Sunday, April 30, 2006

And the Winner is...

I drank a lot of coffee tonight. I was trying to figure out what made the best cup of coffee. I went to the store and picked up some sugar substitutes. Nothing I tried was equal in taste to sugar, especially Equal. Equal was the worst of the three sugar substitutes being far far behind second place Stevia. In my opinion the best was Splenda - it even tastes good by itself! One foolish thing about this contest though is that I neglected the one substance that makes a real cup of coffee. It's pretty evident right now, at 4:24 am, that the clear winner is caffeine.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Good Grief

I don't think I've mentioned it on here before, but from about December 2004 to August 2005 I played a game called World of Warcraft every day. It is an online game with millions of players. You play a character in a massive virtual world, and you go on adventures. Along the way you find people to quest with and pretty soon friendships are formed with these people you have never met physically, but spend hours with every day online.

After a month of play I ended up in a guild. A guild is like a team - a bunch of people that have all formed up together to make it easier to carry out some of the quests and to make it easier to find people to head into dungeons with. The guild was called "Grief". Well, the guild leader quit playing one day without a word and so we were left without a leader for about a month. Then we held an election and somehow I was voted in to be the guild leader. I didn't do much in that position except to make jokes, try to make sure people had fun, help people out when they were in trouble, and show up drunk occassionally. It seems that is all I needed to do to have my character 'Saraa' make lots and lots of friends. It wasn't long before I'd enter a room and people would start saying stuff like "omg, it's Saraa!" I know it is just a game, but it was a pretty big ego boost sometimes to have a character that people had 'heard of' even if they had never met me.

A picture of Saraa made by a guildmate, August 2005

Well, last weekend I was at a computer store and I was holding a game called "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" It is a game set in a similar world, with magic spells, swords and monsters, but this one is a single player game. A store employee came over to help me out and he told me he had the game and really enjoyed it. Well, I was already 95% sure I wanted to buy the game, but his comment pushed me up to 100. He went to look me up in the computer and I wasn't in there, so he started adding an entry for me. I said that I had been looking for a new game similar to World of Warcraft, as I had played that one for months and quite enjoyed it. I noticed that he typed my name in the computer as 'Saraa' - which was pretty weird... unless he was used to typing it that way...
"Oh? What server were you in?" he said.
"Daggerspine, you?" I said confidently.
"Were you ever in Grief?"
"Yes..." I said warily.
"Are you Saraa, the leader of Grief??"
"... Yes... that's me." I said frightenedly.
"My wife and I are in that guild!!"

Sure enough, he was someone I met online over a year ago and we were suddenly face to face. I have to say that it was a pleasant surprise to see him in person after so many months of 'seeing' and 'talking' to him online. It's funny though, he works in a computer store and I am a computer programmer, both in land-locked Saskatoon Saskatchewan, but my most outstanding memory of him is when we chased some of The Horde off a cliff into the ocean in the southwest part of Desolace.

I actually owe Grief and it's members a debt. It is strange to think a person discovering herself through a video game, but that is exactly what happened to me. When I started playing the game I was still very much the old me - shy, reserved, cautious. Soon though, as I related to everyone as a woman I discovered new parts to my personality. The old me was still in there - but now there was just a lot more! My main questing buddy was Jesse from work - or Redallion as he was known in the game - and one day he said to me that a cool part of role-playing gaming as opposed to regular online gaming is you get to see a person's personality come out in their character. I know he was talking about finally getting to know me as a person through the freedom the game lent me. I remember that statement well because I too finally got to know the real me through that game.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Completely Normal

Today is the first of the anniversaries. Last year at this time I'm sure I seemed like I was insane. Things were moving almost out of control. The first thing that I did that was real was that I changed my name. Today is my name birthday. I've technically been Sarah all my life in some way, but on paper it's been exactly one year. Shortly after that I started wearing women's clothes to work. I'd have to sneak out of the apartment to do so, because my roommate was not a supporter. A couple weeks later I kicked him out. The day he left was the day I decided to switch over completely. Ever since then my old clothes have been in the closet, in a box marked with a skull and crossbones. Things moved by so quickly last year that I can't even imagine my own frame of mind let alone those of my friends, family and co-workers. Thank goodness I'm surrounded by such an amazing group of people that made it so I felt able to take those steps, and who made it possible for what was so crazy last year to seem so completely normal this year.

There are too many people that were there for me last year.
I couldn't even list them all if I tried.
I hope you each know how much I appreciate you.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Monday, April 17, 2006

Tring Bikes

When I was younger I rode my bike all the time. I haven't kept up with it much these past few years but even so, each spring I like go down to a nearby bike shop to take a look at the new bikes. Without a doubt they'd try to sell me on one of the new spring bikes with frames made of the newest space-agiest super light materials and featuring all the latest and exciting innovations and gimmicks.

Well this year I actually didn't even think about checking out bikes until one day Patrick was talking about getting one. That very day I happened to be returning movies at a video store in the same strip mall as a bike shop, so I walked in and found some cool bikes to look at. Within seconds someone intercepted me and I readied myself for the sales pitch. Normally I dread salespeople bugging me, but I look forward to hearing about the bikes because these days this is my total education in the new things available in the world of bikes. He asked if he could help me and I said sure. He looked at the bikes I was looking at and didn't say a word about any of them. He looked towards the far end of the store and said somethign I couldn't really understand. I asked him to repeat it and heard, "Have you seen the", and his next words I still didn't really hear, he said "Tring Bikes?" I know I've been out of the loop when it comes to bikes, so it didn't surprise me that I had no idea what a Tring Bike was. I said I hadn't, so he smiled happily and turned around to take me to them.

I had heard "Tring Bikes" but as it turns out the actual words were "touring bikes". The bike he took me to was so very different in style from the bikes I was just looking at. It actually had a women's style frame - I didn't even think they made bikes like that anymore! I smiled quite uncontrollably when I saw it, and I think the salesman took this to mean that I approved. In reality I was silently laughing at the amount of reflectors. I think it had 14!

I'm used to getting assessed differently by salespeople these days, but this really entertained me. Last year they tried to sell me a bike with full suspension, this year the feature my salesman felt I needed to see was the double-wide seat with adjustable levels of springiness. Last year I was shown a bike with hydraulic brakes. This year I was shown a bike with upright handlebars, so I could ride in a sitting position and don't have to bend over (and presumably hurt my delicate back I suppose). Last year each bike I was shown had tires that looked like they were modeled after a monster truck's, but this year the salesman made note that the tires on touring bikes were very smooth, making for less vibrations so I don't "hurt" my hands. Do many women hurt their hands that way? Yes this was a bike that was a lot less rugged, built for people who are also a lot less rugged. The salesman didn't mention it, but I noted that the bike came complete with the screw holes necessary for fenders and perhaps a basket as well. Sigh... the salesman assessed me differently alright, and I guess these days I don't look like I should be out riding a mountain bike. These days they decided a full-featured granny bike with all the bells and whistles (it literally did come with bells and whistles) is more my speed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'll Miss You Kris

It's been over a week now since I heard the news that Kris is no longer with us. Kris is a friend that I met in late 2004 at a transgender support group meeting. To my surprise it was revealed in the meeting that he was an ftm - female to male. I can honestly say that I would not have known this based on appearances, mannerisms, clothing, or voice. It wasn't long before I found out that Kris had a rough time of his transgender journey, but it seemed to me as though he was finally moving in a direction that suited him. Each time I saw him he seemed so energetic, upbeat and lively. He was very knowledgeable and excited about the various medical procedures in the area of ftm surgery, but he was also always ready to tell a joke, always talking about things he wanted to try, and the events of his day. After I got to know him better he'd occasionally talk about the darker parts of his life. It was from knowing of these events and how they affected him that I was not surprised to hear that his death was at his own hand.

A simplistic view of trangenderism is that all it takes is a change of body, clothes and lifestyle to become whole. In truth that is only a portion of the struggle because even though you may be dealing with your transgenderism just fine, you still have to live in a world that doesn't accept it as easily or as fully. When a person is seen as some state between the two genders they stand out as incongruous and different. In my experience many people are fine with it, but it does make some people upset to a greatly varying degree. This is a problem because all transgenders are between genders. We're never fully able to change over, and even if we could, some wouldn't. I think that no matter how well we may pass, or how long we've been doing it, it is very difficult to stop seeing the incongruities and differences, and just as it does in others this results in ourselves being upset to some degree. I don't know what specifically was going on with Kris, but being transgendered causes hurt that runs pretty deep. It makes the most commonplace activities in life very complicated. It makes living an ordinary life seem impossible. I'd like to be angry with him for doing what he did... but I'm not. I can understand why he did it. I've had my own thoughts in that area at one time, I so understand it, but it is frightening to see evidence that I may have only temporarily put them behind me.

I wish I could tell him that the times I spent with him often cheered me up at a time in my life when I really needed it. He was obviously hurting inside, but he was still able to bring a smile to my face. He was important to me, and he will be missed.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My Personal W.P.S.

I really needed a spring type jacket. The one I was wearing was an old grey fleece that was not only completely unflattering, but it also didn't do much to protect from wind or rain so I decided to go look around the mall.

When I walk into a store I am always hoping there are a lot of shoppers and few employees because I feel self-conscious very easily and it usually happens when the employees are overly attentive. (One thing I have noticed about shopping in women's stores is that the employees are so VERY damn attentive they even talk to you while you are in the change room half dressed!) When I walked into Sport Chek the ratio of staff to shoppers was about one-to-one so odds were that someone would come talk to me soon. Naturally, given that I didn't want to attract attention to myself, my wet boots reacted with the floor to make an impressive squawk with every step so within seconds I had someone ask if I was finding everything ok. I suppose it is good customer service to ask, but I had barely travelled more than 6 feet from the entrance of the store! One could have counted my boot squawks on one hand so I obviously didn't have much of a chance to look for anything yet. I replied that I was looking for a jacket and she directed me to the jacket section - which turned out to be only three boot squawks straight ahead.

Soon I was surrounded by a bunch of jackets that I really liked, and I readied myself for the eventuality that none of them would fit me. To my surprise the very first one I picked up was an XL and it fit me perfectly. I almost bought it right there in case some other woman swooped it up while I was looking around. Instead, I left it and found that it wasn't the one jacket that fit me, it was just one of many - so many in fact that I had no idea what one to get. I ended up getting a nice light purple coloured windbreaker style jacket by The North Face.

Even though I was there for a spring jacket, and even though I had already found a good one, I started browsing the winter coats on sale. A fancy white one that was $100 off caught my eye. Since my current winter coat is a size 18 parachute* I decided to get one that fits and looks a little better for next winter. Of course I liked the coat, but I had no idea it would appeal to me on many levels - including my irrational over-appreciation of gadgets! I got it home and pulled it from the bag and I saw all these little tags and stickers all over it to show off the special features. There were so many logos affixed to these various features that it looked like it should belong on a Nascar driver. After I removed the inner liner I found out that the inside was also filled with little tags and stickers. They advertised the various materials, pointed out the many pockets and vents and highlighted what parts were removable and resizeable. For some reason the coat has a place for credit cards, it has a sunglasses holder, a place to hold your mp3 player, and not only that, but it has a glove compartment almost as big as my car does! This coat can't even be called a coat. A coat is an everyday item, but this is a gleaming white high-tech garment that has more in common with a space shuttle than my old gray fleece. No, this is not just a coat, it is a Personal Weather Protection System.

* I bought the parachute at Sears where out of 200 winter coats I could only find about 10 that were big enough for me to wear, and only one of them that had arms long enough to avoid exposing my forearms when I make a turn when driving my car. I had assumed that they just don't make a lot of nice jackets for women my size, but after shopping in Sport Chek I am beginning to think that Sears just doesn't bother stocking larger coats - and I'm not even that large, I only need an XL!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Son's Love

On Friday I went out for supper to an asian buffet with Megan and her boys. We were seated in the very corner of the restaurant and after we took off our jackets we all went together to get our food. As I got my food Megan went around with Trace and Davin and helped them dish up their plates. She got them settled back at our table and left them with me while she went to gather her own supper.

Trace and I started eating, but Davin, the little one, just pushed his food around with his fork. A server came to fill the water glasses and the distraction seemed to have led Davin to lose interest in his food entirely. He slid over to the edge of the booth seat and looked over his shoulder towards the direction we last saw Megan. I watched as I ate and he just kept looking and looking. Then he stood up on the seat so he could look back more easily and I said "Don't worry Davin, your mom'll be back soon." In response he sat down properly in the booth, gave me a concerned look and said "When are they bringing my chocolate milk?"