to the next closest T-Mobile store at 20th and Market. when I got there I was stunned to discover it's closed on weekends. A store on one of the busiest streets in Center City, closed on Saturdays and Sundays...unbelievable. Fortunately, it's Philadelphia and there are T-Mobile stores all over the city. I hoofed it down to 15th and Walnut to another store and got what I needed in short order.

After lunch at Chipolte, I decided to hit an Old Navy a few blocks away. I picked up a few things there and then Ubered back to the apartment. When I got here, I discovered that some stuff I ordered from Old Navy's website had arrived so now I have a shitload of new summer tops to wear. Next missions: Sandals and leggings.

Over the course of writing this post, I've decided that I need a Coca-Cola Slurpee, right now. Time for a short walk to 7-11.

Goddess, I do so love living in the city.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Spring Has Sprung, And Voting's Begun / Birthday Musings

This part was written last Tuesday, Primary Day here in Philly...

Today was another one of those days when I got a lot done. First, I figured out how to register my car here in Pennsylvania and I'm going to be dealing with that first thing tomorrow morning. Next, I hoofed it over to my local polling place and voted as a Philadelphia resident for the very first time.



On the way home I stopped at the liquor store and picked up a bottle of Patron Silver and some Margarita mix. Good thing I did too, because after what happened later, I'm gonna need it.

After stopping at the apartment to put the tequila and margarita mix in the fridge, I did a little shopping at the supermarket down the street.

Finally home again, I got a text from T-Mobile that my bill was almost due and I needed to update my payment information. I went to their website and did this, and while I was there, I noticed that my bill seemed a bit on the high side, so I checked the itemized bill and noticed that along with an installment charge for the new phone I just got, there was a charge for an unknown device, a device that apparently cost $299.99.

I called T-Mobile's customer service line and was told that the charge was for a set of Beats headphones I'd gotten along with the phone. I was told that I'd get a discount on these, but they'd actually charged me full price. The customer service rep told me that I had 30 days to return them so I said I'd head there immediately.

Many long tiring blocks later, I arrived at the T-Mobile store on Chestnut St. and said I wanted to return the headphones. The manager of the store refused, however, saying that the return on accessories was only 14 days. Needless to say, I was pissed.

On the walk back to the apartment, I called the T-Mobile customer service line again and told them what happened. They flatly refused to do anything for me.

Now, here's where it gets interesting.

By the time I got home, I was steaming. I went to T-Mobile's Facebook page and posted a warning about that store there. Within a few minutes I was talking to yet another customer service agent who had responded to my post. I told them what had happened and after a few private messages exchanged, the upshot was they gave me a 25% discount on the headphones. A royal pain in the ass to get to that point, but worth it in the end I suppose.

The next thing I did kind of surprised me. I applied for a job at T-Mobile. Yes seriously, not kidding, and let me tell you they have an application process that checks you out like you wouldn't believe. It took me a couple of hours to get through the whole thing. It'll be interesting to see if I get a call from them.

This part was written the day I actually got around to finishing and posting the thing.

So today, May 8th, is my 54th birthday. In all honesty, I never thought I'd survive long enough to get this far. When I was a teen and young adult, I was sure that sooner or later I'd overdose on something and kill myself. By the time I was about to turn 35, I was suicidal and tried to kill myself by driving a van into the side of a bridge. I came really close, too. Another split-second and I'd probably have done it.

Now here it is 2016, and I'm still alive. Not only am I still alive, but I've accomplished a lot in the 19 years between the time I tried to end my life and now. I wish I had more to show for it financially, of course, but I'm ok, at least for the moment anyway.

I still think about it now and then. Depression is something I have to guard against constantly. Even though I now live in a major city in a state where it's pretty easy to purchase a gun if I wanted one, I'll never allow myself easy access to a lethal firearm. I've still got far too much to do, and I know that just one moment of weakness, just one, could lead to something tragic. While there are certainly other ways to end your life if you're serious about doing so, guns just make it far too easy for me to risk having one around.

The truth is that as I get older, particularly around birthdays, I find myself thinking about the fact that I won't be around forever, that statistically speaking I'm closer to the end of my life than the beginning. Knowing that and understanding it changes you. It makes you think about the past and the future. It makes you wonder about the value of your life, if you've managed to make a difference. Maybe most of all, it makes you wonder how much time you have left and what you're going to do with your life until your time is up.

Being a suicide attempt survivor changes you too. I know what it feels like to want to die, but I also know what it feels like to want to live, and to have made a conscious choice to continue living. It's why I care about suicide prevention and why I even have reminders of my desire to keep living tattooed on my body.

19 years ago, sitting in the driver's seat of a van, covered in chunks of safety glass, parked next to a small girder bridge where I'd just tried to end my life, I made myself a promise, and so far I've managed to keep it. It hasn't always been easy, but it has gotten easier, and it gets easier still every single year. Why? Because every year I have more to look back on and smile about, and because I know how much I would have missed if I hadn't saved my own life that day.

Only an idiot would try to argue that anyone's life, including their own, keeps getting better every single day, but at the same time, only the most shortsighted of fools would try to argue that it never can.




Monday, April 18, 2016

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood...

The weather was really nice today. Warm, low 70's, just the right weather for a nice walk. My first excursion was an eight block walk to Wawa for cigarettes. I decided to do something today I hadn't done since I've been here. Since it was so nice and warm, instead of my standard jeans and t-shirt/sweatshirt combo, I wore a pretty light dress I got from Old Navy.

It's sooo much more comfortable to wear a dress instead of pants on a hot day. It makes walking easier too. That leisurely stroll took about an hour, with another half hour or so waiting at Koch's Deli for a truly awesome hot corned beef hoagie. Koch's is so popular that you inevitably end up waiting a while to get your sandwich, but it's so worth it.

When I got home, I ate my sandwich and after a little while I decided I wanted some booze. At first I'd planned on picking up a six-pack of beer, but just my luck the place on Walnut Street a couple of blocks from the apartment only sells by the case. Fuck that. Even if I could fit a case of beer in my fridge, I just don't want that much beer around. I'm fat enough, thank you, and I refuse to drink light beer because most of it tastes like piss water.

So, off to destination #2, an actual liquor store on Chestnut, a couple of blocks in the other direction. I ended up coming home from there with a large bottle of pre-mixed Margaritas. That works.

Today was the most pleasant day in Philly weatherwise since I moved here. I did a lot of walking and got plenty of sunshine and exercise. Not bad. Not bad at all.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Two Down, Two To Go

Today I did something that I knew it had to be done, but it hurt my heart to do it. I sold my RAV4.






I fucking loved that car, but I didn't really have a choice. I can't drive two cars, and as much as I loved the RAV, it doesn't make any sense to keep the car with 193K miles on it and sell the one with 51K.

Even though I have to give up my favorite of all the cars I've ever owned, the Corolla is a pretty decent substitute, especially now that I have a Sirius radio installed. It's in good shape, drives well, and has a 6-disc CD player, perfect for those long drives from Philly to central Jersey. It's also an automatic and while I loved the 5-speed manual transmission in the RAV, the Corolla's automatic is much easier to deal with driving in and around Philly especially. The RAV was a great car for Jersey, but not so great for living in a big city like Philadelphia.

Bon voyage, my baby. I hope your next owner treats you well.

*****

Now that the RAV is dealt with, I have to get the Corolla titled and registered in Pennsylvania. I've already got PA insurance on it, but now I have to go to the New Jersey DMV, transfer the title from my mother to me and then take that to PennDOT and title and register it here. This, I know, is going to cost me even more time and money. With every move, there's another fee to be paid. I can't wait until I'm finally done with this crap. 

Oh yeah, and there's still the birth certificate to deal with. I'm going to order a certified copy of my name change judgment (because there's no way in hell I'm parting with the original) and mail that in along with the other necessary documents and a check (of course) to finally get that changed.

I did finally get my new passport in the mail the other day so that should help to smooth over any ID issues I may have to deal with in the meantime.

I think once all that's done I'm going to buy myself a big bottle of tequila, some margarita mix, and roll myself a nice, big fatty to celebrate. Hell, I've earned it.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Oy Fucking Vey

So I'm sitting here writing this at a quarter to four in the morning because the guy I share a kitchen with had the bright idea to heat up pizza at 3am without using a baking tray or foil. So of course, on top of him waking me up from a sound sleep the cheese dripped and charred the bottom of the oven, filling the apartment with smoke and the stink of burnt pizza.



I turned the thing off, but by then it was too late. The entire apartment is now filled with a haze and so I have no choice but to sit here now with the windows open when the temperature is around freezing outside.

The oven is now unusable of course. He's either going to clean that shit up tomorrow or I'll be having a conversation with the landlord. He didn't even bother to check on it while it was heating. It could have easily started a grease fire and burned the whole fucking place down.

Unacceptable.

Apparently he's mistaking this apartment for a college dorm room. One way or another, he will be disabused of that notion and quickly, because this shit ain't happening a second time, even if I have to install a hook and eye to keep him out once I go to bed.

This is my home and I will not put up with this shit.

On the positive side, I had a very interesting and encouraging phone call with a friend I hadn't spoken to in a while earlier this evening. More work, very interesting and personally satisfying work, may be in the offing. Too early to know any more at this point, but the possibilities are definitely intriguing. Hopefully I'll know more soon. Suddenly, it's going to be a busy weekend for me...that is, assuming I can stay awake after dealing with this oven nonsense.

Well, I think enough of the smoke is gone, and I'm inebriated enough, that I'm going to try to go back to sleep, if I can. I usually have a hard time sleeping when I'm pissed off and that is definitely the case right now.

Goddess save me from fucking kids.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Being City Girl

So, I'm very proud of myself today. I accomplished stuff.

Setting out from the apartment at about 11:30 or so, I walked over to a nearby wash and fold where you can do your laundry or have them do it for you for 75 cents a pound. Normally I would do my own laundry in the machines in the basement of my building, but they've been broken for a while now. I just don't have the time to sit in a laundromat doing it myself right now, but I must get it done. I asked them if they'd use special laundry detergent and color-safe bleach I bought myself because I have a very high sensitivity to the regular stuff and wearing stuff washed in it makes me itch like crazy. The lady there agreed to do it, so I'll bring a pile of stuff over there tomorrow.

After that, I took a several block walk to Everlasting Tattoo over on 43rd and Pine where I got my semicolon freshened up. It had lost a little color in the middle of both the colon and the dot:



On the way back toward the apartment, I made a major discovery. A little hole-in-the-wall Jewish deli  at 43rd and Spruce that absolutely kicks ass. I have a feeling I'll be using them a lot.

After stopping at home and eating the delicious roast beef hoagie I bought at Koch's Deli, I took a quick trip to the supermarket a block away to pick up a few things, then it was back home, done with my errands for the day.

It's interesting how I'm still in the stage where I'm discovering new things about my neighborhood almost every time I go out. I can't wait til the weather warms up a bit so I can do this more frequently.

I must admit I've surprised myself with how quickly and easily I'm re-adapting to urban living. It's been almost 32 years since I lived in a major city (I'm not sure if a city with one main drag and not much of a real downtown like Atlantic City really qualifies), but I haven't had many real problems adjusting. There have been some surprises and unexpected moments along the way to be sure, but nothing I couldn't handle. Honestly, I feel more at home in Philly than I ever did in North Brunswick, as if this, or at least a place like this, is where I belong.

So yeah, I think I'm a city girl now, in a way I've never been before. Last time, I was still living as a guy. This time, I'm me, and it feels right, in a way it never has before.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Bigotry or Stupidity? You Decide.

I bet you thought this was another post about my Pennsylvania driver's license, right? Well, not exactly.

I originally began the process of updating my New York City birth certificate in order to make it easier to get my Pennsylvania driver's license, but I managed to accomplish that goal without it. Still, it would make life easier all around if my birth certificate has an F on it, and even if I never use it for anything I believe it's appropriate to have it done.

 It was while I was still trying to get the driver's license done that I took my manila envelope with all my identity documents to a huge old office building on Worth Street in downtown Manhattan. It wasn't an easy trip for me. Not only did I have to spend the better part of three hours getting there, I had to go into an area of the city I hadn't been in since before the towers fell.

When I was a teenage punk rocker living in Manhattan, I worked as a messenger for an insurance brokerage. It was 1980 and of course, unlike today there was no such thing as an electronic signature then so all legal documents, such as the insurance binders my brokerage produced for its clients, had to be signed by hand. My job was to take these binders downtown from the brokerage in midtown on Madison Avenue and have them signed by the representatives of the insurance companies headquartered downtown in the Wall Street area.

My first stop of the day was always the World Trade Center. I knew those buildings like the back of my hand, and I knew the people who worked in them. I was there every weekday morning for at least a couple of hours getting binders signed on various floors of both towers before moving on to other brokerages in the area.

When the towers fell 21 years later, it felt to me like part of my youth had been stolen from me. Even after all these years, I still haven't worked up the courage to visit ground zero.

As the cab approached the area, all I could focus on was the Freedom Tower as it loomed higher above the other buildings ahead. As I'd expected, it was an unsettling feeling, like I'd returned to a familiar place that at the same time was completely different. I wasn't at all disappointed when I got out of the cab at my destination and other buildings blocked it from view.

Upon entering 125 Worth Street, I was directed to a line for those wishing to change their birth certificates to have my documents checked before joining yet another line to actually have it done. I waited on this line for the better part of an hour, and then the clerk checking papers told me that I needed to have a copy of my name change petition as well as a copy of the actual judgment in order for it to be processed.

As I left the building, I looked south and briefly considered walking the several blocks in that direction to visit Ground Zero and finally pay my respects to people and a place that were an integral part of my life for a while. In the end, I walked up to the corner, flagged down a cab, and headed back to Penn Station to catch a train back to central New Jersey, where my car was parked. I just wasn't ready.

A few days later, I decided that even though I'd already gotten my Pennsylvania license, it was still a good idea to change my birth certificate. I called the organization that had published the instructions I'd followed to complete the process, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) and see if that clerk was right or, as had been the case with Philly, he had given me bad information due to either ignorance or bigotry.

I spoke to one of the lawyers there, and she told me that I shouldn't have even bothered to go to Worth Street but rather I should do it by mail. She also told me that the clerk was wrong, I didn't need a copy of the petition, but I did need to get a certified copy of the judgment because they'd keep it and I didn't want to give up the original.

So here we go again.

This is turning out to be a fairly expensive proposition. Between fees paid to various agencies and travel expenses to update my driver's license, passport, and birth certificate, I estimate that this will end up costing me somewhere in the neighborhood of about $400...and with the exception of changing my license from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, this is just to update already existing documents to reflect current information. Renewing my passport, because I asked for expedited service when I thought I'd need it as ID to get the license done, cost me $170 plus postage and photo fees all by itself. Nice little racket they got going there. At least I know that check has already been cashed so I expect my passport soon.

So now the next step is to order, and of course pay for, a certified copy of my name change judgment and send that off to NYC with yet another check.

One down, two to go.

I can't imagine what I'd do if, like so many other trans folks, I didn't have the resources to finance this little operation. Something's just not right about this whole process.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Taking A Day Off and Then, A Miracle

I've really been annoyed about this whole driver's license thing, and so I decided to call a lawyer friend who handles trans-relevant legal issues and see if she had any advice for me as to how to deal with it. Her response wasn't the one I expected. She believes that the people at the PennDOT agency I've been going to have been intentionally discriminating against me because I'm trans and suggested I try a different agency. That's what I did today, but by the time I spoke to her it was too late in the day to get it done yesterday, plus I needed to deposit my rent check.

So, for those reasons and my frazzled nerves, I decided to take the day off...well, sort of.

First, I went to the bank and deposited my rent check. Then I went to the local post office and applied for passport renewal. After that, I went home and had lunch. A while later, I decided that since I had basically nothing to do for the rest of the day, I'd do something I'd wanted to do for a while: upgrade my phone.

I've had an LG Optimus L90 for a long time now, and I haven't been happy with it for a while. It only has 8 gig of memory and so I was constantly having to delete stuff if I wanted to put new apps on there. So I went to the local T-Mobile store and got myself a Samsung Galaxy S7 with 32 GB memory. I love the thing. I also got myself a charger case and they threw in a set of Beats headphones.

All in all, I did about a mile or so of walking to and from the store, plus about 3/4 of a mile to and from the bank and the post office earlier in the day. I always do better when I have a goal in mind rather than just walking for the sake of just getting some exercise.

*****

Today I woke up early and drove out to the PennDOT agency on the other side of town. It was like night and day. Seriously.

After a 20 minute ride, I walk in and get a number which is called before I even have time to sit down. I present all my ID, the same ID I presented at the other office, and several minutes later, I walk out of the agency with this:



Amazing. I'll get my official permanent license in the mail sometime in the next couple of weeks.

So the next step is to get my car registered and insured in PA. I'll start on that process next week. 

The difference between the way they handled my license at these different offices is truly stunning. I'm inclined to believe that my lawyer friend was right and the real issue here wasn't my ID but rather the anti-trans bigotry of those who work at the downtown office. Either that, or they're just stupid and didn't know how to handle a license for a trans person, which I find a bit difficult to believe.

So, new phone, new license, warm and sunny spring weather in Philly. Maybe things are looking up.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Changing My Drivers License: The Saga Continues

Un-fucking-believable.

So Tuesday I drove out to Red Bank and got a signed and notarized letter from my surgeon saying I'm female. Yesterday I traveled from Philly to Manhattan to use that letter to change my birth certificate so I could use that as ID to change my license from Jersey to Pennsylvania. Now, two days of travel and many dollars in travel expenses later, I still haven't been able to get it done.

I have a manila envelope I carry to each of these places which as of yesterday contains:

Two copies of my name change papers, one with a seal.

A filled out PennDOT form to change my license from Jersey to Pennsylvania.

A filled out form to correct my NYC birth certificate.

A signed and notorized letter from my surgeon attesting that I am female.

One blank and one filled out form to request a gender change on a Pennsylvania Driver's License.

A copy of my original birth certificate with my deadname, gendered male.

Two bills sent to me at my Philadelphia address to prove residency.

An expired US passport with my female name and gender.

Even all of this is still not enough for these people to change my driver license.

It looks like I have no choice but to wait until next week when my shrink is back from vacation and in the office in order to finally get this done.

Un-fucking-believable.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Just When You Think It Can't Possibly Get Any More Fucked Up Than It Already Is...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to accomplish what should be a relatively simple goal: Changing my driver's license from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

While this is often no easy task for trans folks in some parts of the country as well as in the early stages of transition, I've been living fulltime as a woman for almost 19 years now, and I've had an F on my New Jersey driver's license and been considered legally a woman by the State of New Jersey for about 10 of those years.

My first trip to PennDOT, Pennsylvania's motor vehicle agency, was about two weeks ago. I brought all the ID documents the agency's website said would be required, including my Jersey license, birth certificate, name change papers, Social Security card, and proof of residency. After waiting about four hours for service, I was told that I would also need a change of gender form signed by a medical or mental health professional.

I took the form, had it signed by my shrink last Thursday, and returned to PennDOT the next day. This time, after another long wait, I was told that they couldn't process my request because they were unable to get my shrink on the phone to confirm the information on the form.

So, now I'm going to do what I probably should have done in the first place but just hadn't gotten around to. Recently, New York City finally updated their regulations on changing birth certificates to allow for gender changes to accommodate trans people born there. I was born in Brooklyn and I've already had my name changed legally, but until these new regulations went into effect I'd been unable to change my gender to reflect my lived identity. Now changing one's gender on a NYC birth certificate is possible, but that doesn't mean it's easy.

Tomorrow I'll drive the approximately two hours from Philly to Middletown, NJ, near the Jersey shore, and have my surgeon, Dr. Taylor, fill out a short form that certifies that he believes my proper gender is female. Once I have that, on Wednesday I'll have to go to 125 Worth Street in downtown Manhattan and actually get the gender change done. Finally, once I have all that accomplished and have a copy of my birth certificate stating my gender is female to show these people, I'll have to go back to PennDOT yet again and do the license change.

What a pain in the ass.

The one advantage to doing it this way is that once it's done, it's done. I'll likely never have to go through this again. With a birth certificate that says I'm legally female, I'll be able to use that to get around most of the bullshit transgender ID requirements I have to deal with now. If I'm to be completely honest, I really should have gotten this done months ago.

Hell, after all this I'll even be legal in North Carolina.

*****

It's finally springtime in Philadelphia, not just according to the calendar, but weatherwise as well. I took a very pleasant walk to a nearby gas station for cigarettes and then over to Checkers for lunch. The dogwoods that line one side of my street are now in full bloom:



And a feeling of warmth and welcome toward new neighbors just fills the neighborhood:


Have to admit, that circle-A symbol makes me wonder...kinda reminds me of the East Village back in the day. I guess they're trying to gentrify the neighborhood, but without much apparent success as yet.

A new tenant moved into the apartment next door. He seems like a pretty nice guy, which is a good thing because we'll be sharing a kitchen as well as utilities. Also interesting is that he's gay and his sister is lesbian. I have no idea what our neighbors are, but I guess we're now the Queer floor in the building.

Well, I suppose that's enough for now.

More soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Not a Happy Camper Right Now

Right now, at this moment, I am the poster girl for anxiety. Seriously.

Had a fight with my landlord today. I think I'm going to end up having to move again, and soon. This shit just ain't working out.

Since day one, my toilet has been a problem. It clogs on a regular basis, three times since I've been here. Plunging it helped the first couple of times, but now I think I'll have to try Drano or something. Then the landlord's assistant, or whatever the fuck he is, came over to tell me that despite what we agreed when I moved in, they now consider the entire outer room to be the kitchen not just the actual kitchen area. I mean, the fucker sat on the couch I put in that area and we signed the lease there. He knew that was supposed to be personal space, but now he's apparently decided that it's not, after I've already got the cable hooked up in there. When I protested, he claimed he never said that that area was my personal space. I know he did.

Furthermore, he sat right on that couch and right in front of the TV I set up there and never said a word as we signed the lease. Now he wants to change the terms. That's bullshit, and as much as I'd rather not I'll fight it if I have to, at least until I can find something better.

I'm just not happy here. On top of all this bullshit, the tenant upstairs plays some horrible music into the wee hours of the morning. I know the cops have already been by a few times because of it. I know because I've heard them outside. I've already started looking for another place, even though I know it's going to cost me a lot of time, money, and aggravation to move again. I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever be happy here.

I think the shared kitchen arrangement was a bad idea. It seems like they're blaming me because they can't rent the other room. Shit, it's not my fault that room is cold and ugly plus you have to use a bathroom in the hall. I didn't want it either.

I'm not yet sure what I'm going to do, but this much is certain: If a better offer comes along, I think I'm probably going to take it. Moving to Philadelphia was not a mistake, but I'm beginning to believe that taking this apartment was. Yes, it'll cost me, but I've now got a raft of reasons why moving to a better apartment would be a good idea.One good thing is that I've got the LGBT Media Convening this weekend in Baltimore so I can forget about all this crap for a couple of days and focus on other things.

Shit. I really didn't want to have to go through this again so soon, but I think I may have no choice.

Once I get back from the Convening, I'm going to have to sell the Rav for whatever I can get for it, and then I have to deal with a whole new level of bullshit with changing my driver's license. It seems that Pennsylvania wants a signed form from my surgeon before they'll put an F on my license. It's either that or go to Worth St. in Lower Manhattan and get my birth certificate changed. I really should do that and just eliminate these problems for good. Of course that entails a trip to NYC and a long wait on line at minimum, not to mention a trip to Red Bank to have him write a letter.

On the other hand, it's possible my current shrink may be able to do it. I'll try to call her Monday and see if that's possible.

Fuck. I thought I'd put all this bullshit behind me. Here we go again.

I guess I'd better enjoy this weekend because I have a feeling that next week is going to suck.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Catching Up

So yeah, it's been a few days since I last posted, and I apologize for that. I've been trying to get new posts up as often as possible, and four days is a longer gap than I'd like. I'm not foolish enough to promise that it won't happen again, but I will promise to do my best to post as frequently as I am able.

The last few days have actually been kind of interesting. Yesterday was the first really warm day, and I spent a lot of it outdoors. My neighborhood and the surrounding area has a very different vibe when it's warm out. There was a troupe of clowns in front of McDonald's taking pictures with passers-by, and a guy registering people to vote. Since I'm new to Philly, I did, in fact, register to vote and had an interesting conversation with the guy who registered me.

I don't think he had a clue I'm trans until in the course of conversation I told him I had an Internet radio show. Of course, he asked me what the show was about, and I took about three seconds standing on that street corner to decide how I wanted to respond.

Do I just tell him it's about politics and social issues, or do I tell him the whole truth, thereby outing myself to him as trans?

I decided to tell him the truth. He seemed slightly surprised but took it in stride. He told me he was a Bernie Sanders supporter and I responded that I was one too. He promised he'd check out the show (hopefully returning for real this Sunday).

Just we were wrapping up our conversation an older man walked by and asked the guy registering me which newspapers he trusted. The guy responded that it depended on the paper and went on to claim that the New York Times is the most trustworthy paper of any being printed. I thought to myself that while the Times is absolutely a very credible paper, even they have had their moments where they'd failed that standard, such as with Judith Miller and Jayson Blair.

Today was another gorgeous day but I spent it inside writing and doing a few things that needed doing around the apartment. Tomorrow I go to the Motor Vehicle office or whatever the hell they call it here to change my driver's license, then probably to a meeting later in the afternoon. Friday it's my standard Jersey run. Hopefully, the weather will stay nice.

Ok I think that's it for now. G'nite.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Blues...

Today was just boring. Nothing to do. I suppose I could have done laundry or tidied up a little, but I didn't. I just sat here being bored, played some Batman for a while, and watched two episodes of Transparent.

It worries me a little. This is what I felt like every day when I was on Prozac. It turned me into a zombie. This was just one day, but I guess it was productive in one small sense.

Tomorrow, I'm going to finish putting the studio back together. If I'm really lucky and everything works like it's supposed to, I'll do a show tomorrow night. It's time and I'm ready.

Another thing I decided today is that it's time to quit smoking (again). The Wellbutrin is finally starting to have an effect on my desire to smoke, so I cut back severely today and only smoked about half of what I normally do.

Also, I made one other decision today, maybe the most important one of all: It's time to start writing again.

I don't mean here or my column. Those are givens. I've got two unfinished books and I want to get them done. I may get really busy soon, but I've got the time right now so it's time to do it.

The first is my memoir. That's about half done, or at least the basic story structure is anyway. I need to finish that and then go back and flesh it out, make it more readable as well as fill in important parts of the story with more detail. I'm long overdue on this.

Then there's my other book, a novel. That one's further along, but I seem to have written myself into a dead end storywise. I need to reread the entire thing and then decide if I want to go back, rewrite a few chapters, and take the story in a different direction, if I want to try to continue working with what I have and try to write myself out of where I am, or maybe a little of both. This is a tough decision, because I'm very happy with the overall concept and the character development. I really don't want to mess with either but I'm just not sure the actual story is as good as it could be.

Obviously, I have some thinking ahead of me, but it's time to do that thinking and start acting on it. I've been avoiding it for too long.

I think part of the reason is that I'm afraid I'll discover that all that work has just created a big steaming pile of crap, or two piles as the case may be. I've always had trouble judging my own work objectively, and the closer I get to finishing these books, and the point at which it would be time to let others read them and judge for themselves, the more apprehensive I become.

It's kind of weird when you think about it. I mean, I'm a paid columnist for a commercial LGBT newspaper, sometimes more than one at the same time. I know I'm a good writer. Maybe not a great writer, but at least a good one, with perhaps occasional flashes of brilliance, or so I've been told.

The question I keep asking myself is am I a good enough writer to get people to actually plunk down real money to read an entire book I've written? Am I that good of a writer? The truth is that while of course I'd like to think so, I really won't know until I have something published and see how people react. Of course, as long as those books remain unfinished, I'll never have to face the answer to that question.

So yeah, that last decision is kind of a big deal. It's not just about doing the actual writing, it's about putting myself out there in a way I never have before. Asking people to stay with you for 800 or 1000 words is one thing, asking them to hang in there for 350 or so pages is quite another thing entirely. A good book writer has to be able to keep her reader engaged for a long time, several hours, and I just don't know if what I'm creating here can do that. I certainly think it's possible or I wouldn't even be bothering in the first place, but until I put it out there I really just can't be sure.

I suppose I'm just afraid I'll find out that I'm really just not as good at this as I like to think I am, and I think maybe that scares me, just a little.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Walk Down Walnut Street With Caitlyn Jenner On The Brain

It was just as I was putting on my sweatshirt and jacket preparing to go out when Dawn Ennis' interview with Caitlyn Jenner came across my Facebook feed. Of course, I had to read it before I left. I'm glad I did because it gave me something to think about during my sojourn.

A chilly blast assaulted me as I left the apartment and headed toward the intersection at the far end of the block, 41 degrees according to Accuweather. As I turned onto Walnut St., I couldn't get out of my mind how seemingly willfully detached from reality Jenner is.

She wants to be Ted Cruz's trans ambassador. Seriously. Ambassador to what? To whom? This is a guy who calls trans rights "ridiculous" and "absurd". He describes those who support our equality as "zealots". Cruz describes trans people, even children, not only in ways that completely negate their self-identities, he even uses language that casts us as a moral and social disease, referring to a trans girl who wanted to use the girls room at school as being "inflicted" upon others. He considers allowing LGBT soldiers to heroically put their lives on the line for our country to be a social experiment. This is the agenda and the man she wants to be an ambassador for?

I stopped at 7-11 and picked up some cigarettes before continuing east on Walnut Street, taking in the middle class college town atmosphere. I peeked into McDonald's but the line was long and I really just wasn't in the mood for that slop anyway. I continued my eastward journey. She can't possibly really be this stupid, I mused as more shops and eateries came into view. She just can't.

With my legs aching for respite after carrying my not insubstantial weight through University City for several blocks, I found myself at the counter of Bobby's Burger Palace ordering a bacon cheeseburger and fries, no doubt fully replacing whatever calories my walk might have burned off. While waiting for my food to arrive, another article hits my Facebook feed, this one from Think Progress' Zack Ford titled "No, Caitlyn Jenner, Ted Cruz Will Not Help Trans People Get Jobs".

Over the course of my afternoon repast, I read Zack's piece on my little Android cellphone. I love reading Zack Ford's stuff because not only is it so well-sourced with relevant links that make research on that topic a breeze should I decide to write a column or a blog post on it later, but also because Zack's work has just the right balance of opinion and hard information for my taste. I always look forward to reading his take on topics I care about.

By the time I finished my meal and began walking the eight blocks back to the apartment, I'd already begun writing this post in my head. 

*****

Dawn Ennis is a friend of mine and someone who I have a hell of a lot of respect for, both personally and professionally. She's someone who's accomplished a lot as a trans print journalist in a relatively short amount of time not because she was in the right place at the right time, but because she's that good.

Having said all that, I'll admit to a twinge or two of disappointment with this interview. While Jenner herself seems to have volunteered plenty of good material, I wish Dawn had dug deeper. I wanted her to ask Caitlyn about the level of priority her community takes as compared to her own personal interests.

How does Jenner rationalize supporting a political candidate like Ted Cruz who she has to know clearly doesn't support her or her community?

I would have read her a few choice anti-trans Cruz quotes and asked her if she agreed with Cruz's sentiments.

And then I would have asked her if she felt any responsibility at all to her fellow trans people, and if so, how much?

That's the answer I'm still waiting for. The one question no one ever asks Caitlyn Jenner: What do you feel is your responsibility to the trans community as a trans person of note? How far will you go to support your trans sisters and brothers?

It's a fair question. Jenner has profited handsomely from all of the media surrounding her transition. It's a given that she's already made a pile of money on being trans and continues to make more. It's fair to ask how she reconciles supporting an open anti-trans bigot like Ted Cruz when she already knows what he thinks of her and others like her.

What does Jenner believe her own level of responsibility is here, if any?

And maybe most importantly, does she really consider herself one of us or are we just a favorite charity to her?

Well ok, maybe not in quite those words, but that's the gist.

I think that's what trans people really want to know most about Caitlyn Jenner. A very literal answer to that most basic of questions:

Just who do you think you are?





Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Is This So Hard?

So tonight I tried to set up a tip jar for this blog. I didn't think it would be very difficult, but for some reason it was like pulling teeth. It's on the top right of this page so, if you feel so inclined, please use it. I won't resort to ads if people use the tip jar, and I really don't understand why it's suddenly become so hard to set one of these up.

Ok, enough about that. I have visitors from Jersey staying overnight, my "nephew" and the girl who lives in the house next door to where I lived in Jersey. I think I'll sleep well tonight. All they've been doing is playing video games all day. Now they just went out in the middle of the night get aspirin. Kids.

Honestly, maybe I am getting slightly crotchety in my old age but I think I'll take a nap when they go home tomorrow. Just sayin'.

Ok I think that's enough for now. I'm beat.


Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Love About Being Lesbian

It had been a while, and although it was unwanted it was also kinda nice.

I took a walk to Rite-Aid for cigarettes earlier and on the way home a man tried to pick me up. I politely avoided his inquiry if I had a boyfriend (a question from a man that has no good answer for a lesbian), and then he asked for my phone number. Again I politely dodged then made a quick turn off Market St. to avoid continuing the "conversation".

On the one hand, I suppose it's nice to know that at least some straight guys find me objectively attractive, even if I don't share their interest. On the other hand, dealing with this sort of attention is something I haven't to do in a long time and I find myself somewhat out of practice.

Of course, there's also the other part. I'm a trans woman living alone in Philadelphia. It's impossible to know how a man would react if he discovered that the woman he just propositioned turned out to be lesbian, much less trans. Therefore, when I find myself in that situation I have to be ultra-careful. After all, I live here now. I use that store regularly. Chances are, I'll encounter him again and probably others like him.

Women are so much easier to deal with, not to mention lightyears more attractive to me. Hell, I'd welcome some interest there. No fragile male egos to bruise and far less fear of a violent reaction, not to mention the possibility of some actual romantic and sexual attraction and interest. Just a better situation every which way around.

In all honesty, I'm glad I'm not straight or even bi. I have many good platonic friends who are guys, but a lot of my friends who are trans women have reported all kinds of awful situations they've had to deal with as the result of a relationship gone bad with a man. That's not to say that lesbian relationships work out so much better, mind you. I've had a few that just didn't work out, but the difference is that when that happens between women we tend to go our separate ways, no harm, no foul, and sometimes we even manage to stay friends afterward.

Men, on the other hand, are much more likely to indulge in trashing their exes publicly, I guess to recoup their dignity in their own eyes if no one else's, and going out of their way to damage the personal relationships they once shared. I can't count how many times I've heard stories of men trashing their exes to people they once socialized with as a couple, to the point where it's the former wife or girlfriend who becomes ostracized from the social group, as it's the men who have the friendship that drives the relationship.

It's so much different with lesbians. Women get it, we understand relationships in ways that many men, particularly straight men, never will. If we run into each other in social situations after the relationship has ended we don't feel the need to act to act like childish assholes to save face.

It's a popular meme to say that women are more evolved than men and I believe that in some ways that's probably true, at least in large part. There are always exceptions to every rule, sometimes many, but I believe it has something to do with estrogen versus testosterone and how they impact one's psyche.

There's also another element in lesbian relationships I've become acutely aware of since I transitioned and began being accepted as a woman as opposed to a trans woman. Beyonce notwithstanding, women are keenly aware that, in fact, men run the world and that in many ways we are second class citizens. There may be lip service given to gender equality but the reality is that women are not seen as equal to men in modern America. In the workforce, we make less than men and we have less opportunity to advance in our careers than men. In short, women are seen as less valuable.

It's because women know and understand this truth and face it every day of our lives that while men tend to be highly competitive with other men, women tend to be more likely to see each other as friends and allies. We'll rally to another woman's side when she's in trouble, whereas a man is much more likely to take advantage of such a situation to further his own goals.

Nothing exemplifies this reality better than a well-known quote by Madeline Albright, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." It's true. In so many cases it's our fellow women who will ultimately be the people who we can truly rely on when things get rough, particularly if there'a a man involved.

So does this mean all women are wonderful and all men are assholes? No, not at all. It just means that women tend to ally with and support other women much more than men do the same with other men or with women because women know that we're all fighting the same patriarchal system that keeps us down. It's a basic truth of being a woman that makes our relationships stronger and longer lasting as well as, at least in my opinion, more satisfying as well.

So yes, I feel blessed by the Goddess, the universe, the moon, you name it, that I am lesbian. I've been on the other side and I like myself so much better this way.

More than once, I considered turning my back on my female gender identity and eventual transition to further a romantic or potentially romantic relationship with a straight woman I love or loved, but knowing what I know about myself now, I'm glad I didn't. The emotional cost was and continues to be steep, but I've discovered that ultimately living my truth is worth almost any price.

I love being lesbian and I wouldn't have it any other way.

On A Lovely Sunday Evening

It's  been two weeks since I moved to Philly from central New Jersey. In that time, I've started to become acclimated to my new home in Philadelphia. Stuff is starting to happen on the employment front...slowly, quietly, and out of the spotlight for now, but it is happening.

Tonight I had dinner at Allison and Megan Smith-VanKuyken's. They're so cool and I love them to death. It was great fun seeing them again and I know we'll be hanging out again soon. We have the best conversations.

I'm experiencing my new life in Philadelphia quickly developing and expanding into something real, and exactly what I was hoping for. Cool friends, great people to work with, and a great city for it to all happen in. The more time I spend in Philly, the more I like here and the more I realize how much I was missing out on living in suburbia.

I also did something else tonight that probably marks me as a true city dweller: I took an Uber over to Megan and Allison's and back home instead of driving. In Jersey, when you want to go somewhere, anywhere, you just get in the car and go. You might hit some traffic and then, but only rarely do you question if you'll be able to park when you get where you're going or how much it'll cost.

Living in the the city, you have to think about all of these things. I rarely have a problem finding a spot on the street near my place but in other areas of the city it's not always so easy. In addition, if you have to use metered parking you'll often find yourself paying as much or even more than you would taking an Uber so why not let someone else do the driving? Tonight I actually paid less for my Uber ride home than I paid for parking when I drove into Center City for my meeting the other day.

Ok, so if you count both rides it was more expensive than driving, even with the gas, but not by very much and what's the going rate of aggravation anyway? Like I said, I'm starting to think like a city dweller.

Damn, I'm already having a shitload of fun in Philly and I've only just gotten here. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

So Today I Took A Meeting...

...but I don't feel it's appropriate to talk about it just yet.

That said, I left said meeting more hopeful than when I arrived. Beyond that, I'll go into greater detail at the appropriate time.

So I'm more hopeful about the future than I was a few days ago. There are other reasons as well, but I'm not going to go into them either.

Yeah I know, I'm generally not this cryptic, but as the Byrds never sang, there's also a time to speak out and a time to shut the hell up. Realistically, I probably shouldn't have even said this much, but since it's had a marked positive improvement on my overall mood, I felt that at least that much was relevant and thus worth mentioning here.

So, let's change the subject entirely. It seems that Jasmine is becoming more adjusted to our new home. Perhaps most interestingly and importantly, she's discovered a feature of this apartment that probably makes it feel a little more like the home she lived in most of her life: It has windows.












Tomorrow, it's another trip to Jersey to take care of a few things. Then, over the weekend, I think I'm going to be very busy, but aside from writing a new column, I really can't talk about what I'll be doing. All I can say at this point is that it's the kind of busy that feels good and productive.

More soon.

Taking A Walk

So today I decided to do something I've never done before: Take a walk through my neighborhood by myself. My goal was a simple one, to find the places within easy walking distance that sell things like milk, cigarettes, soda, booze, the kind of stuff I might want or need but don't feel like waiting until I do a full-on shopping trip to get.

I eventually found myself on Market Street and discovered a Rite-Aid just a few blocks away. I decided to check it out, Just before I got there, I took this:






You can see the towers of Liberty Center in the distance, giving you a rough idea of how far I am from Center City.

I think tomorrow I'm going to call the Mazzoni Center and try to set up an appointment to see what I can do about getting all my medical and psych stuff transferred over from Jersey. It'll give me an excuse to take my very first ride on SEPTA in about 15 years or so. Yeah, I could drive it if I wanted to, but I want to get some experience with local public transportation, and Goddess help me, maybe even a little exercise.

When I went into Rite-Aid, I discovered that it's exactly the kind of place I was looking for. Not only is there a pharmacy, but they also carry stuff like cigarettes, soda, milk...in other words, it's exactly the kind of place I was hoping to run across. So I guess you could say mission accomplished.

I did, in fact, pick up a few things while I was there and hauled them back to the apartment, thus delaying the necessity of a full-on and close-parking-spot-risking car trip to the supermarket.

On the way back, I took a closer look at the neighborhood in which I find myself. Truth is, while my own street is pleasant-looking enough, a lot of the nearby areas I walked through today aren't pretty. Garbage in the streets and in front of houses, homes that look abandoned or just uncared for, not the kind place I've spent a lot of time in since my punk days. Still, I don't feel nervous or afraid that a place like this is my home now. Maybe it's the lingering familiarity of similar neighborhoods in New York I hung out in when I lived there, but it doesn't really bother me. It's quite a change from the neatly trimmed lawns and well-kept homes of North Brunswick, but somehow I feel at home here, like the place I live now reflects my soul, if that makes any sense.

Despite living there for over thirty years, I never felt like that in North Brunswick. I always felt like an outsider there, like I was living someone else's idea of what life should be, which I guess I was. Sure, it would be nice if some areas were a bit less run down and dirty, but I've seen far worse in other neighborhoods and the people here seem pretty decent, as least so far.

Truth is, I've always seen myself as a city girl, as a woman who belongs in an urban environment, not in the burbs. It's the life I've always wanted and now I finally have it. I have no idea how long I'll stay in this apartment, but right now, I'm comfortable here.

Comfortable enough, anyway.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It's Not So Sunny In Philadelphia

For the last few days, I've been focusing on looking for work in Philly. It's not going well.

Indeed, the amazing speed at which companies are responding to my inquiries with "Thanks, but no thanks." form letters is truly stunning. One company got back to me within six hours of the time I applied, another in four and a half hours, probably a new record. Out of the six resumes I've sent out so far over the last couple of days, five have already gotten back to me to inform me that they're not even interested enough to interview me.

I'd like to say this is surprising, but it's really not. These days, when a Google search is standard procedure for any applicant, I've come to believe that I'm a victim of my own notoriety. For example, if you put my name into Google, three themes will come up in the approximately 6,400 responses: My writing, my radio show, and my trans identity.

The trans thing is still an issue even after all these years, but there's more to it than just that. On the net my identity isn't just that of a trans woman, but of a trans journalist and mediamaker. For many employers, hat's a double strike right there. What that says to a potential employer is that the job I'm applying for (so far), isn't my real vocation and that I have no intention of making it my career. At the age of 53, being as well-known and well-established in one career as I am, even at my level, is enough for an employer to assume that once a job in my preferred field does become available I'll jump ship and take that job, meaning that whatever time and money they spend training me will be wasted and they'll just have to start over again.

If I'm to be truly honest, they're probably right. Not that I necessarily expect to be offered a fulltime media job anytime soon, but hey, you never know, right? And if I were offered such a job, I'd most likely jump at the chance. It's what I love doing, and who doesn't want to work fulltime doing what they love?

Fortunately, I'm not struggling financially at this point. I can afford to take the time to find that right job, in or out of media. I can finish writing my book. I can pay the rent and feed myself. That said, it doesn't mean I'm not concerned. I have enough to get by on for now, but without some sort of regular income that's not going to be the case forever. I'll likely run out of money long before I die, unless something unforeseen happens like my book becomes a bestseller or I score that dream media job, neither of which I can realistically count on.

Of course, that's where the anxiety kicks in. I've been on Wellbutrin for a while now, and it's been effective in keeping my depression under control for the most part, but all is not sunshine and rainbows in Beckyland right now. I'm glad, very glad, that I have Xanax for when I need it. I don't take it all that often, but when I need it, I really need it.

The sense of security I had living in Jersey is gone. Intellectually I understand that I'm not going to be in a situation where I have to be concerned about possibly being on the street anytime in the near future, but emotionally...it's a very different story.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do just yet. One thing I'm sure I'm not going to do is let my fears get in the way of doing everything I can to resolve it. Above all, I know I have one, maybe two, marketable skills and I'm going to do my best to leverage them as much as I can to make myself as financially secure as possible. At this point, unless and until something else comes along, it's really all I can do. If I can establish a regular fulltime income I think I'll be fine with what I have, but unless and until I do, the clock is ticking...loudly.

Welcome to the life of a single, middle-aged, underemployed trans woman. Before I transitioned, I never really fully understood why women place such a premium on security in their lives and relationships. I get it now, totally.

I've got the life I always wanted, but not the life I dream of. Not yet anyway.

Soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Very Cold Tour Of Philly

Today, a new friend, Beth, came over and we did some exploring in my new neighborhood. First, we walked up to Market St. and stopped by the local Aldi supermarket. It's a small store, about a step and a half above the Shop N' Bag a block away from the apartment.

On the way, I got to see where the local subway stop is and we also came across this:


I picked up a few things at Aldi, we dropped them off at the apartment, and then made a stop in Upper Darby at Lane Bryant so I could pick up a couple of bras. After that, we headed into South Philly for a very tasty but also very chilly outdoor lunch here:


After lunch, we headed uptown to South Street and then down a very narrow street past the outdoor Italian market (funny, I don't recall seeing anyone who looked like an actual Italian there) and then up to the art museum where we visited this actual Italian:


After that, I was pretty frozen, so after a stop at Wawa for me to pick up a cup of hot coffee and some cigarettes we headed back to my place to yak for a little while.

All in all, a really fun day with a new friend who I'm sure I'll be spending more time with in the future, getting to know my new city a little better.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Jersey again for a couple of appointments and then I'll probably come back early and try to get some online job searching done. I applied online for a Starbucks job in Center City a couple of days ago, and got a "thanks, but no thanks" form letter email back within about six hours. Not an especially good sign, but of course, I'll keep trying.

And So, Here We Are

Many years ago, I created a blog on LiveJournal. I updated it fairly regularly for long time, but after a while the updates became less and less. Finally, in the spring of last year, I just stopped updating it altogether. I'd begun working for The Advocate and felt it was time to put blogging aside, at least for a while.

I didn't do much personal writing during the time I was working for The Advocate, but once that job ended and I'd begun writing a column, the urge to do some personal blogging returned. I didn't really want to go back to LiveJournal and I didn't really feel the need to start a personal blog at that point, so I compromised and began doing some personal blogging on Facebook.

The advantage to blogging on Facebook, of course, is that there's a lot more potential readers there than on a separate personal blog, even when you promote it on social media. So, I've been pretty happy with doing that for about a year or so, but now my life has changed significantly and I feel it's time to do something different and to exhibit some of that change in my writing, and in my blogging specifically.

When I was five years old, in June of 1967, my family moved from a tiny duplex in Canarsie, Brooklyn to a much larger two-story colonial house in suburban North Brunswick, New Jersey. Not counting two years of residential school, I lived in that house until I was 18, when my mother threw me out for being an asshole and sent me to live with my father in Manhattan.

I lived with Dad for a couple of years, during which time I got seriously into punk rock and hard drugs, becoming an even bigger asshole than I'd been previously. Eventually, Dad had finally had enough and also threw me out, after he came home one night with a date to find me breaking up a quarter-pound of herb for sale on the kitchen table.

Having no other options at the time, I took a room at a cheap and shabby SRO hotel on the Upper West Side ala Sid Vicious and spent the summer of 1982 there. In September of that year, I got my Mom to agree to let me return to the house in North Brunswick, where I immediately went through a week of hell detoxing from all the hard drugs I'd been doing in New York.

Once I dried out, I did basically nothing for about a year and a half other than work occasionally as a warehouse rat throwing boxes around for about nine bucks an hour. Then I moved in with a friend in Atlantic City where I made piles of money as a parking lot attendant and got back into hard drugs, particularly meth. At the end of that summer, I lost that job and found myself driving the two and a half hours north, back to the house in North Brunswick.

That was September of 1984. Until last week, I'd lived in that house ever since, 31 and a half years. And then last Saturday, everything changed.

It was May of last year when Mom got sick. She bounced around from hospital to nursing home and back again for a while, with Medicare and her insurance covering the costs of her care. Eventually, both ran out and wouldn't pay anymore. Mom had money in the bank that would cover her immediate costs, but long-term was a different story. She had only one major asset, and my brothers and I had to turn it into cash as quickly as possible, before her cash ran out: The house.

We put the house on the market, but I was still living there at the time. Knowing that the housing market was not great and that real estate sales tended to be slow in the colder months, I took my time deciding my next step. At first, I'd decided that I wanted to try to stay in New Jersey if possible, mainly to be close to friends and family, but after a while I decided I wanted more.

One of the things I'd always hated about living in the suburbs was that there's really very little to do there socially if you're an LGBT person and particularly if you're trans. Also, with rents being as high as they are in New Jersey, and downright astronomical in New York City, I came to the conclusion that only one place had everything I wanted and was affordable on my limited budget: Philadelphia.

I started seriously investigating the possibility of moving to Philly in December, and after an abortive attempt at getting a place with a roommate, I came across an apartment that was affordable, in a relatively safe neighborhood, with easy access to public transportation. I looked at the place, decided it fit my needs, if not all of my wants, and put down a deposit.

This past Saturday, I showed up with a U-Haul van full of my stuff and my brothers and a couple of helpers in tow, paid the rest of the security and first and last month's rent, signed a lease, and moved in.

Now, I'm a 53 year-old post-op trans woman, a suburban transplant living in Philadelphia, in my very own actual apartment for the first time in my life. It's all new, it's all real, and it's all completely different.

This is where the story of this blog begins.