It’s been a full week, one that’s been somewhat busy and very wet, since the OutReach Pride Parade & Rally, but I’m finally ready to share with you some of my experience. As I’ve mentioned here and here, this year’s parade and rally was held under an ugly shadow, not from any rain clouds but under the specter of controversy. A loud contingent from Madison’s LGBT+ community raised a ruckus over the presence of the Madison Police Department at the parade, with some threatening to stage a counter-protest. In the end, parade organizers withdrew the applications of LGBT+ employee resource groups from MPD and UW—Madison Police as well as the Dane County Sheriff. Members from those groups could (and did) march in the parade, but had to do so unarmed and out of uniform. (Side note: The Madison Fire Department decided to withdraw one of their engines from the parade in sympathy to the boys in blue; it was MFD’s decision.) While OutReach’s move to formally eliminate the police entries upset some parade supporters and still likely upset some protesters (especially since the parade permit still required MPD to provide security), the parade and rally (**SPOILER ALERT**) went off without a hitch and without any rabble-rousers causing disruptions.
I’ve been away from WordPress for over a week and, oh boy, has a lot gone on around here. For one, I am in the midst of new temporary employment, which I promise to expound on in a later post. But I want to devote this post to a little something… okay, a rather big something that’s been going on here in Madison, one that has plagued the biggest and most important event in Madison’s LGBT+ community.
I’ll cut to the chase and let you know of the outcome: There will be an OutReach Pride parade this coming Sunday afternoon, starting at the west end of State Street, circling once around Capitol Square, and ending with a rally. And baring anything unforeseen on my end, I will be there as Allison and marching with fellow members of our crossdressing/transgender support group.
You may be reading that and are thinking that there was a possibility that the parade and rally wouldn’t be taking place at all. On the contrary, the event is not in any danger of not taking place. However, it will be taking place without one prominent group of participants — law enforcement. Had they been part of the parade, there would have been another prominent group that would have boycotted the event — those who have real disdain for law enforcement.
It’s almost midway through the month of June and I’m way late into acknowledging the fact that this is Pride Month! This, of course, is the month we in the LGBT community celebrate our community as a whole, display our true selves at various events, acknowledge the many figures and allies from around the world who have helped pave positive avenues for us as a community and as human beings, and to remember those in our community who left us too soon and who have handed us the (rainbow-colored) torch to hold high into the future.
I make that note of remembrance at the end of that paragraph in part to acknowledge this sad fact: Two years ago this morning, 49 members of our proud LGBT community lost their lives in a truly senseless act of terror at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was heartbreaking to hear the news then. It’s just as heartbreaking to remember it now. And it’s still necessary to remember the lives lost, for they dared to celebrate who they were and their deaths inspire us to stay resilient in the face of those who still desire to keep our community under their thumbs or out of sight entirely.
Despite the tragedies and difficulties and obstacles we still face as a community, it’s still important to celebrate who we are. More importantly, we still need to celebrate how far we’ve come together… and, boy oh boy, we have come a long way, with positive representations in many types of media and with the assistance of a supportive generation who isn’t too quick to judge by sexual or gender identity, unlike the older, more conservative generations who only see us as a “sin” Our community is talented, and we are deservedly valued and recognized for our positive contributions to society, no matter what letter of the acronym we fall under.
Not all of us will have the right and privilege to celebrate Pride Month this month. Indeed, Green Bay (my old city of residence) will have their own pride celebration next month, while we in Madison will have our annual pride event in August. But wherever you are and whenever you have the chance to do so, don’t be afraid to let your own rainbow shine. Happy Pride Month, everyone!
I want to share a thought or two that occurred to me today, and it peripherally has to do with a couple of tidbits about Alone: A Love Story, a podcast I recommended in my previous post. Alone is an audio memoir written and narrated by Michelle Parise, and reading up about the show at this link, Parise mentions her penchant for writing down details about her life as soon as they happen. She mentions that she’s has hundreds of journals in her possession, all carrying short story- and dialog-style details about her daily life. It’s the details in those journals that allows Parise to bring out specifics about this and that in Alone.
Earlier today, I listened to an episode of another of my podcast recommendations, The Debaters. By pure coincidence, one of the subjects put up for debate in that Debaters episode had to do with writing memoirs. It was a debate (and a pretty funny one, of course) considering the reasons people need to write memoirs (to leave behind insights on life and the stories to back them up) versus refraining from doing so (they can be pointless and uninspiring).
Here’s another poem I had previously been working on and let sit idle. Luckily, I have finished it and am able to present it to you. I should preface this by saying I have no plans to come out as a crossdresser to my immediate family; it’s the fear of being shunned with rejection that prevents me from doing so. But that’s not to say I’ve never played out the possibility of doing so in my mind. The thoughts and concerns I’ve had about coming out are the basis of this poem. Perhaps one day I’ll have the gumption to come out and say, “Yeah, I have a female side.” But until then, I have to…
“Wonder and Worry”
I can’t help but wonder
If I came out today
As a crossdresser and transgender?
What would the people around me say?
Should I come out to my mother
Who loves her only son?
She already has two daughters
But would she accept a third?
And would our family bond come undone?
How about my two sisters?
Would they approve?
I think the younger wouldn’t mind
But with the other, well…
I’m hesitant to make a move
Would my four nieces comprehend
About what their proud uncle would say?
I’d hope they’d all love and accept me
No matter what gender I would display
They are of a younger generation
One that’s more accepting of LGBT people such as I
But I fear their parents have molded them
To have conservative, disapproving minds
Or how about my stepfather
With whom I don’t see one-on-one?
Being the stern man that he is
Would my presenting as a woman
Be something he’d never condone?
What about those I work with?
Our company culture wouldn’t mind
But they have one major concern
Around it my whole world turns:
Whether my job wold be on the top of my mind
At least there are those like me
Those who saw another gender in the mirror
Together, we show each other support
And share our joys, hopes, and fears
I’m glad my trans sisters and brothers are there for me
But they haven’t known me as long
As the sisters, parents, nieces, aunts, and uncles
In the family I come from
I know, I can’t please everyone
I’ve got to please myself first
But if I came out
That fear of no familial support
Would leave me sad and hurt
It’s why I wonder and worry
About coming out and its repercussions
Would it bring me the joy of being myself?
Or would it leave me nothing but compunction?
Perhaps I’ll wait and see
If the coast will be clear
Just maybe then
I’ll tell the world about both sides of me
And the world will hopefully be supportive
Especially the ones who I hold dear
You may recall that earlier this month of March, I participated in another poetry reading as Allison. That particular Friday night here in Madison wasn’t too chilly, meaning that the comfy winter coat I had just added to my closet would have been a little too much. But then, it wasn’t anywhere near balmy, meaning a light jacket would leave me chattering my teeth on the walk from my car to Mother Fool’s.
But earlier that day, out of pure coincidence, I came across this College Fashionista article that gave a nice recommendation for the season: Layers are a great way to combat the chilly air that always comes with late winter/early spring weather March forces upon us. The article came with a couple of pictures of outfits featuring long coats. Problem was, I didn’t have any long coat in my closet.
Luckily, I checked out of work a little early that Friday, giving me a little extra time to head down the road to Target to see if they had any long coats. Thankfully, they did.
I should warn you that this edition of “Allison’s Word” will be a bit of a downer. Before getting into the subject matter, though, I want to briefly note that I went before a fancy camera again last Sunday. Yep, there was another LGBT-oriented photo event here in Madison, and I got all dolled up, put on my best wig (well, as best as that best wig could get anyway), and became acquainted or reacquainted with fellow people from Madison’s LGBT+ community. Oh, yes, and I posed for new photos. I can’t wait to see how the pics turned out, and when I order and receive my selected final shots, I’ll definitely share them with you.
Now, on to what I wanted to talk about here, and the word I want to highlight:
My previous post recounted the first part of my busy weekend performing poetry at Mother Fool’s. Here, I want to talk about something from the second half of same weekend, after the trans/CD support group I regularly attend held their meeting. Several of us gathered at a pizza place located, ironically enough, kitty corner from Mother Fool’s. Among our group was a cis-gender ally who was there with her partner. The conversation between the two of us ventured into where we had previously lived and worked, and it raised familiar territory for me: She noted that she used to work in the Green Bay area at… let’s just say it’s a certain company that’s part of a certain industry we’ll need to rely on at least once in our lives. I mentioned to her matter-of-factly that I used to live in Green Bay as well… and I used to work at that very same company, around the same time she had been there. (We worked in separate offices and different departments, natch.)
Just a quick thought to share. And, yes, this photo looks familiar. It’s one of the pictures I shared in my previous post, during which I recounted my day posing for Caitlin at Smoketree Photography (gotta give credit where credit is due). When I posted this photo to Flickr, I added an aside I want to expand on a little bit here. One of the outtakes from my session with Caitlin was of me having a little bit of playful fun with the traffic driving past our shooting location. I gave the traffic a playful waive of the hand, as if to say, “Well, hello there, good looking.”
One thing’s for sure: Male Mode Me would never do something as playful as that.
If you’ve ever put on a costume for Halloween, perhaps you notice that your personality changes a little bit. Your inhibitions start to loosen up, and you go from someone who’s rather reserved to one who is more outgoing than usual. The happy feelings you exude rub off on everyone around you; that joy and happiness spreads quickly. It’s almost as if a light switch in your mind is flicked from “off” to “on,” doesn’t it?
Every time I get dressed up, be it for venturing out or just staying inside, I notice a clear change in my personality. Male Mode Me and his straitlaced, reserved personality “steps out of sight” for a bit. In his place steps Allison, ready to brighten everyone’s day and offer a little bit of playfulness for the mirror, a camera, or a stranger passing by.
For sure, I am definitely more confident and outgoing when dressed up as Allison, which isn’t always how Male Mode Me appears to be. Methinks Male Mode Me could stand to learn a lesson or two from Allison.
For my fellow crossdressers out there: When you shed those male mode clothes and step into your favorite skirt or dress, do you tend to notice a more playful, more outgoing, more confident version of yourself making their presence known?
A little admission: I have never really had any sort of a bucket list. You know what I’m talking about, the list of items and activities you feel you absolutely, positively need to do before you (*ahem*) shove off this mortal coil. I’ve never had the urge to see an exotic locale (Canada is good enough for me), nor have I desired to parachute from a plane (I hate heights). Nope, for better or worse, I’ve been rather modest about the figurative heights I want to shoot for in my life.
That’s not to say that I don’t have things I would love to do as Allison before I expire, not minding too much if I will never get the chance to do them. I already have presented my femme side in public several times in the past year alone, including marching in a pride parade and performing my poetry. I have also longed to get a professional makeover and pose for the camera afterwards.
Well, back in September 2017, I didn’t get a professional makeover. But I did pose for a professional photographer.
Last September, I learned on Facebook about a “LGBTQ Photo Pop-Up” event here in Madison. The event was set up by Caitlin, who runs her own photography business called Smoketree Photography. As Caitlin communicated on the event’s Facebook entry, the rationale for the event was this: Intentionally or otherwise, a LGBT+ person can be put in an uncomfortable situation when working with photographers who come from a background that can be considered “traditional.” Their subjects and events are usually heteronormal in nature (e.g. man-and-wife weddings, proms, etc.), and their mindset can be heteronormal as well. This can result in photos that don’t reflect how their LGBT+ client see themselves as. Caitlin and her “pop-up” event sought to alleviate any such discomfort and create a safe environment for their subjects.