Today’s Rant

smooth-legsToday’s Rant: All these years I have felt that shaving my armpits and legs are a bit of a chore that no woman should ever want to do. Now I realize that when someone whom you love puts his* hands on your legs and enjoys the <ahem> smoothness of it, and it excites him, it’s all worth it.

(*It could be her hands too!)

Sally Ann

Fine with me if you don't want to donate to the Sally Ann, but are you sure about the reason?
It’s fine with me if you don’t want to donate to the Sally Ann, but are you sure about the reason?

It’s almost Christmas again, and this is when the Salvation Army sets up booths all around shopping malls in North America to solicit donations. I know many in the LGBTQ community have misgivings, or mistrust, or downright hostility towards the organization—or more accurately, the church, but I digress—often for the right reasons (e.g. their policies in the United States regarding gays, same-sex marriage, transgender rights etc), but sometimes for the wrong reason also (e.g. being duped by doctored photographs of volunteers protesting gay rights). It’s sufficed to say that “Sally Ann” does not have a stellar reputation among the transgender community.

But before we paint everyone in the Salvation Army as bigots, I want to share some of my experiences. For years, I volunteered with a Salvation Army group that runs an outreach program to sex workers in Toronto. One area that we target is Homewood Ave., which is where most transgender sex workers work. And the reason that we specifically target them is because the incredible suffering that they face. Most transgender sex workers we meet are from Caribbean countries. They come to Canada—often illegally—to escape persecutions, violence and harassment against them, the extend of which we’d never see in the US or Canada. Once they’re here, they have little job prospect aside from the little bit of money that they make as prostitutes. So we help them leave the sex trade, and to find temporary housing, immigration lawyers etc. In the time that I was in the program, I have never felt that their gender and sexual orientation was discriminated against.

Nor mine.

Being a sex worker is nothing like in a Hollywood movie, especially if you're transgender, you're very likely to be abused.
Being a sex worker is nothing like in a Hollywood movie. And if you’re transgender, you’re very likely to be abused.

It’s one thing to outreach to the sex workers, but it can be totally something else to have a trans woman among the ranks of the volunteers. So I should point out that I myself never was looked down upon. I was welcomed into the tight-nit group of volunteers just like all the women (and a few selected men) and I was valued just like everyone else. The work that I have done had been empowering to say the least.

I can’t say if my experience with the Salvation Army is typical among all the volunteers who are not anglo-saxon-English-speaking-white-Christian Americans/Canadians, but I would like to think that if we in the transgender community get angry by people assuming that we’re the worst kind of freaks and perverts, we probably shouldn’t do the same and assume that they’re all the same homophobic and transphobic bigots just because they’re part of the Salvation Army.

I think that’s enough ranting for one day.

Tona Brown at Carnegie Hall

Tona Brown
Tona Brown

The story of Tona Brown had been getting a lot of attention in the LGBT community lately. (The Huffington Post writes: Meet The First African American Transgender Performer To Take The Stage At Carnegie Hall) I wish her concert goes well, but I also wish that the media had a more accurate coverage. That said, I feel a little bit of ambivalence about the story altogether. What bothered me about the coverage is that no one seems to realize that at the end of the day, Carnegie Hall is just like every concert hall: you can have whatever concert you want there as long as you can pay the rental fees. It is not a small amount since its a union house, and the Huffington Post article even talked about she had to raise the money. The coverage in the LGBT community made it sound like she’s the first African-American transgender musician to have “made it to the top”. But to me, it’s probably more accurate to say that she’s the first African-American transgender person to have “paid the rental fees”. I don’t want to diminish Tona Brown’s accomplishments; the music business is downright nasty. Tona is an excellent musician—just watch the YouTube video of her singing. But not only did she have to be talented, she had to overcome many obstacles to become the musician that she is today. I myself couldn’t stomach the stress of being a musician, and I went to study engineering instead.

I started feeling this way after I had the chance to perform at the Tchaikovsky Hall at the Moscow Conservatory many years ago with my youth orchestra. If I had been brave and identified myself as transgender during my teenage years (instead of trying to fit in), I might had been the first one too. My orchestra wasn’t particularly good; and I wasn’t a very good soloist either. We just…paid, that’s all.

So if you want to be the first [ethnic/social group] [instrument] person to perform at [concert hall name], find a day when the hall isn’t booked already, pay the rental fees, and there you have it. And after you have made your booking, you should go home and practice…unless you don’t really care if you embarrass yourself. After all, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!”

Wait, I didn’t really mean that. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Pay rent, pay rent, pay rent!”

Getting Photos Taken

Groupon is a wonderful thing. I am not sure if the company’s business model will survive in the long run, but for now, it lets me try our new products and services and restaurants by giving me some substantial discounts, and that’s good enough to me.

Two weeks ago, my sister in law called to let me know that she bought a family photo package on Groupon, so during my next visit to Vancouver in February, I’ll be part of those photos. Then, it occurred to me that may be I should check out similar services from photographers in the Toronto area. Lo and behold! There are dozens of deals here. Some offer studio shoots, some offer on-location sessions. Most deals are under $100CAD and they include about an hour of photo shoot, some photo retouching, and photos on a DVD. Some even offer prints 4×6-inch or 5×7-inch. It seems like a very affordable way find out if I like having a professional take pictures for me. (If so, I can imagine myself going back again and again.)

As some of you already know, I love having my pictures taken. Sometimes I take my own pictures with my trusty DSLR cameras mounted on a tripod; sometimes I ask my friends for help. What I haven’t yet done is to hire a real photographer. With the Groupon deals available, I hope that when the weather gets more favorable, I can get some nice pictures taken. The only question is what kind of pictures. Since there are only about 5 people who read my blog, and I’m pretty sure that 2 of you want to see me naked, let me first say that it’s not one of the options that I’m considering. I am, however, considering these:

Option 1: Studio or on-location shoot with my bike(s). I love the photos that (my favourite female cyclist) Victoria Pendleton did. I want to do something similar. Obviously I won’t be having nude pictures taken with my bike, but my bike does look a lot like hers in the picture.

Option 2: Ballgown on a field. Something about the obvious mismatch between the rural and the “sophisticated” can make for very striking photos. I can imagine myself wearing my best fancy dress, walking in a corn field. There was a time, many years ago, when I would even ask a male friend, and pretend that we’re doing an engagement shoot, but that is well in the past now.

Option 3: Sexy violinist in an urban setting. I can wear some punk-ish clothes, and have some pictures taken in a graffiti filled back alley. With my violin. Come to think of it, I am certain that any professional photographer can make it artistic and sexy.

So, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions that do not involve me disrobing?  (Hey, tasteful suggestions only!)

Downs and Ups (Mostly Down)

Most people (the five of you!) who read my blog might be tempted to think that I am an extrovert. While this is mostly true, the fact is that when I am out, I am usually not particularly eager to interact with people in general. When I go to the library, supermarket, movies, hardware store, watching fall colours, even occasionally to church, I usually keep to myself in my thoughts. Even when I am with a big group, I often only chat with my closer friends. (On the few occasions when I did talk to other people, almost everyone had been friendly and kind.) But reading Stana’s blog at femulate.org recently has given me a new-found confidence to interact with the outside world more. It’s about time that I accept the fact that I am a non-op, non-HRT, transgender woman, and I’m here to stay. And dammit, other people should accept it too!

And as the weather is warming up, it’s time for me to change my tires back to my summer tires. So yesterday morning, I loaded my tires (on rims) into the trunk of my car, while wearing my Kate Young dress from Target. In hindsight I should have worn my tank top and yoga pants. Nevertheless, I drove out a tire shop that I usually go to north of the city, one of the two shops that I use for tire-changeovers. I walked up to the staff person at the counter. Right away, he asked me for my licence plate number, which I gave him. He then asked for my ID—no one has ever asked for my ID, the whole purpose of getting my licence plate number was just to bring up my records on file; there was no need to see an ID. My driver’s licence of course had my birth name on it.

He then, very loudly, announced my name, “It’s [….], right?” I felt a shiver down my spine, as all the customers started to look at me. Did he just out me on purpose? I thought. Keeping a straight face, he continued, “Are the tires on rim?”

“Yes, they’re in my trunk.” I replied, trying to compose myself, but I felt my voice quivering a bit. “And the nuts for the alloy rims are on the backseat.” I’m sure that I was clear. But he acted as if I was mumbling.

“Pardon me sir?” He said. I repeated what I said…three times. Each time my voice was raised louder, until at the end when there was no way that I could have sounded feminine anymore. Still all eyes were on me; I felt my arms shake a bit. I wasn’t certain whether I was upset or scared or both.

He muttered, but not quietly enough: “Oh, a strong guy like you should have no problem loading them…” I felt tears dripping down. “Look, sir, we may have to take all day. You can wait in the waiting room in the back, grab a snack, water or coffee, watch some TV, and the men’s room is to the left.”

I went to the back room, sitting there quietly. There were a few men in the room already. Do they think that I am man? An older woman (not that she was old, she was just older than me) sat down right next to me a few minutes later. She was behind me when everything was going on. She looked at me for a few seconds—which initially made me nervous. Is she going to make fun of me too? But then she said, “Oh you poor girl, don’t cry.” Only then did I realize I was sobbing. She put both arms around me and continued, “Let me give you a hug.” And she didn’t let go of me for the longest time. The lady took me by my hands, and dragged me to the ladies’ room to help me clean up the mess that was my face; my hands just weren’t steady anymore. While she was doing my blush, she said something like, “I know they called you […..], but remember that no matter what they call you, you’re still a gorgeous woman.” And then with a bit of a smirk, she said, “I want to shove my boots up his ass, but we don’t want to go to jail, do we?”

She held my hands and marched right up to the counter, demanding to see the manager. In a very loud and very affirming voice, she said to him, “Your staff has been very rude to this young lady here, and we don’t want to do business with you anymore. Please give us our keys back.” The manager, quickly apologized, gave us our keys, and tore up the work order. Two older men who had been waiting also left. On of them told me outside that even though he doesn’t know anything about “this gender stuff”, the way I was treated showed that the staff were idiots who didn’t know how to deal with customers.

I sat in my car for a long time before I was able to drive home. I went to bed very early last night, so I’m well rested and much calmer today. Hopefully my research work will take this episode off my mind, and that I’ll recover some confidence soon. I posted something on my Facebook and Google+, and so far the responses have been encouraging.

My tires are still inside my trunk, and I’ll definitely be visiting the other tire store from now on.

My Craziest Easter Long Weekend

I was in the process of writing another post on a completely harmless topic, but had to put it on hold when work got busy last week. Before I could go back to writing, the Easter weekend came along, and it was no ordinary weekend…

On Good Friday night, I went out on the “late-night ladies outreach” for sex workers with another woman (in case someone is wondering, I’m usually dressed as androgynous person when I’m out), and had two interesting things happen to us. First, one of the girls in the high-track area “S” was being harassed by a potential john who wanted to get her service without paying her. “Don’t you just want a good-looking guy like me fucking you? I’ll make you feel goooooood.” he said. You see, he was probably the ugliest man I have ever seen, and I didn’t just mean that he looked unattractive. Consider this: “beauty is skin deep, but ugly is to the bones.” He was ugly to the bones. Just seeing him made me want to be a woman that much more. S skillfully dealt with that man, but I’m sure he didn’t appreciate us being there.

Also on the high track area, as we were wrapping up the night outside a Mac’s convenience store, waiting for the coordinator’s van to pick us up, a taxi pulled up, and a girl known to us “M” got out with a customer and went inside Mac’s, while the taxi waited. I have never seen anyone so incredibly drunk and still be able to walk; he was the first. Once they were inside, we chatted about how he was to perform at all…having paid M at least $100 (apparently, according to another girl on high-track, the “minimum” going rate). Minutes later, the man came out, but instead of going back into the taxi, he wandered away with a blank look on his face. A minute later, M also came out, and waited for the man inside the cab. After awhile, even M went looking for the man.  Eventually she found him, and brought him back to the taxi. But once the taxi driver saw him, he shook his head in disgust, and left (without being paid).

Overall, the outreach had much more drama than usual.  But that’s not all.

townhome
This is not the safehouse!

The Christian group that I worked with is housing a few young women that we have “rescued” from the sex trade at an undisclosed location. This weekend was my turn to go and spend the nights there (sleeping on the couch) to keep watch. On the first night, I had a bad dream, and as I woke up, I kicked the coffee table very hard. I must have screamed pretty loud in pain, because I pretty much woke everyone up. Thankfully, the women wrote it off as a laughable event and I didn’t scare them. And yes, I can’t wear heels this week because of the bruises on my toes.

I was sleeping very soundly on the second night when I feel off the couch completely and my butt landed squarely in the space between the couch and aforementioned coffee table. The laughter from the young women when they found out was even more precious than the first night.

In between the two nights, I spent some time at my church for an Easter-related event. Or so it was the plan.

I arrived at church and found a man wandering outside. I asked him if he needed any help, and he replied that he needed someone to talk to. I went looking for my pastor, but he was nowhere to be found (it was actually his day off, but I didn’t know that at the time). I saw that he was in quite a bit of distress, so I volunteered to chat with him. As it turns out, he was going through a rough patch in his relationship with an ex-girlfriend. We chatted for an hour—thus completely missing the whole gathering—before I was convinced that it was safe for him to leave. He’s a Muslim from Iran, and how he ended up at the doorstep of a Christian church is still a mystery to me. We did manage to get him to speak to my pastor last night for an hour, and we’re trying hard to find him help these days.  He gets very emotional when he’s speaking, and his hands and legs would shake uncontrollably. We are still worried that he is suicidal.

churchAt another church where I also conduct the choir, Easter was also our minister’s last day. It was very emotional, and a bit sad because of the circumstances of him leaving the congregation. But since it was his last day, we had communion together, with him serving the bread and wine to everyone (a couple of hundred people) all by himself. It took a long time, but no one seemed to mind. We were just sad that he’ll never preach there again.

Work is not terribly busy this week, and outside of work, I’m going out to a dinner with some friends on Wednesday, and attending a concert at the University on Thursday, and hopefully I can arrange to meet with another friend that I had originally met online. Perhaps some of those will be worthy of writing about later.

The Award Goes To…

Alice_EveMy first “I Want-To-Be-Like-Her” award goes to the actress Alice Eve. The Internet is full of pictures of her, if you Google her name you will find thousands of them. Among those pictures, there are a lot of overtly glamourous pictures, “red carpet” photos at various media functions for her movies, and also screen captures from those movies, but my favourite is actually a simple head shot her. She’s just absolutely gorgeous: blond, pretty, killer figure, perfect skin. But of course, I’m sure that Adobe Photoshop plays an important role in creating this perfection in print.

I first came across Ms Eve while watching the theatrical trailer from Star Trek: Into Darkness, which she purportedly plays the character of Dr. Carol Marcus. (Trekkies like myself will know immediately who the Carol Marcus character is.) I have not yet seen any of her other movies (She’s Out of My League, Sex and the City 2, Men in Black 3 and IMDB lists a number of lesser-known appearances of her), and aside from MiB3 I’m not that interested in the other ones, so I hope that she does in fact has some acting talents. The Star Trek trailer shows very little of her other than a shot of her screaming, and yes, she does appear in her underwear in the movie in front of Kirk…

star-trek-2-into-darkness-alice-eve-underwear

Now, that’s a terrific looking bra and panties on a terrific body. A naughtier side of me is already fantasizing about making love with as her. In my fantasies, I’m always very eager to have casual sexual encounters with people, but I’m also certain that this will not be the case in reality, even if I do look like her. I promise to write about those fantasies before Armageddon, but I won’t not promise anything else, and I’ll be sure to leave out the naughtiest bits.

I do wish that there is a machine I can step into that will automatically “change” me into her “twin”, then for once I can really enjoy what it’s like to be drop-dead gorgeous. Then, may be I’ll want to spend a day looking like her, or may be a month, or may be even for the rest of my life! But of course, that machine will be no less fictional than Star Trek. But hey, if you want to pay for cosmetic procedures that will make me look exactly like her, I suppose I wouldn’t mind either.  Let’s see, that means massive amounts of estrogen, gender reassignment surgery, massive facial reconstruction to turn me from Chinese to Caucasian, reshaping my hip area…and I’ll probably have to lose 40 pounds. May be even that is impossible too.

(But if you have the millions of dollars and you want to try to turn me into her, let me know.  It’s still cheaper than inventing a machine that instantly changes the appearance of a person. Who knows, I just might turn out to be very eager to “reward” my benefactor.)

More Feminine?

I’m convinced that since so many people have already expressed their own opinions on this topic, there is no urgency for me to add my two cents. But then again, it bothers me a bit that I haven’t yet said anything on the topic. The issue is one that transgender women know so much about, because every now and then, someone will inevitably make fun of us. Often their ridicule includes a similar comment to this, “He doesn’t even look like a woman!” Many of my male admirers (and yes, for some reason, even I have male admirers) would  respond by correctly saying that, “no, you’re wrong, she is a woman, please treat her appropriately!” But sometimes—what is somewhere in the arguments—the admirer’s justification for continuing to treat us like women is because we are more feminine than women who were born female.

But are we? Am I really more feminine than the women around me?

I find that hard to believe. Here are pictures of three exceptionally beautiful post-op transgender women, from left to right, Nong Poy from Thailand, Alicia Lau from Taiwan, and Kim Petra from Germany. If you Google their names you can find very impressive pictures of them.

nong_poy alicia_liukim-petras-40287
Each one of them are so incredibly beautiful that I would kill to look half as good. And each of them have successfully marketed themselves with their beauty. (If you must know, their beauty is so out of reach that I can’t even imagine to aspire to look like them.) But while they are among the most feminine of transgender people, how to they compare to other women? They are probably more feminine than the average woman. That’s quite possible; and there is indeed a wide range of “femininity” among women. The funny thing about averages is that half of the world’s female population are also more feminine than the average by definition. I can walk down any street in Vancouver (my home town) and Toronto (where I live now) and find a lot of women whom I perceive to be feminine and stunningly beautiful. I suspect that I can do the same in just about any street in the world. Although as a woman, I am probably quite average…just the way I want.

So far, I have been careful not to express my own criteria for femininity, because I think it misses the point anyway. A person who makes fun of a trans woman for not looking like a woman already has his own mental scale for measuring femininity, that your appearance must be at least average to be considered a woman. My admirers’ response also uses their own mental scale of measuring femininity. It’s just that us trans women lie on a different spot their scales. But do you necessarily have to be feminine to be a woman? Or can we acknowledge that being a woman is far more than the stereotype: chef in the kitchen; lady in the parlour, a whore in bed. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be feminine, I’m just saying that it’s not the only thing that makes me a woman.  But what are your thoughts on this?

Over the Years

This is me, from fall of 2004 (top left) to last month (bottom right, November 2012). All of these pictures are taken from my web gallery, which I encourage you to visit.  It does not take a genius to know that I’ve grown up.  It’s quite obvious that I looked more like a girlish young woman back then, when I was indeed a younger woman.  That said, what do you think?  Do I look more like a woman now?  Or do I look just…older?  I obviously can’t comment on the sexiness of these pictures, seeing that I feel as much like a woman now as ever.  But I would very much like to hear from everyone in cyberspace.

So please, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

 

Seniors’ Day

At the ripe age of 30, my body has finally run out of the enzymes to digest dairy products. I knew that this was going to happen sooner or later. Nevertheless, I’m not about to give up on enjoying milk, so it’s time to stop by my local drug store to pick up some Lactaid pills.

It must have been “Seniors Day” at my local Shoppers Drug Mart today. It seemed that everyone there was either retired, or near retirement age, including the staff and customer. Since I have never bought any Lactaid before, I didn’t know where to look. So I tried the pharmacist, already in her 60s. She was chatting with another old lady, first information about the medication, then about their families, and grandchildren, and weekend plans. I waited for another 5 minutes before I was able to ask my simple question. The pharmacist didn’t just tell me the answer, she offered to show me where the pills were. But instead of just taking me to the aisle, she proceeded to teach me how to read the signs above the aisles. “So, Lactaid is for your stomach, and if you look up, you’d see the word ‘Stomach’ written on aisle 6. But if you have a headache instead, you would look for ‘pain relief’ and you’ll find that on aisle 7…” The problem was’t that I couldn’t see “Stomach”, it was that the word wasn’t printed on the other side of the sign.  And that was the side that I was looking at. She also told me that my voice was hoarse, and perhaps I should pick up something to sooth it. (If there is a pill that would make my voice instantly feminine, let me know. I want it now!) She then showed me a few products for clearing my throat, and started joking that if I answer the phone, people at the other end might even think that I’m a man. I thought that was pretty funny and I completely stopped paying attention to everything else she was saying.  Little did she know…

Anyway, I got my Lactaid tablets, and headed towards to the only cashier, another older lady. She was trying—along with the store manager old than she was—to figure out why the scanner wouldn’t scan…by repeatedly scanning the same thing over and over again. The line moved slowly. Then I was rudely bumped off the line up by an old and grumpy man pushing his shopping cart through the line. When it got to his turn, he started arguing with the cashier. He had two large packages of toilet paper in the cart, which everyone could see, but he insisted that he had only one, and wouldn’t pay for the second. The manager was there too, and it took a few minutes to sort things out. Finally it was my turn, and I left the store as quickly as I could

So, here I am, typing away my blog at work, wasting even more time!