Photo and video shoot and related essay, from T Project, a nonprofit project sponsored by Transmission.
Copyright 2013 Fran Sisco. All Rights Reserved.
There I was on stage. Bright lights shining on me. Nick is focusing his camera on my face and my body, repositioning the spotlights, making suggestions to his assistant, Danielle. She is asking me to turn to the side, to smile, to raise my legs. Later she is blowing the fan on and under my dress for effect. Ben is to the side, videotaping it all. Rhyrus, Annie, Joe and Connie are watching, smiling.
Wow, was I happy. I never thought it would be this thrilling to be the subject of a photo shoot (stills and with video). Nick took 134 photos, some of which are below. Ben’s video is 18 minutes, also below. I had nearly forgotten that dream years ago of being the subject of a photo shoot when at that time I resigned myself to remain a man for the rest of this life. I had convinced myself that the only life in which I’d be a full-time female would be the next one, if that. But now, here I am, having lived the last two years fully as a woman, ever grateful and knowing very clearly that life has pleasant surprises. So, just keep dreaming, just keep praying, and adventures like modeling in a photo shoot can actually happen.
I was invited months ago by JeanMarie and Annie to be in “The T Project” when the nonprofit grant funds were applied for. The T Project is funded, in part, by Arts Westchester and has been organized by members of Transmission, a program of The LOFT LGBT Community Center, located in White Plains, NY. I never had expected the extreme boost to self-esteem that I experienced that Saturday in September at the Reilly Studio in White Plains.
Below is a videoclip (unedited) from that day and a few of the photos. I know I’m no hot model, and that I am decades too old for magazine layouts, but I think my true self shined through that day, on that stage, in a way that I absolutely loved and would like to experience again. During the shoot, I heard the lyrics of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe’s song “Losing My Religion” that include “All these fantasies come flailing around.” This time, on that stage, my fantasies of being a pretty girl, with all eyes on me, became real. Came flailing around, but not controlling me but instead me controlling them. Enjoying living out the fantasies. Enjoying myself as the woman I’ve become. And having more dreams yet to live.
For more information about the T Project and about this essay, videoclips and photos, please contact Fran Sisco via email at FrancisSisco@aol.com or visit her websites at www.FrancisSisco.com, www.VideoVoom.net, or www.VideoVoom.com. Copyright 2013 Fran Sisco. All rights reserved.
Below is a videoclip of the photo shoot referred to in the above essay:
Below are 10 photos from the photo shoot referred to in the above essay:
Essay #13 – “Every Night Should Be Like This”
“Night of a Thousand Gowns” – on 4/6/13 at the Hilton Hotel, NYC, by the International Imperial Court of New York
Copyright 2013 Fran Sisco. All Rights Reserved.
Have you ever attended an event that was way more than you expected? A night that lingered like the sweet smell of rain for days after? Recently I experienced that — as I attended my first Night of a Thousand Gowns.
I was dazed all night; i moved through a blur of excitement, color and extravaganza; a pomp and circumstance that has resonated in my mind and pyche since: like a great movie or song you can’t get out of your head.
That’s what happened to me April 6th at “Night of a Thousand Gowns,” held at the Hilton Hotel just off Times Square. On two occasions during the night, I almost left the event. But somehow, magically, I was pulled back in and then experienced another level of excitement.
As a transgender woman with a lot of transgender friends, and involved in many LGBT organizations, I’ve heard about
“Night of a Thousand Gowns” as well as its sponsoring organization the “International Imperial Court System (IICS).”
Too fancy for me, I thought. Lot of pomp. Kind of surreal. Well, before I attended this year’s Night of a Thousand Gowns (NOATG) with a press badge as a columnist for this magazine (tgreporter.com), I did some research — including a quick review of wikipedia.
I was I enlightened in many ways. The event is certainly regal and royal. There is a grandure to it all, and people dress to the nines. Yet it’s not just about showing off. There is care and pride put into all details and design of the night. Moreover, in addition to the fun, the strutting, and the entertainment, it extends beyond that — and the celebration of LGBT concepts — to become a homage to living life fully; the giving of yourself to others charitably, altruistically. Not only does IICS rank as one of the world’s oldest and largest gay organizations, but it also a powerful and successful international force for good.
Beneath the glitter and charm of the event is an important mission to help make real positive change in the world. A friend of mine, who is a member, told me that many members at their own expense travel [throughout the U.S.A and abroad], to carry out charitable projects, passionately.
As with going to new events in life, NOATG was an eye-opener for me. The festive mood and many activities and performances kept me smiling and enjoying the good cheer. On a deeper level however, I was developing a profound respect for these individuals who dedicate so much of their time and money to make things better.
The sense of community and fellowship was so strong, that I had the urge to join the organization several times during the night. Perhaps in due time. For now, I felt that I should do my part to provide the outside world with as many glimpses into the NOATG as possible. Through thsoe efforts, I hope, perhaps the mission and objectives of the IICS will be furthered. Varied glimpses, from the red carpet interviews and posing, to the performances of talented stars, to the speeches, runway strutting, dinner and dancing, wonderful conversations, the random group of mothers and daughters from down south who made the 1,000 mile trip that day after seeing a cable TV profile of NOTG, to the awards ceremonies, and more was overwhelming. I will try my best to convey it all.
So, in addition to writing about the event, I videotaped many sections of the evening, and then rough-edited the material to insert these quick videoclips into my column, so you the reader can feel that you are there, and perhaps revisit the evening by revisiting this column.
And perhaps just as importantly, so you can share this column and the video material with your friends and associates to help broaden the awareness of the good acts (and the fun!) of the IICS and the Night of a Thousand Gowns. If you like what you read, see and hear, please “like” it on our Facebook and/or G+ page, or retweet it.
So here’s the evening in sequence and sequins
up my pink gown, and made the short trip by car from Westchester (video below).
A. Getting Ready to Go. I felt a little out of place without a great gown, so I used Modonna-isque gloves to fun-up my pink gown, and made the short trip by car from Westchester (video below).
B. Going there:
A beautiful clear day driving down into Manahattan from Westchester County enhanced the expectation for an amazing evening.
C. Arriving at the Hilton Hotel: The lobby was abuzz. People everywhere dressed to the nines. Excitement is building (video below).
D. The Red Carpet (3 videos below): How fabulous meeting several celebrities close-up. Who would have guessed that Chad Michaels, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, is so spiritual? Or that Taylor Dane is so health conscious? And how beautiful they all are, even under the intensely bright lights! Very creative outfits and masks! Watch the videoclip and take a listen to the interesting conversations.
E. The upstairs lobby (see video below): People were entering the main ballroom for the dinner, dancing and awards ceremonies, but I was advised that my press pass did not get me in. I was a bit surprised and very disappointed but resigned myself to take some video from the second level looking down into the ballroom and then leave. But as you will see in Part 2 of this column, I was pulled back into the event to have even more fun!
See Essay #14 for PART II.
Essay #12 – “Me, a Zumba Girl? “
\Essay dated 2/14/13- After editing the below, it was published on 2/16/13 www.tgreporter.com in Fran Sisco’s column called “A Girl’s Life.”
By Fran Sisco, email – FrancisSisco@aol.com, website – www.FrancisSisco.com
Copyright 2012 Fran Sisco. All rights reserved.
Above is a photo of Beto Perez and Mara in a Zumba youtube videoclip of “Crazy in Love.” I look like the girls, only a bit older.
One hour of a roller coaster of physical activity, emotional turbulence and intellectual growth. And all in a Zumba class. No kidding.
Ten minutes into the class, the gravity of what I am doing hits me like a ton of sneakers. I am looking at myself in the mirror that covers the front wall of the Zumba class at the New York Sports Club in Scarsdale, NY. I look pretty good. My bangs not yet drenched with sweat. I still have on the three-quarter length pink thin top over my black tank top. The thin black flounce short skirt adds the girly touch over my black leotards. My black sneakers are sleek not bulky, I will soon take off the pink top to cool down a bit. Zumba is a high intensity workout. And this instructor, Elida, has to be the most energetic Zumba leader. She is usually at the front, but also moves around the room, guiding everyone to be the best they can be.
So here I am in my first Zumba class, with 23 other women, all are genetic, and one man who is the only one who is a bit stocky and hardly keeping up. I finally took my daughter Kelly up on her offer to be her guest. She takes three Zumba classes per week and raves about Elida and I got to see first hand how good Elida is. I also got to be with my daughter, as her “female” parent. Kelly introduced me after the class to a few classmates and we chit chatted. It felt real good being accepted by the others as a woman, but more importantly by my daughter Kelly. At 28, she is wiser, less judgmental and more accepting than most people twice her age. Plus she is a great dancer, and has been all her life.
I was tempted to pull out my iPhone from my pocketbook and take a short video clip and a few photos to memorialize the event, but thankfully I shunned the thought. Doing so would have made several people uncomfortable and embarrassed Kelly. To give you an idea about the catchiness of Zumba, check out Beto Perez and Mara with “Crazy in Love” in this youtube videoclip:
So here I am, dancing along with the songs such as Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” Pitbull’s “Hotel Room,” “Zumbe Zumbe Zumbe ah”or Kelly’s favorite “My Name is Sheila,” Don Omar has a lot of Zumba hits. Popular songs like “Crazy in Love,” “Turn Up the Music (Chris Brown) and “Gangam Style” keep you motivated. Many of the steps seem Latin, like salsa, meringue and cha cha. I’m catching on okay, and probably following about 80% of the steps, some intricate and most very fast. I still cannot believe how good it feels to watch myself in the mirror. Finally, I’m living fully as a woman. It’s been two years that I have been living full-time as a female, and my family, friends and even my clients (I am a CPA and financial advisor) accept me as Fran now, no more as Frank. Over the last two years, I’ve been feminizing and have been through cycles of intensity of my femininity, I guess like a teenage girl goes through. I’m finally settling into a look and feel of a person I am comfortable being. And dancing as that person is such an awesome experience, bringing into reality many of the aspirations I had only in fantasy daydreams. I feel truly blessed. I look over to the other girls, from 18 to one woman who is 81, and feel very comfortable being one of them. I look like them. I move like them. And over these many months I’m learning to think and feel like them. Or so I believe.
At about 30 minutes into the class, I left for a few minutes to buy a bottle of water from the machine outside the room. I wondered to myself how I would be able to last 30 more minutes and nearly gave up. My vigor was waning. But I psyched myself out. I reminded myself I did much more strenuous and difficult things in my life. And now as my true self, Fran, I need to complete this class. And I did not want to disappoint my daughter. So I pushed, and sure enough my second wind came. In fact, I found the rest of the class exhilarating, perhaps like a runner’s high. I started to focus on my steps in order to get them right, but also I concentrated on making my moves feminine and graceful too. My long hair that day was frizzier than I would have liked. My black leotards, short skirt and tank top was not as flattering of my figure as they could have been. But overall, I loved the experience! After the class, I went up to Elida and thanked her for leading so well. Kelly came up and joined the conversation, mentioning that I was her parent, and then she said “father.” Elida was surprised and said she did not realize I was transgender. It was a complement that was icing on the cake. Well actually, that’s an inappropriate metaphor for an experience in a fitness center. Elida telling me she thought I was a woman was like getting a standing ovation after dancing and singing on a Las Vegas stage with Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Rhiana and Madonna. The audience is cheering and all smiles. I’m going back to Zumba. I’m hooked on the feeling.
Essay #11 – “Follow the Comedy” – Draft #1 of article- 10/7/12 – After editing to be published on www.tgreporter.com
By Fran Sisco, email – FrancisSisco@aol.com, website – www.FrancisSisco.com
Copyright 2012 Fran Sisco. All rights reserved.
From left- Steve, Rockwells – Pelhm owner, comedians Joe Devito, Mark Normand, and Jason Salmon and Fran Sisco
Oh, I think I am getting hooked. A bit out of control right now. I’m running around seeing comedians and doing some stand-up comedy myself, much too frequently and at the risk of letting other things slip. Yet I follow the comedy. I’m compelled, perhaps obsessed with the freshest seductive activity since cubism painting or performing my own songs, taking videos while driving, or writing essays or poetry or whatever hobby became an addiction for me. What’s your thing you are following? Trust me. This comedy thing is fun and funny, a super combination. And it leads to lots of other fun things, like music, meeting new people, getting creative with our intelligence and experiences, and maybe even a paying comedy gig someday. Part of me says go with the flow and enjoy the ride. The other part screams “Be careful about letting other stuff go. Don’t get sucked in. Remember the destructive fallout the last twenty times. Maybe by writing about it will help. I apologize if I’m off with names or recall the jokes without the humor that had me laugh.
UCB Open Mic. (UCB’s Hot Chicks Room, 153 East 3rd Street, NY, NY 10009, 212.366.9231)
After the UCB (stands for Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre) open mic in the Hot Chicks Room on Friday night, I went with Leah, my comedy classmate (we’re taking comedy classes together at the Gotham Comedy Club – more later) to Grand Karaoke (on 32nd Street in Korean Town) and rented a karaoke room with her and three of her friends and had a ball singing and dancing in our own private space, and videotaping parts of it. At the UCB, our names did not get chosen to perform, but it worked out well anyway. Most of the over ten people who performed were quite good. I found Venessa Peruda (yes with an e after the v, and quite attractive) to be quite clever in her bit about wanting a specific end-of-the-world date to have something to look forward to. Her imaginings of a post apocalypse world were hysterical. Because Leah missed it, I coaxed Vanessa into doing it again out on the street corner for Leah (and videotaped it too!)
The charming and encouraging emcee Paul Oddo (who is a comedian himself and winner of the Boston Comedy Festival) kept the pace brisk at the UCB open mic. I thought the funniest impromptu happened when Ross Parsons was interrupted by the sirens of a passing ambulance during a lull in laughter about his routine. He jumped at the siren and said “Well I’m killing so hard! Yelling to the passing ambulance “Hope you brought some body bags with you!” Sean McCarthy faked a 911 call to police to report a white-collar crime. Without missing a beat, he rattled off all that was being done in the building to make bad loans, securitize them, get high ratings, sell them to an unsuspecting public, be in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley, and please send police. I’m in the lobby of Citicorp. Bob Hansen (stocky with a red beard and a smooth top) confessed he is a self-loathing redhead and that the worst thing for him after moving to New York City is finding out he is a racist. Talking about NYC, Derek Humphrey said he reasoned that several homeless men he met who looked rather fit with tight abs could be attributed to having more time and eating less. In Jason Burke’s act he pretended to be in an interview for a corporate job and the interviewer asking “Where do you see yourself in five years,” Jason Burke play-acted a persuasive corporate type and then a real person with sharp honest images. Another comedian (I missed his name) said he dreamt about having 45 minutes of sex, and added “in his lifetime!” He revealed that he is envious of the couples eating in the West Village cafes, talking up a storm. He thinks, “Brunching is f—-g hard.” I’m going back next Friday and hope to get picked. If not, no problem because listening and laughing is fun.
$3 Tavern Open Mic. (613 2nd Avenue, just south of 34th Street, NY, NY, 646.455.0813. www.thethreedollartavern.com
At an open mic at $3 Tavern on Tuesday night, everyone got picked and performed plus one obnoxious high heckler, who thankfully left midway. Three other members of the Gotham comedy class were there (Yvette, Aaron Sm and Aaron Sc). I think we all did reasonably well. The emcee Jason announced at the start that the microphone was not working and that scratched part of my plans to use a prerecorded half of a telephone conversation, with my iphone next to the microphone for amplification. It worked out anyway because of the lesson I learned to anticipate changes at the event. I think the evening’s funniest times were when a comedian, Lafayette, responded to the heckler’s taunts by calling him up to the not-working mic and then traded insults about each other’s clothing. The comedy whistle was whetted and I hung around afterwards and performed a few lines for four of the listeners who by then were mostly wasted and could not really be trusted to give me worthwhile feedback. Having a taste of the comedy drug at $3 Tavern, I was ready for more and drove down to Penny’s Open Mic where I have not been for several months due to usual schedule conflicts now on Tuesdays.
Penny’s Open Mic. (Every Tuesday night starting about 8:45pm, At “Under St. Mark’s Place,” located at 94 St. Mark’s Place, NY, NY)
Penny’s Open Mic is quite eclectic, always packed in the small underground theatre called Under St. Mark’s Place, and allows people 7 minutes each to do songs (about 60% of the people), do comedy ( 25%) or anything else including theatrical skits, dance acts, spoken word and even puppetry and ventriloquists (15%). When Penny pulls names from the bowl and writes the listing, you practically pray for an early number, or else you can get stuck at the end on a reserved list with 4 minutes instead of 7 and playing to a much smaller and more tired, though loyal, audience. I was fourth from last and didn’t get up on stage until about 1:45am. I trimmed my plans but still told a few stories, funny I hope, about transitioning from male to female, including the one about being called “Miss” several times at CVS. My head swells every time someone calls me “Miss” because it conjures up a self-image of a 25-year old cute girl rather than “Maam” which is a middle aged woman in her 50s and looking it, or the dreaded “Mr.” not accepting my being a transgender woman, which shoots a photo into my cerebrum of a man with thinning hair, bent posture and a sort of dreary look in his eyes. Do you see why “Miss” heightens my mood? Anyway, I tried out my comedy idea of presenting a poster I had made at Staples of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the clothes and hair of their wives, comparing the two Presidential candidates, and helping to spread the rumors that videoclips of both of them would be released soon. My conclusion was that Barack made a better woman than Mitt, and the citizenry would vote for him preferring not to face an ugly female Mitt for 4 years. The joke went okay but led me to retool it.
Gotham Comedy Club. (208 West 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, NY, NY 10011. 212.367.9000. www.gothamcomedyclub.com)
These three open mics follow two evenings at comedy club events. The first was on the prior Tuesday night at the Gotham Comedy. I received a late-afternoon email that, as a student in the Gotham’s comedy classes, I could attend at no fee the performance that evening called “New York’s Funniest Stand-up Comedians.” How could I refuse? I had a million things to do, but I dropped them, rushed out, drove down from Westchester County, and made it in the nick of time. I was very impressed and told Ed Cavanagh, a friendly manager, so afterwards. Vince (missed his last name) was an energetic emcee who had many terrific jokes of his own that got triggered after each comedian’s performance. He was excellent at establishing rapport with the audience, smaller than usual, probably due to it being a Tuesday. Talking to a Latin-type audience member, he segued into a joke about the Puerto Rican day parade and how crime went down in the Bronx while they were at the parade in Manhattan. The two comedians who stood out that night for me were Frank Liotti (who I found out was a student of Jim Mendrinos years ago) and Pete Davidson. Frank, a fast-talking good-looking Italian guy who looks like he can handle himself, told about his grandmother waving a crooked finger at him saying “If you every bring home a black girl, then that will ….” followed up quickly with something like “Good thing she died before I brought home Tyrone.” Pete is 18 years old, lanky and is either a black and white mix or a black-looking Caucasian. Very funny and likeable. When he talked about the disadvantages of dorming at college, he said they ran out of toilet paper but didn’t get any. He said his mom is getting old – she just turned 40. Pete explained that she still works and still drives. She just joined a cult – Zumba. Several other comedians had me liking them, including Sheba Mason, Richie Redding, Kyle Frenchman and a pretty blonde smart girl who looks like Scarlett Johansson and John and Aaron (I missed their last names).
Comedy classes at the Gotham Comedy Club. (208 West 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, NY, NY 10011. 212.367.9000) www.gothamcomedyclub.com
Since I started taking classes at the Gotham Comedy Club to be a better stand-up comedian, I’m hooked on comedy and watching it and doing it all over the place, like some type of out-of-hand habit like an exaggerated twitch. It’s an 8-week course a the Gotham on Sunday afternoons, given by the very funny very experienced comedian and comedy writer Jim Mendrinos (check out www.jim-mendrinos) and his assistant Lorii Sommer who is a comedian and actress and quite funny herself. Instead of getting caught up with my work, I’m going further and further behind as I flit about town going to comedy clubs and open mics.
Here is what happened in the past 2 weeks. Two Sundays ago I took Class #2 of 8. Each of us had three minutes to present to the other fifteen students. After each act, Jim, and Lori, made insightful and helpful comments. A lot of encouragement, a good amount of constructive criticism and once in a while a remark that hurt. But all done in a very positive, learning way. Of course, I asked a classmate to videotape me with my camera, as back-up to the video Lori took, and that evening I uploaded it to my site at www.FrancisSisco.com. Who cares that it was not polished or perhaps even worth someone’s time to watch. I felt good about it, and it belongs on my site with other cinema verite so-so stuff, along with a video of me singing one of my songs at Penny’s Open Mic months ago with 2 two guitarists and a keyboardist backing me up, doing it along with a CD playing of some beats and instruments I did with imovie, with very little if any editing. I say cinema verite while others call it rough or incomplete or something else. This Sunday I will try out some new material. We stretch our act from 3 minutes to 4 minutes. We report on our experiences at the open mic. Jim not only teaches very well but inspires us to be the best writers and comedians we can be. Sounds corny but true.
Comedy Night at Empire City Casino (Good Time room every other Wednesday evening at 8pm at Empire City Casino, 810 Yonkers Avenue, 10704, 914.948.4200, www.empirecitycasino.com)
Last Wednesday, I saw an ad in a local newspaper for the comedy night at Empire City Casino in Yonkers, NY and went to it with my daughter Kelly. I went there a few times before and had very enjoyable evenings. This time kept the record going and since that night I recommend it each chance I get. Admission with casino membership (which is free) is an unbelievable $5 with a free drink ticket. Kelly and I got a few finger food items to munch while we laughed along with about 150 others. Jay Nog emceed and did the first act. He’s a sharp young guy who looks, in his words, like Joey Fatone (of ‘NSync” boy band fame) without Down Syndrome. Jay said that as a teacher, he believes that some kids really suck. In order to exercise some control over or punish his students in a world that hamstrings teachers, he would walk by them and fart, and linger there. The next comedian up, Chipps Cooney, had me roaring. After inserting a CD into his on-stage player and pushing play for the music, he began a series of magic acts. All bad and obvious magic acts, but so funny I was surprised I never saw the routine copied. Chipps is probably in his 70s with longish blondish/grayish hair and I thought would have been a hip pre-hippie, maybe even a beat poet in the day. He placed a small snow globe in his left hand, placed over it a big cloth napkin, shook both up and down, then removed the napkin and voila the globe’s snow was flying around inside. Then he put a tape measure under the napkin and commanded it to retract with the other hand in the air, and it retracted, of course because he pressed the button under the napkin. Chipps performed the amazing feat of holding a shining piece of thin tubular metal vertically above his mouth and then brought his hand closer to his mouth, magically making it look like it was going down his throat, although everyone in the audience knew it was a telescopic car antenna and easily collapsible. At some point he changed the CD to “It’s Magic” by Frank Sinatra. After several hysterical bad magic acts, he told a few jokes. My favorite about Alzheimer’s which he set up by asking the audience “When you die, your life flashes in front of you. But what if you have Alzheimer’s?” After telling another Alzheimer’s story, he repeated it word for word. He closed with a Chippendale-style strip dance, which defies description. The headliner Jay Larson, a married man in his forties, told very funny descriptive stories, with excellent punch lines. Stories about domineering controlling but helpful black women, about confident handshakes, about punking someone on the phone due to mistaken identities, and of making certain provocative body gestures to passersby. More of his stuff is on itunes podcasts called Crabfeast .
Comedy Night at Rockwells in Pelham (Every other Saturday night in the Downstairs room at Rockwellls, 105 Wolfs Lane, Pelham, NY 10803. 914.738.5881)
On Friday night, right before going to UCB, I saw a front-page ad on the local Pennysaver for an Open Mic at this popular restaurant in the next town over from where I live. Oh, no. Another temptation to go to comedy and leave behind what I planned to do (e.g a few client tax returns as their CPA). Okay, I tell myself, I will go tonight, and then my comedy class at the Gotham tomorrow, Sunday, but that is it for at least several days. Enough! But I had to go. While driving there with my daughter, I kind of hoped that the acts at the local open mic would not be that great, perhaps even a little disappointing and this would blunt the edge of my comedy addiction for a few days. I was so wrong. It turned out the place was packed with about 125 people, the comedians fantastic and I even got to talk with them and open up possible conversations in the future. The headliner Joe Devito told me, after the show when I approached him, that he knows Jim Mendrinos at the Gotham Comedy Club and in fact Joe said that he was appearing Sunday night in the below smaller room at 7pm (the same room I am in for classes that same day from 4 to 6pm) doing a show with 4 other Italian-American comedians called “500% Italian.” I’m going! There goes my Sunday night.
The emcee and first act was Jason Salmon, a mustached guy in his 30s once from Dallas Texas. He talked about the benefits of eating meat, especially bacon and wondered whether all the troubles and fighting in the Mideast could be because they never eat bacon.” More bacon, more peace.” The second comedian, Mark Normand, is a single 28-year old guy, not very manly by his only assertion. In his stories about women, he said he was living with a woman who asked him to rate how hot she was on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as the highest. He told her 8.5 and she was very upset that she did not score 10. Mark said she should not blame him because he was just delivering the news and it was not his fault she wasn’t a 10. He said “I wanted you to be a 10 also.” When talking about prostitutes, Mark confessed he never paid for sex but declared that prostitution should not be frowned on. Paying for natural activities should not be frowned upon. After all, Mark said, you don’t go up to someone who just bought groceries to eat, a natural activity, and say that they should not spend money on food but instead become farmers and grow their own food. Mark dealt well with the bunch of obnoxious loudmouths to his front left, with one man even taking incoming cell calls on his out-of-date flip phone.
When Joe Devito stepped on stage you sensed he was good. Confident even though short with glasses. Italians from Long Island seem to know how to handle a disruptive table and he did it quickly and cleanly. His material and timing was outstanding. His cadence built through the act, and my every-5-seconds of laughing turned into a continuous laugh by the end. No matter what topic he covered, such as being single and online dating, Italian family of overeaters, untasty Irish soda bread that comes out of the oven stale, getting mistaken for the nerdy geeky employee when going to Best Buy, and the suction cup problems with Tom Tom GPS. I loved the joke about his Italian grandmother giving everyone loads of leftover food, so much that when he got in his car to leave and put his box on the seat next to him, the seat belt alarm went off. I roared at his sharing a story about problems with his aging father’s driving. From a house window, he watched his father back up from the garage with lots of speed right into Joe’s car. When Joe ran out and asked his startled father why didn’t he look behind him, his father answered that he didn’t expect a car there because Joe never parks in that particular spot. Joe said, “Dad, it’s not a good idea to drive from memory!” As Joe was holding the audience captive to his wit, I thought back to Jim Mendrinos in my first comedy class relating the feeling, like waves of elation, when the crowd is laughing and appreciating your material. I looked at Joe and saw him smiling and felt him smiling inside too, as each wave of laughter filled the room, looking around seeing all the happy faces. Addictive waves.
Crisis Help Radio Show (www.CrisisHelpRadioShow.com, and broadcast the first Tuesday of each month on WVOX from New Rochelle, NY. 1460 AM and live on www.wvox.com including video. Call in number 914.636.0110. Business number 914.636.1460)
I’m hoping to arrange that several of the people covered in this article will call in (914.636.0110) with a minute or two of humor on Tuesday night, October 10th, between 7pm and 8pm on my once-monthly radio show called “Crisis Help Radio Show” with my fantastic co-hosts Tom Sullivan, Ken Kline and Kelly Sisco. Prior shows are on www.CrisisHelpRadioShow.com. This Tuesday’s show will be “Follow the Comedy” that hopefully will help listeners deal with whatever crisis they may be facing. Am I going over the top yet? Next week I start uploading videoclips from various venues. Please write me at FrancisSisco@aol.com if you can suggest some therapies to control my newest addiction. Is comedy my newest way to deal with crisis in my own life? You think?
Essay #10 – “At the Salon” Copyright 2012 Fran Sisco.
It seems that the more “female” the activity is, the more female I feel, and the happier I am.
One of my favorite things to do is to go to the salon. Oh, it makes me feel so feminine and beautiful. And the girls at Salon Atelier in Eastchester, New York are so friendly and helpful. I’m always lifted into an exuberant happy feeling from the moment I arrive, lasting throughout the appointment.
I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to blow-dry my own hair, but it always comes out the same: a wiry, frizzy mess.
This past Saturday afternoon, I was in a rush. I had a “roots, wash and blow” appointment and didn’t want to be late. The rushing seems to be about the only thing left over from my “other” life. But I’m working on it; ladies should float, not rush!
I parked near the salon. But I needed change for the parking meter, so I leaned back inside the car. Bam! I hit the top of my head on the car door opening. I wear a small hairpeiece on the front of my head [to provide me bangs and thicken up that portion of my hair], and felt the front clip pull on my real hair. Rats, I can’t afford to lose any hairs.
I took a deep breathe, remembered where I was headed, and quickly calmed down and returned to my good cheer. There was a woman of about 40 years old standing there, probably waiting for a ride. “Love your cut and auburn color,” I said, “Who did it?” She answered” Melanie,” with a smile that indicated to me that I had just made her day. Melanie was one of the co-owners (along with Maria).
So I walked into the salon and Grace, an upbeat haircutter, says “Hi Fran! Then Noel (a Pink-looking adorable young woman who was on my Crisis Help radio show a few weeks ago talking about her appearance on “What Not to Wear”) also offered greetings.
Maria offered me a smock, but hard as I tried to slip my left arm into it, I got stuck. “I guess I’m not really ready for you” laughed Maria. “That’s very okay,” I assured her, “Even I’m not ready for me!” She chuckled and walked me back to the hair color section, me smiling the whole time from all the nice greetings I’d been receiving by all the girls.
I was offered coffee and a cookie — and of course I accepted. Veronica came by to ask if I wanted anything, and a few minutes later Grace asked me too. Nothing like feeling liked!
Quina greeted me with her great smile. She has been my excellent hair stylist for years, and is also one of the sexiest woman in Eastchester, if not all of Westchester county!
When I asked if I should remove my hair-piece, I also let Quina know about my head-banger-event. And because of that, she decided not to color that small section where I sustained the cut. So while Quina left to mix the color, Veronica attended to my cut with some creames, and then applied the freshly mixed color to the rest of my head. Veronica is always made-up beautifully, well-kept and even better looking than the Kardashian girls; she is also full of sweetness, with finesse and class. Plus she is a loving mother of a 4-year-old active boy.
Sitting in the chair last month, I got lost in my own look – long slender legs, crossed and showing from beneath a cute loose fitting black dress. My face was fresh, skin clear, lipstick just so, warm brown eyes — with just enough black mascara and eyeliner for a day look. I watched myself in the mirror and thought I was a fairly attractive woman (Hey! I’d date me!). Sitting there getting my hair blown dry by a beautiful blond woman, and chit-chatting about our lives, was just perfect — a dream come true for me. Finally, I’m a full-time female!
This day, Melanie did the blow-dry. She is smart, caring and gorgeous! So she and I caught up on each other’s lives, including how it has been for me to be living as a women each and every day.
The two hours at Salon Atelier carried my uplifted spirits throughout the weekend, including seeing some old friends on Memorial Day for a barbeque. The more I looked at myself in the mirror, the better I felt.
Usually after a salon visit I don’t wash my hair for two to three days after a blow-dry, in an attempt to sustain the improved appearance as long as possible. But on Tuesday morning I showered and washed my hair. I tried my best to blow-dry and style the hair like Melanie showed me on Saturday. But, it turned out looking wiry again.
Then, when I went outside into the rain, and even with an umbrella, the wiry bob turned into an another unruly mess. I’d have to try to get it right tomorrow. Today I had errands to attend to.
After leaving the hospital where I was visiting my mother, I entered the fourth floor elevator, conscious of my frizz. Into the elevator walked a fellow about my age who looked familiar. Suddenly it came to me: he is the cousin of two of my oldest friends. The four of us had known each other since we were eight, or perhas a little younger, and we did everything together. Then you go your separate ways and lose touch and I hadn’t seen them in about 25 years.
Understandingly he did not recognize me. So after stepping in, he turned to face the doors, with his back to me. I was about to tap him on the shoulder and introduce the new Me. On second thought, I pulled my hand back. My first thought was “My hair’s a mess! Let the opportunity go, and perhaps I’ll see him again.”
As the elevator doors opened and Johnnie walked through the lobby and out onto the street, I followed ten feet behind him. My opportunity had passed, and I reflected on how I had let my vanity affect me so, for better or worse.
At that moment I realized, that if my new feminine vanity had that kind of sway over me, and knowing that I can’t go to the salon everyday, then I had better learn how to blow dry my own hair!
I’ll keep you updated on how I do.
Some footage at the salon. You can see other clips on YouTube.com under Salon Atelier
Essay #9- “It’s Fran not Frank!” Copyright 2012 Fran Sisco.
Even going to the launderette is more fun as a female. Doing errands never seem like a chore for me any more. They represent stepping stones toward reinforcing my femininity, and frequently giving me the chance to meet new people or meet old people and introduce them to the new me.
This morning, after I washed my bed sheets and pillowcases, I packed the two comforters into my car to drop off later at the local launderette. During this first year living full time as a girl, I was only at the launderette three times and each time the owner, Rob, who I know was not there. On those three occasions, his manager, Isabelle, who knew me as Frank recognized me as Fran, and commented on how good I was looking. I had assumed she would tell Rob. When I entered the launderette, Rob was standing near the front. I said, “Hi Rob. Haven’t seen you for a while.” He squinted his eyes, looked me over, and I could almost hear his brain’s engine doing double time to figure out who I was. I could tell from his face that he remembered me, especially my voice, but he could not place me exactly. Then I said, “Sisco?,” offering him my last name. He replied with a beaming smile, “Oh Wow! Very different!” I said “Thanks!” putting a compliment in his mouth, to which he said, “Yes, very good,” making me feel like ten million dollars.
After we chatted a bit about websites and advertising, he entered my order and asked if I wanted to change my name in his computer database or if I just wanted this order to be entered under my wife Lorrie’s name. I said I’d rather use my own account but to change my name by dropping the “k” off “Frank” to make it “Fran.” One backspace and voila! I’m my new me in an additional place. Rob asked how my gender change has been so far, especially when meeting people I knew as a man. I asked if wanted to hear a quick story, triggered by my hearing my wife’s name a minute ago. He said, “Please tell me.”
I proceeded to share a short version of a story about meeting my friend Jack for the first time as a female five years ago. As a financial person, I attended annually a broker-dealer three-day conference, held by the firm with which I was associated. That particular year, I decided it was time to out myself to the 700 people in attendance, and so I drove down to Washington, D.C. with no male clothes on me or in my suitcases. While driving to the conference, I called a few contacts whom I thought would be there, to set up appointments and perhaps dine with in the evenings. I left a voicemail for Jack that I looked forward to seeing him again. I did say it was “Fran Sisco.”
Jack was a partner in a law firm I rented space from, several years earlier. He and I had adjoining offices and got quite friendly. We talked a lot about his problems dealing with an upcoming divorce and my issues with my daughter. Anyway, Jack was now a senior executive in an oil and gas drilling company that was exhibiting at this broker-dealer conference. When I arrived, the evening trade show was already underway. I looked for Jack’s booth, and there he was standing with three others and talking to attendees. I held back for a few minutes until he was clear, then walked up to him smiling and said, “Hi Jack. How have you been?” Hi smiled back, cocked his head, and said, “I’m sorry, do I know you?” I replied, “Yes!,” almost forgetting that I now look very little like I did when we last saw each other. Then, realizing that Jack never knew me as female, I said, “Jack? Sure you know me. Sisco?” Jack then blurted out, “Oh, of course! You’re Frank’s wife!” I nearly choked with excitement that he thought I was my wife, who is a beautiful blond and very feminine. After all, for many years she has been for the woman I’ve tried to emulate. Then I said, “No, Jack. Not Frank’s wife. I’m Frank! Well, now Fran.” Jack’s eyes almost popped out of his head. He looked at the others around him and said, with a broad smile, “Meet my old friend, Fran! I could feel the top of my head brushing up against the twenty-foot high ceiling.
Essay #8- “The Photo on My Drivers License.” Copyright 2012 Fran Sisco.
At the kitchen counter, I am opening mail. So, here it is – my new drivers license with my new photo. I saw the image on the computer screen at the Department of Motor Vehicles when I had it taken two weeks ago, but it was only for a few seconds. Now taking the license out of the envelope, examining it closer and longer, I think it is good, given the usual poor quality of many drivers license photos. I am glad that before going into the DMV office, I had remembered to freshen up my red lipstick and black eyeliner, and that morning blew dry my long hair so it did not look frizzy. Not a bad likeness, actually. At least it looks like me now. The “me” I’ve been for the past year. The “me” I was only occasionally before that. Much better than the male image, with its short thinning hair, at least to me, although both faces look genuinely happy. In my wallet is a section with a clear plastic window. I place the new license on top of the old one and slide them in, so the new one can be seen when my wallet is opened. Funny that I kept the male one. Why didn’t I just toss it or put it away in a drawer. Perhaps on a deeper level I’m trying to hold on to aspects of my prior male self. What aspects? My analytical skills? My assertiveness? My get-things-done way? My creativity? No, not really. I don’t feel these traits have faded, perhaps even improved as a female. Less frenetic. A better listener. More expressive of my sensitivity. Maybe keeping the old license represents a way to hold onto some relationships with loved ones and certain friends who may be slipping away. The thought fades.
Back to the mail on my kitchen counter. Yet, I keep thinking of my transition, symbolized by these licenses, and of my not removing the one of Frank when I put the new one of Fran on top of it. Perhaps I’m okay being two-spirited, as the Native Americans call it. After all doesn’t the term “transgender” encompass not only the transition from one gender to another but also being in two genders at the same time? I leave the mail and move to the center hall and look at myself in the mirror, fixing my hair, turning my head to see myself from different angles. I say “Hi, there!” to myself, testing my voice and watching my lips. Lately, I’m trying to suppress my masculine side by layering on extra feminine gestures, girly clothes, and a more delicate way of speaking and communicating. At the moment, my ambition is to be always taken for a female. Currently, it is about 90% of the time but within the 10% are a few occasions of “Yes, sir”, especially over the phone, which are a bit jarring. I must say, though, I am getting many ” Hi, Miss, can I help you?” which is sure better than “Hello, maam.” Back in the kitchen, I look at the older photos on the refrigerator, including me as a male with my family and with my friends. I note I look better now, even younger now, at least to myself. Maybe it’s my youthfulness of spirit that is causing me to look younger and be mistaken for a woman at least ten years younger than my actual age. There are many positives to be a M to F transgender person, and feeling and looking younger are two of them.
It was two weeks ago when I decided I should finally get my drivers license photo updated for my new gender. This time the trigger was an upcoming professional examination requiring a photo ID. In the past, sometimes when I presented the Frank license, I’d get a smile or a questioning look, possibly wondering why I was holding on to a prior self. Each time it happened, usually at security check points in Manhattan office buildings or airports, I would promise myself I would take care of the changes that should be part of my transition. Another thing I need to change is my legal name. In most communications and on many records, I have already lost the “k” and went from using Frank to Fran. But there is stickiness to “Frank.” My friend Paul reminded me that my automatic outgoing short name is still Frank on my AOL account, and no matter how I played with settings I can’t seem to change it. Are recipients of my email thinking that I am not serious about the permanence of my transition? And several agencies and companies like the IRS and banks have me officially as Frank but with some addressee info is as Fran or Francis. More todos on my transition list.
Two women and a man helped me at the DMV when I got my photo taken. All three seemed extra friendly and helpful when they realized I am in transition. Two gave me internet printouts on the simple steps for transgender people to change genders on their license. In one set of steps, a psychiatrist or psychologist needs to certify in a letter that the person is now the other sex. In the other case, the language is less restrictive by saying that the person has to be mainly in the gender being claimed. I think if the DMV, not usually known as progressive and efficient, has simplified the process, it may be a sign of an increasing acceptance of transgender people. I surely in my first year as a full-time female have been amazed at not only how caring and accepting people have been, but also helping and generous. Perhaps it’s a sign that fuller expression leads to fuller acceptance leads to better lives for all.
For now my license’s photo is correct but it reads Frank and M (for male). Before long, it will be Fran and F (for female). What is ironic it that gender has been such an important facet of life for me, yet now I can envision a day when licenses do not display it. Although very important to the person, of what real importance is it anyway to others with what gender a person identifies? I can see the need of the name on a license being a person’s legal name to prevent scams and false identifications and I can understand birthdates to screen for minors and prove aged-based entitlements. But why gender? Now that I think of it, perhaps I won’t change my license for my gender but rather leave the M. After all, I once was a cute energetic baby son, a handsome loving groom and a sensitive caring father. Perhaps, on my license I should just add an F with a black fine-point Sharpie and make it “MF.”
Essay #7- “In Transition to Full-time Female – A Magical Christmas Season.” (Also called “Transitioning Through the Holiday ” when published on 12/23/11 on the following websites by editor Brianna Austin: www.tglife.com and www.tgreporter). Copyright 2011 Fran Sisco. Click here for the link to this the webpage on that site:
Photo of Fran Sisco in front of Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree on 12/15/11 (by Debbie B.)
At this time last Christmas I was mostly in a man’s world. For my 2011 New Years Resolution, I pledged not to wear any men’s clothes anymore. Cold Turkey myself into fulfilling my life-long dream of living full-time as a female. Not only has there been an abundance of positive events since 1/1/11 (what a magical number) but it seems there is even a positive multiplier effect of being transgender. The recent chart of my life’s happiness shows a dramatically rising curve. Somehow, expressing my femininity is a catalyst working in tandem with my burgeoning spirituality and love of people and life.
As a guy, I certainly loved the many aspects of the Christmas Season (Holiday season if you prefer). The focus on spirituality and God. Seeing more family and friends than usual. The festive atmosphere all over. Houses filled with lights. Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree and hundreds of people smiling and snapping photos. Sachs’ window displays. Snowy streets. Carolers. The Christmas songs playing everywhere. Oh, I love Christmas songs. A real connection with holidays past, and the people. The beautiful melodies and lyrics. The timeless orchestrations. The heartfelt messages in the songs.
But this year in many cases the songs seem to bring about a context in which more magic happens, or at least coincidences get me to stop, reflect, and be thankful for such an amazing life. My magical transition.
1. Straight hair and Anthony’s party:
Last Sunday afternoon I was getting ready to go to my friend Anthony’s gala house Christmas Party. The Christmas CDs (“Now That’s What I call Christmas” were playing downstairs, near the lit decorated Christmas tree in the living room. One classic song playing after another. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Frank Sinatra), “The Christmas Song – Merry Christmas to You” (Nat King Cole), “Jingle Bell Rock” (Bobby Helms), A Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives). I was upstairs getting ready for the party and then realized I did not leave enough time to blow dry my hair, which had grown quite long over the past year. I’m in my bra and panties with damp hair and getting nervous about my hair. I so wanted to have it sleek and with no frizzies to go with my classy outfit. Black dress two inches above the knee, gathering in the midriff area, a v-neck to show enough bosom, which incredibly has been blossoming without hormones, black lace three-quarter sleeve bolero to cover the top brown and black laced portion of the dress, and a thin light blue scarf to make it pop and to match Anthony’s amazing blue-themed Christmas decorations throughout his newly renovated house. There were over 10 Christmas trees throughout the house, including petite ones, perfectly decorated. I thought about seeing the Rockefeller Center tree a few days before with my friend Debbie and my daughter and her friend John. Carols playing, the air warm and sky clear, everyone smiling and helpful with one another. A perfect scene. Anthony’ took the house, in serioius disrepair, and fully transformed it into a showcase. If only my hair was perfect too! If I could be an example of full transformation. When many of the people to be at the party saw me at last year’s party I was just starting my transition. I wanted to show them my progress and look as cute as possible. John Lennon and Yoko were calling out (from “Happy Xmas – War is Over)” “another year over, and what have you done.”
I looked in my spouse Lorrie’s bedroom next to mine and I summoned the guts to ask her. “Will you blow dry my hair for me?” Her quick retort was as expected. “And now you want me to help you to be a girl? No thank you.” Although she delivered it without malice, her words were clear, straightforward, and conclusive. Then as I murmured “Okay,” reaching for a large hair clip and turned on my dryer, she entered my room. Surprisingly, she said, “I’ll help you get started but I can’t do your whole head.” I smiled, “Fine, that’s great. Thanks for helping me. I really want to look my best for the party this year.” With that, my wife stood behind me, both of us facing the large round mirror at my old art-deco vanity table (which was once hers) Two women, her standing and blowing my hair while I was seated, mesmerized by her helpfulness and comforted by the Christmas music wafting up from downstairs. My dream was coming true. So many nights I prayed to be like her. Not only to have her looks but also the gentle soft alluring way about her. Now I am open at wanting to feminize as much as possible, and wanting help from friends and relatives. And she is on the top of the list! I truly want us to stay together. I don’t want to be singing Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.”
She was quick but did not rush through the job. It turns out she did my whole head. She sectioned my hair and gave me tips as she used the large brush to roll my hair out straight from my head and place the protective tip of the dryer right on the hair pointing down and then she moved it towards the ends. I said, “Hon, you are so good at it. What a difference in my hair.” She responded, “Don’t turn away. Sit still. I’ve been doing this for so many years. You’ll get there. Practice makes perfect. You just need to keep on practicing.” Her guiding words were almost like an endorsement for me to continue my transition. To become as much a woman as possible. That’s what I read into her practice quip. Her words are still ringing in my mind. Practice makes perfect. At least that’s what part of my mission is in 2012. Practice being as feminine as I can be. As convincing as a woman as possible. I must admit this first year as a full-time female has been a lot easier than I ever could have imagined. Sometimes it’s been even a bit surreal like Dean Martin’s “Marshmallow World” when meeting new people as a female and them getting to know me in only that way. And people who have known me by and large have accepted me as a new being with many different aspects, heightening and enhancing on the male person they knew before. They emphasized their respecting my desire to become my “true self.” Perhaps next year will also exceed expectations.
It seems not only did the people in my life accept me, but also it felt like they preferred me as Fran versus Frank. When I look back, I think for many people I was too much as Frank. Always working. Always generating ideas. Always engaged. Always questioning. Always on. I think it was work, at times, for people to be with me. Now, as a female, I am more often relaxed than nervous, more often smiling, more often listening than talking. But I know there is a long long way to go. Perhaps most important is my voice. I need to make my voice sweeter, softer, higher, and perhaps having much more inflection and rhythm. Too often when I am talking to strangers on the phone, they say “Sir” unlike in person I’m usually called “Miss.” I’ve got to get my voice to sound as female and I look (more about voice later.) I’m also excited about physical changes coming over the next few months include electrolysis, Lupron hormones, and reducing the fleshiness on my nose.
When I got to the party, many of the people I saw at the party last year came up to me and said “Hi Fran!” Many said, “You look good!” and asked “Different hair style?” I explained that last year I wore a full wig and this year I have my real hair here (as I tugged on the long dark reddish hair flowing on my shoulders) and a little piece on top to fill in my thinning hair.” Then I added, “Oh, I can’t take credit for it tonight. My wife spent an hour blowing it dry and styling it for me.” Most of the people know me to be a transgender woman and know I still live with my wife, although now not romantically but as two close female friends. Some of the others seemed surprised and a few surmised we were lesbians. I realized how amazingly generous in spirit my wife has been to stay with me.
So as I sang Christmas carols around the piano with the other partygoers, including my daughter, Kelly, I felt the full measure of being a beautiful woman. I listened intently to the lyrics of two original songs performed by men, acquaintances with each other, in their eighties, one on piano with his daughter singing and the other on accordion with his son and wife singing along. As the many Christmas songs played throughout the evening, I even danced around the living room. At one point my hair brushed over my face and I caught my moving image in the wall mirror and liked what I saw. It reminded me of the salsa and ballroom dancing lessons I took at “Stepping Out Studios” years before. I’m learning to appreciate my feminine self and be more confident. Each of the songs had a deeper richness of both music and lyrics. More playful. “I saw Mommie kissing Santa Claus.” More hopeful of a brighter future. Like the songs were telling me to “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on our troubles will be out of sight.” My daughter and I stayed late – dancing, singing and having a good time with all.
The next day had a poetry element. I had signed up for a poetry reading at the Osborn’s Assisted Living Facility in Rye, NY. When I arrived two other poets from the Poetry Caravan (a volunteer group of 35 poets who visit nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and senior centers – with more info at www.poetrycaravan.org) were already underway reading poems to a group of about 20 people. As I read excerpts of Christmas poems by Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas, I thought about the 25-foot Christmas tree that is on the property at my house and that hundreds or possibly thousands of people would see it because my house is on a heavily-traveled road in New Rochelle. (The thought led on Thursday to my wrapping green-wire clear Christmas lights around the tree’s trunk and setting it aglow – the first time this tree had lights in 30 years!). When my turn came around again, I stated I would read the song lyrics from two Christmas songs. People’s faces brightened and I saw several saying the words along with me. The first song’s lyrics were very visual. “Sleigh bells ring, are you list’nin? In the lane, snow is glist’nin, a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walkin’ in a winter wonderfland!” As I read the words, I walked around the room, quite comfortable and looking pretty in my knitted dress with navy blue and white wide horizontal stripes. Everyone referred to me as “Fran,” “she” or “her.” Then, I handed out two cookbooks as presents to two residents who raised their hands, for them to give to their relatives to make something new during the holiday season. I explained the books were compiled by the mother of a young man, who tragically was killed when his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan two years ago. It was her way of healing and raising money to help returning disabled veterans. Perhaps, my explanation saddened me inside, even though happiness followed when I then mentioned that my cousin Karen’s son (Joseph) two nights before had just returned safely from Iraq. When I started reading “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” I could not contain my tears. As I regained my composure, I got up to the words “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams” and several more tears fell as I thought about the many people who never made it home. I picked up my spirits with verses from “Jingle Bell Rock.”
On the prior Monday evening, my daughter and I created a radio ad to play on the air the next day in advance of my Crisis Help Radio Show that Tuesday night. Also, we picked out 13 holiday songs to play excerpts on the air during the one-hour show. During the next day Tuesday while driving in my car, it seemed no matter what radio station I turned to, there were delightful Christmas songs playing. I spotted several other songs we had not included in our list. On the show, my co-hosts Tom and Ken were their usual upbeat clever selves, but also expressed sensitivities about spirituality and God and love, perhaps triggered by our feature guest. (The Rev. Dr.) Rayner W, Hesse, Jr., Pastor (called Rusty) of St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Rochelle, NY. Rusty spoke about the true meaning of Christmas, that God came to us to show his love and that we should all accept each other and love one another. He said that one of the best gifts to give to another person is the gift of yourself. To be present with them. As a result, I’m planning to spend more time with my mother, family and friends on Christmas Eve and on Christmas. Our call-in psychologist, Jack Jaffee, shared stress points during the holidays and possible solutions. My daughter introduced the songs throughout the hour, sometimes us in the studio singing along. (This show and prior shows are at www.CrisisHelpRadioShow.com)Among the other songs already mentioned, we played airy songs like “Run Rudolph Run” (Chuck Berry), “Little Saint Nick” (The Beach Boys), “Jingle Bell Rock” (Brenda Lee), popular songs like “Let it Snow!, Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” ((Dean Martin), “Little Drummer Boy” (Lou Rawls) and “Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano), “Here Comes Santa Claus” (Elvis Presley) and three Hanukkah songs. The show streams live on the internet at www.wvox.com, both audio and video. A few contacted me and said we all sounded and looked great. Just think – thousands of people are seeing me as a woman, although my radio voice could use some feminizing. I am very thankful that my close friends and co-hosts Tom and Ken have come to accept me, when at first it seemed difficult.
The next evening i stopped at my mother’s house to review the renovations in process and measure for doors and other materials, and to finish putting up clear lights on the outside bushes. She asked me again what I’d like for Christmas. The house was peaceful and calm. Christmas songs were playing in the background on a television program. I said instead of the pink bathrobe I mentioned on the previous day, I told her that in the morning I already bought myself a gift that could be her gift to me. A set of 3 CDs (and downloadable mp3s) on Voice Feminization I coincidentally saw in my email inbox while AOL Radio was playing “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” She seemed to be accepting that in 2012 not only will her son look like a woman but also sound like one. In just a few months, my masculine voice would fade and my feminine voice would become prominent, furthering my transition in a very important way. I then noticed on the dining room table was an envelope from the Monastery of St. Clare, in Wappinger Falls, NY. I stopped and reflected. I attribute much of the success of my transition to the sisters there. Years earlier, I responded to their donation plea, by sending them a completed card along with my gift. On the supplied card in the space marked “Sisters, please pray for the following intentions,” I wrote my request. It was that the sisters pray that my wife and daughter would accept my transition and would continue to live with me as I transition into a full-time female from an occasional cross-dresser. At the time of the request, it seemed quite far-fetched. But as an ardent believer in the power of prayer, I down deep knew back then that the prayers would work. I also prayed on my own frequently, deepening the desire in my subconscious. Now seeing the envelope from the Sisters of St. Clare, reminded me how important other people and Christ have been in my transition, fortifying my awe and gratitude during this Christmas season. And this year I sent out 260 Christmas cards with an note of my 2012 resolution to live more in tune with the Prayer of St. Francis which I enclosed
The Home Depot:
A little later in The Home Depot, with the store loudspeaker playing Christmas songs, I asked the salesman Dwight to help me with selecting knobs and locks. As we walked down the isle, with him to my left, I saw ahead at the intersecting aisle’s corner, a customer about to round the bend with a large cart and two long wood planks, possibly crashing into Dwight. Just as I exclaimed to Dwight, “Watch out!”, the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” that was playing was at the point “You better watch out. . . ” We both were struck by the coincidence. We smiled at each other, reassured by the magic of the Christmas season. At checkout, the salespeople greeted me, “Hi Miss,” a small but very important sign.
Jingle Bell Rock:
Over twenty talented people perform each Tuesday at Penny’s Open Mic on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village in Manhattan. It’s an adorable small theater with stadium seating, a lit stage area and creative and friendly people, led by the young effervescent host, Penny. Along with my daughter and friend Debbite, I’ve had the good fortune performing there on several occasions – stand-up comedy, singing, dancing, improvising. This Tuesday I took a chance to sing and dance along with the song “Jingle Bell Rock” with Brenda Lee. As the CD was cued up by Lucky Dave, I explained to the audience that I’ll soon be entering the second year of my full-time female transition and I plan to perform more and more femininely in the new year. Out of my large pink bag, I took a cute small red wrap-around Santa dress/apron and put it on while talking. I asked for musical volunteers to help me perform. Mike Milazzo, the amazing house performer, and another guitarist, Ben, scurried up next to me, plugged in their guitars. I placed floppy soft red and white Santa hats on their heads and onmine, signaled to Lucy Dave to start the CD, and we put on an engaging performance to the claps and cheers of the audience. I tried being cute and coy, draping myself on the men as I moved around them. (A video was taken by a man in the audience with my camera and will be posted to youtube soon, with tags for videovoom, jingle bell rock, fran sisco). Although I usually don’t interact with men in that flirtatious way, I do see myself doing so more in my future as I feminize. Being flirty and a tease more often will speed along my feminization. Why not? Tonight I’m planning to sing in a very feminine manner “Santa Baby” at Viviana’s “Stark Reality” open mic in Manhattan, and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” if there is enough time.
Being accepted as a woman and looking ahead to becoming as much of a woman as I can be in the years ahead is such a magical feeling, made more apparent during this wonderful Christmas season. I pray that others find joy in whatever transition they are experiencing. Just listen to life’s music playing around you and adapt the messages to your life. See the silver linings even in a message like in the wistful somewhat sad last line in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” that says “if only in my dreams.” You can expand on the ending. After all,dreams lead to wishing and praying. Then, wishing and praying leads to reality when you love and when you strongly believe. Merry Christmas, everyone!
I’ll write more about the Christmas season as it unfolds. If you’d like to share your thoughts, possibly to be mentioned in my next column, please write to me at FrancisSisco@aol.com and visit my website at www.FrancisSisco.com.
Essay #6- “In Transition – The Feminine Magic of a Wedding and a Funeral.” (Also called “The Wedding Expo and a Silver Lining” when published on the following websites by editor Brianna Austin: www.tglife.com and www.tgreporter). Copyright 2011 Fran Sisco.
Photo at the LOFT LGBT Wedding Expo at the Radisson Hotel on Friday 8/25/11. Pictured left to right are Fran Sisco, Kelly Sisco, Jessica Tenner, and Brianna Austin.
Living as a transgender woman, full-time since the start of the year, helps me mix fantasy and reality in ways that sometimes help me grow as a person, as well as a woman. Throw into the mix a funeral and wedding, and surprising silver linings appear.
I knew I should have put at least one of my video camera batteries in my pocketbook before I left my house for the LOFT LGBT Wedding Expo.
We (the brides and bridesmaids) were scurried out of the hotel’s lounge area [that we used as a communal dressing room]; first into the lobby and then downstairs to the event’s banquet room where the 48 vendor tables were set up. My plea was to wait for me to retrieve my batteries from my camera bag downstairs before we all did our cute procession in front of the crowd, while members of the Fontana family (owners of the sponsoring bridal salon) announced details of the dresses we were modeling. “Don’t worry, Fran”, Brianna consoled me. “Plenty of people will be snapping photos.”
But I wanted to videotape the expressions on the audience’s faces as we sauntered among the crowd. Looking at me, a picture of feminine beauty and grace – or so I fantasized. After all, I had proclaimed in my bridal essay posted on www.TGLife.com that being dressed as a feminine bride for a day could help me in my gender transition. In the essay I stated that “As I journey into the next part of my life, now as a female, I would like to begin it with the traditional epitome of femininity, namely being a bride. Like a bride, feminine in the way I am sensitive and caring. Feminine in a softer more loving approach to the world around me. Feminine in an appreciation of beauty and truthfulness, the power of love, and the importance of experiencing, sharing and causing joy.”
That’s how I set out, a few weeks before the event. My feminine fantasies were becoming magically real, as I gathered models, arranged dress fittings and spread word to my friends to attend the expo and see me walk down the aisle in white splendor. The crack in the magical realism bubble began with my father requiring hospitalization twice in a two-week period.
His Alzheimers’ disease was progressing rapidly, forgetting how to walk and now how to swallow. My father’s days were numbering into a handful, and in order to break the stress, I fantasized about being as real a woman as I could be.
During his second 3-day hospital stay, I visited him late one evening at 10pm. The rooms were quiet. The usual cacophony of the nurses’ station was now a low buzz. When I entered his room, it appeared that he was staring at the ceiling. He was lucid. I sat close to him and talked into his good right ear, with my right arm on his left shoulder, close like when on the floor as a toddler I once crawled over his big frame and he nuzzled me, smiling. He wasn’t smiling but wasn’t in pain either. I told him I loved him very much and was so thankful he was my father. I was blessed to have someone as understanding, as giving, as sensitive as he was.
A few weeks before, he had gotten over his initial discomfort with my living as a full-time female, as his home health aide Jennifer predicted. He was always happy to see me, and made me feel special. I talked with him, reciting into his right ear the names of significant people in his life who all loved him. I added quick anecdotes of memorable times I knew about, and he seemed to be daydreaming of the others in-between, some I’ll never know about. After a hundred names and anecdotes, he smiled and said, “Good.” Peacefully, conclusively. A life review of a sort. With me in the room. With me as a guide. What a gift for me and hopefully for my dad.
The next week, under the expert loving care of Calvary Hospice at Home, my dad passed away in his bed at home, where he wanted to be. At the wake, many relatives and friends shared loving memories. It seemed those seeing me for the first time as a female were not uncomfortable, or even shocked. Everyone was kind. At the funeral service, my friend Anthony sang “Ave Maria.” A year before, he accompanied my father singing that song from the balcony of the Our Lady of Victory Church in Mt. Vernon, NY, along with another friend Domenic playing the organ. My daughter read her amazing essay about her close loving relationship with my father, called “Sunshine and Sunshine” and sang acapella “You Are My Sunshine.” Several of us gathered at my mother’s house and rekindled sparks of love. Neighbors came by comforting us. It seemed that everyone accepted me as Fran, feminine, sensitive, caring. I’m sure I occasionally slipped into my alpha male persona, but that seemed to be okay as well.
The day following the funeral, I attended the wedding expo, determined on the one hand to pull out of the sorrow surrounding my father’s passing, and on the other hand to live out the fantasy I conjured up of being in a beautiful bridal gown. To be seen as a feminine female, sensitive, caring, loving. Oddly, I have not seen any photos or videos of the procession, and close ups of me at the front. My planned video of the onlookers’ faces as they saw me never happened either.
Strangely, I was not disappointed, as I normally would be. Instead, I felt a peaceful feeling, perhaps resulting from the afterglow of being accepted as a female by my relatives and my father’s friends. Also, perhaps I felt my father’s presence and unspoken reassurance that I did not need that wedding fantasy. After all, being with him during his life review and with family and friends during the wake and funeral were quite magical and had brought out the nurturing, sensitive and caring aspects of my personality quite vividly.
For me, being an authentic loving son made me much more of a woman than being a fantasized pretty bride. I reread my bridal essay and substituted “authentic loving son” for “bride” and I discovered and welcomed new perspectives on my femininity.
And so my transition magically continues.
Essay #1- “Fabulous Francis – On Being Fabulous”
Also see text below of this essay and Essay #2, Essay #3 and Essay #4
“Fabulous Francis” – Column heading
“On Being Fabulous” – Title of this issue’s essay
By Francis Sisco
Copyright 2009 F. Sisco , Word count – 721, Text of this article (from Word document – Arial font)
When two people called me “Fabulous Francis” at a recent dinner party, I had to do everything I could to keep my feet on the ground and keep my smile from touching each ear. It was working! My decision to be more out-there as a fun-loving female was getting noticed. Was it the way I sort of curtseyed in my new adorable short aqua flapper-type dress while presenting my guests with a delectable crabmeat appetizer topped with a tangy sauce? Or was it the cheerfulness in my voice as I asked guests engaging questions and truly listened to what they had to say and understood their feelings? Maybe they used the term “fabulous” because my new persona was indeed incredible and different than the person they usually see. Whatever it was, it felt outstanding to be called fabulous, and since that evening I’ve been making a point of living my life in the fabulous lane. Not only has the feedback from others been amazing but also my inner being seems to be blossoming again, feeling like I felt in my twenties. The dictionary says “fabulous” is being exceptionally good, superb, and almost impossible to believe. What a way to live!
In writing this periodic column, I will share with you some of my experiences that are helping me transform my life into one I’m very eager to wake to each morning and stay up with late each night. If you write to me about what you do in your life to make it fabulous for you, I’ll include the tips in my column. In this magazine, there are many products and services that will help you to make you and your world more fabulous. Not just fashion, food and festivities but also ways to be smarter, enjoy life more, stretch your dollars, and simplify. Once you commit to be fabulous, you’ll find you will see ways all around you, beckoning for you to grab them. For now, here is a type of desiderata (remember? Go placidly amid the noise and haste. ….) of pointers on being fabulous. Sort of an acronym for ways to help achieve a fabulous state.
F – Free the force within you. Recognize your own powers and let them rip. Access the force through prayer, meditation, hang-gliding, dancing salsa, reading a mystery, hitting a golf ball, writing a song or whatever makes you enter your own zone of flow. Sometimes it’s as simple as more eyeliner, new hairstyle and a cute outfit. Other times it’s showing more unconditional love in complicated strained relationships.
A – Accentuate your abilities. Take stock, sharpen your best tools and focus your energies on helping others, using the essence of whom you are.
B – Beautify your being. It is important to enhance your appearance, but don’t stop there. Beauty and truth are bedfellows and you should put as much energy on your inner self’s truths as your outer showcase.
U – Understand the unacceptable. Take down the walls you may have erected to keep out the strange and different from entering your life. You can learn from lifestyles opposite to yours.
L – Love, love, love. To be fabulous involves expressing love all over the place. Be head over heels with not only your partner, children, friends and family but also the tree in your front yard and the boiler in your basement. Once you start loving everything and appreciating its meaning and belonging, you will find it difficult to be unfair, or prejudiced, or dishonest.
O – Open up to others so that you can allow everyone to share in each other’s magic of being human and spiritual at the same time.
U – Uncover unrealities and explore them with zest because it is in our dreams and fantasies that we find our concrete core.
S – See the spiritual side of many if not most of your activities. The more you look, the more signs you will see along your path guiding you to the force within you and enveloping those around you.
Enjoy being fabulous! And please write to me about it.
Fabulous Francis is a writer, observer of trends and agent of change. Contact Francis by email at: FrancisSisco@aol.com and please indicate whether you permit your experiences and opinions to be included in future essays.
“Fabulous Francis” – Column heading
“Bursts of Being Fabulous” – Title of this issue’s essay By Francis Sisco
Copyright 2009 F. Sisco
This article was published in the “Fabulous and Frugal Magazine” in the Holiday Issue – 2009/2010 (Word count – ____)
The dictionary states that “fabulous” is being exceptionally good, superb and almost impossible to believe.” If you missed my last column, please email me to get the full “desiderata,” keyed to each letter of “fabulous that is summarized in the next paragraph. Several of you emailed me your thoughts, including a yoga teacher named Nancy and Amy who described why the town of Dobbs Ferry is so fabulous. Amy sees God in many of the residents and says that they “radiate a particular beauty that is unmatched.” Mary wrote me about the importance of balance and raved about her acupuncturist, Karen, who helps to develop her spiritual signs and to notice signs.
As a reminder of the Fabulous “desiderata,” here’s a snapshot:
F – Free the force within you.
A – Accentuate your abilities.
B – Beautify your being.
U – Understand the unacceptable.
L – Love, love, love.
O – Open up to others.
U – Uncover unrealities.
S – See the spiritual side of many
of your activities and appreciate the signs.
Keeping with my promise of relating to you recent experiences that help me to live a fabulous (and yet frugal) life, here are three events in the last several weeks. Each example reinforced my belief that the state of being fabulous is nourished by “bursts.” A burst is a positive breakout of the usual action – an activity that stands out and furthers the process of becoming truly fabulous. Bursts help propel us to our next level, and help to sustain the trajectory to overcome setbacks. In their explosions, bursts spread excitement and love to others. Try to place yourself in situations that can give way to bursts.
Burst #1 – Reunion:
The first example event was luncheon party of about 30 high school alumni, some whom I had not seen in over 20 years. I decided to wear a sharp-looking snug satin black and white dress, rather than the expected pants and jacket. Running twenty minutes late, when I arrived most people were standing with drinks in hand, chatting and smiling. As I walked over to my old buddy Lou, he greeted me with a huge grin and a warm hug. As I turned to answer another friend’s question, a female friend Susie, who did not recognize me, walked over to Lou and whispered something in his ear. Later, Lou told me she asked him, “Who is that young woman?” thinking that I may be the young wife of one of the guys. We all got a big kick out of that. The knockout dress costs less than $40 on sale at The Dress Barn. The luncheon was under $30. The memories worth a million. This burst led to getting together with several of my old friends in the following weeks, bringing ourselves up to date on the new people we’ve become and the core spirits we still cherish.
Burst #2 – Internet television show:
My second burst involved appearing on an internet television show called Zedalza.net, hosted by Anthony and Pam. They interviewed me about what led to my fabulous state and the reactions of my family members. Pam, a writer herself, even quoted from my prior Fabulous and Frugal article. Several people called the show, and over 3,300 watched! Several remarked about the cute raspberry sweater with fur color that my friend Matina had given to me. I felt like a celebrity, sharing portions of my life that others find intriguing. I think many of us get so caught up in our everyday miscellaneous mundane meanderings that we don’t get to step back and take notice of our achievements and personal progress. Bursts help us to see our true selves better. If you are interested in watching the interview, please email me and I’ll give you the link to the video clip on www.VideoVoom.com.
Burst #3 – Black-tie dinner:
The third example illustrates that to experience a burst of being fabulous requires not much more than saying yes, being open to possibility, and perhaps a bit of hutzpa. I enthusiastically accepted an invitation to attend a free black tie dinner engagement at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. On that Saturday night in February, I was truly feeling fabulous on the outside, in a full-length purple gown with velvet black bolero jacket, both borrowed from my friend Karen, and a fur jacket bought at H&M last month in a fit of indulgence, but just $39.99. I topped the look with sparkly matching earrings and necklace and a string of pearls inherited from my grandmother. During the evening, five strangers came up to me, smiled and said, “You look fabulous!” almost as if scripted by this magazine’s publisher. Flying! And I was feeling fabulous on the inside too, not only from feeling youthful and vibrant but also that I came to see and better understand the other very different side of me from long ago, who worked hard and also played too hard at times. That burst was fed by another burst.
Three days earlier, at about noon, I heard my front doorbell chimes at home. I was on a business conference call that I had to finish, and with the speakerphone on, I ran from my home office to the front door. Opening the door, I saw my good friend Karen, grinning and carrying a bundle of clothes – the gowns she was bringing me to try on. I asked her to wait in the living room for the next five minutes while I finished the phone meeting. When I went out of my office, it was as if I entered a fancy boudoir. Eight gowns, of various styles and colors, were hanging in the dining room and living room from the curtain rods of the windows and the sliding door and from the entertainment center bookcases. My heart was racing! A burst of excitement! Not only from the realization that I was gong to be Fabulous Francis at my first real gala event that coming Saturday, but also being the recipient of such a generous favor from a special friend. For an hour, we had exhilarating “girl fun” as I slipped into one gown while taking off the other and handing it to Karen, both of us discussing color, fit, and style. The type of fun that’s simple and free, and a harbinger of exponential personal growth as a new person. Then Saturday night came. With too much work to do during the day, right up until 6 pm, I was not able to plan getting ready for evening. Before I knew it I was out of the shower, quickly putting on my make-up at my vanity table, fielding incoming calls, and getting a bit stressed. Then as soon as I put the purple gown over my head, slipped into my heels and turned to the mirror, I became quite relaxed and in control. Paul, who invited me to the ball, called to fill me in on who would be at our corporation’s table of ten special guests among 800 guests for the annual event of the prestigious Human Rights Campaign. I smiled about another special friend looking out for me. A burst of being liked.
A quick drive to Manhattan, a fast parking spot, and just a few minutes late, I entered the black-tie throng in the silent auction room. I was relaxed and confident, and with my own self-initiated buzz. Much more in control since not drinking alcohol at all. I complimented Vincent on his colorful bow tie, later to see him seated at our table. I turned around and my corporate friend Laurel was next to me, and Governor David Paterson a few feet away. I gathered us together, asked one of his aides to snap a photo. I even told the Governor about my friend who has the same name but with a double T and since the Governor’s election my 5’2″ friend has been billing himself as “The L’il Governor” at jazz events at which he sings. The Governor said laughing, “I want to meet him! Please tell David” and I did. What fun to pass around my iphone later on at the dinner table. I was becoming again the very full-of-life fun-loving person I was in my twenties and thirties.
Then, squished in the middle of the hundreds of decked-out people, we all funneled into the Grand Ballroom. As we entered the gorgeous grand room, I got chills up and down my spine as I was struck by the memory of being in the same room at least 25 years ago, as a Price Waterhouse alumnus, for dinner. Back then, I returned to the Waldorf-Astoria in the early hours of the morning after missing the last train from Grand Central. When I was younger, as many of us, I sometimes drank too much. Back then in that room when I returned, I played at a white piano on the stage as a maintenance man swept a broom around me, until 5 am, like in a movie scene. Then, still not sober, I went to my office and fell asleep on the floor, burning my back on the hot radiator. How crazy and irresponsible back then. Now, so completely different. I am now high on life not alcohol and much more in control, thanks in part to an event leading me to face my life issues and how I was dealing with them. More in a future column.
The presentations in the Grand Ballroom were superb with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Charles Schumer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bebe Neuwirth, and the transgender performer Peppermint who moderated magnificently the live auction.
I joined several people from my table at the after-hours party on the 18th floor in the Starlight Room. As I entered the room, I felt the same spine vibrations. The same room I was also in for cocktails with Price Waterhouse alumni twenty-five years ago! As I walked around in my beautiful gown, borrowed from Karen (talk about frugal!), I felt so different from the young CPA I was then. As I danced with a friend while Peppermint performed several upbeat songs from her new CD, I glanced at the group of young men next to me. They were ribbing each other, and a bit loud. My eyes connected with a guy, about 30, who reminded me of myself back then (similar height, same short thick wavy hair, comparable smile). As I saw him carry on with his friends, and with me, I felt as if I was watching myself in my own past. Very eerie, yet satisfying at the same time. I reflected on how life takes amazing turns, with signs along the way giving us the guidance to continue on the path or embark on a new one. Standing on line at the coat-check for my fur jacket when leaving, I talked with Eric, in his late thirties, about the fun evening. When he gave me his card, I was surprised to see he was employed by my ex-employer Price Waterhouse. Coincidence?
Despite getting to bed after 2am, I made it on time to my church’s 9:30 a.m. mass, not even tired. I sat next to a woman I met at a joint event of two non-profit organizations (OutProfessionals and The Loft), the previous week. Joyce confided that she saw my first essay in “Fabulous and Frugal” and felt comfortable enough to share that she was unsatisfied with her current churches and would give mine a try. After service, I attended the coffee hour with her and was elected a vestry member. Another burst, more feelings of belonging to yet another important community. Fabulous!
Another connecting event happened two days later while reading poetry as a volunteer to a group of nursing home residents in Rye. As I asked the names of residents, aides and guests, the man immediately to my left happened to be the father of one of the guys I was kidding with in the scene 25 years ago in the Waldorf’s Starlight Room. You know you are onto something when several ah-ha moments happen often in a short span of time.
The message? After committing to becoming fabulous, set up bursts in your life to help you achieve the fabulous state. Get invited to an event outside of your usual activities. Dress up special, ideally with the clothes of friends. See how the present and past are closely connected, and uncover the deeper spiritual meaning. Let each burst heighten your being fabulous and help to spread love to others around you. Be happy!
Fabulous Francis is a writer, observer of trends and agent of change. Contact Francis by email at: FrancisSisco@aol.com and please indicate whether you permit your experiences and opinions to be included in future essays.
Column # 1
“In Transition” – Column heading (Column yet to be published)
“In Transition – The Larger Context “ – Title of this issue’s essay
By Francis Sisco
Copyright 2010 F. Sisco , Word count – 1,363, For more info, call cell 914.589.1013
My friend David is the executive director of an LGBT organization. He had read two of my essays about transitioning from male to female, and offered to publish a periodic column written by me in his center’s newsletter. The column would be a new series of my essays about transitioning. When David said that, it struck me that publishing my thoughts about my transitioning would help me to engage other people and that could be quite positive for me. In the overview, I’d write about changing from Frank, an aging male who is left-brained over-analytical, often too assertive and competitive and wants to compartmentalize and control life to Francis, a younger female whose sensitive and caring nature helps me to listen and get along better and whose right-brain attitude keeps me in the present, energized with a high dose of creativity and zest for life’s diversity and surprises. Also, I thought I could write about my adventures of getting accustomed to living as a girl, including the funny and exhilarating moments and also the emotionally jarring situations with loved ones who are faced with me in a new persona, with a restructuring of my usual roles. How was it for my wife as her husband? Or for my daughter as her father? What about my best friend? Or my clients? Despite the benefits of writing and publishing, I was dragging my feet. Weeks passed. Then I realized why. Something was missing. I write best when I’m in a state of flow, inspired by something that stirs my soul, gives me goose-bumps, makes me smile. Evidently, that had not yet happened. And then came a sequence of four bursts of soul-stirring within a twenty-four-hour period that got me to write this essay and realize what my transitioning was teaching me on a higher level.
The first burst came on Sunday morning as I stood in front of a church congregation, as Francis, reading from the Old Testament. Accepted for who I am and who I am becoming. For over a year, the church members have been relating to me as a woman, facilitating my transition. Were they so accepting because they too were in transition of one sort or another? New job, different business, changes in key relationships. My transition on the surface seems major but perhaps is minor compared to what others are going through. I must remember it’s really not about me. I must listen to what they say about their lives.
Two hours later I received as my second burst a generous gift from my wife, who usually shies away from being around me when I’m dressed as a female. However, this time she acquiesced to my request that she give me feedback about which of my outfits to wear in job interviews. Like a dream come true, I put on a dress, and in full makeup, wig and heels, I then sauntered into her bedroom for the critique. After receiving her input, I’d leave her room, change in mine, and then enter her room again, this time with a fancier dress, or a skirt and blouse, then a different blouse, and on and on. She offered, “Yes, that looks fine,” or “I don’t think it’s businesslike enough.” or “That looks very good, but you may draw too much attention.” To me, her comments were an acceptance of me being a woman, and trying to be the best one I could be. Perhaps no time in our long marriage had she told me anything that more enhanced my self-esteem or made me feel more complete, as during those forty-five minutes. Yet as gratifying as it was for me, I got to face the fact that it has been difficult for her, almost like a zero sum game. Every step gained by Francis is lost by Frank. In my transition, my wife is losing the me she’s known for many years, and I need to appreciate her feelings and her dilemma. Getting to focus outside of myself, leads me to inquire of others. In your transition, who is a participant in your zero sum game?
The third burst of realization about the meaning of my transition in my life came on Monday morning as I sat in the stately conference room of a personnel placement firm, waiting for Dana, the smart and vivacious search consultant, to come in to interview me for 30 minutes. After filling out the registration form, and before Dana entered, I glanced down at my crossed legs, first at my bare knees, then my dress four inches higher. My eyes moved down my tan legs to my open-toed high heels and toes painted pink. I smiled to myself that my transitioning into Francis, my female persona, is finally flowering. I’m really living in the world as a girl, my lifelong ambition. In my financial advisory business, I will continue serving my clients, hopefully with more clients now as Francis instead of as Frank, often in evening meetings and on weekends. In addition, I hope to become an executive assistant in the financial services industry, in the mode of a traditional female, answerting phones and typing included. I so much yearn to explore my feminine side that I am willing to trade off several higher-paying hours as Frank for lower-paying hours as Francis. Eventually, I believe as Francis I will advance with much more financial success that I ever attained as Frank because I will be in closer sync with my soul, closer to who I really am, and I will function at a much higher vibration. And so as Dana and I talked about specific work goals and life in general, I turned philosophical at times but refreshingly succinct about what I want from a job. I heard myself talking about serving others, helping in a team, being as altruistic as possible. Less concerned about myself and more about others. When I returned to my home office, in the middle of doing analytical work for clients, I stopped and mused about the morning with Dana. She was like a God-send. I then got up from my chair, went into my other office and looked above the door, up at the dramatic print of Jesus I bought last week at the church auction with my daughter, Kelly. I exclaimed aloud to the print, “Thank you, Lord!” Realization 3 – Transitions don’t happen in vacuums. They are assisted by other people, and perhaps even by the divine.
The fourth burst of inspiration about transitioning came that evening in a song from the adjacent living room. Kelly was playing piano for the song “Prayer of St. Francis,” with Scott, her piano instructor, listening and providing chords for the sheet music. The lyrics starting streaming into my mind: “Make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred let me bring your love,” and later in the refrain, “O, Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, with all my soul.” As the song shook me, I went into the living room and stood behind Kelly as she played. Without seeing me, she said, “Dad, you are crying. It’s okay.” The words of this song helped me to appreciate an important aspect of my transition from Frank to Francis. It’s not about me receiving but rather about me giving. It’s not really about everyone else understanding me but rather about whom I can try to understand, whom I can try to help, whom I can love. My transition, I pray, will empower me to focus more on the transitions other people are experiencing and how my enhanced understanding and heightened sensitivity, now as Francis, can perhaps help them. My transition may in fact be my next calling. Time will tell. Perhaps, your own transition, no matter what it is, represents your calling, too.
Please email me your thoughts at FrancisSisco@aol.com so they can be shared with the readers of this column.
Column # 2
“In Transition” – Column heading (Column yet to be published)
“In Transition – The Job of My Life”
Copyright 2010 Francis Sisco , A periodic column by Francis Sisco , For more info, call cell 914.589.1013 , Number of words – 1,998
When I volunteered to help all day long at the “Out to Work LGBT Job Fair” in August at the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village, I had occasion to interact with several attendees and other volunteers, sharing views not only about work but about life. The interaction helped me to focus on my own transition of genders and how this transition is so tightly tied with other transitions in my life, including work. Talking with others, I’ve realized that not only does a job change (even losing one) creates new opportunities to change the rest of your life but also a change in how you are living your life can lead to significant changes in what you do for a living. Perhaps my own thinking-it-through has some universal elements that may help you in your own job change, or whatever transition for that matter, and whether you are straight, gay, trans or all or none of these.
In my last column I explained some of the reasons why I’m seeking a “job job” as a female salaried sales assistant, or executive assistant. A 9 to 5 or 8 to 6 serious position as an employee in a large or mid-sized corporation. Currently I’m a self-employed financial advisor and, living about half of the time as a man and half of the time as a woman. (Sometimes, I change clothes three times in a day to fit the gender perceived by a particular client) I realize I will be trading down my earnings on several hours as a lower-paid employee than I currently earn as a self-employed person but I’m figuring that the enhanced quality of life as a near-full-time female assistant will be well worth the reduced money. I will still continue serving my existing clients, mostly in the evenings and on weekends, but now always female instead of splitting my time between two genders.
The Out to Work LGBT Job Fair this year was a success even though it was not as well attended as the prior year, despite similar marketing efforts by the co-sponsors, the LGBT Community Center and by the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. Scores of employers and hundreds of attendees seem to actively engage each other in meaningful conversations and share information, perhaps even more personally and effectively given the smaller number of attendees. The conversations on both floors of the center appeared to be longer and deeper. I helped at the table for OutProfessionals, the nation’s leading gay and lesbian networking organization. One young transgender man said several family members are having difficulty accepting his gender expression, but he is still hopeful over time he will transition effectively within his family and at work. Several disabled individuals shared their positive experience with a nonprofit organization that helps find jobs for persons who are challenged by physical or mental limitations. Many people talked about their particular circumstances and shared ideas on how best to find job opportunities. Positivity permeated.
Here are some of my observations and reflections and possibly where it’s leading, organized in 3 steps:
Step #1. Who am I?
This is the crucial question to start with. For me, the answer is closely tied with gender and I’m getting closer. As I’m spending more time as a female, I’m getting to more fully explore my female side (Francis), and preferring that side. My male side, as Frank, has been relatively sensitive and caring and decent at relationships, but less focused and consistent than my female Francis. As a male, even when serving clients and looking out for their best interests, I often would take too assertive a stance about my recommended strategies, not really listening to the client’s desire not to follow a particular strategy I suggested, at least for now. Sometimes, I would cite particular laws or statistics or even bring up my past achievements or creative ideas as a way to possibly win approval. Of course, in the end, clients don’t really care how much you know but rather really know how much you care. Work life for me is different as a female. With clients who know me as a woman, I more easily and naturally communicate my opinions and it seems rarely meet resistance. It almost seems that female Francis is more respected than male Frank, and more actions result for clients, no matter their own sexuality or gender. Important financial decisions are made. File tax returns. Relocate. Start businesses. Make investments. Obtain insurance. Refinance mortgages.
A year ago at the last job fair, I committed to myself to come out more to those long-standing clients who knew me as Frank, and when taking on new clients to only do so as Francis. For the most part, I’ve done that. In fact even the clients I originally thought would have difficulty accepted me as a female, have been not just tolerant but very supportive. One 82-year old client, touching her chest, said, “it’s what’s in here that counts not what’s on here.” Another client called me “beautiful.” A handful said Francis actually glowed. I never got these reactions from people before about my male side. Several have encouraged me to spend all my time as Francis not only with them but also with my family and friends. Heartwarming stuff. I recognize there will be many challenges in choosing to live full-time as a female, but it does not change my bottom line view – that I want to be a woman, at least at this point in my life, and as a woman I can be effective in serving clients and helping people, and in turn providing for my family. Secondly, I am a helper of people, and for many years in the financial services industry I’ve helped hundreds and got joy in doing so. I should continue to do so, only better. And as a woman.
For you, come to terms with who you really are. If you think you have to hide your real attitudes, opinions and traits from an employer (or group of customers), then the situation is probably not right. Let yourself show, then shine. Live full-out and out fully. And I don’t mean just sexuality or gender. If you are about doing right for others, then don’t work for a company that manipulates or cheats. If you are about using your skills and acumen to their fullest, then don’t settle for a do-little dead-end job. If you are about changing the world with your ideas, then don’t give up on starting the business you’ve dreamed about for years. Come up with a practical doable plan and involve other people. Be yourself – the yourself you are now and the yourself you dream you will become.
Step #2 – What do I want from a job?
Because I’ve been in several businesses, spanning various industries, and because I’ve worn various hats over the years, my feelings are conflicted about what I hope to get from a job. Certainly, I want to be in a position to help people to improve their lives. And certainly, I want to use my skills in such a way to bring extra value to the enterprise or the situation. And to earn money to live comfortably and have a financially secure future. But literally millions of jobs could do that. So how do I filter them to arrive at the “ideal job” and to seek that and perhaps compromise at something close to it?
As a baby boomer, I cannot take significant financial risks, and so I should stay in the financial services industry that I know so well and where my skills are so needed, and not jump into a new field that may have an expensive and steep learning curve. Okay – Finance. As a woman, my current role as financial advisor and CPA is quite suitable because clients actually seek out female professionals who are good listeners and who take extra time to understand their needs. Okay – Female financial advisor and CPA. Now, should I be self-employed or employed by others? For decades I’ve been self-employed. I’ve no doubt positively impacted hundreds of clients’ lives, but what about co-workers, what about others in an organization. Not really. I’ve missed that. Also, as a self-employed professional, I have been responsible for most, perhaps too many, aspects of production, from marketing to client relationships to implementation to follow-up and monitoring, and all the related supporting functions. Perhaps my A.D.D. leanings have been enflamed by the requirement of multi-tasking so much. And so, at this point in my life, I want to more narrowly focus my own efforts within a much larger context. And to do so where I willing be working with others and for others. One example I envision is as a sales assistant helping a small team of high-level producers within a mid-sized or large investment firm, like a reputable hedge fund or investment management company. I can help not only with handling client service and making the processing of new accounts and transactions much more efficient and smoother, but also I think I can be delegated some of the advisory services too, enabling the producers to work on more complicated cases. Another possible example is as an executive assistant within a large organization that is striving to be better at recognizing and tapping the power of diversity. As an effective transgender woman I can show first hand how the organization not only accepts but also actually promotes diversity. And in these positions I can be interacting with and serving a greater number of individuals than at present. And my transition itself can be inspirational to others, in addition to improving the quality of my own life.
The analysis of what you want from a job can use similar considerations as mine. Industry. Skills needed. Possible effectiveness within the position. Personal value proposition – how can you help them. You will identify several possible positions from the first filter. Then change the industry and do some lateral thinking, emphasizing a different set of skills you have, or another passion. Then explore those positions as well.
Step #3 – What is wanted of me?
It’s important to believe that you are special and a valued part of a much larger whole, and that you have a responsibility to contribute. Life’s truly a give and take. Take what you need and give what you can, mindful of a grander view.
I happen to have a deep faith in God and I actually feel God’s presence in so many areas of my life. In fact, I believe God has a role in my current phase of transition. For you, pray for signs and pray for direction, and you will see them appear, sometimes remarkably quick. But if you question God’s personal involvement, I suggest asking yourself what does the universe, or world, or country, or state, or community, or family, or you yourself want from you. Life is too short to not ask. And when you ask you will receive an answer about your next phase. The next job for you may bring a very meaningful and vibrant change in your life that the “who you are and “what you do” will meet in a awesome way. I’m feeling a surge of power within me calling me to be positive about the next change in my life that is sure to come, is sure to not only enhance my life but also those whom I touch. I pray that you too feel that same power and that you enter the next job of your life – living life fully.
Please email me your thoughts at FrancisSisco@aol.com so they can be shared with the readers of this column.
Column # 3
“In Transition” – Column heading (Column yet to be published)
“In Transition – Reading Poetry at the Osborn “
11/26/10, Copyright 2010 Francis Sisco , A periodic column by Francis Sisco , For more info, call cell 914.589.1013 , Number of words – 1,525
Note: The following essay was written as an email report to other Poetry Caravan members based upon Fran Sisco’s realding of poetry on 11/22/10 at the Osborn in Rye, NY (a facitlity serving seniors comprising a nursing home and an assisted living section. Many Poetry Caravan members responded positively to Francis’ report.
Reading poetry at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals for the Poetry Caravan has always been rewarding for me. It has been an opportunity to help people, and myself, to share thoughts and feelings, facilitated by an enjoyment of poems and related discussions. The reading on this Monday, a few days before Thanksgiving, caused me to focus on my thankfulness for sharing, especially now from a new perspective, as Fran instead of Frank. My evolving transition from male to female is much more than the changes in physical appearance or gestures or losing the “k” in my name. I’m sensing the transition is even affecting, in a positive way, my involvement in many activities, including poetry and the Poetry Caravan.
In the past, generally, I have been satisfied with my participation in the Poetry Caravan readings. Yet, I often felt that I was a type of entertainer, always trying to get as much audience participation as possible and to improve on past performances. Not fully genuine. Sometimes I rationalized that cheerful sing-a-longs of song lyrics were a notch above a more serious sharing of traditional poems because the smiles were more and broader. Oh, I did get philosophical too, but often I felt as a male intruder into a world of predominately females. Sometimes to prove I was just as sensitive, loving and caring, I think I let myself turn on a few tears, perhaps reading a poem or two that I knew would trigger a tearful emotional response in me. Up until this reading, I felt I could not genuinely understand the residents’ feelings, me being of the opposite gender, and I thought they thought that as well. Of course, I realize that my thinking is probably faulty and is just a function of some long deep-seated misunderstanding of genders. Well, that may be indeed one of the reasons that causes me to seek to be female – to become at least partially female and leave behind my male ego, which for me had been an odd mixture of tough competitive overly-analytical talkative male, softened somewhat by forays into being a sensitive, loving and understanding female listener. Anyway, this my first reading as Fran led me to not only feel better about myself, and how others felt about the reading, but also gave me the confidence that future readings will be engaging and filled with new discoveries as well.
As I arrived at the Osborn and searched for a parking spot, I found one close to the wing that housed the Pavilion Building, the skilled nursing facility, about 80 yards away from the Assisted Living Section where I’ve read more often. Seeing someone entering the side self-locking door, I dashed toward the door before it closed. I noticed I ran much slower in heels that were inches higher than before but I still made it in time.
I recognize that we all are in some phase of transition. Some as new parents, or as new business owners, or our first day at school or as newly retired or disabled. Some transitioning to a new home, whether a house, apartment or nursing home or some back to their prior home. My transition is allowing me to notice, perhaps more sharply, how to deal with transition in general, and also how other people and myself deal differently depending on gender.
When I entered the poetry reading room and exchanged greetings, I noticed all twelve residents were in wheelchairs unlike at the Assisted Living Section nearby where just a few people were in wheelchairs. As I introduced myself as Fran, I tried to remember their first names to help get their participation. I noticed my comparison between the residents of the Assisted Living Facility (who were not only awake but also in prior readings actively participated in the discussions that emanated from each poem that was read) with this group at the Pavilion Building I was in front of now who apparently had diminished cognitive abilities. But quickly, several residents seemed to come alive as I read poems, looking directly at each person whose eyes were opened. The differences with the Assisted Living residents began to fade.
It seems that everyone believed I was a natural (genetic) woman and no one commented on my being a transgender woman. The recreation director, Lynne, knew me as a male from my prior phone call before arriving. Donna, a nursing aide, recognized me from a prior reading, despite my dress, heels, make-up and wig. She said it was my encore reading of Stanley Kunitz’s “The Layers” that began to give it away. And then my poem “Scampering Sytrofoam” about my relationship with my daughter Kelly confirmed it. I was relieved that no one seemed uncomfortable by my female appearance. I was thrilled by the prospect that my participation in the Poetry Caravan could conceivably continue, now as a female and more in sync with my true self.
As I read poems and we discussed the aspect of thankfulness in each poem, I felt an unusual ease and a profound joy of the present. In the past as a male, I often would get tearful when reading certain poems or song lyrics. Perhaps I had unresolved issues brewing underneath that were being stifled and not allowed to surface except through an awkward outpouring of tears. Some people on seeing me cry would also cry in sympathy for me. Others seemed confused by my tears, and rightly so. This time however was different. I didn’t cry even though some poems could have instigated it as before. Instead, I felt joy even in the sections that were serious and weighty. Joyful to be alive, to be among these people, to be sharing of ourselves. My spirit was buoyant. My outlook fresh and hopeful. No melancholy meanderings. After I read Robert Herrick’s poem, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” I noticed that my comments were quite positive about the importance of enjoying the present (“Gather ye rosebuds”) not from a fear of time’s fleeting nature and of the inevitable end but rather from the perspective of the joyful experience of living now and what treasures it offers. The residents echoed similar sentiments.
After reading an excerpt from “The Love Song by J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot (“No I am not Prince Hamlet or was meant to be” through “Almost at times, the Fool”), we talked about identity and the idea that increased self-expression could lead to enhanced communication and satisfaction. I asked residents to share a personal matter that may reveal a surprising aspect of their selves that was not known by others in their facility. The revelations of two women sparked further conversation. Elizabeth, quiet until then, said she wrote poetry and, in each of the past several years, contributed poems to the Women’s Club of White Plains in order to raise scholarship funds for high school students. Members made donations based on the poems contributed. Another woman, Mary, glowed as she said she was a mother of eight children and grandmother of so many she has lost count. Thanksgiving for her is surely also a time of “thanksgetting.”
As I read each poem, we all tried to see what the poem offered on the theme of thankfulness and gratitude and expand that to our own lives. From the poem “Sometimes” by Leon Pantirer (From the Poetry Anthology – en(compass) – p. 73), we discussed prejudices against people made evident from likes and dislikes of members of the animal kingdom, and gave thanks for the greater awareness of diversity. We discussed our thankfulness for God’s involvement in our lives after a reading of “Daughters of the Night” by Brenda J. Miller (From “Being Sure of What We Hope For” – p.19- 21. One poem’s mention of “prison” provoked a statement by a resident about the actress Lana Turner and the involvement in the murder of her lover Johnny Stompanato by her daughter. When the other residents questioned her accuracy, a nursing assistant verified the facts on the internet with his cell phone and we all showed thanks for her good memory. A few residents said they were thankful for their current health, even though impaired, because it could be much worse. All were thankful for the love of family and friends. Lois was very thankful for the frequent visits and calls from her four daughters who continue to bring her joy. I closed with my poem “Scampering Styrofoam,” about how my daughter Kelly and I were thankful for an unusual, at first indecipherable, happenstance of pink Styrofoam pieces crossing the street in front of us while driving, interrupting our argument and making us smile.
As I walked to my car, hearing my high heels clicking on the pavement, I smiled to myself realizing that, at least for today, one benefit of the difference in my physical appearance appears to have made a positive difference in the sharing of feelings among people. I am quite thankful for that and for whatever other positive developments this transition of genders may engender in my life and in the lives of others.
“Making it! – Carmen and Manila, or Drag U, hold court at La Pomme.“
You just got to meet these girls from “Drag U”, Manila and Carmen. They are magical together. Very bright, witty and funny. And beautiful, so beautiful. I envision them in the not-too-distant future emceeing a prime time television variety show, with the whole country watching like was the case in the 1950s with the Ed Sullivan Show. In the meantime, anyone needing a vivacious pair to enliven an event should consider Manila and Carmen.
When I received an invitation in May from Outprofessionals (a large NYC-based LGBT organization) for the networking mixer showcasing two of RuPaul’s Drag U professors, I felt I should RSVP right away in case it sold out at LaPomme on 26th Street in Chelsea. But then I remembered my once-monthly “Crisis Help Radio Show” was that night, broadcast from the WVOX radio studio in New Rochelle in Westchester County. How could I do both? Then I let my fantasies run and envisioned incorporating the Drag U professors into my show via a call in.
That evening’s radio show topic was “Making it as a way out of crisis. In the studio, my co-host Ken Kline interviewed members of the M-S-M Trio, and played a Mendelssohn song the three young excellent musicians recorded on their new CD. The trio (violin, cello and piano) are so amazingly gifted that you get stunned by the beauty of their music. My other co-host, Tom Sullivan was not able to be in the studio as he was en route from the airport. So there I was in my car heading into Manhattan from a client meeting in Queens, listening to Ken, the M-S-M-Trio and my daughter Kelly sharing ideas about how to follow your passion and do something important using your talents. It clicked. I pulled up to LaPomme with four minutes left of my radio show, signed in at the door, rushed inside to see Manila Luzon (aka Karl Westerberg) and Carmen Carrera (aka Christopher Roman) commenting on clips from Drag U episodes on huge overhead screens. In the clips, transgender women were showing genetic women how to bring out their inner diva and to be sexier women. Ironic, no? I asked Carmen, who was nearer to me if she could go outside, where it was quieter, and talk with the radio audience about the newfound success being a Professor on Drag U. In the three minutes left of air time, Carmen explained how it “took a lot of courage and creativity” to seize the moment when asked to join the Drag U show as a professor, after losing on Drag Race. She said it is her “job to make the biological women feel comfortable with their beauty and sexuality” and she loves doing it. I was thrilled to meet Manila and Carmen and thrilled that my fantasy of having them on my show was realized. When I went back inside and saw how these two awesome girls held the room of eighty people captivated for an hour, I realized that they were indeed doing something they love – being women, helping others and all the while entertaining people and making everyone happy. What a gift!