Monday, March 30, 2009


During the past week as I became aware of some of the tension caused by my Bentonville visit, my recurring thought was, “All this fuss over lil ol’ me?” Really I don’t think I’m that big of a deal, but I do understand my presence and my feminine impression was disturbing to many. My goal is to be as accurate as possible in my impression. It will take some time to make all the parts and pieces fit right, and I do have more obstacles than most attempting that impression. As I stated at the end of my last post, I do feel there is a place for me in the reenacting world.

As my northern supporter stated very well, one of the problems facing living history groups is that of accessibility. The entrance cost is quite high especially for women with the many layers of clothing required to come close to the period correct look. I myself had to buy a corset (which arrived this weekend from Abraham’s Lady… thank you!), a bonnet from Timely Tresses, some passable boots, and the pantalets. For someone still quite underemployed, that is quite a haul. I have no idea how I’ll do a second dress or bonnet. I have to make do with what I have. I’m not complaining as I feel lucky to put one outfit together.

The Bentonville trip reminded me of my first few months en femme. I had a makeover done for my first outing with Kappa Beta, but my second time was a minor disaster with the makeup and hair. I’m sure I looked like an extra from the Thriller video. I’ll never forget though that no one screamed or fainted. A few asked if I was ok. As I was leaving, Sherri Carmichael simply said, “Let me give you a few makeup tips before the next meeting.” She did, and I still use many of her techniques today. About six months later, I could look in the mirror and see a somewhat attractive woman looking back.

The point of the above tale is to illustrate that Sherri, instead of berating me for a clearly shoddy makeup job, chose to help me. Over the years, I have come to understand better why she did that beyond just being a nice person. She gave back because someone helped her out when she was starting out. I feel compelled to do the same for the new girls. Even more than that though, I want them to feel the joy, fulfillment, and sense of discovery that I have enjoyed over the years. I don’t want to keep this to myself. If another person is meant to be out as a transgender woman, I don’t want to create barriers. Being TG is hard enough without me being elitist towards another girl coming out. I would prefer to help them overcome the numerous obstacles.

A quick word about my transgender life... I did not choose to be this way. However once I discovered through prayer and spiritual life that my Creator endowed me with this gender gift, I have chosen to embrace and celebrate that gift. My life is much fuller and richer as Stephanie. I would be cheating myself and the world if I chose to deny my feminine being. As my friend Pamela Jones says so well, “This is not something you do. It’s who you are.”

My last post has generated by far the most comments of any post on this blog to date. The one telling point from those critical of my presence at Bentonville is they feel I have no right to be at reenacting events. I actually appreciate Ms. Sands’ comment as it contains some helpful advice. I can work with that. Jan approached me at Bentonville in a beautiful way to guide this new girl. She thinks I can do it. My challenge to those who think I don’t belong is how much you enjoy and get out of living history. Why do you do it? Do you want others with a genuine interest in reenacting to experience the same? Do you want to help grow the hobby?

Believe me when I say my interest is genuine, and my commitment is real. Could I have waited until I passed a little better or had a better kit? Possibly, but I have waited long enough, and I am not about to make any more excuses for why I can’t do this. This is not a lark or a fleeting fancy. I am committed to seeing this through. I would ask those who see me at future events and are not sure about me to give me ten minutes of their time. Those who take the time to chat and know me (and me you) as a person generally like me. They may not agree with my lifestyle, and I have no problem with that. However, sharing our stories has a way of breaking down barriers and fear. I usually find common ground in the reason we’re there in the first place: history! What a crazy concept!

One final word about CONS. I am deeply saddened about what has happened. I have finally come to peace about not being responsible for the breakup of CONS. Any group that really is dedicated to each other and its community will find a way to work through problems and stay together. Conversely, any group that wants to split will usually find an excuse to do so. I was that excuse, but not the cause. I can live with that. I would hope that the various fragments find ways to continue furthering living history. The main cause is too important to get lost over minor quibbles.

So my journey continues. Life is nothing if not interesting. It is my sincere prayer that the ripples that we all leave guide us down the proper and correct path and affects us all in a positive and constructive way.


Brendan Lee said...

Dear Steph,
No one deseves the treatment you received at Bentonville.
The one thing that breaks my heart most of all for you is the way your "friend" in CONS "set you up" to "crash & burn" for her own sick amusement. Just so you will know that I know exactly who I am referring to (& and you will know the truth) - Your "contact" with CONS has a name that means "bad weather". But I guess you have come to see what SHE did to you.
Neither her nor the other co-pres.
had the desency to show up at all & just let you walk into the lion's den alone. I am so sorry that they used you for thier own
sick pleasure. While they have reputations of not being well liked & run their group in a dictorial manner - you had no clue of the underhanded plan. I think its a SIN to use others in this way. I'm still not clear on what
thier ultimate goal was - perhaps it was to use you as a pawn to get
rid of the other members of CONS that had no doubt grown weary of the dictorial leadership. This is not the first time that they have done similar things when they were part of other living history groups... just not using an innocent victem to weave their wicked plan. As I said - it breaks my heart for you.
With your Incredible intelligence, good heart & the desire to give of yourself to others for the "the cause" (victorian era living history) perhaps your guardian angels have led you through all this so that you will know that you must start your own special organization. Be patient, study every thing you can find about authentification in all areas to find your very special area of expertise to "show & tell" at events. You are a natural born leader not a follower to be kicked around! There are so many web sites where you can learn all about how to become a leader in living history. Many of these groups list their by laws on the site that can give you an outline of how to begin. You have already met some genuinely kind people who could help you as well. Pick their brains,take your time & carefully gather a group of like minded loyal members who are for the greater good of furthering the presevation of authentic portrayal of living history.
Many members of these groups contact schools & volunteer to speak to classes. The possibilities are endless if you truly have the burning desire to teach & preserve. It will bwcome a life of sacrifice of always learning more every day & GIVING your knowlege & love to others.

May the force be with.

Brendan Lee

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Sherri Carmichael