Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gamer Girl

I am a gamer, video and tabletop, you name it I have probably played it. I’ve played every platform and every game genre, even cooking gamesMostly, I have always been a D&D player, in all its incarnations, starting with its direct ancestor , “Chainmail”. Being a girl, hidden behind the mask of a boy, I found the idea of role-playing an excellent way to be me without being judged. I didn’t always play females, which would have invited too much attention. But I was able to play them often enough to where it was my emotional outlet. Conversely, I found that my practice at role-playing helped me develop my mask, as the “guy”. I wish I had never perfected that aspect.

 

I was introduced to role-playing, specifically Chainmail by a friend. I had never heard of role-play and it captured my imagination. I had read fantasy books, I had been reading since I was 2 years old. It hadn’t taken me long to read all the books which held my interest in our little town library. Fantasy books were my favorite, and I was always begging my Mom to take me to the closest mall, which was over an hour away so we could go to WaldenBooks. There I would beg for books piled upon books. I didn’t just grab anything, I studied the forewords and the jackets, I knew how to pick a good book. My poor Mother and later my poor wallet always suffered from these trips. But role-playing was like being inside the book, like writing my own story. My friend asked me if I would like to join a campaign he was starting, based on the Dragonlance books. A few days later on the weekend, I played my first game and met a group of his friends who also had just started. My first character was Tanis Half-Elven, I was not happy about having a male character, but since we had a couple of girls in the group I couldn’t find a way to play the very few player characters that were female. We played every weekend without fail, rotating where we played each time, until we happened upon a house that had been for sale for a very long time. We basically squatted in that house to game, where others probably used it for drugs or to get laid, we used it as our place to game without being told to hold the noise level down. I know, we were weird, this isn’t lost on me.

 

My first female character was also my first player-made character, which is to say I rolled up the stats and came up with her background instead of a pre-generated character being supplied to me. Her name was Lisbetha Veretas, a play on my favorite name (Elizabeth), a human mage. I was never really interested in playing different races, though I did on occasion. I was more interested in playing a human female and a mage, my two recurrent themesFemale, for obvious reasons, I got to take the mask off for a few hours, well at least let the mask slip a bitMage, because I like the idea of magic, I like the thought that though there is a price, you can do almost anything with enough will and study. I played her for almost a year and I loved it. I even had a romance in the game with an NPC, who happened to be male. A few friends made fun of me for this until I explained that I take my “role-playing” very seriously. I was having a rough time in school, dealing with my sexuality as well as my gender issues. I was getting into fights trying to maintain my manly persona, and I didn’t fight well, mostly bluster hoping they would back out of the fight. Sometimes it was fighting a guy that I kept thinking if I were a normal girl he would be trying to have sex with me, not punch me in the face. This makes for a very confusing fight. Gaming made my life a little easier, gave me an outlet. 

 

Over the years, there would be dry periods where I could find no one who wanted to role-play. But those times didn’t last too long and suddenly I would be in a very tight group of people dedicated to playing every weekend. They are the best memories I have of my life, friends sitting around a table or on the floor in a living room, playing D&D or DC Heroes or Cyberpunk, etc. Some groups were better than others, and though eventually they all would fade over time I look upon them all fondly. Of the groups, my last group, was the absolute best, they became my best friends, so much so that I consider them family. They are such good friends that I felt I could tell them the deepest secret I possess. I told my brothers (they all happened to be male) that I was their sister. We are all separated by distance and life now, but I love these men dearly and miss gaming and just hanging out  with them so very much.

 

prefer role-playing, and I prefer it with a group of friends sitting around a table. But times change and having the ability to sit around a table became limited to non-existent. So, I moved towards MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), like Dark Age of Camelot, WOW, and many, many others. For a while we had a group of people from work who all played. I mostly played female characters then as well. When asked why, I would say something male-driven like, “If I am going to look at this characters backside for hours, I want it to be a girl’s backside”. That would quash most questions. Even those male characters I started with, so as not to throw suspicion on myself, I had those changed to female if possible.

 

I still play MMO’s and stand-alone series like Fallout, Dragon Age or Mass Effect with female characters, I feel more comfortable and I am able to immerse myself in the storylines. I get to be bad-ass version of me in these games, like reading a book of a female protagonist that I identify with. In WOW, which I had gone back to, for lack of better MMO’s that actually RP (role-play). I have found that actual RP doesn’t really happen anymore. No one makes a character with a background or develops a persona. They just kill things and level, no more do they sit in a tavern or talk in the square about things going on in the game. They chat in trade chat about RL (real life) politics or religion, trolling each other. I tried to find a transgender guild but was unable to find anyone who could point me to one; rather I got a lot of messages about being a guy. So, the appeal of MMO’s faded and though I still play, I do it solo and don’t join guilds.

 

Gaming didn’t make me who I am; it helped me survive who I pretended to be until I could stop pretending. It helped me by always having a few friends to lean on, it helped me by bringing a group of the greatest friends a girl could ever have, together. I love my friends and miss them dearly. This is what gaming is really about.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Of Friends and Family

I have spoken of my friends, those that know about me are accepting and really didn’t display any surprise at all. I don’t know if there were any issues after the initial shock, but they haven’t spoken to me about it. I think that it probably helps that most of them are out of state, so they don’t see me dressed how I usually dress at home. I think that my presenting as female, might cause them some issues, perhaps not, no idea. I am horrible at reading people.

My usual mode at home is t-shirt and jeans, which my friends have seen many times. Of course now I am able to wear the t-shirts and jeans I prefer, which is a mix. T-shirts are to me just t-shirts, some men’s and some women’s are more comfortable so I wear what I like, I prefer women’s jeans so I wear them. The clothes don’t change who I am, they can only make me feel more or less comfortable. I will always be a woman no matter what I am wearing. The funny thing is, it’s more problematic now that they know I’m transgender, as they perhaps expect me to be dressed in, well skirts and heels, both of which I like, but that is not my normal clothing. Normally at home I don’t put on a wig or breast prosthetics; those are to make others feel more comfortable. I don’t mow the yard wearing a hot wing and C cup false breasts that shift and get in the way. I would prefer my own hair if I could grow it out and have it look nice, I would prefer my own breasts but I’m not on HRT until I lose some weight. Like most women, both of those things make me feel more feminine and more acceptable among others, but not more personally comfortable. In the presence of my friends, I’m not sure how comfortable they would be. I do have a couple of friends who live in the area, but I don’t see them often. They have not seen me in my “girl mode” with wig, breasts and obviously female clothing. As I continue to transition, these things will be more obvious and I want my friends to remain my friends. I would prefer to not lose the very few and close friends I have. I don’t make friends easily and I invest a lot of my heart in these people. They are for all intents and purposes, my family.

Speaking of family, I have two brothers and my stepfather. They will be told last, mostly because I don’t want to burden them so close to our mother’s death, and because I think they will have the hardest time with it. Though, for my brothers, they could look back and see that the game of “truth or dare” was kind of a setup for me to wear our stepmother’s clothes as a “dare”. What can I say, she wore Cato’s and I actually liked some of the Cato’s clothing. Then there is my wife’s family, her mother and stepfather and two sisters. Her mother and father, they were told by her youngest sister who was told by our son when they were hanging out with mutual friends, alcohol was involved. So, my wife went on damage control, telling them that our son was just drunk, but I am pretty sure they didn’t buy that at all. So my first inclination is to tell them, despite the fact that they are conservative, Trump supporters. I think they will be ok, I hope they will. I believe that my wife has issues with them knowing only because her and the middle sister don’t get along and somehow this would be something that her sister could use against her. I think it’s still embarrassing for Michelle, on some level she deals with it, but not in a public way. I plan on telling everyone that is family and friends. My plans were thrown off because of my Mothers cancer and then death, not because of her but because of me. I already deal with depression linked to just being who I am, then dealing with my mom being gone. It hasn’t been easy; it’s been hard. But I am trying to get out of this hole that seems to be surrounding me. My mom would want me to be happy, she would want me to go forward and not dwell. In the end, whether they are able to handle the information I give them or not, this is happening.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Once Upon a Monday

I was out sick on Monday. I had gotten a cold and needed some time to get over it, but I had to come in to work Tuesday because I had contractors coming in to do some work that I needed to oversee and to help set up the services on our server. While I am the IT manager, I also oversee the Logistics side of the operations, really just keeping up with the personnel hours and making upper level decisions.

 

I tell you this so that you will understand that I am pretty crucial to the company. And I need you to understand that once I come out, once they know who I am, it won’t matter one single bit and I will be fired or they will find grounds to fire me or they will make me quit by making it unbearable to be here. I was reminded of this fact by one of the logistics crew who told me a story on Tuesday.

 

It’s not a long story, but it is one of those times I wish I had been at work, sick or not. This person who works for me, I will call him Albert, was excited to see me and to relate what had happened on Monday. Apparently, as he puts it, one of the truck drivers was a lady/man. It was a guy dressed as a woman, as he continued to explain. The story wasn’t about how he had to reload the truck because the driver knew exactly how it should be arranged and Albert had done it wrong. It wasn’t about how this driver was really good at her job and that she was doing it in a male-dominated industry.

 

The fact that the truck driver was transgender was the story. He told me how he told others in the office so they could come into the warehouse and see the “guy dressed like a lady”.  I was mad as hell. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. However, I let him know that I support transgender, that I have family members who are transgender. I let him know that “SHE” is the correct pronoun. I let him know that if I had witnessed this, he would have been written up. I let him know that if he ever sees a transgender person he better treat them with respect. That they (we) are people just like anyone else, deserving of the same respect you give to a fellow human being. He quickly saw that his exciting story wasn’t going the way he had planned. I found out that he never said a cross word to her, that he did what she asked and only was rude behind her back. I wanted him to understand that I don’t want him being rude or tell the office people or anything else behind her or anyone else’s backs.

 

I had to play ally, instead of what I wanted to be right then. I wanted to tell him that I was also transgender and if you disrespect her, I can expect you will disrespect me as well. I know what I face in my company; I know that currently in NC I can expect to not be treated equally in public. I know we all face uphill battles. I wish I had been there so I could have stood beside her at the very least as an ally.

 

The fact that she was transgender overshadowed everything else. This keeps running through my mind.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Cost of Being You – Hair Removal

Permanent hair removal is typically the first of your serious expenses when transitioning. Most of us want the face and neck first, we don’t have to shave daily or at all, and less concealer and foundation when we use cosmetics. Though you certainly don’t have to stop there, just make sure the type of removal you use is rated for the area you want to use it on. There is also a sort of unspoken taboo for publishing pricings on the business websites and personal blogs. I’m not sure why this is, but I also find myself not wanting to say what the cost is on Facebook in public forum. I am going to give you the pricing here, for the one version of hair removal that I have gotten, though I will not name the company.

There are several types of permanent hair removal; they range from the dubious to the trustworthy, with the costs of these ranging upward as you progress to the more reliable. It’s important to note that you don’t really choose the type of hair removal, your hair chooses. Hair color, hair thickness, and skin type can all factors when determining the best type of hair removal. Also, the permanency of the hair removal is questionable. I have found that while almost all claim permanence, most mean it doesn’t grow back immediately or that if it does it comes back finer and easier to care for. Hair removal of any kind can cause physical issues from blemishes to serious burns; I suggest using professionals if you can afford it. If you try home remedies, please use caution and follow the instructions for the device.

[Note: I will be using the IPL device in the example below, rated for female faces and will give a review once enough time has passed in order to give it a fair review.]
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) – Can permanently reduce hair growth, most effectively in darker, coarser hair. There are a lot of different names for this type of device such as E-Light, ELOS, and M-Light. These devices can be initially expensive, with $300-500 being the average. Pain is often described as hot grease splatter or a rubber band snaping. I had a hard time finding any products that could be used for “male“ faces. In point of fact, I didn’t find any at all rated for the male face, though I found several accounts of successful use of the IPL which went against the device warnings. Transgender are not the target market for these devices so I don’t think much thought of any was put into research on removing MtF facial hair. Something to keep in mind when cost is an issue,IPLs use cartridges, be it quartz or other material has a finite life and must be replaced, which can cost anywhere from $70 - $100.
Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/e073aiKRemington iLIGHT Ultra Hair Removal System $449.00

Home Laser Removal  Laser removal is generally recommended for people with light to medium skin tones, as dark skin can absorb more light which may lead to injuries to the skin. Again, the darker the hair, the more effective. Laser removal can generally deliver 70% hair reduction within a 3 months periodAlthough it is expensive compared to other permanent hair removal products, it is still a lot cheaper than in-office treatment options. Laser treatment works by targeting the pigment in your hair and restricts the hair follicle ability to grow again. Also, while most are rated for facial hair, some say that they are not rated for mens faces. I am suspecting this is because of the thicker, denser hair in biological male faces, which would generate a lot more heat in the skin tissue. Please use caution.
Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/hNUZEPY Tria Beauty Hair Removal Laser 4X $449.00

Professional Hair Removal  By far the safest and most effective process for permanent hair removal, having it done by a professional is the best way to go. A professional should bring you in for a consultation, they have to see your skin and hair to suggest the best way to go, wether through electrolysis or with laser removal. 
Electrolysis  At this time, the FDA and the American Medical Association recognize only electrolysis as a permanent method of removing hair. It was described to me as this, an electrode (needle) is put into each individual hair root and then an electrical charge is applied. People have said that the feeling is anywhere from a rubber band snapping to only a mild tingle. They can apply a topical solution to make it less painful. 
The Good - It has the best track record. Electrolysis has the best overall results, versus any other method, in ridding hair for long periods of time- or even permanently. Also, many different hair and skin types can benefit. Because it doesn't target hair pigment (color) like laser, but attacks the follicle itself. People that aren't good candidates for laser can still get electrolysis.
The Bad - Bent follicles can make electrolysis hair removal harder. Previous waxing or tweezing can make hair follicles bent or misshapen, and getting the needle to the root more difficult to destroy the follicle. It can take a lot of time. You have to truly be committed to electrolysis because you could anywhere from 15 - 30 sessions. There is also the possibility of skin discoloration from the process if done improperly. I don’t know actual cost, but the concensus is that $45 per session is not out of bounds. So, it can be costly depending on the areas covered.

Laser –
The Good  One of the biggest advantages of laser hair removal is the speed of the treatment in comparison electrolysis, which is much more time consuming.The technique is considered to be safe if performed properly. It is considered to be less painful than other methods (particularly electrolysis). The method is effective for removing hair from large areas such as backs or legs.
The Bad  Laser treatments are only approved by the FDA for "permanent hair reduction" not hair removal. This means that some regrowth is to be expected, this is not a permanent hair-removal solution for most people. There can be side effects that can range from itching or swelling (which will disappear after a few days) to more serious (but rare) side effects like burning, skin discoloration, blistering and infection. Also, since the laser targets melanin (pigment that gives skin and hair color), people with dark hair (more melanin) have more success with this treatment than people with light hair. Mostly, the treatment can be expensive. 

The hair removal professional should ask you questions, and instruct you on what to expect.  The place I went into did a fine job of that, they did not bat an eye that I was transgender and in my mask (I had a lunch appointment with them during work hours). They were kind and caring and very attentive. Here is the rub: Cost. You are going to pay for this service and you are going to pay dearly. For most of us with families and mortgages, the cost is a deal breaker. But if you can manage the cost, they will typically set you up with a schedule that will encompass your treatments at the different phases of hair growth. Once this is done, most will give you financing options. This can be done by treatment, but this can be more expensive in the long run. Most offer a block payment, which is cheaper over all than single treatment payments. This is usually done by a credit system, so you can make payments.
My example is the place in which I had my consultation, face (chin and upper lip) & neck in multiple sessions. Pricing is for Laser treatment (which best fit my skin tone and hair color) with discount and a special they were running that gave 50% off. Total One-Time Payment$5,400.00 Payments using Financing: $242.00 for 24 months.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Being Real

I am the first to admit, I still hide within my mask. I am not proud of it; I am properly ashamed that I still retreat into it because it is familiar, though despised. If I have to run to the store and I haven’t time to don my wig and put on makeup, I take the time to remove my nail polish and put on a cap and go to the store. If I know I will have to speak to someone, I remove everything and become my mask. I hate my voice, I am working on it, but it marks me very readily. I’m not proud of these moments; those that make me feel like I am hiding behind the fa├žade of male privilege.

 

That said, I am indeed a real woman. This isn’t decided by my experiences or by a BBC host who thinks that trans women aren’t sufficiently treated as inferior. My gender is locked into the brain, floating around in my skull. Dame Murray believes that we don’t know feminism because we have known male privilege or that because a couple of newly out trans women are worried about the clothes and cosmetics they will wear. It’s a flawed reasoning, one made out of fear. She is transphobic, she has a fear that we (trans) are somehow going to damage feminism or dilute what it means to be female. She is of course missing a few crucial facts. Feminism is about wanting the sexes to be equal, which is exactly what we want. Trans women worry over clothes and cosmetics because we didn’t grow up into a closet of clothes or into the slow training of putting on cosmetics. Most of us have tried to pass as male the majority of our lives, so there are a lot of areas we have to learn very quickly. These are real worries for real women.

 

Male privilege is not something we asked for, it is a legacy of being trapped inside a body we must endure or change. Those that wield male privilege like a weapon are the reasons why we hide at all, why we don’t come out much earlier in life. We are expected by our fathers (most) to grow up to be men, so we try to fit the idea, tried to make them happy. Did Dame Murray have to endure this; did she have to fight past the misogyny and the confusion to be who she is? No, and she shouldn’t have to in order to be thought of as real. 

 

Dame Murray and other media personalities are entitled to their opinions, but they are also bound by those opinions to the people they entertain. I think that she is misguided and that she can change her mind. I don’t want to give up on her or the others who have voices, they need to understand. I believe that once she understands what transgender is, that we are real and not men (or women) playing at a different gender, I think she can be an important ally. Until then, she is fostering dangerous misconceptions that can get trans women or men killed or assaulted.

 

We are real.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

No Gnews Is Good Gnews

I never liked reading comments on news website posts. Even if the news post had nothing to do with my situation or anyone I knew. However, in the last several years the media has made transgender issues a normal part of the news cycle. This is good, and this is bad. It’s great that real information, about us and who we are and what we are not, gets out there. That they are able to help explain one simple concept, “Treat us like people, because we are indeed people“. But I don’t like reading the comments that inevitably happen. I am always expecting the positive comments, because why would I expect someone would have trouble with another person wanting to be treated like everyone else? Of course, the comments are instead full of completely unwarranted hate and ignorance. I see “Christians“ who claim that their lord and savior hates homosexuals (they seem to think that Transgender are automatically gay), when in fact Jesus never ever, not once said anything about being gay or transgender. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all Christians believe this, I don’t think they all live in hate. Christians can be kind and loving like any person can. These are people wearing Christianity like a cloak, as if it is a right to condem others, to burn them at the stake.It’s not just Christians, they are not alone in fostering hate and intolerance. Alt-right, rabid consrevatives or newly-minted Trump Republicans or just hate-filled people focus on us because we are largely easy targets for thier hate.

 

These people, slander and malign us, they call us names and expound such seething hatred in thier speech I am often taken aback. No, no that isn’t strong enough, I am legitimately frightened. I am frightened more because these are everyday people. I and others must walk among these people to go about our everyday lives. We must work beside these people, pray next to them, eat and go to the movies around these people. It’s a mine field, invisible until it’s too late, constant and unforgiving once they embrace what they are going to do in the emotion of hate. They don’t care about our words or if we are nice or giving or loved by others. 

 

I did several tours in the middle east and I felt the same way there in actual combat. Those tours had a start and stop time, there was a time when it was at least over for me, I went home. But now, I live with a real fear all the time, that someone will just decide to act on the hate they have been holding. I don’t pass, I don’t think at least. But being in stealth doesn’t mean you aren’t known about. I shouldn’t have to pass, I should just be able to be me with no one caring since I don’t harm them in any fashion. But the world we live in, the political climate in the US, it’s a free-for-all in which any bigot feels they can ignore the laws that cover everyone but since it didn’t specifically state “Transgender“ then they are justified. Of course they count on bullying, on intimidation and our own fear to keep us quiet, to keep us the silent minority. What they don’t seem to understand is that fear is a motivator to make change happen.

 

Commentary on news sites is mostly anonymous or at least so easy to circumvent that identity doesn’t mean much. This is good since most of us have secret or alternate social network accounts, but it allows for the bad as well, cowards who spout nonesense about the LGBT agenda like it is a conspiracy on the level of the Illuminati. Wanting to be treated like a human being is not an agenda, it’s a basic human right. The only agenda, is to work towards being treated correctly, instead of treated like we need to be fixed, corrected, or made socially invisible again.

 

It is easy to say that we can ignore the commentary, that we don’t have to read it. But the articles are about our situation or who we are, so very hard to ignore what is written directly below the article, and really we want to know that we are supported. Those types of comments, the supportive ones, are few and far between.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Opening the Door

I have spent the week, coming out to my close friends. I have to be careful, because a lot of my friends are also ex-coworkers. They know the same people (my work) I am trying to keep this secret from, for now. So it’s complicated and depends upon trust. I am trying to be brave. It’s a funny thing, I was less nervous being shot at, having IED’s to look out for, being at war, than I am telling my closest friends who I really am.

I have told two of them, my best friend, who is in all ways my brother. And a friend of mine that I worked with, who is the best role model for being a strong woman and still being feminine. I tell a third today, and I am nervous, but all indications say that it’s nothing to be nervous about.

J – My friend/brother, he was so great. I told him and he was not only excited for me but told me how I inspire him and make him proud. I cried that night, I cried because I was so lucky to have a brother like him and because I didn’t tell him earlier and because I felt really happy which isn’t my default setting. He has medical problems and I worry about him, so I was worried that I might cause an issue by telling him. (the medical issue can be exacerbated by stress). But he was so great and I miss him so much, he is in another state about 9 hours from me.

A – My strong sister. She didn’t blink, didn’t hesitate either. She fully supported me and when I sent her a pic of me (Beth) she told me I was beautiful and really encouraged me. I don’t really believe the beautiful part, but it was really nice to hear. She is so wonderful and I love her in this deep sisterly way that I can’t really define, since I met her really. She is younger, but she is wise and strong and I look to her as a role model, which I know is odd, but you don’t know A. She is a force like my Mom was. She is a force of nature that you can’t help but be in awe of. 

D – I will be telling him today. He is a great man, very easy going and easy to love. I hope that things go well. My fears manifest whether they are based in reality or not. He has a lot of things going on today, so I may have to wait until tomorrow, but I will try for today. [Edit: I did talk to D that day, he was very sweet and reassuring. I asked him to please act a bit surprised and outraged, he did so in a playful way. It was very cool the way we transitioned from my transitioning to politics. We were just talking like friends do and that did more to make me miss him than anything else.]

J&L – Not all of my friends live in other states or cities. J&L are friends who live in the local area, I am telling them today. I’m nervous as usual, but they are really good people so I think it will be ok. I hope it will. J is someone I worked with recently, so I am taking a very big chance, though he has always been discrete about information before. J&L are a couple of those rare people who despite having a rugged kind of lifestyle with old fashioned tastes like old cars and retro designs is also pretty damn progressive and liberal. [Update: Spoke to J and he was very supportive! I again, can’t stress how lucky I feel to have friends to understand and support who I am. J also got that I am introverted mostly because of my situation, of who I am. He understands also my issues with coming out in my company, as he knows the people I will have to deal with firsthand. ]

B&Am – I have to tell them. They are dear friends, but we have kind of lost touch in the last couple of years. They are, I am assuming, still fairly conservative and I know that Am, B’s wife, is very religious. It doesn’t mean they won’t be happy for me, it actually means very little in the way of tolerance and being friends. I just have a bit more worry because of those factors. I love them both, so I hope that they will be accepting and happy for me. I think they will.

So far, I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have gotten very lucky in my confession of who I am to my family and friends. I won’t stop if the shoe does drop, I will have to live with the loss and move on. I cannot keep wearing the mask. I still have to tell my wife’s parents and siblings. I think that my wife is opposed to this because of how she believes it will reflect on her. She has a sister that she disagrees with and I think that she believes that this would somehow validate her sister’s attitude. I don’t judge my wife on this, I don’t like it, but I have asked a lot of her and she still wants to be with me and I know it’s not easy on her. But they need to know eventually, so I am kind of leaving this as her decision when I tell them. There will be a point where it will be impossible to hide it. Boobs and hair, makeup and womens clothes, dead giveaway for a woman being there.