17
Mar
14

Fragments from a bar on Cape Cod

Once upon a time I used to just write. Let the words flow from my fingers regardless of sense or form or even merit. The words themselves were the purpose. There was little correction and if there was, it was crossing out. I wrote by the line. My thoughts conforming to the shape and width and style of the page and the pen.
Now, there are pixels and lines that never end. I never have to cram a word into an unanticipatedly short space before the edge of the page. Never mind margins. Margins are for people who give a fuck. Not writers.
But constraints can be creative. Constraints can be what spurs us to creativity.
So, I start typing. Writing words just for the sake of it. Not caring what people think. Or at least trying not to. Not too much.
There are so many things I want to write about and yet when I sit down in front of my computer the ideas seem truant. The really good ones are hiding in the bathroom sneaking a cigarette.
My nose runs. I have a cold I find inconvenient.
But then aren’t all colds inconvenient?
I have things I want to do. Socialization. I need to charge my battery. Yet even the long practiced art of making small talk with strangers properly eludes me. I see my opportunity and the words somehow come out wrong. I’m planted at the bar. I’m ready and in need. Yet, my mouth fails me.
Cape Cod, Hyannis at the Sam Diego’s back bar. I know these people, more or less. And I’m from this place. Of this place even, in my own way. But I don’t think I belong here. I have no earthly idea why I keep coming back to this place. I always forget how weird Cape Cod is in the middle of the winter. Not that it changes.
There used to be a gay bar here. For years and years. Now closed.
Why? Did all the gay people leave? Did they get rights and integrate? Where the fuck did my people go?
I’m relatively sure there must be some gay and Trans and just even weird old punks. But where the fuck do they go??? Even the very few places that where here when I was are gone and don’t seem to have been replaced.
There’s not even a decent independent coffee shop I can find. Just bars. With basically the same sorts of people in them.
Good gods. So why am I here? What am I waiting for?
Take a break to scan Facefuck. Click a buzzbait link and immediately click away when I come to my senses. Try to focus on the words before me. Write instead of feeding more good hours to the clickbait beast.
But again, what to write about?
I could write about anything, my fingers flying across the touchscreen keyboard. So what to do, what to do.
Maybe I should start my story.
It begins with pain. My earliest memory is of waking up my mom in the middle of the night. I have a hernia. She tries to make me laugh, because that’s all she can think of to do, to make me feel better. The laughter is pain, the pain brings tears. The tears mix with laughter and love.
A pattern is set for my life.

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14
Feb
14

A Winter Memory

InATreeAloneThis evening I went for a walk in the snow, at dusk into the darkening night.

The world reducing to icy blue landscapes highlighted by grey shadows.

Orange house light spilling onto drifting lawns. Wooded patches reducing in detail, fading into black.

As I walked through the neighborhood, blowing sleet stinging my cheeks, icy wind whistling. I approached the edges and I remembered.

The trees.

Unbidden and in a flash, the memory that floated through my mind on the flickering shadows was of being a hidden trans girl of 12 or 13 in the little village of Marstons Mills on the sandy spit of Cape Cod.

Dressing up alone. Barricaded in my room. Bursting at my teenage seems. Desperate to be honest and out in the world. Afraid of anyone knowing.

So it was to the woods. On snowy, blustery days, much like this. The days when a timid teenage trans girl could count on all the watchful watchers staying snug and secure, away in their homes.

Carefully, in my room, I would dress underneath. A secreted skirt from stored away clothes. Stockings stolen from my mom’s dresser drawers. Whatever odd items I could acquire, awkwardly arranged.

On top of this, wet winter, cold weather clothes. Bulky layers that keep the wind out and secrets in.

I would go outside. Down the street, around the block, to the edge of the neighborhoods. To the woods by the pond.

Deep into the shadows I’d go. Just out of sight, just beyond the edges of the spilling orange light. Out through the scrub pines and the bramble.

And there I’d strip off my layers. Peeling away the winter weather androgyny. Down to the summery girl underneath.

And in those white wooded patches, snow stinging my nearly naked legs, wind biting through my too-thin dress. For a few moments I was exposed. Unhidden. Out in the world.

With only the trees for company.

I always was nervous of being caught. Or hopeful of it perhaps. Of no longer needing to hide. Of having my secret stripped away, very like those warm winter layers.

But I was clever at my lies. I was too good at hiding my secrets just beyond the edge of the woods, or in my bedroom after school.

For a few moments though, I was out of my room. Out of the house. Standing shivering in the stinging wind. Just a scared young girl, happy to be without a mask, in the shadows of the woods.

The stinging, shivering, punishing cold acceptable payment for the price I supposed I needed to pay. A manifestation of the guilt and the shame I manufactured for my imagined sins. But for all that, as well a glorious reminder of being alive. Unavoidably aware and awake to the moment.

Eventually, all too soon really, I’d begin to put the layers back on. Replace the damnable disguise. Slowly, even against the cold. Savoring the danger of being exposed. Caught out in my carefully crafted lies.

Once again, bundled up and secrets hidden, I’d trudge back out of the snowy woods. Pretend to be a boy. My secrets sufficiently safe.

The trees never told a soul.

But every so often, when the wind whips and the sleet stings. When I walk through the dusk into the darkening night. They whisper to me on the wind.

And even though I no longer hide, no longer cover my secrets in androgynous layers. Though I celebrate the woman that girl has become. The trees remember the time before.

And I do too.

SummeryGrrl

13
Feb
14

“Transparent” A transparent Trans review.

Image

I just finished watching the pilot episode for “Transparent” the latest attempt out of Hollywood to portray the trans experience. And Wow. I mean, really, wow. That was not what I expected.

And I mean that as high praise. At least kind of. But let me explain.

I would be lying if I said I had gone into this without expectations. I’ve been hearing about this show for quite some time now. First rumours. Then confirmation. Then hints through the trans pipeline about the behind the scenes production.

It took very little detective action to take a look at who was working on this. It even turned out that I was connected to the director, Jill Soloway from about 20 different directions. Including the husband of the first woman I ever had a crush on at summer camp. Who I recently reconnected with when she asked if she could take some naked pictures of me! (They’re on the internet, if you really want to know that much about me. And they’re quite nice really!)

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Seriously, so much enduring love to my queer friend who saw through the facade of “straight white guy” and gave me her copy of this to read.

So that’s my full disclosure of a sort. And I went in with split expectations. On the one hand, some of the people I was connected to the director through are people whom I admire a great deal. Including my mentor and friend, the amazing improviser, David Razowsky. I also was very impressed by the work Soloway has done previously. Including as a producer and writer of the series Six Feet Under and director of a section of a film based on the autobiographical novel Valencia by queer author Michelle Tea. A book that was really quite inspirational to me when I read it out in L.A. just previous to my transition.

On the other hand. Hollywood hasn’t been doing the most bang-up job of representing trans people lately. There have been close steps, almost okays, but then they invariably fail.

With only a couple of exceptions, the late night television roster seems to have been a veritable factory of faux-pas and insensitive portrayals lately. And in primetime, we are still far too often portrayed as sex objects, psychos or the as punchline for jokes that were already old when Milton Berle was putting on a dress for laughs.

So I’ll admit, when I saw that the pilot for Transparent was out on Amazon Prime, I pressed play with a great deal of skepticism. If perhaps skepticism tempered with a bit of hope.

And right from the first moment, I was surprised. First of all, the titles. These weird, throwbacky, seventies sitcom style titles. A font that looked lifted straight from The Jeffersons.

As a child whose favourite babysitter growing up in the Seventies and Eighties was our little black and white tv, I was hooked instantly on a wriggling worm of nostalgia. So, imagine my surprise when the very next shot is of a couple in bed and, and….

Waitaminute! They’re showing that woman naked!

This isn’t the seventies anymore, this is how people actually sleep in their beds as couples!! Naked, with sheets partly thrown off. Because it gets hot in L.A.!

Holy heck!

Already I knew that whatever expectations I might have where going to be up for grabs. Still, I watched each scene, waiting for the reveal, ready to be all clever and know-it-all trans advice columnist and say, “Ah ha!” I knew the hammer was about to drop!! There it is! There’s the awful, cheap joke about a guy in a dress!

But it kept not happening.

Now, I don’t want to give too many spoilers here. I suggest that you watch the show yourself. Give it your own attention. If I were to tell you too, too much it would spoil what I liked most about it. Which was that I found it consistently surprising.

What I will tell you is that Jeffrey Tambor was quite sensitive in his portrayal of a late-middle-aged father in the beginnings of male-to-female transition. I consistently liked how he played each scene he was in. And his relationship with his three children was very real feeling to me.

Also, it’s a great deal more adult than what you may be used to on network tv. There’s nudity and there’s sex. Quite a lot of it actually for a half hour sitcom.

If that’s not your thing, you might want to steer clear. I know I have one friend who is not at all prudish personally, but who consistently fast-forwards through love scenes, because she just hates them! She’d get a nice short film out of this episode.

As for myself, I liked the more adult theme, mainly because I think it gives the writers a lot more leeway to explore genuine human stories. It opens up far more avenues than traditional sitcoms are able to explore. Which in turn, I hope, will allow the cast and writers to flesh out (Ha!! Sorry, I couldn’t resist…) a more authentic portrayal of the trans woman of the title and the characters around her.

F--k Yeah Jim Croce!!!

F–k Yeah Jim Croce!!!

There were a few other touches I liked personally. The music was one of them. There is a very nice scene where the daughter and son of the main character are going through their dad’s record collection and they stop to comment on a Jim Croce album that they loved.

The whole scene reminded me very much of my own father and his record collection. Which included that same Croce album, which I loved as well!

For me, that allowed me to flip perspectives and identify also with the kids of this trans parent. Their characters being much more of my own generation, than Tambor’s trans character.

As for Tambor himself, I also harboured very conflicted feelings. I really, really like Jeffrey Tambor as an actor.  And though he’s perhaps better known for his roles in Arrested Development or The Larry Sanders Show. I was a huge fan of the show, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into The Future when I was a geeky punk teenager. In fact, in many ways it was pretty seminal to the person I became. It still inspires what I aspire to be. “Live and direct.”

But picturing Tambor’s character from that show, a harried, perpetually stressed out television producer named Murray, as a trans woman, was causing me a bit of dissonance, to put it mildly. It was a little hard to shake.

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But Murray!! Your mustache is so epic!

Also, I’m really tired of seeing cis people (Someone who identifies as the gender they were identified as at birth. Ie., not trans.) play trans in tv and movies. Still, Tambor does an excellent acting job here, and given the early transition time period of this show, I found the casting to be actually appropriate.

To the producer’s credit, there appeared to be several authentic trans people playing smaller parts. And I have it on fairly good authority that if this show gets picked up for more episodes, they plan on casting a credible ensemble of genuine trans people. Fingers crossed.

So, would I recommend this show? Though I know the sort of trouble I could get in to with my more radical friends for saying this; yes, yes I would. I think it’s worth at least giving a chance to.

Transparent is currently available on Amazon Prime as an Amazon Original Pilot. A “Test Pilot” if you will! (I know, I know! Listen, I was a comic before I was a radical trans activist okay?? A girl’s just gotta get these things out sometimes.) And if enough people watch it and tell Amazon that they like it, the show will get a go at more episodes.

I rather hope it does. I’m curious to see where they go with this story and these characters. I’m hopeful they might even do it right! Certainly if they can continue to be able to surprise my jaded media-analyzing self, they’ll be on the right track.

And finally, I personally hope it gets picked up because, speaking frankly, I’d love to be part of that cast! This queer trans, activist, adventurer and pageant queen is ready to balance out all the marching and saving the world stuff with a little more of the making people laugh scene again!!

Slainte!

10
Dec
13

Barstool Snapshot

If you want 'top shelf' go somewhere else.Lorelei sat at the bar dreaming of past glories. Neil Young playing on the jukebox. Heart of Gold.
Harmonica blending nicely with the chatter of bar life.
She opened her ears to hear the crowd. Trying to let it all in. Distinguish voices, isolate conversations. All so she could feel connected.
The Ramones playing.
Sheena is a Punk Rocker. “So was I.” Thought Lorelei.
A 16oz, 3 dollar can of PBR sitting in front of her.
She wished desperately that someone, preferably one of the big, male bodied someones, would talk to her. Ask if they could buy her a drink.
She’d smile, say, “Of course.” Then, “Jameson’s, neat, please.”
She’d nervously play with her hair.
Not because Jane Says, but because it’s an old habit. Because despite all her vaunted confidence she doesn’t have any idea how to effectively talk to men she’s attracted to.
Typically, she’ll default to trying to make herself sound important. Talk about how many people she knows. Things she’s doing to help people. Trans stuff.
Boring herself to tears.
She won’t know how to say how nervous she is.
And she’ll blow it, like she usually does. Blame her lack of success on, “Men being scared of her.”
So she keeps drinking her PBR. The jukebox keeps spitting out tunes. And she tunes back out into the chatter of the crowd.

19
Nov
13

Preserving the Transgender Day of Remembrance: A memorial for our dead

Our Transgender DeadTonight I went to the Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial in Boston. The city where this sad tradition was started in honour of Rita Hester, a local transgender woman who was murdered in 1998. And honestly, I’m having kind of a hard time. TDoR is always difficult for me. Surprisingly, I haven’t cried yet. But I usually do and I can feel the tears at the back of my eyes.

I go to a lot of trans events. And as a rule, I really try in my own work and activism to focus on the positives. I think it’s important for people to hear the good things about being trans. For trans people themselves to be given hope and even perhaps a little bit of joy in our shared experience.

But TDoR is a different thing. Transgender Day of Remembrance is the time to remember our struggles. To speak the names of our dead. To remind ourselves that no matter how far we have come, there is still a vast mountain to climb.

For the past couple of weeks I have been wanting to write something about Transgender Day of Remembrance, but not known what it is I should write about. Something that was said to me by a friend before the memorial tonight planted the seed though. I mentioned how difficult I often find TDoR to be. He responded with something to the effect that they were going to try and be a little more positive this year. So many people were being “triggered”.

It’s not the first time I have heard discussion of how people have a hard time coming to TDoR events. They’d rather celebrate life than focus on all this death. Talk about moving forward, rather than dwell on the past. I even hear more and more people every year, people I care about and love, talk about simply not going anymore because it’s just too depressing or they feel they’ve moved on with their own lives and transitions.

It all got me to thinking, and here’s the thing. I’m not sure I think it’s the worst thing that people find Transgender Day of Remembrance “triggering” or depressing. It should be “triggering”*. It is depressing. We are reading the names of trans people; transsexual, transgender and gender variant; whose lives have been tragically cut short.

These are our sisters and brothers. This is our family. But for little more than luck or accident of circumstance and privilege any of our names could be on that list. We need to remember that first and foremost, this is a memorial service. Transgender Day of Remembrance is for mourning our dead. Remembering each of these lives, so the deaths of our sisters and brothers do not go unmemorialized.

We take note of the available details surrounding their deaths. Every year as the names are being read, I make it a point to focus. To truly hear each name, take note of where they died and if it is available, their ages and the circumstances of their deaths. Realize this is more than just words being read. These were vital, vibrant lives ended.

And though I keep referring to these people as “our sisters and brothers who have died”. Let me be more specific and more frank. These are primarily our sisters, transwomen of colour, more often than not; who have not merely died, but were murdered. It’s important to keep that fact in mind.

It’s far, far too easy to become numb to these memorials. To go through the motions, because by now it’s a valuable community tradition that many of us have gotten used to. But let us not forget what this is about.

It is about pain and tragedy. The loss of human lives to the spectre of blind hate and pervasive ignorance. This IS dark. This IS painful. That is as it should be.

It is NOT a time for celebration. Unless it’s an Irish style Wake for the dead, cocktail parties are not an appropriate event. It is also not an LGBT “Holiday”. Though these deaths represent a common point for trans people and our allies to come together over. Let’s not forget these are trans deaths. This one is Big T, little lgb. If you have not involved trans people as leadership in your Transgender Day of Remembrance event, you’re doing it wrong. And if you have forgotten trans people of colour, specifically trans women of colour, you probably haven’t even gotten the point.

And yes, I think it’s important for all of us, no matter where we are in our transitions, to be there.

The rest of the year, let us focus on moving forward. Tell our stories about how it can be wonderful to be trans and proud. Work on coming together, building our community up. Laugh and sing and dance even!!

But this one day. Let this be for our dead. Plan on being upset. Don’t try to fight the tears. Really listen to the names. Whether it’s in a voice strong and powerful or quavering with sadness, read out the manner, place and date of their murders. And also, try to step back and let our trans sisters of colour be our face and our voice. Truly think about how we can stand together, but still give focus where it needs to go.

We acknowledge death so we may remember why it is so important for us to live! Why it is so vital that we never give up the fight!!

With our tears we water the garden of our future.

  • My use of the word “triggering” here, with parentheses added for emphasis, is not meant to criticize those for whom the word trigger has a stronger, more medical meaning. For instance, folks suffering from moderate to severe PTSD, or victims of violence, often with resulting panic attacks. It is instead directed at the growing usage, co-option if you will, of the word to indicate things that folks simply find deeply upsetting or difficult or that they prefer to avoid. It is also worth noting that the people I hear expressing a desire to avoid these memorials are not the folks I know who suffer from these genuinely distressing issues.
05
Nov
13

Tammy’s Twist – A Trans-Tastic Evening Of Comedy

Come on everybody!

Let’s TWIST!!!

 

twistcomic

Hi there! It’s Lorelei, you know, the weird tall woman who writes a newspaper column called “Ask A Transwoman” and purports to be a bona-fide pageant queen. (It’s true! Honest! Miss Trans New England 2009!! W00t!!) The Transproviser her very-own self!!

Anyway, the other thing I do, and did for years and years before I became the fabulous transgender activist I am today, is Improv and Comedy! This is relevant because I’m co-hosting a show in NYC next Saturday with the amazing trans stand-up comic Tammy Twotone. And I’m really hoping you, my dear faithful readers, will go!! Or if it’s totally unrealistic for you to make it, maybe you could encourage your friends to go.

SingingTandLcropBut why is this so important, besides being a super-funny night of some of the best comedy on the freaking planet?!?! It’s important because this is what we’re always talking about. It’s transpeople making our own media. Telling our own stories (and jokes!). We’re not waiting for Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry to catch up, we’re doing it ourselves.

And we bring a heck of a lot of talent to the table. Tammy has been doing standup for decades. Perfecting her craft and paying her dues, until she got to the point where she has finally been trusted with producing her own show. This show.

As for myself, I spent years studying improv and sketch comedy at Second City in Chicago and LA. Performing with a number of different groups, and on any stage I could get up on, all over the country. I was also the showroom manager at The Hollywood Improv for several years, studying and getting to know some of the greatest comics working today. (As well as a lot of the not-so-greatest…  Gods help me.)RedDurkinNY

Beyond that, we also have the amazingly funny and smart trans comic (TransComic?) Red Durkin joining us. For my money, Red is one of the best up and coming comics working today. Trans or otherwise.

Tammy, Red and I all come from pretty different comedy backgrounds, so it’s not often you will see the three of us sharing one stage like this. This is special. And not just because of our collective transness! We also have quite a line-up of cis LGBQ comics joining us as well as some totally straight cisfolks! (CisComics?) They bring credits as diverse as “The Chappelle Show”, “Louie”, MTV and even freakin’ Nick At Night!!

But for this to be successful we need to pack the house! Show ‘em we’re not just awesome, but we’re a viable market. Trust me, if there’s one thing The Industry values above all else, it’s the ability to bring a crowd!

Now is the time to stop talking about how there needs to be more transpeople being represented. We will be representing loud and proud this coming Saturday, 10pm at The Broadway Comedy Club in NYC!!!  All you have to do is show up!! (And buy a ticket and two drinks of course.)

See you there!!

The Broadway Comedy Club 318 West 53rd St., New York, NY 10010

Tammy Twotone, – Producer/Host

Lorelei Erisis -Second City, LA Improv

Coleen Scriven – NYC Fringe Festival

Kim Deshields -Nick at Nites’ Funniest Mom

Rick Crom – ‘Louis’, ‘Chapelle Show’

Micah Sherman -Second City

Red Durkin -PrettyQueer.Com

Harrison Greenbaum -MTV Comedians to Watch

Emma Willmann

Danny Palmer

Stacy Kendro

The Silent Opera

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door. There is a 2 drink Min.

For res. call 212-757-2323

09
Sep
13

Let’s all do The Communication!

Hello friends. I have a few things to say on the subject of communication. Some broad thoughts and some specific requests.

 I will no longer respond to messages in my social media that don’t at least attempt proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. It makes me twitch when I open a message from an adult that looks like it could have been written by a toddler.

I’m not going to be a douche about it. I’m fine with slang, also standard netspeak. (Though if you are over 40, please try to have some idea of correct usage for netspeak/slang!! Srsly!) Also, if you genuinely are a terrible writer/speller who somehow has no access to auto-correct or spell check, don’t sweat it. However, if you do have those things, by all means, use them!

It’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference between people who can’t do things and people who simply aren’t trying. If you are trying but simply cannot do it, I’ll be nice I promise.

The only time I find it appropriate to bend these rules are when we are chatting/instant messaging IRL (See how I still used that in a proper sentence?!?). In which case, relaxation of these rules aides in speed and efficiency of communication. Let the flow of the conversation be your guide. But please at least start at the top of your intelligence.

Finally, if you have something to say, then say it! If you have a question, then ask it! Don’t make me dance around with endless rounds of “Hi”, “How r u?” or, “u busy”. This makes me really crazy. Especially since, given my improv training and natural inclinations, I will usually simply reflect whatever you lead with and it will take forever to get anywhere.

I’m an advice columnist, public figure, and if we are connected on a social media platform, I at least nominally think of you as a friend. You can ask me questions in private. It’s okay. I give you permission.

If you are worried, then let me know the nature of the question, so I can decide for myself. In all likelihood I’ll probably still be okay with it and I will definitely let you know either way. I do think politeness is awesome! And proper etiquette rocks!! But I’m not completely hung up on it. Just do your best and you’ll be fine.

Okay? I mean, I don’t want to be a jerk, but I am a writer and performer. Language is clearly kind of important to me. I like to surround myself with people who are relatively well-spoken. And I enjoy intelligent conversation more than most things.

But hey, not everyone I know and like is well-spoken or skilled at writing. I do understand. I am just so tired of opening my inboxes and seeing mangled language and corrupted communication. It wastes my time and yours. Plus, it makes me sad.

Do you remember the crying Indian (Native American) from those anti-littering ads from the late seventies and early eighties? Well, if you do, picture that whenever you start to type a message to me that has no capitalization or punctuation to speak of.

Crying Indian Ad

Let us please remember that the purpose of language is to facilitate effective communication between people.  When it is used properly, it’s even quite beautiful! To quote the linguist Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw’s play, ‘Pygmalion’: “Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible.”

Social media also has the positive potential to facilitate new kinds of effective communication between people. In ways we have never seen before! This does nothing to diminish the usefulness of properly used written forms however. If anything, it makes them all the more important!

As always, I love you all! And I look forward to some great communications!




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