Thursday, March 31, 2016

Changing My Drivers License: The Saga Continues


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.


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.