As I wrote in my book, I was/am part of a group of television professionals who hail from San Diego State’s Department of Telecommunications & Film, TCF for short. The Telecom part was, I like to think, a recognition of the efforts of one great man, Dr. Don Wylie, a professor at SDSU, who, as a Naval Reserve Officer, was instrumental in guiding our military satellite technology into the civilian commercial broadcast world. The truth is, by the time I entered the BS program in 1980, the technical aspects and this engineering discipline had given way to the glamorous world of TV and Film production, but the name stuck to remind us of our legacy… maybe. Either that or the University just didn’t get around to updating our name. And, so TCFers we were. Proudly.
But Dr. Don, Dr. Wylie, Wylie, or the Old Man (which was how my father, a Navy man himself loving referred to him) was the Spiritual Leader of a “Cadre” (his name for this dynamo production unit) of 9 men and 2 women. We immersed ourselves in the “act” of television production with such religious fervor, that not only did we create a renaissance for this previously sleepy breeding ground for the local Channels’ Daily News broadcast talent, but we are still friends, nay brothers, and sisters – truly family to this day.
This group is so tight that I faced coming out to them with more trepidation than I did to my own blood family (which was, I learned, a huge miscalculation on both sides of that equation). But unlike my blood family, from which you begin concealing your high risk behaviors, the Cadre had truly seen me and I them, at both my best and worst... and we were still friends.
This very boy’s club had only two very great women, one of whom married one of our boys. And for those of you just now joining my journey, the revelation that we were actually 8 men and 3 women sent shockwaves through our cadre.
Since I systematically came out through a series of personal heart-to-heart phone calls (we are spread out across this great country), I have had the great opportunity to see in person 8 of my brethren, with four hold-outs. Since I seem to be keeping score, two of the four holdouts had at least agreed to meet when I was in their areas (and had to postpone for different reasons) but the other two have to this day ignored any requests by me to connect. So, we’re 8-2 with 2 ties.
But, tho’ the sports metaphor is very much our dialect (having cut our production teeth on covering the Aztec’s teams, we shot and aired anything that bounced, was thrown, kicked or hit with a bat), in matters of the heart, it breaks down when I try to use it now. Maybe I have higher standards, but since I no longer have to “keep up appearances," I can tell you the “wins” ain’t wins but the losses are truly losses… and the ties… even worse. Just knowing that we talked is not good enough, and knowing that we hadn't talked yet is only slightly better than refusing to talk at all. As I said, this is family. The family that you get to choose. Tho’ we all are bonded by our addiction to television, love is our real drug of choice.
So yes, by phone, everyone was amazing and supportive and touched, said all the right things, and pledged uninterrupted love. I was to be "business as usual,” albeit my bond with the women was instantly a little deeper, so pleased were they to have a sister. And the guys? Well they went out of their way to make sure that this was "no big deal.
“but that was then…”
And this is now. Of the five who live near me in Southern California, three make as much effort to see me as I do them. Which means that, barring our productions schedules throwing our social calendars into the blender every other month or so, we see each other at least once a week at a "taco night."
These three men are very dear to me. I will use their “Ski-trip names” handles they earned from an annual weekend of what used to be skiing until old-age started whittling down the reason for spending money on plane tickets to famous resorts to three days of whiskey, cards, and fart jokes.
First, there’s the infamous “Puff Daddy,” and next, there’s “CF” (which stands for Chin f**k, a reference to a self-inflicted injury suffered while under the influence). Both live here in LA LA Land with me, and finally, there’s “Bigsley” who still hails from our native San Diego.
I have always been closer (emotionally) to Puffy, having sold him the first television series I created, as well as truly holding each other up in darker times (cancer for him, my father’s passing for me). Now, this is not to say that CF and Bigsley are distant seconds, they are most certainly not. CF has bent over backward and, of all the guys (Puffy included), is the only one who calls regularly to check in on his new baby sister, me. Bigsley,, it turns out, is my knight in shining armor, apparently defending my new honor (in my absence) with the other guys right down to the pronouns. As I said, in my absence, and I’d trade a little of that chivalry for seeing or talking with him more frequently, but what’s a girl to do?
So, you can imagine that, close as I am with all three, it would still be a surprise to learn that they, well, are struggling. That is, they are struggling with the enormity of my journey. They are still trying to take the abstract thought that the “transgender thing” that seems to be the hot topic “out there in the world,” and fit it onto our real lives. And, that it would be me. Mad Dog, The Madman, their wild child. Sure Scott was a free spirit and seemed to be in touch with “his” feminine side, but, really? "He's one of those?”
And these are not my words. They have all shared with Marcy Mylove, when I’ve left the room, that they aren’t as cool with my transition as they are trying so hard to be for me. Especially Puffy. He’s one of my biggest supporters. He has already dried my tears. He can and will listen to me as I work my way through some of the narrower rapids of my journey. But, when he’s sure his candor won’t hurt me (because I’m out of earshot), he confesses it’s huge. It’s enormous. We have so much lived life together and he’s not sure he’s “there” yet… sigh.
This is something I want my trans sisters and brothers to hear. Yes, they have accepted me. But I want our love to continue to grow without any glitch. And I’m sure they do too. And they are trying. They love me so much they would never hurt me by even admitting that it is hard. They are committed to diving on every grenade that rolls out from their own psyches, every subconscious stumble. They will always support me… even if they don’t or can’t understand me.
And that should be enough.
And, even without having heard this intel, I know this. As I wrote in a recent posting on this blog (The Wire, December 16) this is the psychic piano wire that is strung between all of our hearts and I knew I “twanged” this chord so hard that the pegs damn near broke off. And I knew it needed to be tightened on both ends. I am tightening my side, and Patience is the wrench. And time. Oh, and laughter.
Yesterday, Bigsley was driving back thru town. He had been further north with his son at a college Fraternity’s Father/Son weekend, so he asked Puff and me to dinner. CF was working and would be missed.
Now, something that is changing is their manners. Right from the start, they are genuinely treating me like a lady. Opening doors, letting me sit first, etc. We hadn’t even gotten thru the pleasantries and ordering when Bigsley asked,
“So Ms. Scottie, what are you up to? What are you doing?”
The standard answer with these guys is to rattle off the various shows and projects and “gigs” that each of us has in play. Puffy produces movies for Lifetime network, Bigsley followed in Dr. Wylie’s footsteps (he’d be so proud) teaching TV production as well as producing documentaries. I have always been the freelancer, running other people’s shows, and pitching my own, but this time I answered by waiting demurely for the waiter to leave to get our order and saying…
“Well, I’m getting ready for surgery, which will be next month.”
Neither of my brothers flinched. They are seasoned poker players. But the earth did skip a beat as my words continued to hang in the air. They knew without any further detail or embellishment exactly which surgery I’m talking about. Yes, that surgery, The surgery. This is the milestone that not one of us (me included) ever knew was even on the table. And now, in this moment here it is… Puff breaks the silence first with,
“Can I fill this uncomfortable silence with a totally inappropriate joke now?”
I must’ve said yes. Because we began, with hearts now wide open (and their minds completely blown) to discuss the mechanics of surgery. Educational as it was, it’s still a fertile field to fill even more uncomfortable space with more inappropriate material. As you now have surmised, this is their very boy way of dealing with intense… with, well let's face it, life. And… well, I’m admitting right here, that I used this opportunity, knowing that Puff was struggling, to lean in… and ask point blank if he is cool. If he's okay. With this. With me. With this big step.
He put his dilemma into words:
“Look, man, you’re in my heart. And I love you as you, as you are now… a woman. But I’m trying to get over the fact that my bro Scott… will never come walking thru that door… ever again. You’re going to have to get used to the fact that people loved Scott. I love Scottie. But I really loved Scott. And Scott was my brother. And I… am never going to see him again. Ever.”
Now, my mind is blown. A white sheet of rain washed all my thoughts away – all I knew was that I was so very sad for my dear, dear, brother’s loss. I was, oddly, detached from being the object of his grief. I did not feel compelled to correct his view of the truth of my experience. I felt no hurt or frustration for my part in this. And, tho’ this was seemingly directed at me, I felt no blame from him, that I was the agent of his brother’s destruction, I only felt that he looked to me in that moment as one who would hopefully understand his loss. And the one who would hold him as we had held each other thru times of challenge and loss. My heart was breaking for him.
Bigsley broke what felt like a lifetime of heartache by man-splaining Puffy’s point, “Scottie, guys are black and white. We used to relate to you as a dude, and now we have to relate to you as a woman. By the way, you are rocking the woman thing. But that doesn't make it easier. “Sorry we're just... dudes"
In essence, since I speak “dude,” Bigsley was saying that Scott had to die, so Scottie could live.
In Puffy’s world, Scott was already gone. And Puffy was trying to mourn “on the fly” as he welcomed Scottie with open arms.
Now this is something that the trans community faces all the time. Many women (and I’m assuming the guys do too, they just don’t write about it in their memoirs) in the older generation would stage funerals for their male lives. I confess that this is not the first time my own coming out and the transition has been referred to as a death in the family. My sister Kiera still hasn’t gotten over losing her cherished big brother. And my dear friend, Merrie-Lynn, actually encouraged me to conduct some sort of acknowledgment/ritual of the ending of my male past. With surgery right around the corner, I’d be silly to ignore these signs from the Universe to realize that this part of my journey is demanding more of my attention.
Maybe it was because I was raised by wolves that I learned never say “die.” I think I met these previous signs (Kiera’s and Merrie-Lynn’s) with a total dismissal. A death in the family? C'mon Kiera! A ritual Merrie-Lynn? That's a little too woo-woo for this girl. But really in both cases it was my desire to cling to the notion that even considering this as a death was a negation of... the truth.
I always had been, am and always will be the same me. I had always been a woman. How could I acknowledge, my past with the wolves as my “boyhood” and “manhood,” when I had never been either one myself?
There was never someone other than me to let go of. There was only me and I had no intention of leaving.
But seeing the loss in Puffy’s eyes made me realize another essential thing I have learned in this life… funerals are for the living. They help the living let go of their hold on the past. They allow their loved ones to move on.
So, now, I’m torn. I feel compelled to help cis people understand that trans (in my experience) is not that you "were one gender" and are now another. Sorry to start sounding like a broken record, but with 45’s recent order to dismantle protections for trans youth in public schools, this firestorm of misunderstanding has been stoked anew. Those who support this cruel and legal discrimination cite their belief and conviction that transgender is a lifestyle choice or even a mental illness. Denying the facts. Denying those who have experienced it. No one would ever in their right mind choose derision, discrimination, pain, trauma, violence and misunderstanding. Can we please put that one to bed?
Dysphoria comes of being in a body that will never, not ever, no matter how hard you try to deny it, match your truest, deepest “sense” and awareness of your very own self. I say this without the words “believe yourself to be” or “think that you are” that others have used to describe this phenomenon because they both imply an intellectual attempt at interpreting the experience that humans have of being human, that only each human can ever experience of one’s own self.
I have never not known that I wasn’t me, a girl, a woman. I had this sense before I had words. I had this sense despite the organs that this body had. I had this sense despite what my parents and then my teachers and then my society told me. I had this sense despite what I tried to reason and then discipline myself to disprove.
Even as I grew up, took my place in my family, made friends and started a marriage and a career, constantly creating a life for myself and a chance to love and be loved it was through an outer armor that looked like a dude named “Scott.” But the wearer of that armor was me.
And tho’ this body, despite being, well let’s just go with incongruent with the rest of me, has always been my trusty armor, a worthy vehicle, a true friend that has gotten me through thick and thin, and certainly deserves the utmost care and respect, I’m not sure a funeral for my armor would seem right… for me.
But for Puffy? Hmmm. Maybe? I would do anything for him.
I’ll have to get back to you on that.
But… I do feel a need to do something to recognize the crossing of this mystical, physical and very very real, threshold of my life. I do recognize it’s huge. I do feel a need to keep it as one of the most sacred moments of my life. Yes, it’s huge, but in a way that only I can ever know fully. I’m not alone as I do this, but I am the only one who will be doing this with this life called Scottie.
One thing that I am doing is allowing any and all emotions to come up – I’m trying not to stop any of them. Emotions are already a new and amazing experience for me, but in these last few weeks, as I get closer to the threshold, it's been like a roller coaster in the dark. I have no idea when the turns are coming. And some of these have no names or essences that I’ve ever felt before, or that even make sense. But instinctively I know they have a special value whether they are connected to my stepping across or not.
And then there’s Mylove… My lover. The person who's heart and body and bed I've shared for close to thirty years. Yes. This is her journey too. Equally intense - but specifically unique in that she didn’t get a say in going on this journey and more than I did. But I had 45 years to contemplate its significance and test its validity. No one can ever prepare for this, but I had close to a four decade head start on her. She had to get up to speed instantly, flying completely on faith in me and our love. And she does it every single day. She never saw this coming; didn’t want it wen it did, but… she wants me and our love. As do I. So we are figuring this out. If anyone had the right to mourn for the loss of her husband and her lover, her white knight, her king, it’s she. But those were all “flavors” of her honey, me. She’s the one who chose the name Scottie for me. I wasn’t changing who I was in her heart, I was evolving as a person.
What you need to know is that ALL of the above flashed through my heart and soul between chicken fried rice and the stale fortune cookies. Bigsley brought this night to a close by summing up his “men are black and white” theory by saying, “Look, men are stupid. Women are crazy. You were always … really crazy. Suddenly everything makes perfect sense. We should’ve seen this, you, coming.”
And there it is. My chivalrous knight Bigsley actually does get me. Despite even his own protestations. I’ve gone from black to white (again) over Chinese food. And maybe this is another bread crumb (cookie crumb?) I can leave for my sisters and brothers as they follow this path: just as you are constantly relearning things about yourself, and reexamining your every move, so too are your family and friends. They aren’t taking a step backward, they are refreshing their grip. And that’s a good thing.
Then, we’re outside and it’s time for hugs and kisses goodbye. We have always been “huggers” in this boy’s club, but this time, as 6 foot two Puffy bends down to hug me, we… kiss. It’s natural and sweet, the kiss you get from your daddy, your uncle or your big brother. It’s reassuring, and… reaffirming. And it catches me off-guard. Because…
I got lipstick on Puffy’s cheek.
Every lady knows “you don’t share colors!” and I whispered my apology in his ear as we hugged. But while I was worrying about his cheek, he was whispering in my ear:
“I do love you,. Scottie.”
And his hug went straight to my heart. As we let go, I did what my aunts and other great ladies had taught me by example and I wiped the pink smear demurely off like an Audrey Hepburn movie. I think I also lifted one foot behind as I did it… no idea where that came from…
After blessings for our various safe journeys home, I drove away in tears.
Tears of gratitude.
It was said by more than one reader of my book (which spans a year in the life of my extended family that stretches across to Europe and Australia numbering well above 200 people), that my life and journey and the people in it are some of the most amazingly generous, loving and supportive people ever gathered. I strongly agree. My journey is our journey. And tho’ they didn’t ask for it, it has given all of these people the chance to show to me, and themselves, that we are the noble, loving and best humans we hope and aspire to be. Even if and when we don’t know what we’re doing. We love first, ask questions later. And yes it’s messy. But so is life.
I have never actually been grateful that I was born trans, but I can see that my trans journey is a profound and precious gift. A humbling and amazing immersion in love that fills me to overflowing every day.
Who knew that a little bit of lipstick could change the world?
I sat down to write this week's posting, and realized...
I had already said everything (this week) in an interview for another woman's blog.
So I decided to throw light (the opposite of shade) on a fellow blogger for the great work she does, which is this: She interviews the Heroines in her Life, and as of this week's count, I am honored to be number 362.And in the three days since my post dropped, she added three more...
Yes, it's some amazing company. You'll find the "usual suspects," great women whom you have heard of, who have lead our community (either metaphorically or by real world sweat and tears) but it's also women you need to know. Women who have made a difference doing nothing more than the greatest act of courage - truly, being themselves.
Which, we're learning, is even more mystifying than previously thought.
I received an invitation a week ago from Monika Kowalska - and this started our journey together. Monika paid me one the greatest compliments I had ever received:"Scottie, I was reading and reading (your answers) and I started to feel that...
I am no longer cursed but I am gifted to be a transwoman! Thank you so much!!!!"
Well. What can you say after that other than - Thank you God that I have something to give.
So. This week, I direct you to Monika's great blog dear readers and see for yourself what all the hoopla is really all about...
Please read my responses to her insightful questions at:
And see you next week -
scottie jeanette christine madden
Last week, Marcy and I were treated to, and I won't hesitate to say, a tour de force (for once it's actually used correctly) named Alexandra Billings in her performance, "I'm still here."
It was... life affirming, life changing and... just plain ole life. But, an extraordinary one... as there’s nothing, not even her propensity for McDonald’s, is ever plain.
Now fair disclosure, Alexandra and I are getting to be better friends every day (when she picks up the phone), and I've written about her many times. Yes, I do think she walks on water and, no, you will never catch me saying that out loud—especially to her.
Nonetheless, her show consisted of more than an hour and half of songs belted to the rafters, enrobed in comedic bon mots that were both planned and spontaneous. Perfect example was when spilling her water glass on the piano became a Groucho Marx routine complete with enlisting help from the hapless, off-stage manager, and an innocent 80 year old bystander's shawl to mop it up. And there was planned patter & jokes that even tho’ I (in my few months of friendship) had heard a variation on, still got the big laugh out of me anyway.
An amazing, yes amazing performance.
In my continuing efforts at this fair disclosure thingy (I think I’ve already told you), Alexandra has signed on to the drama series based on my book. Yay! And I, in turn, have signed on to develop her stage show into a television event (stay tuned for updates on this all). None of this skews my admiration of her as a woman. As an artist. As a role model. As an activist. As a great spokesperson for our community...
that being said...
Her performance shook me all night long, and then some.
After her 90 minute set, Alexandra came out in street clothes (one of the first of many areas where we do disagree—jeans and a “t”? Please girl!) to answer questions from at least half the house that stayed for this rare chance. The audience, made of students and supporters of USC's arts community, were also, it turned out, fans of both her work on “Transparent,” and fans of the Director who runs this performance series program.
There were, you can image, the requisite questions about being a professional actor that one would expect from this crowd, not unlike the atmosphere created on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” (but without James Lipton being all James Liptony—which I rather like).
And, I saw a chance to open up a door to do another thing that Alexandra does best... represent.
Now, her show had already been a musical journey of her life from young boy to showgirl to mature professor and artist, through the broken glass-filled trenches of AIDS, drug addiction, and heartbreak (oh, so it's a family show) that’s as much the story of one amazing person’s life as it is a chronicle of the LGBT movement, experience, and legacy of the last 50 years.
But... for those of you who maybe follow her through social media (and if you don't, you should), you might know that Alexandra gets to deeper, more relevant issues in her own daily life, calling on us all to be divine, while acting humanely—with all, for all, not just the trans community. It’s one of the reasons why I value not only her friendship, but her voice in the trans community.
So, Yes, I tossed her a softball (news-speak for "an easy one"). But in this case, my intention was to give her a pivot to talk about subjects that hadn't been covered in her performance (so, sue me). And I wasn't even disappointed when she cast aside the notion in my question, reframing my premise about there even being a trans narrative into the bigger “human narrative” (that's my girl), before answering. (As I said this was her show.) But the magic worked, and the next phase of questions opened up to the broader issues about being oneself, and true to the art, and connecting with the audience… for real.
But I don't think either of us expected it to take the turn that it did, and I didn’t expect to still be “shook” days later. It started innocently enough…
One young playwright earnestly asked in this open and very public forum if Alexandra would be willing to be interviewed for her senior thesis project (a bold move that even Alexandra must’ve appreciated for its sheer chutzpah). Her play, she continued breathlessly, was about women, and Alexandra had on this night demonstrated, a perspective on being a woman that this playwright hadn't considered before (and there it is) nor, the playwright continued, even knew existed. Okay we can get into just how “sheltered” this young woman confessed to being, later. I hear my inner critic screaming from the porch, “Scottie Jeanette, you come down off that soapbox, this instant!”
The point is, she meant well! And like us all, she was captivated by Alexandra’s story & performance.
But it was Alexandra's answer that shook me, oh yeah, and probably the playwright too.
"Well, as you know, I've been married for over twenty years to a woman I've loved for over forty, and I can honestly say, having lived beside her, that I don't share the same experiences as she and her cis-sisters. I consider myself a trans woman. I'm proud of that. So, no, maybe I'm not right for your project."
Which sounded to everyone as a perfectly reasonable, gracious, maybe thanks but no, thanks dodge. But smiles and nods and the love in the air seemed to egg Alexandra on, so she continued to say, "... and if you're okay with that; and you still want me? Talk to my manager."
I was… floored. I… was… did I hear her right? Was I just… sold out?
But, again, this was Alexandra’s show.
Which is what I had to keep telling myself to get myself to take my finger off the launch buttons.
For those of you who've been following me, forgive me for repeating myself. I am a woman. I use the trans prefix only as a shorthand in pertinent conversations and context.
I struggle with this paradox (see previous posts), like last week when we pushed back on little old me, Ms smarty pants, with the unanswerable question, “Oh yeah? If you’re a woman, then how do you explain your body?"
But before you offer me up the usual get-out-of-jail-free cards,” like chromosomes and DNA and other cultures’ historical embraces (India’s Hijera, First Nation’s Two-Spirits, etc.), I will confess that, tho’ some find solace in these, I don’t. What happens for others is rarely easy for me to adopt as an explanation for my inner experience of reality.
It’s nice to know, but nothing has actually worked, except my own mental elbow grease.
I write often about how I cherish sisterhood and seek it out and, yes, get disappointed when I'm cut off from it, either by self-inflicted wounds or good ole fashioned misunderstanding.
So, when the divine Ms. Alex makes self-acceptance of the trans kind seem so easy and so... de rigueur, so… required, what's a girl to do?
I do still, obviously, duh, struggle with this.
You can see it as I'm trying to get the world (or at least my world) to not only see me as a woman, but capital “B,” Be with me as a woman. When we are capital “B,” Be-ing, we are surfing that powerful wave of connection that we are suddenly sharing (for whatever reason), ignoring the mental obstacles that judge, misjudge, fire and misfire like so much flotsam and jetsam… the ocean of truth between two people pounds the rocks of fantasy and imagination (of each other) into the fine beach sand of each of our inner shores. And we… just… connect.
I’m using the word connection as a metaphysical, spiritual, sacred embrace.
And that’s why I shy away (shy being the operative word here) from the word "acceptance." I’m not asking anyone to accept my womanhood that’s a mental surrender to a previously held prejudice. No, I'm an "all or nothing" girl. Wait… in this case, even that isn't accurate…
I'm an all or all, girl. There’s no room for nothing.
I know, and have learned from deep meaningful relationships with amazing people, that deeper spiritual connection is there for us with each of our very next breaths.
All it takes is for us to stay in that beautiful bubble that our hearts created when first they met.
So, I figure that it’s even better when we are able to now, breath freely in our bubbles with a deeper understanding of my true femininity, because now we can, when we both are just Be-ing together, achieve... well, an even richer state of love. Of connection. Of meaningfulness as two humans, you and I.
Now, put in these terms, I know Alexandra (maybe with far more inspirational prose) would say the very same things. And no, gender is not even a part of the above equation, except for my case alone. I ask that those close to me regard me as a woman and treat me in the same way they treat the other women in our life. In our bubble. According to the social rules that we have created together.
But when those close to me step outside the bubble we created and look instead to the outside society for clues and cues as to how to live with me, then, yes, I get... well, uncomfortable. It happens more often than I care to believe, and has happened to a greater degree (and heartbreak) ever since I came out.
So, when Alex so boldly declared how she wants to be regarded... yes. I braced for impact.
And I had good cause. Because it happened to me on the way home.
And it happened from the one person who loves me most, and proofs this blog and should know better than anyone else, why I feel the way I do… and I would hope be able to answer this question (were it to come up) in my absence.
And… even I, intelligent woman that I am, can see why even Mylove could agree with Alexandra, despite all of the above.
Because Alexandra declared her views from the context of being the star of the night, and Alexandra had a microphone that amplified her perspective for her life (somehow hearing things in a concert hall seems, I dunno, more important or have more value?). And maybe I'm nervous that someone else may hear Alexandra’s declaration and, knowing that I respect her, naturally and innocently apply her views to me. (I can and did correct Mylove’s misunderstanding. But I was able to talk it through with her. What about those who will just assume? What about people I don’t even know? Breathe Girl! Calm down! Ah, the wonders of being trans. We can be so consumed with making preemptive strikes to safeguard our future kerfuffles, that we walk around like porcupines!)
Truly speaking, I don't have an answer for the criteria that Alexandra presented.
I saw how my family lovingly raised my sisters to believe they could be anything they wanted, while actually kicking my butt (also lovingly) to make sure that I made it actually happen. It's subtle, but the girls weren't hammered and hammered and hammered to make sure they would follow through to success like I was, they were given the room to be or not be, and they would be loved no matter how they turned out. And now, as mature women, none of us are really sure which way was best. But…
I wasn't raised on the inside of things that are a woman's natural life—like what a period is, childbirth and childbearing, etc., though I was, as the oldest, and as my father's "second in command," the steward of the women in our house. I was keenly aware and directly involved in making sure that “our four women,” whose cycles invariably aligned, were taken care of, and this time had very high significance and attention in my family. And no, I never really disliked this. And yes, as a smart person, I knew that this made me unique—the boy who knew as much about periods as the blushing mothers of my friends. And well, let's face it, it became a great part of my stand-up routine. (Doesn’t everyone have a stand-up routine? You know, the answer that you give your friends’ parents when they ask, “So… how've you been?”)
But it also, when I'm brutally honest with myself, paradoxically spotlights that I was still separate from my sisters. I was their steward, their guardian, I understood that they were going through something. As time went on, and the female intuition of my creative mind empathized even further, I understood even deeper…
... what I was missing, and where we differed…
This alone is what made me shudder when Alexandra declared her "not-ness." On this, she was right. And I had no rebuttal.
This question even comes up in feminist circles as being "what defines a woman?" But that's not what we're talking about here. Like it or not, know it or not, women have a shared experience that I have only had from the outside looking in. Though we both may have had the same reactions and emotions to a situation, I'd be naive to think that my cis sisters, feeling both the warmth of being cherished and the bite of sexism (and being the object of both) is the same as my witnessing it “once removed.”
This is what "other" feels like on my side of the fence.
So, is she right? Is Alexandra's declaration supposed to be how I should feel? Is acceptance of my trans-ness the goal?
Do I need to get that I am not a woman but rather a woman with the trans prefix?
I fully admit that this has got to seem strange coming from a woman who wrote a book and records a regular video vlog and writes a weekly blog about being raised by wolves. Yes, I had to accept that this gender dysphoria wasn't going away. Yes, I had to deal with the fact that I had… something to deal with. Yes, I had to involve doctors and counselors, and I had to find a way to describe to my family and friends why I would be looking and living so differently from the way they had comfortably learned to live with and look at me for over 45 years. Yes. Yes.
But I never called what I was "trans;" never thought of myself as other than me. I used the words “woman” for what I was and “man” for what the world thought me to be. Trans only came into favor within the last five years (I guess we had to wait long enough for the stigma of being “Not a Camaro” to wear off?). And before that, saying I was a transsexual was too... optimistic.
And why, Ms. Scottie, yes, why dig this deep into semantics in the first place?
Why was I shook all night long and then some to make me take to the keyboard to figure it out?
… each term, each word, each label, each title, comes with a short hand that, good or bad, will be the way the world regards us all. Each has a set of social rules. (We’re talking big picture now, outside the sacred bubble described above.) Admittedly those rules are broken and being re-written all the time, but are nonetheless there to make the blind spots less blind, the unpaved roads less bumpy; to give us a way to see around corners, and more importantly, protect us from the unknown. And tho’ we’ve talked to death about the notion that “labels can limit,” but “labels should not limit,” labels are here. We’re learning that being “color blind” with race is… actually just blind—blind and, actually, a dismissing of someone’s humanity.
So, back to the word “woman,” we all have a pretty common starting point for how you can relate to me. With trans, I'm stating that, unless you're trans, you will never understand me.
But… and here’s the big “but” coming… you ready? I am, as a member of the trans community, able to make room for both my view and Alexandra's. As she does for me. Without either of us canceling out the other. (I know, what was I worried about? Geeze…)
We can do this because something that is possible to generalize about as being true across the board with trans people is that we make room for the various variations of gender identity that appear daily under our side of the LGBTQIA tent—gender non-conforming, gender neutral, gender queer… and that's just this week. We hold ourselves to the same standards we ask of the world—accept that what and who we say we are, is who we are. (Yes, I still feel the same way about the “A-word” but it’s different when we’re talking the whole community.) Please don't discriminate against us. Allow us the same opportunities as everyone else. Please treat us as equals.
So. I can make room for Alexandra's declarations just as she has generously made room for mine. She sees me as a woman. I see her as a trans woman. We see each other as sisters.
And so, I can still hate her for the way she rocks the Marilyn “seven-year-itch” dress and sparkly platform pumps.
And she will defend me when our feminist sisters judge me for making this (yet again) about shoes and hair.
And she probably still won’t answer my texts, emails or voice messages for weeks… but she will come running whenever I need her.
We’re sisters, after all.
Okay… really. Where to start?
Yes. We marched along with the millions of people around the world – including Antarctica… for women’s rights.
And, while a millions stories and posts are and will be written about this proud moment in history, and many will be trying to understand it, quantify it, lionize it, and rationalize it, I want to just revel in it.
The bask in the brilliant light of community, sisterhood, and graceful power of us. Of we. Of all.
And, before we go any further, there are so many people to thank. The organizers of every March. The speakers at every march. Whoever started the pink pussy knitting circles. The unbelievably creative and clever signs. The men who marched alongside. The police who kept us safe. The parents who brought their children. And everyone who participated from home. And everyone who marched for marching with our respect, caring, joy and intelligence. Not one incident of violence or vandalism.
And this simple act of gratitude speaks to why I was marching. I marched for and because and to insure our rights. These and many other virtues and values of women were in crystal focus for everyone to see. Yes, I started with gratitude –, because that’s who I am and I believe who we are. And yes I thanked everyone for marching, or as we’ve seen marching from home via the interwebs – because this was not, as the organizers stressed many times just a woman’s march, it was a march for women’s rights.
And here’s the deal. Say what you will. The Gracious Power of Women has been and always will be, the creative, nurturing, sustaining the power of life. So though this was almost overwhelming, it should be no surprise that we stood together. For women’s rights are human rights. (Thanks HRC!)
I first heard of the March in Washington D.C. via the posting that announcing there would be a sister March in Oakland. I immediately responded. Not only is the Bay area near and dear to our hearts, but it’s the spiritual home of our marriage, and so many members of our vast extended family are there. So, what better way to celebrate than with our peeps?
Now, of course hailing from La La Land, it could be a little strange, to make the trek north, even after LA announced their sister March., (750,000? So proud of us!) Stranger still to go even when Snow snow threatened to close the Grapevine, .
But I felt the call of sisterhood beaconing us ever north.
I will confess as “the new girl” I had no idea what to expect. I only knew to follow my heart. I had to let my feet and spirit do the talking. I had high hopes for something, but I specifically stopped those in the “inkling stage,” so any of my preconceived notions wouldn’t get in the way of the Grace that would arrive.And I wished I could say (because it would make me seem so darn smart) that I intended to march for all of the above reasons. But I can say that I was truky letting my heart lead the way…
Mylove and I had a very simple agenda. Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.
But, Mylove was also trying to be “the adult in the room.” She knew we should be concerned with the immense rain storms in the forecast. That’s it. I didn’t think too far ahead. I didn’t plan out every second – make a bunch of appointments, nor a serious of checkpoints. I didn’t even have an exit plan – and with e. With even bigger storms threatening the Grapevine for our return drive homereturn, this was not “good drills,” as my survival expert pedigree should dictate. And… I really didn’t care.
Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.
Now, for any of you who know me, you know that this in itself is very strange behavior for moi.… As “adventure girl,” I am usually the designated field marshall – yes,. I know how to move a large crew (20-50) people and 100’s of cases of equipment into and out of remote countries around the world – so I better know how to pack the car, right? I better have the back-up battery chargers for our cellphones, the appropriate foul weather gear (not just for me but spares for whomever joins whatever leg of the journey) and yes, I get a little, ahem, “passionate” when someone strays from the rendezvous point(s), even if it’s “just for moment” to get a better look at the signs going by. And tho’ I did do all of the above as expected, it was more because it was left-over in my muscle-memory, not the consuming “strategery” (thank you Bugs) that had been my M.O. for my professional career and reputation.
And… it did give me pause… as it was noted in it’s absence… so I’m either maturing as a woman, and confident in myself to get sh*t done, or… I’m no longer defining myself by what I do, but rather how I do it… (but maybe that’s a subject for a future posting – stay tuned.)
And, I will also confess that I am as realizing (or rather coming to grips with) that I am usually the resident “Amazon” of almost every grouping of female friends that we have., i.e I am usually, the one woman in any group of women in our circles thatwho was raised by wolves. And, though estrogen has seriously and lovingly reshaped my… shape, I’m still almost as physically strong, and almost as physically large as I was… that. And more importantly, I still have that protector gene that rises up when we’re out in any crowd.…
But. I hadn’t allowed myself to think too far down any of the above roads.
Because for the last few weeks, I had been so consumed with keeping a dull pounding ache at bay. I felt that I had been kicked in the heart… and that the kicking would continue for the next four years, or until it ended in it’s certain impeachment.
For the first weeks of this brand new shiny year, I could only see divisiveness. I could only see strife. I could saw only disrespect, disservice, and just plain, ol’ dissing of anyone (and everyone) who is not a redstatered-state, rich, white, male corporation.
And my Amazonian tiara felt heavy.
As, I too, took my seat at my own pity party of one (and I’ve heard from a number of my dearest and strongest women friends –, my sisters -, that this table had more than one single seat), I didn’t care that I had been allowing myself to dine regularly on the sour gummy worms of insanity, anger and acrimony streaming from every news source, social media platform and even closest friends. And I knew, that I knew better. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. I knew I would never be able to continue at this pace – t.These gummies are hard to chew, they ruin your appetite and they make your tongue swell… (not unlike Capt’n Crunch rash! Remember?).
So, I knew I needed to change. I needed to do something to pull myself out of this tailspin. I knew I needed to fill the tank and head north. Like millions of people all over the world, I put on my raingear and, locking arms with Mylove and my dear sisters, leptleapt out into the sea of love that in our case flowed like a river through the downtown streets of Oakland… .
… and despite our agreement to stay on the edges of the crowd, we – found ourselves right in the middle of it all…
… were swept alongside the pack of twenty ten-year-old girls – carrying their signs and wearing their hand knit pink hats…
… were captivated, as a young mother patiently explained in great patience (and, (I might add, with great insight) to her six-year-old son, why “we shall overcomb” made everyone laugh…
… cheered, laughed, chanted and walked in yes, the truly festive atmosphere….
… marching for Women’s rights, human right’s, Black lives’ rights, Environmental rights, Native American rights, Muslim-American rights, American-American rights. …
… and wasWe were all were baptized with love, with respect, with the Gracious Power of women.
This is my “takeaway.” I still feel our power. It has cleansed my heart. It has given me hope. It has washed the sour taste of those gummiegummy worms from my palate.
Today. T, the Monday after, the White Hhouse debates are already changing tone from the combative defensiveness of this weekend’s missteps.
Was it because of the March?
Probably. No one will probably give it credit. And it doesn’t matter.
The Republicans will be taking a retreat this weekend where they will strategize getting away from “small ball.” Is that because of the pink knit hats?
It doesn’t matter. Because, as women, we don’t give two hoots about “small ball.” And yes we know what it is and yes, we still don’t care.
This was not a movement to be judged. Success wasn’t depending on someone else or anyone who beieves themselves “outside” to validate.
None of the metrics men concoct can measure the power of what happened.
And, as a few have stepped forward to try to throw shade on the movement, to try to undermine and attempt to divide us for whatever reasons, (including those, who, as women felt they were being shamed for not wanting to march. N (newsflash –, we don’t care that you didn’t march, we marched so that we all have the choice to be and do what we feel is right for each of us in our own lives. If you felt shame –, I’m sad for you. I’m sad that you felt the need to shame yourself. And please know: we didn’t do that to you.)
There were pundits (even women pundits) who asked the same questions and made the same accusations that were levied against the Occupy movements. “Yes, but this will only mean something if now, you take this energy and do something with it” “Yes, but they better get the one message or this will be for naught.” “Does everyone even o know what they’re marching fo?” “They need a clear leader or their movement will die.”
Again. It doesn’t even matter what they say. W -- what anyone outside thinks. All we cared about was that it was showing how many of us there are. How many of us are watching. How many of us will stand up for our rights.
More than anything, I learned so much about myself from just being in the company of us. I can place too much “belief” in the fallacy that bad can have its day, despite my faith that good will ultimately prevail. (who wants to live thru even a bad having a good inning? Still too much.) But, what I learned, even more, is how easy it was to allow the acid of hopelessness to erode my resolve.
And even now, as I watch “alternative facts,” executive orders try to dismantle Sanctuary cities, and even the Republicans like Paul Ryan try to invent a new definition for, “there’s a lot of ways for Mexico to ultimately end up paying for the wall in way or another,” I am held up by a Gracious Power that stands even if I might waver...
The millions of people who stood together around the world are the Gracious Power.
This Gracious Power plays by its own rules.
This Gracious Power is undeniable.
This Gracious Power will overcome.
This Gracious Power wears pink knit hats.
This Gracious Power wears what it wants.
But this Gracious Power is love. Is inclusive. Is Respect. Is Intelligence. Is creativity. Is Inspiring. Is nurturing. Is sustaining. Is the force that makes, holds, and supports this universe.
This Gracious Power is Woman.
Each morning my workout is to “power hike” (no other word for this – it’s not quite running, and way faster than hiking) in the hills that are the northern border of the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy. Locals here call it “dirt Mulholland.” It’s the stretch of the infamous Mulholland Drive between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Havenhurst – a fire road that’s the mother artery for hundreds of smaller trails that feed off of this idyllic length of paradise between ocean and valley.
It’s a favorite for a morning cult of dog walkers (I’m one), mountain bikers (one of those too), trail runners, casual strollers and… well, it’s as a diverse a group of humans as the wildlife that call it home.
Why am I telling you this?
To put you in the same morning-sunshined, ocean-caressed, crisp-aired, rosy-cheek-kissed bliss that could only be made better by Return to Forever’s, “Romantic Warrior” pouring from my earbuds and marinating my soul…
You there? Ahhh, yes, there you go… now, breathe in and…
Cue the hawk. Her shadow kisses your face first and you look up – she waves with a curt tip of her wing as she soars out over the valley. And… something else passes by … and before you can even ask yourself what…?
She backs up and re-enters your field of vision, blocking out your hawk’s majesty… and as Stanley Clark’s bass line seduces your attention like warm maple syrup, a bright-faced, blond, brilliant light of a woman is talking… to you… she doesn’t seem to notice the earbuds…
So, you pull them out, and you hear her say, “… and would it be okay, I know this is terribly forward, but my daughter is a film student at USC, you see. And she’s making a film about a transgender police officer…”
Now, I am, and have always been, really good at inference. Sometimes to my downfall. All I need is a seed of a thought to deliver you a forest of a story. But as I struggled to hang on to this woman’s breathless story about her daughter, and the efforts she’s making, and the support she’s getting from the LAPD, and the officer himself who served in the Marines as a woman but transitioned after a distinguished tour of duty and is now quite happy as a male police officer, and the rest of the officers have been great with accepting him…
… my own thoughts were starting to drown out her voice. I realized I was desperately trying to figure out why is the woman, whom I have never met, who seems very nice and earnest, and proud of her daughter…
… why is she telling me this?
And when I still hadn’t heard a question in this waterfall of information and detail, nor even a request, a cold shiver went through me that I could not stop. I heard myself asking her,
“How did you know I was trans?”
Instead of a direct answer, I heard instead that she actually has other friends who transitioned years back and struggled, and are very brave, and after two in-depth stories about these friends, she confesses that she has seen me many times up here.
Now, for those of you who have never seen me. I am working very hard to reclaim a body that spent 50 years being Raised by Wolves. I’m happy to report, it’s working. And so is the estrogen. I have hips, and I am starting to get an hourglass figure. A woman is emerging In place of all the sweets and carbs I have given up. On this day, in fact, I am looking quite cute (ask Mylove) in athletic tights and red trainers (way better word than sneakers, I think) and, my hair is pulled up into a cute top spray. I’m wearing my Audrey Hepburn oversized sunnies… I tell you this so you too will have the same vision that she had. That way, you too should see my crest falling…
Which makes her talk even faster, and I hear her say:
“But really honey, you are so close, you are at least 80 percent. Yes, 80 percent for sure.”
Now. I don’t want you to misunderstand me. First, yes I was thunderstruck. And we’ll talk about that in few paragraphs, but I need you to know that I was so blown away by her blunt honesty and matter-of-fact brightness, that I kept talking to her and actually walked the rest of my morning hike with her (albeit more the stroll mode).
We parted ways at my home trail. I agreed to talk to her daughter and help her in any way that I could and when the subject of my career path came up (30 years in television, I know a thing or two about documentary filmmaking), she was overjoyed and proclaimed this meeting “meant-to-be.” I can’t lie, I felt that way too… I found out all kinds of interesting and wonderful things about her and, yes, we could be friends.
When I got home and told Mylove about the whole encounter, just as I was about to say her name, Mylove said it with me in stereo, “Oh, you met Lenka. She’s amazing, isn’t she? A brilliant light.” Hmmm, where have I heard that before? I guess it was meant to be, just as she said. And so I followed-up, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It feels weird after all that to confess that, as wonderful as it was, I was still… “unsettled.”
Okay, I promised, so here goes…
Eighty percent? Eighty? Eight-o percent-o. A solid “B.” A nice, “thank-you for playing” rating?
Eighty percent of what? Of womanhood? Of physical femininity? Of you’re almost there, but not quite? I’ve heard of measuring up… but really?
Why did this number rock my world? Well. It couldn’t have come at a more intense time or as they say, happen to a nicer girl. In the week leading up to this, I’ve had to endure whispers behind my back that the timing of my “choice” to be a woman was ill-timed. (This was from someone who should know how wrong at all levels that thought is.) I had direct in-my-face accusations that I haven’t “paid my dues – by working at sh*t jobs, like most women.” With these, I have no idea where to even start to correct these misconceptions. They are deep judgments that all my good deeds and my past efforts can’t seem to cleanse.
I was accused of conflating make-up, hair, and clothes with being a woman.
It doesn’t matter how many disclaimers I put out, this is the gum on my shoe that I can’t shake for love nor money. And, if I’m honest with myself, I have to confess that the number of references I make to the above, with all their requisite rationales and justifications, don’t quite add up to making the case for acquittal.
But, this was flung at me like the bag of trash that sprayed the feet of the teary Iron Eyes Cody, and… it hurt.
Do I celebrate my femininity every day with the way I now freely present myself to the world? Oh, heck yes! Do I still have a sense of urgency to make up for lost time? Without a doubt. Does it matter how I look? Well, yes honey, it does. Just as much as it does for the next girl: okay, maybe a little more enthusiastically than the average middle-aged woman, and just shy of obsessed, but not for the psychotic reasons that would land me in therapy. I care because I can now fully, freely, care about how I look. I can look into a mirror and see me. Caring and taking the time to do something about it does not define or confirm my womanhood, it glorifies it. My womanhood. Not yours or hers or Mylove’s. Mine. It also doesn’t say a thing about your womanhood. It doesn’t comment on what you should do or not do, just as yours doesn’t, mine.
Especially since it’s apparently only at 80%, anyway.
This was the frame of mind that was my “plus one” as I went to my friend Tarrah Von Lintel’s Art Gallery for the opening of Mark Seliger’s “On Christopher Street” Photography Show. My iPhone crapped-out on the way there, killing my GPS and sense of direction so much that I got horrifying lost. (I actually had to resort to orienteering survival skills, thanks, John Hudson.) Finally, I arrived 15 minutes before it closed (I missed about 80 percent of the show?) and, together with close to 300 people, I was taken by the portraits of transgender people who live in the Christopher Street neighborhood of New York. These portraits were stark black and white, with the soft-focused background urban textures, like armor worn proudly by these people. There were singles and duets; a quartet my favorite. They were from all walks of life, and all pure New Yorkers. The camera caught their steely, worldly, been-there stares. They are Loud. Proud. Out. 100 percent there.
The crowd appeared to my 80 percent perspective to be 50-50 percent “cis” to trans split. There was a spectrum of the trans community present. So many faces I had never seen before. I glommed on to my new BFF Ashlee (whom I met thru Tarrah), and she was a friendly life raft in a sea of anonymity. Ashlee,who was live on Facebook as I hugged her hello, spent the rest of my fifteen minutes introducing me to everyone who came with ten feet (she’s like that). And I met some amazing people, doing amazing work for our community. It was a vibrant, happy, hopeful vibe, and I was sorry when the lights began to go off, effectively “brooming us out “of the gallery as the show closed. As I drove home, I had to admit to myself that I haven’t really been involved in the LA community maybe as much I should be. I’m an author and speaker, darn it, helping the world understand our experience – and the world out there is so… big.
A few days later, I had lunch with Tarrah and we talked about this. Now, she is a solid pillar of grace and calm wisdom. She admitted she had never had such a happy, hopeful vibe at any of her openings before. As the conversation got deeper regarding my experience of the portraits, I confessed that as amazing as they were “technically,” some of them were actually a bit “on the nose” (LA speak for “expected,” i.e. clichéd) with regard to the transgender “narrative.” (Also LA speak, but also used by many to describe the commonly held belief that we think we invented it. But really, it’s a collective story we tell ourselves to document and ascribe meaning to our various groupings.) And by this I mean that there are several “tropes” (this one is ours – LA speak, I mean) such as “trans street walkers,” “trans overcompensators,” and “trans body alteration.”
To be transparent (I couldn’t - but maybe shudda - resist), the niggle in my tummy was that too often these tropes become truths – that is, they become “prejudices” or, at the least, “preconceived notions” about any sector of society. In this case, our trans community that can impede equality. That’s the fear anyway, and, I admit, it was sorta mine. It’s why GLAAD exists. It’s why we try to bust stereotypes of all kinds. It’s the first steps toward (my fingers are gagging on the word as they type), normalization. We’ll talk later about why, if I take a breath, I try to never buy into this fear or oversimplification, but for this post, Tarrah is the hero…
So without further ado…
Tarrah defended her choices (after all, she is the curator for the show, and those were her choices) saying that that was precisely why she chose the more provocative shots (a few were the professional sex workers in the neighborhood). These photos asked us all (especially trans people) to confront internalized transphobia. We are not the choices many of us have had to make to live – and we certainly better not be judging those choices as the measure of character. In our community, the hard options between life and obliteration are never easy, never cut-and-dried, never the easiest path. Our choices are never between being what we are and hiding. but rather, how we will live as who we are with the world often not only in our way but actually conspiring against us.
And, all of that, our history, our journey, our legacy, in the glare of the streetlamps was on display in all it’s glory in the denizens of Christopher Street. As Tarrah says, “These people completely owned their authenticity, 100 percent.”
Really. 100 percent.
Well then, and tell me you saw this coming if I’m 80 percent…?
Was that what Lenka was talking about? Did I just presume (shut-up, Tarrah) that she meant I was 80 percent woman when she meant I was 80 percent … trans?
80 percent authentic? 80 percent both? (Um, ain’t that 160 percent?)
Nah… I’m sure she meant… well, she must’ve meant… Come on, as a cis-woman, she had to mean… (Gosh darn you Tarrah! How dare you make me… think!)
Shoot, okay, so now, I’m confused. And why am I allowing myself to fling myself down this rabbit hole? Well, actually there’s a very good reason. Because that’s also who and what I am. When I realized that my real survival mechanisms weren’t the ones that had me believe that I could finish out this precious gift of life from God as “half of a man,” but were the ones that finally, blessedly kicked in when annihilation seemed truly imminent to live life as a whole woman.
But if Lenka’s right. Let’s say I am 80 percent. That means I still have work to do. What 20 percent should I start on? The woman part? The trans part? Both? (And never mind that I am already devoting all of me to working on both. As my writing partner always reminds me, the biggest room on the planet is the room for improvement.) So… it’s a poser, yes it is a real stickler.
Maybe Tarrah is right. Maybe I should get to work right away on that part that cares too much about what other’s think.
And in that case, maybe Lenka is right… I’m almost there.
My Godson’s name is Sam. He’s 24 years old. I have watched in awe as this precocious child grew to be an amazing man. Not so special, you say? Well this man was dragged through a knothole backwards called “Autism.” As I wrote in my book, through his parents tirelessly, selflessly (well, there’s just no adverb that adequately describes how they, and Sam) wrested his life from the cul-du-sac of society’s narrow-minded ways. Maybe it’s because they worked for Sam to live, instead, a rich and wonderful life. And lo’ and behold, when all was said and done (and yes, that word done is elastic too), Sam and fam live what some might actually accuse them of living,… a normal life (tho’ that’s a four-letter word in our world).
But, I won’t lie, we all had to learn how to live this life with Sam. There wasn’t a map and they were making it up as they went. But, it wasn’t hard to zip left or slide right as things changed. I myself have asked the world to change how they live with me. So, Sam and I, well, we’re alike that way.
Sally Joy, Sam’s sainted mother, has patiently guided me in my interactions with Sam until, I as a big girl, was able to do my part and develop my own relationship with Sam.
Now, I, or at least my work, have always had a special place in Sam’s world. My syndicated children’s TV show, “Pug And Zero’s Field Trip” was, for a long time, Sam’s “stim.” “Stimming” (some say it’s short for Self-Stimulation) is a term which refers to the default behavior that some on the autism spectrum use when social situations become confusing or uncomfortable. The person tries to calm themselves by making repetitive sounds or hand and body movements. In Sam’s case, he would recite an entire episode of P&Z from start to finish, including the commercials. Flattering, huh? It was until I realized that, if I tried to interact with him during these episodes, he wasn’t looking at me, but rather through me. If I interrupted him, he would start over from the very beginning.
But, as I said, Sally & Ed (Sam’s father) turned their entire life into learning how to be in Sam’s world, rather than allow his round peg to be slammed into the world’s square holes. And it started to work. Luckily, Pug and Zero would eventually become just another one of Sam’s favorite TV shows and it turned out to be a bit of inspiration (what every artist hopes for).
Sam became a filmmaker just like me, and earned the basic techniques of stop-motion animation and creating cartoons. He wanted to follow in my footsteps. As a teenager, Sam took on a gargantuan task of producing a “making of” featurette for the home video version of my indie-horror feature film, “the kiss.”
As one of his Godparents, of course I would make use of any opportunity to show my Godson how our business is run. Sam stood up for himself creatively, and threw tantrums where appropriate (that’s my boy!), and showed both potential and a maturing as an artist. The end result was a pretty good half-hour of television – with no excuse for his age or experience. The best part of this was being involved with Sam on a regular basis. And our relationship also started to mature.
The fog swept in, and Mylove and I had to deal with our own lives. Gender Dysphoria. Cancer. Turmoil… a tiny bit of chaos. Marcy and I had to circle our own wagons and cling to each other for dear life as the stagecoach careened passed the “bridge-out ahead” sign. We were heading for the… (sorry, I’ve run out plum out of western movie metaphors to paint the hardest years of our marriage with a sardonic wash). What I’m trying to say is that, as we braced for impact, we didn’t have a hand left to reach out to family and friends.
I was sad when Sally Joy confessed that they were hurt (tho’ they understood) by our silence. I realized, almost too late, that they were one of the inner circles that I forgot to have “the chat” with. (The chat is the formal, “hey, I’m a woman” phone call or, when lucky, face-to-face discussion, where we start the process of changing the pronouns for me in the hearts, minds, and mouths of those closest to me.)
I’ll just blurt it out right here: Sally Joy had a rough time processing my transition. So much so, that she had to paint me in order to understand me. (Her portrait of my FB profile pic, which announced my transition to the world, is on the cover of the first edition of my book, “Getting Back To Me”.)
But Sam didn’t have a rough time. It took him about 15 seconds to transition me in his heart. It blew me away how fast the speed of love is, and how much it bends the trees when it passes…
Fast forward to 2015.
Sam posted on his FB page – “Congrats to Bradley Whitford for his supporting actor Emmy as Marcy in Transparent.”
Now, you need to know that Sam has quite the connection to Bradley – dating back to his “The West Wing” days. Sam will say that it’s Bradley and his support of Sam back then, that made Sam want to get into acting (which he also does professionally, B-T-Dubs). Sam went on in his post to say that “here’s also a painting my Mom did of one of my Godmothers, Aunt Scottie, who is a trans woman.”
Insert crack of thunder here…
Why did I just feel the world shift on it’s axis?
Why did it strike me so hard?
I told both of us (you and me) how well Sam took the news about me and immediately recoded me in his wetware. I had already celebrated his acceptance.
So, why did this benign posting hit me like the proverbial “ton of bricks?”
Part of it was my survival software kicking in… “Captain! Radar shows extreme risk of negativity from a direct Facebook outing.” Battle stations? What? Permission to engage? Are you kidding? Do I still need to worry about the world knowing about me? Am I not over this? Should I be over this? Why does it matter?
Sam’s posting forced me to look at the dichotomy of my feelings. As I said in GBTM, I am a woman (no trans qualifier/prefix). I want the world to know me, regard me as a woman. When new people meet me, I don’t shake their hand and say, “Hi, I’m trans.” I want them, after meeting me to say to themselves, what an amazing woman. Or, hey that chick is pretty cool. Or, that lady is freakin’ smart. Or who’s that girl? Heck, I’ll take anything that celebrates and recognizes me for the woman I am.
AND, at the very same time, I always stand with my sisters and brothers in the trans community. I respect everyone’s right to identify as they see fit, just as I want that same respect from others.
Granted, to stay coherent in the dialogue, I do use the term trans as a short cut to describe my experiences when appropriate. It’s why I usually just say, speaking as a woman who was “Raised by Wolves,” I yada yada yada.
So I called Sam to have a chat about “it’s okay for me to say I’m trans, but it’s better if someone grants me the courtesy of asking me when they want to refer to me as trans, especially in print. Trust me, my words were already falling apart before I even said them. His posting was not only innocent, it was respectful and, freakin’ celebratory. My Godson was proud of me.
Sam, of course, was wonderful, and he got my dilemma right away – it clicked for him even as I fumbled and stumbled to make sense. He said that he faces a similar quandary when he gets described as an “autistic man,” rather than “justa” man.
We both agreed that we are proud of our pasts, but that we are not our pasts anymore. I admit that I do feel a little weird looking back or if I get reminded about my past. In the end, it was a fruitful. and heady, terribly intellectual conversation with my Godson, now a man, and we connected in a mature way – each bringing our experiences to the table as equals. It was truly magical and I was proud of my Sam.
But nothing prepared for the floor dropping out as I decided to steer the conversation into more personal waters.
I asked Sam about his girlfriend. She and Sam have been dating for almost two years. And I will confess, I, like most people, didn’t take young “relationships” in the family, seriously. I mean, they last for a semester at best, right? But when Sam & she passed the two-year mark, it got my attention… and Sam is smitten with her.
Sam has that amazingly, wonderful and dizzying relationship with “first love” as much as he does this particular young woman. As a young man who hasn’t had the traditional childhood and teen years of most people his age, Sam hasn’t ever had a serious relationship until she came along. And that means he hasn’t been tainted by heartache or by cynicism or by gender politics, and I hope he never is…
… but I was absolutely mesmerized by the timbre of his voice as he described how she makes him feel. I felt a buoyancy in my body that went straight to sweet and exhilarating vertigo, late summer sun sneaking through the clouds of an unseasonal rain, a fresh breeze blowing Zuzu’s chimes and Sam’s first love sparkling in the air like stardust, kinda dizzying.
I didn’t want what he had, I was just happy that he had it!
I wasn’t wishing I had that first love – I knew I had never lost it.
No, this was an “elder auntie” joy at reveling in her Godson’s joy.
And this was a new feeling –an incredibly subtle, yet amazingly powerful feeling that ripped through my entire body like lightning, and ocean waves, and morning breezes, and maple syrup.
And this is something that feels weird to admit out loud. We in the trans community try to explain our existence to a world that already doesn’t, for even a moment, get how or why we are. Explaining something with “born-again fervor,” like it’s the first time that emotion has ever been felt in the history of humankind, seems as if we have been in a sleeping beauty slumber, until estrogen’s kiss wakes us. Which seems at odds with the “I’ve felt this way my whole life.”
Well, if we did, then, why does it feel so new?
And why am I worried to say that out loud?
Because we are judged up one side and down the other more than many other groups. We already are confusing and don’t fit into anyone’s box. So, when our stories don’t add up, we are vulnerable to being dismissed, discounted and just plain dissed… each one a spokesperson to the circle we’re addressing of the entire trans experience. Talk about pressure. Talk about the exposure. Talk about inaccurate.
Yes. We are snowflakes. No one speaks for us all… but that doesn’t stop our being put in that position. By your mom. By your boss. By your neighbor who knows everything.
Your family & friends are trying their absolute best (mostly) to understand something that they have been told by life and society is un-graspable. So, when you hit on something that shines a light on an aspect that becomes clear for them, it’s understandable that they would try to apply that across the board.
That might work in almost every static case of circumstances, but never works in practical one-on-one human relations. Even those in the fields of psychology realize that the only thing they can predict about another human is that they will be unpredictable. Still, the human mind wants to hold them accountable for knowing.
We have watched our every word for our entire lives – weighing, worrying, dissecting. Will our words stand up to scrutiny? Will I pass muster? Will my words “out me?” Will I put everything I hold dear at risk; will I put my life at risk?
So… yes, it’s a tough habit to break. But it gets easier everyday.
Because I now live everyday in the pure light of sunshine’s embrace. And I grow a little more everyday. Watered and tended by the love of Mylove. Of my Sam. And those around me.
So, yes, Sam, I am:
One of your Godmothers.
Your Aunt Marcy’s love.
Your Aunt Scottie.
Sam, I am, Yours.
Well, well, well… 2017. Here. We. Are. And, B-T-Dubs, welcome! To my regular readers, thank you for the little Christmas break. If you missed the ending, it’s in the archives. Thank you for indulging me, letting me wax a little nostalgic and, most importantly recharging. Now, back to this blog, eh?
I will confess, that this experience can be a little like having an “online diary” that the world is welcome to peruse to their own peril. I am surprised at the things I will say with my fingers to seeming stranger, but you’re no strangers, you’ve decided to follow me. So I need to “bring it,” as they say, and make this worth your time. Opening a window into our marriage and the transformation its going through is hopefully worth everyone’s time. So, we have fearlessly put on our crash helmets and pulled down the roll cage, as Bette Davis is often misquoted as saying, ”it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” So with that, let 2017’s wild rumpus start!
Beauty & the Breast -
One thing I need to make sure every reader understands of my experience is that it is (proudly) the perspective of a woman married for coming up on 28 years.
Marriage is everything everyone says it is.
And if you’re like me, you’ve gone through some very interesting stages and changes (okay, I hear you snickering – I’m talking about the “expected changes” – oxymoron if never there was one – that everyone faces over the course of a human life, silly). These stages or changes have certainly changed the lens through which I view life. I had an arrogance about our accomplishment at ten years of marriage that was way gone by year 20. The longer I’ve been married, the more talking about it or thinking about makes even less sense… and, yet, paradoxically, it makes oh-so-much more (sense).
I can’t imagine not being married.
Really… and I have been making a living imagining the impossible into existence, dreams into reality and (with reality) foretelling the future. Seriously. (But then, foretelling the future with today’s reality show “talent” is like shooting fish in a barrel, and is not even on par with a good card trick.) So reality, I just cannot imagine not being married.
And that’s only because of Marcy. Mylove.
I can’t imagine not being with her for even a day, and with all the powers of my imagination, I certainly just can’t conjure a world where she and I are not in it, together.
Through fighting her cancer, and lovingly transforming our marriage that started as a seemingly cis-hetero “traditional” marriage into a love affair between two women wedded in more bliss (if that was even possible) than ever before, everything we’ve done, was done together. Including the creation and nurturing of the greatest relationship in human history.
But as two middle-aged women, this isn’t as easy as anyone wants to make it. Nor is it something either of us is proud to admit. And surprisingly (at least to this girl), the big things have always been easy – the choices are clear and the action (or inaction) relatively defined. Sorry, newlyweds, but it’s the small things that trip you up. Maybe It’s that, as you get older, you get less willing to put up with less, more willing to expect more, and you both know how to get it, from each other – both good and bad. The danger is that we are also quicker to slip into the kindergarten mentality that less for you means more for someone else, and vice reverse. Marriage is the knowledge that that “zero sum” bullshit is just that, and has no place in marriage. Less for you is never more for her. And yet more for you can mean less for her – and why oh why would anyone in love want that?
Okay, so, now you can add the layer of our transition (see what I mean? We do everything together). As I continue to grow into the woman I am, blossoming and developing and yes, changing right before her very eyes, we’ve stubbed our toes on some surprising bumps in the road.
And since the cat is literally out of the bag (at least here) that I am going to have GCS, this example takes on a certain poignancy that has us both nodding and scratching our heads.
First of all, some context for those of you just joining this show. Yes, I am physically changing and nobody has watched this with as much fascination and, let’s be real, trepidation, as Mylove. Her knight in shining armor has already been riding sidesaddle. The arms that have held her, the chest that has pressed against hers, the face that she studied, the hair that she has run her hands through for all these years – the man she thought she had married has curves and softer skin, hips, a waist… and yes. Breasts.
Soon, there won’t be anything male left.
And as dramatic as all this is to Marcy,When I stare into the mirror the woman who stares back at me is … well, let’s say, yes, she’s working very hard, and God has blessed her with certain, “charms,” but…
Let’s take a moment here to look at that “but.”
Because it’s a “bone of contention” between trans women and cis women, that frankly seems very odd to me. And this is important because in the abstract, every cis-woman seems to agree with us trans gals – we all have physical “flaws” we either wish we could fix, or, have stopped looking at (or, yes, even really figured out a way to just not care about). Our physical appearance is a bizzillion dollar industry fed by media, society (and yes, biology). That this is true is the subject of countless books, films, talks, and mother-daughter chats, and is usually not in dispute. In 2017, this is something that we as all women have started to make some in-roads into getting men to understand. The ugly truth is we as women are just not raised not to care about how we look. And despite everything Gloria taught us, and we are trying to make true about our worth, we are still objectified, judged, sexualized and scrutinized for it.
Trans women have all that AND we are coming from behind the power curve. Our bodies have been saturated in testosterone – our bones and muscles, skin and everything else has been bombarded into an image that for many is a massive mountain to scale toward feminine form. Not only is that a hair on our chin, but it’s a chin chiseled by testosterone! To top that off, we haven’t been raised or taught any sort of acceptance of ourselves, only complete and total surrender. And lastly (unless we go the showgirl route), we aren’t taught the tools to “make-do” with what we got.
Try accepting that.
It’s not possible (for this girl anyway), and it’s why the walls eventually fell.
A confession here – some cis-women try to make it “okay,” with any efforts we make toward feminizing our appearance, making exceptions to beauty’s rules for us because, well, for all the reasons above. Yes, thank you, and we love you for trying – but… no.
So, that’s the backstory when I or my sisters say… I really need to change this about me…
And as I work to retake my body from the ravages of testosterone through hormones, exercise, diet, and eyeliner, and yes, surgery, I guess all I’ve ever been asking is please understand what that really is – or rather what it’s not – vanity. It’s not a misunderstanding. I’m not misguided.
No. A surgeon won’t make me a woman. God already did that. An endocrinologist can’t make me a woman. God already did that. Cosmetics and wardrobe don’t make me a woman.
God did that.
So, with all that in mind, we now return you to our regularly scheduled marriage. A marriage that was love at first sight for both us. But, she was married at the time. So, instead we got to know each other as friends, and when fate thought it was finally time to intervene, it struck us like a thunderbolt. Throughout our marriage, just like the very first time I laid eyes on her, Marcy’s beauty would always bring tears to my eyes, and over time my regard for her physical beauty and sexuality and sensuality has been burnished deeper by passion, love, respect and is and always has been – as brilliant as a thousand suns.
As I transform, I’m learning that she was enraptured by the little things about me – the strength in my hand as it effortlessly balanced and (simultaneously operated) a broadcast video camera on my shoulder. The ways my eyes focused on any obstacle, the way light played across my “cute Lil Polska nose” (don’t ask – I’m Polish and Finnish on my mother’s side… and well it’s a long story). But, and here’s the punchline - she admits that I’m way cuter as a woman.
That said, she has never been attracted to women, whereas I have only been attracted to women. So my transformation right before her very eyes, tho’ interesting, is not what she ever wanted in a partner. And tho’ she wasn’t blown away by masculine form, she was attracted to the overall package.
And here’s where it gets surprising and… a little dicey. Because as I start to mature into the woman I am, and get more confident with what I want and how I want to be, I’m developing my own sense of style and self.
Previously (and by that I mean, over close to three decades of romance and daily life), Marcy had been the arbiter of all things woman. She had set the bar for what was and was not desirable and acceptable in the world of femininity. And, this, I can say, is how it should be. Yes, there are too many times when a woman will give up what she wants to make her mate (man or woman – we’re not discriminating here) happy. We’re talking about maintaining the laws of attraction, right? It’s a two-way street. But someone is driving the car if you catch my drift. In a perfect relationship, both are driving together in the same direction… what someone is or has or wears or accentuates or whatever is attractive to their lover.
I will confess that this did take me a few years to figure out. Early in our marriage, I bought what I would want to see Marcy in (and soon to be out of) which was not always how she would want me to see her (and certainly not what she wanted to wear or take off. Period). Over time, she helped me see how she views her body and her beauty, which like many women is both the product of trial and error, personal taste, and a dash of history. And, like many women, is defined as much by what she wants to wear as by what she would never be caught dead in.
Because I am a woman, tho’ she didn’t know it at the time, I understood... perfectly, eventually. Remember, a lot of a woman’s upbringing isn’t done out in the open, certainly not in our day. Propriety and modesty are hallmarks of the feminine world. “A lady has her secrets.” “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” “This is just between us girls.” Mystery cloaks the things that boys frankly think are too icky to want to know.
Marcy was and should be in charge of her. And that was the standard of beauty in our home. She took great pride in her natural beauty – very little make-up, comfortable clothes, health, sunshine and yoga lifestyle. Now, let’s be real here. She looks freakin’ amazing even if, as my father would say, she wore a burlap sack. Nobody can ever guess her age. But her beauty comes from meticulous care of herself for over fifty years – and great genes. She has eschewed the beauty trends throughout five decades because she never wanted her beauty to be depended on any technique or product. No hair coloring, no nail polish nothing toxic in anyway. She never needs much to light up a room. And this is not just my opinion… tho’ it is my experience. She is beauty incarnate.
But now, there’s two sets of hands on that steering wheel… in that car careening down Beauty Blvd.
And the other set is an enthusiastic newbie who never, ever thought she would live this dream come true and is going to make darn sure, she gets the most out of every moment she still has left.
I never thought I could rock a set of acrylic nails.
I never dreamed I could color my hair to a color I actually wanted.
Tho’ I am an artist, I never believed that I could draw a black winged swoosh on my eyelids, or that it would actually look… darn… adorable? Nah… it’s, dare I say… actually… sexy?
Yes, I could wear pants. Women do wear pants. Yes, Katherine Hepburn looks killer in pants. Marcy rocks pants like nobody’s business, all my women friends wear pants! But I’ve worn them every day for fifty years – four-letter-word, pants, and dayam if I… holy moly, I got my mother’s gams! Gimme the miniskirt!
And yes, heels. Hell yes heels! I hear all the essays about how they are a symbol of this and that but, FOR ME – they represent freedom. So, yes, I can wear them, thank God.
And… yes, I’ve been blessed with being Monday’s child and will not have to resort to FFS. But, and here’s another confession, I did draw the line after permanent lip liner, well I didn’t draw it – Layla my aesthetician did – and my lips are fuller now (I also got my mom’s lips, can’t have everything, I suppose).
But… here comes the surprise. Marcy actually liked the lip liner. That’s not the surprise. She does roll her eyes at some of my skirt lengths – but she will admit, if pressed, that I do actually have the legs to pull most of them off.
No, the surprise came when I announced that I was going to see if I could also get breast augmentation when they did my GCS. (This a common practice for a lot of trans women – same recovery time, but one less trip under anesthesia, and it gets done all at once.)
Now, this, for every woman is a very personal decision. Hormones have done a very good job at giving me “the girls,” but, they are still on a skeleton that was constructed with testosterone for many years. And proportionally, they could use some… well, augmentation.
Marcy was silent for a very long time.
I know, this is never a good sign.
But also, I’ve (THANK GOD) learned something very important during this transition. My words aren’t ever going to change her feelings. And I’m an idiot if I think that’s even desirable – really. You win the fight but lose the support – now, how bad did you really want what you were fighting for?
Finally, she confessed that I can do what I want, but she’s saying this out loud – she’s not sure she can deal with touching ‘fake boobs.”
So… I swallowed all of the stuff that was wrestling to be the first to shoot out of my mouth… she is okay, even supportive, and really understands how critically important it truly is that I will undergo GCS. A major, life-changing, world altering irreversible surgery. But… and, there’s that but again, she is not okay with “cosmetic” surgery.
I decided to try to understand what she was saying.
I get it.
Woman to woman, I appreciate that this could be taken as a slight of the woman Marcy is. As if she’s somehow not good enough. Like she’s not the kind of woman I admire enough to want to be. She could say that she has “brought me up right” – teaching me the things that only women know about their bodies and beauty and self-image. So, why wouldn’t I honor that by being that same kind of woman. Her kind of woman.
Instead, it would seem, I’m the other woman.
But we’re in love. And in her defense, this is unlike other relationships – she didn’t “pick" me (in my current form) as people pick each other in the so-called “normal” way. Normally, two people meet each other, see something they like on some level, fall in love and decide to be in a relationship. Marcy met Scott, fell in love, decided to get married 27 years ago, and um… well, Scottie, well, let’s just say that she became “not the man” Marcy married. But she is, and always will be the person Marcy fell in love with.
So, yes, I’m the other woman. The key here will be balancing my drive to be the woman I always swore I’d be, while remaining attractive to my lover. Yes, she will (already has) accepted me fully and totally. But that’s not attraction. Attraction is that x-factor that gives love a place to sing and dance. How do you change what you are attracted to? Women have had to do this throughout our existence. In traditional marriages, we’ve had to be okay that our men got fat and bald (while maintaining our figures for him), so it’s a skill we’ve developed. But that puts it on Marcy, and that’s not how we do things around here.
All I can say at this point is… this isn’t settled by a long shot. Work in Progress as they say on the set.
Work in Progress, indeed.
In the careful what you wish for department, Scottie gets a lesson in keeping a weekly blog. As you may remember, back on the other side of the Christmas Holiday, I promised a sugar cookie of post, to give myself time to recharge my creative batteries and come out blazing in 2017. And so I posted tow installments of a story I wrote to brighten my sister KJ oh-so-many years ago... But as luck, scotch tape and gingerbread would have it (not to mention Cedar Planked salmon, Italian Brined Turkey, chestnut ildroast with tomato raisens, pinenut toffee, and every appa-teaser you can name - those of you who have read my book know, this is my time and me and my kitchen create a hurricane of food for those I love) where was I? Oh you I was making an excuse for not posting the rest of Rdy's adventures...
I'm sorry. Here it is. Merry Christmas -
It's going to be a big year for all of us - and for those, who once again, find ourselves getting further from the America that is promised by our hopes and dreams and Constitution, this is our time to answer the call. I will be there. With You. So, until then... a little more light for your holiday:
“Her Highness, the Empress of Grace...”
And so they did.
They crossed the ocean of dreams but were horrified to discover that the belief of all things magical was suffering a world wide epidemic. Fading refugees from all over the Kingdom of the Imagination clogged the golden streets, ghostly forms, indeed, wraiths of their former selves, clamored for an audience with the Empress. The Hallmark Posse' stared wide-eyed at each other, realizing that something was truly amiss. The normally bright sunny skies were clouded by gray fog and a stench had cloaked, okay, that's putting it nicely, when choked-out is probably more accurate, the fragrance from the sunshine tree blossoms that the Kingdom was famous for.
At once a winged horseman swooped down from the castle battlements and cornered the posse.
"Toothfairy, Cottontail and you darn leprechauns, zounds is that you?” For who could blame the horseman, their gangsta bling (they were taking this posse' thingy, like, literally) was blinding in the fog and gloom. “If you please, curtsied the Toothfairy, “We’ve come to kick-it with the Top Girl.” "Yeah, She needs to end the tentz brothers and pronto!" The Horseman scratched his plumed mane. “I, um... well I have no idea what language you’re speaking, but the the Empress has been expecting you, and summons you to her throne at once!"
The gates were opened and the guards dressed for battle stepped aside. The posse was escorted to her Majesty herself.
"No, it is not news what happening! But what is puzzling is how did you make back across the ocean? My entire Armada is stuck in port, nothing in or out." The Empress cried as she put on some cheap sunglasses, “Much better, “ she stared down at the posse from her throne.
"Oh, Girl you don’t know the half, Toothie here is so faint, she can't lift a quarter, let alone a baby tooth. And I couldn't heft a basket full of Easter joy for all the crunk in the world.”
"Yes, but none of that explains how you got past my outter walls"
"Well," said the leprechauns, "we had n reason to believe it was not possible."
" said the Toothfairy, "we had to get to you by the third act. Duh."
"Well, Santa might be able to help from his side of the pond. Go! The lot of you, before it's too late, if nothing else, he's got to be warned. If he fails at Christmas, all belief could be wiped out overnight and then think of the pickle we'd be in!" Oh... and take off that ridiculous costume jewelry, you look like the Home Shopping Network!”
And so they did.
“A Ray of Light?”
And as Bah Humbug continued to test his bars by throwing the day’s unlucky hobgoblin into the light, he noted that the power of his prison was dropping at a significant rate -- it was only a matter of time before even he could squeeze between the bars without touching and thus go free. Then, he would orchestrate the greatest assault on the Hearts of men ever staged by an evil genius. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, Ol Bah'sie became a master tap dancer as well -- smoothly side stepping Baba Raga's amorous advances...
And languishing away in Frostelli's grimy canvas-covered world, and despite the love of Hannah, Rudolph, our hero was really a mess. A lugging, slogging slug, who could drain the light from a noon-day sun with his, um, most folks call it, demeanor. Hannah would try to lift his spirits with reassurances of his greatness and chin scratches (which, he had to admit were very good) Eecko, however, finally found an un-challenging ear for all of his half-baked conspiracy theories. As long as he brought a nightly supply of half-eaten store-bought sugar cookies (you know the kind they sell in gas-station convenience stores, made in a country you can't pronounce and by a company you never heard of) and stale carnival popcorn, Rudolph could endure the barrage of Eecko's cock-a-maybe excuses for failure.
But now, even Frostelli’s freakshow was suffering from the gloom. The foggy storm had cut into everyone's business, and though, as we’ve said before -- when the going gets tough, the weak laugh at other's misfortunes -- nothing was able to flourish under the belching fog of the Mountain trolls. Finally, everyone kept indoors and to themselves.
At last, the posse' found their way to the heavy oaken door of Santa's North pole workshop. As they swung the knocker that banged against his door, they beat their arms against the cold. "I never got this whole north pole thingy,” shivered Peter Cottontail, “I mean his sleigh doesn't need this stuff when he goes to Hawaii."
"Who is it?!" Thundered the famous baritone from behind the door.
"Santa, it's Toothy, Peter and your friends, those darn Leprechauns -- we bring a message from her Highness, the Empress herself."
"I'm days before my big night and I can't afford to hand out with a buncha choke-artists, like you guys!"
"Us guys? Now that's a bit harsh, don't ya think?"
"Listen you overblown Coka Ad! Nobody talks to us like that!"
The Leprechauns weren't about to travel all that way to be denied. So up and into his chimney they flew and stumbled out onto his hearth. What they saw horrified even them. There, peeking out the keyhole and barring his own front door was Santa -- or, at least it used to be Santa, even he had become a fading memory of the beloved icon of belief and imagination.
"Why, you fading old fraud!" "Blimey, he's as bad as us!"
Santa whirled about and stared at the intruders. But instead of getting mad, his shoulders slumped. "Oh, what's the use," he unlocked the door with resignation and The Tooth fairy and Peter Cottontail ran immediately for the fireplace, standing with their bums to the flames hopping about to get warm.
"So, now you know," he said. "It started yesterday, right after breakfast. And anyway, what would it matter – that fog is so thick I wouldn’t send a dog out on a night like this.
“Ouch!” said Peter, his famous cotton tail singed by the flames, “What about Rudolph?”
“He ran away – Vixen and the boys said he left mumbling something about blowing this penny-ante gig. I never would’ve believed it of him... he was such a nice kid. – the bottom line? I'm... that is, we're doomed."
Peter, still nursing burnt bum hairs sputtered, "Santa, you can't cash in now. The entire kingdom is riding on your shoulders. If you fail to make your deliveries on Christmas Eve, then the Empress is certain that the belief of childhood will be snuffed out and we'll lose our real estate in the hearts of man for - ever. Forever, as in never, ya know the cosmic goose egg, the.. the..
“Petey?” softly nudged the Toothfairy...
“The big Zilch...” rambled the Easter bunny...
“The nebulous nada...”
“PETERRRRRRRRRRR!” shrieked the Toothfairy – windows cracking and glasses shattering, “sweetie... Santa-dear gets the pointie.”
“Yes, well... as you can well imagine, we've only got a tenuous hold on this so-called reality, as it is."
Santa paced back and forth in front of his fire, the flames showing through his vaporous form. "Confound our rotten luck."
“Ain’t it always the way?”
As with all fairy stories the Good guys forgot one simple truth. The bad guys always foil their own plans through greed and lack of trust.
For starters, Baba Raga was growing bored. Her work had lost it luster, and she realized she had become nothing more than a chambermaid to the mountain trolls, a waitress that served-up their daily meals of little white lies and subtle paranoias. Besides, she was tired of cooking the facts for two slobs that behaved like spoiled children, or worse, fraternity boys who took great delight in lighting each other's farts and watching the flames blast about, then roaring with glee if one caught his pants on fire, before realizing that as a two headed beast, they shared the same pants.
And, so it was that even Humbug's reassurances that they would marry, no longer kept Baba Raga at bay. The company of the other witches didn't help at all. They were all spoiling for some action and nothing pleases a gaggle of girls more than the planning of a wedding. They began to fill Baba Raga's head with all sorts of romantic notions of how her dress could look and what color napkins the cake should be served on and all matters of great import. When the girls laughed her out of the tea cozy, when Baba Raga didn't even have an engagement ring yet, she marched to prison to settle it once and for all.
There as she crept up the corridor of doom, she overheard her beloved Humbug snickering with his lawyer, the river troll, F. Flea Bailout, "Hah, it's all about to come to a head, the perfect plan. All that’s left is getting rid of the old hag Baba Raga and I can rule the world alone."
"Did you hear that?" Asked Humbug. The River troll wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes. "Hear what?"
"Nothing," said Humbug. "Must be the wind."
Baba Raga snuck away into the night, her mind already in overdrive," The treacherous double-dealing backstabber. I'll show him."
Tensions were high in the freakshow and Frostelli's daughter couldn't resist the temptation to do something stupid. She let some older kids (that she was trying to impress) into the show for free. When they were discovered, the daughter -- of course -- blamed Hannah and the wrath of Frostelli boiled over.He went looking for the orphan.
Into the tent where the animals were kept, stormed the very rotund Frostelli, SMACK! Without warning, his backhand lashed her cheek.
Enraged! Rudolph rose from his stupor, kicked the cage doors off the hinges and with a shout, flew across the tent at Frostelli, (who never believed the myth about flying reindeer and thus, never saw it coming.) A pair of cage-sharpened antlers lifted the obese and cruel Frostelli and flicked him through the walls of the tent like yesterday's garbage. Rudolph scooped-up the young orphan girl onto his back and off they flew to freedom.
But where? Yes, where, you ask? Me too, as I’m hearing this for the very just like you. (Hey, we're going off script, here... anyone? Anyone?) Okay, I guess it's just us, so... where woul they go?
Back home to the village that doesn't love him anymore?
Across to Hawaii, where native girls rubbed Coppertone on his antlers?
Hollywood, to kiss and tell all and get his own T.V. talkshow on the E! Channel?
No... What do you think... (remember this is a Christmas story...”)
Rudolph and Hannah flew up, up, and away thru the fart smelling gloom, “I need a breath of air, don’t you?” said the magicked reindeer.
Higher and higher, and higher to escape the choking fog and see the plight of the world. Hannah, who's heart is immune to the chill of despair, sees that the source of the darkness, “Rudy... it’s coming from the edge of the world.”
Rudolph saw that indeed the young orphan was right, and flew for a closer look. The stench was incredible this close to the source – have you ever smelled cooked facts before? Yeesh -- and then they saw it -- the great belching fire of the mountain trolls.
Hannah was distraught, ”Rudy, you have to save the world, you just have to...” but his time in captivity has taken it’s toll and Rudolph had grown callous and cold, "Why should I?, Eecko was right, Santa, the reindeers, nobody cared one whit about saving me, they probably didn't even know I was gone, or worse, were jealous and have been quite happy to let me rot in some rusty cage."
But Hannah stared at her furry friend with great compassion, "Even if that's true, what would make you happier? Helping people because you know it’s the right thing to do, or turning your back just to make your point?"
She had him there. Rudolph took a breath (easier now that they soared above the stench filled clouds) and remembered the feeling he had right before Santa unhooked his bridle after the Christmas of '62. Warm, sweet satisfaction of a job well done by all. Hannah saw the gleam in Rudy's eyes, "See, you do remember what I'm talking about, Eecko can't talk about it because all he's ever known is fear, but we know what it's like to feel free and it's our job to tell and show the world, even if it takes a thousand lifetimes."
With a snort and blast from his famous nose, the fire returns to Rudolph's’ heart and... nose! A blazing beacon of hope, illuminating the entire sky like a red comet (no, not that Comet – remember? He’s on the naughty list right now, and as soon as Santa finds out, oh boy, will there be “H”-“E”- double-toothpicks to pay...) No, a real blazing celestial body streaking across the Christmas sky!
And with that Rudolph plunges into the darkening fog...
“Twas’ the Night before...”
Christmas eve and Santa is fit to be tied. His elves, faded as they are, sweat like stuffed pig dolls trying to load the sleigh, but they too are weakened by the flagging belief of the world's children. “Confound it, lads! At this rate, we’ll be packed by Groundhog day!”
“Yeah, well why don’t you pack it yourself then, you... you...”
The room froze as Santa, still strong enough to wield his pen and list, licked the end of the quill and turned to the naughty section... “Okay, okay, step away from the pen, Old man... we’re all a little tense here, don’t go doing anything I might regret later.” His point made, Santa put away his list and turns to his army of toy makers and packers. “An extra ration of egg nog for all then back to work – the world of the imagination is depending on us – and I’ll not have the record book show that we lost this crucial battle for the hearts of children without a fight!”
HURRAH! Shouted the elves and redoubled their efforts!
And speaking of battle...
Sound and fury signifying everything! Rudolph and the mountain troll are locked in the epic struggle of all time!
Hannah, Rudolph’s cheerleader rubs it in every time the reindeer scores a blow. “Rah, Rah, Ree kick him in the knee... Rah, Rah Rass, kick his ever lovin’...”
But oh, no! Rudolph is out of breath – the stench of the troll has crowded out every last molecule of oxygen... “Hey, Malco!” “Yeah, Disco?” “Is it my imagination, or does ol’ Rudy’s red nose clash with his green skin?” “Yeah, this guy needs to have his colors done.”
It was true. But as his face became a blue that would go together better with his famous red nose, his strength gave out... and Rudolph collapsed at the feet of the troll. Hope was lost right there and then...
Hannah’s sobs caught in her throat as she watched the hideous two-headed mountain menace look down in victory.
Baba Raga, who should be happy, instead is furious, for during the battle the clumsy troll stumbled onto her cooking fire, smoldering embers and red-hot coals trampled under foot. “You moron!” Look at what you’ve done!”
It was true. Hannah saw the coals and embers ankle deep. “Doesn’t that hurt?” and then she remembered, that mountain trolls have skin so thick that fire doesn’t burn them... there’s only one place that’s too tender and we don’t want to go there...
Gloom and doom. Hope crushed. The mountain troll reaches reach down his giant finger to check on his prey.
But Rudy opens his eye a slit and winks to Hannah. He grabs the Mountain Troll’s index finger and with his last dying strength, pulls with all his might!
The Mountain Troll farts... a hurricane of stink and gas right into the ember’s of the witches cooking fire and...
VVVVVOOOOOOMMMMM! A column of fire roars right back up at the Troll – a direct hit to where the sun don’t shine...
Screamed both heads of the tentz brothers as they disappeared in a gigantic ball of fire! The Cooked facts, the White lies and Paranoia fueling the biggest bang this side of the cosmos.
Rudolph, Hannah and the witch Baba Raga, are nearly sucked into the black hole torn by the rending of the fabric of time and space... but they were spit back to the ground near the gigantic crater that used to be the witch’s lair.
“Impressive. The old, hey-kid-pull-my-finger trick. Unlike the readers, I didn’t see that one comin'.”
Baba Raga looks around at the wreckage of her life. “ but your efforts were in vein, the fog still covers the world and Christmas is just hours away. Tough tabernacles, eh?”
But Hannah is happy, and hugs her savior, saying "I always knew you could do it!"
“That you did, admitted Rudolph, “my powers never faltered, even though belief in myself may have wavered.”
Baba Raga wrinkled her nose, “Enough of this mutual admiration society! To tell the truth, I’m unsure whether to kiss you for having relieved me of cooking for that slob or kill you, since, you know, you’re one of the good guys and that’s what we do right?”
Baba Raga sat and stewed on her predicament, "Well, you won the battle, but lost the war, for while you were frittering away the last precious minutes with some two-bit menace with bad table manners, the real deal is going down... Bah Humbug's evil plan to destroy Christmas will eradicate the belief in all thing's good. It’s going to work and you won't be able to do a thing about it."
"How's that?" asked Rudy feeling pretty cocky having just dispatched the bully with his favorite girl looking on.
"When Santa is unable to deliver his goods, the last shred of hope in the world will be snuffed out like my cooking fire and Bah Humbug will be free again to poison the hearts of men with nervously imagined and whispered fears."
"Come on Hannah, I've done it once, I can do it again!" And off they flew to Santa's rescue yet again.
“Play it again Rudy...”
And so they did.
Santa has to all but drag his elite team out of the barn against their protests. "What's the use in even trying, we'll never make it time."
But a blazing beacon cuts thru the fog blanketed sky.
“Hey Comet, is that a comet?” No, Santa hasn't caught on to his treachery, yet silly... Comet doesn't even look up, "Funny, that's only the thousandth time I've heard that)
But Vixen is undeterred, so used to Comet's B-S. and recognizes the truth first... “It’s... it’s... the kid...”
Their hearts are lifted as Santa calls out, "On Dasher, On, Dancer, On Prancer, on what's-his-name, On Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen and Rudolph -- Dash away Dash away Dash away, ALL!"
And so they did.
And Christmas was saved.
And Bah Humbug was foiled.
And Baba Raga became the queen of the coven.
And Hannah had a new home (as manager of the North Pole stable.)
And Rudolph took his vacation at the North Pole this time...
And so... they had a Merry Christmas.
For those of you who read my book know I love love love Christmas - and for the next few weeks, I'm taking a brief respite from the serious side of things to nibble a few Christmas cookies in the from of a a short story I wrote to cheer up my sister a few years back... and I'm hoping it works for us all. Here then is chapter2 enjoy!
Chapter 2 “and so it began...”
Rudolph, tanned, relaxed and eager to return to the glory and fame waiting for him at his North Pole home, arrived with the compulsory lei's and chocolate covered macadamia nuts for everyone. After a big welcome home bash, Rudolph nestled down without a care in the world, content that he was finally accepted by his own, and never dreaming for one moment that all the reindeer didn't love him or that he wouldn't "go down in his-tor-reeeeeeee..."
In through the darkness crept two hulking black silhouettes, finding the barn door open just as Vixen has promised. And before Rudolph knew what hit him, he was bagged, gagged and spirited away, bound for the southern reaches, where no one could ever, ever, never find him. As the muffled snorts of Rudolph's protests faded in the snow of the North Pole night, Vixen smiled and rested his head on the bag of silver tipped, frosted, sugar cookies, which, as you know, are like catnip to the reindeer.
Baba Raga, for her part, made good time as she headed across the Forgotten Valley, down the fouled river of Sludge and into the Craggs of Doom to capture the two-headed Mountain troll, named Malco & Disco -- or the Tentz brothers as they are affectionately called by their dark brethren.
Baba Raga, truth be told, was known throughout the netherworld for her culinary skills, and the Mountain troll was only too happy to be called her Prisoner.
And while Rudolph was sold to a traveling sideshow with your hot and cold running sideshow professionals – you know, the standard: bearded lady, monkey-boy, snake-charmer kind, Baba Raga worked her fingers to the bone (with not so much as a peep of appreciation!) to feed Malco & Disco Tentz a steady diet of:
Little white lies,
and a soup of cooked-up facts,
until they farted and belched a hideous fog that enshrouded the earth, clouding the hearts of men, and dimming the light of hope and belief.
For almost a year, the foul, thick-as-pea-soup smog, sapped the very life from the entire world. Only Bah Humbug could know that the real weapon was not the fog, but the depression itself... Everyone knew that something was wrong, but nobody seemed to care to fix it... and with no end in sight, the world trudged on, trying to just finish its business and get home to curl up in the dankness, pull their covers over their heads and hide...
Oh, Yes, the times were bleak… oddly enough, down south, people found that the few grimy coins required for entrance to the sideshow were worth it – if for nothing else, to gawk at someone who was even less fortunate than themselves... The sideshow was doing the best business in years.
Rudolph, as you can guess, was miserable, he lay in a constant funk – a matted brown lump in the corner of his dirty cage, flashing his famous nose on demand, but hating himself every minute of it.
At night, alone and scared, Rudolph would cry himself to sleep, clinging to a shred of faith in his fellow reindeer. “It will all be over soon. My brothers will come. They will. They will.” The poor little nipper was never aware that it was his “brothers” and their fragile egos that had sold him down the river in the first place.
Red warning flags went up all over the Kingdom of Imagination. All who lived there could feel the power of the kingdom beginning to fade. The first to discover the problem were the sailors who ferried the citizens of the Kingdom across the ocean of dreams. Several boats had capsized, while others were mysteriously becalmed... adrift for weeks, their passengers stranded, unable to enter the world of children.
After months of disappointment, the power of the Toothfairy, the Easter bunny, and those darn leprechauns, became nothing more than an ugly joke, and as the year came round again to the Christmas season, that special time of the year reserved for goodwill, silver bells and hot chocolate, Bah Humbug was gearing up for the killing blow... the biggest legend, of them all, Santa, Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaus himself, would renege on his promise to every child around the world, which will snuff out the light of hope and close off access to the hearts of men forever.
And then the summons came: Bah Humbug would see the Witch Baba Raga...
"Everything is as you wish," reported the witch as she peered through the slightly less-intense bars of light that throbbed menacingly between her and her foul Master.
"Everything?" challenged Bah Humbug, who tossed an unfortunate hobgoblin, into the bars of light -- "AHHHHHH" PPPFFFT! The Hobgoblin was zapped by the blazing light, turning instantly to stone on the other side of the cell wall.
Bah Humbug counted the seconds the Hobgoblin screamed before turning into stone and noted it on the wall. Hmm... yes, in fact, there was... a discernable diminishing of the power of his prison bars.
Baba Raga had had enough. "Did I stutter? Everything. The fog as you can see has covered the earth like a cow turd covers a daisy -- you couldn't find your nose on your own face -- as for Rudolph, he's currently touring some backwater village as the warm-up act to a broken down Lizard-boy routine for Frostelli's Fabulous Freakshow and Lavish Lot of Legerdemain. The red-proboscis'd Rudy is so danged depressed that he hasn't eaten in weeks and even his legendary schnoz is fading. The toothfairy hasn't made a delivery in months and the Easter bunny's debacle last spring sent the world's children spinning."
"So..." sneered Bah Humbug. "Why is that I detect another shoe about to drop?"
The witch smiled a toothless grin, "because, Hummie, baby, you and I, as they say, are cut from the same cloth."
"Let me guess," said the Evil Bah Humbug. "You see the genius of my plan working better than we expected and want a bigger piece of the action."
The witch batted her lonely eyelash -- coy was not one of her strongest spells, "Not only are you a genius, but you're smart too."
"Name your price, witch."
"Now, Hummie, dearest, is that any way to talk to your bride?"
"I'm, flattered." He lied, "But I'm a confirmed bachelor."
"Don't piss me off, Humbug," warned the hag, "I can be a real witch when I get angry."
"I'll consider it."
"You'll promise it or I stop feeding the trolls right now."
Humbug paced behind the white-hot bars of light, feeling sooooo close to victory he could taste it… but try as he might, he could not keep his eyes from staring at warts on Baba Raga’s nose twitching with lust. But what’s an evil genius to do? She had him right where she wanted him… and she knew it. So, like all good poker players, he swallowed hard, looked her right in the wart, and declared: "I... promise. As soon as I'm free, it's all about you and me."
She left happy as loon, and Bah Humbug returned his attention to stewing on his evil plan.
And so it was...
For Rudolph was, as the witch had promised, depressed and downtrodden. His hope had shriveled to almost nothing. The only rays of light in his pitiful existence came from a young orphan named Hannah, who cleaned his cage and fed him each night, and a young mouse, named Ecko who shared his cage and brought the reindeer remnants of the popcorn and cookies that the visitors of the sideshow dropped on the ground. They made a funny group, the orphans club they called themselves, and Hannah was probably the only little girl in the world who ever knew that reindeer could talk.
But comforting as their nightly talks were, it was Ecko's streetsmarts that finally wizened the reindeer up for good. "Get with the piture, Rudy ol' boy. If they really cared about you, they woulda' busted you outta here a long time ago. My money sez they never did dig the fact that you saved Santa's arse, and they finally found away to get the spotlight back from you and your schnozola"
It worked. Between that and the fog that was starting to blot the sun out everyday, Rudolph was convinced that Ecko was right. And as time wore on, the kids that came to see the infamous reindeer stopped looking in on him with wonder and instead laughed and called him names.
And Hannah wasn’t fairing much better, either. The owner of the freakshow, Balderdash Frostelli, was a cruel and cantankerous man, who lavished his own daughter with gifts and praise while taking out his anger on the young orphan girl.
It must be said that Hannah's parents had once owned all that made the freakshow: the tents, the wagons and scores of glorious and wondrous animals. It was, at that time, a magical circus. But that was years ago, and Hannah's parents were lost under mysterious circumstances. Their will stipulated that everything be left to their closest kin, and Balderdash Frostelli became the owner, changed everything to a freak show, cut the wonderous animals loose and took on the charge of raising the young orphan. His plan was like that of every unimaginative secondary character. He would raise Hannah until such time as he could cut her loose into the cold, cruel world. Until then, she was cheap labor, didn't even have to be paid and she grew to know no better... her life was dirty cages, insults from a spoiled cousin and constant badgering from a cruel (as we've said) skinflint uncle.
Hannah and Rudolph were of course made for each other, and though Eecko painted a bleak picture of life as they knew it, Rudolph would try to get Hannah to give that cousin of hers a good bump on the nose for all her schenanigans, while Hannah would hug her hoofed friend, saying that he shouldn't let anything get him down, after all, no one could ever take away his accomplishments.
And so it was.
And back in the Kingdom of Imagination, “the piture,” as Eecko would say was bleak as all get out…
"Something has got to give! Look at us!" Cried the beleaguered Toothfairy as she stared at her fading reflection in a silvery pond. Her companion, Peter Cottontail, normally hopped at the chance to gaze at his dapper form in anything reflective, but was very reluctant to see if his fading good looks were as transparent as hers, "I'll take your word for it, Toothie."
"If we ever get our hands on the rogue who's behind all this we'll take the shillelagh upside their heads!" roared the leprechauns who ringed the pond. They formed an odd band, a posse if you will, of seasonal characters. To the outside world, they appeared like a mix-up at the Hallmark store, but with the right attitude (and a straight-up helping of Bling) they might be able to pull off the posse part. But I digress as usual…
"We better get word to the Empress, she'll have an answer for this."
Chapter 3 “Her Highness, the Empress of Grace...”
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"