Tag Archives: transgender

Pride and reading diverse books

IMG_1250 (1)On Saturday morning, W and I were up early packing her SUV and getting ready to head to our local Pride festival.

“Why do we do this?” I asked as I rubbed sleep from my eyes and loaded another heavy object into the car.

It rained during set up but then the sun came out. We all started looking for rainbows.

My best friend came and spent the day with me. And there we sat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching waves of people clad in whatever makes them happy–high heels, rainbow flags worn as capes, trans colors, combat boots, preferred pronoun stickers. I started remembering why we do this year after year.

One miscue: I wore my “I Love My Awesome Wife” tee. “Is this your wife?” everyone asked, looking at my friend. Everything does come full circle. When I came out, everyone thought my friend and I were a couple because we were so close. (In case you were wondering, W, my awesome wife, was manning a different table.)

IMG_1247I was promoting a local book group that I head, as well as my big butch memoir, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. We handed out lists of recommended LGBT books and rainbow bookmarks with affirming statements like “Believe in Yourself” and “Be Unique.” We asked people to share a book that inspired them or made them feel not so alone by writing the title on faux library cards.

We talked about books. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear young people chat excitedly about their favorite reads.

Here are some of my memorable moments from the day:

IMG_1260A 13-year girl so excited about books that she jumped up and down. She told me her favorite book is Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On. “About the worst chosen one ever and how he finds out he’s gay,” she wrote on her library card. I don’t know about you, but that’s a book I want to read. When I told her I was a writer, she jumped up and down some more. “Me, too!” she said.

A woman who recommended the book Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner. She told me that she discovered the book when she was a kid at her local library. She checked it out and took it home. When her mother found it, she burned it in the backyard. She couldn’t go back to the library because she was unable to return the book. My heart broke for that little girl.

Everyone who picked a “You Are Amazing” bookmark and said, yes, I am amazing and will take this one.

The fact that one of our son’s friend who identifies as trans was forbidden by his parents to go to the Pride festival with us. I saw so many parents walking around with their kids. But it’s important to remember all of the kids who have parents who are not accepting or supportive.

IMG_1252Here are the book recommendations we received from young and old, in no particular order:

  1. Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — I’m not the only one who wants to live in a bus in the wilderness.
  3. When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson — Gay ladies who are bad ass warriors.
  4. Kase-san and … by Canno — Manga series with two cute lesbians.
  5. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger — When I was trying to find myself in 8th and 9th grade.
  6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
  8. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
  9. She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  10. Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard
  11. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  12. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  13. Shark School by Davy Ocean
  14. Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
  15. The Plucker and The Child Thief by Brom
  16. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner
  17. Steven Universe comic books by Jeremy Sorese
  18. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  19. The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
  20. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
  21. Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen
  22. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  23. The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell
  24. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
  25. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl by Satoru Akahori
  26. Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamilo
  27. The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Susan Stevens Crummel
  28. The Longest Mile by Christine Meyer

What about you? What book made you feel not so alone?

The power of story

images.jpgWhile I was grocery shopping last week, a woman approached me.

“I know you,” she said. “You spoke at my church last year.”

“I remember you,” I said.

She asked if I remembered her son. I did.

Big kid. Transguy with a great sense of humor. When I asked who had a purse story, he was the first to share. Turns out he had two purse stories.

She told me he was doing well. Graduating from high school next month. Just got a new job. Forming a support group for older trans teens and young adults.

“He still talks about you,” she said.

And I was reminded about how important it is that we keep telling our stories.

No matter how much the world has changed.

Or how busy we are.

Or how tired of our own story we might be.

Never underestimate the power of your story.

The Flannel Underground

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This could be my closet

At dinner last week, one of the kids asks me if I have more flannel shirts like the one I had given him to wear in his school’s production of Annie Get Your Gun last year.

“I don’t know. Why?” I ask.

“It’s for a friend,” he says, “whose parents think flannel shirts are too masculine.”

“Is she a lesbian?” I ask.

“Trans,” he says.

“A transguy?”

“Yes.”

I pause.

“I don’t know,” I say. “If his parents don’t want him wearing flannel shirts …”

I pause again.

“Look, I don’t agree with it, but he’s not my kid,” I say. “I can’t be some underground supplier of flannel for your friends.”

He nods his head.

Underground supplier of flannel, I say to myself. I sit a little taller in my chair.

“I’ll take a look at my flannel shirts in the next week or so,” I say. “I probably have some I don’t want. I’ll give them to you. They’ll be your flannel shirts. Whatever you do with them, that’s your business. I certainly can’t be responsible for what you do with your clothing.”

“Got it?” I ask.

“Got it,” he says.

I feel a little bit like a hero. Passing on my used flannel shirts to kids who need them the most.

For armor.

Or camouflage.

Comfort.

A second skin.

The intersecting horizontal and vertical stripes forming hundreds of tiny crosses as they cover a new body.

 

The case of the missing hair stylist

imagesSo, I went to get my hair cut Friday afternoon because I was starting to look like a character from the Flintstones.

I drove down the street to the Superhaircuttery where I get my locks lovingly shorn.

“Is Crystal here?” I asked.

“Crystal doesn’t work here anymore,” the receptionist said with a smirk on her face.

“Okay.” I paused. “Can you tell me where she went?”

“I don’t know,” she said, even though I knew she knew and she knew that I knew she knew.

“Sorry,” she lied as I walked out the door of Superhaircuttery for the very last time, one single tear cascading down my cheek.

images (1)This, folks, is an emergency. A butch emergency. Code flannel. Crystal has been cutting my hair for the past five years or so.

W doesn’t get it.

“It’s a Superhaircuttery,” she said. “Why don’t you try one of those unisex places?”

It’s not about the place. It’s about the stylist.

Someone who won’t refuse to cut my hair short.

“Are you sure you want it that short?” I’ve had many hair stylists ask.

“You can’t cut it too short,” I’ve told them, even though they never cut it short enough.

True story: I once got my hair cut twice in one day because the first stylist refused to cut it as short as I wanted.

Someone who won’t refuse to square off my sideburns. “Square sideburns are for men. Angled sideburns are for women,” I once had a 17-year-old hair stylist lecture me.

Someone who won’t chase me out of the shop because I’m a woman. “I don’t cut women’s hair!” a stylist once yelled at me when I entered her barber shop.

Crystal knew my usual. A number four on the sides and back. No fringe. Cleanup the sideburns. Scissor cut the top. Short, spiky.

I find myself stuck in that middle place again.

There’s no haircut place around here catering to butch women.

I picture myself walking into a beauty parlor or barber shop and holding my breath, bracing for the reaction.

Steeling myself for acceptance. Or something else.

To ‘sir’ with love

download.jpgRachel Maddow is my spirit animal.

Last week, she was interviewing a congressman on her TV show. At the end of the interview, she says, “thank you, sir.”

The congressman responds in kind. “Thank you, sir,” he says. “I mean, ma’am,” he quickly corrects.

“It’s alright, I answer to both,” she says without missing a beat.

I bow to Maddow.

I wish I was quick on my feet. It’s probably why Rachel Maddow has a TV show and I don’t. But whatever.

imagesSometimes I don’t mind being called “sir.” Other times it bugs me. I’m fickle like that.

But then I read the comments to my last post:

“Would kill to be sir’d,” someone wrote.

“I’m jealous you get called sir,” another reader wrote.

I’m going to stop complaining. And try to roll with it, channeling my inner Maddow.

* * *

What about you? Do you hate being called “sir”? Love it? Or fall somewhere in the middle? Care to share your best response to being sir’d?

Today I’m a 50-year-old boy

I turn 50 today.

It’s weird because most days I feel like a kid. A young boy somewhere in the age range of 12 to 17.

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Sir, I’ve been reading this great blog called The Flannel Files.

Most people I know say they don’t feel like adults either. Which means we’re all living in a giant Peanuts cartoon. No adults for miles–just an occasional wah wa-wah in the distance. You can call me Peppermint Patty. Or sir. Take your pick. Even though this lesbian doesn’t rock sandals.

 

W is throwing me a big party on Saturday complete with a party bus. I don’t know the details, so the rest is a surprise.

But today we’ll spend a quiet evening at home with the kids.

We’ll get pizza or some other takeout. I’ll open presents.

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Super sweet.

I already bought myself these cool black Puma throwbacks as a happy-birthday-to-me gift.

I’m thinking of treating myself to another pair in baby blue.

“Like my eyes,” I told W.

“Yes,” she said.

“My eyes are green,” I said.

“I meant they would compliment your eyes,” she said.

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Super sweet, too.

She doesn’t understand how sneakers work.

I’ll wait for next weekend to see The Lego Batman Movie. Maybe as a reward for getting our taxes ready.

“No thank you,” W said when I first asked her if she wanted to see the movie. She has since agreed to see it with me. Because pity, I guess. But whatever. It’s The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

And I’ll save some birthday money for comic books. To spend at that new store in Philly W said we could visit the weekend we see Cabaret.

I suppose 50 means I’m wise. At least wiser than I was at 49. If I’ve learned anything these past five decades, it’s be true to yourself. Live your authentic life.

Even if you’re a 50-year-old boy/woman and that means sneakers and comic books and The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

Life is too short, folks.

* * *

What Peanuts character are you? What’s your favorite type of sneaker? Put them together and make some kind of drag king/queen name. You know you want to. C’mon, it’s my birthday. Humor me.

Love,

Pat Puma

 

Book launch!

leavingnormalNew year.

New book.

New look. (Seriously, how cool is that cover?)

Today’s the big day, folks. The second edition of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender has launched with my new publisher, Regal Crest.

The book has added content. Count ’em, nine new chapters.

And while I’m bragging, the first edition was a Golden Crown Literary Society award finalist in the category of creative nonfiction.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way by liking my posts and reminding me that I have a voice and that my words are important. You guys have always made me feel like a big butch rock star.

If you bought a copy of Leaving Normal last time around, thanks! Consider picking up a second copy for the added content or donating to your local high school or LGBT group.

A bunch of you have been patiently waiting for the second edition. You can order a print copy or e-book through most online book vendors. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon and Bella Books.

If you’d like a signed copy and maybe some free butch swag, you can send $16.00 via PayPal to rae.r.theodore@gmail.com. The book costs $12.95, plus $3 for shipping.

Also, reviews are so important. They help with visibility on sites like Amazon. If you’ve read the book, please consider writing a short, honest review. It will only take you a minute or two and this butch will be very grateful.

Costumes

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I was this guy. Cool, I know.

My favorite Halloween costume was a sea monster. Actually, I was Sigmund from the TV show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It was a costume that came in a box, probably from Kmart or some other discount store. My mom taped crepe paper streamers in different shades of green to the body of the costume to give it an authentic sea monster feel.

I was in second or third grade and really into the show. I even had a Sigmund and the Sea Monsters lunch pail. I know. I was so cool.

I don’t remember many other Halloween costumes.

I think my first costume was a lamb. Not too far from the black sheep I turned out to be.

I was a witch one year with a black wig with streaks of white and long black plastic fingernails.

img_0795

Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cooler. And yes, that is a mullet.

In college, I was usually some weird androgynous superhero. I always started with a cape because who doesn’t want to rock a cape. And added face paint. Colored hairspray. Suspenders. I was like the love child of Superman and Elton John and the members of Kiss. With some Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good luck.

One year, I bought a blue and gray fedora in a thrift shop in town and designed some weird old man costume around it. The costume was a dud, but I liked wearing the hat.

These days, I’m not so big on dressing up. When you feel like you’ve been wearing a costume for the better part of three decades, Halloween dress-up loses its luster. If I had to dress up, I’d probably toss on a Phillies jersey and cap and call it a day. Maybe add some eyeblack if I was really trying.

Most mornings, I smile when I get dressed. I slip on a pair of jeans or cargo shorts, a pair of boxer briefs, a T-shirt with or without another shirt underneath depending on the weather. I don’t worry about “appropriate” or the difference between boy clothes and girl clothes. Instead, I focus on wearing clothes that make me feel good. Happy. Clothes that make me feel like me.

And I say a quick thanks to the person who runs the joint. Thanks for getting me here to this place where I can finally wear the clothes I want all day, every day. It was worth the wait.

Other fun Halloween facts:

  • I don’t have a favorite candy, although I usually eat everyone’s Whoppers and Almond Joys. (No one here likes coconut or malt flavoring. Losers.)
  • We used to live in Battle Creek, Michigan, which is the home of Kellogg’s cereal. Many of our neighbors handed out mini boxes of cereal instead of candy, which my brother would refuse with a polite “no thank you.”

* * *

Your turn. Favorite Halloween costume? Favorite candy?

 

The magical, mystical butch

W’s brother is getting married this weekend. On Sunday, W and I coordinated our outfits for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, making sure my ties won’t clash with her dresses. It’s so exhausting being a lesbian power couple.

Sunday evening, I ended up running out to Kohl’s department store to pick up a few things. I am mostly over the awkwardness that comes from shopping in the men’s department. But on this particular shopping trip, I found myself feeling a bit like a strange mythical being. Kinda sorta like a centaur — one creature from the waist up and another from the waist down.

images7RMEIAOUWhile I was standing in the checkout line, I channeled my inner unicorn and reminded myself that I am a magical, mystical creature. I am a big, bad, beautiful butch. I stood head up, shoulders back.

As I daydreamed about rainbows and flying horses, I heard the cashier’s overenthusiastic cry.

“Can I help you, sir?”

I strutted to the register and placed my items down one at a time:

IMG_0472One Chaps-brand purple plaid necktie.

One pair of navy suspenders.

One Casio-brand retro wristwatch.

One white, wireless brassiere.

Welcome to my world, I thought. Imagine what it’s like to be me.

The young woman quickly rang up the items and placed them in a bag and sent me on my way.

I hurried home to show W my new wares.

* * *

For fun, check out this quiz that answers that age-old question: What kind of magical creature are you?

imagesAFUH18YFI got Liger. “You are like a lion and tiger mixed bred for skills in magic! You are unique and not afraid to be yourself. (And you actually do exist.)”

How did they know?

What kind of magical creature are you?

You can take the quiz here or just respond with the creature you think is most like you. Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.

 

 

Bathroom strife

This morning, I camped out at Panera’s.

I was focused on writing a new story but my ears perked up when an older woman a few tables away started talking about President Obama’s mandate that all schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice.

IMG_0217

My new favorite notebook. Oh to be as dashing as this zebra.

It was the word “transgender” that caught my attention and caused me to reach for my rainbow zebra notebook.

She said the word like this — TRANS gender? — as if she were angry and it weren’t a real thing. Like fat-free butter or a lesbian who has never attended a potluck. I avoided looking at her, but I imagined her shrugging her shoulders and making a sour milk face.

“All it does is cause more strife,” she said.

I wanted to tell her about the strife I feel as a butch woman when I’m out shopping or to dinner and need to use a bathroom. About the strife I feel when I have to determine whether I can skip using a public restroom and make it home in time.

imagesAOKP5L5M

Um, hello, that doesn’t look like me.

About the strife I feel when I open a door emblazoned with an image of a person in a dress with an impossibly round head and arms thick like salamis and the word “WOMEN” or “LADIES” printed below and prepare to be misgendered and humiliated.

About the strife I feel when I rush to the first empty stall and hold my breath and let out a tiny puff of air when I lock the door and hear the click of the slide bolt.

About the strife I feel as I wait in the stall and try to pick the right time to leave. Now. No, not now. Now. This time for real. 1, 2, 3. Now.

About the strife I feel when I notice my heart beating too fast in my chest.

About the strife I feel as I try to blend in when I’m at the sink washing my hands, even though I haven’t been able to blend in for most of my life.

About the strife I feel as I fast walk to the door and try to look “natural,” whatever that means.

When I am safe on the other side, I wonder why using a public bathroom should cause anyone so much strife.