What’s next for me?

If I had a pizza for every time I’ve been told this:

“You need to write a book.”

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When I abruptly left the ministry, I assured everyone that I was not retiring in the typical sense of the word. My reply to those who expressed dismay at my no longer serving as a pastor was that I was confident the Lord had another career for me. I told them I intended to continue to serve my fellow Christians, but I didn’t know what shape that would take.

That was 2014. At the time, other than talking to a handful of church leaders, I could not speak about my gender dysphoria. Thus, I had to remain vague about what I hoped to do after leaving the ministry. But, already then—during the period when I had no idea whether I would be able to hold on as a male or would attempt transitioning—I was confident that I would eventually go public regarding my gender issues.

Why? I was going to be public about it for exactly the reason I learned by having done so in 2015, because the world was in the dark about gender dysphoria, and because I found the Christian Church, and especially my Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, to be completely unequipped to work compassionately with trans persons.

I knew that I wanted to do two things. First, I endeavored to write my life story, with the emphasis on my gender issues and all that I have learned and experienced. Second, I was determined to get to a point where I could make presentations to Christians, to educate them about transgender matters.

I am pleased to report that my plan is taking shape. In September, I reached important stages toward the two goals. Indeed, they were in themselves goals realized.

  • I have completed the first draft of my book—forty-nine chapters and more than 100,000 words.
  • I have made my first transgender education presentation to a church group.

“Riding a Roller Coaster through a Hurricane”

The working title of my book is borrowed from Julie’s description of my life in 2013. She said, “You are like a chrysalis that is riding a roller coaster through a hurricane.” In this, she captured how fragile I was as I lived through a most tumultuous time.

Having written my life’s story, I have a first draft done. Two friends are reading it, providing feedback, looking for errors and anything helpful they can provide. I am also reading it, searching for errors and looking for ways I can improve the text, either through addition (especially things I forgot to write) or subtraction.

The next step is the tough one. Should I pursue publishers, submitting a book proposal? Or would I be wise to search out a literary agent? Or should I go straight for self-publishing? Julie and I don’t have much money to spend, so that will temper anything I do.

I could use your concrete assistance.

I have read up on how to write a book proposal, seek a literary agent, and self-publish. Where I am lacking is connections. The saying was created because of the truth it contains, that it’s not what you know but who you know. If you know a literary agent who might be interested in my story, please reach out to me. If you have connections with a publisher which could be the right one for my book, please contact me.

I truly am in need. This task is daunting to me. I will proceed because I believe in my story, find it one that needs to be told in detail, and hope that the book can open doors to the education I want to do.

Transanswers

My desire is to educate, whoever and wherever. My first hope is to give my Transanswers presentation to Christians, either to congregations or to pastors.  I have three versions of it—one for Christian lay folks, one for ministers, and one for a secular setting, such as the workplace.

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During my first presentation of Transanswers.

Four weeks ago, I had my first opportunity, presenting at a local church. I am pleased to report that it was well received. The folks paid close attention during my just-over-an-hour talk—no one drifted to looking at a phone, which is today’s ultimate test!—and then they had numerous excellent questions, so many that we did not have time to cover all of them.

Three ministers were in attendance, the resident pastor and two retired ones. One of the retired pastors wrote to me that he found my presentation to be “educational, inspirational, and courageous.”

If you are in the Indianapolis area and have interest in my presentation, please contact me. If you are farther away and would like me to come to your place, I bet we can make it happen.

Moving forward

I continue to feel great. I’ve not had even the tiniest blip of gender issues.

In mid October, I have a meeting scheduled with an important church official. I am hoping good things come from that, getting my foot in the door to educate pastors.

I have one Transanswers lined up for a group of pastors, but because of full schedules I wasn’t able to be fit in until next spring.

Even as I work on getting my book published, I intend to write a book specifically for pastors, to help them in understanding gender dysphoria and ministering to transgender Christians.

I am sixty-one years old. I have all of the passion I had when I was a young man. I am raring to go.

Bring on career number three!

Trans Ed 101: drag queens

Are drag queens men who want to be women, who identify as women, who consider themselves transgender?

No.

Yes.

Maybe.  But probably not.

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Drag has been around for a long time, so long that no one is sure from where the name originated. The common thought is that it is an acronym, where D.R.A.G. stands for Dressed Resembling A Girl. Some contend that it comes from men struggling to drag around the full length gowns of women, as in the era of the photo, below.

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A drag queen in the late 1800s.

While drag queens are more common, there also are drag kings, women who are Dressed Resembling A Guy. Because drag queens both predominate and, of late, have made a splash into the mainstream, I will concentrate on them.

Surpassing whether or not drag artists are transgender is understanding what drag is. Drag is performance art. It’s entertainment. It’s over-the-top playing the opposite sex for the purpose of putting on a show or simply having fun.

Anyone can do drag and, nowadays, it seems is. Drag shows are everywhere from professionals making a living in nightclubs to college students getting dressed up to raise money for a charity. RuPaul, the now famous drag queen, of whom I first became aware twenty-five years ago, hosts the continually-growing-in-popularity RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has been renewed for a tenth season.

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Generally, drag queens are gay men. “Queen,” which now is celebrated and embraced, began as a demeaning slur against homosexual men.

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Shane Jenek is a gay man whose drag persona is Courtney Act.

Drag has long been common in gay bars. But not only gay men do drag; it’s not a requirement. Straight guys do it, too, the most famous of whom might be Barry Humphries, married to a woman, who parlayed his character, Dame Edna Everage, into a long career that included a popular television talk show parody, the late 1980s’ The Dame Edna Experience. (I loved the show. I envied Humphries for being able to play a woman in public, and the guy was just plain hilarious.)

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Barry Humphries and his alter ego, Dame Edna Everage.

Some males get into drag, who are dealing with gender identity issues. Every year during Rupaul’s Drag Race there will usually be one or two contestants who announce that they are, in fact, transgender.

Carmen Roman—better known by the stage name she took when she began drag, Carmen Carrera—is a trans woman who began work as a gay male doing drag. A couple of years into it, she revealed that she is transgender, and now has fully transitioned. As a male, she had married a man. They remained married through her transition, but eventually divorced.

'Ricki And The Flash' New York Premiere
Carmen Roman/Carrera

Carmen Carrera is the exception to the drag queen rule. Generally, if you watch Rupaul’s Drag Race, or see drag queens in the news—this summer, there was a report of drag queens reading books to kids in libraries as part of a worthy cause—your first assumption should be that they are regular guys who do drag for whatever their reason might be.

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A drag queen reading this summer to children in a New York city library.

It seems to me that when a person, such as Carmen Roman, began as a drag queen but then comes to identify as transgender, she should no longer be called a drag queen. But this has not been the case with many who are full time trans women and continue to do drag. So, not only can males be drag queens, so can transgender women. Oh, and so can cisgender women, both straight and lesbian, perform as drag queens.

The art is open to all.

Drag is synonymous with over-the-top. The point of drag is not, in the strict sense, to impersonate females, but to have fun with the hair and clothes and makeup.

While the term “female impersonator” is not used as much as it used to be, when men want to convince an audience that they are seeing a woman, the men keep their hair, makeup, and dress in conformity with typical feminine appearance.

Often, the aim of the female impersonator is to mimic a famous woman. The first female impersonator I ever saw was on The Carol Burnett Show, in 1972. The video, above, is from that episode. Jim Bailey appeared as Barbra Streisand, even singing her songs in his own voice. In places like Las Vegas, one can find female impersonator shows. Impersonators of Cher, Madonna, Britney Spears and Dolly Parton remain favorites.

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Turning around the discussion, don’t think that trans women want to be drag queens. While I love performing, and probably would have a ball as a queen, I don’t have any interest in it. I might first want to actually go to a drag show, something which I’ve never done.

You don’t have to be transgender, or gay, or lesbian, or bi, or queer to enjoy drag. When it is done well—superb wigs, expert makeup application, splendid clothing, all wrapped into performance which clearly has been well-rehearsed—drag can be as entertaining a show as anything.

And its usually done by guys who like being guys.

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From the mid-1980s to 1990, I performed four years in the Montague Showboat.  One year, I wrote a skit which was set in a diner, with a mouthy waitress as the star.  There were a lot of lines to learn and we struggled to find a woman to play the lead role.  No one knew, but I really wanted to play this part, both because I would get to play a woman and for the saucy punchlines she would get to deliver. I had to contain my giddiness when I “volunteered” to take on the role.

I’m sorry for the poor quality of these pictures, but that’s me, center stage, when I was in my early 30s.

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Below, I am waiting on the unsuspecting John Calkins.  He asked, “What’s the soup of the day?”  I replied, “It’s creamed pheasant.”  As he drooled, “Mmm, that sounds good,” I interrupted, “Yup.  I creamed that pheasant with my Buick on my way to work this morning!”

Raucous laughter ensued.

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I considered this neither playing a drag queen or being a female impersonator.  Besides, I surely wasn’t good enough to receive either lofty designation.

 

 

Trans Ed 101: the pre-trans life

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When a person transitions, what becomes of her or his or their prior life? For perhaps the first half-century after surgery became available for males to transition to female, it was most common for them to scrub their past, almost as if they went into a witness protection program, because of how unacceptable would be their transitioning and how difficult their new life if the world knew (save for the rare public person, such as Christine Jorgenson). So, they would move to a new town, create a new history, hide or burn their old photos.

Today, while there are plenty of trans folks who are able to transition so effectively that they blend in as their desired sex, and both desire to and are able to live in a way that they don’t have to reveal their past, most either do not blend so effectively or, even more, remain right where they were, transition publically in their family, in their work, in their school, retaining the life they had built.

The question then becomes, how do they refer to themselves pre-transition, and how might they want others to do so? Does a genetic male, now a transwoman, take to referring to childhood as “when I was a girl”? Does a genetic female, who has given birth, now go by “Dad”? When a young child transitions, with very few years of history, do their parents act as if there were not a pre-trans life?

You can easily imagine that there is no one answer to this. Indeed, how trans folks see their past is as unique as each person.

For me, this was a no-brainer. I transitioned so late, and built a thorough life as a guy, my life prior to transitioning would remain Greg and male. I was blessed with a good life, so I continue to embrace it, where too many long to shed their prior life because of how terribly they were treated (see my post, “Dead Name”).

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/transgender-terms-dead-name/

For those who blend well, who do not let on that they are transgender, it is assumed that they will change how they speak of their historical self. A transwoman would not want to say to a co-worker, “Oh, yeah, when I was a boy I wanted to be a fireman.” While she might continue to admit that she wanted to be a fireman, or fire fighter, she might now say “when I was a girl,” but she also could avoid the question entirely by simply saying, “When I was young,” or, “When I was a child.”

My sister now refers to me as her sister, and she is lovely to do so. Besides, especially on Facebook where I am Gina, it makes sense to switch from brother, and it might save some questions should one of her friends not know much about us. That’s purely practical. Many decisions are made by us, and about us, for purely practical purposes; don’t create a problem or raise questions where none exist.

How about when one is a parent? I never was my children’s mother. They have a wonderful mother and splendid step-mother. Besides, I love that I am the father of my children. I told my kids I still want them to call me “Dad,” and they do. The writer, Jenny Boylan, transitioned when her two boys were young. One son brought up that “Dad” no longer fit, but that she wasn’t Mom, either—Jenny and her wife remained married—and so the son mashed “Mom” and “Daddy,” to come up with “Maddy.” It worked, and it stuck.

I know a transwoman who transitioned when her kids were really young. For the kids’ sake, switching to “Mom” was easier personally and most helpful socially. Can you imagine the trouble that would be given to middle-school-aged kids using “Dad” for this person who looks like a woman? Kids can be very mean, and some of them would pick on these kids just terribly.

What if you are not sure how to refer to the pre-transitioned life of a trans person? Again, I refer to a previous article, “Rude Questions.”

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/transgender-terms-rude-questions/

If you do not know the person very well, I would suggest never switching sex/gender on them in any way. Retain their current pronouns for their past, until and unless they correct you. All historical references should be in the sex and gender in which they are now living. If they notice and want to correct you, they have the ability to do it. “Oh, hey, it’s okay to say that I grew up as a girl. That’s how I think of myself and talk about my younger self.”

If you know the person well enough to talk about personal things, and you have found yourself unsure about this, one would think it would be fair and right to ask in a respectful manner—in private; not in front of others—something like, “Jenny, I know your kids call you ‘Maddy,’ but I’m not sure how you think of yourself before your transition.” I am confident that, said this way, Jenny will not only gladly answer but will appreciate that you didn’t make an assumption.

Even more, if you know that the person is transgender, and you are in a group where some folks might not, or you don’t know if everyone does, you will want to take great care not to say anything to reveal it. If the group were talking about when they all were young, you wouldn’t want to say to your transman friend, “I’m really curious what you were interested in, since you were a girl back then.”

That’s the ultimate thing. You never want to expose a trans person who does not want it known. If you had some deep secret, which you didn’t want everyone knowing—say, when you were young, you did a foolish thing that found you a convicted felon—how would you feel if a friend, who knows your past, exposed it?

Sadly, for the transgender person this is more than a personal/social issue. If one is exposed, when that person has successfully kept it unknown, it could cause trouble for them on the job, where they live, and more. Work opportunities—promotions and raises—can be adversely affected. Jobs can be lost, because trans women and men do not have protections in many places. The same goes for where they live.

Even for trans folks who have successfully transitioned and are doing well, many things can trip them up to create trouble where it need not have existed. Please, don’t be the one to trip anyone.