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, 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'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.


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.