never alone – a paradox

It’s a hot sunny day.  I just had one of those enigmatic lunch meet-ups where you make clear to the other party that you’re really, actually, truly gay (really).  And they lose interest; I’m walking back.

A foreign family is taking photos on the sidewalk, and I swear I can feel the cold vacuum of space – stretching off into non-existence.

We are alone in the world.  And all we have is each other, that is all.

 

I’m never alone.  Between the coffee shops, the cafes, my officemates, my roommate, the people I date; I’m rarely actually out of the presence of other human beings.  This is an unexpected outcome of the transition.  I used to spend a week at a time in isolation, occasionally coming out for air, to go to the office, find food, whatever.  And the world was so big, the sidewalks stretching out to distant vanishing points; the air lacking the clarity of virtuality I became accustomed to, staring into an abyss of pixels.  Never again.

 

I’m bad at being human, which apparently makes it so.  To be imperfect, fragile, pained, and needy.  Desperate, beautiful and young.  People see themselves, extend constant minor assistances, tell me things.  And I think of them.

All I had to do was to become ambitionless, and lost.  I can see it in their eyes, ‘welcome home.’

 

“I’m sorry about all of that stuff I said last night.”

“It’s okay.”

 

thirty-something

It’s something I harp on, but it’s difficult to be completely alone in this world.  Indeed, I’m not completely alone, I have two core relationships left to speak of, but it feels like I am; and that I need to learn to deal with it, because how can two people possibly provide for all of my needs?  I am truly afraid to ask, because what if I lose them too?

Is it even possible to go it alone?  Everyone says it isn’t but I hope they’re wrong.

 

As far as the transition goes, it’s just wildly successful.  I hardly have to think of myself as anything other than female anymore.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but apparently I wasn’t expecting my transition to work.  Now I’m a thirty-something year old woman who is just horribly afraid of dying or getting old, because I just got here.  It’s kind of irrational, but in the absence of a past or any substantial present, it’s the clearest set of emotions that I experience.

 

On an average day, it takes five hours to get myself passable and out the door, where I embrace the vast nothing-ness that is life.  Every day I try to find a way forward, parting a fog of negative emotions.  Many, many things I don’t care to think about, which it is not necessary to think about, surprisingly.  It’s good enough to attend to my work, or the bill collectors, take out the trash, write my papers, shop for hair spray.  And I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I’m learning not to care, telling myself that I’ve got mine and it doesn’t matter, won’t matter, can’t matter.  That caring is the worst thing I’ve ever done, a mistake.  That if I don’t care the world can’t hurt me, anymore.

 

day 51

After about 51 days I realized I’m not like other people.

After a long walk, after I had time to get out of my immediate surroundings and think; I stood outside on a train platform even though it was freezing.  I leaned my back against the wall and rested my eyes, closed them, and realized I was crying.

I’m not like other people, I’m not.  I forced myself to open my eyes as I noted that my mascara isn’t waterproof and dabbed them carefully.

 

It is really, truly cold outside but I don’t care.  It actually takes the edge off a little bit.

People pass by, look at me and quickly look away.  I don’t care.  I’m crying because of the cold, obviously.  Or because I’m pregnant, or not pregnant, or was pregnant…  At least that’s what I used to think when I saw an extraordinarily sad girl.  I guess that has something to do with it, anyone thinking that would be somewhere in the ballpark of correct, I suppose.

But again, it doesn’t matter.  I’m not like them.  I tell myself it’s comforting.

 

Later, I’m walking through the crowds, taller than most.  Numb.

I can see it now; I’ll move soon.  I’ll take a new job in a new city and I’ll never breathe a word of what happened to me to anyone who doesn’t have their head between my legs.  Most likely, I won’t breathe a word of this to anyone.  And I’ll be just like them.

 

surgery and aftermath

It’s a mob scene at the local pizza place, one of the places I can go to write at eleven at night.  The busser calls me ‘buddy’ and I feel his hand on the small of my back as he moves me into a different line, “You don’t need to wait behind these people.”

People give me these crossed signals between male and female – and I never realized how controlling it is to touch a woman on the small of her back and move her, directly where my center of gravity is located, at my disturbingly handle-like middle.

 

It was relatable when people would do this, to misgender me but subconsciously treat me like a woman.  It mirrored my internal state, the constant dissonance of being a woman with a penis.

I would try to compensate with makeup and soft pastel clothing.  Failing this, I would try to assert my identity in spite of my anatomy.  Failing this, I would try not to think about my anatomy at all, which made my inner life fantastically complex.  I didn’t realize how complex it had become.

 

surgery

In the whirlwind leading up to genital reconstructive surgery there was little time to think, but I knew what I wanted.  I knew that if they botched the surgery, it would be better than having a penis, which provided a stoic optimism.  In retrospect there was little chance my surgeon would irreversibly botch the surgery.

I remember lying there speaking to her assistant.

 

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m nervous.”

 

“Do you still want to have surgery today?”

“Yes.”

 

I signed the final handful of forms, which detailed everything that could go wrong.  I complimented them on their projected complication percentages.

They clipped the forms into their many binders and filled out their paperwork.

I laughed reflexively at their inside jokes.

 

I asked the anesthesiologists to warn me before they did anything.  I must have asked them this like three times.

“You have such beautiful big brown eyes.”

This is the last thing I remember.

 

That night and the following night I begged the nurses for more morphine so I could sleep.  I was caught off guard by the sheer pain involved with this surgery, which made me feel naive.

My roommate came to visit and brought me a stuffed animal.  I can hardly remember what we talked about but I will never forget that he visited me.

Some of the nurses and staff looked at me like I was unusual, even though there were three other trans people on the floor of that hospital.  Was it my voice?  That I had days of growth on my unpainted face?  Was it because I slept with a stuffed animal?  Everyone was really nice though.

 

I lay in my mother’s lap on the taxi ride home.

 

aftermath

I try to lay down as much as possible, as my doctor said to do.  I’m alone for the most part and I have time to think.  What has this cost me?  I take stock of my life and what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished; I may have traded everything else to become whole.  A tidal wave of rejection, my colleagues, my best friends, my father, they are absent from this story, and absence now speaks louder than anything.

I need people.  I’ve never seen so much of my own blood, and I need support.  I’ve irrevocably changed who I am, overnight, and I need someone to tell me who I’ve become, because I don’t know.

 

But I made the right decision, because it’s the sort of thing where ya just know.

And there’s nothing heavier than the difficult thing with which I’ve had no choice.

 

an uncanny girl

Writing letters to my health insurer, preparing to sue my old landlords, writing cover letters, hustling.  I think I’m probably an adult now.  I look in the mirror, “Brave girl.  Very brave girl.”  And there’s not much else I can do.

I walk everywhere.  People whistle at me, stare, look away, but no one gives me any actual problems.  Maybe it’s because I’m tall.  Maybe it’s my 1000 yard stare.  Maybe it’s because I only own work clothes, no short skirts, no heels.  All-in-all I’d rather be left alone.

Except when I’m alone.  But I still don’t want to be touched, by anyone.  It’s worrying.  Maybe there’s nothing I can do.  My blind hope is that surgery will clear this up.  And the surgery clock is ticking, which doesn’t help my peace of mind, particularly since I’ll need a job to go through with it.  I never rest.

 

When I decided to transition I spent 64 hours in my mom’s studio apartment, alone.  I remember this as the 64 hour war.  It was a freefall of confusion and blind fear.  I wrote a lot.  Toward the end of it, I remembered that I never wanted to be male, never wanted a male sexuality.  That when I was a child, this was the last thing I ever wanted, although I didn’t understand at the time.

But I understand now, and I decided to transition.  I knew I would be sacrificing my sexuality, that my body and my life would make no sense for a long time, and I would need to be okay with that.  I thought this sacrifice would make the journey easier, less confusing, and it has.  My transition is characterized by an outward steadiness and uncanny efficiency.  Cisgendered people look askance, “Your transition has gone so smoothly.”  Powerful people protest, “Your transition can’t be perfect.”  And I don’t know what to say.

 

But I walk on eggshells, and I pray.

I curse myself in the bathroom mirror.

I don’t know what to think or feel; but please, please let this be over.

 

insomnia express

I can’t remember the last time I had trouble sleeping.  I also can’t remember having writer’s block quite like this; my thoughts are clear but I’m afraid to write them down.

I’m afraid of being discriminated against.

I’m afraid of being alone.

I’m afraid of this.

This, my life condensed to today, tonight.  Right now.  I can’t think about the future, because that just doesn’t make sense.

 

I accept myself, my face is a woman’s face because I am a woman.  My life is a woman’s life.  It is what I think it is, but I underestimated the damage caused by arguing the point, by being told otherwise.  Because anyone can argue this, and for a time I forgot there’s no basis to my identity.

I didn’t realize the nature of discrimination, that it would take forms that cannot be spoken of.  That not being taken seriously would become what I fear the most.

Worst of all, I didn’t think I would believe that I deserve this.  In my contortions to make sense of the situation, it’s the only explanation.

 

Outside, there’s a steady drumbeat of LGBT victories.  I’m told the military is reversing its ban on trans people.  Inside, I’m coming to terms with exile from my own life.  A snowglobe of memories filled with love and artificial snowflakes.  A farcical separation, and so very real.  It doesn’t matter how often I try to return, it’s not mine.

 

‘today’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why’

I can see why no one writes about this.  Why no one blogs about their transgender transition after the ‘I’m OK’ stage, when they drop off the face of the earth.

It’s because you basically drop off the face of the earth.

 

The moment you give away your old wardrobe, when you run out of mascara for the first time, when you find yourself standing in the social security office and declare yourself to the federal government to be a woman – and it’s not even a big deal – everything changes.  It’s as if I had never done anything in my life.  That I’m here, now, born yesterday or whenever, I don’t even know.  Everything is new and my body feels 1,000 years old, as if I’d been this way forever, like I had never known myself until now.

Now it is all I can do to make my credit card payments.  It’s the mundanity that slaps you in the face – that I need to adhere to this schedule handed to me from someone who apparently planned all of this out.  I try not to think about it too much.

 

Because to think about where I am is to break.  Under the weight of lost friendships and family and dreams and time.  To not know who I am or ever hope to know – to know I will never be part of most everything I see, to be alone.  To know that I cannot stand being touched.  To dwell on this is loss.

 

I found myself explaining that I’m stuck this way, and that I can relax now.  It’s true.

 

awake

I’m exhausted.  I’m bolt-awake.  I’m watching the world go by – fast.  I can’t shake the feeling that I’m wearing a disguise, that I’m not ready for this.

It would be impossible to become ready for this – to transition into femininity and start over with everyone.  I’m introducing myself to people I’ve known.  It’s just a thing.

“Hi Mom, hi Dad.  What’s new?”

I need to stop asking that question.

 

I can’t wrap my head around it, but I’m really, really afraid.  I’m petrified, and I’ve never known anything so unavoidably true.

I feel alone.

People support me but they don’t get what I’m going through.  The subject of a ‘transgender transition’ is foreign to everyone.  And speaking to transgender people about it is like screaming bloody murder into a swarm of bats.

I don’t know how else to describe that.

 

Meanwhile, life flashes by.  Doctors come and go, friends, allies; almost like it doesn’t matter.

Because I feel better and I trust myself.  I trust there’s a way out of this ridiculous situation.

 

giving up

I stretch in a futile attempt to straighten my spine.  I try to touch the ground.

just give up

I stretch in a doorway.  Maybe my shoulders will get narrower.

you’ll never be more feminine than you already are

I stand on one leg like a dancer and stretch my leg behind me.  I knew all those years of ballet would come in handy.

give up

 

The dishes are always piled up.  The mail is always piled up.  Clothes, trash, scraps of to-do lists.

I’m always one laser treatment away from taking my drivers license photo.  One paycheck away from starvation.

And I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t.

I can’t keep up, but I’m cutting it somehow.  And I need to cut it tomorrow and every day beyond tomorrow, if I have any chance at anything.

 

I stand in the flattering light of a women’s washroom.  In a science building, this is like an executive lounge – pristine and empty.

just give up already

 

not easy

Transition has a way of sneaking up on you, always.

 

I’m sitting balled up with my feet on the edge of a vanity.

Is this what I really want?

It turns out that electrolysis is permanent – I hadn’t truly considered that.  I always thought that the hormones would be sort of the epicenter of my transition, the point when I’d have to decide.  But, let’s face it, that moment has come and gone.  Still waiting on those hormones though.  I hear it’s the awesomeness.

 

This isn’t easy, never was.  Hope it will be someday, but it’s not easy right now.  It’s not easy to be between genders, somewhere between somewhere.  To be peerless and alone, seemingly forever.  To have people look at you funny.  I really hate that.

To think what I’m putting myself through – and with such enthusiasm – this has to be the right decision, right?  I’m not sure if there’s any way to tell.

 

Technically, I’d put the odds of me being wrong at 1 in 32, a virtual certainty that I am, in fact, a woman.  But there’s still a 3% chance that there’s something I just haven’t considered and I’m completely wrecking my life, for what it was worth.

 

I do want this, though.  I do.