Saturday, August 1, 2009

Only in a Woman's World

Humor is good for the soul, and provides an excellent way for us to look at ourselves. Such a window of opportunity exists at "Only in a Woman's World".

Sponsored by Frito-Lay, this series on the web is really cute and does strike numerous cords in my heart, especially episodes 4 and 10!

Do you have Sew Know?

The Scene:

It's Saturday night, you are getting dressed to go out to have some fun with your friends, and you are running really late! You open up the closet, and the only appropriate shirt or top you can see is that one you bought several years ago that has been washed way too many times and is now really tight across your chest or bust.

One glance over your shoulder at the clock and your yank it off the hanger and slip it on. As you look in the mirror you can just hear yourself saying "OK, so it feels tight, and the buttons are straining . . . it should easily last the night!" You grab the rest of your stuff and off you go. After all, the friends are waiting!

Fast forward an hour. You are sitting at a table in your favorite eatery, and surrounded by friends and laughter. There is this absolutely amazing pizza on the table in front of you, which has a delightful aroma and tastes even better.

As you pick up the large piece on your plate and hoist it to your lips, the topping starts to slide off towards your lap and you quickly lean way over the table to save your outfit and hopefully not waste any pizza.

And then it happens! Just like in a movie.

You hear a pop, you feel that your chest can now expand, and you see this button cart wheeling high up in the air.

Everyone goes silent, and all eyes follow this spinning button as it completes it's arc through the air and lands smartly right in Jill's beer mug, with a sploosh and a splash!

If you are a guy, you are probably embarrassed but it may not be the end of the world. You now just look sloppy, which you hope is sometimes appealing, like right now!

If you are a girl, this could be disaster! You quickly look down at the girls to see exactly how much fresh air they are now enjoying. Naturally, it's way to much!

So What Do You Do?

Step 1: Damage Control!

With the Sew Know knowledge you are picking up today, you reach into your purse or wallet, and pull out an appropriate sized safety pin from the change compartment, and then excuse your self to visit the washroom to repair the damage.

You can now come back to the table looking reasonably put together, and your friends will have a good story about you that you will probably hear over and over for years to come.

Step 2: Mending if Possible

When you arrive home for the night, you will most likely have to remove the safety pin to extract yourself from your shirt or top, so make this a good time to really examine the damage.

First question: is the top REALLY too tight, and therefore an ideal candidate as a gift to charity, or is it repairable?

Assuming that you look good in it when it's somewhat tight, you should be able to easily repair the damage.

The tools needed for this include:
  • Needle (sewing stores typically have these packs of 20 needles in various sizes for under a dollar or two). In this case, I'd suggest a needle that's around 1.5" and fairly skinny.
  • Thread (again, you can pick up an inexpensive pack of 10 or so different colors at most stores). Try to match the colors of the threads on the remaining buttons to what you have.
  • Scissors: In this case, a small pair with a pointed tip will work well.
  • Thimble: useful if you are kind of a klutz. I use them occasionally.
  • Patience: very useful if you have never done this before.
I haven't needed any more sewing stuff for a while, but I would estimate that all of the above, maybe excluding the patience, could be purchased for under $5.00 in the US if you look around.

There are many sites on the web that will explain the mechanics of how to actually do this, such as here. No need to reinvent the wheel.

The important message is that you get the simple things laid out above and try it. It's actually kind of fun to try, and you can feel good about your self, knowing that you can fix it yourself and not have to depend upon others!

Sew Here Is Your Homework

1. Head over to a local sewing center or discount store, and pick up a few things.
  • A package of safety pins in assorted sized. Store a few of each size in the change compartment of your purse or wallet
  • Small sewing scissors
  • A package of assorted needles
  • A package of assorted threads.
2. As you wash your clothes, start to pay attention to buttons, hems and other details on them. If you see something that needs repairing, do it now before it embarrasses you.

3. If something does pop off, step up and fix it yourself! This will be one more thing in your life you can easily handle.

Coming Up: The Mother / Grandmother Test! Stay Tuned . . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fending off a TRANS-DAR Alert - Update

Carolyn from the Sunshine state offers an additional suggestion for dealing with a Trans-Dar alert, which was demonstrated to her support group by Lacey Leigh several years ago.

"Two weeks after the support group meeting, I was out your area and shopping up at the Great Mall in Milpitas. I had my arms full of bags and stopped in the food court. I got a sandwich and drink, then sat down to eat. I could hear some snickering coming from one of the food booths and looked over to see two teenage boys and a girl. One of the boys was making remarks, but not loud enough for me to completely hear. I finished up and tossed away my wrapper and cup, then picked up my bags and walked straight towards them with a nice smile on my face. It really surprised them and you could see them getting nervous. I walked right up to the kid making the most noise and used a line Lacey had used two weeks earlier. "Not what you'd expect from a Vietnam Veteran, is it? You must have a thousand questions, what would you like to know?" With that, we had a nice 20 minute conversation and when I left, it was all "Thanks and have a great day." I constantly tell ladies in our group that a smile is your most important accessory."

Wide and Wonderful Spectrum of Gender

Thought #1:

"The sportos and motor heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads...they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude."*

So why is this person Ferris so likable?

Thought #2:

There are as many variations of gender in humans as there are shades of color in the universe. And then you can slice those variations into multiple layers, as in:

• The gender you are presenting to the world at any given moment
• The physical gender you are born with.
• Your own image of what gender you are.
• What you have transitioned into (mentally and possibly physically).

And each layer possibly (or probably?) is different from the other layers at one time or another.

Thought #3:

Humans, being the carbon based life forms ** that they are, have a much better ability to cope with the other humans running around this planet when they are able to quickly look at you and somewhat automatically assign you to some sort of category of humanity that has been acquired in their mind, which, for right or wrong, is the label (and associated attributes) under which they will now interact with you.

Thought #4:

How do you, gentle reader, tie all this together to become a reasonably well adjusted, lovable, respected and appreciated member of the human race?

The road you choose will be much easier if you find an appropriate niche for yourself and embrace it. If your lifestyle, appearance and attitude fit one of the generally accepted categories of humanity mentioned above, you will be easily able to slip into and around social interpersonal situations because people can easily recognized your “category”, using a minimum of brainpower, and then they go on in their own world.

If you show up for a gallery opening wearing torn sweatpants and a top you got from Goodwill that’s three sizes too large for you, people will look at you strange and look for more signs and signals to help them figure out just what or who you are.

As an example, I’m a professional businesswoman, working at a Fortune 1000 high tech company. I wear work appropriate clothes on the job, and off the job, I wear nice, attractive outfits. Lord knows I will never win a beauty pageant, or even be what most people would consider pretty. But I try to blend in and look like I belong, and as a consequence, I’m always accepted as the woman I am, be it at the farmer’s market, Target, Macy’s, ecology walk, church, Starbucks, pride event, or the TSA security at the airport.

I also try to engage people. Smile a lot, ask them open ended questions, listen to their answers so you have more questions to ask them, and generally try to draw them out. I typically end up knowing much more about them, share very little about myself, and we both walk away feeling good because we had a nice conversation with someone else.

Something to think about!

* purloined from the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, in which Grace, Principal Rooney's secretary, explains to the dean about Ferris' popularity.

** With a long and respectful appreciation for Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of books. Don't leave the planet without your blanket!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fending off a TRANS-DAR Alert

This is one suggestion on how to handle a situation when you appear on someone’s Trans-Dar and they are trying to reconcile your appearance with what they perceive to be your gender.

The Scene

You are at the grocery store one afternoon, and have stopped in front of the fish counter to check out their current selection. As you bend over to peer though the glass, you become aware of hushed whispering off to your left, and as you look up this couple, about the same age as you, watch you intently with a frown on their faces as you stand upright again.

It’s bound to happen. Sooner or later, no matter how well you pass in your intended gender, someone is going to get confused by some clue that they are receiving from you and get frustrated because you don't automatically fall into one of their predefined gender stereotypes.

So you are now alerted to their confusion. The question is, what do you do about it?

Your Options

If they appear angry or hostile, your options are limited. Put some distance between you and them, if possible (and if the situation allows) leave with some grace and decorum so you don’t look like a startled rabbit escaping a rabid dog.

Suggestions here include:
  • Going up to the check-out lane where there are more people, or talking with a manager or other employee. A stopgap measure till you can get out of the store.
  • You may not want to go out to your car alone.
  • If you are a woman, just ask for an escort out to your car. Just about every establishment will help you.
  • If you are a guy, you can always ask that someone go help you out with a large bag of salt, or tell them you have something heavy you need to bring into the store and you hurt your back. Be a little creative here.
  • And above all else, quickly run through your mind all the different ways you can protect yourself, so you are mentally prepared if needed.
So hopefully they are not angry, which gives you several more options:
  • Completely ignore them
  • Give them a mean look, or a shake of the head (or other gesture).
  • Go talk to them
So What Do You Do?

If you ignore them (which I have done multiple times in the past myself), you possibly could feed their Trans-Dar alertness, as they had a question in their mind about you, and so they just might be even more alert for other situations.

If you give them a look, or a shake of the head (or other gesture), you also might just encourage their Trans-Dar alertness, as they had a question in their mind about you, and received a negative reaction from you.

Both of these are typical reactions from all of us in situations such as this. But please consider one other alternative.

Turn to face them.

Plant a large smile on your face, assume your most polite attitude, and walk over and greet them.

“Excuse me, but are you [pick a random person’s name] who used to go to [pick a random school name] in [pick a town]? You look so familiar, and all these great memories just ran through my mind when I saw you!”

You, gentle reader, have now put the shoe on the other foot, and are:
  • Requesting them (in the conversational sense) to respond to your question.
  • Validating to them that you, in the gender that you are currently presenting, have lived a significant portion of your life this way.
  • Showing them that you are a real person, that’s friendly with feelings, emotions, and a good personality.
  • Pretty much preventing them from mentally labeling you as some type of object then emotionally dismissing you.
  • And finally, letting them know that their Trans-Dar was not tuned properly.
And in response to your question, they will in all likelihood say that they are from somewhere else, which then gives you the chance to exchange a little more small talk. Ask them a few other simple questions, and when you are ready, you can say something like “Well, it’s been really nice talking with you! Maybe we’ll run into each other again here.”

Congratulations! You have turned what could have been a situation where this couple left with negative feelings into something more personable, and polished your interpersonal skills in the process.

Here Is Your Homework

Practice what you will say when you encounter a situation such as this, which will let you handle this quickly with grace and dignity.

Always have an exit strategy if things don't go as planned.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Strength and Gender - An Easy Out!

The Scene

Several years ago I was at church, helping my fellow members of the woman's group get ready for a craft and rummage sale. We had brought in several boxes of items from our cars, and realized that the folding tables so prevalent in church meeting rooms had not been set up yet. They were leaning against a wall out in the adjoining hallway, waiting for someone big and strong to set them up.

Years ago, when I was young and male, I would have manhandled (pun intended) each table into it’s full upright position. Now however, I was surrounded by nine other women, all of which were standing around looking at the folded tables and the open space they should have been occupying, and three of them in various stages of expressing their emotions, varying from annoyance at the men who had agreed to help, to frustration at men in general.

[women – you need to practice this: when you are in a situation with at least one other women (and no men immediately near by) and something distasteful happens because of something a man did or didn’t do, you have to look at the other woman, slightly roll your eyes, and state in a stage whisper “men!”, keeping your voice in a lower pitch and rolling it out just like you have eaten a bad olive. The other woman should instantly look at you and agree, thereby further bonding the two of you together. I love doing this now! ]

I softly suggested to a close friend that three or four of us might be able to set the tables up ourselves, and Ellen looked at me like I crazy, and told me “that’s what the men are for! They will get it done in a minute . . . “

I understood, took the hint, and learned a lesson here.


Just because you may have been big and strong in a past life, and unless you are going for the “bull dyke” look and attitude (NTTIAWWT), you should not go around doing anything that will give anyone an indication how strong you are. People can get uncomfortable around physically strong women, they look at you kind of funny, and possibly start wondering about stuff you really don't want them to think about. Also you need to consider that after maybe 6 months of hormones, those husky male muscles you used to have are now starting to get smaller and weaker, and besides, it’s always more fun to talk to a guy, maybe even flirt some, and get them to help you.


You are now among the strong and the supportive. Get those muscles fired up, and as corny as it sounds, it never hurts to volunteer to help a woman move or lift something. It’s a great way to meet people. You practice your interpersonal skills, and in most cases, you walk away feeling a little better about yourselves.

So here is your homework:

  1. Keep your awareness up so that you don’t get into a situation where you are exhibiting more strength than would be expected (or conversely, trying to do something you are not strong enough to do).
  2. If you see someone needing help, ask them and then step in and help them out.
  3. If you need help, smile a lot and ask nicely for help.
  4. And Girls, practice that "Men!" verbalization above, and use it!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Personal Security

The Scene

It's 9:30 pm, and our Monday night film class is winding down. The instructor flips off the ceiling projector, looks up, reminds us about the homework due next week, and asks that we e-mail her if we have any questions. With that, the class is over, and my good friend Kay and I extract ourselves from the ancient cast iron and shaped plywood theater style chairs, and we walk down the two flights of stairs while I listen to the latest trials in her busy life.

We push through the large front doors, and get a beautiful view of the Stanford University campus at night. It's definitely dark out now, but the campus is lit with many light fixtures in and around the buildings. Not bright, glaring lights, but rather thoughtful, almost serene lighting, so you can easily see around you, but not so intense that it draws your focus from your thoughts.

The conversation ends, she reaches into her handbag, pulls out her keys and snuggly holds them in her hand; and gives me a quick hug before she turns and heads for her car.

I watch her walk away for a second then also turn around and head towards another street to reach my car, which is about 6 blocks away.

As I walk down the portico of these massive buildings, my heels click on the tile and echo off the walls while my minds ponders all the work issues I need to address in the morning. I suddenly look up, and realize that I have walked almost a city block without paying attention. The shadows are now longer, the lights fewer, and I can't see anybody around me.

What Am I Doing Wrong?

This is the perfect situation for a woman to be at risk; and I was doing just about everything wrong that I could to stay safe.

The Women's Self Defense Institute offers these wise self defense principles:

  1. Stay aware of people in your surroundings.
  2. Stay with people, go with people.
  3. Keep a barrier between you and the bad guy,
  4. Attract attention.
  5. Control his hips and hands.
  6. Use your strongest weapons against his weakest targets.

This is really critical for both transmen and transwomen, as both groups can be the target for hate crimes. Stay alert and you will stay safer.