How Punk Rock Saved My Transgender Soul, Part 2
Disclaimer - I talk about surgeries, procedures and other parts of my transition in this part of my story. I’ll try not to get too graphic, but part of me, as an atheist is my belief in the ideal that humanity grows and gets stronger with open and honest sharing and learning. I am willing to talk deeper on the medical portion of my transition, but in a private conversation. Remember in the last part of this article when I said no one would willing choose to be trans and feel the need to transition? This explains the physical part of that, the social part, is the unseen, ever present innate biases towards LGBTQIA+ people in general, although that is light years ahead of where the world was even 10 years ago. That topic will probably be another column on its own though.
I came out publicly as transgender on Oct 9, 2016. I posted a story remarkably like Part 1 of this column on my old Facebook account, basically telling the world the whole truth about myself for the first time ever, that I was transgender. I never did an exact comparison to find out how many of my old friends, even from the very conservative, very small, very white and very straight High School I had attended, followed me to my new account, but it was the majority, many whom I was pleasantly surprised to see reach out with kind words of support. Maybe they did not completely understand everything but they were at least willing to try and learn. Little did I know I had exactly 30 days to feel like the world was moving entirely forward for everyone. Then the current resident of the White House was elected, even though he lost the popular election by 3 million votes. 30 fucking days, after suppressing my true self for 42+ years, I got 30 fucking days. I talked about Laura Jane Grace last time, he was elected on her birthday, happy fucking birthday, huh.
That election scared me; it scared my wife, not so much because we thought things would change that day, but because of the hate that he and his entire campaign displayed during the run up to the election. Mocking of a disabled journalist, grabbing her by the pu**y, all Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers and on and on. In reality at my core I was afraid of those he aligned himself with, those that were trying to push me and every other LGBTQIA+ person back into the closet, back into the fringes of society, to make it impossible to just be yourself. If they could force us to disappear from the public eye, we were no longer a concern, we could no longer corrupt the kids, and cast our dark magics upon them to turn them Queer. Unfortunately, I still have not received my spell-book for some reason.
That normalization of hate is what made my wife post about being afraid to walk down the street with me, knowing that we could be attacked just because of who I am. I am to this day still at least a moderately visible transgender person and although my journey has already brought me so far, I’m 6’3” and suffered the effects of testosterone poisoning for over 42 years, but back then in late 2016, I had barely begun my journey. I stood out and I gave no shits, I was going to live my life, but being visible in the times we are still in can have implications, some people just hate me, even though they have no idea the type of person I am, and sadly some people might attack us.
One of her work colleagues who had moved to a new school in California, replied “Why don’t you come work for me?” We kind of laughed it off at first, but as our relationships with some of her family members got stressed, although since repaired, she said, I think I will apply. Needless to say, being as awesome as she is, she got the job and luckily my role was location flexible. My boss basically said, you work from home and travel, I assume you can still work from home and travel from California, so enjoy the sunshine and the EARLY morning meetings! Suddenly we had 5 weeks to find a place to live, uproot everything and move to Southern California for her new job.
We knew almost no one living in SoCal, but we had met an amazing couple, Ashley and Jimi back playing World of Warcraft a few years prior. The only time we had met them in person was at their wedding in Mexico! Yes, we’re a couple that went to a wedding for people we had up to that point, only met playing video games online, and it was an awesome weekend. We tracked down a possible apartment and I sent it over asking Ashley, how is Fullerton, CA? Her answer, you’ll love Downtown Fullerton, so that settled it, DTF it was. I flew out with Maureen, Moe to all who know her, in late March because she had to start her new job. Then flew home, packed up the truck and my Mom and I drove From Chicago, IL to Fullerton in less than 3 days, driving a 20ft U-Haul and pulling a car on the trailer behind, not bad for a couple girls! On April 4, 2017, we were moved into our new apartment and were officially California girls!!
In late 2017, I had the first two major surgeries of my transition. In August I had Breast Augmentation, yes, they’re spectacular, thanks Dr. K! Then in September I had Facial and Vocal Feminization Surgery. Which is a suite of small facial reconstructive surgeries to feminize the shape of the face by literally cutting open the skin, peeling it back down to the bone and then grinding the bone down. I had this on both my chin and my forehead to soften those features. That suite also included cheek implants to raise my cheekbones, a lip lift with fat injection for fuller lips, a nose job and a trachea shave. The vocal feminization involves tightening the folds in the vocal cords, so they vibrate at a higher pitch. I’ve went on to also have liposuction of my tummy and back with some of the fat injected back in for a Brazilian Butt Lift. As I’ve said many times now, nobody, I mean nobody would go through all this, unless it was the last possible thing to try.
At this point in late 2017 we were only really following Against Me! and some of the bands we had seen at their shows. Bands like Bleached, The Dirty Nil, Mobina Galore, Dave Hause. Sure, I’d met Laura 3 or 4 times at this point, and chatted with some of the other bands after shows, but they were all from other areas of the country and world. We hadn’t met many local bands, but that would change soon enough.
Then we saw Against Me! was announced as a performer for what became our new Mecca, Punk Rock Bowling, aka PRB. Holy cow, I didn’t know the vast majority of the bands I was all of a sudden going to be spending the 2018 Memorial Day Weekend seeing in Las Vegas. I started listening to some of the headliners, was liking new music, listening to bands we had already seen, but come early April I realized I needed to hear ALL these bands.
Remember that testosterone poisoning I mentioned? Well even on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), where I actively block testosterone production and inject estrogen weekly it does not get rid of body or facial hair. The best way to get rid of hair is electrolysis, or as I call it, electro-face-torture. It’s basically having a thin needle inserted into every single hair follicle, then the technician passes an electric current through it, and then plucks it with tweezers, for every single hair, over and over and over again. At this point I’ve probably had close to 400 hours of it done and probably have another 400 until I’m done. (Anyone want to sign up for hundreds if not thousands of hours of lying motionless on a table being repeatedly shocked?) I also was “lucky” enough to have pattern baldness. So not only am I having hair removed, but I’ve had 11,000 hair follicles, over 4 separate procedures, transplanted from one area to the other on my own scalp.
I digress though, regardless, I needed to listen to these bands playing PRB and what better time than when I’m lying flat on a table getting electrocuted! So I fired up a PRB playlist and laid down. The music was awesome, but since I had eye protection on to keep the bright lights out of my eyes, I couldn’t see who each band was, I heard music, but couldn’t see the artist names or song titles. I just laid there and listened to music, then tried to go back and see who the artist was for songs I liked. Suddenly, this explosion of awesomeness popped into my earphones, I simply had to know who was singing this ridiculously catchy song, it could not wait. I said, to my electrologist hold on, I need to see who this sings this song. So, I sat up, looked at my phone and that right there is where I unknowingly found the start of my Community.
That song? “Be Sweet” by The Bombpops. I immediately went to the artist page and hit shuffle, by the end of that session, I had found a new band(for me) that I fell in love with. The first, but certainly not the last, actually based off the Bombpops, Spotify recommended a band named Bad Cop Bad Cop. I loved them too. Anyway The Bombpops were playing a club show at PRB that was unfortunately already sold out, so we wouldn’t get to see them there, but they were playing a record release show at the Redwood Bar in LA in before PRB, but I’ll get to that show in a bit. Before that we had tickets to Dave Hause who was playing a show with Dan Andriano right down the block from our apartment at Slidebar. Since we had seen him open for Against Me! and Bad Religion in Vegas, we already had tickets.
Little do I know there was an opener that night, they either weren’t on the flyer I saw, or more likely I just didn’t pay any attention to the opener when I bought the tickets. We got to Slidebar and had a pre-show meal, then went to sit at the bar to free up the table. There were a couple barstools next to this group of 5 or 6 people we just assumed were there to see the show. I remember this because the one female in the group had this awesome green hair, super vibrant. Now I normally wouldn’t remember something like that, especially at a punk show, but it was just so awesome it stuck in my head. Anyway, I’m busy scrolling through Spotify looking for more new(again, new for me) bands and on the BCBC page they have a band named The Last Gang, so I follow them and once again think nothing more of it, they’ll pop up in my daily mixes and everything. All the group next to me walks away, except one of the guys, I say hi to the one guy left finishing his beer and ask if he’s here for the show. I think some you might be able to figure out where this is going, but if not, the guy says, “No, I’m here to sell merch for The Last Gang.” Totally serious, that band I didn’t realize was opening that night was TLG, that person with the strikingly awesome hair was Brenna Red. I’m fairly certain this was the first night Kenny played the whole set with the band too, although I could be mistaken(Love ya Brenna, Sean, Kenny and Robert). No matter what, Spotify can be creepily good at its job sometimes!!
We made it to that Bombpops record release show at Redwood and we met someone who is sadly no longer with us, Sac Steve. He was such a great guy and we just sat at the bar, chatted and had some drinks until Jen and Poli came walking in the front door with their guitars. They knew Steve, who in turn introduced us, not that I’m shy, I would have talked to them anyway, but it started with him. RIP Steve, you are missed!!!
We met the whole band that night, I swear we were like giddy little schoolgirls, even though we’re almost old enough to be their parents. I was a bit tipsy and didn’t really know what the guys looked like in the band, so I’m talking to Neil as he was selling merch for a good 30 mins, not even realizing he was the bassist until he walked on stage in front of me. I can be pretty dense sometimes….
The other person we met that night? Linh Le, the all-around badass and bassist of Bad Cop Bad Cop. She walked up to the bar next to where we were sitting and was like “Oh if you like the Bombpops, you should check out my band Bad Cop Bad cop too.” I’m seriously a bit dumbfounded at this point, but I tell her I’m already listening to your music, I love it and we have tickets to your Slidebar show in a couple weeks.
We caught that BCBC show a couple weeks later but didn’t really get a chance to chat to anyone but Linh again. Since it was a weekday work night, we left after their set and so we didn’t get to really say Hi.
Finally PRB weekend arrives, we walk in on Saturday, and Moe says, “I’m gonna use the porta potty before they get gross, then we’ll get food” So I’m standing there and I look over at one of the tents and see a sign for The Sidewalk Project and a woman sitting there eating lunch. She just had a presence that I felt, something that drew me to her. So, I walk over and ask, “Hi what’s The Sidewalk Project?” She introduces herself as Soma Snakeoil and she explains what Sidewalk is all about. When Moe was done using the bathroom, she walked over to the tent, I turned to her and said, “This is Soma the founder of The Sidewalk Project, we’re going to do work with them to help the houseless community.” Less than 5 mins chatting, and I knew we were connecting with something special. We chatted a bit longer, and I got introduced to someone else that we all know, our very own Danielle who was handing out Mable Syndrome stickers, but didn’t really talk too long.(That makes her to my knowledge the first Mable I met, and how I found out about the collective). We’ve since become great friends, although at the time I still had enough insecurity that I wasn’t sure I’d be accepted into a women’s only punk group, obviously since I’m writing for the site now, that fear was unfounded. Overall, we didn’t really spend too much time there maybe 15 minutes total, and were hungry, so it was time to go get food. I go to grab a Sidewalk business card off the table, and who do I see is one of founders? None other than Stacey Dee, guitarist and singer from BCBC(Love you, Soma, Stacey and Emily!!!) This was the real moment when the first pillar of my Community was formed, I just didn’t realize it yet.
After PRB, we had a day after that when we drove down to San Diego to Amplified Brewery because they were releasing a Bombpops beer and the band was going to be the bartenders serving their very own beer, The Bomb-hops(BTW, I loved this beer). This was such an awesome experience; we sat at the bar and really had a great time talking to the band for hours, we even met some of their families. It was such a small intimate affair, and something I will always remember.(Love you Jen, Poli, Neil & Josh!!)
We finally got to see BCBC again in Pomona, CA, before their set I got to finally meet everyone in the band and chatted with the them for a bit. I mentioned to Stacey that I met Soma and was joining on the with Sidewalk Project to help however I could(Love ya Linh, Stacey, Myra and Jennie!). Up to this point we were really meeting the musicians but didn’t yet have too many friends we knew yet. When BCBC was playing I noticed two women in front of me and one of them had this amazing BCBC Warriors tattoo. We didn’t talk that night, but I certainly remembered the tattoo.
A few months later we decided to fly to Denver for an Against Me! show. They were playing two nights in a row, As the Eternal Cowboy on the first night and New Wave on the second, plus we got to visit some friends over the weekend in Colorado. Anyway, we’re at the show early on the first night, either before A Giant Dog opened, or before Ted Leo and the Pharmacists followed. From behind, I hear someone say, “I know you; you were at the BCBC show in Pomona!!” I turn around and met the woman with the Warriors tattoo, our very own Mable, Kanan( I guess she remember me too). We hung out that night, grabbed dinner before the show the next night and have probably been to 40 shows together since then. (Love ya, miss ya, and can’t wait to see you after this COVID-19 shit is over!!)