Saturday, July 21, 2012

3F@RM's, Stepbystep_ts, and Our Transsexual Summer

Friday, July 20, was another 3F@RM's event.  That's Third Friday at RM's if you prefer.  Last October I decided it was time to start a tradition in Bucharest.  Although I had already met a number of transgender women and men in Romania, I found no support network, commonality of purpose, or even a tradition of getting together to talk about life and be oneself.  Don't get me wrong.  I wasn't thinking of myself as the American big sister who had come to impose.  It was just the opposite.  I was the one who wanted to learn from others, from their experiences, from their life stories.  If that meant starting a tradition, so be it!

It took awhile for 3F@RM's to get off the ground.  In the beginning it was more a RM and Raluca evening, as Raluca was the only one who came.  In March more people started to appear, and now we are up to about a half dozen or so regulars, both MtF and FtM and sometimes significant others and allies.  Last night was more a mid-summer party than support evening as we grilled meat on skewers and filled plates with potato salad and baked beans before getting the chilled Romanian beer from the fridge.  After all the work that had gone into Bucharest Pride in June, it was time to unwind and celebrate.  In the fall we hope to talk about documents, medical care, and other serious issues, but this 3F@RM's was just for fun.

I had lots of help for this 3F@RM's in the person of PE.  If OD has become a sister, than PE has become my lovely daughter.  She is only a week younger than my son, studies the same math that I once used as an attitude analyst for Hubble Space Telescope, plays classical and modern guitar, and is a whiz with computer graphics design.  Have you noticed the makeover of Transgender in State's layout over the past week?  That was all PE's work.

PE is also transgender, and when I see her, I see myself as I was in college in the mid-1970's.  (See Wahoo Wa! -- or -- So How Far Back Does This Go (Part 3).)  She is dealing with the same issues today that I failed to deal with then in a society that is only slightly more evolved on transgender acceptance than was the US then.  PE lives with her parents in Targoviste, a provincial city about fifty miles or so northwest of Bucharest.  She works in computer support for a European company that established itself in Romania because of the inexpensive but highly educated workforce.  PE is also nearing the end of undergraduate studies at a major Bucharest university, having completed almost all of her coursework on-line.  There's no two ways about it, PE is smart.

Three weeks ago PE wrote and said she would soon be coming to Bucharest for her university exams.  Could she stay with me for two weeks instead of at the university dorm?  Well, of course you can!  In fact I would have felt awful to think of PE in a sweltering dormitory room just a twenty minute walk from me in this hot Bucharest summer.

And so it is that I now have a daughter.  It's been delightful to come home at the end of each workday and fix dinner together.  When PE is not studying and I'm not at work, we've found time to have friends over, go to an outdoor performance of As You Like It, and talk about the challenges of being transgender.

PE's mother, father, and brother in Targoviste all know she is transgender . . . and are doing everything they can to stop her.  The pressures on PE in a small city where everyone knows everyone else's business are enormous.  PE's dream is to move to Bucharest when her studies are complete, find work here, and live her life fully as herself.

PE is also a future leader.  She sat quietly in the audience at the transgender digital video conference we held at the U.S. Embassy last month.  (See Proudly from Bucharest.)  She listened as Mara Keisling spoke about the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US, thought about what she had heard, and decided it was time to do something.  Together with OD-1 and Gabriela Gribis, she started a new Facebook page called Stepbystep_ts with the stated purpose of bringing together the transgender communities of Romania and Moldova.  It's in Romanian and Russian, but you will find occasional postings in English from the likes of me.  Speaking of liking, do go to Stepbystep_ts, click on like, and leave a few words of support.  What I was trying to do with 3F@RM's, PE is now doing with Stepbystep_ts.

This has also been Our Transsexual Summer.  Together PE and I have watched more transgender and transsexual videos and movies than I knew existed. That included the British series My Transsexual Summer about a group house of transgender men and women helping each other through transition.  In a way, PE and I have done the same over the past two weeks, transgender mother and daughter cooking dinner together, entertaining friends, and helping each other on the road of life.  

PE heads back to Targoviste tomorrow and to the difficult reality of non-accepting family and friends.  She has a long road ahead, but she has already shown far more courage and achieved more on the transgender road than I ever did in the mid-1970s.  I'm proud of you, daughter, and I'm going to miss you even as I head to the US for vacation in seven days.  Stay well, stay safe, do better and go further than I ever did, and come back soon.  Your bedroom is ready and waiting.

* * * * * * * * * *

I'll be on vacation and in training until the end of August, so please excuse me as Transgender in State goes on vacation also.  I'll me in Maine for much of the time and plan to have fingers that are covered in butter from lobster and summer sweet corn.  I also plan to catch up on my reading, kayaking, and communing with my sisters on lazy Maine summer afternoons.  I'll put my writer's fingers back to keyboard when the plane touches down again in Bucharest.  Until then, I wish all my readers love, success, acceptance, and the peace and joy of a summer fully lived.

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