I’d Like to Talk to My Dad

My 6th grade graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

My elementary school graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

It was a simple question, an ice-breaker at a meeting. If you could invite anyone over for dinner, dead or alive, who would you choose? We were going around the circle, and I wished I was more imaginative. My immediate reaction was “I’d like to talk to my dad.”

I could have said Emma Goldman or Magnus Hirschfeld. John Lennon or Rosa Parks. Would Mahatma Gandhi be looking at his watch, wondering if he had to stay for coffee and dessert? Would Audre Lorde have to feign interest in my writing? Would she wonder why she was brought back for this when there were so many more interesting things she could be doing?

My dad would be tickled that I choose him. He was forty-three when he died; I was thirteen. I wish I could talk to him. I’ve got questions. Continue reading

A Potential Threat to Homeland Security

When I get dressed, the first question I ask myself is “Does this look OK on me and would a guy wear this?” I never ask myself “Does this make me look like a terrorist?” This morning I looked in the mirror and realized I was wearing the same clothes that I wore the last time I went through security at JFK. Blue jeans, black T-shirt, blue chambray work shirt, and gray wool socks.

I took off my belt, my sneakers, and my watch. I emptied my pockets, put my quart-size bag of toiletries and my electronics on the tray. I waited my turn, walked into the machine, spread my legs, put up my hands, counted to three, and when the TSO (Transportation Security Officer) nodded, I walked out to retrieve my stuff. Not so fast.

Point-and-shootThe officer ordered me to go through the machine again. Then another officer patted me down very thoroughly, particularly around my groin and my chest binder, and swabbed my hand for explosives.

The TSO originally pressed the blue button for male and when lots of yellow squares appeared on the screen, she realized she made a mistake, and put me through again pressing the pink button for female. Donna overheard the discussion between the officers. It was neither private nor discreet. They did not realize she was with me.

The last three times I’ve traveled, I’ve had my palm swabbed for explosives. It wasn’t random. Donna waltzed through. My gender is seen as a potential threat to Homeland Security; hers is not. Continue reading

Stealth and Disclosure

Nipper listening to His Master's Voice singing "Masculine Women, & Feminine Men"

Nipper listening to His Master’s Voice singing “Masculine Women & Feminine Men”

I’m having trouble telling the last of my casual acquaintances about my name change (almost two years into it). I’m also thinking about how to explain why I want to have top surgery. When people ask me “What’s going on?” I keep it all inside and say “Nothing much, what about you?”

Everyone who is important to me knows about the legal name change, but I keep running into people who greet me using my birth name. Sometimes I don’t correct them because I am in a rush. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to explain. It feels awkward to stop and tell the story. Almost everyone asks why I changed my name.

I’m not on Facebook. I have to do it face to face. Continue reading

A Perfect Summer

Gracie gets in the way during the photo shoot of my camp mementos.

Gracie gets in the way during the photo shoot of my camp mementos.

The summer I was seven was a perfect summer. I went to sleep away camp. My grandmother paid for it so that my mother could have the summer off; I was getting on my mother’s nerves. Saint George’s Camp for Girls was a traditional camp, run by the church that housed my brother’s Cub Scout troop. 

My brother was going to the boy’s camp and I insisted that if he went I went. I didn’t want to be stuck at home with my mother. She did not know what to do with me.

Sending us to camp was a lot of trouble for my mother. She had to buy trunks, sheets and blankets, sleeping bags, and camp uniforms. Labels had to be sewn into everything, including our socks and underwear.

I’d never spent a night away from my parents. I’d never been allowed to pick out my own clothes. The camp uniform was a pair of navy blue shorts topped by a white T-shirt with “Saint George’s Camp” in large red letters across the chest. Campers were only required to wear uniforms for prayers and dinner, but I wore my camp uniform all the time. I was proud of it and liked it better than what my mother had packed for me. I also wore my New York Mets cap; I only removed it for meals, prayers, swimming, bathing, and sleeping. Continue reading


Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

I am still in top surgery purgatory. Purgatory implies hope and patience. Donna is slowly reconciling herself to my having surgery. I’m trying not to pressure her because I don’t want to sabotage her efforts to come around to it on her own.

I’ve tried to take a break from thinking about top surgery, but I can’t. I’ve got the money, I’ve got a doctor, but I don’t want to proceed until Donna says she can handle it, or is willing to try. She mentioned the end of the year. I mentally put the Prosecco on ice.

Meanwhile, nipples are on my mind. I am obsessed with chests. I chest gazed while on vacation. Italian men take more care with their appearance than American men do. They wear their dress shirts, T-shirts, and polo shirts tighter. They show more. I’m not attracted to men, but the Italian men are very attractive.  Continue reading


Verace Pizza Napoletana at Sorbillo in Naples.

Verace Pizza Napoletana at Sorbillo in Naples.

What do you think of when you think of Italy? I think of pizza. Donna and I rambled around the southernmost part of Italy for three weeks. It is a pizza culture. Verace Pizza Napoletana. I had to get over it looking skimpy by American standards.

Before I left New York I made a list of the best pizzerias in Naples. I wanted to make sure that I ate in at least one of them. The last day of the trip, the last pizza we ate in Italy, we went to Sorbillo. It was a late lunch. It was a delicious pizza. Charred floppy crust with a touch of tomato sauce and small chunks of fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), a few pieces of basil.

All the pizza we had in Italy was good – pizza with olives, pizza with artichokes, pizza with mushrooms, pizza with salami (an indulgence for Donna). The pizza at Sorbillo was a notch better. I would have been happy just ordering pizza margherita (classic), but Donna likes a little something extra. To make it special. Continue reading

Not the Retiring Kind


Avenue H Station, Brighton Line. The rocking chairs are real and I will not be sitting in one.

Avenue H Station, Brighton Line. The rocking chairs are real, but I will not be sitting in one.

I put in my papers to take early retirement from New York City Transit. I’m embarrassed to write that sentence because I barely feel like an adult, much less one eligible to collect a pension. Six years ago, right before July 4th weekend, my boss called me into his office to tell me I was being involuntarily re-assigned. While he was talking I started thinking about retiring.

The demotion caught me by surprise. I had gotten myself into trouble with the President of NYCT; he was making unreasonable demands of my unit (Subway Schedules). I patiently explained why I disagreed with him. I was respectful and on-point. I did not defer to him, but I was not insubordinate. We took an immediate dislike to each other. My queerness did not help matters. Continue reading