PFLAG Events for March

PFLAG’s mission is uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies.  PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy.  PFLAG has 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

PFLAG was the first support organization I heard of when I was growing up.  I attended their meetings a few years ago and found it was a supportive and inclusive community.  PFLAG is a wonderful group, especially for our spouses and family members and I am happy to promote the events the Twin Cities chapter has scheduled.

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Have you ever heard someone say that it’s not possible to be transgender AND a Christian?  Do you have questions about the verses in the Bible that talk about things like clothing and gender roles?  Not sure how to hold on to your faith and love your nonbinary teen?

Join Austen Hartke as he leads a journey through Christian scripture, digging into the passages used against transgender people, and highlighting the stories of the Bible’s gender-non-conformers.
Austen is a graduate of Luther Seminary’s Master of Arts program in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies, and is the winner of the 2014 John Milton Prize in Old Testament Writing from the same institution.
Austen also enjoys working with gender-diverse youth and families as the Faith Coordinator for the nonprofit organization Gender Spectrum.
As a transgender person of faith, Austen’s greatest passion is helping other trans and gender-non-conforming people see themselves in scripture.
Austen Hartke is the author of “Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians,” a new book on theology and personal narratives published by Westminster John Knox Press in 2018.
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 Please join us for our March program and support groups.
Tuesday, March 19th, 6:30 – 8:45 pm.
Union Congregational Church
3700 Alabama Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55416
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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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Theater Latte Da will be performing Hedwig and the Angry Inch this spring!  It runs from March 27th until May 5th at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis.

From the press release:

(Minneapolis/St. Paul) Theater Latté Da announces the cast for John Cameron Mitchell’s genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing sensation Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Winner of 2014 Tony award for Best Musical Revival, Hedwig and the Angry Inch features music and lyrics by Stephen Trask. Annie Enneking and Theater Latté Da Artistic Director Peter Rothstein co-direct the production with Music Director Jason Hansen. Performances begin March 27 at the Ritz Theater (345 13th Avenue NE in Minneapolis). Single tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at Latteda.org or by calling 612-339-3003.

“Groundbreaking and undoubtedly ahead of its time,” says Entertainment Weekly, this genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing musical sensation, with a pulsing rock score and electrifying performances, tells the story of one of the most unique characters to ever hit the stage. Winner of the 2014 Tony award for Best Musical Revival, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an inspiration to anyone who has felt life gave them an inch when they deserved a mile.

Peter Rothstein co-directs Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Annie Enneking, who shares, “I’m obsessed with notions of transcendence, the problems of love, and the vitality behind radical self-definition.” Rothstein adds, “I have long admired this radical piece of musical theater and am thrilled to re-imagine it with this extraordinary team of artists.”

The production stars Tyler Michaels King as Hedwig and Jay Owen Eisenberg as Yitzhak. Michaels has starred in several productions with Theater Latté Da including Assassins, Peter and the Starcatcher, Sweeney Todd, and Cabaret.  This production marks Eisenberg’s debut with Latté Da. A director, actor, and teaching artist, he has appeared in productions at Children’s Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater, and Open Eye Figure Theatre, among others. Joining them live on stage as the Angry Inch band are Chicago-based guitarist Jakob Smith, bassist and multi-musician/artist/producer Mayda Miller, and drummer Jendeen Forberg, founder and leader of Wolverines Big Band.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch features scenic design by Michael Hoover, costume design by Alice Fredrickson, lighting design by Mary Shabatura, sound design by Alex Ritter, and properties design by Abbee Warmboe.

Theater Latté Da is an award-winning Twin Cities musical theater company that combines music and story to illuminate the breadth and depth of the human experience. The company seeks to create new connections between story, music, artist, and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater.  www.latteda.org

Hedwig and the Angry Inch contains strong language and adult themes and is not intended for audiences 13 years and younger.

I hope to see you there!

Love, Hannah

Sharing the Secret

I am at a point in my life where I rarely feel the need to tell others about who I am or how I identify.  I’ve told a few friends and family members and I don’t think anyone else needs to know.  However, I am also at a point where if I were…”caught” I would be open and honest about my identity.  Who I am is still a secret, but keeping secrets is exhausting.

As far as I know, I have gone through my life without anyone “finding out” unless I specifically told them.  I’ve never bumped into someone into the mall that didn’t know about me.  I’ve always kept my guard up, avoided areas in the city where my family and friends tend to go and have gotten good at stealthily shopping in male mode if I need to pick up a pair of stockings or foundation.  Thank goodness for self-checkouts and online shopping.

We have always known who we are.  If we keep who we are a secret, then that is on us.  And it’s perfectly understandable why we may not reveal everything about us to everyone in our lives.  Not everyone needs to know.  There are some people in my life that I would like to know about me.  There are others that I don’t care one way or the other, and there are those who I thank God every day that do not know.

But there is someone who does need to know.  Our partners.  Whether we are in a committed relationship or we are married, our significant others need to know.  They need to know when the relationship becomes serious.  Not after you get married.  Not after you move in with each other.  Not after you get engaged.  Before.  Before any of this.  They need to know who you are.  You need to know who you are.

I understand how one can change how they identify as one grows, and I understand we may not always know what we will want in five years, and I absolutely understand how complicated all of this is, but my point is that we need to be secure and comfortable in who we are and how we identify before we pursue a relationship.

We need to know this before we are in a committed relationship.  It is unfair to get engaged and then tell your fiance that you are unsure if you want to transition, take hormones or anything else.  I understand people change.  I get that.  Before I was engaged I thought all of this was about lingerie but I have evolved.  But I knew then, I know now, and I have always known that transition or living full-time was not for me.

Revealing who we are is scary.  No matter how long we’ve known someone or how well we know them, there’s no way to anticipate how they will react.  You might have a suspicion, but there’s no way to know for sure.  If my uncle was a Baptist preacher from the South I think I would have a pretty good idea how he would react, but the point is that no matter who they are, there’s no way to really know until you tell them.  How scary is that?

Confiding in someone can absolutely feel amazing, especially the first time we do it.  For a long time, we have kept everything a secret.  Whether it’s that brave first admittance that we wear panties or showing a photo of our femme selves.  Finally, finally we can open up and talk about this.  The weight is off our shoulders.

But the weight is still there… it’s just shared.  Whoever you come out to carries that secret now.  You must respect your significant other’s feelings about this.  If you are comfortable going out and your partner is not, you need to respect that.  If you don’t care if someone sees the outline of a bra strap under your t-shirt but your significant other does, you need to respect that.

Your significant other needs to know and deserves to know this about you…because you will never outgrow this.  This is not a phase.  You may be able to suppress this side of you, but it’s always there.

For some relationships, this side of us is a deal-breaker…which is exactly why this conversation needs to happen before any sort of commitment is made.  If people want different things in a relationship, then that needs to be considered.  If one person wants children and the other doesn’t, then those two people probably shouldn’t get married.  I believe this side of us is not that different than something like that.

If your significant other knows about this side of you (and I sure hope they do) then they will find their comfort level with this part of you.  This is also something that may change over time.  Whether your significant other is on the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t talk about it’ side or the two of you hit the mall together dressed, the point is that they know and we need to respect (and yes, compromise in some cases) how they feel and what they want to do with this information.

For some of us, this secret is a lonely secret.  Many of us feel there is no one we can talk to about this.  We have lived with this part of us for years.  Decades.  We have had the time to think about this and sort this through.  There’s a good chance we know who we are and what we want.  When you come out to someone you are dropping a (glitter) bomb into their life.  Your significant other coming out as transgender is not something many anticipate.  Sharing this secret also can mean sharing the loneliness.

I’ve spoken to many partners of t-girls and many of them share with me how alone they felt with this secret.  It’s not an easy thing thing to talk about.  Every transperson is different and we have to talk about who we are to the person we come out to, and then that person needs to be able to explain it to someone else… if they share this secret with someone else.

And they have that right.

It’s not fair to tell your significant other about who you are and then ask them to not talk about it with anyone.  Some significant others need to.  They want to.  I’m sure we can understand needing and wanting to share this.  When you trust someone with a secret, you are also trusting what they will do with it.  But where does one start when it comes to talking about that their partner is trans?  You can always start with PFLAG if someone is looking for local support.

There’s no right way to come out to someone, especially your significant other.  There are a lot of wrong ways to do it.

-Don’t get caught.  That’s not saying to keep it a secret.  Tell them.  Tell them before they find your hidden stash of lingerie.  Tell them before they see your web browser history.

-Don’t surprise them.  A t-girl told me they came out to their wife by dressing up and waiting for them in the living room when she came home from work.  I can’t think of a worse way to tell someone about this.

-Don’t tell them around other people.   I would hope that this is obvious but you never know.

-Don’t tell them in a public place.  A t-girl told me she told her wife while they were on a plane.  She was afraid of her wife walking out on her and thought that if they were on a plane they would be “forced” to sit and talk.  I take what I said earlier back, this is the worst way to tell someone.

So… how do you share the secret?  You know your significant other better than I do.  You may have had to share big, potentially bad news with them before.  How did you break it to them?  This might be the biggest thing you will ever share with them.  It will forever change your relationship.

Let me say it again, it will forever change your relationship.

When I came out to my wife, I shared my secret with her about a year before we lived with each other.  As I evolved from wearing lingerie to…well, who I am now, her feelings and fears also changed.  As she saw me try on my first wig or leave the house, it was natural for her to think where this was going.  Was I going to keep going?  Was HRT in my future?  Were hormones?  What was next?  For years she lived with this uncertainty.  This changed our relationship.  I shared my secret, but now she had a secret to keep, too.  Not only did I have the normal feelings when I went out (someone seeing me, getting harassed), but now she did too.

Change is not always bad.  This side of me helped our relationship too.  I’ll expand on that in a future post.

I am not an expert on relationships.  Every relationship is different.  I am not an expert on being trans, every transperson is different.  A relationship with a transperson is not an easy thing.

What I am an expert on is keeping this part of me a secret.  Well, I suppose if I was an expert on secrets I wouldn’t have a public blog with a zillion photos of me on it, but I think you get my point.  I suspect you are an expert on this too.  We know what it’s like to keep this a secret.  We have kept this a secret for a long time.  We need to remember how it feels to keep this a secret.

If we remember how it feels to have this secret, then we will know how it feels for our significant other to know this secret, too.

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

 

Tangled

T-girls know the purge.  How many times throughout our lives have we decided we are DONE, that we are NEVER EVER going to wear “girl’s” clothes ever again?  That this was a phase and we are MANLY MEN and men don’t wear five-inch black patent stilettos?  Into the trash they go!

But… in a matter or weeks, months, years or even hours, we regret it.  We hit the mall and begin rebuilding our wardrobe.

Again and again and again.

I am decades passed thinking that I would be able to resist who I am.  I knew it was never a phase, that I would always want to wear what I want to wear, but I thought I could control it.  I remember the last time I threw everything away and hoping I could tough it out.  These days my wardrobe and shoe collection are larger than it ever was.

But I still purge every once in a while.  I go through my wardrobe and closet, drawers and makeup, and toss out and donate what doesn’t fit or what I don’t wear anymore.  I like de-cluttering and it gives me more hangers and closet space for new stuff.  🙂

Yesterday I organized my jewelry and tossed out earrings that I can no longer find it’s mate, bracelets that fall into the “why did I buy this” category and necklaces that I can’t wait to wear now that I have untangled them.  I found the first pair of earrings my wife bought me, the first necklace I wore outside my home and the bracelets I bought on a shopping party the MN T-Girls attended.

I can’t speak for all t-girls, but I have a deep, personal connection to what is considered girl’s clothes and things.  This yellow dress is more than a dress, this is a dress that I was able to wear to wear after working so hard to lose weight.  It represents hard work and determination.

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I have many stories and there are meanings to so many things I own and wear.  I bet you have these stories and memories too.

This is who I am.  It’s who I grew up as and who I will grow old(er) as.

I have always been transgender, even before I knew there was a word for it.

My definition of transgender is rather broad and it basically comes down to any feeling, thinking, clothing preferences…whatever, that go against traditional societal norms about what boys and girls “should” wear or act.

I can trace back to when I tried on my first article of clothing that traditionally boys don’t wear.  It was a pair of my mom’s boots, found in the back of a closet in our basement.  I was around five or six years old.

As a child, I was fascinated by and  in love with dresses, makeup and shoes.  I still am.  My adoration for these things was always there, even before I could ride a bike without training wheels.  How’s that for perspective?

All throughout my childhood I tried on as many things as I could.  I suppose some would describe this as “experimenting” with girl’s clothes but I wasn’t experimenting.  I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted.  I didn’t think I was born with the wrong body, I just didn’t understand why simply being one gender meant that I wasn’t “allowed” to wear what I wanted to.

I remember the first day I was brave enough to wear panties under my work clothes.  All throughout my shift I was terrified but proud of myself.  I was fifteen.  I liked wearing dresses (or tops, skirts, anything) whenever I had the chance.  Wearing panties was, and still is, an intimate and personal connection to who I am.

I do not want to transition, I like who I am and I like being able to go back and forth between whatever gender I choose, but for some of us we know that presenting as male is required for most of what we do.  In a world where no one cares about gender and societal norms, sure, I suppose I could wear that dress to work, but I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.  It is enough to be able to wear a lacy pair of pink panties under my suit.  I smile inwardly when I have to do something MANLY like drive a forklift while I think about the cute undies I have on under my jeans.

The most common question we are asked is WHY.  Why do we do this?  Why do we want to?  Why do we choose to wear bras and heels?  We fumble and incoherently answer these questions without a convincing or satisfying answer.  We don’t know why we are who we are.  Usually the answer to these questions is simply “I just like wearing skirts” or “I love to feel beautiful”.  These answers are honest and real and true, but also vague.

But we also ask these questions of ourselves.  There is no answer.  There are reasons, but there is no real explanation.  We know how to go and come back from the moon and why the sky is blue but not why I love to wear lingerie.  Besides the obvious reasons, of course.

Underdressing (wearing a cute cami, panties, bras, stockings, etc, under male clothes) keeps me connected to who I am.  I wear panties, I want to wear panties, and by my definition of transgender, that alone makes me transgender.  This would also be true if ‘panties’ were replaced by ‘nail polish’ or whatever.

I need to clarify that every trans person is different.  I know many t-girls who wouldn’t wear high heels for any amount of money.   They choose jeans over dresses, sneakers instead of pumps.  I know some cis-women like that, too.  Wardrobe and makeup alone do not make you trans.  Some of us are trans because they simply (or complexly) felt like they were assigned the wrong gender at birth, or that they have anatomical features that contradict with their identity.  These feelings have nothing to do with a cute pencil skirt.

For me, gender identity and clothes, like tangled necklaces, are forever entwined.

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

Specially Designed Luxury Lingerie For Transwomen

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From The London Economic

A transgender woman has launched the world’s first range of specially designed luxury lingerie – for trans women.

She said trans women who haven’t had surgery have few options to help conceal their genitals – and what’s out there is a far cry from anything found on the shelves of Victoria’s Secret and Anne Summers.

Carmen Liu, 27, from London, has designed flattering underwear that ‘tucks’ the genitals in while featuring pretty bows and lace trimmings usually found on conventional lingerie.

Slamming the traditional ‘gaff’ – which she describes as the “love child of Borat’s mankini and a jock strap” – Carmen says all women deserve the experience of wearing sexy lingerie.

She is also adding bras to the range to match her innovative bottoms, which keeps the area down below looking flat with a secret combination of design and fabric.

As well as underwear, the entrepreneur is also bringing out her own ‘tucking tape’ – which is safe for skin and a less painful alternative to household tapes that many trans women use.

More here!

Love, Hannah

 

 

The T Word

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I get a lot of emails from girls like me and it never surprises me how similar our experiences are.  For most of us, we started dressing when we were younger and whether it was conscience or instinctive, we knew we had to hide this.  Some of us felt shame, some of us were embarrassed, some of us terrified of being caught.

We usually started to experiment a little more with this as teenagers.  We started to buy (and hide) clothes, usually starting with panties.  Endless cycles of shopping, shame, terror, purging and ultimately shopping again.  Like a caterpillar into a butterfly, we are constantly trying to be beautiful.

We suppress it as we start to date and find committed relationships and we either hope this side of us will go away or that we will ignore it.

But we cannot outgrow this part of us.  This is who we are.  It will never go away.

I’ll say it again in case you don’t believe me, but this is a part of you and it will always be a part of you and it’s a beautiful part of you.

I think feelings of shame, embarrassment, and fear for some of us come from the perceived link between sexuality and wearing lingerie or anything else.

Every single one of us knows that what we wear has zero connection to who we want to be intimate with or who we want to be in a relationship with.

But not everyone knows that.  If you’ve ever come out to someone, whether intentionally or not, you probably have been asked if you’re gay.  The first time I was asked that I was a little taken aback.  I knew there was no link between what I wore to bed and who I wanted to go to bed with.

People who ask this about us can be forgiven, though.  For many, the first introduction to our world, whether we are trans, gender non-conforming or something else is drag.  The world of drag is typically dominated by gay men dressing up in a very exaggerated fashion.  For most of us, that is not who we are.  We know the difference between wanting to dress up and hit the mall and glamming up to strut the stage at a drag show.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  🙂  Or any of this.

The point I am trying to make is that a label can be very divisive when it comes to who we are.  We might be offended by one label, we may need to clarify a different one, or change our label at different points of our lives.

Of course, I don’t care for labels, but I understand the nuances our community has and in come cases, a specific label might be useful.

The big T word is a loaded word.  When I identify as transgender, I often will clarify what being trans means to me.  Yes, Caitlyn Jenner and Lavern Cox are transgender but I am not trans like them.  I have not transitioned nor do I feel that I want or need to.   I resisted identifying as transgender for a long time until a t-girl friend of mine said that her definition of trans was anything that went against the societal norms of the gender you were assigned at birth.

So, you like to paint your nails?  Trans.  You’re rocking eyeliner?  Trans.  Wearing a beautiful matching bra and panty under your suit?  Trans.  Looking amazing from wig to heels at the mall?  Lipsyncing to Madonna in 7 inch platforms at a gay club?  Trans.

I know that this is a very broad definition and that’s what I like about it.  When I identified as a crossdresser, at a certain point I felt that the term didn’t really encompass who I was.  It was more than just clothes but I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to call myself transgender.  Using the definition my friend gave me, I accepted that a crossdresser was also transgender.

I embraced that term and never looked back.  I like identifying as trans.  People know the term.  If needed, I can get more in-depth about what being transgender means to me specifically, but more often than not, just identifying as transgender is enough.  When I used to schedule makeovers I could, if needed, tell the salon I was transgender.  These days I don’t because I don’t think it matters; makeup is makeup.  Every face is different, regardless of gender.

As I said, people know the term.  Over the last few years the rest of the world has gotten a crash course in the different ways someone can identify as when it comes to gender.  It’s been exhausting for many of us as we often take on the role of educator and explaining the difference between terms like cis, trans, non-binary and many others.  It’s also been heartbreaking as we see our community lose our rights, attacked, misunderstood and portrayed in completely inaccurate ways.

It’s a complicated term for some of us in our community, too.

I often get emails from girls like us who are looking for support and looking for friends and others like them.  Many of us start by identifying as a crossdresser.  For some, they just want to look beautiful.  Some just want to wear lingerie.  Some want to have adventures in the real world presenting as the gender they (sometimes) identify as.  Crossdressing is a comfortable label for them.  I get it, I was there.

When someone is looking for support, more often than not I refer them to PFLAG.  According to their website, their mission is in uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy. PFLAG has 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This vast grassroots network is cultivated, resourced, and serviced by PFLAG National, located in Washington, D.C., the National Board of Directors and 13 volunteer Regional Directors. 

I attended PFLAG meetings years ago, back before I identified as trans.  The meetings were wonderful and I got to meet people who loved and accepted me regardless of what I was wearing.  The support groups were important too as I met others like me, others who wanted to be beautiful but were happy to live most of their lives as male.  PFLAG meetings and support groups are also a safe way to go somewhere dressed, especially the first few times you go out.  It’s helpful to know you are going to be surrounded by people who will not bat an eyelash at a girl like us.

Some people get angry or offended when I suggest PFLAG.  They insist they are a crossdresser, not transgender.  They want to emphasize that they are straight and do not want to transition.  They like wearing lingerie, dresses, they have a femme name but they are not transgender.  They just want to meet others like them and to talk about this side of themselves to others.

Number one, yes, you are transgender.

And number two, that’s what PFLAG is for.

I don’t want to transition.  I do not, and have never wanted to date men.  But I am transgender.

We all remember the first time we wore…something.  Whether it was a pair of panties or a high heel we remember that thrill.  We also knew that it was a complicated moment.  What did it mean?  We tried our entire lives to understand this and why we do what we do, but there is no reason.  Nothing to understand.  Just something to accept and embrace.

We tell the media and the cis-world to not be afraid of the word transgender.  We shouldn’t be either.

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My Favorite Letter.  And shoes.

Love, Hannah