One Step Forward, One Step Back

After what was a successful afternoon, last nite didn’t go as smoothly. Sammie came home from the hospital on Tuesday evening and went back yesterday morning after only 36 hours. After I had a light supper, I headed up to the hospital to see her for a little bit. Several nurses were polite and helped direct me to where I needed to go without gendering me.

Then, when I got to her room, she was in isolation. I walked in behind a nurse who just kinda looked at me funny. Then another nurse came running up. “Sir!” I was wearing women’s jeans, women’s running shoes and a women’s t-shirt under a baggy army jacket. Not to mention my ponytail is longer than most women’s. So, I don’t know what made her think I was a guy.

The word grated on my skin. She was right behind me and I turned to look at her. “You have to gown up!” she said. “I’m not going to touch her,” I argued. “We just need you to wear the gown and gloves when you’re in the room.” I let out a loud sigh and turned to look at Sammie. The nurse turned and quickly walked away, heading into the adjoining room. As she did, I called after her, “It’s ma’am!” But it didn’t appear that she heard me.

I stepped out of the room to put on the ridiculous yellow paper gown and gloves, setting my things on the floor next to the wall and taking my time in hopes that the nurse would come out of the other patient’s room. By the time she did, however, I had the stupid gown on and what curves I had were no longer visible.

That finished, I went back into the room and Sammie and I talked for a while about the weather and the crazy day back at the house. About forty-five minutes later, the nurse who had called me “sir” came in to check on her. The nurse apologized for making me put on the protective gown. Then Sammie said, “This is my husband!”

I looked at Samantha and wanted to scream. Several weeks earlier I had politely asked her to use “spouse” or “partner” instead of that word. Then without missing a beat, I turned to the nurse and said, “Hi, my name’s Rita!” The nurse looked a little confused and repeated, “R-i-t-a…” I smiled and nodded. Then I looked back at Sammie to see if she would protest, but she didn’t seem to react in any way.

The nurse returned to tending to Samantha and eventually left. Sammie didn’t mention what had just happened and I let the events speak for themselves.

Sammie was tired and I only stayed another fifteen or twenty minutes before I headed home. On my way out I stopped at the ladies room and then walked the half-mile to the bus stop.

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“Ma’am, she’ll be right with you!”

             A couple of days after S did my eyebrows narrower and more feminine than she had in the past, I had to run some errands and this was going to be my first time out in public after my mini-makeover.  S was still having a hard time with my transition and even though she had done my eyebrows, she cried afterward and was more sullen than usual.  I didn’t want to upset her more than she already was so I chose to go in pseudo-guy mode when we ran to the store.

            I tucked, as I normally did.  It was by now a 24/7 routine.  My hair was up in a bun.  And, I only had simple silver studs in my ears.  However, I had put on a pair of guy’s cargo shorts and a guy’s extra-large t-shirt over an undershirt.  I didn’t exactly look like a guy, but I also didn’t overtly look like a woman.  And, I felt, in some ways, like I was reverse crossdressing.

            I was more worried about S and us as a couple, than I was my appearance as we rode to Food4Less.  I felt horrible for what she was going through, but every day that passed, I felt more and more confident as a woman and I was not going to give that up.

            As usual S wasn’t feeling well and decided to wait in the car.  We had started regularly shopped at the Food4Less down the street from us right after we moved to the area.  A lot of the employees there knew and remembered us from visit to visit, so I didn’t give it much thought.  Over the last nine months or so, I’d used my trips to the grocery store as opportunities to practice in public.  But I never knew if I was being authentic or not.  The girl at the deli counter was always sweet and friendly to me, always saying “thanks sweetie!” when she handed me my sliced ham.  And, a couple of the male stockers were always friendly saying “hi” and “have a great day”.

            This particular trip to the store started out no different.  I stopped by the deli counter and when it was my turn the girl behind the counter couldn’t help having fun with me as she sliced our ham. I did the rest of our shopping as fast as I could, knowing that S was out in the car waiting and probably crying again. However, it seemed that when I got up to the checkout lanes, everyone else was trying to check out at the same time. Every cashier was open and every lane was six and seven deep. I picked the 20 Items or less lane and waited.

            Several carts ahead of me was a woman in her sixties with a shoulder length bob haircut and a sleeveless floor length summer dress. I couldn’t help staring at her dress as I waited. In return, she couldn’t help taking several glances over at me. I wondered why she found me so interesting, but conceding that maybe she wasn’t looking at me at all.

            When the cashier started on my purchases, I gave her my gas discount card as usual and asked for a recheck on some cases of soda that were on sale. She called a stock boy who went to see if there were any cases in the back. In the meantime, I paid and she handed me my receipt saying, “Thank you! And if you’re a mother, Happy Mother’s Day!” I smiled and said, “I am thank you! And you too!”

            Right after that the stock boy came up with a case and the cashier indicated it was for me. “The stock boy said, “You’re welcome ma’am!” Then the cashier pointed me toward the customer service counter.

            I walked over to the small desk across from one of the lanes. I could see the cashiers conversing about my rain check. Then the cashier in the middle called over to me, “Ma’am, she’ll be right with you!” And, she motioned toward another cashier that she was indicating.

            After several minutes, the manager broke away from her register between customers and walked over to me. She asked what the rain check was for, filled it out and handed it to me.

            I said, “thank you” in the sweetest voice I could manage and left.

            S was feeling extra nauseous and decided to head home.

            Once I had the groceries in and S settled down on her couch, I headed up to the drug store to pick up prescriptions for S and a couple of items I couldn’t get at the grocery store.

            The weather was changing and rain clouds were moving in. I didn’t have much time to get to the drug store and get home.

            When I got to the pharmacy, the tech seemed to assume that I was S. He didn’t use any pronouns but the way in which he asked questions made it seem like he thought I was S. I let him think that, despite the fact that he had waited on me many times in the past. 

            And, when I paid for my candy and nail polish at the front counter, the cashier called me ‘hun’ and helped me use the credit card machine.

            After all of that, as I walked out the door, a guy standing outside the doors with his pit bull said, “Hi.”

            I shyly said, “Hi” in response. I looked up at the clouds and hurried across the parking lot hoping that I would make it home before the rain ensued.

            Only after I had made it home safe and dry did I stop to take in the ramifications of that day’s events.   

Don’t Dream It, Be It!

Fake it ’til you make it! For the serious pre-op transsexual no other adage can be more true. I can remember hearing this phrase bantered about a lot over the years. Usually by guys headed out to the bars who wanted to be Casanovas or yuppie types hoping to rapidly climb the corporate ladder. The concept being that while you’re not currently where you want to be, if you emulate those who have made it well enough, the winds of opportunity will lift you up to their level. And, though I hate to admit it, this piece of wisdom does bare out.

For those who wish to live or feel themselves to be the opposite sex, no amount of dreaming, wishing or praying alone will ever make it so. The only way to achieve this need is to pursue it utterly and totally. So many would-be transsexuals hem and haw and hesitate about what it is they want, while in the meantime years drift by unnoticed. I know, I unintentionally let this happen to me and I was anxious to start hormones when I was 19. I just couldn’t seem to get it done.

Now I find myself racing to make up for lost time like Sayuri in Memoirs of a Geisha. I too must emulate a certain mystique. To be, as naturally as possible, an authentic woman. Not a showgirl or drag queen, but an authentic woman. A woman like Jane Fonda or Kate Winslet, refined and cultured.

But you can’t just wake up one morning and say, “Today, I’m going to be Jane Fonda.” Aside from the obvious fact that you have absolutely no idea what it is like to be Jane, the moment you interact with another human and they don’t treat you like a movie queen you’ll find out you’re really not Jane Fonda. And, while this is true, we can wake up every morning and say, “Today, I’m going to try harder to be like _________ (in this example: Jane Fonda).” This, of course, is just another form of our proverb from earlier “Fake it ‘til you make it”. The truth is we’ll never be Jane Fonda or Kate Winslet or whoever you look up to. We can be like them, we can emulate their demeanor, and mannerisms, even how they think, but we can never Be them.

Instead, in the process of “Faking it”, in emulating our hero, we evolve and become our own Icon, our own brand, our own unique self.

For the pre-op transsexual, few steps bring us more quickly to our goal of living as an authentic woman than hormones and getting rid of that unsightly body hair. While some situations will still remain awkward, these simple initial modifications, along with a new wardrobe can help you look the part until you get used to living the part.

Because the truth behind the saying is that the mind itself is the greatest obstacle to overcome in achieving our happiness. The mind says, “I know you’re faking it.” This awareness prevents us from feeling natural and at easy with ourselves and our environment. But, the more we Live the part we want to be and the more effort we put into living it, the more natural, second nature, and instinctual it will become.

And, before you know it, we will have arrived. We will have Made It! We will have Become It!

Don’t dream it, live it and be it!

A Spring Afternoon

I took a walk to the drugstore one afternoon a few days ago. The temperature was finally above freezing for the first time in what seemed like months. It had been a particularly hard Chicago winter with record snowfalls and bitterly cold days that threatened to be the worst winter on record. And, I for one was ready to get out of the house for some much needed fresh air. The snow was melting at a record pace and this particular day seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a walk and the drugstore was a perfect excuse.

My walk was brisk and uneventful. I was listening to music on mp3 player and enjoying the warm sun on my back. As I was crossing the parking lot to the drugstore this black kid in his twenties came rushing up.

“Hi! Do you have any extra change? 50 cents? A quarter? I need to buy a loaf of bread.”

I was in a good mood so I pulled out my wallet and looked for some change. As I was digging around, he kept talking, saying, “What’s your name? You seem like a really nice person.”

I froze. I suddenly got the distinct feeling he might be hitting on me or using the ‘needing change’ as a pretext to peg me one way or the other. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, my hair was back in a high ponytail, and I was wearing jeans, a baggy sweatshirt that you could still see the outline of my breasts through and an army jacket. Was I passing? I dressed like this a lot and never felt like I was passing before.

I didn’t know what to say. Which name should I give him? If I gave my male name, I would give myself away. If I gave my female name, I could open myself up for abuse. I politely smiled and dug out 30 cents and handed it to him.

“Thanks,” he said.

“Sure,” I smiled back.

He went into the drugstore and I followed him. “Oh! You’re going in here too?”

“Uh huh!”

He headed one way and I headed toward the makeup aisle. I grabbed the nail files, pantyhose and dish soap I needed and headed up to the register.

The black girl at the register was less than friendly and virtually mute. And, after I had dealt with the credit card machine handed me my receipt and said, “thank you” in a voice that was little more than a whisper.

The kid stuck around to chat up the cashier I assume, as he didn’t come out after me and I didn’t feel him following me as I started back home. But the encounter played over and over in my mind. And, I suddenly became aware that perhaps everyone in the passing cars were watching my ass sway as I walked. Maybe life just suddenly got ten times harder.

“You look like a crossdresser!”

 

I began going up to Extreme’s, a popular dance club down the street from my apartment, two or three nights a week. mainly just to dance since my life was just too complicated for any hot and steamy drunken romance. Since the club was normally open until 2am, I would get there around 11pm when the place was starting to get busy. I would stop in the bathroom to check my appearance and pee, then up to the bar nearest the dance floor for a Corona and a good spot where I could people watch for 15-20 minutes. Then out onto the dance floor where I would attempt to look cool dancing by myself.

One night I had decided to go early for the happy hour specials and free food. To entertain the happy hour customers, they put on a little comedy revue with an MC and audience participation.

Normally I like to sit as close to the action as I can so that I can see what’s going on, but occasionally it has its drawbacks. The club was relatively empty. There were probably only thirty or forty customers including myself present for this happy hour show, and I had the misfortune of sitting directly infront of the dance floor.

After his introduction and a few lame attempts at jokes, the rotund MC asked the women in the audience to come up on stage. He needed nine women and only six voluntarily went up on stage. This seemed to put a wrinkle in his show. He turned back to the audience trying to cajole one or two more women to come up on stage to be part of the skit. He lined the women up in a long line behind him and told them to dance. “My very own Fly Girls,” He said to the audience. Then he looked down at me.

“What about you?” he said. “You look like a crossdresser. Why don’t you come on up and join the rest of the girls then.”

I was stunned. Had he really said what I thought he said? Although I was flabbergasted, I just stared at him until he gave up and moved on.

Finding Happiness

As I begin to interact more with others in the trans community, I am increasingly struck by how many people claim to experience a profound release after coming out. That when they had fully accepted the fact that they were transgendered and stopped denying and making excuses for their predispositions, they began to find peace. They ceased to be a person at war with itself and became for once a whole person with a single unified purpose, a single unified direction.

Although, I am not there yet, I have experienced small waves of self-acceptance that have washed over me through the years. Each wave a little bigger than the last. Each wave a little closer on the heels of the one before it. The Truth – Inevitable!

But these pieces of self-understanding and self-acceptance come at a very heavy price. The harder we resist, the heavier the cost will be. Friends and family members lost. Jobs and Careers ruined. Knock down drag out arguments. Verbal abuse. Physical abuse. Death threats. Homelessness. Shunning. All for being a little too much like the opposite sex. All for not fitting into a narrow cookie cutter mold of what a Man IS and what a Woman IS. . . In a land that claims Freedom as one of its founding virtues. The irony!

So too has it been for me. I spent more time covering up and denying over the years than I did actually living or enjoying life. Always pre-occupied about what I had forgotten to put away, what I had let slip, what others had seen, and then too, about how I would live if I were a woman or what people would say. Instead of listening to my heart. The fear of what people would say and do paralized me from doing anything. So much so that over time I withdrew from the world more and more. If they were going to cut me out of their lives anyway, then I would do it for them. I ceased having a personality. The less I said or expressed an opinion, the less people would be able to guess about me, but then also, the less people thought to include me in their goings on. Life went on without me.