Friday, October 11, 2013

Sophie's vacation

Dear readers,

Today I have something to share with you. It's something you've probably been able to guess at with the way I've talked about myself in my previous couple of posts, and I don't expect it's something many of you will be happy with. Hopefully, you'll at least understand why I'm doing what I'm doing by the time you finish reading, and even if you don't agree, you'll respect my choice.

Starting next week, I won't be living as Sophie for awhile.

Now, the first thing I want to say is that this isn't because of something someone said on the Internet or even in real life. It's true that those things have happened, and they damaged my perception of self, but that's actually the bigger issue. While thinking about this decision, I had to ask myself:

1) If the comments of strangers and acquaintances could make me feel like I was less of a woman, was I sure enough about who I was that I should continue transition?

2) If I was to continue transition, was I doing it for the right reasons?

I feel like it's clear what conclusion I came to regarding the former, but let me explain the latter: To put it simply, I don't think I make a very good transgender person.

For one, it's no secret that quite a few of the more passionate transgender activists don't really like my stance on people who express what's labeled "transphobia." My stance, for the record, is "meh." Why? One, because "transphobic" is a silly term, just like "homophobic" is a silly term; people who get labeled "homophobic" and "transphobic" aren't often scared of LGBTQ folk, they're downright antagonistic toward them.

A more accurate labeling would be "misolazzogeny" for trans folk, and "misohomorosy" for people who are gay. But we're not Greek (also, I'm not sure that's exactly how you'd translate that, in fact I'm 99% sure it's not) and words are hard, so people tend to label those who disagree with trans or gay people as being "-phobic." In reality, the people who get assigned this label might just not understand, they may be ignorant, they may be uninformed. And yes, sometimes even when they understand, they still disagree or don't like trans people. And in my opinion, that's fine.

I don't really want to be around those people, I don't want to be friends with those people, and I wish they didn't think the way they do, but I can't and I won't advocate penalizing someone for their belief (so long as that belief isn't something like "I get to deny you housing/employment/marriage/life/etc because I don't like you"). Becoming judge and jury on who's right and wrong in regard to their opinions is not something I want to be a part of, ever.

This view, however, has earned me no shortage of angry messages from the social justice movement. The sad part is, although I have certainly had my share of misolazzogeny directed toward me, during my entire existence as Sophie, the most hateful messages I've ever received were from other transgender people telling me I was hurting "the cause" or some such. I don't like causes. I don't endorse them. I appreciate individuality, and that's all I've ever wanted to be.

(Also, while I personally don't get behind the social justice movements I've experienced, I realize they have their benefits, and I'm not saying they should go away or shut up. If you have something you believe is worth fighting for, by all means fight for it. It's just not my fight.)

That being said, I have to wonder if those trans folk who've been peeved at me have a point. I've wondered for some time if I was doing this transition for the right reasons. Readers, I have to tell you, I have to confess: I am an attention whore.

Seriously. I love attention. I liked being called pretty when I was in college or out at parties. No, more than that, I wanted to be called pretty. I wanted to be flirted with. I wanted to be picked up at the bar. (Note: Before anyone gets this confused, no, I did NOT want to be called out for my looks or flirted with while on the job as a journalist. I did not want to be harassed while at Comic-Con [which happened] or groped while at E3 [happened] or talked down to like I, as a girl, couldn't possibly understand these VEEDJA GARMEZ)

So yes, I admit I love people seeing me. I love putting myself in the public's eye. I don't think I'd be a writer if I didn't. And while I admit I'm an attention whore, I wish I wasn't.

Wanting to be seen and wanting to be pretty made me wonder if the heart of my transition was in the right place (if that makes sense). In other words: while I felt like I wanted to be a girl, why was that not enough? Why did I feel the need to be a pretty girl?

I champion feminism and the rights of every woman to not feel like she has to hold herself up to some bullshit societal standards of beauty. If I ever have a daughter, you can damn well bet I'll tell her when she sees a makeup commercial that it's probably not her being born with it OR it being Maybelline, it's probably some fucked up chemicals and a whole lot of Photoshop.

So why couldn't I hold those standards to myself? Why, more than genital surgery, did I (do I) desire facial feminization surgery to lower my hairline, raise my cheeks, point my nose, and reduce the overhang of my brow?

I feel like a mom who tells her kids they better not ever start smoking because o lord, the things it will do their lungs, but sneaks behind the garage for a puff once the school bus comes to remove any witnesses from the home. Do as I say, not as I do, kids.

SO TO SUM UP, no, I don't feel like I do a good "job" of being a transgender person. I don't feel like I fit into the community, and maybe I shouldn't. I also don't feel confident in my ability to present as a woman. And lastly, I question the validity of my identity when I feel constant pressure and concerns that it's not superficially, aesthetically in line with what society wants from a woman, and that makes me feel like a hypocrite.

I need time to process these feelings and see what lies at the root of them. I need time to re-discover myself, and to give myself another chance. I was frequently picked on/teased as a male, and as I've written before, I lacked positive male role models growing up. I want to see if I can be the type of guy I wish there was more of in the world.

I don't know how long I'll be taking a hiatus from living as Sophie, but until further notice, that's still my name. I kinda... really don't like my old, original name, and this test run of manhood is so new that I don't think I've found a suitable replacement. (I like and have been trying out "Sam," and the other day I met a guy named "Luka," which I thought was pretty badass, but I digress)

Also, this doesn't mean I'm taking a break from anything else right now. I'll still be on Twitter, I'm still writing for Joystiq, and once I can figure out a decent regular schedule for it, I'll still be on Twitch. (P.S. Thanks to all of you who checked out my streams, much appreciated)

Oh, and I'll still be here, on this Earth. Don't worry your heads about that. This adventure of male existence isn't one I'm particularly excited about going on, but then, look how Bilbo's unexpected journey turned out.

Sincerely,
Sophie
Sam
Luka
ME

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I failed, and why that's okay

(Preface: HOLY CRAP I didn't mean for this post to be so long. So grab a cup and make yourself comfortable, because this is a bit of a marathon.)

Dear Readers,

This month, I learned an important lesson about the state of failure. You'd probably think this was because my Kickstarter project, Sincerely Sophie, failed to meet its fundraising goal. In truth, that was just the tipping point - I'd been failing on a lot of fronts before that. After some very stressful conversations with the girlfriend, who it should be said brought me down to earth and balances me in the most wonderful way, I thought it might be nice to air some of my dirty laundry. Not even dirty, really. Stressful laundry. The laundry of failure.

Failure is a dirty word in our culture. A shameful word. Employers no longer even tell you where you've done "wrong," or where you've "failed," but instead offer and inspect "ways you can improve." It's a word that we're scared of and that we shelter ourselves from because we're scared that it reflects poorly on our character. After all, if I failed at something, that makes me a failure, doesn't it?

My question: so what?

We all fail at some things. I'll never be a professional football player, and if I tried, I would surely fail. That doesn't make me a bad person. At the same time, that example is easy to dismiss, isn't it? I don't really care about football (sorry if you're reading this, Chris Kluwe) and so it wouldn't bother me to consider myself a failure in that sport. The issue becomes when we fail at things that are near and dear to us.

I failed at raising money to support starting up a show. I've loved acting and being in the spotlight for a long time, and I used to watch networks like TechTV and G4 with twinkles in my eyes. What if I could be like Morgan Webb or Adam Sessler? What if I could join the Screen Savers? I didn't idolize Justin Bieber or Kanye West, I idolized dorks and nerds who, like me, also liked to perform and put themselves out there. So yes, when that failed, I was hurt. I was let down. I didn't particularly like myself. And I lied.

I lied, and told people that "It doesn't matter, I'm just proud that I tried." I told people this more often than not to get them off my back, to give myself some space, to avoid acknowledging the colossal failure that stood before me. But eventually, I had to look it in the face. I had to, because I was confronted with another failure that sent me over the breaking point. Readers, let me tell you a story about dog shit.

Last weekend, someone in our apartment complex left (presumably) their dog's feces lying in the middle of the hallway. Not far, far down the hallway so as to leave one half of the complex clear, not off to the side, but right in the middle. If you were to come in the main entrance and take either the stairs or elevator to the second floor or, if you were a second floor resident who used the main doors to leave as opposed to walking to the edge of the building, you would be greeted by dog shit.

I was, to put it simply, pissed. Not only was this disgusting, but a plethora of owners not looking after their dog had already inspired the landlord to threaten to not renew the lease of any dog owners (which, as you should know from my Twitter, I am now). I also tend to get very angry when people don't take responsibility for their actions, probably overly so. I wrote a letter, is what I'm saying.

I wrote a letter telling whomever owned the dog that if they didn't care enough for their animal to pick up after it, if they weren't thoughtful enough to the rest of us who had pets who might not be able to live here come lease renewal, that they should give their dog to someone else. Oh, and I also began the letter with "DEAR ASSHOLES," just like that, in big, all-caps rage.

Admittedly, that's probably not the best way to start a conversation. I usually pride myself in remaining calm in stormy seas, as I believe that's a much healthier approach to discourse (see: Penny Arcade and Mike's "transphobic" commentary). Soon, other notes began to appear, as equally angry as mine. "Whoever wrote this should MOVE" said one. "Sounds like all you're good for is picking up shit," read another. It was like looking at a Facebook flame thread in real life.

I tore the whole conversation down, crumpled it, and threw it in the trash. The girlfriend tried to help me calm down, but I was beyond that point. I threw my wallet to the ground, stormed off without a word, and didn't return for some time. When I came back, I saw how hurt she was, and I was hurt that I had hurt her. It took awhile before I could properly express myself instead of sputtering out random syllables between sobs, but eventually I broke down. I told her everything was my fault, and that I was a failure. (I bet you were wondering when we'd get back to that theme, huh?)

Everyone had jumped on me for using harsh words and admittedly being kind of a jerk. No one chimed in to support my claim that people should be responsible for their pet. It was now my fault that tension was so high on the second floor, and I had failed to get some irresponsible jerk to clean up their act. But that wasn't all. I continued spelling out my failures to the girlfriend: I had failed at Kickstarter. I'd failed to make her happy. I'd failed to live up to being Sophie.

(Wait, what do you mean by that last one? Confession time, readers: Ever since my family and I went on a summer vacation to Colorado, where everyone who wasn't family called me "dude" and referred to me as masculine pronouns, I haven't had the confidence to live as Sophie. I cut my hair, had my breast implants removed, and am currently trying to see if I'm happy living as a male. I know that I still want to be Sophie, but I don't have the enthusiasm, energy, confidence, or resources to do it right now. For those that are supportive of me and the trans* community, I ask that you be patient and respect my decision to do some soul-searching until I come to a definite answer.)

The girlfriend, as she often does, helped me see the bigger picture: sure, I didn't get the money I'd asked for on Kickstarter, but I had supporters willing to give me money to get a dream of mine off the ground. How many people can say that? I have true fans, and unlike my parents and grandma, these fans aren't obligated to love and support me; they just do. I might have failed to get the bad dog owner to admit wrong, but I stood up for what I believed in. It might be cowardice that made me turn away from being Sophie, but I was bravely facing life as a male, and asking myself hard questions that frankly, many in the LGBT community would rather I not ask.

I'd failed, but I'd also succeeded and found new avenues for happiness, new perspectives through which to see my situation. To go back to the football player example, if I had tried to be a pro football player and failed, would I give up on everything, or would I find new goals? Would I think of new dreams? I'd like to think I would soldier on, and I would be able to admit that, although I had failed at one specific thing, I was not a failure of a person.

Failure isn't a roadblock. Failure is a detour sign, leading you to new places, or even reminding you of old ones. As I thought about the Kickstarter failure and why it failed, I realized I lacked several key things: creativity, among them. Nothing really made Sincerely Sophie stand out, and I wasn't really pushing my mind to think creatively as I knew I could. So now that the Kickstarter is over, I'm putting that lesson to use.

Below, you'll find two pieces of myself that have been neglected for a long time: fiction writing and art. The unfinished sketch you see is a Warforged from Eberron, drawn as a gift to one of my usual roleplaying group members. I think I'd like to finish it, and draw some more characters. The piece you see below that is the beginning of something I call "Eden." I don't know if I'll continue with it or not, but I wanted to test myself and see if I was still capable of creating interesting characters and intriguing storylines. Why don't you tell me? (Just to note: Both the writing above and below the header are part of the story.)

I used to tell people I was just happy that I tried. As I've now told you, that's a lie. I'm not happy I tried. I'm happy that I failed, because failure has taught me more than success ever could.

Sincerely,
Sophie


"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen."

What a bunch of shit.

EDEN


My name is Luca Haupello. You, I don't care who you are. I don't care what you've done, who you've hurt, how wrong you were, how badly you deserve to have your bones gnawed on like a chew toy, my job is to keep you out of prison. But I'm not your friend, and I don't want to be.

I work for Trotter & Bertrand, one of the largest law firms in Atlanta. I handle defense cases for just about everyone and anyone. Sometimes my clients are innocent; sometimes they're not. All of them reek. All of them carry with them a thick, heavy stink made of sweat, grease, and most of all, fear.

That last one, fear, that can be a lot of smells, but there's always this bitter undercurrent to it, like grapes which haven't quite ripened.

One woman, she was so terrified she'd been caught, so sure that her life as she knew it was over, that she pissed herself. That was one of the least pleasant smells of fear I've ever known. Finkelton was her name. Marcy Finkelton.

Ms. Finkelton had been brought in on manufacturing and intent to distribute charges. Marcy was a successful dealer for several years with her boyfriend "Duke," but as with so many couples, financial "disagreements" rocked the apartment more than their bi-weekly slugfests.

See, Marcy and "Duke" had started out small, dealing out pot to the neighborhood stoners: harmless college kids that mostly just wanted to get high, rub genitals, eat Cheetos, and play Call of Duty. Not necessarily in that order. This went on for awhile, but the couple figured, 'Why make money when you can make more money?' They started dealing harder and harder stuff, making more and more money.

Now, you'd never have suspected this looking at the two of them together. Duke's real name was David Thompson – he was clean-shaven, with a jaw like a cinder block. His short, dark hair was always parted boyishly to the side, but the growing bald spot at the back of his head betrayed this illusion of youth. Marcy, meanwhile, looked more like someone you'd expect to hand out lemonade than pot: her blonde hair was nicely curled, and thick mascara made her blue eyes pop. June Cleaver would have been jealous.

Marcy and Duke were also smart, or at least smart enough to not get caught, and smart enough to not use their own stuff.

But all good things must come to an end, and so it was that Duke left Marcy for a woman whose skin was just a little bit smoother, her eyes just a little bit brighter, and her butt just a little bit more plump. Meth labs aren't the kind of thing you bring to small claims court though, so when Duke and his new bunny rode off into the sunset, Marcy kept the business.

Of course, she was devastated. Every emotion Marcy didn't know how to deal with kicked down the door to her brain, took off their shoes, and made themselves at home. And just like that, there was a very lonely, very unstable woman in a house full of drugs. What do you think happened?

Marcy started getting sloppy, blowing cash as soon as she'd gotten it, taking hits off her own supply, that sort of thing. Her teeth yellowed, her hair started falling out, and the lumpy masses of saline and silicone she'd paid for looked all the more obvious against her bony frame. Her tits in particular stuck out like a pair of rotten watermelon pushing out against a plastic garbage bag.

The more she spent, the less money she had. The less money she had, the more desperate she became. The more desperate she became, the worse her management skills. Marcy started selling in new neighborhoods, to new crowds, without vetting the clientele.

No surprise then, when Marcy was busted by an undercover cop. The case was pretty cut and dry; Marcy had the drugs on her person, in her car, and at her apartment. The narc was a veteran officer and knew how to get her to say exactly what he needed her to. Trapped in the confines of an interrogation room, she gave in all too easily in the desperate hope of being let off easy. She was a fox chewing apart its leg because it was told there was probably a trap somewhere nearby.

Her entire body quivered as she took the stand. Each step sounded like a pin dropping on tile, her barely-functioning leg muscles straining to carry her across the floor. I think it was the moment she had come to full rest, the moment she let her sunken eyes look out into the courtroom, and onto the face of the prosecuting lawyer, that I could smell the pungent odor from across the room – faint, but unmistakable.

You'd think the case was open-and-shut by the way the prosecution handled themselves. Proud, arrogant, and sure of a win, they pushed her aggressively. In the end, that was their downfall. In their haste to put Marcy away, they'd forgotten to properly coach the narc for taking the stand. Turns out the guy's brother was killed by drug dealers, which is what inspired him to be a cop in the first place. That's a heavy emotional toll to bring with you into a job though, and a liability if people knew how to push.


I knew how.

Monday, August 26, 2013

That's me in the corner

As some of you may have seen, late last week I posted a blog here asking for donations so that I could attend PAX Prime. I don't want to bullshit and make up some excuse or even try to explain why I did what I did before I say this:

It was wrong of me.

It was wrong of me to be selfish and entitled in that way. I don't think of myself as a selfish/entitled person, and I wasn't trying to be so conceited, but nevertheless, that's what I was. One of the biggest questions I'd failed to ask myself was, "Why me?"

I love myself quite a lot (insert masturbation joke), so obviously I, as Present-Day-Sophie, would have liked it if Future-Sophie (or Sophie 2099 if you're feeling Spider-Man references) had gotten to attend. But why not Future-John, Future-Jane, Future-Anyone? Why did I deserve to go more? Because I was scheduled to be on a panel discussing gender politics? Look, you can get that from me on Twitter or here anytime you want - or, if Sincerely, Sophie comes through, via my web show. Which actually brings me to my next explanation/apology.

Kickstarter does a lot to help you out along the way as you plan out a project. It has guidelines, suggestions, even a few tutorials. It recommends you thoroughly plan and detail your project, and keep up-to-date with backers. One thing it does not prepare you for - and I'm not saying it should have, as responsibility is on me - is the emotional toll creating and running a Kickstarter has.

Sincerely, Sophie truly is a dream of mine. And yeah, right now, I've got basically nothing to show for it. The pitch video was shot on an iPad and put together in open-source video editing software. It was the first time I'd ever used such a program. I'm also - and you may not believe me here - horribly self-conscious about appearing on-camera for you all. Or at least I was. Maybe I still am. Honestly not sure on that one. But as a transgender person, the simple fact is yes, I do worry what you think of me. And while the initial hours of the Kickstarter launch went well, and without a troll in sight, I've gotten some... distressing messages since that time. The Kickstarter itself has also underperformed in regards to my hopes/expectations. I had concluded that if 50% of my Twitter followers could spare $10, I'd be more than 50% funded. Don't ask me where I got the idea of 50% and 50% and $10, though; I might've picked them because they seemed reasonable and mentally satisfying (like when you go to the grocery store and your total ends up being right on the dollar).

All that adds up to me being a nervous wreck after the Kickstarter launch, despite some really positive first-hours feedback and numbers. Suddenly I was more concerned with money than ever, and the fact that my part-time job opted not to give me my final two weeks' worth of work wasn't helping. I began realizing just how tough things were going to be in the coming months, and all the fun things I was sure to miss out on, PAX included. I was, in a word, heartbroken. And let's admit it, I lost my mind a bit because of that.

None of this is meant as an excuse, merely an explanation. I want to be transparent with you all, and I want you to know where I stand. I want you to know that it bothers me that I so callously disrespected you all, and that I was so thoughtless, and greedy. I didn't act out of malice, but in this case, thoughtlessness is just as bad. The past couple days have been stressful almost to the point of breaking, and I have acted like a spoiled little shit.

But that's not who I am, and I'm sorry if I gave the impression otherwise, to any of you. Trust me, happy and fun Sophie is here, or at least right around the corner, and she wants to say hello again. She just has to change clothes and straighten her hair up first (nice way of saying I need to calm the fucktits down).

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I'll see you soon.

Sincerely,
Sophie

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sophie does Kickstarter // AKA: Sincerely, Sophie LAUNCHED!!

Hey everyone,

So as you may have heard, I'm on Kickstarter now! Woo! Before you read any further, feel free to check it out: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/987086101/sincerely-sophie-a-webseries-from-journalist-sophi

Alright, did you watch the video? Did you check out the awesome rewards? Did you laugh at my jokes? Good! Welcome back to the post where I explain why I'm doing Kickstarter.

Simply put: It's a dream. Maybe a pipedream, but a dream nonetheless. Growing up and watching people like Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb on TV, as well as people like Jim Sterling, Max Scoville, Tara Strong, Yahtzee, and Totalbiscuit on TEH INTERWEBS, I've always felt a certain sense of adoration toward those who put themselves out there and become the star personalities they are. I've always wanted to be like them.

As you heard in my pitch video, I've been a performer for years. I've loved being one, and frankly, it broke my heart a little when I transitioned to being Sophie, because I knew it meant my acting days were probably over. I was too shy, too intimidated, and too afraid of what people would say to put myself in so much spotlight. Well, no longer. I'm prepared to give this thing my damndest, and if I fail, well at least I tried. I shot for a dream.

Honestly, my hands are shaking so much and my head is racing with a million thoughts and anxieties that I don't know how coherent this blog post will be. I'm so excited to be giving this a shot, and I couldn't be happier to see so many people are already responding positively to the news. I take this INCREDIBLY seriously, and I know that a lot of what people are donating comes based on FAITH in me and my abilities, because let's face it: that pitch video? Not the greatest ever made; it was shot on an iPad and edited with open source software. This project is literally NOTHING without you, and already people are saying "YES, we CAN and we WILL help you."

I don't think there are enough words in the world to express how that makes me feel. Thank you all so much for being there for me, and even if you don't back my Kickstarter, thank you for being a part of my life. I always thought that I'd be a nobody trapped in my hometown of 1,200 people, but I've risen to such heights, all because YOU helped me there. I love each and every one of you.

Sincerely,
Sophie

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How I became the man-hating feminazi I am

It's a hot, Iowa summer day in 1995. The sun is beating down at 102 degrees, the air is thick at 60 percent humidity, and the cows are out. So, you know, a typical Tuesday. My father and I are out in the pasture, trying to move these huge animals back past the fence. At first, we try to coax them with calls of "HERE BOSS! C'MERE BOSS!" (If you could speak cow, that would translate to "food.") Today however, they're not listening, and that means setting up tiny child-shaped road blocks and chasing them.

I stand at the top of a hill, overlooking the long stretch of gravel road that lays before me. The cows will come running this way as a herd, and it's my job to hoot 'n' holler as loud as I can to make them turn into the driveway and toward the pens. You can hear the thundering of their hooves on the dirt as they start to make their charge. I raise my arms and jump up and down.

"HYUP!! HYAA!!" These animals are much larger and stronger than me, and they outnumber me 30-to-1, but they're also not terribly smart. Make a big display and loud noise and they'll usually avoid you. Indeed, most of the cattle turn right where they're supposed to, and head down the driveway. Some mothers and their calves, however, break off in the opposite direction. One leaps the fence, or attempts to. Let's just say that certain nursery rhymes may have exaggerated bovine leaping capabilities.

"Are you even paying attention? What the fuck are you doing?"

Another Iowa day. This time, the weather goes from cold and windy, to sunny, to flash flood watch, and back to sunny. It's the kind of day where you drive to the store with the heat on full-blast, grab groceries, and head back with the A/C cranked and your face leaning up close to the vents to maximize cooling factor. My father is out in the machine shed, fixing up some old tractor wagon components, and tells me to grab him a 3/8 size wrench. Fractions are next year's math lesson at school.

I return with a wrench, surely some sort of workman apparatus, though I'm not sure of the size. It is, unfortunately, not 3/8.

"Do you ever fucking listen? Are you fucking stupid?"

It's a cold Iowa night. December. The snow is three inches, rising, and it only started a half hour ago. Mom and Dad will be late getting home from their party. My brothers, 10 and 9 years my senior, want to play a game. It's called "strip the youngest brother naked, throw him outside, turn off the lights, and scare him as he searches for his clothes." It's not one of my favorites, though it might be better than "boxing, but it's totally fair because the older brothers are on their knees."

I cry as they pull the clothes from my body. I scream and whine loudly, like an animal caught in a trap; because that's what I am. I'm shoved outside, and I stand naked, watching from the outside as one brother holds the door shut and the other scatters my clothes throughout the house. The brother holding the door releases his grip and runs into the darkness, folding into it, disappearing.

My eyes burn as I sob. I don't have enough hands to wipe away the tears and snot flowing down my face, search for my clothes, and cover myself. I huddle and crouch as I move through what once was my home, but is now a treacherous labyrinth, full of traps and monsters lurking in the dark. I never make it to the end of the maze. I give up, and cocoon myself in blankets. The minotaurs take some form of pity on me, and toss my clothes onto the bed.

"What a little pussy."

I'm not sure what the weather is like today. I'm in school. It looks sunny from my seat in Math class, but I've no idea how warm or chilly it is. Still, I'd rather be out there than in here. 3x divided by y to the 7th power = z; what is the square root of fish? Show your work. At least this is my last year. Next year I'll be off to college, and explore what I want, solve the problems I know. Just one more semester of math, of forlorn looks out a distant window, and listening to my cousin brag about his sex life.

He "fucked" her. It was awesome. It was amazing. She has the most amazing ass, and her pussy tastes like strawberries. He high-fives the friend I played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with when I was 7. He's fucked his girlfriend too. She is, if I am to believe his words, a "dirty slut" when she's in the right mood.

They ask me who I would fuck. No one, I say, and it's true: I don't want to fuck anyone. It would be nice if I could make love with someone, though. "Jesus," my cousin says. "You are such a fag sometimes." The question is irrelevant though; everyone knows who I glance at when she walks down the hall. My cousin points across the room. "Her?" I blush, but say nothing. "You really like her." Again, silence on my end. He smiles. "I'll help you out," he says.

"I'll fuck her and turn her into a slut. You can have seconds. It'll be easy. Girls always turn into sluts, they just need to be fucked good first."

You ask me why I considered giving up on living my life as a woman. I ask myself if I gave up on being a man. I ask myself if I could be stronger than bold-font words typed into a blog post exorcism. I ask myself if I've let those words define me and colored my perception of what it means to be a man.

I ask myself who I've become, and who I want to be. I don't have an answer yet.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gender post follow-up

Dear guys and gals,

First of all, I want to say thank you all for the kind words and thoughts that have been shared my way since the day before yesterday - I literally have not had a single negative thing said to me about my situation. That being said, I told you all I'd address your questions and I intend to do just that.

The biggest question I've been getting is how I can personally say that I call myself male yet still identify as a woman. To be blunt, I believe that this ties back into coping with what I was told by several people throughout my life: you will never be a woman, you will only play pretend. I like to think of myself as a realist - albeit a generally positive, optimistic one - and I felt like, to an extent, these people were right; I would never be able to bear children, nor could I change my chromosomes, nor erase my history or legal status as a male.

And I was okay with that.

Just because I realize that, biologically speaking, I'm probably your standard XY male when it comes to sex (I don't technically know for certain, never had that sort of test) that doesn't mean I can't be a woman when it comes to gender, or that every time someone else identifies me as a woman, I think to myself, "yes, but..."

Some people have told me this is something called "biological determinism," and isn't necessarily fair to myself or other transgender people. Hormones are malleable and vary wildly from person to person; I don't actually know my chromosomes; we don't think of castrated men as not men, etc. This brings me to another point I want to be very clear about:

What works for me may not work for you, and that's fine. People have talked to me about how I should be angry with Mike. I'm not, and not just because I believe, like he does, that yup, I'm biologically male. I'm not angry with Mike because I don't believe in being angry with someone for believing differently from me. I have several amazing, hardcore Christian friends, and I know this may shock some of you, so take a seat, but I'm not Christian. My Christian friends likewise have some very close Hindu friends. They in turn have Buddhist friends. Religious beliefs are some of the most tightly-held, personal beliefs and life choices someone can have, and yet this web of people is connected together just fine, no spiders in sight.

In short: we can disagree and still be cool with each other.

I've also received some questions seeking advice. This happened a lot when I first came out at Iowa State as well. While I wish each and every person who has ever come to me asking for advice the best of luck in their journeys, each of these journeys is very personal, and I can't possibly give you the proper advice without knowing you far more intimately than is possible through Twitter and email. That's what therapy is for, and why it's a required part of treatment. The best advice I can give: follow the program, be honest with yourself, and do what you need to do.

Lastly, people have asked me how to approach someone in my position; do you address someone as "he," "she," "ze," "they"? What if you can't tell? It's rude to assume, but isn't it also rude to intrude and ask? Again, this will be different from person to person. Usually someone who falls outside the gender binary will make it clear how they wish to be identified, but if they don't, I feel it's not rude to ask, so long as you're asking "How should I address you?" and not "So.. what are you?" Transgender individuals tend to prefer being referred by the pronouns which reflect their presented identity, i.e. a male who presents as a woman (such as myself) would prefer you referred to them by feminine pronouns.

Both sides must be patient with one another; those of us who stray from what has been the norm for a very long time must understand that people simply may not understand what's happening or what they should do, while those who are seeking to learn must truly attempt to learn and listen.

Thank you all again for reading. Several of you have contacted me offering financial assistance for my transition and I can't deny that's very tempting. Honestly, if someone were to approach me with the money or a funding solution, I don't know that I'd turn it down. If that's something people really want to do for me, then I have to think on it. Right now, I don't feel I really have done anything to deserve it. I don't think of myself as more needing the funds than anyone else in my situation, and I try not to let my ego get too full of itself. I suppose we'll see where that goes.

For now, I thank you again for reading, and for those of you wondering when I'm gonna be getting back into games journalism, all I'll say is don't worry; this blog won't just be here to address this snafu-whatchamacallit, and I have an independent project I'm currently developing and prepping for on the side.

Thanks again!

Sincerely,
Sophie

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Penny Arcade / Who I am

Dear Reader,

Yesterday, Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade and I had a conversation regarding transgender identities. Mike had expressed some views via Twitter that many took offense with and were hurt by, including myself. I emailed Mike to let him know how I felt, and the resulting conversation left us both feeling a bit better about the whole mess. Although I initially wanted to keep the conversation private, I gave Mike the go-ahead to publish our conversation, and effectively outed myself as male-to-female transgender person to, oh, just a couple thousand strangers.

This post isn't to talk about Mike or what Mike believes regarding gender identity, or even what I believe. I'm not here to try and convince you one of us is right or how you should treat people you don't agree with, people who identify different than you, or people you frankly just don't understand. I want this post to be about why I gave the okay to publish that conversation, and what life has been like for me thus far. As with my conversation with Mike, this isn't to sway you or make you think any particular line of thought - this is merely me releasing the valve a bit and airing some dirty laundry, to confuse metaphors.

The truth is that, while the details about my transition were available to the public via several websites and articles - some of which I myself had written - I was afraid, for several reasons. Any of my Destructoid readers should know how highly I champion feminism and gender equality. I was afraid that, if people knew I was biologically male, I would be told I had no right to talk about situations which I could not possibly understand. What right would I have to talk about what it means to be a woman in games if I wasn't "really" a woman?

I was afraid that, for all the praise and compliments my work has received over the years, I would not be able to find work if people knew. For one, I would technically count as another male hire, since that is what I legally have to identify as. When sites and publications in the games industry start seeking diversity in their potential hires, "white dude" is not very high on the list, and as far as paperwork is concerned, that's what I am. We must also account for the fact that, as much as I love it, the industry is not well-known for being inclusive and welcoming. I was afraid that discrimination would be a factor, and that I might be denied work on the grounds that my identity would make people uncomfortable.

I still worry about these things, though the outpouring of support has certainly helped, and I thank you all for that. There is still a fear that my identity will be seen as a liability, or that I will be told my views and experience as a woman "don't count." I also worry about perception. To those of you who met me in person at PAX or any industry events, the short answer is yes, I was afraid you could tell. Yes, I am afraid every day that people can tell. No, I do not feel particularly confident in how I look and sound.

I am afraid of how you see me, because I want you to see me the way I see myself. I want confirmation from the mirror, both literally and socially.

Recently, I considered giving up on being Sophie. The stress of worrying about how people perceive me, would anyone find out, what would happen if they did, could I ever save up enough money to go through with the physical changes I seek, etc. were weighing very heavily on me. I knew I wanted to be Sophie, but the reality was too hard to face, and I often felt conflicted about wanting certain things; I wanted plastic surgery to help my appearance, but if I felt I had to be pretty and couldn't be happy just being a woman, was I doing it for the right reason? Things like that.

I thought that perhaps, if I could just learn to be happy as a man, I could let Sophie go, and I would no longer have to worry about such things. I've tried, and that simply hasn't happened.

I don't know if I'll ever be proud of myself the way so many of you apparently are proud of me. I don't know how this now highly-visible information will affect my ability to work in the field. I don't know that I'll ever be able to afford to be the way I wish I was.

But I do know I don't regret telling Mike how I felt yesterday, and I don't regret telling you about myself and my experiences today. Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Sophie

P.S. I have a part-time shift today I need to handle, but I'll be fielding questions in the comments later on. I'll try my best to get to all of them before the day/weekend is over. You can also email me if you'd rather keep our conversation private.