June 20, 1945 – Italy to Chicago

By , June 27, 2008 4:50 am

Note: The UNRRA, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, was formed in late 1943 to “provide relief to areas liberated from the Axis powers after World War II” (from Wikipedia). I think it’s pretty badass that my great aunt – my mom’s aunt – was helping in Italy after WWII. Since this letter was handwritten in cursive, I wasn’t able to figure out every word and have noted ???s where I wasn’t sure of a word and (?)s where I was pretty sure but not positive of a word.

Kay Graw
UNRRA (Italian Mission)
APO 394
c/o P.M., New York

Mrs B. Graw
4707 N.  XXXXX
Chicago V5, Illinois

20 June 1945

Dear Mother:

My traveling days have continued and there seems to be little likelihood of any change soon. By the end of this week I ought to be traveling into northern Italy with Dr Weber and Lacy(?) Rahon(?) for a week or two at beach and ???? more. We will be going in connection with a group of about 20 who will be working in the refuge camps up north – by the time we get back I should know what my next assignment is as we have been training Italians to ????? us here. As Jared is now at Bari in southern Italy checking up on the ???? assignment in Yugoslavia. Continue reading 'June 20, 1945 – Italy to Chicago'»

More thoughts on confidence

By , June 27, 2008 4:13 am

Last night I went to the latest Cirque show with a trans youth group I attend.

(Circus Sidenote: the show was good, but I was a little disapointed. I only learned later that it was intentionally acrobatic- and clown-focused, which is awesome, but I feel a little spoiled working at a circus organization. Cirque’s performers were undeniably top-notch, but I sort of feel like the difference between a very good aerialist and an amazing aerialist is larger than the difference between a very good juggler and an amazing juggler (or magician or contortionist). I did, inevitably, see one thing – a crazy trapeze acrobatics act – that I’d love to try with a mechanized winch and a gooood safety harness.)


On the El ride back up north (the long El ride back up north; gods is the United Center public-transit-inaccessible) I ended up being the last person from the group on the train with two of the facilitators. As I’ve said before, I like them a lot, so was kind of interested to see how they behaved in a more informal setting, as by that point we were all too tired to really be in ‘groupleader/groupmember’ mentalities. Likewise, as I’m one of the older memebrs of the group so sometimes feel more alligned with the facilitators than the other group members anyway.

So we were sitting and chatting, and T started talking to V about how someone at the last station had come up to her and someone else and said to the other woman, “You look fine,” but then turned to T and said, “Man, why you dress that way?” T continued, talking about how shit like that really hurts her confidence and makes her doubt herself. Now I’ve been very jealous of how both T and V look and how they hold and carry themselves, so it was interesting to hear someone I look up to express such worry over what other people are thinking of themselves. I think in some ways it was good, in that it made her seem more approachable and understandable, but in another way it was disapointing to see anyway – especially someone I’m looking up to – brough down like that.


15 April 1961, Ceylon to Chicago

By , June 25, 2008 4:03 am

My mom just gave me a box of letters to and from (mostly to) her mom, my grandmother. I’m going to try and transcribe them (slowwwwwwly) and post them as I do. The only change I’m making is inserting some paragraphs for readability, as apparently Gert (my great aunt, and the author of this letter) wasn’t a huge fan of them – the original had only two huge paragraphs.

15 April 1961

Dear Mary,

You really are extraordinary. Or just a moment. No, I just see that your card for my birthday was posted on 10 March, it arrived today, so I can’t blame you for not answering my last letter in it. But it was good to have even so belated a note from you and so uncommunicative a one. Did you receive from Delhi a set of table mats? A set I sent to Eleanore at the same time reacher her. Did Bonnie receive from Geneva a gold bangle of an Egyptian head for her charm bracelet? If not, please let me know so I can start inquiries. Especially as I shall have to stop in Geneva after I leave here, which I still hope will be toward the end of May. Did you get my letter asking you to send off my suitcase and did you send it?

Now for you. I’m glad you’ve finally faced that issue of separation. Now, to put it bluntly, try to forget the past or at least not remember it with bitterness. You can’t do anything more about it, but you can do a lot about the future. You’ve probably already realized that it doesn’t matter a fig what anybody thinks about Eddie not living at home, so that you might just as well have ignored “public opinion” all these years. But don’t waste your time regretting not having done it before. As long as you feel you’ve done right, and I’m sure Bonnie is both old enough and wise enough to be able to love you both without any sense of conflict or disloyalty, as long as you are wise about it and don’t demand proof from her that she approves of the seperation. What you must be prepared for is the possibility that you may have to live at a slightly lower standard of living if Eddie’s not at home, but you now know that you can support yourself and if you aren’t willing to pay that price for your freedom from the frustration and bitterness and discontent of the past years then you don’t really want it very badly.

As I’ve no doubt told you before, because it always seems to important to me, maturity is having to make choices between alternatives, each alternative having some advantages and some disadvantages. Children never understand why they should have to give up anything in order to have something else; grown ups should know how to make the choice and to live with it. You’ve wished for my birthday that I may continue to go through life doing the things I want to do. You might just think for a moment that I make up my mind each time by considering the alternative costs and deciding what I’m ready to pay or sacrifice in order to do something I want to do. Sometimes one gives up something else one wants to do, or chooses to do the least unpleasant of two unpleasant things. But it’s being able to choose that differentiates us from animals. Now let’s see what you decide to do with what you’ve chosen. Don’t worry about happiness. It’s not something one gets by direct effort, like going out to buy a loaf of bread or a bottle of whiskey. It’s a kind of by-product. You care for people so what happens to them makes you happy, even if you’ve done nothing about it yourself. I understand, for example, that Betty is pregnant, which you had nothing to do with but I’m sure makes you happy.

Continue reading '15 April 1961, Ceylon to Chicago'»

Lost Winds and Okami mini-reviews

By , June 22, 2008 5:24 pm

Lost Winds

I recently bought Lost Winds for $10 on the Wii Virtual Console (a downloadable games service) and think it was worth it. In the game, you take control of both Toku, a young boy who you control with the control stick, and Enril, the spirit of the wind, who you control with a pointer via the Wii remote. You use the wind to pick Toku up, cary him accross chasms, fight enemies, and solve simple puzzles (pick up rocks to throw at closed doors, for example). The game is a 2D sidescroller, but rendered in a 3D style which is simple but still impressive.

In the game, you’re tasked with finding four chests to restore Enril to full power. The first two are hidden in nice little dungeons, each taking about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. So you’d think by that the whole game would be three to four hours. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. The big disapointment is the last two chests each take about 10 to 15 minutes to find. The game then ends on a (rather predictable) clifhanger, pointing to a sequel.

Even with these flaws, I still think the game is worth $10 – I’ve paid more than that to go to movies that weren’t half as good.

Read on for an ‘Okami’ mini-review. Continue reading 'Lost Winds and Okami mini-reviews'»


By , June 20, 2008 4:23 am

Went to the second session of a group for young (<24) trans women at the BYC tonight. The first session, on Tuesday, was extremely frustrating – I didn’t the facilitators did a great job, one person kept telling long, meandering stories, and I felt like I had very little in common with the rest of the group in terms of age (I’m on the older end), class (I’m on the higher end), and education (likewise, higher end).

I do, however, like the facilitators a lot and I think it’s good for me to be in places where I’m being called R. One of the facilitators called me yesterday to see how I thought it went, and we had a really productive conversation, and tonight ended up being a lot better.

The stated goal of the program is to educated trans women about safe sex and avoiding HIV. It’s a pilot program, and if it goes well they may get more funding. Apparently, the trans population – and trans women specifically – have hugely higher HIV rates than other demographics. I’m not having luck finding data online, but the poster at the BYC said that, depending on the city, between 15% and 50%(!!!) of trans women polled were HIV positive, compared with a national level of just 0.6%.

Continue reading 'Groups'»

Therapist: 2 – Me: 0

By , June 17, 2008 4:11 am

Obviously, it’s not a contest. But damn if it doesn’t seem that way when she’s right and I’m wrong…

So the first one is about clothing, the most mundane (and yet oh-so-important) of things. L was saying I needed to just go to Target, where no one would care what I was looking at or trying on, and get something. I was whining and backpedaling and letting fear of embarasment keep me from doing it. See, among other things, I really don’t like to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. And buying women’s clothing? I don’t know what I’m doing.

But I finally got up my courage and went to Target. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write…) After putting off the women’s clothing section by looking at all the cool Lego Star Wars toys and the GPS systems and the make-your-own-ice-cream things, I finally meandered slowly past the clothing section. I felt like a bad spy in a satire, where if no one notices the spy before they try to ‘sneak,’ everyone damn sure will after.

Then I lost my nerve and went next door to Office Max, hating myself all the way. Continue reading 'Therapist: 2 – Me: 0'»

A racey experience

By , June 14, 2008 3:41 am

(Apologies for the pun in the title…)

While on the El yesterday two black girls got on the Red Line around Argyle, heading north. They were both in their late teens/early twenties, dressed to enjoy Chicago’s at-long-last nice weather. One of them was smoking when she got on, and turned to the closed door to take one last puff and throw the cigarette to the ground, stepping on it and extinguishing it.

The two girls continued to stand in the door, chatting, when someone across from them – an older white man – got up and moved to the other end of the car. The girl who was smoking took offense to this, and started speaking loudly at his back as he walked away: “Oh, so you don’t like the smell of smoke? Well, my pussy smells better than you, you ass! Yeah, that’s right, you better walk away!”

I was playing around on my phone (oh, the joy of a phone with Internet…) but looked up at her during her little tirade. We locked eyes. And I, conciously ignoring the decorm of the El (and public places in general) held that eye contact. Continue reading 'A racey experience'»

I have to perform, like, in public?

By , June 12, 2008 3:26 am

I was recently accepted into a mentorship program with a gay performance artist (he’s the mentor) and two other mentees, with the goal of developing queer solo performance. (As the title indicates, I’m excited about this, but also somewhat terrified…) Anyway, I thought I’d share my application, somewhat edited to remove some identifying information

Why Solo Performance?
When I was thirteen I crept into my parent’s room and tried on my mom’s black one-piece bathing suit, inflating my flat chest with socks and tucking my penis between my legs. Had I been asked, had a surprised family member burst in and wondered what the hell I thought I was doing, I could not have provided a good answer. Ten years later, now one year into hormone replacement therapy and exploring the identities of ‘transgender,’ ‘transsexual,’ ‘lesbian,’ and ‘queer,’ I no longer need to stuff my bra with socks but I am still searching for an answer to that most powerful of questions: What the hell do I think I am doing? Continue reading 'I have to perform, like, in public?'»

Transitioning – “What’s Left”

By , June 10, 2008 7:35 pm

Yes, I’m at work right now. But I’m running payroll and there’s a lot of waiting for the checks to print, so I don’t feel too guilty about posting…

I’m talking online with MG and mentioned I’m continuing to be stressed/unhappy becuase I feel like i’m in a holding pattern with the transition. She said, “Well what else do you have left to do? Maybe if you break it up into all of the steps it would be easier just to do it one by one, than to think about all of it.”

So lets try. This list isn’t in any particular order…

  • Start using R instead of J with everyone in my life.
    • Right now I’m using it with close friends and my mom
  • Shift my wardrobe toward womens’ clothing
    • I’ve done a little in this regard, but I really get panic-y when trying to shop. I need to find a shopping buddy…stupid friends living in other states…
  • More hair removal
    • I need to do some touchup stuff on facial hair, some more major eyebrow work, and crazy major body hair work

That can’t possibly be it, can it? I mean, I also have things like

  • Think of myself as female
  • Figure out a new signature
  • Figure out a new handwriting
  • Change my voice

But I feel like those are a little different. I dunno, maybe not. They just feel more mental that physical…


Order in the court!

By , June 10, 2008 3:59 am

I was called for jury duty today, which was a wholely sureal experience. I earned a whopping $17.20 for my eight hours of civic service, along with a darling certificate which I think may need to go up on my wall. (It’s honestly like something you’d make in PrintShop. Totaly ridiculous.)

The case was a civil matter about a car accident – both people agreed that this one guy hat hit this one woman, but disagreed about which direction she was turning in, how far out she was, and who had the green.


In the end, we gave her all of the repair fees, half of the ER fees, and no ’emotional distress’ awards. She seemed OK with that, though not thrilled.

Oh yeah, the accident? Happened in August 2003. It took five years for the case to come to court, and maybe 5 hours to go from chosing the jury to handing down the sentence.

Ahhh, the legal system….


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