Lunch with DD

church-streetI had lunch with my friend DD (her initials, not a reference of her bra size) on Church Street (aka Toronto’s “Gay Village”) recently. This used to be “party central” for my weekends, but as time passes, I don’t come here as often as I used to. That said, I still find the area very open to transgender people like myself, and it’s generally open to a diverse range of gender expressions. I continue to recommend the area to newbie crossdressers planning their first trip “out”, because you can be certain to feel comfortable no matter how you dress or look. Take DD for example, she is, well, not particularly “passable”. May be it’s because (by that, I mean “it probably has lots to do with”) she has an incredibly well-groomed moustache, which is awesome as a man, but can draw a lot of unwanted attention as a woman. Continue reading “Lunch with DD”

The Published Author

Some of you know that I have a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Toronto. In getting my degree, I’ve had a few papers published in respected journals. My thesis supervisor cared more about his own reputation than his students’ job prospect, so he makes sure that every paper we publish can be “earth shattering”, and indeed, every paper I’ve written have been very strong, but his philosophy hurt the number of publications under my name, which ultimately impacted my “employability” as a professor. The fact is that each of my journal papers could have easily been broken up into 2 or 3 shorter but more focused papers and still have them published.

Continue reading “The Published Author”

Professional Help…with Photos

A few months ago, I  mentioned that wanted to have pictures taken by a professional photographer. Well, as it turns out, I did get a Groupon deal for just that. Not only that, I didn’t have to pay for it; it was given to me as a gift by a sibling!

Campus Girl
Yeah, this outrageously gorgeous and sexy backless formal dress!

The photographer’s name is Jennifer. And she had made clear from the get-go that she was comfortable with working with a transwoman. (Yay!) We discussed for awhile the kinds of photos I’m comfortable with, and where we should go for the session etc. After some e-mail exchanges over many many weeks, we settled on the details. So earlier this afternoon, I met with Jennifer at Richmond Green north of the city in Richmond Hill.

I wore my outrageously gorgeous and sexy backless formal dress that I’ve only worn once in Vancouver a few years ago, and I felt incredible! I also felt incredibly nervous too. After all, we were in the middle of a park in the middle of a Friday just before the biggest long weekend to end the summer holidays. To say that “there were people there” would be a bit of an understatement. To Jennifer’s credit, she made the photos look like I was the only person around, and she made an otherwise nervous trans girl feel very comfortable.

There were many nice spots in the park to take pictures, even an area called the “Wedding Garden”. No weddings today, but there was a young Indian couple nearby doing an engagement video. There was also a small bridge, a waterfall, a few old brick houses (being used as offices now) and some nice open spaces. It was weird carrying my violin in a park, and some of the poses that Jennifer had me do with the violin were a bit… unusual, but we think that we got some very spectacular pictures at the end. The mid-day sun made for some harsh shadows in many cases, but I trust that Jennifer had taken all of those things into account! We went back to my car so that I could change out of my dress into something more casual—a purple summer dress, and we went back out around the park and took more pictures before calling it quits for the day. The funny thing is that it had to stop just as I was getting very comfortable with being shot by Jennifer.

Jennifer will be editing my photos over the next few weeks, and once they’re ready, I’ll post them here, on Facebook and on my public gallery.

New Pictures Will be Posted, I Promise!

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted any pictures online in more than a year is because I have been very self conscious about my appearance. One of the factors is my hair. In the past, I have always worn a wig whenever I’m out. For the past few months though, I have stopped wearing it most of the time. Now, my own hair is very short, and not at all feminine—If you must know, I intend to keep it that way for now. On one hand, this I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-it style is obviously much more comfortable in the hot summer months. On the other hand, I do get weird looks from people very frequently. Before you say, “oh Katie, that’s just because people think you’re so pretty,” let me point out that I know what I look like when I look into the mirror, and I’m certain that they stare at me for different reasons. Thankfully, I haven’t been harassed by anyone…yet, but sooner or later, there will be some asshole on a busy street who will make a big fuss about it. That said, I will continue to go out with my decidedly boyish haircut in the near future. I will also have my pictures taken with a professional photographer very soon, and yes, you will see my short hair; you can decide for yourself if I look cute or not. In the mean time, let me repost an older picture from a few years ago. I loved this halter dress, and I had a chance to wear it recently. But that’s another story!

My favourite black halter dress, from the days when I wore my wig(s). There aren’t too many things in my wardrobe that makes me feel sexier.

O Katie O Katie, Where Art Thou?

The few of you who pay attention to my online presence would surely have noticed that I haven’t been very actively lately. I haven’t posted new pictures on Flickr, and I haven’t written many blog entries in the last year. There has only been the occasional post on Facebook and Twitter. It is safe to say that there has been many significant changes in my life during this time. Because of some of these changes, I am constantly busy with things. Also, some of the pages on this website have been taken offline for the time being, so that I have time to properly write a new version that more accurately reflect the current state of my life.

For the sake of my sanity and my narcissistic tendencies I hope to begin writing my blog more frequently. After all, there are always exciting stories to tell.

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!”

A Different Topic

The majority of the time on this blog, I talk about transgender issues, and the ups and downs through life as a transgender woman. This time, I want to talk about something completely different. This time, I want to talk about bicycles. Specifically, I want to talk about my bikes. Some of you may already know that I am more than a casual cyclist. For a geeky gal who otherwise does not excel in sports, cycling is the one sport that I do better than all the jocks when I grew up. All I have to do is turn the pedals…and then keep turning. When I am on a bike, I don’t have to think about being male or female, or in between, or neither; and I don’t have to worry much about my appearance (difficult to be pretty anyway when you are covered in sweat, dirt and dust from the road). Life on a bike is freedom.

Well, it is time to say goodbye to one of my bikes. Even though this bike is my favourite (in that is by far the fastest) it’s also the least practical. And this year, I plan bike to work everyday, so practicality is an important factor. And without adequate storage room at home, the bike that I ride the least is the first to go. By the way, I built my bikes by carefully selecting parts that are sometimes off the beaten path, and doing so saves me a lot of money in the process. I am glad to say that I actually made money (a few hundred dollars) selling my used bike. But here comes the interesting part: instead of going to the bank to deposit all the cash from the transaction, I kept the cash instead.

My TT BikeI used the cash to pay for everyday bills (groceries, home maintenance, utility bills, bus pass, car repairs, meals etc), and did a bit of shopping at the mall as well. (I bought some tights, dresses and lingerie.) That’s when I realized that it doesn’t take long for that cash to run out! A very high-end bike that can give me enjoyment for years is only worth as much as my every days for a few weeks. Here’s another thought on all of this. For each day that I bike to work, I save $6 CAD in gas, or $5.5 in bus money. So each time I do that, I put the same amount of money into a pot, it won’t even be difficult to save enough money for a nice pair of shoes every month!

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!)

Girly Chinese Name

Hong Kong at eveningFor the five of you who read my blog regularly, you would have no doubt noticed that I have not updated it for quite some time. To simply put, well, I just haven’t done much (i.e. anything) lately to warrant a new blog entry. I would argue that it’s a good thing, as I have not spent much time trying to carve out an identity as a transgender woman, but rather, just trying to be…human. This blog was written about a month ago, but I haven’t had any time to proofread it. (I still haven’t proofread it yet, but whatever.)

I had just been in Hong Kong for a short trip, and it was good to see my parents and a few friends along the way. Unfortunately my parents are going through a rough patch in their relationship right now, and at times, even sitting down with them for a casual meal can be awkward. In one of my futile attempts to start a casual conservation, I started asking them about the Chinese name—Man-Ming—that they gave me at birth. I’ve always known where the name came from: man (敏) came from a part of my mom’s name which means agile, while ming (明) came from a part of my dad’s name that means smart. That I’m neither agile nor particularly smart is a discussion for another time; what interests me was whether they thought that it was a boy’s name or a girl’s name. Both Mom and Dad were adamant that “Man-Ming” is a boy’s name, but neither could think of another man with the same name; all the example that they could think of were women. (To me, the name sounded very gender neutral.)
Continue reading “Girly Chinese Name”

New Website Theme

It’s hard to believe that it has been three months since I’ve written anything on my blog. In fact, a lot of things have happened, but I won’t go into detail…yet. In any case, I thought that it is time to spruce up my website with a new theme. So I did.  The new theme is (surprisingly) almost identical to the old one, but with more features. What I liked about my previous theme (Shuttershot) is that when you load the page, it automatically loads a slideshow for the background images. That has not changed. What has changed are the features, and it is a vast improvement. I am very happy about this theme.