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Saturday, February 26, 2005

A good, long hug

Yesterday, I went to the coast, with my software engineer, to install our database in the local library. I took my car, because the state motor pool can't figure out my driver's license any more, and I don't want to get a new one till my name goes through.

My engineer is a sweet and gentle man, which would surprise and perhaps dismay him to hear, because he was in the Army for 28 years, and is gruff and macho in his demeanor. I knew he would have trouble adapting to my name and pronouns, but forgave him in advance, based on his 17 years of kindness toward me.

As we drove, I told him of my adventures along the route over the decades, pre-transition: the wreck that dismantled a Subaru that appeared suddenly in front of an F100 in which I was a passenger, and totaled the truck as well, very nearly killing the kid in the Subaru; tree planting on this mountain, snag felling on that one, forest fire fighting over that ridge, nearly losing my life and those of six fire fighters in my rig when we met an out-of-control eighteen wheeler on the curve below the tunnel. A lot of history.

I suppose I was telling these stories to put him more at ease with the person I've revealed myself to be; here I was driving him through the mountains while wearing hoop earrings, a tan ribbed turtleneck, and my Mary Kay face, with my purse in the back seat. And I noticed I was having a lot of trouble staying in girl voice, which happens more around my men friends from Before Risa.

I needn't have worried. It's true that he couldn't find my name and pronoun while talking with the coastal librarians; but he was not ill at ease. Our product was his concern, and he (and they) all behaved graciously during the visit and at the local restaurant where I took them to lunch. I was simply not an issue, nor a topic of conversation. It was just a lovely visit among four library people. Well, gee. How it oughta be, for a change!

On the return journey he told me of his problems with dog training and other issues in his life, then took a nap as we approached the Valley. Driving past the big reservoir, on a long straight stretch that threatened to make me sleepy as well, I looked over at him and felt a tremendous wave of affection for this man, who places integrity first in all his dealings with other human beings. We certainly could use more like him!


I attended a meeting the other night where one of the wonderful people present (and they were all wonderful) turned out to be a counselor I'd heard praised and was anxious to meet. In spite of my better judgment, I asked her advice on my situation, and she was patient with me and did offer some good observations. We found that I had written to her partner (as she turned out to be) and that I would likely be receiving one or more contacts to pursue. I'm afraid I got rather shaky. Fortunately it was time to clear the building, and we were chased out before I could fall apart.

The man that had convened the meeting was still in the parking lot when I arrived there. He asked how things were going for me.

I said, "you know, all the counselors I've met are good and dedicated people, and Harry Benjamin, as I've read, was a deeply caring and empathetic human being; it's just so sad [here I began weeping] that these guidelines were named after him and that they seem to make gatekeeper ogres out of people whose only intention is to help!"

He gave me a good, long hug and I pulled it together and drove away.

But as I crossed the top of the hill, I began remembering what had happened a few weeks ago, and really lost it. I started screaming, really screaming, in that way that can damage your voice, and had to pull over before I became a danger to other drivers. I recognized the sounds I was making. Animals that have been shot or run over make them. This can't go on. And I've done it twice now, over losing one counselor.

But you can see how it is: my family, friends, work place, national and international colleagues, faith community, doctor, dentist, radiologist and, really, entire city in which I live accept me as me. Except for my ID and my orchi, I'm as transitioned right now as I will ever be ...

But when you fail to convince a counselor, your clock gets set back to zero. That's a lot to deal with when you're fifty-five.

--risa b

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